Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 18th Sep 2012 21:45 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless Microsoft and RIM have announced that RIM has licensed Redmond's exFAT patents. The press release contains a ridiculous amount of hyperbole nonsense, and if you translate it into regular people speak, it basically comes down to RIM paying Microsoft protection money for stupid nonsensical software patents. Ridiculous articles like like this make it seem as if we're talking about patents on major technological breakthroughs, but don't be fooled: this is because for some inexplicable reason, we're using crappy FAT for SD cards.
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Stamp Tax
by Snial on Wed 19th Sep 2012 11:55 UTC
Snial
Member since:
2011-12-30

Not wanting to put too much of a fine point on it, but exFAT licensing is really a modern form of a Stamp Tax[*]. The requirement that removable media like SD cards use exFat means we essentially have to pay Microsoft for every document we produce and as such is an infringement on free-speech. Thus if you use a mobile device whose media is exFAT formatted, then you owe MS for the right to take photos or read documents or view web-pages (since the data will usually be cached on the media).

The real impact is not the direct cost to end customers, but those who wish to make use of solid-state media, such as independent developers (e.g. the maker community). Since SD cards are being phased out and there can be no legal open-source SDHD file-based drivers, amateurs (i.e. the general public) will be locked out of hardware development that involves physical interoperable data transfer.

Consider FIGnition: http://www.fignition.co.uk , the DIY 8-bit computer. It uses an SPI flash chip for storage, but there's no real option for it to support SDHD cards; even though SDHD, I believe, like SD, supports an SPI access mode. But if I were to design another product where large storage capacities were important, I can build the hardware which utilizes SDHD, but I would not be permitted to, unless I pay Microsoft. Thus, it represents an infringement on free-speech.

Of course, I could, say use alternative technology: SPI chips with my own driver or SDHDs formatted with a different file system (thus incurring only the manufacturer's MS tax) and then use USB for data transfer, but the same problem applies there: USB requires device and vendor IDs which must be licensed, an attack on free-speech at that level. I haven't investigated the implications of WLAN or BT, but direct Ethernet Cabling I think would still be a possibility since it's possible to buy Ethernet chips that amateurs can build with (i.e. DIP-based). Modern options are now rather limited, by decree, rather than by capability.

The key thing is that it's an infringement on free speech at a number of levels, one of which is on users; on people who produce technology; moreover it's a global infringement by a business where we have no representation.

As such it's a direct violation of the UN declaration of human rights Article 19: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

-cheers from julz

[*] For those of us who don't know what that means, the 1765 'Stamp Tax' law referred to a British Government Stamped Mark which had to be placed on every official document in the colonies and which was charged for.

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