Condoleezza Rice’s editorial in today’s WSJ defends the administration’s use of diplomacy with North Korea.

She writes: “We have no permanent enemies.”

Nevermind that this may go down as the biggest Bush administration flip-flop since H.W.’s “no new taxes”…

Nevermind that Cheney is probably planning an invasion anyway…

Does Condi’s stance suggest a tacit endorsement of Obama?

Arguably the least ideologically-driven member of the administration elite, Condi has made no secret of her affinity for some of Obama’s policy positions.

In response to his Philadelphia speech on race, Condi praised Obama’s words and argued that his willingness to talk about America’s history of racial oppression “important.”

In the words of Latoya Peterson:

“Apparently, Condoleeza shocked the hell out of people by reminding them that she was black.”

Similarly, her carefully-worded defense of multilateralism in today’s editorial might remind people that despite being a hawk, she’s still a diplomat. I would wager that the whole piece is nothing short of a diplomatic wink at “The Obama Doctrine” insofar as it argues for a return to global cooperation.

Throughout the editorial, Condi goes out of her way to make it clear that diplomacy alone is not enough – she insists that accountability mechanisms have played an important role in pushing Pyongyang back to the bargaining table.

But, whether or not you agree with that claim, the point is that she unconditionally endorses the idea of the bargaining table. This echoes Obama’s views on how to best deal with “rogue states” that harbor so-called “terrorists” or otherwise flaunt the will of the international community.

Irrespective of whether or not that constitutes an Obama endorsement, it’s absolutely a jab at John McCain.

Over and over and over again, McCain has expressed his unwillingness to pursue negotiation with America’s enemies. He has also taken great pains to contrast this stance with that of Obama (whom he calls naive).

It’s one thing for Obama supporters and Democrats to criticize McCain’s views on these matters. But when the nation’s top (Republican) diplomat makes a point of undermining the GOP nominee’s position, that’s a whole other can of worms. It takes the wind out of all the rhetoric about Obama’s inexperience on such issues.

Given Condi’s position and her own career aspirations, she could never make an explicit endorsement of Obama. However, her willingness to contradict McCain in such a public and overt manner speaks volumes about the state of chaos among the Republican party leadership. It also suggests that Obama and other Democrats can expect to get a lot of mileage from pushing the issue among the foreign policy community as a whole.

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James Boyle has an excellent editorial in the Financial Times today criticizing the efforts of members of the U.S. Congress to create an “IP Czar” through the so-called “PRO-IP” Act.

The bill, sponsored by representative John Conyers (D-MI) passed the house and is awaiting the creation of companion legislation in the senate. Sentors Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have expressed interest.

Here’s my favorite quote from Boyle:

We create a czar when we think that something is so important that other values must be subordinated to it, other goals ignored, power centralised, restraints discarded.The great thing about czars is that they can act alone, maximizing a single set of values, without worrying about the troubling demands of bureaucracy but also sometimes without worrying about the demands of the separation of powers and the rule of law. That latter feature is worrying.

Earlier, I wrote about Conyers and H.R. 4279; the EFF’s response to the bill; and (more recently) about Senator Hatch’s efforts to get the PRO-IP Act efforts rolling in the senate.

Hat tip: Manon Ress

As of July 1, Spain’s controversial “digital canon” law will impose a tax on any gizmo that can record, copy, or store digital media.

In theory, this is a tax on “piracy” that goes towards supporting artists.

In reality, the cash goes straight to the “collecting societies” that represent artists and collect royalty payments on their behalf. The law apparently makes no provision as to how these societies must distribute this revenue.

The collecting societies’ survival depends on the preservation of restrictive IP regimes and royalty-based business models in creative industries. As a result, they have historically acted to constrain artists’ and users’ ability to opt out of IP-based remuneration schemes.

With the passage of this law they have successfully imposed the cost of their existence on consumers and producers in an entirely separate industry. Not surprisingly, the electronics equipment manufacturers and re-sale firms (not to mention consumer advocacy groups) are furious.

Declining sales across many of the content industries will continue to lead increasingly desperate firms (and their lawyers) to seek ridiculous regulatory interventions like this one. The results are expensive, inefficient legal instruments that will prove even more costly to overhaul as the digital economy continues to evolve.

Instead of more laws like this one, regulators should seek to incentivize alternative business models that capitalize on the network effects of costless digital reproduction. In the case of music, I’m thinking of something along the lines of VODO and other schemes that capitalize on what Doc Searls has called “the volunteer economy“.

If I were a Spanish citizen, investor, or entrepreneur I’d wonder why my elected officials weren’t willing to make a more far-sighted investment in the future of my culture, my technologies, and my economy.

Ned Gulley (Mathworks) and Karim Lakhani (Harvard Business School) presented some forthcoming work on Collaborative Innovation today at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

The paper builds on Ned’s work at Mathworks developing collaborative programming competitions for the MATLAB community. Adopting “the perspective of the code” it analyzes what happens when you set a horde of geeks loose on a fun, challenging programming problem in a networked collaborative environment.

To sum up my reactions really briefly, I thought the paper was an exciting step in the process of looking under the hood of collaborative knowledge production. Gulley and Lakhani argue that as programmers improved the performance of code relative to a discreet problem, they did so through “tweaks” and “leaps.”

“Tweaks” represent small refinements that improve the performance of existing code; “Leaps” represent more sudden and large-scale advances in performance (usually driven by introducing a more substantive or extensive change in the code).

Tweakers and Leapers benefit from each other’s work, but the biggest beneficiary of their combined interactions was the code itself. Within one week of the competitions, thousands of eyeballs had produced startling solutions to complex algorithmic problems.

There’s a lot more to be learned from this kind of work – especially from the sort of experimental data created in the setting of these sort of large-scale collaborative games. In particular, I’m interested in thinking about how programmers (whether as individuals or communities) adapted to the challenges over time. It seems like it might be possible to design a game that could test whether efficient collaborative problem solving techniques “evolved” over the course of the game(s). In addition, it would be fascinating to test the results of this kind of collaboration against those produced by more hierarchical or individuated models of innovative work.

Look for links to the soon-to-be-published version of the paper on the “publications” section of Karim’s HBS faculty page.

In the meantime, I’m told that video and audio of today’s presentation should be available on the Berkman Center’s “interactive section” by tomorrow afternoon at the latest.

As always, well-informed legal analysis (this time of the AP-Drudge Retort spat) from David Ardia and the folks at the Berkman Center’s Citizen Media Law Project.

(Full disclosure: I work at Berkman, although not in conjunction with the CMLP).

I just found out about the possible Brazilian-led challenge to Francis Gurry’s election as the new DG of WIPO a few hours ago.

Here are some interesting quotes (my translations) from news stories linked to by Joff Wild in the story I mentioned earlier.

This from the Agencia Estado coverage:

[Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Celso] Amorim, according to sources within his cabinet, admitted that the situation of the Australian [Gurry] could become unsustainable, as his placement could bring about a paralysis within the organization on account of the dispute between wealthy and poor [states].

Brazil, as a result, is inclined to re-open the debate over the vote. However, the chancellor does not exclude the possibility that the new director could come from a third country and not be the Brazilian Graça Aranha. The primary object of Itamaraty [Brazil’s Department of State], therefore, would be to guarantee that highest position overseeing the world’s patent system was occupied by someone sympathetic to the positions of emerging countries.

And the Folha de Sao Paulo (syndicated by Verbanet) reports that Gurry incurred the wrath of Amorim and the Lula government on account of his refusal to grant the second position at WIPO to Brazilian DG candidate Jose Graça Aranha (who lost to Gurry by 1 vote). Here’s a couple of good quotes from the story:

After spreading rumors that he would invite José Graça Aranha, who came in second in the voting…Gurry changed tactics. On Saturday, he offered a Brazilian diplomat a position in the third tier of the WIPO directorate, in the first formal attempt to pacify Itamaraty following its controversial nomination.

According to the Folha’s sources, Gurry said to the diplomat that he could not invite Graça Aranha to occupy one of the four vice-directorates of WIPO because he felt that this would give the Brazilian a platform from which he would try to undermine him.

All told, this sounds like a lot of cross-accusation and diplomatic shin-kicking. Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say that none of it bodes well for Gurry’s ability to secure a strong mandate from a majority of the WIPO member states.

From the Spicy IP blog:

Pursuant to our post lamenting the “secrecy” with which the ACTA (Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) negotiations were shrouded, an anonymous source writes to inform us thus:

“I am afraid that the new Indian Drugs Controller General is being briefed about the Treaty , its objectives etc as he has been (unlike any before him) invited to Canada and USA. The Indian Govt has become too inward- concerned to worry about these “conspiracies” concerning IP treaties from the West!”

SpicyIP hasn’t verified this news as yet–but if any of our readers have more information on this, please let us know.

Looks like our DCGI (Drug Controller General of India), Dr Surinder Singh is a hot favourite in the international IP circles now. Not least because he’s been very enthusiastic about framing rules to link up drug regulatory approval with patents. Except that he forgets that there exists something called the Constitution of India, under which any overstepping of statutory bounds is likely to be challenged by a writ petition and struck down by a court!

I have nothing to add to the tip received by Spicy IP, but I would add that the USTR and EC briefing “interested observers” is far from surprising given the ACTA negotiants stated aim to extend the treaty to “interested trade partners” once it’s signed.

Have other officials from non-participating states been briefed on the agreement?