Nancy Scola

Nancy Scola is a writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Science Progress, Politics Magazine, AlterNet, and the Columbia Journalism Review.

Recent Articles

Patently Unfair

Who owns the right to an idea? The first to have it or the first to claim it?

(Flickr/Pascal Bovet)
Congress has spent the last six years cobbling together a bill to overhaul the way the strapped and struggling U.S. patent system works. This week, lawmakers are on the cusp of passing the America Invents Act, which has been championed in the Senate by Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, and in the House by his counterpart Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas. But like many inventors during their process of creation, Congress seems to have lost a clear vision of the problem it was trying to solve. For some time, patent-reform advocates have pushed for a variety of remedies, like establishing specialized patent courts, developing more precise patent applications, and making the patent process more transparent. The bill, though, doesn't address much of what ails the system. Instead, Congress went for one Big Idea and one Very Small Idea, both tailored to big business. First, the Big Idea, which is switching the United States from a "first to invent" to the...

The Google Missile Crisis

Buying Motorola is about shoring up the tech company's patent arsenal.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Google Inc. announced yesterday that it plans to pay $12.5 billion to buy Motorola Mobility, a 63 percent premium on the Illinois-based cell phone manufacturer's closing stock price last week. By Google's own admission, this deal is about more than cranking out cell phones. Google is equipping itself for battle on behalf of its Android mobile operating system, part of the on-going mobile wars that began when, in 2008, Apple's Steve Jobs was reportedly incensed that the touch screen on Google's first cell phone prototype featured iPhone-esque pinch and swipe features. Apple ally Oracle sued Google and Google has struck back against what its legal chief, David Drummond, called "a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, and other companies, waged through bogus patents." Microsoft argued that Google was being disingenuous, and that the company had refused an invitation to get in on a plan to buy patents held by an out-of-business Canadian equipment...

Doubling Down on Twitter?

Down below, my very smart colleague Paul Waldman entertains the idea of increasing Twitter's character limit , riffing off a recent piece on the same by Slate's Farhad Manjoo. Sidestepping the linguistic specifics of the tweet capacity question, I have to ask, if there was enough demand for that sort of thing, wouldn't that be called something like TwoEightyer, or Chatterer, or, more to the point, something other than "Twitter"? Not necessarily, of course, and it's worth thinking about why. Back in the days of yore, when the Internet was made of string and tin cans, the web was organized around the idea of interoperability. That meant that we weren't left to beg, say, the good folks at Hotmail to let us embed photos in our email messages. The Internet's early builders collectively decided on a standard. Email programs could compete because they were able to offer different features, like the many gigs of storage offered by Gmail that quickly made the practice of deleting emails...

Murdoch, Media Consolidation's Poster Child

Over at the New York Times , Brian Stelter reports that media reform groups in the U.S. are seeing opportunity in the News Corp hacking situation in the U.K. : Progressive activists and public interest groups have long blasted Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation for political biases. But in recent weeks they have seized on a new and more tangible reason to call for the revocation of his TV licenses and the breakup of his company: the British hacking scandal. The scandal, they say, is an opportunity to raise awareness of — and, they hope, objection to — media consolidation at a time when the American government is reviewing the rules that govern how much companies like News Corporation, Comcast and the Walt Disney Company can own. “For those of us who’ve been warning about the dangers of too much media power concentrated in too few corporate hands, this scandal is a godsend,” said Jeff Cohen, the founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. For one...

Free the JSTOR Four Million!

The news that Aaron Swartz, a technologist and activist involved in the early days of Reddit and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, has been indicted in Boston for allegedly breaking into an MIT wiring closet and downloading in excess of four million academic journal articles from JSTOR while a student at, wait for it, Harvard's Center for Ethics, brings to mind a profile of information activist Carl Malamud that ran in TAP just about a year ago: Malamud is certainly willing to provoke but prefers to be sure the law is on his side. In response to his call to open [the federal court record archive] PACER, a young activist, entrepreneur, and programmer named Aaron Swartz used a bit of code and a trial program at his local library to download nearly 20 million pages of files, which caught the attention of the FBI. Malamud ended up in an interrogation room with two armed agents. “Unlike my good friend Aaron Swartz and others who are willing to stick it to the man,” Malamud says, “...