Jakerome's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week
from the you-only-think-this-is-free dept
Techdirt has been at the fore of intellectual property issues for a decade or more, and I've learned much along the way while informing friends about how SOPA and related bills would hinder technology advances, harm free speech and do little to promote the progress of science and useful arts. This post will focus on IP issues, starting off with yet another story that demonstrates the duplicity of Chris Dodd. The man who once proclaimed "no lobbying, no lobbying" upon leaving office now counts the days until he can lobby his former Senate colleagues. In the meantime, he is lobbying the Obama administration and inviting a few select tech companies to join in his secret plan to impose government supported censorship, despite claims to the contrary. All in a futile attempt to preserve the existing MPAA business model so his paymasters are insulated from the independent artists who are competing by embracing new technology.
The MPAA/RIAA lobbying juggernaut has been sadly successful in hobbling internet technologies, as congressional insiders and administration officials conspire to increase government control of the internet by proposing laws that would censor disfavored websites under the guise of copyright protection and cybersecurity. The takeaway is obvious, that internet users have to remain vigilant to prevent Congress from choking innovation on the internet and maintaining freedom of action for themselves. That ties in nicely with a story from Planet Money highlighting the parallels between the MPAA & German button weavers, which used government power to insulate themselves from competition enabled by new technology, leading to stagnation in button weaving technology. The parallel becomes clearer by the day. Viacom continues to sue YouTube as part of it's long attack on user generated content, while in content industries left unprotected by legal fiat, we're witnessing the movement of creators from old media to new media. Not losing those jobs in the process but merely shifting the work to outlets where the creators provide the greatest comparative advantage.
As copyright law is a mess, so is the copyright office itself. Copyright assignments last 70 years or more, but electronic records are not available before 1978. That was backward a decade ago and inexcusable today. Billions are spent to influence legislation & hundreds of law enforcement personnel work to enforce intellectual property laws, yet so little heed is given to cataloging our cultural heritage that millions of copyright records are effectively inaccessible. That has real world consequences, as there is a paucity of in print books from the 1930s-1960s since the copyright status of those works cannot be ascertained; in contrast, books from earlier decades enjoy widespread availability. With all the attention being paid to copyright enforcement, we've managed to neglect great works that have already been produced by emphasizing profit over culture. But "is there any value in cracking down on 'piracy' if it doesn't increase sales?" Congress repeatedly compromises our liberties in the name of fighting piracy, but this story suggests even that doesn't boost sales. By emphasizing enforcement and neglecting record keeping, the government has effectively made it more difficult to enjoy new & old cultural works while doing little to improve revenues for the Old Media companies the laws are intended to protect.
Alas, even internet pioneers are allowing this unhealthy obsession with IP enforcement cloud their judgments. As an admitted Flickr addict, I've taken a keen interest in the developing tactical nuclear patent war being fought between Yahoo and Facebook. It's shocking enough that Facebook was awarded patents for (a) drawing rectangles on photos and linking that box to a person, and (b) displaying an integrated list of actions on my items & those I've commented upon. What's more preposterous is that Facebook would sue over concepts so barely differentiated from preexisting Flickr features to (a) draw rectangles on photos and add a note or link, and (b) display separate lists of actions on my items & those I've commented upon. I imagine the 18 other patent claims in the lawsuit are similarly specious. Hopefully, both come to their senses and drop their lawsuits before spending all their money on lawyers.
Now, my least favorite story of the week, which completely destroys my plan to become a multithousandaire should anyone ever decide to take up Techdirt on CWF+RTB and shut down the site for the year. Yes, fellow favorite posts of the week writers, our dreams of launching a class action lawsuit to obtain our just rewards have been squelched by an activist judge* who opined that Huffington Post contributors that wrote articles without any expectation of compensation aren't entitled to any compensation even though Huffington Post turned out to be quite profitable. No justice, no peace!
*Whereby activist judge I mean any judge I disagree with.