Mike's Father's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week
from the happy-father's-day dept
Well this is a treat. I am Mike's father and this is my Father's Day present (sort of). I do read Techdirt on a regular basis and with very rare exceptions I don't comment. I have followed some of the more contentious comment streams out of curiosity and I have found it striking that articles on Techdirt arouse such intense reactions. In any case I will comment here on what I regard as the most interesting articles for me on Techdirt this past week.
I have followed with some interest the Megaupload case which has just taken a further step down the rabbit hole, as seen in US Continues To Try To Block Megaupload From Using Its Lawyers, Pretends It Has Jurisdiction Over The World.
It has been my experience that arguments that use logic, legal precedent, constitutional reasoning and sometimes even common sense almost never convince a person or organization that holds power to reconsider the path they have started on. Most people, regardless of their training, knowledge or instincts, go into defensive mode when challenged. Almost always. The trouble seems to come up extra strong when the person or agency is really powerful -- and the DOJ is about as powerful as you can get outside of military forces. Challenge the DOJ on what it has come to regards as its turf and you are gonna get a whale of a lot of pushback. They have a ton of weapons and almost no restraint in using their arsenal. And they can make it mighty expensive to challenge them. So my bias says that it’s usually a good thing to push back when they overreach. That way there's a chance (probably a small chance) that cooler heads or judicial review will set things right. That's probably not the way to bet, though.
We live in a world defined by the suffixes .com, .org etc. But that is about to change, possibly in a big way. As noted in .Rip .Off: Highlights From The Top-Level Domain Scrum.
There are currently 22 top level domains (like .net, .xxx, etc) but for an obscene amount of money ($375 million) there will be as many as 1,000 by the end of 2013. ICANN (International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a not for profit corporation, charged $185,000 per application to 1930 organizations (groups and companies), to have their suggestions examined. The process, the prospective domain names, the competing companies that have proposed the same names and some potential problems with the process and the proposed names are discussed in this article.
Whatever the original purpose of copyright law was, a heavy dose of lawyering (and a compliant court) has brought us to the point where the level of impediments to normal commerce has reached new heights. It surprised me to learn that if I make a product, say a blender, outside the USA, and I put a tiny copyrighted symbol on the blender, that used blender may not be resold by the original purchaser to a third party without the permission of the copyright holder. For details on these and other nutty facts of life under USA copyright law, study: Why The Supreme Court Needs To Make Sure That Selling A Used iPad Isn't A Copyright Violation.
Many years ago, I worked in the research department of the Grumman Corporation. This was my first job out of graduate school and I loved it. My boss was a very smart guy named Bob McGill and he was, in addition to being a first class scientist/engineer, a very sophisticated investor. I had never invested a nickel up to that point so I was very impressed when, over lunch, Bob related to me some of the basics of investing. No one remembers it now, but before there was a dot com boom, there was a boom in computing stocks in the 1960s. The success of IBM and Xerox awakened investors to the potential profits in early investing in technology companies. Bob showed me a "red herring." That was the informal name for the prospectus that brokerages sent to customers who might be interested in investing (gambling) in the IPO for companies about to go public. The company described in the "red herring" was for an enterprise that would, at some point in the future, provide computer services for companies that did not have a computer of their own. I read the prospectus. The experience of the founder of the company noted that his previous position before starting this venture was working in "Tom's Bike Shop" and he wasn't Tom. That fact was enough to convince me that this was probably not a great investment opportunity. If you'd like to see a modern version of a prospectus for a "hot IPO", check out this tongue-in-cheek version: Prospectus for Silicon Valley's Next Hot Tech IPO.
Patents. We are in an era when patents (and their misuse) have created fits for technology companies. Long ago, just out of school, I met a prolific inventor with over 150 patents who told me that all his patents were an attempt to prevent him from being sued by someone else for patent violation. His most important invention, which made him and his investors very wealthy, he never patented. He kept that as a trade secret, zealously guarded. That was my first hint that something was wrong with the patent system in the USA. Attempts to explain the intrinsic value of our patent system are stretching, distorting or simply making up from whole cloth non-fact facts to justify the current system. Exhibit A is this article: Commerce Department's Own Study Debunks Commerce Department's Defense Of Said Study.
Finally, this past Fall saw the SOPA/PIPA debacle in which various vested interests attempted to put forth prospective legislation to protect legacy companies, business models and enterprises in some fairly heavy handed ways. Once the online community caught on to what was being proposed, they arose real fast and real hard. But some of the more egregious features of those now defeated attempts are nonetheless part of current law and causing all kinds of troubling problems. For a description of one such case, check out: Tell The White House To Stop Illegally Seizing & Shutting Down Websites.
Well that's all for now. I'm probably off the hook to do this again until next Father's Day.