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Copyright Maximalism: Turning Satirical Works Into Ridiculous Reality

from the the-copyright-industries-hope-to-be-'satire-free'-by-2015 dept

Last week, we discussed Microsoft's patent filing on a content distribution system that counted heads and charged license fees accordingly. Utilizing the Kinect or some other unnamed technology, Microsoft had the beginnings of the copyright industries' wildest dreams: an opportunity to treat the public's living rooms like theaters and collect "admission" from every viewer.

Rick Falkvinge has amusingly pointed out that "prior art" exists for this "Content Distribution Regulator" -- in the form of a satirical piece published at BBspot (and covered here years ago, noting that it "hit too close to home") five years before Microsoft's filing.
Six years ago, a satire site wrote a story about how the copyright industry wanted more money if you invited friends to watch a movie in your living room. This notion has now been patented in new technology: automated headcounts coming to a living room near you, to enable new forms of restrictions. Apparently, the copyright industry takes six years to catch up with the very worst satire of it.
The satirical piece Falkvinge quotes deals with the MPAA trying to push through a bill that would allow it to take control of people's living rooms and treat them like theaters.
The MPAA is lobbying congress to push through a new bill that would make unauthorized home theaters illegal. The group feels that all theaters should be sanctioned, whether they be commercial settings or at home.
This paragraph in particular is eerily prescient:
The bill would require that any hardware manufactured in the future contain technology that tells the MPAA directly of what is being shown and specific details on the audience. The data would be gathered using various motion sensors and biometric technology.
Sounds exactly like Microsoft's idea, doesn't it? In fact, it sounds close enough that you could argue that it should invalidate the patent in question. Either way, there's no way the MPAA isn't hoping this comes to fruition. Sure, money can be made by producing new movies but it's so much simpler to charge people over and over for the same item. Various format changes over the years have resulted in some double- and triple-dipping. Digital distribution, combined with Microsoft's consumer-unfriendly device, takes rentals into "real money" territory and very possibly will take digital purchases in that direction as well. Here's a quote from the satire that may as well be real:
"Just because you buy a DVD to watch at home doesn't give you the right to invite friends over to watch it too. That's a violation of copyright and denies us the revenue that would be generated from DVD sales to your friends," said Glickman. "Ideally we expect each viewer to have their own copy of the DVD, but we realize that isn't always feasible. The registration fee is a fair compromise."
We've heard wording like this before, where industry heads claim some irrationally high license fee is a "fair compromise." It's viewed as fair by licensing agencies because if they were able, they would have charged much, much more.

Falkvinge points out that those satirizing these industries may just be unwitting futurists:
So be careful when you write satire about the madness and delusions of the copyright industry (and that certainly isn't hard – more often than not, ordinary journalism will do fine). Either tread very carefully, or start a little stopwatch the next time you publish satire about what that parasitic, shameless industry will think of next.
This is a fact. The content industries' love of licenses (and the ability to charge multiple times for the same content) has made it into an easy punchline. Beyond the satire Falkvinge quoted are other examples demonstrating that your average citizen already recognizes the colossal overreach of these industries and the absurdity of the licenses connected to each form of artistic expression they cover.

Earlier this year, sportswriter Mike Tanier used public performance licensing (namely, the violation of these licenses) as the lynchpin for his plan to rid the NFL of replacement referees.
If the crowd at an NFL game sings "Hey Jude," television networks will be stuck broadcasting "Hey Jude" without the rights-holders permission. The sound editors are pretty good at obscuring the B.S. chant, but that only takes a little bit of white noise. Try editing away one of the most recognizable melodies in the world on live television. The broadcast will sound like it is coming from Venus. But if the NFL doesn't drown out the singing, someone big and powerful is going to show up at league headquarters in a suing mood.
When you've got sportswriters using aggressive licensing issues as a punchline, you know the it's reached critical mass. Not only is a sportswriter skewering performance rights organizations, the NFL's copyright paranoia, the Beatles' fierce grasp on its catalog and the overreaction of all these entities to "unlicensed" use, he also laying it out there confidently, expecting his audience to recognize the ridiculousness of it all without needing to resort to pages of footnotes and links to relevant legal information. It's obvious to everybody but the licensing agencies how utterly preposterous this all is.

Need another example of this common knowledge? Just recently, a piece at famous humor site McSweeney's recasted Gil Scott-Heron's famous phrase, explaining exactly why "the revolution will not be televised." Here's a few choice quotes from a much longer piece (all of it worth reading):
The revolution will not be televised due to our blackout policy. Because the revolution is taking place in your market, you will be unable to watch the revolution. Instead of the revolution, the classic Billy Bob Thornton/John Cusack film, Pushing Tin, will be televised.

The revolution will not be televised, but it will be available for streaming on Hulu.com seven days after the revolution takes place.

The revolution will not be televised because of a dispute between the revolution and DIRECTV. If you'd like to see the revolution, please call DIRECTV and demand that they put the revolution back on the air.

The revolution will not be televised, but if you have a cable subscription, you can log in to WatchRevolutions.com and use their authenticator to watch the revolution. Just provide your username and password, and you will have access to the revolution live, plus alternate angles, commentary, and the ability to share your login with up two more IP addresses.
With digital distribution, each iteration is subject to its own limitations and restrictions, just the way the content industries prefer it. As the shift continues in this direction, I would expect the major players to continue their march into brave new licensing schemes far surpassing satirists' most fevered dreams. They control the licenses they've "sold" their customers and have shown they have absolutely no qualms about abusing consumers in order to squeeze a few more dollars out of the content. Microsoft's filing turns what was originally a series of punchlines into a very plausible glimpse of the future.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 13th, 2012 @ 5:02pm

    They all laughed at me when I suggested after MS got the patent on a headcount device that could stop movies and demand more payment would lead to Biden having a meeting to "suggest" to tv makers that they should just build these in to avoid having laws made to force them to do it that might hurt them.

    Sigh... someday the MPAA might learn making things more available is a much better way to make money than to just treat consumers like crap.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 5:10pm

    There's no way this will pass. It's too damn stupid!

    No one in their right mind would vote to pass this and it will end up dieing most likely but this just shows just how greedy the MPAA is.

    Just when I thought they couldn't sink any lower, they couldn't get stupider they SOMEHOW manage to 1-Up me.

    To quote Hubert Farnsworth: "I don't want to live on this planet anymore."

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 5:24pm

    "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    I've seen the future, and won't any of you like it.

    I don't follow opinions here closely enough to know whether you're all aging out and turning into what you mis-term "Luddites"* as those who want to cling to old ways, or you're at last becoming alarmed by the increase of computerized snooping.

    Gadgets are now just a means of imposing tyranny. The Rich have to be kept limited or they will use those gadgets.




    * The Luddites were a social movement against low wages and work-products being re-sold by middlemen who profited far more than the laborers; it was NOT as Mike and minions so often blunder in saying simply about resisting change and "smashing machines"; the Luddites left alone the machines of those employers who paid vaguely fair wages. -- So I bet when it's properly explained, you're ALL "Luddites", aincha?

     

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  4.  
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    Greevar (profile), Nov 13th, 2012 @ 5:29pm

    Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    You must a have a very large shovel...

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 5:43pm

    Thank God it is computerized and not a live person in your living room LoL

    Being automated I can at least hack it.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 5:47pm

    "* The Luddites were a social movement against low wages and work-products being re-sold by middlemen who profited far more than the laborers; it was NOT as Mike and minions so often blunder in saying simply about resisting change and "smashing machines";"
    Uh..
    Definition of LUDDITE
    : one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest; broadly : one who is opposed to especially technological change

    Merriam-Webster disagrees with you. As do all these other search results for "luddite."

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 5:51pm

    Re: Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    How else do you think he moves the shit around?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 5:55pm

    Anyone want to go in on inventing a "blank room device" to clip a picture to the front of your Kinect that makes it think the room is empty?

     

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  9.  
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    MrWilson, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 6:35pm

    Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    What you're missing is that there's a reverse-luddite movement that the IP maximalists are caught up in. They're not always opposed to new technology - the caveat being that they want the technology to be used to make things more profitable for them (which often translates into making the experience more difficult, frustrating, and expensive for their customers).

    So the publishers aren't opposed to ebooks if they can charge more for them than paper books, have lower production and distribution costs that save them money, and can allow them to restrict lending and sharing in ways that they could never do with paper books.

    So if the technology allows them to make the future more dystopian and profitable, they're all for it.

    If the technology makes things cheaper and easier for their customers or cuts them out of an overly-inflated profit that they previously enjoyed, then it's the spawn of almighty satan and needs to be nuked from orbit with all the lobbying dollars and faux moral outrage our media outlets and PR shills can muster.

     

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  10.  
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    Chargone (profile), Nov 13th, 2012 @ 7:04pm

    Re:

    ... you've not been paying attention, have you?
    a unit of stupid seems to be cancelled out by a few hundredth units of currency...

    tells you something that the corporations involved in this insanity pay hundreds of thousands of such currency units on a regular basis to get the things passed, doesn't it?

     

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  11.  
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    Chargone (profile), Nov 13th, 2012 @ 7:06pm

    Re:

    fairly easy to detect if they think of it... i already came up with a simple solution.

    but i'm not sharing.

    don't want to give anyone ideas...

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 7:20pm

    http://i.imgur.com/ic6op.jpg

    Pretty much says it all.

     

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  13.  
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    Shadow Dragon (profile), Nov 13th, 2012 @ 8:22pm

    Re: Re:

    Like Blank Media Levy.

     

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  14.  
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    Shadow Dragon (profile), Nov 13th, 2012 @ 8:26pm

    Re: Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    Which goes to the point that they don't care about piracy unless it affects their bottom line or business model.

     

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  15.  
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    MrWilson, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 8:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    Piracy is a great excuse to pad the bottom line with added costs and DRM to keep paying customers from using their purchased content in ways they want to. If it's more trouble to rip a copy for personal backups or use in your car or format shifted to your mobile device, they believe you might buy another copy.

    Piracy is like communism, terrorism, or witchcraft. It's that boogeyman that you crusade against in order to justify your greed and power-mongering, regardless of whether the threat is real or not. If it's not real or big enough, you make up a new threat or sensationalize and exaggerate the real one.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 9:29pm

    And this, ladies and gentlemen of the MPAA, is why we pirate your content and will pirate more and more for decades to come.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 9:39pm

    Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    Never mind that you've just stated yet again that you don't read anything on the site; you just proposed that the solution to avoiding this travesty of anti-piracy enforcement suggestion is to not use the technology.

    Fat chance. The RIAA doesn't mind if you don't have a computer. They've sued people without the right names, without homes, without computers, without lives. Blaming the gadgets won't matter jack shit.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 10:42pm

    This was in Max Headroom TV series

    How can it be patented?

     

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  19.  
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    Rekrul, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 11:15pm

    Re:

    Anyone want to go in on inventing a "blank room device" to clip a picture to the front of your Kinect that makes it think the room is empty?

    If there's nobody in the room, the media will just refuse to play.

    Apologies if this gets posted twice, but the comment system on Techdirt is still acting flaky...

     

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  20.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 12:44am

    Re:

    There's no way this will pass. It's too damn stupid!

    No one in their right mind would vote to pass this and it will end up dieing most likely but this just shows just how greedy the MPAA is.


    I think you missed which part was satire and which was not. But, in doing so, you helped prove the point.

     

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  21.  
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    The eejit (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 1:14am

    Re: Re:

    A phrasew a friend came up with years ago, inresponse to the Birther movement:

    "It's like they just rolled in a turducken of stupid."

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 1:19am

    Re: Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    Fat chance. The RIAA doesn't mind if you don't have a computer. They've sued people without the right names, without homes, without computers, without lives.

    Probably be important to note that by "without lives" you aren't talking about antisocial basement dwellers or some such, but in the literal sense: they've sued dead people.

     

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  23.  
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    martyburns (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 5:12am

    Re:

    I think you could just turn your lights off (you know, like in REAL(!) movie theatres) which may stop the kinect from picking up how many people are in the room.

    ..of course, watching TV with the lights off may then turn into DRM circumvention and get you arrested..

     

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  24.  
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    The Real Michael, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 6:08am

    Re: Re:

    It's funny though because somebody else conjured the idea years in advance of MS's patent for the technology. But good luck to them in trying to market this invasive corporate tool of greed. There's nothing "entertaining" about additional fees, restrictions and invasiveness.

     

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  25.  
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    MonkeyFracasJr (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 6:43am

    Re: Re:

    two words: infrared spectrum.

     

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  26.  
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    DannyB (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 6:51am

    A Letter From 2020

    The following is not mine. I originally saw it on Slashdot about a decade ago. It's a wonderful example of IP turning satire into reality.

    http://www.wolffit.net/~mark/2020Letter.html




    I'm not sure if reading this letter is illegal. I thought it only fair to warn you; it might be better to just destroy it.

    The actual writing has been a bit of a chore. Word.NET isn't what it used to be. Even Microsoft.NET couldn't afford to patent everything, so whilst I can do Find, there's no Replace anymore. One good thing about having only one legal operating system is that it's very stable. I'm glad they never update Windows.NET; anyone can live with three or four crashes a day and the hourly rent is less than I pay for my apartment.

    I try to remember what it was like when I was a kid but it's really difficult; the world has changed so much since then. I found a paper book the other day that described the rise and fall of something called the "Internet". It started out with people putting up links on computers so that they could follow the link and read things on other computers for free. After it got to be popular, companies started to create machines with lots of links that you could search to find things of interest. But someone put up a link to something illegal and got sued and had their machine shut down. This happened a few times and people started to take the links off their machines. The search engine companies were the first to go and without them, you couldn't find anything. Eventually no one put up links anymore because the legal risk was too great. The important thing is that it reduced terrorism. I'm not sure how it could have worked anyway. Anything I write on my computer or any music I create gets stored by Word.NET and Music.NET in encrypted formats to protect my privacy. No one but me, Microsoft.NET and the National Corporation can read or hear my stuff even if they could link to it.

    I shouldn't admit it, but sometimes I go to certain places and speak to the subversives. I know its wrong but their warped views on things have some kind of morbid fascination. For example, I spoke to someone who claimed to be a historian the other day. She had courage all right, admitting to an illegal activity like that. I hadn't understood why it was illegal until she explained. History, she told me, gives you context. You can compare today with some time in the past; ask questions like, "are people better off", "look at the different forms of doing business", "compare corporate records or the rights of citizens" (I think she meant employees).

    But what interested her was that future generations will know nothing about us; all our records and art are stored digitally, most of it will simply disappear when no one rents it anymore -- remember the sadness when the last digital copy of Sgt. Pepper was accidentally erased? And the data that does survive will all be encrypted and in proprietary formats anyway -- even if there were historians they'd have no right to reverse engineer the formats. I can vaguely remember that people used to have physical copies of music and films, although I'm not sure how that was possible, or what the point was when we can rent whatever we like from the air interface. I don't think it matters that those who come after us can't read our writings or hear our music or see our films; these things are temporal anyway, if no one rents them then they can't be worth keeping.

    The saddest subversive I met claimed to be a programmer. He said that he was writing a program using Basic.NET. He must have been insane. Even if his program worked he wouldn't be allowed to run it. How could one person possibly check every possible patent infringement in a program they wrote? And even if he hadn't infringed he couldn't sell it without buying a compatibility license from Microsoft.NET and who could possibly afford that? He had said something about gippling the software, which apparently means giving it away, but mad as he was, even he knew that under WUCITA that would be illegal.

    These subversives really don't seem to understand that a few restrictions are necessary for the sake of innovation. And progress has been made. We don't have spam since most people can't afford an email license due to the expensive patent royalties. Our computer systems all have the same operating system, user interface and applications so everyone knows how to use them, and although they crash and don't work very well, we all know the limitations and can live with them. We have no piracy of intellectual property since we rent it as we want it and have no means of storing it.

    It was the USA that showed the world the way of course. First the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, then more and more software patents. The Japanese followed suit. The Europeans were a problem, which is only to be expected, with their anti-business un-Christian socialist tendencies. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, helped along by the good old dollar I've no doubt and they accepted both software patents and a redefinition of copyright to suit global corporations. Once the USA, Japan and Europe had uniform intellectual property laws to protect our corporations and our way of life, everyone else had to play ball or they couldn't trade. The result has been that every algorithm and computer program and every piece of music and film (after all music and film can be put into digital form and are therefore a form of software) have been patented. No more variations on Beethoven (unless you've got the patentees approval). No more amateur participation in music or film which might risk lowering standards. No more challenge to established business and business practices.

    I'm crazy to have written I know. But I am so happy in the world and I remember how unhappy I used to be. I wanted to somehow pass back to you the knowledge that its all going to be okay, that the world really is getting better.

    Sincerely,

    Mark.

     

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  27.  
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    Trish, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 7:58am

    hmmm

    If I wear a tin-foil hat, will the device be subverted?

     

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  28.  
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    Ninja (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 8:55am

    Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    Luddite seems to be the new troll word of the month eh ootb?

    "Holy Luddites, Batman!"

    "Hmmmm, this cake tastes Luddite!"

    "It's obviously a Luddite case, mr sheriff."

    "Yo-ho! And a bottle of Luddite!"

    "I am fairly sure that Google's new Luddite will follow the same old ways of profiting of Luddites. It'll be a huge Luddite!"

    When did u learn the word? I think u should learn the meaning, you know, semantics, before using it.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re:

    The TV gives enough light for sensitive cameras.

     

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  30.  
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    Ninja (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 9:06am

    It's amusing, every time they invent some sort of "DRM" file sharing sounds more and more attractive. Go legal and be tracked, pay several times for the same thing and be annoyed or just remain in "piracy" and be truly free.

    Oh, what a hard choice...

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 9:20am

    Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    LudĚdite (ldt)
    n.
    1. Any of a group of British workers who between 1811 and 1816 rioted and destroyed laborsaving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.
    2. One who opposes technical or technological change.


    Where are we miss-using it, again?

     

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  32.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 9:22am

    Re:

    Actually, you're both right. The historical Luddites were not anti-technology at all. They were reacting to what amounted to wage slavery. They destroyed the machines because they were being used as weapons against them in their struggle.

    However, in current usage Luddite means anti-technology. It's not historically true, but that's what it's come to mean nonetheless. Our language is full to the brim of these kinds of misnomers.

     

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  33.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re:

    Nope. The Kinect does not use ambient light to work. It emits its own infrared light. You should google for images of this light illuminating a room -- it's actually very cool. It's a dot pattern, not just a floodlight.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 9:45am

    Re: Re:

    It's getting almost impossible to tell what is satire and what isn't when people report on the MPAA.

    At this point, if Techdirt's next article was that the MPAA was legislating for the moon to be turned into a giant movie projector and that people would be charged a fee for looking at the moon at night, I might believe it.

    (There's an idea for a good Techdirt April Fool's story... I won't even sue you for "stealing" my imaginary property.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re: Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

    "Probably be important to note that by "without lives" you aren't talking about antisocial basement dwellers or some such, but in the literal sense: they've sued dead people."

    And the RIAA probably still argued that the judge should give said defendants the maximum sentence possible since they failed to appear in court.

     

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  36.  
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    budious, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 10:08am

    ... but would a tinfoil hat foil this method?

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 11:25am

    Re: This was in Max Headroom TV series

    Because Patent Approvers (formerly known as Patent Examiners) don't have time to do things like search for prior art. They've got huge stacks of applications waiting for rubber stamping.

     

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  38.  
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    Wally (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 5:21pm

    There was an entire episode of Advebture Time where Proncess Bubblegum advised Finn to follow the warning literally... They ended up making their own movies for entertainment.

     

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  39.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 6:03pm

    Re:

    ... they passed the Patriot Act again with little to no discussion ...

    You were saying?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    jameshogg (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 6:22pm

    And people don't believe me when I say there is a fight coming.

    Patent trolling against Kickstarter (or, shall we say, patent trolling against the very concept of "tickets" to go see a gig, play or cinema movie) and now this.

    There is a lot of work to be done. Start finding all the doublethinks and contradictions that come from copyright laws, make as many slogans as you can and march down your local streets and cities. This is reality grinding against an unjust system of incentive collection. We don't need it: we have the concept of a ticket soon to turn virtual with Kickstarter as the stage and the internet as the theatre.

    Copyright encourages closed systems: you can see it in iOS, the new Windows OS and now this ridiculous construct. I mean, how far down the gutter do you have to be if you hear of the outcry "we can swap DVDs with each other which is more or less the same thing as swapping them over the internet" and then react "well we have to do something about those DVDs now, don't we?" This is insufferable.

    Gamers should have been paying attention to this when they saw the slow depletion of PC gaming from retail ("you can't get a refund on this game, sir, the CD-Key is scratched off... no sir I don't think it will work even if you sell it to someone else), and surely they must be paying attention to it now with Sony and Microsoft's pushing to make their next consoles digital only (good on some suppliers refusing to stock said consoles if it happens, but I doubt that boldness will last when the marketing pressure kicks in). It's a bit counter-intuitive, but digital technology may INCREASE IP repression in some areas, not dent it from the piracy.

    This is why I predict OUYA will blow everybody out the water. Copyright's defeat is ultimate.

     

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