Rob Reid's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week
from the in-the-immortal-words-of-david-lee-roth dept
I wouldn't challenge Charlie Sheen to a drinking contest. I wouldn't enter the ring with Oscar de la Hoya. And I certainly wouldn't level a laughably flimsy charge of copyright infringement against Mike Masnick and Techdirt. But late last week, the remedial lawtards at Human Synergistics did just that. Presumably wasted and punch-drunk after losing bouts to both Sheen and De La Hoya, they penned a takedown letter. Then yesterday came The Rebuttal. This is certainly my favorite Techdirt post of the week - and perhaps of the year (although ask me again after after all of those heart-warming holiday columns have left me sobbing in my Venti Gingerbread Latte). If you think you'd enjoy watching the 49ers smash a math-science magnet school's JV squad, then this post is for you. And if you think "Human Synergistics" sounds like a creepy, high-end love doll manufacturer from the late 80's - well, join the club.
Speaking of dim-wittery, the Barnes & Noble brain trust has come up with a novel (GET IT?) way of shoving piracy-curious eBook buyers straight to the dark side. You simply forbid them from re-downloading books that they've fully paid for after their credit cards expire. It's that easy! This post has the low-down. And if you happen to be a B&N employee (particularly a buyer in the science fiction department), my disparaging tone is not directed at you, but rather that irritating boss (or boss's boss) who just doesn't get it.
On a more serious note, several of this week's Techdirt posts evoked the grim masterpiece 1984. I'm referring, of course, to Van Halen's weirdly succinct album from the eponymous year, which includes "Jump," "Hot for Teacher," and seven other extremely brief songs. Play Side II backward at juuuuust the right speed, and you'll hear David Lee Roth spin an ominous yarn about a dystopian near-future in which brutish governments track their citizens' every thought and movement (it may sound like gibberish, but it's actually Icelandic). Mr. Roth's macabre warnings are echoed in this post about a Texas school that requires students to wear chips that continuously broadcast their locations. And in this post about a Florida gazillionaire who successfully abused copyright and other laws to silence a critical blogger.
Now to be genuinely serious for a moment, I found the images in this post to be oddly chilling, despite the fact that they're just dry line charts. They document the guillotining of Syria's Internet access. They remind me of a flatlining monitor in Intensive Care. I traveled two weeks in Syria back in 2011, and while I was there, the government allowed Facebook access for the first time. I fell in love with the country (particularly Aleppo), and hoped this minor liberalization pointed to a broader loosening that might one day lead to a truly free and open society (note: I tended to be almost pathologically optimistic). I still believe that Syria will get there, eventually (see above). But I fear that things will first get much worse.
In other totalitarian news, Iran's monstrous government is requiring all citizens over the age of 14 to carry biometric ID cards which, among other things, will be required for Web access. It's fascinating (if at times depressing) to watch the tech arms race between authoritarian governments and the forces of openness. I believe that while there are often bumps along the way (like this), technology strongly favors greater individual freedom, empowerment, and autonomy over longer timescales. But as we know, I'm a pathological optimist.
An interesting test of this proposition may be brewing in Utah, where the police in one community will soon be wearing almost-always-on "eye cams." If every cop, citizen, and perp knows that a subpoena-able video is being recorded whenever the police interact with the public, it could lead to better behavior all around (perhaps particularly on the part of police). But as Tim Cushing points out in his thoughtful piece, this will only work if individual officers don't have access to an "off" switch that they can activate at awkward moments.
With that, I leave you to your weekend. In the immortal words of David Lee Roth, "Ég hef fengið það slæmt, fékk það slæmt, fékk það slæmt, - ég er heitur fyrir kennara."