Posted on Techdirt - 9 December 2013 @ 4:11pm
In prep for writing this short piece, I was surprised to learn that apparently eBay sellers sending pictures of items, rather than the items themselves, to buyers was something that existed. It's obviously a shady sense of humor that thinks bilking buyers out of their money this way is funny. I guess there are lots of ways it can happen, between ambiguously worded sell posts and incomplete reading by buyers. I imagine the latter is often fueled by a newly released item that is in high demand.
Such would seem to be the case with an English teenager who found out he'd paid hundreds of dollars for a picture of a new Xbox One, rather than for the console itself.
Peter Clatworthy thought he had bought one of the consoles on the auction site, but actually received a picture of one. The Post highlighted his story today, with Mr Clatworthy having now received a refund with the help of eBay.
Well, good on eBay for doing the refund, but this wasn't just
a simple matter of a jackass seller sending the picture when he or she had promised the console. The actual seller listing did indeed promise a picture, not a console.
Despite the listing stating it was a photo of an XBox One Day One edition console, Mr Clatworthy said he’d expected to receive the console as it was listed in the video games and consoles category on eBay.
He instead received the photo in the post on Monday, with it having ‘thank you for your purchase’ written on the back.
I imagine somebody did the listing as a joke and then found out someone had purchased it after obviously not reading the listing carefully. That doesn't absolve the seller from completing the purchase process, obviously, but it does serve as a warning for all of us during this holiday shopping season. Read what you're buying, people.
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Posted on Techdirt - 5 December 2013 @ 3:41am
There's a saying that goes: lightning never strikes the same place twice. That saying is complete garbage, of course, as Casey Wagner, the twice-struck target for God's unholy wrath will happily tell you, but the point is that rare stuff is rare. And on the list of stuff that I would think would be especially rare would be murder-plotters butt-dialing the worst possible people while discussing their nefarious plans. We discussed this back in May, when a Florida man ass-rang 911 in the midst of a lovely little death-brainstorming session. I remember reading that just a few months ago and thinking, "Well, that's certainly a once in a lifetime occurrence."
As it turns out, it was a once in a few months occurrence, since the same damn thing happened again, only worse. This time, we have an Arkansas man who happily discussed murdering his former employee just after he butt-dialed his intended victim.
Jonesboro police arrested Larry Barnett, 68, on Thursday after being contacted by a Paragould man. The man told Detective Jason Simpkins he received a phone call at 12:30 p.m. from Barnett. He said it appeared Barnett had “unknowingly made” the phone call. The intended victim said he overheard Barnett give another man directions to his home in Paragould. During the call, which lasted approximately 1.5 hours and was ongoing when he contacted police, the victim said he overheard Barnett say, “I don’t care if you have to burn his house to the ground with him in it. I don’t care what you have to do, make it look like an accident.”
Now, I can't be certain that it was an errant rear-cheek that did the dialing on this, but I'd like to think we're going to see a defense argument for Barnett that states that his posterior was attempting a confession and should not be punished along with the rest of this jackass's body. On the other hand, anyone dumb enough to accidentally call their victim while discussing a murder plot is probably too dangerously idiotic to be allowed to walk around in public, even putting the whole murder thing aside.
Chalk up another dumb criminal whose ass got his ass in the clink!
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Posted on Techdirt - 4 December 2013 @ 2:25pm
Yeah, I get it, with great claims must come great evidence, and you're thinking there's no way I can prove that Dan Snyder and the people who run the Washington Redskins are androids from Tyrell Corp. as seen in the Blade Runner movies. But think about it. Thiiiiiink about it, people. How are we told we can identify replicants, bio-android robots that are nearly indistinguishable from honest to goodness human beings? Well, as anyone who knows the mythology will tell you, "skin-jobs" are known for being unable to have true empathy and for their lack of emotional response. For the former, one need only combine the history of the Washington Redskins' inappropriate name and their inability to recognize the rights of those around them to comment on the team. As for emotional responses, it's a bit trickier. How do you demonstrate someone's lack of emotion without strapping them down and properly performing the Voight-Kampff test?
Here's how: you create a humorous parody of the team and their play, find out that the Redskins are threatening to sue as a result, and then explain to them, "Hey, guys, it was just a joke." Then, when the legal team for the Redskins drops their threats as a result, claiming they weren't aware all was done in jest, you've proven they are unable to produce the human emotion of humor. Boom, replicants. And, no, I'm not exaggerating.
The Skins were up in arms over a series of mock game broadcasts aired by WJFK, a CBS affiliate and direct rival to the Snyder-owned ESPN affiliate. They're critical of the team, the owner, and the unincorporated hellhole that is FedEx Field (listen to Monday's fake Giants-Redskins play-by-play for a taste), but they're obviously, obviously fake. Note to Snyder, and everyone really: If the guy doing a bit is a comedian, it might be comedy.
Yet attorney Tony Wyllie, who works directly for team owner Dan Snyder, threatened the CBS affiliate, saying the obvious parody was malicious. He threatened a lawsuit. Then he rescinded the threat. Why?
Wyllie's anger over the broadcasts prompted Chris Kinard, WJFK's program director, to call time out. He met with Wyllie on Tuesday to discuss the comedy routines. Kinard declined to comment, but Wyllie insisted after the meeting that peace was at hand.
"All we did was ask questions about what they were doing," he said in an interview. "Once they said it was all in jest, we were fine with it."
"Oh, the ridiculously over-the-top fake broadcast you did was a joke
? Well, in that case, we're all good!" I can't give that exchange enough currency here, as it is central to my thesis that Wyllie and Snyder are not human beings, but replicants trying to live a human's life. Nobody who hadn't suffered severe head trauma could listen to the "offending" content and think it was anything but a joke done as parody. In this case, revelation indicates ignorance on a level that simply isn't human. It seems Wyllie knew he'd let the android out of the bag, as well, as he followed up with another comment.
"I have a sense of humor, like everyone else. It's a joke, and I take it as a joke. Once they said it was all a joke, that's all there was to it."
Nobody's buying it, skin-job. What, you think we really
believe the team's strident reluctance to give up the Redskins name is simply because you're too ignorant to recognize a racist term when you see one? Please, nobody's that
ignorant. No, you just can't give up the "skins" name because you're androids. You may have some people fooled, replicants, but not this
[Editor's Note: And this is just for Dan Snyder and Tony Wyllie -- everyone else, please go about your day. Tim's comments here, in which he suggests you are not human and are, in fact, replicants from Tyrell Corp., is also a joke. Just getting that out of the way ahead of time, so as to avoid any confusion.]
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Posted on Techdirt - 4 December 2013 @ 10:46am
More and more we see stories of content producers recognizing piracy as the opportunity it actually represents. It isn't universal, but these stories tend to happen in the following way. Upstart or established producer releases content, realizes it's being pirated, and then finds some way to make use of that admittedly non-paying interest. The Angry Birds people did it, as have independent filmmakers and entire music markets. The idea here is to push emotion to the side when you find your work being pirated and attempt to make use of the piracy.
It's an entirely different matter, however, when a producer proactively attempts to slingshot themselves to success on the backs of "piracy" they themselves create. It's not an entirely new concept by any means, but they're far too rare. That's what makes it worth highlighting it when such stories come up, such as this latest example of two game producers who created the Pixel Piracy side-scroller and then offered up a torrent of the game on their own website.
Here is a direct torrent link that we will personally seed to our currently available version of the game. We aren't idiots, we aren't high. We believe that anyone who wants to pirate our game will do so anyways, and feel it's a much safer bet to offer those people the official link to our game in hopes that they keep their computer's virus free.
If you LIKE the game you can support us in a number of ways besides purchasing the title outright. Steam greenlight is very important to us right now, and a vote for it DOES make a difference, and your warm reception on our IndieDB review page is what pushed us to initially take this decision. Not everything is about money, and we want to thank those that pirate our title and actually give them the opportunity to do so with our blessing, while giving them an opportunity to actually make good on the piracy itself. Tell your friends about us, share the link around IF and only IF you enjoy the game, and if you DON'T enjoy it at least you didn't have to pay for it!
Vitali Kirpu and Alexander Poysky
Now, I imagine we'll get the usual unimaginative arguments from the usual sources, typically centered on the idea that Kirpu and Poysky aren't Sid Meier, so it doesn't count, or how they somehow have nothing to lose or whatever. Unfortunately for those detractors, results count, and their decision to behave in an awesome fashion is causing many to support their efforts to be "greenlit" on Steam
. And, in the meantime, the word of mouth campaign is putting their game
in spotlights all over the place
Now, they would have been well within their rights to keep their creation locked up behind the official barriers instead. And they could have been pissed off should their game be pirated afterwards. Going this route, however, they instead get a ton of exposure for their games, themselves, and they get to leave all the anger and angst by the wayside. Bravo.
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Posted on Techdirt - 3 December 2013 @ 1:35pm
Lindsay Lohan, everyone's favorite train-wreck, sure seems to come up in the world of intellectual property an awful lot. I'm not sure if this is because she has some over-inflated sense of entitlement, or if she's just the devil-incarnate here to entertain me personally, but she's gotten angry about being mocked in music, angry about a talking baby being named Lindsay (and being a "milkaholic"), and angry at the invention of the video camera for showing her stealing stuff that didn't belong to her.
But now reports are that she's looking to step up her game by going after Grand Theft Auto 5 over their portrayal of her, except that (as with the E-Trade babies) it wasn't a portrayal of her at all. Let's take her reported claims to her lawyers in order:
-- The video game cover shows a woman holding a cellphone who looks Lindsay-ish. There's been debate over whether it looks more like Kate Upton or Shelby Welinder.
No, there's no debate. Shelby Welinder was hired by Rockstar Games
to serve as the game cover's woman. Next.
-- Part of the game features a mission where a Lindsay Lohan look-alike asks the player to take her home and escape the paparazzi.
If you've played the game, and I have, and you played the paparazzi missions and thought, "holy balls, they're making fun of Lindsay Lohan!", then you need severe psychiatric care. The character in question, Lacey Jonas, is an obvious composite character. The closest thing to referencing Lohan is that Lacey Jonas is famous and once starred in a "cheerleader competition" movie. Sounds like Lohan, except that all the other facts about the character don't and the character doesn't look like Lohan, which sort of kills the whole "they stole my likeness" claim. As does claiming you were also used for a completely different character
Another part of the game shows another Lindsay-like character at a hotel resembling the Chateau Marmont hotel in West Hollywood -- a place Lindsay not only frequents but once lived at -- and the mission is to photograph her having sex on camera.
We've got more problems, in that this completely different character, Poppy Mitchell, is a recurring character in the series
. While that wiki states that this character might
be a parody of Lohan, it certainly isn't much of a likeness beyond the character having been convicted of drunken driving.
And all of this is a bit beside the point. Even if each and every one of these characters were somehow a lifting or reference to Lindsay Lohan, it ought to be covered under the same blanket of parody that covers pretty much everything else in GTA5
, given that the entire setting is a mocking look at Los Angeles. And I'm not sure what Lohan's legal team is planning on doing with her request to look into all of this, but continuing with the claim that video game characters with the personality traits of fornicating in public, drinking and driving, and being washed up movie stars probably isn't something she should be loudly pointing to as representing her.
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Posted on Techdirt - 3 December 2013 @ 3:29am
As you should know by now, there are people in this world that think an addiction to the internet and/or video games is a thing. As in, a real thing, a real disorder. This, despite all the evidence that there is no such disorder and that video games are no more addictive than work or school. But scaring the hell out of people with official-sounding terminology makes for great business, leading to care-givers and hospitals opening up entirely new
revenue-generators practices for treating these heretofore unproven "diseases."
However, lest you think that fact-less platforms are the exclusive realm of the medical profession, take a look at how some South Korean politicians are trying to craft legislation that places video game addiction as the lunch-meat in their alcohol and drugs sandwich.
According to the Ministry of Welfare, four major categories of addiction where medical treatment is needed are 2.18 million alcoholics, 0.47 million internet gamers, 0.59 million gamblers, and 0.09 million drug addicts. The sum of them accounts for 6.7 precent of the population which adds up to 3.33 million people. This country has to be be saved from the four major addictions. We have to understand the pain individuals and families of alcohol, drugs, gambling, and game addicts go through, heal them and provide them with a proper environment so we can save our society from these evils.
That proper environment, unsurprisingly, essentially amounts to the regulation and hell-out-of taxation on the South Korean gaming industry, which is booming. This, after all, is the country leading the way in eSports. And this "addiction" legislation is coming from the conservative majority party, meaning it actually has a real chance at passing. And they've already passed laws creating blackout times during the day when children can't log into their console game connections
. Personally, I wasn't aware that every child in South Korea had somehow bound and gagged their parents, but what do I know?
Well, for starters, I know that crafting legislation to take on fictional problems might be a great way to make headlines, but it doesn't actually do anything useful for the citizenry. I also know that the trend in entertainment in developed nations, like South Korea, is such that some day all of these game-addicted kids are going to be all-growed-up voting citizens, so the conservative party had better get their kicks while they can, because they'll have plenty of opposition in a matter of years. And, more than anything, placing video games anywhere near substances like alcohol and illicit narcotics is just stupid.
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Posted on Techdirt - 2 December 2013 @ 4:22pm
Can't we all just drink along? Apparently not, as I seem to keep finding more and more nonsensical intellectual property cases related to sweet, beautiful alcohol. Who would have thought that beer could so often lead to confrontation? You may recall times when the IP and alcohol realms have clashed in the past, often over the designs of labels, sometimes over the names of real life people, and sometimes over the trademark of an (sigh) area code.
And now we can add mythical monster disputes to the ledger, as reader phlynhi writes us about a small brewer of beer, Clown Shoes, and how they lost the name of their signature beer, Vampire Slayer. The story goes like this. Clown Shoes made a beer and called it Vampire Slayer. A company called TI Beverage Group released a beer called Vampire Pale Ale after Vampire Slayer came out, but had applied for a trademark before Clown Shoes did. Rather than sending any cease and desist notices, they filed a trademark claim out of the gate, insisting that the court rule unfair competition and that any profits from Vampire Slayer be turned over to TI Beverage Group. Lovely.
Per Clown Shoes' website, they decided that the brand confusion at the heart of the case was a claim they could beat.
At the heart of the suit, we learned after seeking counsel, is whether or not a likelihood of brand confusion exists. Our position was that there couldn’t be much confusion between the two brands. The beers come from different countries, with ours being made in the USA and theirs in Belgium. This means they will end up in different sections of any beer store or on any beer list. Vampire Pale Ale embraces vampires in name and imagery, whereas Vampire Slayer does the opposite. Clown Shoes is the primary name of our beer, whereas Vampire Slayer is the secondary. The beer styles, American Imperial Stout as opposed to Belgian Pale Ale, are about as different as possible. Clown Shoes Beers’ branding is very distinct from Vampire Pale Ale. Etc.
Seems to make sense to me and Clown Shoes was ready to go fight their case in court. Then their attorney informed them that litigating would likely run anywhere between $300k and $400k. Yay, legal system! So they settled, resolving the case for an undisclosed amount of money and a resulting licensing agreement that would allow Clown Shoes to keep using the Vampire Slayer brand name if they choose to. They decidedly choose not
Immediately after we receive national label registration, the name Vampire Slayer will become Undead Party Crasher. The recipe remains the same, with smoked malt and holy water included. The new label expresses our feelings about the legal process and monsters.
Just remember, double tap to the head or sever the head from the neck. It's the only way to stop them. Zombies I mean....
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Posted on Techdirt - 27 November 2013 @ 7:39pm
As the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a Streisand effect. Wait, no, that's not right, but the point is that attempts at silencing speech resulting in an explosion of that speech are quite varied. From railing against parody Twitter accounts, to attempts to silence negative online reviews, to professional sports leagues trying to keep documentaries from going live, it seems we all have something to learn from Senorita Streisand and her icy wrath.
But few such lessons include puppies, such as this one that reader IAsimov alerts us to, in which United Airlines nearly killed an owner's beloved dog and agreed to pay her vet bills, but only if she signed a non-disclosure agreement. Janet Sinclair brought her pets, Sedona the greyhound and Alika the cat, on a cross-country trip using UA's "PetSafe" program, which makes several promises about how the animals will be treated and what type of conditions they'll be exposed to. It would appear, to put it mildly, that the airline failed to keep their promises.
But, according to Sinclair, her pets were not safe. In fact, she says, the comfort stop nearly killed them. As she sat in her window seat looking out onto the tarmac of George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Sinclair says she saw a cargo employee kick Sedona’s crate six times to shove it under the shade of the plane’s wing instead of gently moving it there.
Urged by a fellow passenger, Sinclair began documenting what was happening to her animals. The video she recorded periodically shows her pets left outside, not in a temperature-controlled vehicle. According to the National Weather Service, the high in Houston that day was 94 degrees. When they touched down in Boston, Sinclair said her dog was barely alive.
"Sedona’s entire crate was filled with blood, feces, urine," Sinclair said. "Sedona was in full heat stroke. All of the blankets were filled with blood. She was urinating and defecating blood. She was dying, literally, right in front of me."
Sedona, fortunately, did not
die, and the dog was taken to a vet, who was able to bring the dog back to health. The bill for the vet's work was $2,700, for three days in intensive care to treat heat stroke. Her vet was quite clear in stating that the condition of the dog was not due to any preexisting conditions, despite what United Airlines originally claimed, and was solely the result of the dog's treatment during the flight. The airline offered to pay the bill...but only if Sinclair agreed not to tell anyone what good dog-killers they are. Sinclair declined.
"The only reason I’m doing this interview is because I didn’t sign that, and I won’t sign it," she said, referring to the nondisclosure agreement. "I still want to be reimbursed," she said. "But I’m not going to be quiet."
And now the story is going viral, because the combination of a massive company behaving this way and the inclusion of a dog suffering horrible conditions is the kind of thing internet outrage was made for. My guess? You will still have turkey leftovers in your fridge when UA agrees to pay the vet bill without an NDA. Too bad the damage will have already been done.
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Posted on Techdirt - 27 November 2013 @ 9:41am
While I don't disagree that they have their place, the practical application of internet content filtering software and hardware seems to suck when it's applied large-scale. There are several reasons for this. The general category blocking that's done when settings are low flat out doesn't work. Some inappropriate content will be blocked while some won't be, with the same holding true for appropriate content. Yay. And, gosh, wouldn't you know it, but kids are generally really good about getting around the filters we adults put in place. And even when government groups that should know better have the best of intentions, they often end up blocking sites that shouldn't be blocked out of a misplaced sense of prudishness. That's how you end up getting WiFi on the Maryland Amtrak, but don't you go reading about gay topics (non-pornographic) because that's just icky icky.
It gets more interesting in schools, because everyone's sensitivity jumps up a notch when children are involved and because there's entirely too much sensitivity from different groups of parents who instill different values, religious traditions, and morals in their kids. I get that. If you're a strict Christian, you may teach your children the strict dogma about homosexuality. That's absolutely your right. That isn't the argument. Like, at all. But here's the fun question: exactly how verboten is the topic of gay marriage or homosexuality going to be in our schools now that the topic is regularly discussed on the news and amongst our lawmakers? And how is that question going to butt up against the way webfilters work, are programmed, and utilized by schools?
Here's one example of how this is done wrong. Full disclosure: Paul France is both a teacher here in Illinois and a very close friend of mine, but what happened when he wanted to look into teaching tools to discuss the recent marriage equality law passed in our state provides a partial look into why webfilters need to make some changes.
As a teacher of young children, and in light of Illinois’ recent ruling on gay marriage, I decided that I wanted to find out if there were any resources or news articles that would be relatable to and appropriate for children.
Now, while I can appreciate that not everyone will agree, I would hope that many/most will think that discussing current events and a major law being passed in our state would be a good topic of discussion amongst school children. After all, they live under this law. More importantly, as France notes later in his post, this was to be an open discussion with no push on telling kids they should "agree" with the law. It was purely a teaching moment. Unfortunately, in his search for appropriate resources, he came across a webfilter message that said sites were blocked as a "forbidden category: gay and lesbian issues."
Er, what? Here is part of what he sent to the manufacturer of the webfilter:
Same-sex relationships are not inappropriate for children; the physical and explicit nature of sex is, and an article related to same-sex marriage does not always mean there will be sexually explicit content. Having said this, the website that I visited did, in fact, end up having some content that would be inappropriate for children. However, this content should have been more correctly coded as Forbidden Category: Sexual Content.
In my mind, it would be like filtering an article with explicit photos on slave mistreatment in the 1800s as “African American Issues.” Of course, we would not want children to see disturbing photos depicting violence; however, we would code them as Forbidden Category: Violence.
If you happen to view homosexuality as a negative, which is again your right, you might find this to be nit-picky...until you read that second paragraph. Because he's exactly right; gay and lesbian issues are no more a legitimate target for a block than African American issues. Sexual content should of course
be blocked on school networks (assuming it isn't gobbling up sex-ed class material as well), but that's not what we're talking about. In what world is blocking "Gay and Lesbian Issues" appropriate? That's sending all the wrong messages about how children in schools (and the rest of us too, by the way) are supposed to be engaging in an educational dialectic. Banning the topic gets nobody anywhere. This isn't about pushing anything, it's about having a discussion in a secular public school system.
Let’s try something new. Let’s open up our minds, accept that there are many diverse viewpoints, and come to terms that we don’t all agree. Let’s have a discussion, encourage debate, and promote divergent thinking. I think we’ll all be better off for it in the long run.
I'll add to that a couple of things. Parents, give yourselves credit for your parenting. Mere discussion isn't going to change the values you've taught your children. And let's also give our kids some credit. I think they can take on more serious topics than we imagine, no matter which side of this or any other argument you might be on.
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Posted on Techdirt - 27 November 2013 @ 7:36am
The Sandy Hook massacre has been back in the news as of late for a multitude of reasons. The anniversary of the shooting is coming up soon. Someone decided to release a game associated with the tragedy to send a message and everyone lost their damn minds. And, finally, the government is releasing a full report of their findings of the shooting and of Adam Lanza, the disturbed perpetrator, which includes his possessions and specifically details his video game collection.
Now, if you'll recall, the NRA and several conservative and/or gun rights organizations found themselves the reactionary targets of people who don't like them in the wake of the shooting. Much of this was essentially undeserved fervor, which effectively drowned out any reasonable middle-road discussion we might have had about the issues of firearms availability and their effects on shootings such as this. The mass media supercharged the stupid on both sides, which produced equally stupid results from, you know, everyone. Included in that everyone was the National Rifle Association, which proudly defended our 2nd Amendment rights by suggesting maybe we should shit all over everyone's 1st Amendment rights. Their argument was essentially that guns don't kill people, all those violent video games played by the person folks mistakenly misidentified as the perpetrator shot those people. Yippee for American discourse.
Well we now have a list of Adam Lanza's video game collection, and it indeed includes games of violence, such as Splinter Cell, Mercenaries, Call of Duty, and others. Case closed, amirite? Mmmm, no. Here's some other games on the list: Spiderman, Paper Mario, Luigi's Mansion, and Pikmin. Oh, and the game he reportedly was totally obsessed with? Dance Dance Revolution.
So here's the deal: people that want to draw conclusions about Adam Lanza from his gaming habits don't get to cherry-pick their facts. If we're blaming the games that include violence, surely we must include the games that don't, particularly the game with which he was most obsessed. And I sincerely want to hear the proponents of restrictions on the 1st Amendment by way of video games to argue to the world that we must restrict access to DDR, because I know exactly with what kind of reaction such an argument would be met: derision. Which is exactly what it should be met with, because all this low-hanging fruit-picking over video games is stupid.
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Posted on Techdirt - 21 November 2013 @ 8:06pm
If you're like me, you'd be surprised to learn how much legal action exists surrounding sweet, sweet java. See, I love coffee. It's what makes my morning routine work, like the on button of my entire day. On the other hand, once I've worked myself up into a caffeine-driven frenzy, I really hate to see overly-aggressive intellectual property actions. Yet that's exactly what I'm dealing with today, reading about how megalithic Starbucks went after a tiny New Hampshire coffee roaster over one of their blends, Charbucks.
"We're just a mom-and-pop little roastery," said Annie Clark, who with her husband, Jim, owns Black Bear Micro Roastery in Tuftonboro. They were sued in 2001 in federal district court in New York by Starbucks, which alleged Black Bear's use of the name "Charbucks" infringed, blurred and tarnished its famous trademarks.
So why did Black Bear offer a brew called Charbucks
? Well, apparently there's something of a public perception that Starbucks roasted beans appeared to be abnormally dark in color, indicating something or other about their quality. In other words, it was a gentle jab at a Goliath-like company from a roasting David. The name only worked to begin with as a distinction between the quality of Starbucks beans and Black Bear beans. That didn't stop Starbucks from suing for trademark infringement, however, and then following up with an appeal when Black Bear won round one in court. Fortunately, the appeals court agreed with the original ruling.
The appeals court noted that "one of the reasons Black Bear used the term 'Charbucks' was the public perception that Starbucks roasted its beans unusually darkly." But it agreed with the district court in finding minimal similarity and weak evidence of actual association between the brands.
"Their sales haven't been hurt," Clark said, noting that Black Bear's haven't changed much over the years. "Their growth hasn't been hurt."
In other words, no harm no foul, particularly given that the name of the brew required customers to make a distinction between the brands. Starbucks has since offered some quotes to sound reasonable about their claim, and indeed it appears they were not seeking any monetary damages, but this was still a silly move to begin with. No need to jump at shadows, Starbucks. Perhaps you've been drinking too much of your own coffee.
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Posted on Techdirt - 21 November 2013 @ 11:34am
It's been nearly a year since the Sandy Hook tragedy and if we've learned anything at all in the aftermath it's that we've learned nothing at all in the aftermath. Whether you're an advocate of gun control, an advocate for the link between violence and video games, or an advocate of the NRA, it really doesn't matter. The only thing to come out of the tragedy was a ton of talk, a boon for our stupid cable news networks' ratings, and the exceptional vacuum in which absolutely no conclusions were drawn and nothing was done. Twenty-six people were murdered, most of them children, and the needle hasn't moved in either direction one iota. Well done, everyone.
Wait, I forgot one other lesson we should all have learned from the tragedy: major media and a large swath of our fellow citizens somehow combine being reactionary and willfully ignorant in a way that would be cartoonishly hilarious if it weren't so damned maddening. And now we have the opportunity to re-learn that lesson as we watch the reaction to a "video game" inspired by Sandy Hook in which everyone gets everything wrong from every side possible. Here's how the game is described in the media:
"The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary" directs gamers to storm virtual classrooms with an AR-15 assault rifle in the same vein as Lanza and displays a kill ratio at the end. The game's release comes less than a month before the first anniversary of the Dec. 14 massacre.
This is, at best, only half the story. What most reports omit or bury is that the second part of the game has you attempt the same assault, but you're forced to use a sword because theoretical gun-control laws have kept you
from being able to use a gun. Under the limitations of a countdown, the entire point of the game is that with a sword you can't rack up the body-count you can with a gun. It's an artistic statement on gun-control.
Now, I can already hear my friends in the comments section gearing up for a conversation about freedom, the 2nd amendment, and the uselessness of gun control. Don't. Not because I disagree with you or think your arguments are invalid (I don't), but because that isn't what this post is about. This is about freedom of speech and the importance of artistic expression on the issues of our day, as well as how completely incapable our media and some citizens are at having even a semblance of an intelligent conversation about this. And this comes from all sides, gun-rights folks and gun-control folks, conservative or liberal, it doesn't matter. Everyone comes out of this sounding stupid, because nobody seems to bother actually learning what this game is and is all about. Take a family member of one victim, for instance:
"I'm just horrified," Llodra said. "I just don't understand, frankly, why anyone would think that the horrible tragedy that took place here in Sandy Hook would have any entertainment value. It just breaks my heart."
Great, except the game isn't designed for entertainment purposes, it has a message about the useless reaction to the tragedy. In other words, you don't know what you're talking about. Because you didn't actually see the game or the site, where you would have heard:
In an audio recording on the site, Lambourn describes himself as a U.S. expatriate from Houston who resides in Australia. There, he said, gun laws enacted after the fatal shooting of 35 people at a popular tourist destination in 1996 have stemmed the tide of violence.
Llodra missed the message. As did the NRA:
The NRA called the simulation "reprehensible," but was reluctant to comment further, saying it didn't want to give more ink to "this despicable excuse for a human being."
It's not a simulation, it's artistic commentary, and it's especially funny for an organization that puts out its own "games
" about shooting all kinds of things. And those games are targeted to elementary-aged school children. Note: I don't have a problem with the games themselves, only the hypocritical commentary from the NRA. This hatred of hypocrisy isn't reserved for conservative groups like the NRA, either. Here's champion hypocrite Richard Blumenthal, Democrat Senator from Connecticut.
"I find the exploitation of this unspeakable tragedy is just shocking," Blumenthal told Hearst. "From what I've heard and what's been shown to me, it's absolutely abhorrent. My hope is that it will be voluntarily taken down because it's offensive and hurtful."
Got it? It's shocking for anyone to exploit the Sandy Hook tragedy for their own aims. I wonder how shocking Blumenthal found, you know, himself
back in March, when he said:
A "sensible compromise" can still be reached on gun-control legislation in the Senate, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said on Sunday, saying the "shock and terror of Newtown" was still a major motivating factor for lawmakers.
So it's cool to exploit the tragedy to pass the laws you want, but not cool to exploit it to advocate for passing...the same damn laws you want? Which you didn't know was the message of the game, because some reporter called you up, told you someone made Doom
but set it in Sandy Hook, and your head exploded into a shower of dumbass responses. What the hell?
So, please, please, please
learn this lesson: thou shalt know what thou art talking about before talking about it. I know, it's really hard, especially for ratings-driven controversy whores like the media or grandstanding politicians, but just try it out. In other words, it's entirely possible to hate what happened at Sandy Hook while still leaving room for artistic, even controversial, speech on the matter. Cowboy-up, Americans, this really shouldn't be too hard.
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Posted on Techdirt - 20 November 2013 @ 11:32pm
In these highly charged political times, you tend to hear the term "nanny state" thrown around quite a bit. Whether it's the mayor of a major US city lovingly playing psy-ops with citizens on vices like cigarettes and soda, or an otherwise sane nation keeping its citizens safe from the horrors of accurately depicted street view maps, the general impression is that the government in question doesn't think enough of its own people to allow them to live out their lives as they choose. And, while a simple stroll down the street might cause me to have some sympathy with their premise, most of us tend not to believe that our governments should be in the business of social-engineering our free choices (even though that's essentially the business they're in).
But sometimes a nanny state action moves beyond the mildly frustrating and into the realm of the hilarious. Reader btr1701 writes in about one such instance, in which the government of Sweden is engaging in some manner of performance art on the silliness of over-regulation by the government.
Sweden's Ice Hotel has been ordered by the National Housing Board to install fire alarms, despite being made completely out of frozen water. The Ice Hotel, which is rebuilt every year in northern Sweden out of enormous chunks of ice from the Torne River in Jukkasjärvi, Kiruna, will this year come equipped with fire alarms – and the irony isn't lost on the staff.
"We were a little surprised when we found out," hotel spokeswoman Beatrice Karlsson told The Local.
Now, before your laughter at the concept of a hotel made completely out of ice being forced to install fire alarms reaches shart-inducing levels, it should be noted that some of the decorations in the hotel are not made of ice and could conceivably catch fire. On the other hand, one would assume that such a fire wouldn't be able to spread all that much, what with it being surrounded by ice and all. There might be some minor concerns about a small fire melting the ice-based construction and bringing the whole thing crashing down I suppose, but I'm of the belief that if you're planning on staying in a hotel made of ice, you probably know the risk of that happening anyway. Or you want to punish yourself, in which case a collapse would only be helping you out.
Regulations exist for a reason, but their blanket-style approach highlights their rigidity when an ice-house needs a fire alarm.
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Posted on Techdirt - 20 November 2013 @ 9:34am
As humanity continues to grapple with the question of how video games impact behavior in children, we find ourselves with no shortage of studies. From the Macbeth Effect, to the studies themselves causing aggression, to studies directly looking at a potential link between violent games and real-life violence, we have plenty of data points, yet the results tend to range from ambiguous to non-existent. That tends to be a problem for everyone involved, because it creates an intelligence vacuum ripe to be filled with supposition and grand-standing. What we really need is more studies of a longer nature and with a greater sample size that go further in demonstrating a concrete answer.
Here to provide a study of a longer nature and with a greater sample size to demonstrate a concrete answer is the University of Glasgow, who used Great Britain's enormous ten-year Millenium Cohort Study to study the link or absence of a link between playing video games and real-life behavior. Their findings were a resounding affirmation for all of us who believe in common sense.
TV is generally thought of as more harmless than video games when it comes to the emotional health of kids but the Glasgow study found that "watching TV for 3 h or more daily at 5 years predicted increasing conduct problems between the ages of 5 years and 7 years." No corollary effect was found with video games, likely because parents are more likely to monitor or regulate video game screen time than TV screen time.
This indicates a couple of things. First, parents are likely way too wary of video games compared to television. And second, while one might suggest that the vigilance shown to games by parents is a mitigating factor, the fact remains that the study showed a minor correlation in television and none in games. So, whatever your quibbles, the practical reality of video games in society is one that has no discernible effect on child behavior.
That said, because this is science, we wouldn't want to suggest that this ends the debate entirely.
As with any study, there are caveats. This isn't a be-all, end-all set of findings. The authors themselves say that "the study highlights the need for more detailed data to explore risks of various forms of screen time, including exposure to screen violence." Nevertheless, given the breadth of data drawn from 10 years and more than 10,000 participants, this could be an important cornerstone for future research and conversations about how video games do—or do not—affect behavior.
In other words, also
because this is science, it should be noted that it is incumbent upon those claiming there is a link to show their evidence for that position. Studies like this are going to be a problem for that side of the debate moving forward. While it may be very hard to prove a negative, it's not as difficult to show a void of evidence for the position that behavior and video games are linked.
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Posted on Techdirt - 19 November 2013 @ 4:04pm
There's a spectrum of responses in how to deal with internet trolls. On one end, you can give them a nice little golf-clap while mostly ignoring their often-hilarious antics. Somewhere in the middle is when a news organization decides to track the troll down and harrass them in real life in one of those ironic little moments that makes life worth living. Finally, I think we can call sending a SWAT team to respond to an internet troll on the other far end of the spectrum.
So, with that established, I wonder where we'll put Al Trautwig, a sports analyst in New York for the MSG Network, who found himself the target of a troll after he Twitter-typo'd his new co-worker Marty Biron as "Boron."
@AlTrautwig Thought it was an autobiographical tweet and you meant Moron.
— THE Blocknesmonster (@Blocknesmonster) November 13, 2013
That's about what I'd expect from someone with the Twitter handle THE Blocknesmonster
. It's neither creative, nor funny, nor particularly memorable or deserving of attention in any way. So you'd figure Trautwig would ignore this lame troll and move on, right? Nah, he called the guy's mom instead
Al Trautwig apparently found the troll's phone number and called him. Except the troll doesn't live at that number anymore and hasn't for 20 years; he lives in Israel now. So when Al Trautwig creepily tracked down the number for a heckler who called him a moron on Twitter, and called to confront him about it, he spoke to the heckler's mom.
"I get a call from my mother that Al Trautwig just called the house to speak to me because I wrote something about him on twitter. My mother told him that I don't live there anymore (20 years plus) and can she have his number so I can call him back. He refused to give his number to her and said to her not to worry, that he will find me."
I'm a big fan of sports journalism and talk-radio, and every once in a while a friend or family member will ask me why I listen to a bunch of childish goons shouting things at one another while calling it entertainment. I typically argue that that's not all sports journalism is. Al Trautwig just made things much harder for me by acting as childish as the troll and giving him roughly infinitely more attention than he deserves. In fact, all it did was cause the troll to begin tweeting at Trautwig nonstop, all while getting attention fed to him in response to the story of a sports journalist stooping down to the level of a jerk.
Mission accomplished? Hardly. I imagine that Trautwig has a great many more mothers to call now that this story is circulating.
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Posted on Techdirt - 19 November 2013 @ 3:02pm
While it's calmed down some, there was a great deal of talk about the horrific dangers of counterfeit products during the SOPA and ACTA campaigns. For some reason, professional sports jersey knockoffs in particular seem to get IP holders knickerbockers in a twist, resulting in fun little American traditions like the annual pre-Super Bowl website takedown bonanza. Now, we've discussed before why knockoffs generally aren't a major threat to legitimate apparel producers, or the sports leagues, but this is not one of those posts. Instead, this is the story of how knockoff jerseys saved soccer, or futbol if you're one of those people who wants to kick us Americans in our guardless shins over that kind of thing.
Down in Colombia, visiting soccer (futbol, whatever) team Independiente Santa Fe took a break from having a cool-sounding name to play a soccer (okay, futbol) match against Boyaca Chico. Now, here's a lesson for all of us that sucked too hard at the sport to play and had to be team managers: double check your damned luggage. See, whoever was in charge of bringing ISF's "away" uniforms on the trip took a nap instead, leaving the team with only their warmups and numbers taped to their backs. As it turns out, Colombia's climate closely resembles a sauna and the Macgyver-inspired unis weren't cutting it. There was talk of aborting the game entirely, because Boyaca Chico refused to allow their adversaries to wear their home uniforms, until:
A Santa Fe staffer ran outside the stadium and bought counterfeits from vendors for about $6 each, then used red marker to write the numbers on the back of the shirts. Santa Fe took the pitch to start the second half donning their own team's fake jerseys, but still went on to drub Boyacá Chicó, 2-0. This concludes our daily reminder to not be a dick.
Meaning that the great Colombian fake-jersey industry not only saved the match for the fans at the stadium, but also taught the home team a valuable lesson: karma is a bitch and it wears a $6 uniform. So thank you, counterfeit jersey sellers, for filling in the gaps where sports team logistics fails. And fair thee well until February, when the NFL will be sending the feds to kick down your doors.
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Posted on Techdirt - 15 November 2013 @ 4:01pm
So, hey, you know how people who have pirated video games are the devil, the great Satan, beings of pure evil with nothing but ill-will on their minds? You know how the question of piracy and how producers react to it isn't one of economics, but a question of morality? We may have a problem here. It turns out that last year's version of Football Manager, a game series that involves the apparently enjoyable task of managing a football (soccer) club, included some code that tracked the IP address of anyone who attained the game through unauthorized channels. When the makers of the game went back recently to study the results, they found that 10-plus million copies of the game were pirated, predominantly within China, Turkey and Portugal, obviously an Axis of Evil Soccer Fans. Then they stumbled across this:
Italy was also up there in the rankings though, and of the 547,000 copies Sega were able to trace to the country, one was from inside the Vatican.
Now, it's been some time since I was in Sunday School, but it seems to me that if the center of an organization that I was told was run by an infallible man in a giant hat through which God's official decisions on morality are made is pirating video games, then that's kosher (editor's note: damn it, Tim, you're mixing up religions again).
Okay, okay, so I'm obviously joking. Piracy taking place within the halls of the Vatican of course doesn't make that action any more right than some of the other terrible things each and every religion has done in the past. We're all human, after all. And perhaps we should give a tip of our hats to the producers of the game, who seem to be acting a bit more reasonable and human on the piracy subject than many of their peers.
While ten million pirated copies is cause for alarm, Football Manager boss Miles Jacobson is realistic about what it actually meant for his studio, saying that one pirated copy did not equal one sale lost. By their calculations, it added up to 176,000 lost sales, or $3.7 million in revenue.
While I'd still stipulate that I'd like to look at their "calculations", this is a far cry from the "each pirated copy is a lost sale" claim. So good on you, Miles Jacobson. Perhaps your reasonable words will give you a special spot in Heaven. But if that doesn't do the trick, I think there's someone in the Vatican that owes you a favor.
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Posted on Techdirt - 13 November 2013 @ 8:08pm
Someone once told me that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. I personally always wondered whether you should then expect life to give you vodka to put into said lemonade, but that's besides the point. We all know that the SimCity roll out was an unmitigated disaster the likes of which had never been seen (if gaming blogs were your reference point, anyway). Fortunately, we have some very talented lemonade-makers in this country that are turning the game into a useful teaching tool for children.
Glasslab Games has worked with EA to make a modded version of the commercial game, called SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge. While the primary use of the mod is to teach children about the dangers and solutions to citizens making everything smell like battery acid, a wonderful secondary use is to track how children apply what they've learned to problem-solving. The game also teaches logic-application beyond the pollution problem.
One neat change that's been made is the addition of a number of 10-minute challenges to the game. An example given in this Fast Company report is "Can you use fewer bus stops to get all the kids to school?", and at the conclusion of each everyone gets feedback on what they did right and what they did wrong.
Now, I realize that we've all been told that video games have no part on a child's life beyond simply making them want to go on murder rampages or eschew the providence of playing sports, but it's very nice to see some forward-thinking teachers applying some fun technology as a teaching method. It's a far cry from the days when I went to school, when I was introduced to educational programs like The Oregon Trail
, through which I learned how to shoot every animal I ever met, or the original SimCity
, where I learned how fun it is to unleash tornadoes on an unsuspecting population.
Can we start having a nuanced view on video games and children yet?
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Posted on Techdirt - 13 November 2013 @ 3:06pm
I'll preface this post with a couple of admissions. First, I've never used a dating site, though not because I think there's anything wrong with the concept. Second, I am getting married in the next couple of days. Now that that's out of the way, it seems to me that dating sites are all about cheating. You can cheat by fudging your cleavage on your profile picture. You can cheat by yoinking someone else's dating profile for your own use.
And, if you're a married person looking to cheat, you can go to a dating site dedicated to cheaters, because surely that will work out well for everyone involved. But here's something you may have never expected: a skeevy site promising to help you cheat on your spouse might just be bullshitting their own profiles. Gasp! And, because life is full of stories that completely lack a good guy, we learn that one such site, Ashley Madison, is doing just that, thanks to a former employee suing over the carpel tunnel syndrome she says she attained while creating all those fake profiles the unhappily married have been "corresponding" with.
Doriana Silva is seeking $20 million from Ashley Madison for what she calls the company’s “unjust enrichment” at her expense, plus another $1 million in punitive and general damages.
In her statement of claim, Silva — a Brazilian immigrant living in Toronto — says she was hired to help launch a Portuguese-language version of the site and promised a starting salary of $34,000 plus benefits. She was soon asked to create 1,000 “fake female profiles” meant to lure men to the new Brazilian Ashley Madison site — and given only three weeks to complete the work, the document alleges.
Huh, I didn't realize we were still doing the whole "typing gave me carpel tunnels" thing in this day and age. It seems like a shaky bridge to build for getting all that sweet cash, given that studies haven't provided any causal link
between typing and claw-hands. And it's worth noting that this is a cash-grab, not the work of an honest whistle-blower. In other words, it may be that the inclusion of the fake profiles story was to extract a settlement from Ashley Madison. Some might suggest that perhaps Silva is lying about creating fake profiles, but since we've seen that done by more mainstream dating sites, it's easy to believe her on that front. Given the opportunity to comment or respond with a statement of defense, the company has thus far been silent.
So, remember, when you're trolling the internet for someone to cheat on your spouse with, chances are you're not talking to a real human being. And if you're unhappy at home, there are much more fun ways to get sore hands than typing on your keyboard.
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Posted on Techdirt - 12 November 2013 @ 2:34pm
Honestly, if there's anything more stupid than the music industry and song-writers going after lyrics sites, I can't imagine what that thing might be. We've talked in the past about how short-sighted it is for the profiteers of interest in songs targeting websites that do little beyond promoting interest in those same songs. Even the most obviously single-purpose lyric site that does nothing but post song lyrics is likely innocuous at worst and beneficial to all involved at best. Yet they're constant targets. Blech.
But sometimes this goes beyond blinder-vision and moves into a complete mis-targeting. That seems to be the case with the inclusion of RapGenius.com on the National Music Publisher's Association hitlist of sites from their press conference on Monday. The NMPA insisted all sites immediately pull lyrics off the site. RapGenius, for those of you not in the know, is much more than a lyrics site. But, according to one guy that I think I've heard of before:
David Lowery, a veteran of the bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker who has tracked the sites in his research for the University of Georgia, says they are big business.
“Unlicensed lyric sites are largely ignored as copyright infringers, but in fact these sites generate huge web traffic and involve more money than one might think,” he said. “The lyric business is clearly more valuable in the Internet age.”
What?!? First, it's hard to square these sites being ignored with their constantly being targeted and sued. Second, to understand what a site like RapGenius is and does, you actually have to look at the site. A cursory glance shows that the entire point of the site is to foster a conversation and commentary around lyrics (and more), their meaning, and their interpretations. This is done through user annotations, fostering a back and forth that often times includes the songwriters themselves
. As RapGenius founder Ilan Zechory notes:
“Rap Genius is so much more than a lyrics site! The lyrics sites the NMPA refers to simply display song lyrics, while Rap Genius has crowdsourced annotations that give context to all the lyrics line by line, and tens of thousands of verified annotations directly from writers and performers. These layers of context and meaning transform a static, flat lyric page into an interactive, vibrant art experience created by a community of volunteer scholars. Furthermore, music is only a small part of what we do. Rap Genius is an interactive encyclopedia for annotation of all texts — anyone can upload and annotate texts relating to music, news, literature, religion, science, their personal lives, or anything else they want,” he concluded.
So, the questions are pretty obvious. First, why is the NMPA going after a site that is clothed in several layers of Fair Use armor? And second, why is an association that is supposed to protect the rights of all
their songwriting members going after a site that many of them appear to enjoy using. Finally, what the hell kind of good is supposed to come of any of this? I'm not sure what the end-game is supposed to be for the NMPA, but this looks like a massive swing-and-a-miss to me. Oh, and it should be noted that people appear to have posted Techdirt articles to RapGenius as well
, and everyone at Techdirt thinks that's great
. We'd actually be really pissed off if some misguided attempt to squeeze money out of the site meant that our own content was held back and less widely distributed.
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