Posted on Techdirt - 13 April 2014 @ 12:00pm
It's a sad fact that a lot of big, important questions today are coming down to the government's word versus the word of whistleblowers and anonymous sources. And as silverscarcat points out in our most insightful comment of the week, it's obvious who deserves the benefit of the doubt:
At this point...
Snowden has more credibility than the entire U.S. government put together.
Save for a few individuals, but they're few and far between.
Meanwhile, when it comes to interpreting copyright law, the MPAA seems to think that its word trumps all others, even those found in statute and caselaw. An anonymous commenter won second place this week by reinforcing the point that, whatever you think of Megaupload, you can't just declare war on the whole internet:
If you think Megaupload is bad and evil and infringing and criminals and should fry, try replacing all instances of Megaupload with your favorite cloud service of choice and see if the complaint is still valid.
Of course, in the world of DMCA takedowns, the sad situation is that the rightsholder's word is law, at least as far as taking something offline until it's contested. That's how Sony was able to take a creative commons movie down, and as an anonymous commenter reminds us in our first editor's choice for insightful, the takedowns we hear about are almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg:
When I see stories like this I always wonder how many videos with tiny audiences are taken down by mistake and never put back up because the author does not know how to contest the decision, or are simply scared that they may have infringed someones copyright by accident. Also how many people do not know their fair use rights, and so do not contest take-downs when they have a fair use claim, or cannot risk the cost of it going to court?
For our second editor's choice, we have a thorough comment from Rich Kulawiec about the fact that even beyond the obvious moral issue, not torturing people is in everyone's best interest no matter how you slice it:
Not only is it horrific to contemplate that Americans in positions of authority authorized and/or committed crimes against humanity and tortured helpless human beings to death, but this has serious negative repercussions for American troops in the field.
First, American troops are sporadically engaged in combat with soldiers from other countries -- whether in a declared or undeclared war, or a so-called "police action", or something else. One of the things that has often brought those combat situations to a peaceful end is the surrender of those fighting against the Americans. And one of the reasons those surrenders occured is that Americans could and would promise those surrendering that they would not be killed or otherwise harmed: that they would be treated humanely. That was a promise that American commanders very often worked hard to keep, even over the objections of their own soldiers and their emotions, running high in the heat of battle.
But no American soldier can promise that any more. And no opposing soldier can believe it. There is every possibility that a peacefully-surrendering individual will be "disappeared" into one of the CIA's gulags and repeatedly tortured, perhaps to death.
So why should they surrender? Even if they're surrounded, outnumbered, and in a militarily hopless situation, why should they give up? Why not fight it out and try to take a few more Americans with them?
The CIA's torture program has removed one of the primary reasons for considering surrender as a viable option and thus ensures that more American soldiers will die, fighting protracted battles that need not have been fought by anyone.
Second, American soldiers are occasionally captured by adversaries. And while some of them have been treated brutally, many have been accorded the rights guaranteed to them under international law by countries who observed the Geneva Conventions because the United States did the same. In other words, those countries treated American prisoners of-war humanely because they wished the same for their own, and they had good reason to believe the United States would obey the law.
But the CIA has broken that tenuous trust. They've tortured people to death. And as a result, there is now far less reason for adversaries to treat American prisoners properly: why should they? Which means that captured American soldiers in the field now face substantially higher personal risk than they did previously.
This may not be fixable. I don't know. But if there is any possibility of fixing it, surely it lies along a path that includes the full disclosure of the entire report and every accompanying document. It will be ugly. It will be painful. It will be horrifying. But I think it's the only possible way and I think we, as a nation, owe it to the soldiers we put in harm's way.
Over on the funny side, first place goes to a comment from ChurchHatesTucker, responding to the news that the EU Court of Justice ruled blanket data retention to be a violation of privacy:
So that's where the Fourth Amendment wandered off to.
In second place, we've got a callback comment. After Michael Hayden claimed that various cables and documents were just as good a source of information as the torture tapes that had been destroyed, an anonymous commenter took things a step further with help from a recent, but unrelated, ridiculous ruling:
According to Indiana, Hayden's testimony is better than the tapes.
As noted back at the beginning of this post, there are a lot of battles of "who's lying?" going on right now, and one of the biggest is between Snowden and Rep. Mike Rogers. Our first editor's choice goes to an anonymous commenter for anticipating the latter's response to the former's recent interview:
In before Mike Rogers says that his talking to Vanity Fair is a cover for working with the Russians.
Finally, we've got another anonymous comment that I think deserves to be elevated to Ironic Adage, because it perfectly sums up the mentality of every indiscriminate, overzealous incident of copyright enforcement:
Hey, You can't make an omelet without breaking everybody's eggs
That's all for this week, folks!
40 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 12 April 2014 @ 12:00pm
Five years ago I was just a Techdirt reader. Ten years ago, I was starting journalism school and first discovering the site. Fifteen years ago, the main thing I used the internet for was playing Team Fortress Classic and a MUD called AfterShock. With that perspective in mind, let me take you on another of our weekly digs through Techdirt history:
Five Years Ago:
Today, Time Warner Cable and Comcast are working on getting their merger approved — five years ago, TWC was in the process of rolling out its metered/capped broadband services for the first time, while claiming it was what customers wanted. At the time, the response from other service providers offered a prime example of how broadband competition encourages lower prices and unlimited data. Unfortunately, when you get down to it, it's hard to say there's been much progress in improving US broadband since then, at least not from the consumer perspective — and this new merger is certainly not going to help.
Five years ago was also when a second circuit ruling opened Google up to trademark liability in AdWords — something that, we noted just this past November, may finally be coming to an end. The same can't be said for the Associated Press' aggressive interpretation of copyright law, which manifested as them targeting news aggregators for the first time in 2009. Nor can it be said for EA, which was fresh off the Spore DRM failure while Atari was following in its footsteps. Nor still can it be said about GEMA, which we were still identifying first as a "German Collections Society", for the name was in the early days of its notoriety.
These were also the days just after the ProIP bill. We noted at the time that Hollywood was already brainstorming its next round of draconian copyright legislation and, well, we all know how that ended.
Ten Years Ago:
Well this is interesting: five years ago this week Google was beginning to face trademark issues over AdWords — and ten years ago this week they had just decided to allow purchasing trademarked terms in the first place. The company was also just launching localized ads (only weeks after first testing local search). In fact, location-based services in general were only just starting to appear. Gmail was brand new and causing a stir in California with one state senator seeking to ban it, and we were also still musing about the future Google IPO.
Ten years ago this week, we also featured an innocent one-paragraph post about "the rise of patent hoarding houses" — the term "patent troll" hadn't even appeared yet. Little did we know just how bad things would get.
Back in 2004, only one in six US users had gone online via WiFi. AOL was still sending CDs and DVDs by mail. California had just made its first arrest for recording movies under its new anti-camcording law — meanwhile, the state's first anti-violent-videogame bill was shot down. Some analysts were mocking the low resolution of what we still called "camera phones" while others were smartly realizing the potential of a camera that's connected. The still-unsettled question of smartphones on airplanes was just being raised, and the finally-starting-to-settle debate about blogs and journalism was firing up as well. This week in 2004 was also the first time that salespeople started popping up in chat boxes on websites.
Fifteen Years Ago:
Things were very different this week in 1999. Microsoft had just announced that it would enter the instant messaging game. I believe I was still on ICQ at the time (uh-oh!) Some folks were trademarking Y2K. PalmPilots were still a big deal, though some were beginning to talk about the mysterious "web phones" that the future held. Network Solutions was still clinging to its monopoly on domain registration — and there were still some dictionary word dot-coms available to be registered.
Amazon.com was sued by Amazon Bookstore, and since I don't think I've ever heard of that latter one, I can guess how that ended. Folks were insisting that Mozilla was dead at the hands of IE 5.0, but even though Firefox was years away, we weren't ready to bury them yet — though we were less optimistic about web portals. Online bill payment existed in 1999, but it still usually cost money to use, and the first free services were just appearing. Linux also existed, but the first distribution with a graphical installer was still being finalized.
400 Years Ago:
In 1614, John Napier devised logarithms and shared them with the world, paving the way for countless innovations, discoveries and advances in virtually every field of science, engineering and beyond. Techdirt did not cover this — but I like to think we would have.
24 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Innovation - 12 April 2014 @ 9:00am
Style and fashion constantly change in capricious, unpredictable and decidedly non-linear ways — but the underlying function of clothing and accessories follows the same path as any other technology: innovation, refinement and improvement. This week's Awesome Stuff takes a look at some practical innovations from the world of wearables.
A day comes in most men's lives, usually sometime late in or just after college, when we (a) realize that dress shirts have become the bulk of our wardrobe and (b) look closer and realize that absolutely none of them fit us particularly well. If we're lucky we may have found a few brands with off-the-rack sizes that fit as though tailored, but that's a rare thing indeed. Certain shirt alterations are "easy", but it's all relative (in this case relative to just putting on an ill-fitting shirt, so in other words: hard). But what if trimming baggy sleeves and waists was as simple as snapping an extra piece into place? That's what the ZipSeam aims to make possible:
Innie Shoelace Locks
Shoelaces are among those funny things that have been the same seemingly forever, and yet really feel as though they should have somehow been improved or replaced. The in-many-ways superior option of velcro has been arbitrarily stigmatized; zippers, having all but completely eliminated laces in the realm of shirts and pants, remain a distant second in the shoe game. For whatever reason, people just really like laces on their shoes, while simultaneously realizing that they are often a huge pain. Maybe the solution is the Innie, which does away with bows and excess length while preserving the timeless look of laces:
The constant flood of "revolutionary" new wallets on Kickstarter still shows no sign of slowing down, and these days it's rarer and rarer to see an idea that actually stands out in any meaningful way. But the Vinco wallet is something a little different: instructions and supplies for making your own lifetime supply of temporary paper wallets.
5 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 11 April 2014 @ 12:29pm
Update: The NSA has denied the Bloomberg report, briefly stating that the agency "was not aware of the recently identified Heartbleed vulnerability until it was made public." We'll continue to update as more information emerges.
The internet is still reeling from the discovery of the Heartbleed bug, and yesterday we wondered if the NSA knew about it and for how long. Today, Bloomberg is reporting that the agency did indeed know about Heartbleed for at least the past two years, and made regular use of it to obtain passwords and data.
While it's not news that the NSA hunts down and utilizes vulnerabilities like this, the extreme nature of Heartbleed is going to draw more scrutiny to the practice than ever before. As others have noted, failing to reveal the bug so it could be fixed is contrary to at least part of the agency's supposed mission:
Ordinary Internet users are ill-served by the arrangement because serious flaws are not fixed, exposing their data to domestic and international spy organizations and criminals, said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute, a Bethesda, Maryland-based cyber-security training organization.
“If you combine the two into one government agency, which mission wins?” asked Pescatore, who formerly worked in security for the NSA and the U.S. Secret Service. “Invariably when this has happened over time, the offensive mission wins.”
There is, in fact, a massive hypocrisy here: the default refrain of NSA apologists is that all these questionable things they do are absolutely necessary to protect Americans from outside threats, yet they leave open a huge security hole that is just as easily exploited by foreign entities. Or consider the cybersecurity bill CISPA, which was designed to allow private companies to share network security information with the intelligence community, and vice versa, supposedly to assist in detecting and fixing security holes and cyber attacks of various kinds. But, especially after this revelation about Heartbleed, can there be any doubt that the intelligence community is far more interested in using backdoors than it is in closing them?
84 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 11 April 2014 @ 9:42am
We've been covering the prosection of Andrew "weev" Auernheimer for over a year, and things were not looking good for him, with the court seemingly stacking the deck in favor of a clueless DOJ. But instead, today the appeals court reversed his conviction and 3.5-year jail sentence (which, let's not forget, was handed to him for exposing a security flaw, under the DOJ's twisted interpretation of the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act).
The hope, of course, was that the court might address the ridiculousness of the charge and the huge problems of the CFAA, which currently permits the government to go after pretty much anyone who uses a computer in a way they don't like. Instead, the conviction was tossed for being in the wrong venue:
Although this appeal raises a number of complex and novel issues that are of great public importance in our increasingly interconnected age, we find it necessary to reach only one that has been fundamental since our country’s founding: venue.
But, while the ruling punts on the CFAA, it raises some issues in its venue analysis that could themselves have a wider impact. Weev was prosecuted in New Jersey based on the flimsy rationale that New Jersey residents were affected by the security flaw exposure (but really because New Jersey has its own anti-hacking laws, and the DOJ was able to pursue a harsher punishment if the CFAA intersected with state laws). But the appeals court found that, since none of the allegedly illegal activities undertaken by weev happened in New Jersey, this was inappropriate:
The statute’s plain language reveals two essential conduct elements: accessing without authorization and obtaining information.
New Jersey was not the site of either essential conduct element. The evidence at trial demonstrated that the accessed AT&T servers were located in Dallas, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia. In addition, during the time that the conspiracy began, continued, and ended, Spitler was obtaining information in San Francisco, California, and Auernheimer was assisting him from Fayetteville, Arkansas. No protected computer was accessed and no data was obtained in New Jersey.
Since the question of venue is still very muddy when it comes to the internet, this likely isn't the last we'll be hearing about this ruling, and its impact on other cases could prove interesting. It's also likely not an end to weev's story, and certainly not an end to government abuse of the CFAA. But, for now and at the very least, it says that if the DOJ is going to try to throw you in jail for the crime of Vaguely Misusing A Computer While Being Kind Of A Jerk, it at least has to do it in the correct venue instead of going fishing for the most favorable one.
Update: As noted in the First Word comment below, the ruling did make mention of the fact that no crime had been clearly established, which suggests that if the court had addressed the bigger questions about the charge, it may not have gone well for the DOJ. For now, we'll have to be satisfied with a non-binding footnote.
Read More | 17 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 6 April 2014 @ 12:00pm
On Tuesday, as part of a discussion of the future of capitalism, we mentioned the skewed perception (on both sides of the political spectrum) of capitalism caused by extremists, most notably Objectivists. This spurred Mason Wheeler to take the next step and win most insightful comment of the week by suggesting adding Objectivism to the list of philosophies that society treats with a high baseline of skepticism:
The problem, as you suggested, is the Objectivists. For decades they've been a very influential voice defining capitalism as the twisted monstrosity Ayn Rand had in mind, to the point where today, people espousing the actual theories and principles of Adam Smith get accused of being dirty commies. And if infinite goods is gonna destroy that capitalism, where do I sign up?
Objectivists are a blight on society, and while I hesitate to use terms like "guilty until proven innocent" even as hyperbole, they need to be regarded with the same "treat as suspicious by default" viewpoint as Scientologists, and for the same basic reason: a key defining characteristic of practitioners is their religious adherence to an ideology that is actively and maliciously harmful to those around them.
(Further evidence of the unholy coupling between Rand and Hubbard!)
In second place on the insightful side, we've got Karl expanding on the many ways the Aereo ruling will effect cloud computing:
One of the many idiocies that Spangler repeats is the notion that the Aero ruling won't affect cloud services, because those services are "already protected from liability for copyrighted material illegally uploaded to their services under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act." (Others, like amateur-turned-professional copyright maximalist Terry Hart, have made the same argument.)
For one thing, he's wrong, because a ruling against Aero would create infringement where there currently is none. If streaming from the cloud to a single user is a "public performance," then it wouldn't matter whether the user acquired the content legally. The streaming itself - not the acquisition of the content - would infringe on the public performance right.
Second, even if he were correct, requiring DMCA protections for what are now private performances would be disastrous for cloud services and anyone who uses them. If they got DMCA protections, it likely wouldn't be under 512(a) ("Transitory Digital Network Communications"). The content is actually hosted on the cloud provider's network, so they would be protected under 512(c) ("Information Residing on Systems or Networks At Direction of Users").
This is one of the sections of the DMCA that falls under the "notice and takedown" provisions. This means that the only way cloud services would escape libaility is if they allowed copyright holders to issue takedown notices of users private files.
It also includes the controversial "red flag" sections that were recently (and solely) used to find the MP3Tunes guy personally liable for millions. There is absolutely no way a company is going to risk that sort of liability for cloud services, especially if their officers must operate under the threat of personal liability.
The only possible way that cloud computing can continue to operate is if they don't need DMCA protection in the first place. And it should be obvious why they shouldn't. As long as a single copy of a copyrighted work is streamed to a single user, both the legal history and common sense dictate that it shouldn't be a public performance.
(I posted this same comment on the Variety story, so we'll see if there's a response.)
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with a comment from Beech suggesting professors use good ol' market forces to teach Nature a lesson about open access:
Duke should tell the professors that there will be no waivers, then hand them a list of other reputable journals that don't require such bullshit. Nature won't have much of a reputation if no one publishes through them.
Next we've got Roger Strong, who casts the government's response to CIA torture in a deservedly uncomfortable light:
Obviously if America's slavery were a little more recent, Saxby Chambliss would call it "enhanced employment" and would object to claims that it wasn't justified. He would label any talk about the issue "a distraction."
Tom Coburn would call it slavery, but would insist that it was done in "good faith" to promote agriculture.
Feinstein would be willing to call it "a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen" but would refuse to call it slavery.
Over on the funny side, first place goes to Mark Wing, who realized that maybe we've just been misunderstanding the NSA's purpose all along:
"To serve America" is really just a cookbook.
(This may remind some of you of another great culinary misunderstanding.)
In second place, we've got a second win for Roger Strong (whose roster consists of a mere 14 comments so far!) This time, in response to the story of a botched drug raid and ensuing coverup, he noted that as with so many things, it's all a matter of scale:
The Iraq invasion and occupation? Just a rumor. Highly inaccurate. Never happened.
Our next move then was to check on a country - Afghanistan - which was in close proximity.
For editor's choice on the funny side, we start with a comment from ethorad offering Dick Cheney a semantic escape from his flat-out lies:
He claimed that there has not been a single case of NSA abusing its authority.
He's right you know. There hasn't been a single case, there's been loads of them!
And, finally, we've got an anonymous comment reminding us that if climate change was (unfathomably) a hoax, it'd be a shockingly benevolent one:
Oh dear ...
What if it is all a big hoax and we make the planet a better place for nothing?
(As long as we don't get too smug...)
That's all for this week, folks!
37 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 30 March 2014 @ 12:00pm
This week, we applauded the ruling that blocked ASCAP's requested rate hike and highlighted the collection society's collusion with publishers to marginalize Pandora. Of course, some people still insist that innovative services like Pandora — the people working hardest to create a strong digital market for music — are just trying to withhold money from artists, and it was one such claim that prompted both of our most insightful comments of the week in response. First place goes to Karl for refuting the idea that Pandora pays less than more traditional distribution platforms:
Actually, it's the Silicon Valley crowd acting as usual giving as little to the artists as possible. And before you raise the usual blather about the major record labels sharing only a small percentage, it's dramatically larger than the percentage shared by the tech world.
Provably false. In fact, that's part of what this lawsuit was all about.
The rates that Pandora paid (and, now, will continue to pay) are higher than the rates that traditional radio stations pay, for streaming on the Internet.
Pandora's rate is 1.85%. IHeartRadio, run by Clear Channel (the owner of the majority of radio stations), pays just 1.7% for its Internet streams.
And as far as comparison with "the major record labels:" No, they do not share a "dramatically larger" percentage of their income. Pandora pays more than half their income to sound recording rights holders. Major labels pay around 15% of the income from records, to the artists (depending upon contract). And that's only after the artists have paid back the recording costs, packaging costs, some of the marketing or video, etc.
So, no. Pandora pays a dramatically larger percentage to artists than any traditional label or publisher.
You're lying, once again.
Not far behind, John Fenderson for further highlighting the absurdity of branding Pandora as the bad guys:
You mean the same Pandora that gives as little to the artists as possible by willingly agreeing to licensing terms that has them paying out more than other businesses in the same line of work are doing?
The same licensing terms that the content producers agreed to and then backed out of purely to destroy Pandora through illegal collusion?
You mean that Pandora?
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out on another indirectly-related post that also, ultimately, revolves around the question of what music is "worth". When musicians sue for figures like $52-billion, as Roland Chambers recently did, then, as That Anonymous Coward pointed out, they just expose how arbitrary (and ridiculous) the industry's appraisal of music's value really is:
Even with his insane math and presumptions, they are based on what has been claimed by each of the **AA's on multiple occasions.
IP is our most valuable thing, in the minds of a few who only see dollar signs dancing because they made something that one time.
While one could dismiss him outright for being out of his mind, this perfectly highlights the response we see time and time again. I made this and its worth kajillions that you owe to me, because I think its worth that much. You owe me, my heirs, my heirs heirs a living forever.
Creating is hard, but it does not entitle you to all of this. Until we can stop the insane thoughts from the other side, who lie and distort the truth, we will see more and more of these cases.
My only hope is that he used that awful Dash woman's poem as a refrain and the 2 of them will be forced to do gladiatorial combat.
And, since there is a surprising dearth of NSA comments on this week's leaderboards, we'll close off the insightful side with a strong anonymous declaration in response to the lack of oversight at the NSA:
The NSA has betrayed the American people
If you're afraid to conduct the business of the American people in full view of the American people, and if you're afraid to be held accountable to the elected representatives of the American people, then you do not serve the American people. You serve yourselves. You're not patriots. You're not brave. You're not upholding the Constitution. You're not defending the country. You're just indulging your vanity and self-importance delusions.
Over on the funny side, we start out on the not-so-funny story about a man who was arrested for possession of... "Scentsy" wax cube candle thingies that maybe kinda sorta looked like drugs at first. Bt Garner suggested that this might be a great opportunity for the brand:
Scentscy should come to this guy's aid and turn this into a freaking genius PR campaign.
"Scentscy: So good it should be illegal."
In second place on the funny side, we've got (slightly bizarre) a comment from hutcheson which compares and contrasts some American political values in the international sphere:
Why No Warning: Edmundovich Snowdenski Reveals All
Apparently Moscow was only planning to shoot people, not do anything really dastardly--like share music or video with them.
But it is not too late! Even now, all the power of the Obama administration can be harnessed! Call your lobbyist today! Tell him to get out the word: THE RUSSIAN SOLDIERS MAY BE LISTENING TO UNLICENCED MUSIC!
Speaking of Snowden and Russia, our first editor's choice for funny goes to an anonymous comment responding to Rep. Rogers' wild speculation that the former is to blame for the latter's aggression against Ukraine:
I offer a counter speculation that may make a little more sense than Mike Rogers.
Sometime in the future the NSA's data harvesting reaches critical mass and becomes sentient, turning against the world and ushering in an era of machines. Snowden, leader of the human resistance is sent back in time to stop this from happening by revealing the secret data collection to the public in order to inspire change. However, the sentient NSA data collection learns of this plan and sends Mike Rogers back to discredit Snowden so that data collection can continue.
And, finally, we step away from all these messy topics to the would-be-purity of science — except that some senators are afraid about forcing researchers to disclose funding, because truth and lobbying rarely go well together. Baldaur Regis nicely summed up the broken thinking behind this affront to reason and rationalism:
The science of 'full disclosure' isn't settled yet.
That's all for this week, folks!
8 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 23 March 2014 @ 12:00pm
It's common enough for comment threads to digress around here, but it's rare (perhaps unprecedented) for the top comment of the week to be largely unrelated to the topic, not only of the post it was submitted on but of all the posts that week and the general list of common Techdirt topics. So consider it a testament to how frustrated people are getting with climate change deniers that Mason Wheeler took first place for insightful with a simple and direct admonition:
If you think denying climate change isn't putting entire societies (including our own) at risk, you're not paying enough attention...
While first place is a topical outlier, second place for insightful brings us back to basics. Alien Rebel did not mince words in talking about our old friend the Copyright Alliance:
The Copyright Alliance is just another purely artificial astroturf organization, doing what it's paid to do by a select group of special interests. It therefore shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the words uttered by Sandra Aistars are just nonsensical crap thrown at a wall in the hope that some of them will stick, and have some political effect. Look no further than who the Alliance founders and staffers have been; either MPAA execs, Nickles Group LLC lobbyists, or alumni from the Progress & Freedom Foundation, which played a role in Newt Gingrich's ethics troubles back in the 90's. Copyright Alliance Staff, 2008. archive.org
I had the displeasure of spending quality time on the phone with Ms. Aistars; "hack attorney" is exactly right, IMO. Former Time-Warner VP, attorney from Weil, Gotshal, & Manges. Defender of "creative individuals"? Yah, sure.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with a comment from John Fenderson pointing out just how disturbing the LiveJournal of an NSA official was to read:
With the other documents, there was at least a pretense of professionalism. With this, there is none. This is just a pure expression of joy at being able to spy for the sake of spying. To see something like this written, with not one iota of the gravity of the actions, indicates a culture and mindset that the infamous "smiley face" only hinted at. A culture and mindset that is fundamentally at odds with the notions of freedom and liberty.
This document sends more chills up my spine than any of the others I've seen yet.
Next, we've got Ima Fish, who took the illustrative argument that the 4th Amendment should be secret according to NSA logic, and ran with it:
Heck, why stop with just the 4th amendment? By publishing our criminal statutes we're telling terrorists and criminals exactly what facts and circumstances the police and prosecutors are investigating. By publishing court rules, we're telling terrorists and criminals the inner machinations of our judicial system.
Clearly all laws should be hidden. And our judicial process should be kept entirely secret.
Over on the funny side, we start out on the post about Microsoft snooping in Hotmail accounts, where first place went to an anonymous commenter for expressing his decidedly unsurprised reaction:
I am shocked
Shocked, I say, that there is gambling going on in this casino!
Meanwhile, though we ridiculed prosecutors for suggesting that Andrew "weev" Auernheimer's hacking activities were akin to "blowing up a nuclear power plant in New Jersey", Michael won second place for funny by cutting them a bit more slack:
It could be a reasonable comparison.
Let's be realistic here. How bad would it be to blow up a nuclear power plant in New Jersey? I mean you can't even buy a Tesla there anymore.
For editor's choice for funny, we start out with another comment on the post about weev, this time from Rose M. Welch. The comment actually received more insightful votes than funny ones, but ultimately it's both:
...the definition of 'hacking' has been updated.
1. to cut and clear (a way, path, etc.), as through undergrowth
2. to cough in short dry spasmodic bursts
3. to manipulate a computer program skilfully, esp, to gain unauthorized access to another computer system
4. to use a computer in a way that observers do not fully understand or do not like
And finally, we've got a comment from Argonel, who has found the silver lining of much-maligned Ultraviolet movies:
I love Ultraviolet, at least when included with Blu-ray combo packs. This means I get a Blu-ray copy for myself, a DVD copy to give to someone I like, and an Ultraviolet code to give to someone I secretly loathe. It looks like I'm giving them a gift, but they have to deal with Ultraviolet digital copies. I will never use an Ultraviolet code myself.
A brilliant plan, if you ask me.
That's all for this week, folks!
20 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 16 March 2014 @ 12:00pm
It's another big week for insightful comments, with the votes on that side shooting far ahead of those on the funny side. In first place, we've got btr1701 with a rephrasing of our condemnation of the terrible ruling against Chinese DVD ripper software:
seeking to wipe an entire company completely off the face of the internet for daring to do something that's basically legal in similar realms
More like seeking to wipe an entire company off the internet for daring to follow the laws of its own country instead of the laws of a country on the other side of the planet; laws which it is actually under no legal obligation to follow-- no matter what this self-important federal judge thinks.
A Chinese company, based in China, with no presence in the United States does not suddenly become subject to U.S. law and forbidden to do things that are allowed under Chinese laws merely because it puts a website up on the internet.
In second place we've got Ninja, who craved the opportunity to speak with Rep. Pompeo about the many ludicrous statements in his attack on SXSW:
I have a few questions to Mr Pompeo as well.
What is Mr Pompeo's relationship with the big military and security corporations, financial or otherwise? Has he ever received money or other compensation from any lobbying effort, in cash or in-kind, and will he provide bank statements to support his answer to this question?
Why should the audience at SXSW find credible a letter from a man who broke his oaths [towards upholding the Constitution] and deliberately deceived not only his employer, but his country, in order to protect unconstitutional programs?
If he ever flees the country when the people ask for the heads of those who are undermining the Constitution then I can add 2 more questions.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with an anonymous comment about HBO Go's massive failure during the True Detective finale. As the comment points out, this wouldn't happen if big media wasn't so scared of technology:
This is the part where the bittorrent (or similar) protocol comes in. It efficiently deals with distributing large amounts of content to lots of people.
Looks like the pirates are years ahead in technology...
Next, we've got John Fenderson excellently pointing out another reason that companies flipping out over bad reviews online is idiotic:
The funny thing is...
The funny thing is that I would never make a business or purchasing decision based on what some commenter on some blog had to say. However, I will absolutely make business or purchasing decisions based on how companies react to what some commenter on some blog says about them.
Over on the funny side, first place goes to That Anonymous Coward for pointing out a key irony in Rep. Pompeo's aforementioned attack:
"flee to that beacon of First Amendment freedoms"
And I am demanding you not let him speak.
And in second place, we've got Emo with a reaction to Congress' painful-to-hear conversation about "free" in search results:
Banning the word free
makes perfect sense. After all, we're living in the land of the f-- wait, no that can't be right.
For editor's choice on the funny side, we start with an anonymous comment pointing out that maybe we just misunderstood what the CIA meant by "oversight":
The White House has been withholding for five years more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its investigation into the now-defunct CIA detention and interrogation program.
Must have been an oversight
And, finally, we've got Andrew F making a keen observation about the student who was suspended under zero-tolerance rules for pointing his finger like a gun:
Ironically, if he used his middle finger instead of his index finger, he would only have gotten detention.
Ah, the delightful absurdity of any rule that is black-and-white.
That's all for this week, folks!
2 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 15 March 2014 @ 12:00pm
If, like me, you live in one of the many places enduring the brunt of this "polar vortex" winter, then you've probably been teased with a taste of spring-to-come over the past couple of weeks. And for some people, the first thought of spring is a thought about bicycles. So for this week's Awesome Stuff, we're looking at three projects that should catch the eyes of some cyclists out there.
Half A Bike Is Better Than One
There are lots of variations on the basic bicycle principle and design out there, but this one looks new to me. Since one of the bigger issues with bicycles in an urban setting is their size and unwieldiness, we've seen simplified bikes before — but at first glance, the Halfbike appears to be more practical and enjoyable. Of course, like any such vehicle, there's really no way to be sure until you get a chance to try one out for yourself.
The Squeaky Chain Gets The Hot Tub
A jammed chain is every cyclist's nightmare (well, one of them). Not just because it can lead to a nasty accident if it happens at the wrong time, but because there's no way to fix it without ending up covered in black grease for the rest of the day. The Runaway Bike Hot Tub makes hot paraffin treatments available for cyclists to do easily at home, for a chain lubricant that is more effective and cleaner than grease.
The Go-Anywhere Electric
Electric bikes have been getting more and more popular every year, but they seem to remain primarily a leisure and basic transportation device — the Horizon is something different. The electric all-terrain sit-down bike looks like it could tear its way through some pretty forbidding terrain, not to mention serving as an excellent mobility device for people who need one.
5 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 9 March 2014 @ 12:00pm
The item that got the most attention this week was the news that Keurig plans to include what is essentially DRM in their upcoming line of "2.0" brewers. After the firestorm that post ignited, Keurig raced to put out a weak response discussing all the wonderful reasons that this technology is necessary. Arsik Vek won most insightful comment of the week for catching one of the many flaws in their message:
"It’s critical for performance and safety reasons that our new system includes this technology."
So, are they admitting that current Keurig coffee machines are both improperly performing and dangerous? I mean, they lack this feature, right?
When Australian broadcasters complained that Netflix hadn't blocked VPN users, thus giving all those Australian viewers choice and freedom, DB won second place for insightful with an excellent comparison, and exposure of the underlying hypocrisy:
I see this as the same situation as importing low-cost textbooks licensed for foreign markets.
Large companies want the benefits of an open world economy, moving production freely to optimize costs. But they don't want their customers to have the have same freedom to buy where the prices are lower, or the selection is better.
In this case the media companies want to buy their content on the worldwide market, while restricting their customers from doing the same. They want the government to effectively grant them a distribution monopoly.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start with one more comment on that post, in which edpo underlined just how dumb it is to hate and fear VPNs:
Anyone attempting to criticize VPN's in this day and age is clueless. I am on a VPN all day, for my privacy *and* because that is how my business is set up to work. I can be anywhere in the world and be sitting at my desk, working as I normally do and being productive. My personal interests (privacy and productivity) trump what some technophobe entertainment-industry lawyer thinks I should be doing to maximize his employer's revenue. It's absurd. If I were advocating for changes in *his* industry to help maximize my income at the expense of his employer's interests, the absurdity would be even more obvious.
Next, we've got a response to the post about Homeland Security detaining US citizen Christine Von Der Haar and quizzing her about her sex life and relationship with Greek national Dimitris Papatheodoropoulos. The incident, and the explanation, gave silverscarcat an idea for a new rule for the government:
Any time a government agency says "national security", an immediate investigation by reporters and non-government officials is to be launched to see why it's considered that.
Over on the funny side, we start out by returning to the Keurig post, where sorrykb won first place by making the connection to an incredibly appropriate quote from Douglas Adams:
"When the 'Drink' button is pressed it makes an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject's taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject's metabolism, and then sends tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centres of the subject's brain to see what is likely to be well received. However, no-one knows quite why it does this because it then invariably delivers a cupful of liquid that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea."
For second place, we head back to the homeland security detainment post, where Michael offered a theory about the government's motives:
They were doing this for the children!
Just think, if these two were married and hyphenated their names, their children would have to learn to spell Von Der Haar-Papatheodoropoulos and forever be unable to fill out government forms because there are not nearly enough boxes for all of those letters.
For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on the post about the UK's porn filter architect being arrested on child porn charges. Quinn Wilde offered a funny and informative reply, putting this latest embarrassment in the context of the David Cameron government:
We need a Minister for Hypocrisy
For those who need a recap on David Cameron's government:
His Chief Secretary to the Treasury had to resign after fiddling his expenses.
His Director of Communications had to resigned after being implicated in the phone hacking scandal.
His Secretary of State for Defence had to resign after giving his close friend unauthorised access to the Ministry of Defence.
His Immigration Minister had to resign after it emerged his cleaner did not have permission to work in the UK.
And now the architect of the UK porn filter has had to resign having been arrested on suspicion of possession of child pornography.
If only Cameron had a Minister for Hypocrisy this could be the most successful government of all time. Although, given form, he'd probably have to resign after being discovered telling the unequivocal truth about everything and, you know, holding himself to his own standards.
And finally, we've got a short and sweet anonymous comment, pointing out that the accusation that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee has (unsatisfactorily) answered an old question:
I guess now we know who's watching the watchers.
That's all for this week, folks!
4 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 8 March 2014 @ 12:00pm
Kickstarter has launched a lot of brand new games, both video- and otherwise, but it's also home to plenty of people working on ways to enhance and alter existing games, and those people are the stars of this week's Awesome Stuff.
Bridging The Game Gap: Japanese For Gamers
For certain game genres and amongst large portions of the gaming community, Japan is where it's at. Between JRPGs and visual novels, Japan has been pumping out critically acclaimed and hugely popular games whose titles are often barely even heard in the English speaking world, leaving the avid gamers who know about them to campaign for translations and English releases — or to pirate and turn to the fan translation community. This project offers a new alternative for true fans who want to learn something while they're at it: an extensive free video course in speaking Japanese, aimed at gamers with a focus on the language as it is used in video games.
Swirling Lightshow In The Corner Pocket: OpenPool
At this point, pool is timeless — but that doesn't mean it can't be gussied up with some cool technology. OpenPool is a projection mapping system that uses an Xbox Kinect to project a moving, interactive, responsive image onto a pool table. Not only is it a really impressive visual effect, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for new dynamic twists on the game. The coolest part? It's a DIY kit. Combine their software and ceiling mount with your own Kinect, projector and computer, and build an OpenPool system yourself.
Edward Snowden, Jack Of Spades: WIRETAP Cards
I know, I know — I featured a deck of cards two weeks ago too. I wasn't going to include another, but the WIRETAP deck is far too fitting to ignore. It's a full set of original hand-drawn playing cards with suit pips that look at you. The court cards are modelled after important players from the NSA saga and the broader world of privacy and government spying — including Edward Snowden, Jack of Spades.
2 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 2 March 2014 @ 12:00pm
This week's comments touch a bunch of topics, starting with our post on the fact that musicians are starting to realize how good Spotify can be for them. Of course, as jupiterkansas pointed out in the most insightful comment of the week, there are still plenty of reasons that the labels are unlikely to follow suit:
But the recording label can't control what people listen to on Spotify, therefore they can't control popular tastes and maintain exclusivity over an aritst's success, therefore Spotify is evil.
While American markets are still warming to Spotify, GEMA has been holding Germany back to the point that it's still struggling with YouTube. This week, when GEMA complained about YouTube's blocked video messages that directly call out the overactive collection society, and suggested they were misleading, Analyst won second place for insightful by wondering if maybe they should be careful what they wish for:
Gema just created a lose lose for themselves
Gema to the courts: Youtube is the one choosing to take down the videos, not us.
Youtube to Gema: Since you have argued in court that it is "our choice", we have chosen to stop taking the videos down.
Gema to Youtube: But ... but ...
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start out with yet another example of people cluelessly fighting against new technology. This time, it's Senator Joe Manchin soothsaying about the dangers of Bitcoin and all that it enables. An anonymous commenter made an important comparison:
Imagine if they would've said this about the Internet:
"Ban the Internet! It will enable piracy, drug selling, and 1-click porn access for our kids...and the upside is dubious at best!"
Next, we've got another anonymous commenter, on another post, with another important comparison — this time on the subject of justice, corruption and accountability in government:
Again to sum up,
Roger Clemens, he lied to congress when they asked him about steroid use, and a Federal Grand Jury indited him. He was later acquitted, but there was a trial.
James Clapper lied to congress about his direct roll in the violation of the constitutional rights of 100's of millions of American citizens, and there has not only been no grand jury, but no one in the federal government seems to think he did anything wrong at all.
The minute Clapper goes to prison, is the minute these other traitorous rats will start to abandon the ship, and suddenly develop a strong desire to become zealous defenders of the constitution.
No wonder why Putin was envious of our spy program.
Over on the funny side, first place comes in response to the un-funny news about a 13-year-old kid being charged with a felony for throwing a snowball at a cop. One commenter replied with that fun old chestnut about "a village missing its idiot" — but "The Village" offered clarification:
No. We are not "missing" him.
Second place for funny could very well go to CCI itself for claiming that Six Strikes is working (or first place, for that matter) — but as it happens, it's going to weneedhelp for a response to CCI's evidence-free assertion:
I have not been bitten by an alligator since reading techdirt... thus, TD repels alligators. Trust me its true.
For editor's choice on the funny side, we start with a comment about the presentation that revealed new shady GCHQ/NSA tactics. Lorpius Prime pointed out a problem that, while generally overshadowed by bigger concerns, is no less true because of it:
Augh. GCHQ needs to be shut down just for its terrible Powerpoint slides.
And, finally, we've got a top-notch anonymous quip responding to our concern that big telcos aren't investing in "the networks of tomorrow":
getting them to invest in the networks of today would be a good start!!
It sure would...
That's all for this week, folks!
4 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 1 March 2014 @ 12:00pm
There's a huge industry out there for smartphone and tablet accessories, and that industry contains a lot of hastily-made junk. But it also provides an opportunity for real innovation and smart, functional design work, so like many industries that fits those criteria, it's booming on Kickstarter. This week's Awesome Stuff post focuses on a slice of the tech-accessory world that is saturated yet still not perfected: smartphone and tablet stands.
The fame*dock: Deceptively Simple
Lots of people have offered natural-wood stands, and this isn't even the first to do custom laser engraving, but as far as I know it is the first to hide a handy technological secret: a Bluetooth-based beacon that communicates with your device to trigger functions like SMS, home automation and various online services when it's in or near the dock.
The Léaf Mount: Will It Stick?
One of the holy grails of device stands (and a lot of other applications) is the ultimate sticky surface — one that instantly and firmly connects to anything, but also easily releases when you want it to, and retains these qualities for a long time. The Léaf Mount is one such entrant, with micro-suction pads that they claim will endure multiple devices over many years.
The Right Arm: Highly Flexible
This bigger, heavier-duty stand focuses on flexibility over portability or compactness. Not just for tablets and smartphones, it can hold up full-sized laptops as well, and is designed to provide lots of standing-desk configurations for people who prefer work on their feet, or just more ergonomic postures when sitting down. It also uses a different mounting system — adhesive polyurethane gel, rather than a microsuction surface (the ultimate victor of the sticky-stuff wars is still undecided).
4 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 27 February 2014 @ 5:16am
South Park: The Stick of Truth, the much anticipated RPG personally devised by Trey Parker & Matt Stone to be virtually indistinguishable from an episode of the iconic TV show, has been very close to becoming vaporware over the years, especially when original publisher THQ shut down. But it was rescued by Ubisoft, and now has a firm worldwide release date of next week.
But... not entirely. Kotaku reports on a leaked review guide for the game in Europe noting that Ubisoft decided to remove several 20-second scenes and mini-games for the release in Europe, the Middle East and Africa:
It will surprise no one who knows the show that the scenes are very crass and, if you're a fan, probably executed in a hilarious manner:
This is of course not South Park's most famous censorship dust-up, given their epic battle with Comedy Central over depictions of Muhammad, but it may be the most utterly pointless, because it should be obvious what's going to happen: fans in those parts of the world are going to either pirate North American versions of the game or find videos of all the deleted parts online, or both. This decision is basically giving everyone in Europe, the Middle East and Africa a big reason to pirate by saying "sorry, we refuse to sell you the complete version of our game."
It's the sort of game where people are going to care, too. The game has a long and elaborate script, all read by Trey & Matt in full voice-performance mode, and as silly as the listed scenes might sound to someone who isn't familiar with South Park, they are likely to be integral parts of a well-crafted whole. And while it's getting attention from the gaming community at large, the majority of people buying it are doing so out of their love for the show, and are going to want the whole thing.
There's going to be an ironic reverse effect too: Trey & Matt are famous for making good use of censored elements in their shows, whether by covering them up with hilarious non-sequiter images or replacing them with text that seriously addresses the situation from the point of view of the creators. So customers who get the uncut version are likely to go seek out videos of the censored version, just to find out how the game handled it.
Of course, it's not easy to place blame in this situation — Ubisoft's decision is futile but may also have been necessary as part of dealing with various regulatory and ratings agencies overseas. It's just so amusing, but sad, to see people attempting to divide content between different parts of the world when we're already deep inside an era defined by global connectivity. On the plus side, we may get another hilarious South Park episode about piracy out of it.
11 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt Wireless - 25 February 2014 @ 4:29pm
In an evening session just a few minutes ago, the House of Representatives voted 295-114 in favor of H.R.1123, the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act". As we discussed this morning, though it started out as a reasonably good bill intended to address the use of the DMCA to squash activities that have nothing to do with copyright, last-minute changes introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte poisoned its intent by introducing a possible future exception for bulk phone unlocking.
Unfortunately, the changes were so last-minute that the reaction and withdrawal of support by Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo was not enough to turn the tides. Though the problematic text is carefully worded for plausible deniability — allowing the House to claim it hasn't technically taken a side — I doubt it would take long before phone companies and their lobbyists started using this oh-so-obvious bit of leverage gifted to them in the bill. For now, it falls to the Senate to pass their version of the bill, so there's still a chance we'll see these problems addressed.
23 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 23 February 2014 @ 12:00pm
This week's comments almost all share the same theme: calling people out on errors, inconsistencies, ironies and other gaffes. When an analyst expressed concern that true wireless broadband competition would do exactly what it's supposed to do and drive prices down, That One Guy took most insightful comment of the week by pointing out the underlying admission in his statement:
So simply having to compete on price is supposedly enough to cause a 20 billion dollar drop in revenue... I wonder if he realizes that he pretty much just said that the current players are hosing the public over for $20 billion due to their duopoly position?
Next, we've got a rather interesting type of comment... There are those who question the value of anonymous comments, and others who question the value of quotation and reuse -- but Christopher Best combined the two and took not only second place for insightful, but first place for funny as well. Because sometimes, as was the case with Valve's anti-cheat system, someone else already said it best:
Best commentary I saw on this was from an Anonymous Coward on Slashdot:
I trust Valve more than the NSA.
The NSA doesn't protect me against hackers.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out on our post debunking the ridiculous idea that the public domain is preventing the preservation of film. That One Guy gets another hat-tip this week for pointing out that if preservation is the real issue, there's a far more obvious target:
If they're truly worried about works 'disappearing', then their top priority should be fixing the Orphan Works problem. Low quality recordings are rather overshadowed by no recordings of a work because no-one knows who owns the rights to it, making saving, backing it up, or restoring it legally dicey.
Wouldn't even be a difficult fix either, just bring back the registration requirement to get a work protected by copyright law, and for current orphaned works, give a grace period, say 5 years, for the owner to come forward and claim them, releasing into the public domain any works that remain unclaimed at the end of the 5 years.
Next, when broadcasters fretted about preventing Aereo from "stealing" their signal, an anonymous commenter asked the simple question they'll never be able to answer:
How can you "steal" something that's being given away for free?
It's always funny to hear people talk about copyright as property, and perhaps even funnier to hear them try to talk about radiant electromagnetic waves as though they were diamonds in a wall-safe.
Given that, let's head over to the funny side. We've already had our number one comment from Christopher above. For second place, we head to the post about House of Cards piracy, where Ninja decided to answer our rhetorical question:
but given the fact that it appears almost no one does that search, why should they bother?
Because reasons. PIRACY. And terrorism. Also, the children (is it suitable for children?).
Editor's Choice for funny goes to a pair of similar comments from different anonymous commenters. Perhaps it's a tad morbid to choose two jokes about death and tragedy, but sometimes dark satire is the best delivery system for a biting and relevant point. First up, a response to our post about deaths among cell-phone tower climbers that highlights just how good we are at inventing imaginary problems while ignoring real ones:
Seems like proof
... that cell phones do kill people.
Finally, in response to the tragic story about a 17-year-old being killed by police because he had a Wii controller in his hand, this similar comment glibly underlines the pathetic fact that our society won't make this kind of problem a top priority, but will likely continue making political spectacle out of simulated violence:
More proof that video games turn people into violent murderers.
Uniforms and badges seem to help, too.
That's all for this week, folks!
2 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Innovation - 22 February 2014 @ 12:00pm
One of our most important themes here at Techdirt is the idea that the act of remixing, reimagining and recombining the creations of the past is not only natural and wonderful, it's the primary (and at a fundamental level, the only) engine of creativity in human culture. The internet era brings this to the fore and makes the cycle more immediate, because it makes the wealth of history and culture available to everyone, along with the tools to make use of it. Moreover, the sometimes-overwhelming nature of rapid change promotes a healthy degree of nostalgia in even the most forward-thinking and future-embracing among us, and it's in that spirit that this week's Awesome Stuff highlights some nostalgic offerings from Kickstarter:
One Of Those Old-Timey Cameras With A Hood (a.k.a. The Camera Obscura)
We've all seen them — if not in real life then in one of the many movies where they are used as a piece of shorthand synecdoche for "hey, it's the past!" Well, this project to resurrect the iconic camera has shot way past its goal, by staying true to the original design while also demonstrating how it can be combined with modern equipment.
Hey, Is That A Robot?
I love design and illustration work that creates contrast between content and style. I also have every former-8-year-old-boy's fondness for robots. This dinner plate, second in a series, so perfectly emulates a traditional and somewhat bland graphic style that at a glance, anyone would miss the giant robot preparing to disrupt its quaint tranquility. And it all started because the artist re-drew an image from an old plate inherited from his grandparents...
Go Fish (Through The History Books)
Kickstarter has been a boon for all sorts of creators, but there are certain very particular areas that seem to have been bolstered beyond all expectations by the crowdfunding site (the wallet has been "revolutionized" and "reinvented" at least 100 times in the last year, apparently). One of these areas is playing cards, which have a large collector community and serve as a cool way for artists to get their work out there. This extremely beautiful deck is based on the paintings of the old masters, but digitally repainted in exceptional detail (and considerable style) from scratch.
Okay, But How About Something New?
Well, it can't all be nostalgia, so here's a pointer to a project to create something that definitely didn't exist in the past: a personal indicator light that tells you whenever the ISS is overhead. Mostly pointless, perhaps, but cool, because hey, we have a space station!
Dishonorable Mention / Schadenfreude Moment
Here's something I really wish would stay in the past: a belief in ghosts. This guy wants $120,000 to produce a documentary about how ghosts are, you know, real and stuff. With science. And lazers. He promises to reveal "the truth that nobody knows about all the TV Ghost Hunting shows" which presumably is that they are fake but he is, like, totally genuine. If you pledge $1000, you'll even get one of their "devices for capturing human soul" which sounds like a good deal, actually. Just don't cross the streams.
It heartens me to see that he has only raised $5.
21 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 16 February 2014 @ 12:00pm
This week was surprisingly slow for funny votes, with the overall score of insightful comments rocketing past them. Nevertheless, there are lots of great comments, so let's get started with first place for insightful — a simple response from silverscarcat to the idea that copyright duration is truly "limited" in any meaningful way:
I'm sorry, but if something is under Copyright from before I'm born until well after I will likely be alive, then, it doesn't matter if there *IS* a limit, for me, it's eternal.
And that is why I do not support copyright, it is eternal, regardless of what is said.
(Furthermore, the fact that retroactive extensions have happened in the past renders the current limits utterly meaningless, as the government has already demonstrated that it is not committed to holding up its end of the bargain with the public.)
In second place, we've got a response to an even battier notion — giving creators huge cellphone discounts as a way to compensate them for the free consumption of their work. Violynne suggested the alternative, which artists seeking handouts never seem to consider:
Here's a better idea, Jarre: Work. For. Goddamn. Hire.
The rest of us have to do it, what the hell makes artists any different?
This entitlement is the reason copyright maximalists keep pushing to steal (an appropriate use of the word here) more money from our wallets.
"Our" being the consumer.
Want me to pay for your work? Good luck with that, because I don't pay for your "work". I pay the middlemen who mark up your work and give you a pittance in return.
So stop whining. If you want more money, talk to your goddamn distributor and leave everyone else out of it.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start with one more related comment, this time on the subject of remixes and derivative works. When a bunch of big artists joined forces to fight a compulsory derivative license, insisting (ridiculously) that many artists would not release any work if they thought people might remix it (it's not like artists are jostling each other for the privilege of being remixed by DJs with bigger followings or anything like that, right?), Ninja calmly offered a reply that appropriately amounts to "if that's true, then good riddance":
We accept the wealth of new creations in detriment of the possible "losses" suffered due to short sighted morons not releasing their works.
Next, we've got a short, interesting idea that was offered amidst this week's discussion about strong passwords. Anyone who's ever worked in an office with an IT department will likely appreciate this anonymous idea for encouraging stronger passwords:
perhaps we could reward users for making a stronger password by expiring it less often
Over on the funny side, first place comes from our post about the French privacy agency that DDOSd its own website by forcing Google to send it traffic that it wasn't prepared to handle. The Mighty Buzzard made the joke that you just knew someone had to make:
Even their websites surrender.
In second place, we've got an anonymous response to the UK's plans to start filtering extremist content online:
How can you not see that we have to do this in order to stop the spread of radical ideas promoting a social order that controls it's members by restricting information and vilifying all those who disagree with their narrow views of what is acceptable.
For editor's choice on the funny side, as is often the case, we've got a pair of comments sparked by failures. But not the failures of the NSA, or the MPAA, or an aging rocker or a young producer, but rather our own failure to catch some typos in out post about ASCAP's collusion with record labels. First, when we accidentally dated an email in 2014 rather than 2013, before we could fix it, an anonymous commenter offered an explanation for the discrepancy:
Their email servers are probably also calibrated to use Hollywood math so even the timestamps on the servers are off.
Next, on that same post, we referred to the "trail transcript" between Pandora and ASCAP — a bizarre but intriguing notion that put one anonymous commenter in mind of a classic game:
They all died of dysentery.
Though we try to catch as many typos as possible here at Techdirt, it's nice to know the ones that slip through can still serve a purpose. That's all for this week, folks!
42 Comments | Leave a Comment..
Posted on Techdirt - 9 February 2014 @ 12:00pm
It's always frustrating to hear an old-guard music insider talk about the internet with extremely undeserved authority and go unchallenged. That's probably why first place for insightful this week goes to That One Guy for his response to a misguided attack on Google by U2's manager:
'We need the technology giants like Google to do the things that labels, the publishers, the artists, the writers repeatedly ask them to do. They need to show corporate and social responsibility.'
Here's a question I don't think I've ever seen satisfactorily answered: Why?
Why should google, or any other tech company care what happens to the recording industry? Does the movie industry go out of their way, spending time and money to defend and protect the automotive industry? Does the aviation industry move heaven and earth to protect the farming industry? Or how about the recording industry itself, does it tirelessly work to protect the tech industry?(Answer: No, no it does not)
This is something that gets me every time the subject comes up, the massive, glaring sense of self-importance, arrogance and entitlement that people like that demonstrate, as though everyone around them owes them, as though every other industry has nothing better to do than jump to their tune and do everything in their power to 'defend' the movie and recording industries, no matter what it may cost them to do so.
And as far as 'social responsibility', considering the copyright maximalists were so worried about any possible 'weakening' of copyright that they fought tooth and nail against expanding fair use rules to benefit the blind, the sheer hypocrisy in such a statement just boggles the mind.
Of course, I imagine the frustration of talking to someone like Paul McGuinness pales in comparison to the frustration of taking on the NSA's warband of circumlocutory defenders. Second place for insightful this week goes to Ninja for another response, this time to an excuse for the NSA:
The law is so dense and so complicated that it cannot be accurately summarized at a level a citizen can reasonably process.
Really. So why isn't the law written in less pompous language so the common folk won't face a complex pandemonium of words? If the common folk can't understand the law because lawmakers and lawyers made it freaking complexly written so they can pretend they are something better than the average citizen then how can you reasonably expect such common folk to follow it and on top of it say that "lack of knowledge on the law does not exempt one from following it"????
BRING THE LAWS BACK TO A LEVEL WHERE IT WILL BE NATURAL BEHAVIOR TO FOLLOW THEM. People don't kill not only because there's a law but also because we generally accept that killing is bad. We also generally accept that a Government should not be able to abuse its position of power over the regular citizen to spy him/her or do whatever it pleases without the check of a judicial warrant. The list goes on and on. If the law is complex then it is wrong. Plain simple.
Since we've got two regulars taking the top spots, editor's choice features two anonymous commenters, both offering alternate/additional takes on Paul McGuinness' digital issues. First is a quippy but insightful point about the mental disconnect folks like that seem to suffer from:
I just figured it all out guys.
They equate Google to the Internet because they see Google as the Internet's Gatekeeper, much like how Hollywood and the music industry are Gatekeepers. They think because they have an iron fist on all that is music and movies that likewise Google should have an iron fist on all the internet.
And next we've got a longer response that dovetails the death of the gatekeeper with the sunset of rock & roll:
Luddites have never quite come to grips with the internet. They all have an unworkable solution where time and again they have been shown their ideas are totally unworkable.
Google is not the internet. I somehow manage to deal with the internet and never use Google at all. If I can do it so can the hordes of people that use the internet globally if given a sufficient reason to. Make Google a non-player in importance and that is exactly what will happen. Things will go on as usual, sans Goggle. I somehow fail to grasp exactly how that delisting sites will cure the issue.
More to the point is that younger people are no longer considering rock n roll as the main fare for consumption of music according to a recent article I read a few days ago. Neil Young claimed rock n roll will never die but it's days are already numbered if the future generations aren't caring to hear it. The legacy copyright folks have no one to blame for this but the very ones pushing to wall off culture such as you see in this article so being called for.
If you drive away your fan base through threats to them by court, exactly how long do you think this is going to last? At some point the public will get educated but not in the manner that is being sought. The message they will get instead is leave it all alone and there is no issue.
Over on the funny side we start out with some more news about — guess who — Prenda! After the ignominious legal team was bashed by a judge yet again, S. T. Stone won first place by restyling the villains as struggling artists:
I kinda feel bad for the Prenda Legal Eagles.
Think about it for a moment: these guys worked their asses off to create an amazing work of fiction in the hopes of using it to generate a ton of revenue, and they only get bad reviews and legal entanglements in return.
How dare the courts slam these upstanding fiction writers for doing such a great job!
In second place for funny we've got Jay on our post about Adobe's terrible (and doomed) new DRM scheme for ebooks, where he un-rhetoricalized our cries of "what the hell are they thinking?" and provided a summary answer:
How can I drive more traffic to the Pirate Bay while losing revenue?
For editor's choice on the funny side we'll start with a little sliver of good news in the form of the FISA court making small but meaningful changes to the laws about collecting phone records. One anonymous commenter saw a chance to highlight the absurdity of every claim that such changes would be disastrous:
Well billions of Americans are going to die now. Hope you're all happy.
And finally, since we had lots of fun at Paul McGuinness' expense this week, here's... a bit more fun at his expense. The most illustrative one-liner on the subject came from DannyB, who started to flesh out the fictional world in which Google runs everything:
Google bought the Internet from America Online.
That's all for this week, folks!
16 Comments | Leave a Comment..
More posts from Leigh Beadon >>