Sneeje's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

from the righthaven--schadenfreude dept

When I read Techdirt, one of the things I’m looking for are articles that help me understand the complex considerations between governmental power and individual rights. They interest me because I find that they always force me to deeply consider my own justifications and philosophies, and the debates in the comments are always spirited and thought-provoking. They also interest me because I can’t help but stare in disbelief at the “reasoning” that is sometimes used. For example, take Yet Another Story Of A Guy Arrested For Filming Police. It is amazing to me that fundamental rights (such as those inherent in the First Amendment) can be so blatantly ignored. We’re all human, but I feel like these rights should flow naturally into our judgment. Alas that it is not so. But never fear, there is also hope! As a counterpoint to the prior article, we also have the fact that Boston Pays $170,000 To The Guy Police Arrested For Filming Them.

So, to stay sane, that’s another thing I look for: hope—that those responsible for resolving the complex interplay between government power and our rights will at least consider that limits to government power are valid and necessary.  For example the article that came out Thursday, where the court is exploring whether there are limits to border searches: Court Suggests Politically Motivated Border Searches May Be Unconstitutional. If nothing else, that one had a lot of great advice on how to protect your data from the government should you foolishly decide to cross the border carrying your laptop.

Another good article in this area, while not strictly relating to limits of governmental power, Why Infringement Isn’t Theft, should lead people to question the government’s reasoning behind why it is willing to act on behalf of intellectual property advocates, which would be a limit in and of itself.  Seeing such a prominent law professor take this stance certainly falls under the category of “hope”, at least for me.

But perhaps the greatest reason I’m drawn to Techdirt is the gobs of articles that undermine widely- and blindly-held beliefs in the intellectual property arena, that challenge the “IP laws=good so more must be better” thinking and explore the unintended consequences of their existence. The first of these addresses one of the areas that most people have very little exposure to, the decision-making behind the scenes in the VC World. Anyone that is a student of economics knows that monopolies carry a lot of baggage and barriers to entry for startups, but this was the first time I thought about how those barriers were perceived. Monopolies Can Strangle Innovation shows us that the “tax” on success is a very real phenomenon.

Mike also pointed us to Jonathan Coulton to show us yet again that not all artists are looking to intellectual property protection to ensure their success. My favorite quote from Jonathan speaking about a free and open internet: “… if as a consequence of letting that do what it wants, we destroy a number of industries, including the record business, and maybe even including the rock star business, I think that humanity will be better off.” Now there’s a man that can see the big picture.

The next article that really struck me (and others too, judging by the volume of the comments) regarding these unintended consequences was Patents Threaten To Silence A Little Girl. I think that most people believe that patents, copyright, and trademarks are the province of the business world only and do not affect the average person in their daily life. That article is a perfect example of how that’s just not true–and the more restrictive the laws around intellectual property get, it’s not hard to see how much more collateral damage there will be.

I’ll close with a confession. There is something else that I sometimes look for in my weekly Techdirt feed: schadenfreude. Yeah, I said it. I can’t help but enjoy the unfolding implosion that is Righthaven, and this week we got two doses, Righthaven Stops Showing up to Court and Righthaven’s CEO Files Statement About How Righthaven’s Own Lawyer Won’t Respond To Him. A little piece of me will die when Righthaven stops being worthy of coverage here, but I’m sure something else of even greater face-palmage will arise. So with that, here’s to the next week!

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Comments on “Sneeje's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I second Jim’s comment. However, I want to add a special thank you for including the article Patents Threaten To Silence A Little Girl. For personal reasons, this article struck a chord with me such that I feel this story needs to be spread so that the flames of public outrage over this tragic injustice need to be fanned and fed until an acceptable change occurs instead of allowing the story to simply slip into obscurity.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

This is one situation that really ought not be allowed to slip into oblivion or meekly accepted.

The patents cover the development of the systems sold by and others developed and patented by a Professor Bruce R Baker of Pittsburg and is associated with or founded Semantic Compaction? Systems, Inc who hold the copyrights, patents and so on associated with his particular development of AAC on a personal computer. The patents were granted in 1982 which means that they were granted well before the appearance of software patents which is explains why the patents are so specific about the relationship between the software and now obsolete hardware.

I’ll have to, for the moment, assume that the patents were extended/renewed once software patents appeared. His units sell for, at the bottom or the range approximately $8,000 US all the way up to over $15,000US. The hardware, if a post at is a general indication seems somewhat fragile given its use. The warranty cost would back this up.

For Maya, the girl in the Techdirt article the is about, despite the expense, the expensive systems don’t work. Period. For the writer of the link above is coming to a point where it’s time for his daughter to upgrade. The expensive stuff works for her, which is great.

BUT…and this is an enormous but, Minispeak and it’s licensed manufacturer have no plans now or in the future to port the software to an iPad or, I suspect, an Android or Linux or Windows based pad. And therein lies the rub. Even from the photos on the Prentke Romich site the hardware appears and is heavy and awkward and would be even for an adult. Somewhere between the original Compaq luggable and a true portable. There may be a good reason of it but I can’t find one anywhere.

My suspicion is that, particularly after reading The Iceman Cometh With His Legal Team post is that Minspeak and Prentke Romich make a good part of their profit off the hardware rather than the software.

I fairness to Minspeak and the women who released Speak For Yourself there is significant support from the developers for the users of both systems.

As much as I’m disturbed by the lawsuit itself I’m disturbed that Professor Baker won a Healthcare Hero Award which, alongside his work in AAC highlights his humanitarian activities which seems quite out of line with the lawsuit.
Then again, the award appears to have been given by the company founded to take care of his patents so take that as you will.

Understand that I’m not taking a thing away from Prof. Baker. He’s done and continues to do fantastic work. But if he’s such a healthcare hero this lawsuit never would have been filed. As his companies have made abundantly clear that they aren’t interested in the iPad or anyPad market it’s hard to square his “hero” status with a suit against a product that IS in that space and doesn’t seem interested in the custom hardware space Minspeak is in.

Something is very wrong when a “Healthcare Hero” doesn’t seem interested in the affects this legal move will have on those like Maya who prefer, for whatever reason, and improve with an iPad app like Speak For Yourself.

Oh, and one other thing is that Maya’s mother when she wrote the piece in her blog expected some support from the AAC community what she didn’t expect was the wave of support she’s received and is receiving from the tech community. While she may not know that the tech community is leery to to the point of hostility towards things like patents and copyright and how they’re used, she’s grateful and amazed.

Even with some of our AC trolls.

Let’s not let this one die.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I’m not even sure the upper echelons of political power know about this or similar stories. Whether it’s the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the German Chancellor or the President of France they all seem trapped in an idealistic notion of what patent law does and not the realism of what happens “on the ground” with patent trolls, the abuse of medical and pharma patents and…well complete the list yourself.

Yes, there’ll be some who carry on about recovering research costs or monetizing the invention(s) to endow both public and private universities but at some time there has to be a good look at IP law in general to see if it really is doing what it’s supposed to these days which is to encourage creation for the public and economic good.

It’s not like the broader principles of AAC or a lot of the specifics are covered by patents preventing practitioners from doing their job as the women behind the development of Speak For Yourself have and still do. That they could have helped develop something that while it expresses the same idea doesn’t infringe on the patent held by Prof Baker doesn’t seem to have occurred to company he set up to enforce his patents. It’s not like there doesn’t appear to be a ton or three of prior art that is folded into the patents he holds.

I don’t even know if Prof Baker was directly involved in the decision to file the action that has brought us to this but it remains the essential heartlessness of the action that sticks in my craw. It’s clearly in direct opposition to the humanitarianism attributed to him.

All that said, this is an ideal situation to hold the political class’s feet to the fire on. Almost as good as SOPA/PIPA was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

It’s MORE IMPORTANT than SOPA/PIPA. As SOPA/PIPA stood to keep people from saying what they want to, this stands to keep Maya from speaking AT ALL. I agree they probably have no clue about this. I didn’t until I read the article. But it only takes one person at the right time during a press conference photo op Q&A to pose the question before the cameras of the media broadcasting the event: “But what about Maya?”, then let viral events take their course. And this question needs to be repeated EVERY TIME the Chris Dodds and Cart Shermans of the world open their mouth to claim they speak from the “moral high ground”. EVERY TIME. Moral high ground my ass. Two words: Fuck you!

Overcast (profile) says:

Yes, same here. We must insist upon our rights – any “security” that is obtained by the relinquishing of our rights is no security at all. That is just a change in where the threat to liberty lies.

I mean – why have a TSA, EPA, FCC, FAA, and Government? The concept is that they exist to protect our rights, first and foremost.

That’s like cutting off the head to cure the headache…

Anonymous Coward says:

“Another good article in this area, while not strictly relating to limits of governmental power, Why Infringement Isn’t Theft, should lead people to question the government’s reasoning behind why it is willing to act on behalf of intellectual property advocates, which would be a limit in and of itself. Seeing such a prominent law professor take this stance certainly falls under the category of “hope”, at least for me.”

So don’t call it theft – call it illegally obtaining services or products.

The result is what matters, and we all know the result of piracy – people get what they don’t pay for. If you do that at Wal-Mart, it’s stealing. Why should the internet be special?

Suja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

we all know the result of piracy – people get what they don’t pay for


So’s living, you breathe air, you didn’t pay for it, did you? You where born, you didn’t pay to be born, did you? You’re getting what you didn’t pay for.

If you do that at Wal-Mart, it’s stealing.


Wal-Mart isn’t the internet, it doesn’t have an infinite supply of things, if you take something out it has one less of that thing.

Why should the internet be special?

You can copy stuff, that’s why.

As long as you can copy there’s an infinite supply, so people can what they want all day long and there won’t be any less of it for anyone else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Umm, yeah.

Great logic. There is no infinite supply of Beatles music. 2 of the members are dead. No chance for new music. So is it infinite? Only if you squint and look in one area.

If you feel that way, I can only say that you rip off artists every day. I hope you are proud of yourself for doing it.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Oh, that’s wonderful! So you admit that no amount of copyright, which is the only thing in the entire world that imposes any limitation on the number of copies of a digital good, will ever, ever incentivise another Beatles song.

So, why is their music still covered by copyright? (that was sold by Yoko Ono, who did not “own” the right, to Michael Jackson, who is also dead now, etc.)

Suja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There is no infinite supply of Beatles music. 2 of the members are dead. No chance for new music.

You go from comparing Wal-Mart to the Internet to telling me how there is no infinite supply of Beatles’ music because some of them are dead?

Umm, yeah.

Great logic.

Back to the original point that was raised in the beginning, there technically is an infinite supply of Beatles’ music because I can *copy* their existing songs, it’s not Wal-Mart where there is a limited number of copies.

Sure some of them aren’t around but people run out of ideas, so in the end there would’ve eventually been no more new songs from them either way.

If you feel that way, I can only say that you rip off artists every day. I hope you are proud of yourself for doing it.

I’m not a mirror, I suggest you go find one to talk to.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The infinite supply is the ability to make perfect copies of the songs without reducing what’s available to others including Sony and Micheal Jackson’s estate.

That doesn’t automatically or, more like, automagically, mean the artist isn’t being paid or is being ripped off. You make the assumption that because something can be done it must, therefore, be being done. The one doesn’t mean the other is being done. (I don’t deny that it is but it’s your assumption that because Suja is stating a fact that, ergo, Suja must be a pirate. That makes less sense than 99% of the *AA trolls usually do around here which is quite an accomplishment.)

Suja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

it’s your assumption that because Suja is stating a fact that, ergo, Suja must be a pirate.

Well, I’m definitely a pirate, however they seem to be under this impression that because I pirate content and/or have no problem with pirating/copying content I am “ripping off” artists. This is not true.

The “legal” alternative is the real rip-off here, both for artists and the buyers, if it weren’t YouTube and other sources I find my music/art/shows on I wouldn’t have seen atleast 75% of them.

Why? ’cause money, if the corporation that (thinks they) own the content doesn’t see revenue potential in something it gets locked up and forgotten. I believe I might have a rant somewhere about the Ducktales soundtrack which Disney didn’t release and sees no reason to release.

A whole soundtrack… Gone to waste. And I’m ripping off the artists.

I pirated all of Game of Thrones at first and now I own the DVD for the show and that’s just one example, yeah, I’m definitely ripping off the artists.

Damn my freetard tendencies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Wal-Mart isn’t the internet, it doesn’t have an infinite supply of things, if you take something out it has one less of that thing.”

Go into wal-mart. Open a DVD, and rip it to your hard drive (on the laptop you are carrying). Keep doing it until you get to the end of their stock (not very extensive).

You don’t think that someone will call the cops and have you charged with something? By your standards, you didn’t steal anything. Yet, clearly what you are doing is not right.

The internet isn’t special – it just lets you hide your bad deeds in a manner that you feel safe doing them, similar to being in a rioting mob. You can do things there that you wouldn’t do by yourself.

Suja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Go into wal-mart. Open a DVD, and rip it to your hard drive

Uhm. Why? I can find that same DVD on the internet from a copy someone’s already bought and uploaded.

Because of the availability of the content I don’t have to steal or go out of my way to get it anymore, I just access what is already available to me, if only food and things like toothpaste/toilet paper/shampoo was that easy.

The internet isn’t special – it just lets you hide your bad deeds in a manner that you feel safe doing them, similar to being in a rioting mob.

No the Internet isn’t special in that regard, people hide bad deeds all time, offline & online.

How many cases I’ve seen where domestic abuse has gone on in a household unchecked for years before the victim or someone who knows them finally got the word out and had something done about it?

None of the crimes took place on the Internet, yet the perpetrator managed to hide their bad deeds one way or another.

You can do things there that you wouldn’t do by yourself.

You can do alot of things with people that you wouldn’t do by yourself. Offline and online.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Of course they would stop you or even have you arrested, you’re damaging their property! You broke the seal, put it in your device, and copied it. You imposed wear and tear on it that would render it unsaleable. If it could be non-destructively copied (e.g. copying by wireless), I’d hardly think anyone would say anything. They probably wouldn’t even realize what you’re doing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“people get what they don’t pay for.”

and this is a reason why IP laws should be abolished. Their intent should never be to prevent people from getting something they didn’t pay for. The idea behind these laws should not to make things more artificially expensive for consumers, they should only be to promote the progress of the sciences and useful arts and to expand the public domain so that people can have free access to more works.

No one is entitled to a government established monopoly. I have a right to copy as I please, it’s a natural right that no government has a right to steal from me. Taking that away from me is theft, it’s depriving me of my rights to grant a privilege that IP privilege holders did not pay me for. They get it for free, as far as I’m concerned. Paying a bunch of politicians with campaign contributions and revolving door favors does me no good. The government-industrial complex is stealing something from me, for free, that they have no right to take. The same thing is true for all anti-competitive laws, including government established taxi-cab, cableco, and broadcasting monopolies. It’s theft, I’m being robbed, and getting nothing in return.

That selfish IP extremists have perverted the intent of IP law to serve their own selfish interests, and making this about making the public pay for something they shouldn’t have to, is more reason these laws should be abolished. These laws should not be about making people pay, that’s just a means, they should only be about promoting a public benefit, not the benefit of IP extremists.

charliebrown (profile) says:

Why IP is "important"

I’ve realised why the US government isobsessed with IP laws: That’s the only place left making money. Manufacturing i largely outsourced to south east Asia (mostly China) or Mexico, building houses is pretty much out, the motor industry is losing ground to foriegn competition, farming is subsidized to not grow too much** ando so IP is all that’s left. The govornment wishes to keep it’s tax income flowing somehow and if IP is the only thing making money, IP is it!

**Note: My info on American Farming Subsidis is something I read about two decades ago so my information on it is hideously out of date. Feel free to update it for me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Now the MPAA is targeting other file sharing services. These evil thugs are never happy.

This isn’t about stopping piracy, this is about banning competition. They don’t want competition period and, outside the Internet (through wrongfully granted government established cableco and broadcasting monopolies and a one sided penalty structure that deters restaurants and other venues from hosting independent performers and bakeries from allowing children to put custom drawings on birthday cakes) they have managed to almost completely ban all competition.

As sg_oneill (159032) in the comments notes

“My band uses these services to facilitate distributing our album and what not, and since a lot of our followers really dont know how to drive bit-torrent, this is the easiest way to get them the goodies.

And because we are distributed across 2 countries (Members in the US and Australia) , we use it to send mixdowns and recording stems when we do stuff.. I mean I guess we probably should move to dropbox for that sort of thing, but the point still remains. These bloody lawyers are trying to ban ALL sharing, and seriously not all, in fact probably most, sharing is piracy.”

The overwhelming majority of traffic by Megaupload and these other services is legitimate. Megaupload responded to DMCA notices and took down infringing content.

Yet our anti trust laws do absolutely nothing to stop this, instead, they get misused against Google and others who offer competition.

As sixtyeight (844265) asks

“When do the various file-sharing services get together and collectively countersue the MPAA for obstruction of commerce, racketeering, and whatever else comes to mind when one industry gets together to choke another?”

When do the American people get together and protest this nonsense in mass numbers on the streets??? These meritless thugs are killing the Internet just like they wrongfully killed everything outside the Internet to ban competition and implace plutocracy favoring those who are (technically and otherwise) dumb and lazy.

For one thing, the revolving door must come to an end. I want serious penalties against politicians and corporations that engage in revolving door behavior and I want less narrowly defined requirements for what constitutes revolving door behavior. This is nonsense, politicians should pass laws based on what’s best for the American people, not based on what company will hire them when they leave office. We should not tolerate this, it’s absolutely unacceptable and deserves serious penalties and jail time. It’s (or should be) far worse a crime/tort than infringement could ever be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

and now the U.S. DHS wants to hassle anyone flying to Mexico, Eastern Canada or Cuba.

“From April, UK passengers flying to Mexico, Eastern Canada or Cuba will have to submit their details at least 72 hours before boarding to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for pre-flight vetting (as all passengers to the U.S. itself have had to do for a while). If they find against you, you’re not getting on the plane, even though you’re not going to the U.S. The Independent (UK quality newspaper) has the story.”

and this isn’t an April fools joke either.

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