This Week In Techdirt History

from the doomed-to-repeat dept

Another week gone? Another week to look back at the Techdirt archives.

Five Years Ago…

In an unfortunately rare move, the Obama administration sided with innovation rather than Hollywood, with then-Solicitor General (now Supreme Court Justice) Elena Kagan telling the Supreme Court not to overturn the 2nd Circuit’s important Cablevision decision. Of course, now we’re waiting to see if Kagan and her colleagues on the Supreme Court undermine that ruling with their upcoming Aereo ruling. Meanwhile, the administration was also getting slammed by a judge in court for ignoring orders concerning a case on warrantless wiretapping. While that case would eventually fail, it foreshadowed some of what we’re seeing today.

There were also a bunch of stories about legacy industries behaving badly towards innovation. U2’s manager claimed that free is the enemy and that it was a moral imperative to protect old business models. A bunch of newspaper execs gathered to see if they could collude to all agree to put up a paywall. A questionable research report on intellectual property in Canada, paid for by old industry lobbyists, had to be retracted after it was admitted that parts of it were plagiarized. Yes, a report condemning the copying of IP was…. plagiarized.

Meanwhile, more credible research was highlighting how DRM stifled speech and how countries like China would likely use US demands for greater copyright enforcement to increase censorship.

Ten Years Ago…

It was a momentous occasion, because, for the first time, online retailers (in aggregate) were actually profitable. It may be tough to remember, but ten years ago, many were still skeptical about the potential for the e-commerce market.

We also had a bunch of stories that suggest how far (or not) we’ve come in the past ten years. We saw the first FUD about cyberterrorism, something that has continued to this day. Similarly, a decade ago, we started debating net neutrality. We also suggested that voice communications might decline significantly as people went to text messages. Oh and two new product ideas we weren’t too sure about. McDonald’s started testing DVD rentals from kiosks (an idea they eventually spun out as RedBox) and some company had the utterly nutty idea to drive around and photograph every building building a giant database of location images. This was way before Google was thinking about doing it. These guys wanted to sell their database to insurance companies, home appraisers and law enforcement. We noted that some might find it cool, while others might find it creepy (both turned out to be true), but figured it was a long way off from reality (not so true).

Fifteen Years Ago…

The group Public Enemy (always ahead of the curve) decided to offer their latest album as a download (though in the ridiculous a2b format). A Clinton administration official admitted the US’s policy on encryption was to make it easier for the US to spy on people (some things never change!). Former AOL volunteers sued the company claiming they were unpaid employees (similar to the recent lawsuit against Yelp for the same thing). Oh, and someone realized that some of the messages we’d been blasting into space hoping the aliens would read… contained some mathematical errors. In other words: Dear Aliens, we’re stupid.

That’s it for this week…

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History”

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J. S. Greenfield (profile) says:

You mischaracterize Elena Kagan’s brief as Solicitor General in the Cablevision case. While in some (but not all) respects, the brief appeared sympathetic to the Second Circuit holding, it did not “tell the Supreme Court not to overturn” the decision, as you suggest. In fact, it wasn’t even a brief on the merits of the case.

Kagan’s brief merely argued that the Cablevision case did not provide a good opportunity for the Court to settle the issue once and for all (because of constraints the parties had agreed to in the underlying litigation), and so the Court should wait for another case that presented a better opportunity.

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