This Week In Techdirt History

from the playing-telephone dept

Let’s get started on another look back through Techdirt history.

Five Years Ago…

Well, there’s one big event from 2009 that you’ll surely remember: a jury deciding to fine Jammie Thomas $1.92-million, or $80,000 per song. Even though Thomas made a big mistake by not settling, the insanely huge award raised a lot of eyebrows — including those of the EFF, which questioned the constitutionality of the decision — prompting the RIAA to go on the defensive and attempt distance itself from the giant numbers. Meanwhile, an even more absurd case nearly slipped under the radar when a woman who didn’t even own a computer made a zero-dollar settlement over a filesharing lawsuit that never should have been brought in the first place.

That wasn’t all the RIAA was up to. It was also demanding an investigation of radio stations “boycotting” musicians who supported the Performance Rights Act, despite having just recently described radio as “a kind of piracy”. Meanwhile, they were insisting that terrestrial radio needs to match its royalty structure to that of satellite and internet radio — a royalty structure they had originally fought for on the basis that those services were entirely different from terrestrial radio.

Also this week in 2009: Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) “forgave” Coldplay for “copying” his song, Adrian Jacobs joined the line of people trying to accuse JK Rowling of copying them, and EA put its foot in its mouth (a longstanding tradition) by staging fake protests for a new game.

Ten Years Ago…

Remember the ill-fated idea for a “do not spam” list? This week in 2004 is when the feds officially ditched it. An infamous family of Canadian spammers also claimed to have changed its ways, while a professor from Singapore predicted that spam would be gone within two years (we were sagely unconvinced). We also noticed that in the business world, IT departments were doing a damn good job at keeping spam out of employee inboxes.

Spam wasn’t the only area of nefarious activity ten years ago. Companies were teaming up to stop phishing scams and the first smartphone worm was discovered — though some didn’t even need worms to panic about 3G phones.

As a reminder of just how long ago this was: we were excited about new wireless network storage and Amazon’s amazing plan to let people watch preview snippets of DVDs online. And to remind you how little things change: indie labels were accusing Apple of bullying them into unfavorable terms, and quantum teleportation was one step closer but still oh so far away, much as it is today.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 1999 marked the death of DIVX. No, not the video codec — that was actually mockingly named after the original DIVX, an attempt by Circuit City to get people to buy DVD-like rental discs that expire and stop working. It also marked the birth of satellite radios built into cars and internet-specific insurance policies.

The world was still in the early days of the switch to digital projectors in movie theatres, and George Lucas used this as a chance to show off The Phantom Menace. invested in Sotheby’s, and was engaged in some bizarre shenanigans.

Oh, and some were saying that the much-hyped internet was underhyped. They weren’t entirely wrong, though “hype” is a tough thing to measure — but the original article is still up if you want to see some of their predictions.

174 Years Ago…

On June 20th, 1840, Samuel Morse received his patent on the telegraph. Also on June 20th, but 37 years later in 1877, Alexander Graham Bell opened the world’s first commercial telephone service in Hamilton, Ontario, just an hour’s drive from where I type this. Communication technology advanced a little slower in those days.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History”

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Whatever says:

Not Fine

a jury deciding to fine Jammie Thomas $1.92-million, or $80,000 per song.

It’s not a fine. Fines are for criminal offenses. This is a civil settlement.

You also left out how many times the MPAA tried to settle with her for very small amounts, before and during the process. I never thought the losers got to re-write history 🙂

Whatever says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not Fine

Yes, 100k (or a million, or a billion for that matter) is beyond the reach of many. However, everything out there points to the fact that she had a number of settlement offers that were in the range of a few thousand dollars total. On what I consider very poor legal advice, she apparently turned them all down and fought the case to the bitter end – and lost in a very big way.

She wasn’t a silly as Tenebaum, but pretty close.

All of this doesn’t take away from the original point: Whatever the amount, it was not a fine. It was a civil judgement, which is a very different thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Not Fine

Is it true that the origins of copyright law were grounded upon the premise of allowing legal proceedings for infringement by commercial interest and did not mention individuals at all?

If so, how does the subsequent bastardization of this provision allow ridiculous award amounts from individuals for what could be referred to as petty infringement?

How, exactly, does a one dollar item turn into eighty thousand dollars?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Not Fine

“Fines are for criminal offenses. This is a civil settlement.”

And the distinction is important in this context why, exactly? Most people, if you ask them what was paid in this case, will say a “fine”. Sometimes the difference between a “fine” and a “civil settlement” is important, but it’s usually not. This is one of the “usually not” cases.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not Fine

Hey, if you’re going to be a total pedantic douchebag about this stuff, you might as well get your facts straight.

It’s not a fine. Fines are for criminal offenses. This is a civil settlement.

You’re correct that it was not a fine, but you’re even more wrong in calling it a “civil settlement.” It was a jury award in a civil suit. In fact, it can easily be stated that a “fine” is much closer to accurate than a “civil settlement” which implies, falsely, that this was the result of a negotiated settlement between the parties.

Point being: before acting like a total asshole in trying to score semantic points, maybe make sure you know what the fuck you’re talking about, jackass.

Also, there’s a difference between the RIAA and MPAA that you don’t seem to get. I like how later on you claim that it was just a “typo” as if that gets you off. Couldn’t Leigh say the same thing about his use of “fine”? You wouldn’t let him off though, because you’re a disingenuous prick.

Anonymous Coward says:

6 months ago....

I told you the Thai military were behind the ‘people’s mob’ and were trying to make an excuse for a coup.

1 month ago we had a coup, then I told you there would be a ‘poll’ saying every Thai person was happy with the coup, and loved the General… sure enough we had that a few days ago. only 9.2% object to the coup according to a Dusit poll! (Not really, just military propaganda).

Now you get arrested for wearing a t-shirt:

Everyone’s terrified. Prayuth is the killer general behind the 2010 massacre in Bangkok. Yet the propaganda machines says we’re all happy, and anyone who says otherwise is taken away swiftly.

Quite a few (300-500 people) have not been released and the military denies its holding them, which is not a good sign.

zip says:

"Thomas made a big mistake by not settling"

I would disagree with the conclusion “Thomas made a big mistake by not settling” — she has not to my knowledge paid a single dime (even in legal costs, while the RIAA’s cost of prosecuting/persecuting her reportedly reached into the millions).

It was neither a financial nor a PR victory for Big Music. The recording industry’s strategy of scaring their music-loving customers back to the record shops was a dismal failure. How ironic that the RIAA’s worst sales declines occurred during the very years when their lawsuits were in full swing and only ended when the lawsuits ended (Napster, in contrast, barely made a dent in sales when it exploded on the scene and made file-sharing a mainstream pastime).

It was only because of the courage of “losers” such as Jammie Thomas and Shawn Fanning that we have digital music services such as Spotify today — services that would never have been born had the record industry not ultimately lost its scorched-earth warfare waged against its own customers … like Jammie Thomas.

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