This Week In Techdirt History

from the going-way-back dept

A little less to go through this week in history, as we mostly took July 4th off, but still plenty of news to look back on.

Five Years Ago::

An American court banned a book. I still shake my head over this. But, yes, an American court banned an unauthorized “sequel” to Catcher in the Rye, saying that it was copyright infringement… and leading us to wonder if this case put the nail in the coffin of the idea/expression dichotomy concept in copyright law.

Meanwhile, a judge was tossing out the dangerous CFAA ruling against Lori Drew (which found her guilty of a crime for “violating” MySpace’s terms of service, but was really an attempt to punish her because a girl her daughter had bullied committed suicide), and Jammie Thomas began her appeals process of the RIAA’s big win against her (that appeals process eventually failed). The other big story of the week was that the Pirate Bay was supposedly bought by a public company, but as more and more details came out, that story got more and more questionable, eventually leading nowhere.

There was plenty of news in the patent trolling world. Intuit paid a $120 million tax to Intellectual Ventures to avoid getting sued, there was a ridiculous interview with Erich Spangenberg, one of the biggest patent trolls out there. And, the guy after whom the term “patent troll” was originally coined, Ray Niro, found that his favorite patent — which he claimed covered any JPEG image, and which he’d used to sue plenty of businesses who upset him in one way or another — was smacked down.

On the copyright front, five years before the Aereo ruling came out, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal in the Cablevision remote DVR case that may or may not have been overturned with the Aereo ruling. In those lovely days before copyright trolling came to US shores, we were already finding out how lucrative it was overseas. Oh, and the Australian media was bleating on about laughably inaccurate claims about how piracy funds terrorists.

It was also a big week for misplaced blame. Craigslist was sued because someone holding the trademark on “call first” thought he could get money out of the company because people used that phrase in posting. L’Oreal was trying to blame eBay for users posting counterfeit goods. Police were — no joke — blaming Google Earth for koi thieves. Obviously. And then media execs were blaming content creators who put their work online for free for “insulting” those who paid for cable. Because free is evil.

Ten Years Ago::

A judge slapped down an attempt by famed spammer Scott Richter to sue SpamCop for blocking some of his spam. And yet, a study was pointing out that a ton of people were still buying products from spam. I wonder how much that’s changed. This past week, Google finally announced that it was shutting down Orkut, one of its first attempts at building a social network, but ten years ago, the company was getting sued for appropriating the code of another company (which Orkut Buyokkokten had founded) in order to build Orkut.

The Jack Valenti era of the MPAA ended and Dan Glickman took over, making the MPAA become incredibly dull. Hard to believe that was ten years ago. Former FCC boss Michael Powell told us that “broadband over powerlines” would be the solution to a lack of competition, but as we predicted broadband over powerlines was clearly a joke played on a gullible FCC. Remember micropayment company Peppercoin? No? No one did back then, either. Ten years ago, we were also marveling about the possibility of controlling computers with body gestures. And, in less than ten years, everyone’s already bored with Kinect.

Fifteen Years Ago::

Right in the middle of the original dot com bubble, we had some crazy IPOs, such as a company trying to go public on revenue of $74,000. For all the worries that we’re in another bubble these days, at least we’re not seeing stories like that any more. Of course, we also saw that Ask Jeeves had a great IPO leading us to wonder when Google might IPO (yes, seriously, we were wondering that back in 1999). And, of course, the greatest symbol of the dot com bubble was the funding frenzy around pet food/supply dot coms. There were a whole bunch of them, and each raised more money than the next. I even remember one insisting that it’s competitive advantage was that it had outraised its competitors, and a day or so later, one of its competitors raised many millions more. Crazy days.

It wasn’t just IPOs, of course. There were plenty of buyouts going on as well. We covered some buyouts of music tech startups as well as Slashdot being acquired by Andover (remember when that happened?). Of course, buyouts often have a way of going sour, and people were already getting angry about Yahoo’s stewardship of GeoCities, while Microsoft couldn’t figure out how to keep Hotmail running.

Meanwhile, we were wondering if open source was finally going mainstream and we imagined a crazy dark future in which people could get instant messages on their mobile phones. The horror!

48 Years Ago:

We weren’t publishing, but President Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into law, and it has since been a useful, if frustratingly ignored by government, tool for journalists, both professional and amateur, ever since.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History”

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Whatever (profile) says:

“An American court banned a book.”

They didn’t ban the book, they said the book could not be published without permission of the rights holder, who declined to do so. When the original book falls into the public domain, then they will be free to publish. Until they, they are (rightly) subject to the law.

No book banning, just enforcing the law.

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