This Week In Techdirt History: October 12 – 18th

from the looking-all-the-way-back dept

Five Years Ago:

We were still wondering about the attempts to insert the morality question into copyright, noting that it is almost always used to “cover up the inability to justify the expansion of rights on economic grounds.” In a somewhat related post, we wondered what kind of industry sets up a group to specifically oppose what consumers want — and the answer was: Hollywood. Another such group is the BSA, and it was finally having some of its nastier practices revealed. Sticking to the copyright question, we wondered if libraries really needed licenses to lend out ebooks, since they don’t need permission to lend out regular books. ASCAP had a judge disabuse it of the notion that a ringtone is a public performance while a guy who uploaded his own book to Google and clicked the wrong button (making it available) then sued Google for infringement.

The Associated Press and News Corp. were demanding money from Google (of course) along with other “aggregators” though, News Corp. apparently forgot it had its own aggregators who didn’t appear to pay up any money at all. Oops. NY’s Department of Labor reduced the unemployment benefits of an unemployed blogger because he put AdSense on his blog (making around $1/day), claiming that it was unrevealed employment.

This was back in the day when people were still insisting that YouTube could never be profitable, but at least things like UK’s Channel 4 were agreeing to put full shows on the site. In a surprise move, EMI actually did a licensing deal with Grooveshark, which (of course) later went away. A bunch of new music streaming services were hitting the market, and we didn’t expect much from Mog or Rdio. Rdio’s still around, but Mog got bought by Beats which got bought by Apple.

Indian officials wanted to block Skype while Finland was declaring broadband a human right. We also had our first post about the ridiculous Jenzabar case in which a former Tiananmen Square activist turned entrepreneur was abusing trademark law to stifle a documentary that made her look bad. Finally, five years ago, we disagreed with something Larry Lessig wrote — which doesn’t happen all that often around here.

Ten Years Ago:

John Ashcroft’s Justice Department was eager to be Hollywood’s private police force. But, in an important decision, the Supreme Court decided not to review an important ruling that said the RIAA couldn’t demand names from ISPs without first filing a lawsuit (copyright trolls keep “rediscovering” this supposed “loophole” without checking out the case law on it). Starbucks thought it was going to get into the music business while Amazon thought it was going to rent DVDs (a la Netflix). Google also released its desktop search offering, which never took off.

Remember the OQO modular computer system? Probably not. It was insanely hyped varporware that people were talking about for years, but then it finally came out ten years ago and was overpriced and not very impressive. Applied Digital, a company famous for overstating claims about its “implantable” VeriChip was up to its usual games. Diebold e-voting machines had their usual problems. The FCC was in the process of killing off line sharing and people were realizing that all the doom and gloom predictions about how the phone “do not call” list would kill the economy were not even close to true.

Fifteen Years Ago:

We were getting close to Y2K and suggesting that it wasn’t going to be a big deal (we were right on that one!). Bertelsmann and Xerox started experimenting with an early print on demand books offering, while we were excited that e-paper was finally coming.

On the patent front, noted patent maximalist Priceline was suing Microsoft for patent infringement, while Visa had to settle a lawsuit with a woman who gambled away $70,000 online and blamed Visas for not stopping her. While it obviously didn’t apply to that woman, studies were showing that people were still afraid to use credit cards online.

Oh yeah. Also, 15 years ago this week, we wrote a short post about how people kept stealing other people’s AOL passwords to break into their accounts. The story itself isn’t noteworthy. But for the next fifteen years — yes, right up until now — idiotic people doing searches on “how to steal AOL passwords” somehow ended up on that page and would post details of the accounts whose passwords they wanted.

Twenty Years Ago:

We weren’t yet publishing, but the first Netscape Navigator was released, sparking part of the revolution that led us to start Techdirt just a few years later. I still remember when Netscape came out. I had been a loyal user of the Mosaic browser, and so I rushed to download Netscape. But, since I had a pokey 2400 baud dialup modem in my dorm room at college, I had to make sure my roommate was okay with me leaving the phone line tied up all night to download the “massive” Netscape file (which I think was a massive 4 megs). If I remember correctly, the phone hung up in the middle of the first night and I had to wait until the next night to get the whole file down.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History: October 12 – 18th”

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justok (profile) says:


Y2K was a big deal. Massive code reviews/rewrites along with incorporating the new technologies of the day prevented what could have happened if nothing had been done. It wasn’t just “a bug”, but rather “all the small bugs all over the fucking place”. Some of the effort went towards areas not directly/technically Y2K related. It lead to a dimple in the economy as the budgets for Y2K projects disappeared and weren’t replaced. But, in the end, instead of the date bug, we got the hanging chad bug.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Y2K @ obvious bullshit

It was as if no one could simply turn their computer’s calender ahead to Jan1 and check to see what would happen, then make any fixes if needed.

Many of the believers of Y2K doomsday were the same people who believed a few years earlier that buying ostrich eggs or Vietnamese potbellied pigs for thousands of dollars apiece was a wise investment, and no amount of reasoning could convince them otherwise.

crusty old pirate says:

downloading Netscape in '94

Twenty years ago, downloading large (even megabyte-sized) files could be quite a challenge in the early dialup (inc BBS) era. I couldn’t count the number of times I spent advising people not to download (or upload) massive files (which often took multiple failed overnight attempts) but instead to FTP split archives. I think PKZip supported splitting archives long before Netscape came out, and it wasn’t even the first one.

Then a couple of years later Getright came out, with the ability to trim off corrupt data and resume a failed HTTP download, instead of the usual solution for most people, which was starting over from the very beginning. Even today the warez scene still does things the old fashioned way, with small split files and FTP. Which still makes sense. Anyway, I got a good laugh reading about one more person getting stuck trying to download a big file. Just like in the good ol’ days.

But just consider what might have happened if Bittorrent (or its predecessor eDonkey) had been around during that fateful night in 1994 when Mike Masnick was trying (and failing) to download Netscape. Not many people realize this, but one of Bittorrent’s greatest strengths is it’s ability to get perfect downloads every time in even the worst file transfer conditions. Had Bittorrent come out a decade earlier, people could have quickly and easily downloaded big files in one piece with a zero failure rate, and Mike’s college roommate would have been a much happier camper.

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