This Week In Techdirt History: November 16th – 22nd

from the the-less-things-change dept

Five Years Ago

A few weeks ago, we noted the anniversary of Peter Mandelson’s dinner with David Geffen and subsequent plans to crack down on filesharing in the UK. This week, people began hearing murmurs about the second part of his plan: an attempt to let the government route around procedure and change copyright law at will. A few days later, the now-infamous Digital Economy Bill was presented, and it was just as bad as we feared. Meanwhile, and with perhaps-not-so-coincidental timing, Lily Allen was continuing her crusade against free music. On a more positive note, the UK courts dismissed a weak libel tourism case. And, hey, none of it was as crazy as what was happening in Liberia, where a small group of lawyers claimed to hold copyright over all the laws of the country.

Lots of people were discussing the implications of technology, sharing and “free” this week in 2009. We questioned a BCG study about how many people would pay for online news, noting that there’s a big gap between what people say they’ll pay and what they actually will. We also explained the Innovator’s Dilemma in a whiteboard video sponsored by UPS. But at the same time, a Chicago Tribune columnist was whining about the fact that the public can share its opinions, and an InfoWorld columnist was arguing that information should not be free (in his free column). On the other hand, one librarian expertly skewered the attitude of gatekeepers.

Also in 2009: Spain declared broadband a basic right; a bunch of pop stars got sued over a patent on the big video screens at their concerts; Shazam got hit with yet another patent lawsuit; hackintosh maker Psystar lost big to Apple; Google presented a new books settlement; and The Pirate Bay shut down its tracker and moved entirely to DHT.

Ten Years Ago

Sometimes writing these posts is a touch depressing, because they really highlight just how long it’s been taking for some messages to sink in. Even though 2009 was full of freakouts about filesharing and “free”, it can’t be written off as an understandable reaction to something brand new when, the very same week in 2004, folks like Jeff Tweedy had already gotten the message:

A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that’s it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it’s just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work. Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator. People who look at music as commerce don’t understand that. They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property. I’m not interested in selling pieces of plastic.

That could be a direct response to Lily Allen saying she’d prefer somebody buy a counterfeit CD than download her music for free — but it came five years earlier.

Of course, in 2004 a lot of the focus was on other things, especially online spam and fraud. E-commerce fraud was growing and spam was infuriating but effective. The FCC was trying to crack down on “advance fee” scammers from Canada, one college blocked all Yahoo and Hotmail emails in a desperate bid to escape spam, and it was revealed that Bill Gates received nearly 4-million (mostly spam) emails a day.

Hollywood was having a technology panic (how uncharacteristic!) about DVRs, and attempting to make skipping commercials illegal. But John McCain got in the way, noting how utterly absurd that is. Steve Ballmer attempted to scare people away from Linux with patent FUD, only to have the author of the study he was basing that opinion on openly contradict him. Microsoft was trying to patent the IS NOT operator in Visual Basic and printer companies were attempting to market crazy-expensive ink like some kind of luxury purchase. Perhaps the most tech savvy people around in 2004 were store-level managers at Starbucks: they were smartly advising the company to make its in-store Wi-Fi free.

Fifteen Years Ago

You could almost say this week marks the true beginning of the culture war over filesharing that rages to this day, for in 1999, this is when the RIAA announced it would sue Napster. It would eventually win of course — and as a result, fuel the innovation that gave rise to P2P sharing and torrents. Mission accomplished!

Also in 1999: Amazon became profitable (sorta); one of the first laptops for less than a thousand bucks was announced; Warner Brothers was battling with RealNetworks; Microsoft gave up on trying to integrate with AOL messenger; and Bluetooth was just starting to go mainstream, but phones that play MP3s weren’t quite there yet.

86, 67 & 40 Years Ago

There are three events from this week in Techdirt prehistory that I thought would be of interest, and I couldn’t choose just one, so here they are in chronological order:

  • November 18th, 1928 marked the release of Steamboat Willie and is considered by Disney to be the birthday of its most beloved copyright character.
  • In AT&T’s Bell Labs on November 17th, 1947, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain first observed the properties of transistors — the discovery that would lead to the computing revolution.
  • Less than thirty years later this week in 1974, the DOJ filed its antitrust lawsuit against AT&T and began the eight-year process of breaking it up into the seven Baby Bells.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History: November 16th – 22nd”

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simality (profile) says:

>It would eventually win of course — and as a result, fuel the innovation that gave rise to P2P sharing and torrents. Mission accomplished!


Torrents seem to be dying out though. Or maybe I’m just out of the loop on where the good ones are hiding. I can still find (normally new episodes of various shows [I use the files for video editing]) what I’m looking for but the swarms are smaller than they were and they tend to die off faster.

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