This Week In Techdirt History: December 14th – 20th

from the digital-wrong-management dept

Five Years Ago

Seems like there was lots of news about DRM this week in 2009. Cory Doctorow discussed how difficult Apple made it to publish a DRM-free audiobook, Blu-ray introduced the idea of “managed copies”, a Microsoft Office DRM bug locked some users out of their own documents, Sony stood up in favor of expensive, DRM-laden ebooks, and film DRM threatened to prevent Avatar from being shown in 3D in some theaters. The only voice of reason was David Pogue, who pointed out that DRM-free ebooks boosted his sales.

France was a land of contradiction this week. Avid copyright defender and three-strikes architect Nicolas Sarkozy was caught infringing on copyright for a third time. Meanwhile, he also announced plans to spend over a billion dollars digitizing books — while a French court was ruling that Google’s book scanning project violates copyright. Well, that all makes perfect sense.

But intellectual property madness is, of course, global. This week in 2009 also saw North Face file suit against South Butt, ASCAP start demanding license fees from venues where people play Guitar Hero, Google face complaints from the estate of Philip K. Dick over its then-upcoming Nexus One phone, the Judiciary Committee summoned the CEO of to defend himself on the subject of live sports piracy, Vimeo was sued over lip dub videos, and the FBI arrested the guy who leaked Wolverine in one of the highest-profile such incidents.

Ten Years Ago

As regular Techdirt readers know, we don’t care about the fact that there are some sites out there that scrape and copy tons of our content, and such sites have been around for a long time. In 2004, however, we were especially baffled to find one being used to promote house cleaning services. Today, such PageRank-scamming setups are commonplace and instantly dismissed as stupid, but ten years ago they seemed really weird.

In the world of spam-law, this week in 2004 saw two notable events: Maryland’s anti-spam law was ruled unconstitutional, while the UK’s version of CAN-SPAM was proving totally ineffective.

Also in 2004: doctors weren’t so sanguine about buying kidneys online, ICANN was approving more pointless TLDs, the MPAA started going after torrent trackers, a Canadian court struck down a copyright tariff on iPods (while the world realized that MP3 players aren’t just for kids), and Blockbuster continued its long, futile fight against Netflix by ditching late fees.

Oh, and long before all the DRM action of 2009, the same things were stirring: Sony unveiled an exciting new DRM for CDs.

Fifteen Years Ago

During these few years around the turn of the century, there was a seemingly endless flurry of versions of the Windows operating system. This week in 1999 marked a major transitional milestone: the completion of Windows 2000, which would be released a few months later, and was the last version of Windows before XP commenced a new era. Meanwhile, in an early earth-tremor foreshadowing modern cloud computing and things like ChromeOS, MyWebOS was working on the in-browser operating system.

Today, domain and trademark disputes online are almost guaranteed to get pretty nasty, and domain-squatting for the sake of extracting cash is fairly common practice — but in 1999 it was still somewhat unexplored territory. This week, an 11-year-old kid in Britain registered as a joke. The company’s response? First it said it didn’t care, then shortly afterwards decided to buy the domain for the price of one college education.

There was a bizarre piece of data this week in 1999, suggesting that print newspapers weren’t losing readers to online. As we correctly mused, this just meant the real generational trend hadn’t fully kicked in yet. Meanwhile, the most exciting nascent venue for communications was the wireless web, which was still struggling along with WAP and WML. People were building communities and HP was even working with Swatch to try to build a smartwatch way before its time.

Also, in a bit of sad news, December 13th, 1999 marked the death of Catch 22 author Joseph Heller.

Fifty-Six Years Ago

This week on the Techdirt Podcast, we had an episode about the possibility of satellite-based internet access. Well, long before the internet, on December 18th, 1958, the world’s first communications satellite was launched in a direct response to the Soviet Sputnik satellites. On board the SCORE satellite was a tape-recorded Christmas message from President Eisenhower, which it broadcast to the world via short-wave radio.

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