This Week In Techdirt History: December 21 – 27

from the history-at-christmas dept

Five Years Ago

A federal Anti-SLAPP law was introduced in Congress, and went nowhere. It’s something we desperately need, and it’s ridiculous that Congress hasn’t taken up the issue. Various online publications were still whining about Google sending them traffic. Meanwhile, as the recording industry was whining about piracy, we noted that it would likely be blaming something else within a decade (I think streaming sites are the current obsession). IsoHunt lost a key ruling in court, saying that the site “induced” infringement by showing what was popular — and also because the court took some statements by the site’s founder out of context.

China took unending Hollywood-funded pressure to ramp up its efforts to stop copyright infringement… and used it as an excuse to censor more of the stuff on the internet that the Chinese government didn’t like. Meanwhile, a German court decided that TV schedule information was covered by copyright. Demi Moore’s lawyers thought that it was defamation to suggest that her images had been photoshopped. And the NBA was fining players for happily tweeting about victories too soon after the game was done.

There are two other interesting stories, just because nearly identical issues have cropped up this week, five years later. First, we had a discussion on whether or not sites should be forced to take down content if a court rules against the user — if the user can’t be found or is unable to do anything about the content. The sites are protected by Section 230 and don’t need to do anything — but some are suggesting otherwise. In fact, a judge in NY was suggesting that a Right To Be Forgotten might be a good remedy in this situation. The second was a story out of Chicago, done by the Chicago Tribune, noting that red light cameras seemed to be leading to more accidents. We’ve been reporting on this exact thing for many, many years, but this past week the very same Chicago Tribune reported on the very same issue again after doing a more detailed look at the numbers. Turns out its story from five years ago still held true: red light cameras increase crashes.

Ten Years Ago:

Do you remember when Cablevision thought that it was going to get into the satellite TV game and compete with DirecTV and Dish? It was called Voom and it failed miserably. Blockbuster (remember that company?) was realizing that Netflix was real competition. During this holiday season — but years before smartphones were really a thing — we were discussing the issue of bringing your email on vacation.

Despite all the fears about kids learning “texting speak,” studies were showing that kids can understand the context and know they have to write differently in formal settings rather than sending a text to a friend. And yet some people still don’t believe this. Trust me: kids are smarter than you think. Finally, we were learning about more and more documentaries that could never be shown again, because original licenses for archival footage and/or music wouldn’t allow them to ever be shown again.

Fifteen Years Ago:

While most people were correctly predicting that the shift from 1999 to 2000 would not result in the Y2K bug ending the world, MTV was still pulling a publicity stunt and sending six people into a bunker to repopulate the world after everything fell apart. I wonder if they’re still down there. Speaking of bad predictions, some were saying that was finished. In 1999. Oops. But, more seriously, online shopping was having some trouble delivering Christmas gifts on time.

Fifteen years ago, there were some early attempts to monitor driving traffic by looking at mobile phone data. The idea seemed perplexing to us — and we wondered about the privacy implications. Of course, fifteen years later, we’re all tracked everywhere we go… but we have pretty decent information about the traffic when we’re driving. Finally, in those early days on the web, you could still put up fake job listings and convince people they were interviewing for a job at CBS.

Thirty Two Years Ago

Time Magazine named “the personal computer” as its “Person of the Year” — the first time it went to a non person.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History: December 21 – 27”

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Anonymous Coward says:


I never thought Netflix was really the cause of Blockbuster’s downfall. Instead I thought it was On Demand that was causing people to not bother going to Blockbuster. After all, why go to the video store if you can click a button on your remote to instantly watch the majority of the new movies that are available.

I think Netflix knew it too, which is why their move to streaming has to be one of the biggest and smartest pivots we’ve seen from a new company. In the end Netflix did kill Blockbuster, but not for the reason people think.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Netflix

While it was probably a combination of Netflix, Redbox, and On Demand that took down Blockbuster, what he says is pretty accurate I’d say. The base concept behind On Demand of “Press a button, have the movie sent straight to your TV right then without waiting or needing to leave your house.” has always been something that, when executed well, would kill off rental stores, kiosks, and rental by mail. Netflix at some point clearly realized this and went into the streaming market. Which paved their way for the success they enjoy today, though I’d be skeptical of claims as to how far ahead they envisioned.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Chicago Tribune story about red light cameras increasing rear-end collisions that result in injuries, is interesting. I imagine this increase in accidents and injuries leads to higher medical and car insurance rates for everyone.

I’m always suspicious when officials try to push their pet projects citing health and safety as their primary motive. The red light cameras failed in that department, but exceeded in the ticket revenue department. I don’t remember city officials pushing that angle as hard as they were pushing the supposed health and safety angle.

The dead giveaway that the cameras were never about health and safety, is the Chicago Department of Transportation wasn’t even keeping track of accidents or injuries where the cameras were deployed.

Slam on your breaks to avoid a ticket, and pay thousands in medical and car repair bills. Or coast through the yellow light as it turns red and pay a $100 ticket and points on your license. It’s a tough choice to make in a slit second.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Politicians first create the problems, so they can then campaign to solve them. The voters are just so damn stupid that this is a really effective strategy.

The whole anti-fat fad? Yes, politics!
The whole global-cooling/warming/climate-change fad? Yep, politics!
Peak Oil, Price War, Oligarchy, and FCC Monopolies? Damn straight! All POLITICS!
Healthcare… the politics of yesterday had a very involved hand with making it bad to begin with, and now campaigning to make it better but only making it worse… need I say more?

You and your fellow man voting R or D? Ha ha ha! Stupid people. The moment a politician opens his mouth to support new laws, that is when you know you see a corrupt one.

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