This Week In Techdirt History: January 18th – 24th

from the control-is-self-defeating dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010 was the beginning of the NY times paywall, sparking off huge amounts of discussion online. We weren’t convinced. Ultimately, the paywall didn’t seem to hurt the newspaper, but it didn’t seem to bring much benefit either (or at least not enough for many other publications to follow in its footsteps).

There was a lot of stuff happening overseas five years ago. The UK was hiding ACTA details from MPs, carving out tiny ISP safe harbors for hate speech and, in a high-profile incident, arresting a man for tweeting a joke about blowing up an airport. A Swedish ISP was refusing to give up info under a new law, a proposal in Italy would see all video uploads requiring government approval, and German publishers were (as always) going after Google.

In the US, the FBI was caught breaking the law to gather phone call info from telcos, and Obama quietly made it legal. The president also criticized the patent office for its ridiculous workflow. CBS was letting classic Jack Benny footage literally disintegrate instead of letting fans digitize it, the Songwriter’s Guild was trashing net neutrality, and then-boss of the MPAA Dan Glickman announced he would be stepping down. Also, the court in the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case realized how crazy a $1.92-million award was and cut it to $2,250 per song (down from $80,000).

Ten Years Ago

In 2005, plenty of people were freaking out about Wi-Fi security risks. This week, we pointed out that they were probably exaggerating — though we did find at least one reasonable analysis.

Remember the short-lived term “picture phone”? Well, it was pretty common at one point — enough so that the owner of thought that he could sell it for a million bucks. A Maryland lawmaker re-floated the idea for a porn TLD (which now exists, and nobody cares about it). Dell CEO Kevin Rollins made the confusing claim that the iPod is a one-hit-wonder just like Sony’s Walkman. We were noting that the biggest issue with the iPod was actually the iTunes store and the fact that you didn’t really “own” your music.

We also had a discussion about the biggest obstacle to device convergence: demands for control in the form of DRM, exclusive formats and other pointless fragmentation of content and devices. Even the Sony chief admitted that DRM can hold up innovation. We knew it would be a big problem as broadcasters created digital stores. Meanwhile, Congress was getting ready to consider more intellectual property law, and then-FCC Chair Michael Powell announced his resignation.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2000, Transmeta started making processors. Turns out that was the beginning of a sad story of innovation: by 2007, the company had shifted away from semiconductor production and entirely to IP licensing, then in 2009 its patent portfolio was acquired by, wait for it… Intellectual Ventures.

Long before the New York Times paywall, the LA Times tried charging 20 cents to email a story (amazingly not still a standard business model). People were experimenting with multimedia, so you got things like the virtual newscaster and the print magazines from dot-coms. Techdirt itself got mentioned in print in Inter@ctive Week. Amidst all this, the challenges of online advertising were already becoming clear.

A former Microsoft exec bought a Bowling Association, but if you think that’s odd, consider this: in 2000, Microsoft forgot to pay for several domain renewals and let sites like Hotmail lapse. A random guy used his credit card to pay the bill and renew them, and Microsoft gratefully sent him a $500 check for his trouble. This week, the guy decided to auction off the check.

Twenty-Nine Years Ago

On January 19th, 1986, the Brain computer virus was released into the wild. It was the first virus targeting IBM PCs running MS-DOS.

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