This Week In Techdirt History: May 3rd – 9th

from the copyright-news-and-news-copyrights dept

Five Years Ago

News was flying in every direction on the copyright front this week in 2010. An unauthorized Catcher In The Rye sequel sparked a copyright fight that remains near the center of the debate about transformative works, but a ruling against the idea that you could copyright the concept of sneaking veggies into kids’ food upheld the idea/expression dichotomy. Two different studies (and the chair of the Featured Artist Coalition) underlined the fact that innovation is more important than worrying about piracy. A UK court found that sports schedules could be covered by copyright, while German court ruled that RapidShare is not liable for infringement by users, and a Costa Rican artist was claiming that the country’s new money infringes on his artwork. At home, a court ruled that an album is a single work for the purpose of damages, while Google was seeking a declaratory judgement that linking to files is not infringement.

In the world of journalism, Sumner Redstone was saying that all newspapers would be gone within two years. While that hasn’t exactly been the case, it’s an understandable thought at a time when Rupert Murdoch was getting shy about his newly-paywalled websites and The Economist was warning about paywalls creating news pirates — all while Fox News was aggregating copyrighted photographs. At least the New Hampshire Supreme Court recognized that new media can be news media.

Ten Years Ago

It’s not like that was the first sounding of the bell for old media. Back in 2005, faltering ad revenues had already driven newspapers to advertising to advertisers, seeking advertising. The New York Post was irritating readers not with a paywall, but with a broken registration wall. But what was bad news for print also appeared to be good news for digital, and Forbes’ online revenue was set to surpass its print revenue. Online advertising was booming, though we noted that it might not grow forever, and video game ads were the next big source of hype.

On the copyright front, we were disturbed to see the Boy Scouts offer an intellectual property badge, but happy to see the RIAA’s lectures at colleges fall on deaf ears. We were intrigued by an analysis suggesting the RIAA’s high damage amounts in copyright lawsuits were unconstitutional, but sad to see the Supreme Court pass on a case that could have let it give some teeth to people targeted by bogus DMCA takedowns.

Fifteen Years Ago

Five years before that, in 2000, we heard the RIAA’s own words about its lawsuits against and Napster. Already, people were realizing that the world of MP3s (still a hot topic) extended far beyond those two famous services, though its future was unclear. This was also the time of the fallout from the Microsoft antitrust verdict, leading some to imagine alternate futures and question the company’s kindergarten-level manners. These were days before the cult of Steve Jobs, when there was still a cult of Bill Gates.

A dispute between Disney and Time Warner broke out this week in 2000, leading the former to pull ABC from the latter’s cable service and causing some to question the future of the AOL/Time Warner merger. Star Wars, on the other hand, was still in the pocket of George Lucas, who finally agreed to release it on DVD.

Sixty-Three Years Ago

All of modern computing is based on the integrated circuit. As with all monumental inventions, it has its roots in several incremental innovations and sparks of inspiration that came before it, but it was on May 7th, 1952 that British radio engineer Geoffrey Dumner fully formulated and described the idea in a public speech, saying:

With the advent of the transistor and the work in semiconductors generally, it seems now to be possible to envisage electronic equipment in a solid block with no connecting wires. The block may consist of layers of insulating, conducting, rectifying and amplifying materials, the electrical functions being connected by cutting out areas of the various layers.

And the rest is history.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History: May 3rd – 9th”

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Anonymous Coward says:

We were so naive back then

I greatly enjoyed reading the great article about Microsoft skipping kindergarten in the wake of the antitrust decision. One particular quote stuck out at me as being adorable now that we live in an age of lawsuits filed over Facebook and Twitter posts:

Heck, Microsoft’s internal documents support that conclusion. One internal e-mail stated: “[A]nd let’s face facts. innovation has never been Microsoft’s strong suite. we’re much better at ripping off our competitors. For example, we did not invent either ASP [active server pages] or IE, we bought them!” (Even on the lenient scale upon which e-mail punctuation, grammar, and spell-checking is graded, this is not the most flattering thing to have appear in federal court.)

Who could have predicted how far that lenient scale could fall. That email quote looks shockingly well formed and lacking in acronyms.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Microsoft, Then And Now

It’s hard to believe now, but Microsoft really was an agile, innovative company back then. I have a copy of The Microsoft Way by historian Randall Stross, published in 1996. Their build system for the Windows OS did a complete rebuild every night, so new features could go in quickly and any breakage detected and fixed just as quickly.

Nowadays, it takes more like a year for new features and fixes to percolate their way from lowly developers at the coalface up to the master Windows source tree, and it is the Open Source projects that are the most agile. Think of the Linux kernel, which is now up to 15 million lines of source code, 1,000 active contributors submitting 11,000 lines of changes a day (40% new code, 60% changed code), and they can manage a major new stable release every 3 months.

No wonder Microsoft is now struggling to keep up…

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