This Week In Techdirt History: July 5th – 11th

from the lost-history dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, the Joel Tenenbaum continued to echo the Jammie Thomas case as a judge declared the damages to be unconstitutionally excessive. Meanwhile, a heated online debate about file sharing broke out between a teenager and a composer, with at least one music/media professor taking the right side. The never-normal Prince was making bold proclamations about the death of music and the internet, and Kara Swisher was taking his side, while we wondered just how many ‘significant blows’ against file sharing it would take to make any kind of difference.

We were also fresh out of one of the DHS’ big domain seizure rounds, and discovering that they wanted to go after The Pirate Bay and Megaupload as well. Snoop Dogg was sued for sampling while the band Men At Work was ordered to pay 5% of all earnings on ‘Down Under’ to the publisher of an old folk tune — great examples of the sort of creative interference that doesn’t happen in the copyright-free world of food. At least ‘Hollywood Accounting’ was starting to lose in the courts, while the Washington Post was recognizing how crazy Summit Entertainment can be about Twilight IP. A lawsuit was underway that explored the boundaries of Creative Commons, while we explored some nuances of using free as part of a business model — just don’t tell that to the financial columnist who lectured a bunch of little kids for running a free lemonade stand.

Ten Years Ago

The iPhone was still two years out, but the rumors that Apple would be entering the phone business in some big, mysterious way had already been long-circulating, and resurfaced this week in 2005. SOPA was still six years out, but the German recording industry was already onto the idea of poisoning the DNS to block file sharing. The age of MMORPGS was already well underway, and we discovered the strange new industry of real sweatshops farming virtual goods. And people were beginning to realize just how little digital memories fade (even if you want them to).

The EU Parliament faced the question of software patents this week in 2005, and threw out the whole idea with a landslide vote. Back home, supporters of the Broadcast Flag were taking a sneakier approach to dealing with legislators and the public, obfuscating the facts like crazy. That kind of constant obfuscation is how you end up with people who completely fail to understand the difference between trademark and copyright.

A lot of people were focused on ‘mobile music’… to a fault, in fact. Some were just worried about mobile phone etiquette in the office. Others were tracking the predicted blog bubble and debating the legality of open Wi-Fi. Amidst all this, though, one huge and sad story swept through the world: the London subway bombings, which served as a tragic coming-of-age event for the internet as news media.

Fifteen Years Ago

It was very quiet on Techdirt this week in 2000, but apparently we didn’t stop posting entirely for the 4th of July holiday, especially since Techdirt was getting a bunch of new traffic from being voted ‘Cool Stop on the Internet’. Meanwhile, this was still a time of great uncertainty in Silicon Valley, but it was starting to sort itself out: the IPO market clearly hadn’t died entirely and a bunch of upcoming IPOs were from companies that were actually profitable, even as major dotcom failures were hurting partners like PR firms and law firms. Unfortunately some entrepreneurs were pulling deceptive tricks to catch the eyes of VCs — perhaps lending some credence to UK residents, who trusted old names more than flashy new dotcoms.

Tech adoption in the world was rapid and only accelerating. Mobile phone penetration kept blasting through more and more key threshholds, while we heard some of the first rumblings of the now-ubiquitous “camera phone”. On the flipside, a lot of companies were struggling to accept and respond to online customer inquiries, while students were proving nervous about online college applications which felt a little too much like dropping your future into the void.

Seventy-Eight Years Ago

Film buffs, historians and fans of American culture will all feel a pang of sadness at mention of the Fox vault fire, which happened on July 9th, 1937 when canisters of nitrate film spontaneously combusted and destroyed the only copies of virtually every silent film Fox had made up to that date. It was a staggering loss for the history of cinema, and today we have only snippets and low-quality copies of a handful of the lost films — just enough to give us a taste of everything we’re missing.

Today, of course, there’s absolutely no good reason for something like this to ever happen again: new films, music, books, photographs and other forms of content can be stored digitally in thousands or millions of places, such that nothing short of the total breakdown of society could wipe them out. And yet the sad truth is that we haven’t taken full advantage of this capability: all over the world, committed archivists are being blocked in their efforts by copyright laws, DRM and a general ownership mentality. Right now there are old films rotting in vaults — or getting ready to explode in their canisters — while historians line up outside only to be denied entry. So in truth there are only two things that can destroy our cultural heritage in the digital era: the total breakdown of society, and copyright law.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History: July 5th – 11th”

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Anonymous Coward says:

There's now an app for greedy opportunism: "Uber screws Londoners with 300% Tube-strike price hike"

“Taxi firm Uber has been accused of `robbery’ after the company tripled its prices to cash in on the traffic chaos caused by the biggest London Underground strike in 13 years.”

Uber claims raised rate to get more drivers on the street! — WHAT A SLEAZY SLIMY LIE.

THIS is why taxi companies are heavily regulated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There's now an app for greedy opportunism: "Uber screws Londoners with 300% Tube-strike price hike"

Uber claims raised rate to get more drivers on the street! — WHAT A SLEAZY SLIMY LIE.

What makes this a lie? I have friends who drive for Uber, and surge pricing absolutely convinces them to go out and drive. Don’t see how it’s a lie at all. Seems like economics.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: There's now an app for greedy opportunism:

>Uber claims raised rate to get more drivers on the street! — WHAT A SLEAZY SLIMY LIE.

>>> What makes this a lie?

It’s done solely for more profit during an emergency. Businesses aren’t allowed windfall profits. More drivers can be gotten out at same price.

Suppose you’d have no trouble with being charged ten dollars a bottle for water after a storm. You “libertarians” are wrecking all notion of the common good.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: There's now an app for greedy opportunism:

More drivers can be gotten out at same price.

This is economically clueless. It’s a proven fact that higher wages will bring out more drivers.

What’s funny is I’d bet that you’re one of those people who also insists that Uber is exploiting its drivers, right? Yet here, the company offers much higher income and you claim that’s not allowed either.

You “libertarians” are wrecking all notion of the common good.

Not a libertarian by any stretch of the imagination. Can I ask how “the common good” is served if no one can get around?

charliebrown (profile) says:

Public Domain OUTSIDE The United States?

Most countries have a 70 year expiration on copyright, so why aren’t old films being digitized in other countries where most films prior to 1945 are in the public domain? We don’t always have to use original negatives, a well looked after print can be brilliant and a damaged print can be better than nothing!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Public Domain OUTSIDE The United States?

The studios were and re very geed about getting prints returned to their distributors, and with digital cinemas, setting a very tight time windows for the cinemas to show the film. They always were, and still are paranoid about copies escaping their control.

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