This Week In Techdirt History: August 9th – 15th

from the copyright-strikes-again...-and-again,-and-again dept

Five Years Ago

And so the 2010 copyright shenanigans continue, with problems on several fronts. In the world of collection society shakedowns, we saw how the day-to-day legalized extortion by BMI works, while Canadian collection society Access Copyright was trying to bleed more money out of students for photocopying privileges; New Zealand authors were calling for a “you must be a pirate” internet licensing fee, and the settling of a payola case offered yet more evidence for why the RIAA’s calls for a Performance Rights tax are ludicrous. At least all this meant that more and more people were realizing how problematic collection societies are.

In the world of lawsuit-based shakedowns, US Copyright Group actually withdrew two lawsuits… in order to refile them against individuals while Righthaven continued to ramp up its “sue everyone” insanity. But we’re not done yet: next stop is the world of bogus and over-aggressive takedowns. A German anti-piracy group knocked out a video for which it had no rights whatsoever, the Discovery Channel forced down a popular Deadliest Catch fan site by claiming that embedding the official videos is infringement, and EMI suddenly decided to single out one popular Empire State Of Mind parody (out of hundreds) for a takedown. As one history we pointed to this week neatly outlines, copyright started as a tool for censorship, was attempted as an incentive system, and is now back to its roots.

Ten Years Ago

We continue our tour by jumping back to 2005 and the world of copy protection nonsense. Even as we pointed out how DRM simply doesn’t work, and only pisses off legitimate customers we found out Princeton was getting ready to use digital textbooks with heavy-handed protections and wondered if companies think buyers are complete idiots — leading to the bigger question of whether the industry understands the concept of legitimate uses of technology at all. It didn’t seem likely, with record labels eyeing the concept of release windows for music, universities bailing out of label-promoted forced music subscription services and people striking back at Microsoft for its intellectual property propaganda.

And now, the freakout list: FedEx freaked out about people making furniture with their boxes, politicians freaked out about Usenet, the Associated Press freaked out (or tried to stoke others to freak out) about Daylight Savings Time changes causing Y2K-esque computer problems, one writer freaked out about online anonymity, and an entire high school of students freaked out (presumably) when a computer glitch told them they all got failing grades.

Fifteen Years Ago

Finally we come to the wellspring of many of the copyright debates that still rage to this day: the Napster controversy, with Intel taking a pro-peer-to-peer stance this week while music retailers had mixed opinions and one new piece of software was attempting to blend Napster with instant messaging. Already we were starting to look at ways for artists to make money without relying on intellectual property laws.

We also saw the internet effect with other fields. In the world of health, it turned out the web was a great place for people with Munchausen syndrome (the compulsion to feign illness and disease) while people were beginning to track the overall impact of the internet on healthcare and doctor-patient relationships — plus the huge potential for dangerous quackery. In the world of sex we saw a porn ban struck down as unconstitutional while libraries were struggling with how to handle porn (still called “cyberporn”) and married couples were struggling with how to handle cyber-infidelity.

Thirty-Five Years Ago

This isn’t something that actually happened this week in 1980, but a New Yorker article this Thursday pointed to the newly-minted 808 Day on August 8th to honor the (not actually exact) birthday of the Roland TR-808 — the most iconic drum machine in the world. The closer look at the history is fascinating, tracking the machine’s unlikely adoption by emerging styles of music, and the way its sound was essentially “crowdsourced” as various producers tweaked settings over the years and built off each others’ adjustments, eventually producing the familiar sounds that you almost certainly recognize even if you don’t know the machine by name.

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