This Week In Techdirt History: May 29th – June 4th

from the looking-back dept

Five Years Ago:

For whatever reason, discussions of the public domain were in the air, though not necessarily in a good way. The RIAA was insisting that there was no value in the public domain while an entertainment industry lawyer insisted that the public domain went against the free market. Both of these claims are wrong, by the way. Over in Poland, at least, the Prime Minister was noting that anything funded with public money should be in the public domain.

Lots of other crazy stuff in the world of copyright was going on: This was the time between the introduction of the PROTECT IP Act (and before SOPA) and we were pointing out that the DNS requirements in PIPA fundamentally changed how the internet worked, and why that was a big big problem. Meanwhile, some were noting that under the definitions of “rogue sites,” it’s possible that Google would qualify as a rogue site that needed to be blocked (the way the RIAA is acting about Google these days, perhaps they don’t have a problem with that). Of course, the RIAA was full of other bad ideas as well, like putting people in jail for sharing their Spotify logins, rejecting plans to federalize the copyright on pre-1972 works and making sure you had to pay again each time you listen to your music. Senators were thinking of criminalizing the embedding of YouTube videos. And people were finally realizing what a complete hypocrite Bob Dylan was over copyright — willing to liberally copy from others, but to threaten those who copied from him. Over in France, a court said that merely having the word “torrent” in your domain name meant you’re encouraging infringement. At least Lady Gaga was thinking music needed to be much cheaper — as in $0.99 per album, rather than per track. And the Russian President at the time, Dmitry Medvedev was talking about the problems of copyright (Putin put the kibosh on that soon after, though). Finally, the UN was noting that 3 strikes laws were human rights violations.

The Supreme Court had an unfortunate ruling in a patent case saying that even if you took proactive steps to avoid infringing that could be seen as inducement. Speaking of patents, infamous patent troll Lodsys started suing developers, even before the deadline it had given them to pay up. Some Senator by the name of Bernie Sanders (who ever heard of that guy?) was stumping for medical innovation prizes as an alternative to patents (for what it’s worth, Sanders has been pushing for this for ages — this particular time was not new). The crazy company Medical Justice that tried to use copyright to block you from writing negative reviews of your doctors was, instead, posting fake good reviews. Police in Austria seized a Tor exit node and a flash mob (remember those?) that showed up at the Jefferson Memorial to dance silently ended with security guards body slamming a dancer.

Ten Years Ago:

Hollywood was battling over what DRM to put on DVDs, not realizing that DVDs were a dying business and DRM would speed that along. Meanwhile, the legacy copyright industries, for like the 83,271st time was pretending that “education” would teach people not to pirate stuff, and had created an educational mascot called “Captain Copyright”… only to discover that Captain Copyright was a pirate himself in that he failed to follow the licensing requirements on republishing Wikipedia info.

Plenty was happening on the net neutrality front as well, with AT&T boss Ed Whitacre — who had kicked off the whole net neutrality fight by insisting that Google should pay him for crossing his wires — now insisted he wouldn’t go against net neutrality (no one believed him). Still, just as the debate was heating up all sorts of anti-net neutrality commenters were popping up in odd ways, suggesting a massive astroturf campaign. The DOJ was desperately trying to get the internet to retain data so that it could go on fishing expeditions while the US Supreme Court told Yahoo that it was not subject to a ridiculous French ruling that declared the company a war criminal for having Nazi-related products for sale in its auction site.

On the political side, a decade ago people were wondering if the internet could finally kill off the two party system we’ve been stuck with in the US, while Texas Governor Rick Perry was suggesting a technological alternative to “The Wall” on the southern border: crowdsourcing border patrol, with cameras that anyone could log into and star at the border cross to see if they spot anyone trying to sneak across.

Fifteen Years Ago:

Courts said the FBI didn’t break the law in “hiring” two Russian hackers only to arrest them. Scott McNealy was still trying to get people to realize the benefits of giving up your privacy. The horrible pop up ad was morphing into the horrible pop under ad and PowerPoint was becoming a standard in the classroom.

Also, in a series of “before their time” posts, we wondered if online bill payment was ready for prime time, if the RIAA would succeed in stopping the music business from going digital and if pen-based computing was ready for a comeback. In that post, I noted that perhaps, someday, touchscreens would become standard on all laptops, and if they made the screens detachable, that would be kind of neat. Huh. Oh, and also in an age (way) before Tinder, some were arguing that dating could be a killer app for mobile phones. Of course, unlike my prescient suggestion for laptops, here I said that mobile phone dating might catch on with kids, but not adults. Oops.

Twenty Four Years Ago:

Well, 15 years ago we were wondering if the time had returned for pen-based computers, but nine years earlier this week, the Apple Newton was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago by then Apple CEO John Sculley. CES in May? In Chicago? Apple CEO John Sculley? Times sure have changed…

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