Jakerome's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

from the you-only-think-this-is-free dept

It's pretty obvious that The Masnick only pretends to take the weekend off, because man did Techdirt start off the week with some solid stories. While the Techdirt team is pretending to relax, you can catch up on the best posts from the week. While it's true that I occasionally long for the days of single paragraph posts, I'll ignore fellow short post fans & instead follow Mike's example by providing more insight into my insights.

Techdirt has been at the fore of intellectual property issues for a decade or more, and I've learned much along the way while informing friends about how SOPA and related bills would hinder technology advances, harm free speech and do little to promote the progress of science and useful arts. This post will focus on IP issues, starting off with yet another story that demonstrates the duplicity of Chris Dodd. The man who once proclaimed "no lobbying, no lobbying" upon leaving office now counts the days until he can lobby his former Senate colleagues. In the meantime, he is lobbying the Obama administration and inviting a few select tech companies to join in his secret plan to impose government supported censorship, despite claims to the contrary. All in a futile attempt to preserve the existing MPAA business model so his paymasters are insulated from the independent artists who are competing by embracing new technology.

The MPAA/RIAA lobbying juggernaut has been sadly successful in hobbling internet technologies, as congressional insiders and administration officials conspire to increase government control of the internet by proposing laws that would censor disfavored websites under the guise of copyright protection and cybersecurity. The takeaway is obvious, that internet users have to remain vigilant to prevent Congress from choking innovation on the internet and maintaining freedom of action for themselves. That ties in nicely with a story from Planet Money highlighting the parallels between the MPAA & German button weavers, which used government power to insulate themselves from competition enabled by new technology, leading to stagnation in button weaving technology. The parallel becomes clearer by the day. Viacom continues to sue YouTube as part of it's long attack on user generated content, while in content industries left unprotected by legal fiat, we're witnessing the movement of creators from old media to new media. Not losing those jobs in the process but merely shifting the work to outlets where the creators provide the greatest comparative advantage.

As copyright law is a mess, so is the copyright office itself. Copyright assignments last 70 years or more, but electronic records are not available before 1978. That was backward a decade ago and inexcusable today. Billions are spent to influence legislation & hundreds of law enforcement personnel work to enforce intellectual property laws, yet so little heed is given to cataloging our cultural heritage that millions of copyright records are effectively inaccessible. That has real world consequences, as there is a paucity of in print books from the 1930s-1960s since the copyright status of those works cannot be ascertained; in contrast, books from earlier decades enjoy widespread availability. With all the attention being paid to copyright enforcement, we've managed to neglect great works that have already been produced by emphasizing profit over culture. But "is there any value in cracking down on 'piracy' if it doesn't increase sales?" Congress repeatedly compromises our liberties in the name of fighting piracy, but this story suggests even that doesn't boost sales. By emphasizing enforcement and neglecting record keeping, the government has effectively made it more difficult to enjoy new & old cultural works while doing little to improve revenues for the Old Media companies the laws are intended to protect.

Alas, even internet pioneers are allowing this unhealthy obsession with IP enforcement cloud their judgments. As an admitted Flickr addict, I've taken a keen interest in the developing tactical nuclear patent war being fought between Yahoo and Facebook. It's shocking enough that Facebook was awarded patents for (a) drawing rectangles on photos and linking that box to a person, and (b) displaying an integrated list of actions on my items & those I've commented upon. What's more preposterous is that Facebook would sue over concepts so barely differentiated from preexisting Flickr features to (a) draw rectangles on photos and add a note or link, and (b) display separate lists of actions on my items & those I've commented upon. I imagine the 18 other patent claims in the lawsuit are similarly specious. Hopefully, both come to their senses and drop their lawsuits before spending all their money on lawyers.

Now, my least favorite story of the week, which completely destroys my plan to become a multithousandaire should anyone ever decide to take up Techdirt on CWF+RTB and shut down the site for the year. Yes, fellow favorite posts of the week writers, our dreams of launching a class action lawsuit to obtain our just rewards have been squelched by an activist judge* who opined that Huffington Post contributors that wrote articles without any expectation of compensation aren't entitled to any compensation even though Huffington Post turned out to be quite profitable. No justice, no peace!

*Whereby activist judge I mean any judge I disagree with.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2012 @ 9:13am

    Re: IP

    This is why we need hyper qualified professionals to read patents so they can tell us how these things work.


    Patent Number:

    Patent Trolling Application - by Halliburton

    Yes - this Application, by a Halliburton Patent Attorney, seeks a Patent for "Patent Acquisition and Assertion by a (Non-Inventor) First Party Against a Second Party".

    Patent Number:

    Apparatus for facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force

    This one is too old to have full-text, so you are going to have to look at the pictures -- but it's worth it. I can't help but wonder if this device was ever actually used?

    Patent Number:

    Animal Toy

    Thanks to Samuel Pai for this submission, which is nearly unbelievable. Claim 1 describes (in fancy language of course), a synthetic STICK. Yes, a stick. I'm not kidding. This patent was applied for in 1999. Do you think anyone had ever conceived of the idea of using a stick (albeit a plastic one) as an animal toy prior to 1999? Check out the front page image -- a picture is worth a thousands words, or in this case, a stick.

    Now just typing "crazy patents" on Google brings you in direct contact with the magical world of patents.

    http://www.null-hypothesis.co.uk/science/strange-but-true/patent-lunacy/top_ten_bizarre_ crazy_patents


    Judging by the numbers dedicated to making fun of patents by so many people which also include patent law firms, the number of people who don't understand patents is just immense, something needs to be done to protect inventors from those crazy people right?

    I got it, lets make more laws giving more power to monopolies so the inventors can be better protected LoL

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