Liz's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

from the getting-past-the-loss-of-control dept

Hello, Techdirt readers!

Fellow Kool-aid drinking Internet Pirate here. Name's Elizabeth and I like to consider myself an artist of sorts. Now I'm not sure what originally brought me to Techdirt. Probably when I was looking into self publication for a friend and discovered some related articles. But the information and arguments from both sides of the copyright discussion kept me around. Plus the trolls can be rather amusing. Previously I was a little peeved that other people would take something I posted online and do whatever they wished. Even though I was using freely available services like deviantArt and SoundCloud to showcase my own compositions. I felt a loss of control over something I created. But after a lot of reading I saw how "piracy" could be turned into a mutually beneficial opportunity for everyone involved. This especially came true when some enterprising individual took an image I created and had it printed on a light-switch cover of all things. At first I felt a bit violated. Here's someone who thought they could profit from something I did! On top of that, my name was removed from the original image. But then I thought about others who turned this sort of thing around for their benefit. Here was a person who had access to physical merchandise that thought something I created was good enough to sell. So I contacted the seller on eBay and sought a mutually beneficial deal. Combining my artistic expression and his physical goods so that the two of us could make some money.

Sadly the deal didn't pan out. What he wanted to sell wasn't quite what I wanted to create. But the gentleman was kind enough to send me a unique light switch cover and we parted on amiable terms.

This brings me to my first pick of the week. Glyn Moody asked us Which is Worse -- Sharing With Attribution, Or Plagiarism Without? Here we have a story about a few politicians in Germany who copied someone else's work and passed it off as their own. The linked articles show that Silvana Koch-Mehrin had her academic title taken away by Heidelberg University, and Jorgo Chatzimarkakis' doctorate degree was revoked by the University of Bonn as recent examples. This in a time when we see top European political members in negotiations for stricter intellectual property laws. A potential link to double standards between what the government can do and what the people are forbidden to. Not unlike the case of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy infringing copyright more than once while pressing strongly for stricter penalties for people accused of doing the same thing. Now personally, I believe that plagiarism is absolutely terrible. You risk your own reputation if discovered (highly likely in the Information Age), while robbing the original composer of their own efforts. To paraphrase an ancient saying, we're all dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants. We each take inspiration, references, and information from others and build upon it to create something new. We see this in the creative process from areas of scientific research all the way to mixing audio samples into music. However to claim ownership without acknowledging it's source is what I'd call intellectual theft.

Mike Masnick's article Author Tells DOJ The Authors Guild Doesn't Speak For Him is another shining example of how middlemen agencies claim that they represent the interests of creators who fall under their purview. This time it's the subject of the Author's Guild and the Association of Authors’ Representatives as described by self-publishing author Joe Konrath in a letter to John R. Read of the Department of Justice. More often than not, we see numerous power-grabs by these sorts of agencies in order to make more money on the efforts of those who truly work for a living. While this is nothing new -- we see it from the tradesmen of antiquity, to the Italian Renaissance artists like Masaccio and da Vinci, and up through history to modern artists and musicians -- the technology of today is increasingly making these kinds of middlemen agencies more and more irrelevant. As Mr. Konrath states, "...these organizations did not solicit the views of their members, that they in no way speak on behalf of all or even most of their members, and that (as I imagine is obvious) they are motivated not by what’s best for consumers, but by what they see as best for themselves." While many guild associations in the past have used their clout to keep new blood out of the marketplace unless they get a cut (via membership fees in most cases), most of them did have an apprenticeship program to train people in their applied trades. I'm currently unaware of any programme via the Author's Guild to teach others to become better writers and publishers. However the services they do offer could be beneficial to some members within the guild if it fits their individual business plans. Yet those same services can also be obtained from other sources.

The story of Steve Cooksey reminds me a bit of the story of Patch Adams. After suffering a life-changing event in their lives, and motivating themselves to change for the better, both men set about using their knowledge and skills to help other people. While Dr. Adams went on to found the Gesundheit Institute where doctors and ordinary people come to help and serve each other, Steve Cooksey set up a blog online to offer advice to any who would listen. At first he chronicled his change in lifestyle and advancement toward better health under a specific dietary programme and exercise regime. But the blog evolved as his readership grew. While the State of North Carolina took issue with this, Cooksey and the Institute for Justice are fighting back against North Carolina regulatory law claiming this is a 1st Amendment matter rather than the work of a professional dietitian. I tend to agree with a number of commenters that the issue at hand might not be the advice column he set up, but the private consultations he offers for a fee. Just as Dr. Adams faced opposition to the Gesundheit Institute when he operated a practice while still a medical student -- in effect, operating a clinic without a medical license. Adams graduated with high honors and became a recognized doctor and was able to move on with his own personal dream. Perhaps Steve Cooksey may need to do something similar to further use his talents to help others. Keep writing that blog, Steve! But if you want to go pro, sometimes you have to jump through a few hoops.

This next article is basically a story of the little guy standing up to a bully. We read that a New Zealand Judge Won't Rubberstamp Kim Dotcom Extradition without concrete evidence for their case. As we've been shown before in this case, the US DOJ has made a number of gaffes. Like the missing videotape of the mansion raid, as well as the previous Procedural Error By Law Enforcement in issuing a restraining order against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom. Now that the Department of Justice has found strong resistance from a foreign court system, I'm wondering how often this sort of legal trickery has worked in the past in other countries much less than within the United States. As the story unfolds, I can't help but see this unraveling over the course of a few years. Were I to don a tin-foil hat, I would think that this action wasn't about convicting Kim Dotcom on conspiracy charges, but intended as a show of force against "internet pirates," abusing the legal system to financially break a public figure. The chilling effects were readily apparent as other internet locker services quickly changed their usage policies as soon as the news hit. While some countries rush through laws in appeasement due to U.S. influence, it's good to see that others will take a stand and make sure justice and due process prevail. At least for the moment.

Moving right along with some more copyright law nonsense, (Is there any other kind?) we have the the tentacle monster that is the Entertainment Industry. With so many agencies under a single entity, there's no wonder that many in the legal departments are unaware of what those in the advertising departments are doing to promote their goods. Thus we end up with DMCA Notices So Stupid It Hurts. I wonder how often people who are "just doing their job" end up doing their employers more harm than good. Hopefully it isn't too late to teach people, young and old, some valuable critical thinking skills. I don't really have much more to say on this story since it pretty much speaks for itself. Plus I just wanted to say "tentacle monster," at least once.

Speaking of problems with IP laws in their current state, it's nice to see that even those in mainstream media are starting to recognize that there are issues which need to be addressed. As an article written by Eduardo Porter of the NYTimes Draws Connection Between Beastie Boys Lawsuit & Patent Trolls. One major problem with patent trolls is that they abuse the system in order to shake down successful companies for a cut of their profits. This can have a ripple effect on the rest of society. Companies have to raise their prices on goods and services to cover legal costs. Or they need to find a way to cut costs in other areas. The quality of manufactured goods, employee benefits or a company's overall workforce may be slashed. Plus the lack of innovation causes stagnation in development and in the marketplace. In the past some measures had been passed, like the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which forbade corporations from using monopolistic powers for anticompetitive practices. Perhaps the time is past due for our lawmakers to severely curb the practice of patent litigation as well.

However, the issues of IP limiting innovation, and other factors which effect society, is not a new concept. Letters between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison show that Jefferson was so concerned about monopolies (including patents) that he wanted to add protections against them in the Bill of Rights. In a letter to James Madison Dec. 20, 1787:

"I do not like...the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land."
Source: Library of Congress - Establishing a Federal Republic

I think I'll wrap this post up with something positive. The article Latest Humble Bundle Of Pay-What-You-Want Indie Games Raises $1-Million In Five Hours is fantastic news! Not only for supporting independent game developers and creators, but buying a bundle of these amusing games is also a good way to support Child's Play. This is the charity organization started by Penny Arcade creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik which helps alleviate the pain and boredom of children who are recieving treatment and recovery while hospital bound. A portion of the fund can also go directly to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. As far as where the money goes, you have the option to decide which amount goes where in the split. They make the games, you decide who gets paid.

Now here's something good that's being done, "For the Children."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    Kim Dotcom the "little guy".
    Oh wow, this site never ceases to amaze!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 3:34pm

      Re:

      So then imagine how much more unfairly someone who really is 'the little guy' will be treated without the resources to defend herself.

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 3:43pm

      Re:

      I'm pretty sure she means New Zealand compared to the US government. Though, in fairness, I think you could say that just about anyone standing up to the US government is automatically the little guy in that situation.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 5:46pm

        Re: Re:

        Well then I guess my 'little guy' is the artist who was plundered by Kim Dotcom. The artist that doesn't own a sprawling mansion, a dozen luxury cars and several unlicensed firearms.
        They DO exist.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 6:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The artists benefited from Megaupload. It provided them with more ways to distribute their content. Taking them down hurts the artists and it hurts the consumers alike. Taking down Megaupload does not, and is not intended, to protect the artists, it's intended to hurt them.

          The ones that harm the artists are Hollywood with their Hollywood accounting. If you cared about the artists, instead of detesting those that help artists, you would detest Hollywood. You would detest government established broadcasting and cableco monopolies, which hurts both artists and the general public by giving artists fewer distribution choices without going through a selfish government established monopoly gatekeeper (and signing away their IP privileges). You would detest overreaching IP laws, and a one sided penalty structure, that better enable collection societies to deter restaurants and other venues from hosting independent performers (without paying a parasite third party a fee under the pretext that someone might infringe). You would detest IP laws that deter bakeries from allowing children to draw custom drawings on their birthday cakes. This harms artists, it harms the public, and it only helps the parasite and irrelevant government established middlemen.

          IP laws should not be about serving the interests of the artists or protecting them. It should not be about preventing artists from being 'plundered'. If that's what they're for then I say abolish them. Artists are not entitled to IP protection. IP laws should only be about serving the public interest. IP is an alleged means. That you have perverted their intent is more reason for them to be abolished.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 6:58pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            and denying someone a privilege they are not entitled to (no one is entitled to an IP privilege) is not 'plundering' them.

            and the AC above isn't protecting the artists and doesn't intend to. It's sad that this stupid shill, and IP extremists in general, would use artists as the poster child for their selfish agenda. If IP extremists really cared about artists they wouldn't use them as an excuse to advance their selfish agenda. IP extremists, and their positions, aren't about the artists, they're only about the government established monopolist gatekeepers.

             

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          That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 11:02pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Please show the class this artist who was plundered by Kim Dotcom.

          Point 1 - Plundering is a pirate term, pirates died off a long time ago, and are tied to global warming.
          http://www.seanbonner.com/blog/archives/piratesarecool.jpg

          Point 2 - How do you posit that Kim Dotcom broke into your imaginary artists home and stole money?
          http://www.geekosystem.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/piracy-is-not-theft.jpg

          Point 3 - You imply Kim Dotcom has done something wrong for having a RENTED mansion, luxury cars, and the unlicensed firearms IIRC was 1 weapon not in the possession of Dotcom.
          http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110221/14490613193/chris-dodd-breaking-promise-not-to-be come-lobbyist-just-weeks-after-leaving-senate-joining-mpaa-as-top-lobbyist.shtml

          Point 4 - Your holding Dotcom responsible for the actions of users of the site his company ran. That isn't how the world works.

          Show your work or STFU. kthksbai

           

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      Liz (profile), Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 7:02pm

      Re:

      Kim Dotcom the "little guy".
      Oh wow, this site never ceases to amaze!


      I actually meant the New Zealand Court vs. the U.S. Department of Justice.

       

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        Chargone (profile), Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 10:08pm

        Re: Re:

        NZ has an interesting track record of standing up to the US government at highly inconvenient times :)

        this time it's the courts rather than parliament, which is not as cool, but is still good.

        (the reason why US warships don't dock in NZ ports is... amusing...)

         

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          That One Guy (profile), Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 12:58am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That's the second time I've read a mention of warships not docking at NZ for some reason, mind explaining a bit more?

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 4:23am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            New Zealand has declared themselves, by law, a nuclear-free zone, including their territorial waters (up to 12 miles out).

            As I understand it, because the US will neither confirm or deny whether particular ships are nuclear powered or contain nuclear materials, no US ship is allowed to dock as a matter of New Zealand law.

             

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      Cowardly Anonymous, Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 10:11pm

      Re:

      Assets frozen, public perception skewed by prior conviction. Yep, he was definitely at the same of level as the US government going into this.

      /sarc

       

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        That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 11:05pm

        Re: Re:

        This is why most of the shills constantly point out he is fat and did something wrong previously. They can't actually prove he did anything wrong in this case and have to keep people thinking poorly of him.

        kinda sad...

         

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      That One Guy (profile), Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 12:56am

      Re:

      Anyone can become 'the little guy' if all their assets are frozen, and they can't use any of it to pay for their defense. Doesn't matter if someone is technically a millionaire, if they can't use a penny of it.

       

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      The Groove Tiger (profile), Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 10:55am

      Re:

      "Kim Dotcom the "little guy".
      Oh wow, this site never ceases to amaze!"

      So we're back to "chubby", eh? It's getting a bit old.

       

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    Jay (profile), Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 1:55pm

    Now personally, I believe that plagiarism is absolutely terrible.

    Why? I never quite understood this because it's the same as believing copyright enforcement actually allows for more sales in a given nation.

    Let's remember that plagiarism is a 400 year old concept where people are not allowed to freely copy ideas from others unless they're attributed first. This acts as a roadblock to how people learn. Sure, it worked for Shakespeare to plagiarize ideas from Spain and Italy, but it shouldn't work now that there are better ways to shame people for no attribution? That's why I've never truly followed this notion. Now that you punish a plagiarizer, you're effectively hurting your own argument by not allowing them to find their own voice. If the only thing that certain people can do is copy, sure enough they are going to be discovered as happened between artists to students. I just don't believe plagiarism is sincerely as big of a deal as people make it out to be. Same with piracy when there are more effective ways to make money in the world.

    Now that the Department of Justice has found strong resistance from a foreign court system, I'm wondering how often this sort of legal trickery has worked in the past in other countries much less than within the United States. As the story unfolds, I can't help but see this unraveling over the course of a few years. Were I to don a tin-foil hat, I would think that this action wasn't about convicting Kim Dotcom on conspiracy charges, but intended as a show of force against "internet pirates," abusing the legal system to financially break a public figure

    This was a show of force that I'm sure the DoJ did not want challenged. The timeline points to the DoJ wanting to protect the business interests of the RIAA and MPAA essentially using the argument that what Dajaz1, Megaupload, and others did was felony interference with a business model which is a broad interpretation of copyright law.

    What's entirely sad here is how no one has yet to connect the dots in how this is one of the most fascist endeavors of the DoJ. Go after the small fries with disproportionate force, make a scary showing of the rules and threaten all other innovation into moving to places like Germany where they at least appreciate innovation (although they do have patent issues...).

    It's not a bad business model, it's just horrible for those caught in the crossfire.

     

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      Liz (profile), Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 6:57pm

      Re:

      Why? I never quite understood this because it's the same as believing copyright enforcement actually allows for more sales in a given nation.


      The next sentence in that paragraph explains why. One of our most valuable assets is our reputation. If you have a good reputation, then others will want to associate with you. They'd be willing to do business with you and risk their trust in you. It's easier for someone to have faith in a person they don't know based on their reputation alone.

      If you have a bad reputation, then you're quickly dismissed or guarded against. People would generally look elsewhere for goods and services.

      Shakespeare as a playwright took ideas from all over. Yes, he got them from Spain and Italy in the form of story ideas and prose. He also took elements directly from British folklore and from known history of the time. He wove these elements into a creative narrative and crafted a number of new and exciting tales which have lasted since the 17th century and have continued to effect the English language.

      I don't know anywhere where he said he wrote them himself - as if he plucked them out of the blue.

      Plagiarism is more along the lines of copy/paste. Then sign your name and claim the work was yours.

       

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      Cowardly Anonymous, Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 10:19pm

      Re:

      Sure, it worked for Shakespeare to plagiarize ideas from Spain and Italy, but it shouldn't work now that there are better ways to shame people for no attribution?


      What Shakespeare did can only be seen as transformative work. He might not have woven any of the stories, but he was and is known primarily for his poetic wording. Plagiarism would be to take what had previously been written and pass it off as his own.

      Note that it is not actually plagiarism to fail to attach proper attribution so long as it is made clear that the work is not your own.

       

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jun 2nd, 2012 @ 11:07pm

    Liz I don't think it is that far out there in tinfoil hat land that the case against Dotcom was just to cause a reaction to please the cartels.

    TAC, the man with the Tinfoil Admirals Hat.

     

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      Liz (profile), Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 12:01am

      Re:

      And here I thought Cap'n Crunch had gone metal.

       

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        That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 2:10am

        Re: Re:

        Well if you look at their history of targets they went after the large players, and this gave Mega a boost in the ratings.

        Then they took Hotfile to court and suddenly they were shocked that all of their bad acts were being publicized.
        Copyfraud galore being committed and flat out lying to the court that Hotfile had done nothing to "fix" the problem, when they had gone far beyond what is legally required.

        By targeting Mega you get to run a smear campaign in the US and online against a target not likely to be seen in a sympathetic light. They also created a case where there will most likely never be a trial, but they will bend the law and violate the duty of their office to make sure Mega is dead for as long as possible. The cartels told them it was only used for infringement, and suddenly there is a poster child for people all over the globe who used Mega legally demanding he get back his files. The case is sinking much faster than they thought it would, but the damage to the net is rather large.

         

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    Richard (profile), Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 5:59am

    Elizabeth


    Fellow Kool-aid drinking Internet Pirate here. Name's Elizabeth and I like to consider myself an artist of sorts.


    Enjoying your jubilee Elizabeth???

     

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    kubaa434 (profile), Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 6:19am

    Richard You're right

     

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    Maxwell (profile), Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 1:14pm

    ... Previously I was a little peeved that other people would take something I posted online and do whatever they wished...


    How can this feeling come natuarally to any human being ? How can any human being expect to assert control, by default on others behaviour with such ephemeral and intangible things as images, sound, ideas, words, etc. It seems to me as a fabricated and endoctrinated state of mind.

    If you want to have full control over intangible items, do not share them at all.

     

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    Phil, Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 1:25pm

    Diablo 3 by Blizzard Entertainment, sold 3.5 million copies in the first 24 hours, at around $60 per copy. That's $210 million dollars in the first day. If holding these kind of figures is proof of anything (for example, in the case of the bundle raising a paltry $1 million in a week) then this is clear proof that strong digital copyright protection works! Diablo 3 features some of the most stringent digital protection of any game out there.

    You guys rely on a lot of half-baked fallacious arguments here. You would be more effective if you stopped with the weak reasoning.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2012 @ 3:22pm

      Re:

      My wife and I both Love D3.
      It doesn't have any DRM that has annoyed me so far. And, more to the point, I don't feel ripped of in the $60x2 I shelled out.

      Also WoW. Been playing that since it came out, still.

       

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