Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2015 At Techdirt
from the year-in-review dept
It's that time again! This week, we're looking back at all of 2015 and rounding up the top three comments in both the insightful and funny categories. For those who are still interested in the winners for this week only, here's first and second for insightful, and first and second for funny.
The Most Insightful Comments Of 2015
You've all seen him — y'know, what's-his-name, That One Guy. According to our roundup of yearly numbers he was the second most frequent commenter on Techdirt, and the most insightful according to the number of times he got an Insightful badge on his comments. Now, he's backing that title up with the most insightful comment of 2015. In October, our think tank The Copia Institute released its The Carrot Or The Stick report, which compared enforcement and innovation as strategies for reducing piracy. That One Guy ran through his own thoughts on the matter, and the insightful votes came pouring in:
As the article notes, there have been countless 'anti-piracy' laws passed, over decades, and yet none of them have had more than a minor, temporary effect on piracy at best. And yet those buying the laws continue to do the same thing, year after year, pushing the same laws, the same ideas, despite their utter failures to date. Given that, the way I see it there's two possibilities:
1. Almost every last person in the entertainment industry, with very few exceptions, is a complete and utter idiot, lacking even the most basic pattern recognition skills, and incapable of learning even the most obvious lesson from their past actions.
2. Stopping piracy isn't actually the goal, and is instead merely the excuse, the justifications for their actions.
#1 is possible, but unlikely in the extreme. You don't reach the point of running multi-billion dollar companies if you are lacking in smarts and business skill, and only an idiot would throw millions away if they weren't getting anything out of it.
Now, if stopping piracy isn't the actual goal, what might it be? If I had to guess, I'd say the real goal is two-fold:
Killing off competition before it can grow, and maintaining control.
Methods of distribution like file-sharing can be used for piracy, yes, but they can also be used for artists not affiliated with the major labels to get their music out there, all without having to go through a middle-man. Books not affiliated with major publishers can be shared and read, and movies put out by indie studios can be shown without ever having to go through the theaters.
By insisting on onerous burdens on third-parties, in order to 'fight piracy', the various 'anti-piracy' laws make it a hassle to host content created by the public, forcing sites and services to spend time and money that they may not have policing their sites, 'just in case', and making it all the more tempting for them to forgo allowing public content entirely.
Even when sites/services can spare the time and money, the incredibly one-sided nature of the laws means that they are given all the incentive in the world to take something down on the flimsiest claim, and penalized if they do not, making it a hassle for content creators who might have their stuff removed on a bogus claim, forced to fight if they want it back up, if they can even do so.
Of course, if a creator doesn't want to deal with the possibility of their stuff being pulled thanks to a bogus claim, or removed as collateral damage thanks to a bot flagging something they created, they could always sign up with the major labels/studios/publishers, who never seem to have to deal with that sort of thing...
When the only way to be able to create quality music required studio resources, the only way to be heard was to sign with a record label, the only way to be promoted was to sign away all the rights to your music, the labels had all the control.
However, when anyone can put their music up for people to listen to and/or buy, when what previously required the resources of a studio to create can now be done with a modest investment in some decent hardware and software, when you can promote yourself through social media, all without signing away anything, suddenly the control of the labels starts crumbling, and their contracts a lot less appealing.
When the only way to take your idea and turn it into a movie was through a major studio, requiring you to sign everything away and maybe get something for it, the only way to show your film was through the theaters, which required a studio to achieve, then they had all the control.
However, when you can crowdfund your film without signing away the rights to anything, when special effects that previously required massive resources can now be done for relatively cheap, and when there are numerous services willing to host and/or sell the resulting film, the studios suddenly don't have nearly the chokehold that they had enjoyed before.
When the only way to be published was to submit your would-be-book to one of the major publishers and hope, when you had to sign away the rights just for them to consider publishing your work, and and had to go through them if you ever wanted to see your book in solid form, the publishers had all the control.
However, when anyone can write up a work and share it with anyone they wish to, when various services make it easy to post and sell your works, whether in physical or digital format, when you can do your own promotion at the cost of little more than your own time, and all without signing over the rights to your books, then suddenly the publishers' previous position of deciding what would and would not be published is a lot less solid.
Short version: If the goals of all the anti-piracy laws are actually to combat piracy, then they have failed utterly each and every time. Therefore it stands to reason that either the ones buying the laws are incompetent fools, or they aren't actually trying to get rid of piracy with the laws they are buying.
Our second place winner on the insightful side is PaulT, another fixture of the community who came in seventh for total comment volume and fifth for number of insightful comments. This particular comment seems to be the result of a slight misunderstanding, after Ninja (#6 and #3 on those same lists, respectively) characterized this year's battle over the Happy Birthday copyright as a petty dispute and a waste of time. He later clarified that he was criticizing the necessity of the fight, as created by terrible copyright law, rather than the fight itself — but first, PaulT served up a rebuttal:
A sign that the system is broken? Yes. A petty dispute? I don't call the fact that a private company is hoarding rights to a song that should have been in the public domain decades ago to the tune of $2 million/year petty. If the song is public domain, they are making huge levels of income based on a lie.
A waste of taxpayer money? Again, I don't see how returning the public's property to its rightful owners under the original contract is a waste, especially if this results in a wider discussion of how broken and one-sided the copyright system is. Especially if as a result of this, Warner are found to have been misleading enough to be forced to return its ill-gotten gains and other companies are forced to return public domain properties to their rightful owners. OK, that's unlikely, but I can dream.
It's a silly dispute in that it should never have been allowed to come to this, but since we're here it's a good fight to have.
Last up, in third place we have our only insightful winner who didn't also show up on any of the big annual lists: JamesF. It came on a post about yet another example of law enforcement misbehavior (in this case, border control tasing a woman who did not comply with a search) and in response to a predictable comment defending the cops. This comment, from an anonymous commenter, asserted that "it's so easy to blame the cops. If she would have just obeyed then she wouldn't have been tazed. She was confrontational, aggressive, and generally an ass." JamesF countered with something of a comment remix:
Its so easy to just blame the civilian. If the cops would have just acted within the bounds of the law, she wouldn't have been tazed. They were confrontational, aggressive and generally behaved like asses.
That's it for the insightful side of things... Now, let's move on to funny!
The Funniest Comments Of 2015
Our first place winner this year is Violynne, who came in at number four on our list of the year's funniest overall commenters. The comment in question came after Mike published our official response to a legal threat from Sony over our reporting on the company's leaked emails, which was: "go pound sand". Violynne was apparently somewhat confused by this:
I get the "go" part, but "pound" doesn't rhyme with "buck" and "sand" isn't a synonym for "yourself".
For our second funniest comment, we head to one of the funnier news stories this year: the Washington Redskins court filing that highlighted a long list of "vulgar" trademarks that have been approved. This time, our winner is anonymous, and arrived on the article with the very first comment, suggesting a relationship to another common Techdirt topic:
I think you are mistaken
Those weren't approved applications, they were mistakenly leaked NSA program codenames.
Last but not least, we have our third place winner on the funny side: a semi-anonymous commenter with no account going by the name David. The comment came in response to an article about encryption from the UK that was written by none other than David Cameron's former speechwriter, Clare Foges — an article that we roundly and rightly mocked. Among its assertions was the idea that making a magical golden key should be easy, since "the global tech industry made around $3.7 trillion last year. They employ some of the brightest people on the planet." David suggested that maybe this was actually the root of the problem:
Indeed, Silicon Valley cornered the market on bright people so thoroughly that the UK government had to make do with employing people like Clare Foges and David Cameron.
That's all of the most insightful and funny Techdirt comments from 2015! But, before we put the year to bed...
Honorable Mentions: Top Combined Votes
Last year, we pointed out that there's another voting metric of interest: the comments that scored the highest number of combined votes in both categories. Most weeks, these comments are also among the top spots on either the insightful or funny side individually, with one side dominating the score — but every now and then a comment racks up a more-or-less even combo of insightful and funny votes, soaring up the combined leaderboard without making a mark on the individual ones. Last year, that was only the case with one comment in the top three for combined votes — this year, surprisingly, it's the case with all three of them! What's more, both the first and third place comment for combined votes came from none other than That One Guy, our winner here for most insightful (with a different comment). Between those two, we've got our only other anonymous winner for the year. Here they are:
- First Place: That One Guy in response to UK fearmongering about piracy being a gateway to a life of crime.
- Second Place: An anonymous commenter with a proposal regarding one L.A. politician's abhorrent plan to track citizens and wreck lives using license plate data.
- Third Place: That One Guy in response to one of the depressingly endless selection of police abuse stories from 2015.
It's worth noting that both of That One Guy's comments on this list employed the same "ironic reversal" formula for using someone's own words to craft a joke while making a point. That's not an indictment — there's a reason some tried-and-true satirical structures are so common, and that one's a classic.
And that, folks, is all for this week and all for 2015! Keep the comments coming.