by Leigh Beadon

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the free-as-in-speech dept

This week, some extremely interesting questions were raised by the arrest of a man for tweeting a GIF designed to induce an epileptic seizure (and bragging about it). Though there are a lot of nuances to the legal situation Thad won most insightful comment of the week by rejecting the idea that a GIF can't be a deadly weapon simply because one has never been used to kill before:

They'd be hard-pressed to find a moon rock that's actually killed someone too, but if somebody were to beat Eichenwald over the head with a moon rock after stating that he intended to kill him, I don't think the "nobody's ever been killed with a moon rock" defense would hold up.

In second place, we've got an anonymous response expanding on the explanation of why older, well-off readers are among the biggest ebook pirates:

There is no mystery here. I mean specifically in this instance of older and wealthier people pirating digital books. Its simply a reflection of the publishing industry's failure to grasp the times. People are not stupid, if they can very obviously see that a giant chunk of your production costs just evaporated, they will decide your product should be less expensive. And that's what happened here. People in this age range lived through the digital revolution and understand what books used to cost, that book prices have only gone up, and that Amazon and Apple both have colluded with publishers to keep digital costs artificially high strictly to prevent an impact on physical sales.

Cause, ya know, people who read a lot of books tend to also read a lot of news and are often better informed than the general populace.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more comment on that post, including yet another reason:

I've got an older eBook reader, and finding legitimate books that work on it is quite a PITA - not only because of unsupported formats, but also because online bookstores refuse to sell to me because I'm in the "wrong" country. When it's easier for me to google " epub" and get a working link within 2-3 clicks, why should I bother jumping through hoops?

I'd like to point out Baen here - they're the only one I found where buying a book (that works everywhere) is simpler than downloading off random sites.

Next, we've got a response to the recent SCOTUS decision that lets patent trolls bide their time before suing, which CanadianByChoice notes is only going to incentivize the exact opposite of what patents are supposed to achieve:

So, really, this tells innovators to not bother .. because someone ELSE is just going to come along with a patent (probably old, unheard-of and vague) and take it all away from you.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous commenter who offered up my new favorite response to silly "what does this have to do with tech" complaints on our posts:

Why doesn't Fox news concentrate on news about foxes?

For second place, we head to the latest development in the Paul Hansmeier story, where $180,000 cash found hidden under his bed lead to bankruptcy fraud investigations, and to an eyeroll from an anonymous commenter:

At least that has a plausible explanation.

I mean, I'm finding loose change under my couch cushions all the time.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on our post about the legal battle over a mattress review site, some of which hinges on the safety of "food-grade" materials. TechDescartes had a thought on one commenter's story about their can of "food-grade" Rubix Cube lubricant that also warns it is "HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED":

Especially when applied to a Rubik's cube.

Finally, we head to our story about the laptop travel ban, where sorrykb mused about the growing number of bans that might follow and then hit on a possible nefarious explanation:

What if this is all a trick by Big In-Flight Movie to force us to pay for their crap?

That's all for this week, folks!

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2017 @ 12:37pm

    Baen et al.

    I agree with my fellow anonymous coward about Baen. They were the publisher that got me back into reading after a five-year gap, and I haven't looked back. I've bought every single monthly bundle they've ever put out. They've always been free of DRM infestation and respect their readers.

    Baen, Bookstrand, Weightless Books, Wildside, Manning, O'Reilly, and other publishers who don't charge eye-gouging prices and don't permit DRM infestation are on my "WILL buy/WON'T pirate" list. Other publishers are evaluated on a case by case basis.

    I'm also wondering when the publishers will wake up to the fact that DRM actually encourages piracy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2017 @ 12:44pm

    I'd like to add to the comment on the SCOTUS decision: it's even worse. Innovators will go innovate OUTSIDE the U.S., and will flat out refuse to bring those innovations to the U.S. out of fear of being patent-trolled/swindled out of their inventions. Guess who loses out in this scenario?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2017 @ 2:35pm

    Until ebook prices cost less than a dead tree paperback
    They won't get a penny from me

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 26 Mar 2017 @ 3:00pm


      Plenty fall into that category, though you generally have to look for those not tied down by traditional publishers, as barring notable exceptions like Baen far too many of them seem to see digital format as an excuse to just pad out their profits by keeping the price the same(if not increasing it) while getting rid off all the costs associated with physical sales.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2017 @ 3:05pm

        Re: Re:

        And I have yet to hear authors celebrating their extra income from those extra profits.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 26 Mar 2017 @ 3:34pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          It's possible some of them have seen a slight uptick in their cut, but I suspect(if anyone's got some evidence either way though feel free to chime in) that for most their contracts had them getting a set amount per book sold. If that's true then even if all costs were removed their cut still wouldn't go up any, and they'd still be getting the same amount per book/ebook sold/'sold'.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2017 @ 7:48pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          celebrating their extra income

          I was going to link you to a page called "Prime Palver" wherein Jim Baen and Eric Flint had a discussion. I'm unable to find it off hand, but if I recall correctly, EF pointed out that one reason authors liked publishing Bean ebooks was they got double the rate of the dead tree editions. I have spoken to a relative that published via Amazon's ebooks, and aside from a check that wasn't impressive as a advance, that person has not been paid a single dime more, despite the book "just missing" by fewer than 10,000 being on the NYT best seller's list.

          Wandering a bit far afield here, I will observe the below. It's the long way around but I will get back to the point of author compensation in the end.

          Most, if not all authors start out with a burning desire to share a story they are deeply passionate about. Some find that passion spent after one or two good books. Some, like David Weber and Jim Butcher find that no matter how prolific they become, they still have stories they are passionate and have a drive to tell. Some of them I don't appreciate, but that is a taste issue, not the intrinsic worth. I can tell there is a passion in the story, though I don't share it.

          Some, like Mercedes Lackey, start out with a very good selection of stories they are passionate about. In the case of ML, I feel that she's gotten onto the "publish for a paycheck", not not passion. Her latest efforts, in my opinion, are less about a passion for a story than to put a pile of words out there for a paycheck. I don't denigrate their worth in an absolute sense, only that her later works in my opinion, lack the passion, drive, and richness of the earlier works.

          To return to our muttons about author pay: ML started out with Bean, then I guess she moved as her new works are no longer available on Bean I think. I did purchase some lately via Amazon, and I was struck at what I consider to be a very high price for the works, frequently in the $20 range for the ebook. The dead tree edition, used, goes for $1.

          I don't imagine that authors would talk about how much they do - and I greatly suspect, DON'T - make. I can't imagine publishing is any higher a moral force than music or Hollywood, and there are ample reports about how amoral and dishonest Hollywood accounting is. On the one hand, authors tend to get together more frequently than most other artists, so being overly open on how you're doing compensation wise would tend to create friction from those that are not doing as well, and scorn from those that are doing much better. There's simply no advantige to a specific author to be overly expressive as to their rates of compensation, though collectively, there is a huge advantage in that better terms can be exacted from their gate keepers.

          There are a lot of people with no talent out that that have little doubt their river of money is just waiting to flow if they could just get a break. There are plenty out there with talent and passion but simply don't see the point of going through the bother of getting the attention of the gatekeepers to try to get their works in front of an audience. Some never do much, some freely share it in the odd dark corners where it's difficult to find.

          And some are fortunate enough to get that audience. And thank God for them, for they brighten an otherwise dreary and gray existence we call "a life".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            The Wanderer (profile), 27 Mar 2017 @ 4:47am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The original instance of Prime Palaver, on the Baen site, seems to have been taken down; however, there is apparently a book available which collects the recurring "columns" he wrote under that name. That book, with a few sample chapters, is here:


            The original rant which introduced these columns, the concept, and the origin of the Baen Free Web Library used to be at


            but no longer seems to exist on the Baen Website. It is, however, still available in the Wayback Machine; among other copies (from various points in time), there's one at


            and it was also reposted (with attribution but without permission) on at least one other site:


            (The latter was found with the non-quoted search terms "Prime Palaver" and "alles in ordnung", which both appear in the article.)

            One last note: the name "Prime Palaver" was almost unquestionably chosen, in part, as a reference to the name "Preem Palver", a character in Asimov's "Foundation" series, whose name appears to itself be a mishearing or linguistic corruption of "Prime Palaver" with the meaning of "First Speaker".

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Andy, 27 Mar 2017 @ 2:35am

        Re: Re:

        Just been to visit baen and sorry but $15.99 for an ebook is crazy talk, seriously i refuse to ever pay more than a dollar for a book in digital format and that i believe is still more than i should be paying.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 27 Mar 2017 @ 8:56am

          Re: Re: Re:

          $16 is completely ridiculous, no argument here(unless it's a compilation of several books I suppose), but setting a limit of $1 strikes me as a bit too low. Given I can usually spend several hours reading a single book, $3-5 is my general price range when it comes to purchase, as that seems about right for a couple hours' worth of entertainment(any future re-reads are just a bonus)

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 27 Mar 2017 @ 9:59am


      Discussing it only in terms of manufacturing costs is a bit misleading, though, because the value of a thing is not determined simply by how much it costs to produce. Would you scoff at the idea of buying a piece of furniture that cost more than the parts and labor it took to build it?

      It's true that it costs a lot less to create and transport a digital copy of a book than a paper copy. But digital books carry a number of value-adds that paper books don't: I can carry hundreds of ebooks in my pocket, control the size of the text, switch from reading on a small device to a larger one, etc.

      (Of course, some ebooks also have anti-features, things that remove value. I won't buy an ebook with DRM.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2017 @ 1:34am

    Thanks for making my comment insightful! I just noticed there's a small problem with that comment - the " epub" part should be "<book title> epub" - I thought that "HTML is no longer supported" meant that using < in the comment wouldn't cause everything up to > to be stripped out (and another problem: when you click Preview, it turns &lt; back into <, which means clicking Submit will again strip out everything between <>)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2017 @ 10:27am

    No, funniest is that you got punked again with "Trump Scratch", and took it down entirely.

    So you've started to doing that too, just like sites you jeer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2017 @ 10:30am


    Yup, I check that now and then, and am back in hoots: The-Article-Before

    Out of a whole four replies, one exactly matches my views; "connor17" sensibly replied:

    Either show comments or don't, stop choosing which are 'good' or 'bad' or 'appropriate' or 'inappropriate'. That's censorship plain and simple.

    And it's not like they delete comments with swearing or whatever, they just don't show ones that people don't like. That's wrong and not very democratic, which is what they purport to be.

    And if Google were to implement some such thing as the OP was talking about, god help us all. It's pretty much the end of free speech. Because who's to say what 'improves' an online conversation? Google? I freaking hope not.

    ... Seems likely that person doesn't read Techdirt or I'd have some support against the censoring -- I mean "hiding" of comments here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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