from the no-more-napster dept
Five Years Ago
This week in 2011, Homeland Security continued its domain-seizure crusade with another 18 targets, again seized with no adversarial due process. It also appeared to have made a pretty big mistake in seizing a dynamic domain and taking down thousands of innocent sites, though when pressed on this it was particularly evasive. We reiterated the point that the seizures were almost certainly not legal, while Congress was getting ready to reintroduce COICA and make online takedowns even easier and more extreme (and it was good to hear Senator Ron Wyden speaking out against it while Senator Patrick Leahy struggled to show evidence for its necessity.) All this appears to have inspired UK law enforcement, who began seeking their own takedown powers, and France was ahead of the game.
But, before dealing with COICA, Congress was racing to extend the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act. First the House agreed to the extension with no discussion or oversight, then the Senate followed suit but mercifully added a better-than-nothing 90 day limit to start with. The administration was defending its vague right to spy on Americans, and yet amidst all this, the US still wanted to be seen as a champion of internet freedom.
Ten Years Ago
That same irony was present five years earlier in 2006, when the big news on that front was Google's decision to offer a censored version of its search in China. Suddenly, the US government was extremely interested in censorship and internet freedom, and the whole ordeal appeared to be a massive clash of business, politics and culture. China, for its part, seemed to be throwing the US a bone by shutting down some counterfeiting operations at the same time. Additionally, in an ersatz prototype of today's battle over iPhone encryption, UK police were worried that Microsoft's new Windows DRM system would stop them from doing their job, and were negotiating with the company to include backdoors that would let them hack people's machines.
Also this week in 2006: the television industry was struggling to figure out what to do with its new stats on DVR viewers, the RIAA was pretending that it's doing you a favor by letting you use your iPod (while also using dirty tricks in its file sharing lawsuits, like gathering private info on the target's kids), and Apple shut down a group that was putting OSX on non-Apple PC hardware (precisely the type of machine from which I am typing this).
Fifteen Years Ago
On Monday of this week in 2001, the final ruling came down: Napster is bad, and must stop. There was no shortage of analysis on this front, with some predictions that were wildly optimistic, suggesting Napster could retain 25% of its users on a subscription model, some that were much more realistic, pointing to other services that atrophied users after starting to charge a fee, and some that looked deeper and found the real losers here: the music industry. Meanwhile, P2P sharing wasn't going anywhere (and, tangentially, neither was open source software, despite one bizarre assertion that it's un-American).
One-Hundred And Five Years Ago
In the long history of global communication there have been many critical developments, and one we probably haven't discussed much around here is airmail. It was on February 17th, 1911 that the first unofficial airmail delivery took place (by an airplane, that is — there had been some deliveries by balloon and, of course, pigeon in the past). It was followed the next day by the first official airmail flight.