Long-time Techdirt readers know that we're big fans of Kevin Smith, not just for his films and podcasts but also for his many innovative approaches to business, distribution and creativity in general — and we're proud to say that he is also a pretty big fan of Techdirt. This week, he joins us on the podcast to discuss the experience of striking out on your own path as a creator while countless voices from the status quo try to tear you down — and the rewards that come when you manage to ignore those voices and be unapologetically yourself.
We've got a double winner this week, with John Fenderson taking both first and second place for insightful with two comments from our post pointing out that, regardless of what you think about Kim Dotcom's guilt, you should be concerned about the government stealing his assets. First, John expressed a thought I've had several times myself:
Here's the funny thing: I originally believed that DotCom was probably guilty as hell, but everything the US government has said and done about this case has changed my mind and convinced me that he's probably innocent.
That it is even possible to file a court case against inanimate objects is a strong indication that the legal system is not just broken, but fundamentally corrupt and insane and is not worthy of any amount of respect.
It sounds like this is an actual case of a felony interference with a business model, except the charges would properly be called collusion, conspiracy, fraud, bribery, and corruption.
Next, we've got a response to General Wesley Clark's evocation of WW2 internment camps in a discussion about domestic radicalism. Even setting aside the obvious awfulness of that suggestion, there's another issue which is that Clark, like most people born after the war, seems to be forgetting or ignoring that the emergence of Naziism and its impact on America was a lot messier than we like to believe in hindsight, as Coyne Tibbets thoroughly points out:
General Wesley Clark: "They do have an ideology. In World War II if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn't say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war."
Actually, no, there were quite a few you didn't. Cases in point: William Randolph Hearst, Andrew Mellon, Standard Oil of New Jersy, Ford Motor and Henry Ford, International Telephone and Telegraph, Allen Dulles, Prescott Bush, and IBM.
Today, we have HSBC, caught laundering money for drug lords and terrorists; you didn't put any of them in camps, either.
Given those examples, I have to say, General Clark, that your ideas are pretty radical. Maybe we should lock you up in one of those camps.
Over on the funny side, it appears we have a winner to Karl's request for a new title to grant Comcast's David Cohen, since he seems to object to the accurate label of "lobbyist". Mike's suggestion wasn't just the top-voted comment on that post, it won funniest comment of the week overall:
Why not a spoonerism?
In second place for funny, we've got a response to a story everyone was talking about this week: the demonstration of how easily (and intensely) hackable modern cars can be. Chris ODonnell felt an entrepreneurial urge:
Note to self: Start used car business, market them as "secure."
It isn't that I lobby
I just acquired the hobby
Of working hard to influence them all
It's not because they paid me
And no, nobody made me,
It's just that I'm at Comcast's beck and call
A lobbyist I'm not
That's simply Tommy rot
Your writing isn't funny
I hand out LOADS of money
To anyone who'll scream that they agree
It's not influence I'm buying
(Although I'm really trying!)
It's the only way that they'll be friends with me
A lobbyist NO WAY
I simply preach for pay!
Also, I'd entirely forgotten about the existence of this machine, but it was this week in 2000 that Apple introduced the G4 Cube. It was an utter flop, and Macworld has a great look at the still-ongoing debate about why.
One-Hundred And Eighty-Six Years Ago
Before there were typewriters, there were "typographers" — the cumbersome forerunners that date all the way back to the early 19th century. Though the details of the first known example — an 1808 Italian machine — are mostly lost, it was on July 23rd, 1829 that the first American "typographer" machine was granted a patent. It was invented by William Austin Burt, and would later come to be retroactively known as a typewriter as that word gained popularity.
GoPro cameras were a revolution in the world of video, enabling a level of high-action photography with a low-cost, out-of-the-box solution. In general, there's a growing number of rugged outdoor devices for capturing video, pictures and sound — but there's still a stumbling block for people who venture to the corners of the earth with their cameras in tow. This week, we're looking at the Gnarbox, which could be the final piece of the puzzle for outdoor action photographers.
What's the one stumbling block I mentioned? Simple: dealing with all your footage. A day out with a GoPro at full resolution generates gigabytes of video, leaving you with two main options, neither of them great. You can carry a bunch of backup memory cards for the camera, or you can add a laptop to your travelling kit — largely negating the ability to just toss a bunch of extremely rugged gear in your bag without fear of damage (or requiring the purchase of a rugged outdoor laptop — something far rarer and more expensive than a camera).
Gnarbox is the new third option: a tiny, heavy-duty device that's halfway to being a full-fledged computer. It has 128gb of internal storage, so you can quickly load it up with the day's footage (by USB or with the built-in SD card reader), but that's just the beginning: it also has its own GPU and CPU, and serves as a WiFi hotspot to create a local network. This means that once you've got the footage loaded up, you can wirelessly connect to the Gnarbox with your smartphone, control it via the app, and actually start editing and sharing videos — even full-resolution 4K ones. Not only does this eliminate the problem of dealing with all your footage and clearing off your camera for the next day's adventure, it also makes it easy to rapidly share the videos you are creating without needing to wait until you reach a computer-equipped home base.
The (Not Actually) Bad
In many of these Awesome Stuff posts, I've bemoaned the fact that otherwise-cool devices are so often limited by the choice to make them exclusively smartphone-controlled. But the Gnarbox is a different case: its entire purpose is to replace more robust computers in situations where they aren't ideal, and to bring a level of video editing capability to your phone that was formerly the exclusive realm of higher-power devices. So, for once, I have no complaints about the fact that it requires the use of an Android or iOS app, since if you're near a desktop or laptop then you don't have any need for it to begin with. That's the right reason to build a smartphone-only device: not because you want to lock people in to your proprietary app or you want to block power-users from getting into the nuts and bolts of your product, but in order to bring a new capability to smartphones that they didn't have before. Editing 128gb of 4k footage certainly qualifies.
If any of this has piqued your interest, now is the time to go check out the Gnarbox, because there are some pretty great deals for Kickstarter backers. Even the projected retail price of $250 is attractive for such a device, but the Kickstarter rewards knock 40% off that price and let you order one for only $150, two for only $279, or a big pack of ten for only $100 a pop. But be warned, these are all limited quantities, and not just for the early bird prices but for the device itself — the initial Kickstarter run of 1000 Gnarboxes is already down to less than 200, so there doesn't seem to be much time left.
A few years ago, there was no reason to see Apple and Google as direct competitors — but thanks to the mobile space, all that has changed. Now the two tech giants are going head-to-head in a contest for the mobile device market share, but their approaches to this race remain very different. This week, we discuss the nuances of this competition and what these two different approaches can teach us about business models and innovation.
This week, we looked at the story of Laura Poitras, who sued the government to find out why she was detained every time she flew anywhere. In one instance, she was denied use of a pen, lest it serve as a weapon, prompting one anonymous commenter to win first place for insightful by underlining the oblivious irony of this move:
As the famous saying goes, the pen is mightier than the sword.
It says a lot about a government when their biggest fear is a journalist with a pen. I doubt these thugs, who clearly had stabbing on their mind, even realized the irony of what they said.
Meanwhile, the Authors Guild reared its perennial "we hate the internet" head, this time with a focus on Amazon. The guild employed a twisted reading of antitrust laws and understanding of economics to suggest that we should focus on creating a robust, competitive market place but not on driving down book prices. took second place for insightful by breaking down the idiocy of this statement:
And what exactly would you like to point out? The two are one and the same, because a thriving, competitive marketplace always drives prices down. That's, like, Capitalism 101, guys...
Or, to borrow a local meme, Author's Guild just hates it when the laws of economics are enforced.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to the White House agreeing to look the other way on Malaysia's massive human rights violations for the sake of getting the TPP passed. As Ninja points out, this is sadly not very surprising:
Well, what can we say? You have that joke of 301 report that lists perfectly good countries as some sort of potential terrorists or something because they don't do what the MAFIAA says, you have the Patriot Act and other incredibly unconstitutional things that allow all sorts of surveillance because a bunch of psychopaths and a huge industry behind the security apparatus likes it, you see serious environmental violations because some huge oil conglomerates and other base industries pay enough for it, you have a completely broken health system and outrageously expensive medicine because some big pharma industries say so... What were we expecting from a Government that not only disregards entirely what is good for the citizenry but often holds total contempt towards said citizens?
This shouldn't be a surprise as much as a reason for going Baltimore/Ferguson/etc on your Government. Sadly, it is happening everywhere in different clothings.
I went to a presentation last night by the guys building OpenBazaar.org. It will be a decentralized P2P marketplace utilizing bitcoin (for now). They are building the open source core, that like bitcoin core, can be built upon by anyone. Users download the core program, and they are their own server and can sell anything they want directly to anyone else they want. If they want to use cloud servers to handle load, fine. If they want to build their own storefront on core, groovy, here's the API.
OpenBazaar's Brian Hoffman kept being asked if they would be adding this or that feature. Answer, probably not. Let other devs do that. The core features will be pretty standard: ratings, comments, friends. They are specifically staying out of being any kind of middleman in the traditional sense, to avoid any of the liability issues.
AND, if you want moderation, you can pay a bit for a neutral moderator/arbitrator to act as multisig escrow, or resolve disputes, etc. Anyone can do that job too, they'll be rated like the rest, so reputation matters.
If you want a curated space, they'll be available. Or build one. If you want to dive into the wild unregulated jungle, that will be there too. If you want to build an ad-based OpenBazaar search engine, awesome. It's brilliant.
Also there were some folks from blocktech.com, who are building Alexandria -- essentially the same concept for digital works, rather than goods.
Decentralized protocols are coming, and fast, because these people really want to build something that the govt. cannot shut down, because it's nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
(... this question always happens: "Don't you feel a moral obligation to keep people from using it for human trafficking?" Er, it's useful software; if others use it for bad, we can't stop that. [Auto makers aren't liable for drunk drivers either.])
Aside: Tech issues preclude this working on Tor, so if you're going to use it for bad, the IP address will be broadcast anyway, for now.
Over on the funny side, it's no surprise that we start out with a response to Comcast's absurdly expensive two-gigabit offering. DannyB used four adjacent links to remind us that there's more to life than price:
Please consider the value you are getting with Comcast
Comcast may be more expensive than Google fiber, but at least you are getting Comcast's AwardWinningcustomerservice. That kind of recognition doesn't come easily, or for free.
Next, we've got an excellent summing up of the story of Newegg, which politely nudged a judge towards issuing an extremely late ruling, only to be chastised for it. Mason Wheeler scored another second place win:
Counsel: Be careful with all this; the judges around here don't like being pestered.
Newegg: *waits 2 years* ...Mandamus, please?
Judge: HOW DARE YOU PESTER ME!!!
Did you not read the article? Ms. Poitras' Threat Score was 400 out of 400 points. You can't get threatier than that! Maximum Threatiness! That's the equivilant of a terrorist with standing orders, bombs, weapons and supplies at her disposal already available to her at the target site, and a plan B in case things go awry!
Poitras is a Modesty Blaise, Emily Pollifax, Felicity Flint and Sarah Walker open-faced sandwich topped with Cammie Morgan sauce with a side of Agent 99 and a bottomless cup of Cate Archer. At 400/400, she's a master infiltrator, agent provocateur, skilled saboteur, proficient in disguise and skilled in the secret ninja arts of Shiatjitsu.
I mean, compare her to all the other 400/400 threats on the list and it all makes sense.
They were right not to trust her with a pen. Unarmed she could kill everyone in the room in slow motion before the first victim hit the floor. She's the arch-nemesis of Jack Bauer, no less.
In the history of computing, it's impossible to deny the pivotal role that Intel has played. I'd estimate that about 99% of everything I've ever done on any kind of computer has involved an Intel chip, and that's true for a lot of people. Well, it was today in 1968 that Intel Corporation was founded in Mountain View, California.
The last several weeks have focused on tech and gadgets, but this week we're taking a break from that to look at a project I know will interest a lot of folks here at Techdirt. Instead of running down "The Good" and "The Bad", let's just explore why the new crowdfunded book Made With Creative Commons could be a great addition to the conversation about culture in the digital age.
For years, we've repeatedly brought up the fact that there's no silver bullet business model for creators in the digital age, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to make money. We've also been pointing out countless creator success stories, and virtually all of them are based on some highly original or custom-tailored approach to monetizing work. Many of those stories have been met with complaints that they aren't replicable, but that's exactly the point: without a silver bullet, every creator needs to figure out what business model works for them, not just copy what has (or hasn't) worked for others.
The folks behind Made With Creative Commons are acutely aware of this idea. The book aims to catalogue a huge list of artists and creators who are successfully making a living online with their creativity while keeping their work open and shareable, and take a closer look at exactly how they are doing it. This can serve two purposes: a source of business inspiration and ideas for other creators, and a resource for open culture supporters in the ongoing debate about copyright and control. In that latter sense, it's like a more thorough version of the link-laden paragraphs you've seen us deploy here on Techdirt from time to time, whenever a successful creator is called a 'fluke':
Backers of the project also get to cast votes for creators who they think should be included, and then of course the final product will itself be released under a Creative Commons license. But with less four weeks to go, the project still has a considerable amount of funds to raise in order to hit its goal — so if you'd like to see a book like this in production, or have strong opinions about who deserves to be featured inside, head on over to the project page and show your support.
Reddit is a prime example of the explosive growth of online communities — and recently it's become a prime test case for the huge challenges such growth brings, especially for those who are trying to use it as the foundation for a successful company. This week we discuss some of those challenges that sit at the intersection of community and business, both in terms of popular examples like Reddit and personal experiences as both members and builders of online communities.
Well, they are leaving the field free for the next generation of cartoon creators to use the Internet to become even more famous than they were. The next generation several advantages, like free software for creating their cartoons, computers than can deal with the rendering, and a well known distribution channel called youtube. All the next generation of cartoonist have to worry about is telling their stories, and attracting their audience.
If there is one thing Hollywood is good at is make-believe.
Finally, since we started with a string of anonymous comments, we'll end with one more. This time it's in response to New Zealand's new and highly problematic law against cyberbullying which, if parsed correctly, has a highly appropriate name:
"Harmful Digital Communications Act"
Well named. Presumably "harmful" modifies "Act" rather than "communications".
Film buffs, historians and fans of American culture will all feel a pang of sadness at mention of the Fox vault fire, which happened on July 9th, 1937 when canisters of nitrate film spontaneously combusted and destroyed the only copies of virtually every silent film Fox had made up to that date. It was a staggering loss for the history of cinema, and today we have only snippets and low-quality copies of a handful of the lost films — just enough to give us a taste of everything we're missing.
Today, of course, there's absolutely no good reason for something like this to ever happen again: new films, music, books, photographs and other forms of content can be stored digitally in thousands or millions of places, such that nothing short of the total breakdown of society could wipe them out. And yet the sad truth is that we haven't taken full advantage of this capability: all over the world, committed archivists are being blocked in their efforts by copyright laws, DRM and a general ownership mentality. Right now there are old films rotting in vaults — or getting ready to explode in their canisters — while historians line up outside only to be denied entry. So in truth there are only two things that can destroy our cultural heritage in the digital era: the total breakdown of society, and copyright law.
Trakkies are a great example of innovation at work. The problem — people losing their keys, forgetting their bags, etc. — has an obvious solution in a world of wireless technology, but implementing that solution in a functional and stylish way that makes people say "wow, I want that" is another challenge altogether. Trakkies go beyond a simple proximity or location system, and instead make all your stuff smart. The little node tags come in two sizes, each with a bunch of sensors and a big configurable button; they locate each other and form a mesh network with Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, and begin learning what you bring with you and when. Your wallet can warn you if you're leaving the house without your keys, and vice versa — or you can tap the button on any one tag to find out if all the others are with you. The associated mobile app is optional (a beautiful thing) and brings your phone into the mesh network without the need for an an attached node tag, plus provides additional tools like looking up the last known location of all your tags on a map.
The network can communicate with lots of other smart devices and can be hooked into IFTTT for programmable behaviours based on a wide variety of factors. And the buttons on each node can be set up with context-sensitive functions — so the button on your coat could be set to tell you if your phone isn't with you, but serve as a music skip control if it is; it could check for your wallet and keys when you're getting off the bus, but turn on and off your smart lightbulbs when you're at home. Trakkies take a big leap beyond solving a simple problem, and actually spark excitement about the new things they could enable.
Truthfully, at this stage, I don't have much bad to say about this project. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes. The price isn't cheap, but it isn't prohibitive either, and the designers have made what I'd consider all the right choices. The "internet of things" has been looming on the horizon for some time now, and a device like this could represent a meaningful step in that direction.
There's an interesting bit of backstory to the Trakkies on the Kickstarter page: the whole thing actually started as a software pursuit. The original team was a research company at European Space Agency BIC, and was focused entirely on the data science and machine learning aspects of the project. The switch to a focus on hardware only came when the team realized that nobody was making hardware capable of doing what they wanted their software to do. That's the path innovation often takes, and beautifully illustrative of the fact that the simplest problems — people sometimes forget their keys — can yield the most interesting and groundbreaking solutions.
Smart watches are among the hottest gadgets du jour, but do they live up to the hype? Their adoption hasn't been even remotely on par with smartphones, and reactions from those who have used them are mixed — but that doesn't mean they're useless or have zero appeal. So, does this dubious trend have a future, or are smart watches a dumb idea? Update: And just like that, reports are out that the sales of the Apple Watch have been disappointing.
This week, the MPAA unveiled some new anti-piracy ads that are targeted (of course) at people who have already paid to go see a movie. Vincent Clement won most insightful comment of the week by underlining just how backwards this is:
It's interesting that at no point does the RIAA or movie studio every THANK people for paying to see the movie or for buying the DVD or digital file.
Even a used car salesman will shake your hand when you buy a vehicle.
Meanwhile, as we continued our discussion of the Uber crackdown in France, one commenter brought out the disingenuous argument that this is is really all about knowing that you're insured when taking a cab. Senor Space Beans won second place for insightful by putting that notion to bed:
It's funny, my state government checks to see if I have insurance before issuing my drivers licence. It doesn't cost six figures to perform said check. The license doesn't provide the insurance; it stipulates that you have insurance.
Taxi Licenses in Paris cost so much because legacy taxi companies lobbied to have them raised to prevent any new comers from elbowing in on their market share. They've created their own problem and nobody's talking about it because it's easier to blame someone else when you've failed to innovate.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to the FCC commissioner's apparent view that broadband isn't all that important. Seegras had a solid theory on just how he could be so wrong:
Some people don't even realise they're dependant on the internet, because they have all their staff doing the work -- depending on the internet -- on their behalf.
Next, we circle back to the MPAA's anti-piracy ads, where one commenter suggested there's nothing movie studios could that the Techdirt community would approve of or appreciate. DannyB chimed in with a list of counter-examples:
You are wrong. But you are too blind to see it.
Here are a dozen things the movie industry could do.
1. Quit focusing on Google which has absolutely nothing to do with piracy.
2. Go after actual infringers. With proof. Using due process. You know, the site hosting infringing content. Free Clue: if you take those down, then those sites don't appear in Google. (and other search engines!)
3. Quit trying to use copyright as a censorship tool.
4. Quit trying to create laws the impose liability upon everyone except the actual infringers.
5. Try making movies that I actually want to see. (There is exactly one movie this summer that I am interested in seeing -- this is the first time in several years. This new stupid anti-piracy ad for three minutes is giving me 2nd thoughts.)
6. If you want to actually help the hard working people you feature in your anti piracy ad, then get rid of Hollywood Accounting.
7. Quit complaining about the Creative Commons license.
8. If I buy a DVD (or CD) I should own either a piece of plastic that costs virtually nothing to produce, or I should own a licensed copy that allows me to very cheaply replace the worn piece of plastic. Or have reasonable backup policies. Most people are honest. But you'll never see this.
9. Quit trying to destroy the public domain. Quit trying to re-copyright it.
10. Quit extending copyright.
11. In short, quit abusing copyright.
12. Quit trolling TechDirt
13. Get your head out of the sand. Quit being stuck in the past. See the future. Technology is your friend. It always has been historically even when you fought it kicking and screaming.
I don't usually go to the movies but I still wanted to see what these commercials are about, so I clicked the links.
"This content is not available in your region."
Huh, I guess they only want people in the United States to stop pirating.
Finally, every now and then we get a comment that is a complete satirical re-imagining of a famous work. Truth be told, a lot of them don't seem all that inspired — but DannyB deserves a second nod this week for his opus, How the Cable TV stole Internet Streaming:
Every Who on the Internet liked Netflix a lot...
But the Cable who lived north of Internet, Did NOT!
The Cable HATED Netflix, the whole TV streaming!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his greed was too tight.
But the reason most likely for the copyright pigs
May have been that their ego was six sizes too big.
Whatever the reason, Their heart or their greed,
They stood on the precipice of Cable TV.
Staring down from their cave with a sour, greedy fret,
At the warm lighted screens all over the Internet.
For they knew down on the Internet
Every Who they could see
Was watching Netflix original series
Instead of Cable TV!
And that new streaming content! cable snarled with a sneer,
Streaming TV is popular, it is practically here!
Then they growled with their long fingers nervously drumming,
"I MUST find some way to stop the Streaming from coming!"
For in the future cable knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would be watching on smart phones, their tablets, gadgets and toys!
Then they got an idea! An awful idea!
The Cable got a horrible, awful idea!
"I know just what to do!" The Cable laughed like a brute.
I'll call my lawyers", they snarled, "to file a lawsuit!"
A few weeks ago, we featured the Gloveone and talked about the growing market for supplemental virtual reality devices. We also talked about the coming VR future on this week's podcast episode. But there's another half of the VR world we haven't talked a lot about: the capture and creation of VR environments. This week, we're looking at the Sphericam 2, a 360-degree 4k camera.
As VR devices like the Oculus Rift become more popular, there's going to be a huge thirst for content — and in this everyone-is-a-creator world, a huge thirst for content-making tools, too. Though much of the excitement has been around video games and from-scratch environments, there are also plenty of compelling things to be done with material captured the real world. For that, you need an elaborate multi-camera setup — or a device like the Sphericam. It's tiny (about the size of a tennis ball), rugged and full-featured, and requires no special knowledge to capture 360-degree footage which can then be converted to a navigable VR environment. It's basically a GoPro combined with a Google Street View car, and that's pretty cool. For the videophile, it has solid specs: 60fps raw video at 4096x2048 resolution, on six cameras with no blind spots.
There's really only one major drawback here, and that's the price. At $1500 plus shipping, it's not something that's going to find its way into everyone's pocket overnight. That's not to say the price is unfair — given the amount of technology packed into the device, it seems at least reasonable, but for the time being it remains an obstacle. Still, just like the VR devices themselves, it's likely that things like the Sphericam will only get more and more accessible as time goes on.
The User Generated
This is the part that's really exciting and interesting about devices like this. Today, it's simply no longer enough to release a new means of consuming content to the world — it needs to come with ways of creating that content. The world of virtual reality will have no multi-decade gap between early "professional only" days and later "everyone's in on it" days, like photography or film or recorded music — the two will arrive almost simultaneously, with content coming from a huge spectrum from amateur to professional and everything in between. Devices like the Sphericam are paving the way for this, demonstrating that even something cutting-edge like virtual reality can and will be adopted by creators of all classes. It's going to be an interesting future in more ways than one.
The promise of virtual reality has been teasing us since the late 60s, and yet it never seems to arrive in a fully realized form, and often gets relegated to the realm of mockery. Recently, however, VR (and its cousin, augmented reality) is back in a big way, with flagship products like the Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens taking the spotlight, backed up by dozens of other contributions from Google Cardboard to our recent Awesome Stuff feature, the Gloveone. To discuss this exciting trend, we're joined by erstwhile Techdirt writer Carlo Longino who, along with regular co-host Dennis Yang, attended this year's E3 conference and tried out a bunch of new offerings on the VR market.
In this world of rapid technological innovation, nobody can truly claim their efforts stand alone. Everything is built upon previous innovations, and everyone benefits from those who took a pro-innovation stance when building their businesses and technologies. Today, everyone bears some of the responsibility for ensuring that we continue to promote innovation rather than stymie it, and it’s to that end that Copia is creating the Statement of Innovation Principles: a clear, robust statement for innovative companies to sign on to, laying out a variety of principles they intend to uphold in order to promote future innovation, ranging from how they deal with data and intellectual property to how they structure their APIs and developers’ kits.
We started this project in March at our 2015 Inaugural Summit, where we presented an initial version of the statement to a roundtable of General Counsels from innovative companies, then opened up a revised draft for discussion with everyone present. There were lots of interesting points raised at the summit, and you can watch the full roundtable discussion for some background on the project:
Based on all the comments and ideas from the summit we've made another round of revisions to the Statement, and we have now published the updated draft and are seeking feedback from the public. We've included some notes on key questions that were raised at the Summit and which we feel deserve further discussion, as well as a list of possible additional principles that were proposed but haven't yet been adopted into the complete list. We'd really love the community here at Techdirt to get involved, since we know you have a deep understanding of and interest in these issues, so we hope you'll head over to the project page on the Copia site where you can read the current draft and leave comments on individual points or the document as a whole. We look forward to hearing what you have to say, and will be incorporating the feedback into a new draft later this year.
One story in particular captured the readers' imagination when it comes to insight this week. As European taxi drivers went crazy over Uber, our readers chimed in, with JustShutUpAndObey taking first place with a simple recounting of personal experience:
I've been using Uber and Lyft for the last two weeks due to car trouble and love it for these reasons:
1. Drivers (and passengers) have both been pre-vetted by Uber. If either of us tries to rob the other, we WILL be caught.
2. No money changes hands (cash or credit)- Uber already has my credit card (the driver doesn't) and will charge me. The driver doesn't have to worry about me dashing without paying, and I don't have to worry about being charged a "funny" last minute amount.
3. Drivers are rated by passengers and I can decline a ride if the driver has a lower rating.
4. Passengers are also rated, and drivers can decline them too. There is an incentive for both parties to be polite.
5. The App: This is a much bigger advantage than is usually noted: I can see how far away the driver is, I can see his car moving on the map, along with the estimate of how many minutes. Once picked up, I can continuously monitor our progress.
6. Because Uber and Lyft use similar apps, I can check both to see who is closest BEFORE I request a pickup.
In addition to those points, all drivers (about a dozen so far) have been prompt, had very clean cars, and have known and taken the most efficient route. In contrast, last time I called for a cab, they took an hour and a half to arrive, despite telling me numerous times they were 5 minutes away.
Feeling sorry for taxi drivers is like feeling sorry for telemarketers: I do, but only a very little bit.
They aren't flipping cars because they're worried about losing. They're flipping cars because they've already lost. They aren't trying to affect change. Not really. They're venting frustration. The whole scene makes a lot more sense in that context.
France is a country where bossnappings - strikers kidnapping their bosses and holding them hostage - is a time-honored negotiating tactic. Protests by truckers, farmers, students make the Uber one look like a strongly worded memo.
Come back in five or ten years. The Uber drivers will be flipping and burning the self-driving cars that replace them.
Next, we pivot to a piece of EU copyright reform that involves stricter regulations on outdoor photography that might catch copyrighted material. Every time something like this has come up, it's seemed like a somewhat entitled concern, and MadAsASnake spells out the simple reason why:
Quite frankly, if they don't want it photographed, don't put it in view of the public.
Over on the funny side, first place goes to guest writer Bas Grasmayer. In response to his excellent piece about the need for artists to "sell features, not songs", one commenter insisted that he not "tell artists what to do". Bas racked up lots of funny votes with a short, sharp retort:
Don't tell me what to do.
For second place, we head to the bizarre story of Tumblr complying with the DMCA takedown requests of a self-proclaimed alien channeller (or some insane thing to that effect). Though the complainant was clearly questionable, Roger Strong made a good observation:
Still more credible than Rightscorp.
For editor's choice on the funny side, our first selection comes in response to the Supreme Court's use of a Spider-Man quote in a ruling against royalties on expired patents. One anonymous commenter made another prediction:
Next up: Supreme court sued for copyright infringement by Marvel.
Finally, we return to the story of the European taxi drivers, who our headline accused of losing "Their Collective Mind". This prompted another anonymous commenter to stick up for the land of liberty:
In America, they'd lose their minds individually, not as part of some collective.
This week, we look at two interesting milestones in the history of free speech in the US, and more specifically one of its most complex and storied wrinkles: obscenity and indecency. First, it was on June 26th, 1975 that the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Miller v. California, establishing the three-prong "Miller Test" for obscene (and thus unprotected) speech. It requires that all three conditions be satisfied:
Whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards", would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,
Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Two decades later, a related law hit the scene: the Communications Decency Act. When it gets brought up here at Techdirt, it's mostly with regards to the Section 230 safe harbors, which have had an impact far beyond the subject of "decency". But the Act's original primary purpose was to protect children from seeing bad stuff online, and much of this has been struck down or altered since, with one notable date being June 26th, 1997 — the same day as the establishment of the Miller Test, 22 years later — when the Supreme Court upheld the ruling in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union that the indecency provisions of the CDA were unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment.
(er sorry, I'm mixing things up - the addition of "education" to the fair dealing list was part of our copyright reform bill, not a court ruling, but right around the same time the supreme court released five rulings that all pushed for expanded interpretations of the fair dealing definition)
Apparently, like some other countries on the 301 list, Canada's rules are as strict or stricter than America's.
Copyright law being as complex as it is, the reality is it's not either/or. Canada's copyright laws do some things way better than the US, and other things way worse.
An illustrative example is our "fair dealing" versus your "fair use". Both have pros and cons. Fair use is far more expansive than fair dealing -- it lists four subjective factors, and leaves the decision up to a judge, which means there are things that are potentially fair use in the US but which stand no chance of being fair dealing in Canada.
On the flipside, Fair Dealing is an enumerated list of specific uses which are "fair". That means it's less expansive than fair use, and arguably doesn't cover as much — but it also means that people doing what it does cover can feel more secure in their protection. Canada's Supreme Court has also been pushing pretty hard for an expansive interpretation of fair dealing laws, and has even stated that the list of fair dealing examples is not exhaustive (which previously many people assumed it was - though this question has not really been tested since that ruling).
Of course, as always, there are like a million layers to this. Law is one thing, practice is another. For example, Canada's fair dealing has a beautiful feature: it is very explicit that any and all educational uses are considered fair. But? Well... but... and it's a big but: this was not always clearly the case (again being recently confirmed by a supreme court ruling) and in the mean time, a huge and robust regime of collection societies for educational use sprang up (if you think the collection society situation in the US is bad... oh man... you have no idea). And, tragically and pathetically, despite the supreme court ruling that educational use is fair, Canada's schools have mostly opted to renew their deals with the collection societies.
That's right: despite an EXTREMELY strong legal position that they should not have to pay for ANYTHING, Canada's universities are still paying licensing fees for photocopies and syllabi. I have some serious questions about how this came to pass... but alas, here we are.
Sure, and if anyone was talking about building everything to functionally block them out then that'd be bad. But who is suggesting that?
I'm suggesting that within whatever overall global discussion you have, there has to be the ability for people to build and moderate their own communities. That's obvious. But there are those who cry "violating my free speech!" when any community wishes to exclude them - and that's idiotic.
If you want to argue that the concept of a right to free speech can/should/does extend beyond the government, that's fine. Admirable, even.
But does that make the second frame of the comic untrue? Can/should/is anyone required to listen to you, or required to provide to you a forum in which to speak? I don't see how. Not only does that make no sense from a rights/freedom perspective, it's just functionally impossible. It's not even desirable — should a serious medical conference be forced to invite homeopaths and spirit healers, because failing to do so would violate their free speech? Should it be illegal to turn away Jehova's Witnesses without first inviting them in and hearing them out?
The key difference between this and other such devices is that these tags for a mesh network. As far as I know, nobody else has offered that. Systems such as the one you describe use the phone as a hub -- it locates all the various devices that are tagged. That is not the case with Trakkies: each device is independent and they all form a network, and each one is capable of locating and interacting with all the others. There's no hub, no centralization. That's what makes this stand out to me.
As for the charging, I'm not sure if they are chargeable or not, but they DO have replaceable standard flat batteries that you can pick up almost anywhere.
It actually was one of the early popular internet clips as well, but you're absolutely right that it started as a bootleg VHS. In fact it's doubly notable for being a popular clip that bridged that transition. Anyway, I've adjusted the post, because you're right that it's dumb not to mention that.
One very simple example would be a voting system. You can create your own tokens on blockchain technology, and they don't have to represent currency, or follow the same rules, as it's all highly programmable.
So say you issued everyone in your organization or whatnot a single "Votecoin", which has the ability to be "spent" on a candidate or option or whatever the vote is about, but is otherwise non-transferrable. Everyone "spends" their votes.
What has that accomplished? Quite a lot: you get a full public ledger of the entire vote, accessible and verifiable by everyone involved, but in which everyone remains anonymous, and in which fraud is impossible, all completely online without the need for any sort of agency or watchdog to run the whole thing beyond simply issuing the "Votecoins", and no need for any kind of additional security or encryption.
Well, now I know you're just a troll, not even someone sincerely trying to have conversations. Your opening comment was glowing and sycophantic, referring to the new service as easy and convenient. And now you want to deny that. Pathetic.
It's a bullshit anti-piracy campaign targeted at people who already paid to see a movie, which is idiotic, and it's a promotion for a worthless "service". If you have any valid point at all, it's that we didn't mock them as extensively as we should have.
But of course, you're full of shit, because now you're pretending that you knew it was a terrible service all along - and yet your first comment on this post is eagerly promoting it with language straight out of the press release.
For years we've pointed out that the industry's much-boasted-about abundance of legal sources is actually an unnavigable mish-mash of overlapping services with wildly varying quality, availability and limitations, and that even if the average person does have a legal alternative to piracy it's likely that actually replacing piracy would mean signing up for a dozen different services with separate bills, and it still wouldn't get them anything... if they can be bothered to figure them out at all.
Does Hollywood respond by trying to unify some of these services? By opening up new licensing terms to allow wider cross-platform availability? By scrapping all that shit and launching a new, flagship platform that promises to offer all the movies there are, and actually delivers?
No, no, no... It has a genius idea instead. "Clearly what we need," said one bigwig to another, "is a special search engine to help people navigate our dozens of terrible services slightly more easily."
How could they be so dumb? Maybe they just truly don't know how to innovate at all. Or maybe this is what happens when your thought process isn't so much "how can we offer our customers a great service" as it is "how can we seemingly invalidate our customers' complaints, so they can't serve as excuses for the behaviour we want outlawed"
IMO eliminating the anti-circumvention clause just leaves the issue, and the cat and mouse game of breaking drm.
Would it though? I mean, there's already an arms race, and even with anti-circumvention protections, the breakers beat the makers every single time. The ONLY thing that keeps some kind of a lid on it is the fact that people need to be careful about distributing DRM-breaking tools, and so those get relegated to pirate sites and other backwaters that scare off average computer users. Remove that one limitation and I don't see how DRM-makers would stand a chance...
I think Leigh might have a point here, I can imagine that being difficult and problematic to pin down language and eliminate the potential for abuse via contract law and such.
I do think this is something really big that you and Mason aren't fully considering. Law is not great at technology, in general. Either it's very specific, at which point it works well for a short period of time but then rapidly becomes obsolete or nonsensical or begins to apply to new things that weren't intended, OR it's broad and general in an attempt to be future-proof, and ends up having all sorts of immediate unintended consequences.
Some of your notions -- ban DRM! ban closed-source software! ban all that bullshit! -- are admittedly appealing in an anarchist-utopia sort of way. But I'm not at all confident that writing laws to accomplish such things is simply a legal-wording challenge to be overcome — I think it may be an insurmountable task.
Plus, I really do like to focus on things that can be done immediately. Yes, we probably do need some idealists out there pushing for the banning of all DRM - but if we want to see any actual near-term change on that front, what we really need are pragmatists out there fighting against ant-circumvention provisions, because that's still a very meaningful change that would strike a huge blow to DRM, and it's one that's actually legislatively realistic.
Honestly I don't doubt there are areas where we are lacking certain bits of knowledge -- we're a small team covering a lot of topics, and we're also part of a broader community of people covering this stuff, and count on others to bring some of their expertise to the table too.
On my end, the frustration is when these things get boiled down into what I consider unfair blanket statements, like the idea that we are "tonedeaf about privacy concerns" or Mason's assertion that we "don't think DRM is bad" (the latter is clearly laughable to anyone who reads Techdirt). But once you move past that, there's plenty of good conversation to be had.