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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 23 May 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 123: No, The MP3 Isn't Dead

from the seriously,-damnit dept

When the "death of the MP3" started being reported, we were among the very few blogs that said umm, no — but the deluge of eulogies for the still-thriving format has been overwhelming and quite surprising. This week I join the podcast to discuss why the MP3 isn't dead, and how so much of the tech press got it so wrong.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 May 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the comment-one-comment-all dept

This week, we covered the disturbing story of a cop whose huge number of impaired driving arrests turned out to stem from his arbitrary decisions about who was impaired as though it was some sort of magical ability. Roger Strong took a firm line on responding to this, and enough people agreed to make it the first place winner for insightful:

Officer T.T. Carroll is a known serial liar.

The Cobb County police department supports and encourages serial liars.

Cobb County police department arrest records are not credible.

These points should be raised in ANY trial where Cobb County police testimony is presented, or any background check using police records.

In second place, we've got a response from JoeCool to the Conan O'Brien joke stealing lawsuit, making the case that some jokes essentially write themselves:

Topical jokes shouldn't be eligible for copyright

Seriously, I heard that same joke about the MVP truck from a dozen people before it made it online or TV. It was the most obvious joke in the world, and therefore not all that funny. Given how much humans value humor and how many people at least TRY to be funny, I expect that EVERY topical joke is reinvented thousands of times independently. As such, they don't deserve any sort of protection.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we head to our post about Microsoft's angry response to the NSA following the WannaCry ransomware debacle, which made use of a leaked NSA exploit. First, mcinsand did a good job of summing up the most important lesson for the government to learn here:

Senators Feinstein and Burr Need to Pay Attention

For the slow class, there is an important lesson here. An unintentional weakness created havoc this week, and the NSA's knowledge hurt national and global security by not working with Microsoft to fix the problem. If an accidental flaw can cause trouble, then a designed-in backdoor has at least the same potential for damaging our security. We will only make our nation less secure by hiding vulnerabilities or, especially, if we actually deliberately create them; we will make our nation more secure, however, if we work to secure our software.

However, PaulT also made a good point that sparked a conversation about Microsoft that is worth checking out in full:

I appreciate MS here, but they have to accept a lot of responsibility for the situation. It's not just about their historically shoddy record of security (although that's undoubtedly improved), it's about how they've run their ecosystem for so long.

Many people have had major issues installing Windows updates in the past, so they make sure they're turned off. Lots of people killed Windows 7/8 updates because they wanted to avoid being forced to install Windows 10 without their permission.

MS has been really bad at separating actual critical updates from other types of changes, so there's no middle ground in a lot of areas - especially businesses where their updates have been known to kill mission critical production systems if not properly vetted. So, they don't rush to install new patches unless they're made aware of an urgent reason to do so.

Part of the reason why some places were still running XP has to do with compatibility issues for certain software and drivers. I can understand why Microsoft wants to get away from supporting such things. But, if they have introduced problems in getting legacy products to run on a new OS, then they're the reason people didn't upgrade to an OS that was protected against this attack.

All kudos due to Microsoft for coming out and saying what they have here, and taking a stance against the NSA (although a large part of that is probably self-preservation rather than altruism). But, they have to recognise that their own actions, not just recently but over most peoples' experience with their products, has led to everyone being less secure. Saying they released a patch a couple of months ago is no good when the reason why the patches weren't applied on so many machines is because of their own historical behaviour.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Roger Strong who had a hilarious response to the BBC's bizarre new commenting policy that says they might report abusive comments to your boss:

If you're abusive AND insightful, they let you host Top Gear.

For second place, we head to our post about the Japanese music collection society that wants music schools to pay up for the performance rights to songs they teach to students. My_Name_Here provided a case study in Poe's Law with a comment that racked up a lot of funny votes despite nobody being quite sure if it was actually a joke:

I know this will be hidden, but

If composers aren't paid when students are being taught to play songs they've already written, why would they write more songs that will simply be performed for free? Masnick doesn't like thinking about these unfortunate truths, because they don't mesh with his piratey worldview.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with one more comment on that post. This time it's Roger Strong again with a great survival tip:

If I were ever lost alone in the woods, I'd just sing a happy tune.

Because then I could get directions from the collection society representative demanding payment for the public performance.

(And yes, it's a public performance if animals hear it.)

Finally, we've got a different kind of survival tip from Jigsy — a creative response to immigrations officers requesting account passwords:

"Why yes, officer. My password is the last 21 digits of Pi."

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 20 May 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: May 14th - 20th

from the the-more-things-change dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, a Microsoft-funded effort to disrupt BitTorrent was drawing scrutiny, EMI was gloating over the demise of MP3Tunes, and the MPAA was cheering on legal rulings against the Pirate Bay. Of course, one of those rulings was called into question when a Dutch judge's connections to anti-piracy groups drew accusations of corruption, and one of TPB's founders was taking the legal fight over a Swedish ruling to the EU courts. Meanwhile, protestors against the TPP were getting creative, Chile was threatening to drop out of the negotiations all together, Rep. Darrell Issa posted an old leaked version of the agreement for discussion, and the USTR was still attempting to claim that listening to people counts as "transparency".

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, while the MPAA was making some curious changes to its opaque and esoteric ratings system, the RIAA was getting journalists to parrot its propaganda about its copyright shakedowns, and Microsoft was spreading unoriginal FUD about Linux infringing on its patents (prompting Sun to remind it that real companies don't litigate, they innovate). Cinemas were lashing out at the idea of getting rid of movie release windows, CBS was learning why trying to build its own online video destination was a bad idea, and the latest update to AACS was cracked before it even hit the market. We also witnessed the birth of The Copyright Alliance at the hands of the RIAA, MPAA, Disney, Viacom and more.

Fifteen Years Ago

Sometimes — such as this week in 2002 — cracking CD protection was as easy as using a black marker or some electrical tape. Then again, other times the CD might lock up your iMac and force you to take it in for repairs. While the copyright world was discussing big, sweeping ideas like blanked licensing fees paid to ISPs and compulsory licenses for music downloads, the recently-announced Creative Commons was launching in earnest.

Also, you know that oft-mentioned fact about how everyone from Europe is descended from Charlemagne as a matter of mathematical inevitability? It was this week in 2002 that those numbers were first crunched.

One-Hundred And Fifteen Years Ago

Most of you are probably at least vaguely familiar with the Antikythera mechanism, an shockingly advanced astronomical calculator/analog computer from Ancient Greece. It was on May 17th, 1902 that the mechanism was discovered by an archaeologist examining the remnants of a ship, itself discovered on the sea floor two years earlier by sponge divers.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 16 May 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 122: Truth And Fiction With Cory Doctorow

from the don't-walkaway-from-this-one dept

Most Techdirt readers are already familiar with Cory Doctorow, whether via his EFF work, the BoingBoing blog, his novels, or all of the above. This week, he joins us on the podcast for an in-depth discussion about his new book Walkaway and much, much more.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 May 2017 @ 11:45am

The MP3 Is About As 'Dead' As Pepe The Frog

from the reports-have-been-greatly-idiotic dept

Last week, there were two widely reported "deaths" on the internet: Pepe The Frog and the MP3 audio codec. Most people seemed to understand what was meant by the former headline -- that you cannot in fact kill a meme, no matter how distasteful its use, and the death of Pepe in an official cartoon strip was a symbolic disavowal of the character by its creator. But on the MP3 issue people seem a bit more confused.

Here's what happened: in late April (not sure why there was such a big delay in the explosion of blog posts) Fraunhofer IIS, the research company that holds the patents on MP3 encoders and decoders, announced that it had terminated the licensing program for those patents, for the stated reason that the format has been surpassed by alternatives like AAC (which is also patented and licensed by Fraunhofer). For some reason, a whole lot of media outlets have accepted this at face value and reported that the format is now officially on its way out. "The MP3 is Dead" headlines abound, with only a small few bothering to add qualifiers like "according to its creators" or the classic rejoinder "long live the MP3":

Most of the articles buried some attempt to call the move "symbolic" or clarify that the files would still exist towards the end of their coverage, after much eulogizing, but almost none took the time to understand anything about the patent situation, or expose Fraunhofer's huge lie of omission in its announcement.

Because here's what really happened: the last of the patents related to the MP3 format expired (or will very soon -- more on that later), so Fraunhofer has nothing left to license. The termination of the licensing program was not a choice, nor was it suddenly motivated by the ascendence of another format that has itself been around for 20 years. Most importantly, despite what many people have reported, this does not mean the death of the MP3. Of course, Fraunhofer's statement didn't contradict any of these things, it just omitted them all and left people with the implication that this move ensured the decline and eventual death of the format -- when in fact it likely means the exact opposite.

Prior to this, developers wishing to include MP3 functionality in their software needed a license to do so. If you use Linux, or open source audio tools like the excellent Audacity, you already know this: open-source software doesn't ship with MP3 encoding and decoding capabilities built in, but requires you to separately download and install the codec so as not to pollute the FOSS package with proprietary, patented code. That's no longer the case, and indeed Red Hat has already announced that Fedora will now ship with MP3 capabilities built in (hat tip there to one of the few blogs that is reporting this story properly). Expect Audacity and countless other FOSS apps to follow suit soon. As for non-open-source software, it's one less patent number on the long lists of licenses that live on loading splash screens and About dialogues, and a little bit of saved cost. All around, it's the removal of a barrier to building apps and tools that work with this ubiquitous audio format.

Does that sound like death to you?

So does Fraunhofer's announcement actually mean anything? Well, a little bit: as noted, it actually hasn't been 100% clear when all the patents would expire, due to the size and complexity of the patent thicket in the overall MPEG ecosystem. It was generally agreed that all patents covering MP3s would expire this year, and many had pegged the date as the end of April, but this was much harder to confirm. Fraunhofer's announcement does not offer any specific information to make this determination easier (since it doesn't admit that this has anything to do with patent expiry at all), but developers like Red Hat are taking it as a sign that the patents are officially expired and the format is free to use.

While it's frustrating that Fraunhofer issued such a misleading statement, it's even more frustrating that so much of the media uncritically parroted it. Some also decided to throw in some scattershot links to various questionable studies claiming MP3 compression has negative effects like stripping out the "emotion" from music (that particular study was conducted on just 20 college students, and used MP3s encoded at a bit-rate well below the modern norm for music distribution) to bolster the idea that MP3 compression must be replaced by the still-patented AAC codec. I'm sure Fraunhofer was grateful.

So, no: the MP3 is not dead. Its creators have not killed it. Like Pepe the Frog, it's alive and well and probably isn't going anywhere for a long time -- except in this case we can actually be happy about that fact.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 May 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the plenty-to-talk-about dept

This week, both our winning comments on the insightful side came in response to the FBI's new "study" of the so-called Ferguson Effect, in which police become afraid to do their job when faced with supposedly undue criticism and scrutiny. A better definition comes from Uriel-238 in the first place winning comment:

When I think Ferguson Effect I think of the lines of officers which I got to see in real time from cameras on the ground during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. To the last guy, and contrary to every firearms safety regimen I've known, they had their rifles and shotguns trained on the (unarmed) public, and I was turning blue in fear that someone was going to accidentally discharge his weapon and set off a massacre.

Later on, they'd climb in/on their bearcat mine-proof transports and go to town raining tear gas cannisters all over the neighborhood for no discernable tactical reason, except to show they can piss anywhere they want. Rebel yelling was involved.

For me, the Ferguson Effect is when I looked at all this and asked myself what the fuck happened to the police to turn them into this?

In second place, we've got That Anonymous Coward, who reacted with well-deserved fervor to the idea that this is all just because political and media narratives have "made it socially acceptable to challenge and discredit the actions of law enforcement":

Stood on a hood and emptied a weapon into innocent people - No Charges.
Peppersprayed unarmed detained women, later claiming magic ninjas had appeared threatening him & then vanished as he sprayed - No Charges.
Handcuffed suspect in a patrol car managed to bend the laws of physics producing a gun from another dimension & bending his arms to shoot himself in the head - No Charges.
Rolled up on a child with a toy weapon & shot him dead before issuing any commands - No Charges.
Asked for drivers ID after driver informed them he was permitted to carry a weapon, shot driver as he reached for his ID - No Charges.
Shot a suspect, left him on the ground bleeding while comforting the shooter & not rendering aid or calling for aid - No Charges.
Stole from a pot dispensary & cried rights violation because they missed 1 of the cameras which caught them abusing citizens & theft - Still waiting for charges.

Often when they dare to bring charges, there is no justice. If an officer is punished, the Union demands arbitration and FORCES the force to take back an officer who was found guilty of breaking the law... with back pay.

Police are being trained to be terrified of citizens, that black citizens especially, have secret powers ala Dragon Ball Z where they can power themselves up & need to be shot before their power gets over 9000.

They claim everything is a plot to get them, that its just a narrative to discredit them... yet they often turn a blind eye to their brother officers breaking the law because their code requires them to protect the image over citizens.

Pulled over many women & demanded sexual favors - Only charged after he picked the wrong black woman who wasn't a hooker to abuse.
Molested children - Only charged when they went to an outside agency.
Trafficked in CP - Only busted when an outside agency catches them.
Locked someone in a room and left them to die - No charges.
Boiled a human being ALIVE for shitting on the floor - No Charges.
Cut off a prisoners water for over a week resulting in death - they MIGHT charge them.
Dash & Bodycam videos disappearing or the machinery not working or being activated - No Charges.
Cams being disabled on purpose - No Charges or repairs.

Perhaps if they stopped acting like a gang more interested in playing the victim while raping, robbing, murdering & covering those events up people might have a different view of them.

They are not above the law, but you wouldn't know it from how things play out. Prosecutors warned to not bring charges or the gang will tank other cases. Prior bad acts locked from view of Juries, who might suspend the cop halo effect to know the officer testifying has been busted multiple times for lying on the stand.

But yes, there is no basis in reality for why people film police actions as offical recordings often vanish. There isn't a bodycount of citizens (notice they didn;t have those numbers to put in the report because they ignored the rules about finally reporting them) to go next to the officers because we matter less.

When the LE mentality is US vs THEM, why are they shocked that THEM are very worried at any interaction with them because they know US can kill, lie, destroy evidence, and walk with a repurposed military ribbon?

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a pair of comments on our post about the reporter who was arrested for asking questions of some Trump administration officials. Many people claimed that his insistent approach went beyond the rights of the press, and Roger Strong had a good response:

Nonsense. Media scrums are a standard part of reporting on government. It was a public building, not a private residence. Otherwise:

"How would you like it, sir," if government officials only answered to the public at press conferences where they could personally pick who got to ask a question, favoring those with little or no credibility who will ask softball questions?

Granted, it seems you'd like exactly that.

One commenter went even further, and decided that the reporter's actions must have been even more egregious than what people who were actually there have reported, because "I find it hard to believe any eyewitnesses, because I'm assuming they're on the media side of this war." PaulT was not exactly impressed:

A war between the government and a free press? I know partisanship is getting ridiculous, but they've managed to convince you that the fourth estate is an enemy combatant now?

Interesting that you assume that people who were actually there cannot be believed, so you have to believe the testimony of people who weren't...

Over on the funny side, the first place winner is an anonymous commenter who noticed the same line that many other people quickly latched onto in Trump's letter firing James Comey:

"While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation"

What a HyperNormal thing to say.

In second place, we've got a comment from Stephen T. Stone on our post about Cloudflare fighting back against patent trolls, though I admit I had to Google the reference, myself:

Important lesson: Do not taunt Happy Fun Cloud.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from Danny B that took the form of a telephony script:

You have reached Comcast technical support.

Please press 1 if you are calling about your slower internet speeds since the new FCC chairman was appointed.

Please press 2 if you are calling about your higher prices since the new FCC chairman was appointed.

Please press 0 if you would like to be routed to a call center in a third world country.

Your call is important to us. Comcast wishes to apologize for any convenience you may have experienced.

And finally, we've got one more nod to Roger Strong for a solid knock-knock joke:

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Massachusetts State Police!
Don't be silly - the Massachusetts State Police doesn't knock.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 13 May 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: May 7th - 13th

from the years-and-years dept

Five Years Ago

It was the previous week in 2012 that we learned the sad news of the death of the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch (better known as MCA), and it was this week that the EFF called for an end to the war on sampling as a tribute to his legacy. Little did we know that, the very next day, Tuf America would sue the Beastie Boys over an unauthorized sample, which is some stunningly insensitive timing. And that wasn't the only copyright fuckup related to MCA's death — the co-creator of The Chappelle Show uploaded a previously unaired video of the Beastie Boys preforming for the show, only to have it taken down by a Viacom copyright claim.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, NBC was getting in on the Viacom/YouTube lawsuit with an amicus brief against the latter, while the government of Thailand was blocking the site entirely and considering its own lawsuit. Newspaper publishers, struggling to adapt to the web, were alternately scraping together data to portray their digital efforts as successful and blaming the internet for all their industry's woes. And "psychic" (read: mediocre magician) Uri Geller was abusing the DMCA and filing lawsuits in an attempt to censor a popular debunking of his little tricks by James Randi.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, we took a look at the absolute mess that was MusicNet, the attempt by major labels to offer a competitive digital music platform. The world was still for some reason debating whether video games are free speech, and a judge ruled that the DMCA was constitutional via an odd distinction regarding speech and software. Before mobile phones replaced the landline all but entirely, there was an earlier fear about them replacing people's second phone lines. And long, long before the west would see anything similar, Japan was adding wi-fi to 4000 McDonald's locations.

One-Hundred And Seventy-One Years Ago

America's oldest weekly newspaper that is still in publication is the Cambridge Chronical, and it was on May 7th, 1846 that the first issue was published, just a few days after Cambridge was incorporated as a city. Of course, like most old community newspapers, its recent history of sales and mergers has left it somewhat disconnected from its roots.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 9 May 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 121: The Crypto Wars May Never End

from the decrypt-this dept

The current instalment of the crypto wars hit full stride with the clash between Apple and the FBI, but in truth the tension over encryption has been around for a long time — and it doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon. As our readers know, Tim Cushing has been following these developments closely, and this week he joins the podcast for a discussion about encryption, law enforcement and "going dark".

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 May 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the weekly-minutes dept

We've got a double winner on the insightful side this week, with PaulT taking both the first and second places spots. In first place is his response to our thoughts on why Netflix was unconcerned about the hacker trying to extort them by threatening a leak:

"That, in turn, is largely because Netflix's flat-rate, relatively-inexpensive pricing model provides enough value that users don't find piracy to be the superior alternative (read: they successfully compete with piracy)."

I'd expand on this in several ways:

1. Part of the reason why they compete with piracy is that it's simply easier. The gap has lessened somewhat, but one way I found to introduce people to using Netflix instead of piracy was to demonstrate it. Find a torrent site, find a rip of the required quality, wait for it to download, see if your player supported the codec... or click a button, wait a few seconds and it starts playing.

True, this advantage has become somewhat eroded where streams rather than torrents have become a popular avenue, but as long as a title is on Netflix, it's hard to say that piracy has any advantages if you're already a subscriber. The pricing, wide device compatibility, international availability of its own content and other factors play a part, but the ease of use is the part that keeps people with them, I think.

2. The Netflix model doesn't care if someone watches a pirated version of the show, so long as they continue subscribing. In order for them to lose money as a direct result of the leak, someone would have to either a) watch the pirated version and cancel their subscription as a direct result or b) watch the pirated version and decide not to subscribe when they were going to previously. For the 5th season of an established show, both of these scenarios are unlikely.

3. Even if it were likely, the Netflix model doesn't depend on a single title. They have successfully leveraged a wide range of content that appeals to a wide range of people, so while a single title may attract them in the first place, it's unlikely to be the thing that keeps them there. People cancelling the service simply because they caught up on OITNB a little earlier than expected is extremely unlikely, as is a large number of people only subscribing for the new season every year. Most people will stick around for reasons unrelated to this show.

It's nice to see this. While other companies throw fits the moment it seems that someone may see their stuff without paying directly, Netflix has built the fact into their model. For all the false claims that the community here are pirates, that's all we've really been saying. You cannot eradicate piracy, it has always been an issue, so accept it and build your model around reality.

I can only imagine how annoyed the guy must have been when Netflix basically told him "upload it we don't care"!

"Its ambitions quashed by Netflix's apathy, the hacking group is apparently moving on, and says it plans to now target other companies (ABC, Fox, National Geographic and IFC) whose content was also found on the compromised server"

"it doesn't seem likely that any of the group's efforts will amount to much of anything"

Let's hope so. But, I'm betting that the reaction of at least one of those companies will act as a marked contrast to what we're seeing here.

In second place, it's his response to an angry commenter who questioned why we were covering the almost-immediate abuse of Australia's data retention laws:

I know you're a trolling moron, but a story about "the police openly broke the law the moment they had the tools handy to do so, just as predicated" is surely noteworthy even in your deranged obsessed mind?

"the AFP self-reported to the Commonwealth Ombudsman that we had breached the Telecommunications Interception Act."

...although I think the real story here is that the police in Australia still had enough moral fibre to admit to the mistake the moment they realised, and still have a regulation body that has enough teeth to ensure they do this. Both of these things should be lauded, even if you personally think the breach was minor.

Let me guess, you're one of the people who regularly rails against oversight and regulation here?

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more comment from that post, this time from Roger Strong responding to a question about why journalists get more "rights and privileges" than others:

Not rights and privileges. We accept that they have more protections than everyone else.

We accept that police have a few legal and physical protections that ordinary citizens do not. This is necessary to protect them from the criminals they are tasked to combat. Elected officials often get extra legal and physical protections too.

To prevent abuse and corruption there are checks and balances. We accept that journalists are one of the big ones.

We accept that journalists can keep their sources secret, because those sources are often whistleblowers telling of abuse and corruption. We accept that because journalists speak truth to power, they and their sources need protection from that power.

Yes, the age of blogs casual journalism has blurred the definition of journalist. But that's only made the need to protect journalists more important:

Consider the movie Spotlight, about the Boston Globe's investigation of systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. It's been said that if the story happened today, it wouldn't have been reported. The newspaper, with a much smaller subscription base and ability to absorb legal expenses, would have backed down in the face of Church opposition.

Next, we head to our post about Comcast unsurprisingly trying to hide rate increases in bogus fees, where jupiterkansas noted that the much-feared competition manages not to do this kind of thing:

Google Fiber doesn't seem to have a problem advertising $70/month and charging exactly $70/month.

Over on the funny side, first place comes as another response to the Netflix extortion story, this time from Michael in the form of a dramatic interpretation:

Hacker: "Pay me $60,000 or I am going to advertise for you!!!!"

Netflix: "..."

Hacker: "That's it! I'm starting my advertising campaign!"

Netflix: "...umm...ok."

In second place for funny, we've got another comment from Roger Strong responding to the same comment as PaulT's second place winner on the insightful side. That comment began "Again, I fail to see what the problem is here..." and Roger felt it could be truncated:

"Again, I fail"

Should've just stopped there.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on our post about Verizon's recent blatantly false video about net neutrality, where one commenter wondered just who these videos are made for and DannyB suggested one possibility:

Maybe the videos are for lobbyists to use to soothe the conscience of congress critters. The videos aren't lying. They're merely "optimizing" the truth. Just like they optimize your network traffic.

Finally, we've got a response from Ed to the news that Chris Dodd is leaving the MPAA:

I hear there's a job opening at the Copyright Office...

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 6 May 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 30th - May 6th

from the not-so-special-301 dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012 the USTR, as it does every year, released its ridiculous Special 301 list of naughty countries, right around the same time that Chris Dodd was rewriting Hollywood history to thank IP laws for all of it. The UK was doing its part to stay off the list, apparently, with the High Court ordering The Pirate Bay to be blocked (and, of course, driving record traffic to the site). Techdirt friend Dan Bull — an artist whose single had just hit the charts with the help of piracy — shared his thoughts on the block with a guest post.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007 started the same way: with a silly Special 301 "watch list". The Pirate Bay was just beginning its growth as a political movement, and the author of a major UK copyright report was admitting that the evidence supports shortening copyright terms. The folks behind AACS, the new copyright protection scheme for DVDs, were learning all about the Streisand Effect in their attempt to suppress information about the technology — and also giving the Digg community a chance to demonstrate its control over the site. Meanwhile, the Google/Viacom lawsuit was moving slowly forward, and the UK's Premier League was getting in on the action.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, record labels were still excitedly announcing lacklustre digital music services, online radio stations were protesting onerous fees, and the new Eminem album was gearing up to be the largest copy-protected release to date. Deep linking reared its head again as a legal issue, online scams were going strong (and working as decent retirement plans for some, it seemed) and the crazy new idea of phones with WiFi was just on the horizon.

Eight-Hundred And Two Years Ago

Today we look back on the Magna Carta as a pivotal moment in the history of law (or just as an archetypal piece of general knowledge trivia), but at the time it was a stopgap solution in the midst of a political dispute between King John of England and some rebellious Barons. An important milestone in that dispute came on May 3rd, 1215 when the rebels officially declared against the King and issued their legal demands.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 2 May 2017 @ 1:15pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 120: The Surveillance State

from the american-spies dept

In the post-Snowden era, we don't have to tell you how important it is to stay engaged with (and vigilant about) the surveillance state in America. Jennifer Granick is the Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, and author of the new book American Spies — and this week she joins us for an in-depth discussion about the surveillance state today. Of course, shortly after we recorded this podcast, the NSA made major changes to one of its surveillance programs, so Jennifer returned to record an addendum examining this latest news, so make sure you listen to the end!

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Posted on Techdirt - 30 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the the-week-in-words dept

This week, we were all appalled by the astonishing move by the Oregon government to fine a man who criticized the traffic camera system for practicing engineering without a license. One anonymous commenter won most insightful comment of the week by pointing out what this teaches about similar notions:

And people wonder why allowing the government to decide who is and is not a journalist is a bad thing.

Next, we heard about the latest moral panic in the UK, where the National Crime Agency claimed that modding videogames could be a gateway to criminal hacking for kids. That One Guy joined them in their absurd handwringing:

While they've got the attention of hysterical parents, they should take the time to highlight other potential 'criminal gateways'.

Let a kid fiddle with taking stuff apart and putting it back together, and they might end up trashing houses for laughs. Or get a job designing and/or repairing stuff.

Let a kid play around in the dirt and try their hand at gardening and the next thing you know they've got a dozen-acre weed farm. Or go into more legitimate farming.

Let a kid watch shows about automobiles and how they're put together and before you know it they're out stealing cars and stripping them for parts. Or I suppose get a job in the field of automobile repair.

Let a kid get away with blatant lies and misrepresentations of the facts and the next thing you know they go into politics, lying through their teeth in order to further their own careers, or fearmongering for the same reason.

Truly, the threats to the minds and morals of tomorrow's youth are legion.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out on our post about a new survey showing that most millennials pay for streaming services but also use pirate streams when the content they want isn't legally available or convenient. Thad highlighted how natural an instinct this is when faced with restrictive media:

I spent a good big chunk of yesterday going through my collection of legally-purchased Blu-Rays to see which ones will play under VLC for Linux.

It has not escaped my notice that it would have been much, much easier just to pirate the fucking movies.

Next, we've got a short comment from Dan J. highlighting an extremely important point about innovation (that we make often around here) in response to the idea that Google entered the search engine market with "a better idea":

Largely agree with you but have to pick one nit: Google didn't have a better idea. They had a better implementation of the same idea. Ideas are cheap and worthless. Implementation is the difference between success and failure.

Over on the funny side, we start out with our post about an excellent example of the ridiculous overreach of those who want to eliminate "non-tariff barriers" in trade policy — a claim that promoting breastfeeding is an unfair barrier to manufacturers of formula milk. Roger Strong won first place for funny with some new propaganda slogans:

Home breastfeeding is killing trade!

If you're not feeding on formula milk, you're feeding on communism.

For second place, we return to our story about Oregon's "engineering license" fiasco where Dave explored all the way to the bottom of the slippery slope:

Coming up next:

People getting sued for stating "I am Spartacus" without being registered as a slave.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a pair of comments from our post about Paul Hansmeier's attempt to dig himself out from under a legal landslide with a hefty court filing full of many interesting if flawed and misleading ideas. Given its length and scope, one anonymous commenter searched for a kitchen sink:

surprised he didn't mention plate tectonics.

...But Roger Strong did some digging and found something that might fit the bill:

Page 55, "Global defects with this prosecution"

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 29 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Creative Commons History

from the global-summit dept

Since I'm here at the Creative Commons 2017 Global Summit this weekend, I want to take a break from our usual Techdirt history posts and highlight the new State Of The Commons report that has been released. These annual reports are a key part of the CC community — here at Techdirt, most of our readers already understand the importance of the free culture licensing options that CC provides to creators, but it's important to step back and look at just how much content is being created and shared thanks to this system. It also provides some good insight into exactly how people are using CC licenses, through both data and (moreso than in previous years) close-up case studies. In the coming week we'll be taking a deeper dive into some of the specifics of the report and this year's summit, but for now I want to highlight a few key points — and encourage you to check out the full report for yourself.

Public Domain Dedications Are Gaining Steam

Even within the CC community itself, there is some debate as to the effectiveness and appropriateness of various licensing options like no-derivatives and non-commercial. Here at Techdirt we've always encouraged creators to strongly consider the CC0 option that puts their work fully into the public domain (or at least as fully as you can under a copyright system that provides no clear legal mechanism for doing so). In the past year, the use of CC0 has been growing, largely thanks to some specific projects like the the release of a large collection from the Metropolitan Museum of Art which I wrote about a couple months ago, and the public-domain-focused photography platform Unsplash. Hopefully the success and usefulness of these projects drives even more creators and platform operators to embrace CC0 (many content sharing platforms still don't even give uploaders the option, with CC-BY as the least restrictive license available).

Non-Commercial Licenses Are The Minority

Casting the net a little wider than pure public domain dedications, there's an even bigger trend away from the more restrictive CC options. We've discussed many times in the past how "non-commercial" is an extremely problematic requirement in an era where the lines between commercial and non- are often extremely blurry. Similarly, "no derivatives" cuts of countless avenues of positive, productive use of content, and creates even more uncertainty around exactly what is allowed — and under a harsh copyright regime with hefty penalties for infringement, uncertainty is functionally pretty close to just being blocked altogether. So it's great to see that licenses which allow remixing and commercial use are continuing to increase as a proportion of all CC licenses, reaching 65% this year.

The Commons Is Huge

In 2016, there were 1.2-billion works published with Creative Commons licenses. Though growth has slowed slightly since the count passed the one-billion mark last year, it shows no signs of stopping. Ten years ago, there were only 140-million such works.

Many of the discussions at the summit are focused on how to push these trends forwards even further, both in specific areas of interest and in the commons as a whole. We'll have closer looks at some of these ideas soon, but for now check out the full report to learn more — and get ready for the Made With Creative Commons book (a collection of examples of CC work, plus insights from artists on how they have built sustainable open culture businesses, and advice on using CC with your own work) which will be available as a free ebook on May 5th.

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Posted on Techdirt - 28 April 2017 @ 1:24pm

Creative Commons Is Resurrecting Palmyra

from the saving-history dept

Creative Commons launched its 2017 Global Summit today with a rather moving surprise: a seven-foot-tall 3D printed replica of the Tetrapylon from Palmyra, Syria. For those who don't know the tragic situation, Palmyra is one of the most historic cities in the world — but it is being steadily destroyed by ISIS, robbing the world of countless irreplaceable artifacts and murdering those who have tried to protect them (the folks at Extra History have a pair of good summary videos discussing the history and the current situation in the city).

Among ISIS's human targets was Bassel Khartabil, who launched Syria's CC community several years ago and began a project to take 3D scans of the city, which CC has been gathering and releasing under a CC0 Public Domain license. He was captured and imprisoned, and for the past five years his whereabouts and status have been unknown. As the #FreeBassel campaign continues, Creative Commons is now working to bring his invaluable scans to life in the form of 3D-printed replicas, starting with today's unveiling of the Tetrapylon — which was destroyed in January along with part of a Roman theatre after ISIS captured the city for a second time.

This isn't the only such project — the Institute of Digital Archaeology and UNESCO unveiled a replica of part of the Temple of Bel in London last year — and these combined efforts are a critical bulwark between ISIS and its goal of eliminating this part of our shared cultural history. You can read more about CC's project — including status updates on the other artifacts, monuments and architecture that they are reproducing — on the #newpalmyra website (at the time of writing it still lists the Tetrapylon as "coming soon", though that will likely change shortly).

Much of this weekend's summit is likely to revolve around the ongoing tension between open culture and intellectual property regimes, but I can't think of a better way to kick things off than with something that even the staunchest copyright maximalist can surely agree with: that the treasures of this 2,000-year-old city belong to us all, their destruction is a travesty, and the ability to preserve them even in some small way is a triumph of technology and the cultural commons.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 27 April 2017 @ 1:15pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 119: Does Pharma Really Need Patents?

from the let's-dig-in dept

It doesn't take many stories of people suffering due to unaffordable medicine to make you question the state of pharmaceutical patents, but the arguments in their defense are loud and frequent. Most are variations on the same theme: without the promise of a monopoly, important drugs would never be researched and developed. But does this argument truly hold up? It's come up as a tangent in previous episodes of the podcast, but this week we're dedicating a full episode to questioning the popular defenses of pharma patents and looking for a better way forward.

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Posted on Techdirt - 23 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the back-and-forth dept

This week, three of our four winning comments came in response to our thorough look at why the Charging Bull sculptor's supporters are off-base. Taking first place on the insightful side was jupiterkansas making the important point that while the artist has every right to disapprove of the Fearless Girl statue, there are much better ways to handle it than making legal threats:

He could have also spoken to the press, made a film about it, launched a protest, or done any number of other perfectly valid ways to draw attention to the problem without making a legal issue out of it.

A real artist might have come up with something else to add to the situation to comment on it even further.

In second place, we've got an anonymous commenter who expanded on my tweet about how things aren't automatically disqualified as art because they are also ads:

If the Fearless Girl "isn't art" because a corporation paid for it and attached an ad, then there is very little art anywhere in the world. The artistic accomplishments of the Renaissance, for example, happened because the catholic church and the business leaders of the day had excess income, and decided to use that income to pay artists to create works of art that the church and businessmen could then show off to prove how awesome they were. So no art was actually created.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out on our post about the federal agent who lost immunity after bullying and interrogating an elderly woman and forcing her to stand around in urine-soaked clothes for two hours. The loss of immunity is good, but one anonymous commenter quite fairly wondered about the other officers on the scene:

So Conley gets his immunity stripped.

What about all the other "good apples" that stood around and did nothing? No punishment for them?

Please, cop apologists - tell me more about how it's just a few bad apples.

Next, we head to our post about the government's new angle on potentially going after Julian Assange, where we mentioned the fact that the Ecuadorian Embassy doesn't necessarily respect US law. ThaumaTechnician noted that there's plenty of that to go around:

Yeah, well then again, neither is the US Administration, Congress, the US Senate, the CIA, the NSA, the US Military, ...

Add to that: "nor are they respectful of international law, UN sanctions, ethical considerations, basic human decency..."

Over on the funny side, we start out by returning to the Charging Bull post where Richard Wordsworthy won first place with an analogy highlighting the asburdity of moral rights:

I'm introducing a new craft rum to the market, but I retain all control of what cola's you can put with it. How dare you destroy my authenticity with a brand I don't deem worthy!

For second place on the funny side, I have to admit I think I missed a reference or something in the joke, because I don't get it. In our post about the ongoing legal issues around a sorority's secret handshake, one commenter suggested it would be good for "luggage" (?) and an anonymous commenter took the idea to heart:

an aside to my assistant: Remind me to change the handshake on my luggage

(I'm sure I will feel stupid once someone explains that to me, so, have at it!)

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a pair of good ol' fashioned puns. First up, we return to the Chargin Bull post one last time, where one commenter wondered why the Fearless Girl was opposing bull markets, and Gary offered this groaner:

Because they are unbearable?

Finally, after we reported on the potential antitrust issues that could arise if the rumours about Chrome adding a built-in adblocker are true, one anonymous commenter set themselves up for a rimshot:

Google's taking a big risk with this move. You might even call it an alpha bet.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 16th - 22nd

from the as-I-recall dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, following widespread protests, ACTA was on the verge of death — but that hadn't stopped G8 countries from already preparing to replace it. Similarly, following the SOPA defeat, the usual copyright maximalist suspects were regrouping to come up with new tactics for fighting the public (and surely the revolving door between the MPAA and the federal government would help out on that front). Meanwhile, the lawmakers behind the new awful bill — CISPA — were downplaying the protests against it, even though the White House was also (meekly) opposed to the bill.

Also this week in 2012: Twitter unveiled its revolutionary patent agreement, and the Oracle/Google fight began heating up over the originally-secondary API copyright issues that would come to dominate the case.

Ten Years Ago

Maybe all those lawmakers should have read our post five years earlier in 2007, all about how politicians need to understand the internet before trying to regulate it. Of course, at the time, you had high new webcasting royalty rates from the RIAA, Sony's DRM on DVDs causing all sorts of problems, the Authors Guild calling writers who give away content 'scabs', and telco-funded think tanks insisting anyone who supports net neutrality is just a pirate. Some corporate competitions were getting nasty too, with Microsoft lobbing antitrust accusations over Google's purchase of DoubleClick and Ticketmaster suing StubHub over exclusivity.

Meanwhile, Mike's series on the economics of scarcity drew some poorly-argued ire from sources ranging from CNN's James Ledbetter to Dilbert creator Scott Adams (the latter of which turned into a longer back-and-forth).

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, lots of people were grappling with new questions and trends raised by technology. Parents were deciding whether or not to use internet filters for their kids while workplaces were getting into the idea of monitoring employees' instant messaging; texting was becoming a favorite tool of schoolyard bullies and, unsurprisingly, sexting was already on the rise (though still unnamed). Meanwhile, a new study was showing that the death of Napster did little to change the popularity of digital music, even as the recording industry continued to blame file sharing for all its woes (rather than, say, idiotic DRM "compromises" like a CD that lets you send temporary copies that "expire" to friends).

But every now and then in doing this rundown, I find one of those posts that sounded so innocent at the time and now evokes an instantaneous "oh if only you knew..." reaction — such as this brief post noting Nathan Myhrvold's "interesting idea" to start up an "invention factory." Can anyone recall how that turned out?

Forty Years Ago

Though the technology had already been in development and testing for some time, it was today on April 22nd that fiber-optic cable was first used to carry telephone traffic, reaching 6 Mbit/s speeds all the way back in 1977.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 18 April 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 118: The Evolution Of The Office

from the the-way-we-work dept

We've talked before about how the very nature of work is changing thanks to technology, with telecommuting being an obvious trend — but despite some early predictions about the death of the physical office, the reality is offices have been evolving and changing thanks to technology and innovation too. This week, we discuss co-working spaces and other trends in the evolution of offices.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 16 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the through-the-grapevine dept

This week, the silver lining on a horrible story of police battering an arrestee was that the deputy, at least, lost his immunity. One anonymous commenter won most insightful comment of the week by giving a nod to the victim's courage and resilience:

the real story here is not the creep. it's paul stephens. that man must have the soul of nelson mandela to have withstood that abuse and kept his wits about him.

all due respect.

For second place, we head the story of Idaho's governor vetoing a forfeiture reform bill that was overwhelmingly supported by the legislature. That One Guy had plenty of thoughts on the governor's statement:

There have been no allegations that Idaho law enforcement officers or agencies are illegally or inappropriately seizing property from alleged drug traffickers. Its sponsors contend that the measure is aimed at preventing improper forfeiture of assets in the future, but there is no evidence to suggest that such a problem is imminent.

In which case the bill wouldn't have hampered police in Idaho in the slightest. It's like a bill specifically prohibiting police from using refurbished WW2 bombers for surveillance, that's only going to be a problem for them if they plan on doing so.

Of course as seems to be the case the governor doesn't consider stealing someone's stuff without a conviction a 'problem' or 'abuse' so long as it's the police doing the stealing, so that's likely what he means when he says that there's no evidence of a 'problem'.

The fact that this bipartisan legislation was overwhelmingly approved by both the House and Senate is outweighed by compelling opposition from law enforcement and the absence of any benefit to law-abiding citizens from its enactment.

So 'Not having your stuff stolen from you without a conviction of guilt' apparently isn't a 'benefit to law-abiding citizens' to him. Good to know where his priorities lie.

Given the overwhelming support the bill had(58-10) I would hope that they can override his veto and shove it into place regardless.

"You don't get to steal anything that catches your eye just because you happen to have a badge" isn't something that should even be need to be said, that it needs to be explicitly spelled out in the law is beyond absurd, and hopefully they can override this tool of a governor in order to at least start to address the problem.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more comment from That One Guy, this time in response to the ongoing fight over Kim Dotcom's extradition and assets:

The second two issues are connected: and it's basically the question of whether the courts were right in saying that the federal government could take Dotcom's stuff and that Dotcom could not protest, because he was "a fugitive." Of course, he's not a "fugitive." He's just fighting extradition to a place he's never been. He isn't running away and is going through the full legal process he's entitled to in New Zealand. That's not someone hiding from the US, it's someone who is following the basic rules of due process, which the US wishes to deny him.

If the court refuses to take up the case, or worse takes it up and rules against him on that matter they might as well strike fighting against extradition as a legal right from the law entirely.

If you can be punished for exercising a legal right, to say it's a legal right becomes little more than empty words, and at that point why waste time and effort keeping up with the obvious fiction about it being a right, just honestly state 'The second the extradition order is handed out you are considered guilty, and any objections you may make will merely be taken as further evidence of your guilt.'

Either fighting extradition is a right under the law, in which case it's absurd to punish someone for making use of it, or it's not a right, in which case stop with the farce and remove it from the law entirely.

Next, we've Dan with a simple resolution to the Fearless Girl/Charging Bull dispute:

They can offer to remove the bull and let the artist take possession. He'll back down.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner comes from Roger Strong in response to Denuvo's likely-to-be-short-lived upper hand in the ongoing DRM battle:

Reporter: "How long do you think it'll take to crack this DRM?"

Gamer: "Ten,"

Reporter: "Ten what? Ten months? Ten weeks?"

Gamer: "Nine..."

For second place, we head all the way back to last week's comments post, where Spaceman Spiff had more to say on the subject of armed police drones:

So, if you shoot down a cop drone, does that make you a copter killer?

For editor's choice on the funny side, let's throw in another comment on that subject, again from Roger Strong in response to confusion about the many different kinds of drones:

Abnormal pairings are an important part of any cop movie.

One's a no-nonsense by-the-book fixed-wing drone pilot in Mumbai. The other is a maverick quad-copter pilot in Kiev who doesn't play by the rules! Together they protect the streets of New York from protesters and others who would threaten the good corporate citizens of America! (Exciting music mixed with explosions...)

Finally, it's practically obligatory to include at least one (anonymous) variation on the joke everyone's been making about this week's statue dust-up:

While it's the statue in front of the bull might have lead to this copyright case, it's what can be found on the other side that nicely sums up copyright law in this country.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 9th - 15th

from the memory-lane dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, Congress (apparently having learned nothing from SOPA) was pushing forward with CISPA, the new cybersecurity bill. In its original form it was really, really bad — then a new draft was released that was slightly better but still full of problems. Nevertheless, the House Intelligence Committee launched a new Twitter account to misleadingly plug the bill, and it was even supported by companies like Facebook along with a promise not to abuse it — though we challenged them to go a step further and withdraw support until it was fixed to prevent anyone from abusing it.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, the lacklustre response to the Windows Vista launch was sending ripple effects through the computer hardware industry, though it appeared to be a bad time for consumer electronics in general. Though while some were chattering about Microsoft's demise, cooler heads pointed out that might be going a bit too far.

Also this week in 2007: Perfect 10 reared its head with a shotgun spray of lawsuits, a court pointed out the should-have-been-obvious fact that the First Amendment applies on MySpace as much as it does anywhere else, and Techdirt was nominated for a Webby award.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, plenty of folks were busy hacking the iPod to do new things and helping chart the future of mobile devices — right at the same time that thumb keyboards were becoming all the rage in the wake of the popularity of the Blackberry. Google was still in its pre-IPO days and trying to pin down a business model, and this was long before it came into conflict with the Authors Guild which, at the time, was moaning about Amazon for showing used book prices next to new book listings. But we took a look at the other side of that equation and saw how empowering a used book selling platform can be.

One-Hundred And Twenty-Three Years Ago

We've all heard of the early "nickelodeon" movie houses where five cents in a machine let you enjoy a brief kinetoscope of a butler falling over or whatever. It was on April 14, 1894 that this started with the first paid exhibition of motion pictures at Andrew M. Holland's phonograph store in New York City.

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