Leigh Beadon’s Techdirt Profile


About Leigh BeadonTechdirt Insider

Leigh Beadon, formerly Marcus Carab, now a full-time member of the Techdirt team.

Located in Toronto, Ontario.



Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 24 February 2015 @ 12:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 13: Fair Use Protects Culture From Copyright, Not The Other Way Around

from the fair-use-week dept

Today we're continuing our recognition of Fair Use Week with an episode of the Techdirt Podcast focused entirely on this critical (but commonly misunderstood) counterbalance to copyright law. Though framed by many copyright proponents as a frivolous exception, fair use is actually fundamental to protecting not just free speech, but everything about our shared culture of art, thought, conversation and criticism.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, 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 - 22 February 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the your-machine-has-been-compromised dept

This week, when the president was asked directly about his thoughts on encryption and law enforcement, he gave what was overall a very well-measured response about the need to acknowledge the tradeoff between safety and privacy, regardless of which side you ultimately conclude to embrace. It was a great answer in theory, but it was missing a critical point from the reality of the situation, and That One Guy wins most insightful comment of the week for pointing that out:

You made your bed, now sleep in it

This is something that even children can understand, the idea that if you cannot show responsibility with your toys, you'll have them taken away, and yet it seems to completely escape the government and law enforcement. They've had their chance, to act in a reasonable fashion, to show that they can be trusted, and they have utterly failed.

If people and companies are moving towards phones that are encrypted by default and require the owner to personally unlock them, it's because law enforcement has proven that they cannot be trusted to follow the laws that prohibit them from 'browsing' on a whim or hunch.

If society and the companies in it are pushing for more encryption, and more secure forms of communication, it's because those like the NSA have shown absolutely no restraint in scooping up everything they can get their hands on, just in case it might prove useful at some point down the road.

The government, and the police, have shown that they cannot be trusted, and the public is reacting accordingly. It would be nice if those in the government and police forces were willing and able to admit this, but given that would require them to first admit that they've done something wrong, I'll not hold my breath while waiting for it to happen.

Case in point: this week we also discovered that the NSA has the ability to hide spyware deep inside hard drives and swipe the encryption keys for SIM cards. One commenter asked why they weren't in jail, and jupiterkansas went on to wonder (and win second most insightful comment of the week) what all this accomplished anyway:

Or a related question, since they pretty much have unrestricted access to everything, why is there still terrorism in the world?

Of course, not all hardware is compromised by the NSA — sometimes it's compromised by the manufacturer itself, as is the case with Lenovo's Superfish malware and associate HTTPS hack. Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius seemed to think that he could handwave this massive blunder because the threats were, in his mind, "theoretical", and both our editor's choice comments for insightful this week come in response to that notion. First up, an anonymous commenter pointed out what an inane statement that is:

ALL threats are theoretical; otherwise, they're called attacks.

But before that, John Fenderson explained why this kind of reaction is worse than the initial mistake:

Including Superfish and the bogus certificate was a terrible thing to do in the first place, but what convinced me to never buy another Lenovo machine in the future was this exact response by them. It indicates either an insane level of incompetence or a deliberate effort to deceive everyone. Either way, that's enough to put them on my "never do business with" list.

There's a reason I chose that first Lenovo comment — it's an interesting juxtaposition with our funniest comment of the week. The first one made the point in perhaps the most succinct and direct way possible — but there's something to be said for Just Another Anonymous Troll's approach of making it in the most amusing and indirect way possible:

"Yes, there's a big honking hole in my castle wall, but no enemy troops have stormed in through it so any concerns about it are all theoretical."
-King Peter Hortensius the First (and last)

For second place on the funny side, we head to an already-pretty-funny trademark dispute between three companies with logos that are more or less just plain 'W's. Sorrykb might have inadvertently given the lawyers some ideas:

"Today's episode of Sesame Street was brought to you by the letter [removed due to trademark claim]..."

For editor's choice on the funny side, we turn our attentions to AT&T, which had a more creative approach to spying on people: offering lower broadband prices for users who opt in to be spied on. Rich Kulawiec had an idea:

A solution suggests itself

1. Sign up for AT&T's surveillance package.
2. Set up VPN for all "real" traffic.
3. On a spare system that's connected 24x7 and not connected through the VPN, run a Perl script that issues intermittent search queries comprised of terms found on 4chan forums, Twilight fanfic sites, YouPorn, and whatever site is the main one for Bronies. Oh, and Frank Zappa lyrics.
4. Smile while contemplating how confused the marketroids staring at the data analytics are going to be.

Finally, we've got one of the funniest things that happened this week. Plfer, the service that promises to find copyright-infringing text online and calculate damages for you, is a groaner for dozens of reasons, not the least of which is its apparent distaste for fair use. That especially, as pointed out by That One Guy, is compounded by the fact that its hypocritical practice of using (and attacking) Techdirt quotations on the site is a classic case of commercial fair use:

Well, this is awkward...
...it is difficult to argue any part of the internet is truly "non-commercial" and so the application of the "fair use" defence would seem to remain limited.
So fair use should be severely limited apparently. Boy, that sure does make this bit rather awkward...
For instance, Mike Masnick at TechDirt says:

"People copy stuff all the time, because it's a natural and normal thing to do. People make copies because it's convenient and it serves a purpose -- and quite often they know that doing so causes no harm in those situations."
He's using someone else's quote to promote his own service, which according his own argument, would almost certainly count as commercial use, and therefor fair use wouldn't apply.

... I wonder just how much his service would qualify his use of someone else's work, and the 'harm' it caused? Perhaps a couple hundred thousand or so, depending on how long his post has been up?

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 February 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: February 15th - 21st

from the reporting-on-reporting dept

Five Years Ago

In the past five years, we've been convinced that Title II is a necessary step in the right direction for net neutrality — but back in 2010, we still holding out hope that the problem could be solved purely with competition. Nonetheless, we could already see the utter ridiculousness of most anti-regulation arguments and the bad behaviour of ISPs, from warning about the death of iPhones to blocking broadband stimulus efforts or favoring marketing lawsuits over service improvement. And we weren't convinced when the FCC chair said that Google Fiber represents enough viable competition.

These were also the early days of the New York Times paywall, when folks were still debating its fundamental structure and studying the question of how willing people are to pay for content online. Meanwhile the Times itself, like many other publishers, was attempting to sell people an expensive iPad edition (despite the obvious fact that pretty much all the same things can be done on the web). To some, the future of journalism was more about curation, or maybe even pay-what-you-want.

The USTR's infamous Special 301 report came out this week in 2010, and for the first time included an open comment system which we promptly utilized. It was nice and all, but it's really time to scrap the program altogether. And if you want to talk about copyright, maybe look at Public Knowledge's sensible ideas for reform.

Ten Years Ago

The future of digital journalism was even less clear this week in 2005. Some newspapers thought the best approach was to keep lots of content offline. The New York Times, for its part, bought About.com (since sold to Barry Diller's IAC). Of course, iPad editions weren't exactly an issue yet — at this time, analysts were still arguing about the distinction between PDAs and smartphones. That didn't stop lots of companies from pushing mobile TV, though, and while we still weren't sure how big of a draw it that would really be, we were happy to see Showtime start experimenting with straightforward online streaming.

This was the year that SHA-1 encryption was broken. Unfortunately, a decade later it's still in widespread use — though most companies are on track to deprecate it by 2017.

Also in 2005: some states were rejecting red light cameras while others were demonstrating their problems, an Italian DJ was fined over a million euros for his MP3 collection, a tattoo artist sued the NBA for showing his artwork, manufacturers were starting to make ultra-cheap phones for developing nations while companies at home were jumping on the gadget giveaway bandwagon, and we were catching on to the practice of UK libel tourism.

Fifteen Years Ago

Ah, 2000 — the not-exactly-dawn of the new millennium, and a time of much philosophizing and prophesying about technology. The New York Times (popular this week) realized we were stuck with the internet for better or worse; Forbes opined on the parallels between the internet and railroads; Salon debunked the idea that the internet makes us lonely; and everyone was trying to have their say about the wireless future. Some people were tackling more immediate, practical questions: does internet sex count as prostitution? Should married couples share an email address? Are online customers less loyal? And, critically, should Jeeves answer questions about sex?

Oh, and there was one very notable release this week in 2000: the original version of The Sims.

Sixty-Nine & Thirty-Seven Years Ago

We've got two milestones in the history of the internet and computing this week. First, on February 15th, 1946, the ENIAC was formally dedicated. It was the world's first general-purpose electronic computer, containing 17,468 vacuum tubes, 7,200 crystal diodes, 1,500 relays, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors and around 5 million hand-soldered joints according to Wikipedia.

Next, just a few decades later, after a snowstorm gave them few options other than cabin fever or feverish engineering, two Chicago men launched CBBS, the world's first bulletin board system on February 16th, 1978.

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Posted on Innovation - 21 February 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: On Display

from the look-and-see dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we're talking all about monitors, projectors and display technology.


My first thought about Beam — a compact projector that plugs into any light socket and is controlled by your smartphone — was that it's a great idea. My second thought was that it can't possibly be bright enough. But, refreshingly, the video and pictures of the device in action don't make any attempt to deceive on this front: the projections are shown to be rather dim, but still visible, which is the best you could expect from 100 lumens. It's limiting, but it doesn't make it useless, and in the right circumstances for the right applications, Beam could be a very cool solution.


In a world of rapid device convergence, there's still something very attractive about the idea of dedicated single-purpose units like Displio: a small, configurable wi-fi display that can monitor anything from the weather to an eBay auction. Sure, you could get a smartphone widget or a desktop screensaver to do that job, but would it really feel the same? Some people already do this, at a high cost — I recently visited an office where every conference room was managed by a separate wall-mounted iPad with the sole purpose of scheduling meetings. The Displio looks like it can do that job for $100 a pop.


This one's not a display, but a display accessory. The rise of mobile gaming has brought with it a revolutionary wave of innovative game design tailored for touch screens, but it's also brought a slew of games that struggle to force traditional control schemes onto these radically different devices. The most common and frustrating of these is the simulated on-screen joystick, which never feels natural and puts a huge cognitive barrier between the player and total immersion. The ScreenStick is not the first attempt to solve that problem by attaching a true joystick right to your touchscreen, but it is one of the nicest designs and best prices I've seen, perhaps capable of becoming a mainstream accessory among the mobile gamers of the world.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 17 February 2015 @ 12:15pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 12: Former CIA Employee Barry Eisler Explains Why You Shouldn't Trust The CIA

from the watching-you-watching-me dept

If you checked out last week's episode, you know that Barry Eisler is a bestselling author with a lot to say about the publishing industry. What you might not know is that he also used to work for the CIA, and he's got a lot to say about that world as well. This week, Barry is back to talk about the culture and inner workings of the intelligence community.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, 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 February 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the abuse-of-power dept

When you get down to it, there are two central overlapping reasons to be opposed to torture. One is that it's wrong, and the other is that it's ineffective. The latter pretty much seals the deal on the former, since the only way someone could even conceivably argue that it's not wrong is if it's clearly preventing more harm than it causes, which has never been the case. After a commenter questioned some of these conclusions, That One Guy won first place for insightful by providing a thorough and excellent rebuttal:

Whereas people who claim that torture does work, or even defend it's practice, have shown clearly that they have lost what little humanity they may have had.

Before I get to the meat of your comment, let's get the most obvious part out of the way:

Even if torture was found to be 100% effective and accurate, it would still not be justified. Ever. Anyone claiming otherwise has shown themselves to be a pure sociopath and/or sadist at best, and absolutely no better, and barely different, than the ones they are fighting.

"That's all very well, but you'll still need to use torture in situations like the one just after 9/11."

You mean like the situations where the torture report found that the information obtained was either useless, or had been found through other, perfectly legal and humane methods? Those 'situations'?

"That's because torture works. It is indeed useless for extracting confessions (people will confess anything, that's true), but it has always worked quite well to extract informations."

For the life of me I cannot see how you typed this up and didn't spot the glaring error in it. If torture is useless for extracting confessions, because people will confess to anything, why in the world would you believe that it would be effective at gathering information? In both cases the person being tortured is going to say whatever they think will make the torture stop. They are going to say what they think the one torturing them wants to hear, true or not.

"And not extracting informations when you have the chance means making it more likely that terrorists will be able to kill more of your civilians."

Here's a hypothetical situation for you: Say you torture someone, and thanks to the information you get from them(assuming, for the sake of the example, that you actually got useful intel), you manage to stop one attack. Good trade right, the basic humanity of the ones performing the torture, and the rights and life of the one being tortured, in exchange for innocent lives?

Right, well that was only half of the equation. Thanks to the intel you gathered, you managed to stop one attack. However, due to the way that you got it, you caused a dozen more attacks(and if you think 'Let's just torture more people and stop those attacks!' you haven't been paying attention). You stopped one attack, and caused even more. Still think that was a good trade?

I mean come on, if a group, or in this case military/government is known to torture prisoners, do you really think that's going to make people like them? Not even close, but what it will do is to increase the hatred of people that already don't like you, or are fighting you, and drive those that might have supported you before straight into the arms of the people who are already fighting you, causing more attacks, and more deaths. It will also significantly decreases the possibility that those fighting you will be willing to surrender, no matter how bad their situation is, as they know death in combat is preferable by far to what might happen to them if they surrender, which also increases the deaths on both sides.

"People who say torture doesn't work think they have found a clever way to avoid the moral dilemma, but they haven't."

Not really. The people who put forward that argument do so primarily because they know the people who support torture are such sick bastards that appealing to emotion or basic humanity isn't likely to get them anywhere, so they instead appeal to the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the actions. And as has been shown, and has been known for decades, if not longer, torture is a terrible way, both morally, and in terms of effectiveness, in gaining useful intel.

Torture, at its core, seems like a product of authority and power gone wild — something very familiar in the US, where you've got cops like those in New York asking that resisting arrest be elevated to a felony. Second place for insightful this week goes to Trevor for his counter-proposal to that idea:

Maybe we can compromise?

If Resisting Arrest is classified as a felony, make it so that if the accused is found not guilty or the charges are dropped, the arresting officer is automatically charged with False Arrest, also classified as a felony.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start with one more comment about the cops, this time regarding their fear of Waze and the possibility that people might share speed-trap locations. As usual, the cops trotted out the line that this practice puts officers in danger of being attacked — and one anonymous commenter quickly underlined how weak that argument is:

People killed by (US) police so far in 2015: 119
(US) police killed by people so far in 2015: 0

Next, we head over to the conversation about Sriracha and its creator's refreshingly open and forward-thinking mentality about trademarks. One commenter suggested that, if Tabasco starts making its own "Sriracha", then the company will be profiting from the original creator's work — but an anonymous response clarified why this oh-so-common misconception just isn't true:

I disagree. The Tabasco Corp profits from putting sauce in bottles, and selling them. The money is in the work, not the idea. Lots of people don't get that.

Over on the funny side, we're sticking with the Sriracha post for first place. One commenter expressed some off-brand preference, pointing to Shark Sriracha as his favorite for its "base vinegar flavor" — but Zonker had even more particular tastes:

I prefer Left Shark Sriracha. It just has its own offbeat flavor.

And for second place, we double back slightly to the story about cops and Waze, where one anonymous commenter felt what the situation really needed was some healthy sarcasm:

Those poor, poor, persecuted police...such a risk they take, riding around in a clearly marked police vehicle, with lights all over it, sidearm, club, taser, and a trunk full of small/mid-size firepower.

And now citizens *gasp* knowing where they are!

How can they be expected to remain riding around in their clandestine state with this app ruining their cover?

Oh, the humanity!


For editor's choice on the funny side, we'll head off to two entirely new topics. First, after the University of North Carolina attempted to "fix" hate speech with a totally unenforceable ban on a social media app, we noted that it's possible to teach people better ways of dealing with this kind of thing. But, as beech asked, how could a university possibly do that?

If only we had a place where we could send people to learn about things...

Finally, we've got a response to the FCC's Ajit Pai, whose argument against net neutrality is that it will make it harder for the US to push for open internet in other countries due to how its own policies will be perceived. Except, instead of something like "appearance" or "perception", he was worried about the much flashier-sounding "optics" of the situation, and this led one anonymous commenter to coin an excellent rule of thumb that I'm certain to quote again in future:

When someone uses the word "optics" to mean appearance, it's best to maximize your temporal utility by leveraging the geo-spatial functionality of your feet.

Well poorly said! That's all for this week, folks. We're off tomorrow for Presidents' Day, and will be back with regular posts on Tuesday.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 February 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: February 8th - 14th

from the the-roots-run-deep dept

Five Years Ago

This week, let's start by going global. In 2010, Italy blocked the Pirate Bay (again) while Norway refused to do so. The UK was still grappling with the Digital Economy Bill and its onerous provisions, Australia was trying to make Google censor YouTube videos and Iran was trying to pull the plug on Gmail and offer a state-run email service in its place. Meanwhile in Bollywood, one studio was experimenting with simultaneous theater and YouTube releases. A major Icelandic newspaper banned aggregators, while at the same time the country was announcing plans to become a haven of free speech and journalism. And many countries came together for two things: the Winter Olympics (once again utterly mishandled by NBC) and the ACTA treaty (oh sorry, I mean "executive agreement").

Today, many US cities are competing for a shot at Google Fiber, but it was this week in 2010 that the project was first announced — though we knew it couldn't spur real broadband competition all by itself.

In the world of media, you can guess what was happening, because it's always the same: various companies were struggling to figure things out with varying levels of success and denial. Warner Music was dancing around the obvious fact that hiking the price of music downloads slowed sales growth, and at the same time announcing the end of all free streaming licenses. Meanwhile, the Author's Guild was still fighting over Google Books, and trying to separate itself from groups like the RIAA — while a former music exec was telling them they were more alike than they realize. One author was complaining that ten bucks is an absurdly low price for ebooks, while at the same time new research showed that unauthorized ebook copies boost sales.

Ten Years Ago

Today, the anti-net-neutrality argument that people don't need or want faster broadband and wireless speeds is ludicrous, self-serving and shortsighted — but, admittedly, in 2005 things weren't quite so clear. There was some evidence that people couldn't find enough to do with broadband and were even giving it up for dialup, and the hype over forthcoming 3G was stymied by the fact that a lot of people weren't sure why they needed it. Of course, there was also already something fishy about the cable companies trying to downplay the importance of speed and the think-tanks railing against muni broadband. And today we know how things really played out: having all that broadband penetration led to the development of new, robust applications and services that nobody could have easily envisioned beforehand.

Of course, this was 2005, so plenty of people were still clueless about technology, including lots of politicians — the British parliament even banned Blackberries. People were still trying to foist self-destructing DVDs on the public, and cable television was feebly trying to mimic the internet. But we also saw the emergence of trends that are clear and dominant today: the use of email as a persistent storage and filing tool, the abandonment of landline phones, and the fact that musicians don't make money from copyright (that last one, while clear and dominant in reality, is not necessarily so in the minds of industry folk).

Also this week in 2005: Google Maps was launched, and so was MP3tunes (guess which one is still around!), we saw some of the earliest examples of companies freaking out about negative reviews, and Salon founder Dave Talbot stepped down.

Fifteen Years Ago

In 2000, we see the even deeper roots of even bigger trends. The severity of cybercrime was becoming clear, and DoS attacks were getting lots of attention — but also already often being blown out of proportion with lots of conspiracy theories and rumors of inside jobs attached to various incidents. People were predicting the post-PC era and the death of the newspaper (which still haven't quite arrived) and the coming wireless web (which absolutely has). People liked to toss around bold proclamations about the internet being dead or not dead or whatever the case may be, it was no longer cool to include ".com" in the name of your company, and people were rightfully asking questions about the future of online privacy. We also started noticing the growth of a questionable (and now extremely common) trend in tech startup culture: companies built with the sole purpose of being acquired for a cash-out.

Seventy-Seven Years Ago

If you're a fan of Star Trek, or Dr. Who, or Battlestar Galactica, or anything else from the pantheon of television science fiction both old and new, then you should know that it all started this week in 1938 when the BBC aired the first known science fiction TV program. What's more, the program was itself an adaptation of a monumental piece of sci-fi history: R.U.R., the 1920 Czech play that introduced the word "robot" to the English language and the sci-fi genre.

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Posted on Innovation - 14 February 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Auds & Ends

from the hear,-hear! dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we've got some assorted pieces of new crowdfunded audio gear.


The folks behind the waveBlend make a pretty good point: rigging up a house-wide wireless audio system is still a lot more annoying than it needs to be. The best systems out there are expensive, proprietary and always centralized around some sort of master unit. The waveBlend system does away with that: each modular cubic speaker connect to existing WiFi network and teams up with all the others (up to a dozen — however many you need, wherever you need them) to create a no-hassle home audio setup.


On the one hand, the gMIX isn't as big a deal as the creator might want to make it sound — a four-channel audio mixer that runs "without batteries" is just a passive line mixer and not a technological breakthrough. That said, the best products aren't always revolutionary, and gMIX does appear to be filling a gap: pro audio gear is expensive, there aren't that many choices of passive mixers around compared to active (powered) ones, and most such gear includes lots of additional features that aren't needed for a lot of applications. The gMIX, on the other hand, is cheap and simple and gets the job done.


A lot of the innovation around live streaming focuses on video, while audio is often left to languish in "good enough" territory. That's fine for meetings and conferences and speeches, but not so great for music. Enter the Gigcaster: a compact, standalone unit with the sole purpose of making it easy to broadcast quality live music online. This initial model is built using Raspberry Pi, and there are plans to move towards a more fully-featured production model — but there's also a huge focus on hackability, with the device running open source software and allowing for user-made firmware pushes.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 10 February 2015 @ 12:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 11: Barry Eisler Dissects The Publishing Industry

from the self-(publishing)-esteem dept

Bestselling author Barry Eisler is best known among readers for characters like John Rain and Ben Treven in his thriller novels. Among watchers of the publishing industry, he's known for something else too: having navigated and found great success in both the legacy industry and the new world of self-publishing. In this episode of the Techdirt Podcast, he discusses the evolving culture and business model of publishing with his uniquely comprehensive insight.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, 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 - 8 February 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the rebuking-the-stupid dept

The anti-net-neutrality crowd was out in full force this week, bringing us both of our most insightful comments. First, after Verizon said that regulating the internet for the first time is "unnecessary and counterproductive", DannyB offered his curiously unsigned thoughts on the matter:

Heavily regulating the Internet for the first time would be unnecessary if you were doing your job.

Your Job: to route packets closer to their destination.

Not Your Job: inspecting them, 'prioritizing' them, mis-routing them, playing games with DNS, being the copyright cops for a private industry that has it's head so far . . . well, let's just say it's not your job to do anything but route packets.

As for your lawsuit. Boo Hoo. You brought all of this on yourself.


Next, after an astroturfing group made a attempt to discredit net neutrality with media campaigns ranging from the stupid to the bizarre (including a porno parody video), John Fenderson decided that in that case, hey, fair's fair:

As long as they're going to make stupid, wrong arguments
We can reply with our own stupid, wrong argument: if these nefarious, greedy companies hate the idea this much, then it must be a great idea.

Of course, net neutrality wasn't the only issue being grossly misrepresented this week. We also saw the MPAA once again insisting that films and TV shows are easily available to buy or rent online, and as such the only motivation for piracy must be a refusal to pay. Unsurprisingly, this claim was quickly debunked, leading to our first editor's choice comment for insightful in which an anonymous commenter reiterates just how stupid the idea of format release windows are to begin with:

Not even like books and music...

The movie industry pretends that they can limit how and when you see their creative works when they're first released to the public - through a movie theater...

When a musician produces a new album or song, does he force you to see it live in concert before you can buy it and listen to it yourself?

When an author releases a new book, do they force you to come listen to someone read it to you (or watch the words roll by on a screen that they control) before you can obtain it and read it at your own pace?

This idea that they can control your "viewing experience" is rather bullshit IMO. I don't want to go to a movie theater - I want to obtain a copy of the movie that I can watch at my leisure, pausing and playing as needed, rewinding and watching again to see the parts I didn't understand or wasn't paying attention to, while eating my own food on my own couch in front of my own TV (or sitting on a plane during a business trip).

The idea that I must wait weeks or months for this opportunity is strange and old-fashioned... and by the time the movie is released on disc (or streaming), it's already lost a lot of it's luster and interest. They're excluding a huge audience here.

Next, we've got a comment from jameshogg in response to the latest developments in the copyright lawsuit over Blurred Lines and its Marvin Gaye influences, in which he elegantly explains just how quickly the supposed idea-expression dichotomy, or at least the way it's currently handled, falls apart under scrutiny:

"Copyright doesn't protect the notes, it protects the symphonies!"

A word is a symphony of letters.
A sentence is a symphony of words.

A line is a symphony of dots.
A square is a symphony of lines.
A cube is a symphony of squares.

A blended colour is a symphony of primary colours.

Only when you point these things out do you then hear the cries of "well we're still going to just set the limits here, here and here anyway because we JUST ARE" when their logic of "symphonies, not notes" falls apart, sometimes it's "but those things you mentioned are too foundational to meet the limits" one time and "three black circles DOES count for Disney!!" another: they fall back onto "we decide" as the basis of their argument, which is way too slippery a standard to pass any elementary freedom of expression test.

When you cut through all the jargon and crap, copyright believers make the same claim as all censors: they consider themselves capable of drawing lines without falling into corruption.

Over on the funny side, truly the funniest comment of the week isn't from Techdirt at all — it's from the Bob Litt, the top intelligence community lawyer who endorsed magical security backdoors while stating "I’m not a cryptographer, but I am an optimist". As for our comments, first place for funny comes in anonymously from someone who saw a better choice of phrasing:

Damn it, Jim! I'm an optimist, not a cryptographer!

In second place for funny, we've got a response to the big net neutrality news of the week: Tom Wheeler officially throwing his support behind Title II. Unsurprisingly, a member of the "I automatically hate anything with the word 'regulation' in it" crowd mocked the idea in our comments, leading Baron von Robber to follow the train of thought:

Yea, you dummies! Just look at other countries that have regulated the Internet as a utilities. They have multiple ISPs to choose from, higher speeds and lower prices in their regulated states!


Wait a tick........

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a theme of food, because why not? First, after the French government made some much-derided warnings about the dangers of people who stop eating baguettes and thus might be terrorists, one anonymous commenter took it as proof of a pet theory:

Atkin's Diet = Terrorism. I always suspected that.

Finally, after one commenter went on a bit of an overboard rant about the trials of ordering pizza online (something I personally love and do far too often), and pined for the good ol' days of a simple direct phone call (which are also the good now days, since independent pizza places aren't exactly extinct), jupiterkansas took the theme one gloriously absurd step further:

I remember when you had to walk to the pizza place to get a pizza because there were no telephones. Of course, they didn't have pizza then either, so you just came home with a rutabaga. And you liked it.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 February 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: February 1st - 7th

from the predictions-and-foreshadowings dept

Five Years Ago

Before the Hachette fight, Amazon got in a conflict with Macmillan over ebook prices this week in 2010. Authors were mad at Amazon, but some in the industry were beginning to realize that change can be turbulent, but still good. Heck, even Rupert Murdoch's daughter acknowledged that piracy can be good. This is in stark contrast to the music duo that claimed it would stop selling CDs until all piracy is stopped (though that might have been a joke). Billboard Magazine took a shot at Techdirt directly, decrying our ideas about CwF+RtB, leading us to explain how it still takes effort and commitment.

Definitely not a joke, however, was the Citizens United ruling, which had just come out, leading us to wonder if a corporation could run for public office. Later in the week, a PR company took that idea a step further.

In Australia, iiNet won its lawsuit against movie studios claiming it was responsible for user infringement, and the ruling offered a great explanation of why ISP's can't be copyright cops. The industry responded by immediately asking for a government bailout and, of course, this story and this fight were far from over. On the flipside, an Australian court this week also decided that Men At Work's Down Under did indeed infringe on a decades-old folk song.

Ten Years Ago

Long before Bing, Microsoft made its first attempt at breaching the world of search this week in 2005 with MSN Search. Unlike some other things launched the same week — like Amazon Prime and OnStar as a standard GM feature — it didn't stick around.

The term "PDA" was in its dying days, with only a handful of people still distinguishing them from smartphones (which some were worried would wear down our thumbs). Video games were exploding beyond the central industry, with fan-made games and mashups getting attention (including attention of the legal variety). Despite regulation, spam didn't seem to be going anywhere soon, perhaps because it was still effective on a shockingly high number of people. And the latest trendy foray into culinary madness was high-tech food.

Also in 2005 this week: the RIAA sued a dead woman with no computer for sharing 700 songs, Google lost a trademark lawsuit over AdWords in France, an accidental button-push almost evacuated Connecticut, and some students cast the future of RFID into question by cracking a bunch of secure chips.

Fifteen Years Ago

There were lots of predictions flying around this week in 2000. The wireless, mobile future was becoming more apparent, and the potential for commerce therein becoming more exciting. That much came true, but so many of the details are off — like how credit cards stick around despite fifteen years of calls for alternatives. Kinda like Usenet, which is anything but mainstream, but also far from dead despite repeated predictions of its doom. And while gaming consoles have indeed evolved into more robust multimedia devices, they haven't replaced PCs the way some expected.

Also this week in 2000: BMG Germany's attempt at CD DRM was a disaster, email marketing was going legitimate, Motorola turned its sights on next-generation devices, and Techdirt saw an unexpected and unexplained traffic bump.

Three-Hundred And Seventy-Eight Years Ago

If you've studied economics, even casually or in passing, you've probably heard of tulip mania — a period of Dutch history in which tulip prices exploded then collapsed. It's generally presented as the first recorded economic bubble in history, and its lessons are still relevant to economics nearly 400 years later. This week marks the critical days in 1637 when the bubble began to pop — on February 3rd, tulip prices hit their peak, and by the 5th they were on the downturn. Spotty record keeping left a gap in the numbers after the 9th, but by May 1st the market had bottomed out.

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Posted on Innovation - 7 February 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Maker's Paradise

from the if-you-build-it dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we're looking at some new tools and/or toys for anyone who likes to design, build and tinker with their own technology.

Piezo Film Technology

Polyvinylidene fluoride piezoelectric film is a thin, transparent material that can be used to generate sound. Yes: that means you can make speakers out of it. This Kickstarter project is all about getting this interesting material into the hands of makers and developers, so they can start exploring the possibilities of what it can do. Two of the suggestions — paper headphones, and business cards that play sound — are pretty cool by themselves, but the creator is betting (correctly, I suspect) that people can come up with all sorts of cool ideas of their own.

The Element

The significance of 3D printing has been clear for some time now, but the sea change it promises to usher in has always felt "on the horizon". Everyone's waiting for that tipping point that will make it one of the most disruptive, revolutionary technologies in modern history — and The Element is one more step in that direction. It's a small, go-between USB device that promises to take a lot of the technical hassle out of 3D printing. It makes it easier to find and create designs, and (critically) easier to get them properly formatted and sliced for printing without the huge hassle of trial-and-error, plus it adds handy features like queuing and remote monitoring. If it brings 3D printing a step closer to "it just works" status, then it's done its job.

DuinoKit Jr.

When I was a kid, my parents bought me one of those electronic "labs" from Radio Shack. It was a massive board covered in resistors, capacitors, transistors, diodes, switches and other components, each with little protruding springs allowing you to quickly connect them with lengths of wire. Well, the DuinoKit Jr. is that lab on steroids for the modern age. It's the same basic idea, but with components I only dreamed of like a backlit LCD display, an RGB LED and, critically, an Arduino-compatible processor at the core.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 3 February 2015 @ 12:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 10: Is Cybersecurity A Real Issue Or Government Boondoggle?

from the and-why-is-it-focused-on-information-sharing? dept

Cybersecurity has become a big buzzword in Washington, and there have been plenty of calls for legislation, usually focused on "information sharing" setups that allow companies and the government to compare notes on threats without fear of any legal liability. But the actual issues of cybersecurity are never clearly defined, nor is the need for various legislative changes fully explained. Is the problem really as big as it's made out to be? Or is the whole thing just a bureaucratic turf war?

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, 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 - 1 February 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the whatcha-gonna-do-when-they-come-for-you dept

This week, we covered the assertion by Google that a gag order they faced over Wikileaks warrants was motivated by feds' embarrassment after the similar warrants served to Twitter caused a huge backlash. One commenter criticized us for not waiting for a response from the feds before publishing, and while that's certainly a necessary part of the story going forward, the complaint ignores the value of analyzing these kinds of conversations as they happen. Of course, one anonymous commenter had another reason, and it won most insightful comment of the week:

The problem here is that no one would be able to trust the agency or court anymore. Even if this isn't the reason, the fact is it's no longer necessary to ask the court or agency behind this because we expect to get lied to anyway.

Meanwhile, after a raid-gone-wrong in which a flashbang burned a 19-month-old toddler, a police union claimed that citizens had to choose between safe neighborhoods and a right to privacy and freedom. That One Guy won second place for insightful by taking a closer look at this conundrum:

Well let's see, the crime in question was the sale of $50 worth of drugs by someone that didn't actually live on the property. The violation of the 'right to privacy' lead to an infant scorched by a flashbang.

Minor drug transaction and no burned infant
Possibly less drug transactions and a burned infant.

Choices choices...

If those are really the only two options, then I think I'll go with accepting some crime in the area, as it seems to be much safer for everyone.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment on another post about cop misbehaviour, and addressing something important. There's a tendency when talking about police misdeeds to add the caveat that "there are lots of good cops", and while the motivation behind this is understandable, it ignores a critical point: even the good cops are, to varying degrees, passively or even actively complicit in a system that enables the not-so-good ones. Thus we get a simple rule to keep in mind:

Good cops who protect bad cops are bad cops.

Next, we pivot away from the police to look at the cable industry's claim that nobody really wants 25Mbps broadband speeds. An anonymous commenter summed up the circular argument:

There's no demand because nobody is using it.
Nobody is using it because it's not available.
It's not available because there's no demand.

Over on the funny side, we've got a clear theme for our two winners: naming disputes. First, after the MPAA forced the makes of "Rated R" beer to abandon the name, Spaceman Spiff offered up some free rebranding services:

I think they should rename it as "Pirate Beer - The Only Arrr-Rated Brew"

Next, in response to the story about a trademark war between Chubby Noodle and Fat Noodle in San Francisco, sophisticatedjanedoe predicted the next showdown on the horizon:

In other news, FAT NOODLE sues NTFS NOODLE.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start on our post about the traveller who was detained by the TSA for carrying Arabic flash cards and given a patronizing interrogation about whether he knows it's the same language Bin Laden spoke. One anonymous commenter brilliantly flipped it around:

Meanwhile in Cairo...

The supervisor asked me: "Do you know who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building?" Taken totally aback, I answered: "Timothy McVeigh?" Then she asked me if I knew what language Timothy McVeigh spoke. "English," I replied. "So do you see why these cards are suspicious?" she finished.

Finally, we return to the world of police, where one national organization attacked Google Waze for supposedly helping people stalk police officers (and certainly not for helping them avoid speed traps, no sir.) Another anonymous commenter noted that an unrelated rule of thumb holds true:

Never trust anything the NSA says.

What, this is an article about the National Sheriff's Association this time? Well, the warning still applies.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 31 January 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: January 25th - 31st

from the telecentennial dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, Mike was at the Midem conference in France discussing the future of music business models and good "reasons to buy" to be leveraged by creators. Not everyone got the message: EMI was still freaking out over a Harvey Danger lipdub video, and Blur's manager thought he could stop piracy. One Harvard professor claimed that the success of iTunes made it harder to discover new music, without much to back up this claim.

There was more stupidity beyond the world of music, too: Ubisoft unveiled its new online-only DRM, the Daily Mirror blocked NewsNow's aggregator, and Google found itself unable to depict the Australian aboriginal flag due to copyright. Bev Stayart sued Yahoo (again), Summit Entertainment shut down a Twilight fanzine, and Vision Media TV tried to skirt Section 230 by burying 800Notes in legal fees. Oh, and in one of my own very first contributions to Techdirt, we looked at the ridiculousness of the Vancouver Olympics' brand protection guidelines.

We caught up with Newsday's paywall experiment to find out that, after three months, it only had 35 paying customers. They tried to claim they didn't want people to pay or something like that (it wasn't very convincing). Meanwhile, a Guardian editor explained why paywalls harm journalism.

Finally, this week in 2010 saw the announcement of the Apple iPad, setting off a flurry of speculation about how it would change the publishing industry and our relationship with computers.

Ten Years Ago

Looking back to 2005, you can see the ongoing metamorphosis of the "cellphone" into the "smartphone". Devices were on the rise, with Ford replacing office phones with mobile phones. We also saw an early example of cops targeting people with such recording devices (okay... we were still calling them "cameraphones"). And the return of "texter's thumb".

Naturally this meant some were freaking out about the kids, saying they shouldn't use mobile phones. Some took it a step further, saying that blogs should be banned because they are supposedly a hotbed of pedophiles. Meanwhile, one savvy but dastardly kid was raking in the cash with eBay scams. Another kid found a bunch of errors in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, one more step in making people accept the power and brilliance of Wikipedia.

Oh, and that baby named Yahoo from last week? Turns out that was a fake.

Fifteen Years Ago

Web portals were a big topic in 2000. This week, we discussed the idea of commoditizing portals while Octopus.com experimented with more user customizability. We wondered if these approaches might sacrifice the power of brand, though some were suggesting that Yahoo's brand is its Achilles' heel.

Online advertising pioneer DoubleClick started working on more specific tracking, e-retailers came up with the idea of having sales rep chats pop up while browsing their online stores, and instant messaging was nominated as the next "killer app". Americans officially started liking email more than phone calls, and those who were disappointed about the Y2K bust could get therapy. But if this thirty-year prediction was correct, then we are now only fifteen years away from being able to scan our brains into computers.

Also this week in 2000, hot on the heels of the AOL merger, Time Warner announced its plans to merge music groups with EMI. They would go on to grapple with this plan for several months before giving up in October.

One-Hundred Years Ago

On January 25th, 1915, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson spoke to each other in the first transcontinental telephone call, from New York to San Francisco. It was nearly forty years after the same two men held the first wire conversation ever across a two-mile stretch between Cambridge and Boston.

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 January 2015 @ 7:45am

It's Move Your Domain Day: Join The AMA, Help Support EFF

from the ask-them-anything dept

Post sponsored by

As we noted yesterday, today is Move Your Domain Day at Namecheap, long-time supporters of Techdirt and a free and open internet. To kick things off, Namecheap founder and CEO Richard Kirkendall is doing a Reddit AMA starting at 8am PST today. Head on over to check it out and submit your questions — we think you'll agree that they have a great perspective on copyright, free speech, privacy, net neutrality and lots of other topics that we discuss here at Techdirt.

If you want to support the EFF, get yourself a new registrar, or both, then today is the day. Since 2011, Move Your Domain Day has raised nearly $250,000 for EFF, and this year continues the trend. Here's how it works:

  • Starting January 27th, you can transfer your .com, .net, .biz, .org or .info domain to Namecheap for only $3.98 (plus $0.18 ICANN fee where applicable), using coupon code NC15MYDD
  • When you transfer, they'll add another year to your domain free. Any shared hosting package (Value, Professional or Ultimate) will be 50% off when you use coupon code MYDDHOST15
  • For every domain transferred or hosting plan purchased, up to 10,000, Namecheap will donate $0.50 to EFF. The donation amount goes up to $1.00 per domain/hosting plan if they exceed 10,000. And if they exceed 20,000 domains transferred/hosting plans purchased, Namecheap will donate $1.50 for each product purchased.

Visit the website to move your domain and help spread the word.

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Posted on Techdirt - 26 January 2015 @ 2:11pm

Tomorrow Is Move Your Domain Day: Support The EFF And Get A Year For Free

from the good-deal-for-a-good-cause dept

Post sponsored by

If you've been a Techdirt reader since the days of SOPA/PIPA, you probably know that Namecheap is a big supporter of a free and open internet, and was one of the first registrars to speak out against the bills. More recently, they've been big supporters of Techdirt directly, providing matching funds to our crowdfunding campaign for net neutrality reporting and sponsoring our sitewide switch to HTTPS. In October, they were one of only two companies that got a perfect score on the EFF's ranking of service providers that stand up to copyright and trademark bullies, and many of us here at Techdirt use them for all our personal domain registration needs.

Now we're happy to team up with Namecheap and promote their latest campaign: Move Your Domain Day, happening tomorrow. It's a continuation of something they started with Reddit users in 2011, which so far has raised nearly $250,000 for the EFF. Here's how it works:

  • Starting January 27th, you can transfer your .com, .net, .biz, .org or .info domain to Namecheap for only $3.98 (plus $0.18 ICANN fee where applicable), using coupon code NC15MYDD
  • When you transfer, they'll add another year to your domain free. Any shared hosting package (Value, Professional or Ultimate) will be 50% off when you use coupon code MYDDHOST15
  • For every domain transferred or hosting plan purchased, up to 10,000, Namecheap will donate $0.50 to EFF. The donation amount goes up to $1.00 per domain/hosting plan if they exceed 10,000. And if they exceed 20,000 domains transferred/hosting plans purchased, Namecheap will donate $1.50 for each product purchased.

Visit the website to learn more and help spread the word. Also, stay tuned for a Reddit AMA with Namecheap tomorrow at 8am PST.

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Posted on Techdirt - 25 January 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the rebuttals-and-rebukes dept

The broadband industry isn't opposed to net neutrality — so long as it gets to write the rules itself. This week, companies spoke up in support of their toothless version of net neutrality, prompting one anonymous commenter to give us our most insightful comment of the week:

If you are making the industry you are trying to regulate happy, you are not regulating it properly.

To balance that short one, we've got an extra long one in second place. After one of our regular critics, himself a paying insider, asserted that it's impossible for filmmakers and other creators to compete without strong copyright enforcement, JP Jones found he couldn't help but laugh... and respond:

This comment is hilarious in the context with you being an Insider on Techdirt. So you think that you can't compete with free on a website that offers all of it's content for free that you are currently paying for?

What specifics do you need? You're proving he's right every time you pay for his free content.

There's so much irony here, but one of the biggest is your misconception that piracy is hard, or even risky. It's not, despite millions upon millions of dollars the MPAA and studios have thrown at it. In other words, Mike's "utopian vision" already exists as far as your complaint is concerned.

Here's the thing. A content company isn't competing with pirates. This is a fallacy, and one that even a slight amount of logic utterly destroys. There's only one scenario where piracy even affects a content creator, and that's the scenario where a potential customer would have bought their product, but due to free alternatives, chose not to. Every other scenario is completely irrelevant; maybe the person chose to pirate, but wouldn't have bought the product anyway, or the person didn't pirate, and wouldn't have bought the product ever, or they bought the product. None of those scenarios are slightly affected by piracy, although for some reason everyone gets hung up over the first one. If by some miracle they couldn't pirate your stuff, they still wouldn't buy it, so the end result is the same.

The actual problem, where someone could have been a customer but chose to pirate instead, is always fixed by one of two things: either you make the product available at a price they're willing to pay, or you improve your service to a level that they're willing to pay. If you don't fix one of those two things, all you're doing is creating the person who pirates but wouldn't have bought it anyway, by definition.

The amusing part is that the person who pirates, but may have become a customer, is actually more likely to increase profits than the opposite. Why? If they considered paying they probably have an interest in your product. By pirating it, they are being exposed to the quality of content you create. If they like it, they are more likely to consider purchasing other products from you in the future.

This is known in fancy business terms as "advertising." Companies pay millions of dollars per year in advertising. A 30-second advertisement during the Super Bowl costs around $4 million
This works even better for the younger crowd. Kids in high school and college rarely have a ton of expendable income, if any. They aren't going to buy a lot of content because they simply can't afford to. No amount of anti-piracy is going to magically change their income; without access to your content, they simply aren't going to buy it.

You know what free access to your stuff causes, though? Interest. Habit. Fandom. Things that, once they do have more expendable income than free time, makes your better service and reasonably priced product more appealing. Studies have shown over and over again that individuals with the highest piracy rates are usually the ones that spend the most money on content. Which is obvious if you think about it; fans want MORE.

Do you think HBO subscriptions would have risen as much if Game of Thrones was only available via HBO, and not piracy? Of course not. The only people watching would be those that already had a subscription. People bought it because they wanted to watch the show the second it came out. And they were willing to pay a ton for it (HBO is really expensive, especially if you don't already have cable).

So yes, they're supposed to sit back and let other people give their stuff away, like they've effectively been doing for years. All that money going to ineffectual lawyers and lobbying could instead go to making a service so good, with so much content, that people will flock to it, and piracy will die out except for the few diehards that refuse to pay for anything (which, incidentally, will never be your customers).

Granted, this sucks for the lawyers and lobbyists making bank on exploiting the content industry, but sorry if I don't really care about the people who are adding nothing to our economy. Which is the whole point of this article, really...the MPAA is made of up lawyers and lobbyists, not content creators.

Funny how that works.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to Chris Christie's abuse of E-ZPass metadata, specifically the demand to know why one Senator crossed the Hudson River 284 times in a couple of years. Ninja had the answer:

Who cares? Maybe he was dating some chick? Or there's a restaurant he likes to visit there? His old grandma lives there? He appreciates going through the goddamn bridge? You may question the fact that he didn't pay but why he crossed the bridge or where he was going? It's none of your business.

And they say metadata is harmless. It's freaking open to interpretation because only the driver knows why he drove to a place and why he used a determined route. With enough imagination and some cross reference from law enforcement you can probably associate anybody with some meth dealer.

Next time you hear that ask the idiot proposing it to share the entirety of his metadata. I bet my balls none of the surveillance-happy crew will hand it all.

Next, we've got an excellent comment from an astronomer that comes in response to our criticism of the ESA for not releasing high-res photos from a publicly funded mission. It better illuminates the reasoning behind the reticence, and while I don't think it makes the case that such embargoes are a good thing overall, it explains why problems with how we currently fund scientific research have made them an arguable necessity:

Being a member of the astronomy community, the idea that the information would become public instantly is slightly terrifying. Mostly because my funding comes from grants, which often rely on past publications. If my group released the photos, and was working on careful science to explain some phenomena, and some other group scooped us with poor quality science but mostly correct ideas, there goes the discovery paper and quite a bit of my oomf for my next grant cycle. It's all about who publishes first, and I feel not having the proprietary period would cause a manic rush to publish that would end up effecting both the science, and probably the sanity of the scientists involved.

Boosting the economic return by releasing information right away may be a good thing, but in the end you are going to be hurting the scientists who have made this their life work.

Also, linking this to the HGP; astronomy is a very low economic return science, that's part of the problem with funding. We don't often make discoveries that end up making people money. Meaning or main source of income is those grants we have to fight tooth and nail for. The HGP likely has for more economic applications then most astronomy projects do, aside from the money made via PR. It's a very one way science when it comes to costs. While I adore my particular research, I am under no illusions that what I am doing will somehow be able to be economically viable. My research is important for the advancement of my field, but has no economic return. This is of course scary in the US were the government seems to be pushing only for science that boosts the economy.

Still, there ARE projects designed for this instant information release. The LSST, which will hopefully be working sometime in the 2020s, will be pushing all its info out as soon as everything has been reduced. The beauty of that particular project is that there is so much information that no one person could scoop all the important discoveries. They will have terabytes of data released every few days, and there will be thousands of important discoveries to be made. Rosetta is a very different mission, in that there is a much more limited data set, and for funding purposes the scientists who run the mission need those discoveries to be made within the science team to validate the mission.

(Personally, I'm firmly of the belief that the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge's sake alone is a noble goal that everyone should be proud to contribute to — but the tyranny of "usefulness" seems ascendant at the moment.)

Over on the funny side, we've got a one-two punch. After photographer Jerry Fisher discovered a college attempting to claim copyright on a 16th century Michelangelo sculpture, John Fenderson set the sarcasm train in motion and rocketed to first place:
If copyright doesn't apply to Michelangelo's sculpture, then there is no incentive for Michelangelo to create more sculptures. Jerry Fisher clearly hates artists.

Stepping into second place, an anonymous commenter arrived to bolster the case:

Michelangelo is a poor, starving artist. He hasn't made any money or eaten anything in 451 years!

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start with a response to the former head of the GCHQ, whose comments about encryption included the notion that, without backdoors into devices, intelligence agencies would need to be even more invasive and unethical. Dfed aint no fool — he read between the lines:

All I got was: "It would be a shame if your kneecaps had to be decrypted."

That wasn't the only instance of the head of a four-letter acronym making crazy statements this week: MPAA boss Chris Dodd gave a staggeringly ironic interview about the Sony hack and his supposed love of free speech. Baron von Robber captured what it feels like to read his words pretty damn accurately:

"If you said to me, what’s the one thing that has been responsible for the 100 years of success of the American film industry, I’d point to one thing — it’s freedom of speech,” said Dodd."

[Irony-O-Meter at 300%, cooling system at highest capacity]

"We have always been a great advocate for freedom of expression"

[Irony-O-Meter at 450%, cooling system failing!]

"and speech,"

[Irony-O-Meter at 550%, cooling system failing, Prenda Buffers overflowing!]

"and I don’t represent anybody who doesn’t embrace that value."


Dang it.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 24 January 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: January 18th - 24th

from the control-is-self-defeating dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010 was the beginning of the NY times paywall, sparking off huge amounts of discussion online. We weren't convinced. Ultimately, the paywall didn't seem to hurt the newspaper, but it didn't seem to bring much benefit either (or at least not enough for many other publications to follow in its footsteps).

There was a lot of stuff happening overseas five years ago. The UK was hiding ACTA details from MPs, carving out tiny ISP safe harbors for hate speech and, in a high-profile incident, arresting a man for tweeting a joke about blowing up an airport. A Swedish ISP was refusing to give up info under a new law, a proposal in Italy would see all video uploads requiring government approval, and German publishers were (as always) going after Google.

In the US, the FBI was caught breaking the law to gather phone call info from telcos, and Obama quietly made it legal. The president also criticized the patent office for its ridiculous workflow. CBS was letting classic Jack Benny footage literally disintegrate instead of letting fans digitize it, the Songwriter's Guild was trashing net neutrality, and then-boss of the MPAA Dan Glickman announced he would be stepping down. Also, the court in the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case realized how crazy a $1.92-million award was and cut it to $2,250 per song (down from $80,000).

Ten Years Ago

In 2005, plenty of people were freaking out about Wi-Fi security risks. This week, we pointed out that they were probably exaggerating — though we did find at least one reasonable analysis.

Remember the short-lived term "picture phone"? Well, it was pretty common at one point — enough so that the owner of picturephone.com thought that he could sell it for a million bucks. A Maryland lawmaker re-floated the idea for a porn TLD (which now exists, and nobody cares about it). Dell CEO Kevin Rollins made the confusing claim that the iPod is a one-hit-wonder just like Sony's Walkman. We were noting that the biggest issue with the iPod was actually the iTunes store and the fact that you didn't really "own" your music.

We also had a discussion about the biggest obstacle to device convergence: demands for control in the form of DRM, exclusive formats and other pointless fragmentation of content and devices. Even the Sony chief admitted that DRM can hold up innovation. We knew it would be a big problem as broadcasters created digital stores. Meanwhile, Congress was getting ready to consider more intellectual property law, and then-FCC Chair Michael Powell announced his resignation.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2000, Transmeta started making processors. Turns out that was the beginning of a sad story of innovation: by 2007, the company had shifted away from semiconductor production and entirely to IP licensing, then in 2009 its patent portfolio was acquired by, wait for it... Intellectual Ventures.

Long before the New York Times paywall, the LA Times tried charging 20 cents to email a story (amazingly not still a standard business model). People were experimenting with multimedia, so you got things like the virtual newscaster and the print magazines from dot-coms. Techdirt itself got mentioned in print in Inter@ctive Week. Amidst all this, the challenges of online advertising were already becoming clear.

A former Microsoft exec bought a Bowling Association, but if you think that's odd, consider this: in 2000, Microsoft forgot to pay for several domain renewals and let sites like Hotmail lapse. A random guy used his credit card to pay the bill and renew them, and Microsoft gratefully sent him a $500 check for his trouble. This week, the guy decided to auction off the check.

Twenty-Nine Years Ago

On January 19th, 1986, the Brain computer virus was released into the wild. It was the first virus targeting IBM PCs running MS-DOS.

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Posted on Techdirt - 18 January 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the anonymous-is-legion dept

When a man was arrested for swearing at a local restaurant, the idea that it was done to somehow protect the children at the next table seemed ludicrous. One anonymous commenter took first place for insightful this week by pointing out just how far that ludicrousness extends:

I'm guessing the scene of a man getting arrested at the next table was a lot more shocking to the children than the swearing.

In another equally but entirely differently stupid incident this week, cable companies attempted to claim that hidden fees and surcharges are all about trying to be transparent. That's nice and all, but as another anonymous commenter pointed out in our second place comment for insightful, it doesn't change the core question about prices:

If it's impossible to get the advertised rate without paying a bunch of surcharges, they should be investigated for fraud.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got two responses to Voltage Pictures CEO Nicolas Chartier and his claims about piracy. Among these silly claims was the idea that, if everyone who pirated Hurt Locker gave him the arbitrary amount of one dollar then that would be 80% of the movie's budget and, thus, they lost 80% of the budget to piracy (which is a very strange version of the lost sale fallacy). Of course, yet another anonymous commenter pointed out that if this is true, it should have been an option:

Well maybe if you had charged only one dollar for the movie then a lot of those people wouldn't have downloaded it and instead bought it because hey its only a dollar.

Of course, the real issue is that his entire premise is flawed because Hurt Locker was simply not a failure no matter how you slice it. Jupiterkansas spells this out in clear terms:

Here's why he's an idiot:

Hurt Locker didn't make money, but it got a best picture nomination. That nomination gave them him the clout to make Zero Dark Thirty, which made more than it's budget AND the Hurt Locker budget combined.

Zero Dark Thirty won best picture, which gave him the clout to turn Dallas Buyers Club - a small $5 million movie - into another profitable Oscar contender that made over 10 times its budget.

Whatever was lost on Hurt Locker has been made back in spades. To scream he's not making money because of piracy is ridiculous.

Over on the funny side, our first place comment comes in response to the Linux developer Antoni Norman's legal threats against Techdirt for publishing his supposed "private information". It's a big week for anonymous commenters, because first place for funny goes to yet another one who realized what the problem might be:

He shouldn't have gotten advice from Kirby Delauter.

Meanwhile, we called out Steven Soderbergh this week for some apparent hypocrisy in his treatment of film re-edits. One commenter made the strange, childlike assertion that re-editing a film is no different from defacing a person's house by painting it without permission, causing many others to try to explain the difference between property and digital copies with a bunch of alternative analogies (to no avail). But PRMan succeeded in bringing the house comparison back to something like reality and an appropriate analogy:


I saw a guy selling 3D glasses on your front porch!

People are putting them on and seeing your white house as PURPLE!

The horror!

For editor's choice on the funny side, our first comment all started with a typo. Our typo, in fact — and one that caused us to accidentally suggest that ABC was fighting to disable Dish ad-skipping on CBS. Commenters noted that this makes no sense, and we corrected the mistake — but Michael actually realized that hey, it could have been a pretty smart tactic, too:

Well, if ad-skipping was disabled on CBS content, ABC content would obviously be worth more to consumers.

Finally, we've got the quasi-anonymous Any Mouse closing things out with a beautiful response to the USTR's attempts to call listening "transparency":

If listening were transparency then the NSA would be the most transparent Agency on Earth.

That's all for this week, folks!

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