When Mike asked me to write this weeks favorites post, it was a week like any other. The TSA was harassing the innocent over something ridiculous, another patent troll was suing over using WiFi, and another collection society unilaterally raising fees simply because they can.
It wasn’t all bad news at the start of the week, with the US Supreme Court refusing to hear ASCAP’s golden case, and let stand that downloading music does not require an extra fee, just to them. Brazil drafted a fairly decent looking framework for internet rights, although who knows if that will go anywhere. And a former MPAA PI spilled the beans on a bunch of stuff we all know is happening, but cant do anything about.
Wednesday started out with Princeton University fighting back against the academic journal monopoly on what should be freely available human knowledge, but went downhill from there with the reports on the Hadopi program going into full swing, the RIAA pissing on the 4th amendment, and the MPAA revelling in the theft of content from the public.
But then, everything changed and the unthinkable happened. The tech industry lost our first genuine hero. I know everyone is probably sick of the reflections on all the ways Steve Jobs changed our world, but Mike gave me the soapbox, and now I’m going to use this opportunity to highlight some important lessons the last 36 years have taught us. Brilliant innovation comes in many forms, only a few genuine geniuses can ever predict what the future can hold, and even that genius is going to be working 90 hours a week for years and years before he can change the world. But change the world he can and, love him or hate him, when Steve spoke, history shook. No one in my lifetime has changed the world over and over again like Steven P. Jobs. I sit here using a product that exists because even after he was laughed out of every bank and VC in northern California, he still knew that every man, woman and child on planet earth deserved a computer, and we owe so much to him. I’m a Windows/Android ‘fanboy’ personally, but even if you hate iPhones and patent suits, I would like you to take a moment to think about what your life would have been without the Apple II and the Macintosh. I promise you it would be dimmer.
Since that fateful moment Wednesday evening, which I believe I will remember as my parents remembered Kennedy’s assassination, there have been more stories on the ridiculousness of our “Intellectual Property” situation here, with a judge doubling the royalties in a patent case for “lack of respect” for the patent system. I mean, how could you not respect such unilateral, undemocratic decision making in the courts? Even stupider is Astrolabe (no name jokes, even though they write themselves) claiming it owns the copyright on Timezone data. Really? I wonder what the Royal Observatory has to say about that, seeing as if you can copyright that data, a lot of folks owe them about 350 years of royalties.
The week capped off with the news that France had outlawed mod chips. Which made me wonder: “People still use mod chips? So many better ways to pirate games today?” Then the controversial charitable donation by Microsoft, where they can give away a billion dollars and people STILL criticize them for that. Unbelievable. But anyway, still more unbelievable is that someone thinks it is possible to copyright a 500 year old painting (or a picture of that, and nothing else). Also, politicians in Norway thinking that censorship is the answer to entertaining their people. Really? Because people have traditionally always loved censored art. I just don’t understand why taking things away from your customers is a good way to sell them something. I’m no salesman, but when I buy a car, the shifty stranger trying to get my money doesn’t try to take it by telling me all the things he refuses to give me. Maybe they need more used car salesmen and less lawyers down there in California, but that’s not for me to say.
It’s been a hell of a week in the tech world, and the world seems a little less bright without Jobs in it, but at least his innovative spirit lives on, in the computers we type on and the phones we swipe on. Rest differently, Mr Jobs, since we all live differently because of your touch. Thank you for the PC, the GUI, the computer-animated feature film and the idea that being a geek can be cool.