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  • May 7th, 2013 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: Why buyers’ jurisdiction and not sellers’?

    Ah. Of course. It’s obvious once you see it.

    Considering that point, I have to admit that this does make sense (granting the notion that sales taxes make sense at all, which is a whole other can of worms). It’s still depressing to see that government can only seem to deal with anything, ever, by making things more complicated and increasing the visible footprint of the machinery of control.

  • May 6th, 2013 @ 11:04pm

    Why buyers’ jurisdiction and not sellers’?

    Can someone explain to me the logic of basing sales tax on where the buyer is located, rather than on where the seller is located? It seems like going by the buyer’s location makes everything much more complex, since it’s the sellers who have to implement tax collection. Why should they be subject to the regulations of places where they are not located?

    What is so important about buyers’ locations as opposed to sellers’ that makes all the added complication worthwhile?

  • Feb 1st, 2013 @ 6:42pm

    “It remains to see how many advertisers want to be associated with a system not all that different from one almost universally hated.”

    Aren’t all advertisers associated with a system almost universally hated... advertising?

  • Jan 3rd, 2013 @ 5:30pm


    Congratulations, Lower Hudson Valley Journal News!

    You just staged a clear demonstration of why some people (e.g., the state of Arizona) believe there should be no registration requirement to own or carry a gun.

  • Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 11:22pm

    Because most of us are not consistently interesting

    “Why do so many people rely on closed platforms today, that allow somewhat arbitrary removal of speech?”

    I can post nearly anything that isn’t illegal or hardcore porn on my personal web site... but no one will see it.

    I could start a blog... there might be two people who even know what RSS is that would add me to their readers.

    Most of us don’t generate enough consistently interesting content to hold an audience by ourselves. Facebook is like an open mike night or a community talent show—it aggregates the small amount of interest each of us could generate alone into something that can maintain attention.

    Facebook has captured its arena so thoroughly that Diaspora and Friendica and the like have little chance. The successor of Facebook will be something that obsoletes what it does; doing what Facebook does better (more openly, more securely, whatever) will never overcome its head start in user base. At this point, they can (and do) dick us around quite a bit without having to worry much about fallout.

    Anything that’s important to me goes on my web site. My biggest complaint about Facebook is that I can’t really integrate the content and presentation I control into the feed they deliver to others... but I can see how Facebook has no incentive to make that possible, and good reasons to throw up roadblocks for anyone who isn’t a paying sponsor or partner.

  • Oct 19th, 2012 @ 2:00pm

    The problem with free samples

    Instead, they claim that "by providing the first few lines of our stories to Internet users, the service reduces the chances that they will look at the entire story in our web sites." I'm wondering how they determine this, because I can't see how that would possibly be true.
    They’re just saying that they figure the odds of an Internet user randomly happening to click on a link to their site are greater than the slim chance that anyone will click once he or she has seen a sample of what’s actually there.

  • Oct 8th, 2012 @ 8:21pm

    Empathy, Shmempathy

    What about just asking a question that tests whether you actually read and understood the article?

  • Jun 11th, 2012 @ 9:46am

    Re: What would be an appropriate mechanism?

    Bob says:

    So let's hear it. Or if you can't come up with a legit mechanism, you should just be honest and say, "We don't want ANY prosecution for infringement." This kind of arguing over nits is just a waste.

    Speaking only for myself:

    Yes, I want us to give up the idea of supporting the creative industries by trying to make it very difficult and dangerous for people to obtain copies and derivatives of published works that are not authorized by their creators (or subsequent copyright holders).

    This notion used to work. It doesn’t work anymore, because it is too fundamentally inconsistent with the nature of digital media, ubiquitous general-purpose computers and the Internet. The damage caused by this “war on reality” is too great to be justified just to protect the current way of doing business in certain industries.

    And that’s all it’s protecting. Arts and sciences existed long before copyright, and they will exist long after it. How to integrate that with the business world is a job for business people... generally very inventive sorts, when not lulled into complacency by successful bids for protectionism. Copyright and patent worked for a while; now it’s time for those laws to get out of the way.

  • Apr 20th, 2012 @ 3:17pm

    Simple Standard

    How about this:

    If for you or I to do fill-in-the-blank would be hacking, unlawful interference with private property (I’m pretty sure I can’t legally attach a tracking device to your car without your permission), trespassing, breach of terms of service or otherwise a violation of civil contract or criminal law... then government agents don’t get to do it without a warrant, or some other specific, affirmative legal basis.

  • Apr 20th, 2012 @ 3:06pm


    Or, to say that another way:

    It’s one thing if I’m on trial for a crime and the prosecution wants to access and enter into evidence my Amazon purchase history for the past three years, arguing that it is relevant for some specified reason. (My attorneys will object if it’s worth doing so, but that’s defense, which is results-oriented and has nothing to do with principle.)

    It’s a whole different thing if I’m not accused of anything, but someone from city hall wants to see everything I’ve purchased from Amazon for the past three years, for “no specific reason.”

  • Apr 20th, 2012 @ 2:53pm


    Instead of speech, let’s try an analogy with writing. Officer Fred thinks John has committed a crime. He sees John carrying an envelope addressed to Mary, which John puts in a mailbox. Fred wonders if that envelope might contain a letter that has incriminating information about John.

    Fred can ask John about it; he can ask Mary about it. He can’t (legally) demand that John let him examine the contents of the envelope, nor intercept it at the post office, nor search Mary’s house for it, without a warrant.

    I’m pretty sure “expectation of privacy” has never been an argument against warrants or subpoenas. (That would require something like attorney/doctor/*-client privilege.) This is about what government agents can do without having to give any good reason or obtain any judicial approval.

    The tricky part is that, for example, US Mail and the wired voice telephone system are protected by laws that oblige the carriers and their agents not to compromise their users’ privacy. As far as I know, there is no similar clear law (in the US) that requires ISPs, social networks and other kinds of communications services developed in the last half-century to maintain similar standards of trust. Without that, they have a troubling incentive to provide (quietly) whatever data a putative authority requests.

  • Apr 20th, 2012 @ 1:31pm

    Begging the question

    The government is (somewhat) bound by “reasonable expectation of privacy”; but the government is a major actor in determining when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    If every e-mail we send and receive, every search string we submit, every web site we visit is accessible to the government at whim, there can be no expectation of privacy. If intercepting this sort of information is considered the equivalent of wiretapping and requires a warrant, an expectation of privacy does exist.

    The “expectation of privacy” standard makes sense as a way to evaluate specific instances in a context where existing practice has already established what is usual. It doesn’t work for “new” technologies and scenarios: it merely begs the question. Some other standard, or law, must define these boundaries.

  • Apr 14th, 2012 @ 10:39pm

    Thank you, Erin


    Thank you for posting this. It was a brave thing to do in this forum. Being Techdirt, we went straight for the petty details... but I’m pretty sure you didn’t really want career advice, parallel song structure analysis or a critique of your team’s legal strategy.

    I think that you were honest, not adjusting your text to say only what this particular audience would most easily accept; and that your purpose in writing was to get a crowd of IP-minimalists—with whom you generally sympathize—to understand that emotions can run pretty high when it’s your own work that been unceremoniously detached from you and appropriated by someone else. Artists don’t, and shouldn’t, get everything they want; but it’s not conducive to anything positive to dismiss their feelings without at least first understanding them: as if there were no reason on Earth they should care about the creations that will always, in their eyes, carry a little part of themselves along with them.

    Against odds, I hope this somehow works out so that you and Zubak/Graus/Kachut can wind up in a state of mutual respect. I know this post is getting old now, but I still wanted to write to say that just because the natural comment fodder went in one direction, it doesn’t mean that nobody got your point or appreciated your honesty and your time and effort to express this.

  • Apr 13th, 2012 @ 10:32am

    The Godfather of Grunge

    Am I the only one to see irony in “The Godfather of Grunge” mounting an effort to deliver pristine audio quality?

  • Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:54pm

    And, for what it’s worth...

    Erin’s song “Slung-lo” is really much better. (It’s the difference between character and plastic. “Touch the Sun” sounds like somebody said, “Let’s write a song just like that song, only not that song.”)

    Too bad that seems to be almost irrelevant. :-(

  • Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lies

    All I'm asserting is that artists should have some recourse when the copying of their work crosses from inspiration to wholesale misappropriation

    That troubles me, too. The idea that creative work can be “monetized” only by finding some ancillary scarcity to exploit (because the thing that’s truly of value — the art — is non-zero-sum and hence cannot command a price in an unregulated market) seems like it places the focus on the wrong thing: advertising deals or merchandise tie-ins or whatever. Ugh.

    Yet, part of what makes many of us question the whole system is precisely the shades of grey. Even the potential “infringer” might not know whether it was inspiration or misappropriation until the lawyers duke it out and the judge or jury spins the wheel of fortune. It sounds to me like the writers of “Touch the Sun” may well have copied Erin’s idea, but not her song. If they did, they still might not have been consciously aware of it. If they were, it’s easy enough to see why they avoided mentioning that.

    As others in this thread pointed out, the potential penalties associated with “infringement” turn the normal social incentives to give credit where credit is due upside down. This and many other unintended consequences suggest that the whole concept of “intellectual property” might well be doing more harm than good. Were the distinction between inspiration and plagiarism a bright line, maybe laws could be crafted to protect artists, and to make it straightforward for them (and those who invest in their work) to earn money in the marketplace without doing much collateral damage. In the real world, IP laws seem to be working less and less well for everybody, excepting IP lawyers.

  • Apr 12th, 2012 @ 6:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Lies

    I don’t hear slavish copying, though.

    In fact, if someone challenged a group of songwriters: Listen to this song, “Slung-lo”; then try to reproduce as closely as possible the same feel, sensibility and appeal without actually duplicating any copyrightable elements... I’d say “Touch the Sun” would make an excellent entry in that contest.

    Proving infringement is going to be tough... I hope those lawyers are working on contingency.

  • Apr 12th, 2012 @ 6:31pm

    (untitled comment)

    I think you have exceeded the mean subtlety threshold.

  • Apr 5th, 2012 @ 4:43pm

    The purpose of whac-a-mole

    I think you misunderstand the purpose of whac-a-mole. Like laws against recreational drugs or prostitution, no one in touch with reality imagines the censured activities will stop. The point is to keep the activity marginalized; to ensure that it can’t be openly discussed, that everyone who engages in it must be fearful and suspicious of everyone else, and that those who don’t engage in it can be made fearful and suspicious of those who do. It keeps it abnormal (at least from the perspective of the larger society).

    The legacy content industries figure the only way they can compete with “free” is if their offerings have a unique cloak of legitimacy, which only works if a feeling of illicitness is attached to the others that cannot be shaken. The goal must be to maintain that stigma—they understand that law without enforcement is just a suggestion—no one could expect to succeed in actually stopping unauthorized distribution of copyrighted works, but it is possible to keep a significant part of the population scared of it.

    Of course, with all such prohibitions, lots of people’s lives are seriously damaged, but no one cares about that... it’s just collateral damage.

  • Aug 8th, 2011 @ 11:15am

    Economics of the Federal Deficit

    Teaching the Fallacy of Composition: The Federal Budget Deficit should help with one aspect of the confusion.

    Another aspect is that the “federal deficit” is so poorly defined as to be meaningless: The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics: Federal Deficit.

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