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 - 28 July 2015 @ 12:00pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 35: Kevin Smith On How To Be Yourself And Make A Living

from the creative-success dept

Long-time Techdirt readers know that we're big fans of Kevin Smith, not just for his films and podcasts but also for his many innovative approaches to business, distribution and creativity in general — and we're proud to say that he is also a pretty big fan of Techdirt. This week, he joins us on the podcast to discuss the experience of striking out on your own path as a creator while countless voices from the status quo try to tear you down — and the rewards that come when you manage to ignore those voices and be unapologetically yourself.

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 - 26 July 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the a-lobbyist-by-any-other-name dept

We've got a double winner this week, with John Fenderson taking both first and second place for insightful with two comments from our post pointing out that, regardless of what you think about Kim Dotcom's guilt, you should be concerned about the government stealing his assets. First, John expressed a thought I've had several times myself:

Here's the funny thing: I originally believed that DotCom was probably guilty as hell, but everything the US government has said and done about this case has changed my mind and convinced me that he's probably innocent.

Next, he added another underline to the general absurdity of asset forfeiture court cases:

That it is even possible to file a court case against inanimate objects is a strong indication that the legal system is not just broken, but fundamentally corrupt and insane and is not worthy of any amount of respect.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out on the eye-opening revelations about the MPAA's conspiracy to run an anti-google smear campaign. One anonymous commenter made a connection to something else we talk about here:

It sounds like this is an actual case of a felony interference with a business model, except the charges would properly be called collusion, conspiracy, fraud, bribery, and corruption.

Next, we've got a response to General Wesley Clark's evocation of WW2 internment camps in a discussion about domestic radicalism. Even setting aside the obvious awfulness of that suggestion, there's another issue which is that Clark, like most people born after the war, seems to be forgetting or ignoring that the emergence of Naziism and its impact on America was a lot messier than we like to believe in hindsight, as Coyne Tibbets thoroughly points out:

General Wesley Clark: "They do have an ideology. In World War II if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn't say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war."

Actually, no, there were quite a few you didn't. Cases in point: William Randolph Hearst, Andrew Mellon, Standard Oil of New Jersy, Ford Motor and Henry Ford, International Telephone and Telegraph, Allen Dulles, Prescott Bush, and IBM.

Today, we have HSBC, caught laundering money for drug lords and terrorists; you didn't put any of them in camps, either.

Given those examples, I have to say, General Clark, that your ideas are pretty radical. Maybe we should lock you up in one of those camps.

Over on the funny side, it appears we have a winner to Karl's request for a new title to grant Comcast's David Cohen, since he seems to object to the accurate label of "lobbyist". Mike's suggestion wasn't just the top-voted comment on that post, it won funniest comment of the week overall:

Why not a spoonerism?
Lob Toppyist

In second place for funny, we've got a response to a story everyone was talking about this week: the demonstration of how easily (and intensely) hackable modern cars can be. Chris ODonnell felt an entrepreneurial urge:

Note to self: Start used car business, market them as "secure."

For editor's choice on the funny side, we'll start by highlighting one of the anonymous runners-up for David Cohen's new title:

Schrödinger's Lobbyist

And finally, on that same post, Jeff Green decided to forego the title-game and provide Cohen with what I think is best described as an anthem:

It isn't that I lobby
I just acquired the hobby
Of working hard to influence them all
It's not because they paid me
And no, nobody made me,
It's just that I'm at Comcast's beck and call
A lobbyist I'm not
That's simply Tommy rot

Your writing isn't funny
I hand out LOADS of money
To anyone who'll scream that they agree
It's not influence I'm buying
(Although I'm really trying!)
It's the only way that they'll be friends with me
A lobbyist NO WAY
I simply preach for pay!

That's all for this week, folks!

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

This Week In Techdirt History: July 19th - 25th

from the a-type-of-type dept

Five Years Ago

The copyright world was still full of activity this week in 2010. A bizarre lawsuit against Scribd, claiming the company's copyright filters were themselves infringing, was dropped; a Dutch court ruled (again) that the Pirate Bay must block Dutch users, while the Swedish Pirate Party launched the Pirate ISP; US Copyright Group filed more lawsuits in its copyright shakedown campaign, while more porn companies were getting in on the same game and Perfect 10 was trying its own brand of copyright insanity in Canada and RightHaven was ramping up its own now-infamous trolling. The entertainment industry was still trying (and failing) to make DRM not suck, the BSA was using totally made-up stats to try to change African copyright laws, Homeland Security was still aggressively conflating copyright infringement with counterfeiting, and IP Czar Victoria Espinel was playing the "blame China" card.

On the flipside, Deutsche Bank was suggesting it's time to rethink copyright and the Telegraph in the UK was suggesting record labels should give all their music away as free MP3s. RapidShare was vindicated by a German court, while an appeals court in the US was explaining to some documentary filmmakers that you can't copyright facts. And since it's admittedly fun to see copyright abuse fail, we got two entertaining stories when the designer leading the charge for fashion copyright was caught copying designs, and a Canadian copyright lawsuit seeking $27-million in damages ended with an award of $500.

There was a big non-copyright victory too: the Senate passed its bill against "libel tourism", moving towards protecting Americans from a particularly pernicious infringement on their free speech.

Ten Years Ago

Five years before that, this week in 2005 we met the first US piracy czar. Ringtone sellers were freaking out about online "shoplifters" while a fear of piracy was preventing the creation of Harry Potter e-books (and spurring the creation of homebrew versions). The Associated Press was happily misrepresenting BitTorrent while the RIAA and MPAA were trying to get California schools to do their dirty work. Up in Canada, the National Gallery was demonstrating that it did not understand the public domain, while film festival organizers in Edinburgh were adopting Hollywood-style bans on mobile phones. The stupidity and inefficacy of all these things was unimportant: the entertainment industry just believes what it wants to believe.

Apparently in 2005, you could still take a stance against mobile phones as a whole, on the basis that they could be used as terrorism tools — though a quick look at how much teens and young adults loved their phones should have put that to bed as a realistic position. Of course, far more popular was concern over violence and sex in video games, the hype of which led Grand Theft Auto to get bumped up from an M rating to "Adults Only".

Fifteen Years Ago

Silicon Valley was still in a state of flux this week in 2000. People noted that VCs were hit by the dot-com bubble in their own way alongside entrepreneurs, people were making wildly different predictions about the future of Webvan (turns out the dark ones were correct), and Steve Ballmer was suggesting dot-coms are still overvalued and overfunded (with perhaps not entirely pure motives).

In a surprising shift in the 2000-internet landscape, CNET bought ZDNET for $1.6-billion (only $0.2-billion less than CBS would buy it for eight years later), and some wondered how this would impact the journalism. Online advertising, at least, appeared to be working and the wireless web was slowly but surely starting to make some sense. The phenomenon of texting was still fresh, as were sneaky phishing scams.

Also, I'd entirely forgotten about the existence of this machine, but it was this week in 2000 that Apple introduced the G4 Cube. It was an utter flop, and Macworld has a great look at the still-ongoing debate about why.

One-Hundred And Eighty-Six Years Ago

Before there were typewriters, there were "typographers" — the cumbersome forerunners that date all the way back to the early 19th century. Though the details of the first known example — an 1808 Italian machine — are mostly lost, it was on July 23rd, 1829 that the first American "typographer" machine was granted a patent. It was invented by William Austin Burt, and would later come to be retroactively known as a typewriter as that word gained popularity.

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Posted on Innovation - 25 July 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: A Little Box Of Videos

from the shoot-and-store dept

GoPro cameras were a revolution in the world of video, enabling a level of high-action photography with a low-cost, out-of-the-box solution. In general, there's a growing number of rugged outdoor devices for capturing video, pictures and sound — but there's still a stumbling block for people who venture to the corners of the earth with their cameras in tow. This week, we're looking at the Gnarbox, which could be the final piece of the puzzle for outdoor action photographers.

The Good

What's the one stumbling block I mentioned? Simple: dealing with all your footage. A day out with a GoPro at full resolution generates gigabytes of video, leaving you with two main options, neither of them great. You can carry a bunch of backup memory cards for the camera, or you can add a laptop to your travelling kit — largely negating the ability to just toss a bunch of extremely rugged gear in your bag without fear of damage (or requiring the purchase of a rugged outdoor laptop — something far rarer and more expensive than a camera).

Gnarbox is the new third option: a tiny, heavy-duty device that's halfway to being a full-fledged computer. It has 128gb of internal storage, so you can quickly load it up with the day's footage (by USB or with the built-in SD card reader), but that's just the beginning: it also has its own GPU and CPU, and serves as a WiFi hotspot to create a local network. This means that once you've got the footage loaded up, you can wirelessly connect to the Gnarbox with your smartphone, control it via the app, and actually start editing and sharing videos — even full-resolution 4K ones. Not only does this eliminate the problem of dealing with all your footage and clearing off your camera for the next day's adventure, it also makes it easy to rapidly share the videos you are creating without needing to wait until you reach a computer-equipped home base.

The (Not Actually) Bad

In many of these Awesome Stuff posts, I've bemoaned the fact that otherwise-cool devices are so often limited by the choice to make them exclusively smartphone-controlled. But the Gnarbox is a different case: its entire purpose is to replace more robust computers in situations where they aren't ideal, and to bring a level of video editing capability to your phone that was formerly the exclusive realm of higher-power devices. So, for once, I have no complaints about the fact that it requires the use of an Android or iOS app, since if you're near a desktop or laptop then you don't have any need for it to begin with. That's the right reason to build a smartphone-only device: not because you want to lock people in to your proprietary app or you want to block power-users from getting into the nuts and bolts of your product, but in order to bring a new capability to smartphones that they didn't have before. Editing 128gb of 4k footage certainly qualifies.

The Inexpensive

If any of this has piqued your interest, now is the time to go check out the Gnarbox, because there are some pretty great deals for Kickstarter backers. Even the projected retail price of $250 is attractive for such a device, but the Kickstarter rewards knock 40% off that price and let you order one for only $150, two for only $279, or a big pack of ten for only $100 a pop. But be warned, these are all limited quantities, and not just for the early bird prices but for the device itself — the initial Kickstarter run of 1000 Gnarboxes is already down to less than 200, so there doesn't seem to be much time left.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 21 July 2015 @ 12:45pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 34: Apple Versus Google

from the the-mobile-wars dept

A few years ago, there was no reason to see Apple and Google as direct competitors — but thanks to the mobile space, all that has changed. Now the two tech giants are going head-to-head in a contest for the mobile device market share, but their approaches to this race remain very different. This week, we discuss the nuances of this competition and what these two different approaches can teach us about business models and innovation.

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 - 19 July 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the pens-and-swords dept

This week, we looked at the story of Laura Poitras, who sued the government to find out why she was detained every time she flew anywhere. In one instance, she was denied use of a pen, lest it serve as a weapon, prompting one anonymous commenter to win first place for insightful by underlining the oblivious irony of this move:

As the famous saying goes, the pen is mightier than the sword.

It says a lot about a government when their biggest fear is a journalist with a pen. I doubt these thugs, who clearly had stabbing on their mind, even realized the irony of what they said.

Meanwhile, the Authors Guild reared its perennial "we hate the internet" head, this time with a focus on Amazon. The guild employed a twisted reading of antitrust laws and understanding of economics to suggest that we should focus on creating a robust, competitive market place but not on driving down book prices. took second place for insightful by breaking down the idiocy of this statement:

And what exactly would you like to point out? The two are one and the same, because a thriving, competitive marketplace always drives prices down. That's, like, Capitalism 101, guys...

Or, to borrow a local meme, Author's Guild just hates it when the laws of economics are enforced.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to the White House agreeing to look the other way on Malaysia's massive human rights violations for the sake of getting the TPP passed. As Ninja points out, this is sadly not very surprising:

Well, what can we say? You have that joke of 301 report that lists perfectly good countries as some sort of potential terrorists or something because they don't do what the MAFIAA says, you have the Patriot Act and other incredibly unconstitutional things that allow all sorts of surveillance because a bunch of psychopaths and a huge industry behind the security apparatus likes it, you see serious environmental violations because some huge oil conglomerates and other base industries pay enough for it, you have a completely broken health system and outrageously expensive medicine because some big pharma industries say so... What were we expecting from a Government that not only disregards entirely what is good for the citizenry but often holds total contempt towards said citizens?

This shouldn't be a surprise as much as a reason for going Baltimore/Ferguson/etc on your Government. Sadly, it is happening everywhere in different clothings.

Next, we head to our big post about rethinking moderation in terms of protocols, not platforms. GMacGuffin shared his own story of developments in exactly that area:

I went to a presentation last night by the guys building OpenBazaar.org. It will be a decentralized P2P marketplace utilizing bitcoin (for now). They are building the open source core, that like bitcoin core, can be built upon by anyone. Users download the core program, and they are their own server and can sell anything they want directly to anyone else they want. If they want to use cloud servers to handle load, fine. If they want to build their own storefront on core, groovy, here's the API.

OpenBazaar's Brian Hoffman kept being asked if they would be adding this or that feature. Answer, probably not. Let other devs do that. The core features will be pretty standard: ratings, comments, friends. They are specifically staying out of being any kind of middleman in the traditional sense, to avoid any of the liability issues.

AND, if you want moderation, you can pay a bit for a neutral moderator/arbitrator to act as multisig escrow, or resolve disputes, etc. Anyone can do that job too, they'll be rated like the rest, so reputation matters.

If you want a curated space, they'll be available. Or build one. If you want to dive into the wild unregulated jungle, that will be there too. If you want to build an ad-based OpenBazaar search engine, awesome. It's brilliant.

Also there were some folks from blocktech.com, who are building Alexandria -- essentially the same concept for digital works, rather than goods.

Decentralized protocols are coming, and fast, because these people really want to build something that the govt. cannot shut down, because it's nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

(... this question always happens: "Don't you feel a moral obligation to keep people from using it for human trafficking?" Er, it's useful software; if others use it for bad, we can't stop that. [Auto makers aren't liable for drunk drivers either.])

Aside: Tech issues preclude this working on Tor, so if you're going to use it for bad, the IP address will be broadcast anyway, for now.

Over on the funny side, it's no surprise that we start out with a response to Comcast's absurdly expensive two-gigabit offering. DannyB used four adjacent links to remind us that there's more to life than price:

Please consider the value you are getting with Comcast

Comcast may be more expensive than Google fiber, but at least you are getting Comcast's Award Winning customer service. That kind of recognition doesn't come easily, or for free.

Next, we've got an excellent summing up of the story of Newegg, which politely nudged a judge towards issuing an extremely late ruling, only to be chastised for it. Mason Wheeler scored another second place win:

Counsel: Be careful with all this; the judges around here don't like being pestered.
Newegg: *waits 2 years* ...Mandamus, please?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we'll loop back to two previous stories. First, Uriel-238 caught the critical detail about that dastardly Laura Poitras:

Did you not read the article? Ms. Poitras' Threat Score was 400 out of 400 points. You can't get threatier than that! Maximum Threatiness! That's the equivilant of a terrorist with standing orders, bombs, weapons and supplies at her disposal already available to her at the target site, and a plan B in case things go awry!

Poitras is a Modesty Blaise, Emily Pollifax, Felicity Flint and Sarah Walker open-faced sandwich topped with Cammie Morgan sauce with a side of Agent 99 and a bottomless cup of Cate Archer. At 400/400, she's a master infiltrator, agent provocateur, skilled saboteur, proficient in disguise and skilled in the secret ninja arts of Shiatjitsu.

I mean, compare her to all the other 400/400 threats on the list and it all makes sense.

They were right not to trust her with a pen. Unarmed she could kill everyone in the room in slow motion before the first victim hit the floor. She's the arch-nemesis of Jack Bauer, no less.

And finally, we've got an anonymous commenter who noted the critical (or at least implied) small-print on Comcast's new high-speed offering:

Fees of up to $ARM for installation and up to $LEG for activation apply.

That's all for this week, folks!

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

This Week In Techdirt History: July 12th - 18th

from the moore's-law dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, we had lots of followups on stories from last week and other recent developments. We took a closer look at the constitutional analysis of the huge copyright awards in the Tenenbaum case, and saw the first post-Bilski patent appeal reject a software patent. Meanwhile, UK newspapers were responding to Prince's bizarre anti-internet rant, and Larry Lessig was responding to ASCAP's anti-Creative Commons stance by challenging the boss to a debate.

The RIAA was up to all sorts of nonsense, too. Despite the recording industry being in freefall, the association's bosses were getting huge raises; perhaps that's no surprise from an organization with such wacky, self-serving accounting that even major label musicians rarely make money. Then again, some back-of-the-envelope math shows that the RIAA spent $17.6-million on lawsuits to get $391,000 in settlements. As for the voices in the crowd, they were mixed: though the composer who spent last week debating a teenager was sticking to his guns about filesharing, former Pink Floyd manager Peter Jenner was admitting that it can't be stopped; and at least one record label head was looking towards a future where artists and labels embark on joint ventures. The WSJ was highlighting the problems of 'permission culture', while more people were beginning to realize that copyright serves middlemen, not creators.

On the ACTA front, EU negotiators were presenting the deal to parliament... in secret to the point that even US intellectual property groups were getting nervous. The negotiators ignored their promises of transparency and made no move towards releasing a draft publicly, but of course that didn't matter because it was immediately leaked, teaching us a lot of interesting details. Brazil, meanwhile, was looking at copyright reform that would impose penalties for hindering fair use or the public domain, while we were looking at the possibility of Bolivia opting out of Berne and WIPO altogether.

Ten Years Ago

Hot on the heels of the Grokster ruling, this week in 2005 the recording industry was already pushing to expand (and abuse) the definition of inducement. It was also pushing the line that piracy is dominated by organized crime syndicates, who apparently still offer better service than the legal Napster foisted upon (and ignored by) university students. Perhaps they'd soon declare Amazon a syndicate too, what with it moving into the on-demand DVD printing world. In the Netherlands, at least, ISPs were saved from having to hand info over to the industry, though in Australia a judge decided that even linking to MP3s is illegal.

In a long-anticipated test of all sorts of internet law, the Internet Archive was sued after material from it was used as evidence in a lawsuit. Of course, Canada appeared to be considering a new law that would effectively ban the Internet Archive (not to mention Google) altogether.

Fifteen Years Ago

Five years before Napster was legal, crappy and being foisted upon students, it was in a nebulous zone between lawsuits. Musicians were complaining about it with a national advertising campaign, while its famed enemy Lars Ulrich was making his case to Congress — but both seemed to be missing the point. At the same time, despite all this and its legal woes, Napster's traffic was up.

Many people would say we still haven't totally figured out cellphone etiquette today, so you can imagine the conversation in 2000. To paraphrase an old saying, "we can put a living capsule into orbit, but we can't figure out how to use cellphones politely?" (Of course, regarding that, we were also realizing that living in space is dangerous in more ways than one.)

Also in 2000: people were grappling with the definition of the (now-chic) geek, searching for yourself online was still considered egotistical, cutting-edge gaming industry technology was being applied in lots of other places, and of course we had the obligatory concerns about internet dependancy.

Forty-Seven Years Ago

In the history of computing, it's impossible to deny the pivotal role that Intel has played. I'd estimate that about 99% of everything I've ever done on any kind of computer has involved an Intel chip, and that's true for a lot of people. Well, it was today in 1968 that Intel Corporation was founded in Mountain View, California.

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Posted on Innovation - 18 July 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Made With Creative Commons

from the no-silver-bullet dept

The last several weeks have focused on tech and gadgets, but this week we're taking a break from that to look at a project I know will interest a lot of folks here at Techdirt. Instead of running down "The Good" and "The Bad", let's just explore why the new crowdfunded book Made With Creative Commons could be a great addition to the conversation about culture in the digital age.

For years, we've repeatedly brought up the fact that there's no silver bullet business model for creators in the digital age, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to make money. We've also been pointing out countless creator success stories, and virtually all of them are based on some highly original or custom-tailored approach to monetizing work. Many of those stories have been met with complaints that they aren't replicable, but that's exactly the point: without a silver bullet, every creator needs to figure out what business model works for them, not just copy what has (or hasn't) worked for others.

The folks behind Made With Creative Commons are acutely aware of this idea. The book aims to catalogue a huge list of artists and creators who are successfully making a living online with their creativity while keeping their work open and shareable, and take a closer look at exactly how they are doing it. This can serve two purposes: a source of business inspiration and ideas for other creators, and a resource for open culture supporters in the ongoing debate about copyright and control. In that latter sense, it's like a more thorough version of the link-laden paragraphs you've seen us deploy here on Techdirt from time to time, whenever a successful creator is called a 'fluke':

Of course, these days there are an awful lot of flukes. Like this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one. And that's just a few that I remembered and could easily look up, rather than any sort of representative sample. But they're all flukes.

Backers of the project also get to cast votes for creators who they think should be included, and then of course the final product will itself be released under a Creative Commons license. But with less four weeks to go, the project still has a considerable amount of funds to raise in order to hit its goal — so if you'd like to see a book like this in production, or have strong opinions about who deserves to be featured inside, head on over to the project page and show your support.

4 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 14 July 2015 @ 12:45pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 33: Reddit And The Challenges Of Building A Business Out Of A Community

from the downvote-of-confidence dept

Reddit is a prime example of the explosive growth of online communities — and recently it's become a prime test case for the huge challenges such growth brings, especially for those who are trying to use it as the foundation for a successful company. This week we discuss some of those challenges that sit at the intersection of community and business, both in terms of popular examples like Reddit and personal experiences as both members and builders of online communities.

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 - 12 July 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the crossover-hits dept

It's been a while since we've had a week with this much crossover between the insightful and funny categories. First, we've got our first place comment for insightful that also came in third on the funny side — an anonymous response to James Comey's ongoing insistence that "American ingenuity is great, so I don't really believe all these computer science experts who say that it's 'too hard' to give the government access. I think they haven't really tried":

American ingenuity is great, so I don't really believe all these FBI directors who say that it's "too hard" to catch all the bad guys. I think they haven't really tried.

Meanwhile, our second place comment for insightful is also our second place comment for funny. It's another anonymous one, in response to that very same story:

Sounds like James Comey would blame the mathematicians for not trying hard enough when they say they cannot make 2+2=5;

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll continue the trend with two more anonymous comments. First up, it's a response to Spain's new police-state law outlawing protests and dissent:

When you have to legislate respect towards authority, that's an admission that you no longer have it.

Next, it's a comment about the new Hulu-exclusive South Park deal and Matt Stone's bizarre attitude towards technology, pointing out what moves like this usually mean for the art form as a whole:

Well, they are leaving the field free for the next generation of cartoon creators to use the Internet to become even more famous than they were. The next generation several advantages, like free software for creating their cartoons, computers than can deal with the rendering, and a well known distribution channel called youtube. All the next generation of cartoonist have to worry about is telling their stories, and attracting their audience.

Over on the funny side, our first place comment comes in response to India's Aadhaar identity number system, which aims for universal coverage of India's 1.2-billion people. Brent Ashley coyly called out our writer in "support" of such a system:

Will the real Glyn Moody please stand up

"Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+"

So many identities. It would be so much easier if you just gave us your Aadhaar

We've already had our second place funny comment above, so now on to editor's choice, where we start with Baron von Robber's response to the MPAA's attempt to argue that leaked Sony emails should remain privileged:

If there is one thing Hollywood is good at is make-believe.

Finally, since we started with a string of anonymous comments, we'll end with one more. This time it's in response to New Zealand's new and highly problematic law against cyberbullying which, if parsed correctly, has a highly appropriate name:

"Harmful Digital Communications Act"

Well named. Presumably "harmful" modifies "Act" rather than "communications".

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 11 July 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: July 5th - 11th

from the lost-history dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, the Joel Tenenbaum continued to echo the Jammie Thomas case as a judge declared the damages to be unconstitutionally excessive. Meanwhile, a heated online debate about file sharing broke out between a teenager and a composer, with at least one music/media professor taking the right side. The never-normal Prince was making bold proclamations about the death of music and the internet, and Kara Swisher was taking his side, while we wondered just how many 'significant blows' against file sharing it would take to make any kind of difference.

We were also fresh out of one of the DHS' big domain seizure rounds, and discovering that they wanted to go after The Pirate Bay and Megaupload as well. Snoop Dogg was sued for sampling while the band Men At Work was ordered to pay 5% of all earnings on 'Down Under' to the publisher of an old folk tune — great examples of the sort of creative interference that doesn't happen in the copyright-free world of food. At least 'Hollywood Accounting' was starting to lose in the courts, while the Washington Post was recognizing how crazy Summit Entertainment can be about Twilight IP. A lawsuit was underway that explored the boundaries of Creative Commons, while we explored some nuances of using free as part of a business model — just don't tell that to the financial columnist who lectured a bunch of little kids for running a free lemonade stand.

Ten Years Ago

The iPhone was still two years out, but the rumors that Apple would be entering the phone business in some big, mysterious way had already been long-circulating, and resurfaced this week in 2005. SOPA was still six years out, but the German recording industry was already onto the idea of poisoning the DNS to block file sharing. The age of MMORPGS was already well underway, and we discovered the strange new industry of real sweatshops farming virtual goods. And people were beginning to realize just how little digital memories fade (even if you want them to).

The EU Parliament faced the question of software patents this week in 2005, and threw out the whole idea with a landslide vote. Back home, supporters of the Broadcast Flag were taking a sneakier approach to dealing with legislators and the public, obfuscating the facts like crazy. That kind of constant obfuscation is how you end up with people who completely fail to understand the difference between trademark and copyright.

A lot of people were focused on 'mobile music'... to a fault, in fact. Some were just worried about mobile phone etiquette in the office. Others were tracking the predicted blog bubble and debating the legality of open Wi-Fi. Amidst all this, though, one huge and sad story swept through the world: the London subway bombings, which served as a tragic coming-of-age event for the internet as news media.

Fifteen Years Ago

It was very quiet on Techdirt this week in 2000, but apparently we didn't stop posting entirely for the 4th of July holiday, especially since Techdirt was getting a bunch of new traffic from being voted 'Cool Stop on the Internet'. Meanwhile, this was still a time of great uncertainty in Silicon Valley, but it was starting to sort itself out: the IPO market clearly hadn't died entirely and a bunch of upcoming IPOs were from companies that were actually profitable, even as major dotcom failures were hurting partners like PR firms and law firms. Unfortunately some entrepreneurs were pulling deceptive tricks to catch the eyes of VCs — perhaps lending some credence to UK residents, who trusted old names more than flashy new dotcoms.

Tech adoption in the world was rapid and only accelerating. Mobile phone penetration kept blasting through more and more key threshholds, while we heard some of the first rumblings of the now-ubiquitous "camera phone". On the flipside, a lot of companies were struggling to accept and respond to online customer inquiries, while students were proving nervous about online college applications which felt a little too much like dropping your future into the void.

Seventy-Eight Years Ago

Film buffs, historians and fans of American culture will all feel a pang of sadness at mention of the Fox vault fire, which happened on July 9th, 1937 when canisters of nitrate film spontaneously combusted and destroyed the only copies of virtually every silent film Fox had made up to that date. It was a staggering loss for the history of cinema, and today we have only snippets and low-quality copies of a handful of the lost films — just enough to give us a taste of everything we're missing.

Today, of course, there's absolutely no good reason for something like this to ever happen again: new films, music, books, photographs and other forms of content can be stored digitally in thousands or millions of places, such that nothing short of the total breakdown of society could wipe them out. And yet the sad truth is that we haven't taken full advantage of this capability: all over the world, committed archivists are being blocked in their efforts by copyright laws, DRM and a general ownership mentality. Right now there are old films rotting in vaults — or getting ready to explode in their canisters — while historians line up outside only to be denied entry. So in truth there are only two things that can destroy our cultural heritage in the digital era: the total breakdown of society, and copyright law.

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Posted on Innovation - 11 July 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: A Mesh Network For Your Things

from the never-forget dept

Plenty of people have tried to market various devices for keeping track of your keys or never losing your wallet, but they've tended towards the cumbersome and gimmicky, and have always been pretty limited in their function. This week, we're taking a look at a much cooler approach to the same problem: little computers called Trakkies that attach to your things and link them all up in a mesh network.

The Good

Trakkies are a great example of innovation at work. The problem — people losing their keys, forgetting their bags, etc. — has an obvious solution in a world of wireless technology, but implementing that solution in a functional and stylish way that makes people say "wow, I want that" is another challenge altogether. Trakkies go beyond a simple proximity or location system, and instead make all your stuff smart. The little node tags come in two sizes, each with a bunch of sensors and a big configurable button; they locate each other and form a mesh network with Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, and begin learning what you bring with you and when. Your wallet can warn you if you're leaving the house without your keys, and vice versa — or you can tap the button on any one tag to find out if all the others are with you. The associated mobile app is optional (a beautiful thing) and brings your phone into the mesh network without the need for an an attached node tag, plus provides additional tools like looking up the last known location of all your tags on a map.

The network can communicate with lots of other smart devices and can be hooked into IFTTT for programmable behaviours based on a wide variety of factors. And the buttons on each node can be set up with context-sensitive functions — so the button on your coat could be set to tell you if your phone isn't with you, but serve as a music skip control if it is; it could check for your wallet and keys when you're getting off the bus, but turn on and off your smart lightbulbs when you're at home. Trakkies take a big leap beyond solving a simple problem, and actually spark excitement about the new things they could enable.

The Bad

Truthfully, at this stage, I don't have much bad to say about this project. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes. The price isn't cheap, but it isn't prohibitive either, and the designers have made what I'd consider all the right choices. The "internet of things" has been looming on the horizon for some time now, and a device like this could represent a meaningful step in that direction.

The Background

There's an interesting bit of backstory to the Trakkies on the Kickstarter page: the whole thing actually started as a software pursuit. The original team was a research company at European Space Agency BIC, and was focused entirely on the data science and machine learning aspects of the project. The switch to a focus on hardware only came when the team realized that nobody was making hardware capable of doing what they wanted their software to do. That's the path innovation often takes, and beautifully illustrative of the fact that the simplest problems — people sometimes forget their keys — can yield the most interesting and groundbreaking solutions.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 7 July 2015 @ 12:40pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 32: Are Smart Watches The New Calculator Watches?

from the wristbound-innovation dept

Smart watches are among the hottest gadgets du jour, but do they live up to the hype? Their adoption hasn't been even remotely on par with smartphones, and reactions from those who have used them are mixed — but that doesn't mean they're useless or have zero appeal. So, does this dubious trend have a future, or are smart watches a dumb idea? Update: And just like that, reports are out that the sales of the Apple Watch have been disappointing.

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 - 5 July 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the trump-cards dept

This week, the MPAA unveiled some new anti-piracy ads that are targeted (of course) at people who have already paid to go see a movie. Vincent Clement won most insightful comment of the week by underlining just how backwards this is:

It's interesting that at no point does the RIAA or movie studio every THANK people for paying to see the movie or for buying the DVD or digital file.

Even a used car salesman will shake your hand when you buy a vehicle.

Meanwhile, as we continued our discussion of the Uber crackdown in France, one commenter brought out the disingenuous argument that this is is really all about knowing that you're insured when taking a cab. Senor Space Beans won second place for insightful by putting that notion to bed:

It's funny, my state government checks to see if I have insurance before issuing my drivers licence. It doesn't cost six figures to perform said check. The license doesn't provide the insurance; it stipulates that you have insurance.

Taxi Licenses in Paris cost so much because legacy taxi companies lobbied to have them raised to prevent any new comers from elbowing in on their market share. They've created their own problem and nobody's talking about it because it's easier to blame someone else when you've failed to innovate.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to the FCC commissioner's apparent view that broadband isn't all that important. Seegras had a solid theory on just how he could be so wrong:

Secretary Syndrome

Some people don't even realise they're dependant on the internet, because they have all their staff doing the work -- depending on the internet -- on their behalf.

Next, we circle back to the MPAA's anti-piracy ads, where one commenter suggested there's nothing movie studios could that the Techdirt community would approve of or appreciate. DannyB chimed in with a list of counter-examples:

You are wrong. But you are too blind to see it.

Here are a dozen things the movie industry could do.

1. Quit focusing on Google which has absolutely nothing to do with piracy.
2. Go after actual infringers. With proof. Using due process. You know, the site hosting infringing content. Free Clue: if you take those down, then those sites don't appear in Google. (and other search engines!)
3. Quit trying to use copyright as a censorship tool.
4. Quit trying to create laws the impose liability upon everyone except the actual infringers.
5. Try making movies that I actually want to see. (There is exactly one movie this summer that I am interested in seeing -- this is the first time in several years. This new stupid anti-piracy ad for three minutes is giving me 2nd thoughts.)
6. If you want to actually help the hard working people you feature in your anti piracy ad, then get rid of Hollywood Accounting.
7. Quit complaining about the Creative Commons license.
8. If I buy a DVD (or CD) I should own either a piece of plastic that costs virtually nothing to produce, or I should own a licensed copy that allows me to very cheaply replace the worn piece of plastic. Or have reasonable backup policies. Most people are honest. But you'll never see this.
9. Quit trying to destroy the public domain. Quit trying to re-copyright it.
10. Quit extending copyright.
11. In short, quit abusing copyright.
12. Quit trolling TechDirt

Extra freebie:

13. Get your head out of the sand. Quit being stuck in the past. See the future. Technology is your friend. It always has been historically even when you fought it kicking and screaming.

Over on the funny side, we start out on a recent patent trolling story, this time involving newly-formed company Wetro Lan, LLC. Beltorak noticed something about that name, and I'm not even entirely sure it's a coincidence:

wait wait wait wait

are you serious?? a patent troll called "We Trollin"??? How is this not some form of high satire?

oh yeah, cause they're serious :-/

Next, in response to Donald Trump's defamation lawsuit over an Instagram photo that put his face next to Dylan Roof's, one anonymous comment's second-place win shows just how much people can't stand Trump:

About that side-by-side picture- between the two of them, why is Trump the one suing?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we'll start by heading back to the MPAA anti-piracy ads one more time, since one anonymous commenter discovered something hilarious when he tried to watch:

I don't usually go to the movies but I still wanted to see what these commercials are about, so I clicked the links.

"This content is not available in your region."

Huh, I guess they only want people in the United States to stop pirating.

Finally, every now and then we get a comment that is a complete satirical re-imagining of a famous work. Truth be told, a lot of them don't seem all that inspired — but DannyB deserves a second nod this week for his opus, How the Cable TV stole Internet Streaming:

Every Who on the Internet liked Netflix a lot...
But the Cable who lived north of Internet, Did NOT!
The Cable HATED Netflix, the whole TV streaming!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his greed was too tight.
But the reason most likely for the copyright pigs
May have been that their ego was six sizes too big.

Whatever the reason, Their heart or their greed,
They stood on the precipice of Cable TV.
Staring down from their cave with a sour, greedy fret,
At the warm lighted screens all over the Internet.

For they knew down on the Internet
Every Who they could see
Was watching Netflix original series
Instead of Cable TV!

And that new streaming content! cable snarled with a sneer,
Streaming TV is popular, it is practically here!
Then they growled with their long fingers nervously drumming,
"I MUST find some way to stop the Streaming from coming!"

For in the future cable knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would be watching on smart phones, their tablets, gadgets and toys!

Then they got an idea! An awful idea!
The Cable got a horrible, awful idea!
"I know just what to do!" The Cable laughed like a brute.
I'll call my lawyers", they snarled, "to file a lawsuit!"

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 4 July 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: June 28th - July 4th

from the it's-all-relative dept

Five Years Ago

Last week, we recalled on ASCAP's attack on Creative Commons. This week in 2010, its own members lashed out at it in response. EFF, Public Knowledge and Creative Commons itself all politely responded to the attack, while we noted that the music publishing industry in general has a bad habit of aggression towards consumer's groups and those who respect individual rights.

The Swedish Pirate Party was seeking to host The Pirate Bay from inside the Swedish parliament, while Dutch ISPs were fighting against demands that they block the site entirely, even as Dutch public television was experimenting with BitTorrent distribution. Meanwhile, the pilot of TV show Pioneer One was released on BitTorrent and quickly raised $20,000 do create more episodes.

The Supreme Court's Bilski Ruling came out, narrowly allowing software and business model patents to survive while dropping plenty of hints that the court was against software patents in the long run. The IEEE, on the other hand, just celebrated.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2005, there were two other expected and fairly predictable rulings from the Supreme Court: Grokster and Brand X. Sweden was putting a bad file-sharing law into effect while a Taiwanese court ruled that file-sharing software is completely legal. The EU wanted an EU-wide licensing scheme for music downloads, former RIAA boss Hilary Rosen realized that these victories might not be victories and at least one record label surprised us by not blaming technology for its problems. Warner Brothers, on the other hand, was still actively rebelling against new business models, while UK residents were discovering that their home VHS copies were the only remaining records of shows the BBC never kept.

Newspapers were having fun making pointless and/or obvious observations about the digital age, like the fact that online directions are sometimes wrong, or that user-created content is popular, or that giant would-you-rather studies about technology yield weird results.

Fifteen Years Ago

Five years before that, the New York Times was already criticizing geeks while lexicographers were struggling to agree on the correct spelling of "dot-com" (or .com or dotcom or...) A former top music exec was pointing out that file-sharing can't be stopped, while a current top music exec was insisting he'll crush digital music sites entirely.

Some high-profile outages also rocked the web this week in 2000: Yahoo! went down when a fiber line was severed, United Airlines' website disappeared for most of a morning, and most shocking of all, a glitch took down Techdirt's front page for an hour and a half.

One-Hundred And Ten Years Ago

We've had lots of technology history lately, so this week let's take a break for some science history. It was on June 30th, 1905 that the Annalen der Physik science journal received Albert Einstein's paper On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, which established the theory of special relativity. The universe would never be the same again.

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Posted on Innovation - 3 July 2015 @ 12:00pm

Awesome Stuff: Supplying The R For VR

from the look-all-around dept

A few weeks ago, we featured the Gloveone and talked about the growing market for supplemental virtual reality devices. We also talked about the coming VR future on this week's podcast episode. But there's another half of the VR world we haven't talked a lot about: the capture and creation of VR environments. This week, we're looking at the Sphericam 2, a 360-degree 4k camera.

The Good

As VR devices like the Oculus Rift become more popular, there's going to be a huge thirst for content — and in this everyone-is-a-creator world, a huge thirst for content-making tools, too. Though much of the excitement has been around video games and from-scratch environments, there are also plenty of compelling things to be done with material captured the real world. For that, you need an elaborate multi-camera setup — or a device like the Sphericam. It's tiny (about the size of a tennis ball), rugged and full-featured, and requires no special knowledge to capture 360-degree footage which can then be converted to a navigable VR environment. It's basically a GoPro combined with a Google Street View car, and that's pretty cool. For the videophile, it has solid specs: 60fps raw video at 4096x2048 resolution, on six cameras with no blind spots.

The Bad

There's really only one major drawback here, and that's the price. At $1500 plus shipping, it's not something that's going to find its way into everyone's pocket overnight. That's not to say the price is unfair — given the amount of technology packed into the device, it seems at least reasonable, but for the time being it remains an obstacle. Still, just like the VR devices themselves, it's likely that things like the Sphericam will only get more and more accessible as time goes on.

The User Generated

This is the part that's really exciting and interesting about devices like this. Today, it's simply no longer enough to release a new means of consuming content to the world — it needs to come with ways of creating that content. The world of virtual reality will have no multi-decade gap between early "professional only" days and later "everyone's in on it" days, like photography or film or recorded music — the two will arrive almost simultaneously, with content coming from a huge spectrum from amateur to professional and everything in between. Devices like the Sphericam are paving the way for this, demonstrating that even something cutting-edge like virtual reality can and will be adopted by creators of all classes. It's going to be an interesting future in more ways than one.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 30 June 2015 @ 12:41pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 31: Closing In On Virtual Reality

from the it's-virtually-a-reality! dept

The promise of virtual reality has been teasing us since the late 60s, and yet it never seems to arrive in a fully realized form, and often gets relegated to the realm of mockery. Recently, however, VR (and its cousin, augmented reality) is back in a big way, with flagship products like the Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens taking the spotlight, backed up by dozens of other contributions from Google Cardboard to our recent Awesome Stuff feature, the Gloveone. To discuss this exciting trend, we're joined by erstwhile Techdirt writer Carlo Longino who, along with regular co-host Dennis Yang, attended this year's E3 conference and tried out a bunch of new offerings on the VR market.

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 Innovation - 30 June 2015 @ 10:37am

Help Copia Draft A Statement Of Innovation Principles

from the promoting-innovation dept

Last week, we announced the new website for the Copia Institute and talked about our philosophy of hacking policy through innovation, not lobbying. This week, we're inviting everyone to get involved in one example of this philosophy in action.

In this world of rapid technological innovation, nobody can truly claim their efforts stand alone. Everything is built upon previous innovations, and everyone benefits from those who took a pro-innovation stance when building their businesses and technologies. Today, everyone bears some of the responsibility for ensuring that we continue to promote innovation rather than stymie it, and it’s to that end that Copia is creating the Statement of Innovation Principles: a clear, robust statement for innovative companies to sign on to, laying out a variety of principles they intend to uphold in order to promote future innovation, ranging from how they deal with data and intellectual property to how they structure their APIs and developers’ kits.

We started this project in March at our 2015 Inaugural Summit, where we presented an initial version of the statement to a roundtable of General Counsels from innovative companies, then opened up a revised draft for discussion with everyone present. There were lots of interesting points raised at the summit, and you can watch the full roundtable discussion for some background on the project:

Based on all the comments and ideas from the summit we've made another round of revisions to the Statement, and we have now published the updated draft and are seeking feedback from the public. We've included some notes on key questions that were raised at the Summit and which we feel deserve further discussion, as well as a list of possible additional principles that were proposed but haven't yet been adopted into the complete list. We'd really love the community here at Techdirt to get involved, since we know you have a deep understanding of and interest in these issues, so we hope you'll head over to the project page on the Copia site where you can read the current draft and leave comments on individual points or the document as a whole. We look forward to hearing what you have to say, and will be incorporating the feedback into a new draft later this year.

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Posted on Techdirt - 28 June 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the riots-and-retorts dept

One story in particular captured the readers' imagination when it comes to insight this week. As European taxi drivers went crazy over Uber, our readers chimed in, with JustShutUpAndObey taking first place with a simple recounting of personal experience:

I've been using Uber and Lyft for the last two weeks due to car trouble and love it for these reasons:

1. Drivers (and passengers) have both been pre-vetted by Uber. If either of us tries to rob the other, we WILL be caught.
2. No money changes hands (cash or credit)- Uber already has my credit card (the driver doesn't) and will charge me. The driver doesn't have to worry about me dashing without paying, and I don't have to worry about being charged a "funny" last minute amount.
3. Drivers are rated by passengers and I can decline a ride if the driver has a lower rating.
4. Passengers are also rated, and drivers can decline them too. There is an incentive for both parties to be polite.
5. The App: This is a much bigger advantage than is usually noted: I can see how far away the driver is, I can see his car moving on the map, along with the estimate of how many minutes. Once picked up, I can continuously monitor our progress.
6. Because Uber and Lyft use similar apps, I can check both to see who is closest BEFORE I request a pickup.

In addition to those points, all drivers (about a dozen so far) have been prompt, had very clean cars, and have known and taken the most efficient route. In contrast, last time I called for a cab, they took an hour and a half to arrive, despite telling me numerous times they were 5 minutes away.

Feeling sorry for taxi drivers is like feeling sorry for telemarketers: I do, but only a very little bit.

Second places comes from an anonymous commenter on the same post, breaking down the real meaning of what we're seeing:

They aren't flipping cars because they're worried about losing. They're flipping cars because they've already lost. They aren't trying to affect change. Not really. They're venting frustration. The whole scene makes a lot more sense in that context.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more comment from that post. Roger Strong both added some cultural perspective, and made a sad but solid prediction about the future:

France is a country where bossnappings - strikers kidnapping their bosses and holding them hostage - is a time-honored negotiating tactic. Protests by truckers, farmers, students make the Uber one look like a strongly worded memo.

Come back in five or ten years. The Uber drivers will be flipping and burning the self-driving cars that replace them.

Next, we pivot to a piece of EU copyright reform that involves stricter regulations on outdoor photography that might catch copyrighted material. Every time something like this has come up, it's seemed like a somewhat entitled concern, and MadAsASnake spells out the simple reason why:

Quite frankly, if they don't want it photographed, don't put it in view of the public.

Over on the funny side, first place goes to guest writer Bas Grasmayer. In response to his excellent piece about the need for artists to "sell features, not songs", one commenter insisted that he not "tell artists what to do". Bas racked up lots of funny votes with a short, sharp retort:

Don't tell me what to do.

For second place, we head to the bizarre story of Tumblr complying with the DMCA takedown requests of a self-proclaimed alien channeller (or some insane thing to that effect). Though the complainant was clearly questionable, Roger Strong made a good observation:

Still more credible than Rightscorp.

For editor's choice on the funny side, our first selection comes in response to the Supreme Court's use of a Spider-Man quote in a ruling against royalties on expired patents. One anonymous commenter made another prediction:

Next up: Supreme court sued for copyright infringement by Marvel.

Finally, we return to the story of the European taxi drivers, who our headline accused of losing "Their Collective Mind". This prompted another anonymous commenter to stick up for the land of liberty:

Damn collectivists
In America, they'd lose their minds individually, not as part of some collective.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 June 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: June 21st - 27th

from the decent! dept

Five Years Ago

These were the early days of the Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning affair, but apart from that, this week in 2010 was mostly like the last: jam-packed with activity on the copyright front. BPI was sending takedowns to Google in what appeared to be part of a broader plan, while the IFPI was trying to get the search giant to stop linking to The Pirate Bay entirely. German newspaper publishers were seeking copyright on headlines, while up in Canada the Heritage Minister called those who oppose stricter copyright law radical extremists (and then denied it, only to find out it was caught on video). The major labels were busy astroturfing in favor of three-strikes while trying to avoid paying songwriters, and ASCAP was demonizing Creative Commons.

We got one very bad ruling this week in 2010, when an appeals court said it's okay to take stuff out of the public domain and put it back under copyright. We also got a very good one when the court ruled in favor of YouTube in the Viacom lawsuit. Of course, that battle was far from over, but for the time being Viacom was in denial about the result while we wondered what its true implications were. The White House released its strategic plan for intellectual property and it wasn't as bad as we expected, but were disappointed to learn that the administration had pivoted from supporting copyright exceptions for the blind to fighting against them. Meanwhile, lots of researchers and other people were trying to tell the true story: how weaker copyright benefits culture and society, how the lack of fair use coverage for satire stifles free speech, how the recording industry made file-sharing much worse for itself, how there's no evidence that kicking people offline for file-sharing is in any way necessary, and how things like the Digital Economy Act and ACTA will stifle creativity.

Ten Years Ago

Much that was happening in 2005 this week mirrors what was happening in 2010. Canada was grappling with an earlier round of copyright reform, America's Copyright Czar was proposing major changes that were potentially good and potentially bad, and lines were being clearly drawn between the camps for sharing and owning culture. The recording industry was trying out a too-little-too-late plan to compete with unauthorized file-sharing, but it was the MPAA that was really up to no good: it tried to sneak broadcast flag legislation into the law, and then made some grandiose claims about its anti-piracy successes (then, when called on the numbers, tried to explain them away as hypothetical future piracy). Even the FTC was starting to see through Hollywood's anti-file-sharing claims (and so were the kids), while we revisited the ways the fashion industry thrives without copyright.

Also this week in 2005, the EU was moving forwards on software patents despite the fact that the politicians voting for it didn't understand the difference between patents and copyright. We got one great example of the ridiculousness of such patents too, when Apple was sued over the iTunes interface.

Fifteen Years Ago

In 2000, the file-sharing debate was just as heated but far more streamlined, with almost everything focused on the still-prominent Napster, which had just hired the government's lead attorney in the Microsoft case. One independent band, meanwhile, launched StopNapster.com — though on the other hand, the Economist was rightly pointing out that Napster is a wake-up call and proof that online distribution is feasible. Some companies were trying more "creative" offerings, like gas pumps that let you download music while you fill up, and the world drew closer and closer to the iPod with the advent of the first 1GB portable media player hard drive.

NASA announced that it had, for some reason, perfected porn-blocking software. It hadn't, and neither had anybody else who tried. The Librarian of Congress displayed his cluelessness about the internet, while Microsoft was airing a bizarre media campaign starring Bill Gates. The EU was setting up to probe the AOL/Time Warner merger, Sony was getting ready to storm the mobile phone market, and Kmart was making yet another attempt at getting online.

Forty & Eighteen Years Ago

This week, we look at two interesting milestones in the history of free speech in the US, and more specifically one of its most complex and storied wrinkles: obscenity and indecency. First, it was on June 26th, 1975 that the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Miller v. California, establishing the three-prong "Miller Test" for obscene (and thus unprotected) speech. It requires that all three conditions be satisfied:

  • Whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards", would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  • Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Two decades later, a related law hit the scene: the Communications Decency Act. When it gets brought up here at Techdirt, it's mostly with regards to the Section 230 safe harbors, which have had an impact far beyond the subject of "decency". But the Act's original primary purpose was to protect children from seeing bad stuff online, and much of this has been struck down or altered since, with one notable date being June 26th, 1997 — the same day as the establishment of the Miller Test, 22 years later — when the Supreme Court upheld the ruling in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union that the indecency provisions of the CDA were unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment.

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