Leigh Beadon’s Techdirt Profile

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About Leigh BeadonTechdirt Insider

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

Located in Toronto, Ontario.

http://twitter.com/MarcusCarab
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http://www.linkedin.com/pub/leigh-beadon/18/23a/5a2



Posted on Techdirt - 7 February 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the nothing-wrong-with-a-pun dept

This week, we balked at the amount of copyright propaganda crammed into the ESSA education reform act. That One Guy won most insightful comment of the week with his thoughts on what copyright education should actually look like (and will to perceptive students, no matter how it's presented):

Oh by all means, let's teach schoolkids more about copyright.

Let's teach them that nothing made during their lifetime will enter the public domain, if it ever does, because the laws keep getting retroactively expanded anytime it looks like something might do so. Teach them that because of this, any remixes or rehashes, fanfics or fan made films exist only at the 'generous' whims of the copyright holder, and can be crushed at any time.

Let's teach them that sharing a song, or ripping a copy for a friend to listen to, something I imagine most of them would do or have done without a thought, is not only illegal, it carries a potential fine large enough to purchase a decent car or even house, despite the fact that said songs can be bought for a buck each.

Let's teach them that the likes of the *AA's are constantly pushing the idea that it's everyone else's job to act as unpaid copyright cops, making it risky for online services like youtube to host user created content without bending over backwards to try and 'appease' copyright owners, and that if the *AA's and their like had their ways, services like youtube, VCR's, MP3 players, and anything like them, would not exist.

Let's teach them about how completely and utterly one-sided the law is, where there is no penalty for making a bogus claim that gets something taken down wrongly, and the only risk is if a site or service doesn't do so immediately.

Let's teach them that simply having a radio where anyone else can hear it is considered a 'public performance', and collection agencies will try to shake down anyone who does so, that those same collection agencies will demand payment even from businesses that don't play their music just in case they do, and that in at least one instance this has led to a collection agency demanding payment for library workers reading to children.

Indeed, let's educate schoolkids about copyright, and remove any vestiges of respect they may have otherwise had for it due to ignorance on the subject.

In second place for insightful, we've got the other "That" — That Anonymous Coward with a response to the DOJ's obvious lies in response to a FOIA request:

Its almost as if the penalties aren't enough of a deterrent. Perhaps if the money came out of the Assistant Directors paychecks & pension funds...

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with the story of former DHS boss Janet Napolitano, who deployed a secret monitoring system at the University of California. Always insightful on security issues, Rich Kulawiec expanded on just how awful this is:

Put aside for a moment the horribly unethical conduct of the personnel involved in sabotaging the privacy of faculty, staff, and students. Let's just think about this from a security standpoint.

The university has -- quite effectively -- compromised itself. There's really no need for an attacker to go through all the trouble and tedium of setting up comprehensive surveillance of university systems/networks: it's already been done for them, for free.

All they have to do is tap into the goodies, either on the campus or at the vendor. (The latter's probably easier, since they're outsiders with no professional association. A suitable bribe would probably suffice. Why not? Who would know?)

I've done IT work, including security, at several major universities over the past few decades. This is one of the most appallingly stupid things I've ever seen a campus do to itself, and there's a lot of competition for that dubious honor.

Next, we return to the story about copyright propaganda in education, where Vidiot hoped it might be possible to exploit the earnest wording of the bill:

Loophole

Good news! Paragraph E requires that such subject matter be "evidence based"... and the only evidence that supports the eveything-must-be-owned camp is MPAA/RIAA pablum. Fiction isn't evidence.

Over on the funny side, our first place comment comes in response to the ridiculous copyright situation that continues to keep footage of the first Superbowl locked away. Coogan delivered some sarcasm that hopefully didn't actually need to be denoted:

Come on guys. If this guy's allowed to infringe on the NFL's copyright by selling the tape of the first Super Bowl, then what incentive will the NFL have to produce future Super Bowls?

/s

For second place, we head to the very silly story about the owner of a photobombing horse attempting to get half of the prize for a selfie contest. We pointed out that it's since the prize is a holiday vacation, it's not exactly easy to split in half — but TechDescartes thought laterally and applied the Judgement of Solomon:

What about a one-way ticket?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we head to the perennial story about the ridiculous restrictions on referring to the "Super Bowl", which this year have targeted Key & Peele and their special broadcast that you might be watching today. HarryOScary was quick to bust out a classic and still-wonderful pun:

They might be referring to the Superb Owl. That's happening about the same time as the "Big Game."

But, PRMan was quick to up the ante:

"Big Aim" is what you need to hit the "Superb Owl".

(Admittedly, Key and Peele will probably come up with better jokes.)

That's all for this week, folks!

7 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 6 February 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: January 31st - February 6th

from the tides-of-time dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, Egypt was wracked with protests, and the government responded by shutting down the internet. China was trying to stop people from talking about the uprising while Al Jazeera was trying to spread coverage far and wide by putting it under a Creative Commons license. We took a look at the impact of the shutdown, and then later in the week Egypt finally turned it back on.

Meanwhile, in a more insidious form of internet shutdown, Homeland Security was going nuts with the domain seizures, even as its affidavits continued to expose how much it was twisting the law and raise major legal questions. The week's big seizure was Spanish website Rojadirecta, which made us wonder if there would be an exodus from US-controlled domains, not to mention how the US would react if Spain started messing with American websites. Senator Wyden was demanding an explanation, and Homeland Security was not doing a good job on that front.

Ten Years Ago

After the recent announcement that Nikon would no longer sell film cameras, it felt like yet another end of an era this week in 2006 when Western Union announced it would no longer offer telegrams. This was, after all, a brave new era of broadband weather balloons (maybe, someday) and really expensive connected ovens. Perhaps that also explains why companies were so eager to plug the analog hole with terrible technology, though the real reason was probably to squeeze out amateur creators.

Also this week in 2006: the RIAA sued yet another person without a computer, we looked at the unusual idea of applying trespass laws to computers, and we started catching on to the role of East Texas in the patent world.

Fifteen Years Ago

Rumours were flying about the acquisition of Yahoo! this week in 2001, which some thought would herald the end of the internet while others just wondered if Disney would be the buyer. Such rumours would likely make the "most popular stories" lists that news websites were just discovering. Alongside them, you might see stories of eBay hijinks, ranging from the artist who tried to sell his whole life to the scammer who sold a very literal listing of a Playstation 2 Original Box to one unlucky buyer.

Long before the Apple Watch, Timex made a watch that could check email; long before Obama's highly digital campaign, some asked if 2000 was the first "net election"; and long before smartphone-aided comparison shopping was the norm, it wasn't clear if it would ever catch on in the US where people still didn't seem to care about wireless.

One-Hundred And Thirty-Two Years Ago

The Oxford English Dictionary is the gold standard of the English language, and my personal choice of dictionary whenever possible. It was on February 1st, 1884 that the first dictionary fascicle (look it up, in a watchacallit) was published with its full title: A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by The Philological Society. Of course, it was just Volume One: A to Ant.

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Posted on Innovation - 6 February 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Updated Classics

from the what's-old-is-new dept

This week, we've got three crowdfunding projects for wonderfully inventive reimaginings of common objects that haven't changed much in a very long time.

Lumir C

Candles are a fine source of light, but what about all that wasted heat? It's a stroke of small genius to invent a device that captures it and turns it into more light — and that's exactly what this candle-powered LED lamp does. Admittedly, I'm not sure how practical or useful a device this is for most people, especially given the somewhat steep price — but there's something elegant and brilliant about the idea, as though it came from a basic frustration with entropy more than a pragmatic desire to make a consumer product — but maybe I'm giving it too much credit. Either way, it's pretty cool.

Rocketbook Wave

There are really two aspects to this notebook. The first is kind of cool: an associated app that scans and enhances the pages based on photos taken with your smartphone, and organizes them to various cloud apps based on little sorting boxes you tick with your pen. That's nothing too remarkable though. The real magic comes when it's time to empty the notebook: you put it in the microwave and all the pages come out blank. Is that a good system? How well does it work? Those are questions that are hard to answer without holding one in my hands — but it's certainly not an idea I've ever heard before, and it's nothing if not inventive.

MAGNETIPS

Okay, so this one isn't radical or mindblowing — it's just handy. I for one love fine-tipped markers, and as I look into my drawer full of a completely disorganized tangle of them, each with different colors and in different stages of life, I can't help but think that stackable, refillable, magnetically-connected markers is a pretty good idea. The markers themselves aren't much pricier than any other good quality options, and at $17 for a complete 20-color set of refills (not to mention the decreased likelihood of losing them one by one if you're like me) they could easily pay for themselves.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 2 February 2016 @ 12:45pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 59: Does The Internet Create More 'Winner Take All' Companies?

from the and-is-that-a-problem? dept

The digital world is increasingly giving rise to "winner take all" industries, where a market is all but dominated by one company and, sometimes, a single smaller competitor. Since innovation is so often driven by competition and hindered by monopolies, this is a worrying trend — but its true extent, and its implications, are hardly clear. This week, we discuss various winner take all situations and what they mean for the future of 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 - 31 January 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the lots-of-anonymity dept

This week, one of the stories that got the most response was the extreme claims by the IAB chief that using an adblocker means you hate free speech. One anonymous commenter took first place for insightful with a simple explanation of this common fallacy:

Like many people who wish to impose their views on others, he is confusing free speech with other people freedom to ignore his speech. Free speech rights do not guarantee an audience, let alone permit someone to force an audience to listen to them.

In second place, we've got a comment from TechDescartes which examines a particular statement from Kuwait regarding its mandatory DNA database:

Yet
The DNA will not be used for medical purposes, such as checking for genetic markers of disease, which will avoid issues of whether people should be told about their predisposition to possibly serious illnesses. Nor will the DNA database be used for "lineage or genealogical reasons."
Followed by the unwritten word "yet": "It won't be used for these purposes...yet."

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous response to the senators complaining about the FCC's 25 Mbps broadband standard on the basis that nobody could need that much:

I like that excuse of ever possibly need. That is something that could easily be turned right back around. Why do they need $174,000 salaries? $50,000 is more then they will ever need.

Next, we've got TKnarr with some musings on reforming the adversarial justice system:

Thought: apply an old solution. Force the state governments to fund 2 offices for prosecution and defense. An accused who cannot afford an attorney gets to pick which office will handle his defense, with the other office handling the prosecution (if the accused can afford his own attorney, the state can assign prosecution to whichever office they want). Any crossing-over between the offices during a case would result in a mandatory dismissal with prejudice of all charges. The problem should solve itself after that.

Over on the funny side, we start out with this year's perennial funny story: the monkey selfie copyright fight, which the monkey recently lost on account of being a monkey. Capt ICE Enforcer declared this a travesty of the highest order:

This is absolutely horrible. Now monkeys will not have any incentive to create masterful artworks. It was bad enough that the life of a monkey is usually less than 20 years. Which means that a monkey would only get 90 years max for copyright protections. If I was a monkey, I would go on strike. They should be compensated for all their hard work writing books, singing hit songs, and creating masterful artwork thru the use of brush and photograph. We are about to experience a new dark age.

In second place, we've got yet another anonymous comment, again in response to those broadband-fearing senators:

While we're at it, what's up with phone numbers that are 10 digits long?

PEnnslyvania 6-5000!

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start by returning to the IAB chief's anti-adblocker speech, where one anonymous commenter suggested adding an audiovisual component:

I think it would be poetic if his speech were constantly interrupted by random loud invasive ads projected on the wall behind him.

Finally, we've got Crazy Hong Kong Monkey with a response to the unfolding legal fight over the apathetic honey bear:

I guess "Honey Badger Does Care"

That's all for this week, folks!

6 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 30 January 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: January 24th - 30th

from the lots-o-lawsuits dept

Five Years Ago

There were two related incidents this week in 2011, to do with citizens in Illinois videotaping authorities. One woman was arrested and faced 15 years in prison for recording her attempt to file a report of being sexually assaulted by a police officer; meanwhile, an artist faced the same sentence for video taping his own arrest. On the flipside, in the same week, a man was acquitted of charges that came after he filmed the TSA and refused to show his ID.

The George Hotz situation was still in its early stages and unfolding slowly, but was already troubling after the judge approved an aggressive temporary restraining order requested by Sony. UFC was going after Justin.tv for inducing infringement, a Japanese court deemed overseas place-shifting of television to be infringing, and mass copyright shakedowns appeared based on Paris Hilton's sex tape and, more generally, the wide world of porn. Amidst all this, the president nominated a former top RIAA lawyer to be Solicitor General.

Ten Years Ago

Speaking of the RIAA, this week in 2006 they were pushing the new line that merely making files available is infringing, while some were predicting that their next target might be ISPs (following other trailblazers). In Canada, one record label actually stepped up to help defend a teen against the RIAA's aggressive tactics. The MPAA, for its part, exposed a serious double standard when it defended its own right to internally copy and distribute movies, even as the industry continued to push a plug for the analog hole in the form of secretive technology that nobody's allowed to examine.

Following the disastrous launch of its Video project, Google admitted its mistake (though perhaps didn't quite grasp its full scope). This came the same week that Google announced it would let the Chinese government censor results on a special version of its site — a disappointing move, though we weren't sure why congress was grandstanding about it.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, IBM was claiming to have developed "Napster-proof" DRM-laden music, Sega was getting out of the console business, the digital holdouts at The New Yorker were finally getting ready to go online, and even the smartest among us often failed to recognize the potential of mobile internet.

The Presidential turnover was marked by widespread failures on the new Whitehouse website, though perhaps they had something to do with the prank pulled by the outgoing Clinton administration: removing the "W" key from all the keyboards in the building (prompting one TV show to hold a drive to collect replacements.

Also this week in 2001: Despair.com (in)famously managed to trademark the :-( emoticon.

Thirty Years Ago

As you've likely noted, this Thurdsay was the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Back in 2011, we wrote a little about it on the 25th anniversary.

2 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Innovation - 30 January 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Celebrating Cities

from the highways-and-byways dept

This week, we're looking at a pair of crowdfunded projects for proud urbanites: artwork that celebrates our streets and cityscapes.

Microscape Models

There's no shortage of souvenirs in the name of New York City, but this project offers an incredible new way to celebrate Manhattan: 1:5000 scale 3D-printed replicas of the cityscape itself, made with unbelievable levels of accuracy from recent aerial scans. Eventually they plan to do a huge array of cities, but for now it's the big one, rendered in all its gridlocked glory. The designs are hand-tweaked to optionally include buildings under construction or still in planning. The models come as individual 6" squares which can (for a hefty total price tag of $25k) even be assembled into a complete replica city — but, just one or two are pretty damn impressive all by themselves. There are also special landmark tiles available to Kickstarter backers, focusing on spots like the Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center, and Washington Square Park.

Every Road Custom Maps

Late last year, you might have seen a map making the rounds that purported to show how every road does indeed lead to Rome. Of course, as most people noticed (including the creators), you could create the same kind of visual for any spot on the road network of any location — and that's exactly what Every Road offers. They are custom map posters generated with an address of your choice in any given city, showing all the thousands of street routes from every point of the city to your chosen spot. The results are wispy, fractal-esque versions of recognizable city maps, and no two will be identical (unless two people choose the same address). The pricing is a little odd, with high-res digital copies costing slightly more than the smallest available print size — but for those who want to save cash, there's also a $5 desktop wallpaper option.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 26 January 2016 @ 12:40pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 58: Just How Bad Is The TPP?

from the bad-or-worst? dept

There are lots of criticisms of free trade agreements, especially the fact that they go far beyond "free trade" — but the Trans-Pacific Partnership truly takes the cake. This week, we're joined by Maira Sutton, the EFF's Global Policy Analyst, to discuss the many problems with the TPP. Tellingly, this episode is nearly twice as long as usual.

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 - 24 January 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the comebacks-and-rejoinders dept

We've got another double winner this week! This time, it's That Anonymous Coward who responded to MTV's claim that it will start focusing more on music with a small prediction that scored first place for both funny and insightful:

MTV Exec walks back statement about going back to playing music after being presented with first 14 bills for rights demands bankrupt channel.

In second place on the insightful side, we've got a response to Hillary Clinton's "that's not what I've heard" comment about the tech industry's response to her ongoing demand for compromised encryption. JonC wondered where she's getting her insider info from:

Clinton said, “That is not what I've heard. Let me leave it at that.”

Hmm... Clinton shouldn't have heard anything other than what the public heard. She doesn't currently hold a public office that would give her a reason to have heard anything you or I can't. Sounds like someone may be leaking information. Obama should force her to give up her source so he can persecute, I mean prosecute, the leaker.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a double hit from frequent commenter That One Guy, who had two comments that racked up insightful votes but not quite enough to make one of the top spots. First, it's his thoughts on the entertainment industry's demands for a notice-and-staydown system:

Live by the DMCA notice, get de-listed by the DMCA notice

Much like calls for censorship should result in the ones calling for such having their speech censored first for the sake of fairness, I think if the *AA's are going to argue for notice and staydown, every single one of their links that gets accidentally tagged should be permanently removed, with stiff penalties in place to ensure that online services have plenty of incentive to never let them be re-listed.

Fair's fair after all, they're the ones calling for such draconian measures, and insisting that there's no problem with them because mistakes are just so very rare and inconsequential, I think it only right that they get to see what it's like being on the receiving end of such treatment.

Next, it's his quite reasonably pessimistic thoughts on the European Court of Human Rights apparently outlawing mass surveillance:

Good first step

Now for the even more important(and difficult) second step:

Getting those running and supporting the surveillance programs to care about what is and is not legal.

Over on the funny side, we've already had our first place winner above, so we move straight on to second place with an anonymous comment that requires some context. First, after it was revealed that ISIS favors open source encrypted messaging tools, one commenter suggested that politicians would soon start calling for bans on open source software, ending his comment with half of an old adage — "when all you have is a hammer..." — and prompting another anonymous commenter to finish the sentence:

whack the politician in the face?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start with a response to the really bad idea from Google about kicking ISIS off the open web. Pixelation suggested that perhaps this project should be handed off to those with heaps of relevant experience:

Get the RIAA involved

Tell them ISIS is infringing their copyrights.

Finally, we've got an anonymous response to the news that the Interactive Advertising Bureau has banned AdBlock from attending a major advertising conference:

"To protect our world views we have shot the messenger! Rejoice!"

That's all for this week, folks!

5 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 23 January 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: January 17th - 23rd

from the back-to-the-former-future dept

Five Years Ago

There was lots of grappling over censorship this week in 2011. While the European Commission was planning draconian new "anti-piracy" laws, the head of the ICE was defending the recent domain seizures and getting some distressing support from a wide variety of companies (Senator Ron Wyden, at least, called these companies out for supporting censorship). We also learned more worrisome details about the settlement over the unauthorized Catcher In The Rye sequel, saw Zynga start turning into a trademark bully, and watched as Righthaven started suing message board posters in its ongoing crusade.

Also of note this week in 2011: the world was learning the fascinating details of the Stuxnet worm, and the FCC gave the okay to the Comcast/NBC Universal merger.

Ten Years Ago

Five years earlier in 2006, similar censorship battles were still unfolding. One big question (that has never been entirely solved) was simply that of jurisdictions online. Major League Baseball was fighting to claim ownership of facts, and the organizers of the 2012 London Olympics were getting an extreme head start — which is what you need when your plan is to rewrite the host country's laws to give you special censorship powers. And speaking of bold legislative changes, Hollywood made an amusing and telling attempt to explicitly preserve the past by protecting "customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers". That's what happens when an industry fears innovation — that, and theaters boycotting a film because it will be released on DVD at the same time.

Fifteen Years Ago

Last week, we talked about the hype over what would eventually turn out to be the Segway — and by this week in 2001, the inventor was already struggling to manage expectations. Other hypes, such as that around online dating and the wireless web, were also disappointing people. Affiliate programs were losing some steam too, with both Google and the Wall Street Journal ditching theirs. The FBI was decidedly not immune to the hype of some script kiddies in a chat room, and the people behind famous the almost (and might-as-well-have-been) vaporware Duke Nukem game were so eager to exercise control over their hype that they went intellectual property crazy.

Thirty-Five Years Ago

Since we're venturing back through time, how about a nod to one of the most famous vessels for that very task? It was on January 21st, 1981 that the first iconic DeLorean DMC-12 rolled off the line in Belfast.

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Posted on Innovation - 23 January 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Crafts Of All Kinds

from the three-makers dept

This week, we're taking a look at a trio of interesting crowdfunded offerings that each take a lot of craftsmanship of entirely different sorts.

JS Shoes

This project comes from a designer with a pretty hefty portfolio, and claims to be a world's first: not 3D-printed but rather 3D-knitted shoes, made on demand using the latest automated knitting machines. The result of this process is an extremely lightweight shoe that is manufactured with zero wasted material, and it unlocks some interesting design options: not only can a pair of shoes be customized, each shoe can be designed separately. Will people want to experiment with asymmetrical footwear?

Nixie Tube Clocks

This project comes from another experienced designer with a specific vision, but this time it's one of retro-futurism and handcrafted art. Two Nixie Tube Clocks have already been funded on Kickstarter, and now there's a third design in the works alongside reissues of the others. Though they aren't cheap, they certainly are works of art, and they aren't assembled from cheap parts or even inauthentic ones: the clocks use genuine Soviet-era vacuum tubes sourced from Russia and Ukraine, and are hand-built from a selection of premium hardwoods then finished with custom etch-work in brass and steel.

The Boy And The Computer

Finally, we've got a veteran programmer offering up something a little different: an educational graphic novel based around real-world coding, hacking and hardware. The pages shown so far look great, seamlessly bringing actual information about technology (and refreshingly accurate depictions of it) into the comic book format. Born of the challenges the artist faced trying to teach his own kids about computer science, it looks like a labor of love that should be worth checking out.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 19 January 2016 @ 12:44pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 57: Can Silicon Valley Help 'Disrupt' ISIS?

from the yes/no/maybe dept

Lately, there's been a lot of talk about cooperation between the government and the technology industry in the fight against terrorism, radicalization and, specifically, ISIS. A lot of this talk consists of the hugely problematic requests we discuss here regularly, like compromising encryption and cooperating with mass surveillance — but is that all there is to it? This week, we discuss what role Silicon Valley actually could play in combating ISIS.

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 - 17 January 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the chitter-chatter dept

We've got another double winner this time around, and it comes in response to recent sad news: the death of David Bowie. As we examined some of the copyright questions surrounding his work, one anonymous commenter achieved first place for both insightful and funny with a simple comment:

The saddest thing is that Bowie only has an incentive to write new music for 70 more years.

Meanwhile, after we summed up the year's box office take as "holy shit, look at all the money", Violynne won second place for insightful by building on that thought:

Uh... something's amiss here. Let me grab out my pencil so I can fix it.

"holy shit, look at all the money, for which our accounting firms will make quick work to ensure not a single, fucking penny will be moved to the profits column."

Better.

As for the rest of the article, meh. New year. Same rhetoric. Nothing changes. Moving on.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start out with one more comment that received both an insightful and a funny badge, though the voting on the funny side wasn't enough to bring it into the leaderboard. After the White House asked a two part question — (a) how to stop ISIS from using the internet to radicalize, and (b) how to undercut ISIS with content published by others — TechDescartes noticed a bit of a contradiction:

To accomplish (a), eliminate the First Amendment. To accomplish (b), rely on the First Amendment.

Next, we've got a response from Not An Electric Rodent to the idea that games may be on their way to being uncrackable:

Inevitably, if it it's uncrackable, it's also going to do hideous things to your computer so I for one won't be buying it or anything like it. I like my computer to be useful, thanks.

Over on the funny side, we've already had out first place winner above, so we move straight on to second place — and a comment that also rose to third place on the insightful side. In discussing the nonsense assertion that the internet has destroyed good music, we noted John Philip Sousa's famous fear that the phonograph would be the end of kids out singing on the street. TheResidentSkeptic saw some truth in this:

Sousa was correct...

..but not for his reasons.

Today if a group of kids was outside singing a song, they would be immediately sued by 3 performance rights agencies, 2 collection services, and the lawyer for the band whose music they had the audacity to sing.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start with an anonymous response to Mike Huckabee's invocation of god and religion in a copyright lawsuit:

I'm pretty sure Mike Huckabee invokes religion in deciding what sort of pizza to order.

Finally, we return to the White House's two-part question about ISIS online, where Berenerd had a suggestion for dealing with question (a):

Sign them up for Comcast as their ISP...

That's all for this week, folks!

3 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 16 January 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: January 10th - 16th

from the the-less-things-change dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, much of the news on the Wikileaks front was centered on Twitter, which the government had ordered to reveal information on people connected with the site. This drew the ire of Iceland officials (among others), and not unlike the recent domain seizures, the government's approach was full of mistakes. But, at least, we learned that Twitter would stand up for its users rights. Of course, that wasn't the only attack Wikileaks faced: customs officers were intimidating Wikileaks volunteers, a congressional rep was asking the Treasury Department to put the site on the terrorist list (a request that was thankfully refused), and one bold man from Florida was suing Wikileaks for personal distress. On the flipside, the EFF was debunking the myth that the leaked cables didn't help anything while On The Media was seeking out the anonymous senator who killed a recent whistleblowing bill and the press at large was starting to realize that Bradley Manning was being tortured.

Also of note this week in 2011, we covered the beginnings of a now-infamous incident when Sony got a restraining order against George Hotz for jailbreaking the PS3.

Ten Years Ago

Netflix was the unstoppable giant this week in 2006, and it was still just focused on mailing DVDs — which unscrupulous postal workers would occasionally steal. The main victim, however, was clearly going to be Blockbuster. Google was trying to wow the world with a new online video offering, but it was sadly all about copy protection and not very impressive. MySpace revealed that it had its own video strategy in the works, which explained why it had recently started blocking YouTube. This dismal state of affairs even led some to wonder if AOL was the one with the most interesting and innovative video offering. That title certainly didn't belong to the world of mobile TV, which was wrecked by fragmentation and walled gardens like so much mobile content.

Meanwhile, efforts were still underway to plug the analog hole, and Tim Lee pointed out that the most insidious effect might come from the exception for so-called "professional" equipment. We bemoaned the fact that DRM was still endearing itself to artists as Sony's CEO attempted to brush off the recent rootkit fiasco.

Fifteen Years Ago

In these early days of 2001, calls for regulating the internet were much simpler — and even more absurd. Case in point: one novelists request that everything online be officially labelled as "true" or not. Case in point the second: a legislative attempt to deem the actions of spiders and other online bots as "trespassing". But hey, this was a time when one of the biggest intellectual property questions on the internet was the legality of "framing" content from other sites. Blogs, which were still often given their forgotten full name of weblogs, were still new enough that a different news organization would "discover" them every few weeks, leading to strange ideas like blog-based print magazines.

Also this week in 2001: we heard the very first murmurs of what would grow into immense hype about "IT", also known as "Ginger". Remember that? Yeah, it turned out to be the Segway. Hurrah.

Eighty-Nine Years Ago

With all the obligatory and uninteresting hype surrounding the recently-announced Oscar nominations, perhaps it's worth noting that the Academy was founded on January 11th, 1927 by Louis B. Mayer and a room of his 36 hand-picked guests. If I understand correctly, those people all became immortal in their 60s and continue to choose every Oscar winner to this day.

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Posted on Innovation - 16 January 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: One Great Knob

from the turn-anything-up-to-11 dept

For the past few weeks, we've been looking at selections of cool Kickstarter projects — but this week we're going back to taking a closer look at one interesting offering: the nOb, a multi-functional control peripheral with a unique approach to what it does.

The Good

There are no shortage of USB knobs, sliders and switches out there, and they pretty much all come to us from the music production world, and are all MIDI-based. In fact, in the past, I've criticized devices for bucking that standard — but the nOb does so for a good reason: it's not just about music.

Instead of MIDI-over-USB, the nOb uses a USB serial standard and is designed to interact with all sorts of software interfaces. Anything that can be clicked-and-dragged onscreen can be controlled with the nOb by simply hovering your cursor over it. Thus, far beyond just music software, it can control things like the playhead in video editing software, or the adjustment sliders and canvas panning in Photoshop, or for that matter any scroll-bar in any app. Its exact input style is controlled by two switches on the device, and both these switches as well as the knob are all touch-sensitive, allowing for an additional layer of customizable control with various taps and double-taps.

The simple flexibility of the nOb is what makes it noteworthy. Though it probably seems like a simple toy to casual users, it has a lot of potential for a wide variety of professional tasks in music, video, design, illustration, photography, animation, 3D modelling and anything else that requires hours hunched over a keyboard and mouse, navigating a complex project and tweaking hundreds of settings to perfection.

The Bad

For now, I have few if any reservations. It seems a little on the pricey side at €150, but once you look at the quality of construction and consider the touch-sensitive controls, it's pretty justifiable. It would be nice to see it include a MIDI-based option (and indeed, this is one of the stretch goals) since the mouse-hover control system will not always be ideal for music applications, especially complex workflows that rely on MIDI as a near-universal standard — but this isn't a case of ignoring a good standard out of hubris or ignorance. It's a conscious choice to try something different that opens up huge new possibilities, and the nOb's USB serial interface is also open and developer-friendly.

The Beautiful & Hackable

It can't go entirely unmentioned that the nOb looks very nice — and there's no reason to doubt the claim that it feels very nice too, given the mahogany enclosure and the solid aluminum knob. Also, in keeping with the tradition of the great analog synthesizers and mixer boards of old, it's designed to be easily physically hackable for the tinkerers out there: everything is screwed together and easily disassembled.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 12 January 2016 @ 12:44pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 56: The CES Post-Mortem

from the the-view-from-the-floor dept

After a few weeks off for the holidays, we're back! And as anyone on the internet can't ignore, CES 2016 has just wrapped up. Our own Mike Masnick was there, and today he's joined by journalist and long-time CES veteran Rob Pegoraro for a post-mortem of the event and this year's crop of new products.

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 - 10 January 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the ringing-in-the-new-year dept

We've got a double winner this week, with our top comment taking the first place spots for both insightful and funny. It came in response to the news that cryptography pioneer David Chaum is working on creating backdoors for law enforcement. A Non-Mouse perceived a devil in the details:

Who holds the keys?

"...nine server administrators..."

Let me put that another way:

Nine
Server
Administrators

In second place on the insightful side, we've got a response to the lawsuit that hit the Big Bang Theory TV show over its use of an 82-year-old poem. AJ simply vented his frustration with the whole situation:

I'm not really pro or against IP laws or property. With that said, this is fucking ridiculous. I believe artists and creators rights should be protected, but for 80 years? That's just stupid, that makes absolutely no since to the common person. I could see 20 years, but 80?

The Pro IP lobby get stupid laws passed by paying off our politicians, then they scream that people don't have any respect for IP laws and start filing lawsuits. The reason people don't respect the IP isn't because people don't respect IP, it's that they don't respect the stupid fucking laws protecting IP. So what's the IP Lobby do? They get even more stupid laws passed and around we go....

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got two long comments that offered additional legal details on the byzantine world of copyright law. The first came from Lonyo in response to that same post, elaborating on the copyright status of the poem:

As far as I am aware from reading the 1909 copyright law and the filing, the situation is as below:

Newlin gave "permission" (per filing) for her song to be included in the book made by Willis.

Under the 1909 Copyright Act, if the book is considered a composite work, then the renewal of the book by Willis in 1964 would renew the copyright of the book itself, and also all works within the book.

The 1909 Copyright Act states that the proprietor of a composite work upon renewal also renews all copyrights within the composite work.

The issue which is central to this is whether or not the book is a composite work, in which case the Willis renewal also renewed the Newlin copyright on an individual basis.

The underlying agreement between Newlin and Willis would probably dictate whether it's a composite work, whether Willis holds the copyright, or whether it's not a composite work AND Willis does not hold the copyright.

If it is not a composite work and Willis does not own the rights, I believe that would mean the copyright has expired.
If Willis received the rights as part of the arrangement (unlikely as the song has a separate copyright notice), then Willis would own the copyright and it would be valid.
If it is a composite work, then the Willis renewal would mean that Newlins has a valid copyright for the song which is separate from the composite work copyright, I believe.

The problem is this:
The 1909 Copyright Act, and amendments, do not define a composite work.

If it was a renewal of a composite work by Willis and Newlins holds the copyright, there is no definite way for WB to have known that the copyright was held by Newlins, as Newlins never registered or renewed directly. I think that WB could only have gone to Willis as the renewer and relied on their representations of the nature of the work as to who held the copyright, short of demanding to see the original agreement between Newlins and Willis for the use of the work.

Next, we've got a comment from Karl digging even further into the licensing questions surrounding David Lowery's lawsuit against Spotify:

The whole situation is even more complicated than the article describes. Unsurprisingly, Lowery's lawsuit doesn't bring these complications up, either, since they both favor Spotify.

First of all, it doesn't consider the case where there are multiple songwriters. I'll let the FMC explain it:
There are pros and cons for licensees and licensors with regard to the compulsory mechanical. On the positive side, it can help streamline the process of obtaining licenses, which is not only important to services that offer expansive catalogs, but also labels who release recordings that embody compositions with an often staggering number of co-writers and co-publishers. [...] Publishers' list of negatives may can include rates that they belive do not reflect market value, the hassles of monthly accounting and the fact that a user needs only to serve one publisher, even if there are multiple parties who own a portion of the work. It’s up to the publisher who was served notice to pay any co-publishers.
- Where's My Mechanicals? The Ultimate Explainer

Given that many songs have two authors (including most pop songs), and other songs have many many more, this almost certainly accounts for the majority of unlocated songwriters.

Second of all, it doesn't go into the contracts between Spotify, the Harry Fox Agency (HFA), and the publishers/songwriters they represent (HFA calls them "affiliates").

HFA offers a standard license for streaming in limited quantities. And, as a licencee, you are explicitly exempt from sending NOI's:
Upon issuance of this license, you shall have all the rights which are granted to, and all the obligations which are imposed upon, users of said musical work under the compulsory license provision of the Copyright Act, after phonorecords of the copyrighted work have been distributed to the public in the United States under the authority of the copyright owner by another person, except that with respect to Interactive Streams thereof made and distributed hereunder: [...]

3. You need not serve or file the notice of intention to obtain a compulsory license required by the Copyright Act.
- https://www.harryfox.com/documents/songfile/samplelicense_interactive_streams.pdf

HFA also takes over this duty if you sign up with their Slingshot service. In that case, I don't know if the songwriter even needs to be licensed by HFA; HFA might send out the NOI's on your behalf.

Larger streaming services (like Spotify) must sign direct deals with HFA, but I would be utterly shocked if there wasn't similar language in their contract. So, if Spotify is using any songs that are licenced by HFA, they almost certainly don't have to file NOI's.

Of course, that only applies to songs that are licenced by HFA. True, HFA does administer the licenses for the vast, vast majority of commercial songs, but not all of them. (In fact, if your song isn't published by a record label, you can't become an affiliate.) There is certainly going to be a factual issue as to whether HFA represented that they could license songs (or did in fact issue license for songs) where they didn't administer 100% of the rights.

It should also be noted that the HFA contract also specifies that HFA has a right to audit their licensees. So, it's not like they weren't aware of what songs Spotify was playing.

I'm guessing that there was some sort of problem on HFA's end, since Spotify is building their own database, and negotiating with the NMPA, instead of relying on HFA like they previously were. (But who knows, it could also be because HFA was recently bought by SESAC.) Whatever the issue, if this does become a class-action lawsuit, this is going to be a pretty tiny class. It would be a class composed of songwriters who are played on Spotify but not represented by HFA.

Does any of this apply to Lowery's songs? Perhaps, perhaps not. The particular songs in the lawsuit, at least, do not come up if you do a public search for them in HFA Songfile. (Unlike his Camper Van Beethoven songs.)

Regardless, I don't think he has a snowball's chance in Hell of proving "willful" infringement.

Also, this is the first I've heard the theory that non-interactive streams were not covered by statutory mechanicals. HFA explicitly says they are, and most industry folks seem to believe that as well. It also seems pretty clear in the statutes:
[(c)(3)](C) Proceedings under chapter 8 shall determine reasonable rates and terms of royalty payments [...]. Such terms and rates shall distinguish between (i) digital phonorecord deliveries where the reproduction or distribution of a phonorecord is incidental to the transmission which constitutes the digital phonorecord delivery, and (ii) digital phonorecord deliveries in general. [...]

(d)Definition. - As used in this section, the following term has the following meaning: A "digital phonorecord delivery" is each individual delivery of a phonorecord by digital transmission of a sound recording which results in a specifically identifiable reproduction by or for any transmission recipient of a phonorecord of that sound recording, regardless of whether the digital transmission is also a public performance of the sound recording or any nondramatic musical work embodied therein. A digital phonorecord delivery does not result from a real-time, non-interactive subscription transmission of a sound recording where no reproduction of the sound recording or the musical work embodied therein is made from the inception of the transmission through to its receipt by the transmission recipient in order to make the sound recording audible.
- 17 USC 115

Over on the funny side, we've already had our first place comment above, so we move straight on to second place. This time, it comes in response to the unfolding T-Mobile fiasco and the company's strange attempt to frame throttling as a wonderful gift to users. JD decided to co-opt this strategy for himself:

Don't think of it as me "canceling my contract with T-Mobile and filing a complaint with the FCC". If you think I'm doing that then you're a jerk and engaging in semantics and bullshit. And quite honestly I expect better of you. I'm merely optimizing my mobile data experience and giving T-Mobile the choice to acquire new customers! They should be thanking me for opting them in to this experience.

I call it "Purge On".

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with one more response to what would later turn out not to be John Legere's most embarrassing public statement of the week. Blaine couldn't properly respond due to technical issues:

I'm trying to watch his video on my phone but it keeps pausing to buffer and it's taking too long to load.

But of course, that wasn't the centerpiece of the T-Mobile affair: that honor goes to John Legere's anti-EFF flameout. One anonymous commenter made an observation that actually racked up a handful of insightful votes while failing to earn a funny badge, but I still think it belongs here:

Well. Net Neutrality now has its own Michael Richards.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 9 January 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: January 3rd - 9th

from the government-and-television dept

Five Years Ago

Recently, Homeland Security returned a domain it seized all the way back in 2010. This week in 2011, we were still examining the fallout from the original seizures, as well as some similar seizures that were finally moving into the forfeiture phase. Some were claiming the technical and legal errors in the affidavit didn't matter, but we pushed back against that idea while marveling at how Homeland Security had clammed up about the seizures. They also appeared to have invented a non-existent form of criminal contributory liability in their justification.

In the world of Wikileaks, the new congressional leadership was prioritizing an investigation even while paying lip service to transparency. A Spanish newspaper explained its decision to publish the leaked cables, while a USAF Intelligence veteran explained why he supports Wikileaks and we debunked the idea that the leaks put lives in danger in Zimbabwe.

Also notable: this week in 2011 we took our first look at the TPP, and the now-infamous "study" linking vaccines to autism, which had already been known to be mistaken, was beginning to be exposed as outright fraud.

Ten Years Ago

The RIAA was up to its antics this week in 2006, using scare tactics to implicitly threaten anyone visiting the Grokster site and subpoenaing a bunch of John Does over file sharing. The MPAA was celebrating a DVD bust that was basically fake as part of Hollywood's broader strategy of entirely missing the point. Some media companies were starting to experiment with device-independent content as though it was a shocking and difficult innovation (not an obvious and simple feature) while some TV networks were opening up a bit more to VOD. The New York Times was trying to get its head around the fact that bloggers were calling out inaccuracy in the press, while other major newspapers were failing to fact check stories they lifted from blogs. But the worst trend in online content by far was the separation of articles into multiple pages.

Fifteen Years Ago

After Y2K went off without a hitch, few expected that the real bugs would start coming a year later. This week in 2001, systems that had put in place hacky patches to avoid Y2K problems but not account for future years suddenly experienced the Y2K+1 bug, which brought down the trains in Norway and made 7-Eleven regret the $8 million it spent on a Y2K fix.

Looking back on the year 2000, the total count was over 200 dot coms dead in the water. The still-profitable ones were those that didn't get venture capital and had to be scrappy from the start. The Blogger platform was begging for money and we saw an early call for getting rid of free content. Still, the overall effect of the internet appeared to be an increase in productivity.

Sixty-Nine Years Ago

Here's a historical tidbit from the intersection of two of our central topics: technology and government. It was on January 3rd, 1947 that the proceedings of the US House of Representatives were broadcast live on television for the first time. Three days later, Harry Truman would make the first televised State Of The Union address from the same chambers.

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Posted on Innovation - 9 January 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Simple Geeky Toys

from the inexpensive-awesome dept

With CES wrapping up today, the internet is awash in rundowns of the greatest new gadgets, and these days it's barely newsworthy that this or that product was partially funded on Kickstarter or created by a team with a crowdfunding background. So instead of looking at the CES crop, most of which you've probably already seen, this week we're rounding up three simple and inexpensive geeky playthings.

Luma Dice

Usually, when it comes to things like dice and playing cards, I'm an advocate of keeping it simple. The fetishization of "lucky" dice is just superstition and magical thinking. But maybe I should lighten up, because some of the specialty dice showing up on Kickstarter are admittedly pretty cool, with the most noteworthy being the Luma. It's a solid aluminum die with powered LEDs embedded as pips, and contains an accelerometer to activate them automatically when it's picked up or rolled. You'd think that with the accelerometer already present, they'd have a mode to light up only the up-facing side when a roll is complete — but sadly they don't. Though, that may be part of why the price is surprisingly reasonable at only $21 (approximately, as the original prices are in Australian dollars) for a pair.

The Sound Reactive Mask

While we're on the subject of lighting up things that don't normally light up, this product might emerge from the Montreal electronic music scene but it's tech-geeky through and through. Sound-reactive clothing and costuming is nothing new, but this might be the first time I've seen anyone with a good design sense use it in a way that's actually fun to look at, unlike the terrible t-shirts marketed to "ravers". The stylized jaguar design on the foam mask appears to respond quickly and accurately to music by deconstructing and reconstructing itself piece by piece, to pretty impressive and mesmerizing effect. And once again, the price is lower than you might expect for this kind of Kickstarter project: again about $21, thanks this time in part to the exchange rate with Canadian dollars.

The Key Armory

Several years ago, for reasons I still don't fully understand, a friend bought me a gag birthday gift in the form of a giant sword — one of those ridiculous fantasy ones with all sorts of curlicues that I assume would render any real sword useless. It's neat, but it's weird, and I have no idea what to do with it — so it's lived in its box under my bed ever since. Somehow I doubt I'm the only person with a display sword in that situation. Well, the Key Armory offers a slightly more workable alternative: lovingly crafted key blanks with handles hilts inspired by various famous fictional swords. They are available in two common key types, though if you don't use one of those, you're out of luck for now. And in keeping with this week's low-price theme, they are only $10 a pop with discounts if you buy more than one.

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Posted on Techdirt - 3 January 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2015 At Techdirt

from the year-in-review dept

It's that time again! This week, we're looking back at all of 2015 and rounding up the top three comments in both the insightful and funny categories. For those who are still interested in the winners for this week only, here's first and second for insightful, and first and second for funny.

The Most Insightful Comments Of 2015

You've all seen him — y'know, what's-his-name, That One Guy. According to our roundup of yearly numbers he was the second most frequent commenter on Techdirt, and the most insightful according to the number of times he got an Insightful badge on his comments. Now, he's backing that title up with the most insightful comment of 2015. In October, our think tank The Copia Institute released its The Carrot Or The Stick report, which compared enforcement and innovation as strategies for reducing piracy. That One Guy ran through his own thoughts on the matter, and the insightful votes came pouring in:

Simple

As the article notes, there have been countless 'anti-piracy' laws passed, over decades, and yet none of them have had more than a minor, temporary effect on piracy at best. And yet those buying the laws continue to do the same thing, year after year, pushing the same laws, the same ideas, despite their utter failures to date. Given that, the way I see it there's two possibilities:

1. Almost every last person in the entertainment industry, with very few exceptions, is a complete and utter idiot, lacking even the most basic pattern recognition skills, and incapable of learning even the most obvious lesson from their past actions.

Or...

2. Stopping piracy isn't actually the goal, and is instead merely the excuse, the justifications for their actions.

#1 is possible, but unlikely in the extreme. You don't reach the point of running multi-billion dollar companies if you are lacking in smarts and business skill, and only an idiot would throw millions away if they weren't getting anything out of it.

Now, if stopping piracy isn't the actual goal, what might it be? If I had to guess, I'd say the real goal is two-fold:

Killing off competition before it can grow, and maintaining control.

Methods of distribution like file-sharing can be used for piracy, yes, but they can also be used for artists not affiliated with the major labels to get their music out there, all without having to go through a middle-man. Books not affiliated with major publishers can be shared and read, and movies put out by indie studios can be shown without ever having to go through the theaters.

By insisting on onerous burdens on third-parties, in order to 'fight piracy', the various 'anti-piracy' laws make it a hassle to host content created by the public, forcing sites and services to spend time and money that they may not have policing their sites, 'just in case', and making it all the more tempting for them to forgo allowing public content entirely.

Even when sites/services can spare the time and money, the incredibly one-sided nature of the laws means that they are given all the incentive in the world to take something down on the flimsiest claim, and penalized if they do not, making it a hassle for content creators who might have their stuff removed on a bogus claim, forced to fight if they want it back up, if they can even do so.

Of course, if a creator doesn't want to deal with the possibility of their stuff being pulled thanks to a bogus claim, or removed as collateral damage thanks to a bot flagging something they created, they could always sign up with the major labels/studios/publishers, who never seem to have to deal with that sort of thing...

...

When the only way to be able to create quality music required studio resources, the only way to be heard was to sign with a record label, the only way to be promoted was to sign away all the rights to your music, the labels had all the control.

However, when anyone can put their music up for people to listen to and/or buy, when what previously required the resources of a studio to create can now be done with a modest investment in some decent hardware and software, when you can promote yourself through social media, all without signing away anything, suddenly the control of the labels starts crumbling, and their contracts a lot less appealing.

...

When the only way to take your idea and turn it into a movie was through a major studio, requiring you to sign everything away and maybe get something for it, the only way to show your film was through the theaters, which required a studio to achieve, then they had all the control.

However, when you can crowdfund your film without signing away the rights to anything, when special effects that previously required massive resources can now be done for relatively cheap, and when there are numerous services willing to host and/or sell the resulting film, the studios suddenly don't have nearly the chokehold that they had enjoyed before.

...

When the only way to be published was to submit your would-be-book to one of the major publishers and hope, when you had to sign away the rights just for them to consider publishing your work, and and had to go through them if you ever wanted to see your book in solid form, the publishers had all the control.

However, when anyone can write up a work and share it with anyone they wish to, when various services make it easy to post and sell your works, whether in physical or digital format, when you can do your own promotion at the cost of little more than your own time, and all without signing over the rights to your books, then suddenly the publishers' previous position of deciding what would and would not be published is a lot less solid.

...

Short version: If the goals of all the anti-piracy laws are actually to combat piracy, then they have failed utterly each and every time. Therefore it stands to reason that either the ones buying the laws are incompetent fools, or they aren't actually trying to get rid of piracy with the laws they are buying.

Our second place winner on the insightful side is PaulT, another fixture of the community who came in seventh for total comment volume and fifth for number of insightful comments. This particular comment seems to be the result of a slight misunderstanding, after Ninja (#6 and #3 on those same lists, respectively) characterized this year's battle over the Happy Birthday copyright as a petty dispute and a waste of time. He later clarified that he was criticizing the necessity of the fight, as created by terrible copyright law, rather than the fight itself — but first, PaulT served up a rebuttal:

A sign that the system is broken? Yes. A petty dispute? I don't call the fact that a private company is hoarding rights to a song that should have been in the public domain decades ago to the tune of $2 million/year petty. If the song is public domain, they are making huge levels of income based on a lie.

A waste of taxpayer money? Again, I don't see how returning the public's property to its rightful owners under the original contract is a waste, especially if this results in a wider discussion of how broken and one-sided the copyright system is. Especially if as a result of this, Warner are found to have been misleading enough to be forced to return its ill-gotten gains and other companies are forced to return public domain properties to their rightful owners. OK, that's unlikely, but I can dream.

It's a silly dispute in that it should never have been allowed to come to this, but since we're here it's a good fight to have.

Last up, in third place we have our only insightful winner who didn't also show up on any of the big annual lists: JamesF. It came on a post about yet another example of law enforcement misbehavior (in this case, border control tasing a woman who did not comply with a search) and in response to a predictable comment defending the cops. This comment, from an anonymous commenter, asserted that "it's so easy to blame the cops. If she would have just obeyed then she wouldn't have been tazed. She was confrontational, aggressive, and generally an ass." JamesF countered with something of a comment remix:

Its so easy to just blame the civilian. If the cops would have just acted within the bounds of the law, she wouldn't have been tazed. They were confrontational, aggressive and generally behaved like asses.

That's it for the insightful side of things... Now, let's move on to funny!

The Funniest Comments Of 2015

Our first place winner this year is Violynne, who came in at number four on our list of the year's funniest overall commenters. The comment in question came after Mike published our official response to a legal threat from Sony over our reporting on the company's leaked emails, which was: "go pound sand". Violynne was apparently somewhat confused by this:

I get the "go" part, but "pound" doesn't rhyme with "buck" and "sand" isn't a synonym for "yourself".

For our second funniest comment, we head to one of the funnier news stories this year: the Washington Redskins court filing that highlighted a long list of "vulgar" trademarks that have been approved. This time, our winner is anonymous, and arrived on the article with the very first comment, suggesting a relationship to another common Techdirt topic:

I think you are mistaken

Those weren't approved applications, they were mistakenly leaked NSA program codenames.

Last but not least, we have our third place winner on the funny side: a semi-anonymous commenter with no account going by the name David. The comment came in response to an article about encryption from the UK that was written by none other than David Cameron's former speechwriter, Clare Foges — an article that we roundly and rightly mocked. Among its assertions was the idea that making a magical golden key should be easy, since "the global tech industry made around $3.7 trillion last year. They employ some of the brightest people on the planet." David suggested that maybe this was actually the root of the problem:

Indeed, Silicon Valley cornered the market on bright people so thoroughly that the UK government had to make do with employing people like Clare Foges and David Cameron.

That's all of the most insightful and funny Techdirt comments from 2015! But, before we put the year to bed...

Honorable Mentions: Top Combined Votes

Last year, we pointed out that there's another voting metric of interest: the comments that scored the highest number of combined votes in both categories. Most weeks, these comments are also among the top spots on either the insightful or funny side individually, with one side dominating the score — but every now and then a comment racks up a more-or-less even combo of insightful and funny votes, soaring up the combined leaderboard without making a mark on the individual ones. Last year, that was only the case with one comment in the top three for combined votes — this year, surprisingly, it's the case with all three of them! What's more, both the first and third place comment for combined votes came from none other than That One Guy, our winner here for most insightful (with a different comment). Between those two, we've got our only other anonymous winner for the year. Here they are:

  1. First Place: That One Guy in response to UK fearmongering about piracy being a gateway to a life of crime.
  2. Second Place: An anonymous commenter with a proposal regarding one L.A. politician's abhorrent plan to track citizens and wreck lives using license plate data.
  3. Third Place: That One Guy in response to one of the depressingly endless selection of police abuse stories from 2015.

It's worth noting that both of That One Guy's comments on this list employed the same "ironic reversal" formula for using someone's own words to craft a joke while making a point. That's not an indictment — there's a reason some tried-and-true satirical structures are so common, and that one's a classic.

And that, folks, is all for this week and all for 2015! Keep the comments coming.

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