Mason Wheeler’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Jul 22nd, 2016 @ 10:47am

    (untitled comment)

    Odd. None of these languages actually start with A or Z.

  • Jul 22nd, 2016 @ 10:46am

    (untitled comment)

    Meh. The Olympics lost all legitimacy when they held their competition, whose purpose is ostensibly to celebrate the dignity of mankind and the triumph of the human spirit, in China a few years back. It's been real hard to care about the Games ever since.

  • Jul 21st, 2016 @ 10:55am

    (untitled comment)

    I hope this succeeds, though that won't be enough. The only position that truly makes sense is not simply a nullification of section 1201, but a reversal.

    If my property is truly mine, then by any reasonable, objective standard, wresting control of it away from me and turning it against my interests is a violation of my rights. Therefore, any use of "TPM" to do so is a crime, an act of hacking, and needs to be legally recognized as such.

  • Jul 21st, 2016 @ 10:30am


    I would say the recent accident where the vehicle went under the trailer of a tractor trailer rig turning in front of the Tesla vehicle is an out-and-out PR disaster, a company killing disaster. We are told the autonomous car is safer because it has the ability of a machine to constantly scan and not be distracted - accept when the machine cannot see that which the car hits. Does not matter how well it scans if it cannot see the danger. This the first fundamental rule of autonomous vehicles?

    I'd say it's exactly the opposite, for reasons I explained in my comment above.

    If I screw up at the wheel and get myself killed, there's absolutely nothing about that event that prevents you from doing the exact same thing and getting yourself killed too. But when Autopilot makes a mistake, Tesla can analyze the data, figure out what went wrong, patch the software, and push the update to the entire fleet, so that nobody in a Tesla ever gets killed that way again.

  • Jul 21st, 2016 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    . . . rare hazards it cannot detect YET.

    Yeah, that was exactly my point. The set of problems it can't deal with keeps getting smaller and smaller with each new iteration.

  • Jul 21st, 2016 @ 7:58am

    (untitled comment)

    Obviously, the company has been in the spotlight recently over some autopilot accidents that have killed drivers. The company's PR reaction to that hasn't been great, though there is a really good point that tons of people die in regular car accidents all the time. If autopilot can be just marginally safer, even if there are still some accidents, that's still a big improvement. But, even so, Musk argues that their goal is to get autopilot to be 10x safer before Tesla would remove the "beta" description on the feature.

    There's another important thing to keep in mind here. When a person dies, (for good, unable to be resuscitated, etc,) all their knowledge goes with them. They're unable to learn from their mistakes or pass on what they know to anyone else.

    But when something goes terribly wrong with a computer, unless it's quite thoroughly destroyed, people can still take it apart, analyze it, figure out what went wrong, and fix it. (Heck, that's a large amount of what I do for a living: figuring out why software broke and how to fix it!) This is why commercial aircraft have indestructable "black boxes" to hold the flight data recorders: when something goes terribly wrong, they use the information about what happened to make all future versions safer.

    It's a tragedy that that guy died, even if he did sort of bring it on himself by not paying attention. But given what we've seen of the competence of the folks at Tesla, it's a tragedy that's likely to only happen once.

  • Jul 20th, 2016 @ 9:57am

    (untitled comment)

    Wait, wait... a European high court talking about censorship laws breaching the fundamental human right to information?

    That's incredibly ironic. I know there's a good reason to say so, but I must have... forgotten.

  • Jul 19th, 2016 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Re:

    Ben Affleck’s version of Batman is just all wrong, and he, more than anyone else, is the main character of this movie, so that really causes trouble right from the get-go. But this isn’t any Batman any fan would recognize. Batman has been called the Dark Knight, but this guy isn’t any sort of knight at all; he’s a brutal thug, plain and simple, and Superman was absolutely right to call him on his tactics.
    -- The dark before the Dawn (of Justice), emphasis added

  • Jul 19th, 2016 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    All right, then, make The Dark Knight sound as similar to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as I did for Spider-Man, without doing injury to the truth.

  • Jul 19th, 2016 @ 12:12pm

    (untitled comment)

    Wait, wait... is it even possible for one party to unilaterally alter an existing treaty in this way? How does that make any sense at all?

  • Jul 19th, 2016 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The first one was OK. The second... meh. Can anyone really say it would have been so widely acclaimed if it hadn't been for Heath Ledger's death right around release time? They blatantly took the plot of the first Spider-Man film and threw it in a blender, mixing in a heavy dose of Grimdark Sauce, and poured out the resulting glop as a script.

    What, you don't believe me? OK then, which film am I talking about?

    All is not well in our fantasy version of New York City; it's being terrorized by an insane supervillain! Our hero (who is an orphan) confronts him, only to be foiled by the villain, who takes the opportunity to preach his twisted philosophy that people are evil and wretched inside, and can't be relied upon.

    As the conflict escalates, the villain ends up setting up a truly diabolical situation, forcing our hero to choose between saving the life of the woman he loves, or another target of great worth to the public. But in the end, he loses, not because of anything specific the hero does, but because his philosophy is defeated: when it comes down to it, given the opportunity, the people choose to be noble rather than give in to their baser urges. At this point, the hero's victory is simply a foregone conclusion.

  • Jul 19th, 2016 @ 10:31am

    Re: Re:

    Wonder Woman? Where? All I saw was some actress cosplaying as Xena.

  • Jul 19th, 2016 @ 8:27am

    (untitled comment)

    ...but of course they're not listening.

    Just look at what they've actually done. Everyone hated Dawn of Justice for being way too dark and ugly. I think HISHE put it best: "He [Batman] killed people, and you [Superman] forgot to smile!" People came out of the theater with the strong impression that they'd just watched a couple of impostors pretending to be Superman and Batman, even though they obviously weren't.

    The studio's response? They released an R-rated "special edition" with even more dark and ugly! That's simply showing outright contempt for the fans. As one reviewer I saw put it, (loosely paraphrased,) "I really hope this project fails, and fails hard. Don't get me wrong, I would absolutely love to see a well-done Justice League-based film universe. But that’s simply not what DC’s recent movies are setting up!"

    At this point, I think Cracked might have the right idea. If the people who are supposed to be taking care of the characters are going to be this abusive, to them and to the fans, why should they not lose custody of them (to strain a metaphor somewhat) in favor of those who will love them rather than continue to harm them?

  • Jul 18th, 2016 @ 12:56pm

    (untitled comment)

    Well, it's good to see somebody in government being held accountable for private email nonsense. Now if only we could apply it a bit more evenly...

  • Jul 18th, 2016 @ 10:21am

    In today's episode of Techdirt Advertising Theatre...

  • Jul 15th, 2016 @ 1:07pm

    (untitled comment)

    Considering how disastrous and dangerously ignorant the verdict on this trial was, would a new one (at a new venue, hopefully) really be such a bad thing?

  • Jul 15th, 2016 @ 11:59am

    (untitled comment)

    Another potential issue: the bill would let individuals go after not just actual infringers, but also service providers if they fail to follow through on a DMCA takedown notice. Basically, it exports the DMCA safe harbors to this small claims process as well, but that may mean that internet platforms are going to get dragged through this process that was meant to focus on small claims that could be easily adjudicated. in other words, it applies the DMCA takedown system exactly as intended?

    Because let's not pretend that's not what's happening. The DMCA takedown system was never meant to keep anyone safe; from the very beginning, it's been a tool of extortion: "Extralegally delete this content that we don't like, with no due process whatsoever, or we will sue you."

  • Jul 15th, 2016 @ 7:06am

    Re: Re:

    Remember, against a bullet, all skin is pretty darned thin.

  • Jul 15th, 2016 @ 6:48am

    Re: Johnson/Weld

    "Who?" most likely.

  • Jul 15th, 2016 @ 6:44am

    (untitled comment)

    We try to remember that medicine is for the patient. We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.
    -- George W. Merck, founder of the Merck & Co. pharmaceutical company

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