Mason Wheeler’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Jun 15th, 2018 @ 3:32pm

    (untitled comment)

    As The Appeal points out, Daniels has leveraged these videos to appear on national news networks and say ridiculous things like he's planning to treat all drug overdoses as homicides.

    What exactly is ridiculous about that? You think the drug dealers didn't know they were selling stuff that can kill people? Seems to me the Felony Murder Rule clearly applies here. (Does Florida have that? I know it varies state-by-state.)

  • Jun 15th, 2018 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Re: authoritarianism and the internet

    It's not that mischaracterized. Even on here, where defenders of free speech abound, we've got people running around defending the right of private parties to censor content because "the First Amendment doesn't apply to them because they're not government." They fail to understand that the First Amendment was written that way mostly as an accident of history, because at that time the government was the only entity with the power to perform widespread censorship of freedom of speech in the public square.

    These days, that's no longer the case. The Internet and its platforms have become the new de facto public square, and to say that its gatekeepers are not bound by the restrictions of the First Amendment is to say that we trust private entities with powers that We The People find so fundamentally abhorrent that we don't trust ourselves (in the person of our democratically elected representatives) with these powers.

    There's something very wrong with that.

  • Jun 15th, 2018 @ 12:12pm

    (untitled comment)

    If this all sounds familiar to you, it should, because actions like these were very much the precursors to the Arab Spring.


    Or, perhaps, a move like this does more to spell the end of an authoritarian regime than the demise of a commonplace internet function that is ingrained into the human spirit.

    Oh hey, more Arab Spring. Because the last one worked out sooooo well, bringing more freedom, democracy and prosperity to so many Arabs, yanno? Yup, all those Arabs sure are living with a whole lot less oppression and authoritarianism now...

  • Jun 11th, 2018 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The most important fact of all

    And what's your point? People have never been good at using precise words, either because of laziness or, occasionally, outright dishonesty.

    When Europeans arrived in America and found the native wildlife, they called llamas and alpacas "goats" and bison "buffalo" because they were superficially similar to familiar animals. (Laziness.) And there's a certain rodent called a cavy, more commonly referred to as a "guinea pig" (or other pig-based names in other languages) despite not being related in any way to pigs. The naming convention came about because they're a good source of protein, and calling them a pig makes them sound more appetizing than calling them a rodent. (Dishonesty.)

    People may "generally refer to" something by a name that is highly inaccurate, and this is the case here.

  • Jun 8th, 2018 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The most important fact of all

    Your "Deazley's explanation" is completely out of context, as it's not talking about copyright at all; it's referring to events that occurred 2 centuries before the establishment of copyright.

    By the time that the Statute of Anne was established, the Stationers' monopoly system was completely defunct for many years already, and it had been made quite clear by Parliament in multiple different cases that it was not coming back. The registration provision was exactly what it said and nothing more: in order to qualify for copyright, a work needed to be registered in the Stationer's registry "in such a manner as hath been usual."

    In other words, rather than having to come up with a copyright registry out of whole cloth, they repurposed an existing, familiar institution and said "the registration system will work based on the way the old system used to work."

  • Jun 8th, 2018 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: The most important fact of all

    Thank you for posting this quote. The best defense against agenda-driven modern writers trying to rewrite history is to look at contemporary sources, and here we clearly see the perspective of the authors of the time and how they were looking for legal leverage against abusive publishers, precisely as I said.

    If you go through the pamphlet, you see several times that, though he speaks from a position heavily steeped in Christian rhetoric and condemns written works that he finds obscene or heretical, he believes that giving a "Licenser" the ability to grant or prohibit the granting of publication licenses--in other words, having a censorship regime--is far worse in his eyes, something to be avoided because it will bring a whole host of problems that Techdirt readers will be quite familiar with already. (The more things change...)

    > Is it then fit the Licentiousness of the Press should be Unrestrain'd?
    > ...
    > Licentiousness of all sorts ought to be restrain'd, whether of the Tongue, the Pen, the Press, or any thing else, and it were well if all sorts of Licentiousness were as easy to Govern as this; but to regulate this Evil ten times more pernicious, is doing us no service at all.

    The solution he argued for, as noted, was to give authors a copyright with which to restrain the excesses of "the Press" (which in that time meant publishers, not news media.) Which is precisely what ended up happening.

  • Jun 8th, 2018 @ 2:01pm

    Re: Re: The most important fact of all

    No, you're misreading it. This is actually something very different, the genesis of a point that Mike has made several times about modern copyright, and yet another idea we should get back to: that copyright should not apply to all works automatically, but ought to need to be registered with the Library of Congress (or, in this case, the Register Book of the Company of Stationers) before it applies at all.

  • Jun 8th, 2018 @ 1:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The most important fact of all

    Yes. They were trying to get the Licensing Act (ie. the previous censorship regime) back, and they failed multiple times. The Statute of Anne was very different from what they wanted.

  • Jun 8th, 2018 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: Re: The most important fact of all

    Again, no. *The censors' license was not a copyright.* Copyright came about as a reaction to the Wild West conditions created when the censorship regime came to a (much-needed) end, but without any successor in place to keep publishers in check, they started running rampant, publishing things just because they could, no matter who it harmed. Copyright was instituted specifically to smack them down over this practice.

  • Jun 8th, 2018 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re: The most important fact of all

    Actually no. I know where that argument comes from, and it's taking a small grain of truth and turning it completely inside out and distorting it almost beyond recognition. The people who pushed for this were the people being harmed by the publishers.

  • Jun 8th, 2018 @ 10:16am

    The most important fact of all

    Fact 0: The true purpose of copyright is to keep abusive publishers in check.

    Seeing publishers whining about how they need more copyright to give them leverage against others for their own protection is real rich, considering that copyright was originally invented to give authors leverage against publishers because of their abusive behavior.

    The intro to the Statute of Anne, the original copyright law, makes this abundantly clear:

    Whereas printers, booksellers, and other persons have of late frequently taken the liberty of printing, reprinting, and publishing, or causing to be printed, reprinted, and published, books and other writings, without the consent of the authors or proprietors of such books and writings, to their very great detriment, and too often to the ruin of them and their families: for preventing therefore such practices for the future, and for the encouragement of learned men to compose and write useful books; may it please your Majesty, that it may be enacted, and be it enacted by the Queen's most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same;

    Publishers hate this, and they've spent the last 200+ years slowly turning it inside out. We need real copyright reform, to get it back on track and restore copyright to its original meaning, instead of the monstrosity it's become in the intervening years.

  • Jun 7th, 2018 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Mason Wheeler shits the bed again

    Yes, you said that earlier. And what's your point? There's only so much workers can do when faced with managerial stupidity imposed from above; why treat police as if they're somehow different in this regard?

  • Jun 6th, 2018 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Mason Wheeler shits the bed again

    So where does the flaw in my reasoning lie?

    Your words seem to indicate that the quotas are not, in fact, unreasonable, which puts you at odds with pretty much everyone here, including the original article.

    If that's not your intention, then what do you think would have been a better way to handle the problem? Having the police officers risk their jobs by doing nothing? Having them attempt to "honestly" meet the quotas by pulling over people who had done nothing wrong, just because they needed someone to give a breathalyzer test to?

    It seems to me that, when faced with nothing but bad options, they took the least-bad option available, the only one that ended up harming no one at all, and they ought to be commended for it, rather than excoriated by rabid ideologues.

  • Jun 6th, 2018 @ 8:48am

    Re: There is no metric that can't be gamed

    Exactly. This is just more of Tim Cushing's derangement showing through. Ingenuous cops, faced with a stupid requirement from management, do what ingenuous workers everywhere do when faced with a stupid requirement from management: they find the best way to technically meet the requirement. These police found a workaround that--as the article even acknowledges--didn't harm anybody, but that doesn't fit Tim's "law enforcement is evil" ideology, so he twisted it into "these horrible lazy cops are being lazy and untrustworthy."

    Here's an alternate interpretation that is actually consistent with another point that Tim loves to harp on in these ridiculous non-tech-related articles he loves to post on here even though they don't really belong on a tech blog: we are living in a period in which crime is going down across the board. The quotas don't mesh well with a reality in which there just aren't enough drunk drivers to pull over and administer breathalyzer tests to, so the police officers were simply making the best of a bad situation.

  • Jun 6th, 2018 @ 8:33am

    (untitled comment)

    Whatever the fuzzy line between DRM software and malware

    There is no line, "fuzzy" or otherwise. DRM is malware, and needs to be recognized by the law as such. Accusations of copyright infringement need to be treated the same way as accusations of any other lawbreaking: the accused is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. People aware of this issue have been trying to raise the alarm ever since the DMCA was first passed, and now look at how many other places the presumption of innocence is under attack in our society! We need to push back.

  • Jun 4th, 2018 @ 3:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Keep people miserable and they'll spit in your beer.

    As a species we've invested a lot more energy to putting down revolutions and propping up current regimes than we have in developing ways making revolutions actually work for the people.

    Well yeah. That's one of the most fundamental tenets of civilization: stability. Humanity has always put a lot of work into taming uncertainty and making life predictable, because that usually benefits more people (and benefits them more strongly) than the chaos of upending the status quo does. Sometimes there are exceptions--Techdirt's frequent coverage of "creative destruction" comes to mind--but it's human nature to crave stability, and there are good reasons behind that, many of which remain as valid today as they did when our ancestors first built walled settlements to keep the predators out.

  • Jun 4th, 2018 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Keep people miserable and they'll spit in your beer.

    Sure, and I'm not saying that the previous Egyptian or other Arab Spring-related regimes were actually good. The people who revolted had a good reason for wanting to get out from under those regimes, and I'd never deny that.

    What I'm saying is that when they did so, *they failed to actually improve the problematic conditions they were objecting to.* In many cases, they even made the situation worse overall. It's like the old saying, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss," but applied to government. In light of this, I am asking, why should we treat the revolts as a good thing when they didn't improve things by any objective metric I'm aware of?

  • Jun 4th, 2018 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re:

    Yes the outcomes were bad, but the alternative of just continuing on, same as usual were considered bad enough that it was considered worth the risk

    By who? A lot less than "everyone in the country" actually participated in these things, but the consequences of their actions ended up affecting everyone, usually negatively.

  • Jun 4th, 2018 @ 8:55am

    (untitled comment)

    US social media platforms have played a part in anti-government uprisings around the world.

    You say that as if it's a good thing. And maybe, from a certain ideological perspective, it is a good thing simply on principle. But objectively, do we have even a single case where these uprisings led to better conditions for the people of the countries involved? It certainly didn't for the Egyptians!

  • Jun 1st, 2018 @ 2:52pm

    (untitled comment)

    There's something very creepy going on with Facebook's face-tagging system.

    A few months back, when I got engaged to my girlfriend (now wife), I took a pic of her wearing the ring and put it up on FB. It immediately tagged the photo as being of her, but I honestly have no idea how, given that she only had one photo of herself on her profile, and it was a very poor-quality image, and also several years old; the face in that photo doesn't look at all like what she looks like today. But somehow it identified her, and that kind of creeps me out.

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