M. Alan Thomas II’s Techdirt Profile


About M. Alan Thomas IITechdirt Insider

My addiction started when I began reading copyright law for fun in college, and it's all been downhill from there: library school, a "Guild of Radical Militant Librarians" t-shirt, an information policy Tumblr, and now Techdirt.

M. Alan Thomas II’s Comments comment rss

  • Apr 25th, 2016 @ 4:28pm

    Re: Re:

    More generally, "cooperation" is worth points in the federal sentencing guidelines, as I recall. As is taking responsibility (i.e., pleading guilty).

  • Apr 14th, 2016 @ 10:39pm


    Exactly! The high ratings in response to the following questions clearly show that zero-rating produces market distortions in favor of zero-rated apps:

    How likely would you be to try a new online service if it was part of a free data offering?

    How likely would you be to use more data on your smartphone or tablet if a free data offering made some of that traffic not count against your data allowance?

  • Apr 12th, 2016 @ 10:52pm

    (untitled comment)

    The dissent envisions a world where the government wins every case . . .
    . . . because if it got its way, they would.

  • Apr 12th, 2016 @ 10:50pm

    Re: Re: Why would a defense lawyer (or ANYONE) get to keep stolen assets?

    Some state laws allow the return of property if the possessor did not know it was stolen, but federal law does not. More generally, I'm under the impression that those statutes apply (or are intended to apply) to goods and not cash, but I could be wrong about that.

    Plenty of people spend it all and then never repay court judgements, although they can certainly be forced to resell anything they bought with the money. The Bernie Madoff scandal resulted in net losses in the billions despite being able to recover some of the money paid out during the final years of the scheme: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Madoff#Size_of_loss_to_investors

  • Apr 6th, 2016 @ 2:52am

    Re: My cheers for FCC trying to slap AT&T for this

    Regular price $70
    Privacy surcharge +$30
    In which case their exec lied in the speech.

    Regular price $100
    Discount if you wave your privacy -$30
    In which case their base rate went up and they're presumably lying in their advertising.

  • Mar 22nd, 2016 @ 6:59pm


    You know, fan works are generally justified under fair use. Fair use is a constitutional right,* and it's a multi-factor test, not just "Profit, yes/no?" So there's a constitutional right to use established IP to make money as long as the other factors sufficiently favor fair use. If that right's being suppressed by baseless lawsuits—and I'm not saying it is, because I haven't fully examined this particular case—then yes, I consider that oppression by someone with enough time and money to throw around baseless lawsuits.

    *Which is to say that it is the expression of the limitation in the Copyright Clause.

  • Mar 15th, 2016 @ 10:38pm

    (untitled comment)

    While you're right that code by federal employees would be in the public domain in the United States, open source or (preferably) a CC0 license would still be necessary to overcome foreign copyrights.* The United States government has always reserved the right to enforce foreign copyrights over material it's barred from copyrighting domestically, and I'm given to understand that it has—on rare occasion—actually done so. Thus, licensing of that content remains an issue for many software developers living in other countries.

    *The code would only be public domain in countries that use the rule of the shorter term and consider the U.S. term to be of zero length with respect to noncopyrightable content. Or which lack copyright laws, I suppose.

  • Mar 4th, 2016 @ 3:13am

    (untitled comment)

    By "Sexual Exploitation" the NCOSE means, among other things, "pornography." This is the group known until recently as Morality in Media. Their annual "Dirty Dozen" list of "the top 12 facilitators of porn in America" / "leading contributors of sexual exploitation" regularly features such stalwarts as the American Library Association, the Department of Justice and/or Attorney General, the Department of Defense, Wikipedia, and anyone whose ad campaigns they felt were over-sexualized (although some of their claims suggest that their mind is dirtier than mine if that's what they're getting out of it).

    Basically, they're well-known, longtime haters operating under a new name.

  • Feb 22nd, 2016 @ 11:48pm

    (untitled comment)

    Just terrific…… that kid seems to be thinking an inch past the end of her nose
    Where else is she supposed to be thinking when the DHS is up in her face?

  • Feb 5th, 2016 @ 1:15pm


    The first and second parties are the police and their target. The phone company is not directly involved in A trying to catch B; they're just a third party, as is everyone else who is not the prosecution or the defense.

  • Feb 5th, 2016 @ 1:12pm

    (untitled comment)

    There is no Fourth Amendment right to evade a valid arrest warrant. Andrews was wanted on multiple counts of attempted murder. A life "on the lam" may require some inconveniences, such as not staying in one's home, and turning one's cell phone off when not in use. There is no constitutional right to avoid being arrested for one's crimes, and nothing unreasonable about the police using the same information that Andrews was sharing with the rest of the world to apprehend him.
    So what I'm reading here is that it is the government's belief that you do not have any constitutional rights if the government issues a warrant for your arrest; any and all methods to arrest you should be legal because "There is no constitutional right to avoid being arrested for one's crimes." Scary.

  • Feb 5th, 2016 @ 12:49pm

    (untitled comment)

    Small nuclear reactors may be expensive, but large ones . . . well, the infrastructure cost of the plants themselves is expensive, but the production cost of the energy is cheap.

    Of course, on the safety front, the safest reactors are the newest models, while we've been so worried about safety in the U.S. that we haven't let anyone build them (or any new reactor) and instead keep extending the permitted operational life of the old ones. 9_9

  • Jan 30th, 2016 @ 6:19pm

    (untitled comment)

    Regardless of what I think of Trump, is there an issue here that the only takedown targeted a news network with which Trump is currently having a spat? Although I suppose that would require EMI to back Trump, and I have no idea what their position (if any) is.

  • Jan 27th, 2016 @ 11:58am

    (untitled comment)

    Does anyone know if any of the other suits were valid? A lot of them seem to be against t-shirt companies, and I can see that being a lot more likely. Not just because they're a likely place for a meme, but because I've seen plenty of t-shirt companies with rapidly-rotating stock that strikes me as dubiously licensed (but gone too fast for most people to notice). But I want to know if I'm being overly-cynical here.

  • Jan 18th, 2016 @ 7:34pm


    Dying relatively young just after your final work comes out is the sort of thing for which I respect copyright surviving the creator. Let's say you've got a 27-year-old artist who's just put out their latest work and had a kid. Then they die in a car crash. Dead people don't necessarily connect with fans well and certainly can't tour. I feel like they should be able to try to have their kid supported through college on their final work—no guarantee that any art is still making money after that long, but that's not the law's problem—especially given that most creators would have reasonably expected to be around and supporting their kid that long and most kids can reasonably expect their parents to support them until they're adults. And then because we don't want to make copyright some sort of incentive to keep having kids or a moral test, we put a flat minimum copyright duration into the law without asking who the heirs are and how deserving they are.

    Similarly, I don't want a flat expiration-on-death even for older works, because publishers might not want to publish new editions / retrospectives of old or sick creators if they're afraid that they won't have the rights long enough to earn out production costs. (Publishers aren't perfectly logical here, but the law should be designed to encourage them to not screw over old and sick creators regardless of what we think of their logic.) Of course, that only requires extended duration for a few years after death, and a flat copyright term wouldn't have death problems at all.

    There's also an argument to be made for ensuring that any spree-buying in the wake of a beloved creator's death goes through licensed channels rather than a fly-by-night publisher who swoops in to make cheap memorial editions of suddenly-public-domain works before the creator's body is even cold.

  • Jan 15th, 2016 @ 9:14pm

    (untitled comment)

    I feel like Online Policy Group v. Diebold, Inc. would cover this, that being a security-relevant leaked-emails case.

  • Jan 14th, 2016 @ 8:54pm

    (untitled comment)

    Isn't figuring out which provisions of the law are interdependent and which are severable something that judges, y'know, get paid to do?

  • Jan 14th, 2016 @ 11:45am

    (untitled comment)

    When encrypted cell phones are outlawed, only outlaws will have encrypted cell phones.

    (Also, do they really think that international terrorists are going to solely use phones sold in New York?)

  • Jan 13th, 2016 @ 4:37pm

    Re: Re:

    What web page? T-Mobile.com, the website of T-Mobile, the company we're talking about. Why, did you think it might be hidden on Verizon's?

    Do you need to create a login to access it? Yes, you have to click the hot pink "SIGN UP" button if you have not done so in the past. If you've forgotten your username, it's your phone number. If you've forgotten your password, they can text it to you. (Not terribly secure, no, but not hard, either.) As someone who works in a public library, I can confirm that some people have trouble with stuff like this, but they also usually don't know how to use a smart phone.

    Why is it not a setting in the phone menu? I don't know why it's not a setting in the phone menu. I don't recall any T-Mobile-specific settings in my running-vanilla-Android phone menu; should my provider be inserting their own controls into my phone menu?

    Why do some people report not seeing it or it's greyed out? THOSE are excellent questions. No idea. I hear there's some conflict with some legacy data stash plans and so on, which DO have some sort of super-secret opt-out site. You should probably lead with those issues.

  • Dec 26th, 2015 @ 9:59pm

    (untitled comment)

    Well, some of the people paying little-to-no money to watch it for free at home are the sort of people who would be willing to pay $20 to see it at the theater . . . and they will. The rest are not, and they won't. The better point is that very few people fall into the third category.

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