David Muir's Techdirt Profile

David Muir

About David Muir

Posted on Techdirt - 24 March 2012 @ 12:00pm

David Muir's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

The favorite posts we choose are undoubtedly influenced by our experience. So here’s a quick rundown of my background: I’m Canadian. I went to school for Radio and Television Arts and briefly worked in print and radio journalism. I was involved in and managed software development at IBM for two decades. Now I’m a real estate agent. (Along the way, I spent ten years as an auxiliary police officer in Toronto.)

Real estate agent and ex-cop you say? Some of you have two reasons to stop reading right now! But I hope you continue on.

It is no shock that trademark and copyright law affected my first two media-related career choices. But it is a bit of a surprise to see the way it affects my current career. Facts are not subject to copyright. Real estate’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS®) is essentially a database of facts and most real estate boards try to claim copyright over the entries. Lately the fight has been more focused on consumer privacy than copyright. But no matter what, gone are the days when a real estate agent’s key contribution was “I know something you don’t know.” My success in this career hinges on the same points Mike’s been saying: Connect with people (fans!), be human, and be awesome. The business models that will work in real estate, as in many other industries facing a disruption by the Internet, are based on adding value by being an enabler and not a gatekeeper.

I noticed a theme that influenced the rest of my favorites: Just because this is true… doesn’t mean that is true. For all you students of philosophy, some of these are examples of logical fallacies, mostly non-sequiturs. Some are just plain overreaches.

As a general example: Just because copyright law exists doesn’t mean it should always be enforced to the fullest extent. Nor does it mean that every business setback requires a new and tougher copyright law to compensate.

Just because you can sue or threaten to sue someone, doesn’t mean it is always the right way to go. This week we’ve seen the UFC take on its own biggest fans and a magnanimous pair of actors smooth over the PR mess left by litigious lawyers.

Just because Louis CK found a formula for success doesn’t mean it is the only answer — or even the best answer. The naysayers who say things like “only a business model that makes money should be used” have not wrapped their heads around the idea that one-size does not fit all — and how will you know what makes money until you try it? Plenty of non-intuitive ideas (like free-to-play MMOs) have proven to be big moneymakers. We are in a period of transition which means a lot of experimenting should be happening and must be encouraged.

Just because some job-seekers are desperate enough to give up their social networking login information doesn’t mean that employers should ever ask for it. But it also doesn’t mean that we immediately need a new law. If you don’t care about your personal information and you want to work for a place that violates privacy so cavalierly: by all means, give ‘er.

Just because innovation happens regardless, doesn’t mean the current patent system isn’t a huge hindrance. The cost of patents, even ones that are non-obvious but trivial, is that people waste effort solving the same problem over and over. There’s also the very real issue of forcing proprietary (non-standard) products to market. Imagine if all the World-Wide Web and Internet standards had been patented instead of being developed via RFC.

And finally, in the article that saddened me the most and one that sickened me (do anti-favorites count?): just because some people are despicable does not mean the law should be twisted to punish them an extra amount. So in the first case, as sad as a suicide is, and as much as jerks and bullies make life hard for everyone, we have to be careful about pulling out a bigger stick than is necessary because of our emotional response to the tragedy. In the second case, we can’t start putting people in jail for being fascinated by horrible things.

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