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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 16 January 2018 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 150: The CES 2018 Post-Mortem

from the now-officially-a-tradition dept

Mike was at CES 2018 last week, and now for the third year in a row we've got our special episode of the podcast dedicated to looking at the best (and worst) innovations on show. As usual, he's joined by long-time CES veteran Rob Pegoraro — so without any further preamble, here's The CES 2018 Post-Mortem.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 January 2018 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the say-something dept

This week, our first place comment on the insightful side came in response to our post about the fact that copyright maximalists appear to have thrown in the towel on fighting for more copyright extensions. John Snape offered a simple and popular sentiment:

If you can't make a profit after 28 years exploiting a copyright, you're a failure.

In second place, we have an anonymous comment that also racked up quite a few funny votes, responding to Trump's latest comments about libel laws:

I don't think I'm ever going to get over the guy who says whatever it is that pops into his head complaining that you should not be allowed to say whatever it is that pops into your head.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from Ninja in response to the NSA denying prior knowledge of the Meltdown and Spectre exploits, noting that this is a little hard to simply believe without questioning:

Fox denies knowledge of huge hole in the fence. Claims it would never harm chickens.

I've actually truncated Ninja's comment there, because he went on to quote an earlier comment from discordian_eris regarding the FBI and the MalwareTech case, and so rather than include it second-hand, here it is as our second editor's choice for insightful:

I'm reminded of this quote almost every time the FBI is involved in a case.

He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truth without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.

Thomas Jefferson

The FBI lies so habitually I fail to see how any judge can treat them as credible.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is another comment about the FBI, this time from an anonymous commenter responding to their latest cries about encryption being a threat to public safety:

News Flash: "FBI Says Whispering is Evil and Everyone must speak loudly into the microphone"

In second place, it's back to the story about copyright extensions, where regular parodist Mr Big Content bemoaned the sad state of affairs:

This Is What Happens When You Let Teh Pirates Make Copywright Laws

It should be a Law that anybody who has ever copied ANYTHING should be probihibited from having any say in Coppyright Laws. Then we will SEE FAIRNESS PREVAIL for teh TRUE INTELECTUAL PROPETRY OWNERS. YOU KNOW ITS MORALLLY RIGHT!!!

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with JoeCool offering another analogous take on the FBI's encryption panic:

Then the FBI lambasted the glove industry for enabling criminals to commit crimes without leaving fingerprints. The evil geniuses of the glove cartel are making the jobs of police everywhere much more difficult, and should be forced to work on gloves that leave fingerprints when used to commit crimes.


And finally, we head to our post about how a satirical false excerpt from Fire and Fury demonstrated the futility of trying to ban "fake news", where Roger Strong grasped at some threads of hope:

Some of us are holding onto hope that Trump is actually a still-alive Andy Kaufman is his greatest satire yet.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 13 January 2018 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: January 7th - 13th

from the copyright-and-wrong dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2013, we watched as new players tried to get into the copyright trolling game but were rebuffed by a court system getting wise to their antics — even if, at the same time, established copyright trolls were upping their insane demands. We got some great examples of copyright nonsense as Lionsgate issued a takedown on a video that the Copyright Office itself had featured as an example of fair use, and Sony released an album literally called The Bob Dylan Copyright Extension Collection in order to extend their European copyrights. Amidst all this, we published a long interview we conducted with Derek Khanna, author of the suppressed RSC copyright policy brief.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2008, the web of piracy was getting increasingly complex as large entertainment companies realized they could be mining the world of user-generated content. Hollywood's latest DRM efforts were doing their usual job of punishing only paying customers (though perhaps not as much as their extra-special screener DRM punished Academy members), and the UK was reforming its copyright to adopt DRM anti-circumvention laws of its own. Meanwhile, eBay was fighting back against DMCA abuse and Canadian courts struck down the latest efforts to put a piracy tax on iPods.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2003, it was the pirate tax on CDs that Canadians were starting to (unsuccessfully) fight back against. We watched as Lexmark got in on the DMCA abuse game to try to block third-party ink cartridges, while the EFF outlined the many unintended consequences of the DMCA, and more people were realizing that Hollywood just doesn't get it. At least Rep. Rick Boucher was trying to defend fair use against the DMCA's onslaught.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 9 January 2018 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 149: Barbies v. Bratz

from the a-toy-story dept

If you've been reading Techdirt for more than five years, you probably remember the conclusion of Mattel v. MGA — and if you've been reading for more than thirteen years, you might even remember when it started. This epic legal battle over intellectual property went through nearly a decade of rulings and reversals, and the resulting story is a fascinating one that ties in a lot of the topics we discuss here at Techdirt. It's also the subject of the new book You Don't Own Me by law professor Orly Lobel, who joins us on this week's episode to revisit this particular law opera and what it says about the wider world of IP.

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 January 2018 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the kicking-off-2018 dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is a simple comment from Mason Wheeler making a straightforward proposal regarding copyright terms on America's (hopefully last) empty Public Domain Day:

I find 14 years, optionally renewable once to be perfectly reasonable.

In second place, we've got a comment from Tanner Andrews about the journalist who was arrested for publishing confidential information a police officer gave to her:

The Case Has Already Been Decided

In Florida Star v. BJF, 491 U.S. 524 (1989), the US Supreme Court said that, if you lawfully obtained what was meant to be non-public information, you could publish it. There, the police dept had unintentionally included a rape victim's name in the materials they made available to the press. Cub reporter did not know it was illegal to publish that information [Fla. Stat. 794.03, still on books as of 2017].

Vic sued, and the newspaper lost all the way through the state courts. Reversed, resoundingly.

It is possible that the Laredo PD could have a claim against the officer who provided the information, but they cannot plausibly claim that talking to a cop is an unlawful method of obtaining police information.

Legal advice is what you get from the attorney you hire, and you would probably want to hire one licensed in your state.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a pair of comments about the deeply broken structure of the patent office and the ways it promotes the rushed approval of bad patents. Jason raised an additional interesting point:

Not only did they start approving more patents, but they also raised the fees to challenge a patent. To have a patent undergo an ex-parte reviewed went from about $2,000 to $18,000 and for an intra-parte it went from about $9,000 to about $40,000 (I could be off on the numbers, I was fighting a patent troll back in 2012 because of this nonsense, so just going from memory).

So someone realized they could make even more money, simply by approving bad patents

An anonymous commenter, meanwhile, pointed out the dissonance when it comes to different aspects of IP:

Politicians: "We get so many patents per day it's not realistically possible to give them each the proper investigation they deserve."

Also Politicians: "Google needs to police YouTube better."

Over on the funny side, our first place comment is from Stephen T. Stone making a joke (which I admit I only barely get...) about our most recent mention of the selfie-giant Naruto:

Do we really have to? I mean, the filler arcs were garbage and I still can’t believe they found a way to keep it going after…


Interestingly enough, our second place winner is also about Naruto, with Mark Murphy presenting a hypothetical on top of the absurd YouTube copyright claims over white noise:

What if Tomczak left his white-noise generator lying around, and a macaque monkey picked up the generator and recorded ~10 hours of white noise?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on our annual end-of-the-year post for 2017, where one anonymous commenter predicted the headlines to come in future years:

2018: There Is Always More, And It Is Always Worse

2019: See What We Mean?

2020: 01000100 01000101 01010011 01010100 01010010 01001111 01011001 00100000 01000001 01001100 01001100 00100000 01001000 01010101 01001101 01000001 01001110 01010011

2025: Found Good Bashing Stick, Will Trade For Rocks To Throw

And finally, because I love a good reworking of an old turn of phrase, we've got TheResidentSkeptic responding to Donald Trump hiring Charles Harder to threaten Steve Bannon with a seasonal version of a joke more commonly expressed these days via GIFs of Jon Stewart or Michael Jackson:

I am so happy...

... that I got tins of flavored popcorn for Christmas.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 6 January 2018 @ 12:00pm

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

from the a-new-year dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2013, we kicked off the year by witnessing things start to go seriously wrong for a little law firm by the name of Prenda. Well, that and noting how, as usual, nothing at all was entering the public domain (a situation that looked like it could be extended thanks to the supreme court). The Megaupload case was mired in the courts and some companies were getting impatient. And we saw some pretty stunning DMCA nonsense with a takedown over a barely-customized default blog login page.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2008, Hollywood was getting a taste of trade negotiation problems, the RIAA was admitting some errors in the Jammie Thomas trial (while flubbing an opportunity for some not-awful PR), and RealNetworks (which was still around) was shutting down competitors. We couldn't help think the entertainment industry needed to learn from the folks making a living by selling public domain content on eBay.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2003 (and the last few days of 2002), the internet was changing and growing: it appeared that criminals had really figured out to use it, and there was a debate over dropping the capital "I" at the beginning, and of course some time to mourn the death of the payphone. We saw the DMCA abused to take down an entire web host over one claim of infringement, and record labels try to claim that even 95 years is too short for copyright, while one author was trying to challenge the unusual copyright on Peter Pan, and the tech industry was gearing up to fight back against DRM. Also, we celebrated the 20th birthday of TCP/IP.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 2 January 2018 @ 1:37pm

The Techdirt Podcast: 2017 Round-Up

from the lots-happened dept

Happy new year, podcast listeners! We'll be back with our regular weekly episodes starting next Tuesday, but this week it's time to look back at 2017 and highlight some of the most interesting episodes that you might have missed.

First, we head all the way back to last January and our second episode of the year: the CES 2017 post-mortem, our second look at the most interesting things from the Consumer Electronics Show. Mike is getting ready to head back to CES again this month, so we'll have another installment in this now-regular feature coming very soon:

It will surprise nobody that, later that month, politics took center stage for a few episodes. We had a discussion about how people can change government, and then dug into some details with a look at the new FCC, and the dangers ahead for net neutrality (it is no great miracle that many of our warnings were correct):

Fast-forward to March, and you may remember the massive Amazon Web Services outage that crippled huge portions of the internet and turned out to have been caused by a single typo. This prompted an episode all about how we got to this dangerously delicate situation online, and what to do about it:

Also in March, we took a look at another form of utter dependency on monolithic corporations that threatens the future of technology — DRM, and the threat it represents to the very concept of ownership:

We kicked off the month of May with a discussion about the surveillance state, followed by a closer look at the history of the crypto-wars:

After that, it was our most popular episode of the year by a wide margin, in which we sat down with Cory Doctorow to discuss his compelling new book Walkaway, among many other things:

May was also a time of widespread viral mourning for the supposedly "dead" MP3 file format. Somewhat irritated by the misinformation and misunderstandings, we dedicated an episode to putting that idea to rest as best we could:

Fast-forward again to August, and we celebrated Techdirt's 20th birthday with an episode all about the history of the blog:

In October, politics and copyright converged in the legal mess around Donald Trump's appearances on the Howard Stern show, and we were joined by Cathy Gellis to discuss what the situation really was:

Finally, almost a full year after our initial conversation about the new FCC, we were joined by former agency chair Tom Wheeler himself to discuss just what was happening under Ajit Pai's purview:

And that's a wrap on the highlights of 2017! Of course, there were plenty more episodes, so be sure to check out the full list and subscribe for more using the links below. We'll be back with a brand new episode next week!

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, 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 December 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2017 At Techdirt

from the what-a-year... dept

It's that time again! In lieu of the top comments of the week, we're using this last Sunday of the year to look at the comments that racked up the most funny and insightful votes in all of 2017. We'll be highlighting the top three comments in each category, and noting where they ranked in terms of combined votes as well. (For those of you who are still interested in this week's winners, here's first and second place for insightful, and first and second place for funny.)

The Most Insightful Comments Of The Year

In the last week of January, we were still reeling from the inauguration and choking on the words "President Trump" when the cheeto-in-chief hit us with another gut-punch: the disgusting and transparently racist Muslim travel ban, enacted via a sloppy and ill-fated executive order. Mike, like most decent people with any kind of platform, felt compelled to speak out, and his post about "Our Humanity" became (unsurprisingly) a busy discussion which swelled to nearly 400 comments in less than a month, and yielded both of our 2017 winners on the insightful side.

In first place, it's one of our most prolific commenters and frequent winners: Roger Strong. Roger got in with the first comment, and used it well to deliver a simple but highly appropriate quote:

"The way a government treats refugees is very instructive because it shows you how they would treat the rest of us if they thought they could get away with it."

- Tony Benn, British Minister of Parliament for 47 years

Not only did this rocket to the top of the insightful leaderboard, it hit second place on the list for combined insightful and funny votes as well — not because it racked up any votes for comedy, but just based on the sheer weight of its insightful votes. Yup: to probably nobody's surprise, 2017 has been a year that demanded more thoughtfulness than cleverness, with the first place funny comment getting just barely more funny votes than the third place insightful comment got in its category — and staying well behind the second place winner for insightful. That winner? Mike Masnick himself, in an early reply to a critic of the travel ban post. As a general rule, we exclude staff comments from the weekly posts, but let's make an exception for the year-end round-up and for Mike's response (which also scored quite a lot of funny votes, bringing it to first place on the combined insightful-funny list) to the accusation that we were cherry-picking and making an emotional argument, and that only children are convinced by this:

Really? Because that seemed to be the basis of the entire platform of the President of the United States.

In third place, we have our only true anonymous winner this year (though the funny side is entirely pseudonymous commenters). It came in on the last day of August, in response to our post about Jeff Sessions attempting to use Hurricane Harvey as proof that the police need to be militarized. Someone claiming relevant expertise (naturally this can't be confirmed, but they sure appear to deliver on that claim with a very convincing argument!) offered a much more practical way of looking at things:

Speaking as a first responder/first responder trainer...


What's needed instead are exactly the kinds of resources that this administration wants to strip out of FEMA: simple, basic essentials that are relatively inexpensive and save lots of lives.

Let me give you a timely example. The Cajun Navy, bless their hearts, showed up in force in Houston to do whatever they could to supplement the hopelessly-overwhelmed local, state, and federal personnel. And now some of them are dead, because they didn't have lifejackets (PFDs). A minimal PFD for this kind of work costs about $100, a good one is about $250, a bulk order for several thousand would no doubt drive the price down.

No, it's not very cool and sexy and oh-gosh-look-at-the-pretend-soldiers, but it's a basic tool that keeps people alive in situations where they'd otherwise die. A quarter-million dollars worth of PFDs is chump change in comparison with the overall expense -- flying helicopters is REALLY expensive -- but it would yield value far beyond its price.

That's just one example. There are a lot of others, including swiftwater rescue training -- something that almost none of the Houston city personnel have had because there's no money for it. But SWR is essential for anyone trying to perform rescues in fast water, particularly in urban areas where there are all kinds of hazards under the surface. Two days of quality SWR instruction costs $250/student and is probably enough to keep them from dying while trying to keep other people from dying.

Harvey. Sandy. Katrina. This is the new normal. There will be another one. Soon. And money needs to be spent on basic gear and basic training before one of these turns into a multi-thousand person casualty event. So don't buy the cops AR-15's: buy them PFDs and SWR training. Those are FAR more likely to keep them alive.

That's it for the insightful side. Now on to...

The Funniest Comments Of The Year

In first place on the funny side, we have our one and only returning winner from last year's list. In 2016, A Non-Mouse got a special category all their own with an impressive outlier comment that won third place in the insightful and funny categories separately, and first place in combined votes. As noted, things are rather different this year, with the insightful side dominating the charts: the first place winner for funny only managed to squeak into the combined leaderboard at ninth place (and is the only top-three funny winner to crack that chart at all). But the comedy didn't start with the comment — it started with the operator of allofgarden.com, an Olive Garden review website, who in July responded to a frivolous legal threat with an hilarious letter that, among other things, demanded a response "in limerick form". Naturally, the limericks began rolling into the comments — and A Non-Mouse's entry won the day by purposely misreading the "brandenforcements" email address that sent the initial threat:

There once was a man Branden Forcements
who confused some reviews for endorsements
His threats that came after
caused so much laughter
that perhaps he should seek new employments

In second place on the funny side, we have what is undoubtedly the shortest winning comment in Techdirt history (possibly tied for that spot, though certainly not beaten!) In early August, after a psychiatrist filed a ridiculous lawsuit over a completely wordless one-star review, frequent pseudonymous commenter Baron von Robber swooped in with the one-character comment that had to be made:


Finally, for third place we head back to May, when a hacker tried to extort money out of Netflix by threatening to leak the upcoming season of Orange Is The New Black, only to discover that he had deeply misunderstood Netflix's business model and its ability to actually compete with piracy. This rendered his threats facile and futile — something that Michael, another frequent pseudonymous commenter, elegantly summed up with a brief bit of dialogue:

Hacker: "Pay me $60,000 or I am going to advertise for you!!!!"

Netflix: "..."

Hacker: "That's it! I'm starting my advertising campaign!"

Netflix: "...umm...ok."

And that, folks, is our round-up of the winning comments for the year! Keep up the great work everyone — I'm looking forward to seeing what comes in 2018. Happy new year!

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Posted on Techdirt - 30 December 2017 @ 12:00pm

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

from the EOY dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, we were a bit surprised and confused to see pirated movies being shared from Hollywood IP addresses — and, it soon turned out, from all major record labels, and several government agencies including the DOJ. Whether this was just amateur honeypotting was unclear, but whatever the case, Hollywood still broke records at the box office that year. Meanwhile, the Senate was debating the extension of FISA — which means they were rejecting amendments that could improve it and passing it with all its problems intact.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, we took a look at Hollywood's ongoing crusade to convince ISPs around the world to block sites it doesn't like, and also at how the industry's supposed challenges with digitally archiving films are caused by their obsession with ownership and copyright, not technological limitations. The MPAA, at least, realized (after years of complaints) that elaborately DRM-laden DVD screeners for the Oscars are not worth the effort. Meanwhile, as the EU began looking to destroy fashion innovation by enforcing fashion copyrights, we were even more distressed to hear copyright mentioned in the same breath as the great pyramids of Egypt and the works of Michelangelo.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, people were telling the Copyright Office just what they think about the terrible parts of the DMCA, as Declan McCullough was treading the line of fearmongering but still providing a good look at some of the injustices the law enables. Cablevision's Optimum Online broadband was threatening to ban customers who use file trading services (regardless of the purpose of their use), and Hollywood was still obsessed with DRM — and this is an industry smart enough to fire the guy who convinced them selling DVDs might be a good idea!

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Posted on Techdirt - 23 December 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the not-so-silent-night dept

This week, we wrote (as we have many times) about the huge challenge of moderating online content and how it's unrealistic to expect social media companies to be magically perfect at it. One commenter insisted we were wrong, making the strange comparison to a bouncer at a bar, and an anonymous response won first place for insightful:

You have absolutely no idea of the scale difference between a bar where a few dozen people, or even a few hundred visit in one night and social platforms where thousands of accounts are created every minute.

In second place, we've got Roger Strong responding to Marsha Blackburn's "net neutrality" bill with some well-chosen additional material:

Wikipedia: Marsha Blackburn: Telecommunications

Blackburn has been closely associated with the telecommunications industry over the course of her career, as of 2017, Blackburn had accepted at least $693,000 in campaign contributions from telecom companies over her 14-year career in Congress.

Blackburn is an opponent of net neutrality in the United States, referring to it as "socialistic".

Blackburn opposes municipal broadband initiatives that aim to compete with Internet service providers.

She supported bills that restrict municipalities from creating their own broadband networks, and wrote a bill to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from pre-empting state laws that blocked municipal broadband.

In early 2017, Blackburn introduced to the House a measure to dismantle an Obama-administration online privacy rule that had been adopted by the FCC in October 2016. Blackburn's measure, which was supported by broadband providers but criticized by privacy advocates, repealed the rule which required broadband providers to obtain consumers' permission before sharing their online data, including browsing histories.

The measure passed the House in a party-line vote in March 2017, after a similar measure had been passed by the Senate the same week. She subsequently proposed legislation which expanded the requirement to include internet companies as well as broadband providers.

Also a climate change denier, anti-civil rights, a reliable source of anti-Obamacare wingnuttery, and a border wall and Muslim ban supporter.

In her defence, there's no word on her being banned from any shopping malls.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from An Onymous Coward providing a more detailed explanation of why policing social media ain't so easy:

You're not a software engineer so you can be forgiven for not knowing what follows. But you cannot be forgiven for pushing an agenda based on false and incomplete information then abusing your opposition from that ultimately flawed platform. Read on and educate yourself:

Twitter handles millions of tweets every day. Processing that amount of information is not something you can hire enough people to do in a manner that results in those tweets reaching their audience in anything less than several hours and at a cost that would cripple the company. No, this kind of thing must be automated.

Computers do not think. They don't reason and they don't have any capacity to be "subjective". There is a lot of software out there now that seems somewhat "intelligent" and "reasoned" but it isn't. It's pure algorithm and even the best AI is still following a script of sorts. We have not developed the computer that can independently think like a human and accurately determine, in just a few milliseconds, which tweets should be published and which should not.

Even humans would mess this up with alarming regularity. 140 characters is too little context to understand every message. Often you have to know that user's tweet history, the culture where they live and numerous other factors to determine with any degree of accuracy whether any given message should be posted.

We are nowhere near the technological level required to emulate a flawed room full of human reviewers much less improve upon them.

tl;dr You have no idea what you're talking about. Please go away and let the adults talk.

Next, we've got an anonymous response to the strained defense of the cop who shut off his dashcam during a drug dog search:

I would submit here that the something like 50% of the entire purpose for the existence of standard cops is the collection of evidence. They aren't there for prosecuting criminals, that's what district attorney's are for. They aren't there for determining guilt, that's what courts are for. They are there for collecting evidence (and then carrying out warrants based on that evidence), and acting as first responders in issues of public safety.

So when a cop deliberately fails to collect evidence, then what exactly is he doing? There was no public safety issue here, meaning the only thing he should have been doing was collecting evidence of criminal activity. Except he deliberately avoided doing that.

The police did not do their job here. In fact, they specifically avoided doing their job. They stood up and said "Right now, we are attempting to gather evidence that can be presented to the courts/prosecutors. So we are going to go around and turn off all of our evidence gathering devices. Because the best way to collect evidence for the court is to deliberately not collect any evidence at all."

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is, amusingly, a response to one of last week's winners via last week's comment post. Got that? Here's David taking the joke one step further:

Missing crucial information

In totally unrelated news, Verizon announced today that its next round of infrastructure investment would extend service to over two million new subscribers, all over the United States, in alphabetical order. Many, perhaps most, of these subscribers, the spokesperson emphasized, are still alive.

Will that also be the case by the time the service arrives?

In second place, we've got a nice solid joke from charliebrown in response to retailer Five Below's attack on an ice cream shop with a similar name:

I think they're just upset because 10 below is cooler

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a pair of responses to the latest developments in a lawsuit over a Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mashup. First, it's That Anonymous Coward celebrating this triumph for the rights of the creator:

I am happy to see the estate prevail!

Now as soon as they can bring Dr. Seuss back from the DEAD he can enter into negotiations with Paramount to perhaps produce a Seussian Star Trek book.

And finally, we've got Ryunouske gamely taking on the obligatory Seussian translation:

TLDR this article

We will take you to court.
we will also claim our tort.
You cannot use our Trek.
Without cutting us a big fat cheque.

You cannot claim Fair Use.
for our definition is very loose.
We have thrown money at our Judge.
On our claims, we will not budge.

We will continue to sue.
Even if it looks like a zoo.
We will have our money.
Because rhyming is our honey.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 December 2017 @ 12:00pm

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

from the advent-calendar dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, the MPAA was claiming that millions of DMCA takedowns are proof that Google needs to magically stop piracy, while the RIAA was trying to rewrite the history of copyright, and the BPI was threatening to personally sue the leaders of the UK pirate party. But the intellectual property diplomats at the US State Department were moaning about how they can't export strict copyright laws as easily as they'd like to, since for every country like the UK (where London police were setting up a special force of copyright cops), there was one like Australia (which was refusing to play Hollywood's game). Then, of course, at the end of that same week, the administration's shortlist for new ambassador appointments included a bunch of big Hollywood donors.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, it was sports organizations taking the lead in the copyright fight, realizing they could (ab)use it to try to stifle press coverage, and clamp down on those dastardly live-bloggers. The IFPI went after Alibaba for linking to downloadable music, while the Korean government was paying out $170 million to publishers to mollify them after copyright extensions hurt their businesses. Amidst all this, we were pointing out that "balance" in copyright is a myth and a red herring, and it's time to get off of our unhealthy addiction to intellectual property.

Fifteen Years Ago

Not much different this week in 2002, with the RIAA amping up its extremely dubious claims with extremely dubious math and Hollywood fighting to ban DVD-copying software — while more and more people began to realize that copyright was enabling widespread censorship (not to mention undermining cybersecurity). But, there was a noteworthy light in the darkness! It was this week, about a year after the initial announcement, that Creative Commons was officially launched and began its ongoing project to change the way we think about copyright, content and sharing.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 19 December 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 148: The Lost Art Of Productive Debate

from the discourse-on-discourse dept

Even those of us who believe that the internet is overall a tremendous positive force when it comes to discourse and culture can admit that, in many parts of the online world (and really the world in general), having constructive and substantive conversations is... difficult. And that issue has most certainly come to the fore in the last couple of years. So this week, we're joined by author Barry Eisler (one of our first and most frequent podcast guests) to tackle the challenge of framing important debates in productive ways, and actually getting somewhere with them.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, 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 December 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the doj,-fcc,-fml dept

This week, both our top comments on the insightful side came in response to the DOJ's attack on Trump protestors, accusing them of "hiding behind the First Amendment". Robert L won first place for responding to that absurd notion:

You don't hide behind the first amendment...

You jump on top of that bitch and shout loudly "This is my fucking constitutionally protected right!"

Another extremely concerning part of the DOJ's arguments was the idea that knowing something about police tactics during protests implied guilt. An anonymous commenter won second place with a very appropriate reaction:

What bothers me more about this, is that the DOJ prosecutor seems to be saying that you need to be ignorant in order to be innocent. That's truly unsettling.

This anti-intellectualism movement is deeply troubling.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a pair of responses to the creator of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds making some quite ridiculous statements about copycats and intellectual property. TheResidentSkeptic elegantly summed up the general attitude:

Interesting point of view...

*I* was "inspired" by those that came before me; all those who came after me are just ripping me off...

Shortly after, Ben offered a reply that could just as easily go on the funny side but, hey, it's only funny because it's true:

I think that is called "The Disney Perspective"

Over on the funny side, we start out on our post about the many architects of the internet speaking out against the FCC's net neutrality repeal, where one commenter presented an extremely bizarre and confusing list of reasons that they are all apparently compromised and not to be trusted. Roger Strong won first place by holding a mirror up to the crazy:

The wheel. Used later by the MILITARY!

Cutlery. Used by staff at the CIA!

Pants. Used for spying, because RFID tags can be sewn into them!

Don't trust anyone who uses them!


For second place, we loop back to the DOJ's fearmongering over people knowing something as simple as the term "kettling", where Oblate pointed out something of a catch-22 in this news:

I have obtained illegal knowledge

Great, now I know that term too. Should I wait here for the riot police and federal charges, or is there an official tazing/surrender location?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a pair of comments regarding the recent unfortunate events around net neutrality. First, it's Toom1275 giving the FCC a pat on the back as the death of net neutrality loomed:

As the deadline draws near, at least NN opponents can take comfort knowing that their perfect streak of never once providing a truthful argument to support their position is in no danger whatsoever of being broken.

And finally, we've got an anonymous reaction to the evidence that not just some but most of the anti-net-neutrality comments submitted to the FCC were fake:

In totally unrelated news, Verizon announced today that its next round of infrastructure investment would extend service to over two million new subscribers, all over the United States, in alphabetical order. Many, perhaps most, of these subscribers, the spokesperson emphasized, are still alive.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 16 December 2017 @ 12:00pm

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

from the the-waning-year dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, more and more people were coming out against the efforts of the ITU's WCIT, including both Tim Berners-Lee joining the already-active Vint Cerf and Mozilla expressing its concerns. Though the White House denied that it was prepared to dump the ITU, it was firm in refusing to support a bad treaty. The ITU itself was doing a really bad job of pretending to respond to people's complaints, and even though a whole bunch of countries ended up refusing to sign the treaty, the boss decided to go ahead and declare victory anyway.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, people were digging in to the recently introduced PRO-IP bill, with the DOJ coming out against the legislation, even as Hollywood's favorite lawmaker complained it wasn't strong enough, and the inimitable William Patry explaining the many problems with the bill. North of the border, Canada was stalling out in its efforts to introduce its own version of the DMCA as public opposition continued to grow rapidly. And, in a piece of news that is especially amusing given recent events, people were just realizing that you could pretty much submit anything to the FCC's public comment system, including fake comedy entries claiming to be from Leon Trotsky, George W. Bush and... Donald Trump.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, there was a lot of uncertainty in the world of internet distribution and media distribution in general. We believed predictions that the DVD would be the last physical format, perhaps underestimating Hollywood's aggression on that front — like the fact that device makers appeared poised to give in to demands to put copy protection in everything. The Balkanization of the web into many walled gardens was becoming really concerning (though of course it was still silly for folks like the New York Times to be predicting "the end of free content"), but some folks like Tim O'Reilly were at least able to see the bigger picture on issues like piracy. And while it's easy to forget today that it wasn't always that easy or cheap to get yourself a web host for your small business (let alone personal) needs, in 2002 it was a big deal that a major player like Yahoo announced it would be getting into the small business hosting game.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 12 December 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 147: Games That Tell Stories

from the the-play's-the-thing dept

Gaming is changing the nature of storytelling. Video games of course — but also the modern rise of board games, tabletop RPGs and other forms of analog gaming. A good game does more than just arbitrarily pair play with a veneer of narrative, it marries the mechanics and the theme to enable interesting new ways of conveying and exploring complex ideas. This week, we're joined by game designer Randy Lubin to discuss how games can tell stories in a way nothing else can.

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Posted on Techdirt - 10 December 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the unregulated dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side came in response to the absurd trademark battle between the San Diego and Salt Lake comic conventions, where the former played some licensing games with Rose City to try to bolster its argument. Aerie simply wasn't having it, for good reason:

Seriously? Rose City didn't affiliate with the word "Comic Con", it affiliated with the entity of San Diego Comic Con. Someone forgot to tell SDCC that you cannot trademark a generic term. I don't see any jury finding for SDCC.

I've been collecting comic books ever since the 1970's and everyone I know has referred to comic conventions as "comic cons". Just what the fuck does SDCC think "comic con" stands for? It stands for "comic convention". It's the same reason why you can't trademark "popcorn" and sue another company for having "popcorn" in the name of its business.

SDCC stands a good chance of not just losing their lawsuit but also losing their trademark on "comic con".

This would be a different story if the SDCC had simply called their event "Comic Con" and trademarked that, but they didn't, because they would never have been allowed to. Their event is called "San Diego Comic Con" NOT "Comic Con". lols

In second place, we've got an excellent anonymous response to an absolutist anti-regulation commenter saying "I told you so" over the FCC's net neutrality repeal:

It never ceases to amaze how little people like you actually know about how the Internet works. Here is a small clue for you:

It has ALWAYS been regulated by the government.

All that's changed is who's doing the regulating and what the rules are.

Back in the late 70's, DARPA set the rules. And thankfully, they crafted them to do the most good for the most people. That's why it prospered: without rules it would have never gotten anywhere.

In the 80's, other networks arose and were connected to the ARPAnet and then gradually subsumed by it. There's a reason it worked out that way and not the other way around: regulation. Effective, useful regulation.

And so on. Regulation hasn't been perfect (I've been sharply critical from time to time) but it has largely succeeded in shepherding the Internet from a rather exclusive club to a national asset, a major driver of commerce, an educational treasure, a boon for culture, and a civic engagement platform.

Pai proposes to light this on fire. And Verizon/Comcast/et.al. are standing by to pour gasoline on the flames. Whether you are left or right doesn't matter, you should be able to recognize this as an act of wanton vandalism.

Since this staunch anti-regulation attitude is such a common refrain, for editor's choice on the insightful side we've got two more important counterpoints. First, it's another anonymous commenter making a comparison to Europe:

The EU market is more regulated than the US one, and actually, it's even more competitive.

It isn't strange, at least in cities, to have 6-8 ISPs (at least) competing with each other to give you the service.

From what I've heard, Comcast will never hunt (or even want to) in AT&Ts or Verizons turf, and vice versa.

That doesn't happen in the EU, where you see all major ISPs stabbing each other to get their share of the market.

Still, the problem isn't with the regulation itself, but with the nature of it. You have pro-consumer regulation and anti-consumer regulation.

It's up to you what you want: while an anti-consumer regulation "might" be better for business, it screws up you in one or other way.

On the other hand, pro-consumer regulation might sound as worse for business, but you forget the fact that there is already an unbalance in consumer-vendor relationships:

The vendor has the advantage, because it's his job. He knows better the market, the loopholes, the deals and in general, he has more information than the customer in that area.

So in an apparently equal environment, you're the one who is going to get screwed. This is like the casinos, the house always wins.

Next, it's Derek Kerton explaining some complications to the idea that regulation is the sole reason for telco monopolies in the first place:

In part. But the real reason we have telecom oligopolies is because this industry is a "natural monopoly".


It's not caused by regs. It's caused by naturally occurring:
High CapEx to start
Smaller Addressable market for new entrants
Higher total costs of redundant infrastructures
Economies of scale.

John Stuart Mill first explored natural monopolies, concluding that these services should either be delivered by the government, or by a tightly regulated private monopoly. We tend to call these businesses "utilities".

So, the market failure you say regs will cause is a real risk. The the market failure with no regs is a SURE THING. Given the choice of being thrown in a volcano (no regs, certain market failure), or flipping a coin - heads we throw you in the volcano, tails we don't (regs that may cause market failure)...you should prefer the coin toss.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner comes from Rocky, who did some copy editing on our post about Germany's calls for backdoors into every internet-connected device:

There is a spelling error in the article, it says 'written up a draft proposal' which I suppose should be 'written up a daft proposal'.

In second place, it's Roger Strong with some dark irony regarding internet conspiracy nonsense:

If some pig-ignorant inbred conspiritard spends his time listening to Alex Jones and posting birther and islamophobic wingnuttery, then at least it keeps him off the streets. It's not like he'll be elected President or appointed National Security Advisor.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we head to our story about the world's angriest lawyer dropping a lawsuit supposedly after being told to by an unidentified "supervisor" at an unidentified company. Two different commenters mused about who and what this might be, with This Anonymous Coward proposing one possibility...

Poor JLVD...

His shift manager are McDonalds made him drop the case...

...and an anonymous commenter putting forth an even simpler hypothesis:

Personally I believe that in this case immediate supervisor is pronounced mom.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 9 December 2017 @ 12:00pm

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

from the noteworthy-moments dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, the ITU was holding its World Conference on International Telecommunications to try to, more or less, "fix the internet" (not that it was broken). Their ideas about speeding up infrastructure built-out were more likely to slow it down, and it was unclear who many of the new proposed rules actually covered. They rushed to approve a deep packet inspection standard in secret, then turned out to be really bad at secrecy. Amidst all this it was no surprise that Congress managed to pass a unanimous resolution telling the ITU to keep its hands off the internet.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, Apple (while navigating the iPhone patent minefield) was proposing a plan to make extortion an explicit part of DRM, while Nielsen was for some reason trying to become a copyright cop. Perfect 10 was losing in its attempts to blame anyone with money for infringement, rather than the infringer while the MPAA, in an instance of extremely amusing irony, was forced to take its anti-piracy kit for universities offline for violating the GPL license on code therein. This was also the week that we saw the introduction of the PRO IP Act, which would be signed into law the following year.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, file sharing was in the legal crosshairs as Morpheus and Grokster went to court. Deals site FatWallet challenged a crazy DMCA claim from Wal-Mart over posting sale prices, leading to a public outcry and, later in the week, Wal-Mart backed down. We got a good example of licensing insanity when Finnish taxi drivers were forced to pay for the music they play in their taxis, and in the least surprising news ever, analysis of broadband prices following the recent Comcast/AT&T Broadband merger showed that they were going up.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 5 December 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 146: Can A Trivia App Resurrect Appointment Viewing?

from the the-hq-phenomenon dept

Normally, we wouldn't dedicate a whole episode of the podcast to talking about a single app — but every now and then something small comes along that contains innovations worth exploring. So this week, we're taking a look at the hit trivia app HQ, which is one of the first new things in recent memory to gain real momentum with "appointment viewing".

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, 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 - 3 December 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the not-so-neutral dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side came in response to the common refrain of anti-net-neutrality advocates that it's all about letting the government "take over" the internet. One anonymous commenter racked up the votes by explaining the reality:

Net Neutrality is not about the government taking over the Internet, because it has nothing to do with content on the Internet, It is about preventing the ISP's from taking over the Internet, and controlling what sites you can visit and for how much, so that they can turn the Internet into cable T.V. version 2.

If the ISP service is classified as a telecommunications service, they are not allowed to decide which sites you use, but if they are classified as infomation services they can obviously control what infomation they allow over their networks.

In second place, we've got a response from aerinai to our post about FOSTA, the House version of SESTA:

This will be bad

I look at Section 230 the same as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act(PLCAA) for gun makers. It protects the manufacturer of guns from selling a product that people can misuse. Prior to its passing... they had to deal with a ton of nuisance suits when people did stupid things with guns. This wasn't just individuals; but also states with axes to grind...

Thankfully, Section 230 was set up pretty well from the get-go so we didn't have to deal with these nuisance suits. People trying to sue Facebook and Twitter because ISIS used their platforms. People trying to sue because someone said something mean anonymously.... Section 230 protected against all that.

Now we are opening the floodgates to let politically motivated Attorney Generals like Jim Hood going after Google because a Sex Trafficking ad popped up once; and Kamala Harris bludgeoning Facebook because she saw a post propositioning sex...

This will not end here... it will get much much worse... wait until they add 'Stop Enabling Terrorist Attacks' (SETA) and 'Stop Enabling Online Bullying Attacks' (SEOBA)...

Good luck letting anyone put anything online after that; except for maybe a couple of pictures of puppies... everyone loves puppies.....unless those pictures of puppies have steganographic messages about sex trafficking hidden in them! Fine... no puppy pictures either... Thanks for ruining the internet, congress...

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from That Anonymous Coward, wondering why in the world a police department wouldn't want to use body cameras:

A bigger disservice happening is the amount of money his out of control department is going to cost the tax payers.

Cameras are everywhere, people have them in their pockets that shoot with a clarity you wouldn't believe.

So if you just want to have the only side of the story be the public's holding the camera more power to you. I guess the big reason would be what in the hell could possibly justify that officer hanging out the window pointing a gun at a citizen. So we have to draw our conclusions from the image we have, a reckless cop decided he might shoot someone for doing a wheelie. When questioned he deployed the age old cop defense of I was scared for my life... and somehow you let him write this in a report?

There is no possible threat posed by the biker heading away from you, the only threat is that officer holding a gun on an unarmed person he's not even trying to arrest for pissing him off.

Citizens in this town need to get their heads out of their collective asses & replace the chief. It hasn't happened to you yet, so its not really happening isn't reality. Do you want the change now or after the cop draws on your child & fires because he was afraid the 15 yr old was going to over power him and steal a nuclear weapon.

Next, we've got a short and sweet response from Doug Wheeler that works for a whole lot of silly anti-net-neutrality arguments (in this case, Mark Cuban's):

Net Neutrality isn't about the Internet. It's about the connection to the Internet.

Over on the funny side, we've got two winners that continue on the net neutrality topic. In first place it's JoeCool, who read the news about Twitter declaring the AT&T blog to be an unsafe site and wondered what the problem was:

But it IS unsafe! You might accidentally end up with AT&T service.

In second place it's That One Guy, putting to rest everyone's fears about Comcast removing its promise to avoid paid prioritization of traffic:

Obviously Comcast, being the most trusted company in america simply feels that it should be implied that they would never do something so blatantly anti-customer, and as such they don't want to waste people's times by forcing them to read it out.

I mean, would you expect them to write out 'We promise not to go door to door punching our customers in the face'? Same thing really. Since they would never, not in a million years do something like that, they're doing everyone a favor by saving time not explicityly saying it.

As for why they had it written down before, well I would guess that, as impossible as it would seem, people didn't quite realize what an absolutely amazing company Comcast was before, and as such, as insane as it was to contemplate, they felt the need to reassure people. As the trust between company and customer has grown, and their reputation as the most beloved company in america(if not the world, it wouldn't surprise me if other countries were desperately hoping that Comcast would start offering their world-class service elsewhere too) the need to waste time like that has lessened, to the point that they feel it's no longer necessary now.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a related story about New York's AG investigating the anti-net-neutrality comments submitted from dead people to the FCC. One anonymous commenter saw the implications:

Dead people are creating content on an FCC webpage?

Wow - copyright really does encourage the continued creation of content.

And finally, we've got a simple anonymous response to the government's accidental exposure of documents about NSA surveillance:

At least they're being consistent: they want backdoors into our data; in exchange, they offer backdoors into their data.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 2 December 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: November 26th - December 2nd

from the time-and-time-again dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, the copyright crowd was still reeling from the RSC report by Derek Khanna, and desperately trying to downplay it by chanting copyright is property! At the same time, Chris Dodd was trying to claim that the silly Facebook "copyright notice" that gets passed around proves everyone's love of copyright. But this same week, a case against UCLA over the streaming of licensed DVDs was dismissed, and Disney itself was sued for copyright infringement (though frankly that suit was pretty ridiculous). Oh, and Techdirt was also accused of infringement — and posted an open letter in response.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, movie producers were busy pissing off their directors and record labels were busy pissing off their musicians, all because artists could see the value of downloads and remixes and the suits couldn't. The MPAA's attempts to "help" universities fight file sharing looked a lot like distributing a malicious rootkit, and people were getting wise to the BSA's vindictive campaign over pirated software. The Romantics were closing the age-old gap in the music industry's permission culture when it comes to cover songs, and suing a licensed cover for sounding too much like the original, and the French government was working on a plan to kick file-sharers off the internet that would grow into the failure that was HADOPI.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, AOL-Time Warner was really committing to the walled garden game by musing about cutting off Time Magazine content from the wider web, anti-piracy groups were developing the strategy of just sending bills to file-sharers, and ISPs were considering an idea that, yes, was new at the time: data caps on home broadband. Internet rights activists in Spain won a victory against anti-internet legislation, while in the artist world people were becoming more afraid of copyright than government censorship. And, even though fifteen years later not much has changed, people were realizing that the antivirus software model was deeply broken, and kind of a racket.

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