Leigh Beadon’s Techdirt Profile

leigh

About Leigh BeadonTechdirt Insider

Leigh Beadon, formerly Marcus Carab, now a full-time member of the Techdirt team.

Located in Toronto, Ontario.

http://twitter.com/MarcusCarab
http://soundcloud.com/marcus-carab

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/leigh-beadon/18/23a/5a2



Posted on Techdirt - 19 April 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the tsa-tales dept

This week, we pointed out that the TSA's investigation into agents who were caught conspiring to grope passengers left little chance that they would be prosecuted. A lot of it came down to the lack of a named victim which, as an anonymous commenter pointed out in our most insightful comment of the week, is a rare conundrum enabled by the very nature of the TSA itself:

They didn't have a victim because they didn't tell the victim he was a victim. In any other situation the victim of assault would know without having to be told, but here its just normal TSA procedure to be assaulted so the victim walks away.

Speaking of victims, this week we also all shed a tear for the poor MPAA which faces a possible spread of fair use principles around the globe thanks to the TPP. After a leaked email from Chris Dodd to a USTR ambassador revealed the association's fear of fair use, jupiterkansas won second place for insightful with an accompanying letter of his own:

Dear Ambassador Froman:

The community I represent doesn't think much about copyright or fair use at all, which is why you don't hear from us very often. After all, we aren't paid huge sums of money to send you emails like Chris Dodd is. We aren't paid to try and get laws passed and trade agreements made to benefit ourselves. We aren't in the room when all those industry representatives get together to decide what's best for our country. In fact, we aren't even allowed in the room.

But we're the reason you have a job. We're the ones you're supposed to be helping. We're the people most affected by your trade agreements. Your job isn't to help Chris Dodd keep his job, and what's best for Chris Dodd my not be best for us.

All we ask is that you keep us in mind through all of this, because your job, most of all, is to represent us. You're all we've got to protect us from Chris Dodd and all those seeking to profit from your actions. Please stand up for us.

Sincerely, The American Public

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to the assertion that Google somehow makes it impossible to find and use alternative search tools. That One Guy decided to put this notion to the test:

Well, congrats, you actually got me to do something that I haven't for... I don't know how long, I actually used Google to search for something.

Anyway, using Google to search for 'Search engines', here at the top 10 results:

1. Bing (search engine)
2. DuckDuckGo (search engine)
3. The wikipedia page for 'Web search engine'.
4. Dogpile (search engine)
5. Ixquick (search engine)
6. Top 15 most populat search engines (Ebismba article)
7. Entireweb (search engine)
8. 'Web search engines' (article of some sort I'm guessing)
9. 'The terrifying search engine that finds internet...' (Forbes article)
10. 'Ducking Google in search engines' (Washington Post article)

If the claim is that they are intentionally modifying their results to keep people from finding alternative search engines, then this simple test would seem to put that particular idea to bed. Just because a good number of people don't know about or use other search engines, is not Google's fault, and they don't really seem to be doing anything to hide the alternatives.

Next, we've got a straightforward and personal response from John Fenderson to the assertion that piracy forces creators to work for free:

Baloney. I have been producing commercial software for decades (without ever using copy protection schemes). Most of my software has been widely distributed amongst the pirate community. And yet, I've managed to make a very good living anyway. I can personally demonstrate that unlimited copying hasn't forced me to work for free. If it hasn't forced me, then how can it force anybody else?

For first place on the funny side, we head to yet another story about TSA agents, this time busy destroying Cory Doctorow's "TSA-safe" suitcase. One commenter put on their tinfoil hat to suggest that the agents ripped the idea directly from one of Doctorow's distopian novels, but another suggested that this was giving them far too much credit:

The assumption of literacy in TSA agents is a bold move...

In second place, we head to our post about the discovery of just how vulnerable Virginia's voting machines were to hacking. The report noted that someone with a makeshift antenna made from a Pringles can could access the machines from anywhere within half a mile, leading Michael to wonder about the ever-shifting standards for technological liability:

So why isn't the CEO of Pringles being arrested right now?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on the story of a new bill in California that would require libraries with 3D printers to post scary anti-infringement signs. One anonymous commenter pointed out that this feels kind of familiar:

This will surely eliminating infringement forever, just like the FBI warnings before every motion picture did.

Finally, we head to the story of the chess grandmaster who was caught hiding in the bathroom to analyze ideal moves with an app on his phone, leading another anonymous commenter to toss a dry and glorious pun into the conversation:

Brings new meaning to stalling.

That's all for this week, folks!

18 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 18 April 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 12th - 18th

from the copying-is-not-theft-or-strangulation dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, the move to a new type of mass media was accelerating across the board: more people were giving up TV across the board and smart artists were trying smart business models like the classical orchestras using CwF+RtB. The old guard, as usual, was having trouble catching up: Fox and Universal both wrangled release delay deals out of Netflix; copyright threatened the best thing to come out of the second Star Wars trilogy; broadcasters were still futilely trying to push mobile TV; a book publisher was threatening US fans for ordering from overseas instead of waiting for a local copy; and the RIAA was insisting that musicians can't make money without it (while an Australian recording industry group was trying to claim copyright on a photo of a piece of paper). All the while, we were noting that protection of content has to come from the business model, not the law or technology.

Also in 2010: the Library of Congress announced that it would begin archiving tweets; we noted that the real problem with internet comments isn't anonymity; we wondered whether intellectual property is a violation of real property; and, even if it's not, we certainly agreed with Nina Paley's video underlining the fact that copying is not theft:

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2005, we proposed a code of conduct for the recording industry (which they immediately took to heart, obviously). Perhaps we should have suggested one for Comcast too, since it was sued for handing subscriber info over to the RIAA. And ones for Microsoft and AOL, who were trying (and failing) to make the internet work more like television. Meanwhile, in these pre-YouTube-acquisition days, Google quietly launched its own video upload feature (remember Google Video?)

Video games entered a new phase of maturity in 2005 as people began to realize they could have bigger aspirations: the UN made one to educate people about world hunger, others were building games geared at teaching kids, and still others were building games to teach literacy and cultural sensitivity. Amidst all this, some were discovering the zen of button mashing.

Fifteen Years Ago

Well, this is when it happened — this week in 2000, Metallica sued Napster. At the time we considered it "silly" and "ridiculous" — little did we know just how historic a case it would become. At the same time, people were realizing that MP3s were good for a lot more than just music.

Broadcasters were much more optimistic back then, claiming they weren't scared by the internet. The big device showdown at the time was between BlackBerry and Palm. Ireland was turning itself into a tech hub, while some people were worrying that earthquakes could knock out Silicon Valley. We discussed the future of RealNetworks (it still appeared to have one, as did OS/2) and of the wireless world (realizing it might not be based on WAP). Of course, some people were still just convinced that the internet is evil.

Thirty-Three Years Ago

You've all heard the quote, here on Techdirt and likely elsewhere as well. It was this week in 1982 at a congressional hearing about the home recording of copyrighted works that Jack Valenti, then-head of the MPAA, served up his infamously absurd analogy:

I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.

This statement might have held true if over the next few years the Boston Strangler became the number one source of revenue for the entire woman-home-alone industry. Alas, this was not the case.

35 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Innovation - 18 April 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Smartphone Proximity Locks For Your Car

from the a-little-different dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we're trying out a slightly different format. Instead of gathering three new crowdfunded products, we're going to focus on just one and take a slightly closer look at its progress and prospects. Please let us know in the comments if you like this approach, or if you prefer the old format.

This week, we're looking at Loxet: a smartphone-controlled proximity lock for your car.

The Loxet is a device that installs in any car with a central locking system and, along with an accompanying iOS or Android app, allows you to lock and unlock the doors and control ignition access with your proximity to the car. It also bills itself as an advanced sharing system, allowing you to grant time-limited access to the car to other people.

The Good

For one thing, it's new. There are already plenty of proximity locks on the market, but they generally require a specialized fob on your keychain; there are already smartphone-controlled locks too, but they operate by button-press. Loxet appears to be the first smartphone-controlled proximity lock, or at least the first one that works with both iOS and Android (they make this latter claim on the Kickstarter page). The price also looks good — though all the super-cheap early bird deals are sold out, the standard Kickstarter price of $69 is still below the price of existing non-smartphone proximity lock systems, which tend to sit in the $80-200 range.

The Bad

The way Loxet operates seems like it might come with some inherent issues. The device uses Bluetooth Low Energy, and in order to achieve full proximity operation on both iOS and Android, they have to use apps that repeatedly scan for connected Bluetooth devices at a time interval you set. To realize the full hands-off, out-of-mind potential of the system, that time interval will have to be pretty short — and I suspect it will have a noticeable impact on your phone's battery life and performance, though just how noticeable remains to be seen. For the time being, there aren't any obvious alternatives to this approach, at least not without sacrificing some capabilities.

The Questionable

With any wireless locking system, there's always one big question: is it secure? The last thing we need is someone whipping up an app to hack into people's cars via Bluetooth. Loxet would surely claim, in good faith I don't doubt, that the system is secure — but I'd like to see them call in some independent security audits and put the software in the hands of some white hat hackers before telling people it's ready to keep their cars safe. In fact, there's actually a disturbing lack of security information and discussion on the Kickstarter page, especially for an app that claims it will allow car-sharing via e-mail, SMS and QR code. With just under a month left in the campaign, this is the biggest thing the Loxet team needs to address.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 14 April 2015 @ 12:29pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 20: How The Patent System Is Broken

from the beyond-repair? dept

Hersh Reddy, co-host of the Techdirt Podcast who has been away the past few weeks, is a patent attorney with a computer science degree and a long history of working in the tech industry. In this first half of a double episode, he discusses the many ways in which the patent system is broken, and how it got that way. This week's music is Destroy All Patent Trolls by Jonathan Mann (CC-BY).

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, 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 - 12 April 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the when-you-walk-through-the-garden dept

Thanks to The Wire, Baltimore is where many people first learned what a Stingray device was — but the revelation that the real Baltimore PD has deployed them thousands of times and hidden that information from the courts goes far beyond the wiretap-misuse by its fictional equivalent. Mason Wheeler won most insightful comment this week with his reaction to the department's troubling instructions to the FBI:

“Does it instruct you to withhold evidence from the state’s attorney and the circuit court of Baltimore city, even if upon order to produce?” asked defense attorney Joshua Insley.

“Yes,” Cabreja replied, saying he spoke with the FBI last week about the case.
This is the thing that mystifies me about all this.

An NDA is a contract. How can anyone--and particularly an expert whose professional specialty is the law--think that a contract between two specific parties can somehow trump a generally-applicable law? And more specifically, how can anyone think that a contract can trump obligations to a court, when a court's authority is obviously greater by the simple fact that a court has the power to declare a contract unenforceable?

As it happens, The Wire was just added to Canada's Netflix this year. Prior to that, plenty of Canadians used a VPN to watch the show from the US collection, in an act that big media companies are now saying violates copyright law (actually they were talking about New Zealand, which has it even worse in terms of access). Second place for insightful this week goes to pixelpusher220, who pointed out that this is really getting ridiculous:

I do like how now even PAYING for content is being classified as infringement.

It's not like Netflix provides content for free. Wouldn't it be fraud to take customers money and then not provide them the service they paid for?

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll stick around on that post for an anonymous comment that beautifully (with one notable typo) lays out how tragic the bigger picture is in conflicts like this:

It baffels me still...

that so many people want to ruin the best opportunity the world has ever had.
I am not just talking about money here, but the worlds greatest library. The greatest opportunity for understanding each other across borders. The internet is probably the single greatest global achievement the world has ever made, and we made it together.
Yes, there is violence, trolls, arguments and silly pictures a plenty... but this is also the best insight into different cultures and people that we have ever had.
The internet is not just the 8'th wonder of the world, it is greater than the others combined... and still some people are only interested in tearing it down. How sad these people are.

Next, we've got a long comment from Socrates providing a piece-by-piece response to some criticism of the EFF's dealings with the USPTO:

Knowing full well that once more what I have to say will be met with the blunt force of TD's lack of experience in matters of practicing before the USPTO
Yes, serial applicants have more experience in practicing before the USPTO than Techdirt. The implication that only those who profit from a malpractice should be allowed to criticize it is borderline funny though.
, I am disappointed that once more this site is coming to the defense of EFF staff who choose to engage the USPTO on substantive matters that implicate prosecution practice without having demonstrated any substantive knowledge of the rules governing such practice.
And yet EFF proves it understands Alice, and show a "patent" rejected by a federal court under Alice and does a side-by-side comparison of the refiled "patent" proving that the USPTO either doesn't understand it or perhaps even flout the Supreme court.
I find it interesting that neither of the EFF's supposed experts is even admitted to practice before the USPTO, and yet they seem not to have the slightest reluctance to mock the office when it raises issues with which such experts disagree.
The side-by-side comparison shame the USPTO for all to see. Perhaps that is why the USPTO invoke the Streisand effect? The purely fact based analysis is not mocking, or indeed opinion at all. The silliness is all the USPTOs.
Obviously the EFF has found a home at TD, but given its reaction as outlined in this article it is no wonder why its effectiveness in patent matters is presently marginal at best.
Neither EFF nor TD is a failed serial applicant. EFF and TD is simply not serial applicants at all. Their effectiveness in patent matters is thus not relevant. Perhaps they choose to have morals instead?

If you intended to say effectiveness in limiting malpractice in patent matters, by informing decision makers and bring about such decisions as Alice, there is ample evidence that you are mistaken. Few if any have had such a positive effect.
Even if one disagrees with the USPTO, there are ways to present such a disagreement without resort to approaches such as the infantile one utilized in this instance.
Proving that a serial litigant, serial aplicant, refile a rejected "patent" and USPTO approve it, is not infantile. Perhaps you ment infallible?

Over on the funny side, we start out on the story of YouTuber Angry Joe, who has sworn off Nintendo videos after the company blocked him from monetizing one. One commenter very reasonably asked how such a video wasn't fair use, and another anonymously responded:

Let's Play ad revenue: $250
Lawsuit to defend Let's Play ad revenue: $8,000,000
explicit fair use law: priceless

There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there is the Supreme Court.

In second place, we head to our post asserting that the patent system is faith-based and ignores all the data. It's hard to argue with that, but if anyone's going to try, it's someone we all (unfortunately) know, who demanded an example of someone who ignores the data. Well, that's an easy one, and DogBreath quickly provided it, with a mirror:

antidirt.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on a post that provides a perfect example of the kind of rituals the USPTO's faith requires: shuffling things in the system to make sure the notable nine-millionth patent wasn't an embarrassing one. Dfed guessed what came next:

Patent #9000001, however, was a "Method for practically gaming the USPTO patent system to achieve numerical synergy."

Finally, we head to our post about Comcast and its pleas that it has most certainly not paid anyone to support its merger with Time Warner Cable. Karl suggested that anyone who believes that shouldn't be put in charge of anything, including your lawn care, but one anonymous commenter smartly pushed back on that last point:

I most certainly would put them in charge of lawn care. Do you know how much high-quality composted manure costs?

That's all for this week, folks!

10 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 11 April 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 5th - 11th

from the happy-birthday-anne-and-verizon dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, the patent office hired an economist in a move we hoped would help bring some reason to the patent system. Meanwhile, we wondered if you could save software patents with a team of "obviousness" developers, and one IP lawyer was telling people to stop wasting money on patents. We also took a closer look at how bogus patents get approved, and witnessed a patent fight over the Dominos pizza tracker.

Over in the UK, the house of commons hatched a plan to rush through the Digital Economy Bill, and then did just that. One ISP quickly said it would not follow the rules while a member of the UK Musician's Union (which supported the bill) wrote an excellent open letter about his disappointment. All told, it was a bill proposed by the unelected, debated by the ignorant, and voted on by the absent.

Ten Years Ago

Back in 2005, technology was rapidly changing life in sometimes-unexpected ways. Watchmakers looked on in horror as their once-widespread devices were replaced by smartphones, while plumbers capitalized on a booming new business in retrieving phones from toilets. Online groceries were catching on in NYC, and kids were buying (crappy) homework online. Of course, not all trends were entirely true: Pew admitted that it pumped up the numbers on the prevalence of podcasting, and the creator of the idea of "toothing" (finding sex hookups via Bluetooth) admitted it as all a hoax.

We were already noting the fact that copy protection was not the issue faced by the entertainment industries, and that there were lots of opportunities to sell music the way people want it, especially since sharing music is a cultural thing and the newfound ease of content creation was already making its mark.

Fifteen Years Ago

Let's all say happy birthday to Verizon, I guess. It was this week in 2000 that Bell Atlantic and GTE announced that, in their merger, they would abandon both brands and operate as the shiny new "Verizon". Meanwhile, we also learned of another big merger negotiation between BellSouth and SBC.

Also in 2000: the Microsoft antitrust ruling came out, leading some to wonder just how much it meant; Mattel dumped The Learning Company that it had bought only a year before; Dot Coms were struggling to find events to sponsor, while we noticed some were being run by kids who were hiring their parents; it turned out the question of deep linking wasn't quite closed; and we pointed to an article saying something that has been a guiding principle of Techdirt for a long time: that you need to understand the legal system to understand the goings-on in technology.

Three-Hundred And Five Years Ago

Most of you probably know that basically all modern copyright descends from the Statute of Anne, an early 18th-century British law that created the first ever government-run copyright system. Well, it was on April 5th, 1710 that the bill passed and received royal assent, and the Statute of Anne became law.

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Posted on Techdirt - 11 April 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Monitor Everything

from the go,-grow,-cook dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we're looking at some devices that help you monitor, track and control things that are useful to monitor, track and control.

WEZR

Most people's knowledge of the weather is limited to forecasts, the thermostat, and looking out the window. The savvy may check live atmospheric maps and other data, but few people are able to build their knowledge based on the full synthesis of information available to them. WEZR aims to change that: it's a weather monitor that combines forecasts with a variety of live data and its own array of sensors to derive specific, hyper-local and constantly-updated weather conditions and pipe them to your smartphone. It then shares sensor data to help improve accuracy for all users.

Planty

Anyone who's kept houseplants has also, at some point, let one die — while some of us have given up the endeavour entirely after minor massacres. Planty aims to make the task of caring for plants a little easier and smarter: it's a wi-fi connected planter pot that monitors soil, temperature, light and water levels and sends you alerts when upkeep needs to be done. Even better, it includes an automatic watering system that you can remotely control to feed plants exactly what the amount of water they need from anywhere.

Meld

Home appliances are getting smarter and smarter, but not everyone has the funds or even the desire to replace all of their stuff just to get access to some time-saving features. That's why devices like this are so cool: they add some of those features without requiring a complete upgrade or even significant alterations. Meld is an automated range knob that simply clips onto your existing stove and communicates with a wireless sensor that goes inside the oven. It can be programmed to make automatic, on-the-fly adjustments throughout cooking according to the needs of the specific dish. Not only does this make life easier, it vastly improves the accuracy of cooking temperatures since the average range is poorly calibrated.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 7 April 2015 @ 12:42pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 19: From Lulz To Activism, With Gabriella Coleman

from the internet-culture dept

Last week, Gabriella Coleman joined us to discuss her new book Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous and share her insider view of the nebulous group. Gabriella is back this week to continue the discussion with a broader look the astonishing and still-recent shift in the digital world towards real, widespread political engagement on issues like privacy and surveillance.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, 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 - 5 April 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the cableco,-cyberbully,-prosecutor,-prince dept

This week, after yet another incident of child porn laws being used against sexting teens, our winner for most insightful came from an anonymous commenter who neatly summed up this baffling attitude:

In order to prevent these teens from ruining their lives, WE'RE going to ruin their lives.

In second place we've got another anonymous commenter, this time responding to the story of a new homeowner's harrowing experience with Comcast and CenturyLink, and pointing out that there's a whole other ridiculous muni-broadband-regulation angle that we didn't focus on:

You left out the best part, where there is a municipal fiber line running right near his neighborhood, but the law prevents him from accessing it.

This story makes me rage so much. The competition is non-existent. If we had anything resembling an actual market, we wouldn't even need Title II.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start with one more anonymous comment from that same story. This time, it's a call to (congressional) action:

Members of Congress:

REIGN. IN. THESE. COMPANIES!

Seriously, this is getting absurd. What do the American people have to do or say to you to finally get you to actually listen to us instead of the paid mouthpieces from the broadband industry who want do what they want with no one to keep them in check?

No more mergers. No more protectionist laws to prop up their monopoly or duopoly gatekeeper power. Stop fighting against net neutrality and enact policies that dramatically increase competition.

Signed,
The Fed Up American People.

Next, we head to our post about the recent attempts to paint public backlashes against corporations as "cyberbullying", which prompted ChurchHatesTucker to affirm his beliefs:

Now I'm even more convinced that cyberbullying laws are a terrible idea.

For first place on the funny side, we start out with the ongoing investigation into the investigation into Silk Road, where the facts continue to be astonishing, and where Michael decided to apply law enforcement's own standards:

"Force communicated directly with Ulbricht using PGP encrypted emails"

Full stop. This guy is a terrorist.

In second place, we've got the capper to a thread sparked when someone (who apparently doesn't know how to Google things) aimlessly attacked the credibility of one of our guest posters. Another anonymous commenter supplied them, and a third chimed in with this jeering rejoinder:

Wait a sec - you are citing data ..... and facts!
Are you sure that is allowed?

You see some folk think innuendo and vague references are quite sufficient and get all uppity when someone calls bullshit.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we head to the ongoing story of Attorney General Jim Hood's attacks on Google. One aspect of the ongoing case was the "Younger Abstention", which would keep the courts out of the issue, and which the judge rejected thusly:

Moreover, even if the Younger elements were satisfied here, the court would not be required to abstain here because an exception to the application of the doctrine applies. Indeed, federal courts may disregard the Younger doctrine when a state court proceeding was brought in bad faith or with the purpose of harassing the federal plaintiff...

Mason Wheeler decided to put this in layman's terms:

Translation:

Hood: Younger! Younger!
The law: I may be younger but I wasn't born yesterday

Finally, we enter the always-insane world of Prince, who is currently facing an IP lawsuit because the universe loves irony. Prince has gone copyright-crazy over everything imaginable, and for some like jupterkansas, that's getting to be his dominant legacy:

The only time Prince is even on my radar is when he's mentioned here on TechDirt, and even then I feel I must be infringing something.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 4 April 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: March 29th - April 4th

from the from-osborne-to-ipad dept

Five Years Ago

In the wake of the Apple iPad announcement, the company was scrambling to secure a trademark on the name, and this week in 2010 it succeeded. Meanwhile, publishers were scrambling to take advantage of the new device, while grappling over what that meant and the iPad's future in general. Plus, as expected, patent holders were also scrambling to bring claims against the new tablet.

In the world of patents, there was a major ruling: a district judge declared gene patents to be invalid, leading many to discuss what would happen next. We also discussed the fact that software patents violate the patent bargain, while over in New Zealand some politicians were looking to explicitly ban them. Nearby, Australia was looking into a great-firewall-esque censorship scheme, drawing criticism from President Obama and responding with a barely-related attack on Google.

Copyright extortion schemes based on automated threat letters started picking up steam in the US, with tens of thousands of letters sent by a group of filmmakers. One of these was Uwe Boll who, it turned out, registered his copyrights too late. Meanwhile, some online scammers were using mock copyright threats to spread malware.

Ten Years Ago

The entertainment industry's history of blocking innovation runs deep. This week in 2005, we noticed how much control they were exerting over new mobile phones, blocking some devices and crippling features on others to prevent piracy. Sony was demanding the courts solve its innovation problems while pitching a weak plan for an "iTunes for movies", and the FCC was still pushing for a broadcast flag at the behest of Hollywood, and facing opposition from librarians and hobbyists.

Also in 2005: yet another study showed that red light cameras are dangerous, while Illinois was gearing up to use speed cameras that take your license away; HP seemed to be attempting to patent refilling printer ink, while the patent office seemed to suddenly realize that online auctions are obvious; and ISPs mocked the very concept of net neutrality by seeking to block VOIP usage, while Japan's lack of public wi-fi spurred by near total mobile data penetration (in 2005!) provided a rude wake-up call to Americans about how crappy their service is.

Fifteen Years Ago

Had a few court cases gone differently back in these early days, deep-linking might be illegal and the web would be a very different place — but thankfully, this week in 2000, this didn't happen. Another thing that didn't happen is any meaningful impact from the Patent Office's supposed changes in the way it handles internet patents.

It was the early days of the DivX codec for video; online bill paying existed but had yet to take off in a big way; laptop thefts at the airport were worthy of a scare-story or two; and the social experiment of personal weblogs was in full-swing. Salon was telling the music industry that it had to get used to Napster and learn to adapt to technology, but unless this is your first time reading Techdirt and you skipped directly to this sentence in this post, you know they didn't exactly listen.

Thirty-Four Years Ago

This week in 2010 everyone was buzzing about the iPad's April 3rd release, so it's fitting that all the way back on the same day in 1981, the world saw the release of the first commercially successful portable computer, the Osborne 1. It cost $1,795 (just under $5000 in today's cash), weighed nearly 25lbs, and was described as looking like "a cross between a World War II field radio and a shrunken instrument panel of a DC-3":


By Bilby (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Reportedly, its sales tanked after the company prematurely announced a superior successor machine — a phenomenon dubbed the Osborne effect and applied to similar situations like Sega's early discussion of the upcoming Dreamcast after releasing the Saturn. However, it appears that the effect's original, titular example may have been a myth.

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Posted on Innovation - 4 April 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Tech At Home

from the no-place-like... dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we're looking at some crowdfunded technology that stays put in your house and makes life a little easier.

SnapPower Charger

In-wall USB power outlets are one of those little details that everyone would love to have but rarely seem worth the effort to actually make happen. The SnapPower Charger aims to make them a little more accessible by taking the "hard" out of hard-wired: rather than requiring the installation of a whole new specialized outlet, the SnapPower is simply a faceplate with a clever USB extension that draws its power from the screws on a regular wall outlet. Unfortunately, it's currently limited to a 1A current for charging regular smartphones but not high-power tablets, phablets and the like — but the creators are looking into creating a 2.1A model in the future.

Wakē

There have been lots of attempts to redesign the alarm clock over the years, with any number of products promising the most peaceful and/or un-ignorable wakeup call possible. I can't speak to the success of those, or of this, but the Wakē does offer something novel: a solution for the problem, in shared beds, of being woken up by your partner's alarm. Mounted to the wall above the bed and controlled by smartphone, this two-person alarm clock uses an infrared body heat sensor and a parametric speaker to locate one of two users and direct its stream of music and lights towards them and them alone.

Neobase

One thing that bothers me about a lot of cool modern tech, including a lot of fledgling projects on Kickstarter, is a near-total reliance on remote servers and web services for storage, processing and control, even when it's not clear that this approach is at all necessary for the task at hand. So it's nice to see something like the Neobase, which is all about doing the exact opposite. It's a compact, all-in-one server and network drive that runs its own custom-built Facebook-like software, so you can set up your own completely private social network. It's entirely self-contained and doesn't store anything on any third-party servers, but you can access it from anywhere via encrypted connections. There are some limitations to this, certainly, both by design and by virtue (or curse) of reliable broadband availability, but I'm excited to see such devices move beyond the generic "personal cloud" offerings and into more specialized and powerful out-of-the-box solutions like this.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 31 March 2015 @ 12:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 18: The Many Faces Of Anonymous, With Gabriella Coleman

from the we-are-legion dept

People (especially those in the news media) love to talk about Anonymous, often making bold, sweeping and generally inaccurate proclamations about the group's nature and goals. Gabriella Coleman, on the other hand, has spent years closely studying and engaging with Anonymous in the real world, and developing a nuanced understanding of the nebulous phenomenon. Her new book Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous provides insider details about Anonymous that you won't find anywhere else, and she joins us to discuss it on this week's episode.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, 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 - 29 March 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the court-of-wolves dept

It's hard to decide which is more infuriating: culture being stymied by copyright abuse, or simply by intricacies, stupidities and failures at the systemic level (with a dash of apathy and negligence thrown in). The latter is what led to the death of a classic game re-release this week, prompting Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously to win most insightful comment of the week with a simple suggestion to fix the issue of orphaned and ambiguously-owned works:

I propose the same solution as for those `disappeared' mortgage contracts: contest the ownership in court and if it isn't quickly proved, the judge can declare a forfeit on the ownership (basically public domain-ing the content).

In second place, we've got a response to the idea that the government's seizure of Kim Dotcom's assets is justified by his failure to come to the US and appear in court. Jupiterkansas offered a poetic summation of the situation:

The high court of wolves said, "Of course the sheep can have justice. All it has to do is walk into our lair. If the sheep won't do that voluntarily, then obviously the sheep has done something wrong."

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an excellent anonymous comment responding to a call for more moneymaking institutions for creators:

By institutions do you mean institutions like Kickstarter and Patreon, or services like bandcamp and Youtube, which are already being built; or do you mean new forms of publishers, who take control of works for their own profits?

All the creative arts are changing, and the balance is shifting towards models where the creator forms a more direct relationship with their fans and supporters. The changeover will be painful for the traditional publishers, and the creators who rely on them, mainly because the alternatives can function with mush smaller fan bases, so long as the role of middlemen is kept to a minimum, and the creators look to try and make a reasonable living, rather than a vast fortune.

Next, we've got another anonymous comment, this time in response to the idea that patents protect small inventors from big companies:

Patents protecting small-time inventors from the big corporate baddies is the kind of nonsense you read in fairy tales. Even acquiring the patent in the first place is expensive (USPTO cost summary here), let alone suing for infringement, let alone the countersuit the big baddies can and will file against the upstart. How many lawsuits can a basement genius afford?

They'd be hard-pressed to design a system more rigged against the mythical "poor, lonely inventor".

Over on the funny side, first place goes to That Anonymous Coward for thoughts inspired by SpaceX's public domain release of photos:

When they start launching people, I have a list...
oh they have to be willing?
Nevermind...

In second place we've got jakerome, who responded to a slight misquote in our post about the tech-confused Rep. John Carter with a credible impression of a Techdirt troll:

Another massive mistake by The Masnick

It's not "big super computers" as you hyperventilate in your post. Rather, the well-informed representative was placidly referring to "big giant super computers." Try to get it straight next stop & end this dedication to pursuing your agenda from clouding your judgment.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with one more response to that post, this time from David with some recommendations for the esteemed Representative:

Perhaps he needs to get out more.

This new-fangled encryption stuff is scary. Maybe he needs to relax and go see a nice movie. I've heard "The Imitation Game" is good.

Finally, we've got a comment from Ninja, who responded to the image of a cannon-defended Music Biz Island with some small revisions for accuracy:

Too modern, I'd picture them throwing rocks while brandishing a few roughly assembled weapons made of wood and stone and making grumbling noises. The mere sight of the led lamps in the boats is met with wild and violent reactions. It seems they haven't discovered fire yet.

Sounds like Back To The Future IV: Jurassic Music.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 28 March 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: March 22nd - 28th

from the entertaining-bad-ideas dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, as is so often the case, there were lots of stupid and/or troublesome moves in the entertainment world. Hollywood was still making up statistics about piracy for the AP to parrot, Warner Bros. was working on a confusing release strategy that favored Blockbuster Video, Universal Music was funding another propaganda campaign against file sharing, and Sony Music somehow managed to take down Beyonce's official videos for piracy. Viacom's true intent in its YouTube lawsuit became clear — pretending that the DMCA requires filtering — and the band MGMT, following a leak of its album, was blocked by its label from releasing the official version for free. Additionally, FIFA was attacking an airline over an ad that didn't even mention FIFA, and the Olympics was trying to block ICANN from offering a .sports TLD. Amidst all this, we also wondered why the government can use the term "music piracy" in court.

This week also saw the full ACTA draft leaked to the public, raising serious constitutional questions. The UK was still grappling with the Digital Economy Bill, making extremely weak concessions to due process while some noted that it sets up a China-like censorship system. And while pushing for this bill that would enable kicking people offline, the government was also looking at moving all public services online.

Ten Years Ago

2005 was when Hollywood really started getting the FBI on board as its private police force. The movie business was even more confused then than it is now, with bizarre aims like trying to become more like the IRS, and muddled strategies like advertising on Grokster while also suing it. The Chinese film industry was realizing that movies are a social experience, while the US television industry was trying to figure out if TV really is. (Broadcast TV still wasn't digital, by the way). People were acknowledging the deaths of plastic discs and newsprint and trying to figure out what would come next, Clear Channel was hopping on the podcast bandwagon, and the world was starting to notice the unexpected impact of Skype.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2000, we were looking to the future. Some were discussing the new input devices heading towards the market, others were making better fiber-optics; Intel was showcasing VR, speech recognition and more while scientists were making unexpectedly fast progress on quantum computing; the convergence of phones and PDAs was on the horizon, as was the ascendance of ebooks. And China began taking its first baby steps towards the great firewall with a slew of new internet regulations.

Despite all this, one global survey found that 40% of people just didn't really care about the internet or have any interest in using it.

Twenty-Two Years Ago

My first family computer, when I was very young, had an Intel 286 processor. Eventually we upgraded to a 386, then a 486, and then we waited for the next iteration. The pattern was so well-established that I continued to casually call my first Pentium a "586" for quite some time. Why am I telling you all this? Because it was on March 22nd, 1993, that Intel released the very first Pentium processor, choosing that name because they were unable to secure a trademark on the numerical names and didn't like the fact that competitors were using them too, as with the AMD Am486. The name itself was coined by the same branding company that came up with BlackBerry, PowerBook, Zune, Swiffer, Febreze, DeskJet, Dasani, OnStar and many other brand names.

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Posted on Innovation - 28 March 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Headphones & Helpers

from the listen-up dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we've got some technology focused on improving your mobile music listening experience in a variety of ways.

MAGZET

For people with Apple laptops, the days of destroying your power cable by tripping on it are over thanks to the MagSafe connector. Unfortunately, the days of destroying your audio jacks and headphone connectors persist, and everyone knows the pain of having to jostle a broken plug around to get its weak connection to kick in. MAGZET aims to fix that by letting you turn any audio jack into a magnetic connector by connecting the small, two-piece device. As they point out, the standard audio jack hasn't been updated in a long time, and this could be just the smart revolution it needs.

UAMP

There have been many attempts to create products that will stymie the ascendance of lower-quality audio in the mobile device era, but most are overwrought and place too high a bet on the assumption that people truly care. The UAMP, however, is a nice and simple solution that can be easily adopted by those who want better sound without needing to go buy whole new specialty players: a small inline amplifier that lets you get more amplification at higher fidelity than those built into most consumer devices. It's USB-chargeable and about the size of an iPod Shuffle, and aims to retail for around $100.

Aivvy Q

The Aivvy Q is an interesting idea. Not only is it a pair of headphones with a built-in music player, controlled by touch gestures on the side — it actually aims to be a whole music solution for busy people. It grabs songs automatically from its own service while charging, then builds custom playlists and rotations based on your decisions to skip, listen, replay, etc. Of course, the big question is: where exactly is it pulling these songs from, will it require a subscription, and how confident are the makers that they can keep it licensed and robust? Though some of these things remain to be seen, the tech itself looks very cool. They do lose some points for the nonsensical claim that they are about "streaming music without internet", though (that appears to be their odd way of saying it downloads tracks while connected, then automatically plays or "streams" Pandora-style generated playlists from its internal storage later).

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 March 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the bingewatch dept

After Portland police arrested a homeless woman for charging her phone at a public outlet, we wondered what purpose that could possibly serve. Of course, the sad truth is it's not about purpose at all, as one anonymous commenter spelled out in this week's most insightful comment:

This is far more common that you might think

Having been homeless, I've seen a lot of this. Police and security guards routinely bully the homeless because they can: who's going to defend them? They're perfect targets for sadistic behavior, and believe me, there's no shortage of that.

I've seen cops/guards steal coats ("that's too nice for you, you must have shoplifted it"), kick food away ("you can't eat here"), drag people out of bathrooms ("you can't wash your face here"), refuse transport to the ER ("you didn't get beat up, you just got drunk and fell"), steal money ("you can't beg here, give me all your cash"), demand sex ("blow me and I won't run you in"), and worse. Much worse.

Nobody sees. Nobody knows. Nobody cares.

Next, we've got a response to the baffling ongoing complaints about Netflix not being the same as traditional television with its release schedules, ruining watercooler chats and causing spoiler tension. Violynne pointed out that the whole point of Netflix is that it changed things profoundly:

Two things Netflix did to change the world when it comes to watching a TV show:

-It removed 22 minutes of ads despite being a paid service. Hulu + and cable television can't even come close to doing the same thing.

-It put the power of viewing in my control, allowing me to actually enjoy watching shows again.

Remember NBC's "Thursday Night Must See TV"? Yeah, so do I, and it was HORRIBLE. Unless you had an accompanying guide (most had TV guide), you had absolutely no control what episode aired that evening. Repeat? Pushed back because of a long-running football game?

Then there was the idiocy of the "break", where weeks would go by without any new show, allowing the very few people who didn't own a VCR/DVR to "catch up".

The entire television industry was broken since the 50s. It's thanks to technology it finally fixed itself so a show can be enjoyed, not aired based on when advertisers wanted eyeballs to their products.

There are plenty in this industry who should take notes from Netflix. Right, Hulu?

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start out with one more response to the story from Portland. This time it's another anonymous commenter who proposed a radical solution to the concerns of businesses about homeless people:

There's a very good productive way for the businesses to get rid of the homeless people. Hire them.

Next, we've got a reaction to the latest instance of what I once called copylaundering — the practice whereby big media companies license or otherwise use material they don't own, then later feed it into YouTube's ContentID or other automated screening systems, which then accuse the original creators and rightsholders of that material with infringement. As Mason Wheeler points out, the irony hurts:

...and they call piracy "theft"?!?

Over on the funny side, first place comes from the post about Cisco shipping hardware to bogus addresses in order to throw off the NSA's intercept efforts. It's a valiant move, but as Michael pointed out, certain aspects of the strategy sounded very familiar:

"We ship [boxes] to an address that's has nothing to do with the customer, and then you have no idea who ultimately it is going to,"

In a related story, DHL sues Cisco for copyright infringement.

In second place, we've got a response to the news that the government will be paying $18,000 to a photographer whose cameras it improperly seized outside a tank plant in Lima, Ohio. Vidiot suggested a continued effort to drive the message home:

Throwing it open to all...

Announcing... The Lima, OH Tank Plant Photo Contest! First Tuesday of every month, we all meet outside the plant at noon, and start snapping away.

Runners-up (which is everybody else) get a free ride in a government vehicle. But one lucky winner takes home the $18,000 jackpot!

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from AricTheRed responding to the insane comparison of Google Fiber to... ebola:

Man if this is true, I sure hope I catch Google Fiber, as there is no apparent effetive treatment for that either...

Finally, we circle back to the complaints about Netflix's new model for TV viewing, where DannyB pointed out that the solution is easy, and would surely be super popular:

Look Netflix, here is a simple fix.

Introduce an option where a customer can pay an extra fee to their local cable company and Netflix will not allow playing each episode of a series until at least one week after you have watched the previous episode.

For an additional fee, Netflix could add a fixed time window option where you must watch the episode in a fixed time, such as 7 PM Thursday Evenings. Failure to watch it at that time means you miss it and will not have another opportunity to watch it for one year.

For people who really want the premium experience, Netflix could charge customers an additional fee that enables them to experience commercials conveniently inserted by Netflix at points in time where something exciting has happened or some major plot twist has just occurred.

For an additional fee, Netflix could remove your ability to pause the internet stream so that you must watch it live.

None of these ideas are technically infeasible to implement. Those of us who want a superior experience from Netflix should send them feedback to implement these features at once. This would allow us to blame someone other than Google for a change. (Of course, we still could look for some reason to blame Google for Netflix's lack of the above features.)

Sign me up! That's all for this week, folks.

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 March 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: March 15th - 21st

from the the-first-domain dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, the Viacom/YouTube lawsuit started in earnest with the motions for summary judgement from both sides, most of which appeared to be a lot of he-said-she-said. As the week wore on, though, the cracks started to show: Viacom couldn't figure out which clips were actually infringing (despite insisting that Google should be able to do so), and people realized that a lot of YouTube quotes in Viacom's filing were taken completely out of context. YouTube's motions, on the other hand, highlighted how industry lawsuits may have slowed innovation, and we wondered if the whole case might lead to an FTC investigation.

Over in the UK, Simon Singh stopped writing his Guardian column to fight the British Chiropractic Association's libel lawsuit against him for calling them out on their many pseudoscientific claims. A commission was calling for a tax on Google to prop up newspapers (while Google was telling newspapers to experiment), and the Times Online was blocking aggregators after a ruling that the latter didn't have to pay a license fee. But perhaps the biggest news was the passage of the Digital Economy Bill through the House of Lords, which had only one positive outcome: it garnered another hilarious message song from Dan Bull.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2005, Kevin Martin took over as FCC chair following Michael Powell; INDUCE Act author Orrin Hatch was put in charge of the Senate's copyright panel; bad stats were misleading people about reactions to copy protection; and we were wondering about the balance between privacy and anti-piracy efforts (while AOL was actively sacrificing the privacy of AIM users). Internet jurisdiction questions were still heated and unsettled, and strange legal ideas were popping up all over the world such as an attempt by an Indian newspaper to claim that ongoing criticism was a criminal conspiracy. Meanwhile, the MPAA was searching for the legal theory that would make BitTorrent trackers illegal.

France was beating up Google on trademark issues while embarking on its own book scanning project; Apple managed to wrestle itunes.co.uk away from its previous owner; the NY Times was toying with the idea of charging for content; eBay was embroiled in a business model patent mess; and Yahoo was backtracking on claims that it would fully support Firefox.

Fifteen Years Ago

Would it blow your mind to know that, unlike today, in 2000 the entertainment industry was still struggling with the internet? Oh, they still are? Never mind then.

Those struggles included, but where not limited to: the question of used CDs online, a cancelled merger between CDNow and Columbia House, and the creation of and subsequent freakout over Gnutella, the P2P file-sharing network. Meanwhile, some people were already cluing in to the idea that live performance is where it's at.

Also in 2000 this week: rumours flew (as they would again in later years) that eBay and Yahoo were merging; Microsoft tried revitalizing MSN for the umpteenth time; Network Solutions got hit with a big class-action lawsuit; Stephen King tried releasing an online-only novel; and WashingtonPost.com seemed to be in trouble.

Oh, and it appears that we may have accidentally coined the name "iPad" ten years early.

Thirty Years Ago

Techdirt was still a decade away (and I myself was still five months away), but on March 15th, 1985, the first commercial internet domain name — symbolics.com — was registered. The site that lives there now purports to offer "unique and interesting facts pertaining to business and Internet history", but seems to be a little light on content.

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Posted on Innovation - 21 March 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Tinkerer Tech

from the dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we've got an assortment of technological tidbits for folks who like the customizable, the utilitarian, and the scientific.

Trickey: Any Key, Anwhere

For all the huge variety of input devices on the market, there is a surprising dearth of truly customizable ones. Some gamer's keyboards have settings and configurations and maybe a few modular pieces, but Trickey takes things to new level with a very simple idea: building the function for each key into the key itself, rather than into the board it connects to. This way, rearranging your input is as simple as popping out keys and plugging them in where you want them. It's a great idea that definitely has applications for gaming and a wide variety of design and creative tasks that use special software, but its one big drawback is the expense: unless the relatively small modular units can be brought down in price, building anything more than a simple four- or five-key custom interface is probably more than most people will want to shell out for.

The PocketLab

Smartphones have put a wide variety of advanced sensors into everyone's pocket, but as useful as this is, there are limits based on the fact that you usually want to keep your phone close and not put it in a great deal of danger. The PocketLab offloads these sensors — a barometer, accelerometer, thermometer, magnetometer and gyroscope — into a rugged standalone unit that communicates with your phone and the cloud. Now the readings-curious can strap it to a rocket, toss it off a cliff or subject it to whatever other abuse seems likely to produce some interesting data.

VIS: Useful Power

USB power banks are everywhere these days, with little to distinguish them other than price and capacity. But the creators of VIS realized that a portable battery can have all sorts of additional uses beyond charging your devices, and built them into a slick-looking unit. The VIS serves as a flashlight, and emergency lantern and — in an inspired bit of design that suddenly feels obvious — a jumpstarter for your car with the included jumper-cable attachment.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 18 March 2015 @ 12:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 16: Rethinking Work, Income & Leisure: Albert Wenger On Basic Income

from the BIG-ideas dept

Recently, there's been a growing discussion around the concept of a basic income guarantee and its potential to completely change how we think about work, income and leisure. Would it change the world for the better, or create more economic problems than it solves? Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures joins us this week to discuss the potential of this revolutionary idea.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, 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 - 15 March 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the double-winner dept

It's been a little while since we've had one comment take the top spot in both categories, but mermaldad managed the feat this week with a sarcastic repurposing of Jeb Bush's comments about net neutrality and not-actually-from-1934 regulations:

The idea of regulating free speech with a 1787 constitution is one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard.

Just think of the logic of using a 1787 constitution that was designed when we relied on hand-operated printing presses as the basis to regulate the most dynamic part of life in America. It’s not going to be good for consumers. It’s certainly not going to be good for innovation.

Coming in second on the insightful side, we've got a response to the Michigan AG who slapped a reporter with two subpoenas in a clear attempt at intimidation. Ninja made a simple and, sadly, probably accurate observation:

Will he get punished for the abuses? No? Then expect this to keep happening.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with a response to a commenter who asserted that the parody of Chip Bok's net neutrality cartoon was not fair use because it was not creative enough and didn't take enough effort. Jupiterkansas pointed out that this is entirely besides the point:

Parody does not require creative effort to be parody, and the new captions are as much commentary as they are parody. This is about having the ability to criticize others using the same medium they are using to make their points. It's not about who is the most creative, or who worked the hardest.

And this week we're going to give a second nod to jupiterkansas for another excellent comment on a similar theme, this time in response to the extremely problematic decision in the Robin Thicke/Marvin Gaye dust-up:

The goal of art is not to create something new and original. The goal of art is to contribute something to the conversation. Every contribution enhances the conversation and if enough people contribute, it becomes a piece of culture. That's what made rock and roll a thing - lots of people doing it - and now rock and roll is a part of culture.

All the new and original stuff does is change the conversation, which is what makes the new and original stuff important. Most art does not do this.

And in today's world of pop culture, much of that conversation revolves around the copyrighted content of others. That's why having a robust public domain is necessary. Copyright stifles the conversation we call culture for the sake of profit.

The ridiculous thing is that if Thicke really wanted to copy Marvin Gaye, he could have easily just paid a licensing fee to do a cover like lots of artists do. The fact that he didn't shows that he wasn't intending to copy.

Meanwhile, coming in second place on the funny side behind mermaldad's double winner, we've got That One Guy with a response to Turkey's baffling attack on the oh-so-violent game of Minecraft:

I'm not sure where the mocking tone is coming from, Minecraft can have some seriously bad effects on children.

Why, just last week I saw a kid punching a tree and getting mad that is was taking so long to cut it down. Only a few days before that I saw another kid carrying a shovel towards the nearby park, muttering something about 'Going to find me some diamonds'. Probably worst of all, just yesterday I saw someone else, a teenager this time, throwing random sticks and piece of metal on top of a box and screaming about how they wouldn't turn into a pick-axe.

Laugh all you want at those in Turkey doing their best to head off the serious side-effects a game like Minecraft causes, I can assure you that they are very real, and very hazardous.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got two separate anonymous comments. First, a response to New Zealand's prime minister, who promised to resign if mass surveillance was uncovered, and subsequently, unsurprisingly, waffled on that promise:

Perhaps this is what he meant: "If we are found to have engaged in mass surveillance, I'll resign ... myself to the fact that we got caught."

Finally, we've got one more comment on the Thicke/Gaye affair, pointing out that the fact that it's even still an issue is ridiculous to begin with:

My momma always said that I can't take anything with me when I die. Well I fooled her, I am taking my copyrights with me for another 70 years!

That's all for this week, folks!

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