Leigh Beadon’s Techdirt Profile


About Leigh BeadonTechdirt Insider

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

Located in Toronto, Ontario.



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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Posted on Techdirt - 13 March 2015 @ 11:00am

Free Expression & The Internet: Watch The Copia Summit Roundtable Discussion Live

from the copia-inaugural-summit dept

As many of you know, we're currently in the midst of day two of the Copia Inaugural Summit in San Jose. It's been a fantastic event so far with lots of really interesting ideas flowing back and forth, and we'll be bringing you video and audio from the various presentations and breakout groups over the coming days and weeks.

Today, the Summit features a roundtable discussion about freedom of expression online, and what tech companies and platform providers can do to promote open and diverse speech around the world. Joining us for this discussion are Wikimedia Foundation's Senior Legal Counsel Michelle Paulson, laywer and writer Sarah Jeong, and Secret Inc.'s head of Policy, Safety, Privacy & Support Dave Willner. The roundtable starts today at 11:30 am PST, and we encourage you to watch the live stream online and tweet your comments and thoughts with the hashtag #Copia2015. It should be a fascinating discussion addressing a key issue in the digital world, and we hope you'll join us.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 10 March 2015 @ 12:39pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 15: What's It Like To Drive For Uber And Lyft?

from the the-gig-economy dept

Services like Uber and Lyft have been disrupting the taxi industry, and plenty more industries, too. In fact, they are the progenitors of a new and growing "gig economy". But what's it like to actually drive for one? Podcast co-host Dennis Yang has been trying his hand as a driver for both services, and in this episode he shares his experiences and sparks off a discussion about the future of this economy.

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 - 8 March 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the one-guy,-three-comments dept

This week, we followed the latest developments in the story of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and his interactions with the MPAA.That One Guy won most insightful comment of the week by catching some apparent contradictions in his statements:

Slip of the tongue?
While Hood's office says there are "nearly 900 emails
Hood's office first said that it would refuse to share the emails between Hood and the MPAA's lawyers as they "constitute attorney-client communications" or "attorney work product"
Compare the above to this, from an earlier article:
Hood said the MPAA "has no major influence on my decision-making," although he noted that content creators occasionally provide reports and advice to him. "They're just reporting wrongdoing. There's nothing unusual about that," he said. Hood said he has never asked MPAA a legal question, isn't sure which lawyers they employ, and doesn't think he's ever met the organization's general counsel.
So they've had 'no major influence on [his] decision making', and yet there are estimated to be at least 900 emails sent between the two.

In addition, despite claiming that they were 'just reporting wrongdoing', and Hood never asked them a legal question, somehow the communications between the two qualify as "constitute attorney-client communications" or "attorney work product".

One of these claims is clearly not true. Either the hundreds of emails sent back and forth had nothing to do with legal matters, in which case they would not be protected as attorney-client communications, or they were indeed legal discussions, in which case they would be.

Honestly, if he's going to lie, he could at least put some effort into it.

But that wasn't That One Guy's only win this week: he also took home second place for insightful with his thoughts about movie theatres boycotting Netflix's new movie to protect release windows:

Run that by me again?

So Netflix is planning on showing the films at the same time as they're shown in theaters.

The theaters claim that home viewing hurts their profits.

So in response, theater owners refuse to show the films at all, making it so anyone who wants to watch them will have to watch them at home, via Netflix.


For editor's choice on the insightful side, first we'll round things out by giving one more nod to That One Guy. This time, it's a comment on something that drives us crazy here at Techdirt — the fact that net neutrality is becoming a partisan issue for many:

That's some mighty fine paranoia you've got there
"We will not stand by idly as the White House, using the FCC, attempts to advance rules that imperil the future of the Internet.
I love how they still insist that Obama's behind this whole thing, as though he's just got to be the cause.

As a scapegoat, he seems rather lacking, but I suppose the alternative, admitting that the main driving forces behind the shift were the actions of the ISP's showing how needed the change was, and the massive support on both sides for said change, wouldn't fit the spin they've decided on.

Next, we've got a comment from Rich Kulawiec, who was blown away by the revelations that Hillary Clinton conducted all her work as Secretary of State through a personal email account:

Let me see if I have this straight

The Secretary of State of the United States of America used a personal email account for official government business for four years and during all that time, everyone in possession of that fact (which would necessarily include everyone she corresponded with) refrained from raising hell?

Didn't any of them grasp that this necessarily meant that their messages were also traversing whichever service was hosting her account? And that they were thereby trusting that service's system and network admins? (Even if the messages were encrypted, which I doubt, the mail system logs would yield useful data for traffic analysis.)

From an opsec standpoint (forget the records retention issue for a moment) this is insane.

Over on the funny side, we start out on the not-so-funny story about Suburban Express changing its terms of service to block college students from their university-provided legal aid. One anonymous commenter took first place by elegantly expressing his reaction to this and many other stories of similar shenanigans from Tim Cushing:

I can usually tell how many Tim C. posts there have been during the week by counting the number of drywall-repair patch kits I have to buy at the hardware store on Saturday.

In second place, we've got another response to the Netflix boycott by theaters. This time it's DB with a healthy dose of sarcasm:

The theaters have quite a bit of history to back them up.

Look at how football was destroyed once it was shown on TV. Ticket prices went to zero (approximately, the average for a 'cheap seat' is only $84), and the parking lots could only charge $1 (approximate, actual cost is $75 in Dallas).

The same with other sports. The miniscule broadcast revenue left the team owners destitute. Pretty much only the parents of the players show up at games.

For editor's choice, we start out on our post about Canada's border patrol charging travellers for not coughing up their smartphone passwords. One commenter went just a little far in dubbing this a return of Naziism and a "history repeating", spurring Roger Strong to craft this response:

It's true. The War of 1812 started when the British Navy boarded American merchant vessels and demanded crew members' smartphone passwords.

Finally, after a Connecticut town took down a painting over some confused and silly ideas about intellectual property, Michael pined for an easy way to prevent such madness:

If only there were a place in which someone could walk in and borrow some books about copyright so they could learn a little about the subject before pulling a painting off of the wall.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 March 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: March 1st - 7th

from the berned dept

Five Years Ago

There was a whole lot of conversation about ACTA this week in 2010. More leaks revealed the positions of more countries, Danish politicians began questioning the country's opposition to ACTA transparency, Sweden said it won't agree if any changes to the law are required, the EU apparently agreed that more transparency was needed, and the USTR admitted its desire for ACTA to cover patents too. Meanwhile, the UK was grappling with its own Digital Economy Bill — making it worse with a new web censorship aspect, trying to outlaw weblockers, and ensuring open WiFi would be a liability.

There was more copyright insanity, too. We learned that Metallica, still famous for bringing down Napster, made only a small fraction of its revenues from CD sales; Brazil sued Columbia Pictures for violating the copyright on its famous Jesus statue; Activision killed a fan game project that had been previously licensed; Spanish indie labels tried to sue the government for not stopping file sharing; and the RIAA claimed that file sharing was undermining human rights efforts in Haiti (right).

Ten Years Ago

Record labels misunderstanding the market was hardly new to 2010. It was happening this week in 2005, too. BPI proudly announced 23 pointless file sharing settlements. Sony was among the worst, demonstrating that it was completely out of touch (and also shutting down a tribute band website, but it wasn't alone. Meanwhile, many popular musicians were taking Grokster's side at the supreme court — only for the industry to try to convince them they'd been used.

Also in 2005: LinkedIn was trying out a business model while XM was monkeying with its own, the widely publicized hack of Paris Hilton's phone turned out to be good for T-Mobile, driving while talking on a cellphone was catching on, and so were alternate reality games (except, apparently not that much), and we could tell Firefox had really made it as an browser when spyware makers started to notice it.

Fifteen Years Ago

Mind-controlled computing is one of those things that seems to have been just around the corner for a very long time — since at least 2000, in fact. But hey, this was a time when CD sales were still rising, and other things still just around the corner included the wireless internet (which similarly seemed to be taking forever). Online gambling was big, B2B was (probably) bigger, and we just began to notice how big the databases of our personal information are (which was scary at a time when hacks could still significantly undermine general public confidence in the internet). Some still wondered if perhaps pen and paper was better for notes and tests — but maybe just keeping the web pages under 5K would be sufficiently old-fashioned.

Twenty-Six Years Ago

On March 1st, 1989, after a long period of resistance, the United States joined the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which continues to influence (though not really directly shape or control) copyright policy around the world. The US still exercises what some have called "minimal compliance" with the convention, and that's probably a good thing, or at least better than total compliance — US copyright law barely includes the prohibitive moral rights called for by Berne, and while a registration requirement and other formalities were (sadly) removed in general, Congress retained them as a prerequisite for statutory damages. Which is, y'know, something.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 3 March 2015 @ 12:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 14: Do You Need A Proprietary Platform To Be A Serious Media Company Today?

from the content-(management)-is-king dept

Techdirt has long operated on a homegrown content management system, but while we've been considering a switch to something open like Wordpress, many other media companies have been building their own proprietary platforms. What are the pros and cons of each approach, and are proprietary platforms necessary to be a "serious" media company in today's landscape?

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 - 1 March 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the abuse-of-______ dept

This week, the Komodia/Superfish scandal got even worse. So bad, in fact, that the only appropriate response was sheer sarcasm, which Rich Kulawiec provided in our most insightful comment of the week:

Oh, come now, this isn't so bad

It's not like they did something really bad, something so destructive and damaging to the privacy and security of millions of people that it required immediate attention from federal law enforcement agencies combined with the threat of aggressive prosecution that could result in decades in prison...something like, oh, I don't know, downloading scientific research papers?

Meanwhile, when we looked at the creative abuses of wireless data caps, TheResidentSkeptic took second place for insightful by boiling it down to basics:

A different viewpoint

the most ham-fisted abuse of usage caps is simply that they exist.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll look at two other examples of people abusing power, the law, the market or all of the above. First up, after Total Wipes decided the word "download" meant infringement and proceeded to abuse the DMCA to take down all kinds of innocent sites, That One Guy opined on the inevitability of it all:

Natural result of a one-sided law

When a system or law has absolutely no penalty for abuse, it will be abused, and to expect anything less is foolish. Companies who file clearly bogus DMCA claims face no penalty whatsoever for doing so, even if the claims are blatantly false, yet the ones receiving them are still forced to treat them all as valid, unless they want to face harsh legal penalties.

If the DMCA was intended to be even remotely balanced, then there would be hard penalties for sending such obviously false claims, but as it stands, it's working exactly as it was intended to, completely favoring one side, at the cost of the other.

Next, though NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers said a lot of pretty worrying things about the NSA and privacy this week, Jason zeroed in on what might be the most offensive statement of them all:

Of everything said in that interview, what I personally found the most offensive was this:
“Be grateful that you live in a nation that is willing to have this kind of dialogue,” Rogers told the audience.
(from here)

We don't. We're having "this kind of dialogue"---such as it is---only because the government and intelligence community has been dragged, kicking and screaming and pronouncing the immediate doom of us all, into it.

I cycle through a lot of emotions as I keep up with all this... concern, mistrust, whatever. But comments like that make me genuinely angry.

Over on the funny side, we start out by returning to the Total Wipes story, where one anonymous commenter won first place with a different take on the whole situation:

What about me?

I have a site with a download link. Am I not important enough? Can I sue them for discrimination?

Next we head to the post about our brief Twitter exchange with revenge porn jerk/king of irony Craig Brittain, who is on a crusade against Google's supposed copyright infringement. Among the many amusing hypocrisies and general stupidities in his position, Somedumbgeek pointed out that his request for our coverage of the Perfect 10 lawsuit was among the most amusing:


At the end, when he asked where he could read about it. Did it never occur to him that he could just google it?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start by circling back to the story about wireless data caps, where orbitalinsertion gave an excellent name to the practice of letting big companies buy "sponsored data" to route around caps (and block smaller competition):

Deep Pocket Inspection.

Last but not least, we've got an anonymous commenter who has daringly taken the side of government officials demanding a magical, un-abusable backdoor key to encrypted devices. The engineers have insisted such a thing is fundamentally impossible, but clearly they were just too lazy to hammer out the code:

It's so simple

if (guy = good){

(There appear to be some syntax errors there, including the use of an assignment operator instead of a comparison one, which would make every "guy" register as "good" automatically. Which means this approach should be just about as secure as any genuine attempt would.)

That's all for this week, folks!

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

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

from the 88-years-of-communication-regulation dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, we continued following the story of the school caught spying on students through webcams in their laptops, and the details were not looking good. Especially when we discovered the student in question was only guilty of eating candy.

This was also the time of ACTA negotiations, and when the internet chapter leaked, we got a look at how sneaky the negotiators were being. We learned which countries were fighting hardest against ACTA transparency, and European officials were getting concerned about the agreement. Meanwhile, the UK was supposedly backing down on the three strikes provisions of its Digital Economy Bill, but it turned out this was really just an exercise in rebranding and the bill still allowed for disconnection (that would last as long Peter Mandelson felt it should.)

You know that famous "I'm on a horse" ad for Old Spice, which the company continues riffing on to this day? Well, this was the year it originally aired during the Olympics (which, sidenote, was busy trying to get paid for tweets) leading us to hold it up as an example of how advertising is content. In a weirder attempt to enact that principle, EMI got State Farm to sponsor the embedding of OK GO videos (which were otherwise blocked), while the band's singer stepped up to point out that a lack of embedding hurts everyone.

Other upsets to the internet this week in 2010 included: the (secret) settling of the lawsuit between Perfect 10 and Amazon, the conviction of four Google executives on criminal charges over a YouTube video, the overblown freak-out over PleaseRobMe, the consideration of internet addiction for inclusion in the DSM and, perhaps most significant of all, the temporary takedown of the original Rickroll video.

Ten Years Ago

Looking back to 2005, you can clearly see the debates and practices that would lead to today's net neutrality battle. The vicious attacks on muni broadband by lobbyists were blatantly self-serving, and some companies went even further to outright prevent it. One group, fresh off of taking a Techdirt quote completely out of context to trash muni WiFi, went on to attack the idea of broadband-over-power-lines as well.

Lexmark got smacked down in its attempt to abuse the DMCA to block third-party ink cartridges, while HP was accused of building an expiry date into its cartridges. Apple, having recently launched its retail stores, was sued by Apple resellers and accused of unfair practices. And Google was accused of threatening French culture with its book scanning project by focusing on English books.

People were really beginning to realize how attached they were to their phones — and that losing them could mean losing friends. The rise of SMS was even threatening the greeting card industry. But, despite assumptions, constant texting seemed to be improving kids' language skills.

Fifteen Years Ago

If you do any work with web analytics today, you know that conversion rates are a key metric — but back in 2000 they were the new kid on the block. Then again, so were colour screens on PDAs and plenty of other high tech toys for grownups (though apparently not as many for kids).

British Airways announced that it would charge more for paper tickets, and we wondered if it would back down the way Delta did on a similar initiative. Palo Alto was experimenting with fiber to the home. Various magazines were looking at the state of things like digital currencies and weblogs like Techdirt (yes, still "weblogs"). And Techdirt itself briefly disappeared thanks to a DNS issue.

Eighty-Eight Years Ago

On February 23rd, 1927, Calvin Coolidge signed the new Radio Act into law, establishing the Federal Radio Commission that would, less than a decade later, become the FCC we all know so well.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 24 February 2015 @ 12:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 13: Fair Use Protects Culture From Copyright, Not The Other Way Around

from the fair-use-week dept

Today we're continuing our recognition of Fair Use Week with an episode of the Techdirt Podcast focused entirely on this critical (but commonly misunderstood) counterbalance to copyright law. Though framed by many copyright proponents as a frivolous exception, fair use is actually fundamental to protecting not just free speech, but everything about our shared culture of art, thought, conversation and criticism.

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 - 22 February 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the your-machine-has-been-compromised dept

This week, when the president was asked directly about his thoughts on encryption and law enforcement, he gave what was overall a very well-measured response about the need to acknowledge the tradeoff between safety and privacy, regardless of which side you ultimately conclude to embrace. It was a great answer in theory, but it was missing a critical point from the reality of the situation, and That One Guy wins most insightful comment of the week for pointing that out:

You made your bed, now sleep in it

This is something that even children can understand, the idea that if you cannot show responsibility with your toys, you'll have them taken away, and yet it seems to completely escape the government and law enforcement. They've had their chance, to act in a reasonable fashion, to show that they can be trusted, and they have utterly failed.

If people and companies are moving towards phones that are encrypted by default and require the owner to personally unlock them, it's because law enforcement has proven that they cannot be trusted to follow the laws that prohibit them from 'browsing' on a whim or hunch.

If society and the companies in it are pushing for more encryption, and more secure forms of communication, it's because those like the NSA have shown absolutely no restraint in scooping up everything they can get their hands on, just in case it might prove useful at some point down the road.

The government, and the police, have shown that they cannot be trusted, and the public is reacting accordingly. It would be nice if those in the government and police forces were willing and able to admit this, but given that would require them to first admit that they've done something wrong, I'll not hold my breath while waiting for it to happen.

Case in point: this week we also discovered that the NSA has the ability to hide spyware deep inside hard drives and swipe the encryption keys for SIM cards. One commenter asked why they weren't in jail, and jupiterkansas went on to wonder (and win second most insightful comment of the week) what all this accomplished anyway:

Or a related question, since they pretty much have unrestricted access to everything, why is there still terrorism in the world?

Of course, not all hardware is compromised by the NSA — sometimes it's compromised by the manufacturer itself, as is the case with Lenovo's Superfish malware and associate HTTPS hack. Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius seemed to think that he could handwave this massive blunder because the threats were, in his mind, "theoretical", and both our editor's choice comments for insightful this week come in response to that notion. First up, an anonymous commenter pointed out what an inane statement that is:

ALL threats are theoretical; otherwise, they're called attacks.

But before that, John Fenderson explained why this kind of reaction is worse than the initial mistake:

Including Superfish and the bogus certificate was a terrible thing to do in the first place, but what convinced me to never buy another Lenovo machine in the future was this exact response by them. It indicates either an insane level of incompetence or a deliberate effort to deceive everyone. Either way, that's enough to put them on my "never do business with" list.

There's a reason I chose that first Lenovo comment — it's an interesting juxtaposition with our funniest comment of the week. The first one made the point in perhaps the most succinct and direct way possible — but there's something to be said for Just Another Anonymous Troll's approach of making it in the most amusing and indirect way possible:

"Yes, there's a big honking hole in my castle wall, but no enemy troops have stormed in through it so any concerns about it are all theoretical."
-King Peter Hortensius the First (and last)

For second place on the funny side, we head to an already-pretty-funny trademark dispute between three companies with logos that are more or less just plain 'W's. Sorrykb might have inadvertently given the lawyers some ideas:

"Today's episode of Sesame Street was brought to you by the letter [removed due to trademark claim]..."

For editor's choice on the funny side, we turn our attentions to AT&T, which had a more creative approach to spying on people: offering lower broadband prices for users who opt in to be spied on. Rich Kulawiec had an idea:

A solution suggests itself

1. Sign up for AT&T's surveillance package.
2. Set up VPN for all "real" traffic.
3. On a spare system that's connected 24x7 and not connected through the VPN, run a Perl script that issues intermittent search queries comprised of terms found on 4chan forums, Twilight fanfic sites, YouPorn, and whatever site is the main one for Bronies. Oh, and Frank Zappa lyrics.
4. Smile while contemplating how confused the marketroids staring at the data analytics are going to be.

Finally, we've got one of the funniest things that happened this week. Plfer, the service that promises to find copyright-infringing text online and calculate damages for you, is a groaner for dozens of reasons, not the least of which is its apparent distaste for fair use. That especially, as pointed out by That One Guy, is compounded by the fact that its hypocritical practice of using (and attacking) Techdirt quotations on the site is a classic case of commercial fair use:

Well, this is awkward...
...it is difficult to argue any part of the internet is truly "non-commercial" and so the application of the "fair use" defence would seem to remain limited.
So fair use should be severely limited apparently. Boy, that sure does make this bit rather awkward...
For instance, Mike Masnick at TechDirt says:

"People copy stuff all the time, because it's a natural and normal thing to do. People make copies because it's convenient and it serves a purpose -- and quite often they know that doing so causes no harm in those situations."
He's using someone else's quote to promote his own service, which according his own argument, would almost certainly count as commercial use, and therefor fair use wouldn't apply.

... I wonder just how much his service would qualify his use of someone else's work, and the 'harm' it caused? Perhaps a couple hundred thousand or so, depending on how long his post has been up?

That's all for this week, folks!

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

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

from the reporting-on-reporting dept

Five Years Ago

In the past five years, we've been convinced that Title II is a necessary step in the right direction for net neutrality — but back in 2010, we still holding out hope that the problem could be solved purely with competition. Nonetheless, we could already see the utter ridiculousness of most anti-regulation arguments and the bad behaviour of ISPs, from warning about the death of iPhones to blocking broadband stimulus efforts or favoring marketing lawsuits over service improvement. And we weren't convinced when the FCC chair said that Google Fiber represents enough viable competition.

These were also the early days of the New York Times paywall, when folks were still debating its fundamental structure and studying the question of how willing people are to pay for content online. Meanwhile the Times itself, like many other publishers, was attempting to sell people an expensive iPad edition (despite the obvious fact that pretty much all the same things can be done on the web). To some, the future of journalism was more about curation, or maybe even pay-what-you-want.

The USTR's infamous Special 301 report came out this week in 2010, and for the first time included an open comment system which we promptly utilized. It was nice and all, but it's really time to scrap the program altogether. And if you want to talk about copyright, maybe look at Public Knowledge's sensible ideas for reform.

Ten Years Ago

The future of digital journalism was even less clear this week in 2005. Some newspapers thought the best approach was to keep lots of content offline. The New York Times, for its part, bought About.com (since sold to Barry Diller's IAC). Of course, iPad editions weren't exactly an issue yet — at this time, analysts were still arguing about the distinction between PDAs and smartphones. That didn't stop lots of companies from pushing mobile TV, though, and while we still weren't sure how big of a draw it that would really be, we were happy to see Showtime start experimenting with straightforward online streaming.

This was the year that SHA-1 encryption was broken. Unfortunately, a decade later it's still in widespread use — though most companies are on track to deprecate it by 2017.

Also in 2005: some states were rejecting red light cameras while others were demonstrating their problems, an Italian DJ was fined over a million euros for his MP3 collection, a tattoo artist sued the NBA for showing his artwork, manufacturers were starting to make ultra-cheap phones for developing nations while companies at home were jumping on the gadget giveaway bandwagon, and we were catching on to the practice of UK libel tourism.

Fifteen Years Ago

Ah, 2000 — the not-exactly-dawn of the new millennium, and a time of much philosophizing and prophesying about technology. The New York Times (popular this week) realized we were stuck with the internet for better or worse; Forbes opined on the parallels between the internet and railroads; Salon debunked the idea that the internet makes us lonely; and everyone was trying to have their say about the wireless future. Some people were tackling more immediate, practical questions: does internet sex count as prostitution? Should married couples share an email address? Are online customers less loyal? And, critically, should Jeeves answer questions about sex?

Oh, and there was one very notable release this week in 2000: the original version of The Sims.

Sixty-Nine & Thirty-Seven Years Ago

We've got two milestones in the history of the internet and computing this week. First, on February 15th, 1946, the ENIAC was formally dedicated. It was the world's first general-purpose electronic computer, containing 17,468 vacuum tubes, 7,200 crystal diodes, 1,500 relays, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors and around 5 million hand-soldered joints according to Wikipedia.

Next, just a few decades later, after a snowstorm gave them few options other than cabin fever or feverish engineering, two Chicago men launched CBBS, the world's first bulletin board system on February 16th, 1978.

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

Awesome Stuff: On Display

from the look-and-see dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we're talking all about monitors, projectors and display technology.


My first thought about Beam — a compact projector that plugs into any light socket and is controlled by your smartphone — was that it's a great idea. My second thought was that it can't possibly be bright enough. But, refreshingly, the video and pictures of the device in action don't make any attempt to deceive on this front: the projections are shown to be rather dim, but still visible, which is the best you could expect from 100 lumens. It's limiting, but it doesn't make it useless, and in the right circumstances for the right applications, Beam could be a very cool solution.


In a world of rapid device convergence, there's still something very attractive about the idea of dedicated single-purpose units like Displio: a small, configurable wi-fi display that can monitor anything from the weather to an eBay auction. Sure, you could get a smartphone widget or a desktop screensaver to do that job, but would it really feel the same? Some people already do this, at a high cost — I recently visited an office where every conference room was managed by a separate wall-mounted iPad with the sole purpose of scheduling meetings. The Displio looks like it can do that job for $100 a pop.


This one's not a display, but a display accessory. The rise of mobile gaming has brought with it a revolutionary wave of innovative game design tailored for touch screens, but it's also brought a slew of games that struggle to force traditional control schemes onto these radically different devices. The most common and frustrating of these is the simulated on-screen joystick, which never feels natural and puts a huge cognitive barrier between the player and total immersion. The ScreenStick is not the first attempt to solve that problem by attaching a true joystick right to your touchscreen, but it is one of the nicest designs and best prices I've seen, perhaps capable of becoming a mainstream accessory among the mobile gamers of the world.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 17 February 2015 @ 12:15pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 12: Former CIA Employee Barry Eisler Explains Why You Shouldn't Trust The CIA

from the watching-you-watching-me dept

If you checked out last week's episode, you know that Barry Eisler is a bestselling author with a lot to say about the publishing industry. What you might not know is that he also used to work for the CIA, and he's got a lot to say about that world as well. This week, Barry is back to talk about the culture and inner workings of the intelligence community.

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 February 2015 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the abuse-of-power dept

When you get down to it, there are two central overlapping reasons to be opposed to torture. One is that it's wrong, and the other is that it's ineffective. The latter pretty much seals the deal on the former, since the only way someone could even conceivably argue that it's not wrong is if it's clearly preventing more harm than it causes, which has never been the case. After a commenter questioned some of these conclusions, That One Guy won first place for insightful by providing a thorough and excellent rebuttal:

Whereas people who claim that torture does work, or even defend it's practice, have shown clearly that they have lost what little humanity they may have had.

Before I get to the meat of your comment, let's get the most obvious part out of the way:

Even if torture was found to be 100% effective and accurate, it would still not be justified. Ever. Anyone claiming otherwise has shown themselves to be a pure sociopath and/or sadist at best, and absolutely no better, and barely different, than the ones they are fighting.

"That's all very well, but you'll still need to use torture in situations like the one just after 9/11."

You mean like the situations where the torture report found that the information obtained was either useless, or had been found through other, perfectly legal and humane methods? Those 'situations'?

"That's because torture works. It is indeed useless for extracting confessions (people will confess anything, that's true), but it has always worked quite well to extract informations."

For the life of me I cannot see how you typed this up and didn't spot the glaring error in it. If torture is useless for extracting confessions, because people will confess to anything, why in the world would you believe that it would be effective at gathering information? In both cases the person being tortured is going to say whatever they think will make the torture stop. They are going to say what they think the one torturing them wants to hear, true or not.

"And not extracting informations when you have the chance means making it more likely that terrorists will be able to kill more of your civilians."

Here's a hypothetical situation for you: Say you torture someone, and thanks to the information you get from them(assuming, for the sake of the example, that you actually got useful intel), you manage to stop one attack. Good trade right, the basic humanity of the ones performing the torture, and the rights and life of the one being tortured, in exchange for innocent lives?

Right, well that was only half of the equation. Thanks to the intel you gathered, you managed to stop one attack. However, due to the way that you got it, you caused a dozen more attacks(and if you think 'Let's just torture more people and stop those attacks!' you haven't been paying attention). You stopped one attack, and caused even more. Still think that was a good trade?

I mean come on, if a group, or in this case military/government is known to torture prisoners, do you really think that's going to make people like them? Not even close, but what it will do is to increase the hatred of people that already don't like you, or are fighting you, and drive those that might have supported you before straight into the arms of the people who are already fighting you, causing more attacks, and more deaths. It will also significantly decreases the possibility that those fighting you will be willing to surrender, no matter how bad their situation is, as they know death in combat is preferable by far to what might happen to them if they surrender, which also increases the deaths on both sides.

"People who say torture doesn't work think they have found a clever way to avoid the moral dilemma, but they haven't."

Not really. The people who put forward that argument do so primarily because they know the people who support torture are such sick bastards that appealing to emotion or basic humanity isn't likely to get them anywhere, so they instead appeal to the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the actions. And as has been shown, and has been known for decades, if not longer, torture is a terrible way, both morally, and in terms of effectiveness, in gaining useful intel.

Torture, at its core, seems like a product of authority and power gone wild — something very familiar in the US, where you've got cops like those in New York asking that resisting arrest be elevated to a felony. Second place for insightful this week goes to Trevor for his counter-proposal to that idea:

Maybe we can compromise?

If Resisting Arrest is classified as a felony, make it so that if the accused is found not guilty or the charges are dropped, the arresting officer is automatically charged with False Arrest, also classified as a felony.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start with one more comment about the cops, this time regarding their fear of Waze and the possibility that people might share speed-trap locations. As usual, the cops trotted out the line that this practice puts officers in danger of being attacked — and one anonymous commenter quickly underlined how weak that argument is:

People killed by (US) police so far in 2015: 119
(US) police killed by people so far in 2015: 0

Next, we head over to the conversation about Sriracha and its creator's refreshingly open and forward-thinking mentality about trademarks. One commenter suggested that, if Tabasco starts making its own "Sriracha", then the company will be profiting from the original creator's work — but an anonymous response clarified why this oh-so-common misconception just isn't true:

I disagree. The Tabasco Corp profits from putting sauce in bottles, and selling them. The money is in the work, not the idea. Lots of people don't get that.

Over on the funny side, we're sticking with the Sriracha post for first place. One commenter expressed some off-brand preference, pointing to Shark Sriracha as his favorite for its "base vinegar flavor" — but Zonker had even more particular tastes:

I prefer Left Shark Sriracha. It just has its own offbeat flavor.

And for second place, we double back slightly to the story about cops and Waze, where one anonymous commenter felt what the situation really needed was some healthy sarcasm:

Those poor, poor, persecuted police...such a risk they take, riding around in a clearly marked police vehicle, with lights all over it, sidearm, club, taser, and a trunk full of small/mid-size firepower.

And now citizens *gasp* knowing where they are!

How can they be expected to remain riding around in their clandestine state with this app ruining their cover?

Oh, the humanity!


For editor's choice on the funny side, we'll head off to two entirely new topics. First, after the University of North Carolina attempted to "fix" hate speech with a totally unenforceable ban on a social media app, we noted that it's possible to teach people better ways of dealing with this kind of thing. But, as beech asked, how could a university possibly do that?

If only we had a place where we could send people to learn about things...

Finally, we've got a response to the FCC's Ajit Pai, whose argument against net neutrality is that it will make it harder for the US to push for open internet in other countries due to how its own policies will be perceived. Except, instead of something like "appearance" or "perception", he was worried about the much flashier-sounding "optics" of the situation, and this led one anonymous commenter to coin an excellent rule of thumb that I'm certain to quote again in future:

When someone uses the word "optics" to mean appearance, it's best to maximize your temporal utility by leveraging the geo-spatial functionality of your feet.

Well poorly said! That's all for this week, folks. We're off tomorrow for Presidents' Day, and will be back with regular posts on Tuesday.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 February 2015 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: February 8th - 14th

from the the-roots-run-deep dept

Five Years Ago

This week, let's start by going global. In 2010, Italy blocked the Pirate Bay (again) while Norway refused to do so. The UK was still grappling with the Digital Economy Bill and its onerous provisions, Australia was trying to make Google censor YouTube videos and Iran was trying to pull the plug on Gmail and offer a state-run email service in its place. Meanwhile in Bollywood, one studio was experimenting with simultaneous theater and YouTube releases. A major Icelandic newspaper banned aggregators, while at the same time the country was announcing plans to become a haven of free speech and journalism. And many countries came together for two things: the Winter Olympics (once again utterly mishandled by NBC) and the ACTA treaty (oh sorry, I mean "executive agreement").

Today, many US cities are competing for a shot at Google Fiber, but it was this week in 2010 that the project was first announced — though we knew it couldn't spur real broadband competition all by itself.

In the world of media, you can guess what was happening, because it's always the same: various companies were struggling to figure things out with varying levels of success and denial. Warner Music was dancing around the obvious fact that hiking the price of music downloads slowed sales growth, and at the same time announcing the end of all free streaming licenses. Meanwhile, the Author's Guild was still fighting over Google Books, and trying to separate itself from groups like the RIAA — while a former music exec was telling them they were more alike than they realize. One author was complaining that ten bucks is an absurdly low price for ebooks, while at the same time new research showed that unauthorized ebook copies boost sales.

Ten Years Ago

Today, the anti-net-neutrality argument that people don't need or want faster broadband and wireless speeds is ludicrous, self-serving and shortsighted — but, admittedly, in 2005 things weren't quite so clear. There was some evidence that people couldn't find enough to do with broadband and were even giving it up for dialup, and the hype over forthcoming 3G was stymied by the fact that a lot of people weren't sure why they needed it. Of course, there was also already something fishy about the cable companies trying to downplay the importance of speed and the think-tanks railing against muni broadband. And today we know how things really played out: having all that broadband penetration led to the development of new, robust applications and services that nobody could have easily envisioned beforehand.

Of course, this was 2005, so plenty of people were still clueless about technology, including lots of politicians — the British parliament even banned Blackberries. People were still trying to foist self-destructing DVDs on the public, and cable television was feebly trying to mimic the internet. But we also saw the emergence of trends that are clear and dominant today: the use of email as a persistent storage and filing tool, the abandonment of landline phones, and the fact that musicians don't make money from copyright (that last one, while clear and dominant in reality, is not necessarily so in the minds of industry folk).

Also this week in 2005: Google Maps was launched, and so was MP3tunes (guess which one is still around!), we saw some of the earliest examples of companies freaking out about negative reviews, and Salon founder Dave Talbot stepped down.

Fifteen Years Ago

In 2000, we see the even deeper roots of even bigger trends. The severity of cybercrime was becoming clear, and DoS attacks were getting lots of attention — but also already often being blown out of proportion with lots of conspiracy theories and rumors of inside jobs attached to various incidents. People were predicting the post-PC era and the death of the newspaper (which still haven't quite arrived) and the coming wireless web (which absolutely has). People liked to toss around bold proclamations about the internet being dead or not dead or whatever the case may be, it was no longer cool to include ".com" in the name of your company, and people were rightfully asking questions about the future of online privacy. We also started noticing the growth of a questionable (and now extremely common) trend in tech startup culture: companies built with the sole purpose of being acquired for a cash-out.

Seventy-Seven Years Ago

If you're a fan of Star Trek, or Dr. Who, or Battlestar Galactica, or anything else from the pantheon of television science fiction both old and new, then you should know that it all started this week in 1938 when the BBC aired the first known science fiction TV program. What's more, the program was itself an adaptation of a monumental piece of sci-fi history: R.U.R., the 1920 Czech play that introduced the word "robot" to the English language and the sci-fi genre.

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Posted on Innovation - 14 February 2015 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Auds & Ends

from the hear,-hear! dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we've got some assorted pieces of new crowdfunded audio gear.


The folks behind the waveBlend make a pretty good point: rigging up a house-wide wireless audio system is still a lot more annoying than it needs to be. The best systems out there are expensive, proprietary and always centralized around some sort of master unit. The waveBlend system does away with that: each modular cubic speaker connect to existing WiFi network and teams up with all the others (up to a dozen — however many you need, wherever you need them) to create a no-hassle home audio setup.


On the one hand, the gMIX isn't as big a deal as the creator might want to make it sound — a four-channel audio mixer that runs "without batteries" is just a passive line mixer and not a technological breakthrough. That said, the best products aren't always revolutionary, and gMIX does appear to be filling a gap: pro audio gear is expensive, there aren't that many choices of passive mixers around compared to active (powered) ones, and most such gear includes lots of additional features that aren't needed for a lot of applications. The gMIX, on the other hand, is cheap and simple and gets the job done.


A lot of the innovation around live streaming focuses on video, while audio is often left to languish in "good enough" territory. That's fine for meetings and conferences and speeches, but not so great for music. Enter the Gigcaster: a compact, standalone unit with the sole purpose of making it easy to broadcast quality live music online. This initial model is built using Raspberry Pi, and there are plans to move towards a more fully-featured production model — but there's also a huge focus on hackability, with the device running open source software and allowing for user-made firmware pushes.

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