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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 13 April 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 278: Two Curious Cases

from the section-230-and-the-fourth-amendment dept

It's one more podcast cross-post this week! A recent episode of the Institute for Justice's Short Circuit podcast dug into two very interesting legal cases: one that explores one of the more rarely-invoked pieces of Section 230, and another that tests the limits of the Fourth Amendment. Mike joined IJ attorney Josh Windham and host Anthony Sanders to discuss the cases themselves and what they mean for the law, and you can listen to the whole conversation here on this week's episode.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via Apple Podcasts, 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 - 11 April 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the dialogue-log dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Jason with a response to a specific passage in Charles Harder's article complaining about cancel culture:

"I believe that less cancellation, and more thoughtful consideration of context—plus appreciation for viewpoints we disagree with, particularly when communicated in a respectful, law-abiding way—would benefit all of us.

That, sadly, represents the underlying disconnect.

If he says something that other people disagree with, well, that's his free expression and everyone else should be more tolerant and respectful of his opinion.

If someone says something he disagrees with, that's obviously a blatant and despicable crime and should therefore be punished.

In second place, it's JMT with a response to a particularly angry commenter complaining about Joe Biden "trying to make election fraud permanent":

Screaming incessantly about something will not make it become true, but hopefully it'll eventually give you a stroke.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from That One Guy about what we should expect from the DMCA:

Accuracy costs effort, sloppiness is free

With no penalty for bogus DMCA claims there's no incentive for accuracy, so the surprising thing isn't that such claims are made on a regular basis but that they don't happen more often.

Next, it's MightyMetricBatman responding to a question about the use of the term "dark patterns" to describe sketchy donation-raising tactics from Republicans:

I do not know if this comment was made in a trolly fashion or not, but I'll take the chance.

The study of what person looks at in website originated from the outgrowth of the theories of UI design in computer science. It was found to be criminally easy to design a user interface that would draw your eyes to some things and totally avoid others.

Since this type of study originates from computer science, they took terms from that field of study. In computer science, a "dark pattern" is a pattern in software engineering that makes iteration more difficult and more buggy as more and more is added onto the system.

User interface research took the term to refer to a user interface designed to make it harder or avoid understanding of the information being projected.

Dark patterns are not only pernicious in scams but regularly show up in contracts to hide things you would not ordinarily agree too. And the courts have generally encouraged it by being science illiterate as usual and responding "But the text was there." and ignore the entire study of what people look at on a screen or piece of paper.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous response to an aforementioned angry commenter, who complained all week about being caught in spam filters and demanded an explanation of why their "browser session stopped working" during a deluge of comments:

Even your browser is sick of your bullshit.

In second place, it's another anonymous comment regarding the latest ridiculous New York Times opinion piece about Section 230, in which the author expressed their desire to teach people to avoid misinformation online:

Mission accomplished! I will henceforth not read his columns!

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with another comment on that post, this time from Bloof who coined a new tagline for the NYT opinion pages:

Ah the NYT op ed column, where the rich, pompous and privileged go to be wrong in public.

Finally, because one commenter's complaints about supposedly being censored were so fervent this week, we close with a response from Rocky suggesting a diagnosis of the problem:

Troll beset by gremlins

Have you considered that maybe your computer is infested by gremlins? Or just perhaps, it's a common PEBKAC?

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 10 April 2021 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 4th - 10th

from the back-in-the-day dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, broadband providers were either fighting against privacy protections or trying to charge a premium for them (not unlike their approach to uncapped bandwidth). Evidence continued to show that encryption and "going dark" were not the cause of recent terrorist attacks, but that didn't stop Senators Burr and Feinstein from releasing an anti-encryption bill that was even more ridiculous than expected (while the White House aimed to punt on the question). But this was also the week that WhatsApp finished rolling out end-to-end encryption, and the week of the massive Panama Papers leak.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, the MPAA filed its expected lawsuit against Zediva, while an appeals court heard the Joel Tenenbaum case, and Congress had a hearing on file sharing that turned into everyone against the COICA censorship bill, but Senator Leahy was happy to completely ignore the first amendment concerns. We also saw some worrying assertions emerge about what constitutes infringement, like linking to legal videos by rightsholders, being liable for people finding infringing movies via your search engine, and even forwarding a single sentence from a mailing list.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, there was yet another fight over song pricing on iTunes, while movie studios were continuing to attempt digital distribution with all the convenience sucked out, and newspapers were simultaneously bragging and whining about how much traffic their websites got. The RIAA was continuing its tradition of drop out of school to be able to pay a settlement fee. Also: the latest attempt to create a law about violent video games was once again declared unconstitutional, Netflix disappointingly (and unnecessarily) tried to use business model patents against Blockbuster, and, after insisting it would never happen, Apple began officially endorsing the use of Windows on new Macs with Intel chips.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 6 April 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 277: Section 230 & The PACT Act

from the still-the-wrong-reform dept

We've got another podcast cross-post for you this week! Mike recently joined the Cato Institute Daily Podcast to discuss the PACT Act — the more "serious" proposal for Section 230 reform that is still riddled with problems that will do damage to the entire internet. Listen to the full conversation with Mike and Cato's Will Duffield on this week's episode.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via Apple Podcasts, 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 - 4 April 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the conversationalism dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is David with a response to Georgia's attempts to punish Delta for the CEO's statement about voting laws:

Never thought I'd be bothered by government transparency

And yet here I am: bothered by just how transparent the Republicans in influential positions are about what they are doing.

They consider themselves royalty, dealing out reward and punishment according to their whim instead of following the letter of the law. Seeing an actual royal, namely Prince Harry of England now working for an SF-based company focused about mental health is sort of a weird contrast in the category of self-entitlement.

In second place, it's Bloof responding to a commenter who spouted a bunch of nonsense about Parler and the info it turned over to the FBI:

Parler was never a place where americans can speak their mind, it was a Mercer funded radicalisation petrie dish and data farm.

It became useless for that, and 'gelded' as the attempted insurrection and the resulting removal from app stores destroyed it's ability to reach beyond the people who feel they're not quite racist enough for GAB.

They forced their way into a place offlimits to the public, destroyed property, recording themselves doing so, and they beat a policeman to death.

They recorded themselves comitting crimes, they admitted it across all social media, posed for photos and videos with metadata. There is no question what they did was illegal, the only question is how harsh the punishment will be, probably not as harsh as they deserve because they're middle class and white.

If it's unconstitutional to gather evidence of crimes, the american justice system is in even more in need of root and branch reform than I thought.

Americans do not have the right to commit crimes without punishment, no matter how white and conservative they are.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a simple anonymous comment on one of our Content Moderation Case Studies about automated takedowns:

Any entity sending automated notices should be considered untrustworthy by default.

Next, it's an anonymous comment on our post about Nike suing MSCHF, in response to the assertion that the existence of some brand confusion is the same as "likelihood of confusion":

You give me a product made by any company in the world, and I'll find you a person who honestly believes that product was made by Amazon.

There are always multiple people. Always.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Michael with a response to the Qanon rallying cry:

That slogan

"Where we go one, we go all"

Is that not the very definition of "sheep"?

In second place, it's an anonymous commenter with a suggestion for Parler's communications team next time their users are angry about info being handed to the FBI:

What Parler should have said:

Parler was founded in response to the cancel culture which unfairly attempts to silence conservative speech. Our growth shows that there is a large community of conservatives who do not wish to be silenced.

Parler provides this community with an even larger audience when we forward its speech to third parties. This is in line with our mission to ensure that our users will continue to speak freely and to be heard.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we remain on the Parler post, in which we had requested to know the German word for a group of people like Parler's users, and Jeroen Hellingman had the answer:

That German word is "Idiot": perfectly understood by speakers of English as well, but if you want something with a more alien sound "Dummkopf" is also appropriate.

Finally, it's Baron von Robber on our post about the hypocrisy of Donald Trump's new website relying on Section 230, responding to a commenter who insisted it's fine because "Trump follows existing law -- the FULL text of the law" (whatever that means):

You should be in contact with Trump's lawyers. They need your advice when NY and Georgia indict him.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 3 April 2021 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: March 28th - April 3rd

from the what-'twas dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, while forensic experts were exploring the DOJ's recently announced ability to get into Sayed Farook's iPhone, the DOJ was saying that it only applies to that specific model and sticking by its request for Apple to help it with other devices — all while refusing to tell Apple how it did it. Meanwhile, the Copyright Office was seeking comments on the DMCA notice and takedown provisions, and given the huge problems and spate of automated takedowns, we obviously had some thoughts to submit.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, we were debunking the claim that bad things happen when works fall into the public domain, writing about how greater IP enforcement doesn't work, and pointing out how sometimes it's best to just let people copy. Another judge rejected the idea that the DMCA requires a proactive approach from service providers, while it turned out that a judge who gave approval to the lumping together of multiple unrelated copyright claims was a former RIAA lobbyist. This was also the week that we saw a very worrying ruling on fair use (which would later be overturned in an important appeals court decision that has recently become very relevant again) when a judge said Richard Prince's appropriation art is infringing.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, a new German law was set to give casual file sharers significant jailtime, while TorrentSpy was fighting the MPAA's attempts to reinterpret the Supreme Court's opinions on file sharing. The DRM makers were getting ever more elaborate even as more and more people were pointing out that copy protection doesn't work. YouTube was seeking to shake its reputation as a piracy haven with legit partnerships, and a ten-minute video limit that is hard to imagine today. This was also the week that Apple's lawyers, in their trademark fight with the record company of the same name, brought out the now-famous "moron in a hurry" test.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 30 March 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 276: Silicon Values, With Jillian York

from the book-club dept

Despite all the nonsense that dominates so much of the public discussion on the subject, free speech in the age of big social media platforms is a vital topic with a lot of nuances, and there are many people with important perspectives on it. One such person is EFF Director of International Freedom of Expression Jillian York, whose new book Silicon Values: The Future of Free Speech Under Surveillance Capitalism offers an exploration of the topic rooted in personal experience and years of activism — and she joins us on this week's episode to discuss the challenges and pitfalls of internet content moderation and its impact on free expression around the world.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via Apple Podcasts, 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 - 28 March 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the speak-now dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side Bloof with a response to some cookie-cutter COVID conspiracy nonsense:

As someone who was healthy prior to getting Covid due to someone else's inconsiderate behaviour and is still suffering the after effects of a disease that's 'at worst ordinary flu' nearly 6 months later, go **** yourself and stick your empty bottles of brain force plus where the sun don't shine.

The only conspiracy is being carried out by far right grifters who will happily let you destroy your lives, your families and your health as long as you keep on clicking links on their bs websites, watching their 20 minute stream of conciousness rants on yourube or whatever grifter video service they've migrated to, and buying pills, potions and poltices that do nothing to help anything but their bank balance. You rant about the rich yet happily parrot lines from the imagination of Alex Jones, a man with a dozen rolexes and blood on his hands,

In second place, it's James Burkhardt responding to the comparison between Sidney Powell's defamation defense and Rachel Maddow's:

Kinda? Rachael Maddow disclosed true statements and then formed opinion based on those true statements. Her defense was that the facts were true and therefore not defamatory, and her conclusions were opinions reasonably reached by the disclosed facts and therefore not defamatory. She knew the reporter worked for Russian State Media (among other facts, this is off the top of my head) and so claiming the reporter was writing Russian State propaganda is a reasonable conclusion.

In this case, Sydney Powell is not claiming an underlying factual basis for her opinions. The reason she is being sued is because her factual claims were false. Sydney is claiming that her factual inaccuracies were in fact rhetorical hyperbole and no one would assume her facts were indeed facts. That's why the lawsuits she filed are important - she made express statements under penalty of perjury that her facts, the basis for the lawsuits, were true.

We have seen this behavior before - Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson have both made similar defenses for content they spewed on their shows. Focusing on tucker, he was sued for defamation by survivors of school shootings. Tucker had claimed they were lying and that those grieving the dead were crisis actors. Tucker argued that the contents of his show is opinion, and no one would believe what he says is factual. Tucker wasn't saying here is the company this parent works for, here is the kid alive and well, its all fake. He presented no facts, only assertions. That is a more dangerous territory. That is why he didn't rely on Maddow's defense that his work was reasonable opinion based on disclosed facts. Rather, he relied on a defense that his bullshit was so insane no one should have believed him.

The differences between the defenses should be clear. but if not:

1) I have evidence that X works for Y, and therefore it was reasonable to hold the opinion that he did Z

2) I lied but my lies are so outrageous no one should believe me and you can't hold me accountable for the rubes who did.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from DocGerbil100 about judicial attacks on fundamental First Amendment standards:

While I think it very probable that there is a better standard for libel to be found than NY Times vs. Sullivan, I am also reasonably confident that Justice Thomas and Judge Silberman are, by far and away, the judges least likely to find it.

Impartiality in forming legal doctrine surely requires one to at least manage some awareness that being anywhere to the left of far right extremism does not necessarily make a person into a raging communist. Based on their publicly-stated views, I highly doubt that either judge is capable of doing so.

Next, it's Thad with another comment about one such judges in particular:

I can think of a reason Clarence Thomas might wish it was easier for public figures to sue people who said bad things about them.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Melvin Chudwaters with a response to the latest incident of cops being caught brazenly lying:

Before we all jump to conclusions, I'd like to remind everyone that their jobs are so important that we have to hold them to a lower standard.

In second place, it's Stephen T. Stone with an excellent quip about "cancel culture":

Remember: It’s only cancel culture if it comes from the Cancelle region of France. Otherwise, it’s the sparkling consequences of your own fucking actions. 😁

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got two more comments about Sidney Powell's legal defense. First, it's kallethen enjoying the implication:

I love the subtext in this

So if no "reasonable" person would believe her allegations, what does that say about all of the Trumpers who bought into them?

Finally, it's techflaws responding to the complaint that our criticisms of the defense are untrustworthy because they come from a journalist who thinks they are an attorney:

Sidney Powell IS an attorney and look how that turned out.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 March 2021 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: March 21st - 27th

from the back-to-the-past dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, the press was still pretending encryption contributed to the Paris attacks when there was another attack in Brussels and... politicians rushed to blame encryption without waiting for the evidence (which didn't come). Meanwhile, the DOJ was fighting Apple in court over encryption when a new flaw in iMessage encryption was discovered, leading the DOJ to ask for a postponement in the case — and this all raised some questions about apparent contradictions in the DOJ's various statements as well as statements by the FBI.

Also, though it happened the previous Friday afternoon, this was the week that we covered Hulk Hogan winning his lawsuit against Gawker.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, a major loss for Righthaven set up the important precedent that copying an entire work can still be fair use. We were dismayed by the loophole-happy lawyers defending the government's domain seizures, and had a post about how copyright filters were presenting a serious challenge for DJ culture. Meanwhile, the New York Times was getting used to its new soft paywall, and it was a bit of a mess: columnists were telling readers how to get around it, while the paper was trying to shut down a Twitter account that aided people in doing so, and somehow convincing itself that most people would pay — all while we wondered what the DMCA anti-circumvention implications were.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, the Supreme Court was considering some important cases to do with what can be patented. Companies were rushing to build web-based word processors after Google's purchase of Writely, Microsoft was embarking on an attempt to compete with Craigslist, and credit agencies were fighting against any rules that would force them to protect people's privacy. One judge tossed out a bizarre lawsuit claiming open source software violates antitrust law, and another shut down the RIAA's dreams of randomly hunting through everyone's computers. Meanwhile, the FBI was still trying to figure out email.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 23 March 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 275: The State Of Trust & Safety

from the what's-happening dept

For some reason, a lot of people who get involved in the debate about content moderation still insist that online platforms are "doing nothing" to address problems — but that's simply not true. Platforms are constantly working on trust and safety issues, and at this point many people have developed considerable expertise regarding these unique challenges. One such person is Alex Feerst, former head of Trust & Safety at Medium, who joins us on this weeks episode to clear up some misconceptions and talk about the current state of the trust and safety field.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via Apple Podcasts, 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 - 21 March 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the twas-said dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Blake C. Stacey with a response to the return of the PACT Act, and especially its traffic thresholds for regulations:

As far as I know, nobody in a quarter-century of trying has invented a meaningful way to quantify website traffic, and every method for putting a supposedly precise number to it is an advertising gimmick. Why on Earth would we write a reliance upon an ad gimmick into federal law? It's like changing the penalties for a crime based on the quantity of bad vibes that it generated.

Here's a wild idea: Why don't we have a National Commission on Internet Regulation before we try to write legislation?

In second place, it's PaulT with a response to a commenter who repeatedly, vaguely complains about the sponsors of The Copia Institute:

I'll ask again what influence you think that the MacArthur Foundation have on this site, since you repeatedly provide that freely available piece of information as proof of something.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with Rico R. and some thoughts on Netflix's crackdown on password sharing:

Don't forget that Netflix is also now a part of the MPAA. Maybe that could have something to do with this crackdown? After all, many other members are against password sharing. And that's not to mention that they want everyone to never pirate and pay for every movie they want to own and every single streaming service that has something they want to watch. And pay for their Internet connection to watch said streaming sites. And their phone bill. And their electricity. And their water bill. And their rent. And groceries. And anything else they need to support a family. And probably more. And put some money in savings. And have an in case of an immediate emergency fund. And pay for gifts and other things they might want to buy. All while working a minimum wage job.

Tell me: Who has the ability to pay for all that under those circumstances? That's why piracy exists. Not because they're too lazy to go to the store. Not because they don't want to support the filmmakers/artists/creators of the content they consume. And not because they just want to get content for free. It's because if there was no piracy, they wouldn't consume the content at all. Period. So maybe ask them if they would rather have those who share passwords move over to a torrent site instead, and see how quickly they change their views.

Next, it's That Anonymous Coward with a question about a Florida Sheriff's use of predictive policing:

Funny, given the statistics... shouldn't they have been visiting off duty officers to make sure they weren't beating their wives, hitting their kids, molesting people, brandishing weapons to win debates?

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Beefcake with a response to our story about a security failure involving Stevie Ray Vaughan and what it can teach us about security design:

Not surprising

Everyone in pop music was using the same major keys at the time.

In second place, it's sumgai with another comment on the story about predictive policing in Florida, where another commenter made reference to "Broken Windows policing" and set up a little bit of comedic intentional misunderstanding:

Just because they've also had more than a decade of abusing broken software, that doesn't mean that you should be bringing Microsoft into this discussion, eh?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with PaulT passing along a famous quote about Ayn Rand that's always good for a laugh:

"Ayn Rand was a rather poor author and had a really stupid personal philosophy."

Which she was happy to throw out the moment she needed to depend on government benefits.

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

And finally, it's Stephen T. Stone with a response to the question of why Republicans want to kill Section 230 even though it protects a lot of their nonsense:

Or, to put it more succinctly: They’re voting for the Leopards Eating Faces Party and hoping they can escape before the maulings start.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 20 March 2021 @ 12:30pm

Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Fish Magic

from the gaming-like-it's-1925 dept

Today, we finish our journey through the winners of the third annual public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925. We've covered ~THE GREAT GATSBY~, The Great Gatsby Tabletop Roleplaying Game, Art Apart and There Are No Eyes Here, Remembering Grußau, and Rhythm Action Gatsby, and now it's time for the final winner: Best Analog Game recipient Fish Magic by David Harris.

David Harris is our one returning winner this year, having topped the same category in Gaming Like It's 1924 with the game The 24th Kandinsky. This year's entry is at once similar and very different: like that previous game, Fish Magic is about exploring the work of a famous painter, but it takes an entirely new approach to doing so. And that change of approach underlines what makes both games so compelling: their mechanics are carefully crafted to perfectly suit the artworks at their core. Where The 24th Kandinsky was about manipulating the shapes and colors of Kandinsky's abstract art, Fish Magic is about letting the evocative surrealism of the titular painting by Paul Klee spark your imagination. To that end, the painting becomes the game board, and is populated by words randomly selected from a list, poetically divided into the "domains" of Celestial, Earthly, and Aquatic:

The players take turns moving between nodes on the board, taking a word from each one to build a collection, which they can then use to build phrases when they are ready. The goal is to convince the other players that your constructed phrase represents either a type of "magic fish", or a type of "fish magic". Points are gained by winning the support of other players for your fish magic or your magic fish, and reduced according to how many extra words you have sitting in your collection, thus encouraging players to be extra creative and find ways to make convincing phrases with the words they have, rather than just chasing the ones they want.

If you're wondering what exactly makes for a good type of fish magic or magic fish, or what that even means — well, that's kind of the point, and exactly why this approach to the game is so perfect for the source material! Paul Klee's painting is appreciated for its magical depiction of a mysterious and intriguing underwater world, and the way its techniques — a layer of black paint scratched off to reveal vibrant colours underneath, and a square of muslin glued to the center of the canvas — suggest wondrous depths obscured by a hazy curtain. Fish Magic the painting provokes imagination and flights of fancy, and Fish Magic the game adds just enough mechanical scaffolding to make this process explicit and collaborative.

Anyone could slap a board layout on a famous painting, add some rules, and call it a game — but it takes a real appreciation for the painting, and a real intent to do something meaningful with it, to craft such a simple premise that so perfectly aligns with the source material. Like The 24th Kandinsky last year, just a quick read of the rules was enough to make our judges eager to play, and it was an easy choice for the Best Analog Game.

You can get all the materials for Fish Magic on Itch, and check out the other jam entries too. Congratulations to David Harris for the win!

And that's a wrap on our series of winner spotlights for Gaming Like It's 1925. Another congratulations to all the winners, and a big thanks to every designer who submitted an entry. Keep on mining that public domain, and start perusing lists of works that will be entering the public domain next year when we'll be back with Gaming Like It's 1926!

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 16 March 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 274: Lessons In Innovation From The History Of Fabric

from the cloth-through-the-ages dept

Textiles have been around for such a long time that we barely think about them. The making of fabric is one of the oldest crafts, and has played a major role in human civilization for thousands of years — and that might lead one to assume that there's nothing left to be learned from fabric's history. But they'd be wrong. This week we're joined by Virginia Postrel, whose book The Fabric Of Civilization: How Textiles Made The World is a fascinating look at how textiles have pushed and shaped the history of innovation, and how the story of fabric can teach us important lessons about today's biggest challenges around innovation.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 March 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the get-the-word-out dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is a comment from Baron von Robber, responding to someone who is still insisting that Democrats "stole" the election:

Trump proved he lost the election by losing all the court cases. That, in fact, shows Biden won. To have lost so many cases shows that there was nothing at all to the "Stop the Steal".

If you are certain that is not the case, pick one case (Who vs Who) and lets look at the official court findings. Remember, many were Trump appointed judges.

In second place, it's an anonymous comment in response to someone defending, at length, the police and their awful drug raid practices:

The train of thought you seem to have missed is the one where the cops do not need to go after petty drug offenses.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with That One Guy's comment about how judges probably need to do more than just toss out terrible SLAPP suits:

Do you want abuses of the court system? This is how you get them

Judges refusing to issue sanctions for garbage like this is why lawyers and the toddlers in suits employing them feel so safe filing such suits. Start cracking heads and issuing fines and I've little doubt that while there would still be people filing frivolous and/or performative lawsuits the number would shrink quite a bit because all of a sudden there would be an actual costs to doing so, and abusing the courts for personal gain is a lot less attractive an idea when it comes with a price tag.

Next, it's That Anonymous Coward with a comment on our post about cops celebrating shooting people:

JFC even the mob knew if you kill them you stop getting paid.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous commenter responding to our wish that Tennessee lawmakers would actually read Section 230:

It is awfully bold for you to assume they can read.

In second place, it's Pixelation with a not-dissimilar response to our post mentioning that we submitted comments about the Digital Copyright Act because Senator Tillis "wanted feedback":

No, he didn't.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we loop all the way back to the ongoing claims that the election was stolen, where PaulT had another reply:

This is true to a degree, although people who understand that 81 million votes is higher than 73 million votes, without any actual evidence provided that any of the votes were not valid, would prefer the term "won" rather than "stolen". You're free to provide the missing evidence that Trump's lawyers failed to provide in many courtrooms any time you like.

And finally, we dip into a debate about copyright and derivative works, where one commenter was insisting that creators should be totally original and was challenged to actually come up with such a thing so they could see how impossible it is — leading Rico R. to raise an objection:

I'm sorry to tell you that South Park already owns the rights to "trying and failing to come up with a 100% original idea"...

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 13 March 2021 @ 12:00pm

Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Rhythm Action Gatsby

from the gaming-like-it's-1925 dept

We're nearing the end of our series of posts about the winners of our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925. We've already featured ~THE GREAT GATSBY~, The Great Gatsby Tabletop Roleplaying Game, Art Apart and There Are No Eyes Here, and Remembering Grußau, and today we're looking at the third and final game based on The Great Gatsby and the winner of the Best Digital Game category: Rhythm Action Gatsby by Robert Tyler.

From the name alone, you can probably guess what the game is: rhythm action games are a popular genre, and hey, why not make one for The Great Gatsby? The premise is presented as a joke, with the designer describing it as "the way F. Scott Fitzgerald would have wanted his legacy to be maintained" — but the game doesn't just lean on this one bit of amusing silliness, nor does it cut any corners in fulfilling its promise. Rather, it's full of handcrafted original material.

But before we get to all of that, there's another thing that makes Rhythm Action Gatsby stand out among all the Gatsby-based games this year: it's partly based on the book's incredibly iconic cover art. (We wondered if the cover art was even itself in the public domain, but it turns out that unlike most books, that particular cover was actually designed before the writing was done and published along with the first edition, and has an interesting story all its own.) The floating eyes and mouth that almost everyone immediately associates with The Great Gatsby become the target points of the rhythm action game, controlled by the player as they gaze out from the screen. The eyes must be triggered in time with the sparkling fireworks that rise from below and represent the notes of the music, while the mouth must be controlled to speak the words that tumble down from above.

The words are a well-known passage from the novel, dramatically spaced out over the 2-minute duration of the game — and it's all narrated aloud. That's where we get to all the other original material in the game. The narration? Freshly recorded by the designer, with a distinct mood and excellent delivery. The jaunty music that sets the pace of the game? An original piece written and recorded by the designer. And then there's all the details: the color changes and screen flashes that occur throughout the course of a playthrough, linked to both progression and the player's performance. All of this is choreographed so well that when it comes together it makes a rhythm game that, although simple and short, feels surprisingly dramatic and narrative — and that's not only impressive, it's extremely appropriate to an adaptation of a novel, and proves that the initial joke about the combination of genre and subject being silly wasn't quite what it seemed. That's just great, and makes it a worthy winner of the Best Digital Game award.

(Oh, and at the end, your performance is ranked and you get to find out just how great of a Gatsby you are. Several of our judges played it multiple times to try for better results, and maybe you will too.)

Play Rhythm Action Gatsby in your browser on Itch, and check out the other jam entries too. Congratulations to Robert Tyler for the win! We'll be back next week with the final game jam winner spotlight.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 10 March 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 273: How The Techlash Happened

from the and-where-it-came-from dept

There was a time not too long ago when tech companies enjoyed broad public support and adulation. Now they face widespread opposition and criticism from almost all corners. The shift from one to the other has long been called the "techlash", but it's always been unclear where it really came from and how it happened, and especially what role tech journalism and company communications played. This week, we're joined by Dr. Nirit Weiss-Blatt, author of the new book The Techlash and Tech Crisis Communication, for a deep dive into the story of the techlash phenomenon and how companies are reacting to the new dynamic.

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 - 7 March 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the what-say-you? dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Stephen T. Stone with a response to a Parler defender insisting that, with regards to the platforms many bans, you have to ask people who got banned why they really posted:

Take your own advice: Whenever someone claims they got banned from Twitter or Facebook because of “anti-conservative bias”, ask them what they posted.

In second place, it's smbryant responding to our post about how so many of the complaints and demands about social media are things society at large needs to deal with, but has failed:

Wrong word, I think

The last paragraph: "Society has failed to deal with etc, etc,"

"Fail" implies that there was an attempt made.

I think it would be more accurate to say "Society has refused to deal with etc, etc,"

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a simple anonymous response to the perennial complaint that Section 230 protections are "special" because websites get them but print publications don't:

A paper publisher is aware of everything that goes into the paper before it's printed. An internet platform with UGC isn't.

They aren't even close to similar situations, so why would they be governed by identical rules?

Next, it's Rocky responding to the TSA agents who tried to stop people from recording them:

As a US citizen, regardless of who your employer is, you should have a passing understanding of the US constitution. If you happen to be a government/federal employee it's your fricking duty to know and understand the constitution and how it impacts your job and the citizens you interact with.

It's mindboggling that they thought "they didn't know better" was a viable defense.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Baron von Robber with a quick quip about a reporter's lawsuit that seeks to find out if the DOJ is trying to help Devin Nunes unmask his bovine Twitter nemesis:

The DOJ is just ruminating over the FOIA request.

In second place, it's Stephen T. Stone responding to an angry, trollish commenter who asserted that "no one reasonable wants to read this cesspit of un-civil discussion":

This is more of a self-own than you probably realize, fam.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from I am a cat about the ongoing situation with Australia and newspapers:

I am a tax but do not call me that

I am presently in the process of informing the Australian government of the Bargaining Code they will need to pay me if they want me to read their dreg. So far I have not received a reply.

Next, we've got Baron von Robber with a response to Parler's new lawsuit against Amazon that includes a defamation claim:

Defamation?! Parler complaining Amazon didn't say Parler wasn't racist/fascist enough?

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 6 March 2021 @ 12:45pm

Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Remembering Grußau

from the gaming-like-it's-1925 dept

So far, we've featured ~THE GREAT GATSBY~, The Great Gatsby Tabletop Roleplaying Game, Art Apart and There Are No Eyes Here in this series of posts about the winners of our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925. Today, we're taking a look at the winner of the Best Deep Cut category: Remembering Grußau by Max Fefer (HydroForge Games).

Of all the entries this year, this game was the one that had the biggest emotional impact on our judges, with words like "moving" and "powerful" popping up repeatedly in their comments. The best description of Remembering Grußau is perhaps to call it a guided reflection on a piece of artwork — specifically, the 1925 painting of the same name by the Jewish surrealist painter Felix Nussbaum — and its meaning within the greater context of history, and the artist's life and eventual murder in the Holocaust. The game is simple, focused, and highly effective in prompting the player to meaningfully engage with the subject matter in a deeply personal way.

A big part of how it accomplishes this is by inventively bridging the gap between digital and physical engagement. The game itself is built in Twine with very basic interactive fiction mechanics, but the player's most important action is taken offline: they are instructed to step away, write a letter to Nussbaum, fold it into an envelope, and keep it nearby for a day before returning to complete the game. When they do, they are asked to indicate the theme of the letter they wrote, and then given a response — but to see what that response is, you'll have to experience it for yourself.

Remembering Grußau is somber and impactful, and it demonstrates that there are many different reasons that a growing public domain is important. We talk a lot about the radical, transformative ways new creators can make use of old material, but there's also great value on using new media to examine and explore old works in their pure, original form, introducing them to new people and uncovering new meaning within them. By focusing so closely and intensely on a single 1925 painting that isn't especially well known, and actively giving the player historical context and emotional prompts followed by a reflective task to complete, Remembering Grußau succeeds in doing this to an impressive degree, and is a worthy winner of the Best Deep Cut award.

Play Remembering Grußau in your browser on Itch, and check out the other jam entries too. Congratulations to Max Fefer/HydroForge Games for the win! We'll be back next week with another game jam winner spotlight.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 2 March 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 272: Section 230 Matters, With Ron Wyden & Chris Cox

from the celebrating-25-years dept

Last week, we hosted Section 230 Matters, a virtual Techdirt fundraiser featuring a panel discussion with the two lawmakers who wrote the all-important text and got it passed 25 years ago: Chris Cox and Senator Ron Wyden. It was informative and entertaining, and for this week's episode of the podcast, we've got the full audio of the panel discussion about the history, evolution, and present state of Section 230.

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 - 28 February 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the things-were-said dept

This week, both our winners on the insightful side come from our post about the latest story showing Facebook bent over backwards to have different rules for "conservative voices" on the platform, to avoid accusations of anti-conservative bias. The first place comment comes from bhull242, responding to the assertion that the terms "misinformation and hate" just mean something you disagree with:

How are death threats, advocacy for genocide, the organization of an attack on the nation’s Capitol, claiming vaccines cause autism, claiming that there is a secret sex trafficking ring run by high-ranking Democrats in the nonexistent basement of a pizzaria in DC, claiming that Sandy Hook and other mass shootings were hoaxes, claiming that all/most homosexuals/bisexuals/transgender people/blacks/Hispanics/Jews/Muslims are out to destroy America and/or kill white Christian Americans, claiming that chemicals in the water are turning the frogs gay, claiming that COVID-19 is a hoax, etc. not misinformation or hate? How is treating American far-right people and their followers differently from literally everyone else not bending over backwards to create a special rule?

In second place, it's Baron von Robber responding to the more specific invocation of the Hunter Biden laptop story as proof of anti-conservative bias:

Because the Hunter laptop was a joke. Even the reporters for the NY Post wouldn't sign their names to it, it was so bad. It was failed before it started.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got two more comments from that post. The conversation about the Hunter Biden story continued, with the original commenter insisting they believed it due to a lack of evidence disproving it, garnering this excellent anonymous response:

Human perception of truth is not binary. You don't have to believe something is true just because you haven't seen proof that it isn't, anymore than you have to believe something is untrue just because you haven't seen proof that it is.

The more common and likeliest scenario is that you don't have enough information to make a good judgment either way, in which case choosing to pretend it must be true because you haven't seen evidence to contradict your bias is just you wanting to believe bullshit.

Next, we've got a comment from Bloof who is clearly, understandably, tired of this nonsense:

So big tech are biased against conservatives, while simultaneously being run by soulless right wing libertarians, prioritising conservative content (Who hasn't gotten a Prager U propaganda piece or Ben Shapiro clip recommended to them after watching actual news?) and downgrading leftleaning outlets, changing their rules to avoid banning conservatives as much as possible and quietly rescinding even the mildest of punishments handed out to anyone on the right as swiftly as they can even though they're still doing the things they were punished for in the first place?

Let's be honest, you will scream bias until the day conservatives are in the same position online as they are on talk radio, left completely immune to suffering the consequences of their online and left wing content is excluded from major platforms entirely.

Over on the funny side, both our winning comments come in response to a different post: the story of Tennessee politicians asking state colleges to forbid student athletes from kneeling during the national anthem. An early anonymous comment took first place for funny, and racked up a whole lot of insightful votes too:

"The flag represents freedom...No, not that freedom...No, not that one either...Okay, okay. The flag represents our freedom to tell you what to do when you participate in our most holy religion: college sportsball."

In second place, it's another anonymous commenter with another reaction:

I was in church the other day and I was shocked, shocked to see so many people kneeling. They knelt when they came in. They knelt whenever Jesus was in the room. How disrespectful. They clearly hate God.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from crade about Oracle helping Chinese law enforcement dig through private data:

The most surprising thing about this article is that Oracle is actually working on something that isn't a lawsuit

Finally, we come full circle back to the post about Facebook making exceptions for conservative content, where Stephen T. Stone offered up a quotation:

“I have become Overton, shifter of windows.” – Zuckerberg, probably

That's all for this week, folks!

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