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Posted on Techdirt - 26 February 2011 @ 12:00pm

Modplan's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

This week’s “favorites of the week” post comes from Modplan. He’s not the most prolific commenter, but I always enjoy his thoughtful responses.

First, a thanks to Mike for asking me to write this week’s post. When approached to do the favorite posts of the week, I was initially worried I wouldn’t be able to find much of interest in a week I thought it wasn’t as eventful of a week as it turned out to be when looking back for the selections, so I took a few swigs of my kool-aid and prepared for the inevitable drop in value that follows from doing anything for free and got writing. I only hope the following selections and my musings are at least of mild interest to even just a few of you.

I’ve been following the “Freedom Box” project for quite a while after first seeing some of Eben Moglen’s speeches regarding freedom, the web and free software, which had also inspired other projects like Diaspora, so it’s no surprise that the article “Sometimes ‘Piracy’ & Freedom Look Remarkably Similar” was something of particular interest. I think the article leads into a point I’d personally been thinking about for while, in that much of what makes the web so great at freedom of speech is also fundamentally the same as what makes it great for widespread piracy. To attack piracy is to often end up — inadvertently or not — attacking the same things that give us a greater freedom of speech and efficiency. With modern attempts at attacking the former in some ways inhibiting the latter, they result in rather ham-fisted ways of working around that technologically, legally and PR wise. I’d be interested to see, if these kinds of devices take off, what precisely will be demanded to be done to combat the higher chances of piracy that seem will inevitably come with the greater protection of privacy and free speech.

Next up is the story of how the Tolkien estate is trying to put a stop to a historical fiction book involving the deceased author. I think we can all understand at some point the feeling of needing to fight back against something said that’s untrue about us or the need to not be associated with something we don’t support or like, but it seems like publicity laws, as they are, will just continue to be abused. I’m not sure what merit cases involving deceased authors and Hulk Hogan impersonations have outside of getting in the way of what seems like perfectly valid forms of criticism and bad comedy, regardless of any fears of association.

Speaking of overly broad rights and protections, I’m reminded of the story on the EU and Korea trade agreement, which to me didn’t appear to get a lot of attention the first time round. Though I think I only need to point out this particular part to show just how bad this agreement is:

The data exclusivity provision prevents generic drug manufacturers from relying on data used by the patentee for market authorisation. Clinical test data generated by the patent holder, for example, therefore cannot be used for market authorisation of a generic drug using the same substance, obliging the generic drug users to reiterate the tests.

If only every society were required to reinvent the wheel, we’d all have teleporters by now.

Moving swiftly on, here’s a case we can all learn from with Sweden fining a file sharer €200 ($311, working out at $7 a song). I’m sure this is something the USTR will balk at, but sometimes the US (and us at Techdirt) can get so involved in debating, arguing and extending its own laws, they forget there’s a whole world out there we can communicate with and learn from, not merely try to coerce into our ways, with more reasonable file sharing damages certainly being one of those areas.

I’d also like to briefly highlight the stories of the US paying for software that didn’t work, the revolving door between Government and industry , and where would we be without ICE admitting to taking down 84,000 domains for the sake of 10 — not only did the Government give plenty more ammo this week to show themselves to be incompetent and untrustworthy, but they also gave us yet more reasons to dislike the patent system. They really worked had this week didn’t they? Just think that if they hadn’t done all this work, our national security would be in danger.

To put this post to bed, I’d like to end with more positive stories — TED’s success in opening up its content to the world, a porn company deciding to work with rather than against pirates and its customers, and that cheap video games are not necessarily bad for the industry. I think the story of TED in particular helps show that not only is cheap and free not necessarily as devaluing or industry-destroying as is regularly claimed, but can, in fact, lead to more success and a better situation for all. It’s been a regular point at Techdirt that it’s not always a zero-sum game when it comes to freeing content and making money, it’s just a matter of thinking beyond being simply a gatekeeper.

That’s it from me, back to lurking in the comments section from now on.

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