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Posted on Techdirt - 11 June 2011 @ 12:00pm

PrometheeFeu's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

This week’s favorites of the week post comes from PrometheeFeu

We all live in anticipation for The Call when Mike Masnick sends you an email that asks you to write Techdirt Favorite Posts of the Week and changes your life forever. We all wonder what we will be doing when it comes and how we will react. I was cleaning up cat vomit and coughing my lungs out when I answered: “Sure, I would love to!” In the spirit of making myself and all of you feel better, I decided to try to tease out some of the good news in this week’s posts. We all love righteous indignation (and so I kept some) but sometimes things are improving.

The week kicked off pretty well with the interesting news of Medvedev (our favorite Putin stand-in) wanting to include a CC-like option in Russian law. In practice, it is probably irrelevant, but it may be a sign that the maximalists are starting to lose the battle for hearts and minds. However, my country of birth’s broadcast regulator ruined Monday with a “Won’t somebody think of MySpace” plea banning news organizations from the admittedly annoying: “You can follow us on Twitter @TheNewsYouJustSaw”. It would be opening “Pandora’s Box” they said. Pandora you say? Seems the regulators are not above advertising music services.

It seems somebody is always getting in the way. Whether it be the recording industry artificially limiting the ways we can use the cloud for music, the FDA not really knowing how to deal with medical devices or Apple imposing restrictive conditions on its apps, there is always someone who jumps in the middle usually demanding money. What the barriers-to-trade supporters — whether they be copyright maximalists, FDA apologists or Apple lawyer groupies — forget is that those barriers don’t just ensure safety or make money change hands. They also preclude certain forms of innovation to the detriment of consumers. But there is a silver lining, whether it be newspapers switching to HTML5 to get out of the App Store (Sorry Apple Store), Amazon and Google just going through with their service without label authorization or Tricorder builders selling outside of the USA, capitalism always finds a way to provide more and more valuable goods and services to consumers.

For the most part, Wednesday was a good day for civil rights. First, Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Jason Chaffetz announced plans to introduce a bill to prohibit GPS tracking without consent. This is either spelling the end of the rule of law, or asking the police to respect your basic rights, I forget which. Then, New Zealand suddenly realized that the three strikes law would violate their citizen’s rights. Of course, that might land them on Santa’s the recording industry’s the USTR’s Special 301 report listing those countries that placed their citizen’s rights above being a good little recording industry toady. But the crown jewel of that day was Samsung showing Sony how to do business: When somebody is doing work to improve your product, help them, don’t sue them. Of course, things are never perfect, especially in New Jersey where apparently, real journalists don’t use message boards. Also settled in that case: real programmers don’t use emacs.

Thursday’s opening just about knocked the breath out of me. The World Intellectual Property Rights Organization (WIPO for friends) commissioned a meta-study to see if intellectual monopolies harm innovation. (Spoiler: It does). The legal landscape nevertheless remains dangerous if you want to blow whistles under the Presidency of Mr. “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” (Not Medical Advice. Also, a lie.) Thankfully, the successes are mixed with Wikileaks “associates” (as in they might get Facebook to recommend they friend Assange’s third cousin thrice removed) potentially being criminalized for not testifying, and the prosecution against Thomas Drake falling apart because the evidence against him is so sensitive you can’t even show flowcharts about it in court. Hopefully, more whistle-blowing lawsuits will fail (or result in favorable settlements) due to the Fed’s paranoid obsession with secrecy. The irony is just too good.

Unfortunately, it appears that despite all the progress of this week, some people are still pushing absurd laws. Lip-synching videos on YouTube could earn you a jail term if public performances are criminalized. But you probably shouldn’t, worry. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get caught unless you annoy a government official. Rule of law? What rule of law?

But let us end the week on a positive note. Officials tend to jump at every opportunity to terrify their constituents into the most absurd actions. (Anyone remember the automatic letter openers to protect us from anthrax?) Well, every once in a while, when the media tells us to be afraid, somebody steps up and says: “Calm down. Things are not that bad.”

Final Disclaimer: I work at one of the above-mentioned companies as a software engineer so feel free to consider that I am subject to some related biases. However, I am not authorized to speak for my employer or anyone but myself and my cat. The opinions expressed above are solely my opinion and should be attributed to no one else on pain of looking foolish.

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