Peter Mescher's Techdirt Profile

Peter Mescher

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  • Sep 20, 2019 @ 12:14pm

    Of course it's complicated

    "And it was a lot more interesting and challenging than I initially thought."

    "I'm still quite uncomfortable with the idea that a media organization would agree to go back and change stories to remove names (or, in some cases, to delete entire stories), as that is (again) a rewriting of history."

    Surprise! The real-world is a nuanced and complicated place with a lot of grey areas.

    Lets say you've been arrested for a crime for which you are unambiguously innocent. (Not "Innocent Until Proven Guilty"-Innocent, but "Mistaken Identity/Frameup/Complete Stupidity by Police or DA"-Innocent) If it's a lurid crime, it can be extremely harmful to one's personal life if the first two pages of Google results for your name is a mugshot of you in Jail Orange and "John Doe Arrested for {PMITA-Prison Crime]", complete with a boilerplate statement from the police or DA, and maybe even a video clip of you doing the perp walk.

    I don't think it's a tough call at all for such a story to be memory-holed from a newspaper's website. Even if a follow-up story was posted saying "Doe innocent of all charges" (that doesn't always happen), it might be buried deep-down in the search results.

    Yes, the original story is "history", but it's also something that can cause real harm to the subject of the story.

    I agree that a law mandating the deletion ranges from problematic to nearly-impossible. But a private process for such a thing? Sounds like a great idea to me.

  • Sep 19, 2019 @ 07:47am

    Re: Re: Be careful what you wish for...

    There is not some grand conspiracy to "spread out the popular content"; it's not surprising that some providers have chosen a narrow "can't miss exclusive content" model (it's worked out pretty well for HBO) and others have chosen a "throw a whole pot of content spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks" model (Netflix). Neither model is inherently good or bad. It's a business decision, for an indiviudal provider, one you are more than welcome to agree with (by subscribing) or not (by refusing to do so.)

  • Sep 19, 2019 @ 07:13am

    Be careful what you wish for...

    For years, many consumer-advocacy outlets (including this one) have been demanding a la carte cable service.

    Well, while this isn't cable service, a bunch of disparate online streaming services, each with their own sets of programming and exclusives, is certainly the online equivalent of a la carte cable.

    If you want a single subscription with just about everything you want to watch? Why, that's called a content bundle, and it's just what places like this have been saying they don't want for years now, because it's so expensive. (That content doesn't create itself!)

    And, of course, there's usually (if not always) the option of purchasing content one program at a time, but that's expensive. (It's expensive because the content providers need to cover their losses on non-hits with the stuff people end up choosing. Yes, there's ways around that subsidize-the-losses model, but that doesn't involve content ever being cheaper for consumers.)

  • Aug 29, 2019 @ 07:19pm

    Re: Re: I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

    Under money-laundering laws, the bank most certainly can be held liable for my transactions. Fines in the $B have been levied against banks that don't pay enough attention.

  • Aug 29, 2019 @ 02:19pm

    I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

    I don't think it's entirely out of line to declare that a transaction/money-handling intermediary is, in fact, selling something, and that this speech is not as deserving the same level of protection as a content pass-thru like a forum, search engine, or social media site.

  • Aug 22, 2019 @ 07:07am

    Explain to me, in small words, why *any* of this matters?

    Why on earth does it make one damn bit of difference which store(s) which games are available from? Seems like an utterly ridiculous thing to get so worked up about.

    I can certainly sympathize with a developer that says "Store X pays us more, we won't be selling in Store Y unless they match."

  • Aug 20, 2019 @ 02:20am

    Re: We dug the hole, but got no dirt

    They sold billions and billions of additional shares. To the point where an investor who dumped in $1M when Ted Farnsworth was appointed CEO, you'd have about enough now to buy a bottle of come from a reasonably-priced vending machine, because the shares have been so impressively diluted.

  • Aug 12, 2019 @ 07:04pm

    Aereo made sense within the context of the law around cable fees

    Let me start by saying that the law allowing re-transmission fees to be charged within a station's service area are stupid. A public broadcast license should carry with it a waiver of the ability to charge anybody (within the licensed service area) a cost to access it, no matter how they receive the signal.

    But within the context of that crappy law, the Aereo decision made sense.

    Aereo's infrastructure was a cumbersome, expensive, kluge that existed solely to create a de-facto cable network that didn't pay the fees cable providers must pay. Think of it as the copyright equivalent of tax shelters. (Which are disallowed if they consist of transactions that are of no substance and make no sense except for their utility as a tax-avoidence measure.) Aereo's setup (and it pains me to type this) put the cable/satellite providers at an unfair disadvantage.

    Again, let me emphasize that the correct fix is to get rid of re-transmission fees. But until that happens, I think the Supreme court made a defensible decision that Aereo qualified as a cable system within the context of the law requiring those fees.

  • Jul 18, 2019 @ 09:50am

    Re: The basic physics here aren't that hard.

    Oh, and P.S.... Calling RT a "News Outlet"? It's on a similar level of reliability as InfoWars or Trump's twitter feed. RT publishes enough outright propaganda to not belong as part of a serious discussion about anything at all, other than about propaganda.

  • Jul 18, 2019 @ 09:45am

    The basic physics here aren't that hard.

    Skin attenuates radio signals. Period. End of Story. There is no conceivable mechanism by which 5G could cause health issues at any dose a consumer would be exposed to. The only effects on tissue would be due to simple heating, which are not going to be significant at the small fractions of a watt smartphones run at. I'm not sure what there is to study.

    There might be separate considerations for workers maintaining live transmission towers, which are already accounted for in existing occupational-health requirements.

    (And the strange fixation on brain cancer makes even less sense! If, for the purposes of argument, we pretended that 5G phones emitted, say, x-rays, there are cancer-susceptible organs that would be much more affected than your brain; notably the skin, salivary glands, and thyroid. Your brain is on the other side of your skull, and bone attenuates radiation quite well.)

    P.S. (If you want to read up on the literature about the topic, ignore any text entirely that does not specify frequency, dose, and duration. And if they do specify those three crucial items, actually pay attention. If you do pay attention, you'll see that the research shows a glimmer of an effect at well-in-excess of consumer doses for days. If you don't pay attention, it'll be like proclaiming "Driving past an asphalt plant is bad for you" after reading a study about people cleaning out tanks full of exotic volatile petrochemicals at an oil refinery for years on end.)

  • Jun 26, 2019 @ 03:23pm

    RIAA... huh?

    Other than the fact that UMG is an RIAA member, what on earth does this travesty to do with them?

    The entire first paragraph of this article is just transparent axe-grinding that has bupkis to do with the actual story.

  • Jun 20, 2019 @ 05:05am

    I'd love to censor All Kardashian Things

    For months, I've been trying to convince Google News to never show me anything about the Kardashians/Jenners to no avail. If only "vapid content about professional celebrities" was a target of cleansing algorithmic fire...

  • May 14, 2019 @ 05:13am

    Might as well be called the Arbitrary Punishment Regulation

    After reviewing GDPR, the conclusion I swiftly came to is that any organization larger than a few people will find perfect compliance impossible.

    And since the regulation makes no provision for scaling the possible penalties based on the severity of the violation, it's clearly just a way for the EU to extract money from any company (or country, for that matter) that they don't like.

    The almost-certain selective enforcement will probably eventually cause some WTO problems, but that'll take many years to resolve.

  • Apr 29, 2019 @ 02:54pm

    And the funny thing is, the stand-alone programs are *cheap*

    I'm waaaay outside of being eligible for Free-File, and I haven't paid more than $30 to file my taxes for years.

    I use the "deluxe" PC version of H&R @ Home, and for no more than $30 (usually $25 on-sale), you get pretty much every single form a wage-earner could possibly need. It includes a State program, and free Federal filing. State filing is over-priced, so I just print it out and mail it in.

    But if you go through the H&R website, it's all going to cost much more. And I'm gobsmacked that TurboTax online is $60 for any situation an entry-level cashier could possibly be in.

    But, yeah, I should't have to do any of this at all. With the increased standard deduction, not a single item of information went on my forms that the feds don't already know.

  • Apr 17, 2019 @ 06:07am

    Probably not gonna help much

    I'm going to guess that this is only going to help Canadian companies, and perhaps not even then if it would require the Canadian government to complain to the EU about it. I'm pretty sure courts give great deference to the government of their own country when interpreting their own trade agreements.

    I don't see how a targeted US company (or a European one, for conduct that isn't alleged to be connected to Canada, for that matter) would have a right of action in regards to the trade agreement.

  • Apr 15, 2019 @ 11:27am

    I get it; Big Company, Bad, Small Company, Okay.

    I happen to agree that this is a pretty blatant trademark problem.

    But a while back you wrote about a very similar trade-dress complaint. There, it was Nestle going after a company that made a "FitCrunch" bar, using an identical red/white/blue color scheme (seriously, it looks like they used the same Pantone numbers), the word "Crunch" in gigantic red letters, and it was a competing candy bar, and your conclusion was that the trade dress wasn't, and I quote, "remotely identical".

    So when it's a hippy-dippy clothing company vs. a huge beer conglomerate, it's a legit claim, but when it's an even clearer case and it's a huge food conglomerate vs. a small producer, it's The Mighty Boot of Corporate Overreach.

  • Feb 01, 2019 @ 06:26pm

    Err... All UV shifted to MoviesAnywhere

    I have quite a few UltraViolet movies, and they all shifted over to MoviesAnywhere. The migration process took about five minutes, and all the streamer apps that played UV movies seem to also participate in MoviesAnywhere. And as an added bonus, when I buy a movie through a streaming platform, many now cross over to other streamers, and they didn't do that before, and I no longer need a separate Disney account for my digital copies of their movies.

    I love the digital movie codes; they are a nice bonus to go along with my physical media purchases.

  • Oct 29, 2018 @ 08:43am

    Better yet, skip the e-voting entirely

    E-Voting is a solution in search of a problem. Paper ballots, while not completely idiot-proof, (the myriad ways in which people screw them up is astounding) DO have the advantage of being easily auditable.

    A machine that fills out a scannable paper ballot would seem to be the best of both worlds. It gives both a way to check to see if your vote is recorded accurately, has an auditable paper record, while removing all the various ways people manage to fail to follow instructions with paper-only ballots. (And if the machine breaks down, or the voter is feeling paranoid, the old-fashioned way is still an option.)

  • Sep 10, 2018 @ 09:35am

    It's a perfectly normal search constraint.

    "Skin Color" is a perfectly normal thing to search for when trying to find a suspect for a particular crime; it's no more problematic than gender, dress, facial hair, etc.

    Of course it should not be used for "predictive" policing (e.g. "The more brown people, the more officers"), but if looking for a single person, it's perfectly reasonable.

    On another note, the whole bit about IBM and the Holocaust was completely overblown, nor was it any kind of secret. IBM did work on the German census, and religion was one of the questions on said census, but that is a perfectly normal census question. While it's not on the US census, it most certainly is on census questionnaires in many countries even today, including such despotic regimes like Australia and the UK. (This usually comes up when some smart-ass tries to get 'Jedi' included in the official statistics.)

  • Jul 25, 2018 @ 08:50am

    I've actually had decent luck...

    I know that TWC/Charter/"Spectrum" rightly get a whole basketful of abuse for their service, pricing, regulatory B.S., etc., but I've actually been pretty satisfied with them as an individual.

    I cut the cord many years ago on TV service and have only been using them for Internet service for years. Over the 15 years I've had that service, the price has gone up 25%, and the speeds have gone up by 15x. That price increase isn't something I'm thrilled about, but I can't argue with those speeds. (Especially since the "competition", AT&T DSL, hasn't budged from a max of 25Mb for years.)

    Service has been ok, with maybe three or four outages requiring a truck roll to my house (all having to do with the rats nest of splitters outside the house, the last tech simply eliminated them entirely); the biggest problem was their crappy contract installer using the wrong kind of cable, and it left a sticky ooze all over my wall.

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