My Favorite Techdirt Posts

August 14, 2011 Posted by zachary

Last week I was asked by the owner of Techdirt, Mike Masnick, to write up what my favorite posts of the week were. You can read it there and for my sake, you can read it here too:

It is an honor and a privilege to share with you my favorite Techdirt posts this week. I love this site and feel extremely tempted to just say, “Everything.” However, I will constrain myself and point out a few relevant and interesting stories from this week.

First, I want to point out the Dilbert comic on patents. This is the second time since I started reading this site that Dilbert has been cited; I doubt it will be the last. The thing with Scott Adams is he has immersed himself in technology and business and knows what he is making fun of. So when he is making fun of patent trolls, you know it is a serious business problem. I think too many companies took Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook seriously and are actually running their businesses in that way.

Next, we have a couple of stories about Patent trolls getting their just desserts. First we have the story of EON-NET getting a smack-down from CAFC for filing bogus lawsuits. When is a non-practicing entity who files patent infringement lawsuits not filing a bogus lawsuit? Then we have the story about Fark standing up to Gooseberry. Seriously, with a name like “Gooseberry”, they should have known what was coming. What is really sad about this particular exchange was the nature of the patent itself. “Generating a press release online.” Well, if you happen to use Google Apps or WordPress to write press releases for your business, you owe these guys some money. Well, maybe not after the thrashing Fark gave them.

Coming up next were another pair of stories, case studies really, about the problems with the current direction of copyright law and fighting infringement. We learn in one that even the death penalty will not stop infringement. If the threat of death was not enough to stop people from copying fabric patterns, does anyone think applying current copyright to fashion will stop fashion copying? Will three strikes or PROTECT IP really stop online infringement? No. We also learn manipulation of the letter of the law has happened in the past to kill innovative services, particularly in a 1984 (a good book by the way) case against a movie rental service, just as it is now and will be when PROTECT IP and other such enforcement legislation passes. We are already abusing the Computer Fraud Act. Will prosecutors and copyright holders restrain themselves from abusing the broad language of PROTECT IP? I think not.

In this day and age of economic turmoil, who isn’t thinking about the state of jobs in America and around the world. The White House certainly has jobs at the forefront. In fact, they have two very clearly laid out plans to create jobs. First, they plan to increase the number of non-practicing entities and the lawyers they employ by expanding, sorry, reforming our already bad patent laws. We have seen case study after case study that shows, with evidence, that patents, and particularly under our current patent system, are killing innovation and job growth. Patent lawsuits take money that could be spent creating new technologies and employing people to build them and instead put it into the legal system wasting years of time and man hours to maybe not get completely screwed in the end by a court in East Texas. Next, the President and Congress want to use the government to create jobs directly. I don’t know what kind of jobs they could create, but I honestly don’t see them creating anything that the public wants or that really benefit the economy. Any job the government creates and pays for is at the expense of the economy, not in benefit of it. GOP candidate, Gary Johnson has the right idea, get the government out of the way of entrepreneurs and they will create jobs. Of course, even if the government could create jobs, they would probably end up inflating just how many jobs were created.

Speaking of governments, we also have the UK government’s response to the London riots. First, I would like to extend my sympathies to all those who have been harmed by the violence, looting and property destruction. However, in their attempts to stop the violence and rioting, the government wants RIM to block messaging to the rioters. Not sure how many rioters use RIM for their messaging, so this could either not change things at all, or worse, tick off a bunch of people who are already pre-disposed to rioting and violence. To further conflate the UK government’s complete lack of understanding, they also want to ban rioters, and other suspected criminals, from Facebook and Twitter. Not only is this easy to bypass, but what exactly does this accomplish? They can’t seriously consider that this will stop people from planning criminal activity.

Back on the subject of Copyright and more specifically “piracy,” we have the US Chamber of Commerce sharing a video in which artists air their grievances about how much piracy hurts them and steals from them. I didn’t know this before, but one guy lost 50% of his digital inventory due to piracy. By the way, what is 50% of infinity? Mike was kind enough to actually research who these artists were; I had never heard of them before this video. Perhaps rather than piracy hurting them, it is a lack of exposure to the general public that is really hurting their sales. Perhaps they can learn to connect with their fans and learn what they can do to capture those fans’ interest.

Contrast that story with the awesome Wil Wheaton sharing his thoughts on piracy and how television studios can compete. Wil recognizes that piracy is the result of poor service on the part of content creators. If they would provide a level of service that is as convenient or more so than piracy, those willing to pay will do so. Sadly, his employer SyFy (I still think that is a stupid name) does not share the sentiment. After airing some complaints I had about Syfy’s new policy of waiting two months or more after airing to stream episodes of their most popular shows and pointing out my only legal options were paying for cable I couldn’t afford or waiting two months to watch what my friends are watching today, SyFy brushed me off through Twitter with the following comment. “Those are perfectly reasonable legal options. I wait for shows & movies to come out on Hulu & Netflix all the time.”

That’s that. A number of great stories and many others I couldn’t list that were awesome in their own rights. Thanks again Techdirt for the honor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *