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This Week In Techdirt History: November 27th – December 3rd


Five Years Ago

And so the SOPA/PIPA fight continued this week in 2011. The chorus of opposition grew larger: first the New York and LA Times both came out against the bills, then the Wall Street Journal joined them — though the world of smaller publications was way ahead of them; DNS providers, educators and best-selling author Barry Eisler all expressed their serious concerns, and even Stephen Colbert did a segment on the bills.

On the flipside, an ex-RIAA boss was ignoring all criticism and claiming it’s just an attempt to justify theft, the MPAA pretended to take concerns seriously but didn’t, several tech companies that still supported the bills were being called out for it, NBC Universal was muscling partners into signing “grassroots” support of the bill, a very questionable consumer group released a very questionable pro-SOPA study, and Rep. Lamar Smith attempted to defend the bill by equating infringement with child pornography.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, the explosion of YouTube was still causing all sorts of chaos. The misplaced blame game was extremely popular, obviously with copyright and infringement issues but also with weirder things like blaming YouTube for lockpicking videos. Google was trying to pay off entertainment companies to leave it alone, experts were grappling with the liability issues around linking and embedding, and the Wall Street Journal was tragically confused about the copyright issues involved. Meanwhile Wal-Mart was trying to get into the online video game itself, but not exactly knocking it out of the park.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, the chaos was around audio, and there was a huge disconnect since new devices like the iPod did not work with new subscription services like Pressplay. Ringtones were becoming the next big thing while a judge with little technical understanding was trying to stop KaZaA, and smarter folks were already pointing out how the industry dropped the ball on digital music. Meanwhile, while Ed Felten was spared the aggression of the RIAA for publishing research on SDMI cracking, another court was upholding the ruling that banned publication of the DeCSS code.

Two-Hundred And Six Years Ago

I’ve mentioned before that I love a good hoax, and on November 27th, 1810 the city of London was witness to a classic. In order to win a bet that he could make any home in the city the most talked about address within a week, Theodore Hook sent out thousands of letters on behalf of a random house’s owner, requesting services and deliveries. The results were utter chaos:

At five o’clock in the morning, a sweep arrived to sweep the chimneys of Mrs Tottenham’s house. The maid who answered the door informed him that no sweep had been requested, and that his services were not required. A few moments later another sweep presented himself, then another, and another; twelve in all. After the last of the sweeps had been sent away, a fleet of carts carrying large deliveries of coal began to arrive, followed by a series of cakemakers delivering large wedding cakes, then doctors, lawyers, vicars and priests summoned to minister to someone in the house they had been told was dying. Fishmongers, shoemakers, and over a dozen pianos were among the next to appear, along with “six stout men bearing an organ”. Dignitaries, including the Governor of the Bank of England, the Duke of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor of London also arrived. The narrow streets soon became severely congested with tradesmen and onlookers. Deliveries and visits continued until the early evening, bringing a large part of London to a standstill.

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