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Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Derek Kerton, with an excellent response to the game developer that has decided to DMCA PewDiePie videos (though it is very generally applicable):

“”I am sick of this child getting more and more chances to make money off of what we make,” writes Vanaman on Twitter.”

I am sick and tired of people who get angry when value is added on top of their platforms by other players in the economy. That’s how business works.

You don’t hear steel workers angry when carmakers make a car from their steal then, “make money off what we make.”

You don’t hear carmakers getting angry when taxi companies buy their cars, then “make money off what we make.”

The fact is, your products, my products, ANY product ain’t worth shit to the market if we don’t offer the buyers the opportunity to extract Economic Surplus from it. Whether that’s in the form of Consumer Surplus, or Value-Added revenues from a business – people should be able to use your products to serve their needs.

And it doesn’t matter if you like or don’t like what they do with it. It is literally none of your business.

Meanwhile, after we discussed Harvard’s decision to rescind Chelsea Manning’s fellowship and pointed out the fellow whose letter and protest sparked the choice (Michael Morell) is responsible for bad intelligence that started the war in Iraq and killed thousands of US soldiers, ShadowNinja rightly pointed out that there’s much more to the story than that:

For Havard to rescind its offer to Manning, over false claims of putting US soldiers at risk from a guy who has admitted his own decisions lead to the deaths of thousands of US soldiers, is a total travesty.

Why must we be too American focused on this?

The deaths of American soldiers are frankly peanuts compared to all the other hundreds of thousands of deaths the war caused in Iraq, mainly among the Iraqi’s.

Here’s a link with information about the deaths caused by the Iraq War, and the different estimates of casualties.

The most relevant section about the deaths here.

Various scientific surveys of Iraqi deaths resulting from the first four years of the Iraq War estimated up to one million Iraqis died as a result of conflict during this time.[1] A later study, published in 2011, estimated that approximately 500,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the conflict since the invasion.[2] Counts of deaths reported in newspapers collated by projects like the Iraq Body Count project found 174,000 Iraqis reported killed between 2003 and 2013, with between 112,000-123,000 of those killed being civilian noncombatants. Updated estimates from the Iraq Body Count Project report an estimated 173,766 – 194,058 civilian deaths from 2003-2017. For troops in the U.S.-led multinational coalition, the death toll is carefully tracked and updated daily, and the names and photographs of those killed in action as well as in accidents have been published widely. A total of 4,491 U.S. service members were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2014.[3] Regarding the Iraqis (see Tables section below), however, information on both military and civilian casualties is both less precise and less consistent. Estimates of casualty levels are available from reporters on the scene, from officials of involved organizations, and from groups that summarize information on incidents reported in the news media.

So at best only a mere 174,000 Iraqi’s (the vast majority of them non-combatant citizens) were killed in the Iraq war. Likely the number is closer to over 200,000 when counting all deaths, not just Iraqi’s. And if the worst case estimates are right and the vast majority of estimates are heavily under-counting the deaths, over a million people died as a result of the war.

And that’s just deaths, it doesn’t count all the other many costs of the war.

In that post, we also mentioned Harvard’s recent decision to deny admission to a woman who was about to be released from prison for killing her child. One commenter flatly asserted that there should be no sympathy or redemption for her, and our first editor’s choice for insightful is the anonymous response that discussed that notion at great length:

There are five basic reasons for imprisoning a criminal.

The ones most people agree on are removal, deterrence, and retribution. That is: putting criminals somewhere that they can’t hurt the general public, offering disincentives to committing crimes in the first place, and giving a sense that the person has been given a punishment that has fit the crime.

There aren’t many people who’d disagree with serial killers being deprived of people to kill, or that some sort of punishment is needed to keep people from flouting the law with impunity, or that something must be done to provide a sense of justice and closure after a crime is committed.

There are two other basic reasons behind imprisonment, though, and very different philosophies about their place in criminal justice.

Scandinavian systems tend to focus on rehabilitation. That is, removing a person who commits a crime from the general public, and making it so that when they are allowed to rejoin society, that they’re unlikely to commit any further crimes. The point is to make it that the person who comes out isn’t the same person who went in: they’re not a criminal anymore. And, if preventing recidivism is the goal, it seems to work: in Norway, a released criminal has a 20% chance of re-offending within five years; in the U.S., it’s over 75%.

This seems to be because the U.S. system prioritizes retaliation over rehabilitation. That is, not imposing the best solution onto the problem, but rather inflicting as much pain as possible on the person who dared to flout the law.

That kind of stance just plain isn’t healthy: not for the person wanting the punishment, nor for the person dealing out the punishment, nor for the person receiving the punishment, and especially not for the society in general.

Michelle Jones did a horrible thing. No one is denying that.

She needed to be removed from society, to provide justice for her child’s death, to protect other children, to show other people who might be tempted to resort to violence against children that it will be punished. No one is denying that.

Do the twenty-plus years that she’s spent in prison make it right that she killed her child? Of course not. But, even given my own unremarkable life, I’m a much different person than I was twenty years ago.

Ms. Jones has lived a longer time since killing her son than she had before committing that atrocious deed, the vast majority of that time in prison. She’s been given the punishment that society dictated for her, and now wants to start her life over as a better person. And yet you want to keep punishing her.

If the U.S. ever wants to solve its crime problem — and especially its recidivism problem — you’re going to have to get away from the idea that punishment must continue after the prison sentence is over. Because, even though I wouldn’t say that I’ve done anything worthy of imprisonment, I know that if I was imprisoned, paroled, and released, and the stigma of my crime left me with no job, no friends, no support network, and, in short, no ties to the community at all… If I had no way to support myself, and no one whose good opinion I cared to maintain… If the only thing that stood between me and reoffending was my moral strength and willpower, and those slowly started to get eaten away as I starved and was looked down upon from every angle…

Well, I’m not going to say that I’d turn to a life of crime, because my currently well-fed, well-regarded, gainfully-employed, and generally-quite-comfortable self is in a good position to say that a life of crime isn’t something he would ever consider turning to. But I do have to wonder how many of my reasons to not steal would have to be taken away before I did seriously start making that consideration. And, judging by the American recidivism rate (once again, 76.6% of released prisoners in the U.S. are re-arrested within five years), I’d be naïve to think I’m the special person who wouldn’t bow to that pressure.

No amount of punishment is going to bring Ms. Jones’ son back to life, and the criminal justice system has declined to punish her further for killing him. So, if child killers shouldn’t be going to college to try to contribute to society, to try to make the world a better place after paying for their horrible deeds, what should they be doing when they get out of prison?

For our next editor’s choice, we head to our post about the fight to have We Shall Overcome recognized as a public domain song, where Thad elaborated on the harm done by robbing the public domain:

Indeed, I’m not the first person, and won’t be the last, to observe that the last major copyright term extension was pushed by a company that built an empire on adapting stories from the public domain (from Three Little Pigs and Jack and the Beanstalk in the Silly Symphonies shorts, to Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and I believe they started work on The Jungle Book as soon as it entered the public domain).

There are plenty of creative works that have been suppressed, and both their creators and the public deprived of them, over copyright disputes; the documentary Eyes on the Prize was out of print for years due to disputes over music copyrights (including, presumably, the fraudulent copyright on We Shall Overcome). The Peabody-winning comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 has a number of episodes that are currently unavailable for legal distribution because those episodes include movies that they no longer have the rights to; if not for the copyright extensions of ’76 and ’94, many of those movies would now be in the public domain and the episodes would be available for sale. (Note the qualifier “for sale” — because of course those episodes are available for free, on YouTube, torrent sites, private networks, etc.; people are watching those episodes and not paying for them, and, as the sales on the legally-available episodes have proven, would be willing to pay for them if they had that option.)

It takes a pretty perverse kind of reasoning to rail against people watching videos on YouTube as freeloaders who just want something for nothing while simultaneously defending the companies that have been fraudulently making money off of Happy Birthday, We Shall Overcome, Sherlock Holmes, etc.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous commenter on our post about the Equifax breach, and specifically responding to our reiteration of the problems with the total lack of transparency at Equifax over the years:

Well, what they’re collecting is pretty transparent *now*.

In second place, we have a response from Anonmylous about Charles Harder’s loss in a New Hampshire court:

So in summation….

I guess the Judge could be paraphrased as saying “What do think this is, East Texas?”

For editor’s choice on the funny side, we start out with an anonymous response to Comcast’s lawsuit against Vermont in which it claims that having to expand broadband infrastructure violates its first amendment rights:

Talk about a double standard. I called up Comcast and told them I wasn’t paying my bill because it “violated my First Amendment rights” and all I got was forwarded to a collections agency.

And finally, we’ve got a comment from dropcap that elegantly identifies a way in which PETA could be considered right about the monkey selfie case — as long as you embrace some deeply faulty premises:

“the need to extend fundamental rights to animals…”

• Copyright law provides an economic incentive to create art.
• Copyright law does not apply to non-human animals.
• Non-human animals produce far less art, per capita, than humans do
• Animals are almost exclusively driven by financial concerns.

Since all of those statements are obviously true, I’m going to have to side with PETA on this one.

That’s all for this week, folks!

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Author: Leigh Beadon

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