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Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Mason Wheeler with a response to Nintendo’s takedown of major ROM sites and one professor’s comments about the importance of libraries and archives:

This is exactly right, and it reaches well beyond games; it’s a massive problem throughout the software industry. Because we have a copyright regime that incentivizes closed-source software distribution, we end up with essentially the only medium in all of the creative arts or engineering disciplines where the development techniques of a masterpiece cannot be studied because they can’t be known.

Instead of Foddy’s university libraries, imagine a world in which the only literature students who could study and learn from the techniques of Hemingway’s work were those who went to Hemingway University or went on to get a job at HemingCorp, which would have his work available but lacked access to Mark Twain, Jules Verne and Victor Hugo. This sounds absurd, but it’s exactly the state of software development today, and a big part of the reason why we have so many quality problems in computer programs.

Contrast this with actual literature, where the ability to read and analyze the words that went into a book is inherent in the medium. I’ll always remember something I heard bestselling author Brandon Sanderson say after someone compared his work favorably to that of Robert Jordan: “the only reason you’re saying that is because I had an unfair advantage. I was able to start out my writing having read and learned from the work of Robert Jordan, and he wasn’t.”

In second place, we’ve got an anonymous response to a commenter who criticized the often-used “Copyright Duration and the Mickey Mouse Curve” graph on the basis that “correlation is not causation”:

Correlation is not causation.

Causation, though, is causation.

Since 1990, The Walt Disney Company had lobbied for copyright extension.[12][13] The legislation delayed the entry into the public domain of the earliest Mickey Mouse movies, leading detractors to the nickname “The Mickey Mouse Protection Act”.[4]

For editor’s choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from Ninja about the oh-so-baffling popularity of Kodi boxes:

Maybe if we had good, reliable services that offered content without fragmentation, with ease of access, no bullshit windows and that could be used offline in conjunction with such apps if the user wanted? I mean, why do they like to leave money on the table that much?

Next, it’s a response from James Burkhardt to a comparison between our defense of Section 230 and the DMCA to telcos’ comments about local loop unbundling:

I would argue that you miss the detail on this situation. Namely, when discussing the burden of Local loop unbundling, telecos use broad language that is short on detail, always highlighting the ‘burden’, but never explaining what that burden is. Never explaining the scenario in which the presence of this rule makes difficult or impossible moves that are beneficial to consumers. Because there aren’t any. Even in a world of competition, I have been unable to find anyone who supports repealing local loop unbundling who can articulate the ‘burden’ it places on incumbents.

Contrast this with the support SEC 230, where Techdirt has repeatedly noted how it A) prevents a disincentive to moderation, allowing sites to moderate without fear that moderation will create liability (something that happened prior to SEC 230) and B) puts the focus for illegal or Tortuous conduct on the entities responsible, which can include the website, but often does not. Support for SEC 230 comes out of articulable concerns about the internet post repeal.

A better contrast comes in the DMCA and calls for its repeal, as we now discuss arguments for repeal on both ends. And again, we see clear, detailed, articulable concerns about how the DMCA is harming both consumers and creators. The abuses we have seen in the take down provisions combines with a lack of legal remedy for those abuses created by poor drafting and bad jurisprudence. The way the anti-circumvention provision has been used to prevent repair, security research, and circumvent the right of first sale. I can point to specific events if you want to hear it, but the point stands that we can point to not just theoretical harm, but real world harms that have occured. And while yes, the repeal of the DMCA might have negative effects for some content creators, Techdirt has, in my memory, generally called for an overhaul of the system, not tearing it down. Notice and notice, rather than notice and take down. Reinforcing fair use and allowing fair use to bypass technical protection measures. Establishing real legal repercussions for the abuse of the law.

You might think that looking at the effects on consumers and creators rather than copyright holders is ‘obfusication’. Or a focus on cost-benefit concerns in enforcement efforts is just ‘spaghetti logic’. But here in the real world, those type of concerns are major legal and business concerns, respectively, and should be considered when discussing these topics.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous take on this week’s popular story about an 11-year-old hacking election website replicas at DEF CON:

Voting machine company: “This was a useless test of the machine’s vulnerabilities. Eleven-year-olds can’t vote. So your machines are safe from them getting into and changing any records.”

In second place, it’s Michael dutifully offering up a now-standard joke that comes around when we criticize Google:

Another attempt for Mike Masnick, Google shill, to highlight how great Google is.

When are you going to get out of their pocket and start talking about the things they do wrong?

For editor’s choice on the funny side, we start out with another comment about the DEF CON election hacking, with That One Guy homing in on a software company’s complaint that the exercise violates their licensing agreements:

I mean, that’s certainly a valid argument, everyone knows that the sort of people who would hack a voting machine would absolutely be the sorts that would stop in a moment the second they realized that doing so would violate the licensing agreement regarding the software.

They’re criminals trying to undermine if not shift an election, something with potentially huge repercussions, but that doesn’t mean they’d be rude enough to ignore a license, and as such simulated hacking that does so isn’t really an accurate scenario, and can be completely dismissed as non-representative of reality.

And finally we head to our post about a police department deciding it can search someone’s house because a suspected drug dealer once parked in the driveway. Toom1275 mocked this conclusion with a slightly truncated version of a great Carl Sagan monologue:

“Observation: I can’t see a thing on the surface of Venus

Conclusion: Dinosaurs.” – Carl Sagan

That’s all for this week, folks!

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Author: Leigh Beadon

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