2019 has come to a close, and now it’s time for our annual round-up of the comments that racked up the most insightful and funny votes in the entire year! As usual we’ve got the top three in each category — and if you’re looking for this week’s winners, here’s first place and second place for insightful, and first place and second place for funny.
The Most Insightful Comments Of 2019
Back in April, we wrote about the Music Modernization Act and the problems with legacy industry players handling the royalties for independent songwriters. This garnered our first place winner for insightful in 2019 from Rico R. who shared his personal story as an example of how our copyright systems simply don’t serve smaller creators well:
I’m an independent musician, and this is the first time I’m hearing about this comment period on the Music Modernization Act, and it’s almost over! I say this with the utmost respect, but if Techdirt, a non-major small-time news operation, is the first time I hear about a potentially troubling implementation of updated copyright law in a way that directly affects me, there’s a major disconnect between legacy gatekeepers and actual creators. I have to wonder if legacy players are hoping that smaller independent artists (like myself) just don’t do anything so they can make money off of works they don’t own or represent. And they say that copyright law is designed to protect small creators like me? Yeah, right!!
For our second most insightful comment of 2019, we only have to head back a few weeks to when Teespring took down our Copying Is Not Theft gear (which you can now get on Threadless) based on confusing accusations of copyright infringement and/or some sort of unexplained policy violation. Anonymous Anonymous Coward arrived with the first comment on that post, and racked up the votes by expanding on the needlessly controversial slogan:
Not only not theft, but perfectly legal.
Recording broadcast programs is perfectly legal. That is in fact making a copy. It isn’t theft and the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984) that that was the law of the land. Now if one records a program and then tries to sell that copy, that would be wrong, and is definitely against the law. But this slogan ‘Copying is not theft’ says nothing about copying and then selling copies.
Conjecture, therefore leads me, for one, to believe that Teespring is bowing to pressure from some copyright maximalists who may or may not be threatening to remove their business from Teespring (or are pressuring them in some other way), and Teespring appears to value their volume of business (or fear whatever other threat was made) more than the volume of business from Techdirt. That tells us a lot about the integrity of the folks at Teespring.
I hope the new venue stands up better than the last one did.
Finally, for third place on the insightful side for 2019, we jump straight back to April and the release of our latest Sky Is Rising report about the state of the entertainment industries. We made reference (as we often do) to Jack Valenti’s infamous claim to Congress about the VCR: “I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.” Usually we talk about how wrong that notion is, but Mason Wheeler made his way to third place by taking a different angle:
Valenti was probably right… just not in the way he thought.
During the 1960s, the population of Boston was between approximately 640,000 and 700,000 people. Statistically, approximately half of them would have been women, and between approximately 65-70% of Americans were children during that time. A bit of quick math gives us approximately 100,000 adult women.
All those possible targets, and the Boston Strangler murdered a grand total of 13 of them.
The VCR was to the American film producer as the Boston Strangler was to the woman home alone: very scary to talk about, but the amount of actual damage done was negligible.
Though that figure about percentage of children appears to have been misread from an absolute figure, the point is well made! And that’s all for 2019’s most insightful comments. Now on to…
The Funniest Comments Of 2019
Though named commenters with active accounts dominated things on the insightful side this year, on the funny side we’ve got anonymous commenters taking the top two spots. In November, we wrote about the ridiculousness of claiming that the booming revenues of music collection societies somehow indicates the need for more draconian copyright laws. One commenter disagreed and quickly deployed the common assertion that strong copyright is the only way to prevent piracy and will inevitably only increase revenues, leading an anonymous respondent to win the most funny votes in the entire year with a thematically appropriate rejection of such well-debunked nonsense:
Bro that excuse is so old and busted that it’s in the public domain under current copyright laws.
Just two weeks before that, we wrote about the frustrating story of a California man who built a haunted house in his garage then later attempted to bully a theme park with trademark threats (only managing to get himself sued for his trouble). After the post suggested that the man should add an intellectual property wing to his haunted house (now that’s scary…) one anonymous commenter won second place for funny in 2019 by running with the idea:
Yeah and one of the monsters can be a 91 year old mouse that just. wont. die.
<whisper> the horror… the horror…
For our final winner, we head back to March when Steven Spielberg was making waves by lashing out at Netflix and trying to stop them from winning Oscars. His objection didn’t really seem to go beyond the fact that the Netflix model for making movies was different, and after one commenter pointed out that “we’ve always done it this way” is generally a terrible justification for anything, Boba Fat won third place for funny in 2019 by pushing back against this judgement:
Nonsense! We’ve always used that as our justification! We shouldn’t change it now.
And that, folks, is your winning comments for 2019! But before we go…
The Double Whammies
Though our comment rankings have always focused on the Insightful and Funny categories separately, we also keep track of which comments score the most combined votes across both. But this generally isn’t worth mentioning, as the leaderboard for combined votes is usually populated with the same comments that reached the top in either Insightful or Funny, driven entirely by their votes in that one category. And when there is a comment that racks up a lot of votes in both, it’s usually enough to win both individual categories as well. But this year’s leaderboard is very different: not only did none of the top three comments in either category make it into the top three for combined votes, only one of them (Mason Wheeler’s third-place winner for insightful) even made it into the top ten! And indeed, even if you dig deeper down into the leaderboards for Insightful and Funny, there’s very little overlap with the combined leaderboard at all — for once, there were lots and lots of comments that people thought were just about equally good at being funny and insightful even if they weren’t the best-of-the-best at either.
While we’re not going to start digging through this whole additional category in full, this unusual pattern was worth noting, and for those who are curious here’s first place, second place and third place for combined Insightful and Funny votes in 2019.
That’s all for 2019, folks! Keep the amazing comments coming, and we’ll be seeing you in the weekly rankings.