This site is devoted to copyright and issues of 'intellectual property,' particularly the issue's analytical aspects. It also concerns itself with the gap between public perception and the true facts, and with the significant lag time between the coverage on more technical sites and the mainstream press. For site feed, see: To see the list of sites monitored to create this site, see:

Friday, May 25, 2007

A truly brilliant new use for captchas. It's the best of mechanical turk (where small amounts of human labor are aggregated up to produce large amounts of useful work) and Google suggestions (where information is added simply by what people do on a regular basis). It's server-side, and I can't decide whether that will spur adoption or hinder it. My guess is it will hinder early adoption (because you require large, conservative organizations to do something new) and ultimately increase penetration (because once they do, you have 100% penetration among those companies' customers).


It took nearly 100 years for the impressively effective intervention of using forceps in troubled childbirth to become public knowledge, according to Gawande...Peter Chamberlen, the obstetrician who invented them, kept them a family secret for that long. It's an interesting illustration of what happens when there's no way to profit from an invention. N.B. I'm not only referring to the patent system here; there was likely no renowned academic job to be had for disseminating the invention widely either, given that it was the early 1600's.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Freebase. Huge, if it works. Just another failure if not.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

When applied to the music industry, it's hard to see how the old model will survive. Minimum production costs are dropping rapidly, so why not sign more acts instead of relying on predicting the blockbusters?


The Market Function of Piracy.
Interesting that it comes from a marketing professor. I wonder if there's something about the field that encourages thinking about "property" in malleable ways, or if it's just a coincidence.


Marybeth Peters on Fair Use. I generally respect her, even if I don't always agree with her opinions. This be another one of those cases, yarr.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Disney lectures about copyright. Watch it now, before this shining example of fair use gets removed.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

If I were bored, I might go find posts I made a year or more ago predicting that next-gen DVD would not be any more successful than current-gen DVD in maintaining its copy protection, because it happened again. The reason? DRM is ultimately a loser's game if your goal is to prevent piracy. If, on the other hand, your goal is to control what the average consumer does (e.g. can't fast-forward through previews for other movies, etc.), than it works quite well.

Also, one of the big two US medical journals is now doing Internet polls. If this is all that's come of the Wikipedia concept, then we're really in trouble. Polls* are one of the worst ways of capturing distributed knowledge because they're both non-representative and provide little value from the short tail (the one on the right, not the left). Textual comments are better, because they capture the latter phenomenon, the well-versed reader.


*I'm distinguishing here between polls, which encourage readers to participate simply to have their voices heard on one issue, and voting systems, which provide more personal incentives to participation (e.g. I vote on IMDB because it helps me keep track of which movies I've liked in the past and might want to see again; on Amazon, I might vote to punish a product which I hated) and also tend to spread out the voting over many items (although I think the incentive issue is the real key here).

Friday, May 11, 2007

The trouble with vaguely-written laws is....


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Florida all-but-bans used CD sales. Pretty unbelievable.

Jobs continues talking about no DRM. We'll see. In other news, ABC putting online is the only way that I watch TV now. I'm not alone in my generation in this. Other networks aren't being so smart by not following suit.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Times on Saudi changes:
One example of adaptation involves the World Trade Organization, which requires members to follow uniform trade policies, including protecting copyrights. When Saudi Arabia asked to join, its religious judges had to be convinced that bootlegging videos and software constituted stealing under Islamic law. So a group of judges was flown to Geneva, where officials participating in the talks said they were, eventually, convinced.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A new, unstoppable HD DVD crack. It was only a matter of time. Note to content controllers: DRM doesn't work. Start innovating instead.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Digg users rebel. It's an ongoing question in my mind whether the network architecture matters more or the social architecture. Digg is not peer-to-peer; it's a centrally-hosted website, albeit one that allows its users to control the content in an automated fashion. Nevertheless, the central point makes a juicy target for legal action.
For countries with strong social and legal norms of free speech, it probably doesn't matter (in some sense it's Lessig's code vs. law dichotomy) for most things. Yet even here, you eventually you run across an issue like copyright or trade secrets, where censorship emerges.
Just as when speed limits are set arbitrarily low, causing otherwise law-abiding citizens to speed and eroding respect for the law, outlawing a form of speech that most of the population supports (or in the case of this particular, rather obscure issue, would support if they knew and/or cared) erodes respect for the law in general. But this is different, as well, because of the network architecture issue above. When these users are threatened, they build a better system. Unfortunately, as with FreeNet, once you build a system truly immune from any responsibility, you've now helped the people that basically everyone agrees should be censored.*
So even if ordinary citizens aren't terribly moved by those auguring for a more sane copyright policy, they should be by the unintended consequences.


* I should say that I think FreeNet is great for what it has done in China and the potential it has in many locations of the world to break censorious regimes. I just don't think it should welcome the kind of material that it does onto its major gateways.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

How long will it take for the mystery number to pop up in the comments? One minute. Amusing. The real question is, how long will it take for it to pop up on t-shirts, embedded in images, be replicated millions of times like the DVD copy protection code was? Days....