The DOJ has been passing a preliminary version of a Patriot Act II around some corners of Washington. With support for the war on terrorism waning, it will be interesting to see how much opposition, if any, mounts in Congress.
:: Jason 3:35:00 PM [+] ::
The Return of Breakup Girl: Revisited
Andy also comments via email that the Science Fiction Writer's Association has a model contract that provides for a grant-back of copyrights to the author if a publisher doens't continue publishing the work after x number of years. This is certainly one solution to the problem of orphan works, like Breakup Girl circa 2001-2003, on a case-by-case basis. However my point isn't really that the authors are getting screwed over (although sometimes that is the case depending on how strongly you disbelieve in Freedom of Contract), but that the public itself is getting screwed. Copyrights are granted by the public -- you, me, the guy/girl next door. We authorize the Federal Government to issue these monopolies in exchange for public dissemination and access (among other things) as part of a quid pro quo public contract. An author may cash out for a higher fee in return for forgoing grant-back rights but the public has no say in that bargain.
:: Jason 2:06:00 PM [+] ::
Cute 404 error spoof re: Weapons of Mass Destruction.
:: Jason 12:53:00 PM [+] ::
An interesting series of emails from How Appealing on Rush Limbaugh's recent rant touting Migela Estrada as more qualified than Ginsberg or Breyer. In particular, I think the historical context is important re: what qualified someone for the Supreme Court then versus now (and what hurdles they faced).
For example, it wasn't until the 1930s that all 9 members of the U.S. Supreme Court actually had law degrees. Justices were often Senators or other government officials who had no background in litigation or the court system. The myth that the system used to be apoltical persists but without factual basis.
:: Jason 11:38:00 AM [+] ::
Mike Myers inks a deal with Dreamworks to insert himself into older movies. Not that creativity need rely on our past, right Jack Valenti? Of course with Dreamworks footing the bill, there won't be any problem paying the licensing fees to do this. Low-budget independent film makers, on the other hand...
:: Jason 11:19:00 AM [+] ::
Breakup Girl, Volume II: Arising from the Ashes
My friend Lynn Harris, aka Breakup Girl, has fought off the evil Oxygen Empire to reclaim her site. Lynn's hilarious and smart and gives great advice on all things love-related. Check her out.
p.s. The whole battle with Oxygen is a classic example of corporate vs. creator tensions. Sometime after Oxygen bought the rights, they Deep Sixed the project. But then they wouldn't give any of it back to Lynn & Chris (her sidekick/animator). So it was stuck in limbo for two years, even though Oxygen had no intent to exploit it. This is exactly the problem with intellectual "property". Creativity is acquired and then thrown in safe for safe keeping. If the "owner" doesn't use it, the public loses it.
:: Jason 11:02:00 AM [+] ::
A plaintiff's firm in Marin County has filed a suit against Microsoft, Symantec, and Best Buy alleging unfair business practices over their shrinkwrap software licenses. The suit says that its unfair to hold consumers to a license that they can't read until they open the box and install the software. Once they've done that, most retail outlets won't let you bring the box back for a refund, even if the reason for the refund is because you don't want to agree to the license inside. The suit also alleges that any "refund" policy offered by software manufacturers is bogus, since after paying for shipping and handling and dealing with all the administrative hurdles, it's rarely worth the time and money.
Usually challenges to shrink-wrap software licenses come as a defense to lawsuits brought by the software companies for violation of those licenses. It will be interesting to see how this one turns out, now that consumers are the plaintiffs.
:: Jason 6:42:00 PM [+] ::
Martha Stewart, Meet Dr. Strangelove
ABC's Home Improvement has a segment on "Tips on Preparing Your Home to Weather Terrorism Attack". Among the interesting tidbits are:
After Hazelton and the Kozakianwiczs looked through every room in their home, they decided the laundry room would provide the best safe haven for the family.
"FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] says the ideal room would be an interior room with no windows," Hazelton said.
Hazelton suggests filling a bag with your essentials and leaving it inside your designated emergency room, whether it's your laundry room or your bedroom. It should include the items recommended by the federal government.
In case of an emergency, Hazelton suggests sealing the door of your holding room with plastic sheeting which has been sized and pre-cut in preparation for a disaster. Then, cover the door and use duct tape to secure it on the wall surrounding your door. Don't use clear tape, electrical tape or anything else because it won't hold.
Isenberg tries to argue that Copyright Law isn't out of balance today because all copyright holders are treated equally. Seth points out that Isenberg misses the point that most "starving artists" who would otherwise benefit from extended copyright terms are likely dead and gone while the Media MegaCorps pushing for the extensions continue to monopolize control over culture and expression.
Another point Isenberg misses is the growing imbalance between copyright holders and the public domain. The battles over the DMCA and the CTEA are just as much about a healthy public domain as they are about big vs. small copyright interests. As Lessig has noted, big corps like Disney have always depended on rich (and free) cultural resources from the public domain with which to build their empires. See, e.g., Snow White, Cindarella, Hercules, etc. If the authors of these works still had copyright protection, I doubt Disney would be happy about paying HUGE licensing fees to them instead of paying its shareholders.
The DMCA undercuts accessibility to the public domain. For example, if a copyright holder released an encrypted collection of public domain and proprietary works on DVD, anyone circumventing that encryption could risk civil and criminal prosecution under the DMCA, even if their intent was only to access the public domain works. Thus, the DMCA can be used to keep the public from accessing works we supposedly own.
The CTEA has the same imbalance. There, congress extended terms by 20 years, keeping works promised to the public in 1998 restricted for another 20 years. As Lessig points out, Congress has pulled this same bait-and-switch game on the public 11 times in the last 50 years. [I always like to think of that Peanut's cartoon with Lucy promising to hold the football for C. Brown and then pulling it away at the last second and then promising to let him kick it again and again.]
Even though the Supreme Court upheld the CTEA as constitutional, none of the justices tried to pretend that the law benefitted the public domain. Rather, the majority merely acknowledged that Congress can decide to promote the interests of copyright holders at the expense of the public as long as copyrights haven't entirely run out. No one questioned the fact that the public domain was the loser under the law.
:: Jason 2:59:00 PM [+] ::
I've always said that the Left could use more catchy jingles:
Sung to the tune of 'If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!'
If you cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets are a drama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are frisky,
Pakistan is looking shifty,
North Korea is too risky,
If we have no allies with us, bomb Iraq.
If we think someone has dissed us, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections,
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
It's "pre-emptive non-aggression", bomb Iraq.
Let's prevent this mass destruction, bomb Iraq.
They've got weapons we can't see,
And that's good enough for me
'Cos it's all the proof I need
If you never were elected, bomb Iraq.
If your mood is quite dejected, bomb Iraq.
If you think Saddam's gone mad,
With the weapons that he had,
(And he tried to kill your dad),
If your corporate fraud is growin', bomb Iraq.
If your ties to it are showin', bomb Iraq.
If your politics are sleazy,
And hiding that ain't easy,
And your manhood's getting queasy,
Fall in line and follow orders, bomb Iraq.
For our might knows not our borders, bomb Iraq.
Disagree? We'll call it treason,
Let's make war not love this season,
Even if we have no reason,
:: Jason 9:40:00 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, February 10, 2003 ::
Ten Nobel Prize economists have taken out a full-page ad in the NYTimes and issued a statement denouncing Bush's proposed Tax Cuts, concluding that they will only make the sagging economy worse, not better.
This is an interesting development and further highlights the weak rationale and lack of support behind this initiative (prominent members of Bush's own party have spoken out against it as well).
Some reports that have taken a serious look at the proposal have noted that very few families who make up to $160,000 per year will average more than $800 from the cut, while those making over $400,000 could average as much as $20,000. Under this plan, Bush himself would have made $44,500 on the $711,000 in taxable income he reported in 2001 had today's plan been enacted last year. Vice President Dick Cheney would have made $326,555 on 2001 taxable income of $4.3 million.
There's also no guarantee that people will actually invest the money in capital markets, especially since the majority of people who received Bush's last "tax relief" package used it to pay off debt instead of investing in America's Future (paying off debt doesn't buy anything; hence there is no growth in the economy).
So why does Bush propose things like this? One political analyst on NPR posited that perhaps Bush never intends to win on these proposals. Rather, this is all part of an early 2004 re-election campaign. Bush simply wants to seem like a nice guy who wants to help people out. It's not his fault that Congress won't pass his good ideas into law. He gets credit for having good ideas (?) and having a good heart while Congress gets blamed for being curmudgeons and sapping all his fun.
The potential flaw with this approach, however, is that Bush's own party now controls Congress. If the Republican Congress rejects Bush's plan (as many politicos predict they will), it shows that Bush can't even lead his own party to pass his own ideas. It begs the question of Bush's effectiveness as a leader, not only in bi-partisan spheres, but among his own allies as well. There are some obvious parallels here to his campaign against Iraq where he has also created tension and dissent among NATO countries that have historically supported American military initiatives.
Of course this also begs the question of whether America will notice or care.