Posts

Showing posts from 2011

Some Thoughts on The Net Delusion

Evgeny Morozov's The Net Delusion had been on my reading list since it debuted to much fanfare in early 2011.  I left the book with the impression that the author had painted the "cyber-utopians" he so carefully tears apart with too broad a brush by ignoring the nuance of others' arguments while fighting the propagation of substance-deficient general interest news media and politicians' sugarcoated information freedom platitudes.  While necessary at times and supportive of his points, at others it seemed unnecessarily antagonistic.  Overall, The Net Delusion makes clear how easy it is to ignore or obscure the root causes of socio-political problems when we place too much blind faith in the church of techno-evangelism.  Regardless of my inflated expectations and any criticism contained in this post, the book is a must-read.

The author begins by distinguishing cyber-utopians from Internet-centrists, noting that "cyber-utopianism stipulates what has to be done,…

The Farm Bill Hackathon

Image
This past weekend, a few dozen people gathered in NYC to hack the Farm Bill.  Hackathons are gatherings of developers, designers and policy experts to collaboratively develop solutions to specific problems.  This year's International Open Data Hackathon took place on December 3 with events all over the world focused on topics like transportation, exposing government data and much more.

Food+Tech Connect and Gojee organized the NYC event with the goal of engaging people with the farm bill by creating participatory apps, data visualizations and presentations to directly and indirectly affect our understanding of this important piece of legislation, renegotiated roughly every five years.  The bill affects everything from crop subsidization to federal nutritional programs to investment in farmers.  You can read more about the bill here, and find ways to get involved via Slow Food USA here.

I participated on one of the teams to build Meatlessly.com, a way to promote and enga…

Notification Beyond Attribution

Would more creators apply permissive licenses to their works if the attribution requirement included some sort of notification that the work was being used (maybe call it CC BY-NO?).  Professional courtesy, really.  While there are simple ways to find your work online, such as via search engine, Google Alert, monitored downloads via registration or otherwise, etc., the onus is still on the original author and assumes the author would be aware of such tools.  Yet reluctance to freely releasing creative work to the wilds of the Internet might abate if some sort of "reuse responsibility" beyond attribution were in effect-- perhaps so the original author can publicize the use, get in touch with the user or become inspired by the remixing.  Fuzzy objectives, to be sure, although in the link below, it is noted that software creators might have technical reasons for staying aware of downstream uses.  Still, a notification requirement begs the question of whether the original author…

Legos and the UDRP

Each day I receive an email from the WIPO arbitration center listing decisions under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, or UDRP.  The UDRP is the policy a domain name registrant agrees to upon registration of a domain name which binds them to arbitration for trademark-type disputes.  WIPO's arbitration center hears the most of these disputes, though a few other venues also handle them.  WIPO hosts an extensive resource center for viewing past decisions, notice about policy changes, statistics and substantive discussion and summary of trends in UDRP panel* decisions.

Over the past two years, I've been amazed (though not surprised) at how often Lego disputes come up.  The company is well known as an aggressive protector of their trademark rights.  A huge blow came in 2010 when the European Court of Justice (Europe's highest court) held that there are no trademark rights in the shape of interconnected toy bricks since the shape is necessary to obtain a technic…

Book Discussion: The Penguin and The Leviathan

In The Penguin and the Leviathan, Yochai Benkler does a terrific job of synthesizing a wealth of cross-disciplinary research in support of the idea that collaboration isn't just the new competition, it's the driver of progress we've been ignoring for too long.   In many ways, this book felt like The Starfish and the Spider meets The Tipping Point via a trip through the Harvard Business Review.  Which isn't a bad thing at all.  Despite being a first edition, I did notice a bunch of typos.  Anyways, the title derives from the symbol of Linux, Tux the Penguin, and Hobbes' Leviathian.  A more contemporary mashup might be The Penguins' Leviathan as a nod to the equal, if not enhanced, power of new collaborative enterprises over centralized.

Benkler is able to follow his points through many fields of study and even examples like the 2008 Obama campaign don't seem quite so cliched given his mastery of the topic.  I enjoyed the historical references and challenge t…

Book Review - Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money

Image
Pasted below from my review on GoodReads.com (which I've been really getting into lately, check it out!).

Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money by Woody Tasch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this book, Tasch proposes a new paradigm in investment and cultural literacy, beginning with the principle that agriculture led us into the industrial age and must be reassessed in order to get us out. He ties together many schools of thought as applied to the tension between industrial finance and agriculture, such as mathematics ("every formula is either complete and inconsistent, or consistent and incomplete"), economics ("either you are a true fiduciary or a false Malthusian'), environmentalism (recounting the destruction of our ecosystem during the 20th century in exchange for faster, cheaper and less wholesome food-- trading shelf life for quality), sociology (the contradictions that 21st century citizens must balance when facing these issues) and politics.

As a "n…

Pounds of Mail and Corporate Twitter Policy

Image
Since moving within the past year, I've been amazed by the amount of junkmail I get.  So, I started keeping track of it on June 20.   Last week, I looked down at the mounting pile on my floor and assumed it had to be at least one pound.  Easily, about 1.5.  Naturally, I tweeted it: "it took less than a month for me to receive one POUND of credit card offers in the mail from 3 banks. (mostly from chase & citi)."  When I weighed the pile and it clocked in at TWO POUNDS, I opened the draft of this blog post containing my plan to calculate the costs and realized it had been nearly two months - 7 weeks and 2 days - since I started collecting the junk.  Either way, a pound in over three weeks (July 20 - August 8) or two pounds in 7 weeks and 2 days (June 20 - August 8), at least the volume is consistently annoying.  Anyways, Citi had already responded to my tweet so I left it alone.  " I can help stop the offers. Pls DM the name & address as it app…

Comments on the NYLS "Expose"

Last Sunday's NYTimes "expose" on law school economics, with a pretty skewed perspective on my alma mater, NYLS, left much to be desired.  The author would be doing a much better service by questioning the validity of the US News rankings (which many inside and outside the academy continue to do), deceptive reporting across the board (likely including NYLS), miniscule response rates to employment surveys, further exploring the rising costs of living and tuition (can't find a school that's lowered it's tuition, correct me if I'm wrong), looking at faculty salaries, or really anything else that provides a fuller picture.  And then there's the assumption that everyone who goes to law school wants to work in Big Law and that no other legal or non-legal career options exist.  The author's previous explorations of the topic touched on many of those things, so it's a bit disappointing to see so much context left out.  You can read the article here, a…

Under the (album) covers

Image
I've been thinking a lot about photographer Jay Maisel's recent legal tussle with chiptune album Kind of Bloop's producer Andy Baio, documented in a post by Mr. Baio here.  The "chip" refers to the use or emulation of old computer or video game hardware to produce the jaggedly beautiful tones found in older video games, such as those on the 8-bit NES.  Kind of Bloop is a chiptune tribute to Miles Davis' iconic album Kind of Blue for which Baio licensed the music but failed to seek permission to use a pixelated, 8-bit version of Maisel's cover photograph.


Compare Maisel's original photograph (left) with Baio's version (right)

The basic issue is whether Baio's use qualifies as a fair use of the original rather than a derivative work for which advance permission would be necessary.  While I find the decision to go after Baio slightly offensive to the spirit of the music that helped propel Mr. Maisel’s career and see a stronger case in favor of fai…

Lifelines, Race and Survival (on TV shows)

This one's been sitting around for about six months; I knew that similar research must exist somewhere and figured that I might as well just post it since I won't get around to researching the issue in the near future, or ever.  The idea is to look at the race and/or ethnicity of the random NYC pedestrians chosen by contestants on the television show Cash Cab, the show where unsuspecting NYC cab passengers might get into the "Cash Cab" and have the chance to answer trivia questions for money on the way to their destination.

The show’s rules are basically that the questions get harder and worth more as time goes on, and three strikes and you’re out (i.e. kicked out of the cab, even if not at your destination yet).  If contestants do not know the answer to a question, they are given one mobile shout-out and one street shout-out.  If they use their street shout-out, the host tells them to “choose a pedestrian who you think might know the answer.”  I became interested in…

Google Account Experiment

Like many, I use my real name in my Gmail email address.  I swear by the service and have had an account since they became publicly available.  Earlier today, someone re-sent me an email they mistakenly sent to firstname.lastname@gmail.com, whereas mine is the last.first@gmail.com.  So, I tried to register the former as a catchall but it's not available.  I wondered whether another Joe Merante had claimed it.  There are more than one of us out there, although we don't have a town named after us and no yearly gathering (yet?), unlike the Phil Campbells of the world.  (Sadly, while searching for links to Phil Campbell, AL and the Phil Campbell Convention, I noticed the town has recently been devastated by a tornado.  You can help here.)  I couldn't find another claim to a similar email address but remembered the feature in Gmail that will deliver a message even if there is a (misplaced) period anywhere in a recipient's address.  For example, sending to fir.st.las.t@gmail…

Authors, Standing and Berne

The blogosphere has been abuzz with discussion of the antics of Righthaven, a company that contracted with a Las Vegas newspaper to sue bloggers and others over allegedly infringed copyrights and split the payments 50-50.  The most recent turn of events involves the unsealing of Righthaven’s contract with Stephens Media, the parent company of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, describing the above agreement.  Stephens has not actually assigned the copyrights, they have merely assigned accrued causes of action.  Under Silvers v. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., 402 F. 3d 881 (9th Cir. 2005), this is clearly impermissible.  Thus, much-anticipated fair use considerations in the case may never be reached since it will (likely) get booted first.

After reading Silvers, a few things struck me.  Nancy Silvers wrote a script as a work-for-hire for Frank & Bob Films.  Later, when Sony allegedly infringed the copyright, the company executed an “Assignment of Claims and Causes of Action” in…

Raging Bitches in Michigan

Image
Update July 2012: Although the agency later reversed its decision, Flying Dog still pursued the case and has now lost in Michigan District Court. The brewery plans to appeal. I'll post the decision if I come across a copy.

According to a complaint filed by the Flying Dog Brewery against the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, the Commission has prevented the brewery from selling their popular Raging Bitch Twentieth Anniversary Belgian-Style India Pale Ale in Michigan, now the company's top selling beer.  The complaint details the history of the brewery and how its founder's relationship with artist Ralph Steadman has contributed the creative naming and label designs in the "Gonzo" spirit.  Even if the beer weren't so delicious, I'd still feel the same way about the case.

In late 2009 and affirmed in the summer of 2010, the Commission refused to approve the brewery's Raging Bitch label:
The Commission finds that the proposed label which includes the br…

The Public Domain, Derivative Works and the 1909 Act! Oh my!

PatentlyO, the leading patent law analysis site, offers a summary of a recent 8th Circuit case about the contours of the public domain.  Basically, a group of companies (AVELA) took images from public domain promotional movie posters of the Wizard of Oz and licensed them to various manufacturers of t-shirts and other novelty items.  Warner Brothers (WB) claimed that their (derivative work) copyright in the film's depiction of the characters is infringed by AVELA's use of the public domain posters depicting those same characters.  There are other works involved, and plenty of nitty gritty copyright geekery.  If you find cases like Stewart v. Abend (the Rear Window case) interesting, read on or check out the briefs.  As PatentlyO summarizes: "On summary judgment, the Missouri-based district court agreed that the defendant had not copied any images from the films, but still held that the defendant was liable for infringing the film copyrights."  No copying bu…