14 August 2006

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  • The Sunday WaPo has an interesting article on the GooglePrint controversy. Unfortunately, it completely misses one of the critical points: It assumes that, necessarily, the publishers are the parties with the right to grant permission. Perhaps this is true in the newspaper world; it's not true in the book world. What part of New York Times, Inc. v. Tasini, 533·U.S.·483 (2001) did you not understand?
  • Today's NYT has the usual misguided focus on finding new-author big hits. Leaving aside for the moment the silliness of asserting that this model is how every publisher does business—that's not even true across imprints at a couple of conglomerates!—the real problem is the focus on the tail. Some day the NYT is going to wake up and realize that new trade fiction is a quarter of the market (more or less) and start considering widespread practices in nonfiction as the default. Probably not in my lifetime, though.
  • Say what you will about the purported biases of the NYT (I consider the paper to be a liberal-leaning moderate, not a "liberal icon," but that's for another time), but at least it allows internal critics to criticize editorial policy and forthrightness. The same cannot be said for the reflexive subject: George III's "enhanced" surveillance programs and their dubious legal grounding. Programs? At least they'd better be plural; some of the players are not authorized or organized to engage in domestic covert operations… or, under most circumstances, surveillance of "US persons".
  • As further demonstration that a certain Chicago-based fast food giant doesn't think rationally and thinks it owns other peoples' names, consider the case of Malcolm McBratney. Fortunately, the Australian government saw through the burger-franchisor's bluster and granted Mr McBratney the right to use his own name to designate a rugby team, and to register "McBrat" for that purpose. This is one of the dumber aspects of the trademark "defend it or lose it" requirement… and it's up against some pretty stiff competition.
  • Last for the moment, there was a non-news article in the Chicago Tribune last week: America's youth thinks it has limited copying rights to music. The very existence of Napster, KaZaa, LimeWire, Gnutella, etc. should have made this pretty obvious. At least this time there is a survey purportedly measuring just how pervasive that attitude is. Of course, that the poll was conducted by the LAT does not exactly help its credibility; I have some fundamental problems with that paper's statistical analysis and data gathering methods, at least as reflected in its various "surveys" and "polls" on intellectual property issues over the last decade. That, however, is for another time; and at least the LAT tried to do more than rely on anecdotal evidence… unlike certain entertainment industry trade groups that persist in blowing up anecdotal evidence to astoundingly high "loss estimates." That this strategy is counterproductive should be obvious to anyone with any working brain cells, because it destroys their individual and collective credibility when they do have something important to say.