21 July 2009

All-Natural Lean Meat Fillings

These sausages are a bit meatier than many of those of late — I've been saving up some musings while away, and several stories finally broke that were awaiting meaty treatment. (But not as meaty as the sausages at Brats Brothers Gourmet Sausage Grill in Sherman Oaks.) Plus, since I no longer have to be quite so careful concerning that appellate hearing last week...

  • From the department of libel tourism, a UK judge has held that Google is not a "publisher" of material contained in search results, which is good news. In Metropolitan Schools Int'l, Ltd. v. Designtechnica Corp., [2009] EWHC 1765, a distance-learning company was aggrieved by an Oregon-based bulletin board system's use of the word "scam" in referring to a course — which showed up as a snippet in a Google search result. After a variety of questionable maneuvers to place the matter in a UK court, that court rejected treating Google as "publisher" (speaker) of the term "scam" as it appeared in the snippet. Interestingly, Judge Eady specifically referred to § 230 of the Communications Decency Act — the US law that would govern this matter — but (in ¶ 118 of his decision) rejected its application. Instead, he simply held that Google's search engine results are a mere conduit, not a knowing and willful repetition (see ¶¶ 48–64)... consistent with his own prior opinion in Bunt v. Tilley, [2006] EWHC 407.

    This decision means both more and less than it appears to mean. It means that purely passive display of information on a search engine does not subject the search engine to liability for defamation in the UK. More disturbingly, though, Judge Eady's rejection of non-UK law in determining the rights and obligations of non-UK parties reflects the bizarre arrogance and imperialism of the UK's defamation law epitomized in Ehrenfeld.

  • The European Commission has set hearings on the Google Book Search settlement for 07 September 2009 — two days after the opt-out period closes. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that some pirate sites are going "legitimately" commercial... but does not remark that most of that "commercial" activity is done without rightsholder permission. Even through B&N's new "multireader e-books" program, which really isn't any better vetted than I noted yesterday concerning Amazon's screwups.
  • Professor Rebecca Tushnet notes the continuing problem of parody, satire, and transformation, this time concerning The Family Guy, and places the blame where it belongs: The poorly written opinion in 2Live Crew, which firmly established the (untenable and incorrect) parody/satire distinction.
  • Professor Pasquale notes that the debate over health care costs is enforcing silence concerning views that the proposed "reforms" don't go far enough. Part of this is just ignorant rhetorical misunderstanding in the media: The lemma that there are always two, and exactly two, valid points of view on any legislative agenda. Part of this is the old problem of the perfect being the enemy of the good enough; I support the health care reform bill in front of Congress as an achievable step toward a Rawls-efficient system, not as a utopian paradigm and balance for health care. Yet another part is the assumption that "health care reform" is necessarily a single package of some kind in the first place, which is just about as valid as claiming that "national security" is all about how many troops we've got on the ground in various trouble spots... and only that.
  • Last, and far from least, Scalzi is hosting a (predictable) discussion on Roberts' rant against the Hugo ballot, in which he (Scalzi) calls it a "kvetch"... and misses the target by so much that a barn door would feel safe. I find it predictable and sad, and simultaneously immensely amusing, that the argument has devolved into "them hoity-toity perfessers don't know nothin' 'bout skiffy." Of course, if fen did not do their damndest to alienate (pun intended) any academics who tried to study speculative fiction; and if they could see the irony in calling "elitist" a group that is trying to study a relatively elitist activity (reading for pleasure); and if they had a modicum of education themselves, and could see that even though a trainwreck is "entertaining" it shouldn't win any awards for that "entertainment value"; and if this sentence ever comes to an end — they might all see that my ambition to place a royalty statement on the fiction ballot for a major award is less misplaced than their ire.

    That goes for you, too, Mr Scalzi, because this time around you're wrong. You misinterpreted Mr Roberts' rant, admittedly with some cause and justification; and you're feeding the trolls. I don't claim to know exactly what is "right," but I can spot "egregiously, perceptibly, verifiably wrong" in this context.