23 September 2010

Toad in the Hole

  • Some copyright trials resemble the trial of Josef K; some of them are (quite literally, or at least literarily) the trial of his creator's ghost. Which, I suppose, is a less disturbing possibility than a copyright suit arising from one of Spielberg's weakest efforts — and that's up against some pretty stiff competition.
  • Death to the book. Long live the e-book. Or something like that, anyway. What I find most interesting about the whole "e-books will destroy printed books" meme is that it repeats the (lost) battles of the last two centuries — most recently the paperbacks-will-destroy-casebounds battle from the 1940s through early 1960s (which occurred, ironically enough, just before the xerography-will-destroy-periodicals battle of the 1960s and 1970s), and the slightly earlier battle resulting from the almost simultaneous introduction of high-speed web offset presses, automatic mechanical typesetting, and hands-free bindery.

    E-books will undoubtedly change publishing — in ways both predictable and unpredictable. For example, I anticipate that ten years from now, so-called "high-end word processors" will end up operating more like the current generation of DTP software than mere "word processors," at least under the hood... because they already do, if you look back a decade and compare the distinction between Word 2000 and PageMaker 6.5 to the distinction between Word 2010 and InDesign CS5. There will be market casualties — some of them will be deserving, some will not (and not everyone will agree on which is which). But there will be a viable volume-packaged print publishing industry for the forseeable future, for at least some value of "viable."

  • An interesting post from across the pond, at the IPKat, considers dangerous intellectual property myths... many of which seem to be not just mythological, but cultural imperatives, for fan fiction. Compare this to Professor Madison's comments on moral rights, endowment effects, and things in copyright; the identity-defect problem underlying Professor Madison's comments also maps disturbingly well onto that discussion of IP myths.

    The identity defect problem is the distinction among what the creator defines as the creation; what actual or potential exploiters define as the creation; what potential owners of the res define as the creation; and what lawyers with no creativity in their tiny, shriveled souls define as the creation. Any defect of identity in this chain marks a point of potential conflict giving rise to myths and/or apparent endowment effects. Consider, for example, The Lord of the Rings, which evolved in its creator's mind from an execise in constructed linguistics and the stories that might have arisen from those constructive linguistics, to the vast array of IP rights claimed by later exploiters (including the creator post-creation), to the vast array of noninfringing homemade Halloween costumes and D&D characters, to... well, you get the idea. Then, too, there's a substantial hindsight bias involved in all of this. Now throw on top of this the independent-creation problem, and the common-source problem (e.g., Tolkein's reuse and recasting of so many character names from various Norse-family myths), and it becomes much easier to see both why and how the various game-theoretic studies referred to by Professor Madison are both illuminating and deeply flawed, and how the various IP myths described by Dr Pinto arise to take on lives of their own.

  • Here's a glorious paean to gentrified junk food.

    One cold morning about two years ago, I sat in the window of a McDonald's tucking into a sausage-and-egg McMuffin. It was a bit like sinking my teeth into a small, soft woodland creature with a light dusting of flour; one which thoroughly enjoyed being eaten and responded to each bite by gently urinating warm oil down my chin.

    Now, where did I put that soft woodland creature...?