13 December 2010

Blustery Day Link Sausages

Yesterday's winds: 50kph gusting to 80kph, resulting in some interesting drift patterns visible out the rattling windows.

  • Maxwell's Daemon isn't free... especially when he's charging secret rents or hiding behind the wholesomeness of advertising revenues.
  • Major content distributors have admitted that filing lawsuits isn't either cheap or all that effective in dealing with internet piracy. As a sarcastic aside, maybe what the content distributors need to do is force ISPs to include arbitration clauses in their TOSs so that the "faster, more efficient" arbitration system can take over for court actions <vbeg>... and just maybe the bar disciplinary authorities will deal with the bad-faith litigation tactics of Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver that make it next to impossible for those of us trying to properly and legitimately deal with the problems, after adequate investigation, to do so. Oops, I guess not: DGW is in darling Monica's home jurisdiction.
  • Another iteration of the "two cultures" debate: commercial- v. university-supported literature. The ultimate problem with this comparison is, in the end, quite simple: The two really are not in opposition; they are, instead, amorophous symbiotes, a yin-yang symbol made with amoebae. The article in question is more interested in finding opposition than in accuracy... perhaps because its author appears to have so little knowledge of ecology and biological relationships, leading back to the "real" two-cultures debate between science and the arts. And, in any event, it's even more amusing to consider all of the excluded areas, like "avant garde art colony work" and "politics" and...
  • In an interesting bit of self-reference, consider the detective novels by "Richard Castle," the lead character in ABC's Castle. At first glance, this is just an amusing conceit. However, it also illuminates a significant trademark problem in the way the publishing industry handles ghostwriting: Does the brand designation "by Richard Castle" designate a discernable, unique origin of the goods in question? Perhaps... but only if all "Richard Castle" fiction is written by the same author. If it's by multiple authors — and, especially, by multiple authors who do not work together — it's rather like labelling some blue-veined cheese made in Wisconsin as "Roquefort," (an appellation d’origine protégée), even if the particular Wisconsin cheese in question is equally tasty. It's also an interesting contrast with the fashion industry's rabid foaming at the mouth over auctioning of counterfeit jewelry and dog toys that moderately resemble designer purses. Finally, it also calls into question the dubious practice of market-demanded pseudonyms: Is labelling those books by Megan Lindholm as by "Robin Hobb" deceptive as to their origin, quality, and nature? More to the point, what about more-identity-sensitive decisions like holding out Primary Colors as by "Anonymous"?
  • And things will remain grey in the grey market for copyrighted imports for a while longer, as the Supreme Court punted this morning. Because it was unable to generate a majority — with Justice Kagan recused, the vote was 4–4 — the Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit's Costco decision by an equally divided court. That is not the same thing as an affirmance by a majority vote; it means only that the Ninth Circuit decision continues to hold in the Ninth Circuit and nowhere else. So for the present, importing copyrighted goods into the Ninth Circuit from outside the US without a license to do so violates the law... but not into, say, New York. This might have some interesting litigation issues, particularly for computer programs. For example, Microsoft has licensed crippleware versions of both Windows 7 and Office to third-world nations; importation of legitimately purchased copies from Nairobi to Los Angeles would have copyright problems, but perhaps not to Chicago. (All that leaves aside the enforceability of the EULA, or the stickier question of what to do with the laptop of a student who legitimately purchased the Microsoft software in Cairo as an undergraduate and then comes to the US for grad school... and then tries to sell it to another student when he upgrades.)
  • This blawg's only feline friend the IPKat notes efforts to create some vocabulary — if not necessarily agreement — on the IP status of cultural icons, and in particular of folklore. The obvious target of this is attempts to copyright and/or trademark yoga positions; the less-obvious, more-disturbing target is things like adaptations of Zulu hunting songs and retellings of foreign-sourced folktales.