10 February 2011

Dismal Link Sausages

Today's platter of link sausages is mostly dismal... or at least drawn from the dismal science.

  • The Economist offers several interesting perspectives on slightly-beneath-the-surface-but-still-important matters. A surprisingly balanced piece describes the "hot news" doctrine — a quasi-copyright doctrine in the US that keeps people from just rewriting "hot news" and reprinting it without paying or acknowledging the originator. The doctrine has since evolved somewhat, but it has never properly acknowledged that it is not at all a copyright (or indeed any property right) doctrine, but a restriction on unfair competition.
  • Not precisely a literal sausage, but awfully close, is a book review concerned with nutritional logistics in the Second Thirty Years War. Both the author of the book and the author of the review are so focused on food production that they don't see the real roadblock: Getting what food is available (whatever it is), unspoiled, into the bellies of people thousands of miles away who do not have stable preparation and/or storage facilities. And that's not just troops; it's also refugees, which makes the book still relevant.
  • The Economist also hosts an interesting piece describing an analyst's disdain for AOL's purchase of HuffPo... or, at least, for the stated justifications therefore. My disdain comes from many, many other directions, but mostly from the union-busting potential. Arianna Huffington has a long history of not paying her contributors; although it's impossible to know for certain (as no SEC reporting requirements came into place), the low-end estimate of unpaid contributions to HuffPo was about 25%, and most are higher. In turn, this represents on of AOL's long-term financial models, making this perhaps a better fit (in terms of corporate cultures) than many might think: The repackaging of others' content without paying the originators for it. This problem begins nibbling on the first sausage noted above... although the closest thing to "hot news" that I've ever seen on HuffPo has been yet another anti-science diatribe from a denialist of some sort, which isn't exactly news in the first place.
  • The White House — in particular, the intellectual property czar working there — has issued an annual report on copyright and intellectual property issues (large PDF) that looks like it might have been written by MSM lobbyists. I'm still digesting the whole thing (and it's already giving me gas), but Ms. Espinel's report is focused almost entirely on enforcement of digital rights... and completely neglects some of the longstanding problems with both intellectual property in general and copyright in particular, including (in no particular order) copyright's work-for-hire doctrine; the ridiculous logjam created by the descent-of-rights provisions in § 203 and § 304(c) of the Copyright Act; the unstated fifth fair-use factor (administrative convenience); the must-defend nature of trademark law; and a number of other, much more fundamental problems. Overall, I give this report a C- ... because even its enforcement flag-waving neglects a number of fairly significant events.