30 March 2014

Honey Badger Internet Link Sausages

... because I don't care. And I'm filled with unreasoning rage and an urge to bite things. Wait a minute — that's normal for me, isn't it?

  • There are better ways to leave work early than setting fire to your worksite and causing $450 million in damage... and that's almost certainly an underestimate, because any major reconstruction of any major weapons system always finds more things that need to be fixed (and sometimes causes them!).
  • Contrary to the breathless blithering of US-based media, there is actually an internet outside the US; that internet actually has copyright concerns that don't fall under US law, even when regarding US-originated content; and other nations are struggling to deal with the problems while refusing to follow the H'wood/Nashville party line. There really isn't a good solution, for the simple reason that the concept of a "red flag" hasn't yet been adequately explored, let alone put into enforceable terms.

    I've long felt that the "red flag" framework is the wrong one to apply to file transfers and storage. If one must reason from analogy, it seems to me that the pawn shop is a better analogy. Virtually every pawn shop contains some stolen merchandise (or, if not formally "stolen," at least pawned without full knowledge and authorization of the actual owner). The real question is not whether Bert Bailee (the pawnshop owner) is aware that a particular engagement ring in the display case is stolen; it is whether Bert knowingly operates a fencing operation as opposed to a "legitimate" pawn shop (for some value of "legitimate" given the ordinary financing fees... and Bert's typical hostility to outsiders who try to extricate his customers from those fees). At what level of fencing/stolen and unauthorized merchandise has the pawn shop become a front for a fence... or even an outright fencing operation? And must that determination be sensitive to the context of what kind of merchandise predominates among that shop's wares (or warez) — family jewelry (e-books) or home electronics (TV episodes and "socially acceptable" porn) or assault rifles (non-"socially acceptable" porn) or appliances (feature films and executable files)? I don't have answers; I do think this is a better analytic framework, with a better acceptance of legitimate-if-disreputable-and-my-social-class-doesn't-do-that operations than the binary-valued "red flag" that concerns only specific items, such as a ring with the Wayne family crest (or a shelf labelled "alt.binaries.e-books").

  • Terry Hart has recently raised two important points about the "utility of copyright" debate that feed directly back into the preceding link sausage. There has been a lot of "research" about the purported "benefits" and "costs" of filesharing that turns out to be bad research and, further, fundamentally flawed because it doesn't measure costs/benefits to the creators, but only to the commercial rightsholders... assuming without warrant that they are the same.

    Last week, Hart valiantly attempted to resolve the "purpose of copyright" argument, but I'm afraid the explanation offered doesn't do so. The IP clause is almost unique in the eighteenth-century text of the US Constitution in that it specifies a power/right, a purpose for that power/right, and a mechanism for exercising that power/right all in the same clause. As obvious counterparts, the purpose of the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment must be inferred, while the required mechanism for establishing post roads must also be inferred. Conversely, the IP Clause (Article I, § 8, cl. 8) states its power (legislative action to implement), purpose ("To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts"), and mechanism ("by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right") together. That makes reflexively using interpretive/constructional methods applied to other powers/rights rather... dubious, and similar to using planar trigonometry to navigate on the surface of a sphere, in that one can reasonably find one's way on a short trip but definitely not across oceans.

  • Then there's the difficult side issue of parody/fair use/comment/transformation, as the UK's government is struggling to acknowledge (let alone resolve). C'mon, man — just adopt the First Amendment and all else follows <vbeg>. Well, not so much "follows" as "inevitably converges in a manner that parallel lines don't." The irony that semiconductor architecture — which enabled the 'net — is founded on a non-Euclidean geometry in which parallel lines do converge may be apparent only to nerds like me... which is rather the point I'm dancing around.
  • Judge Cote has granted class certification in the consumer attack on the Wormyfruit RPMA ("agency model") for e-books. That is not at all the same thing as a final judgment, although in this particular controversy there is already a parallel judgment upon which to rely for the substance. I expect the usual torrent of criticism from various quarters, ranging from those who would attack the Big Brazilian River by any means available to those who don't give a shit about anything except shareholder wealth maximization and see this litigation as an attack on that.
  • Professor Humphreys explains the difference between politicians and academics who study policy as an is/ought gap... which, in practice, all too often involves both politicians and academics in decrying a mineshaft gap.
  • As a proud Division III graduate, I applaud the NLRB recognition that Division I's so-called "student-athletes" are primarily employees and therefore eligible to unionize. The named plaintiff in the matter wanted to be a premed student... but had to drop that because required laboratory science classes would conflict with practice sessions, and practice sessions took priority: "Student-athlete" my ass (and that's at an institution that graduates an unusually high proportion of its "student-athletes"). <SARCASM> Maybe the NLRB, some time in the future, will recognize that when writing to contract, freelance authors/musicians/artists are primarily employees (and therefore eligible to unionize, and exempt from antitrust restrictions when trying to impose minimum fair contracts) when the contracts uniformly offered take too much for limited pay and restrict competition... </SARCASM> Naaah.