07 April 2014

Two Weeks of Spring and Winter Is Here Again???

Official HoC feed, 07 Apr 2014

Well, at least somebody thinks the political maneuvering is fun...

  • You know that a H'wood presumption is under serious attack when the hometown rag gives criticism of it even-handed consideration. This time, it's unpaid "internships" that are really entry-level jobs (and indirectly screen to ensure that applicants are middle-class-or-better, because they can afford — usually through family resources — to take the time off of paid work). This is actually a serious problem throughout the entertainment industry, ranging from sport to publishing to music to museums and art galleries. Upper management just doesn't seem to comprehend that the people who are "supposed" to be "getting rich" in the arts are the creators, not the facilitators; if the latter are successful, that should be a happy accident, not an expectation. In turn, that leads to beancounting and costcutting in rather inimical ways... and the mindset established by not paying entry-level facilitators leads to a mindset of similar treatment for entry-level creators.
  • It's not that photochemistry is inherently racist, it's that standardization in photochemistry is silently racist... which is one of the reasons that Fuji film was more respected than Kodak for, umm, certain kinds of photography outside of North America and Western Europe in the 1980s, but that's a hypertechnical and boring story that eventually goes nowhere in this age of digital image capture.
  • Professor Risch, over at Madisonian, presents his view of why Alice Corp. really is a trip into Wonderland. I must disagree, because he (and the patent bar as a whole) is myopically focusing on Patent Act § 101 as the source for patentability... and neglecting the constitutional context. A couple of decades ago, the Court held that originality is a constitution-level requirement for copyight. On the one hand, copyright is a lot closer to core First Amendment concerns than is patent law in general (although, I would argue, the particular patented material in Alice Corp. is disturbingly like "expression"!), so perhaps there's some ground for saying that the standard of originality for copyright — however low it may be — is still higher than that for patents. On the other hand, both copyright and patent obtain their constitutional authorization from the same clause... and it's an intertwined thing that really does not distinguish between the two. Then, too, the various treaties that the US has signed concerning patent have superior precedence to a "mere" Act of Congress.

    The problem in Alice Corp. is that the patent holder really wants to have it both ways: Can't copy the exact source code (clear copyright issue), and can't copy the scenes à faire elements of the actual work. The latter assertion has been roundly rejected in a copyright context; that we're fighting the fight anew in the patent context seems at minimum disingenuous. I'm not in favor of software and software-based patents at all in the first place, and Alice Corp. stands as an excellent example of why.

  • I'm going to close with a frightening implication of McCutcheon that is a necessary consequence of the position underlying its ancestor Buckley: That those who enter the political arena, and who wish to speak on political matters, do so with a pre-existing allocation of political speech available to them – not an aliquot based upon the content or merit of the speech they would put forth, but upon the size of their war chests. This implication becomes disturbingly apparent when one attempts to put names to the differing allocations: Paris Hilton's inherited wealth, under the McCutchen/Buckley framework in which speech is exactly equivalent to money (and vice versa) has a greater constitutional entitlement to political speech than does either Senator Elizabeth Warren... or Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayór. Donald Trump has a greater constitutional entitlement to political speech than would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. if he were alive today. More directly to the point, under the McCutcheon/Buckley framework President Obama had a substantially smaller right to political speech than did Governor Romney.

    This cannot be correct... or, at least, it cannot be correct in a democracy that is more than mere window-dressing for ancestry- and class-based stagnation. Fundamentally, this is the same thing as governance via primogeniture-based landed aristocracy; it merely substitutes "liquid capital" for "landed title." I seem to recall that this nation fought a fourteen-year-long conflict (the first seven as a guerrilla war) against our rightful aristocratic overlords to get to the point of having a First Amendment (ok, that took an additional decade thereafter) that can be twisted into this kind of reification.

    One need not go quite so far as pointing at specific individuals to be disturbed by these implications. The same reasoning applies to coherent interest groups, racial and ethnic (and even religious!) demographics, even regional aggregations. Indeed, even differing real estate values across regions might grant greater entitlement to political speech for the homeowner in San Francisco (with its insane real estate values allowing a substantial home-equity loan that can be devoted to political speech) than for the owner of an otherwise identical dwelling in Oakland... or Ukiah. The contrast with the Baker principle of "one person, one vote" could not be greater. That becomes much less surprising, however, when one realizes exactly who the appellant in Buckley was: Yes, it was indeed that Buckley, a scion of inherited wealth and privilege.