I'm carefully ignoring the political conventions as the sound and fury of tales told by idiots, signifying nothing. Nobody will really learn a damned thing from either convention that can't be learned observing the antics in nursery school just before nap time. That's what the election itself is and will be — a snoozefest. And that's a good thing; there won't be overt and organized physical violence, or widespread "result recalibration" (not even in Chicago any more), or that sort of thing. Unlike emerging democracies, we've moved that sort of silliness to before the actual election...
- Here's an expensive and wasteful link sausage: The real price of entrusting leadership in the arts to the all-too-often corrupt, incompetent, and/or otherwise unfit-for-the-role relatives of Old (or at least Big) Money. When I was living there, the San Francisco Bay-area arts "community" (which was not much of a community) was crippled by this problem, especially for any art form that is pre-internet; the museums were an obvious problem, but so were classical music, opera, and so on. Bluntly, if one did not have Money, one was not welcome at these institutions; being panhandled by a Board member at intermission was just a symptom. At a much higher level, the Billington regime at the Library of Congress epitomizes the problem of designated leaders who rely upon their personal connections to The Money as both their only job qualification and only effort for the institution. Maybe I should move again, a few kilometers north of here... but then everything would revolve around hockey night.
- Yet more proof that listening exclusively to transferees and distributors on copyright policy and practice will mire one in iniquity comes from photographic "licensing." Whether this is actually worse than museums trying to claim copyright in photographs taken of their collections is beside the point: It's wrong to charge licensing fees and assert infringement by those who don't pay them for photographs "dedicated" to the public domain.1
There is a disturbing contrast with failures to renew, or registration errors, or other third-party mistakes that give cheapasses hiding behind "information wants to be free" rhetoric that applies at most (if ever concerning copyright, as distinct from access) to information — not original expression as expression — cover to argue that art and fiction of the 1940s through early 1960s is now public domain. Yet another consequence (quite probably intentional, sad to say) of the foolishness of the 1909 Act... and a hint to the photography houses that they can no longer rely on the 1909 Act for their business model. It's only been forty years since the 1976 Act was passed!
- In line with some deeply and fundamentally flawed "recommendations" concerning a "small claims copyright procedure" issued by the Copyright Office under the prior regime, Rep. Jeffries has introduced a bill with typical lawyerly prolixity to establish a small-claims "alternative dispute resolution" system for copyrights. We'll ignore for the moment that the predictable side effect — which will occur on the close order of Planck time after the effective date of implementation of any even analogous system — will be the overwhelming of the system by porn purveyors seeking to blackmail "illict downloaders." We'll also ignore that my comments are restricted by multiple actual (not potential) conflicts... and my professional and personal disdain for those who are most-publicly pushing in favor of such a system. Instead, my opposition arises from fundamental flaws and mistaken assumptions in the very concept, especially — but not exclusively by any means — the failure of the last forty or so legislative sessions to provide the federal judiciary what it needs to do its job(s), combined with an increasing reliance on "user fees" without regard to second-order effects.
And from the number of trees that will die just from printing the bill, and the necessary forms to implement it. The key to understanding this bill is to ask a Latinate question: Cui bono? If you have trouble understanding that, consider the next link sausage.
- Here's what is really wrong with the American education system: We don't demand enough classroom achievement... from the teachers. A newspaper story notes that this may be improving, though; "average" SAT scores among new teaching hires in 2008 climbed seven points to 46th percentile in math. I'm not thrilled; the implication that initial hires in 2000 were below the 40th percentile in math is frightening, particularly since so many teachers in the American system have at least partial math-teaching duties. The less said about measuring preparation in literature and the rest of the arts, the better.
- I put scare quotes around that word because it points at a lacuna in the 1976 Act, and the Berne Convention: Neither really provides for putting already-existing materials voluntarily into the public domain. There's an argument that doing so would be a synthetic contract action in which the author sells the work to the public for a price of zero, but that's contorting the statute (and even the Berne Convention) in a way that is inconsistent with the constitutional language. Too, if it's a "synthetic contract," it's a mere transfer of rights... subject to rescission/termination under § 203 or § 304(c), potentially by the author's heirs.
And that's leaving the quasimonopolistic rentseeking by the photography houses and their underpayment of photographers aside for another time. These are not paragons of virtue under the best of circumstances.