19 September 2016

In Medea Res

Not your Medea. My Medea.

  • After a night during which the Emmys congratulated themselves for racial diversity while ignoring the reality of TV's overt bias in favor of stupidity over any other single factor, the two lead film critics for the NYT ponder why H'wood is "separate and unequal" while missing the point. Both narratives also ignore the factor that could change things. Randy Newman was right: It's money that matters.

    The financial imperatives did not create racism (or anything else) in H'wood, but they are sure as hell the largest barrier to changing anything — especially the overemphasis on appealing to wide audiences (usually dumbed down to the minimal educational attainment of second- and third-generation management) with everything. However, a system that demands large returns for everything, even with the occasional nod to the "Sundance type of film" that still earns more money for its producers than for anyone else, is an active impediment to change. Even to change that the system itself acknowledges as necessary... or, more often, can't even recognize because it's outside some decades-old Psych 101 textbook's contemplation of "normal." Quickly: Name a character in American film/TV who takes pride and joy in intellectual/artistic achievement — instead of, or at least not manifested as, either overt sexual conquest/gender-appropriate nurturing or immediate financial/political rewards — who is not ridiculed for doing so... especially given the default poor-"social adjustment" compensation demanded of each and every one of those characters (yes, my readers, Chuck Lorre must be destroyed).

    I didn't think you could.

  • But one part of the entertainment industry is even more ignored than intellectuals... and it's dying, or at least changing into something unrecognizable. Yet it's the reason for the Internet! At least that's what the song claims (although my recollection is that 8x8 Star Trek came first and was much more of a drain on time-share systems back in the day).
  • Here's a quirk of the way European law on copyright infringements operates — and, more particularly, concerning what our Supreme Court illogically called "secondary infringement" over here in the Grokster matter (illogically because it is contrasted not to "primary infringement," but to "direct infringement," Grokster, 545 U.S. at 930–34). The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled late last week that free wireless providers are not liable as infringers, but may be required to password-protect their networks at the request of content owners.

    In McFadden v. Sony Music Ent. (Germany) GMBh, No. C-484/14 (15 Sep 2016), music-shop owner McFadden provided free, no-password/unsecured wifi in and near his shop. Someone — the opinion explicitly disclaims knowledge of who — used that to download a recording from somewhere on the net in which Sony claimed a copyright. Sony issued a demand to McFadden, and he sued for a declaration of no liability (¶¶ 22–28). After the usual convoluted chain of lower-court proceedings, the CJEU determined that even though the operator of the wireless service is not liable to the content claimant for infringement,1 the content claimant nonetheless can obtain an injunction requiring the operator of the wireless service to slap a password on the network (¶¶ 79, 90–101).

    And, unfortunately, bad writing and technical ineptitude have undermined this opinion ab initio.2 The opinion indicates only that the network must be password-protected, and hints that password protection somehow involves users revealing their identities as an appropriate part of the balance (¶ 96, which makes a little more sense in the German than in the English version — but not enough more sense). It's quite apparent that nobody at the CJEU has ever been to a coffee shop that posted the wifi username and password on a note by the cash register... or just kept the router's defaults in effect...

    What does this mean for authors? Not much — yet. One must sarcastically wonder whether username "Geist" with password "Passwort" is going to be the next major piracy infringer targeted by Sony, which will lead to more litigation over the relationship between the strength of network security and potential liability by/injunctions against service providers. <SARCASM> I really look forward to this set of judges trying to unravel that conundrum... especially when combining the slow pace of litigation with rapid changes in security models. Two-factor authentication requirements, anyone? </SARCASM>

  1. Unfortunately, the strange nature of European opinions originating in civil-law jurisdictions like Germany (where this case originated) — which are replete with internal cross-references, jargon, and refusal to ever say which party prevailed — interfaces with a really poor English translation, and not much better writing in the German (presumable) original. Thus, it's impossible to point to a reasonably small portion of the opinion that makes this point. I'm afraid you'll just have to trust me...
  2. That's bad schoolboy/legal Latin for "from the beginning" or "at its beginning" — used here with malice aforethought as an ironic illustration of the poor communications skills employed in writing this opinion (see especially ¶¶ 79, 101).