A Moron In A Hurry

August 22, 2006

Dylan on Tech

Filed under: copyright — nick @ 4:41 pm

Quote of the day, courtesy of Bob Dylan:

Noting the music industry’s complaints that illegal downloading means people are getting their music for free, he said, “Well, why not? It ain’t worth nothing anyway.”

To be fair (and to put it in context), he was referring to his belief that new technology doesn’t make his music sound nearly as good as it sounds in the studio.  He is right though.  Even if Dylan gave mp3s of his songs away for free he would still make tons of money touring, most of which would go straight into his pocket.


Solving Link Rot With NYTimes.com

Filed under: Uncategorized — nick @ 1:56 pm

This seems infinitely useful.  This site has made it possible to link to NYT articles on your blog and ensure that access to the full article is always permitted.  It really is annoying to follow a link and find out that the original source is unreadable without some sort of subscription or paying a $5 fee.  According to Backend.Userland.com, this goes along with a new NYT policy that allows links from blogs even after their free view is over, which is immeasurably sensible.

August 15, 2006

What’s the Opposite of a Knock Off?

Filed under: trademark — nick @ 1:51 pm

A knock up, which may not be as legally troublesome as the knock off.  From Counterfeit Chic.  Seems to me that an upscale luxury version of a popular item is still trading on the good will of the original product, a central argument that luxury brands use against thier imitators, which raises the question of at what point does a fashion homage cross the line?

Making Digital Backups of Our Culture

Filed under: copyright, internet — nick @ 1:25 am

One of the problems with locking up major cultural moments behind the walled garden of IP law is that it’s up to those who “own” them to preserve and maintain them for future generations. For all the talk that piracy and unauthorized copying hurt the short term financial prospects of such things, it’s also equally true that having millions of people with their own copies of such things will help ensure that they are always around. Strength in numbers and all. That’s why it’s so alarming to here that NASA can’t find the original recording of Neil Armstrong’s epic statement of “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” In all, NASA reports that “some 700 boxes of transmissions from the Apollo lunar missions are missing.”

Not to say that NASA doesn’t care about preserving such things, but it’s not their top priority, especially when faced with increasing budget cuts while at the same time being asked to plan for more ambitious missions (like to Mars). If it’s possible to lose that recording – possibly the greatest moment of mankind since maybe harnessing fire – shouldn’t we be thinking harder about not letting such things disappear?

The Internet, and digital technology in general, allows us the opportunity to never even have to worry about such things ever again. When such a defining moment happens these days it ought to be recorded digitally and sent out so that people will see it, be amazed, realize it’s important, and download it to their computers. Fortunately, something similar has happened with NASA, as it appears the only copies available now are those that were sent to television stations for broadcast. Again, strength in numbers.

In a way that gets little attention, this is what Google is trying to do with Book Search. There are millions of books whose “owners” are not properly motivated enough to ensure that they will be read in the future. Rather then allow for such a valuable project to proceed, the “owners” think it better to sue under the thinking they might get a few extra nickels out of the deal. Though Google is only one, it is better than no digital backups, which was the problem NASA had with the original recordings.

The larger point to remember is that when control of important works is entrusted to a select few, the odds of losing a significant moment that defines a culture, a species even, is more likely to be lost than if it were widely distributed. Preservation seems to get little attention these days when it comes to IP issues and the Internet, unless you take the position that locking things up produces more, because if it gets lost, then the only choice is to create more to fill the void in the market.

August 9, 2006

Raiding Poor Countries for Trademarks

Filed under: trademark — nick @ 1:56 pm

Though I don’t know much about plants or medicine, there is a great post on BoingBoing about Brazil’s efforts to prevent foreign corporations from grabbing patents and trademarks from naturally occurring third-world fauna.  Brazil has apparently filed a list of more than 5,000 names of plants with the WIPO and the WTO in an attempt to show that these names are already in use and thus can’t be trademarked by foreign corporations.  It’s not all bad news, however, as BoingBoing points out that UC-Berkeley signed an agreement with the Samoan government to share any royalties from an anti-AIDS drug developed from the use of a native Samoan tree.  While it might be troubling that a nation can claim “national sovereignty over the gene sequence” of an indigenous plant, such an agreement is a better solution than having a foreign corporation assert similar rights through IP law.  Afterall, if Alaskan residents get a $1,000 check each year from the state’s oil revenues, why shouldn’t Brazil or Samoa be entitled to reward their citizens similarly for a native plant being a cure for a terrible disease?  Sounds like the beginning of a territorial moral right.

August 1, 2006

Dooby Dooby Dew

Filed under: trademark — nick @ 5:30 pm

Usually I’m a Pepsi drinker, something about the flatter and more sugary taste than Coke does it for me, but today I decided to live dangerously and bought a can of Mountain Dew. A futile attempt to liven up my life by switching brands, which is a flawed strategy that is also a waste of money.

I haven’t had a Dew in years – my fellow intern Prasanna says it’s so “premillenium” – so I was startled by the new look of the can. The new design has caused some concern for being pro-communist, but even more troubling is what appears to be blatant IP infringement going on right there in front of us.

Dew. Be Dew. Be Dew.

Upon noticing that little slogan at the bottom I had trouble figuring it out. Then it hit me. Dew. Be. Dew. Be. Dew is also easily written as Dooby Dooby Do. And we all remember that as the jingle from the Bud Ice Penguin ads of years back.

So being an aspiring IP attorney, I have to ask if this means anything. Is Dooby Dooby Do trademarked? According to the USPTO ‘Dooby Dooby Do’ was an Anheuser-Busch mark from 1997 to 2004, when the mark was cancelled. All I know is that I am in the awkward position of staring at a can of Mountain Dew while singing the Bud Ice Penguin song to myself. If that isn’t a prime example of being confused (in probably multiple senses) then I’m not sure what is.

Perhaps copyright then, since Dooby Dooby Do comes from a song (have to protect those musicians) and is also from a commercial; someone has to have some claim over it, right? Perhaps not, since short phrases and slogans are not covered by copyright.

In the end, it appears that Mountain Dew is thus free use a homonym of Bud Ice’s cancelled mark on its can without fear of lawsuit. But of course, if anyone at Bud was paying attention, they might want to let some free advertising work itself out. After all, the beauty of the Bud Ice Penguin was that it would lurk in the shadows while it kept people in constant fear – quite subliminal – which is exactly what is happening now. Man I’d like a beer. Dew me barkeep.

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