Blog Ipsa Loquitur

You really really ought to be reading Abnormal Use: The Case of the Killer Toothbrush is afoot!

According to this report by CBC News out of British Columbia, a woman named Saliha Alnoor is suing the Colgate-Palmolive Company for injuries she sustained when her toothbrush allegedly broke in two places in her mouth, slicing her gums and causing her to lose consciousness.

Alnoor apparently hired an engineer, who has done extensive testing on the toothbrush and determined that it contains a design defect that caused the brush to break.

She called Colgate to complain, and they sent her a $20 coupon. What, for more toothbrushes? So she can stab her gums over and over again?

Ms. Alnoor did the only sensible thing. She moved on with her life like a well-adjusted adult filed a lawsuit. No, really. Thankfully, she couldn’t find a lawyer willing to take this case, so no one can use this as ammo in their “I hate lawyers so much argh” Facebook posts. She’s pro se, baby: doing all her own lawyering.

I would conjecture that she couldn’t find a lawyer willing to take this case, because it’s stupid. How exactly does she plan to convince a jury that she was brushing her teeth like a normal human being when the brush just exploded in her mouth?

Frankly, my gums hurt just imagining how much torque she must have been applying in her brushstrokes to achieve such catastrophic failure that she needed $6,000 of dental work to repair the damage. Whether the damage came from the broken brush, or her “scrub away all the enamel” technique, is an exercise left to the reader. And also a jury, I guess.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

Apparently, burglars don’t bother stealing CDs and DVDs anymore.

“Years ago, you’d see a man in a pub selling CDs,” says Eric Phelps, a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. “Not any more.” Indeed, thefts of entertainment products like CDs and DVDs have collapsed in England and Wales, to the point that they are now taken in just 7% of all burglaries in which something is stolen (see chart). They are now targeted no more frequently than are toiletries and cigarettes.

Read the rest at The Economist. The story is a funny and odd footnote in the saga of Media in the Digital Age. Music is legitimately on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Rdio, and about a billion other places. So I guess I can see why CDs don’t get stolen very much anymore.

As for movies, well, they’re on Netflix… eventually. Seriously, if you can’t even sell stolen DVDs, I wonder why Hollywood thinks you can still sell them for $20 in a store. It’s okay. Ultraviolet is totally gaining momentum, guys. Any day now. Aaaaaany day.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

Wednesday night, WhatDoTheyKnow.com made its 100,000th request under the United Kingdom’s Freedom of Information Act. The site, a product of MySociety.org and one of its democracy and transparency websites for the citizens of the UK, has been sending out requests on behalf of its users to various government agencies since February, 2008.

Read the rest of “Annoying” British Officials Since 2008 at TechPresident. This is a fun sort of hack, in the absence of a government web site that does this for its users.

I’ve never understood why governments don’t do this on their own: put every request online and let users search it themselves. Say goodbye to ever having to hunt down the same document twice, for starters. Or redacting it twice. You’d probably get fewer FOIA requests overall if you made it easy to search past FOIA requests.

Apparently, our federal government is doing just that. A US Government-wide, intra-agenc FOIA site is planned to go live in October. The EPA is building it for some reason, but I’m glad it’s getting built period. Nerdcelsior!

Published on under Gov 2.0

Oh, come on guys. From Reuters:

For the past year, studios have been flirting with stretching out the delays on when Netflix, Redbox and Blockbuster can rent new releases, but it looks like Warner Bros. is going to be the first to take the plunge. The studio plans to make the home entertainment companies wait 56 days from when new releases go on sale to offer DVDs and Blu-rays, according to a report from AllThingsD.

The move is seen as part of an ongoing effort by the industry to prop up a DVD market that has struggled to keep pace with plunging disc sales and a shift among many consumers to digital streaming.

I find it hard to believe that anyone at Warner Brothers thinks that an extra month’s wait is going to be the tipping point here. If making me wait for a few weeks didn’t work, and I haven’t purchased the DVD, how many more weeks do you think will make me buy the DVD? Months? Years?

Actually, here’s a fun story. I went back home to visit my friends and family between Christmas and New Year’s. During that time, we all watched a lot of Netflix together. Here’s a summary of our conversation after finding out that a movie we were looking for wasn’t on Netflix yet:

Me: “Oh, man, it’s not on Netflix yet.” John: “Yeah, I think it’s only been on DVD for a couple weeks.” Me: “Well, let’s watch something else.” John: “Cool.”

Do you notice how, at no point, either of us suggested that we put on our jackets, go out to the cars, drive to the store, and buy the movie? We were in no danger of doing any of that. I know sales of DVDs are way down, but keeping your movies off Netflix isn’t going to help. That article from All Things D has some fun statistics:

Spending on rentals, primarily via Netflix and Redbox, is up 10.9 percent. But that’s not enough to counter a 17.2 percent drop in movie and TV show purchases.

Market demand has shifted from a historically profitable sector to a new one. Do you attempt to sandbag the new market, or do you come up with a new product to meet consumer demand? You don’t have to choose one or the other, but Netflix and Redbox have been around for a long time. What have you guys been doing since then?

Don’t give me that Ultraviolet stuff. When I buy a movie, it comes with a voucher that I can redeem to watch the movie? Awesome! You know what else in the box lets me watch the movie? The damn movie. That I bought. How do you guys look at Netflix and think the killer feature is streaming, and not the “watch frillions of hours of TV and movies” for $8 a month?

Published on under The News

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a terrible thing. It’s sort of like a turbo-charged, Mad Max version of the decade-old Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which I’ve written about before. Both SOPA and the DMCA address copyrighted materials posted to web sites, but they go about them somewhat differently.

Consider some scenarios: Viacom sees a clip of South Park on a video sharing site: completely hypothetically, let’s say YouTube. Pre-DMCA and pre-SOPA, YouTube might have been liable for contributory copyright infringement. They’d end up having to fight a “substantial noninfringing uses” battle like Sony v. Universal, the Betamax case. I’m not going to cover that again, but just know that that’s expensive and worrisome, and they could lose and go bankrupt. That’d be bad.

Enter The DMCA

The DMCA gives Viacom a private remedy: they don’t need to call the attorney general. It’s like trespassing. Sure, you can call the police and try to get someone arrested, but you can also just call your lawyer and start a private lawsuit. Under the DMCA YouTube is actually completely immune to copyright infringement suits for the infringing videos its users upload. Viacom has to go after YouTube’s users. But like I said, there’s a private remedy.

Specifically, there’s a DMCA takedown notice. Viacom sends a letter to YouTube, swears that the clip at whatever URL is infringing on their copyright, and orders YouTube to remove it. Viacom’s letter must list specific files at specific addresses, or YouTube can ignore it. For valid takedown notices, YouTube either removes the clip immediately, or they lose that immunity I mentioned. But if YouTube complies with the notice, they’re completely immune to the copyright violations of their users.

Enter SOPA

SOPA takes that general regime, which is unfair to both sides (a conundrum that the civilized among us know as a “compromise”), and makes it much worse for one side. Given that Big Copyright has spent $57 million lobbying for it to pass, you get no points for guessing that SOPA is worse for “everyone who is not an international media conglomerate.”

It takes that DMCA takedown notice thing, and makes it a fire-breathing monster. Now, in our scenario above, Viacom would simply send a letter to a court, swearing that YouTube contains an infringing video. The court, without contacting YouTube, would find the video infringing or not; if it’s infringing, the judge would then order YouTube removed from the DNS record. DNS is the system that lets human beings type “Google.com” into a web browser, instead of 72.14.204.91.

When a judge decides that there is an infringing video on YouTube, she can deactivate YouTube.com. The site just disappears off the internet. Poof. Not the video; the whole site. The Stanford Law Review has a good overview of the law as a whole.

SOPA sucks

So where the DMCA lets a copyright owner nuke any file on the internet, SOPA lets the copyright owner nuke any site on the internet. To say this moves the goalposts a bit is an understatement.

So the collective internet has been rather up in arms about the whole affair. I can’t say I’m surprised. Google, Apple, and Yahoo have gotten in on the act, too.

But not GoDaddy. There’s a giant thread on Reddit calling out GoDaddy for supporting SOPA. Why does GoDaddy support SOPA? Specifically, why does GoDaddy support SOPA when its customers hate it so much? They say:

“Go Daddy has a long history of supporting federal legislation directed toward combating illegal conduct on the Internet. For example, our company strongly supported the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008, the Protect Our Children Act of 2008, and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP).

Go Daddy has always supported both government and private industry efforts to identify and disable all types of illegal activity on the Internet. It is for these reasons that I’m still struggling with why some Internet companies oppose PROTECT IP and SOPA. There is no question that we need these added tools to counteract illegal foreign sites that are falling outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement. And there is clearly more that we could all be doing to adequately address the problems that exist.”

Yeah, the Hooters of registrars is really concerned about their image as an upstanding internet company.

Whatever, guys. My domains are registered through secureserver.net, a GoDaddy affiliate; I’m moving them all on December 29th.

Published on under Legal Theory

History is full of tragic loves. Cleopatra and Marc Antony. Elizabeth Taylor and like half of Hollywood. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. Now, the failed marriage of AT&T; and T-Mobile. AT&T; had this to say for itself:

“The actions by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to block this transaction do not change the realities of the U.S. wireless industry. It is one of the most fiercely competitive industries in the world, with a mounting need for more spectrum that has not diminished and must be addressed immediately. The AT&T; and T-Mobile USA combination would have offered an interim solution to this spectrum shortage. In the absence of such steps, customers will be harmed and needed investment will be stifled.”

This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read. “There’s lots of competition in the wireless industry. (ED: snort) We were trying to put an end to that, but you guys are being jerks about it. We’re taking our legal team and going home.”

Published on under The News