Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under The News

In case you haven’t heard, Wikipedia is planning to follow-through on its promise to shut itself down for a day in protest of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act.

On January 18, 2012, in an unprecedented decision, the Wikipedia community has chosen to blackout the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours, in protest against proposed legislation in the United States — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PROTECT IP (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States.

For a site with roughly 80 hojillion unique visitors, this will cause some disruption tomorrow. And it’s actually already caused a commotion! For instance, the MPAA is mighty upset (PDF link). Here’s their rebuttal:

“Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.

It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.

A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals. It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”

Translation: we spent millions of dollars lobbying for a draconian copyright policy, and now that we’ve been even vaguely rebuked, we’re very sad that you nerds keep rubbing it in.

The best part is where the MPAA complains that Wikipedia has a responsibility to its users to provide its service free from the influence of corporate interests. That would almost sting if the MPAA didn’t spend so much energy coming up with inventive new ways to treat its customers like criminals. I mean, at least Wikipedia talks to its users; the MPAA just throws money at Congress and makes the ads on DVDs unskippable.

I’ll take the ones that talk to me like adults, please.

Published on under The News

One of the best news sites on the internet, Ars Technica, received a great big compliment the other day when the MPAA blog included some choice words for them.

According to the MPAA blog on Tuesday, “Arts Technica” [sic] is a “tech blog with a long history of challenging efforts to curb content theft.” (If so, we’re the only such tech blog that actually encouraged a now-current MPAA lawyer to do copyright coverage for our site and that recommended the pro-rightsholder book Free Ride in this year’s holiday guide.)

One can see why MPAA staffers might think this way. “Ars Technica opposes our attempt to gain ‘broadcast flag’ control over people’s digital devices,” they might say. “And it doesn’t appreciate our plan to censor the Internet. And for some reason they’d like to rip copies of their DVDs to watch on the airplane, even though we managed to write anti-DRM cracking provisions into law. Man, these guys really love piracy!”

‘Curse those handsome devils over at Arts Technica! How dare they point out our inept copyright maximalist policies? Our customers might not miss freedom!’

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

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 Gov 2.0

Wednesday night, made its 100,000th request under the United Kingdom’s Freedom of Information Act. The site, a product of 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 The News

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?