This Week In Techdirt History: May 10th – 16th

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, another shot was fired in the ongoing Apple-Nokia patent war, and in the Apple-HTC war as well. Wired was thus inspired to take on the smartphone patent thicket, and all this was at a time when the USPTO was ramping up patent approvals. On the flipside, though, we also saw the birth of the Defensive Patent License.

The RIAA racked up another legal win, this time in its lawsuit against LimeWire, while the YouTube-Viacom case was still winding its way through the court with some amicus briefs that tried to rewrite the DMCA. The Hurt Locker producers were just gearing up for their now-infamous plan to go after thousands of filesharing fans, Games Workshop was suing a Warhammer fan site over trademark issues, and music publishers were still trying to get money from lyrics websites. At least the EU Digital Commissioner recognized the market created by piracy, Brazil decided against a notice-and-takedown system, and the estate of Roy Lichtenstein backed down from threats against a band that appropriated some of the same material used by the famous artist.

The Humble Bundle, now an online fixture, was just beginning to strut its stuff and show off some extremely impressive numbers. While the Bundle was going open-source, Rockstar was amusingly caught selling a pirated version of their own game on Steam in order to get around the disc-based DRM they had originally saddled it with. But President Obama was brushing off the whole world of videogames (and tablets, and iPods…) as diversions and distractions.

Ten Years Ago

In 2005, Napster was in its “legal service” phase, and trying to get into the ringtone market (though record labels were getting fighty over those, too). Speaking of tough rebrandings, former RIAA CEO Hilary Rosen (architect of lawsuits against individual downloaders and anti-consumer policies) was trying to pass herself off as a consumer rights defender. Former Universal Music head Edgar Bronfman Jr., since moved on to Warner Music, was not doing so great in his new gig, and we started to notice other businesses facing new digital challenges, like wedding photographers.

Also in 2005: Google went down for a terrifying 15 minutes this week in 2005, followed by some serious eBay outages; Bill Gates made the not-at-all-biased prediction that Windows-based phones would replace iPods (though I guess he was only one word off) while Microsoft was doling out the intellectual property propaganda; Blockbuster was getting ready to give up on online rentals, people were starting to catch on to free credit report scams, and newspapers were trying their hardest to beat Craigslist at its own game. Last but not least, Techdirt held a party to celebrate our 25,000th post.

Fifteen Years Ago

Bill Gates had some stupid things to say this week in 2000, too. This time it was the claim that if Microsoft was broken up into separate companies, there would be no tablet PCs and Windows never would have had a taskbar. Uh, sure. Napster’s position was far more nebulous at this time, with the CEO giving interesting interviews while also caving to Metallica’s ban-demands. Of course, this latter event inspired someone to (probably jokingly) start working on a Napster-clone for Metallica songs only.

Volkswagen was the first carmaker to get their dealers on-board for direct online car sales (somehow). There were other areas of retail where it wasn’t clear that brand mattered much at all. The broader world of ecommerce, plus issues surrounding Napster and eBay, started raising serious liability questions. The internet was of course still raising various underthought social objections too, but some people were starting to push back, noting that the internet keeps lots of people in touch who wouldn’t be otherwise, and genuinely makes people closer. And, nearly fifteen years before the launch of our new podcast, Techdirt made a foray into online radio.

Forty Years Ago

Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, the battle fought over Sony’s Betamax technology which established the legality of home recording, was a major turning point in modern copyright law. It introduced the question of “substantial noninfringing uses” that has come up time and time again in more recent lawsuits over copying and sharing technology, with mixed results. But it was on May 10th, 1975 that the seed was planted for the whole shebang: Sony released Betamax, in Japan, for the very first time.

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