This Week In Techdirt History: May 17th – 23rd

Five Years Ago

There was plenty of ridiculousness from Hollywood this week in 2010. For one thing, movie studies were decidedly not following through on their “promises” to offer lots of new content if they could only break your TV with selectable output control, while the MPAA was also bizarrely focused on getting soldiers to stop buying bootleg DVDs, and Hurt Locker producer Nicholas Chartier was angrily defending his crusade against downloaders. Of course, given Hollywood’s remake culture, it was no surprise that the studios were starting to run into copyright problems of their own (and given its anti-piracy culture, it was no surprise to see different anti-piracy solutions suing each other over patents). Not to mention the irony of Time Warner Cable standing up against automated copyright filings, or actor Peter Serafinowicz explaining why he even pirates movies he’s in.

The UK was still grappling with the realities of the Digital Economy Act. We wondered if it would interfere with London’s ambition to offer free wi-fi, while one regulator said the act only applies to big wireline ISPs and several politicians started trying to repeal it altogether. Copyright shenanigans were all around on the music side of things too: ASCAP bullied another local coffee shop into no longer playing local bands while a massive performance royalty rate hike in Australia drove gyms to start ditching pop music, and it became increasingly clear just how much the RIAA had clogged up the court system with its lawsuits.

Ten Years Ago

Five years before all that, the US Copyright Office was busy showing off just how much it misunderstood copyright law. Spain’s recording industry pressured a university lecturer into resigning after he explained how file-sharing could be legal and positive. People were shocked at a Star Wars leak, but ignored the fact that it probably wasn’t a big deal at all. And the UK’s Premier League was moaning about illegal streams but not acknowledging that it was creating the market for them by failing to offer anything in competition.

The BSA conducted its annual ritual of releasing bogus piracy numbers, followed by the inevitable backlash. One copy-protection firm was playing both sides of the piracy game by patenting a P2P system and the technology to stop it. The NY Times tried its ill-fated experiment to charge for opinion pieces, one university library was going all digital, and megaplex movie theaters were straining to recapture their former glory.

Fifteen Years Ago

Last week, we saw Volkswagen become the first auto manufacturer to start selling cars directly online. This week, Ford joined them (in Canada) followed closely by GM, and lo the floodgates were opened. Meanwhile, online retail giant Amazon was experimenting with dynamic pricing, and some were predicting that the next great digital frontier would be family businesses — but we were all hoping that the then-dominant trend of cartoon mascots on every website would die out, quickly.

Michael Eisner, on the other hand, was convinced that email was a great existential threat to companies and the country (perhaps he heard that Singapore arrested a man for “cyber rage” after he sent thousands of them) while most people stopped shorter, at “email marketing is getting annoying”. Congress was, for some reason, worried about genealogy websites, and Napster was struggling to figure out its future (with 60% of college students saying they’d supposedly pay for it).

Oh, and, you know those topic icons over to the left of every post? This week in 2000 is when we debuted them.

Four-Hundred and Six Years Ago

Shakespeare’s Sonnets: they are among the foundational texts of English culture, and on May 20th, 1609 they were first officially listed in the Stationer’s Register (an early precursor to copyright — for publishers, not authors), and printed shortly thereafter. Nobody has been able to determine whether the publisher, Thomas Thorpe, had authorization from Shakespeare or was working from an illicit copy.

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