This Week In Techdirt History: May 31st – June 6th

Five Years Ago

This week in 2010, we were following mass copyright threat campaigns and disappointed to see Verizon handing names over to US Copyright Group, but happy to see the EFF, Public Citizen and the ACLU ask a judge to put a stop to the subpoenas. At the same time, we wondered if US Copyright Group and ACS:Law might be working together.

It was the fourth anniversary of the raid that took down the Pirate Bay (for a couple days), which had yet to have any significant effect. We saw some early entries in what would become the Righthaven saga, a Dutch court said that just linking to movies is illegal, and Canada introduced a new copyright bill with DMCA-like anti-circumvention provisions (while admitting that the last bill was all about keeping US diplomats happy). Meanwhile, author Joe Konrath was experimenting with piracy to see how it impacted his sales, Ashton Kutcher and Lionsgate were ‘self-pirating’ their new film as a publicity stunt, and some successful content creators were worried about the Viacom lawsuit interfering with their use of YouTube. Scott Adams noticed (and accepted) that the price of content is trending towards zero, while David Gerrold argued that any industry that thinks filesharing is bad is ignoring customers.

Ten Years Ago

Last week, with the benefit of hindsight, I was able to note that the rumours of Apple switching to Intel were (for the first time) true. This week in 2005 the rumours solidified, confirming suspicions and forcing a lot of incredulous analysts to eat their words (though the official announcement wouldn’t come until the following Monday).

The internet was changing the way people interact with entertainment in big ways. The line between advertising and content was getting blurrier, as was the entire concept of a “television channel” (which appeared to be on the way out), and as were the borders between regions (which, as Sony was learning, had become meaningless). The perennial concern that digital music is too low-quality reared an early head with a $9,500 device that makes Pono and Tidal look like bargains. DVD-trading communities were struggling because it turns out nobody wants bad DVDs, and hotel check-in kiosks weren’t doing great either. But we did see hints of an exciting future, with more examples of patron-donation models for creators.

We learned that the recording industry stalked Kazaa’s CEO for months, and that the MPAA was funding public surveillance of him — so it’s unsurprising that lots of folks (as always way ahead of the *AA) were working on a more anonymous version of BitTorrent. ICANN agreed to create a .xxx TLD while we watched the .kids.us domain get only 21 websites in three years. Speaking of not understanding kids, California tried to ban textbooks over 200 pages in a misguided attempt to embrace the internet.

Fifteen Years Ago

Sony had resisted digital music sales until this week in 2000, when they made a selection of 50 tracks available for download (at a high price, in a special DRM format, of course). MP3.com was trying its own strategy — piping music directly to retailers — while The Offspring had the creative idea of cheekily selling Napster merchandise. Amidst all this, we noted that the recording industry was full of mixed messages, hating piracy but marketing to pirates. In short, it seemed like they didn’t get it. Much like National Geographic didn’t get Burning Man, high society didn’t get the internet and its nouveau-riche, and high schools didn’t get that free e-mail services are good.

These seemed like uncertain days for Silicon Valley, but people were beginning to realize that VC money was not in fact drying up and they were still spending like crazy. Of course, those Dot Coms that didn’t survive tended to just disappear, since they had very little to be sold off.

Two-Hundred And Twenty-Five Years Ago

A few weeks ago I marked the 1710 passage of the Statute of Anne, forerunner of all modern copyright law. This week, we mark the next milestone in that saga: the signing of the Copyright Act of 1790 on May 31st, the first federal copyright law in the United States, and established the well-known (around here) original copyright term of 14+14 years for books, maps and charts.

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