This Week In Techdirt History: July 26th – August 1st

Five Years Ago

The last few weeks have been full of copyright ridiculousness, but this week in 2010 features a lot of exploration into copyright’s nuances. First, the Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress finally outlined DMCA exemptions for jailbreaking smartphones and some other situations, while rejecting some other proposed exceptions — and sparking Canada to take a fresh look at its own anti-circumvention proposals, essentially admitting it lets the US heavily influence Canadian copyright law. One US court started to put some limitations on the anti-circumvention clause itself by suggesting that simply using circumvention software is not itself a violation; the British High Court ruled that emulating a piece of software is not infringement; and another ruling let venues deduct from their BMI license deals when they directly license music. This was also hot on the heels of ASCAP’s boss refusing Larry Lessig’s invitation to debate, and bizarrely claiming that said invitation was an attempt to “silence” ASCAP.

A bunch of other interesting questions arose in the form of copyright concerns over Flipbook, the sale of prints made from long-lost (but recently found) Ansel Adams negatives, attempts to assert new copyrights on work by an artist who had been dead for 71 years, and the highly problematic proposal of a new digital transmission right. Meanwhile, the British Library was concerned about copyright hindering research, and gamers everywhere were worrying about copyright stymying the preservation of video game history.

Ten Years Ago

We got a bunch of wonderful tech-panics this week in 2005. Perhaps most notable was the head of the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force declaring that “cantenna” wi-fi extenders are nefarious and illegal and getting the news media to swallow it. We also saw a panic over “pod slurping” (an unnecessarily specific version of data-theft-by-trespassing), and a seemingly random trio of senators got extremely concerned about porn on file-sharing networks while we awaited a mysterious new anti-porn bill informed by obsolete data. One lawyer in the US was moving on from his freakouts about Grand Theft Auto and unveiling brand new freakouts about The Sims, while Australia was outdoing the US on the former by effectively banning GTA altogether. Beatles producer George Martin was complaining about how easy it is for people to record music these days, and Techdirt itself became the target of a very tiny and personal tech-freakout: one unknown AOL user who was convinced we were spamming him (and apparently unable to find the unsubscribe button in every one of our double-opt-in newsletters). At least it didn’t go down the way things do in Russia, where a notorious spammer was found brutally murdered.

Also, long before the world reeled at Pluto’s loss of planet status (something I believe is now back up for debate?), astronomers were pointing to a tenth planet even further out.

Fifteen Years Ago

Napster’s fate was in a serious state of flux this week in 2000. First, a judge ordered an injunction, shutting it down; the pundits piled on, taking a wide variety of views on this development (some much smarter than others); but, by the end of the week, Napster was granted a stay on the injunction and kept things running; cue an unbelievable volume of discussion from all corners of the internet, with some realizing that the RIAA’s war on Napster, even if ultimately “successful”, was a perfect example of utterly failed strategic thinking.

As you follow Techdirt’s posts right around this time, you’ll notice something that we started to notice ourselves: intellectual property was becoming our most popular topic and a tentpole of the blog (even though today it’s hard to imagine that ever wasn’t the case!)

This week in 2000 we also saw early glimmers of major technological trends, like the fact that the video-game industry would become a massive entertainment sector rivalling Hollywood. But we also saw lots of tech that was just slightly ahead of its time: wireless was heavily hyped and clearly going to matter some day, but lots of key factors were holding back adoption, especially in the US and especially when it came to things like wireless banking. Some tech was clearly moving forward — such as input methods for handheld devices (which were still pretty dismal back then) — while other areas were a bit more stubborn: newspapers didn’t seem to be dying nearly as fast as predicted, and 83% of people in the UK said they’d never switch to the internet for news.

107 & 68 Years Ago

June 26th is a double-whammy in the history of America’s federal landscape in the areas of law enforcement, security, espionage and more. First, in 1908, it was the day that The Bureau of Investigation (which would become the FBI) was formed. Then, thirty-nine years later, it marks the passage of the National Security Act of 1947, which established the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency, and laid the groundwork for the Department of Defense.

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