This Week In Techdirt History: November 8th – 14th

Five Years Ago

Let’s start out on the patent front. This week in 2010, the USPTO issued new guidelines that made it harder to reject patents for obviousness, while MIT’s tech review disappointingly came out in favor of patent trolls. Microsoft and Motorola got entangled in a full-scale patent war, while patents intersected with actual war when South Korea tried to use them to stop North Korea from copying its uniforms. Facebook also filed its first patent lawsuit — a countersuit against a patent aggressor.

Meanwhile, in the game of piracy whac-a-mole, we saw a bunch of LimeWire replacements start popping up after the shutdown, including new unofficial versions of LimeWire itself — leading to the supremely ironic situation of LimeWire complaining about unauthorized copies. Cooler heads, however, were discussing the bigger picture: the EU Commissioner was telling copyright middlemen to get with the times, musician Phil Elverum (who I’ve seen live twice — once in a church, and once quite literally in a tree) was urging musicians to let music be free and sell valuable scarcities, and one law professor was using hip-hop as a case study in why copyright laws badly need to be updated.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2005, the world was still in the wake of the Sony rootkit scandal. Despite the PR disaster, the company was still pursuing new copy protection schemes, while we looked towards the class action lawsuit that was in the works. The company’s response was feeble and insulting, claiming that rootkits weren’t a big deal because most people don’t know what they are, and the EFF took a look at Sony’s EULA only to discover a clause saying that if you declare bankruptcy, you must delete the music. Unsurprisingly, virus writers started using the widespread rootkit to their advantage and to cover up their work, and by the end of the week Sony had finally agreed to stop making and distributing rootkits… temporarily.

Fifteen Years Ago

Groups like Anonymous have become well known in recent years, but “hacktivism” has roots going all the way back to this week in 2000, when website defacement and DOS attacks were in their infancy and not always very effective. Of course, the best “DDOS” of the time was a natural one: the presidential election generated enough traffic to knock out a bunch of political websites.

We also saw one of the silliest events in the Napster war this week in 2000: the RIAA sent a letter to Napster requesting that they issue a personal apology to Lars Ulrich, as if (as we put it at the time) he was “5 years old and crying in the corner because some other kid took his toys”. But perhaps it was foolish to expect anything more mature.

Also in 2000: a lot of things sucked, like mobile phone service and search engines and online banking and voice recognition and many aspects of shopping online. You can decide for yourself how far each of those things has come…

Ninety-Three Years Ago

The BBC is one of the most respected public broadcasters in the world, but what not everyone knows is that before it become the Crown-controlled “British Broadcasting Corporation” it had a brief four-year stint of life as the privately-owned “British Broadcasting Company“. It was on November 14th, 1922 that it began mediumwave broadcasts from the Marconi House in London and aired the first BBC newscast, and on November 15th that it launched two additional channels in Manchester and Birmingham.

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