December 11, 2011
Browsing On A Sunday: Copyright, Cat Hair, And Warranties
Constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe has submitted an analysis of the Stop Online Piracy Act to the House Judiciary Committee. He says the Act is an unconstitutional implementation of prior restraint. This counters a memo by Floyd Abrams who says copyright infringement is not protected by the First Amendment. While that’s true, there’s something to be said for getting to decide what is or is not copyright infringement before denying protection. Isn’t that part of the First Amendment prior restraint jurisprudence? Note that Abrams’ statement (on behalf of the Directors Guild of America and others) is available on the House Judiciary Committee’s background page for the bill. Only pro-passage material seems to be there. Anyone wanting Tribe’s assessment can scrounge for it on Scribd. More on this from The Hill. That reminds me, I understand the recent elections in Russia were free and fair.
Speaking of copyright violations, Mark Twain would probably be a proud supporter of SOPA based on this story from the Montreal Gazette. It recounts and appearance in Montreal by Twain in 1881. He had considered applying for Canadian citizenship to protect his literary output. The article notes that that brothers Robert and Alexander Belford used a stolen set of proofs to produce a Canadian version of Tom Sawyer some six weeks before the official American version. Twain estimated he lost $10,000 in royalties because of this. The Authors Guild will likely estimate this as $20 billion in today’s dollars, and Viacom will likely blame Google for the breach.
In another twist of the IP knife, author Cory Doctorow relates the tale of a song created by major artists P Diddy, Will.i.am, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West in praise of file sharing site MegaUpload. Imagine, artists who may actually lose sales due to piracy singing the praises of a site the RIAA et al. accuse of fostering piracy. Well, for some reason, Universal Music did not care much for the music video that got uploaded to YouTube and sent takedown notices. According to Doctorow, there has been a back and forth with notices and counter-notices flying fast and furious with the song appearing and disappearing from the site. MegaUpload says it has contracts with all of the artists and can prove it. Doctorow adds:
Either Universal has done this [file multiple piracy complaints] deliberately, to stifle debate over its policies using false copyright complaints, in which case it would be social suicide for America to pass SOPA and give Universal the power to shut down any website with a fake copyright complaint.
Or perhaps Universal did this through blundering, inexcusable incompetence, a total inability to distinguish between the music it owns and the music everyone else owns. In which case it would be social suicide for America to pass SOPA and give Universal the power to shut down any website with a sloppy, erroneous copyright complaint.
Either way, Universal and its pals have demonstrated their absolute unfitness to wield power over free expression.
As of now, the song is down via the links posted on Boing Boing.
Next we have the story about cat hair voiding the warranty on a computer. It seems one gentleman named “Chris” sent his HP Elitebook in for a warranty repair and HP refused to provide service. The excuse? The unit was so full of cat hair that it constituted a “biological hazard.” Anyone who has cat or cats as pets must be living in a biological hazard by that logic. There are pictures, though I agree with Chris that he probably had more hair on his shirt than what the pictures showed in the Elitebook’s electronics. I suppose if it were nothing more than thick mounds of house dust everything would have been fine. Chris thinks that HP was trying to find a way to avoid servicing his unit.
It’s always a good idea to take a can of compressed air to any computer’s vents, just to blow out the dust from time to time. It can affect the performance of the electronics if it builds up over time. But if one needs to have a machine serviced, it’s best to clean it out thoroughly to avoid the potential of a company shirking its warranty responsibilities.
Finally, we have another Homer Simpson quote: “Extended warranty? How can I lose?” CBS Money Watch thoughtfully explains how a retailer pushing extended warranties is legalized betting. The company bets you won’t need to use the extended warranty and gets to keep your money. I remember buying an $80 printer at Best Buy once with the sales clerk trying to get me to sign up for an extended warranty. Why would I want to, I wondered, when the replacement ink cartridges amounted to about two-thirds of the initial purchase price? Easier and cheaper to buy a new printer with ink supplied. [MG]
Only pro-passage material seems to be there. Anyone wanting Tribe’s assessment can scrounge for it on Scribd. That reminds me, I understand the recent elections in Russia were free and fair.
With all due respect to Prof. Tribe, the U.S. government is under no obligation to provide him with a free space to present his views. And the Russian government is under no obligation to any Russian citizen or Russian resident to provide them/us with "free and fair" elections.
Posted by: Mikhail Koulikov | Dec 11, 2011 9:16:53 PM