January 29, 2013
Short Takes On The News: Admission Misinformation, Windows 8, Big Law, and Google
It seems that misreporting of admissions data is not exclusive to law schools. Inside Higher Ed reports that four universities and have misreported undergraduate test scores to U.S. News. The latest is Bucknell, which misreported SAT and ACT scores for a six year period. One MBA program reported incorrect admissions information as well. U.S. News seems to think this is not a trend, though the article seems to question that conclusion.
Anyone interested in purchasing cheap copies of Windows 8 upgrades are advised to do so by Thursday. Microsoft’s promotional pricing of $39.99 for downloads ends on January 31. Upgrades to Windows 8 Pro are available at that price for Windows 7, Vista, and XP. The price goes to $119.99 for the regular edition and $199.99 for the Pro edition. I saw the Windows 8 Pro disc set on sale at Costco for $66.99 and at Wal-Mart for $199.99. Microsoft’s download page is here. CNET has more pricing details here.
All the job troubles with Big Law suggested a retrenchment of what services and costs clients were and were not willing to pay. At least that was the narrative over the last several years. The Wall Street Journal reports in a very short article that the survey by the Wells Fargo Specialty Group shows law firms had good numbers in 2012. The figures aren’t reported, though the conclusion is. I doubt that this will lead to more hiring. My guess is a firm that could produce good financial results will not want to increase its overhead unless absolutely necessary.
Finally, CNET reports on a documentary from the recent Sundance Film Festival called Google And The World Brain. It examines the failed book settlement and questions whether placing the world’s knowledge in the hands of a corporation. Google, can after all, change its mind about levels of access to its scanning project without much oversight. CNET’s review notes that the problem is bigger than Google, with implications for all when major corporations gather intimate information about its customers. Implications aside, that’s what you get in a commerce driven world. [MG]
September 02, 2012
A Star is Born in the Ninth CircuitATL's David Lat interviews Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, about his acting in the film Atlas Shrugged: Part II. [JH]
October 05, 2011
Copyright Developments In The News
There were three recent developments in copyright. The first is that the United States and seven other governments signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) last Saturday. Parties to the super-secret talks who have not signed yet include the European Union, Mexico, and Switzerland. The EU hadn’t signed as the Directorate for Finding Pens and Pencils With Which to Sign Things hadn’t issued its preliminary and final rulings on the correct writing instruments to use. Yes, that last part is a joke, but anyone who has had to regularly research European Union law will get it. Press reports indicate the EU intends to sign the agreement at some point. The announcement of the signing is available from Office of the United States Trade Representative web site. Related documents, including the text of the Agreement, are here.
ACTA represents a somewhat successful effort by the United States to export DMCA style controls such provision for digital locks on media and proscriptions on mechanisms to break those locks to other countries. Noticeably absent from the agreement are China, Russia, and India which together represent a large chunk of the world’s media consuming population. ACTA is negotiated as an Executive Agreement in the United States as it does not change existing law here.
We’ll see if ACTA does more than make media companies and governments feel good about themselves. In the history of such things the encryption codes for DVD and Blu-Ray digital locks were broken pretty easily. There’s a discussion about this on Wikipedia. Making the activity illegal will hardly stop it. Only one person need know how to hack. The rest need only know how to click a link. There are plenty of the latter out there, especially in countries not signatories to the agreement.
The second development is from non-action by the Supreme Court via an order it issued at the term which began last Monday. The Court declined to hear an appeal in the case of United States v. American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), 627 F.3d 64 (2nd Cir. 2010). The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s determination that downloading a media file was not subject to royalties as it did not constitute a public performance under the Copyright Act. Imagine, for example, someone, the distributor or a consumer, having to pay an additional fee on a straight download.
The Appellate Court made the distinction that no one sees or hears the file until after it appears on the consumer’s device or hard drive and then played. This is in contrast to a stream where the content is viewed or heard as the transmission takes place. There are probably those in the technical world who would argue that it is possible to access the content of files while they are downloading. The Court made its analysis on the language of the Copyright Act as it defines a public performance and concluded that a download generally does not meet the definition.
The third development is Monday’s dismissal of a suit brought by Ambrose Video Publishing against UCLA for copying DVDs and placing them on UCLA servers. UCLA then allowed content to be streamed to the UCLA community via password protected access. One of the allegations was that the setting was not educational as access was on-demand, including to UCLA community members overseas. The Court responded that the agreement between Ambrose and UCLA allowed a public performance and found that placing the material on the UCLA network was allowed under the agreement. It didn’t take much more for the Court to find that ripping the DVDs was allowed to place the files on the network. The other claim was that UCLA trafficked in the DVD content under the DMCA. The Court did not buy that one, at least as the Judge called the allegations conclusory and insufficient to establish a claim.
UCLA hails the ruling, though it may not celebrate so much. The District Court opinion is short on legal citations supporting its ruling. The Ninth Circuit may have something else to say. If Ambrose were smart, it would establish its own streaming servers and offer educational access through its own links. It would have better control over its content under those circumstances. The ruling, nonetheless, represents a victory for educational technology, assuming it stands. [MG]
September 20, 2010
In The News
- NPR is reporting on the rise of religious or faith-based search engines. These are designed to filter out search results that are offensive, too secular, or containing content that conflicts with dogma. Search engines that are listed are SeekFind (Christian), Jewogle (Jewish), and I'mHalal (Muslin). A search for Barack Obama in SeekFind shows the first result as "Is Barack Obama the antichrist?" To it's credit, the content of that result suggests that it is un-biblical to demonize individuals with whom they disagree by calling them the antichrist. What follows is a description of the antichrist's characteristics, concluding that while the President shares some of those characteristics, so do lots of other people. A Google search for religious search engines brings up several other choices. Jewogle apes the Google logo with a similar multicolored typeface presentation. I wondered at first if Google might go after them the way Best Buy went after a church that used the term God Squad, claiming it was too close to Best Buy's own Geek Squad. Then I noticed that the ads on Jewogle were provided by Google.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that some academic libraries are using Netflix subscriptions to acquire temporary use of DVDs for media presentation in the classroom. The practice sounds like a good alternative to interlibrary loan but for the fact that Netflix claims that it violates their terms of service. Though Netflix objects, the company apparently hasn't done anything (yet) to curb the practice. Some of the accounts in the story claim that some libraries were very up front with Netflix about their use of institutional subscriptions and have not been asked to stop using rentals for classrooms. Kevin Smith, scholarly communications officer at Duke University, is noted to suggest that fair use is separate from the contract issue.
- And finally, Larry Downes, nonresident fellow at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society, argues that the recent Vernor decision which upheld the license portion of software EULAs is a great thing, What's wrong with renting, he says. It streamlines the distribution model for information, separating it from the unnecessary physical embodiment, putting vendors in control of the product. How is that bad? The comment section of the essay seems to disagree with him. Some note that while the data created with the rented software is theirs, vendor control of the software makes the viability of that data iffy over time. This comes from upgrade cycles that may cost more than parts of the market could bear, or the incompatibilities forced upgrades could bring. Downes suggests that the market would sort out which information lessors are kinder to their customers, using Amazon's 1984 eBook removal as an example. I'm sure libraries would feel just as comfortable if vendors trended to prevent copying or printing of electronic journals using the argument that some features of access simply cost more. The essay is in CNET, here. [MG]
July 12, 2010
Visit Denver Through Cinema: Films Set In Colorado
Not all of us headed to Denver this year. That doesn't mean, however, we can't share in the experience of being there without actually being there. I'm not talking about live streaming or archived sessions on the AALL Web site. I'm referring to a mini-fest of movies set in or around Denver through the comfort of the home theater. Try these suggestions:
Battlefield Earth is set in Denver in the year 3000. The book it's based upon is written by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Starring John Travolta in one of his most unfortunate roles, the story portrays what's left of the human race fighting off alien overlords who have conquered the planet. Travolta plays Terl, the evil security chief and lead antagonist. The human race wins the conflict as seems to be the case in movies such as this. Movie viewers do not. The Washington Post critic Rita Kempley lead off her review of the film this way: "A million monkeys with a million crayons would be hard-pressed in a million years to create anything as cretinous as 'Battlefield Earth.'" Bad, yes, but fun in the right mood.
Red Dawn is another movie that takes place in an alternative reality. The Soviet Union, remember them, invades with the help of allies. The city of Calumet, Colorado, is the scene where high school students fight a guerrilla war against the invaders. The course of the film shows how high school students helped win World War III. The stars are Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen among others. It was directed by John Milius who also wrote Apocalypse Now. Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times had this quote: "An outsider the kids encounter tells them what's happening in Denver, for instance: 'They live on rats and sawdust bread and, sometimes, on each other.'" The film had decent reviews for such an obvious propaganda piece.
A bloody crime story takes place in Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead. The story follows the revenge killings orchestrated by a mobster after a hit he ordered goes bad. There is lots of blood and gore as the circumstances unwind. The film stars Andy Garcia, Christopher Walken (more cowbell), Treat Williams, and Christopher Lloyd. Directed by Gary Fleder, with the New York Times saying: "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" (the title is borrowed from a Warren Zevon song that has hip insouciance the film can only dream of) is such a prime example of its genre that it verges on parody. But nobody's kidding. And Mr. Fleder's very real talents are submerged in self-congratulatory, derivative material that's about nothing but hollow posturing and the world of other films."
The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a Broadway and film classic describing the adventures of Molly Brown, a tomboy determined to find wealth and acceptance. She and her husband come into accidental wealth via a goldmine and move to Denver, where the social elites reject them. The couple moves to Europe where she is accepted by royalty and returns to Colorado with new friends. The next attempt to impress goes awry when her husband's friends from the mountains crash the party. One more trip to Europe and a return on the Titanic, which Molly not only survives, but helps rescue others turns her into a hero. The film stars Debbie Reynolds, Harve Presnell, and Ed Begley. This is definitely before the days of depressing reality films.
Speaking of musicals, how can I leave off another favorite also set in Colorado, Cannibal: The Musical. This is an early film created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the brains behind South Park. The film tells the story of Alfred Packer, whose misadventures through the Colorado wilderness ultimately find him charged with cannibalism. He and his group of men get stuck in winter, and, you know, stuff happens. Packer is saved from the gallows at the last minute by a reprieve from the Governor. As it turns out, Packer couldn't be convicted of a state crime because Colorado wasn't a state at the time. All this told through the magic of song. While we're on the subject, the South Park Movie: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut shares locales between Colorado and hell. It also comes with songs, one of which, Blame Canada, was nominated for an Oscar.
For more films set in Colorado and Denver, see the page on Wikipedia called Films Set in Colorado. You'll find references to other classics such as The Shining, Harvey, and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Try searching in the Internet Movie Database (imdb) for the word "Denver." One of the results in the title list is Troop 'H,' Denver Col.which dates from July, 1898. Denver plays a role in a lot of TV and film westerns among others, and Colorado generally makes it into any number of films. Remember, once the convention ends, the memories of Denver can be relived via the magic of DVD. [MG]
July 28, 2009
NASA Makes Enhanced Moon Landing Tapes Available
NASA, if one remembers, lost the original recordings of the 1969 moon landing tapes and initiated a furious search for them. The agency recently discovered that the high resolution tapes were wiped. The broadcasts that appeared on television at the time were very low resolution compared to the originals. Now, thanks to the magic of computer enhancement, NASA has taken the best quality versions available and run them through the same technology that turns blobs from outer space into breathtaking shots of galaxies. The results are available on a NASA page here. Happy 40th anniversary Neil Armstrong, and to the men and women of NASA. [MG]
May 08, 2009
Does The Internet Affect Your Attention Span?
There is an article by John Keilman on the Chicago Tribune web site that poses the question whether technology has stunted our ability to consume long form literature. And it is written by someone who is proud to have consumed a lot of novels in the past, but can't seem to do it easily post Internet. The noted change affects the ability to focus for reading and media consumption. I have the same problem, but my need for distraction in reading long pieces came some 30 years ago when I was in law school. Reading several hundred pages of cases per week, most of them not particularly interesting, made it hard to crack something longer than an edited case from a casebook. Technology revamped communication and now we have the Internet which feeds us news, entertainment, and other short form media spaced out with ads an all, just like 22 minute episodes in neat television-sized half hours. I am eternally grateful to the creation of the DVD remote control which allows me to skip scenes in a movie. Watching The Longest Day which clocks in at 2 hours and 58 minutes becomes the longest 45 minutes. I don't think I've ever seen the second half of Cleopatra, or even most of the last Star Wars movie (the one where Annakin turns into Vader). On the other hand, I love the Robot Chicken parody of Star Wars because the sketches are funny and last between 30 seconds and 3 minutes at most.
People react differently, of course, to consuming shorter and smaller bits of knowledge. I can't generalize on how cognitive abilities change in response to the shrinking media form various articles suggest (See, for example, Is Google Making Us Stupid, from the Atlantic, online here). PowerPoint compartmentalizes thought, and now we become used to lectures as taught from detailed professional outlines. Language shrinks in email with BTW, LOL, and other anagrams. Cell phones make text messages short by necessity, and Twitter artificially limits everything to 140 characters. Is it any wonder, then, that patience isn't there for something that takes 500 plus pages to consume? Is this necessarily a bad thing or simply the way it is today?
I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who may want to comment on whether their experience with the Internet and media in general has changed their ability over time to handle longer narrative in various forms. And for the sake of my attention span, please make it short. [MG]