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January 16, 2009

Fair Use Isn't Fair Sometimes, and the Linux Desktop

There are a couple of news stories floating on the tech news sites that struck me.  One is this tale of DMCA takedown notices and YouTube.  Kevin Lee blogs about films.  He also created video essays using film clips and posts them on YouTube, or at least he did until his third DMCA takedown notice got his YouTube account suspended.  The thrust of the story is a discussion of fair use rights and how they get lost in the mechanism of takedown and countertakedown notices.  It was a quote by Lee that caught my fancy.  He said "This development removes any belief I have in YouTube as a place that values the work I do."  I think this is naive at best.  His work is side by side with farting pandas and other animals in embarrassing circumstances.  YouTube and Google are in this to make money by feeding off culture, not to promote it.  Lee is unhappy that YouTube won't recognize the fair use in his work.  The law places that burden on Lee, not on YouTube.  More in Ars Technica.

The second story comes from TG Daily.  It's about a girl who got a notebook from Dell with Ubuntu on it rather than Windows.  She couldn't get her Verizon Internet Access CD to load, or the Word program, and consequently dropped out of school for a couple of semesters.  She needed her computer and the time constraints made it impossible for her to continue.  The reaction of the Linux community was fast and furious with some offering to help her become one of them, and others vilifying her for wanting to use Windows.  Dell has offered to replace her notebook with one that runs Windows.

Say all the bad things you want about Microsoft, but it has done something that isn't duplicated by any operating system except possibly the Mac OS.  It has created a software ecosystem that is mindless on a mass acceptance scale.  People buy computers with Windows on them and answer the four or five questions at setup and start running.  Most additional software installs with the same mindless efficiency and runs with a click.  Linux is at home in the server room where dedicated and knowledgeable technicians can nurture these systems, usually out of sight and out of mind from most users.

Linux will never approach the mass market desktop until it offers the same ease to consumers as does Windows.  Consumers apparently value that ease more than perceived stability or a fear of dependence on an evil Microsoft's desktop hegemony.  Those who don't like Microsoft can still go with the ease of the premium priced Mac line, as do some 7.3% of the OS market.   Technical users may chafe at this idea, but most users are not technical, nor do they want to be.  Linux is never going to run a general user's desktop until running and managing it is an afterthought. [MG]

January 16, 2009 | Permalink

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