Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur

April 25, 2002

I seem to be in an odd alternating cycle this year. One month of frenzied posting activities followed by another with weeks of silence.

Of course, it’s only April. Who knows what the rest of the year will bring? (I mean, other than people in the future.) #

Return of the TiBook

Ever sit on a story so long it became moot? Last week I sent my troubled PowerBook G4 back to Apple to get its logic board replaced. It came back yesterday. In fact, I typed this very entry on it sitting on the couch in my living room. (It’s very strange to refer to something you’re doing in the past tense while you’re doing it, but that’s because I know you’re reading this after I typed it.)

I haven’t had a chance to try out the charging aspect yet, but all signs are positive. [update: It works.] I haven’t noticed any other problems yet, so I’m feeling pretty good. Apple gave me a fairly conservative estimate about how long this would take (5–7 business days) so I’m pleasantly surprised to have it back in working condition in less than a week. (If I were being negative, I would describe the time as “more than two months”, since that’s how long ago I first had problems.)

I must say that after a few weeks using Mac OS X, returning back to OS 8.6 was a disappointment. The actual speed and response time differences are due more to the hardware than the operating system, but it was very frustrating when my web browser crashed and I had to restart the entire computer. Under Mac OS X, I had gotten used to never having to reboot the system except for troubleshooting. #

More on Star Wars mythologicalness

(Yes, I know that isn’t a word.)

Salon has posted reader commentary on their article questioning the epic background of Star Wars. As with the earlier spat with Lord of the Rings fans, the viewpoints expressed support both sites of the argument and generally present a more nuanced view of the subject. (I’m speaking of the aggregate here. Individual letters tend to strongly take one side or the other.) Given how interesting some of the letters can be, it’s a shame that Salon doesn’t provide links to them in the original articles for the benefit of readers who find them in the archive.

As I see it, it doesn’t matter much whether Star Wars is borrowing from archetypes of epic storytelling or pulp science fiction or both. The movies must be judged on their own merits. Homer can inspire crap just as Doc Smith can inspire greatness. (Don’t press me for examples in either case, though.)

That being said, I’ll also note that attributing Coruscant to Trantor (both planet-girdling cities) is a stronger argument than attributing Trantor to Rome (both seats of empires). On the other hand, it’s not as if Asimov’s creation of Trantor means that no one else can ever write about a planet-sized city. After all, the existance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet doesn’t mean that no one else can write stories about carbon-based organisms. #

Dance of the copy-protection fairy

Well, it’s almost been a month since my last note about intellectual property law, so here’s some more.

First, a clarification of a point that frequently gets muddled in articles about copyright term extension. A typical example comes from an article in the Washington Post, which writes: “works created by a corporation, such as Disney's Mickey Mouse, are protected for 95 years.”

While it is true that Congress tends to extend the term of copyright whenever the early works involving Mickey Mouse are about to enter the public domain, the article is confusing copyrights, which apply to specific pieces of work such as cartoons, and trademarks, which apply to names and characters. A BBC article quotes Jonathan Zittrain, who says, “(Disney’s) worry is vastly overblown. They’ll still have trademark over Mickey Mouse, and that trademark lasts as long as Disney and the Magic Kingdom do”.

Mickey Mouse is trademarked, and thus can’t run out of copyright. Steamboat Willie, on the other hand, would have entered the public domain years ago had the law not changed several times. (both via Openlaw, indirectly via Doc Searls)

Second, yet another example of companies using the DMCA to bully the public. It seems that several users of Blizzard’s video games, which use the a service at battle.net for Internet play, were able to reverse-engineer the network protocol and create alternative services. As a result, Blizzard is suing them.

Unfortunately, the implications here go beyond reverse engineering Internet-capable video games. In its broadest application, the argument Blizzard is using would seem to make interoperability itself illegal.

Third, an argument against the current lawsuit attempting to strike down the most recent copyright extension. Lawyer Morton Goldberg argues that no matter what one thinks of the extensions themselves, the question is one that Congress must decide, not the Supreme Court. This actually makes a lot of sense, which puts Eldred v. Ashcroft in a murky place.

Lastly, the unsurprising news that people dislike the CBDTPA. In fact, Catherine Raymond has described its flaws from her perspective as a lawyer. (She admittedly is an insurance lawyer, rather than an intellectual property lawyer, but as the wife of open-source advocate Eric Raymond, she is presumably paying attentio to the situation.) (via Doc Searls and Doc Searls, respectively) #