from the long road dept
Five Years Ago
There was lots of back-and-forth in the copyright debate this week in 2010. Vandals bass player Joe Escalante attacked the public domain as “communism” that will destroy classical music (perhaps he didn’t know how many wonderful works the public was missing out on), while John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls was admitting to using LimeWire and preferring a fan-made music video for one of their songs to the official one. Filmmaker Bevin Carnes went on an anti-free-culture rant and insisted that only creators who rely on copyright are qualified to talk about it, so conveniently the famous director Jean-Luc Godard was at the same time saying he doesn’t believe in intellectual property, and donating to an MP3 downloader’s defense. A spokesperson for the Canadian music industry was claiming user generated content supports piracy, while Rep. Darrell Issa was worrying that stricter copyright laws are restricting innovation. Amidst all this, we looked at some bigger ideas: why it’s so important not to call infringement “theft”, and how realizing that copyright restricts free speech opens your eyes to all sorts of problems. One good example happened in Russia, where officials were abusing copyright law to intimidate critics with the help of Microsoft, who rapidly backed down after being called out.
Ten Years Ago
In 2005, Napster was desperately trying to convince people its legal service was awesome (while music-losing iTunes crashes were making users wonder about that service too), the RIAA was over-touting its incomplete victory in the Grokster case, and Taiwan was sending file-sharing execs to jail.
Dell was trying (futilely) to compete with the iPod while ABC was partnering with a VoIP provider to offer an almost comically unappealing newscast service. Mobile content was still a tough game in 2005, with even the content creators doing very little consuming, and most consumers not being sure what things like 3G and VoIP actually are (though we wondered why they really should). The usage data that did exist was teaching us some rather obvious things, like the fact that people prefer breaking news on their phones, rather than old news.
Fifteen Years Ago
This week in 2000, we saw some of the earliest examples of big artists drifting away from their labels and towards the web: the Smashing Pumpkins released their latest album exclusively online as a free MP3 download, and The Offspring was doing the same (minus the exclusive part) while experimenting with reason-to-buy perks for big fans. Meanwhile, Courtney Love was suing Universal for a cut of its award in the MP3.com case, to test the claims that it was all about helping out musicians.
We also saw the first glimmers of lots of new technologies, some of which have become ubiquitous since while others still struggle. Long before Siri, Palm was looking into bringing speech recognition to PDAs — but in the form of remote interaction by phone. The idea of wireless location services was new and exciting, but with a lot of potential for early overhype. Beyond voice, people were also experimenting with gesture recognition and of course direct brain interfaces. Then there were the folks who, way back in 2000, were already trying to let you hail a cab with the press of a button on your phone.
Thirty Years Ago
On September 13th, 1985, before Techdirt began (and just less than a month after I began, incidentally) a legend was born: Nintendo released Super Mario Bros. for the Family Computer/FAMICOM in Japan. Later that year it would come to America, and three decades later the company would finally release a level building tool.