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About Leigh Beadon Techdirt Insider

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 23 March 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 275: The State Of Trust & Safety

from the what's-happening dept

For some reason, a lot of people who get involved in the debate about content moderation still insist that online platforms are "doing nothing" to address problems — but that's simply not true. Platforms are constantly working on trust and safety issues, and at this point many people have developed considerable expertise regarding these unique challenges. One such person is Alex Feerst, former head of Trust & Safety at Medium, who joins us on this weeks episode to clear up some misconceptions and talk about the current state of the trust and safety field.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via Apple Podcasts, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 March 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the twas-said dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Blake C. Stacey with a response to the return of the PACT Act, and especially its traffic thresholds for regulations:

As far as I know, nobody in a quarter-century of trying has invented a meaningful way to quantify website traffic, and every method for putting a supposedly precise number to it is an advertising gimmick. Why on Earth would we write a reliance upon an ad gimmick into federal law? It's like changing the penalties for a crime based on the quantity of bad vibes that it generated.

Here's a wild idea: Why don't we have a National Commission on Internet Regulation before we try to write legislation?

In second place, it's PaulT with a response to a commenter who repeatedly, vaguely complains about the sponsors of The Copia Institute:

I'll ask again what influence you think that the MacArthur Foundation have on this site, since you repeatedly provide that freely available piece of information as proof of something.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with Rico R. and some thoughts on Netflix's crackdown on password sharing:

Don't forget that Netflix is also now a part of the MPAA. Maybe that could have something to do with this crackdown? After all, many other members are against password sharing. And that's not to mention that they want everyone to never pirate and pay for every movie they want to own and every single streaming service that has something they want to watch. And pay for their Internet connection to watch said streaming sites. And their phone bill. And their electricity. And their water bill. And their rent. And groceries. And anything else they need to support a family. And probably more. And put some money in savings. And have an in case of an immediate emergency fund. And pay for gifts and other things they might want to buy. All while working a minimum wage job.

Tell me: Who has the ability to pay for all that under those circumstances? That's why piracy exists. Not because they're too lazy to go to the store. Not because they don't want to support the filmmakers/artists/creators of the content they consume. And not because they just want to get content for free. It's because if there was no piracy, they wouldn't consume the content at all. Period. So maybe ask them if they would rather have those who share passwords move over to a torrent site instead, and see how quickly they change their views.

Next, it's That Anonymous Coward with a question about a Florida Sheriff's use of predictive policing:

Funny, given the statistics... shouldn't they have been visiting off duty officers to make sure they weren't beating their wives, hitting their kids, molesting people, brandishing weapons to win debates?

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Beefcake with a response to our story about a security failure involving Stevie Ray Vaughan and what it can teach us about security design:

Not surprising

Everyone in pop music was using the same major keys at the time.

In second place, it's sumgai with another comment on the story about predictive policing in Florida, where another commenter made reference to "Broken Windows policing" and set up a little bit of comedic intentional misunderstanding:

Just because they've also had more than a decade of abusing broken software, that doesn't mean that you should be bringing Microsoft into this discussion, eh?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with PaulT passing along a famous quote about Ayn Rand that's always good for a laugh:

"Ayn Rand was a rather poor author and had a really stupid personal philosophy."

Which she was happy to throw out the moment she needed to depend on government benefits.

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

And finally, it's Stephen T. Stone with a response to the question of why Republicans want to kill Section 230 even though it protects a lot of their nonsense:

Or, to put it more succinctly: They’re voting for the Leopards Eating Faces Party and hoping they can escape before the maulings start.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 20 March 2021 @ 12:30pm

Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Fish Magic

from the gaming-like-it's-1925 dept

Today, we finish our journey through the winners of the third annual public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925. We've covered ~THE GREAT GATSBY~, The Great Gatsby Tabletop Roleplaying Game, Art Apart and There Are No Eyes Here, Remembering Grußau, and Rhythm Action Gatsby, and now it's time for the final winner: Best Analog Game recipient Fish Magic by David Harris.

David Harris is our one returning winner this year, having topped the same category in Gaming Like It's 1924 with the game The 24th Kandinsky. This year's entry is at once similar and very different: like that previous game, Fish Magic is about exploring the work of a famous painter, but it takes an entirely new approach to doing so. And that change of approach underlines what makes both games so compelling: their mechanics are carefully crafted to perfectly suit the artworks at their core. Where The 24th Kandinsky was about manipulating the shapes and colors of Kandinsky's abstract art, Fish Magic is about letting the evocative surrealism of the titular painting by Paul Klee spark your imagination. To that end, the painting becomes the game board, and is populated by words randomly selected from a list, poetically divided into the "domains" of Celestial, Earthly, and Aquatic:

The players take turns moving between nodes on the board, taking a word from each one to build a collection, which they can then use to build phrases when they are ready. The goal is to convince the other players that your constructed phrase represents either a type of "magic fish", or a type of "fish magic". Points are gained by winning the support of other players for your fish magic or your magic fish, and reduced according to how many extra words you have sitting in your collection, thus encouraging players to be extra creative and find ways to make convincing phrases with the words they have, rather than just chasing the ones they want.

If you're wondering what exactly makes for a good type of fish magic or magic fish, or what that even means — well, that's kind of the point, and exactly why this approach to the game is so perfect for the source material! Paul Klee's painting is appreciated for its magical depiction of a mysterious and intriguing underwater world, and the way its techniques — a layer of black paint scratched off to reveal vibrant colours underneath, and a square of muslin glued to the center of the canvas — suggest wondrous depths obscured by a hazy curtain. Fish Magic the painting provokes imagination and flights of fancy, and Fish Magic the game adds just enough mechanical scaffolding to make this process explicit and collaborative.

Anyone could slap a board layout on a famous painting, add some rules, and call it a game — but it takes a real appreciation for the painting, and a real intent to do something meaningful with it, to craft such a simple premise that so perfectly aligns with the source material. Like The 24th Kandinsky last year, just a quick read of the rules was enough to make our judges eager to play, and it was an easy choice for the Best Analog Game.

You can get all the materials for Fish Magic on Itch, and check out the other jam entries too. Congratulations to David Harris for the win!

And that's a wrap on our series of winner spotlights for Gaming Like It's 1925. Another congratulations to all the winners, and a big thanks to every designer who submitted an entry. Keep on mining that public domain, and start perusing lists of works that will be entering the public domain next year when we'll be back with Gaming Like It's 1926!

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 16 March 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 274: Lessons In Innovation From The History Of Fabric

from the cloth-through-the-ages dept

Textiles have been around for such a long time that we barely think about them. The making of fabric is one of the oldest crafts, and has played a major role in human civilization for thousands of years — and that might lead one to assume that there's nothing left to be learned from fabric's history. But they'd be wrong. This week we're joined by Virginia Postrel, whose book The Fabric Of Civilization: How Textiles Made The World is a fascinating look at how textiles have pushed and shaped the history of innovation, and how the story of fabric can teach us important lessons about today's biggest challenges around innovation.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 March 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the get-the-word-out dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is a comment from Baron von Robber, responding to someone who is still insisting that Democrats "stole" the election:

Trump proved he lost the election by losing all the court cases. That, in fact, shows Biden won. To have lost so many cases shows that there was nothing at all to the "Stop the Steal".

If you are certain that is not the case, pick one case (Who vs Who) and lets look at the official court findings. Remember, many were Trump appointed judges.

In second place, it's an anonymous comment in response to someone defending, at length, the police and their awful drug raid practices:

The train of thought you seem to have missed is the one where the cops do not need to go after petty drug offenses.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with That One Guy's comment about how judges probably need to do more than just toss out terrible SLAPP suits:

Do you want abuses of the court system? This is how you get them

Judges refusing to issue sanctions for garbage like this is why lawyers and the toddlers in suits employing them feel so safe filing such suits. Start cracking heads and issuing fines and I've little doubt that while there would still be people filing frivolous and/or performative lawsuits the number would shrink quite a bit because all of a sudden there would be an actual costs to doing so, and abusing the courts for personal gain is a lot less attractive an idea when it comes with a price tag.

Next, it's That Anonymous Coward with a comment on our post about cops celebrating shooting people:

JFC even the mob knew if you kill them you stop getting paid.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous commenter responding to our wish that Tennessee lawmakers would actually read Section 230:

It is awfully bold for you to assume they can read.

In second place, it's Pixelation with a not-dissimilar response to our post mentioning that we submitted comments about the Digital Copyright Act because Senator Tillis "wanted feedback":

No, he didn't.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we loop all the way back to the ongoing claims that the election was stolen, where PaulT had another reply:

This is true to a degree, although people who understand that 81 million votes is higher than 73 million votes, without any actual evidence provided that any of the votes were not valid, would prefer the term "won" rather than "stolen". You're free to provide the missing evidence that Trump's lawyers failed to provide in many courtrooms any time you like.

And finally, we dip into a debate about copyright and derivative works, where one commenter was insisting that creators should be totally original and was challenged to actually come up with such a thing so they could see how impossible it is — leading Rico R. to raise an objection:

I'm sorry to tell you that South Park already owns the rights to "trying and failing to come up with a 100% original idea"...

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 13 March 2021 @ 12:00pm

Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Rhythm Action Gatsby

from the gaming-like-it's-1925 dept

We're nearing the end of our series of posts about the winners of our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925. We've already featured ~THE GREAT GATSBY~, The Great Gatsby Tabletop Roleplaying Game, Art Apart and There Are No Eyes Here, and Remembering Grußau, and today we're looking at the third and final game based on The Great Gatsby and the winner of the Best Digital Game category: Rhythm Action Gatsby by Robert Tyler.

From the name alone, you can probably guess what the game is: rhythm action games are a popular genre, and hey, why not make one for The Great Gatsby? The premise is presented as a joke, with the designer describing it as "the way F. Scott Fitzgerald would have wanted his legacy to be maintained" — but the game doesn't just lean on this one bit of amusing silliness, nor does it cut any corners in fulfilling its promise. Rather, it's full of handcrafted original material.

But before we get to all of that, there's another thing that makes Rhythm Action Gatsby stand out among all the Gatsby-based games this year: it's partly based on the book's incredibly iconic cover art. (We wondered if the cover art was even itself in the public domain, but it turns out that unlike most books, that particular cover was actually designed before the writing was done and published along with the first edition, and has an interesting story all its own.) The floating eyes and mouth that almost everyone immediately associates with The Great Gatsby become the target points of the rhythm action game, controlled by the player as they gaze out from the screen. The eyes must be triggered in time with the sparkling fireworks that rise from below and represent the notes of the music, while the mouth must be controlled to speak the words that tumble down from above.

The words are a well-known passage from the novel, dramatically spaced out over the 2-minute duration of the game — and it's all narrated aloud. That's where we get to all the other original material in the game. The narration? Freshly recorded by the designer, with a distinct mood and excellent delivery. The jaunty music that sets the pace of the game? An original piece written and recorded by the designer. And then there's all the details: the color changes and screen flashes that occur throughout the course of a playthrough, linked to both progression and the player's performance. All of this is choreographed so well that when it comes together it makes a rhythm game that, although simple and short, feels surprisingly dramatic and narrative — and that's not only impressive, it's extremely appropriate to an adaptation of a novel, and proves that the initial joke about the combination of genre and subject being silly wasn't quite what it seemed. That's just great, and makes it a worthy winner of the Best Digital Game award.

(Oh, and at the end, your performance is ranked and you get to find out just how great of a Gatsby you are. Several of our judges played it multiple times to try for better results, and maybe you will too.)

Play Rhythm Action Gatsby in your browser on Itch, and check out the other jam entries too. Congratulations to Robert Tyler for the win! We'll be back next week with the final game jam winner spotlight.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 10 March 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 273: How The Techlash Happened

from the and-where-it-came-from dept

There was a time not too long ago when tech companies enjoyed broad public support and adulation. Now they face widespread opposition and criticism from almost all corners. The shift from one to the other has long been called the "techlash", but it's always been unclear where it really came from and how it happened, and especially what role tech journalism and company communications played. This week, we're joined by Dr. Nirit Weiss-Blatt, author of the new book The Techlash and Tech Crisis Communication, for a deep dive into the story of the techlash phenomenon and how companies are reacting to the new dynamic.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 March 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the what-say-you? dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Stephen T. Stone with a response to a Parler defender insisting that, with regards to the platforms many bans, you have to ask people who got banned why they really posted:

Take your own advice: Whenever someone claims they got banned from Twitter or Facebook because of “anti-conservative bias”, ask them what they posted.

In second place, it's smbryant responding to our post about how so many of the complaints and demands about social media are things society at large needs to deal with, but has failed:

Wrong word, I think

The last paragraph: "Society has failed to deal with etc, etc,"

"Fail" implies that there was an attempt made.

I think it would be more accurate to say "Society has refused to deal with etc, etc,"

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a simple anonymous response to the perennial complaint that Section 230 protections are "special" because websites get them but print publications don't:

A paper publisher is aware of everything that goes into the paper before it's printed. An internet platform with UGC isn't.

They aren't even close to similar situations, so why would they be governed by identical rules?

Next, it's Rocky responding to the TSA agents who tried to stop people from recording them:

As a US citizen, regardless of who your employer is, you should have a passing understanding of the US constitution. If you happen to be a government/federal employee it's your fricking duty to know and understand the constitution and how it impacts your job and the citizens you interact with.

It's mindboggling that they thought "they didn't know better" was a viable defense.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Baron von Robber with a quick quip about a reporter's lawsuit that seeks to find out if the DOJ is trying to help Devin Nunes unmask his bovine Twitter nemesis:

The DOJ is just ruminating over the FOIA request.

In second place, it's Stephen T. Stone responding to an angry, trollish commenter who asserted that "no one reasonable wants to read this cesspit of un-civil discussion":

This is more of a self-own than you probably realize, fam.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from I am a cat about the ongoing situation with Australia and newspapers:

I am a tax but do not call me that

I am presently in the process of informing the Australian government of the Bargaining Code they will need to pay me if they want me to read their dreg. So far I have not received a reply.

Next, we've got Baron von Robber with a response to Parler's new lawsuit against Amazon that includes a defamation claim:

Defamation?! Parler complaining Amazon didn't say Parler wasn't racist/fascist enough?

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 6 March 2021 @ 12:45pm

Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Remembering Grußau

from the gaming-like-it's-1925 dept

So far, we've featured ~THE GREAT GATSBY~, The Great Gatsby Tabletop Roleplaying Game, Art Apart and There Are No Eyes Here in this series of posts about the winners of our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925. Today, we're taking a look at the winner of the Best Deep Cut category: Remembering Grußau by Max Fefer (HydroForge Games).

Of all the entries this year, this game was the one that had the biggest emotional impact on our judges, with words like "moving" and "powerful" popping up repeatedly in their comments. The best description of Remembering Grußau is perhaps to call it a guided reflection on a piece of artwork — specifically, the 1925 painting of the same name by the Jewish surrealist painter Felix Nussbaum — and its meaning within the greater context of history, and the artist's life and eventual murder in the Holocaust. The game is simple, focused, and highly effective in prompting the player to meaningfully engage with the subject matter in a deeply personal way.

A big part of how it accomplishes this is by inventively bridging the gap between digital and physical engagement. The game itself is built in Twine with very basic interactive fiction mechanics, but the player's most important action is taken offline: they are instructed to step away, write a letter to Nussbaum, fold it into an envelope, and keep it nearby for a day before returning to complete the game. When they do, they are asked to indicate the theme of the letter they wrote, and then given a response — but to see what that response is, you'll have to experience it for yourself.

Remembering Grußau is somber and impactful, and it demonstrates that there are many different reasons that a growing public domain is important. We talk a lot about the radical, transformative ways new creators can make use of old material, but there's also great value on using new media to examine and explore old works in their pure, original form, introducing them to new people and uncovering new meaning within them. By focusing so closely and intensely on a single 1925 painting that isn't especially well known, and actively giving the player historical context and emotional prompts followed by a reflective task to complete, Remembering Grußau succeeds in doing this to an impressive degree, and is a worthy winner of the Best Deep Cut award.

Play Remembering Grußau in your browser on Itch, and check out the other jam entries too. Congratulations to Max Fefer/HydroForge Games for the win! We'll be back next week with another game jam winner spotlight.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 2 March 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 272: Section 230 Matters, With Ron Wyden & Chris Cox

from the celebrating-25-years dept

Last week, we hosted Section 230 Matters, a virtual Techdirt fundraiser featuring a panel discussion with the two lawmakers who wrote the all-important text and got it passed 25 years ago: Chris Cox and Senator Ron Wyden. It was informative and entertaining, and for this week's episode of the podcast, we've got the full audio of the panel discussion about the history, evolution, and present state of Section 230.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 28 February 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the things-were-said dept

This week, both our winners on the insightful side come from our post about the latest story showing Facebook bent over backwards to have different rules for "conservative voices" on the platform, to avoid accusations of anti-conservative bias. The first place comment comes from bhull242, responding to the assertion that the terms "misinformation and hate" just mean something you disagree with:

How are death threats, advocacy for genocide, the organization of an attack on the nation’s Capitol, claiming vaccines cause autism, claiming that there is a secret sex trafficking ring run by high-ranking Democrats in the nonexistent basement of a pizzaria in DC, claiming that Sandy Hook and other mass shootings were hoaxes, claiming that all/most homosexuals/bisexuals/transgender people/blacks/Hispanics/Jews/Muslims are out to destroy America and/or kill white Christian Americans, claiming that chemicals in the water are turning the frogs gay, claiming that COVID-19 is a hoax, etc. not misinformation or hate? How is treating American far-right people and their followers differently from literally everyone else not bending over backwards to create a special rule?

In second place, it's Baron von Robber responding to the more specific invocation of the Hunter Biden laptop story as proof of anti-conservative bias:

Because the Hunter laptop was a joke. Even the reporters for the NY Post wouldn't sign their names to it, it was so bad. It was failed before it started.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got two more comments from that post. The conversation about the Hunter Biden story continued, with the original commenter insisting they believed it due to a lack of evidence disproving it, garnering this excellent anonymous response:

Human perception of truth is not binary. You don't have to believe something is true just because you haven't seen proof that it isn't, anymore than you have to believe something is untrue just because you haven't seen proof that it is.

The more common and likeliest scenario is that you don't have enough information to make a good judgment either way, in which case choosing to pretend it must be true because you haven't seen evidence to contradict your bias is just you wanting to believe bullshit.

Next, we've got a comment from Bloof who is clearly, understandably, tired of this nonsense:

So big tech are biased against conservatives, while simultaneously being run by soulless right wing libertarians, prioritising conservative content (Who hasn't gotten a Prager U propaganda piece or Ben Shapiro clip recommended to them after watching actual news?) and downgrading leftleaning outlets, changing their rules to avoid banning conservatives as much as possible and quietly rescinding even the mildest of punishments handed out to anyone on the right as swiftly as they can even though they're still doing the things they were punished for in the first place?

Let's be honest, you will scream bias until the day conservatives are in the same position online as they are on talk radio, left completely immune to suffering the consequences of their online and left wing content is excluded from major platforms entirely.

Over on the funny side, both our winning comments come in response to a different post: the story of Tennessee politicians asking state colleges to forbid student athletes from kneeling during the national anthem. An early anonymous comment took first place for funny, and racked up a whole lot of insightful votes too:

"The flag represents freedom...No, not that freedom...No, not that one either...Okay, okay. The flag represents our freedom to tell you what to do when you participate in our most holy religion: college sportsball."

In second place, it's another anonymous commenter with another reaction:

I was in church the other day and I was shocked, shocked to see so many people kneeling. They knelt when they came in. They knelt whenever Jesus was in the room. How disrespectful. They clearly hate God.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from crade about Oracle helping Chinese law enforcement dig through private data:

The most surprising thing about this article is that Oracle is actually working on something that isn't a lawsuit

Finally, we come full circle back to the post about Facebook making exceptions for conservative content, where Stephen T. Stone offered up a quotation:

“I have become Overton, shifter of windows.” – Zuckerberg, probably

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 February 2021 @ 12:00pm

Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Art Apart and There Are No Eyes Here

from the gaming-like-it's-1925 dept

So far, we've featured ~THE GREAT GATSBY~ and The Great Gatsby Tabletop Roleplaying Game in this series of posts about the winners of our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925. Today, we move on the pair of games that were tied as winners in the Best Remix category: Art Apart by Ryan Sullivan and There Are No Eyes Here by jukel.

Both games were obvious contenders for the category, and ultimately it proved too difficult to choose one over the other, because they are so intriguingly similar yet completely different. Both could be described as "art puzzles", and both remix multiple public domain works, but neither clearly rises above the other.

Art Apart is the more straightforward of the two: it's just a plain old jigsaw puzzle game using a series of paintings from 1925 and a fairly unpolished interface. But while this meant our judges didn't expect much from it at first glance, it proved to be a very pleasant surprise: carefully made, easy to use, employing a great selection of paintings complemented by public domain background music, all put together with an elegance that drew people in and had them solving entire puzzles when all they intended to do was poke around for a few minutes. In the process, they got to spend some time closely examining and appreciating five paintings that entered the public domain this year.

There Are No Eyes Here is the more abstract of the two games, which is fitting since it focuses on a single artist: Wassily Kandinsky, the pioneer of abstract art. Kandinsky's works made an appearance in one of last year's winners, which explored a series of paintings he created in 1924, and this game picks up the following year with five Kandinsky paintings from 1925. While Art Apart is a traditional jigsaw puzzle, There Are No Eyes Here is about custom-made manipulations of its subject works: the player finds the elements of each painting that can be clicked to trigger animations in which Kandinsky's abstract shapes and forms begin shifting around, eventually unlocking the next painting in the series. Our judges noted that, to the artistically-inexperienced, the game was a perfect invitation to study this seminal artist's work with a level of attention to detail they might otherwise never have given it.

So there you have it: two games, both remixing multiple paintings and turning them into puzzles, both doing it completely different ways. One more traditional, one more abstract, both successful at making the player take time to admire and enjoy some of the 1925 work that now belongs to us all — and both well deserving of the Best Remix award.

Play Art Apart and There Are No Eyes Here in your browser on Itch, and check out the other jam entries too. Congratulations to both designers for the win! We'll be back next week with another game jam winner spotlight.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 24 February 2021 @ 1:43pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 271: Gaming Like It's 1925

from the post-jam dept

We recently announced the winners of our third annual public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925. Now, just like last year, we're dedicating an episode of the podcast to looking at each of the winners a bit closer. Mike is joined by Randy Lubin (our partner in running the jams) and myself (with some unfortunate audio issues that I apologize for), to talk about all these great games that bring 1925 works into the present day.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 February 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the comment-culture dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is That One Guy offering up a definition of cancel culture:

Ooh, ooh, I know that one! It's another way of describing the mysterious and totally unfair phenomenon of applying consequences for being an asshole, especially if the person being so persecuted has money/power/fame.

In second place, it's an anonymous commenter responding to complaints that Facebook blocking news in Australia has brought the country to its knees:

If an entire country is brought to its knees because of a single corporation, that is a sign of a bigger and entirely different problem than a link tax.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with virusdetected and a comment about the North Dakota lawmaker who clearly does not understand Section 230:

"Even though I don't understand this problem, or whether there is a problem, I was elected to solve it..."

I continue to be disgusted by the ignorance continually demonstrated by those we elect to positions where they can directly influence the instantiation of new laws and regulations. I suspect that the ranks of elected officials would be severely reduced if each one had to pass the same citizenship exam as an immigrant wishing to become a U.S. citizen.

Next, we've got Narcissus with a response to another claim about the Facebook/Australia situation — the idea that Facebook is incompatible with democracy:

I think Murdoch is incompatible with democracy.

Over on the funny side, we stay on that story for both our top comments. In first place, it's an anonymous comment with a plan in case Facebook does cave to Australia:

  1. Create a Facebook page with links to my website.
  2. Demand Facebook pay me for my own links to my own website.
  3. Profit!

In second place, it's another anonymous commenter pushing back against the insightful editor's choice comment asserting that Rupert Murdoch is incompatible with democracy:

Nonsense. Democracy is "one man, one vote". Murdoch is in absolute agreement, so long as he is the "one man".

For editor's choice on the funny side, we might as well stick around for two more comments about Facebook and Australia. First, it's an anonymous commenter dispelling any myths of hypocrisy about people who are mad at Facebook for fighting and at Google for caving:

That's not it. People wanted Facebook to cave and Google to oppose. Had that happened everyone would be happy!

That, or we're all supposed to be hailing Emperor Murdoch.

Finally, it's Tech 1337 offering up a summary of events so far:

Facebook: So, you want us to pay publishers who voluntarily choose to publish their stuff on our platform?
Government: Yep, that's what the law will require.
Facebook: And what about the value we're giving them from free brand advertising, customer relationships, and clicks?
Government: What value? Look, we're giving you two options. You either have to take all the news, or none of it. Your choice.
Facebook: OK, we choose none.
Government: You bully!

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 20 February 2021 @ 1:00pm

Game Jam Winner Spotlight: The Great Gatsby Tabletop Roleplaying Game

from the gaming-like-it's-1925 dept

Last week, we took a look at ~THE GREAT GATSBY~, one of the recently-announced winners of our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925. Today, we're moving on to our second spotlight, and looking at the winner of the Best Adaptation category, The Great Gatsby: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game by Segoli.

Best Adaptation is always an interesting category in these jams, because every entry is on some level an adaptation, but that doesn't mean they are all truly good candidates for the prize. Some make use of elements of a public domain work in a way that detaches them from their source, others focus so closely on the source that it is more like a study of the original — both those things can be amazing, and both approaches show up among our winners this year. But there's also something special about a game that turns a public domain work into something brand new while also carrying forth and further exploring its original meaning and context. That's the kind of game that is a candidate for Best Adaptation, and that's the kind of game The Great Gatsby: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game is.

As the name suggests, the game follows the contours of a typical TTRPG, with players taking on various characters and participating in a story (in this case, the story of The Great Gatsby, at least to begin with...) aided by a game master and some dice rolls. What makes it especially interesting as an adaptation is how it frames things for the game master: they are given a concise synopsis of the events of the novel, and encouraged to focus on whether their players are making more traditional choices that adhere to the original story, or wilder choices that rapidly diverge from it. Whichever way the players are leaning, the GM is encouraged to act as a counterbalance, throwing in fresh twists to push a traditional story off-course, or adding period-appropriate obstacles that force more divergent players to remember and address the setting. A lot of conventional wisdom says GMs should always try to flow with their players and take the game in the stylistic direction they want to take it, and downplay the idea that the GM acts "in opposition" to the players, but the framing of the advice in this game is actually quite brilliant: it means the players' tastes will shape the challenges they face in a satisfying way, while also keeping the game orbiting around the work it is adapting, and examining that work from different angles depending on the way the players want to interact with it.

Of course, there's another great way to win our hearts here at Techdirt, and that's by putting ideas around copyright and the public domain directly inside a game. The Gatsby TTRPG does exactly that, and it's just great. See, there's something I haven't mentioned yet: while the setting and story is firmly rooted in the novel, the player characters are not. Rather, players are required to be other public domain characters, turning the game into a mashup of Gatsby and any number of other works. And the instructions include a list of possible options, and a whole bunch of great intellectual property jokes that our audience here will surely appreciate:

Please note that several of the characters listed are temporally locked, which means you may not play as them until they enter the public domain in the year listed next to their name. Additionally, keep in mind that copyright law varies from country to country. If you are playing this game in Europe, you may have access to a greatly expanded list of public domain characters.

  1. Dracula
  2. Mrs. Claus
  3. Sherlock Holmes (empathy-free)
  4. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  5. Dr. Frankenstein (not the monster)
  6. Feral child raised by apes (see below)
  7. Bambi (the novel character) (2022)
  8. Sherlock Holmes (with empathy) (2023)
  9. Walt Disney’s mouse OC (2024)
  10. Peter Pan (UK only: the destruction of a specific children’s hospital in London)

Please note that if you are playing as the feral child raised by apes, the trademark to that character's name is owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., a company located in Tarzana, California. They are extremely protective of their trademark, so you may not refer to this character by name, despite the fact that the character himself is in the public domain. Additionally, please note that if you are playing this game in the UK, you may not play as Peter Pan as long as Great Ormond Street Hospital continues to exist. Elsewhere, he’s free game.

For those not in the know, those are some excellent references that highlight absurd minutiae of copyright. Sherlock Holmes has entered the public domain via earlier stories, but the Doyle estate is trying to assert that portraying him with emotions and empathy is still copyright infringement because he gained those qualities in later stories. Tarzan is a prime example of a recurring problem: the use of trademark law as a backdoor to perpetual copyright. And the situation with the rights to Peter Pan, a character that is nearly 120 years old but still under copyright in the UK, is just plain weird.

As you can imagine, a lot of our judges got a huge kick out of this, as did we. The copyright themes continue into the gameplay, with the difficulty of player actions being partly based on whether they are invoking something from a public domain work or one that is still covered by copyright, and it's just masterful how the game weaves together these themes, and the wackiness of combining all these public domain characters, with a genuine exploration of the original novel. For all those reasons and more, it's this year's Best Adaptation.

Get the rules for The Great Gatsby: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game on Itch, and check out the other jam entries too. Congratulations to Segoli for the win! We'll be back next week with another game jam winner spotlight.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 16 February 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 270: Regulating The Internet Won't Fix A Broken Government

from the when-you-have-a-hammer dept

Questions of content moderation and intermediary liability have seeped into just about everything these days, and not just with regards to Section 230 but also a whole host of laws in the US and around the world. A lot of people seem to think that a long list of societal and political failings can be rectified by regulating content online, and don't talk about how these problems run deeper and have been around for a long time. One person who doesn't fall into this trap is Heather Burns from the Open Rights Group, and she joins Mike on this week's episode to talk about why regulating the internet won't magically fix everything else.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 February 2021 @ 12:30pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the conversation-clips dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Stephen T. Stone weighing in on one of the many comment-section incarnations of the neverending debate about conservative censorship:

Conservatives like Koby have a specific issue with words like “censorship”: They prefer usage over definition, even when the term has an actual definition. Social consequences become “censorship”, even when conservatives haven’t actually been silenced, because they were taught to see anyone trying to deny conservatives a platform they’re not entitled to use (or anyone criticizing conservative speech in even the lightest way) as “censorship”.

For them, “censorship” isn’t the government trying to suppress speech by any means necessary. It’s Gina Carano being fired for likening the Holocaust to people shit-talking Republicans. (And if someone thinks she was fired for “being conservative”, they may want to reconsider that position.)

In second place, it's John Roddy with a simpler version of the sentiment:

There has never been any credible evidence suggesting "conservative censorship." Why do you keep insisting otherwise?

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more comment from Stephen T. Stone, on the subject of link and snippet taxes for journalism, and specifically in response to the oft-raised defense that the journalism business does have very real problems:

A government forcing Google to subsidize journalism by way of a link tax will not solve that problem.

Next, it's PaulT offering some translation services for Brendan Carr's comments about net neutrality and big tech:

What Brendan Carr thinks he said in his tweet:

"we need to look at the big players in the marketplace, and not treat small independent companies the same as major corporations"

What he actually said:

"As the FCC commissioner, I haven't the first clue of the massive fundamental differences between ISPs and platforms, and should be immediately removed from any position with any power over either of these markets"

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous suggestion about how to turn the tables on cops who play copyrighted music to interfere with people recording them:

Send the clips to the collection agencies, as I am sure they are interested in unlicensed public performances.

In second place, it's That One Guy taking a moment to enjoy Trump being deprived of Twitter:

What a pleasant start to the week

Normally hearing about an addict going through withdrawals is anything but funny but I gotta say, in this case it's downright hilarious.

After being given the long overdue boot from two major platforms where he had millions listening to him he's reduced to scribbling on pieces of paper and hoping that someone around him will post his ramblings online(risking their accounts as well), and adding to the humor is that he could easily use some of the money he conned from his cultists to set up his own site to post on but he's so obsessed with the audience on the current social media platforms that he apparently refuses to do so(though I suppose it could also be that if he did easily set up such a site it would somewhat ding the 'tech is silencing me!' narrative).

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a pair of jokes making reference to TV shows — one I understood, and one I had to look up. First, it's Nate Piper referencing The Office for an idea about Trump:

Trump Thoughts

No need to even connect Trumps mini-twitter to the internet. Just make a word document and tell him everyone can read his thoughts.

Next, it's Jojo with a joke I had to Google to identify as a reference to Spongebob Squarepants:

Backlash to Section 230 in a Nutshell

Hatch: “Section 230 poisoned our water, burned our crops, and brought a plague on our houses!”

Other senators: “He did?”

Hatch: “No! But are we going to wait for that to happen?!”

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 13 February 2021 @ 12:00pm

Game Jam Winner Spotlight: ~THE GREAT GATSBY~

from the gaming-like-it's-1925 dept

This week, we announced the winners of Gaming Like It's 1925, our third annual game jam celebrating works that entered the public domain in the US this year. Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a closer look at each of the winning games from the six categories (in no particular order), starting today with the winner of Best Visuals: ~THE GREAT GATSBY~ by Floatingtable Games.

The first thing that strikes you about ~THE GREAT GATSBY~ is just how robust the graphics are for a game jam entry. It's a platformer presented in a retro pixel-art style — the designer explains that it has the same screen resolution as a Nintendo Game Boy, but one more color in its palette. The player is immediately presented with a beautiful title screen depicting one of the most iconic pieces of imagery from the novel:

From there, the game reveals itself to be more than just the mechanical prototype one might expect from a platformer in a game jam — rather, it's a fully-formed (albeit very short) experience that includes an opening "cinematic", some RPG-style interactions with NPC characters including simple dialogue choices, two main platforming levels (the first of which requires you to retrace your steps, finding the path more challenging in reverse — a classic level design technique — and the second of which feels distinctly different and introduces a new kind of obstacle), and a clear conclusion. In other words, there's some genuine thought put into the game design here, and an effort to make the game "complete" that really paid off. But it's still the graphics that stand out the most, from the detailed cityscapes with parallax-animated skylines in the background and pixelated haze drifting through the air...

...to the interior scene with its own set of unique sprites, the stylish character portraits, and the simple, easily-understood interface elements:

Note the attention to detail — it would have been easy and perfectly acceptable to slap the same simple window graphic from the outdoor scenes onto the interior wall, but instead we get a brand new custom sprite that includes the skyline visible outside in the distance. That kind of extra effort is apparent all throughout the graphics of the game, and that's why it was an easy pick for the Best Visuals award.

Play ~THE GREAT GATSBY~ in your browser on Itch, and check out the other jam entries too. Congratulations to Floatingtable Games for the win! We'll be back next week with another game jam winner spotlight.

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Posted on Techdirt - 12 February 2021 @ 11:03am

Announcing The Winners Of The 3rd Annual Public Domain Game Jam!

from the best-of-the-best dept

It's that time again — the judges' scores and comments are in, and we've selected the winners of our third annual public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925! As you know, we asked game designers of all stripes to submit new creations based on works published in 1925 that entered the public domain in the US this year — and just as in the past two jams, people got very creative in terms of choosing source material and deciding what to do with it. Of course, there were also a lot of submissions based on what is probably the most famous newly-public-domain work this year, The Great Gatsby — but while everyone expected that, nobody expected just how unique some of those entries would be! So without further delay, here are the winners in all six categories of Gaming Like It's 1925:

Best Analog Game — Fish Magic by David Harris

David Harris is our one and only returning winner this year: he won the same category in Gaming Like It's 1924 with his previous game, The 24th Kandinsky, which as the name suggests was based on the artwork of Wassily Kandinsky. This year's entry, Fish Magic, continues in a similar tradition, but now drawing inspiration from Paul Klee's 1925 painting of the same name. The game itself is very different, but just as captivating: it turns Klee's painting into a game board which players navigate to collect words, then tasks them with inventing new kinds of "fish magic" or "magic fish" with the words in their collection. Where The 24th Kandinsky was tailored to Kandinsky's abstract art, with players focused on manipulating the shapes and forms of his compositions, Fish Magic's gameplay is more suited to Klee's surreal and expressionist style, shifting the focus to the magical ideas and mysterious underwater world evoked by the titular painting. Our judges were immediately drawn to this clever and original premise, and impressed by how complete and well-thought-out the final product is, making Fish Magic a shoe-in for the Best Analog Game.

Best Digital Game — Rhythm Action Gatsby by Robert Tyler

Anyone working on a game based on The Great Gastby for this year's jam knew they'd be facing competition, and would have to do something unexpected to truly stand out — and that's just what Robert Tyler did with Rhythm Action Gatsby. Rhythm action games are a simple premise, and it would have been easy to just slap one together, but this entry was lovingly crafted with an original music composition, recorded narration of a famous passage from the book, and carefully choreographed animations, all presented via a representation of the iconic cover art that we all recognize in a pretty, polished package — plus, bonus points for taking the time to include a basic accessibility option to turn off screen flashes. Our judges immediately found it cute, delightful, and genuinely fun, even taking multiple runs at the roughly-two-minute game to improve their scores, putting it straight to the top of the charts for the Best Digital Game.

Best Adaptation — The Great Gatsby: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game by Segoli

One of the things we loved most about last year's entries was that, beyond just using newly-public-domain materials, several of them brought themes of copyright and culture into the games themselves. While there was less of that this year, The Great Gatsby: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game by Segoli puts these concepts at the core of its game mechanics in a fun and amusing way that won some of our judges over before the end of the first page of rules. The game is a robust, well-thought-out framework for improvising and roleplaying a new version of the story of The Great Gatsby, with the traditional setup of a Game Master and a group of players — with the twist that those players are encouraged to play as other public domain characters. Indeed, the comical character creation rules aren't about rolling dice to assign skill points, but about figuring out what's in the public domain where you're playing, and the core mechanic for player actions can be more or less challenging depending on whether the action invokes a still-copyrighted work. And yet despite all this playful copyright fun, the game also encourages a genuine exploration of the book and aims to produce great alternative versions of its story — all of which makes it the winner of Best Adaptation.

Best Remix (Tie!) — Art Apart by Ryan Sullivan, and There Are No Eyes Here by jukel

The Best Remix category, for a game that draws on multiple 1925 works, is one of the most interesting and most challenging categories in the jam. This year, there wasn't a single stand-out winner, but rather two games that are at once very similar and very different, and both deserving of the prize.

Art Apart by Ryan Sullivan is a game that, at first glance, nobody expected very much from — it's just a series of digital jigsaw puzzles of 1925 paintings. But once they dove in, our judges were pleasantly surprised by just how charming it was thanks to a great array of paintings and a selection of gentle background music (also from 1925, of course!) This attention to detail carries through in other features, like a timer with a "best time" memory and a full-featured interface that lets the user switch between puzzles and background tracks at will. Mostly, it's a showcase of how the act of mixing multiple creative works can be valuable in and of itself when someone takes the time to choose those works well.

There Are No Eyes Here by jukel is its own kind of painting-based puzzle, taking an approach that is more focused on the elements of the artwork. Indeed, one wonders if the game was at least partly inspired by last year's The 24th Kandinsky, as it is also based on paintings by the famed Russian abstract artist, but this time ones from 1925. The game makes the elements of the paintings themselves into the levers of the puzzle, essentially becoming a spot-the-hidden-object game in which players locate the elements of the paintings that they can manipulate to complete each stage. It carefully mixes and matches elements of multiple Kandinsky paintings, forcing the player to carefully study their elements in a way most people haven't taken the time to do, and rewarding them with hand-crafted animations. It's a simple game that is as abstract and intriguing as the works it draws from.

Best Deep Cut — Remembering Grußau by Max Fefer (HydroForge Games)

Building on public domain works doesn't have to be all about chopping up and changing them, and games don't always have to achieve their goals in an oblique way. Sometimes, there are games like Remembering Grußau by Max Fefer/HydroForge Games that tell you exactly what they are: in this case, a guided reflection on the death of Jewish artist Felix Nussbaum and a work he painted in 1925, nearly twenty years before he was killed at Auschwitz. The game is calm, meditative, and deeply moving, remaining entirely focused on the painting and prompting the player to study it and consider its meaning with the knowledge of Nussbaum's life and death. It's the only Twine game among this year's winners, but it also goes beyond the browser-based interactive story, tasking players with writing a letter on paper and returning to the game after spending time to contemplate it. Our judges found it impactful and highly effective in its goals, and by drawing on one specific lesser-known work and truly exploring it to the fullest, it became the clear choice for Best Deep Cut.

Best Visuals — ~THE GREAT GATSBY~ by Floatingtable Games

In terms of its visual presentation, ~THE GREAT GATSBY~ by Floatingtable Games is one of the most polished submissions we've ever had in these jams. It's a simple, classic platformer — complete with double-jumps and deadly spike hazards, plus some story cutscenes — and while the gameplay won't blow any minds, the striking monochrome pixel graphics will catch plenty of eyes. The brief level loosely tells the story of the second chapter of The Great Gatsby, and from the warm brown color palette to the parallax cityscape backdrop to the expressive character portraits, everything on screen just looks great. Why turn The Great Gatsby into a retro-style platformer? Well, why not? If nothing else, it's a great way to win this year's prize for Best Visuals!

The winning designers will be contacted via their Itch pages to arrange their prizes, so if you see your game listed here, keep an eye on your incoming comments!

In the coming weeks, we'll be taking a closer look at each of these winners in a series of posts, but for now you can head on over to the game jam page to try out all these games as well as several other great entries that didn't quite make the cut. Congratulations to all our winners, and a huge thanks to everyone who submitted a game — and finally, another thanks to our amazing panel of judges:

We'll be back next year with another public domain game jam as works from 1926 run out of copy protection, so whether you participated in this year's jam or not, it's never too early to start planning for the next one! Plus, these games just scratch the surface of the many, many works that entered the public domain this year, and we hope this jam continues to demonstrate why exploring those works can be so valuable and so fun — so get out there and keep on mining that public domain!

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 9 February 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 269: The Oversight Board Starts Overseeing Facebook

from the it-begins dept

The first batch of decisions about Facebook's content moderation from the recently-established Oversight Board has garnered lots of reactions, including many kneejerk ones — but there's plenty to discuss, so for this week's episode Mike is joined by Harvard Law's Evelyn Douek to talk about the decisions themselves and what they signal about the board as a whole.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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