Tag Archives: trademark

Sotomayor, Al Franken, the First Amendment, and information law

Some interesting commentary on Sotomayor and the First Amendment from Paul Levinson:
* http://paullevinson.blogspot.com/search/label/Sonia%20Sotomayor
* http://paullev.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=497539
* http://paullevinson.blogspot.com/search/label/Sonia%20Sotomayor

I haven’t had time yet to dig into Sotomayor on intellectual property, telecomm, and other information law issues, but this is discouraging.

Franken of course I have hopes for: After Fox News sued him for trademark infringement for putting its logo “Fair and Balanced” on the cover of his book (Lies and the Lying Liars Who tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right) Franken ought to have a good sense of why trademark fair use, at least, is important.

i heart new york

New York’s state tourism board is seeking to reclaim their “I heart NY” slogan. (link from michele) According to the article, the slogan was developed for them pro bono by graphic designer Milton Glaser in the early 1970s. It was used prolifically as a mark; then they let their registration lapse and stopped policing it; and then everybody and their sister started selling products with “I heart NY” on them. Over the last few years the tourism board (“Empire State Development”) realized the “error” (read: revenue stupidity) of their non-policing ways so they renewed their registration and began policing the mark.

How did they begin? By threatening to sue Mr. Glaser (the original graphic designer, remember, who donated the logo pro bono), who had, after 9/11, designed an “I heart NY More Than Ever” logo. He was naturally outraged.

random aside: My browser (Firefox 2.0/Mac 10.5) displayed the “heart” ♥ on the browser bar (generated by the title tag) but on the headline text itself and throughout the rest of the body of the article, I saw only a junk ascii character. Looking at the source, they used ♥ in both the title and throughout the body. No problem with display (either of the NYT article or this post) in Safari. Apparently, this is some kind of Firefox rendering problem. Hmm.

… Anyway, just a note on terminology. Here again we have people talking about “fakes”, which is the accepted jargon within trademark circles for unlicensed products. Note, however, that they’re not “fake” in any way that ordinary people would understand fake: It’s not like the t-shirt or mouse pad or bumper sticker is not really a t-shirt or mouse pad or bumper sticker. “Fake” means “unauthorized” — that the NY tourism board didn’t license the use of their registered mark to the t-shirt, mouse pad, or bumper sticker maker.

Well, “unlicensed” or “unauthorized” might arguably be serious when people are actually paying good money for the brand. Traditionally marks are meant to help consumers identify the source of a good or service, so that they can choose to pay top dollar for goods and services with good reputations for high quality. Quality might be quality of components — well-made, true cotton and not poly-blend, etc. Or it might be more money than the bare physical elements of the product are worth, for instance, as in paying top dollar for a Gucci purse. Here we’re getting into more ephemeral attributes and qualities: quality of design, maybe, and of course “authenticity”.

But how does that apply to “I heart NY”? Slogans can be marks; you can associate a slogan with a particular good or service. “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”

Continue reading

the unimaginative world of whorecraft(TM)

A few days ago, the Village Voice wrote an article about a series of World of Warcraft-inspired porn; their article was duly picked up by BoingBoing.

Strangely, BoingBoing missed the IP angle — that “Whorelore”‘s original name was “Whorecraft” but they ran into an “IP” issue, presumably trademark. You can still see “Whorecraft” on some of the pictures at the Village Voice article. (see caption and photo)

In theory, the article makes it sound promising: Attempts to act, an ongoing storyline, warrior women, etc. But sadly, the photo gallery demonstrates that the porn is about as “inspired” and “imaginative” as Star Trek’s aliens: Heterotastic, male-centered, dominant-paradigm-of-female-beauty, and very white. Ho hum.

breadcrumb trail: Village Voice 3/2BoingBoing 3/3 [cross-posted at feminist SF the blog]

mostly information law news round-up

* Judge White withdrew his order requiring the shutdown of wikileaks.org. See also 3/1 bits blog. (NYT 3/1)

* The music industry has yet to pay artists any of the money it has received in settlements and lawsuits; the artists are pissed. NY Post 2/27)

* The owners of the game scrabble are pissed off at Scrabulous. (NYT 3/2)

* Daniel Solove’s new book, The Future of Reputation, is available online with a creative commons license, thanks to Yale University Press. Annoyingly it’s chapter-by-chapter. badgerbag read it and promises a scathing review, so I’m looking forward to seeing what she has to say.

* Clay Shirky’s new book, Here Comes Everybody, has a hold list at least 3-deep at the Boston Public Library. )-8

* Paul Cash, the principal of Burleson High School in Burleson, Texas, is censoring the school yearbook’s article about students who are also parents, in part because it conflicts with the school’s “abstinence-only” education program. A program that was, umm, manifestly not successful. As illustrated by the kind of head-in-the-sand attitude that seems to think that if only the principal can censor the yearbook, he can change reality, or lie to the community about it. “I believe that as principal of the school it is my obligation to make sure that whatever our students put into press accurately reflects the ideals and values of the community.” Apparently the students think that the press should reflect reality. I guess the teachers have been doing their jobs. Student Press Law Center has the scoop (2/13). (link from pharyngula, 3/2)

* Schwarzenegger’s administration is defending California’s gay marriage ban before the California Supreme Court; a ruling is due by June. There’s a certain gross irony in this: A couple of years ago, Schwarzenegger vetoed a gay marriage act passed by California’s legislature, saying that this was something that should be left to the courts. That was itself yet another proof that the so-called federalist style of conservatism is really just window-dressing outcome-based politicking as principled ideological opposition to particular forms of government. (SJ Mercury, 3/2)

* Some people in Namibia are worried that schools and libraries are getting away with too much using information, so they’re starting a new copyright enforcement body just to go after the lucrative school and library market. Watch out for the Namibian Reproduction Rights Organization (NamRRO), which isn’t enforcing any rights to reproduce that I’d like to see enforced: The rights to reproduce for fair use, the rights to reproduce or not to reproduce biologically …. The organization is being started by “Moses Moses”, whose name seems a little reproductive itself. Good idea, Moses; way to start killing creativity at the most upstream possible place. (All Africa, 2/29)

* In Illinois, reproductive rights are being upheld: A very silly law that attempts to mandate good parent-child relationships and communications, specifically requiring that pregnant minors must tell their parents if they are having an abortion, continues to be enjoined. A “pro-life” group described the decision as, “a major defeat for the people of Illinois,” apparently forgetting that teenagers are people too. (AP 3/1)

* Heather Morrison at her awesome blog “Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics” has pointed out that plagiarists should avoid open access like the, ah, plague, since it’s so much harder to catch them without open access. Peter Suber at Open Access News gathered several of her related posts in one excellent introduction to Morrison’s concept, “aiming for obscurity”. Read it or wish you had.

* Rebecca MacKinnon reviews the latest round of lawsuits against Yahoo! by Chinese dissidents who, among other things, got screwed over by Yahoo!’s release of their information. (RConversation, 3/3)

agh – LA Times on “piracy”


This LA Times article
reports on consumer attitudes in LA about “piracy” of goods. Of course, the author (Richard Verrier) seems mortally confused about the differences between trademark and copyright.

Although previous studies have documented piracy’s toll on the Los Angeles economy, the U.S. Chamber report is the first to focus on the attitudes and behavior of consumers here who knowingly buy fake goods, including bootleg movies, illegally copied CDs, knockoff handbags and counterfeit auto parts.

“The study confirmed what we already knew: That the buying of these products is widespread and is viewed as a victimless crime,” said Caroline Joiner, executive director of the chamber’s global anti-counterfeiting and piracy initiative.

Of course, since trademark laws are designed to protect the consumer against confusion, if the consumer isn’t confused then there is neither crime nor victim. That doesn’t stop the government from trying to stop imports from China of counterfeit goods, but is this really the best way to spend our money? Wouldn’t we all really rather our good-inspection dollars be spent on looking for lead in children’s toys and poisons in our cat food? (Or, hell, how about bombs and suitcase nukes?)

The bottom line is that companies treat their trademarks like property, and work very hard to get governments to do the same. Traditionally trademark enforcement has been handled by the trademark owners, as it should be. Trademark owners have cost/benefit analyses to apply to enforcement. So they take on only the serious threats, and make reasonable decisions about what to pursue and not to pursue.

Shifting those costs to the public — which is what trademark (and copyright) owners want to do — means that companies owners can be as persnickety as they want about their rights, regardless of the human cost. Hence the cost to taxpayers of, what, probably thousands of dollars in pressing criminal charges against a 19 year old girl for recording 20 seconds of a film in a movie theater. (She ended up pleading guilty, by the way, paying a $71 fine and having a criminal record for at least a year.) She was prosecuted under a new Virginia bootleg law, intended to beef up federal copyrights with state criminal law.

But the public benefit to putting public funds toward policing private trademarks is negligible, even less than the putative benefit of policing private copyrights. Again, trademarks are designed to protect the consumer against being defrauded. If consumers are happily and knowingly buying knock-offs and counterfeits, then no consumers are being defrauded. There is no public good to justify use of public funds and the full weight of the state’s mechanisms of criminal law against vendors or buyers. While to my knowledge no state has tried to criminalize the purchase of counterfeit trademark goods, I will be wholly unsurprised to see such legislation sometime in the next ten years. Combining the government’s ramping up of trademark & copyright enforcement with the trend in legislation to get at tertiary support of illegal activities is not much of a reach.

Consider this ominous quote, for instance:

Nonetheless, Joiner drew encouragement from another finding: Seventy-two percent of the respondents believed counterfeiting and piracy laws should be stricter, and 90% said they wouldn’t have acquired the fake products if they knew doing so supported organized crime.

So, can we now look to Hollywood to tell us that the mob is behind filesharing? They’ve already linked P2P to child porn and terrorism so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

Suggesting that Americans “get” IP law but just aren’t that interested in following it, Justin Hughes at Cardozo opined that “Most Americans do understand copyright and trademark laws ….” Not if crappy news reporting is where they get their information, they don’t. And while the IP policy cognoscenti may argue back & forth about the benefits and costs of IP, the lobbyists for Hollywood are happy for Americans to not get the full picture. The US Chamber of Commerce (which commissioned this survey from Gallup) might like to consider asking Americans, not just whether or not they think stronger C/TM laws are in order, but to do some ranking of customs & law enforcement priorities: bootleg purses? or lead-paint on toys. crappy recordings of crappy movies? or mad cow disease-infected beef.

Johnson & Johnson sues the Red Cross

give it up already. we all know that the red cross means the Red Cross.

It’ll be interesting to see a major company actually litigate such a completely jury-unfriendly case. It will also be interesting to see if how licenses for intellectual “property” survive when the property — in this case, consumer identification of a mark — no longer exists. Or, at least, when consumer identification of the mark is much stronger with the “licensee” than the “licensor”.

shaolin trademarks and copyright as generic for IP

In an SFgate story about conflicts between folks trying to take Shaolin practice in different directions, I spotted this:

In recent years, the main temple’s abbot, Shi YongXin, has tried to copyright the Shaolin name. He’s also been criticized for commercializing the faith. YongXin gave his approval to Ho’s venture in San Francisco.

Really? I thought. Tried to copyright the name? Surely they mean trademark …. A little googling found this China Daily article from a couple of years ago (2004/9/28). I quote in its entirety because virtually every single paragraph illustrates the wacky confusion:

Shaolin monks in hand-to-hand copyright battle
Updated: 2004-09-28 09:53

The monks of China’s Shaolin temple are not just good at kung fu but also increasingly agile at using copyright rules to protect their name from rip-offs, state media reported.

The 1,500 year-old temple, known as the cradle of China’s martial arts, recently set up the Henan Shaolin Temple Industrial Development Co., whose main purpose is to protect the temple’s intellectual property rights, Xinhua news agency said.

“Everyone just wants to make some profits from the name, totally regardless of the integral image of Shaolin Temple,” Shaolin abbot Shi Yongxin told the agency.

More than 1,000 brands containing “Shaolin” have been registered without the approval of the temple in the United States, Japan and Europe, Shi said.

Since its start, the new company has been engaged in feverish activity, registering nearly 100 Shaolin-related brands in China and has applied to register “Shaolin” brands in over 100 countries, Xinhua said.

A survey by the China Trademark and Patent Law Office found that many countries were competing to register their own trademarks of Shaolin or Shaolin temple, state media reported previously.

On the west coast of the United States alone, there are three Shaolin temples. In Europe, Shaolin temples can be found in Vienna and Budapest.

with a photo captioned:

A young monk of China’s Shaolin temple demonstrating his skills. The monks have increasingly been using copyright rules to protect their name from rip-offs. [AFP]

Further reading–it looks like this story has flurried every couple of years, 2002, 2004, 2006:
* The People’s Daily from 2002/9/25 had more information about the beginning of the trademark wars.
* The USA Today picked up the story around the same time.
* The BBC News on 2004/6/29
* 2004/6/2 a story at p2pnet.net
* Another 2006 piece from China Shaolin Temple itself gives their perspective.
* China Daily, 2006/10/19 had this insightful history:

Back in 1993, Shi Yongxin took a ham manufacturer to court for promoting the ham under the brand “Shaolin,” which he claimed constituted a trademark infringement. It was the first case on brand rights in China’s religious circles.

Recalling the lawsuit, Shi said, “a long time ago, communication and transportation were not as convenient as today, and products were circulated in a limited area, so trademark registration was not required. With globalization comes infringement. To protect the trademark, we have to register the brand ‘Shaolin.’ The registration is totally protective. ”

However, the Shaolin Temple brand is being taken advantage of by other businessmen. About 200 meters north of the temple, the local tourist bureau has built the Shaolin Temple Martial Arts School, and right across from that is a Zen institute that is backed by a salt company.

Many suspect such commercial aspirations will disturb the tranquility of the temple. Shi, however, believed such establishment is a result of the interplay between business and brand, likening Shaolin Temple to the American Disneyland, which is a brand as well as a business.

* Kung Fu Magazine had an interview with Shi Yongxin, Abbot of Shaolin temple:

GC: How is trademarking the name of Shaolin going?
Abbot: Recently, some businessmen and companies had been engaging in using the Shaolin name to further their product. This influenced the image of Shaolin culture in a negative way. Now Shaolin Temple is attending to this matter. Abuse of the Shaolin trademark will diminish the influence of Shaolin Temple and create misunderstandings of Shaolin in the public eye. Shaolin represents the best of traditional Chinese art in kung fu and Chan Buddhism. As we know, some products and services provided by these companies were outlawed by the rules of Buddhism. So we have begun to administrate the trademark of Shaolin, not for the sake of profit, just for the sake of preserving our culture and religion.

… This was an interesting search in its own right, but a couple of observations:
* You know, it’s not so easy to google for something + copyright, because every frickin’ thing on the Internet says “blah blah blah COPYRIGHT date by yadda yadda yadda”.
* This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed “copyright” being used synonymously for “intellectual property”. It’s as if the copyright trademark is itself being diluted.

* Every article has its own copyright date and they’re apparently being put in almost at random as part of website templates in some cases, the article in other cases, etc. For instance the 2002 USA Today article, which I found on 2007/4/29, had a “Copyright 2005 the Associated Press”. The Kung Fu Magazine article didn’t have a date on the article or on its copyright statement, but had an automatically generated “today’s date” in the header — so one might mistakenly read the article and think it was today. This is a problem for citations, of course, but it’s also a problem for orphan works issues in the far future. So if the dates on the works themselves are practically meaningless, then how is the future historian going to be able to tell when the 95-year corporate copyright term has expired? If we’re all relying on the overworked Internet Archive as our de facto copyright database then someone needs to give them like a bajillion dollars in a hurry so they can capture the whole Internet and do it every day.

McDonald’s “coke spoon” C&D

One might think it would sometimes be in the best interests of a corporation to take the high road, but McDonald’s has chosen to go for the glory. McD’s slapped a cease and desist letter on an art gallery selling “Cokespoon #2″ — a gold-plated versions of a 1980s vintage McD’s coffee stirrer that was frequently used for white powder outside the context of coffee.

The C&D and response are posted by citizen-citizen.com in a really obnoxious flash format.

You can see the original and Cokespoon #2 on papermag 2/19.

artists and IP

The NYT has two interesting stories right now featuring, shall we say, different approaches to artists and IP.

The first in a genre near and dear to my heart is a profile of Dark Horse Comics, which “built [their] publishing platform around creators’ rights … [Their] pitch was, ‘We’ll match the rights that you get from other companies and we’ll let you own the work.’”

The second is an article about Daniel Moore, a photo-realist artist (he calls it “photofuturism”) of Alabama sports moments. The University (as we in Alabama called it) is suing Moore for trademark infringement of its crimson-and-white color scheme. Yea, Alabama, Crimson Tide, yadda yadda yadda fight song lyrics sung ironically. (I went looking for the actual fight song lyrics, which did not comport with my memory, and found myself in a hell of blinking and color-challenged websites dedicated to Crimson Tide football obsession. Dave’s College Football Fight Songs is restfully simple, for those of you who want to know the actual lyrics, and not the one line that is engraved falsely in my memory.)

X-posted at sivacracy

Nintendo Threatens Cancer Researchers

aka “Pokémon Producers Pissed”

Pier Paolo Pandolfi of Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has apparently received a trademark cease & desist from the Pokémon company (Nintendo) after cancer-related research on the Pokemon gene — which Pandolfi’s lab named four years ago, in 2001 — received headlines like “Pokemon Causes Cancer”. Sloan-Kettering has knuckled under, now calling the gene Zbtb7. See Nature, v. 438 no. 7070 (15 Dec. 2005) [html and pdf] (subscription access may be required).

Thumbnail of Nature article on Pokemon, with photo absent due to intellectual property concerns

Nature editors with a sense of humor?
Maybe. And some likely confusion
between trademark & copyright.

I would love to see that cease and desist letter. I’m sure they claimed both trademark infringement and dilution, and the kitchen sink, but come on. Trademark infringement is really a wash: consumer confusion between a Japanese video game and a cancer-causing gene? I’d like to see them try to prove that one in court.

Trademark dilution initially sounds like a stronger claim. Let’s just grant that “Pokémon” is “famous”. Dilution requires first of all the defendant’s “commercial use in commerce”. 115 U.S.C. 1125(c). I’d like to see the plaintiffs try to prove this one, too: that Professor Pandolfi’s pioneering medical research at a nonprofit cancer center is a “commercial use in commerce”.

After they passed that hurdle, the Pokémon plaintiffs would then have to prove actual blurring or tarnishment. Id.; Moseley v. V Secret Catalogue, Inc., 537 U.S. 418 (2003). “Blurring” involves the “whittling away” of distinctiveness caused by use of the mark on even dissimilar products. It seems unlikely but not completely impossible that the use of the word “Pokemon” to name a gene discussed largely by scientists and occasionally in the scientific press could “whittle away” at the distinctiveness of a video game chiefly adored by 10-year-olds. That would have to be actual blurring, though, so bring on the surveys of 10-year-olds. Prepubescents, that is, preferably evaluated both pre- and post-exposure to that pernicious purveyor of Pokemon pandemonium, Professor Pandolfi.

So what about tarnishment? I presume that Nintendo was most concerned about tarnishment, since the C&D notices apparently went out only after bloggers & news reporters styled their stories “Pokemon causes cancer”. “Tarnishment” is a more interesting claim than blurring, at least to me — perhaps just because I have fantasies of seeing a brilliant oral argument explaining the science: Plaintiffs: The defendants’ association of our perfectly upstanding product with a cancer-causing gene is unsavory! Defendants: Your Honor, plaintiffs clearly lack any understanding of science. Genes may have multiple functions. “Good” or “bad” is a matter of context. That which causes cancer in one instance is also necessary for cellular function …. Etc. Eric Rothschild could do it, since by all accounts he did a bang-up job in Kitzmiller. (1)

And once again, it has to be actual tarnishment, not potential: Perhaps Nintendo could show its profits were imperilled by potential customers’ unsavory associations of computer games and cancer, but Nintendo merely being petrified of unsavory connotations of one application of a gene shouldn’t suffice.

So the claims look pretty paltry to me. And Nintendo took its time in raising them, too. Pokemon (the gene) has been in the literature since at least 2002, and Nature reported that it had been used in this way as early as 2001. (2) This doesn’t seem like punctual policing to me.

You’d think Nintendo would have been more upset by, say, studies which actually used the animated TV show “Pokémon” to study inducement of epileptic seizures — a phenomenon that was actually named “Pokemon phenomenon”. See, e.g., Fisher et al 2005; Furusho et al 2002. Or one might have expected that Nintendo would have seen that discretion was the better part of valor in this instance, and decided not to risk recalling media attention to the Pokemon-medical connection. And why didn’t their PR people chime in on this one? Suppose Nintendo actually made good on its threats; can’t you see the headlines? Video game company sues cancer research institute? Not the best PR in the world.

For more info, see Pokémon the game [wikipedia and official site, or, hey, contact them to ask your questions directly]. Read about the pokemon gene at wikipedia or search pubmed for pokemon.

And btw — please pardon the persistent placement of “p” in this post. I couldn’t help myself.

update 12/20: I see that c|net and boingboing are now on the story.


(1) For some reason the website of Eric Rothschild’s firm is down as I write/update this post. I can’t help but suspect foul play on the part of angered creationists.

(2) I tried to get a history of the name from Flynome, which has the history and source of various amusing fly gene names. (I’ve blogged it before.) But alas Flynome does not include Pokemon. It doesn’t have Sonic Hedgehog, either, another videogame/gene name, this one owned by Sony who has chosen wisely to remain silent on this potential ‘dilution’. Flynome does include ken and barbie whose litigious TM-owner Mattel has, like Sony, somehow managed to refrain from temptation in this instance.

chilling effects from the DMCA

We’re finally finished with the summary report for our DMCA 512 study, which is officially released today. The final report will follow shortly. [pdf & html]

Marjorie Heins @ The Free Expression Project is doing a complementary study; she released her preliminary report in early October and the full report will hopefully be out soon. Her report looks at trademark as well as copyright.

morning tea round-up

  • Yahoo!’s historically less-than-stellar track record of protecting user privacy is made much, much worse by this news: Yahoo! turned over a user’s identity information to the Chinese government, and now journalist Shi Tao has been sentenced to ten years for “e-mailing a government’s plan to restrict media coverage around the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre”. [SJ Merc 10/2 editorial; see also Xeni Jardin in the LAT 10/9; and Open Letter to Jerry Yang, Yahoo!, from Liu Xiaobo, 2005 Oct. 7. ] The Merc thinks it’s “hard to blame Yahoo!” for this but wants them to more aggressively lobby on behalf of human rights. Me, I don’t find it hard to “blame” Yahoo! for what they did. The individuals at Yahoo! who made the decision to hand over accurate information made a choice: company profits and business model over the freedom of a journalist. I guess they were just doing what they were told. [link from ping]

  • The Bush Admin. has never really had a sense of humor about parodies. The latest brouhaha is about The Onion’s use of the presidential seal. [cnn 10/26] White House spokesperson Trent Duffy:

    “When any official sign or seal is being used inappropriately the party is notified. … You cannot pick and choose where to enforce that rule. It’s important that the seal or any White House insignia not be used inappropriately.”

    The Onion editor-in-chief, Scott Dikkers:

    “I’ve been seeing the presidential seal used in comedy programs most of my life and to my knowledge none of them have been asked not to use it by the White House. … I would advise them to look for that other guy Osama … rather than comedians. I don’t think we pose much of a threat.”

  • George Takei - Live Queer and Prosper

    George Takei (“Mr.
    Sulu”) vamps it up.

    Mr. Sulu George Takei is gay! His new role in “Equus” apparently “inspire[d] him” to come out. I have to say, I am deeply gratified to finally have some queer representation on Star Trek. Although looking at this picture, it seems like the official coming out was, well, redundant. [Jason Schultz has a nice photo for Sulu fans, and SFGate 11/10 has a lot more details.]

    Between Mr. Sulu Takei and WNBA triple-MVP winner Sheryl Swoopes, National Coming Out Day came out a little late, but strong. [Women’s Hoops blog links to lots of Swoopes coverage.]

  • Research about five years ago showed that even as women athletes were setting records and breaking into new fields, sports photographers were increasingly minimizing and downplaying women’s athleticism. (Also at Women’s eNews. See also Womens Sports Foundation. That was in 2000, and a flurry of scholarship around that time evaluated that phenomena. A year or so later, the Smithsonian launched a traveling tour of sports photography of female athletes, Game Face (which I caught in DC at the time). Women’s ascendance in sports in the last five years has continued apace, and I wonder if there have been follow-up studies….

  • Chinese women bloggers are doing the sex blog thing. (This is at least the second or third such similar article on Asian women bloggers and sexuality that I’ve seen in the last year or so. News coverage about the Chinese government frowning or cracking down on this or that is fairly routine, I know. But I can’t help but wonder how much of the coverage is due to the starting! shocking! news that Asian women bloggers are blogging about sex, and how much of it is because white Western journalists are surprised to see such goings-on. Hey, I’m told that even in Boston, beans do it.)

  • Speaking of blogging, the NYT is trying to get “hip” to this newfangled “blogging” thing, and you can really see the results. In one article recently, the Times “jazzed up” their content with “hyperlinks”: the article included one link on the name of a state to NYT coverage about that state. And yesterday & today the coverage of the Scooter Libby resignation made me snigger with this bullet point: “Reactions: Bush. Cheney. Bloggers.” But I shouldn’t make fun, because the NYT also gave me a happy moment with its briefly-posted blurb for the Scooter Libby thing, which went something like this: “Scooter Libby indicted; steps down; Bush-Cheney no comment; Karl Rove not indicted.” The mere fact that Karl Rove’s non-indictment is news sends a warm glow all the way down to my toes, and I thank the NYT for that little moment of joy.

  • National science standards groups are registering their disapproval of Kansas’ new “science plus! religion” standards. Unfortunately, they’re using copyright to do so. [nyt 10/28]

  • The Washington Post trashes the E-Rate, the telecomm. tax-funded grant to schools & libraries for Internet access. [WPost 10/27]

Sparky Valentine & IP

John Varley has made more than a few comments about IP and information politics in his various stories. The Golden Globe (recommended) was centrally concerned with an actor named Sparky Valentine, and Sparky had a few observations about IP:

In the early days, when they were considering various ideas for a corporate logo, Valentine had suggested using a character from the old Popeye cartoons. Since they were all in the public domain, Sparky had settled on Wimpy taking a bite out of a hamburger.

followed by:

There was another department whose mission in life was to steal. Steal from dead people, it’s true, but steal nonetheless. Sparky had long ago given up coming up with plots and, except for the occasional inspiration, characters. Anything in the public domain was fair game. Old comic books were a fertile source. Almost anyone who had had his or her own comic book in the twentieth or twenty-first century had made a guest appearance on Sparky by now. Sparky had visited locations from Gotham City to Surf City. Old movie and television serials had been plundered for plotlines and cliffhangers. Sparky had entered alternative universes, places where classic private eyes, singing cowboys, half-breed aliens with pointy ears, and giant radioactive ants actually existed.

And also about librarians:

Hal had a UniKnowledge module, which was the nearest thing we’d ever get to summing up all human information collected since the days of the Cro-Magnon. It held all the libraries of Old Earth. All the movies, television shows, photo files. Billions of billions of bits of data so obscure a researcher might visit some of it once in two or three hundred years, and then only long enough to find it no longer had any reasonable excuse for being. But it wasn’t thrown out. Capacity was virtually infinite, so nothing was ever tossed. Who knew? In ten centuries the twenty years of telemetry from Viking I might be of use to somebody. A vanity-press book, published in 1901, all about corn silage in Minnesota, of which no hard copy existed, might be just the reading you were looking for some dark and stormy night. The UniKnowledge held thousands of books printed in Manx, a language no one had spoken in a hundred years. It held Swahili comic books teaching methods of contraception. It contained cutting-room debris saved from a million motion pictures, discarded first drafts of films never made. A copy of every phone book extant at the time we began to record data by laser, and every one printed since. Fully half of the information in the UK had never been cataloged, and much never referenced in the centuries since its inception, and most of it was likely never to be cataloged. That would be taking the pack-rat impulse too far. Librarians had other things to do, such as develop more powerful search engines to sort through the inchoate mass of data when somebody wanted to find out something truly obscure.