Grey Tuesday Thoughts

If you haven’t heard, there’s a big copyright protest going on today regarding a certain remix album that juxtaposes the Beatles’ White Album with JayZ’s Black Album – thus making a Grey Album.
I’m pulled in both directions on this one. There’s no question that EMI, the owners of the copyright to the sound recording of the White Album, have the exclusive right to reproduce and make derivative works of that sound recording. Thus DJ Danger Mouse is in violation of those rights. I think the protestors concede this point, but they argue that the law should be changed or that EMI should just ignore the fact that their legal rights are being violated.
In my opinion, we do need legal tools that allow works to be used as building blocks for future works. On the other hand, creative works need to be protected to some degree to provide incentives to the creators. I think the law is too rigid in the sense that it protects works for such a long time period (the social costs of which outweigh the incentives to create). I don’t, however, think that people should be able to take large portions of another’s work when that person clearly intends to enforce their rights in, for example, a famous album that is less than 40 years old.
Copyright law must strike a balance between incentives to create and a rich public domain. Right now, I think the incentives are poorly planned, but I’m not in favor of ending protection entirely. Many protestors today seem upset with the fact that EMI is enforcing their legal rights. I can’t blame EMI for that.
Grey Tuesday / Downhill Battle
Illegal Art (has the album)
Wired Article (a clearly written introduction)

I Am Rule 11

According to this quiz, if I were a Fed. R. Civ. P. I would likely be Rule 11. This is just so nerdy it had to be posted. I’m quite happy being Rule 11 though, it’s much better than that synth I was last time I took one of these quizzes.

You were designed to make sure that attorneys in federal cases make reasonable inquiries into fact or law before submitting pleadings, motions, or other papers. You were a real hardass in 1983, when you snuffed out all legal creativity from federal proceedings and
embarassed well-meaning but overzealous attorneys. You loosened up a bit in 1993, when you began allowing plaintiffs to make allegations in their complaints that are likely to have evidenciary support after discovery, and when you allowed a 21 day period for the erring attorney to withdraw the errant motion. Sure, you keep everything running on the up and
up, but it’s clear that things would be a lot more fun without you around.

Maastricht Carnival

I went down to Maastricht this weekend for the Carnival festivities. Maastricht is situated in the very south of The Netherlands, right in between Belgium and Germany. It was therefore a very international affair with lots of um-pa music in languages that I couldn’t understand.
There were plenty of colorful costumes, and unlike any celebration in the US, beer was generally available in glasses outdoors. I’ve never been to a Mardi Gras or any other Carnival celebration, so I can’t make any comparisons. I can, however, offer a few pictures:
Sunday’s crowd on the main square:
Maastricht Carnaval Crowd
One of the large ship-shaped parade floats:
Maastricht Carnaval Float
Bar worker rounding up glasses from the street:
Maastricht Carnaval Beer

UVA ExamSoft Article

Virginia Law Weekly, the newspaper for UVA Law School has an article this week on ExamSoft, the popular anti-cheating software used for law school exams. The article (pdf page; pdf issue; archive) includes a mention of my experiences typing the old fashioned way and some other great lines like this one: “Boston [University] wasn’t the first to sign up. It followed the lead of Georgetown, NYU, Harvard, and over 100 other law schools, colleges, and bar jurisdictions that use ExamSoft.” Late adopter I guess.
This is actually the second time a print publication has taken from this site on the ExamSoft subject. Virginia Law Weekly did a much better job than this issue of the National Jurist (note: the part I’m taking about is only in the print version). The National Jurist attributed my opinion to “BU Law Students” and wound up implying that we were all mad about having to buy floppy drives.

Don’t Gimme No Smac

smacAs promised, here is some international SPAM. Please excuse the slightly unclear picture; it was taken under intense field conditions (I didn’t want to actually buy this stuff).
Hormel Foods, the makers of SPAM in the United States, note that they don’t mind people using the term “spam” to talk about unsolicited bulk email as long the word is written in lowercase. They reserve their trademark rights in the uppercase “SPAM”.
I assume that the Dutch version is actually not SPAM at all, but a similar processed meat product (note the rectangular can). The Dutch distributor Unox avoids confusion with either the US meat product SPAM or spam emails by going with a different name altogether: SMAC.
For some reason though there is no SMAC on the internet – so I’m bringing it to you live from Leiden. Unox does have a nice website with some other interesting canned meat products.
Interestingly, MS Word doesn’t attempt to correct my spelling of “SPAM”, but won’t allow “spam” without that all too familiar red squiggly line.

Frank Chu’s International Message

I was watching CNN’s coverage of the San Francisco gay marriage story this weekend when I noticed an old familiar sight: the black “12 Galaxies” protest sign that is all but physically connected to hand of a Mr. Frank Chu. Indeed, Frank Chu is now spreading his message on international television.
Coincidently, Nick Aster has discovered a 12 Galaxies night club, no doubt named for Mr. Chu.
Who is Frank Chu? He’s the guy in my “people” logo like the one you see right there on the right.

Spam Around the World

Rebecca Bolin is writing a series of posts about spam regulation in various countries over at Law Meme. It’s a mini-series of Spam Around the World.
I have something interesting about foreign spam to share too, but it’ll have to wait until a certain someone emails me a certain photo. Stay tuned.

No One Beats UC

On Monday the USPTO announced that the University of California received more patents last year than any other university. The University of California beat MIT (number 2) by a margin of almost 4 to 1!
Well I guess technically the University of California is just one university… As such, it’s unstoppable.

Natural Sounding Ringtones

No amount of signs or verbal warnings will prevent cell phones from occasionally ringing at inappropriate times. There is something inherently annoying about cell phones ringing in class or movie theaters. This probably results from the fact that the ringing sounds themselves are intended to disrupt – to alert the owner that “hey – someone’s calling.”
The vibrating alert was a great idea, but for some reason people still leave their ringers on (not to mention that phones like to perform a noisy dance when vibrating on a hard surface). I have a new proposal: the natural sound ringtone.
Lecture halls, movie theaters, presidential dinners… these are not devoid of sound. The trick is to find a natural sound and emulate it. The owner of the phone will grow accustomed to the unique ringtone of his or her phone, but others in the room will hear something familiar and natural: the shuffling of papers or the squeaking of a chair. Seasonal variations could be made available too: birds chirping in the spring, a person coughing in the winter.
The natural sound ringtone could even have military applications. It’s the camouflage of ringtones.
Okay so I guess this idea isn’t all that new (or practical really). Thomas Dolby endorsed bird chirping ringtones almost a year ago, and indeed it appears several people have already thought of… the farting phone.