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Comment Remember the paperbacks? (Score 2) 135

Do you remember the paperbacks written for D&D?

They sucked, too.

The problem is the D&D universe is meant to be explored and played with. It places little emphasis on character development (as in personality), and even less on storylines. This has carried through to every attempt ever made to turn them into movies, whether for the big screen or for TV.

The biggest problem they face is that there are no "standard" characters that people are waiting to see, because there are so many characters from the various game packs, not one of which had a memorable personality to make them famous. So where something like "Lord of the Rings" had memorable characters like Gandalf that people were waiting to see brought to life, D&D has no such strengths.

I predict another 1-star flop.

Comment Re: check out recreational vehicle stores (Score 1) 330

The plugs and sockets can (and often are) rated at 30A continuous. This is plenty for what he is doing.

As to shock hazard: no, not really. Not enough surface area to be a danger at 12v, and even then it only affects the finger.

The inverter-fed 120v US plugs and sockets, however...

Comment Re:Mickey Mouse copyirght extenstions... (Score 1) 177

if they used the LEGO term, even to say they were compatible with LEGO, even with all explicit trademark acknowledgements, it would be at LEGO's discretion to either issue a C&D or not to bar them from continuing to refer to them, unless they company were somehow able to show that they were not a competitor for LEGO in any way

Sigh. I'm getting tired of having to do your homework for you:

It is the wholesale prohibition of nominative use ... that would be unfair. It would be unfair to merchants seeking to communicate the nature of the service or product offered at their sites. And it would be unfair to consumers, who would be deprived of an increasingly important means of receiving such information. As noted, this would have serious First Amendment implications. The only winners would be companies like Toyota, which would acquire greater control over the markets for goods and services related to their trademarked brands, to the detriment of competition and consumers. The nominative fair use doctrine is designed to prevent this type of abuse of the rights granted by the Lanham Act. ...

Trademarks are part of our common language, and we all have some right to use them to communicate in truthful, non-misleading ways.

That's from Toyota Motor Sales, Inc. v. Tabari, 610 F.3d 1171 (9th Cir. 2010). Hint: Toyota's LEXUS mark was at issue, and had been used by a competitor, and the court did not come down on the side of Toyota.

Nominative use is a doctrine in US trademark law by which parties other than a trademark holder can use a trademark without permission if:

1) The product is not readily identifiable without using the mark. (LEGO bricks are not readily identifiable without using the LEGO mark to refer to them; otherwise you'd have to say something stupid like 'plastic toy bricks made by a well-known Danish plastic toy brick company')

2) The defendant does not use more of the mark than necessary. (The word LEGO in an ordinary typeface would be fine; the red, yellow, black and white square-shaped LEGO mark, with its distinctive balloonish typeface, on the other hand, would be too much merely to indicate compatibility)

3) The defendant cannot falsely suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder. (This is typically done by not using the mark in a way that suggests a relationship, while also disclaiming any relationship. It doesn't require not using the mark at all, however; the public recognizes that not all uses of a mark indicate endorsement)

Note, there is no requirement that the defendant claiming nominative use not compete with Lego. That's perfectly fine. If I make toy bricks and I want to say that based on a survey, children prefer my bricks 10 to 1 over LEGO brand bricks, I'm totally free to do so. (Provided, of course, that I have got such a survey; I can't just make crap up)

The decision of whether advertising should directly refer to competitors (e.g. People who took the Pepsi challenge preferred Pepsi to Coke) or whether it should not (e.g. Our dishwashing liquid works better and faster than brand X) is entirely one of the advertiser's preference. There is no legal requirement compelling one over the other, provided that the ad is truthful and (to some extent) not misleading.

I am suggesting that Steamboat Willie describes the cartoon, and Mickey Mouse describes the character.

If the MICKEY MOUSE mark describes the character, and the copyright on the Mickey Mouse character lapses such that anyone can create works featuring the Mickey Mouse character (which is a copyright issue), the MICKEY MOUSE mark no longer is capable of indicating that all such marked goods originate from a common source, which is a fundamental requirement for a trademark. Thus, the MICKEY MOUSE trademark is lost with regard to such goods, e.g. DVDs, comic books, and the like.

So if one makes an unauthorized copy of Steamboat Willie, they are not actually using the trademark in Mickey Mouse without permission

Yes, they are. "Without permission" means the same thing as "unauthorized," genius. It's no different than if I make an unauthorized copy of a Louis Vuitton purse.

Copyright and Trademark protect different things

Yes, but different aspects of a single object can be protected by different sorts of rights.

Consider a humble glass bottle of refreshing Coca-Cola. The shape of the bottle is protected by a design patent. The COCA-COLA mark is protected as a trademark. The formula for the liquid inside is protected as a trade secret. If it's a decorative bottle with a picture of Santa or a bear, or Santa Bear, the artwork is likely copyrighted. If the artwork is of a particular real person, it may also be protected by that person's right of publicity. And if they make the bottle out of some new sort of safety glass, the formula for the glass itself may be an invention protected by a patent. All this wrapped up in a single item that you can get out of a vending machine with the change in your pocket.

The Mickey Mouse character is protected, in different capacities, even in the same work, by both copyright and trademark. This is not even slightly unusual.

As I said, even though their trademark continues to be respected, the copyright on their oldest cartoons have already expired in several first-world countries with IP laws quite similar to those in the USA, and that did not extend their copyright as the US did. I live in one such country. The character was never freely copyable here even though the cartoon itself was.

I have no idea what your country is or what its laws are like, and as I said before, I really don't care. I've been discussing US law this entire time, which is reasonable on a US-based website, like this one, and that's all I'm really interested in.

Comment Re:Microsoft (Score 4, Informative) 177

As someone who was stuck using a windows phone for two years. I disagree with your assessment of "It's not that Windows Phone was bad" It was crap!

The company I worked for decided to buy and use them because

A) It's windows so it should be easy
B) They got a great price on them.

First question from the user is "How do I set my background image?" Which you could not do.

Comment Re:Mickey Mouse copyirght extenstions... (Score 1) 177

when the Steamboat Willy copyright expires ...

Someone could make a derivative work of the Disney short and call the title character something other than Mickey Mouse, but if they tried to call him Mickey Mouse, Disney could take action against them for using their trademark without permission.

Wrong, because the instant the copyright expires, a large part of the trademark lapses. Disney no longer has any rights to base a cause of action on. The reason for this is that because copyright law no longer prevents anyone from making copies or derivatives and putting them into commerce, the MICKEY MOUSE mark changes from being descriptive (of the character named Mickey Mouse) with secondary meaning (which can only originate from Disney) to being merely descriptive, without secondary meaning.

It looks to me as though you're putting the cart before the horse, incorrectly believing that the trademark survives the entry of the work into the public domain. But it does not; only a few fragments of the trademark survive.

Ultimately, copyright and Trademark are two wholly different pieces of intellectual property that govern entirely different things, handled almost entirely orthogonally to eachother, and in practically all cases, one has absolutely no effect on the other.

Sure. But this is one of those exceptional cases.

The only way that trademark could possibly be affected by Steamboat Willie falling into public domain is if that would or might cause the public to not realize who Mickey Mouse belongs to, but since the copied work is still a *COPY* of the work, and so would still be clear who owns the intellectual property that is still very much alive.

Actually that is exactly what happens; when everyone and his dog can legally create new, derivative, Mickey Mouse cartoons, because the underlying copyright has expired, the public is assumed to no longer associate the MICKEY MOUSE mark, to the extent it pertains to goods including creative works, only with such goods made by Disney. This is SHREDDED WHEAT, which I'll get to in a moment.

Also, note that trademark doesn't care about whether a work is a reproduction of something or not. It cares about the origin of a specific, tangible copy, not of the underlying work. If you start Mark-T Press, and print up copies of Romeo and Juliet, I am not allowed to start Kangarooski Press and print up copies that bear your mark. OTOH, I am perfectly entitled to print up copies of Romeo and Juliet under my own mark. In fact, so long as you're just reprinting the play (and not making such substantial changes as to amount to a new work, which is a bit more difficult than you'd think), I'm even entitled to make copies of your version, so long as I take care to not use your mark and to only use my own, thanks to Dastar, which eliminated reverse passing-off for works (and hopefully is the beginning of a trend of eliminating reverse passing-off altogether).

Be aware that the copyright status on the short has already expired in several countries that do not practice the copyright durations the US currently has in place, and the cartoon can be freely distributed or copied in said jurisdictions, while the trademark status has remained entirely unaffected.

I'm only familiar with US law, and that's all I've been discussing the entire time. I have no knowledge or interest in how other countries handle this, except as how it might provide us with good ideas or cautionary examples in our own legal reform efforts.

I am not directly familiar with the Shredded Wheat case you mentioned

It is Kellogg Co. v. National Biscuit Co., 305 U.S. 111 (1938).

The relevant language:

The plaintiff [Nabisco] has no exclusive right to the use of the term 'Shredded Wheat' as a trade name. For that is the generic term of the article, which describes it with a fair degree of accuracy; and is the term by which the biscuit in pillow-shaped form is generally known by the public. Since the term is generic, the original maker of the product acquired no exclusive right to use it. As [defendant] Kellogg Company had the right to make the article, it had, also, the right to use the term by which the public knows it. ...

Moreover, the name 'Shredded Wheat', as well as the product, the process and the machinery employed in making it, has been dedicated to the public. ... Since during the life of the patents 'Shredded Wheat' was the general designation of the patented product, there passed to the public upon the expiration of the patent, not only the right to make the article as it was made during the patent period, but also the right to apply thereto the name by which it had become known. ...

It is contended that the plaintiff has the exclusive right to the name 'Shredded Wheat', because those words acquired the 'secondary meaning' of shredded wheat made at Niagara Falls by the plaintiff's predecessor. There is no basis here for applying the doctrine of secondary meaning. The evidence shows only that due to the long period in which the plaintiff or its predecessor was the only manufacturer of the product, many people have come to associate the product, and as a consequence the name by which the product is generally known, with the plaintiff's factory at Niagara Falls. But to establish a trade name in the term 'shredded wheat' the plaintiff must show more than a subordinate meaning which applies to it. It must show that the primary significance of the term in the minds of the consuming public is not the product but the producer. This it has not done. The showing which it has made does not entitle it to the exclusive use of the term shredded wheat but merely entitles it to require that the defendant use reasonable care to inform the public of the source of its product.

the terminology accurately described the product in the first place

Are you suggesting that MICKEY MOUSE does not 'accurately describe' a product including the Mickey Mouse character?

As a counter-example, while Lego's last standing patent on Lego bricks expired in 1989, nobody else that makes so-called compatible building blocks is allowed to call their product Lego, nor are they allowed to even explicitly say they are compatible with Lego (even if they are) without first getting permission from Lego to do so (and they would be extremely unlikely to receive such permission, since they would be a direct competitor), because Lego still holds trademark status on the term in the context of a toy (and also as a company name).

As the last part of the quote from SHREDDED WHEAT discusses, there is a difference between a mark that is associated with a product, and a mark that is associated with the source of a product. If you sell ELEVATOR-brand vertical conveyance devices, you're doing okay. But if the public associates the ELEVATOR mark with the actual device itself, then you lose your trademark because it has become a generic term for any such device. This is genericide. It's happened with ELEVATOR, TRAMPOLINE, ESCALATOR, THERMOS, and YO-YO. It came very close to happening with SANKA but then people started using decaf as a generic term instead. XEROX, BAND-AID, VELCRO, KLEENEX, Q-TIP, and in fact, LEGO have been teetering on the precipice for years. But this is why you see their advertising very clearly refer to things like VELCRO-brand hook and loop fasteners, KLEENEX-brand tissues, and in the case of legos, LEGO bricks. Xerox has been running public awareness ads for decades in order to keep their mark alive. My favorite had the tagline 'You can't xerox a xerox on the xerox,' pointing out that they would greatly prefer it if people did not use the XEROX mark as a generic term for photocopying, photocopies, and photocopiers, respectively.

If the applicable patents are expired, then anyone can make LEGO compatible bricks. And thanks to the nominative use doctrine of trademark law, anyone who does make LEGO compatible bricks is allowed to say that they are compatible with LEGO bricks, so long as they don't misrepresent their bricks as originating from the Lego company itself.

But Lego NEVER refers to their product as LEGOs. That would be to invite the loss of the LEGO mark. They refer to their product as bricks. Go ahead and tell me that MICKEY MOUSE doesn't mean the Mickey Mouse character, in the minds of the relevant portion of the public.

Of course, if Disney had trademarked the title "Steamboat Willie", they would lose certainly lose trademark protection on that title once the work with that fell into public domain.

You can't trademark the title of a creative work for the same reason; it's a descriptive term for the work itself, without secondary meaning. When you see a trademark in a title, it's because it's part of a series of similarly named works. Like for Harry Potter books, the HARRY POTTER mark can only arise because all the books are named Harry Potter and the something something. If the titles were all totally distinct (e.g. "The Sorcerer's Stone," "The Chamber of Secrets," etc.) without an overarching series name, the titles would not be trademarkable.

Comment Re: Mickey Mouse copyirght extenstions... (Score 1) 177

If you create something, you have the natural, "god-given" right to exclude others from doing anything with it.

Wrong. You only have a natural right to control whether or not you create it at all.

someone else's free speech rights don't extend to seeing or copying it at all.

A third party certainly doesn't have a right to compel you to reveal your work to them. But if you do deliberately or inadvertently reveal it, they do have a natural free speech right to copy it and to distribute those copies as they see fit.

Comment Re:Mickey Mouse copyirght extenstions... (Score 1) 177

Not quite. It has always been a balancing act

All you've identified there is a gap between what copyright policy requires and what we actually have implemented. I'd be the last person to say that our copyright laws, as enacted, have lived up to our proper policy goals. But that doesn't change what the correct policy is.

Copyright doesn't exist absent affirmative action by the government, and it is wholly utilitarian in nature. This means that there is no policy of balancing interests. Rather, it is a question of how it can best serve the public interest; if giving something to authors may accomplish that, then we should do it to an appropriate extent, and if not, we shouldn't do it.

It's little different than the farmer who wants to haul his carrot harvest to market in a wagon pulled by a mule. He might have to feed the mule some of the carrots to get it to pull the wagon, but there's no balancing act between the farmer and the mule. (Indeed, as soon as it's more cost-effective for the farmer to just get a gas-powered truck, the mule gets sent to the glue factory)

copyright has been deliberately adjusted to make sure that it's society that benefits from the release of works into the public domain and not a second degree economic interest.

That's not true. You're arguing in favor of monopolies controlling commodity goods, which is an odd stance to take. Society benefits tremendously from works being in the public domain, and available for the economic exploitation of any and every party that cares to give it a go. So long as anyone is free to make copies of Shakespeare, it doesn't hurt society if some publishers charge for copies of it. Given that competition is possible for copies of the same public domain work, all that will happen if one publisher tries to charge too much is that someone else will step in and sell it for less. This all works to bring the price of copies down, which in turn increases the public's access to the work, which is necessary for the work to be of use.

after the discussions about estates providing for heirs began to get serious in the 1830s and later, to make sure that families wouldn't be unduly burdened by the premature death of their income earner.

The widows and orphans argument has always been unmitigated bullshit. Works usually have zero copyright-related economic value; of the few that do have such value, they usually burn through the vast majority of it within a short time after the first publication in a given medium. Only the tiniest fraction of works have long-lasting copyright related economic value.

Suggesting that the survivors of a deceased author need longer terms in order to live off the value of a copyright requires that it be a copyright of this sort. Given the rarity of such works, it's as stupid a suggestion as saying that you might as well leave them a shoebox full of lottery tickets.

If you actually care about providing for your family, you need to take out a life insurance policy, and you need to save and invest your money wisely in a diverse portfolio. And just to be safe, you'd better vote for politicians who will enact government programs to provide actual, useful assistance to poor people.

The reality behind the widows and orphans argument is that a handful of authors and publishers who already won the lottery, as it were, by holding the copyrights on works with long-lasting copyright related economic value, wanted to preserve their gravy train. It's as if the winner of a $100 million dollar jackpot used some of that money to successfully lobby for a retroactive increase to a $200 million dollar jackpot.

Fundamentally, the idea of a copyright term that exceeds the commercial relevance of the work is to discourage people from being able to step in due to expiration and start profiting from the works of others, in furtherance of the incentive to produce new works of cultural enrichment, by making it harder for moochers to swoop in. We've gone too far because of a small number of intensely valuable outliers, but the answer is not extremism in the other direction, either.

I'm not arguing in favor of extremism in any direction. I don't think that copyrights should be short, I think that they should be no longer than absolutely necessary. An overly-long copyright is harmful to the public because it is waste. An overly-short copyright is harmful to the public because it doesn't incentivize authors as much as is appropriate. What we need are copyright terms (and scope) that hit the sweet spot where we get the most efficiency: the most works created and published yet for the least restrictions on the public.

But this also means that your disrespect for 'moochers' is totally inappropriate. Ideally we could grant copyright terms (we'll set aside scope for now) on a case-by-case basis. If the minimum copyright incentive that author Smith needs to write and publish his book is 3 years, then we grant him 3 years. If the minimum copyright incentive that filmmaker Jones needs to film and distribute his movie is 10 years, then we grant him 10 years. If the minimum copyright incentive that painter Brown needs to paint and sell copies of his painting is 0 years, we don't grant him a copyright at all. Does this allow for third parties to compete against Smith in 3 years, Jones in 10 years, and Brown from day one? Sure. But who cares? Granting one day's worth of a longer term to any of them is pointless, because they've already got the minimum amount they needed to do what we want them to do: create and publish works. It's as wasteful to grant them more as it would be to offer a construction project to the lowest bidder, yet to then double the payment to the winner just for the hell of it.

In practice, we can't fine tune copyright grants that well; we'd need to staff the Copyright Office with a legion of psychics. But we can still try to make it work efficiently. For example, requiring registration helps us weed out authors like Brown who have so little reason to care about copyright that they wouldn't bother to register. Offering short terms and renewals helps us weed out authors like Smith, who only care about copyright for a little while, and then stop because it's no longer valuable enough to them to merit filing the renewal. (We know that few works were ever renewed historically, so that's a real thing) And for authors like Jones, longer maximum term lengths -- up to a point -- could still be available. They just wouldn't be automatic, so that we don't inadvertently grant such long terms to Smith and Brown, who don't need them.

And as for authors like Black, who create a work but insist on a copyright that lasts forever, or at least for an immensely long time, even if that really is the necessary term in order to incentivize the creation and publication of the work, we can say fuck it; Black wants more than the work is worth to the public. It might be nice to have that work created and published, but a sane copyright system is more valuable than that particular work, so we'll just all have to live without, and Black can get a job doing something else.

At no point however, is the idea that we should discourage third parties from being able to compete freely ever considered, because it's dumb, basically. The copyright monopoly should not last any longer than it needs to to get works created and published. If this allows for third parties to step in while a work is commercially viable (and given that people still reprint works from antiquity, that can be a very long length of time indeed!) then so be it. There's nothing at all wrong with it. In fact, it's great, because it drives down prices and increases access to works.

Comment Re:Renewables at 4X current electricity rates (Score 1) 504

I think you aren't including sufficient battery backup. But they aren't much more expensive.

The real problem is the the stability of the US dollar is subsidized by petroleum only being sold in dollars. It's my belief that that's why there's such a US military presence in the middle east. (IIRC, the invasion of Iran coincidentally happened after the prior government agreed to sell oil in euros. Then there were these WMDs discovered (which turned out to be faked). Just coincidentally.

Comment Re:Fun question: (Score 1) 504

I don't have your faith in the "well running market", but I generally agree with your approach. The problem is that the "well running market" is a myth because of temporal lag in feed-forward loops. (They aren't relly feedback loops, because of time not standing still. But if you use a linearized simplification you can think of them as such.) You need governers in place to limit both positive and negative reinforcement of trends and to act as friction for rate of change.

Unfortunately, I know of no way to accomplish this. E.g., regulatory capture is an unsolved problem, because those in power don't *want* it solved. The simple way to solve it would be to cut the feed forward, i.e., forbid economic interactions between the regulators and those regulated not only during their term of office, but also afterwards, and, ideally, also before appointment. But that would require the development of expertise in an apprenticeship, which would promulgate whatever culture the regulatory agency adopted.

Comment Re:Consider the source - a pathological liar (Score 1) 504

Well, I'm not sure that you could consider the "plan" a lie. I do, however, doubt that we could trust her to do what she promissed. There are too many easy excuses for not doing it.

The odd thing is, while she was chiefly Pres. Clinton's wife I had quite a good impression of her. Since then.... not so much so.

Comment Re:Mickey Mouse copyirght extenstions... (Score 1) 177

I don't understand your comment. I'm saying that whatever Disney's trademark rights in the Mickey Mouse character are, once the first work in which the character appears enters the public domain, that opens the door for third parties -- that is, parties other than Disney -- to use the character, at least in some ways, and it limits the scope of Disney's trademark.

How the hell did you get from that to shilling in favor of Disney? I think perhaps you should read posts more carefully before replying.

Comment Oh sure (Score 5, Insightful) 210

Oh sure, let's trust the people who can't even protect their own networks to properly identify the perpetrators of a hack instead of some innocent bystander running a TOR exit node. I can't see any risks associated with that. No. Not at all... :(

Like punning, programming is a play on words.