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Comment Compare to the Higgs boson (Score 2) 226 226

Looking at this another way:

When LHC were looking for the Higgs boson - a particle entirely expected by modern physics - they required a five sigma signal before they were satisfied that they had really found something.

This is a result not only entirely unexpected, but contradictory to almost all known physics. A two sigma (NASA) and three sigma (Germany) signal is not remotely enough to be convincing. At best it is convincing enough for someone to spend the money to further and better test it.

Comment Re: Looking more and more likely all the time... (Score 3, Informative) 226 226

People are so sceptical of this one because if true the implications are universe-shaking. It would completely overturn not just modern physics but all of physics since Newton. The claim is that the device violates conservation of momentum. Then via Noether's theorem this implies that the laws of physics are not independent of location in space. (Alternatively, the device is creating a beam of hard to detect particles via some completely unknown but low energy mechanism.)

Also, the device was first designed using a provably incorrect analysis - an analysis using standard physics determined that the device would produce thrust without reaction mass, violating conservation of momentum. As all the standard physics used in the analysis conserves momentum, the analysis must be incorrect. If someone adds up many even numbers and comes up with an odd total, we know they have made a mistake, even without examining their calculations to find out where. This case is exactly analogous. So if this device really does violate momentum conservation, it is a complete and utter fluke, and not by design.

Comment A self limiting problem (Score 4, Interesting) 312 312

So visitors to his website:
* Must have been sequenced by 23andMe
* And be so interested in his website that they are willing to give him access to their genetic data
* And meet whatever genetic filter he has imposed.

At this point, what he is running is less of a 'website', more of a 'diary', as it will have only one reader.

Comment DEC for DTP (Score 1) 613 613

Well, I wasn't the one using it, but in late 1998, I was working at a printer -- a big industrial one, with huge lithographic presses. The prepress department there was transitioning to using Macintosh G3s for DTP work, and I was there to help with that. The reason for the transition was that their old DTP needs had been served by some sort of DEC minicomputer.

It was about the size of a fridge, with dual 8" floppy drives, so I'm hoping it was a MicroVAX, but I don't recall. Each workstation wired into it had a VTerm, as well as a Barco graphics monitor and a mouse. You'd type in commands to their DTP software on the VTerm, then view the work as a line drawing on the Barco (all it was capable of -- photos had to be pasted in by hand) and adjust it with the mouse.

They'd been using the thing since the early 80s, but apparently it was breaking down and they were having trouble pulling people out of retirement to fix it, and that, plus the new digital press they were building, forced the transition to Macs.

The company got bought some years later, but is still in operation, so I guess things more or less worked out.

Comment Two caveats (Score 1) 241 241

Water on the moon is a non-renewable resource. The rest of the world is likely to say "Hey, that belongs to all of us, not just to the nation who first has the technology to extract it."

The article says "Although NASA paid for the $100,000 report it is unlikely to immediately embrace its conclusions." $100,000 is perhaps half an engineer-year of analysis. It may be a good start, but I'd want to be a whole lot more thorough before deciding how to spend tens of billions of dollars.
 

Comment Re:This is outrageous (Score 1) 267 267

You are, I assume, aware that the days of the Alexandria library copying all works that entered the city were well over a thousand years before the printing press was even developed, let alone copyright created.

You were the one who claimed that most would-be pirates were discouraged from doing it prior to the invention of the printing press. Guess what? The high cost of making copies (and the relative lack of literate people to share them with, assuming that the author himself was even literate) discouraged authors from writing things down too.

Also, creators who did not want their works copied could prevent Alexandria from copying them by simply not going into the city

Wrong. You're conflating authors with their works. The only sure way an author could prevent Alexandrians from copying their works was to not create works in the first place.

If they created works, even if they were not written down, nothing stopped someone else from writing it down. (For example, Socrates never wrote anything; what we know of him comes primarily from the writings of his student, Plato; Another example is from the days of Elizabethan theater, when printers would have people dictate the scripts to plays, sometimes actors who had memorized the lines, sometimes just people with good memories who had been in the audience)

If works were created, written down, and shared with anyone, there was absolutely nothing that could keep the scrolls from getting copied or moved. Consider Virgil, who wrote fanfic (The Aneid) based on the epic poems of Homer (The Illiad and The Odyssey), but wanted all the copies burned; this was ignored, and the world is better off for it.

Fundamentally, it's the same issue with secrets, or any other information. The only way to control the spread of it is to either convince other people to respect your wishes (which they may or may not do according to their own self interest, and other factors), or to never tell anyone.

I don't think we can credit copyright with the increase in the number of works in existence in recent history, as compared with ages past. The real credit is probably owed to increases in literacy, improved artificial lighting, the development of printing (as well as improved paper and ink to support it), greater leisure time available due to a variety of technological and social advances, increases in the internal stability of much of the world (hard to sell books when bandits rob every wagon, or war ravages the country), etc. Copyright can be nice, but it gets way more credit than it deserves.

Copyright (by which I mean largely the form that it exists today and not as a collusion contract created by publishers) had an intended purpose that was to maximize the enrichment to society that can be obtained by the society having access to diverse kinds of creative works, and offering the creators of those works some means of controlling their works for at least a limited time at least gave many of them an incentive to not resort to self-censorship as their main form of such control.

Authors really just don't engage in self-censorship as a means of control. Copyright, from an author's point of view, is a way to recoup their investment. If they can't do that, they have to have other jobs that take time away from creating. Potentially, those jobs take away all their time from creating, so they don't create. It's rare as hell to find someone who is interested in creating works, has the financial means to do so without having to worry about the cost (and opportunity cost), yet refuses because they're a control freak. I'm confident that the sorts of authors you've identified are so rare as to not be worth concerning ourselves with.

As for the purpose of modern, authorial copyright (as opposed to the old stationers' copyright), you're almost entirely right: I'd only say that mere access is not enough. Rather, copyright is intended to provide an overall benefit to society by increasing the number of works which are created and published, while imposing the fewest and shortest restrictions on the public. It operates by providing some temporary benefits (whose actual value is determined by the market) to authors, but this is merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. If copyright were actually meant to benefit authors, it's clear that it has never done a good job of it at all. The stereotype of the starving author exists for a reason.

As a side point on the matter of controlling works for a limited duration, I am compelled to add that I do strongly believe that copyright durations are far too long today, and should be shortened drastically, by no less than a factor of 2, maybe even more, and with very minimal, if any opportunities for extension.

Personally, I would drop terms to a year, with numerous opportunities for renewal, but with overall maximum lengths that were still quite short (probably no more than 20 years or so, and less in the case of some types of works, such as computer software). The reason is that when we had renewal terms, many rights holders failed to renew, evidencing a lack of desire for longer copyright on their part, and getting works into the public domain faster through their inaction. Since everyone winds up as happy as they wanted to be in that scenario, I see no reason not to return to it.

Regarding maximum lengths, you may be interested to read the following paper on the subject: http://rufuspollock.org/papers...

Comment Re:This is outrageous (Score 1) 267 267

Copyright is just an extension of the exclusivity that creators had over a work that creators enjoyed in the days before the printing press. Copying was hard enough and error prone that natural checks and balances tended to discourage most (but admittedly not all) from engaging in unauthorized copying.

What the hell are you talking about?

Unauthorized copying was absolutely standard practice everywhere in the world until the 18th century, and most places until well into the 19th and 20th centuries. Hell, some places, like Alexandria during the days of the famous library, made it government policy; any books that entered the city had to be turned over for the library to make copies of, if the librarians wanted.

And it's a good thing too, since every written work we have from antiquity which wasn't carved into stone or clay survived only thanks to unauthorized copying -- often many generations of copying, by many different copyists. Even then, we've lost a tremendous amount of material.

As for the difficulty of copying books by hand, that was equally difficult for everyone, whether authorized or not, so it didn't deter piracy.

As copying became easier, the only thing that was left was to either shrug and disregard it (in which case many creators would resort to self-censorship as a means of holding onto their exclusivity), or to manufacture a legal structure by which people who disregarded that exclusivity for at least a certain period of time could face punitive action for such behavior.

Copyright originated because publishers printed books (often without authorization; the authors had no rights) but didn't like to compete amongst themselves. So the publishers set up a cartel whereby they would agree which of them had the right to print a particular book. The author had no real say. And the government cooperated so long as they could censor anything they didn't like. It wasn't until substantially later that this system fell apart -- because people didn't like the monopoly -- and a replacement based on authors getting the rights was suggested. (And then the publishers fought that when they were unable to fully control it in the way that they had before, and even now publishers are the real powers behind and beneficiaries of copyright; authors need publishers far more than publishers need authors)

Comment Re:This is outrageous (Score 1) 267 267

Yes. Ownership of anything -- a physical object, a certain exclusive right, a theoretical amount of money that lives as bits and bytes in a database somewhere -- is just a concept we have invented to help society function, like any other legal or financial instrument. We might all agree (or at least most of us would, I hope) that physical ownership is a useful concept and we should respect it and not commit theft, but ultimately that is just a social norm, enforced through other social norms such as laws and courts.

That's true. The problem you face, however, is that the social norm concerning creative works appears to be that it's perfectly okay for ordinary people to do things that constitute copyright infringement, at least if they aren't doing so for direct financial gain (i.e. if they aren't selling the copies). If the law were to reflect this social norm, copyright would not be as interesting an issue as it has become in the past 30-40 years. Instead we see copyright holders suing individuals, and trying to control the Internet so as to indirectly control individuals by limiting their options, so as to preserve the laws that enable a particular market, regardless of whether or not they conform to social norms.

But professional copyright infringement, where you're actively ripping off works for substantial profit, can be a criminal matter, punishable in criminal courts with fines and jail time. And that's what we're talking about here.

And it looks as though even for a sort of infringement that most people would agree should be illegal, the copyright maximalist faction is still going overboard. I certainly would agree that professional, profit-oriented copyright infringement ought to be prevented, but I would not go so far as to say that it would ever be appropriate to put someone in jail for as much as ten years over it; it's just not that important. Punishments should not be so draconian, especially given that it seems unlikely that it will accomplish a damn thing. A better solution would be to reform copyright so that there's less of a point in engaging in professional, profit-oriented infringement, rather than the current strategy which is to simply make it high risk, high reward. For example, just as repealing Prohibition undercut the mafia, and just as drug legalization and decriminalization undercuts criminals in the drug trade, legalizing some copyright infringement by people acting not for profit, and thus able to act openly, could undercut professional infringers.

Copyright is a reasonable economic instrument, in my opinion, at least until we find a better model for incentivising creative work that does at least as good a job.

Well, I'd point out two things here. First, there are pre-existing incentives that act independently of copyright; in many cases, copyright is not the primary incentive, and in many cases copyright is not even a necessary incentive.

Second, I agree that copyright is useful, but we ought to regulate how much copyright we have, and for how long it lasts, with an eye toward its utility. I'd bet good money that adding a ten year sentence for certain copyright infringements, and even enforcing it, will have zero meaningful effects on how well copyright serves society. Therefore, such punishments are inappropriate. Indeed, we ought to pare copyright down to the point where it has both the fewest restrictions on the public with the greatest incentivizing effects. Given the economics of the various copyright-related fields, I think you'll find that this would involve no criminal punishments, minimal civil penalties, minimal restrictions on individuals, and copyright terms of far shorter length than we see now.

Those professional infringers are sure making a lot of money doing something that supposedly doesn't cost the legitimate rightsholder anything.

I don't think that's true. Sure, I know about the lifestyle of someone like Kim Dotcom, but he's something of an outlier. Benny Glover made some money, but I don't think you'd say it was a lot.

Making counterfeit anything, and selling it to someone who knows it's counterfeit, only makes sense if you sell it for a very substantial discount below the legitimate price. The negative effect on the legitimate supplier, if there's any at all, is going to be far greater than the positive effect for the counterfeiter.

Comment Re:Victory for common sense! (Score 1) 91 91

If other judges follow this precedent, it will be the death knell of civil litigation involving the internet in any way. I don't like how trolls do business, but I don't think changing the rules like this is a good idea overall.

This isn't changing the rules. This is following the rules.

See my article in the ABA's Judges Journal about how judges had been bending the rules for the RIAA. "Large Recording Companies v. The Defenseless: Some Common Sense Solutions to the Challenges of the RIAA Litigation". The Judges' Journal, Judicial Division of American Bar Association. Summer 2008 edition, Part 1 of The Judges Journals' 2-part series, "Access to Justice".

Comment Hypocripsy != Comprimise (Score 1) 191 191

While I do think hypocrisy is (unfortunately) politically essential it is not what Barney Frank is defending.

A legislator is perfectly able to vote for bills they personally don't think are good for the sake of political capital without being hypocritical. Yes, voters are dumb (and rationally ignorant) but voters understand the need for political compromise and legislators can certainly explain that they voted as they did as a compromise to achieve some more important goal. Indeed, this is exactly what Frank is doing.

Comment Re:Victory for common sense! (Score 1) 91 91

Remember, Malibu Media can just change venues too and start this all over again... This judge didn't do anything worth while for you and me and opened himself up to an appeal where he obviously will be slapped. About the only thing he accomplished is getting Malibu Media out of his courtroom and off his docket, for now. Nothing else will change.

I beg to differ.

Malibu Media can't choose the venue, or the judge.

If Judge Hellerstein's decision is followed by other judges, it will be the death knell of the present wave of Malibu Media litigation.

Comment Re:Victory for common sense! (Score 1) 91 91

I fully appreciate your perspective and I agree that the waters are getting pretty muddy when you start trying to tie an IP address to a person, but the issue here is the issuing of the subpoena and not letting Malibu Media pursue discovery. They must be allowed to protect their rights in civil court, and that means they must be allowed to subpoena third parties for information so they can move from "John Doe" to an actual name and in this case, that takes a subpoena from the court.

While your argument for discovery has some logic to it, it is based on a false assumption of fact : that Malibu Media, once it obtains the name and address of the internet account subscriber, will serve a subpoena on that person in an attempt to find out the name of the person who should be named as a defendant.

Malibu Media's uniform practice, once it gets the name and address, is to immediately amend the complaint to name the subscriber as the infringer/defendant and then serve a summons and amended complaint, not a subpoena, on the subscriber.

This is in every single case .

When some people discover the truth, they just can't understand why everybody isn't eager to hear it.

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