November 08, 2004
HD-3000 out and NOT sold out

Slashdot reports that the pcHDTV HD-3000 is shipping, and it's already sold out. The HD-3000 is a tuner card for over-the-air broadcast HDTV with Linux-only drivers. It's the successor to the card at the heart of my Myth HD PVR, a full-featured personal video recorder unencumbered by the broadcast flag. The catch is that these cards must be made before July 1, 2005, when the broadcast flag outlaws their manufacture. Let's hope pcHDTV steps up production. See EFF's intro for more information on why, and for more information on the options.

Update: The cards are not sold out. The website's been updated and more cards will be shipping shortly.

Posted by Wendy at 02:14 PM
Mitchell v. Lawyer Surprised by Effect of C&D

The NYT reports on the current state of the dispute between Project Gutenberg .au and the estate of Margaret Mitchell over posting of Gone With the Wind. Post CTEA, that work is still under copyright in the U.S. but public domain in Australia.

The NYT gets comment from a lawyer for the Mitchell estate -- who's surprised that his cease-and-desist demands had the effect of taking the work offline in Australia. It's not clear what else he expected:

On behalf of the Trusts, we hereby demand that Project Gutenberg and/or PGA confirm to us within five (5) days of receipt of this letter that you have removed GWTW from the Web Site entirely or that you have taken all necessary steps to prevent the downloading of GWTW in all places in which it is protected by copyright.

Given that geolocation doesn't work and legal advice isn't instantaneous or free, for the most part, what did he expect? If it was just to give a scare, that's the kind of chill we don't need more of.

Posted by Wendy at 09:40 AM
Trademark Law Gone Bad

Sometimes it takes a non-lawyer to show us just how far overboard the law has gone. In this case, it's trademark law and Cory's wonderful description of how TM lost its way.

Spurred by James Surowiecki's Wired piece on the decline of brand power, Cory looks back at how far we've come from the days when "consumer confusion" was the law's paramount concern.

Says Cory: This is a timely piece because the rhetoric of branding has been used to make unprecedented incursions against privacy, competition and speech.

It used to be that trademarks were intended to protect "consumers" (that's us) from being tricked into buying goods under false pretenses. If it said "Coca-Cola" on the can, there had better be Coke inside, and not Pepsi or Crazy-Bob's-Discount-House-of-Soda brand. When a competitor of Coke's shipped a bottle of stuff that was misleadingly packaged or labelled, Coke's authority to sue its competition derived from its need to protect us, not its bottom line. It didn't get to sue because it owned Coca-Cola, but because it was acting as a proxy for its customers, who were being decieved by con-artists who mislabelled their goods.


But as time went by, trademarks stopped being about us and started being the embodiment of brands (which, as Surowiecki points out, are on the wane and were probably never as important as we thought to begin with).

This meant that trademarks weren't just things that helped the public know what they were buying -- they are a kind of pseudo-property. Pseudo-property that could be defended on the basis that it "belongs" to a company, who need to be protected from having the value of their marks "diluted" or "tarnished."

Read it all, it's Chilling.

Posted by Wendy at 07:44 AM