This Week In Techdirt History: April 19th – 25th

Five Years Ago

By this time in 2010, everyone had seen the leaked draft of ACTA — so, naturally, the USTR decided it was time to release it. It was, as we put it, “only very slightly less awful than expected”, and it was missing a critical piece of information: what each country is pushing for.

Speaking of pushes by various countries, this week in 2010 we saw Canada’s recording industry begin a campaign for draconian copyright laws, while India introduced draft copyright amendments that were a mixed bag. We were unsurprised to discover that UK piracy statistics are bunk too (while at home the MPAA was refusing to reveal how it came up with its own bogus numbers). Amidst all this, Google launched its tool for looking up international takedown stats, though it seemed to have significant limitations.

Also in 2010: Blizzard sold $2-million worth of virtual horses in four hours while Ubisoft was busy annoying customers with its DRM; still-free Hulu announced its paid subscription service while DirecTV struck another customer-confusing release deal with movie studios; and we looked at possibilities for reforming copyright such as returning it to its roots or using compulsory licensing to build an “abundance-based” system.

Ten Years Ago

Plenty of what happened in 2010 wasn’t exactly new to that year. Five years earlier the same week, the Canadian recording industry was already trying to kill online music stores with tariffs, the UK recording industry was already saying stupid thinks about filesharing, and bad DRM was already annoying customers.

The entertainment industry was exerting a lot of influence on law enforcement, and sharing songs or movies before their release became a felony with three years of jailtime. Not content to be overly protective of the movies themselves, the MPAA was also sending C&Ds to people who use its movie rating system for other things. Not content to be overly protective of the songs themselves, the recording industry in Germany was forcing a bunch of lyrics sites to shut down.

Microsoft Encarta was still around in 2005, and beginning to adopt some vaguely Wikipedia-like features, but it was too little too late. Macromedia was also still around, and this week Adobe announced that it would buy it for $3.4-billion. And catalog shopping was still around, but not for long, it seemed. Book publishers were starting to freak out about Google’s scanning plans, while newspaper editors were surprisingly and naively not freaking out about Craigslist (if they even knew what it was).

Fifteen Years Ago

Just this morning, I was calibrating the voice-wakeup on my phone and being frustrated by its general lack of responsiveness. Despite this, I can’t deny it’s come a long way from visions of voice-based WAP shopping all the way back in 2000, when AltaVista was still around and postponing its IPO, and colleges were bizarrely cracking open the subject of internet ethics.

This week in 2000 also featured a big announcement from Mirimax: an experiment in putting feature films online, something nobody had done before. It was impossible not to consider the turbulent future of that move, since this was also a time of rampant discussion and controversy around Napster, including some side-switching and the decision of a few fans to put together a system for donating money to Metallica.

Fifty Years Ago

Predictions are abundant in the technology world. They are also almost always wrong, usually either vastly overestimating change in the short-term or vastly underestimating it in the long-term. But there’s one fundamental and famous tech prophecy that has held true throughout all the twists and turns of the entire digital revolution: Moore’s Law, which turned 50 this week. Put in the simplest terms, the law states that the power of computer processors (more technically, the number of transistors in dense integrated circuits) will double every two years — and that’s exactly what’s happened for half a century.

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