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Malum In Se

Prince of Minutiae

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September 23rd, 2008

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Treasury FAIL. loloshit.

September 15th, 2008

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I am very sorry to hear that David Foster Wallace has committed suicide. He was one of America's best writers, albeit sadly labeled as "hip" and handled with tongs of irony in the media and backlashed against after every much-hyped book release. I am always inspired whenever I pick up his books to read again.

July 29th, 2008

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W.

May 13th, 2008

If you belong to a trade group that deals in intellectual property, you have no doubt received crazed, panicky messages about the Orphan Works Act.

Here's why I think you should not be afraid, very afraid:

You already use a copyright notice. If you put a copyright notice on your work that would allow someone to contact you, congratulations. This bill is probably irrelevant to you. The copyright notice is still not required, but no one can claim it was an "orphan work" if your name, the date, and an email address was right there on it.

The bill requires a "diligent search" for the owner and public notice of the use. So, okay, you use a copyright notice, but someone removes it and unlawfully republishes your work. Then someone else comes along and they also republish your work, thinking it's an orphaned work. Does the second party get off scot-free? No. First, they are required to make a "diligent" search to find you. Then they have to notify the Copyright Office that they tried to find you and couldn't. And, even if they did all that, they still pay you damages if you sue. If they didn't do all that, the bill doesn't apply to them.

The bill limits damages, not rights. Under current copyright law, an infringer pays "statutory damages," a very high amount per work, as opposed to "actual damages," the money actually lost. "Statutory damages" is what allows the RIAA to sue soccer mommies for millions of dollars because they used a file-sharing program once. The proposed bill limits damages for infringement of orphan works to "reasonable compensation," which sounds a lot like actual damages. In other words, you still get paid for a violation, you just don't get inflated "statutory damages."

All in all, it seems damn harmless to me, and it could be beneficial to people who trade in intellectual property. Under the proposed bill, someone who wants to use an "orphan work" has to notify the Copyright Office, which puts that information in a database. Publishers can do the right thing when they want to use a work but can't find a creator. Assuming the database is public and easily accessible, creators can locate people who owe them money.

March 25th, 2008

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FINALLY. Someone finally made my big "if I had time, I would ..." project from last year: a Digg/Reddit for comics.

March 24th, 2008

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J.K. Rowling is suing a publisher that plans to print a book culled from a Harry Potter fan Web site. They go to trial in April. The publisher is claiming fair use.

After writing a somewhat lengthy paper about fair use, I can safely say it's awful. It's terrible. It's bad, bad law. I would have no idea how to advise the publisher. Unless you're doing something clearly and unmistakably wrong like selling burned copies of DVDs out of your trunk, the fair use argument is a complete coin toss. You might win, unless it's close to noon and the judge feels kind of hungry. You'll probably lose.

March 18th, 2008

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Read this: Obama's Speech on Race. You'll be glad you did. I'm honestly stunned by how good it is. (Though I could do without the tearjerker ending.) Politicians don't talk this way. Statesmen make speeches like this one.

February 29th, 2008

It's time to crater your work productivity and fill your long hours of leisure: Here you go.

Yep, that should do it. Hope you're not a Nielsen family.

January 15th, 2008

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The law school posts grades on a Web site and does not notify you in any other way when your grades are submitted. During Xmas break, I wrote a program to check the Web site for me because I found that I was opening the stupid Web site every 1.5 miliseconds. Once I wrote the program, I knew someone was compulsively checking grade status for me, and I could devote my time to other things, such as eating or sleeping.

During the break, I told a law school friend about the program, and he suggested that I could make pretty good money if I sold it to other law students for a small fee. I didn't believe him until I was sitting in class today and happened to see four separate classmates compulsively checking their grades on their laptops during class. Guess they're not programmers.

This is something I will definitely come back to in May.

January 13th, 2008

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  • All the posts on javascript are suddenly in Russian.

  • I wrote a program to check automatically and see if my grades had posted.

  • A friend told me that if I shared this program, I would be "a law school hero."

  • I tend to assume that my classmates are capable of doing the same stuff I am. But I guess sometimes they're not.

  • I'm thinking about sharing some of the software I've written to make my school's messed up Web systems work better. I have some fair-to-middling GreaseMonkey scripts.

  • In fact, I've been programming a lot the past few days, and I've enjoyed it.

  • Classes start tomorrow. I hope it will be a good semester.

  • I have to make myself edit this law review article now.

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