Friday, January 29, 2010

How can the NFL be so RIGHT, and then so WRONG?

The NFL has stepped on its own....well, you sending cease and desist letters based on what is very likely a way over-broad trademark infringement claim to local merchants selling Who Dat shirts.

It wasn’t long ago that I thought they really had their act together. For a few years there’s been a sizable traffic in bootleg copies of NFL games - people record them, burn them, and sell DVD-Rs of them for $10 or so (I ponied up for a copy of the post-Katrina Saints return to the Superdome versus the Falcons in 2006). But now the NFL is selling select games from the season - you can buy three of our games for $20 or so (probably cheaper elsewhere), and I presume they’re doing that for other teams.

Then, just five days after we won the NFC championship for the first time in franchise history, the game is available on DVD for just $15! Excellent - I don’t want to burn through our DVR watching the game over and over. I know the NFL has made official copies of recent Superbowls available for purchase, but I think this is the first season they’ve made other games available (I may just not have noticed like year when we were 8-8).

Now if they would just make ALL NFL games in a given season available. There are fans who would definitely buy most games, right? And since the NFL is partnering with Warner Brothers, who is pioneering what has been described as essentially DVD-on-demand of otherwise unavailable movies with their Warner Archives, they’ve got the infrastructure to do this. So come on, commissioner Goodell - stop harassing small businesses in New Orleans and open up the NFL game archives to the fans by making all games available on DVD!

Full blog post...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Law School Faculty and On-Line Course Outline Repositories

I don't think our faculty are too much behind the curve when it comes to how law students are using the internet these days, so hopefully faculty at other law schools would be just as surprised to learn that there are web site where students can post and download outlines for their courses.

One of our professors posted a message to the faculty e-mail list that noted this:
Hello all,

I just ran across a site offering outlines based on Loyola Professors'
courses for sale. Here is the link:

Would this explain why, I am sometimes under the impression that some
students anticipate my questions, eagerly volunteer answers which sometimes,
and to their dismay, call for some tweaking on my part?

Doesn't this practice raise some intellectual property issues?

[Name Redacted]

Its a slow day at the reference desk since its early in the semester, its a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, and especially since the Saints are about the kick the Vikings' ASS in the first NFC championship that the Saints have ever hosted at home in the dome (I'm leaving early to go watch, DUH!), so I spent some time composing the following reply and posted it back to the faculty list:
[Name Redacted] (and everyone else),
This web site is indeed an amazing trove of outlines from/for our students. If the faculty here weren’t aware of these sort of sites, your message is a definite wake-up call. But the internet has really only made the sharing of these outline more efficient - I think we all knew long ago that these things were shared and passed down from class to class in paper longer before centralized web sites like these were available (when I graduated law school in 1995, we were still, uhhh, I mean my FELLOW STUDENTS were still swapping outlines via xerox machine).
The intellectual property issue here is an interesting question, but one that I don’t think would help to stop anything like this. (I presume you don’t mean the IP issue of the students sharing their outlines on-line with each other, but of the possible IP issues of the students’ outlines of your law school courses existing on-line at all.) Hypothetical: if a student surreptitiously RECORDED a class lecture (easy to do technologically - all those laptops students use in class have decent built-in omni-directional microphones that they could be using) and posted it on-line, that would be an unauthorized use of your classroom “performance” and would very likely raise some serious IP issues.
But a student’s outline that they wrote him/her-self would most likely be considered, as I understand the law, a derivative work of a professor’s class lectures, the casebook, any other readings the student may have done, discussions with classmates, etc., etc., and would most likely NOT be a successful target of any copyright or IP suit.
At a CALI conference a few years ago there was a presentation by a law student (U. Cincinnati, I think) who went beyond the idea of distributing outlines of his classes on-line: he took his class notes, the readings, etc., and created his own podcasts - audio files that he distributed on-line - that consisted of his own lectures/discussions of the material covered in his classes. He was essentially creating his own on-line courses based on what he was learning in class (and he said he had 50,000+ people downloading and, presumedly, listening to these podcasts). BUT, before his first year of law school started, he met with each of his professors and told them of his plans - he wasn’t asking PERMISSION because he already had a good idea of what the law in this area was - and only one of his professors had any qualms about it, and, ultimately, there were no efforts to stop him from what he was doing and by now, I think, he probably has an entire law school education’s worth of podcasts on-line.
Having these outlines on-line just changes the scale of what our students already had available to them: the internet long ago made the exchange of all manner of information and data much easier. And, yes, this is probably why more students these days may seem to anticipate your lines of discussion and questions in class but, again, its really just a change of scale from fifteen years ago when students had to physically exchange floppy discs containing course outlines that they had written or that they had obtained from upperclassmen.
The bottom line, I believe, is that dealing with this situation as an IP issue would be a distraction from dealing with it as one of pedagogy.

I'm curious to who will be the first person on our faculty to say, no, there ARE serious intellectual property issues with students sharing their outlines on-line.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti Earthquake, Twitter, and Dating Sites Spam

Glad to see the spanners stay on top of all trending topics:

Twitter Spam

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

December 2009 Netflix Report

December 2009 Netflix SummaryArrived at HomeReceived at NetflixDays at HomeMonthly Average Days at HomeCost Per Movie
Mexico City12/0112/032
Sangre Costena12/0412/051
Observe and Report12/0712/103
Funny People12/071/0731
Not Quite Hollywood12/1112/2110
The Legend of Boggy
World's Greatest Dad12/221/0514
Dec 0910.4$2.65

Only eight movies from Netflix in December - our annual Christmas trip to the in-laws in Colorado and six days in Mexico City before Christmas ate into my available movie-watching time this month. And the latter of those two trips is the reason for the continued run of Mexico-set movies. None of them were as good as Amores Perres from November's Netflix summary, but Mexico City was decent, despite the careless dumb errors that hopefully resulted in someone's exit from the movie business. The three "comedies" I saw were among the best movies I saw this month. The two that got wide release - Observe and Report and Funny People - were both marketed as being more straight-forward gutbusters than they were: both were rather dark/black comedies, Observe and Report so much that its humorous momebts are so overshadowed by its darker moments as to maybe rate a new genre: the "black non-comedy"? The "black, bleak, dark movie with a few incidental laughs"? World's Greatest Dad is in a similar vein, and though it didn't get a wide release, to me it confirms that Bobcat Goldthwait is a unsung comedic movie genius.
And Brothers - the original Danish version - stands out as the best war movie to come out of the Iraq/Afganistan era that I've seen, by far.

Full blog post...