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October 2019
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In These Partisan Times, The Only Thing That Gets Bi-Partisan Agreement Is That Blizzard Sucks

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We live in partisan times. The left and the right might as well be cats and dogs, mostly incapable of living together and the subject of fascination by the public when they manage to work together in the slightest way. The country needs a rallying cry. Something to bring both sides of the aisle together to demonstrate to all that they can actually agree on things.Blizzard appears to be that something. In the wake of the backlash against Blizzard for its actions taken to silence and punish eSports competitors that chose to voice support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, it seems that everyone from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Marco Rubio agrees that the company needs to do much, much better.

Today, United States Senators Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio signed a bi-partisan letter with support from Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher, and Tom Malinowski addressed to Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, over the recent suspension of professional Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai.“We write to express our deep concern about Activision Blizzard’s decision to make player Ng Wai Chung forfeit prize money and ban him from participating in tournaments for a year after he voiced support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong,” the letter reads. “This decision is particularly concerning in light of the Chinese government’s growing appetite for pressuring American businesses to help stifle free speech.”
Now, it's true that this particular letter is toothless. It's also true that Blizzard has already reduced some of the penalties it levied on Chung, even though such a reduction was entirely besides the point and lowered the temperature on this controversy not at all. Still, what this really should highlight for the reader is that the public backlash against Blizzard has reached a volume that Congress critters are making public statements about it, and in a bi-partisan way. That's no small thing.There is a great deal for one side or the other of the political aisle to be angry about these days. For Blizzard to unify that anger against itself should really inform the company's assessment as to how beneficial it is to bow to Chinese demands to stifle the speech of its competitors.Again, this is a toothless letter...for now. But if it changes the calculus on future decisions Blizzard might take, that's a good thing.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Oct-2019
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House Overwhelmingly Votes To Empower Copyright Trolls And To Bankrupt Americans For Sharing Photos

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Perhaps not a surprise, but Congress did what Congress does and voted overwhelmingly to approve the CASE Act, which is better described as the "we need more copyright trolling" act, and which is very likely unconstitutional. Only 6 Reps voted against the bill, with 410 voting for it (15 didn't vote -- including, Doug Collins who infamously laughed that anyone might be inconvenienced by a "small" $30,000 fine). I will say kudos to the six reps who voted against it: Amash, Davidson, Gianforte, Kelly, Massie, and Norman. Frankly, the most surprising "yes" vote here was Rep. Lofgren, who historically has been great on copyright (and other issues). I'm surprised to see her on the wrong side of this bill and helping to enable trolling like this.Rep. Hakeen Jeffries, who was the sponsor of the bill -- and who (coincidentally, I'm sure) offered lobbyists the chance to join him at the recording industry's biggest party for just a $5,000 contribution -- made a bunch of utter nonsense statements in support of the bill:

There is no gun that is being held to anyone's head, because the small claims court like tribunal is voluntary in nature, Jeffries told The Verge. Any argument made to the contrary, represents a deliberate attempt to misrepresent what's at stake as part of the effort to do away with the content copyright laws that have been part of the fabric of our democracy since the founding of the Republic and in fact the Constitution.The internet doesn't change the Constitution, Jeffries continued.
Sure. The internet doesn't change the Constitution. But Congress sure has gone a looooooooong way in changing copyright law, away from its Constitutional roots, to the point that it is almost unrecognizable. Let's remember that the Constitution only provides for copyright law if it is used to "promote the progress of science," which at the time it was written meant "learning and education." What about the CASE Act promotes education? Can Jeffries answer that?Also, the Constitution promised us that copyright should only be for "limited times." Yet, Congress has extended copyright over and over and over again such that no one can honestly claim that it matches up with the initial understanding under the Constitution.So, sure, if you're going to cite the Constitution as the reason for your new copyright law, I'm going to point out that, as originally interpreted in the very first Copyright Act, it was believed that the Constitution only provided for 14 years of protection for "maps, books, and charts." What we have today is kinda different, don't you think? Congress has made a mockery of the Constitutional concept of copyright. Rather than 14 years, it's "life plus another 70 years." Instead of "maps, books, and charts" it's literally every newly created work. Instead of only applying to things that are registered, it now applies to everything. Instead of applying almost entirely to commercial operations, it applies to everyday sharing. If you're going to cite the constitution for favoring a massive expansion of copyright trolling, you might want to at least acknowledge how unlike the original concept of copyright the law has become today. Or did the lobbyists paying $5,000 a pop to party with you at the Grammies forget to tell you that part?The bill still needs to go to the Senate, but given the overwhelming vote in the House, it's not encouraging. The only bright side is that we'll have plenty of new stories to cover as this law gets widely abused by trolls.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Oct-2019
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