Two generally unrelated thoughts on changes to copyright

I don’t follow copyright/DMCA issues that closely, but there was apparently an important decision from some changes to interpretations to the law.  Here’s a link with the technical stuff. The two changes I’ve read about so far are it is now legal get around various copy-protection schemes on materials like movies for educational purposes, and it is also now legal (at least according this link) to “jailbreak” an iPhone.

My two thoughts:

First, Copyright law, always complex and mushy and interpretable, is widely misunderstood and/or ignored in academia.  It is by me.  Take eReserves, for example, something I was discussing with a colleague the other day in relation to course packs.  At EMU, eReserves is the library’s “electronic reserve” system that allows someone like me to put various copyright-protected materials “on reserve” in the form of PDFs that students can download for free.   Many institutions have such systems.  The advantage of eReserves for me is I can add and subtract readings whenever, including the middle of the term (that’s just flat-out impossible with a course pack), and “free” is obviously much cheaper than even the most inexpensive course pack.  But as I understand it, it is actually illegal to repeatedly make available for free some copyright-protected text via this system.  In other words, with essays I teach pretty much every term, like Walter Ong’s “Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought,” I’m supposed to put that into a course pack so that the copyright is cleared and students pay the royalty.  Another example:  as I understand it, if I show a movie in a class, I’m technically supposed to pay the copyright holders of that film some sort of screening fee, unless I’m showing something that the university has already paid some sort of royalty on already.  (I may be very wrong about this one).

The point is this:  I don’t know anyone who treats eReserves this way, I wouldn’t even think of asking for permission to show a movie in a class, and I don’t really care about these potential copyright violations for admittedly mushy and ignorant reasons.  The way I figure it, no one is going to sue me over eReserves or showing a movie in a class or committing any other copyright crime; at worse, they are going to send me a “cease and desist” letter.  Instead of worrying about the legal ramifications of getting various permissions for use of these materials in my classes, I worry about how reading the things I assign might actually “teach” my students something.  Let the lawyers sort out the copyright violations.

Second, I have been thinking lately about jailbreaking my iPhone.  As most 3G users know, the new iPhone 4 operating system slows and/or crashes older phones.  Quite a bit, actually.  Eventually, I’ll get a new phone, though I am not entirely sure when.  On the “early-side,” maybe I’ll try to justify the iPhone 4 as some sort of Christmas present; on the “late-side,” maybe I’ll hold out for whatever is next (iPhone 5? iPhone 4S?), which, according to MacRumors (they say that the average “update” cycle for the iPhone is 218 days), would probably be sometime between about March and May 2011.  So in the meantime, I kind of feel like I have nothing to lose with attempting the various jailbreak options that are out there; heck, it might even help my older phone work “better.”

Restaurant Review: Bezzy’s

What and Where:

Bezzy’s | 20 N. Washington Street | Ypsilanti, MI | 734-485-9625

Ratings (1=terrible, 5=mind-blowingly great)

  • Tastiness: 4.25
  • Service: 4.5
  • Price (1=super cheap, 5=super expensive):1.5
  • Value:4.5
  • General vibe: 4
  • Comments

    • It’s been a long time since I wrote any restaurant reviews around here.  I don’t completely know why; it’s not as if I stopped going out to eat.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing around with Yelp a fair amount lately.  Anyway, Annette and I went out tonight and started talking about reviewing restaurants again, so here I am.
    • Basically, it’s a breakfast/lunch/coffee shop sort of place, though they are to 7pm.  I guess I don’t see it as a place for dinner.
    • I’ve only been for breakfast for a couple of times, and all I can tell you for sure is that the various versions of French Toast they have are insanely good.  Baked and sweet and nutty (pecans), it’s excellent and it is not a crazy sized portion, either.  Highly recommend.
    • Generally, this is a lunch place for me.  I really like the Avocado BLT a lot, but they always have great soup (pretty much changes every day), so I like to get either the half-sandwich and soup or the salad/soup combo.  I’m partial to the Beezy’s salad.  Get an extra plate though– it’ll make eating the salad a lot easier.
    • Great coffee– they carry the Intelligentsia Coffee, which I think is fantastic– though I only get coffee (no espresso drinks).  The wifi is okay (Ypsi Free Wireless), but that’s okay (or not?) because it’s not really a good place to work for a long time.  It is kind of a coffee shop, but more a cafe, if that makes sense.
    • Oh, parking-wise:  take a look at the map and park behind.

    Novels released exclusively on the iPad (and similar devices, eventually)

    I saw this here, here, and here (more or less in the reverse order of that list):  Japanese novelist Ryu Murakami is releasing a novel called A Singing Whale, which will apparently include video, a soundtrack, and other multimedia elements.  Part of the deal is about money because under the deal, Apple gets 30% and Murakami, composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (and presumably whoever else in invovled in the production end of things) split the rest, more or less cutting the publisher out.  But mostly, it isn’t about money.  Here’s a smart passage from Mashable:

    Although the author advises publishers to “read it and weep,” this doesn’t mark the beginning of the end for the publishing industry — at least not yet. What Murakami is releasing is not an e-book in the traditional sense, but a full multimedia experience that can’t be replicated in print. In some respects, it’s similar to Alice for the iPad, an app that brings Lewis Caroll’s beloved Alice in Wonderland to life with full-color animations and interactive features. Furthermore, the author is also still in talks with its publisher, Kodansha, about releasing a hard copy of the novel.

    In other words, Murakami’s project should be hailed less as a blow against the monopoly of big publishing houses over authors and the circulation of their work, and more as a celebration of the kinds of opportunities that devices like the iPad can provide for creativity and cost-effecient distribution.

    The iPad is the perfect device for this sort of thing, and without a doubt, we’re going to see more of these fusions between novelistic “words in a row” text with audio, video, games, interactivity, and who knows what else.  One of the glib little comments I like to make in my writing classes is that the reason why it’s often a good idea to include an image, video, or even audio file as part of a writing project is because nowadays, you can.  So it seems just obvious to me that there will be writers who want to break out of the paper confines of “the book” and take advantage of the new technologies available.

    Of course, this can go too far and just turn into a gimmick that can backfire.  I for one don’t need to see another 3-D film anytime soon– well, maybe the sequel to Avatar. But it’s also hard to figure out what will be a gimmick and what will be the next big thing until we try.  And this is also the main reason why I for one would like to figure out what it takes to program for the iPad so I could try to make something like this.

    Incidentally, I’ve never heard of this writer and I have no idea when this is going to be released, and I have a feeling that unless this gets translated into English, I’ll be limited to reading about this instead of actually reading/experiencing it.

    Our midwest casino tour

    We were in Cedar Falls, Iowa this past weekend, dropping off Will for a few days to spend with his cousins and grandparents.  So on the return trip, minus our minor and with the dog safely stowed in the kennel, Annette and I did something we never do:  we gambled our way home, stopping at three casinos along I-80 and I-94 in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.  Here’s a link to a few gambling picts.

    I should point out that neither Annette nor I are exactly “high rollers.”  I’m pretty sure we gambled less than $50 between the two of us, all of it at either video poker machines or slots.  I should also point out, for those of you thinking “casinos?  in the midwest?” that we could have easily stopped at eight or nine different places, maybe more.  Once you start looking, you realize there’s lots of gambling out there.

    We started at Jumer’s Casino and Hotel, in Rock Island, Illinois, just across the river from Iowa. This was mostly a breakfast stop for us, a little over two hours from my parent’s house.  I give this place high marks for convenience, with “easy on/easy off” of I-280.  It was all shiny and new, and probably not a bad place to stay on a road-trip– while we were eating breakfast, we saw a lot of people on the way out of the hotel part and back onto the Interstate.  I also give this place high marks because the whole thing was non-smoking.  I could see us stopping here on the trip to and from Iowa again. But the down-side for me was that I screwed up in my betting and managed to lose about $10 on one bet on a quarter poker machine.

    Stop number two was at Blue Chip Casino, Hotel, and Spa in Michigan City, Indiana.  While there are lots of gambling options in the midwest, there are some kind of screwy laws on this, and in Indiana (apparently), gambling has to take place on the water.  So what you’ve got with this place is a giant and shiny hotel, theater (upcoming acts include Paul Revere and the Raiders), and a parking deck, right next to the casino, which is actually a giant barge floating in a pond right next to the buildings.  But you’d never know this if you weren’t looking– the connection between the building and the boat is permanently in place, and the boat clearly never leaves.  Where would it go?

    Anyway, I give the Blue Chip a definite thumbs down.  Far too off the Interstate to make it worthwhile as a roadtrip stop, and you show me someone who makes a point of going to Michigan City to play slots and I’ll show you someone who has a bit of a “gambling problem.”

    We wrapped things up in Michigan at FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek (btw, sorry for the noises on their web site), where we stopped for a little gamin’ and dinner.  By this point, I think it’s fair to say that I was reminded of something I already knew:  every casino everywhere I have ever been– Vegas, Iowa, Michigan, wherever– pretty much is the same.  They all have that same kinds of blinking lights and things, the same games (with a few very subtle variations), the same hypnotic background noise of jingling machines, the same crazy-patterned carpets, the same smell of cigarette smoke (well, except for Jumer’s) and piped-in air/oxygen/air-freshener.  Annette and I did enjoy the nickel poker machines here though.

    So, what did we learn?

    • Midwest gambling is dominated by old people– in some cases, very very old people.  Though to be fair, I am sure all of these places attract a more youthful clientele after 8 pm.
    • Midwest casinos are located in places where people would not otherwise go and/or stop– Rock Island and Michigan City, for example, not to mention a number of parts of Detroit.
    • One trend I noticed was a number of “machines” that were there to replace/replicate table games.  At one of these places (the specifics all blend together), I noticed a computerized version of a three card poker game; at another, it was a roullette game.  In both cases, it was people sitting around a gaming table like they would be if it were being played with real cards and/or a real dealer, but it was all computerized instead.  Sort of like the casino equivalent of those machines where you scan your own groceries.
    • Casinos seem to generally attract rather unhealthy-looking people, some who might even be zombies, cocktail-drinking, smoking, trucker-cap wearing zombies.
    • A closely related observation– midwest casinos seem to attract extremely fat people, the kind of fat where my response, as someone who is himself clearly overweight, is “hey, there’s nothing wrong with me because I’m not that fat.”  This was particularly true in Michigan, where I recall seeing at least two people being wheeled around because they were clearly too fat to propel themselves and where Annette and I witnessed a rather grotesque scene in the restaurant that had us making cruel jokes about Mr. Cresosote requesting a bucket and being offered a “wafer thin mint.”
    • Finally, stopping at the casino on the highway is not the same as Vegas, no matter how hard those Midwestern casinos might try.

    Condé Nast and/or WIRED owes me five dollars

    I wrote my first review of an app on the iTunes Store yesterday after I downloaded the “update” to the WIRED Magazine App for the iPad. It was not a favorable review, either.

    Just to back up a second here:  as I previously mentioned, I bought the WIRED iPad App when it came out with the June issue of the magazine, and I was pretty impressed.  I thought most of the critiques about it, while basically accurate (a lot of ads, you can’t copy and paste, etc.), didn’t take away from the experience for me.  While there’s no way I would pay $5 an issue to read WIRED on my iPad, I would pay the same amount of money as a paper subscription to read it for a year– I think that was something like $25 or so the last time I subscribed.

    Anyway, I plugged in my iPad yesterday to my computer for charging and synching and when I was prompted that an update of the WIRED App was available, I did what I always do and agreed to automatically update all apps.  But the WIRED App’s “update” replaced my purchased June issue with a free preview and the opportunity to buy the June and July issues issues for $3.99 each. In other words, I was downdated.

    So, here’s my review of the new WIRED app on the Apple iTunes Store site:

    If you bought June 2010 WIRED, DO NOT UPGRADE!

    I bought the June 2010 WIRED (18.06) and was quite happy with it.  Then I “upgraded.”  This new version of the app overwrote the previous version, which means that my previously purchased issue was erased and replaced by a “free” promo that does nothing more than show me the covers of the June and July issues and invites me to spend $3.99 to buy what I already bought.  And I’m guessing that if I WERE to buy either of these issues, it’d disappear again with a new upgrade.

    Not cool. Not cool at all.  Conde Nast and WIRED owe me $5 and I most certainly will not be buying any WIRED anymore, electronic or print.  Boo. Hiss.  Boo.

    I don’t know why I said “upgrade” instead of “update.”

    So I poked around the web site WIRED has for this app a bit, and at the bottom of it, there’s some information on how it’s supposed to be– my June issue was not supposed to be deleted. I don’t know if this is the difference or not, but the instructions here make it sound like I was supposed to update the app while my iPad wasn’t hooked up to anything, which is something I almost never do.

    Then there was this:

    If you’ve purchased the June issue but it is not available for installation after you’ve updated your app, please send an email to WIRED [at] requesting assistance. Our customer service team will get back to you with further instructions.

    Which I did; they haven’t responded yet.  Grr.