5:52am Saturday: Space Shuttle reentry (may be) visible from SF Bay area

Looking Up Department
SF Chronicle: Space shuttle may provide a sky show -- But overhead clouds could spoil local viewing
Although the forecast isn't great, a break in the clouds should reveal the shuttle's blazing re-entry into the earth's atmosphere more than 40 miles high and speeding at 15,500 mph.

According to the latest NASA calculations, the shuttle should first appear like a bright meteor at 5:52 a.m., visible almost due north to observers from Clearlake to San Jose. In less than a minute, as it flies toward the northeast, it will vanish, and 23 minutes later it will land at Cape Canaveral, 2,500 miles away.

Three to five minutes after the shuttle passes, observers on the ground may hear or even feel a faint sonic boom as it flies faster than the speed of sound.

I've seen this reentry before from Austin -- I had thought only more southern locales were in the path -- and it's spectacular. Some photos of a reentry over Houston are on the web, but they don't really do it justice.

Updating the UN Security Council

To better represent the world as it is, rather than the way it was at the close of World War 2, the roster of five "permanent members" of the UN Security Council should be updated. Britain's seat can become a new European Union seat, and France's seat can be transferred to the newest "Great Power": Texas.

Yao More Than Ever

Be Here Yao
It seems that the NBA Houston Rockets' Chinese rookie, Yao Ming, brings to mind cell phones nearly as much as he does basketball.

NYTimes: Fans in Shanghai Are Voting in the Mainstream

There are other examples [of how small the world is becoming]. In South Korea last summer, hundreds of Chinese men and women (bankers, brokers, even a fashion journalist) traveled to China's first game in a World Cup. They wore the latest clothing and chatted on cellphones.

"I've had seven cellphones already myself," Yao said Friday. "China is changing and developing at a rapid pace. All I can say is that I hope my development as a basketball player can match that. While China learns more about the world, I hope that the world will also learn more about China."

Slate: He's a Bust! No, Wait; He's the Next Shaq!

And while the Rookie of the Year award is already engraved with Yao's name, he doesn't deserve to win it. At 20, Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire is a far more advanced player. His ferocious dunks make the ESPN highlights, but it's his spacing and non-stop movement that make him so hard to guard. Yao found this out first-hand Wednesday when Stoudemire dropped 24 points and 13 rebounds on the Rockets, including an in-your-face dunk on big man; Yao settled for a quiet 11 points and seven boards. If only Stoudemire could sell mobile phones to 1.2 billion Chinese, he'd have a shot at beating Yao for the year-end hardware.
(An earlier NYTimes piece on Yao Ming, last December, noted that when his games are broadcast in China, the viewing audience could be larger than the entire population of the United States.)

Does the Eldred Decision Mean Trouble for the DMCA?

Department of Silver Linings
Jack M. Balkin, a professor of constitutional law and the first amendment at Yale, finds a silver lining in the Eldred decision in his weblog entry, Is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Unconstitutional under Eldred v. Ashcroft? (permalink).


The key holding of Eldred is that �when ... Congress has not altered the traditional contours of copyright protection, further First Amendment scrutiny is unnecessary.� The reason for this is that fair use and idea/expression provide �built-in free speech safeguards,� which �are generally adequate to address� the problem that copyright makes reproducing certain speech illegal.


Well, what happens if Congress decides to �alter[] the traditional contours of copyright protection,� by greatly restricting fair use, or begins to offer protection to ideas in the guise of protecting mere expression? In that case, �further First Amendment scrutiny� would be necessary. If Ginsburg does not mean this, then its hard to see what her argument amounts to other than a blank check to Congress to rewrite copyright law any way it wants.

And that brings us to the DMCA. As many people know, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act creates a new species of intellectual property protection, sometimes called �paracopyright,� that protects not copying itself but the creation of various devices and technologies that might be used to facilitate copying by circumventing copyright management devices. The DMCA prohibits the distribution of technologies that circumvent copyright management devices, and the Second Circuit has held that it reaches even linking to sites where such technologies may be found. Moreover, the DMCA protects copyright management devices from circumvention even if these devices are employed deliberately to prevent people from using copyrighted materials in ways completely consistent with fair use.

Does the DMCA �alter[] the traditional contours of copyright protection�? Yes, it does, in two respects. First, it creates a new property right that allows copyright owners to do an end run around fair use, effectively shrinking the public domain. Second, it extends that property right to prohibit the use and dissemination of technologies that would protect fair use and vindicate fair use rights. Congress has exceeded the traditional boundaries of copyright protection, superimposing a new form of intellectual property protection that undermines the �built-in free speech safeguards� crucial to the holding in Eldred. Hence, under the logic of Eldred, the DMCA is constitutionally suspect.

So even while Eldred has forced the battle over statutory copyright terms back to the Congress, it may have bolstered the prospects for constitutional challenges of the DMCA.

Arnold Kling Misinterprets Creative Commons

Commons Committee
Arnold Kling at TechCentralStation: Content is Crap

Perhaps misled by the constant refrain of the Creative Commons animated presentation -- "It's easy when you skip the intermediaries" -- Arnold Kling interprets the CC liberal licensing ethos as being primarily a defense against content being "stolen by the evil media companies." In fact, it's nothing of the sort. By disclaiming certain of the rights copyright grants authors, under certain conditions, you could even say that the CC licenses make it *easier* for third parties to "steal" (repurpose, redistribute, reuse) creative works.

The filtering duty provided by current publishers Kling highlights is important -- but in a system of strong copyrights, many novel highly effective filtering, distribution, and promotion avenues can be precuded, because casual handling of a work is prevented by the default copyright conventions. For example, your biggest fans may be reluctant to forward your work to others, via email/blogs/P2P. You couldn't even feed many works through the sorts of "bayesian filtering" algorithms Kling favors, as that might trample certain creator's copy-control rights.

The kinds of liberal licensing -- or outright public-domain donations -- promoted by CC enable thousands of flexible new filtering roles, processes, and technologies to be tried. Many -- probably most -- won't prove any better than the old linear value-chain fed through publishers. But some will outcompete the traditional process, at least for certain works and certain audiences, because the net does many-to-many better than any system rooted in the physical world.

Liberal CC-style licensing isn't the enemy of novel, useful, expert content-filtering: it's filtering's greatest friend.

RIAA Disclaims Support For Legislative DRM Mandates

The New York Times: Music Companies Agree to Antipiracy Plan

Despite the headline spin, the main development here seems to be that the RIAA has agreed to oppose government mandates for copy-control technology in all digital media devices. The prime example of such mandate proposals would be last year's Senator Hollings-sponsored "CBDTPA."

The CBDTPA was a technologically and economically illiterate proposal from the start: more of a boogeyman than something with a real chance of being adopted. The new Republican Senate majority made it even less likely that such mandates would receive a serious hearing in Congress. Still, it's nice to see even the measure's natural constituency -- the record industy -- write it off as a lost cause, in the grand scheme of their strategy for protecting their interests. They've left their friends at the MPAA in an untenable lobbying position.

"Hey, don't empty that beaker... it's my MP3 collection!"

Bacterial Backup Bureau
New Scientist magazine reports that scientists have stored text data in the DNA of living bacteria -- and then recovered the message after a hundred generations of reproduction:
The scientists took the words of the song It's a Small World and translated it into a code based on the four "letters" of DNA. They then created artificial DNA strands recording different parts of the song. These DNA messages, each about 150 bases long, were inserted into bacteria such as E. coli and Deinococcus radiodurans.
No word yet on if they've searched the DNA of creatures in the wild for pre-existing messages from ancient extraterrestrials.

Lawyers from Disney and the Harry Fox Agency have sent a "cease and desist" letter to the E. coli and Deinococcus radiodurans demanding that they immediately stop reproducing Disney's copyrighted lyrics. At 7 cents a copy, the petri dish of ever-dividing bacteria now owes $24 trillion in mechanical licensing fees, and counting.

Jack Ass vs. Jackass: Man named "Jack Ass" suing Viacom for "Jackass" (the movie and TV show)

Tort Stunts
The Smoking Gun: In re the matter of: Jack Ass, Plaintiff, and Viacom International Inc., Defendants

A Montana man who changed his name from Bob Craft to Jack Ass in 1997 is suing Viacom. He writes in his complaint:

Viacom International, through the use of MTV jackass (Johnny Knoxville / P. J. Clapp), is liable for injury to my reputation that I have built and defamation of my character which I have worked hard to create.
Jack Ass has a website where he promotes his (planned?) beer, which features a reminder to use a designated driver on the label. Jack is also graduate of Budweiser Beer School.