Links, 8/24/10

  • Robert Darnton, “A Republic of Letters” – from the article: By enjoying a short-term monopoly on the publication of their writings, authors would be encouraged to share their ideas in print. How short should the term be? The copyright act of 1790 set it at 14 years, renewable once. The founders took this limit from British precedents, which went back through a series of court cases to the original copyright act of 1710. Along the way, some experts argued that copyright should be perpetual, because intellectual property was like ownership of land — absolute until alienated by sale. But that view was overridden by the notion that knowledge belonged to everyone and should revert to the public domain, where everyone can make use of it. Today, however, copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years — or even longer in some cases. The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (known as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, because the monopoly on Mickey was about to expire) now prevents most 20th-century literature from being available in the public domain.
  • The Atlantic, “Debating Philadelphia’s $300 Blog Tax” – apparently there’s a debate over charging people $300 to make – in some cases – $11 a year blogging.
  • Engadget, “Germany slapping RFID tags on its populace for the sake of brisker bureaucracy” (h/t Josh) – from the article: ID cards and RFID tags are similar in one key respect: they get a lot of bad press — one for constricting civil liberties, the other for being a lousy security risk — and yet are widely used around the world. It’s fitting, therefore, that Germany has decided to marry the two for the latest version of its own personalausweis.
  • Jay Cost, “Is the Economy Obama’s Only Problem?” – from the article: Does the economy matter? Yes, of course. But does political management and facility matter, too? Yes, of course. Unfortunately, it is hard to capture “facility” quantitatively. If you want to graph the President’s job approval against GDP or unemployment, that’s easy to do. But what about graphing it against competence or ambition or boldness? That’s not as easy, which means that quantitative analysis is usually going to de-emphasize these features, not because they are unimportant but because they can’t be measured very well.

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