Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Good, Bad, and Odd

Good: The Supreme Court ruled today in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons that people who buy a book (or any other object) have the right to resell it or give it away without consulting or remunerating the original seller. Well, duh, right? Odd: The decision was 6 - 3, with Stephen Breyer writing for the majority and Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing the dissent, joined by Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia. I haven't read the dissent yet, but that trio of dissenters really weirds me out.

Bad: Companies increasingly extort money out of their customers after purchase in order to fix or modify the products because there is proprietary, copyrighted software involved. Examples given in a recent Wired article include a farmer who spent $200,000 on a couple of planting machines, and then had to fly in a technician to fix them because the repair manual was copyrighted so neither he nor local mechanics could have access to it. Good: It seems like policy makers may be starting to wake up to how stupid all of this restriction is, given today's Supreme Court decision (tangentially related) and the outcry over being able to unlock phones.

Cartoon by Hugh MacLeod, from Wired

Bad: The Keystone XL pipeline is coming up for a vote very soon. The vote seems to be getting almost no coverage, and I get the sense it's going to pass. Call your senators if you care about the future more than keeping the price of gas artificially low and lining the Koch brothers' pockets. Good: Organizing against KXL has brought together people who usually don't speak to each other. According to an AP story, Nebraska ranchers who believe in property rights are working side-by-side with organic farmers and environmentalists. One conservative, Republican rancher said, "I'm associated with people I never dreamed I would be associated with. There's a stigma on people considered environmentalists. I had that concept." An organic farmer followed with this: "We're all more similar than we may have thought."

Good: Before he retires, Senator Carl Levin plans to take on the IRS's lack of interest in the connection between nonprofit 501(c)4 organizations and Super PACs, also known as dark money. Odd: Why hasn't this already happened? Why hasn't the IRS been doing its job on this?

Good: Lockheed (yes, Lockheed) is close to producing a graphene-based product that could drastically lower the cost of desalinization. The biggest problem in desalinization is the amount of energy needed to force salt water through a filter. Graphene filters are 500 times thinner and a thousand times stronger, and require 1 percent of the pressure. To give a sense of the proportion, if graphene were as thick as a piece of paper, "the nearest comparable filter for extracting salt from seawater would be the thickness of three reams of paper." The graphene "membrane is thinner than the atoms it’s filtering." The filters may also have uses in dialysis and cleaning chemicals from the water used in fracking. Bad: No bad I can see so far, but given that it's a large corporation working on it, I'm sure they'll come up with something as it progresses, if nothing more than suing others who pursue the same technology for patent infringement.

1 comment:

Gina said...

Writers do cringe about their books being resold without paying them royalties. As a writer, I tend to sympathize. As someone who sells my books to used bookstores who resell them, I think writers need to let this issue go and enjoy the additional readership for their writing. I could just throw out the books and that would not spread that writing around....(smile)