May 8, 2007

New Yorker’s Walter Mossberg Profile [8:04 am]

I’m not really a fan of the WSJ, but Walt Mossberg is a force unto himself: Critical Masspdf

I wondered why these visitors hoped for a Mossberg endorsement. He has called the telephone companies “the new Soviet Ministries [pdf],” because of their insistence on controlling their customers, and he has written disparagingly about many of their products. [...]

[...] On March 2, 2000, Mossberg urged consumers to boycott the new Sony digital music player (the Music Clip), because it was “designed to satisfy lawyers obsessed with protecting the copyrights of the record labels—including Sony’s own label—even at the expense of simplicity and convenience for consumers.” He went on, “It treats every user like a potential criminal, and tries to impose new controls on music people paid for years ago.”

[...] Mossberg has also been criticized for being too focussed on products rather than on the broader corporate and political issues that affect consumers. Lawrence Lessig, a professor of law at Stanford and the founder of its Center for Internet and Society, says that Mossberg “missed the most basic point” in a piece on copyright protection for digital material, because “nowhere in the piece did he mention ‘fair use.’ ” Yet, Lessig said, “he also wrote an amazing piece about cell phones and how the phone companies were restricting access to the Web. Nobody was thinking about this issue as it applies to the cell phone.” Lessig worries that Mossberg is “kind of random” in his writing about these larger issues. There’s “a lot more to technology questions than how do you make the machine work,” Lessig says. “When I read the piece he wrote about cell phones, I wanted him to write more about this.” And when he read the article about digital rights, he says, he thought it best that Mossberg not write more about the subject. Mossberg says that he has made the conscious choice not to write as often as Lessig would like about broader tech issues. But he has scolded Hollywood for resisting the overhaul of copyright laws, the phone companies for resisting products that they don’t own, and the digital code that makes it impossible or difficult for consumers to make copies of songs or movies they have bought.

More Mossberg — e.g., Congress Must Make Clear Copyright Laws To Protect Consumers [Personal Technology]

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A Rights Battle [7:45 am]

Titanic battlepdf

Frank J. Goldsmith was nine years old when the Titanic went down in April 1912, with the loss of 1,500 lives. His British parents had booked passage in hope of starting a new life in America. As the ship listed, the boy stuffed his pockets with gumdrops before leaving his parents’ third-class cabin. On a lifeboat with his mother as it was lowered into the sea, Goldsmith watched his father lean over a railing on deck, where he would remain to perish with the ship. “So long, Frankie,” his father called. “I’ll see you later.”

[...] In 1987, five years after Goldsmith’s death, his widow found among his personal papers a manuscript in which he put down his memories of the fateful day.
Now, 20 years later, Goldsmith’s family is battling the Springfield-based Titanic Historical Society over the rights to the manuscript. The historical society — a nonprofit with about 5,000 members worldwide that publishes a quarterly newsletter and operates a museum where artifacts from the Titanic are exhibited — filed a federal lawsuit against Goldsmith’s three sons contending that the family lost the exclusive rights to the manuscript in 1988, when the widow allowed the society to sell copies at an annual convention.

The society’s founder, Edward S. Kamuda, and his wife, Karen, want a judge to issue an order giving them the legal right to sell a book on Goldsmith’s life titled “Titanic Eyewitness My Story,” that they recently published and have been advertising on their website.

But family members say Goldsmith’s widow gave the society permission for the one occasion only and that the rights to the manuscript remain with the family.

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