June 17, 2009

Another Legacy That Obama’s Making Little Headway On [1:31 pm]

E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress (pdf)

Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, has been investigating the incidents and said he had become increasingly troubled by the agency’s handling of domestic communications.

In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent.

“Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental,” Mr. Holt said.

Other Congressional officials raised similar concerns but would not agree to be quoted for the record.

Mr. Holt added that few lawmakers could challenge the agency’s statements because so few understood the technical complexities of its surveillance operations. “The people making the policy,” he said, “don’t understand the technicalities.”

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Civil Society and The Internet [1:29 pm]

The Iranian reaction to their election seems to have freed up a number of NYTimes articles looking at the influences of the Internet on social discourse:

  • Civic-Minded Chinese Find a Voice Online (pdf)

    Not all the crusades are entirely civic-minded. In more than a few cases, virtual mobs have harassed offending officials, posting personal information and other details. The nickname for such mobs, “human-flesh search engines,” hints at their pitiless nature.

    But the Internet campaigns have repeatedly produced results. Six officials were punished or fired in the prison beating. The Nanjing official with the flashy watch was sacked. The Yunnan dog killings have provoked harsh criticism, even in state-run newspapers.

    Most such cases, says Mr. Xiao, the Berkeley professor, spawn tens or hundreds of thousands of mentions on Internet blogs and other forums.

  • Social Networks Spread Defiance Online (pdf) (see also With a Hint to Twitter, Washington Taps Into a Potent New Force in Diplomacy - pdf)

    As the embattled government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be trying to limit Internet access and communications in Iran, new kinds of social media are challenging those traditional levers of state media control and allowing Iranians to find novel ways around the restrictions.

  • And Thomas Friedman is even getting in on the act — The Virtual Mosque (pdf)

    One of the most important reasons that the Islamists were able to covertly organize and mobilize, and be prepared when the lids in their societies were loosened a bit, was because they had the mosque — a place to gather, educate and inspire their followers — outside the total control of the state.

    [...] What is fascinating to me is the degree to which in Iran today — and in Lebanon — the more secular forces of moderation have used technologies like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, blogging and text-messaging as their virtual mosque, as the place they can now gather, mobilize, plan, inform and energize their supporters, outside the grip of the state.

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“If A Body Meet A Body” [1:22 pm]

Who “owns” Holden Caulfield? J. D. Salinger’s Suit Over ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Sequel Goes to Court (pdf)

Both novels are set in New York, feature the same characters and use similar language. Mr. Salinger’s work opens with the 16-year-old Holden’s departure from a boarding school; the new book begins with “Mr. C” leaving a retirement home. Both end on a carousel in Central Park.

In a complaint of copyright infringement filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, where a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, lawyers for Mr. Salinger call the new novel “a rip-off pure and simple.” Lawyers for Fredrik Colting, the new author, filed a brief this week saying that the work is more complex than just a sequel, noting that Mr. Salinger himself is a character.

The new book, the brief said, “explores the famously reclusive Salinger’s efforts to control both his own persona and the persona of the character he created.”

It adds: “In order to regain control over his own life, which is drawing to a close, ‘Mr. Salinger’ tries repeatedly to kill off Mr. C by various means: a runaway truck; falling construction debris; a lunatic woman with a knife; suicide by drowning and suicide by pills.”

The case is one of several in recent years exploring how much license the public has to draw on a classic work. [...]

See also Save the Salinger Archives! from Slate

Later:

Holden Caulfield Hangs on to His Youth (pdf)

The judge, Deborah A. Batts of United States District Court in Manhattan, granted a 10-day temporary restraining order forbidding publication in the United States of a new book by a Swedish author that contains a 76-year-old version of Holden Caulfield while she considers arguments in a copyright-infringement case filed by Mr. Salinger.

[...] “It does seem to me that Holden Caulfield is quite delineated by words, that is a portrait by words,” Judge Batts told the lawyers. “It would seem that Holden Caulfield is copyrighted.” But the judge said she would take some time to reflect on whether the new book was sufficiently different from “The Catcher in the Rye” to fall under the protection of the fair-use provision of copyright law.

Even later: an NYTimes editorial — Holden, Young and Old (pdf)

Some adolescents, like Holden Caulfield and Huck Finn, were born to remain adolescent. But these two characters live, as it were, in separate legal kingdoms. Because Huck Finn lives in the public domain, outside of copyright, anyone can write another chapter in his life without penalty. What keeps Huck eternally young is, in a sense, the force of his personality and the strength of his author’s imagination.

Because copyright extends during the author’s lifetime, plus 70 years, the character of Holden Caulfield does not belong to the public domain. We have no doubt that no matter what the judge rules Caulfield, like Huck, will remain forever young, simply because that is how his author imagined him. In almost every battle between the original and the derivative, in copyright or public domain, it is the original that retains our affection.

Later: What A Phony: I read the banned Catcher in the Rye “sequel” so you don’t have to

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