Monthly Archives: January 2010

Our new temporary pet(s)

Art brought a leopard frog back from his friend’s cottage on the weekend. They found it in the basement there and couldn’t put it out in the cold, and I think Art figured we could add it to our fish tank. Well that wasn’t going to work, so I brought it to the pet store, hoping they would take it off my hands. They wouldn’t — it’s apparently illegal to capture wildlife (who knew?)!

But the woman at the aquarium store agreed that if I bring it back to the cottage, unless we put it in the basement again, then it’ll certainly die in the Winter, so at this point we should keep it until the Spring and then let it go.

There weren’t many options left, and Art did want to keep it, after all, so I sprung for a terrarium for the frog and a cage for crickets. We’ll have to buy new crickets every couple of weeks, and Art will just have to feed it to keep it alive until the Spring when we can let it go! So as of yesterday evening, we had 21 new pets: 1 frog and 20 crickets (although after feeding the frog, we only have 18 new pets now 🙂

I am He, but never I am Me — who knew?

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This “I Am The Walrus” Venn diagram by Michael Gum is just one of the great Beatles data visualizations in the wonderful Charting the Beatles pool on Flickr.

Thoughts on Age Appropriate Geek Movies

Poster

My boys are 7 and 5 years old. They love to draw. Their latest drawing craze has to draw Star Wars scenarios. They draw stick figures with Darth Vader helmets, recreate a decent picture of R2-D2 and everyone is holding a light saber (yep, even R2-D2).

You see, my boys have not seen any Star Wars, Episode IV ??? or otherwise. I wasn???t even aware they had so much knowledge until they started drawing. So, they don???t appreciate the significance of the light saber and haven???t got their heads around what a Jedi Knight is. Hence, everyone in their drawings has a light saber. I know it shouldn???t, but this really annoyed me and I felt like sitting them down to watch Episode IV: A New Hope and explain that R2-D2 can???t be drawn with a light saber and introduce them to the whole experience.

But, on reflection I decided they are only 7 and 5 years-old and I???m not sure I???m that keen for them to know yet. That is why I???ve made THE RULE.

THE RULE is that my boys won???t watch any Star Wars movie until they are 10 years-old. And, when they do I will be watching it with them. I???ve told them this. I???ve explained that it is a special movie and that when they see it conditions have to be perfect.

I held out for a while, with the same notion that Star Wars is a special thing and the moment of introduction should be perfect. But at some point it became clear that they were learning so much from other kids at school and day care, right and wrong in about equal measures, that my saving The Big Event for another year was doing them a disservice. Instead, we impressed upon them that Star Wars is a Big Deal and a Special Film, set aside the time one weekend, and showed them Episodes IV, V and VI.

The kids were 5 and 8 (and 6 months, but she probably missed most of it!). We couldn’t show it to the older one without including the younger, and I didn’t think we should delay the Big Event any longer for the 8 y.o., so the 5 y.o. was along for the ride.

Some time later we showed them the newer episodes but with admitedly less fanfare. And I only showed Episode III to the 8 y.o. — it sounded too heavy for the 5 y.o.

How did it work out? They definitely understood that Star Wars is different from the usual kids movies. I don’t think the movies were too violent for the kids. It may have stretched what they had been exposed to, but it wasn’t too much for them to handle — the violence in Star Wars is pretty cartoonish anyhow, so not as challenging for them as something set in, say, 21st Century Earth, or even in the Harry Potter books.

As for the “blurring of black and white, the complexity of good versus evil”, my older one definitely got that, and more. A couple of months later, we were on a road trip and I was listening to the Radio Lab podcast episode called “The Ring and I” about Wagner’s Ring Cycle (brilliant, btw). I didn’t realize he was listening, but after a bit he started pointing out the imperfect but undeniable parallels to Star Wars — the king of gods building the ultimate fortress, his twin son and daughter separated at birth but meeting later and teaming up, the final destruction of the fortress… He was more tuned in to the literary themes than I gave him credit for.

Now they kids are 6 and 9 (and almost 1!) and my wife rented Star Trek. It turns out, this is a much harder franchise to introduce the kids to than Star Wars was. Do we have to show them episodes of the the original series before we can show them the movies? Or the Next Generation? We decided to go ahead with the new Star Trek movie and see what happens. They loved that movie, so we showed them the movie “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” the next night, and they are totally hooked. The first movie introduced them to the characters, and the Voyage Home was funny, easy to digest and non-violent, but included all the salient memes of the ST franchise. How to introduce the rest of the ST universe, I’m not so sure, but we may start with TNG episodes.

More thoughts on virtual property rights and advertising

In response to my earlier post on Google’s move to start replacing billboard advertising in Street View, @jasonjkee asked, “Didn’t this issue arise when Times Square billboard ads were replaced in 1st Spiderman movie?”

It’s related, but I think it can be distinguished from this situation.

First of all, you can read a summary of the case on the Trademark Blog. In Spiderman, Sony created digital renderings of Times Square — not photographic reproductions of the actual Times Square. Then they changed the advertising appearing on the billboards there. The owners of the real life buildings sued Sony for trade-mark and trade dress infringement and in trespass.

The district court dismissed all claims. Summarising that decision, Martin Schwimmer of The Trademark Blog wrote,

The district court dismissed the trademark claim on the ground that no purchaisng decision was affected by the change; the trade dress claim was dismissed because the advertisements were changed so often that there could be no protectable trade dress; and the trespass claim was dismissed because taking the digital photograph of the buildings was not deemed to be the sort of actionable contact with physical property recognized as trespass.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal.

While the digital renderings in the Spiderman movie were based on digital photographs of the real life buildings used to create digital models of the buildings, which is similar to what Google does with Street View, there is at least one important difference between the Sherwood v. Sony case and any potential litigation if Google were to replace advertising in Street View images.

In the movie, while the scene was a recreation of a particular real place, it was just a fixed (albeit moving) image that was not presented as being tied to that location. Yes, it represented Times Square, but it was itself not presented as Times Square, in the sense that the audience was not in any sense at Times Square in that scene of the movie.

Geolocating the images, tying them to a map, and giving people the ability to move through the images as though they were moving through Times Square itself gives the whole problem a very different feeling. When you navigate to a particular place in Street View and move around in the images, you are, in a sense — a virtual sense — in that place. Which is why I thought of it as potentially a Real Property Law issue rather than an Intellectual Property Law issue.

And anyhow, if Google starts selling the rights to advertise on billboards in Street View, replacing existing advertising in those images, they must think they have the rights to do that, in which case they would theoretically have the rights to replace the Yahoo! sign in Times Square with the Google logo. Is it conceivable that that would not be some kind of problem?!

Note that I am not saying that I think there would be a good claim to be made in such a case, not least because of the enforcement and scope problem. It would be tantamount to claiming the right to control the content in all gelocated images of property, which would be impossible in practice. I just think the issue is going to get very real if Google starts doing this.

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Google taking "A new approach to China"

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

Google’s willingness to censor search results (and sometimes even content) at the request of the Chinese government has always been difficult to reconcile with their company motto, “Don’t Be Evil”. Today, Google is taking an unusually strident position that they are unwilling to continue censoring. If they can’t come to another agreement with China, they are threatening to shut down their operations there altogether.

Officially at least, they are doing this as a consequence of cyber attacks originating in China and targeting over 20 Silicon Valley companies, mostly for their source code but also, in the case of the attacks on Google, hackers were after the Gmail accounts of human rights activists.

It looks like these attacks coming from China and the fact that they targeted human rights activists has given Google a platform and an opportunity to refuse to censor information there anymore.

And, probably not incidentally, Gmail is now going to be encrypted for all users all the time, instead of defaulting to unencrypted connections with an option for encryption.

Issue of virtual property rights is getting real

All those outdated billboards in Google Street View aren’t just an eyesore; they’re a waste of money-making opportunity for the big G, apparently. But not for long.

Google’s filed a patent entitled “Claiming Real Estate in Panoramic or 3D Mapping Environments for Advertising,” and it should allow them to automagically cut out billboards shown in Street View and replace them with their own current ads.

In theory, this would be done in concert with whoever owns the space, so a theater owner could keep the posters out front up to date at all times. This seems to be the only way for Google to get away with doing this, as if they suddenly started sticking ads on other people’s property without their permission, things could get ugly fast. [Telegraph]

I knew the early interest in legal issues in Second Life would amount to something eventually!

Does the owner of title in real property have a right to control geolocated images of that property? If so, is it a property right? If they do not control it, and somebody else puts their own images in their place, is that adverse possession? (and would adverse possession still be possible since there is no land titles for images?)

Or is it an intellectual property right, since these are intangible assets?

Or perhaps something different — some sort of a contract interest, rather than a property interest at all, or a sui generis property right?

All of which would seem very esoteric were it not for the large amount of advertising money on the table.

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