What is a trope? The website TV Tropes explains:
A trope is a storytelling device or convention, a shortcut for describing situations the storyteller can reasonably assume the audience will recognize. Tropes are the means by which a story is told by anyone who has a story to tell.
How often have you watched a new movie or TV show and noticed that it is drenched in tropes? I notice this constantly. TV shows and movies resemble other movies and shows so often that some have written, tongue in cheek, that there are actually only an extremely limited number of plots. Are there only seven plots? Are there only six plots?
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Thomson Reuters (formerly West Publishing) sent me a DVD with Missouri Jury Instructions today. The DVD comes with a document called “Forms on Disc Guide.” That document gives me the following advice:
Although you may access the forms directly from the disc, we recommend you create a directory on your hard drive and copy the contents of the disc into that directory. The forms can then be accessed from your hard drive and the disc can be kept with the book for safe keeping.
Sounds like good advice. But wait! The Copyright Notice, another document on the same DVD, contains this warning:
© 2016 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Govt. works.
All rights reserved. The data on the disc is licensed by West, part of Thomson Reuters, and no part of the data may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred, or used in any form or by any means, including, but not limited to, use by multiple users on a wide-area network, local area network, intranet, or extranet, or similar method of distribution, without prior written permission. Any authorized reproduction of any part of the data must contain notice of copyright as follows: © 2016 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Govt. works.
Therefore, Thomson is 1) telling me to copy its jury instruction forms onto my hard drive AND 2) telling me that if I have “copied” or “downloaded” this information on my “retrieval system” I would be in violation of copyright laws, unless I have first obtained “prior written permission” from Thomson Reuters.
This second warning is especially silly in that the whole purpose of having jury instruction “Forms” is to copy them as part of the process of using those forms to prepare jury instructions, and then “transmitting” those instructions to a court and other attorneys for use at trial.
All of this not carefully thought out by one of the world premier providers of legal products to lawyers.
Sad story here by Alex Wild, nature photographer, who has been a constant victim of infringement despite the existence of copyright laws. How overwhelming is his battle?
For a concise idea of what could go wrong, let me indulge in a list of recent venues where commercial interests have used my work without permission, payment, or even a simple credit:
Billboards, YouTube commercials, pesticide spray labels, website banners, exterminator trucks, t-shirts, iPhone cases, stickers, company logos, eBook covers, trading cards, board games, video game graphics, children’s books, novel covers, app graphics, alt-med dietary supplement labels, press releases, pest control advertisements, crowdfunding promo videos, coupons, fliers, newspaper articles, postage stamps, advertisements for pet ants (yes, that’s a thing), canned food packaging, ant bait product labels, stock photography libraries, and greeting cards.
Yesterday evening, while Googling insect references in popular culture, I discovered that a small Caribbean island helped itself to a photograph I took in 2008. My photo shows a slave-raiding ant, a fascinating species that survives as a parasite on the labor of other ants. But the image had been imprinted on the back of a commemorative one-cent piece. Perhaps symbolically, this is one cent more than I received for my part in bringing the coin to the public.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a curriculum for high school students on the topic of Copyright. I spent some time reviewing it, and it looks like an excellent resource for anyone wanting to know more about this important subject.
Why is it that generic drug makers sometimes delay entering the market, sometimes long after the drug patent expires? This is another tale in corporatocracy, told by Alternet:
[I]magine you’re a big-time drug company. You want to keep competitors off the market as long as possible. Your move is to basically sue the pants off the generic drugmaker for copyright infringement, setting in motion a long and tortuous legal process. And these usually end with “pay-for-delay” deals. The brand-name drug company pays the generic manufacturer a cash settlement, and the generic manufacturer agrees to delay entry into the market for a number of years. In the case before the Supreme Court, the drug company paid $30 million a year to protect its $125 million annual profit in AndroGel, a testosterone supplement.
It’s hard to see this as anything but bribery, designed to preserve a lucrative monopoly for the brand-name drug maker. In fact, this is what the Federal Trade Commission has argued for over a decade. They consider it a violation of antitrust law, arguing that the exchange of cash gives the generic manufacturer a share of future profits in the drug, specifically to prolong the monopoly. As SCOTUSBlog summarizes from the FTC’s court brief, in the regulator’s view, “Nothing in patent law … validates a system in which brand-name companies could buy off their would-be competitors.” Indeed, everyone wins with pay-for-delay but the consumer: the FTC estimates that the two dozen deals inked in 2012 alone cost drug patients $3.5 billion annually, with the brand-name and generic manufacturers splitting the ill-gotten profits.
Here is an infographic with some surprising numbers.
Join EFF and the Public Participation Project in calling on Congress to support the PETITION Act, strong federal anti-SLAPP legislation. The concept is simple: when a blogger faces a legal threat for legitimate online content, she can file a motion to get the case dismissed quickly. If the case is found to be frivolous in court, she won’t have to pay the legal fees.”
Here is discussion of a meritless suit against Matthew Inman that illustrates the need for such a law.