Corporations 1, the Commons 0

The Supreme Court voted 7-2 against Larry Lessig’s challenge to the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act. Justices Breyer and Stevens dissented, saying that the act makes copyright “virtually perpetual” and “inhibit[s] the progress of ‘Science’—by which word the Framers meant learning or knowledge” (Breyer dissent). Justice Stevens dissented more narrowly, arguing that just as states lack the right to extend individual patents, so Congress has no right to extend the term of copyright, and that the majority opinion of the court “rests on the mistaken
premise that this Court has virtually no role in reviewing congressional grants of monopoly privileges to authors,
inventors and their successors.” The Trademark Blog has additional coverage. Doc Searls weighs in to argue that this is the start of a long road, not the end of one. Ernie the Attorney thanks Lessig for his hard efforts. Slashdot has a discussion underway. Meanwhile, the Associated Press calls it “a huge victory for Disney,” laying the blame squarely at the feet of the companies who lobbied so vigorously to protect their monopolies.

RIP, Charles Vandersee

The man who was the dean of the Echols program at Virginia, Charles Vandersee, died of a heart attack on January 2. Vandersee, an English professor, was the dean of the Echols program from 1973 to 1997. Under the program, students had considerable academic freedom to pursue their own courses of study—no major requirement and no required courses.

I wish I had known Dean Vandersee better. I confess that at times I was driven to mild mockery by his donnish demeanor, calling him “DJ Chuckie V (In Full Effect).” I was also less than pleased with the Echols program, primarily because its full social and intellectual benefits seemed reserved for students who lived in the program’s main dorm, Watson (I was a spill-over student and lived the next dorm over). But I always respected him for what he represented: the liberal arts, in the best sense of that phrase. The University is a little poorer for his departure.

Phat Mack

One of the advantages of working at a Large Technology Company is that the people who work there are tech pack rats. And occasionally you score some good stuff. At my old job in 1998, I managed to pick up a Mac IIcx and IIfx for free—both were missing hard drives and memory, of course, but just to hold something that ran a Motorola 68030 chip at 33 MHz and could complete an infinite loop in 30 seconds was cool. (The machines both disappeared when my parents moved from Newport News—my dad probably rightly decided to clear out all non-functioning junk in the process.)

I bring this up because I did it again. I now have a Fat Mac (original Mac with 512K of memory instead of the original 128), a Mac Plus motherboard, an extra 400K disk drive, and something else in an original Apple box (external floppy?) sitting in the trunk of my car. Free. The Fat Mac needs some video work, but otherwise represented to be OK. Of course, the question is what can I possibly do with a Fat Mac? I don’t know, but this is the cue to get that soldering iron for the workshop that I wanted…

Update: Low End Mac has a slew of articles about fixing a Fat Mac. Apparently I’m not alone in keeping a fond place in my heart for these older machines.