Hey, score one for copyRIGHTS!

If you haven’t heard of the hilarious JibJab parody of “This Land is Your Land,” starring George W. Bush and John Kerry, click on that link, then come back here when you’re done laughing. I’ll see you in an hour or two.

Well, the supposed owners of the copyright on the original song weren’t amused, so they threatened a lawsuit. But the good guys struck back. Not only is parody permissible (are they gonna sue Weird Al Yankovic next?), but the good guys made a convincing case that “This Land is Your Land” is public domain!This was a case of a publisher trying to stack the deck in its favor to eke out a few extra years of copyright, trying to save 20 bucks, or both. The song was first published in 1945, but the publisher prefers to stick with a 1956 copyright, renewed in 1984.

JibJab’s goal was to protect its own skin, so the publisher is sticking by its 1956 copyright. Someone else will probably have to fight that battle.

Sadly, the way copyright law is now, it’s almost impossible for something to fall into the public domain except by accident, as in this case. But at least we have a demonstrable case of it happening once.

Brightmail, plus voice recognition

Brightmail update. I promised an update earlier (or at least I implied one) on Brightmail, the free (for private use) spam filtering service at www.brightmail.com. They’ll of course gladly sell your business spam filtering tools–that’s the point of their free service: Get you hooked, so you go tell your boss about it and they get some business.
At any rate, early on it was awful, making me wonder if the volume of spam it blocked was worth the trouble of signing up and then reconfiguring my mail client. Lately, however, it’s gotten much better. Last week it saved me from deleting e-mail offering me a free pager, how to find out anything about anyone, viagra, making $2-$300 a day, making what I’m worth (whatever that is), FWD: Check this out!!!, attention homeowners!, and some cable-stealing scheme. (It sends you a weekly summary, just in case it deleted something legit. The forward sounded like it could have been, but it wasn’t from anyone I know. Some guy named Dave Yaprak, who, as a spammer, should be forced by the rest of us Daves to cease using our name because he’s proven himself unworthy of such a cool name.) During that same time frame, two spams got through: One telling me I can double my money in three months by investing in the Yen, and another offering to sell me 15 million e-mail addresses. So it blocked 78% and gave me something to write about. Good deal.

While I still think it’s too early to deem Brightmail a must-have (I’ve been using it for just under a month now) it does seem to be more effective, and a lot less trouble, than any other anti-spam measure I’ve taken in the past. SpamCop does very little good; and as soon as I talked about Bounce Spam Mail ridding me of that blasted used computer broker that invaded Thompson’s site, they sent me something. It’ll be interesting to see if Brightmail finally rids me of them (I never opt out of spam, because that’s honest-to-goodness verification that I read the account, which makes my address even more valuable to sell to others).

“I never feed trolls and I don’t read spam.” –Weird Al Yankovic


From: “Frank McPherson”

Subject: Recognition software

I don’t do much with voice recognition, but I certainly work with a lot of handwriting recognition. I think that with any recognition software the user eventually changes their style to accommodate the software. That is, the software may perform at 95% recognition and then the user changes what they do to get the remaining 5%. That’s how you get to a higher rate over a period of time.

Frank McPherson, MCSE


You’re certainly right about that. And in the case of a writer with voice recognition, that change isn’t necessarily a good thing. I guess the test is whether an editor notices the difference. I know what my writing is supposed to “sound” like, and if it’s different, I’m not happy.

I just got back from a three-hour editing session, with someone who has a very different philosophy and style of editing, so I’m very much tuned in to the ways of writers at the moment. Anything that damages the integrity of the author’s original thought is a problem, from my point of view.

Maybe I’m just too creative or too perfectionistic for my own good. But we’ll see how the Dragon pans out–I’m very willing to give it a shot.