Wed, 30 Mar 2005

I had lots of fun at the court yesterday. The TF of my hahvahd class was there; his post covers the actual argument better than I could; I didn’t think to bring a pad and pen and probably wouldn’t have been a very good note taker anyway. [The court very definitely does not allow laptops inside; apparently even taking in a pen and paper was not allowed until the past few months.]

I wrote yesterday (optimistically) that 50 members of the public would get in. That was wrong; we ended up getting in 35, and that only after #32 (right behind me) basically begged politely for 31-40 to get in. 36-40 got at least a few minutes. We were all in the furthest back corner, behind some columns; I could only see Scalia, Breyer, and Ginsberg, and could not see the presenting lawyers, which was a shame. This in a room that probably sat 300; the other 270 seats being for friends of the court, VIPs, etc. We only even got line numbers that high because many of the line-sitters (who are paid $200 to sleep out overnight to save seats for interested parties) left because they were cold and tired, and the people they were saving spots for were Between this and their transcript release policies, the court is… well, I’ll be generous and say that their policies are not befitting of the court of a democratic state. Though I suppose any society this large is almost inevitably subject to elite capture, it is a shame that this is a trend the court seems to celebrate instead of doing it’s best to fight.

Running up the stairs, trying to get in.

There were protesters outside the Court from both the music industry and the ‘pro-innovation’ crowd. Posters and t-shirts for the pro-innovation group were sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Organization. Will be interesting to see if that alliance holds up in the long term, or can expand- Intel and AMD have both been big Linux backers, and various hardware and ISP folks have spoken quietly about file sharing being the next killer app. Of course, they have to speak quietly about it.


Jack Valenti tried to go in the court early through the front doors, but was rebuffed by security, to the great amusement of the crowd. Seth Schoen of EFF managed to convince him to sign a Betamax tape:

Cindy Cohn of EFF with the Valenti-autographed betamax tape.

Met lots of cool people, at least some of whom are GNOME users, which was fun. After introducing myself to Annalee Newlitz of EFF, I did the ‘oh, I’ve read your stuff, but you’d have no reason to know who I am.’ Politely, she responded with ‘well, what do you do?’ Her response to that was ‘oh, you work on GNOME? Thank you! I love GNOME!’ That was pretty cool; apparently she’s been a user since right after 2.0. And she’s primarily a writer, not a tech person- so that’s great. Inevitably I showed off the bouncy windows to a bunch of people, at the foot of the stairs of the Supreme Court, adding another one to the list of the Things I Never Thought I Would Do. Finally met Kragen Sitaker, with whom I’ve shared a mailing list since 2001. Heard him recount a very compressed version of the discussion between Lessig and RMS at the FSF meeting. Sounded like fairly typical RMS; led to an interesting discussion between us of the importance of a free stack and a free application layer, and the general ‘get proprietary ISVs on Linux so that we can at least get people on a Free Kernel’ strategy that GNOME and other LGPL-using folks have pursued. Talked with Matt (a student of Eben Moglen’s) and Mako Hill on the implications of the marginal cost of distribution of information and the potential moral rights and responsibilities coming out of that. Food for thought that I’ll have to explore in my final paper.

In other news…

On the train, I read Automated Alice (a sort of Alice in Wonderland trequel) by Jeff Noon, who I’ve blogged about before. I think I figured out how to describe him; he is a remixer of the language*- like the Kleptones (who I listened to while reading some of the book), he is taking the familiar (in this case words) and mashing and twisting and the result is often beautiful, or better yet, newwonderfastastical. Go read something by him as soon as you can and stretch your brain a bit.

* I doubt this is an original statement; he talks frequently of music and raves in his books; heck, I might have even read it somewhere and just not had it click until now.

After saying goodbyes to the copyfighting crowd, I visited my friend Eily, and her scale. I’ve lost about 12 pounds since my last visit to her place, in November. Eating better and a touch of excercise are doing wonders. Still lots of work to do, I guess, but a great step towards not being greeted by ‘Luis, you’ve gotten so fat!’ at the next GUADEC. [For those who haven’t been to GUADEC with me and heard that story, yes that really happened once….]