Created time
Dec 31, 2024 08:03 PM
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from the it's-musky-in-here dept

Happy (almost) new year, Techdirt readers! As always, it’s time to take take a break from the regular weekly post and take a look at the comments that got the most votes from our community this year in the insightful and funny categories, plus a special look at the comments that got the most combined votes across both. If you want to see the winners for this week, here’s first and second place for insightful, and first and second place for funny. Now, on to the big winners!
The Most Insightful Comments Of 2023
Given all the news he created, and all the conversation it generated, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that comments about Elon Musk dominated the leaderboards this year. All the way back in May, we learned many things about Musk’s, er, unique management style when six former Twitter employees filed a lawsuit full of juicy details, including more information about the previously-revealed fact that Musk didn’t want to pay rent for the Twitter headquarters. They employees’ stories painted quite a picture, leading TKnarr to react with what was voted the most insightful comment of 2023:
Things aren’t wall-to-wall Musk in the winners, but to be honest it’s pretty damn close: there are only two comments unrelated to Musk out of the nine featured in this post, and one of them is our second place winner on the insightful side. Instead, it’s about another CEO who briefly stole the spotlight with terrible business decisions. Namely Reddit’s Steve Huffman, who back in June went to war with the site’s volunteer mods and basically the whole Reddit community. Radix offered a summary of some of his comments that racked up the votes to become the second most insightful comment of 2023:
But of course nobody could upstage Elon Musk for long, and in October we were talking about his harebrained plan to turn ExTwitter into a financial services app that would ostensibly take over just about everything everyone does related to money. That led to the first of two anonymous comments to make this year’s list, with some prognostication that was voted the third most insightful comment of 2023:
And with that, we move on to…
The Funniest Comments of 2023
On the funny side of things, we kick things off with our second and last diversion from the exploits of Elon. As you may recall, back in July the New York Times wrote up a great profile of Mike Masnick, and we featured a brief post calling attention to it. DJ suggested that we should have taken a different approach in what was voted the funniest comment of 2023:
Next, we move on to the earliest of all the comments so far, from all the way back in February when Elon Musk announced new and onerous pricing for the Twitter API that instantly gutted many useful things about the site. Keroberos stepped in with the first comment on the post, a heavy helping of general sarcasm (at a time when a lot more people still believed Musk must have some brilliant trick up his sleeve) that was voted the second funniest comment of 2023:
Last but not least on the funny side, we have the return of Stephen T. Stone, who you may recall fully swept the insightful category and won all three spots in last year’s rankings. This time it’s the most recent comment in the list so far, coming just a few weeks ago when we wrote about Musk’s lawsuit against Media Matters and his reinstatement of Alex Jones, and alas it’s not an original work but a pass-along joke that was apt enough to be voted the third funniest comment of 2023:
But we’re not done yet, because first it’s time for…
The Top Comments Of 2023 For Insightful & Funny Votes Combined
More often than not, there’s some overlap between the leaderboards for funny and insightful votes individually, and the leaderboard for votes in both categories combined — but this isn’t one of those years. So we’ve got three more comments to feature (and yes, they’re all about Elon Musk). In first place for combined votes (with more votes on the insightful side, but plenty on both) it’s our second anonymous winner of the year, responding to Musk’s realization in August that credit cards weren’t enough for verification, and his subsequent plans to make verified users start uploading government identification:
In second place, it’s our only instance of two winners coming from the same post, with another entry from the Twitter API pricing announcement back in February (indeed it came in just three minutes after the comment that one second place for funny). This time, it’s That One Guy racking up lots of votes in both categories (but more on the funny side) for some solid speculation on what would follow:
And last but not least, we’ve got our third place winner for combined votes (with again just a little more on the funny side), coming in at the end of November when Musk really outdid himself by going on stage and telling fleeing advertisers to go fuck themselves. He then went on to insist that “Earth” would judge which of them was in the right, leading Thad to accept the invitation:
And with that, we close the books on 2023. Once again, thanks to all the commenters who keep generating great content for the weekly posts and these yearly roundups. I look forward to the continuing conversation in 2024!
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At first glance that might look damning. But it’s a lot less damning when you look at the actual prompt in Exhibit J and realize what happened, and how generative AI actually works.
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Of course, quoting individual paragraphs from a news article is almost certainly fair use. And, for what it’s worth, the Times itself admits that this process doesn’t actually return the full article, but a paraphrase of it.
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That’s… all factual information summarizing the review? And while the complaint shows that if you then ask for (again, paragraph length) quotes, GPT will give you a few quotes from the article.
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from the can-we-have-an-online-contest-for-the-dumbest-patent? dept

Patents are supposed to be an incentive to invent. Too often, they end up being a way to try to claim “ownership” of what should be basic building blocks of human activity, culture, and knowledge. This is especially true of software patents, an area EFF has been speaking out about for more than 20 years now.
This month’s Stupid Patent, No. 8,655,715, continues the tradition of trying to use software language to capture a monopoly on a basic human cultural activity — in this case, contests.
A company called Opus One, which does business under the name “Contest Factory,” claims this patent and a related one cover a huge array of online contests. So far, they’ve filed five lawsuits against other companies that help build online contests, and even threatened a small photo company that organizes mostly non-commercial contests online.
The patents held by Contest Factory are a good illustration of why EFF has been concerned about out-of-control software patents. It’s not just that wrongly issued patents extort a vast tax on the U.S. economy (although they do—one study estimated $29 billion in annual direct costs). The worst software patents also harm peoples’ rights to express themselves and participate in online culture. Just as we’re free in the physical world to sign documents, sort photos, store and label information, clock in to work, find people to date, or teach foreign languages, without paying extortionate fees to others, we must also be free to do so online.

Patenting Contests

Claim 1 of the ‘715 patent has steps that claim:
  • Receiving, storing, and accessing data on a computer;
  • Sorting it and generating “contest data”;
  • Tabulating votes and picking a winner.
The patent also uses other terms for common activities of general purpose computers, such as “transmitting” and “displaying” data.
In other words, the patent describes everyday use of computers, plus the idea of users participating in a contest. This is a classic abstract idea, and it never should have been eligible for a patent.
In a 2017 article in CIO Review, the company acknowledges how incredibly broad its claims are. Contest Factory claims it patented “voting in online contests long before TV contest shows with public voting components made their appearance,” and that it holds patents “associated with online contests and integrating online voting with virtually any type of contest.”

Lawsuit Over Radio Station Contest

In its most recent lawsuit, Contest Factory says that a Minneapolis radio station’s “Mother’s Day Giveaway” for a mother/daughter spa day infringed its patent. The radio station asked people to post mother-daughter selfies online and share their entry to collect votes.
Contest Factory sued Pancake Labs (complaint), the company that helped the radio station put the contest online. Contest Factory also claimed a PBS contest in which viewers created short films and voted on them was an example of infringement.
For the “Mother’s Day Giveaway” contest, the patent infringement accusation reads in part that, “the executable instructions … cause the generation of a contest and the transmission of the first and second content data to at least one user to view and rate the content.”
Contest Factory has sued over quite a few internet contests, dating back more than a decade. Its 2016 lawsuits, based on the ‘715 patent and two earlier related patents, were filed against three small online marketing firms: Vancouver-based Strutta, Florida-based Elettro, and California-based Votigo, for contests that go back to 2011. We don’t know how many more companies or online communities have been threatened in all.
Sharing user-generated content like photos—cooperatively or competitively—is the kind of sharing that the digital world is ideal for. When patent owners demand a toll for these activities, it doesn’t matter whether they’re patent “trolls” or operating companies seeking to extract settlements from competitors. They threaten our freedoms in unacceptable ways.
The government shouldn’t be issuing patents like these, and it certainly shouldn’t be making them harder to challenge.
  • Opus One d/b/a Contest Factory v. Pancake Labs complaint
  • Opus One d/b/a Contest Factory v. Telescope complaint
  • Opus One d/b/a Contest Factory v. Elletro complaint
  • Opus One d/b/a Contest Factory v. Votigo complaint
  • Opus One d/b/a Contest Factory v. Strutta complaint
Originally posted to the EFF’s Stupid Patent of the Month Series.
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