What has been seen, cannot be unseen – by “Christopher Z – YLT2012”

Our society is one that prides itself (and rightly so) for its free speech.  We do, however, apply certain restrictions on that free speech.  Some are quite obvious.  Everyone knows for example that they can’t indiscriminately yell fire in a crowded theater.  Doing so is obviously dangerous to all those involved unless there actually is a flaming inferno for people to run away from.

in a crowded theater... with no flaming inferno...
in a crowded theater... with no flaming inferno...

On the internet, however, there are no crowded theaters.  I can jump from crowded website to crowded website yelling the metaphorical fire without recklessly putting anyone in physical danger of death or injury by stampede.  For example, say there was this new start up website FakeStartupSite.com.  Say I had a grudge against the creator of this website, so I go on to reddit (or digg or wherever you prefer) and make a post saying that FakeStartupSite.com gives any visitor such a nasty computer virus that their whole machine crashes and leaves them stuck watching the nyan cat video on loop over and over again.

btw it was zombie themed when this posted.  Didn't know they changed themes...
Go ahead. Try it


This is a post I know to be a complete lie but assuming others believe it, this would hurt or even ruin FakeStartupSite.com’s business.  I have claimed something which I know to be factually incorrect with the intent of causing harm.  The legal term for this is libel.

Now this situation isn’t new to the internet.  Libel can take many forms.  There are other forms of unprotected speech that seem to be even more pertinent to the internet than libel.  Police watch for the spread of things like child pornography and classified information across the web.  Hate speech and threats are also unprotected speech.

Back in the day when these kinds of statements could be easily distributed in newspapers, reparations were easy.  A newspaper doesn’t publish its material without reviewing it first.  The New York Times then is responsible for the contents of its paper.

But for a website like reddit to review all of its posts before the allow them to go online would stifle the whole appeal of the site.  The internet allows for user interactivity in a way that just wasn’t possible before its invention.  Its just silly to expect a website to be able to filter out all of the bad material.  And to inhibit the ability of sites to allow user interaction would be squandering one of the greatest capabilities of the internet

Our justice system, however, decided in Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. that if a site performed any sort of editing at all, then it could be held liable for any unprotected material that makes it through to the site because they in esscence became a publisher.  Thinking that this would cause sites to implement even tougher censorship restrictions, this actually would encourage sites to remove all censorship in order to avoid being liable

As anyone who has ever been to completely unrestricted sites can attest, there can be a real benefit to having a censored site.  Facebook would be a much different place if Facebook didn’t keep some of the more disturbing parts of the web from its pages.

Congress then passed the Communications Decency Act and in Section 230 they state that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene…”  This put in place a new rule that allowed sites to create good faith censorship of obscene materials without them being liable for anything that falls through the cracks.

And its a good thing Section 230 is still around.  The internet would be quite a different place.

I can call administrators dumb (over the internet) if I want to – by “Paul C – YLT2012”

*Picture used for educational purposes only, no copyright infringement intended.

Regardless of whether or not I actually believe the Dean of Yale College to be an idiot, I am allowed to say this. If Mary Miller or Yale University decided to take punitive action against me because of this image macro, I could sue them into oblivion.

Freedom of speech has been hammered into our heads since elementary school, so we instinctively know that statements like these are considered opinions, and we are entitled to them.

Of course, we also accept that there are some restrictions–we can’t just go around yelling “fire” in a theater, for example. We also can’t publish bad things about people that aren’t even true in an attempt to defame them. That’s libel.

All of this is pretty basic. Now let’s put this in the context of the internet: If I used this blog entry to libel Someone Important, could that person sue the owner of this blog, or even the ISP of the server on which it’s hosted, for libel? Common sense tells us of course not. So does Professor Balkin.

The difference between suing a newspaper for libel and not suing a blogging service is that the former necessarily reviews its content before publication. With most online services, the provider isn’t really involved with the content. That’s how net neutrality, which is most often thought of as a market issue, becomes an issue of freedom of expression: The internet becomes a medium through which to exercise your right to freedom of speech, so regulating it wouldn’t please the old hats that wrote the Constitution.

So if you value your right to call whoever you want whatever you want online, do your part to support net neutrality. Business arguments may hold some sway, as ISPs are private, but once we take that first step, it’s a slippery way down.

Dr. Horrible’s Horrible Blog: Act IV – by “Hunter F – YLT2012”

Ahaaa ha ha-ah ha ha. Ha haaa ah ha! Ha ha haha ha. Ahem.

So, you know, my evil laugh has come a long way now that I’ve made it into the Evil League of Evil, as you can probably hear. I mean, you can’t actually hear it, since I can’t record it. But from the uh, transcription up there you should be able to imagine just how horrible it’s become.

And before people start sending emails saying that I’m just trying to hide my laugh, for whatever reason, let’s be clear: I can’t record it because Moist broke my webcam, not because I’m ashamed of the laugh or because it isn’t horrible. Because it most definitely is horrible. Horrifyingly… horrible. You’ll just have to trust me here.

Ah ha-ah ha ha!

SO I know it’s been a long time since my last video blog (4 years?), and I know I haven’t been able to respond to my fanmail either. But now, the wait is over. Dr. Horrible is back. Tell you friends. Anyway, ever since my famously successful victory over Captain Hammer, I’ve been working hard on a new scheme. Remember the freeze-ray? The one that stops time? With the Evil Genius grant I got from the league, I was able to steal enough Fluffletonium to bring it up to a whole new level. So now it doesn’t just stop time. Now it can change time too – rewind, fast-forward, everything. Which is big. Really big. Figuratively.

That was maybe a year ago. Since then I’ve had to figure out what to do with it. Which, you know, is a lot harder than it sounds. I have a public image now, so, uh, just committing whatever crime I choose doesn’t work anymore. I’ve got to stick to a theme. Which in my case is an evil inventor theme. But I finally did come up with something, a plan that is, and it’s got everything: mayhem, vast sums of money, destroying the status quo… that evil inventor theme, the one I mentioned earlier…. This is it, boys and girls. This is the one to be excited about.  Brace yourselves.

I’m going to become the world’s greatest, most evil inventor, by stealing all the royalties and rights from every major inventor that has ever lived. And I’m going to do it by going back in time and patenting their own inventions before they had the chance. Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel Morse… all about to vanish from history. I will become the greatest inventor, ever. Next time you use your phone, or turn on a light bulb, or send someone a, uh, telegraph… you’ll have to pay. Just make those checks out to Dr. Horrible, P.H.D.

So here goes. See you at the aftermath.

PART II: Horrible’s horrible aftermath

Um. Well the plan was not fully successful. I said I was going to steal inventions, and uh,  I had every intention. But when I got there, to the past, things went, well, unsuccessfully. My original plan was to steal all of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions and patent them. Which I did do. Well, tried to do. I went back to the 18th century to steal his designs. I must have gotten the dates wrong because, he was supposed to be in France, not back in the states. Er, colonies. Didn’t realize he’d catch me stealing them, and I didn’t…

Benjamin Franklin threw the liberty bell at my head.

Not to worry though, I’m fine. Only the bell was damaged. Wow he was strong.

RIGHT, anyway I was able to make off with most of his designs and discoveries. So there was that. The US patent office didn’t exist yet, but that’s not a problem for, you know, a time traveler. Benjamin Franklin never patented any of his inventions, so I thought it’d be easy to get the credit myself.  Once I had the patent, anybody who was using a Franklin Stove would have to turn it in, and buy a replacement Horrible Stove from one of my licensed distributors.

I admit the product name could use some work.

But anyway, yeah! ahHHA! Evil mission accomplished…

"Your patent application for the 'Horrible Stove' has been denied..."

Except, turns out it doesn’t work that way. A statutory bar had been put in place to prevent copycats (or time travelers) from obtaining patents on inventions and discoveries already in use. SO… I’d just have to try patenting one of Ben’s less widely used inventions, right? Well, turns out that doesn’t work either. Even if nobody uses an invention, as long as publicly available information exists about it it’s not eligible for patent. Prior art, I think was the… uh, word. Term. Long story short, I came away empty handed.

So my first attempt was not 100% successful. Per se. Let’s hope second time’s the charm.


PART III: Second time is not the charm

No success this time either. I, uh..


There’s good news and bad news. And the bad news is definitely bigger, so …

I tried to steal Thomas Edison’s patents. I thought the light bulb was a good one to start off with, since everybody uses them. Or did, before CFLs. And at first things went well. This time I checked the dates carefully, so I got to the patent office well ahead of Edison with my application. Annnnd it worked. Sort of. Until Edison contested the patent, claiming that his invention of the light bulb predated my own. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, Edison accusing someone else of stealing his invention? Irony, am I right?  Anyway, the earlier filing date of my application, which, you know, was the factor I had been counting on, only gave me a slight advantage. Apparently, all Edison needed to do to steal the patent back was to prove that he had come up with the idea before I had. Alas, I’m not so easily beaten. Edison should have known that I would fight back. And prevail. Because I have a P.H.D. in horribleness.

Plus, I've got a hand-cannon.

Quickly, I jumped back forty years and created private documentation proving that I had first conceived of the lightbulb decades before Edison. Ha! Dr. Horrible 1, Edison 0. ….At least those should have been the scores. Once again, it turns out that the people who make laws have taken precautions against time-travelers. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who must have warned them. Anyway, earlier conception alone isn’t enough – I was told that I would also have to prove that during the time between my conception and Edison’s conception I had worked with “reasonable diligence,” whatever that means, in the preparation of my patent application.

So I was stuck. I had supposedly conceived of the light bulb decades before Edison. And there was no way I could have worked diligently for FORTY YEARS on my application. I had to leave empty handed. Again.

That was the bad news.

Good news! Right. So I’ve learned a lot from all this, and I’m going to use it. In just a few short hours I’ll be the most renowned and respected inventor you’ve never heard of. Why never? Because, boys and girls, I’m going to be famous in the future. I’ve identified the most valuable invention of the 21st century: the element Wonderflonium, first created in July, 2015.


I’ve already planted evidence in 2015 proving that I, Dr. Horrible, invented this new element myself in June, and that I worked diligently on  preparing my application between June and July of 2015. On the day after the real inventor files his patent, I’ll present my evidence and walk away with the patent. Easy. Like candy from a baby.






(Ripped off of Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog)

The Story-Pages of Redaer – by “Jesse S – YLT2012”

The Republic of Redaer prides itself on its Story-Talkers, an elite group of artists responsible for preserving the nation’s rich storytelling tradition. For many centuries, the Story-Talkers have lived together on a government-provided estate, dedicating the vast majority of their time to the memorization of the Ancient Works and the creation of New Works. These works are traditionally delivered in massive public performances; audiences would travel from all corners of the Republic to hear the recitation of the famous epics (The Lone Traveller, for example, or The Divers’ Saga). Entire families would often take a week each year to attend the performances at the Story-Talkers’ estate; parents would bask in the masterful delivery of stories they’d heard since childhood, and their own children would have the chance to hear the tales for the first time.

It was a rich oral tradition, one that gave the citizens of Redaer a sense of shared identity, especially in regards to the highly beloved Ancient Works. As the centuries passed, however, the canon grew larger, and the Story-Talkers began struggling to remember all the details they were charged with protecting. Small things were forgotten: a minor character in the Ballad of the Boxer, a plot twist in the Tale of the River Walkers. The Story-Talkers became necessarily consumed with memorization: young Story-Talkers spent thousands of hours in tutoring sessions with their elders, leaving neither group with enough time to create any New Works of significant artistic value. The problem, then, was dire and two-fold: there was the gradual loss of Ancient Works and the failure to produce any New Works.

The government, recognizing the severity of the issue, dedicated an enormous quantity of resources to finding a solution. After many months, they were met with success: the invention of the Story-Page (what we would call a “book”), which could hold a written account of the Ancient Works. Thrilled at the prospect of being freed from memorization, the Story-Talkers spent the next five years recording the tales that had so long lived exclusively in their heads. The Library of Redaer was established on the outskirts of their estate, and any citizen, after taking a basic literacy course, could—for a fee—rent a copy of an Ancient Work, in Story-Page form, to read at his or her leisure. The benefits of performance were lost, but new benefits were gained: the ability to read at one’s own pace, for example, and in one’s own home. Relieved of their burden, the Story-Talkers were again able to create and perform New Works of artistic merit. Everyone was thrilled; the national mood was euphoric.

What the government had not foreseen was the development of an underground story-sharing culture, whereby citizens would secretly lend their library books to each other. Often, lending occurred between close friends or family members; a mother would lend her son a copy of the River Walkers, for example, when he learned how to read. Sometimes, though, large networks of people would establish “reading chains.” In a reading chain, one physical Story-Page was passed through dozens—or even hundreds—of hands before returning to the Library.

As the reading chains grew longer, fewer and fewer people took out Story-Pages from the Library. The government noticed that its revenue from library fees (which helped cover the Story-Talkers’ living expenses) was declining, and after some investigation, they located and arrested several of the more prominent chain organizers (“chainers,” as they were known in the underground chain culture). The Story Protection Act, passed despite public outrage, forbade the creation of and participation in lending chains. Lending was still permissible among close friends and family members, but any lending that involved three or more individuals was officially classified as a “chain.”

The Act proved ineffectual. Though the law was clear, it was also unenforceable; citizens cold lend books to each other in the privacy of their own homes, tucked away from the government’s eye. The government saw no increase in its revenue from library fees—in fact, chains were formed more fiercely, bound together by a sense of moral outrage. “Reading is a right,” claimed famous chainer Rick Tandy in his trial. (Tandy, an early champion of the Free Reading movement, had been arrested for his role in arranging a seventy-person chain.) Access to the Ancient Works, he argued, led to greater intelligence, creativity, and empathy on the part of the reader. Plus, literacy had increased demand and appreciation for New Works. Audiences at New Work performances had never been larger; the Story-Talkers had never been happier, and the government’s lost revenue from library fees was counteracted by increased ticket sales for New Work performances.

But the leaders of Redaer paid no heed to the arguments of Tandy and his colleagues; instead, they passed a new law known as the Readership Era Security Act (RESA), which recalled all extant Library books and gave the Library the power of Literacy Restrictions Management (LRM). Under the auspices of LRM, the Library converted all its Story-Pages into illegible code. Every citizen was given a special pair of reading goggles, and, upon legally withdrawing a Story-Page, his or her goggles were adjusted such that the particular Story-Page would become legible. If that citizen lent her Story-Page to someone else, it would appear to that person as gibberish; if she tried to lend her goggles, a special security chip would immediately alert the police.

A consequence of LRMs was that friends and family members could not effectively lend Story-Pages to each other. Tandy was particularly outraged on this point, as intra-family lending had been made explicitly legal in the Story Protection Act. He spent several years designing a pair of “universal goggles,” which would allow someone to read any coded Story-Page. He gave these goggles away freely, but with the warning that they were to be used only for legal lending. Whether or not this warning was delivered earnestly is beside the point; armed with universal goggles, chains reformed, more strongly than ever before. Tandy was arrested and tried for attempting to circumvent the LRMs. He was given a hefty sentence, despite public protests at his trial, on the Story-Talker estate, and in taverns across the nation.

To this day, chain culture exists in opposition to government regulation. Though Tandy is forbidden from communicating without a government official present, others have stepped in to fill his shoes. As the Story-Page encryptions become more complicated, so too do the universal goggles. There is a clear public thirst for Story-Pages, for free and unlimited access to the Ancient Works. (Some rogue chainers have even begun transcribing and circulating illegal copies of New Works, though the public looks less favorably on that practice; reading a New Work has been proven to decrease one’s likelihood of attending a performance.) Their central argument? Reading is a right. It’s a refrain, a battle cry, the proud and enduring defense of Free Readers nationwide. Reading is a right.