This Week in Geekdom: Copyright Infringement Edition



Hey guys. With all that's been going on in the past couple of days I just haven't been able to focus too much on writing new posts. The notion that some coward is out there profiting off of the theft of my (copyright protected) writing conjures both fury and sadness. A profound thank you to all those out there who have offered support. Your kind words and offers of legal assistance are deeply appreciated.

At the same time, there are millions of issues facing the world right now that are far more pressing. What has happened has happened. It sucks, but I don't pretend that it's anything more than an unfortunate side-effect of using a creative medium in the digital realm. I always try to make an effort to donate blood during times like these as a reminder that my troubles are tiny and the effort I'd waste being upset could instead be spent trying to help people with actual problems.

Image by SAFE Corporation
In that spirit, I wanted to provide resources for those out there who believe they, too, may have experienced internet intellectual property theft.

Note: if you are the owner of a blog who has also had proprietary content stolen by the owner of gamedonation.com please contact me via one of the social media sites for the Care and Feeding of Nerds or directly at nerdycare@gmail.com.

Olivia Rose over at Kissmetrics.com has one of the most concise, thorough step-by-step guides for how to seek redress if your internet-based intellectual property has been stolen. All of her tips can be highly effective, but the most direct way to take immediate action against the party that has stolen from you is tip #3: finding out who is hosting the offending site.

WhoIsHostingThis.com is a very straightforward way to accurately ascertain the thief's core website structure. Once you know what service the thief is using, you can usually file a claim directly with the host (look in the 'support' section of their website). It's in the host's best interests to not aid and abet parties who are infringing on a copyright, so they may respond to your claim quickly. 

Raubi Marie Perelli has this helpful breakdown of the legal applications and distinctions between plagiarism and copyright infringement. For the definitive text on copyright law as it is practiced in the United States, visit this link.

These are additional sites/resources that are enormously useful:

- Copyscape (allows blog owners to determine if their content is being stolen)

- The official text of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (protects creators of internet-based intellectual property)

- Speaking of DMCA, you can work directly with that portion of the copyright office to file a take down or even use their free protection alert banners like the one now featured on this blog.

- Ginny Soskey's extremely useful article about how to combat internet copyright infringement.

This sort of theft is a distressing reality, but we are far from helpless.

None of the above should be construed as or considered legal advice. If you're pursuing legal action against the parties who have infringed on your copyright, contact an attorney.
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Burglary

This is not an update I ever would want to write but, given just how common the practice is, I suppose this sort of thing could almost be considered an eventuality when you write in the digital sphere.

Earlier today I discovered that a website, http://gamedonation.com, has been stealing content from the Care and Feeding of Nerds. This isn't just a matter of 'hey, that kind of sounds like me'; the posts are lifted from here wholesale and are re-published word-for-word. Literally. Down to the tags I use to categorize entries.

I never gave permission for this action, nor is the owner of the offending site authorized to use my content. I've updated the site to move the text that used to exist in the 'copyright' tab in the menu that appears along the right-hand margin of the page into a new clickable page, Terms of Use, that you can see just below the main banner at the top of your screen. This was theft, pure and simple, and it is a violation of my copyright.

More than that, it feels like a violation not of my physical person, but of something trickier to put a single word to. The best approximation I can come up with is this. A few years back, I came home from Thanksgiving dinner to find that my house had been broken into. Mercifully, not very much was stolen or destroyed, but the knowledge that people had invaded that personal space without permission and acted as they saw fit was arguably worse than losing material goods.

This blog has been a labor of love. It was supposed to be a fun hobby that maybe, if I was lucky, entertained a few people. Maybe it's my fault for putting so much of myself out there or…in here…you know what I mean. It's a wild internet and these things happen all the time, but knowing that only makes this almost imperceptibly easier.

I've filed formal claims with Google (who hosts this site) and GoDaddy.com (who hosts the thief's site) citing copyright violation. I've also reached out directly to the thief asking that the stolen material be removed. I'm not sure what the next steps are or will be. Honestly, there's some thinking to be done about the future of the blog as a whole. If I do close up shop, I'll at least put up a final post saying just that. 
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This Week in Geekdom



Sweet mother of Thor, it finally stopped snowing! Granted, there have certainly been more than a few winters in recent memory that featured prodigious amounts of snow here in New England, but the relentless pacing of this year's storms makes these quiet periods seem incredibly welcome.  Meanwhile, I will continue to shamelessly count shoveling as a trip to the gym. But enough of the snowbound updates and on to the Week in Geekdom!

Science/Technology

It may not be a hoverboard, but we may get a bit of Back to the Future in real life beginning next year. Nike designer Tinker Hatfield confirmed that we will see power laces featured on sneakers in 2015. 

Tomorrow, February 17th, asteroid 2000 EM26 will make a pass by Earth. You can watch this interstellar flyby live as it happens here.

The most recent issue of the journal Nature Communications detailed the development of this, an inexpensive polymer with the ability to 'heal' itself.

Rumors of the death of lunar rover Jade Rabbit may have been a bit premature. On Thursday, Yutu was confirmed to be able to receive terrestrial signals.

The upcoming edition of Physical Review Letters contains research that may appeal to those of us with non-linear locks. A joint effort by engineers from MIT and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie have created this 3Dmodel of curly hair.

The use of fusion as a viable energy source got a little bit closer to reality as researchers were able to confirm that they could produce more energy with such a reaction than was utilized to ignite the fuel. Bonus: the lead researcher has a name befitting of scientific badassery/burgeoning supervillainy. 

Feats of Geekdom

File this under Taking Science Fair Projects to a New Level. Using Legos and a few bits of miscellaneous hardware, Seventh grader Shubham Banerjee was able to create this novel Braille typewriter

There's cross stitching, and then there's this opus from artist Aled Lewis. At 30 feet in length, the Coruscant Tapestry captures the events of all six Star Wars films in carefully placed embroidery thread. 
General Awesomeness

In a belated nod to Valentine's Day, here is an explanation of love from some of your favorite Star Trek characters.

Speaking of Valentine's, researchers at the University of Oslo were able to crack the runic code utilized by Vikings. The results were coincidentally appropriate.

As always, best wishes for an awesome week ahead!
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Convention Critical Mass



With the Elder Hydra dispatched once and for all the blog can return to its regular publication schedule. Woot! That last battle did away with a good portion of the time that would otherwise go to costuming, but, mercifully enough, I'm still reasonably close to being on schedule for PAX. As we're forecasted to get another 9-12" (22.86-30.48cm) of snow, the hope is that the conditions will allow for many uninterrupted hours with the Olympics and my crafting supplies.

Although PAX is the next big event on the docket, the past few weeks have been the purview of Gen Con as the latter holds registration for both housing and the convention itself about eight months before doors open. These dual registration processes are often equal parts giddy anticipation and stomach-turning anxiety. The relatively simple act of obtaining a badge has, in recent years, been both quick and largely painless. A few mouse clicks leaves you with a rush of endorphins and the gleeful knowledge that you're going to Gen Con. Compulsive checking of the convention's countdown clock may ensue. Housing registration, on the hand, stands in the sharpest of contrasts to its badge-procuring sibling. With each successive year the matter of being able to book viable housing became increasingly difficult. Hotels standing closest to the Indianapolis Convention Center sold out in a matter of months in 2012 and in only seven weeks in 2013[1].

Which brings us to this year, wherein the inventory of the housing block was depleted in mere minutes. Gen Con's official claim is that the block was,"...sold out for stays of 3 or more nights in less than 3 hours with all other rooms selling out quickly thereafter[2]." In truth, the vast majority of the housing block, specifically rooms available for continuous periods extending through the night of Friday, August 15th, was gone only 21 minutes after registration opened. Aside from extremely high demand, a deeply flawed and untried web service sabotaged the efforts of thousands of badge holders who signed on at the appointed time, followed the given instructions, and received nothing but error messages. The outcry that flooded the interwebs in the hours that followed was not the typical "I didn't get my first choice hotel" griping, but, rather, an entirely new phenomenon: not being able to obtain any housing at all.

That's not to say that there are absolutely no accommodations to be had in the city of Indianapolis during "the Best Four Days in Gaming", but the options that remain are riddled with caveats and considerations. This room is reasonably priced, but is more than 20 miles (32.19km) away and selecting it will necessitate renting a car, since Gen Con Shuttle passes are also sold out. This room is close to the downtown area, but costs four or five times as much as an identical entry in the housing block. The latter is still frustratingly prevalent, as several hotels that were supposed to have turned over the entirety of their inventory to the housing authority somehow have sufficient stock to list on major travel sites (at a marked, but not exorbitant, premium over their standard rates).

Ok, so going to Gen Con is more expensive/inconvenient. So what? It's no different than trying to get tickets to <insert popular musical/sporting event here>.

Precisely. Remember the first time you experienced that phenomenon? It's usually not all that pleasant. That moment where your fevered anticipation melts away from, "It's ok, I'll just be happy to go," to, "Oh, maybe it'll work out somehow," and ultimately devolves into, "Wow, seriously? Who are these people? They want me to pay what? Is it even worth it to go anymore?"

Thousands of would-be Gen Con attendees are staring at their badge receipts and asking themselves that very question. In doing so, they join the ranks of thousands of other prospective con-goers who found themselves edged out of an event for similar reasons in recent years. We touched on this trend a while back as San Diego Comic Con morphed from the biggest name in nerdy gatherings to a pop culture juggernaut so massive that it almost exists as an entity unto itself. It's that transitional point wherein an event's popularity outstrips its previously established growth pattern and transmutes into a new series of interactions. The convention reaches critical mass.  
 
Kinda like this, minus the gamma radation
With a sports team or a band, the point of critical mass is often reached after a publicized (usually positive) occurrence. A roster of unknowns makes significant post-season headway or wins a championship. The right producer happens to be at the right performance and an album gets considerable air time. The same change in fundamental consumption is a bit more difficult to pinpoint with a convention. Con organizers often make a considerable effort to gather as much data as possible concerning their constituency in order to prepare for next year's event, but this can prove woefully inadequate if the year-over-year growth is exponential.

I put together the below chart (squee! charts!) to illustrate just what's been happening with Gen Con in the past few years. That steepness over there on the far right is exactly what we're talking about. 

Attendance data from Gen Con LLC
While that 2009-2013 jump is eye-catching, it also tells us something else: that exponential growth isn't a one off fluke but, rather, has been the base case for the past four convention years. Given this, Gen Con's claims that it was stunned at the, "...new, unforeseen spike in badge purchases [and housing requests][3]," rings a bit hollow. Granted, extrapolation and modeling based primarily on historical data is certainly not an exact science, nor is it a guarantee for a perfect convention construction process. It is, however, a good way to get a handle on an entity that is undergoing tremendous change. It also allows con-goers to gain a bit of insight on the future of the convention itself. For example, seeing that Gen Con organizers delayed housing registration for exhibitors by a month in order to fix the horrendous, malfunctioning web service that blighted standard housing registration. Meanwhile, Gen Con has yet to even acknowledge the web service as being problematic, nonetheless offer anything in the way of an apology to those who lost out on housing as a direct result of the flawed system.

Even if Gen Con were to be under the command of completely faultless leadership, the available resources are themselves finite. There are only so many hotel rooms and only so much exhibit space. Despite increasing these by 13% and 14% respectively over 2013 levels, both sold out in record time.[4] Of course, if you glance at the chart above, you can see that the year-over-year increases are nowhere near 13-14%. When you have a limited set of stock to work with, but an ever-increasing horde of would-be attendees it's only natural for a corporation to want to test just how inelastic the demand for their event is. 

That's the thing that no one wants to recognize: that the C in Gen Con LLC stands for corporation. Just like Dragon*Con (DCI, Inc.) and PAX (Penny Arcade, Inc.), the folks behind Gen Con are, fundamentally, a business and, like most businesses, would prefer to turn a healthy profit from their ventures. And Gen Con is certainly good for generating money. In 2013, the convention produced some $47 million for the city of Indianapolis.[5] Not too bad for an entity that had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy only five years before. In this case, demand is entirely nondescript and effectively limitless. It's no longer a matter of how many years you've been attending or how deep your affections for Gen Con may lie. You one of more than fifty thousand and there is no telling how many people would leap at the chance to take your place.

Ultimately, it's the Nerdaissance at work. As our passions and pastimes continue to become mainstream our community will expand correspondingly. We'll see more instances like what went down for Gen Con or PAX East registration late last year. Prices will go up and people will be willing to pay them. The communities that once comprised the foundation of events like Gen Con will be priced out or find that the convention no longer appeals in the same way. Those displaced will move on to smaller events that preserve the original spirit of the parent gathering and the cycle of convention critical mass may repeat. 

We all understand that it's foolish to take umbrage when something we love experiences great success. Still, the knowledge is bittersweet at best and no real comfort to those who are unable to attend. This is the new normal for Gen Con, at least for the foreseeable future. 


[1] Gen Con LLC. (2014). "Housing Block Sold Out."
[2] Gen Con LLC. (2014).
[3] Gen Con LLC. (2014).
[4] Gen Con LLC. (2013). "Gen Con Exhibit Hall Sells Out In Record Time, Despite Expansion."
[5] Gen Con LLC. (2013).
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This Week in Geekdom



Happy weekend guys. We're only two-ish days into the Sochi Olympics, but it's already been chock-full of excitement. It's been especially nice to bucker down and enjoy the Games, as the GIR and I have been battling...well several aspects of the winter season for much of the past week. We've each teetered on the cusp of having our sniffles blossom into full-blown illness and alternated on snow removal duties, as our area received another 15 inches (38.1 cm) of snow! Fortunately, everyone is now healthy and we're supposed to have at least three or four consecutive days without a fresh coating of the white stuff. But enough of that. Less winter, more This Week in Geekdom!


What is this awesome helmet? Read on to find out!
Comics

Readers of the Superman portion of DC's new 52 have been skeptically pondering the extremely-unlikely-but-must-be-asked question: Did Superman actually die?

TV

The series Gotham just got <that> much closer to reality this week with the casting of Commissioner Gordon.

Cosplay

Ever wanted to get into cosplay, but are a little stymied with the costume-making process? Patrick Dean can help you out with his humbly named tumblr page.
  
Games


Coffee Stain Studios, the team behind the Sanctum games threw this together at a recent programming jam. Yes, you are reading that correctly. It is Goat Simulator and it's generating a surprising amount of buzz for what's essentially a playable alpha.

Activision Blizzard spent much of this week talking up the blockbuster potential of Destiny, the forthcoming title from the creative team behind Halo. Will the game live up to the hype? We'll have to wait and see.

Oh EA. One of these days I may be able to write about how well you handled the launch of one of your games. Today is not that day.

Movies

Guardians of the Galaxy won't hit theatres for a few months yet, but rumors abound that a sequel is not only guaranteed, but may be rolled off the production lot even sooner than initially thought.

Science/Technology

The latest edition of Science Translational Medicine features the work of a joint team of Swiss and Italian researchers who were able to restore the sense of touch to an amputee with their bionic limb.

In what sounds like a feature pulled straight from a summer popcorn flick, Japanese mechanical engineers have developed these fuel cells which essentially make cyborgs of the giant cockroaches that bear them. Cyborg cockroaches: not just for super villains anymore.

Would you obey the commands of a traffic-controlling robot? This is the state of automotive affairs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, given the success of the program, potentially a future feature on a road near you.

Ok, so employing robots may be one way to make order of frustrating traffic congestion. Renault has a very different possible solution to the same problem: this drone-launching, traffic detecting concept car.

The North Star has been a major navigational focal point for centuries, but this celestial feature appears to be less constant than astronomers believed it to be. A team of researchers from Villanova University has been documenting the not-so-gradual brightening of our best-known cepheid neighbor.

The fact that Bill Nye effectively thrashed young-Earth creationist Ken Ham in a formal debate concerning the validity of evolution earlier this week didn't surprise many but, if you missed the oral duel, here's a solid breakdown of just why Nye won

On Friday, archeologists announced in the text of PLOS ONE that they had unearthed the oldest evidence of human activity outside of Africa

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Ice-T reads a Dungeon's & Dragons manual for Audible and the results are just as hilarious as you'd imagine they'd be. 

Artist Adam Burn calls himself 'the renowned planet killer' but you'll likely agree that few people could bring about such imagined destruction in such breathtakingly beautiful fashion.

It was a feat of Lego engineering four years in the making, but Halo aficionado Mark Kelso successfully crafting this gargantuan model of the Spirit of Fire. Read here for his chronicle of the construction process and plenty of process pictures.

Speaking of Legos, would-be Lego engineer Flailx is vying to have this Sherlock-themed play set enter the pantheon of officially sanctioned Lego designs.

Last weekend may have been the big football weekend here in the US, but the current lack of tackling hasn't dampened the creativity of graphic artist John Raya. Raya drafted these reimaginings of the logos of NFC teams with elements of the Star Wars universe.

What would you think of an orange that couldn't roll away? Well, these Japanese horticulturists have cultivated just such a thing. Check out the literal fruits of their labor: these pentagonal oranges.

The Voynich Manuscript has befuddled researchers since its discovery in 1912, but botanist Arthur Tucker believes he may have the key to decrypting the as-yet-undecipherable text used throughout the tome. Does the cipher lie in these Mexican plants? We may soon find out.

As always, best wishes for an awesome week ahead!
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