About this Author
Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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July 13, 2005

Today in History - July 13

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Posted by Ernest Miller

July 13

1527 - Birth of John Dee, English scientist (d. 1608 or 1609)

Dee's most long-lasting practical achievement may be his promotion of mathematics outside the universities. His "Mathematical Preface" to Euclid was meant to promote the study and application of mathematics by those without a university education, and was very popular and influential among the "mecanicians" the new and growing class of technical craftsmen and artisans. Dee's preface included demonstrations of mathematical principles that readers could perform themselves.
1951 - Death of Arnold Schoenberg, American composer (Austrian born) (b. 1874)
During the hearings on the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, his grandson stated that:
The copyright law was considered up to now as forbidding pirates to steal an author's property before a maximum of fifty-six years after its registration. After this time every pirate could use it freely, making great profits without letting the real owner "participate" in the profits of his property.
Ironically, Schoenberg himself was one of those pirates, as he made great use of public domain works, creating arrangements of many of the classics, such as those of Bach.

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July 12, 2005

Today in History - July 12

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Posted by Ernest Miller

July 12

1854 - Birth of George Eastman, American inventor (d. 1932)

He invented roll film, which brought photography to the masses and led to the invention of the motion picture.
July 12, 2004 - The Importance Of ...

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July 11, 2005

Today in History - July 11

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Posted by Ernest Miller

July 11

1754 - Birth of Thomas Bowdler, English physican and censor (d. 1825)

His name is the origin of the term "bowdlerize" and his form of censorship consisted in removing what was considered offensive without other changes. "In 1818, after retiring to the Isle of Wight, he published his Family Shakespeare in 10 volumes, in which he 'endeavoured to remove every thing that could give just offence to the religious and virtuous mind' and 'in which nothing is added to the original text, but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family.'"
1811 - Italian scientist Amedeo Avogadro publishes his memoir about molecular content of gases.

1899 - Birth of E.B. White, American writer (d. 1985)

His estate joined an amicus brief favoring the extension of copyright terms in Eldred v. Ashcroft. The brief argues that it sometimes takes decades for children's books to become classics. Ironically, E.B. White's works were almost immediately successful upon publication.
1930 - Birth of Harold Bloom, American literary critic
Most of his Western Canon is in the public domain, which, in the view of copyright maximalists, makes us all thieves of Western culture.
1937 - Death of George Gershwin, American composer (b. 1898)
The Gershwin estate continues to bring in significant royalties from licensing the copyrights on Gershwin's work. The estate supported the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act because its 1923 cutoff date was shortly before Gershwin had begun to create his most popular works. The copyrights on those works expire in 2007 in the European Union and between 2019 and 2027 in the United States of America.
1962 - First transatlantic satellite television transmission.

1971 - Death of John W. Campbell (b. 1910), American writer and editor

His encouragement of good science fiction writing has benefitted us all.

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July 08, 2005

Today in History - July 8

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Posted by Ernest Miller

July 8

1882 - Birth of Percy Grainger, Australian-born, later American, composer (d. 1961)

In addition to many other accomplishments, he invented the "Free Music Machine", which was a precursor of the electric synthesizer.
1969 - IBM CICS is made generally available for the 360 mainframe computer.
The heart of many enterprise computing systems for nearly 4 decades.
One Year Ago on The Importance Of ...

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July 07, 2005

Today in History - July 7

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Posted by Ernest Miller

July 7

1752 - Birth of Joseph-Marie Jacquard, French inventor (d. 1834)

Inventor of the Jacquard Loom, which used the holes punched in pasteboard punch cards to control the weaving of patterns in fabric. The loom enabled even amateur weavers to weave complex designs. Each punch card corresponded to one row of the design and the cards were strung together in order. Invented in 1801, the loom was declared public property in 1806, and Jacquard was rewarded with a pension and a royalty on each machine.
1907 - Birth of Robert Heinlein, American writer (d. 1988)
In addition to his science fiction writings which helped usher in the Golden Age of science fiction and inspired countless engineers and technologists, he wrote this favorite quote of copyfighters:
There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years , the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped ,or turned back, for their private benefit. - Life-Line
1971 - Death of Ub Iwerks, American animator and cartoonist (b. 1901)
The original animator of Mickey Mouse.
2004 - The last patent on the LZW compression algorithm (in Canada) expires.

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July 06, 2005

Today in History - July 6

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Posted by Ernest Miller

July 6

1976 - Birth of 50 Cent, American rapper

Early in his career he substantially enhanced his success through copyright infringement.

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July 05, 2005

Today in History - July 5

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July 5

1687 - Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica is published.

1833 - Death of Nicéphore Niépce, French inventor

He invented the first permanent photograph. Previous photographs would fade rapidly.
1918 - Birth of George Rochberg, American classical composer (d. 2005)
Many of his works were musical collages of quotations from other composers. Contra Mortem et Tempus, for expample, contains passages from Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berio, Edgard Varese and Charles Ives.
1951 - William Shockley invents the junction transistor.

1954 - Elvis Presley has his first commercial recording session. He sang That's All Right (Mama) and Blue Moon of Kentucky.

More than 50 years later these works are still under copyright.
1954 - The BBC broadcasts its first television news bulletin.
More that 50 years later and the BBC is doing its best to encourage people to create new works with its works.

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July 04, 2005

Today in History - July 4

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July 4

1776 - The Continental Congress approves a Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain forming the United States of America.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
1804 - Nathaniel Hawthorne, American writer (d. 1864)
Inspired to interest his daughters in reading Hawthorne, Eric Eldred put Hawthorne's works on the internet. This did not interest his daughters in Hawthorne, but began a hobby that led to the challenge to copyright term extension in Eldred v. Ashcroft.
1817 - At Rome, New York, construction on the Erie Canal begins.

1826 - Birth of Stephen Foster, American songwriter (d. 1864)

Although his music was wildly successful, he did not profit due to the weaknesses of the music publishing industry of his time as well as copyright law.
1837 - Grand Junction Railway, world's first long-distance railway, opens between Birmingham and Liverpool.

1878 - Birth of George M. Cohan, American singer, dancer, composer, actor, and writer (d. 1942)

One of the most popular of the Tin Pan Alley composers.
1961 - Birth of Richard Garriott, English video game designer
He is most famous for creating the Ultima role-playing game series.
1966 - President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Freedom of Information Act into United States law. The act goes into effect the next year.

1971 - Death of August Derleth, American writer and editor (b. 1909)

He created the Cthulhu Mythos out of the works of his friend HP Lovecraft. Many authors have taken from and contributed to this Mythos.

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July 03, 2005

Today in History - July 3

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July 3

1998 - Death of Danielle Bunten Berry, game designer and programmer

Her game M.U.L.E. is considered one of the best and most influential computer games of all time.

1886 The New York Tribune becomes the first newspaper to use the new Linotype machine, which eliminates hand typesetting and puts thousands of skilled workers out of work.

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July 02, 2005

Today in History - July 2

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Posted by Ernest Miller

July 2

1862 - Birth of William Henry Bragg, physicist and chemist

He shared with his son, William Lawrence Bragg, the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics for their studies, using the X-ray spectrometer, of X-ray spectra, X-ray diffraction, and of crystal structure. His work was a fundamental advance for chemistry and material science.

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July 01, 2005

Today in History - July 1 - Special Canada Day Edition

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Posted by Ernest Miller

July 1

Special Canada Day Edition

1646 - Birth of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, German mathematician and philosopher (d. 1716)

In addition to his famous independent discovery of the calculus, and the notation we use today, Leibniz constructed the first mechanical calculator capable of multiplication and division. He also developed the modern form of the binary numeral system, which we use in digital computers.

1867 - Establishment of the Dominion of Canada, later designated Canada Day

Given that Canada is considering significant changes to its copyright law, I thought it worth mentioning. See Michael Geist for more on this issue.
1878 - Canada joins the Universal Postal Union.
The Universal Postal Union is the international treaty organization that governs the sending of international mail between members. Before it, one might have to actually use stamps of several countries in order to send a letter to another country. The UPU is an early example of a standards setting body for an international communications network comprised of various national networks, aka postal services.
1881 - World's first international telephone call, between St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, and Calais, Maine, USA.

1890 - Canada and Bermuda linked by telegraph cable.

1899 - Birth of Thomas A. Dorsey, father of gospel music (d. 1993)

He founded the first gospel music publishing house.

1958 - The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation links television broadcasting across Canada via microwave.

1966 - First colour television transmission in Canada, from Toronto.

2005 - Microsoft plans to end official support of Windows 2000

Too bad copyright law will keep anyone else from supporting it either.

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June 30, 2005

Today in History - June 30

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Posted by Ernest Miller

June 30

1936 - Gone With the Wind published.

A parody of this famous book, The Wind Done Gone, was sued by GWTW's copyright holders. The district court enjoined sale of the parody, but the 11th Cir. overturned the injunction in a great copyfight victory. Read the 61-page decision: Suntrust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Co. [PDF]. More case documents here: Suntrust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Company Court Papers.

The copyright on GWTW will not expire in the US until 2031, assuming the copyright term is not extended once again. However, GWTW's copyright did expire in 1999 in Australia. In November 2004, the copyright holders sought to force the Australian affiliate of Project Gutenberg to remove the book from their files. See, New York Times, One Internet, Many Copyright Laws. The text is available via Project Gutenberg Australia here: Gone With the Wind [2.3MB Txt].

1961 - Death of Lee De Forest, Inventor
De Forest invented the audion, a type of vacuum tube that amplified signals and was particularly useful for radio reception. He is one of the fathers of the electronic age.
1974 - Death of Vannevar Bush, Inventor, Engineer, Politician
Among many other accomplishments, he conceived of the Memex, which many consider to be an influential precursor to the personal computer, hypertext and World Wide Web.

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June 29, 2005

Today in History - June 29

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June 29

1895 - Death of Thomas Henry Huxley, Biologist
"Darwin's Bulldog" - 'Nuff said.

1903 - Birth of Alan Blumlein, Electrical Engineer
He developed new methods for the production of gramophone recordings, circuitry that was used in the earliest computers, pioneering television advances and war-time radar. He died, tragically, at age 38, but not before he had produced 128 patents.

1910 - Birth of Frank Loesser, Composer and Lyricist
His most popular works include Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He was well-versed in copyright, having created his own publishing firm and co-founding Musical Theatre International, one the four main licensing agencies for theatre writers.

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June 26, 2005

Today in History - June 26

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June 26

1824 - Birth of Lord Kelvin.
Not only was he a great physicist (having a temperature scale named after him and all), his scientific discoveries led directly to the development of the first transatlantic telegraph cable.

1997 - The Supreme Court rules that the Communications Decency Act violates the First Amendment.

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June 25, 2005

Today in History - June 25

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June 25

1903 - Birth of George Orwell
In a world of increasing communications, his work on the political implications of language still resonates.

1967 - First global satellite television programme – "Our World"
Of course, today, I can pull up information from anywhere on the globe with a simple mouseclick.

1995 - Former Chief Justice Warren Burger dies.
In 1974 he ruled against President Nixon's attempt to keep several memos and tapes relating to the Watergate scandal private, prompting Nixon to resign in order to avoid impeachment.

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June 23, 2005