Fandom and Neomedia Studies

This Week in Fandom and Neomedia Studies News (30 May – 5 June)

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This Week in Fandom and Neomedia Studies (30 May – 5 June)


This week’s run of news stories is a fascinating look at NFTs, court rulings, and Amazon giving up.


The NFT Market Collapsed

Earlier this year, NFTs, non-fungible tokens, took the world by storm, with one item going for as much as $6.6 million at auction. And, like most storms, they passed quickly. The market has lost 90% of its value since March of this year and 70% of all active NFT wallets have disappeared in the last week or so. Read more at Protos.


Did a Judge Rule Star Wars Sequels “Schlocky”? No.

You may have read that a decision out of the Ninth Circuit found the Star Wars sequels, specifically, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, to be “mediocre and schlocky.” This is not what happened. Briseño v. Henderson is a complicated case but what matters here is relatively simple. ConAgra, in the role of defendant-appellee in this case, made a promise that it would not do something that it had no power to do. That would be like a toddler promising not to turn the sky emerald green. They can’t do it, so the promise is immaterial.

Here, the decision, on page 26, compares it to George Lucas, who promised not to make any more “mediocre and schlocky” Star Wars films, but did so only after selling the franchise. That is, while his promise might have sounded nice, he had no power to keep it. The films are named as examples of the consequences of Lucas not being able to keep that promise in footnote five in a way that expresses the judge’s personal opinion, known as an obiter dictum, and not anything like a finding of fact or law. For the haters, like the judge, it remains only an opinion.


Echo Owners Can Now Sue Amazon Directly

After reports that Echo devices were secretly recording owners, and Amazon had to deal with over 75,000 arbitration cases as required in the terms of use for the devices, the company has changed course. Now, people can sue Amazon for this breach of privacy (among other very serious problems) either as individuals or as members of a class action.

Forced arbitration in other areas means denial of access to courts, where claimants win more often. Further, even in the rare case a claimant wins in arbitration, the amount of the settlement is almost always significantly lower. That said, arbitration is rarely cheap for the company. They have to pay fees to use arbitration services and, if there are enough cases, it may work out that going the traditional legal route is cheaper for them. That has proven the case first with DoorDash and now with Amazon.

In either case, courts or arbitrations, companies bank on people not using them. Here, they were wrong but the payouts are still a pittance compared to their annual earnings. Read more at Ars Technica.


Physics Fixes Photos

Gabriel Lippman is reputed to be the first person to master true color photography, winning a Nobel Prize in Physics for it in 1908 based on work completed in 1891. There is always a bit of a lag in these things. However, for reasons that are not entirely clear, he put a mirror under the mercury emulsion used for processing images so that the plates ended up not just double-exposed but multiple exposed. This meant that color accuracy was impossible, no matter how vivid the results. Physicists have figured out what that odd choice meant and have a fix for what the color should look like. Read more at PNAS.


SCOTUS: It’s Not a Crime for a Cop to Misuse Info

The Supreme Court has ruled, in Van Buren v. US, that a police officer who uses legitimate access to an official system to gain data for non-police purposes and then profits from those non-police purposes has not committed a crime under the anti-hacking law known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) of 1986. No one, including Van Buren, denies he did exactly what he was charged with doing.

Whatever the stated intent of the 6-3 majority, the results are potentially quite dangerous. Under this ruling, a police officer can use their legitimate access to gain information about protesters for use when off duty or use car license plate numbers to harass a person they find attractive. In the instant case, as part of an FBI sting operation, Van Buren accepted money from an acquaintance in return for looking up a woman’s information based on car registration. That is, he did exactly what many women fear police will do to them. In point of fact, this has been happening across the nation for years. And the Supreme Court has just ruled that it is not, in fact, a federal crime.

The case hinges on the definition of the word so in the CFAA text. This is not a joke or an exaggeration. Justice Barrett, author of the opinion, goes on at great length.

FANS rarely advocates for anything beyond protecting copyright. Here, we would advocate as well for technology regulations that at least sort of keep up with reality so as to keep the public, and women in particular, safe from abuse by officials acting under color of law.

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