The 10 highest-rating NBR tech stories of 2012

Content and copyright were hot buttons in 2012. And in keeping with those themes, the best-read technology story of the year was the tale of Fyx – a new Auckland ISP that allowed New Zealanders to access US commercial download services such as Netflix and Hulu, ordinarily blocked to those outside North America.

Fyx briefly gave us a glimpse of what life could like for those willing to pay for online content. Momentarily, we lived in a global village of consumer choice, unshackled from content agreements that are nothing about copyright, and everything about maintaining regional distribution monopolies.

Interest was intense. The story generated 60,000 page impressions, making it the most clicked-on NBR story outside of the Rich List. Clearly, there is a high level of curiosity about any developments in the area of street-legal downloads (an April 2011 piece on using iTunes US gained enough new traffic to stay in the Top 10 for a second year, helped by an update about tapping iTunes Australia). Threats to globally-distributed content, such as the US laws SOPA and PIPA, and the TPP trade deal, also rated highly.


Here’s the 10 tech stories that drew the most traffic:

SOPA, Meet The Player Piano Copyright Threat

Consider the player piano. When it arrived on the scene in the late 19th century, music publishers were horrified by this new machine that allowed anybody to recreate the performance of a great pianist inside their own home without paying a dime in royalties. By 1906 there were 75,000 player pianos clinking out copyright violations all across this country, using millions of perforated paper rolls that contained, in many cases, note-for-note transcriptions of famous performances.

The music publishers sued and in 1908 the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in White-Smith Publishing v. Apollo, that the player-piano roll was a mere mechanical device, not an unauthorized copy of sheet music. Put a player piano inside a saloon or a performance hall and you???d be liable for performance royalties. But inside the home, the court decided, it was just another type of music box. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in a prescient side note, said Congress needed to update the laws, because ???on principle anything that mechanically reproduces that collocation of sounds ought to be held a copy.??? And indeed, the next year Congress passed a special tax of 2 cents per player-piano roll to help defray the enormous cost to content providers of unauthorized performances in the home. As of 1996 the rate had risen to 6.95 cents.

Plus ??a change plus c’est la m??me chose

The $500,000,000 Cost of Google???s Five Million DMCA Notices

If I told you that the DMCA notice system at Google alone was taking $500,000,000 a year out of the already beaten down global creative community, would you say that is such a staggering sum it can???t be right?  I think you???ll find that number is actually a low estimate based on Google???s own figures.  It makes a $100 million advance for licensing to Google Music look like chump change because it is.

Implanted medical devices of the future could be laser powered

A laser shined from outside the body heats up one side of the power generation device allowing a temperature difference that creates a small voltage via the Seebeck effect. That small temperature change is then turned into energy to keep the device powered. The carbon nanotubes absorb heat very well and the implant for power would not need to be any larger than a half centimeter cubed. This could be one of the most life altering inventions for people depending on implanted battery powered devices to live in years.