This week at Ars brought plenty of reporting on civilization and its discontents within our “Law and Disorder” section. By far, the most bizarre and maybe surprising news was from Timothy B. Lee, who wrote Warner Brothers sued for unauthorized use of Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat .
The two memes showed up in a recent Scribblenauts game, and it turns out not even the game’s maker, Warner Brothers, guessed that they would be registered trademarks. Reader trimeta commented, “Maybe the Kellogg Company (makers of Pop-Tarts) should sue Nyan Cat…no one thinks that’s a generic “breakfast bar” making up Nyan Cat’s body.” While the 91 downvotes on this comment suggest it might have elicited a collective eye-roll from our readers, it also makes a good point: a lot of work is derivative in some sense or another. The description of Nyan Cat as “a character with a cat’s face and a body resembling a horizontal breakfast bar with pink frosting sprinkled with light red dots” shows the creators went out of their way to differentiate a character that’s also commonly known as “Pop Tart Cat” from the Pop Tart brand.
“I’m just really hoping that this is done entirely out of sarcasm. If they try to start actively litigating this routinely, it will make me very, very sad,” Operative Alex wrote.
One point of contention among the staff about this story, however, was Lee’s description of Nyan Cat as “an extremely irritating video that was uploaded to YouTube in 2011.” As the editor of the story, I considered replacing that phrase with something more befitting Nyan Cat’s true nature. But ultimately, Lee’s name was on this byline, so I left his mischaracterization of one of the most beloved in the pantheon on Internet memes. Peter Bright agreed, and wrote in the comments,
Quote: Nyan Cat is an extremely irritating video
The hell it is.
flunk also shared this opinion, writing, “How can you find Nyan cat ‘extremely irritating.’ That song is pure joy and it’s repetitive enough that it keeps playing in your mind for about five days after you hear it for a few minutes… Oh god why did I click that link, all I’m going to be hearing in my mind for the next five days is that damn song.” Nyan Cat is one of the Internet’s greatest treasures; the video is a reflection of all that is hypnotic and saccharine in Web culture, a hat tip to the sugar-high 12-year-old in each of us.
Another important story from this week was about Bitcoin mining, but not in the legitimate sense. In Dan Goodin’s story Secret Bitcoin mining code added to e-sports software sparks outrage he described an e-sports software company that was discovered to be using its customers GPUs to mine for bitcoins without customer knowledge. Eventually, the company expressed contrition and said it would donate the $3,713.55 it made to the American Cancer Society, but some commenters were outraged by the co-founder’s nonchalance about the problem when it was discovered.
“Wow, couldn’t even be bothered to feign contrition. Classy business,” JGoat wrote before we updated the story with news that the company would donate its money to charity. Reader planB ‘s comment suggested that it made economic sense for ESEA to do what it did, “This is the one reason why I don’t think bitcoin has a legitimate future—because it encourages me to run this software at my work, and at as many places that don’t charge me an electricity bill.”
Finally, last week Sean Gallagher wrote about attempts by a former “cybersquatter” to stop negative reviews of his bus company, Suburban Express, by threatening to sue a reddit moderator. In this week’s story, Nonstop to schadenfreude: Suburban Express' u-turn on reddit , Gallagher followed up with owner Dennis Toeppen and his lawyer. Toeppen now says that he is dropping threats of a lawsuit against the reddit moderator, as well as the 126 lawsuits that Toeppen filed this year against Suburban Express customers.
Unfortunately, hackers defaced Toeppen’s personal website and the websites of his businesses, and took over his reddit account over the weekend. “I don’t like this trend of hackers scaring people into backing off lawsuits they believe are legitimate,” ichbinkgod wrote. Many agreed that Toeppen was in the wrong, but two wrongs don’t make a right. “I agree, even if he was a dickbag, that doesn’t mean people should break the law. Embarrass him, write blog posts about him, but don’t hack and vandalize his accounts,” wrote eaden .
Eider agreed, but illustrated it in a sage comment: “I think a good metaphor for the Internet is the Mines of Moria . There is a lot of wealth to be found in it, and clearly, there is Durin’s Bane.”
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