Calm Before the Storm

It’s midnight and nearly one year after Hurricane Irene knocked out power for a week we are going to get hit with a comparably powerful storm. The meteorologists and public officials are not sugar coating it. Houses near the shore are being evacuated and we’ve been told that power might not be restored for days. I am digging in and have reading material to occupy me when the Internet dies. However I probably will not be able to blog much or at all. If it is anything like Irene I will probably have intermittent cell service for the first day or so. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as they are saying but I am prepared for the worst.

Behind the Scenes: Making a Campaign Video with the iPhone and iMovie

One of the things that I have been encouraging candidates to do over the past few years is leverage video on YouTube to communicate campaign messages to their constituents. The other day I finally had the opportunity to help make the first one. Since we were unable to secure much in the way of professional equipment the video was recorded using my iPhone 4S and overall the quality was pretty good. The two main barriers to making a professional recording with the iPhone are getting good quality audio and stabilizing the phone with a tripod.

Since I did not have enough time to order a tripod mount online and it seems iPhone tripod adapters are not sold in retail stores I used a Joby Gorillapod for iPod Touch along with the included adhesive adapter to mount the phone to a tripod. It worked decently. However I plan to acquire an adapter for when I want to use the iPhone with a tripod in the future. It surprised me that acquiring a tripod adapter for the iPhone was so difficult, especially in light of the ubiquity of the product.

While the iPhone microphone is pretty good, it is not a professional microphone. High quality audio is one of the major differences between a professional looking video and one that seems like a home movie. So I managed to find an adapter that I could buy to use with one of my brother’s professional microphones. Had I more time and a bigger budget I would have also bought a shotgun or lavaliere microphone to minimize its presence in the scene. However the microphone I got worked well.

We then did the video shot in a few takes, and I used iMovie to intersperse the various scenes from the park while the candidate was talking. Overall I tried to avoid getting too fancy and to keep the focus on the candidate. I think it turned out pretty well for my first full try, and I hope to use the lessons I’ve learned from this project to improve future ones. The result is below.

PACs making incursions into Connecticut General Assembly Races

I read this article with interest today because it seems to be the second instance of a PAC dumping a large amount of money in a race for a seat in the Connecticut General Assembly. These kinds of incursions have the potential to undermine the spirit of Connecticut’s public financing system. However I think it is important to point out that the threat may be overblown. Connecticut has consistently demonstrated that campaign spending suffers from diminishing marginal utility. Candidates like Linda McMahon and Tom Foley who spend large sums of money on their campaigns have failed to beat their opponents that have spent less. My question is whether you think Connecticut should take additional steps to stop this, and whether you think it will make a difference.

For the Entrepreneurs: Software and Hardware

Jason Fried and the team at 37Signals put together a free eBook on building a business based on a web application. I thought it was pretty neat considering they have experience in the business and few entrepreneurs seem to spend the time to really document the process and the pitfalls. I have not read the book but the table of contents suggests that it is full of practical advice, and Fried has a good reputation in the web application business.

Of course this is released the same time as Paul Graham writing an essay noting that observes startups are moving towards hardware products. I am more of a software guy than a hardware guy myself, but I enjoy gadgets. I am fascinated by 3-D printing and some of the other technologies coming out of the maker movement, but the downside of hardware is that it usually requires more investment than software. Therefore it becomes a more expensive hobby than programming and also there is greater risk if you try to scale hardware into a business. For that reason I have a lot of respect for the hardware guys.

Is Clinton's Morgan School Infringing on UConn's Trademark?

I was only going to write one post today but since I have taken many intellectual property classes in law school this article about UConn asking Clinton’s Morgan School to change the husky image they use piqued my interest. The article does a somewhat decent job of laying out the issues and notes that the university is not interested in litigating the matter. However I think the article does a poor job of laying out the law and explaining it to the general public.

The first issue is that the article discusses trademark infringement but a quote from Michael Enright refers to copyright infringement. I think that this quote confuses two separate issues for the readers. Trademark is protection granted to a distinctive mark for the purposes of identifying the source of goods used in commerce. The purpose of trademark is to prevent consumer confusion in the marketplace (i.e. we do not want people seeing the dog from Morgan School on a hat and have people think it’s a UConn hat or vice-versa). Copyright is protection granted to an author of an original work for a limited period of time so they can profit from their creative endeavor. Copyright is why you cannot legally share music online.

The test for copyright consists of two parts: access to the original work and substantial similarity to that work. The first component is key with regards to copyright because the article notes:

The gymnasium Husky was not copied from UConn’s logo, and does not resemble it, but was drawn by a student many years ago, Cross said, possibly prior to the UConn trademark.

If it turns out the gym logo was created first, then that certainly could not be a copyright infringement case because it would not meet the access prong of the test.

The second issue that is murkier comes when we assess the impact of the potential of the Morgan School logo being first in time to UConn’s trademark. Under trademark law the fact that Morgan School used the logo first entitles them to continue to use it as a senior user of the mark. They are not required to register the mark with the USPTO to have a valid mark; they acquire trademark rights to their mark in common law but only in the geographic area they use it. Therefore if Morgan School was first in time, UConn can ask them to stop using the mark, but they are not likely to succeed if they decided to take it to court. For a more technical discussion on this aspect of trademark law you can read this article.

The article does do a good job of pointing out that trademark owners are required to police their marks otherwise they risk losing the protection of it. Unfortunately they decided to include a quote from First Selectman William Fritz at the end, decrying the fact that UConn was pursuing the matter. Fritz did not seem to understand the obligations of the university under trademark law and his statement cast UConn in a bad light. The quote added little to the article other than encouraging the readers to be angry. And angry they are based on the comments at the end of the article.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney (yet) and this blog post is merely my own analysis of the situation based on the facts provided and some knowledge from my classes. It does not constitute legal advice.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.