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June 02, 2008


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Very interesting. My husband and I were just discussing today whether there's some kind of trade dress analog for this concept - essentially, a product feature that looks functional (and thus would be technically okay for a competitor to copy) but that in reality provides no functional benefit at all. I'm not sure it's the dead giveaway evidence of copying that the Mountweazel is.

And as for Ms. Mountweazel's untimely demise, I can only quote the words of Spinal Tap's David St. Hubbins: "You know, several, you know, dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It's just not really widely reported."

In the 1980s, I worked for the company that had printed the RI state map for several decades. My job included unofficially verifying yearly changes to the map because the company didn't want to embarrass the state by printing an error-filled map. Several times I mentioned to the state official in charge that, despite being a life-long resident, I could not find two towns in northern RI during my travels. After brushing me off for several years, he finally admitted the two places did exist but were under fifty feet of water. They had been flooded when the state reservoir was built in the early 1900s and used as copyright traps.

This is quite an eye-opener. While I've seen watermarks on photos and heard about software that tracks downloaded material, I really couldn't imagine that maps and dictionaries were routinely copied illegally. I suppose that making a new word to track illegal copying seems harmless enough,until it turns up in some official document: " Reason for dismisal...repeated acts of esquivalience".
I definitely have a bone to pick with mapmakers though. Maps are used by emergency vehicles and delivery services. It's irresponsible to falsify streets. "Bunnies" in a park or on a building were a better idea. However, global positioning and Google satellite maps may have already made this point moot.

Columnist Mark Patinkin had an article in the June 3 Providence Journal detailing his efforts to locate Moscow, RI. He never did find it, despite his best efforts, and apparently didn't know about "map traps." I sent him an e-mail similar to my previous post bringing him up to date about Rhode Island's underwater Rockland and the non-existent Moscow.

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