Careful, the Network is Watching:

The extraordinary story of pianist Joyce Hatto's fake recordings (best recounted in this article from Gramophone, but also given heavy coverage in the NY Times and elsewhere) has an interesting angle that hasn't gotten much play. The whole story (of how Hatto's recordings were actually not hers at all, but had been recorded by other artists and re-mastered and re-released under Hatto's name by her husband) was uncovered, in a sense, by the network. The whole thing unraveled when someone in England put Hatto's recording of Liszt's "Transcendental Etudes" into his computer and tried to rip it to iTunes, and itunes retrieved the information from the CDDB database that it was actually a performance by the Hungarian pianist Laszlo Simon.

I had my own little brush with how smart the network can sometimes be a few years ago. I was preparing to teach one of my classes (Copyright law) in which I was going to be talking a little bit about US copyright history, and I realized I didn't have a copy of the first US Copyright Act. So I googled it, figuring I'd find it somewhere and print it out — "Copyright Act of 1791." Lo and behold, the first two references Google pulled up were citations to papers that I had written. Wow! I got over the flush of excitement, because I also noticed that there were only a dozen or so citations in total. That's odd, I thought — it's not Britney Spears' haircut, maybe, but surely lots of people have written about copyright history, and about the first copyright statute, and all of that. A little poking around and I had the answer — I had been one of the few people to write about the Copyright Act of 1791 because there was no Copyright Act of 1791 — the first statute had been enacted in 1790. Googling "Copyright Act of 1790" pulls up the predicted zillions of hits.

"Boy, was my face red," as we used to say back in Brooklyn. Exposed, by Google, as having screwed up the dates of the first US copyright statute. [I fixed the paper, though copies with my error intact are probably still floating around there somewhere].

And then this afternoon I got an email from a student, who's working on a paper about personal jurisdiction and patent law, and he tells me that a paper of mine shows up as citation #1 when you google "personal jurisdiction over the plaintiff" — which makes me oddly nervous that I've done something wrong again.