Some good news in the world of copyfighting! I mentioned this bill in last week’s link purge, but under the authorship of the entertainment Mafioso, PIPA was intended to provide the DHS and private corporations with additional authority to seize the top-level domains of dangerous terrorists file sharing websites and bring lawsuits against those, such as Google, who provide links to them (Google has already vowed to fight any such measures). I don't know if the bill is officially dead, but for the time being it has been effectively put on hold by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).
“The internet represents the shipping lane of the 21st century,” Wyden said in a statement. “It is increasingly in America’s economic interest to ensure that the internet is a viable means for American innovation, commerce, and the advancement of our ideals that empower people all around the world. By ceding control of the internet to corporations through a private right of action, and to government agencies that do not sufficiently understand and value the internet, PIPA represents a threat to our economic future and to our international objectives,” he said.
Even if you equate file-sharing with digital piracy you should care about killing this bill for several reasons:
In the most benign sense, it is wholly unnecessary – domains can already be ‘seized’ (albeit with a tremendous assault on due process) through a number of judicial channels and the DMCA provides the means through which to stop Google et al from linking to them. Codifying this behavior only reinforces the governments right to intervene in the only port of free expression currently in existence.
It forges an unholy alliance between federal law enforcement and private enterprise whereby the same industries who decry government intervention in the free market are all too eager to expect taxpayers to foot the bill for their civil complaints.
Finally, for the massive expense it is entirely ineffective. Seized domains simply rely on existing mirrors to bridge the short amount of time it takes to respawn elsewhere. And thanks to sympathetic programmers everywhere, systems are popping up like MAFIAAfire that make it even easier for users to find them.
When you consider the the War on Drugs whose crippling expense is paralleled only by its spectacular failure, It’s inconceivable that we want to extend such tactics to the virtual world on behalf of a few, dying private companies.
Presumably trying to get back in the good graces of open-standards proponents, Google has signaled that it is prepared to fight both houses of congress and the president of the United States if the entertainment mafia successfully pushes through Leahy’s Orwellian Protect IP Act – a wish-list of anti-piracy measures that threaten to undermine the open internet.
HarperCollins has announced their intention to cripple e-books after 26 rentals forcing public libraries to cough up additional annual licensing fees. Which is really not a big deal since libraries and their patrons are so flush with cash anyway. For the moment, HC is the only publisher to have done so, though if the trend continues it could spell the end of digital modernization in public systems.
You know the drill. Some automaton from the corporate matrix decides that all outgoing emails must contain a disclaimer that reading this email is both illegal and immoral, will cause your eyeballs to char and your sperm to mutate and you will go to jail jail jail. And lest you forget, this is repeated on each and every reply so, after four or five emails, you have enough digital ink to choke a Southern Dwarf Siren who, as everyone knows, have surprisingly small mouths.
Turns out, these are not only annoying, but completely lacking in any legal force. From the Economist (via Lifehacker):
[Email disclaimers] are assumed to be a wise precaution. But they are mostly, legally speaking, pointless. Lawyers and experts on internet policy say no court case has ever turned on the presence or absence of such an automatic e-mail footer in America, the most litigious of rich countries.
Many disclaimers are, in effect, seeking to impose a contractual obligation unilaterally, and thus are probably unenforceable. This is clear in Europe, where a directive from the European Commission tells the courts to strike out any unreasonable contractual obligation on a consumer if he has not freely negotiated it. And a footer stating that nothing in the e-mail should be used to break the law would be of no protection to a lawyer or financial adviser sending a message that did suggest something illegal.
They go on to explain that these disclaimers are probably so prevalent because companies see other companies using them, and then decide they should too. If you're using these in your business emails, you can probably get rid of them—you'll make all your contacts a whole lot happier, without making yourself any less protected by the law.
Contrary to the rallying cries of various grammatically-challenged teabaggers, we have never had a functioning democratic society. If you’re a long-time reader, you may have seen a quote from Chomsky on this page:
Personally, I'm in favor of democracy, which means that the central institutions of society have to be under popular control. Now, under capitalism, we can't have democracy by definition. Capitalism is a system in which the central institutions of society are in principle under autocratic control.
Indeed, the internet is the first and only example we’ve had of a truly globalized forum in which all may enjoy equal participation. The powers-that-be hate this and have tried (will try) everything they can, from firewalls to censorship, to squash it. Net neutrality – the principle that the equality of all internet traffic is protected by the force of law – has been long-resisted as antithetical to the free-market. This is, of course, utter hogwash. It is about far more than whether Comcast can throttle down their competitors bandwidth - at this point the internet underlies so much of our lives that it has become a basic necessity to participating in our global economy.
There is an interesting parallel here with the advent of electricity. While most of us take for granted the ability to plug in our refrigerator, there was a time when power lines were something that only rich people could use, and even then only for their new-fangled light bulbs. Back then, there was nobody who could imagine other uses for it – the idea of using this form of fire to clean your clothes or freeze your food was preposterous. Those who pushed for governmental intervention to ensure equal distribution were decried as socialists. Much as with the internet, for as indispensable as it has become, we quite literally have no idea what the future will bring.
In this day and age, I would say that it's hard to believe that we're still discussing whether net-neutrality is a good thing, but this is what happens when money becomes intertwined with power and influence:
This letter, being pushed by Rep Gene Green (D-TX), pertains to whether or not the Internet will remain an open engine of economic and democratic freedom. In D.C., legislators and lobbyists are debating something called "net neutrality," which is a common-sense FCC proposal to keep phone and cable companies from interfering with what you can do online and how you can use the Internet. Without net neutrality, phone and cable companies can limit your online speech and freedom. I think the Daily Show explains the issue best (here (with John Hodgman) and here).
For the time being, I think that the net-neutrality debate may suffer from poor branding - the phrase itself reeks of techno-elitist packaging that makes all but the geeky among us sglaze over. But however much you may care about the issue itself, you should know by now that the 21st century is the age of the internet. The series of tubes is not just about watching videos of cats - it is how you talk on the phone, watch TV, do your banking, and participate in our democracy. It is far too important to allow the so-called 'free' market to destroy it through greed. We need to start thinking long-term about having alternate sources of bandwidth just like we have alternate sources of fuel. But in the short-term, we also need to ensure that our fledgling global democracy is not co-opted by those who would destroy it for profit.
With the present structure of cable-TV, is it so hard to imagine the internet's future to be something like this:
KTC (or Know Thy Congressman) provides a wealth of info should you find yourself reading the funnies er, the political news. I used it to capture this screenshot of Pelosi which tells me anything from most used words to who are her major donors. From their website:
KTC is a bookmarklet that displays an abundance of political and biographical information about current members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
To use it, highlight the name of a legislator on a webpage and click the bookmark. Or, click it anytime to search for a politician by name. To install, drag the link below into your Bookmarks Toolbar.
Nice piece up from Cory Doctorow (of BoingBoing) on the perils of trying to suppress the internet as an alternate means of distribution:
So, how do you use copyright to ensure that the future is more competitive and thus more favorable to creators and copyright industries?
It's pretty easy, really: Use your copyrights to lower the cost of entering the market instead of raising it.
What if the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) had started out by offering MP3 licenses on fair terms to any wholesaler who wanted to open a retailer (online or offline), so that the cost of starting a Web music store was a known quantity, rather than a potentially limitless litigation quagmire?
What if the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the North American Broadcasters Association made their streams available to anyone who paid a portion of their advertising revenue (with a guaranteed minimum), allowing 10 million video-on-demand systems to spring up from every garage in the world?
What if the Authors Guild had offered to stop suing Google for notional copyright violations in exchange for
There’s some sound advice in there. Writing a song every day for a month seems like a much better use of my time than seeking out ever more ridiculous things to put on top of my cat! What have you found in the void today?
Fallacious yet widespread and documented beliefs courtesy of Wikipedia.
Contrary to a widespread perception, the real number 0.999...—where the decimal point is followed by an infinite sequence of nines—is exactly equal to 1 by definition. They are two different ways of writing the same real number. A 2009 study by Weller et al. states that "Tall and Schwarzenberger (1978) asked first year university mathematics students whether 0.999... is equal to 1. The majority of the students thought that 0.999... is less than 1." Weller et al. go on to describe their own controlled experiment, performed "during the 2005 fall semester at a major research university in the southern United States. Pre-service elementary and middle school teachers from all five sections of a sophomore-level mathematics content course on number and operation participated in the study." The results are striking: "On the question of whether .999...=1, 72% of the control group and 83% of the experimental group expressed their view that .999... is not equal to 1."
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Conflict and Conciliation: Faith and Politics in an Age of Global Dissonance
Despite the peaceful foundations of global monotheistic religions, the broad diversity of interpretations can lead to a sharp paradox regarding the use of force. Inevitably, we must ask ourselves: How can those who ascribe to peaceful beliefs suspend their own moral foundation to beat the drums of war? ... read more
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A self-indulgent blog for people just like me - PhD, author, photographer, entrepreneur, husband, father, music-lover, and uber-geek. More about Jay