Sunday, September 30, 2012

But what if torrenting really is bad?

I've always been a casual student of geography.  Geography, of course, is as much about people as places.  So I'm very interested in different cultures.

One thing I've come to accept over the years is that no culture is perfect.  You may learn a lot of good things about a culture, but sooner or later your bubble will be burst when you learn of a regular, normal, loathsome practice that that culture accepts and you or your culture cannot.  It is the way of men.

Humans are always at least a little bit bad.  So try not to be such a sanctimonious bitch when you're busy judging someone or some group of people, because they probably have similar feelings about you.  If you really want to be wise, I think you must accept a certain level of badness in people.

So if you think pirating movies, books, and music on the internet is bad, go fuck yourself.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Your ISP is not quite ready to help spy on you, but real soon now.

I like to think that the reason the six strikes scheme hasn't actually been implemented yet is due to public pressure.  They say it's going to happen real soon now.  Torrentfreak speculates in that article that none of the major ISP's who have somehow been duped into participating--Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, Verizon, and AT&T, want to be the first to take the plunge.  And who can blame them?  Surely they're own boards are wondering why they are going along with harassing their customers.

After all, to a man, all of their advertisements for internet service emphasis downloading tons and tons of free media.  It is strongly implied.

I mean, I know it's not massive public outrage, but for the leading edge--geeks--it is already pretty sharp.  As reader MJM observes in a comment here:

I don't see why anyone would have a problem with this.

It's just like the phone company listening to your conversations and then letting you know that it sounds like you're running a phone scam and if you don't knock it off, they're going to disconnect your line.

So there you go.  What smoke and mirrors did the MPAA and RIAA use to convince these guys to go along?

Torrenting tips


And I'd been doing so well.  It seems like I go through these creative peaks and troughs.  Still, I've let myself and my legions of loyal readers down, so I'll post twice today, even if they're kinda trivial.

So first I'll merely turn your attention to this terrible article on bittorrenting tips.  These are not bittorrenting tips, they are a recipe for death.

Well, that's a bit strong.  They won't get you killed, but if you think a "boss mode" will keep you from getting caught torrenting at work, think again.  Your network admins will not be fooled for an instant.  Bittorrent traffic is very easily discernable by a competent network administrator.

Happily, it has been my experience that competent network administrators are pretty rare.  Still, spying on your traffic is much easier that doing the real work of a network admin.

Torrenting at work is an incredibly stupid thing to do.  But if you must, use the tips and knowledge I imparted here.

I'm a little dissappointed in Torrentfreak for passing on such bad information.  The other info in the article is fine, if pointless.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Let's move to Portugal!

File sharing for non-commercial use has been declared by a court to be legal in Portugal.

Obviously, the thing to watch out for now is the forces of darkness to influence the Portuguese lawmakers to make it illegal.

The only good news is that Portugal has bigger problems right now and I would think they would be unlikely to do something so unpopular, when they are doing so many other unpopular but necessary things.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kinky public sex

Our favorite crazed douchebag Kim Dotcom is at it again, apparently now with exclusive contracts with some popular acts.  It would be great if he would destroy the current music industry.

All I'm saying is that music plus assault weapons is a match made in heaven, and hell this is rap music we are talking about here.  The guy has a terrible reputation and a history of financial fraud, which means he's the perfect person to start a new, parallel music industry.  Of course, his sites will have lots of free music for download, just like the internet, but only this time--on the internet.

You should know that actually contributed to his old site's theme song.  He knew what kind of site it was then.  It was that kind of site.  Only instead of kinky public sex it was music downloads.  And sexy videos.  But I'm splitting hairs.

Say what you will about Mr. Dotcom, his industry won't be pursing people executing their natural right to download whatever the fuck they want off the internet.  There is no doubt he will do other, douchy, things, as he appears to be a wild sociopath.  But if I'm picking my poison, better the devil I don't know.

It is also heartening to know that artists like are actually interested in giving their customers what they want.  It's a privilege to have the masses vying to download your latest song.  Only a dolt couldn't find a way to make money off of that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Alternative histories

MJM has a fun alternative history of digital content and the internet that inspires me to think of what could have been, and what will be.

Although I think it's much too much to expect Americans to embrace Change so freely, it didn't have to be this way.  Once upon a time this was a country that valued freedom enough to fight for it.  But with the internet, it's as if we had cars that could move at the speed of light, but set up speed limit signs everywhere that limited them to 20 MPH.  We fear change.

By "we" of course I mean "they" who run the entertainment industry in this country--a very politically powerful industry because of course they control our minds.  We are very easily influenced, but once influenced, very hard to change (PDF).  This is not solely an American trait.  We just have more power than we can really handle, so it matters more.

I kinda wish we could all be like Hunter S. Thompson and see the solution to all our problems lies with going faster.  But then again I suppose that would be ridiculously dangerous, reckless, and probably even immoral.   We can't all be freaks.  I guess.

Unfortunately "they" easily influence most of "us" because we are not prepared to really think for ourselves.  We even call ourselves "pirates" when we download stuff from the internet.  How did they do that?

Easy--repetition.  And so it goes.  Repeat after me: piracy is good for all people, especially those who create.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I'm going to steal MJM's comment on this post and simply observe that there exists a simple, foolproof solution to stopping piracy--and eliminating the possibility of any fair use by anyone--which is to simply not distribute your content digitally.  Problem solved.

Obviously, this is not going to happen.  Obviously, they still find it profitable, or they wouldn't keep doing it.  Therefore, the problem isn't that they aren't getting paid, but that they aren't getting paid enough.  You know--greed.

I know that "greed" is a loaded word.  I think the problem is that a lot of people don't have a proper  understanding of what it means.  Let's try a dictionary:

1. excessive consumption of or desire for food; gluttony
2. excessive desire, as for wealth or power

The key word is excessive.  The left loves to use greed to refer to selfishness, as in, "The Wall Street traders destroyed our economy.  They are so greedy."  Whereas the right tends to characterize the left's use of greed as indicating a desire to take what does not belong to them, as in "I've worked hard all my life to earn what I've got, but the liberals call me greedy for wanting to keep it".  In my opinion these are both misuses of the word.

Wall Street traders, for example, were more selfish than greedy when they destroyed the economy a few years ago.  They didn't think about the consequences of their actions, which is selfish and stupid.  If you are thinking about the consequences of your actions, then by definition, you are not being selfish.  Greed was a CEO taking a massive bonus after getting bailed out by Washington.  Or taking a bonus after laying off thousands of workers.  Obviously that money could be deployed more usefully to the company than just giving it to someone--but a bunch of people had to suffer to make it happen.

That being said, the inherent act of a CEO laying of a thousand people is not greedy.  It's taking a massive bonus while doing so that is.  Sometimes layoffs are necessary when a CEO is incompetent.  But he doesn't have to enjoy it.

But the right is equally confused.  Taxes are not a greedy grab by the populace for your money--they are what you owe to your country for providing this nice law and order and infrastructure and security that enables you to even have a chance of accumulating your wealth.

Greedy is hurting a lot of people so that you can have two billion dollars instead of one.  A billion dollars is already more money than you can possibly spend in a lifetime.  No one is begruding you the right to try and double it.  But if you do it at the expense of others, then that is greed.  Greed is pointless.

So to sum up: driving down the highway to your illegal Russian orgy and cocaine fest is not so greedy.  Financing the activity by ripping people off, is.

Making money on the internet with digital content is not greedy.  Trying to control what everyone does on the internet so that you can make more money at it, is truly, profoundly, greedy.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Neil Young is still cool

So obviously the most effective way to get teenagers to not do something is to tell them that it's wrong, immoral, and illegal, and dangerous--despite the extreme amount of pleasure they get from doing it.  This is one of many good reasons that the music and movie industry's attempts to stop online file sharing are doomed to fail.

It's the equivalent of "Just Say No" and abstinence education.  I don't know I guess there may be people out there who never tried anything new when they were growing up and are completely devoid of pleasure and ambition as adults and so maybe they think that things like that can work.  Or maybe they just have shit for brains.

Actually, yeah, shit for brains it is.  But let us not dwell on it.

Neil Young shows a rare amount of common sense for a musician of his generation in stating publicly that he doesn't mind piracy.  I'm not sure what he means by his comment that the kids should have 95% of it, and his previous invective against it was foolish, but I'll let it slide since he is now reformed into the world of reality.  (He's still misguided in trying to promote a bizarre un-needed digital music format, but how much technological savvy can you expect of a musician of his generation, after all.)

Piracy, indeed, is the new radio.

But let us not let facts get in the way of our Pure Moral Crusade against the Stealing of musical bits.  Nothing gets the kids more enthused than a Moral Crusade.  I suppose it works on the feeble minded ones.  Or the ones that really don't care for music.  It happens.

Compare this to the deluded Memorandum of Understanding between several large ISP's and the various Hollywood mafias.  In it, they very carefully outline their understanding of the situation, which is preposterously wrong.  For example this gem:

"Online Infringement also may contribute to network congestion, negatively affecting users’ Internet experiences."

No, this is what the internet is for.  The only thing negatively affecting users' experiences is assholes trying to track them down and sue them.

And spam.  Spam sucks, too.

Friday, September 21, 2012

What could possibly be fishy about a "Six Strikes" system?

I suppose they think they're being generous.  After all, you get three extra strikes!  Free!

Bizarrely, soon enough your internet service provider, if they are Comcast, AT&T, Verizon or Cablevision, will begin harassing you on behalf of Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and other undesireables, if one of them suspects your IP address of online piracy.  You will then need to prove your innocence.  Yes, even if you're not guilty.  Because they couldn't possibly ever make a mistake.

If you've ever taken a philosophy or logic class--or ever even thought about anything at all--you know that this is what is called "proving a negative", which is impossible.  Prove to me you have quit beating your wife!

Which is precisely why we have an "innocent until proven guilty" principle in this country.

But they don't need that, because this isn't the Government doing the harassing--it the ISP that you pay for service every month.  And you, as a happy consumer (as opposed to a customer), are expected to knuckle under to the awesome Authority of Hollywood.  God knows how they convinced internet providers to go along with this, but it might have something to do with the large internet providers getting into bed with media companies.

So you will be harassed by your internet service provider to the point where they may disconnect you temporarily.  They haven't even got any balls.  But still, my contempt for this is unending.

Part of the problem is that Hollywood has managed to control the conversation thus far.  "Piracy is stealing!"  Indeed, even pirates call themselves pirates now.  Arrrr, it's cute!  But not exactly the most ideal thing from a PR standpoint.

We should call it what it is--Information Crime.  They wouldn't want to call it that, because that would be too accurate, and the sedate couch potatoes of America even would rise up as they did when Wikipedia went black if they thought that Comcast wanted to plunge them into some Keanu Reeves character inhabited dystopian future where something called an Information Crime existed.

Lest you feel that this is too tame to worry about, realize please that these guys are fanatically desperate and bribing every goddamned congresscritter they can possibly locate, here and abroad, and that's called the Trans Pacific Partnership, which does not sound like SOPA.

See, they really love the idea of working their insane draconian ideas into an international treaty because the bar is much lower to becoming law, both in process and oversight.

It is important for everyone to understand the ramifications of these changes--Information Crime will become a thing everyone is used to, and if allowed to exist long enough kids will grow up thinking this Chinese Communist inspired internet system is normal and proper.  And what do you think will happen then?

So please tell everyone you know about this--in particular, tell them that they will be harassed without any authority whatsoever, except for your internet provider's strange desire to be rid of you as a customer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shouldn't this be more interesting?

I'd really meant to try to make this blog more exciting.  I'll admit, since I committed to blogging on the subject of expanding fair use to encompass all non-commercial sharing, it has sometimes been a challenge, but I think it's important.

The subject is actually exciting.  Think of all those twisted, cocaine addicted Hollywood lawyers filing random financial shakedowns on mysterious IP addresses of the internet, snug in their BMW's with a Russian hooker half way on their seat and an ivy league diploma in their pockets, speeding down the Pacific Highway in the middle of the night on their way to an illegal orgy, contemplating how they can automate the process.  Think of them.

Think of the professional waitress coming home from a hard day's work serving fat slobs their plates full of grease, getting miniscule tips for it while being expected to entertain them.  Think of their sore feet when they finally trudge in the front door of their apartment only to find a letter on the table from that frat boy douchebag because their teenage kid has been doing what teenage kids do, except instead of a simple night in jail or a speeding ticket, they are to be financially wrecked for the next decade for the sake of a Britney Spears song played out of the computer speakers the wrong way.

Think of the poor Internet Service Provider monkey, pasty faced and fat and sad, sitting at his router, serving out the personal information of said IP address at the request of said douchebag, he's got to sign out to go to the bathroom and rat out his customers against his will.  Why is it they want to rat out so many of their customers, again?

Also consider the poor aged Congressman, terrified of losing an election at all times since he or she has no other skills.  Steven Spielberg or some other famous bigwig is on the phone complaining that he's being downloaded out of house and home, the family is hungry, people are passing out from hunger in the streets of Hollywood, and plus the Chinese seem to be able to control their part of the internet pretty well--why can't we?  Declare downloading entertainments to be stealing and our whole American Cultural Empire is threatened by it--Good God if we can't protect the latest Batman movie, are we a SuperPower or not?  The choice seems clear.

Yes, I like this better.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why am I doing this?

A lot of times when I tell people what my blog is about, they look at me as if I'm an alien from outer space.  I know why.  It's kinda abstract.  It seems very far removed from anything actually useful!

"Seems", that is.  I know I am an unusual (relative to the populace) sort of person who frequently ponders abstract ideas, ethics, and morality.  It's my thing.  Or a thing.  It's really the inevitable conclusion of trying to do complex concrete stuff--when sufficiently complex, the concrete looks abstract.

Take the idea of expanding fair use to encompass all non-commercial use.  Pretty abstract.

Take the idea of downloading the latest Hugh Grant movie and dubbing it over with zombie sounds.  That's a little more concrete.

Take the idea of sitting around listening to whatever music you can think of.  Kinda in between, but relatable.

But the point is it's the things we do that people can relate to.  Even today, ordinary folks are starting to understand why DRM "protected" media is such a terrible thing to waste your money on.  It's taken some time, but that's to be expected.  I know we're not going to change anyone's mind overnight.

I learned a long time ago that shrill argument actually works against you.  Sometimes I still forget a bit :-)  But I've also learned that with time, you actually can convince people of stuff.  Which is why we're here today.  If you read this blog regularly, you most likely agree with the premise, and I urge you to just work on the people around you, one idea at a time.  Short "zinger" style arguments seem to have the best impact, I've found.  People almost never change their mind right away, but they will think about it after you've left the building.  Real change always happens slowly.  If they feel like it's a personal contest, they will resist you out of principle.

Mind you, if you read this blog regularly and disagree, I applaud your intellectual honesty, and encourage you to rebut my feeble attempts at logic in the comments.  I promise you a civil reception.  I believe that sincere, serious dialog is the only path to human progress.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Okay, linking now officially evil

A Dutch court has ruled that hyperlinking can be the same as copyright infringement.

I've done my best to explain the abstract nature of linking before.

The court does have something interesting to say, however, which does not make the ruling, in my opinion, as thoroughly asinine as it could be.  For one thing, they explicitly say that the issue is the profit motive, and "creating a new audience" for the material.

Basically, they say that if the site didn't link to the copyrighted material, the people who followed the link wouldn't have been able to pirate it from that location, because they wouldn't have known about it.  This is the "creating a new audience" part.

To paraphrase a post on Slashdot, this is equivalent to being arrested for pointing at somebody selling copyright infringing goods on the street.

I have a little more sympathy for the "for profit" argument.  If you read this blog, then you know that I advocate the unrestricted sharing of all copyrightable data for non commercial purposes.  It is the entire purpose of this work, in fact.  But that does not mean I am hostile to private enterprise, or making money.

There are a lot of cases that might be considered "grey area" when it comes to "making money from other people's copyrighted material".  This would be one of those.  But, as in other cases, I think it needs to be quite direct to meet that bar.

For example, let's assume the Pirate Bay makes a lot of money by linking to torrents of copyrighted material.  But the thing is, it's not any particular movie or music that it makes money from--it makes money by providing the information for lots and lots of stuff.

It is not the same as, say, selling tickets to a pirated movie.  Or selling counterfeit CD's on the street.  Or using a song in your car dealership's commercial without authorization.

Linking is pointing is speech.  It can't be illegal, because that would be insane.  Is it illegal not to pretend that something that is "wrong" doesn't exist?  Must we all walk around with mental blinders on?

So even though this court made an effort to not be completely asinine, it failed by definition by making linking a crime.  After all, if you run a forum, a user could post an "illegal link" that  you would have no control over.  Illegal links?  Really?  Can that possibly be the way to go forward?

No, this way lies madness.  Hopefully this will be overruled before it is used as a precedent.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The War on Piracy/Drugs

If the War on Piracy continues--and I hesitate to even use the term, in case it gives anyone any ideas--it will have a lot of resemblance to the War on Drugs.

First, it is doomed to fail.  So there's that.  For some reason, humans often feel compelled to compel each other to do things or not to do things that are doomed to fail.  It's a sign of our incomplete rationality, in my opinion.

There are some differences, however.  First, drugs are bad, mmkay?  I think it's fair to say that at least the goal of the War on Drugs is a good goal--get people not to take so much drugs.  And so we endure the constant invasions of our civil rights at least for a goal that makes sense.

And indeed, like any law that makes it illegal to be "in possession" of something, somebody can plant pirated data on your computer just like drugs.  It is another lever that can be used by corrupt officialdom to screw people over.

But what is the goal of the war on piracy?  I mean seriously, hang on.  Is it to get people to change their behavior and not pirate anything on the internet?

Try to imagine what that would be like.  Everyone who enjoys pirating today just suddenly decides it's not worth and and stops doing it.  What would that mean?

It would mean that we are a bunch of fucking pussies to let someone bully us around on the internet.  I wouldn't even want to live in that world.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's 2012, why haven't you figured out yet that DRM can't work?

Techs around the world are cheerfully amused at McAffee's latest attempt to control the distribution of photos on the internet.

Basically, they came up with an application where the idea is that you can share photos only with certain people, and they will not be able to share them with anyone else.

I know, I know, you're saying "but I can take a picture of my computer monitor with my cell camera".  And of course you're right.  This is why McAffee is such a crappy software company.  They don't seem to understand this.

In the linked blog, the non-techie writer managed to overcome it slightly more elegantly with...a Firefox screenshot plugin.

Rocket science.

Yeah, don't put a photo on the internet if you don't want it on the internet forever.  Do not listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.  They are idiots.

Seriously.  I try not to use that kind of language here often because it's inflammatory.  It just happens to be literally true.  To think that you can control the sharing of photos, video, audio, or any other information in the internet is simply idiotic.

And this is the problem with Digital Rights Management.  The whole notion that you can hand someone the keys to a lock but keep them from being able to open it at will is absurd.

This is nothing to do with your opinion on piracy or fair use or whatever.  This is a simple fact, a law of physics, the way reality works.  The only it can work is to keep you from seeing it at all (encryption without giving you the key).  But if you want one person to be able to unlock it and view the content, that person by definition will have the option of sharing it, due to the laws of nature.  You can only depend on that person being too stupid to figure out how to do it.

And as much as one might rail against stupid people, do you really think you can outsmart everyone in the world?

I didn't think so.

But at least you know it.  McAffee doesn't.  Aren't they supposed to be an internet company or something?  Facebook should know better too.  Not to mention the MPAA, RIAA, etc. etc.  How many decades of failure have to go by before you accept the truth?

And what's really sad is this exact same strategy has been tried again and again and again since the earliest days of the internet.  What are these guys, twelve years old?

Friday, September 14, 2012

The rise of douchebaggery

There have always been douchebags.  It just seems to be all the rage these days.

In the past, companies would actually invest in their workers--they were considered part of the team.  This is what helped build our important middle class.

But these days MBA's have advanced "business theory" to the point that workers are only "human resources".  Under that line of thought, you would no more invest in an employee than give a bonus to the photocopier.

This is the same line of logic that says, "people don't like talking to our automated phone system, so we'll replace it with humans who are forbidden to deviate from a script."

That is douchebaggery.

I think it is this same way of thinking that justifies running around suing people for entertainment piracy, and bribing Congress to pass draconian copyright protection laws that will destroy the real value of the internet.

It is only a groundswell of offense from the public which can ever change this.  People have to get tired of it and demand change.  And the only way that will happen is if we an convince enough people of this point of view.  Which is why I write this blog.

I think it's been a bit of a boiling frog syndrome, to the point that folks who have grown up in this environment think it is normal.  Which it may well be, historically speaking.  But I like to think we're better than that.

It would honestly irritate me a little less if it wasn't a matter of corporate profits going to the CEO and other high ranking executives, but going to the owners of companies.  But public company stockholders have gotten quite used to the idea that the only increase in value for their investment should be in the stock price (as opposed to dividends or other considerations).  Company profits go to a privileged class of employee, instead.  Frat boy douchebags.  They aren't entrepreneurs, they are professional ass kissers and networkers.

And so the middle class shrinks while the idea of protecting human dignity is perceived as a cost center to be eliminated.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What is culture?

What is culture?  From the Oracle:

Culture (Latin: cultura, lit. "cultivation") is a modern concept based on a term first used in classical antiquity by the Roman orator, Cicero: "cultura animi". The term "culture" appeared first in its current sense in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, to connote a process of cultivation or improvement, as in agriculture or horticulture. In the 19th century, the term developed to refer first to the betterment or refinement of the individual, especially through education, and then to the fulfillment of national aspirations or ideals. In the mid-19th century, some scientists used the term "culture" to refer to a universal human capacity. For the German nonpositivist sociologist Georg Simmel, culture referred to "the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history".

I rather like the "universal human capacity" angle.  I think of the internet as the utlimate (so far) enabler of human capacity.  The question we are asking these days is, should this capacity only ever be directly monetized, or should the exchange of information be free?

In the first model, the human capacity that is paid for is a one way street.  That is, the "artist" (meaning person who calls himself an artist) receives money, every time, every time somebody looks at (downloads) their art.  The person receiving the art is not considered a beneficiary, but only a consumer.

Because who benefits from art?  Should the artist be the only person who benefits?

If you insist on a per-download fee, what you are in effect saying is that art should be rationed.  It's too precious and amazing to just give away.

But the end result is clear--less art for you. Less culture for you.  You must pay for your culture.  You must pay cash money for your human capacity.

How often in your life has your human capacity been increased by spending money?

The other alternative is that art is exchanged freely between all artists--everyone is an artist.

Which way do you think is better?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pirating music, movies, and books is fun!

A lot of people who disagree with me sometimes shake their heads in disgust and say something like, "Well you're just trying to justify getting all this free stuff just because you want it!"

Well, sure.  It is fun.  I do want it, or I wouldn't download it.

Actually, sometimes I'm not sure if I want it or not.  So I download it to find out.

And, in principle, I may download something I don't want at all.  Is that immoral, too?

If you've never sat around on a Saturday night with your friends, imbibing some pleasant concoctions, and downloading and listening to any music that pops into your head--you don't know what your missing.  It really is the most amazing thing.

Of course, I may delete the files afterward.  Or not.  What difference does it make?

Some people build up huge libraries of pirated movies.  They get a charge out of having this "library" at their disposal.  They would never do it if they had to pay $15+ for each one.

Of course, to me, my "library" is the internet.  I feel no great urge to have a local copy.

The internet is a library.  It's a new kind of library.  Libraries are sacred, and not to be interfered with or destroyed, because they represent free access for all people to the knowledge--including cultural knowledge--of humanity.  They are the ultimate enabler of "all men are created equal".  No one can claim, ultimately, that they are denied an education and a fair chance to thrive in the world if libraries are freely available.  They are necessary.

And they're also fun.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

This book is not lendable

If you've never read the short short story "The Right to Read", by Richard Stallman, do yourself a favor and go check it out now.  I'll wait....

It was written in 1997 and is looking more prescient every day.  It is not a coincidence that it appears on, a site and organization dedicated to free (as in liberty) software.  Software and information and free speech are inextricably linked, as we use software more and more to get information and to speak.

This comes to mind because lately I've been checking out, a site for legally borrowing and lending e-books.  If you've read this blog much you know that I like to drone on and on about how preposterous it is to discuss the loaning of digital files.  So naturally this site intrigues me.

Naturally, since I'm done reading them, I decided to make all the e-books I've purchased available for loan.  This makes sense because, since I will probably never ever read them again, there is no reason not to contribute to the Lendink community.  So I logged in and typed in "Dune Messiah", and got this:

Note the note at the bottom, "Sorry, this book is not lendable by the publisher".


I thought it was I who was lending the book?

Not so.

I tried all the other books I'd bought, and only one was lendable.  I checked the Overdrive site, which many libraries use for lending e-books, and indeed that one was available there, too, and not the others.  After a cursory analysis, it appears to me that very, very few e-books are "lendable", and it is largely at least the same few e-books made available to libraries.

Now don't get me wrong, I understand why the publishers do this.  If you can lend books freely, in the end, there is no need for anyone to ever buy one.

Just to make things crystal clear, you can go download Dune Messiah for free right now by Googling "Dune Messiah torrent mobi" (mobi is the open version of Amazon's AZW format) and you will find the whole Dune series here:

Just install the standard bittorrent client and  you're good to go.

So the next time you decide to pay full price for an e-book, just remember, you are not buying anything.  It is not the same as a real book, which you can bend, mutilate, spindle, or LEND to a friend.

(And you're also contributing to the downfall of the human race!)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Do you own the art you make? No.

This BBC article got me to thinking again about the nature of art.  Short version: Philip Roth got bent out of shape because Wikipedia didn't consider him sufficiently authoritative to edit his own Wikipedia page.

Like many things, this sounds uncontroversial until you actually think about it.

First off, Wikpedia is not Facebook.  It's an encyclopedia.  If every public figure got to edit their own encyclopedia page, it would then be Facebook.

Wikipedia is about things and people, which includes what other people may think or know about them.  This can also include things they might not wish to be publicly known, or that they definitely would not discuss on their own Facebook page.

For example, the Wikipedia page on Bill Clinton  talks about Monica Lewinsky.  Bill probably would prefer it not be there, and would not go out of his way to mention or on his Facebook page.

Even in this case, the very fine writer Roth disagrees about the inspiration of one of his better known stories.  Again, one would think he would be the ultimate authority on the subject.  And indeed, in his own mind he surely is, and in fact in this case I'm inclined to believe him.

But it doesn't matter.

What if he's lying?  After all, fiction writers are professional liars!

We don't know.  We can't know.  And it just doesn't matter.

When you create a piece of art and send it out into the public space,  it simply doesn't belong entirely to you any more.  It's a part of the culture, which you have contributed to, but it is forever beyond your control.

You cannot control what people think about the art you made.  You are the authority on nothing--you simply have your own opinion on the piece.  The thing itself is now separate from you, and you don't own it any more than you have some sort of proprietary right to the words you just spoke to the grocery store clerk or the song you just sang.  Your chance to own those things is now in the past, irretrievable.

This is what I consider to be a fundamental truth, and I defy anyone to disprove it.  And this is also exactly why draconian copyright controls are not only sinful, but stupid.  You can't put the genie back in the bottle, because there is no bottle any longer to put it into.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


So I posted on Slashdot the other day opining for a free and open source software repository for Android.  And to my surprise, a nice person replied telling me there already is one, called F-droid.  So I am super happy about that.

For non-Linux users, the idea of a software repository was introduced with the ideas of app stores for phones.  For us Linux Desktop users, we have for a long time had thousands of free, open source applications available at our fingertips, without even opening a web browser.  You just open up your "package manager" and type in some search terms, and click on checkboxes to install software on your computer.

Even better, all the software is free and open source, so you can know if it is up to no good on your computer.  Even better, the software is generally vetted by the OS maintainers to some extent for an extra layer of assurance.

So I'm used to it.

On Windows or Mac, I usually have to install scads of third party closed source applications to make the computer usable for all my purposes (and indeed I do many different types of things on my computers, which makes me a little unusual, but still).  So not only is it a lot of work, but I have tons of totally untrusted software packages installed on my information machine, and I don't really know what they are up to.

Not only that, but the system administration tools are poorer, especially on Windows, so I can't even tell as easily after the fact if the application is malware.

This is relevant to this blog because this is fundamentally about humans having control over their information.  It is really critical to the long term success and happiness of our people.

So I'm very pleased about F-droid--it has lots of apps built for Android in it, the source for all of them is available, and it's easy to use.  I definitely recommend it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Scaring over a million people

Apparently in France it is reasonable to threaten over a million people and tell them their internet use is unacceptable.

And it's coming to the good old U.S.A. soon if our Internet Service Providers really are completely stupid.

Comcast, are you listening?

I don't think we are as passive as the French.

From the article:

"Less than 10% of these account holders went on to receive a second warning and just 0.34% of those went on to the third strike phase. In what is being framed as a victory by Hadopi, just 0.0012% of those who received a first strike have been referred to the courts."

So first of all, yes, we are taking their word for it.  But assuming it's true, I'm sure quite a lot of the time someone's parents got pretty mad about getting this letter in the mail!  I feel sorry for all those French kids having to resort to the second best method of piracy.

The great irony, of course, is they consider this a great success--that they've driven people to use less easily detectable forms of piracy.

They really do have shit for brains.  Man, seriously.

As for everyone else, I'm sure they think like I do--the first time I get one, I'm using a VPN for everything for the rest of my life, because my ISP can't be trusted with my surfing habits.

That, of course, would be after I changed ISP's.  Not going to tolerate this for a second.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lending books will destroy something--I'm just not sure what.

So is a site where you can loan and borrow ebooks legally.  I use "legally" with a little circumspection--I don't believe the law has been worked out on it, but I use it in the sense that everyone should agree that it is okay.

I still think they're trolling, and I applaud them for it.

You can be sure that Amazon and Barnes and Noble only enable the "loaning" of e-books because even most folks would be offended at not being able to do so.  And that wellspring of common sense, in the end, is the only thing that can keep the internet free.

However, imagine if everyone who buys e-books uses this service?  After all, after you finish reading an e-book, why wouldn't you put it on the loan service?   How often do you re-read a book?  You probably don't even keep it on your kindle.

Over time, this will result in a very large library of "loan-able" ebooks.  As in, you won't have to buy many books.

Perhaps that will help folks understand how incredibly stupid the idea of loaning an electronic file is.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Going after VPN's

So some folks think that the music industry will go after VPN's next.  I hope they do.

They should just keep on attacking every component of the internet they don't like until the general population understands what they are really all about.

Bear in mind that anonymous VPN services are also very useful to people in oppressed countries to get around heavy censorship regimes.  Personally, just because some people may "misbehave" when on the internet or using a service on the internet, that is not enough reason to shut it down.

Might as well shut down the world, then.

More interestingly, all this would do is drive more people to use TOR.  TOR is a free service that routes traffic more or less randomly through several computers in order to provide a large amount of anonymity.  There is also freenet.  Both of these services currently have pretty serious bandwidth constraints--because there aren't enough people using them.

So if these fools manage to get all the torrent sites censored, and all the anonymous VPN services taken down, they will not only be destroying the freedom of the human information network for billions of repressed people, but they will greatly improve the performance of the ultimate anonymizing services-- which I'm here to tell you, they can never defeat.

Unless you want to shut down the internet.

Monday, September 3, 2012

More on encouraging piracy

I hope y'all can tolerate a slightly technical musing, today.  So I'm pondering the javascript application I'd like to develop.  Of course, first I need to learn javascript.  So maybe I can find someone to help me to do it faster :-).

The reason a javascript bittorrent client is desireable is that webmasters can drop it into any page, and enable people visiting that page to start pirating.  The web server itself does no pirating whatsoever.

I'm thinking of a simple search box with a label "Type the song/artist you want to hear".  Then, have it go out and search the Pirate Bay or some other torrent site and present a list of options.  Basically I'd have it download the torrent for each search result (perhaps only highly seeded ones) and actually search the file list in the torrent, and present those to the user.

Then, when the user selects one, present a progress part and start torrenting.  You probably would want to stick with highly seeded songs since the user won't have a bittorrent port forwarded to their PC.  Or could you perhaps use the current transient outgoing port?  I dunno.

But then once it's downloaded, play it---and provide a Save button.

They won't even know they're pirating.

Think of the glorious confusion it could cause if it got into widespread use!  The RIAA would have to put out nonsensical sounding press releases like "that little play-a-song window that comes up on a lot of websites is illegal!"  which nobody would understand.

Bruce Willis

This one is just too easy.  Bruce Willis suing Apple for the right to pass on his iTunes songs to his children once he dies.

If you ever paid a lot of money for a strings of bytes, first, you are an idiot.   Second, ha ha!

Apple claims that you simply purchase a license for the songs, which is different from buying a CD, where you own a piece of plastic.

What you should be thinking now is "what exactly do I own when I buy music?"

It's nice to see Bruce making this a high profile issue.  Regular people need to start trying to answer these questions for the market to work correctly.  Free markets demand an informed consumer, and I'm here to tell you that most folks have zero comprehension of the implications of a marketplace for digital "goods".

Ha.  "Goods".  Nice try.

 I'd be happy to pay for a good service to help me access entertainment data.  But I never voluntarily pay for bytes.  Bytes are "goods" the same way chicken have teeth.

By the way, these are all stupid questions--this data should be freely shareable by anyone for non-commercial purposes.

It's the only decent thing to do.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Information criminal caught in Cambodia

One of the founders of the Pirate Bay was caught in Cambodia this week.  It's funny, most of the time when you hear something like that these days, you assume the guy was a sex tourist.  But Gottfrid Svartholm Warg was arrested for information crimes.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Bene Gesserit solution to copyright trolls

So I've found myself re-reading the entire Dune series.  I'd intended to only re-read the first classic book (which I read when I was 12), but it's pretty gripping stuff, if you like that sort of thing.  Certainly, it was really too heavy for me at that age, especially the later books.  Much too abstract.

It's still pretty challenging as an experienced reader.  They are really books of philosophy as much as anything.  In fact I was struck by this passage in Chapterhouse: Dune:

"Don't march in the streets with others who share your prejudices.  Loud shouts are often the easiest to ignore.  "I mean, look at them out there shouting their fool heads off!  You want to make common cause with them?"...

To create change you find leverage points and move them.  Beware blind alleys.  Offers of high positions are a common distraction paraded before marchers.  Leverage points are not all in high office.  They are often at economic or communications centers and unless you know this, high office is useless."

Now that is my kind of science fiction!  And it got me to thinking about the expansion of fair use rights in copyright, and all the forces arrayed against that.

I think its safe to say the RIAA and MPAA are not in a place where they are willing to entertain the idea of more freedom for people on the internet.  For that matter, I don't expect them ever to be--it will have to be imposed on them by force.  Force means government, and if you want the government to do something like that you need to convince a lot of ordinary folks that it is necessary.  Hence this blog.  I realize it's an uphill battle.  Not my fault if I'm right and it's hard!

So...leverage points.  Move them!

What are the leverage points on the RIAA and MPAA?  What are the leverage points on our government?  Remember Wikipedia turning black for a day and SOPA getting shot down?  That was a leverage point being moved.  The hoi polloi did not like their Wikipedia being down!

Obviously, that's not something  you want to use too much.  Also, I hardly think even if you tried it that people would really grok why the expansion of fair use is so important.  Even many people who call themselves computer geeks don't appreciate that as they should.

No, it's going to take a little longer than that, and more subtlety.  Arguments are good, but most folks just don't have a heavy philosophical bent.  Arguments, I think, are for other philosophers, who can influence other people near them.

I think there is more than one leverage point in play, here.  One thing I thought of right away though is custom.  For example, many people I know who pirate music, movies, and tv shows simply are not interested in the philosophical, moral, and ethical aspects of what they are doing.  At all.  Except to snort with contempt when told that it is somehow wrong.

And that, my friends, is the fundamental good sense of the American people.

I do think it is inevitable, in time, that this will happen.  But I would prefer it be less than a couple hundred years as we fight a War on Drugs style campaign against file sharing on the internet.  That is already being a disaster.

So one leverage point, I think, is reality.  How many people are doing it.  How can we expand that exponentially?

One problem with pirating, even today, is it takes work.  I have talked before about how easy it is (one of the most popular posts on this blog, hehe).  And it is easy.  But it still requires a little work.  A little understanding.  It's still too hard.

So what I'm thinking as one idea, is to develop a javascript torrrent tool, that just appears to let you select, say, any song or movie you want to play, and plays it.  In the background it is searching torrent sites and downloading the appropriate data.  But all the user sees is a selection and a play button.  For music in particular this could work very well, since a single song can generally be downloaded in a few seconds over broadband.

But the beauty of this approach is--if you develop the application well, it could be dragged and dropped onto almost any website by any webmaster with no skill.  And--and this is the kicker--they aren't doing any pirating themselves.  It is the equivalent of distributing bittorrent client software, which is completely legal.  Javascript runs on the client (the web site visitor's machine)--but the client won't even know it.

But they'll get used to it.