Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Woody Guthrie on copyright

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

--Written by Woody Guthrie in the late 1930s on a songbook distributed to listeners of his L.A. radio show "Woody and Lefty Lou" who wanted the words to his recordings.

That's it.  That's all I wanted to post today.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Why should I care about DRM and closed source software, and what on earth do they have to do with expanding fair use?

Reading this article about how some DRM software allows attackers into your system reminded me of the interconnectedness of many of the concepts related to copyright and fair use.

The reason I advocate the expansion of fair use in copyright to cover all non-commercial use, is because that is the only way we can set a reasonably small target for internet abuse.  That is, the internet is for copying files.  If we are going to penalize everyone that copies files, the internet is going to suck.  Thus, let's just go after the worst offenders--people who are actually making money from copyright infringement.

You see, one of the outcomes of going after everybody is the prevalence of software like DRM software.  By its nature, it is "closed source", meaning, we don't have any real way of knowing what it's doing.  That's the whole idea--they want to control what you do with your machine, and letting you see how that works would defeat the purpose.

Think about that for a moment.  You are executing code on your information machine--and you don't know what it is doing.

Are you really so trusting?

Richard Stallman (often affectionately referred to as RMS), the guru of the open source movement, saw this coming a long time ago.  I used to think he was an extremist.  As the decades flow by, I've come around more and more to his point of view.  These days he seems merely sensible.

Ultimately, you are utterly mad to run closed source software on your computer.

Running a closed source operating system is even more insane, because that is the infrastructure that all other software runs on.  Maybe it's not so much crazy right now, but soon it will be--you can bank on it.  Especially if the coming UEFI debacle allows companies like Microsoft to *utterly* control your machine.

Like your cell phone.

You trust your cell phone carrier with all your secrets, right?  Which is why it's no problem that you can't install the operating system you wish on your phone, or even run as an Administrator or Root.


Cell phones have become the back door to this closed-source society they wish to build.

DRM and closed source software are ways of controlling you, and the push for copyright absolutism by the entertainment companies is the unwitting vehicle for the destruction of the internet as a good and useful thing.  Without open software (and the ability to actually run it), there is no free internet.

Expanding fair use would diminish the perceived need for this level of control, dramatically.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Email from your random friends

In the cause of expanding fair use, I like to make the argument of necessity.  By necessity, I mean the necessity of content creators to accept reality.

Naturally, content creators tend to feel like reality is what they make of it.  I can sympathize with this, as I sit here creating this content.  I don't do it because I hope it will have no affect on the world whatsoever.  I do definitely hope and intend to have some level of influence on reality, no matter how small.

So that is a thing that a creator can do--choose how they want to influence reality.

Currently, many content creators are focused on keeping people from trading digital versions of their creations on the internet.

My job, as I see it, is to try to lend some perspective.

I think creators are better served to spend their time creating beautiful art or entertaining entertainments, than harassing or trying to guilt and shame internet users.  After all, who are you trying to please?  Do you wish to simultaneously please and shame?  Are you really so special that the realities of the modern world should not have to apply to you?  Is harassment the best use of your limited lifetime in this world?

Necessity can have many meanings.  The thing about necessity is that it can be ignored, for a time.  It can also be unclear.  Sure, you may seem to have the option of trying to keep people's minds from running freely, spreading our culture--which you contribute to--on this wonderful device.  But is it right?  For either of us?

Ultimately, what we do on the internet is no one's business but our own, except in the most extreme of situations.  No one is totally free, nor should they be.  But if I email your song to a friend, not only am I doing you a favor, but it is also none of your business.

And I choose to swap files with a few hundred thousand of my closest friends, that is also none of your concern.  Find a way to work with this new reality and stop working against it, and I predict you will not only survive, but prosper more than ever before.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

So who gets the money if the RIAA or MPAA sues you?

Now, I don't feel it's my place here to point out flagrant, fragrant, profoundly sad hypocrisy.

Wait a minute--yes it is!

It turns out that the persecution of The Pirate Bay has nothing to do with artists after all--and who would have thought?  It appears that the money in damages that the organizations won is not going to any artist whatsoever, but only to fund "future anti-piracy activities".

Interestingly, this is supposed to be "recovered" money, meaning it is meant to replace money actually lost by the "wronged party".  They keep telling us they are representing "the artists", and we keep on knowing they are lying, but it's nice to have documentary evidence.

Again, this just points out the madness of trying to stop or penalize casual copying on the internet--which is always and only a giant peer to peer file transfer device.  If fair use is expanded to all non-commercial fair use, they would be able to focus on a more realistic target (commercial infringers, as opposed to everyone), and also would not be the biggest bunch of assholes on the internet.  They are making a lot of enemies now-- enemies with long memories.

I realize that child soldiers in Africa is a much more dire problem than copyright persecution of citizens on the internet, in the short term.  But if we can't have reasonably free use of information on our information machines, in the long run we may not be able to talk about child soldiers in Africa.  And when you can't talk about a problem honestly, you have no hope of fixing it at all.  And we have plenty of problems that need fixing.

So we need to stop these people from this vile behavior of using the legal system to ruin people's lives for trading information.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Browsing the internet privately

Closely related to the need for fair use is the need for privacy on the internet.  You should be aware that:

1. All your emails can be read by your ISP and any carrier in between you and the recipient.

2. Every web site you surf to can be recorded by your ISP.

One way to get around this is to use a VPN, a Virtual Private Network service.  Many of these promise not to keep logs, but of course how do you really know that?  I was amused to come across an add for these guys--I have no idea if they are any good or not--saying "never trust a VPN provider that doesn't accept Bitcoin", which I found amusing.  But it's funny because it makes sense.

Who cares if your VPN provider keeps logs if they don't know who you are?  And how can you be sure your VPN provider won't grass on you if they do know who you are?

Something to think about if you go this route.  Anonymity starts there.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

oh so online piracy isn't really the problem?

A weird report from the RIAA from Torrentfreak indicates that most "unpaid acquired" music comes from offline file swapping.  I find this really, really hard to believe.  But hey, if that means they'll stop trying to take over the internet I'm all for it.

Strangely, it still talks about "acquiring" music, which I have frequently questions even as a concept.

After all, what does it mean to "have" an mp3 file?  Does that mean you have it on your hard drive?  Or that you *can* have it on your hard drive at will?  Or "stream" it from YouTube?  You do realize streaming is exactly the same as downloading, right?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What does "information wants to be free" mean?

Nerds like to say "information wants to be free" as if it is a useful argument.  It long puzzled me.  It was actually a random Slashdot poster who made it clear to me: "information wants to be free in the same way that water wants to run down hill".  Now that makes sense.

It is relevant to the notion of copyright on the internet because it perfectly describes the situation we have.  Look at the word "copyright" itself--Copy and Right.  The right to copy.  Copyright is an attempt to give only certain people the rights to make copies of something.  The internet is the ultimate enabler of making free, pefect, copies.  It is natural that there should be a conflict.

I think even the biggest technophobes understand here in 2012 that once a piece of information makes it onto the internet, there is no retracting it.

It is, in fact, impossible without massive constraints.  

For example, we (try) to control water with damns, levees, dikes, carefully prepared ponds and pools and tanks.  It takes a great deal of effort to control water, and if we fail, we don't blame the water.

It is entirely possible to control information on the internet in the same way--except that information multiplies.  Copies are made of copies are made of copies--all perfect--and numbering in the millions in no time if it's popular.

This is the new reality.  Information wanted to be free before the internet, but its capacity to do so was severely limited by the technologies of the time.  But those constraints no longer apply.  Forever.  It's over.

It is necessary to refine the ideas of copyright to meet this new reality.  Reality brooks no reasons or excuses, it just is.  You can either accept it or get run over like so much opossum on the side of the road.

And nobody is going to let you build a dam.  Not for long.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monetizing bittorrent for artists

It's probably worth mentioning attempts to find a new business model utilizing the free distribution of media.

So much of the debate over piracy--and thus fair use--is about business models.  Artists seem to feel that the world owes them a business model.  Artists, of course, are not known for their practicality.  Or common sense.  Anyway.

One of the things that puzzles me, however, is how any artist can argue with their work getting worldwide exposure for free, which is what bittorrent does.

In any case, in the linked article it talks about one artist offering "exclusive content" only via bittorrent!  I find this subtly amusing, as typically "exclusive content" offered via other avenues quickly finds its way to bittorrent, thus becoming significantly less exclusive.

But how do you pirate the data from bittorrent?  Har dee har har!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Terrorizing internet users in New Zealand

There is a lot of nonsense talk about "cyberterrorism" these days.  I'm not saying it's impossible.  I'm just saying that Nigerian Prince scams aren't exactly terrifying.

But if there is such a thing, they've got it in New Zealand now, where they've implemented a "three strikes" law for copyright infringement.  Some results are in.

Interestingly, their own wing of the MPAA is claiming:

"NZ FACT claimed New Zealanders illegally viewed movies in the top 200 online 110,000 times in August last year — the month before the new law took effect — but only 50,000 times in September."

Now...I find this...interesting.  They claim to know how many people "viewed" pirated movies.

Obviously, they have groundbreaking, patent pending, living room spying technology at their disposal.

I'm not just being a smartass--semantics is really, really important when discussing information technology.  And this is obviously nonsense.

More likely, they have detected far less piracy.

Or, they have effectively terrorized the population of New Zealand into pirating less.

Which is better?  Which is worse?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Getting naked to protest piracy

While I disagree with this lady, I have to say that this is definitely on the list of acceptable ways to protest internet piracy.  No censorship, just getting naked in public so "...my book so it is not pirated anymore anywhere in the world".

Good luck with that, of course.   And I daresay a lot more people will have heard of your book now, and I hope it helps her sales.

Waffles as an analogy for piracy

Well, sheeeit...I did it again and forgot to post yesterday.  As penance, I shall post twice today!

Actually, waffles aren't the analogy today, but the literal issue at a festival in Sweden where the Swedish "young pirates association" was handing out free waffles.

This did not go over well with the established waffle sellers, as it undercut them and cost them business.  So they were ejected from the festival.

The ironies and analogies are abundant and obvious, and I'll let you draw your own conclusions.  Discuss amongst yourselves....

Friday, July 20, 2012

UEFI and the right to read

If you haven't read it before, I suggest that it is worth your while to read the short short story the Right to Read.  It is set in 2096, but the issues it speaks to are starting to happen right now.

Specifically, there is a battle over the control over your computer hardware.

Why does this matter?  And what on earth does this have to do with the theme of this blog?

It matters because your computer is your information machine.  If someone else has ultimate control over it, that means you do not, and that means someone else is controlling your information machine.  I don't think you have to be especially paranoid or technical to appreciate what that can mean.  You can see it today with "locked down" cell phones.  Not only does it keep you from doing what you want with  hardware you own, but it gives other people control over the software you run, and thus ultimately the information you have access to.

Software = information.

The new UEFI scheme is one way of "signing" the computer operating system (Windows, Linux, OSX, etc.) that runs on your computer, so that only signed (encrypted) binaries can be run.  There are problems with this when it is not YOU who are doing the signing.

Currently, Microsoft is negotiating with hardware manufacturers to include Microsoft's keys with new computers.  This means that, out of the box, only Microsoft's software will run.  It means, quite literally, that ultimate control of your computer will belong to Microsoft, and not you.

If you think this is a fucking joke, then you don't know what you're talking about.

In the short term, x86 PC's, such as most desktops today, will have an option to bypass this.  But in the short term, ARM machines will not.  Most phones have ARM chips, and I'm here to tell you that ARM desktop PC's are right around the corner.

This is only a way for Microsoft to assert and force their presence in the computer market, as they wane in relevance.  You should not stand for it if you have any self respect.

The relevance to this blog is that this is also a way of forcing Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) software on you, which is another way of denying you access to information.  This is precisely why expanding fair use in copyright is so important--to render these crazy sociopathic regimes useless.

The long and the short of it is it means you will not be allowed to know what software is running on your computer.  And believe me, as a software developer I can assure you, this is not a thing you want to have happen.

Or have you not noticed?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What is the difference between downloading and listening?

Q: Is it wrong to download music you haven't paid for?

A: Yes!

Q: Ok, what if I download it but never listen to it?

A: Well, er, yes, it's still wrong.

Q: Why?

A: Because you haven't paid for it!


Q: Okay, so is it wrong to listen to a song I haven't paid for?

A: Of course not.

Q: What if I listen to it on the internet when I haven't paid for it?

A: Well, er, is it on YouTube or something?

Q: I don't know.  Is it?

A: Well if it's on YouTube then it's okay.

Q: But the artist usually didn't upload it.

A: But they have ads on it!  Or something.

Q: Okay, putting that aside, what if it's not YouTube.

A: Well that's not okay.

Q: So YouTube is the only legitimate free source of listening to music on the internet?

A: Well I don't know.

Q: And do you realize that when you "listen" to something on the internet, you are also "downloading" it, or you wouldn't be able to hear it?

A: You're confusing the issue!

Q: That's funny, I'm trying to clarify it.

A: You are a bad man.

Q: Yes, yes I am.  Apparently.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The United States is wasting its political capital on defending Imaginary Property rights

"Intellectual Property" is a buzzword these days.  It tends to be accepted without question by Americans.  That's why I like to call it Imaginary Property, just to help keep it in perspective.

I mean, all property is imaginary, don't get me wrong.  There are no laws of physics describing property.  It is entirely a human construct, and on the whole I am in favor of it.

For example, it is obviously immoral for someone to break into your house.  This is an example of where our human construct is good and useful.

In the realm of abstract things, I think most people feel it would be wrong for a used car salesman, a bank, or a grocery chain to use a song you wrote in its advertisements without consent or compensation.

However, the mere possession of a copy of your song should not be grounds for anything.

For that matter, these days, a patent for rounded rectangles does not deserve to be enforced, morally, either.

It's a pity today that the New Zealand judge in the Kim Dotcom Megaupload case has recused himself from the case after making comments to the effect that the United States is the enemy, when it comes to copyright, and intellectual property in general.  It's a pity because for once it's been pleasurable to see some justice done in this arena (albeit belatedly and incompletely).

This is a case where my country has gone after a foreign national in a foreign country for breaking laws that don't exist there.  We are using our extensive political capital for world peace, curing poverty, eliminating hunger, enforcing unjust imaginary property laws.   Because that is what will make us secure.

I suppose I should be grateful we're not invading anybody else at the moment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

719,415 web sites blocked by Google, ironically

The war of the entertainment industry vs. the people has taken another step up as Google has blocked a record number of web sites this week.  Nearly a million web pages blocked.

Why does anybody think America is a free country?

I don't think this can last, and Google is sorta almost doing the right thing by at least posting the information publicly.  But they're still going along with it.

If one of the richest companies in the world allows itself to be bullied this way, what hope do the rest of us have?

"Do no evil," indeed.  How about "Do some good"?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jill Lesser, Executive Director of the Center for Copyright Information

I want to talk some more today about the "Center for Copyright Information", the organ which has been set up to harass you off the internet if they don't like what you're downloading on the internet.  God knows why the major internet providers are cooperating, but they say they are.  They must want fewer customers.

Anyway, because I like to be well informed, I've been studying their site.  I found this blog post (and google cache version in case it changes--by the way, isn't google cache being served to me an illegal copy?) from Jill Lesser, who is apparently the Executive Director.  She mentions:

"I landed first at People for the American Way, working to keep regulators from stifling the internet’s power as a tool of democracy, and as a new, virtual public square where citizens could exchange information, ideas and art.  I worked with content creators and internet entrepreneurs to strike down the first major declaration of war on internet freedom, the Communications Decency Act. That skirmish had an unintended consequence: it spawned an entire generation of defenders of free speech in the digital age. "

In other words, "Hi.  I am not a huge asshole".

Now, the thing is, when you find yourself in a situation where the first thing you need to do is try to assure people that you are not a huge asshole, you are probably doing something wrong.

My thought was, "Methinks she doth protest too much."

She goes on to say:

"The notion that artists and creators, and even the big companies that finance, produce and deliver their creations, don’t have the right to own and control their distribution, simply cannot be. "

I just want to observe that not a single reason is offered.  If you follow this blog, you know that this insidious assumption is at the heart of the wrong end of the philosophical battle we are currently engaged in, in my opinion.

I am an artist.

I am pointing right now to all the free art that is voluntarily released on the internet.  I am pointing to the outrageous notion that an author, for example, could forbid you to re-sell a book you bought.
Artists have no inherent right to control of their work once it's been released to the world, and thinking otherwise is both strangely stupid and dangerous, because it makes people like Jill Lesser seem sensible.

Nothing is going to change the fact that Ms. Lesser is overseeing the biggest, and worst, censorship regime in the world.  Because even in China, where they block websites, they don't kick you off the fucking internet.

They say the United Nations is just a talking shop, but at least they've been talking correctly that unhindered internet access is a human right.  If you truly understand the internet, you know in your bones this is true.  Why do you think I scrawl here day after day?  It fucking matters.

Jill,  if you want to talk I will talk--but not while you're threatening to disconnect my internet.  You have gone past talking.  You are the ones escalating the discussion from talk to action, both in the courts and with your stealthily named organization.  I don't care if you have a "consumer advocate advisory board"--they are either corrupt or incompetent if they're going along with this nonsense.  "All stakeholders..." indeed.  You talk blithely about "a progressive system to inform consumers of potentially illegal behavior, but also an educational platform that would help users understand their rights" as if it is not a cudgel you fully intend to use to beat the populace to your will.  Jesus, do you think we are all stupid?

I've got news for you lady--we're not all stupid.  Not by a long shot, and I'm far from the only one.

I, for one, will not stand for it.  I have not made a habit of personal attack in this space, but I don't see any reason why I shouldn't when people behave this way.  Look for much more of that here as this program goes on.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How pirates pirate pirates

One thing I think is interesting is how bittorrent trackers all, to a man, pirate each other's content.

Of course, in this case we're not talking about "content" in the way people normally mean, but simply the torrents they have listed.  If you're not familiar with bittorrent you might check out my earlier post about the nature of linking,  or my explanation of bittorrent.  In essense, however, bittorrent sites only host links to content, not the actual content itself--ever.

Point is, on public trackers (sites where you don't have to register), all the links to all the content are out there on the internet for everyone to see.  And private trackers, such as Demonoid, always always scrape the public tracker sites and copy all the data from them to include on their own sites.  After all--it's out there.

And I think this is what geeks tend to intuitively understand about the internet--when you put something on the internet, you can't take it back.

The Pirate Bay and other public trackers don't even try to stop other sites from copying their links, and not just because it would be asinine, I think.  It's simply because they understand what's going on.  But the same things are true with other media.

If you don't want someone copying your song or book--don't ever let anyone see it.  Problem solved.  But once you put it out there, it's obvious you want someone to see it.  So if people see it, but not on your terms, well, boo freaking hoo.  You can try to control the distribution of your movie with encrypted DRM discs, but when it's out there it's out there, and that is the way of the world.

And you seem to be making plenty of money still, so quit trying to destroy the internet, please.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What if I download something and don't watch/listen to it?

Just a quick thought for today.  What if I pirate every popular song and movie for the past fifty years, but I never, ever watch/listen to any of it?

Is that wrong?  Is it still piracy?

And if so, why?

Discuss. :-)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Is there such a thing as a bad lawyer?

I was pleased to see this blog post on Ray Beckerman's blog (a very excellent blog to follow if you are interested in this subect) about actual sanctions being placed on a lawyer who likes to go around using the legal system to extort money from people for copyright violations.

Mind you, the sanctions have nothing to do with that, per se, but on this guy violating a lower court's order.  But it's a start.  Too bad he'll keep his license, though.

One of the greatest annoyances to me about this whole situation is how the legal profession in the United States does not seem to have any actual code of ethics, or consequences for bad actions on their members.  Compare this to the lawyers of Pakistan who regularly put their lives on the line protesting for the rule of law.

Completely different thing, isn't it?  Lawyers I talk to like to drone on about the rule of law, but it seems to me that in this country they have completely forgotten what the rule of law is for.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

To dispel any doubt...

Just a quick hit about a single example of how the current copyright system is already being abused.

Note to copyright troll lawyers:  if you're going to sue someone for copyright infringement, you should probably have the right to do so for the material in question.

And again, with an expansion of fair use, this nonsense would never have happened.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sneaking in SOPA by the back door

It's no surprise that Hollywood has not given up on SOPA and is trying to sneak it in by the back door.

One of the most offensive parts of this new attempt is the idea of having "IP Attaches" at U.S. embassies around the world.

When will people realize that this is profoundly outsized influence for the entertainments industry?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Even the Russians want to censor the internet...wait

I guess it's good news that this is news, but now the Russians are contemplating setting up their own Great Firewall of Russia.  They want to censor "child pornography, promote teenage suicide, ... spread information about drugs ... and similar types of content".

Now even most people understand the slippery slope there.  Even most people understand how censorship can start on something legitimate, like child pornography, and be expanded to things that are not legitimate to censor, like political speech somebody disagrees with.

But the mass media in the U.S. has got the public so brainwashed about copyright that they don't see how it is exactly the same thing.  If you're censoring the internet because of copyright concerns, you're still shutting people up.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Let's shut down the internet

You know, it just hasn't worked out.

The internet seemed like such a great idea.  "Let's create a giant mechanism for the rapid transfer of information!"  And indeed, it seemed so cool for a while.

But it is clear now that there is no future for creative work if we keep it up.  There is simply no way for artists, musicians, writers, and movie makers to make a living doing that work as long as people are free to steal their work willy nilly over the internet.

And I, for one, do not want to do without movies, books, or music.

So let's shut it down.  Sure, I'll miss email and twitter and Facebook (not!) and god knows I'll miss Google+ more than anything.  But we can get by.

It's obvious to any competent technical person that there is literally no way to stop file sharing on the internet, whose entire purpose is sharing files.  So it's time to call it a failed experiment and call the whole thing off.

So I've started a petition:


Please sign it and pass it on to your friends/enemies.  This may be the most important initiative of our time.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What will be necessary to win the copyright fight

Another new hero of mine is refusing to take down their proxy to the Pirate Bay.

Repress, in the Netherlands is software which lets anyone running a WordPress blog to set up a web proxy.  The proxy works for people in China who want to see blocked sites, and also people in the Netherlands who want to go to TPB, which a judge there has ordered blocked.  Quite clever, really.

So, TPB is blocked because it points to copyrighted material, and now BREIN, the Dutch arm of the MPAA, wants Repress taken down, because it allows other people to point to TPB which points to copyrighted material.

Is it really so hard to understand that this is madness? (not to mention deeply and profoundly asinine).

This is why copyright needs to be loosened, not strengthened. The only decent solution to this mess is the expansion of fair use rights to cover all non-commercial use.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ron Paul doing internet freedom all wrong

Look, I have read Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead--and liked them and appreciated them.  I think Ayn Rand has many useful things to say about the world and our society.  I even believe, on the whole, that she is quite simply correct, in any important sense.

I also know that there are a lot of people who reference her work while at the same time advocating corporate looting of the public treasury, which is how you can always tell someone who hasn't actually read Rand.  Trust me, she hate hate hated those kinds of fuckers.  The "looters" she frequently refers to in AS are both those people who use the government to steal from private people, and the converse--people who funnel government money into their own coffers.

Remember, Dagny Taggart's dad almost killed a guy trying to give him government money.

Yes, I have actually read the books and know what I'm talking about.

Unlike Ron and Rand Paul and the internet.  They do not have the faintest clue what they are talking about, and frankly I suspect their strangely generous telecommunications donors may have something to do with it.

Look, I even consider myself a libertarian, albeit a realistic one, in my view.  Too many Randians can't seem to think for themselves, once their brains are filled up by all of Rand's ideas.  Which frankly, I suspect was her goal in making those books so damn big!  Most people don't seem to think for themselves too well, so I'll just be sure to fill their heads with something more constructive than destructive....

So anyway, I do like many of Ron Pauls ideas and I do think he is the only presidential candidate who would actually change anything.  Which is not to say I would vote for him, oh no.  For every good idea he's got he's got another one which is specious at best, or just plain dumb.  And his and his son's new internet crusade is a perfect example.  It's also a great example of why people that don't  understand the internet should just unplug their computers and in particular please stop talking about it as if you do.

Reading their words it sounds just great to stop government interference with internet service providers, if you don't know anything about the net, it's history, and what a lot of large corporations are trying very hard to do to it.

It's like this.  You pay Comcast for internet access.  Google pays a bunch of providers for their internet access.  Thus, you and Google can talk to each other via the internet without interference, as you have both been sold a "neutral" internet connection.

You ask Google questions.  Google answers.  No problem.

The problems start if say Comcast gets greedy.  They call up Google and say, "hey, if you want my customers to be able to access your site, you need to cough up some money or I'll block it".

The converse could be that Google could shake down Comcast for more money in order to allow Comcast's users to access Google.

Mind you, they don't say "I'll cut off access", but "I'll give you improved access", but it's all semantics.  In the end I've already paid Comcast for a full, unfiltered internet connection, and Google also paid for theirs.  That's what net-neutrality means.

If you want to call it government regulation, please understand it's the same as government regulation keeping you from murdering people.  It's about having a civil society.

Without net-neutrality, the internet could quickly disintegrate into a series of disconnected fiefdoms, a la AOL and Compuserve in the 80's and 90's.

Personally, I think it would probably work itself out in a Mutually Assured Destruction type scenario.  But I'd rather not take the chance.

And Dr. Paul, please understand as well that if you were to succeed in destroying net-neutrality, it would almost certainly only destroy the American internet.  The rest of the world would never be so fucking stupid as to go along.

And that would be a shame.  Because the internet is American, dammit.  Why is it only we who are threatening to destroy it from so many different angles?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Are YouTube videos fucking free or not?

Philip Matesanz, my new hero, is standing up to Google, owner of YouTube.

Lately, Google has been going around threatening website administrators who offer to let users save off YouTube videos and audio, like Phil's site youtube-mp3.org.

Check it out, it's easy--you just paste the YouTube video URL into his page, and he gives you an mp3 of the audio you can save off.

Well, Phil got one of these nastygrams from Google and told them to go fuck themselves.  So this is good.

I am a little annoyed he has ads on his site, but I'm going to let that slide for now, as after all he isn't hosting any content until you point it out to him.  And he's not even supplying the files you converted to others...oh this is getting a little complicated. Lets come back to that another day.

Dude, if you google "save YouTube videos in Firefox" you will quickly find several free plugins that will enable you to do this yourself.

The important thing, to me, is the preposterousness of the situation, as usual.  Google apparently told him he violated their Terms of Service in doing this.

What.  The.  Fuck.  Ever.

Claiming that a user agrees to Terms of Service on a publicly accessible web site is precisely like me throwing a dead cat onto my front yard and then challenging my neighbors that, by looking  at the dead cat, they are agreeing to my Terms of Service that they may not look at the dead cat on my lawn.

So...whatever, right.

But here's the thing.  It is Google, via YouTube, making these precious copyrighted materials available to the world.  In some cases, quite obviously with the cooperation of the artists.  Take Nicki Minoj's adequate dance track "Starships".

So where is the small change collector on my computer to pay for the privilege of watching/listening to this dreck?  It's not there, right.  The shit is obviously free.

I have even created a derivative work, a remix, if you like, seeking to improve on Ms. Minoj's work, check it out!  I call it "Spishrat":

Now, you might have a keen ear and you might realize that if you were to download this and bring it into, say, the excellent free and open source Audacity audio editor, and use the Reverse transform, it might not sound too different from Ms. Minoj's original.

('course, what does it say about a piece of music that it literally sounds almost as good backwards as forwards? lol..check it out it's really freaky)

The point is this--Google is supplying this shit to the entire world, for free, without even a login necessary--it's all naked out there on the internet.

And now they're annoyed that someone is actually doing something with it?

I know a lot of folks say, "well, you're not supposed to save it", to which I reply--says who?  People are always making these crazy, self-limiting assumptions about good behavior that don't even really, when you examine them closely, make any sense.

I say Google threw a dead cat on their lawn, and I'm going to damn well look at it or make a copy of it or even god damn take it inside my house and eat it if I want to.

Good luck, Phil.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nuanced pornographer crackdown on file locker sites

This article on torrentfreak brought up some interesting questions for me today.  Basically it's about a pornographer who is making a hobby of taking down file locker sites by convincing PayPal not to process payments for them any more.

File lockers are basically sites where users can upload material, and download it from each other.  Personally, they seem to me to be sites for the bittorrent disabled.  It's like, come on people, bittorrent isn't that hard to use.

They are different from bittorrent in a couple ways.  First, they actually do host tons of data.  Bittorrent sites only point to it.  Also, they typically charge money to get access to the data (or for faster access to it).  So they fall pretty short of my non-commercial fair use ideal.

They typically defend themselves by pointing out how all their content is uploaded by their users.  But to me, that just underlines the fact that they didn't create it, and thus should not be making money from it.

If they did it for free, I'd be okay with it.  But that would be hideously expensive, since they're actually hosting the data, which is why they need to charge.

Which it seems to me then...why not run a torrent site?  So okay, they're in it for the money, and I'll just go ahead and condemn them for the moment.

Of course, the way this guy in the article is going about it is unusual.  Basically he looks for something actually illegal on the site, and then shows it to PayPal, whom he's managed to convince to take him seriously.

If you've been reading this site,  you know that I'm not exactly a huge fan of taking down websites.  But that's not to say it should never, ever, be done.  Of course not.  There is stuff out there that we really don't need.  But we do need to limit it to the smallest set of stuff, possible, for the good of the internet and, thus, the humans.

So I have some mixed feelings about this aspect of this.  I like that he isn't abusing the legal system like the RIAA and MPAA do.  But of course this guy is a pornographer, and those guys aren't exactly known for their profound sense of ethics.  And indeed, according to the article, his stated goal is to take down all file locker sites, which I think is unconscionable.  If they're doing it for free, I say leave them alone.  It's not their fault they're too dumb to run a torrent site ;-)

And there is the other issue of how does one filter out "bad stuff" from a site where users upload lots of data?  I illustrated this before in describing the impossibility of YouTube "filtering" all copyrighted material.  Since we already have a censorship regime in place in America, at least, shouldn't they be allowed to take the offending material down, first, before having their financing yanked out from under them?  Of course, I daresay most file locker sites have the sense not to be located in America, the land of the free.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence day for Britain

Today I would like to draw your attention to this case, of UK national Richard O'Dwyer who committed the vile offence of linking to copyright infringing data.  Linking, you may remember from an earlier post, is exactly the same as pointing.

Not only did the bastard point, but he did it in the UK, is not a U.S. citizen, has hardly been to America, and now he's being extradited to the U.S.A to face felonious charges of pointing at the wrong damn thing.

UK, we own you.  Where are your damn balls?  Seriously?  For this?

Of course, if non-commercial pointing were considered fair use, this travesty of justice would not be happening.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

modding culture

If you're not a pretty heavy geek, you're probably unaware of the modding culture.  Basically mod files are a form of electronic music that is freely created and shared via the internet.  With emphasis on the "free".  Some of it is even quite good.

Just want to make the point that many talented musicians create music because...they want to.  And they don't demand payment, or even feel that they deserve it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The nature of data, its worthlessness

I just want to make a quick and bizarre note on the nature of data.

I've got this spindle of cd's--all kinds.  Lots of drivers for hardware I no longer have or use, games I no longer play, various cd's I've burned over the years.

The spindle was getting full, so I decided to go through the cd's and get rid of a bunch of them:

and in fact, if you really really want, you can watch as I dispose of them:

Enjoy that?  I hope so.

Anyway.  Data has no intrinsic value, even when it's on shiny plastic discs.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

As of today your ISP is now a spy for Hollywood

Today marks the beginning of the six strikes plan for all the large U.S. Internet Service Providers (ISP's).  From now on, if Hollywood complains about something your IP address is doing, they will send you a nastygram.  And if you get six of them, they may throttle or drop your service.

God knows why.  It's a much bigger disaster than most probably realize.

What, my friend?  You say you don't use Bittorrent or pirate movies or TV shows?  Why of course, nothing bad will happen to you, right?  Because these guys never make mistakes, and can be trusted to regulate who should and should not be on the internet.

I intend, for example, the next time I have to talk to my ISP, Comcast, to vent my extreme unhappiness at their participation.

And every time I talk to them after that, as well, forever.

And this is also precisely why we need to expand fair use to cover all non-commercial copying--to stop these random people from kicking people off the internet.