Thursday, January 31, 2013

Facebook can be depressing

So I've finally been dragged kicking and screaming on to Facebook (thereby rendering it instantly uncool, by the way), and one thing that strikes me is that it is not only a fairly powerful positive force, but also a negative one.

In particular, it enables people with shared views to communicate.  This is useful but also poisonous.

Much as been said of the "echo chamber" of modern political discourse, where people of similar views echo each other's sentiments, reinforcing them, and without letting in dissenting points of view.  What this does in the human brain is generate an idea of "certainty".  And certainty is generally a Bad Thing when it comes to discussing the major problems of the world.

The fact is, shit is complex.  World views that refuse to acknowledge that are doomed to fail...painfully, as history has shown time and again.

So modern technology in the form of Facebook allows this process to happen 24/7.  And the irony is, those people who most need to listen to other points of view, in order to partially correct their distorted view of reality, are the ones who go out of their way to shut out dissenting voices.  All you have to do is click off "Show in my Feed" and you never have to look at it again.

Facebook should remove this feature.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

If at first you don't succeed, try adding fines

So in France now they've had a "three strikes" type rule for a few years now.  Apparently it isn't working, so the music industry wants to change the law so that internet users will actually pay fines.

So let me get this straight.

You manage to subvert the government to the point that they introduce regulations for how all people in the country are allowed to use the internet--and it doesn't work.

So you want to change the law again so that you can actually fine internet users you don't like.

My question is--at what point will governments finally realize that these guys really have no fucking idea what they are doing?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Apparently we're going to invade Antigua, next

Torrentfreak reports that Antigua is moving ahead with its plans to officially dis-respect U.S. copyright laws and allow the setup of straightup pirate sites on its territory.

Kinda interesting, eh?

Turns out it is basically in retaliation for the U.S. using its leverage to destroy the Antiguan online gambling industry.  But still, I don't care.

The reason we're seeing a nasty multi national treaty being bulldozed through national governments everywhere is that because of the internet, if you want to create "intellectual property" you need to get every country everywhere to go along with it.  Which is hard and stupid, but they're going to try to do it anyway.

Nice to see Antigua shine a bright light on that little fact.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Porn biz as a model

Almost every time I discuss the dramatic expansion of fair use to encompass all non-commercial use with someone who is a skeptic, I always get the same argument: "How are people supposed to make a living creating content for us if we just 'steal' it by downloading it?".

If you've been reading this blog for long for some reason,  you'll know that I take "offense" to about six different assumptions in that question.

1. It is a given that we all need to be concerned about how people can make a living creating art.
2. Copyright infringement is stealing.
3. Creators have some intrinsic right to total control over what is done with their creation.

Okay three things.  Now, I am concerned about numbers 1 and 3.  But I do not feel an obligation to be concerned.  This is my inner Ayn Rand speaking, and I think I'm right.

Nobody owes anybody else a living.

I personally feel that we should be concerned about that, and even that government should do something about it, sometimes, which makes me a liberal.  But I don't feel that we have to, which makes me a Tea Partier.

People just don't like change, and they resist seeing things in any way that they haven't always seen them, it seems.

I often tell people about my game, and how much I've put into it, and how badly I want people to please pirate it.  The idea being that I've got some skin in the game.  But generally it falls on deaf ears, appalled at my arrogance and apparent sense of entitlement.  They can't get past that.


Well, it's already being done.  Never mind the ad-laden nightmare that YouTube has become, where free streaming is apparently working.  Let's look at porn, right now, together.

High quality pornography is available, today, for free, in infinite quantity, on the internet.  And they aren't going under.

Let me assure you--hosting a streaming movie service is not a trivial technical or financial task.  I am a web hosting type of guy--a unix geek.  It's expensive, time consuming, and resource intensive.

And yet they're giving it all away!  For free!

With one glaring exception, you don't see pornographers running around suing people.  They just get busy...making money.  Giving away porn for free on the internet.

So it can be done.

I want to join the militia

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

It's pretty clear that the purpose is to have a well regulated militia. So why don't we do that any more (it used to be common that every able bodied man was in the militia).

Maybe we should. I'm thinking light duty for fat old men like me---meet up a couple times a year and show you can hit the side of a barn, control your shit, and can follow simple instructions. If you can't do that, you probably should not own a firearm, anyway. But the addition of basic discipline might go a long way toward preventing many tragedies caused by careless and ignorant gun owners.

Besides, what red blooded Texan wouldn't want to do weekend "maneuvers" with the State of Texas militia a couple Saturdays a year? A few beers afterwards...
Note I'm talking about the militia, not a militia--big difference!

Friday, January 25, 2013

harassing people

So I've gotten on Facebook, finally.  Sigh.  Feel free to join me there:

The number one reason I did this is to promote my upcoming Kickstarter project.  That was the straw that broke the camel's back.

But since I'm on there, I decided to enjoy myself, naturally.  Trying to figure it out.

I am finding that people really don't want to engage on the issues of the day.  They are far more interested in fun stuff.

I understand.  I really do.  But it is a bit depressing to spend so much time blogging about the expansion of fair use in copyright and other important issues to the world and be met with...blank, disinterested stares.

I know, I know, most folks are just trying to get by, and really they want distractions from the problems of their lives and the world.  They want someone else to take care of it all.

Still...kinda annoying.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Aaron Swartz and illegal data

I'd like to talk today a little more about the Aaron Swartz case.

This brilliant young man--who was a professional academic--was accused of the misuse of data.  For that he faced a 30 year prison term.

One of my main theses on this blog is the notion that it is insane to persecute people for crimes against data.

I'm not saying it is never ever a problem when people misuse data.  The famous example of child pornography is one.  That is a bad use of data, and should be prosecuted.

But the problem comes when we define data crime so broadly that anyone can be indicted, and an academic seeking to promote the free use of public information can be attacked in this way.

The prosecutor is not the only ass, here.  The law is also an ass.

Much of this is because the laws are horribly outdated.  But I'm not even at all sure I would want the current Congress to attempt to fix it, because they would likely only make the problem much worse.  They are both incompetent and corrupt.

The problem really is the system.  It has not worked for the people for a long, long time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Uphill battles

I was reading this piece about Johnny Cash's efforts to spur prison reform.  Today, the United States imprisons more people per capita than any other country in the world--Land of the Free, indeed.  And it hasn't really changed much.

Sure, the worst abuses may have been mitigated, but we still view prison more as a punishment than a chance to reform, and we still turn minor criminals into career ones by allowing prison to be a college for criminals.

So what chance does copyright reform have?

It's an uphill battle, but I still believe the laws of physics will bear us out in the end.  You cannot stop filesharing.  You should not try, because it will only make things worse.  In the end, I believe even Hollywood will come to understand it, if they can stop taking cocaine long enough.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

And lies don't help either

Just to rub it in a bit further, lies have become an all too important part of our national (and world-wide) discourse.  For example, Microsoft announced they made a study that showed the city of Munich didn't save any money by switching to Linux...but they won't release it.

Personally, I blame the internet.  I mean, why not?  But it's true, I think, that the internet--while giving all people a theoretically equal voice--has also allowed lies to be spread more easily.

This way, a company or an organization can spout nonsense like "Munich would have saved more money if they had paid us more money" or "piracy costs the entertainment industry $1 trillion dollars a year", and then later backtrack--but the meme is still out there.  Most people just aren't very critical thinkers or readers, and the lies still spread over the water cooler.

Too many laws

One of the main problems with the current copyright regime is our legal system itself.  Wealthy individuals and corporations have an outsize advantage over normal people, who effectively have no recourse except to beg a lawyer to do work for the for free.  Sure hope it's a good one.

This little comic, even though it slants right a bit, I do think covers the problem we have pretty well:

Just thought I'd share that.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Legalized corruption in government

I understand why Lawrence Lessig decided to quit championing changes to copyright laws and such per se, and decided to become more focused on good government in general.

It's kind of an aside, but this Slashdot article really got me to thinking just from it's intro:

""Broadcasting Cable reports on comments from Former FCC chairman Michael Powell (now president of the U.S. cable industry's trade association) confirming what many have long suspected: data caps on internet service aren't just about network congestion, ..."

It's simply all too common for regulators to "retire" from government and take a job directly in the industry they were previously regulating.  We are supposed to believe that there was no quid pro quo, no understanding, and no motivation for these individuals to bias their decisions toward an industry while they are in office.

But they are all corrupt liars.  And it's legal.  That must change.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Aaron's Law

In a slight resumption of sanity, a Harvard law professor is proposing Aaron's Law, which would repeal parts of the Computer Fraud law.

Really, 30 years for downloading data is a bit steep, don't you think?  No wonder he killed himself.

Prosecutors have announced that they  offered him a plea bargain with only a few months in prison.  Big fucking deal.  That's what they do--offer you a plea so that they look successful but you become labeled as a felon for life.

Aaron Swartz's motivations were among the best.  And just like many file sharers, he was attacked by our government with extreme viciousness, all out of proportion to the crime.

I'm not interested in  fucking U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz's excuses.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

We are really good at making lists

Here you can read Michael Geist reveal how Canadian authorities actually colluded with the U.S.A. to get Canada included on a list of countries who are not playing nice with the U.S.'s idea of "intellectual property" rights.

We like making lists.

We make lists of terrorist states, narco states, bad people of all kinds.

Interestingly, Canada has us on their list of countries that torture.

Which should we be more concerned about?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guns and copyright

I think it's informative to look to the current gun debate to understand the nature of discourse in our society.  And when I say "debate" of course, I mean "argument".  We don't really debate things in this country any more.

I ran across this image which I think summarizes an ultimate position of gun rights "advocates":

Pretty brutal.  Also, true, if you are an extreme gun rights "advocate".  I put quotes around "advocate" because I don't think people uttering dark threats are advocates.  But anyway.

If you believe that no changes are required in our gun laws, then you are, by definition, advocating the occasional slaughter of large numbers of children.  I'm not saying that from an incendiary standpoint--it's just a fact.  You are saying there is no change required, nothing is wrong with our current system

You may even be right.

I don't personally think so, but it's a logical position to take.  After all, if you really believe the government may start herding people into cattle cars--which has happened, after all--it is a rational position to take.

Personally, I don't think guns are going to really help you, there.  But what I'm saying is that people should take honest positions on important issues.

It is a similar (though less emotional) situation with copyright.  If you fundamentally believe that creators have some sort of natural right to control what is done with their work, then you are ipso facto advocating an internet censorship regime to control this.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This is not fair use

Just thought I'd offer up an example of not fair use.  Check out this article:

And then this one:

You'll notice that the second is credited to Maria Sudekum, Associated Press.  And the first credited to no one.  Wanna take a bet on which one is the unauthorized copy?

It just goes to show that there is real value in provenance.  There is value in content beyond what someone will pay for or what you can get for ads on it.  Who is going to trust a site that plagiarizes people?  No one.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The hydra of the internet

Finally, a study shows that censorship simply doesn't work.  Not that this is a shock to anyone who understands the network.

Shouldn't it be a clue to you if you are trying to fight the internet?  And God help you if you ever should really try to do that.

It does have a chilling effect on free speech, however.  And that's not good.

It is interesting how the same tools are used to pirate stuff safely as are used to get around censorship regimes like the Great Firewall of China.

Think about it.

A bittorrent box

A bittorrent box has hit the market.  It is perfectly legal.

However, it is the first time that I know of of a box dedicated to bittorrent.  You plug it into your tv, choose something to download, wait, and watch.  Very convenient.

Obviously, some streaming video players have supported bittorrent before (like my WDTV) but the beauty of this is that it is a) legal (there are plenty of legal things to torrent) and b) people may not even realize they are "pirating".  So yes, you can indeed infringe copyright with it, but you don't have to.

One of my main themes is the whole ridiculous notion of "good bits" and "bad bits".   With so many trojans and botnets out there, I think it's nonsense to hold people responsible for all the bits that their computer accesses on the internet, anyway.

I do think there are situations that merit that level of scrutiny, but they should be few and far between.  So anything that popularizes torrenting and abstracts it from the user is a good thing, to my mind.

And so it begins...

Sorry, I'm falling behind a bit...I promise I'll catch up!

Norway is the latest country to consider site blocking measures to stop copyright infringement.  One of my main theses is that copyright is being used as an excuse to set up censorship regimes.  And that is not remotely a good enough reason to set up a censorship regime.

What is a good enough reason?  Well, at least make it kiddie porn or something.  It's so offensive to have it happen to protect the entertainment industry.

And if that wasn't offensive enough, it can't even work.  Things like Freenet are not liable to any sort of taking anything down or blocking, as they are distributed, encrypted regimes in themselves.  Freenet was created specifically to counter all censorship attempts, with the predictable result that it is indeed a haven for illegal activity--and freedom.

Confiscating domains won't work.  Ordering ISP's to block websites can't work.  All we're doing is making it easier for the governments of the future to silence their critics, with everything that goes along with that.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Zen and copyright

I watched the Dude on Jon Stewart's show the other night, and he's really into Zen Buddhism.  One like I liked was "we're all in this together".

It reminded me to try and remember this.  I hate to sound like a Facebook post but it's true.  But it's a little hard when the people who are working so hard to destroy good things do not get this.

The idea, to my mind, is to think of them as wayward children, as opposed to mouth breathing misanthropes.  It is very easy to think of them as worthless individuals, and indeed, many of them are.  Just the same, these are the people we were meant to deal with.

So deal with them.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pirate Bay immortalized

It's interesting that one of the original Pirate Bay servers is in a museum in Sweden, the same country that has been persecuting the founders on our behalf for the last several years (and of course it's homeland).

Pretty boring to look at, though.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Aereo actually expanding

So back to the exact theme of expanding fair use!

I pondered the implications of Aereo before.  Today I was surprised to see that they are actually expanding their service--even while under legal threat.  Pretty impressive, but then again they have major backing in Barry Diller, who is no stranger to the entertainment industry.

What Aereo does is capture free, over the air HD television broadcasts and stream them over the internet.  They charge for this service.

In my earlier piece I contemplated at length the significance of broadcasting your entertainments over the air waves, where literally anyone can intercept it and view it.  That being the whole point.  I felt (and still feel) that there are certain natural rights to what people can do with these radio waves.

The dodge Aereo uses is that they assign each customer their own antenna.  So it's as if you are streaming over the internet from your very own TV.  The very definition of fair use, in my opinion.  The fact that they rent it to you is irrelevant, and just goes to show how preposterous the whole situation is.

The significant thing here, I think, is that because there is real money backing the enterprise, they are getting away with it.  Another example of how you only get your rights in this country if you have a lot of money.

I am glad to see Diller sticking it to the man, but then again he is one of the men.

Good luck, just the same.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

it just is!

I had my usual argument with anti-piracy friends the other day.  It sucked.  I've written literally 200+ blog entries, each with a unique and special argument essentially in favor of piracy, but I hadn't slept right for a couple days and I just kept coming up with butkus.  Blank.  And everything I said was lame and easily refuted.

It happens.  I know better than to be too hard on myself.

But it was a good chance to get reacquainted with the most devastating argument against piracy of all:

"It's just wrong.  It just is."

Not much you can say to that.  When someone says something like this, it is a signal that rational thought has ceased--thinking is not happening.

I'm not even saying that's necessarily always a bad thing.  Shooting up a classroom full of children is wrong.  It just is.  This is an acceptable argument for something like that.  It's the difference between morality and ethics.

Morality is all about how something feels.  Somebody grows up with a system where artists are compensated a certain way, and if someone breaks the system, it seems wrong.  Murdering children, also wrong, for the same reason.  I could come up with an ethical (logical) argument for why shooting up classrooms is wrong, but I don't feel it's necessary.

And this is a problem we often face.  Some folks (most?) go around making moral judgments without too much thought, and, importantly, are not inclined to question it.

And so this is why changing public opinion takes time.  I don't judge my friend harshly for his opinion--I know he's a good guy and means well and is even reasonably intellectually honest.  But I can't argue with "uh-uh".

Monday, January 7, 2013

Over-response of the police

One thing that disturbs me lately is how the police seem to think that they need to use paramilitary tactics...all the time.  This Wired story about a guy who wrote software for a gambling site--and how is house got raided commando style is one example.  They did the same, of course, to Kim Dotcom in New freaking Zealand.

Why not just nab the guy when he goes out for cigarettes?  And then search the house with a warrant?  Why is that not the preferred alternative?

Oh yeah, I forgot, it's not as fun.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What is the European plan?

I can't get over how Europe seems determined to utterly destroy itself.  They've got their own movement going on to fight back against mass foreclosures by banks who are taking lots of money from the government, but yet no clear leadership that is going to help them get out of a 25% unemployment hole.

How are Spain and Greece in particular going to improve their situations while cutting government spending so dramatically?  All this to save the fools who invested in Greek bonds while knowing how overextended they were.  Makes no sense at all to me.

Oh wait--it's entrenched power being self serving to a disgusting extent.  Business as usual everywhere.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Who would use copyright as an excuse for censorship?

Who would use copyright as an excuse for censorship?  Oh, you know...everybody.

As an aside on this article about a Brazilian teenager auctioning off her virginity, the article mentions that the YouTube video was removed dude to "due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement".

So...someone already copyrighted her video to auction off her virginity?  Dirty pirate!

Obviously, someone was offended--and used copyright to censor her video.

And that is why letting people pull stuff off the internet due to copyright is bad.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Who are the unemployed

I had a lovely chat with Comcast over the last couple days via online chat--because there was no getting through on the phone.  The customer service person I talked to was very good at typing the stuff they are required to tell all customers--"Did I tell you about our Comcast Service Gaurantee?" etc.  But when they couldn't figure out what to do for me they told me to call the phone line because whatever whatever.

Naturally, I just started a new online chat session and the next random person was able to help me out, in between spewing marketing nonsense from Comcast.

And I thought to myself--these people are employed.  The person who is completely without any resourcefullness on the other end of the chat--the douchebag "manager" who decided that customer service reps should spew certain specific nonsense at least once a minute at me--all of them.  Employed.

Who the fuck are the unemployed?  I'm not talking about everyone, don't get me wrong.  I'm talking about people who haven't been able to get a job at Taco Bell for at least six months.  Are they able to tie their shoes in the morning?  How do they feed themselves?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Curt Schilling .38 Studios story hurts me

I was a big fan of Curt Schilling as a baseball player after the 2004 baseball season, when he pitched with a safety pin holding a tendon in place on the mound.  Great grit and determination.  Which is something I understand.

Unfortunately, he decided to get involved in something that looks easy, but is not--namely, making video games.  As you may know from reading this, I spent about $60k of my own money and some years of my life making my own video game, which, while a bit rough--EXISTS.  I just wish I could market it....

See, this is the key thing people don't understand about software development.  Finishing.  Either you can finish a software project, or you can't.  Most people can't.  Most software companies can't.  And video games are some of the most difficult, challenging software projects you can do.

It looks like fun, and it is fun to play, but it takes an unbelievable amount of work, skill and management capability to make it happen.  The fact of the matter is that most software companies suck.  Either they are run by salesmen (or baseball players) who simply have no understanding of what they have taken on, or they are run by programmers who are convinced they know everything--when they don't.  There is a very small subset of people in this world who can manage a programming project with competence.

And indeed--if you can't manage yourself, how can you possibly expect to manage a team?

They key is finishing.  At every step along the way you have to be asking yourself, "is what I'm doing right now going to help lead directly to finishing the project."  And when you have a team, that applies to every member.

Not to mention that you need to have a fairly deep understanding of the technology involved.  It ain't point and click, by a long ways.

Curt, what would you say if I showed up at the Red Sox training camp to try out, when I'm overweight, 41, and never played organized baseball?  Good Lord, dude.

But I'll be the first to concede that one of my great motivators was all the people telling me that I was quite mad taking on a full featured multiplayer first person shooter on my own, that it couldn't be done.

Well, go play it mother fucker.

Just good luck finding someone to play with, since nobody knows about it! lol oh the pain...what I could have done with that $50 million.  We'd have 50 games, Curt!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Movie theater subscriptions?

This Slashdot post was mildly interesting--somebody wants to try to make a subscription based movie theater.

Problem is--according to the comments--that Hollywood has a very rigid business model that basically doesn't allow for this.  So the people who are trying to do it can't get very creative with their business plans.

This is the problem with all industries, I believe, where the founders of the industry are long dead.  The business models are all "worked out" and the people running the show are all inheritors, as opposed to innovators.

And those kind of people lash out when their business model is threatened, which I suppose is natural.  The important thing for the rest of us is to restrain them when they are hurting the rest of us by doing so.  Which is usually.