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Archive for October, 2010

New Music 10-29-10: Warpaint, Mighty Moe, Band of Skulls, Noisecontrollers, Killick

October 29, 2010 Comments off

Staff picks:

Killick <—very serious

Band of Skulls @bandofskulls

Noisecontrollers

Mighty Moe

Warpaint

News from the Goolag: Adserving company liable for ads to pirate websites

October 29, 2010 2 comments

In a triumph of common sense, Triton Media LLC was found liable for contributory copyright infringement and inducement of copyright infringement “by operating and providing material assistance such as advertising consulting and referrals” to drive traffic to pirate websites.

Funny, that sounds just like Google Adsense.

Consent judgment in Warner Bros. v Triton Media

Oh, Canada: French 3 Strikes Drives Bit Torrent Thieves to–Canada

October 27, 2010 Comments off

According to Torrentfreak, a French BitTorrent operator is trying to get around the French government’s new anti-piracy administrator by establishing a VPN for thieves in…Canada! (MTP readers will remember Torrentfreak as one of Michael Geist’s outlets to drive traffic to the CCER form letter that was used to try to tweak the recent Canadian copyright consultations according to Canadian Richard Owens–see “Noises Heard: Canada’s Recent Online Consultation Process–Teachings and Cautions” published on the IPOsgoode intellectual property blog at the prestigious Osgoode Hall law school in Toronto and “Re-doing the Math” by Canadian novelist John Degen).

And the Canadian government just lets it happen.

(For those who do not recognize the name, Michael Geist is aka “he who shall not be named,” according to a prominent Canadian artist), or alternatively “the wonderful Michael Geistaccording to Lester Lawrence “AceLessig III, author of “The Starving Artist Canard” among other works. Mr. Wonderful is advisor to the U.S.-backed Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic and the paid consultant to Industry Canada. SG-CIPPIC‘s external advisory board includes Lessig the American, the American EFF legal director, the American director of the American EPIC, and the American Pamela Samuelson, who is also a board member of the American EPIC and the American EFF—in short, 100% Yanks. So this Canadian affiliate of the Samuelson-Glushko system is to IP in Canada kind of what Alcoa of Canada is to Canadian industry.)

See also: A Dedicated Group of Likeminded People

See also: Fair Copyright Canada and 100,000 Voters Who Don’t Exist

See also: What do Canada, Vietnam, China, Russia, Ukraine and Romania have in common? (And, no, it’s not future sites of the Creative Commons Internationale)

News from the Goolag: Just in time for Halloween, Dr. Smarty Pants sez "Just Move It"

October 26, 2010 Comments off

Just in time for Halloween, Eric Schmidt had yet another one of those slips that even his fans are finding hard to defend in Google’s quest to organize the world’s information whether the world likes it or not.

Schmidt tells the world–or at least Parker/Spitzer–that if you don’t like street view–just move it. “‘Street View, we drive exactly once,’ Schmidt said, referring to the vehicles mounted with cameras sent out to take photos for the service. ‘So, you can just move, right?’”

So creepy Dr. Smarty Pants does it again, and what’s interesting about this one is that no one from Google is trying to pass it off as a bad joke. No, no. Google is so arrogant that they can’t even make a joke out of their joke CEO when they need to. Sez the flack: “’The point Eric was making is that our Street View service provides only a static picture in time, and doesn’t provide real-time imagery or provide any information about where people are. Of course, we also allow users to request that their home be removed from Street View.’” Oh, I see. “Eric” was making a point. There was a rationale, an empirical truth, a “point” being made. And silly me, I just thought it was either colossal arrogance or a ham handed gaffe.

(Read that Google “correction” closely because you can bet that Google did: “we allow users to request that their home be removed from Street View”. How about asking homeowners if they will allow Google to include their homes in Street View in the first place? And just because you can request to have your home removed from Street View (maybe after your daughter is stalked, perhaps), doesn’t mean that Google will actually remove it.)

Google does not deny that Schmidt actually meant they’ll post pictures of your house on the Internet and if you don’t like it you can move. Once again, Google creates the impression in a whole lot of people (judging by the Twitter stream) that Google really is that arrogant–they don’t care about your little house and if you don’t like it try suing them. Anyone who has ever dealt with Google knows that they really are that arrogant, but now there’s proof that resonates with the average person.

In 30 countries.

So once again, creepy Dr. Smarty Pants demonstrates that he’s so creepy he can’t help himself.

If this cloven hoof in mouth problem was just a one-time thing, that would be different. But it happens so frequently, you have to wonder what’s up with the board. How much longer are they going to let this guy keep his job? What will it take to fire him? Will it take villagers with pitchforks bringing an analog solution to a digital problem?

And on the same day that Dr. Smarty Pants appeared on Parker/Spitzer, Reuters reported that:
“Google Inc acknowledged that a fleet of cars equipped with wireless equipment inadvertently collected emails and passwords of computer users in various countries, and said it was changing its privacy practices.

Google said it wants to delete the data as soon as possible. Google announced the data collection snafu in May, but said at the time the information it collected was typically limited to “fragments” of data because the cars were always moving. [Ah, of course. Just like you can't use a cell phone in a moving car. OK journalists, nod your heads and back to sleep.]

Since then, regulators in several of the more than 30 countries where the cars operated have inspected the data.

‘It’s clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords,’ said Google Vice President of Engineering and Research Alan Eustace in a post on Google’s blog on Friday.” (Emphasis mine.)

Let me rephrase that spin: Google got caught.

And in the places where they weren’t caught they didn’t stop collecting the data (or “warcharging” as some have called it). So attention privacy regulators: Google will play catch me if you can with privacy the same way they play “catch me if you can” with content. Their approach is the same whether it’s Street View or YouTube.

If you acquire the technological means to catch Google in the act and you have the litigation resources to make them stop–like the nation states that Google and their fellows would prefer to “geek around”–then to the extent they are caught, they will do the minimum they are forced to do to comply with the laws of the nation state doing the catching.

Meaning, in the world of Dr. Smarty Pants, might makes right.

Because after all–you can always opt out. You can always get away from Google.

You can always move.

Someplace.

And you can always change your name.

At least until they find you.

On Google Earth.

See also: The Creepiest TV Moments of Google’s CEO

See also: Google’s Schmidt Apologizes For Latest Weird Non-Joke

A Very Serious Topic

October 26, 2010 Comments off

It is Good to be King

I thought I’d take a look at a paper by a Canadian academic on the subject of digital rights management, or what some in the professoriate call “digital locks”. (I still can’t quite shake the image of a virtual dominatrix instructing “show me your digital locks, geek boy”, so I think I’ll stick with the term “DRM”.)

That this issue is being addressed by a Canadian is important because there is a new copyright law in the Canadian Parliament which includes some rules that would prohibit circumventing digital rights management tools. Since these rules are designed to help protect creators and copyright owners—both Canadians and non-Canadians–who choose to use DRM, there is, quite naturally, a continued drumbeat from You Know Who and his academic brethren about how digital locks are the Downfall of All That Is Holy and how these protections must be defeated.

Given the title of this Canadian paper, “Digital Locks and the Automation of Virtue,” one might have expected it to deal with the ethical issues of the massive theft of intellectual property online, or the subordination of human rights of artists to the rights of machines or some interesting angle like that. No such luck.

But there was something interesting and instructive about this paper before I even got a chance to read it—it was protected by DRM. Yes, “Digital Locks and the Automation of Virtue” by Ian Kerr is made available under the Very Serious Creative Commons Corporation license (was it the Nondescript Nondenominational No Indemnity Non-License? I get so confused by them all). And just in case you didn’t understand that you were agreeing to the DRM in the CCC license, there’s a little check box for your assent to the Corporation’s terms before you can access the PDF. DRM is a Very Serious License, you see.

Kerr’s article is a Very Serious academic treatment of DRM, and therefore we should not be surprised by the Very Serious conclusion that DRM is bad and is a gateway restraint that leads to the Decline of Civilization As We Know It and the Moral Decay of All Things. One might wonder how anyone can seriously get to a moral discussion of protecting content from theft without first having a moral discussion of the massive theft that occurs online every day whether you are talking about commercial crime, political crime or “my access to your information”.

A Knot Wrapped in an Enigma

Kerr treats us to a long and detailed account of the legend of the Gordian Knot, which he revealingly analogizes to—wait for it—wait for it–to DRM. However clichéd, why do I think this analogy revealing?

How is the puzzle of the Gordian Knot solved? By Alexander the Great with a sword. But is this really an apt analogy? Who would have been in a position to refuse Alexander anything—literally anything? (Aside perhaps from the ancestors of the Muj.)

I would suggest to you that the position that Alexander held in his time was exactly the position that every Very Serious hacker boy imagines he holds in the virtual world. Emphasis on the imagines. So when Kerr describes Alexander’s apocryphal sword cut as a “defiant, brute force solution of hacking the knot with his sword [that] has become a metaphor…for resolving difficult problems by unanticipated means,” I don’t think either the use of “hacking” or the fanboy context of the analogy to hackers are accidental.

I’m from the country and I’m not as smart as these city fellers, but it seems to me that the reason Alexander thought to cut the knot was much simpler–he was the king by divine right. And therefore his sword “hack” was actually legal. And how “defiant” can a solution permitted by law really be?

A kind person would say that these tired analogies are interesting. “Interesting”, but inapt.
So unfortunately, an article about a Very Serious topic starts off with a lengthy Very Silly premise.

Locks Keep Out the Honest People

Having started on a shaky premise, it will not be surprising that Kerr veers directly into a criticism of anticircumvention rules because “all locks can be broken”. Per Kerr: “Recognizing that all locks can be broken, many of those who employ digital locks have sought the further protection of law, lobbying lawmakers to make it illegal to circumvent digital locks.”
Another Very Serious argument—the dastardly users of DRM have the temerity to want the law to enforce their rights if someone hacks the DRM, or to continue the dominatrix metaphor, picks the lock on their property. So let’s just go to the heart of the matter—it seems that the argument is that the law should not recognize the individual’s ability to protect their property. So much for Moses. The Leviathan should make citizens litigate their right to call the police if someone breaks their locks. (Google would love that.)

And this is another place where all these arguments against DRM founder, at least to me. What is the argument for distinguishing a “digital lock” from a physical one? Why should one be treated differently than another? I would imagine that someone could make this argument (although I can’t imagine the argument being persuasive), but I don’t seem to see it.
DRM opponents trot out the argument that once you put DRM on something like work of authorship, the person with the key to the DRM can control it long after the copyright term is over. True. So here’s the solution—don’t buy it. There now. All better.

What Would Alexander Do?

But these academics who dream up these theories about DRM apparently don’t want consumers to vote with their purchasing power on what kind—if any—of DRM they want. (I would point to the effect that iTunes had on DRM-wrapped music as an example of those dollar votes.) The professoriate want to replace the decision making power of consumers with their own idea of what’s good for consumers. You have to ask yourself, what would Alexander do? And to whom?
Kerr concludes his paper with an argument that “…a successful, state sanctioned, generalized deployment of digital locks actually impedes the development of moral character by impairing people’s ability to develop virtuous dispos­itions, thereby diminishing our well-being and ultimately undermining hu­man flourishing. It creates something that I shall call a ‘moral disability.’”

Now I find this, I’m sorry to say, to be actually beyond Very Silly, it is actually funny. But then I’m just a country boy from Texas and I’m not as smart as these city fellers so I’m probably missing a point that I’m just not smart enough to recognize. What I do recognize is that if you want to make moral arguments about DRM to me, the first thing you have to dispose of is the idea that the greatest mass theft in history–that gives rise to the need for DRM–is somehow ethically justified and is not itself a “moral disability”. And that protecting artist rights against that theft is not a just cause but rather a moral impairment.

They Call It Theft Because it is a Crime

Enforcing DRM is consistent with enforcing other laws protecting artist rights. I frankly don’t see what is so hard to work through about that. That is—if you wanted to protect artist rights.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder summed it up in a recent statement repeating the position of the Obama Administration about IP theft:

“For too long, these illegal activities have been perceived as ‘business as usual.’ But not anymore. As each of you knows, stealing innovative ideas or passing off counterfeits can have devastating consequences for individuals, families, and communities. These crimes threaten economic opportunities and financial stability. They suppress the ingenuity of our people and businesses. They destroy jobs. And they can jeopardize the health and safety of the men and women we are sworn to protect. Intellectual property crimes are not victimless. And we must make certain that they are no longer perceived as risk-free.”

So there’s no doubt about where Eric Holder stands on this issue—right where the Governor General of Canada stands as enunciated in this year’s Speech from the Throne. Doesn’t sound like DRM has lead to the Moral Decay of Civilization, at least not so far. It sounds like what the Attorney General and the Governor General are concerned with is the moral and economic decay from not enforcing the laws and from not enforcing artist rights.

I would point out an excellent article in Scouting Magazine written and read by those who must deal with the results of sillyness:

“…[M]usic piracy represents more than just an economic issue; it’s also an ethical issue. And it’s one that goes beyond the Top 40. After all, if you get your music free, why not get your term papers free, too?

Dr. Tony Aretz, a longtime Scouter [and academic]…knows the dilemma well. ‘We get students in class who don’t see any problem taking something from a Web site, putting it in a paper, and not attributing it to its original source,’ he says. ‘It’s mind-boggling.’ Part of the problem, Aretz says, lies in the Internet’s free-for-all nature, where users get all sorts of content free—even information from newspapers that they would have to pay for in the real world…[But i]f you buy an album on iTunes, you can burn it to a CD for your own use. However, if you buy a CD and lose it, you can’t legally download the album without paying for it a second time.

Adults usually can navigate such distinctions. But adolescents can’t, according to Aretz. ‘They’re a group that looks at the world as very black and white; they don’t see gray,’ he says. ‘And the way people who can’t see gray deal with gray is that they force it into their black-and-white world, even if it’s incorrect.’

So how can Scouters teach ethical behavior related to music downloading? One way: Set a good example. When you haul around Scouts in your car, for example, only play CDs that you’ve purchased.

Piracy relates to the concept of honor, but Aretz points out that it also relates to bravery.

‘Technology makes it easier to be dishonorable in some ways. Therefore, you have to have more courage to act honorably.’”

Meaning having the courage to respect the rights of others. And that is not silly at all.

News from the Goolag: Google Music Search, or so you think you can filter?

October 25, 2010 Comments off

Google India has launched a music search platform, which has two interesting features: First, the music search functionality apparently filters out most or all illegal links. For example, if you search for the world-renowned R.D. Burman you get 2,300 or so hits. We haven’t been through each of these to check, but eyeballing the list suggests that these are links to lawfully distributed music.

The second interesting feature is at the top of the page: try the same search in the “Web” search. One click away. This search has 58,000 or so hits including abmp3.com which not only has a bunch of R.D. Burman tracks in mp3, but conveniently has the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Rilo Kiley.

So in other words, Google Music Search can block and filter illegal links, but for some reason Google web search cannot.

I guess filtering web search would be evil, don’t you know.

New Music 10-22-10: Jim Bryson and The Weakerthans, Pegasus Bridge, Railroad Earth, Clare Maguire, Le Volume Courbe

October 23, 2010 Comments off
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