Another Commodity Digital Scanner Specifically for Books

It looks more compact than Danny Reetz’s DIY scanner and as a kit, plus cameras, is targeted to come in at less than $500. As the post at QuestionCopyright explains, the goal really is to throw fuel on the fire, to change the normative expectations around the ability to make copies of durable goods, in this case printed books. This is not about piracy but laying bare the latent ambiguities in the law constantly exposed by technological change.

The Book Liberator at QuestionCopyright (HT Glyn Moody)

Following Up for the Week Ending 6/27/2010

ASCAP Seeking Funds to Fight CC, PK and EFF

This is surreal to say the least. Cory has a post at Boing Boing sharing a letter sent to a member of ASCAP. The mind boggles at the suggestion that these public interest and non-profit organizations have more lobbying power than the music industry. Maybe ASCAP’s influence specifically is waning relative to the record labels but this characterization that the evil forces of free culture are conspiring to rob composers of their right to make a living makes my head spin. The plea for funds is insult on top of injury as ASCAP already generates revenue on the back of its members.

More seriously, this sort of sloppy thinking and rhetoric really irks me. It stomps on the idea that culture should be a shared and shareable good, not locked up behind the current effectively perpetual range and extreme reach of copyright. No one from CC, PK or EFF has ever suggested artists shouldn’t have a choice in how to exercise their copyright. CC in particular is all about giving creators far more choices beyond the flat assertion of all rights reserved.

I will avoid descending into a whacky Batman-Joker style dialogue of who created whom in terms of the rapacious enclosure of the public domain, DRM, etc. inspiring the desire to foster a new commons as the old one has been eaten away, followed by this latest turn. I will suggest that the real heartbreak here is that if ASCAP had sought a dialogue with any one of its perceived enemies, I know for a fact that would have opened a rich and rewarding conversation around how everyone concerned can support both our cultural heritage and creators trying to support themselves while contributing to it.

TCLP 2010-06-13 News

This is news cast 216, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, an update on the badge experiment.

This week’s security alerts are diffusing botnet control makes them more robust and bad passwords and the economics around perpetuating them.

In this week’s news open source could make attackers’ jobs easier, understanding the real risks of Android fragmentation, programmers should stop being smart-alecks, and heated atomic force microscopes for 12nm graphene elements.

Following up this week, another social network bill of rights and judge may dismiss most defendants from US Copyright Group suits.

View the detailed show notes online. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

A Book Review of “Property Outlaws”

Michel Bauwens at the P2P Foundation links to and exercepts a review of the book, “Property Outlaws: How Squatters, Pirates and Protesters Improve the Law of Ownership” by Professors Eduardo M. Penalver and Sonia Katyal, post by David Bollier at On the Commons. Bollier is no stranger to the spaces outside of property law, having written “Viral Spiral“. Bollier’s book has been on my list to read since it came out and I am pretty sure I already added “Property Outlaws” based on a previous recommendation.

The actions of big content, often over reaching and clumsily inflicting collateral damage, make it easy on one level to lionize the pirates. The Pirate Party has made much out of this response in advancing a pretty sophisticate platform predicated on what they view as necessary reform. Reading through Bollier’s remarks the copyright pirate is plausibly part of a larger trajectory that charts the progression of how property law is drawn and redrawn based on changes in norms. There is an apt neologism here, “altlaw”, that dovetails with other discussions I’ve read emphasizing the importance of limits and exceptions on copyright, such as Boyle’s very engaging “The Public Domain“.

Protests against private property are a conspicuous form of social and political communication, note Peñalver and Katyal, because they enable people to “send a message” that is not effectively communicated otherwise. That was the point of the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins, and that was the point of anti-globalization protesters smashing the windows of Starbucks stores. “There is a difference between talking about something and being confronted with an actual example of it,” write Peñalver and Katyal.

Heady stuff. I may just have to pull this one to the top of my reading queue, past some less provocative but no doubt equally enjoyable titles in the broader space of the history of copyright and the current debate around the need for reform.

Following Up for the Week Ending 5/31/2010

feeds | grep links > Problem Privacy Bill in Canada, VLC Update Supports WebM, RIAA Case Reaches SCOTUS, and Japan Considers Censorship to Deal with Child Porn

  • Canada’s not very privacy friendly privacy refrom bill
    Michael Geist has all of the pertinent details. Cory at Boing Boing likened this to the US’s PATRIOT Act but it actually reads like a subset of the US law, focusing in on handling of disclosures and some coordination between companies and law enforcers. As such, the consumer protections are indeed very disappointing, much like the erosion of civil liberties by the PATRIOT Act.
  • VLC release candidate drops, with WEbM, VP-8 support
    This should prove less disruptive than a nightly build of a browser. Now all I need to do is find some content to try with VLC and put claims for and against WebM/VP-8 to my own test.
  • RIAA case makes it to the Supreme Court
    I hadn’t heard of this case before reading this Wired article by David Kravets. At issue is the lower court ruling the defendant, a teenager at the time, qualified for the innocent infringer exemption to the minimum statutory damages. The Supremes haven’t agree to hear the case, it merely has made it into their hopper for a decision to proceed or decline to hear it.
  • Japan moves towards blocking child porn online
    Slashdot has a link to the story where the truly critical element is that mere possession is not illegal in Japan. As ticklish as it is to talk about problematic censorship when it is being considered under the auspices of preventing exploitation of this kind, a less fraught solution would be to criminalize possession.

feeds | grep links > Retiring “Info Wants To Be Free”, Another Attack on Quantum Crypto, and More on Those Behind Malware

  • Time to retire “info wants to be free”
    Cory’s latest Guardian column makes a thoughtful suggestion with regards to putting to rest Stewart Brand’s famous aphorism from the advent of the information age. He unpacks the much more nuanced interests of those big content wants to make out as info-anarchists. He suggests focusing more on the freedom of the net or more simply people.
  • Another attack on quantum cryptography
    As the post at Slashdot explains, this one relies on the normal error rate with which quantum crypto systems have to deal. The researchers have shown they can recover some information without raising the error rate above the previously acceptable level. I wrote about an earlier attack on quantum key distribution towards the end of last year.
  • More on those responsible for malware
    Earlier Brian Krebs had an article exploring the shallow end of the pool of online crime, an individual phisher responsible for an alarming number of attack sites. Today he discusses a Russian businessman whose reputation he has looked into before. Now, a Russian politico has spurred a government inquiry into the allegedly nefarious online criminal organizing and activity of “Redeye”, Pavel Vrublevsky.

Parody Hitler Rant about Takedowns Taken Down, Begs Fighting Back

I had been withholding comment on the flurry of takedowns against remixes of the Hitler-ranting bunker scene from the film, The Downfall. I would be surprised if any of you reading this haven’t seen at least one of these remixes. The scene is pretty recognizable, starting with Hitler ranting at his assembled staff only to dismiss most of them followed by a raise to a fervor pitch cut with scenes from the concerned staff out in the hall still able to hear every spittle flecked syllable.

Over the past few months, it has become de rigeur to add subtitles tying the dictator’s incredulity to some inanity in the info sphere that defied common sense.  Many of the remixes are apt, matching the emotional tone of the scene to some notional commentator’s outrage over some event or maneuver perceived to be utterly brain dead.

At first the takedowns seemed like yet another case of a rights holder’s cluelessness. The story took a turn into a surprising metastory when Constantin Films issued a takedown for the remix commenting on the takedowns themselves. This latest video to be targeted was created by EFF’s Brad Templeton.

As I understand the nature of parody as relates to fair use, use of material for that purpose has to target the material used or the creator. Much of the remixes probably don’t technically qualify as fair use though I doubt anyone would argue that a four minute clip could in anyway substitute for the original work. Templeton’s work probably has the best chance for fitting the definition of parody with regards to the source material, in no small part thanks to the work of Constantin Films.

I suspect the meme may now take a turn fully against the over reaching rights holder. In his blog post to which I linked, where Templeton still embeds the video but from a competitor, Vimeo, he starts to hint at some of the limitations of YouTube’s Content ID filter. The implication is that since the same clip is used for all these memetic mashups, the fingerprint is similar enough, if not the same, to actually make the filter’s work much easier. This may also mark its weakness to people determined to protest the takedowns.

Cory has a post on Boing Boing that puts Content ID to an empirical test of these limits. Scott Smitelli experimented with a different video but the results about what did and did not foil the filter should hold for the clip from The Downfall.

I suspect we may see some videos that maybe don’t entirely make sense, having been tweaked, but drive the point home that rights holders tread on fair use at their own risk where users are merely sharing the fruits of their experiments in media literacy.

Big Content’s Wishlist to the IPEC

EFF describes a joint comment in response to the call for suggestions by the US IP Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel. The comment came from the MPAA, RIAA and others. This validates my concerns about what may come next if measures like ACTA and the Digital Economy Act fail.

  • “Anti-infringement” software for home computers
  • Pervasive copyright filtering
  • Intimidate and propagandize travelers at the border
  • Bully countries that have tech-friendly policies
  • Federal agents working on Hollywood’s clock

Sadly, most of these are already being implemented to different degrees already. That first one, asking consumers to install police ware on their own computers is terrifying. For the most part, I think practicalities will prevent it from ever being attempted. This is clearly the furthest stretch on their list.

But what if we take into account computer-like consumption devices that are entirely or nearly totally closed? Home media devices already bear the fruit of Hollywood’s bullying–every late model HD-capable playback device that uses HDMI also carries the Image Constraint Token. This is the extraneous bit of the connector standard that let’s big content prevent playback on unapproved devices.

Is it that much further of a stretch to see the iPad and other such closed appliances targeted even more aggressively than home media components? I don’t see general purpose computers being bogged down with anything much worse than the DRM we face today but I could easily see a centrally controlled device being susceptible to threats to implement such an active policing system.

Such consumption peripherals are beholden to content providers since they have foregone the other legitimate uses to which a computer can be put that also generates significant value for the maker and the end user. Apple, with its continued use of DRM of books and movies has shown it is plenty willing to show its belly to the entertainment industries threats.