TCLP 2010-06-30 Cory Doctorow at CopyNight DC

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, thanks to my friend Chooch for saving my bacon with the event audio I am sharing as this week’s feature. Also, with regards to the show’s 5th anniversary, I realize I pretty much said my peace on the subject last week. Just trying to keep that spirit of being receptive to surprise alive going forward.

I will save this week’s feedback, of which there is rather a lot, until next week.

There is no hacker word of the week this week.

The feature this week is a recording of the talk Cory Doctorow gave at this month’s CopyNight, here in DC.


There are no detailed show notes for this episode. You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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

Thanks to Everyone who Attended CopyNight DC with Cory Doctorow

The CopyNight DC event with Cory Doctorow last night was an unqualified success. I want to once again thank our very generous co-hosts, New America and Public Knowledge for provided the space and video streaming and refreshments respectively.

It is hardly any surprise that the event was packed. I have it from James at New America that we received just over two hundred RSVPs for the event, just about as many as for an event New America hosted earlier in the same day with one of President Obama’s economic advisors.

Cory’s talk was engaging and thought provoking. New America has already made the archived video available, which I’ve embedded above. The audience questions were equally as fascinating as the talk and the general feedback I received afterward as folks were waiting to get books signed and at the happy hour was incredibly positive.

I want to thank Cory for giving us a big chunk of his time on a very busy trip. His thoughts certainly enrich the discussion around achieving a balanced copyright and on access to an open network more generally. I appreciate his help in drawing attention to the Open Technology Initiative at New America, to Public Knowledge and to CopyNight, both the one here in DC and the many other instances around the globe.

feeds | grep links > UI Advice for Facebook, A Possible Communications Act Update, Privacy Protecting Search Engine, and An Action Alert for ACTA

No time for digging into any of these more deeply, I need to be on my way soon to CopyNight DC.

  • OpenBook creator offers advice on simpler Facebook privacy controls
    Ryan Single at Wired has a screen shot of what Will Moffat, creator of the hacktivist tool OpenBook, is proposing. I still think this is missing the point. Friends of friends and Everyone are too opaque. The slider is not a bad idea, itself, but it needs to be coupled with previews or examples to expose the non-obvious consequences of the classes of audience to share with.
  • Rumblings of communications act update
    Matthew Lasar at Ars Technica has the details. I agree that in the short term, this could bolster the FCC’s attempts to move forward in network neutrality, especially if the “third way” plan falters. The very drive towards network neutrality could cause the draft to take some time. As Lasar explains, we’ve learned a lot since the last update to the law, in 96, but it still largely doesn’t cover the internet. A light touch is still probably in order as there is so much about what is essential and what is accidental we don’t fully understand, yet.
  • Sen. Ensign urges FCC to abandon “third way” for now
    Cecilia Kang’s story at the Post is a corollary to the possibility of an overhaul to the communications act. Unlike other criticisms, the urgings by Sen. Ensign aren’t based on opposition to network neutrality but anticipating updated, more appropriate enforcement powers explicitly granted by Congress better tailored to ISPs and the Internet.
  • New privacy-protecting search engine
    I’d heard of Duck Duck Go but hadn’t realized exactly what made it so different. The policies that make the search engine privacy preserving seem very simple but effective and MIT Tech Review praises it for the quality of its results. I’ve added it to my browser and need to add a command to Mozilla Ubiquity (my real search interface) to try it out.
  • EFF action alert to contact elected reps about ACTA
    The details are in the alert, including the committee members that are especially critical to reach on the continuing threat to balanced copyright presented by ACTA.

TCLP 2010-02-21 News

This is news cast 206, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, a reminder that CopyNight is Monday and that Nina Paley is speaking at American on Wednesday, the 24th.

This week’s security alerts are the first denial of service attack and botnets attacking each other.

In this week’s news PA school district caught spying on students via laptop web cams (which may be part of a larger trend) resulting in a letter from the school officials who feel they did no wrong though now the FBI and DA are looking into the incidents, an essay on when transparency is useful which is similar to Lessig’s thoughts on the subject, and the 32nd anniversary of the BBS which is clearly a prescursor to the modern internet.

Following up this week leak of details on last ACTA negotation round and the Jacobsen case is finally settled.


Grab the detailed show notes with time offsets and additional links either as PDF or OPML. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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

Notes from September’s CopyNight for Washingon, DC

The topic for September’s CopyNight here in DC was the Google Book settlement. We had a decent turn out, not as large as the couple of Summer gatherings but respectable. The discussion was excellent, covering many aspects of this story that hadn’t occurred to me, even as closely as I have been following it for my blog and my podcast.

We started by discussing the impact of the DoJ’s letter on the settlement. It is important to note this was just a letter, not a ruling. some sort of broader antitrust investigation may be underway behind the scenes that prompted the letter. The net effect of the input from the DoJ may be to strip the settlement largely back to its original contours. It ultimately may have been sparked by the Copyright Office, though, as the bulk of the letter was consistent with a Copyright Office hearing from some time back. That the case brought against Google was a class action may have also added pressure to the DoJ to comment.

The unfortunate consequence of a scaling back is that libraries may lose out. The settlement would have set up considerable public access resources for which the American Library Association was in favor. The ALA would have preferred greater government oversight than for what the settlement would have initially called but its a tough compromise to think through. Assessing the risks and costs of such oversight, in particular how they may have limited access, is difficult at best.

The impact to orphan works may be a little easier to appreciate. While the settlement wouldn’t give perpetual consideration to future works, limited to just works up through January of this year, scaling back will cost us a useful registry for out of print, hard to attribute works. Adam Marcus clarified that under the original settlement, that registry may not have been as closed as has been represented. The board was supposed to be open. The sticking point though is that the registry would have been one of a kind, no other attempt to scan out of print and orphan works would have gotten a leg up in terms of protections or allowances despite potential further public good.

The conversation then turned briefly to patents. There was some speculation about possible chilling effects on further development of OCR technolofies, more specifically I think physical systems to make book scanning more cost effective. There was of course mention of one of my favorite projects, reCAPTCHA. Luis van Ahn was at least co-inventor of the original CAPTCHA and no doubt has some interesting IP bound up in his latest venture that directly impacts the field of book scanning. We wondered what further implications Google’s acquisition of reCAPTCHA may have other than to beef up their internal spam fighting efforts.

A couple of folks weighed in at this point with some predictions and observations about the possible ultimate outcome. Tim Vollmer of the ALA worried about the settlement being reduced to the least/worst of what we’ve seen so far. Gavin Baker, a regular with a background in open access in academia, commented that most of the NGOs are currently for what we’ve seen of the stripped back, amended settlement. The only holdouts, noticeably, are commercial outfits that may fear Books as a toehold into the traditional publishing space.

The discussion moved on to orphan works, trying to understand why reform has moved so slowly. The degree of stalling seems to vary by medium, photography being perhaps the most contended case. This may be a consequence of the difficulty of consistently carrying attribution. Digital photography may deal with this issue better than printed photographs but it is still trivial for someone to even inadvertently destroy metadata carrying proper attribution of a work. Gavin seemed to think the scope of the orphan works problem may have been worth setting up Google as a benevolent dictator of a central registry, assuming their remit could be kept exclusively to identifying, registering and mediating orphan works only.

Things took a more philosophical turn as we explored a tangent around reform more generally. It was noted that legislation is almost entirely an additive process, rarely are laws removed from the books to address the need for more suitable compromises. Someone, I believe either Adam or Kat Walsh mentioned a recent Cato Institute event whose topic was the criminalization of everything. The idea seemed to be consistent with the solely additive nature of law making.

Gavin asked the group why the suit was pursued as a class action rather than some other kind of complaint. He offered his own theory, that basing it on a class was a form of preemption. He suggested it actually might be a form of carrot, that if Google would settle, the terms would carry farther with a class than an individual action. The implied threat is that if it wasn’t a class, Google would remain open to a potentially unending string of individual actions.

We closed with another tangent, delving into a consideration of why copyright is viewed and expressed differently across multiple types of media. The consensus was that this was a consequence of the norms and expectations arising from the introduction and adoption of each subsequent new form of media rather than anything inherent in each distinct medium. It is tempting, almost a logical trap, to think there are inherent qualities of media that naturally lead to different legal considerations. Law is made without any such notion, though. Just ponder for a moment the average technical literacy of your typical Congress critter and you’ll understand why that is.

I have notes from the October CopyNight, too, and should be getting those posted soon. Hopefully sooner than it took to get these notes out. In the meantime, I am thinking about dates for November’s DC CopyNight and will be sending out some notes soliciting feedback on the question soon. As I am now the official coordinator, not just the unofficial secretary, of the group feel free to email me through the contact info here if you have any thoughts.

DC’s October CopyNight is Monday, the 26th

As usual, it will be held at Teasim in Penn Quarter, which is easy walking distance from several Metro stations. We’ll be starting at 6:30PM. As of this CopyNight, I am officially taking over as coordinator for the DC group. Our former coordinator, Joe, has been swamped by increased work commitments. While he’ll still be participating as much as those will allow, he and I agreed it would be better for continuity and planning if he handed over the reins. I am happy I have the time and opportunity to help in this capacity.

I assembled some stories for discussion, too, which have already been sent out via the list.

I am grateful for everyone who submitted stories to share for the upcoming discussion. I will try to get my notes up from last month’s CopyNight, too, though I won’t promise to doing so before tomorrow’s gathering.

This list includes plenty to cover but the discussion is open so bring whatever other stories or questions are on your mind.

Hope to see you there!

TCLP 2009-09-27 News

This is news cast 191.

In the intro, a reminder that this month’s CopyNight here in DC is tomorrow night, at 6:30PM at the Teaism in Penn Quarter. The discussion will at least include the Google Books settlement and the FCC rules on network neutrality and more besides no doubt.

This week’s security alerts are AES explained by stick figures and bounties on infected Macs.

In this week’s news FCC chair calls for rules on network neutrality including early challenges and resistance and a web site detailing the details as the rules will be implemented, Netflix second release of anonymized data could be a privacy disaster, re-booting the book which at least partly continues Clive Thomson’s consideration of the future of reading, and duct tape programmers.

Following up this week authors and other plaintiffs ask for a delay in the Google Books settlement which is granted and the French Senate passes an amended three strikes law though it still requires debate and passage by the National Assembly.


Grab the detailed show notes with time offsets and additional links either as PDF or OPML. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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

CopyNight DC for July

This month we were hosted by ALA. They have an enormous conference room and a good thing, too. We had another massive turn out for the discussion, at least twenty people.

Sherwin Siy of Public Knowledge started the discussion of international copyrights. He covered normalization under the Berne and Rome conventions and the adoption of both of those for treaties from WIPO, with mixed success. With folks in attendance from many NGOs that have worked with WIPO as observer, many details were shared over the course of the evening on how policy is made. Not surprisingly, the most common quality is bureaucracy.

He also clarified how treaties are actually implemented locally, leading to some variation from country to country. He also used that to clarify a point about another topic of interest to the CopyNight regulars, ACTA. ACTA is an executive agreement, not a treaty as such, which explains a few things. The focus on enforcement seems to align with the idea that it is being adopted by the executive and not the legislative bodies of respective, participating countries. I suppose it also makes some sense of the short list of participants. The fact that there has been no visibility or public deliberation also seems to stem from it not having to eventually be ratified by each country’s law making body.

There was also a healthy discussion of limits and exceptions, the term for the broad category into which fair use in the US falls. It is the same category for the allowances for personal copies in countries that have that, typically with a blank media levy to compensate artists.

The other speaker for the evening, Carrie Russell, did a great job of explaining how ALA also participates as an NGO in WIPO discussions. This led into the ALA’s work on traditional knowledge and lore, a topic that fascinated more than one of us. There is a tension between intellectual monopoly and knowledge and practices of indigenous cultures. On the one hand they want to protect their culture but on the other, intellectual monopoly is a poorly fitted tool. Much of their cultural may need to respect different permissions for different audiences. Copyright doesn’t discriminate between a tribal elder and anyone else accessing some work. Libraries are increasingly working to preserve traditional cultures, hence their role in this discussion and by extend the ALA’s.

Towards the tail end of the evening, we hashed through some of the news of the day, including RMS’ comments on the Pirate Party’s desire to abolish copyright, the Kindle remote deletions, Open Source for America, and open codecs for the Web.

All around another engaging discussion with a great group with varied interests. And the ALA did a superb job of hosting, I look forward to returning their again, either for a future CopyNight or any other event of interest.

June CopyNight

We had a record turn out for this month’s CopyNight here in DC.  Must have something to do with both the fresh crop of Summer interns at the area NGOs and returning university students.  At more than one point in the evening I was concerned that Teaism’s management would ask us to break up the monster table we assembled to house the discussion.

We started off talking about the Thomas re-trial and the massive award handed down.  There has been some precedent for citing the 8th Amendment in trying to limit damages but this apparently is more common with seizures than monetary awards.  There may be a basis for at least arguing that the award is large enough to be considered a criminal punishment and subject to prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment.  Given that both trials went so strongly against against the defendant, this is the only aspect likely to be challenged.  Especially since Thomas is unlikely to be able to fund an appeal at this point.

It was pointed out that the egregious amount may invite a legislative backlash.  This is likely to make the RIAA open to settling for a relatively more reasonable sum.  The threat of this sort of tipping point of public opinion may have informed the RIAA’s change of tactic from individual law suits to courting or pressing ISPs into filtering.

Next we looked at the ASCAP suit against AT&T.  The EFF has a nice bit of analysis on this.  ASCAP has tried similar suits before without success.  Section 114 speaks clearly to whether usage yields a profit and to the intent of unlicensed music uses.  Both sections 114 and 115 form a sort of mine field that ASCAP just hasn’t been able to navigate to broaden its claims, thankfully.  If it does manage to do so, clearly that will make them much more aggressive in pursuing future expansions.

Someone wondered about interpreting song lyrics as an implied grant, like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Turn It Up” in “Sweet Home Alabam”.  That led to some questions about direct discussion of copyright issues in music.  Carey Lening, one of the regulars, emailed me “Charity Case” by MC Frontalot and “Download This Song” by MC Lars to point out that clearly someone has.  Both of these are freely available and worth giving a listen.

We next examined the Pirate Party winning two seats in the EU Parliament.  Quinn Norton, who has recently moved to DC, shared her experiences interviewing both The Pirate Bay and the Swedish Pirate Party.  She explained that neither really see copyright as a political issue, more as a cultural one.  The Pirate Bay arose out of the demo scene, a bunch of hackers used to sharing files.  This led into a comparison of the differences in how the issues of copyright are seen in the EU and the US.

In the EU, there is an organized copyright reform movement.  In Quinn’s interviews, she found a sophisticated argument, relating action to civil disobedience.  In the US, there is no real reform movement as such.  Some of this may be perceptual, that at least in the US copyright is related to “mere” entertainment.  It may also be the greater ability of writers in particular to communicate about the need for copyright.  Copyright was contrasted at this point to patents where the result of abolishing that system is perhaps more grok-able.  Conversely, with patents each side of a license is usually equipped with resources for lobbying.

Quinn contends that the difference arises from the differences in how labor has developed in each region.  The demo scene hackers definitely show anarchic qualities so perhaps the question is related to the respective views on Pinkerton and other formative thinkers.  Even views on property rights which are often modeled as ways to monetize cultural goods can potentially be related back to labor.

The question of enforcement was also raised as a difference.  Enforcement in the EU is definitely less popular, leading to a bit of a chicken and egg situation for those favoring control.  Someone suggested that the US produces more cultural goods, in Hollywood in particular, inviting more protection of that output.

We wrapped on that topic by picking at the old saw about folks in the US being more litigious.  Someone offered a couple of choice thoughts: “regulation by law suit” and “law by contract”.  This may be a result of giving our government less power to regulate industry directly.  The various stakeholders then have to rely on the courts to deal with problems.

If you can attribute any of the “someones” in this post, please email me.  I was leading this discussion this month and was scribbling notes as much and as fast as I could while doing so.  Given the size of the group, we maintained focus pretty well, only breaking into multiple competing conversations once or twice.

Next month, the DC CopyNight is being hosted by the ALA, should be a good event.  I am looking forward to it.  You can go to the main web site to sign up for the announcement list for your local CopyNight or details on starting one if there isn’t one in your area.

TCLP 2009-01-21 Hacking 101: Build Tools

This is a feature cast.

The DC area CopyNight is next week, Tuesday the 27th, at the Teaism in Penn Quarter, starting around 6:20PM. Join us to discuss the first week of Obama’s administration with regards to concerns of intellectual property.

The hacker word of the week this week is Dr. Fred Mbogo.

The feature this week is a Hacking 101 segment on build tools.


Grab the detailed show notes with time offsets and additional links either as PDF or OPML.

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