feeds | grep links > More Comics about Copyright, Google Coding Contest for Younger Kids, and More

  • More comics about copyright
    Techdirt links to a more humorous looking comic, about sixty pages on the history of copyright. That’s not just recent history, either, but goes far enough back to show how copyright has transformed in form and purpose. Looking over the site, the work is at least partly inspired by RMS and the Free Software folks. You can download the comic as an ePub or CBZ file.
  • Sonification project working with pollution data, Wired
  • LLVM 2.9 released, The H
  • Negroponte on XO3 tablet and beyond, Slashdot
  • Google launches coding contest for younger kids
    Audrey Watters at ReadWriteWeb has the details of what is essentially Google Summer of Code but for junior high and high school aged kids. It also likes more comprehensive than just programming, offering tasks that cover all kinds of contributions to open source projects, including but not limited to QA, documentation, translations, UI design, and outreach. Applications will open on November 22. I hope this is repeated for a few more years so my sons can participate once they are old enough.

feeds | grep links > MPAA May Takedown TPB, No More Official ACTA Drafts, Facebook Crisis Meeting, Judge Rules Against Software Liability Waiver and Historical Examples to Inform Broadband Plan

  • MPAA gets injunction against The Pirate Bay’s ISP
    TorrentFreak has the story that they claim to have verified with credible sources. It seems reasonable given the years of taunting by The Pirate Bay in response to C&D and other demand letters. What remains to be seen is if the site will move on to another provider or the injunction will have its intended effect.
  • ACTA official draft may be a one time deal
    Mike Masnick at Techdirt points out the comments from one of the negotiators that indicates the troublesome trade agreement may scurry back beneath its veil of secrecy. The only silver lining is that suspicions about contention at the negotiating table appear to be accurate.
  • Facebook gathering internally to discuss privacy complaints
    All anyone knows, including Curt Hopkins at RWW, is that privacy will be at the core of the meeting and it will take place at 4PM, PDT, tomorrow. It would refreshing to say the least if they heed the advice of Kurt Opsahl at EFF and follow the principles they set out earlier on when trying to deal with user backlash.
  • Judge rules waiver of software liability not reasonable
    The Register has details of the case which I find a bit unsettling. The disclaimer in the vendor’s license is uncomfortably close to the “as is” clause in most free software and open source licenses. I believe the key difference is the software in question was sold, triggering a law covering sale of goods, and that there may be some issues around other claims of fitness for purpose implied by the vendors actions. All the same, it makes you wonder how a similar suit would fair for an open source project.
  • History of infrastructure policy as it informs broadband
    Mike Masnick links to an article of a kind I especially enjoy, pulling in historical examples that can serve to inform our current policy debates over technology. The examples are not always perfect but at least the tension between public good and markets is always helpful to consider in my view.

A Look Back at How Telcos Used to Respect Privacy

On BoingBoing, Cory links to a post by UPenn professor and researcher Matt Blaze drawing from his personal experience from back in the days of Bell Labs. Blaze shares a scan of an old policy document that he juxtaposes against the current climate. As he explains, he is working on a paper discussing the potential hazards inherent in recent telecommunications legislation along with several other notable researchers and academics, right as Congress is contemplating making the measure in question permanent. At issue is the question of immunizing telcos that turned over customer information without proper judicial oversight.

What Blaze doesn’t entertain are explanations as to how and/or why this industry has gone from this:

respect for customer privacy was once a deeply rooted point of pride in the corporate ethos. There was no faster way to be fired (or worse) than to snoop into call records or facilitate illegal wiretaps, well intentioned or not. And it was genuinely part of the culture; we believed in it, even those of us ordinarily disposed toward a skeptical view of the official company line.

To “just another bit of cynical, focus-group-tested PR”. Is it just market serving or is there more to it? I don’t know, I’d actually like to have read the thoughts of someone who has been around the industry that long.

US to Explore Ending Hands Off Internet Policy

Reader Andrew Gilbertson sent me links to The Register’s piece on a discussion at the NTIA and a transcript of remarks by Lawrence Strickling.

The reasoning given is that many important social services are moving online. I have to quibble, wondering if civil services or public services would have been a better choice of words. However, I really take exception to the very large remit being proposed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Under the auspices of protecting key infrastructure, such as confidence in online credit card transactions, they have laid out five policies areas they want to pursue.

  1. Privacy
  2. Child protection
  3. Cybersecurity
  4. Copyright protection
  5. Internet governance

OK, to be fair, I picked as an example a case that highlights my real point, that this list is way out of scope with merely addressing infrastructural concerns. I can see how cybersecurity and internet governance are reasonable policy areas into which the NTIA might wade. But all of the rest should not be treated any different online than they are offline.

We have plenty of law enforcement agencies at multiple levels who can and should be addressing all forms of harm to and exploitation of children. Doing so online should merely require appropriate additional investigative resources and perhaps training, not new regulations or legislation. We have a horrible track record with regards to trying to mandate online content filters and rightly so.

Privacy may be long overdue for some legislative action but I am unsure that either policy making or execution should reside with the NTIA. The FTC has already been doing some promising work in this area and incorporating privacy abuses with regards to online commerce would be a more natural fit. Otherwise, proper handling of private data should be everyone’s responsibility–any agency, company or service should have to meet minimal, perhaps legislated, standards and be subject to plain old judicial oversight and action.

I am, of course, most incensed by the inclusion of copyright protection in this list. Cyber exceptionalism in current legislation already has put us in a horrible state where free speech and fair use are routinely trod upon. The tenor of Strickling’s remarks suggests nothing about reform or re-balance, rather trotting out the same tired rhetoric about protecting rights holders that got us here in the first place.

In his submission, Andrew expressed a concern about the lag inherent in legislation when dealing with fast moving technology and innovation. I think such caution is due, that the least amount of regulation should be pursued if at all. If the goal at its heart is really ensuring decent access to public services, a goal with which I can agree, then this laundry list needs to be hacked down considerably and focused solely on the issues surrounding such access. Anything else opens up the legislative process to further capture by moneyed interests, not better serving the public interest which is what is nominally being served by this discussion.

Congressional Consensus May Literally Avalanche

MIT Technology Review shared a link to an interesting paper analyzing the data around how support attached to a particular bill. Their original hypothesis was that influencers would have more affect on subsequent support.

Not so, say Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury at the University of California, Los Angeles. It turns out that the way a particular resolution gains support can be accurately simulated by the avalanches that occur when grains of sand are dropped onto each other to form a pile.

This explains so much while also being so evocative of Congress as little more than a mindless, emergent phenomenon.

Clueful Op-Ed on the Current Challenges to Municipal Broadband

I am often frustrated by stories of contested efforts of municipalities to roll out their own high speed networks. Ars has a decent op-ed by Christopher Williams that digs into why these projects still face such challenges. I especially like how Williams ties in the historical comparison to FDR and electrification. This is a common comparison when talking about improving access to high speed internet connections.

I therefore lay down the following principle: That where a community—a city or county or a district—is not satisfied with the service rendered or the rates charged by the private utility, it has the undeniable basic right, as one of its functions of Government, one of its functions of home rule, to set up, after a fair referendum to its voters has been had, its own governmentally owned and operated service.

This FDR quote is well chosen and telling. It speaks to local autonomy and to a valid response to market failures. This piece is well worth a read for anyone else that is as exasperated as I am by the obstructionism of the cable operators and telcos.

Another Historical Reflection on Current Technology Policy Debate

Slashdot links to a nice bit of history by Glenn Fleishman. The technology in question was electricity and the debate was also over its distribution and adoption, much like the current broadband debate. This 1900s antecedent even had a killer application spurring the discussion, lighting, that threatened the incumbent, providers of gas lighting.

As Fleishman explains, though, the ultimate consequences of electrification, as we well know now, went far beyond just that one application.

Undoubtedly, you see where I’ve been going with all this. Broadband in 2009 is electricity in 1900. We may think we know all the means to which high-speed Internet access may be put, but we clearly do not: YouTube and Twitter prove that new things are constantly on the way and will emerge as bandwidth and access continues to increase.

It isn’t hard to see parallels to FDR’s quality of life, either, especially as more government agencies, local and federal, take advantage of the network to improve quality and availability of key civic services.

TCLP 2009-12-06 News

This is news cast 199, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

This week’s security alerts are malware may start affecting non-jailbroken iPhones and testing whether Google’s new DNS resolver is secure. I wrote about Google’s new offering earlier in the week.

In this week’s news latest ACTA leak seems to confirm the worst exceeding EU and Canadian copyright policy and makes better sense of KEI Director James Love’s encounter with USTR chief Ron Kirk, standalone JavaScript, historical antecedents to the current broadband regulation debate, and a new privacy reporting tool from the CDT which is part of a larger trend to try to improve awareness around online privacy.

Following up this week one British politician pushed back on the Digital Economy Bill and evaluating the censorship risk of the current version of the Google Books settlement.


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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