More Analysis of ACTA under NDA, Possible Counter-Intuitions about the GPL, and More

  • Opening of ACTA is hardly any opening at all
    Sherwin Siy of Public Knowledge was one of the folks who saw one section of one draft of the agreement under NDA. Without violating that NDA, he describes his experience and concludes that at most the USTR made this move to blunt criticism of its continued secrecy. Sherwin is skeptical, though, that the USTR is even acknowledging complaints about the secrecy enough to make this argument.
  • Mozilla backs another downloadable font standard
    Wired’s WebMonkey has the details, that support for WOFF will be coming in 3.6 planned for release at the end of the year. They even include the very first thing I though of when reading this news, the potential minefield of licensing as exemplified by the font fiasco with Boing Boing’s recent site re-design (to which WebMonkey links).
  • Counter-intuitions about GPL, forking and MySQL
    Matt Asay takes a look at another angle to consider with the fate of MySQL post an Oracle acquisition of its corporate master, Sun. He cites Stallman’s letter to the EC as evidence that the GPL prevents forking, hence preventing the community from routing around Oracle’s control of the database’s code base. To be clear, RMS’ arguments are around dual licensing, the right to offer a commercial version. A fork is still possible, that is orthogonal. What RMS and Asay are focused on is the commercial licensability as an incentive to driving future development.
  • Real time, 3D rendering in the cloud
    I will give NVidia props for a novel application of distributed computing but I remain to be convinced that this makes a lot of sense. The higher end mobile devices can do a good enough, if not photorealistic, job of rendering for 3D games. Is the potential network latency and hiccups worth any sort of incremental or drastic leap in quality this might provide?
  • PayPal opening its platform to developers
    I guess I understand the vision outlined in this NYT Bits piece. I think there are considerably more hurdles to overcome than PayPal is letting on, though. Think about the higher need for trust and security when you talk about payments versus other kinds of mash ups. I am curious to see some deeper analysis once the platform is opened for outside scrutiny.
  • Contemplating AI and its definitions
    Ed Lerner at has a nice, quick consideration of artificial intelligence. He calls to task some of the very definitions of the term, rightly so I think, especially where the goals or end states are demoted on achievement. He even ties it into SF literature, juxtaposing the Turing test with our conceptions about aliens, true ones vs. men in rubber suits.
  • The effect on range of quality by online publishing
    At Techdirt, Mike Masnick points us to a thoughtful piece by Umair Haque. In a nutshell, the contention is that the worst of online media is really no worse than traditional media but the de-coupling of production from traditional drivers frees online creatives to produce astonishingly better quality.

Three Strikes Hypocrisy, PATRIOT Act Reforms Falter, and More

  • More opinions on FTC rule for bloggers and product reviews
    Adam Theiere of the Technology Liberation Front provides a good list of links to folks chewing on the recently announced FTC rule. Like me, most still have more questions than answers. Adam calls out some potentially disturbing implications, namely that it looks like traditional media may largely get a pass on these new rules.
  • Hypocrisy abounds with three strikes champion Sarkozy
    According to the quote Cory extracted from this story, this isn’t even the first time Sarkozy has been caught out infringing copyright. I am sure the French president sees a difference in kind between P2P based infringement and what he has done, repeatedly, though the law makes no such distinction.
  • New release backs DVD Jon’s venture with Amazon’s legitimate MP3 store
    As Dana Oshiro explains at RWW, Johansen’s DoubleTwist was launched to use his knowledge of circumvention to enable device shifting. I don’t know much else beyond that but have to imagine that their use of Amazon’s MP3 store may increase their profile to the point where we may see some uncomfortable questions brought to bear on the venture’s other offerings.
  • PATRIOT Act review fails to reign in search powers
    The EFF tweeted the link to this NYTs piece. It looks like the provisions of the bill set to expire will be renewed largely as is. The article details the last minute edits that led to some vastly weakened measures being swapped in to replace my aggressive reforms proposed earlier. There is still the JUSTICE Act to consider but this is disheartening.
  • Piracy Payback offers a way to pay for your P2P indulgences
    Nate Andersion describes the idea at Ars, one that doesn’t seem like either side of the P2P conflict really want or are likely to use. Worse, I can easily see how an adversarial label could snare the company with secondary liability for inducing users to partake of P2P regardless of any fees collected on their behalf.
  • One of The Pirate Bay brings criminal charges against anti-piracy group
    Mike Masnick at Techdirt has the very torturous details of BREIN’s efforts in bringing its suit against The Pirate Bay. As it turns out, brokep seems to have uncovered evidence that part of their twisted efforts was to falsify a report, essentially committing perjury, and on that basis is pressing his own fraud charges.

Demystifying Luddism, Help Support Lovelace Biopic, and More

  • What’s inside a cup of coffee
    Just a brief listing up at Wired with a little bit of explanation for each component. I don’t describe myself as a coffee snob, per se, though all things being equal I prefer to drink good coffee rather than the usual drop swill on offer most places. I am also fascinated by those sort of scientific facts around the beverage as well as the lesser known elements of its history.
  • Skepticism of Mozilla’s response to Google Chrome Frame plugin
    At Ars, Ryan Paul not only recaps the comments by Baker and Shaver at Mozilla about Google’s plugin targeted at MSIE, he also deconstructs some of their concerns. I still tend to think getting users off at least the oldest versions of MSIE is a better long term goal but Ryan does offers some good food for thought on how Frame really is a fairly practical compromise building on a tradition of similar work by Mozilla and others.
  • Babbage, Lovelace documentary needs your support
    Cory points out what sounds like a wonderful film project that needs letters of support sent to the National Science Foundation. It sounds like the need is greatest for letters from people with stories of how Lovelace work directly influenced theirs, in particular women in computing related fields, and from folks with a network or organization that can help promote the film.
  • Monty Python turns 40 today
    What more can I say, really? The comedy troupe is a fixture of so many overlapping subcultures, including geeks of many strips and hackers.
  • Debunking modern ideas about Luddism
    Matthew Lasar has a great piece at Ars digging into a historical movement often invoked as a bane of technological advancement. The lessons are still relevant, once you understand what the Luddites were really doing at the time, but has more to do with the risks of unrestrained capitalism, aided and abetted by disruptive technology.
  • FTC approves rules for payment, freebies received by bloggers
    The Globe and Mail was the first place I saw this story, though details are scant. Is this only for bloggers that are paid employees or blogs that are incorporated in some way? I doubt it but I expect many other sites to pick this story up and add analysis and commentary soon.

Considering the Value of Digital Goods

I tried to post a comment on Chris Miller most recent post on Unquiet Desperation. He asks some excellent questions about how we calculate the value of creative works if we acquire them in digital form versus tangible form. I say tried because his commenting system foiled me attempts to comment without having to authorization or register my identity or some such which I cannot be bothered with at the moment. Besides, what started as several random thoughts, really is now the length of its own blog post.

Go and read his post first then come back and read my comments below.

On loss, if I have not opened a physical copy of a book in years, that might speak to it also making its way to the real world kipple pile. The cycle time may be longer, but I don’t think the fact it is a durable item means it automatically gets a pass. Conversely, I love that for CC-licensed works if I do lose my copy, I can instantly replace it from the source. I find that quality of it much more valuable, maybe perversely so, than a comparable physical good. I can focus on enjoying it and not worry about the ongoing cost of curating it against inadvertent loss.

Material cost of production is zero? That may be slightly disingenuous. Sure, there isn’t the incremental cost of the container, both in time and materials, but compare that against the non-material cost of production. I’d say the time an author spends writing and revising far outweighs those last steps of turning it into a physical book and shipping to a reader or a store. In that instance, I actually see digital containers as a continuation of the commoditization of material containers. I’d almost say that the way most traditional distribution channels work, the packetization of a work into realized form is almost sub rosa to both the producer and the consumer.

Now the costs of distribution are something else altogether. I’d argue that those costs have already been decoupled from anything else. Ten bucks for a Kindle edition of a book? Really? When I can still order the paperback edition from the same source for a fraction? Am I paying the difference for the convenience of Kindle? I am may be particular sensitized to this case but there is a huge opportunity cost when the ability to refresh/replace my digital copy may be denied by DRM or similar schemes.

I’ll provide a counter example to your locust swarm. When I pay to support a digital work, like say “Sita Sings the Blues”, there are several things going on that actually ultimately increase my valuation of that work. If I make a donation for a download on Nina Paley’s site, I know for a fact I am directly supporting the creator. Not so when I buy the latest DVD from the bargain bin. There is also a much greater opportunity for conversation and connection. Points of distribution for digital goods can themselves be data rich, with links to more material on the creator’s work, context around the work itself, and the all important hooks into the larger filter that may lead me on to find similar works I am likely to enjoy.

Physical goods either don’t do any of those or do them very poorly, like sectional circulars at the local book store. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be in the same place at the same time as an author, at an in-store signing, to have that conversation. Not likely and that increases the cost in terms of inconvenience, driving down the value compared to the low cost of doing the same thing online.

All that being said, I agree with the questions you ask, that they are worth asking. I just thought I’d share some more optimistic thoughts–opportunities–for digital goods to avoid becoming locust guano.

TCLP 2009-08-19 Rant: Owning Innovation

This is a feature cast.

In the intro a quick review of the movie, District 9.

The hacker word of the week this week is engine.

The feature this week is a rant on owning innovation. In it I mention VoloMedia claiming to have the patent on podcasting including their own words on the matter, Iain Bank’s publisher claiming first podcast novel, Christiana Ellis wins the preposterous claims contest that followed on Twitter, the Creative Commons and the Free Idea eXchange.


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.

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

TCLP 2009-05-27 Balticon 43: Peer Media vs. Broadcast Media

This is a feature cast.

In the intro a heart felt thank you to my good friend, Chris Miller, for his support and advice without which my recent experience at Balticon would not have been anywhere near as phenomenal.

There is no listener feedback this week.  There is also no hacker word of the week due to the length of the feature.

The feature this week is the recording of the Peer Media vs. Broadcast Media panel at Balticon 43.  I was joined by Earl Newton, Dave Slusher and Patrick McLean all of whom I owe a debt of gratitude for this great discussion.  For clarification, the book Patrick mentions is “Against Intellectual Monopoly” by Michele Boldrin and David Levine.  Patrick also sent me a link to an interview with Boldrin which led me to the web site, Against Monopoly, which furthers the discussion with contributions from several other scholars.


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.