RCimT: The SOPA / PIPA protest has had direct results

Harry Reid has postponed PIPA indefinitely after information about who’s doing the lobbying for it came out, and after the protests peeled off 25-odd House reps and galvanized another 50 against the proposed laws. These laws may be well and truly dead this time.

But there’s still some ripple effects to be had.
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SOPA not yet dead

Despite what I said in the title of my recent post, it appears SOPA’s being put on hold by the Republicans was a temporary measure and it will return far sooner than any of us could have hoped. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith issued a press release stating that markup will resume in February.

Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today said that he expects the Committee to continue its markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act in February.

Chairman Smith: “To enact legislation that protects consumers, businesses and jobs from foreign thieves who steal America’s intellectual property, we will continue to bring together industry representatives and Members to find ways to combat online piracy.

“Due to the Republican and Democratic retreats taking place over the next two weeks, markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act is expected to resume in February.

“I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to send a bipartisan bill to the White House that saves American jobs and protects intellectual property.”

Tomorrow, if I have my way, you’re going to have to click through a splash screen to get at the blog. If it annoys you, complain to your local representatives. Tell them hi from Canada.

US, China in solar power throwdown

This is not quite the kind of international friction I like to see, especially with regard to technology with such promise and in such infancy.

Upon an appeal filed by SolarWorld Industries America and six other undisclosed firms, the US Department of Commerce (DOC) said on 8 November that it would conduct an investigation to determine whether Chinese firms have been selling solar panels in the US at unfair discounts and receiving illegal government subsidies, China Daily states.

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Unpacking the Astrology Vs Computers lawsuit

The title to this post is grossly reductionist, but it amused me. Regardless, I’m not planning on taking on astrology yet again, just the particular astrologers who are engaged in what I view to be a money-grab along the same lines as the now defunct SCO Group.*

No, no, this is the GOOD kind of astrolabe.

A company called Astrolabe was founded in 1979, the same year I was born (this is probably portentious). It’s an eight-astrologer outfit headquartered in Brewster, Massachusets. In 2008, this company bought from the then-failing Astro Computing Services the ACS PC Atlas, a computerised database of latitudes and longitudes for American cities with some historical time zone data.

On September 30th, Astrolabe decided the open-source Olson time zone database (a.k.a. tz, tzdata, or tzinfo) infringed on the copyrights they owned, and filed a lawsuit against Arthur David Olson and Paul Eggert (complaint as text) resulting in the database, which is relied upon by every computer running pretty well any variant of Unix including Linux and BSD for providing time-accurate historical data, being pulled and replaced with a stub with only data from 2000 onward. This includes a huge chunk of internet servers and services, and means any display of historical times pretty well anywhere on the internet is now potentially specious.
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Astrologers pick a fight with open-source software and history itself

Via a pingback ostensibly made by Astrology-X-Files (and maybe even Curtis Manwaring himself, no less!), this news about Astrolabe at Tech Dirt, where they’ve just filed suit against the maintainers of the public-domain Olson time zone database that is used in just about every open-source time zone related project imaginable:
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Conservatives screwing Canada over copyright reform

Wikileaks confirms it: Conservative Industry Minister Tony Clement is responsible for the copyright shenanigans the US pulled on Canada. He evidently urged the States via his director of policy Zoe Addington to put Canada on the US’ “piracy watch list”, a move that hurt Canada’s international standing wholly baselessly (we’re last place out of 46 countries examined for piracy rates!).

Several Wikileaks cables released earlier this year chronicle the sustained U.S. lobbying effort on copyright. In a June 2005 cable, the U.S. talks about the “need to engage the legislative branch as well as relevant departments”, proposes creating a bi-lateral working group, and offers to conduct training sessions for Canadian officials. A June 2006 cable discusses meetings with Bernier and then-Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda. A March 2007 cable reports on repeated meetings and attempts to elevate the issue as a top priority.

The cables also discuss a joint strategy with Canadian copyright lobby groups to allow for a “good cop, bad cop” approach, with the lobby groups using U.S. pressure “as a signal to the Government of Canada that they are willing to be ‘more reasonable than the Americans’.”


The 2009 cable also raises questions about the copyright consultation that year and Canadian encouragement of the U.S. pressure.  The cable reports that Zoe Addington, Clement’s former director of policy, said the consultations would be used “as an opportunity to educate consumers and ‘sell’ the Government view.”

Moreover, Addington encouraged the U.S. intensify its lobbying efforts, stating “if Canada is elevated to the Special 301 Priority Watch List (PWL), it would not hamper – and might even help – the Government of Canada’s ability to enact copyright legislation.”Days later, Canada was elevated on the Watch list.

I would say “you have got to be fucking kidding me”, but this ain’t the first time the Tories have leveraged the States’ international clout to manipulate our country’s politics. But hey, you want to talk about a broken system? Over 65% voted against Conservatives in this past election, but the Conservative Party of Canada now has a majority (a.k.a. steamroller) government. That’s how it works when you have one party on the right, and four parties splitting up the centre and left.

You’ve got to be carefully taught

The post from yesterday with the Rodgers and Hammerstein song was, surprisingly, not taken down due to infringement on the copyright owners for the musical South Pacific, nor of the performers of the song that was used in any way. Instead, it was taken down by Channel 1 Images, who claimed copyright on a specific photo of a Tea Party rally. The Fair Use doctrine explicitly allows using images for political commentary or for educational or criticism purposes. It seems to me the use of the image of the Tea Party rally in question expressly falls under that jurisdiction, and the takedown notice was extremely likely to have been an abuse of the DMCA to quash dissenting political opinion.

Which is understandable, because it’s pretty damning how endemic to the politics of the right-wing the eliminationist and isolationist rhetoric actually is. I strongly doubt the earnestness of anyone who comes out of listening to this Youtube video thinking the current far-right-wing nutbags, who dominate every news cycle for the past several years, is anything but a product of careful teaching and extraordinary effort.

Luckily the video’s author nicolesandler recompiled it, replacing the image in question, stating that she does not believe the takedown notice was in any way merited. To her I say: you and me both.

Viacom uploaded clips to Youtube then sued Youtube for hosting them!

Seriously, it’s like tonight’s internet surfing session is somehow intentionally trying to make my blood boil. You know that whole Viacom vs Youtube debacle, where Viacom’s been suing Youtube repeatedly for posters violating their copyrights? Well, it turns out that the whole while, employees within Viacom have been posting videos themselves in order to benefit from the free publicity that Youtube’s use represents. And nobody knows exactly how many of the clips in question in this court case were uploaded by Viacom themselves — not even their employees.

Viacom’s efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.

Given Viacom’s own actions, there is no way YouTube could ever have known which Viacom content was and was not authorized to be on the site. But Viacom thinks YouTube should somehow have figured it out. The legal rule that Viacom seeks would require YouTube — and every Web platform — to investigate and police all content users upload, and would subject those web sites to crushing liability if they get it wrong.

This is how you completely lose the sympathy of everyone on the internet. You abuse the copyright system in such a gross manner and expect to still reap the dividends of your activities, all while making a tidy side-profit from suing the very service you’re using, for failing to somehow magically know that the clips you’re uploading are copyright to Viacom. As far as I’m concerned, for doing this, Viacom not only knowingly forfeited their rights to any clip they’ve uploaded, they’ve forfeited any benefit of the doubt in future copyright claims. I honestly hope this shifts the burden of copyright protection back onto the companies whose copyrights they feel are in need of protecting, rather than on the free services that individual users might happen to abuse. Especially when “abuse” actually serves to help promote the very content that they’re seeking to protect.

Welcome to the new digital age, Viacom. The existence of the Internet is not a dangerous thing to your copyrights — if anything, having a clip by Stewart or Colbert “go viral” is only going to drive more viewers to your shows. Wise up and learn how to make a profit from this new age. Evolve, as they say, or die.

Three more bits of interesting reading

Just got back from braving the holiday shopping crowds. I got myself a housecoat. My first one ever. And I plan on wearing it all weekend — even when we visit Ron and Tanya for supper on Sunday.

Michael Geist covers OECD’s declaration that Canada is among the lowest sources of counterfeiting, despite lobbyists’ and politicians’ recent claims:

The OECD has released new data on its global counterfeiting estimates, concluding that the share of counterfeit and pirated goods in world trade is estimated to have increased from 1.85% in 2000 to 1.95% in 2007. That represents an increase to $250 billion worldwide. That is obviously a big number, but notably far lower than the claims from ACTA supporters. Copyright lobby groups have long claimed – without empirical support – that counterfeiting and piracy represents 5 – 7% of global trade. The OECD data indicates those claims are wildly exaggerated.

PalMD discusses the Ontario push toward legitimizing fake medicine:

Naturopaths like to present themselves as walking a different path to the same destination, but the truth is not so pretty. If we were to, as the naturopaths put it, help nature heal itself, we would die toothless and miserable before we hit fifty. Most of us are likely to die of either cancer, heart disease, or stroke.

Tears may have evolved as a defense mechanism — to elicit mercy from an overpowering human foe:

Humans appear to be the only creatures that shed tears as an emotional reaction. Other animals excrete tears to clean their eyes following an injury or irritation from dust, but only human beings cry in social situations as an expression of sadness or excitement. Hasson says that in a setting in which someone is threatened, a crying person unconsciously increases survival prospects, because an attacker understands that someone who is crying is defenseless and there is no reason to continue to attack.

Oh, and a bonus — photos from the LHC spin-up at CERN.

India refuses HIV drug patents

This is great news.

India has rejected applications from two US companies for patents on two key AIDS drugs in a move that could mean more people in poor countries will have access to life-saving medicines.

The decisions are the latest in a string of legal victories for Cipla, India’s largest generic drug maker. The move could also signal that patent offices in emerging economies are set to take a tougher line than industrialized countries on which drugs deserve patents.

Gilead, the manufacturer of Tenofovir, and Tibotec, manufacturer of Darunavir, were both trying to get patents on their respective drugs, and seeing that they were about to lose the court battles, tried to offer a raw deal to Cipla, the generic manufacturer that was making the drugs for distribution in poor countries — that deal being, a 5% cut, and could only sell to 95 of the poorest countries. Both of these restrictions would have limited exactly what kinds of discounts they could offer.

Frankly, patents on drugs that combat scourges like AIDS should be refused. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that patents on drugs should be outright banned.

I’m sure someone will say “but where will the funding come from for research of these products if not the free market?” As if the free market is some kind of panacea. I don’t hold the solution, but wrapping up knowledge about things like drugs that could save countless lives, just so you can make a bit of profit, is bloody criminal. In fact, any attempt to make profit off of health care is disgusting and immoral, if you ask me.