Not buying a Kindle now. Or ever.

I’ve been techno-lusting after a Kindle for quite some time. The idea of free wifi anywhere I go, with which to connect to Wikipedia and Google Maps, is a big draw, but so too was the idea that I could buy and read a book any time and anywhere. I guarantee you the first thing I’d do when I got it, would be to try to hack it, use its wireless network capabilities the way I wanted rather than the way prescribed by Amazon. That way, I could take my existing e-books (most of which are for now-public-domain classics) and read them any time I please, without having to pay Amazon for something I already own.

Still, even the prospect of hacking it to use it for my own nefarious ends doesn’t supercede the fact that I’d be paying big bucks for what amounts to a really good LCD screen on a device with internet access to a scant minimum number of services via the cell phone network (e.g., slow). So, I’d probably end up using it to replace my current paper-based library using Amazon’s e-book store. However, on hearing the latest news, I’m hard pressed to justify such a purchase motive when the Digital Restrictions Management allows for such gross misuses by Amazon as this:

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

The epic fail about this particular move is that the author for which Amazon decided to retroactively nullify all existing e-book purchase contracts, was none other than George Orwell.

Hat tip Wil Hwheaton (he seems like a nice guy) via Twitter.

More cheating at Youtube

Creationists surely do love to fight dirty on Youtube, whether it’s by using vote-bots to skew legitimate metrics of brainshare, or abusing them some DMCA. The last time I reported on this, it was VenomFangX being a fucking douchebag and filing false DMCA claims to squelch an opposing viewpoint. This time, it’s the Creationist Discovery Institute, taking aim at DonExodus2 for daring to debunk Casey Luskin’s most recent appearance on Faux News. Please note: the Creation Discovery Institute, a wholly owned subsidiary of Casey Luskin Inc., doesn’t even own any of this material, and any use falls under the Criticism clause to begin with so even if Fox News filed the claim it would still fail.

Make no mistake: THIS IS WHY WE ARE UNCIVIL. Rather than letting the marketplace of ideas have a fair shake at both sides of the argument, they put their thumb on the scales by temporarily censoring the other side. Luckily they forgot about the Streissand Effect: the internet views censorship as damage and routes around it, e.g. by reuploading the video over and over and over again, on multiple mirrors and through multiple news channels. The more you try to censor something, the more attention you call to it, quickly turning an otherwise unknown event into a full-blown internet meme. If you want something to go away quietly, you ignore it — because no matter how many hits it gets, no matter how viral it goes, squelching it will give it more brainshare. Let it run its course and deal with the damage afterward, that’s your only choice.

Here’s a re-upload of the original video that freaked out the Creation Discovery Institute assholes (dammit, I keep doing that!). I can see why they’d want to shut down any discussion on this subject — DonExodus dissects the whole segment with surgical precision.

And DonExodus2′s impassioned plea to uncensor this video by spreading the word. I’m doing my part, friend!

I have to contend Youtube has some part in this, in that they need to damn well shore up their takedown process. They know people are abusing this, and by doing nothing about the abuse they are complicit.

Hat tip to Rebecca at Skepchick.

I’m patenting a method for adding two and two using a computer, now where’s my royalty cheques?

On Groklaw, there’s a great article up about Donald Knuth, one of the most celebrated open-source software programmers ever, submitting a letter to the EU’s patent office asking them to reconsider the patentability of software algorithms. They have the letter in full over there. One of the money quotes:

I am told that the courts are trying to make a distinction between mathematical algorithms and nonmathematical algorithms. To a computer scientist, this makes no sense, because every algorithm is as mathematical as anything could be.

And that’s not even mentioning patent writers’ annoying habit of adding “with a computer” to the end of methods and processes that are probably already patented.

Another thing that’s bothered me about patents is that they normally describe in enough detail how to build a machine such that, just on reading the patent, if you were a tradesman, you could build that same machine yourself. With software patents everything is described in such horrible vagueness that they amount to telling you what effect the code has, but not how to achieve it, because by necessity if they did that, they’d have to give you the code. That right there should tell you that software patents are:


How to increase profit margins in the most asshat-ish way possible

DuWayne said it best in the comments on this thread:

Holy shit what fucking fun it is north of the border.

Yeah, no kidding bro. Canada’s latest foray into copyright just pegged my rage meter yet again. This time, they’re telling the blind, dyslexic, and otherwise disabled to fuck off and suffer when it comes to enjoying copyrighted works in an accessible manner, that otherwise would be protected if it weren’t for the attempted scuttling of this treaty.

The main aim of the treaty is to allow the cross-border import and export of digital copies of books and other copyrighted works in formats that are accessible to persons who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or have other reading disabilities, using special devices that present text as refreshable braille, computer generated text to speech, or large type. These works, which are expensive to make, are typically created under national exceptions to copyright law that are specifically written to benefit persons with disabilities…

And which luminary human rights paragons are leading the charge against such a law, one of the first ever to protect copyright end-users over copyright-owners? Never fear, fellow Canucks, we’re right up there arm in arm with not only the Vatican (because what religion really cares about blind people anyway? Even Jesus spat on them!), but also with the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and naturally the USA with Obama’s PURPORTEDLY ultra-far-left-wing administration. That’s right, all the really absurdly rich countries, including that one country that is literally made of a city built to support one gigantic fucking palace. Never mind that they’re all ganging up to beat up on blind people in order to protect their revenue streams from said blind people, who, without these otherwise exempted copies of the works, wouldn’t have any kind of access to the works, since YOU’RE NOT PROVIDING THEM WITH ACCESSIBLE VERSIONS TO BEGIN WITH!!

Don’t worry, Doctorow. Not all of Canada is upset with you. Some of us do not actually suffer from rectal-cranial inversion. The problem is, we just don’t have any say in the matter, because we are copyright end-users, not holders, and we don’t have any kind of money with which to lobby the government. Another example of the Golden Rule at work: they what gots the gold makes the rules.

Computers, DVRs to be outlawed in Canada

The copyright row is heating up, after the Conference Board of Canada nearly wholly plagiarized the recommendations of the International Intellectual Property Association (IIPA) with regard to what Canada should do about infringement of copyrighted materials. Ignoring every recommendation of the report commissioned for this study, written by Law Professor Jeremy DeBeer, the IIPA — err, sorry, the CBC — instead recommended several restrictive actions. Please note that in this quote, “closely approximate[d]” means “copy and pasted verbatim”.

It also acknowledged “that some of the cited paragraphs closely approximate the wording of a source document.”

The report’s recommendations closely mirrored those advocated by the property alliance.

Both suggested:

* Protecting measures aimed at preventing unauthorized copying.
* Outlawing devices that enable such copying.
* Providing strong civil and criminal penalties for violations.
* Carefully defining exceptions to the rules.

Think for just a moment how much technology would be outlawed if everything capable of making a digital copy of an already digital format (CDs are not analog, remember). Beyond that, there’s always the analog “hole” — if you can play it, you can then record it being played via voice recording devices. Just because the digital format is locked, doesn’t mean the contents are at all protectable — if you can decode it to listen to it, you can also record it afterward.

Here’s an itemized list of every exception necessary to these rules:

  1. fair use.

That’s the exception used right now by every single “pirate”, bought and paid for by the levy applied to every single blank media bought in Canada (regardless of the legal arguments made on Wikipedia, that levy either insulates against copyright violation charges or it’s unconstitutional — you pick). By fair use, as long as you’re not making money off someone else’s work without the person getting a cut, you are within your rights to do so — whether via iPod, computer, DVR, satellite radio recording devices, blank CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, cassette tapes, reel-to-reel or a vinyl record generator. The reality of copyright today is that the vast majority of people trade music and movies around to one another, buy what they like, and don’t buy everything they’ve sampled. GOOD movies make more money today than they ever had, with the industries making record-breaking profits annually, and likewise with GOOD music. If you have the right to inspect the entire product before making the decision to purchase it, then you have the ability to filter out the crap and only purchase those movies and music that are worth your money. No longer can the industries shovel onto consumers horrible tripe and still expect to make a profit.

Make no mistake, those are the stakes — it’s not about the industries being cheesed off that all sorts of people are hearing or watching stuff without paying, because that’s always happened from day one; it’s all about protecting the industries’ rights to rip you off by selling you crap that you wouldn’t pay for otherwise.

Sony Pictures CEO admits to gross ignorance

Via Slashdot: Michael Lynton is a guy who “doesn’t see anything good having come from the internet, period“, because of the piracy that has apparently eaten into his profit margins.

I contend that what has eaten into your profit margins is the fact that casual movie-watchers are now better equipped thanks to new technology to identify stinkpiles of movies BEFORE shelling out big bucks — between movie-goers texting others to warn them away, and people “trying before they buy” (Note to self: check out Zeno Clash), now fools and their money have a chance at sticking together a while longer. At the risk of self-incrimination, I personally have a library of legally bought DVDs made up of movies that I felt were worth my money, every one of them having been watched prior to purchase — either by watching at a friend’s when they owned or rented it (when will THIS be a crime? Or does it fall under “public performance”?), or having (*horrors!*) downloaded it prior. Movie pirates are made up generally of two groups — people who had no intention of ever buying it to begin with, and wouldn’t have watched it if the option wasn’t free, and people who like to know ahead of time whether they’re buying something worth more than one viewing.

Copyright laws are coming to a head in North America, and this is one picture I can’t wait to see. The old world, outmoded business models of the RIAA/MPAA crew, versus the new digital era where duplication and redistribution of data costs so close to nothing as might as well be free, for both parties. Entrenched and paid-for interests in government will likely side with the old world model, because that’s where the money is, so that side can afford the fight. I always tend to root for the unfunded underdog in these things.

Green Day Blank CD-Rs -- bloody brilliant, guys!

Green Day Blank CD-Rs -- bloody brilliant, guys!

I see it as a fight along the same lines as open source vs proprietary software; save for the fact that the copyright example is dealing with the same base component on both sides of the fight (e.g. the movie or song), they both have differing ideas as to where the monetization of the product should be made. OSS / new copyright model proponents see the monetization of the product coming from supplementaries — for OSS, manuals, support, and physical distribution; for the copyright fight, concerts, paraphernalia like t-shirts, or even blank CDs with printed labels. (Never mind their great music, I love Green Day just for doing this.)

Never mind that blank tapes were going to destroy the industry, television and VCRs were going to destroy the industry, then blank CDs and DVDs were going to destroy the industry, and now the internet is going to destroy the industry. Adapt or die, guys. Either keep coming up with technology or law based ways to keep your old model on life support (at the risk of causing your audience to desert you), or figure out new ways to make money off the product.

I don’t believe in Imaginary Property (IP)

Canada’s been placed on the US’ copyright blacklist due to our ongoing resistance to implement new DMCA-alike laws to appease the RIAA / MPAA. The Obama administration is apparently upset that Harper keeps promising to enact new laws to protect an outmoded and archaic business model, yet not delivering. Join the club on that one — he ain’t exactly a paragon of virtue to us neither, Jack.

We signed the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Internet treaties in 1997, much to my chagrin. Presently, we already pay a ridiculously high levy on every piece of blank media (CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes, regardless of what’s going on them, doesn’t matter), a tithe that goes directly to the CRIA, Canada’s answer to the RIAA. Now, at the very least as of my trip to Georgia last year, the States has declared they reserve the rights to search and sieze all counterfeit or copyright-infringing media without warrant at the border, including the contents of your laptop or iPod. I wasn’t searched, but if I had known this before my trip, I wouldn’t have brought my work laptop with me, for fear that it booting to Linux would make me an enemy of the state for not paying the Microsoft Tax, or a terrorism suspect for using a “hacker operating system”, or something else overreactionary and horrifying.

One way or another, the whole concept of copyright has to change, and soon, before these laws turn “piracy”, the act of copying some data without depriving the original user of their copy, from mere copyright infringement, into criminal activity.

How to cheat at Youtube

If there’s one thing I hate in this world, it’s a cheater. No, I’m not talking about using a cheat code so you can blow through the last stage of Doom 3 to beat the end boss and see the ending sequence after a long weekend of slagging your way through demons the old fashioned way — I mean, cheating where it counts, where cheating affects another human being negatively.  And where those internet-keyboard-brigade creationists are concerned, while all of their actions are objectively negative, those actions that can safely be described as “cheating” are especially deplorable.  This is the story of how those same creationists are cheating at Youtube.

[Read more...]

VenomFangX Apologizes to the Internets


In case you hadn’t been following this intertubes-based slapfight, VenomFangX is a Creationist who has been filling Youtube with his ridiculous magical-world views, and who, ultimately, attempted to silence his biggest detractor Thunderf00t using a DMCA Copyright takedown notice and failed miserably when it turned out this Thunderf00t guy actually knew the law better than he did.  And as part of the legal settlement he was made to read this statement and post it on Youtube.  I’ll post Thunderf00t’s entire “Why do people laugh at creationists?” series in the very-near-future, as they’re copyright-free if used for the purpose of education.  And they’re pretty damn solid, scientifically, as well.

As President of the Internet, I hereby absolve you of your sins, VenomFangX, on one condition — GTFO.  You are now banished from the internets, never again to sully their porn-filled halls with your creationist nonsense.  (I am a strict ruler, but a fair one.)

Further discussion of this king-sized smackdown at Skepchick and Pharyngula.  I really oughtta blogroll both of them.