Category Archives: Civil Liberties

What Does Trusted Computing have to do with Trust?

Anti-TCPA Image

In case you don’t know why the “Trusted Computing” concept is an inherently bad one, please go view the short video that was recently pimped on BoingBoing. It explains a bit, and hopefully it’s enough to get people to look into it more.

Trusted Computing is not a new idea, and it’s been growing lately. It’s all part of the same RIAA/MPAA mindset, the one that says, “Consumers are crooks and must be controlled by the copyright holders at all costs.” The technology industry (well, Sony anyway) stood up for your rights against commercial interests over 20 years ago, and for that we have VCRs, and MP3 players, and burnable CDs, and TiVos and all the wonderful things that allow you to control your own media that you’ve legally purchased. Now, the technology industry has largely been purchased by or merged with the entertainment industry. So, who will stand up for the customer?

Television used to be simple

Despite the things I’ve been hearing from my cow-orkers and family members, the FCC has proposed 2009 as the deadline to change from analog to digital television, and it looks like Congress is going to sign that into law. So, all of you who thought your television was going to stop working soon – don’t worry.

Here in San Angelo, the local cable company (sure, there’s theoretically more than one, but get real) has been in a pissing contest with the local CBS affiliate since the beginning of the year. This has resulted in no CBS channel available on the cable system, free rabbit-ears antennas for cable subscribers that ask for them, and a striking rise in the use of satellite television receivers.

I don’t get the satellite thing. Of course, I don’t get the fascination with digital cable either. Both of them force something on the consumer that is, in my mind, unacceptable – the adapter. This is nothing less than an external tuner, rendering the tuners in my television and VCR useless. Many people wonder why I think this is a bad thing. This can be summed up in one of the marketing points for the local Dish Network folks – they brag about allowing you to have televisions in up to five rooms in your house. Allowing you to have them, you see? Because, unlike television as broadcast over the airwaves of old, the satellite provider now controls your usage of the signal.

No longer can you watch one thing and record another – oh no, your VCR has to be connected to a second external tuner to record something that you are not watching in that room at that moment. Ah, but then the Dish folks point out they are offering a free DVR upgrade, so you can record the full digital signal of other shows directly on this magical box. Ah, but can you? When the television industry is trying to get legislation passed to allow the Broadcast Flag to rise from the dead, when Tivo now puts commercials on you recorder while you’re trying to skip commercials, when the broadcasters are coercing the DVR manufacturers to disallow permanent archiving of shows… Well, I don’t trust a DVR that I don’t control 100%, and the DVR from Dish network would be a DRMed, MPAA-friendly, unexpandable, unchangeable piece of junk to me.

I don’t understand why so many people find it acceptable to cede control of the airwaves to the content providers. There is a balance in copyright law; the citizens are assumed to have some rights too, not just the people in Hollywood.

So, until I can use a standard tuner in a standard television or DVR or computer tuner card, I’ll stick with analog, thanks.

Eyes on the Prize

Finished downloading the BitTorrent of Eyes on the Prize this weekend, and just got around to looking at moving it to a DVD to watch on TV. I guess I should make that two DVDs – it’s over three hours long. Wow.

The genesis of the recent civil uprising against copyright law is interesting to me; too bad it hasn’t made any impact at all on the wholly owned subsidiary of the entertainment industry we call the U.S. Congress. Why in the world does it make sense for a movie to be considered legitimate for 20 years, and then suddenly it’s breaking the law? What twisted mentality takes “the most important civil rights film” and turns it into something that school children are not allowed to view without someone bootlegging it? It’s messed up.

Recently, a group of civil rights leaders posted an open letter supporting this civil disobedience masquerading as piracy. I find it disheartening that the estate of Martin Luther King, Jr is among those who object to distributing this movie. Way to honor his memory, guys.

Free your mind.

Permanent Detention for anyone called “Terrorist” by Bush Administration?

Reuters has a wire story about a proposed final solution to the terrorist detention problem.

The Defense Department, which holds 500 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, plans to ask the U.S. Congress for $25 million to build a 200-bed prison to hold detainees who are unlikely to ever go through a military tribunal for lack of evidence.

Um, if they’re never going to trial, doesn’t that mean they’re … presumed innocent? I guess that pesky Constitution has been thrown out permanently. Another part of this proposal is to give the prisoners to Afghanistan and other “partner” countries, which all seem to have a distressingly poor record of human rights abuse. Go, USA!

Supreme Court Affirms Detainees’ Right to Use Courts

Supreme Court Affirms Detainees’ Right to Use Courts

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that the campaign against terrorism notwithstanding, “a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens.”

What a concept. So, just because we are at war against a concept, we can’t just go arresting people willy-nilly, or looking at their library lending history, or poking cameras in their faces, or telling them they can’t fly because they’re on some secret list they aren’t allowed to challenge? Wow. How revolutionary.

Students have no rights

Girl Banned From Prom For Smoking Away From School

Here’s a girl, 18 years old, who smokes. Now, smoking is stupid but it’s not criminal. She doesn’t smoke at school, she smokes elsewhere. This, however, somehow affects her eligibility for extracurricular activities. Huh?

Proving once again that public schools are counterexamples to the democratic freedoms and principles this country was founded on. Sure, we have to limit some freedoms in schools. We don’t want the kids to yell and scream and shoot firearms while conducting various religious rituals. But, c’mon! How does this girl doing something legal and not immoral while nowhere near school affect her schoolwork in any way? Stupid rules.

DMCA Strikes Again

Suncomm claims shift key violates their intellectual property rights

It’s astounding. Suncomm is going to sue the fellow I mentioned the other day. They claim that telling people to hold the SHIFT key is a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and that the perpetrator of this crime has disseminated information which facilitates infringement. Said Suncomm CEO Peter Jacobs, “This cat-and-mouse game that hackers and others like to play with owners of digital property is over.”

Yep, it’s amazing that he wrote this felonious paper which tells people that the Suncomm copy protection system simply doesn’t work. OK. The article also mentions that the author of the article came to false conclusions about the efficacy of the technology. Let me get this straight. It either works, in which case you can’t claim he came to false conclusions. Or it doesn’t work, in which case you can’t claim that it is infringing on any damned thing. You can’t have it both ways, Suncomm.

MJ and Me

I can’t believe I agree with Michael Jackson on something.

There apprently is a bill in the House that would make it a federal felony to download copyrighted music off the internet. So, is it a federal felony to steal a CD from the store? Didn’t think so.

Copyright nonsense

Cafepress has been told I’m violating the copyrights of Albert Korda with an image of Che Guevara I was using on some products that nobody ever bought. Apparently Señor Korda’s estate is more interested in his intellectual property than he ever was. There are many concepts involved in this case, and I’ll lay them out for you.

  • Korda said specifically that he wanted people to copy and spread the image of Che Guevara, as seen in this quote:

    I am not averse to its reproduction by those who wish to propagate his [Guevara’s] memory and the cause of social justice throughout the world,” Korda said in the autumn of 2000.

  • The concept of benign neglect reigns. If someone does not attempt to defend their copyright, even in the face of many highly public uses of it, the right to defend it is hard to manage. Consider how many times you’ve seen the Che Guevara image on posters, t-shirts, etc.
  • The Berne copyright convention is the means for reciprocity between countries and their varying internal copyright laws. Cuba has never signed the Berne convention, because Castro said it was a tool of the capitalists. Korda lived until his death in 2001 in Cuba, and was a proud Cuban citizen.
  • The image I used was not the photograph of Che that Korda took, but a stylized rendering of that image. It is a unique work. To claim that any image of Guevara infringes on Korda’s copyright implies that Guevara’s likeness is ownable and, further, that it is owned by the estate of Señor Korda.

Of course, none of this matters, because the store has been removed and it never made money anyway. Just another example of lawyers bullying people into doing things that aren’t right, merely expedient.

Public Domain Books

Did you know that not all books pay royalties to their authors or estates? Public Domain is a great concept, in fact it is the default status for all works. Copyright is an artificial construct intended to encourage artists to publish their works, in exchange for a time-limited monopoly on copies. Gets the authors some money for their work, but the art is eventually free for all. When the USA was founded, copyright was set at 14 years, with an additional 14 year extension possible. Copyright now in the US is set at 70 years after the death of the author. Nuts, eh? How is giving his heirs a monopoly going to encourage the author to produce more work after he’s dead? The logic behind copyright is completely twisted by post-mortem rights, especially on the order of 2 generations.

Anyway, I’ve gotten up to 1995 in downloading the Gutenberg Project, and now I see this new thing. It’s a bookmobile that doesn’t loan books, it gives them out. That’s right, the books cost about one buck each, all nicely bound and laser-printed. The catch – the books are all public domain, which is the only way to afford giving them away, and led to my opening rant. Ta

One Nation

Since everyone else has weighed in on this…

What I find amusing is that the majority of people who are decrying the recent court ruling assume that Godless heathen atheists, probably baby-killing drugusers as well, are behind it all.

Sorry, but the majority of atheists who came to their beliefs through logic instead of a kneejerk reaction to some bad church experience really couldn’t care less about such matters. Would it offend you that your neighbor, the Buddhist, had a darma bracelet on? Probably not, because it does not affect you in any way. Same thing with words in the Pledge of Allegiance – if you are a true atheist, you wouldn’t care if the words “under God” were there or not, because it wouldn’t offend you to say something that you think is silly and mythical. No more than you would be offended by the names of the days of the week being Norse gods. Oh, no, I can’t say “Thursday” because it means I’m offering fealty to Thor. Whatever.

Wacky people and copyright ignorance

An anonymous moron recently took me to task for my “trampling on copywrite law” (if you can’t spell it your opinion is pretty worthless anyway) with regard to my Camp Xray Store, which was actually created by request of the sailors at Camp Xray, and was not my idea at all.

Anyway, the image in question follows.

If this is infringing on someone’s copyright, I’d be amazed. The only resemblence to the famous Watterson strip that it is similar to is the kid’s spikey hair. That’s hardly congruent enough to be considered infringement. Different clothes, different face, and all-around different context. I would not attempt to defend this as a parody, because it obviously is not. I didn’t attempt to copy Bill Watterson, I just sketched out a kid peeing. Doesn’t make it a famous Belgian fountain either…

Besides, this is similar to the designs I see on half the pickups in the Southwest. Someone is selling stickers with a kid that looks substantially more like Calvin than this little soldier does. I assume that Mr. Watterson has not gone after the “Piss on Ford” and “Piss on Chevy” stickers because he doesn’t care much and because he’s loathe to associate his life’s work with such insignificance. Considering I’ve not made a dime off any of my Cafepress stores yet, I’m pretty damned insignificant. 🙂
current_mood: curious

Further proof that most people are dull

So, the FBI finally announced how often the infamous Carnivore email-snooping program has been deployed. During a 10 month period, they used it 13 times. Some civil liberties reactionaries.. er, groups claim that is too frequent. How often did they run wiretaps? Bet it’s more. Why are you more worried about email than phone taps? Or is it just the allure of the new? Seriously, most people are boring, so don’t worry about the FBI and the NSA snooping on your email: nobody wants to read it, including many of the recipients. Deal with it.

RIAA and Napster

Those silly silly people running the music “industry” (like there are factories and stuff?) just can’t figure out how to not blow themselves up. Napster offered them 200 million dollars per year for the next 5 years, if the RIAA would just not try to destroy Napster, and maybe even try to play nice with them.

The RIAA, being the old greybeards they are, couldn’t bring themselves to approve such a scheme, so they’ll probably end up winning the court battle and shutting Napster down. Of course, since Fanning and Co. have a deal with BMG records, they’ll stick around as the front end for ONE record company’s electronic distribution system.

Meanwhile, the other companies in the RIAA are working on their own systems, which they’ll probably screw up royally. Anyone else remember the awesome Personics systems from the 80s? You could go to a record store kiosk, choose your personal favorite songs from the playlist, and have a cassette created with only music you wanted, with a nice laser-printed jacket and labels. The record companies made royalties, and the consumer got a product they truly wanted. Of course, the industry let that system die from lack of attention, and it was too late anyway, with the CD revolution in full swing.

This past week, the RIAA started going after OpenNap servers, which are equivalent to Napster, but without any company to sue. Next, I’m sure they’ll attempt to sue the users of Gnutella, who are individuals operating out of their own homes. This is basically the music companies suing their own customers. I wonder how they justify that business model.

Really should have made that deal with Napster, RIAA. It was the best chance of getting any money at all without suing your own customers. This should be an entertaining year.

current_music: Everclear – Now That It’s Over