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Musicians petition the RIAA to drop its lawsuits

Musicians are circulating a petition asking the RIAA to stop suing their fans for using file-sharing software, asking them to instead focus on action against organized criminals who sell pirate CDs.
In response to the continuing legal attacks by the RIAA and major record labels on internet music sharing, which now include both criminal charges and civil suits against individuals, musicians are joining together to say NO to the action supposedly being taken on our behalf.

Just because the major labels haven't figured out a way to make money out of the internet doesn't mean that individuals who have shared music should go to prison, or be forced into bankruptcy. The industry is alienating the very people it hopes to sell music to in future with its heavy handed action.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Kevin!)

Pre-Columbian Mickey

Wonderful gallery of modern iconography rendered as pre-Columbian sculpture. Link Discuss (via Geisha Asobi)

My short story collection now available for pre-orders

Amazon has put up its sell-page for my forthcoming short story collection, A Place So Foreign and Eight More, which will be published by Four Walls Eight Windows in September 2003. This book is coming along famously, with an intro by Bruce Sterling and blurbs by a variety of people, including Neil "Sandman" Gaiman. If you pre-order now, you get a 20 percent discount.
From the introduction by Bruce Sterling:

Many writers, especially gray, creaky, well-fed ones, have ambivalent feelings about copyrighted ink versus slithering electronica. Me, for instance: I wrote two novels on typewriters, so I still remember the Pleistocene. But Cory possesses an advanced mode of cyber-analysis. Paper versus pixels, that's yesterday's battle, an intriguing archaism for him. It provokes that nose-flaring delight that he takes in old industrial equipment and Howdy Doody dolls.

Cory Doctorow straps on his miner's helmet and takes you deep into into the caverns and underground rivers of Pop Culture, here filtered through SF-coloured glasses. Enjoy.

- Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods and Sandman

Link Discuss

Lab Notes from UC Berkeley

Virtual "force fields" around no-fly zones, earthquake-proofing buildings with burlap, collaboratively-controlled telerobotic webcams, and more in my latest issue of Lab Notes from UC Berkeley's College of Engineering. Please take a look! Link Discuss

Welcome to our new guestblogger, Marc Laidlaw!

Today, the guestbar torch is passed to Marc Laidlaw.

Marc is the author of numerous short stories and six novels including Dad's Nuke, Neon Lotus, The Orchid Eater, Kalifornia, The Third Force, and The 37th Mandala. He was a frequent contributor to bOINGbOING the zine, way back in the days of paper. For the last six years he has worked for Valve Software, serving as writer for the games Half-Life and the forthcoming Half-Life 2.

Many thanks to departing guestblogger John Dvorak of PC Magazine for his terrific BoingBoing stint -- and for the accidental composite image of J. Edgar Hoover sporting a gigantic pair of "man tits" which is now forever burned into my memory. Yeah. Thanks a lot, John. ;-)

Japanese mags take on "digital shoplifters"

Japanese magazine publishers are all panty-bunched about a practice they call "digital shoplifting." A "digital shoplifter" is a woman who sees an interesting hairstyle or garment in a fashion mag and snaps a photo of it with her camphone, then emails it to her pals to see what they think of it. The magazine publishers have created an "educational campaign" to intimidate these nefarious criminals into giving up their infringing ways.
...[T]he publishers of those magazines feel they are being cheated out of valuable sales.

Together with Japan's phone companies, they are issuing stern posters which warn shoppers to be careful of their "magazine manners".

Link Discuss (via Smartmobs)

Bloggers, email list moderators gain libel protection

An appeals court ruled last Tuesday that bloggers, website operators and e-mail list editors can't be held responsible for libel for information they republish. I covered the story for Wired News:
Online free speech advocates praised the decision as a victory. The ruling effectively differentiates conventional news media, which can be sued relatively easily for libel, from certain forms of online communication such as moderated e-mail lists. One implication is that DIY publishers like bloggers cannot be sued as easily.

"One-way news publications have editors and fact-checkers, and they're not just selling information -- they're selling reliability," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "But on blogs or e-mail lists, people aren't necessarily selling anything, they're just engaging in speech. That freedom of speech wouldn't exist if you were held liable for every piece of information you cut, paste and forward."

The court based its decision on a section of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, or the CDA. That section states, "... no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." Three cases since then -- Zeran v. AOL, Gentry v. eBay and Schneider v. Amazon -- have granted immunity to commercial online service providers.

Link to Wired News story, Discuss

Congress may get pissed at RIAA over lawsuits

Good LA Times editorial on the damage the recording industry is doing to its cause by threatening to sue thousands of American file-sharers. Turns out that you can get a lot of play in Congress by playing victim, but bullies don't get the same amount of sympathy.
"I would guess that you would then see stories about the family faced with economic ruin and the cost of having to hire defense counsel, settling for $10,000 or $20,000, and the money they were saving for Timmy's college education now has to go to Kid Rock," said Philip S. Corwin, a lobbyist in Washington for Sharman Networks, distributor of the Kazaa file-sharing software.

"That's the kind of stuff that would scare a politician."

Even Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-North Hollywood), a frequent ally of the entertainment industry, said the labels' standing in Congress would suffer if they "overreach and refuse to settle these issues reasonably." But, he added, "I don't think their goal is to collect a huge amount of revenue through the vehicle of lawsuits; I think it is to deter continued illegal conduct."

Link Discuss

Wicked-cool idea for a portable printer

PrintDreams is a really cool idea for portable printing. You download the output to it using a Bluetooth link, then you swipe it rapidly and randomly over any surface. It senses where it is and lays down ink in the appropriate spots to paint a decent-looking output onto the surface. It will be interesting to see how this works -- I've tried out half a dozen wee printers and they all roundly sucked.
The printer has the length of a normal ball-point pen while its width and height are more or less equivalent to the width of a modern mobile phone. The total volume is less than 300 c.c. and weights around 350 grams. This first version of PrintBrush was designed to fit into a shirt pocket.

Internet content, SMS, pictures and other information is downloaded to the PrintBrush from PDAs, mobile phones and laptop computers via a Bluetooth wireless link. Then, by following the RMPT principle the device is hand operated by sweeping it across any type of print media, no matter what its shape, size or thickness. The printout will then start to appear right behind the sweeps. The device takes into account all the parameters of the hand movement, including rotation and sudden changes of speed and acceleration. The resulting image on the printed media is very much like its digital counterpart.

Link Discuss (via JWZ)

OpenOffice for Mac goes gold

OpenOffice, the free, open source office suite that reads and writes Word, Excel and PowerPoint files (as well as including a nice drawing app), has gone gold for OS X. This first stable release is enormous (170MB download!), and it uses X-Windows (a Unix graphical user interface that accounts for much of the download size), but it's free, it doesn't feed the beast, and it lets you interoperate with your Microsoft Office-using pals without dropping $500 on a piece of technology intended to lock you into an expensive upgrade cycle.

There's a MacOS-native version in the works, too -- one that uses Aqua, OS X's built-in window manager. It's exciting to see this stuff maturing. Mozilla is getting tighter and tighter, providing a real alternative to Explorer and Safari, one that users can hack cool applications out of, like Kevin Burton's Newsmonster. Now, with the maturation of OpenOffice, which runs on every major OS, there's hope that we'll be able to get a full suite of tools that respect our freedom and provide an open platform for innovation. Link Discuss

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About: the novel

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About is a classic and utterly hilarious website in which Mil Millington documents his stormy relationship with Margret, his German girlfriend. Now, the website is a novel, in which Millington uses his life as the basis for a bureaucratic thriller about an IT professional at a University library whose co-workers use him as a patsy in their shady dealings.

I read the novel yesterday on a long plane ride, and it's pretty good. It's every bit as funny as the website (which is saying something), and the characters are well-drawn and sympathetic. The plot is pretty much a bolt-on, of course, and you won't get up from this book and change the world, but it's certainly a nice bit of summer reading. Link Discuss

Japanese miniaturize Ikea

Muji is a chain of Japanese clothing and furnishings stores, featured in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition as a place where none of the goods have any labels or logomarks. The furnishings are really interesting -- made from recycled carboard and similar materials, and designed to go into miniscule Tokyo flats, Muji furnishings are like Ikea for itty-bitty pads. Unfortunately, it seems like most of the good stuff is only available through the meatspace stores, not on their e-commerce site. Link Discuss

Inkjet printer made of spraypaint

Hektor is an inkjet printer made out of a can of spraypaint and a series of clever, machine-controlled pulleys. The site features a making-of guide in PDF and a really sexy movie of Hektor in action. Link Discuss (Thanks, BK!)

Gothic Lolita Bible scans

My favorite weird-ass Japanese fashion trend of recent years is "Gothic Lolita," which is pretty much what it sounds like, but elevated to a kind of exquisite art. Here are scans from "Gothic Lolita Bible," showcasing kick-ass, weird-ass GL fashion spreads. Link Discuss (via Geisha Asobi)

Google + wireless = God?

From Thomas Friedman's New York Times op/ed today:
Says Alan Cohen, a V.P. of Airespace, a new Wi-Fi provider: "If I can operate Google, I can find anything. And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too."

In other words, once Wi-Fi is in place, with one little Internet connection I can download anything from anywhere and I can spread anything from anywhere. That is good news for both scientists and terrorists, pro-Americans and anti-Americans. And that brings me to the point of this column: While we may be emotionally distancing ourselves from the world, the world is getting more integrated. That means that what people think of us, as Americans, will matter more, not less. Because people outside America will be able to build alliances more efficiently in the world we are entering and they will be able to reach out and touch us -- whether with computer viruses or anthrax recipes downloaded from the Internet -- more than ever.

Link to NYT column (registration required), Discuss

Reboot video is online

The videos from the talks at Reboot have been posted, including my talk on DRM, copyright and the net, along with Meg Hourihan, Scott Heiferman, and so forth. Link Discuss (Thanks, Nikolaj!)

More Agent Smith drag at Japanese Matrix screenings

Japanese Matrix Reloaded cosplay fans are still showing up, by the hundreds, at M:R screenings in Agent Smith drag. Link Discuss (Thanks, Juergen!)

Airport feds rip off travellers

The Transport Security Agency requires all fliers to travel with their luggage unlocked, so that highly trustworthy federal employees can rummage through them and ensure that they are WMD-free. And steal things. TSA employees are ripping off choice items ($1,000 binox and such) from the mandatorily-unlocked bags of America's travellers. I feel safer already. Link Discuss

Here we are in Rarotonga

We're starting to get settled in to Rarotonga. I had to pay NZ$525 (US$300) to get an Internet account and it is really really slow. It's mind-boggling to be here, on this emerald speck full of life: the sounds of roosters and motor scooters, the smell of burning palm fronds, the sight of the stars at night, the beautiful green mountains, and the ocean and sand. Carla and I still aren't sure what we've gotten ourselves into, but the weirdness factor makes it all worth it. We have a deal with a publication to post weekly online dispatches, and I'll announce it as soon as the deal is finalized. In the meantime, you can see some pictures, inlcuding one of our new home. Link Discuss

Charlie Stross got hitched!

Congrats to Charlie Stross and Feorag Whose-Surname-I- Always-Misspell-and- Which-Does-Not- Appear-on-Her-Home- Page on their wedding! Hurray! Link Discuss

How Apple's DRM works

The author of the excellent PodWorks iPod utility is working on reverse-engineering the DRM in Apple's iTunes Store AAC files, documenting the ways in whcih the DRM restricts your use of the file, and how those restrictions may be defeated. Link Discuss (Thanks, Pat!)

Copyleft: Copyright versus Freedom

Miriam Rainsford, an activist with the UK's Comapaign For Digital Rights, is working on a book on copyright and digital freedom, called Copyleft, to be published by Gnu press. She's documenting the project online. Link Discuss

Paris photoblogger documents personal tragedy of forced evictions

BoingBoing pal Jean-Luc in France writes:
Hello Xeni, today I was furious, and very moved, when I discovered this post from desordre blog in Paris (no permalink). On June 23rd, the French police suddenly tossed out families "without papers" who had been living in an old abandoned building for the past nine years in Paris. It was 6 AM. The pics show a man who prayed, also the abandoned luggages and the policemen (with 3 bus) that have totally closed the street. During the day, bricklayers came to seal up all the doors. The people there weren't delinquents... they just don't have their French papers for 10 years. Most of them are employed. Philippe De Jonckheere (a well-known blogger here in France) quickly shot pics and posted them in his photoblog. I also blogged about it this this morning, and I'm very upset by the facts behind the evictions.

Bay Area event tonight: Crazy pyro show with Flam Chen, on the waterfront

BoingBoing pal and robotics aficionado David Calkins says:
Awesome fire show in San Francisco, tonight only! Flam Chen really do travel all over the world. They're doing a once in a lifetime show tonight, Friday June 27th at 8:30 PM on Toxic Tire Beach for a scant $10. "Flam Chen creates unique panoramas of spectacle and narrative- Performers spin Balinese fire chains, combat with fire staffs and flaming swords, dance with fire fingers and fire fans, eat and breathe flames, and light costume pieces, sculptures and very often the set itself ablaze during the course of the evening. " This is a real fire show with a real fire permit from the city. I had the great pleasure of seeing their rehearsal Thursday night, and you can see their one-time only show tonight. It ends by 11, so there's still plenty of time for Tiki drinks at some seedy bar I wouldn't approve of. Surely to be a spectacular among spectaculars, Flam Chen will present a stunning rendition of their classical outdoor Show, Ling Ling, before a teeming audience of amazed and enchanted men, women and children! The Show is at Toxic Tire Beach, which the city knows as Warm Water Cove. Just up from Cesar Chavez off of 280 at the Terminus of 24th street, just off of third (MAP). Bring a picnic and watch the sun go down, then Be Amazed as this lively venue provides a shining example of the phenomenon of Live Entertainment! 8:30-11, sharp, so arrive on time.
Link, Discuss

Sensors of the World, Unite!

In Technology Review today, an interview with Ember CTO Robert Poor on using wirelessly-interconnected sensors to create "smart" fields of networked devices.
Imagine sprinkling tiny sensors on road and fields for surveillance, putting them in buildings and bridges to monitor structural health, and installing them in industrial facilities to manage energy, inventory and manufacturing processes.That's the idea behind the emerging technology of wireless sensor networks (see "Casting the Wireless Sensor Net"). Boston-based Ember is at the epicenter of this field. The MIT spinoff sells radio chips with embedded processors that can organize themselves into networks to manage real-world data from sensors. Ember CTO Robert Poor-whose past life includes stints as a programmer in the computer graphics group that became Pixar and as a guitar technician for the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia-spoke with Technology Review staff writer Gregory T. Huang about his visions of a world filled with wirelessly networked devices.
Link, Discuss (Thanks, Bev!)

Los Alamos staffer buys Mustang, not nuke research parts, by mistake?

Noah Shachtman says:
The many-faceted drama at the troubled Los Alamos National Laboratory has produced some strange moments. But this has to be the weirdest of them all: Los Alamos equipment buyer Lillian Anaya thought she was ordering $30,000 worth of transducers. But she dialed a number that had been changed from an industrial equipment dealer to an auto parts shop, and wound up buying a Mustang with government money instead. That's the assertion of Los Alamos and University of California investigators, who today cleared Anaya of any wrongdoing in a case that helped engulf the world's most important nuclear research center in a fog of scandal. It's a move, lab critics said, that shows that the birthplace of the atomic bomb still hasn't come to terms with the problems of mismanagement and widespread fraud that have plagued it for years.
Link, Discuss

T-Mobile drives a nail into the Sidekick's coffin

T-Mobile has announced that they are "no longer supporting" the video games they bundled with the color Sidekick. Normally, this would be pretty straightforward -- you could use 'em unsupported, you could find someone else to support 'em, whatever. But because the Sidekick is a phone first and a computing device second (not a technology decision, but rather a marketing/operations one), "no longer supported" has a much more sinister meaning: when T-Mobile withdraws its "support" of the games on the color Sidekick, it wil remotely erase the games from the color Sidekicks of all of their customers.

Hard to say why they're withdrawing the games. Some say that it's because they don't want to incur the ongoing licensing costs, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. The fact is that the Sidekick's promise has been sucked dry by T-Mobile's phone-company shenanigans. You may remember that earlier this year, the long-awaited, long-overdue SDK shipped, along with the news that only that code which had been approved by T-Mobile would be installable on any device.

They still haven't delivered a synch tool that lets you download your PIM data (calendar, contacts, to-do) from your Sidekick to your PC, and what's more, this latest move shows very clearly what you can expect to happen when you stop being a T-Mobile customer: they will "withdraw their support" from your handset, erasing your personal info.

Who owns your Sidekick? T-Mobile does, apparently, even if you spent full retail on it (I dropped $250 on mine). You need T-Mobile's permission to install software on their device. T-Mobile will, from time to time, decide to erase software from your device. And when you stop subscribing to their service, T-Mobile will delete all your data forever, without giving you any mechanism for moving it off the device (and without giving you the ability to design a tool that would let you do this).

I apologize, then, to all the people I've recommended Sidekicks to. Clearly, this device is a mistake, at least as offered by T-Mobile (it may be that AT&T will do a better job of marketing the tool -- there's no technical reason it has to suck, but T-Mobile's operational division has castrated it into near-uselessness).

I've been looking at the Nokia Sony-Ericsson P800. It looks like it does everything the Sidekick does (albeit at a retail cost of 3X the Sidekick's), and is, moreover, a real PC, that you can install software on, back up, etc. It works with a variety of carriers (in Europe at least, is there any US support apart from T-Mobile?), and has a pretty good UI and featureset. My Sidekick's plan is up in September, and I won't be renewing. Any US users of the Sony-Ericsson care to weigh in on this as a replacement? Link Discuss (Thanks, Mike!)

Australian cops don't know the meaning of Sorry

An Australian woman whose unpaid parking tickets resulted in her being ordered to perform community service was strip-searched by the police who were overseeing the work. She asked for an apology, and, failing to receive one, sued the cops, and was awarded over AUS$300K. The Aussie cops appealed -- she asked for an apology. She didn't get one. She litigated the cappeal and her award was knocked down to AUS$138,000. Now all she wants is an apology. Which she won't get. Jesus. Link Discuss

Toaster casemod

Luis points us to a particularly zany casemod: a toaster PC. We've featured toaster casemods on BoingBoing before -- twice -- but this is one offers a new spin on the toastmod theme. Link, Discuss

EFF P2P: Tired of being treated like a criminal?

In the wake of the RIAA's announcement that they intend on suing thousands of customers, EFF has posted a campaign in support of P2P music sharing and the striking of a new copyright bargain that will compensate artists without criminalizing millions of Internet users.
File-sharing has enabled music fans from around the world to build the largest library of recorded music in history. While this should be cause for celebration, large record labels have spent the last three years attacking peer-to-peer (P2P) technology and the people who use it. But neither user-empowering technologies nor consumers' desire for easy access to digital music are evil. Targeting technologists and users is not addressing the real problem.

The problem is that there is no adequate system in place that allows music lovers access to their favorite music while compensating artists and copyright holders. It's time to start addressing this problem head on. In the past, we've used a system called "compulsory licensing" to reconcile copyright law with the benefits of new technologies like cable television and webcasting. This approach has drawbacks, but it's certainly better than the direction that the recording industry is taking us today.

Many innovative payment models have been proposed (with or without a compulsory license), and we have highlighted some of them here. In addition, several artists and record labels are leading this effort, offering creative ways for their fans to get access to their music while rewarding the artists for their talents. A few of those artists and labels are highlighted here, as well.

Link Discuss