Catriona tumbled these enraging statistics about gender and representation in games and films for 2013:
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Bill sez, Last "December I bought some favorite Christmas specials for my kids with the idea they could watch them every year. Went tonight to watch one ('Disney Prep and Landing 2' if you're curious) and it was gone from our library and couldn't be found on the site at all.
Amazon has explained to me that Disney can pull their content at any time and 'at this time they've pulled that show for exclusivity on their own channel.'
In other words, Amazon sold me a Christmas special my kids can't watch during the run up to Christmas. It'll be available in July though!"
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Elizabeth Stark writes, "We're pleased to announce the Device Freedom Prize: a crowdfunded reward for the first developer(s) who release an open source iOS 7 jailbreak. Providing users the ability to control their devices is crucial in an age where we're increasingly dependent on our mobile phones. An open source jailbreak provides users the capability to install what they want on their own devices, the ability to audit the code they're using to do so, and enables disabled users to more easily use their devices."
"We've assembled a judging panel of awesome folks that care a lot about these issues, including Boing Boing's own Cory Doctorow; Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit; Biella Coleman, Professor and Author of Coding Freedom, and Chris Maury, Accessibility Advocate. Contribute to the prize to help make an open source iOS jailbreak a reality."
Is iOS7 jailbroken yet?
Intellectual Property Strategy and the Long Tail:
Evidence from the Recorded Music Industry [PDF], a new working paper from University of Toronto Strategic Management PhD candidate Laurina Zhang documents the rise in sales experienced by the music industry following the abandonment of DRM in digital music offerings.
The paper compares sales of 5,864 albums from 634 artists from before and after the music industry eliminated DRM, and finds an average rise of 10 percent in overall sales (though back-catalog experienced more of a lift compared to front-list titles). As TorrentFreak reports, "This effect holds up after controlling for factors such as album release dates, music genre and regular sales variations over time."
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You can't buy a battery for the new Renault Zoe. Instead, you have to rent it. And if you stop making payments, the battery's DRM will prevent you from recharging it. It's part of a larger product strategy through which the Zoe collects huge amounts of data on your driving and ships it all back to the manufacturer.
Just what the world needed: a car you're not allowed to own, and which you can't use anymore if you lose your job and can't pay the monthly battery rental fee. And if Renault's battery provider goes out of business, your Renault is bricked.
DRM in Cars Will Drive Consumers Crazy
Swedish Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament Amelia Andersdotter sez, "I'm organising a panel in the European parliament on the topic of DRM in
the HTML5 standards because it's clearly a politically contentious
issue. I see no way in which DRM in HTML5 will not worsen the
lives of individuals and technology users in the EU: we are
already in an extremely bad place with respect to cross-border access to
culture, licensing, libraries, services and individuals. So that is a
political mess that I think it is our political and democratic
prerogative to be sorting out in the law, and through politics, before
some technical people with, granted, strong financial backing, start
mucking about with the users' primary tool to reach the internet. There
are some discussions political people should be taking, and other
decisions that technical people should be taking."
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An excellent editorial by Simon St. Laurent on O'Reilly Programming asks what the open Web has gained from the World Wide Web Consortium's terrible decision to add DRM to Web-standards. As St Laurent points out, the decision means that programmers are now under threat of fines or imprisonment for making and improving Web-browsers in ways that displease Hollywood -- and in return, the W3C has extracted exactly zero promises of a better Web for users or programmers.
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A leaked Amazon ebook contract [PDF] shows that Amazon's default terms for ebook publishers is that they must use DRM, unless they can convince Amazon to leave it off.
Like most DRM vendors -- Apple and Google, for example -- Amazon spends a lot of time implying and flat-out stating that it only uses DRM because the big dumb media companies require it of them. The reality is that DRM's primary beneficiary is the DRM vendor. Once your book is sold with Amazon's DRM on it, only Amazon can give your readers permission to move them out of the Kindle jail and onto another device of your choosing. Of course Amazon wants to force copyright holders and creators to use its DRM -- it's a one-stop way of converting the writer's customer into Amazon's customer. Forever.
Remember: Any time someone puts a lock on something of yours and won't give you the key, that lock is not there for your benefit.
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As the Internet comes to grips with the news that the World Wide Web Consortium has decided to press ahead with DRM in HTML5, here's a timely strip from the Flea Snobbery webcomic (excerpted above).
Chris Sherlock has filed a bug against Firefox in Mozilla's bugzilla bug-tracker, entitled "Pledge never to implement HTML5 DRM." It's an interesting way of using the open/transparent development protest to allow Web developers to voice their opinion on the World Wide Web's terrible, awful decision to standardize DRM for browsers. As the W3C's overseer for HTML5 has written, the only reason for DRM in HTML5 is to prevent legal innovation, not to stop piracy.
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Peter Purgathofer, an associate professor at Vienna University of Technology, built a Lego Mindstorms robot that presses "next page" on his Kindle repeatedly while it faces his laptop's webcam. The cam snaps a picture of each screen and saves it to a folder that is automatically processed through an online optical character recognition program. The result is an automated means of redigitizing DRM-crippled ebooks in a clear digital format. It's clunky compared to simply removing the DRM using common software, but unlike those DRM-circumvention tools, this setup does not violate the law.
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Jim O'Donnell was at a library conference in Singapore when his Ipad's Google Play app asked him to update it. This was the app through which he had bought 30 to 40 ebooks, and after the app had updated, it started to re-download them. However, Singapore is not one of the countries where the Google Play bookstore is active, so it stopped downloading and told him he was no longer entitled to his books.
It's an odd confluence of travel, updates, and location-checking, but it points out just how totally, irretrievably broken the idea of DRM and region-controls for ebooks is.
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MCM sez, "It's been 7 years since I released The Pig and the Box, a CC-licensed anti-DRM fable for kids. It was a fun experiment back then, and the experiment continues today: the whole book (and source files that went into making it) are now public domain. Lolipop Jones for all!"
My latest Locus column is Teaching Computers Shows Us How Little We Understand About Ourselves, an essay about how ideas we think of as simple and well-understood -- names, families, fairness in games -- turn out to be transcendentally complicated when we try to define them in rule-based terms for computers. I'm especially happy with how this came out.
Systems like Netflix and Amazon Kindle try to encode formal definitions of "family" based on assumptions about where you live -- someone is in your immediate family if you share a roof -- how you're genetically related -- someone is immediate family if you have a close blood-tie -- how you're legally related -- someone is in your family if the government recognizes your relationship -- or how many of you there are -- families have no more than X people in them. All of these limitations are materially incorrect in innumerable situations.
What's worse, by encoding errors about the true shape of family in software, companies and their programmers often further victimize the already-victimized -- for example, by not recognizing the familial relationship between people who have been separated by war, or people whose marriage is discriminated against by the state on the basis of religion or sexual orientation, or people whose families have been torn apart by violence.
The ambiguity that is inherent in our human lives continues to rub up against our computerized need for rigid categories in ways small and large. Facebook wants to collapse our relationships between one another according to categories that conform more closely to its corporate strategy than reality -- there's no way to define your relationship with your boss as "Not a friend, but I have to pretend he is."
Teaching Computers Shows Us How Little We Understand About Ourselves
The amazing and iconoclastic Image Comics (already famous for its creator-friendly, author-owned posture) is launching a DRM-free online comics store to challenge Marvel's super-DRMed, you-don't-really-own-your-comics Comixology. I'm so glad to about this, especially as it's coming from Image, who publish some of my favorite comics (including The Walking Dead). And just listen to how they talk about it:
“My stance on piracy is that piracy is bad for bad entertainment,” Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson told Wired in an exclusive interview. “There’s a pretty strong correlation with things that suck not being greatly pirated, while things that are successful have a higher piracy rate. If you put out a good comic book, even if somebody does download it illegally, if they enjoy it then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don’t want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the ’70s, and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s happening now.”
And while Image comic books will still be offered for sale on ComiXology, iBooks, and every other platform where it was previously available, Image’s Director of Business Development Ron Richards says that offering the direct-to-consumer downloads is important. “There’s something to be said for the ownership factor. If readers purchase a book on ComiXology, that may be their library [on the service] but from what I understand that could be revoked. And God forbid, if ComiXology goes under or their data center has an earthquake all their hard drives go away — then you’ve got nothing.”
For the First Time, You Can Actually Own the Digital Comics You Buy [Laura Hudson/Wired]