Boing Boing 

Penguin's insane policy on electronic galleys for authors

[Ed: An anonymous reader from the publishing industry wrote in with the following. I have every reason to believe it's true -Cory]


Update: An agent writes in to say: "Penguin ALSO doesn't want to give agents the hi-res final jacket image without charging. We can often beg/loophole/cajole -- but the official party line is they are supposed to charge $300. (???!) Mind you, this could pretty much ONLY be used to promote the book. We like to put the book jacket on our agency website, in our agency catalogues for foreign book fairs, make postcards, etc... but obviously we can't authorize any other territory to use this image. So essentially they are saying they don't want us to create promo material on the book's behalf, even on our own dime."

There's something going on at Penguin (interesting to see if it changes now that it's Penguin Random House, though all signs point no) that's so stupid and old school and against all authors that I thought I'd share.

In every contract in publishing, there's language (as you know) that gives an author a certain number of copies of the book, on publication. When ebooks came to play, agents began trying to negotiate for an electronic version of the book too, oftentimes successful. What they /can't/ get from Penguin (and a few other publishers, though notably Penguin) is a final PDF or even a final word doc of the book. Agents are told that Penguin puts work into the layout, edit and design and so agents can't just give that work away to foreign countries for them to use in their editions. That work must be paid for. I semi-buy that argument, though it makes me think two things: 1) Shame on them for getting in the way (as they do sometimes) of a foreign deal and 2) Penguin is contractually obligated to create the book anyway, with all of those pieces.

Read the rest

UK Internet censorship plan no less stupid than it was last year

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to make pornography filters standard on British Internet connections. This is a remarkably stupid policy, and despite that, it is a recurring silliness in British (and global) politics. Back in 2012, the House of Lords was considering the same question, and I wrote a long, comprehensive article for the Guardian explaining why this won't work and why it will be worse than doing nothing. Nothing I asserted in that essay has changed in the interim.

Consider a hypothetical internet of a mere 20bn documents that is comprised one half "adult" content, and one half "child-safe" content. A 1% misclassification rate applied to 20bn documents means 200m documents will be misclassified. That's 100m legitimate documents that would be blocked by the government because of human error, and 100m adult documents that the filter does not touch and that any schoolkid can find.

In practice, the misclassification rate is much, much worse. It's hard to get a sense of the total scale of misclassification by censorware because these companies treat their blacklists as trade secrets, so it's impossible to scrutinise their work and discover whether they're exercising due care.

There's no way to stop children viewing porn in Starbucks

Read the rest

Florida bans computers

Florida tried to ban Internet Cafes that were functioning as unlicensed casinos, but may have banned smartphones and computers instead, due to language that defines slot machines as "any machine or device or system or network of devices" that can be used in connection with games of chance. I question the legitimacy of shutting down all Internet Cafes in the first place, but this is clearly an overbroad definition, as has been pointed out in a suit challenging the law, brought by an Internet Cafe owner in Miami -- ironic, as Florida is the state whose law once took over 100 words to precisely define "buttocks."

San Diego jury acquits on anti-bank chalk-art, thumbs nose at City Atty's 13 year jail threat

When Jeff Olson used chalk to draw an octopus whose tentacles were full of money, and to write "No thanks, big banks," and "Shame on Bank of America," on a San Diego sidewalk, Bank of America complained to the Republican City Atty. Jan Goldsmith. Goldsmith threw the book at him, charging him with misdemeanor vandalism and threatening him with 13 years in prison for writing in water-soluble chalk. Goldsmith was not swayed by the mayor's disapproval of this course of action -- Mayor Bob Filner said it was "stupid" and a "waste of money" -- and pressed on.

Yesterday, a jury acquitted Olson on all charges. The #chalkgate tag is full of congratulatory messages and photos of supportive chalking.

San Diego jury finds protester not guilty in chalk-vandalism case

Will.i.am fighting for trademark on "I AM"

Will.i.am is going after Pharrell Williams, claiming that Pharrell's application to register the name of his new company "I am OTHER" infringes on Will.i.am's trademarks which apparently include the words "I AM."

"I am disappointed that Will, a fellow artist, would file a case against me," Pharrell told Rolling Stone. "I am someone who likes to talk things out and, in fact, I attempted to do just that on many occasions. I am surprised in how this is being handled and I am confident that Will's trademark claims will ultimately be found to be as meritless and ridiculous as I do."

"Will.i.am Takes Legal Action Against Pharrell's 'i am OTHER' Brand"

Oklahoma state Rep. Dennis Johnson says "Jew me down" and "apologizes"

Here is Oklahoma state Rep. Dennis Johnson (R-Duncan) using the phrase "Jew me down" when talking about small business owners. Someone pointed it out to him and he quickly "apologized," saying "I apologize to the Jews. They're good small businessmen as well." He's since given a more formal apology. "It just came out of one of the wrinkles of my brain and it was not something that was intentional,” Johnson told The Oklahoman. “I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone and I apologize for the folks I did offend. It is a comment that should never be made. I will never do it again."

English school (briefly) bans triangular desserts, citing food-fight shuriken risks


Castle View School in Canvey Island, Essex, England, briefly banned triangular flapjacks (not pancakes; the English call granola-bar-like food "flapjacks") after a student sustained an injury when another student threw a cornersome flapjack at him. The school authorities required that all flapjacks must be served in rectangular portions, to increase the safety of food-fights.

The ban did not stand very long. Public mockery seems to have killed it.

According to one report, in 2011 British MP and Education Secretary Michael Gove was prevented from taking flapjacks into a cabinet meeting, after officials cited similar safety concerns. That is the only report of that alleged incident, however—although Gove was (and is) the Education Secretary, there does not appear to be any other evidence that he was ever frisked for flapjacks or that even the British government has actually classified them as a security risk.

Triangular Treats Banned Due to Risk of Sharp Corners

(Image: Flapjacks..., a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ajy's photostream)

Kicked off a United flight for taking pictures of the new first class seats


Matthew, a young man who blogs about air-travel, was thrown off a United jet after a flight attendant chastised him for taking photos of the new first class seats. She apparently thought he was a terrorist. According to Matthew, she lied (and the captain backed her up) and said that he refused to stop taking pictures when asked. The captain apparently threatened to have him taken off the plane by the police. Matthew says he's logged 950,000 miles with United though he's only 26 years old, and that this has made him question his views of the airline.

Captain: Sir, you are not flying on this flight.

Me: Can you tell me why?

Captain: My FA tells me she told you to stop taking pictures and you continued to take pictures.

Me: That's a lie, captain. She told me stop taking pictures and I stopped. I did try to explain to her why I was taking pictures—I am a travel writer [I offered him one of my business cards and he too refused to accept it].

Captain: Look, I don't care. You are not flying on this flight. You can make this easy or make this difficult. We'll call the police if we have to.

Me: Why are you threatening me? Your FA is lying—I did not disobey any crewmember instruction.

Captain: Look, we're already late. I'd advise you to get off this plane now. Make it easy on yourself. Don't make us bring the police in. Goodbye.

Me: Wait. Captain, may I have one of your business cards?

Captain: I don't have any, but United will have no trouble finding me. My name is...[removed].

Thrown Off a United Airlines Flight for Taking Pictures! - Live and Let's Fly (via Hacker News)

Woman flips off judge during absurd hearing

This entire interaction between Penelope Soto, 18, who was arrested on possession of Xanax, and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat rivals Wapner and Judge Judy in its absurdity. The climax is at 2:18 when Soto flips off the judge. "Did you say fuck me?… 30 days in the county jail!" (via NBC Miami)

Safeway: "Stop photographing our horrible, copyrighted cakes"


CakeWrecks reports that a local Safeway bakery has banned all photography in its bakery department, in a desperate, misguided bid to prevent its horrific creations from appearing on CakeWrecks. Safeway employees are to tell potential photogs that its cakes are copyrighted, and may not be photographed.

Today's post requires a special intro, so here's Dara G. to explain:

"My local [CENSORED*] bakery has this new policy - not strictly enforced, but kinda enforced - NO PHOTOS in the bakery department. None, nada. Per an ex-employee there, upper management is afraid that one of that store's specific cakes will be posted on 'that bad cake site.' Per what they tell you in the store, their cakes are 'all copyright protected.'"

(*Store name omitted. Because I care.)

She goes on to say:

"Apparently this new 'no photos' thing came about after y'all had posted their 'Popcorn' cakes on the site."

Ways To Play It Safe

Faulkner estate claims that quoting his novels in films is both a trademark and copyright infringement

A reader writes, "A character in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris quoted nine words from William Faulkner, with attribution. Faulkner Literary Rights LLC has responded a year later with a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement and attempts to deceive viewers into thinking Requiem for a Nun is a game for the PS3. Or something." The suit's major claims seem to turn on trademark (though there are copyright claims in there, too): the Faulkner estate claims that a movie that quotes Faulkner and has a character who meets various historical people (including Faulkner) "is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and/or to deceive the infringing film's viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand."

EU working group produces the stupidest set of proposed Internet rules in the entire history of the human race


An EU working group that's been charged with coming up with recommendations for a terrorist-free European Internet has been brainstorming the stupidest goddamned ideas you've ever read, which are now widely visible, thanks to a leaked memo. The group, CleanIT, which is composed of cops, governments, and some NGOs from across Europe, has been given €400,000 to make its recommendations, and a document dated August 2012 sets out some of the group's thinking to date. As mentioned, it's pretty amazingly bad. Like, infra-stupid, containing strains of stupidity so low and awful they can't be perceived with unaided human apparatus. Here's Ars Technica's summary of the ideas in the memo:

* "Knowingly providing hyperlinks on websites to terrorist content must be defined by law as illegal just like the terrorist content itself"
* "Governments must disseminate lists of illegal, terrorist websites"
* "The Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 of 27 May 2002 (art 1.2) should be explained that providing Internet services is included in providing economics instruments to Al Qaeda (and other terrorist persons and organisations designated by the EU) and therefore an illegal act"
* "On Voice over IP services it must be possible to flag users for terrorist activity."
* "Internet companies must allow only real, common names."
* "Social media companies must allow only real pictures of users."
* "At the European level a browser or operating system based reporting button must be developed."
* "Governments will start drafting legislation that will make offering... a system [to monitor Internet activity] to Internet users obligatory for browser or operating systems...as a condition of selling their products in this country or the European Union."

Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar tracked down a CleanIT spokesman on his home planet. But Klaasen is the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security*, and he is really upset that we can read this stupid, stupid document full of recommendations that would be illegal in European law. He also can't believe that European Digital Rights, the NGO that published the leaked stupid, stupid document, didn't honor the confidentiality notice on the stupid, stupid cover-page.

* Update Cyrus sez, "Klaasen has corrected his title calling himself now the 'programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security'. Here's his LinkedIn page. He's referred to as the 'project manager,' which as far as I can tell, makes him in charge of the whole thing."

"I do fully understand that the publishing of the document led to misunderstandings," he told Ars. "If we publish like this, it will scare people—that’s the reason that we didn’t publish it. It’s food for thought. We do realize these are very rough ideas."

..."You can compare [this situation] to taking pictures of what someone buys for dinner with how a dinner tastes—you don’t have the complete picture," he added.

..."We really didn’t expect that people would publish a document that clearly says ‘not for publication’—that really surprised us," he said. "I don’t know if it’s naive. Why can’t I trust people?" [Ed: Oh, diddums]

Proposed EU plan to stop terrorist sites even more ridiculous than it sounds

(Image: Clown, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from manc's photostream)

France's Hadopi finally punishes someone for infringement -- a guy whom everyone agrees isn't an infringer

The French Hadopi agency has prosecuted its first user under the country's insane anti-piracy laws, which provide for disconnection of whole families from the Internet if someone using their connection is accused of multiple acts of file-sharing. The first person to be convicted is a 40-year-old man whose ex-wife admitted to downloading some songs on his connection. The law ascribes blame for infringement to the person with the Internet account, not the person who infringes, so he is paying the €150 fine. He will not have his Internet connection taken away.

UK high court experiences flash of sanity, decriminalizes sarcastic aviation tweeting

In a rare and welcome moment of sanity, the UK High Court has ruled that guy who made a snarky tweet about bombing an airport is not a criminal. The judge's written opinion is not kind to the cops and prosecutors who spent years chasing Paul Chambers, the tweeter in question, pointing out that no one at any point believed that Chambers was serious, that no one was credibly alarmed, and that they were all, basically, total idiots. Wired UK's Mark Brown has more.

"Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed," his infamous tweet read. "You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!"

A week later, he was arrested by anti-terror police for making a bomb threat. In May 2010, the Doncaster magistrates court found him guilty "of sending, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message of a menacing character." He was fined and lost his job.

After a lengthy appeal process, Chambers has finally been acquitted. In the judgement document, the high court said, "the appeal against conviction will be allowed on the basis that this tweet did not constitute or include a message of a menacing character; we cannot usefully take this aspect of the appeal further."

UK High Court overturns conviction for Twitter joke

London Olympic committee says you're only allowed to link to their site if you have nice things to say

James Losey from New America Foundation sez,

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal, who has estimated how long it would take to read every privacy policy you encounter highlights an interesting bit from the "Linking Policy" in the Terms of Use for the London 2012 website:

"a. Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner."

Hey, LOCOG! I think you're a bunch of greedy, immoral corporatist swine who've sold out London to a bunch of multinationals and betrayed the spirit of athleticism and international cooperation. You're a disgrace. And I'm linking to you. In a most derogatory manner.

What are you going to do about it?

(Thanks, James!)

How stupid is Charles Carreon's lawsuit against The Oatmeal, IndieGoGo, the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation? Really, really stupid

Regular readers of Boing Boing will know that Charles Carreon is a lawyer hired by the humor-aggregating website FunnyJunk to send a letter to the webcomic The Oatmeal, demanding $20,000 and threatening a defamation suit (over The Oatmeal's year-old post about FunnyJunk's unauthorized use of his comics, and their bad behavior when this was pointed out to them) unless payment was made.

You will also know that Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, responded with a funny, insulting letter to FunnyJunk and Carreon, and a vow to raise $20,000 for charity, and to remit a photo of Inman standing with the money, along with a comic depicting FunnyJunk's owner's mother trying to seduce a bear in lieu of payment.

You will also know that Carreon proceeded to provoke Internet-wide outrage by threatening to have the fundraiser (which was hugely successful, to the tune of over $200K) shut down, along with IndieGoGo, the site on which it was hosted. And that he made good on that threat by filing suit against Inman, the Oatmeal, IndieGogo, the American Cancer Society, and the National Wildlife Federation.

Now, Ken at Popehat, a former US federal prosecutor, has obtained a copy of the complaint, and has made a detailed analysis of it. From his reading, it appears that Carreon has made a number of really dumb errors (besides the obvious dumb error of picking a fight with the whole Internet). In his usual entertaining fashion, Ken gives us the details, at some length (amazingly, this is only the tip of the iceberg, as Ken is apparently withholding the really juicy stuff for use in the courtroom).

Sweet Charity: Mr. Carreon's theory of how California charity law governs the defendants is wholly harebrained. As but one example: Mr. Carreon asserts that California Government Code section 12599 controls The Oatmeal, even though that statute by its own terms applies to "any individual, corporation, unincorporated association, or other legal entity who for compensation" engages in fundraising in California — professional telemarketers and fundraisers, in other words. In a similarly wrong-headed or deliberately deceptive vein, Mr. Carreon claims that Government Code section 12599.6(b) requires charities like the ones he has sued here to "exercise and establish control" over "all fundraising activities conducted by others for their benefit." Except that's not what Government Code section 12599.6 says at all. It says "A charitable organization must establish and exercise control over its fundraising activities conducted for its benefit, including approval of all written contracts and agreements . . . ." Mr. Carreon made up the part requiring charities to police fundraising they don't control themselves or contract out. That's why if your kids sell lemonade in order to donate the proceeds to save the pandas, the World Wildlife Fund doesn't have to come and proofread their signs and make sure that they aren't misstating the ingredients of the snickerdoodles or coercing the Jenkins kid up the block to buy seconds.

True Versus Truthy: Mr. Carreon makes a number of factual assertions that appear to play rather fast and loose with the requirements of Rule 11, cited above. Take, for example, his claim in paragraph 37 that "Mr. Inman's stated intention is to turn over only $20,000 of the amount raised by the Bear Love campaign" to the charities. Mr. Carreon's own exhibits show that he is lying. Mr. Inman said that he was trying to raise $20,000 (at the time of this writing he has exceeded ten times that) and that he would donate half to one charity and half to the other. Later, when results far exceeded expectations, Mr. Inman posted an update, saying "a lot of people have been asking what I plan to do with the extra money we raised over the initial $20,000. 100% of it is going to charity. I’m going to add 2 more charities to the list, in addition to the ACS and the NWF." Mr. Carreon also implies falsely in paragraph 30 — as he has stated falsely to the media — that the bear-loving mother Mr. Inman drew was meant to be Mr. Carreon's mom, when in fact the post makes it perfectly clear that the statement is directed a FunnyJunk, a web site that does not actually have a mother (unless, perhaps, its mother is AOL).

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part V: A Brief Review of Charles Carreon's Complaint

Battleship sinks itself

Just in case you were wondering, the Battleship movie is as stupid as it seems: "I was floored by just what new levels of stupidity in cinema the film achieves. The premise is insultingly stupid, the dialogue more so, and I’m torn over what is more cartoonish, the cliché character stereotypes or the godawful CGI. It even has a laughable post credit scene trying to set up for a sequel, the possibility of which should have every one of you in a cold sweat." (via Making Light)

Byron Sonne is an innocent man

Twitter's #freebyron hashtag is alive with the news that Byron Sonne, the Toronto-area security expert who was incarcerated and treated as a terrorist for pointing out and making fun of the security flaws in the $1.2B security scheme for the Toronto G20 summit, has been found Not Guilty on all counts.

A moment of sanity from the Canadian judicial system, and all it cost was Sonne's marriage, house, and freedom.

Here's our earlier Sonne pieces.

#freebyron

Black-light acrobats Fighting Gravity send trademark threat over unrelated fantasy novel called "Fighting Gravity"

That Neil Guy sez, "Writer Leah Petersen received a Cease and Desist notice. Seems the title of her debut novel, Fighting Gravity, is also the name of a live performance group that appeared on America's Got Talent. As Leah writes on her blog, the claim is that 'the title of my science fiction novel about a couple of teenage guys in a romantic relationship is an infringement on the trademark for their black-light, gravity-defying illusion performance group.' Now she gets to pay for a lawyer. Lucky her."

Update: And it's off: "Fighting Gravity To Leah Peterson and her fans: Disregard the cease and desist letter that was issued by our lawyers. Although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some people have taken that too far and we have had to deal with it. By no means is Leah Peterson one of those people, our lawyers were just doing their jobs and trying to protect our name and trademark. We wish the best for Leah and hope her book becomes a great success! "

Richard Clark: the President should create customs inspections for data leaving American cyberspace

Zartan sez, "This might be the single stupidest thing I've read all year. Richard Clark advocates that the president take action to 'increase cyber security' in the absence of congressional action, including literally hilarious (if not so scary) ideas like the following: 'If given the proper authorization, the United States government could stop files in the process of being stolen from getting to the Chinese hackers. If government agencies were authorized to create a major program to grab stolen data leaving the country, they could drastically reduce today’s wholesale theft of American corporate secrets.' 'Under Customs authority, the Department of Homeland Security could inspect what enters and exits the United States in cyberspace... And under the Intelligence Act, the president could issue a finding that would authorize agencies to scan Internet traffic outside the United States and seize sensitive files stolen from within our borders.' I would love to know how he would propose Homeland Security could 'inspect' what is leaving the US in 'cyberspace' and 'seize' sensitive files outside our borders. Unfortunately this guy is somewhat influential."

If you're on parole, don't steal a judge's office-door nameplate (If you do, don't pose with it on Facebook)

21-year-old Steven Mulhall cut a Spicolian caper when he stole the nameplate off a judge's courthouse office-door, then posed with it for a photo, which his romantic ladyfriend posted to Facebook. It was discovered by a law enforcement professional, who took the fellow into custody.

Adding to the stupidity quotient, Mulhall did this while already on parole for theft. "The nameplate is [worth] only $40, not that big of a crime, but what an idiot," said Sheriff Al Lamberti. "Here he is flaunting it on Facebook. He violated the terms of his parole by stealing, from a judge no less. He's got multiple convictions for petty theft, so now this is a felony." Lamberti said the plate would be "returned to the rightful owner," who, again, is a judge.

Note: Add "Judge's Nameplate" to List of Things Not to Steal

Wyoming's aircraft carrier dreams dashed

Wyoming's legislature has defeated its House Bill 85, on third reading, thus ending the state's plan to investigate buying an aircraft carrier (and equipping a military) to defend the state should the USA collapse.

SOPA's author wants everything you do online logged and made available without a warrant

Lamar Smith (R-TX), author of the ill-starred SOPA Internet regulation, has an even dumber idea for the Internet. In the name of fighting child pornography, he wants to force ISPs to log everything you do online, then make it available to police and government agents without a warrant. Leslie Meredith has a writeup on the mounting opposition to Smith's latest act of unconstitutional lunacy:

However, under Smith’s bill, records of both suspects and ordinary citizens would all be available to any government agency at any time, no warrant required.

"This type of legislation goes against the fundamental values of our country where individuals are treated as innocent until proven guilty," Reitman said. "H.R. 1981 would uproot this core American principle, forcing ISPs to treat everyone like a potential criminal."

The bill has been forwarded from committee to the full House of Representatives for consideration, which is expected later this year. There is no sign of a Senate version at this time.

If the past is any indicator, Smith may be in for a hard fight with activists. He was also sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill that would have shut off access to foreign websites accused of hosting pirated content. But he was forced to withdraw the legislation after massive protests by many of the same opponents who likewise thought the remedy was too harsh for the problem.

Child porn law could affect everyone's privacy

Canadian universities sign bone-stupid copyright deal with collecting society: emailing a link is the same as making a photocopy, faculty email to be surveilled

Under a new deal signed by the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto, the act of emailing a link will be classed as equivalent to photocopying, and each student and faculty member will cost the universities $27.50/year for this right that the law gives them for free, along with a collection of other blanket licenses of varying legitimacy. In order to enforce these licenses, all faculty email will be subject to surveillance.

“Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s actions are inexplicable,” said James L. Turk, CAUT executive director. “They have buckled under to Access Copyright’s outrageous and unjustified demands at a time when courts have extended rights to use copyrighted material, better alternatives are becoming available to the services Access offers and just before the passage of new federal copyright legislation that provides additional protections for the educational sector”.

Turk also pointed out that the Supreme Court is set to clarify the educational use of copyrighted works in the coming months, clarifications that could undercut Access’s bargaining position. In contrast to Western Ontario and Toronto, many institutions have opted out of agreements with Access Copyright or are fighting its demands at the Copyright Board of Canada.

“These two universities threw in the towel on the copyright battle prematurely,” said Turk. “We call on other post-secondary institutions not to follow Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s example of capitulating to Access Copyright. It‘s time to stand up for the right to fair and reasonable access to copyrighted works for educational purposes”.

Copyright agreement with Western and Toronto a bad and unwarranted deal (via O'Reilly Radar)

PayPal: if you don't like the violin you bought, smash it and we'll give you your money back


Just when you thought PayPal couldn't get any stupider, well, they get stupider. Erica sold an antique violin to someone who paid $2500 for it over PayPal. The buyer disputed the authenticity of the violin -- which had been authenticated by a top luthier -- and PayPal instructed him that he could have his money back if he destroyed the violin. He did, and sent the photo of the destroyed, one-of-a-kind, precious instrument to the seller and PayPal. PayPal took the $2500 back from Erica, gave it to the violin-smasher, and called it a day.

I am now out a violin that made it through WWII as well as $2500. This is of course, upsetting. But my main goal in writing to you is to prevent PayPal from ordering the destruction of violins and other antiquities that they know nothing about. It is beyond me why PayPal simply didn’t have the violin returned to me.

I spoke on the phone to numerous reps from PayPal who 100% defended their action and gave me the party line.

From the Mailbag (via Consumerist)

SOPA in depth: the worst-ever copyright proposal in US legislative history?

SOPA, the House version of the US Senate's PROTECT-IP Bill, might be the worst-ever copyright proposal in US legislative history. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has begun a series of articles examining the bill in depth, explaining just how insane it is. Here's part one:

If an IP rightsholder (vaguely defined – could be Justin Bieber worried about his publicity rights) thinks you meet the criteria and that it is in some way harmed, it can send a notice claiming as much to the payment processors (Visa, Mastercard, Paypal etc.) and ad services you rely on.

Once they get it, they have 5 days to choke off your financial support. Of course, the payment processors and ad networks won’t be able to fine-tune their response so that only the allegedly infringing portion of your site is affected, which means your whole site will be under assault. And, it makes no difference that no judge has found you guilty of anything or that the DMCA safe harbors would shelter your conduct if the matter ever went to court. Indeed, services that have been specifically found legal, like Rapidshare, could be economically strangled via SOPA. You can file a counter-notice, but you’ve only got 5 days to do it (good luck getting solid legal advice in time) and the payment processors and ad networks have no obligation to respect it in any event. That’s because there are vigilante provisions that grant them immunity for choking off a site if they have a “reasonable belief” that some portion of the site enables infringement.

SOPA: Hollywood Finally Gets A Chance to Break the Internet

Visualizing Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan to redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich

Maybe you've heard about Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan for America: 9% sales tax, 9% income tax, and 9% corporate tax, and wondered how it would play out in the real world. Here's a chart that illustrates the answer neatly (click for full, farcically long-ass version): the poor will pay a little more (or a lot more, relative to their income), and the rich will pay a lot less, and the very rich will pay so much less that it takes 9403 vertical pixels to express how much they'll save.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Canadian government advice defines abortionists as terrorists

From the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, a helpful banker's guide to spotting "single-issue terrorists," which includes (apparently) abortionists and ecological extremists. It also groups attacks on property with attacks on people, and sales of books and literature with sales of false identification documents.

Counter-terrorism specialists define single-issue or special interest terrorist groups as being motivated by political and social issues and as using violence and criminal activities to further their agendas. Single-issue terrorists may include militant minority rights activists, abortionists, animal rights activists and ecological/environmental extremists. They believe that their legitimate cause morally justifies their extremist violent behavior in opposition to government action or inaction. Terrorist attacks include the use of bombs, such as mail and car bombs. Their targets are often research laboratories, clinics and individuals' property. Single-issue terrorist groups function domestically but have an international scope.

WIPO boss: the Web would have been better if it was patented and its users had to pay license fees


Last June, the Swiss Press Club held a launch for the Global Innovation Index at which various speakers were invited to talk about innovation. After the head of CERN and the CEO of the Internet Society spoke about how important it was that the Web's underlying technology hadn't been patented, Francis Gurry, the Director General of the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), took the mic to object.

In Gurry's view, the Web would have been better off if it had been locked away in patents, and if every user of the Web had needed to pay a license fee to use it (and though Gurry doesn't say so, this would also have meant that the patent holder would have been able to choose which new Web sites and technologies were allowed, and would have been able to block anything he didn't like, or that he feared would cost him money).

This is a remarkable triumph of ideology over evidence. The argument that there wasn't enough investment in the Web is belied by the fact that a) the Web attracted more investment than any of the network service technologies that preceded it (by orders of magnitude), and; b) that the total investment in the Web is almost incalculably large. The only possible basis for believing that the Web really would have benefited from patents is a blind adherence to the ideology that holds that patents are always good, no matter what.

Here's the video; Gurry's talk starts at 0:49:50. The image above shows Gurry announcing his theory, while the reps from CERN and ISOC look on. Caption as you see fit.

Intellectual property is a very flexible instrument. So, for example, had the world wide web been able to be patented, and I think that is a question in itself, perhaps the amount of investment that has gone into or would be able to go into basic science would be different. If you had found a very flexible licensing model, in which the burden for the innovation of the world wide web had been shared across the whole user community in a very fair and reasonable manner, with a modest contribution for everyone for this wonderful innovation, it would have enabled enormous investment in turn in further basic research. And that is the sort of flexibility that is built into the intellectual property system. It is not a rigid system...

UK Labour Party wants journalism licenses, will prohibit "journalism" by people who are "struck off" the register of licensed journalists

The UK Labour party's conference is underway in Liverpool, and party bigwigs are presenting their proposals for reinvigorating Labour after its crushing defeat in the last election. The stupidest of these proposals to date will be presented today, when Ivan Lewis, the shadow culture secretary, will propose a licensing scheme for journalists through a professional body that will have the power to forbid people who breach its code of conduct from doing journalism in the future.

Given that "journalism" presently encompasses "publishing accounts of things you've seen using the Internet" and "taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them" and "blogging" and "commenting on news stories," this proposal is even more insane than the tradition "journalist licenses" practiced in totalitarian nations.

I'm all for hanging up Murdoch and his phone hackers by their thumbs, but you don't need to license journalists to get that done: all you need to do is prosecute them under existing criminal statutes. In other words, the only "journalism code of conduct" the UK needs to avert another phone hacking scandal is "don't break the law." Of course, it would help if government didn't court favour with the likes of Murdoch, as was the case under Labour (and is the case with today's Tories).

For a party eager to shed its reputation as sinister, spying authoritarians, Labour's really got its head up its arse.

Lewis will suggest that newspapers should introduce a system whereby journalists could be struck off a register for malpractice. And he will question David Cameron's reluctance to explain why he made Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, his communications director both in opposition and then in government. He will say: "I believe in second chances too. So, isn't it time you and George Osborne came clean about Andy Coulson?"