Deleting Facebook is not enough: without antitrust, the company will be our lives' "operating system"

Facebook is the poster-child for the techlash, the worst offender in the monopolistic bunch, and recent books like Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan (previously) and Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier present variations on the main critiques of Facebook with some prescriptions for what to do about it. Read the rest

Intel + DRM: a crippled processor that you have to pay extra to unlock

Intel's latest business-model takes a page out of Hollywood's playbook: they're selling processors that have had some of their capabilities crippled (some of the cache and the hyperthreading support are switched off). For $50, they'll sell you a code that will unlock these capabilities. Conceptually, this is similar to the DRM notion that I can sell you a movie that you can watch on one screen for $5 today, and if you want to unlock your receiver's wireless output so you can watch it upstairs, it'll be another $5.

I remember the first time someone from the studios put this position to me. It was a rep from the MPAA at a DRM standards meeting, and that was just the example he used. He said: "When you buy a movie to watch in your living room, we're only selling you the right to see it in your living room. Sending the same show upstairs to watch in your bedroom has value, and if it has value, we should be able to charge money for it."

This idea, which Siva Vaidhyanathan calls "If value, then right," sounds reasonable on its face. But it's a principle that flies in the face of the entire human history of innovation. By this reasoning, the company that makes big tins of juice should be able to charge you extra for the right to use the empty cans to store lugnuts; the company that makes your living room TV should be able to charge more when you retire it to the cottage; the company that makes your coat-hanger should be able to charge more when you unbend it to fish something out from under the dryer. Read the rest

Google and the "capacity for audacity"

"Google's modus operandi is to step into a vacuum that used to be the function of the state. Think about Google Books as a cheap replacement for libraries, which should be connecting people to all that learning. Or consider the clumsy pseudo-diplomatic role Google played earlier this year in its showdown with China. We should have stopped believing the 'don't be evil' hype some years ago. Google has long asked to be treated as something special. But it's special in only one way: its capacity for audacity."—Siva Vaidhyanathan opining on the Google-Verizon net neutrality news of the day, over at MSNBC.com. Read the rest

Google and China: not a pullout, not an end to censorship, but a shutdown of Google.cn

Siva Vaidhyanathan notes that "Google says 'we stopped censoring' Google.cn and many are buying it. In reality, Google shut down Google.cn." Danny Sullivan expands on this critical line of thinking in a Search Engine Land post:

Beginning today, Google is no longer censoring results on its Chinese search engine, the company has announced. But rather than the expected “pullout” from China, Google hopes to continue operating within the country. It all comes down to whether the Chinese government decides operating off a Hong Kong domain — rather than the main Chinese domain — lets Google get around its censorship rules.

(...)Specifically, Google said that it is no longer censoring on its search services — Google Search, Google News China & Google Images — that were aimed at people in China. In reality, those services have actually been closed. If you try to reach them, you get redirected to a new domain.

Read the rest

Copyright-maximalist judges plagiarize lawblogger in opinion

The judges in a Dutch copyright case plagiarized a legal blogger in writing their opinion. The case held that framing and embedding is a form of copyright infringement (a maximalist copyright view that I find pretty dubious as a policy matter), and the relevant section from the opinion, "in case law and legal literature it is generally held that an embedded link constitutes a publication. After all, the material can be viewed or heard within the context of the website of those who placed the link, and placement causes the material to reach a new audience" is identical to text that appeared earlier on SOLV lawyer Douwe Linders's blog. Dutch copyright's fair dealing rules allow for some quotation without permission, but passing off someone else's text as your own is plagiarism, and weakens the fair dealing claim as well.

Judges plagiarize blog posting in copyright case

Opinion (PDF)

Blog posting by SOLV lawyer Douwe Linders

Previously: Lethem, Vaidhyanathan, et al talk copyright and plagiarism on NPR ... Author accuses Shyamalan of plagiarism over "Village," audiences ... The latest NYT plagiarism case: Bernie Weinraub - Boing Boing Read the rest

Jonathan Lethem's Perkus Tooth comes to Second Life for an interview

Wagner James Au sez, "Jonathan Lethem's latest novel Chronic City includes a virtual world inspired by Second Life, so fittingly, this Sunday Lethem is promoting his book *in* Second Life on the Copper Robot show, using an avatar named PerkusTooth Riddler, based on the character Perkus Tooth from the book. If you don't have an SL account you can watch on the web ."

Jonathan Lethem Appears in Second Life This Sunday As Avatar Based on Character From His Novel, *Chronic City*

Copper Robot: Novelist Jonathan Lethem

Previously: Jonathan Lethem's CHRONIC CITY, surreal and beautiful sf explores ... Jonathan Lethem talks with Erik Davis Boing Boing Lethem on the copyfight - Boing Boing Jonathan Lethem on Philip K. Dick - Boing Boing Lethem, Vaidhyanathan, et al talk copyright and plagiarism on NPR ... Lethem wins Macarthur "genius" award! - Boing Boing David Gill interviews Jonathan Lethem about Philip K. Dick - Boing ... Read the rest

Jonathan Lethem's CHRONIC CITY, surreal and beautiful sf explores the authentic and the unreal

Jonathan Lethem's extraordinary new novel Chronic City tells the story of Chase Insteadman, a washed up, grown up child actor living off his sitcom residuals in wealthy, Upper East Side New York. Chase is caught between two improbabilities: his fiancee, a dying astronaut stranded on a space-station walled off from Earth by a Chinese orbital minefield, from which vantage she commands daily headlines; and Perkus Tooth, a media-obsessed Philip-K-Dickian ex-rock-critic who lives in a weed-smoke- filled cave of a rent- controlled apartment from which he obsessively watches obscure movies and reads obscure books.

Chase's story -- magnificently told in Lethem's most poetic language -- is the quest for authenticity. An actor, Chase finds himself acting the part of the grieving widower-to-be, of the handsome beefcake at the swanky party, of the sincere sidekick to the ascerbic and unintelligible Perkus Tooth. And as Chase begins an affair with Oona Lazlo, a celebrity ghostwriter autobiography writer, he finds himself even more drawn to the questions of what is real and what isn't? Read the rest

Who Owns Ideas? CBC's Ideas radio documentary on copyright

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's venerable Ideas programme just aired a fantastic one-hour segment on copyright called "Who Owns Ideas?" with a wide range of interviews with me, James Boyle, Steve Page from BNL, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Eric Flint, Michael Geist and many others.

MP3: Who Owns Ideas? Read the rest

Do you remember your first Google?

Siva sez, "For the book he is writing called The Googlization of Everything, Siva Vaidhyanathan wants to know:"

Do you remember the first time you used Google? When was it? How did you hear about Google? What was you first impression?

Please use the comments over on The Googlization of Everything to tell me stories.

As Mudbone (Richard Pryor's character) used to say, "you only remember two times, your first and your last."


(Thanks, Siva!) Read the rest

Freedom of Expression® screening at NYU, 9PM

Siva sez, "In cooperation with the Media Education Foundation and La Lutta, Free Culture @ NYU is screening Freedom of Expression®: Resistance and Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property at 9pm on Thursday, January 31. Narrated by Naomi Klein, the film features interviews with Stanford Law's Lawrence Lessig, Illegal Art Show curator Carrie McLaren, Negativland’s Mark Hosler, UVA media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan, and Free Culture @ NYU co-founder Inga Chernyak, among many others. This 53-minute documentary will be preceded by selections from Negativland’s new DVD, Our Favorite Things, and it will be followed by a Q&A with Freedom of Expression® author and director Kembrew McLeod and co-producer Jeremy Smith."

Freedom of Expression Screening and Q&A with Creators Sponsored by Free Culture @ NYU, NYU ACM, and WiNC Free and Open to the Public (bring ID if non-NYU) Thursday, January 31, 2008 9:00pm NYU's Courant Institute Room #109 251 Mercer Street b/w Bleecker and W. 4th


(Thanks, Siva!) Read the rest

Steal This Film, Part II: the Internet makes us into copiers

The folks behind Steal This Film, an amazing, funny, enraging and inspiring documentary series about copyright and the Internet have just released part II of the series. I taught part one (about the PirateBay crackdown in Sweden and the founding of The Pirate Party) in my class last year, and it was one of the liveliest classes we had.

Part II is even better than part one -- it covers the technological and enforcement end of the copyright wars, and on the way that using the internet makes you a copier, and how copying puts you in legal jeopardy. Starting with Mark Getty's (Chairman of Getty Images) infamous statement that "Intellectual Property is the oil of the 21st century," the filmmakers note that oil always leads to oil-wars, and that these are vicious, ill-conceived and never end well. This leads them to explore the war on copying -- which ultimately becomes a war on the Internet and those of us who use it.

This installment includes punchy interviews with a lot of the US's leading copyfighters -- EFFers like Seth Schoen and Fred von Lohmann, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Eben Moglen, Aaron Swartz, Yochai Benkler, Rick Prelinger, as well as folks in the UK, Sweden and Bangalore. Interspersed with this is are smart historical perspectives, and a brief interview with MPAA chief Dan Glickman, who all but twirls his mustache in glee at the thought of punishing copiers. There's also some interesting material here from new artists who embrace copying, but I'm guessing that that's going to be the main theme of a future installment. Read the rest

Mark Twain's nutty 1906 plan to extend copyright

Alek sez, "The boundless archive of the NYT has spat out for me an article about Mark Twain's cunning plan to beat the early 20th century copyright law, with its short copyright terms. In short, Twain planned to republish every one of his works the moment it went out of copyright, with one-third more content in the shape of his serialized bibliography. He hoped that availability of such 'premium' version will make prints based on the out-of-copyright version less desirable on the market. There's a gem in the first paragraph - the author suggests that Twain's plan 'makes the present copyright law look like a very sick and discomfited pirate, indeed.' So, who's the pirate here?!"


(Thanks, Alek!)

Update: Siva Vaidhyanathan sez, "I have an entire chapter in my first book about Twain and his shifting ideas about copyright. At the beginning, he was totally tolerant -- even celebratory -- about use, re-use, and revision. And he loved cheap books, so he was critical of efforts toward a treaty with the British and for term extension.

Only later, when he was old and worried that his daughters could not make a living for themselves, did he get interested in perpetual copyright. His plan was indeed wacky. But it reveals a lot about the status of authorship and the state of American publishing at the turn of the 20th century. (See Copyrights and Copywrongs, Ch. 2)" Read the rest

Lethem's new novel: daffy and precise love story about art-rockers

I just finished Jonathan Lethem's latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet, a funny, quiet, improbable book about an art-rock band in Los Angeles that might be making it big.

I'm an enormous Lethem fan, and have been since Gun With Occasional Music, a hard-boiled detective story by way of Philip K Dick, and I particularly love how versatile he is, every book really different from the last. You Don't Love Me Yet is no exception.

The book follows the story of Lucinda, a barista and bass player who has just broken up with Matthew, her lead singer who works days as a veterinary assistant at the LA Zoo and burns with white-hot anger at the treatment of one of the kangaroos there. They remain friends, and remain in the band, and Lucinda finds herself quitting the coffee shop to work for a conceptual artist whose latest gimmick is the "Complaints Line," a phone number you can call and complain to.

It's there that she first encounters The Complainer, a brainy, deeply weird older man who seduces her through the complaints line -- and gives her the inspiration to get the band out of its rut and onto a stage.

You Don't Love Me Yet's characters -- a collection of earnest would-be rockers, rogue zoologists, cynical promoters, and sociopathic sloganeers -- are totally charming. Even the most repulsive among them is redeemed, shown to be somehow necessary, even if utterly reprehensible.

The storytelling in this book has all the daffy precision of an old Talking Heads song, an intense, nerdy diction like an autistic film student telling you about the secret meaning of an old black-and-white movie he's been studying by watching once a week for ten years (this actually happens in the book). Read the rest

VA Tech killer's digital vanity package (NPR News "Xeni Tech")

For today's edition of the NPR News program "Day to Day," I filed a report on internet reactions around the release of a so-called "multimedia manifesto" by the Virginia Tech murderer, Seung-hui Cho. After shooting two people, and before killing 30 more, he mailed a package to NBC News which included photos of himself posing with weapons; videos of him rambling in threatening, narcissistic psychobabble; and a long, written diatribe.

The package is being described by some as "unprecedented," and by others as "a spree killer's EPK." Cho is now tagged by some as "the first Web 2.0 psycho killer," and the net result may be a possible template -- even a challenge -- for aspiring mass murderers.

- - - - - - LISTEN:

"The Virginia Tech Shooter's Digital Mark." Link to archived audio (Real/Win). Here's an MP3 Link. Or, listen to this report as an MP3 in the "Xeni Tech" podcast (subscribe via iTunes here). NPR "Xeni Tech" archives here.

Also check out a related commentary about how to properly print and pronounce Korean names, filed yesterday by NPR "Day to Day" producer and contributor Ki-Min Sung: Link to audio. - - - - - -

For today's report, I spoke with Loren Coleman, author of "Copycat Effect." Coleman believes that by replaying Cho's vanity videos over and over again, the media is perpetuating the cycle that inspired him to commit multiple murders in the first place. Read the rest

VA Tech: Cho sent "multimedia manifesto" to NBC; Siva on tech judgement rush

[1:40PM PT] MSNBC is reporting that Cho Seung-Hui, the presumed gunman in Monday's Virginia Tech killings, express-mailed a package of correspondence to NBC News during the two hours between the first and second shootings. NBC has shared the contents with FBI investigators.

The package is said to have contained a DVD or CD which held a PDF document with embedded QuickTime videos, digital photos, and 1800 words of run-on psycho text. The contents of the disc are said to have amounted to a total of 27 video clips and 43 still photos, each of which was separately captioned. In Cho's diatribe, he calls the two young men responsible for the Columbine massacre "martyrs." Snip from MSNBC transcript:

"We received a package that included some images a lengthy diatribe. We believe it may shed some light on what he was doing between the first shooting and the second. It includes some images, and a disturbing, rambling, multi-page statement. (...) We are not going to give out any specifics of the information."

Via TV Newser.

[2:30PM PT] UPDATE: NBC has published a statement. Snip:

Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News,” said in a posting on the program’s “Daily Nightly” blog that the communication was received earlier Wednesday. He described it as a very long “multimedia manifesto.”

The package, timestamped in the two-hour window between Monday's shootings, was sent to NBC News head Steve Capus.It contained digital photos of the gunman holding weapons and a manifesto that "rants against rich people and warns that he wants to get even," The Associated Press quoted an unidentified New York law enforcement official familiar with the case as saying.

Read the rest

Lethem on the copyfight

Eloisa sez, "Salon has a cool interview with Jonathan Lethem, writer, copyleft fighter, sf extraodinaire, about copyright paranoia and how the current copyright laws stifle creativity."

If you make stuff, it is not yours to command its destiny in the world. God help you, you should be grateful if it has one. It's fantastic if anyone cares. Every artist should be constantly reminding themselves how lucky they are if people are even bothering in the first place. If people do something that is not as interesting as I'd hoped with my work, or if they go and make a lot of dough, that's part of accepting that I've made a gesture whose conclusion is not mine to command.

But to be totally obvious, lyrics and even film projects are not novels. One thing I would always retain is the rights to my novels. With my new novel, I'm inviting some filmmaker to take a lover's leap with me, saying that five years after the release of a film, we make it a stage play or a comic book or a musical or make a sequel. I wouldn't probably choose to do that with every one of my novels. With some of them, some degree of control is still appealing to me. With this one I felt I would really enjoy giving that away. And it's my choice. That's the key. This proceeds from my choice. But I don't think 50 or 100 years after my death, someone should still have say over what someone makes of this stuff.

Read the rest

Lethem: free film option in exchange for public domain release after 5 years

Debcha sez, "Jonathan Lethem has some unusual terms for the film option for his latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet; the option is only available to a filmmaker who is willing to release all ancillary rights to it (and the novel) into the public domain five years after the film's debut, so that 'any number of other kinds of artwork based on the novel's story and characters, or the film's: a play, a television series, a comic book, a theme park ride, an opera' could be made. 'Lately I've become fitful about some of the typical ways art is commodified,' he writes on his blog, 'I also realized that sometimes giving things away -- things that are usually seen to have an important and intrinsic 'value', like a film option -- already felt like a meaningful part of what I do. I wanted to do more of it."

What we won’t do is hold onto the characters – their names and characteristics – or the plot and situations, the notions and conceits and milieu of the book, all those other recognizable characteristics which would ordinarily continue to be legally controlled by the filmmaker or his/her investors (whether or not there was ever any likelihood of them being put into use). After a reasonable interval of exclusive use – a phase where the only way to access this story is as an audience member of the book or film – anyone else can use it to make new artworks, without any fear of being accused of violating anyone else’s copyright.

Read the rest

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