Author’s rights

When trying to explain to a colleague why personal correspondence should be private—with ‘piracy’ and p2p on the background—he pointed out the fact that what I was saying applied to the “big content” corporations, but not to the authors. In other words, while the law should not protect big corporations, it should protect individual authors, that strive to produce books, music, whatever, for those productions create and contribute to culture, which is nothing short a form of wealth. Well, no. I mean, it’s true that what authors produce is nothing short of a (very important) form of wealth. But authors, like everybody else, should be paid for their work, through contracts. It not reasonable to first write a book, and then put up for sale and expect that all those who want to take a look at it will buy it instead of downloading it. It’s not reasonable because nobody has the incentive to do this. It was reasonable, before the internet, because there was no alternative (except borrowing, which—unlike the internet—is a lot more limited in scope). But now, in a time where the cost of sharing information has gone from very costly to essentially free, it simply cannot be expected that people in general will buy what’s readily available for free. In a most interesting twist of history, this means that now the financing for new works of art must also resort to patronage, as was the case in times long gone. The (very big) difference is that now, unlike then, that patronage can come from the general public, instead of from some rich guy with more money than what he is actually able to spend :-)

The other objection my colleague raised was that the fact that I buy a book does not entitle me to share what’s in it. And he provided an example: if I was an IRS worker, that was required to handle confidential information, that would not entitle me to share that information. My reply to this is that we’re talking about two fundamentally different kinds of information. The information that exists in books that you can buy off-the-shelf is the kind of information that the law should encourage to share! If that is best done by granting copyright monopolies (as was the case before the internet) then so be it. But if that’s best done by relaxing ( or outright eliminating) copyright law, then that’s the course of action one must take. On the other hand, information regarding one’s taxes is the kind of information that the law should protect. That’s why we veto the employees that get to work with that kind of sensible information. And that’s why it makes sense to spend resources protecting information like tax forms, or healthcare records, while essentially letting information like the latest novel book, or blockbuster, or whatever be free (both as in beer and as in speech), so it more rapidly becomes a part of that commons we all share, viz. our culture.

Google v. Isohunt

The first book in the bibliography of my Introduction to Geometry class is Michele Audin’s Geometry, which in Amazon costs, well, a lot. So the first thing I tried a couple of weeks ago, when the semester started, was to search for the book in isohunt (and a couple of “sister sites”). But despite my insisting efforts, I was unable to find a pdf of the book, and resigned to that situation.
Today, I decided to give it another try, but in google, and as soon as I wrote “audin geometry” this happened:

And as it turns out, I did find the djvu of the book (which I never thought of looking before, I always looked for the pdf), in good quality and with minimum hassle! And this happens at a time when Isohunt, which is fighting a permanent injunction served against it, argues that what it does, Google does better. No argument here!

Alex de la Iglesia, Goya 2011

Por discordar da nova contra a “pirataria”, também conhecida como “lei Sinde”, assim chamada por causa da sua principal proponente, a ministra da cultura espanhola Ángeles González-Sinde, o até então presidente da Academia Cinematográfica Espanhola, demitiu-se. No último dia do mandato, que coincidiu com a gala dos prémios Goya, eis o que ele tinha para dizer:

Durante o discurso, as câmaras focaram extensivamente a referida ministra da cultura: a sua expressão, de tão inexpressiva que é, acaba por ser bastante cómica (e reveladora). Reveladora do vazio de substância que costuma ser a “justificação” para este tipo de leis.

How do we fight sociology?

To the regulars of this blog, my stance regarding copyright et al. Should be nothing new. But I’ve recently noted something that had previously illuded me, whenever I tried to explain my views on the subject to someone. Indeed it became apparent to me that even some of the most bright and educated people I know are staunch defenders of copyright, not because they don’t understand my arguments, or can point to some error in them. No, far from it, their reason is another one entirely.

In world of distribution monopolies without viable alternatives, which is how our world was until the late 90’s, those monopolies will be exploited to generate as much profit as possible. This is generates segmentation of contents into those that are profitable—the film industry calls them blockbusters—and those that are not. And those running the monopolies will insist on the former, while essentially neglecting the latter. This is only natural, for monopolies perpetuate forever, if allowed to. From the point of view of those who create the original content—writers, musicians, actors et al., or, God forbid, programmers—this divides them into two categories, viz. the ones that create blockbusters, and those that create the rest. In order to keep them profitable, blockbusters are usually a small fraction of the creative universe, but one that receives a major amount of the investment, and correspondingly generates most of the profit. This translates into a situation where the blockbusters creators get millionaire contracts, while the rest strives to stay afloat, perhaps hoping to become the next blockbuster—and herein lies the rub. Surreal as this may seem, it appears that we prefer a system of “superstars” vs the rest, as long as it comes with the promise that whether or not we become these “superstars” is entirely up to us. Never mind that even if we tried, most of us will never make it there. And never mind the fact that, should these distribution monopolies end, so would blockbusters. And thus the people that create them will be worse off, but the rest of us, the vast majority of us, will be better of, a lot better of. For now there is no middle man, between artist and audience, between maker and user. Bear in mind also, that the “worse off” of the previous “superstars” will still be orders of magnitude better than how most of us are now.

And yet, now that a world without such monopolies has become not only possible, but indeed inevitable, what do we do? Do we embrace it? No. We cling to the old system, and for the most selfish of reasons: for an unlikely shot at success, at everyone else’s expense. And we label those who claim for change of “destroying culture”. Never mind that culture far predates any distribution industry. Never mind that if such monopolies had existed in the time of one the greatest dramaturgs in history, William Shakespeare, he would have had his ass sued off—thus depriving humanity of his legacy. And yet, those who call on those monopolies to be dismantled, or at the very least have the shameless legal protection that was bestowed on them removed, those are the ones “destroying culture”. Yeah right…

Finally, remember that although for the last decades, most of art was transformed into a business, that was not the case for the centuries before that, and indeed it need not be the case now.

End note: the more physics-inclined readers will recognize in the title the name of one of the chapters in Lee Smolin’s great book “The Trouble with Physics”. In that chapter, he also deals with the way how sociological interests can trump progress, even in such a “hard science” as physics.

Comentários desligados Publicado em copyright

Copyright and the IMF

Two videos on one post. The first one is a clever and very funny retort to that mantra of sorts, viz. that artistic creation springs from the artist’s mind in its entirety, implicitly stating that previous works play no role whatsoever. Well, that’s simply wrong: like science, art also borrows from the art that existed before. Here’s a witty demonstration of precisely that:

From Que Treta!

Secondly, at a time where an increasing number of voices are starting to ask whether the IMF will have to intervene in Portugal, here’s a video that exposes it’s darker face, and indeed, indirectly, the darker face of modern capitalism.

source (Portuguese)

Copyright vs. Freedom

Dear Mandy

In the United Kingdom, Lord Peter Mandelson, also known as “Mandy”, has been for some time now trying to implement a “three-strikes-and-you-are-out” law, to address the “problem” of online “piracy”. Public outcry has of course ensued, but isn’t it so much better when besides complaining, you’re also being witty, not to mention tremendously fun? Well, that’s exactly what British musician Dan Bull did, yet again :-)

War on sharing

A melhor explicação que vi até hoje para a importância e razão de restringir as leis de copyright à regulação de actividades comerciais, traduzido para português. Obrigado ao Miguel Caetano pela tradução:

Esta já não é a primeira vez que Stallman manifesta publicamente uma posição contrária à campanha da RIAA e de outras organizações representantes da indústria discográfica mas creio que este ensaio resume de uma forma magistral o seu ponto de vista em relação à partilha de ficheiros, tendo ainda o bónus de conter uma série de sugestões realistas com vista a conciliar os interesses dos partilhadores e dos artistas. Segue em baixo a minha tradução:

Cliquem no link da tradução, e boas leituras!

Comentários desligados Publicado em copyright

MAPiNET, ou não

Ao ler ontem o Que Treta!, isto chamou a atenção:

** Já devem estar bastante chateados. Parece que alguém mexericou no site deles. Experimentem ir a http://www.mapinet.org. Neste momento está redireccionado para o BTJunkie. É maldade. Não deviam fazer isto. A sério. Mas, bolas, que dá vontade de rir, isso dá…

O que acontecia era que o site da MAPiNET, um suposto movimento “cívico” contra a pirataria na internet, era sucessivamente redireccionado para outros sites, também eles virtuosos cavaleiros do Apocalipse, implacáveis na sua luta contra o flagelo da “pirataria” como o Pirate Bay, TorrentFreak, btjunkie, … dá para perceber a ideia.

Ao tentar resolver o domínio mapinet.org, era devolvido um A-record para mapinet.org, com o respectivo IP. Não era do DNS que vinha a súbita mudança de face. Fazendo repetidos acessos ao site com um sniffer a correr, rapidamente se percebe o que se passava: a resposta era sempre uma HTTP response 302 – Moved Temporarily, juntamente com a localização “actualizada” — sempre um dos sites referidos no parágrafo anterior. Simples, e bastante eficaz…

Mas não creio que isto ajude a fortalecer o argumento de que é preciso mudar muita muita coisa no que aos “direitos de autor” et al. diz respeito. Aliás, porque o se vai passar é que eles se vão fazer de vítimas, e usar isto para fortalecer o argumento do “mais copyright para salvar a indústria”, acabando por ter o efeito contrário. Mas que diabo, principalmente depois de todas os disparates e desinformação que se lê no site/blog deles (entretanto regressado à primitiva forma), “que dá vontade de rir, isso dá“.

Ridendo castigat… leges!

Current copyright laws are insane. Courts having to enforce such laws produce even more insane insanities. And as it’s all to obvious, insane laws plus even more insane verdicts only breed ever-increasing contempt for law. But sadly, it’s not obvious to everyone. But despair not! These are time of looming uncertainty for The Pirate Bay’s future, but for now, it’s still just like its old self! Meaning that like the writers of times past resorted to laughter to criticise insane social costumes, TPB (whose crew are no strangers to the art of mocking), has just been endowed with a brand new CD: the list of musics for which Joel Tenenbaum was ordered to plunge into bankruptcy, is now available in a brand new compilation, free of charge, of course. And it even comes with cover art:

JoelCD

Quoting from the torrent’s description:

I too downloaded them!

These are the tracks Joel Tenenbaum downloaded. For 30 tracks he is ordered by the court to pay $675,000 to the RIAA.
Well, all I can say: the RIAA can come and try to get half a million bucks from me too, let’s see if they can make me pay…
Btw, it’s amazing how easy to become rich, ain’t it? You just download this pack two times and you already have something that worths more than a million…

Since in all likelihood these idiotic laws are going nowhere, might as well get a good laugh from such idiocy (as far as it is possible), and enjoy the music…

Via Remixtures

Comentários desligados Publicado em copyright

Why DRM must go. For good.

A post from this blog tries to argue that DRM is not evil. After much discussion, the author conceded that while DRM still is not evil, it does get close. The comments to this second post illustrate quite well why, in the end, no matter how you want to see it, DRM has but one fate: oblivion.

Both posts and respective comments make for very good reading for anyone wanting recent arguments for an old discussion.

Politics and corruption

And money. Lawrence Lessig gives this talk about how money breeds mistrust. And one of the first examples he gives is the spectacularly increase in the number of parents that refuse to vaccinate their children. And why? Essentially because from their point of view, the doctors prescribe the drugs subject to the money they receive from pharmaceutical companies. Even if the doctor is completely unbiased, if he receives that money, the patients’ trust in the doctor is undermined. And without that trust, the number of children without vaccination will keep rising. Others examples are given.

And then the same argument is applied to politics. In order to find out if money was influencing policy makers’ decisions, he tells the story of a bill proposing copyright extension: +20 years. The question in this case was quite simple: can this extension of copyright increase the public good? The government said the answer was ‘yes’, they (Lessig et al.) said the answer was ‘no’. And in that answer, they’re were joined, Lessig tells, by a right-wing conservative economist, who said he’d only joined them if in their report they included the words no brainer. So the government got the answer wrong. Why? Either because there really are no brains in the government, or the brains in there where influenced by money. Considering the dimension of the copyright industry, on which one would you bet?

More copyright bullshit

The surprises you can get from doing the math:

In any case, that’s £175 a week or £8,750 a year potentially not being spent by millions of people. Is this really lost revenue for the economy, as reported in the press? Plenty will have been schoolkids, or students, and even if not, that’s still about a third of the average UK wage. Before tax.

Oh, but the figures were wrong: it was actually 473m items and £12bn (so the item value was still £25) but the wrong figures were in the original executive summary, and the press release. They changed them quietly, after the errors were pointed out by a BBC journalist.

This is yet another example of the length to which the copyright industry will go in the fight against sharing. What else can one say, besides Like I said: as far as I’m concerned, everything from this industry is false, until proven otherwise.? (ibid.)

Comentários desligados Publicado em copyright

American (mis)education

It’s crap like this that makes me qualify Americans like idiots. UTTER HOPELESS IDIOTS! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure some US folks would (and probably will, really soon now) complain loud and bitterly about this. But how does an entire nation get to the point of allowing their education system to be subdued and subverted by corporations?!

Pro-copyright lobbyists and anti-piracy outfits have a clear idea of what is needed to manipulate the minds of the younger generations. The MPAA most famously handed out a “merit patch in respecting copyright” to LA Boy Scouts, and now the Copyright Alliance has entered US classrooms in an attempt to educate today’s youth about the benefits of copyright.

For all the reasons this is bad, the worse is that the value of good education should be, more than the gathering of knowledge, the gathering of critical thought skills: for as knowledge might eventually be forgotten, the skill of being able and willing to think critically, once learned, remains (and indeed, keeps improving as one uses it again and again) for the rest of one’s life. Thus, I quote the end of the above quoted article:

[. . .] kids should be taught to think critically so they can make up their own minds instead of being brainwashed with pro (or anti) copyright propaganda.

In all my intellectual humbleness, I can only speculate on why prefering to “spoon-feed” US youngsters with all this “copyright is good” rubbish instead of doing the right thing, viz. providing the students with the facts about copyright. And I think that’s because if they tried to do so and argue in favour of copyright, even the most intellectually challenged students would be able to see through the hollowness of such argumentation, that copyright has outlived its usefulness. But that also means that if you draw a salary from copyright related activities, you’re boned. Traditionally, when such a thing happens, you either adapt, or change to a different business. This is seldom done without a fight, which is a natural reaction: nobody likes to be put out of business. But to go as far as to (ab)use the education system to protect their industry (or any other industry or business, for that matter) is nothing short of unacceptable, and any teacher or education responsible that thinks otherwise does not deserve to be in office. On normal circumstances, I would hope for the government to step in and stop this lunacy, but given some of the past positions of the current US Vice-President, I doubt anything of the sort takes place any time soon.

I’ve already explained why the so called intellectual property is a baseless concept. But intellectual property broadly encompasses not only copyright law, but also trademarks and patents, which are not the issue here. Maybe a more detailed explanation on my stance on copyright is in order. I’ve stated that one must first get the facts, and then discuss and argue based on them. Let’s see how long it takes to follow my own advice.

Strike 3!

Apesar do título em inglês, este artigo é sobre a nossa lusa nação, e, pasme-se, é para dizer bem. Eu, que tanto critico os nossos governantes, desta vez tenho que dar a mão à palmatória: o ministro da cultura, José António Pinto Ribeiro, disse isto a respeito da “3 strike law”:

Nós somos um país que tem uma história e um regime de Estado de Direito específicos. A história é que vivemos 48 anos sobre a ditadura e portanto não compreendemos facilmente soluções que tenham uma leitura possível censória – que alguém está a ver o que estamos a fazer.

Mas não ficou por aqui. Para além de mostrar claramente que o copyright nunca poderá justificar a censura, o ministro foi mais longe dizendo que fazer o download de filmes ou músicas da net é “como alguém encontra notas de banco no chão [. . .] são de quem as agarrar”.

Como não podia deixar de ser, isto enfureceu muita gente, que acha o copyright um direito sacrossanto, que deve ser protegido doa a quem doer. Já escrevi muito sobre o porquê de tais posições estarem erradas, não me repito aqui. Termino com uma nota final: é muito positivo termos um governante que não cai no exagero em que infelizmente caiu o governo francês. No entanto é preciso ter em conta que o senhor Ribeiro não é nenhum “radical” do copyright, uma vez defende a extensão do mesmo, por exemplo. Mesmo assim, do mal, o menos.