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October 02, 2010 02:50 +0200  |  Activism Anarchy Copyright Technology TED 4

Q: How long will this attack go on for?

A: There is no time frame. We will keep going until we stop being angry.

Something really fascinating is happening right now. Thousands of people, pissed off at law firms and media conglomerates for persecuting individuals with multi-million dollar file sharing lawsuits are fighting back. They're using their combined efforts to attack and take down the websites of the media bullies and their proxies (their law firms) and they're succeeding at every turn.

The tactic being used is called DDoS, which in layman's terms is essentially hammering a website from multiple targets as to render it unable to communicate properly with legitimate visitors. The result is that the site will slow to a crawl, and in some cases go completely offline as the server buckles under the load. In one of the more advanced cases, the attackers grabbed 350MB of email from one unscrupulous law firm in the UK and published it on the Pirate Bay for all the world to see.

And who are the perpetrators of these attacks? Nobody knows. They are "Anonymous", the horde of pissed-off people, tired of being persecuted for participating in our Shared Culture. More importantly though, they've gone on the offencive against those who have gotten used to treating the public like an ATM.

This is just the beginning, but it's an exciting first step. The Internet has allowed groups to collectively organise, and to do things no individual or big city law firm could ever hope to accomplish on their own. Now that the tools are becoming more ubiquitous, it's inevitable that these sorts of actions will increase both in popularity and in scale.

Imagine being able to download a tiny program to anonymously contribute the computational power of your desktop, and the bandwidth of your internet connection to help destroy Royal Dutch Shell's communication network, or hack the RIAA's VPN. The possibilities are both awesome and terrifying, but I'm confident that the anarchy it produces will lead to a more egalitarian world.

It's interesting then, that on the evening I'd set aside to write about this phenomenon, I discovered this excellent TED talk about the differences between institutional organisations and collaborative ones. The talk is about five years old, but couldn't be more relevant:

September 10, 2009 07:33 +0200  |  Canada Copyright Culture Democracy 1

I've been meaning to write this for some time, and given that the deadline is fast approaching (the 13th!), I found an hour or two during the week when I was home recovering from my longboarding accident to get it done. Cat then went over it with her giganimous brain to help me weed out the run-on sentences and then Melanie gave it a second run and found the remainder of would-be improvements so I'm reasonably confident that it's post-worthy. I'll be sending it to my MP, the consultaiton itelf, and Speak Out On Copyright sometime tonight. For now though, I'm posting it here:

To whom it may concern--it has been brought to my attention that copyright law in Canada is finally being re-examined and that part of this re-examination includes a Canada-wide consultation in which respondents submit their positions on copyright law. As copyright is an issue of considerable importance to me, I offer the following responses to your 5 key questions:

  1. How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernised?
    • Copyright law affects me in the same way it does everyone: copyright is about culture as a whole. All creative work is, in essence, derivative of the commons, and copyright is by nature a form of theft of these commons; it is a way to privatise a portion of our culture for personal profit.

      While I understand the need to compensate artists for their work, I feel that the current state of copyright is far too restrictive. In most cases, it favours those who own the copyright rather than those who created the content copyrighted. What's worse, these laws (and the ones initially proposed under C-61) further restrict the rights of the public to use and enjoy that content in our shared culture, as well as restricting our ability to contribute to the content, and by extension, to our culture.

  2. Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time?
    • The issue at hand is not about making a law that will withstand the test of time so much as it is about the unavoidable truth that the nature of copyright, and therefore how it applies to the public, is changing. File sharing is becoming rampant both in the business world and the Internet underground, and the picking of electronic locks is fast becoming mandatory to ensure the public's access to cultural content. The real question is, how will Canada adapt legislatively to a problem that by its nature is not static?

      No business has a "right" to profit: this is the foundation of a capitalist system. Now that the powers of the public have changed to allow us to make and distribute copies of media, the laws have to change to preserve the best interests of that public. Business will adapt--it always has--but only if we refuse to prop up failed business models. By this time next year the average storage capacity on a cellphone will be 8gb. That's the average size of a computer's hard drive when Napster first premiered. These phones will be able to swap files on a subway car or across international borders anonymously and nearly indetectably. This is the reality of where the technology is heading. No law or mandate can stem that tide. The law must adapt.

  3. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?
    • We need to adopt rational rules that work with the realities of media production and distribution in the new economy. First, laws against encryption breaking must be repealed, if only to allow people to play whatever media they want on whatever device they want. Allowing a media company to dictate the type of device a legally purchased instantiation of their product can be played on is a gross abuse of power. Clear lines must be drawn between content producers and consumers. Second, a five-year limit on non-transferable copyright is a key move for a viable 21st-century copyright plan. Copyright should only ever belong to the creator, and the rights distribution should never be exclusive. This would ensure that a creator's work would be personally profitable for a reasonable amount of time without restricting the liberties of the public to create and share derivative works. This may sound drastic given our existing copyright laws, but I would encourage you to have a conversation with an actual content creator about how their rights to their own content are routinely removed and hoarded by the copyright holder and sequestered from the public and the creator, often for decades.

  4. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?
    • Culture is improved by derivative works. In fact, it could be argued that all creative work is derivative. If we adopt the principles I outlined in #3, the result would be mountains of derivative works, all distributed around the globe -- content created by Canadians for the world. This is the single greatest benefit to copyright reform: the freedom to create, using elements from the culture in which we were raised.

  5. What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?
    • All of the above. If you want to increase Canada's cultural profile abroad, you need only give the public the right to create and distribute that culture. It's as simple as that. Enshrine the rights of creators in our laws and in so doing, prevent foreign interests from apppropriating and perpetually controlling those rights. Then after a reasonable time has passed, allow the public to use and share all creative works in imaginative ways, and save the trillions of dollars currently spent tracking and prosecuting people committing this inevitable "crime". Embrace public freedom; your grandchildren will thank you.

July 25, 2009 20:09 +0200  |  Activism Copyright Environment Net Neutrality Politics 0

I haven't posted in here for a while, but now that I have a few minutes I've been inspired by Melanie and Karen who are blogging 24hrs today for charity to do a little PSA and share some info about three topics I think everyone should be thinking about.

Copenhagen 2009

In December of this year, 192 countries will gather at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to essentially determine the future of the planet. It's going to be a mix of climate activists, scientists, politicians and very powerful special interests and there's a lot on the line. Potentially, this conference could mean massive change to help save us from ourselves, both environmentally and economically, or it could be more posturing and inaction. We need to pressure our leaders to Do the Right Thing on this front and let them know that we are willing to support them in doing so.

Hopenhagen

Think of the potential for both the economy and environment. International agreements to raise tariffs on unsustainably harvested primary resources, subsidy programs for R&D into new energy production, or an accord to phase out coal fired plants by 2050. It's possible, the potential is there. Here's some links to get you started:

Copyright Reform

Humanity is changing and at the root of it is how we communicate. What rights we have to control our own culture and what it means to foster creativity and innovation is finally becoming a discussion worth having because for the first time ever, the average person has the potential to become their own printing press.

Technology has given us the tools, but the old guard of copyright owners is actively pushing back to retain their hold on our culture while simultaneously eroding our own privacy rights. Canada has great potential here to stand on its own and do the right thing, thereby becoming a centre for innovation and creativity on the world stage -- we just need the will.

Michael Geist, a copyright lawyer and activist for years on this issue has created a site called Speak Out on Copyright, a compilation of resources covering what you can do to affect change in this area. Talk to your MP, write letters to the editor for your local paper, do whatever you need to help people understand that what the Conservatives want to do right now is more dangerous than the damage Bush did to digital rights in his 8 years as a wrecking ball.

Net Neutrality

The Internet is gradually being eroded into a consumer tool from the powerful equalising force it was from the beginning. The key issue (for me anyway) is that the Internet is moving from a telephone-style system where all traffic moves at the same rate regardless of who's using it or what it's being used for, to a consumer service where people can pay more for better service or access to different content.

This can sound appealing at first until you realise that this means that your ISP (Shaw, Telus, Bell, Rogers, etc) is trying to make it so that you can't use our Internet the way you want. If they don't want to let you see certain sites, they won't, if they don't want you using a particular technology regardless of how you're using it, they'll throttle it or block it altogether. Moves like this impede innovation and turn the power of the Internet over to a conglomerate of 4 companies in Canada... companies we know that from considerable past experience, can't be trusted.

A number of sites have sprung up on this issue:

February 13, 2009 06:00 +0100  |  Copyright Media 12

Dear Joss,

I'm hoping you can help me with an ethical problem I'm having: I'm about to download the premiere of Dollhouse by way of bittorrent free of charge, but I'd still like to have a way to thank you and the rest of the cast & crew financially.

You see, I don't have cable. I stopped subscribing when they cancelled your last show because frankly, there wasn't anything good on TV anymore. Turns out you can get all the shows you want for free online anyway and then only watch the stuff you want, when you want. It all kinda makes cable look... well pointless really.

But now that you're about to release your new (undoubtably brilliant) show, I find myself wanting to support you all in your quest to make good stories and you know, eat. However my desire to re-sign with a cable company for one show that only runs at an inconvenient fixed time feels just as silly as it did months ago so I'd like to find a way to just flat-out give you money.

I'll mail you a cheque, or I can use PayPal, or some other e-friendly payment method it doesn't matter -- I'm happy to jump through that hoop for you guys. I just wanna say "thank you" and I'm sorry, but I'm busy Friday night so I can't say thank you by paying $40 to a cable company, skipping my plans and enduring all of those insipid commercials. How 'bout I just give you some cash? Sound good? How much do you think my fractional portion of the advertising revenues is worth? Whatever it is, I'm sure I can afford to pay double that.

I eagerly await your reply with directions to your tip jar.

Thanks so much,

Daniel Quinn
Vancouver, Canada

I want to send this to him, but apparently, Joss doesn't have a fan mail address (who can blame him, it'd probably be rammed in a few hours). Fox's Dollhouse site seems to be a collection of one-way communication aside from a pretty useless login-protected forum. I may just have to wait until the show's cancelled so I can buy it on DVD... just like Buffy, Angel and Firefly. How sad.

June 10, 2008 17:45 +0200  |  Canada Copyright 7

For those of you who haven't yet heard the news, CBC has lost the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme. You know the tune, "da dada dada, da dada dada..." -- I'd include an MP3 here but I'm having trouble finding one.

It turns out that the song's composer and owner Dolores Claman was asking for just too much money for the re-use of the song on the CBC. They offered her $1million and she turned it down, asking instead for a cool $2.5million to $3million! The CBC is taxpayer-funded people. It can't justify that kind of expense.

And so the song was instead sold to CTV/TSN, a component of CTV Globe Meia's massive conglomerate. They can afford an insane price for a jingle and frankly, it's quite the coup for them. Those notes are Canada's unofficial second anthem. Everyone knows it, and everyone knows it means hockey.

A lot of people are really pissed off about this, and they should be, but not for the reasons about which they seem to be shouting.

Some people are mad at Claman, who's simply exploiting an opportunity for the maximum available profit. It may be a pretty mean thing to do, but she "owns" the song and under our laws, she has every right to do what she's done.

Others are mad at the CBC for not just paying the $2.5million. I'm guessing that these people just have no understanding of what little money a public prodcaster has to work with.

No one however, is talking about the real problem here: that song has been part of Canadian culture for 40 years. Claman has been fully compensated under the terms of a financial contract for the entirety of those years and by all rights, the Canadian people should own that song to do with as we please.

How long should we allow copyright to exist on something so tightly woven into our culture? Isn't 40years of royalties enough to push a song into the public domain? Why should one person have the right to sign over the "ownership" of a song to a corporation in perpetuity?

Listening to CBC Radio One yesterday the broadcasters were joking about how they couldn't even hum it anymore, because the song is owned by someone else. One of the men thought he'd be light-hearted about the whole thing: "How 'bout we just do it one last time? Da dada dada --"

"Ahh, lets not do that" the second man cut in. Clearly, he was nervous about the legal implications of humming our unofficial national anthem.

December 14, 2007 11:10 +0100  |  Copyright Politics 0

Even if you're an avid follower of the news, you've probably missed it. Buried beneath the Pickton trial, Aqsa Parvez's murder and Schreiber vs. Mulroney, was a very important story: the Canadian version of the DMCA... it wasn't released to Parliament.

As a refresher for the uninitiated, the DMCA is essentially a copyright bill that runs things in the US. It's designed mostly to keep the copyright holders in power and keep those of us who would use "their" intellectual property to create our own art from doing so without permission. It's used as the backbone in lawsuits when the RIAA sues 12 year-olds for file sharing, and it prevents you from ripping CDs and DVDs or from doing research into important stuff like cryptography.

Anyway, until now Canadians haven't had to worry about this sort of bad policy, but today the Conservatives were supposed to unveil their new, even more restrictive version of the DMCA for Canada... but they didn't. Most likely due in large part to the major public outcry orchestrated by copyright activists like Michael Geist who understand the importance of copyright law.

This stuff is very much worth educating yourself about. Check out Geist's site and if you're interested, there's also the Facebook group, Boing Boing and of course, a Youtube video to show you what you can do.

Disc Drop

On a related subject, you might want to check out a new project by CBC's The Hour called Disc Drop. Here are the details taken straight from the site. I'm gonna get right on this. Anyone else interested?

There's nothing more satisfying than sharing the joy of music. Disc Drop is your chance to turn a total stranger on to the tunes that changed your life. Who knows? Maybe you'll change some-one else's life while you're at it.

  • STEP 1: Make a mixed CD of your favourite tunes. Somewhere on the disc write: DISC DROP - cbc.ca/thehour. Be sure to include a track-listing so people can track down more music by the artists on your disc.
  • STEP 2: Drop off your disc in a random public place.
  • STEP 3: Go to the I Dropped a Disc - What Now, click on the comments, and write down where you dropped off your disc and the track-listing. Check back later to find out who picked it up, and where it's heading next.

May 29, 2007 15:14 +0200  |  Copyright 1

This video is fucking brilliant. It's an argument about copyright and the problems with the concept of "fair use". Worth the 10 minutes of your time if only to see how it was impressively stitched together.

May 02, 2007 06:45 +0200  |  Copyright Geek Stuff Nifty Links 1

Slashdot has the details:

Months after successful discovery of the HD-DVD processing key, an unprecedented campaign of censorship, in the form of DMCA takedown notices by the MPAA, has hit the Net. For example Spooky Action at a Distance was killed. More disturbingly, my story got Dugg twice, with the second wave hitting 15,500 votes, and today I found out it had simply disappeared from Digg. How long until the long arm of the MPAA gets to my own site (run in Ecuador) and the rest of them holding the processing key? How long will we let rampant censorship go on, in the name of economic interest?

More details on what this key is and what it's for can be found here.

Update

Digg has decided to do the right thing. Kudos to them for taking this step, and to the community for forcing them down that path.