Category Archives: Patents & Copyrights

Video of Cory Doctorow speaking at Suffolk University

Cory Doctorow and others spoke at the Ford Hall Forum at Suffolk University on Oct. 13, 2015. The talk was The Remote-Controlled Society. It was a pleasure to work with Suffolk and the Boston University Computer Science department to make this talk happen.

I recorded some of it and put it up at the Massachusetts Pirate Party YouTube account. Reminder to self: always use a tripod when recording video.

The Ford Hall Forum posted video of the entire discussion.

He also spoke at the Berkman Center that same day.

Lost in Remixing

I first came across PSY's Gangnam Style video on 8/30 via Naked Capitalism, of all places, when they linked to Open City's commentary on it: Viral vid ‘Gangnam Style’ critiques Korea’s extreme inequality.  I confess that I read the article and never watched the video. 

That is until someone shared this video:

Once shared, watching the original was required:

The thing that struck me about the parody Klingon Style video is how much of the commentary of the original (read the article Viral vid ‘Gangnam Style’ critiques Korea’s extreme inequality to understand) was lost.  It follows the original faithfully, but by changing the context from present day South Korea to Star Trek, it loses the original video's meaning.

However, this remix with North Korean government video shifts the context, but doesn't change the meaning as much:

For me, the closest remix that comes close to the meaning of PSY's original is this one:

Of course, ultimately, the objective of any of these videos is to entertain, and remixing does not require that the meaning of the original be retained. The whole series of parody clips of Hitler reacting to various current events from the movie Downfall is one of the best cases. So of course it should come as no surprise there is a Hitler Style remix using clips from the Downfall movie with the Gangnam Style sound track.

The fact that the Gangnam Style parodies exist and aren't being removed by DMCA takedown orders, seems to be because PSY realizes that the parodies get people to watch the original (or its many variations) and that gets people to buy the song. After all it is #2 on the Billboard charts.  Perhaps the recording companies and the RIAA will finally clue into this and stop trying to get Congress to pass censorship and spying laws like SOPA.

All in all, it does make me want to reread Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle.

I refuse to give up my freedom

I tend to borrow and remix from the thoughts of TechDirt founder Mike Masnick, Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge, science fiction writer Cory Doctorow and cartoonist and Question Copyright founder Nina Paley when thinking about how copyright and patent laws are increasingly obsolete and counter productive not only to our economy but to our freedom as well.  However, a recent discussion about International Talk Like a Pirate Day prompted me to write up a, likely incomplete, summary of my thoughts.  So here goes:

"It is more complex than the idea that people want to steal from musicians.

We have to keep in mind that the existing music system established a few gatekeepers that were able to capture much of the money we pay for music.  The order that people got paid was:

  1. first the music industry (esp. the big players),
  2. second the small number of musicians who "made it",
  3. third a somewhat larger number of musicians who were luckly to get slightly better than minimum wage,
  4. finally the vast majority made no money at all or did it for the love of playing music.

Now, with the Internet, musicians are able to connect with their fans and ask them to support the music (and musicians) they love directly. Gatekeepers are going away as a result and musicians will be better off.

Will all musicians thrive?  No, but more will do better than their processors did.

Will musicians need to look at other ways of getting fans to support them, than buying the music that can be easily copied? Yes. Tours are one means. Using tools like Kickstarter to have fans pay for musicians to create something new is another. Selling the unique and scarce items that musicians can create will be more common: suggesting the background of a song, personal concerts, signed disks, individual frames of music videos are but a few methods that could be tried and often have been tried successfully.

Leading all this is that people like to create, and now more people have the tools and ability to develop the skills they need to create. 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.  Some of it is a copy, some is remixed, but most of the videos are ones that people create for their friends or to express themselves. For me, a future where more people can create and share is exciting and better than a world of gatekeepers and big name musicians.

Ultimately, the only way we will maintain this old and dying system is to spy on what everyone sends out over the Internet, censor our communications and lock every digital file so that no one can share. That is the world the huge entertainment companies and their mouthpieces such as the RIAA, MPAA and Chamber of Commerce want and it would be a sad, poor world indeed.

I refuse to give up my freedom so that a few gatekeepers and stick-in-the-mud musicians don't have to change and innovate."

As PBS extolls arbitrage, is wealth looting next?

I didn't intend to have my next post focus on arbitrage and rentiers, but as I prepared to deal with several items I have put off in favor of sleeping the last few days, I just couldn't resist.

Last night, my wife was watching Market Warriors, a PBS show that seems to have been spun off from Antiques Roadshow. Various intermediate buyers/sellers comb flea markets and try to get the best price they can on the antiques they buy so in order to sell them at auction for a higher price. They have various constraints they have to abide by. In between the haggling, the narrator makes comments on the buying/selling process, negotiations and something about the items the participants have chosen.

They should have just called the show Arbitrage, as striped of the commentary, that is all the participants are doing. As they Marxists' M-C-M' equation says, they are using money to buy commodities to make more money. Watching stock or bond traders negotiate their deals would have been far more exciting and illuminating about the inner purpose of financial capitalism.

Which brings me to the latest Q&A with Michael Hudson about his book The Bubble and Beyond: Fictitious Capital, Debt Deflation and Global Crisis. In the Q&A, he ties the huge debts (especially private debts) we have developed since 1980, with the increasing amount of money the financial sector is siphoning off from the goods economy. The following excerpt summarizes our current march on the road to debt servitude:

But instead of supporting productive industry by extending credit to increase tangible capital investment, the banking system has extended credit mainly (about 80 percent in the United States and most English-speaking countries) to buy real estate and load it down with debt. The result is that rental income is used to pay interest to the banks rather than to pay taxes. This forces governments to tax wages, profits and sales. That increases the cost of living and doing business, on top of the interest charge.

In search of this loan market, banks have come to back untaxing real estate and deregulating monopolies, so that their economic rent can be paid to the banks as interest by customers eager buy these rights – and charge even higher rents or raise prices even further without making a new capital investment of their own. Instead of financing industry, U.S. banks don’t make loans for what can be produced in the future. They make loans against collateral already in place – including entire companies with high-interest “junk” bonds. The target company is obliged to pay the debt that the corporate raider takes on. The raider then is “free” to downsize and outsource the work force, squeeze the budget and hope to come out with a capital gain after paying off the banks and bondholders. The process is more extractive than productive.

While the financial industry has led the way in extracting economic rents from their customers and other sectors of the economy, other sectors are catching up.  Increasingly we see patents being used to extract economic rents, whether with the Apple-Samsung ruling or with patent trolls, rather than by actually innovating and creating more useful products. 

With artbitrage covered, perhaps PBS will come up with a new show that extolls the virtues of rent seeking.  I think Wealthy Looters would be a good title.

The question for us, though, is whether we want an economy that encourages invovation and spreading the wealth we all create as widely as possible or whether we want a rentier tollbooth economy controlled and milked by the wealthy.

ACTA is Dead!

Reposted from the Mass. Pirate Party blog.
In a 478-to-39 vote, the European Parliament rejected ACTA. For all intents ACTA is dead. Without EU support and with other countries rejecting it, ACTA is unlikely to go anywhere.
No doubt parts of it will reappear in other secret draft treaties, especially the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. But on this Independence Day, we thank all who voiced their opposition to ACTA, especially the European Pirate and Green Parties!

Links 6/26/2012

Links 6/25/2012

Links 6/22/2012

  • Doug Henwood‘s Behind the News interview with Yanis Varoufakis, on the Greece & Euro Zone crisis. Turns out Yanis Varoufakis started work at Valve Software. When Doug stated that Valve was run along anarcho syndicalist, I went looking for more and found:
  • The Valve manifesto – which is the first thing that comes up when you search for valve software anarcho syndicalist on google. Sounds like a human place to work and L loves their games, but that two of the founders are multimillionaires, at least, seems to limit the ability to apply their model to other, less well financed, businesses
  • Copyright and “intellectual disobedience – Cool interview with cartoonist Nina Paley on free culture: “Intellectual disobedience is civil disobedience plus intellectual property,” Paley explained. “A lot of people infringe copyright and they’re apologetic … If you know as much about the law as, unfortunately, I do, I cannot claim ignorance and I cannot claim fair use … I know that I’m infringing copyright and I don’t apologize for it.”
  • Also, the Techdirt summary
  • The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia – Matt Taibbi on more fraud by Wall Street banks: “But when added to the other fractions of a percent stolen from basically every other town in America on every other bond issued by Wall Street in the past 10 to 15 years, it starts to turn into an enormous sum of money. In short, this was like the scam in Office Space, multiplied by a factor of about 10 gazillion: Banks stole pennies at a time from towns all over America, only they did it a few hundred bazillion times.”
  • Julian Assange’s right to asylum – Glenn Greenwald
  • Washington’s 5 Worst Arguments for Keeping Secrets From You – a great list from Wired’s Danger Room blog
  • Atheists, Muslims See Most Bias as Presidential Candidates
  • Hark, a Vagrant: Idler – Remixing cartoons from very old illustrations

Slides of my copyright talk available. Comments welcome.

I had a great time presenting my talk at the Play-jurisms conference this last Saturday. I stayed up late until 3:30 am to finish the slides for the talk.  Considering that I was typing away in bed while my wife slept, she was very understanding.  The talk didn't suffer for the fact I was up so late writing it, but no doubt I can improve it.  I did end up changing the title from what I had originally envisioned, but I felt the new title better matched the spirit of the conference.

You can view the slides as a pdf if you want.  Comments are most welcome.

Are you ready for the Great Firewall of the US?

Reposting an article I put up at the Massachusetts Pirate Party blog.  I did change the title though.

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) bill is dead it seems. However, the entertainment industry and their lackeys supporters in Congress have introduced the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 or PROTECT IP Act for short. It isn’t out on Thomas yet so we do not know who is sponsoring it, but Don’t Censor the Net obtained and released a copy of it for everyone to read in all its pro-censorship glory.

Techdirt and Torrentfreak have good write ups on what we know about it, but here is a summary of the odiousness of this bill:

  • the Attorney General of the US can obtain a court order to censor an infringing website without due process.  It can then serve the court order on specified U.S. based third-parties to censor the website or stop doing business with the website.  Third-parties include search engines, payment processors, online advertising network providers, and internet service providers.  Third-parties would now be held liable if they do not censor the specified website.  Websites could be held liable for simply linking to an infringing website;
  • additionally, the act would extend most of the tools the Attorney General has to  private copyright holders. They could obtain a court order against a website without due process.  The copyright holders could then serve the court order on specified U.S. payment processors and online advertising network providers to force them to stop doing business with the website;
  • court orders would not be limited to the specified domain, but would include all domains linked to the website that were created after the court order was issued;
  • service providers which voluntary censor websites that they deem to be infringing would be protected from liability.  Should a service provider choose to censor a website, there appears to be no recourse for the owner of the censored website;
  • the bill is directed at “Internet site dedicated to infringing activities”, a definition which is rather loose and very much in the eye of the beholder.

One of the seeming pluses of the PROTECT IP Act when compared to COICA is that it does not appear to directly target domains.  However, domain registrars would be encouraged to take down infringing domain names voluntarily.  We hope that ICE’s attempts to seize domains via Operation In Our Sites does not hold up in court.

We need your help!

The PROTECT IP Act is an enormous leap towards censoring the internet, and we need your help in fighting it.  Please join us on Sunday, May 29th, for our monthly meeting / social.  The meeting starts at 2pm.  We will start the grill around 4pm and go until 6pm.  It will be at 25 Moore St., Somerville, MA.  Please tell us whether you will attend by signing up at our Facebook event or via Tweetvite.  Thanks!