Archive for December, 2007

“History, they say, doesn’t repeat –but it does echo. Looking back at other situations, other republics and empires, one is tempted to draw parallels between then and now. The parallel drawn most often is the decline of the British Empire .In the end America will follow its own unique path. All Republics end, and so do all Empires.” 4 for pause.

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What has happened to our society when some of the most well educated people in our country do not accept this most basic and obvious of scientific theories?

Just to gleefully re-emphasize what a moron he is.

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When compared to the other Republican presidential candidates, Ron Paul seems almost sane. But before you think he will swoop in and save us from far-right theocrats like Huckabee and Romney, think again.

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Today’s quote

Today’s quote is an exchange with an AI from Deus Ex:

JC Denton: How about a report on yourself?
Morpheus: I was a prototype for Echelon IV. My instructions are to amuse visitors with information about themselves.
JC Denton: I don’t see anything amusing about spying on people.
Morpheus: Human beings feel pleasure when they are watched. I have recorded their smiles as I tell them who they are.
JC Denton: Some people just don’t understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance.
Morpheus: The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.

Now playing: Explosions In The Sky – Look Into The Air
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I sent a letter to the prime minister, and the ministers of industry, heritage, and the chair of the Industry Commmittee about the upcoming copyright reform legislation, which by the way has now been delayed. The text follows.

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

My name is David Puglielli, and I am a PhD student attending Queen’s
University in Kingston, Ontario. I am writing to express my view regarding
upcoming copyright reform legislation. I am deeply concerned that this
legislation is being driven by the interests of large copyright holders at
the expense of consumers, educators and researchers.

I am especially worried that the legislation may reproduce the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is a poor strategy to follow. We have
had nearly a decade of experience to examine the effect that the DMCA has
had on consumers, educators, researchers and innovation. There is no point
to introducing legislation that will only cause the same problems here, and
I urge your government to learn from the mistakes made by US lawmakers in
crafting the Canadian legislation.

The DMCA has had numerous undesirable consequences. There are dozens of
cases in which the DMCA has been used to:

1) stifle competition, in which companies lock down their intellectual
property and then take legal action against competitors that need to reverse
engineer those products to build competing products, as has happened in the
after market for inkjet printers;
2) prevent researchers from carrying out their activities; in particular,
security researchers, which makes it more difficult to discover security
problems in protected systems before malicious hackers do;
3) prevent American citizens from making legitimate uses of media under
American fair use laws (unfortunately the Canadian fair dealing exception is
more narrowly defined than the American fair use clause); and
4) stifle freedom of speech, such as when organizations use the DMCA to
silence online critics.

The list of reasons not to follow the U.S. lead on copyright reform is far
too long to list here, but a summary of the unintended consequences of the
DMCA may be found at
http://www.eff.org/wp/unintended-consequences-seven-years-under-dmca. If you
have not read this yet, I invite you to do so to familiarize yourself with
the problems brought on by the DMCA in the U.S.

How will this legislation affect me specifically?

My concern is that I am a Linux user. Linux, as you may know, is an open
source operating system that that can be used in place of Microsoft Windows
on a PC. I use it because it integrates with my work environment better than
Windows and because it is far more stable and secure. In order to access any
type of protected media on my computer, I need to circumvent the
copy-protection schemes used to encrypt them, since licenced software is
rarely available for Linux. I occasionally watch my (legally purchased) DVDs
on my computer, but these DVDs contain CSS encryption. Under the DMCA, it is
a crime in the U.S. to use open source decryption tools to watch DVDs under
Linux. Should I be made a criminal for watching a DVD under Linux? Similarly
I must use circumvention if I wish to view high-definition (HD-DVD, Blu-Ray)
discs under Linux.

Here is one example of the unintended consequences directly applicable to
me. New iPod firmware updates include a hash check that ties one iPod to one
copy of iTunes. I need to use my iPod with Linux – there exist numerous
tools that integrate the iPod seamlessly with Linux, but they must now
circumvent the hash check to do so. Under current American law, his may
violate the DMCA. Thus, the next time I sync my iPod with my Linux music
player, I risk violating Canadian law, assuming the Canadian version is
similar to the American one. Why should this be the case? The hash check is
an artificial protection measure that abuses the DMCA to lock out
competitors, but does absolutely nothing to stop piracy. Should I be
considered a criminal simply for using my iPod with Linux? You will note
that the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision is used by companies to lock in
customers and lock out competitors, which is a completely unintended
side-effect of the DMCA.

I read earlier this week that the upcoming legislation has been strongly
influenced by lobbying pressure brought to bear by copyright holders. I am
not happy about the prospect that this legislation may have been written
without protections for consumer rights and without protections against the
excesses I outline above. I am a stakeholder in this debate just as are
copyright holders, and I do not appreciate it if my interests are shunted
aside in order to placate lobby groups. However, every indication is that
this is what is currently happening.

I would ask that this legislation *not be fast-tracked* so that committee
may have adequate time to study it. Consumers are not well organized like
large copyright holders, I believe that the best opportunity we have to
address our concerns about the legislation will come in committee. It would
be an insult to the millions of Canadians consumers directly affected by
this legislation who do not have a lobbying organization at their disposal
to fast-track it.

I wish to emphasize: We have a unique opportunity to take a novel and
effective approach with our copyright reform because we’ve seen the problems
caused by the approach taken by other countries, especially the United
States. Do not follow their example.

I will close by noting that I hope that your government will pay at least as
much attention to the interests of consumers, educators and researchers as
it does to large copyright holders. I am confident that if the concerns of
all stakeholders are appropriately addressed, our copyright reform will
serve as a successful model for the digital age, instead of a failed model
that deserves to be abandoned.

David Puglielli

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