Archive for October, 2008

Obama, McCain, and Lessig

October 27, 2008

Glyn Moody calls it libel:

Although it is unclear at this point who Senators Obama and McCain might choose, AAP believes it essential that key officials who will deal with intellectual property issues in a new administration have a full understanding of the importance of intellectual property rights for those who hold these rights and for broader U.S. economic and trade interests. AAP is concerned, for example, that based on their past academic relationship, Senator Obama might choose among his appointments a divisive figure such as Larry Lessig – a law professor and leading proponent of diminished copyright rights.

Suggesting that Lawrence Lessig would make a poor advisor due to an insufficient understanding of the effects of US copyright law, is ludicrous. Not only does Lessig understand copyright, he understands copyright in a digital and networked world – the world some publishing companies fight to put the brakes on using DRM and the DMCA. Most importantly, Lessig understands that our new technologies don’t fit the old law. It’s this mismatch that drives the conflict and division, not him. If anyone has done the work it takes to find a common ground – a solution that not only respects the importance of copyright but is pragmatic in the face of new technology, it’s Lessig.

Obama should not only request Lessig’s assistance, he should beg him for it.


e-textbooks, DRM, and vendor lock-in for schools

October 24, 2008

Discussion over e-textbooks and hardware/software to read them has started at our school. Links to information regarding Amazon’s Kindle and CafeScribe were suggested to begin some research. Below is my response. I would appreciate hearing thoughts from other educators:

I want book readers too. Though, we need to be wary of jumping into hardware and software that risks vendor lock-in and implements DRM. Depending on its implementation, DRM is often going to be inappropriate for schools. For instance, if the file and application prevent students from sharing and working with the data in a flexible way (i.e. copy/pasting to and from other devices/apps if they so choose), it hinders learning opportunities. Avoiding vendor lock-in and using open formats is desirable for schools.

For more info:


Vendor Lock-in

Open Formats

Right now, Amazon’s Kindle supports most of its files using a DRM-encumbered, proprietary file format (AZW) and forbids users from sharing or putting books on other devices according to its terms of service. CafeScribe looks interesting but locks users into either Windows or Mac at this time and is proprietary. They might offer a platform independent implementation in the future, but in order to use now means vendor lock-in at both the application and operating system level.

glassbooth: election 2008

October 15, 2008

A friend/colleague passed Glassbooth on to me. The results:

1. Cynthia McKinney

2. Ralph Nader

3. Barack Obama

4. John McCain

5. Bob Barr

With less than a month to go, it’s obvious that – like usual – the structure of American presidential politics and mainstream media have circumscribed the potential winners (McCain vs. Obama). Until America’s high-stakes two-party system is overhauled, I’m compelled to endorse Obama instead of a higher ranking candidate for pragmatic reasons. That is, a vote for Obama/Biden is a vote to stop McCain/Palin. Sad but true.

Care to share your results?

Back The TRUCK UP: buying v downloading

October 14, 2008

In a recent post on Jefferson, etc. I linked to a video that I had thought I’d seen before and then, upon further review, found out that it wasn’t what I thought it was. Confused? Yeah, me too.

The video I linked to is not properly contextualized to my post. When I posted, I thought I was linking to a video claiming “downloading” unauthorized copies is “stealing”. Instead, I unwittingly linked to a different video claiming “buying” unauthorized copies is “stealing”.


This is a HUGE difference. While it’s still absurd to think of buying unauthorized recordings as “stealing” (perhaps “complicity” if I knowingly do it), I understand why some may get angry and wish to call the sellers “pirates” who “steal”.

Check these videos (one & two) out. They are very, very different. And just to add to the confusion, the one that says “downloading” in the youtube title is the one that plays as “buying” while the youtube title claiming “crime” is the one that plays as “downloading”.

the Foos fight McCain

October 9, 2008

MSNBC reports that the McCain campaign is being asked by the Foo Fighters to stop playing “My Hero” at political rallies. The band released a statement claiming:

To have [the song] appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song.

Only property can be “appropriated”, not copyrighted work. Unfortunately, the Foo Fighters mistakenly refer to copyright as “Intellectual Property” which just confuses the issue. However, if we insist on playing the “property” analogy game, the closest action to “appropriation” would be to claim authorship. The McCain camp did not do this.

The only way to “tarnish” a copyrighted work is to change it and distribute or perform the derivative work without notice of the adjustments. Even then, “tarnish” is really in the eye of the beholder. There is no “tarnishing” when using a context (e.g. a rally) in trying to persuade an audience toward an interpretation of an original work left intact.  And while an exception to persuasion would surely be a rally promoting hatred, the McCain campaign is at worst promoting stupidity, not hate. So long as the song’s attribution stays intact, it’s used non-commercially, and is non-derivative in nature, I lean heavily toward laws allowing such uses of published art, regardless of how much I sympathize with the Foo Fighters in this case.

Putting the law aside however, I see it in the best interest of the McCain camp to cease using the song and honor the request of the artist. Politically, they’ve nothing to gain by fighting the Foos on this one.

Jefferson, ideas, property, and the constitution

October 8, 2008

Update (Oct.14, 2008): If you make it to the bottom of this post and watch the video, this new post is important.

So I had my IT classes read and paraphrase the following famous quote by Thomas Jefferson that rebukes the claim that ideas be treated as property:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. […] Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

I then had the class find where in the US constitution a provision is made to establish copyright and patent law. Using a search engine, they quickly came up with the appropriate passage from Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

I then asked them to respond to the following question:

Does the clause support or stand in opposition to Jefferson’s argument?

A few struggled with this as the answer appears to be both yes and no. The fact that the constitution establishes “exclusive Right[s]” seems to conflict with Jefferson’s position. Many students immediately saw it this way. My rhetorical follow-up question helped balance their view:

So when you buy a car, how long do you think you should be allowed to keep it?

Our next task is to examine how digital technology and global networks have increased the conflict in an “exclusive Right[s]” environment as compared to our analog past. The plan is to then look at a framework that helps bring 21st-century balance to All Rights Reserved copyright law and find out why many software developers are up in arms over patents.

This unit has been interesting so far. Most students had heard phrases like “intellectual property”, “piracy”, and “stealing” numerous times. In fact, virtually all of them had seen this “educational” video prior to my instruction and held the belief that without All Rights Reserved, artists would not be able to make money. We’ll be examining these phrases and beliefs closely over the coming days.

Microsoft’s strategy one year later

October 6, 2008

About a year ago I noted some Microsoft strategies to pervert “Open Source”. Now, the currying of community favor through the “this” and “that” part of my post is hitting its stride according to an article on Slashdot.  What I also noted was my pessimism regarding “Open Source”-advocate desire to resist Microsoft. While Miguel de Icaza claims a legitimate victory in convincing Microsoft to move its MEF from the proprietary MS-LPL to the OSI-approved MS-PL, the bigger picture tells a different story altogether.

At this point, Microsoft is simply getting free advertising to point to as “proof” that they support Open Source.

Joe Six-pack

October 2, 2008

So Sarah Palin says she represents and is just “like” the average “Joe Six-pack” American. She’s running for vice president to the United States of America. While some voters may not care one iota of a candidate’s experience, I see it differently. I certainly wouldn’t want the average “Joe Six-pack” performing surgery or a root canal on me. I wouldn’t want “Joe Six-pack” arguing my case in a court of law. I wouldn’t want “Joe Six-pack” teaching my children. Don’t get me wrong…I have nothing against “Joe-six pack”, but JSP should stick to what JSP knows best. Admittedly, I’m not qualified to say what that is exactly, but it certainly doesn’t involve the highest levels of government.

“Elitist” you say? Damn straight.