Interactive Show

Get that Club Mate cold and those soldering irons hot because it’s time for another Interactive Show! We’re putting out the call to hackers around the globe to come show your stuff at our annual party.

This year there’s no theme– it’s a free-for-all! Have something blinking and beautiful? Something that bleeps or bloops? Anything interactive goes!

This year’s show will be June 7th. If you’re interested in being part of a show, drop us a line at ishow@nycresistor.com! Try to get in touch by May 7th so we can make sure there’s space for your project. Hope to hear from you soon!

Props to Olivia Barr for our awesome gif flyer this year!

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-04-21 21:41:39

 

te_card_reader-300x300Got a shiny new 3D printer, but not quite sure what to do with it? Interested in learning to make your projects move? Sign up for “Intro to Mechanisms” on May 10th and get a gentle introduction to making stuff spin, wobble and reciprocate using things like gears and cams. We’ll also explore more advanced control mechanisms like Geneva Drives and Jacquard-style Punch Card readers, so you can live out your steampunk fantasies and setup your own desktop Dickensian sweatshop!  Taught by Chris Fenton (chris on thingiverse).

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-04-20 00:32:54

Above is a photo of the building that OpenStack ( nova at least ) was born in. That’s node number 6 on the internet, and the home of E root server. The dishes while no longer in use, used to provide internet to places like scandanavia. I also used to work there, as part of the Nebula Project.

Today the OpenStack foundation released their latest version of the software, code named Icehouse. Named for a street in Hong Kong ( where the last developers summit was held ). Many are just calling it Igloo because it’s easier. Anyways, to celebrate the new release of OpenStack, I’ll be trying to start up an OpenStack study group.

That will be on May 21st starting at 6:00 PM ( 18:00 ).

RSVP HERE

Read on for more detailed information…

About the event.

This first meeting will be fairly informal. An introduction to the group and the world of developing for OpenStack. If it looks like we’ve got a solid group of folks, I figure we’ll get a better sense of what it is we want to do going forward. For me, I’d like to setup a once a month block of time to hang out with other OpenStack folks and share notes or just hack away on ‘all the things’. I’d love to also maybe setup a show and tell time as well. So that folks who want to show off some code, or some project can do so. But very informal. IE no vendor pitches =P

Who should come?

Please only rsvp if you intend to come and really are interested in getting your hands dirty. This is not a networking event, or a sales pitch, or a recruiting opportunity. This is hackery. Pure and simple.

I figure you’ll need to have at least some rudimentary grasp of python and a pretty solid understanding of Linux operations and networking. I figure most people who would be interested would have exposure to OpenStack or similar software such as CloudStack, Eucalyptus or maybe even Ganeti.

When?

May 21, 2014, 6pm till we get tired ( 9:00 or so I would imagine )

Where?

At NYC Resistor. 87 3rd Ave 4th Floor ( no elevator we use stairs ) in Brooklyn NY. This is about three blocks from the Atlantic Pacific street station near the Barclays center.

NYC Resistor is a somewhat famous hackerspace with a focus on learning, making, and sharing.

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-04-17 16:28:50

This past weekend NYC Resistor, for the first time ever, entered a homebrew competition. We went to the Pride of Brooklyn event held at Littlefield in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn ( not far from NYC Resistor ). And it was AWESOME.

Read on for more info about the beer, future events, and other fun stuff.

As I may have mentioned, several NYC Resistor members do occasionally homebrew.

We have several projects in that area developing. Travis and Myself have been very active in trying to get out into the local NYC brewing scene and share ideas. It’s been very enjoyable.

Pride of Brooklyn was a wonderful way to celebrate the onset of some REAL spring weather. It’s been a long winter, and this past weekend was a much welcomed reprieve. The event also happened to occur on April 12th. Yuri’s Night. Which I guess made it that much more special. I hope you all had a terrific Yuri’s Night as well. We certainly did along with 24 other homebrewers.

For the event we entered a Scottish style of beer known as a wee heavy. We named ours ‘weesistor heavy’, because we know that puns are the way to people’s hearts. Our version was somewhat sweet for a beer, with a rich red color, and a smoky peaty aftertaste. We had an OG of 1.064 and an FG of 1.012 resulting in an ABV of about 7% and a very low IBU. It was very well received, and was several people informed us that it was unlike any other beer there. Several folks thought it tasted a bit like a single malt scotch of beers. That was the peated malt steeped in the keg at the end.

We’d like to thank the wonderful folks at Pride of Brooklyn for putting together the event. It was a blast. And they really went out of their way to make the event memorable for the brewers as well as the folks learning to love results of homebrewed beer. So from us, thanks! We had a blast and it was worth all 5 gallons. I’d also like to give a shout out to all the other homebrewers at the event. Everyone was amazing, and their beers were almost as amazing as they were. Frankly, I’ve never been in one place with that much delicious beer on tap in my life. And I assure you I’ve been around the proverbial block.

We’ll be bringing another beer out shortly, and I’ll post about that too. But look forward to seeing us at the Food and Book Fair’s Pop Up pub at the Wythe hotel in Williamsburg on Sunday April 27th. We expect great things.

weesistor-heavy
A photo of our beer.

The Recipe for the beer is on our GitHub here: Weesistor Heavy

The STL files for 3D printing our keg wrap ( including a blank front plate ) are here:
Thingiverse Thing: 293263

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-04-14 15:21:10

NYCR floor painting: BeforeNYCR floor painting: before
Did you ever notice how beat-up the floors were at NYC Resistor? Four years of rolling chairs had done horrible things to the paint, so we did something about it last night.

NYCR floor paintingNYCR floor painting
Everybody pitched in with a massive effort. While the painting only took from 22.8 to 73.3 .beats, the spring cleaning, organization and preparation took all weekend.

NYCR floor paintingNYCR floor painting
Zach was the last Resistor painting and escaped by taking the elevator. We turned off the lights and let the first coat dry overnight. The second coat will be dry in time for Craft Night. So come hack with us on a freshly painted floors!

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-04-10 02:46:04

I scanned the top 10000 websites (according to Alexa) and these are the ones that came up vulnerable. I have rescanned the vulnerable ones periodically and will continue to do so over the next few days. It’s possible that anything unpatched by now won’t be patched any time soon. This list is of servers that are currently vulnerable. It does not tell you whether keys or passwords were compromised in the past.

Just to be clear, I scanned port 443 (not 993), which is to say I was looking at HTTPS connections rather than IMAPS.

A bunch of sites didn’t respond to the test. Presumably this is because they don’t support HTTPS. But it might be because they’ve taken secure services off line while they fix the bug. Such sites wouldn’t be listed as vulnerable here, but it also wouldn’t be quite right to say they are safe.

Thanks to FiloSottile for the scanning tool.

2014/04/09 11:39:44 mobikwik.com
2014/04/09 11:43:02 www.mobikwik.com
2014/04/09 11:39:26 joomlart.com
2014/04/09 11:42:49 www.joomlart.com
2014/04/09 11:39:32 longurl.it
2014/04/09 11:40:38 templateism.com
2014/04/09 11:38:27 cpasuperaffiliate.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:35 ssisurveys.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:51 myegy.to
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2014/04/09 11:43:52 www.shareaholic.com
2014/04/09 11:40:33 speedyshare.com
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2014/04/09 11:37:47 8tracks.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:03 picmonkey.com
2014/04/09 11:43:25 www.picmonkey.com
2014/04/09 11:38:31 digitalriver.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:53 neurs.com
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2014/04/09 11:38:51 gazzetta.gr
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2014/04/09 11:37:49 adultbay.org
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2014/04/09 11:40:49 trafficfactory.biz
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2014/04/09 11:40:06 pixeden.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:12 indowebster.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:37 tamilrockers.net
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2014/04/09 11:40:45 topnews.ru
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2014/04/09 11:40:50 twitpic.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:01 healthkart.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:11 inc.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:35 sprinthost.ru
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2014/04/09 11:40:01 ouedkniss.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:50 tz4.com
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2014/04/09 11:38:38 expatriates.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:01 oxforddictionaries.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:02 pciconcursos.com.br
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2014/04/09 11:38:57 gordonua.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:33 socialfabric.us
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2014/04/09 11:40:15 ptcsolution.com
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2014/04/09 11:38:27 competitor.com
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2014/04/09 11:38:28 cplusplus.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:59 olx.co.th
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2014/04/09 11:40:03 perfectworld.eu
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2014/04/09 11:38:42 fide.com
2014/04/09 11:40:50 turkcealtyazi.org
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2014/04/09 11:40:44 tomoson.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:15 pulptastic.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:10 imasters.com.br
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2014/04/09 11:43:47 www.sahadan.com
2014/04/09 11:39:02 hobo-web.co.uk
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2014/04/09 11:40:59 waseet.net
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2014/04/09 11:40:00 osclass.org
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2014/04/09 11:39:00 greatergood.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:12 privatbank.ua
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2014/04/09 11:40:32 sixrevisions.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:31 sinemalar.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:19 ireporterstv.co
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2014/04/09 11:40:07 playxn.com
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2014/04/09 11:38:41 feebbo.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:10 postjoint.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:57 ocj.com.cn
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2014/04/09 11:40:16 punchng.com
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2014/04/09 11:38:43 filefactory.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:30 keyandway.com
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2014/04/09 11:40:20 roodo.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:05 ibtimes.co.in
2014/04/09 11:42:41 www.ibtimes.co.in
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2014/04/09 11:38:43 filelist.ro
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2014/04/09 11:38:33 downloadab.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:42 mediapost.com
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2014/04/09 11:43:57 www.state.tx.us
2014/04/09 11:38:24 cinepolis.com.mx
2014/04/09 11:38:29 datropy.com
2014/04/09 11:42:04 www.datropy.com
2014/04/09 11:40:15 protothema.gr
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2014/04/09 11:38:38 evsuite.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:55 nukistream.com
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2014/04/09 11:39:41 matadornetwork.com
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2014/04/09 11:38:58 gorillavid.in
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2014/04/09 11:41:07 wowkeren.com
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2014/04/09 11:38:42 fermasosedi.ru
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2014/04/09 11:40:26 savenkeep.com
2014/04/09 11:43:49 www.savenkeep.com

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2014-04-09 15:55:57

Nick and Sayaka Vermeer, Olivia Barr, and William Ward have been working hard for the past couple weeks on an exciting project with the Brooklyn Ballet. We are transforming the dancers’ costumes into interactive performance pieces. Our contribution consists of six LED snowfall tutus for the ballerinas, one Pexel shirt for Mike “Supreme” Fields and six sparkling LED hair accessories for the young ballerinas. The dancers will be performing the snow scene from the Nutcracker in the Brooklyn Ballet‘s Vectors, Marys, and Snow performance from April 3rd to April 13th. Please support the project through our Kickstarter! There you can also watch an interview with Nick and Lynn Parkerson, founding artistic director and choreographer of Brooklyn Ballet. We’d really appreciate your donation to further our work! All our hardware designs and code are open source, and we hope to see more creative works mixing technology and dance.

A Photo by William W. Ward, "Untitled."

Snowfall Tutus: To accomplish the snowfall/glitter efffect we’ve added LED lights, motion sensors, and custom coded/fabricated microcontrollers to the tutus. The sensor we used is called an accelerometer and its placed at the waist of the corset. It reacts with with movement of the dancer by increasing the amount and brightness of the LEDs with more vigorous movement from the dancer. Nick found a remarkably strong ultra flex 36 gauge silicone wire thats perfect for the supple construction of the tutus and its become a standard material at NYC Resistor for wearables. The wire connects 24 neopixels that are broken down into 6 strands of 4 pixels in each tutu. Special thanks to Max Henstell and Adam Mayer for helping in production. Take a look at this amazing video of our twinkling Tutu!

A Photo by William W. Ward, "Untitled."

Pexel Shirt: Pexel Shirt is custom made for the dancer Mike “Supreme” Fields and is designed to interact with his pecks and arms. Mike is a popping artist and his dancing incorporates the flexing of muscle groups to create surface movement on his body. The shirt is activated by individual accelerometer sensors placed over his muscles that illuminate the LEDs through a Flora microcontroller. There are four sensors total, one on each peck and each wrist. When he flexes an individual peck it lights up. The lights on his arms are controlled by moving his wrists up/down or right/left. The entire piece is hand sewn including stitches in between individual pixel on the arm strands for optimum elasticity while still being secure. Watch the Mike in action here: Mike “Supreme” Fields

A Photo by William W. Ward, "Untitled."

Sparkle Hair Clips: To accent the young ballerina’s costume we designed an LED accent on a hair clip. The clip uses a Gemma microcontroller and a strand of neopixels. The clear acrylic beads on the clip filter the LEDs and sparkle.

Please come out and see the show at the Brooklyn Ballet April 3rd – 13th and support our Kickstarter to fund the project!

Ballet Hacks A Photo by William W. Ward, "Untitled." A Photo by William W. Ward, "Untitled." Rat's Nest

A Photo by William W. Ward, "Untitled."

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-04-02 20:29:00

A blog entry Swartz wrote in 2009, titled “Honest Theft,” neatly details his view of the school as a haven for rebelliousness. He described friends who he said secretly lived for free on campus, sleeping on couches in common rooms and stealing food from the cafeterias — and using the money they saved “to promote the public good.” -- Marcella Bombardieri, "The Inside Story Of Mit And Aaron Swartz"

The role of MIT's openness in this case is one that interests me, though I'm uncertain what to conclude aside from sadness for Aaron and his loved ones and the likely battening down of things at MIT. When I was a student there I had friends that basically lived on campus. One alumni split his time between the 24-hour coffee house and the libraries, which were open to anyone. (When I was a fellow at Berkman in the 90s, I was shocked at how much more restrictive things were and could be at Harvard.) Some female friends went months without permanent housing using a similar strategy and also taking advantage of the Cheney Room at the Women's Community Center.

In addition to MIT be an amazingly open place physically, the computer systems were similarly open. The lore went that since most student's could probably break the security on any workstation, MIT preferred to design its infrastructure such that they assumed any system could be compromised but to also trust the community. Hence, one could get root on any workstation via the command tellme root. Hence, David Lamacchia's troubles over file sharing had a similar dynamic back in 1994: he took advantage of this to install a file sharing app on a workstation that was only flagged because students noted that the workstation was slow and its disk was thrashing.

In hindsight, both David's and Aaron's actions were ill-considered and took advantage of MIT's openness. However, in my youth I too did things that if done now could get one thrown in jail (e.g., "weev" and AT&T). Hence, I am saddened when people blame MIT for being open. That said, the idea of being open, which implies that sometimes folks will cross a line and need to be responded to appropriately, is not easily reconcilable with a justice system that seeks to make example of folks by bankrupting or throwing them in jail.

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-03-31 00:00:00

I finally found an example of how ending a sentence with a preposition in English is not only not wrong, but is sometimes the best way to avoid ambiguity:

Make sure your facility’s storage room is clearly organized, so that people will know how to fit in their boxes.

vs

Make sure your facility’s storage room is clearly organized, so that people will know how to fit their boxes in.

It only works because of the implied “…to the storage room” at the end of the second sentence, though, so maybe it’s not the pure example I’ve been looking for.

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2014-03-15 22:32:46

Are you interested in programming and software but have never known where to begin? Some of our most popular classes have been our

Python!

introductory programming ones, and I’ll be teaching one this Saturday. The idea is to give students a gentle  introduction to software concepts using Python, a very widely-used but accessible language, and practical examples.

I don’t assume any prior programming experience: I’ll teach you everything you need to know to get started. Come and join us!

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-03-04 03:01:09

I finally got around to doing a screen cast of Thunderdell and BusySponge. I'm presently in the process of moving to support YAML/CSL exports as well.

Thunderdell (Freemind extract or 'fe.py')

Would you like a bibliographic system that was a simple and powerful complement to the way you take notes? The Thunderdell scripts are intended to make sure the important task of engaging a text is not hindered by bibliographic constraints. Using the power of the FreeMind (0.7) mindmap application you can quickly tag and outline a source and trivially indicate annotations, paraphrases, and excerpts with simple keyboard shortcuts; you can outline, link to Web resources, and include images and tables -- really, anything you can do with a mindmap and HTML. The underlying data is accessible XML and Thunderdell transforms this into the open biblatex bibliographic format (an update to the BibTeX standard).

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-02-27 00:00:00

The Spikenzie Labs Solder:Time Desk Clock is a fun through-hole kit to solder together. It includes a snap-together lasercut acrylic case with a really nice red tinted screen that increases the contrast on the 20×7 red LED matrix. Plus it is totally hackable with quite a few unused pins available for expansion (like Holly’s sunrise alarm clock).

The kit is available from Adafruit and I’ve written more information on information on programming custom firmware for the Arduino-compatible ATmega328P that is the brains of the clock.

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-02-26 03:34:43

I thought I would share a draft of a new paper; it's still rough and I welcome any and all feedback!

Fake geek girls and contested attention

Abstract: I use the online discourse about "fake geek girls" from 2012-2013 to offer an understanding of identity and boundary policing and relate this to questions of who merits attention, why, and what does that attention mean? I begin with a review of scholarly (and seminal popular) literature on geeks, "girl geeks," identity policing, and subcultural authenticity, finding that knowledge and enthusiasm are central to the notion of geekiness, but also gendered. This background permits me to elucidate the relationship between the policing of identity (e.g., am I a geek?) and the boundaries of social categories (e.g., is enthusiasm for a Hollywood movie adaptation sufficient to being geeky?). I then explore the discourse about "fake geek girls" and argue that the policing of some women as "fake" can be understood as a conflict over what is attended to and by whom. In this case, the policing is about (1) the movement of attention within and across the geek subcultural boundary and (2) the meaning of attention

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-02-24 00:00:00

Reposting for Tuesday, 11 Feb 2014 — The Day We Fight Back against NSA surveillance. Centralized mass surveillance is incompatible with freedom, as we've written about before, and enforcing copyright restrictions on digital networks can only be done through such surveillance.
Retweet / Redent.

Note: Copyright and Surveillance is the third meme in our Minute Memes series. It was animated by Nina Paley, with sound by Greg Sextro, for the 20th anniversary of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

(High-resolution versions available from the Internet Archive. Also available on Vimeo and YouTube.)

In the EFF's own words:

"Three Strikes" and copyright cops. Entertainment industry bigwigs worldwide want ISPs to monitor subscribers, filter content and kick users off the Internet for file-sharing. EFF is fighting worldwide for the protection of fair use, free expression, and fairness for all Internet users.

Happy birthday, EFF! Keep up the good work.

As long as sharing copies is illegal, people who own copying machines (i.e., computers) will be suspect. Copyright + Internet = Surveillance. At QuestionCopyright.org, we want your computer to work for you. Who do you want it to work for?

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2014-02-11 15:58:55

Last week I had an interesting conversation with Noam Cohen from the NYT about Wikipedia vs. The Small Screen.

Some Internet specialists argue that Wikipedia should adjust to a mobile world by harnessing “micro-contributions” like those on Twitter and Facebook. For example, they suggest creating a “like” button similar to Facebook’s that would allow a reader to flag errors in Wikipedia articles, or to suggest those that need to be updated. Quickly adding photographs to a Wikipedia article from an editor with a smartphone is another possibility.

Specifically, we talked about an app that could ask: "you're by a historic monument that we lack a picture of, would you like to take a photo?" Our devices permit us to make many contributions to twitter, Facebook, and Google, imagine what we could do for Wikipedia!

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-02-11 00:00:00

Voronoi shadows

Given a set of points, the Voronoi tessellation creates a set of convex polygons that each contain one point. They can also be used to randomly generate unique art pieces that cast shifting, lace-like shadows. This one was really quite beautiful until the candle burned through…

Read on for some scripts to make your own and tips for laser cutting them.

Making the box outline

Lace box

The outline of the boxes can be generated with an online tool like MakerCase or my boxer script. For instance, to generate the above 40x40x40mm box (thing:39415) with 3mm thick plywood, using a laser kerf of 1/8mm:

./boxer 
  --thickness 3
  --width 40 
  --height 40 
  --length 40 
  --kerf 0.125 
  > box-40mm.svg

Larger parameters for --kerf make for a tighter fit. I recommend cutting a small box to verify the kerf settings for your laser cutter and material.

Creating the lace patterns

Large lace cube

The technique scales from small boxes up to fairly large ones, although the parameters to lace-maker will need to be tweaked to ensure good density of points. Also be sure to keep in mind that the tabs from the other faces will intrude into each face, so the lace pattern can’t go all the way from edge to edge. In general I’ve found that leaving the thickness of the material plus 2 to 5mm of space on each side gives good results — this allows clearance for the tab material and some material for the structural edge. The sample box was 40mm on a side, so the lace pattern here is 40-6*2=28mm square.

./lace-maker 
  -x 28 
  -y 28 
  -w 1 
  -n 20 
  > lace1.svg

The -w parameter is the trace thicnkess in mm — for wood I’ve typically used a minimum width of 1 to 2mm for the traces. Acrylic seems to be ok with thiner traces if you desire it, although it does become quite weak and flexible.

Random boxes

You’ll need to generate six lace svg files if you want each face to be unique. If you’re making a rectangular shape, be sure to generate two of each of the combination of edge lengths.

Sometimes you will get an error message “Bad polygons?“. If so, try reducing the number of polygons (the -n parameter) or re-running. Since the points are randomly chosen each run there is a chance that the current set might not be possible to fit with the current trace width.

Circle maker

If you prefer other space filling tesslations, I’ve also written circle-maker. It is a very different feel from the convex polygons.

Arrange and laser cut

Lace cube aftermath

Finally, load the box outline into Inkscape or Illustrator and then import each of the six lace files. Place them in the center of the faces and if you can designate a cut-order for the vectors, set it to cut the interior polygons first and then cut the box outline.

Be sure to use enough power to cut through — the lace panels aren’t very strong and you might snap them if you need to use force to finish the job. After a successful cut there will be a huge number of small voronoi polygons on the laser bed. Don’t forget to to vacuum up the detritus before you post photos of your awesome art projects!

If you need to learn how to use the laser, NYC Resistor offers classes on operating the laser cutter. Once you’ve taken the class you can come by on our open nights to work on your own projects.

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-02-10 04:06:57

As I continue to think about geekdom, especially in the context of the boundary policing of "fake geek girls," I return to Pierre Bourdieu's notions of field and capital. A field "constitutes a potentially open space of play whose boundaries are dynamic borders which are the stake of struggles within the field itself" (BourdieuWacquant1992irs, p. 104). That is, a field is constructed by constituents vying, as if in a game, to define it and their own relative position within. For instance, to define a "real geek" as one that is good with computers delineates a boundary and privileges some people over others. Position within a field is facilitated by and produces capital (BourdieuWacquant1992irs, pp. 98-101). Bourdieuian capital is accumulated time and effort which then has the capacity to "appropriate social energy" towards particular ends such that "everything is not equally possible or impossible." Capital tends to reproduce and enlarge itself and the resulting structure "at a given moment in time represents the immanent structure of the social world" (Bourdieu1986fc).

Bourdieu focuses on four types of capital: economic, cultural, social, and symbolic. Bourdieu's work seeks to understand each, their production and forms, and how they are transformed into other types. Economic capital is simply one's financial assets, perhaps accumulated from the fruits of one's labor. Cultural capital is one's holding of cultural values, habits, and tastes; it is acquired both explicitly and tacitly and includes things such as education and style of speech and dress. Its form may be embodied (in our person), objectified (in objects, such as art), or institutionalized (via certification, such as a college degree). An example of geeky cultural capital is knowledge of appropriate cultural references and in-jokes. Social capital is the value of one's social network, a "durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition -- or in other words, to membership in a group -- which provides each of its members with the backing of the collectivity-owned capital, a 'credential' which entitles them to credit, in the various senses of the word" (Bourdieu1986fc). For example, wearing a comic conference t-shirt indicates one is part of that particular network. While social capital is dependent upon one's embeddedness in a group, symbolic capital is related to honor and recognition of the individual. For example, a geek who broke a world record solving a Rubik's Cube has symbolic capital. However, the line between symbolic capital and the other forms is not always clear. Bourdieu himself writes that "Every kind of capital (economic, cultural, social) tends (to different degrees) to function as symbolic capital" (Bourdieu2000pm, p. 242).

Central to understanding Bourdieu, and the geek field, is that for each type of capital one must take into account "both the labor-time accumulated in the form of capital and the labor-time needed to transform it from one type into another" (Bourdieu1986fc). With respect to defining geekiness (and fakeness), symbolic capital is important because "To be known and recognized also means possessing the power to recognize, to consecrate, to state with success, what merits being known and recognized" (Bourdieu2000pm, p. 242).

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2014-02-06 00:00:00

The Women+Film student group at Columbia College in Chicago is presenting QCO Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley's film Sita Sings the Blues this Thursday at 4:30pm -- and Nina will be there for Q&A!  Come see a wonderful film, talk to its director, and get the pre-downloaded DVD in person, straight from the source.

4:30pm, Thursday, 6 February 2014
1104 S. Wabash Ave.
Room 502
(Note: the posters are apparently wrong -- it really is room 502, not 302 as the poster says)

Poster for 2014-02-06 screening of Sita Sings the Blues at Columbia College Chicago.


Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2014-02-05 18:42:22

Once there was a box. Inside the box was a board, and inside the board was a chip. Inside the chip was a carrier, and on that carrier was a die. And when the die came off the carrier it broke, and the pieces looked like this:

2014-02-03-214452

More pretty pictures below.

The box was a 1983 IBM 5291 Display Terminal. It’s a block display terminal for interacting with System/36 machines over twinax. It’s pretty useless as is.

IMG_5296

The board is the logic board from the terminal, and the chip is unidentifiable. IBM insisted on putting its own internal part numbers on every component on the board (if you happen to know why, please leave a comment!), so even the basic logic on the board is tricky to figure out.

IMG_5316

The chip is a 72-pin PGA package, a sort of through-hole precursor to the BGA packages you see everywhere nowadays.

IMG_5317

Popping the top off of the aluminum chip reveals the carrier board. The die appears featureless because it’s face-down– it’s a flip-chip. The bonding pads on the die have little solder balls on them which are reflowed onto the carrier. Basically, the whole package is a breakout board for a very tiny BGA chip.

IMG_5322

Here’s a shot of a similar chip I dismantled; you can see the solder balls clearly.

2014-02-03-212642

Unfortunately, there’s also often a little epoxy or other bonding agent added underneath the die after the reflow step, so it’s tricky to remove the dies cleanly. I shattered this one as I took it off the carrier.

2014-02-03-212934

You can get a sense of how thick the silicon is compared to the active regions on these old chips. Still, these are tiny fragments– a sneeze can send them flying. Up close, though, they remind me of fragments left behind by another civilization: a teensy Rosetta Stone.

2014-02-03-213027

In case you’re wondering: I still have no idea what this chip was.

2014-02-03-213735

NYC Resistor | NYC Resistor | 2014-02-04 15:38:18

QCO Education icon.Professor Howard Besser of New York University is offering a course at the Tisch School of Arts this Spring entitled Free Culture & Open Access, and he's released the syllabus online.  It's such a good list of introductory sources (and speakers) on the free culture movement that we wanted to point to it from here:

besser.tsoa.nyu.edu/howard/Classes/14free-culture-syllabus.pdf

Several QCO articles, and the work of our Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley, are listed in the syllabus.  Also very nice to see is the trouble Prof. Besser took toward the end of the syllabus to define plagiarism accurately and not confuse it with mere unauthorized copying (simply put: copying a song is not the same as claiming you wrote it!).  As we wrote back in 2007, this is not something NYU has always been clear on, though to be fair, the current Tisch School of the Arts Academic Integrity Policy seems to have thought about it more carefully.

We asked Prof. Besser "Will you be suggesting to the students that they release their own papers for the course under non-restrictive licenses?" and got a delightful answer:

Since 1994 I've been asking my students to make all their work for my classes publicly available
   http://besser.tsoa.nyu.edu/impact/ (choose "Student Papers")
   http://www.nyu.edu/tisch/preservation/studentwork.shtml
We are now transitioning into explicit CC licenses.

It appears the students are in good hands!  Best of luck to Prof. Besser and the class.

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Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2014-02-03 06:06:00

Since December the law office of Urmann + Collegen have become notorious in Germany due to their action against alleged users of Redtube – a streaming site dedicated to pornography. Copyright enforcement has hitherto been limited to users of file-sharing systems and the operators of streaming sites such as Kino.to. Pursuit of those using streaming facilities would represent a new escalation. Major questions about the plausibility of the offense, the manner of the evidence collection, and the bona fides of the plaintiffs are tied up in this litigation. Hopefully the affair will help discredit the current system.

First a word about one of the protagonists: this is not the first time the spotlight has fallen on Urmann + Collegen. In 2011 I wrote about how they attempted to sell-off the right to pursue alleged copyright infringers for compensation and legal costs under the abmahnung procedure (these are letters which demand the recipient desist from specific behaviour and pay both the costs of the letter’s production and some compensation). By 2012 they were threatening to publish the names of all those unwilling to cough up the amount demanded in the abmahnung for downloading porno movies using bittorrent. The German Data Protection office had other ideas.

1. Origins of the Redtube Affair

In the most recent episode abmahnungen were mailed to ten thousand users whose names and addresses were acquired following an order by the Civil Court in Koln (historically especially amenable to copyright owners requests). They were alleged to have infringed copyright by viewing porno movies on the streaming website Redtube.  The action was launched  on behalf of on behalf of The Archive AG, a Swiss registered company purportedly the owner of films being made available on the redtube website. dresses collected on behalf of the owners of the infringed copyrights. Multiple chambers of the court granted the plaintiffs request to require ISPs to identify the users behind IP addresses collected on behalf of the owners of the infringed copyrights.

But how were these IP addresses acquired? Collecting such IP data from p2p users is trivial – you just need to connect to the peer to identify the IP. But when it comes to records of your website visits access to such information is limited to:(a) the site visited (b) your ISP which routes the request and (c) facebook and other companies with the capacity to exploit trackers (cookies, Javascript, 1-pixel beacons, and Iframes). Important as the last category is, it is not relevant to this instance.

Daniel Sebastian, a lawyer representing Archive AG, said that the IP data had been collected by a company called ‘itGuard’ who had used a piece of software called ‘GLADII 1.1.3′. This company was registered in Delaware in March 2013 but claims to be based in California. It turns out that The Archive AG’s website was registered that same month and that their website uses the same webserver as itGuard.

The Archive AG claimed to have purchased the rights to the infringed films in July of 2013. Around the same time the domain retdube.net was registered. Such site are often registered in order to capitalise on typing mistakes, or can be used by phishing/spam emails to draw traffic. One hypothesis is that this site (whose owners remain unidentified in a Panamanian registry) was set up to trap and track website users. Dates of the alleged infringements are consistent with this timeline.

The legal process began in August 2013 when Sebastian submitted a request for identifying information

The plaintiffs request for subscriber identification information was granted in September. The first letters went out in early December. There followed a flurry of actions including one undertaken by Redtube itself: on December 19th they obtained a decision from a Hamburg court ordering that no further abmahnung be issued to redtube users. However the real turning point came as the result of an appeal by four alleged Redtube users in mid-January. They argued that their information had been wrongly provided to the plaintiffs and in late January the Koln court upheld their appeal. For the moment this brings the substance of the case to a close. The flawed original decision by the various chambers of the Cologne Civil Court was based on numerous errors which it is worth itemising.

2. Confusion in Court: Streaming and Reproduction

Irrespective of the relationship between itGuard and The Archive AG, it appears that the Koln court which ordered that subscriber to be divulged was either confused or misled. They appear to have believed that Redtube was a filesharing system rather than a streaming service. Submissions to the court by their lawyer, Daniel Sebastian, reinforced this impression by referring to downloads rather than streams.

In a decision announced on January 27th the Court upheld an appeal by one of the recipients of the letters.  They stated that they had been confused by the use of the term download in the original application and that streaming has not been found to constitute an act of reproduction.

3. More Confusion: Acquiring the IP Addresses

In his original submissions to the Court in Cologne,  Sebastian included a document drawn up by a Munich patent attorney from the firm Diehl & Partner, verifying the proper functioning and reliability of the GLADII. Nowhere in this twelve page document is there any explanation as to how the software actually interacts with the target site to collect the user data.

When the Cologne Court issued its statement connected to the successful appeal by one of the abmahnung recipients, the Judge raised again the troublesome mystery of how the GLADII software functions and noted that requests for further information had gone unanswered:

“even after indication from the Court, the questions remains unanswered as to how the software program can access a two-sided communication.”

4. Doubts about Ownership

The Archive AG claimed that they had purchased the rights to ‘Amanda’s Secret’ and other clips from a Berlin firm, Hausner Productions, who supposedly bought them from their original producer, a Spanish firm Serrato Consultants. But Hausner Productions does not exist, and Serrato never produced these films, which were shot by a company in California who continue to commercialize them.

5. Fallout

As each day passes the affair unwinds further. Urmann is now facing an action taken by a Berlin firm on behalf of abmahnung recipients alleging extortion and fraud. Meanwhile at the The Archive AG it’s all go: they moved their HQ to a Swiss village called Weisselingen and their director, the German Phillip Wiik, has been replaced by a certain Djengue Nounagnon Sedjro Crespin, a native of Benin. Oh, and their phone number no longer functions and the website is offline. apparently Swiss authorities have started an investigation into the directors for fraud. a reader of the German magazine Telepolis visited the office address of the software developer ‘itGuard’ in San Jose and found only a supplier of office services who had rented a letterbox to a company of that name.

Conclusion

Amusing as the details of this scam are, and unpleasant as some of the characters in this story may be, the real issue here is the mindless machination of a copyright enforcement industry. By the end of 2012 this apparatus had produced more than four million abmahnungen: it is a crazed monster and out of control. On the basis of sketchy evidence, possibly gathered illegally, multiple chambers of the Cologne Civil Court ordered the identification of tens of thousands of users to a firm who did not have to prove they owned the rights – this is evidence of institutional dementia.

Lawyers have cranked this apparatus up because the business model produces a lot of money for them in fees, far more than that earned by any notional rightsholder. Thomas Urmann didn’t even bother checking if his clients actually owned the rights they claimed, just sent out the 20,000 letters and waited for the cash to roll in. In early January he was promising further letters in relation to other streaming sites. And if there are further ‘issues’? No problem, he says, ‘we’ve got full liability insurance’.

For years now there has been discussion of reform to eliminate such abuse, but in the SPD/CDU Coalition agreement there is no commitment to do anything other than investigate how the current system functions. Until the next time folks.


Alan Toner | kNOw Future Inc. | 2014-02-01 06:50:32

Hearing of Pete Seeger's passing hit me hard today. His work to revive folk music and use music as a powerful weapon for positivity in the world inspired me.

In 1992 I went to Kobe Japan and studied at a college there and then stayed with a lovely Japanese family in Yao, Osaka. I fell in love with American style, old timey, banjo music in Japan.

While I was in Kobe, my friend Joe Pepi Benge, an avid banjo player, took me to Shaggy's which was a western bluegrass bar that played the best authentic old timey and bluegrass music. Everyone but us was Japanese. In Japan, people take their hobbies SERIOUSLY and the Japanese guys had studied Scruggs and then kept going. They were fantastic. Pepi was pretty good too!

It was the first time I'd heard American folk music and I fell hard for it. I returned to the states, Claudia bought me a banjo, and I got Pete Seeger's book and checked his records out of the library and made cassette copies.

A week later I wrecked my bike and gave myself a good gash and spent the rest of the summer learning to play banjo when I wasn't limping around. A few years later, in London, I met Tom Paley of the Lost City Ramblers at the Cecil Sharpe House and bought a fiddle off of him. 

For a few years, I thought that I might have a future as a professional banjo player. It turns out I'm not gifted with a great singing voice and while I can read music easily, I don't have an ear for picking up tunes easily.

Playing banjo is one of the things that makes me happy. It's really hard to be miserable while playing the banjo. Pete Seeger gave me hope that doing art and following your passion can lead to wonderful things and have an impact on the world. I admire his work and I love that his banjo said, "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."

Bre Pettis | Bre Pettis Blog | 2014-01-29 04:24:46

A month or so ago, Andy Baio was watching 120 Minutes and thought he recognized the wall moulding in Rancid's Time Bomb video:


Here's the video:

Rancid was playing on the 4th Floor of 155 Rivington, Kickstarter's former home on the Lower East Side.

Andy sent it around to everyone at Kickstarter and it was obvious -- it had to be the building we had spent the last 4 years in.

I watched the video repeatedly, and knew it too, but I wanted proof.

So I started digging through my photos of the place.

When we first moved into the 4th floor of 155 Rivington, a decision was made to take down some of the drywall on the west wall:

REAS / 155 Rivington
The wall on the 4th floor after we removed the sheetrock in February 2012

Underneath we discovered graffiti that must have been at least 15 years old, probably older. My colleagues Alex and Tieg recognized the H₂O H/C/N/Y tag as from the band H₂O, a punk rock band started in NYC in 1995. Ensign, in the upper right, was also an local hardcore punk band, so they must have been there too.

Other tags were easily Googleable. One was Lord Ezec is Danny Diablo, a famous underground recording artist, who is still very active in the scene (@dannydiablo on Twitter):

Lord Ezec

Danny was Sick of It All's roadie around the same time, which explains the "Alleyway Crew" tag, the story of which is referenced in this biography of the band:

Numerous Sick of It All fans have tattoos of the "Alleyway Dragon", the band's official logo. The Dragon is from a sheet of Greg Irons flash. It is not, as some people have claimed, a misappropriated gang symbol, but then the Alleyway Crew was never a gang to begin with. It was, and is, a group of friends. The dragon is a symbol of friendship as well as a way that members would relate who was hanging out at a particular gathering. The "Alleyway" is in a school yard in Flushing, Queens, where the band and all of their friends would gather.

The other acronyms, such as C.C.C. and D.M.S. and SNS are too hard to Google, but I'm sure if you were in the scene at the time you'd recognize them.

The biggest piece, however, was the big white REAS tag

REAS was a well known NYC graffiti artist who hit tons of spots in Manhattan and around NYC:

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 12.33.38 PM

Rumor has it REAS still painting, and he even recently collaborated with the well known artist KAWS on a vinyl toy:

KAWS / REAS Toy

Something told me that if I looked hard enough in the Rancid video, that REAS' tag might be there.

Sure enough, around 1 minute and 17 seconds in, it makes an appearance.

I transformed my photo onto a screen grab from the video and mapped it onto an animation:

So barring an explanation involving REAS and a time machine, I'd say this is proof that Rancid shot their video at Kickstarter HQ.

If you want to learn more about the making of video, check out Flaming Pablum's post from October 2013 on it here.

Fred Benenson | Fred Benenson's Blog | 2014-01-19 20:41:09

In an unsigned editorial today, “Edward Snowden, Whistle Blower”, the New York Times is needlessly weak:

… Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community. …

Well, there you have it. The iron-clad resolve of the nation’s most respected newspaper, taking a firm and uncompromising stand in support of a source who, at great personal risk, revealed a massive and ongoing abuse of government power. Yes, the New York Times is definitely who I want next to me in a trench.

Not. Come on, New York Times. The yellow-bellied, lily-livered, sop-to-power sycophancy of this position is… unseemly. Are you really saying “a pig like that, you don’t eat all at once” about Edward Snowden?

The worst thing in the editorial is also the subtlest:

The shrill brigade of his critics say Mr. Snowden has done profound damage to intelligence operations of the United States, but none has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation’s security. Many of the mass-collection programs Mr. Snowden exposed would work just as well if they were reduced in scope and brought under strict outside oversight, as the presidential panel recommended.

Note the lacuna in the transition from the first sentence to the second. What I expected the second sentence to say was something like “Terrorists already assume their communications are being monitored and behave accordingly; Snowden’s leaks are a revelation only to law-abiding citizens who expected their government to play by its own rules.”

But instead the second sentence is an apparent non sequitur — it talks about how reducing the scale of data collection and increasing oversight would not harm the effectiveness of the programs. The implication is that the if Snowden’s leaks were to harm national security, they would do so by causing public outrage sufficient to force the programs to be reduced and brought under real oversight; and the Times is saying that we shouldn’t worry: because such reduction and oversight would not harm national security, therefore Snowden should not be punished to the full extent of the law.

There are two infuriating things about this. One is that they left out the obvious point that the real reason the leaks do not harm national security is that they do not cause terrorists to behave any differently than they are already behaving. Two is the implication that if changing the programs in response to public outrage did result in harm to national security, this would somehow be Edward Snowden’s fault, rather than being the responsible decision of the citizenry who demanded the reforms in the first place. Whistle-blowing is about pointing out when laws (not to mention Constitutions) are being broken in important ways — as was certainly happening here. It means giving the public a chance to decide how they will be governed. It does not mean the whistle-blower is personally responsible for whatever ultimate decision the citizenry makes.

Snowden himself has said this over and over: that his purpose was to inform the public, and that if we conclude, with full knowledge of what’s going on, that we want these programs to continue unchanged, then that’s fine. The point is to be making that decision in knowledge, not in ignorance.

They muffed the last paragraph of the editorial too:

When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. That’s why Rick Ledgett, who leads the N.S.A.’s task force on the Snowden leaks, recently told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Mr. Snowden would stop any additional leaks. And it’s why President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.

Are they citing Rick Ledgett to endorse what he’s saying? And if not, why are they citing him? “Please, Mr. Snowden, let’s not have too much of a good thing now…”

(Luckily he can’t stop the leaks; he gave the trove of secrets to journalists and didn’t keep any copies himself, as he has repeatedly said.)

Here’s how the editorial should have ended:

When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. President Obama should immediately grant a full pardon to Edward Snowden and let him come home to the hero’s welcome he deserves.

If the NYT thinks that’s unrealistic, then they’re right — but that’s no reason not to ask for it. As President Obama himself has learned time and time again, there’s no reason to start negotiating from any position other than the one you actually want. If something less than a full pardon is really what the NYT advocates, then I don’t understand why, and can find no explanation in this editorial.

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2014-01-02 19:50:20

2013 will be remembered as the year when Edward Snowden hauled the debate about state surveillance into the conditions of the 21st century. His revelations constitute a vast canvas made up of interconnecting elements, and the combination of scale and detail makes it difficult to fully find one’s bearings. It has often made me think of Plato’s famous Allegory of the Cave which he recounts in the Republic.

Plato used the allegory of the cave to illustrate the place of philosophers in society. He told of a people whose knowledge of the world was derived from the shadows of moving people and objects cast on a wall by firelight. One of the prisoners is freed and the illusion is revealed to him. When he looks at the fire it hurts his eyes. He sees the sun and it takes time for his sight to adjust, but it does and he can see the objects and people who were formerly only shadows.

Before May of this year we had some inkling of what was going on. After all it was sixteen years since the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) office of the European Parliament commissioned two reports touching on global communications interception (including Echelon). This led eventually to a Parliamentary procedure in 2001. But investigations were based on piecing together and inference not documentary corroboration. Now we are confronted with the flow charts, slide-shows, and even doodles of the undertaking – a collision with the plumbing of modern power. Time is needed to take it all in.

Sovereign power is back on display, its capability multiplied by the rise of the data harvesting industries and the centralisation of data on their servers. Trust in these companies – Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft et al. – has been injured and the wound will fester, both amongst users and non-US governments. Meanwhile  ‘users’ drift virtually naked in a sea of insecure communications and with precious little data that is still ‘personal’ …. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s going to get better from here, because now people know and will begin to respond through litigation, agitation in the public sphere and tool development.

There is much to say but for now I’ll recommend some other voices: if you haven’t followed Eben Moglen’s lecture series, Snowden and the Future, then take the time to read or listen to his four lectures and absorb his analysis of the broad picture. Those interested in an accessible presentation of the technical aspect should watch his dialogue with security expert Bruce Schneier. Good background on the recent expansion of the surveillance culture in the US is contained in Ryan Lizza’s article State of Deception from the New Yorker. Finally Glenn Greewald, who broke the story with Laura Poitras, gave the keynote at the Chaos Computer conference last week, check it out here.


Alan Toner | kNOw Future Inc. | 2014-01-01 03:56:19

A while ago, Danny Colligan (author of the wonderfully rigorous & thorough "What We Lose When We Embrace Copyright") sent us a link to a new short piece he'd written, about public subsidies for artists and how to set them up so they result in more freedom, not more restriction.  It's here:

thegreatkladderadatsch.blogspot.com/2013/07/addendum-to-what-we-lose-when-we.html

Quoting:

There are many schemes one could create to subsidize artists.  Economist Dean Baker made one such proposal, which relies on a voucher system.  Basically, taxpayers get vouchers that they can use to allocate to whatever artist(s) they want, and artists, as a requirement for receiving money through the system, are forbidden from copyrighting their work. Such a system leverages the already existing tax infrastructure, would be more than sufficient to cover artists’ costs, and does not even require any sweeping changes like elimination of all copyright (besides, of course, passage of law that would bring the program itself into existence).  In short, the proposed voucher system is a relatively unobtrusive reform that could easily be implemented within the context of the current legal and economic system.  The political effort required to enact it, however, is another story, of course.

Yes.  This shouldn't even be a hard call.  Public money should result in public goods.

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Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2013-12-31 19:26:57

It’s the last day of 2013. I’ve thought a lot this year about how lucky I am: I get to work on freedom full-time, among other places at OTS, OpenITP, QCO, and the OSI.

I don’t want anything different for 2014, except for more people to be so lucky.

U.S. National Parks sign indicating a so-called 'free speech zone'.

Free Clarendon!

Speaking of freedom…

The U.S. National Parks sign above uses the Clarendon typeface — a high-quality digital incarnation of which is now on the way to being freed thanks to the Free Clarendon campaign on IndieGoGo, started by Linus Drumbler. If the campaign makes its goal of $30,000 Canadian, Clarendon Text will be released under the OSI-approved Apache License 2.0. While by font geek standards I’m no font geek, I love Clarendon, both aesthetically and for its association with effective government programs, and have contributed to the campaign to Free Clarendon. I hope you will too.

twitter.com/kfogel/status/418083411727618049 and identi.ca/kfogel/note/9Fk3frNZQmKEspQxr_PQjw:

Contributed to the Free Clarendon campaign: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/free-clarendon! Join us? Classic font needs a Free digital life… #FreeClarendon

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2013-12-31 18:10:32

My media box that runs XMBC has been breached. It’s a recent Debian testing install. I didn’t bother securing this box since it has no access to anything, but more importantly, I also made a couple of incredibly simple mistakes while setting it up.

First of all, I allowed root login via SSH using password authentication. This meant that anybody who knows the password and can reach the box can log in. This was supposed to be just while setting up the box, but I forgot to turn it off after I was done doing setup.

Second, I used a simple password. This was supposed to be disabled after I set up authentication via SSH keys, but I got distracted and didn’t complete the process.

Third, I connected the box to a public-facing VPN and downloaded some torrents. Doing this gave the world direct access to the box, unmediated by my network’s normal firewall and NAT infrastructure.

And I think those mistakes were enough. My guess (it’s not clear from the logs) is that somebody, or most likely some bot, probed the box, guessed the root password (I’m embarrassed about that most of all), installed a custom version of atd as well as some daemons I’ve never heard of (ksapd, kysapd, sksapd, and skysapd). It put these binaries in /etc, which is odd and was an early red flag in telling me this stuff wasn’t Debian-approved. The malware also overwrote root’s crontab and fiddled with /etc/rc.local. None of these changes showed up via rkhunter or debsums.

The attacker made some mistakes that made the malware fairly easy to find and disable, which was as simple as killing some processes, removing the root crontab (/var/spool/crontab/root) and looking at /etc/rc.local. Still, of course I don’t know if there are things I missed, so I’ll be reinstalling this box from scratch.

A cursory check of the other important boxes on my LAN shows no evidence that they have been probed or entered. I need to do a more thorough check asap, especially of the Macintosh laptop which for all I know is running software that hasn’t gotten a security update in a while.

A few weeks ago, somebody else seems to have encountered similar (or at least similarly-named) malware. Their conclusion is similar to mine:

It looks like a weak password. I lectured some 8 to 11 y/o kids on passwords, then created a user called word with password called word. 2 days later I saw things by accident, luckily they only were in for a short while.

I made a series of bad, easily-avoided mistakes with this install. Mostly, the mistakes were mental errors. I was thinking of this box as insecure and not worth attacking. I took a lot of shortcuts and then failed to clean them up. I was cavalier with connections and letting the box talk to the seedier corners of the Internet.

All of this is highly embarrassing. I’m supposed to be a person that knows the basics of locking the doors. I’m publishing this report precisely because embarrassment usually prevents people from talking about their security failures. So here it is. Feel free to mock me.

Next steps for me are to snapshot the install and to start looking at the binaries left on the system. If there’s anything more to report, I’ll do another post and perhaps update this one.

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2013-12-24 23:17:56

The new healthcare.gov web site sure looks great. Under the hood, though, it’s apparently implemented with Bronze Age web development technology :-(.

I tried to sign up today. After dutifully filling out my name, state of residence, and email address, then choosing a username and password, then answering three required security questions, I got this error:

Account creation failure.

That is:

Important: Your account couldn’t be created.

Please wait a few moments and try again, keeping this in mind:

The User ID you created may already be in use. Try using a different User ID.

The email address you entered may be used with another account. If you think you may have already created an account with this email address, select “Forgot your username” on the Log In page.

Since this was my first time signing up, I figured maybe someone had chosen the same username already, so I clicked on Try Again, expecting the site to preserve my old responses so I could just change the one that needed changing.

Instead, it started me all over from scratch. Yo, healthcare.gov, newsflash: my first, middle, and last names have not changed since the last time I filled in this form 30 seconds ago:

Blank name and email form.

Oh look, the next page is blank too — but okay, maybe that makes sense because I’m probably supposed to try a different username, and it’s common practice for web forms to not preserve passwords…

Username and password form.

…But then… wait, really? You’re going to make me fill in the three security questions all over again? Did I mention there are three of them?

Security questions form.

This is insane. The site knows what the cause of the error was. After all, it displayed the big red error box at me. So why not tell me? And, in the meantime, don’t trash the form values I’ve already filled in that are not the source of the error.

Just to be sure, I tried the mailback option. After all, maybe somehow my email address was in the system already, even though I’ve never clicked a button nor filled in a form field on the site before tonight. No email never arrived, though, and it’s not in my spam folder.

(I’m now 0/2 for Federal web site mailback login links, by the way, as petitions.whitehouse.gov has also swallowed my account there, no longer responding to the password I’m pretty sure I set, and never sending me a recovery email no matter how many times I ask for one.)

While we’re at it:

A username collision could be easily detected as soon as the user types it in the form field anyway. So “the User ID you created may already be in use” is a silly situation to be in in the first place. If the User ID is not unique, then don’t let me go farther; make me fix it on that page, especially since I have to go all the way through the security question choices again before I finally get to an error.

But anyway I’m pretty sure the error is spurious, because I’ve now been through the loop several times, with definitely unique usernames, and it still gives me an error every time.

This is not how we do it in 2013. I am not a happy camper

.

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2013-12-23 03:05:48

The well-regarded photo-blogger David Hobby (the "Strobist") got fed up with moderating blog comments and invented a way to use Twitter in their stead. Each blog post will have a unique hashtag that people should use in their tweet. He writes:

Using Twitter for related discussion does several things. First, it encourages brevity. Second, comments are attributable only to the person who made them and not, by proxy, to this site. You wanna be a troll? Fine. Anyone can easily block you on Twitter. Have a nice life. Or don't.

But above all, Twitter is a great and wonderfully efficient discussion engine. And because of the brevity (and the lack of a need for my timely moderation) those discussion can happen in real-time.

If you'd like to chime in on this particular topic, the Twitter hashtag is #StrobistComments. (And and always, include an @Strobist at the end if it is important that I see it.) But also understand that each new post will get its own hashtag, so please only use #StrobistComment for this particular issue.

I can understand getting fed up with moderating comments. And moving to the gated Twitter community will obviously leave behind many spammers -- as well as some legit commenters. As David writes, "And for those of you who have contributed to the comments who for one reason or another choose not to participate in the Twitter version, I am of course sorry to see you go." However, might Twitter seem less spammy only because it is newer? Blog-spam-bots have a head start on Twitter-spam-bots, but the latter are getting better all the time. Also, and more importantly, even if this works for David for a while, it doesn't scale for the rest of us. Can you imagine a unique hashtag for every post on every blog, without collision? Imagine the hash-crashes.

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2013-12-13 00:00:00

Following on Eben Moglen’s mind-warping series of talks about life after Snowden, the Software Freedom Law Center has invited Bruce Schneier to join Eben for a conversation informed by Bruce’s own analysis of the leaked documents. Bruce is one of the smartest thinkers around when it comes to understanding how security and surveillance operate in the real world. And he is unsurpassed at presenting complicated security concepts even to people who lack his expertise. Between Moglen’s sophisticated thoughts and Bruce’s grounded approach, we’re sure to learn a lot about where we stand and what we can do next!

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2013-12-10 16:57:47

I set my IRC client to keep logs. Among other things, that means I have a record of all my away messages from the past couple of centuries or so… Some themes emerge, notably a nostalgia for an imagined Paleolithic past:

  kfogel is away: http://www.rants.org/2013/12/10/irc_away_messages/

kfogel is away: slowly leaching toxins from bloodstream while in a
state of severely lowered consciousness

kfogel is away: replacing busted USB port replicator so can haz
mousez and keyboardz simultaneouzly. Stay away from the IOGEAR
4-port USB 2.0 hub model GUH285 if you ever need a replicator.

kfogel is away: Upgrading to Lucid. Send a posse if you don't
hear from me in 30 min.

kfogel is away: enumerating the integers

kfogel is away: dealing with some reasonable subset of todo list

kfogel is away: errand in the city that never stops talking about
how it never sleeps

kfogel is away: communing with sessile benthic fronds

kfogel is away: pursuing striated brachiators

kfogel is away: metabolizing

kfogel is away: attending to metabolic requirements

kfogel is away: gym time -- yes, geeks are allowed to exercise,
stop looking at me like that

kfogel is away: bun run

kfogel is away: piano time is the only sacred thing

kfogel is away: deep in concentration

kfogel is away: ululating

kfogel is away: Post Office, possibly including metabolic detour.

kfogel is away: gradually converting oxygen to heat

kfogel is away: Speaking of certs and Apache redirects, it's time
to put my laundry in the dryer and start the next load.

kfogel is away: synthesis is the new creativity

kfogel is away: put the pencil in the suitcase when the whiskey
bottle faces the moon

kfogel is away: pipette herbivore cesium bricolage

kfogel is away: Drinking the blood of innocents.

kfogel is away: Q: How many Semantic Web advocates does it take to
screw in a lightbulb? A: What exactly do you mean by "a"?

kfogel is away: Every odd integer > 5 is the sum of three primes.
That made my day.

kfogel is away: weeping, once again, that "ombudsman" has neither
a sex-neutral form nor a verb form.

kfogel is away: One of the nice things about a downtown Chicago
office is exiting into a Daley Plaza protest most weekdays.

kfogel is away: gallivanting with brachiators

kfogel is away: afk for a bit; ask the NSA if you need to find me

kfogel is away: attentiveness to metabolic needs

kfogel is away: avoiding stobor

kfogel is away: oiling my Turing Machines

kfogel is away: pubpat.org is my hero -- victory for
non-patentable genes at U.S. Supreme Court!

kfogel is away: Literally heading to a restaurant whose motto is
"We Serve People". I am not making this up.

kfogel is away: Correction to previous away message: it might be
"Serving People", sorry

kfogel is away: realizing that public school systems are useful
for teaching children how to handle bullies well, and how to
subvert hierarchical authority structures, therefore they should
be preserved

kfogel is away: Is that Edward Snowden in a tuxedo, disguised
among the penguins in Antarctica?

kfogel is away: Seeing what that sound is.

kfogel is away: Researching the hallucinogenic properties of
oxygen -- hmm, continuous consumption appears to cause delusions
of reality...

kfogel is away: fulfilling humankind's millennia-long dream of
flight, albeit in a cramped, commercialized, sadly routinized and
perhaps slightly tawdry way.

kfogel is away: Neither hunting nor gathering.

kfogel is away: avoiding subsidizing further Mesopotamian
adventurism

kfogel is away: wondering why web sites use Flash in situations
where HTML+CSS+images would actually have been easier

kfogel is away: pondering the futility of empathy in a universe
made mostly of hydrogen

kfogel is away: pining for the fjords

kfogel is away: nostalgia-drenched lunch in NYC Chinatown

kfogel is away: stalking the wild asparagus

kfogel is away: converting sunlight to metabolic energy

kfogel is away: traipsing

kfogel is away: checking in on the progress of my escape tunnel

kfogel is away: flossing pulsars

kfogel is away: off to hear Chicago Schola Antiqua in concert --
I'm sure all of FreeNode writhes in jealousy

kfogel is away: contributing some heat back to the Universe

kfogel is away: consumption of sunlight, indirectly, via organic
solar repositories

kfogel is away: "What do we want?" "TIME TRAVEL!" "When do we
want it?"

kfogel is away: Los Angeles looks exactly like Los Angeles

kfogel is away: neural network nightly reset

kfogel is away: accepting silver medal for the 200 meter "not
thinking about the Olympics" challenge

kfogel is away: transferring heat from one location to another

kfogel is away: time to pay the cafe fee again -- maybe it'll be
another wheat-based sugary substance this time

kfogel is away: re-spending my misspent youth

kfogel is away: eating arugula in honor of Barack Obama

kfogel is away: improving my Sogdian accent

kfogel is away: converting matter into heat, using only my body

kfogel is away: Converting sunlight into energy, indirectly.

kfogel is away: admiring your gritty urban authenticity even as he
prices you out of your neighborhood.

kfogel is away: luxuriating in the knowledge that no matter how
bad things get, there's always xkcd

kfogel is away: pontificating somewhere, about something

kfogel is away: It's just about time for historical inevitability
to come back into fashion.

kfogel is away: ancient sunlight will now be converted to
particles of pure energy in my bloodstream

kfogel is away: seeking gourd for use in repurposed pagan ritual

kfogel is away: When you've just typed the same phrase three
times, it is time to take a break. When you've just typed the
same phrase three times, it is time to take a break. When you've
just typed the same phrase three times, it is time to FAKEOUT, YOU
THOUGHT YOU KNEW THIS JOKE BUT YOU DON'T.

kfogel is away: just going to start using "friblopen" to avoid the
whole "free"/"libre"/"open" debate

kfogel is away: Paying money to increase my cardiopulmonary
activity level in a socially-approved and non-disruptive manner &
location.

kfogel is away: taking The Jacket for repairs

kfogel is away: pursuing Outsider to galactic core to see what the
big deal is

kfogel is away: weekly spur waxing

kfogel is away: oak-sporting

kfogel is away: getting away from the computer for a bit and
fondly recalling my paleolithic past


          

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2013-12-10 16:07:59

(Editor's note: We're cross-posting this beautiful essay from ninapaley.com; see also Nina Paley's similarly-titled interview with Baixa Cultura from April.)


Below are the images and text of a Pecha Kucha talk I gave in Champaign, IL. The Pecha Kucha format is 20 slides x 20 seconds per slide. Hopefully the video will be online within a few months.

Transmission_10fps2

You are an information portal. Information enters through your senses, like your ears and eyes, and exits through your expressions, like your voice, your drawing, your writing, and your movements.

02_Paley_pkncu

In order for culture to stay alive, we have to be open, or permeable. According to Wikipedia, Permeance is “the degree to which a material admits a flow of matter or energy.” We are the material through which information flows.

03_Paley_pkncu

It's through this flow that culture stays alive and we stay connected to each other. Ideas flow in, and they flow out, of each of us. Ideas change a little as they go along; this is known as evolution, progress, or innovation.

04_Paley_pkncu

But thanks to Copyright, we live in a world where some information goes in, but cannot legally come out.
Often I hear people engaged in creative pursuits ask, “Am I allowed to use this? I don't want to get in trouble.”

05_Paley_pkncu

In our Copyright regime, “trouble” may include lawsuits, huge fines, and even jail. ”Trouble” means violence. ”Trouble” has shut down many a creative enterprise. So the threat of “trouble” dictates our choices about what we express.

06_Paley_pkncu

Copyright activates our internal censors. Internal censorship is the enemy of creativity; it halts expression before it can begin. The question, “am I allowed to use this?” indicates the asker has surrendered internal authority to lawyers, legislators, and corporations.

07_Paley_pkncu

This phenomenon is called Permission Culture. Whenever we censor our expression, we close a little more and information flows a little less. The less information flows, the more it stagnates. This is known as chilling effects.

08_Paley_pkncu

I have asked myself: did I ever consent to letting “Permission Culture” into my brain? Why am I complying with censorship? How much choice do I really have about what information goes in and comes out of me?

09_Paley_pkncu

The answer is: I have some choice regarding what I expose myself to, and what I express, but not total control. I can choose whether to watch mainstream media, for example. And I can choose what information to pass along.

10_Paley_pkncu

But to be in the world, and to be open, means all kinds of things can and do get in that are beyond my control. I don’t get to choose what goes in based on its copyright status. In fact proprietary images and sounds are the most aggressively rammed into our heads. For example:

“Have a holly jolly Christmas, It’s the best time of the year
“I don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have a cup of cheer
“Have a holly jolly Christmas, And when you walk down the street
“Say hello to friends you know and everyone you meet!”

12_Paley_pkncu

I hate Christmas music. But because I live in the U.S., and need to leave the house even in the months of November and December, I can't NOT hear it. It goes right through my earholes and into my brain, where it plays over and over ad nauseum.

13.2_Paley_pkncu.013

Here are some of the corporations I could “get in trouble with” for sharing that song and clip in public. I wasn’t consulted by them before having their so-called “intellectual property” blasted into my head as a child, so I didn’t ask their permission to put it in my slide show.

14_Paley_pkncu

Copyright is automatic and there's no way to opt out. But you can add a license granting some of the permissions copyright automatically takes away. Creative Commons, the most widespread brand of license, allows its users to lift various restrictions of copyright one at a time.

15_Paley_pkncu

The problem with licenses is that they're based on copyright law. The same threat of violence behind copyright is behind alternative licenses too. Licenses actually reinforce the mechanism of copyright. Everyone still needs to seek permission – it’s just that they get it a little more often.

16_Paley_pkncu

Like copyright itself, licenses are often too complex for most people to understand. So licenses have the unfortunate effect of encouraging people to pay even MORE attention to copyright, which gives even more authority to that inner censor. And who let that censor into our heads in the first place?

17_Paley_pkncu

Although I use Free licenses and would appreciate meaningful copyright reform, licenses and laws aren't the solution. The solution is more and more people just ignoring copyright altogether. I want to be one of those people.

18_Paley_pkncu

A few years ago I declared sovereignty over my own head. Freedom of Speech begins at home. Censorship and “trouble” still exist outside my head, and that’s where they’ll stay – OUTSIDE my head. I’m not going to assist bad laws and media corporations by setting up an outpost for them in my own mind.

19_Paley_pkncu

I no longer favor or reject works based on their copyright status. Ideas aren't good or bad because of what licenses people slap on them. I just relate to the ideas themselves now, not the laws surrounding them. And I try to express myself the same way.

Transmission_10fps2

Like millions of others who don't give a rat's ass about copyright, I hope you join me. Make Art, Not Law.

Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2013-12-08 19:39:01

Nick Bilton's Hatching Twitter tells of four friends who became rivals in the claim for having "founded" Twitter. (A recurring narrative well captured in the 2001 film Startup.com.) Even beyond founding, others can claim to have "invented" something twitter-like before Twitter, including myself!

Unlike the vision of Ev Williams who conceived the focus of micro-blogging as real-time events experienced and Jack Dorsey who conceived of it as broadcasting updates about one's self, I was focused on sharing stuff I had done.

Over ten years ago I wrote up what I thought were the important requirements for a busy sponge

I spend a lot of my time typing things into various interfaces: such as a log of important/useful things I've done during the day, an outline of things I need to do, a list of interesting links and my thoughts on them, web site passwords, proto-ideas and scribbles, annotations/comments on things I've read, and travel information. Some of these things are stored in (different) html pages and some in (different) flat text files, and I use different editors/browsers for these files! I'd like to have a single easy to use interface for entering all these things. This will require a data store/model, an interface, and perhaps some syntactical conventions for easy freeform entry..

This was when I worked at the W3C and was motivated, in part, by our weekly meetings in which we shared our "two minutes." I wanted a way to capture stuff I had done and share it with my colleagues. Once I had a way to capture these events, I naturally created an RSS feed that my peers could subscribe to.

Since then the tool has evolved to do many things for me, most importantly capturing bibliographic data about Web sources for my online ethnographies and histories. For the past couple of years, I've thought I should send some of my stream of busy to Twitter and/or Google+. I prefer to use Google+, but they've so far refused to create an API for creating Plus status updates. With the semester winding down, I finally gave Twitter a go via the nice command line tool twidge. Hence, busy now has an option to send an update to twitter.

def yasn_publish(comment, title, url, tag):
    comment_delim = ": " if comment else ""
    comment = comment + comment_delim + title
    comment_room = 140 - len(comment) - len(tag) - len(url)
    if comment_room < 0:    # the comment is too big
        comment = comment[0:-17] + '...' # url will be shortened to 20 chars
    message = "%s %s #%s" %(comment, url, tag)
    call(['twidge', 'update', '%s' %message]) # tweet via twidge

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2013-12-07 00:00:00

It's been a little over a month since the November 6th fire that destroyed the scanning center building at the Internet Archive.  No one was hurt, but as Archive founder Brewster Kahle wrote in a blog post from November 6th (emphasis added):

We lost maybe 20 boxes of books and film, some irreplaceable, most already digitized, and some replaceable.   From our point of view this is the worst part.   We lost an array cameras, lights, and scanning equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Insurance will cover some but not all of this.

The Internet Archive is far more important to the long-term interests of Internet users than, say, Facebook, and they'll make a little go a long way.  If you can, please donate to help them recover and grow.  I just sent in a check for $200 -- which really means $800 for the Archive, because...

Donations made before 2014 are being matched three-to-one by an anonymous donor!

So, if you can, please give.  There are few more obvious calls on the Internet right now!

Internet Archive, showing fire damage to scanning center building.

Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2013-12-06 21:54:02

I can't stress this enough — if you're still wondering about the connection between copyright and civil liberties, nothing could make it clearer than Eben Moglen's four-lecture series Snowden and the Future at Columbia Law School in New York City. The fourth lecture is this coming Wednesday, December 4th, at 4:30pm (Eastern US) in Room 101 of Jerome Greene Hall:

If you are in New York City on Wednesday, we strongly recommend going to that fourth and last lecture. Transcripts of the first three are already online (though I found them worth watching on video). Quoting from the third:

privacy is an ecological rather than a transactional substance

Moglen goes on to explain why very eloquently. It is a point of prime concern to copyright resistors: when every email, every post in a social network, every online communication among human beings, is subject to surveillance, then the system will always err in one direction: toward over-enforcement of already overly-strong restrictions. Surveillance naturally serves monopoly: the watcher is centralized, the watched decentralized. Thus, for example, it becomes your problem to fight fraudulent takedowns and other censorship, rather than being the censor's problem to justify the restrictions in the first place.

Thursday, 12 Dec: Eben Moglen and Bruce Schneier:

Then on Thursday the 12th at 6:30pm ET, Prof. Moglen will be talking with the renowned security expert Bruce Schneier about what we can learn from the Edward Snowden documents and from the NSA's efforts to weaken global cryptography, and how we can keep free software tools from being subverted. That event is also at Jerome Greene Hall; see here for details.


There is no freedom of thought without freedom of communication, and ultimately there is no freedom of communication without privacy. Privacy means secrecy, anonymity, and autonomy for individuals freely associating.

Monopoly will never argue for this. People have to do it. Copyright restrictions originated in centralized censorship and are increasingly supported by centralized surveillance. No one is analyzing the larger dynamic of surveillance better than Prof. Moglen. If you're in New York this Wednesday and next Thursday, you know where to go.


(Previous post in this series here.)

Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2013-12-02 20:38:28

Later this week I'll be participating on a panel of the New Media in American Literary History Interdisciplinary Symposium. I plan to talk about bibliography and bitrot.

When I began my historical study of Wikipedia I was sad to note that much early material was lost to bit rot. Hence, I was pleased to find remnants of the Nupedia lists (Wikipedia's predecessor) on the Way Back Machine and create and archive -- by way of wget -- for others. Similarly, the first edits to Wikipedia were considered lost until Tim Starling found old logs files from Wikipedia. I used these to reconstruct the first ten thousand contributions, about six weeks' worth of edits, to Wikipedia.

These were nice finds. But these were two steps forward in an otherwise persistent jog backwards. For instance, in 2008 I noted that in my own writing my references to contemporary sources were quickly rotting.

So, doing a quick check-link analysis of the largest mindmap I find the following: 941 of those resources are "OK"; 21 are "404" (no longer there); and 10 "Timeout". So, just within a few years ~2% aren't readily available. For example, the link to Sanger's 2005 information about his (then) new Digital Universe project is already broken; but I must say news sites are the worst.

Hence, when I finished my dissertation I took the step of crawling all my sources to create and share an archive.

Others have begun to note this problem as well. Earlier this year Zittrain, Albert, and Lessig wrote of their work in the legal domain.

We found that half of the links in all Supreme Court opinions no longer work. And more than 70% of the links in such journals as the Harvard Law Review (in that case measured from 1999 to 2012), currently don't work. As time passes, the number of non-working links increases.

Hence a number of legal libraries have launched perma.cc, which aims to make the process of archiving and citing online sources much easier and consistent than my own efforts with wget. I hope this effort spreads well beyond the legal discipline.

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2013-12-02 00:00:00

If I had known earlier that Denny Chin was to deliver his decision on the fair use question in the Google Books case, I would made my way to Madison Avenue and lurk outside the office of the Authors Guild, the plaintiffs. There I might perhaps have heard a pitiful wailing and gnashing of teeth, sounds no doubt echoed in many a lawyer’s chamber around the city. For Denny Chin drop the bomb on their hopes, and found an affirmative fair use defense for Google’s scanning project. That the result was pronounced in the Federal District court of what has historically been the centre of the US publishing industry is also noteworthy. But this has been a never-ending saga of litigation so first let’s recap, check the reasoning, and lastly ponder the consequences.

Background

1. Google Books comprises three classes of texts from a legal point of view: public domain works which can be made available in their entirety; books which are made available to preview through partner agreements between Google and publishers; and books which were scanned by Google without permission, the searching of which produces small ‘snippets’ of the text as results. This court case concerns the final group of books.

2. The Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers launched their legal action in 2005. In 2008 a settlement was announced by Google, it would be subsequently be amended, but the substance was to (a) make a payment to affected authors (b) pay the plaintiffs lawyers and (c) fund the establishment of a Book Rights Registry. This settlement was eventually rejected n multiple grounds by Denny Chin in early 2010. At this time he was a Federal District Court Judge in New York. Chin was subsequently promoted to the Court of appeals for the 2nd circuit, but as able to hold onto several cases from his previous post – including the Google Books case.

3. While the various parties involved attempted to reach a modified agreement which would be acceptable to the courts, Chin set a schedule for litigation of the original copyright infringement action. As the Authors Guild were to put the case for all the authors whose works were copied, they had to get ‘certification’ of the class – basically a decision from the court that it is appropriate that the plaintiff represent all members of the class and has the means to do so. Certification was issued by Chin in May and then appealed by Google in July. Obviously Chin did not hear the appeal of his own decision. The Court of Appeal sent the case back to Chin at the District Court to make a determination on the fair use defense to the charge of copyright infringement, as a decision in Google’s favour would make the certification issue irrelevant.

The Scheme

i. Google got access to the books from participating libraries, who received a digital copy of each of their books in exchange. All texts are processed for optical character recognition (OCR) so that a full word index can be constructed to enable search.

ii. Much emphasis was placed on the restrictions on access to those books scanned without permission, of which only ‘snippets’ are displayed. Each snippet is one eighth of a page and only three snippets are ever returned in the results field. In addition to this limitation, one out of the eight snippets is never displayed, and no snippets are available from one in ten pages. The upshot of all this is that the full text of the book is never displayed to users, even over long periods of time in a fragmentary fashion.

The Verdict

A. Chin found in favour of Google in the fair use determination. He analyzed the facts against the four factors of the fair use test codified in the law, but did so in the shadow of what his interpretation of copyright’s ‘very purpose’: “Copyright law seeks to achieve that purpose by providing sufficient protection to authors and inventors to stimulate creative activity, while at the same time permitting others to utilize protected works to advance the progress of the arts and sciences.” (page 16)

B. He then stressed that a key issue was whether the alleged infringement is ‘transformative’:

that is, whether the new work merely”supersedes” or “supplants” the original creation, or whether it: instead adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message; it asks, in other words, whether and to what extent the new work is “transformative.” (page 18)

In the recent past this approach has been used to provide the fair use imprimatur for the basic technology of search, the cases Kelly v Arriba and Perfect 10 v Google.

C. He then applied the four factors in turn (pages 19-25).

  1.  ‘the purpose and character of the use’; Chin found the use to be highly transformative, as (a) its cross-corpus index of words in books had quickly become crucial for research as well as (b) making possible whole new types of research such as text and data mining base on the quantitative analysis enabled, whilst (c) the service did not offer a competing way to actually read the books. Given all this it was of less import that Google is a commercial enterprise and undertook the project motivated by profit.
  2. ‘the nature of the copyrighted work’; most of the books scanned were non-fiction works whereas ‘works of fiction are entitled to greater copyright protection’
  3. ‘amount and substantiality of the portion used’; Google copies the entirety of the work, and whilst the making of full copies does not exclude the possibility of a fair use finding, this is the only point which Chin felt went against a fair use finding.
  4. ‘Effect of Use Upon Potential Market or Value’; this is often the determinant part of the analysis. Here the plaintiffs claimed that the value of their works was being undermined, but Chin disagreed. He argued that given that Google was not selling the scans it produced as part of building the library, what they were effectively doing is helping to build potential sales by making it easier to discover forgotten, lost or neglected works.

The Fair Use analysis is followed by a summary of the social benefits of the service:

In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits. (page 26)

As far as Chin is concerned the same analysis applies to objections to the libraries use of their scanned copies. And that’s that, a knock-out for Google and the libraries in the Southern district of New York.

Consequences

Momentous as it is, for now this is just a District Court judgement; endorsement by a higher court will be necessary before its full impact is felt. In the short term the decision will surely be appealed. How willing will the 2nd circuit be to reverse one of its own judges, and one who has been sleeping with this litigation for so many years? Does that mean it will go to the Supreme Court?

More broadly, the fact that this went to court meant that this defense is now open/applicable to others as well. A huge concern with the Google books settlement was that it was a private agreement granting them exclusive shield from liability with regard to the corpus of books – the path is now open to others to do the same, like the Internet Archive perhaps. Furthermore the concept of transformative use comes out of this emboldened, and available potentially to others working with different forms of archives, such as moving images for example.

Of course the problems for those who would follow in their footsteps is that the rules are different for Google. Not only do they have the money to fight infinite legal battles, but they have the reach into our habits such as to make their tools ‘useful’ and ‘socially beneficial’. They benefit from a presumption of legitimacy because of our reliance upon their services. Should this decision survive the coming challenges, the real test for it will be whether it provides a shelter for the next technologists developing tools that upset an incumbent industry.

Lastly, I’m looking forward to hearing the response from those who have followed this story for years, such as Robert Darnton and Siva Vaidhyanathan.


Alan Toner | kNOw Future Inc. | 2013-11-15 10:11:24

Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC v. Southfork Security, Inc., raised eyebrows last month when the Chief Judge of the Idaho District Court ordered open source software developer Corey Thuen to surrender his hard drive for imaging, on the grounds that he had once described himself as a “hacker.” “Call yourself a hacker, lose your Fourth Amendment rights,” the headlines went. In fact, there is probably no constitutional issue here, but the case does raise a number of interesting legal issues related to open source software.

The facts and and the temporary restraining order

Thuen had been employed at Battelle, the government contractor that operates the Idaho National Laboratory, where he worked on a network analysis tool called “Sophia.” Battelle  wanted to license Sophia to utility companies to monitor their industrial control system networks and began soliciting bids from third-party contractors to commercialize the software. Thuen expressed interest in starting his own company to bid on the contract, and Battelle let him take a year’s leave of absence for that purpose. After submitting a bid, however, Thuen’s company Southfork abruptly withdrew it and announced a competing open source project, Visdom. Battelle’s lawsuit alleges that, in doing so, Thuen breached his employment agreement and infringed Battelle’s copyrights in Sophia.

The hard drive seizure came out of an ex parte temporary restraining order (TRO), meaning that the judge heard from one side (Battelle) before granting the order. Ex parte hearings are reserved for extraordinary circumstances, as the court notes in its order, since one-sided hearings tend to yield one-sided results. In this case, the judge decided an ex parte order was warranted on two grounds. First, Thuen had called himself a “hacker” and so was likely to destroy evidence given advance notice of the order. Second, assuming Thuen’s software was based on Sophia’s code (Battelle argued that it must be, because it had been developed in only a few months), making it available as open source would compromise the security of the utilities that used Sophia to defend their networks and endanger the national energy infrastructure. (I know, I know.) Predictably, the court relied on only the most negative definition of “hacker.” As many have noted, Southfork’s website (where the offending reference was found) almost certainly meant that he was a hacker in the more benign sense used by the security and programming communities: an enthusiastic programmer and problem solver (or a white-hat penetration tester).

After more facts come out, the court lifts the TRO

The court expedited the next hearing to give Southfork a chance to respond to the TRO. The order that came from that hearing demonstrates why no-notice TROs are trouble. Turns out, Thuen had already posted Visdom’s source code to Github in July, three months before the order issued. This fact essentially obviated the need to image Thuen’s computer, since the complete source code of Visdom was available on Github for analysis against Sophia’s code. Even if he’d hastily removed the repository, it’s likely that a backup could have been subpoenaed from Github. The existence of the code on Github also, of course, mooted the court’s order not to publish the code. (The court apparently believed Battelle that it wasn’t aware of the Visdom release until after the TRO, which explains why the second order doesn’t contain any profanity.)

The legal standard for a TRO (as for a preliminary injunction) requires the moving party to demonstrate “(1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a likelihood of irreparable harm to the moving party in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) that the balance of equities tips in favor of the moving party; and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest.” In light of the July release of Visdom’s source code, the court was compelled to revisit every element of this analysis.

Having learned that Visdom was written in a different language (Go, rather than C) and had a completely different interface than Sophia, the court rightly concluded that Battelle was far less likely to prove infringement that it had previously thought. Regardless, the court found that Battelle was likely to succeed in its breach-of-contract claims. Thuen had allegedly agreed to work on nothing during his leave of absence except commercializing Sophia; the court held that he likely breached this agreement by building Visdom instead.

In revisiting Battelle’s argument that releasing Visdom would cause irreparable harm to national security, the judge considered testimony (now from both parties) on the age-old “security through obscurity” question: is software more secure if its source is kept secret or if it’s open to inspection and correction? (This isn’t a serious question to most security professionals, but open source security is counterintuitive to people unfamiliar with the topic.) The court noted the conflicting testimony on this issue and also that Battelle hadn’t shown that Sophia was currently in use at any utility companies and decided there was insufficient evidence of an imminent harm to national security.

Finally, the court had learned that Battelle waited five months after learning of Southfork’s plans to release Visdom before it sought the TRO. This delay seriously undermined any claim to urgency, as did failure of the preceding three months to yield a single catastrophe for Battelle’s business opportunities.

What happens next

The court’s swing to Southfork’s side on the TRO issue feels almost like repentance for credulously buying Battelle’s line on the TRO. Tellingly, the word “hacker” does not appear in the second order. However, whatever favoritism the judge may have showed Thuen on this latest order, it may not last long. According to the facts laid out by the court, two factors favor Battelle’s case. The first we already discussed: Thuen apparently violated his agreement to work solely on Sophia during his leave. In addition, however, his employment agreement was likely still in effect during his leave. Developers’ employment agreements often contain IP provisions assigning anything related to the employer’s business—even work done on the employee’s own time and computer—to the employer. If that was the case here, Battelle will have a strong argument that it owned Visdom from the beginning. If the employment agreement was silent on outside work, it will be a closer call.

A chance to revisit nonliteral copying?

If the case proceeds to trial, it will raise a really interesting infringement issue. Since Visdom is written in a different language from Sophia, Battelle will be in the possibly novel position of proving cross-language copying. This would mean showing that the non-literal elements of Visdom—its structure and organization, essentially—are similar enough to Sophia’s that it’s infringing. This is an evolving area of law. A cause of action for infringement of nonliteral elements of software was first considered in the 1992 case Computer Associates v. Altai, in which the court acknowledged that such a claim could succeed (but found against the plaintiff). Most recently, it arose in Oracle v. Google, where Oracle asserted copyright in naming and grouping of items in the Java API. Oracle lost, and the judge strongly suggested that the potential grounds for nonliteral infringement claims are even narrower than those first articulated in Altai.

The holding in Oracle rests in part on the theory that an API’s method names and inputs comprise a program’s (or programming language’s) “method of operation” and are thus are excluded from copyright under 17 U.S.C. § 102. If Visdom’s internal structure (as opposed to its externally facing API) is sufficiently similar to Sophia’s, Battelle may be able to avoid a similar conclusion—a program need not copy another’s private method names and internal organization to remain compatible with other programs “operating” it. If Thuen literally translated Sophia’s code to a different language, preserving the relationships between the methods as well as their internal functionality, Battelle might have an argument. Short of that, there’s probably no hope for an infringement claim.

No Fourth Amendment issue

A lot of the outrage surrounding this case focuses on the seizure of Thuen’s laptop. As I said above, I think the court was imprudent in granting the TRO, and should have done its homework on the meaning of “hacker” (or pushed Battelle harder for evidence of likely tampering). But in general, civil discovery requests do not implicate the Fourth Amendment, so that issue is unlikely to get litigated here.

Aaron Williamson | Aaron Williamson | 2013-11-14 23:00:59

I was a teacher in Seattle Public Schools in the early 2000s. I had a generalist certification and I had a background in puppetry so, even though I was qualified to teach anything K-8, I mostly taught middle school art with a two year stint thrown in there teaching K-5.

I'm really happy to be announcing MakerBot Academy. It's our initiative to put a MakerBot in every school in the USA. I'm personally jumpstarting the movement by putting in a chunk of change and Ralph Crump and Autodesk are joining me to empower the next generation with advanced technology.

We also put together a Thingiverse Challenge to make math manipulatives so that the community can do their part to get materials ready so that when teachers get their MakerBots, they can have things ready to make that will make their classroom better.

I can't wait to see what teachers and students do with MakerBots! 

Bre Pettis | Bre Pettis Blog | 2013-11-14 18:13:46

snowden-fanpix

The Granny-bag index of celebrity: this picture was taken in early September on the platform of Spingpfuhl station in Marzahn (East Berlin). The legend printed on the bag says: “Edward Snowden, a traitor in the USA, but a hero for humanity!”


Alan Toner | kNOw Future Inc. | 2013-11-01 03:46:24

If you’re trying to install enigmail and icedove on Debian, you might find that the enigmail and icedove package versions conflict. Never fear, just install enigmail all by itself. It will remove icedove if present but then install iceape, which contains iceape mail.

James Vasile | Hacker Visions | 2013-10-30 17:35:09

cropsmj

Today the Copyright Review Committee in Ireland published its report, ‘Modernising Copyright‘ (beware, largish file). As mentioned elsewhere, I too made a submission to the committee. Eoin O’Dell (head of the CRC) posted an announcement of its release here.

Like the consultation paper which preceded it in 2012, the final report looks long at first glance. On closer inspection however, its analysis is confined to the first one hundred pages, thereafter follows seventy pages of draft legislative proposals, and the last ten pages are the skimpers’ delight – a precis of the report’s contents for the unmotivated.

Given that my nerdy interest in copyright is not equally distributed, I will not pretend to offer a full overview, but instead focus on the parts which strike me as most salient. these will be dealt with in the order that they appear in the paper, which means that Fair Use comes last, and whilst this initially seems strange, it makes sense with in the waft and warp of the Report’s own logic.

1. The consultation paper was enthusiastic about the creation of Copyright Council (CC) to serve as a policy talk shop open to the vying interests at play in the copyright arena, so no surprise to see a formal recommendation that it be created.

Its membership is to be drawn from all interested parties, which it is noted would distinguish it from analogous superficially similar organisations elsewhere whose principals tend to be rightsowners, or their licensees, or their friends or whatever.

The CC’s functions are to be many and varied, from promoting ‘awareness’ about copyright to researching the social and cultural consequences of the law, providing insight about technical issues and drawing up codes of best practice; all very worthy indeed.

The prospect of more serious responsibilities for the CC is also held out – as possible operators of the eventual domestic system to manage orphan works and of collective licensing agreements devised within a potential digital Copyright Exchange.

2. The cost of intellectual property litigation is a common complaint. The Report argues that the District Court should be enabled to hear cases up to its threshold of 15,000 euros. Another source of whinging is the shortage of Judges capable of tackling the complexity arising in IP cases, here it is suggested that a dedicated court be established at Circuit Court level.

3. Even on the part of those committed to maintaining the basic structure of copyright there has been discomfort at the scale of punishments being meted out to what are ultimately rather mild defendants, remember Jammie Thomas? (How quickly our martyrs fade back into obscurity.) The report has this to say:

there was a great deal of support in the submissions for the idea that remedies for breaches of copyright should be proportionate, and that civil sanctions (such as injunctions and damages) should be graduated. In this way, at one end of the scale, unintentional breaches would not be met with significant awards of damages, and that, at the other end of the scale, the most serious breaches would be appropriately dealt with by the award, for example, of restitutionary, exemplary or punitive damages.

4. The chapter dedicated to ‘Rightsowners’ contains nothing momentous. The request to make circumvention of digital rights management into an independently actionable form of infringement was rejected. A legislative lunar eclipse creating potentially perpetual copyright in the case of some unpublished works is listed for elimination.

Photographers receive a bone here: they were voluble during the whole process and have been especially worried that the Orphan Works proposals could be used as cover by their enemies and exploiters (everybody!) to strip the attribution from their work, declare it orphaned, and use it without payment. Actually although I’m a bit sarcastic about the tone of their contribution, I have some sympathy for them, caught as they are between a market ever more heavily populated by what were formally amateurs (now armed with  high level equipment and the means to get their photos quickly to agencies over the web), an agency business ever more concentrated Getty etc munching all the competition, and cost-cutting publishers who really would screw them if they could. To allay their fears the Report argues that metadata should be protected, and stripping of same punished.

On a related point however no change is suggested regarding the use of photographs for news as part of fair dealing. I recall trying to research the logic behind this a year ago and could find no clear explanation, and that made me feel a bit dumb. So is it to serve the public interest in news access? To reduce the costs of reporting? Answers on a postcard please.

Meat

5. The real action begins in the section dedicated to ‘Users’. The tone is captured by the first proposed change: fair dealing is to ‘include’ rather than ‘mean’ the exceptions which follow thereafter – consequently the category is to be kept open, available for expansion in the future, in line with further technological change or opportunity.

A range of exceptions permitted under the EU Copyright Directive – but which had never been implemented into Irish law – are then reviewed and it is recommended that each be integrated into the statute, these include:

  • private copies and format-shifting, including into formats for storage ‘in the cloud’
  • parody
  • non-commercial user-generated content
  • extended exceptions for educational purposes (this is limited to ‘formal educational establishments’, something which seems flawed to me given the capacity and actuality of self-organised education online, by definition occurring in largely informal environments.
  • enhanced exceptions for people with ‘disabilities’

6. The above exceptions are all derived from the language of the EUCD and thus of unimpeachable pedigree. In the following sections on ‘Entrepreneurs and innovation’, the Report moves into more creative territory. The crux of it is the proposal for a new exception for transformative works or uses of otherwise protected works. The opening part of the proposed legislative language is worth quoting:

106E. Innovation.
(1) It is not an infringement of the rights conferred by this Part if the
owner or lawful user of a work (the initial work) derives from it an
innovative work.
(2) An innovative work is an original work which is substantially different
from the initial work, or which is a substantial transformation of the
initial work.
(3) The innovative work must not—
(a) conflict with the normal exploitation of the initial work, or
(b)  unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the owner of
the rights in the initial work.

This is then followed by a series of sections limiting its applicability but the overall design represents something of a breakthrough. As an aside, it seems to me appropriate to point out that this move is to my knowledge based on the rather brilliant work of Prof. Lionel Bently at Cambridge University, who submitted a carefully argued submission to both the Hargreaves Report in the UK and then to our Irish Iteration. Therein he argued that whilst the reproduction right had been harmonised, leaving little wiggle room, the adaption right had not, and member states are free to do what they want within the limitations of the Berne Treaty. The proposed section 106 integrates the language and logic of the Berne Three Step test (the threshold legitimate exceptions must meet), but there is a strong case that this is not as stringent as might initially seem, otherwise the US’s fair use clause would already have been found in violation of Berne. Anyway, if one is going to read one technical submission in this whole process it should be Bently’s, IMHO.

7. Next up are proposals relating to heritage institutions, not my cup of tea.

8. Lastly, as if to conclude with a crescendo: fair use. And the Committee has decided that Ireland needs it, whilst being at pains to point out that this is a specifically Irish version rather than some US idea baldly imported.

The test as to whether a use qualifies as fair comprises eight criteria and the language is to be found under section 49A.

(a) the extent to which the use in question is analogically similar or related to the other acts permitted by this Part,
(b) the purpose and character of the use in question, including in particular whether

(i)
it is incidental, non-commercial, non-consumptive, personal or transformative in nature, or
(ii)
if the use were not a fair use within the meaning of the section, it would otherwise have constituted a secondary infringement of the right conferred by this Part.
(c) the nature of the work, including in particular whether there is a public benefit or interest in its dissemination through the use in question,
(d) the amount and substantiality of the portion used, quantitatively and qualitatively, in relation to the work as a whole,
(e) the impact of the use upon the normal commercial exploitation of the work, having regard to matters such as its age, value and potential market,
(f) the possibility of obtaining the work, or sufficient rights therein, within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price, such that the use in question is not necessary in all the circumstances of the case,
(g) whether the legitimate interests of the owner of the rights in the work are unreasonably prejudiced by the use in question, and
(h) whether the use in question is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement, unless to do so would be unreasonable or inappropriate

These eight elements are structured into three groups: the first cluster (three factors)  probes for elements which could legitimate the use; the next two criteria touch on general matters; the final group of three tests those elements which would weigh against a finding of fairness.

Conclusion

Overall i think there is a lot to like in this report. It display some fancy footwork in working with the constraints of the EU copyright acquis whilst responding to a need for flexibility which can serve as an incubator for economic opportunities. Let’s not fool around here: is still under the Troika and will be dealing with the fallout of the rabid tomcat and its property bubble for a long time to come.

The grand design and originality thus of ‘Modernising Copyright’ thus is the injection of targeted flexibility into the legal framework – this is no mere echo of the Hargreaves Report in the UK, which backed away from Fair Use out of fear at the uncertainty it would necessarily entail. If the Report’s authors have their way,  contested uses in Ireland will first be examined to see if they fit the exceptions spelled out in the EUCD, or checked against the innovation exception if they are derivative works/adaptations. Only if they have fallen at those two fences, will the fair use test be their last chance saloon.

Now I’m curious to hear the responses of the various interests involved.

Later there will be time to ponder my  reservations: the Report kicked for touch on questions around secondary liability, safe harbours etc and remained silent on the conflicts around enforcement.

And then there’s the politics – will Fine Gael and Labour actually do anything with it or will it just be buried?


Alan Toner | kNOw Future Inc. | 2013-10-29 21:51:44

This petition was on a table by the doorway at a Starbucks near my house, and the top sheet had even collected a lot of signatures. I wonder what those people thought they were accomplishing. You can click on the photo to get an enlarged version, but here’s what the text says:

To our leaders in Washington DC,
now is the time to come together to:

  1. Reopen our government to serve the people.
  2. Pay our debts on time to avoid another financial crisis.
  3. Pass a bipartisan and comprehensive long-term budget deal by the end of the year.

It’s as though Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz hears someone getting mugged outside his window and shouts “Hey you all down there, quit fighting!”

The Starbucks 'Come Together' Petition

Memo to Starbucks: the way to solve this crisis is by taking a side. It’s literally true: as their poll numbers have dropped (i.e., as more people have taken sides), the Republicans have started to abandon their demands. When enough of them abandon enough of their hostage-taking ways, the government will re-open, the debt ceiling will be raised, and conversation will be possible. Humiliating defeat is also a bipartisan solution.

If you’re a gigantic publicly-held company and don’t feel you can afford to take a side, then at least don’t put out pointless petitions in favor of unicorns and rainbows and everbody getting along. That’s worse than useless. You might confuse some poor person who hasn’t yet had their morning coffee into thinking they’re actually participating in politics when all they’re doing is donating their name to your misguided and implicitly partisan publicity drive.

Refusal to take a side almost always equals taking one side. In this case, by legitimizing the Republicans’ extortionary tactics, Starbucks is supporting their side. All the people signing that petition are doing so too, but — especially knowing the demographics of Hyde Park, Chicago, where that particular Starbucks is located — they probably don’t think of themselves as doing that. That what makes this worse than useless.

I’m not sure how one conspicuously refuses to sign a petition. Maybe cross out one line? Sign your name and then cross over it? What I did at that Starbucks was write a note at the top of the petition about “false equivalency” and how the only constructive action to take here is to take a side. If you stop by a Starbucks today, please do the same :-).

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2013-10-13 16:35:28

Eben Moglen speaking

Arrgh, I wish I could go to this!

Eben Moglen is giving a series of talks entitled “Snowden and the Future” on four Wednesday nights, spread across October, November, and December. I’d even fly into New York to attend some of them, but I have choir rehearsal on Wednesday nights (and I’ve already missed rehearsals due to travel, so don’t want to do more of that).

But if you’re in New York, you should go! They’ll be at Columbia Law School, Jerome Greene Hall room 101 (map), from 4:30pm – 5:30pm, on Wednesdays Oct 9th, Oct 30th, Nov 13th, and Dec 4th. More information at snowdenandthefuture.info. The talks will be live-streamed at that site too.

Karl Fogel | rants.org | 2013-10-03 16:54:27

Eben Moglen speaking.Eben Moglen will be giving a series of four public talks in New York City, entitled "Snowden and the Future", starting Wednesday, October 4th (the other dates are Oct. 30th, Nov 13th, and Dec 4th, all Wednesdays).

All talks will take place at Columbia Law School, in room 101 of Jerome Greene Hall (map), from 4:30pm - 5:30pm.  For those who can't be there, streaming video of the events as they take place will be available from snowdenandthefuture.info.

Why you should go to these talks:

The connection between copyright restrictions and civil liberties violations is clear and unavoidable.  We've written about it here (and here and here and here).  It's been the key to the Pirate Party's political success in Europe, and the subject of one of Nina Paley's excellent minute memes.  Eben Moglen,  the founder and director of the Software Freedom Law Center, is one of the clearest thinkers talking about digital freedom today -- and one of the most inspiring: a previous public lecture of his led directly to the creation of the Freedom Box Foundation.  He's also a terrific speaker.  You won't be disappointed; go, and bring all your friends.

The surveillance state is aided and enabled by information monopolists who assert that watching people's Internet usage for unauthorized use of copyrighted material is so important that it trumps both privacy concerns and freedom of expression.  That's why we keep a close eye on surveillance news here at QuestionCopyright.org, and encourage you to as well.

For more information on these lectures, visit snowdenandthefuture.info.

Tags: 

Question Copyright | QuestionCopyright.org | 2013-10-03 16:42:44

P1180269_RW2_shotwell


Alan Toner | kNOw Future Inc. | 2013-10-01 03:46:30

While catching up on podcasts this weekend I was surprised that news of Popular Science "Shutting Off Our Comments" had traveled so far. On September 24, PopSci explained they were disabling comments because trolls and spambots were overwhelming their ability of "fostering lively, intellectual debate" (Labarre2013wws). They justified this decision based on a New York Times op-ed from Dominique Brossard and Dietram Scheufele who wrote of a study of theirs. The story was mentioned on most everything I listened to including Tekzilla and Skeptics Guide to the Universe (SGU). I was most disappointed with SGU since one of their themes is how research is often distorted in the media. I thought it would be useful to trace the hyperbolic mutation of this idea.

In "The 'Nasty Effect': Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies" the authors test if exposure to uncivil comments about an article on nanotechnology (including name-calling) affected the views of readers (AndersonEtal2013neo). Readers were asked to rate their perceived level of risk of nanotechnology on a five-point scale between "1: Benefits far outweigh the risks" and "5: Risks far outweigh the benefits." They tested a number of hypotheses, the first of which was that uncivil comments below a newspaper blog post about nanotech correlated with an increase in risk perception. They were unable to support this hypothesis: "Our findings did not demonstrate a significant direct relationship between exposure to incivility and risk perceptions" (AndersonEtal2013neo, p. 8). They were able to find some relationship between incivility and risk perceptions in two specific populations, those with existing opinion on nanotech and those with a higher level of reported religiosity. If you look at Figure 1 you do see a polarization. Among those who previously had low support, their sense of risk increased from a 3.25 to a 3.5 when exposed to uncivil comments. Conversely, among those who supported nanotech, their sense of risk decreased from a 3.0 to a 2.85 when exposed to uncivil comments. That's about a 3-5% shift in risk perception within the five-point scale among proponents and opponents. Similarly, in Figure 2, those with high religiosity went from a civil 3.14 to an uncivil 3.28 sense of risk, a 3% shift within the five-point scale. These are notable differences in the aggregate, but any individual would be hard-pressed to explain such a difference. That is, if a 3 means the risk is balanced with the benefit, what does a shift from 3.25 to 3.5 mean? When the authors tested how much all the things they tested for (e.g., incivility, demographics, media use, and science support) contributed to the variations in risk perception, their model explained 17% of the variation. Hence, this is an interesting finding, with a notable (but not earth shattering) effect size, among two specific populations, on the specific topic of nanotech.

In February of this year, two of the authors published a report of this forthcoming work in Science in which they write:

Disturbingly, readers' interpretations of potential risks associated with technology described in the news article differed significantly depending only on the tone of the manipulated reader comments posted with the story. Exposure to uncivil comments (which included name-calling and other non-content-specific expressions of incivility) polarized the views among proponents and opponents of the technology with respect to its potential risks.... In other words, just the tone of the comments following balanced science stories in Web 2.0 environments can significantly alter how audiences think about the technology itself. (BrossardScheufele2013snm, p. 41)

Here, they are correctly talking about polarization among proponents and opponents of a specific technology but describe the effect size as "significant" and speak of audiences generally.

A month later, the same two authors publish an op-ed in the New York Times in which they write:

Comments from some readers, our research shows, can significantly distort what other readers think was reported in the first place.... In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology -- whom we identified with preliminary survey questions -- continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology. (BrossardScheufele2013tss)

Now we are reading "significantly distort" and "much more polarized"; this is for a ~5% polarization among opponents and proponents within the five-point scale, a difference most individuals would be hard-pressed to note or explain.

This then manifests in hyperbolic media reports. On this weekend's podcasts Tekzilla reports "Comments kill the Internet" and on the SGU Rebecca Watson says the study that inspired the PopSci's decision "shows pretty convincingly that people are grossly affected by the comments they read on science news articles...." This story has feet because it's narrow, circumscribed findings speak to a larger phenomenon with which we all have experience: Internet comments often suck. Yet, recall that the authors of the study concluded "Our findings did not demonstrate a significant direct relationship between exposure to incivility and risk perceptions."

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2013-09-30 00:00:00

Last Thursday, I managed to further integrate my personal/professional/hobbiest identitites, and me and two of my esteemed colleagues (Therese and Jon) presented Burning Man and Hacker/Maker Spaces at the weekly CCNMTL staff meeting.

The rosetta stone for our talk was Fred Turner’s seminal paper Burning Man at Google: a cultural infrastructure for new media production (published by New Media and Society, the same journal that published my and Aram’s paper on The End of Forgetting (preprint)), which Turner also presented at Google, where his talk was recorded.

We tried to connect Burning Man to a central question in education — the question of transference.  Do skills learned under simulated conditions transfer over to real world settings? We started out with the grand question, “What Educates?”, and tried to narrow that down to the question of how we can view commons-based peer-production in an educational context?  What can Burning Man, and crucially, the Maker Spaces that make Burning Man possible, teach educators about teaching and learning?

 

Our talk:

And our slides:

Now that we have presented this to CCNMTL, some of the librarians have gotten wind of our talk, and have invited us to re-present it at a tech brownbag lunch later this Fall :-D

To the evolution!

 

Jonah Bossewitch | Alchemical Musings freeculture | 2013-09-29 21:28:06

Draft: Revenge rating and tweak critique at photo.net

In today’s world, most anything can be rated, ranked, and liked. flickr (founded in 2004), tumblr (2007), and Instagram (2010) exemplify this Web 2.0 penchant for sharing and evaluation of images among users. Yet, these sites were not the first to support these practices among photographers. For instance, photoSIG.com has been operating since December 2001 and has long supported photographic critiques among its contributors (Xu & Bailey, 2012).

In this chapter, I focus on the evaluation of photographic works at photo.net, another early site begun in 1993. It started as a few discussion boards on a personal web site and now describes itself as “a site for serious photographers to connect with other photographers, explore photo galleries, discuss photography, share and critique photos, and learn about photography” (Photo.net, 2012). Indeed, the discussions at photo.net about the practices, meanings, and abuses of digital evaluation anticipate discussions about all manner of contemporary digital evaluation. Hence, I claim that photo.net is a seminal site of practice and discourse about digital evaluation. In the following pages I describe photo.net’s origins and how the community grappled with the issues of numeric ratings (what range should be used?), anonymity (are blinded reviews better?), manipulation (how to prevent people from “mate-rating” friends and “revenge-rating” enemies?), genres (why are nudes so much more popular?), and critique etiquette (is it okay to tweak another’s image in Photoshop?). I relate these issues to a few, more recent, examples of online evaluation beyond photography. Most importantly, I offer six characteristics of evaluation learned from photo.net that continue to be broadly relevant in the age of digital evaluation including that it’s hard to quantify the qualitative and when people do so quantitative mechanisms often beget their own manipulation.

Josh Reagle | Open Codex | 2013-09-18 00:00:00