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Posted on Techdirt - 10 March 2012 @ 12:00pm

Ltlw0lf's Favorite Techdirt Posts of the Week

from the huffing-and-puffing dept

This week's posts ran the gamut from the evils of DMCA/ACTA/TPP, to computer security issues, to the government’s effort to pass draconian treaties which are most likely binding even when the government says they aren’t, to cheap computers that will revolutionize the world. There is always a lot of good stuff on Techdirt to talk about.

One of my most favorite posts this week would have to have been the article about how Hollywood would like to see us space-shift DVDs by forcing us to take the DVD to a store to convert into a file for use in our non-DVD capable devices. They appear to be hoping that by offering this capability, they will head off the consumer groups out there who are trying to get the Librarian of Congress to allow ripping of DVDs as an exception to the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision.

It also outlines something that many of us here say regularly in the comments; that the gatekeepers are so used to holding all the cards, abusing their producers and customers alike with one-sided contracts, DRM, and onerous regulations and they really don’t want to change. And neither do their customers, who will continue ripping the DVDs themselves, violating the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA because it is easier and more effective than any legitimate alternative Hollywood has provided. And of course, we are talking about space-shifting, which was a legally protected activity until DMCA made it illegal only if the material was encrypted to protect copyright.

The gatekeepers won't be successful in this effort until they can control software distribution all over the world and outlaw computers which can be modified by the user, and I just can't see this happening in a post-SOPA world, no matter how much the gatekeepers would like to believe that the SOPA backlash was a one-off event caused by "misinformation" and "undemocratic" processes. Something that most of those who participated in the anti-SOPA demonstrations felt pretty much summed up the actions of those behind SOPA with the backroom deals, the laws for sale, regulatory capture, and the efforts to discredit those behind the anti-SOPA demonstrations as lapdogs for Google.

And of course, we have the EFF fighting against companies sending out automated bogus DMCA takedowns for things they have no legal right taking down. Hopefully someone will bring some sanity to this problem – but I am not holding my breath. I used to think DMCA was an army where SOPA was a nuclear holocaust. But now it looks like the DMCA is an army with nuclear bombs – placing them somewhat indiscriminately and with no concern of legality or collateral effects. At some point, like everything else, it will backfire on the gatekeepers, as we have seen recently where two gatekeepers sue each other over the public domain or over trademarks. Someone is going to issue a takedown for another gatekeeper, and the nuclear armageddon will begin. Especially with automation, where companies really aren’t checking the results to assure that the results are correct but which does not appear to be happening in these cases (every engineer/scientist learns early on in their career to check the results.)

Moving on, this week saw a couple posts on computer security issues. We had the post on how the University of Michigan hacked the online voting system that was placed online specifically for the public to test the functionality and security of the system. We have to commend OSDV and Washington D.C. for doing the right thing and putting the system online to be tested. And the University of Michigan (and the others) who tested the system to its fullest and made the results available. This effort will make the system more secure, if they take what they learn and fix the problems and don't introduce new ones. We know that many of the problems discovered here also exist in the closed source voting systems, and this is precisely why those closed source systems are so hard to trust.

On a lighter note, we have the post on the Raspberry Pi, and how it could be a big problem for oppressive regimes. So many people were excited about the product that they crashed the server. Having cheap and small devices which run open source operating systems and applications can make things far more difficult for countries and gatekeepers who want to control how everyone uses their computers. Having less devices to worry about securing, and tailoring the 20W $25 PCs to replace the 650W $500 Desktop PC will have a better effect on the environment. Now if they can get the computer to fit into an Altoids tin, that would be awesome.

And finally, something I found to be surprising, is that teaching styles of teachers are much more of a distraction then computers in the classroom. I didn’t have a laptop with me in school until I was in my senior year in college, and that was only on a special occasion. However, it makes sense, as I find I am most efficient when I allow myself a couple short opportunities to visit Techdirt. Though if my boss is reading, I am multi-tasking and I am blocked waiting for the tasks to finish.

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