The Ongoing War On Computing; Legacy Players Trying To Control The Uncontrollable

from the must-watch dept

I don’t think I’ve ever had so many people all recommend I watch the same thing as the number of folks who pointed me to Cory Doctorow’s brilliant talk at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin last week. You can watch the 55 minute presentation below… or if you’re a speed reader, you can check out the fantastic transcript put together by Joshua Wise, which I’ll be quoting from:

The crux of his argument is pretty straightforward. The idea behind all these attempts to “crack down” on copyright infringement online, with things like DRM, rootkits, three strikes laws, SOPA and more, are really simply all forms of attacks on general purpose computing. That’s because computers that can run any program screw up the kind of gatekeeper control some industries are used to, and create a litany of problems for those industries:

By 1996, it became clear to everyone in the halls of power that there was something important about to happen. We were about to have an information economy, whatever the hell that was. They assumed it meant an economy where we bought and sold information. Now, information technology makes things efficient, so imagine the markets that an information economy would have. You could buy a book for a day, you could sell the right to watch the movie for one Euro, and then you could rent out the pause button at one penny per second. You could sell movies for one price in one country, and another price in another, and so on, and so on; the fantasies of those days were a little like a boring science fiction adaptation of the Old Testament book of Numbers, a kind of tedious enumeration of every permutation of things people do with information and the ways we could charge them for it.

[[355.5]] But none of this would be possible unless we could control how people use their computers and the files we transfer to them. After all, it was well and good to talk about selling someone the 24 hour right to a video, or the right to move music onto an iPod, but not the right to move music from the iPod onto another device, but how the Hell could you do that once you’d given them the file? In order to do that, to make this work, you needed to figure out how to stop computers from running certain programs and inspecting certain files and processes. For example, you could encrypt the file, and then require the user to run a program that only unlocked the file under certain circumstances.

[[395.8]] But as they say on the Internet, “now you have two problems”. You also, now, have to stop the user from saving the file while it’s in the clear, and you have to stop the user from figuring out where the unlocking program stores its keys, because if the user finds the keys, she’ll just decrypt the file and throw away that stupid player app.

[[416.6]] And now you have three problems [audience laughs], because now you have to stop the users who figure out how to render the file in the clear from sharing it with other users, and now you’ve got four! problems, because now you have to stop the users who figure out how to extract secrets from unlocking programs from telling other users how to do it too, and now you’ve got five! problems, because now you have to stop users who figure out how to extract secrets from unlocking programs from telling other users what the secrets were!

From there he goes on to put together a fantastic analogy of how a confusion over analogies, rather than (perhaps) outright cluelessness (or evilness) explains why bad copyright laws keep getting passed:

It’s not that regulators don’t understand information technology, because it should be possible to be a non-expert and still make a good law! M.P.s and Congressmen and so on are elected to represent districts and people, not disciplines and issues. We don’t have a Member of Parliament for biochemistry, and we don’t have a Senator from the great state of urban planning, and we don’t have an M.E.P. from child welfare. (But perhaps we should.) And yet those people who are experts in policy and politics, not technical disciplines, nevertheless, often do manage to pass good rules that make sense, and that’s because government relies on heuristics — rules of thumbs about how to balance expert input from different sides of an issue.

[[686.3]] But information technology confounds these heuristics — it kicks the crap out of them — in one important way, and this is it. One important test of whether or not a regulation is fit for a purpose is first, of course, whether it will work, but second of all, whether or not in the course of doing its work, it will have lots of effects on everything else. If I wanted Congress to write, or Parliament to write, or the E.U. to regulate a wheel, it’s unlikely I’d succeed. If I turned up and said “well, everyone knows that wheels are good and right, but have you noticed that every single bank robber has four wheels on his car when he drives away from the bank robbery? Can’t we do something about this?”, the answer would of course be “no”. Because we don’t know how to make a wheel that is still generally useful for legitimate wheel applications but useless to bad guys. And we can all see that the general benefits of wheels are so profound that we’d be foolish to risk them in a foolish errand to stop bank robberies by changing wheels. Even if there were an /epidemic/ of bank robberies, even if society were on the verge of collapse thanks to bank robberies, no-one would think that wheels were the right place to start solving our problems.

[[762.0]] But. If I were to show up in that same body to say that I had absolute proof that hands-free phones were making cars dangerous, and I said, “I would like you to pass a law that says it’s illegal to put a hands-free phone in a car”, the regulator might say “Yeah, I’d take your point, we’d do that”. And we might disagree about whether or not this is a good idea, or whether or not my evidence made sense, but very few of us would say “well, once you take the hands-free phones out of the car, they stop being cars”. We understand that we can keep cars cars even if we remove features from them. Cars are special purpose, at least in comparison to wheels, and all that the addition of a hands-free phone does is add one more feature to an already-specialized technology. In fact, there’s that heuristic that we can apply here — special-purpose technologies are complex. And you can remove features from them without doing fundamental disfiguring violence to their underlying utility.

[[816.5]] This rule of thumb serves regulators well, by and large, but it is rendered null and void by the general-purpose computer and the general-purpose network — the PC and the Internet. Because if you think of computer software as a feature, that is a computer with spreadsheets running on it has a spreadsheet feature, and one that’s running World of Warcraft has an MMORPG feature, then this heuristic leads you to think that you could reasonably say, “make me a computer that doesn’t run spreadsheets”, and that it would be no more of an attack on computing than “make me a car without a hands-free phone” is an attack on cars. And if you think of protocols and sites as features of the network, then saying “fix the Internet so that it doesn’t run BitTorrent”, or “fix the Internet so that thepiratebay.org no longer resolves”, then it sounds a lot like “change the sound of busy signals”, or “take that pizzeria on the corner off the phone network”, and not like an attack on the fundamental principles of internetworking.

The end result, then, is that any attempt to pass these kinds of laws really results not in building a task-specific computing system or application, but in deliberately crippling a general purpose machine — and that’s kind of crazy for all sorts of reasons. Basically, it effectively means having to put spyware everywhere:

[[1090.5]] Because we don’t know how to build the general purpose computer that is capable of running any program we can compile except for some program that we don’t like, or that we prohibit by law, or that loses us money. The closest approximation that we have to this is a computer with spyware — a computer on which remote parties set policies without the computer user’s knowledge, over the objection of the computer’s owner. And so it is that digital rights management always converges on malware.

[[1118.9]] There was, of course, this famous incident, a kind of gift to people who have this hypothesis, in which Sony loaded covert rootkit installers on 6 million audio CDs, which secretly executed programs that watched for attempts to read the sound files on CDs, and terminated them, and which also hid the rootkit’s existence by causing the kernel to lie about which processes were running, and which files were present on the drive. But it’s not the only example; just recently, Nintendo shipped the 3DS, which opportunistically updates its firmware, and does an integrity check to make sure that you haven’t altered the old firmware in any way, and if it detects signs of tampering, it bricks itself.

[[1158.8]] Human rights activists have raised alarms over U-EFI, the new PC bootloader, which restricts your computer so it runs signed operating systems, noting that repressive governments will likely withhold signatures from OSes unless they have covert surveillance operations.

[[1175.5]] And on the network side, attempts to make a network that can’t be used for copyright infringement always converges with the surveillance measures that we know from repressive governments. So, SOPA, the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act, bans tools like DNSSec because they can be used to defeat DNS blocking measures. And it blocks tools like Tor, because they can be used to circumvent IP blocking measures. In fact, the proponents of SOPA, the Motion Picture Association of America, circulated a memo, citing research that SOPA would probably work, because it uses the same measures as are used in Syria, China, and Uzbekistan, and they argued that these measures are effective in those countries, and so they would work in America, too!

[audience laughs and applauds] Don’t applaud me, applaud the MPAA!

But his point is much bigger than copyright. It’s that the copyright fight is merely the canary in the coalmine to this kind of attack on general purpose computing in all sorts of other arenas as well. And those fights may be much bigger and more difficult than the copyright fight:

And it doesn’t take a science fiction writer to understand why regulators might be nervous about the user-modifiable firmware on self-driving cars, or limiting interoperability for aviation controllers, or the kind of thing you could do with bio-scale assemblers and sequencers. Imagine what will happen the day that Monsanto determines that it’s really… really… important to make sure that computers can’t execute programs that cause specialized peripherals to output organisms that eat their lunch… literally. Regardless of whether you think these are real problems or merely hysterical fears, they are nevertheless the province of lobbies and interest groups that are far more influential than Hollywood and big content are on their best days, and every one of them will arrive at the same place — “can’t you just make us a general purpose computer that runs all the programs, except the ones that scare and anger us? Can’t you just make us an Internet that transmits any message over any protocol between any two points, unless it upsets us?”

[[1576.3]] And personally, I can see that there will be programs that run on general purpose computers and peripherals that will even freak me out. So I can believe that people who advocate for limiting general purpose computers will find receptive audience for their positions. But just as we saw with the copyright wars, banning certain instructions, or protocols, or messages, will be wholly ineffective as a means of prevention and remedy; and as we saw in the copyright wars, all attempts at controlling PCs will converge on rootkits; all attempts at controlling the Internet will converge on surveillance and censorship, which is why all this stuff matters. Because we’ve spent the last 10+ years as a body sending our best players out to fight what we thought was the final boss at the end of the game, but it turns out it’s just been the mini-boss at the end of the level, and the stakes are only going to get higher.

And this is an important fight. It’s why each of the moves to fight back against attempts to censor and break computing systems is so important. Because the next round of fights is going to be bigger and more difficult. And while they’ll simply never succeed in actually killing off the idea of the all-purpose general computer (you don’t put that kind of revelation back in Pandora’s box), the amount of collateral damage that can (and almost certainly will) be caused in the interim is significant and worrisome.

His point (and presentation) are fantastic, and kind of a flip side to something that I’ve discussed in the past. When people ask me why I talk about the music industry so much, I often note that it’s the leading indicator for the type of disruption that’s going to hit every single industry, even many that believe they’re totally immune to this. My hope was that we could extract the good lessons from what’s happening in the music industry — the fact that the industry has grown tremendously, that a massive amount of new content is being produced, and that amazing new business models mean that many more people can make money from music today than ever before — and look to apply some of those lessons to other industries before they freak out.

But Cory’s speech, while perhaps the pessimistic flip side of that coin, highlights the key attack vector where all of these fights against disruption will be fought. They’ll be attacks on the idea of general purpose computing. And, if we’re hoping to ward off the worst of the worst, we can’t just talk about the facts and data and success stories, but also need to be prepared to explain and educate about the nature of a general purpose computer, and the massive (and dangerous) unintended consequences from seeking to hold back general computing power to stop “apps we don’t like.”

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Comments on “The Ongoing War On Computing; Legacy Players Trying To Control The Uncontrollable”

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131 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

If these tech companies can’t create their own worthwhile content, what are they besides parasites?

If they are that reliant on infringement to make money, then they obviously have a very bad business model, don’t they?

This is basic stuff.

I suggest they adapt and figure out a worthy reason to stay at the table, or go the way of the dinosaur.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“If these tech companies can’t create their own worthwhile content, what are they besides parasites?”

I these tech companies provide services that enable people to access content created by others which would otherwise be unreachable, can we truly consider them parasites? Or are they more akin to enablers of the exchange of knowledge and culture?

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I’ll supply more:

Bandcamp
Dropbox
Tumblr
TopSpin
CD Baby
Tunecore
[insert CD/Vinyl Manufacturer here]

Really, Dropbox, CDBaby and especially Bandcamp allow me to have the same access level as a major label. I don’t have to be on TV. I don’t have to be on a radio. I have the same opportunity for exposure as Katy Perry or Lady Gaga (nowhere near the same number of fans, that’s for sure, though).

Want Proof? Take Jonathan Coulton, who made $500,000 in 2010 whilst releasing all his music with a Creative Commons BY-NC license.

There’s also Ingrid Michaelson, who has taken a more traditional route, except that she’s not on any label whatsoever (so she owns the masters and publishing rights and gets to keep all the money she earns).

There’s no excuse in this day and age to hold you back. Just do it.

Burf says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

And here’s the point to the Troll’s above comment that “all there is is crap out there” (or something like that).
There IS a lot of crap out there in the mainstream because that’s all big labels want to push now. It has to be overly produced pop crap so that they can control every aspect of the marketing, sales, etc.
All the really good music out there is being made by these independent artists who don’t have the massive sales of pop stars of old, but they are making a living…
And there’s LOT’S more of them. You just have to seek them out.

Jim says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Are you seriously this obtuse? It’s very hard to tell over the internet…

Twitter.
Facebook.
YouTube.
Twitter.
Wordpress.
Reddit.

There’s a quick list off the top of my head w/ zero thought that all provide a valuable service that allows people to share originally created content, that do not rely on copyrighted works as a business model, that COULD be used for infringement if a user decides to use the platform that way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Uh, none of those businesses have their model based on infringement.

I know youtube started that way, but that was only in the beginning, and only so they could squash their competition and sell out for a big payday.

Which they did.

They’ve since cleaned up their act and become a partner with content creators.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

If that was his attempted point, at no juncture did he ever make it.

Trying to pretend copyright infringement is necessary for tech and internet innovation to move forward is a gigantic crock of shit.

It’s laughable, and no one but Doctorow, Masnick, etc are defending these myopic parasites that can’t seem to to do anything really innovative.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

um.. ok, basically the whole thing was about that.
It’s not that copyright infringement is neccessary, but that the “solutions” they are proposing are ill-informed, harmful, and um, bad. Most people who work closely with this tech and understand some of how it works understand the problems and are fighting against them, it’s hardly just Doctorow and Masnick, most people who work closely with tech understand that what they want to do is a bad idea.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Trying to pretend copyright infringement is necessary for tech and internet innovation to move forward is a gigantic crock of shit.

and a strawman. What Cory said is that mechanisms which make it impossible to prevent copyright infringement are necessary for tech and internet innovation. This is a very different statement.

Go away and spend 3 years learning to program, then go and contribute to some OS projects to prove you have mastered the technology sufficiently well to be useful and you might be able to understand what we are talking about.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

It isn’t neccessarily impossible to prevent some copyright infringement, they already had laws in place that were and still are preventing some copyright infringment before the internet ever was and as far as I can tell, Cory’s speach leaves open the possibility of there being other ways of making more progress in that area without screwing with the workings of computers and the internet. All he is really saying is that particular approach will be harmful.

You don’t normally take this approach anyway. If we have too many bank robberies or something, they don’t usually ask the car manufacturers why they are allowing their cars to be used in bank robberies or try to force the gun manufacturers to make guns that won’t operate within 100 feet of a bank.. They normally actually crack down on those who are actually reponsible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Quote:

(b) Copyrights in Their Renewal Term at the Time of the Effective Date of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.7 ? Any copyright still in its renewal term at the time that the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act becomes effective shall have a copyright term of 95 years from the date copyright was originally secured.8

Source: http://copyright.gov/title17/92chap3.html

lcloria2 says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You really should remain anonymous and quiet. Your ignorance is glaring! The companies involved are not the point. The point is in the way these companies will be controlled or dealt with, by stepping on OUR civil liberties. Groups like the MPAA are lobbying our lawmakers because it is less expensive and easier than taking the infringing companies to court, in this country or thiers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If you copyright maximalist troll commenters can’t come up with your own original arguments, what are you besides parasites?

If you are that reliant on rehashing the same comment over and over without responding to the content of an article, you obviously aren’t able to substantively argue the issue you’re shilling about, are you?

This is basic stuff.

I suggest that you adapt and figure out some more creative ways of trolling, or go the way of the dinosaur.

Jim says:

Re: Re:

If these content companies can’t create their own worthwhile tech, what are they besides parasites?

If they are that reliant on obsolete distribution methods to make money, then they obviously have a very bad business model, don’t they?

This is basic stuff.

I suggest they adapt and figure out a worthy reason to stay at the table, or go the way of the dinosaur.

Anonymous Poster says:

Re: Re:

If these tech companies can’t create their own worthwhile content, what are they besides parasites?

They are creators of new technologies, which will enable end users to create new experiences and new content — and those end users include the major content industries, too.

If they are that reliant on infringement to make money, then they obviously have a very bad business model, don’t they?

The MPAA and RIAA are reliant on getting new laws passed and stretching existing laws to their logical limits to make money; they obviously have a very bad business model, don’t they?

DH's Love Child (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“If these tech companies can’t create their own worthwhile content, what are they besides parasites?

If they are that reliant on infringement to make money, then they obviously have a very bad business model, don’t they?

This is basic stuff.

I suggest they adapt and figure out a worthy reason to stay at the table, or go the way of the dinosaur.”

Name me one COMPANY that creates content. They have people who create content and then the company publishes or distributes it.

Content is created by people using tools that companies make. Just because the content wasn’t distributed by your beloved RIAA/MPAA, etc, doesn’t make it any less worthwhile.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Um, they did adapt. Technology came along and they created new and interesting and convenient ways to present content.

On the other hand, the “rights holders” don’t adapt and have forced an unconscionable extension to a rule that was supposed to give an incentive to creators to create.

The “rights holders” don’t create, except for new ‘rights’ for themselves. They are working to enforce a government granted monopoly, and are buying the legislation from those who are supposed to work FOR THE PEOPLE. Other than the money, and a few nasty court rulings, they have NO standing. They are corporations, not individuals.

The beneficiaries of copyright are supposed to be the public, not the small subsection who claim they are ‘rights holders’, and have manipulated the actual creators into passing those rights along with the empty promise of riches.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Computers.

How’s that for worthwhile content?

Operating Systems.

Not enough?

A distributed sharing system which allows the transfer of any damn thing that has been digitized.

Hmm…so you don’t like that? Not worthwhile?

See, you say worthwhile content, which is where you go wrong. They create something worthwhile, something useful. It may not be defined as content by you (most use the term services), but in my opinion the internet, youtube, Linux, twitter, facebook, google, and the like are far more important that the RIAA, MPAA, Nickelback, Britney Spears, DC, Marvel, Universal Studios, Final Form Games, Metallica, or Pink Floyd. Yeah, I threw a few things I like in there at as well as thing s I don’t. Because what those tech companies give us far outweighs what a single content focused company can.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Where is the word ‘copyright’ in my post?

I said ‘content’.

OK then you are fine with the abolition of copyright.

Good.

You DID say “desirable content” – which is subtly different from “useful content” – the latter being part of the tech world.

The point I am making is that “content” includes “technical content”, the substance of which is generally not copyrightable.

BTW where do you get this “intellectually dishonest” tag from – look a bit cargo cult to me – since you stole it from Mike and don’t seem to understand what it means.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Re: Most are entirely worthless without desirable content.

How did the Internet get started?

Before the Internet, there were already ?on-line services?, like CompuServe, AOL, BIX and a bunch of others. To attract subscribers, they were full of content.

So how was the new kid on the block, the Internet, able to not only hold its own against these proprietary services, but also sweep them away? Not only did it not have the content, it didn?t have the existing brand recognition that they had, and certainly it could never match their deep-pocketed promotional budgets. Yet they are gone, and it remains.

Did the Internet offer superior ?content?? No. It really had no ?content? to speak of, to begin with.

But what the Internet did have was connectivity. It was the single best way ever invented for people to communicate with one another. That proved more important than any amount of ?content?; it is the reason the ?content? now has to come to the Internet to get anywhere?the Internet never had to go to the ?content?.

So remember: it?s not the ?content??it?s the connectivity, stupid!

Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So cute when some Luddite thinks a computer is just a 21st century way of watching TV and listening to the radio.

I hate to break it to you, but all the content (specifically software) that has made computers mission-critical to the entire world economy has come from the tech industries, not the entertainment or consumption sector. Businesses do not use computers to watch TV, they use it for business applications, and the data that truly makes the world go round is generated by the companies that profit from that data.

Being able to watch Jersey Shore is all well and good, but ultimately that’s readily substitutable for live performances that have been around for thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of years. The true revolution brought about by technology has little (nothing, in some industries) to do with consumption, and everything to do with turbocharging business operations.

While the sudden disappearance of TV, radio, video games, and all other manner of heroic consumed content might make for a lot of very bored people, the sudden disappearance of the entire “parasitic” technology sector would quite literally make the world economy – including all those consumption-based industries that are the tragic victims – disappear overnight.

Feel free to lead the charge, if that’s the outcome you desire. We’ll be on the other side waiting for you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Language is entirely worthless without desirable content.

This line of reasoning is pretty absurd don’t you think? It essentially presumes that the worth of everything in existence is wrapped up in the existence of ‘desirable content’ and therefor… something. You don’t really follow it up with an actual point. You pretend to with your ‘well if you’re not creating content you must be a parasite’ nonsense but you can only do that by switching the definition of content mid-argument from a narrow definition like ‘things produced by the legacy content distribution industry’ to this wider definition you’re using here of ‘basically everything.’ Then you have the gall to suggested others are being ‘intellectually dishonest’ when they become confused by your intentional muddling of two very different definitions of the word ‘content.’

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If you can’t create your own worthwhile technology to make and distribute your content then what are you besides a parasite? Did you come up with Netflix, the Internet, planes, trains, ships, automobiles, wagons, barges, or chariots? Did you invent the DVD, VHS, Betamax, film, or daguerreotype? Did you create the projector, phonograph, printing press, paper, or papyrus? Did you think up the pencil, pen, or chisel? No? You stinking parasite!

If you are that reliant on technology to make money, then you obviously have a very bad business model, don’t you? Without technology, you’d only be able to share your works from memory to those you could walk to, or in the case of art, they’d have to walk to where you drew in the dirt. There’d be no such thing as a movie or photographs or paintings. The only music you could make is what comes out of your throat.

This is basic stuff.

I suggest you adapt and figure out a worthy reason to stay at the table, or go the way of the dinosaur, which by the way, did not have technology.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So, your argument boils down to “OMG, its the law!”?

fuck off nutjob, these laws were bought and paid for by companies that only cover a few percent gdp *at best* and employ less the 1% of the population, signed for by the corrupt politicians all around the world, abused and twisted by everyone with a big lawfirm or enough money and an axe to grind.

I do NOT respect these laws which are nowadays anti free speech, anti freedom and only pro big money that likes to fuck the general population in the ass.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

well, thats why he is anonymous, right?

but seriously, I think you can break down the employees in this industry by a similar margin, maybe more like 95%/5% representing the higher amount of corporate fat cats.

even in banking you can do that, and 99%/1% sounds about right, although its ratio between scum and people in their case

Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You forgot to mention the fact that Hollywood was literally founded as a haven for patent infringement on recording equipment to the harm of patent-holders on the other side of the country, in the days before you could communicate across thousands of miles instantaniously.

Just think – if we’d had stronger IP enforcement and perpetually-granted patents (after all, property is property no matter how old, and time limits are just legalized theft), the MPAA as a force to be reckoned with probably never would have existed at all.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If these tech companies can’t create their own worthwhile content, what are they besides parasites?

If they are that reliant on infringement to make money, then they obviously have a very bad business model, don’t they?

This is basic stuff.

I suggest they adapt and figure out a worthy reason to stay at the table, or go the way of the dinosaur.

Either you are being sarcastic or you are barking mad.

If you are serious then this is a fine example of a Cargo Cult comment.

It takes the same forms of the discussion that serious .

The result is similar to cargo cult religion.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

One thing that comes to mind when I think about a war on general purpose computing is the DVD. There was a time when DVD drives were not capable of playing DVD movies. Why? Movie companies wanted to keep tight control over the films. Then market pressure forced their hand and they have licensed playback of DVDs, but only on certain operating systems. Because I am a Linux user at home, every time I play a DVD on my computer, I am technically breaking the law because I am bypassing a “technical measure”. It doesn’t matter that such use on Linux machines is common and expected, it is still “illegal” Same for mp3 files. I am not legally allowed to play them because Linux users are not authorized to play them on their computers.

It continues to boggle my mind why content companies fight their users on every turn. All I want to do is watch my legally purchased DVDs or listen to my legally purchased mp3s on my Linux computer, but I am forced to be a criminal for doing just that.

MikeC says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Region Coding

Excellent point, Samuel.

My intent was not denigration of New Zealand or New Zealander’s contributions, but rather the opposite: very good things can come from very small countries. Likewise, the percentage of people employed by an industry is an irrelevant datum with respect to the value of the people, their contributions or the industry.

Anonymous Coward, in his rare cogent moments, seems to be arguing that making stuff (products, content, …) is all that is really valuable. As an economist, I can assure AC that “stuff” is a minority of gross and global product. “Services” are the largest economic product category in most economies.

That category includes most aspects of media and telecommunications — a segment that coincidentally has a relatively low employee:revenue ratio, but is nonetheless the largest and fastest growing economic sector in the world.

Speaking of worlds and services, let’s talk a bit about AC’s drive-by sniping about google owning the world and doing nothing.

1. Google provides services. Advertising is a service. It is a large one. It’s been around a long time and employs a lot of creative people. Google has become a big company; but it’s a long way from being the whole industry. Almost all of the content in the world, on or off the net, gets to its consuming audience directly through or with facilitation by advertising.

2. Google provides Internet functionality (made by some very creative people as well) and much of the functionality is free to use — even though google spent a lot of money to make it available. They didn’t have to make google docs or make it free. (And what do we think the chances of Office Live being free might be, had google not made this play?). And curiously there’s not a whole lot of advertising users see with google docs.

3. World domination. Not. Fastest growing ad market of size is China. Google doesn’t dominate the market. Google is leaving it because companies like Baidu are doing doing a better job providing search to Chinese consumers — and that makes them a more effective ad channel for ad purchasers. Even more to the point… Google is leaving the china market because google didn’t know how to succeed in it.

Same in Health Data Management. Generally there’s not much love lost between google and Microsoft. But when google came to the conclusion that there free service wasn’t being adopted, they didn’t just shut it down, they provided migration paths for the user data — including an automated import to microsoft’s offering if that’s what the user wanted.

What the user wants… Now that seems to be a novel concept in some quarters. Perhaps if RIAA spent as much effort finding a way to provide value to their customers as they do making their products difficult to access, artists would be making more money. But unlike innovative companies, that industry seems to have taken the view that it has a divine right to do business the way it always has and make the same profits it always has. The horsewhip industry lobbying to outlaw mass transit…

Curiously, I don’t think that file sharing is the real big threat to content industries. People will buy content when it’s delivered to them the way they want to use it. That’s how a visionary but marginalized tech company (apple) reinvented itself — selling music by the track digitally and then building devices to listen to it that were just plain better. RIAA had a 15 year head start on Apple… Running at breakneck speed away from the the finish line.

No, the big threat — and the one at the crux of Doctorow’s message — is that the finish line is a moving target. Steve Jobs pointed apple in the right direction — and in an archaic, under-served market, that was all it took. That was then; this is now. The company that delivers me my content when I want it, where I want it in the format I want it will be the next breakout success. But to do that, they will have to learn from the customer where finish line is heading next.

Although I’m writing this note on an Apple iPad2, I’m not buying content via Apple. When I buy the right to use content, I want to use it on the player I want — now or 20 years from now. Amazon is closer than Apple in their cloud strategy (and please don’t tell me the cloud has always been there, AC). But Amazon doesn’t have it all figured out right just yet.

The big threat to the content industry is that there’s the next Apple out there — the next company that will make billions of service dollars because it’s hard for customers to do business business directly with media industry.

And that is the message behind Doctorow’s message.
Companies can invest in better locks —
or they can invest in models that win willing customers.
There are no perfect locks.
So which approach is the logical investment?

Come on, AC, you can do the math — it’s the cranio-rectal extraction you might find difficult.

MikeC says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Region Coding

Excellent point, Samuel.

My intent was not denigration of New Zealand or New Zealander’s contributions, but rather the opposite: very good things can come from very small countries. Likewise, the percentage of people employed by an industry is an irrelevant datum with respect to the value of the people, their contributions or the industry.

Anonymous Coward, in his rare cogent moments, seems to be arguing that making stuff (products, content, …) is all that is really valuable. As an economist, I can assure AC that “stuff” is a minority of gross and global product. “Services” are the largest economic product category in most economies.

That category includes most aspects of media and telecommunications — a segment that coincidentally has a relatively low employee:revenue ratio, but is nonetheless the largest and fastest growing economic sector in the world.

Speaking of worlds and services, let’s talk a bit about AC’s drive-by sniping about google owning the world and doing nothing.

1. Google provides services. Advertising is a service. It is a large one. It’s been around a long time and employs a lot of creative people. Google has become a big company; but it’s a long way from being the whole industry. Almost all of the content in the world, on or off the net, gets to its consuming audience directly through or with facilitation by advertising.

2. Google provides Internet functionality (made by some very creative people as well) and much of the functionality is free to use — even though google spent a lot of money to make it available. They didn’t have to make google docs or make it free. (And what do we think the chances of Office Live being free might be, had google not made this play?). And curiously there’s not a whole lot of advertising users see with google docs.

3. World domination. Not. Fastest growing ad market of size is China. Google doesn’t dominate the market. Google is leaving it because companies like Baidu are doing doing a better job providing search to Chinese consumers — and that makes them a more effective ad channel for ad purchasers. Even more to the point… Google is leaving the china market because google didn’t know how to succeed in it.

Same in Health Data Management. Generally there’s not much love lost between google and Microsoft. But when google came to the conclusion that there free service wasn’t being adopted, they didn’t just shut it down, they provided migration paths for the user data — including an automated import to microsoft’s offering if that’s what the user wanted.

What the user wants… Now that seems to be a novel concept in some quarters. Perhaps if RIAA spent as much effort finding a way to provide value to their customers as they do making their products difficult to access, artists would be making more money. But unlike innovative companies, that industry seems to have taken the view that it has a divine right to do business the way it always has and make the same profits it always has. The horsewhip industry lobbying to outlaw mass transit…

Curiously, I don’t think that file sharing is the real big threat to content industries. People will buy content when it’s delivered to them the way they want to use it. That’s how a visionary but marginalized tech company (apple) reinvented itself — selling music by the track digitally and then building devices to listen to it that were just plain better. RIAA had a 15 year head start on Apple… Running at breakneck speed away from the the finish line.

No, the big threat — and the one at the crux of Doctorow’s message — is that the finish line is a moving target. Steve Jobs pointed apple in the right direction — and in an archaic, under-served market, that was all it took. That was then; this is now. The company that delivers me my content when I want it, where I want it in the format I want it will be the next breakout success. But to do that, they will have to learn from the customer where finish line is heading next.

Although I’m writing this note on an Apple iPad2, I’m not buying content via Apple. When I buy the right to use content, I want to use it on the player I want — now or 20 years from now. Amazon is closer than Apple in their cloud strategy (and please don’t tell me the cloud has always been there, AC). But Amazon doesn’t have it all figured out right just yet.

The big threat to the content industry is that there’s the next Apple out there — the next company that will make billions of service dollars because it’s hard for customers to do business business directly with media industry.

And that is the message behind Doctorow’s message.
Companies can invest in better locks —
or they can invest in models that win willing customers.
There are no perfect locks.
So which approach is the logical investment?

Come on, AC, you can do the math — it’s the cranio-rectal extraction you might find difficult.

Anonymous Coward says:

When people ask me why I talk about the music industry so much, I often note that it’s the leading indicator for the type of disruption that’s going to hit every single industry, even many that believe they’re totally immune to this. My hope was that we could extract the good lessons from what’s happening in the music industry — the fact that the industry has grown tremendously, that a massive amount of new content is being produced, and that amazing new business models mean that many more people can make money from music today than ever before — and look to apply some of those lessons to other industries before they freak out.

This entire paragraph is one gigantic lie.

There are no new business models in recorded music.

In fact, there aren’t any I can think of in music period.

Personalized promo? Always been there.

Live shows? Always been there.

Selling tracks? Always been there.

Licensing songs? Always been there.

Selling merch? Always been there.

Doing commercials? Always been there.

Musicians, both the successful and unsuccessful ones, are POORER now than they have ever been. As a percentage of population, LESS people are making their living in music than since the middle of the 20th century.

That is NOT a good or healthy development.

More content is being produced than ever before? SO WHAT?
More crap is being produced. That is an objective fact. Let’s all laud the fact that McDonalds is making more burgers than ever before as a positive for the culinary arts.

“This type of disruption is going to hit every industry”. ?
Orly? You mean massive assault on intellectual property?

I’m sorry, but the parasite is not going to be allowed to eat its host.

The concept of copyright and intellectual property is not going to disappear just so that Google can own the world free and clear.

You are in for a very nasty surprise if you think that is going to happen.

Jeff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

get off my lawn you damn kids!1!

seriously that’s the best you can come back with? This isn’t about GOOGLE for god’s sake – the internet existed long before google did. And I disagree with you 100% – Google *produces* a lot – you’re just to dense to understand that then you should go back to bullying on the playground.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

To make the previous point more clear:
Musicians, both the successful and unsuccessful ones, are POORER now than they have ever been [Citation Needed]. As a percentage of population, LESS people are making their living in music than since the middle of the 20th century [Citation Needed].

That is NOT a good or healthy development (Opinion. If this is true and I hate musicians/music this is a very good and very healthy development, but I expect you to seize upon this comment and ignore the rest).

More content is being produced than ever before? SO WHAT?
More crap is being produced
[Citation Needed] (Again, opinion). That is an objective fact (Nope, that’s opinion). Let’s all laud the fact that McDonalds is making more burgers than ever before as a positive for the culinary arts (It certainly makes me appreciate a good homemade burger more).

Anonymous Poster says:

Re: Re:

There are no new business models in recorded music.

Even if the underlying methodology is the same as pre-Internet days, the Internet has changed how artists employ the methodology.

Pre-Internet, a musician would have either had to rely on the RIAA’s marketing machine or do the job themselves, and the only way to ensure success beyond playing nightclubs and bar gigs was to get signed by the RIAA and let them do all the promoting. Musicians were rarely tapped to interact with fans outside of promotional stunts.

These days, a musician doesn’t have to rely on the RIAA’s marketing machine to make a name for themselves. The Internet has allowed artists to create and share new content — and it has allowed those artists to interact with fans in a way that the RIAA would never have allowed in the past.

Artists are experimenting more than ever before with content delivery and audience participation — and they’re experimenting with their actual content, too. Since an artist could theoretically upload a song to the ‘Net as soon as it’s finished, artists who use the ‘Net for content distribution are allowed more time to work on new music than worrying about the RIAA’s limits on content distribution.

There may not be new models, but the old models are being transformed into something that benefits the artists instead of the old gatekeepers.

The concept of copyright and intellectual property is not going to disappear just so that Google can own the world free and clear.

The concept may not disappear, but it will need to be rethought. Nobody who wrote the original copyright laws did so with the idea of a global information distribution network in mind, much less one that enabled the copying of information for far less monetary cost (and far less time) than normal methods of content distribution.

Why are laws that were intended for an 18th Century world still hold so much power over the 21st Century? The death of the public domain and the increasing irrelevance of antiquated laws meant to protect the major content industries are signs that copyright as we know it is dead or dying. The entire concept of copyright has been rendered null and void by the Internet, and only by rethinking the concepts and the laws to bring them in line with the modern day — rather than endlessly extending laws not meant for the Internet Age — will the concept be reborn into something that works for artists, copyright controllers, and the general public.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m sorry, but the parasite is not going to be allowed to eat its host.

You’re right – but you have the parasite and the host the wrong way around!

The computer industry suffuses everything you do these days. General purpose computing is second only to energy supply in its importance to the practical matters of staying alive.

Without general purpose computing the world will starve.

hothmonster says:

Re: Re:

“Musicians, both the successful and unsuccessful ones, are POORER now than they have ever been. As a percentage of population, LESS people are making their living in music than since the middle of the 20th century.”

Do you have fun making shit up?

“More crap is being produced. That is an objective fact.”

oh you do

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Musicians, both the successful and unsuccessful ones, are POORER now than they have ever been. As a percentage of population, LESS people are making their living in music than since the middle of the 20th century.

HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAH

Really. You’re a funny guy. Let me introduce you to some friends of mine:

Ingrid Michaelson is making millions of dollars because she owns her own masters and publishing rights, she earns lots of money from physical and digital sales. Tours too. So she earns quite a bit.

Jonathan Coulton in 2010 earned $500,000. All from selling his music with a creative commons attribution-noncommercial license.

Also, bandcamp has made artists over $1 million in the past 30 days.

According to you, this should be impossible and the grifters just want something for nothing. In fact the opposite is happening. People want to support artists as opposed to record companies, and now, they’re doing so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have no idea who those people are, sorry.

But good for them.

That said, there is no way musicians make anything remotely close to what they used to; not only have record sales been cut in half, but the price for shows has stagnated for all but the most higher echelon groups. And look into how much it cost U2 to put on their recent tour. Or ask Lady Gaga how much she makes from touring:

http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/stories/060111gaga

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

A few problems:

Jonathan Coulton tried to earn a living as a musician in the early 90’s, but no label would accept him. So he became a code monkey, er, programmer instead, and thanks to a risky decision to release a song a week for one year, he gained some internet fame and a fanbase who will pay him money. He’s a musician who’s thriving not in spite of the internet but because of it.

Now it’s possible that Ingrid Michaelson would’ve made it whilst being on a label (after all she got her fanbase from people hearing her on an Old Navy commercial and on Grey’s Anatomy), she kept selling more albums while not on a label that it made more sense to not release the album on a label and to do it herself.

Maybe it’s just the artists on labels who are struggling…

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

,i>That said, there is no way musicians make anything remotely close to what they used to;

You mean the statistically insignificant number of major stars now have to manage with only one Mercedes – my heart bleeds.

The other 99.999% are doing better now as a group. There are far more people trying to make it now than in the past – so individually they may not be doing better – but that is the nature of the beast. Music as a profession is a dream for so many that it will always be oversubscribed. There is no possibility of that ever changing.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: a little correction

I’d like to correct one thing I’d written:

Jonathan Coulton in 2010 earned $500,000. All from selling his music with a creative commons attribution-noncommercial license.

should be

Jonathan Coulton in 2010 earned $500,000. A Third of which from selling his music with a creative commons attribution-noncommercial license.

Edited statement in bold.

Squid Lips says:

Re: Re:

“Musicians, both the successful and unsuccessful ones, are POORER now than they have ever been. As a percentage of population, LESS people are making their living in music than since the middle of the 20th century”

Metallica is no longer a successful band. Actually, they haven’t been successful since what? 2002? That brings the question, who do you consider to be successful? Your Diagnoses requires more deets bretheran. Plus, I garans they aren’t doing everything they can to remain successful, otherwise, Metallica would be putting on a show somewhere… since they started all this bullshit.

Oh yah, not to mention inflation making EVERYONE poorer.

“More crap is being produced. That is an objective fact. Let’s all laud the fact that McDonalds is making more burgers than ever before as a positive for the culinary arts.”

Music is an art form (cognative journy), not a McDonalds McTroll (necessity). More good music is produced today than ever before in the history of mankind… more bad music too I guess. Sounds like you need to quit hanging out at http://www.clearchannel.gaga

“”This type of disruption is going to hit every industry”. ?
Orly? You mean massive assault on intellectual property?”

Digital data can not be controlled as long as the web works… if you post it on the net consider it open source. Too bad, so sad, that’s the way it is now…. I don’t like the idea of our government fighting for another imaginary war. That’s what’s going to happen though. Fun Fun.

“The concept of copyright and intellectual property is not going to disappear just so that Google can own the world free and clear.”

Well, not until nanotech printers are widely available. Than we can all say bye-bye to intellectual property. Personally I don’t give a fuck if people can print their very own Lou Vitton jock strap. Also, I don’t care if Lou Vitton loses his entire business when that day comes.

“You are in for a very nasty surprise if you think that is going to happen.”

Believe me, I won’t be surprised by the continued stupidity. In fact, I expect lots more of it.

Squid out bitches.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Your spelling is atrocious. wow.

At any rate, your manifesto is meaningless.

All any government has to do is put in place a system that truly avails creators the ability to punish those that infringe their copyright, and this conversation is over yesterday.

Law enforcement has proven for many, many centuries the closest society gets to making people behave.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Law enforcement has proven for many, many centuries the closest society gets to making people behave.

No – law enforcement has never succeeded in getting people to behave. It has been extremely successful at getting people to rebel. Ask the former leaders of Eastern Europe, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (those that are still alive).

The thing that has persuaded people to behave is reasonable laws and (above all) the perception that they themselves have an an economic stake in those laws. Laws that only protect the privileges of a minority against the majority are not sustainable in the long term.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

>Law enforcement has proven for many, many centuries the closest society gets to making people behave.

Yet, somehow, despite managing to drag a few grandmas, children, homeless people, dead people and iguanas to court, you still need SOPA to do your work? Incidentally, enforcing those laws and hitting people with ridiculous, rationally-unproven fines didn’t “get to making people behave”; it made them furious, disillusioned with law and more open to “breaking the law” to give folks like you the finger.

Thanks for playing.

Anonymous Coward says:

I find Cory’s talk rather convincing. He certainly comes close to the way I feel about this subject. However, in the end, he leaves me with an odd ‘unfinished’ feeling, as though he walked up to a door, and then refused to open it. What i’m think is that, ultimately, we may be forced to conclude that copyright, at least for digital expressions, is quite incompatible with computers and networking. Everything computers and networks do involves copying data. That’s just how they work. You’re looking at this web page? That means you have a copy of it in your PC! Besides all that, as several people have pointed out, copyright was never originally intended to apply to individuals, but only to companies which could compete ‘unfairly’ with the producer. Applying copyright to individuals who make copies for themselves or their friends seems like such an obvious misuse of the law. Anyway, we still have some democracy left — if a majority of the people don’t think its wrong to make personal copies, then the law will have to be changed to accomodate that belief.

Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

UEFI is a feature of the motherboard, and whether you can disable it or use it with alternate operating systems (this would require the ability to add your own keys to the motherboard) also. In the US and other “enlightened” countries it shouldn’t be a problem. You can simply just buy ones that let you do what you want, and class action suits if absolutely necessary. There was some debate between me and some of my friends on this matter; I believe a motherboard that restricts what OS you can install (you can’t disable UEFI and you can’t add your own keys) is indeed defective by design, but that is a defect of the motherboard, not UEFI itself.

That said, Doctorow brings up a good point: in dictatorial countries it could well be used to suppress civil liberties. I actually had not thought of that possibility previously.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

In the US and other “enlightened” countries it shouldn’t be a problem. You can simply just buy ones that let you do what you want…

Wait. Having to purchase the right to install Linux on the hardware I owe outright is not a feature, it’s a design flaw.

This will be hacked or mod-chipped as soon as enough talented people catch wind of it.

Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I didn’t actually mean that. I mean some (hopefully most) motherboards will let you either disable it or add your own keys, while perhaps a few won’t. Just vote with your wallet for the ones that allow you to.

As I said, I can only think of a motherboard that lets you do neither as defective, and I sure hope this will be the exception.

One other thing I forgot to mention is that I believe UEFI secure boot requires a trusted platform module to function, which isn’t common in consumer motherboards (e.g. my new Gigabyte motherboard has a place where you can add in such a module).

Frank S says:

SOPA just a thin wedge?

Doctorow’s general point about the scope of what’s going on being much larger than copyright is one that I really think can’t be stressed enough. Once the infrastructure in SOPA specifies is in place, I don’t see how it will be limited to its stated purposes.

As a thought experiment, I like to read defenses of SOPA while mentally substituting “wikileaks” for “rouge sites” (after all, I’m sure at least one or two files they’ve released had a copyright holder sympathetic to the US govt, and that’s all it takes). Heck, the mechanisms in SOPA – unilateral actions outside of the courts, DNS blocking, freezing payments – even line up with what was done to wikileaks.

One of the more frustrating myteries of SOPA is how it keeps gliding through Congress, regardless of who comes out against it or withdraws supports, collateral damage be damned. Sadly, if you look at SOPA not as intended to fight rogue infringers, but as preparation for the next wikileaks, the determination to pass it makes a lot more sense.

Zos (profile) says:

Glad to see you picked this one up, i’ve been cheerleading it ever since i saws the speech a few days ago. As usual, Doctorow speaks directly to the heart of the matter. The scary thing is just how easily the whole applecart could be upset…if we can’t even manage to get past the content industry’s, then by the time the big players start feeling threatened the legal precedents will have all been set, the fight will be lost, and we can merrily screw off into a dark endless interregnum of corporate serfhood.

Rekrul says:

So-called “tablet” or “pad” computers are a big step toward eliminating general purpose computers.

I don’t agree with this, but it seems that people are flocking to them in droves and many prefer them to real computers because they’re more convenient.

Of course, unless you know how to jailbreak it, each one is locked down so that it can only run approved programs. The parent company also has the ability to delete programs and data remotely. Not to mention that since they have no local storage, you have to rely on the company’s ‘cloud’ services to store everything.

The move to strictly controlled computers is already happening and people are embracing it with open arms.

Anonymous Coward says:

So-called “tablet” or “pad” computers are a big step toward eliminating general purpose computers.

Yes they are and they are the perfect tool for walled garden policies like Apple’s. Leading the way to a culture-controlled environment. Just what the IP fascists want. Keep buying from Apple and donating to the death of your own culture. It’s like buying CDs so the RIAA can have your money to buy the politicians that will kill your freedom of speech.

Birf (profile) says:

at stake is access to our own culture...

If content companies could, they would claim ownership of every letter of the alphabet, every phoneme of the language, every note on the musical scale and every color the human eye could see.
The human mind is a replicating machine. A bunch of kids heard a Christmas carol last month and within 30 minutes they produced their own variations with new lyrics, timing and beats…
This is culture. The battle is whether we have a read/write culture or a read only culture. That’s it.

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