Last week, we discussed the many misconceptions that run rampant in the public understanding of copyright. This week, the EFF's Parker Higgins returns for part two of the conversation, looking at how to begin addressing and moving past these false facts.
This week, the man behind the Stanford Prison Experiment went on a tear against videogames and all sorts of associated culture (reduced to its most gauche symbols). PaulT took first place for insightful by tearing apart his vitriol:
"When I'm in class, I'll wish I was playing World of Warcraft"
...as opposed to the "I'll wish I was doing almost anything else" that was the norm before WoW existed? Or, is he pretending that the world was full of dedicated studious children before that?
"When I'm with a girl, I'll wish I was watching pornography, because I'll never get rejected."
Because porn is a brand new thing that never existed before the internet, and teenagers would never fear rejection if it weren't for porn?
"Zimbardo defines excessive porning and video gaming as more than five hours a day"
How does this compare to other similar activities such as watching TV? I'll never take any of these people seriously if they pretend that watching hours of trashy reality TV and soaps is OK or that lounging around watching football is fine but it suddenly becomes a problem when you have a controller in your hand.
"He added that young men are drinking Coke instead of alcohol and becoming "fat-asses."
...because nobody got fat from drinking beer? Because instead of a fatass playing games in their room, what you really need is a pissed-up teenager with nothing productive to do outside the home?
"Unsurprisingly, Zimbardo has recently published a book dealing with these very issues."
Ah, OK. So, instead of a dickhead being paranoid about videogames and presenting half-assed research and long-outdated stereotypes as mere fearmongering, he's doing it to make money from book sales? That's not better.
What a shame that people will swallow this rubbish rather than dealing with some of the real issues (such as parents who use games and TV as babysitters because they don't have time for productive parenting, have swallowed the 24 hour news cycle exaggeration of danger outside the home, etc).
Meanwhile, in a guest post, law professor Michael Carrier laid out countless examples of how technology has benefited musicians, and jupiterkansas won second place for insightful by pointing out that not only does this disprove the RIAA's idea that the music world is ending, it makes them look pretty useless, too:
This article lists over a dozen services that any of the major record labels had more than enough resources to create in the last 20 years as a service to musicians - the kind of service they're supposed to be providing. It's their own fault they couldn't see the future past the bottom line.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with the story of yet another company trying to retain ownership of the stuff it sells you via copyright on the software. In this case it was John Deere, prompting one anonymous commenter to point out just how absurd the entire idea is:
Additionally, there is about zero market for pirated tractor software. The software is useless unless you own a compatible tractor (and thus you already own a copy of the software.) The copy protection does nothing legitimate.
Next, we've got a response from John Fenderson to the latest murmurs from the Internet Security Task Force (actually a coalition of movie studios) — not so much its unsurprisingly-ridiculous statements, but its blatantly manipulative branding:
I also like how they call themselves the Internet Security Task Force (ISTF). This is obviously intended to cause confusion with the legitimate and not-corporate-lobby-group, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). They're probably hoping that they will benefit from the established legitimacy of the IETF.
Way to not be sleazy, guys!
Speaking of entertainment branding, our first place comment on the funny side this week comes in response to the cable industry's decision to distance itself from the word "cable" and drop "The Cable Show" as the name of its annual trade conference. One anonymous commenter had a suggested alternative:
Ok let's just call it the Anti-consumer Show then.
Next, we've got a bit of an odd one. The aforementioned post about the benefits of technology for creators, and the lies and failures of the RIAA, prompted a vicious but completely-unsupported rebuttal from someone named Phil. It certainly didn't seem like a joke, so the fact that it won second place for funny really illustrates the difference between "laughing with" and "laughing at":
As a professional musician earning a terrible living in the industry since 1999, I want to say that the level of ignorance of what musicians are dealing with in 2015 expressed by the authors of this blog and by the commentors here is astounding and depressing. In the 5 minutes I spent reading this rant and the comments that followed it, I was overwhelmed by the number of misinformed or logically faulty arguments expressed. I love debating on the internet and I've had no problem dealing with presidential elections, hot-button social issues, pressing scientific controversies, etc. But the sheer asshattery and blindness expressed here just leaves me speechless. All of you musically ignorant fucks completely deserve the dark ages of original music that is forming even as you dissemble and make endless excuses for the low value that our modern economy has affixed to original music... That sad thing is that from what I can tell, most Americans' musical literacy is so abysmal that they will never be aware of what they have lost.
Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, the battle fought over Sony's Betamax technology which established the legality of home recording, was a major turning point in modern copyright law. It introduced the question of "substantial noninfringing uses" that has come up time and time again in more recent lawsuits over copying and sharing technology, with mixed results. But it was on May 10th, 1975 that the seed was planted for the whole shebang: Sony released Betamax, in Japan, for the very first time.
Batteries are the bane of our mobile existence, limiting the usefulness of our devices and bottlenecking the power that can be built into them. External battery packs have unsurprisingly become a popular item, but with heavy usage they are just another device that needs to be regularly replaced, and another source of batteries that end up in the trash. For this week's awesome stuff, we're looking at the BETTER RE: a small piece of inspired engineering that aims to stem that waste and expense by making old smartphone batteries reusable as external battery packs.
BETTER RE is, quite simply, a universal smartphone battery adapter. You can hook up any battery inside the chassis and the BETTER RE lets you charge it up and use it to charge your devices. This just seems like a great idea. The creators rightly point out that device-churn has picked up the pace, and today the average smartphone is thrown out while its battery still has lots of life left. This is incredibly inefficient and expensive, not to mention a serious disposal headache and environmental concern — and now we're putting millions of additional external batteries in circulation alongside the phones themselves. The BETTER RE stems that tide from both directions, extending the usefulness of phone batteries and reducing the need for new externals. For the individual, it means a powerpack that lasts forever instead of wearing itself out — plus you can use it as a secondary charger, with quick and simple test functions, making it easier to have multiple phone batteries in rotation. There are also stackable expansion units, so you can amp up those old batteries to charge new, high-power devices.
At $50, the BETTER RE is not dirt-cheap but it seems quite reasonable when you consider that it won't need to be regularly replaced the way batteries themselves do. And as a cool bonus, the creators have been stockpiling and testing old batteries, and will throw them in for $10 a piece on top of the regular pledges.
Even the BETTER RE can't truly free us from the tyranny of batteries. There are some obvious limitations to the device when compared to a dedicated high-power battery unit: though it's great for smaller phones, even with three units stacked it can't quite give a full charge to an iPad Air, and the charge it does give takes hours; though it's currently designed to work with just about any smartphone battery of any size, there's no guarantee that compatibility will remain; and, of course, more and more devices are being built with non-removable batteries, which could put the brakes on the entire idea. Because of all this, I actually suspect that the biggest markets for the BETTER RE won't be wealthy high-tech countries but rather parts of the world where cheaper, smaller phones still reign supreme — and that's not a problem, as many devices have found huge success and made a real impact by targeting such markets.
Function is what makes the BETTER RE interesting, but it bears mention that it's no slouch on the fashion front either. It's built from aluminum (in white or black, brushed or matte, all of which look very nice in the product shots) and walnut and maple hardwood. As a nice bonus, laser-engraving on the wood endpiece is included with most backer tiers.
Copyright is one of the most important fields of law in the digital age, and also one of the most widely misunderstood. The EFF's Parker Higgins joins us to discuss to most common misconceptions about how copyright works, and how it's been abused.
We've got another double-winner this week. That Anonymous Coward scored first place for both insightful and funny with the same comment: his response to the absurd trademark situation in which a 1000-year-old village was told to stop using its name. As he pointed out, the company that sends out these demands for trademark holders should probably change its slogan:
Mark Monitor... when you absolutely positively want to look like idiots.
This guy doesn't understand the exploitation of electronic vulnerabilities. It's a common enough misunderstanding; not getting it is the primary reason why DRM continues to be used today.
Here's the part he doesn't get: Yes, it takes a lot of tools and skill to figure out how to exploit it. But once one person with the tools and skill does all that hard work and publishes his results, it then becomes trivial for people with a much lesser degree of tools and skill to reproduce that work and do the same thing. Cracked once is cracked everywhere, forever.
Jonathan Mayer's analysis is excellent, but I want to add an additional point about subverted encryption of the sort that the feds are looking for:
Criminals who hide their activities through encryption will just continue to do so, using crypto that is readily available and installable (on Android, anyway) without involving any app store at all. There is no need to use an app store to install apps on an Android device, after all, so no provider would have the chance to vet the software.
So we'd just end up with a world of decreased security, computers that people can't trust (even more so than right now), but with the ability of criminals to hide their activities just as strong as ever.
In other words, what the feds are asking for is a world where the criminals are in an even stronger position (relative to law-abiding users) than they are now.
I'm no expert, but perhaps the brilliant legal minds who come up with these laws could create some kind of magical front backdoor golden key that allows only the good guys to have speech.
Meanwhile, for editor's choice, we'll start out with yet another encryption-related jab. After it was revealed that the FBI spent years researching the lyrics to Louie, Louie, dfed suggested a last act for the story:
Here's the surprise twist:
Jack Ely was singing in crypto, using a cipher from Enigma. They still couldn't crack it.
Finally, we've got a response to one broadband company's legal text that essentially negated every single promise made about their service. DOlz decided to turn the language around:
Fair is fair
"Actual payments may vary and are not guaranteed. Payment metrics based on Frontier lab validation under realworld network environment simulating “normal case scenario” with network congestion, other factors cause by consumer behavior, or factors caused by third-party providers’ behaviors. Frontier may not be able to replicate the payment shown in the performance metrics."
All of modern computing is based on the integrated circuit. As with all monumental inventions, it has its roots in several incremental innovations and sparks of inspiration that came before it, but it was on May 7th, 1952 that British radio engineer Geoffrey Dumner fully formulated and described the idea in a public speech, saying:
With the advent of the transistor and the work in semiconductors generally, it seems now to be possible to envisage electronic equipment in a solid block with no connecting wires. The block may consist of layers of insulating, conducting, rectifying and amplifying materials, the electrical functions being connected by cutting out areas of the various layers.
For this week's awesome stuff, we're looking at a project that aims to beat Bluetooth at its own game: the HearNotes WireFree earbuds. These headphones use their own wireless technology to, supposedly, deliver higher-quality audio than Bluetooth with no danger of interference or interruption.
It's a wireless world, but Bluetooth audio simply isn't up to par. If the HearNotes technology — dubbed "Kleer" — really can deliver better, more reliable sound, then that's an obvious plus. I suspect that the "reliable" part of that equation is actually the more important and could make these a popular product, since pairing and range issues with Bluetooth devices are especially infuriating when you just want to listen to music, whereas the sound quality issue is something of a wildcard: it's questionable just how much people actually notice better sound in blind tests, and devices sold on sound quality have both sunk and swam in the past. In the world of wireless headphones, however, almost everyone agrees they are still noticeably worse than wired options, so it seems like there is some genuine room for improvement. Beyond that core question of sound, the little details of the HearNotes are top notch, like the inductive charging case and the design of the earbuds themselves.
The big showstopper is the price. The estimated MSRP is $349, and though there are some decent savings for Kickstarter backers and early birds, it still puts the HearNotes in the same range as the highest-end Bluetooth headphones. That just further enforces the need for these to deliver on the core promises of convenience and quality if they are to stand a chance on the market.
The other obvious issue is the need to have a special transmitter plugged into your headphone jack. They describe it as "versatile" but I'm not really sure what that means as it actually looks quite cumbersome. That said, it seems like there are many popular uses for wireless audio that involve leaving your phone on a desk while you move about (which, with the boasted 50-foot range, would be very possible) so a bulky transmitter might not be a big deal. Still, it would be nice to see options such as building the transmitter into a phone case, or perhaps making it a module for last week's Awesome Stuff project.
I fully understand that entrepreneurs and innovative people in general have to get very passionate when talking about their work. At Techdirt, we do it ourselves all the time. But there's something extremely offputting about HearNotes' self-serious Kickstarter video (can we retire the phrase "allow me to enlighten you"?) and strained marketing jargon. The greatest irritation is the insistent branding of these earbuds as WireFree, and the claims that this is distinct from wireless because it offers a greater and more reliable degree of freedom. The thinking behind this is actually understandable because, as noted, convenience is the real selling point for a Bluetooth replacement. Despite all our wireless technology, it's actually rare to get that seamless sci-fi feeling of just grabbing-and-going with a wireless device; instead, we generally have to tap out a password or open an app or at least press a button somewhere. If HearNotes can offer a new level of "just works" satisfaction, then it's got a major hook. But somehow the clarity of that point gets lost in the WireFree branding and the photos of people dancing in a meadow. (Though they do, quite fairly, point out that a lot of wireless Bluetooth earbuds are connected to each other by... a wire.)
AirBnB has become a massive, popular service despite many people balking at its introduction. But in the big picture, though it's clearly been great for travellers, what effect is it having on the urban centers where it thrives? Are the complaints from some city-dwellers valid?
Much of the political debate around encryption, such as that on display in a congressional hearing this week, has been characterized by a fundamentally flawed understanding of the most basic principles. Mason Wheeler won most insightful comment this week by underlining one such example:
Someone needs to sit this guy down and explain Kerckhoff's Principle to him. It's one of the most fundamental rules of information security: The Adversary Knows The System.
It means that any valid discussion of security must begin from the assumption that the bad guys who are trying to break in already know everything about how your system works, but does not necessarily already know the key, and if you can't show that the system is still secure against such an adversary, you have to assume it's not secure.
Kerckhoff's Principle rejects the very concept of a "front door" that the good guys can use but hackers can't gain access to. If there's another way in besides the private key, you must assume that the bad guys know all about it.
Meanwhile, HBO and Showtime tried to change some basic principles of copyright by pre-suing a site that planned to stream an upcoming boxing match. This raises a bunch of interesting questions, and second place for insightful went to an anonymous commenter who proposed a reversal of the idea:
Wait, if they can sue for anticipated copyright, then can we sue for anticipated public domain? I mean, technically all copyrighted works do eventually fall into the public domain, right? If their whole argument is hinging on eventualities, then why can't we do so for the public domain which is a definite eventuality?
Sporting events should not be copyrightable. Period. To say otherwise is utter insanity.
(The catch, of course, is that the copyright is on the coverage of the event, which is a work of authorship. But this still raises the question of just how much protection such coverage actually qualifies for, based on which aspects of it genuinely involve creative choices and how much is just neutral documentation of facts.)
For our next editor's choice, we pivot as we so rarely do to a Daily Dirt post, which discussed the Singaporean test question that lit the internet on fire. One person in the comments objected to it being called a math problem when it was really a logic problem, prompting Different Anonymous Coward to offer this well-conceived rejoinder:
If you think any given logic puzzle has nothing to do with math you either need to go deeper into logic until you hit math, or deeper into math until you hit logic.
Over on the funny side, we start out on our post about the latest moral panic: Minecraft and kids. Some parents shared their own stories about the game, and NoahVail's became the funniest comment of the week:
My kid roped me into launching a MC server
One of my kids wanted to setup a Minecraft server.
Two years later I'm managing & hosting 2 Minecraft servers w/ most of 100k usernames and my kid has wandered off onto the next project.
I did my bit. I got involved with my kid playing MC and now I'm saddled with running his online community.
At least pets die eventually. I don't know how long game servers live for.
My kids (10 and 12) are RUINED by this game. The last parent - teacher interviews I had I was told how my kids are sickeningly respectful to authority, work well with others, and to top it all off, will include other classmates in projects or activities when those kids are being left out by others.
(Full disclosure: I said "You sure you have my kids in mind??")
Oh, and to top it off, not only do they amaze me with what they make on that game (although really how anyone can sit for more than 5 mins on that game amazes me), they have come up with some pretty creative crafts using ordinary items around the house because of that game.
April 30th, 1993 is an important day in the history of the information era: it's the day CERN announced that the newfangled "World Wide Web" and the protocols and technologies that it consists of would be free to anyone, with no fees due. This decision, arguably moreso than the technology innovations or the proliferation of home computers or any other factor, shaped the future of the global communication network we all rely on today, and shaped it for the better. Sadly, now much of what is now happening online stems from the exact opposite attitude, with even many well-meaning innovators proving too nervous to relinquish control of their creations and let them truly flourish. Hopefully more people will take a moment to think about what the internet might look like if all its higher functions relied on a fragmented mess of proprietary protocols and walled gardens, instead of a unifying web on which everyone can build.
Not too long ago, people got pretty excited about the idea of a "modular smartphone", and recently Google announced that it would be launching its attempt at such a device in Puerto Rico this year. The idea has also sparked a lot of debate, with some saying the sacrifice of size and/or power needed to create something modular would be too great. But there's one idea I don't recall anyone bringing up at the time: moving the whole modular concept off of the phone and onto a phone case. This week, we're looking at the nexpaq, which does just that:
There's something very appealing about the modular components, as they seem to strike most people as something that just makes sense. Obviously with them living as extras on the case rather than being part of the phone, some of the original idea's efficiency and space-saving appeal is lost — but that was already debatable (though we'll see what Google comes up with) and I think most people were far more drawn to the modular function itself as a matter of convenience and coolness. It also makes the whole power situation a little easier to deal with: the case has a built-in battery pack (which helps run both the modules and your phone) and you can fill one of the modular slots with an additional battery pack component. This also means that the case can function independently: you can disconnect it from your phone, and still access the modules via Bluetooth. The other modules currently available in the Kickstarter include an amplified speaker, an SD card reader, a pair of physical programmable hotkeys, a laser pointer, a breathalyzer, a USB drive and several more diverse options which paint a good picture of the flexibility offered by the system. $109 gets you a case and four modules (which seems like a good price) and the current model is designed to be compatible with three very popular phones: the iPhone 6, Galaxy S6 Edge and the Galaxy S5.
The creators are also actively encouraging development of new modules and new software: there are several backer rewards specifically for developers. Though I can actually see the case still being popular with just a core lineup of useful modules, it will be really interesting if they succeed in building a community of developers who create new stuff all the time.
There are a few things that remain unclear about the nexpaq, and a few details in the description that hint at potential limitations. For one thing, it sounds like most of the modules will only be accessible through the dedicated nexpaq app for now, and that compatibility will have to be built into other apps using the SDK. This may not be true of every module — it's possible that that the flash drive will be broadly accessible by the OS, for example — but it sounds like it might be if all of the modules are mediated through the case as a single peripheral rather than being separately accessible, hub-style. I doubt the blame for this falls on the creators: it's probably a limitation of the smartphones, perhaps to a slightly lesser extent in Android but certainly in iOS, but it still could be the flaw that sinks the nexpaq. Relatedly, the Bluetooth connectivity, while a nice feature, raises the question of whether Bluetooth will be required for some or all communication even when the case is connected, which would eliminate some of the elegance of the concept.
All this points to the key reason nexpaq might have trouble competing with Google's modular phone should it ever come to fruition: Google can build support for the modules directly into the operating system and make sure they are all accessible at a low-level as standard peripherals, so an SD reader module mounts cards normally and your existing Android apps automatically recognize a speaker module and so on; nexpaq will almost certainly have to limit at least some of its capabilities to its own app and those specifically designed to be compatible.
Either way, it looks like we're going to find out: the nexpaq has already shot past its goal with nearly a full month still to go in the Kickstarter campaign. Despite my reservations, I'm happy to see it move forward, and eager to find out the answers to some of my questions. Their goal is to ship by January of next year, though as with all Kickstarter projects, delays are a likelihood.
The future of online journalism and related businesses continues to be uncertain. Following the recent shutdowns of GigaOm and San Francisco's The Bold Italic, we ask a critical question that is, of course, of personal importance to us here at Techdirt: how can smaller online media players survive in this age of goliaths like Buzzfeed?
I think the big story here is that by this logic I should get replacements for any lost, stolen or broken DVDs/Blue-Rays. Because its not the disc I am buying. Its access to that content in a specific format. And my access to that content shouldn't be limited to the Temporal nature of the delivery mechanism.
More seriously, Music tried this very argument against format shifting (ripping and using an MP3 player), that we only bought the music in the cd format. It failed.
Meanwhile, we called out the MPAA over its strategizing on how to make internet censorship sound like a good thing. One dreary and unoriginal commenter accused us of hypocritically hating Hollywood while being "addicted" to its content, and another anonymous commenter took second place for insightful by disarming this loaded question:
We don't like Hollywood because they seek too much control over things more important than they are, and don't care about the broader consequences. If you hate the Internet so much, why are you posting here?
For editor's choice, we head to a precursor to the DVD ownership battle this week: a very similar dispute over the software in GM cars, with the automaker claiming it still owns all the software even if you own the vehicle. That One Guy momentarily rose above the legal morass and pointed out how utterly, fundamentally stupid this is:
This really shouldn't be that difficult
If a piece of software is required for something to run, whether it's a car, or tractor, or whatever, then the idea that the software and hardware should be treated as separate items is ridiculous.
No one buys a vehicle and believes that they are making two purchases(or a purchase and a license in this case), one for the car, and one for the software required for it to run. That would be like buying the car, but licensing the wheels. One does nothing without the other, so the idea that they should be treated as separate items is absurd. The customer may not have bought the software itself, but they most certainly should be recognized as having bought a copy of it, and be free to do with it as they will, even if that involves cracking or bypassing any DRM infections.
I downloaded it. Moments later, I started noticing my internet traffic was increasing as a rootkit was sending information to Sony regarding files I had on my own computer.
When I tried to open it, I was greeted by an FBI warning message, which I quickly ignored.
Once the warning was over, I had to spend 15 minutes watching previews of other leaked emails I had no interest in.
Finally, once the file loaded, a message came up stating the device I was using wasn't authorized to view the document. To bypass this restriction, I could pay Sony a fee of $14.99, which allows me a 24 hour access to the file.
Being frustrated, I decided to torrent the DRM-free file, opened it in a PDF view, then hysterically laughed my ass off at the irony of a company, once again, having no understanding of how to treat people like people.
MPAA lawyer -
Your honor: To prove Goliath, er Google, is the biggest threat to copyright ever, I'd like to submit Exhibit A, our willful infringement using Google's own video found by using google.com.
Just this morning, I was calibrating the voice-wakeup on my phone and being frustrated by its general lack of responsiveness. Despite this, I can't deny it's come a long way from visions of voice-based WAP shopping all the way back in 2000, when AltaVista was still around and postponing its IPO, and colleges were bizarrely cracking open the subject of internet ethics.
Predictions are abundant in the technology world. They are also almost always wrong, usually either vastly overestimating change in the short-term or vastly underestimating it in the long-term. But there's one fundamental and famous tech prophecy that has held true throughout all the twists and turns of the entire digital revolution: Moore's Law, which turned 50 this week. Put in the simplest terms, the law states that the power of computer processors (more technically, the number of transistors in dense integrated circuits) will double every two years — and that's exactly what's happened for half a century.
As with last week's awesome stuff, we're trying out something slightly different. Instead of gathering three new crowdfunded products, we're focusing on just one and taking a slightly closer look at it. Please let us know what you think in the comments!
The Orbit1 simplifies, streamlines and compacts the complex process of electroplating a wide variety of materials with various metal coatings, and could open up a whole new world of possibilities for all sorts of creators. 3D printers get so much focus in these discussions that it's easy to forget there are other pieces to the puzzle, and a tabletop electroplater fills in a big gap. There are many things you can't do with plastic, metal 3D printing is still expensive and not easily accessible, and electroplating typically means forking over cash to professionals with large machines — so the Orbit1 is enabling countless new avenues for prototyping, jewellerymaking, art and more. It even enables the creation of printed circuit boards with a standard 3D printer. That will make it a boon to future Kickstarter projects too: many creators go as far as they can doing home prototyping work with their 3D printers, and the Orbit1 pushes that limit considerably further for many projects.
As with virtually all new devices these days, the Orbit1 is going to be unnecessarily shackled to its proprietary apps and cloud system. Thankfully, it appears they aren't going too far with this: the device can be controlled with the app via Bluetooth so it isn't online-only, and the "expert mode" (where all the various settings are under your control) is useable even without an account on the online service. But it sounds like many other features — including the ability to automatically determine settings and store various settings profiles — will be tied to the cloud. There's also no desktop app for controlling the Orbit1: it's limited to Android and iOS.
This approach to new devices is becoming a huge headache. Backing many things on Kickstarter now means not just betting that the creators will be able to produce the product successfully, but that they will also evolve into a sustainable company that keeps its servers running and properly manages your account. Using such devices means additional accounts and passwords (we all need more of those right?), putting your personal data on yet another distant server (best practice!), and having even more limited cloud storage (the Orbit1 comes with 5gb) scattered in fragments across the web. Mobile-only control means you're also relying on the apps to remain active and updated in proprietary app stores, with the potential for issues on that end of things to suddenly and randomly brick your new toy.
The Admirable, But Problematic
There is, however, some justification for the Orbit1's desire to tie users into an ongoing relationship: the creators appear to have a sincere commitment to environmental responsibility and safety (not to mention a genuine need to comply with various countries' regulations). Electroplating can be dangerous — the solutions used in some settings are highly poisonous, and all of them require proper disposal to avoid serious environmental damage. While the Orbit1 can work with any electroplating solution, and those with more knowledge of the process will surely make use of that, the creators are also focused on selling their own line of the safest possible solutions along with a free recycling service.
Here's the catch, though: the solutions are available to people with Orbit1 accounts, and those accounts can get cancelled if people fail to return their used solutions to be recycled. The details are slightly unclear, but it seems like this means a full account cancellation, which would also include all the additional cloud-tied features mentioned above. Now, while I understand and even approve of the desire to put real pressure on people to use the Orbit1 in a responsible way, I can't help but think this is going to screw some undeserving users.
Last week, podcast co-host and patent attorney Hersh Reddy helped us navigate the many ways in which the patent system is broken. This week, we turn our attentions to the ways in which it might be fixed, whether by small changes or sweeping reforms. For music, we've got more of Destroy All Patent Trolls by Jonathan Mann (CC-BY).
This week, we pointed out that the TSA's investigation into agents who were caught conspiring to grope passengers left little chance that they would be prosecuted. A lot of it came down to the lack of a named victim which, as an anonymous commenter pointed out in our most insightful comment of the week, is a rare conundrum enabled by the very nature of the TSA itself:
They didn't have a victim because they didn't tell the victim he was a victim. In any other situation the victim of assault would know without having to be told, but here its just normal TSA procedure to be assaulted so the victim walks away.
Speaking of victims, this week we also all shed a tear for the poor MPAA which faces a possible spread of fair use principles around the globe thanks to the TPP. After a leaked email from Chris Dodd to a USTR ambassador revealed the association's fear of fair use, jupiterkansas won second place for insightful with an accompanying letter of his own:
Dear Ambassador Froman:
The community I represent doesn't think much about copyright or fair use at all, which is why you don't hear from us very often. After all, we aren't paid huge sums of money to send you emails like Chris Dodd is. We aren't paid to try and get laws passed and trade agreements made to benefit ourselves. We aren't in the room when all those industry representatives get together to decide what's best for our country. In fact, we aren't even allowed in the room.
But we're the reason you have a job. We're the ones you're supposed to be helping. We're the people most affected by your trade agreements. Your job isn't to help Chris Dodd keep his job, and what's best for Chris Dodd my not be best for us.
All we ask is that you keep us in mind through all of this, because your job, most of all, is to represent us. You're all we've got to protect us from Chris Dodd and all those seeking to profit from your actions. Please stand up for us.
Sincerely, The American Public
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to the assertion that Google somehow makes it impossible to find and use alternative search tools. That One Guy decided to put this notion to the test:
Well, congrats, you actually got me to do something that I haven't for... I don't know how long, I actually used Google to search for something.
Anyway, using Google to search for 'Search engines', here at the top 10 results:
1. Bing (search engine)
2. DuckDuckGo (search engine)
3. The wikipedia page for 'Web search engine'.
4. Dogpile (search engine)
5. Ixquick (search engine)
6. Top 15 most populat search engines (Ebismba article)
7. Entireweb (search engine)
8. 'Web search engines' (article of some sort I'm guessing)
9. 'The terrifying search engine that finds internet...' (Forbes article)
10. 'Ducking Google in search engines' (Washington Post article)
If the claim is that they are intentionally modifying their results to keep people from finding alternative search engines, then this simple test would seem to put that particular idea to bed. Just because a good number of people don't know about or use other search engines, is not Google's fault, and they don't really seem to be doing anything to hide the alternatives.
Baloney. I have been producing commercial software for decades (without ever using copy protection schemes). Most of my software has been widely distributed amongst the pirate community. And yet, I've managed to make a very good living anyway. I can personally demonstrate that unlimited copying hasn't forced me to work for free. If it hasn't forced me, then how can it force anybody else?
For first place on the funny side, we head to yet another story about TSA agents, this time busy destroying Cory Doctorow's "TSA-safe" suitcase. One commenter put on their tinfoil hat to suggest that the agents ripped the idea directly from one of Doctorow's distopian novels, but another suggested that this was giving them far too much credit:
The assumption of literacy in TSA agents is a bold move...
In second place, we head to our post about the discovery of just how vulnerable Virginia's voting machines were to hacking. The report noted that someone with a makeshift antenna made from a Pringles can could access the machines from anywhere within half a mile, leading Michael to wonder about the ever-shifting standards for technological liability:
So why isn't the CEO of Pringles being arrested right now?
For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on the story of a new bill in California that would require libraries with 3D printers to post scary anti-infringement signs. One anonymous commenter pointed out that this feels kind of familiar:
This will surely eliminating infringement forever, just like the FBI warnings before every motion picture did.
Finally, we head to the story of the chess grandmaster who was caught hiding in the bathroom to analyze ideal moves with an app on his phone, leading another anonymous commenter to toss a dry and glorious pun into the conversation:
For this week's awesome stuff, we're trying out a slightly different format. Instead of gathering three new crowdfunded products, we're going to focus on just one and take a slightly closer look at its progress and prospects. Please let us know in the comments if you like this approach, or if you prefer the old format.
The Loxet is a device that installs in any car with a central locking system and, along with an accompanying iOS or Android app, allows you to lock and unlock the doors and control ignition access with your proximity to the car. It also bills itself as an advanced sharing system, allowing you to grant time-limited access to the car to other people.
For one thing, it's new. There are already plenty of proximity locks on the market, but they generally require a specialized fob on your keychain; there are already smartphone-controlled locks too, but they operate by button-press. Loxet appears to be the first smartphone-controlled proximity lock, or at least the first one that works with both iOS and Android (they make this latter claim on the Kickstarter page). The price also looks good — though all the super-cheap early bird deals are sold out, the standard Kickstarter price of $69 is still below the price of existing non-smartphone proximity lock systems, which tend to sit in the $80-200 range.
The way Loxet operates seems like it might come with some inherent issues. The device uses Bluetooth Low Energy, and in order to achieve full proximity operation on both iOS and Android, they have to use apps that repeatedly scan for connected Bluetooth devices at a time interval you set. To realize the full hands-off, out-of-mind potential of the system, that time interval will have to be pretty short — and I suspect it will have a noticeable impact on your phone's battery life and performance, though just how noticeable remains to be seen. For the time being, there aren't any obvious alternatives to this approach, at least not without sacrificing some capabilities.
With any wireless locking system, there's always one big question: is it secure? The last thing we need is someone whipping up an app to hack into people's cars via Bluetooth. Loxet would surely claim, in good faith I don't doubt, that the system is secure — but I'd like to see them call in some independent security audits and put the software in the hands of some white hat hackers before telling people it's ready to keep their cars safe. In fact, there's actually a disturbing lack of security information and discussion on the Kickstarter page, especially for an app that claims it will allow car-sharing via e-mail, SMS and QR code. With just under a month left in the campaign, this is the biggest thing the Loxet team needs to address.
This is a blog, not a board or a platform or a magazine... Submissions are accepted, but everything goes through our editors. No need to provide an email if you don't want to -- comments are open to all.
Do you not comprehend that different things can both have value? That there is much to be said for a well-rehearsed performance or discussion in some contexts, and that at other times people very much enjoy listening to an unrehearsed conversation among people they find interesting or insightful or funny or what-have-you?
I am not "startled" by the concept of career progression in an artistic field. I am baffled by your direct connection of Shakespearean acting to a podcast about technology and media, as though the purpose of and standards for the two are identical.
*loyal reader for over 10 years, who values your service greatly
Then perhaps you could value the insight of the people who run the blog, including the person who has been running it for over 10 years, instead of telling us all our reasons are stupid and essentially accusing us of lying.
If you need Squarespace, you shouldn't be building websites.
If you need Soundcloud, you shouldn't be distributing audio.
This is a new world where content gets created without thrid party overloards. Join us.
If you think any of those things are true, then you're living in a fantasy-land and have no idea how the modern web works.
Firstly, we're a very small team with a large number of projects. It's not easy for us to just take on the management of entire new things on a whim, no matter how simple those things might seem to you.
Secondly, the internet ad market is not as easy or as simple as you presume. Try selling ads for a blog of this size - while keeping a commitment to quality ads that don't piss of your readers and are never deceptive - and you'll see that.
Thirdly, the fact that we use third-party services has nothing to do with a "hipster aesthetic" (honestly... look at our still-not-updated site design... how hip are we right now?) but that we actually believe that sort of networking and work-distribution is one of the greatest things about the internet, and an extremely powerful way to fuel innovation and growth. We chose SoundCloud because we like a whole lot of what that company does and stands for and found they offered an clean and easy out-of-the-box solution for our needs — if we feel we really have to re-think that, we will.
The truth is that unless you are the sort of person who goes and does Shakespeare in the park, for no pay, and with a stage consisting of blankets which you have painted and stapled to thin pieces of wood, and the audience consisting of such persons as are willing to sit on the grass, or have brought their own folding chairs and picnic baskets, you are not really an actor, and you have no business doing podcasting.
But your initial argument here is that protecting the moral rights of creators -- such as not wanting a politician they disagree with to use their work -- is a key reason that we need copyright.
How can you say that, and then say you are not fond of moral rights? Do you mean that you don't think we should actually have a law to protect the thing you think is important, as long as creators are able to misuse another law to similar effect?
The point Cpt. was making is not that the photo would likely find such a use fair in those circumstances -- simply that it's absolutely possible and, if they did, the photographer's moral objections to the politician would not be relevant.
You've proposed that a creator's ability to make moral decisions about who can use their work is one of the reasons that copyright is important. We are pushing back on that, because the truth is that copyright makes no actual room for such concerns. The ability to use copyright in that way is a side effect -- it's neither the purpose of the law nor the ideal outcome of the law.
If you truly believe that situations like this are the ones that make creator control worthwhile, then what you truly believe in are moral rights, not economic copyrights.
No, but you're arguing that it's right and good for creators to make decisions about how to license their work based on their moral feelings about the use. Yes, that's possible under the current law — but I also think it's a bad thing, and essentially a misuse of copyright which is not supposed to be about moral concerns but about economics.
As for the compulsory licensing, yes, it prevents you from changing the song -- and that is a huge flaw in the system. It would work even better if people were able to get compulsory licenses for derivative works, alterations, remixes and everything else.
Another important question to consider: can moral rights be transferrable? In most countries that have strong moral rights, they are not — nor are they alienable or waiveable. Because if this truly is a moral issue, would it make any sense for a creator to be able to sell the right to make moral decisions about their work to another party? If that's possible, then clearly it's not a moral issue at all — it's just another artificial means of control to be bartered for its economic value.
But on the other hand, if moral rights aren't transferrable, then it reduces the value of your economic rights, and creates a lot of messy situations. I am going to be far, far less interested in purchasing a license to one of your photos -- or purchasing the rights to one of your photos entirely -- if I know that you, forever, will retain the right to interfere with my use of it. Generally this includes your right to demand attribution, and to prevent me from damaging the "integrity" of the work by modifying it, plus anything else where you can make the argument that my use is damaging your relationship to the work as its creator.
I do not believe in "moral rights" for creators. And the US copyright system mostly excludes them as well, preferring to focus solely on the economic aspect, even though that makes America's adherence to the Berne Convention questionable -- which I approve of.
I just do not see what purpose it serves for society to give people the right to control use of their work, via copyright, but on moral grounds. How is that a good thing for anyone? For every photographer trying to block an anti-gay-marriage politician from using their work, there's also a politician trying to block a watchdog group from using footage of their stump speeches to highlight their self-contradictions, and a corporation trying to block the exposure of its bad business practices and toxic culture. See, that knife cuts in a lot of directions, and most of them aint so nice.
Copyright tends to work best when there such restrictions are impossible. For example, look at the compulsory license system for cover songs: a rightsholder can't stop you from covering their song as long as you pay the fixed prescribed royalty rate. It doesn't matter if they hate your style of music or think you are butchering it -- they get no say in the matter. That permissiveness has given us a rich history of genre-bending covers and reimaginings, and it's easy to find death metal bands covering golden oldies and crooners oldie-fying death metal songs. Our musical culture has, without a doubt, benefited hugely from this open exchange of songs between musicians. Would we be better off if musicians had the right to say "I don't want that band covering my song, but I'll let this one do it"?
This statement suggests that creators should not try to make a business from their creations because it causes problems, to which I could not disagree more.
I don't think that's what anyone is trying to say. The problem arises when you try to talk about creativity in purely business terms. This is why I like the Doctorow quote above about art being a non-market activity. That doesn't exclude it from having a place in the market, but it does change the nature of that place.
Creators who complain about piracy often include vague threats to the effect that, if copyright isn't more strongly enforced, somehow the world will evolve to be devoid of good music/film/art/what-have-you. But every single one of us knows that's not even remotely true — we know that people will continue to create regardless of the potential for reward (something they already currently do, since they know the potential for reward is low and has been for nearly a century of the entertainment business) because we know that, as Doctorow says, people create for intrinsic reasons starting from early childhood, and will always continue to do so.
This doesn't mean we can't create systems to help creators make money, or that creativity can never be a business. But it does mean that attempting to talk about it in pure market terms is incomplete at best and foolhardy at worst.
if someone is making money off of another's creation is that not of significance?
No. Why should it be?
If what they are doing is preventing the original creator from making money, that is of significance. But why should the mere fact that they are making money themselves matter, unless the original creator just doesn't like seeing anyone else succeed? Sounds petty and childish to me.
There is a great quote on this subject kicking off Cory Doctorow's review of Amanda Palmer's new book:
The question of "business models for the arts" is a weird and contradictory one. For one thing, the arts are a "non-market activity" - people make art for intrinsic reasons, starting from earliest childhood, and even the people who set out to earn a living in the arts are not engaged in any kind of rational economic calculus because virtually everyone who's done this has lost money. Of those who made money, most made very little; and of those who made a substantial sum, most had their careers quickly crater and never earned another penny from their work. Being a "professional artist" is about as realistic as being a "professional lottery winner" - there are lots of people who've tried, and though a few have succeeded, it's a statistical improbability on the order of, well, winning the lotto.
I agree they should have a PC version. But I don't know what you're talking about with Windows Phone. I don't even think "hundreds of millions" of units have ever even shipped -- at least, they only shipped 35-million of them in 2014. Compared to nearly 200-million iOS devices, and OVER A BILLION Android phones. Also Windows Phone's market share fell in 2014, and is now sitting at less than 3%.
Not sure where the windows phone takeover you foresee is supposed to come from :)