This week, the MPAA unveiled some new anti-piracy ads that are targeted (of course) at people who have already paid to go see a movie. Vincent Clement won most insightful comment of the week by underlining just how backwards this is:
It's interesting that at no point does the RIAA or movie studio every THANK people for paying to see the movie or for buying the DVD or digital file.
Even a used car salesman will shake your hand when you buy a vehicle.
Meanwhile, as we continued our discussion of the Uber crackdown in France, one commenter brought out the disingenuous argument that this is is really all about knowing that you're insured when taking a cab. Senor Space Beans won second place for insightful by putting that notion to bed:
It's funny, my state government checks to see if I have insurance before issuing my drivers licence. It doesn't cost six figures to perform said check. The license doesn't provide the insurance; it stipulates that you have insurance.
Taxi Licenses in Paris cost so much because legacy taxi companies lobbied to have them raised to prevent any new comers from elbowing in on their market share. They've created their own problem and nobody's talking about it because it's easier to blame someone else when you've failed to innovate.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to the FCC commissioner's apparent view that broadband isn't all that important. Seegras had a solid theory on just how he could be so wrong:
Some people don't even realise they're dependant on the internet, because they have all their staff doing the work -- depending on the internet -- on their behalf.
Next, we circle back to the MPAA's anti-piracy ads, where one commenter suggested there's nothing movie studios could that the Techdirt community would approve of or appreciate. DannyB chimed in with a list of counter-examples:
You are wrong. But you are too blind to see it.
Here are a dozen things the movie industry could do.
1. Quit focusing on Google which has absolutely nothing to do with piracy.
2. Go after actual infringers. With proof. Using due process. You know, the site hosting infringing content. Free Clue: if you take those down, then those sites don't appear in Google. (and other search engines!)
3. Quit trying to use copyright as a censorship tool.
4. Quit trying to create laws the impose liability upon everyone except the actual infringers.
5. Try making movies that I actually want to see. (There is exactly one movie this summer that I am interested in seeing -- this is the first time in several years. This new stupid anti-piracy ad for three minutes is giving me 2nd thoughts.)
6. If you want to actually help the hard working people you feature in your anti piracy ad, then get rid of Hollywood Accounting.
7. Quit complaining about the Creative Commons license.
8. If I buy a DVD (or CD) I should own either a piece of plastic that costs virtually nothing to produce, or I should own a licensed copy that allows me to very cheaply replace the worn piece of plastic. Or have reasonable backup policies. Most people are honest. But you'll never see this.
9. Quit trying to destroy the public domain. Quit trying to re-copyright it.
10. Quit extending copyright.
11. In short, quit abusing copyright.
12. Quit trolling TechDirt
13. Get your head out of the sand. Quit being stuck in the past. See the future. Technology is your friend. It always has been historically even when you fought it kicking and screaming.
I don't usually go to the movies but I still wanted to see what these commercials are about, so I clicked the links.
"This content is not available in your region."
Huh, I guess they only want people in the United States to stop pirating.
Finally, every now and then we get a comment that is a complete satirical re-imagining of a famous work. Truth be told, a lot of them don't seem all that inspired — but DannyB deserves a second nod this week for his opus, How the Cable TV stole Internet Streaming:
Every Who on the Internet liked Netflix a lot...
But the Cable who lived north of Internet, Did NOT!
The Cable HATED Netflix, the whole TV streaming!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his greed was too tight.
But the reason most likely for the copyright pigs
May have been that their ego was six sizes too big.
Whatever the reason, Their heart or their greed,
They stood on the precipice of Cable TV.
Staring down from their cave with a sour, greedy fret,
At the warm lighted screens all over the Internet.
For they knew down on the Internet
Every Who they could see
Was watching Netflix original series
Instead of Cable TV!
And that new streaming content! cable snarled with a sneer,
Streaming TV is popular, it is practically here!
Then they growled with their long fingers nervously drumming,
"I MUST find some way to stop the Streaming from coming!"
For in the future cable knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would be watching on smart phones, their tablets, gadgets and toys!
Then they got an idea! An awful idea!
The Cable got a horrible, awful idea!
"I know just what to do!" The Cable laughed like a brute.
I'll call my lawyers", they snarled, "to file a lawsuit!"
A few weeks ago, we featured the Gloveone and talked about the growing market for supplemental virtual reality devices. We also talked about the coming VR future on this week's podcast episode. But there's another half of the VR world we haven't talked a lot about: the capture and creation of VR environments. This week, we're looking at the Sphericam 2, a 360-degree 4k camera.
As VR devices like the Oculus Rift become more popular, there's going to be a huge thirst for content — and in this everyone-is-a-creator world, a huge thirst for content-making tools, too. Though much of the excitement has been around video games and from-scratch environments, there are also plenty of compelling things to be done with material captured the real world. For that, you need an elaborate multi-camera setup — or a device like the Sphericam. It's tiny (about the size of a tennis ball), rugged and full-featured, and requires no special knowledge to capture 360-degree footage which can then be converted to a navigable VR environment. It's basically a GoPro combined with a Google Street View car, and that's pretty cool. For the videophile, it has solid specs: 60fps raw video at 4096x2048 resolution, on six cameras with no blind spots.
There's really only one major drawback here, and that's the price. At $1500 plus shipping, it's not something that's going to find its way into everyone's pocket overnight. That's not to say the price is unfair — given the amount of technology packed into the device, it seems at least reasonable, but for the time being it remains an obstacle. Still, just like the VR devices themselves, it's likely that things like the Sphericam will only get more and more accessible as time goes on.
The User Generated
This is the part that's really exciting and interesting about devices like this. Today, it's simply no longer enough to release a new means of consuming content to the world — it needs to come with ways of creating that content. The world of virtual reality will have no multi-decade gap between early "professional only" days and later "everyone's in on it" days, like photography or film or recorded music — the two will arrive almost simultaneously, with content coming from a huge spectrum from amateur to professional and everything in between. Devices like the Sphericam are paving the way for this, demonstrating that even something cutting-edge like virtual reality can and will be adopted by creators of all classes. It's going to be an interesting future in more ways than one.
The promise of virtual reality has been teasing us since the late 60s, and yet it never seems to arrive in a fully realized form, and often gets relegated to the realm of mockery. Recently, however, VR (and its cousin, augmented reality) is back in a big way, with flagship products like the Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens taking the spotlight, backed up by dozens of other contributions from Google Cardboard to our recent Awesome Stuff feature, the Gloveone. To discuss this exciting trend, we're joined by erstwhile Techdirt writer Carlo Longino who, along with regular co-host Dennis Yang, attended this year's E3 conference and tried out a bunch of new offerings on the VR market.
In this world of rapid technological innovation, nobody can truly claim their efforts stand alone. Everything is built upon previous innovations, and everyone benefits from those who took a pro-innovation stance when building their businesses and technologies. Today, everyone bears some of the responsibility for ensuring that we continue to promote innovation rather than stymie it, and it’s to that end that Copia is creating the Statement of Innovation Principles: a clear, robust statement for innovative companies to sign on to, laying out a variety of principles they intend to uphold in order to promote future innovation, ranging from how they deal with data and intellectual property to how they structure their APIs and developers’ kits.
We started this project in March at our 2015 Inaugural Summit, where we presented an initial version of the statement to a roundtable of General Counsels from innovative companies, then opened up a revised draft for discussion with everyone present. There were lots of interesting points raised at the summit, and you can watch the full roundtable discussion for some background on the project:
Based on all the comments and ideas from the summit we've made another round of revisions to the Statement, and we have now published the updated draft and are seeking feedback from the public. We've included some notes on key questions that were raised at the Summit and which we feel deserve further discussion, as well as a list of possible additional principles that were proposed but haven't yet been adopted into the complete list. We'd really love the community here at Techdirt to get involved, since we know you have a deep understanding of and interest in these issues, so we hope you'll head over to the project page on the Copia site where you can read the current draft and leave comments on individual points or the document as a whole. We look forward to hearing what you have to say, and will be incorporating the feedback into a new draft later this year.
One story in particular captured the readers' imagination when it comes to insight this week. As European taxi drivers went crazy over Uber, our readers chimed in, with JustShutUpAndObey taking first place with a simple recounting of personal experience:
I've been using Uber and Lyft for the last two weeks due to car trouble and love it for these reasons:
1. Drivers (and passengers) have both been pre-vetted by Uber. If either of us tries to rob the other, we WILL be caught.
2. No money changes hands (cash or credit)- Uber already has my credit card (the driver doesn't) and will charge me. The driver doesn't have to worry about me dashing without paying, and I don't have to worry about being charged a "funny" last minute amount.
3. Drivers are rated by passengers and I can decline a ride if the driver has a lower rating.
4. Passengers are also rated, and drivers can decline them too. There is an incentive for both parties to be polite.
5. The App: This is a much bigger advantage than is usually noted: I can see how far away the driver is, I can see his car moving on the map, along with the estimate of how many minutes. Once picked up, I can continuously monitor our progress.
6. Because Uber and Lyft use similar apps, I can check both to see who is closest BEFORE I request a pickup.
In addition to those points, all drivers (about a dozen so far) have been prompt, had very clean cars, and have known and taken the most efficient route. In contrast, last time I called for a cab, they took an hour and a half to arrive, despite telling me numerous times they were 5 minutes away.
Feeling sorry for taxi drivers is like feeling sorry for telemarketers: I do, but only a very little bit.
They aren't flipping cars because they're worried about losing. They're flipping cars because they've already lost. They aren't trying to affect change. Not really. They're venting frustration. The whole scene makes a lot more sense in that context.
France is a country where bossnappings - strikers kidnapping their bosses and holding them hostage - is a time-honored negotiating tactic. Protests by truckers, farmers, students make the Uber one look like a strongly worded memo.
Come back in five or ten years. The Uber drivers will be flipping and burning the self-driving cars that replace them.
Next, we pivot to a piece of EU copyright reform that involves stricter regulations on outdoor photography that might catch copyrighted material. Every time something like this has come up, it's seemed like a somewhat entitled concern, and MadAsASnake spells out the simple reason why:
Quite frankly, if they don't want it photographed, don't put it in view of the public.
Over on the funny side, first place goes to guest writer Bas Grasmayer. In response to his excellent piece about the need for artists to "sell features, not songs", one commenter insisted that he not "tell artists what to do". Bas racked up lots of funny votes with a short, sharp retort:
Don't tell me what to do.
For second place, we head to the bizarre story of Tumblr complying with the DMCA takedown requests of a self-proclaimed alien channeller (or some insane thing to that effect). Though the complainant was clearly questionable, Roger Strong made a good observation:
Still more credible than Rightscorp.
For editor's choice on the funny side, our first selection comes in response to the Supreme Court's use of a Spider-Man quote in a ruling against royalties on expired patents. One anonymous commenter made another prediction:
Next up: Supreme court sued for copyright infringement by Marvel.
Finally, we return to the story of the European taxi drivers, who our headline accused of losing "Their Collective Mind". This prompted another anonymous commenter to stick up for the land of liberty:
In America, they'd lose their minds individually, not as part of some collective.
This week, we look at two interesting milestones in the history of free speech in the US, and more specifically one of its most complex and storied wrinkles: obscenity and indecency. First, it was on June 26th, 1975 that the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Miller v. California, establishing the three-prong "Miller Test" for obscene (and thus unprotected) speech. It requires that all three conditions be satisfied:
Whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards", would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,
Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Two decades later, a related law hit the scene: the Communications Decency Act. When it gets brought up here at Techdirt, it's mostly with regards to the Section 230 safe harbors, which have had an impact far beyond the subject of "decency". But the Act's original primary purpose was to protect children from seeing bad stuff online, and much of this has been struck down or altered since, with one notable date being June 26th, 1997 — the same day as the establishment of the Miller Test, 22 years later — when the Supreme Court upheld the ruling in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union that the indecency provisions of the CDA were unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment.
The failure of Google Glass was an interesting thing. Somewhat-overblown privacy issues aside, the device may have just been ahead of its time, or ahead of the technology powering it — or it might have simply been way too expensive. Whatever the case, wearable computers and head-mounted displays aren't dead, and in fact we'll probably be seeing a lot of them in the future. Today, we look at one such offering: Vufine, a wearable display that does less than Google Glass, which might be its biggest strength.
As the video reveals, the creator of the Vufine has tried just about every wearable display product around, and concluded that they are "unfocused, overpriced, impractical and overcomplicated." That's a pretty solid diagnosis, and the Vufine attempts to solve it. Firstly, it's just a wearable display, not a full computer like Google Glass: it clips onto your glasses or sunglasses, connects to any device with an HD video output, and then projects a small HUD-like display box in your field of vision. This enables lots of integrations, with two immediately obvious ones: hook it to a smartphone for heads-up maps and communication and media, or hook it to a GoPro camera to serve as a viewfinder when shooting your own action footage. Turn the camera around, and it can serve as a rear-view mirror.
By limiting the device to this single, simple, useful function, they skirt around all sorts of issues that are raised by more robust products like Google Glass, including the aforementioned privacy freakouts about head-mounted cameras and microphones. The most immediately noticeable difference is the price: the Vufine aims to retail for only $150, an order of magnitude less than Glass.
Of course, simplifying the device also means giving up a lot of functionality. Things like voice control, gesture control, and streaming video from one person to another won't be possible unless the Vufine is hooked up to hardware and software that provides those abilities. This is less a "revolutionary new device" and more an innovative display for existing devices — not that there's anything wrong with that, but it may not generate the hype of something like Glass (though at the same time, probably won't generate the ire, either). And there's one feature that will likely irritate some, especially those who pursue wirelessness in all things: the Vufine attaches to your smartphone, camera or other device via a Micro HDMI cable. There are surely a lot of engineering and performance advantages to going the wired route, but the sight of a cable hanging from your face and disappearing into your pocket might be enough to put some people off the device altogether.
We've already looked at one of the Vufine's very attractive numbers — the price. Now let's consider a few others. Display-wise, it uses a 4x3mm micro-display that appears as a 4" display positioned 11" from your eye, at a resolution of 960x540 (a higher definition than Glass). It also weighs only 22 grams — about half of Glass and a quarter of the Recon Jet glasses. There's one slightly less attractive number though: the battery life, which clocks in at 90 minutes (compare that to 4 hours for the Jet, and a full day for Glass, though the latter can be drastically shortened depending on what features you are using). It can be attached to a USB charging pack for additional lifespan, but running a second cable from the Vufine to a pack somewhere on your person could be pretty cumbersome.
The internet has changed the parameters for how people can interact. Today, all sorts of work and socialization can be done over distances that were previously impossible, and the rise of telecommuting has been no surprise. And yet there are still a lot of imperfections in the system, and a lot of ways that the internet doesn't quite seem to close the gap as much as we'd like it to. In this week's episode, we ask the question of how much face-to-face communication still matters in the digital age, and what the future holds for long-distance interactions.
Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.
The Sunday Times got hammered this week over its article that simply parroted the government's talking points, and its responses were less than stellar. After they attempted to shunt all the blame onto said government, rw won most insightful comment of the week by pointing out the other side of the complicity coin:
This is why governments want to define "Journalists" as only those working for major media outlets.
In second place, we've got a comment that brings up a point I've never really thought of (and one that I admit I'm not sure about, but need to consider more) from Lane D on the subject of biometrics:
This is just my opinion
But I wish people would stop thinking of biometrics as a replacement for passwords. Think of them as a replacement for your username, but not as a replacement for a password.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with a comment from last week's Techdirt History post, which is technically outside the boundaries for this week, but comments on those posts rarely get a shot, so why not? After we pointed to an older post asking if intellectual property was fundamentally immoral, one anonymous commenter made a pretty excellent case for "yes":
Intellectual property must give people the brainpower of a bowl of lukewarm oatmeal.
It does. It's the word "property" that does it. It's like gold fever, but for imaginary property.
Is intellectual property immoral?
Yes it is. First of all, it misrepresents the Constitutional limits of a temporary monopoly privilege as a thing that can be owned, and should therefore be owned permanently like actual property.
Secondly, it creates a breed of froth-mouthed adherents who not only disregard everyone else's rights, they insist on getting laws passed that actively infringe upon them.
Thirdly, it facilitates theft from the public domain via expansion, locking up works that were formerly free to use.
Fourthly, it robs us of our cultural heritage by letting unprofitable works on celluloid film decay instead of enabling them to be copied and saved for future generations.
Seriously, don't get me started on how utterly offensive and morally bankrupt "intellectual property" is. You can call it intellectual output if you will but if I see anyone calling it property or describing the experience thereof as "consuming," believe me I will put you straight. Let's not be using words from the real thieves' lexicon.
Next, we've got a comment on our cross-post from the new Copia Institute website about hacking policy through innovation, not lobbying. After one commenter suggested that was difficult verging on impossible, another anonymous commenter composed an excellent response:
The Internet upsets information monopolies. (Encyclopedias)
And yet Wikipedia has come to dominate without requiring any policy changes.
But I could also repeat: Netflix, Amazon Prime
Netflix has also come to dominate without requiring any policy changes.
Innovation like SpaceX threatens fat dinosaurs
SpaceX is doing just fine without any policy changes.
Of all the things you've mentioned, only Uber and Lyft are hindered by current regulations. Your examples most contradict your premise that "you must convince the ruling class to allow us mere peasants to create innovation."
1. How many problems have you had with your Comcast service?
[_] Less than one
2. Which of the following problems have you experienced with Comcast? (Please check all that apply.)
[_] Was unable to express in words how happy I was with Comcast service!
[_] Could not reach enough Comcast people to express my joy with Comcast service.
[_] The online payment system has a bug that will not allow me to pay more than the actual price for the service.
3. How would you rate your Comcast service?
Thank you for your feedback. As a reward for sending us feedback, would you like to receive craptacular email offers from selected Comcast partners?
[_] Yes! Please fill my inbox to overflowing!
[_] No. (but fill my inbox anyway)
For second place, we head to a post we titled "Designer Knockoff Enthusiast Issues DMCA Notice Targeting Half The Internet, Fails To Remove A Single URL." Did you catch the error? No? Thankfully, one anonymous commenter did:
FYI, you have a typo in your headline. It should read:
DMCA Notice Enthusiast Issues Blog on Designer Knockoffs ...
For editor's choice, we return to the Sunday Times saga, where CNN asked the reporter some tough questions and got some unimpressive responses. Agonistes pointed out the other big story here:
I'm absolutely shocked that a CNN employee asked relevant and coherent questions of a guest.
(To be honest, I watch so little TV news these days that I don't even know if it's fair to target CNN specifically — but given the general feebleness of that entire journalistic medium at the moment, the sentiment seems right.)
As we move ever deeper into the digital age, the question of data preservation as gotten bigger and bigger. Recently, people got a scare when it was suggested that SSDs have an even more dismal lifespan than presumed, though it turned out people were taking that study slightly out of context. Today, we look at an entirely different approach preservation: the Nanoform, an engraved sapphire disk that keeps your precious data around forever.
I imagine almost everyone feels a little attraction to the Nanoform. It's just a damn cool idea that plays on all sorts of curious, in-built human fascinations: precious minerals, miniaturization, and of course the desire for permanence. The engraved disks are beautiful, even just for the sheer amount of information that's packed in — one shot shows the entire text of War and Peace taking up only a fraction of a single disk. You could easily make one to include your entire life's memoirs, every letter you've ever written, a whole family history of photos, and then some. The engraved and sealed sapphire disks will likely live up to their promise of an essentially-infinite lifespan — we're not dealing with complex ways of storing bits and bytes, but a straightforward use of the world's third-hardest mineral. The whole concept puts me in mind of the Pioneer Plaques or the Voyager Golden Record (and indeed, the Nanoform might be a great choice for any future irresistible plans to attach a message to a spacecraft).
Well, let's face it: this isn't exactly practical. The Nanoform gets its data permanence by trading in data usefulness: it's an analog medium, retaining things for curious posterity or just decoration rather than being a serious means of storage. Retrieving it doesn't require a card reader or a disk drive, just a magnifying glass or a microscope. Getting it back onto a computer requires a high-res scanner (and all the massive limitations that method entails). So I think it's safe to say that, outside some incredibly fringe cases that I can't quite think of, the Nanoform is for fun not function — and given its understandably hefty price tag, it's outside many people's "fun" budgets. The impact of the price is softened slightly, though, by the fact that a Nanoform really will last a lifetime — a very rare thing in the days when people regularly spend just as much money on devices that are either bricked or obsolete within a few years.
Once many years ago, I met someone carrying a huge binder of printed pages, and asked what it was. She explained that today was the birthday of her best friend, with whom she had almost-daily instant messaging conversations that dwindled late into the night covering every aspect of both their lives, and so as a gift she had printed off their entire chat history. Later I saw the gift being given, and it was clearly one of the most fun, interesting and genuinely moving presents the person had ever received. I thought about that story when I saw the Nanoform. If I were to make a guess, I'd say the number one place the Nanoform will catch on is the world of gifts. Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays — a permanent, decorative record of a lifetime is a fitting and excellent gift for all of them. And just like in that case, our online lives produce a huge amount of material that could make such a memento highly personal and meaningful.
Of course, that abundance of data about our lives is something that makes a lot of people nervous, but few people are willing to truly let go of it precisely because it represents so many memories. Maybe transcribing some of that information to an indestructible sapphire disk and getting it the hell off the cloud is exactly the solution nostalgia needs.
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Recently, Bell seems to have woken up to the fact that lots of people use VPNs to access Netflix in other markets — and has decided that's a terrible thing. This week, they urged the public to shame such users, prompting both our first and second place comments for insightful this week. First, it's an anonymous commenter pointing out just how absurd this whole thing has gotten:
You know we're in crazy land when even paying for content is theft
That's why I automatically assume the police and press are lying when they say anything negative about the person they just shot.
Although I did once meet a former officer who had quit after almost shooting an unarmed man, and I do believe his story. The problem is, he quit because he was a good cop and couldn't stand the thought of shooting someone who was unarmed, even though the officer thought the person he was chasing had a gun and was about to shoot him.
So the problem is, people who should be cops quit when they come close to shooting an unarmed person, and those who shouldn't be cops don't quit. So you see how police forces quickly become full of people who shouldn't be cops.
Your act also amounts to a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Information Technology Act, 2000. This act of you have caused great damage to our client's business, as well as to its name and reputation, and although such looss cannot be compensated in terms of money, our client will be entitled to claim and recover from you substantial amount by way of compensation/damages.
I was expecting to see an additional paragraph:
We will forego any damage if you will help our wealthy client to move a large sum money out of the country in exchange for half the proceedes. Please to be sending us your bank account informations so we can be depositing the large sum into your account.
For editor's choice on the funny side, we remain on that post for a moment, where we also examined the whole idea of copyright and code and just how such things should work. Is simply viewing source code copyright infringement? One anonymous commenter adapted an old defence to this new purpose:
i looked at the words, but i didn't inhale.
Finally, we head to our post about the ongoing fears (and fights) related to cellphone radiation. One commenter pointed out the deja vu feeling of this issue for those who were told to fear radiation from good ol' television sets, leading to a conversation about the days before remote controls, and finally this gem from commenter RightShark:
My dad had a voice-activated remote control back then.
He would say "Son, go change the channel."
I know many Techdirt readers have fond memories of the Apple II, one of the first truly successful personal computers. Well, it was on June 10th, 1977 that the very first Apple II computers went on sale. The machine's number one hook was its color graphics, which were practically unheard of at its price-point and attracted a lot of consumer attention.
The OWOW devices all look pretty cool, even if they aren't all revolutionary. One essentially serves as a theremin, one as a tiny drum pad, two as neat handheld motion controllers, and the most innovative of the lot: a scanner that converts lines you draw freehand on paper into music. All of them are extremely compact, and the scanner is (to my knowledge) entirely unique. None are standalone instruments, though — they serve as controllers for digital music software. But unlike the aforementioned crossfader, these devices are designed for maximum compatibility with everything in that world (they appear to use MIDI-over-USB) rather than being tied down to a proprietary, platform-specific app. When combined with studio software like Reason or Ableton, these might be very powerful and would at least be a lot of fun.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about OWOW is the choice to offer two versions of the devices: one full formed with a sleek aluminum casing, and one at a lower price that is just the raw circuit board on its own. The open circuit will work just fine by itself (and many aficionados of synthesizers and other gear are happy to work with some exposed boards around), and the designers are also supplying free schematics for 3D printing your own casing. The OWOW instruments, like all such devices, aren't cheap — and the DIY offering is a great way to help out musicians operating on a budget and support the maker-musician community.
Funky-looking little high-tech MIDI controllers actually come along quite often, and only a handful turn out to be truly useful. Based on the video and the norm for such controllers, there's a good chance there will be some responsiveness issues, but whether these will be "occasionally annoying" or "crippling" is uncertain. With a new digital music device like this, you can never be entirely sure whether it's a tool or a toy until you've tried it out yourself. It remains to be seen whether some or all of the OWOW instruments are really worth the price — but, so far, they are ticking all the boxes and then some.
There's one other thing worth noting about the OWOW: a creative approach to Kickstarter fundraising that I've never seen before. While most projects for higher-price devices like this fill out their lower backer tiers with stickers and T-shirts and other secondary gear for people who want to support but not buy, OWOW is offering up a five-euro mobile game for iOS and Android. The hook? The player with the top score in the mobile game at the end of the campaign will get a complete set of all five instruments for free. That strikes me as a fantastic way to engage backers and offer low-budget supporters a good reason to buy, and I won't be surprised if that tactic starts to catch on in the world of crowdfunding.
The explosive rise of Uber, ride-sharing programs, and other on-demand mobility services has led many to wonder if the whole concept of car ownership is on its way out, at least for city-dwellers. This week we're joined by Upshift founder Ezra Goldman, who recently wrote a manifesto for the future of mobility and helps us delve far beyond a surface analysis of transportation trends.
This week, the New Zealand government stepped in to stop the US from seizing all of Kim Dotcom's assets, prompting a lot of reactions from every corner. Both our top comments on the insightful side come in response to that story, the first from PRMan with a simple but distressing observation:
It seems that New Zealand follows our constitution more than we do...
Does not matter what Kim Dotcom did - it's no excuse for the U.S. government to break the law and resort to stealing just to to stop him or any other criminal, and seizing his assets is closer to piracy than anything Dotcom has done.
Again your understanding of the facts leaves much to be desired. He didn't "produce nothing", he created a platform. He made money by selling access to that platform. He hosted content others uploaded to his platform. He didn't use any products others made in any infringement. The people who posted the material are at fault.
I want the US government to abide by due process. And not horsetrade with Dotcoms rights and legal avenues. Playing games with his ability to mount a defense is not exactly going well for the US Government, if you hadn't noticed.
Would that be before or after Clapper faces lying under oath to Congress about commandeering the dismantling of the U.S. Constitution by criminally reinterpreting his mandate?
As long as none of the criminals uncovered by Snowden's actions faces the music and instead stays in office without retribution, it is entirely silly to go gungho on the person uncovering the crimes.
Oh by the way: who is going to get prosecuted for the CIA torturing people to death for fun (as it has been clearly established that at the point of the killing no information was to be gained any more)? Obama has stated emphatically that those "heroes" and "patriots" would not be facing the music. Including the armchair psychologists directing the torture "experiments" and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars for their "expertise".
I'm all for a punishment proportionate to the crime. If we take the punishment of those criminals as guidance, the punishment of Snowden would probably be a daily banquet in the Washington D.C. market place for the rest of his life.
Which is more or less what Sokrates pleaded as punishment for his "crimes" when dragged before a court about equally likely to deliver justice as a U.S. court.
Hopefully Snowden will spare the American people at least the shame of a mock trial and will refrain from returning while the current criminals are in office.
But, more so than any one statement about Snowden this week, we were shocked by the sheer number of them that referred to him as "Eric". Our first place comment for funny comes from Chris Brand and suggests a possible explanation:
Could be a printing error
in the script they're all reading from.
Speaking of scripts, we also got two strange, identical comments whining about something to do with the New York Times this week, prompting one anonymous commenter to to deliver our second-place winner for funny:
Hint: When shilling, try not to post identical comments twice in two minutes with different IPs.
Well, now I know you're just a troll, not even someone sincerely trying to have conversations. Your opening comment was glowing and sycophantic, referring to the new service as easy and convenient. And now you want to deny that. Pathetic.
It's a bullshit anti-piracy campaign targeted at people who already paid to see a movie, which is idiotic, and it's a promotion for a worthless "service". If you have any valid point at all, it's that we didn't mock them as extensively as we should have.
But of course, you're full of shit, because now you're pretending that you knew it was a terrible service all along - and yet your first comment on this post is eagerly promoting it with language straight out of the press release.
For years we've pointed out that the industry's much-boasted-about abundance of legal sources is actually an unnavigable mish-mash of overlapping services with wildly varying quality, availability and limitations, and that even if the average person does have a legal alternative to piracy it's likely that actually replacing piracy would mean signing up for a dozen different services with separate bills, and it still wouldn't get them anything... if they can be bothered to figure them out at all.
Does Hollywood respond by trying to unify some of these services? By opening up new licensing terms to allow wider cross-platform availability? By scrapping all that shit and launching a new, flagship platform that promises to offer all the movies there are, and actually delivers?
No, no, no... It has a genius idea instead. "Clearly what we need," said one bigwig to another, "is a special search engine to help people navigate our dozens of terrible services slightly more easily."
How could they be so dumb? Maybe they just truly don't know how to innovate at all. Or maybe this is what happens when your thought process isn't so much "how can we offer our customers a great service" as it is "how can we seemingly invalidate our customers' complaints, so they can't serve as excuses for the behaviour we want outlawed"
IMO eliminating the anti-circumvention clause just leaves the issue, and the cat and mouse game of breaking drm.
Would it though? I mean, there's already an arms race, and even with anti-circumvention protections, the breakers beat the makers every single time. The ONLY thing that keeps some kind of a lid on it is the fact that people need to be careful about distributing DRM-breaking tools, and so those get relegated to pirate sites and other backwaters that scare off average computer users. Remove that one limitation and I don't see how DRM-makers would stand a chance...
I think Leigh might have a point here, I can imagine that being difficult and problematic to pin down language and eliminate the potential for abuse via contract law and such.
I do think this is something really big that you and Mason aren't fully considering. Law is not great at technology, in general. Either it's very specific, at which point it works well for a short period of time but then rapidly becomes obsolete or nonsensical or begins to apply to new things that weren't intended, OR it's broad and general in an attempt to be future-proof, and ends up having all sorts of immediate unintended consequences.
Some of your notions -- ban DRM! ban closed-source software! ban all that bullshit! -- are admittedly appealing in an anarchist-utopia sort of way. But I'm not at all confident that writing laws to accomplish such things is simply a legal-wording challenge to be overcome — I think it may be an insurmountable task.
Plus, I really do like to focus on things that can be done immediately. Yes, we probably do need some idealists out there pushing for the banning of all DRM - but if we want to see any actual near-term change on that front, what we really need are pragmatists out there fighting against ant-circumvention provisions, because that's still a very meaningful change that would strike a huge blow to DRM, and it's one that's actually legislatively realistic.
Honestly I don't doubt there are areas where we are lacking certain bits of knowledge -- we're a small team covering a lot of topics, and we're also part of a broader community of people covering this stuff, and count on others to bring some of their expertise to the table too.
On my end, the frustration is when these things get boiled down into what I consider unfair blanket statements, like the idea that we are "tonedeaf about privacy concerns" or Mason's assertion that we "don't think DRM is bad" (the latter is clearly laughable to anyone who reads Techdirt). But once you move past that, there's plenty of good conversation to be had.
All the issues with DRM could be solved just fine by getting rid of anti-circumvention provisions.
In fact, let's flip this around: what are the issues that you think would remain after anti-circumvention rules are gone, that would require limiting people's rights to write software how they choose?
I just don't see any justification for legally preventing software makers from limiting the functionality of their software as they choose, as stupid as it might be for them to do so. Again, extending that control beyond the bounds of the software itself, such as the sony rootkit, is a different story -- but outlawing DRM seems like a needless restriction on people's rights, which is not something I support.
Here's one more question, just out of curiosity: would free trial versions of software that disable after a given number of days also be illegal?
"The fact that those people are legally prevented from using their own money and medicine to cure poisoning is a huge problem that we need to fix — but the fact that the company was permitted to create and openly distribute poison is, as far as I can see, impossible to prevent."
Because DRM is a much wider umbrella. I agree that DRM that, covertly and without consent, hijacks functions of the user's computer beyond the software it comes with -- such as the Sony Rootkit -- can be considered identical to malware. But DRM covers so much more than that.
It sounds like you would say that software which refuses to run unless the CD is in the drive, or a dongle is attached, should be illegal. Well... okay... but how do you define that? Does a software maker not have the right to include conditions for that software to operate, or to access certain functions?
In that case, what about a computer game that refuses to let me access later levels until I have completed the early ones, like almost every computer game ever. In that case, the data and the programming for all those later levels is there on my computer, but the game is refusing to let me access it until I satisfy arbitrary, unnecessary, artificial conditions.
So is that illegal too?
Now, of course, I could use other tools to unpack the data from the later levels, hack in and access them. And that would be perfectly legal. If it were illegal, then we'd have a big problem -- and that's the situation with DRM right now, which as I've said I agree is indeed a big problem. But how do you outlaw DRM in the first place without also outlawing my example?
It doesn't even have to be so outlandish. What if I create a privacy/security control program of some kind, say one for parents to install when they want to limit young children's access to certain functions or programs? Sounds to me like that would also be an illegal virus under your definition.
So then, are you saying it all comes down to whether or not the intent of the limitations is to prevent violation of copyright? That's fine I guess, but it's also ridiculous. The law is not going to use a right that people have as the definition of something they cannot attempt to do. "Software makers are specifically prohibited from placing any limitations on their software in an attempt to protect their IP rights." Uh... weird. If you think getting that law is as easy/plausible as stopping SOPA, I dunno what to tell you. Maybe we could work in that direction, though as a step before that it'd likely simply be stated that software makers must make sure their protections have exclusions for things like personal backups and fair use, and as a step before that we'd need to eliminate the current laws actively preventing circumvention of DRM for such uses. Which is, as I've been saying all along, the real issue.
The main issue with your position is that you don't have a workable definition of DRM. Let's start with the one you've provided: only functional purpose is to take control of a computer's functionality away from the computer's owner and have it instead serve the whims of a remote developer
Okay, so are distributed computing apps like the classic SETI processor also illegal malware? They also have that same sole functional purpose. But they are agreed to by the user.
So does that negate it? But what if the user agrees to buy and install a piece of software or content that openly includes DRM? Are they not then equally assenting?
Secret DRM like the Sony Rootkit is a different story. But the vast majority of DRM is not secret -- it's stupid, but not secret, and it's something users agree to when they install the software. The fact that those users are then legally prevented from using their own devices and other software to circumvent that DRM is a huge problem that we need to fix — but the fact that the company was permitted to create and openly sell the DRM is, as far as I can see, impossible to prevent.
So be it. Just know that in our eyes, you are exhibiting the exact same behaviour that rubs you the wrong way from Stallman/the FSF.
No, I do not believe that giving the government more authority to declare what sort of software is legal or illegal is a good idea. In fact, it's a downright stupid one. Simply eliminating anti-circumvention provisions and any other special protections for DRM would render it even more utterly useless than it currently is, without the need to put a bunch of Congresspeople and/or Judges in charge of evaluating the legality of software.
Mason, this is utterly absurd. Any reader of Techdirt, including you, knows perfectly well that we hate DRM - we mock it constantly, we applaud companies that forego it, we point out its massive legal and business model issues, we attack and oppose anti-circumvention provisions and other special recognition for it in the law, and we constantly say it's just about the stupidest thing a software maker can saddle their product with.
You are just mad that we won't join you on your absolutist bandwagon of criminalizing all DRM as though it's a virus. And as such, you really are doing exactly what you accuse the FSF of. What was it you said? "a heretic is someone who believes almost all the same things as you"? Yeah, look at what you're doing right now.
If you see a need for a different type of article, maybe you could fill that void and provide those articles on your own site.
We also love guest-post submissions. If someone with deep technical knowledge about bootloaders and privacy issues deep within device architecture wanted to write a good, accessible post helping our readers better understand those issues and what they can be doing about them, that'd be great! We'd love that.
Unfortunately, such people who try to write such posts often take on a similar tone: barely-veiled frustration with and castigation of the public for failing to make this the only thing they ever think or talk about, and for paying any attention to any tech issues/topics at any other level before addressing this one. And while I somewhat understand that view, it's not the only valid one, and it's not one Techdirt wholly endorses.
(I'd also say that by characterizing our stance as pro-DRM based on our failure to view it exactly the same way as you, you are committing precisely the same sin that you accuse the FSF & Richard Stallman of above)
Techdirt is obviously, openly opposed to DRM. We have written many posts condemning it, and we've always fought against anti-circumvention provisions. I'm looking through your comments on several of those posts and currently haven't found any where our writers have even replied to you, let alone contradicted you, but I'll be interested to see whatever examples you have in mind.
If we have opposed you, I think it's clear what we've opposed: your absolutist insistence that all DRM be treated precisely the same as malicious software and treated as such under the law, and that software makers should be legally blocked from attempting to include it.
That's a uselessly absolutist view, Mason. It's not realistic. It's not going to happen. And it doesn't even sound that great. As you know, here at Techdirt we are big fans of technological/innovative solutions before legal/policy/regulatory ones -- and we feel that the technological futility of DRM will do it in long before Congress or a court is prepared to say that the standard behaviour of all major software companies for 20 years has been criminal.
If you think that our failure to join your absolutist regulatory crusade means we "don't think DRM is bad" then you are being very myopic.
I don't mean to dismiss some of the points you are raising - they just all seemed to come entirely out of no where and have very little relevance to the point I was making.
And that, right there, is the issue with those of you who are immersed in this world of low-level device architecture, who are committed and fanatical (in a good way!) advocates of the Stallman approach to free software and technology, and so on:
While it's not that I think you are wrong, there is a tendency to revert every single discussion back to that low-level issue of yours. And I DO understand that -- it is, after all, low-level, and does indeed sit below the foundation of many other issues. And I can totally see your desire to have a blog that focuses really closely, constantly and almost exclusively on those issues.
But... that's not the blog Techdirt is. We have a variety of things to cover. And sometimes it feels like you expect that we just stop covering that other stuff at other levels until this one core issue that you consider the most important is dealt with.
If we write about the social complications around Google Glass, and people's uneducated and somewhat kneejerk opinions about its privacy implications (do you honestly think the people doing the face-ripping were fully educated in all the stuff you know, and trying to send a message to someone else who doesn't 'deserve the dignity' of a conversation -- or were those face-ripping folks themselves pretty clueless about what they were really mad about?), the response from your world is "why talk about that at all? none of that matters until THIS fundamental issue of the device architecture and control is solved."
But, we still think some of those higher-level conversations -- about privacy as a social construct, about privacy when it comes to cloud storage and security, and more beyond that -- have real value. See, we're not necessarily convinced that the ONLY goal worth fighting for is a world in which ever person has total control over 100% of all their data, because that doesn't really seem possible -- not technologically, and certainly not in a world where people still have access to a wide range of free digital content and services. We're not 100% opposed to the concept of advertising, and hoping to see it abolished the way so many people seem to be -- advertising is a good system that makes a lot of stuff cheap or free.
There are huge dangers in the way things are going now, yes, but there are also huge opportunities, and I strongly believe that some level of trade-off -- you give me a useful online service that I desire, I let you have some insight into my online habits -- is going to be with us for a long time, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Done right, it can be a very fair trade.
And see, that's the issue. I see Google Glass, and I think "wow, that could be dangerous, but also incredibly useful and cool. Let's really have a serious conversation about the role this will play in society, and how Google will be handling data from it". You see it, and you think "that's the worst thing I've ever heard of, it shouldn't exist, and I can totally understand why someone would rip it off another person's face and smash it", even if you condemn that behaviour.
I stand by my feeling that this is overblown, or at least disruptively absolutist, even while I fully recognize and respect the roots of your feelings about it.