19 Apr

Struggle over Colbert

Don’t executives at major media companies pay attention?  This parody of the Colbert Report, called Stop the Falsiness is as much an ad for the show as it is its own thing.  There is nothing here that would at all threaten Viacom’s product or in any way go against the political sensibility of the show.  It would appear that a boardroom of monkeys gathered to view the clip and took it at face value.  Won’t anybody explain to them what’s really going on here?

EFF is on the beat.  Here’s a paragraph from their description of the case.

The video, called "Stop the Falsiness," was created by MoveOn and Brave New Films as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Colbert’s portrayal of the right-wing media and parodying MoveOn’s own reputation for earnest political activism. The short film, uploaded to YouTube in August 2006, includes clips from "The Colbert Report" as well as humorous original interviews about show host Stephen Colbert. In March of this year, Viacom — the parent company of Comedy Central — demanded that YouTube take "Stop the Falsiness" down, claiming the video infringed its copyrights.

Link: EFF: Breaking News.

27 May

Generative Internet

JZ from the Berkman Center writes his take on the state of the Internet – as the title suggest, declaring that the main fucntionality of the network is its generativity.  The full text is available here.  And William McGeveran’s interesting synopsis and criticism is available here.

12 Jan

Code, Law and Society

This article by Cindy  Cohn

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James  Grimmelmann argues for a distinction between code and law.  Code can be law with no values, no interpretation, no room for the human uses of things.  As so many aspects of life are coded now, I wonder to what extent designers will fight to keep code from users.

To the extent that code is acting as law in spaces and ways that are increasingly important to our increasingly technological societies, code will need to respect, as best it can, these deep legal values. Sometimes this will mean not doing everything in code: one of the reasons DRM and the broadcast flag proposal are so worrisome is that they threaten to eliminate the flexibility we associate with fair use law and technological progress. At other times, this will mean wiring these values into the code itself. The end-to-end design that has made the Internet so successful is, in some sense, just the legal value of humility, as written into code. We don’t know what people will do, so we won’t try to solve their problems for them before we even know what those problems are.

Link: Ars Electronica Katalogartikel.

17 Dec

lyric finder potentially dangerous

One must be careful not to develop software that is too helpful.  As is made quite clear with this recent case…

Facing an upswell of protest, Warner Chappell Music on Friday formally apologized to Walter Ritter over a letter it sent to the software programmer earlier this month targeting a helper application for Apple’s iTunes called pearLyrics.

"The goal of Warner/Chappell’s prior letter to pearworks was to gain assurance that pearLyrics operated according to (copyright) principles. However, in both tone and substance, that letter was an inappropriate manner in which to convey that inquiry. Warner/Chappell apologizes to Walter Ritter and pearworks."

(…)Ritter says Warner Chappell is now talking with him about ways to create lyrics search tools with the blessing of music publishers, but the experience will cause him to think twice before committing his next big idea to code.

One of Ritter’s recent brainstorms — an application that queries lyrics data online to help music fans choose tracks based on themes, like "love" or "breakup" — may now remain only an idea, he says.

"I’m concerned with how I should go on with software development, because this will be a potential issue — every time I come up with something that people like, someone might say ‘you can’t do that, it’s illegal and it infringes copyright," Ritter told Wired News. "It’s getting really difficult to be innovative as a small developer."

09 Oct

OpenBusiness

This is just a great resource for open business ideas.  I find it increasingly disturbing to note just how resistant people are to these ideas.  The corporate model of copyright, one that is counter productive to small business and independent creative practice is successfully seeping into culture as "common sense".  The little guy is experiencing an increased amount of pressure to act like the "big guy".  I’m so happy to see a site that challenges this assumption.

Link: OpenBusiness.

25 May

Anarchy and Copyright Law

I finally got around to reading Siva Vaidhyanathan’s The Anarchist in the Library (visit his blog here).  What a fantastic read.  As I understand it, he puts Laurence Lessig into overdrive.  He starts with the problem of information flows and the laws that prohibit them and goes to fantastic places including the vulgar manifestations of neo-liberalism and the struggle between anarchy and republicanism (not to be confused with the party by the same name).  While believing in anarchistic principles, he adroitly argues that anarchism too neatly follows destructive neoliberal patterns of radical individualism and that republicanism (as theorized by little known philosophers such as Aristotle), would cultivate a connection between personal freedom and belonging to society, political structures and culture in general.

This is a big problem as far as I’m concerned.  It’s the premise of my work that networked and distributed technologies have aided the cultivation of neoliberalism, that even patterns of spectatorship have bended to an individual perspective.  We are always in the driver’s seat when we view content.  Digital media, if nothing else, has trained us to demand control over consumption.  Being part of a crowd or mass audience is practically intolerable to most consumers and the world is being designed accordingly. 

All that is to say, I applaud Mr. Vaidhyanathan for taking seriously the big picture.  I applaud him for making the essential connections between the everyday legal battles and the global struggle for culture.  It takes a skilled scholar to argue convincingly that when I download a song with any P2P technology, that I am in fact engaging in a much larger discourse about freedom, democracy and technology.