Is Internet access a freedom or a privilege?

Om Malik has an interesting question on his site: Is Internet access a freedom or a privilege?

No, this isn’t about you and your parents. It’s about the ability of the government (specifically, the US Government) to regulate how access is charged. I’ve been seeing some interesting articles pop up in the last few months about the where the Internet is going, or rather, how the access to the Internet might change (for the worse). In short, the Internet might end up being ruled by those who control access to it (i.e. Verizon, Qwest, Comcast, SBC, etc).

Having said that, what’s your opinion?

As If We Needed Any More Reason to Hate Them

I’m to busy to be angry about this right now or to do any more research, but I’m going to post it here anyway. From Slashdot:

Random_Transit writes “Ars Technica is reporting that the EFF has dug up plans by the RIAA/MPAA to stifle the consumer electronics market by replacing it’s “fair use” policy with something called “Customary Historic Use“. This new policy would effectively keep anyone from inventing any new type of media device without the RIAA/MPAA’s say-so.”

I think the Bible has it wrong, I think the Mark of the Beast is RIAA/MPAA.

Study: How Internet copyright law is abused

More Inboxen™ cleaning time before Christmas Break:

From BoingBoing:

In 1996, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, the UN body that makes copyright, patent and trademark treaties) got suckered into making the “WIPO Copyright Treaty,” which was the basis for the US’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Europe’s EUCD.

The laws under this treaty let people who claim that their copyrights have been infringed upon have the offending material quickly removed from the Internet, without forcing them to show any evidence that infringement has occurred. This is how the Church of Scientology and others censor their critics — just trump up a bogus copyright claim and knock the site offline.

The Chilling Effects Project tracks these abuses, and now Jennifer Urban and Laura Quilter have published a roundup of the conclusions to be drawn from the project’s hundreds of collected notices.

Just as you’d expect: when you take away legal oversight of a process for suppressing speech, it is widely and ferociously abused.

Nice one, WIPO. Nice one, US Congress. Nice one, EU. You’ve managed to convert the Internet from a venue for unfettered free speech into a lawless zone where anyone who can write a takedown notice can make speech disappear.

* Thirty percent of notices demanded takedown for claims that presented an obvious question for a court (a clear fair use argument, complaints about uncopyrightable material, and the like);
* Notices to traditional ISP’s included a substantial number of demands to remove files from peer-to-peer networks (which are not actually covered under the takedown statute, and which an OSP can only honor by terminating the target’s Internet access entirely); and

* One out of 11 included significant statutory flaws that render the notice unusable (for example, failing to adequately identify infringing material).

In addition, we found some interesting patterns that do not, by themselves, indicate concern, but which are of concern when combined with the fact that one third of the notices depended on questionable claims:

* Over half–57%–of notices sent to Google to demand removal of links in the index were sent by businesses targeting apparent competitors;

* Over a third–37%–of the notices sent to Google targeted sites apparently outside the United States

WIPO is now considering an even more sweeping version of the treaty that gave us this regime: the new proposals floating around on ISP liability could force ISPs to not only delete material, but to shut off the Internet access of those who are baselessly accused of infringement. Link (Thanks, Jen and Joe!)

Quote of the Week

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city.”
– Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson to citizens of a Dover, Pennsylvania that “had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting ‘intelligent design'”

Note: See CNN article ‘Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God’s wrath‘ for more.

Pat is a wack job. I don’t think I’ve ever pointed out that I am a Christian. But I am. I don’t believe nor support what Pat said and it makes me furious when people, such as Pat, think they can tell people what God is thinking or what he will do. Pat can’t any neither can anyone else.

Matthew 7:1-6 says,

1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

6“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

Luke 6:37 says,

37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Yes, I realize that I may sound hypocritical: scorning Pat for judging, then turning around and judging him. But at least I admit it.

Quote of Week

“Most people, I think, don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?”

Thomas Hesse, President of Sony BMG’s Global Digital Business

Via BetaNews.com

Holy. Freaking. Crap.

I’m actually not quite sure where to start with this one. Half of me just wants to let out a rather long string of explicatives. The other half wants to reach out and strangle Dan Glickman, president of the MPAA. This isn’t the first time, nor will be the last time, I’ve lashed out at Dano and Company (see An Open Letter to Dan Glickman). This is compiled from BoingBoing via the Electronic Frontier Foundation (whom I am now seriously considering donating to). Here goes:

Hollywood’s gearing up to introduce what is effectively “the Broadcast Flag on steroids.” Dubbed the Anal. Hole, Content Protection in the Digital Age: The Broadcast Flag, High-Definition Radio, and the Analog Hole is a piece of legislation that the MPAA is reintroducing (yes, reintroducing) to the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.

In a nut shell, the Anal. Hole Bill would “illegal to make anything capable of digitizing video unless it either has all its outputs approved by the Hollywood studios, or is closed-source, proprietary and tamper-resistant.” This honestly makes me sick to my stomach. And I’m not just saying that. Every time I read that line, I physically start to get queasy and feel like vomiting.

To give you an idea of just how damning the Anal. Hole Bill could be, if this Bill “had been around in 1976, the VCR would have been illegal.” Ho-ly Fuck. I would apologize for my language, but I’ve literally been watching the MPAA (and RIAA for that matter) whittle away our rights for years now. This is UNACCEPTABLE! The MPAA is becoming the Catholic church of the 15th Century.

BoingBoing also points out:

Any lawmaker who supports this is an idiot. Americans will forgive a lot of sins from their elected representatives, but there’s one thing they won’t stand for and that’s breaking their TVs.

Here here!

How The RIAA Really Treats It’s Artists

Wow. This article is simply amazing and incredibly indicative of how evil and powerful the RIAA really is. I can’t believe more people don’t know about this. Via Digg:

Time and time again we hear that the real reason for the RIAA’s scare tactics and lobbying is the welfare of the artists they employ and represent. Here’s a breakdown where a band not only isn’t paid much but actually ends up owing money.

read more | digg story

One Hell of a Clusterfuck

I haven’t been following the fallout from Katrina that closely. Most of what I know comes from BoingBoing and the highlights on the 5 o’clock news.
The picture that I see developing is very troubling. Here are the highlights of the clusterfucks that is The Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (from various BoingBoing articles):

  • Thirty elderly who died in the nursing home were simply forgotten. They were supposed to be rescued but someone dropped the ball and they died.
  • Under Homeland Security, FEMA is supposed to be in charge, but they have been marginalized due to their obvious screw ups. The National Guard is now in charge in the region and they have no experience in these matters. This is aggravating a bad situation.
  • The plan going forward for New Orleans is to demolish all the houses and burn them. There is nowhere to bury the waste in the region so they will incinerate it all. Before that can go on, they will have to search every house for chemical hazards.
  • The EPA ordered 40 satellite phones to get their people in contact. Those phones have arrived, but no one ordered SIM cards and these phones are currently useless.
  • This contractor has been organizing reverse osmosis (RO) water purification units from all over the country since last Tuesday. He has over 100 units of various sizes available to move into the region, but no one will give the go ahead. No one will sign their name to a piece of paper for fear recriminations later. He says that over 80 million pint bottles of water have been purchased at $0.75 each. The RO units can produce a gallon of water from contaminated water for $0.01 and they can produce thousands of gallons a day. Two are staged near the zone and these alone can produce 250,000 gallons per day. The Army has RO units, but every functional one, and every operator trained to use them, is in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  • Houston Independent media organizers, who have been working in concert with local community organizations, relief groups, the Federal Communications Commission, a major electronics manufacturer, and the City of Houston, have been denied permission to build a 30-watt radio station inside the Astrodome by R.W. Royall Jr., Incident Commander of the JIC (Joint Information Committee) at the Astrodome. When they asked why they were being turned down, they were told that the Astrodome could not provide them with electricity. When the Austin Airwaves team offered to run on battery backup, they were still denied. Did I mention that A) also have a license in hand from the FCC, B) have not one, but two sources of 10,000 radios [including Sony, which I applaud – despite the fact that I don’t like their technology tactics].
  • There are reported rapes, beatings, and murders. And while unsubstantiated at this point, I have no reason to disbelieve it.
    NOLA evacuee Clara Barthelemy, “A six year old girl was raped in here [the Astrodome].. 9 year old boy killed. A man in the shower beaten.” another evacuee says, “Over 20 rapes per night happening inside this place. They bring in national guard for media purposes. Bush wants us to stay here to raise his ratings.”
  • “We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media,” a [FEMA] spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry. The Bush administration also has prevented the news media from photographing flag-draped caskets of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, which has sparked criticism that the government is trying to block images that put the war in a bad light.
  • “The media censorship here runs high. It was not easy to actually enter the dome as media. I am working with the group ‘Austin Airwaves’ and our badge says ‘PRESS’ in huge white letters on a red background. This has caused unending red tape. I have been the subject of removal a few times, bordering on a dozen. My camera draws the most fire.”
  • An article in the Army Times is referring to American citizens in New Orleans as “the insurgency”.

Despite all this, I am still ready and willing to go to help setup a technology infrastructure. And in case you don’t know what a clusterfuck is, here’s the Oxford English Dictionary definition:

clusterfuck, n.
A bungled or botched undertaking; (also) a situation, state of affairs, or gathering (esp. a military operation) that is disorganized or chaotic.

Yup…we got ourselves a genuine American clusterfuck.

And I Quote: This Is Working Very Well For Them

It’s things like this that make me sick (and almost convinced the world is going to end):

Accompanying ex-prez husband George H.W. Bush on la tour de hurricane relief, Marie Antoinette Barbara Bush today commented on the poor who’d been displaced by Katrina:

This is working very well for them. (…)Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we’re going to move to Houston.

"What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is
so overwhelmed by the hospitality.

"And so many of the people in the arena
here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this–this (she
chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

By these standards, 40 acres and a mule would have been too generous. Link to Editor and Publisher story; the remarks originally aired on American Public Media’s "Marketplace" program (Thanks, Pesco; Bernard Ouellette)

Reader comment: Cowicide says, Here is an audio file. Link.

Via BoingBoing

Case in Point: Even the Most Simplest Things

And it begins… Creative Technology, a maker of portable music players, has accused Apple Computer of violating a newly granted software patent covering the way users navigate music selections.” From the NYT article: “Creative Technology, which is based in Singapore and has United States operations in Milpitas, Calif., said it would consider every option available to defend the patent, including possible legal action. Apple declined to comment on the patent. The patent, which the company calls the Zen Patent, covers Creative’s interface for portable players, which allows users to select a song, album or track by navigating a succession of menus. The patent office awarded the patent on Aug. 9.”

I’m sitting here shaking my head and trying to figure out what poor soul at the USPTO sits in a seculed booth all by himself, with no interaction with world, and authorized these patents. I went to the USPTO website and looked up the requirements for granting a patent and Creative’s patent is crap. It should have never been granted.

In particular, I would like to draw your attention to 35 U.S.C. 102 Conditions for patentability; novelty and loss of right to patent. The first part of this states

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless –

(a) the invention was known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent, or

(emphesis added)

US Patent #6,928,433

From Slashdot via Outz