Open Source ioe12 Part 2

Notes taken from Cory Doctorow’s ‘The coming war of general computation video‘ for ioe12 course.

Something more important – General Purpose Computers

DRM 0.96

  • Physical defects to the discs
  • Or other physical things that the software could check for
    • Dongles
    • Hidden Sectors
    • Large Manuals
    • etc.
  • These failed because
    • commercially unpopular
      • reduce usefulness of software to legitimate buyers
        • couldn’t back up software
        • lost ports to dongles
        • forced to transport large manuals
    • they didn’t stop pirates
      • trivial to by-pass authentication
      • ‘experts’ would reverse engineer & crack the software and this version would become widespread

[Video time 7m25sec]

By 1996 there was a ‘solution’

  • WIPO Copyright Treaty passed by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization
    • Laws to prevent use of cracking programme extraction and storage of any information retrieved
      • No layers required to enforce

but this made unrealistic demands on reality, for example you couldn’t look inside your computer while it was running programmes.

[Video time 9m20sec ish]

Cory says that 2011 is the hardest time it will ever be to copy things.

[Video time 13m20sec]

Special purpose technologies are complex & you can remove features from them without doing fundamental disfiguring violence to their underlying utility.

Generally this works

But null & void for general purpose computer & general purpose network, the PC & the internet.

There is a superficial resemblance to achieving regulatory goals.

  • e.g. remove bit torrent from the internet because it enables copyright infringement
  • all it takes to make legitimate material disappear from the internet is to say that it infringes copyright
    • fails to attain the actual regulatory goal – it doesn’t stop people from violating copyright

But it does satisfy the:
“Something must be done, I am doing something, something has been done.”

Thus any failures that occur can be blamed on the regulations not going far enough. Rather than the idea that it was flawed from the outset.

Now we get specialised computers that run specific programmes to e.g. stream audio, play games, etc. but can’t run other programmes that might undermine company profits.

This is the ‘Computers as Appliances’ approach

An appliance isn’t a stripped down computer, it is a fully functioning computer with ‘spyware’ out of the box to prevent ‘misuse’.

DRM always converges on Malware. Companies & governments can run software as surveillance to prevent activity, e.g. ‘brick’ a product that has been tampered with.

On the network side, attempts to make a network that can’t be used for copyright infringement always converges with the surveillance & control measures used by oppressive/repressive governments. Refer to SOPA.

Cory sees this as a century long conflict, and copyright is just the first part of this.

“Can’t you just make a general purpose computer that runs all the programmes except the ones that scare and anger us?”

“Can’t you just make an internet that transmits any message over any protocol between any two points, unless it upsets us?”

[Video time 22m]

“Copyright isn’t important to pretty much everyone.”
Copyright is trivial.

Freedom in the future will require us to monitor our devices and set meaningful policy on them; to examine and terminate the processes that run on them, to maintain them as honest servants to our will and not as traitors and spies working for criminals, thugs and control freaks.

We have to win the copyright battle to allow us to move forward. There are organisations that help with this, supporting open and free systems.


Open Licensing #ioe12 – Post2

I have created notes from the Larry Lessig video for this section of the course. And I’ve written one reflective piece in response. However, I’ve looked back over the course requirement for Badges and am now wondering whether my meandering approach would meet the criteria, even though my own learning is benefiting. I think I’ll go through the content for each section and write a brief blog post from that, I can then look at things in more detail afterwards.

I’d hear previously of the ‘Remix Card Game’, I think it had been used at a conference and I read about it from there. I hadn’t really tried it out myself until I clicked on the link in the Open Licensing course materials, and I’m impressed with how good it actually is. I’ve created a game (not online but for in class use) in the past to inform people about tagging, so I know how useful this game based approach can be. I’m going to find the Remix Card Game very useful when explaining about Creative Commons License use with mixed media.

From it’s inception, the period of copyright has been for a limited time span. In this way, the creator or author of the works was able to capitalise on her/his interllectual property for a limited time with state protection. Initially, this protected period was quite short. The works would then move into the Public Domain for the public good. In this way, the works can be built upon by others for the furtherment of knowledge. This is, for example, a fundamental concept for the advancement of scientific discovery. Isaac Newton said “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Progressively, this period of copyright has been extended. In the US, Congress has periodically extended the length (outlined in this Larry Lessig interview), it now last for 70 years after the creator’s death. (In the UK a recent ruling has increased the period of copyright on music recordings from 50 to 70 years after date of creation.) In effect, Congress is granting a perpetual copyright, which some have challenged as being unconstitutional, but the courts have said that each of these changes is only for a finite period and that is constitutional. Others have argued that the falling of works into Public Domain following the copyright period amounts to confiscation, and that copyright should be perpetual and infinite, so that the creator can receive revenue. However, Larry Lessig dispels such arguments in his wiki on the subject.

The concept of Public Domain isn’t as straight forward as one might hope, because there is much work whose status isn’t determined. Copyright holders can’t be traced, or it is unclear if the work is actually Public Domain. These are termed ‘Orphan Works’.  And without a lot of effort taking place to resolve it this unsatisfactory situation looks destined to continue. So, rather than perpetual Copyright, we have perpetual Uncertainty.

The uncertainty related to the use of works by others is encapsulated very well in the ‘Bound by Law’ comic book that explains the dilemmas faced by documentary filmmakers, where the potential costs of using the works can be crippling, and prevents a fuller explanation or reflection of cultural values from being created.

So the main crux of the argument hinges on the period of protection that Copyright should offer, and what is Public Good. I have my own opinions on this, and that is why I’ve gone down the Creative Commons Licensing road for my own works. I feel that they offer enough protect for the works, and allow re-use and development to take place in a way that will allow greater and faster development of human knowledge.

The papers by Rufus Pollock make interesting reading, and resonate with my own thinking.

As Pollock explains, once knowledge is created then sharing it is non-rivalrous, it is not diminished if multiple people use it at the same time. For the benefit of society or humankind, once a piece of knowledge exists then the greatest value to be derived from it is to distribute it at cost (which could be zero or very close to it). However, the initial cost of production can be very costly, and this has to be paid for in some way.

Pollock suggests that there are four (non-exclusive) options for creating this ‘first copy’.

1. Up-front funding either by the state or by other entities – such as charities – followed by free (or marginal cost) distribution, e.g. BBC funding model.

2. Donations (spare time) or self-financing with free distribution e.g. Wikipedia, blogs and many open source projects.

3. The grant of monopoly rights in relation to the copying or use of the knowledge in the form of intellectual property such as copyright and patents.

4. Using imperfections of the market to obtain profit from being the creator of knowledge but without using monopoly rights. Such methods include secrecy, first-mover advantages, marketing and the sale of complementary goods that are rivals but for which an advantage is conferred by the production of the original knowledge.

Pollock goes on to put forward an interesting argument (developed from examining peer-to-peer illegal activity) about the added value derived from making works available via Public Domain and compensating artists for loss of revenue in other ways. Several countries are already considering or using levies elsewhere in the chain to achieve this; taxing broadband provision, or blank recording media. Additionally, the majority of ‘historical’ recording under copyright aren’t currently commercially available. This adds further to the Public Domain argument for increased value and greater creative potential from reuse.

In the second of the Pollock papers from the course reading, by developing an equation and using empirical data an estimate of optimal copyright duration is derived and the value comes out to be 15 years. This is much shorter than most countries set copyright to be. The argument therefore follows that policymakers could enhance social benefit by setting copyright to this much reduced value.

ioe12 & the day of the internet blackout

It seems rather poignant to be considering licensing and copyright issues today as parts of the internet take action against two bills being debated by Congress in the US.

The two Acts are Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

There is much media coverage (e.g. BBC) , particularly of the protest by Wikipedia,

Wikipedia anti-censorship splash page

Wikipedia anti-censorship splash page

with Jimmy Wales appearing in numerous news articles, both online and in the ‘standard’ media.

But other sites are joining in the protest, Boing Boing for example.

Boing Boing SOPA & PIPA protest page

Boing Boing SOPA & PIPA protest page

And the Digital Storytelling MOOC, ds106 run by Jim Groom has this:

Digital Storytelling MOOC DS106 Censorship Splash Page

Digital Storytelling MOOC DS106 Censorship Splash Page

DS106 is reliant upon ‘fair use’ of media to enable participants to engage with the media and create their own material to interact fully. Under the Acts, such a course covering digital expression could face closure.

This lead me to this rather informative video outlining the PIPA:

From this video I take it that PIPA allows powers for censoring the internet to go to the entertainment industry. This enables shut down of sites where people download unauthorized media content. Most of these sites reside outside US law. The Bill gives the US Government powers to make internet providers in the US block infringing domain names access; similar to the powers used by China, Iran & Syria, which democratic peoples find so objectionable. It will allow the suing of US-based search engines, directories, even blogs and fora to have infringing links taken down. Additionally, it can cause funds to be cut off to such sites by having advertisers & payment sites cut off their accounts. Blacklisting will mean that foreign sites won’t be displayed in major search engine results.

Concerns arising from the PIPA are that it will reduce the number of successful new start-ups, because they can be accused of not actively filtering strongly enough to prevent copyright infringement: this could particularly impact new search engines and social media start-ups. The early days of YouTube would probably have fallen into this category. Small sites or those in their infancy won’t have enough funds to defend themselves. The Bill will mean that it is easier to take down a site than for courts to decide upon the nuances of copyright law compared to free expression.

In the history of the internet, wherever people have come to express themselves, be creative, share ideas and knowledge, or even develop protest movements there is a tendency for there to be copyright media material uploaded as well. This Bill would seek to prevent that, and could lead to other countries developing legislation along similar lines. This would inevitably mean a very different internet being visible to differing parts of the global population. Potentially powerful localized laws would cause censorship of content, enabling abuse of people and limiting the freedom of:

  • expression
  • choice
  • communication
  • education
  • discussion
  • etc.

It can be argued that there is already adequate (or, in the views of some, already extreme) legal provision in place via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), where for example links to infringing material can be removed. This power has also been said by some to be abused, with:

  • journalists being sued
  • YouTube videos being removed, example
  • suing families and children for infringement
  • and seemingly excessive royalties being demanded for use of content, thus inhibiting creative cultural documenting or expression.

In fact, this final point touches on the essence of ‘Bound by Law?‘ about the use of media in documentary filmmaking.

The powerful rightsowners will be protected by this legislation, but innovation, creativity and cultural expression might well be the biggest sufferers.

I’ll have to see how this story plays out in the coming weeks.

Open Licensing #ioe12 Post1

Until I watched the Larry Lessig TEDxNYED video (outlined in this post) I didn’t really understand the reason for copyright too well. I thought it was primarily about income revenue, which wasn’t the driving motivation for my work.

I’ve gone down the Creative Commons route for licensing my own works, be it this blog, images on Flickr, videos, whatever. My own personal approach is that if someone wants to use my work, please go ahead;

  • re-use, re-mix,
  • make it better,
  • make it more relevant,
    • more understandable.

For me that’s what creation and culture is all about.

But copyright is about this level of control, how others want their own work to be licensed and used. The argument for the combined system is that there is then a place for commercial success as well as for this ‘other’ culture. To enable this to happen there needs to be a respect for the creators of both aspects, with an option of fair use or fair dealing in the Commonwealth.

I have found this MIT World video captured debate, ‘Copyright, Fair Use, and the Cultural Commons’ a useful one to expand my own understanding and others might also find it of interest at this point.

Creative Commons Photos

I keep providing links to examples of media content that can be freely used within your own work, provided it is given appropriate attribution. Here is a link to literally millions upon millions of images that people have licensed under Creative Commons for reuse on Flickr. Thanks to all those people.

Creative Commons Slideshare Presentation

I’m particularly interested in Creative Commons and the work of Larry Lessig. So much so that I’ve written several blog posts and vlogs about the topic, including; Episode 10 Copyright or “copywrong” – Look to Lessig, Google Advanced Image Search – copyright free image search, Bring in the expert. When I came across such an informative Slideshare slidecast presentation by Rodd Lucier I needed to share it here.

Rodd raises some interesting questions for educators to consider relating to how we should “model academic integrity” and “guide the student creator” with the appropriate use of material created by others.

This video from Penn State shows the implications for students in their coursework using appropriate material.