Explaining SOPA

A lot of people are concerned about SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. There are plenty of pages that say that it will destroy the Internet, but very few that explain clearly exactly why. It has also become clear that the politicians writing the law have no idea how the Internet actually works. So here is my attempt to explain it all. Let me start by explaining DNS, using a situation that doesn’t involve computers, that hopefully anyone can understand.

Learning from the Google+ suspensions

With all the anger over the Google+ mass suspensions, I’ve seen quite a few people post that they’re going elsewhere. Rainyday Superstar has suggested that she might go use Tumblr more. Other people are talking about Diaspora, DreamWidth, even (gag!) staying with Facebook. I think those people are all failing to see the big picture. Google’s behavior towards its users is a surprise only because we’ve come to expect better from Google.

Stopping by a Web Site on a Sunny Afternoon

(poem for Eric Whitacre) Whose words they are I think I know. His poem’s copyrighted though, With words you’re not allowed to hear About the dark woods in the snow. The man would maybe think it queer; His family dead for many a year, No heirs in need of royalties, Yet companies still profiteer. Ignoring other artists’ pleas The publisher alone decrees: None can set Frost’s words to music, None can share words such as these.

The gangster chic of remix culture

Giles Bowkett ponders remix culture, and writes: There’s an interesting and somewhat alarming correlation between culture based on recycling other culture and organized crime. I don’t think there’s any particular mystery about why this is the case. It’s down to the unfortunate fact that corporations have decided to try and make artistic collage and appropriation into a form of illegal art. If you make music via extensive sampling, sooner or later you’re going to get sued, or at least seriously threatened with a lawsuit.

Letter to the FTC 539814-00408

This is a copy of my comments to the Federal Trade Commission, who are asking for comments on DRM technologies for a Town Hall Meeting in March. As you are doubtless aware, the Copyright Act of 1976 codifies the First-Sale Doctrine. This states that a purchaser of a copyright work has the legal right to sell or give away the copy, once it has been obtained–so long as no additional copies have been made.

Random acts of kindness #1

A few weeks ago I read on bOING bOING about a music industry royalties collection agency responsible for webcasting and satellite radio. After much reluctance they had finally put up a list of artists they owed money to, but said they had found it impossible to track down. I decided to take a look at the list. Sure enough, there were a bunch of artists I’m a fan of. Of those, there were several I knew it would be trivial to track down on the web.

Copyright madness

I just discovered something interesting. Under US law, buildings constructed after 1990 are copyrighted. That means our house is subject to copyright, and as legal owner I can demand licensing fees from anyone who wants to take pictures of the street that happen to include our house. The more corporate interests force ever-stronger copyright laws on us, the more I find myself questioning copyright. For example, the RIAA lawsuits against MP3 downloaders have made me wonder: why should artists continue to get money every time someone plays a recording of their music?

BitTorrent Search Engine Dead Pool

Bram Cohen’s official BitTorrent search engine is now open. To celebrate this event, I suggest we have a contest to guess (a) the date of the first cease-and-desist lawsuit from the RIAA or MPAA, and (b) the date when the site gets shut down due to crippling legal costs. I’m predicting June 1st and October 1st, respectively.

Thats Mr Smartass, thanks

I was told I couldn’t post a photo to an internal discussion forum, because the photo was copyrighted and we weren’t allowed to distribute copies. So I wrote a quick embedded Java applet which downloads that one photo from the original web site every time someone opens the document, and displays it inline. I put the applet in my posting instead, end of problem. Once again, stupid legal restrictions waste resources…

Act surprised

Tuesday: Orrin Hatch is quoted as suggesting that technology should be developed to remotely destroy the computers of copyright violators. Thursday: Orrin Hatch is revealed to be using unlicensed software for his web site.