Constitution 2.0

April 2, 2007

Ed Foster should leave Info World and do political satire full time:


You, the people of the United States of America (herein referred to as “You”), in order to form a more perfect union with your Government (herein referred to as “Government” or “We”), do agree to be bound by the terms of this Constitution. If you do not agree to the terms of this Constitution, do not use any Government services, including but not limited to justice, domestic tranquility, the common defense, the general welfare, the blessings of liberty for you and your posterity, and/or residence in the United States of America.

Article I. You agree that all legislative, executive, judicial, and other powers shall be vested in the Government. The times, places, and manner of selecting Government officials will be determined by the Government. We may at any time make or alter such regulations, rules, or laws and shall have the power to appoint or remove officials as We deem appropriate.

Article II. You agree that your access to services We provide may be terminated immediately without notice on the sole and absolute discretion of the Government if you fail to comply with any term or provision of this Constitution. Upon termination, you must immediately cease to make use of all Government services including but not limited to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You agree that treason, copyright infringement, and other high crimes and misdemeanors shall be punishable by death, bill of attainder for corruption of blood, and other penalties as the Government may direct. []

What’s great about Ed characterization, here, is that it points up exactly how it is that we let this happen. I know a lot of commentators drag out that tired old saw from Franklin about people who sacrifice liberty for temporary security deserving neither, and I don’t entirely disagree. But I think Foster’s closer to the truth, here. It’s not about being scared, or actually believing that the current government’s policies actually foster security. I think even the most vocal elements of the Right have finally admitted that this administration’s policies have systematically made Americans less secure, both at home and abroad. The real problem is that we’ve become so used to signing away our rights without even reading the fine print that it’s ceased to bother us.


It’s official, the political spammers have found me. It was only a matter of time, I suppose.

In the last two days I’ve received comments to two of my previous posts [[1]( [2]( from “readers” identifying themselves as “” and “” (no relation to [Michael](, I presume) telling me that [Jorge Cortell]( has been completely discredited among Spanish bloggers and pointng me to the same [article]( from a Spanish recording industry group with the details.

There are a couple of interesting things about this.

1) jake and geist both seem to share the same cable connection from a Canadian ISP at [](, leading one to believe that they might in fact be the same person, and,

2) [Spanish bloggers]( and [on-line press]( don’t seem to see it [quite that way](

Man, I love the smell of troll in the morning.

My Spanish is a little rusty, but the root of the issue seems to be some inconsistencies in Cortell’s C.V. Specifically, his published C.V. says he went to Kellog College, rather than Kellogg Community College, although it does list the degree recieved as A.Sc., which is a pretty clear indication to any North American reader, at least. It also appears that at least one of his degrees came from a correspondence “diploma mill”.

There’s something dishonest at work here, no doubt. But the lies don’t seem to have been particularly heinous, and Jorge has provided the [original documents]( that show what really happened. I can’t approve of C.V. padding, but the inconsistencies aren’t really as bad as some people are making them out be, and padding is an unfortunately common practice in academics–as no doubt everywhere else.

Even so, if people wanted to call him a lying, cheating, disgrase on the whole profession, I wouldn’t complain nearly as loudly as I’m about to. This particular smear campaing really ticks me off, and here’s why:

None of the articles attacking Jorge have claimed that the incident never happened. None. They’ve claimed that he isn’t exactly who he said he was, and most importantly that he wasn’t a professor.

Pardon me while I pause for my rage to subside.



Fist of all, he never claimed to be a professor, he claimed to be an instructor, and he seems to have the pay stubs to prove it. He was reported in the press as a “professor,” and corrected commentors from the beginning.

Second, who the [“French” expunged] cares? As an occasional teaching fellow/adjunct/what have you myself, I bristle as the suggestion that all members of the university community, from presidents right on down to incoming Freshmen aren’t entitled to have their academic freedoms protected. And that range includes adjuncts and lecturers, thank you very much. The idea that someone’s academic rank should have any bearing on whether that person is allowed to speak about a topic is absurd. I don’t care if it turns out he was the [explative deleted] janitor, the administration shouldn’t have cancelled a lecture because someone didn’t like it. Academic freedom is just that: freedom. And we’re not talking about breaking into the chem lab in the middle of the night to teach people how to make crystal meth, here. We’re talking about a giving a publically announced lecture on a common technology at the invitation of the student union.

I’m not defending Jorge’s actions, here, or defending him as a person. But nothing he did or didn’t do affects the validity of the accusations acainst the recording industry, or mitigates the shameful behavior of the UPV administration. The fact is that the university succumbed to pressure from the industry, and it was willing to sacrifice its integrity to keep its friends. That fact remains inexcusable, whatever the circumstances.

[[link]( to my original post on the subject.]

In a previous post, I suggested that people who don’t like DRM (or a particular DRM model) stop buying music with a DRM implementation they don’t like. I’d just like to reiterate that point. Whining alone isn’t going to win this battle. Even court battles aren’t going to help much if it’s fait accompli, and the music companies know it.

> BMG Music Entertainment announced that it has been testing a digital rights management (DRM) system called “sterile burning” and has already released 10 CD titles — about 1 million discs — with the copy protection. It did not say which ones they were.
>”Sterile burning” limits the number of copies a consumer can make from a purchased CD and prevents copies being made from copies.

> Although some worry that these measures will limit “fair use” or the ability of consumers to use purchased material legally, analysts disagree.
> “The fact is, except for a handful of crooks who really want to make a profit from pirated CD sales, the majority of consumers are innocent and the rights control prescribed by the DRM adequately satisfies their needs,” Harry Wang, research analyst, Parks Associates Latest News about Parks Associates, told TechNewsWorld. “If the control on CDs is reasonable and considerate of consumers’ usage patterns, with other incentives, such as bonus features or reduced pricing, I don’t believe consumers will continue to balk at it in the long run.” (empasis mine) [[link](

At the same time, the [Parks Associates]( survey reiterates what most of us have said for a long time: copying doesn’t hurt sales.

> Wang said he believes piracy and consumer copying are two separate issues. “Parks consumer data consistently show that among music listeners, about half have at least some portion of their CDs from a ripped source. The other half never ripped CDs. And heavy rippers at the same time are also heavy purchasers of CDs,” he said.

So there really is no good reason for DRM after all, other than to make execs sleep better at night because they’re combatting real piracy, while conveniently ignoring the truth that the real pirates aren’t going to pay too much attention to DRM. But, as long as no one makes too much noise, there’s no reason for the industry not to make a couple extra bucks by charging everyone extra for extra copies of works:

> While consumers are not thrilled with the idea of DRM, Parks Associates surveys show that they are adjusting to it.
> “If given a choice between a copy-protected CD and a normal CD with the same content, same features and same price, you would probably act like me and select the normal CD. People always want more freedom,” Wang said. “So the issue really is about the business models employed to induce consumers to get used to the copy-protected CDs. Online digital music from the start employed DRM to protect willful copying and redistribution of music. I didn’t see a significant amount of complaints from consumers about being unable to copy thousands of times.”

So let me reiterate this: DRM is a product and a marketing strategy. and as long as people are willing to buy it, record companies are going to continue to sell it. It doesn’t matter if it’s “right”. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense. It only matters that people are willing to put thier money on the counter (or the server, as the case may be).

A purchase from Napster or Music Unlimeted (or, unfortuntely iTMS, although I still hold out hope there) is a vote for DRM. A purchase of a DRM’d CD or DVD is a vote for DRM.

It’s as simple as that, really.

(via [linux insider](

Kudos to the guys at []( not .org?) for a great idea. There don’t seem to be any plans yet, but make your own plans to raise awareness. At least call, fax, or write the appropriate federal, state, and local officials.

> Fair use rights have been under siege for a long time and from every direction. Some times it seems that almost anyone who makes or sells anything wants to eliminate another piece of fair use rights for their own gain. Manufacturers of cars and printers, media corporations, even garage door opener company’s have tried to undermine fair use, often by hiding behind the DMCA.
> We think fair use should have it’s own “Day”, a day to celebrate Fair Use in any lawful way you wish. Exercise your fair use rights or contact a corporation or government of your choosing and let them know you want fair use rights and you want them protected – demand your fair use rights! Use what ever means you have available: phone, email, smoke signals, snail-mail, etc.
> Be creative, join the forums and tell us how you plan to celebrate Fair Use Day! Trees have their own day, as do ground hogs and even income tax. Surely fair use rights are at least as important.
> Fair use isn’t just about what you can play on your ipod. Fair use promotes interoperability and the advancement of learning and expansion of knowledge. It impacts every thing from the computer in your car to accessing material at your public library, to playing a DVD you purchased or rented on your Linux computer. [[link](

Update: []( works, too.

(via [cory](

This [little piece of news]( from p2pnet caught me completely off guard. It seems on Friday [Wired Kids](, an advocacy group supposedly dedicated to protecting kids on line–presumably from things like predatory pedophiles–awarded the MPAA with it’s first ever “Doing It Right” award. No one seems to be exactly sure what they’re doing right, but it seems to be in response to their 2-year long attempt to [buy public education]( (which Junior Achievement seems to have been willing to sell, no strings attached, for $200,000). apparently, the fewer freedoms our children have, the safer they are. And the more propaganda they’re exposed to, the safer they are. Kathleen Sharp, a Boston Globe reporter who sat in on a trial run in California reported:

> The volunteer and the teacher worked from a 25-page classroom guide to explain the concept of using a computer to download files, which they called ”morally and ethically wrong.” The students played roles such as ”The Film Producer,” ”The Starving Artist,” and were asked questions such as ”Has anyone ever copied your homework? How did this make you feel?”
> By the end of one session, the teacher asked one boy: ”Will you stop copying music online and download the right way?”
> ”Yes,” he answered. ”I’ll go to the music store and buy more CDs.”
> Students learn to repeat the program’s motto: ”If you don’t pay for it, you’ve stolen it.” [link]( (via [commons music](

Of course, there’s incentive as well:

> At the end of the school year, students are asked to write an essay ”to get the word out that downloading copyrighted entertainment is illegal and unethical,” according to the teachers’ guide. Prizes include an all-expenses-paid trip to Hollywood, worth about $1,000; a Sony DVD player and library of 14 hit movies on DVDs, worth about $350 total; and a selection of 21 Hollywood classic DVDs, valued at $250. Teachers whose students win the contest will also be rewarded with prizes, such as a year’s worth of free movie theater tickets for the teacher and a guest.

It’s difficult to see what effect this has on childrens’ safety, or why Wired Kids was interested, but considering that the driving force behind Wired Kids is [Parry Aftab]( the woman who has decptively dubbed herself “The Privacy Lawyer”(tm) while dedicating her life to attacking privacy laws on behalf of big business, it’s not too hard to guess why she has a soft spot for the MPAA.

The real problem here is that it’s difficult to see where Junior Achievement went wrong. There’s nothing prima facie amiss about corporate funding of educational programs. Corporations of one sort or another have long sponsored enrichment activities and most of them do a lot of good. The Westinghouse Prizes, for example have served to advance science learning in high schools in concrete ways. And the entire Junior Achievement program is funded through sponsorship. Nor is it uncommon for school programs to encourage kids not to engage in illegal activities; “D.A.R.E.” and “Just Say No” programs are all over, some of them federally mandated.

So what are the objective criteria, here, that can be used to identify brainwashing before it gets into the classroom? Is a one-sided intelletual propery awareness course really so diferent than a one-sided drug awareness course, or a one-sided sex-ed course?

Of course, it is, but I’m having trouble putting my finger on where, at least in a way that’s useful. And that’s scary.

Pete and Repeat went into a bar…

Apparently the MPAA, no longer content with getting Spanish academics fired, has decided to up the ante. They’ve convinced the Justice Department to start filing criminal charges against organizers of BitTorrent networks. In a press relase pulished to the interestingly named file [starwars52505.htm](, (at least they’re honest about what’s really going on) the Department of Homeland Security–who knew ?–announced the “First Criminal Enforcement Against BitTorrent Network Users” yesterday. The sad thing is that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to defend people who put up torrents of “Revenge of the Sith” six hours before it was released so the important points will, as usual, be overlooked, such as the outright silliness of shutting down networks because to get at criminals use them as means of transport.

On second thought, I like it. In fact, I think we should expand the principle. Let’s shut down Intel, IMB, Apple, Sun, and Microsoft because people use computers to download files. Then lets go after Cisco, because the supply the hardware to route the contraband. While we’re doing that, let’s shut down all the airlines because people smuggle drugs on planes, U-Haul, Budget, etc. beacause people smuggle drugs and Aliens in rented trucks, and all the car makers because they facilitate drunk driving and prom night deaths.

Maybe that would force a sane debate on the subject.

Then again, maybe not. (via [BoingBoing](

And in our continuing coverage international copywrongs:

Canadian copyfighter [Michael Geist]( has posted an interesting recap of yesterday’s Federal Court of Appeal decision in Canada, preventing CIRA (Canadian recording industry group) from forcing ISPs to turn over the names of suspected file swappers. While initially haild as a victory for privacy advocates and copyfighters (and yet one more reason to apck up and move north), the decision, it seems, leaves the door wide open for furter suits. The court dismissed the case on the grounds that CIRA’s evidence was faulty and and did not meet evidenciary standards. The court also cited privacy concerns over the way in which confidentail evidence would be used institutionally by the CIRA. This was a procedural ruling dealing with the manner in which the case was prosecuted; the justices did not rule on the “meat” of the case–the intellectual property questions, and whether CIRA had the right to bring suit at all–and seem to have suggested that if CIRA can meet the burden of evidence, they might be able to obtain the names they seek.

I think that brings the score for the week to 1-0-1 (we’ll call the CIRA decision a tie: potential victory for CIRA on intellectual property, at least interim victory for the public on privacy) in favor of the industry.