Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Enclosure of the Information Commons

The current revolution in digital affairs is often analogized to the enclosure movement in pre-industrial Britain. As economic historians have explained, the strong private-property rights created by enclosure “helped to avoid the tragedies are both over use and under Investment. As a result of the enclosure movement, fewer Englishmen starved...”

Boyle subscribes to this analogy, stating “...we are in and the midst of a new kind of enclosure movement, this one aimed at exploiting and you and intangible kind of commons – call it a “commons of the mind.“ Yet, he explains a fundamental difference between real estate and so-called intellectual property: “unlike an earthly commons, the commons of the mind is generally what economists call “nonrival.”

Despite the haste in which the legal technique of absolute private-property rights is assumed to be the best way in which to order intellectual creations, it seems to be a fair question to ask what the unforeseen, unintended and most compelling uses for other technology-governance techniques may be. A failure to seriously investigate this possibility is not just a tragedy of the commons but of the marketplace and of society as whole.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Are DRM's a red herring?

first, let's start with some statements we know are true:

1) No DRM will properly protect content from being hacked by users who have access to the media itself

2) Once freed from its DRM protections, content will be spread rapidly through the Internet by means of peer-to-peer systems.

3) DRM will eliminate most fair use and fair dealing rights under the Copyright Acts of various countries, because the people making DRM want it that way, and because no computer program can apply the flexible fair dealing and fair use test to any given set of facts like a judge can.

My question is this: why are we so worried about how DRM will destroy fair use and fair dealing if users will be able to easily crack the protecting code?

Of course, the answer is that while many consumer-level uses will still be available by illegally cracking DRM, many above-board uses will not be able to publicly make use of fair dealing rights by illegally cracking DRM ( if cracking DRM was actually illegal).

Monday, March 22, 2004

For the ergonomically inclined

This seems to be a really interesting one-handed keyboard ideal for all those situations where you need a small keypad but full typing functionality (such as on a PDA). Supposedly, 85 percent of the keystrokes required to type in English are done without pressing any of the modifier keys, allowing typing speeds of up to 40 words per minute with less than 10 hours of practice time. Of course, it costs about $200 U.S., but hey, they're going to have a Wireless Bluetooth model soon!
LINK: http://www.frogpad.com/

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Infringement on steroids

as if the movie studios and recording execs weren't paranoid enough, these incredible guys have created an online archive of the front and back cover art of almost every compact disc album and DVD release ever, freely downloadable as a jpeg. of course, the linear shelf space of any decent DVD movie collection is enormous if actually stored in those over-sized black plastic boxes... but if you're going to do it the 1980's way, might as well have it look good, eh? LINK: http://cdcovers.cc/

addendum: these guys are registered in the keeling islands, also known as the cocos islands, which are located about 900 kilometers west and a little bit south of Christmas island in the Indian Ocean. For those who care, Christmas island is about 500 km due south of Singapore, and appears to be an Australian protectorate of some kind. LINK: http://www.cocos-tourism.cc/images/location/lloc.gif

Bruce Sterling probably had this kind of thing in mind when he wrote his novel Islands in the Net, way back when.

Digital Rights Conference in Toronto

Access Copyright, The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, is holding a Digital Rights Conference on March 25, 2004. This day of seminars, workshops and panel discussions will follow the Information Highways Conference & Showcase. Canadian and international experts will discuss buying and selling e-content, negotiating licenses, digital theft, digital identifiers and standards, impacts of changing technology, and peer-to-peer file sharing.

When: March 25, 2004 -- 8:30 am to 5 pm
Where: Holiday Inn, 370 King Street West (at Peter Street). Toronto, Ontario
How to register: Registration is $295 plus gst and includes full day and buffet lunch.

LINK: http://www.accesscopyright.ca/

Saturday, March 20, 2004

EFC intervenes in CRIA suit

"EFC has petitioned the court to intervene in the Canadian Recording Industry Association's suit attempt to get ISP's to reveal the names of net users they say are violating copyright law. See this article in the Toronto Star. EFC's petition was granted and is being heard in court on March 12, 2004. Here is our court submission." LINK: http://www.efc.ca/


Professor Edward Felten says:

"If true, this conclusion has profound implications for how we think about software security. It implies that once a version of a software product is shipped, there is nothing anybody can do to improve its security. Sure, we can (and should) apply software patches, but patching is just a treadmill and not a road to better security. No matter how many bugs we fix, the bad guys will find it just as easy to uncover new ones."

to me, this indicates that DRM/TPM systems, as security systems, will inevitably be flawed and therefore insecure. Insecure DRM will not be able to prevent content from being copied, and in the world-wide network will be disseminated rapidly between peers. in other words, we cannot rely on mere technical protection measures to maintain copyright law in whatever form. Of course, DRM basically destroys most fair-dealing uses and encloses the public domain, so the fact that it doesn't work very well is both a message to the content industry to not even try to use such systems, and also a reassurance to consumers, users and citizens that try as they may, shortsighted content distribution companies can't swim against the current of public opinion without drowning.


Friday, March 19, 2004


http://macosrumors.com/ expects these beauties to be unleashed some time this summer. Well, nothing like today's machine becoming yesterday's machine sooner rather than later... a G5 would make compressing MPEG- 2 video onto a single blank DVD all that much faster! :-)


Jason Young, LLM student at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Canada, provides insight into the legal analysis of copyright and other intellectual property issues in Canada. Link: http://lexinformatica.org/


Visited the Merril science-fiction collection (http://www.tpl.toronto.on.ca/merril/home.htm/ ) last night for a book launch and reading by Cory Doctorow, a home-boy from Toronto doing good and doing well as a copyright reform advocate with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (http://www.eff.org/) and science fiction author. ( Personal Web site at http://craphound.com/).

Some deep thoughts and a few good laughs from the Toronto alpha-nerd audience: much talk about dynamically ordered impermanent social groups called ad-hocracies. Doctorow agreed with critics in the audience that ad-hocracies (e.g. wikis, alternative schools) provide powerful benefits but are not without and their flaws and do leave some members of the group behind. Of course, so do autocracies, democracies, theocracies and any other form of social organization.

What I like most about ad-hocracies is that their tribal loyalty is flexible and temporary rather than absolute. Nationalism is a permanent self-identification, while an ad-hocracy provides for individual choice based on the conditions set by the individual, at least a greater extent than ethnicity or national identity. For example, inside a technical standards-setting body decision-makers can change sides on a topic very easily, and in fact, as technocrats and scientists, are expected to do so depending on the evidence and arguments put before them for adopting one standard over another.

Nationalism, in contrast, is a more or less permanent state: people are American, are Japanese or are Canadian, and very rarely examine other nationalities objectively to see if they should change their identity and way of being. In fact, if they did so, they are accused of not being patriotic or " going native."

I like ad-hocracies... at the very least, the powers that be should not be allowed to crush them in the name of Commerce or the war on terror. collaborative, non-absolute forms of social organization are obviously highly creative and flexible, the kind of structure that allows rapid and extensive innovation. Copyright law would do well to maintain fair dealing rights and the public domain to provide the framework and fertilizer for the growth of these powerful innovation communities.


Copyright infringement is not theft... at least not in the way we normally think of theft in the physical world. If I take another person's apple ( or physical CD), they can no longer use that apple (or CD) because I now have it. If I infringe someone's copyright, they are not deprived of their song or text or image, but instead are (possibly) deprived of their opportunity to receive remuneration on account of my gaining a copy of their song or text or image. If in the physical world I could walk into a grocery store and simply by touching an apple make another apple materialize out of nothing, would that be an act that our society should prohibit by criminal sanction?

Even today, our occasionally backwards-thinking legislators do not consider infringing a copyright to be theft, and have therefore prudently refrained from criminalizing the act of mere copying. While I to not think there should be civil remedies either, they make vastly more sense than importing unprincipled (and, if I dare say it, ignorant) notions of criminal justice into a legal regime that is best thought of in terms of industrial and cultural policy.


"Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) was established in fall of 2003
at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section. CIPPIC seeks to ensure balance in policy and law-making processes on issues that arise as a result of new technologies." LINK: http://www.cippic.ca/

this is my first post.

Damien Fox, EST
Toronto, Canada

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