Archive for the 'Government' Category

Craigslist “prank” gone too far; legal tsunami to ensue.

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

On the Internet, everybody knows you are male…
… or how a picture of naked female bits makes men do dumb things.

(There is a bit of debate going on in the comments. If anything, this event will go down as one of the most widely argued events in the history of the tubes.)

Update: BoingBoing has picked up on this story with excerpts from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Violet Blue. Violet Blue has posted an excellent article on the subject (NSFW as it contains the photo of the naughty bits used to lure the respondents into temporary stupidity). Violet Blue, as always, provokes thought:

But isn’t what Jason did essentially the same as what the cops do? (Except the result is arrest, not just being outed.) How, exactly, is what Jason did any different than the duplicitous fake-ad and chatroom impersonation tactics police and government use to bust people for porn, sex work and online sexual solicitation? Or even something as benign as selling sex toys online?

Its a fuzzy, fuzzy world… everyone sees black & white, but everyone’s contrast/brightness are different.

So, some dude recently posted a fake w4m (woman looking for a man or men) ad on No big deal. Happens all the time. Hell, my World of Warcraft mule was a mostly naked female orc. It was hilarious — I received all kinds of free stuff from other players trying to chat with me.

I would have posted some statistics (I believe either CNet or Wired has an article), but my obvious Google search left me fully expected a call from the Feds. Without safe search, that is one damned disturbing set of search results.

With safe search on, that same search reveals about a bazillion articles or mentions of men posing as women for fun and profit.

So why bother mentioning this?

Read the rest of this entry »

French Law Redux Redux

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Update & Corrected: The New York Times is reporting that parts of the French DRM Law have been struck down. Sadly, the Times labels it “the iPod law”. The real impact of the law is much greater than just impacting the iPod.

In particular, the constitutional council has ruled it unconstitutional to force a company to disclose intellectual property, including DRM specification(s) without that company receiving compensation. As well, the reduced fine structure for “file sharing violations” has also been eliminated.

In other words, the law is no longer relevant to any discussions of making content cross-device compatible.

Why? Because it would be impossible to come up with a “just compensation” figure that all parties would agree to. Such compensation would have to be based upon projected revenues, but — of course — the act of “opening the DRM” [really: communicating the DRM spec through supposedly confidential channels via the central controlling agency] would change the revenue in some unknowable fashion, thus rendering the negotiation process unbelievably complicated.

At this point, the law is nothing but negative for the french software industry and french media consumers. They lose. Completely.

BoingBoing finally dug up the goods on the new french law.

Sure enough, it is devastating to both fair use and open source developers.

Unfortunately, I was correct.

  • There is no DRM interoperability requirement. Developers — open source or incorporated entities — must seek prior authorization from a central agency.
  • However, the regulatory agency can demand that a company provide interoperability information to competitors in secrecy.
  • Gone is the structure of fines that effectively made violations into very expensive parking tickets. Instead, violaters will be faced with protracted legal cases that could yield up to 500,000 euro fines and/or up to 5 years of imprisonment.
  • The french equivalent to “fair use” (“Right to Copy”, if I remember correctly) is effectively eliminated.
  • Research or development into P2P or collaborative software technologies is now illegal, regardless of intent. Depending on interpretation, this could span to streaming media and/or standard protocols such as HTTP/FTP (I can’t imagine it going that far).

These were not last minute changes. The media companies got exactly what they wanted.

Why anyone was surprised by this is beyond me. Throughout this last draft, the law was, after all, called the Vivendi Universal Law.

While the final version is even harsher than prior drafts, this particular set of clauses has been present in some form or another ever since the last major rewrite earlier this year. I’m betting this is no longer the “good step” that Cory once claimed.

I know that many companies have programming teams in France. I wonder if this will impact said teams? Certainly, it has some chilling implications for some very popular software (VLC being one of the most visible).

Anyone care to comment as to how this might play out in the french courts? Also, how will the EU respond?

Clogging the Tubes

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

You know… in some senses… Ted Stevens is actually right in that the Internet is clogged with complete crap data that no legitimate business should have to pay to send, receive or carry. (No, I am not — not for a moment — indicating that I think Stevens has a clue or a valid position)

I have owned the domain name since 1993. It has been used for many purpose over the past 16 years. I have even trademarked as “devoted to bringing families and communities closer together through the use of network based communication technologies”. Which is — I have run many mailing lists, boards and other community gathering services out of the domain.

Of course, I have gotten the random offers for the domain over the years. And the sob stories. One woman called me claiming she had a bazillion dollar business idea but was a single mom and, therefore, I should donate the domain to her so she could make lots of dough and put her kids through school. For some reason, she never got back to me when I mentioned that (at the time) putting companies online was my day job and I would be happy to sign an NDA and help her out….

For the past four years, hasn’t had an MX record. That is, was not a domain through which any email could possibly be delivered. It was an email black hole.

That changed yesterday as I was trying to figure out how to log in somewhere that I had registered 8 years ago and figured would be the only obvious choice given that didn’t work.

But, wait, Bill! You are putting your email address out in the open! Yeah, so what… the rat bastard spammers already have it. Google reveals all…

In any case, I pointed’s MX record to the red-bean server (thanks! brilliant bunch of folks!) with an alias on the server pointed to my gmail account (which, surprisingly, doesn’t show up in google yet).

Boy Howdy is spam a disease on the Internet. Wow. Akismet is deleting upwards of 200 spam/day on my weblog while .mac,, and gmail delete thousands fo spam/day to my various accounts.

But it gets worse. It isn’t just the random broadcast scams and ads that are clogging the tubes, per se…

I set things up so I see all email that dumps into

Not only is the spam just stupid high volume, but it appears that a bunch of people have managed to register for any of a number of random services with email addresses. All kinds of invites, receipts and other random stuff is showing up and I have only been casually perusing for 24 hours.

The worst, though, is a particular MySpace account. It seems that a particular user managed to sign up for a myspace account with a bogus email address. Worse, the publicly available profile and the constant barrage of messages indicate that this user of MySpace is exactly the kind of user that is causing discussion of laws regulating said sites.

I have notified MySpace via the email address that is included with the emails. We shall see if they actually do anything.

The French “iTunes” Law Redux

Friday, June 30th, 2006

So, it appears that the French have passed a watered down version of what the press has been calling the “iTunes law” into actual, real, gotta be enforced law. I’m not going to repeat the light banter that appears in every other article.

I will say this: Anyone who thinks that the law is about eliminating DRM is seriously clue impaired. The law attempts to create a utopia for the record labels where their content can be DRM’d anyway they please (in terms of consumer rights limitations) while some central agency ensures that said DRM is compatible with all players and devices.

No, what I want to know is this:

What has happened to the language that would make it illegal to develop certain common types of open source software such as media players and any kind of data transfer protocols? As well, what has happened to the french citizen’s “private copy” right which was effectively going to be lost with the last draft prior to the “minor watering down” of the final law?

These were all issues I discussed in some detail in a previous post.

Update: Comments related to iTMS, Apple, and the French Law will be deleted unless they add some useful piece of information that has not be covered to death in the 8 million articles on the subject. It isn’t interesting and there is a much larger issue here — exactly what is this law going to do to the french open source community and french software development industry?

Community Garden

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006
Roger Looking for Bugs in Garden

Our garden plot in the community garden is doing quite well. The pepper plants are taking hold, we have lots of nasturtiums and california poppies, the beans have started to climb, and the tomato plants look like they are about to explode.

I took a bunch of shots of flowers in the community garden.

The entire series is available on Flickr.

Roger loves to spend time in the garden. He destroys snails, slugs, and bad bugs while capturing lady bug larva and other good bugs from “no man’s land” and moving them to our plot. In the picture at left, he is looking for bugs on our neighbor’s ditch lilies.

Poppy Head

Unfortunately, this will be the last season that the community garden in my neighborhood exists. Through a series of very shady events, the school system has closed down a couple of schools and decided to move 500 students into an already overflowing school next to the garden. They are going to reclaim the space for temporary buildings.

We are considering legal action because of how the whole thing has been executed. So far, I haven’t talked to anyone that thinks that the school’s move is good for the students or faculty and, worse, there is significant evidence that there are certain members of the school board that have acted in a highly questionable fashion.

As it stands, the students will lose as they are packed even more tightly into the facilities. The teachers and staff lose as they are shuffled into positions with less resources. The community loses both the community garden and by increasing traffic and noise.

So far, I have yet to talk to anyone who thinks the school’s move is either a good idea or an effective way to cut costs.

Are the majority of journalists liars or just plain stupid?

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

US idol more popular than the president

US pop show victor attracts more votes than any president

The pop idol with more votes than any president

These were the headlines I saw on various stories around the world. Seeing these immediately sparked a question in my mind.

Are these journalists as smart as your average rock or are they just sensationalist lying assholes attempting to preserve their jobs?

The whole point behind the American Idol vote-a-thon is that you dial the phone number of your favorite as many times as your fingers can handle.

While there is certainly evidence to the contrary in the last US presidential election, generally the idea of a democratic election is one person, one vote.

What the hell? Does anyone reading these articles actually believe this tripe? Believe that the numbers of participants in the two types of voting can be usefully compared?

This is a television show that has inspired an entire market of auto-dialers for voting for your favorite contestant.

I’m left with only two conclusions:

The reporters writing these stories are irresponsible, lying, authors of fiction that care nothing about journalistic integrity and everything about drawing eyeballs and/or the average reader is so bloody stupid as to be buying into this crap, thus maintaining the market for such garbage.

Either conclusion leads to a anger with clouds of doom.

Stop. Please. Just stop.

Told ya so…

Friday, April 28th, 2006

I’m not one to often say “I told you so”, but…

I told ya so.

It took a relatively minor revision to the proposed law for BoingBoing/Cory to finally figure out how terribly nasty for the consumer the french law truly is.

The funny part is that the revisions aren’t really much different from the version that Cory sorta-kinda supported a couple of months ago.

This should come as no surprise to anyone. It was, after all, jokingly referred to as the “Universal-Vivendi” law…

As much as I like this whole “weblogs are the new press” thing that is going on, I really wish the reporters/writers would do just a smidgen of research before flying off the handle (this is directed less at Cory/BB and more at CNet, Wired News, and several other “news” organizations that published “factual stories” that even the most basic of research would reveal as totally wrong).

Update: Cory called me on this. Thank you.

BoingBoing has had various articles and followups that illuminate the stupidity quite nicely (see his comment for links — note that most of them were written in response to a prior proposal by France).

This is the article I was responding to in my original post and, specifically, what I wrote above was intended to poke fun at this statement:

The French Parliament is considering a law that would force music-lockware companies like Apple and Microsoft to license their anti-copying software to other companies, so that customers who bought crippled music could play it on other vendors’ players.

This is a good step, but for me, it leaves the big question hanging: will Apple and Microsoft have to license their players to free and open source software authors? The problem is that anti-copying software always comes with a licensing condition that requires implementors to design their players so that users can’t modify them. It’s like requiring everyone who licenses your internal combustion engine design to weld the hood shut.

What wasn’t so fun were the plethora of articles like this one that barely touched on the real issues and this rather fanciful editorial claiming that France was going to save civilization through said law. Only the Linux community (relatively new article that is similar to the ones from the same time the original story was posted) really seemed to have picked up on the true details of the law because it so effectively threatens the viability of open source software development.

That such seemingly reputable news agency and editorialists would praise a very small part of the overall law without indication as to the destruction of personal rights that it carries with it is irresponsible and does a disservice to the reader. Or, more importantly, a disservice to the reader’s readers.

Technology news is like a game of telephone where the players are ordered by ability to parrot what they hear. By the time you get to Fox News or CNN, there seems to be no attempt to verify facts or to understand the claims made in the context of the whole.

As this whole “are bloggers journalists?” debate rages on, I think those who want to be treated as a weblogging journalist should consider long and hard how their statements are interpreted by the masses that are not steeped in the same knowledge that they possess.

France, DRM, P2P, and the iPod

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

This is just a bunch of thoughts I have collected so far. I tried to research this relatively well, but I will be the first to admit that I’m very likely misinformed. If you have corrections, please email me details along with links to source material and I will edit as I can.

By now, everyone has read all about France’s partially passed proposed law to effectively make closed DRM illegal.

But it seems that few people have looked beyond the surface.

So far, all of the press has been about how this potential law is a serious challenge to Apple’s iPod and iTunes Music Store. Apple has even responded.

As with anything DRM related, BoingBoing has an article on this and will be collecting more information as this unfolds. Cory’s reaction is that this is “a good step”.

Good step? I’m not so sure. I have attempted to look a little deeper and see just how good it is. First, a brief bit of recent history.

In December of 2005, the French parliament accepted an amendment that would have made legal the free downloading of copyrighted materials from the Internet for private use. This would fall under the “private copy” concept in France which is very much akin to the eroding “fair use” concept in the United States.

Of course, the entertainment and software industry went completely ballistic in response to those proposed amendment. While the amendment survived the lower courts, it eventually died before becoming law.

In January, France’s parliament took a very different approach to the wording of the amendment after a bit of encouragement from the BSA, Vivendi Universal, and other media giants or corporate representatives. The end result was some of the strongest worded anti-piracy legislation proposed.

Click through to read on….

Read the rest of this entry »

Cory jerks his knee again.

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

Cory Doctorow knee jerks at iTunes today:

(of course, every iTunes user whose iTunes tracks have been downgraded by an iTunes patch knows this already — Apple won’t give you back your $0.99 even when they decide to take away some of the value you paid for when you put your money down).

Throughout the history of iTunes, you can burn all music purchased from the store to a standard audio CD. If you burn, say, Green Day’s American Idiot to a standard CD using iTunes, you end up with a copy of American Idiot that is very close to identical to what you could purchase in a store.

Furthermore, Apple didn’t actually take anything away. The # of times you could burn anyone playlist was reduced from 10 to 7, but that is a limitation on the playlist, not the song. Change the playlist, burn another 7 times. At the same time, Apple upped the # of computers that the songs could be shared between.

To summarize: Once you burn tracks purchased from iTMS to a CD, no one — not Apple, not the RIAA, not the thought police — can take away your ability to play the burned CD on any standard CD player.

The same holds true for any of the other stores that allow burning to a regular CD (I haven’t checked which do. Some do, some don’t. Some have whack-ass DRM that only allows burning of some songs, not others).

Sure, Apple could choose the path of darkness and completely bone the consumer, thus destroying Apple’s hold on the market. So could just about every other company in the world that sells goods and services. Sony could only allow games to be played a dozen times. Movie theaters could play movies out of focus so they couldn’t be pirated. Software companies could require subscriptions for their standalone wares.

But they don’t. Why? Because companies are in business to make money and being evil does not make money. Monopolies, of course, change the rules.

This is very different than the current uproar over TiVo. Cory
an otherwise excellent summary of how wrong the DRM is, in that case. Of course, this isn’t entirely TiVo’s fault. Oh, crap, I already responded to another Cory Post about this way back in January of 2004:

So, TiVo walks a fine line and has been doing so very well. Witness ReplayTV (who? Gone.). They threw the 30 second skip and content distribution in the face of the broadcasters and the end result was the complete lack of strategic partnerships and the eventual death [twice] of the platform.

Unfortunately, Cory’s ongoing knee-jerk response to DRM, the RIAA, etc.. does more to hurt the cause than help it. Unfortunately, the EFF isn’t going to be receiving a donation from me anytime soon.

Bush & .XXX: no progress can be made

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

About two weeks ago, the press reported howthe Bush administration objected to the formal creation of the .XXX domain. As the name implies, the .xxx domain is intended to be the primary root level domain for pornography related businesses and content.

Of course, the WhiteHouse’s objections were largely to support the various completely clueless conservative groups that requested said blockage.

For example, the Family Research Council demonstrated their complete and utter cluelessness through these statements:
Read the rest of this entry »