On Plagiarism

If these are examples of plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism.

Interesting essay on the inherent and “illegitimate” way that all culture is “free culture.”

(Via rms)

Business Models for Music in 2008

Wired has an excellent article about the future of the music business that is summed up in one simple image:

Music business models

Full transcript of The System of Ownership of Ideas, By Eben Moglen

Here’s an initial transcription of the “The system of ownership of ideas”, a 28 minute talk at ITC-ILO in Turin, December 17 2004, by Eben Moglen.

The revolution is rising, you know. That’s why I’m today inside the wire. Its become impossible not to hear the noise of the intellectual property system destroying itself. You can hear the sound of the gears beginning to break and the machinery falling apart; you can hear it inside the largest information technology firms on earth; you can hear it inside the governments beginning to get nervous about the possibility that people will begin to understand. You can hear it even in the international civil service agencies which try as hard as possible not to hear anything.

So, all revolutions being with a question. Usually the question is “why?”

Sometimes the question is “who?”

The question here is Bertolds Brecht’s question, “Who built the pyramids of Thebes?”

Or maybe he stole that question from someone else.

If i have seen any further into that question, i saw it by standing on the shoulders of giants.

But I stole that from Isaac newton, who stole that from Luis Steothis, who stole that from Bernard Shouters. Which we know because the American sociologist of science, Robert Merton, taught us that, who stole it from an anonymous author of a note in a British journal, in 1934, who stole it who-knows-where.

This of course is the beginning of the revolution. That is, the application of the word “theft” to what previously had been known as “learning.”

So we are now learning something in this room, and in these agencies, and in our various places around the world: We are learning that there is a connection between the fundamental human rights and the re-appropriation of what belongs to us, that was taken from us, by people who turned knowledge into commodities.

An inevitable, temporary regrettable step in the process of getting back to freedom.

Lord Macaulay, writing about the English glorious revolution of 1688, from his position in the middle of the 19th century, found himself with a question: Here were all the great politicians of Whig England, having successfully dislodged a bitterly and evilly disposed despot, aware of enourmous numbers of legal reforms that needed to be made, busy reshaping the English constitution in the winter of 1688/89. And he shows how one after another of the great reforms of the 18th century were proposed, and he said to himself, “How strange, nobody said lets repeal the censorship of the press.” Which anybody now knows Lord Macaulay said was the single most important reform because the freedom of public discussion is the guarantor of all other rights. From the perspective of 1850, 1688 seemed rather backward in this recognition.

In the middle 1960s, the then dominant American scholar of copyright, Mel Nimmer, wrote an article asking a revolutionary question: “Why is copyright consistent with the first amendment guarantee of freedom of speech?” and he wrestled with it for a little while, and came to some comparatively unsatisfying answers, which satisfied him, mostly.

And then the field of copyright law went to sleep on the answers for another twenty years. By the time they found themselves hearing the question again, it was asked rather loudly by a few of us, and the answers that seemed barely satisfactory in 1967 seemed entirely useless altogether.

Now, mind you, the United States Supreme Court hadn’t quite figured that out yet. Thanks to a very skilled and daring investigator, my colleague Larry Lessig, we were able to demonstrate that the Supreme Court didn’t understand that problem at all, and we are unfortunately living with the consequences of their continuing - but I assure you, temporary - ignorance.

The question, “What is the fundamental consistency, if any, between the freedom of speech and copyright law in the United States?” now has as its grand international rhyme here today.

What is the fundamental consistency between the right of human beings to self determination and liberty with the system of ownership of ideas?

That’s a revolutionary question and it has a simple answer, as revolutionary questions do: There is no consistency between the guarantee of fundamental human rights and a system of ownership of ideas.

So those of us who know the answer to the question are beginning to implement the necessary step. We are making it impossible to continue with the system of the ownership of ideas. We will be finished with that work within our lifetimes, and the system of ownership of ideas will have been relegated to that very important, but almost forgotten location, the dust heap of history.

How do we go about this work?

Well, we make things and we give them away. “Here, we made this, would you like it? Take some. Its free. Free as in freedom,” we say, because we wish to point out that the act of creation is the act of creating freedom. The act of un-creating freedom, through ownership, is the act of un-creation.

It was said a few minutes ago, fully reflective of the appropriately received wisdom that is now dying the death that it deserves, that the law of Intellectual Property was about the rights of producers. It was not.

The law of Intellectual Property was the law of rights of distributors, who oppressed producers by the alienation of the production from those who made and used it. We reverse that process and eliminate the law of Intellectual Property by eliminating distributors.

We eliminate distributors, because the technology of human society at the beginning of the twenty first century makes distribution childs play.

And therefore, we ask children to be the distributors. And they succeed very well.

Not, of course, just children. Also teachers, students, scientists, musicians, poets, right? We succeed very well at distributing our own.

The distributors are upset.

“What?! We have been running the world for 125 years on the basis of Thomas Edison’s inventions for making the distributors more important than the producer. Quiet please, we are running the world. Leave us alone.”

“No,” we say, “We made this. Would you like some? Take it. Its free.”

“No,” they say, “There must be something wrong here. Surely you are infringing our patents on, what, the novel, and on obvious process of alienating the creator’s work in order to create incentives for profitable distribution, our invention.”

“Well,” we say, “That has expired.”

“No,” they say, “Haven’t you read the new statute that says it never expires? We extend its term, bit by bit by bit. Every time you get a little close to the expiration of the lifetime of the distributor as chief, we extend the lifetime of the distributor as chief.”

“Haven’t you heard,” we say, “The era of presidents for life is over. We are holding elections, here. Here, we made this, its called democracy. Would you like some? Take it, its free.”

So that’s what we’re about, you understand.

Let’s be serious about this. This is serious business.

We have a world to take back.

In order to take it back, we need four things: Free software, free hardware, free culture, and free spectrum.

And we are getting them, all. Bit, by bit, by bit.

Free software is the beginning of this story, because the system of distribution in the twenty first century economy - the system of distribution that makes the revolution happen - is a revolution in digital transportation.

We live in world now that consists of pipes and switches.

Pipes that move things from place to place, frictionlessly, at the speed of light.

And switches that determine who gets which things, when, how, with what control, and at what price.

Switches are general purpose digital computers, and the rules that they use to determine who gets what, when, where, how, and at what price, are computer programs.

Those who control computer programs, control who gets everything.

We say, computer programs, then, must be made by everybody, for everybody, in the interests of everybody.

That’s governments by the people, of the people, by the people.

That’s the free software movement.

“Here, we made this, would you like some? Take it. Its free.”

What that does it to turn the network into a distribution system that behaves according to populist principles.

At the moment that we do this work, the network, as a system for the control of everybody, collapses. That was not a statement in the future tense. That was not a statement in the present tense. That’s a statement of existing fact generated in the past.

We have done that work.

Everywhere in the world where there are two copper wires connected to a telephone network, you can get, for nothing, not just the function of free switching, but all the knowledge neccessary to do anything that computers can be made to do, and you can get it at no cost in a form that you can understand.

We did that.



Free hardware is the process of taking that free software and ensuring that the network within which it exists remains under the control of the people who own and use the hardware itself.

This seems very simple.

But it is not very simple because hardware is now the ground of contestation of the counterrevolution. The distributors of everything, those people who are sorry to hear that their expiration date on their legal regime has arrived, have a proposal. A proposal predicted by my colleague Larry Lessig, in the book “Code”.

A prediction that we now see in the layer of silicon, because the layer of software - where Larry thought where it would be - we finished destroying their control of, before they understood what the problems were that they had to face.

And so now we find ourselves in which Mister Eisner-Berlosconi-AT&T-Jones - you know, him, the owner of everything, that one - Mr Berlisconi-Gates-Eisner-Jones-Murdoch thinks that what he needs to do is to have all the physical hardware under his control.

So that it will obey not the wishes of the people who own it and install it in their homes and schools and offices and business, but that it will obey only the instructions of the bitstreams that pass through it.

You understand, the leading technical manager of the world, in the view of Mr Berlosconi-Eisner-Murdoch-Gates, should be the movie, moving through your VCR, your DVD player, your television screen.

The screen should refuse to let you look at it unless you have permission. If you attempt to take a picture of what is on the screen, the screen should attempt to turn itself off. If you attempt to use an ordinary hard drive to store forbidden bits, the hard drive should refuse to work.

You understand that they make and learn only from their own proprietary culture. They are like the man that Will Rogers made fun of when he said that he only knew what he read in the newspapers and he only read what he wrote himself. So they wrote this script for the future according to Mr Eisner-Murdoch-Berlosconi-Gates. The script was called “Poltergeist.” Your house takes over and you can’t live there any more because your house is not safe for human beings, it is only safe for intellectual property.

Left to their own devices, they would soon be back in charge of everything.

But they are not going to be left to their own devices. We have their devices, and we’re going to make those devices work the way that we want them to make.

That’s free hardware.

“But you were meant to be talking about fundemental human rights?”

Well, I am talking about fundamental human rights, you see, because otherwise we live in a world like a Skinner Box and you press a button and get either a banana pellet or a shock, depending on if you are pushing the right button or the wrong button, as seen by the guy who built the box.

Twenty first century digital society is a very binary place, as befits its digital nature. Freedom is either zero or one. And they think aszero, and we think one.

And so we play a certain game through the net. They lock things up. We make things free. They lock them up. We make them free. And we go on about this business, bit by bit by bit, and sooner or alter, the game is over.

I won’t say a word a bout free culture because I know its in safe hands.

But I will say something about bandwidth and about the spectrum, because this is the fundamental next terrain of the struggle for human rights.

We made free software. We can distribute over a network, only using stuff we made ourselves according to rules that ensure freedom.

We can protect the freedom of hardware.

We can use all of that to make ignorance and aesthetic deprivation preventable diseases.

But we can only do so if human beings’ equal right to communicate is not merely a promise against government intervention in the 18th century English speaking style - “Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of the press.”

In the 21st century, we must make the equal right to communication an engineered fact.

Not a promise merely against government interference.

The engineered fact of the equal right to communicate was fortunately produced when the universe was created, and the photon came into existence.

The electromagnetic spectrum is difficult to misappropriate. It is difficult to make photons behave unequally, depending on who issued them. Work has been done for this purpose, since 1927, around the world, and it was done in the following way: “Yes,” every government said, “We concede that the electromagnetic spectrum is the common property of all human kind, and therefore we will manage it for you.”

Some of them therefore meant, “We will exclusively determine who talks to whom, where when and how,” and some of them meant, “We will decide among our friends who will exclusively determine, using licenses, who may talk to whom, where, when and how.”

At the end of the 20th century, a local example of this problem, Silvio Burlusconi, discovered that you could recombine the two forms of previous discussion into one, known as “media takes state, state becomes media, fwertz italia!” Very good: It is always helpful when the fellow on the other side does your work for you.

Is there anyone on earth who no longer understands the danger of the position of privately owned media any more? Not within reach of that crew’s singer and his megaphone, I assure you.

So now we know what the future contestation about freedom is over: Capturing the photons, making them free again.

This is not hard to do. In fact, we have technically the work we need to do. We have the hardware, and the software. Here, however, we do not have the legal infrastructure, yet, because the lawyers are still busy pursuing the belief that the producers should be captive to the distributors in order to encourage more production.

This, in truth, is the real interface between the law of international work and the law of international information.

The belief that you get more by enslaving - or merely salarying - the producer, and appropriating what is left over by way of social value as a thing called profit, has a long, dirty, disgraceful history. Who built the pyramids of Thebes? Who mined the silver of San Luis et Porta Sui?

But we don’t have to worry just at the moment about the stones, the silver, the bananas and the dirt. Let us worry for the moment just about the bits, the things of use and beauty that everyone may have without excluding everyone else.

The electromagnetic spectrum is the domain in which we assure the practical ability to say, not just to those locally around us, not just those who look like us or speak like us, but those all over the world: “Here, we made this. Would you like some? Take it. Its free.”

The Intellectual Property system is dying the death that it deserves.

I made a little organisation in the United States, about 18 months ago. Its called the Public Patent Foundation.

It isn’t waiting for a convention that the the public order should be respected in the patent law. It is making the public order respected in the patent law, by a simple, easy, but infrequently employed process, known as destroying patents.

Two weeks ago, the United States patent and trademark office agreed with us that we had succeeded in demonstrating a ‘prima facia’ case for the invalidity of the patent on the single most profitable pharmaceutical on earth: Lipitor.

From which, Pfizer gains, at present, 10 billion - with a b - dollars a year.

Its patent on Lipitor, which is invalid, for simple reasons you can explain to a child, has 17 years to run.

I mean to take 170 billion dollars away from Pfizer. So far, the US-PTO agrees with me.

I have spent on that activity $3,000 total. At the end I will have spent approximately $6,000 total, and Pfizer, whose stock has dropped 3.4%, will have lost 170 billion dollars - which sick people will have gained back.

You cannot argue, I believe, that this revolution is incapable of attaining efficiency. “Ah, capitalism is efficient! Revolution? Never!”

We shall do the arithmetic at the end of the day and see who pays the cheque.

Where are we in the relationship between fundamental human rights and intellectual property?

Intellectual property has all the chips.

We have all the good cards.

We are about to sit down and play out the last game.

You know how it goes:

“Here, we made this. Would you like some? Its free.”

So its a long struggle, you know. The struggle to maintain freedom of thought has been going on a long time. And its been pretty, pretty brutal, from time to time.

No. The producers didn’t benefit. Most musicians in the world drive taxicabs, sweep floors. Most poets wait on tables.

Because, when you have an oligopoly of distribution, they reduce output to raise price.

The great welfare loss of the twentieth century was the creators deprived of the opportunity to create, by the oligopolistic need to reduce output to raise price.

Is there anyone who disagrees with me that the twenty first century will see no such thing as the unpublished poet?

Every poet has a way to reach the web. The twentieth century saw damn near no such thing as the published poet, because publishers didn’t make any money from poetry, and poets swept floors. That was the triumph of the intellectual property system’s support for incentives for producers. A joke, if ever there was a sad sorry joke in the history of the world.

A joke.

But we’re not laughing any more.

We know what we mean to do, and we are doing it.

We are very fortunate generations, standing here on the shoulders of giants. People have been fighting for freedom of thought in the Western world for a thousand years, and we’re very grateful to them, because they kept it alive in very dirty times.

We’re doing it again. And the difference is, this time, we win.

A Great Example of the Danger Of Web Apps You Don’t Host Yourself

Slashdot reports the Google Reader privacy fiasco, including a post about how the publishing of previously-private information meant that Google has ruined Christmas for one family:

This is going to sound like hyperbole, but this new feature has actually RUINED CHRISTMAS for my family! I sent a share a few days ago that I thought would only go to a few politically-like-minded friends. I didn’t realize that because I had chatted with him in GChat, it would also go to my brother, who is of a different political persuasion. When he received it, he sent a snide, angry email about it to a large group of our family members. I sent him an email (I’ll admit, not the nicest one I’ve ever sent) asking him not to talk about me behind my back and recommending that he stop reading my feed if the posts were going to make him so angry. He called me a nasty name and told me that if I can’t take a little ribbing, maybe we shouldn’t talk anymore at all, including at Christmas Eve dinner. My whole family has taken sides over this divisive political issue, and several of them are not speaking. I kid you not, this is threatening to break up my family at Christmas. Google, you can set up whatever features you want and make whatever rules you want to. But you have to give us fair warning so that we can make decisions about how to use your products. You can’t change the rules without telling anyone. People have integrated your products into their everyday lives, so the changes you make have real effects on our lives, including our relationships with the people we contact. You have to keep that in mind when you make these sorts of major decisions Please, please give me the option to choose who to share with and who not to share with. And tell us in advance before you make changes of this magnitude so that people can alter their behavior before the changes occur.

Seems like Eben Moglen’s speech on privacy at the MySQL conference is worth a listen again :-)

FontMatrix in Fedora Repositories!

From the FontMatrix mailing list:

From: Parag N(पराग़) 

Hi all,
   Fontmatrix is now available for fedora users.
   For Fedora 8 users, install fontmatrix using command "yum install
--enablerepo=updates fontmatrix"
   For rawhide/Fedora 9 users, install fontmatrix using command "yum
install fontmatrix"


GNU Emacs with Xft Goodness in Fedora

Here are the simple steps needed to get GNU Emacs with nice fonts in Fedora:

cd ~; mkdir CVS; cd !$
cvs -z3 -d:pserver:anonymous@cvs.savannah.gnu.org:/sources/emacs co -r emacs-unicode-2 emacs
cd emacs
./configure --with-gtk --enable-font-backend --with-xft; setarch i386 -R make bootstrap
echo "Emacs.font: DejaVu Sans Mono-8" >> ~/.Xdefaults

Dear lazyweb, I’d like an RPM like g33k provides for Debianish GNU+Linux someday.

(Via EmacsWiki and Raking Leaves)

The System of Ownership of Ideas

A 30 minute talk at by Eben Moglen in Turin, December 17, 2004:

eeePC with 2Gb Ram and Ubuntu for £300

EfficientPC are selling the eeePC with the 2Gb memory upgrade and Ubuntu preinstalled for £300 or so. Sadly the wireless is Atheros and requires very proprietary Windows drivers with a compatibilty layer, but proprietary wireless drivers are proprietary wireless drivers be they firmware like the Intel wireless in my laptop or that Atheros crapola.

A tidy tiny machine.

MSN Viruses in 2007!

My, my. There are still viruses in 2007.

I know this because my 16 year old sister, whose computer runs Windows (Yes, yes: I did install gNewSense for her over the summer, with the only gripe being the lack of Flash, since all the other software she needs is either well catered for by free software or proprietary webapps) just got a virus, propagating through MSN Messenger.

“She” sent me a message (I run the Pidgin IM client) saying “OMG YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS PICTURE!!!! :D” and I asked her, “Er, what picture?” and she said “Oh no! My friend sent me a virus!”

As in, a zip file “picts 9984” with an 80k file inside it named “img0794-www.photoshare.com” - and the COM file extension is executable, from the MS-DOS days.


How to encode a Theora file to a specific file size

I have a 2 hour DVD disc that I would like to backup as an Ogg Theora file, that fits on a CD. Here’s how:

First I quickly copy the DVD’s mpeg2 video to my harddisk, using mplayer’s “mencoder” tool:

mencoder dvd://1 -oac copy -ovc copy -o ~/movie.avi

This produces a 3.4Gb (3,622,278,868 byte) file, movie.avi

I then use mmpeg2theora (latest stable release from the project’s website) with optimisations, some sharpening, and keyframes every 500 frames, and a quality of 2/10 in order to fit on a CD:

ffmpeg2theora --optimize -S 1 -K 500 -v 2 movie.avi

This produces a 606Mb (0,634,570,079 byte) file, which easily fits on a CD. The quality isn’t great on my awesome 24” widescreen, but its certainly watchable.

The default quality of 5/10 - -v 5 - produces a 1.2Gb (1,283,240,720 bytes) file that is great quality though.

Sadly, I don’t like this file that much though ;-)

While researching this, I popped into the #theora channel on freenode. Gotta love IRC:

10:45 < abattis> lo, how can i encode a theora file to a specific file size?
10:46 < abattis> like i have a 3gb mpeg2 file and I want to compress it to a 
                 650Mb theora?
11:49 < maikmerten> abattis, did you yet receive an answer on your 650MB
11:49 < maikmerten> (I had to leave)
11:57 < nessy> no he didn't :)
12:06 < maikmerten> well, basically you have to divide the amount of available
                    (kilo)bits with the length of the film in seconds
12:06 < maikmerten> then one would get the average bitrate allowed
12:06 < maikmerten> then substract the bitrate of the audio track
12:07 < maikmerten> then multiply it with like 0.95 to have some headroom
12:07 < maikmerten> and then tell the theora encoder to use this bitrate for
12:07 < maikmerten> notes:
12:07 < maikmerten> a) the bitrate management is horrible and will slash qualiy
12:07 < maikmerten> b) even with bitrate management there's no guarantee the
                    size will be hit
12:08 < maikmerten> c) what one would really want is a multipass encoder which
                    would analyze the film and adjust parameters so the second
                    run actually produces a file of given size
12:09 < maikmerten> I'm not aware of a Theora encoder doing c)
12:12 < maikmerten> http://www.videohelp.com/calc.htm < -- useful tool
12:13 < maikmerten> or that one:
12:38 < kfish> hmm, we had a soc project application to do a two-pass encoder,
               and it was rejected
12:39 < kfish> i think it would have been useful ...
13:03 < maikmerten> I wonder if xiphmont's bitrate management changes would
                    make doing a multipass encoder more easy
13:04 < maikmerten> I'm not sure if the current "management" is giving any
                    useful output for a second pass ;)
13:04 < maikmerten> (or would allow using prior-generated metrics)
13:14 < kfish> hmm, it sounds like it's a non-trivial problem
15:00 < abattis> maikmerten: awesome
15:01 < abattis> hmm ok
15:02 < abattis> so xvid 2 pass encoding is technically able to do this, but it 
                 makes nasty mpeg4
15:02 < maikmerten> yup
15:02 < abattis> may i post you comments on my blog?
15:02 < maikmerten> nasty, puppy-consuming mpeg
15:02 < maikmerten> sure, you're welcome
15:03 < abattis> s/puppy-consuming/patent-encumbered/ :)
15:03 < maikmerten> feel free to also use nonofficial xiph.org 
15:03 < maikmerten> http://people.xiph.org/~maikmerten/mpeg-is-evil.svg
15:04 < maikmerten> http://people.xiph.org/~maikmerten/xiphadvantage.svg
15:04 < maikmerten> ;-)
15:05 < maikmerten> by the way, if you want to get an impression how bad the 
                    Theora bitrate management is: 
15:06 < maikmerten> also nicely shows how the Theora-format can deliver better 
                    quality than seen nowadays if the encoder is made to not do 
                    stupid things all the time
15:14 < abattis> ill see what ffmpeg2theora -v 2 comes out like
15:14 < maikmerten> right, just trying out some quality values eventually also 
                    may come close to the average bitrate needed
15:15 < abattis> as it was at default -v5 and made a 1.2G ogm from 3.4G mpeg2
15:15 < abattis> so i hope it will duck 0.7G with -v2

I cuss the Google Summer of Code people who rejecting funding this important feature :-)

Dear lazyweb, please make a simple GTK or QT program that does this calculation.

Now the BBC iPlayer has a version without DRM, what next? v2

The BBC has started to drop DRM, hopefully recognizing the social problems involved, and I hope it continues to drop it.

So now the question is, what next?

I think that persuading the BBC to support Xiph formats like Ogg Theora and Ogg Vorbis is the next step the BBC ought to take in embracing the free and open culture of the web.

I’m happy to see BBC Backstage leading the way with this, having recently agreed after public discussion on the Backstage list to publish its podcasts in Ogg Vorbis as well as MP3 from now on. (It started doing this, and then stopped.)

Many people recognise that the BBC’s leadership over data exchange technologies has a profound worldwide effect on innovation. For example, the BBC’s use of RSS on its news site encouraged widespread adoption of RSS across the internet - but this trend goes back to the BBC Acorn computer.

I suspect that supporting Xiph formats is relatively easy for the BBC technically, because of all the money it spent on the backend of the iPlayer. (Many people have criticised the BBC for spending so much on the iPlayer when it is so crappy, but reading the press releases and news stories carefully, you can see that most of the effort has gone on behind the scenes to make this initial front end possible, and other front ends (ie, other file formats) are now a lot more straightforward to develop)

So this seems like the next thing to suggest that the BBC do, while continuing to suggest dropping DRM totally, because it is realistically doable in the short term.

Suggesting permitting worldwide redistribution rights, and as a separate issue, remixing rights, of BBC branded works is as Ian Forrester said on his personal blog, “a complex issue [that] requires more thought and time [than] the DRM debate.”

The “GeoIP” access control restricts many parts of the BBC website to people in the UK. Such access control is very unlike DRM, which mandates proprietary software and is supported by laws that prohibit the distribution of free software. For works which the BBC has already negotiated only rights for UK distribution, that access control is somewhat legitimate, although sad.

But what about new works?

(By that I mean works made in 2008 and later, for which the BBC is the only rightsholder.)

The BBC Backstage podcasts are already available without GeoIP and permit worldwide redistribution, proving Backstage as an innovator within the BBC - which is the whole idea of Backstage, afterall. However, as interesting as the Backstage podcasts are to me, something else that is more ‘sexy’ would be a lot better.

The obvious first step would involve the BBC Audio & Music Interactive’s current “restrictive” podcast license terms: “YOU MAY NOT COPY, REPRODUCE, REPUBLISH, POST, BROADCAST, TRANSMIT, MAKE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC, SELL OR OTHERWISE RE-USE OR COMMERCIALISE THE BBC PODCAST IN ANY WAY”

There could be a sister “bonus” license that read something like “YOU MAY COPY, REPRODUCE, REPUBLISH, POST, BROADCAST, TRANSMIT, MAKE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC, VERBATIM COPIES OF THE BBC PODCAST BUT MAY NOT SELL OR OTHERWISE RE-USE OR COMMERCIALISE THE BBC PODCAST IN ANY WAY.” With the sophisticated metadata control that’s commonplace today, and a dash of branding, distinguishing between “personal” and “sharing” podcasts would be straight forward.

Of course, that “restricted” license is actually pretty free when compared to the awful license in the iPlayer: “No storing the work yourself, or storing it only for a few days.” is the basic idea. But video is the most ‘sexy’ kind of media, and new wholly-BBC-rightsheld video would be next, once audio is redistributable. BBC News footage, perhaps? Shows like Jonathan Ross or Newsnight that interview celebrities and politicians?

After that, non-commercial UK remixing would be the next smallest step.

But I don’t think that would get much traction, so if it was piloted it might never “go live” because of “lack of interest.” Backstage has toured Universities before, including my undergraduate college while I was there, to promote the aspects of the BBC it has “freed” for non-commercial reuse to date. But there was no surge of interest.

I think that’s because many people intuitively understand (and because its intuited, they don’t articulate this understanding much) that non-commercial restrictions are overly restrictive and will cause problems for them down the line. Perhaps non-commercial worldwide remixing would create more interest, but at the end of the day, money talks and bullshit walks.

So permitting commercial UK remixing would kick things off. Yet, to “go live” really means to engage in proper free culture, for example being able to add BBC works to Wikipedia, and that means permitting commercial reuse, worldwide.

That sure is a very hard problem to solve. I think it is best solved by continuing to take small, steady steps towards it, some of which are easy technical wins that I suggest concentrating on.

At the end of the day, nothing is impossible.

Nothing is impossible isengraved on the steps of the Saatchi advertising agency in London.

(This is all personal opinion and doesn’t reflect the views of any employers past or present)

Why is DRM a social problem?

Ian Forrester recently wrote on his blog that describing DRM as a “social problem” is “an interesting choice of words”, so I thought I’d explain that in depth.

People often think DRM is technical problem, because DRM vendors simply lie about how their technology is “unbreakable” and they accept the idea that it will be impossible to write new software that can read the media. But the DRM in DVDs was broken by a 15 year old!

Instead, the problems with DRM are social.

One social problem with DRM happens after it becomes widespread: It means artists earn less money. Consider a Canadian study which found that public filesharing and filesharing between friends increases music CD sales. (Also reported here, via Richard Stallman’s blog)

Another social problem with DRM that happens before it becomes widespread is that decision makers don’t value the public’s freedom and think that restricting them is legitimate. If they realised digital restrictions mangagement was an unacceptable way to treat people, we wouldn’t be lumbered with it in the first place.

But even if some decision makers think it is okay, and artists make less money, that wouldn’t create the disaster we have at the moment:

The disastrous social problem of DRM is that it create monopolies on software ideas.

Technical solutions to DRM only goes so far because of the social problem: Laws that forbid the free software from being redistributed, in effect banning it.

Each DRM system is a monopoly, and as such contradicts anti-competition law. Apple has faced a legal battle about this in France, for example. The DRM laws exist because they were lobbied for by large businesses, and are known as the DMCA in the USA and EUCD in the EU.

There are other laws that create monopolies on software ideas, that ban certain kinds of software from being free, as in freedom, by forbidding that software from being distributed: Patent laws.

Software idea patents are like trip wires: each idea in a program or website carries a risk of tripping on a patent, and tripping can be fatal.

They too are unjust laws that serve only very large businesses, and not small ones or the public. In the USA they were created by a court decision. In the EU, despite heavy lobbying from the US government, they do not yet exist. While they exist in the USA they effect everyone indirectly though.

They too can be worked around technically, by figuring out new ways to do a job that do not involve an idea known to be restricted by patents. When the monopolised idea is very specific, this sometimes works well.

But patents on ideas essential to something large, such as popular file formats like H264 and MP3, mean that new ways of doing the same job are ineffective. They involve creating new and incompatible file formats, like Xiph’s Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora. It is inevitable that new file formats will initially be unpopular, but that inertia can be overcome, especially through technical superiority.

But new file formats developed to evade software idea patents must overcome extra resistance from the patent holders - a social problem, not a technical one. The patent holders seek to subvert the adoption of the new formats, and this happened this month in the HTML5 drafting process, when the Xiph formats that were set for inclusion in the standard were dropped.

Technical workarounds also don’t exist for “submarine patents.” These are patents held quietly while people come up with the patented ideas independently. The patent holders continue to wait as people come to depend on the ideas. Then the traps are set, and when free software projects fall into them, they simply just stop; they cannot undertake the massive effort to rewrite their programs using other ideas.

These social problems are the biggest obstacle for the free software movement today. They can never be completely solved by technical workarounds - because as workarounds, they treat symptoms instead of causes.

For software idea patents, it seems like there might be a way to solve their cause for good. Software idea patents were introduced by courts, not by lawmakers, and its possible to have a court decision overturned by a higher court. Please visit the “End Software Patents” initiative for details.

But for DRM, there is no permanent solution in sight. Until a way to challenge DRM laws is found, the cause of DRM is the attitudes of decision-makers in the organizations that make DRM technologies.

Many people understand the harm caused by the monopolization of software ideas through patent law. I hope more people will understand the harm caused by the monopolization of software ideas inherent in DRM as well.

The only man in the world who gets angry from looking at penguins?

Funniest comment on Richard Stallman’s blog:

Four species of penguins that breed in Antartica are endangered by global warming. Even I, the only man in the world who can get angry from looking at a picture of a penguin, find this bad news.

(At risk of killing the joke for those who got it: A penguin is the mascot of the Linux kernel project, and that project takes credit for Richard’s life’s work, the GNU project. There is a FAQ about this.)

Review of the HP Photosmart C4205 on GNU+Linux

The HP Photosmart C4205 worked totally and immediately on Fedora 8 and Gobuntu 7.10.

By immediately, I mean with no installation action - it literally “just worked.”

By totally, I mean this for all 3 features of the printer: printing scanning and memory card reading.

The only things that suck are to do with the hardware design, which no one is free to change:

Now the BBC iPlayer has a version without DRM, what next?

(This is wholly my own personal opinion and doesn’t reflect the views of any employers)

Back in February in the BBC Backstage DRM podcast, BBC mangers said that 3rd party rights holders wouldn’t accept iPlayer without DRM.

Yet in December we have a streaming iPlayer, without DRM.

I wonder what changed.

I guess the Defective By Design and associated campaigns paid off and made the BBC and the rights holders think twice about what they were doing.

Sadly I don’t think that the rights holders or the BBC has been convinced that DRM does more harm than good, is unacceptable, and ought to be eliminated. I think they’ve just seen a lot of negative press about DRM, and want to avoid negative press. A streaming DRM-less alternative stops the majority of the criticism, but only partially solves the problem.

I won’t be surprised if the Adobe Flash DRM features are turned on in the future, because the BBC has not yet issued a policy stating that it rejects DRM technologies and refuses to foist them on people.

However, assuming that DRM is going out and will stay out of the iPlayer, what are the next issues the BBC faces in engaging with the free culture movement?

Redistribution, and reuse.

Redistribution is a hard problem for the BBC to tackle. It would mean that, if I download an iPlayer show, I am permitted to share copies with my friends.

Probably they will also be British license fee payers, since I live in the UK and most of my friends are too. But what about my non-British, non-license fee paying friends?

Currently they can’t access at all many BBC works directly from the BBC - even many BBC web pages. It does this with “GeoIP”: looking up the IP address of each user in a database that lists the geographic location of all registered IP address blocks. For a long time the BBC has discriminated against non-UK-registered IP addresses. serving them different and less HTTP data than is accessible from a UK IP address.

This is merely access control, not DRM. DRM mandates proprietary software and is supported by laws that prohibit the distribution of free software that can access DRM media - a serious social problem.

Before it tackles redistribution, the BBC need to cease discriminating against the rest of the world. Once the BBC is able to distribute directly to people the world over, it makes more sense and is a smaller step to allow others to redistribute BBC works.

Reuse is an even larger problem.

Reuse makes no sense when media is DRM encumbered, so perhaps arguing for reuse and thereby presupposing the end of DRM is a winner. To me it seems like a hopeless longshot to attack DRM indirectly in this way, and it would be better to get DRM eliminated and then move on to reuse.

The BBC is also currently committed to permitting only non-commercial reuse. To actually participate in free culture, such as Wikipedia, the BBC needs to switch from non-commercial restrictions to strong copyleft restrictions. That would shield the BBC works from exploitation by others and ensure that all works produced on behalf of the British public remain accessible and reusable by the British public.

So I’m wary of moving on to these two issues, since they are more complex than DRM, and the DRM problem is only partially solved: DRM needs to be eliminated, not just have DRM-less alternatives provided, which may have DRM added later.

Best GNU+Linux friend Portable Music Player?

The Trek range of portable music players seem like good kit - with built in audio recording which is something my sister was after for ages - although sadly they are not yet supported by the free software Rockbox that supports many Apple players and the Senso.

The best player seems to be a iPod Video 5G bought in mint condition on the second hand market and loaded up with Rockbox, then.

“The BBC brand in effect supports our business”

Thought this was nice:

Rather liking what you are saying about the BBC as a flagship for new technologies. We often cite the BBC website when trying to get clients to understand good ways of doing things digital. It’s been excellent in helping us get our clients to understand RSS. If the BBC is doing it, then it must be good. The BBC brand in effect supports our business. I’d happily pay more for my licence fee.

(This is personal opinion and in no way reflects the positions of any employers past or present)

When is using proprietary software “okay”?

I think people ought to boycott proprietary software companies, because choosing to use proprietary software is not “okay” - it is unethical to agree not to share software with your friends, and an antisocial reduction of your liberty to use software no one can study and change.

But people ought to buy hardware from hardware companies that preinstall GNU/Linux, even if they include some proprietary software.

Why do I think there is a difference?

If proprietary software companies abandoned GNU/Linux, that would be a great success. But if hardware companies abandoned GNU/Linux, that would be a disaster.

Buying hardware that comes preinstalled with GNU/Linux but includes some proprietary drivers is good as long as you remove the proprietary software and tell the hardware company about what you did, and why you can’t recommend the hardware to your friends yet. It shows the hardware company that there is a market for computers that use free software, but that software freedom really does matter to their customers, and they would sell more hardware (through the best form of advertising, honest referrals) if they used only free software.

If I buy an eeePC, that is certainly what I will do.

Also, when acting as an employee of a company that owns computers, using their copies of proprietary software is okay - as long as you are (trying to persuade them to be) moving to free software.


If you do not have “administrative” or “root user” rights and access to the computer, the software installed is not under your control - but you have some degree of influence over what the company chooses to run, and it is important to use that influence as much as you can.

However, if you are asked to develop proprietary software, you ought to refuse, and be willing to resign - earning profits is good, but not when it attacks public freedom and friendship.

Why is it wrong to call GNU/Linux merely “Linux”

Someone on the local GNU/Linux User Group list asked, “If some one queries Kubuntu, I tell them it is a form of Linux or Gutsy Gibbon, depending on their familairity with OS’s. If I tell them that it is a form/type of Linux, am I doing wrong?”

I think so - the wrong-doing is not large, but doing the right thing - telling them that it is a form of GNU+Linux or GNU/Linux - is a small thing that anyone can do, that helps the idea of software freedom spread.

It is wrong because it is giving credit to a secondary contributor to the operating

When people know that Kubuntu is a version of the GNU operating system, combined with other projects’ free software, they will pay more attention to the idea of software freedom that the GNU project promotes.

For example, when they look up why the system exists they will hear “for software freedom” regarding GNU and “just for fun” regarding the Linux kernel.

If you refer to the whole system as the kernel, by saying Kubuntu is a type of Linux, you hide the role of the GNU project in developing the system - working hard, for nearly 25 years, for freedom - and when people eventually hear about the ideas, they reject them as outlandish, unpragmatic, fundementalist, etc

In the last few years, proprietary software has taken more and more power over all our lives, and I think its important to raise awareness of the issue of spyware, DRM, and software freedom.

The iPlayer is DRM spyware, and we need to work towards being able to view BBC programmes using free programs. Part of that includes boycotting the DRM spyware the BBC currently invites us to use.

The Road To Freedom

There is currently a massive discussion on the openbsd-misc list about removing recipes for installing proprietary software from OpenBSD ports system, which seems to be Richard Stallman versus several members of the OpenBSD community. Richard explains his views in a very civil way, given some of the crap thats hurled at him, and its inspiring for me to read the discussion as it goes down.

Here are some choice quotes about the process of moving towards a free system:

I appreciate that you make efforts to replace them with free software. Many others who prefer free software, or say they do, make no efforts to bring their use of non-free programs to an end. They leave the job to others and do not try to shoulder even part of it. I believe that all software should be free — what you call a “very extreme” position — and I have spent 24 years working for this goal. Free operating systems exist today because of the campaign which I started in 1983. I am also very pragmatic in how to campaign for this; otherwise I would never have got this far. My only method for achieving this goal is by convincing people, and it is clear it will take many years to succeed (if we ever do). Many people do not yet want to migrate all the way to free software, and the possibility of migrating partially as a bridge is very helpful to the progress of free software. I recognize this as much as anyone. I also recognize that we cannot keep moving towards a distant goal without keeping it in our minds and upholding it with our actions. Otherwise, it will be forgotten, or turned into a purely theoretic Sunday-school principle which people do not follow in life. To reconcile these two needs, I concluded that I should generally accept compromises and part-way measures that are beneficial in the short term, as long as they don’t undermine the long-term goal. However, we must not advocate part-way measures that imply rejection of the goal. More concretely, this means that I can grant legitimacy to installing free software, even if they don’t go all the way and erase all the non-free software on their machines. But I cannot grant legitimacy to installing a non-free program, because that would be treating the problem as a solution. Thus, I can encourage installing Emacs, GCC or OpenOffice on Windows, but I should not encourage installing non-free programs on GNU/Linux or BSD, just as I should not encourage installing Windows. It sounds like you disagree with these conclusions, and also with the goal that they are based on. I respect your right to your views, but I strive to act according to my views.

OLPC Mission: Changing How Kids Learn

OLPCtalks.com has full transcriptions of the excellent speeches by Ivan Krsti (Open Source Summit, Google Part 1 and Part 2)

Ivan is the head of security for the project, and he explains core idea driving the project: Changing How Kids Learn.

Beautiful :-)

Buying a new Inkjet printer that works with free software

I went to buy a new printer today, because the trusty old HP Photosmart P1000 that we’ve had for about 6 years just ran out of ink, and the paper feeding mechanism is broken so you have to tend to it when printing more than one page or it gets jammed, and the ink is about £40 for a new set.

The nearest shop to my house to buy a printer is now the local Tescos supermarket, which had a range of mainly multifunction printer-scanner-fax boxes. I noted what they had on the shelves, returned home to check openprinting’s excellent free software driver guide:

HP seems to be really supporting free software - all new HP printers are perfectly supported!

Images of the OLPC in schools

This is bit stale in Internet time, but:

First OLPCs in schools

The OLPC is arriving in schools in Uruguay (the very first) and Nepal. The Sugar interface can be emulated and over Christmas I need to get around to testing it out on my laptop. The text rendering of Nepalese is very inspiring:

OLPC emulated, Nepalese text

Can’t wait until my OLPC arrives in January! :-)

Best Interview with Richard Stallman Ever

Here is the best interview with Richard Stallman, ever.

The best bit is between the 38-44th minutes, especially the silence as truth sets in.

ToysRus now selling computers with GNU+Linux preinstalled!

I remember the first time I saw a computer for sale was in ToyRus - it was a 486 all-in-one unit, like a classic Mac, running Microsoft Bob. I think it was around Christmas time in 1994….

But today ToysRus are selling very cheap GNU+Linux computers!

The FSF published an essay about a year ago about why companies selling computers with GNU+Linux pre-installed is important.

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