31 October 2005

Dear Sony: Why Are You Acting Like a Criminal?

If you buy Sony CDs with their copy protection / Digital Rights Management, and you play that CD on your Windows PC, there is a good chance that your computer will be hacked - make that cracked - by the black hat folks at Sony. A very technical, for-geeks-only write-up is here, with an almost lay explanation of what happens about two-thirds of the way down the page.
The DRM reference made me recall having purchased a CD recently that can only be played using the media player that ships on the CD itself and that limits you to at most 3 copies. I scrounged through my CD’s and found it, Sony BMG’s Get Right with the Man (the name is ironic under the circumstances) CD by the Van Zant brothers. I hadn’t noticed when I purchased the CD from Amazon.com that it’s protected with DRM software, but if I had looked more closely at the text on the Amazon.com web page I would have known. ... The entire experience was frustrating and irritating. Not only had Sony put software on my system that uses techniques commonly used by malware to mask its presence, the software is poorly written and provides no means for uninstall. Worse, most users that stumble across the cloaked files with a RKR scan will cripple their computer if they attempt the obvious step of deleting the cloaked files.

While I believe in the media industry’s right to use copy protection mechanisms to prevent illegal copying, I don’t think that we’ve found the right balance of fair use and copy protection, yet. This is a clear case of Sony taking DRM too far.
Too far indeed! If the report is true - and the technical details are far too involved to be a fabrication - surreptitiously installing code on a user's machine, with no way of uninstalling it, that consumes resources by merely being there, that is poorly written (and therefore potentially a target of a subsequent compromising attack), and that will cripple the entire machine if an unsuspecting user tries to delete the malicious files is AGAINST THE LAW in both the U.S. and Canada, and probably elsewhere as well.

Last holiday season, my daughter (who happens to be involved in Digital Copyright Canada's petition campaign) received a DRM'ed Sony CD and refused to play it. Now I'm doubly glad she did! To paraphrase the cliché, friends won't let friends buy Sony CDs. Or, put another way, isn't hijacking a machine like this an act of... piracy?

For shame, Sony. For shame.

P.S. The Slashdot commentary - unusually salient on this topic - is here.

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29 October 2005

A Must Read: "Turing's Castle," by George Dyson

George Dyson, described as a historian of the future, recently visited Google on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of John von Neumann's proposal for a digital computer. His reflections, published online in the current edition of Edge, is a brilliant reflection on both Google as "14th-century cathedral — not in the 14th century but in the 12th century, while it was being built. Everyone was busy carving one stone here and another stone there, with some invisible architect getting everything to fit." Moreover, it is an equally brilliant reflection on the relationships among human biologically-based cognition, the computer's algorithmically-founded digital logic that operates on "bits that represent structure (differences in space) and bits that represent sequence (differences in time)," and the emergence of H.G. Wells's vision of a "World Brain":
"The whole human memory can be, and probably in a short time will be, made accessible to every individual," wrote H. G. Wells in his 1938 prophecy World Brain. "This new all-human cerebrum need not be concentrated in any one single place. It can be reproduced exactly and fully, in Peru, China, Iceland, Central Africa, or wherever else seems to afford an insurance against danger and interruption. It can have at once, the concentration of a craniate animal and the diffused vitality of an amoeba." Wells foresaw not only the distributed intelligence of the World Wide Web, but the inevitability that this intelligence would coalesce, and that power, as well as knowledge, would fall under its domain. "In a universal organization and clarification of knowledge and ideas... in the evocation, that is, of what I have here called a World Brain... in that and in that alone, it is maintained, is there any clear hope of a really Competent Receiver for world affairs... We do not want dictators, we do not want oligarchic parties or class rule, we want a widespread world intelligence conscious of itself."
This is a marvellous reflection, and perhaps provides a different perspective to our journey through the third communications break boundary.[Technorati tags: | | | ]

27 October 2005

CRIA Me a River

According to the Globe and Mail,
Canada's recording industry reported its worst financial showing in six years in 2003 with illegal downloading – never exactly music to the sector's ears – the likely culprit for plunging sales and dropping profits, Statistics Canada said Wednesday. In the year, the government agency said, the Canadian sound recording industry reported revenue of $708.7-million. That was down 17.7 per cent from 2000.
Startling news, no? The venerable Statscan - objective, armed with numbers and statistics and quantitative, scientific stuff like that - providing objective verification of what the Canadian Recording Industry Association has been saying for years: illegal downloading by all those pirates are killing their industry. After all, who can argue with objective statistics?

You have to go all the way down to paragraph nine in the article to discover this footnote to the whole thing: "In 2003, recording companies issued 5,619 new releases, down from 6,654 in 2000." Pulling out the old calculator (well, actually, using Google to do the calculation), we find that the number of new releases declined 15.5% over the same period.

Let's see, new releases down by 15.5%, corresponding to a revenue decline of nearly 18%, during a period of time that saw a signficant rise in spending for competing media: "Statscan said the decline in consumer spending may have also reflected increased competition from other media, such as DVDs and cell phones." Doesn't take an MBA to figure this one out.

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26 October 2005

The Failure of the ROKR in a UCaPP World

Wired has a great article that describes the structural failure that leads to the market failure of Motorola’s ROKR music-player-mobile-phone device. By structural, I’m referring to the incongruities and seemingly unresolvable conflicts among the interests of Motorola (supplier of the handset), Apple (supplier of the music licensing via iTunes), music labels (supplier of the licensed music), and the mobile carriers (supplier of the bandwidth).
When Jobs and Ed Zander, CEO of Motorola, announced 15 months ago that the two companies were going to partner on a new phone, people imagined a hybrid of two of the coolest products in existence: Apple's iPod and Moto's RAZR. For months the new gizmo glimmered mirage-like on gadget sites - ever promised, never delivered. When it finally did show up, it bore the unmistakable hump of a committee camel. Not sleek like an iPod, not slim like a RAZR - and when you saw the fine print, you discovered that you can't use it to buy music over the airwaves, that it's painfully slow at loading songs from iTunes on your computer, and that it comes pre-hobbled with a 100-song limit. No matter how much of its 512 megabytes of flash memory you have left, you can't load any more tracks onto the thing. The consensus: disappointing.
Not to mention the small detail that, going through iTunes, the customer bypasses the mobile network carriers’ “tollbooth” – the same carriers that distribute 99.5% of all handsets and mobile devices.

Until now, the “closed vs. open” debate centred on hardware, protocols, software applications, and what many problematically refer to as content. Keeping one’s design or specific implementation or specific content locked away, protected by so-called intellectual property rights, gave a company a competitive advantage, assuming, of course, that the proprietary gizmo, gadget or gewgaw was something that was sufficiently unique and compelling to the company’s would-be customers – for example, the design of the Apple iPod, or the noise of the latest Ashley Simpson karaoke fodder. On the other hand, making these aspects relatively available enables everyone to innovate, remix, extend and generally be creative, often leading to greater market opportunities in the long run – for example, the band that increases its fan base (and hence, concert and merchandising revenues), or creating an environment in which it is less expensive to create support chips for Intel microprocessors than any other. (If I was a shameless self-promoter, I would say that it’s about understanding what business you’re REALLY in.)

(If you are reading on the main page of the blog, click here to read the rest of the argument’s development.)

If we extend our thinking about closed vs. open standards, in the context of the Wired article’s description of What Went So Badly Wrong with the Motorola iTunes-(questionably)-enabled ROKR, we see that the closed vs. open debate describes the minds of those involved in the controversy. The closed minds camp are of the Michael Porter school of marketing thought that (among other things) supports protecting your competitive advantage at all costs, and focusing on your target demographics with laser-like precision. Steve Jobs, for instance, set up the announcements of the iPod nano and the Motorola ROKR to coincide at the same event.
If music phones are the biggest threat Apple has faced since Windows, September's dual product introduction showed two quite different responses to that challenge. The nano is the innovative response - an iPod so small, so powerful, so cool you might not care about a music phone. The ROKR is the cynical response: Here, you can have your music phone, but what you'll get is so uninspiring you'll wonder why you ever wanted one.
The music labels themselves hold true to the fantasy that if you completely restrict people’s ability to obtain music other than through them, the sky’s the limit on price:
Mobile downloads in the UK cost the equivalent of $2.75 per track, nearly twice as much as a computer download on Britain's iTunes store. Both music and wireless execs look at the extraordinary sums mobile subscribers have been paying for ring tones and figure people will happily shell out a similar amount for full tracks: Why shouldn't the whole song be worth as much as a snippet? … "The price associated with iTunes' launch was really about establishing some traction with consumers where there had been complete failure to show that people would pay any price," says Michael Nash, a digital strategy executive at Warner Music. "Where you don't have that artificial price depression, people are willing to pay more to get what they want, when they want."
Or so goes the theory. And the carriers demand their cut as well: “to buy new music, you have to access the iTunes store through your computer, bypassing the carrier's network and billing service.

Contrast this with an open mindset, one that seeks to expand the market by expanding innovation, even (especially) if it is not immediately apparent how a new market meshes with the old business plan. Imagine, for instance, a Nokia mobile device, the “N91, a 3G Symbian handset that will go on sale this winter. As a music phone, the N91 is everything the ROKR is not. It can hold a thousand songs or more. It has a rugged 4-gigabyte hard drive as well as Wi-Fi and a high-speed USB connection. "If you want to do file-sharing, this is also possible," Vanjoki says. "Because this is not a mobile phone, it is a computer." ” Imagine municipal WiMax on top of it, and closed, obsolete business models of the entire dysfunctional consortium from which the iTunes-ROKR is stillborn are completely bypassed.

Our world has changed dominant organizing principles from those based on the Industrial Age to new UCaPP* structures that are in the process of emerging. In a UCaPP business environment, it is the connections and relations that count. The hallmarks of creativity and innovation that some (but relatively few) are only beginning to recognize include collaborative creation that eliminate the interfaces – the stark demarcations – among those thought to be competitors, a feat that is achievable if business leaders and theorists alike expand their “scorecards of goodness” (currently imbalanced in favour of one predominant business measure) that will allow for innovations that Just Make Sense to everyone, except the defunct scorecard.

With our first real experiences with this new environment begin to sink in, it is easily seen how the IA mentality has simply been overlaid on the new environment – not surprising, since the first use of any new medium is to emulate the old medium. As our understanding of the new environment matures, many are beginning to understand that even the ‘net-enabled business environment behaves as a space of simultaneous relationships and connections among disparate companies and individuals: producers who where once consumers, consumers who were once producers, and companies across a wide variety of different industries who suddenly consider themselves bitter competitors within an amorphous market. In this, we can observe that the environment’s effects are characteristically organic, emergent and collaborative, as opposed to mechanistic, deterministic, and competitive. The sooner any given business or industry recognizes, and responds, to this new imperative, the sooner they – and we – will begin to reap the benefits.
*UCaPP is my shorthand for Ubiquitously Connected and Pervasively Proximate
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23 October 2005

Yahoo in China: Supporting Evil, or Forcing a Reversal?

Lauren Gelman at Stanford's Center for Internet and Society posts on the recent controversy about Yahoo revealing the identity of one of its Chinese posters to authorities, resulting in the arrest of the dissident. Activist Liu Xiaobo writes an open letter to Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, reported on in the Financial Times, criticizing him for collaborating with evil:
International companies are ignoring basic human rights in return for business opportunity, while the Communist party is offering profits in return for continued control of the internet and the ability to intimidate dissidents, Mr Liu writes.

“The collusion of these two kinds of ugliness means that there is no way for western investment to promote freedom of speech in China, and that in fact it greatly increases the ability of the Communist party to blockade and control the internet.”

“You are helping the Communist party maintain an evil system of control over freedom of information and speech,” he writes.
Gelman goes on to observe that Yahoo is not selling TVs, grain or even leather purses, but "a tool that can facilitate democracy or stifle it. Even if you accept the claim that engagement in China fosters human rights, selling the government a service that allows them to track people’s communications is different from selling them leather handbags."

Which is true, as far as it goes. Commenters are quick to argue the anti-capitalist angle, namely that corporations are not interested in fostering democracy (a word that is increasingly becoming problematic in our world) or freedom, but rather exist solely to make a profit. Others blame the Chinese people themselves for not rising up against the totalitarian regime. I, on the other hand, am observing an interesting potential for reversal.

It is true that, for now, the so-called price of doing business in China is to cooperate with authorities, and that means doing "evil" taken in a Western context. By doing so, online services - and online connections with the rest of the world - are created. Such an acceleration in connecting cultures and ideas will force a reversal in the society that will enable first privileged, and then "ordinary" Chinese citizens to question, and ultimately change their systems of governance. I would be very surprised if they adopt a Western style of democracy - the lack of which may well stick in the craw of American policy-makers. Nonetheless, without the intense acceleration brought about by UCaPP (ubiquitously connected and pervasively proximate) conditions, change will be impossible without violence and bloodshed.
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14 October 2005

Terrorist TV, and Its Corporate Sponsors

The following article recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal, and was sent to me by a colleague of a colleague, whose brother is one of the authors. My apologies to Wall Street Journal for violating their copyright on this, but it is an important story about how young terrorists are made.

The Wall Street Journal

COMMENTARY: Advertising on Terror TV [Note: Paid subscription required.]
October 4, 2005

In one episode of the 29-part Ramadan special "Al-Shatat, The Diaspora," a rabbi orders his young son to kidnap a Christian friend so that his throat can be slit and the blood drained into a bedpan to be used to make food for Passover. The rest of the series tells the usual anti-Semitic plot of alleged Jewish aspirations for world domination. This TV show is just one example of the programming run by Hezbollah's global satellite channel, al-Manar. While the spread of this kind of hatred is despicable in any context, when it is broadcast to millions of viewers by terrorists intent on destroying lives, it becomes a weapon of global jihad.

Al-Manar routinely runs videos encouraging children to become suicide bombers, calls for terrorists to attack coalition soldiers in Iraq, and promises that "martyrs" will be rewarded in the afterlife.

Hezbollah established al-Manar in 1991 as an operational weapon to incite hatred and violence and recruit children and adults as terrorists. According to al-Manar officials interviewed by Hezbollah expert Avi Jorisch for his book "Beacon of Hatred," the station's programming is meant to "help people on the way to committing what you call in the West a suicide mission." Viewers are told: "The path to becoming a priest in Islam is through jihad," as Hezbollah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on March 23, 2002. Every day al-Manar reaches millions of Arabic speakers in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa.

But these are the only areas where the station is available today, thanks to a broad coalition of organizations and individuals -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish and secular -- as well as lawmakers in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America. When made aware of al-Manar's programming, seven satellite providers -- based in France, Spain, Holland, Hong Kong, Australia and Barbados -- decided that it was contrary to laws or basic decency, and ceased their broadcasts. These satellite providers recognized that far from being a freedom of expression issue, calls to murder can never be a legitimate part of the public debate.

But two satellite companies continue to broadcast the station's programming: Arabsat, whose largest shareholder is the Saudi government, and Nilesat, which is majority-owned by the Egyptian government. The footprint of these two providers covers all of Europe, from Spain to southern Sweden and the Balkans. It extends to North Africa and the Middle East. As a result, Arabic speakers in Paris, London, Madrid and elsewhere continue to have access to a station that fosters a culture of terrorism 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As al-Manar's former chairman Nayef Krayem said, "There is no act of resistance that can be classified as terrorism." The European Union must pressure the Saudi and Egyptian governments to stop broadcasting this hatred to impressionable young Muslims in Europe.

* * *
That's the political part of the fight against al-Manar. But there is also a commercial side to it. While a large part of al-Manar's operating budget comes from Iran, a significant portion is derived from ad revenue. There are a handful of multinational corporations that still advertise on al-Manar, indirectly endorsing its message of hatred and violence and directly supporting its operations by paying for air time.

Within the past few months, al-Manar broadcast ads for products from the following companies: Nissan, the Japanese car manufacturer; LG, the Korean electronics maker; Tefal, a producer of home cooking products and subsidiary of France-based Groupe SEB; Jovial, a manufacturer of Swiss watches; and Cellis-Alpha, a cellular SIM card provider owned by Fal Dete Telecommunications, a Saudi-German consortium majority-owned by Detecon, which in turn is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom.

We contacted the companies but their explanations were not very satisfactory. A spokesman for Tefal denied that its products were ever advertised on al-Manar. A spokesman for Nissan said the company was unaware that its ads were running on al-Manar; after investigating the matter he said the spots were placed by a local dealer, and that the ads would stop at year's end. The head of the LG liaison office in Lebanon said the ads were placed by a local agent and only during the recent Lebanese elections because al-Manar attracted a particularly large number of viewers during that time. He said he favored not advertising on al-Manar again but said that he had to first discuss it with LG's regional headquarters in Dubai. A spokesman for Jovial was not able to comment and did not provide further details on the company's position. Fal-Dete-Telecommunications also said they were not aware of the situation and that they are taking the matter seriously. They are currently inquiring with their partners in Lebanon. They also pointed out that they are not the owner of the Alfa network but they are managing it on behalf of the Republic of Lebanon for a period of four years.

While it is possible that these companies were not always aware that their ads were being placed on al-Manar, ignorance in this case is no excuse. Many of the world's largest corporations -- including Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Western Union -- stopped buying time on al-Manar more than three years ago when they realized what their ad dollars were supporting. Those companies still advertising on al-Manar should follow the example of the many governments and private and public firms that have ended their relationship with al-Manar. They should immediately pull any remaining ads and institute a permanent ban on future advertising.

European lives and values are under attack by Islamic extremists. Responsible companies should have no relationship with terrorist organizations. To do otherwise is to send a worrying signal to their customers, a message that seems to say that their lives are worth less than the sale of a few extra cars, watches, cellphones and home cooking products. At the very least, that cannot be good for business.

Mr. Mark Dubowitz is chief operating officer of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Ms. Roberta Bonazzi is the director of the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy and a founding member of the Coalition Against Terrorist Media.

This story is also available on the Coalition Against Terrorist Media site.
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08 October 2005

Academic Freedom, Ethics, and the Military at U of T

Academic freedom is a tough topic. On one hand, the academy is (nominally) the place in which scholars and researchers should be free to explore the boundaries of knowledge, theory and practice without political interference. On the other, I maintain that there should be a cultural and societal standard of ethics that governs the pursuits of any institution within a civilized, and civil, society. This is the tension that must be managed in the contemporary university environment.

Last year OISE/UT experienced a significant and important controversy in which one of its research units sought to enter a research partnership with a commercial organization that develops software for military applications. Although the project itself was clearly focused on educational applications, it was equally clear that the knowledge obtained from the research would be used militarily. Advocates argued for academic freedom – that academic researchers should not be hampered by political concerns, particularly since the research itself was for (young student directed) education, and had passed the University’s ethical review protocol. Opponents argued (among other things) that the ethical review was flawed, that it did not obtain informed consent from one of the participants, namely OISE/UT itself, as an institution (noting that the Dean’s acquiescence in this matter did not constitute adequate informed consent of an institution comprised of many individuals whose careers and reputation are based on concepts of social justice, peace advocacy, pedagogy of the oppressed, and similar fields). How one appropriately approaches the issue of institutional consent is an topic worthy of a thesis, I think – one that extends the idea of institutional ethnography that itself was developed at OISE/UT.

So much for history and theory. The larger question of ethical review in these matters is now before the Governing Council at the University of Toronto. There is a petition being circulated that reads as follows:
I encourage Governing Council of University of Toronto to adopt the following two motions that were presented during the June 29, 2005 Governing Council Meeting. I fully support these motions.

Be it resolved that there be an immediate moratorium on all future military-defence and military contractor research/institutional partnerships until fair, ethical, and democratic guidelines are put in place taking into consideration amongst others Human Rights, International Law, Conventions, Covenants and Declarations.

Be it resolved that donations to and investment by the University of Toronto be made publicly available.
If you, or someone you know, is a member of the University of Toronto community – student, faculty or staff – I urge you to consider this issue, and the ramification of the current situation, that is, having NO GUIDELINES WHATSOEVER to govern the real ethics (as opposed to the prevent-the-university-from-being-sued ethics) of potential research partnerships with outside military agencies. Here is the Petition Against Military Partnerships At University Of Toronto.
People Against Militarization of OISE struggled in 2004/05 with OISE/University of Toronto administration which wanted to partner with the military and military contractor in an international research project which involved four Toronto Junior Public Schools. We won this struggle, but found that U of T had no ethical guidelines regarding types and lines of research and institutional and research partnerships. PAMO transformed into People Against Militarization of Life and was successful in presenting two motions at U of T Governing Council Meeting on June 29, 2005. These motions will be dealt with in October 2005. We hope you join us in making these motions a constructive reality. You can further support by asking U of T's Governing Council members, chair, and secretary about the status of these motions and show your support for Ethics at U of T. Canadian Federation of Students (ON) officially supports the two motions (CFS motion 2005/08:N23)

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I Wonder If There's a Dental Plan...

An Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, is reporting on a story that appeared in the Dubai press, that
Al-Qaida has put job advertisements on the Internet asking for supporters to help put together its Web statements and video montages... The London-based Asharq al-Awsat said on its Web site this week that Al-Qaida had "vacant positions" for video production and editing statements, footage and international media coverage about militants in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Chechnya and other conflict zones where militants are active.
I bet they go through interns like nobody's business.

This suggests an interesting reversal effect of the so-called war on terror(ism) that is being waged against friend and foe alike. While the nominal intention of the U.S.-led initiative is to wipe terrorism and terrorists from the face of the earth, the media law of reversal means that a simultaneous inherent property, or effect, of that "war" is to normalize terrorist groups and entrench them into the global political spectrum. This first gives them the patina of legitimacy, that later may evolve into commonly recognized political legitimacy. Witness, for example, the 30-year transition of Yassir Arafat's Al Fatah - who taught the world how to hijack airplanes in 1973 - to today's Palestinian Authority whose legitmacy in representing the Palestinian people is generally unquestioned.

Al Qaida posting job ads. An interesting question to contemplate is, how will the world consider today's major actors, thirty years from now?
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03 October 2005

Shanah Tovah Tikatevu

Regardless of whether you practice a form of religious faith, taking time to reflect on the passing of one year and anticipations for the next seems to me to be a worthwhile endeavour. In a world that has become far too busy and complicated to allow time for reflection on process as well as progress, pausing for a day or two of self-contemplation and rechecking one's place relative to one's larger community is something that I find particularly beneficial.

It is interesting to me that the traditional beginning of the year in Judaism occurs in the autumn, when most of nature (at least in this part of the world) seems to be shutting down for the proverbial long winter's nap. It is, to say the least, an odd season to consider the start of a "new year." Perhaps the lesson is this: New beginnings may best occur not in bustling activity, but in quietude, with time for reflection and contemplation of oneself in relation to others, and to the world at large.

To all of you who celebrate at this time of year, my friends, colleagues, readers and random visitors, I wish you and those whom you love, l'shanah tovah tikatevu - may you be inscribed for a good year, a year filled with good health, happiness, prosperity, success, and most of all, peace.
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Man Bites Do... err... Woman Sues RIAA

It does have a sort of "man bites dog" quality about it. In Oregon, a woman wrongfully accused and sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for allegedly downloading copyright material belonging to its members has turned around and filed a RICO (anti-racketeering) suit against her accusor. Among the woman's claims against the cartel,
Settlement Support Center [RIAA's collection agency] also falsely claimed that Ms. Andersen had “been viewed” by MediaSentry [RIAA's agency that hacks into computers to search for copyright material, whether it was legally obtained or not] downloading “gangster rap” music at 4:24 a.m. Settlement Support Center also falsely claimed that Ms. Andersen had used the login name “gotenkito@kazaa.com.” Ms. Andersen does not like “gangster rap,” does not recognize the name “gotenkito,” is not awake at 4:24 a.m. and has never downloaded music...

As fully set forth above, the record companies hired MediaSentry to break into private computers to spy, view files, remove information, and copy images. The record companies received and transmitted the information and images to Settlement Support Center. As the record companies’ agent, Settlement Support Center then falsely claimed that the stolen information and images showed Ms. Andersen’s downloading and distributing over 1,000 audio files. The record companies falsely claimed that Ms. Anderson owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to coerce and extort payment from her.
Good for Ms. Andersen! The RIAA lawsuits sure seem like extortion on a massive scale to me, aided and abetted by certain representatives in the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. justice system, such as it is. Here in Canada, at least, we have a Supreme Court with a clue, that did not allow CRIA, the RIAA's Canadian cousin, to file the "John Doe" lawsuits that enable this sort of immoral, not to mention marginally-if-at-all legal activity. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people like Ms. Anderson who are coerced into settling bogus lawsuits that amount to thousands millions of dollars because fighting the RIAA in court would cost more, making the RIAA's racket nothing more than a far less interesting version of The Sopranos. Perhaps more counter-suits like this one will finally put an end to this nonsense. What would be even more effective would be industry cartels and large corporations losing their sense of entitlement to obsolescent business models that must change in the face of societal, cultural and technological change, as well as environmental realities.
(Seen at Slashdot)
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02 October 2005

Twyla Gibson on Hippocrates' Oath

For those who may have missed Twyla Gibson's opening lecture in our fall lecture series, What is Life?, there is another opportunity to listen to one of our most insightful and brilliant scholars who connects ancient tradition with contemporary societal and cultural applications.

Twyla Gibson lectures on "Hippocrates' Oath: The Code of Ethics in Bioethics" on Wednesday, October 5, 2005, from 4:10 - 5:00 p.m., in the Great Hall, Joint Centre for Bioethics, 88 College Street.
Hippocrates' Oath has for twenty-four centuries served as the keystone of professional ethics in medicine and the template for revisions to the ethical code of conduct. This study examines the oral traditional origins, context, and history of the Oath, and explores the relevance of its principles to bioethical debates and clinical decision-making today.
No reservations required.
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This is Wild!

Really! National Geographic has set up a webcam at "Pete's Pond," a watering hole in Botswana, that captures wildlife... well, in the wild. It makes for fascinating viewing as critters large and small stop by for a drink. Or a bath. Or whatever.
Linking the live WildCam Africa Internet video camera from one of the most remote locations in southern Africa to a satellite hovering 22,500 miles (36,200 kilometers) above the Earth’s equator was the easy part. The challenge was how to keep baboons from messing with the camera, prevent insects from slithering inside the computer, and protect the whole setup from curious elephants. National Geographic spent weeks looking for someone who had done it before. Trouble was, nobody had. But Cameron Murie came close enough.

Murie, who calls himself a “geek in the bush,” operates a computer and information system business in Musina, South Africa. He is also responsible for designing a radio-based computer network linking the various camps at Mashatu Game Reserve. “Things that are commonplace in an urban environment are difficult to achieve in the bush,” says Murie. “A project like WildCam—with a satellite hook-up that provides streaming video—has never been done in this area. Getting a good quality connection here is expensive and challenging at best.”

“You have to animal- and insect-proof everything,” says Murie. “Otherwise, it’s a real problem. In this place if you get a bug in the system, it really is a bug.”
(Seen at BoingBoing. Note: RealPlayer browser plug-in required.)
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