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She's "honest. Not stupid, mind you -- just naive. The Darknet paper addresses this possibility: it even predicts what this person will do in the long run: she'll find out about Kazaa and the next time she wants to get a movie for the kids, she'll download it from the net and burn it for them. In order to delay that day for as long as possible, our lawmakers and big rightsholder interests have come up with a disastrous policy called anticircumvention. Here's how anticircumvention works: if you put a lock -- an access control -- around a copyrighted work, it is illegal to break that lock.

It's illegal to make a tool that breaks that lock. It's illegal to tell someone how to make that tool. One court even held it illegal to tell someone where she can find out how to make that tool. Remember Schneier's Law? Anyone can come up with a security system so clever that he can't see its flaws. The only way to find the flaws in security is to disclose the system's workings and invite public feedback.

But now we live in a world where any cipher used to fence off a copyrighted work is off-limits to that kind of feedback. That's something that a Princeton engineering prof named Ed Felten and his team discovered when he submitted a paper to an academic conference on the failings in the Secure Digital Music Initiative, a watermarking scheme proposed by the recording industry. The RIAA responded by threatening to sue his ass if he tried it.

We fought them because Ed is the kind of client that impact litigators love: unimpeachable and clean-cut and the RIAA folded. Lucky Ed. Maybe the next guy isn't so lucky. Matter of fact, the next guy wasn't. Dmitry Sklyarov is a Russian programmer who gave a talk at a hacker con in Vegas on the failings in Adobe's e-book locks. The FBI threw him in the slam for 30 days. He copped a plea, went home to Russia, and the Russian equivalent of the State Department issued a blanket warning to its researchers to stay away from American conferences, since we'd apparently turned into the kind of country where certain equations are illegal.

Anticircumvention is a powerful tool for people who want to exclude competitors. If you claim that your car engine firmware is a "copyrighted work," you can sue anyone who makes a tool for interfacing with it. That's not just bad news for mechanics -- think of the hotrodders who want to chip their cars to tweak the performance settings. We have companies like Lexmark claiming that their printer cartridges contain copyrighted works -- software that trips an "I am empty" flag when the toner runs out, and have sued a competitor who made a remanufactured cartridge that reset the flag.

Even garage-door opener companies have gotten in on the act, claiming that their receivers' firmware are copyrighted works.

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Copyrighted cars, print carts and garage-door openers: what's next, copyrighted light-fixtures? Even in the context of legitimate -- excuse me, "traditional" -- copyrighted works like movies on DVDs, anticircumvention is bad news.


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Copyright is a delicate balance. It gives creators and their assignees some rights, but it also reserves some rights to the public. For example, an author has no right to prohibit anyone from transcoding his books into assistive formats for the blind. More importantly, though, a creator has a very limited say over what you can do once you lawfully acquire her works. If I buy your book, your painting, or your DVD, it belongs to me.

It's my property. Not my "intellectual property" -- a whacky kind of pseudo-property that's swiss-cheesed with exceptions, easements and limitations -- but real, no-fooling, actual tangible property -- the kind of thing that courts have been managing through property law for centuries. But anticirumvention lets rightsholders invent new and exciting copyrights for themselves -- to write private laws without accountability or deliberation -- that expropriate your interest in your physical property to their favor. Region-coded DVDs are an example of this: there's no copyright here or in anywhere I know of that says that an author should be able to control where you enjoy her creative works, once you've paid for them.

I can buy a book and throw it in my bag and take it anywhere from Toronto to Timbuktu, and read it wherever I am: I can even buy books in America and bring them to the UK, where the author may have an exclusive distribution deal with a local publisher who sells them for double the US shelf-price. When I'm done with it, I can sell it on or give it away in the UK.

Copyright lawyers call this "First Sale," but it may be simpler to think of it as "Capitalism. Remember: there is no copyright that says that an author gets to do this. When we wrote the copyright statutes and granted authors the right to control display, performance, duplication, derivative works, and so forth, we didn't leave out "geography" by accident.

That was on-purpose. So when your French DVD won't play in America, that's not because it'd be illegal to do so: it's because the studios have invented a business-model and then invented a copyright law to prop it up. The DVD is your property and so is the DVD player, but if you break the region-coding on your disc, you're going to run afoul of anticircumvention.

He and some pals wrote some code to break the CSS so that he could do so. He's a wanted man here in America; in Norway the studios put the local fuzz up to bringing him up on charges of unlawfully trespassing upon a computer system. When his defense asked, "Which computer has Jon trespassed upon?


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His no-fooling, real and physical property has been expropriated by the weird, notional, metaphorical intellectual property on his DVD: DRM only works if your record player becomes the property of whomever's records you're playing. This is the worst of all the ideas embodied by DRM: that people who make record-players should be able to spec whose records you can listen to, and that people who make records should have a veto over the design of record-players. We've never had this principle: in fact, we've always had just the reverse.

Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future

Think about all the things that can be plugged into a parallel or serial interface, which were never envisioned by their inventors. Our strong economy and rapid innovation are byproducts of the ability of anyone to make anything that plugs into anything else: from the Flo-bee electric razor that snaps onto the end of your vacuum-hose to the octopus spilling out of your car's dashboard lighter socket, standard interfaces that anyone can build for are what makes billionaires out of nerds. The courts affirm this again and again.

When that ban was struck down, it created the market for third-party phone equipment, from talking novelty phones to answering machines to cordless handsets to headsets -- billions of dollars of economic activity that had been suppressed by the closed interface. DRM is the software equivalent of these closed hardware interfaces.

Robert Scoble is a Softie who has an excellent blog, where he wrote an essay about the best way to protect your investment in the digital music you buy. Scoble argued that Microsoft's music was a sounder investment, because Microsoft would have more downstream licensees for its proprietary format and therefore you'd have a richer ecosystem of devices to choose from when you were shopping for gizmos to play your virtual records on.

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What a weird idea: that we should evaluate our record-purchases on the basis of which recording company will allow the greatest diversity of record-players to play its discs! That's like telling someone to buy the Betamax instead of the Edison Kinetoscope because Thomas Edison is a crank about licensing his patents; all the while ignoring the world's relentless march to the more open VHS format.

It's a bad business. DVD is a format where the guy who makes the records gets to design the record players. Ask yourself: how much innovation has there been over the past decade of DVD players?


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  6. They've gotten cheaper and smaller, but where are the weird and amazing new markets for DVD that were opened up by the VCR? We're talking about a few thousand dollars' worth of components -- all that other cost is the cost of anticompetition. But what of the artist?

    The hardworking filmmaker, the ink-stained scribbler, the heroin-cured leathery rock-star? To understand what DRM does to artists, you need to understand how copyright and technology interact. Copyright is inherently technological, since the things it addresses -- copying, transmitting, and so on -- are inherently technological.

    The piano roll was the first system for cheaply copying music. It was invented at a time when the dominant form of entertainment in America was getting a talented pianist to come into your living room and pound out some tunes while you sang along. The music industry consisted mostly of sheet-music publishers.

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    The player piano was a digital recording and playback system. Piano-roll companies bought sheet music and ripped the notes printed on it into 0s and 1s on a long roll of computer tape, which they sold by the thousands -- the hundreds of thousands -- the millions. They did this without a penny's compensation to the publishers. They were digital music pirates. Predictably, the composers and music publishers went nutso.

    Sousa showed up in Congress to say that:. These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a boy Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal chord left. The vocal chord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape.