MGM v. Grokster

Yesterday hearings began for the Supreme Court case of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster, Ltd. This is a very important case. The movie studio is suing the creator of a peer to peer file sharing network, because the software makes it easy for users to exchange copyrighted material.

This case is not about whether it's legal or illegal to trade copyrighted material. That is already well established. What MGM is trying to do is hold the technology responsible. They want to make it illegal to create products that have the potential for copyright infringement. If they win this case, then it may overturn the Court's earlier decision of Sony Corp. v. Universal Studios, in which the Court ruled that Sony's Betamax recorder was legal even though it could be used for copyright infringement. This is the case that has made it possible for us to have the VCR, TiVo, iPod and really the personal computer. If technology that can infringe copyright is outlawed, then none of those things would be legal.

Let's take a quick roll call of supporters for each side. In the MGM corner we have the MPAA, RIAA, ASCAP, Bush administration, Major League baseball, Napster LLC, the Christian Coalition and a few major recording artists. In the Grokster corner: EFF, Creative Commons, Intel, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Mark Cuban, and several independent recording artists (this LA Times story explains why independent artists support file-sharing). You can look over a more complete list and read the briefs that the supporters have filed here and here.

Here is a brief summary of the first day's hearings.

Planning a garden

Sara and I are planning to plant a garden this spring. We borrowed my parents' copy of Square Foot Gardening and I've been looking over it. The first chapter talks about how common it is for people to get excited about a garden in the spring and then not really follow through. Maybe that's the case with us. Maybe I'm just responding to the warm weather in the same way my ascestors always have. But, I think we'll give it a try anyway. The square foot method looks like a good place to start.

Top 5 returns...

Although not in its original sarchastic bent. (We'll save that for next week.) I observed Lent for the first time this year, thanks to our favorite ecumenical friends, Matt and MaryEllen. The details: I decided to give up snacks after dinner, since that is a vice that is hard to let go of, but not as hard as, say, TV or the Internet. I also did readings and prayers from the Praying Lent site (although not every day. Hey, I'm not perfect.) So, without further ado, here are my top 5 reasons for observing Lent:

1. Brings structure to prayer time
I am often at a loss for what to pray, which is probably why I don't do it very often. I liked the fact that there were opening and closing prayers, which helps my structured personality. I also liked praying through the intercessions, which focused on prayers for the lost, the poor, the church, etc.

2. Bible readings were relevant to the season
The site also had daily readings, some OT and some NT. I decided to read only the Gospels because I have a short attention span and I knew it would be about Jesus, the guy I'm trying to get closer to by doing this anyway. This became so important to me, especially during the last week, as I was reading accounts of Jesus' washing the disciple's feet; of his betrayal; of his crucifixion. By Good Friday, I think I was actually mourning the loss of Jesus from the perspective of those who knew him well. I was able to think about what they must have thought and experienced--extreme sorrow. Our church had a Stations of the Cross ceremony as well (apparently with revisions from a Christian church minister, which made it 'okay' for us to do). The night was very cold and as I stood there in various parts of the church yard listening to the readings and prayers, I felt sorrow, I understood the immensity of God compared with my own insignificance. I also felt a sense of community, which I will explore next.

3. Promotes community
While doing the readings and prayers, I knew that people everywhere, from different backgrounds (church and otherwise) were coming together for a common goal--to seek out Jesus, to understand him better, to feel in communion with him. I believe that my spiritual growth is increased when I'm in accord with other believers; these are the times I feel most filled up and closest to God's presence.

4. Teaches discipline
Abstaining from snacks after dinner might not seem like a lot, but when you eat like I do, it is. In the times we had people over during the 40 days of Lent, I served people food at my house that I couldn't eat. A few times I felt like I bent the rules (not eating dinner until late so I could have dessert right after), but all in all, I was successful. Although that wasn't the most important thing, of course. I decided that each time I felt hungry and couldn't eat, I would pray. Sometimes it was just a small prayer, akin to "God, I remember that you're there", but it was better than I usually do.

5. Makes Easter more meaningful
Instead of a random day in March (sometimes in April) where we go to church, I felt that I had been preparing for a celebration for over a month. Especially after the darkness I experienced on Good Friday, I felt that Easter Sunday was a release--of emotions, of celebration, of gratitude. I have to say that Easter 2005 was the most meaningful Easter I have ever had. For the rest of the week, I plan to continue with the Easter prayers and readings. They are meant to be reminders of the Good News. As I felt the sorrow of the early church when Jesus died, now I can read and pray about their celebration.

I know this post is totally out of character for me, but I felt that I should share this with you. Maybe you can join me in observing Lent next year. Any ideas for 'normal' top 5 lists? You can put them in the comments.

Easter pictures

Emma picking up eggs Hidden egg Pudding mustache

The Easter gallery is up. Emma had a great time coloring eggs on Saturday afternoon. When we got home from church the eggs and the basket were skattered across the kitchen, every one of them cracked. The cat had jumped on the counter, knocked them off and then spent the morning playing with the eggs. I found one of them under the dresser in Emma's room. It wouldn't have been so bad if we had not put all of our eggs in one basket. [pause for laughter] They weren't damaged too badly, so we picked them up and took them to my parents' for hiding. Emma thought it was fun.

Berry on work

What are People For?The great question that hovers over this issue, one that we have dealt with mainly by indifference, is the question of what people are for. Is their greatest dignity in unemployment? Is the obsolescence of human beings now our social goal? One would conclude so from our attitude toward work, especially the manual work necessary to the long-term preservation of the land, and from our rush toward mechanization, automation, and computerization. In a country that puts an absolute premium on labor-saving measures, short workdays, and retirement, should there be any surprise at permanence of unemployment and welfare dependency? Those are only different names for our national ambitions (Berry 125).

Again, I have a hard time agreeing with this. For one, I like computers. I like work-saving devices. But I have a hard time denying that there's some truth in what he says here, too.

Berry on competition

What are People For?I'm not posting this quote from What Are People For? by Wendell Berry because I agree with it. I don't know if I do. But it is thought-provoking and I'd like to hear what everyone thinks.

The ideal of competition always implies, and in fact requires that any community must be divided into a class of winners and a class of losers. The division is radically different from the other social divisions: that of the more able and the less able, or that of the richer and the poorer, or even that of the rulers and the ruled. These latter divisions have existed throughout history and at time, at least, have been ameliorated by social and religious ideals that instructed the strong to help the weak. As a purely economic ideal, competition does not contain or imply any such instructions. In fact, the defenders of the ideal of competition have never known what to do with or for the losers. The losers simply accumulate in human dumps, like stores of industrial waste, until they gain enough misery and strength to overpower the winners. The idea that the displaced and dispossessed "should seek retraining and get into another line of work" is, of course, utterly cynical; it is only the hand-washing practiced by officials and experts. A loser, by definition, is somebody whom nobody knows what to do with. There is no limit tot he damage and the suffering implicit in this willingness that losers, should exist as a normal economic cost (Berry 131).

Board games with siblings

Ticket to Ride OnlineLast night when I got home from class Jenny came over and we got online and started a game of Ticket to Ride with Mike in Florida. It's not very often that all three of the siblings get together and do something, so it was a treat. The online version of ticket to ride is pretty fun. If you want to play then go to the link above and get a username and password. It's free to sign up, but you can't create games. Since I own the game and I resistered with the code that came in the box I can create games. Let me know if you sign up and we can play some time. Mike went out and bought a microphone yesterday so we could talk via Skype while we played. In case you are wondering, Jenny won the first game and I won the second. This brings my all-time win-loss record in Ticket to Ride to 4-14.

Themes and skins

Recently I've been having fun customizing the look of computer stuff I use. I downloaded some new themes for my Pocket PC and the mp3 player on my Pocket PC. Firefox has some nice themes. I downloaded a bunch of them, but this is the one that I'm using now. You may also want to check out Pimpzilla. Here is a guide on how to skin Gmail. I didn't like the stylesheet I downloaded for it, so I think I'll leave it how Google designed it. I would like to customize the look of Windows XP, but there's no good way to do it without buying third party software. So, I downloaded a live cd for Kubuntu, which uses KDE for the desktop environment. KDE has tons of skins and themes. Good times.

Update: Now I'm using this Firefox theme. I think it's pretty slick, and it's related to the KDE project.

Flippin' sweet!

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