Vacation photos part I

Our first stop was Brendan's graduation. The stupid disposable camera messed up the pictures of Brendan, so here's a picture of Smiles and Honzo.

Then we drove to Macon where we stayed with Joe and Amanda. (Joe's the one on the left.)

Amanda teaches graphic arts at a vo-tech school, so they let her use this beautiful G5 with a huge monitor. (Click on the pictures to see a larger version.)

Free Culture links

If you're interested in learning some more about culture and copyright issues, here are some links:

Free Culture
This is the web site for the book. If you want to download it or buy it, start here.

Lessig Blog
Lawrence Lessig's blog. He's a law professor at Stanford and a graduate of Cambridge and Yale. His blog can keep you informed.

Public Library of Science
This is a project Lessig has worked with. It's a solution to the problem of the high cost of scientific journals, which makes it hard for libraries to offer journals for free. Scientists can upload articles, which are peer reviewed and then offered to the public for free.

Electronic Frontier Foundation
"A nonprofit group of passionate people--lawyers, volunteers and visionaries--working to protect your digital rights." You can find links about lots of legal issues here.

Creative Commons
"Some rights reserved." An alternative license that creators can use to give more rights to their readers. I'm going to look into choosing a CC license for this blog.

Free Software Foundation
The home of the GNU project, which gave us Linux and lots of other open source software. Their huge philosophy page can explain why this is so important to them.

Internet Archive
This is my favorite. It's a project to record as much information as is legally and technically possible. It includes the Wayback Machine (enter an address and see how what a site used to say) and a great audio section. I downloaded an entire live show from Waterdeep.

Free Culture and file sharing

No up-to-date book on copyright law would be complete without a section on music file-sharing. Free Culture doesn't deal with it much, but Lessig does have some comments in the afterword that are worth repeating. He says that file=sharing is a complicated problem because there are different types of sharing.

A. There are some who are using sharing networks as substitutes for purchasing CDs.

B. There are also some who are using sharing networks to sample, on the way to purchasing CDs.

C. There are many who are using file-sharing networks to get access to content that is no longer sold but is still under copyright or that would have been too cumbersome to buy off the Net.

D. There are many who are using file-sharing networks to get access to content that is not copyrighted or to get access that the copyright owner plainly endorses

Type A sharing is illegal and for good reason. It's still up for debate whether file sharing hurts cd sales, but this type of sharing goes against the spirit and the letter of copyright law, which is designed to promote progress by giving artists access to the benefits of their creation. Type D sharing is totally legal and very useful. The tricky thing for lawmakers and programmers is to find a way to cut down on type A sharing without inhibiting type D. But what about types B and C, are they wrong? Is downloading a song to see if you want to buy a cd any worse than listening to the radio? Is downloading a song that can't be bought on cd any different from rescuing a tape from the dumpster behind the record store? The RIAA wants to fight type A sharing, but they treat all p2p sharing as if it were this type. They don't care about the fact that Napster had several legal uses. If the different kinds of sharing can be understood, then maybe we can come up with some reasonable regulations.

I should also point out that when the big companies and lobbyists start panicing about piracy, they're usually wrong. They were sure that the VCR would decimate the box office. It didn't. They thought CD burners would eliminate CD sales. Nope. Now they're saying the DVD burners and back-up software will kill DVD sales. Don't count on it. And p2p file sharing won't send P. Diddy to the poorhouse

Free culture and lobbyists

More from Free Culture:

So long as legislation can be bought (albeit indirectly), there will be all the incentive in the world to buy further extensions of copyright. In the lobbying that led to the passage of the Sonny Bono Copy-right Term Extension Act, this "theory" about incentives was proved real. Ten of the thirteen original sponsors of the act in the House received the maximum contribution from Disney's political action committee; in the Senate, eight of the twelve sponsors received contributions. The RIAA and the MPAA are estimated to have spent over $1.5 million lobbying in the 1998 election cycle. They paid out more than $200,000 in campaign contributions. Disney is estimated to have contributed more than $800,000 to reelection campaigns in the 1998 cycle (226).

This is a big problem, and not just with the copyright issue. We shouldn't really blame the companies, what they're doing is legal. But it's a bad system. If legislators have to think about the interests of their favorite lobbyists, then how can we expect laws that make sense for everyone else?

Well, I just finished reading the book on my PDA. I ordered a print copy because Sara wants to read it, too. In the end Lessig finally gives some concrete ideas on where to go from here. I'll post some of those soon, but next up I'll take a look at his thoughts on music file swapping.

Mike to play guitar in Kansas City

mikeyhendrix.jpgMy brother Mike is in a pop group (aka cover band) with his school that tours around North America putting on shows to promote the school. He plays lead guitar in the band, as you can see on the right. The FC Friends will be performing at the North Kansas City high school on Saturday, May 29, at 7 pm. Click here for a map.

Free Culture and the constitution

Jack Valenti, longtime president of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) said this in 1982 in a testimony to congress: "Creative property owners must be accorded the same rights and protection resident in all other property owners in the nation." Valenti and the MPAA aggressively lobby our government for stronger copyright laws, and this is his basic reason. It sounds logical enough, but it goes against a long legal tradition regarding 'creative property.'

Article I, section 8, clause 8, of the Constitution says, "Congress has the power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." This clause does provide for protections on creative property for the purpose of promoting progress. Why would someone work hard to create a new idea if it could be easily stolen? But this clause does make an important distinction; it says that exclusive rights should only be secured for a limited time. This contradicts Valenti's claim that physical property and creative property should be given the same legal protections.

I'm learning a lot about copyright law from Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. I first saw Lessig on The Screen Savers, and I went to his website where the book is available for free in several formats (I went for audio and MS Reader).

The problem with current copyright laws, according to Lessig, is not that they give protection to creators, but that those protections have grown beyond what was intended by the framers and what is healthy for our culture. Take the limited time mentioned in the above quote from the Constitution. The original length of a copyright was 14 years. It could renewed, if the author was still alive, for another 14 years. That would cover the commercial life of just about any creation, allowing the author to make money, but sending the creation into the public domain while it's still relevant. Today the copyright term is 95 years. The only ones who benefit from such a long term are the corporations who hold the copyrights. No artist is still alive and hoping to profit from his creation after 95 years. This extended term also means that the public domain is starving.

I haven't finished the book yet, so I don't know what Lessig suggests as a solution, but it's been interesting to learn how copyright law has changed over the years. And, sadly, those changes protect corporations and make it harder for individuals to be creative without fear of litigation.

Back in town

Well, we're back in town. Coming soon:

Pictures from the trip

Discussion on Free Culture, the book I'm reading.

Why American young people don't vote

If US politicians want to get the young vote out, they should take a page from Pakistan's book:

Man campaigns with rat in mouth

Kearney, not just for carnies anymore

Yesterday we drove the longest leg of our trip. We were on the road about 7 hours. As I write this Emma is playing with Eden, the Smiths' one-year-old. They're pretty cute. The city of Kearney seems pretty nice. Brandon and Keri say it's growing quite a bit, and there are lots of things to do.

A blog is born

We've got Kyle's weblog set up at

Brendan, thanks for creating it so quickly.

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