Category: "culture/news"

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

I recently read another book on my PDA. A few weeks ago I told you about Free Culture. I enjoyed reading that one, I enjoyed the fact that it was free, I recommended it to people and I ended up buying a hard copy. In what I hope becomes a major trend, sci-fi author and author Cory Doctorow released his novel for free online. You can still buy a copy of the book, but this lets you at least check it out for free (and read the whole thing if your eyes can stand it). The book is called Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. I liked it. It's set in the not-so-distant future, when the human consciousness has been ported to the computer so that if you die, you only have to restore from your latest back-up. I probably would have liked the book better if I knew anything about Disney World, since a lot of the story revolves around the changes that the tech brings to the Magic Kingdom. It looks like Doctorow has recently released his second novel Eastern Standard Tribe. I may have to download that and give it a try. If you know of any other good books that are being published this way, let me know.

Duck and Cover

Public Domain movie of the day: Duck and Cover

This makes today's terror alert paranoia look like nothing.

Simpsons and math

If you love the Simpsons and you love math, then you might think this website is cool:

It basically details all of the mathmatical content and jokes in all relevant episodes. Including one of my favorite Simpson's jokes from the Bart the Genius episode:

Teacher: So y = r cubed over 3. And if you determine the rate of change in this curve correctly, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
[The class laughs except for Bart who appears confused.]
Teacher: Don't you get it, Bart? Derivative dy = 3 r squared dr over 3, or r squared dr, or r dr r.

Har-dee-har-har. Good times. Tim, if you don't like this link, then no one will.

Free Culture and Creative Commons

I finally choose a Creative Commons licence for this blog. You can see it at the bottom left of the page (look for the two Cs). If you want to see a fun introduction to what CC is, then try watching these two flash movies. They explain it pretty well.

Drive a nice car, get free music

Test drive a Lexus, get 60 free songs from Sony Connect. Fill out the form online, print off a voucher and take it to the Lexus dealership. I wouldn't mention to the Lexus salesman that you're too cheap to pay $0.99 for an mp3.

via techbargains

Break the Chain

I hate getting email chain letters. They're almost always false. I have enjoyed debunking a few of them, and that just got a lot easier. Here's a website devoted to exposing faike chain letters:

Take that, Ryan Seacrest

Sara and I just watched the second episode of The WB Superstar USA and it is awesome! It takes the best part of American Idol, the terrible singers that get eliminated, and makes that the whole show. All the bad singers are told that they're good and the good singers don't make it past the first two episodes. Everyone's in on it: the judges, the audiences, the dancers. The finale will be telling the sorry saps that they actually stink. It's so cruel, but so entertaining.

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.

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