Archive for February, 2012

Black March→Freedom March

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012


In 1939 and 1940, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) greatly increased its licensing fees. Broadcasters for a time played only music in the public domain and that licensed from Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), a competitor to ASCAP they set up. ASCAP’s monopoly was broken, some genres that had been ignored obtained airplay. I’ve also seen this described as a failed ASCAP boycott of the broadcasters. I have not read beyond sketches to know the best characterization, but there were a small enough number of entities on both sides that either or both could hold out, and effectively “boycott” for a higher or lower price.

Open Access

A new pledge to not do one or more of publishing in, reviewing for, or doing editorial work for journals published by Elsevier has gotten a fair amount of notice. 7,671 researchers have signed, which has probably already led to some Elsevier concessions and a drop in their share price.

Academics are not nearly as concentrated as U.S. radio broadcasting in 1940, but hopefully, and just possibly this boycott will lead to lasting change (the share analyst quoted in link above does not think so). But pledges to not contribute to non-Open Access journals are nothing new — 34,000 scientists (pdf; has anyone counted how many have stuck with the publication part of the pledge?) signed one in 2001

but the publishing landscape remained largely unchanged until PLoS became a publisher itself to affect change. PLoS therefore reinvented itself as a publisher in 2003 to show how open access publishing could work.

Black March

Copied from, but of unknown provenance/Anonymous:

With the continuing campaigns for Internet-censoring litigation such as SOPA and PIPA, and the closure of sites such as Megaupload under allegations of ‘piracy’ and ‘conspiracy’, the time has come to take a stand against music, film and media companies’ lobbyists.

The only way to hit them where it truly hurts… Their profit margins.

Do not buy a single record. Do not download a single song, legally or illegally. Do not go to see a single film in cinemas, or download a copy. Do not buy a DVD in the stores. Do not buy a videogame. Do not buy a single book or magazine.

Wait the 4 weeks to buy them in April, see the film later, etc. Holding out for just 4 weeks will lave a gaping hole in the media and entertainment companies’ profits for the 1st quarter. An economic hit which will in turn be observed by governments worldwide as stocks and shares will blip from a large enough loss of incomes.

This action can give a statement of intent:
“We will not tolerate the Media Industries’ lobbying for legislation which will censor the internet.”

Nice sentiment. Not purely a tiresome rearguard action. But I don’t see how it can conceivably make a noticeable impact on copyright industry profit margins. Getting a fair number of people to contact their elected representative is noticeable, as usually few do it. A significant proportion of the world’s population pays something to the copyright industries. To make the stated difference, a much larger number of people would have to participate than have in SOPA and ACTA protests, and the participation would require a relatively sustained behavior change, not a few clicks.

Still, perhaps “Black March” will be useful as a consciousness-raising exercise; but of what?

Freedom March

I’ve seen some suggest (especially in Spanish, as the linked post is [Update 20120304: English translation]) that the “what” needs to include making, using, and sharing free works. I agree.

De-skilled, politically inadvisable spam production (social media expertise)

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Oakland Local is a fine web publication that feels to me like a small town weekly or biweekly newspaper, but a bit more worldly, and much, much less the social calendar/reporter and advertiser. But I think these differences can be attributed to locale and moreso era. I recommend checking out OL if you’re OL, and Oakland North too, which looks similar but feels a bit different, presumably because the latter is written by journalism students; they complement each other.

OL has put on a few discussions and parties that I haven’t gotten around to going to. I noticed that they were to hold a news cafe today. I failed to read the description, assuming a news cafe would involve discussion of stuff OL had reported on. Instead:

This second news cafe will focus on how people in Oakland use social media to get the word out about causes and events – with powerful results.

Oops. There’s not much that could interest me less than a socialmediaemergency. I didn’t pay much attention, instead focusing on working through my social mediamail. But I picked up on (or maybe just assumed; these things are certainly not new) two or so things that distress me:

  • I suspect most attendees (and the event was very well attended) are pretty far left. At least one of the panelists mentioned being arrested recently, I assume at an Occupy Oakland protest. The uncritical cheerleading of this crowd for “social media tools” controlled by the 1% (I’m dubious about that split, but I doubt folks getting arrested are) is bizarre. Do you really want “your” social media and graph the the mercy of services that will turn evil and/or moribund soon (show me one that has lasted), and even if there’s a short-term advantage to doing so, is it really politically acceptable?
  • “Social media” is treated as something that many of the gathered are “experts” in, and that organizations ought have strategies around. These propositions also seem slightly bizarre to me. Hundreds of millions of people use “social media” proficiently. There’s nothing remotely difficult about it. Would anyone proclaim themselves to be an “email expert”? Do not self-proclaimed social media experts realize they are the butts of so many jokes? But nevermind jokes — the idea of “social media expertise” seems a warning of some kind of de-skilling that will haunt. And the idea that “social media strategy” is worthy of being on the radar of organizations speaks to creeping PR-ification, non-authenticity, spam, and belief in voodoo. Microblog whatever announcements would’ve been made through other venues anyway and encourage staff and community to communicate whatever they’re doing and excited about via personal accounts. The end. More than that isn’t going to significantly improve fundraising or other actions you care about. Although the term “social media” has gotten ugly, remember that at least it isn’t “promotional media”.

To counter my complaints, I hope to see more political awareness around technology, more up-skilling, and much, much less belief in the goodness of spam, and more recognition thereof. Along these lines, I am happy with several of the things that Mozilla is doing, technically putting things in place to further decentralization, and helping everyone become web makers (up-skill) rather than web spammers (de-skill). There is vast opportunity to take all of these things local, and Oakland ought be ahead of that game.

To be clear, I’m not complaining about Oakland Local above. Actually I want to praise and thank them. As I said, the event was very well attended, very well executed, and people seemed really into it; that says a lot. It also accomplished much for me, not least getting this stored rant off my chest, and perhaps much more. I’m looking forward to other OL events, but I will make sure to read descriptions first. ☻

Addendum: Brief OL writeup of the event.

Pinterest Exclusion Protocol

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
<meta name="pinterest" content="nopin"/>

Weirdly vendor-specific and coarse at the same time. Will other sites follow this directive, which could mean something like “don’t repost images referenced in this page”, which does differ a bit from:

<meta name="robots" content="noimageindex"/>

Not to mention actually using the Robots Exclusion Protocol, and perish the thought, POWDER, or even annotating individual images with microdata/formats/RDFa.

Then there’s the Spam Pinterest Spam Protocol, I mean “pin this” button. I have not been following web actions/activities/intents development beyond the headlines, but please rid us of the so-called NASCAR effect.

Not entirely orthogonal to these vendor-specific exclusion and beg-for-inclusion protocols, are images released under public licenses — not entirely orthogonal as nopin seems to be aimed at countering copyright threats (supplementing DMCA takedown compliance), which public licenses, at least free ones, waive conditionally; and releasing work under a public license is a more general invitation to include.

As far as I can tell Pinterest relies on no public license, and thus complies with no public license condition (ie license notice and attribution). As it probably should not, given its strategy appears to be relying on safe harbors and making it possible for those who want to make an effort to opt-out entirely to do so: public licenses are superfluous. Obviously Pinterest could have taken a very different strategy, and relied on public copyright licenses and public domain materials — at a very high cost: pintereters(?) would need to know about copyright, which is hugely less fun than pinning(?) whatever looks cool.

Each of these (exclusion, inclusion, copyright mitigation strategy) are fine examples of simple-ugly-but-works vs. general-elegant-but-but-but…

I’m generally a fan of general-elegant-but-but-but, but let’s see what’s good and hopeful about reality:

  • “Don’t repost images referenced in this page” is a somewhat understandable preference; let’s assume people get something out of expressing and honoring it. nopin helps people realize some of this something, using a <meta> tag is not ridiculous, and if widely used, maybe provides some in-the-wild examples to inform more sophisticated approaches.
  • I can’t think of anything good about site-specific “share” buttons. But of the three items in this list, I have by far the highest hope for a general-elegant mechanism “winning” in the foreseeable future.
  • Using copyright exceptions and limitations is crucial to maintaining them, and this is wholly good. Now it’d be nice to pass along the availability of a public license, even if one is not relying on such, as a feature for users who may wish to rely on the license for other purposes, but admittedly providing this feature is not cost-free. But I also want to see more projects services (preferably also free and federated, but putting that issue aside) that do take the strategy of relying on public licenses (which does not preclude also pushing on exceptions and limitations) as such have rather different characteristics which I think have longer-term and large benefits for collaboration, policy, and preservation.

Pin It

sun, man, reptile

Monday, February 27th, 2012

For future reference.

Uploaded by bleach79 on May 27, 2006 / 587,239 views

the year punk broke(1991)

Uploaded by Alguhh on Jul 24, 2010 / 8,573 views

i realized this song wasn’t on youtube, so i got pissed off and downloaded the whole album, and well, here it is.
all copyright rights and all that stuff goes to Rapeman and mr Steve Albini.

Uploaded by quarknimble on Sep 8, 2008 / 13,285 views

from the Budd EP

displayed under FAIR USE doctrine, pursuant to 17 USC S.107: “…the fair use of a copyrighted work…for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” THANKS AND CREDITS to Sir Master Steve Albini and Rapeman

Uploaded by albecatoblepaII on Jan 3, 2012 / 81 views

From the album “Customs” (1989). In my opinion, one of the greatest songs of the ’80s.

p.s. I still wish I could recall who sang “Satan isn’t boring, he’s very talkative … Satan doesn’t need Sonic Youth around anyhow.”

Update 20120512: I was thinking of “Satan’s Buddies” by Couch Flambeau:

Uploaded by StripperTweets on Mar 7, 2010 / 595 views

5 years of version 3.0 of Creative Commons licenses

Saturday, February 25th, 2012


Version 3.0 of the main Creative Commons licenses were released 2007-02-23, that is 5 years and 2 days ago, remaining current much longer than previous versions* (1.0: 17 months, 2.0: 12 months; 2.5: 20 months). Hopefully the eventual version 4.0 licenses will remain current much longer still.

Probably the most important developments that 3.0 contributed to were the adoption of CC-BY-SA as the primary license used by Wikimedia projects and the use of various CC licenses (most often CC-BY) by governments and other policy-making entities. 3.0 was probably not absolutely necessary and certainly only a small part of these developments, but it surely helped, e.g., by addressing some of the Debian community’s concerns (which overlap with the views of many Wikimedians) and through further internationalization.

Congratulations to everyone who worked on 3.0 5-6 years ago, especially CC’s General Counsel at the time, Mia Garlick, CC affiliates, and especially (and with some overlap) people who participated in public discussions!

* A further bit of trivia: depending on how one ‘counts’ (eg, not if one counts each edit on Wikipedias!), version 2.0 licenses probably remains the most used, as those are baked into Flickr. During 4.0’s long tenure, I very much hope to see new tools and forms which make it the most used CC license version, even if Flickr does not change at all and continues to grow.

Permissions are job 0 for public licenses

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Copyright permission is the only mechanism that almost unambiguously is required to maximize social value realized from sharing and collaboration around intangible goods (given that copyright exists):

  • Some people think the addition of conditions that are in effect non-copyright regulation are also required, but others disagree, and given widespread ignorance about and noncompliance with copyleft regulation, I put in the class of probably important (is there anyone conducting serious research around this question?) rather than that of unambiguously required. In any case, current copyleft conditions would be nonsensical if not layered on top of permissions.
  • I’ve heard the argument made that no mechanism is needed: culture aided by the net will route around copyright and other restrictions, just ignore them. I can’t find a good example, but some exhortations and the like of copyheart and kopimi are a subset of the genre. But unless one can make the case that the participation of wealthy litigation targets (any significant organization, from IBM to Wikimedia) is a net negative (and that’s only the first hurdle for such an argument to clear), a mechanism for permissions that appear legally sound to the copyright regime seem unambiguously necessary.
  • There are lots of other real and potential restrictions that permission can and may be possible to grant around, but so much progress has been made with only copyright permissions explicitly granted, and how other restrictions will play out largely a matter of speculation, that I put other permissions also in the class of probably important rather than unambiguously required.

Each of these merit much more experimentation and critique, but while any progress on the first two will inevitably be controversial, progress on the third ought be celebrated and demanded. (For completeness sake, progressive changes in social policy must also be celebrated and demanded, but out of scope for this post.) I see few excuses for new licenses and dedications to not aggressively grant every permission that might be possible or needed, nor for new projects to use instruments that are not so aggressive (with the gigantic constraints that use of existing works and the non-existence of perfect instruments impose), nor for communities that vet instruments to give a stamp of approval to such instruments — indeed if politics and path dependencies were not an issues, such communities ought to push non-aggressive instruments to some kind of legacy status.

In this context I am happy with the outcome of the submission of CC0 to the Open Source Initiative for approval: due to not only lack of, but explicit exclusion of patent permissions, Creative Commons has withdrawn the submission. Richard Fontana’s and Bruce Perens’ contributions to the thread are instructive.

I still think that CC0 is the best thing Creative Commons has ever done — indeed I think that largely because of the above considerations; I don’t know of an instrument that makes as thorough attempt to grant permission around all copyright, related, and neighboring restrictions (patents aren’t in any of those classes) — and remain very happy that the Free Software Foundation considers CC0 to be GPL-compatible (I put GPL-incompatibility in a class of avoidable failure separate from but not wholly unlike not granting all permissions that may be possible, unless one is experimenting with some really novel copyleft regulation).

From the OSI submission thread, I also highly recommend Carl Boettiger’s plea for a public domain instrument appropriate for heterogeneous (code/data/other) products. It will (and ought to) take Creative Commons a long time to vet any potential new version of CC0, but fortunately as I’ve pointed out before, there is plenty of room for experimentation with public domain mechanisms, especially around branding (as incompatibility is less of an issue; compare with copyleft (although if one made explicit compatibility a requirement, there is plenty of potentially beneficial exploration to be done there, too)). An example of such that attempts to include a patent waiver is the Ampify Unlicense (background post).

I hope that the CC0/OSI discussion prompts a race to the bottom for public domain instruments, as new ones attempt to carve out every possible permission. This also ought beneficially affect future permissive and copyleft licenses, which also ought grant every permission possible, whatever conditions they layer on top. Note that adding one such permission — around sui generis database restrictions, is probably the most pressing reason for Creative Commons to have started working on version 4.0 of its licenses. I also hope that the discussion leads to increased collaboration and knowledge sharing (at the very least) across domains in which public licenses are used, taking into account Boettiger’s plea and the realities that such licenses are very often used across several domains (a major point of my recent FOSDEM talk, see especially slides 8-11) and that knowledge concerning commons governance is very thin in every domain.

But keep in mind that most of this post concerns very small potential gains relative to merely granting copyright permission (assuming no non-free conditions are present) and even those are quite a niche subject.☻

Fu11 screen

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Does the F11 for full screen mode convention used by many programs come about because F11 looks like “Full” sans vowel? I could not find a web resource discussing this — most results seem to point at incorrectly OCR’d PDFs containing the phrase “full screen”.

In any case, for the last few months I’ve usually run my web browser (Firefox) in full screen mode, saving precious vertical real estate, and removing one source of distraction (seeing other tabs). In its default setting, move the pointer to the top of the screen to see tabs and URL bar. You have to switch out of full screen mode (merely press F11) to access the menubar. If you hate needless animation like I do, go to about:config and set browser.fullscreen.animateUp to 0.

F11 also works in Chromium (one has to toggle out of full screen to see other tabs, which makes sense, as tabs occupy the title bar), Konqueror (but the URL bar won’t go away unless you turn it off separately; very old feature request), and Ephipany (but again the URL bar won’t go away, there’s a very old feature request for that, and turning it off first causes a crash).

Although I used to swear by vertical tabs (most recently with an extension called Vertical Tabs), I’ve stopped using them. They remain visible in fullscreen mode, make it too easy to pile up hundreds of open tabs, and bizarrely my laptop screens have fewer pixels than they did in 2005, so I don’t have an urge to use up horizontal space).

Move descriptions closer to reality: drop “model”

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Refuted: February 2004 had 28 days

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

My first post 8 years ago I already took care of. I find most of my posts, at least from that time period, too content-free to dedicate a single refutation post to each. The remainder of February 2004 follows.


Googlebot Prime encourages poor conversation hygiene, makes a fallacious argument that a global price collapse cannot coexist with local price bubbles, and is pathetically credulous about claims Google might be working on “AI”.

Bitzi Bitcollider 0.6.0 with kzhash, video metadata, tiger tree fix, minimal OS X support is refuted by that being the last bitcollider release.

CC Etech BoF points contains the same errors mentioned in my first post and in “Get creative, remix culture” below.

Not Hosting The Grey Album expresses a wish that pure P2P filesharing might be worthwhile relative to the web. Laughable.

Voluntary Collective Licensing complains about the irritating statement “artists and copyright holders deserve to be fairly compensated”, contributing to the problem of lumping “artists” and “© holders” together. And of course artists deserve to be fairly compensated. They get ripped off too often, eg when playing shows. Better commitment services might help. Do artists get a more square deal in societies characterized as “high trust”, eg Scandanavian? Finally, hatred for collective licensing indicates anti-instrumental signaling. If © holders need to be paid off (voluntarily or otherwise), we should be eager to make a deal. As libertarians are responsible for the continuing drug war (through opposition to even regulation and taxation), libertarians are responsible for lack of © reform and deals required to get there.

REGISTER NOW. IT’S FREE AND IT’S REQUIRED. is short but is severely wrong twice. First, that any blog-related annotations could matter. Second, that people, including me, would not “register” at a website in order to read.

Get creative, remix culture re-posts an announcement regarding the Flash source for two short videos, the first under NonCommons terms, the second instantly-dated and touting several unfortunates and confuses “licensed works” with a “movement”. All symptomatic of a small organization trying out lots of ideas or one having no idea what it is doing. As this is a refutation post, clearly we should accept the latter analysis.

Mediachest Theory claims that social networks will or ought provide reputation, collaborative filtering and the like “advanced” services based on one’s social graph. This was a naive request, and one that I’ve made repeatedly over the years, mostly forgetting that I’d already made it. The money is in providing advanced services to the security state and advertisers, not users.

Real world 5emantic 3eb recommended retaining “ugly and potentially redundant RDF-in-HTML-comments”, a gratuitous error.

Posted February 28, each of the 3 Creative Commons Moving Image Contest Winners were only available under NonCommons terms. (Nearly 7 years later the first place winner moved into the commons.)

February 2004 did have 29 days, though this blog provided no evidence of such.

FOSDEM 2012 and computational diversity

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

I spent day 1 of FOSDEM in the legal devroom and day 2 mostly talking to a small fraction of the attendees I would’ve liked to meet or catch up with. I didn’t experience the thing I find in concept most interesting about FOSDEM: devrooms (basically 1-day tracks in medium sized classrooms) dedicated to things that haven’t been hyped in ~20 years but are probably still doing very interesting things technically and otherwise, eg microkernels and Ada.

Ada has an interesting history that I’d like to hear more about, with the requirement of highly reliable software (I suspect an undervalued characteristic; I have no idea whether Ada has proven successful in this regard, would appreciate pointers) and fast execution (on microbenchmarks anyway), and even an interesting free software story in that history, some of which is mentioned in a FOSDEM pre-interview.

I suppose FOSDEM’s low cost (volunteer run, no registration) and largeness (5000 attendees) allows for such seemingly surprising, retro, and maybe important tracks — awareness of computational diversity is good at least for fun, and for showing that whatever systems people are attached to or are hyping at the moment are not preordained.

I also wanted to mention one lightning talk I managed to see — Mike Sheldon on [update 20120213: video], which I think is one of the most important software projects for free culture — because it facilitates not production or sharing of “content”, but of popularity (I’ve mentioned as “peer production of [free] cultural relevance”). Sheldon (whose voice you can hear on the occasional podcast) stated that GNU FM (the software runs) will support sharing of listener tastes across installations, so that a user of or a personal instance might tell another instance (say one set up for a local festival) to recommend music that instance knows about based on a significant history. Sounds neat. You can see what libre music I listen to at and more usefully get recommendations for yourself.

Addendum: In preemptive defense of this post’s title, of course I realize neither microkernels nor Ada are remotely weird, retro, alternative, etc. and that there are many other not quite mainstream but still relevant and modern systems and paradigms (hmm, free software desktops)…


It started snowing as soon as I arrived in Brussels, and was rather cold.


I got on the wrong train to the airport and got to see the Leuven train station. I made it to the airport half an hour before my flight, and arrived at the gate during pre-boarding. Try that in a US airport.