Post Public Goods

Street patrons missing coordination protocol

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Lima, crowdfunded multi-device storage management:

When we designed Lima, privacy was one of our main concerns.

Lima stores your files at Home. So you can be sure you own your storage. Nobody in the world can access your data, but you. And you don’t need to pay monthly fees for that. The storage technology inside Lima was designed so you can get your data back anytime, even if your Lima device is broken.

The security of your Lima device is our first priority. Like a private datacenter, your Lima is far more difficult to hack than your computer. Our team works continuously with security experts to make sure it remains so. Like high security servers, your Lima will be frequently updated with security patches to keep it unaccessible from badly intentioned governments and individuals.

Comment from backer Suraj:

This looks like very great idea. I am definately a backer. I would like to know if there is any plan to open source the code (may be some kind of stretch goal) ? Whatever described as Tech FAQ’s looks great. But without open sourcing how one could be assured that there are no backdoors in the software. This is not matter of trust but it would be great if community can review the code and find out any security risks.

That’s a friendly way to ask, but it is a matter of trust: verify instead. Commenter Markus:

Suraj, you are absolutely right. If I would be the NSA I would also create a kickstarter project and try to convince everybody that this project is the perfect anti-PRISM-tool and implement lots of backdoors and route traffic directly to the NSA. So, open source software is basically a must. But I don’t think that they can afford to make the SW open source because then you could use basically any similar device and don’t have to buy plug.

The fundee responds:

@Suraj: Markus nailed it. We are too fragile as a startup to open source our code, at least now. All the innovation in Plug is software based. However, you’ll still be able to analyze Plug in/out traffic: that’s also a good way to make sure we don’t do bad things with your data.

That’s a stunning answer. Given that this device is managing your local files with remote-updated, non-auditable software, the attack surface is huge. Now remote update of non-auditable software is commonplace, but most purveyors of such don’t market themselves as anti-PRISM solutions, like this image on the fundee’s page:

Non-auditable slash-PRISM Lima

Contrast with a recent announcement from Least Authority:

We don’t even handle the source code of the client! We tell you to go download that from Debian, Ubuntu, or

We can never see your data, and you can always see our code.

Least Authority’s storage product is very different from Lima’s; but the above is excerpt ought be applicable to both as privacy-protecting products.

Of course open source is no panacea for NSA compromise or any other security threat, rather a good practice that should be demanded for anything related to security.

Apologies for the long prelude about something I’m unqualified to speculate about (security), comments about which were the first thing when I went looking for discussion of the fundee’s other answer about open source, which is also not very credible:

The only thing we manage on our side of the equations are updates of our app and the web interface of Lima. In case of company crash, we’ll do our best to open source at least the most critical parts of our code, so the community continues improving the solution every night.

Cheap talk if there ever was.

But I don’t blame the fundee, the company behind Lima; they are responding to what they see as business conditions, including lack of demand for software freedom (or open source, however you wish to characterize it) as a product feature that will change funding/purchase decisions.

Similarly, it is a bit odd, and a bit of trivia, that today’s crowdfunding services are in part descendants of ideas focused on provisioning works without copyrestrictions, but it seems that with minor exceptions, if a project produces works that are both transparent (eg revealed source or design files) and not legally restricted, it is merely a happy coincidence. Again, I don’t blame the platforms or the fundees. I (perhaps with some hubris) assign blame to people who want there to be demand for freedom for failing to stoke it, and failing to organize what exists.

Concentrated funders are very slowly making and coordinating their demands of fundees, eg Open Access mandates. How can crowdfunders/democratic patrons make analogous progress?

Related: lack of demand coordination, libraries, and e-books, a narrow coordination idea that I need to follow up on, and classic background.

Speedy Firefox video

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Firefox 22, as of last week the general release which the vast majority of Firefox users will auto-upgrade to, includes the “change HTML5 audio/video playback rate” feature that I submitted a feature request for a few months ago. Yay!

It’s a fairly obscure feature (right-click on HTML5 audio/video, if site hasn’t evil-y overwritten default user actions) but hopefully knowledge of it will spread and millions of users will save a huge amount of time listening to lectures and the like, and also come to expect this degree of control over their experience of media on the web.

The next feature request that I really want Firefox developers to address rapidly is Implement VP9 video decoder in Firefox. The next generation of the WebM royalty-free video format uses the VP9 and Opus video and audio codecs, each a large improvement over the currently used VP8 and Vorbis codecs. (For the possible next-next generation free/open video codec, see Daala.)

To date the free/open world has fared very poorly in getting adoption of free/open formats (audio/video as well as document formats), even when they’re clearly technically superior to the encumbered competition (eg Vorbis vs MP3).

(Credit where due, the availability of competitive free/open formats and whatever adoption they’ve gained has probably had large unseen positive effects on consumer welfare by restraining the pricing power of patent monopolists. Similarly the “Linux desktop” has probably invisibly but very significantly increased consumer welfare. I’d love to see an academic analysis.)

If free/open formats are important, all concerned ought to take a close look at why we have failed thus far, and how we can increase our chances going forward. Yes, adoption is hard, network effects of existing formats a very powerful, and commercial relationships needed to gain massive default adoption are hard to break into. The last is one reason we need more billion dollar open source organizations.

But I think we’ve done a poor job of coordinating the free/open/nearby entities that are already large (in terms of presence, if not dollars) to push for adoption of free/open formats, especially at the critical juncture of the release of a new format, during which time there’s some excitement, and also a period of technical superiority (for audio/video anyway, each generation leapfrogs previous capabilities).

The obvious entities I have in mind in addition to Mozilla are Wikimedia sites and the Internet Archive. It took over 2 years for Wikimedia Commons to support WebM uploads (maybe the first) and though the Internet Archive accepts WebM uploads, it still transcodes to the far older Theora format, and for audio doesn’t support Opus at all.

Granted none of these entities have supporting free/open formats as their top priority, and supporting a new format is work, and these are just the highest profile relevant entities in the free/open/nearby world. Can we overcome this collective action problem for the benefit of all?

Very tangentially related, I just noticed the first failure in my video hosting longevity experiment. seems to have moved to serving files from a CDN, without setting up redirects such that old embeds still work.

Non-auditable accounting software

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Software Freedom Conservancy has a plan to help all non-profit organizations (NPOs) by creating an Open Source and Free Software accounting system usable by non-technical bookkeepers, accountants, and non-profit managers. You can help us do it by donating now.

To keep their books and produce annual government filings, most NPOs rely on proprietary software, paying exorbitant licensing fees. This is fundamentally at cross purposes with their underlying missions of charity, equality, democracy, and sharing.

You can help Conservancy fix this problem by . We seek to
raise $75,000 to employ a developer for one year to make substantial progress on this project.

This project has the potential to save the non-profit sector millions in licensing fees every year. Even non-profits that continue to use proprietary accounting software will benefit, since the existence of quality Open Source and Free Software for a particular task curtails predatory behavior by proprietary software companies, and creates a new standard of comparison.

But, more powerfully, this project’s realization will increase the agility and collaborative potential for the non-profit sector — a boon to funders, boards, and employees — bringing the Free Software and general NPO communities into closer collaboration and understanding.

I contributed to the above blurb (and would love to hear critiques of the broad claims therein about free software and non-profit missions), but not to my favorite part of the plan: phase 0, in which existing free software accounting software will be evaluated, with expert input from non-profit organizations currently using various packages, in order to choose a base for further development. How many funding campaigns propose to build something without any understanding of what already exists? Almost all as far as I can tell, and almost always a suboptimal move, is my hunch.

This move is in line with one way of looking at Software Freedom Conservancy’s role: to save free software projects from the suboptimality of another kind of NIH — starting an independent non-profit organization — projects (about 30 so far, git probably the best known) join Software Freedom Conservancy, which takes care of administration such as accounting and provides other services.

I’m generally impressed by Software Freedom Conservancy’s work (read the annual report, pretty and informative) and have served on its project evaluation committee (i.e., intake; applying to join Software Freedom Conservancy is a good motivator to get a lot of best practices in place) for about a year and joined its board the beginning of this year, recently announced.

Please donate to the campaign to improve free software accounting for non-profits. In a past role as non-profit manager at Creative Commons, I absolutely hated the internal non-transparency and dependency of our accountants using a proprietary accounting package tied to a particular Windows server. Doing anything about it was nowhere near the top of my list of things I would’ve or could’ve done given more time or hindsight, but I would’ve been really, really happy if someone else had fixed it, much like I was really happy that CiviCRM became a viable free software customer/donor/constituent/funder relationship management system at the right time for us to scrap a very simple in-house system and not become locked into one of the awful proprietary packages (not soon enough to avoid listening to sales pitches in which the salespeople blatantly lied about implementation costs and product capabilities). Now is the time for someone else to take care of the accounting situation — please help by donating — as I just did.

Oh, and even if you don’t care about non-profits at all, I’m pretty confident that this project will help free software accounting in general, and help is badly needed — LWN’s series on the subject last year is gripping reading. Seriously, it is ridiculous that such fundamental infrastructure for running organizations of all kinds and thus society is itself non-auditable.

April 1 birthday gifts

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Wish me “happy birthday” on Facebook, “endorse” me for “scalability” on LinkedIn.

More seriously, why not give a gift to all? Extrapolate a bit from notices found on individual works (examples abound, often stipulating a public license, but a see classic one, stipulating public domain):

Unless stated otherwise, everything by me, Mike Linksvayer, published anywhere, is hereby placed in the public domain.

Evocation and scalability before equivocation and specification of edge cases and mechanisms to handle them.

Other random acts of kindness, calculated acts generating positive externality, and atavistic art, all welcome.

Realize Document Freedom Day

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Open formats and open standards are excellent causes, but without free/open source software implementations and widespread adoption thereof, the causes are uphill battles, at best. So I’m appalled that the Document Freedom Day (which is today, March 27) website information and suggested actions are merely conceptual.

Let’s fix that, here’s the deal. Download, try, become an expert:

LibreOffice. If in 2013 you’re still using Microsoft Office, you’re either in an organization/industry with extreme lock-in through custom business automation or similar that is built exclusively on Microsoft tools, or you’re actively contributing to the destruction of freedom and equality in the world. If you’ve never tried LibreOffice, or if you’ve tried one of its predecessors (OpenOffice) more than a year ago, try LibreOffice (again) now. It’s excellent, including at reading and writing non-free document formats, a necessity for adoption. But most of the value in software is not inherent, rather in many people using and knowing the software. Network effects rule, and you can make a huge difference! If you can’t be bothered, make up for it with a large donation to The Document Foundation, LibreOffice’s nonprofit organization.

As the DFD website explains, document freedom isn’t just about word processor and spreadsheet documents, or even just about storage formats, but any format used to store or transmit data. Thus I put Jitsi as the second most important application to use in order to realize document freedom. It implements open standards such as XMPP and SIP to provide all of the functionality of Skype, which is completely proprietary in its formats and implementation, willing to work with oppressive governments, and increasingly castigated as bloatware or even malware by people who don’t care much about freedom. Jitsi recently released 2.0. If in the unlikely event you’ve tried it before, it’s definitely worth another look.

Probably everyone knows about Firefox, but not everyone uses it, and it does have the best support for open formats of the top browsers. Also, Firefox has progressed very nicely the last years.

Praise for Document Freedom Day

DFD has missed an opportunity to promote the realization of document freedom, but that would be good in addition to, not in place of their existing messages. Direct use of free software that implements open standards is incredibly powerful, but not the only way to make progress, and despite my mini-rant above The free software movement attaches too much political significance to personal practice. People should demand their governments and other institutions adopt open standards and free software, even if people cannot do so as individuals, just as people should generally demand adoption of good policy even if they cannot personally live wholly as if good policy were already in place.

DFD does a reasonable job of raising awareness of good policy. I strongly encourage doing a bit to realize document freedom today, but sharing a link to on your social networks helps too. Just a little bit, but what can you expect from clicktivism?

I expect pro-free/open clicktivism to promote the realization of freedom!

I have similar complaints about Defective By Design campaigns. Speaking of which, their No DRM in HTML5 campaign is highly pertinent to DFD!

Putatively “open” advocates and organizations sending around .docx files and such, above mini-rant applies especially to you.

April (a French free software organization) has some nice posters explaining open formats.

Extra-jurisdictional voting

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Are there any jurisdictions that permit or encourage people who are neither residents nor citizens to vote? Assuming each voter on average contributes something to good governance, why not as many as possible?

Some objections and counters:

  • Sovereignty. Citzenship and statehood are sacred bonds, like marriage between a male and a female. But the world is highly interconnected, and as people’s exclusionary notions about micro human relationships are crumbling, so will their notions about macro relationships. Excluding by default nearly all humans from participating in governance that will effect them is anti-democratic.
  • Meddling. Big city A and little town B are antipodal. Big city A voters swamp town B’s elections, extract all wealth from town B. But voting is primarily expressive, not self-interested.
  • Money. All such campaigns would be very expensive, or at least could be won with an expensive worldwide media campaign. Paradoxically, money would be much less important, as the average voter would pull information, rather than have it pushed to them: most of 7 billion people won’t be reachable by a campaign.
  • Anti-liberal. Most humans disfavor many freedoms for religious and cultural reasons. Liberal jurisdictions have checks and balances that limit state power.
  • Fraud. Prevention of all of fraud, coercion and disenfranchisement is hard; impossible to enforce extra-jurisdictionally. Hardly an excuse for choosing disenfranchisement; there would be different tradeoffs with extra-jurisdictional, even global, voting, but things like pre-registration, crypto-voting, and cross-jurisdictional cooperation could help on some dimensions; also note objections to sovereignty, meddling, and money above.

Furthermore, some general mechanisms to address challenges:

  • In-jurisdiction selection of candidates, extra-jurisdictional voting.
  • Override extra-jurisdictional vote by in-jurisdiction supermajority.
  • Random selection of extra-jurisdictional voters.

I grant that each of the objections above present substantial problems, are not exhaustive, and my counters are overly dismissive (but I claim have interesting substance). Still, why not some experiments? How about in non-state organizational governance? [Added: Some membership organizations are such experiments.]

If you’re itching to tell me that local voting on desired outcomes, global betting on how to achieve same (i.e., futarchy) is another approach to obtaining more inputs into good governance, good for you. But all of the aforementioned is relevant to choosing desired outcomes — in some cases more should be permitted and encouraged to help choose.

A survey suggests that worldwide, Obama would trounce Romney. That’s wholly unsurprising. I’d be curious to see similar polling for many more elections in many jurisdictions.

Billion dollar open source organizations

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Brian Proffitt looks for the next $1 billion open source company. This year Red Hat recently surpassed US$1 billion annual revenues (and also $10 billion market capitalization).

One can debate what counts as an “open source company” (presumably something like “[almost] all software developed and distributed is open source”), but Red Hat is relatively uncontroversial; less so than the companies Proffitt lists as possibly next: EnterpriseDB, , and Eucalyptus. I might have included Canonical Ltd among those, but I didn’t look closely for indicators of whether any could reasonably become $1 billion annual revenue companies, or reach an easier $billion milestone, valuation — Proffitt notes that MySQL AB was acquired for approximately $1 billion in 2008.

An even more obvious addition to the watchlist ought be Mozilla, which should have annual revenues exceeding $300 million. Mozilla is least problematic on the “open source” front, though the for-profit corporation is wholly owned by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation, which could lead one to overlook it as a “company”. This also means it won’t have a traditional company valuation (acquisition price or market capitalization), but it’d be clearly over $1 billion.

There’s one other open source organization that, if it pursued huge revenues and were for-profit (both requiring many counterfactuals that may well have destroyed the project; I advocate neither, though I have advocated huge revenues in the past) would be a billion dollar company by valuation and perhaps revenue as well — Wikimedia. I wonder, given that it forgoes huge revenue from advertising, and most people claim to dislike and find little or no utility in online advertising, what we can conclude about the consumer surplus generated by Wikimedia?

As hugely problematic as they are, huge organizations (most obviously governments and corporations) outcompete smaller arrangements in many aspects of human society. If software freedom and the like is important, advocates ought to be rooting for (and criticizing) huge “open source” institutions. And should also be looking for (admittedly difficult) characterizations of consumer surplus and other “billion dollar” metrics in addition to firm revenue and valuation of future profits.

Future of Copyright

Monday, April 30th, 2012

“Copyright” (henceforth, copyrestriction) is merely a current manifestation of humanity’s malgovernance of information, of commons, of information commons (the combination being the most pertinent here). Copyrestriction was born of royal censorship and monopoly grants. It has acquired an immense retinue of administrators, advocates, bureaucrats, goons, publicists, scholars, and more. Its details have changed and especially proliferated. But its concept and impact are intact: grab whatever revenue and control you can, given your power, and call your grabbing a “right” and necessary for progress. As a policy, copyrestriction is far from unique in exhibiting these qualities. It is only particularly interesting because it, or more broadly, information governance, is getting more important as everything becomes information intensive, increasingly via computation suffusing everything. Before returning to the present and future, note that copyrestriction is also not temporally unique among information policies. Restriction of information for the purposes of control and revenue has probably existed since the dawn of agriculture, if not longer, e.g., cults and guilds.

Copyrestriciton is not at all a right to copy a work, but a right to persecute others who distribute, perform, etc, a work. Although it is often said that a work is protected by copyrestriction, this is strictly not true. A work is protected through the existence of lots of copies and lots of curators. The same is true for information about a work, i.e., metadata, e.g., provenance. Copyrestriction is an attack on the safety of a work. Instead, copyrestriction protects the revenue and control of whoever holds copyrestriction on a work. In some cases, some elements of control remain with a work’s immediate author, even if they no longer hold copyrestriction: so-called moral rights.

Copyrestriction has become inexorably more restrictive. Technology has made it increasingly difficult for copyrestriction holders and their agents to actually restrict others’ copying and related activity. Neither trend has to give. Neither abolition nor police state in service of copyrestriction scenarios are likely in the near future. Nor is the strength of copyrestricition the only dimension to consider.

Free and open source software has demonstrated the ethical and practical value of the opposite of copyrestriction, which is not its absence, but regulation mandating the sharing of copies, specifically in forms suitable for inspection and improvement. This regulation most famously occurs in the form of source-requiring copyleft, e.g., the GNU General Public License (GPL), which allows copyrestriction holders to use copyrestriction to force others to share works based on GPL’d works in their preferred form for modification, e.g., source code for software. However, this regulation occurs through other means as well, e.g., communities and projects refusing to curate and distribute works not available in source form, funders mandating source release, and consumers refusing to buy works not available in source form. Pro-sharing regulation (using the term “regulation” maximally broadly to include government, market, and others; some will disbelieve in the efficacy or ethics of one or more, but realistically a mix will occur) could become part of many policies. If it does not, society will be put at great risk by relying in security through obscurity, and lose many opportunities to scrutinize, learn about, and improve society’s digital infrastructure and the computing devices individuals rely on to live their lives, and to live, period.

Information sharing, and regulation promoting and protecting the same, also ought play a large role in the future of science. Science, as well as required information disclosure in many contexts, long precedes free and open source software. The last has only put a finer point on pro-sharing regulation in relation to copyrestriction, since the most relevant works (mainly software) are directly subject to both. But the extent to which pro-sharing regulation becomes a prominent feature of information governance, and more narrowly, the extent to which people have software freedom, will depend mostly on the competitive success of projects that reveal or mandate revelation of source, the success of pro-sharing advocates in making the case that pro-sharing regulation is socially desirable, and their success in getting pro-sharing regulation enacted and enforced (again, whether in customer and funding agreements, government regulation, community constitutions, or other) much more so than copyrestriction-based enforcement of the GPL and similar. But it is possible that the GPL is setting an important precedent for pro-sharing regulation, even though the pro-sharing outcome is conceptually orthogonal to copyrestriction.

Returning to copyrestriction itself, if neither abolition nor totalism are imminent, will humanity muddle through? How? What might be done to reduce the harm of copyrestriction? This requires a brief review of the forces that have resulted in the current muddle, and whether we should expect any to change significantly, or foresee any new forces that will significantly impact copyrestriction.

Technology (itself, not the industry as an interest group) is often assumed to be making copyrestriction enforcement harder and driving demands for for harsher restrictions. In detail, that’s certainly true, but for centuries copyrestriciton has been resilient to technical changes that make copying ever easier. Copying will continue to get easier. In particular the “all culture on a thumb drive” (for some very limited definition of “all”) approaches, or is here if you only care about a few hundred feature length films, or are willing to use portable hard drive and only care about a few thousand films (or much larger numbers of books and songs). But steadily more efficient copying isn’t going to destroy copyrestriction sector revenue. More efficient copying may be necessary to maintain current levels of unauthorized sharing, given steady improvement in authorized availability of content industry controlled works, and little effort to make unauthorized sharing easy and worthwhile for most people (thanks largely to suppression of anyone who tries, and media management not being an easy problem). Also, most collection from businesses and other organizations has not and will probably not become much more difficult due to easier copying.

National governments are the most powerful entities in this list, and the biggest wildcards. Although most of the time they act roughly as administrators or follow the cue of more powerful national governments, copyrestriction laws and enforcement are ultimately in their courts. As industries that could gain from copyrestriction grow in developing nations, those national governments could take on leadership of increasing restriction and enforcement, and with less concern for civil liberties, could have few barriers. At the same time, some developing nations could decide they’ve had enough of copyrestriction’s inequality promotion. Wealthy national governments could react to these developments in any number of ways. Trade wars seem very plausible, actual war prompted by a copyrestriction or related dispute not unimaginable. Nations have fought stupid wars over many perceived economic threats.

The traditional copyrestriction industry is tiny relative to the global economy, and even the U.S. economy, but its concentration and cachet make it a very powerful lobbyist. It will grab all of the revenue and control it possibly can, and it isn’t fading away. As alluded to above, it could become much more powerful in currently developing nations. Generational change within the content industry should lead to companies in that industry better serving customers in a digital environment, including conceivably attenuating persecution of fans. But it is hard to see any internal change resulting in support for positive legal changes.

Artists have always served as exhibit one for the content industry, and have mostly served as willing exhibitions. This has been highly effective, and every category genuflects to the need for artists to be paid, and generally assumes that copyrestriction is mandatory to achieve this. Artists could cause problems for copyrestriction-based businesses and other organizations by demanding better treatment under the current system, but that would only effect the details of copyrestriction. Artists could significantly help reform if more were convinced of the goodness of reform and usefulness of speaking up. Neither seems very likely.

Other businesses, web companies most recently, oppose copyrestriction directions that would negatively impact their businesses in the short term. Their goal is not fundamental reform, but continuing whatever their current business is, preferably with increasing profits. Just the same as content industries. A fundamental feature of muddling through will be tests of various industries and companies to carve out and protect exceptions. And exploit copyrestriction whenever it suits them.

Administrators, ranging from lawyers to WIPO, though they work constantly to improve or exploit copyrestriciton, will not be the source of significant change.

Free and open source software and other constructed commons have already disrupted a number of categories, including server software and encyclopedias. This is highly significant for the future of copyrestriction, and more broadly, information governance, and a wildcard. Successful commons demonstrate feasibility and desirability of policy other than copyrestriction, help create a constituency for reducing copyrestriction and increasing pro-sharing policies, and diminish the constituency for copyrestriction by reducing the revenues and cultural centrality of restricted works and their controlling entities. How many additional sectors will opt-in freedom disrupt? How much and for how long will the cultural centrality of existing restricted works retard policy changes flowing from such disruptions?

Cultural change will affect the future of copyrestriction, but probably in detail only. As with technology change, copyrestriction has been incredibly resilient to tremendous cultural change over the last centuries.

Copyrestriction reformers (which includes people who would merely prevent additional restrictions, abolitionists, and those between and beyond, with a huge range of motivations and strategies among them) will certainly affect the future of copyrestriction. Will they only mitigate dystopian scenarios, or cause positive change? So far they have mostly failed, as the political economy of diffuse versus concentrated interests would predict. Whether reformers succeed going forward will depend on how central and compelling they can make their socio-political cause, and thus swell their numbers and change society’s narrative around information governance — a wildcard.

Scholars contribute powerfully to society’s narrative over the long term, and constitute a separate wildcard. Much scholarship has moved from a property- and rights-based frame to a public policy frame, but this shift as yet is very shallow, and will remain so until a property- and rights-basis assumption is cut out from under today’s public policy veneer, and social scientists rather than lawyers dominate the conversation. This has occurred before. Over a century ago economists were deeply engaged in similar policy debates (mostly regarding patents, mostly contra). Battles were lost, and tragically economists lost interest, leaving the last century’s policy to be dominated by grabbers exploiting a narrative of rights, property, and intuitive theory about incentives as cover, with little exploration and explanation of public welfare to pierce that cover.

Each of the above determinants of the future of copyrestriction largely hinge on changing (beginning with engaging, in many cases) people’s minds, with partial exceptions for disruptive constructed commons and largely exogenous technology and culture change (partial as how these develop will be affected by copyrestriction policy and debate to some extent). Even those who cannot be expected to effect more than details as a class are worth engaging — much social welfare will be determined by details, under the safe assumption that society will muddle through rather than make fundamental changes.

I don’t know how to change or engage anyone’s mind, but close with considerations for those who might want to try:

  • Make copyrestriction’s effect on wealth, income, and power inequality, across and within geographies, a central part of the debate.
  • Investigate assumptions of beneficent origins of copyrestriction.
  • Tolerate no infringement of intellectual freedom, nor that of any civil liberty, for the sake of copyrestriction.
  • Do not assume optimality means “balance” nor that copyrestriction maximalism and public domain maximalism are the poles.
  • Make pro-sharing, pro-transparency, pro-competition and anti-monopoly policies orthogonal to above dimension part of the debate.
  • Investigate and celebrate the long-term policy impact of constructed commons such as free and open source software.
  • Take into account market size, oversupply, network effects, non-pecuniary motivations, and the harmful effects of pecuniary motivations on creative work, when considering supply and quality of works.
  • Do not grant that copyrestriction-based revenues are or have ever been the primary means of supporting creative work.
  • Do not grant big budget movies as failsafe argument for copyrestriction; wonderful films will be produced without, and even if not, we will love whatever cultural forms exist and should be ashamed to accept any reduction of freedom for want of spectacle.
  • Words are interesting and important but trivial next to substance. Replace all occurrences of “copyrestriction” with “copyright” as you see fit. There is no illusion concerning our referent.

This work takes part in the and is published under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.


Announcing RichClowd: crowdfunding with a $tatus check

Sunday, April 1st, 2012


Oakland, California, USA — 2012 April 1

Today, RichClowd pre-announces the launch of, an exclusive “crowdfunding” service for the wealthy. Mass crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have demonstrated a business model, but are held back by the high transaction costs of small funds and non-audacious projects proposed by under-capitalized creators. RichClowd will be open exclusively to funders and creators with already substantial access to capital.

The wealthy can fund and create audacious projects without joining together, but mass crowdfunding points to creative, marketing, networking, and status benefits to joint funding. So far mass crowdfunding has improved the marketplace for small projects and trinkets. The wealthy constitute a different strata of the marketplace — in the clouds, relatively — and RichClowd exists to improve the marketplace for monuments, public and personal, and other monumental projects.

“Through exclusivity RichClowd will enable projects with higher class, bigger vision, and that ultimately long-lasting contributions to society”, said RichClowd founder Mike Linksvayer, who continued: “Throughout human history great people have amassed and created the infrastructure, artifacts and knowledge that survives and is celebrated. As the Medicis were to the renaissance, RichClowders will be to the next stage of global society.”

RichClowd will initially have a membership fee of $100,000, which may be applied to project funding pledges. To ensure well-capitalized projects, RichClowd will implement a system called Dominant Assurance Contracts, which align the interests of funders and creators via a refund above the pledged amount for unsuccessful projects. This system will require creators to deposit the potential additional refund amount prior to launching a RichClowd project.

For the intellectual products of RichClowd projects, use of a forthcoming RichClowd Club License (RCCL) will be encouraged, making outputs maximally useful to funders, while maintaining exclusivity. Egalitarian projects will have the option of using a free public license.

The technology powering will be developed openly and available under an AGPL open source badgeware intellectual property license. “RichClowd believes in public works. In addition to the many that will be created via the RichClowd service, open development of the technology is the company’s own direct contribution to the extraordinary public work that is the Internet”, said Linksvayer.

About RichClowd

RichClowd is a pre-launch exclusive crowdfunding service with a mission of increasing the efficiency of bringing together great wealth and great projects to make an amazing world. Based in Oakland, California, a city with a reputation for poverty and agitation, RichClowd additionally takes on the local civic duty of pointing out Oakland’s incredible wealth and wealthy residents: to begin with, look up at the hills.


Mike Linksvayer, Founder

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.