“The means of information”

Information Doesn't Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow’s new book Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free is ostensibly a guide for creators on how to approach the Internet, and does so in an extremely informative, yet conversational manner. Furthermore it is concise, making it very accessible. When people ask me why I care so much about copyright and DRM, I will point them to this short and entertaining book.

Funnily enough, this book reminded me a lot of Astra Taylor’s The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age (which I was critical of in my Literary Review of Canada review). One thing I didn’t like about her book was tone. I had even expressed that she be more academic in her approach. I think that opinion was wrong. She should have taken an approach more like Doctorow: conversational and entertaining.

Doctorow lays out a lot of the challenges that today’s creators face. He is familiar with the means of production and the regulations concerned (he did spend a number of years at the EFF fighting this stuff) and communicates it easily. Furthermore, he offers realistic solutions. This is the kind of book I wish Taylor had produced.

Although I didn’t think People’s Platform was all that great, I still recommend it to people because it encapsulates a lot of the Internet criticism of the past five years or so. Doctorow essentially does the same thing for copyright, piracy and digital locks, and then shows how it affects the wider society through censorship, privacy and surveillance. I prefer his execution. There is some overlap (and sometimes conflicting), but otherwise I think these books complement one another, and will probably recommend them as a pair. I would love to see Taylor’s review of Doctorow and vice-versa.

Local startups! Protect our shared resource!

The internet is like the sea, a vast and shared resource that we all depend on. Unfortunately we do not have anything like UNCLOS to help protect that resource from the countries and companies that threaten it. So much of the innovation and content on the internet is the result of individual users like us. Well, so is the responsibility to protect it.

Luckily we have some grassroots organizations to help coordinate individual efforts. Here in Canada we have OpenMedia, which I have mentioned before and you have probably seen me tweet about. I’ve been a member for a couple of years.

This month they are reaching out to fellow tech companies, whose businesses are all enabled by a free and open internet, to step up and contribute to the protection of that precious resource. The amazing thing they have done is got together a bunch of tech organizations to match all donations. This is the best time to get the most bang for your buck.

The campaign is called #StepUp4Net.

StepUpForNet_donate_banner

This is a grassroots campaign, led by local tech leaders. My pal Boris Mann has been working hard with cool people like Michael Tippet and Tim Bray to activate the YVR community, and I hear from OpenMedia that donations are coming in from Toronto. I would love to see some of our community members in the Okanagan and Thompson regions also contribute to this campaign.

For each one of you in your respective geographic areas, please reach out to find companies around you that are able to help. We are trying to get a couple hundred businesses to step up. Connect them directly to Open Media or even to me if they have questions. The campaign link is:

https://openmedia.org/stepup

2015 is going to be a big year with all kinds of legislation on the table regarding net neutrality, the TPP, surveillance, and lots of other issues. We need orgs like OpenMedia to augment our voice in Ottawa and elsewhere both as businesses and citizens. There is no better time to step up!

And don’t forget, you can still donate individually. Check out OpenMedia’s Donate page.

Warner Bros: You are doing it wrong

The wife got me the Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection boxed (17 discs) set for our anniversary. Yes, well, she got me Lord of the Rings for another anniversary, so it is already well established that she married a total geek. Besides, it is a great present and I hope to enjoy all of the films and books with both of my daughters. I know it is only DVD, but I don’t own a BluRay player, and I do everything digital anyways. So I was excited to see that the boxed set included digital downloads! But not so fast… Take a look at this fine print:

DIGITAL COPY: Includes Standard Definition Digital Copy™ of the film with the purchase of this disc. Special Features not included. … Not compatible with iTunes or with Macintosh and iPod devices. Consumer must reside in Japan and have a broadband internet connection and a DVD-ROM drive. * Mobile Requirements: Digital copy access on mobile phones limited to supported phones using Docomo as a mobile service provider. … PC Requirements: Windows® XP Service Pack 2 or later or Windows® Vista or Windows® 7, Internet Explorer® 6.0 or above. Windows Media® Player most recent version, Adobe® Flash® Player most recent version, and Adobe® AIR™ most recent version.

Boy, that last couple of lines is packed full of exciting software that I want to install on my computer [/sarcasm].

Anyways I only have my MacBook Air here in Japan so with no disc drive it doesn’t look like I will be able to get any of the digital versions. Besides, when you go to Warner on Demand Digital copy website there are a number of other restrictions including:

※Digital CopyのダウンロードはInternet Explorerで行ってください。他のブラウザでは正常にライセンスが発行できませんので、ご了承ください。

Yes, digital downloads require Internet Explorer. Apparently they cannot license [the content properly through] other browers thank you for your understanding. (#bullshit)

I know it has all been said before. Hollywood needs to be disrupted, and not just the distribution part of the business. This is such a terrible, terrible experience. I am glad there are alternatives, but it is a sad way to treat paying customers.

WE are THEY

Just watched the Lessig “wireside chat” on changing copyright, remix culture and fair use. Yes, THAT presentation: the one that was dubiously silenced by Warner Music Group but has since had its audio returned. Another entertaining and inspirational presentation from the master. I support his clarion call for people to fight back using the tools that gave them a voice in the first place, the tools that already have Old Media gnashing its teeth. Many might ask how.

Japan also has some draconian, DMCA-style copyright laws (remember when JASRAC forced YouTube to pull 30,000 clips?). If you want to become active, you might want to start by looking at:

Maybe 1rick, adamukun or neojapanisme can provide more links.

Pick up the phone.