On Piracy

Now, there are many problems in the world of digital security - from governments around the world undermining privacy technology or firewalling their citizens off from information to valiant but underfunded security tools having the time to focus only on keeping the tool safe, but not making it easy to use. Some of these problems are rather significant, some are more approachable, but there remains a hidden problem, so pervasive and pernicious that it undermis all of our good work in bringing usable, human-centered privacy and security tools to wider audiences.

ARRRR: More on Piracy and HBO

The Atlantic has a solid follow up piece on the growing demand for HBO to play ball and sell access to their content independent of cable, focusing on three key points. Paraphrasing, (1) is that HBO probably receives much more than the premium-only fees for bundling with cable, (2) is that well, HBO is wholly owned in a vertically-integrated cable company, Time-Warner, and by allowing a disconnect, while it could potentially raise HBO's subscribers, would be a hit against parent T-W's cable empire. (3) reminds us that most content subscribers are still on cable. Well, for now.

I of course debunked some of this last week, here, (and larger parts of it 10 years ago in rants that have been lost to the dustbin of Internet history), but to specifically respond to this post, a few more salient points.

Actually, T-W is losing ~200 per month from me. They could reduce that margin by selling HBO access to me. I have a nice TV - it's hooked up to the internet, but not cable. There is no value for me in paying for a cable subscription, when I can access the few shows I'm interested in, usually, via iTunes or Netflix, which I happily pay money for. So (1) - Sorry, but you must play in the market - you must offer a price; merely saying it's too expensive is not acceptable.

On Piracy, Business Models, and Game of Thrones

Over at FastCompany, Robert Levine writes that pirating Game of Thrones is a direct attack on this emerging genre of actually good TV shows, and those of us who would pirate it are simply being un-supportive of this business model:

The idea that HBO’s exclusivity amounts to an outrage seems silly, since it essentially amounts to commerce: If you want it, you have to pay for it. Obviously, HBO sets its own terms--it sells content by the month, not the episode--but so does every other company, in some way. Beer isn’t sold in five-packs. And, of course, Thrones is available on iTunes a year after it airs. (I waited to buy it and I’ve managed to lead a fulfilling life.)


Look. I'm going on vacation tomorrow. I have promised myself to keep my stress levels down, so this is as much as you'll hear from me about SOPA - those in favor of being able to randomly block any site have thus far not shown anything beyond a mindless, selfish, shortsighted and childish desire to make the Internet bend to their will. The Internet works because it bends to no one private interest, and serves us all.

They're not even letting opposing viewpoints testify at the Congressional hearing: http://act.demandprogress.org/sign/sopa_testimony/?akid=1018.606560.JTk…. If this is how they think Democracy should work, I'd hate to see how they want to re-create the Internet.

Read more at http://americancensorship.org/

Going Nuts over the Value of Local Production

For some background, I highly recommend Alanna Shaikh's post here: http://aidwatchers.com/2010/04/the-plumpy%E2%80%99nut-dustup/ and follow-up here: http://aidwatchers.com/2010/05/the-plumpy%E2%80%99nut-dust-up-nutriset%… . In short, a French company is defending their patent on a super-nutritious "therapeutic" food called Plumpy'nut against a lawsuit by some US NGOs (who could have licensed it, but are instead trying to break the patent)

My guy reaction was anti-intellectual property, as I strongly believe that our current IP schemes tend to do more damage than good. That being said, I think Nutriset is seemingly doing the right thing here - forcing support for local production. Let us presume nothing but sparkly, unicorn-bedazzled thoughts about Nutriset for a moment:

Goal 1: Provide a therapeutic food product
Goal 2: Ensure quality standards (duh)
Goal 3: Make it widely available and politically tenable to "recipient" governments
Goal 4: Don't make things worse locally by undercutting the economy

You could open the patent, post the ingredients and production methods and encourage everyone to go after it. This would support goals 1,3 and 4, with a risk of opportunists really wrecking #2, anyone could claim that they were using the authentic plumpynut recipe even while their product is unhealthy at best or outright deadly at worst.

Social Networks (including Facebook) and Technology Transfer

In Social Networks (not Facebook) and Development I covered the relevance of local social networks and social capital / trust for successful, long-term community and economic development.

Finding, engaging an empowering local social networks is the first step. I believe connecting these networks to the global communities of interest and practice on the Internet can provide a multiplier effect.

In the recent Technology Salon on Malawian health ICT systems, it was discussed how hiring recent Malawian college grads and connecting them to the global community of open source coders gave them an immense resource to draw on as they began their work; and they were soon contributing as peers and mentors to other programmers around the world.

That's power, and that's the 21st century version of technology transfer.

Cory Doctorow, or how I learned to start worrying and hate IP regulation

Sometimes, I lie awake at night and worry about copyright. I then start worrying if this makes me irreconcilably weird.

I worry both for our American culture, as items have stopped falling into the public domain and becoming available to re-use and re-mix, or simply to re-present for free. If this doesn't seem like a problem, this video on a 6-second drumbeat will blow your mind - especially if you then read this story about an artist being sued for a 1 minute clip of silence making fun of John Cage's 4'33" of silence. The artist ended up settling out of court.

I worry more generally about international trade and development, as we inflict ever-tighter IP regulations on countries we give aid to or trade with - regulations which we scoffed and flouted during our own development.

We're no longer protecting innovation with these laws - we're protecting the first movers (often big, established businesses), and encouraging gaming the patent system to try and get the most generic and sweeping patent accepted.

Good will sharing

I read BoingBoing - it provides a steady stream of new and interesting things around the net, and the occasional IT policy tidbit. Lots of people read boingboing as well, giving it a power not unlike the slashdot effect - the ability to direct massive amounts of traffic at a site, taking it down in many cases with the onslaught.