I fell in love with Robert Redford in The Sting when he was young and I was younger. Redford is one of the cinema’s greatest undervalued comedians; his timing is flawless as showcased in early work like “Barefoot In The Park” or later “Legal Eagles”. He even brought humour to his portrayal of “the Sundance Kid,” for whom his film festival is named.
But Redford has put in some brilliant performances in political films over the years.
He turned in a brilliant performance in a cautionary tale called “The Candidate,” which demonstrates clearly how degraded democracies can become.
But there are two movies I was reminded of when I read about today’s WikiLeaks story.
At the end of the movie “Three Days of the Condor,” the inadvertent hero Redford plays achieves freedom the only possible way:
by releasing the classified information to the media.
Because we know that even though he is a whistle blower, once the world knows he will be safe.
And we know the news media will ensure that the story gets out.
We know that.
Robert Redford also played Bob Woodward in “All The President’s Men,” the film version of the true story of the “Watergate” scandal that brought down the Nixon administration.
There are countless stories of the bravery of reporters who risked, and in many cases lost– their lives in pursuit of a story that was important to them and the public. And it still happens.
But that doesn’t alter the fact that the world has changed a lot in the last few decades. In many cases, the News Media is not doing the job we believe it is. Citizens around the globe have NOT been told about the dangers of ACTA or the importance of Net Neutrality to free speech and democracy.
Part of it is, I am sure, that technological advances, in particular the Internet, has caused great upheavals in the Media business. As ownership has been increasingly centralized, downsizing, “dumbing down” and decimation of staff has left many newsrooms in very reduced and weakened states. The agendas of the corporate masters more often determines what is reported and how.
So we are very fortunate to have WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks was gifted with a heap of really important information. In order to ensure dissemination, they passed them around to five major news outlets located in 5 different countries. Each were aware the others had the story, so they ALL had no CHOICE but to publish, with or without corporate or government approval.
In this way, WikiLeaks guaranteed that the story broke and spread.
Canada’s government funded public broadcaster, the CBC, uses an American “Licensing” scheme which doesn’t allow even purely non-profit fair dealing reuse of their publications by Canadian citizens. So why would WikiLeaks even CONSIDER releasing this story to CBC?
Clearly, just like in “Three Days of the Condor,” WikiLeaks wants to spread the story as far and wide and as fast as possible. So that it can’t be stopped.
The Globe likes to call itself “Canada’s National Newspaper,” but like that other television broadcaster, the Globe is owned by Bell Canada Enterprises. I assume that this corporate connection would be the reason why the Globe has been first so quiet and about the fact Canadian Internet rates are shortly to go through the roof due to Usage Based Billing. It is only recently that it’s been possible to find UBB on their website at all. Now that they are, the bias is thick enough to cut with a knife.
As a blogger I prefer not to link to Globe articles because in the past they’ve broken links by placing articled behind a paywall.
So I can’t imagine the Globe standing up to government pressure to suppress the WikiLeaks story.
Having a Canadian Government in the process of pushing through Bill C-32 in the face of Universal opposition to appease the American Government, it’s easy to imagine our government buckling at the first sign of American disapproval.
So WikiLeaks released the Cables to 5 dispersed news outlets as a strategy to ensure that the story will break. Because that is the reason for the very existance of WikiLeaks: to get the story out. Even if it means the end of WikiLeaks.
Which is, of course, why WikiLeaks is so incredibly dangerous to governments who want to act without oversight or scrutiny. And why Wikileaks is the destination of choice for whistleblowers with politically sensitive leaks go. Because WikiLeaks is in it to get the story out. Period.
Even so, WikiLeaks has been down every time I’ve attempted to visit their site today.
I saw an unsubstantiated report that they were suffering a DDoS attack. And it isn’t hard to imagine where such an attack may have originated.
Of course, their servers may simply have gone down under the onslaught of un-official media outlets (like me).
Of course there have been tales of military personnel wishing for the demise of WikiLeaks. If they didn’t like WikiLeaks before this…
This story is out. It can’t be put back in the bottle. And that’s good.
If WikiLeaks is targeted, or taken down, what I worry about is the next story.
we are ALL in this together
Fortunately, I’m not alone in my concerns.
When Iceland’s Modern Media Initiative gets referendum approval, they are aiming to be good to go by 2012.
ICELAND TO BECOME INTERNATIONAL TRANSPARENCY HAVEN
“I am proud to advise the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative’s proposal to create a global safe haven for investigative journalism. I believe this proposal is a strong way of encouraging integrity and responsive government around the world, including in Iceland. In my work investigating corruption I have seen how important it is to have have robust mechanisms to get information out to the public. Iceland, with its fresh perspectives and courageous, independent people seems to be the perfect place to initiate such an effort towards global transparency and justice.”
—Eva Joly MEP – Icelandic Modern Media Initiative
That will be good for us all. Lets keep our fingers crossed that WikiLeaks can last that long.
There is no doubt in my mind that Digital Content and Technologies will play an enormous role in Canada’s future, particularly since they have already achieved incredible importance. The rapidly changing face of digital technology, and in particular the Internet, has pulled Canada, along with the rest of the world into the digital future far more rapidly than any previous technological revolution.
It must also be remembered that change within all digital technologies is ongoing. The big idea or the hot website of the day can change in the blink of an eye. Government attempts to micromanage policies or businesses will simply impede the ability of Canadian businesses to adapt to the changes quickly enough to compete effectively.
This Digital Consultation is clearly focused on business. Yet business is only one of the elements that needs consideration. The Digital Economy doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists in an ecosystem populated by a wide range of consumers and citizens. Further, the Canadian Digital Economy connects to the rest of the world through the Internet.
In formulating a national digital economy agenda, Canada needs to take a good long look at Net Neutrality, FLOSS, Education, DRM/TPM, Culture and Accessibility. Care needs to be taken to formulate good policies and laws that reflect the world in which we live and allow Canadians to maximize our potential.
As a democratic nation, it is vitally important to consult with all the stakeholders and reach a reasonable consensus. Rushing to implement inadequate or ill advised policies or legislation is to no one’s benefit, and certainly won’t improve Canada’s Digital Economy.
Everything is connected.
Theme: Canada’s Digital Content
Since first learning about the impending imposition of Usage Based Billing I have been learning about many of these issues and blogging about them in my public service blog ‘Stop Usage Based Billing’.
As a writer returning to the work force, I’ve taught myself to create web pages and write blogs as a warm-up for my real work writing novels. For myself I find self publishing to be a very attractive alternative to signing a traditional deal with a traditional publishing house.
Although many of the issues I am addressing here are largely technical, as a writer, my greatest personal concern is for the future of digital content in Canada.
The primary focus of any Digital Economy policy should be removal of barriers to small business. Make it simple and create an environment conducive to innovation and competition, both at home and on the global stage. That is the kind of support that will help Canadian business thrive.
The single most important thing the Government can and should do is to ensure Canada has real environment of Net Neutrality.
In the early days of the Internet, Canada had state of the art technology and reasonable prices, two very good reasons why initial Canadian rates of Internet adoption were good. In recent years, though, especially in the parts of the country without Independent ISPs, dramatically spiraling costs have certainly been a factor in the slowing rate of Canadian Internet adoption.
Unfortunately the Internet carriers appear to have done little more than basic maintenance of the infrastructure although Canadian Internet rates have risen to some of the highest in the world, leaving Canada faced with both a sagging infrastructure and high costs. Hardly an ideal environment for growth.
Canadian Internet Carriers also operate as Internet Service Providers. To foster competition and benefit Canadians, the Government mandated the Internet Infrastructure be opened up to Independent Internet Service Providers. These Independent ISPs access the Internet through the carriers’ infrastructure. As a result, the Independent ISPs are in direct competition with the carriers’ own ISP branches.
The CRTC is our Internet Regulator charged with protecting Canadian consumers. Yet they have been horribly remiss. At best they appear incapable of understanding the issues.
The CRTC ruled to allow Bell to impede the Internet connections of the Independent Service Providers’ customers. This legal discrimination is accomplished with Deep Packet Inspection technology, allowing Bell access to the content of all unencrypted Internet traffic that passes across the infrastructure they control. Due to privacy issues DPI is illegal in Europe, yet the CRTC sees no harm in allowing Bell this access, and has not even bothered to provide any oversight. This is the digital equivalent of providing Bell with our house keys. Even in the days when Bell equipment was stored in Canadian homes, no government felt it necessary to grant them such access.
The CRTC has also approved Bell’s application to charge Usage Based Billing against the customers of the Independent Internet Service Providers. This mind boggling economic concept essentially removes the Independent ISP’s ability to offer the pricing packages they choose. Instead they will be forced to impose Bell pricing, dramatic price increases to at least double consumer costs without the providing the tiniest increase in value.
The worst part about this decision is that the CRTC accepted this proposal as a ‘traffic management’ strategy for Bell the carrier. Bell’s stated intent is to reduce Canadian Internet use by making it expensive enough to deter Canadian consumers from using the Internet. In this way Bell can continue to reap huge profits from consumers without having to reinvest in infrastructure.
It seems to me that reducing Canadian Internet access should be the last thing that Canada needs if the Canadian Government goal is to nurture a Canadian Digital Economy. Discouraging Canadian consumers from shopping online will result in reduced business for Canadian companies, who will have increasing difficulty doing business at all as the Canadian infrastructure falls farther and farther behind.
For both these situations, the CRTC has abused its regulatory powers by allowing Bell to interfere in, and worse dictate, the business practices of direct competitors. This is an incredibly anti-competitive way of doing business, and hardly conducive to encouraging Canadian business. And the direct opposite of the principles of Net Neutrality.
The reason the Internet has spread across the globe with such speed is because the Internet was not regulated. Instead it has provided as close to a level playing field as the world has yet seen. Because anyone can play. All it takes is a computer and a connection.
Part of the problem is that the Internet Carriers are wearing too many hats. Perhaps it is time to separate the carrier and the ISPs. And the carrier from the content provider. After all, usage caps can be used to prevent a carrier’s ISP subscribers from accessing content elsewhere. As others in the Digital Economy Consultation have suggested, public ownership of the infrastructure may very well be the way to proceed.
The CRTC should not be permitted to facilitate damage to Canada’s ability to participate in the global digital economy. Since the CRTC appears incapable of understanding the issues, serious changes must be made before worse economic damage results.
ACCESS and INNOVATION
Where does innovation come from? A lot of it starts with ‘thinking outside the box.’
If I want to plant a lawn, I wouldn’t just plant a dozen grass seeds. I’d cover the ground with seeds. Some of the seeds may be duds, and the birds or squirrels may eat some more, but if I water it a reasonable amount, I will end up with a lawn. All Canadians
Canada is known throughout the world as a country rich in natural resources. Yet our single greatest natural resource is our children. If we are looking to maximize the potential of our education system, forcing post secondary institutions to turn their research arms into businesses is the wrong way to go.
It would be far better to lower or even remove existing financial barriers to higher education. Previously Canada offered government grants to students who would not otherwise be able to afford a college or university education. Today’s students who are unable to afford the cost of post secondary education can access government backed loans instead. The problem is that when these students leave school with their degree they also carry the burden of crushing personal debt.
The unfortunate result is that bright students who might benefit from a post secondary education may well choose immediate employment over debt. I submit that all Canadian students should have access to post secondary education whether or not they can afford it. The benefits Canada will reap from the resulting talent, creativity and innovation is a skilled and educated workforce. This would be an excellent way for Government to the digital skills necessary to compete, thrive and innovate in the digital economy,
The more access Canadians have, the more innovation there will be. The more Canadians participate in the various aspects of the Internet, the more small startups we’ll have. Certainly every attempt is not going to lead to a Blackberry, but the more startups the better. Some won’t t succeed, but some will.
Particularly in trying economic times, small businesses don’t have money to burn. They can’t afford expensive research, so they are unlikely to hire consultants to guide them in digital adoption strategies to enhance their business. Small businesses tend to do things for themselves, with owners or staff being more likely to play around online to get an idea of how they might proceed. All that’s necessary is an Internet connection. Trial and error is free (at least until UBB is implemented). Should they try out an Identi.ca account or a blog? Or see if FaceBook or MySpace or Kijiji or HotFrog can best help grow the business?
Canadian Government Adoption of Digital Technology
I have been impressed with the Canadian Government’s commitment and follow through in putting an increasing amount of information online. This is an invaluable path to allow Canadians access to publicly funded information. However, it must be accessible to all Canadians.
It is certainly time to consider removal of crown copyright. This is one area where the United States provides a shining example Canada ought to emulate. The American Government releases everything from NASA space photographs to Library of Congress historical documents directly into the public domain. Because the taxpayers have already paid for this material they don’t have to again. Yet in Canada the CBC won’t give permission to even the most non-commercial of bloggers to reproduce a CBC image in a public service blog.
All levels of Canadian Government need to rethink dependency on Adobe PDF files. To the Ministry of Industry’s credit, this site offers a viable alternative to PDFs. Government information should not be locked up in a PDF file. Some people think that exporting documents into PDF makes them secure, when in fact the PDF exists to lock the document’s format for printing. PDF files require the download of a special reader, which for some is an immediate barrier to accessibility. Even with the reader installed, PDF files are not always easily to read on a computer screens, which makes sense since they were designed for printing. Without special tools citizens can’t easily make use of the information stored in government generated PDFs. It isn’t possible to simply cut and paste the information from a PDF into a calendar, newsletter, blog or mailing list. People need to retype the information in order to make use of it. This is, after all, government information that citizens are entitled to. It should be easily accessible so it can be read from the screen or used as needed.
FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software) or Open Data formats make it possible to avoid dependency on proprietary software, and ensure accessibility.
Placing Canadian Government Data in software formats controlled by a corporation can result in forced upgrades to accommodate the corporate timetable, or worse, being left without support in the event that the software vendor chooses to withdraw support.
Some proprietary software like Microsoft Vista or Windows 7 cannot be prevented from ‘calling home.’ I don’t know what software or hardware is actually deployed in the halls of government, but the probability that it is foreign proprietary software is certainly high. Since the Government has access to private citizen information I wonder both about Privacy ramifications and National Security issues when the Corporations controlling this proprietary software are not Canadian.
Eventually ceasing Canadian Government use of foreign proprietary software could help safeguard Canadian government data. Should our Government switch to FLOSS, additionally it would result in savings. FLOSS adoption would accrue all the same benefits to small and medium sized business as it would to the government.
Much of this same proprietary software is being forced on our children under the public education system thanks to ‘donations’ from the manufacturer. High School students take courses called ‘programming’ but instead of learning programming often they are simply trained in the use of a particular kind of proprietary software. I’ve heard that some European countries mandate equal access to non-proprietary software in public education. That would be an excellent mandate for Canada.
All Canadians need to be able to access the Internet so they can participate fully in the digital economy. But it is the children and young people of today who require the most nurturing because they will be the innovators of tomorrow.
Access is crucial. Cost should not be a barrier.
COPYRIGHT: Digital Locks
Bill C32 cannot possibly be allowed to pass as it stands. The provision to make it illegal to circumvent ‘Digital Rights Management/Technical Protection Measures,’ sometimes known as Digital Locks, at the expense of everything else is wrong.
Environmentally it would be a nightmare. Digital locks on media and/or devices means that repair would not be an option. Canadians would be forced to throw out perfectly good media and devices if they had DRM/TPM and it wasn’t working.
Making circumvention of digital locks illegal guarantees that Canadians will be legally prevented from modifications which may well lead to innovations.
The moment that anti circumvention of digital locks becomes law, every digital manufacturer in Canada, along with every digital manufacturer outside of Canada, will be loading DRM on all of their media and devices destined for sale here.
This will become even more restrictive than proprietary software for Canadian consumers. We’ll need dozens of different devices because there will be no inter-operability as every manufacturer strives to corner the market. And in the event that one does, like, say, VHS, and all the others go out of business, consumers who bought the wrong media will again be out of luck.
Consumers are shell shocked from all of the obsolete technologies we’ve been through.
If it is going to be illegal for us to preserve, repair or even use the media or devices we buy, consumers may well stop buying. Hardly a recipe for a thriving digital economy.
At minimum any device or media having DRM/TPM must be clearly marked to warn consumers. It must also be made illegal for the words “buy” “sell” and “purchase” to be used in these transactions, since clearly they no longer fall under the terms of property ownership, rendering usage of those words fraudulent.
As a writer, I am aware that Canada already possesses strong copyright law. To my way of thinking it is, if anything our copyright is too strong, possibly to the point of being detrimental to creators. As a creator, my first priority is disseminating my work. I very much oppose the idea that my work will be locked up by copyright for fifty years after my death. I feel strongly enough about this to the extent that I choose to make use of Creative Commons licensing.
A large part my strong opposition to legislation which cedes supremacy to digital locks is tied to this. If I release my novels under a Creative Commons License, I most emphatically do not want my licensing choice superseded by the agenda of a manufacturer of digital e-book reader. And that’s what Bill C-32 will do if it is passed as it stands: the device manufacturer’s rights would override my rights over my own work.
As a writer, I should be free to exercise my right to control of the content I have created. Isn’t that why copyright was invented in the first place?
CONTENT: Culture and the Internet
I’m in the process of self-publishing my first novel, which is my personal digital content advantage. For a creator of any kind of digital media, the Internet offers wonderful opportunities because it is the world’s greatest distribution channel. If you can find an audience on the Internet, you can make a go of your creative endeavor. Canadians are intelligent, talented, competent, innovative and responsible citizens of the world; we are beginning to take advantage of these distribution channels.
One of the ways I plan to utilize the Internet is to serialize my novel on my personal website. Yet if I am successful in attracting readership, resultant heavy site traffic will penalize me if Usage Based Billing is implemented.
Everything is changing. It used to be that musicians needed to be signed by a major recording studio who could get them radio play and concert exposure to become known. Without studio backing there was virtually no possibility of becoming a star. In the fifty years or so before the Internet, the only independent recording artist to become a truly Canadian Superstar was Stompin’ Tom Connors. And that took an extraordinary amount of work over a very long time as he played and sang his way the length and breadth of this land over and over again.
Before the Internet virtually 100% of the Canadian music industry was controlled by CRIA. Today, 30% of Canadian recording artists are Independent. By not signing with the four major record labels, these independent Canadian musicians retain control of the copyright for their original work. Thirty percent of Canadian recording artists are recording their own music, their own way and distributing it online in various ways. This has been an enormous gain for Canadian culture.
Both movies and television programs are being made by amateurs and professional filmmakers alike for distribution in a variety of Internet release methods. There are even two ‘made for torrent’ video productions that I’m aware of you (thanks p2pnet: the Tunnel and thanks Robert X: Pioneer One
Although often implied otherwise, file sharing is legal, and it is very important that it remain so. What is in question is whether uploading or downloading copyright works for non-commercial purposes is legal. Sovereign nations around the world need to make their copyright laws address this.
File sharing using BitTorrent protocol is one of the most efficient ways of distributing large files to a great many people. Both the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and our own CBC have experimented with file sharing as a distribution method. The American Project Gutenberg distributes many of the public domain books they have digitized through file sharing. Feature films released under Creative Commons licenses are being released and distributed in this way as well. And Open Source and FLOSS software are often distributed in this way. I have attended a few Ubuntu ‘release parties’ that are held to distribute the FLOSS Operating system via BitTorrent.
And of course Canada’s newest registered political party, The Pirate Party of Canada, offers creators legal BitTorrent digital distribution to allow them to distribute their wares. Free.
The Internet makes it possible for artists to reach their audiences through these sometimes seemingly radical methods. We need to adapt to the new technology in much the same way that we adapted to the change from horse drawn buggies to automobiles.
The very worst thing the Canadian Government can do is to stifle Canadian creativity and innovation in attempting to legislate against progress.
The California Court ruling is that if ISOhunt doesn’t begin filtering and blocking all content matching a list of banned keywords it will have to stop operating in the US.
Canadian businessman Gary Fung has expressed his lack of faith in filters. I can certainly understand that.
My experience with computer filtering is with email and spam. When spam first became a problem, some ISPs instituted blacklist filtering.
Its a simple concept really, where the “blacklist” is the list of everything that is blocked.
My guess is the word blacklist comes from the McCarthy “witch hunt” from the 1950’s, when allegations of Communism resulted in Americans being put on a blacklist depriving them of the ability to work. Although communists were hunted out in other fields, Senator McCarthy most famously hunted them in the movie business.
You didn’t actually have to be a communist to be singled out, allegations were treated as fact, so almost anyone could be made to appear to be a communist, or a communist sympathizer. Sometimes just by knowing someone who is suspected of being a communist could result in your designation as a communist, the only evidence being guilt by association. At that time, although much of the movie Industry abhorred the undemocratic nature of the McCarthy hearings, most people quaked in fear of the government power being exercised against their freedoms. One of my favorite Hollywood movies was Spartacus, written by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo under a pseudonym. (Trumbo won two Oscars pseudonymously… an interesting example of how well trying to suppress freedoms actually works). The decision to release the epic film using his real name is widely credited with breaking Hollywood’s blacklist.
The way a blacklist filter works with email is that the filter decides that since spam is coming from some of the email accounts from an ISP it will no longer accept any of the email being sent from that ISP. I first found out about this several years ago when some of my friends mysteriously stopped receiving my email. Of course my initial assumption was that I had maybe typed the email address wrong or made some other mistake. But as it turned out, their ISP had simply blacklisted all email from my ISP. This was in the early days of high speed Internet, and at the time, my ISP was Rogers Cable. Naturally, since Rogers had a very large chunk of the market, it stands to reason it would also have a proportionately greater number of clients sending spam. But my email was blocked, as was every Rogers email, even though I had sent no spam ever. And my friends did not know that email people were sending them was not getting through. Because my ISP, Rogers, was so big, the other ISP had to back down. There is even a website where you can check to see if your domain name is being blacklisted.
Blacklisting of this kind is particularly insidious when it is invisible. They say you can’t prove a negative; and if the ISP is simply blocking your email before you get it, you aren’t even aware that what you get is being censored. The fact that the sender is not notified makes it appear that the email dropped into a black hole. Some people are willing to take the risk that important email they might want could be blocked in exchange for the protection against spam. These are the kind of trade offs that people make, often without really thinking it through, that result in the erosion of freedoms. To my way of thinking, the worst part of this problem is that most people are unaware it is happening at all. You may know that your ISP is saving you from spam, but chances are you don’t realize that this means that your ISP does this by censoring your incoming email, using a mechanical process that can just as easily stop real email.
This is a Net Neutrality issue as well. Once you give anyone the power to censor what you are allowed to see, that power can be corrupted. The entity deciding what you are allowed to know can choose to favor its own agenda. Freedom of speech is a result.
We expect email to be able to go everywhere. We assume that email we send actually gets where we send it.
If we are limited to only being able to send email to other people with the same ISP it would be a very different system than the one we’ve come to expect. I know that this kind of blacklist still goes on, since email I send to my Florida friend gets blocked. Not because I’m with Rogers (not!), but because my email is now being sent through my personal website account domain name. This makes me think her ISP blocks domain names it doesn’t know. This was really annoying because we’d been corresponding for years, as well it was a long time before we realized that the email wasn’t getting through since her ISP didn’t bounce blocked email. So instead of being able to communicate using my real email address, my traceable and trackable email address, I can only send her email through my somewhat anonymous disposable Yahoo account. Like hotmail (now live), anyone can get any number of these accounts. I got mine when my real email account was down once, and I use it if I’m asked to leave an email address in a situation that may result in excessive amounts of spam. I consider it my disposable email address because if it ever gets really terribly inundated with spam, I can just walk away.
Filters are not always bad. After all I have a very good spam filter on my real email account. But the reason it works well is that I have had to train it by identifying spam piece by piece. That’s a lot of work. Which is one reason people are willing to allow others to decide what is spam for them.
But even though it is well trained indeed it still makes mistakes. If my sister sends me an email that mentions what she paid for her new car, my spam filter will probably block it since most of the spam I get is associated with money. So the filter would quarantine it, which means until I go check I won’t realize that I’m missing an email. But I can still use my ability to reason to decide to unspam it. That’s the thing; first, a filter is only as good as the parameters of the search.
People who have blogs hosted on WordPress have an awesome spam comment filter called Akismet (which you can also download and use free if yours is a personal blog. ) >This< blog has so far received 7,473 spam comments in nine months, compared with a total of 254 real comments. In all that time, I accidentally deleted one real comment (by clicking on the wrong bit) and Akismet has only blocked a couple, which actually turned out to be really good ones. If Akismet just trashed them without allowing me oversight, I’d have lost out on some excellent information.
p2p = peer to peer
Although I’ve been learning about the Internet at breakneck speeds, and I’ve learned about the importance of torrents for efficient online data transfer, I haven’t had time to learn how to actually download anything myself. I haven’t even had time to be able to volunteer as a Project Gutenberg proof reader either, since I believe my skills are better employed in blogging at present.
So in researching this article, today was the first time I’ve been to the isoHunt site. Looking around the site it hit me: isoHunt is a bitTorrent search engine.
With all that’s said about Internet “piracy” and the sites that make it possible, I never really connected the dots before. I’ve seen flea market stalls selling major motion pictures in slimline DVD cases with cheaply printed cover art which are clearly bootleg DVDs. So I always just assumed that the law was going after sites like isoHunt because they were committing piracy by storing bootleg movies on their server or something. Even though I learned about the mechanics of bitTorrent for a StopUBB article I just assumed that people would be putting the media they are sharing on the isoHunt servers. But that’s not how it works at all.
Any copyright infringement that might be happening is taking place on the peer computers, not isoHunt.
isoHunt is a specialty search engine. They allow you to find the right torrents you need to download a large file. I explain how BitTorrent works in the StopUBB blog, but looking at the isoHunt site is a real eye opener. One of the reasons that I think p2p is so important is that it makes good use of bandwidth for downloading large files (which will be really important for Canadians after Usage Based Billing is introduced).
If I didn’t already have an awesome Ubuntu limited edition picture CD I got at the Kwartzlab Ubuntu release party a few weeks back, I might need to download the new distribution of the Ubuntu operating system on the isoHunt site. As I understand it, torrents work faster the more people are working together. And right now, today, the isoHunt site will direct you to 2293 seeds of the new version. That means more than two thousand people, strangers to one another, are working together through this p2p network to share this with anyone who wants a copy.
downloading is legal
Like a great deal of material available for downloading online via p2p networks around the world, the Ubuntu operating system is legally offered for free. The corporate lobby groups that are working very hard to make it seem that p2p and torrents are synonymous with illegal downloading but that’s not true. Yet the other day the Globe and Mail article: Illegal downloading: How do you explain it to the kids? was most disturbing because although the article title refers to “illegal downloading”, the article itself assumes that all downloading is illegal.
Which just isn’t true. There’s plenty of perfectly legal material available to download out there. Besides Linux operating systems like Ubuntu (if you switch to this or one of the many other home versions of Linux like Fedora or Mint you’ll never have to pay Microsoft another cent), there is a steadily growing pool of music released by Independent artists like Allison Crowe have released under Creative Commons licenses, as Nina Paley has done with her incredible animated movie Sita Sings the Blues and Cory Doctorow routinely does with his books, like bestseller Little Brother. There is also a growing catalogue of public domain digital books available free from Project Gutenberg.
The Internet is very big. There is a great deal of content out there. Search engines help us find what we’re looking for on the Internet. Because there is so very very much out there. Each search engine works a little differently. But the crucial tool that every search engine needs are search terms.
When I learned how to make my web page I made sure to include “keywords” so that web pages would be able to find it. When posting blog articles on my WordPress blogs I make sure to fill in “categories” and “tags” which do the same thing.
Keywords are important. Without them, no one would be able to find anything on the Internet. It’s important to choose the right search words, and even then, if the words you put in the search bar are too vague it will give you too many possibilities.
filtering = censorship
If isoHunt is forced to use a pre-ordained filter search terms, like, say the titles of movies, their ability to do business will be compromised. Because their engine will will not be allowed to function properly.
On the website, isoHunt makes the point that
any requirement to keyword filter is a violation of freedom of speech and amounts to no less than censorship. There is much non-infringing uses of BitTorrent technology and we hope you will be able to continue to use isoHunt for these uses, free of constraints by large holes in the english dictionary because your search triggered a keyword in a title of one of the million movies that have been produced.”
Years ago I learned that you can’t copyright a title, so its possible that many different songs have the same title. Or books. Or movies. I remember digging through the cheap DVD bin at the Great Canadian Superstore and finding the title of a movie I’d been keeping my eye out for for years. This was a great Bill Forsyth film (about an ice cream truck war) called Comfort and Joy, Except that it wasn’t. It was another movie called Comfort and Joy.
An IMDB search for the title “The Three Musketeers” brings up 32 exact title matches. The oldest version of this film would be the black and white silent movie version of the The Three Musketeers made in France in 1903. This film is quite probably in the public domain. The underlying work, the excellent novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is itself in the public domain. This is an excellent reason for film makers to make films of it. In the first place it’s a famous classic story, but even more important, they don’t have to purchase the rights to it.
But if Disney includes the movie title “The Three Musketeers” for the search terms blacklist, not only will it stop isoHunt from finding the 1993 Disney version but all of the other 31 versions as well.
This is a classic story. What if I decided to create my own feature film of Three Musketeers? As an independent film maker i wouldn’t have to buy the rights. Instead of the lions share of the film budget paying for film prints and physical transportation costs, my entire budget can go on the screen. I could probably pull it together quite easily as a low budget effort. It’s amazing what you can do with low or no budget. For the past hundred years or so the largest barrier to releasing a feature film has been distribution. But the current digital technology in combination with the Internet makes it possible to release a feature film to the world for almost nothing.
But if isoHunt has to include the title “The Three Musketeers” in their search term blacklist, my movie will NEVER be found by an isoHunt search. In this scenario, this blacklist will hinder my ability to distribute my movie. As the Electronic Freedom Foundation outlines in their excellent article Unintended Consequences: Twelve Years under the DMCA this California court ruling would directly hinder my legitimate competition. Although “The Three Musketeers” is part of the public domain internationally, with this kind of suppression, one powerful film company has the power to suppress competition.
The only thing that could possibly be worse would be for the blacklist to block the words of the title individually. This would block isoHunt’s ability to search out anything at all about Musketeers, or any other digital content with either “Three” or “The” in the title.
the real question
Why is isoHunt is being punished for copyright infringement? As a search engine they aren’t actually providing content that infringes copyright, they are only directing people to where the content they are searching for can be found.
I’m not an IP lawyer, but that sounds awfully extreme to me. Particularly since you can use any search engine to find the things that isoHunt is not going to be allowed to search for. It sounds rather like a serious breach of the free market to me. They won’t likely be as efficient, but all the other search engines will be able to find the exact same content that isoHunt is being prevented from finding. The only way a legal action like this could possibly be fair in a free market way would be if all the search engines had to block the same list of search terms.
Hey wait… I guess that’s what A.C.T.A. is for. Hmmm. I guess it will level the media playing field by eliminating all competition.
Which is well and truly scary from a freedom of speech point of view.
Although I’m not a lawyer, looking at the actual isoHunt Permanent Injunction, it seems that isoHunt has not been charged with copyright infringement but with “intent to induce infringement”. Because isoHunt is not actually infringing anyone’s copyright. At all. Period. If they were, they would be toast.
But United States DMCA law will allow them to toast isoHunt anyway, for the crime of telling the people who ask where they might find copyright infringing content. isoHunt is not making anyone infringe copyright.
Does this then mean that a newspaper that reports a particular city street is rife with drug dealers or prostitutes is then considered responsible for drug dealing or prostitution because telling people where it is “induces” drug dealing or prostitution? Under a law like the DMCA that seems frighteningly possible.
Especially if the newspaper’s editorial policy advocated the legalization of marijuana, say. There is a Canadian political party advocating the legalization of marijuana. Would that be illegal too?
will this court ruling stop any copyright infringement?
isoHunt does not infringe copyright, it is a search engine, like Google or altavistaAOLyahoo or bing. If I had a search engine website, this ruling would make me very nervous.
If the goal is to prevent people from finding copyright infringing software it won’t work. It may stop isoHunt from fulfilling their search function, but it won’t stop anyone from making the same search on Google or altavistaAOLyahoo or bing.
Rendering the use of words illegal is a suppression of free speech. The Permanent Injunction is designed to stop isoHunt’s use of words as search terms. So as well as suppressing free speech, this ruling impedes market competition.
If the intention is actually to stop copyright infringement since isoHunt apparently leads users directly to copyright infringing content, why aren’t the forces of law and order following these same links and actually stopping the infringement.
But then, that isn’t really the point. The point of all of these laws is not really to stop the type of copyright infringement they call “piracy”, because personal use copying, including sharing a movies via a p2p network appears to be one of the factors driving the movie industry’s increased revenues. They wouldn’t want to stop that. No. The point is to stop the growing competition from Independent media creators, by stopping the possibility of their distribution.
The United States spent much of the last century trumpeting the importance of free speech to the world. Now that much of the rest of the world has bought into the idea, what is truly sad thing is that the United States government is pandering to special interest groups making laws to suppress free speech.
The idea of Net Neutrality is that the Internet is neutral. The Internet should not be subject to the control of governments or corporations. If the Net is NOT neutral, rights like free speech are at risk. Laws like the DMCA stack the deck against Net Neutrality.
The problem is that the Pandora’s box is open, and free speech is just too big an idea to fit back inside.
If I wasn’t so busy with all this political stuff I’d love to take the time to browse through the rest of his photographs… I cut my teeth on Doc Savage! … and having just read through Roche’s “Double Indemnity” piece, one of these days I’ll be back to read the rest of his blog…
Since 2007 Canada, Australia, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland have been participating in secret negotiations initiated by the United States for a supposed “Trade Treaty” called A.C.T.A., an acronym for the misleading “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”
The American copyright lobby, made up of media corporations, trade associations and copyright collectives representing the Movie and Music recording industries have somehow convinced the American government that this would be a good thing for the United States. On the American side, the treaty is being pursued under an executive order, which means that the American president has the authority to ratify it on behalf of the United States without first subjecting it to congressional scrutiny or vote. A.C.T.A. negotiations are continuing at break neck speed under heavy non-disclosure agreements which mean that most of the elected representatives of the countries involved in the negotiations are not privy to the terms under negotiation.
President Obama has denied Freedom Of Information inquiries on the basis of National Security. This type of treaty negotiation is not only wholly unprecedented, but possibly illegal as well under 19 U.S.C. 2902(b)(2). Although it purports to be primarily about counterfeiting, the ACTA secret treaty negotiation seeks to regulate the Internet on a global scale.
I have spent a great deal of time attempting to make sense of this, since it will have serious consequences not only on Internet users but also huge impacts will be made on culture and economies around the world. The intent appears to be to legislating anti-progress by imposing strict control over the Internet.
A.C.T.A. “ stands to fatally wound all user-generated content sites from mailing lists to YouTube; which stands to criminalize kids for noncommercial file-sharing; which stands to put your internet connection in jeopardy if anyone in your house is accused of infringement, and much, much more.”
The media isn’t talking about A.C.T.A. which is possibly the most important and under-reported news story in the world so it is left to us to spread the word. Contact your elected reprentatives and tell them that A.C.T.A. is bad.
For more information on ACTA:
I have been blogging about A.C.T.A. in an effort to help other non-technical people understand what the issues are.
To connect with other people or groups you can join the A.C.T.A. group on Identi.ca, or the Facebook: ACTA site, search for #ACTA on Twitter or start your own. Another good source of information is the Pirate Party of Canada. There seems to be a Pirate Party in nearly every country in the world. The primary motivation for each Pirate Party is to keep the internet free and reform copyright for the good of society.
You don’t have to read all the links at once. Understanding is important.
Tell someone. The only way to ratify treaties or laws that are against the public interest is to keep them dark.