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January 2003: o-blog history

Most Recent News: Tape-beatles to d├ębut New Work on rAdioCUSTICA

o-blog  an i.p. blog o-blog: an i.p. blog

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©¦ Illegal Art at A fairly in-depth piece gives an overview of the now-touring Illegal Art exhibit (which includes work by the Tape-beatles on the giveaway CD comp). It focuses predictably on the legal entanglements the exhibitors may be opening themselves up to, and remarks that Sir Paul McCartney’s “spokesperson” is looking into the matter of Public Enemy’s track sampling an old Beatles’ waxing.

©¦ reports from the Future of Music policy summit. The article includes some choice quotes from the likes of Patti Smith and Bob Mould. Seems the consensus is leaning toward compromise.

©¦ Hey, did you know that if you bought a CD from a retail shop between the years 1995-2000, you are entitled to up to $20 in damages stemming from a class-action lawsuit brought against CD retailers for price fixing? That includes an awful lot of people, but funny thing is, few people are claiming the money.


©¦ Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) is looking out for our interests. He has introduced a “fair use rights bill” aimed at protecting traditionally-held content use rights. The bill is H.R. 107, and entitled the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act.

©¦ In a ruling today, a Norwegian court has acquitted Jon Johansen, the teenage programmer who cracked CSS, the encryption encoding used on most commercial DVDs, so that he could watch DVDs on his Linux computer. The court decided that “nobody could be punished for breaking into his own property” since Johansen has purchased the DVDs he cracked legitimately.

tech¦ Complicated ideas simple; simple ideas hard. This article on reports on advances made in the field of digital photography, where the CCD is about to be replaced by a device that is better at recording color and detail by better imitating the eye.


e. coli

tech¦ Replication, nature’s way. Scientists have succeeded in encoding a message in the DNA of bacteria, which they were able to wholly retrieve even after 100 generations. They think the process might be useful for long-term archiving of essential information in the event of a massive catastrophe, such as a nuclear attack.

©¦ Up and coming science-fiction author (and boing boing blogger) Cory Doctorow is offering up the entire text of his new novel “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” for free download.


culture¦ Although this cry has been sounded before by archivists and librarians and the like, it continues to be a concern. The Guardian has an article about the infixity of digitally-stored data, pointing out that the 1000-year-old Domesday Book is still perfectly readable, while the BBC’s videodisc Domesday Project became virtually inaccessible after 15 years due to format obsolescence.

©¦ Lawrence Lessig has posted a piece called Copy cats and Robotic dogs at By loosening its grip over copyrighted comic characters, the Japanese comics industry has nurtured a subculture, showing how an open system can benefit creator and audience alike.


©¦ The EFF is looking our for your interests. Here’s a paper they’s posted called “Unintended Consequences: Four Years under the DMCA”. Apparently, it 1) chills free expression; 2) jeopardizes fair use, and 3) impedes innovation. Who’d’ve thought?


©¦ Consensus emerging. Commentary at goes into the sometimes nefarious relationship between technology, mass culture, and profits. Then it outlines why change is happening and why it can’t be stopped.
And, concludes that “tomorrow is not on the side of the copyright control freaks” in the article Cartel’s copyright control loosening.
In the meantime, [reg.req] runs a piece called Music Industry Braces for a Shift, tending to bear out the above-drawn conclusions.

©¦ Support the EFF. If you haven’t yet claimed your settlement in the CD price-fixing case (mentioned 01-07) you should do it today: go here. Another thing you should consider: passing the money on to the EFF to support their worthy efforts.

©¦ The broadcaster WFUV, in protest to the seriously flawed requirements that the DMCA places on webcasters, has refused to comply, simply removing its webcast archives from public access.

culture¦ In case you’re curious, here’s where spam was born.



©¦ Today’s big news. The Supreme Court has reached a decision on allowing Congress the authority to extend copyrights at its pleasure. The 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act has been upheld, 7 for, 2 against.

©¦ It seems the record companies have reached a compromise with the technology companies over its insistence on DRM chips in personal computers. Notably, the recording industry has broken ranks with the movie industry on this. expresses some skepticism about the new deal, however.


©¦ Fallout continues. Yesterday’s ruling by the Supreme Court upholding copyright extension is, rightly, the topic on many people’s lips. Dan Gillmor is defiant; while Lawrence Lessig is reflective.

art¦ Software art. Newly launched site catalogues that gray area where software and art collide. Though somewhat unpopulated at the moment, this “software art repository” hold the promise of being a significant resource for this nascent art form.

culture¦ We reported a while back on distributed proofreading, a system for spreading the workload of eyeing over and correcting digitized public domain books for Project Gutenberg. This article, I am happy to say, reports on the project’s remarkable success.


war¦ Radio Frequency ID tags are a technology we should all know about. Consisting of tiny electronic devices about the size of grains of sand, they can be placed in all manufactured goods, and act like UPC bar codes on steroids. They also have certain troubling privacy implications.

war¦ Some Senators are concerned about the privacy implications of government data-mining, a proposed part of the US’s nightmarish Total Information Awareness initiative.

tech¦ This item from shows how a new tech gizmo, even when it’s just a technical refinement of an old concept, can change the user’s habits — and way of understanding the world — in unexpected ways. (This piece is about the iPod mp3 player.)


Supreme Ruling Redux

©¦ In the wake of the Supreme Court’s scandalous and cavalier dismissal of Lawrence Lessig’s arguments in support of the public against corporations, some excellent writing is appearing, the best of which clarifies the struggle that is before us. The following links are surely only the tip of the iceberg, and the full contours of public opposition to the ruling will no doubt appear in the coming weeks.
Siva Vaidhyanathan, writing at, argues that pro-fair use arguments are strengthened now, due to, among other things, heightened public awareness. (Good links, too, at the end of the article.) has risen to the occasion with not fewer than four articles in the last few days on the subject. Perhaps of most immediate interest in Lawrence Lessig’s Op/Ed piece “Protecting Mickey Mouse at Art’s Expense”, which offers a counter-proposal to the current system. (Other articles [reg.req] include these: 1, 2, 3).
This legal blog examines some of the First Amendment ramifications of the ruling, while this one takes issue with Lessig’s proposal, mentioned above. And here’s the Slashdot discussion.
Finally there’s this interview with Mickey Mouse about how it feels like to be locked up another twenty years.


©¦ is chiming in on the recent Eldred decision. One page there suggests civil disobedience, calling on web pages to display Mickey Mouse’ likeness on April 15, 2003, the day he would’ve entered the public domain. They also have a call to action, called Let’s Save the Public Domain!.

tech¦ Here’s a tiny hand-held four-track mini-studio that records in mp3s, which “…is all about the healthy democratization, if you will, of music creation,” according the Dan Gillmor, the piece’s author.


culture¦ Lots of pictures online. Imagegate is a new online service of the New York Public Library consisting of an effort to put photographs taken from its Research Collections online. They’ve hit the ground running, already having posted 80,000 of the 600,000 images planned.

www¦ Like eBay with barter. Swappington’s is a new site that allows you to offload books, CDs, and movies you no longer want, in exchange for points (that have no specific monetary value), which you can then in turn swap for books, CDs, and movies you do want that others are swapping. Read the FAQ; there doesn’t seem to be a downside.



©¦ Overhaul called for. The Economist has posted an article on the growing copyright debate that suggests that the current system needs radical fixing, saying “The best way to foster creativity in the digital age is to overhaul current copyright laws.”
Balancing the interests. Another Economist article looks at copyright and the internet, asking the question, “How much copyright protection does the internet need?”


©¦ Kembrew McLeod, a University of Iowa assistant professor, holds a registered trademark on the phrase “Freedom of Expression”, and treats it like another exhibit in its ongoing copyright debate freak show. [reg.req]

perspective¦ An attempt to frame the IP debate from a couple years ago will be of interest to those who have not yet read it: “Intellectual Property and the Good Society: A Structural, Outcome-oriented Approach”.


©¦ Salon’s letters section has a number of interesting responses to Siva Vaidhyanathan’s recent article on fair use (posted 01-18).

©¦ Slashdot has posted a review (with comments) of the Illegal Art exhibit, recently held in Chicago. The panel debate included Lawrence Lessig, champion of the Public Domain.

perspective¦ Written in 1945, Vannevar Bush’s article in The Atlantic Monthly entitled “As We May Think” prefigured the internet and hypertext in many ways.


©¦ Newsfeed. argues that it’s Time to Dump the DMCA, while posts a must-read interview with John Perry Barlow called Fair use under assault, arguing the case against DRM. Meanwhile, is reporting that we should expect to see p2p file-sharing users being arrested as felons some time in the near future. From the other side, Kazaa is filing suit against the entertainment cartels, arguing that they have abused copyright powers “obscenely”. Also, Robin Gross, a former EFF attorney is starting a new watchdog group that she calls IP Justice.

©¦ Prelinger Archive’s Rick Prelinger speaks out at the InterActivist Info Exchange with the opinion piece “Strategies for Freeing Intellectual Property”.


©¦ “The Open Content Network is a collaborative effort to help deliver large, freely-downloadable content using peer-to-peer technology. The network is essentially a huge ‘virtual web server’ that links together thousands of computers for the purpose of helping out over-burdened web sites.”

culture¦ reports on the Library of Congress and its attempts to preserve audible American history through its National Recording Registry.

culture¦ A article looks at Michael Hart’s Project Gutenberg, and concludes that the reason it’s not more successful is because of a shortage of free labor. So get involved, already.


©¦ An article posted at looks at file sharing (as it relates to music) as a black market, analyzing it in terms of classical Adam Smith economics.

©¦ Newsfeed. The light and luscious video codec MPEG-4, which promises high quality and small downloads, is getting a look-over by content owners, seeking to build in DRM. And, iCommune, a project quashed by Apple Computer because it allowed their iTunes mp3 playing software to transmit music over a network, is revived, this time without using iTunes technology. A lawyer warns the entertainment cartels that their lawsuit against Kazaa file sharing may be “a fool’s errand,” due to complexities of international copyright law. Finally, comments on “The Keys to Ending Music Piracy” from their perspective.

culture¦ New subculture? [reg.req] reports on “burning circles”, groups of people who swap CD-Rs assembled from their music collections. Often, they are complete strangers offering each other “a window into a person”. People like to hear good unfamiliar music — maybe it reflects a need that radio stations, in the era of Clear Channel, have stopped fulfilling.

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