Well, all this is interesting to me, anyway, and that's what matters here. The Internet is a terrible thing for someone like me, who finds almost everything interesting.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Defending our freedom to share
Note that this clip is also available on YouTube here.
This is an interesting talk. SOPA and PIPA were pushed as anti-piracy measures, and that might seem reasonable. Certainly, copyright holders are being ripped off by organized criminal operations, usually based in China or elsewhere overseas, that often sell movies and games even before the legitimate products are available.
But these bills won't do anything about that. In fact, from what I can tell, so far nothing has had much of an effect on piracy. This is the excuse for these bills, but is that the real reason? In this TED talk, Clay Shirky explains why we should doubt that.
Do you ever watch YouTube videos? YouTube makes it very easy to create and share your own videos. But every amateur video clip you watch on YouTube is time you could have spent watching a commercial television show or movie.
Is that what really has Hollywood running scared? Most of that amateur content isn't very good, but there's a lot of it. At the very least, it's a real time-waster. And some of it is pretty good. Either way, it's competition that big media companies don't want.
At the very least, it's competition for your time. As Shirky says, it used to be that television networks had only two other shows as competition in each time slot. Sure, you could do other things, rather than watch TV at all. But you didn't have the internet, with a pretty much unlimited amount of content available.
This reminds me of Digital Rights Management (DRM) in computer games. That's also claimed to be an anti-piracy measure. Mainstream game developers, huge multinational corporations which spend hundreds of millions of dollars developing a computer game, want to protect their investment.
That seems reasonable enough. And piracy is rampant. But DRM doesn't work on pirates, since they always crack the code pretty much immediately. Generally, what it does is cause lots of problems for legitimate users, the people who actually purchased the game. How is that a good thing?
But there's something else it does. When you buy a game these days, you don't actually own it. You can't sell it to someone else when you get tired of it, or if it turns out you don't like the game. All you're buying is the right to play the game for awhile. How long? Well, as long as the game developer wants you to play it.
Now me, I often play old games. These are games I bought years ago, games which don't have DRM. I do own those games. But when I'm happily playing an old game, that means I'm not buying a new one. And game developers, reasonably enough, want us to buy new games.
So, is DRM really about piracy, as they say? If so, it's completely ineffective. Or is it about planned obsolescence? Is it about making sure that no one can keep playing old games, that we have to buy new ones, instead? After all, as soon as a company stops supporting that DRM, the game is useless. (Unless you'd bought a pirated copy, of course.)
I don't know. Maybe that's just a crazy conspiracy theory. Maybe these multinational corporations are so inept that they keep using DRM for piracy, just as they say, despite the fact that it doesn't work. I don't know. All this is pretty new, so we'll just have to see how it plays out.
When it comes to SOPA and PIPA, those bills have been pulled from consideration, at least for now. Internet users organized a mass protest, a flood of complaints to their senators and their congressmen, that was very effective. But this issue isn't going to go away.
Big media companies have a lot of money to throw around, and Citizens United has basically made it legal to buy politicians. Corporations, after all, are just people, too, right? Thanks to that ruling, money is more powerful politically than it's ever been before.
The people still have the final say, but we're going to have to watch this. And we're going to have to contact our representatives, when necessary. Apathy isn't going to cut it.
I'm a skeptic. I think it makes sense to have reasons for what I believe, so I apportion my belief to the evidence. You're welcome to disagree. Please, tell me I'm wrong. I probably don't agree with anyone about everything. Why should disagreement be a problem? Check the Pages section below for series posts and links to book reviews and game posts, as well as contact info. I have varied interests, so there's a little bit of everything here. I encourage you to look around. - Bill
We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true. - Robert Wilensky
It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong - Richard Feynman
The general root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and pass over the other. - Sir Francis Bacon
When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Speculation is perfectly all right, but if you stay there you've only founded a superstition. If you test it, you've started a science. - Hal Clement
No matter how many times a theory meets its tests successfully, there can be no certainty that it will not be overthrown by the next observation. This, then, is a cornerstone of modern natural philosophy. It makes no claim of attaining ultimate truth. In fact, the phrase "ultimate truth" becomes meaningless, because there is no way in which enough observations can be made to make truth certain and, therefore, "ultimate". - Isaac Asimov
The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion. - Treaty of Tripoli, passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate and signed by President John Adams (1797)
I don't doubt the sincerity of dowsers, but even after we've demonstrated that they can't produce results that are any better than chance they'll still go away believing in their abilities... It is like the mother whose son is caught shoplifting on tape. She wonders why someone would want to frame her child by producing a fake video. - James Randi
During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church ... imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. - Mark Twain
Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths. - Bertrand Russell
A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. - Friedrich Nietzsche
I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. - Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.
This is not about proof. Science does not use proof. We favor evidence, and the work consists largely of the slow accumulation of evidence in support of ideas, not magically potent proofs that establish an idea as unassailable. - PZ Myers
No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. - President Barack Obama
The formula was very simple: build this really flexible, really open economy, tolerate creative destruction so dead capital is quickly redeployed to better ideas and companies, pour into it the most diverse, smart and energetic immigrants from every corner of the world and then stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat. - Shekhar Gupta
We are prodding, challenging, seeking contradictions or small, persistent residual errors, proposing alternative explanations, encouraging heresy. We give our highest rewards to those who convincingly disprove established beliefs. - Carl Sagan
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. - Richard Dawkins
120 million of us place the big bang 2,500 years after the Babylonians and Sumerians learned to brew beer. - Sam Harris
To kill a man is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man. - Michael Servetus, burned at the stake in 1553
Democracy is not about majority rule; it is about minority rights. If there is no culture of not simply tolerating minorities, but actually treating them with equal rights, real democracy can't take root. - Thomas L. Friedman
We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us and with just as much apparent reason. - Thomas Macauley, 1830
It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and remember we are not descended from fearful men. - Edward R. Murrow
The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence. Science is simply common sense at its best - that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic. - Thomas Huxley
There is no absurdity so obvious that it cannot be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to impose it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity. - Arthur Schopenhauer
Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. ... Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. - President Thomas Jefferson
To be elected in America, no matter from what party, the candidates have no choice but to year after year pledge to lower taxes further and further. We have become the nation of Ken and Barbie, looking good but very poor at the math. - Rack Jite
Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them. - Steve Eley
We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. - President Franklin D. Roosevelt
I have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh on the air, an experience somewhat akin to being gummed by a newt. It doesn't actually hurt, but it leaves you with slimy stuff on your ankle. - Molly Ivins
In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican. - H. L. Mencken
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. - Winston Churchill