Singing the Bite Me Song


April 09, 2005

CNET's Charles Cooper rips on the DMCA

Link: Rethinking the DMCA | Perspectives | CNET

Ya gotta love this tag line:

"At its inception, many people called it a lousy law. CNET's Charles Cooper says that proved to be too charitable an appraisal."

He's letting it rip, and here are a few of the highlights... don't hold back man, tell 'em what you really think.

Rethinking the DMCA

April 8, 2005, 4:00 AM PT

By Charles Cooper

Time and again since its 1998 passage, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has proved to be one of the worst-ever pieces of technology legislation.

By now, nearly every sentient being in Silicon Valley must wonder why Congress couldn't have done a better job thinking through the implications of its handicraft before voting the DMCA into law. The act has been responsible for needless litigation and even transmogrified into something of a gag on free expression. More about that in a moment.


So it was that Congress bowed to the copyright industry's demands and created a marvelously one-sided document. By making it illegal to circumvent technology used by the copyright industries to protect digital content, legislators took care of a key constituency. But they also created an invitation to trouble.

With no clear boundaries and very little legal precedent, the predictable result has been a messy conflict between the public and the moneyed interests. And that's where we are now with the specter of the DMCA, like Marley's Ghost, rising up to chill the spirit of free inquiry when it comes to encryption and computer security research.

Here's my favorite example he gives:

2003: In an extreme example of the application of the DMCA, an Illinois-based manufacturer of garage-door openers claimed that a rival's replacement product violated copyright law. A federal court later dismissed the lawsuit.

Cooper's main point is that the threat of lawsuits is having worse than a chilling effect on free speech, and the suits are being used to keep QA folks from fairly evaluating the software.

Now where I come from, that is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, called "fair comment and criticism." Imagine if such an odious rule were applied to movie and theater critics who gave away endings, for instance!

It seems to me that the whole point of the DMCA is to create a catch-all black box that anything created or produced can be stuck in and held exempt from nearly any kind of scrutiny at all.

This has far-reaching ramifications that Cooper doesn't look at here. I'm talking about proprietary voting software in the US, and its potential for manipulation.

It is beyond my comprehension that ANY kind of legal precedent is allowing Diebold and other e-voting providers to operate outside the public interest and the public trust by monitoring democratic processes inside a black box!

Hypothetically, I'd speculate that if property law (you know, the deeds and such that are open records at most counties in the US) were being created from scratch right now, I think these same folks would find a way to keep property ownership records, hell, all government procedures and processes, in that same black box. Hell, they'd subcontract it out to a private company in the name of government "efficiency," and that company would claim it's paperwork and software was so proprietary that all property records would be closed to the public, unless some "government" or whatever interest wanted to pay for it.

We know what company would be running such a venture in that black box, if that were the case. ChoicePoint.

April 9, 2005 at 11:37 PM in Cyberculture, Democracy, Intellectual Property, Interactivity, Media & Journalism, Politics, Privacy & Free Speech, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2005

Those April Foolers at Google

I know I give Google a hard time on this site sometimes, but that's just because those to whom much is given, much is expected.

Today they had a pretty good one, tho. (hey Google folks, I sure hope you weren't fooling about increasing the memory for gmail... that was slick, that running number!)

Link: Google Gulp.

Think fruity. Think refreshing. Think a DNA scanner embedded in the lip of your bottle reading all 3 gigabytes of your base pair genetic data in a fraction of a second, fine-tuning your individual hormonal cocktail in real time using our patented Auto-Drink™ technology, and slamming a truckload of electrolytic neurotransmitter smart-drug stimulants past the blood-brain barrier to achieve maximum optimization of your soon-to-be-grateful cerebral cortex. Plus, it's low in carbs! And with flavors ranging from Beta Carroty to Glutamate Grape, you'll never run out of ways to quench your thirst for knowledge.


I'm also giggling at the fine print Privacy Policy too:

Google Gulp and Your Privacy

From time to time, in order to improve Google Gulp's usefulness for our users, Google Gulp will send packets of data related to your usage of this product from a wireless transmitter embedded in the base of your Google Gulp bottle to the GulpPlex™, a heavily guarded, massively parallel server farm whose location is known only to Eric Schmidt, who carries its GPS coordinates on a 64-bit-encrypted smart card locked in a stainless-steel briefcase handcuffed to his right wrist. No personally identifiable information of any kind related to your consumption of Google Gulp or any other current or future Google Foods product will ever be given, sold, bartered, auctioned off, tossed into a late-night poker pot, or otherwise transferred in any way to any untrustworthy third party, ever, we swear. See our Privacy Policy.


Best of all is the FAQ, which has these gems:

1. How does Google Gulp work?

Well, to comprehend the long version of this answer, you'd need a PhD (from Stanford, natch). The short version is, our brains process data by sending electrical impulses called neurotransmitters between billions of neurons via axons running between synapses, much the way buses travel between stations, or MP3 files travel between felonious suburban teenagers. The molecular compound that fuels Google Gulp speeds up this process by, among various startling feats of neurochemical legerdemain, limiting the activity of the enzyme monoamine oxidase. You think faster – and feel better.

What's more, through our patented real-time DNA-scanning process, Auto-Drink™, Google Gulp is actually able to "take a picture" of your genetic profile, reconfigure its molecular composition on the fly, and subtly alter your brain's intricate mosaic of axonial patterns in order to facilitate even faster cognitive processing.

2. Wait – you're saying Auto-Drink™ changes my brain chemistry?


Um, yeah – but for the better.

3. Isn't that kind of dangerous?

Well, none of the lab rats who've been pounding this stuff for the past eight months have keeled over yet, which we find fairly reassuring. At any rate, you should be aware that by popping the seal on the twist-off Gulp cap, you send a wireless signal to Google's servers indicating your irrevocable acceptance of the Google Gulp Terms and Conditions, which do include the possibility, however remote, of hideous genetic mutation resulting from your consumption of this product. We're pretty sure you won't die, though.

4. What if I don't want to use Auto-Drink™?

No problem – simply turn off Auto-Drink™ on your Google Gulp preferences page.

5. Well, shouldn't Auto-Drink™ be default-off?

You mean we should cripple a perfectly useful feature just because of a little bad PR?

6. Yes.



April 2, 2005 at 01:03 AM in Favorite Links, Food and Drink, Intellectual Property, Singing the Bite Me Song, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack