O Sweet Mr Math

wherein is detailed Matt's experiences as he tries to figure out what to do with his life. Right now, that means lots of thinking about math.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

11:33 PM

Declan McCullagh asked Ian Clarke, creator of Freenet, and Matt Oppenheim of the RIAA a series of questions about file sharing and copyright infringement. Although the article is structured like an interview, it reads like Clarke and Oppenheim are discussing unrelated subjects. In that respect, it's not that different than the debate between Oppenheim and Lawrence Lessig from a couple of months ago. The sense that they are really answering different questions harms the value of these things.

Both sides clearly have their own agendas, and it's reasonable for them to interpret the questions they are asked in ways that reflect their values. At the same time, it would be good if Clarke would step up and admit that the music industry has an interest in preventing copyright infringement and Oppenheim would acknowledge that file sharing could be used for noninfringing purposes. Current speech on both sides may make for exciting debate, but it also proves the worst expectations true about both sides and seems to discourage looking for compromise positions. I suspect that ends up not serving the interests of anyone. (from Joho the Blog)


9:11 PM

The Volokh Conspiracy has a link to an article that comes down hard on fair use. Alex Kozinski and Chris Newman state that "fair-use doctrine is a red herring and we should just dump it." Bravo. Fair use doesn't work, because it should make the ways in which previous works can be used clear. In practice, creators can't know whether something constitutes fair use until it is tested in court. Creators choose to censor themselves rather than risk a lawsuit.

This is a must read by anyone who is interested in derivative works and fair use. The article points out that copyright is actually given greater protection than libel or national security. Copyright law makes injunctions against publication relatively easy to come by, while they are nearly impossible in other contexts. The flaw is with fair use, which allows nuanced determinations of infringing actions, but only gives an either/or response. Either something is fair use, in which case it can be published freely, or it is not, in which it cannot be published.

The suggested response is to develop a more nuanced response to copyright infringement, in which the only recourse to infringement is damage fees. This would allow publishers to publish derivative works without permission of the original copyright holder, but at the same time it allows copyright holders to collect on all derivative uses, which they are unable to do currently.

Copyright holders may resent the reduction in control that this change would cause, but the article argues that their claims for control are overstated. Taking control away from copyright holders would increase the range and quality of creative work, while guaranteeing payment for use would increase copyright holders' earnings.

This strongly appeals to me. Fair use is fundamentally broken. It doesn't do what it is intended to do. This gives a way to throw out fair use and achieve the underlying goals. Unfortunately, as the article states, it's unlikely to happen because copyright holders will oppose it, even if it happens that, like with the VCR, if they tried it, they would like it.


6:51 PM

I've mentioned the fact that file sharing services have an obvious incentive to develop anonymous services, especially now that the RIAA has stated that it is tracking individual users and will start suing for copyright infringement, but I haven't named any specific services. Well, I think it's time to name names, just so everyone knows what the RIAA faces. Blubster has issued a press release stating that the current version of the software protects the anonymity of users. It's not clear to me from the information that Blubster makes available that it does what it claims, but it is inevitable that anonymous services will shut down the RIAA's attempts to go after individual users.

I would like to poke around with the software a bit, but Blubster is Windows only so I can't run the software. Blubster claims that the software uses UDP rather than TCP/IP to make communications more secure, but I don't know enough of the differences between the communications protocols to verify that claim. One statement that makes me nervous is that Blubster maintains an encrypted list of IP addresses of users. The whole point of the RIAA's campaign is that they can use IP addresses to learn the identity of users, so I'm concerned about whether there may be a privacy risk if the RIAA can get access to the list of addresses.

Blubster states that it is based on the Manolito protocol. Manolito is also used by Piolet. The differences between Piolet and Blubster aren't obvious from a cursory examination of the the web pages for the two programs. Neither page appears to include technical information on Manolito. I am not comfortable trusting Blubster's claims of anonymity without further details on the protocol and the implementation in Blubster. Security is hard to get right and I don't trust the claims of any software which hasn't been examined for security holes.

Blubster has another weakness. When the software is installed, it also installs Gator, a program notorious for displaying unwanted ads while users are using web browsers. The fact that Blubster uses Gator is compelling reason to avoid it.

The key thing here isn't the merits of Blubster. It's that the RIAA is engaged in a technological arms race with file sharers. It's an arms race that the RIAA can only win with laws making file sharing illegal. Any law that attempts to do that would likely make the Internet in general illegal. Hopefully the RIAA will realize that and come to a different strategy to respond to file sharing before things get that far. (from FurdLog)


Wednesday, July 09, 2003

11:08 AM

I suffer from an almost pathological need to do things myself. For evidence, you don't have to look much further than this blog, which I started to document my efforts to start my own business from scratch. While being independent is generally a good thing, I'm taking things too far by refusing outside help. Typical behaviors include failing to follow up with contacts and not speaking up when someone else mentions something that I have an interest in.

Some readers may be thinking that this is obvious, and all I can say is that I can be a little slow. I've known for a long time that I strongly resist being told to do things, to the extent that I refuse to do things that I want to do when other people suggest them. It's something of a revelation for me that that is part of a general pattern of refusing help. I've tended to rationalize not accepting help in other terms (I tell myself I don't really want to do something or that I could speak up but this is the wrong time. It's telling that I regularly refer to things as "cheating" when what I mean is not doing things completely independently.) but what's really going on is that I'm so determined to do things myself that I can't accept help from other people.

I suppose it's my right to insist on doing things the hard way, but I don't think that attitude really serves me. I think I'm more likely to actually accomplish things if I swallow my pride and work more with others. This is not something that will come easily to me, but the sooner I start working at it the better off I'll be. If anyone has useful thoughts, I'd like to hear them, although I recognize that this is precisely the sort of thing that I'm likely to ignore. I have to start somewhere though, so I might as well make this it.




What does "rolls a hoover" mean, anyway?

"Roll a hoover" was coined by Christopher Locke, aka RageBoy (not worksafe). He enumerated some Hooverian Principles, but that might not be too helpful. My interpretation is that rolling a hoover means doing something that you know is stupid without any clear sense of what the outcome will be, just to see what will happen. In my case, I quit my job in an uncertain economy to try to start a business. I'm still not sure how that will work out.

Why is the HTML for this page not valid?

BlogSpot adds the advertisement that appears at the top of this page. That advertisement is not valid HTML and is outside of my control. I believe that aside from that ad, this page is valid HTML.