Archive for the ‘politics’ Category.

The US Supreme Court just ruled that publishers have no right to differential pricing

If you’ve been paying attention to copyright and the myriad ways it gets abused by publishing interests, you’ve probably heard of the Kirtsaeng case.  For those just tuning in, here’s quick recap:

John Wiley & Sons is a publishing company, involved in one of the most despicable fields within the publishing industry: the publication of academic textbooks.  Anyone who’s ever been to college and had to pay the exorbitant rates they charge every semester, just because they can, will need no explanation as to why these guys are scum.

The interesting thing is, while they charge whatever they can, “whatever they can” means different things in different contexts.  Some parts of the world are wealthier than others, and in some countries there’s just less blood available to be squeezed from that particular stone, and so they have to set the prices lower so as not to be unaffordable.

Anyone with a basic knowledge of economics, when presented with these facts, should recognize that an opportunity for arbitrage exists here: buying goods in a low-priced market and reselling them at a profit, where the prices are high.  And that’s exactly what this Thai guy called Supap Kirtsaeng did. Continue reading ‘The US Supreme Court just ruled that publishers have no right to differential pricing’ »

Remember, Black March begins today

For those who haven’t heard about Black March, it’s a continuation of the worldwide copyright abuse protests that have been going on since January.  We who rely on the Internet and love it realize that the proposed laws and treaties intended to abuse copyright law to alter the fundamental principles of the way the Internet operates didn’t come out of nowhere. They weren’t thought up by some Congressman who realized one day that he hadn’t fulfilled his Evil Quota yet.  No, they have a very specific source: the entertainment industry, which has been lobbying non-stop for ever-increasing copyright “protection” for the last 3 decades and more.

With Black March, we intend to fight back.  The entertainment industry is made up of corporations, and when people note that corporations are abusing their power, one of the standard responses to any complaint is “if you don’t like it, then don’t buy their products.”  So we’re deciding not to.

March is the final month in the first financial quarter, and we’re celebrating it with a worldwide boycott of all entertainment industry products.  For one month, we will not buy any music, movies, books, magazines or video games from any company that is part of the problem.  This is a move designed to leave a gaping hole in the industry’s finances for the first quarter.  The Internet has become an essential part of our society, and interference with its operation will not be tolerated.

And although the Black March site doesn’t mention it, I think that what you do do is as important as what you don’t do.  Not everyone creating and distributing entertainment is part of the problem.  On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve got independent music and film creators who create and distribute their work without industry control.  We’ve got game developers like Stardock, who produce and sell high-quality games and refuse to violate their users’ rights with DRM.  We’ve got authors like Howard Tayler, a former computer programmer who’s been supporting himself and his family for several years now on the revenues from merchandise from his consistently-funny webcomic Schlock Mercenary.

There are people, and even a few companies, that are working with the Internet instead of against it to make their income, and I think that it’s important to support them.  They’re the future we want to help create as we reject the outdated past that the dinosaurs of the industry are trying to keep us stuck in.

The worst thing about SOPA

Have you heard of the Golden Mean Fallacy?  I would link to the Wikipedia page, but they’re blacked out today, so here’s an excerpt from its description:

…a logical fallacy which asserts that given two positions there exists a compromise between them which must be correct.  [It] implies that the positions being considered represent extremes of a continuum of opinions, and that such extremes are always wrong, and the middle ground is always correct. This is not always the case. Sometimes only X or Y is acceptable, with no middle ground possible. Additionally, the middle ground fallacy allows any position to be invalidated, even those that have been reached by previous applications of the same method; all one must do is present yet another, radically opposed position, and the middle-ground compromise will be forced closer to that position.

I added emphasis to a very important part of the explanation.  All you have to do to make something bad look good is come up with something even worse to compare it to.  And given the human capacity for imagination, that’s not such a difficult task. Continue reading ‘The worst thing about SOPA’ »

Rule of Law, software, and stray cows

One of the hallmarks of a society that values freedom is the concept of Rule of Law, which basically means that people, even the people in charge, can’t just arbitrarily decide that they don’t like what someone else is doing and act to stop them or punish them for it.  Instead we have laws that explain what’s not allowed, what the punishment for breaking them is, and how they are to be administered.  That administration part is important.  It means that if my neighbor steals something from me, I can’t go and throw him in prison, even if the punishment for it is prison time, because I’m not a law enforcement official.

In fact, we have laws that specifically say that if someone breaks the law, I’m not allowed to punish them for it, even if I was directly harmed by their actions, because I don’t have the authority to enforce the law.  People who attempt to do so are known as vigilantes, and their actions are usually illegal, because vigilante justice is flawed in several fundamental ways.  First, it’s not always easy to know if you’ve got the right guy.  Second, even if you do have the right guy, you don’t know if there are extenuating circumstances for them having done what they did.  (This idea goes a very long way, even to the most serious of crimes.  It’s why there’s a legal distinction between “murder” and “killing in self-defense,” for example.)  And third, even if you have the right guy and you know that they acted maliciously, what you might think of as a proper punishment for the crime may be way over the top, especially if you’re the injured party.  This is why trials for particularly severe and shocking crimes are often held in a different community from where it was committed, to make it possible (or at least easier) to get an impartial jury with no personal stake in the matter.

What does this have to do with software?  Well, if you’ve been following DelphiFeeds lately, you can probably guess. Continue reading ‘Rule of Law, software, and stray cows’ »

In search of public outrage

This one’s a bit off-topic, and mostly just for those of us from the USA.

Remember the 2008 elections?  The world’s moving so fast these days that that can feel like a long time in the past, but it shouldn’t be completely out of everyone’s memory yet.  When Barack Obama ran for President, one of the things he promised was to “take a back seat to no one” on Net Neutrality.  And he also pledged that there would be more openness and transparency in government.  But now the FCC is trying to sell us all out.

Instead of openness and transparency, they’re currently holding meetings behind closed doors with telecom corporations to decide what the rules will be.  Just as Congress did with copyright law from the 70s to the 90s, the FCC is currently in the process of allowing the very people that it is supposed to be protecting us from to write the rules!

This is a crime against the American people and needs to be treated as one.  Unlike a lot of political topics, Net Neutrality enjoys almost universal support among the American people.  This isn’t a liberal agenda topic or a conservative agenda topic; it’s something that We The People want.  All of us!  (Well, everyone except the telecom industry, who wants to be able to control how we communicate with each other online.)

Unfortunately, it’s starting to almost look like things are to the point where nothing but massive public outrage will get anything done.  But even though Net Neutrality is an issue that will affect all of us if we lose it, it’s not something easily visible.  Certainly not as easily visible as, say, a leaking oil well.  That’s visible enough to generate its own outrage.  Just point a camera at it, and suddenly all the turkeys in DC are falling all over themselves to demonstrate just how committed they are to fixing the problem.  That’s exactly what we need to have happen for Net Neutrality, but it’s not happening.

So I guess we’ll have to generate some public outrage of our own.  Get the word out.  The FCC is trying to hand the Internet over to the corporate predators it’s supposed to be regulating.  There’s a petition here that you can sign, directed at the White House and the FCC, but unless we get enough signatures to indicate serious public interest it won’t amount to much.  If anyone can think of a way to focus more attention on this issue, please put it into action.  Enough is enough.

Personal property and computing

I’ve always been a big fan of Apple’s.  My first computer was an Apple IIe, and finding a copy of BASIC on there was what first got me into programming.  A good percentage of the modern user interface concepts we take for granted today were invented by Apple back in the 1980s.  (Yes, I know, they got the basic concepts from Xeroc PARC, but a lot of their work was their work, not Xerox’s.)  They’ve always been one of the major drivers of innovation in the computer industry, and they’ve done a lot to hold the line against Microsoft’s campaign for complete domination of the computer industry.  They’re one of a very few companies that have actually had any real success in that area, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude for that, if nothing else.

Apple released the latest iPhone development license yesterday, and I suddenly find myself a lot less grateful.

Continue reading ‘Personal property and computing’ »

The Tragedy of Steel

Sorry if this is a bit long and off-topic, but it’s incredibly important to anyone who makes computer use a significant part of their lifestyle. Please, read this and pass it on. Link people to this post, or copy it and repost it yourself.*  Translate it into other languages if you have to. Everyone on the Internet needs to read and understand this.
Continue reading ‘The Tragedy of Steel’ »