A Message to a Friend Explaining My View on Intellectual Property

I think that IP is one of the largest issues going and to make it worse, people don’t know anything about it. That’s what makes it so dangerous. Corporations are slowly but surely gathering more and more power over IP, many people think that this is good for businesses because they can protect their interests, but that’s not really what IP is about. IP is more about anti-competitive behavior than anything right now. It is being abused by crooks who extort money from businesses by claiming overly broad and obvious copyrights granted by people who don’t understand the concepts they are certifying. It is also being used by larger companies to lock out newcomers. An example of this is Vonage being sued by Verizon. It is also used to try and kill derivative works, like The Grey Album, by Danger Mouse. Stifling creativity not just in the art but in the sciences as well. IP is used to create artificial monopolies, like MLB saying people can’t disseminate the facts (which are currently not part of IP) of a baseball without authorization. But worse of all it is abused by people who just want to silence others, the DMCA for example has been widely abused to do just that.

IP laws need to be reformed so that they are balanced, so that they protect people first and businesses second. I don’t want to win second place to an artificial person (ie corporation).


Cuba Versus China (the politics of being useful)

Steve Marshall is an English travel agent. He lives in Spain, and he sells trips to Europeans who want to go to sunny places, including Cuba. In October, about 80 of his Web sites stopped working, thanks to the

The sites, in English, French and Spanish, had been online since 1998. Some, like www.cuba-hemingway.com, were literary. Others, like www.cuba-havanacity.com, discussed Cuban history and culture. Still others — www.ciaocuba.com and www.bonjourcuba.com — were purely commercial sites aimed at Italian and French tourists.
NY Times (A Wave of the Watch List, and Speech Disappears)

The question Americans should be asking is: Why is it that Cuba is so bad but China is okay? Clearly, lack of democracy is problematic. I won’t argue that the Cuban government is saintly. But it is also impossible to argue that Cuba approaches China’s human right violations by any order of magnitude. And that doesn’t even consider its various other violations.

Why is it that China kills, tortures, and suppresses its people and gets to host the Olympics, while Cuba keeps getting punched in the throat?

Leaving that question behind, we need to ask why the US Government is engaging in practices befitting of countries like China and Cuba. What makes our actions better? How is our suppression of free speech moral and democratic?


2012 Olympic Games

This message was not brought to you by the real Olympic Games, but is instead a demonstration of the free speech which the folks who run Olympic Games are trying to kill. Why should you care? David Edgar puts it pretty well:

By declaring images, titles and now words to be ownable brands, these various organisations and individuals are contributing to an increased commodification and thus privatisation of materials previously agreed to be in the public domain. For scientists, this constrains the use of public and published knowledge, up to and including the human genome. For artists, it implies that the only thing you can do with subject matter is to sell it.

politics, technology

Yahoo Just Doesn't Care about Human Rights

It has been said before on this little blog that Yahoo is a bad company for helping the Chinese government jail people for speaking out, but Yahoo just won’t admit to anyone that they did something bad. Free speech is obviously important and any company which helps a government suppress it should be regarded as equally repugnant.

It is even more repugnant to see Yahoo’s hollow response to a lawsuit that seeks to hold the company accountable for its poor ethics. The Associated Press reports that, Yahoo has taken the bold stance of saying, “China should not punish people for expressing their political views on the Internet.” While once again reminding us that the people working for Yahoo in China might have faced penalties. This of course is their way of say, sucks to be you, people in China hoping to express your beliefs and opinions. Yahoo does a little PR dance to spin spin spin the bad news of what it did into a finger pointing game, rather than say anything meaningful.

Shi [Tao] was writing for the financial publication Contemporary Business News when he circulated an e-mail with his notes about a government circular about media restrictions. He was convicted of leaking state secrets.

Wang [Xiaoning] was sentenced in September 2003 on the charge of “incitement to subvert state power,” a vaguely defined statute that the Communist Party frequently uses to punish its political critics.(Seattle PI)

It is time to stop using Yahoo things.  No more mail, searches, flickr, or anything else that is related to Yahoo until they make a concrete commitment to protecting free speech. It may cost businesses money to take the high road, but no one ever said freedom was cheap, and while having even this tiny ethic comes at a cost to deny it is far more expensive. Every time Yahoo (or any company) helps suppress the freedom of a people anywhere they are spitting on the ideals of liberty and democracy. These companies are not fit to be representative of the United States, within our country or abroad.