July 2009

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July 30

Hollywood Still Thinks That The Industry Needs DRM

A bunch of folks have sent in various versions of how the entertainment industry is trying to convince the Copyright Office not to grant a special DMCA exemption for breaking DRM in the very limited -- but quite real -- scenario where a DRM server goes dark, taking away access to content people thought they had legally purchased. This seems like a perfect example of a reasonable DMCA exemption (people legally bought something, and they can no longer access it without getting around the DRM). On top of that, the music industry especially has finally come to terms with the fact that DRM not only doesn't work, but decreases the value of the music and makes people less willing to buy. So you might think that they wouldn't put up much of a fight. But, you'd be wrong. Full Story

B&N Claims It Must DRM Public Domain Books To Protect The Copyright On Them

Now, it's no surprise that plenty of people don't quite "get" the public domain or why it's important (though, if you are interested, you should read James Boyle's excellent book on the subject, which you can also order -- signed -- as a part of the Techdirt Book Club). And we've seen more than a few instances where people falsely claim copyright on public domain material. However, none of that really explains Barnes & Noble's bizarre and contradictory response to someone's question about why public domain ebooks were locked up with DRM (thanks Mark for sending this in). B&N is apparently offering a promotion for "free" ebooks, but it turns out that all of them are in the public domain (meaning most are already available for free online). But, oddly, these books were locked up by DRM, and someone decided to ask why. Full Story

AP Says It's 'Done' Talking About Fair Use And Its DRM

Considering that the entire point of the Associated Press is to explain the news to people, is there anything more damning than the fact that most people still have absolutely no idea what its DRM for news system is actually about. The company has given different interviews, indicating very different things. My read on it, from these different interviews, is that the AP is basically going to track stories and sue people they feel abuse some mythological standard that the AP feels should be a part of copyright law. But, that's not entirely clear. Full Story

RIAA Says "Don't Expect DRMed Music To Work Forever"

"Buying DRMed content, then having that content stop working later, is fair, writes Steven Metalitz, the lawyer who represents the MPAA, RIAA in a letter to the top legal advisor at the Copyright Office. 'We reject the view that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works.' In other words, if it stops working, too bad. Not surprisingly, Metalitz also strongly opposes any exemption that would allow users to legally strip DRM from content if a store goes dark and takes down its authentication servers." Full Story

Emacs Hits Version 23

"After only 2 years since the previous version, now emacs 23 (.1) is available. It"Buying DRMed content, then having that content stop working later, is fair, writes Steven Metalitz, the lawyer who represents the MPAA, RIAA in a letter to the top legal advisor at the Copyright Office. 'We reject the view that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works.' In other words, if it stops working, too bad. Not surprisingly, Metalitz also strongly opposes any exemption that would allow users to legally strip DRM from content if a store goes dark and takes down its authentication servers."

brings many new features, of which the support for anti-aliased fonts on X may be the most visible. Also, there is support for starting emacs in the background, so you can pop up new emacs windows in the blink of an eye. There are many other bigger and smaller improvements, including support for D-Bus, Xembed, and viewing PDFs inside emacs. And not to forget, M-x butterfly. You can get emacs 23 from ftp.gnu.org/gnu/emacs/ or one of its mirrors; alternatively, there are binary packages available, for example from Ubuntu PPA." Full Story

July 28

Apple Rejects Official Google Voice iPhone App

Now we know why Google Voice apps were only released for BlackBerry and Android. Apple rejected Google's official Google Voice app when it was submitted for approval six weeks ago. Full Story

EU browser case: FSFE says details of settlement will be crucial

Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) congratulates the European Commission on its firm stance in the antitrust investigation against Microsoft, which has led the company to offer a settlement. For any such settlement, getting the details right will be crucial for competition and innovation in the web browser market.Full Story

July 27

GPLv3 hits 50 percent adoption

In July 2007, version 3 of the GNU General Public License barely accounted for 164 projects. A year later, the number had climbed past 2,000 total projects. Today, as announced by Google open-source programs office manager Chris DiBona, the number of open-source projects licensed under GPLv3 is at least 56,000. Full Story Please also give it a digg!

Amazon Faces a Fight Over Its E-Books

Last week, Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, offered an apparently heartfelt and anguished mea culpa to customers whose digital editions of George Orwell’s “1984” were remotely deleted from their Kindle reading devices. Jeffrey Bezos, chief of Amazon, apologized last week for the digital deletion of a book from its Kindle reading devices after a copyright dispute. Though copies of the books were sold by a bookseller that did not have legal rights to the novel, Mr. Bezos wrote on a company forum that Amazon’s “ ‘solution’ to the problem was stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles.” Full Story

July 24

Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos apologizes for Kindle ebook deletion. Free Software Foundation calls upon Amazon to free the ebook reader.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) welcomed the apology issued today by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, as negative reviews from DefectiveByDesign.org campaign supporters criticizing the Kindle's use of proprietary software and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) to remotely delete ebooks continued to pour in. Full Story

RMS: How the Swedish Pirate Party platform backfires on free software

FSF president Richard Stallman explains the unintended interactions between the Swedish Pirate Party's platform and free software in his new article, "How the Swedish Pirate Party Platform Backfires on Free Software".

Because free software currently relies on copyleft to protect software freedom, while proprietary software has other means beyond copyright to keep users restricted (like patents and EULAs), eliminating copyright would protect proprietary software and hurt free software. Users would never get to have the source code of the proprietary software, while proprietary software companies would be able to openly pillage from the free world. Full Story

Don't Let Google Close the Book on Reader Privacy

Google is poised to radically expand its book service, monitoring the digital books you search, the pages you read, how long you spend on various pages, and even what you write down in the margins. Google could then combine your reading habits with other information it has about you from other Google services, creating a massive "digital dossier" about you, your interests, and your concerns. With numerous reports of government efforts to compel online and offline booksellers to turn over records about readers, the time is now for Google to pledge to protect reader privacy. Full Story

Palm Pre Fixes iTunes Sync!

Some healthy escalation in the Palm vs. Apple iTunes scuffle: Though Apple tried to block the Pre from syncing with iTunes, Palm has struck back with WebOS update 1.1, which un-breaks Pre-iTunes coupling and adds some great new features. Full Story

What Good Does It Do Anyone To Patent Video Game Features?

A bunch of folks keep submitting various versions of this story about how Microsoft has apparently received a patent on join-leave in split-screen multiplayer games. We see so many of these sorts of stories these days, it's getting a bit tiresome to talk about them, but no less disappointing. Full Story

Identi.ca: How free software can drive a social networking revolution

Social networking, micro-blogging and other such buzzwords abound across web development these days, and the "public" is a fickle as ever. The darling of the media-driven, web-based section of the public is dropped as soon as it gets popular or as soon as somebody figures out a way to make money out of it - money usually involves advertising, which usually ends up bombarding users with spurious post-mercials. How can free software make an impact in such an environment? Enter Identi.ca Full story]

July 23

Amazon Ate my Homework

The phrase “Amazon ate my homework” may certainly have been uttered on more than one occasion since the New York Times reported on Amazon’s deletion of specific editions of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 from Kindle e-book readers (and no, the irony wasn’t lost on anybody). Unless you live under a rock, you know that this has been a bit of a discussion topic in the blogosphere. However, the first time I’d heard it put that way was in an email exchange on which I was lurking today, when Daniel Dern, an independent technology writer, made specific reference to the notes/annotations lost by a particular student. While that particular phrase gave me a chuckle, it also reminded me just how utterly incompatible DRM is with most educational pursuits, especially as it relates to traditionally printed materials. As bloggers and technology pundits discussed the legal ramifications of Amazon’s actions, I watched boxes and boxes of paper books being delivered to our schools. Textbooks, references, novels, short stories and countless other bits of dead-tree educational paraphernalia were being wheeled on dollies to various book closets in preparation for fall. Full Story

Canadians: speak out on copyright before it's too late!

The Canadian government has just launched the first public consultation on copyright since 2001. The consultation represents both a crucial opportunity and a potential threat.Full Story

Apple Withdraws Threats Against Wiki Site

Apple has retracted its legal threats against public wiki hosting site Bluwiki, and, in response, EFF is dismissing its lawsuit against Apple over those threats. The skirmish involved a set of anonymously authored wiki pages in which hobbyists were discussing how to "sync" media to iPods and iPhones using music library playback software other than Apple's own iTunes. Full Story

July 22

The Ukraine’s GNU/Linux Ambitions and Microsoft’s MOU Response

Many months ago we wrote about Microsoft signing a contract of exclusivity (MOU) with the Ukrainian government. Such contracts are specifically designed to block competitors such as GNU/Linux, shutting them out of the government sector altogether. We saw it happening once again in May when Steve Ballmer visited the Ukraine. The timing is interesting because of information we have just received about GNU/Linux in the Ukraine (and Microsoft’s response to it). That too is based on a report from May 2009. This report is one among 2 articles, for which we received interpretation from an informant who is familiar with the situation. Full Story

Copyright Lobbyists Celebrate Latest Bogus Stats With Willing Gov't Officials

Every day, we see greater and greater evidence that too stringent copyright laws are harming creative efforts rather than encouraging them. The evidence is all around us and growing. But, very few in the government recognize this. They don't actually look at the real research on these things. Instead, they accept as gospel the ridiculous debunked research that comes out of the industry lobbyists who benefit the most from such protectionism that limits real and meaningful competition. And no one calls them on it. Take, for example, this Internet News report on how lobbyists for the music, movie and software industries all got together with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and talked up a new and misleading study from the International Intellectual Property Association that talks up the importance of copyright. Full Story

Person Drives to a Verizon CEO's House To "Discuss"-megaphone in hand- Verizon's Lousy Privacy Policies

"John Hargrave tracked down Verizon CEO's private address and cellphone number. Then he went to his home—megaphone in hand—to ask him to stop Verizon's lousy privacy policies. The video is quite funny and his message is clear: When we don't have privacy, then freaks with bullhorns start showing up. Keep our phone numbers unlisted. Keep our cellphone records private. Keep us safe in your loving arms, Ivan."Watch the Video

Protect Free Speech from Authoritarian Regimes

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has just published "Surveillance Self-Defense International: 6 Ideas For Those Needing Defensive Technology to Protect Free Speech from Authoritarian Regimes and 4 Ways the Rest of Us Can Help." Full Story

Who is copyright for?

Here's Google's senior copyright counsel, William "Patry on Copyright" Patry, with a pithy little zinger about the idea that copyright law is made for creators: " While one hears, constantly, corporate chieftains claiming that they're out there fighting for the creators, we all know that is b.s.: the creators are merely an expense item on a balance sheet, to be reduced as much as possible. We also hear politicians make similar paeans to creators, yet when was the last piece of legislation that was passed that benefited creators at the expense of corporations? When was the last time you heard a government official suggest such a thing?" Full Story

July 21

RIAA Spokesman Denies Saying 'DRM Is Dead'

TorrentFreak has retracted its report of the quote. What the Recording Industry Association of America's Jonathan Lamy actually said was: "There is virtually no DRM on music anymore, at least on download services, including iTunes." Full Story

GPL and Stallman FUD Now Arriving from the Freedom-apathetic or Freedom-hostile

Summary: Microsoft, Novell and Apple fanfare proves challenging to GNU/FSF; the OSI may also face a new hurdle Moments ago we posted an important statement from the FSF, which was long coming. The FSF still advises against C# and Mono. Other new posts about Mono reveal that attack on messengers is the preferred tactic of Microsoft or Mono proponents. Some of them cannot defend what they advocate or do, not on a technical level anyway, let alone the legal. Just watch how Stallman gets attacked [1, 2] following a tactless remark that occupied less than 10 seconds in a 2-hour talk (or thereabouts). People who wish to eliminate Stallman from the discussion would simply accentuate, exaggerate, spin, take out of context, fail to interpret humour (it was a Cult of the Virgin Mary parody), etc. it’s intended to incite against him and capitalise on lack on research. This is not to justify poor stage act from Stallman; au contraire, but to either quote-mine or to ignore a track record of advocacy for women’s rights from Richard Stallman would be foolish at best, if not altogether dishonest. Full Story

Introduction to Web Development with Emacs

Emacs is an absolutely wonderful text editor for designers, and it can speed up development time with a series of helpful shortcuts, even for a Textmate diehard. Unfortunately, Emacs can have a steep learning curve, so I figured I would provide a basic introduction for using Emacs as a web development environment Full Story

Were We Smarter About Copyright Laws 100 Years Ago?

A few months back, I wrote about attending an absolutely fascinating one-day conference all about the 1909 Copyright Act, which hasn't been the law of the land in about 33 years. And, yet, one thing became clear throughout the session: there was plenty in that law that made a lot more sense than what we have today. Full Story

How to completely remove an application in GNU/Linux

If you are using an OS based on the Synaptic Package Manager, you must have noticed by now that when trying to install a new package through Synaptic, it draws in miscellaneous packages that are needed for the program to work. These packages are called dependencies. Full Story

Amazon redacts Orwell on Kindle like it's ‘1984’

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork," George Orwell wrote in his 1949 tale of a totalitarian regime “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Full Story

July 20

Microsoft's Empty Promise

Last week, Microsoft extended the terms of their Community Promise to implementations of the ECMA 334 and 335 standards. You might think this means it's safe to write your software in C#. However, this promise is full of loopholes, and it's nowhere near enough to make C# safe. Full Story

Free "Really Cool" Stickers About Linux/FOSS

Do you want to remove that Windows or Apple logo from your Linux-powered netbook or laptop? If you do then you may as well replace it with some cool graphics that would stand out. To spare you from the hassles of creating you own or searching the web, I recommend that you download the Free Software Sticker Book first. There you will find tons of ready-made stickers (in ODG format) that is related to Linux and Free and Open Source software. Full Story

Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle

"In George Orwell’s “1984,” government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole.” On Friday, it was “1984” and another Orwell book, “Animal Farm,” that were dropped down the memory hole — by Amazon.com." Full Story

DRM is Dead, RIAA Says

Note: Since this statement came out, it has been deniedsee here For years the RIAA has defended the use of DRM, much to the dislike of millions of honest customers who actually paid for their music. Now, in a shocking turnaround, the outfit seems to have come to the realization that DRM does more harm than good and has officially declared its death. Full story

July 16

Apple Does As Many Expected: Kills Palm Pre iTunes Syncing

The pettiness of Apple continues... Last month, Apple warned potential buyers of the Palm Pre that it might break that phone's ability to sync with iTunes. It didn't take long for Apple to follow through. In an upgrade to iTunes, which Apple claims was for "bug fix" but also to handle "verification" issues, it has blocked the Palm Pre from accessing iTunes. This is pure petty behavior on the part of Apple. When the original statement was made, some assumed that Apple was really just saying that it couldn't be responsible if an update broke the syncing, not that it would purposely break that ability. But Apple's comments suggest they cut off the Pre on purpose, noting that it wanted to stop devices that "falsely pretend" to be iPods or iPhones. Full Sotry

July 15

US Postal Service Moves To GNU/Linux

"The US Postal Service has moved its Cobol package tracking software to HP machines running GNU/Linux. 1,300 servers handle 40 million transactions a day and cost less than the last system, which was based on a Sun Solaris environment." The migration took a year. The USPS isn't spelling how big the savings are, except that they are "significant." Full Story

Taking a Principled Position on Software Freedom

Those of us in the free/libre and open source software (FLOSS) community know the routine by now. Despite the fact that "free software" and "open source" refer to the same software and the same communities, supporters of "free software" like the FSF would have us advocate for FLOSS by talking about users' rights to use, modify, share, and cooperate; open source supporters like the Open Source Initiative would have us advocate for software by talking about how securing these rights produces software with "better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility [and] lower cost." Full Story

Linux is not an Operating System

Last week Google announced their intention to release an operating system based on Linux. The reaction of some people on reddit was: "No, another neutered, watered-down, crapitized "linux". Linux will once again be viewed as a sub par, 'specialized' OS." Well, this is not possible because Linux is not really an operating system, it is a kernel. And it is actually very successful as a specialized operating system's kernel. Let me explain... [ Full Story]

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