Sunday, September 08, 2002


By popular demand (Denise), I've made T-shirts with the copyright clause from the US constitution (used as the background for this site) on - see the right sidebar (or scroll down to the bottom if your browser is ancient and doesn't grok CSS).

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Petition to Ashcroft from Rafael O. Quezada

Thank you to all who have signed the letter I will deliver to Attorney General Ashcroft and CC to various members of congress and the senate. Thanks especially to those who helped in setting up the means by which hundreds of signatures have been aggregated and continue to be added, Darryl Ballantyne, Bill Evans, and thank you to Ellen Stroud who helped me clear my mind to crystallize the final draft, now posted below.

Liberty now.

ROQ -----------------------------

The Honorable John Ashcroft
Attorney General of the United States
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:

We are artists, technologists, scholars and consumers…individuals on the Internet, united by the human will and the common bonds of friendship. Through the simplest desire to seek knowledge, to communicate thoughts ranging from humble to grand and from the absurd to the majestic; we unite daily through this remarkable network, Americans joined with people from all over the Earth. Strong in hope, with faith in freedom and democracy, we share a common connection extending far beyond our physical presence.

We speak as one.

Today, we write to urge the United States Department of Justice to see through the transparent pleas of multinational entertainment conglomerates that beg the Department to "vigilantly enforce the institution of copyright". It is our contention that these businesses have re-defined this key clause of the Constitution through passage of questionable law and now are seeking to exert a disproportionate control over global media by that convenient re-wording. We call on you to protect the future of the global Internet; some would say the future of human consciousness that hangs in the balance as you decide to marshal your forces, for or against it.

To wit, the US Constitution, in Article I, § 8, clause 8, states that:

"The Congress shall have power… To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries…"

And the US Constitution, in Article I, § 8, clause 18, states that:

"The Congress shall have power… To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing…."

Before there was the option of a global Internet, entertainment businesses controlled the stage for musical, television and cinematic arts. By controlling the movement of cultural products through both creative and distribution gateways, prices could be established and charged to the consumer whose choice was limited to the availability provided through retail mediums. The multinational conglomerates owned the means of duplication, promotion, and distribution. They metered those flows to draw the highest profitability, thus established ownership, for all intents and purposes, of society’s cultural heritage. The formula for maintaining maximum earnings dictates limited availability of product, therefore, consciously or unconsciously, entertainment industries had, in effect, (and continue to have) an interest in actually slowing the advance of science and the useful arts.

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the contrast between traditional media and the Internet. With the Internet's advent, an entirely new form of thinking has come into being. The far-reaching and chaotic network, instantly on and unable to be controlled, has become a bedrock communications foundation that works on principles exactly opposite to traditional market forces of entertainment business. In place of exclusivity, the Internet is about including any willing participant. Its media and promotion filters from the downside up, where entertainment’s world works upside down. Traditional entertainment businesses require much more money to control media, whereas on the Internet anybody with a PC has a voice limited only by self-initiative.

The natural result has been a watershed of independent thought. People communicate one-to-one, as well as one-to-many and many-to-one. The dialog takes place across borders, up and down society’s ladder and right to left across humanity’s broad horizon. The topics of conversation are widely diverse and far-reaching. The use of media is random and uncontrollable. It is about human communication, emotion expressed through the sharing of words and such artifacts as pictures, movies and music. Thought is shared globally and it is in the sharing that the greatest pleasure is felt.

Try doing that with a CD.

Unlike the interaction with culture controlled by traditional entertainment businesses, society’s culture on the Internet is a two way street. More artists find a way to those who appreciate their work than could ever be accommodated through the method of branding elite names as employed by the vastly more expensive promotional machinery of traditional entertainment companies. On the Internet, artist and consumer share a voice in the evolution of art, whether they are active distributors, eager recipients, or both. Thoughts are shared, ideas are born, and it is inevitable that people look to cultural artifacts to establish the basis for commonality.

Businesses that manufacture traditional entertainment artifacts like CDs and videos are correctly perceived to move more slowly, be more expensive, and be less able to meet the needs of diverse audiences who have been matured by Internet communications. If traditional entertainment businesses are to survive, they must accommodate the increased speed and diminished cost with which society now thinks, communicates, and shares its culture. Traditional entertainment business cannot afford to continue ignoring the future, focused on delivering one-directional, one-dimensional products, copy-protected against the consumer’s will to use and re-use it.

This is especially true because the tools of production, promotion, and distribution have spread everywhere as media of every imaginable kind has been converted to digital formats. If individuals don’t create their own tools, they can find them offered by those who do, throughout the network. By employing these tools, all art can be transformed to light. These tools enable "massive thought", shared by millions, that moves at the speed of light, as if light were thought’s substance… and so it is, light and vibration in myriad rhythms, cadences that rise and fall with the human heartbeat. In the expansively brilliant dialog that ensues, the consumer, is a willing participant in culture’s constant recreation. Ordinary people become the impetus of extraordinary cultural development. Whereas, before, consumers were fed their culture, through the Internet they are one with, and unable to be separated from, the tools of art’s free expression.

It’s not surprising that entertainment, the shimmering mirror of human existence, changes in this environment and, especially, does the economics of show business change. These formulas are altered, if for no other reason than that show business becomes a smaller part of thinking, because whole artifacts can be easily shared, almost as easily as random thought bounces through the ether. Where before it took a trip to a store to get a record or a video, now the pictures and sounds are on the kitchen table, in the study, or anywhere a wireless connection can be made in the wide open spaces of any metropolis. Since the sum of all thought, inseparable from the whole community, is valued more than the value of any one business (including show business or its artifacts), entertainment is challenged as never before to join in the dance or squander the value of its traditions, endangering its future existence.

Copyright and its attendant fair uses change, too, as the free flow of information and expression expands. For entertainment businesses unable to tolerate a consumer so empowered, the face of freedom becomes a fearful thing. Traditional entertainment businesses who are unable to become a part of human culture moving at the speed of light, feel compelled to implement stultifying "copy protections" in order to slow down and constrain the marketplace of free ideas. Failing in this, they seek to change the law, as quickly as they can… if possible before the future arrives.

It is true, however, that law hastily made is bad law and, unfortunately, there is no law against bad law, so long as it is law. This is why it is so important that you hear us, today, and let us be clear:

No one can hope, seriously, to own the Internet. However, businesses will flourish as they learn to lead by getting out of the way and, for entertainment, the ability to derive income will fall to those who develop compelling tools and methods that guide and assist a global population in accessing its universal heritage of cultural artifacts. Just as surely, traditional entertainment businesses that distance themselves from so participating will hasten their own demise. For these hapless enterprises, the larger the Internet expands in its power to exchange ideas and cultural artifacts, the smaller becomes their thinking. The seeds of their doom are planted in their desire to control what will not be controlled.

Yet, we trust that Democracy is a creation of the People, by the People, and for the People; that whosoever justly serves the People shall be fairly rewarded.

As you are surely aware, there is, today, a bill that represents an exactly opposite agenda. It is proposed by Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), that would allow copyright owners (anyone so calling themselves) to engage with impunity in otherwise illegal activities that include "disabling, interfering with, blocking, diverting, or otherwise impairing" the "unauthorized" distribution of copyrighted items. This proposed legislation would ultimately allow entertainment industry hackers to enter the private computers of consumers suspected of "possessing" copyrighted works.

Whether or not this bill contains the complicated wording that ostensibly protects the public from unreasonable search and seizure, it raises a host of liability issues and declares open season for activities heretofore considered illegal. How far will the entertainment oligarchy go in the misguided pursuit of protecting its self interests at the expense of the People? How far will legislators go in order to aggregate campaign contributions?

Clearly, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was ill conceived when passed in 1998. The DMCA failed in its grasp of the meaning of that which it proposed to control. It is, after all, what gives the Berman bill its legal basis. In hindsight, the only benefactors of this faulty legislation are the entertainment monopolies that paid for it. And, true to form, with respect to the Berman bill, bad law is begetting worse law.

We implore you to acknowledge that the Department of Justice cannot reasonably be a party to such tyranny. Please ignore the hollow pleas of selfish money interests in these matters. Turn your important attention, instead, to issues that affect us all. Focus on the security of our homeland and the protection of allies of freedom and democracy everywhere. Endeavor against evil, against greed and the corporate overlords who threaten freedom, indeed our nation's democracy, by their manipulation of defective law to dominate the People.


Rafael O. Quezada

cc: Daniel J. Bryant, Assistant Attorney General, Legislative Affairs
Michael Chertoff, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division
Martha Stensell-Gramm, Section Chief, Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Criminal Division

Melancholy Elephants: a copyright parable

Spider Robinson's "Melancholy Elephants," written in 1984 warns about indefinite copyright extension from a different angle.
[viaBoing Boing]

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Bad Laws: Coble Berman's Peer To Peer Piracy Prevention Act

This Bill is remarkable, in that it gives 'copyright owners' immunity from prosecution if they try to block access to a computer that they believe holds their work. They are not supposed to cause more than $50 worth of damage, but anyone affected can only appeal to the Attorney General (no other court apparently) if $250 worth of damage is caused.
Now, anyone who has ever written anything is a copyright owner under the terms of this bill, and the definition of 'a peer to peer network' covers every form of server on the internet, including webservers.

A detailed explanation of how foolish this is.

How the bill has expanded and may show up in the new session.

Friday, August 30, 2002

Some responses at ProSUA CA

The California blog has some reactions from candidates.

Ask your candidates too, and email me if you want me to make a State blog for you to run.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

a brief thanks

To Anatoly Volynets for coming up with the name for this idea

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Questions to ask your candidates

Possibly leading questions - these serve the purpose of raising the issues in a public meeting, but it may be better to ask more neutral variants to get a true opinion from the candidate.

Do you believe that vigilante attacks by the entertainment industry on your computer should have the support of law?
Will you promise to vote against the Peer To Peer Piracy Prevention Act?

Do you want to make all current computers models illegal, and insist they are replace by copy-prevention machines?
Will you promise to vote against the Consumer Broadband Digital Television Promotion Act?

Do you trust computers to judge and enforce complex issues of copyright law?
Will you work with Rep. Boucher to repeal the parts of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that give computer code the force of law and make disagreeing with it a criminal offence?

Ask these questions of your candidates, and blog the answers, with the appropriate tag as described below. Set up a state blog if your state doesn't have one yet, and email me the url. so I can link to it from here,

Find out when your candidates are addressing public meetings, list them on your blog, go to the meetings and ask these quesions, and report back.

BlogTheVote2002 USA VA 9

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Better source site

thegreenpapers lists the seats that are contested and links to the candidates website very clearly.

BlogTheVote - a new BlogTag

BlogTags are otherwise rare words included in weblogs to assist google searchs for specific topics. blogchalk being the most common. WikiBadges are similar.

I propose a new naming scheme - BlogTheVote[year][country] as one word, then an indication of the constituency. For the US elections this would translate to BlogTheVote2002USA [state] [district], so If I were discussing The Coble/Grubb race, I'd add the words BlogTheVote2002USA NC 6 to the entry. If I were commenting on a Senatorial race, I'd leave off the district. Then a Google search for this tag in quotes will find all the tagged discussion of that race. can find your district from your zip code and lists candidates, which is a good starting point.

David Reed debunks Coble

Contradictory justifications: As I've said before, there is no need to extend copyright to create vigilante rights. Copyright holders can sue under the existing laws. Why create new rights of poorly restrained vigilantism?

Dear Congressman

Aaron (who can't vote either, being a minor):
Dear Congressman,
I write you today not only as a constituent, but also as a creator and consumer of copyrighted works. I fear that the laws being pushed by the entertainment industry are seriously harming the public at large.


Cory gets it

Boing Boing
Akamai is seeking 9-figure damages from Digital Island -- meanwhile, Digital Island is countersuing Akamai for infringing on its patents. Ah, the sweet smell of the useful arts and sciences being promoted by our friends at the USPTO

Monday, August 26, 2002

Aux armes, citoyens!

In the next 3 months, all the representatives of the people will be in their home districts, campaigning, holding public meetings, trekking from one place to another to meet their constituents.

What if there was a 'smart mob' waiting for them at each one?
Local constituents concerned and informed about the CBDTPA, Coble/Berman, the DMCA and the rest.

Lets set up a tree of weblogs - a top-level campaign one, giving the overview and highlights, then state and regional ones for each election. Brainstorm and hone a set of questions to ask each representative, and publish their responses, and an endorsement/rejection. Get the meeting attendees to bring video cameras and tape recorders and post the Q&A sessions in video and audio too. Sign up flyposters and canvassers. If there isn't an endorsable candidate, come up with a write-in candidate instead.

Instead of arguing about whether programmers or lawyers are doing more, or the details of which licence you release your software under, sign up to the broad principles we all can agree on - that the CBDTPA and Coble-Berman bills are an attempt to overturn the constitution by narrow interests.

Are we likely to win any seats? Probably not. But at the end of it, every representative will be aware of a big constituency who don't want the entertainment industry to have veto rights over the constitution. The DMCA was passed unanimously. Coble-Berman mustn't be.

I am a resident alien, and don't get to vote - taxation without representation is my lot.
You citizens need to do this - they are YOUR representatives.

Go out there and remind them.

Starting up anew

Last week I wrote a call to arms - that technologists worried about copyright laws extension should raise the issue diring the US elections, and that they should organise via the web. I've posted it above. I have since discovered that I can campaign, even if I can't vote.