July 28, 2004
The Internet Isn't Melting

John Quarterman compares the "meltdown" program with similar predictions Bob Metcalfe raised of "Internet collapse" eight years ago. This time, John says, the problems are further from the technical infrastructure, but problems we attribute to the Internet as we use it more widely.

As then, it's unlikely that the Internet is truly "melting down." Yet there are indeed many smaller-scale problems seriously degrading the Internet use experience. The group was at its most productive when we analyzed these, considering in the process how overreaction to threats can cause more harm. How can we reduce unwanted communications without cutting off anonymous speech? Can we apportion liability so as to reduce the number of machines vulnerable to being turned into zombies and used for malicious purposes? Answers to bigger questions, such as how we can put users or their chosen intermediaries in control of their Internet experiences, may come from starting with more concrete problems.

Posted by Wendy at 03:31 PM
Pyramids for Kerry

Picking up the thread danah got from a friend of hers, I've doubled my contribution to the Kerry-Edwards campaign. If ten of my friends and readers respond, I'll double again.

Posted by Wendy at 02:57 PM
The 9/11 Report -- A Bestseller from the Public Domain

The New York Times reports that the the 9/11 Report has been "a royalty-free windfall" for publisher Norton.

"The 9/11 Commission Report," the final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, has remained at the top of the best-seller lists at online bookstores since its release last Thursday.

The report is topping the Amazon charts despite being uncopyrightable and freely available on the web. It's one of the of the few types of works left -- works of government authorship -- that enters the modern public domain.

According to the typical copyright story playing in Washington, this publication and its profits for the publisher shouldn't have happened. What would be the incentive to publish a book that anyone else could freely read and even republish? Yet it seems that some people still want to read on bound paper, and a publisher can still make money by being first to market at a reasonable price. Of course the newsworthiness of the event and subject had plenty to do with this story, but it helps show, as do and Lawrence Lessig's experience with it, that total control isn't the only workable business model for publishers.

Posted by Wendy at 12:23 PM
July 27, 2004
Meltdown: IP

I'm at PFIR's "Preventing the Internet Meltdown", where today kicked off with a discussion of intellectual property (the other IP). It was a happy surprise to share the stage with Thane Tierney, of Universal Music Group, who shared our horror at the Induce Act and joined a genuine dialogue about the collision between the Internet and the recording industry. I hope we'll be able to continue that conversation with Thane and others in his business, to move toward a solution that leaves the Internet open to innovation and pays artists and copyright holders.

Also on the panel, Ed Felten commented on the one-way ratchet of copyright legislation; Michael Froomkin called on technologists to spec and build speech-enabling technologies (like Tor); and Carrie Lowe of the ALA called our attention to the copyright-driven inaccessibility of material to libraries and the public they serve. I talked about reclaiming the Internet from amid the copyright-dominated debate in Washington.

Posted by Wendy at 04:27 PM
Meltdown: Day 1

Scott Bradner noted that "the value of conference will be inversely proportional to time spent bashing ICANN." By that standard (and others), the conference got off to a good start, raising bigger questions of governance and regulation: Who makes the rules? and Who says who makes the rules? Since much regulation is about protecting incumbents, watch the regulations (in laws and standards), as well as the regulators who don't understand the technologies they're regulating.

Like Ed Felten, I'm not going to try to summarize, but just to pick up a few points.

  • Chokepoints. Many decisions now are made for us by intermediaries. Can we empower the end-users to make those choices for ourselves? Can we solve the information imperfections to allow market forces to help?
  • Collateral damage of untargeted solutions. Do we really want to respond to spam by putting the government into the middle of end-to-end email? Will we let unwanted email kill off anonymity? The spammers will still break the law, and still find ways to be anonymous, while the innocent end-users' experience is far worse. If we identify email senders to the endpoints, do we make those more attractive targets for zombie attacks?
More to come...

Posted by Wendy at 12:33 PM
July 26, 2004
Preventing the Internet Meltdown

I'm in LA at PFIR's "Preventing the Internet Meltdown" conference. I'll report here (when the NATted Net isn't melting down), and I'd also be watching Susan Crawford, Ed Felten, Mary Bridges, Karl Auerbach, and Michael Froomkin.

Posted by Wendy at 12:04 PM
July 25, 2004
If this is a free speech zone...

... I'd hate to see what confinement looks like. [Photo shows the "free speech zone" set up to enclose demonstrators at the Republican Democratic National Convention. [Barriers for the RNC likely worse.]] Oh wait, we know how this administration treats and allows to be treated those it likes even less.

Posted by Wendy at 03:28 PM
The GD graphics library supports GIF again

Free from patent impediments at last, the GD graphics library once again supports GIF images. I doubt that Unisys's LZW patents promoted innovation -- unless you count innovation in competing graphics formats such as PNG to work around the patent.

From the GD Library FAQ:

Does gd support GIF images?
Yes. Support for GIF was restored in gd 2.0.28 on July 21st, 2004.

I used GD and GDchart in one of my first web applications. Maybe now I'll finally update that Amazon book-rank tracker. Funny, 1984 has been high on the charts for a while.

Posted by Wendy at 02:58 PM
July 24, 2004
NYT on Tech Lobbying

The New York Times runs a long piece on The Tech Lobby, Calling Again. Unfortunately, that lobbying seems to boil down to concern over stock option expensing. If the tech companies don't keep their eyes on bad legislation like the proposed Induce Act, they won't have stock options worth expensing.

As a bonus, the NYT quotes my high school classmate Auren Hoffman, who gets to the heart of Washington influence, the almighty dollar:

"I don't think political staffers are saying, 'You should be friends with well-known people in Silicon Valley because of the hipness factor.' I think they're saying, 'You should reach out as a long-run strategy for raising funds.'"

Posted by Wendy at 09:02 PM
July 23, 2004
BlogOn: The business of social media

I'm across the Bay at BlogOn (video here).

I just finished a panel on the so-called "darkside," (which danah redefined wonderfully as Pink Floyd rather than Darth Vader). I talked on Chilling Effects and the Internet backlash against corporate stupidity (e.g., the McLawsuit C&D).

Posted by Wendy at 11:19 AM
July 22, 2004
TiVo, Whipsawed by the Broadcast Flag

Hollywood sold the FCC on the broadcast flag rule with claims that it would only "limit the redistribution of digital broadcast television content, but not restrict consumers from copying programming for their personal use." (FCC Report and Order at 3, citing MPAA Comments at 6-8). Now that the FCC has adopted the flag rule, though, the MPAA is changing face. No longer content to prevent "mass indiscriminate redistribution," Hollywood and its allies want to throw the full force of technology mandates behind all their control dreams.

TiVo finds itself caught squarely in the middle, the Washington Post reports. TiVo developed its first generations of pause-live-TV-and-skip-the-ads products outside Hollywood's grasp, because time-shifting broadcast signal (NTSC) was a recognized fair use. When flag-encumbered (ATSC) HDTV appeared, TiVo couldn't just build, it had to petition for certification as a "covered demodulator product" and "authorized recording method." TiVo's petition describes a byzantine system of encryption and dongles to ensure that television won't escape an authorized secure viewing circle, but the MPAA still wants more: "Will subscribers be allowed to use post office boxes to register a Secure Viewing Group?" it asks in opposition. Might a sports fan share a show with a friend across the country, rather than a daughter in the next room? (docket).

Let's hope this experience serves as a warning to tech companies: Don't be lulled by the copyright industries' claims that "it won't hurt much." Ceding to technology mandates gives the entertainment companies a screw they'll just keep tightening.

See also EFF DeepLinks and Copyfight

Posted by Wendy at 05:59 PM
Induce Act Hearings Webcast (Updated)

The Senate Judiciary Comittee's hearing on the Induce Act is currently being webcast. It's good news that the Committee is holding hearings, and even better news that it has requested testimony from technology leaders who have expressed concern that the broad "inducement" standard could chill American innovation. If you're tuning in, listen for the Consumer Electronics Association's defense of the Sony Betamax "substantial noninfringing use" standard. Les Vadasz previewed that position yesterday in the Wall Street Journal.

Updated: MP3 and OGG recordings available via bIPlog; running commentary on Freedom to Tinker. We had a duet between Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters and RIAA head Mitch Bainwol, but the remaining panelists raised serious questions about the bill's basic approach. It was good to hear them speak out against copyright infringement, without concluding that we need to impose risky new legal uncertainty on all technology innovators.

Update 2 Video of the hearing now available, so you can watch Gary Shapiro raise a bottle of water as he talks about competing with free. Thanks Tom.

Posted by Wendy at 11:34 AM
July 19, 2004
What Would Thoreau Have Done?

Eric Eldred, librarian for the public domain, wanted to help people to help themselves to free copies of Walden, at Walden Pond. The park supervisor didn't approve, according to The Boston Globe:

Denise Morrissey, the park supervisor who told Eldred he had to leave, said her agency discourages competition from outsiders who could take away business from the two concessions that pay for a spot on the reservation: an ice cream truck and the gift shop run by the Thoreau Society.

"If you're going to give away books for free," she said, "it might take away business" from the shop.
Even 150 years later, it seems Thoreau can't escape the pressures of commerce.

Posted by Wendy at 05:10 PM
July 16, 2004
ICANN's SSAC Reports on SiteFinder

ICANN's Security and Stability Committee has prepared a full report (PDF) on the effects of VeriSign's SiteFinder introduction last fall. Committee Chair Steve Crocker invites comments on CircleID.

The Committee's primary focus is not Site Finder, per se. Rather, our focus is two-fold: that core registry operations were modified, thereby changing existing services, and that the change was introduced abruptly without broad notice, testing, refinement or community agreement.
In context, that's pretty sharp criticism. SiteFinder broke several services, but more important, it undermined users' trust that Internet services would work consistently and took away choices users had previously been able to make for themselves. Verisign has been permitted to reap monopoly windfalls ($6 per domain name) for maintaining the core databases for .com and .net domain name resolution. It should not be permitted to abuse its role by inserting its own responses where names have not been assigned.

Posted by Wendy at 07:23 PM
July 02, 2004
Liberate your DTV

I was so busy preparing theDTV Liberation Front yesterday that I didn't get to post it here. So now, fewer than 364 days remain for manufacture of unencumbered digital tuners before the broadcast flag mandate kicks in. If you like your media the way you like it, get an HDTV tuner card to assemble your own HD-PVR soon.

Posted by Wendy at 04:03 PM