Website crashed ... rebuilding ... more later ...
Not dead yet ...
The Lynx server suffered a hardware failure on April 28th at approximately 7:00 a.m. We have made every attempt to recover data from its drives, but unfortunately some data was lost. ...
I have NO, ZERO, NONE, files restored. My account seems now completely empty. Are you saying everything has been destroyed?!
Reply: (from http://www.phpwebhosting.com/ support)
Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are saying. Again, sorry for the inconvenience.
ARGH! The word "inconvenience" is not exactly what comes to mind!!!
Luckily, I was able to reconstruct the blog and core site files, with substantial effort. I lost some mailing-list address member data, and other operating data, which isn't fun, but at least the basic site survived.
I've been asked if there was foul play involved. No, this wasn't malicious, like the Michael Sims domain-hijacking (search for "shut down"). Though I was indeed trusting someone else, where in retrospect, I shouldn't have. I suppose can look forward to more slams in the future for being "paranoid". But this is the second time where even partially saved information has ameliorated a disaster.
I've had it with the "service" of http://www.phpwebhosting.com/ . Yes, things happen, but there's a limit to how much "inconvenience" one can stand.
I'd like to thank Robert Helmer of Project Geek (and Daily Whirl and Daily Rotation and Shell City ...) for his efforts in expediting site setup for me. Due to his help, I was able to transfer as fast as DNS could propagate.
It's been a few months since my last look at the finances of the censorware-maker N2H2, and how much they're "dead company walking". They've just reported "Second Quarter Financial Results". The graveyard-walk continues, though granted, they seem to have only taken a baby-step this time around. Key item:
Net loss for the quarter was the lowest in company history at $187,000, or $0.01 per share, a 90 percent reduction from the net loss during last year's second quarter of $1.9 million.
So they have income roughly balanced with expenses, due to all the past layoffs. But they still have a deficit of 1.885 million. Their revenue is roughly 2.6 - 3.1 million per quarter. Expenses can't go much lower - they can only fire somebody once. So I'm having a hard time seeing a reasonable way that they can overcome that deficit. I suspect the death-march will go on.
CONCLUSION The Court is not blind to the possibility that Defendants may have intentionally structured their businesses to avoid secondary liability for copyright infringement, while benefitting financially from the illicit draw of their wares. While the Court need not decide whether steps could be taken to reduce the susceptibility of such software to unlawful use, assuming such steps could be taken, additional legislative guidance may be well-counseled. ...
... Sound policy, as well as history, supports our consistent deference to Congress when major technological innovations alter the market for copyrighted materials. Congress has the constitutional authority and the institutional ability to accommodate fully the raised permutations of competing interests that are inevitably implicated by such new technology.
This reminds me much of the concluding part of the LaMacchia case:
This is not, of course, to suggest that there is anything edifying about what LaMacchia is alleged to have done. If the indictment is to be believed, one might at best describe his actions as heedlessly irresponsible. and at worst as nihilistic, self-indulgent, and lacking in any fundamental sense of values. Criminal as well as civil penalties should probably attach to willful, multiple infringements of copyrighted software even absent a commercial motive on the part of the infringer. One can envision ways that the copyright law could be modified to permit such prosecution. But, "'[i]t is the legislature, not the Court which is to define a crime, and ordain its punishment.'
And the result there was the .NET act . I wonder what we'll get here?
Don't get me wrong, it's nice to win one. But I have a strong feeling it's not going to be a permanent win.
More censorware laws for libraries - this one is HB 3101 in Oregon: http://www.leg.state.or.us/03reg/measures/hb3100.dir/hb3101.intro.html
(2) A public library shall install filtering software that blocks, to the extent technically possible, access to offensive material on all library computer terminals that provide Internet access to the public.
Note, not, only-only-only for little kids and only-only-only for really-really-really bad stuff. Rather "all .. access to the public" and "offensive material".
1) As used in this section, 'offensive material' includes but is not limited to adult oriented, sexually explicit Internet sites.
That is, a blank check for censors.
Section 1. Each county or municipal public library that makes available for public use computer on-line service, Internet service, or local bulletin board service shall install and maintain computer software or equivalent technology on any computer that is made available to persons under 18 years of age which prohibits access to materials that contain obscene descriptions, photographs, or depictions. Such computer software or equivalent technology may also prohibit access to materials that incite violence against persons based on their race, gender, or religion. If the library has only one computer available for public use, the installation of such software or technology shall be within the discretion of the library.
Sigh. Note the immediate slipping slope, from "obscene", to "incite violence against persons based on their race, gender, or religion" And "children" is "persons under 18 years of age". I suppose the kicker is if "any computer that is made available" is, in effect, any non-staff computer (i.e., for public use).
And then there's Ottawa library censorware, where
The motion rejected by the library board proposed putting library-wide filters that adults could turn off after entering their library-card number.
The majority of board members argued that such filters give parents a false sense of security, because filters aren't perfect. Filters can cut out legitimate Web sites, and still let in some pornographic ones.
Some people also worry that a card-swipe system would violate privacy. They say the card information would remain stored on a server, along with a record of the sites the user visited.
Note a similar theme, that by default, public information should be restricted to what is deemed fit for children, unless proven otherwise.
Same stories, repeated over and over ... :-(
And I've put it into HTML, for ease of reading and cut-and-paste, at:
But he had previously made a partial version with the names of the Justices. So he transfered that information, regarding which Justice asked what question, to the latest transcript. The merged version of everything, incorporating his naming information, is now available in place of the old partial version, at:
Ah memories ... More about this later:
MR. FINKELSTEIN: I'm sorry. This is just such a wonderful reply.
You say, you criticized me for not publishing details of decryption? Well, the last people who published details of their decryption for the world to see got a $75,000 lawsuit for their trouble, and that $75,000 lawsuit took place right downtown from me. So there were no fancy Internet jurisdiction issues even, when you consider that case.
Therefore, could you consider perhaps why I might be a little hesitant to publish details, given that the last people who did it got a lawsuit for it? In fact, the only reason I came out and said that I had decrypted the database was in order to try to preserve this exemption.
I keep trying to convey, this isn't my job. Nobody is paying me to come here. I took the money out of my own pocket to actually pay the plane fare back here.
David Burt is paid by the company to do this. Win or lose, he goes home after this and he gets paid and he gets a salary. If I am looking at a massive lawsuit, $75,000 -- I looked at the amount -- for publishing something versus keeping my mouth shut about how I acquired it, I think the incentive there is to keep my mouth shut about it.
I had fun (and got a message accepted) explaining Trend SMEX:
From: Seth Finkelstein
[For IP, with glee]
On Thu, Apr 17, 2003 at 11:15:37AM -0400, Dave Farber wrote:
> For amusement , look at the posting and find the "Dirty Words" . Damn spam
> filters dave[at=sign]farber.net
Oh, this one isn't even hard (err ... pun unintended). Quote:
"One is just to mind fuck with someone just because they can," said Sweeney.
Computers are dumb. Computers have no understanding of context.
See my report about how the UK Parliament got ... screwed:
I'm thinking about this from the exact opposite of an abstract perspective. Remember, about a week ago, I did a grueling, almost round-the-clock trip to the Copyright Office circumvention hearings in order to testify to renew the censorware 1201 DMCA exemption.
In some ways, this encapsulates many aspects of the problem. Rhetorical strategy? Check. I spend a great deal of time trying to be prepared to answer expected censorware questions. But money? My opponent, David Burt of N2H2, had his expenses all paid, and PR/lobbying is his job, not mine. Now, he may have been handed a big defeat, time will tell. And it's ignominious to get compared (not by me!) to the Iraqi Information Minister :-). But I keep thinking, I spent more than a month's health insurance premium, out of my own pocket, while unemployed, to do that testimony. What did it get me? I wasn't even likely to get much publicity/recognition out of it, especially given the Slashdot situation with "editor" Michael Sims. It's not sustainable
It's theory vs. practice. There's an old joke, to make lion soup, first catch a lion ... Many of the strategies mentioned aren't wrong, but they are hard to do. For example, if someone tries to co-opt forces on the other side, it's always a problem that they don't co-opt back. I can see where there might be battles of exactly this sort (in fact, that was a big problem with opposing censorware years ago!).
These quotes make for a deep juxtaposition:
Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. -- Otto von Bismarck
Litigation: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage. -- Ambrose Bierce
With reference to Net political organizing, I was thinking today about a Noam Chomsky quote about the Internet, from 1996:
Right - and about just what's going to be in it, and who's going to have access to it. Remember, incidentally, that the Internet is an elite operation. Most of the population of the world has never even made a phone call, you know, so that's certainly not on the Internet. Nevertheless, it does have democratising potential, and there's a struggle going on right now as to whether that's going to be realised, or whether it'll turn into something like a home marketing service, and a way of marginalising people even further. That discussion went on in the 1920s (it was Radio) - that's interesting how it turned out - it went on over Television, it's now going on over the Internet. And, that's a matter of popular struggle. Look: We don't live the way we did 200 years ago, or even 30 years ago - there's been a lot of progress. It hasn't been gifts from above. It's been the result of people getting together, and refusing to accept the dictates of authoritarian institutions. And, there's no reason to think that that's over.
Donna Wentworth at the newly-URLed Copyfight has asked about the next step in the copyfight. Here's an exchange I think about, which is from the Copyright And Culture Forum which took place at MIT last November.
SETH FINKELSTEIN, programmer: We've talked about what the problem is, but what are the best ways to get to the results we want? What can non-lawyers do? I asked Richard Stallman this question (see Stallman's 2001 Forum talk on copyright). He said if you see a movie by a big studio and you don't like it, then don't pay for it. That doesn't go very far. I am amazed by the amount of money on the other side of this battle. If we don't have millions of dollars, what do we do? Just sit back and cheer on Lawrence Lessig?
VAIDHYANATHAN: That's part of it. What can we do? Plain talk is one thing. Everyone involved in this is trying to come up with a better vocabulary for discussing it. We actually have a growing army. It's a loosely knit bunch that includes hackers, users of material, and, most importantly, librarians. There are 30,000 librarians in this country who are very upset by all of this. They all vote and they talk to their congressmen. They are politically active right now, and if an objectionable piece of legislation is under consideration, they'll write letters and circulate petitions.
Once you bring in religious conservatives who want to show movies to their kids without nudity, then you have a bigger group. Then you get a group of talented lawyers involved. It is starting to happen. Unfortunately, the battlefield is global now and we don't have troops aligned globally, except for the hackers.
ZITTRAIN: This suggests a three-pronged attack. First, you instruct people that this is a political issue, just as the environmentalism movement had to do.
Second, you work through the judiciary such as the Eldred case is doing in challenging the Sonny Bono copyright extension. That's what Lawrence Lessig calls "speaking reason to power." And the third thing, also sometimes used by the environmental movement, is to realize that what's on the other side is not something evil, it's an economic and predictable force. Then, you try to co-opt those on the other side, again as the environmental movement has done.
Most businesses know that it's wise to honor the values of their customers. So you've got to wonder what Blackboard was thinking when it sued to block a conference presentation last weekend.
Blackboard's customers are colleges and universities. As Karl-Friedrich Lenz observes, these are organizations that hold freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry as central values. Seeking an injunction against both speech and inquiry, as Blackboard did, and making that injunction so broad, has got to rub many of Blackboard's customers the wrong way.
With respect, it seems to me that there is a fundamental reasoning error here, of excessive generalization. That is, the logic seems to be:
1) Blackboard's customers are "universities"
2) But "universities" value free speech
3) So Blackboard's actions are contrary to the value of its customers
This is a very appealing chain of inferences. But it's also a chain with many holes. First off, the idea that customers-are-universities conflates many different factions. Are they selling their product to students? To professors? Even deans? No, they're selling to the administration. It's not hard to consider that the specific administrative buyers, might not be as dedicated to free speech and open security investigation, as the computer-science department. Indeed, in large organizations, it's not unknown for one faction to consider something that upsets another faction to be a positive rather than a negative ("If those bloody X'ers over at Y are against it, it must be good!")
There's also people who might be more critical of the overall idea that universities support free-speech. They certainly do in some cases, but that's another generalization in itself. But that's a whole different topic.
Moreover, are Blackboards customer's only universities? That doesn't seem so - they have Government and Corporate customers. Having a few universities squawk might be an acceptable loss in the short run if the tough-guy image helps with government and corporate customers. Indeed, the press release tends to spin this way, in terms of action-against-competitor which might be viewed well by another business.
I'm not claiming that Blackboard analyzed things to this level of detail. Or even thought about the issue at all. But we should be wary of preaching to the choir, and then concluding that opponents are behaving in an utterly irrational and incomprehensible manner
I've been thinking about Andrew Orlowski's article on "Googlewashed" (the fact that it mentions me is not a coincidence, but not the main factor :-))
Aside from the specifics of the story, it seems to me there's something very subtle going on here.
Which means that Google is being "gamed" - and the language perverted - by what in statistical terms in an extremely small fraction indeed.
Hmm, an extremely small fraction of people who influence meaning, sometimes not for the better, for perhaps insular and pack-style conceptions - now, where have I hear this before - journalists!
I don't mean that too sarcastically. The subtle factor is that all of classic media analysis seems importable to blogs + Google. That's interesting.
Maybe I should move entirely into "Google studies" instead of censorware (at least Google doesn't sue people). I've noticed there's a great deal of superstition generated by quirks in the page-rank algorithm. The following mailing-list message by Danny Yee deserves greater propagation:
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2003 11:53:52 +1000
From: Danny Yee <danny[at=sign]anatomy.usyd.edu.au>
Subject: Re: [STOP] Googlewashed
Google updates its index monthly, which means it can take up to 70 days for pages on even high profile sites to get into the main index. In between updates, it has a freshbot that grabs some sites on a faster (daily) basis. But things drop in and out of that as it tries to get the freshest news. You will have noticed the "left" sites disappearing because that's what you read.
This is not to say Google is perfect, or doesn't have censorship issues, but I think this particular concern is mis-placed.
For a longer explanation, read Brett Tabke's letter to the Register about their Googlewashing story - http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/11518.htm
Washington Internet Daily had an article on what happened at the Copyright Office circumvention hearing. It's not easily on-line, so I can't link to it. And it's a bit garbled in places. One reasonable part:
The questions of the 5 panelists suggested several areas the CO was examining: (1) Whether circumvention was the only way to obtain useful data on the blocking of nonpornographic sites by filtering software. (2) Whether the exemption was harming the filtering industry. Burt acknowledged that when the 2000 proceeding was conducted "we were not aware of this process." He also said he knew of no actual harm to a filtering company because he wasn't aware of any actual circumvention (that became a point of contention at the hearing because Finkelstein kept insisting he had circumvented N2H2's software, but Burt said he had no evidence of that).
Though this doesn't describe the fun part of the hearing where David Burt, N2H2 PR flack, got compared (not by me!) to the Iraqi Information Minister.
It matches very well with my own memory and perceptions of the hearing (though the quotes are admittedly a little paraphrased). An excellent job, well worth reading.
Seth and [Jonathan] Band operated largely as a single coherent unit during the proceedings. Seth did most of the talking, with Mr. Band occasionally translating Seth's insightful, sometimes gleefully blunt arguments into legalese. Seth did a good thing by trouncing early on the semantics game of 'filtering' versus 'censoring' : "Filtering is when you block something you don't want to see. Censorship is when someone blocks something they don't want you to see." This helped immensely, and the panel seemed very receptive of what he had to say : that the public has an inherent right to know what is being blocked from public schools and libraries, that censorware manufacturers are not receptive to complaints of malfunctioning software, and that a decryption of any given program's list of censored sites does not constitute a compromise of the ability of that program to function.
Copyright Office Weighs Permitting Decryption of Web Filters
by Drew Clark
A panel of five Copyright Office officials questioned the three witnesses from many perspectives at the first hearing in a tri-annual review to consider potential DMCA exemptions. The law permits exemptions if the Copyright Office believes lawful public access to works that do not violate copyrights have been blocked.
Finkelstein said decryption of software like N2H2's Bess is necessary for examining categories of Web sites that the software blocks. Decryption has found, for example, that N2H2's database of blocked sites includes various types of "loophole" sites, including those that provide language translation, use technology to mask users' identities and cache copies of other Web sites.
"Without this exemption, [researchers] are constrained to do this investigation blindfolded," said Finkelstein, who said he is one of about a half-dozen researchers in the field. He has published his work on his Web site. "They have to go back through a minefield, probing individually" to see if a given is blocked by what Finkelstein called "censorware."
One cab ride to the airport at 4:30 am ... $30
One plane ride Boston -> DC ... $123
One plane ride DC -> Boston ... $141
One hour of testimony (well, two) ... not quite priceless
[But the feeling of out-testifying David Burt (the PR rep of the censorware company N2H2) was worth a few of those bucks]
More later, after I get some sleep ... 22 hours awake today. Not the worst I've ever done, but I'm getting old.
Flash: N2H2 has gotten the Edelman v. N2H2 case dismissed for lack of "standing". See my earlier write-up on the case:
From the docket
4/7/03 27 Judge Richard G. Stearns . Memorandum and Order entered. granting [9-1] motion to dismiss the complaint [EOD Date 4/8/03] cc: all counsel of record. (eaf) [Entry date 04/08/03]
Update: Decision now available: http://sethf.com/censorware/legal/edelman_n2h2_order.pdf
So, give it a ... whirl
I'm hoping for a little surprise for N2H2, but may not be able to pull it off.
At 9:30 a.m. the panel will be on the proposed class of:
Compiliations of lists of websites blocked by censorware ("filtering software") applications.
- Seth Finkelstein supporting the exemption, and
- David Burt, N2H2, Inc., opposing the exemption.
I've been thinking much about this old quote today.
[Judge Kaplan, in the DeCSS case:]
Defendants, on the other hand, are adherents of a movement that believes that information should be available without charge to anyone clever enough to break into the computer systems or data storage media in which it is located.
[Mike Godwin, Thu, 17 Aug 2000, commenting: ]
This passage is actually quite instructive -- it tells us that Kaplan decided the case on his perception of the character and motives of the defendants.
[I agree utterly and completely with Mike's sentiments, even if there is a certain irony]
Lawrence Lessig has an interesting comment about the "RIAA 4" lawsuits and the absurd damages sought (see Tim Hadley's Math class for poets Law and Life for a very extensive explanation). Lessig starts off:
They say I'm a pessimist about the future of freedom on the net, and they've got two books of mine to prove it. But the report that the RIAA has now filed suit against four students for sharing content over a university network is a moment of hope. If we work hard to report the details and reality of this suit, then the extremism of the RIAA's tactics will finally get through.
Then he discusses compulsory licensing as a solution. But I'm more struck at the "hope" - is it true? Is it really the case that: IF details and reality are reported here, THEN extremism of the RIAA's tactics will finally get through?
I'm pessimistic. Just think about the "three-strikes" cases. There were plenty of horror stories reported, of people being imprisoned for decades for very petty crimes. Yet, the Supreme Court upheld these laws, and my impression is that legislative reform movements have not made much headway.
I just can't see these lawsuits turning around people who are on the fence or opponents. I fear it'll go down into a mental slot of "Those students were BAD GUYS, so whatever is done to a BAD GUY, they deserve it". I can hear the rants already, the "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time". Proportionality is a sophisticated concept, and not exactly a popular one.
[A mailing-list letter I wrote regarding Record Industry Sues 4 Students Running File-Sharing Networks]
Note copies of the lawsuits are available at:
Note one detail that isn't covered in news reports: The damages are asked for TWICE. Once for direct infringement, and another instance for contributory infringement.
So it totals: $150,000 x 2 x list of very roughly 100 items = Approximately 30 MILLION DOLLARS.
Now, while those are statutory damages, not actual damages claimed, it's still an absurd number. I refuse to believe that number has any sane connection whatsoever to lost potential profits. The entire disposable income of the non-rich student population at each university probably doesn't approach 30 million dollars.
This is "RIAA math" with an almost literal vengeance.
To add just a tiny amount of help, I'd like to point people to a (currently) under-blogged item:
It's a somewhat confused piece, perhaps notably so in conclusion:
I know where I stand on this. I'm behind the government and I'm tired of First Amendment shilly-shallying that fills my children's Hotmail screens with dozens of porn come-ons every day.
That's spam. Library censorware won't have the slightest affect on it. This is also another small instance of why I think the word "filter" is very misleading in discussion. Spam is something you don't want to see, but censorware is where an authority doesn't want you to see something. That's an important structural difference.
But, sigh, almost no-one cares what I say. Alex Beam is a columnist. I am barely more than a shouter to the wind.
See what I posted earlier, what I guess I should call the ARE NOT PORNOGRAPHY list.
This is my full report, with introduction and commentary.
At times, Stearns seemed almost palpably hostile to the ACLU side. At one point, he intoned "What he [Edelman] really wants to do is destroy the efficacy of their [N2H2's] product".