Archive for the ‘public domain’ Category

So Boingboing, among several others, tells me that the Pentagon wants to take their ball back:

In a briefing at the Defense Department, Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell ordered Wikileaks to remove classified documents and return them to the U.S. government.

For reals?  I might be wrong here*, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how the internet works.  See, e.g., the Tom Cruise scientology video saga for just one example of what happens when powerful people with expensive lawyers decide to attack random people on the internet.  And if you think the Department of Defense is more web-savvy than the Church of Scientology, I suppose you’re entitled to that opinion… but short of nuking Iceland, what are they going to do?

I pose that question in all seriousness.

This isn’t about being “nice” or some kind of contest between DoD and Wikileaks about the meaning of “the right thing” in this context.  It’s almost universally accepted that the U.S. government is spending a ton of money  to murder innocent people in Afghanistan for no reason that can be articulated.   Wikileaks, majorities of the American public, and most of the rest of the world clearly wants it to stop.  To the extent that words like “good” or “right” have meaning here, any action that moves U.S. policy towards an end of the occupation is unquestionably “the right thing,” and so far Wikileaks has done more towards that end in just a few short weeks than the US military apparatus has been able to accomplish in nearly ten years.  DoD has significantly less credibility than Wikileaks does at this point- agents of the US government are in no position to be making demands.

The ultimatum the DoD has issued here, “Do the right thing and return our files…[implied OR ELSE!]” is essentially nonsense.  Even if Wikileaks wanted to comply (they don’t) or were going to try to comply (they won’t), what does it even mean to “return” a digital file?  I’m put in mind of those people who send emails via Outlook and then try to “recall” them… by sending a second email.  Exchange server might work like that, but *email* doesn’t.  And pretending that it does just makes the pretender look silly.  Or stupid.  Once something is on the web, you can’t take it back.

Over the last five years or so, we’ve witnessed the birth of that awareness in the collective consciousness of our more intelligent political leaders.  As applied to politicians, the long memory of the net is a positive- any tools that help the electorate to screen out people who are crazy or habitual liars are a good thing.  I guess this sample of DoD’s ideas about their power over the net is an indicator that the bureaucracies haven’t quite figured it out yet.

* I’m not wrong.

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from the Register-Guard:

The order issued Monday afternoon came after The Register-Guard and the Eugene Weekly separately asked the District Attorney’s Office to overturn a city decision that asserted state laws pertaining to personnel records required the police reports to remain secret until the city completes a misconduct investigation into officer Judd Warden’s actions. […]

Two weeks ago, [Eugene Police Chief] Kerns held a news conference and wrote a guest opinion piece in The Register-­Guard arguing that he could not share even basic details about the case with the media or the public because the misconduct investigation was under way. City attorneys advised him that releasing any information under those circumstances would violate state personnel records law and the city’s contract with the police officers’ union…

Um, yeah. Because, obviously, what matters most is protecting this taser-happy cop’s contract. I’m sure that keeping the records secret had nothing to do with trying to avoid a lawsuit. Nothing at all.

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Seriously.  There is essentially no other way to interpret this data from Pew Research, which emphasizes the number of people who haven’t yet realized that their photos are somewhere on the web.  Much more revealing than the photo statistic is the one about “Home Address.”  If you have ever had a phone line or a utility bill in your name, anywhere in the US, I would bet that your home address is freely available online unless you’ve taken affirmative measures to remove it.

You can check by visiting pipl.com.  Or you can just use Google.  Pipl reveals every address that I’ve ever lived at since 1997, all seven addresses, all the way back to Pasadena, CA.  It’s more than a little unsettling.

I can’t help thinking that people would be a bit more concerned about the privacy implications of living in a pervasive surveillance state if they realized how much of their personal information is already published online for the whole world to see.  And although Pew downplays this aspect of their “daily number,”  the real take-away here is that the majority of people are simply unaware of how little privacy they actually have.

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On Friday, a judge in California issued an order to remove the DNS listing for the Wikileaks server.  Wikileaks is a public internet site that functions on the wiki model, where any person can post content.  Wikileaks purported to specialize in hosting incriminating documents that could do damage to their owners if they became public knowledge.

It turns out, that old chestnut is still true:  the internet interprets censorship as damage, and routs around it.   So a note to future plaintiffs and judges: unless you can take physical possession of the server before it goes online, you might as well just not bother.  The attention generated by your takedown order will guarantee that millions of additional people will not only see copies of the information you are trying to suppress, but that they will make their own copies and republish them in other places.

This is today’s reality.  It would be nice if the American legal system would try to keep up.

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This is a gripping account of what goes wrong when the reporting of public news is made into a private corporate profit center. It’s long, and it’s worth the read, because it goes a long way towards explaining what is wrong with the institution of TV news in this country:

This was one in a series of lessons I learned about how television news had lost its most basic journalistic instincts in its search for the audience-driven sweet spot, the “emotional center” of the American people. . . . It reassured the audience by telling it what it already knew rather than challenging it to learn. This explains why TV news voices all use similar cadences, why all anchors seem to sound alike, why reporters in the field all use the identical tone of urgency no matter whether the story is about the devastating aftermath of an earthquake or someone’s lost kitty.

I read that and went “Wow! That’s exactly right, and no wonder I hate watching local news!” The programs all are consciously trying to manipulate emotion as a technique to hang onto viewers. (more…)

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Sure, everyone knows that a big [pagan] holiday is just around the corner. You only have 11 shopping days left, and if you’re ordering something from Amazon, you’d better do it soon or else face the agony of wondering whether it will show up in time. But before we get to Santa and opening presents, on December 20th there is an opportunity to celebrate another important anniversary: this is the 2-year mark for Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005).

Kitzmiller v. Dover is the federal court decision that barred the teaching of so-called “intelligent design” from science classes in Kansas. It was a remarkable decision, and not just becuase school board members openly perjured themselves in testimony about their reasons for forcing ID on high-school kids. From Footnote 7: (This link is to the entire decision, and the footnote is almost all the way at the bottom of that first page)

Throughout the trial and in various submissions to the Court, Defendants vigorously argue that the reading of the statement is not “teaching” ID but instead is merely “making students aware of it.” In fact, one consistency among the Dover School Board members’ testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath, as will be discussed in more detail below, is that they did not think they needed to be knowledgeable about ID because it was not being taught to the students. We disagree.


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This is the endgame for the record industry. No more “making available.” No more “downloading is de facto infringement.” As one of my law school profs notably said, “if you have to say it in latin, your argument is a bunch of bullshit.” The EFF is getting on board a growing trend: as Ray Beckerman has clearly documented, the RIAA lawsuit scheme only worked so long as nobody bothered to fight back. Now that college studens are teaming up to file motions to quash, and banding together using lessons learned from other successful defenses to oppose the record industry’s abusive litigation, the labels don’t have a leg to stand on.

The Free Software Foundation has announced that it has established an Expert Witness Defense Fund to assist defendants in RIAA cases, in order “to help provide computer expert witnesses to combat RIAA’s ongoing lawsuits, and to defend against the RIAA’s attempt to redefine copyright law.”

And, it’s worth noting, none of the defenses which have been successful so far even get to the format-shifting analysis from Diamond Multimedia, or the Fair-Use analysis as it was set forth in Title 17. The RIAA lawsuits are procedurally defective, and college students have learned to challenge them on procedural grounds.  The success of the RIAA’s litigation strategy has peaked, and is on its way to an early grave; hopefully the EFF’s expert witnesses will provide additional nails for the coffin.

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