February 16, 2002

Should PayPal be proud of their recently successful IPO or ashamed of themselved for messing with the little guy in the process?

Whatever the situation, it's bad enough that someone felt strong enough to start a PayPal Sucks website.

Okay, I'm ripping off BoingBoing pretty bad today...but what can I say? :-)
(Thanks, Cory.)

Quote below from Blogger's own Evhead (the aforementioned "little guy").

As of today, PayPal has lost Pyra/Blogger's business. We're still using them at the moment (and don't let this stop you from sending us money ;), but will be transitioning off as soon as we can. The reason is this: Over a week ago, they put a restriction on our account, which means we can't withdraw or send money, though we can still take it. The supposed reason for the restriction was because they found there were more than the allowed two accounts (one personal, one business) with my contact information. Never mind that two of the accounts were setup for testing purposes and never used. Never mind that they didn't first bother to email and tell me that this is a problem and could I close some of them. (Or, wait, maybe they shouldn't have allowed me to create them in the first place?) And never mind even that, although all these accounts have been open for months, they happen to not put on the restriction until we attempted to withdraw several thousand dollars into our bank account—more than we ever had before (fishy?).

Dumpster Justice. A snitch list is left on several old police computers are eventually thrown away and re-sold to the world at large via a unsuspecting dumpster diver.

See the Associated Press story:
Confidential list of Marion police informants hits streets. (Thanks, Cory.)

Here's a great article by Seth Shulman for MIT's Technology Review about protecting our intellectual future:
Intellectual-Property Ecology: Owning the Future.

Let’s consider this environmental analogy. As recently as the 1960s, there was no “environment” in the broad sense of the word. Sure, some conservation groups like the Sierra Club had long been in the wilderness protection business. And Rachel Carson’s landmark Silent Spring, published in 1962, brought the misuse of pesticides to public attention. But still, even with rallying points like the Cuyahoga River catching fire in Cleveland in 1969, the people who worried about such things tended to see them as disparate issues. Like water pollution. Or overpopulation. It wasn’t until 1970 that such groups finally came together at the first “Earth Day.”

Now, fast-forward a few decades and jump into that intangible, amorphous realm we call “intellectual property.” There is a growing catalogue of worries about IP issues—from the emergence of overly broad “business method” patents to heated charges that proprietary claims on pharmaceuticals stifle affordable access to medicine in the Third World. A day hardly goes by without a high-profile intellectual-property battle heading to court. Meanwhile, university researchers are griping that open, collegial dialogue is being eroded by proprietary interests and secrecy as professors vie to create startups and get rich.

These issues are interwoven because they all involve balancing similar kinds of private and public needs in a knowledge-based economy. And yet, the various parties—from the League for Programming Freedom to the American Library Association—have tended to work in isolation on their own narrow sets of issues. But the parochialism is fading as parties learn they’re arguing about the same issues. Which is why the Duke meeting could go down as a watershed: it marked the start of an organized movement to protect the conceptual commons.

February 14, 2002

Here's an article by another joker that thinks weblogs are a passing fad for people with nothing better to do.

Many weblogs are little more than the random musings of introverted souls with too much time on their hands.

Yep. That's me in a nutshell. Introverted. Bored. (She mused randomly.)

This article reminds me of something I saw on Law and Order a couple weeks ago that caught my attention when the cops were able to use a suspect's library records to get a search warrant for his apartment.

Big Brother is watching you read,
by Christopher Dreher for Salon. (Thanks, Josh.)

Tattered Cover's ordeal began in March 2000, when the Adams County District Attorney's Office contacted Meskis to inform her that the Drug Enforcement Agency was planning to subpoena the store for one of her customer's sales records. During a raid of a methamphetamine lab in a trailer park in suburban Denver, authorities had found an empty Tattered Cover shipping envelope addressed to one of the suspects in an outside trashcan, and two nearly new books, "Advanced Techniques of Clandestine Psychedelic and Amphetamine Manufacture," by Uncle Fester, and "The Construction and Operation of Clandestine Drug Laboratories," by Jack B. Nimble, inside the trailer. The DEA planned to strengthen its case by tying the suspect's illegal activities to his purchases of books outlining how to make methamphetamine.

Meskis answered that such a request was a violation of First Amendment rights and said she would fight it in court. "I thought that was the end," she recalled, "but it wasn't." Instead of bringing it to court, the DEA persuaded a judge to authorize a search warrant, which would be immediately executable and would bypass judicial interference. That's how the five task-force officers wound up in her bookstore.

Meskis' first try at quashing the warrant wasn't as successful as she'd hoped. In October 2000, a Denver district court judge narrowed the warrant's scope but ordered the store to turn over the information. She appealed that ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court, and on Dec. 5, 2001, lawyers from both sides presented oral arguments. The decision is expected sometime this spring.

It gives me hope to read pieces such as John Perry Barlow's The Crime of Sharing. Hope that such a clearly presented argument might actually start the ball rolling towards some change in the right direction.

Over the last several years, the entertainment industry has railroaded a number of laws and treaties through Washington and Geneva that are driving us rapidly toward a future in which the fruits of the mind cannot be shared. Instead they must be purchased—not from the human beings who created them in the first place, but only from the media megaliths.

Of course, the justification for this tightened control is the Internet, which ironically, grew almost entirely from sharing. Imagine how different things would be today if IBM had maintained proprietary control over the architecture of the personal computer, or if Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn had created a highly proprietary company called TCP/IP, Inc. What if Tim Berners-Lee had decided to take out a software patent on the World Wide Web?

The fact that the Internet makes it possible for individuals to distribute their intellectual creations directly to consumers terrifies the old industrial intermediaries. At the same time, the Internet gives intermediaries the potential to extract a fee from every single repetition of an expression. Unfortunately, this infringes on the time-honored practice of fair use.

February 13, 2002

Smile! Next time you go to Washington D.C. remember to smile to the cameras.

Check out the Reuters article:
Washington Plans Unprecedented Camera Network.

(references below are to a Wall Street Journal article that requires registration to access - if anyone has the link, please let me know.)

Cameras installed by the police have been programmed to scan public areas automatically, and officers can take over manual control if they want to examine something more closely.

The system currently does not permit an automated match between a face in the crowd and a computerized photo of a suspect, the Journal said. Gaffigan said officials were looking at the technology but had not decided whether to use it.

Eventually, images will be viewable on computers already installed in most of the city's 1,000 squad cars, the Journal said.

The Journal said the plans for Washington went far beyond what was in use in other U.S. cities, a development that worries civil liberties advocates.

Barry Steinhardt, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York, noted there were few legal restrictions of video surveillance of public streets. But he said that by setting up a "central point of surveillance," it becomes likely that "the cameras will be more frequently used and more frequently abused."

"You are building in a surveillance infrastructure, and how it's used now is not likely how it's going to be used two years from now or five years from now," he told the Journal.

February 12, 2002

CodeCon is coming up at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco this weekend. The presentations look great and lots of neat people will be there.

It's already too late to register online, so you'll just have to show up at the door. See you there!

February 11, 2002

SF Gate's Hal Plotkin has written a column about Lawrence Lessig's Creative Commons project.

This seems as good a time as any to announce that I am the Technical Architect for the Creative Commons. Although I am not at liberty to discuss the details of what we are doing publicly at this time, Lawrence Lessig was kind enough to spill the beans about some of them in Hal's article.

I'll be providing the details of what we're building at my presentation at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference in Santa Clara in May 2002.

Check out:
All Hail Creative Commons: Stanford professor and author Lawrence Lessig plans a legal insurrection,
by Hal Plotkin for SF Gate.

In a boon to the arts and the software industry, Creative Commons will make available flexible, customizable intellectual-property licenses that artists, writers, programmers and others can obtain free of charge to legally define what constitutes acceptable uses of their work. The new forms of licenses will provide an alternative to traditional copyrights by establishing a useful middle ground between full copyright control and the unprotected public domain.

The first set of licensing options Creative Commons plans to make available are designed mostly for people looking for some protections as they move their wares into the public domain. Those protections might include requirements that the work not be altered, employed for commercial purposes or used without proper attribution.

Lessig adds that it's possible Creative Commons' licenses may eventually evolve to include options that permit or enable certain commercial transactions. An artist might, for example, agree to give away a work as long as no one is making money on it but include a provision requiring payments on a sliding scale if it's sold. As participation in the Commons project increases, a variety of specific intellectual-property license options will evolve in response to user needs, which in turn would create templates for others with similar requirements.

Within a few months, artists, writers and others will soon be able to go online, select the options that suit them best and receive a custom-made license they can append to their works without having to pay a dime to a lawyer, let alone the thousands of dollars it typically costs to purchase similar legal services.

Artificial wombs are here. The only thing stopping scientists from growing a baby to term in one (or even very far past fertilization) are the government regulations prohibiting such activity.

The first thing I thought of when I saw this article were all of the good things that could come from an artificial womb. Then I read about how some women felt threatened and thought "kinda like the way that some men feel threatened by a turkey baster?"

But I suppose there are a ton of ethical implications that need to be considered now, and quickly, if we suddenly have the technology to create baby factories a la Brave New World. Much to consider indeed.

Take a look at:
Men redundant? Now we don't need (no stinkin') women either ,
by Robin McKie for The Observer .