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Free Culture

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the neither-word-dirty dept.

Books 154

Peter Wayner writes: "When jury duty called, I was lucky enough to have a copy of Larry Lessig's new book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, to take along. The Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore is one of the most beautiful and ambitious marble allegories for how the law can be elegant, ornate, and permanently imposing. It was the perfect place to read a new book devoted to stopping the old guard media czars from using law to keep the couch potatoes down." Read on for the rest of Wayner's review of the book -- which is released today in hardcover, but also available for free online.

Lessig is now famous for a number of reasons, including his two previous books, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace and The Future of Ideas : The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World. In the first, he was one of the first to affirm what many Slashdot readers know almost instinctively: whomever writes the code determines how the world works. Making the right decisions about power and control when designing a computer system is just as important as writing laws for the future. In the second, he writes of the importance of a vast cultural commons which acts as the wellspring for our expression and the grounding plate for our souls.

His new book is his most casual and most accessible. His prose is improving as he drops the footnote-heavy habit of legal writing and adopts a bloggier style driven by anecdotes and personal revelation. And what anecdotes he has -- Lessig's years on the barricades have given a surprisingly large collection of tales that will make any artist or citizen cringe. Time and time again, the powerful warlords of the entertainment conglomerates have banded together to try to stomp out the sharing and cooperation emerging from the Internet. After years of amassing a strangehold on the world's culture, the conglomerates aren't letting this cheap, fast and out-of-control technology sweep it all away.

My favorite anecdote, if one could be said to stand out, comes from a film maker documenting an opera company. When the camera caught a snippet of the stagehands watching the Simpsons with the sound turned down, the director wanted to add a four-second clip to the movie. Matt Groening said "Yes." The lawyers said it was clearly fair use. But Fox's executives responded with the kind of obscenity that doesn't upset the FCC: pay us $10,000. The clip didn't make the film because the director couldn't afford to go head-to-head with the Fox legal department.

This is just one of a number of stories of how interesting, invigorating content and innovation was strangled at birth by old guard. The anecdotes are, I think, an effort to atone for his loss in the Eldred case and reargue it. He presented the Supreme Court with a very logical and legal reading of why it was wrong for Congress to continue extending the length of a copyright monopoly and the court didn't buy it. A friend of his said that this tack was wrong because the court wanted to feel the depths of the injustice. The justices didn't want laws and footnotes, they wanted something human. Lessig blames his loss on not taking this advice. (As an aside, Lessig's personal description of taking a case to the Supreme Court is a good way to understand just how human the game can be.)

This time around, he piles the examples on top of more examples to show just how the conglomerates can hurt the artist and culture in general. After this case failed, Lessig tried another compromise that exposed the true goals of the copyright czars. Lessig describes his efforts to recreate a copyright registration system. If someone wanted to keep a copyright in force after 50 years, Lessig suggested getting them to pay a $1 fee. This would help everyone keep the copyright straight and make it simpler for everyone to understand just who has what rights to an art work. Any art work that goes unregistered flops into the public domain. Anyone who's tried to clear rights to a project will see this as a step in the right direction. The copyright industry, however, rejected this structure in a way that Lessig suggests illustrates how much this is about power and control, not creativity and expression.

Lessig has other tricks up his sleeve. If he can't convince the U.S. government to change the law, he can appeal to the artists themselves who have the ultimate control. He started his Creative Commons project several years ago and now artists can use several boilerplate licenses that reserve some of the rights while releasing others.

This new book itself is also available for free (PDF) under the license, a tactic that has worked well for Cory Doctorow and myself in the past. When I released Free for All under the license several years after the book was published, I watched the asking price on Amazon's used book market rise more than 40%. It wasn't a big jump, but it was still a bit counterintuitive. The freely available text encouraged people to buy the more readable printed version. I think Lessig will see the same effect. The sales driven by the people who read the electronic version will be greater than the sales lost to the people who just read the downloaded copy.

The good news is that the markets and the consumers are already heeding Lessig's advice because they instinctively disdain a monopoly. The power of the old networks is rapidly disappearing and the increasing concentration among the old guard is as much an illustration of the last ditch effort by the executives to cash out by taking large bonuses from the transactions. Some worry about the concentration of power in the radio world by companies like Clear Channel. But who listens to radio for music any longer? One Clear Channel station near my house plays traffic reports every 10 minutes during the day because their audience is dominated by people trapped on aptly named "parkways". The station may play as few as three songs an hour between 6:30am and 9am. The rest of the time, they yak about movies or the weather and their influence upon music continues to drop.

There are surprisingly good alternatives developing to take over the space. Lessig does an excellent job describing how the Internet radio stations were mugged with unfair regulations, but it's important to remember that they continue to exist because they offer something better than endless traffic reports. Furthermore, competition is coming from strange places. Starbucks is just one such company selling commercial- free mix tapes that are, for almost all intents and purposes, just a plastic disk version of a cool DJ. More and more radio-like venues are appearing.

There are other reasons why the concentration is backfiring. Lessig does a good job explaining how the television networks are squeezing out competition from independent producers. He describes how Norman Lear was only able to bring us "All in the Family" because he was free to take his work from ABC to CBS. That freedom disappeared after Congress repealed the laws forbidding the networks from owning stakes in the shows they broadcast. Now, if you want to get on CBS, it helps to sell a part of your show to CBS or, even better, just sell the whole thing.

But is this strategy really working for the networks? Their ratings continue to plummet. There's a reason why there are so many drug commercials for arthritis remedies on network air. That generation is the last one who watches network television almost instinctively. Lessig likes to complain about the "soviet" nature of these networks. It's a wonderful word that reads on many levels. The more they squeeze out competition and aggregate power in the committees, the more they lose the fluid competition that lets cream rise to the top.

So, who really cares if CBS isn't available on the Dish network? There are hundreds of other channels offering good fare. It was a different story in the 1970's when there were only three networks and CBS offered shows like "All in the Family" and "Mary Tyler Moore". Then, they controlled the heart of our popular culture. Today, the network ratings are so low on Saturday night that all of the networks are looking for a way to stop broadcasting on that day. Aside from the NCAA basketball tournament, I've lived without CBS for years without missing a thing. (Even then, I get most sports news from the websites.) The DVD player is a very, very powerful and destructive technology. When you can buy 50 movies for $30, who even needs CBS, the Dish network or HBO?

All of these idea swirled through my mind as I read Lessig's book and waited during jury duty. Are things getting worse or better? Are the 40+ million plus fileswapping pirates winning, or are the draconian laws crushing our creativity like a jackboot? I spent my time thinking of this balance while waiting for the judge and the attorneys to sift through 150 people to find the right 12 folks to render a fair and impartial verdict. On one hand, it was remarkable that society was being so careful before imprisoning someone for attempted murder. On the other, it was clear that the effort can't be sustained for the 40 million+ file sharing pirates who are thumbing their nose at the law.

Lessig understands this. One of his most persuasive arguments is that the current law becomes more marginalized as it becomes increasingly less fair. Prohibition of alcohol corroded the law and now the increasing prohibition of fair use is eroding respect for copyright.You only need to travel a few blocks from the Mitchell court house to end up in dangerous regions of Baltimore where the marble and the pomp can't do much to protect you. Lessig, the lawyer, knows the law can only work when it is fair and equitable. This new book is a strong and passionate argument for how we can restore some sanity to the system and restore our faith in copyright law. Some people think that Lessig is trying to "smash" the copyright system, but I think he's just trying to restore its ability to function.


Peter Wayner is the author of Free for All , a book on the open source movement and Policing Online Games, a book on how to build the Mitchell courthouse in cyberspace. You can purchase Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page. mpawlo points out you can get the book free and gratis via Bittorrent.

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can (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8670865)

can i have first post? I've never had it, and i really want it!

zepplin ruuuuuuuuullllllesss...

WARNING: LINUX USE CAUSES LIFELONG VIRGINITY (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671067)

Re:WARNING: LINUX USE CAUSES LIFELONG VIRGINITY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8672435)

turn it off. thx. [xmission.com]

2+3=5 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8670881)

fnord!

Lawrence Lessing on NPR (5, Informative)

chrisspurgeon (514765) | more than 10 years ago | (#8670903)

IJWTS that Lawrence Lessing gave a fine interview on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" this past Tuesday. More info, and the interview in RealAudio format, here [npr.org] .

Link to the PDF (0, Redundant)

turnstyle (588788) | more than 10 years ago | (#8670932)

Here's the book in PDF [stanford.edu] , licensed under Creative Commons... (right-click, and save-as, to download a copy).

Re:Link to the PDF (0, Offtopic)

corbettw (214229) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671107)

Most. Redundant. Ever.

The link is right in the middle of the review, fer cryin' out loud.

yes, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671339)

Nobody reads the reviews.

Not even moderators.

Just because the link is in the review... (1)

turnstyle (588788) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671573)

...doesn't mean that it's not helpful to have in the discussion too. Methinks you need to take a deep breath, and relax, eh?

Yes sir, (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8670982)

if there's one thing I'm good at, it's pushing out turds!

Re:Lawrence Lessing on NPR (2, Informative)

smd4985 (203677) | more than 10 years ago | (#8670992)

Or you can use your magnet enabled P2P client (e.g. LimeWire).

freeculture.zip [magnet]

More Info For the 911 Commision: +1, Enjoy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671115)

Courtesy of FBI Translator Asked To Change Transcipts [tomflocco.com]

Patriotically,
K. Trout

BREAKING SPECIAL REPORT FROM 9-11 HEARINGS

DOJ Asked FBI Translator To Change Pre 9-11 Intercepts

by Tom Flocco

Washington, DC -- March 24, 2004 --12:15 EST -- FBI translator Sibel Edmonds was offered a substantial raise and a full time job to encourage her not to go public that she had been asked by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to retranslate and adjust the translations of [terrorist] subject intercepts that had been received before September 11, 2001 by the FBI and CIA.

Edmonds, a ten year U.S. citizen who has passed a polygraph examination, speaks fluent Farsi and Turkish and had been working part time with the FBI for six months--commencing in December, 2001.

In a 50 reporter frenzy in front of some 12 news cameras, Edmonds said "Attorney General John Ashcroft told me 'he was invoking State Secret Privilege and National Security' when I told the FBI I wanted to go public with what I had translated from the pre 9-11 intercepts."

"I appeared once on CBS 60 Minutes but I have been silenced by Mr. Ashcroft, the FBI follows me, and I was threatened with jail in 2002 if I went public," Edmonds told tomflocco.com.

When we asked her if it was really true that she had been bribed by the FBI and DOJ, Edmonds said "You can interpret it as that."

This writer personally asked Edmonds where the term "State Secret Privilege" was derived. "The term came from an October 18, 2002 DOJ memo to me from DOJ spokesman Barbara Comstock," said Edmonds.

Edmonds said "My translations of the pre 9-11 intercepts included [terrorist] money laundering, detailed and date specific information enough to alert the American people, and other issues dating back to 1999 which I won't go into right now."

Incredibly, Edmonds said "The senate Judiciary Committee, and the 911 Commission have heard me testify for lengthy periods of time time (3 hours) about very specific plots, dates, airplanes used as weapons, and specific individuals and activities."

This explosive information has been kept under wraps by the White House, CIA, FBI, and DOJ since Edmond's 60 Minutes interview segment.

The former FBI translator told tomflocco.com that "translators before me had ongoing personal relationships with the subjects or targets of the FBI and DOJ pre 9-11 investigations linked to intercepts and other intelligence in June - July - August, just prior to the attacks."

"I also became aware of a [terrorist] criminal investigation going on since 1998," said Edmonds.

Patty Casazza, one of the 9-11 "Jersey Girls," said "Sibel Edmonds told me that color coding terrorist threat alerts for the American people is reflective of the intercept translations received." Casazza and Edmonds gave no indication as to whether FBI translators had doctored or adjusted Homeland Security terrorist threat alerts for political reasons.

"This whole situation is outrageous and I am going public," said Edmonds, adding "I am currently being advised by counsel. Thank you."

9-11 family member, Jersey Girl, Kristen Breitweiser, arranged to have Ms. Edmonds address the gathered media right after the Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified.

Some thing is wrong (-1, Offtopic)

thebra (707939) | more than 10 years ago | (#8670904)

When this [drudgereport.com] is offensive. [azcentral.com]

here we go again, TEABAGGERS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8670917)

When will you fucking idiots understand?!?

Peter Wayner is JON KATZ! JON fucking KATZ!

Jon Katz is behind this GOD DAMNED flood of STUPID, retarded, idiotic book reviews. He's still around because he loves to toss Commander Kneel's salad!

Peter Wayner = honestpuck = JON FUCKING KATZ!

FUCK YOU JON KATZ! GO ROT IN HELL JON KATZ! Keep your pedo homo philosophy between you and Cowboy Taco!

EU... Microsoft... Monopoly (5, Interesting)

maximilln (654768) | more than 10 years ago | (#8670922)

-----
My favorite anecdote, if one could be said to stand out, comes from a film maker documenting an opera company. When the camera caught a snippet of the stagehands watching the Simpsons with the sound turned down, the director wanted to add a four-second clip to the movie. Matt Groening said "Yes." The lawyers said it was clearly fair use. But Fox's executives responded with the kind of obscenity that doesn't upset the FCC: pay us $10,000. The clip didn't make the film because the director couldn't afford to go head-to-head with the Fox legal department
-----

And that, folks, is just how it's going to be done.

Re:EU... Microsoft... Monopoly (2, Funny)

agentZ (210674) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671019)

Wow, Fox turned into a hard-core porn channel so gradually, I didn't even notice it happening!

This web page is a clear waste of disk space. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671117)

Google cached itself [216.239.57.104] .

Re:This web page is a clear waste of disk space. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671143)

"Google is not affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its content."

Oh yeah, who are they trying to fool?

Jury duty (2, Insightful)

ornil (33732) | more than 10 years ago | (#8670938)

When jury duty called, I was lucky enough to have a copy of Larry Lessig's new book...

Hey, how about actually doing your civic duty? I wouldn't want to be the defendant in this case.

Re:Jury duty (2, Informative)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 10 years ago | (#8670997)

I don't know how jury duty works where you're from, but my experience is that if you're called, you can often spend the better part of the day waiting in the jury pool room without ever being called into a courtroom.

It's an excellent time to have a book you want to read handy.

Re:Jury duty (1)

tdrury (49462) | more than 10 years ago | (#8672487)

When I was on jury duty, one of the judges cames into the jury pool room and encouraged us to watch some trials that were in progress. Very cool.

And even when you are an observer in the court room, you were not allowed to read a book, paper, etc.

Re:Jury duty (4, Informative)

peterwayner (266189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671006)

My "civic duty" involved sitting there. Just sitting there. Some watched a movie. Some read books. Others just talked.

Re:Jury duty (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671020)

Being called for jury duty often involves a large amount of time sitting around waiting before being involved the selection process or trial.

Once you've seen the "So, Now You're on a Jury" video and have found out where the restroom is located, there's not much to do.

Re:Jury duty (1)

philbert26 (705644) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671022)

Hey, how about actually doing your civic duty? I wouldn't want to be the defendant in this case

When you do jury duty you spend a lot of time outside the courtroom, mostly waiting to be selected for a jury. Also the judge may clear the jury to hear arguments over what the jury is allowed to be told.

I don't think he was reading the book in the jury box! I doubt you could get away with that in court, even if you had a pair of fake glasses that made it look like you were paying attention (Simpsons fans know what I mean).

LIGHTEN UP! (1)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671026)

Dude, jury duty consists of long waits in the jury pool room before you even see a courtroom. I played Advance Wars on the Gameboy Advance during my last trip to "civic duty".

And no judge would allow a juror to read during a trial.

ObDuh: Duh!

Re:LIGHTEN UP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671178)

And no judge would allow a juror to read during a trial.

Indeed, jurors capable of reading are generally rejected by either the prosecution or the defense.

Re:Jury duty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671030)

We all know that jury duty consists of mostly sitting on your ass, so get off your high horse.

Re:Jury duty (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671032)

Have you ever had jury duty? You can spend all day in the 'pool' and never even be considered to be on a jury.

Re:Jury duty (1)

archipunk (649241) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671034)

When jury duty called, I was lucky enough to have a copy of Larry Lessig's new book...

Hey, how about actually doing your civic duty? I wouldn't want to be the defendant in this case.

I suspect the original poster was referring to the hours that one must wait before one participates in any actual jury work, not reading the book while court was in session.

Re:Jury duty (2, Informative)

Razor Blades are Not (636247) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671100)

By far the most time you spend when called for Jury Duty is sitting around waiting to be empanelled.
Once you're empanelled as a juror, that's when you put the book down and concentrate on the case. If a juror was trying to read a book in the courtroom (and there's no way one could hide such an activity) he'd be cited for contempt. There's no danger that the reviewer was reading during a trial.

How about doing your civic duty and learn some basics of the legal system?

Re:Jury duty (2, Funny)

edubarr (723926) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671185)

sitting around waiting to be empanelled

for a moment there i thought you said impaled

Re:Jury duty (1)

glorf (94990) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671531)

You do know that there are long periods of time during the jury selection process before the trial even begins where you do nothing but sit around and wait for them to call your name right? They may never even call your name. And if you happen to be chosen and then sequestered I don't think they expect you to be deliberating 24/7. Reading a book and doing your civic duty are not mutually exclusive.

Why I won't use GPL software (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8670939)

Every day, the GPL zealots resemble the Mafia more and more. "Releasing the source" is akin to paying the protection money, so you don't get your legs broken. When will you people learn that strong-arm tactics are no way to garner acceptance in the business world? Demanding the source code for everything under the sun is going to give Linux a bad name among those of us that embrace capitalism.

Re:Why I won't use GPL software (1)

mtenhagen (450608) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671102)

Demanding the source and embracing capitalism goes perfectly well.

I've worked for several companys who demanded the source for almost everything (for their embedded products). They even had to more to get the source. But when there where problems they could diagnose and solve them themselfs. Instead of being dependent on third party support.

listen to npr coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8670985)

http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=17859 31

jherber

The Trouble With Larry (-1, Troll)

USAPatriot (730422) | more than 10 years ago | (#8670986)

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/fo/ 20040311/bs_fo/b6fdf7846cb8d19a857cf6b23a1f8e3b

Man the barricades for your right to swipe The Simpsons! According to Stanford law professor and media darling Lawrence Lessig, a "movement must begin in the streets" to fight a corrupt Congress, overconcentrated media and an overpriced legal system conspiring to develop "a 'get permission to cut and paste' world that is a creator's nightmare."

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Get a preview of tomorrow's PC and desktop displays. Plus, where the PC won't be anytime soon.

That's the gist of Lessig's inflammatory new screed, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity ({(C1)}Penguin Press{(T1)}, $25; free online starting Mar. 25). A more honest title? Freeloader Culture: A Manifesto for Stealing Intellectual Property.

"There has never been a time in our history when more of our 'culture' was as 'owned' as it is now," Lessig huffs. Huh? In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s a handful of companies exerted ironclad control over the movie, radio and record businesses; Xeroxes and tape recorders were nonexistent. Though "cut and paste" was limited to scrapbooks, creators of all stripes somehow managed to flourish.

Contrary to Lessig's rants, today's technology has made creators freer than ever to devise and distribute original works. But technology has also given consumers powerful weapons of mass reproduction with strong potential for abuse. The intellectual property issue of our time is how to balance the rights of creators and consumers.

Don't look to Lessig for that balance. First he reasonably extols "'Walt Disney creativity'--a form of expression and genius that builds upon the culture around us and makes it something different." But then, in a rhetorical bait-and-switch, he spends most of the book making the case that a free pass should be given to the specific kind of "creativity" that directly reuses existing work, up to and including wholesale sampling and so-called sharing.

That's nuts. Disney reworked public-domain material like "Snow White" gratis, but paid to use copyrighted works like Peter Pan. In a footnote, Lessig observes that "Disney paid royalties to use the music for five songs" in his first sound short. Like most responsible creators, Disney understood the crux of copyright: The owner of a work has the exclusive right to authorize how it may be used. Adapt someone's material, and you generally have to ask permission; you may even have to pay.

Yet often you don't, which is where Lessig's argument dissolves. "Fair use" exceptions in existing copyright law--like the ones that let me quote Lessig here--are so expansive that just about the only thing cut-and-pasters clearly can't do legally with a copyrighted work is directly copy a sizable portion of it. Even then, there are many exemptions for classroom, library, archive and personal use. And the Web lets you legally link to copyrighted material.

That's not nearly enough for Lessig, who once proposed a laughable ten-year maximum term for software copyrights and later suffered a 7-to-2 Supreme Court whupping over his claim that the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act was unconstitutional. The book proposes a slew of sweeping copyright law changes that would consistently screw creators, reward infringers and put the U.S. at odds with international law. Some of Lessig's proposals might well help the big media he claims to detest by offering them the chance to poach material they once would have had to pay for. And he endorses a bizarre, unworkable system of regulating file-sharing in which owners would be paid out of the proceeds from unspecified taxes, "to the extent that harm could be shown"--a sort of federal insurance pool for stolen tunes.

At a time when intellectual property provides America's greatest worldwide successes, overturning established international copyright principles to legalize infringers is like abolishing real estate law to help out squatters. Let's make it clear: The artists who would benefit most from Lessig's legal meddling are rip-off artists.

Stephen Manes (steve@cranky.com), was cohost of Digital Duo and has been covering technology for two decades. Visit his homepage at www.forbes.com/manes.

Re:The Trouble With Larry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671173)

Ripoff artists? This entire post is ripping off an article from Forbes. What bothers me is the hypocrisy here.

Re:The Trouble With Larry (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671174)

Lessig's response [lessig.org] can be read at his blog [lessig.org]

About the argument I would expect... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671181)

...from a GOP shill. You folks will engage in about any logical contortion in order to twist a situation to corporate advantage. It's going to be a blast putting you all up against the wall!

Re:The Trouble With Larry (3, Insightful)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671394)

Though "cut and paste" was limited to scrapbooks, creators of all stripes somehow managed to flourish.

the things we are cutting and pasting from is no longer magazines and newspapers, why should that change anything?

movies and websites are now our "scrapbooks" and nothing should be different.

Nice To See.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671401)

that any contrary opinions are modded down as 'redundant', while any slashbot parroting the party line can grab easy mod points up.

Slashdot moderation: comments that agree.

Why PDF? (5, Interesting)

DaveMe (19844) | more than 10 years ago | (#8670995)

pdf is an waful format to make derivative works from. for example, I would like to bake a plucker [plkr.org] -ebook for my palm from it, but with acrobats text export function as the only available export tool, it screws footnotes and page numbers etc.

DON'T use pdf for book distribution!

Re:Why PDF? (1)

Robotech_Master (14247) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671103)

Hear, hear...I'd like to use iSilo to read it, myself...but there's just no easy way that I know of to get the stuff out of PDF without munging it in the process.

Re:Why PDF? (4, Informative)

s20451 (410424) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671132)

Why PDF?

1. Almost everyone knows what PDF is and has the reader.
2. It's better than sharing Word files.
3. Reader is available for most platforms. Open source readers are available for those not officially supported.
4. It preserves the look of documents across hardware and platforms.

In other words it's the most practical of the popular formats. Everything I make available online is in PDF. Maybe it doesn't have some pet feature that you have in mind, but that's no reason to go with some obscure format that is probably broken in other ways.

Re:Why PDF? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671402)

Really the only reason to use PDF is your point number 4. "It preserves the look of documents across hardware and platforms."

Why HTML?
1. Almost everyone knows what HTML is and has the reader/parser.
2. It's better than sharing Word files.
3 The Reader is available for most platforms. Open source readers are available for those not officially supported.

In other words it's the most practical of the popular formats. Everything I make available online is in HTML. Maybe it doesn't have some pet feature that you have in mind, but that's no reason to go with some obscure format that is probably broken in other way

Re:Why PDF? (1)

po8 (187055) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671892)

If I could do formatted equations and vector graphics (reliably) in HTML, I would move everything over in an instant. Until then, I'm stuck with PDF for much of what I do.

Re:Why PDF? (1)

s20451 (410424) | more than 10 years ago | (#8672216)

I think point 4 is important. One of the most annoying things about HTML are pages that require you to side-scroll to read text. This text probably looked just fine to the person who wrote the file. With PDF, I know everyone sees it just like I do.

Also, though your point was made from cutting-and-pasting my comment, PDF is far from an obscure format.

Re:Why PDF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671517)

Docbook is far more practical. People distribute exclusively in pdf because they are ignorant.

Re:Why PDF? (4, Insightful)

pavon (30274) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671223)

DON'T use pdf for book distribution!
No, please DO use pdf for book distribution. It is the most widely supported format that has all the features you need and is open enough.

DON'T however write the book strait into pdf. Use something like DocBook, which can be converted into many formats after the fact, and will probably make your life easier anyway.

Re:Why PDF? (2, Insightful)

DaveMe (19844) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671286)

OK, so make that "DON'T use pdf as your only distribution format".

Re:Why PDF? (1)

mbbac (568880) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671363)

PDF is the format that should be used for distributing books. It's the best way to give the user one file that ensures both a good softcopy experience as well as hardcopy.

If you want to extract text out of a PDF then use something here [planetpdf.com] .

Re:Why PDF? (3, Interesting)

jon787 (512497) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671392)

Perhaps Lessig might release the TeX (or whatever he wrote it in) version too if asked nicely.

Re:Why PDF? (1)

TheSunborn (68004) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671560)

But that's not a problem with the pdf format which is open and fully described. It is a problem with your software.

Re:Why PDF? (Bad for small screens) try HTML (2, Informative)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671811)

DON'T use pdf for book distribution! Agreed! The problem with PDF is that it is based on page defintion -- defining exactly how to layout the letters. PDF has no conception fo words, sentence, paragraphs, headings, footnotes, etc. -- it all just a bunch of filled polylines sprinkled on a fixed-size rectangular space. PDF is totally incompatible with small screens. Its great for preserving the look of a page, but terrible for preserving the meaning.

If you want a universally readable light-weight format for text document, why not use HTML. If anything HTML is more widely used and readable than PDF. HTML can do a better job of semantically meaningful markup (H1 tags vs. Demi Futura Bold 28 Point) and has nice internal and multidocument navigation functions.

Re:Why PDF? (2, Informative)

doublem (118724) | more than 10 years ago | (#8672636)

There is an Acrobat reader for Palm you know.

Works very well too I might add.

Couch Potatoes Deserve to be Kept Down (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671008)

I'm posting anonymously for obvious reasons.

I'm a Teaching Fellow (TF) at Harvard, and I see a lot of laziness in my students. They are, for all intents and purposes, couch potatoes.

They are there to get their prestidgeous Ivy League degree and then get into a well paying job. These people are couch potatoes.

The real smart ones stay on and become graduate students and the smarter ones again become TFs. The couch potatoes go on to lead boring everyday lives where they just tread water.

My point is this. These people have no life. Don't they deserve to be kept down? If you can't think for yourself then you deserve to be kept down. This is an important message for you slashdotters, who all think Linux is great and SCO is going to be destroyed.

Stop thinking like a couch potatoe.

Re:Couch Potatoes Deserve to be Kept Down (4, Funny)

NoData (9132) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671109)

... prestidgeous Ivy League degree ....

...Stop thinking like a couch potatoe.

Dan? Is that you?

Re:Couch Potatoes Deserve to be Kept Down (1)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#8672165)

for those either too young to remember or foriegn and had more important things to care about than our inadequate politicians...

From Wikipedia - Dan Quayle [wikipedia.org] :
"Throughout his time as Vice President, Quayle was widely ridiculed in the media and by some of the general public as a mental lightweight and was prone to verbal gaffes; as a result of this reputation, a great many apocryphal quotations are attributed to him. Most famous was his correcting a student's spelling of potato as "potatoe". When this story is related, it is usually not mentioned that Quayle was relying on a spelling bee card on which the word had been misspelled by the teacher although admittedly Quayle should have picked that up."

This last part about it already being misspelled is new to me.

Re:Couch Potatoes Deserve to be Kept Down (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671148)

Stop thinking like a couch potatoe.

Stop spelling like one.

Re:Couch Potatoes Deserve to be Kept Down (1)

maximilln (654768) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671228)

-----
The real smart ones stay on and become graduate students and the smarter ones again become TFs
-----
You're ignoring the financial aspect. The "real smart ones" that don't have enough financial backing to shield them from the demands of modern life go on to get boring jobs.

Oh wait. If you're at an Ivy League school you're inundated with yuppie brats who don't need to worry about the financial backing that it takes to tread water in everyday life.

Okay. Your point about couch potatoes is probably 99.998% true in your environment.

Re:Couch Potatoes Deserve to be Kept Down (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671343)

The couch potatoes go on to lead boring everyday lives where they just tread water.

Or get elected to the US Senate, followed by eight years as Vice President of the US. Nowhere near as exciting as being a teacher, I'm sure, but it ain't exactly treading water, either.

Re:Couch Potatoes Deserve to be Kept Down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671373)

I'm posting anonymously for obvious reasons.
Because you are an unabashed, egregious troll?

Soo.. (4, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671010)

When jury duty called, I was lucky enough to have a copy of Larry Lessig's new book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, to take along.

Did being informed on some subject get you out of jury duty?

When I sat through my jury selection process it seemed those who were well informed got the boot. Either side could choose to excuse someone too informed to make their chosen impression on.

So it goes within a free society.

Re:Soo.. (1)

peterwayner (266189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671066)

They didn't even get to my number. They took the first 12 that met their requirements and that came surprisingly quickly. They started off with 150+ in the room, but filled the jury box after going through about 35.

Re:Soo.. (2, Informative)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671302)

both sides (in either a criminal case or a civil suit) tend to prefer those who can't think for themselves very well or draw their own conclusions from the arguments given. They prefer those types because it makes it easier to leave an impression upon them. This does backfire sometimes, as there are occasional cases where jurors will talk to reporters after a decision and reveal incredibly absurd reasons for their decision. This really screws over prosecutors in criminal cases, as they can't file appeals for such stupidity, while the defense can appeal for pretty much any reason you can think of. (There some situations, I think, where a judge can toss an acquittal and declare a mistrial, but I'm not sure under what circumstance.)

There's also the idea that an informed person is also intelligent enough to have excuses ready when asked if they cant serve. Examples include being opposed to the death penalty, having a close friend or family member be the victim of a similar crime, friend/family involved in a similar civil case, etc. The idea here being that an uninformed person won't have excuses ready, and left unable to answer questions as to whether they can serve or not.

(IANAL)

Re:Soo.. (1)

YU Nicks NE Way (129084) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671418)

Never served on a jury, have you? In fact, I'd wager you've never even been into a courthouse. I think that you'd rethink that statement the same way Avi Rubin rethought what he thought about poll watchers if you ever had.

Re:Soo.. (1)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8672675)

I've been to court before, once as a witness and twice as a student in some criminal justice classes. But never on a jury and probably never will given that case where I was a witness and other circumstances.

Error in Link (1)

funny-jack (741994) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671021)

I thought that letting subscribers look into the "mysterious future" was supposed to help us not to have broken links.

Here's the fixed link. [state.md.us]

Free Culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671043)

mmmm. free yogurt

Is that a word? (3, Funny)

Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671056)

His prose is improving as he [...] adopts a bloggier style

Did I read that correctly?

Did he just say "bloggier" ?

Re:Is that a word? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671233)

Yes, it means "more bloggy".

HTH

Re:Is that a word? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671485)

Where "bloggy" means "like a blog".

Where "blog" is short for "web log".

Where "web" is short for "World Wide Web".

Re:Is that a word? (1)

dr bacardi (48590) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671309)

It is a rather slithy word. Makes me gyre and gimble just to think about it.

Re:Is that a word? (1)

rRaminrodt (250095) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671694)

Hey kids! it's a newer shinier trendier way to say, "conversational."

Soooo cool!

(that is if blogs were cool ;-) )

Revealing, no? (4, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671058)

It was the perfect place to read a new book devoted to stopping the old guard media czars from using law to keep the couch potatoes down.

I suppose that's meant to be facetious but it leads nicely into "Are things getting worse or better? Are the 40+ million plus fileswapping pirates winning, or are the draconian laws crushing our creativity like a jackboot?" Yeah, "fileswapping pirates" are the cornerstone of global creativity. What will our society do without their invaluable contribution?

I'm the first to object to the DMCA and abuse of fair-use but if the Lessig crowd wants to convince me that there's a need to tear the existing system to shreds, they need to come up with a better victim class than Kazaa users.

Mod parent up. Also: (3, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671217)

More than that:

Are the 40+ million plus fileswapping pirates winning, or are the draconian laws crushing our creativity like a jackboot?

Apart from being inflammatory, this question sets up a false dichotomy, which presupposes that fileswappers help innovation. Yet this is far from proven, given that almost all of the files shared by fileswappers are the same pop culture materials produced by the conglomerates.

The reading of the review is not terribly critical, and is more like a rant.

Re:Mod parent up. Also: (2, Insightful)

DoNotTauntHappyFunBa (592447) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671856)

In the short term, fileswappers are probably not having much effect on creativity one way or the other.

I would think that although much of the traffic is in top 40, there is some traffic that isn't (older stuff, rarer stuff, bootlegs maybe?). The swappers aren't really a force for creativity, but they are a force for wider distribution.

Excuse me? (0, Offtopic)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671218)

I commented in FortKnox's journal the other day that stressing about moderation is silly, so call me a hypocrite...

What went through the alleged mind of the subliterate fuckwit Slashbot moderator who decided this was "Offtopic"? Half of it is quotes from the freaking review!

Re:Excuse me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671712)


Half of it is quotes from the freaking review!

Ohhhh... how I wish I had mod points so I could moderate your original post redundant.

Not Lessig's Intent (2, Insightful)

ckathens (631781) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671664)

From what I gather from reading Lessig's previous book, his webpage, EFF webpage, and my personal experience as a law student studying IP and CyberLaw, you are getting two different points mixed up:
(1) EFF & Lessig argue that filesharing and related technology is so prevailing that the old copyright regime no longer works, and it really needs to "get with the times."
(2) They also argue that the copyright laws enacted in the last 20 years (but espceially in the last 8 years) significantly crush creativity.

Your problem is that you mushed these two concepts together. The filesharing people are not the victims the so-called "Lessig crowd" are talking about necessarily, but instead he's talking about artists and authors.

Does fair use widely exist anymore? (5, Insightful)

StateOfTheUnion (762194) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671076)

I find it tragic that what may have been assumed to be fair use a few decades ago . . . is now still protected by fair use, but now one needs an army of lawyers to protect their fair use claim.

My personal thought is that this is an irrational fear stemming from the popularity of home printers, video editing software, and the internet (all of which weren't easily available 20 years ago); it is now much easier for someone to "fairly use" copyrighted material in their own work. In the opinion of the media conglomerates this "devalues" their intellectual property so rather than allow fair use to proceed legally, they fight it in hopes that most of the little guys will just give up trying or cower in fear of the onslaught of lawyers.

Re:Does fair use widely exist anymore? (3, Informative)

Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671251)

Much of Fair Use has effectively been outlawed by the DMCA. If you buy a copyrighted work, you have the Fair Use right to make a backup copy, etc. But if the distributor has included any sort of copy protection, it is illegal to bypass the protection scheme - even though you have legal rights to the work!

We will have to start demanding fair use rights more as consumers to win them back.

I'M GEORGE BUSH AND I APPROVE OF MYSELF (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671094)

I'm George W Bush and I approve of this message. Over the last 4 years I have lead this great nation through troubling and difficult times. Merica is stronger today than ever. We have more freedom and have spread our freedom around the world. Our borders are secure and our economy is strong. Our kids have more to eat too. John Kerry is wrong for Merica. He wants to pull back and hide in the sand waiting to the terrusts to strike at Merika. This is wrong. I know exactly where I want to lead Merica and I know what I'm gonna do.
Thank-you.
George W Bush

Re:I'M GEORGE BUSH AND I APPROVE OF MYSELF (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671175)

That's why I'm voting for Ralph Nader [slashdot.org] in November.

America Going Down The Toilet (5, Interesting)

Recalcitrant Labrado (759161) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671125)

There is considerable historical material that demonstrates that societies that muzzle their creative instincts go to the rubbish bin of history faster then most. This is the danger that the U.S. faces. There is a common thread in Lessig's complaints about copyright laws, the DMCA, the SCO/Linux lawsuits, dumb patent laws and of course Microsoft's monopoly. By locking up IP you stifle the creative capabilities of the U.S. What happens if you do this? Well, the creative people either give up or move offshore to countries that do not have such restrictive rules. There they can disassemble, reverse engineer, tinker and fiddle to their hearts content without needing a bevy of lawyers. You can seee it coming now. Europe, Russia, China and maybe India are going to dominate the software industry as long as they avoid getting tied up in U.S. sponsored IP laws. The last two programs I bought are DVD backup software - from Switzerland and Germany. I don't think the software can even be legally sold in the U.S. thanks to the MPAA. "Freedom to innovate in the U.S.?" - I don't think so.

It's going to take more than 4 seconds... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671127)

...of The Simpsons to save an opera documentary.

Fair use = Documentary, satire, or lawyers (3, Insightful)

StateOfTheUnion (762194) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671131)

My favorite anecdote, if one could be said to stand out, comes from a film maker documenting an opera company. When the camera caught a snippet of the stagehands watching the Simpsons with the sound turned down, the director wanted to add a four-second clip to the movie. Matt Groening said "Yes." The lawyers said it was clearly fair use. But Fox's executives responded with the kind of obscenity that doesn't upset the FCC: pay us $10,000. The clip didn't make the film because the director couldn't afford to go head-to-head with the Fox legal department.

What a sad ancedote that shows how the conglomerates undermine the creativity and quality of new content. It seems that if it's not a research article . . . you better claim you're making an editorial or a satire (two well protected examples of fair use) or you better have a team of lawyers on retainer.

They did it to themselves (2, Insightful)

Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671134)

One thing that amuses me about this whole Media-Corporations-trying-to-reel-in-technology fiasco is how much of it they create themselves. For instance, the mpeg and mpeg2 (DVD) formats were devised by these big companies. So was digital HDTV. It was these media powerhouses that forced the change from analog to digital.

Then, one day, they say "Oh crap!" all of our media is digital and can be easily copied! We need to control it much better. Then they try to implement all sorts of technology to stop sharing that, in many cases, degrades the quality back to the analog level... or worse!

Where do they find these people?

Re:They did it to themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8672135)

On the other hand, most previous analog signals were higher quality than the new, "improved" digital signals anyway...

I, for one, welcome... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671151)

...our copyright overlords!

Overlord welcoming copyright @2003 Fox News Corp.

Katz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671152)

Is that you?

I thought we got rid of him and this meaningless drivel a couple years ago. I guess "the man" can't keep Katz down.

Didn't want laws and footnotes?? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671227)

The justices didn't want laws and footnotes, they wanted something human.

How foolish of Lessig, to think that a Supreme Court Justice might put an emphasis on the actual law and its logical implications.

Sheez. You'd think they were a freakin jury off the street. No wonder the law is such a mess these days.

Clear Channel (2, Funny)

caller_number_six (248087) | more than 10 years ago | (#8671456)

Some worry about the concentration of power in the radio world by companies like Clear Channel. But who listens to radio for music any longer?

I think the real change that Clear Channel has brought about is this:

Stores used to pay companies like muzak [muzak.com] to pipe in a pacifying soundtrack for our shopping pleasure. But in the last ten years businesses have figured out that e.g. an actual Hall and Oates song is just as muzakky as an orchestral arrangement of a Hall and Oates song. (No offense to Mr. Hall, Mr. Oates or any other pop entertainers, but there it is.)

Using this insight, Clear Channel is providing a pacifying soundtrack to our stuck-at-work/stuck-in-traffic pleasure.

you FAIL it?! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671743)

protest the mouse! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8671877)

What better way to protest the whole copyright fiasco than using the Mickey Mouse whose copyright would have expired in all your web pages without a copyright notice?

oh sure, call your congressman... but that's no fun.

"Free Mickey!" (1)

mariox19 (632969) | more than 10 years ago | (#8672743)

I've often thought the same thing, though along slightly different lines.

Someone -- more or less anonymous -- should come up with some kind of protest cartoon involving Mickey Mouse. Preferably, it shouldn't be too hard for moderately artistic people to draw. Then, everyone who cares should sport this cartoon on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and whatever. The design should not be sold; rather, people should reproduce it themselves, or reproduce it and share it with others.

Web pages are a little dicey -- at least at first. You can be tracked and sent cease-and-desist letters. But, shirts and bumper stickers and homemade greeting cards will escape censure.

What I'm really talking about is a grass roots movement. All the "Free Mitnick" graffiti has worn off by now -- it's time to replace it with "Free Mickey!"

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