The legal history of "fuck" [PDF] »

“Three legally trained minds—a law student, a law enforcement officer, and a federal judge—each heard the word fuck and suddenly lost the ability to calmly, objectively, and rationally react. If fuck has power over these people, what are the limits of its influence? Three consonants and a vowel ordered one way—“fcuk”—is a multi-million dollar designer label coveted by many worldwide. With the slightest of alterations, f-u-c-k becomes so forceful that its utterance can land you in jail. What transforms these four letters into an expletive of such resounding power?”

krimelabb »

A site that aggregates city-wide crime data for Austin Texas, mashing up data from the Austin Police Department and the local court systems, with Google Maps, the white pages and the media.

krimelabb »

A site that aggregates city-wide crime data for Austin Texas, mashing up data from the Austin Police Department and the local court systems, with Google Maps, the white pages and the media.

Privacy, Facebook and 170 Options

Facebook’s Privacy Policy is 5,830 words long; the United States Constitution, without any of its amendments, is a concise 4,543 words.

Price of Facebook Privacy? Start Clicking

Navigating FB Privacy (Image from the New York Times)

Navigating Facebook's Privacy (Links to NY Times)

Given Facebook’s release of a slew of developer tools and APIs, providing Web sites the world over with the ability to access the user data of Facebook users and the ever (d)evolving changes to Facebook’s privacy settings, it’s no surprise that there’s an outcry from individuals and privacy groups. The New York Times has published a great set of infographics laying out the “50 settings with more than 170 options” that a user has to work with to control how their information is used.

The accompanying article, Price of Facebook Privacy? Start Clicking is well worth a read for anyone unfamiliar with the issues at stake.

The Length of Facebook's Privacy Policy (Image from New York Times)

The Length of Facebook's Privacy Policy (Links to NY Times)

The second infographic illustrates Facebook’s ever-lengthening privacy policy. It’s interesting to note that the policy has grown longer at the same rate that previously private user information has become public.

Additional Resources

Images from the New York Times

Fair Use and Creativity

The value society places on creativity means that fair use needs to be expanded and inadvertent infringement should be minimally penalised. None of this should get in the way of the enforcement of copyright, which remains a vital tool in the encouragement of learning. But tools are not ends in themselves.

Copyright and wrong in The Economist

This Ain't Right: Fight the Orphan Works Act

Jeffrey Zeldman pointed out the dangerous Orphan Works Acts making their way through Congress. This act has far-reaching implications for everyone, but the impact is even larger for those who work or publish on the ‘Net. Ultimately Congress is attempting to reduce your rights as a creator (whether you write, draw, design Web sites or sing), by allowing the infringer to make the distinction as to whether or not they tried hard enough to find the owner of the work and reducing the rights of the artist, designer or author.

As noted by Mr. Zeldman, so called “orphaned” content “will be made legally available for use by commercial interests, even when the copyright holder is alive, in business, and licensing the work.”

That strikes the very heart of our society. You work hard to create something, you have every right to maintain ownership and be compensated for that work. If someone steals from you, you have recourse.

It’s Easy to Fight this Law

Luckily there is an easy way to contact our representatives in Congress to educate them on the dangers of this law and to inform them that we expect each and every one to oppose the bad legislation: Go to the Legislative Action Center tell them where you live (so they can match you with your representatives) and choose a letter that you want to send – click and go.

Here’s a snippet of the letter I sent to Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison and Representative Lloyd Doggett:

I am told that the Copyright Office conducted a study of Orphan Works and that these bills are based on that study. I understand that an orphan work is a work whose owner can’t be located. I am alive, working and managing my copyrights. I can be located. My clients locate me all the time. But that does not mean that anyone anywhere can find me. And frankly, why should the failure of any one person to find me be the measure of whether or not I can be found?

What if 10 people can find me but one can’t? Why should that one person get a free pass to use my work? Won’t that give infringers an incentive not to find me? And why should I be obligated to go into court to prove anything about the diligence of the searcher or the value of my work? What if the same work is found an orphan in one legal proceeding and not in another?

Join the list of groups opposing this bill, spend three minutes to protect the basic rights of those who create what you enjoy.

IE to Eliminate the Click to Activate Requirement for Flash & ActiveX

About six months back, Microsoft was forced to hobble the usability of Internet Explorer as a tactic in their legal battles with Eolas. This lead to much consternation within the Web development community and too much time and money spent implementing a JavaScript workaround that ensured that user’s aren’t forced to click every bit of Flash they encounter in order to use the functionality. Without the workaround embedded Flash apps that perform an action when the user hovers over the app do not work in Internet Explorer until the user clicks the app to “enable” it. Dumb, but not really Microsoft’s fault. While some clever quickly built a JavaScript workaround, too much time and money was wasted on something that shouldn’t have been an issue.

Well, good news has come today in the form of Microsoft’s announcement that they have licensed the “technology” required to (re)enable this functionality! Great news, though oddly enough it will take another six months to roll out!? This is a feature that was in the app, taken out against everyone’s wishes, including Microsoft, and now, when they have the go-ahead to re-add the feature they are prolonging the rollout until April of 2008. Microsoft is missing out on an opportunity to make the dev community very happy while simultaneously making the Web a better place for everyone. Here is their plan:

The first chance will be with an optional preview release, called the Internet Explorer Automatic Component Activation Preview, available in December 2007 via the Microsoft Download Center. Additionally this change will be made part of the next pre-release versions of Windows Vista SP1 and Windows XP SP3. After giving people enough time to prepare for this change, we’ll roll this behavior into the IE Cumulative Update in April 2008, and all customers who install the update will get the change.

Well, that said, this is a good thing, even if it means bad patents are being rewarded. This is yet another example as to why our patent system needs a major overhaul.

The DMCA and You

As noted on Copyfight, the Cato Institute has released Circumventing Competition: The Perverse Consequences of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which takes the law to task for being anti-competitive and derides “Congressional interference in the market for digital rights management technologies.” As noted in the report:

Why won’t iTunes play on Rio MP3 players? Why are viewers forced to sit through previews on some DVDs when they could have fast-forwarded through them on video? Why is it impossible to cut and paste text on Adobe eBook? In a just released study for the Cato Institute, Tim Lee, a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute, answers these questions and more.

The new legislation’s most profound effects will be on the evolution of digital media technologies. We have grown accustomed to, and benefit from, a high-tech world that is freewheeling, open-ended, and fiercely competitive. Silicon Valley is a place where upstarts like Apple, Netscape, and Google have gone from two-man operations to billion-dollar trendsetters seemingly overnight. The DMCA threatens to undermine that competitive spirit by giving industry incumbents a powerful legal weapon against new entrants.

This is yet another clear sign that the DMCA affects every single one of us, no matter what our political leanings may be.

Intellectual Property and the Public Sphere

I haven’t had a chance to read Intellectual Property and the Public Sphere from the “UK’s leading progressive think tank”, but I hope to over the weekend. It should be interesting to read the take of a non-US based group as so much of my perspective is shaded by matters here in the States.

This looks at why the politics and economics of online information has become so fiercely contested, especially around intellectual property, and the nature of the dilemmas this creates for policy-makers. The paper stands back from this to ask why things have reached this impasse, and presents an analysis that positions all these competing visions within a broader understanding of what constitutes ‘the public sphere’. It concludes by out-lining the possibilities available for Government.

View the full paper (PDF)


Freedom to Tinker introduces a great way to understand the implications of current pushes to extend copyrights: Pizzaright Principle. This litmus test is pretty straightforward, replace the intellectual property term under discussion with ‘pizzaright’:

Pizzaright – the exclusive right to sell pizza – is a new kind of intellectual property right. Pizzaright law, if adopted, would make it illegal to make or serve a pizza without a license from the pizzaright owner.

I highly recommend that you read the article. It isn’t long, but it brings the core of the matter to the forefront in a way that is easy to understand, and easy to explain to others.

The Supreme Court Overturns the Broadcast Flag

In a move that has brightened my day, and reaffirmed the strength of our system of checks and balances, the Supreme Court has ruled that the “Commission acted outside the scope of its delegated authority when it adopted the disputed broadcast flag regulations.” The entire brief is worth a read, or at the least a quick scan as there are some jewels to be found, including the fact that the FCC has explicitly told Congress in the past, that the Commission does not have the authority to pass regulations such as these.

So, now the media industry is forced to push a law through Congress, which has little to no change as few elected officials want to be involved in breaking their constituents’ television. Few things get American’s so riled as a broken TV.

July 1, 2005 is no longer the dread day that it was.

Additional Coverage

The Constitutionality of Software Copyrights

As mentioned on The Technology Liberation Front , “Greg Aharonian, Editor/Publisher of the Internet Patent News Service—and one of America’s leading intellectual property experts—has just filed a major lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of software copyrights. In his complaint to the U.S. District Court’s Northern California Circuit, Aharonian details the adverse impact of vague software copyright laws and decisions.”

I haven’t had a chance to read all of this, but from the overview, and some skimming, I think this could prove quite interesting as it may well affect the very foundation of the software world.

Also, a quick note, Adam Thierer, who posted this to The Technology Liberation Front, edited CopyFights: The Future of Intellectual Property in the Information Age which contains some essays discussing this issue and patents on business methods. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is seriously interested in the interaction of copyrights, business and the consumer now and in the future.

IPac in Wired

Check out the Wired News story titled Battling the Copyright Big Boys, which provides a great introduction to what we, at IPac are building, and the goals we aim to accomplish. There is a lot to do, so if you have some time, and care about copyright and intellectual property issues (including whether or not you can record your favorite TV show), then stop by the IPac site, and sign up!

Donna Wentworth makes a great point concerning how to help us fight bad law. In her post about the story she recommends that people “give up today’s (and/or tomorrow’s) wildly over-priced Starbucks latte and make a donation to IPac.”

Chris Rush Cohen of the INDUCE Act Blog has also provided coverage and kind words regarding the IPac story. It’s great to see the word spreading!

The Senate Ponders Bad IP Laws

Wired News reports that the Senate may try to pass a hellish cornucopia of copyright and IP laws during the current lame duck session:

The Senate might vote on HR2391, the Intellectual Property Protection Act, a comprehensive bill that opponents charge could make many users of peer-to-peer networks, digital-music players and other products criminally liable for copyright infringement. The bill would also undo centuries of “fair use” — the principle that gives Americans the right to use small samples of the works of others without having to ask permission or pay.

This is a key example of why I have committed much of my free time to IPac. If you aren’t familiar with IP, here is some more information from the site:

IPac is a nonpartisan group dedicated to preserving individual freedom through balanced intellectual property policy.

We believe that technological innovation and individual creativity are vital to the future of this country. We believe that a prosperous and democratic society depends on freedom for all individuals to pursue scientific invention and artistic expression. Unfortunately, new intellectual property laws threaten to stifle these freedoms and restrict public participation in science, art, and political discourse.

Ultimately, the only way that we, as consumers and citizens can guarantee that we are allowed to use our purchases the way we want (and the way that we have been able to historically), is to speak up to the politicians who routinely trade our rights for campaign donations from large media groups. If you want to retain the right to use your purchased media in the same ways that you did 20 years ago, it is time you stand up and lend a hand.

Sixth Circuit Reverses Lexmark DMCA Ruling

As reported on Copyfight, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that was in favor of Lexmark against Static Controls, a company that makes replacement ink/toner cartridges. As the EFF explains “When Static Controls reverse-engineered the authentication procedure in order to enable refilled and remanufactured cartridges to work with Lexmark printers, Lexmark sued in Lexington, KY, claiming both copyright infringement and circumvention in violation of the DMCA.”

A snippet from the opinion:

> Lexmark would have us read this statute in such a way that any time a manufacturer intentionally circumvents any technological measure and accesses a protected work it necessarily violates the statute regardless of its “purpose.” Such a reading would ignore the precise language – “for the purpose of” – as well as the main point of the DMCA – to prohibit the pirating of copyright-protected works such as movies, music, and computer programs. If we were to adopt Lexmark’s reading of the statute, manufacturers could potentially create monopolies for replacement parts simply by using similar, but more creative, lock-out codes. Automobile manufacturers, for example, could control the entire market of replacement parts for their vehicles by including lock-out chips. Congress did not intend to allow the DMCA to be used offensively in this manner, but rather only sought to reach those who circumvented protective measures “for the purpose” of pirating works protected by the copyright statute.