Friday, August 22, 2003


File Under: EvenMore Poor Word Choices in the World of Intellectual Property

I have a hobby horse I like to ride when it comes to intellectual property: I think that the metaphors that ties IP to physical property are really not all that useful. The commons metaphor, with no offense meant to Lawrence Lessig and other Creative Commons evangelists, is really not a usable metaphor. IP doesn't function like the commons, even in an inverse manner. But today I found a new hobby horse: the whole piracy thing annoys me, but at least pirates were pirates - swashbuckling types who engaged in illegal activities without government charter (which, granted by a monarch, trnasforms a pirate into a privateer). Then I came across this: Operation Buccaneer. Do you know what a buccaneer is? Technically speaking, a buccaneer is not a pirate, though buccaneers may be pirates. Imprecise use of language. Frustrating.

- posted by laurie @ 8/22/2003 09:17:00 AM (0) comments

Friday, August 08, 2003


More Good News

I was thrilled when I was able to register for the one course I really, really wanted to take this coming semester, but the coming schoolyear is now looking even better. I've been kind of upset of late that my cognitive science minor was probably going to extend my coursework by one semester, thus extending the amount of time until I complete my Ph.D. One of the required courses for the CogSci minor is "Philosophy of Cognitive Science," which is offered once every blue moon in the Philosophy Department. The professor who teaches this course is on phased retirement. An acceptable substitution for the philosophy course is a graduate seminar in Information and Decisions Sciences over at the Carlson School of Management. This four-credit class is offered only in the fall, and it just doesn't fit into my schedule for this coming semester. I already have a pretty full schedule, and the IDSC class is supposed to be very tough - a reading list longer than a comps reading list plus a heavy workload, including a final project as well as an exam that I have heard compared, again, to written comps. The lore surrounding this class is fairly intimidating. Supposedly only one person has ever completed all of the readings as assigned. Anyway, my plan has been to get all of my other requirements out of the way by the end of this year and to then (hopefully) begin reading for comps over the summer. During the fall of next year, I'd take the IDSC class, and that class only, and treat it as reading for an exam question in cognitive science. Unfortunate, but I didn't see any other way to actually get all of my coursework done, complete the minor, and maintain an acceptable (read: not overwhelming) course load.

For some reason, I decided last night to tentatively plan my schedule for the spring semester. There are two courses I have to take: a computer science course on artificial intelligence (also a scary requiremement for the CogSci minor which I might very well take pass/fail) and a Topics in Technology and Culture course taught by my advisor. I was perusing the catalog, trying to figure out if I wanted to take a third class or not, when I came across the listing for . . . Philosophy 8640 . . . Philosophy of the Cognitive Sciences. Unbelievable. Amazing. Of course, I still have to get all of this approved, but at least the plan is better, now!

other good news

Eric got a promotion. Whee! He's been promoted two grades, and now has the cool title of "Technologist." Unfortunately, this also means he's moving to second shift, so our relatively complementary schedules are a thing of the past as of Tuesday.

- posted by laurie @ 8/08/2003 10:52:00 AM (0) comments

Thursday, August 07, 2003


The down and dirty on the CA recall election can be found in the Mercury News Recall Guide.

This whole situation is nutty. Gary Coleman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Angelyne (of the billboards), Arianna Huffington, and Larry Flynt. Only in California!

- posted by laurie @ 8/07/2003 08:48:00 PM (0) comments

Wednesday, August 06, 2003



I just finished watching "The Ring." I'm ok with horror/thriller movies (grew up on stuff like this and this), but watching this one right before bed probably wasn't the smartest of ideas.

(disclaimer: if you haven't seen the movie and want to without some plot points being spoiled, stop here. I hate it when people reveal things about movies I havne't seen. I had the secrets from "The Sixth Sense" and "Fight Club" told to me on the same night, before I'd seen either movie)

I liked this movie - it did scare me, and I confess to watching certain portions of it through my hands, but I have problems with some of the plot elements. Why, exactly, is the little girl evil, for example? There's not really a good back story for the kid, even though there is, somewhat, for the mother. A lot is left to be inferred. There's certainly something to be said for subtlety and for being able to lead an audience to a conclusion rather than explicitly revealing information, but there are some plot points that need to be foregrounded a bit more. Also annoying, unnecessary, and not explained well: people affected by the ring all make horses freak out - um, why? And why is it necessary?

The DVD version of the movie includes a short that adds more background information. What it did for me was create a bit more confusion. There are things that just don't jive: characters in the short contradict earlier statements by characters in the feature film, and it's implied that the girl, Samara, is "unnatural," abnormal, even evil - and concieved through questionable methods. Why does the doctor say Samara was supposedly adopted, while the group of people in the short specifically say that the parents went away and when they returned the woman was pregnant? The doctor also says that the girl was institutionalized and, for all she knew, was still in the same facility, while the group in the short contradict again, saying that the parents returned from their winter home wiithout the child one year: supposedly a fire had destroyed their winter home and had killed Samara, as well. These contradictions serve no point, as far as I can see.

I do want to watch the movie again, but with the subtitles on. We had them on for part of this run through, and there's a lot of whispering and barely-audible lines that are hard to distinguish from the soundtrack and background noises, but are subtitled. I want to go back and see if there are any more of these subtle, almost subliminal, lines.

I suppose that's enough analysis for the night. Sometimes I overdo it on the analysis: it is, after all, only a movie. And now, having reminded myself of that, I'm going to attempt to get some sleep.

--oh, p.s. - I'd like to see the movie on which this was based: is this a "Vanilla Sky" parallel: remake (with very few differences) the cool foriegn film for an American audience because we, as a nation, hate subtitles?

- posted by laurie @ 8/06/2003 10:48:00 PM (0) comments


Wish List

I want this! I'm thinking ahead somewhat, but I see this as an advantage, not a disadvantage.

- posted by laurie @ 8/06/2003 04:37:00 PM (0) comments


Referrer weirdness
. . . let's see if I can help out a little bit . . .

Lots of people end up here because I wrote a random post about drylighters. I love 'em. The Faber-Castell ones that are my favorite have been discontinued (well, they apparently still sell in Germany, but all US retailers have stopped carrying them). But Levenger has a similar (fancier) item, if you'd like to get your hands on one. Free advertising, but these things rock - erasable, won't show in photocopies, won't seep through thin paper, won't dry out after two weeks or leak all over your bag/briefcase, etc.

There are also apparently a number of fans of the automated gift shop who end up here. Some general info is here. If you're looking, it's apparently the Holiday Inn Minneapolis West that has the automated gift shop.

Finally, to the person searching on keywords "cannibal drymouth scientific" I say, um, good luck? I have no idea what this person could have been searching for. That they landed on a page in my archives is a fluke.

- posted by laurie @ 8/06/2003 03:20:00 PM (0) comments


United Press International: Outsdie View: Wrong Language, Wrong Lesson: "The RIAA is trying to use legal tactics to combat a change in the industry's basic business model -- a change which they saw coming and arrogantly ignored. This sea of change was enabled not only by technology, but by a similar seismic change in values -- a change the RIAA also had a hand in creating. "

I don't totally agree with this piece, but the author does make some strong arguments against the RIAA. They've been taking quite a beating in the press lately. I wonder what their next move will be?

- posted by laurie @ 8/06/2003 06:20:00 AM (0) comments

Tuesday, August 05, 2003


Take a look at this: MP3DownloadHQ - Your MP3 HeadQuarters. I found this site through a banner ad on a blog*spot blog - the text of the ad said merely, "Napster alternative." The site promises unlimited free downloads of music, movies, and software for just $0.97. You know how they do this? Well. take a look at the FAQ page, right down at the bottom: thier service offers a variety of downloading solutions: BearShare, Morpheus, KazaaLite, and so on, that they "give" you access to. What? They're all free to begin with!!! They offer tech support, but if you actually look into it, it's email tech support only, and the programs for which they offer support either have their own email or forum support. So, unless I missed out on something, it appears that they're ripping users off for a buck (or $1.50 if you only agree to a one-year subscription) a month. *sigh* n00bs, beware.

- posted by laurie @ 8/05/2003 02:07:00 PM (0) comments



Disturbing Auctions: Daily!: "Tootsie Pop Stick ~ Custom Licked 4U!

[ . . . ]

'... If You're My Winning Bidder, I'll keep count JUST FOR YOU!

And I'll mail you the stick afterwards, along with an official certificate, suitable for framing!'

... sweet Mother of God."

I guess people really will try and sell anything. This auction mght be worth tracking - will anyone bid on this??? Oh, check out the picture on the auction listing, too.

it is listed in the 'Everything Else > Weird Stuff > Totally Bizarre' auction category, at least (cross-listed in modern alternative/underground comics, which I do not get at all . . . ).

- posted by laurie @ 8/05/2003 01:41:00 PM (0) comments


Liberal media bias my butt: Persuaders or Partisans ( "A new Harvard study says the conservative editorial pages are more intensely partisan, and far less willing to criticize a Republican administration than the liberal pages are to take on a Democratic administration."

Now, tell me where the spin is supposedly coming from again?

- posted by laurie @ 8/05/2003 01:30:00 PM (0) comments


From The Mac Observer - BBC Criticizes RIAA's Attacks On Consumers. Thank god for the BBC! Finally an organization with an internationally respected reputation steps up and calls the RIAA on the carpet. The BBC says that the RIAA is not worrying about the major source of piracy is not American p2p filesharers, but domestic and international large-scale duplication efforts by organized crime. This summary of the BBC article points out that the BBC criticizes the RIAA for other things, as well, such as a decline in album releases and a decline in single releases, as well - it is difficult to claim domestic piracy as a major reason for losses when the product offerings themselves are being cut by a quarter.

- posted by laurie @ 8/05/2003 01:27:00 PM (0) comments


I'm likely helping out with this:New Research for New Media. Looks exciting! This schoolyear is going to be busy, but I think that it's going to be wonderful!

- posted by laurie @ 8/05/2003 11:00:00 AM (0) comments


Nifty find: ~ Julian's RockList Site - a collection of end-of-the-year best of lists and other best of/best ever lists from the 50's through 2003. Lists are drawn from a variety of publications. Via

- posted by laurie @ 8/05/2003 09:21:00 AM (0) comments


I've been looking at university copyright policies recently, and the Cornell University Copyright Policy is an interesting one. I've scanned a bunch of these, but Cornell's makes a big effort, both at the beginning and at the end of tthe document, to establish the intent of the university to support and promote research and teaching activites by protecting the copyrights of students and staff. Have I missed this elsewhere, or is this a particularly interesting rhetorical strategy on the part of Cornell University and their counsel?

- posted by laurie @ 8/05/2003 08:40:00 AM (0) comments

Monday, August 04, 2003


One more article on the copyright front: David versus Goliath: eBay Sellers Take on Corporate America. A woman who sells hadmade items crafted from fabrics bearing copyrighted images (Disney, MLB, M&M/Mars, etc.) has had eBay auctions closed down at the insistence of several of these copyright-owning entities. Disney and other companies have claimed that her works are derivative, that she is using their trademarks without permission, and that she is infringing. She has fought back, however, and won - at least won settlements. Because she is tired of having auctions closed and of being threatened by large corporations, she's now determined to take the most recent challenger - Major League Baseball - through the court system and to get a judgement , not a settlement, in order to set legal precedent. Keep your fingers crossed on this one, folks! These guys made Disney cave, and hopefully they can secure a victory for the little guy!

- posted by laurie @ 8/04/2003 10:55:00 PM (0) comments


In a ZDNet article published this afternoon, Declan McCullagh explains why the "RIAA's scare tactics bound to backfire." McCullagh writes:

But the most daunting obstacle to the recording industry's dogged efforts to rid the Internet of music piracy is a lawsuit that Pacific Bell Internet Services (also known as SBC Communications) filed against the RIAA last week.

It is carefully crafted to portray the RIAA and its contractors who scour P2P networks for infringers as out-of-control juggernauts who care precious little about due process, the rules of the federal court system, Americans' privacy rights and the U.S. Constitution.

You know what? SBC stands a decent chance of winning. If that happens, the case would deal a sore setback to the RIAA and make the dread subpoena process that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) created far less menacing.

McCullagh goes on to point out that SBC is using the same arguments that Verizon had previously deployed with very little success - but - SBC is also using other arguments, including finacial ones. SBC argues that "it and other Internet service providers 'must be compensated for the substantial costs incurred in complying with these subpoenas' and cites rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It says the recipient of a subponea must be 'reasonably compensated' for the work required to prepare a response." McCullagh says this financial blow will hit the RIAA where it counts. It certainly seems as if this could be a great deterrent: the more subpoenas the RIAA issues, the greater the compensation it may be required to dole out to the ISPs affected by large numbers of subpoenas. It certainly sounds as if SBC is on firmer footing than Verizon, but will these legal arguments fly?

I'm also quite pleased to see privacy some up as an important issue in this article: bulk subpoenas that have more or less been issued directly by the RIAA instead of a judicial authority are indeed a threat to the privacy of ISP subscribers. Hundreds, even thousands, of users may have their information turned over to the RIAA, and that volume of requests should frighten ISPs at least a little bit. Individual customer privacy is important, of course, but when one is speaking of the privacy concerns of thousands of users . . . well, given the choice between continuing service with a company that did not respect and value my privacy or obtaining new service with a company that did, I'd choose the new comapny, even if the service was more pricey or not as good. Time spent developing customer loyalty, as well as money thrown at marketing, advertising, and branding, might end up being completely wasted.

McCullagh closes with the following:

Sure, it's temping to beat up on the recording industry, but keep in mind that they're not the ones who enacted the DMCA back in 1998. Congress did. Elected representatives chose the interests of well-connected copyright holders over individual rights to privacy. The Senate approved the DMCA unanimously in October 1998, and the U.S. House of Representatives followed suit by a similar margin a few days later.

If the major record labels win their legal skirmish with SBC, and the DMCA remains intact, the fight will return to Capitol Hill. Let's hope the outcome will be different this time.

Too true, unfortunately. Histories of copyright law show that this state of affairs is really the status quo: the RIAA may not have directly enacted the DMCA, and Disney may not have directly enacted the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extention Act, but they might as well have. Copyright law has historically been negotiated by those in control of the most established media of the day. Newcomers, innovators, and the public have never been well-represented, either in the negotiation process or in the resulting laws.

- posted by laurie @ 8/04/2003 09:55:00 PM (0) comments

Sunday, August 03, 2003


The previous post noted the obviousness of the Pew study conclusion that p2p users don't care about copyright. The following quote, however (and the story from which it came) nicely demonstrates why that is. From infoAnarchy || IP Wars: "What the RIAA has never understood is that while they are correct in their assertion of legal property rights, they have no moral authority. "

Now, arguing from a moral standpoint makes me a bit nervous, but I think the idea behind this quote is dead-on. Copyright owners have the law on their side - especially the large copyright holders that make up the content industry. But to consumers, the laws don't make sense, don't seem realistic or plausible, or, in some cases, just aren't known/understood. This setup is not a good one for anyone, really: all involved parties think they are doing the "right" thing. That's potentially dangerous, in my estimation. Of course, alternatives are being developed: p2p systems that are geared for the trading of legal MP3s only, as well as the Apple music store and other for-fee downloading systems. Ultimately, I'd like to see the free and legal p2p networks profit. This infoAnarchy article describes iRate Radio, an application that is supposed to serve free and legal MP3s and adapt to your tastes by using a rating system. Sounds promising, because the system facilitates the discovery of new (non-major-label) music, a problem with other p2p apps.

- posted by laurie @ 8/03/2003 09:22:00 PM (0) comments


Well, this one's all over the internet: The Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report on downloading/filesharing and copyright on Thursday. For interesting commentary see Slashdot | Pew Study: File Traders Don't Care About Copyright. Slashdotters seem not at all surprised by the finding that p2p users don't care about copyright laws or their possible violation. I'd have to agree.

I have not had a chance to read through the whole report yet, but I'm interested in one of the sections listed in the table of contents: this section heading more or less states that file sharers are as numerous as downloaders. Now, this contradicts other reports I have read (there's an article, Free Riding on Gnutella, over at First Monday, for example, and I've seen the topic of freeloaders and superpeers all over message boards and other discussion spaces).

- posted by laurie @ 8/03/2003 08:46:00 PM (0) comments

Saturday, August 02, 2003


The BBC Brain Sex Quiz says that I think both like a man and a woman, because I did equally well on both types of questions. I find this strange. I also find it interesting that the test asks "What sex is your brain?" and "Do you think like a boy or a girl?" without even bringing up questions of biological determinism and social/cultural influence, though these are mentioned elsewhere on the site. Link via Invisible Shoebox.

Another find (and something I should have found before now): the Twin Cities Babelogue. via InterpretiveAlchemy.

- posted by laurie @ 8/02/2003 08:48:00 PM (0) comments


This discussion forum takes on a subject near and dear to my heart: unionization. The thread began in October of '02, and the most recent post was added yesterday. The range of responses is huge, and there are posts all along the continuum, from "Of COURSE IT should unionize" to "No way in hell." Even more interesting to me, however, is the observation that a number of the arguments against unionization were almost exactly the same as those I heard when working with the GFTEO to unionize graduate students at Penn State. People hold some odd ideas about unions, and often make blanket statements that are huge overgeneralizations. Dues structures, membership options, and other things vary from state to state and from union to union, contract to contract. Treatment of strikes also amuses me: unions don't strike capriciously - especially not these days, when strikes are less effective. In any case, a strike is a last resort: such actions are difficult for all involved parties - workers, unions, and employers. In these IT-related discussions the "professional" argument rears its head as it did (and probably still does) in the grad union campaign: unions are for blue collar workers, argue some. Well, that's patently untrue, and it's also a pretty snobby/elitist position to espouse. While white collar workers may not feel that they share the same issues, especially in the area of wages and raise structure, there are a number of overlaps: job safety and security, clear and fair grievance procedures, and training and professional development are all areas where white collar workers could benefit just as much as blue collar workers. Unions and unions contracts are not necessarily all about the money. At Penn State, wages were one of our least priorities. Clear policies for hiring and firing, clearly written job descriptions, and adequate health care were more important issues, not only for the union, but for the average graduate student, than were pay raises. At the most basic level, unions are about ensuring that workers are respected, not exploited. I don't see how that's ever a bad thing.

- posted by laurie @ 8/02/2003 10:20:00 AM (0) comments

Friday, August 01, 2003


Check out the Selectors | 2004 AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SELECTOR. This isn't the ideal way to choose a presidential candidate to support, but it's nice to have a way to see which candidates share the largest percentage of your views. Link via Kara.

- posted by laurie @ 8/01/2003 11:06:00 AM (0) comments