Meeting Cory Doctorow in Zurich

7. December, 2011

By pure chance, I learned yesterday that Cory Doctorow is in Zurich for a talk about “The Politics of Copyright and the New Cultural Economy” – a topic that I’m very interested in. Also, since I write like him, I of course had to attend 😉 (see for yourself: Little Brother by him and Haul by me). The event was organised by Digitale Allmend.

Cory introduced his three laws:

  1. Anytime someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you and doesn’t give you the key, the lock is not there for your benefit.
  2. Fame doesn’t guarantee fortune, but no one gets rich from being unknown.
  3. Information doesn’t want to be free, people do.


In his talk, he mentioned the sequence which art takes from the creator to the audience: Artist -> investor -> DRM provider -> audience. The interesting part is that the DRM provider controls the process and how much money goes where – despite the fact that they are most remote from the source. Think Apple: Apple controls how much money they get from products sold via iTunes plus they control what gets sold at all. There was a person in the audience who wrote a little unicorn app that was rejected by Apple for “not being funny enough.”

In a nutshell, Apple controls how much money the creators get by granting or denying access to their marketplace plus they control the tax. If you sell eBooks via Amazon, your book is “protected” by DRM even if you don’t want that. As a creator, the copyright gives me extensive rights over my work but that power is taken away from me from people who are not creative at all and for dubious reasons.

That’s like selling books that you can only put in certain shelves. No reader would accept that you can put Amazon books only on IKEA shelves. It also creates in-locking for creators. No consumer is going to buy a different device if you switch the DRM provider. Which means that if you buy eBooks by Amazon, you’ll never buy them from anyone else – simply because that would mean to have to manage two libraries which you can’t mix. If you produce a TV series, there is no way to switch the vendor between episode 7 and 8 – viewers would go ballistic! If you buy from Amazon and Apple, there is no way to see all your books at the same time. See Cory’s first law.

What makes the current DRM-affine laws so insidious is that they make tools illegal that can potentially be used to circumvent DRM. Since that works so well, DRM providers (by using pawns like the MPAA and the RIAA) tries to broaden their grip on all of us by doing the same on the Internet. If SOPA is turned into law in a few days (and it probably will even though everyone with half a brain is strongly opposed to it), any tool that could be used to circumvent the SOPA censorship is illegal.

That would include “hacker” tools like Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and any other browser with a location bar. Because all of them allow to type in an IP address in the location bar thus bypassing the DNS filtering that SOPA requires.

Also this blog will be shut down because I write about copyright and that might mean that I potentially could add a link to a “pirate site” in one of my blog posts. At the same time, my PayPal account will be closed – if it wasn’t closed long before that because PayPal will want to close it proactively to prevent them being sued for supporting criminal activities. I’ll know that this has happened when I can’t access my blog/PayPal account anymore – there is no pre-warning, no legal counsel, no way to prevent this from happening. Any big company in the US doesn’t like what I write, I’m done for. Does that sound more like “justice” or more like “censorship” to you?

In the US, two students were sued by the RIAA for developing a search engine for campus LANs because the same search engine could be used to find media files in the LAN, too. Since developing a new Google isn’t illegal, the RIAA tried to blackmail them into stopping. They were pretty sure that they’d find illegal files in the computers of the two students. How did they know? The students were male, 17 and had access to the Internet.

See all this in the light of a prediction that Cory made: Copying bits is only ever going to become more simple.

Think of it: Reading a book on your kindle means copying bits many, many times. First, they are copied from Amazon’s storage into the RAM of some server. Then into various CPU caches, CPU registers, buffers of network drivers, hardware registers of Ethernet chips, switches, routers, mobile phone access points, into the memory of your Kindle. As you open the book, the bits are copied, decoded (= copied many times + manipulated with complex mathematics), copied again into CPU caches and registers, into the frame buffer of a display device.

Between buying a book at Amazon and reading it, the book has been copied several hundred times. And every time you read it, at least four new copies are made. True, most of those copies are quickly deleted but they are made nonetheless.

On top of that, everything that we will do tomorrow will require the Internet. Therefore, the “three strikes” idea, as alluring it might seem, has the potential to destroy a human life. Research shows that having an Internet connection substantially improves the situation of poor families (TODO I’ll post a link as soon as I find one). Of course, anyone with enough money could cut them off any time they like just by suggesting that one of them might be a “pirate” – no proof necessary with the new laws. What is worth more? A human life or the profits of a DRM provider?

Cory brought a great example to drive the point home: Most successful technologies are both simple and general purpose. Think of a wheel. Imagine someone comes along and says: “Well, I like the idea but some villain could attach the wheels to a car and drive away from a crime. Can’t you make a wheel which prevents that?”

No one would take this guy seriously.

Then, we have the PC. It’s also general purpose but at the same time, it’s complex. So it seems like you could create a PC which stops you when you do something naughty. And it’s true. You can try that but as always, there is a price to pay. If want to get an idea of this price, look at China, Yemen or Nazi Germany. It’s always the same psychological pattern.

Human catastrophes started with the urge to “protect your own home country.” As Philip Zimbardo showed in his great book “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil“, all evil starts with someone trying desperately to do good without realizing when they start to do harm. They start with pressure and when that doesn’t work (and it won’t), they try to increase the pressure. Eventually, torture and death seem OK.

The people behind SOPA and similar efforts just want our best. At the same time, they are blind to the damage they cause. On top of that, there are people involved who aren’t responsible for the well being of the general public. Their main concern is (as per their work contract) to make as much profit as possible. Which makes sense for them and their investors.

But not for the 99%.

Haul 1.23 Window Outside

15. August, 2010

I’ve just uploaded scene 1.23. It’s been a time since the last scene for two reasons: 1. I was busy with my real life and 2. I don’t get any feedback here, so I’m not encouraged to spend much time to continue the story.

So please post a comment if you like the story (and especially you don’t like it!)

1.23 Window Outside – The tour of the ship starts with a fighter hangar.

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Ich habe gerade Szene 1.23 hochgeladen. Seit der letzten Szene ist viel Zeit vergangen, was vor allem an zwei GrĂŒnden liegt: 1. Ich war ziemlich beschĂ€ftigt und 2. bekomme ich hier kein Feedback, ob das ĂŒberhaupt jemanden interessiert, daher spĂŒre ich keine Grund viel Zeit dafĂŒr aufzuwenden, die Geschichte fortzusetzen.

Also poste bitte einen Kommentar, wenn dir die Geschichte gefÀllt (und vor allem, wenn sie dir nicht gefÀllt!)

1.23 Aussenfenster – Die FĂŒhrung beginnt in einem Hangar fĂŒr KampfjĂ€ger.


Haul 1.22 Tour de Ship

20. June, 2010

I’ve just uploaded scene 1.22 plus improved the last scene a bit. Please post a comment if you like the story (and especially you don’t like it!)

1.22 Tour de Ship – While Rarrarar tries to sell the idea of giving the Rabits a tour of the ship, the Rabit make their plans.

1.21 Game, Anyone? – The first Rabit dragged away is Forne Rako.

If you’ve already read the last scene, here is the change:

‘Get a grip, Forne!’ he told himself. ‘This might be our only chance to get a look beyond these doors! And you’re already dead, remember?’ He shot a quick glance at Vance, who nodded encouragingly. To know a friend was close helped Forne a lot.

* * *

She activated a subroutine of her implant to maintain her clear head because all this was starting to wear her nerves thin. To be able to meditate about this aspect later on, she added a comment to the log about her thoughts. That helped her to focus in the current situation. While she did that, the second half of her consciousness kept an eye on the forum which was tracking their progress. Almost 100 Haul were watching them over the net, posting comments and discussing observations.

Several Haul from Warr‘s department were already busy to compress the text into cross-referenced reports. She was glad for the help, this part of the work always took her ages. With the new support, she could concentrate on reading and adding her own scent to everything that occurred to her.

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Ich habe gerade Szene 1.22 hochgeladen und die letzte Szene verbessert. Bitte poste einen Kommentar, wenn dir die Geschichte gefÀllt (und vor allem, wenn sie dir nicht gefÀllt!)

1.22 SchiffsfĂŒhrung – WĂ€hrend Rarrarar dem KapitĂ€n die Idee einer SchiffsfĂŒhrung schmackhaft macht, schmieden die Rabit PlĂ€ne.

1.21 Will jemand spielen? – Als die Haul kommen, um den ersten Rabit zu holen, trifft es Forne Rako.

Wenn du die letzte Szene schon gelesen hast, dann ist hier die Änderung:

‘Reiss dich zusammen, Forne!’ sagte er sich. ‘Das könnte unsere beste Chance sein einen Blick auf die andere Seite zu werfen! Und vergiss nicht: Du bist bereits tot, schon vergessen?’ Er warf Vance einen raschen Blick zu und dieser nickte ermutigend. Zu wissen, dass ein Freund in der NĂ€he war, half Forne sehr.

* * *

Um sich zu entlasten, startete sie eine Zusatzfunktion ihres Implantats, die ihr helfen wĂŒrde einen klaren Kopf zu bewahren. ZusĂ€tzlich speicherte sie ihre Gedanken in einem Kommentar ab, damit sie spĂ€ter darĂŒber meditieren konnte. Dies half ihr sich auf die Gegenwart zu konzentrieren. WĂ€hrenddessen behielt sie mit der zweiten HĂ€lfte ihres Bewusstseins das Forum im Auge, in dem ihre Situation diskutiert wurde. Knapp 100 Haul beobachteten sie ĂŒber das Netz, schrieben kommentare und diskutierten Beobachtungen.

Mehrere Haul aus Warr‘s Abteilung waren bereits damit beschĂ€ftigt die Informationen in Berichte mit Kreuzreferenzen zu verdichten. Sie war froh ĂŒber die Hilfe; dieser Teil ihrer Arbeit nahm immer viel Zeit in Anspruch. Mit der neuen UnterstĂŒtzung konnte sie sich auf das Lesen konzentrieren und ihren Geruch nur noch dann hinzufĂŒgen, wenn ihr etwas auffiel.


Haul 1.21 Game Anyone?

14. June, 2010

Scene 1.21 is now ready for you. It’s a long one, so I hope that makes up for the long wait. Don’t forget to post a comment if you like the story (and you must post a comment if you don’t like it!)

1.21 Game, Anyone? – The first Rabit dragged away is Forne Rako.

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Szene 1.21 ist nun bereit fĂŒr euch. Sie ist ziemlich lang, was fĂŒr die Wartezeit entschĂ€digen sollte. Vergiss nicht einen Kommentar zu posten, wenn dir die Geschichte gefĂ€llt (und wenn sie dir nicht gefĂ€llt, dann musst du einen Kommentar posten!)

1.21 Will jemand spielen? – Als die Haul kommen, um den ersten Rabit zu holen, trifft es Forne Rako.


Haul 1.20 Waiting Torture

26. May, 2010

Finally I managed to post the next scene. Sorry again for the delay but RL took its toll. Don’t forget to post a comment if you like the story (and you must post a comment if you don’t like it!)

1.20 Waiting Torture – To his surprise, Forne Rako finds himself alive. He’s not so sure how happy he should feel about it.

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Endlich habe ich es geschafft die nÀchste Szene hochzuladen. Vergiss nicht einen Kommentar zu posten, wenn dir die Geschichte gefÀllt (und wenn sie dir nicht gefÀllt, dann musst du einen Kommentar posten!)

1.20 Wartefolter – Zu seiner Überraschung stellt Forne Rako fest, dass er noch lebt. Er ist aber nicht sicher, wie glĂŒcklich er darĂŒber sein sollte.


Next scene of Haul on hold

24. May, 2010

Haven’t been able to post the next two scenes of Haul because of RL. Working on it.

Haul 1.18 Chances and 1.19 Hero’s Death

9. May, 2010

Two more scenes from chapter 1 are ready. Don’t forget to post a comment if you like the story (and you must post a comment if you don’t like it!)

1.18 Chances – Rarrarar asks Raor to translate Forne’s words.

1.19 Hero’s Death – Raor works on the translation of Forne’s words.

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Zwei weitere Szenen aus Kapitel 1 sind online. Vergiss nicht einen Kommentar zu posten, wenn dir die Geschichte gefÀllt (und wenn sie dir nicht gefÀllt, dann musst du einen Kommentar posten!)

1.18 Chancen – Rarrarar bittet Raor die Worte von Forne zu ĂŒbersetzen.

1.19 Heldentod – Raor arbeitet an der Übersetzung der Worte von Forne.