Two takes on reforming copyright

A few days ago an interesting article was published on PolishLinux.org: "Promise of a post-illegal copy world. Part I: History of Intellectual Property". It's part one of the series of three essays on copyright and intellectual property. The author, "The BlackMan", argues that IP as a concept is false and gives mulpitle arguments to cover that thesis. As radical as it sounds, it's an interesting point of view, probably not more radical than the point of view of organizations like RIAA or MPAA which arue that "fair  use" should be limited as it "hurts their wallets".

Cory Docrorow in his Guardian article Copyright, companies, individuals and news: the rules of the road says — in opposition to TheBlackMan — that copyright is actually the best we can get. Just like democracy it is flawed but we don't have anything better.
And he gives examples of proper fair use, drawing the line between commercial and non-commercial copying:

While there's a lot of grey area between "commercial" and "non-commercial", there are also some bright lines. Newspapers

should have to pay photographers for stock images; kids working on school reports (and other non-commercial users) should be able to clip images and use them for without negotiating a rights agreement with a copyright holder.

He also comes up with the idea of "accidental copying":

Incidental use isn't infringement. If […] photo includes a blowing piece of trash bearing a copyrighted work (say, a copy of the Independent), [the author] should still be allowed to sell and publish his photo without the Independent's permission. Incidental copying includes (for example), Google copying every page on the web in order to create an index of the words on those pages.

The general idea is that copying should be allowed if it does not "displace any revenue for the rightsholder". The hard part is how to prove it.

I recommend reading both texts, the ideological one of TheBlackMan and the practical one by Doctorow. They both form an interesting opposition to the "official line".

Ubuntu 9.10 Quick Setup Script

This is for my own purpose, to make it easy to set up Ubuntu next time. All the software I use every day, in a nice easy-to-copy-and-paste install script.

— set up the repositories
sudo wget http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/$(lsb_release -cs).list –output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list
sudo aptitude update && sudo aptitude install medibuntu-keyring && sudo aptitude update
sudo update-apt-xapian-index

— multimedia stuff and firefox plugins
sudo aptitude install flashplugin-nonfree dvdrip ttf-mscorefonts-installer gtkpod-aac mplayer mozilla-mplayer xchat-gnome helix-player mozilla-helix-player acroread non-free-codecs ubuntu-restricted-extras libdvdcss2 skype vlc vlc-plugin-pulse gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad-multiverse gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly-multiverse gstreamer0.10-alsa gstreamer0.10-plugins-base gstreamer0.10-plugins-base-apps sun-java6-bin sun-java6-fonts sun-java6-jdk sun-java6-jre sun-java6-plugin flashplugin-nonfree-extrasound

— my favorite every-day-use software
sudo aptitude install vim mc psi qca-tls xchat gqview mtpaint htop powertop gftp

— nautilus helpers
sudo aptitude install nautilus-image-converter nautilus-open-terminal

— some nice non-every-day-use apps
sudo aptitude install googleearth azureus audacity

— python/django/psql environment for developing filmaster.com
sudo aptitude install postgresql-8.4 python2.6 python-tz python-openid python-epydoc python-imdbpy csstidy python-geoip python-psycopg2

— TODOs: (download from websites)
skype, opera, chrome browser

This should be enough to get going….

Net Censorship in Poland: Over 75 thousands of people protest against the government decision to filter the Internet

This article is a reprint from polishlinux: http://polishlinux.org/poland/polish-internet-users-against-the-censorship-of-the-net/

Polish government wants to enforce Internet filtering to eliminate online gambling and child pornography. Everything for the benefit of our children, as this is the argument which is hard to stay against.

However, a notable group of Polish lawyers, journalists, academics, enterpreneurs, politicians and bloggers think otherwise and signed a letter (written by myself, btw) to President of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, asking him to turn the law down (in Polish legal system, president has the right to do this, but the parliament can then overcome president’s opposition if 2/3 of the delegates vote for it).

Here is the translation of the letter:

Dear Mr President!

We are addressing You to raise issue crucial for every Polish citizen using Internet. By pushing ahead so called ‘Anti-Gambling Law’ government of Donald Tusk is proposing, in the name of fight against gambling, to claim the right for filtering of all content available on-line. The Art.179a of Telecommunication Law, introducing ‘Registry of Banned Websites and Services’ is supposed to allow that.

It is a very dangerous idea which contradicts the interest of citizens. The statement that Internet should be governed by the same law as that referring to any other part of public space might be valid, however realisation of the above postulate has nothing to do with the constitutional right to freedom of expression. The planned changes in law are simply new way of censorship, very well known to You from previous system. Similar regulations allowing governments unrestricted filtering of content available for citizens are currently in place only in few countries of the world. Amongst those You will find for instance Iran and China. Do we really want Poland to join them?

Internet is a public space enabling expression and exchange of opinions. Thus the top to down filtering of Internet can be only compared to closing citizens mouths before they even start to speak up. It is something that even George Orwell did not imagine in his famous novel “1984″ about vision of totalitarian state.

What can be done towards following the law on the Internet then? Exactly the same as in case of breach of law related to rights of fellow citizens! Those who brake the law need to be simply prosecuted. If a website contains materials banned by law (including treacherous child pornography or content promoting Nazism or hate), we have appropriate mechanisms in place to punish those who are responsible for them. It is more difficult then the top to down filtering, as it requires separate analysis of each case. However does it mean, that for this very reason we should sacrifice our freedom of speech?

In May on the website stopcenzurze.wikidot.com we have collected 75.000 confirmed signatures against possibility of Internet censorship in European Union. No one really expected at that point of time that similar problem might occur in our own homeland.

We hope that having in consideration freedom as major value in a democratic state, You will decide to veto this disadvantageous for citizens proposal.

With regards,

Borys Musielak, creator of Grupa Jakilinux, author of this letter

And the undersigned [list of Polish lawyers, journalists, academics, enterpreneurs, politicians and bloggers here]

(big thanks to Sylwia Presley for the translation!)

Everyone is welcome to sign the petition opposing net neutrality violating law. We already have 75 thousands of signatures and counting!

You can also join the “Stop Cenzurze” group on Facebook to show your stance.

It’s a very important moment for Polish Internet users and for the whole European Union as Poland would be the first country after the passing of the Telekom Package that actually uses the opportunity to censor the Internet. The only other nation in Europe (not EU though) that has similar law is totalitarian Belarus.

Borys Musielak
E-mail: borys@musielak.eu
Phone: +447972761605 (UK mobile)

Filmaster on Social Media Week, Berlin

On February 1st I'll be visiting Berlin to give a 15-minutes talk about Filmaster (http://filmaster.com), a social network for film buffs with personalized recommendations, that I created with Adam Zieliński.

Media_httpstatic2flak_ziejc

Here is how the organizers present this meeting: 

"In the context of Social Media Week we're hosting a special feature of "web monday", the "polish web monday": Polish start-ups present themselfes and their projects. The 15 minute long presentations open up a new perspective on the social media scene in Poland and prepare the ground for subsequent discussions, exchange and mutual inspiration. "web monday" – brings together developers, founders, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, web pioneers, blogger, podcaster, designer and others interested in web 2.0 in the broadest sense."

Except from me presenting Filmaster, there will be a few of other Polish startups presenting during the event:  AdTaily.com (Julia Krysztofiak-Szopa), Humanway.com and Flaker.pl (Wiktor Schmidt) and Gramol.pl (Rafal Bugajski).

You can fine more details about the event at http://smw-berlin.sched.org/

See you in Berlin!

Why I hate Ubuntu? The upgrade nightmare…

I've been an Ubuntu user since 4.10. Yep, that's over 5 years ago. Upgrading gradually from version to version I have never changed the distribution ever since.

Am I happy with the system? Hell no!

Ubuntu is great for a new user. It's easy, it sets you up in minutes, your hardware usually works, whether a laptop or a desktop computer. I found it the easiest distro to set up as I mostly didn't have to do anything. I wrote about Ubuntu a few times on polishlinux.org:
http://polishlinux.org/linux/ubuntu/ubuntu-linux-vs-windows-vista-the-desktop-battle/
http://polishlinux.org/linux/ubuntu/ubuntu-710-gutsy-gibbon-critical-review/
http://polishlinux.org/linux/ubuntu/whats-new-in-ubuntu-810/

So what has changed? Nothing has changed. It's still a breeze to set up. It still works fantastic out of the box. I never had to do all that boring stuff I was forced to do after installing a Windows system — getting all the drivers, spending hours installing software, etc. Ubuntu has it all in a package and after some minor tweaking it's ready to go.

The nightmare starts when you try an upgrade.

Ubuntu is a 18-months cycle distro. Every year and a half a new version arrives and you are forced to uprade if you want to keep being up to date with the software. It's always tempting to stay with the current release but it's almost impossible – backports are a pain to use and mess up your system and there is always at least one single app that you need in the latest version that justify the upgrade.

And Ubuntu upgrades simply don't work. They don't. Not a single upgrade of any Ubuntu system ever worked for me.
Either suspend or hibernate stops working.
Or video card forgets how to switch to the console mode and back to gui.
Or sound support crashes.
Or wireless settings get messep up and you no longer can connect to your WPA network or any network at all except for manual config editing.
Or brightness cannot be adjusted anymore.
Or systems starts being stupidly slow and you don't know why.

Whatever your current reason is, it always turns out to come down to the choice between:
– searching through hundreds of web forums to find the reasons why your stuff is now broken
– reinstalling the system from scratch to find out it actually works, but only on a clean install.

I'm choosing the latter option. It's more convenient. It's highly inconvenient but still better than spending your weekend trying to hack your system. I was doing that in college for fun – recompiling Linux kernels, installing nasty software, getting the latest and greatest stuff that almost never worked as it should but it was so fun to use anyway. Now I don't have the time for that anymore. I want a system that works and I want it now.

So here I am. Reinstalling Ubuntu 9.10 from scratch yet one more time. It was the suspend and the brightness and the video on my Thinkpad X61s this time. It will be something else next time.

Am I going to quit using Ubuntu or Linux whatsoever? Nope. I'm too used to the Linux way of doing things to change now. But I can understand why no one sane really stays with Linux for a long time. It's a pain. And after more than 10 years of using it, it's still a pain with no prospect of getting any better.

Or perhaps I'm just unlucky.

rss