Last night I went to listen to Cory Doctorow in the Muhka, Museum of Contemporary Arts, in Antwerp. I had a great time there. I arrived a bit early so I had the chance to talk a bit with Cory before he started his speech, because he sat right in front of me. The ice was quickly broken because one of my internet buddies and guides, Randy Charles Morin, the coding monkey behind R|Mail and the KBCafe Network and a lot of other stuff, and Cory used to work together on projects as OpenCola and DudeCheckThisOut. The world is a small place when people have the internet :)
After some smalltalk, I asked Cory about his function in the EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Cory said he had retired from the organization and is no longer an active member since january 1st this year. So then I asked about the broadcast flag and about the possiblility that a higher court in the US may still overturn the ruling that the FCC had exceeded its authority in creating a rule that said hardware must “actively thwart” piracy. Cory believes very much common sense will be strong enough, if the public is aware of the broadcast flags’ content, to overrule the request of organizations as the FCC.
Cory says that the thing that worries him about television is that “in the rubric of making the world safe for television and television safe for the world, we’re endangering some of the fundamental liberties that we enjoy. We’re about to sell out the future of technology, the internet, free speech, due process and competition in order to rescue television.” That indeed is a deadly and dangerous place to be in. Yesterday Cory wanted to talk about some of the ways that’s happening, and how we, as consumers of media or viewers of television can fight back.
Let’s tune in for the first twenty minutes of his speech :
“What this is all about isn’t copyright per se, although it’s often characterized as ‘copyright proctection’ or ‘a copyright issue’. This is about a rewriting of a copyright bargain to encompass areas that have never been countenanced in copyright law. To cover areas of private use and of social contract that have never been within the rights of an author to determine or to set.”
This is a mechanism for bootstrapping a monopoly over who gets to copy one’s works into a monopoly over who gets to design and deploy technologies capable of copying one’s works and which features those technologies will be allowed to have in the end.
The thing that worries me most about all of this is the impact that it’s going to have on free and open source software. Free and open source software is like the proprietary software you’ve probably encountered like Microsoft Windows, Apple’s mail client, the early versions of Netscape and so on. Those technologies are like free and open source software but the difference between them and open source software is that in the case of free and open source software the code necessary to make those programs is published. And it’s published under a license that allows anyone else to take that code and modify it, and understand it and improve upon it and publish it again. Now if that sounds familiar, it’s because of the thing that bootstrapped us out of the dark ages and got us the enlightenment.
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