Respect Copyrights owned by our Entertainment Overlords! is a site put together by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) to combat piracy of movies on the Internet. Now, I respect people’s rights to attach whatever non-human-rights-infringing conditions they like on stuff they produce, but I’m just astonished by the out-and-out fear-mongering and bald-faced lies that pervade this site’s content. I really want to give these people some credit, but I can’t, thanks to information like this: (MPAA’s content in bold)

Have you ever had your computer crash and had to replace it or reinstall all the files due to a virus or other such problem?

The nature of “peer-to-peer” file sharing sites like eDonkey, Gnutella, KaZaA, etc., open your computer to destructive viruses and worms and annoying pop-ups.
I don’t understand!? I’ve never used peer-to-peer filesharing, and yet my computer still suffers from destructive viruses, mostly sent through chat applications such as AIM. Hang on a second… isn’t AIM owned by Time-Warner, the largest media company in the world? And a significant player in the MPAA?! I’m confused!

Common Viruses:
Apher, Benjamin, Backdoor, Duload, Fizzer, Hantner, Klez, Neuer, Nimda, Livra and Magic Eightball

Wow, and I thought they were just second-rate German techno groups.

You also become a distribution source for illegal downloading of movies, music and more, which makes you just as responsible if you had downloaded the movie yourself.
Note clever use of the word “responsible” rather than “liable”? There is no legal basis for this claim (at least where I live, in Australia). If software on your computer downloads information without your knowledge or consent, you cannot be held liable. This is why freenet is such a damn good idea.

Network users have a back door to your hard drive while you’re online, thereby seeing your personal, private information, such as bank records, social security number, etc.
Wow, this is just an out-and-out lie. What network users can see on your computer is entirely limited by the p2p application(s) you are using, and typically you must manually select the locations on your computer that are accessible. This doesn’t preclude the possibility that there are security holes and back doors in the application, but it’s certainly not limited to the domain of p2p. The number of security vulnerabilities found in various versions of Windows is testament to this.

Is the theft of your personal information worth the free movie?
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Linking p2p applications to the theft of personal information is like linking owning a Holden Monaro to being run off the road. Sure, you’re kind of asking for it, but there’s nothing innately special about that car that makes it the only target. They might as well say “Is having your computer send spurious virus-laden e-mails to your friends and co-workers worth using Microsoft Word, Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Update, AIM, MSN Messenger, IIS, or Internet Explorer?”.

Also, I don’t want to get petty on their asses, but whoever designed the site should be shot: what’s with the tiny flash-based text window? Do they really have so little meaningful content that it has to be presented like this? I felt like a mid-90’s Uni computer lab pervert, scrolling around pictures of hot pussy in a little-bitty window.

Also, if you’re going to blatantly promote Time-Warner films, try spell-checking your blurbs.

And straighten that toupee!

Flash Mobs

Hot on the heels of my MiniRant(tm) about the Internet and empowering Joe User, I have just discovered Flash Mobs. The very embodiment of spontaneous and overwhelming group action powered by the ‘net, these things sound like a lot of fun.

The idea is that someone suggests a crazy thing for a crowd to do (usually on their ‘blog). Then, a whole bunch of people appear at the agreed time and place and just _do_ it. For example (from

A flash mob went down today in Rome, as an estimated 100 to 300 people flooded a books and music megastore. They asked employees for nonexistent books. They broke into a round of spontaneous applause. Then they dispersed.

The ‘net rules. For more tasty Flash Mob action, check out Satan’s Laundromat.

I really hope this is the start of something big.

Conservatism, Linux and the ‘Net

If you think Linux geeks make too much of a big deal over what operating system people use, this article might change your mind. It manages to weave together cross-media ownership, spectrum licensing, Linux and the Internet in a way that is not just cohesive, but frightening.

The author doesn’t say much that is new to the tech community, but draws together a number of separate threads that have a powerful cumulative effect. Since the dot-com crunch it has become all-too-easy to forget the potential we once saw in the ‘net, as a totally free and open marketplace of ideas, products and raw information, with all the power concentrated at the edges, in the hands of the general public. Anyone could make a server, plug it in, and run their own online store.

Recent moves by the major media players, who have blindly swallowed most of the information ecosystem in the US, indicate that they are gradually shifting the tide back to the one-way-pipe days of TV and radio. At the same time, they are attempting to return copyright law to something like that of the medieval Stationers’ Company, which for a time controlled almost all printing and copyrights in England. They seem to have conveniently turned their backs on the very laws and free market that spawned them in the first place.

Linux is mentioned mostly as a positive result of the new, empowering, Internet-driven market place, even while SCO tries to drive back its adoption through patents and contracts for technologies that it never developed, and in all likelihood doesn’t truly own. It is a striking example of the clash between the the ‘net as a level playing field, and the relatively new notion of “Intellectual Property”, as practised by traditional companies attempting to stem the new wave of openness. To an extent, I sympathise with companies like SCO – they’ve had their business model whipped out from under them. However, in the long run, I strongly believe projects such as Linux will be of benefit to the IT industry and society as a whole, by providing a ubiquitous set of basic services on top of which applications can be built, without restricting use to those with the cash to pay for commercial equivalents – provided the ‘net stays free enough for development to continue.

Anyway, you should read it if you care about keeping the ‘net free 🙂

Insanity, thy name is IBM

I’m a nerd.

No, I’m not sure you understand. I’m a truly massive nerd.

This is why when I read that IBM has written some office applications (i.e. Word Processor, Spreadsheet etc) using only cross-platform DHTML, I fell off my chair crying with laughter.

Check it out: The future, as seen from 1996. Try that with Netscape Gold 3.0.

It was a dark and stormy night…

In a recent post, Matt‘s blog wisely pointed us to the Bulwer-Lytton Awards, granted to the most “impressive” openings to imaginary novels. I loved this one:

Colin grabbed the switchgear and slammed the spritely Vauxhall Vixen into a lower gear as he screamed through the roundabout heading toward the familiar pink rowhouse in Puking-On-The-Wold, his mind filled with the image of his comely Olive, dressed in some lacy underthing, waiting on the couch with only a smile and a cucumber sandwich, hoping that his lunch hour would provide sufficient time for both a naughty little romp and a digestive biscuit.

It reminds me of everything my Dad would love in a novel. If he ever read them.