Dekan's Solace


My Writings

Surviving in the Age of Free, Open Information
How have the means of surviving that are closely tied with information changing in the Information Age?
Why I Like Unix
An excerpt of an email response I sent to my dad, after he mentioned he was reading an article compaing the cost of Linux vs. Windows. I talk about why cost is a minor factor in the decision for me; I like the programmability and toolbox of unix.

Recently RedHat's Open Source advocacy effort, Open Source Now, sent out a notice about concerns it has over the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act ( UCITA). Three issues were of primary concern about the UCITA:

  • Recognition of open source by reference and or definition.
  • Exemption of open source software from mandatory warranties.
  • Exceptions to permit reverse engineering of software.

What follows is what I submitted to RedHat, expressing my views on these issues.

Why HTML email is a Good Thing

HTML email gets a bad wrap. When most people think of HTML email, they associate it with spam, ugly messages, and security vulnerabilities. However, properly done, this is now what HTML provides; it provides a rich set of abilities to mark text with meaning and structure.

Other Reading

John Gilmore: What's Wrong with Content Protection
[W]e have invented the technology to eliminate scarcity, but we are deliberately throwing it away to benefit those who profit from scarcity … I think we should embrace the era of plenty and work out how to mutually live in it.
Against Intellectual Property

There is a strong case for opposing intellectual property. Among other things, it often retards innovation and exploits Third World peoples. Most of the usual arguments for intellectual property do not hold up under scrutiny. In particular, the metaphor of the marketplace of ideas provides no justification for ownership of ideas. The alternative to intellectual property is that intellectual products not be owned, as in the case of everyday language. Strategies against intellectual property include civil disobedience, promotion of non-owned information, and fostering of a more cooperative society.

Thomas Jefferson, The DMCA, Copyright, Fair Use, et al.

I felt the need with all the horrible rights violations going recently to highlight Thomas Jefferson's views on copyright. In the writing to ensue, there will be much opinion and conjecture surrounded by a more valued and respected sets of opinions by none other than Thomas Jefferson. Without a doubt, TJ has already covered most of what gets rehashed, particularly when it comes to fair use and the DMCA.

Copy Protection Is a Crime (added: 2003-05-29)

…against humanity. Society is based on bending the rules.

…[W]e all understand that before the law there's leeway - the true bedrock of human relationships. Sure, we rely on rules to decide the hard cases, but the rest of the time we cut one another a whole lot of slack. We have to. That's the only way we humans can manage to share a world. Otherwise, we'd be at one another's throats all the time—or, more exactly, our lawyers would be at each other's throats.

World of Ends (added: 2003-03-12)
What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else.
Letter from David H. Lynch to Steve Gillmor, on moral and philosophical problems with copyright and patents

Short, concise, and Very quotable letter, including,

Advancing technology does not change what is right or what is wrong. It does not convert good law to bad. It just increases the contrast and makes it more obvious that a lot of seemingly good ideas that we have made into law are not really such good ideas after all.

Letter: Perúvian Congressman Dr. Nuñez, to Microsoft
Dr. Edgar David Villanueva Nuñez, Congressman of the Republica of Perú, writes to the General Manager of Microsoft, Perú, about the "Free Software in Public Administration" bill, which would require all Perúvian government offices to use free software.
Anarchism Triumphant

The spread of the Linux operating system kernel has directed attention at the free software movement. This paper shows why free software, far from being a marginal participant in the commercial software market, is the vital first step in the withering away of the intellectual property system.

Free Culture
Lawrence Lessig's keynote at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention 2002. An MP3 version is available also. In his address before a packed house at the Open Source Convention, Lawrence Lessig challenges the open source audience to get more involved in the political process.
A Contrarian View of Open Source
Bruce Sterling's speech at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention 2002. Poetic.
Systems of Scarcity
This essay talks about how copyright is 'extra' law which does not compare with our 'normal' laws, which are about preserving fundamental freedom. Copyright is about providing incentive, and may have outlived its usefulness.
Olympus Ascending: Thoughts on the Free Redistribution of Digital Content

This essay explores the ways in which artists can make money on digital content (music recordings, home video, electronic texts, etc.) which is freely re-distributable. I feel that the bandwidth explosion will make this a crucially important issue relatively soon (within the next 20 years or so), in that it will become impossible to do business any other way.

Why Open Content Matters

In this article, I'll argue that the open contentmovement— a movement to release written documents with a license similar to the GNU General Public License (GPL)— is beginning to stir for precisely the same reasons that launched the Free Software movement in the 1980s: the realization that a for-profit industry was about to lock up indispensable public knowledge and, in so doing, pose a grave threat to the advancement of knowledge and human welfare. This time, the stakes are, if anything, even greater.

A Musician's Take on File Sharing, DRM, and Copyleft Licensing

We as musicians are tired of being subject to the whims of middlemen, who take a greater cut from our earnings than is reasonable. Like the medieval peasants, we are seeking change and revolution; but when musicians revolt, they do so with creative flair. We are exploring solutions such as mediAgora and copyleft licensing as a means by which we can return the balance of power to where it rightly belongs, with those who create the music.

Innovation, Regulation, and The Internet
How are innovation and regulation tied to the growth of the Internet?
Patently Absurd
Once the province of a nuts-and-bolts world, patents are now being applied to thoughts and ideas in cyberspace. It's a ridiculous phenomenon and a nightmare for e-commerce.
The Binary Nature of Freedom

There are subtle lessons about freedom in the GPL, but you'll never find them by just reading the license. Instead, you'll have to read between the lines (so to speak) and try to see what can't be seen. Furthermore, these lessons, despite being deceptively simple, could have a profound impact on human freedom if only people understood them. In a sense, software freedom can be seen as a metaphor for human freedom.

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire
A Slashdotcomment: …One of the factors that led to the fall of the United States of America and the coming of the Second Dark Age was a stifling of intellectual progress by the transnational corporations of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
What is National Security?
A short Kuro5hincomment:

At what point does National Security take precedence over personal freedom?What exactly is national security? Is that the security of a regime? … I think personal freedom is important, but I really don't understand why you think national security is important.

The Unacceptable Face of Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it.
The Elements Of Style: UNIX As Literature
If there's nothing different about UNIX people, how come so many were liberal-arts majors? It's the love of words that makes UNIX stand out.
Philosophies of the GNU Project
What motivates the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project to promote free software?
Perl, the First Postmodern Computer Language
Larry Wall, creator of Perl, talks about why Perl and Linux have both been so successful.
The Halloween Documents
In the last week of October 1998, a confidential Microsoft memorandum on Redmond's strategy against Linuxand Open Source softwarewas leaked…
Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century, Chapter 9: Kooks and Terrorists
In a book published in January 2001, Simson Garfinkel talks about the threats posed by modern terrorists, and the impact of countermeasures.


the future of ideas: the fate of the commons in a connected world, by Lawrence Lessig

In The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig explains how the Internet revolution has produced a counterrevolution of devastating power and effect. The explosion of innovation we have seen in the environment of the Internet was not conjured from some new, previously unimagined technological magic; instead, it came from an ideal as old as the nation. Creativity flourished there because the Internet protected an innovation commons. The Internet's very design built a neutral platform upon which the widest range of creators could experiment. The legal architecture surrounding it protected this free space so that culture and information-the ideas of our era-could flow freely and inspire an unprecedented breadth of expression. But this structural design is changing-both legally and technically

Digital Copyright, by Jessica Litman

Now that technology permits the dissemination of information on a pay-per-view basis, we've seen the emergence of new way of thinking about copyright: Copyright is now seen as a tool for copyright owners to use to extract all the potential commercial value from works of authorship, even if that means that uses that have long been deemed legal are now brought within the copyright owner's control. In 1998, copyright owners persuaded Congress to enhance their rights with a sheaf of new legal and technological controls. Armed with those copyright improvements, copyright lawyers began a concerted campaign to remodel cyberspace into a digital multiplex and shopping mall for copyright-protected material. The outcome of that effort is still uncertain. If current trends continue unabated, however, we are likely to experience a violent collision between our expectations of freedom of expression and the enhanced copyright law.

I have select quotesfrom these books as well.