OT: Globe OpEd From Salon’s “Ask the Pilot” Pilot

A discussion that made me think of my favorite Wondermark cartoon (the current one‘s apropos as well): Air safety is a state of mindpdf

For example, an Al Qaeda plot based on stealthy liquid explosives was uncovered in 1995. If confiscating commonplace personal items makes us safer, why wasn’t it done 11 years ago? Because it doesn’t make us safer. In 1995 we were calm enough to accept that the real job of security belongs to intelligence and law enforcement professionals, not airport screeners. We are free to ban everything from pencils to chewing gum; there will remain limitless ways to smuggle dangerous, undetectable items onto aircraft. That’s not capitulation. What’s going on at airports this month is capitulation.

Triangulating A “Hold” Using The Internet

Alaska’s Stevens Put a Hold on Pork-Barrel Transparency Billpdf

Ending a mystery that had captivated conservative and liberal Internet activists, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) emerged Wednesday as the senator who secretly held up action on a bill to create a searchable online catalog of federal grants and contracts aimed at helping the general public find out who receives government support.

The acknowledgment by Stevens ended an innovative exercise in Internet-based political activism. Several blogs had urged readers to call senators and ask whether they had placed a “hold” on the legislation to create the online database. Many activists believed the catalog would make it easier to root out pork-barrel spending.

As of midday Wednesday, the blogs had been able to obtain denials from 97 senators that they had placed the hold, which under unwritten Senate rules prevented the legislation from moving to a floor vote. With the suspects narrowed to a small group, Stevens’ office acknowledged that he had blocked the bill.

It’s *All* Online These Days

A continuing question: can one commit a crime in the online world? Or, more specifically, how to decide when a crime has been committed, and what to do about it? Another example Cons in the virtual gaming world

Earlier this month, a virtual bank CEO in the science-fiction role-playing game “Eve Online” made off with billions in cybercurrency that fellow gamers had entrusted to him with the hope of earning some interest.

The banker, a player who goes by the alias “Cally,” has admitted to the scam, and even bragged about it. It’s unlikely, however, that any action will be taken against him–online or offline. In the freewheeling world of “Eve,” what the virtual banker did was distasteful, but it probably didn’t break any rules.

[…] The aftermath, however, is much more complicated, and industry experts say it should raise warning flags for gamers who spend money on auction sites and exchanges to buy items used in virtual worlds. Some even think such virtual scandals could end up being settled in real-world courts.

“This stuff is real money,” said journalist Julian Dibbell, author of “Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job And Struck It Rich In Virtual Loot Farming.” According to Dibbell, “once the money trade is there, this stuff can be sold as quickly and sometimes more quickly than real currency.”

I’m Shocked, Shocked!

The RIAA overreaching? What’s new? RIAA copyright education contradictory, critics say

The Consumer Electronics Association and Public Knowledge are among the groups to issue a joint statement condemning some statements on the Recording Industry Association of America’s video, which the RIAA has plans to distribute to the nation’s universities.

The RIAA’s video, a copy of which can be found on its Web site, suggests that students should be skeptical of free content and that it’s always illegal to make a copy of a song, even if it’s just to introduce a friend to a new band, said Robert Schwartz, general counsel for the Home Recording Rights Coalition, one of the groups opposed to the video.

Where To Go For Music Videos?

Not MTV; not for a long time. Instead, try the Internet: Video Music Awards-MTV-Critic’s Notebook

But while viewers used to complain about the dearth of music videos on MTV, that complaint itself now seems old-fashioned. Anyone who cares about music videos can find them elsewhere, sometimes courtesy of MTV itself. (The network unveiled a video-heavy site, mtv.com/overdrive, last year.) Tonight’s awards ceremony, to be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall, is the first since the introduction of the video iPod last year. And it’s the first since the rise of YouTube.com, the most efficient video-sharing site yet. If MTV no longer plays music videos all day long, who cares?

So what do music fans do when they have cheap cameras and an easy way to share their work with other fans? They sing cover versions of their favorite songs, or show off their lip-synching skill, or do silly little dances. On YouTube this means that artists sometimes end up competing with their own fans.

[…] No band has exploited online video more effectively than OK Go, from Chicago. The video for “Here It Goes Again” (Capitol) consists of a single, low-resolution shot of the band members performing an intricately choreographed routine on a set of treadmills. Part of the appeal is that these guys don’t look anything like professional dancers. The band wasn’t nominated for any awards. (“Here It Goes Again” was released too late to be considered.) But in a tribute to the power of online video, the members of OK Go are scheduled to reprise their treadmill routine during tonight’s show. Around New York there are tongue-in-cheek OK Go posters that say “For Your Consideration: Best Treadmill Video.”

Compared to these viral videos, tonight’s nominees for video of the year seem to come from a different planet.

Later, from the Washington Post: Waiting for OK Go: MTV Awards’ Existential Momentpdf

Hiawatha Bray Recaps The Booksearch Battle

Using Google’s foray into the domain of Project Gutenberg: Google makes thousands of classics available for downloadingpdf

For now, the Google Book Search service offers full downloads only of “public domain” books, whose copyrights have expired. These include many of the most famous titles of all time, such as the writings of Dickens , Shakespeare , and Dante.

It’s the latest milestone in Google’s campaign to do for books what it has done for websites. “Our goal is to create a comprehensive, full-text index of all the world’s books,” said Google Book Search group business product manager Adam Smith. But Google is also providing brief “snippets” of copyrighted works by major publishers, outraging book publishers and authors who say the company has no right to reproduce them without permission.

[…] However, many publishers and authors say that even if Google Book Search only displays small portions of a copyrighted book, the fair use doctrine doesn’t permit Google to make digital copies of entire books without permission. “In order to be able to provide that service, which greatly enhances Google’s market status . . . Google has to create its own proprietary digital library of the full contents of all these books,” said Allan Adler, vice president of legal and government affairs at the Association of American Publishers. In addition, said Adler, Google is providing digitized copies of the books to its partner libraries, without compensation to copyright holders. The association and five of its member publishers filed suit in federal court last year in an effort to stop Google from including copyrighted works in its book search service. An organization of authors has filed a similar suit.

CNet’s writeup: Google: These books are free

Commentary on the Tabs Controversy

What’s Next, Ramen Noodles?

The article said that the RIAA considers tabs copyright-protected information. According to the recording industry, even incorrect tabs and tabs developed by users from listening to songs are its property as “derivative works.”

I started thinking about what it would be like if there were an RIAA for ramen.

The connection seemed obvious, because there are so many varieties of ramen available in so many little restaurants and street stalls here. Ramen is Japan’s pizza — derived from the cuisine of another country (China), popular because it’s both delicious and inexpensive, and available in gourmet versions.

Ramen is culturally important in Japan, and, like music, there is an infinite number of ramen styles, all of which have their committed adherents, copycats and detractors.

[…] There’s a reason that intellectual property laws don’t cover recipes, so for now, ramen may be safe. But with copyright laws that let the music industry shut down sites for teaching people how to play guitar, intellectual property claims against the making of noodles can’t be far behind.

Gaming The Book Publishing Business

A weird business model — publishing blog content, which I would find useless, since the point of mine is the links — but a look at the experiments in extending digital distribution: Blurb.com Gets Book Smart

Some observers are counting down the minutes to publishing’s Napster moment. But others aren’t so sure.

“The role of a 21st-century publisher is making books available offline and on,” said Brian Murray, group president of HarperCollins, which announced nine months ago it would digitize its entire library and offer tools like browsing as well as audio and video to compete with Amazon and iTunes. HarperCollins is, far and away, the most digitally progressive traditional publisher.

HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman says self-publishing is little more than a vanity press. “A good book will get published,” she said. “Self-publishing is denying that fact. The filters of agent, editor and publisher are still essential.”

Pundit Jeff Jarvis, who has written extensively about the future of book publishing, disagrees. “Every author I know says the publishers don’t get the job done on marketing — they end up having to do their own. As for a middleman, you can sell enough books on Amazon now to make it worthwhile.”

“The face of publishing will change,” he said. “As for who wins, the big guy or the little guy — I have no idea.”

Why We Fight

Free speech is a precious and necessary thing. Consider this terrible story of Japanese terrorism, and be thankful — and watchful: Threat Is Seen to Free Speech in Japanpdf

An outspoken politician whose mother’s house was burned to the ground after he criticized Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to a controversial war shrine warned Tuesday that increasing intimidation by right-wing extremists was casting a chill over free speech in Japan.

“There is less freedom than before to express one’s feelings,” said Koichi Kato, a onetime senior member of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP. Kato has become a target of hard-line nationalists for his criticism of Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the souls of 2.5 million of the country’s war dead, including 14 convicted war criminals from Japan’s imperial era.

Many politicians, academics and journalists have been cowed into silence by the threat of nationalist violence, suffocating a crucial debate on Japan’s relations with China, Kato said.

Wny Don’t I Feel Safer?

FBI Shows Off Counterterrorism Databasepdf

The FBI has built a database with more than 659 million records — including terrorist watch lists, intelligence cables and financial transactions — culled from more than 50 FBI and other government agency sources. The system is one of the most powerful data analysis tools available to law enforcement and counterterrorism agents, FBI officials said yesterday.

The FBI demonstrated the database to reporters yesterday in part to address criticism that its technology was failing and outdated as the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks nears.

[…] The data warehouse is an effort to “connect the dots” that the FBI was accused of missing in the months before the 2001 attacks, bureau officials said. About a quarter of the information comes from the FBI’s records and criminal case files. The rest — including suspicious financial activity reports, no-fly lists, and lost and stolen passport data — comes from the Treasury, State and Homeland Security departments and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

[…] The system, designed by Chiliad Inc. of Amherst, Mass., can be programmed to send alerts to agents on new information, Grigg said. Names, Social Security numbers and driver’s license details can be linked and cross-matched across hundreds of millions of records. [Emphasis added]

[…] David Sobel, senior counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the Federal Register has no record of the creation of such a system, a basic requirement of the Privacy Act. He also said the FBI’s use of an internal privacy assessment undercuts the intent of the privacy law.

FBI officials said the database is in “full compliance” with the law.

Sobel said he learned under a Freedom of Information Act disclosure last week that the system includes 250 million airline passenger records, stored permanently.

“It appears to be the largest collection of personal data ever amassed by the federal government,” he said. “When they develop the capability to cross-reference and data-mine all these previously separate sources of information, there are significant new privacy issues that need to be publicly debated.”