Disheartening Day

Never going to be a good day when you find yourself agreeing with a Jeff Jacoby op-ed. Granted, even a broekn clock is right twice a day, but this local feeding frenzy that poses as political debate has been particularly stomach-turning: Going overboard [pdf]

[…] By mooring the yacht in Rhode Island, which abolished its sales tax on boats 17 years ago, Kerry appeared to have saved himself a huge amount of money.

That was perfectly OK with me. Kerry may be a tedious blister, but even tedious blisters are entitled to hold down their taxes. Vice President Joe Biden calls it “patriotic’’ to pay higher taxes, but a far more sensible view was expressed by Learned Hand, one of the most admired and influential federal judges in American history.

“Anyone may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible,’’ Hand wrote in a 1934 opinion. “He is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.’’ […]

Anti-Circumvention Exceptions Announced by LoC

DMCA Rules Regarding Access-Control Technology Exemptions and Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works

The Librarian of Congress has announced the classes of works subject to the exemption from the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. Persons making noninfringing uses of the following six classes of works will not be subject to the prohibition against circumventing access controls (17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)) until the conclusion of the next rulemaking.

[…] (2) Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset.

(3) Computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable used wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telecommunications network, when circumvention is initiated by the owner of the copy of the computer program solely in order to connect to a wireless telecommunications network and access to the network is authorized by the operator of the network.

[…] (6) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.

EFF press release: EFF Wins New Legal Protections for Video Artists, Cell Phone Jailbreakers, and Unlockers

An Incredibly Distressing Story

Concern for Those Who Screen the Web for Barbarity [pdf]

An Internet content reviewer, Mr. Bess sifts through photographs that people upload to a big social networking site and keeps the illicit material — and there is plenty of it — from being posted. His is an obscure job that is repeated thousands of times over, from office parks in suburban Florida to outsourcing hubs like the Philippines.

With the rise of Web sites built around material submitted by users, screeners have never been in greater demand. Some Internet firms have tried to get by with software that scans photos for, say, a large area of flesh tones, but nothing is a substitute for a discerning human eye.

The surge in Internet screening services has brought a growing awareness that the jobs can have mental health consequences for the reviewers, some of whom are drawn to the low-paying work by the simple prospect of making money while looking at pornography.

“You have 20-year-old kids who get hired to do content review, and who get excited because they think they are going to see adult porn,” said Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer at MySpace. “They have no idea that some of the despicable and illegal images they will see can haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

[…] Workers at Telecommunications On Demand, who make $8 to $12 an hour, view photos that have been stripped of information about the users who posted them. Rapidly cycling through pages of 300 images each, they are asked to flag material that is obviously pornographic or violent, illegal in a certain country or deemed inappropriate by a specific Web site.

Caleris, an outsourcing company based in West Des Moines, Iowa, says it reviews about 4.5 million images a day. Stacey Springer, its vice president for support operations, says the job is not for everybody and that “people find they can do it, but it is usually a lot harder than they thought.” The company offers counseling as part of its standard benefits package for workers.

[…] “The images interfere with their thinking processes. It messes up the way you react to your partner,” Ms. Laperal said. “If you work with garbage, you will get dirty.”

Tenenbaum’s Fine Reduced

A partial victory for Charlie Nesson’s strategy: File-sharing damages reduced tenfold [pdf]

In a major setback for the recording industry, a Boston judge yesterday slashed by 90 percent a $675,000 damages award that a Boston University graduate student had been ordered to pay to four record labels for illegally downloading 30 songs and sharing them online.

[…] “There is no question that this reduced award is still severe, even harsh,’’ she wrote in a 62-page order [local copy]. “It not only adequately compensates the plaintiffs for the relatively minor harm that Tenenbaum caused them; it sends a strong message that those who exploit peer-to-peer networks to unlawfully download and distribute copyrighted works run the risk of in curring substantial damages awards.’’

But the reduction, she said, also sends an equally important message that the constitutional protection against grossly excessive punitive awards in civil suits protects not only big corporations but “ordinary people like Joel Tenenbaum.’’

Congress, she said, never envisioned that the Digital Theft Deterrence Act of 1999 would subject people like Tenenbaum to huge statutory damages for violating copyright law through illegal file sharing.

The Beginning of Knowledge

It starts when you acknowledge that the simple explanation is not going to cut it: No Easy Answers in the Copyright Debate [pdf]

You’d think it’d be pretty easy to live within the copyright laws, or at least to understand them: If you want something of value, you pay for it.

But two things happened this week that are enough to rattle anyone who thinks its that simple.

On the other hand, David Brooks is just bomb-throwing here: The Medium Is the Medium [pdf]

Recently, Internet mavens got some bad news. Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd of Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy examined computer use among a half-million 5th through 8th graders in North Carolina. They found that the spread of home computers and high-speed Internet access was associated with significant declines in math and reading scores.

This study, following up on others, finds that broadband access is not necessarily good for kids and may be harmful to their academic performance. And this study used data from 2000 to 2005 before Twitter and Facebook took off.

Broadband Policy

I have to wonder how this is received at the FCC: Finland makes broadband a legal right

Finland has become the first country in the world to make broadband a legal right for every citizen.

From 1 July every Finn will have the right to access to a 1Mbps megabit per second broadband connection.

Finland has vowed to connect everyone to a 100Mbps connection by 2015.