2002 October 22

(entry last updated: 2002-10-22 18:33:58)

Via Copyfight, a look at Eric Eldred from Derry, NH.

More “rabble rousing,” this time around killing off telcos as quickly as possible. And Ernest Miller of LawMeme points to a Seth Finkelstein piece parallelling the language of 1984 with today’s language on digital rights management. Ernest Miller also has found an interesting New Republic article on the subject of Eldred and Rhenquist.

And a piece from ZDNet on XBox mod-chipping reinforces the fact that I need to get cracking on my alienation argument – a first, and quite limited, try is below – amplified in some important ways by the Stallman "treacherous computing" article that is getting some WWW attention today.

A colleague from the UK passes along this tidbit from one of his friends about Billy Bragg (note: the song is discussed at his site here)

Subject: Billy Bragg – Invite to Rip an Anti-War song


Legitimate free music!

On Friday 18th October 2002 I went to a concert by fellow Englishman Billy

Bragg at the Sommerville [sic] Theatre, Cambridge Massachusetts. It was the first

date of his US tour. ‘Concert’ is not quite right; concert, political

meeting and anti-war protest rally gets a little closer.

Towards the end of the evening he played a new song ‘The Price of Oil’ and

encouraged the audience to realise that many people were against a war

against Iraq. Finishing the song he asked who in the audience downloaded MP3

music from the Internet. Eventually a nervous young woman raised her hand.BB

then tossed her a CD saying;

“That song’s on an anti-war album that’s coming out a few months but by

then the war might have happened so I want this on the internet tonight”.

He span another dozen CDs of the song to various MP3ers in the audience,


“I’m serious about this. I don’t want these things sitting on your shelves,

I want ’em burned and I want the song on the internet tonight.”

In that spirit you can download the song yourself from:


I hope you like it. If you don’t but you still have concerns about the war

then take heart at the way that people are trying to make that case heard.

Please pass the location to whomever you wish. You might want to tell them

the story of why the song is available for free.

(5 items below)

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education puts a human face on Eric Eldred, while summarizing the copyright case.
  • A Slashdot discussion, on why the telephone companies need to die as soon as possible, points to an interesting WWW site, the Paradox of the Best Network. The sidebar listing of articles is well worth a perusal. Many are already listed in my links page, but I added David Reed’s paper today
  • Ernest Miller points us to Seth Finkelstein’s look at the Orwellian rhetoric of digital rights management. Donna helps to track the online discussion cycle around this meme.
  • Ernest has had a busy day! He points to a New Republic article on the Eldred case that is well worth reading; will Justice Rhenquist be exposed?
  • ZDNet reports that Ballmer is ready to pull the XBox from the Australian market in the event that the laws (or their interpretation) are not changed to reflect his perspective on copyright.

    This article is an explicit example of the issue that I’ve been trying to frame a writeup about – copyright is increasingly being enforced by exploiting the fact that the consumer is alienated from the process of converting the thing that they buy in the marketplace (e.g., CDs) into the experience that they actually bought the product to get. While you yourself can convert a book into the experience, you require a piece of technology (like a CD player) to convert a CD into music. Increasingly, we see copyright being defined as allowing the copyright holder to interfere in the process of this conversion by exploiting the technological alienation that enabled the copyright holder to make the sale in the first place.

    Here, Ballmer is saying that you really don’t own the XBox you bought, and that Microsoft, under copyright, has the right to limit what you can do with the piece of hardware that you exchanged your money for. This is a degree of control that is unachievable in the case of more conventional copyrighted works, like books, sheet music or graphic images. The question is whether this control is legitimately a part of the notions and policy objectives upon which copyright is built.

    In my opinion (sorry, I’m still working on this set of ideas <G>), this is NOT an appropriate extension of control, particularly since the consumer has to invest some of his/her own capital to enable the copyright holder to exploit the more economically efficient distribution mechanism that gives him access to this market. It seems to me that, if they don’t like the side effects of the distribution mechanism, they should not use it. But, what they are doing instead is to ask (demand?) that the notion of copyright be reshaped to allow them to change the nature of the consumer’s control over the devices that are used to convert the delivered object into the experience whose expression is the subject of copyright.

    However, as that rather tortuous sentence above demonstrates, I’m still working on this. But I do believe that, while alienation is necessary under copyright (a “fixed” expression), the copyright holders are trying to seize control, limiting their loss of control over their copyrighted expressions in ways that the consumer is NOT being compensated for.

    And that’s why they’re so mad! They aren’t arguing for the ability to be a thief; rather, they are arguing that they are losing control and getting inadequate compensation in return.

    (Addendum: Based on the press that Richard Stallman’s Newsforge piece gets in this Slashdot article, maybe I waited too long to get my ideas formulated – I’m just going to have to read it and find out.)