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In the new issue of Developing Latin America, I present the most common criticisms to e-voting systems, focusing on the Venezuelan case, with 15 elections during the last 17 years. This is the so-called most “perfect” voting system in the world. But it has been widely questioned, studied and contested.
Abstract: Elections are indispensable for democracy, but their trustworthiness demands transparency and impartiality from governments, even more so for automated elections. This work presents common criticisms to e-voting systems, focusing on the Venezuelan case, where there have been around 15 elections of this kind in the last 17 years. The Venezuelan government calls it the most perfect voting system in the world, but its results have been questioned, studied and contested.
Recommended reference: Machin-Mastromatteo, J. D. (2015). The most “perfect” voting system in the world. Information Development, 32(3), 751-755. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0266666916647140
I participated, with great honor and pleasure, on the 3rd Conversation with librarians, bibliophiles and archivists, which was organized by Doknos in the National Library of Ecuador. There, I presented the keynote conference titled Libraries and Librarians 2.0: Concepts, categorization of their competencies, comments and ideas. You can check the Spanish version of the post to check out the full keynote (in Spanish).
Happy new year dear readers! In this first post of the year, I’ll take perhaps the most important event of the year so far… at least the one I can report on, hopefully adding my voice to all the noise about it.
Yesterday many sites had a blackout or a protest against SOPA. The Stop Online Piracy Act is a legislation the copyright industry wants the U.S. senate to pass. It has met protest on the Internet, especially yesterday. The problem with these bills is that they give the authority to shut down sites without due process. Which sites? Only pirates? Actually, it can be interpreted that this can go beyond and be an instrument of censorship and control.
I’ll pass along a collection of some links I liked about it with a short comment and at the end some of my comments regarding why SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are evil. You can look at all I read about it by looking at my tweets @judamasmas
PIPA Support Collapses, and Here’s a Full List of the Senators Who Newly Oppose It via Gizmodo. The way I see it, the online protest was mainly against SOPA, but support for PIPA was affected as well.
SOPA via xkcd. Reasonable content creators are and should be happy that people share their content in social media, with such legislation as SOPA, it would be hard to see what would happen with social media, perhaps in the long term they would like to shut down sites like Facebook.
Surprise! Senators with Huge Campaign Contributions from Media Support SOPA/PIPA via Gizmodo. This is great about the Internet, everything is hardly a secret. You can see the name of the senators and the money they had for supporting SOPA/PIPA. Lists like this one have been posted on many sites from quite some time. Other ones showing even the money they make compared to the ones not supporting these things.
Internet SOPA/PIPA Revolt: Don’t Declare Victory Yet via Wired. It is a good point that although a good blow was dealt to SOPA and PIPA, these instruments are not completely defeated and they will be revised in these months. We the Internets have to remain on our toes and respond quickly making enough noise to oppose them.
That pipe of trash that someone smoked via The Pirate Bay Blog. Great piece, I highly recommend you read it. From Edisons’ patent of moving pictures, they go to the lawless origin of this copyright industry. Making the point that as they have bad business models, the Pirate Bay is a threat as it is a competitor. “The entertainment industry say they’re creating ‘culture’ but what they really do is stuff like selling overpriced plushy dolls and making 11 year old girls become anorexic. Either from working in the factories that creates the dolls for basically no salary or by watching movies and tv shows that make them think that they’re fat.”
LOLing Our Way to Internet Freedom via Wired. The funny side around it, click it!
The MPAA Says Blackout Protests Are an Abuse of Power via Gizmodo. In this context, I believe it was best for them just to shut up instead of giving themselves more bad publicity. Yes, they say the blackouts were abuse of power. Is it not abuse of power their own lobbying, “sue ’em all” schemes and manipulation? It was a very hypocritical statement on their side, as this legislation is pro-censorship and about real abuse of power.
Honorable mentions in pictures:
I am not the only one seeing that the copyright industry manipulates political agencies to achieve their objectives. However I was very glad when I read the position of the White House on this, which is very reasonable. Paraphrasing what I have read some days ago about this is that despite the problem piracy might represent, it is not an excuse to disrupt the Internet and walk the dangerous path of censorship. The industry is obsessed in claiming that it is losing money. However, there are studies stating that it is doing better than ever. Also, consider the following factors: there is still a financial crisis in the world, media releases don’t offer as much value for money as they should, newly created artists are shitty (you know who they are). And most importantly, think of this: perhaps if the copyright industry stops being so interested in lobbying to make it’s will into law (I think this lobbying is a nice way to say bribing) and “sue ’em all” legal schemes, they could find that they are not losing money, they are spending it being evil. Anyway, the money resulting from suing infringers is not going to the artists whose rights were violated, right?
Copyright has become something very different than what it should be. Legislations are created to favor just the big companies, not for protecting the artists rights, the later is just an excuse now. For example, how is it possible that Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech is copyrighted? Or that in Canada nothing else would enter the public domain until 2032? Or that in the U.S. many works published in 1955 are going to enter the public domain in 2051 instead of today? Go copyright the Declaration of Human Rights or the Constitution of the U.S. while you’re at it!
The Internet doesn’t belong to anyone and at the same time, it belongs to everyone; and the Internet is free. I am not supporting piracy, and online criminal activities have to be monitored, reported and shut down. However, legislation written as SOPA and PIPA leaves serious doubts and takes many free thinkers like me to be afraid of censorship. This post is an example. I am criticizing the copyright industry, if SOPA were in place, they could shut down my site without even telling me. That’s the main problem with it.
Finally, there could be a hidden agenda behind all this. The copyright industry might want to turn the Internet into a television channel, and in the most horrible scenario: a big brother of sorts, where all the content you watch is created by the industry and delivered to you with payment schemes, like cable tv. In this scenario, user generated content, which is for me the most wonderful thing about the Internet, would die. I smelled something like this with the “Youtube offering professionally created content” thing. I’ll write about this next time.
Update: operators of Megaupload were detained yesterday, ¿Do they need to approve SOPA to have even more power?
I just finished reading my bulk of unread google reader items, well, I have to actually mark as read the subscriptions which always grow too large to handle, and I found that my colleague aubreymcfato has put on one of his reviews of the ECDL 2009, conference that we attended together, a small note from Joho the Blog by David Weinberger that describes really good the experience and the feel of being liveblogging about events we are in. This is really valid for my first post on ECDL and the upcoming ones on the conference or of the same nature, that is, notes taken while I’m hearing some presentation or something of the sorts. I’m sorry for any lack of accuracy. David Weinberger’s disclaimer is the following:
“NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. Posted without re-reading. You are warned, people.”
The verdict of the trial on the Pirate Bay is finally given, despite some opinions and the confidence of the accused party on winning the trial, partly based on current swedish laws regarding torrent files, and a certain believe that the American music and movie industries couldn’t force a decision. Have they did it? I’m not expressing my opinions here, I’ll be just commenting the facts and ideas discussed over the Internet. But first, a little background.
The BitTorrent Protocol
In simple language, its a Peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing protocol, for transferring files, one user has some files or contents and creates a .torrent file, this user and every user who has the full file is called a seed, the more seeds there are, the faster the transfer of files. Some sites on the Internet, like The Pirate Bay are called Torrent Trackers, they are like search engines used to find those .torrent files. The trackers don’t have the content itself on their servers, this is an important thing to take into account. Once a user finds a .torrent file and downloads it, has also to use a Bittorrent client, like Bittorrent, Azureus, BitComet, etc. This client take that file and -in a manner of speaking- “knows” who are the users who have that particular media or documents and start downloading. Because of the seed aspect and also because many torrents are divided into parts, this is a very fast, reliable and efficient transfer protocol, which could be used for any kind of digital content and purposes.
The Pirate Bay
The Pirate Bay is a Swedish website established in November 2003 by the Swedish anti-copyright organization -or an independent organization fighting for file sharing rights- Piratbyrån (The Piracy Bureau), in this website, users could search and download .torrent files, and it has operated independently since October 2004. It is stated that this site serves more than 25 million users over the world.
Some aspects of its history, development, images and public relations (specially with copyright holders and defendants) are now legendary and even mythical between Internet users and tech geeks, such as the attempt to buy the micronation Sealand to locate their servers without having to bother about legislations, but the Sealand government didn’t wanted to sell it specially to them. Also it is said that the Industry had hired hackers to attack the site and copy the user’s database.
On 31 May 2006, the swedish police raided the Pirate Bay instalations and confiscated its servers, shutting the website off and they held for questioning some of the people responsible for the website. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was behind this incident, as they stated on a press release just after it. On 2 June 2006, the Pirate Bay was once again up, displaying a new logo, with their pirate ship shooting down the Hollywood sign.
On 31 January 2008 Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, and Peter Sunde, who ran the site; and Carl Lundström, a Swedish businessman who through his businesses sold services to the site were charged with “promoting other people’s infringements of copyright laws” but Pirate Bay’s legal advisor, Mikael Viborg, had stated that because torrent files and trackers merely point to content, the site’s activities are legal under Swedish law. On 16 February 2009, the trial (or as some call it the Spectrial = Spectacle + Trial) against the Pirate Bay started, the charges were pushed by a consortium of intellectual rights holders led by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). It was a surprise and an indicator that the Bay could win the case after the second day, where half of the charges were dropped. It is worth to mention the following aspects of the trial:
The prosecutor was unable to prove the .torrent files brought as evidence were actually using The Pirate Bay’s tracker.
On the third day, defense attorney Per Samuelson presented an argument later dubbed the “King Kong defense”
The fourth day irregularities started: movie industry lawyer Monique Wadsted introduced new evidence without warning.
The fifth day, the prosecution insisted on attempting to introduce new evidence, defense lawyer Peter Althin equating the tactic to something out of the old Perry Mason TV show. “Suddenly, the door opens and in walks an entirely new witness.” The judge stopped the case to deliberate the matter and found in favor of the defense, instructing the prosecution to immediately hand over all material they planned to use.
The prosecution attempted to show the Pirate Bay as an immensely profitable business that made its money helping others violate copyright law. The defense attempted to show the Pirate Bay as nothing more than a search engine, no different from Google and thus subject to the same protections.
On days seven to nine, the court heard expert witnesses called by the prosecution and the defense. They cited contradicting academic research on the effects of file sharing on sales in the music and film industry.
Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde were found guilty of breaking copyright law and were sentenced to a year in jail. They were also ordered to pay $4.5m (£3m) in damages. Record companies welcomed the verdict but the men are to appeal and Sunde said they would refuse to pay the fine.”
Taken from BBC Website http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8003799.stm
After the trial, Sveriges Radio P3 News organised an investigation that found on April 23 that the judge Tomas Norström had several engagements with organisations interested in intellectual property issues. Peter Danowsky, Monique Wadsted and Henrik Pontén from the prosecution side are also members of one of the organisations, the Swedish Copyright Association. Several legal experts have commented that the judge should not have taken the case because of the potential conflict of interest, and that there are grounds for a retrial. As of April 23, Peter Sunde’s lawyer Peter Althin has already put in a request for a retrial. Such requests would normally be handled by the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman, but as the case is under appeal for other reasons, it will be taken up in the Svea Court of Appeal.
Taken from The Local Website http://www.thelocal.se/19028/20090423/
Now a lot of websites, bloggers, supporters and detractors are debating these issues. There have been some manifestations in Sweeden and other parts of the world to support the Bay. On the next post I’ll give some of my comments about the industry, Internet, sharing, and what I think all this means to this moment we are living in and also to some other affected and beloved parties over the Internet.
To be continued… stay tuned to judamasmas’ Weblog