Archive for March, 2006
marriage under attack in massachusetts

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts finally issued its ruling on out-of-state residents marrying in Massachusetts, upholding a previously moribund statute that had been dusted off especially for same-sex marriages. [nyt 3/30; Cote-Whiteacre v. Mass. Dept. of Public Health, SJC-09436 (Mass. SJC 2006/3/30)]

consumer copyright & access to knowledge report

I’m working my way through a new report from Consumers International on copyright’s impact on access to knowledge in eleven different developing nations. The study reviews the statutes and finds that in almost all ways, developing nations have afforded more copyright protections than required by international treaties, to the detriment of public access to information.

boys read boys, NYT edition

Yet another instance of boys-read-boys makes the news. This time, Dave Itzkoff’s new “It’s All Geek To Me” column in the NYT. My partner thought I’d be excited — and I was — to see science fiction getting a column in the NYT. Alas, though, it’s only a boy-reads-boys column.

The first column (March 5, “It’s All Geek to Me,” NYT) reviewed a boy and compared the prestige of science fiction boy writers to non-science fiction boy writers (lesser) and compared the reviewed boy to two other boys in one sentence. (“[I]t is entirely possible that Marusek never set out to be the John Updike of the Asimov set.”)

Boys Cited, 7:

  1. Walter Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz
  2. Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man
  3. David Marusek, Counting Heads & “We Were Out of Our Minds With Joy”
  4. Khaled Hossein, The Kite Runner (self-described as “an epic tale of fathers and sons” — this actually looks potentially interesting even tho the father-son thing is incredibly overexposed)
  5. A Million Little Pieces (male literary fraud James Frey)
  6. Isaac Asimov
  7. John Updike

Women Cited, 1:

  • Oprah, I presume, although she doesn’t actually get mentioned by name: “Whether you read books because you have a genuine, lifelong passion for literature or because a feisty woman in Chicago tells you to …” (I’ve never quite understood why some people pooh-pooh Oprah’s book club. A, she promotes reading, so some people read who might otherwise not; B, she does some selection that folks might otherwise not have time to do. If you don’t like her selection of books, don’t read them. But from what I understand, the “book club” is a hell of a lot more informative & engaging to the audience than Jon Stewart’s or similar talk show promotional tour interviews with authors.)
music and rants in honor of south dakota

i’ve been too angry to post about south dakota — and really, too unsurprised and cynical to have anything particularly interesting to say — but some music has been particularly resonant to me the last few weeks watching the South Dakota legislators presume to regulate the personal lives and medical decisions of women. so here’s a few pieces i keep in my ‘favories’ playlist, plus a couple of others i dug out special from my music archives:

  • “Butyric Acid”, by Consolidated, from the album Business of Punishment (1994). [lyrics below the fold; you have to click on "more" to open up this page separately and then the lyrics link will work]
  • “Green Monkey” by Laura B., a spoken word piece on the album Cause – Piece of Mind: Rock for Choice (1992). [I'll try to get the text but don't have it now.]
  • “Femme Fatale”, by Digable Planets, from the album Reachin’ (A New Refutation Of Time And Space) (1993). [lyrics below the fold]
  • A trio from Ani:

  • “Hello Birmingham”, by Ani DiFranco, from the album To the Teeth (1999). [lyrics below the fold]
  • “Lost Woman Song” by Ani DiFranco, from the album Ani DiFranco (1990). [lyrics below the fold]
  • “tiptoe” by Ani DiFranco, from the album Not a Pretty Girl (1995). [lyrics below the fold]
  • and just a couple more:

  • “Every Sperm Is Sacred” / Monty Python, from “The Meaning of Life” [lyrics below the fold]
  • And a special dedication goes out to SD state Senator, Bill Napoli: “Dead Men Don’t Rape”, by 7 Year Bitch, from the album Sick ‘Em (1992) and also on There’s a Dyke in the Pit! (1992). (Lyrics below the fold, but I think you can guess the refrain.) And don’t construe this as a threat because I’m a pacifist, but when I listen to this song I reflect on the ways that state-mandated pregnancy is a continuing, multi-month, invasion into a woman’s body. And I hold every one of those legislators and officials who signed off on this obscene legislation equally culpable for that violation. I’d call them fuckers but I really hope they never get laid again.

and here’s another I just thought of, and will get lyrics to after work tonight:

  • “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” / Phil Ochs. (Because the list of benighted states just keeps growing ….)

Lyrics below the fold.

(more…)

ip in every-day language

In an article about the post-Brokeback cowboy fashion revival [NYT 2006/3/9], I noticed this paragraph:

When you unravel the history of cowboys and their clothes, the 150-year tug of war over who’s a cowboy and who’s a dude, as department-store cowboys are still derisively called, gets tangled. The Wild West may be the place where branding was born, but if the last 150 years have made anything clear, it is that no one has staked a clear copyright claim on cowboy style.

I’m not sure what it says about our culture that IP concepts are simultaneously so ubiquitous and so mangled.

teledildonics can only be another step away …

Today, on our way to the Fung Wah bus (we never got there, but that’s another story), my partner & I happened to stop in at a bookstore/teahouse for brunch. Then we realized that they were actually having a booksigning by Margaret Atwood. I’m in the middle of a huge deadline, and have just started a new job to boot, but my spouse was very excited and managed to persuade me that I could work while she listened to the reading & signing.

So, we’re enjoying our very delicious chai when the event begins. My spouse wanders over to the event, and about 10 minutes later comes back laughing & shaking her head.

It turns out that, in fact, Margaret Atwood isn’t here in NYC; she’s in London. No, she didn’t miss her flight; her publisher and a group called Unotchit have jointly planned the first trans-Atlantic book-signing. This miracle of modern technology apparently permits Ms. Atwood to sign a book, in London, and all the way over here in New York City, the “Long-Pen” scribes her autograph on a book here in NYC. And that’s what’s happening: there are monitors set up to show Ms. Atwood signing, and the LongPen device, and people standing around waiting to get their books autographed long-distance. (I asked, btw, and this was a true transAtlantic long-distance call. No Skype!)

Naturally I thought this was hilarious. I mean, first the serendipity: that a cafe we happened into almost randomly is having a signing by Margaret Atwood, an author I tremendously respect and enjoy. But then, o brave new world that hath such [wonders] in’t, it’s not just any ordinary book-signing! It’s an experiment in virtual presence! And it’s trans-Atlantic–what more needs to be said?

The LongPen company, Unotchit, has provided a whole packet of info, with a promotional DVD, a special cartoon by Margaret Atwood, and a photocopy of a hand-written note:

This is my actual handwriting — a sample so you can compare it with what the LongPen™ does–and assure yourself that the spikiness, illegibility, and peculiarity is a property of the actual writing, and has not been added by the LongPen.™.
Margaret Atwood

As it turns out, Ms. Atwood is the President of the company (Unotchit), which explains why she was such an enthusiastic participant in the demonstration, and so respectful of the company’s trademarks. Good for her for coming up with something innovative in response to her own exhaustion from book tours.

Unfortunately the system didn’t actually work for the performance, although we were assured that it had worked in the trials just a few minutes before, and had worked successfully city-to-city. I’m sure it will start working, though, and then we can look forward to some of these listed applications:

  • “The signing of their books by authors.” (and lots of other celebrity/fan autographic applications)
  • “The signing of legal documents (in most instances).” plus real estate business, banks, government signatures like passports, marriages, divorces.
  • Banks, real estate business, and financial applications like cheque-cashing facilities and prevention of credit card fraud.
  • And “of special interest for languages that do not use phonic writing but have many characters. For such languages, it is sometimes easier to write than to type.”

I’m not sure I get the language thing, but okay. I’m also a little skeptical as to whether or not autograph-seekers will really be quite satisfied with remote autographs. I think part of the thrill is getting the tiny particles of author/athlete oil & grease along with the signature. Plus actually getting to stammer a few words in the presence of the great one.

But the proposed legal / financial applications raise questions of a somewhat more serious nature. I’ll be going thru that DVD as soon as I get a chance (not till next weekend, for sure), but some questions occurred to me off the top of my head. Among them:

  • What is the authentication procedure for making sure that the item signed by the robotic pen has the same content as the item signed in the presence of and by the signer? For instance, if you’re signing a contract on page 4, how are you going to know that page 3-New York is the same as page 3-London?
  • How do you prevent the signature transmission from being captured & replicated somewhere else? For instance, A is signing a cheque check in New York, and a check cheque is being signed in London. But I’ve captured the signature transmission and am using it to sign a check in Boston — a check made out to me, perhaps, or to a local pimp or skanky political party.
  • For that matter, if the signal is unencrypted, how do you prevent it from being captured & interfered with, so that it becomes less likely to be validated? There’s a visual read-out of it on both sides, but you could capture the video transmission as it comes from London, and mirror it back so it looks like it’s coming from New York, but in the meantime send something slightly different to New York. Or if the signature was only slightly different it might not be apparent over the transmission, but still not pass a handwriting expert signature.
  • And, how good *are* these pens, anyway? Can they really replicate the changes in pressure and angle that a real pen does? Even if it can do pressure & angle, what is the original pen that the author holds actually like? Does it feel like a real pen? Or is it held rigidly in place? Which would certainly affect the signature, and I wonder what a handwriting expert would think about it.

The answers to these questions will no doubt become clearer when I go through the materials. Stay tuned for more.

In the meantime, more info available at:

jon stewart lambasts piracy

on the oscars, just now, jon stewart on movie piracy (i paraphrase):

Let’s face facts. It hasn’t been the best year for Hollywood.

The box office was was a little bit down and piracy continues to be a problem. If there is anyone out there involved in illegal movie piracy, don’t do it.

Take a good look at these people. These are the people you are stealing from.

Look at them! Face what you have done!

There are women here who can barely afford enough gown to cover their breasts.

Siva has a link to the video and also a better transcript (which I copied).

update

… he also made a crack about downloading music, later in the evening, introducing a musician:

Some of you won’t know who this is, but go upstairs to where your kid is illegally downloading music, and ask them, and they’ll tell you.

I wasn’t really focusing, so I may have missed more such moments. Have copyright issues come up at the Oscars before, I wonder? I’ve only seen the awards maybe 3 times out of the last 10 years or so. Have I been missing a huge goldmine of cultural references to the p2p filesharing wars?

ip etc. news

so much has been going on that i can scarcely keep up – especially since I just started working full-time with Brennan Center’s Free Expression Policy Project on a new Fair Use Empowerment Initiative.

but lately I’ve been reading:

  • Perfect 10
  • Illinois Tool Works v. Independent Ink (antitrust / patent borders). William Patry has the most insightful commentary I’ve seen thus far on implications for misuse doctrine. No surprise that the *AAs are happy about this. I’m concerned about the ultimate implications w/r/t policy rationales on DMCA anti-circumvention and shrinkwrap licensing …
  • Common Law Property Metaphors on the Internet: The Real Problem with the Doctrine of Cybertrespass, by Shyamkrishan Balganesh, surveys the state of cybertrespass doctrine & considers the property doctrine problems. Available at SSRN.
  • …more later

Octavia Butler

I was deeply saddened early this week to learn that Octavia Butler had died. She exemplified the spirit of inquiry that makes science fiction truly the literature of ideas. Below I collect a number of resources about Octavia Butler.

Action

Obituaries and Remembrances

Biographies

Octavia’s Words: Interviews & Essays

Octavia’s Words: Fiction