Category: Rights

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Freely Available doesn't mean Free

I am used to my stuff being stolen, not that I like it—ideas, analyses, blog posts and news stories. Probably my Flickr photos frequently get lifted, too. I’m no great shakes photographer, so it pains but a little. The writing hurts more. But for good photographers like Thomas Hawk, Flickr theft is a bigger deal. Some people see Creative Commons, even All Rights Reserved, as license to steal; if it’s on the Web and freely available, it must be free.

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‘The Social Network’ ignores the Network

On Friday, I wrote a review of “The Social Network“. Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig did one better for The New Republic: “Sorkin vs. Zuckerberg—‘The Social Network’ is wonderful entertainment, but its message is actually kind of evil“. Lawrence is insightful as always, although he expects too much of the film’s writer and director. Nevertheless, he makes spot-on observations about what Facebook represents for future entrepreneurs like co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. The film is seemingly a morality tale about moral ambiguity. What’s lost is Zuckerberg’s ingenuity and the network that allowed it to flourish.

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TechCrunch and Woot play to AP’s Weakness

Some people—heck, some organizations—have no sense of humor. Humorless perhaps best describes Associated Press, which apparently didn’t get Woot’s joke about owing money for a blog excerpt. TechCrunch’s MG Siegler put AP in its place today, that’s assuming there isn’t yet a nasty takedown-notice response coming.

Some quick background: About two years ago, AP decided that no one should excerpt its content without paying for it. The policy defies decades of journalist practices and fair-use laws. I could understand AP going after blocks of text, but no, it’s the little excerpts, too. Excerpt up to 50 words and AP expects you to pay $17.50; 100 bucks for 251 words or more. The approach is controversial, as it should be.

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Next Task for Health-Care Reform: Abolish Gene Patents

As a science geek, college biology major (decades ago) and pragmatist, I am appalled that any person or company is granted patents over genes. It’s simply unconscionable to grant ownership over laws of nature, which allowance defies centuries of sound legal prudence. If the Obama Administration and 111th Congress want to do some more meaningful health-care reform, abolishing gene patents would be the right place to start.

There is something so oddly together about where genes started and where they are today. In February 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson uncovered “the secret of life” when identifying the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, more widely known as DNA. Their pioneering work later led to the Human Genome Project, which when completed in 2003 identified “the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA,” according to official information.

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iTunes Music Madness

On May 29, Apple opened up iTunes Plus as a subset of its broader music store, offering DRM-free songs and albums encoded at 256kbps. Apple also offers to upgrade lower-bit-rate, DRM songs for 30 cents a piece. It’s a good deal. But the licensing is downright confusing. While browsing iTunes Plus, yesterday, I saw “Pat Benatar’s Greatest Hits” available DRM-free. I thought, “Huh? I’ve got other Pat Benatar music, and I don’t remember getting an offer DRM-free replacements”. I upgraded 25 other songs from other artists.

Sure enough, my iTunes library contains three Pat Benatar songs, from three different albums. My version of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” from album “Pat Benatar: Best Shots” is available DRM-free from iTunes Plus. But Apple offered me no 30-cent replacement option. Is it a glitch? I don’t think so. The song in my library lists publisher as Chrysalis, while the DRM-free version is Capitol Records. 

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DO Download This Song?

Weird Al Yankovic is at it again, with a nice parody of file trading and copyrights. His upcoming album “Straight Outta Lynwood”, features track “Don’t Download This Song”. The music video trails a young kid’s descent from peer networks to prison.

But this is something from Mr. Parody, so there is legitimate question which side of the file trading/copyright debate Weird Al belongs. As an artist, he might want to get paid for his work. Yet, his lyrics also stab at his profession. 

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Immigration Case Study

I am a vocal opponent to the Bush Administration plans to turn illegal immigrants into felons. I got to see another administration’s immigration policy in action today.

I’m out of town on business. On the way from the airport the car driver and I got to talking. He’s from Mexico City and has lived in the US for over 20 years. Looks like, at one time, he was an illegal immigrant. He came here as a tourist and never returned. Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 granted amnesty that allowed this guy to stay in the country and get out of the factory and do better work. 

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Yeah, I’m Angry

Family friends run a construction business. The husband, who is from Central America, sees a fair number of people looking to take advantage of Hispanic business owners and workers. The presumption is Hispanic means illegal immigrant. And if the, uh, American doesn’t pay, there’s nothing the illegal can do. In fact, there often are threats about turning in the Hispanic immigrant to US authorities.

Now, this man is legal. He has a green card and runs an honest business. But he witnesses plenty of discrimination against Hispanics and gets some of it, too. I mention this because, one, it really pisses me off and, two, there is this immigration debate raging on Capitol Hill.