30 April 2010

When We Can Copy *Analogue* Artefacts...

The recent battle over the Digital Economy Bill has focussed renewed attention on the area of copying digital artefacts – music and films, for example. It's a subject I've started writing and speaking about more and more; for example, here are some thoughts on why free software's success is crucially important in this area.

But I have confession to make: that article is a bit of a cop-out. I didn't address the even bigger issue of what happens when we can copy *analogue* artefacts. Yup, you read that aright: the time is fast approaching when we will be able to download a chair or a bicycle and just print it out. Clearly, this will make the idea of *analogue* scarcity rather more complex (although energy concerns will always place a lower bound on the cost of making such copies).

People have only just begun thinking about the implications of this shift – not least because it's so mind-boggling, and will make the current brouhaha over digital copying look like the proverbial vicar's tea party. But the first works grappling with this have started emerging; here's one of them:

Throughout recorded history most people who have wanted a household article have bought or bartered it from someone else – in past times an artisan or trader, more recently a seller of mass-produced products. With few exceptions (such as some clothing) it is rare that any of us make such articles for ourselves these days. That may soon change. Thirty years ago only dedicated enthusiasts would print their own photographs or edit and reproduce their own newsletters. The advent of the home computer, and in particular of low-cost high-quality printers, has now made such things simple and commonplace. Recent developments in producing affordable and hobbyist-friendly printers that can reproduce three-dimensional rather than just flat objects may mean that printing a toast-rack or a comb becomes as easy as printing a birthday card.

Any lawyer familiar with copyright and trade mark law can see, however, that printing one’s own birthday cards could, depending on the source and nature of the images used, infringe a number of intellectual property (IP) rights. Tempting as it may be to copy and use a picture of a well-known cartoon character, the resulting cards would very likely be an infringement of the copyright and perhaps trade marks owned by the relevant rights holder. But what if someone uses a printer capable of producing a mobile phone cover bearing such an image? Or reproducing a distinctively-styled piece of kitchenware? What about printing out a spare wing-mirror mount for your car? Do these uses infringe IP rights?

In the first part of this paper, we review the history of 3D printing and describe recent developments, including a project initiated by one of the authors to bring such printers into the home. We then examine the IP implications of personal 3D printing with particular reference to the bundle of rights that would typically be associated with a product that might be copied.

It finishes with the following interesting observations:

rights holders are likely to be concerned if personal 3D printers become widespread and effective enough to impinge on commercial exploitation of their IP rights. Indications as to how they might react can be seen from the recent history of music copyright infringement via the Internet. Both technical and legal responses have been tried, including the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology and proposals to strengthen legislative measures. Will these be applied to restrict low-cost 3D printing?

Technical measures would quickly founder on the problem that, unlike music file-sharing, personal 3D printing does not produce an exact copy that can be digitally signed or protected with DRM. It is the sharing of (as seen, legitimately) reverse-engineered designs that is the issue, not original design documents. Although scanners and printers have incorporated anti-forgery measures to detect attempts to duplicate banknotes, such techniques are very specifically targeted at one well-defined item.1 Whist commercially-produced low-cost 3D printers might be configured to only use authorised DRM-protected 3DPDFs digitally signed by the rights holder, such measures would seriously constrain their usefulness and make them unattractive compared to open-source 3D printers.

It is worth noting, however, that this same point indicates that it may be some time before the level of detail and accuracy attainable by personal 3D printers becomes sufficient to seriously impinge upon the market for quality products, as distinct from utilitarian goods or spare parts (the reproduction of which, as has been noted, is in any case less likely to infringe IP rights.) Unlike digital audio and video copying, which produces perfect copies, copying of articles via 3D printing will be readily distinguishable from the original.

It concludes:

The most optimistic evangelist of low-cost 3D printing would probably admit that the household domestic 3D printer is years, if not decades, from widespread use. Its impact will be gradual, as unlike file-shared MP3s it will not immediately provide for the reproduction of faithful copies. Rather, as its ease-of-use, fidelity and range of materials increases, so will its attractiveness and range of applications. This should, at least, allow for a more measured consideration of the legal issues that will arise from such use. In the longer term, personal 3D printers may conceivably lead to radical changes in the nature of the manufacturing economy; the IP implications of such further developments have so far been imagined only in science fiction.

But make no mistake: it's coming....

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

A Refresher Course on Alfresco

The ECM company Alfresco ought to occupy a special place in the open source pantheon for readers of this blog. As well as being one of the leading companies in its category, it shows how free software can meet the most demanding enterprise needs and – most importantly, perhaps – it's British by birth and location. As such, it offers a great example to others who might be contemplating an open source start-up, and proves that you don't have to be based in California to succeed in the world of computing.

On Open Enterprise blog.

29 April 2010

Is South Korea's Crazy Experiment Ending?

I've written a number of times about the curious experiment South Korea has been conducting: making its entire governmental and financial computing infrastructure dependent on Microsoft by requiring *all* users to install proprietary security software that is typically an ActiveX plugin (yes, one of *those*).

This is obviously insane, because it forces people to use a piece of technology that has been a major cause of security problems on the Windows platform, and it creates a monoculture, with all the weaknesses that implies.

Despite the manifest folly of this approach, changing it has been hard because of the total lock-in. But apparently change is finally coming, and for a couple of surprising reasons:

For those of you who have followed my blog, you know that it has been 3 years since I first reported on the fact that Korea does not use SSL for secure transactions over the Interent but instead a PKI mechanism that limits users to the Windows OS and Internet Explorer as a browser. Nothing fundamentally has changed but there are new pressures on the status quo that may break open South Korean for competition in the browser market in the future.

In fact, one of the new pressures on the status quo has been the popularity of the iPhone in South Korea, which wasn’t available officially until late 2009 due to a different Korean software middle-ware requirement, WIPI, which has since been deprecated. With WIPI dead and buried, Apple released the iPhone to great fanfare in the Korean market and Blackberry has also launched in the Korean market.

Another pressure on the status quo was a recent report out from 3 researchers (Hyoungshick Kim, Jun Ho Huh and Ross Anderson) from the University of Oxford’s Computing Laboratory, “On the Security of Internet Banking in South Korea.”


The popularity of the iPhone (the press claims 500,000 units sold in the few months since it was released) resurfaced the issue that only Windows and IE can be used to make secure transactions with Korean Internet services. iPhone/Blackberry/Android users in Korea (not to mention Firefox/Opera/Safari/Chrome users) cannot bank online or purchase items online or do any secure transaction with the smartphone browser because Korean services only support the PKI mechanism that only works with Active-X in IE and Windows.

This is a rather unlooked-for consequence of the arrival of smartphones in general, and of the iPhone in particular. Combined with pressure from the users of other browsers and other operating systems, we can hope that this will bring the South Korean government to its senses, and end this bizarre and unfortunate experiment in government-mandated monoculture.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

Does HP + Palm = Facepalm?

When I first read the news that HP was buying Palm for $1.2 billion, my first reaction was that HP had lost its marbles (“clueless” was how I tweeted it.) Why, I wondered, did it need to pay $1.2 billion for a dying platform when it could have used the increasingly-popular Android for nothing (OK, it probably picked up a few useful patents, as well)? I also thought that it didn't have the resources to enter the extremely competitive area of smartphones.

On Open Enterprise blog.

27 April 2010

Saving Clay Shirky

I am not an unthinking fan of everything Clay Shirky says, but I do find much of the stuff he writes thought provoking. In particular, I found his recent essay, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models” really spot-on in analysing the central problem faced by certain industries.

But not everyone seems to agree judging by this post:

That evening I reread the essay more closely, and the closer I read it, the less I liked it. At sunrise the essay had been an entertaining set of anecdotes built around an intriguing core idea; by sunset it had wilted, revealed as an entertaining set of anecdotes pulled from all over the map in the vain hope that there might, somewhere, be a theme that would hold them together.

The point about Shirky's use of anecdote is fair enough, although he's hardly the only person to adopt this rhetorical trick. Most "big idea" books follow the same pattern of getting their message across through easily-digested stories (but then, so does the Bible).

However, I did find problematic the following section of the critique:

Aside: here is Clay Shirky writing about YouTube:

The most watched minute of video made in the last five years shows baby Charlie biting his brother’s finger. (Twice!)

which is, as of this date, no longer true. The most watched video made in the last five years shows Lady Gaga and a group of hired models dancing on an elaborate set in a video that embodies complex production methods, that is part of the Vevo channel (a joint venture between Google and major record labels) and that features product placements by Nemiroff Vodka, Parrot by Starck, Carerra sunglasses, and HP Envy [link]. Now there is a complex business model.

As a further aside, analysts Visible Measures add in all copies of a video together with spoofs and pastiches, and their list of the top fifteen videos is as follows.

1. Soulja Boy: Crank Dat (music video: Universal) - 722,438,268
2. Twilight Saga: New Moon (film: Summit Entertainment) - 639,966,996
3. Beyonce: Single Ladies (music video: Sony) - 522,039,429
4. Michael Jackson: Thriller (music video: Epic Records) - 443,535,722
5. The Gummy Bear Song (music video: Gummibear International) - 394,327,606
6. Lady Gaga: Poker Face (music video: Universal) - 374,606,128
7. Lady Gaga: Bad Romance (music video: Universal) - 360,020,327
8. TImbaland: Apologize (music video: Mosley Music Group) - 355,404,824
9. Susan Boyle: Britain’s Got Talent (TV: Freemantle/ITV) - 347,670,927
10. Twilight (film: Summit Entertainment) - 343,969,063
11. Modern Warfare 2 (video game: Activision) - 339,913,412
12. Jeff Dunham: Achmed the Dead Terrorist (TV) - 328,891,308
13. Mariah Carey: Touch My Body (music video: Universal) - 324,057,568
14. Charlie Bit My Finger Again (user generated) - 288,666,331
15. Michael Jackson: Beat It (music video: Records) - 286,279,009

It seems that complexity has its place after all.

The first point is fair enough, but the following section actually undermines it. For notice that this long, impressive list counts "copies of a video together with spoofs and pastiches" - in other words, *precisely* the kind of stuff that has nothing to do with complex production. So the figures actually include all the stuff that Shirky is suggesting as an alternative to traditional production - hardly a valid way of arguing against him.

That's not the only place where the post is incorrect. Later on, it says:

Back to his Charlie story again:

Expensive bits of video made in complex ways now compete with cheap bits made in simple ways. “Charlie Bit My Finger” was made by amateurs, in one take, with a lousy camera. No professionals were involved in selecting or editing or distributing it. Not one dime changed hands anywhere between creator, host, and viewers. A world where that is the kind of thing that just happens from time to time is a world where complexity is neither an absolute requirement nor an automatic advantage.

But Charlie didn’t “just happen” because Charlie is not the only story here. As YouTube became a phenomenon, those 174 million-and-counting views could only be delivered by acres of these:

which then shows us a picture of serried ranks of Google hardware in Google server farms.

It's true that the YouTube video was indeed held on these systems; it is not true "those 174 million-and-counting views could only be delivered by acres" of such massive, organised server farms. Unstructured P2P systems are not only capable of delivering this kind of volume, they have been doing so for over a decade, often under the radar of the established companies, which only sit up and notice when some of their stuff starts being shared across them.

In a way, the fact that this could be overlooked is a neat summary of what's going on here: the changes Shirky describes have already happened, but not everyone has noticed.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

26 April 2010

EU Open Source Procurement Guidelines

Public sector procurement is becoming a real battleground for open source in Europe. There have been few successes, but lots of groundwork has been laid in the form of interoperability frameworks and suchlike - despite fierce rearguard actions by old-school software companies naturally alarmed about losing their cosy monopolies.

On Open Enterprise blog.

Why Making Money from Free Software Matters

Free software began as a political movement: its central aim was – and remains – the propagation of freedom. Later, it became a development methodology too, largely at the hands of Linus, whose geographical isolation in Finland forced him to develop ways of using the Internet to coordinate a new kind of massive, but decentralised, global collaboration. Later still, free software also became a way of making serious money – something that Stallman has repeatedly said he is quite happy with, contrary to much FUD claiming otherwise.

On The H Open.

23 April 2010

Tussling for the Soul of EU's Digital Economy Agenda

A little while ago I wrote about the worrying signs that the imminent Digital Economy Agenda, currently being drawn up by Neelie Kroes, was under massive pressure to water down its commitment to openness and interoperability. The good news is that ranged against those negative forces, there are others working for a fairer approach, as manifest in the Granada Ministerial Declaration on the European Digital Agenda[.pdf]:

On Open Enterprise blog.

22 April 2010

For Openness – and Open Source - We Need Transparency

Transparency is a close cousin of openness, and it's becoming increasingly, er, clear that we need the former in order to obtain the latter. A new study [.pdf] confirms that the voluntary lobbying register, introduced by the European Commission in 2008 as a sop to those who were pressing for full transparency, is just a joke:

On Open Enterprise blog.

21 April 2010

One Act is over for ACTA: How Will the Drama End?

Rather remarkably, a draft version of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been released [.pdf] by the European Union, one of the parties to the agreement. After months of insistence that it was impossible to release, that it would reveal state secrets, and that civilisation as we know it would probably end, ACTA emerges not with a bang but a whimper.

On Open Enterprise blog.

20 April 2010

Richard Stallman: "I Wished I Had Killed Myself"

I received a review copy of Steven Levy's seminal book Hackers back in the 1980s, but never read it. I did, though, keep it, because it looked interesting and important. It came in very handy when I wrote Rebel Code, since in some sense my book is a continuation of Levy's story, and his meticulous work provided me with the context for everything that happened afterwards.

So I was naturally intrigued to read Levy's recent encounters with some of the key hackers he wrote about back then, in his new Wired article "Steven Levy Revisits Tech Titans, Hackers, Idealists".

Sadly, it is rather disappointing, the meandering parts never quite adding up to any satisfactory whole (and the section on Gates seems overly complaisant.) But it's worth reading (a) for the photos of hackers as they were then, and (b) for the following revelatory confession of RMS:

In our original interview, Stallman said, “I’m the last survivor of a dead culture. And I don’t really belong in the world anymore. And in some ways I feel I ought to be dead.” Now, meeting over Chinese food, he reaffirms this. “I have certainly wished I had killed myself when I was born,” he says. “In terms of effect on the world, it’s very good that I’ve lived. And so I guess, if I could go back in time and prevent my birth, I wouldn’t do it. But I sure wish I hadn’t had so much pain.”

This "pain" that Stallman says he has endured makes his decision to champion tirelessly freedom and free software for all these decades all the more remarkable - and our debt to him for doing so all the greater.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

19 April 2010

Open Source Drug Discovery

One of the inspirations for free software was the scientific method. So it's deeply ironic that science finds itself increasingly unable to share information because of concerns about intellectual monopolies - either infringing on them, or losing the power to create them. This is particularly tragic in the field of medical research, because it means that people are suffering, maybe even dying, as a result.

Against that rather dismal background, here's a ray of hope from India:

OSDD is a CSIR Team India Consortium with Global Partnership with a vision to provide affordable healthcare to the developing world by providing a global platform where the best minds can collaborate & collectively endeavor to solve the complex problems associated with discovering novel therapies for neglected tropical diseases like Malaria, Tuberculosis, Leshmaniasis, etc. It is a concept to collaboratively aggregate the biological and genetic information available to scientists in order to use it to hasten the discovery of drugs. This will provide a unique opportunity for scientists, doctors, technocrats, students and others with diverse expertise to work for a common cause.

The success of Open Source models in Information Technology (For e.g., Web Technology, The Linux Operating System) and Biotechnology (For e.g., Human Genome Sequencing) sectors highlights the urgent need to initiate a similar model in healthcare, i.e., an Open Source model for Drug Discovery.

This is a great idea, especially for a country like India that has much to gain from opening up the world of drug development so that people can collaborate on that "common cause", and from refusing to pay exorbitant intellectual monopoly taxes.

It's already produced results:

Indian scientists have mapped the Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome, a first of its kind achievement that gives hope of discovering a cost effective drug for the disease that kills at least 330,000 Indians every year.

"Our scientists along with over 100 science students from several universities have done this within a few months. We hope within 18-24 months we will be able to take one molecule to the clinical trial stage," Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) chief Samir Bramhachari told IANS.


"OSDD is a completely new formula across the world. Here we are making all our progress available to public. Anyone can take advantage and develop a drug based on our research. The aim here is not patents but drug discovery for a neglected disease," said Rajesh Gokhle, a senior scientist associated with the project.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

Down the EU Piracy Rabbit-hole

Last week I wrote about a report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) that examined the reliability of recorded music industry research papers seeking to estimate the loss from “piracy” in the digital field, and found all of them seriously wanting. As far as I know, no similar analysis has been carried out for European reports. So I thought it might be interesting to look at one particular European report on the subject - not least because I've heard that its findings influenced some of the MPs voting on the Digital Economy Act.

On Open Enterprise blog.

16 April 2010

Darkness Visible: Making Patent Absurdity Patent

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I write a lot about software patents. The reason is simple: they represent probably the greatest single threat to free software, far beyond that of any individual company. If software patents are invoked more widely, or – even worse – unequivocally accepted in Europe, then free software will be in serious trouble (so will traditional software, but at least the companies involved will be able to pay for lawyers, unlike most free software projects.) This makes fighting software patents one of the key tasks for the free software community.

On Open Enterprise blog.

15 April 2010

How Hard Can it Be? DIY OCW

One of the miracles of free software is that it always begins with one or two people saying: “hey, how hard can it be?” The miracle is that they say that even when “it” is an operating system like GNU, or a kernel like Linux, or a graphic image manipulation package like the GIMP. Despite the manifest impossibility of one person writing something that usually requires vast, hierarchical teams, and months of planning, they just start and the miracle continues: others join in and the thing grows until one day, with the help of a few hundred friends, they achieve that impossibility.

I was told this story dozens of times when I was writing Rebel Code, and I'm always heartened when I hear it today in other contexts. Like this one - the Khan Academy, which is:

a 2009 Tech Award winning site with 12+ million views and 1200+ 10-minute "videos on YouTube covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, biology and finance".

The interview linked to above probes how Sal Khan managed to create an entire open courseware site on his own, without worrying about the basic impossibility of doing so. One reason for his success, he believes, is the following:

The simple answer is to put stuff out there and iterate, and not have a bureaucratic team that are better at shooting down each other's ideas and constraining teachers. I understand the need to constrain teachers, because you want to have quality control and make sure everyone is being reached. But the negative side is that you're also constraining very good teachers, and you're taking a lot of the humanity out of the lesson.

This happens at the textbook level as well, and the state standards. I think to some degree there are so many cooks in the kitchen that the final product that the student gets is extremely diluted. There's something to be said for fewer cooks in the kitchen - and if they're good cooks, the food will be a lot more fun to eat. (laughter)

That's my best answer. Several states apparently have had efforts along the same lines. The idea isn't mind-blowing: get your best teachers in the state, or in the country, and put a camera in the room - I don't use a camera, but you could put a camera in the room, or use a format like me - and have them teach. And put those videos online, and make them free for the world.

The expense is almost ridiculously low to do something like that. But time and time again, some of these states have contacted me and said "well, you know, it's getting stuck in meetings..." - and they really haven't produced any videos.

The best way to think about it is that it becomes very corporate. There is this view that it has to be very polished, and have computer graphics, and that the teacher has to have a script so that they don't say "um" or make any mistakes. And I think what that does is it takes all of the humanity out of it, and the humanity is what people connect with.

In other words, release early, and don't worry too much about the quality provided it's good enough to be useful.

The interview is quite long, but it's well-worth reading. I predict that this could turn into a very important project, because it's doing everything right - just as those other people who said
"how hard can it be?" did.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

Digital Economy Act: Built on Sand

One of the many frustrating aspects of the recent debate on the Digital Economy Bill was the constant repetition of two major inaccuracies. The first, that unauthorised file sharing is theft, argues an appalling level of legal literacy among our elected representatives. Such file sharing is actually the infringement of a time-limited, government-granted monopoly, which is very different from stealing your bicycle (for a handy illustration of the difference, don't miss this.)

On Open Enterprise blog.

Is That Embedded Software GPL-Compliant?

Open source software is everywhere these days. In particular, Linux is being used increasingly to power embedded systems of all kinds. That's good, but it's also a challenge, because the free software used in such products may not always be compliant with all the licences it is released under – notably the GNU GPL. For companies that sell such embedded systems using open source, it can be hard even finding out what exactly is inside, let alone whether it is compliant. Enter the new Binary Analysis Tool:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Putting Spotify on the Spot

There has been some criticism that Spotify doesn't really bring in much money for the artists concerned (the labels, of course, do fine). But here's an interesting point that's worth bearing in mind more generally:

Moving on, the data claims that to make minimum wage, an artist would need 4.6M plays on a streaming service like Spotify. While that might be technically true, it's a pretty meaningless calculation. It does not take into account the promotional value of streaming -- and unlike selling 143 CDs, getting 4.6M plays of a digital track would certainly lead to significant revenue elsewhere. Surely an artist would be able to translate that much attention into successful live shows or their own CwF+RtB offering. After all, we've seen time and time again that focusing on something as narrow as money earned per track sold (or streamed play) is a limited way to view a musician's earning potential.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

12 April 2010

Time to Re-Boot British Politics

So, the forces of stupidity, arrogance, greed, laziness and downright bloody-mindedness prevailed, and the Digital Economy Bill has turned from an ugly, misbegotten chrysalis into a ragged, leaden-winged butterfly, the Digital Economy Act. But along the way, a real, terrible beauty was born.

On Open Enterprise blog.

ACTA's Acts of Stupidity

Alongside the UK's Tom Watson, New Zealand's Clare Curran is shaping up as one of the leading net-savvy politicians in the world. Here's a typically clueful post about ACTA and her country's role in the negotiations, concluding:

Why are law-makers heading down this route? It flies in the face of reality. What lies behind the Digital Economy Bill and ACTA?

The best thing the NZ Govt could do is to release its negotiating position to its citizens. Let’s all be in this discussion. Transparency is by far the best policy.

Indeed. But also worth noting is this wonderful point made by Colin Jackson in the comments to that post (pointed out by Curran herself):

What a pity international governments don’t seem to be able to make an agreement to ration finite resources like tuna, atmospheric carbon or fossil fuels, but instead devote their time to making an international agreement enforcing controls over something that costs no resources to copy.

Beautifully put.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

07 April 2010

Yet Another Letter to My MP

It seems my MP was not at the Second Reading of the Digital Economy Bill. Here's what I've just fired off:

Following my long conversation with your assistant yesterday (who was very sympathetic) about the Digital Economy Bill, I was disappointed not to see your name on the list of MPs that attended the Second Reading yesterday. The full list is here:


Now, perhaps your name has been left off by mistake, in which I apologise for the false accusation. But if you were in fact absent, I'd like to ask why a Bill that is so important that it must be rammed through the wash-up with only the barest scrutiny is not something that is worth turning up for?

I think it is important to recognise that things have changed in politics: that many more of us can - and do - follow closely what is happening in Parliament, and write, blog and tweet about it. This means that politics is becoming more open, and much more public, which I think is a good thing. But it does mean that we are all much more aware of what our representatives are doing at all times.

Against that background, I would urge you to do all you can, even at this late stage, in pushing for the Bill to be dropped so that it can be debated properly after the election.

06 April 2010

Nigeria, India, China: Our Copyright-Free Future

Here is another of Kevin Kelly's brilliant posts, but this time it's not about deep philosophical issues, but something really mundane: "How to Thrive Among Pirates". It is probably the best post I have read on the subject, since it manages to marry fresh anecdotes, a wonderful eye for detail and convincing analysis. Here's the summary (but do read it all):

1) Price your copies near the cost of pirated copies. Maybe 99 cents, like iTunes. Even decent pirated copies are not free; there is some cost to maintain integrity, authenticity, or accessibility to the work.

2) Milk the uncopyable experience of a theater for all that it is worth, using the ubiquitous cheap copies as advertising. In the west, where air-conditioning is not enough to bring people to the theater, Hollywood will turn to convincing 3D projection, state-of-the-art sound, and other immersive sensations as the reward for paying. Theaters become hi-tech showcases always trying to stay one step ahead of ambitious homeowners in offering ultimate viewing experiences, and in turn manufacturing films to be primarily viewed this way.

3) Films, even fine-art films, will migrate to channels were these films are viewed with advertisements and commercials. Like the infinite channels promised for cable TV, the internet is already delivering ad-supported free copies of films.

Which is, of course, pretty much what I and people like Mike Masnick have been saying for a while.

It concludes with another rather good summing-up of what's happening here, and where we are going:

Producing movies in a copyright free environment is theoretically impossible. The economics don’t make sense. But in the digital era, there are many things that are impossible in theory but possible in practice – such as Wikipedia, Flickr, and PatientsLikeMe. Add to this list: filmmaking to an audience of pirates. Contrary to expectations and lamentations, widespread piracy does not kill commercial filmmaking. Existence proof: the largest movie industries on the planet. What they are doing today, we’ll be doing tomorrow. Those far-away lands that ignore copy-right laws are rehearsing our future.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

Last Chance: Write to MPs on Digital Economy Bill

Now is probably our last chance to influence our MPs on the Digital Economy Bill. Here's what I've sent:

Although the main news today will obviously be the announcement of the General Election, I would like to urge you once more to support calls for a proper debate on the Digital Economy Bill. If this is important legislation, as I and I am sure you believe it is, then it deserves real scrutiny, not some cursory waving through.

Just because an election is imminent, there is no reason to lower the standards required for passing laws; indeed, how they act in the closing days of this Parliament could be seen as a final chance for politicians to demonstrate their professionalism in this regard.

05 April 2010

The DRM of Government Policy

One area that I have been covering increasingly is that of open government. The parallels with the other opens are not immediate, but there are some suggestive similarities. Here's a great interview that has these illuminating thoughts on the subject:

if lobbyists are the spammers of policy making, then closed doors are the DRM of good policy. Obstacles to creativity, inspiration, and just sort of generally an affront to the most creative people in that field. Being open to a social network of contributors helps solve a lot of those problems, and that gets a sigh of relief from a lot of policy makers.

BTW, the rest of the interview is well-worth reading. (Via @mlsif.)

Where and Whither Mozilla?

The importance of Mozilla and its Firefox browser went up a notch last week. For it was then that it became clear that Microsoft has little intention of following a very particular standard – its own OOXML, pushed through the ISO at great cost to that institution's authority. Contrast that with Microsoft's increasingly positive signals about Web standards, which it is adopting with notable fervency – largely thanks to Firefox.

On Open Enterprise blog.

02 April 2010

RMS and Tim Berners-Lee: Separated at Birth?

We all knew that Sir Tim was a total star, choosing to give away the Web rather than try to make oodles of billions from it. Some of us even knew that he contemplated using the GNU GPL for its licence, before being persuaded that placing it in the public domain would help it spread faster. But even I did not know this:

Much government work is done by civil servants emailing Word documents back and forth. Yet Berners-Lee refuses, on principle, to use Word, which is a proprietary rather than an open source format. On one occasion, one official recalled, Berners-Lee received an urgent document in Word from one of the most senior civil servants—and refused to look at it until a junior official had rushed to translate it into an acceptable format.

Seems RMS has some competition in the uncompromising integrity stakes....(Via @timjph.)

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

Microsoft's Gift to Open Standards

Long-time readers of this blog will recall the bitter fight over the submission of Microsoft's OOXML formats to the ISO. To the dismay of most people in the world of open source, a compromise was reached that enabled Microsoft to claim that OOXML was being approved. Here is how Alex Brown, who played a crucial role in the standardisation process, describes it:

On Open Enterprise blog.

01 April 2010

Last Chance to Save BBC from DRM

Six months ago, I wrote about a shabby attempt to slip through a major change at the BBC that would entail adding DRM to its HDTV output. Thanks in no small part of the prompt letter-writing of Computerworld UK readers, Ofcom extended the consultation period on this; subsequently, it also held meetings with the Open Rights Group, which I attended.

Despite all those representations, the BBC is still hell-bent on throwing over decades of public broadcasting and becoming in thrall to commercial interests through ineffective DRM:

On Open Enterprise blog.