Evidently this one does.
It’s a kind of perverse thing that the less I have to do, the less motivated I am to do anything. I know I’m not the only person who suffers from this.

At any rate, the sleeper has awakened. Expect to see more from me soon.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future

I put together Wednesday’s blog post early to raise awareness for SOPA and PIPA. This weekend SOPA was shelved until February, pending further review by the House committee. But PIPA is still up for vote on the 24th. PIPA contains measures that can break the internet and make it less safe. Copyright issues are real, but we have tools to fight them now. We don’t need kafka-esque legal measures penned by the movie and music industry shills.

How bad is it? Christian Dawson has the best description I’ve found:

The Protect IP Act, known as PIPA, is the version of the bill that the United States Senate is reviewing. The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, is the version being reviewed by the House of Representatives, which saw its first day of markup today.

Both bills attempt to shut off access to content that is alleged to be infringing. They do this by attacking web sites accused of housing that content, from four main angles:

  • Their access to advertising
  • The money those sites earn
  • Their DNS
  • Their web hosting

Advertising and money are pretty simple to understand. The other two may take some help. DNS is something like a technical postal address. When you type a web address into your browser, DNS tells it what path to take. Web hosting is the place your website lives—the computer the website operates out of—kind of like a brick and mortar storefront. Hosting websites is what my company, ServInt, does.

Does using this methodology solve the problem?

No. In this case their prescribed cure is far worse than the initial ailment.

How can we best illustrate that? Imagine that instead of a website we were talking about a traditional store, like Home Depot.

Under current law, if you saw something on the shelf at Home Depot that you thought was counterfeit, you could alert Home Depot and, under the threat of possible future legal action, work with them to get that content off the shelf.

If PIPA and SOPA applied to brick and mortar stores and became law, you would instead immediately be able to:

  • get their landlord to close the store
  • require newspapers to stop running their ads
  • make banks close their accounts
  • and remove their address from every phone book and every GPS.

You would never need to actually talk to Home Depot at all—and you could even bring all this to pass on the mere allegation of infringement. Home Depot would get no due process of law. The landlord, bank etc. would get immunity from prosecution for shutting down Home Depot even if no counterfeit goods were ever found. And if the landlord or bank did not cut off Home Depot, and it turned out that there was indeed illegal merchandise on Home Depot’s shelves, those parties would be liable for failing to act.

Bottom line: SOPA and PIPA put every Internet service provider in a position where it is in their best interest to be as hostile as possible to anybody who is even accused of wrongdoing.

It’s worth following the link and reading the whole article. Dawson explains in clear language what the repercussions could be. Although let me expand on what else would happen to Home Depot if they actually did have the counterfeit product on their shelve: they would be sued by Sony/ BMG/ Warner Brothers/ RIAA – the same people who sue grandmothers without internet connections, dead people, and seven year olds. Then the CEO of Home Depot would be thrown in jail for up to five years on a felony charge. That’s right, uploading a video of your nephew dancing to Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog or your drunk best friend singing Don’t Stop Believin’ on karaoke night could land you in jail on a felony charge. After making you too broke to afford a lawyer.

In case you think this is just the kind of tool that is needed to fight them dad-gum internet pirates, let’s make this clear. If PIPA passes there will be no YouTube. There will be no Facebook. There will be no Twitter. There will be no Reddit, Digg, or 4chan. There will be no way of sharing scenes, images, or songs that you enjoy on the internet. There may even be no more Painted Dog Games if Bethesda sees the screenshot from Skyrim I posted and decides they don’t like those shenanigans. But there will still be pirates. They will be able to work around the protections with very little determination and little know-how. This is still a bill written by the entertainment industry for people who don’t really know how the internet works.

The movie industry has spent over a century fighting technology. It always claimed that new technology X, Y, or Z was going to destroy the movie industry. Steve Blank has a complete rundown:

The Movie Industry and Technology Progress
The music and movie business has been consistently wrong in its claims that new platforms and channels would be the end of its businesses. In each case, the new technology produced a new market far larger than the impact it had on the existing market.

  • 1920’s – the record business complained about radio. The argument was because radio is free, you can’t compete with free. No one was ever going to buy music again.
  • 1940’s – movie studios had to divest their distribution channel – they owned over 50% of the movie theaters in the U.S. “It’s all over,” complained the studios. In fact, the number of screens went from 17,000 in 1948 to 38,000 today.
  • 1950’s – broadcast television was free; the threat was cable television. Studios argued that their free TV content couldn’t compete with paid.
  • 1970’s – Video Cassette Recorders (VCR’s) were going to be the end of the movie business. The movie businesses and its lobbying arm MPAA fought it with “end of the world” hyperbole. The reality? After the VCR was introduced, studio revenues took off like a rocket.  With a new channel of distribution, home movie rentals surpassed movie theater tickets.
  • 1998 – the MPAA got congress to pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), making it illegal for you to make a digital copy of a DVD that you actually purchased.
  • 2000 – Digital Video Recorders (DVR) like TiVo allowing consumer to skip commercials was going to be the end of the TV business. DVR’s reignite interest in TV.
  • 2006 – broadcasters sued Cablevision (and lost) to prevent the launch of a cloud-based DVR to its customers.
  • Today it’s the Internet that’s going to put the studios out of business. Sound familiar?
Why was the movie industry consistently wrong? And why do they continue to fight new technology?
He sums up the matter very nicely at the end of his article.
  • Studios are run by financial managers who lack the skills to exploit disruptive innovation
  • Studio anti-piracy/copyright lawyers trump their technologists
  • Studios have no concern about collateral damage as long as it optimizes their revenue
  • Studios $110M/year lobbying and political donations trump consumer objections
  • Politicians votes will follow the money unless it will cost them an election
The head of the MPAA, ex-senator Chris Dodd (previously a champion of net-neutrality), says they aren’t asking for much. All they really want is the same kind of power China has to censor the internet. In giving his opinion about the blackout  of Reddit and Wikipedia, Chris Dodd managed to say the following with a straight face:
“It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.”

Bear in mind folks, the MPAA had a large hand in writing these bills. The same organization that wants Chinese-style censorship is saying that Wikipedia and Reddit are abusing their power by going dark for a whole 24 hours.

The White House has stated that it does not approve of PIPA and SOPA and that they both contain measures it will never approve of. This is a baby step in the right direction but only a baby step. The White House said the same thing about NDAA before signing it into law.

Painted Dog doesn’t want to write a political blog. You will never see me shilling for one presidential/ senate/ mayoral/ dog catcher candidate over another. But this is truly a bi-partisan issue that will affect us all. Please contact your senators and tell them not to support PIPA. The vote is scheduled for January 24th.

This Website Has Been Removed due to Violation of HR 3261, SOPA

Art Car Fest 2006 - 34.jpg

Used under Creative Commons License. Photo by L. Marie

Well this is a huge step forward in the “are video games art” debate. The Smithsonian Art Museum is opening a new exhibition dedicated to the art of video games. Here’s an excerpt from their website.

Video games are a prevalent and increasingly expressive medium within modern society. In the forty years since the introduction of the first home video game, the field has attracted exceptional artistic talent. An amalgam of traditional art forms—painting, writing, sculpture, music, storytelling, cinematography—video games offer artists a previously unprecedented method of communicating with and engaging audiences.

I am very excited by this. Obviously I fall on the side of the argument that very much believes that video games are art. But I’m known to have a very liberal definition of what “art” is. Scott McCloud has what I think is the best definition in his groundbreaking work Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.

Art, as I see it, is any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either of our species’ two basic instincts: survival and reproduction. . . . . Because of its independence from our evolution-bred instincts, art is the way we assert our identities as individuals and break out of the narrow roles nature cast us in. . . . “Pure” art is essentially tied to the question of purpose – of deciding what you want out of art.

If you like comics, art, or communicating ideas then you should read this book

Now video games certainly have a large appeal due to how they tap that survival instinct, whether appealing to the part of the brain that is wired to run from sabre-toothed tigers or the part that is wired to gather food. And I’m sure somewhere out there video games have enough cachet to help someone get laid (maybe South Korea? It would explain the time that country dedicates to Starcraft). In the meantime, the dialogue options in Mass Effect and Dragon Age will help us seduce that collection of pixels into some PG-13 fun.

But the lush scenery of Skyrim? Art. The easter eggs in World of Warcraft? Art. The soaring soundtrack of Halo? Art. And I’m so happy to start seeing established, serious institutions embracing video games. From the Smithsonian museum to classical orchestras partnering up with Play! – A Video Game Symphony.

It’s unlikely that I’ll make it up to DC for the grand three day opening extravaganza, but the exhibit will be traveling after it’s had its run there. The fun starts on March 16th and the party don’t quit until March 18th so check out the website for the full program of fun.

How do you make sticky ideas?

An extra book post this week! Huzzah!

Did you hear about the lady in Cincinnati who found a rat in her bucket of fried chicken? She brought it home to feed her family and when they got to the bottom of the bucket there was a deep fried rat laying there.  It was breaded and deep fried just like a piece of chicken and nobody realized it was a rat – a whole rat – until her five year old son bit into it. The company settled with her for four million dollars due to her emotional distress. This is why they changed the name of the company from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC, because they can’t legally call it “chicken” anymore.

Or have you ever heard about intermittent fasting? The 1945 study by Carlson and Hoelzel. . . . found that the apparent life span of rats in the study was increased by intermittent fasting. Tests in which a group of thirty-three rats were allowed the same food ad libitum and groups of thirty-seven, thirty-seven and thirty rats were fasted 1 day in 4, 3 and 2, respectively, after the age of 42 days, showed that the optimum amount of fasting appeared to be fasting 1 day in 3 and this increased the life span of littermate males about 20% and littermate females about 15%. However, the pre-experimental condition of the individual rats was also found to be an important factor determining the life spans.

Okay, now go get a glass of water and then come back to read below the fold.

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