Laser Blog

Articles tagged "digital rights"

82 A Patent Lie

Saturday 9th June, 2007

An interesting article from the New York Times which highlights some of the damage that patents are inflicting on the software industry. What's really interesting is how opinions have changed over the past 16 years:

Microsoft sang a very different tune in 1991. In a memo to his senior executives, Bill Gates wrote, “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.

(Emphasis added.)


78 Sue me first, Microsoft

Sunday 20th May, 2007

The recent litigation threats made by Microsoft against users of Linux have so unimpressed some of them that they have set up a website inviting Microsoft to sue them first.


71 Who's in charge of your PC? - Part 2

Friday 13th April, 2007

Last year, I posted a link to an article about proposals by the Swiss government to surreptitiously install trojans onto people's PCs.

Now it seems that the German government has similar ideas.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has confirmed plans to seek a change to the constitution to allow the state secret access to the computers of private individuals, in an interview published Thursday.

"Under certain conditions it must be possible for the Federal Criminal Police Office to search computers in secret," Schaeuble told the Handelsblatt newspaper.

To be honest I felt I was somewhat restrained in my analysis of the previous article. This sort of thing (surreptitious searching of a PC) can happen in two ways:

  • The government secretly installs a trojan
  • The vendor installs a backdoor

The problem with the first option is getting the anti-virus people on board. Only one of them has to step out of line (and proudly boast about it) to stop this from working. So this leaves the second option. With the second option (and with the first option, to be honest), only one or two possible candidate OSes spring to mind. Windows and MacOS. It simply isn't going to happen with Free/Open Source operating systems, because anyone can see the source and adjust it as they see fit. Furthermore, vendors who need to please their shareholders, and desperately want sales would love to have a "government approved" sticker on their product.

Either way, tech-savvy people will find ways around it. It's too risky not to, since crackers will find ways to use these loopholes for their own purposes - if there's a door, there will be a way to open it. By referring to the "tech-savvy", I also mean the people that the German government are supposedly targetting, so ultimately only the "innocent" will be running infected PCs. But as many of these types like to say when civil rights get eroded for political ends, "if you've got nothing to hide ..."

What the article really demonstrates is how stupid politicians and civil servants are when discussing anything other than their own field of expertise, which is politics, not IT. I wonder if the plans allow for police officers' and politicians' PCs to also be compromised in this way.


67 How a music lover became a pirate

Wednesday 21st March, 2007

Does DRM drive honest well-meaning people to piracy? Well, yes it does. Does it affect those who already use pirated music? No, not at all. So, who are the RIAA trying to target?

The following exchange occurs after the author tried to copy legally purchased, DRM-infected .WMA files into iTunes. After failing several times, he calls the support line for the company which sold the files to him:

"You don't understand," I said, "These files were not copied or pirated, I actually purchased them."

"Well" she responded, "You didn't actually purchase the files, you really purchased a license to listen to the music, and the license is very specific about how they can be played or listened to."

Now I was baffled. "Records never came with any such restrictions," I said.

Read the full article from the consumerist website.


62 Let free music files ring

Tuesday 13th March, 2007

Richard Stallman has written a short article for the Boston Globe about file sharing.

The record companies, seeking to bully people who share music, have demanded that colleges identify students who share. They use smear terms such as "piracy" and "theft" that imply sharing is wrong. Don't believe it. Sharing is friendship; to attack sharing is to attack the basis of society.

Well, we all know that most musicians get almost nothing from the record companies. In fact, the record companies almost seem like drug pushers, the way they pay just enough to maintain the artists' dependency on them.

"Authors own their books and license them to publishers. When the contract runs out, writers gets their books back. But record companies own our copyrights forever."

Courtney Love

Back to Richard Stallman:

The real solution is to legalize sharing. This won't affect the record companies much, but if they did go out of business, we could rejoice that they can no longer threaten anyone.

They pay zero cents of your CD purchase price to musicians (except for superstars), so the absence of these companies would be no loss to society.

Hear, hear.