SOPA – About Copyright & Trademark violations

The author of the original, now nearly dead, SOPA legislation in the US was Congressman Lamar Smith. As word spread about the draconian measures in the bill, someone decided to check Lamar’s website and found that his site used a Creative Commons photo without attribution. That means his site was infringing on copyright. Shortly after the news broke Lamar’s site was taken down. It reappeared later with the images removed from the background and banner.

Legislators in Ireland are under pressure to pass a SOPA like law from the subsidiaries of the same companies that lobbied the US for SOPA. Earlier today, news broke on Twitter that Sean Sherlock’s (the man behind the Irish version of SOPA) site also contained copyright infringement. This site was also taken down today and probably we can safely assume that it will reappear without copyright infringement.

In Canada, there is pressure on parliament to pass Bill C-11 (Canadian version of SOPA). Can you guess what’s coming next?

The party currently in power in Canada is the CPC party. Lo and behold, In the lower right of the CPC website is a fake Youtube Logo:

Youtube does provide a terms of service for using their logo. Youtube also provides the approved logos in downloadable form.

Yes, those three sites only had minor infringements. But, they are infringements nonetheless.

  • How many websites currently have accidental fake logos?
  • How many websites currently have an image downloaded from a photo hosting service (ex. Flickr)?
  • How many websites currently have an icon the developer borrowed from Windows, OSX or an application?

The answer is probably millions. Is there a point at which technically illiterate politicians will clue in that the laws they are proposing will negatively affect millions of existing websites?

The additional irony with the CPC instance is that Youtube might end up being blocked from Canada if C-11 is passed.

SOPA & PIPA Blackout

I wanted to give a brief non-technical explanation of why we participated in the Internet blackout in protest of SOPA & PIPA. To start, here is a great TED talk:

Under current law (DMCA), you & I are allowed to incorporate existing content into our own works so long as it falls within “fair use”. Fair use means you can use short clips from movies, short music clips from other artists, quotes from other written works, etc. without it being copyright infringement. SOPA & PIPA eliminate fair use.

Further to that, the proposed laws also make linking to web sites that contain copyright infringement (under the new definition) illegal (on the grounds of aiding and abetting copyright infringement). What that means in practical terms if SOPA & PIPA pass into law is that most existing blogs both foreign and domestic would fall into the definition of a copyright infringing website and/or intellectual property theft.

A person who has a site offering free yoga videos and instruction is technically taking revenue away from the traditional entertainment and broadcasting industry. However, most like the person running that site is making money from advertising and/or creating a customer base for one on one consultation. From an economic standpoint, the site may be eliminating a job at News Corp or one of the other media conglomerates but it is not costing the economy a job.

The media conglomerates cannot get legislators to shutdown the distribution infrastructure (the Internet), so they drafted legislation that targets the content producers (ie. you & I). If you have not already done so, I encourage you to contact your representatives to let them know that you do not want the Internet to be censored.

Financial Planning – Elsewhere

A bit of a timely post on the Freakonomics Blog. The study looked at American finance but it is probably applicable throughout most of North America and Europe:

The most worrisome finding is that many people do not seem well informed and knowledgeable about their terms of borrowing; a sizable group does not know the terms of their mortgages or the interest rates they pay on their loans. – via Freakonomics

A week ago I wrote about Financial Planning.

The Secret to Cutting Glass

Since I changed back working at home again, I sometimes miss working with stained glass. Right now, I don’t have a studio to do it in, so I haven’t worked with it in about 5 years. The last piece I did was the one to the right.

I had worked my way up to that one by doing a number of smaller pieces. While I was working on the oval window, I was also doing a tradeoff with the owner of the stained glass studio. One day a week I ran the studio in exchange for having free use of the studio for that day. Between working on my own pieces and cutting glass for customers, I had lots of practice at cutting glass. My first tip is don’t go for a cheap glass cutter. It won’t take very long for the $5 one to ruin $25 worth of glass. With a good cutter there are three things that make easy work of cutting glass.

Steady Pressure

The way a glass cutter works is that it scratches the surface of the glass. It’s called cutting glass, but it’s really glass scoring. The molecular structure of glass is such that it’s under tension. By scoring the surface, you are creating a line of stress. If you don’t press hard enough on the cutter you don’t create a scratch. If you apply too much pressure, the glass cracks under the cutter and creates a fracture laterally through the glass.

Keep Moving

When you are cutting glass you can move the cutter across the glass too fast. But you need to be more concerned with stopping. I mentioned above that you are creating a line of stress. As long as the cutter keeps moving, the line of stress stays with the cutter. When you stop, the line of stress keeps going. Without the cutter to lead/direct the stress, it follows weaknesses in the glass.

Heat

In a home studio situation, you should not be cutting glass without a hairdryer nearby. After you have scored the line in the glass with the cutter, warming the glass around the score helps it break cleanly. If you heat glass enough it becomes a liquid. Even though the hair dryer is not warming the glass anywhere near that point, it is making the glass more flexible and reduces the stress in the glass. That increases the weakness along the score compared to the glass around it. Then all you need is a bit of pressure trying to bend the glass along the score and it snaps clean.

Valentine’s Day

Today is our 23rd Valentine’s day. Andrea’s post for today is Words to describe my husband. Between reading her post and thinking about cutting glass, I realized that relationships are like cutting glass. In addition to being husband and wife, Andrea & I are best friends, business partners and co-workers. All of those types of relationships succeed on similar behavior.

Be Consistent

The secret to scoring glass is consistent pressure and speed. Trying to maintain a relationship with someone who is all over the maps is extremely difficult. You never really know what to expect. That works both ways. If you are all over the map then the other person won’t know what to expect. Being consistent helps the other people in the relationship know where things are going to go.

Don’t Hesitate

He who hesitates is lost – old proverb

When you hesitate scoring glass, the stress carries on without you and follows the weaknesses that are already there. Hesitancy in a relationship is usually a result of not knowing the other person well enough or not trusting them enough. Obviously when you first meet someone you don’t know them that well and there isn’t a strong basis for trust. The trick to navigating to a strong relationship is to try to keep things in a zone where you’re comfortable. If a relationship is frequently out of the comfort zone, hesitancy will ensue. The path the relationship will follow will be determined largely by the weaknesses in it.

Be Gentle

Just like glass, all relationships have stress. The people involved are individuals with different ideas, values, personalities & experience. Being gentle, considerate, thoughtful, patient, etc. goes a very long way in alleviating the stress in relationships. You can be firm and be gentle. You can be critical and be gentle. Unless a relationship has already gotten way out of hand, situations where you need to forsake virtues are rare. A good relationship is one where it serves both parties. Being interested in the the other person’s well-being serves both the relationship and you.

Workspace

When I bought this computer a couple years ago, I settled on Debian Etch for an OS. I tried both Gnome and KDE for session management/desktop UI. KDE seems to be better equipped for developers (or, at least, for a command line/terminal based developer like me). Over Christmas break I upgrade to Lenny and left it with Gnome as the session manager. Shortly after the New Year, I started working on WordPress 3.0.

One weekend in February I switched over to KDE, but found there were things I had set up in Gnome that I was going to have to recreate in KDE. I didn’t have the time to do it then, so I switched back to Gnome. After working with Gnome for seven months, I’m somewhat used to it. There are still some things that are faster/easier in KDE than in Gnome, but I can still do those in KDE (by choosing KDE when I log in) and use Gnome as my day to day session manager. Switching to KDE briefly only requires logging out and back in.

The first time I was a FTE (full time employee) was a little over 4 years ago. Prior to that, I spent the majority of my work time working on clients’ computers with a typical time range between one week and three months. So, I’ve gotten used to working with whatever is available. Even though I upgraded over seven months ago, I hadn’t taken the time to really settle in. I got the urge to do that this morning. Here is what I ended up with (if you click on it, you can see it at 50% scale):

My rearranged workspace August 2010

  • The background picture is of the rose bush that Andrea bought me for my birthday this year.
  • The yellow notes are a handy sticky note application that I found this morning. I often have bits of text I want to hang onto short term and these are pretty handy for that.
  • The system menus are the equivalent of the start menu in Windows. I’m not sure what the equivalent is called on a Mac.
  • The quick icons are single click quick launch icons. Four of the seven are different web browsers which I use for various things. The other three are an X terminal (bash shell), my mail client and NetBeans. One of the things I miss from KDE is that you can set it so everything is single click launch.
  • The workspaces are essentially virtual desktops. I started working with X Windows in the early 90s and this was one of the features that I really liked. I think both Macs and Windows have similar functionality although I’m not sure whether in Windows you need to run virtual machines to achieve the effect. Usually I run up to three applications in a virtual desktop. Each virtual desktop has its own Z-order and focus which allows switching desktops (and applications) without losing the focus in the one you are leaving.
  • I think everyone has a system tray. The last icon allows me to switch to any active application. The only time I really use that is when I have more than 10 apps running at the same time.

Connecting Online

An online friend has set up a blog to ask people how they connect online. Andrea & I have known D’Arcy quite a while. He works with WordPress/WordPress MU at the University of Calgary. We’ve never met him IRL, so he qualifies as someone who we have connected with. So, the first way I connect with people is through working with and contributing to Open Source projects. The project I spend the most time on is WordPress MU.

Andrea & I have been accessing the Internet since the early 90’s. Over the years, we have used a wide variety of methods to connect to people. I remember doing things like connecting to a computer at a client’s site via the Internet with remote control software, firing up a text editor and using the text editor as a chat window.

Generally though, the way I’ve connected online with people over the last few years has been through writing in this blog, commenting in other blogs & posting in forums. Recently I’ve joined both facebook and twitter. For the most part, facebook provides an online connect to people that I know from somewhere else. I haven’t particularly seen it as a means to make new connections. On the other hand, I think that’s one of the main benefits of twitter.

One of the things that I don’t do is video & audio connecting. That’s because our Internet connection is via satellite and the latency is worse than dialup.

Anyway, thanks D’Arcy for giving me something to write about.

Social Media

It seems that people are writing in their blogs less. It’s been a gradual decline which I think has made it somewhat less noticeable. Perhaps it’s more along the lines that we’re aware of it, but set the issue aside for another day. This blog is an example of one with a declining number of posts.

To a degree we can blame services like facebook & twitter. I use twitter quite a bit because it allows me to keep up with and interact with a large number of people with relative ease. Generally, interaction on twitter provides more immediate response which makes it more appealing. For the people who use facebook daily, I can see how having everyone’s content aggregated together makes it convenient/appealing as well. Since I’ve been using a feed reader for years it’s less of a convenience for me.

I expect there is another side of it as well. Until the advent of the web, most people had no place to talk/write that wasn’t shared by others. I think most of us had built up a large reservoir of thoughts and ideas that had had no outlet. Now that we’ve had a few years to write, most of the ideas and values we hold have had some form of airing. In a sense, we have less to talk about. Many of the things that are important to us have been read and responded to.

Why don’t Students like school

I’m not sure I could say it much better myself. The whole article is worth a read ๐Ÿ™‚

I shouldn’t be too harsh on Willingham. He’s not the only one avoiding this particular elephant in the room. Everyone who has ever been to school knows that school is prison, but almost nobody says it. It’s not polite to say it. We all tiptoe around this truth, that school is prison, because telling the truth makes us all seem so mean. How could all these nice people be sending their children to prison for a good share of the first 18 years of their lives? How could our democratic government, which is founded on principles of freedom and self-determination, make laws requiring children and adolescents to spend a good portion of their days in prison? It’s unthinkable, and so we try hard to avoid thinking it. Or, if we think it, we at least don’t say it. – Peter Gray

HT: Carlotta

Geek of the week

Seems I’m swinging by for my monthly blog post. One of the things I’ve been working on over the last few months is moving our web sites from the VPS we have had for the last few years to a dedicated server. Between the two, we are spending a couple hundred a month and I’m looking forward to eliminating one of them. Server Beach comes highly recommended for dedicated web servers. If you are in the market for one, I have a coupon code which will give you a break on your hosting bill.

A few weeks ago I put my name in to be featured as SB’s geek of the week. I got the message through twitter this morning that I was being featured this week.

About a week ago both Andrea & I were nominated to the WP Rockstar Showcase. We have been sitting in our current position of being on both the highest list and most rated list for the last few days. We wouldn’t object to you stopping by and giving us a boost tho’ ๐Ÿ˜‰

I have also been sharing the writing with Andrea over on the WPMU Tutorials blog which is definitely one of the reasons I’ve been writing less here.

I’m not expecting to be less busy over the next few months. But, Andrea & I are considering a westward bound weekend trip in July. We just have to firm a few things up before we say too much about it.

Bailout

I saw this somewhere yesterday. I was also sick and cannot remember where I saw it. Thankfully, JoVE posted an entry about it today. The other thing that happened today was that I bought gas. The price has been dropping here over the last few months. It’s price is now less than half of what it was earlier this year.

About 44% of what I paid for the gas today was various taxes. At the high price I paid a few months ago, only 27% was taxes. Removing the taxes from both prices means that the price today was approx 27% of the high price I paid only a few months ago.

A few years ago I read an article which said that one of the big 3 was making an average of $11-12,000 on its top of the line gas guzzling SUV. So, IMO, the place the big 3 need to look for their lost profits & potentially assistance is big oil because once that gas guzzler was driven off the lot, the folks who have been making out like bandits from it have been big oil.

buyout

Again, just my opinion, but if the government is interested in bailing out the economy long term then the place where they should be investing is in green technologies. Investing in green technologies would reduce oil demand & consumption. An ongoing investment in that area would stabilize the prices of oil based products. What that should do for the big 3 is increase their sales enough to give them an opportunity to retool themselves to produce economically viable products.