Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Associated Press Attempts to Destroy Journalism

Patrick Hayden wrote on Monday that the Associated Press is now charging fees for individuals to quote as little as five words from AP articles. I'll borrow the graphic from Cory Doctorow to illustrate the insanity the AP has decided to spiral downwards into.

Furthermore, Hayden writes that the AP reserves the right to terminate any license if the user criticizes the AP. From the AP's Terms of Use:

You shall not use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to the author, the publication from which the Content came, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or depicted in the Content. You agree not to use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to or damaging to the reputation of Publisher, its licensors, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or referenced in the Content […]

Publisher reserves the right to terminate this Agreement at any time if Publisher or its agents finds Your use of the licensed Content to be offensive and/or damaging to Publisher’s reputation.

Whatever happened to fair use?
Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. [emphasis mine]

Aren't those the activities that journalists, bloggers, and other interested individuals engage in when quoting a news story like those provided by the AP?

The AP has reported that the organization will be meeting with bloggers to address their "assertion of copyright." I'll quote the article at length, and without an unconstitutional license from the assholes at the AP:
The Associated Press, following criticism from bloggers over an AP assertion of copyright, plans to meet this week with a bloggers' group to help form guidelines under which AP news stories could be quoted online.


Wendy Seltzer, a legal scholar and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, said it was encouraging that AP wanted to find an arrangement with bloggers to facilitate a mutually agreeable way for them to use AP content.

But she cautioned that the news organization, a not-for-profit cooperative owned by its member newspapers and broadcasters, should not try to go beyond what's legally permissible.
And that's exactly what the AP is trying to do; the organization is trying to go beyond what is legally permissible. Moreover, the AP has proven itself unable to uphold journalistic standards and democratic ideals:
[Jim] Kennedy [AP Director of Strategic Planning] said the AP had both a journalistic concern about preventing AP news from being quoted out of context and also a business concern about protecting the value of AP's news from being diluted if its key elements are made available from places that aren't licensed.

[UPDATE]: Michael Arrington of TechCrunch sums it up quite well:
The A.P. doesn’t get to make its own rules around how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows. So even though they say they are making these new guidelines in the spirit of cooperation, it’s clear that, like the RIAA and MPAA, they are trying to claw their way to a set of property rights that don’t exist today and that they are not legally entitled to. And like the RIAA and MPAA, this is done to protect a dying business model -- paid content.
[UPDATE 2]: The Associated Press capitulates.

Network TV: Whitewashed

From Entertainment Weekly:

Today the current prime-time lineup, including fall's 14 new scripted shows, is looking alarmingly pale. According to an Entertainment Weekly study of scripted-programming casts for the upcoming fall 2008 season, each of the five major broadcast networks is whiter than the Caucasian percentage (66.2 percent) of the United States population, as per the 2007 census estimate. And all of the networks are representing considerably lower than the Latino population percentage of 15.2 percent, with The CW -- whose only lead Latina star, JoAnna Garcia, will be playing a white character named Megan Smith on Surviving the Filthy Rich -- registering just 3.8 percent.

Monday, June 9, 2008


A new movie from Liongate Entertainment called Religulous, starring Bill Maher and directed by Larry Charles (Borat, Curb Your Enthusiasm), is coming October 3rd, 2008:

The documentary RELIGULOUS follows political humorist and author Bill Maher (“Real Time With Bill Maher,” “Politically Incorrect”) as he travels around the globe interviewing people about God and religion. Known for his astute analytical skills, irreverent wit and commitment to never pulling a punch, Maher brings his characteristic honesty to an unusual spiritual journey. Directed by Larry Charles (BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), RELIGULOUS will mark Charles’ first feature project since the critically acclaimed, wildly successful BORAT. Jonah Smith and Palmer West of Thousand Words (A SCANNER DARKLY, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) and Bill Maher are producing.
View the trailer here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Phony Democrats for John McCain

This morning, I heard that Hillary Clinton is expected to suspend her campaign for the presidential nomination on the Democratic ticket. So, it is with great puzzlement that I came across this website, The National Organization of Hillary Clinton Supporters for John McCain. What the hell?

My knee-jerk reaction is that this is a load of crap. From the horrible, eye-bleeding design of the website (the formatting of which, I've come to notice, is a trademark of Right-wing bullshit chain emails -- i.e., use of flashing words, all-caps, multiple and conflicting colors, and misaligned text) to the use of the phrase "Democrat party," I get the clear indication that these "Democrats" were likely not progressives ever at all.

But this also reminds me of something that happened while I was in college. The 2004 presidential election had wrapped up towards the end of the semester during my political science course on interest groups and lobbyists. My professor related a story about a student who came to him about financial aid. The rules for qualification had changed, and those changes had been made possible by the Bush administration. This student wanted to know what he could do to remedy his situation quickly, as he would now be unable to afford his education. My professor asked one question first, "Who did you vote for?" The student's answer was, "Bush." And my professor snapped.

Because my professor is a principled educator, he did eventually help this student out but not before laying into him for his voting choice. What bothered my professor so much was the fact that this student had voted for a president who was actively working against the student's best interest. My professor was amazed how an issue of such importance to this student, such as education policy, had not been on his mind when he voted.

I am similarly amazed at the idoicy that is The National Organization of Hillary Clinton Supporters for John McCain. Here we have a group of individuals who are prepared to campaign against their own interests (by supporting a candidate, John McCain, who is against most of the policies of their preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton) while also sabotaging those same interests (by planning to actively campaign against a candidate, Barack Obama, who represents many of the same policies as Hillary Clinton).


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"Assassination" Art Exhibit Shut Down by Police

The New York Times reported today that artist Yazmany Arboleda's exhibit "The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama" was shut down by New York City police.

The exhibit was shut down by 9:30 am, and police interrogated Arboleda for about an hour. According to Arboleda, authorities were concerned that the exhibit "could excite someone to do something crazy, like break the window."

Arboleda stated that the exhibit was about character assassination and how the media has portrayed the leading Democratic candidates:

It’s art. It’s not supposed to be harmful. It’s about character assassination — about how Obama and Hillary have been portrayed by the media. [...] It’s about the media.

The exhibition is supposed to be about character assassination. [...] It’s philosophical and metaphorical.
What bothers me about this incident is that there is a clear violation of this man's 1st amendment rights to freedom of speech. On the other hand, there is the concern of "yelling fire in a crowded theatre" syndrome; however, I do not think that the word "assassination" near the names of presidential candidates in an art exhibit qualifies. There's nothing about this art exhibit that would cause a reasonable person to conclude that a threat existed.

Ultimately, I think that this is an overreaction on part of the police, and in the process this man's speech was stifled. The 1st amendment is there to protect what others may find objectionable -- we don't need a constitutional amendment to protect what is acceptable to express, we need a constitutional amendment to protect what is taboo.

One commenter, B.A., from The New York Times article gave a rather intelligent insight:
This is just one of the things that is wonderful about America. If we feel this is inappropriate, irreverent, impolite, we have equal rights to speak out against it, in forums like this, or by walking down to the location, holding up signs and protesting. If this exhibit ignites passion furiously against it, those unwilling to do more than complain from their keyboards should not endorse the bending of the law to make it go away.
The answer to speech you don't like is more speech, not police oppression and/or intimidation.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Turn Jesus On

What can I say about this except creepy, and maybe prophetic? Symbolic?

Don't Punish Legitimate Customers

Yet, that is exactly what entertainment industries do when they implement intrusive and inconveniencing DRM schemes. Rob Fahey, of, wrote a few months ago:

The response from the videogames industry to piracy has, thus far, been utterly asinine. Not, of course, that videogames should be singled out here -- the music and movie businesses, too, have done their fair share of asinine things in the last five to ten years as they desperately struggle to understand the changes which internet piracy is causing to their market. Only the music business, which has been struck hardest by online, user-driven piracy, has begun to learn its lesson and adapt its business intelligently. It remains to be seen whether movies and games are condemned to repeat the same costly mistakes, or whether they can learn from their sibling industry and avoid the traps.

The core of the response of both games and movies (although our focus here is on games, obviously) to internet piracy -- the response which leads me, with absolute confidence, to describe these efforts as being asinine -- is to treat their legitimate users as though they were criminals. Almost every single effort which has been made by these industries to protect their products has had the result of inconveniencing, frustrating and disenfranchising honest, paying customers.


There will always be a core of people who can't or won't pay for things, and who will go to incredible lengths and inconvenience themselves awfully just in order to get stuff for free. However, it's a stupid and useless dogma to claim that all piracy happens because of that impulse. The reality is that when pirates are offering a better user experience than you are, your business model is broken -- and rather than punishing your loyal customers, or whinging to national governments in the hope that they'll cover your backside with unpopular, civil liberties infringing legislation, you need to fix your business model. Or find a new job. [emphasis mine]
Another key thing that Fahey mentions, regarding music, is this:
Lo and behold, consumers aren't actually against paying reasonable prices for music - they're just against having to go out and buy CDs with spyware on them, or having to download tracks that are crippled, locked up and liable to be unplayable as soon as the company you bought them from goes bust. [emphasis mine]
This is exactly the problem with the new trend of game developers requiring gamers to be connected to the internet to play their games. What happens when the developer goes out of business? What happens when the publisher and/or developer cease to support their older titles? The only conclusion I can draw is the same one that Fahey draws -- the games will be unplayable, utterly useless.

I recently installed Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts. This is an expansion to the first game, Company of Heroes. The Opposing Fronts expansion pack came with some hefty DRM, unlike the original game, which came DRM-free. It took me several hours to install the game simply because of the DRM. My experience was one of frustration.

First, the expansion required that the original game be uninstalled before installing the new DRM-laden expansion. OK, did that, no problem. The expansion took a very long time to install, even on my Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor. After installation, I went to run the game, but was unable to do so because of a required patch installation to play online. I wasn't even interested in playing online; however, I was required to install the patch to play at all. Every time I tried the in game patching process, the game failed to connect to the internet and download the patch (and yes, I had created a firewall exception for Company of Heroes). I was forced to shut the game down and hunt for the patches online (which wasn't easy), download them individually (there were at least a half-dozen), and install each patch individually.

After I had completed this time-consuming endeavor, I opened up the game again. This time, I was prompted to log in with a user name and password in order to play the game. The DRM with this expansion required either the DVD in the drive or an internet connection to play. I had my DVD in the drive, so I was a bit puzzled why the game would require me to create a login. But even this didn't work correctly -- the button to "create" a profile was shaded, meaning that I couldn't access the profile creator in-game. I was forced, yet again, to shut down and create my profile on the developer's website and then start the game back up again. Finally, many hours later, I could play!

To a more casual player, it's likely that s/he would have given up at some point during this ordeal. Perhaps this person would recommend to friends that the game isn't worth the time it takes to install. Perhaps this person is now less likely to buy a future title from the developer. Perhaps this person is likely to return his/her legal copy and instead download a pirated copy because the pirated copy is easier to install. Perhaps this person is now more likely to pirate future games from this developer. Company of Heroes has plenty of pirated copies available on the internet, so all this DRM has done is inconvenience a legitimate customer, potentially encourage a former legitimate customer to pirate games, and/or drive away a legitimate customer from PC gaming to more convenient, legal gaming systems like consoles (PS3, XBox 360, Wii).

Further reading: Cory Doctorow's DRM talk, which discusses all of these issues at great length.