Grokster

I’ve been busy and haven’t been able to sit down to and post this in the last few days. I think a lot of the analysis of the Supreme Court decision in the Grokster case is highly flawed (as is the decision itself, I think.) For example, Jack Valenti on the episode of Radio Open Source about the case made a statement to the effect that “this will just mean that creators of these technologies will have to respect our property rights.” I’ve seen numerous bloggers and/or columnists say about the same thing, that it only affects people creating new technologies unless they aren’t planning on “walking the straight and narrow.”

The vagaries of the decision are such that no person interested in creating a new distribution technology or platform can actually be sure if they are in compliance or not without lots of lawyer dollars involved. People seem to think that won’t have a big impact, but at the same time no one was able to confidently say whether, for example, Bram Cohen and Bittorrent would be safe or not. Realistically, do you expect any innovation on this front to ever occur again on US soil?

Let’s think it through. Anyone who has the brains and motivation to create a new P2P or distribution technology has the brains and motivations to create any number of projects, and almost certainly has a number of potential ideas to pursue. What American inventor under these circumstances is going to put their time and energy into a project that may get sued if they don’t put in the right safeguards or fail to sufficiently suck up to the Big Media organizations? Anyone with sense will either get the fuck out of the United States or else work on a different idea. This means that effectively this field has died for new work as of this week. There will certainly be new innovations, but it won’t be here. We have ceded the field to China and India and the Ukraine and the Czech Republic and Costa Rica, et al.

I wish someone on that episode of Open Source had more directly presented Valenti with his success ratio of being correct on his alarmist projections of the damage wrought on Hollywood by new technologies. Not only has he been wrong every time, he has been wildly wrong. He claimed Betamaxes would ruin the movie industry and instead they created an explosion of new profits, as did cable and every other fricking thing he has ever fought. Do the thought experiment and think back to what today’s movie industry would look like today if Valenti had won his Betamax fight in the 70’s. Now, the movie industry of 2020 is going to be living that lack-of-growth curve. I can imagine a world where every movie that hasn’t decayed from movie studio neglect would be available for some form of purchase electronically nearly instantly. That won’t happen now. Whatever crazy ass thing might have been will be averted, solely because Hollywood fears that it won’t be king of the new technology.

But, ironically enough, I’m OK with that. In fact, I’m kind of happy about it. I’m happy these turds have finally won one of these ridiculous fights because it is the very essence of poetic justice. They will deserve everything they earned because of it. As I’ve been talking and thinking lately about the split between closed and open culture, I do have a horse in the race. I want open culture to flourish, be it public domain or contemporary creative commons art, music and literature. Every thing that squeezes down on the closed culture creates pressure that can be relieved in the open culture. I want to be able to get Global Frequency as the first “direct to Bittorrent” TV series (for which I’d be happy to pay now for an eventual DVD box set of the whole season). The more the current Big Media oligarchs overplay their hands, the better the open culture looks and the more obvious value it has. Ebooks and music that can be downloaded without punitive DRM, videos that are freely allowed to be shared ala Systm, this is the kind of stuff that will follow on. I can’t wait. Thank you, Supreme Court, for fucking up this decision sufficiently to give the open culture a boost.

Rights

Maybe it is just me, but I think the juxtaposition of two recent Supreme Court decisions is highly disturbing. The intellectual property rights of corporations are so important that any technology that could conceivably impinge on them should be suppressed – literally or by forcing inventors to lawyer up before they even know what to do. Your right to keep your own house if a corporation wants to develop the land, however, isn’t so important. The theoretical taking of imaginary property is to be avoided; the literal taking of your physical property is to be encouraged. This strikes me as completely fucked.

iTunes Podcasting

At least from my perspective, the iTunes rollout of podcasting support was completely bungled. Like I reported earlier, they seemed to have my Bittorrent feed in their catalog without having Bittorrent support in the client. That is exactly how they rolled it out, in non-working fashion. People can subscribe to my feed via the directory, but they will just get the disclaimer file and everything else will error out. I just tested out the addition of my direct feed under “Advanced -> Subscribe to Podcast” and it seems to work fine. It’s highly ironic that they’ve been using my logo in their stuff (as of yesterday, it was one of the ones on the front page of the Apple website) and yet they’ve never done anything so far but completely fucked up the addition of my feed. Like I said, I’ve been seeing iTunes 4.9 hitting my bittorrent feed for a while now. Did no one doing this stuff inside Apple notice the feed they had wasn’t working or did they not care? Did they not notice there was an alternate feed? Insert sound of a sigh.

Now I’m on the horns of a dilemma. I could change my default feed back to MP3, which will make it available to the iTunes users but also dramatically increase my bandwidth usage. I submitted a problem ticket to Apple telling them that they have my Bittorrent feed in their catalog which will just confuse users. I stand by my prerelease feelings that this is not necessarily the wonderful thing for podcasting that many people are making it out to be.

It also looks like their timed download is set to a fixed time, which will screw up a lot of people. In my preferences, I can’t pick the time so if I set it to daily it will download podcasts at 8 PM. Is everyone’s iTunes set to do this at 8 PM as well? If so, hello unintentional denial of service attacks. Hell, even having everyone doing it at the top of the hour is enough to cause problems. That was something about which I was insistent to the iPodderX guys – that they should have a randomized download time so that the web servers don’t get hammered simultaneously. Even in the early days of them doing downloads at a fixed 15 minutes after the hour with not that large a deployed user base, I saw problems of swarms bringing down the web server performance. Looks like Apple didn’t think of that. In fact, it looks like Apple talked to no one in the podcast community because of course they know better than us and implemented a lot of things fucked up in ways they could have easily fixed with a tiny bit of input.

I had mixed feelings of a tiny bit excitement and mostly dread about the iTunes podcast support. It’s looking like the dread part was the correct response.

Clambake Episode for June 26, 2005

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for June 26, 2005.

I play the newest interview bit with John Mark King where he talks about his own notions of open culture and play the newest Rocket City Riot song; I talk more about open and closed culture; I talk briefly about KYOU and about grassroots podcasting; I relate the tale of seeing the Arts and Sciences open for Indigo Girls; I play a song by Paul Melancon and then one by the Gentle Readers.

Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package.

This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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My Listening Breakdown

I’ve grown weary of the way pundits talk about podcasting. This is a situation much like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, where some assert that it is like a rope while others assert it is like a tree trunk and so on – all being completely certain they are correct. The framework is general enough to enable a number of different sorts of things but the pundits seem to seize on certain pieces and become convinced that is the whole. I’ve heard or read many pundits who laugh off the grassroots part as being unimportant.

Certainly nowadays one could listen to nothing but podcasts from radio, or nothing but podcasts from the grassroots. There is plenty of everything such that anyone can assemble the pieces they want out of the stream, which to my way of thinking is always what the point was.

Just to show my leanings, I went through my subscription list and categorized them in four broad buckets: grassroots podcast (something that is newly created for the format since last fall); existing contemporary broadcast radio archived and published via podcast; pre-existing internet radio content which is now also being archived and published via podcast; old-time radio or radio drama published via podcast. Note that I added these up a few days ago and have added and subtracted shows since, but this should be approximately correct.

  • Grassroots podcasts: 55
  • Pre-existing internet radio: 3
  • OTR or drama: 4
  • Contemporary Radio: 14

At least for myself, 2/3 of my listening (as measured by subscriptions, not by individual episodes) is citizen-created media. Some people might be 98% existing radio, but that’s not the way I rock. I don’t know there is any deep insight here, other than just a snapshot of what my current predilections are.

Douglas Adams on Electronic Distribution

Correspondent James sent me this link to the short series (4 episodes) by the late Douglas Adams called Hitchhikers Guide to the Future. It covers similar stuff to what we are on about, electronic distribution of books and music and culture. James tells me that it covers similar ground to my recent talk about split culture between the open and freely accessible and the closed locked-down. Unfortunately, these are all up in Real Audio format so to put them on my Shuffle requires capturing with Audio Hijack Pro (which I am doing right now.) I’ll report back after I’ve listened to the programs. Thanks James.

The Arts and Sciences and Slushers

Here’s a photo to give a feel for what the trip to Greensboro was like. It was fantastic to get to spend a little time with the band, to see them play (which completely rocked) and to see Indigo Girls play as well. Their merchandise table was pretty much swamped the whole time between sets and after the girls played, which is good. It reduced our hang-out time but it’s worth it to get their CDs into the hands of new fans and also to get a little money into their touring cash box. Thanks for a great evening! I’m glad we went.

Movie Roundup

Here’s some bullet reviews of movies I’ve seen recently. Only one was in the theater, the rest were rentals.

  • Meet the Fockers: Bleh. I wish I had slept through it.
  • Spanglish: Fantastic film with a warm human story.
  • Ocean’s Twelve: Loved the first one (rare remake far superior to the original), thought this sequel was a waste of time and way too wrapped up in cutesiness.
  • Napoleon Dynamite: I might be the last person to see this film, but I loved it. I will be quoting silly lines from this film for the rest of my days.
  • Anchorman: Couldn’t be stupider and I loved it for it.
  • Batman Begins: Holy crap, this rocked!

Follow the Money

Several people have already dissected this David Coursey anti-podcasting article. Mike Dunn, for example, really ripped a new one on it and Coursey (citing me and the term “knee jerk off” in the process). Check out the anti-populist condescending sentiment in this:

Personal Podcasting, like personal blogs, is a fad and will fade. Just like personal sites were a fad in the early days of the Web. People experiment because content creation can be fun, sort of like finger-painting was back in preschool, but people also run out of creative energy, and the maintenance of a site, blog or Podcast becomes a chore. And the content gets boring, and the audience goes away.

Pretty much, anyone that I’ve seen express this sentiment is in the business of being more authoritative than the “common man” and whose livelihood is threatened by a world in which they are not elevated about the hoi polloi. The stupider and more condescending the argument (such as self-expression as “finger-painting”), the more desperate it sounds. David Coursey, if you want to prove you are better than the citizen media produced by the great unwashed, you might want to write better stuff than this phoned-in, auto-pilot stuff.

Clambake Episode for June 21, 2005

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for June 21, 2005.

It’s mostly a show assembled from pieces as I play the newest interview bit with John Mark King and play the newest Rocket City Riot song; I play some audio feedback from Bill Riski and Eddie Dickey; I talk a little more about the obsession with money in podcasting; I play a song by Steve Coleman and Five Elements;

Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package.

This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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Email Issues Under Control

For all intents and purposes, the email issues are licked. I have 15 in my inbox, few enough that I can see them all without scrolling. I’m caught up. No one needs to be apologetic about emailing me the way a lot of podcast listeners seem to be. The issues are solved, and I aim on remaining responsive from here on out. The inbox is defined as “You need to reply to this, dude.” It will no longer be the all purpose repository for anything. Things will get replied to or not, and either filed or deleted. Having gotten on top of this and handling 800 messages in the last month, I don’t plan on losing control of this again.

Victor on Cyveillance

Victor from Four Stones is reporting that Cyveillance tried to crack into his server. This company is allegedly employed by the RIAA amongst other organizations to outsource their skullduggery. I don’t know the ins and outs of what they were doing, but I’ve had the Cyveillance IP range blocked from my webserver for years. Victor links to this info about Cyveillance which corroborates what I was seeing years ago in that they have what is obviously a robot which does not identify as such or do any of the things a well-behaved robot should (like respect robots.txt). Spooky stuff.

Batman Begins

Yesterday we went to see Batman Begins. I believe this is not only the best Batman movie ever, but after I let it sink in a while I think I’ll find it the best superhero movie ever. It had all of the spectacle, but also lots of story and characterization and a tighter origin story that makes more sense than the original source. I love it!

Clambake Episode for June 18, 2005

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for June 18, 2005.

It’s a long show with a lot of buildup of topics since the last episode. I talk about the (temporary) cessation of iPodderX as a sponsor; I talk more about life in Conway, South Carolina; I play a song from the Arts and Sciences; I talk about Open Culture, the public domain, the formation of dual systems of “open and closed” culture, Fictionwise, Project Gutenberg, DRM and lots of stuff mashed together; I spin an awesome Michelle Malone tune; I note there is a new Voices In Your Head interview published; I play a new ID with Bruce Campbell thanks to Michael Butler; I found the VU metere in Audio Hijack Pro! I discuss the joy of my low tech lawn mower; I play a song by the Gentle Readers; I mention the stuff packages and then it’s over.

Note that I talk about Phillip Roth and Catch 22. It sounds a little like I’m saying that I think Roth wrote it, but I know that isn’t the case.

Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package.

This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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Katz Responds

Don Katz of Audible.com has a post that responds to some of the criticisms of the Audible/podcasting thing. This includes a namecheck of me, for god’s sake!

For the record, I’ve had multiple exchanges with Mitch Ratcliffe about his response to me, in the comments here, in the comments there and in email. I still remain perplexed and feel we are talking past each other. At the heart, I said “Audible is centralized”, which still seems to me indisputable. Mitch is saying “that’s not bad”, which isn’t what I said or even think. It just is what it is. Anything that has a central catalog in one place is centralized. This is an architectural statement that Mitch seems to be interpreting as a moral one. I’m highly confusable and this has done it to me.

Suggested Listening

Here’s some things I have listened to lately that I really liked:

Actually I’m still listening to this one and am really liking it – Chuck Tomasi has an interview with Leo Laporte.

My brother has a podcast and he’s done a great variety of stuff. For some reason, the show that has tickled me the most has been his odd/bad music show. I listened to it in O’Hare airport on my last Chicago trip and was giggling all the way to the gate.

Elvis Mitchell, my newest interview hero, interviews Christopher Nolan about the new Batman movie. I loved this interview especially, and I love every episode of this show so this is good even above that baseline.

DVDTalkRadio did an interview with John Waters. Waters makes me laugh in everything he ever does, be it interview or book or movie or Simpson apperance. This interview rocked and although I didn’t really need selling, it has definitely sold me a copy of the Dirty Shame DVD.

Robot Abuse

What the hell happened to netiquette in the creation of web crawling robots? I seem to remember 30 seconds being the absolute minimum interval between requests to the same domain for a well-behaved robot, and several minutes being even better. Jesus, the crawler I wrote for a project in grad school in 1996 had a mechanism to prevent hammering the same domain. You get this for free in Perl using the UserAgent class. At this stage of the game, no one has any excuse for writing a poorly behaved robot that requests pages over and over every second, or multiple requests per second, even.

And yes, I’m talking to you dumbasses at the “Internet Categorizer”. Fix your goddamn robot, please. I’ve already forbidden your IP address. This is not a good way to make friends, as I see you’ve already pissed off other people besides me. As a general statement, if you are releasing a product or project based on crawling the web it is incumbent on you to use the resources of others wisely. Wouldn’t you rather the public launch be about your thing, rather than on how shitty your robot coding skillz are?