Sorry for not writing to you of late, but this year has been a busy one. I’ll make up for my lack of output with this mammoth post reviewing a small selection of interesting things I got up to this year…
The news are banging on about how the Internet has won against Trafigura’s attempts to gag the British press from reporting on questions in parliament, they couldn’t stop social media hosted in other countries so the whole thing blew up in their faces. Great news!
However, far more interesting IMO is metadata provided by Google Sidewiki, which allows anyone with a Google account to add uncensored discussion to the side of the page:
All the fuss seems to be about the Minton report, apparently the press aren’t allowed to talk about the content or tell people where to find it, and certainly not link to it.
FYI it talks about a cocktail of toxic chemicals being dumped on the Ivory Coast (including ten tonnes of sodium hydroxide), and you can get it from WikiLeaks here.
Richard Stallman, GNU philosopher and father of the free software movement recently wrote an article about how the copyright reforms which by the Swedish Pirate Party want would damage free software. Stallman quite rightly argues that shortening the term of copyright to five years would cause copyleft protected source code to fall into the public domain, where it would be snapped up by proprietary software developers and embedded into non-free software, removing the freedoms which free software aims to protect.
The same wouldn’t apply the other way, companies could keep their source code a secret and unless leaked, it would never enter the public domain. rms proposes two solutions, firstly that the term of copyright be extended for free software. Piratpartiet don’t like this idea, for the obvious reason that it causes copyright to be extended for a special case, and I agree with them. His second solution is to put the source into an escrow, after copyright expires the source code is released. I don’t like this either, it means a separate government body for each country which looks after the source code, and if I submit obfuscated source then nobody will find out until five years later.
My solution is simpler. Copyright is supposed to be a short term monopoly given to authors, after which time the public reap the rewards in the form of new works in the public domain. This doesn’t apply to precompiled binaries, after 5 years binaries are out of date and next to worthless. Even if the term of copyright was 25 years from publication, binaries from the 8-bit days are only useful today if you want to play Chuckie Egg on your mobile phone.
So, I think we should remove copyright protection from any binaries which are released without source code. If authors want the privilege of a monopoly over the computer programs they publish, then they must also publish the source code.
Combined with a shorter copyright term this may kill copyleft, but granting more freedoms across the board is IMO better than restricting freedoms in order to protect them.
When I discovered The Pirate Party UK a couple of months ago, I thought it was going to be exciting and revolutionary new party for the people of the Internet. I completely agree with their goals, to drastically shorten the term of copyright, add fair use clauses to UK copyright law for personal copying, reform the patent system, abolish Crown Copyright, put an end to the evergreening of medical patents, prevent excessive monitoring and surveillance by companies and government and to promote freedom of speech and expression.
However, it turns out they’re just like the other parties. Here’s why I won’t be joining the PPUK any time soon:
After a Telegraph blogger made a reference to some childish remarks posted about Peter Mandelson which could be criticised as homophobic, PPUK’s leader Andrew Robertson performed a typical knee-jerk-reaction and posted an article stating that homophobia will not be tolerated in (the) party. This upset me, if I want to poke fun at Mandy for being gay then that’s my business, fascists. I can understand that the higher echelons of the party should be held to standards of political correctness, but to force ordinary members to adhere to standards of political correctness while not representing the party, when freedom of speech is a core value of the party, just stinks of hypocrisy. Whatever happened to I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?
Another freedom of speech issue is that prominent members support the Obscene Publications Act and the new ban on cartoon pornography. If perverts want to write stories of sexual mutilation and murder, even if they include sex acts on babies, then this should be none of my business. I’d like to draw a lesbian stick-girl orgy set in a college, but these oppressive laws prevent me from exercising this freedom.
Finally, and this is the worst problem with PPUK, they have removed all political discussion from the public section of the forums, which means you have to pay your membership fee to express an opinion on policies. This is a step too far, it is a thinly disguised money grabbing policy which only alienates the public and stifles political debate. So much for a new, revolutionary, Internet based party for the people.
I seriously hope that someone forms a new and inclusive party, which actually practices the policies it preaches. Until that time I guess I’ll be voting Liberal Democrats.