Friday, May 04, 2007

Heroes, we got heroes. Lawyers, we got lawyers--UPDATED YET AGAIN.

I keep hammering the damned thing and it pops up out of another hole--One of the cardinal rules in life is that you hire lawyers to give advice not make decisions. Have another example.

Bloggers and blog readers love a site called Digg. If you like a posting (say, this one for the sake of argument) you send it to Digg (see the little icon to the right, hint, hint?). Digg readers then can go to it and if they like it, vote for it. The larger the vote, the higher the posting appears on the home page and the more readers you get. Hint. hint. It's pretty powerful stuff. A posting making the top five on any given day can simply crush a server.

Recently someone posted the cryptographic key to unlocking HD-DVD formats, making it possible to pirate them. Pirating regular DVDs is old hat to those inclined to do these things, but the high definition ones were a challenge until someone posted the 16-digit hexadecimal number and it found its way to Digg. Administrators immediately deleted it, saying that the "owners of the intellectual property" believe the posting infringed on their property rights. [Editor's note: your obedient servant owns hundreds of copyrights, at least two of them valuable, and ought to be sympathetic but isn't]. The trigger was probably a lawyer letter from the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Authority which owns the system, and lawyers being lawyers, law suits were threatened. Bad move.

Digg readers revolted. The story, with the code, has now popped up in hundreds of places and is reproducing like a germ. The code even made it to Wikipedia for a few hours before they got a lawyer letter. Someone designed a screen saver with the number on it and posted that. You can now buy a t-shirt with the number on it. There's a song on YouTube containing the code. Digg's readers were in full rebellion.

Then an odd thing happened. Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, realizing that the credibility of his site was deeply endangered told the lawyers to shove it. He wrote on his blog:

...We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code. But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you've made it clear. You'd rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won't delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying
My man, I bow. He went further, of course. He posted the code on his blog posting. Guess which Digg entry has the most hits on the site?

Having the code is of limited use to pirates because it requires considerable technical skills to to actually use it, but the points remain as does one question. The question is: can you copyright a number? Does that number have intellectual value? I don't think so. And the points: One, trying to censor the internet is difficult if not impossible. You may have a short term victory (see China) but in the end you lose. Two, you hire lawyers.... well, you know.

Oh, the number is the headline on Rose's posting, again, here. According to Slashdot, the code has been revoked.

I'm worried that there seems to be less concern about the size of my penis and my ability to buy quality fake drugs in the Ukraine-- Most of the concern lately is about the state of my mortgage. This is all reflected in the spam that has made it through multiple spam filters at .Mac, Yahoo and gmail. Obviously, the answer is lawyers

A large group of anti-spam fighters, called Project Honey Pot (no kidding), has filed a law suit against the firms that harvest names from the internet and sell them to spammers. Not the spammers themselves, but the suppliers of addresses. The suit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA (lots of suits are filed there because it is a notoriously conservative jurisdiction), seeks to identify the harvesters and collect more than $1 billion in damages for violation of the CAN-SPAM Act and the Virginia Computer Crimes Act. Project Honey Pot represents 20,000 anti-spam activists in more than 100 countries and Unspam Technologies, a Utah firm, filed the suit. The problem, of course, is that many if not most spammers and suppliers are offshore, working in such distinguished places as Belorussia, Russia, and Serbia, where they are immune from U.S. civil law suits. Mostly, the plaintiffs hope the suit will squeeze out useful information that will help the fight against the spam plague or at least give them pause. See, lawyers can be useful.

My penis is as it always was, just older; I don't need to get cheap drugs because I have good insurance and my mortgage was actually refinanced last night with a bank that doesn't send spam.

I realize Apple is a religion but we can at least lighten up until the end of the world--Harry McCracken is not a name you've ever heard of but he gets elevated to the Pantheon of Journalism Heroes too. He quit this week. McCracken was editor-in-chief of PC World magazine. He quit because the new CEO of the magazine killed a satirical article he was preparing on Steve Jobs and Apple, called "Ten Things We Hate About Apple," still in draft form [Number one: "no sense of humor?"]. According to Kim Zetter in the Wired blog, Colin Crawford told McCracken not to bother with finishing the piece and McCracken told him politely to shove it. Actually, he just quit--I made up the "shove it" stuff. Crawford also told the staff at PC World that their reviews were too critical of vendors, especially those who advertise in the magazine. Crawford was CEO of MacWorld, owned by the same company, IDG, and apparently used to take telephone calls from Steve Jobs if Jobs saw something in the magazine he didn't like.

Oddly, my subscription to MacWorld just expired and I got a renewal notice in the mail. Hmmm.....

UPDATE: PC World did the right thing, and posted the stories on its website, here. And this week, it turns out McCracken came back to PC World and Crawford went back to management. All is well.


Anonymous said...

Joel, there is a website to opt out -- keep the credit reporting companies from selling your information. It is
and we received the information today in a letter from our rep Cindy Meekins at Windsor Capital (in the wine country, sigh). She has sent us useful information several times; hence the plug. When I saw this opt-out info, of course I immediately thought of you and your e-mail offers. One wonders if this would cut down on them eventually, too.

larry said...

I kind of like spam. It makes me feel as if I'm connedted to the real world.