Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under Gov 2.0

The New York World reports on the New York City Open Data Law of 2012, and includes a couple of choice quotes from a certain open government activist:

It is unclear what consequences agencies will face if they are not compliant with Local Law 11. “Ideally, someone would step up and be the policeman,” said Dominic Mauro, staff attorney for the good government group Reinvent Albany.

Mauro says that that a new administration will have to get on board, because the information tracked by city agencies ultimately belongs to the public. “Taxpayers fund the government and the government collects the data,” he said. “Its our data. We don’t pay taxes so we can not know what goes on.”

Aside from the double negative there at the end, this Mauro guy sounds both insightful and handsome.

Published on under The Digital Age

I think it’s pretty safe to say I’m not exactly a copyright maximalist. Occasionally, I write sarcastic/whiny bits about absurdly long copyright duration and point out that we might still be able to have nice things if we had slightly less copyright. Congress doesn’t seem to agree, as the only time they address copyright law seems to be when they’re trying to make more of it, not less of it. See: the Mickey Mouse copyright extension and wait until 2023 for Disney’s flagship mus musculus to almost enter the public domain before being snapped back up.

So amidst all that, it’s nice to see folks in Congress taking bold action on copyright. By downloading TV shows and movies repeatedly:

In late October, someone at the U.S. House of Representatives decided to catch up on the latest season of Dexter, illegally downloading an episode of the TV series while at a congressional office. In the days that followed, with Hurricane Sandy threatening to keep federal workers hunkered down at home, employees of Congress downloaded the 2012 mob film Lawless, a Halloween-themed episode of The Middle, and an episode from Season 9 of CSI: New York.

Over the last four months, employees of the House of Representatives have illegally downloaded dozens of films and TV shows, according to a report shared with Whispers by ScanEye, a website that tracks what IP addresses have downloaded on BitTorrent. BitTorrent is a protocol for sharing large files over the Internet. Unauthorized downloads of copyrighted material is illegal in the U.S.

The full article has a full list of what was downloaded from tracked Congressional office: my personal favorite? DeGrassi. Frankly, if they want to watch people bickering like teens and high school power struggles, I wouldn’t have imagined they’d need to download something.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

Last week, The Atlantic ran an ad from noted Anti-Xenu enthusiasts Scientology, before being ridiculed for taking money from crazy people, and ultimately pulling the ad from their site. I guess some of the uproar was about taking money from people who’ve been accused of running a cult, or possibly some perceived ambiguity of the term “sponsored post” (what do you mean ‘a word from our sponsors’ NBC? do you believe the Dodge Dart is the #1 car in America or not help i’m so confused). Whatever. Post went up, post went down, and The Atlantic issued an apology.

But not before noted internet institution Boing Boing took the opportunity to lampoon either the outcry, the original ad, or Scientology itself. I’m not sure:

The driving force behind this unparalleled era of growth is Cthulhu himself, who is not only a cosmic entity of inordinate and terrible power, but also chairman of the board of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Mr. Cthulhu is unrelenting in His work, providing charitable assistance to worthwhile causes, serving communities with fresh humanitarian initiatives, and afflicting all mankind with a transcendent anxiety though His eldritch murmurs.

Never to be outdone, America’s Finest News Source Comma The Onion ran an even sillier sponsored post:

2012 proved to be just another in a succession of landmark years for the Taliban, as the influential Islamic fundamentalist organization continued its awe-inspiring push toward unprecedented expansion.

Even following a decade marked with some difficulties, the devoted members of the Afghani cultural and political movement have proven consistently successful in their trailblazing efforts to continue the Taliban’s constant recruiting of talented and diverse young insurgents and building its thriving base of support from politicians and citizens alike to over 30 times that of a decade ago.

Scientology might be a parody of itself, but I’m quite thankful for the actual parodies.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

This is the coolest name for the coolest and scariest piece of software I’ve seen in quite some time. Inception: a program that you run on your computer, and then plug your computer into someone else’s locked computer. Inception then breaks into the other guy’s computer. How? By being insanely awesome/scary:

Inception’s main mode works as follows: By presenting a Serial Bus Protocol 2 (SBP-2) unit directory to the victim machine over the IEEE1394 FireWire interface, the victim operating system thinks that a SBP-2 device has connected to the FireWire port. Since SBP-2 devices utilize Direct Memory Access (DMA) for fast, large bulk data transfers (e.g., FireWire hard drives and digital camcorders), the victim lowers its shields and enables DMA for the device.

The tool now has full read/write access to the lower 4GB of RAM on the victim. Once DMA is granted, the tool proceeds to search through available memory pages for signatures at certain offsets in the operating system’s password authentication modules. Once found, the tool short circuits the code that is triggered if an incorrect password is entered.

An analogy for this operation is planting an idea into the memory of the machine; the idea that every password is correct (ed: omg wtf). In other words, the nerdy equivalent of a memory inception.

By virtue of the specific kind of high-speed connection Firewire has, Inception makes the target machine think that every password is the right password. I really really hope it makes that absurdly loud BWAAAAM sound while it works. Then again, that might not be so stealthy.

Either way, I definitely recommend you stick gum in pretty much every port your computer has.

Published on under Legal Theory

Every year, the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School catalogs the copyrighted movies, books, and songs which would be public domain had Congress not retroactively prolonged their copyright in 1976. This year’s crop is a good one. On January 1, 2013, Old Yeller, Minority Report, and even a James Bond book would all be free for common use; the public, having given the authors a monopoly on their works for decades, has presumably earned the right to share in these cultural landmarks by now.

But Congress, in its infinite wisdom, prolonged copyright in 1976. So now, the 1956 book Old Yeller will not be public domain until 2052. I’m sure Fred Gipson, who died in 1973, would have never written his book unless he would have a monopoly on it through 2052. I mean, he did technically write it anyway. And he died before Congress decided to incentivize him further, but I’m sure it was retroactively really great motivation. Or something.

Likewise, Ian Fleming (James Bond) died in 1964 and Philip K. Dick (Minority Report) died in 1982, but their works are still under copyright for another 40 years.

Which is great, because we definitely wouldn’t want to cheat those guys out of profiting off their works. I mean, how is Ian Fleming going to feed his family if there’s only been like five different editions of the book itself, a comic book, and a movie starring Sean Connery? And if he died nearly 50 years ago? If he doesn’t have, say, another 40 years or so to profit off his work, then he might as well have become a chimney sweep.

Published on under The News

A guy out in California wants to make a point about corporate personhood, so he put a certificate of incorporation (the closest thing to a physical presence a corporation has) in the passenger seat of his car, and drove in the carpool lane until the cops pulled him over. He says:

“If it gets there to the Supreme Court, it would be great. Large-scale corporations, they don’t go to jail for the crimes that they have committed,” the 56-year-old Marin County man said. “Personhood is one of the many absurdities we’ve given these corporations that we let run wild. It’s that kind of mind-fuck we’re asking to actually address.”

Supreme Court precedent likening a corporation to a person dates back more than a century. So for years, Frieman has been driving without a breathing passenger in the carpool lane, in hopes of being pulled over and cited. Moreover, he notes, the state Vehicle Code defines a person as “natural persons and corporations.”

Wait, for years? What is the highway patrol doing, anyway?

Also, this is doomed to fail for the same reason that driving with your wife’s birth certificate in the passenger seat isn’t the same thing as actually driving with your wife in the passenger seat. One is carpooling, the other is driving with a piece of paper.