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Songs on the Security of Networks
a blog by Michał "rysiek" Woźniak

Google Mail, or how mail becomes publication

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

Have you ever spent a moment to read through Google Terms of Service? As Marcin “sirmacik” Karpezo pointed out interesting stipulations are present therein, basically two paragraphs – 11.1:

You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

And 11.2:

You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

Let’s translate it from lawyerspeak, shall we? By agreeing to the Terms of Service (required to create an account), and then by “publishing” (gotta love the lingo!) anything through Google’s services, each and every User agrees to give Google – and its partners! – full rights to basically do whatever they feel like with the published data, free of charge and without asking any further.

And yes, those “published data” are all of your “confidential” Google Docs documents and all of your “private” GMail e-mails. Because, as we can read in the TOS, sending a private e-mail to a friend or a loved one is not “correspondence” – it’s a “publication”.

A publication that you give Google full rights to.

Occupy Gotham

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

I would like to direct your attention to a “Dark Knight Rises” trailer, including this interesting quote:

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne… when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”

One doesn’t have to be a mastermind to spot that this seems to be a very clear reference to the Occupy movement, so vocal lately about the inequalities between the rich, and the remaining 99%.

Well, maybe “the mainstream culture is finally getting upt to speed with the Occupy movement”? Unfortunately, the quote is uttered by Catwoman – definitely not a protagonist in the film; and it’s the (apparent) main antagonist that tells Gotham City dwellers to “take over their city”.

Could it be that somebody decided to use the Hollywood propaganda machine against Occupy?..


Update 20.07.2012:
Apparently I was right – and it’s a part of a trend, too.

Copyfraud

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

I have already written about the War on Fun, the uneven fight that big business – conceived in time when copying and distribution of cultural works was hard, hence completely unprepared to function in today’s world – continues (with the help of lawyers, polititians and media) against their own clients.

This war is uneven for both sides. Old institutions and their allies have at their disposal seemingly unlimited resources – at least from the perspective of a mere mortal. They are able to use tools that are absolutely out of reach for us, citizens, including secret international trade treaties, subverting democratic processes. But then, it appears as if “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men”, however powerfull they may be, and whatever resources they are able to throw at the problem, arent able to solve “piracy”.

That doesn’t, of course, prevent enlightened polititians (helped, no question about it, by the best and brightest the “copyright-defending” entities could find) from proposing, say, to tax the Internet. Indeed, soon every Internet user in France will pay a special tax to “offset the losses” of the entertainment business (not the artists, mind you) stemming from illegal copying happening on-line.

One doesn’t need to ponder it too long to get to a simple conclusion that it’s a form of collective responsibility, punishing (financially, in a form of a tax) all the users of the Intertubes for the actions of just some of them. And let’s not forget that it’s also an infraction against the presumption of innocence principle. The law assumes that all Internauts are guilty. And that’s that.

Obviously, one could think that when everybody on-line in France already pays such a fee for copying, the act should become legal, as it’s already paid for. Well, no. Why should the entertainment business settle for being paid once, when they can be paid many times over for the same service rendered? So, no dice.

Well, one could say, at least the money will help fund artists so they create some more of this sweet, sweet cultural stuff, right? Ah, but yet again reason fails where the copyrights are involved! Money from the tax will go to a huge bureaucratic machine. And as is the rule with such bureaucracy, not much will get spat out.

And now we’re getting at the true fun part of it all. See, apparently the laws, while often written by the entertainment business, are not meant to be binding for the entertainment business. Or at least the business seems to think so – as exemplified by trying to extort a “license fee” from a Creative Commons event; or by using an audio track – without getting an appropriate license! – in their own anti-piracy media campaign (just stop here for a second to appreciate the irony!); or, finally, by abusing the DMCA to illegaly block content they do not have a claim on.

It has become apparent that the copyright law is misused and abused massively; that it’s completely unfit for duty in the digital era; that serves not the artists, but corporations that should adapt to the new circumstances or die, but instead try to adapt the circumstances to themselves. Extortion in accordance with the law seems to nicely describe the situation here.

The mainstream starts to “get the hint”, apparently, even regardless of huge cash pumped by the business into media campaigns and (let’s call it by it’s name) crude propaganda. And from the mainstream it’s slowly getting to the political elite – as exemplified by the recent talk given by EU Commisioner Neelie Kroes, calling for a much-needed all-out copyright reform.

Let’s keep in mind, though, that one swallow doesn’t make a summer. Both in the United States and in the European Union there is legislation proposed to “crack down” on illegal filesharing, the exact opposite what Commisioner Kroes talked about.

What we have is a strong signal that there are already polititians ready to question the “filesharing bad; copyright good” false dichotomy and the current copyright model, speaking openly that instead of stronger enforcement – what the world actually needs is simply getting the law up to speed with the new technology and circumstance.

One-way cutting

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

A great Internet comic, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, celebrated the American Censorship Day with an episode, that is both fun and thought-provoking.

Now, while I usually agree with what SMBC convey in their comic (and the appealing form only helps here), this time I must protest.

The right to privacy (or lack thereof ) does not cut both ways. It cuts one way – but in fact the other way that we’re led to believe today.

Currently governments (and corporations – we all remember Schmidt’s and Zuckerberg’s remarks) are trying to make us think that right to privacy and having secrets is their own domain, while the citizens (not: “users”) are subject to invigilation – and can’t even talk about it too loud.

Well, once somebody made me aware of a simple yet powerful rule of democracy:
Citizens have rights; government agents have duties.

Right to privacy, secrecy of correspondence, freedom of speech – all belong to citizens. In the SMBC episode that would be the second frame. And keep in mind, even such an answer to governments’ “fear” of free speech, as the one given there, should only be a nice albeit voluntary gesture on our (citizens’) part.

We do not have to explain ourselves of exercising our rights, nor of controlling the way governments execute their duties. We should not agree to how this simple fact is subverted and inverted. We should not agree to being mute and under constant surveillance.

Users and Citizens

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

We had a bit of a commotion around an “agreement”, negotiated with the help of Polish Ministry of Coulture and National Heritage between Polish copyright collectives and the ICT companies (including ISPs).

There is much to be said about it – for instance, I could say it’s another salvo in the War on Fun – but after participating in a meeting regarding it, I would like to appeal to all those defending freedoms and rights in the Internet (and outside of it):

Let’s call things by their names – and stop saying “Users” when we mean “Citizens”!

In this whole discussion both sides are locked on interests of rights holders, ICT industry, and users. I believe allowing that makes our fight much more of an uphill battle than it needs to be.

First of all, it frames the discussion in a very convenient way for the other side. When we’re talking about users, we’re talking about people with contracts signed with companies, or about people consuming cultural works one way or the other. In other words, from square one we seemingly agree to play on the “business turf”, and on their terms.

Then there’s the problem that things that look beneficial for users can be unacceptable for citizens. For example lowering the fee by an ISP if the user agrees to use only certain web services (vide the whole Net Neutrality debacle). This might look like a good deal for a user, but a citizen should be able to see that it’s dangerous for free speech, among others.

And finally – and most importantly – rights and freedoms that we defend are citizen’s, not user’s. We should not be ashamed to call upon them if we’re supposed to defend them! And seemingly all other sides to this dispute (and many beside it) have to be reminded, over and over again, that people are citizens first and foremost; they can be users afterwards.

Adhocracy and Net4Change

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

Last week (Oct 25-26, to be precise) I went to Stockholm for two great events around the topic of hacktivism and how ICT can shape the dynamics of social changes.

Adhocracy

The first of those – Power of Adhocracy – was an activist-organised meet-up, an “inofficial warm-up” before the next day conference. Activists (including Jacob Appelbaum, of TOR Project fame) from the USA, through Europe to Kenya were talking in a casual manner about their ideas and projects. Unfortunately I was only able to get there for the last two talks, but nonetheless that meant a fun and interesting evening with the speakers and the great people of Telecomix.

Net4Change

The second one – Internet and Democratic Change – was a much more official conference. Organized by the Julia Group in co-operation with SIDA, an agency of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with participation of media and activists from around the world, but focused mainly on the Arab Spring.

The Agenda was full of great talks, unfortunately one had to choose their track. I am very happy with my choice, though.

Scott Lucas of EA World View described how new methods of contacting sources (like social networks) and new media (blogs, internet sites) allow for following and commenting on global situation from any corner of the world, provided Internet access is available.
Stephen Urbach, a Telecomix hacktivist, provided an insider perspective on “revolutions from the couch”, or how hacktivists, IT proffesionals, programmers and other volunteers co-operating with Telecomix helped Egiptians circumvent government-mandated Internet blockades during anti-Mubarack protests.
Mahnaz Afkhami, founder of Women’s Learning Partnership, talked about tools that help change situation of women in the MENA region and deliberated on new ways of fighting gender discrimination globally.
Maryam Al-Khawaja reflected on role of social media in social change in Bahrain, and that new technologies are being actively used there bo both sides, which was well exemplified in the twitter feed of the conference (where the presence of negative comments posted from newly created accounts was very visible).
Hamza Fakhr – by an audio/video link, as he was unable to come personally due to unforseen difficulties – described changes in the way ICT was being used in the Syrian revolution.
Dima Khatib and Sultan al-Quassemi, in a panel discussion moderated by Yasmine El Rafie, pondered on how they received first information on the beginning of the protests in Northern Africa, where did they get further info from and how they became important sources for others. Of course, they continued to use their social network accounts while on-stage.

Highlights

A very interesting talk, as usually, was given by Jacob Appelbaum: on surveillance and invigilation we all endure – being aware of that, or not; with our consent, or not – all the time, and how network censorship (under the guise of fighting the bogeyman of the day like “terrorism” or “child porn”; or without any guise at all, like in Syria or Egipt) is just a logical extension to such surveillance, simply putting the infrastructure and technology to work. The only way out is using effective mechanisms of ensuring anonimity and privacy in the Net – and those must be trivial to use so that they are used universally (so that the mere fact of using encryption does not automatically tip off the government agencies that “this somebody has something to hide”). Anonimity, privacy and using strong cryptography must become the default, not optional! Two interesting examples of projects striving to go this way were called:

  • TAILS, or a Linux distribution crafted for anonymous use, by default removing all the logs and using as strong cryptography as possible in each given situation;
  • TORouter, or a physical device that just needs power and Internet connection to provide a properly configured TOR node.

Of course a question arises why the software vendors and service providers do not make the right decisions on user privacy, anonimity, offer strong encryption by default – and the answer, according to Jacob, is simple:

Do you know why vendors don’t make good privacy decisions for users? It’s because you are their product.

Jacob’s talk got an interesting emphasis after the conference, when en route to the USA he was detained on Keflaviku airport (that did not stop him from commenting the whole situation in his usual manner).

However, the biggest sensation of the conference (and that’s a general consensus) was Salma Said dismantling the popular myth of how peaceful and “Internet-fueled” Egyptian revolution was – and the myth of its success.

The revolution became peaceful once we burned 90% of police stations during the first 6 hours. Then we could act like hippies. (…) This revolution needs weapons; if we had weapons we would use them. (…) When the thugs came we didn’t defend Tahrir with twitter and facebook; we defended it wih our own bodies.

That does not mean that Internet wasn’t relevant to the Egyptian uprising; however, it was not – according to Salma – even close to being as important as the Western world was led to believe.

It was all the more interesting considering the fact that at the same time in the second room Slim Amamou praised the way Internet enabled and helped the Tunisian peaceful social and political change. The apparent contradiction was especially evident on the (unfortunately) twitter feed of the #net4change tag, where Salma’s remarks on how Internet was much less important than what is generally thought and Slim’s praises on its importance went head-to-head. A nice summary of that came spontaneously from Salma:

Internet is important in revolution, but it depends on where you are and what you can do.

Finally, Hanna Hellquist (State secretary, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs) summarized the conference saying, among other things, that Sweden must send clear signals, unequivocal signals of support for human rights and personal freedoms towards foreign nations. It’s not always easy (it’s very difficult to do with China, for example), but it’s crucial.

The response was very mixed, as the talk sounded strange in the context of controversial events around The Pirate Bay.

I had the pleasure of asking Mrs Hellquist about that afterwards – she admitted that it’s a difficult topic, not only due to Internet censorship debate and actions against filesharing in Sweden. However, she cannot, for obvious reasons, be held accountable for the whole Swedish government and is just playing her part and doing her job.

Afterparty

…Or a joint beer excursion was one of the most interesting beer excursion I have ever had the pleasure of participating in. The sheer fact that I wa able to discuss with activists from around the globe, doing their parts in a multitude of different ways – direct actions in Egypt; getting the info out and finding sources; keeping the infrastructure up and running, and acquiring proof of government foul play – was fantastic.

The discussions themselves, obviously related to the topic of the conference, social change and Internet (and more!) where very stimulating and will have my mind going for a long time.

Thanks: I would like to thank Marcin de Kaminski for inviting me as a participant to the Net4Change conference; and Telecomix agent Lejonet for extending his hospitality towards me and offering a place to stay for the two nights in Stockholm.

War on Fun

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

A few days ago I had the pleasure of reading a great article on Radio Free Europe’s website – Iran’s War On Fun. In short, it’s a terrific summary and analysis of war that the totalitarian regime in Iran apparently waged against … fun.

It’s terrifying. House parties ending in flogging; water fights being dispersed by the Police; special forces raiding private households, confiscating alcohol; finally – tragic accidents while “suspects flee the crime scene” (e.g. a social occasion where young men and women can mingle).

There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.
Ruhollah Khomeini once said, and this seems to be a working motto of the Iranian religious state, implemented with all seriousness and harshness. This is clearly visible in the article – but is also vividly shown in Persepolis, a graphic novel on modern Iran (and in the film based on it).

Western world sees all that and reacts with understandable disgust and anger…

…And then – with different reasons, methods, areas, but still – does the same.

Three Great Wars

Western War on Fun, just like the remaining two great wars of the western world that are currently raging (the War o Terror and the War on Drugs), while still offically unnamed, lasts for a few years already and lately puts on momentum. Just as with the other two wars, there is no well-defined enemy (anybody can be a “terrorist” or a “dealer”/“junkie”) and no definite victory conditions are (or can be) set: no-one ever could say that all “terrorists” have been defeated, as no-one ever could say that all drugs have been eliminated.

And just as with the other two, also this war is being waged using government resources, often against the interests of The People, but in general in the best interest of certain megacorps.

The War on Terror, at the cost of blood and sacrifice of tens of thousands people and from public money, fuels the military-industrial complex, so “drastically underfunded” after the Cold War ended.

In case of the War on Drugs the cost is measured in destroyed lives of kids caught with 3 grams in their pockets, and the beneficiary – prison-industrial complex, including again the arms makers.

The War on Fun is waged mainly for the media concerns – and that’s something new. Of course, politians benefit too. And if this war was to be named according to what the beneficiaries would like, it would probably be called “War on Piracy”.

All illegal on the Western front

This war rarely utilises police or army forces. The main theater of operations are courts and lawmaking. ACTA, or the “trade” treaty aimed at “intellectual property infringements” that was negotiated in complete secrecy and without informing any of the citizens it’s supposed to modify rights of, was just days ago signed by 8 countries (happily the EU is not among them, perhaps because of the opposition and outcry that has risen in Europe with regard to that treaty). How dangerous and harmful for democracy and human rights this treaty is can be a good topic for a whole book, for now it’s enough to mention that it gives the control over freedom of speech de facto to corporate entities.

In the USA lawsuits against filesharers are a common, everyday fact of life. Companies, having (when compared to statistical citizen’s budget) practically unlimited means at their disposal, are sueing private persons for downloading a music file from the Net, based on their IP addresses – which seem to be enough to bring a lawsuit against an alleged filesharer, but at the same time are apparently considered not sufficient to catch a laptop thief.

And they win – by bending the evidence, for example. And they destroy peoples’ lives.

But wait, there’s more! ASCAP demanded royalties from the Girls Scouts for songs that those schoolgirls were “performing” (i.e. singing) by the campfire; oh, and they still demand royalties for “performing” Happy Birthday in public. No, that’s not a joke – that time you sang it for your friend at a small party in a restaurant? Copyright infringement!

Obviously all that is done “in the best interest of the artists” – for “we all know” that nothing creative can happen without monetary incentives, especially those present decades after the work has been created. Right? Besides, the results of the actions undertaken are what should be judged, and the results are great indeed: because of ASCAP and their ilk artists lose the ability to play.

In France the HADOPI law was forced upon the public. The law says that after “three strikes” – three “detections” of on-line copyright infringement, of course not verified in any way by any court and without any recourse, of course the judge and jury are the corporations – first Internauts are soon to be disconnected.

Still on the Old Continent, head of IFPI says it loud and clear:

Child pornography is great! It is great because politicians understand child pornography. By playing that card, we can get them to act, and start blocking sites. And once they have done that, we can get them to start blocking file sharing sites.
And, as was to be expected, the child pornography scarecrow is the main argument for network filtering in Europe; in the USA it lead to a situation in which teens can be found guilty of possession and dissemination of child pornography for sending each other their own nudie pictures; a dumb thing, that’s granted, but far from qualifying for being labeled a sex offender for the rest of their lives!

Oh, that law has been softened a bit: now they can avoid prosecution if they report the sender; we know where that goes. Won’t somebody please think of the children?..

Obviously, polititians do not need to be convinced how annoying and pesky this whole freedom of speech thing is. Already, YouTube gets ordered by the Governments to block videos of protests, even non-violent ones; in Italy a law is proposed that would basically invalidate free speech (which has already lead to Italian Wikipedia protest, as it could mean that it would have to be closed down); and again in the Land of the Free, New York State senators concede we all have too much free speech and it should be restricted and treated as a privilege rather than a law. Some of the former Eastern Bloc citizens might tell you how that tends to go.

So it should come as no surprise that polititians go hand in hand with the megacorps in their fight against The People – for example, in Australia, it has been established that procedures requiring the corporations to provide the evidence to prosecute thousands of citizens for filesharing are not very convenient for the corps. So they came up with ideas to streamline that process. Interestingly enough the authors seem uneasy that the proposal became public and try to put the cat back into the bag by redacting the proposal text.

Non-Public Domain

Well, for one good thing, the copyright law provides for the works to lapse into the Public Domain after a set time, for all to enjoy. Maybe we should simply use such works and build upon them?

Of course. However, the Governments, under pressure from “artists” (or rather, the companies that own the rights to certain works) are extending the copyright term. Recently in Europe – from 50 to 70 years.

It gets better! Even works that have already lapsed into the public domain can be put back under copyright law “protection”, though the author already died years before and the “protect the author’s rights” argument doesn’t seem to work all that well…

Hence, War on Fun is waged even in the area that should seemingly be completely unavailable for it. Public domain works is precisely what the Society is supposed to finally receive in return for temporary monopoly on those works and their copying and publishing rights for the author, or in other words for copyright. Somebody, however, steals those works from the public domain, and from us. Maybe this is what should be called Copyright Theft?

A Strange War

Comparing Iranian totalitarianism to how the Governments are serving their People in collusion with megacorps might seem an unwarranted hyperbole. Perhaps, however, it is needed to highlight the seriousness of the problem. In a few years time our freedom of speech, our privacy, presumption of innocence and the right to trial might land in hands of corporations.

It’s easy to boil a frog – you need to rise the temperature slowly, so that it does not notice and try to jump out of the pot. Our on-line rights are being boiled slowly, right at this moment. Slowly the temperature rises, step by step in secret negotiations and away from media coverage, under the guise of “fighting child pornography” and “protecting the rights of (dead) artists” we are being stripped of them and put on the mercy of megacorps. More often than not we do not even notice – and when we do, usually we ignore it: for we think “what can I do”.

But we can do a lot. We can keep an eye on our representatives to vote for the benefit of The People, not corporations. We can support the Free Culture movement and the Public Domain, using and promoting works that are part of them – or, if we are the artists ourselves (and it often doesn’t require more than a camera), we can actively extend and enrich them. We can monitor changes in law and protest agains those that are detrimental to our freedoms and rights. We can rebel.

There are no jokes in entertainment. There is no humor in entertainment. There is no fun in entertainment. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is profitable.
– let’s not allow that to happen.

Technocomplacency

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

I am amazed and saddened by the apparent and growing technological complacency we, technology people, find ourselves in. Ever more often we’re fascinated by blinky-thingies and shiny toys, falling out of our engineering mindframe that used to induce us to hack together great things – thankfully, in that regard the Warsaw Hackerspace is a shining exception.

A simple example. Not long ago Telecomix released 54GiB (!!) of Syrian Internet censorship equipment logs. A moment before that Apple had yet another of their conferences. Let’s compare those, shall we, taking Slashdot comment numbers into account?

A shiny new toy versus release of extremely important and complete, up-to-date information on human rights violations and Internet censorship in Syria, and on technology utilised to that end, gathered “red hot” in an area of a social conflict that’s most probably a defining moment for this decade, all that during an on-going discussion about implementing Internet filtering in Europe.

Shiny new toy wins with an almost 8-fold advantage.

Election Silence in Poland

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

There is a nice saying in Poland: where two Poles, three political opinions, giving away our national love to political discussions. This changes magically into a great, majestic elephant in the room once the election silence kicks in.

Oh isn’t it grand! And I mean it absolutely without irony – it is grand and beautiful how in the name of our national sport (politics) we Poles are able and willing to withhold our national pleasure: discussions on our national sport.

E-textbooks, Johnny Mnemonic, business and the Net

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

Finally I have watched a cyberpunk classic – Johnny Mnemonic. And, as usual, my mind wandered a bit and I spotted a pattern, which obviously is a great foundation for stories, but also lies at the bottom of many important, current problems.

The pattern:

  • a serious problem of some kind exists;
  • a good, complete solution, beneficial to all affected, is known and available;
  • however, only a partial solution is implemented – hugely profitable to some group at the cost of the general public.

So, how does it look in practice?

Johnny Mnemonic:

  • a global epidemic is raging;
  • huge farmaceutical corporation posesses an effective drug that can cure it completely;
  • the corporation, however, only sells (with huge profit) drugs that handle the symptoms.

And on to more important issues.

E-Textbooks:

  • education is crucial, but textbooks are expensive;
  • it is possible to publish e-textbooks on permissive licences, which would save hundreds of zlotys for each Polish student;
  • that would obviously be less profitable for the publishers, so we still get textbooks in the dead tree format – not only are those costly, but also much less practical than electronic ones could have been (oh, and my compliments to orthopaedists trying to cure kids’ spines, deformed by 6kg backpacks).

Culture in the Digital Era:

  • culture, to strive and develop further, needs the possibility of citing, using, remixing and consuming works of art; these, however, are often in such a copyright lock that it’s impossible to use them, even if money is not the problem;
  • it’s possible to digitalize and just release the works on permissive licenses (like Creative Commons), while artists would make their profits on donations, concerts and other events, or through licensing their works for commercial use (e.g. in pubs, cafes, etc.);
  • of course that would mean much less money for the intermediaries (which, incidentally, are completely redundant in this day and age, in which each artist can get their work to the audience directly and almost hassle-free – through the Internet), so instead we get mangling the law, destroying the public domain and so on.

Some of those are black-and-white, unambiguous. Some show all kinds of gray in between. As long as e-textbooks are concerned we could estimate what’s more important to the society – existance of paper textbook publishers’ diversified market (also known as “the textbook market mess”) or our childrens’ effective and efficient education.

And then simply finance creation of e-textbooks from public funds (maybe through a grant or a competition) and put it out on a permissive free licence in the Net.

Similarily with the culture. Artists big and small publishing directly in the Internet (like Radiohead or Masala Soundsystem) and huge communities of artists and listeners (like Jamendo) show that the self-publishing openness model works. And not only in music – also in video production (vide Pioneer One) or videogame creation (huge success and reeditions of the Humble Indie Bundle).

Free market is not a value in its own right. It’s only means to an end.

Sometimes the means is not effective and not needed, as there’s a more important aim than what can be achieved with its help. Like education.

Sometimes the means is ineffective as its functioning is disrupted (here: by lobbying and seemingly unlimited resources at the disposal of the biggest players) and some definite actions, changes are needed for it to start working correctly again. As with culture on the Net.