... in file sharing

Patrice on the Sarkozy/Schwarzenegger plan

Patrice (who refuses to have a web presence so i cannot link him) has some thoughtful comments on the recent french initiative to combat ‘casual illegal file sharing’ by having ISPs terminate internet connections of ‘persistent pirates’. Apparently ISPs have to monitor the data streams of their subscribers and report those who are engaging in file sharing to an ‘independent body’1 who can then issue warnings and after two warnings order the ISPs to terminate the internet accounts of the ‘pirates’. sounds a bit like the Californian three-strikes-and-you-are-out regulation and i guess that is why Tilman Lueder calls this the Sarkozy/Schwarzenegger plan’.

Sarkozy himself prefers to call this ‘A decisive moment for the future of a civilized internet’, something which is hard to argue with as this will most likely result in lots of dumb-ass adolescents being disconnected form the internets which in turn will result in less nonsense being posted to youtube and less time wasted on myspace and facebook, which is a good thing. plus this will give these kids plenty of time to acquire the skills they need to participate in the 21st century knowledge economy (by reading good old fashioned books and writing letters to each other). sounds like a seriously well thought out plan to me….

But before i get carried away, here is what Patrice had to say on the good old (in fact so old that the archive has not caught up yet so i cannot link) nettime mailing list. He is quoting this BBC news article before his comments so you might want to read that first:

From all the “clue-less about the Internet” politicians, the French would seem the ones who have put the most ‘less’ into the ‘clue’ (Thank you, Gunner ;-) This impression, alas, is very deceptive. They have probably thought the most of all about it, and they came to very, very wrong conclusions and decisions. This of course, with not a little help of the lobbying industry, but mainly because of their own (mis)representation of what the whole issue is about. And to understand that you have to dig deeper.

French ‘Republican’ intellectuals, from which class politicians are coming to a (wo)man, hold two beliefs that are deeply inimical to the Internet economy as we know it (for a large part): a quasi-religious faith in the ‘moral right’ of the (intellectual) author, which, suitably reformulated to the wishes of the ‘creative’ industries, gives it a much higher moral highground than in the rest of the world (piracy becomes then the real thing). And, less well known, an abhorence of ‘gratuity’ (“La gratuite, c’est le vol” – ‘gratuity = theft’ is a very commonly held opinion). Getting things for free, or to be more precise, without payment in legal currency, is considered unlawful by default, because harmful to the proper order of society. (Hence France also going after ‘LETS’ systems, for instance)

These two comvictions are then combined with yet another commonly held belief in political circles, subsumed in the funny 1970s slogan “In France we don’t have oil, but we have ideas!”. This has led to a very peculiar, that is litteral, interpretation of the “Oil of the 21st Century” concept, loudly advocated by prominent public economists like Alain Minc and Jacques Attali2. The French ‘knowledge economy’ shall be firmly copyright based – or bust. All this results in an irresistible aggregate argument to legislate for ‘robust protection of intellectual property’, against which more enlightened critics in the digital community and some intellectual circles (eg the group around the review ‘Multitudes’) are rather helpless.

And how pig-headed the French position may look like, it could well provide an attractive example for other legislations, especially the more authoritarian ones, to follow.

On a more serious note i have to agree with Patrice here. If this plan is really going through this will almost definitely make the copyright ayatollahs in other countries salivate for similar arrangements… [in fact they (a.k.a the Phonographic Inquisition) already are]

  1. Given the composition of the group that came up with this plan (the copyright/entertainment industry mafia and the ISPs/telcos) this should probably be read as ‘without any representation of consumer interests’ ↩︎

  2. [On 27/11/07 Patrice posted the following correction]: Miguel Afonso Caetano send me a rejoinder which I think I should share with the list since he didn’t post it himself. Apparently I am/was deeply wrong about Jacques Attali stand on IP, portraying him as a fundamentalist. I must confess that my pronouncement was based on a limited knowledge of his work, since I read only one book of his (forgot the title – and he wrote so many… ;-( where I got the impression that he put a lot of trust in knowledge as a marketable good (and he was refering to copyright I am sure – but then…) In any case I am glad there is a voice of reason among hi-profile, mainstream French intellectuals. ↩︎

Sharia exam (why is copying called stealing even though the original does not disappear?)

23 Oct 2007 | 407 words | amsterdam islam file sharing piracy copyright

Since i am going to iran in less than two weeks i thought it might be useful to go take the sharia exam at paradiso tonight. but as i was kind of late, i did not get a chance to participate (no more voting machines). the whole thing was about screening recordings of questions posed to TV imams (like Yusuf al-Qaradawi) who have shows on arabic TV stations such as Al Jazeera. After a questions was shown you would be given three possible answers and had to decide which of the three answers would be given by the imam (typical questions are something like ‘is it allowed to kiss my husband while i am fasting?’ with ‘yes, the prophet did this himself’, ‘no, humans are too easily tempted for more intimate conduct’ and ‘yes, but only on the cheek’ as possible answers’).

Both questions and answers were highly entertaining and it is hilarious to see how blunt these TV imams are: generally someone would pose questions in third person (‘my friend has not been doing his prayers since….’) and the imam or TV anchor person would respond by directly addressing the caller (‘so you have not been doing your prayers…’).

After the show there was the possibility to pose questions to 4 locals imams which made me go and ask 2 of them if downloading/copying things from the internet is considered equally bad as stealing (which clearly is considered to be haram). the first imam (Yassin el Forkani) expressed the opinion that this can only be considered stealing if it is done while there are other ways to obtain the work that do respect the interest of the author to get paid (e.g if i am downloading a film that is not available legally, it is ok, even if the film is protected by copyright). guess this means that there would be no orphan works problematic under sharia law.

Now unfortunately the other imam was of a slightly different opinion, as according to him downloading/copying is haram if it violates other peoples copyright regardless if there is actual harm being done to them. Sounds a bit strange to me to make the interpretation of the sharia depended on local copyright legislation, but then the guy works as imam for the Dutch prison service so i guess he values local law a bit more than your average imam. Guess i will stick with the first interpretation for now…

Hezbollah snoop doggy dog mashup

29 Sep 2007 | 167 words | lebanon music file sharing piracy copyright

Bech over at remakz shares a rather amuzing metadata conflict involving Hezbollah and Snoop Doggy Dog:

from the anecdote file where we find the joys of being a researcher on Hizbullah

Buy one of the many cds of Hizbullah ‘chants’ (anashid). For example, the volume 12 of Firkat el Asra’, Al Moqawama wal Tahrir. Open it, and rip the cd on Windows media player. The software checks for titles through its search engine. When you get back to your computer you find copied to your hard drive:

Artist: Snoop Doggy Dog

Album title: Doggy Style

Example of song name: Shitznit, for all my Niggaz & Bitchiz, etc.

I changed the name of the songs so as to at least remember what I am listening to. But I cannot erase the “Doggy Style”. So I get: “Hamdan lil Lah atah al Zafar” with “Doggy Style”, right under it.

Please keep in mind that at the bottom of the cd back cover there is a mention of protected copyrights.

Phantom menace

28 May 2007 | 102 words | berlin movies india china piracy file sharing

Lawrence gave a pretty amazing presentation on ‘what can be learned from asian cinema?‘ at piratecinema on sunday morning. His general point was how new forms of distribution (read shameless copying) slowly lead to another form of aesthetic/cinematorgaphic practice in Asia (or to be less general China & India). towards the end he showed a couple of slides form an earlier presentation he had given at the Asia commons conference in Bangkok last year. I really liked this diagram, which gives a little bit of context to my earlier post about obtaining the latest Bond movie:

Bonus recommendation: Suzhou he (Suzhou River)

Illegal copies legal everywhere except in Suriname?

03 Jun 2006 | 248 words | amsterdam business music file sharing piracy

Went back to the indian DVD and CD sellers at the end of the amsterdamse poort shopping complex in Amsterdam southeast today. Looks like as if they have scaled back their DVD selling operations a bit (their Bollywood DVD’s still sell for unbeatable €2.50 each though). The stall also sells CDs with hindi film songs and all kinds of Caribbean, Urban and African styles even though the CD selling business ‘is not what it used to be before everybody started downloading the tunes’ (according to the owner). Despite the rampant downloading of our times you can still get your CD’s the old fashioned way and some of them have really interesting copyright notices:

Copyright notice on a cd

in english this translates as: ‘The sale of illegal CD’s of Shifa Asgarali in Suriname is strongly prohibited. All rights of Asiactics Music & Movieworld also belong to Shifa Asgarali. Please don‘t download…. Our culture will be lost… ‘

Sounds to me as if the good Shifa Asgarali does not really care if his CD’s are pirated and sold outside of his native Suriname but the shopkeeper tells me that this is probably more an expression of naiveté . He thinks that Shifa Asgarali (who lives in NL) believes that people outside of Suriname still buy physical CDs which is obviously a bit of a outdated perception. According to the shopkeeper all CDs in suriname are unauthorized copies and as a result this note is a waste of cover space….

Kein file ist illegal

23 Sep 2005 | 175 words | file sharing stupidity creative commons

The MPA (Music Publishers Association) and the IFPI (International Federation of Phonogram and Videogram Producers) have released a software called digital file check that can be used by usres to remove file sharing apps from computers.

It also contains a function to check ‘what files are in your “shared folders” – these files are likly to be illegal’. The app only runs on windows so i cannot test it right now, but i was wondering what happens when the app encounters a shared folder full of properly tagged Creative Commons licensed video and audio files. Has anybody tried this out yet?

It should be dirt cheap to implement a metadata check that results in a message that these files can be legally shared, but somehow i am suspecting that the programme will label them as probably illegal anyway. and i do not even want to get into the discussion of how stupid it is to call files ‘illegal’ certain uses of files may infringe on somebody else’s rights but the files themselves cannot be illegal.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: