... in piracy

Lenslok: crazy optical DRM device from the 80's

17 Jun 2008 | 199 words | copyright business technology stupidity piracy

Torrentfreak.com has an excellent post describing what must be one of the first DRM devices evar: the Lenslok is a foldable optical lens that was required to decipher scrambled unlock codes in early 1980’s video games:

The first game to use the Lenslok DRM was the ZX Spectrum version of the hugely successful wireframe-3D shoot ’em up, ‘Elite’. But of course, we’re talking about DRM here so yes, you guessed it, it caused lots of problems for the legitimate users. As each version of the Lenslok device was unique to the game it sought to protect, sending out the incorrect Lenslok device to around 500 buyers of ‘Elite' wasn’t the best move made by the publisher, ‘Firebird’. None of these people could play the game, but probably had an interesting experience for a few hours trying to work out how to use the prism. With no Internet forums to voice their anger, there were many complaints in the computer magazines of the day.

The final nail in the Lenslok coffin was its inability to work with anything other than a tiny portable TV, as the on-screen input window would otherwise be bigger than the device itself, rendering it useless.

Random reading

10 Jun 2008 | 616 words | border paraguay business copyright culture piracy

The Piratbyrån’sRasmus Fleischer has a an extremely interesting essay titled ‘the future of copyright‘ in the current issue of CATO unbound (a monthly web-journal by the ‘we love limited government, individual liberty, free markets, and peace’ CATO institute). In ‘the future of copyright’ he argues that ‘neither the stabilization nor the abolition of the copyright system seems within reach’ and that instead ‘we will have to live in this landscape of gray zones for quite a while, for good and bad.’ Personally i have always found the fact that artistic and cultural practices have to deal with the realities of these grey zones is at least partially responsible for many of the qualities embodied in current cultural and artistic practices. This is something Rasmus seems to agree with:

Creative practices, with some exceptions, thrive in economies where digital abundance is connected to scarce qualities in space and time. But there can never be a question of finding one universal business model for a world without copyright. The more urgent question regards what price we will have to pay for upholding the phantasm of universal copyright.

And while we are on the topic of grey zones you might want to add the Essay ‘Blacker-than-black Market‘ in the current issue of GOOD magazine to your reading list. In ‘Blacker-than-black Market’ offers a glimpse on into the functioning of the black markets in Ciudad del Este. The markets of Ciudad del Este, conveniently located close to the borders with both Argentina and Brazil contribute an estimated 30 percent of Paraguay’s $9 billion gross domestic product:

The downtown market is dense and compact, a maze of concrete spanning a five-block-by-five-block square. Despite its size, the market is extraordinary for its diversity. There’s the upscale Monalisa shopping mall, where the nouveau riche stock up on authentic Montblanc pens and Bulgari jewelry, alongside sidewalk kiosks offering pirated copies of Die Hard 4.0 in bulk and where San Francisco 49ers fans can buy shoddily sewn “Startar” jackets. Thanks to the fact that Paraguay has lower import tariffs than either of its neighbors, Ciudad del Este essentially functions as a massive outdoor duty-free shop - a destination for anyone looking for a bargain.

Seems like i have to add Ciudad del Este to the list of places i need to visit. Also the reference to ‘pirated copies of Die Hard 4.0 in bulk’ remided me of this hilarious piece of recording insdustry propaganda that Lawrence had unearthed a couple of days ago and in which the European Commission’s tax and customs authorities are quoted to state that

From a profit point of view, the trade in fake CDs and DVDs is giving drug trafficking a run for its money. “One kilo of cannabis sold in Europe will bring in less than €2,000, a kilo of pirate or counterfeit CDs will bring in €3,000,” the report said. The average value of a disc for a games console on the European market will vary between 255 and €60. The selling price for a counterfeited version of the same disc is around half a euro each, the report continued.

which reveals some very fuzzy math: 1KG is 1000 gram and one CD with inlay and cellophane wrapper (that is how they are sold on the streets) weights about 26 gram. that is roughly 40 CDs to a kilogram which multiplied by the stated half a euro selling price results in a total revenue of €20 per kilo of pirated CDs or DVDs (even if you use €4 – the real going rate for a pirated movie – you end up with a revenue of €160 which is somehow €2840 short of the profit claimed in the piece).

Iron man & roast duck

05 May 2008 | 142 words | copyright file sharing movies food piracy london

So Jamie more or less forced us to watch iron man on Thursday in some nondescript multiplex cinema in Swansea, Wales. Definitely not the worst film i have ever seen but for some reason these comic book adaptions fail to really excite me (except for film versions of comic books by enki bilal that is).

Out of curiosity i also bought a DVD version of some DVD hawker in the restaurant Hai Ha (they do make really nice special roast duck in that place) on Mare street in hackney on Friday. As one could have expected it turned out to be a really bad (as in having chairs and the ceiling in the picture for three quarters of the film) chinese cam version.

Still kind of amazing that they get DVDs out into london restaurants in a bit more than 24 hours…

Pirates for Obama

Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas brought together a bunch of american musicians and actors to record a video clip (song) based on the ‘yes we can’ thank-you speech held by Obama on January 8th in Nashua, New Hampshire. The whole clip (‘yes we can song‘) is extremely well done (you might want to call it ‘slick’) and certainly makes me want him to win as many delegates as possible tonight. Especially since, towards the end, there is some proud display of a pirate flag tattoo by one of the female vocalists (excuse my ignorance, but i have absolutely no clue who most of these people are, but then i have mostly listening to Bach in the last couple of days):

Bonus points for the reader who tells me the name of the depicted person.

Infrastructural claims to fame

I think i bought my last CD (‘Original Pirate Material‘ by the Streets) in 2002 only to rip it to my computer and then to leave it in a train running along the river rhine from Cologne towards Karlsruhe (in the hope that someone else would find it and enjoy it). I have not bought a music CD ever since (with the exception of a couple of baile funk CDs in Rio de Janeiro in 2006, but these don’t count because they were burned on demand by the sellers).

As everybody who hasn’t spend the last couple of years under a rock or in Gunatanamo Bay will know, CDs are not exactly selling well anymore. This is not only evident from the sales figures from 2007 (another 20 percent drop in volume) but also from this little gem of a story (‘Robbie Williams CDs will be used to pave roads in china‘) from BLDGblog:

EMI has announced that “unsold copies” of Rudebox, by British pop star Robbie Williams, “will soon be used to resurface Chinese roads.” More than a million copies of the CD “will be crushed and sent to the country to be recycled,” we read, where they “will be used in street lighting and road surfacing projects.” […] In any case, does all this imply some strange new infrastructural claim to fame? “You know that CD they used to pave the King’s Road?” a man asks you, putting his coffee down as if to emphasize the point. He crosses his arms. “I played bass on that.”

Guess those CDs won’t make it very far beyond the year 2008…

Steal this Film II revisited

05 Jan 2008 | 475 words | future movies file sharing copyright piracy media

So Felix (make sure to check out that splash page!) has posted an really good review of Steal This Film II to the nettime mailing list. If you still need a reason/excuse to download and watch STFII i suggest reading his review:

This experience reinforces the main point of the film: file-sharing – a technologically super-charged, deep cultural practice – is beyond the point where it can be stopped. The old media industry has lost control over the distribution of content, radically reducing the power of the current gate keepers to determine who can access the archives, who can produce new works, and who can reach an audience with those works.

The film’s premise is that file-sharing is transforming the basic mechanism of how culture and information is distributed with consequences as profound as the transformation brought about by the printing press. Now, for anyone who remembers the late 1990s, this introduces a certain deja-vu, since this argument was pretty much what fueled the dot.com boom back then. But here, it is delivered with a twist. It’s not the happy venture-capital infused entrepreneurs who turn the wheels of change, but the pirates who expand the scope of the possible for the masses, and the teenagers who have already claimed this new space as their natural cultural environment. This is not a top-down revolution.

Meanwhile Jamie has written up some thoughts about the amount of donations The League of Noble Peers is receiving as a result of their call for support. Seems like suggesting to donate a higher amount of money ($15 as opposed to 1$ as they did for when they released the original Steal This Film in 2006) works rather well. In his blog post Jamie is combining these first experiences with research about the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (a gonorrhea epidemic to be precise) to come up with the expectation that it is perfectly possible to produce profitable documentaries based on voluntary donations:

What is also necessary is a spreading of the “generosity virus”, not just for STEAL THIS FILM (although boy, could we use it!) but for all independent creators who’ve dispensed with the restrictive, punitive, retrograde commodity model and chosen to work with a new, more far-sighted paradigm. In these first days of distributing STF II, we have learned that by setting aside the artificial barriers of DVDs, cinema tickets and pay-per-download, the way is cleared to a new world of voluntary, supportive donations. The sooner we all stop moaning about how “no one is going to make any money” after P2P, we can get on with encouraging each other to look after our cultural environments. No one is saying we’re there yet, but like the man said, we’re beginning to see the light.

Read the rest of ‘The Future Doesn’t Care About Your Bank Balance, But the 1/1000 Do!

Steal this Film - Part 2

The second installment of Steal This Film has just been released. you can download it in 4 different resolutions) here and Torrentfreak has an interview with Jamie. By now i have seen it it numerous times (in different stages of production) and i will probably watch it again just for the sake of it (i am downloading the HD version right now).

Now it does not really matter if i watch it again or not but this movie is essential viewing for all those out there who still believe that file-sharing, and distributed communication and growing up in an age without scarcity (when it comes to media) does not constitute a fundamental break when it comes to cultural (re-) production:

These are strange times indeed. While they continue to command so much attention in the mainstream media, the ‘battles’ between old and new modes of distribution, between the pirate and the institution of copyright, seem to many of us already lost and won. We know who the victors are. Why then say any more?

Because waves of repression continue to come: lawsuits are still levied against innocent people; arrests are still made on flimsy pretexts, in order to terrify and confuse; harsh laws are still enacted against filesharing, taking their place in the gradual erosion of our privacy and the bolstering of the surveillance state. All of this is intended to destroy or delay inexorable changes in what it means to create and exchange our creations. If STEAL THIS FILM II proves at all useful in bringing new people into the leagues of those now prepared to think ‘after intellectual property’, think creatively about the future of distribution, production and creativity, we have achieved our main goal. [from the STFII website]

Oh, and if you have not yet seen Steal this Film I yet you can download it here

Re-erecting the border fences to combat piracy?

Yesterday a number of eastern european countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia & Slovenia) implemented the schengen agreement, by removing border control posts on the internal Schengen border crossings. Of course this does not mean that there will be no more border controls between these countries as there will be ‘random’ border police checks up to 30km away from the actual border.

As we have argued before the Schengen agreement is not so much about abolishing border(control)s but intended to modernize the system of selective admission to the national economies of western (and now central) Europe. From the perspective of nation states the ability to control the border-crossing public is traded-in for having a centralized database containing background information about suspected individuals (and stolen property) from all the member states.

Drawing of the bunker containing the SIS in a sleepy suburb of Strasbourg

For some reason this deal seems to make sense to most people (those inside the Schengen zone that is, as the external borders of the Schengen zone are much harder to cross for people trying to gain access) and so there have been various celebrations over the last couple of days. The only people who are not celebrating are those idiots from the GVU (the German equivalent of the RIAA/MPAA):

In an interview GVU’s director, Ronald Schäfer, warned that they were expecting more pirated CDs/DVDs in Germany now that the border with the Czech Republic would open (he comes short of suggesting that we should re-erect the iron curtain in order to keep those evil warez out of Germany). What a moron! He should shut the fuck up and go x-mas shopping! He probably also believes that region coding was a good idea and that piracy funds terrorism.

The bittorent demon

This photo (by Rasmus Kopimi) is just too good not to blog. I am not even sure when it was taken but it is timeless (or very early 21st century) anyway:

Guess this is also a good occasion to thank the oil of the 21st century crew for a number of highly inspiring events, royal amounts of data and the 2 best breakfasts i have head this year…

The ship, they claim, can no longer be sunk....

03 Dec 2007 | 67 words | copyright file sharing technology internet piracy

From a BBCnews article about the pirate bay:

“Nobody is crying that people who used to go around selling ice to people do not have a job anymore because of the fridge,” says Peter. “It would be stupid but it is the same thing.

“Technology has changed. You can’t go back, there’s no way to go back. And I don’t think there’s a will to go back.”

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: