Copyright and Documentary through Comics

Two Duke law professors and an expert in the public domain have written a comic, available under a Creative Commons license, about the impact of current copyright culture and its impact on creativity. They are particularly focused on how a trend towards a positive obligation to “clear copyright” and show that use of another’s work is fair use is, in reality, stifling fair use as studios refuse to take risks on including fair use content without permission and individuals cannot afford to defend legal cases if their fair use is challenged. There is example after example given of individuals filming … Continue reading Copyright and Documentary through Comics

Four more days

Hey, did you notice there is an election in the US coming up next week? Seems like a good time to clear the queue of some election-related links! Worried about what might go wrong with eVoting? A Rice professor has been exposing the vulnerabilities in the system Texas uses, showing that brief unsupervised access to the machine can compromise the integrity of the software. In fact, while I haven’t seen any authoritative explanation for how this has happened or how widespread it is, evidence does seem to be coming in that straight party ticket voting may result in inaccurate vote … Continue reading Four more days

One vote per person, more or less….

I have been reading a fair bit about electronic voting machines recently because we are talking about them in one of my classes. While I’ve waded through some pretty dry accounts of the vulnerabilities of these machines, this report with an associated video showing the ease with which Sequoia voting systems machines can be hacked using a brief exposure the the configuring computer with a USB drive. [via Boing Boing] The video also shows how various types of exploits might look to the voter and could be designed to even work in the face of physical paper-tape confirmations of the … Continue reading One vote per person, more or less….

Maybe a bit paranoid….

There has been a lot of kerfluffle in the local papers about the possibility of making I-80 a toll road, which I have followed with only very modest interest as I rarely if ever drive on I-80, but a recent description of how the state proposes to use cash-free tolling to mollify local drivers caught my eye. The proposal is that if you are a local driver and you sign up for EZ-Pass, you will not be charged tolls for local trips – hopefully this will reduce the risk that local drivers will avoid I-80 and funnel extra traffic onto … Continue reading Maybe a bit paranoid….

No I don’t know how fast I was going….

There are a lot of “know your rights”/”how to deal with the police” videos floating around the internet, some of which are entertainingly cheesy with enactments of possible scenes. While a bit longer and less dramatic, Boing Boing recently linked to a nice team lecture by a law professor and a cop about why you should never talk to the police, even if you are innocent. The law lecture component has nice historical and legal context about the fifth amendment, but also a really nice explanation of why you should take advantage of your fifth amendment rights even if, or … Continue reading No I don’t know how fast I was going….

Or you could just let Pennsylvania go first….

I was having a discussion over dinner about the problems with current presidential primary process, particularly the scheduling of them – yeah, I know, it’s a controversial stance! Pretty much everybody you talk to has an idea for what could make the current scheduling better, and we were arguing the merits of various hypothetical plans when somebody observed that perhaps people with more expertise and who had actually analyzed the relevant data had looked at this question. So it was home to Wikipedia and their US Presidential Primary page, and the also good FairVote page on Presidential Primaries. The major … Continue reading Or you could just let Pennsylvania go first….

Phased surveillance

There’s a very nice summary and assessment of a proposal for a web of surveillance cameras around Pittsburgh over at Pittsblog today. The proposal is presented as an anti-terrorism measure and has multiple phases of cameras being installed, starting with major infrastructure but over time extending the web of cameras into “high-risk neighborhoods”. Besides just a general sense that this much surveillance without a specific justification is problematic, Pittsblog offers the following criticism of the proposal: The Pittsburgh plan is completely silent on what I call “the human back end.” So Pittsburgh arranges to collect all of this surveillance data. … Continue reading Phased surveillance

I’m not a lawyer, but I play one on the internet…

There are tons of ways in which the law doesn’t keep up with technical developments, but this is an interesting example of technology perhaps pushing too far ahead of the law. A company was found guilty of unauthorized practice of law by virtue of their online legal expert system. The system was focused on bankruptcy law, and the sales pitch used stressed that this was “an expert system and knows the law. Unlike most bankruptcy programs which are little more than customized word processors the Ziinet engine is an expert system.” It seems that this use of “expert system” in … Continue reading I’m not a lawyer, but I play one on the internet…

The Context of Art

This article describes an experiment where onne of the world’s top violinists plays for change in a subway station. The purpose is to determine if people recognize the quality of the performance out of context (spoiler: for the most part, no) but there is some interesting discussion of what this says about the current tempo of our lives and the ways in which we appreciate art. It would be really interesting to do the same experiment at the end of the day when the context is still the same but people are under less of a strict schedule, in general.

Free Software Advocacy

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a Free Software Foundation member’s meeting at MIT, and during the lunch break I overheard an interesting conversation. I cluster of five stereotypical geeks (male, bearded, pony-tailed, etc.) were talking. One of thm was regailing his friends ith a story of a clueless woman he had the misfortune of listening to talk about her computer usage. This woman was talking to a friend about typesetting a paper using LaTeX – it was later determined that she worked in some capacity in a physics lab. She described how it was good for equations … Continue reading Free Software Advocacy