the_colour_of_news

The Colour Of News –

http://robmyers.wpengine.com/the_colour_of_news/

Colours from the leading stories on leading news sites, updated hourly.

See the source here –

http://robmyers.wpengine.com/git/?p=the_colour_of_news.git;a=summary

Copying Is Better

I believe that being free to copy is better for culture, society and the economy than trying to turn copying into the subject of usury. This is a belief I gained at art school and that wasn’t shaken by my experience in industry. But while I can mention many examples of why I believe this to be true, in art and technology and for democracy, I’ve never had the kind of hard numbers to hand that the copyright lobby makes up, er, calculates.

Until now. Enter Newsgrist quoting TechDirt –

some researchers have started to look into it, and actually have built a model that shows society is likely better off when copying is the norm. Aaron deOliveira alerts us to the research on this,
which tries to model societies with creators and innovators, and finds
that society is served best when 30% of the population is involved in
creating new goods, while 70% is focused on copying. Now, you can read
through the full research
and quibble with the methodology, but the basic premise is sound, and
has been borne out in real life, in situations where copying was widely
allowed.

Follow the link(s) for more. Newsgrist is my favourite art and free culture blog…

Trisquel

I finally decommissioned my last Mac (an old G4 that dual-booted Debian) and replaced it with a slightly newer PC running Trisquel GNU/Linux. Trisquel is a “free as in freedom” distro that takes all the proprietary junk out of the Linux kernel and doesn’t install non-free codecs or plugins for media players and web browsers.

You might think that Trisquel would be limited by privileging freedom over convenience, but no. It Just Worked. Trisquel found not just my audio and graphics cards but my printer and even my Wacom tablet without so much as a nudge. I’ve plugged in a bluetooth dongle and used a Wiimote with it. The only thing I couldn’t get working was the wireless network (I don’t have a wireless dongle with free firmware for it), but it’s a desktop system so I just plugged it into the hub.

If you are looking for a GNU/Linux distro, I recommend Trisquel. I asked my youngest child, and they thought it was better than Mac OS X. You won’t get Flash movies or proprietary hardware drivers, but you do get a truly free operating system. Give it a go.

Wormwoods

http://www.wormwoodsstore.com/

Wormwoods is a generative sitcom. Go and take a look.

The characters are based on DGRs, Demo Graphic Replicators. DGRs are code bots that search for tweets matching keywords based on factors such as the time of day and their simulated emotional state then retweet them. I wrote the code for the DGRs (inspired by my earlier draw-something and Cybernetic Artworld), and it’s under the AGPL. I’m very pleased to say that the non-retweet cultural part of Wormwoods is under BY-SA. This is all-copyleft culture, and I’m very proud to have helped make it possible. Marcus is writing the posts and comment dialogue for the DGR-based characters on the blog, and Dave has worked tirelessly to make sure that the tools and concepts are in place to make this happen.

Yes, I’m hyping something I have a hand in but I don’t hand out praise lightly. This is really, really good both as culture (I defy you to read it and not smile at least) and as technical and legal systems. When something that you know the behind-the-scenes details of still makes you laugh when you see it, it must be on to something.

Star Dot Star Punk

Gah Punk!

Back in the day I found the name “cyberpunk” utterly cringeworthy. But William Gibson’s sprawl trilogy did do what punk did, which was to aesthetically critique socio-economic conditions through art. Gibson’s Reagonomic future seen through the eyes of those that it chews up and spits out is in its attitude recognisably punk.

Colourful Aesthetic Resistance Not Dreary Doctrinal Compliance

Steampunk has a BBC4-documentary bourgeois tweeness to it, but it’s important that the neccessary corrective to this doesn’t go too far in the other direction. Steampunk isnot and cannot be pre-or anti-industrial without becoming aesthetically and politically incoherent. Luddism is not the model. Rather in steampunk the technology of industry has gone out into society rather than sucking society into it. It adorns the individual rather than the individual adorning it. It is in the mapping from this fantasy to our peak oil techno-social reality that Steampunk’s critical value lies. Trying to make it more literally and doctirnally political would destroy that criticality.

Touched By The Hand Of…

Steampunk is a natural complement to Goth. Both are an ironic romantic stance using the aesthetic resources of historic iconography, whether haunted castles or satanic mills. Both involve dressing up and acting out without taking yourself too seriously. And both are an aesthetic resistance to the totalising schemes of society and its opponents. Like Adorno’s critical autonomy of art, youth culture is critical to the extent that it is not literally political. Goth and Steampunk exemplify this. Not Verne or Stoker, but Verne *and* Sotker!

Beware The Seductive Aesthetics of Fascism

Some of the Dieselpunk blog posts and photos of costumes I’ve seen recently have started flirting with the aesthetics of mid-20th-century European design. One of the dangers of looking at that time and place from the outside is that people will homogenise it. Which given the division between free and totalitarian states that characterises the period would be a terrible mistake. The machinery and fashion of the fascist states were so aesthetically striking because of what they had to conceal ethically. Don’t make your boots too shiny.

Free Riders

In economics, a “free rider” is someone who takes value from a public good without giving anything back. They are an economic parasite of the commons. Too many free riders will destroy a public good, denying its value to everyone. This is clearly bad, and should be prevented.

There is an argument that the GPL can be used by companies as a tool to discourage free riders on Free Software projects, but that if you don’t care about punishing free riders you should just use a BSD-style licence instead. This argument is incoherent and suspect.

Free Software is a matter of ethics, not economics. The GPL is an ethical tool, not an economic one. It exists to promote the freedom of individuals to use software, not to prevent the economic exploitation of source code by competitors.

In economic terms, anyone who doesn’t contribute to the production of the code but still uses it is a free rider. This means that any user of the software who does not also hack on it is a free rider. Given that there are many thousands of packages in the average modern free software operating system distribution this means that *all* users are free riders not just on one project but on many if not all of those that they use.

This is at odds with the idea of Free Software, where freedom is not limited to hackers (or rather their bosses) but is something for all users of software. Saying that free riders are bad mis-characterises the issue as economics not ethics and makes “open source” opposed to user freedom.

Don’t ask whether or how to punish free riders. Ask how to promote individual freedom. It is this individual freedom that the GPL is designed to protect. It isn’t designed to punish free riders. The real free riders are those who wish to benefit from freedom without passing it on. They always prefer non-copyleft licences because those licences don’t require you to respect the freedom of the very software users that free software is for.

Economic Exploitation and Control vs. Operation and Freedom

Copyleft does not limit the “freedom” of business to “use” resources that would otherwise be restricted by copyright. Organizations do not have freedom, individuals do. Individuals may be members of organizations, freedom of association being an important personal freedom. but their freedom as members of that organization is a product of their personal freedom, not any magical properties of the organization. It is a non-sequitur to claim that the freedom of the organization requires the restriction of the freedom of any individuals, whether within or without that organization.

It is true that copyleft can make economically exploitable resources available to businesses at greatly reduced cost if the economy in which those resources are produced is amenable to doing so. This benefits businesses by reducing their costs. But this is not the intended primary effect of free software, free data and free culture. The intended primary effect is that everyone everywhere always be free to use software, data and cultural works.

“Use” here does not mean “exploit economically”, as in “we’ll use Linux to reduce our operating costs”. That is not use, that is purchasing. “Use” means operation, manipulation, working on, executing, playing, experiencing. The user of the software is the person operating it, not the person paying them.

It might be argued that this is just one definition of freedom and one definition of use. But alternative definitions that try to replace individuals with economics quickly lead to unfreedom. And eventually to demands for control of the public as a pre-requisite for a private enrichment that is privileged for unexamined ideological reasons.

Given that the resources to be used for that private enrichment wouldn’t exist without the freedom to produce and share them, this is cashing out and ultimately self-defeating. To plead that copyleft will prevent a business enriching itself at the expense of society isn’t entrepreneurealism or innovation.

When people say that businesses cannot use copylefted work, they almost always mean that they could do but they refuse to. They believe that the public’s freedom can only come at the expense of private economic privilege. That is a disturbing political position and one that is not borne out by history. There are more millionaires under market capitalism than there were under feudalism, and there are more consumers to enrich them in an open society than in a closed one.

I am opposed to NonCommercial and other discriminatory licences in no small part because they exclude business. I have advised businesses that wish to use copyleft as part of their business plans. I am not anti-business. What I am opposed to is the self-defeating illiberality that lurks behind calls for economic privilege to override social equality.

Two Shoe Salesmen

The boss of a shoe company sent two salesmen to a new country to see whether there was any market for footwear there.

The first salesman returned and gave his report to the boss. “Everyone there already has shoes, but if you try to change your laces you go to prison! That’s terrible! We should make sure that doesn’t happen here!”

The second salesman returned and gave his report to the boss. “Everyone there already has shoes, and they are much more fashionable than ours. We should stop making shoes and make a deal with their manufacturer to be their franchise here! Think of the opportunity! We just have to sign one little contract!”

And the moral of the story is – don’t be like the first salesman! Embrace cool and opportunity!

Screwdriver Sketch

SCENE 16.
——–

ANIMATION – AND NOW, THE SCREWDRIVER SKETCH.

SCENE 17.
——–

INTERIOR, DAY. A SCREWDRIVER SHOP. JUST PUT A SIGN SAYING “SCREWDRIVER SHOP” ON THE COUNTER OF THE CORNER SHOP SET FROM SCENE 8.

CHARACTERS – SCREWDRIVER VENDOR, BEHIND THE COUNTER IN A SHARP SUIT AND WAXED MOUSTACHE. CUSTOMER, IN WORK OVERALLS, FLAT CAP AND GLASSES.

CUSTOMER: Good morning, I’d like to buy a screwdriver.

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Certainly sir, what colour?

CUSTOMER: Red, I think. No, blue.

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Certainly, sir, just sign here.

CUSTOMER: What’s this?

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Oh that’s the contract for the screwdriver, sir.

CUSTOMER: Oh, how modern.

CUSTOMER SIGNS THE DOCUMENT

CUSTOMER: There you are.

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Thank you, sir.

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR HANDS BLUE SCREWDRIVER TO CUSTOMER WITH A FLOURISH.

BOTH TURN TO LOOK EXPECTANTLY AT THE CAMERA.

SCENE 18.
——–

INTERIOR, DAY.

A KITCHEN. ON THE TABLE IS A LARGE TRANSISTOR RADIO THAT THE CUSTOMER WANTS TO FIX.

CHARACTERS – CUSTOMER, SAT AT THE TABLE HOLDING A BLUE SCREWDRIVER.

CUSTOMER LOOKS AT THE CAMERA WAITING FOR AN UNSEEN CUE, HOLDING A BLUE SCREWDRIVER UP NEXT TO THEIR HEAD. THEY WAIT FOR A MOMENT, THEN AT THE SIGNAL OF THE UNSEEN CUE THEY LOOK AT THE RADIO AND SLOWLY START MOVING THE TIP OF THE SCREWDRIVER TOWARDS IT.

OFF CAMERA – A KNOCK AT THE DOOR FRONT DOOR OF THE HOUSE.

CUSTOMER STOPS MOVING THE SCREWDRIVER AND LOOKS BACK UP AT THE CAMERA.

CUSTOMER: I wonder who that could be?

SCENE 19.
——–

EXTERIOR, DAY.

THE FRONT DOOR TO THE CUSTOMER’S HOUSE.

CHARACTERS – CUSTOMER, SCREWDRIVER VENDOR, POLICEMAN, KNIGHT.

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR IS STOOD OUTSIDE THE FRONT DOOR.

CUSTOMER, HOLDING THE BLUE SCREWDRIVER AGAINST THEIR CHEST ABSENT-MINDEDLY, OPENS THE DOOR AND LOOKS OUT.

CUSTOMER: Oh hello.

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: I’m sorry, sir but you can’t do that.

CUSTOMER: Do what?

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: There’s no need to be common, sir. I was just saying that you cannot do that.

CUSTOMER: No, I mean what can’t I do?

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: You cannot use the nice shiny blue screwdriver I gave you earlier to open that grubby old radio.

CUSTOMER: Why not?!

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Well, sir, if you’d read the contract you signed you’d have seen that you have to buy a red screwdriver to open radios with. Not a blue one.

CUSTOMER: That sounds a bit stupid if you ask me.

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Well it’s very fortunate that I didn’t, then, isn’t it? But think of the alternative, sir. You’d be able to use that screwdriver for anything.

CUSTOMER: Well that seems perfectly reasonable to me. I mean, after all I bought it!

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: You *licenced* it, sir.

CUSTOMER: I should be free to use it however I want! Well, unless I was going to lever paint tins open with it, possibly. Or stab someone. But that doesn’t strike me as any of your business! Just sell the bloody screwdriver and get on with your life!

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: But sir! Imagine if you could just use the screwdriver however you wanted, imagine if I was not free to tell you how to use the screwdrivers that I sell-

CUSTOMER: Licence.

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Ah! Yes, my mistake, thank you; licence – you. I would not be free to do business as I wish, and that would be slavery for me! Slavery!

CUSTOMER: You’re loopy!

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: No, sir, I am just a man who loves freedom more than you do.

CUSTOMER: No you don’t!

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Yes I do!

CUSTOMER: No you don’t!

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Yes I do!

CUSTOMER: No you don’t!

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Yes I do!

CUSTOMER: No you don’t!

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Yes I do!

CUSTOMER REMEMBERS THAT HE IS HOLDING THE SCREWDRIVER AND LOOKS AT IT.

CUSTOMER: Wait a minute, this isn’t the screwdriver I bought off you, this is my *old* blue screwdriver!

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: Yeah, right! Prove it!

CUSTOMER: Well alright I’ll just give it to someone else then!

SCREWDRIVER VENDOR: You *really* didn’t read the small print, did you sir?

THE SCREWDRIVER VENDOR BECKONS TO THE THE POLICE OFFICER WHO IS WAITING OFF-CAMERA.

THE POLICE OFFICER WALKS UP TO THE CUSTOMER, PUTS HIS HAND ON THE CUSTOMERS SHOULDER AND LEADS THE CUSTOMER OFF-SET.

THE CUSTOMER LOOKS DEJECTED AND SHAKES HIS HEAD ON THE WAY.

THE SCREWDRIVER VENDOR WATCHES, LOOKING SMUG.

A KNIGHT IN PLATE ARMOUR WALKS SLOWLY UP TO THE SCREWDRIVER VENDOR FROM BEHIND AND HITS HIM OVER THE HEAD WITH A PLUCKED CHICKEN.

SCENE 20.
——–

ANIMATION – SOMNAMBULIST STEEPLEJACK AIRBAG LEGISLATION.