Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

Currently Viewing Posts in Intellectual Property

Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software

Sam Williams spins a compelling story about a man who is so passionate about a single idea that he ends up alienating most people he meets.

Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software I finished reading Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software a couple of weeks ago (it’s on my reading list for 2003). Sam Williams spins a compelling story about a man who is so passionate about a single idea that he ends up alienating most people he meets.

On the whole, the book is well-written and insightful. I found chapters 10 and 11 (“GNU/Linux” and “Open Source”) the most interesting. These chapters are less autobiographical and more historical. They do a good job of explaining why the Open Source movement is important (the Free Software Foundation is a bunch of religious zealots that don’t care to understand or work with the business world).

When I heard RMS interrupt and insult a speaker at the 2002 O’Reilly Open Source Convention because the speaker used the term “Free Software” to refer to “Open Source” software, I didn’t really understand why he would be so rude. The other chapters in the book, as a whole, tell us why he’s such a jerk. They don’t condone his behavior, but they do offer an explanation of how he came to be the person he is today.

The whole St. Ignucius shtick makes me embarassed to be an Emacs user. I can’t code without it, but I hate the pseudo-religion that RMS attaches to its use.

Lastly, a comment about e-books: Although I could’ve read the book for free online, I ended up getting a print edition. It’s so much easier to read in print that I think it’s worth spending the money on the actual book.

(I downloaded Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom to my Palm Zire last week because I’m tickled by the Creative Commons licenses, but I’m having a hard time with the poor contast delivered by an LCD. There ain’t nothing as easy to read as black ink on white paper.)

It’s a Wonderful Life

Why buy the DVD when it's on TV every year? Every year around X-mas time I’m sure to mention the story about how It’s a Wonderful Life became a holiday classic due to a snafu with copyright law. Earlier this week, NPR reported on this very story:

NPR’s Rick Karr reports on how a 1946 box office flop became so ubiquitous on television this time of year. It’s a Wonderful Life is a sentimental favorite… in part because of Jimmy Stewart, but also because no one ever bothered to file the papers to extend the copyright on the movie. [NPR Morning Edition]

NPR also aired a Motley Fool Radio Show about the movie.

DMCA and Instant Messaging Patent

Free Dmitry Sklyarov! A couple of interesting developments in the IP space today:

  1. Russian Company Acquitted of Digital Piracy. In the first test of digital piracy law, a jury acquitted a Russian company accused of selling software that allowed users to circumvent security features in an electronic book. By Matt Richtel. [New York Times: Technology]
  2. Patent creates IM wrinkle. America Online quietly secures a patent that could potentially shake up the competitive landscape for instant messaging software. [CNET News.com]

RIAA doesn’t get it, but O’Reilly does

Last night, I read Tim O’Reilly’s superb article on “piracy” and the evolution of online distribution. Brilliant.

Especially apropos was O’Reilly’s comparison of Internet access to television: most of use don’t use “free” TV from the airwaves, but instead get cable or satellite. And many people with subscriptions to TV services pay extra for premium content (such as extra sports channels or HBO). Similarly, most of us don’t use “free” Internet from Juno, but instead pay a monthly fee to an ISP like SBC or AOL.

But the analogy breaks down here. We should be able to get a “premium ISP” package from AOL that gives us online access to all of Time Warner’s music. But it’s not available. Not good enough. If we can’t pay for online access to quality music, we’re going to resort to the next best thing: free file-sharing networks.

Online music still not ready for prime-time

In CNET News.com today:

Liquid Audio to evaporate. The company’s board of directors votes unanimously to dissolve the company and distribute its cash reserves to shareholders.

Pretty pathetic. Liquid was one of the very first innovators to attempt to make a legal online music system in the Napster age. The fact that they’ve gone out of business shows just how stupid the recording industry is. Without a cheap, widely available alternative to getting illegal music from Kazaa or Gnutella, people are going to continue to violate copyright and copy music.

I’m willing to pay between 10 and 25 cents a song. Charge my PayPal account to avoid the overhead of credit card transactions and subscription models. RIAA, are you listening?

Dmitry’s DMCA case begins

Free Dmitry Sklyarov! An important test for the DMCA begins this week. Acording to Wired News,

Opening arguments begin Tuesday in the copyright infringement case against the Russian coding firm, a trial expected to test the limits of federal copyright law. Programmer Dmitri Sklyarov will be on hand to testify for both the prosecution and the defense.

I’m intersted in this case mostly because it’s a battle between the DMCA and the principle of fair use, but also because it involves my former employer.