BT et C

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

DD is Dead! Long Live DB

"DD" stands for "Dear Darl" and was going to be a column here consisting of open letters to the CEO of The SCO Group. I wrote one, and it was so-so, but before I could turn around thrashing SCO went old hat. Blogologically, it's about as interesting as discussing the Florida recount (or the Ohio one, if that's your taste).

So on we go with the first installment of a column called "DB", which stands for "Dear Bill". I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out the rest.

Dear Bill,

You recently had an interview that existed partially to correct your strange statements from a previous interview. In case you've forgotten, here's a refresher

Gizmodo: When you talked to CNet (I believe that was yesterday), you sort of ticked off some of the blog world with some of the comments… a specific comment that was made, about some of the IP advocates—people that are advocating more… not necessarily open source, but Creative Commons and things like that. A less restrictive IP environment. You made an analogy and called them “communist.”

Do you feel that’s necessarily a fair judgment to make, to call those people ‘communists,’ as opposed to someone who adopts DRM as maybe… a ‘capitalist?’ (I don’t know what you’re thinking the opposite would be).

Gates: No, no, no. I didn’t say those people were ‘communists.’ I did say that they’re… The question is: what incentive systems should exist in the world? Call ‘communism’ a system where [in] the extreme case you believe that the idea of the individual getting lots of wealth in return for the things they do… that that’s wrong. If you have no incentive for individual excellence and it’s just sort of, you know, banned. All the way up to an extreme that nobody would believe in, that there’s no redistribution of wealth and that’s there’s no expiration of rights and control. So you have this huge spectrum.

Well, Bill, you're right about one thing: that is, indeed, the question. You didn't answer it, so Greg London answered it for you. (Since that page is very long, I'll sum it up even though it's worth reading: the incentive systems that should exist are the ones that are most efficient, obtaining e.g. "the promotion of science and the useful arts" at the least expense to society.)

You are, however, wrong about another thing, and it happens to be something I know a little bit about.
Gates: Well, ignore DRM for a second. Should an artist that creates a great song be paid for that song? That’s where you have to start. You don’t start with DRM. DRM is just like a speed bump that reminds you whether you’re staying within the scope of rights that you have or you don’t. So you don’t start with DRM. That’s like saying, ‘Do you believe in speed bumps?’ You have to say, ‘Should people drive at 80mph in parking lots?’ If you think they should, then of course you don’t like speed bumps.

It is clear, here and elsewhere in your interviews, that you don't go very deep into questions, or analogies, to figure out whether they are meaningful.* Suppose someone decides actually to ponder this question: should an artist that creates a great song be paid for that song?

As an artist who has created several good songs and half of a great one, I immediately think "yes". Then I think

Will the aforementioned artist be paid?

That, alas, depends on a great number of things, the most important of which is the collective economic decision-making power of the free market, which I assume you've heard of.

As for your speedbumps metaphor, I don't mind issuing you a gentle correction.

-Speedbumps are minor inconveniences, placed on roads, that reduce the chance of a driver hurting people

The differences between this set of relations and DRM are numerous
-Making copies of digital works & ideas does not hurt anyone. So it is more like a technology that prevents people from driving, say, east than from driving too fast.
-DRM does not slow down the making of copies -- it stops it outright. So it is more like a wall than a bump
-DRM technology is placed in the computer -- i.e. in the car. So it is more like having every car come with an RIAA executive who is in charge of operating the radio. You can, I guess, still control the power button, but when you turn it on she gets to pick the station.

I'm sure you would like people not to think too much about DRM, because it changes, fundamentally, the act of operating a computer. It becomes a collaborative effort. Now, if I use Windows I have outsourced -- voluntarily -- a lot of low-level OS functions because I don't want to worry about them. The trade-off is that I don't control every aspect of my computer's behavior. As it turns out, I use Linux, so the level of control I have over my machine depends solely on my willingness to learn about it.

You and the other DRM advocates propose that we change that. You would like there to be a component of my computer, required by law, that I do not control. Why? Because an artist should be paid for writing a great song. DRM opponents reply that, indeed, they should -- but this is too high a price to pay.

Matthew Crouch

PS: Artists for File Sharing believes that artists should and can be paid for their work without surrendering control over their computers or the Internet to the established content-providing institutions.

*I have a theory that Windows users tend toward a mild form of ADD, because their reading/writing/surfing activities are so frequently interrupted by crashes, annoyware, etc. Just a theory. (Also, just a joke ... but it's one of those jokes that makes you think)

Friday, April 22, 2005

The MASOTY awards

BTetC is now accepting nominations for the annual MASOTY awards.

There are currently 3 awards, with plans to add more until damn near every noun that starts with "S" is accounted for.

Most Annoying Software Of The Year
Most Annoying Song Of The Year
Most Annoying Senator Of The Year

Winners will be decided by, well ... me, but feel free to try to influence me however you want. The prize will be that I rip into the winners on my blog for, like, I dunno a day or so.

Post nominees in the comments here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


as per "my own personal conclave" below, I'm not playing right now, but last week when I was I did goot

cleared $150 bonus at empire. lost $30 in play.
deposited at TheGamingClub to take advantage of a bonus. Had my facts wrong... no bonus for me. Played a bit, cashed out and moved on, net +$50
really tasty session at *********** +$73
single solitary $10 S&G at stars: PWNT! First place +$34
assorted MTT buyins: -$45

Total: +$232

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


It's not disappointing that Ratzinger turns out to be the man, but that, as usual, the coverage is all about the conflict, all about the controversy. So, when there are so many helpful things that could be said we get bites like "Ratzinger was head of the office formerly known as the Inquisition." and "He was chief of the Vatican Thought Police."

Ick, I could go on and on but still have work to do.

Monday, April 18, 2005

14 hours later...

tux root #emerge --pretend gnome | grep -c ebuild

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what that means. Back to work.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

My own personal conclave

Okay, I've gotta finish this front-end pronto. No bloggery & no poker 'til it's at version 1.0. Anyone wanna help? Yes, I'll pay you. Yes, I know you're busy. No, it won't take days and days -- two phat ones oughta do it. If I can't get this thing live soon I think the account is in peril. And I love this account.


Oh, and I don't know how I missed this. Dang.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Jeb Hensarling, Federalist?

Too bad this act is necessary, or perceived to be so:

Many of my readers might be unaware that there was an anti-bill-of-rights contingent in the public square at the time of the Constitution's drafting. Were these proto-fascists, bent on exploiting and abusing basic human rights? How could they be opposed to such fundamental protections? What sort of sick mind operates like that?

Alas, nothing too exciting to see here; it was just the Federalist The argument was thus: since the Constitution does not grant Congress the right to abridge free speech, there is no reason to prohibit it from doing so. In fact there is a danger in it -- it implicity widens the scope of government action, thus:
-I say you can do A,B, and C
-I then say you cannot do D nor E
All of a sudden F & G come back NULL -- can you do them or not?

Contrast with a simpler situation:
-I say you can do A,B, and C
-That's all I say
Not only are D & E just as off-limits as before, but there is no longer any doubt about F & G. And any other powers you might be tempted to snatch up over the next couple hundred years.

Well, that's the argument at least. Libertarians should love it.

Now the quote from Hensarling's letter:
"Unfortunately, a federal judge has ruled that the FEC's previous broad exemption of the Internet was impermissible absent clear direction from Congress. Within the next sixty days, the FEC is expected to finalize rules and regulations that could squash not only free speech and citizen activism, but could well impede innovation and technology"

Now I'm in favor of Campaign Finance Reform Done Right (CFRDR), and haven't studied up whether the '02 law is part of that, but this sequence is a little odd
-CFR bill regulates certain acts of speech and activism
-FEC makes an exception for this stuff when it occurs on the Net
-Judge rules that FEC needs an explicit exclusion of Net speech; that gov can regulate there until told otherwise.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005


I was recently informed that

"a copyright creates ownership by NATURAL right of a thing AND the copies of that thing"

which, plainly, is buncombe. So I was encouraged when I saw from the same writer that "the concept of intellectual property, which itself is an oxymoron, is not sound...". This, plainly, is not buncombe.

Rather than continue that discussion in comments, I thought I'd start afresh, clarifying my position and hopefully that of my collocutor. Eureka: he says "BUT, as I said, if an idea or theory or thought has been put into a physical form, and by that I mean a form physical enough that it can contain a self-evident notice of ownership (ie, digital objects with copyrights), then ownership of that particular object IS valid"

This seems to mean only that when I produce physical manifestations of my ideas, I own those objects. True enough. But this is because I own all the physical objects I produce. Copyright and patent are about the right to control subsequent copies, manifestations, and derivative works. They are invalid vis-a-vis natural law because the ideas standing behind the manifestation are non-scarce & non-alienable. Obtaining them does not diminish their original owner, or constitute any sort of aggression against that owner. I have said all this before.

Since I have read a good chunk of Rothbard's book, I feel fine linking An Alternate View. Incidentally, I was well pleased to find, partway through that article, that Rothbard is counted among the opponents of patent & copyright (he holds the view that a copyright owner can reserve rights and therefore holds sway over use of his work by contractual agreement -- note, not by natural right; an analysis of this view and its problems also occurs in the linked article).

The critical thing there is that:

"..creation and labor-mixing indicate when one has occupied -- and, thus, homesteaded, -- unowned scarce resources." (p. 29)

Which is to say, the rights of ownership arise from first-occupancy, not from the labor. The labor admixture is simply a good indicator of who the first occupant was. Furthermore, in this property theory the tangibility of the owned thing is assumed. Applying it without further reflection to non-scarce resources is foolhardy. The reason you can't take the first occupant's property is because you must aggress against him or her to do so.

In anything that you create, you have a sort of abstract ownership -- so we refer to "Shakespeare's MacBeth" or say that I'm my mother's son. But I can surely make copies of MacBeth or of myself, derivative works, if you please (and cute ones at that), without any permission from Shakespeare or my mother. It is because you do NOT -- by natural right -- have any control over the allocation of property unless it constitutes an agression against you.

In America, in 2005, I can make and sell all the copies of MacBeth that I want. But not Ship of Fools. It is not because the latter action does anything to Katherine Porter. Both writers being dead, my actions do nothing to them. It is merely by convention; we have a theory (growing weaker all the time) that no one will write books unless the government promises to employ its monopoly on physical force on their behalf, fining or jailing anyone that copies their book even though they suffer no harm from the copying, for 75 years.

We have also decided, as it turns out, that it's a good idea to get together every couple decades and extend the scope of that promise.

One might be tempted to suggest that if I write a book and am selling it on the market, and people make copies and sell them, I am harmed by the lost sales. This is the RIAA/MPAA's theory, and there is food for thought in it. "Lost sales" are a kind of harm, I suppose. But do not confuse it with the actual, physical violence that must be done to you in order to take away your tangible property.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Another above-average week; either that or (here's hoping) I have a new average:

.5/1 limit at empire: +$150
1/2 at *****(a site I won't name 'cause i don't want the word getting out): +$55
cleared $100 bonus at empire
alas, every silver lining has a cloud: dropped $50 in stars multitable tournaments
and i lost $20 at richard's house

Total: $235

Friday, April 08, 2005

Germany's Slipping

The News

Windows open, gang. Top 'em off and let's take 'em over!

It Lives

It is just emerging from the womb, crying and stretching its arms, making weird faces and not yet opening its eyes with very impressive reliability, but nevertheless it lives.

It is not a high horse. It is a problem&solution-oriented community that wants -- in terms my economic colocutors might enjoy -- smooth out the search and transaction costs for all kinds of creative work. Hope you enjoy it.

Good and Bad Libertarians

Bad libertarians are easy to spot: in any current event or conflict, they take the side of the corporation. If no corporation is involved, it'll be the more conservative public official. Maybe at least the official with the most conservative rhetoric.

I want to address the good libertarians out there. Hell, I'm practically one of you ... meh ... as much as I am a Green, or anything else. There's great stuff in the theory, but there are also complexities in action. The critical difference is between being good and bad whatever-you-are: acknowledging the complexities and the other points of view in the public square, and sincerely trying to navigate them.

Violent Crime. Why Not?
We have seen fit to criminalize an act that comes quite naturally to human animals -- the destruction of other human animals. Applying, reductio ad absurdum as it were, the laissez-faire principle, this wouldn't be necessary, would it? Eventually, people will wise up to how much cooler/better the non-murderous folks are, mate with them, and we'll just evolve ourselves a nice path out of violence.

Can't quite go that far?

Bribery. Why Not?
It is illegal to give a public official money who can make a law that favors you, or can allow you to skirt an existing law. How come? When I'm wearing my Very Libertarian hat, I say why not? Legalize it. Eventually, you'll see one of two outcomes:
1. The demos will come to see the advantages of electing non-bribable officials
2. Corporocracy. And are we sure that's bad?

Bribery is a simple transaction, from which both parties receive a benefit. But any normal person gets a whiff of this-can't-be-right at this point, so what's wrong? I submit to the good libertarians:

-The free market is not the current state of affairs, to be protected from government intrusion. Free markets are the goal.

The problem with the bribery transaction is that it tends to make the market less free; two agents in a system (whatever constituency the official represents) are conducting a deal that has effects far beyond themselves. Now I'll return to the topic of software.

The open source movement is in need of a philosopher, and I'll volunteer. I love him to death but think rms is more of a political ethicist than a "real" philosopher.

Concerning freedom, Kant pointed out that there is a negative and a positive understanding of the term. Freedom in the "negative" (that's not pejorative, btw) sense is absence-of-restriction on one's actions. In the positive sense, freedom is the faculty of initiating a causal series; freedom is creativity.

The superiority of the GPL to the X11 or the modified BSD license is in an implicit recognition of this, and of the points above regarding free markets. To place no restrictions on anyone, throw your code into the public domain. BUT ... to extend the causal series that has created the greatest technical reference library on earth, GPL it.

To trust the (presumed free) market to make most-efficient use of your code, license it "BSD-style". But to contribute to steady progress toward a free market and away from one choking on weird patents backed by weird senators, GPL it.

Ick. Blogs are supposed to be short. More later.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


an excellent week...

1/2 Limit at stars, .25/.5NL at sportingbet: +$80 or so
Sit-N-Go's at stars: +$80
also, cleared deposit bonus at stars: +$96

so I'm in a good mood.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Me and Jon

(Schwartz, that is)

...have a love-hate relationship going on right about now. So many great things he's said and done over the years, then out of the blue some honkers pop up:

Item: from a article on GPL version3:

"If people want to use the GPL and integrate with it, they have to adopt the proprietary license called the GPL," said Sun President Jonathan Schwartz in an interview this month. "Basically it forces your hand. You don't have any choice anymore." (NOTE: can't find that quote in the linked interview, or anywhere else, although it's used in numerous other articles)

Lacking context, I can only go wtf?! In order to use the GPL, people have to adopt the GPL. You don't have any choice, and presumably that is bad.

It is bad that, once you decide to use a license, you have to comply with its terms. This is just the baffling quote -- I fully expect to make some sense out of it when I find the source.

The sinister quote, of course, is "the proprietary license called the GPL". Is this another weak attempt to cloud the water so people can't see the very obvious benefits of free software? Just outright call the GPL proprietary enough times and see if it sticks?

Somebody help me find the complete interview, please!