Tales of the Sausage Factory

Broadcast Flag Through The Back Door — Yet Another Episode of “Outsourcing Big Brother.”

The Motion Picture Association of America has asked the FCC to give it a waiver of something called the “selectable output control” rules for cable boxes. As usual, this apparently minor request for a waiver of an obscure FCC regulation of unknown origin, governing a highly-technical and mind numbingly boring set of rules about cable set-top boxes, hides a bold power grab designed to rip off every owner of a Tivo, VCR, or other perfectly legal recording device available to consumers to engage in the legal practice of recording television programs to watch them later (“time shifting”).

For details on this latest effort to circumvent limits on government by outsourcing the process to an industry cartel, aka “outsourcing Big Brother,” see below . . . .

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Posted in Fighting the IP Mafia, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Utterly shameless self promotion

As regular readers know, I have no shame or restraint. So I am going to make a pitch for nomination for this University of Michigan Tech Writing Award. From the website:

Taking a cue from the open-source movement, we’re asking readers to nominate their favorite tech-oriented articles, essays, and blog posts from 2006. The competition is open to any and every technology topic–biotech, information technology, gadgetry, tech policy, Silicon Valley, and software engineering are all fair game. But the ideal candidates will:

* be engagingly written for a mass audience;
* be no longer than 5,000 words;
* have been published between January and December, 2006.

The guest editor for The Best of Technology Writing 2007 will be Steven Levy. It will be published in fall 2007 by digitalculturebooks, a new imprint of the University of Michigan Press and Library, and available in print and online.

THE DEADLINE FOR NOMINATIONS IS FEBRUARY 11, 2007.

You can fill out the nominating form here. A list of my personal faves on technology (not including straight media policy) from 2006 below . . .

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Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Outsourcing Big Brother Redux and Network Neutrality

About a year ago, I gave a speech to the ACLU called Outsourcing Big Brother. In it I argued that a big problem with consolidation in the media and telecommuniations industries is that it facilitates a partnership between big government and big business in which we, as citizens, lose.

Yesterday’s revelation in USA Today provides yet another chilling reminder of why we need to embed principles like network neutrality and competition into law, and vigorously defend them if we care about our civil liberties.

As I keep saying, since the telcos and cable cos and others keep wanting to frame it this way, Network Neutrality isn’t AT&T v. Microsoft. Yes, the economics matter, and, as I’ve said before, I think abolishing NN is a disasterous economic policy. But, at the end of the day, I care because it goes to the heart of democracy and self-governance.

More below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Outsourcing Big Brother

I gave this speech last July at the ACLU Biennial Conference in New Orleans. At the time, the news that major telcos and search engine companies were cooperating with the government by providing all kinds of personal infomration had not yet hit the press. I was just applying logic.

It seems useful to me to publish here as a reminder that the recent headlines are not an aberration or the work of a few evil or gready or misguided men. It is the inevitable result of a system that concentrates power and information in the hands of a few large coorprations with every interest keep those in government happy.

We don’t ask chain saws to distinguish between human beings and trees. They are inanimate tools. If you turn it on, it cuts through things. If you want to make it safer, you need to put on safety locks and other devices, or someone is likely to cut his or her own leg off by accident some day.

Similarly, it is ridiculous to depend on corporations to defend private information. They are designed to maximize revenue for shareholders. This does not make them good or bad, greedy or virtuous. It makes the corporation a tool. If we, as citizens of democracies, care about our civil liberties, then we need to install some safeties.

Stay tuned . . .

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Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", Censorship Public and Private, General, How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, I Fear These Things, Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | Comments closed
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