Archive for March 2012
[This week's Inconstant Moon special feature won't appear before the weekend, since I've trekked to Toronto to see the Closing arguments at G20 Activist Byron Sonne's trial. I'm not a lawyer, but I am certainly interested. The Crown prosecution put in a mind numbing day yesterday, listing every bit of circumstantial evidence they've amassed.]
Malcolm Gladwell should have been in Courtroom 2-2 at 361 University Avenue yesterday to see the consternation and confusion caused by Twitter in the halls of justice. It is clear that the Canadian legal system is trying to come to grips with the social media tools used by activists everywhere these days. Maybe Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody” should be required reading for lawyers and law enforcement.
Byron’s behaviour is incomprehensible to Crown Attorney Elizabeth Nadeau. She throws around words like “obsessive”, alleging that Byron was obsessive about guns, yet in a thorough search the only guns found were potato guns. I have never heard of any crime being committed with one of these things. They are perfectly legal and obviously there is a market for them if you can order them online.
Sure they are projectile weapons, but are also large and unwieldly… kind of like the trebuchets I’ve seen small children demonstrate at local medieval festivals. People build trebuchets in 21st century Canada, even though there are no castles to storm here in Southern Ontario. People do this because it is fun to find out how things work… and there is no better way to find that out than by doing.
The bulk of the “evidence” seems to be that Byron had a chemicals in his house. He was very careful to have only legally allowed quantities of chemicals. So he had the ingredients for explosives but no explosives. Byron was very careful to know what was allowed and to stay within the law. Yet the crown argues that his awareness of the law, and the care he took to know what was and was not allowed is somehow nefarious. In his career as a security consultant, Byron would necessarily be aware of existing laws and make sure to stay within them in order to maintain required license certifications.
She also doesn’t see any possible use for the chemicals beyond building explosives. She talked about Byron’s computer as a “biography” but doesn’t see that the evidence shows a clear interest in chemistry which greatly predates Byron’s concern with the G20. This is not unusual either. People have been interested in chemistry – and explosions for centuries. We celebrate Canada Day by shooting off fireworks. And in fact, many ordinary people buy fireworks and shoot them off in their back yards year round because they think it’s fun. Hollywood movies blow things up regularly, because it is fun.
Like many, Byron had a chemistry set as a kid. For Byron this seems to have kindled a life long interest in chemistry. The crown finds it is suspect that Byron’s chemicals were neatly organized and labeled. Frankly, I find that to be a reassuring demonstration of the care that Byron took to be safe.
The crown contended Byron’s interest in rocketry was a cover for his G20 activities, on the assumption he was putting rocket fuel before the rocket. Yet there was no real world space program before there was rocket fuel. There is no point in building a rocket until you know you can launch it. The Crown points out that he had no rocket parts at all. Yet I’ve learned through this trial that before building a rocket, you need to have certifications and licenses, particularly for the kind of rocket that Byron was interested in building. Byron Sonne made a point of not exceeding the scope of what he was legally allowed to do.
Judge Spies suggestion of a field trip to Toronto Hacklab would have been brilliant, as it might provide the Crown some insight into the kind of people who dabble in technology, the people who make things, and spend time trying to figure out how things work, for no reason beyond satisfying curiosity… because it’s fun. As would watching a couple of episodes of “Big Bang Theory,” a comedy series with good portrayals of a group innovative thinkers.
If this is what happens to intelligent inquisitive individuals, perhaps we should stop giving our children chemistry sets. Perhaps parents need to discourage innovative thinking. Look what can happenving existing technology.
The problem here is that the Crown started with the premise that Byron is a terrorist and has been working backward to try to make mountains of information fit the theory. Although that’s a reasonable process for me to follow as a fiction writer, it isn’t exactly the scientific method, and doesn’t seem the right way for the justice system to proceed.
Especially with Byron’s liberty hanging in the balance.
I should be doing self publishing things, like finishing my second novel, writing special features in my Inconstant Moon serialization blog, establishing my self publishing Imprint, getting my website set up to sell digital copies of my work, creating the book trailer &tc. But there are vital issues like copyright and civil rights are important to me as both a writer and citizen, but perhaps even more as a mother.
So although I’m a fiction writer, there is a clear need for what Jay Rosen calls “citizen journalism.” Which is why I’ve blogged rather a lot about Byron Sonne.
But I’ve made a point of using every opportunity to mention Bryon at ever opportunity. When you’re on the outside, it is really easy to forget about a political prisoner languishing behind bars.
Because of this, a search on my blogs will produce quite a few returns that mention Byron’s plight, but don’t necessarily add anything substantive to the conversation. Since the trial has now resumed, you might be interesting in reading or re-reading some of of these articles.
Byron Sonne Articles (here)
in my Oh! Canada blog
and my visual laurel Tumblog
All these articles are by me, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License to allow any reproduction (except under more restrictive copyright terms).
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I was young, I was largely turned off by all the books I read by writers who thought fantasy meant you didn’t have to stick to any rules, so I’m not a big fantasy fan. I would always choose hard science fiction before fantasy, but have drifted away from both genres in favour of mystery/thrillers for the most part over the years.
My favourite fantasy book of all time was Lord of The Rings, which I’ve read several times. I mean really, after that, where do you go? A few years back I read “Lord of the Rings” aloud to my son.
You heard me, aloud.
That may be part of why he is a huge fantasy fan today, or why he’s taking Medieval Studies in University. He’d been reading borrowed copies of the “Game of Thrones” series in his last semester of high school, and he was really getting into it, so we bought him the whole set for graduation. He kind of insisted that I read them, so I started the first one (admittedly a bit grudgingly…) It’s written by George R. R. Martin, yet another good science fiction writer who’s defected to the dark side… er, fantasy. I remember liking Martin’s work back in the day. “Sandkings”, “Dying of the Light”, “Nightflyers”.
And I have to tell you, I am in awe.
I never knew where you could go after Lord of the Rings, but clearly, that would be Winterfell.
Well, I am *loving* this. I won’t drop any spoilers, but this first novel in the series has some really great characters. Although I really don’t have the time to read, I’m a bit more than half way.
So far I’ve had to hold my breath more than once, laugh out loud several times, and it’s even made me cry. I can feel George masterfully drawing the threads of the plot and character together, and I’m getting pretty worried about what’s going to happen to these people (and dire wolves) who’ve come alive on these pages for me. The worst of it is, there are only five books written, and the series is supposed to run to seven. So I’m anxious… what happens when I’m ready for book seven if it’s not done yet? *gulp*
Even though I’m not done, this one gets a thumbs up.
Winter is coming.
[post script: I wrote that a few months ago for Goodreads, but only now figured out how to "publish to blog." I'm now nearly finished the fourth volume in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, and they don't disappoint. The boy can write.]
I should be blogging about Bill C-11, the latest incarnation of a Canadian DMCA that our majority government will most likely pass to appease our American neighbours, in spite of near universal Canadian opposition. But tomorrow will see the resumption of Byron Sonne‘s trial.
I am buoyed by knowing that anything I’ve done was in the cause of freedom and justice. Never did I plan or have any intent to hurt people or damage property, nor coax or counsel others to perform likewise. In a very real way I am a political prisoner, which is an amusing thought. Too many people are content to just go to work, come home and eat, watch TV and then go to sleep. Someone has to make a stand — I chose to and so I am paying the price. But I will never be made to feel guilt or regret.”
— Byron Sonne, letter (in pencil) from Maplehurst, 11-Jan-2011
Although I’ve never met Byron, I’ve corresponded with him a little and attended some of his preliminary hearing. Although I’m only a citizen and not a lawyer, I believe Byron has been ill served by our legal system.
It isn’t overstating the situation to suggest that is unheard of for a thirty something with his own home, business and family — and no criminal record — to be held without bail for nearly a year. We all know that accused rapists and murderers are routinely freed on bail, yet this young man was not.
Even if Byron had posed an actual threat (something which I do not believe), any such threat would have been finished the moment the G20 was over. This is why I think the deprivation of Byron’s liberty was purely punitive.
Still, I don’t know all the details, as well, it is hard to know what I can and can’t say as some of Byron’s story remains under a publication ban.
Although the onerous terms of Byron’s bail prevents him from using computers in any by narrowly prescribed ways, he is not allowed to post anything online. Even so, anyone can freely visit both his Flickr page and Twitter feed, which remain frozen exactly as they were when he was arrested on June 22nd, 2010.
Byron goes back to court tomorrow. Proceedings begin Monday, March 19th in the courthouse at 361 University Avenue. I expect that @digimer‘s Twitter feed will continue to provide information on the proceedings. For more information visit the FreeByron wiki page that Byron’s friends and community have set up in support.
I’d like to see as many people as possible stay aware of what’s going on on our country and to become more active in making Canada a better, freer place. This isn’t just about my case and what’s happened to me, this is about all the crap going on out there. The internet surveillance bills the government wants to pass now and in the future …
“Near as I can tell we have only one life to live and tomorrow is too late to start doing it.”
— Byron Sonne, letter, 7 March, 2012
Since I am preparing my debut novel for eBook release, I’m trying not to pay attention, yet I find myself reading Russell McOrmond’s Bill C-11 Legisative Committee coverage. Russell is both Live tweeting and blogging about each meeting day. This legislation is simply too important to ignore, not just for me, as a self publishing writer, but for Canada, and the heritage and culture that is so much a part of who we are.
I can’t actually watch the proceedings myself, even though they are being broadcast online by CPAC. Beginning with cable TV coverage, CPAC has provided Canadians with a ringside seat to Canadian parliamentary proceedure since 1992. The problem is that this video is provided onsite in Windows Media Player format.
It seems I can’t watch the livestream of the actual parliamentary committee meetings because I have chosen to use free software. I don’t use Windows anymore, nor do I use any of the various Apple computers. My operating system on *this* computer is Ubuntu, and the one on my desktop computer is Trisquel.
But of course, that’s the point. Proprietary digital devices and content try to force the user to use the software or device specified by the manufacturer. Once you buy into any proprietary system, it is difficult to switch to another. In this case it’s Microsoft, although it could as easily be Apple, or Sony, or any one of a plethora of rich and powerful companies that make proprietary software and hardware.
And why not? Microsoft built the Windows Media Player, and they want people to use it in their operating system.
In the past, circumventing proprietary formats might have resulted in a voided warranty. But it seems to me that Bill C-11 will make it illegal.
I expect CPAC paid rather a lot to be able to license the Windows media player. But since Windows is still the dominant OS, it seems like a reasonable choice to reach the most people. And CPAC wants all Canadians to have access to the video they create. That’s what they do.
And CPAC understands, because it attempts to circumvent the problem by advising us to copy the link below the video into our own video player if we are having problems.
I tried that, but it didn’t work on either the Ubuntu Movie Player or Banshee Media Player. Even so, I wasn’t positive it was a proprietary issue the problem was until a friend tried to resolve it.
Apparently Flip4Mac WMV program converted the proprietary Windows video format to a proprietary Mac video format.
The other solution that CPAC offers is to use a program called VLC. Ironically I used that free software video player back when I still used Windows, but haven’t managed to get it to work in either of my gnu/linux machines.
The long and the short of it is that, because I am not able to run the proprietary Windows Media Player, I am effectively locked out of the digital government video CPAC routinely shares with Canadians.
An Illustration of Bill C-11
In a strange way this demonstrates why legal protection of TPMs — regardless of legality — is the central point of Bill C-11 that has Canadians concerned. As written, Bill C-11 would criminalize Canadians who circumvent TPMs (technical protection measures) even if we are legally entitled to access the content that is locked by these “digital locks”.
Although I’m neither a technical person or a lawyer, I think Bill C-11 would make software like the VLC player illegal in Canada because it circumvents proprietary TPMs.
And Bill C-11 will make both tools to circumvent and the act of circumvention of TPMs illegal.
It wouldn’t matter that CPAC wants to share their content with me, Microsoft would have to grant permission to convert proprietary formats into free formats, or else it would be illegal. Microsoft’s current policies indicate any such permission would be unlikely, but even if it did, the tools to circumvent the proprietary TPMs – like VLC – would be illegal, so I wouldn’t be able to do it anyway.
Lawyers like Michael Geist and Howard Knopf and tech folks like Russell McOrmond, Wayne Borean, Bob Jonkman and Cory Doctorow have said Bill C-11 would not be such a problem if TPM circumvention was only illegal if tied to copyright infringement.
the shape of things to come
But if they pass Bill C-11 as written, it will become illegal for Canadians to circumvent TPMs so we can watch our government in action. Or to back up our software, Or format shift so we can watch DVDs on MP3 players.
Depending on what TPMs manufacturers employ, it may become illegal to read public domain eBooks on our e-readers, or play DVDs that aren’t region encoded. Which would mean that independent film makers wouldn’t be able to put their original movies on DVDs. Independent musicians might be prevented from distributing their original work digitally. The range of consequences are appalling.
How long until it becomes illegal to load free software on our computers?
If Bill C-11 passes, not long at all.
[Edited for readability (replacing a bit of awkward phrasing) but content remains the same.]
Screencap cc-by 1111aether
Against DRM cc-by Nina Paley
Publishing must take priority at times, so as much as I need to write more articles about Bill C-11, they must wait until my debut novel is safely launched into the ether … or the cloud. That might have been today but for the copyright article I wrote today, which I will be publishing in just a few minutes.)
My eBook formatting has taken a great deal of time, and so the Inconstant Moon Blog will not get a new special feature this week. With luck there *will* be an eBook launch announcement for Sunday, on the new Libreleft Books blog. I’ve been putting some bits and pieces there if you haven’t checked it out lately.
As always, there have been a few added wrinkles in my self publishing adventures, which I expect to share by the beginning of next week, when I expect to have “Inconstant Moon” available for both Kindle and Nook. Fingers crossed!