Death of an Internet Freedom Fighter

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Bassel Khartabil was executed by the Syrian government some time after his disappearance in October 2015 in Damascus, Syria.

“Bassel Khartabil, also known as Bassel Safadi, was born in Damascus, Syria on May 22, 1981. He grew up to pursue an education and career in computer engineering. He was the co-founder of the collaborative research company Aiki Lab, and the CTO of the publisher Al-Aous. He served as the first project lead and public affiliate for Creative Commons Syria, and contributed to numerous Internet projects, such as Mozilla Firefox and Wikipedia.

“On March 15, 2012, Bassel Khartabil was arrested in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. For more than three years he was detained by the Syrian government at Adra Prison in Damascus. On October 3, 2015, Bassel was removed from his prison cell, and was sentenced to death by a Military Tribunal. We know now for a fact that Bassel Khartabil was executed by the Syrian government some time in October 2015, and we are demanding to know the exact date he was tried and then executed. No information at all was provided to his family until July 2017. The details of his sentencing and execution, and the whereabouts of his remains, are unknown at this time.

“Bassel Khartabil is survived by his wife, Noura Ghazi Safadi, as well as his mother and father.

The Free Bassel Campaign: STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF BASSEL KHARTABIL

Creative Commons Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund

“At the request of Bassel’s family, Creative Commons is announcing today that it has established the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund to support projects in the spirit of Bassel’s work. Creative Commons is accepting donations, and has seeded the fund with $10,000. Bassel was our friend and colleague, and CC invites the public to celebrate Bassel’s legacy and support the continuation of his powerful work and open values in a global community.

Contributions to the fund will go towards projects, programs, and grants to support individuals advancing collaboration, community building, and leadership development in the open communities of the Arab world. The fund will also support the digital preservation, sharing, and remix of creative works and historical artifacts. All of these projects are deeply intertwined with CC’s core mission and values, and those of other communities to which Bassel contributed.

Visit the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund page for more on how to get involved. Learn more about Bassel and his work at Wikipedia, FreeBassel.org, EFF, BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera.”

— Announcing the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund

Here in the “free world,” extraordinary efforts to silence and shut down free software and free culture by large corporations are ongoing.  If software freedom was the unquestioned norm I have to wonder: would Bassel even have been arrested?

Today the EFF released these letters Bassel wrote from jail before he disappeared.

What an extraordinary young man.  My heart goes out to his family.

“Around the world, activists and advocates seek the sharing of culture, and open knowledge.

Creative Commons, and the global commons of art, history, and knowledge, are stronger because of Bassel’s contributions, and our community is better because of his work and his friendship.  His death is a terrible reminder of what many individuals and families risk in order to make a better society.”

— Creative Commons Statement on the death of CC friend and colleague Bassel Khartabil


Image Credit: Bassel Safadi by Joi Ito is released under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Crowdsourced Proofreading

In spite of armies of editors and proof readers, main stream publishing has a long history of published typos.  And as a writer I can tell you, it’s really easy to miss something, especially in something as substantial as an article or a book.  Even if you know how to spell.

Even when a mistakes were caught, it wasn’t reasonable to assume publishers would recall books and reissue them with corrections.  Errors wouldn’t be fixed until the second edition.  If there was a second edition.

One of the most earth shattering things to happen to the world of proof readers was our move into the digital age with the invention of the spell checker.  Suddenly proof readers became obsolete.

But all spell checkers are not equal.  When the typo is a real word, no spell checker is going to flag it.  The thing we often forget about technology is that it is no more perfect than any other tool; human supervision is still required.

Wikipedia is the poster child for self publishing.  Not only does it rely on the good will of the public to add articles and factual information, if errors are made, Wikipedia is self-correcting: the public has the power to correct errors and ommissions, whether of fact or spelling.

All those mainstream publishers who no longer employ enough staff to adequately proof read their content are publishing online in digital formats.  Instead of hiring proofreaders, they often have a “report typo” option on their webspage so readers can catch their mistakes for them.  Just as CBC does.

This way, when a reader gets hit between the eyes by an annoying typo, we can report it, so others won’t have to suffer as we have.

When I found a typo in the CBC article Chippewas of the Thames vow to continue pipeline fight good neighbor that I am, I decided to let CBC know so the error could be fixed.

"You gave us hope and when it came down to the process that you pit in place for us, and we reached that pinnacle, it was not what you said."

So I clicked on the link— it should be easy, right?   But it seems CBC isn’t as interested in being told about typos as it is interested in getting personal information about anyone who wants to correct a typo.

"process that you pit in place" presumably should be "put" NOTE: Presumably you want to crowd source your proofreading. That means you seek help from people like me who are willing to take the time to notify you when CBC publishes an error. That's reasonable. What is NOT reasonable is that CBC *requires* people who are willing to HELP CBC (gratis) to turn over personal information. Name: [Required] Email address: [Required] City, Province and Country: [Required] In other words, we are not only doing work you really ought to be paying professional proof readers to do for free, and are required to pay for the privilege with our personal data. Which is why I'm not doing this again.

This isn’t a news issue, or even a matter of opinion.  If I point out the author probably didn’t mean the word “pit,”  it doesn’t matter who I am or where I live.  I could be living in Iceland and it would still be a typo.  Either I’m right or I’m wrong.

Something that ought to take a minute and cost me nothing but a bit of time I was willing to spend, ended up costing me privacy.

There is no need for it, but this has become a prevalent practice online.  Our personal information has become a valuable commodity that companies want for themselves, and very often to sell.

If you’ve ever wondered why you get spam, this is why.   (I know someone who gave up an email account because he got so much spam.)

We need to stop giving our personal details to companies who have no legitimate need of them.

If you’re buying something that needs to be delivered, sure, you have to give your address.  But if you’re making a donation to a political party and they want to be able to connect with you, they will need an address, a phone number, or an email address— but not all three.  If you’re leaving a comment or signing a petition, they want to make sure you’re a real person, not a bot.

Companies want it all; whether they need it or not.  If you give it to them, when you tell them to stop phoning you, they can send you junkmail or spam.  If CBC or any person or company tells you information they have no right to is “required” the correct answer is “none of your business.”

Privacy is an important part of personal security; don’t give up any more than you have to.

Raspberries to @timbl

Boston, Massachusetts, USA——Yesterday (Thursday, April 13th, 2017) Defective by Design granted Tim Berners-Lee the first ever Obedience Award, recognizing his work to help wealthy corporations add DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) to official Web standards. Inspired by the MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award, the Obedience Award highlights activity upholding the status quo despite an overwhelming ethical case against it. Today is the first opportunity for the addition of DRM to become final as per the formal process for setting Web standards.

As the director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Berners-Lee previously fought to advance Web users’ rights, supporting net neutrality, privacy and universal access. Born in the UK, he was knighted by H.M. Queen Elizabeth in 2004 and awarded the Order of Merit in 2007. Most recently, he received the Association for Computing Machinery’s A.M. Turing Prize.

Though he was previously critical of DRM, Berners-Lee decided not to take a stand against Netflix, Microsoft, Google, and Apple when they began developing a Web standard for streaming video DRM, instead encouraging them to do so within the W3C. These wealthy companies supply copious membership dues to the W3C.

Their proposed standard, EME (Encrypted Media Extensions), will be the first W3C specification designed specifically to control and restrict users. As of today, EME has progressed through the entire W3C development process, and awaits Berners-Lee’s final decision to approve or veto it as an official part of the Web.

Defective by Design and a coalition of organizations have warned that standardizing Web DRM would lead to an increase in the amount of restrictions encountered by users, as creating them becomes cheaper and easier. They argue that EME will invite more abuses of users like the Digital Editions DRM, which was found to be exposing user information to snoopers, and more digital restraints preventing important, legal things that people do with media, such as accessibility modifications, translation, commentary, and archiving. Many are concerned that, should Berners-Lee allow the W3C to add DRM to video standards through EME, existing efforts to DRM-encumber text and image standards would be accelerated.

Since the beginning of EME’s development, the proposal has faced dissent from within and outside the W3C. In the last month, hundreds of concerned Web users have telephoned Berners-Lee to demand he reject EME, while a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) official, two members of the European Parliament, and a coalition of human rights groups published statements urging him to reconsider. In 2016, demonstrators protested against EME at the W3C’s meetings in March and September, as the Open Source Initiative and a group of high-profile security researchers urged Berners-Lee not to ratify EME without additional protections for those harmed by DRM. In 2013, a coalition of organizations led by Defective by Design wrote a letter opposing EME and more than 34,000 people signed an anti-EME petition.

Presenting the Obedience Award, the Defective by Design team issued this statement:

“Overcoming his lifetime history of visionary work and his initial ethical concerns with DRM in Web standards, Berners-Lee turned a blind eye to the diverse groups opposing Encrypted Media Extensions. This man persevered to champion the interests of wealthy media and technology corporations. For his commitment to obedience, we recognize him today.”

Defective by Design requests that readers who are impressed with Berners-Lee’s tenacity take five minutes to call him about EME, giving him a chance to further prove his commitment to obedience.

The Obedience award echoes a 2013 “Oscar for Best Supporting Role in The Hollyweb” granted to the W3C as a whole for beginning work on EME.

Learn more about Encrypted Media Extensions and the campaign to stop it.


About Defective By Design

Defective by Design is the Free Software Foundation’s campaign against Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). DRM is the practice of imposing technological restrictions that control what users can do with digital media, creating a good that is defective by design. DRM requires the use of proprietary software and is a major threat to computer user freedom. It often spies on users as well. The campaign, based at defectivebydesign.org, organizes anti-DRM activists for in-person and online actions, and challenges powerful media and technology interests promoting DRM. Supporters can donate to the campaign at https://www.defectivebydesign.org/donate.

Defective By Design: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 License (CC By-SA)


I really don’t understand why anyone would cross over to the dark side and do this to his reputation ~ LLR  

Freedom to Meme #SavetheMeme

Just so you know, copyright is not a “right”, but a legal fiction that exists because government says so.  Copyright is a government backed monopoly that not only facilitates the control of culture, it allows censorship.

I take photographs of lots of things, but I started going out of my way to photograph politicians after attending a Wikimedia Foundation meeting in Toronto.  This became more mission than hobby when I had trouble getting permission to use the Creative Commons licensed photograph I had chosen to illustrate a blog.  The creator didn’t understand the license she had chosen would allow someone to use of the image in a way she did not approve. Although I could have gone ahead and used the image anyway, I do respect the wishes of other creators, even if I disagree with them.  My own thinking is if the government gives out such monopolies, and worse, allows the force if the law to fall on private citizens (which it never had before) at minimum the government owes it to the public to explain this law to citizens clearly and concisely.  Most people don’t understand copyright issues because no one has.  Every citizen who uses any sort of digital device needs a crash course on these laws, because they law can be used against us.   As a blogger I understand the value in using illustrations in my blogs, but as a free culture advocate, I am very much aware of the ease with which copyright law can be used to silence free speech. Especially political speech (which is, of course, why government is happy to grant this monopoly.

And so I photograph politicians and publish them on Flickr and Wikipedia to make them available as widely as possible.

As a creator, I especially hate what the increasingly onerous copyright regime is doing to culture. Although I’ve been busy working for electoral reform, whenever I can, I use social media to amplify copyright issues. This is one of those times. Apparently the EU is contemplating yet more copyright law to further constrain culture. This little video will give you an idea of just what this means:

This is a heads up to those of you in the EU, it’s time to step up and call your MEP to Save The Meme


Since this might in fact trigger censorship, here’s a plain text breakdown of the video

A new copyright reform is going on in the EU
It proposes to create an all mighty censorship machine
and forces Internet companies to be the Internet Police
Act now to defend your freedom of expression
freedom to educate
freedom to meme
freedom to parody
freedom to remix/mashup
freedom to GIF
Freedom to dance to music
Freedom to wiki
Freedom to quote
Freedom to gameplay
Freedom to play
Freedom to video cosplay
All this user content and many more could disappear
if the #CENSORSHIPMACHINE is created.
We can still prevent this from happening.
Tell your MEP to STOP the #CENSORSHIPMACHINE at https://savethememe.net

We deserve a copyright that respects our RIGHTS and FREEDOMS and doesn’t cripple the Internet
This mashup could also be censored by copyright
so please MULTIPLY & SPREAD
🙂

STOP
#CENSORSHIPMACHINE
https://savethememe.net

Video Credits

Art 13 of the new EU copyright reform threatens our right and freedoms.
Act now to STOP the #CensorshipMachine at:
https://savethememe.net

Mashup video by: Xnet
With the support of: EDRi, EFF, La Quadrature du Net, Bits of Freedom and Open Media.

Music by Revolution Void.

Xnet
https://xnet-x.net/en/

 

PS: My one quibble in the video:
“We deserve a copyright that respects our RIGHTS and FREEDOMS and doesn’t cripple the Internet.”
As my old friend Crosbie would tell you, there is no such thing. You can have copyright or you can have rights and freedoms, but the former is the antithesis of the latter.

Copyright, Fair Dealing and Paywalls

When the paywall “protected” Blacklock’s Reporter sued the Government of Canada for an alleged copyright violation, the court concluded:

[8] Any reporter with the barest understanding of copyright law could not have reasonably concluded that the Department’s limited use of the subject news articles represented a copyright infringement. Indeed, the fair dealing protection afforded by section 29 of the Copyright Act, RSC, 1985, c C-42, is so obviously applicable to the acknowledged facts of this case that the litigation should never have been commenced let alone carried to trial.

The Honourable Mr. Justice Barnes, Blacklock’s Cost Award 20161221125911759

Howard Knopf summarizes the lawsuit thusly:

“The Attorney General of Canada has achieved a clear victory against Blacklock’s Reporter in the latter’s attempt to collect damages of $17,209.10 based upon its supposed institutional subscription rate because a few public servants in the Department of Finance received, read and distributed two Blacklock’s articles about a file they were closely involved in that had been sent to them by a Blacklock’s subscriber.”

my Canadian copyright symbolCopyright law in Canada is at minimum confusing to most non-lawyers, even those of us involved in content creation. As a self publishing author, and to some extent a citizen journalist, it is important that I have more than the barest understanding of copyright law. Like most self publishing bloggers lacking legal staff, I’d rather be writing than spending time in court, so when in doubt I’m inclined to self censor for my own protection, something known as copyright chill. Since I’ve been actively weighing copyright law as it applies to me and my own work (since Canada’s 2010 Copyright Consultation), I am always interested in how copyright issues play out.

So I was particularly curious about what Justice Robert Barnes described as the “obviously applicable” fair dealing protection.

(j) What occurred here was no more than the simple act of reading by persons with an immediate interest in the material. The act of reading, by itself, is an exercise that will almost always constitute fair dealing even when it is carried out solely for personal enlightenment or entertainment;

The Honourable Mr. Justice Barnes’ Judgement and Reasons
re: BLACKLOCK’S REPORTER (Plaintiff) and CANADA (Defendant) [download PDF]

In other words reading (or by extension viewing, or listening to) copyrighted material is allowed under Canada’s Fair Dealing provisions, even when such material is locked behind a paywall. Sharing such material is another matter. A large part of the reason the subscriber who shared the articles was not held liable seems to be Blacklock’s failure to adequately spell out in its terms of service what a subscription does or does not allow. Although the judgement draws attention to the fact:

(k) While the public interest is served by the vigilance of the press, copyright should not be a device that serves to protect the press from accountability for its errors and omissions. The Department had a legitimate interest in reading the articles with a view to holding Blacklock’s to account for its questionable reporting.

The Honourable Mr. Justice Barnes’ Judgement and Reasons
 re: BLACKLOCK’S REPORTER (Plaintiff) and CANADA (Defendant) [download PDF]

Excess Copyright tells us:

“…the amount claimed by the Government, which was “$115,702.30, based on 70% of the actual value of professional hours expended in the defence of the claim and including disbursements of $7,020.98.”

Blacklock’s Must Pay $65,000 for Litigation that “should never have been commenced let alone carried to trial”

Although Mr. Knopf views this as a victory, from my perspective it’s not.

Although I am not a lawyer, there seems to be a suggestion that, had the TOS been worded differently, the subscriber’s decision to share the articles– in spite of holding the publisher to account– such an action may well have been construed as illegal copyright infringement, specifically circumventing Technical Protections Management (TPM). The plaintiff sought to make this latter argument, but the Judge didn’t allow it.

To my mind, the biggest problem with copyright law is the court system.  Fighting a copyright claim in court wouldn’t only eat into an independent creator’s time, if it costs $115,702.30, $65,000 or even the two thousand dollar settlement the Government offered would be beyond the means of most.
Court engraved in courthouse wall

It doesn’t matter whether a copyright infringement lawsuit has merit or is spurious. The Government of Canada may have the wherewithal to fight such matters in court, but this is hardly true for the vast majority of citizen journalists, self publishers or bloggers.  Because copyright battles are fought through the legal system, creators, bloggers and self publishers are at an enormous disadvantage to large well funded multinationals or copyright trolls with predatory business models.

There are some websites I access that are partially locked behind paywalls, but publish some articles publicly. I decided a long time ago I don’t want to share links to sites that are locked behind paywalls, or even registration walls, because I don’t want to compel my readers to have to sacrifice their money or privacy to be informed. Because of this, I have made it a point not to subscribe to any paywalled site, simply to ensure I don’t share such links inadvertently.  But now I am wondering, are subscribers aware that sharing information — perhaps even in a quotation — from such sites risks charges of copyright infringement?    If so, it is surely a disincentive to subscriptions.

Holiday Free Culture Fun

Merry Christmas

Looking for something to fill your down time (or keep the kids occupied) on the holidays?

After you’ve watched all your favourite Christmas movies, you will probably be in the mood for a change.  That’s when I’d break out some awesome free culture cartoons.  I love the Dave Fleisher Superman shorts; fortunately for us, they fell into the public domain, this emancipation makes them free to watch, share, copy.  Woo hoo!

[download all the Fleisher Superman films here for better quality]

There are many more, and many more free culture animated shorts to be found in the Internet Archive… like this Roger Ramjet flashback to my childhood:

 

This one was the cause of a lawsuit by the Fleischer Studios because shirts, coffee mugs and other materials had Betty Boop’s likeness on them. This film is still public domain and the studio lost in court.

Betty Boop: “Let Me Call You Sweetheart:”

As Nina Paley reminds us:

If you haven’t seen Nina’s Sita Sings the Blues, make sure to carve out an hour and a half to watch the most awesome breakup movie ever told:

Find these and more on the pages of Internet Archive’s Animation Shorts
They’ve got a pretty decent collection of Feature Films, too.

Merry Christmas!   Joyeux Noël!   Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi!   Geseënde Kersfees!   عيد ميلاد مجيد  
Frohe Weihnachten!   Gleðileg jól!   Mitho Makosi Kesikansi!  Sretan Božić  
Niibaa’ Anami’egiizhigad & Aabita Biboo
Prettige Feestdagen

 

Tis the Season for Gift Anxiety

gplusbannerWe’ve been told the economy is in an upturn, but I’m afraid that only means the rich are making profits again. Seems this is largely based on underpaying most people, as so many good jobs with benefits are gone, obliging people to hold down multiple part time jobs instead with raises and bonuses now the stiff of myth. As a result, the retail market is again tanking, since many are not getting gifts at all, while others are reduced to shopping at s is at the dollar store.

mamabearsmallI’ve been making gifts for most of my life, not just because they are economical, but because if I make them myself they aren’t going to fall apart immediately.  If you can sew or knit, you can male personalized gifts like this Teddy Bear I made for my neice decades ago (that her children play with today).

It is late to start making your own, but here are a couple ideas of gifts you can make in a relatively short period of time.

Eatables

Bake cookies, cakes and Christmas treats etc. and package them in tins, mason jars, whatever you have (note: especially if it is a reuse tin or plastic container, be sure to line with waxed paper)

Multimedia

Burn DVDs of free culture movies (or make a gift card with a link to downloads or places to watch online) like Sita Sings The Blues
or
Blender Animation
or any of the wonderful old movies are in the public domain available at the Internet Archive movie section.

clay-painted_8217

In Canada blank burnable CDs are more expensive than blank burnable DVDs (thank copyright law for that bit of foolishness), but for the music lover’s in your life that may be just the ticket. One of my absolute favourite musicians is Josh Woodward, who releases all of his music CC by, again, making it easy and legal to download and burn a CD.

Find more free culture music through the Creative Commons search tool here,  at the Free Music Archive, or Internet Archive.

There are lots of free culture books as well that can be found in digital formats at Project Gutenberg, Project Gutenberg Canada, and Project Gutenberg Australia

Tangibles

Great gifties for grandparents: plaster of paris toddler hand or footprints. Best to use a disposable container for the plaster placque.

1. mix the plaster
2. pour plaster into container
3. Press a pencil or straw into the plaster at the top so the plaque can be hung on the wall
4. cover your child’s hand or foot in vaseline before pressing it into the plaster.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT submerge. The top of the hand or foot needs to be able to lift out cleanly.
5. Paint (or not)

Dead Lightbulb GrinchMake decorations out of bits and pieces around the house. Broken bits of costume jewellery and toys can often be refurbished, or you can paint a Grinch on an old lightbulb.

You can find many “blanks” (plain wood boxes, christmas ornament cutouts, picture frames, clocks) at craft or dollar stores.  You can decoupage pretty pictures cut from magazines, or pictures of your kids on these (modge podge) or you and/or the kids can paint or decorate them.  You can get water based Tempra paint (like they use in elementary school) if your small kids are doing the decorating, more durable (and still water based) is acryllic craft paint available from art, craft, hardware or dollar stores.  A few bottles of primary colours will go a long way.  Crayons or markers can be used as well.

Make your own bakers’s clay ornaments etc. with the recipe at a maker’s space.

You can also make a lot of decorations by hand– paper snowflakes, paper chains, and my absolute favourite: popcorn garland!  Use old colour comics or magazine pages for wrapping.

Hope this helps make the holidays happy!