My Open Letter to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium

[Suggested by “Tell the W3C “No DRM” this letter was first published on techDITZ then mirrorred on visual laurel. Future articles relating to the topic will be posted here.]
connectivity (cc by laurelruswurm)

Dear Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium:

Re: Keep DRM out of Web standards — Reject the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal

As a middle aged mother, I’ve been learning (and sharing what I’ve learned) about net neutrality, the importance of free software, free culture, nd an open Internet, ever since I began hand coding my own HTML web pages and participating on the Internet in 2009. As a creator from a creative family, as well as publishing my own content online, I run a blog for my eighty three year old father. I have come to consider myself a netizen.

One reason DRM is dangerous is that it can hide all manner of spyware and malware from users. Another is that most people don’t even know what it is, or if they do, how to recognize it. While governments have allowed large corporations and media conglomerates to cripple digital products with DRM, there is no requirement anywhere in the world to to inform customers or computer users of such application.

I have avoided DRM wherever possible, but even with the absurd extension of copyright laws, I have been certain that free culture will win out eventually. But that confidence presupposes a free market.

In Canada where I live, our new Copyright Act makes it illegal to circumvent DRM for any reason at all, even if the the circumvention is allowed under our “fair dealing” exemptions, or if the DRM is applied inappropriately. I consider the application of DRM to freely licensed or public domain creative works to be inappropriate.

This is a huge concern for me, both as a cultural consumer and as a self publishing author. Existing copyright law has prevented me from even seeing the finished production of one of my own works.

Independent creators and Internet users are already at a huge disadvantage, because the large media special interests have the wherewithal to successfully lobby governments around the world into maximizing copyright laws and the attendant copyright monopoly to their own great benefit, at our expense.

These large and powerful special interest groups have long had a seat at the W3C table. But where is there representation for Internet users?

Most of the public does not even know W3C exists, let alone how to comment on an issue such as this. Although I am passionately interested in the subject, until I read Harry Halpin’s Guardian article last week, I had no idea there was any way for Internet users or creators to express our dismay beyond signing the Defective By Design’s “Keep DRM out of Web standards — Reject the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal” Petition. But Mr. Halpin pretty much implies that petition wasn’t enough.

Although Canada has been a world leader in Internet adoption, most Canadians are still not online. For most of those who are, participation on Facebook signifies the height of technical prowess. Certainly most Canadians haven’t even heard of the Guardian, and so will not have even read the article.

Mr. Halpin essentially gave me the weekend to get the word out. This weekend Identi.ca, the social network of choice for a great many people who are aware of these issues, is undergoing a massive migration from a backend of StatusNet to pump.io software. Many users like myself have been consumed in setting up our own federated status net instances. As well, those of us with privacy concerns have been caught up in the NSA Prism news story. For myself, I’ve had two major family happenings this weekend in addition to those online issues.

Maybe a few people who understand the issue will have read the blog post I wrote, but a weekend is not much time. Especially considering that the special interests that want DRM written into the Web Standard have been at the table for so very much longer.

Until the W3C holds a widely publicized meaningful consultation process, that Free Software Petition must be given at least as much weight as the opinions of any other group of stakeholders. Perhaps more, since the inclusion of DRM in the standard panders to the direct benefit of a specific special interest lobby group. Internet Users are easily the largest group of stakeholders, and our exclusion from the process means that the W3C must look out for the public good.

Keeping even a whiff of DRM out of the Web Standard will not harm the corporate special interests who lobby so effectively for it. They can just continue on as they have been, locking their own content behind DRM. Allowing the DRM toehold EME provides will lead to DRM becoming the default.

DRM exists to break interoperability. If DRM is allowed into the W3C Standard, it will become the W3C Standard. If W3C supports this, it will sacrifice the free and open Internet, not just for us, but for generations to come.

Please don’t do this.

Regards,
Laurel L. Russwurm

Tonight: Internet Democracy Café

TransitionKW and The Upstart Collaboratory for Collaborative Culture Designing have partnered again!

This time they have organized an Internet Democracy Café to consider and discuss  the loss of a democratic Internet, and look at what is needed to move toward a place where computer networks are free of undesirable government surveillance and unfair corporate control.

Tonight: September 26 (7-9:30 pm)!

Queen Street Commons – 43 Queen St. S., Kitchener (map)

multicoloured Internet cables plugged into jacks

There will be a short panel followed by a conversation café involving the audience. With this event, we want to connect people and resources to launch an ongoing process to ask:

  • What about the Internet is demanding attention and care from us all?
    To raise our awareness together among the widest possible demographic of the crucial role of the Internet in the lives and well-being of all of us as citizens of local, national, and global communities.
  • What’s going on with the Internet?
    To understand together more about where and how this Internet world is moving, changing, and being potentially constricted.
  • What can we do now?
    To create pathways of continuing dialogue, information and expertise exchange, and leading-edge cross-sectoral responsiveness in order to support the future of a democratic Internet and access to a shared citizen-driven knowledge base for everyone.

drawing of computers in chains used in Day Against DRM posterSpecific areas of focus could include, but are not limited to:

  • Internet-related legislation
    (e.g. Bill C-11, Lawful Access legislation), and
  • trade agreements
    (e.g. Trans-Pacific Partnership),
  • Internet connectivity issues,
  • Internet information filtering
    and sharing bans, and
  • Internet information storage
    and control issues.

Democracy Café Panel

The canadian Flag flies against a blue skyJames Howe,  the driving force behind the Social Media Breakfast in Waterloo Region

Alisa McClurg,  interested in the linkages between Internet democracy and resiliency, TransitionKW,

Paul Nijjar, on Internet connectivity issues, from The Working Centre

Kirk Zurell, proponent of the “Robot’s Rules of Order” and the “Digital House”

Jean Robertson, from the Upstart Collaboratory for Collaborative Culture Designing, will be facilitating.

This is a FREE community event, no registration is required.
Click for More Details
Check the Facebook page or follow the Twitter at #internetdemocracy hashtag.

I hope to see you there!

Byron Sonne: Still Not Free

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.

Entrance sign
Denial of bail resulted in Byron Sonne's incarceration, as a remand inmate at Maplehurst for nearly a year.

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


I think that it is past time to free Byron.

#freebyron

Double Standard: Bill C-11

“Bill C-11 contains an “enabler” provision which currently states, “It is an infringement of copyright for a person to provide, by means of the Internet or another digital network, a service that the person knows or should have known is designed primarily to enable acts of copyright infringement if an actual infringement of copyright occurs by means of the Internet or another digital network as a result of the use of that service.”  — Russell McOrmond Is Bill C-11 related to SOPA/PIPA?

Pardon?

If it’s an infringement to provide a service the person knows or should have known is designed primarily to enable acts of copyright infringement IF AN INFRINGEMENT OCCURS…

Wait: does that mean it isn’t an infringement if no one actually infringes?

brothers keeper

Hum.  It appears that Bill C-11 is straying pretty far afield for copyright law.  And sounds pretty dependent on what other people do.

from elbow to clenched fistIt is reasonable for me to be responsible for my own dog, because I have control of my own dog. If my dog bites the letter carrier, it is my responsibility.

But I would not be liable if someone else’s dog bit the letter carrier.

Or what about “the person knows or should have known” …. Well. We all make mistakes. Who can know what anyone else will do?

If rent out a building to a tenant who cooks up methamphetamine in the basement, or takes pot shots at passersby out the window… is this then my responsibility?  After all, it’s my building. It’s in a bad neighborhood so I should have known renting it out might make it possible for badguys to do bad things.

Think about it.

“…the person knows or should have known is designed primarily to enable acts of copyright infringement…” If the design of the thing is to primarily enable bad things… why don’t we make laws like that for anything in the real world?

Guns

revolver in a caseMany perfectly respectable stores like Canadian Tire sell guns. In a pinch, you could use your handgun to drive a nail, but that isn’t what it was designed for. A gun is a weapon that is clearly designed to put holes in things. Quite often, guns are used to put holes in people. And guns can and are used in a commission of a crime far more serious than copyright infringement.

Yet no one is suggesting gun manufacturers be held responsible for crimes committed with the guns they made.

In the real world, this kind of preventative lawmaking is not the practice in Canada.

Drugs

a baggie of tea stands in for marijuana, on a pizza box, with matchbook. Recreational drug use has been illegal in Ontario throughout my life, yet there are whole stores devoted to selling the attendant paraphernalia. It is perfectly legal for “head shops” to sell hookahs and bongs openly on the main shopping street of law abiding cities like Waterloo. And these devices are most certainly designed to enable acts of illegal drug use.

Any tool can be used for good or ill, as Cory Doctorow recently pointed out with his suggestion that wheels should be outlawed since wheeled vehicles allow criminals to flee from the scene of the crime. A hammer is a wonderful tool for driving nails, and yet a simple hammer can double as an effective weapon since it is easy for anyone to wield.

In the real world, we don’t arrest people for thinking dangerous thoughts or manufacturing goods or creating a service that someone else might use to break laws. We don’t hold innocent people responsible for the crimes of others.

The legal standards for citizen protection must be the same both online and off. Yet Bill C-11 lowers standards for citizen protection in Canada.

And that’s wrong.


Image Credits
gun by Whizzer released under a creative commons Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC BY 2.5) License

All other images are my own, released under a Creative Commons Attribution license by laurelrusswurm

Copyright Update: C-11 and ACTA

Canadian DMCA logo

Fortunately Bill C-11 has not yet become law.

Yet.

Unfortunately it is only a matter of time before our majority government passes this misguided “copyright modernization” legislation currently called Bill C-11.

[This is the exact same law that was called Bill C-32 by the previous Conservative Government. Earlier incarnations were known as Bill C-61: An Act to amend the Copyright Act (by the Conservatives), and Bill C-60: An Act to amend the Copyright Act (by the Liberals).]

Although Canadians have mounted waves of opposition against each succeeding incarnation of a “Canadian DMCA,” both Liberal and Conservative Canadian Governments have attempted to pass copyright legislation that’s clearly against Canadian interests.   Initially there was only supposition that the various drafts of a “Canadian DMCA” were produced in response to American pressure.  After all, the USTR has been spreading misinformation about supposed Canadian piracy for years, in spite of the fact that the American DMCA has not stopped American digital piracy levels from being far higher than ours.   Thanks to Wikileaks it is no longer an unsubstantiated guess: the Canadian government wants only to pass a Copyright Law that will make the American Government happy.

Four different Canadian Governments led by our two traditional ruling parties have tried to accomplish this, the previous efforts failed due to a combination of opposition and politics.

But this time it is different: our majority Conservative Government can pass anything it likes.

The only possible way to stop it is for public outcry.  The problem is that most Canadians still don’t know this is happening or why it is important or what it will do.  The mainstream media coverage has not helped raise awareness because their corporate masters have a vested interest; after all, the MPAA and RIAA (through its branch plant formerly known as CRIA) have a very long reach.

TPM, DRM, Digital Locks

DRM technologies attempt to give control to the seller of digital content or devices after it has been given to a consumer. For digital content this means preventing the consumer access, denying the user the ability to copy the content or converting it to other formats. For devices this means restricting the consumers on what hardware can be used with the device or what software can be run on it.

Wikipedia: Digital rights management

The single reason that Bill C-11 will be so devastating is that it sets TPM (Technical Protection Measures) as the most powerful element of Canadian copyright law.   TPMs (also known as copy protection) are the main weapon used in the DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) arsenal, and are commonly referred to as “Digital Locks” in Canada.

Whatever you call it, it will be terrible for Canadians.   It won’t matter if a person has legally purchased a copy of an eBook,  game, a movie or music, if Canadians need to circumvent TPMs in order to read, play watch or listen to our own legal copies, we will be breaking the law.  If I want to watch a movie DVD on my Linux computer, I won’t be able to.  Linux users will be forced to switch to Apple or Windows operating systems of they want to watch their DVDs.  If I want to format shift any digital media I’ve purchased so that it will play on the device of my choosing, I won’t be able to without breaking the law.

Does this mean it will be illegal to have my printer’s ink cartridges refilled with off brand ink? Probably. I was foolish enough to buy a printer that has computer chips in its printer cartridges. The chip tells the printer not to work because a certain amount of ink has been used or the printer cartridge is too old. Bypassing that programming may well be considered circumvention of the manufacturer’s technical protection measures. After all, to be protected under the new Bill C-11 Copyright Law, TPMs won’t have to be tied to any actual copyright infringement or criminal wrongdoing.

This is not a good thing for consumers.

Once this law is passed, I imagine that it will be only a matter of time before every digital device and most software destined for the Canadian market will be tightly locked in DRM.  Further, as a self publishing Canadian writer, my further concern is also that digital locks may well be used to limit distribution of my own work.

Why did Canada sign ACTA?

The speed with which digital innovation and the Internet have set the world on end is unprecedented; even Malcolm Gladwell, one of Canada’s brightest sons doesn’t get it. So I’m inclined to think that the largest problems is that most of our government doesn’t understand the issues.

It is unreasonable to expect elected officials to understand everything. They are only human, after all, and so they can’t. What they must do, is to find out about each issue as it arises, and the fastest way to do this is to consult with the experts. The problem that has arisen is that the experts governments the world over rely on when forging laws to govern this new technology are the mainstream media. And the mainstream media has a clear and present interest in both copyright and and controlling technological innovation.

It is very possible that C-11 is intended as a law to allow Canadian compliance with the dreadful ACTA Trade Agreement.

The world wears Mouse ears and reads ACTA attacks Internet is the La Quadrature Du Net ACTA Logo

ACTA is one more offensive against the sharing of culture on the Internet. ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is an agreement secretly negotiated by a small “club” of like-minded countries (39 countries, including the 27 of the European Union, the United States, Japan, etc). Negotiated instead of being democratically debated, ACTA bypasses parliaments and international organizations to dictate a repressive logic dictated by the entertainment industries.

ACTA, a blueprint for laws such as SOPA and PIPA, would impose new criminal sanctions forcing Internet actors to monitor and censor online communications. It is thus a major threat to freedom of expression online and creates legal uncertainty for Internet companies. In the name of trademarks and patents, it would also hamper access to generic medicines in poor countries.”

La Quadrature Du Net

Although Canadian negotiators were included in the secret ACTA treaty negotiations, sitting members of parliament and the public were deliberately kept in the dark as to what ACTA was about. Although ACTA is supposed to stand for “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agrement” the prime reason for its secrecy was the copyright law provisions.

Among those who are aware of ACTA, its agenda is believed to be that of the American movie and music industries. These Industries have been investing unprecedented amounts of time and money in attempts to coerce sovereign nations around the world to enact copyright laws beneficial to their special interests.

In spite of the fact that the final round of ACTA negotiations failed to achieve consensus in the secret negotiations, some time later Canada went ahead and signed the treaty anyway. The European Parliament signed ACTA a few days after the SOPA protest, but it must pass a plenary vote this summer before it will be official.

Oh! Canada: Memo to World: Stop ACTA Now!

Stop The Canadian DMCA

NO Canadian DMCACopyright law has always been concerned with Intellectual Property, but Bill C-11 strays into the realm of physical property. A law that prevents citizens from making personal use of our own legally purchased media on the digital devices of our choices strays beyond the realm of intellectual into the realm of physical property. Making all circumvention illegal is equivalent to putting citizens in jail for breaking into our own home of we’ve inadvertently locked ourselves out.

Bill C-11 is *not* in the Canadian interest.

More information can be found in my Oh! Canada article
“Bill C-11 Backgrounder: A Brief History of the Canadian DMCA” and What to do about Bill C-11 ?

Technical Aspects: check Russell McOrmond’s Conservative Copyright Bill C-11

Legal Aspects: Michael Geist – latest post includes the video short Strombo’s Soapbox: My Take on Bill C-11

Bill C-11 Status

Keep up with the status of this problematic draft legislation by checking LEGISinfo.

Netizens Day

netizens

— citizens of the Internet —
It’s long past the time when the natural rights of netizens were claimed.

screen capture of what my site will look like when it goes dark

Wednesday January 18th marks an Internet wide protest made by netizens who have vowed to make our sites go dark for some or all of the day.

Here are 10 reasons you should take action against SOPA

There are a ton of websites going dark include, but are not limited to Identi.ca, Wikipedia osnews, Tor, Tumblr., Cheezburger, Reddit … and many of us ordinary people are doing it too (or trying).

Even though I am a Canadian. these laws will impact badly on Canada and Canadians, so I plan on joining in the protest, as are many people all over the world.

How to do this:

How to: ‘Go dark’ on Jan 18 to fight SOPA/PIPA has info on making your WordPress or Facebook page go dark

If you host your own website and have access to your index.html file, you can replace it temporarily with the code found here:

https://github.com/zachstronaut/stop-sopa/blob/master/index.html

I do realize that the ability to participate is predicated on being able to handle the technical stuff. Not everyone can do it… I have been playing around with it and been unable to make the index thingie work on Russwurm.org … so maybe I won’t be able to get it done. I never did manage to make the banner work on my Tumblr page either.

We’ll see. If I can’t manage it, I will think of something.

Because it is time. We can’t let this one go.

Whatever happens, forever more, January 18th will from henceforth be NETIZENS DAY.

Stand up for Netizen Rights!


Here’s a terrific SOPA Protest song: The Day the LOLcats died:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1p-TV4jaCMk

Thanks to 1111aether for coining the phrase NETIZENS DAY.

no cyber-censorship, please

Today on Identi.ca I said:

When I was young, freedom wasn’t such a big issue.
Life experience has shown me how really important freedom is.

That is so true. Freedom is important to me on many levels: as a citizen, as a parent, and as a writer.
But the Internet is ultimately a series of tools:   hardware and software strung together. The problem is,
of course, that tools can generally be used for good or ill. Which is why we must all strive to ensure it stays free. That means all of us, not just programmers but all of the users.

World day against cyber-censorship

Reporters without Borders are very concerned with freedom. Naturally. It’s hard to do a good job of reporting without freedom, which is why Reporters without Borders is holding the 3rd annual:

World day against cyber-censorship

Visit the Reporters without Borders World day against cyber-censorship webpage.   The site has been mirrored to allow netizens in blacked out countries to access this information at http://12march2011.org/en/

The site has goodies such as a map showing global geographic boundaries incidence of cyber censorship and the pièce de résistance the 2011 The Enemies of the Internet list.

I have to admit I was more than a little surprised to find the United States absent after all their efforts to take out WikiLeaks. The fact that the United States is not on the list is most likely due to the strong freedom advocacy offered by freedom fighting organizations like the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), Public Knowledge (PK), and KEI (Knowledge Ecology International).

Twitter tightens its grip

Ironically, today readwriteweb brings word about Twitter’s decision to cut out 3rd party developers. Existing apps will be allowed to continue… on probabation. Last week my favorite writing live chat on Twitter didn’t work because none of the various third party apps people use to make live chat work could log in. Some of the regular participants gave it up because Twitter does not lend itself to live chat. In the light of this new announcement, the chat problem probably resulted from changes made to the Twitter api to discourage 3rd party apps.

My personal recommendation is that no step is to small to be the first step into freedom.

If you use Twitter, set up an account on Identi.ca.

Setting up on Identi.ca is very much like setting up on Twitter, and you can link Identica to Twitter to stay in contact easily enough. Identi.ca will automatically send your notices and local “@” replies to Twitter, as well as subscribe to your Twitter friends on Identica. [Hint: it is best if you can use the same @name on both services.]

At least for now.

Twitter can pull the plug on that at any time. That is one of the biggest problems with proprietary web platforms… some one else owns it, controlling your access, as well as having access to all of your information. Proprietors like Facebook (or Darth Vader) retain total control, and can alter the rules in a flash.

identi.ca logo
identi.ca logo

Unlike Twitter, Identica is a service that makes up the central part of a growing federated network of microbloggers using the open source Statusnet software. Because the number of individual hostings of StatusNet is growing all the time, Identica far freer than Twitter in much the same way that a federated network of mirrors allowed WikiLeaks to survive the onslaught. You can set up your own, or connect to Identi.ca on their site or download the free version to use on your own. I strongly recommend that anyone concerned with net freedom should set up their microblog home on Identica.

personal security

For some excellent ideas on how to protect yourself, I recommend reading Identi.ca netizen @jimmorgan’s blog about his foray into security: Tor, XMPP, GPG, Internet security

copyright

Copyright is another incredibly important issue, particularly as the copyright maximalists are pushing for laws that allow copyright to be used as a tool of censorship. For some insight in why this is a problem in the here and now, I highly recommend watching the important film RiP: A Remix Manifesto I have much more to say about copyright, but the main thing is that it is an issue that we need to rethink. Allowing corporations to impose laws about how we access our own culture is both disturbing and detrimental to the common good.

freedom

I have been compiling lists of free culture and Creative Commons options available in the sidebar as I come to them. If you find any such links that you’d like to share, please forward them to me. Allowing corporations to control our freedom may in fact be worse than allowing governments to do so. Big Brother may in fact be wearing mouse ears. We must stand up for our rights, and encourage others to do the same.

We all must do whatever we can to fight for our online rights.

[and now back to editing/proofing my novel]