“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.
“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.
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.
EFF is honored to share the letters we received in 2015 from activist Bassel Khartabil, whose death in Syria was confirmed this week. pic.twitter.com/kaeY7Fj4YF
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.”
This virtual card is the best gift I can give my readers and online friends this holiday season. Not just because its the best and most awesome Happy GNU Year card you’re likely to find online, but because I created it entirely using free culture and free software.
The Free Software Foundation‘s GNU operating system led to the adoption of the gnu as its symbol. Free software is incredibly important for a host of reasons, and yet I very much suspect it wouldn’t exist at all any more but for the efforts of Richard Stallman and the FSF. I highly recommend that you use free software as much as possible, not just because it’s usually free of charge (gratis) but far more importantly, because it respects our personal freedom (libre).
The penguin “Tux” is the mascot of the Linux kernel, is the heart of the free and open source software operating systems we use today. (MacOS and Windows are the non-free software used in personal computing devices (computers, cell phones, tablets, PVRs &tc.)
If you click on the card, you’ll find a higher definition version suitable for printing. And you are allowed to print it, because this card carries a free culture license, specifically a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) License This license gives you the freedom to use this creative work in any way you like, even commercially, with only 2 restrictions.
The “Attribution” restriction means you must credit the creator(s) as specified.
Second, whether printing it out and selling physical copies, mailing it to you your friends, or modifying it to create something completely different, it must carry the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike License, or a similar license that requires attribution perpetuation of the license terms.
Attribution is simply giving credit where credit is due. I try to provide attribution for everything I use, even work in the public domain. The “share-alike” part of the license exists to prevent creative works from being removed from free culture and locked behind copyright.
Below you can see the steps that led to this card. Click on any of the images below for a larger/printable version.
On the left is my first try, which I like a lot. It could make a good poster, but it’s too difficult to see and read in small formats because it’s too cluttered.
On the right is the first draft of the red card. I loved the simplicity of Rasmus Olsen‘s gnu meets penguin titled GNU/Linux licensed Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) that I found on Flickr. I altered the image by bringing the penguin close enough to touch noses with the gnu, and stood them both on the lettering. In the final version, I changed the lettering because it was hard to read when the wallpaper was added.
Free Software & Free Culture
It’s no harder to learn to use free software than it is to learn to use a windows computer or a Mac. Many Apple and Windows users are already using free software with Firefox or OpenOffice (I prefer LibreOffice). The coolest and best ebook conversion software is called Calibre (it comes with a good e-reader so you can read eBooks on your computer). And of course my favorite blogging software, WordPress is free software. Wikipedia runs on free wiki software (which is why there are wikis popping up all over) and if you’re into video production, you could so worse than the amazing Blender 3D animation software or Kdenlive for video editing. You can use social networking with GNUsocial and Friendica. If you do switch to free software, the biggest difference you’ll notice is that you don’t have to pay for things again and again and again. Other advantages include better security and a much lower incidence of spyware and other malware.
It was difficult for me to unlearn Photoshop so I can learn to use GIMP, but I keep trying. I still look for a lot of the features where they would be in photoshop, but its getting easier. I have yet to find anything Photoshop can do that can’t be done in GIMP; the challenge is finding out how to do it. That’s why I’m so pleased I made this card entirely with GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) on my computer, which is currently runs on Linux Mint in a MATE desktop environment that has the Ubuntu Studio plug-in.
As the copyright maximalists successfully lobby to lock up more and more of our culture for longer and longer terms, the importance of free culture has become more apparent. Sites like the Flickr photosharing site and deviantArt make it easy for users to give their work Creative Commons licenses, so they are often the easiest places to find images licensed to share.
All versions of my GNU year card are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) License. If you’re interested in finding out what free culture is out there, I’ve been growing a list of Free Culture resources (in the right sidebar). And if you have some spare cash left over from last year, please consider making a donation to the two non-profit organizations that have been instrumental in ensuring the continued existence of free software and free culture:
Since the early form of photography (daguerreotype) was leading edge technology in Poe’s time, you might think there would be photos of Poe that anyone could use all over the Internet today. After all, Poe died in 1849, so any photographs in existence should be well in the public domain.
Yet my Google image search only turned up one photo of Edgar Allan Poe that I would be free to reuse. The implication being, of course, that every other photo of Poe claimed or implied the image was under copyright.
Compare that with an Edgar Allan Poe Google Image Search (without the “free to use or share” license parameter) and you get pages and pages of Poe images. While a few are artistic remixes (and thus possibly copyrightable), most are straight copies of the public domain photos, yet none are marked “free to use or share.”
Why is that, I wonder?
It isn’t Google’s job to determine copyright on the works shown on websites it indexes, yet I have to wonder why the Google image search did not return Poe’s photo on Wikimedia Commons? [Note to self: search images on Wikimedia Commons before Google Image Search.]
post script errata
Over the past year there have been additional comments made on my article, touching on copyright and the history of the specific daguerreotype.
When I wrote the article, I understood the name of the the photographer written on the face of the photograph as the copyright holder to be C.T. Talman. Going back and looking at the current Wikipedia revisions, it seems someone with sharper eyesight or access to a better copy, has identified the name as C.T. Tatman.
I wasn’t entirely sure I believed that, particularly as one of the comments on my article was made by the descendant of a photographer named Talman. As it turns out, the American Library of Congress listing identifies the photographer’s name as Tatman, and notes “this record contains unverified, old data from caption card.”
I’ll accept this; it seems pretty authoritative to me.
Another important new thing I learned from comments on the article was that W.S.Hartshorn was actually Samuel Welds Hartshorn (1802 – 1885), according to Terry Alphonse. It wasn’t difficult to establish that this was factually correct, making it likely the initials on the Wikipedia entry had been inadvertently reversed.
On the basis of this, I was edited one of the Wikipedia pages to correct the reversed Hartshorn initials.
There are two different Wikimedia Commons pages I linked in the preceeding article. The first is a faithful reproduction of the famous Edgar Allan Poe photograph.
Wikipedia’s Edgar Allan Poe 2.jpg page credits the daguerreotype as having been taken by W.S. Hartshorn, Providence, Rhode Island, on November 9th, 1848 and the subsequent photograph as having been taken by C.T. Tatman.
The second image, which is derivative of the first, was created by a Wikipedian to clean up the image, but also carries additional information. This Wikimedia Commons page credits Edwin H. Manchester as the actual photographer. The description identifies Edwin H. Manchester as a “photographer employed by the Masury & Hartshorn firm (second floor of 25 Westminster Street) of Providence, Rhode Island” and tells us that the daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe was photographed “on the morning of November 9th, 1848.”
But who actually created the original daguerreotype?
Everything agrees it was taken at the Providence, Rhode Island, daguerreotype studio of Samuel Masury and S.W. Hartshorn, by one of the studio’s camera assistants, Mr. Edwin Manchester.
When Masury and Hartshorn parted ways years later, brothers Edwin H. and Henry N. Manchester — both of whom had worked for the studio as camera assistants — took over the business, retaining the original Poe daguerreotype Edwin had photographed.
B.C. (before copyright)
At the time the daguerreotype was made, copyright did not apply to photographs. When later added, copyright was usually vested in the owner of the film and/or camera. Copyright, like the physical daguerreotype, would have belonged to the Masury and Hartshorne studio, even though an employee (the artist) took the picture.
It is quite possible C.T. Tatman could have later bought the business, which would explain his access to the original daguerreotype, and justify Tatman’s copyright notice. A reasonable business practice under the copyright regime may well have been for Tatman to photograph the original daguerreotype, affix the copyright notice to his negative, and then destroy the original. Such artificially induced scarcity would certainly have maximized Tatman’s profits.
I suspect we will never know.
Copyright has no respect for history or culture; it is simply a state imposed monopoly concerned with controlling revenue for profit.
Both versions of the Ultima Thule Daguerreotype of Edgar Allen Poe [photographed by Edwin H. Manchester on November 9th, 1848, at the Masury and Hartshorn studio, in Providence, Rhode Island] mentioned in the article, can be found in the Wikimedia Commons, which exists to allow us to share digital works.
The absurdity of modern copyright law makes it difficult to find images we can use online. My advice in seeking out images licensed for reuse can be found in my techDITZ blog “Images You Can Use ‘article.
Interestingly enough, many Americans are just as confused by the acronym TPMs as Canadians are, because, especially in the tech sector, TPM is more often an acronym for Trusted Platform Module.
If you search for “Technical Protections Measures” on Wikipedia, you will be redirected to the “Copy Protection” page. And oddly, although people talk about “Technical Protection Measures” the language in Bill C-11 is actually “Technological protection measures.”
`Sec. 1201. Circumvention of copyright protection systems …
(3) As used in this subsection–
`(A) to `circumvent a technological measure’ means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner; and
`(B) a technological measure `effectively controls access to a work’ if the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work.
“technological protection measure” means any effective technology, device or component that, in the ordinary course of its operation,
(a) controls access to a work, to a perform- er’s performance fixed in a sound recording or to a sound recording and whose use is authorized by the copyright owner; or
(b) restricts the doing — with respect to a work, to a performer’s performance fixed in a sound recording or to a sound recording — of any act referred to in section 3, 15 or 18 and any act for which remuneration is payable under section 19.
Short answer: TPM is Bill C-11 legal language for DRM.
If Bill C-11 becomes law as written, it will become illegal to circumvent DRM, even if the DRM is “protecting” work that does not infringe copyright. Work that is in the public domain. Work that qualifies as fair dealing. Work that is licensed to share. Work that doesn’t infringe copyright.
Bill C-11 will give DRM super powers in Canada.
If Bill C-11 becomes law, I expect DRM will appear on everything destined for the Canadian market.
WSIC (Waterloo Students for the Information Commons) has set up a DRM/TPM wiki
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.
The Occupy Montreal Protest continues, with a recent donation of arctic rated tents. Tolerance seems to be the city of Montreal’s policy.
Today conservative Superior Court Justice David Brown, himself a former Bay Street Lawyer, is expected to decide the fate of St. James Park’s Occupy Toronto encampment.
I understood that judges were at least expected to present the appearance of impartiality, and that a judge that was too close to a case was expected to recuse himself when such conflict arose. since the Occupy movement is a condemnation of the financial policies of Wall Street/Bay Street, it would seem a given that a jurist with a corporate Bay Street background like Justice Brown’s would recuse himself at the outset. Yet he did not.
“Every protest group all of a sudden has its own park. At the end of the day, where do I ride my bike?”
Still, the Justice elected not to evict the protesters on Friday, exhibiting an awareness of the situation on the ground. I wonder if the horrible events of US Davis in California, and the resultant surge in public opinion as a direct result, might affect his decision today. Laws and justice are supposed to reflect society’s mores after all.
hot to handle
The first time I beheld a green pepper was in a home economics in the ninth grade. I thought they were cute; but smelled bad and tasted awful. I have never understood why people like to eat hot peppers, but clearly they do.
One year I grew hot peppers which won first prize in a local fair. I dried some, and canned some as gifts. But the thing I wasn’t prepared for was that just handling them puts the oil on your hands. I learned the importance of thoroughly washing your hands after I made the mistake of picking jalapeño peppers and then rubbing my eyes. It only happened once, and it hurt. I remember the pain very well. Never again.
But it didn’t kill me.
So like most people, I had no idea that pepper spray could be lethal.
It is especially hard on people with asthma because it is an inflammatory agent, and Wikipedia tells us that it can cause “…uncontrollable coughing making it difficult to breathe or speak for between 3 to 15 minutes.”
When I was a child, I didn’t know a soul with asthma. As an adult, they are everywhere. So it seems to me that pepper spraying people is playing with fire.
In other parts of the world, citizens are allowed to carry cannisters of pepper spray on their person for self defence.
Not in Canada; here pepper spray is a prohibited weapon. Unless you’re in law enforcement, then you are allowed to spray it for “crowd control” Pepper spray was lobbed at Toronto’s G20 protesters last year.
This weekend’s inappropriate police pepper spraying of peaceful protesters at California’s UC Davis campus has triggered outrage around the world this weekend.
Pepper spray is increasingly used, not as self defence, but as a means of physically punishing peaceful protesters.
That’s right, a quarter of Wikipedia content is devoted to Wikipedia policy.
Or was five years ago. It could well be much worse now.
what is wikipedia?
What if everyone was given free access to the sum of all human knowledge? Within the last 10 years, this seemingly utopian idea has resulted in nothing less than the largest collection of human knowledge ever created. Independent, unrestrictedly accessible, and non-commercial.”
That’s pretty much how most of us think of Wikipedia, but is it true?
In the beginning, all knowledge was welcome in Wikipedia. If there was an article you thought should be written but didn’t know enough, you could write a starter article or “stub” as the placeholder, and other Wikipedians would fill in the blanks afterward.
When additional information is wanted to provide context for an article, say about the inventor of something, or a related event, the thing wanted was highlighted or “marked up” in red, to alert Wikipedians about a knowledge gap.
But that’s not what happens now. Any new article is subject to being weeded out if it isn’t complete enough or important enough. Deletionism runs rampant within the pages of Wikipedia.
And the Wikipedia reality is that information ceases to be accessible after it is deleted.
red letter “mark up”
The Mark Duggan article was begun as a response to a red letter “request” to fill in the gap of the developing Wikipedia article about the British riots that were triggered by his death. Wikipedians were diverted from article building into days of lobbying to stave off the article’s proposed deletion. All because a Wikipedian decided Mark Duggan wasn’t notable.
Was this good for Wikipedia?
I’ve just learned that an article about Peter MacDonald, the founder of the first Linux distribution, has fallen victim to deletion. That is beyond incredible. How on earth can Wikipedia be trusted if the biography of someone who has made important technological contribution to our world can be excluded from Wikipedia because someone decides he isn’t “notable”?
Both articles were begun in response to red letter mark up which indicates other Wikipedia articles deem them “notable”.
The Marketplace Tech Report podcast Wikipedia loses contributors says Wikipedia’s recent focus on “quality” means that today’s would-be contributions are more likely to be rejected by Wikipedia editors.
This is worse than I thought.
The twin issues of “deletionism” and “notability” are in fact in direct opposition to the stated goal of collecting “the sum of all human knowledge” together within the virtual pages of Wikipedia. Knowledge is collected by some, others presume to decide what is notable, at best a highly subjective call.
I did a bit of onine research on Peter MacDonald last night, and was able to find enough citable online pages – including a Wikipedia page with the man’s name marked up in red – that I would be able to build him a reasonable biography page, even though yesterday was the first I heard of him.
Does that mean he’s not notable? Hardly. There is a vast amount of human knowledge. the best any of us can do is to try to learn the bits that are relevant to our own lives.
That doesn’t mean that what’s relevant to us is relevant to others. Because I’m a Canadian writer, it would be ridiculous for me to decide what information was relevant to a doctor, or what was relevant information for an Australian. I lack the training for one, and the cultural background for the other.
At the same time, it would be equally impossible for me to decide what information will be relevant to me in the future. Today information on the properties of an arcane poison may have no value for me, but tomorrow it may be critical to a murder mystery I write.
The very idea of “notability” is not only relative, it’s fluid. None of us know what information we need until we need it. Excluding information on this basis is folly.
This argument is new to me, as I’ve only been a netizen for a few years. But this issue has been raging at least since 2008, when Glyn Moody wrote:
…there is no good reason why [Wikipedia] shouldn’t include entries on anything. After all, nobody forces you to read the stuff, and it’s not as if it’s sitting on your bookshelves.”
The digital world makes it possible for a real word “Encyclopedia Galactica” to exist. That’s what most of us thought Wikipedia was. But perhaps not, maybe H2G2 or something similar will end up filling that need.
Because it is a real need. Humans have sought to itemize our universe to the best of our ability from the beginning of recorded history, and presumably earlier. We want a repository of all human knowledge.
But what we don’t want is one that employs censorship under the guise of editorial “notability.” Perhaps we should begin redirecting our Wikipedia donations to Deletionpedia, a site that hosts more than 60,000 web pages that have been deleted from Wikipedia since 2009. That’s astounding.
It is hard to build, but easy to tear down. This kind of thing has gone on for the length of human history.
The ancient Egyptians deleted a great deal of their history as successive pharaohs eradicated records of predecessors they didn’t like. This was a little more difficult than today’s push of a “delete” button, since many Egyptian records were graven in stone. When Wikipedia articles are deleted they don’t leave visible scars.
Deletionism seems to be equal parts bullying and censorship. One of the greatest ironies is that deletions are made under the aegis of neutrality. Like any “for our own good” pro censorship argument.
Deletion beyond fact checking or spam busting is anything but neutral.
Deleting someone else’s article because it isn’t important to you allows the imposition of your wordview on others. It’s a way to overpower someone else, to negate their words and impose your own superiority. Your prowess. Survival of the fittest? Or is it simply virtual bullying?
Creation is hard work, whereas destruction is dead easy. The power to dictate what may or may not be included is an easy way of gaining personal power.
In the schoolyard, when another kid steals your lunch money, punches in your face or stamps your homework into the mud it’s called bullying. The bully uses his/her asocial tendencies and superior physical power to single out, intimidate and dominate selected schoolmates for his or her own personal aggrandizement.
In Wikipedia, the virtual bullies delete your work, using asocial tendencies and superior bureaucratic power to single out new users and intimidate opponents with reams of policy and interpretation, dominating them via exclusion for his or her own personal aggrandizement.
When I argued in favor of keeping “The Death of Mark Duggan” another Wikipedian affixed a Single-Purpose account tag to my comment. This is a charming Wikipedia way of hanging a sign over someone’s head to indicate that their words are suspect, due to newness, bias, or it may even be a “sock puppet” accusation. The irony is that I created a new account in my real name, precisely because I had blogged about it and wanted to be above board. This type of bullying falls under the categories of Ad hominem attacks or namecalling.
When an argument is decided on merit, it doesn’t matter who makes it. If the weight of the argument shifts based on who made it, the issue is politics, not merit.
Is Wikipedia an information resource or the personal fiefdom of the most ruthless editorial posse?
In reality, affixing a tag like this serves to discredit opposition. It is a way of singling out and discount the views of new Wikipedians, effectively shutting them up. As far as I’m concerned, it is simply bullying. This is a policy and atmosphere unlikely to attract or keep many female Wikipedia volunteers.
The only truly neutral point of view would be to allow every factually correct article to stand. To allow “the sum of all human knowledge” to exist within Wikipedia.
“We are not replenishing our ranks. It is not a crisis,
but I consider it to be important.”
The effect of the deletion policy has been to alienate many contributors.
Along with many potential contributors.
The problem is that people who are interested in sharing their knowledge — that are willing to volunteer their time and expertise to do so — quickly burn out if they are forced to fight for every syllable.
This is Wikipedia’s loss.
While many Wikipedians stand guard against vandalism from without, the greatest danger to the future of Wikipedia is the elitism of deletionism, the vandalism from within.