Diebold tries to avoid a ruling

So it seems we actually don’t have to be afraid of Diebold coming after us for reposting the memos after all. Diebold has completely backed down, they’re withdrawing all of the existing DMCA notices and they’ve promised to stop sending new ones out. They hope to get the judge to put this through mediation instead of making a ruling. It may be too much to hope for, but I’d prefer it if we had a ruling that states unequivocally that we are right and Diebold is wrong.

We’ve put the Diebold memos back up!

And at long last the timer has run out on our counternotification to Diebold! Finally, we can link and post the infamous memos without the college cutting off our internet connection; it’s just between us and Diebold now. Go get the memos from the SCDC website 🙂

It’s nice to be able to rejoin the ranks of the brave individuals across the country hosting the memos. When you look at that page of college students who were willing to risk the wrath of a billion-dollar multi-national corporation to do their part in preserving our freedom, you are seeing the core of what may be the beginnings of a new student movement. What will they be called twenty years down the road? Are we just good, upstanding citizens? Are we hacktivists? Are we advocates for free culture? Or has the phrase that best defines our cause yet to arise?

Only time will tell.

Creative Commons

There’s been a lot of great stuff happening with Creative Commons licensing recently! First of all, my copy of Jim’s Big Ego‘s latest CD arrived in the mail today, and I’ve been playing its “Some rights reserved” vibes for my Dad 🙂

Second of all, I recently installed the awesomest plugin for Mozilla, called Mozcc. It scans the webpage for Creative Commons RDF Metadata, and if it finds any it displays the licensing info icons in the corner of your screen. You can then click the icons to read any information that the author included with the document. This is an answer to one of Creative Commons’s Tech Challenges, which is basically a wish list of software that the folks Creative Commons want to exist. One SCDC project that I’d like to get moving soon is Code for Social Change, and one of our first projects would be to respond to some of these tech challenges in order to get our name out there. Unfortunately, the free software community works too fast, they’re answering all of the challenges before we can do it 🙂 Slow down, guys! Wait for us!

Finally, while surfing the Creative Commons website, I happened upon this great “Open Source Movie”, called Nothing So Strange. Basically, the final cut of the movie is under a normal copyright, but all of the raw footage is released under an extremely liberal, BSD-Style Creative Commons license (specifically, the Attribution license)! I think it’s a good idea, and I fully intend to buy it. It’s not available on DVD yet, it’s only available in Quicktime MPEG4 format, but that’s fine because I can still play that on Linux in Mplayer, no problem 🙂

Should you give your friend things that are bad for him?

If my dad likes cigars, but I know they’re not good for him, should I give him cigars as presents anyway? I mean, on one hand, I want him to be healthy. On the other hand, I want him to be happy, and who am I to say “I know what’s good for you better than you do?” Then again, what if you are REALLY sure that it’s bad for him, say for instance he was smoking crack? Where do you draw the line between big-brother paternalism and necessary action to protect your friend’s health?

When we’re talking about government, I usually consider myself to be a libertarian. I think that if I don’t want to wear a seatbelt, and the only person that is hurt by that decision is myself, the government shouldn’t force me to wear it. However, there is a difference between the government and your friends and family. Can I condone action among my friends and family that I would not want the government to take?

Usually when I think of something that I believe to be bad but I can’t conclusively prove its evilness, I am in favor of educating people about the issues that make me think it’s bad, but not forcing them into my worldview. In general, I would rather have an education campaign than outlaw any particular behavior, if it does not infringe on the rights of others.

Actually, the cigar case is a little bit weird. My dad is a doctor, he knows as well as I do that cigars are bad for him. I guess he’s decided that they can’t do enough damage to him at this time in his life to make it worth abstaining. Actually, I don’t even know if that’s a reasonable decision, I’m not a doctor… but I suspect not. Cigars are even less healthy than cigarettes if I understand correctly, they don’t have filters on them or anything.

So should I give him the cigars if he wants him, and trust that he knows himself best? Is it meddling in his life if I don’t give him the cigars and try to stop him from smoking? Should I protect his health if he doesn’t want to protect it? Or if I think he’s acting stupid, is it necessary to at least not do anything to support that, if not to actually try to stop him in his course of action?

Dammit, I need to get comments installed somehow… e-mail if you feel like it 🙂

Sunday at Swat

Today wasn’t terribly exciting, but rewarding nevertheless. I’ve started work on a little movie for Chinese class with my partners Andrew and Jonathan, and so far it’s been going great. We’re using my JVC MiniDV camcorder, plugging it into Andrew’s Mac with Firewire, and editing it with iMovie (and possibly FinalCut Express if necessary). It’s amazingly easy to write Chinese characters in Mac OSX, and I’m extremely jealous, because I haven’t found a simple way to do it in Linux yet (probably because I haven’t looked very hard).

It was cool, we worked on the closing credits, and our closing song will be “They’re Everywhere”, by Jim’s Big Ego, which is an insanely cool band from Massachusetts. They released their last album, also titled “They’re Everywhere”, under a Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike Creative Commons license, which happens to be the same license that my website is released under. You can’t tell from my blog pages (I’ll put the license on here too eventually), but if you go to my home page and scroll to the bottom you can see my license tag.

Incidentally, we also used that song to close Andrew’s radio show tonight on WSRN, the college radio station. Andrew’s normal partner is Dana, and their show is Sunday 6-7 PM every weekend, you should check it out. Tonight, however, it was me, Brian, and Andrew, and we discussed Captain Planet, and played music with the underlying theme of Evil Robots. Yes, we managed to come up with many songs about evil robots, which probably proves that we are dorks, but you knew that already because we go to Swarthmore.

My friends and I have determined that everyone who goes to Swarthmore is by definition a dork. Dorks who know computers are Geeks, and Geeks who have no social skills are Nerds. Just wanted to clear that up for y’all.

Meaning in life

I had a really fascinating IM conversation with Sasha a few days ago, which has been resurfacing everywhere I go, so I figured I’d paste it in here:

(14:46:33) Nelson: we get wrapped up in stupid petty stuff and we miss the big picture
(14:46:42) Sasha: right
(14:46:52) Nelson: people always have tunnel vision and they don’t see what’s going on around them
(14:46:56) Nelson: things like this are a distraction
(14:47:05) Sasha: that’s true
(14:47:22) Nelson: if we want our lives to have a purpose, we have to make everything we do purposeful
(14:47:43) Nelson: just as if we want a peaceful society, we have to make every action peaceable
(14:48:15) Nelson: that’s kind of the Quaker ethos I suppose, that spirituality is 24/7, not just in church on Sunday
(14:48:31) Nelson: that the mundane stuff is holy if you make it so
(14:48:43) Nelson: and anyplace is a place of worship
(14:49:03) Sasha: but if everything is holy, then doesn’t holiness lose its meaning?
(14:49:11) Sasha: (devil’s advocate here)
(14:49:25) Nelson: perhaps… but it makes everything else meaningful
(14:49:32) Sasha: by contrast
(14:49:43) Nelson: as in, yeah, I don’t really feel very excited upon walking into a church
(14:50:05) Nelson: that is, more than I do when sitting under a tree
(14:50:10) Nelson: or looking at the stars
(14:50:24) Sasha: sorry, which is more what?
(14:50:51) Nelson: I don’t find a church more exciting than the God in the grass or the “inner light” in the people around me
(14:51:17) Sasha: I feel the same way, except that I have all sorts of problems with spirituality nowadays
(14:51:29) Sasha: I also totally agree with you about purpose
(14:51:32) Nelson: “holiness” does kind of lose a certain kind of meaning, but that’s a good thing. We can’t have an aritificial separation between spirituality and the rest of life

To crystallize that, I think that humans are here to create meaning in the world, and that if we want to have meaningful lives, everything we do must have meaning, every action must be meaningful. We can’t waste time doing things that don’t have meaning, or alternately if we are to do them we must find a way to give them meaning. Hm… but do I really know what I mean by that?

Melancholy Elephants

The SCDC has begun work on writing a play, loosely based upon the science fiction story Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson. The plot of the short story is that Congress is about to pass a bill that would make copyright last forever, and this woman has to convince a powerful senator that he must kill the bill (Kill Bill! hardy har har). Considering that this story was written sometime before 1983, when it won the 1983 Hugo for Short Story, it was an amazingly insightful story. Spider shows an imperfect understanding of the issues surrounding intellectual property, but the fact that he was writing about it like a decade before anybody else was thinking about it excuses any logic holes. It does, however require updating, to account for both new facts and new understanding of IP issues. The goal is to eventually produce this play at Swarthmore College. Wish us luck!


Hey folks, so in case you haven’t heard our next court date is November 17th, so that’s probably when you’ll be hearing from us again. Incidentally, we filed our counternotification a few days ago, so the 10-14 day timer will run out about then as well. Theoretically, we will then be able to put the Diebold documents back online, because Swarthmore will no longer be liable for our actions. So as usual, all of the excitement comes in bursts 🙂 That’s life, right? Long boring stretches interspersed with overly interesting times…

The moon is down

Around 8 PM last night, there was a total lunar eclipse, so Brian and Andrew and I went and hung out under the stars for a while, freezing our butts off. If I understand it right, a lunar eclipse means that the Earth came between the Sun and the Moon, so that the Earth’s shadow completely covered the moon. On a clear day, this would have meant some interesting optical effects. Unfortunately, that night was moderately cloudy, and although we could see the Earth’s shadow covering the moon, we couldn’t really see it in detail.

As usual, however, we managed to entertain ourselves despite adverse conditions. While waiting for the moon to eclipse, we sang “Jailhouse Rock” with the lyrics from “All Your Base Are Belong To Us”, as the Evolution Control Committee did when they had too much time on their hands. Fortunately they recorded the results for posterity, so that we didn’t have to 🙂 The best part is how they actually made All Your Base rhyme! The first verse and chorus goes, “In AD twenty-one-oh-one/war was beginning, what happen?/somebody set us up the bomb/we get signal, main screen turn on! Chorus: It’s you! How are you gentlemen? All Your Base… Are Belong to Us.” All you Elvis fans, go and download the mp3 right now! This also resulted in an in-depth discussion of Zigs, and taking off every last one of them. Brian: “I’d like to let you know that I’m not wearing any Zigs today…”
We also discussed at length how the moon is getting like 3 inches closer to the Earth every year. How freaking cool will it be when the moon is orbiting at GROUND LEVEL? “Oh sh*t! Here comes the moon! Duck!” WHOOMPH! Andrew said that he remembers a kid’s story where the moon was close enough to the Earth that people could get there just by jumping high enough, and they could all go hang out there until they got tired of lunar life, and then jump back down again. Does anybody know what this story was? E-mail me if you do! Someday I really have to install blogging software that allows for comments… I installed PHPosxom because it’s just a single PHP script that’s simple enough for me to understand and hack around with. Heck, maybe I could implement comments myself! That would be mad phatty, yo.