Thursday, 17 January 2013

Did Aaron Swartz die in vain? Not if you can help it.

Support "Aaron's Law".

And do more. So far, not one of the stories covering his tragic death has uncovered the dirty truth of the balance of prosecution—"stealing is stealing" when it comes to individuals who are hunted down and prosecuted, while "stealing is business" could be the motto of those corporations who use the justice system to prosecute anyone who, like Aaron, liberates their stolen goods for the good of all.

So far, no one in the media has taken any of the issues brought up in this blog seriously. But now that tight budgets squeeze public institutions, the misuse of public funds to increase lack of access, all for the good of corporate pirates, should be a scandal in the USA as well as internationally.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Water fountains & public libraries

Many people have been conditioned to think that "You might as well drink water from the bathtub or toilet bowl of the dirtiest person you know" rather than drink from a public water fountain, ever since the free market was given (for what in return?) the monopoly on quenching public thirst.

Public libraries seem to be going the way of water fountains (before the current call to bring water fountains back). Unfortunately, the metaphor breaks when it comes to bringing back the purged.

Read The Great Purge of Our Libraries by Michael Wilding in the current (July–August) issue of Quadrant Magazine.

"… in our brave new world, uncontrolled access to information has been deemed problematic."

Friday, 22 July 2011

Amazon's Corpiracy Cahoots

Amazon acts with admirable caution when books by me come out in new editions with different publishers, demanding proof from me as the author that each publisher has the rights.

So it's odd that Amazon is so inconsistent.

Their excuse for taking WikiLeaks off their cloud
Amazon Web Service does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them. There were several parts they were violating. For example, our terms of service state that “you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content… that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.” It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content... when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn’t rightfully theirs, and publishing this data ... it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere.
Weasel poo!
Amazon sells thousands of stolen articles that are actually protected supposedly, by US and international copyright laws. These articles have been ripped off from their authors by Thomson Gale, with not only copyright, and "all rights reserved" by the Thomson company slapped on them, but in many cases, the claim by Thomson that they were the original publisher, a claim they make about a huge swathe of publications from Dance Magazine to National Defense Magazine to Reason (giving new meaning to the Reason Foundation's slogan, "Free minds and free markets").

Many of us they've stolen from got no pay for papers we wrote for the public good, and we'd be happy to see them put into the commons, but not stolen and sold to make corpirates richer. In the Thomson Gale type of piracy, authors' works are treated to multiple indignities. On other sites owned by Thomson (such as Cengage and BNet, a partnership with CBS), articles are larded with those tasteful Google ads between paragraphs (Women from countries that suck want to meet you). Always, formatting is screwed in ways no real publisher would tolerate, let alone an author. So Amazon bumps Wikileaks, not because of illegal acts being done by Wikileaks though there was much blustering, but because Amazon doesn't want to upset the powerful in Washington. But Amazon sells for a giant corpirate which engages in multiple criminal acts, which means Amazon engages in criminal acts, and, uh, you do too when you buy this stuff, as we're told ad nauseam about pirated works – and what happens? Their businesses grow.

See for instance, the treasures in store as if you perform this fascinating Amazon search – Thomson piracy
Here's one, in Amazon's own words:
Broadcast flags and the war against digital television piracy: a solution or dilemma for the digital era?: An article from: Federal Communications Law Journal, by Debra Kaplan

Product Description
This digital document is an article from Federal Communications Law Journal, published by Thomson Gale on March 1, 2005. The length of the article is 8737 words. The page length shown above is based on a typical 300-word page. The article is delivered in HTML format and is available in your Digital Locker immediately after purchase.
Citation Details
Title: Broadcast flags and the war against digital television piracy: a solution or dilemma for the digital era?
Author: Debra Kaplan
Publication: Federal Communications Law Journal (Magazine/Journal)
Date: March 1, 2005
Publisher: Thomson Gale
Volume: 57 Issue: 2 Page: 325(20)
Distributed by Thomson Gale
Product Details
Publisher: (Thomson Gale (December 17, 2007)
The real publisher of The Federal Communication Law Journal states, on the Journal's site:
The Federal Communication Law Journal is one of three academic journals published by Indiana University law students. The FCLJ is the official journal for the Federal Communications Bar Association and, in serving this important role, often features articles and essays by commissioners in the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") as well as members of Congress ...
No mention of Thomson Gale as publisher, nor Harry Potter as publisher, who has just as much of a legitimate claim.

Kaplan's article is available free of charge on the The Federal Communication Law Journal's website, here as a pdf, looking as it does in print.

Here are two more journals Thomson Gale claims to publish (and articles that the authors might be surprised to see sold on Amazon):
Journal of International Affairs – actually published by Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.
Here is the Amazon listing for a paper in the journal by Zou Keyua: "Seeking effectiveness for the crackdown of piracy at sea"

Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal– "a student-run organization that published legal commentary and scholarship"
Here is the Amazon listing for a paper in the journal by Mary Kopczynski: "Robin Hood versus the bullies: software piracy and developing countries"
As for Thomson Gale's relationship with authors, Irv Muchnick summed it up with two words: Drop Dead.

So yes, Amazon offers stolen and rebranded goods every day, in cahoots with a model corpirate that secures and sells large quantities of data that isn't rightfully theirs, even rebranding it as their own and warning others against infringing their (unlawful) copyright. Instead of being prosecuted for a pattern of criminal activities, the company in its many entities, is only growing in creative business ventures, now ripping off members of the legal profession, who are fighting back (the world has too many lawyers, but Lorne Waldman is an international asset), saying in the Claim (against Thomson Reuters) something that might be said to be a Mission Statement for corpirates: "A service whose sole purpose and effect is to carry out mass copyright infringement for their own financial profit."

Indeed, though the details of the particular thefts from lawyers and the public record are a little bit fancy, the way they operate as laid out in the Claim could have been written as the Thomson Business Plan, it so succinctly explains their practice.

Here are three points from the Claim:
4. The defendantsbrand documents with a statement asserting that they are the owner of copyright…The defendants neither sought permission from the owners to deal in the documents in any way, nor did they offer payment or obtain a licence of any kind from the copyright owners to do anything that the copyright owners have the exclusive right to do.

7. The defendants have infringed copyright by doing acts which only the owner of the copyright had the right to do, including selling or renting a copyrighted document, distributing such document…trading, distributing, offering for sale…and possessing the document for the purposes of doing any of these acts. Furthermore, the defendants have infringed the author's moral rights in the documents. The defendants are not the owners of the intellectual property in these documents, yet they claim rights and take action as if they were.

8. In short, the defendants have created a service whose sold purpose and effect is to carry out mass copyright infringement for their own financial profit.
I hope the lawyers involved in this case aren't peeved with me when I say how much I admire how well these points are written, and quote them here. I hope you win, but if you do, the question is: Will it matter? If even a US Supreme Court decision made ten years ago means nothing, why should your case change anything other than being a blip of a business expense to a company whose life depends on illegal acts, and upon continuing to do business as if that SCOTUS decision's ruling were reversed. In my own conversations with two people who are parties to the (still undecided) settlement that resulted from that ruling, both parties said about the status quo: "Nothing will change."

So, in fact, the law of corpiracy rules the high commerce seas, and the parties to the settlement are only a tch of the millions who are being dudded every day around the world.

Indeed, I don't know if the practices described in the claim above are being taught as curriculum in those law and ethics lessons taught by West, another Thomson company, which proudly states: "For more than a century, West has been a partner to the U.S. legal system." 

Thomsonization aces Napsterization
Thomson's growth and influence, and Amazon's nigh-on-absolute power highlight the difference between their business practices, and a commercial site that facilitates non-commercial file-sharing; or you copying something with no thought of re-labeling or selling it as yours.

Thomson's "Drop Dead" policy to authors works, as who has the time to fight them? And who knows the law enough to know when it's being broken? In this case, only the company breaking laws with impunity. Perhaps from Thomson's business ethics courses, we could see new types of business spring from their attitude to legal pragmatism. Instead of Thomson Learning, there could be, for instance, Thomson Moving. A moving van could empty your house while you're away, rebrand everything as belonging to Thomson Moving, and if you ever find out that it was this cleancut co that took your stuff, demand that you go through their bureaucracy and legal department, filling out form after form and providing original proof of purchase and what you ate at breakfast one day ten years ago, if you want Thomson to acknowledge that there might be a disagreement possible about something they will argue that they own because a guy in Cleveland made an agreement with them, and that they already sold your stuff anyway, so why are you bothering them. They'll need to charge you for their lawyers' time, and if you keep harassing them, they'll need to press charges.

So here's some brainstorming about grapplehooking Amazon and its sale of corpirate goods
  • Call for Amazon to take everything sold by Thomson Gale off its sites.
  • Call for law to be enforced against both the Thomson company and Amazon, as you wouldn't get away with this, would you?
  • In the meantime, put CORPIRATE notices in the comments sections of all articles in Amazon sold by Thomson Gale.
  • Change the hagiographies on Wikipedia for both Amazon and Thomson companies. 

Why am I starting with attacking Amazon?
It's one way to highlight the problem, and possibly raise awareness of the sliminess of Thomson as a model corpirate, as well as its untrustworthiness even as a database compiler of public record. If it can't even get the bibliographic details straight, then the historical record is compromised. And I can report from my own stolen works, that it depends upon which database of Thomson's that sells a piece of my "data", as to what Thomson's story is about the publisher and even the date of publication. As for copyright claims slapped on them, even these conflict. One story by me on one of their sites shows three different claims, and none of them are me. Of course, their "all rights reserved" excludes me, too.

Identifying a corpirate
Corpirates bristle not only with legal claims, but with lawyers who should walk the plank. So far, they get away with it, especially while the US government is keen on cracking down on piracy, elsewhere.
"The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act will give the Department of Justice an expedited process for cracking down on these rogue Web sites regardless of whether the Web site's owner is located inside or outside of the United States … This is one of the most ambitious attempts yet from the U.S. government to fight online piracy. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have pledged this year to help protect U.S. intellectual property. In June, Biden made headlines when he said: "Piracy is theft, clean and simple. It's smash and grab."
Lawmakers want power to shut down 'pirate sites' by Greg Sandoval, Cnet, September 20, 2010
How we support Thomsonization now
Even my local public library has posters up and supplies bookmarks advertising:
"Science Resource Centre: Dig Deep into science research 24/7 on Thomson Gale databases"

Thomsonization has flourished, and is being supported by billions of tax dollars. Why hasn't Thomson (and their associated outlets like "Open Library") been raided by the US Justice Department, whose arm stretches around the world? Why are today's biggest international pirates US-based corporations while the public is being fed the image of "the Chinese" and "teenagers". Why are libraries and schools internationally subscribing to database services that are models of illegality (Thomson isn't the only one), making everyone who uses them a criminal, if copyright means anything? And if it really doesn't matter any more, because really, copyright is too impractical to uphold when it comes to authors as opposed to giant corporations, then why don't our libraries and institutions of learning use the billions spent on expensive databases, for learning and research instead, while at the same time, making databases free for all?

Why isn't this an issue in the media?
The straight media is too scared and compromised to cover corporate crims, especially when those crims own much of the media –Thomson Reuters. If only Thomson were a small fish, then even the director could be made to pay for their crimes. See, for instance, Copyright Infringement Isn't Ezy.
"It is jejune to treat copyright enforcement as a breach of human rights, ethically equivalent to cracking down on free speech in China or the Middle East. Governments need to tread lightly to avoid damaging innovation but the internet cannot become a safe harbour for illegality."
– John Gapper, Why it is right to fight web pirates, Financial Times, May 25, 2011
Yo ho ho!