Automakers to gearheads: Stop repairing cars

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has caused a lot of grief over the years.  AutoBlog reports that now car manufacturers are trying to use it to stop people from repairing and tuning their cars:

Allowing them to continue to fix their cars has become “legally problematic,” according to a written statement from the Auto Alliance, the main lobbying arm of automakers.

The dispute arises from a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that no one thought could apply to vehicles when it was signed into law in 1998. But now, in an era where cars are rolling computing platforms, the U.S. Copyright Office is examining whether provisions of the law that protect intellectual property should prohibit people from modifying and tuning their cars.

Ridiculous, is the word that describes this best, I think.

EFF wins protection for time zone database

Every time I proudly wear my EFF member t-shirt, people ask me what is EFF.  And every time I explain and point them to for more information.  It’s a shame that many of those who even live and breath online don’t know what EFF is and what those guys do.  Have a look at their most recent victory:

In a statement, Astrolabe said, “Astrolabe’s lawsuit against Mr. Olson and Mr. Eggert was based on a flawed understanding of the law. We now recognize that historical facts are no one’s property and, accordingly, are withdrawing our Complaint. We deeply regret the disruption that our lawsuit caused for the volunteers who maintain the TZ database, and for Internet users.”

“It’s a fundamental principle of copyright law that facts are not copyrightable, and Astrolabe should have known that,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “While the lawsuit should never have been filed, we’re pleased that the legal threat to an important resource has been eliminated.

You can help them do what they do, by joining and donating.

EFF big win over DMCA

Most of the times, when I donate money, I don’t really expect anything back.  I don’t see them as an investment to the future of the person or organization, but rather a gratitude and appreciation for the past.  It was also how I saw my support of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).  Today I received a press release from EFF, which made me proud to be a member and also a little extra happy about the money I donated over the last few years.  It’s a big win over Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is one law that I never liked too much.  Here is a quote to get you started:

San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won three critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) anticircumvention provisions today, carving out new legal protections for consumers who modify their cell phones and artists who remix videos — people who, until now, could have been sued for their non-infringing or fair use activities.

“By granting all of EFF’s applications, the Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress have taken three important steps today to mitigate some of the harms caused by the DMCA,” said Jennifer Granick, EFF’s Civil Liberties Director. “We are thrilled to have helped free jailbreakers, unlockers and vidders from this law’s overbroad reach.”

Continue reading the full press release and supporting documents.

As a side note, once again I am amazed at how much influence some American law has on my life, which happens to be far away from the United States territory.  Being a daily user of many services provided by Americans and from the United States soil, I am impacted by rules and limitations faced by those people who provide those services.

Legal and educational systems are lagging behind technology

I’ve mentioned this many times before and, I guess, I’ll need to mention this ever more – the technological progress of the recent years (the digital world, yes) has left many systems of our society behind.  Educational and legal are the most noticeable.   Here are a few words in the insightful and funny video (originally from the – a place of many more insightful videos).  Here is a quote from a recent Boing Boing post showing the state of the legal system:

… pictures of Ford cars cannot be printed. Not just Ford logos, not just Mustang logos, the car -as a whole- is a Ford trademark and its image can’t be reproduced without permission.

On copyright, fair use, and free speech

TechCrunch has an excellent cover of the “photograph in the video” story that has been going on all over the web in the last few days.  Basically, somebody wrote a funny song and made a video for it.  In that video a bunch of images were used including one that was downloaded from Flickr without permission of the photographer.  The photographer got really pissed off and such.  The video was re-edited to remove the offending image, but there was plenty of discussion on how is right and who is wrong in this story.  Some really important questions on copyright, fair use, and free speech were asked, and some really smart people tried to answer them.

The rights of the copyright holder have always been balanced against the more fundamental right of free speech. And free speech in the Internet age, more so than ever before, goes way beyond words and text. The way people express themselves on the Web increasingly involves images, video, animations, and other rich media, often in mash-ups of pre-existing works. That is how people communicate today. Both copyright law and industry standards need to evolve to take that into consideration.

While I support the (copy)right of the author to command the usage of his or her work, I think that this particular case wasn’t handled properly by the photographer.

A little something from the Flickr guidelines

After reading this post at Gonzo Engaged I decided to take another look at Flickr Community Guidelines.  After all I have more than 11,000 pictures there and I don’t want to have any surprises, if you know what I mean.

Here are two quotes that I think are worth a reminder:

Don’t upload anything that isn’t yours.
This includes other people’s photographs and/or stuff that you’ve collected from around the Internet. Accounts that consist primarily of such collections may be terminated at any time.

Don’t use Flickr for commercial purposes.
Flickr is for personal use only. If we find you selling products, services, or yourself through your photostream, we will terminate your account. Any other commercial use of Flickr, Flickr technologies (including APIs, FlickrMail, etc), or Flickr accounts must be approved by Flickr. For more information on leveraging Flickr APIs, please see our Services page. If you have other open questions about commercial usage of Flickr, please feel free to contact us.

Oh, and just in case you noticed that somebody took your pictures and uploaded them into their photo stream, and done so without your permission, here is an advice from Flickr on how to behave:

Copyright Infringement
If you see your photographs in another member’s photostream, don’t panic. This is probably just a misunderstanding and not malicious. A good first step is to contact them and politely ask them to remove it. If that doesn’t work, please file a Notice of Infringement with the Yahoo! Copyright Team who will take it from there.
You may be tempted to post an entry in our public forum about what’s happening, but that’s not the best way to resolve a possible copyright problem. We don’t encourage singling out individuals or their photos in our public forum.

Fighting the spinning spammers

Lorelle has an excellent post covering spinning spam – “Spinning Spammers Steal Our Blog Content“.  As always, the article is full of useful links and insightful quote.

Here is a quote from a linked article – “Protecting Your Content From the Spinning Spammers” – describing the issue:

 […] process of modifying the content before reposting it is often called “spinning”. Spinning a work before republication has several advantages, the largest of which is that Google is less likely to detect the work as a duplicate and, thus rank it higher. However, almost equally important is that it is much harder for victims of plagiarism to detect and follow up on the misuse, making this kind of abuse much harder to stop […]

Here are some helpful tips for detecting the stolen content:

  1. Digital Fingerprinting: Digital fingerprinting is a process by which you append a unique word or phrase to the end of your posts in your RSS feed. If the feed is scraped, so is the fingerprint and searching for that string of characters tells you which sites have taken your content. Since fingerprints don’t have easy translations or synonyms, they remain intact through the spinning process. Plugins such as the Digital Fingerprint Plugin and Copyfeed can automate the process.
  2.  Trackback Monitoring: As was the case with Tony’s original post, spam blogs often leave links in the scraped post intact, even as they modify the copy. They often send trackbacks to those URLs in a bid to get extra incoming links to the spam blog. If you link to your own articles when writing, you can watch the trackbacks and get an idea for who is using your content, even if it is spun.
  3.  FeedBurner Tracking: FeedBurner offers a very powerful “uncommon uses” feature that tracks where your feed is published. Since FeedBurner does not depend upon the post content to track the feed, spinning the text will not fool the system.

I tried digital fingerprinting coupled with monitoring a few times and I have to say it works pretty good.  The way I was doing it though, was on a per article base, not for the whole feed.  I noticed that when my content is stolen, usually just a few articles are taken – presumably those with high ranking keywords.

So, what I do sometimes is invent a new word (wordativity anyone? blogalerting?), stick it in the post, and then setup Google Alerts for this word.  The moment Google indexes something with this word, I am notified either via an RSS feed or an email.  (If you feel really paranoid, you can create a new Twitter account, pipe the RSS feed to that account, and folow it with your main account, so that you get an SMS when stealing occurs.)

Anyway, check the above links for more information about the problem, some insight into legal point of view, as well as how to handle the cases when this happens.  And spread the word too.

On copyrights

Since many people had asked me this before and some did just recently – I do believe in copyright law. I believe that the person who created a piece of something, be that music, movie, software, or anything else, has the right to dictate how this piece can be used, distributed, and copied.

I try to obide by the copyright law, but I am not always successful. There is no hypocrisy in this. In the same way, I believe in the traffic laws but don’t always follow them. I try to though.

Continue reading “On copyrights”