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Abolish copyright?

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So we’ve got ACTA, PIPA & SOPA and Bakunin knows what else. All those controversial bills aim to defend copyrights owners interests (usually big businesses) and reduce our privacy at same time. Obviously that seems to be perfectly fine from the corporate point of view. It also fits in the current social-economic model. In other words the big companies can simply make more money.

What’s wrong with it?

The problem is copyright is not such a simple issue. Most people would say copyright prevents plagiarism and protect the interests of the authors. Well, in some individual cases yes that might be true, but in reality it looks a bit different. Let me make a few points on this below:

1. Copyright prevents progress – this is a major thing. We live in a pretty crazy world where you have to have the money (quite a lot actually) to use software, buy licenses, deal with patents, etc. It led us to the situation when the development can be achieved only if it’s profitable. From the technical point of view this is absolutely wrong and it actually kills thousands innovative projects every year. In fact you won’t be able to get investors involved in any project which is not based on profit. So you may know how to cure AIDS or how to create an amazing program that can make some people’s life way more easier but you can’t make it unless they can sell it. In consequences you develop some things to sell them not to make the world a better place. It means that all brilliant ideas that aim to improve our lives will never be created unless they can make some profit.

Also with copyright most of great solutions cannot be shared for free, you need to buy them. You don’t have the money? Well, get lost!

2. Culture is not a product – Now, they call us pirates. Sure, the law says that the people sharing music or movies or ebooks are criminals. The thing is the law is not always right and it’s influenced by business groups who have close ties with politicians. They call it business we call it corruption. However they forget that the song is not an iPhone. You can do a cover but you can’t really steal a song. You can copy Radiohead’s Exit Song but it doesn’t mean you own this song. Radiohead own this song and they will always do. That’s the thing with the culture. It’s created for people not for the market. A movie or a book are not products you can take off the shelf and hide it in your house. The culture is for everyone and had a key role in human history. But now, with copyright, they’re trying to tell us you can’t really listen to Radiohead unless you’ve got the money. You can’t watch the latest Scorsese movie unless you pay for it. So it becomes a luxury product only for those who can afford it. Now, try to work for low salary (as most of us do) and get a few new albums and new DVDs once a month. Can you afford it? The funny thing is at the same time when the corporations are using a “piracy” keyword they are actually able to make a deal where the author loses any rights to his song/book/etc.

The other thing is a slogan used by lots of people saying that the young or unknown artists lose their money. Well, I actually spent some time in the music industry and the truth is they are usually forced to accept ridiculous contracts. They don’t really see much of $ from it. There are better solutions that can be put in place to make sure the artists can actually live from music/films/books (such as self-organized publishers or music labels). You can call it Culture Fair Trade. I might write more about in the following weeks.

The final question here is though where will we be in 20 years if an access to the culture is so limited?

Absurd of buying – we got to the point where you might become a criminal if you wish to make digital copies of music/movies you’ve purchased. It also seems that we may have to pay a copyright fee every time we use anything copyrighted in close future.

In fact, copyright issues have turned into an industry VS consumer issue. Copy protection increases cost to consumers.

What are the alternatives?

Well, the alternative is a different understanding of economics and the importance of progress. Just like Anonymous said in their statement: In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost.So we have a coplyleft. Under copyleft, an author may give every person who receives a copy of a work permission to reproduce, adapt or distribute it and require that any resulting copies or adaptations are also bound by the same licensing agreement. Another thing is open source that is widely used around the world. It promotes free redistribution and access to an end product’s design and implementation details. For example you’re fed up with your work and you want to start an e-commerce business. Normally you would need to pay some mad money for the e-commerce site. However thanks to the open source projects such as Drupal or even WordPress you can get it done for free and you have an access to the code. Or move from Windows to Ubuntu and see how many great applications you may get for free. You create, learn and share at same time.

In real life you have places like tech labs, hackerspaces or tech cooperatives where you can not only learn but also develop any ideas you can think of. They’re amazing source of knowledge but also cooperation and voluntary work in search of development. The other places are squats or social centres where you get a free access to any culture-related materials, cultural workshops, art lessons, etc. Another example are freeshops where you can fetch a CD, check it out or make a copy and bring it back when you don’t need it anymore. There are plenty of alternatives available. They just need to be developed.

Basically these examples show that skills sharing, transparency and open projects can seriously improve our ideas and in result our lives. They’re not made for the money though. The entire philosophy behind them is different from commercial solutions we know. Research & Development rather than profit-based thinking. Free access for anyone rather than excluding poor. And I believe that’s the way to go. The copyright limits us in general (whether you’re a creator or consumer) and it opposes a free thought that may create a different system some day. It doesn’t work for the benefit of people and artist/creators as well. We’ve got alternatives out there but we just need to move away from the current system and start using them.

Written by Kruk

March 18, 2012 at 12:54 am

Online safety: a few tips

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Well, the thing is you don’t need to be a geek to be pretty safe. Of course there’s no such thing like 100% online safety but there are a few things we can do to improve it. And if you happen to be an activist you should consider it really seriously. Especially with all those PIPA, SOPA and ACTA laws they are trying to put in place.

So here we go:

1. Ubuntuif you’re a Windows user I’d recommend to check out Ubuntu. Linux is much safer and stable than Windows. The great thing about linux is that it’s open source and you get updates very often. It means if there’s a bug it’ll get fixed pretty soon.You also get thousands of free applications and if you need to use some Windows-only apps you can use Wine to mount them. By the way, believe it or not with Ubuntu you don’t need to be worry about viruses. It’ll make you forget what a virus is. It’s also user friendly and fast so you don’t need to know all those fancy terminal commands to use it.

2. VPNVPN means Virtual Private Network and it’s pretty straight forward. You’ll exchange the IP-number you get from your ISP to an anonymous IP-number .You get a safe/encrypted connection between your computer and the Internet. Your existing ISP can not limit what you can do nor limit what information you can access. It’s a really cool thing! I use iPredator which is pretty stable but there also other ones. Riseup collective set up a VPN recently but I didn;t have a chance to test it. Alternatively you can use Tor

3. GPG for emails – if you’re sending/receiving some private data why not to encrypt it? Normally people use corporate emails like Gmail or Hotmail. They look grand but they’re free and terms&conditions are not really in favor of users. So if you want to exchange some sensitive information use GPG. The easiest way to use it is to install enigmail plugin to Thunderbird client. Than create public & private keys. Check details in documentation. Also if you’re an activist it’s a great idea to set up a Riseup mail account rather than use corporate stuff. They don’t log IP and encrypt all the data.

4. Chatting – Facebook’s or Gmail chats are nice but not when you exchange important info. It all stays on their servers so it’s way safer to use different communicators. IRC and Jabber are great alternatives. With IRC you’ve got dozens of servers (e.g. irc.indymedia.org) where you can find a number of channels. For example if you have a problem with your Ubuntu you go to irc.freenode.org and join #ubuntu channel and ask for help. Or if you’re a revolutionary vegan fella you can set up your own channel, make it private & invite only and plan revolution with your trusted folks. IRC is great for groups to run real-time discussions online. As for Jabber it’s more like ICQ. You have a contact list and you talk to you friends when they’re online. The good thing is with these communcators you can use OTR (Off-The-Record) plugin which encrypts your chat.

5. Firefox plugins – if you’re using Firefox get these plugins. They’ll improve your anonymity and safety. Also I’d recommend Google plugin that will prevent Google from collecting information about you.

6. Crabgrassa software libre web application designed for group and network organizing, and tailored to the needs of the global justice movement. The long term goal is to provide the technical tools to facilitate active, confederal, and directly democratic social change networks. In other words if you run campaigns, organize events or actions, use Crabgrass rather than Facebook or any other corporate social network.

7. Truecrypt we all have sensitive data. ID details, passwords, porn (busted!). Truecrypt is a free open-source disk encryption software for Windows 7 / Vista/ XP, Mac OS X and Linux. It’s very easy to use and it has great options. Get your stuff encrypted!

These are just basics. I’m not a geek myself but I constantly learn how to be safer  so people I cooperate with are not at risk that someone will break their (my) privacy. If you think I should mention about other stuff let me know and I’ll add it.

Will revolution start on the Internet?

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I guess many people recalls cyberpunk books written by writers such as William Gibson these days. The conflicts between hackers and corporations, post-industrial world, dirty businesses and corrupted politicians. The struggle against them. A few decades ago it all looked like an intriguing fiction or great ideas for a movie.

Today, it’s not a fiction anymore. We witness a growing conflict between organized (but leadership free) groups of hackers such as Anonomyous and corporations or governments. In many places of the world we face an environmental disaster caused by big businesses or tragic effects of globalization such as mass exploitation and degeneration. We’re monitored by thousands CCTV cameras and surveillance tools, we’re forced to eat GMO foods, we’re influenced by corporate propaganda and threatened by economic compulsion. Mortgages, unemployment, crisis… we face a number of issues like these every day. It’s not something new though. The political movements opposing capitalism are trying to cope with it from many years. We had massive Seattle protests in 1999, anti-capitalist Genoa in 2001, direct actions led by groups like ELF, ALF or urban guerillas from Greece, Italy, Argentine or Chile. Zapatistas, Argentinian workers and their cooperatives, social centres. Revolts in France and Greece. And many many more. Those actions caused a lot of confusion and fear among politicians and shareholders. But the system remains strong. At the end of day you may see a black block with molotov cocktails but the other side have tanks and guns.

The system remains strong because it’s hard to fight the enemy who’s way more powerful on the streets. It’s hard to win with an opponent who’s so violent and depraved. However as we learned in a last few years it looks different when it comes to the Internet. Internet gives people the tools they wouldn’t find in reality. Internet allows people to organize themselves anonymously and democratically. It gives them freedom of expression and creation. At the same time it is a way to exchange unlimited information on any subject. On the Internet it doesn’t really matter whether you’re white, black, gay, Russian or Canadian, queer, Christian or Jew.

So when you see such a bastion of freedom in the enslaved world of capitalism it’s not surprising that it becomes a threat to the system. In fact, it was the work of Internet activists that shook its foundations. Wikileaks leaks such as CableGate or Iraq War Logs were and are the cause of the crises of several governments. Their impact is really huge and in consequences it means their activity seriously affects the reality we all live in. And when the US administration and fellow corporations tried to shut Wikileaks down they received a quick response from Anonymous. It’s quite fascinating that the web attacks were more serious for all the companies and governments than thousands of protests and boycotts. It brings us to the question, what does it mean?

Perhaps we’re looking for a change in the wrong place? We expect that the Occupy Movement or Arab Spring will inspire a revolution. But most people are not on the streets. Most people are on the web though. That’s why you got so big resistance re PIPA, SOPA and ACTA bills. That’s why sites like PirateBay are so popular and Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world. People want to share their knowledge, information, music, films, ideas. People want to live together and organize themselves freely. They want to join projects, they want to leave projects, they want privacy, they want freedom. On the Internet they realize they don’t need governments or big businesses to rule their lives. The progress of civilization is amazing on the web. The current system with all those copyrights, profit-based think tanks and neoliberal perspective can’t follow it, can’t understand what’s actually going on. They’re still looking for money when people are building a new kind of social and political relations. No borders, skills sharing, open source, free speech, free culture. Anonymous group even released A Declaration of the Independence of CyberSpace where they state:

In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

In other words, maybe this is the place where the revolution starts?

Written by Kruk

March 5, 2012 at 10:19 pm