Russell McOrmond

Russell McOrmond


234 comments posted · 6 followers · following 0

12 years ago @ Spark | CBC Radio - Spark 179 – April 22... · 0 replies · +1 points

re: Algorithmic Economy

Someone will always write malware to exploit bugs in any system. In this case there was a proposed patch submitted in 1972 , but it has unfortunately not been accepted upstream (IE: not yet implemented by governments). The earliest patched focused on currency exchanges, but would be equally valuable to apply to stock trades to solve essentially the same problem for those transactions. Our economy will remain unstable and at serious risk until governments wake up and apply some of the simple and necessary patches to excessively outdated public code (IE: policy).

Unfortunately high volumes of trades from speculators is not generally seen as a bug that needs to be fixed in a system designed to enable broad investment by the public in companies. Some believe a high volume of trading is a sign of strength in the system, rather than separating investment from speculation and recognizing high volumes of speculation as a bug.

12 years ago @ American University In... - Kaleidescape Sued: Mov... · 0 replies · +1 points

Note the slight-of-hand here. There is a breach of contract, and one side of the contract dispute is able to elivate their claim to being allowed injunctions and statutory damages for anti-circumvention. The fact that the DVD Copyright Cartel Association exists as a circumvention of competition law, and is generally bad for the economy, is inadequately discussed.

In Canada contract law is provincial jurisdiction and copyright law is federal, so this slight-of-hand may lead to questions of constitutional validity.

In general what the DVD CCA is doing isn't legitimate, as their members are building businesses on top of infringing someone elses rights -- if it was someone else infringing Copyright they would be screaming loudly and the government would be out in full force, but because it is the CCA members that are infringing the property rights of technology owners they get away with it (for now) and the government remains confused by the slight-of-hand tricks and shiny technology.

12 years ago @ Spark | CBC Radio - Spark 175 – March 11... · 0 replies · +1 points

No surprise, but I found the conversation with Matt Ratto quite interesting.

Having students thinking about DRM is interesting. Unfortunately I believe you only get a superficial feel for the problems if you think of DRM as a system. To really get at the problems you need to break the system into the component parts, and ask questions about those parts.

Most DRM systems involve two key parts: content and software on devices.

On the content you have encryption such that it is only interoperable with "chosen" access devices. This has competitive problems which business students can analyze. For instance, the fact that NetFlix isn't making an app for RIM devices means people have to choose between one or the other. Given NetFlix market share is increasing, and RIM market share is decreasing, it will likely deter even more people from purchasing a Blackberry or Playbook.

On the devices you have security technologies that treat the user, most often the owner, as a threat. Owners might have some limited software choice, but only that software which some third party (most often the manufacturer) has approved. This also has competition issues for the business students, but also property, privacy and other far more serious considerations.

In what other part of our lives are owners mistreated in this way? When we purchase a car we are allowed to have the keys, and can choose our own driver (and it can even be ourselves). While the government might license drivers for safety reasons, they don't disallow owners the keys or from driving their own cars for fear that car ownership might lead to cars being used as getaway vehicles.

I suspect students would come up with even more interesting scenarios, and I would love to see what they build. The content isn't all that important, and all the interesting things can be found by focusing on the devices. We already have controversies with set-top boxes designed for accessing someone elses content, but the even bigger issues can be seen when talking about medical devices or other enhancements of human perception (whether for enhancement or for perceptual disabilities).

We could talk about a technology that makes people blind and/or deaf if people try to perceive something that the device manufacturer (or some business partner, the government, etc) doesn't want them to perceive.

Imagine trying to walk down the street and a car drives by with their sound system too loud, and your hearing-implant disables all sound because you haven't paid the appropriate license. You could be walking and a newspaper you didn't pay for come into view and you are then unable to see. Forget about recording police or other government misconduct: it is unlikely you would even be able to see or hear it yourself. Independent news reporting could be become something we *might* be allowed to read about in history texts, assuming that doesn't get filtered as well.

These are scenarios that have some remote connection to content, but there is nothing to say that the manufacturers can't disable your digitally augmented senses for reasons which might have nothing to do with what you might be perceiving. They could be quite arbitrary in the policies which the software in the devices are imposing on us: curfews, where you are allowed to travel, or whatever other policies they might like.

If governments remain confused into thinking non-owner control of digital technology has something to do with copyright, it may be very hard to protect rights which have nothing to do with copright (as well as protecting the rights of creators from non-owner control).

BTW: I posted a video yesterday as the Bill C-11 committee ended offering a quick summary . The parts of the bill which legally protect "technological protection measures", these non-owner locks on our devices, was not amended to fix the considerable infringements of multiple rights it will induce and enable.

12 years ago @ Spark | CBC Radio - Full Interview: Limor ... · 0 replies · +1 points

In the late 1980's I had an Apple II clone that came with schematics at the back of the manual. I worked as a repair person for Commodore computers, and most of their line of computers had full schematics easily available.

Nearly all the integrated circuits (ICs) in the Apple II clone, the Vic-20's and Commodore 64's were off-the-shelf components where the logical layouts were publicly available in easy to obtain books (I had shelves of these types of books). The 6502 processor internals wasn't detailed, but all the internal interfaces and the public instruction set was fully documented.

We now have FPGA and other technologies that allow us to custom create devices far more complex than the computers of those days. It is also much easier to have small runs of custom designed chips built -- meaning if the design allows modification you can build nearly everything you want.

The physical ability to do these things is moving up the stack all the time. What is having a hard time keeping up is the legal regimes which grant excessive goverment granted monopolies on the simplest of things (patents on things which are inadequately novel or unobvious) -- and where these monopolies are disabling citizens from engaging in their own design and building of their own technology. The presumption that you need large top-down organizations granted extensive monopolies by government in order to incentivise innovation is extremely outdated.

12 years ago @ Spark | CBC Radio - Full Interview: Limor ... · 0 replies · +3 points

Great interview.

When Limor was talking about how makers are the next generation from when people tinkered with their cars, I remembered when I gave a eulogy at my fathers funeral in 2009. He was an auto mechanic, and I never got a drivers license and never owned a car. At first glance people might think this made us different, but I treated computers as something to tinker with (hardware and software) from a young person up to present day.

In fact, I am part of a movement to try to keep tinkering legal, given there are companies and other interests who want to make it illegal for owners to tinker with their own computers. The most threatening policy at the moment is so-called "technical protection measures" TPMs which are applied to computing hardware, and where under "copyright" law it becomes illegal for the owner to remove TPMs applied by previous owners (primarily the manufacturer).

It may seem like "copyright" law is off-topic to an interview about makers, but that is because TPMs are off-topic when it comes to copyright law. It is sad that copyright law is being abused to justify infringing the property rights of technology owners. (See our petition for those who want to get involved )

P.S. Semi-related, but I hope that CBC is making a lot of money for all those Apple advertisements that are added before every MP3 file for the feeds. It makes me cringe when I hear them given Apple is one of the lead companies (along with Sony) in seeking to legalize and legalize their infringement of technology property rights.

12 years ago @ Spark | CBC Radio - Full Interview: Byron ... · 0 replies · +1 points

While Jeff's message conveyed his emotions, we can't make public policy based only on emotions. As angry as people get about copyright infringement, we need to talk about the actual harm of the problem being solved and the actual harm of the solutions being proposed.

The emotional language he used is part of a 200+ year old confusion which I've called the Jefferson Debate since it was Thomas Jefferson who said on August 13, 1813:

"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."

While it is true that the government granted monopoly of Copyright can be bought and sold, making the monopoly a form of intangible property, it is simply false to analogise copyright infringement with theft. The thing which is owned, the government granted monopoly, does not change possession with infringement so even if we did consider it equivalent to tangible property infringement would not be theft. The closest analogy that can be made is to trespass, which is an unlawful activity with respect to property, but doesn't change possession.

Like trespass, some copyright infringement is economically harmful but it is wrong to claim that all infringement is economically harmful. Some infringement is as harmless as if a neighbour kid ran through your back yard to get to theirs. Some of the rhetoric from copyright holders sounds little different than a group of old guys yelling "get those damned kids off my lawn" : expecting the police to go arrest the kids (or their parents) for the alleged nasty wrong that was done to them.

Jeff also attributed blame on technology companies simply because their technology can be abused by someone else. If the problem is copyright infringement, then the target of the legislation should be copyright infringers. This has not been the case for the majority of copyright revision proposals tabled in recent decades. All this laying blame on everyone else, other than the copyright holders (who often make business decisions which induce infringement) or the copyright infringers will always receive strong push-back from innocent bystanders.

It is not a case of blaming the victim to attribute some infringement to the business decisions of copyright holders. In a normal business environment when someone doesn't like the way a product or service is offered, and don't buy it, nobody claims "theft". There are many copyrighted works that are not offered to Canadians (regional restrictions), not offered on the devices people own (misapplied technological protection measures), or not offered at all any more (the antiquated "out of print" problem which makes no sense in the modern age). When someone isn't offered the ability to pay, is it really wrong to then get so angry if they don't pay (even if they don't access the content at all)?

The reality is that the statistical models used to allege the harm from infringement do not adequately differentiate between people switching to alternatives and those infringing. See:

The ability to abuse technology exists for every technology that has ever been invented by humans. This blaming and seeking to punish the neutral provider of products and services appears to be unique to digital technology. If a road could be used by a getaway vehicle from a crime, we would never blame and seek to punish municipalities for "enabling" that crime. This is essentially what SOPA said of providers of communications services.

The same is true of the Paracopyright component of Bill C-11. As I said when I spoke in front of the Bill C-32 committee :

"We would never legally protect non-owner locks to all guns in a country where many are uncomfortable with the mere registration of long guns. We would never legally protect non-owner locks on our homes, alleging it was necessary to protect the insurance industry from fraud. We would never legally protect non-owner locks on our cars, allegedly to ensure that automobiles could never be used as a getaway vehicle."

It is hard not to get emotional in these debates because the alleged "solutions" to copyright infringement seem far more comparable to "theft" than the copyright infringement itself. And at the end of the day there has never been evidence that these drastic measures reduce infringement, or increase revenues to copyright holders. In fact, much of the evidence suggests the opposite that these extreme measure induce infringement and reduce revenues to creators.

12 years ago @ Spark | CBC Radio - Full Interview: Byron ... · 0 replies · +1 points

Great interview.

I believe work done by , and its governance structure, was attributed to ICANN. IETF is the consensus governance around the technology, and ICANN focuses on the domain name system (DNS).

As the CEO of CIRA it is undertandable Byron is focused on DNS, with SOPA threatening the secure upgrade of DNS. An unamended Bill C-11 doesn't get involved in DNS, but it does harm other technology through legal protection for "technological mesures" which often involves locking technology owners out of what they own. Bill C-11 may also see amendments, and there have been push on the Canadian government to add SOPA-like policy within Bill C-11. We won't know how much worse C-11 will get for the Canadian economy until the final version is passed thrugh both houses. As it stands, the most controvercial part (TPMs) will harm not only technology owners, but the vast majority of copyright holders as well.

12 years ago @ Spark | CBC Radio - Full Interview: Cory D... · 0 replies · +2 points

When I talk to people about the two locks of DRM (one on content to make it only interoperable with "authorised" devices, and one on devices to disallow the owner from making their own choices), the most common reaction I get is disbelief. They don't believe that this is how DRM works, and most truly believe that what these laws are talking about is "copy control" (some magic pixie dust you can put on content that allows it to come alive and make decisions on its own without the need of software running on computing hardware).

People presume that they can do with their computers any legal thing they want to. Many less technical people are convinced that these restrictions are defects in the device. This is one of the reasons why the "Defective by Design" campaign was named that way: to let people know that these defects are deliberate choices being imposed on them, not something accidentally broken on their computer.

I think once people realise how these restrictions work, they can then begin to ask the right question.

a) Should copyright holders have the right to impose brands of access technology? I suspect most believe that copyright holders should have as much say in their choice of digital technology as book authors had in what brand of eye glasses people wore.

b) Should someone other than the owner of something be allowed to place a lock on it where the owner is denied keys? I believe most people believe property law should protect us from this, and that denying keys from owners is far more analogous to "theft" than any type of copyright or related rights infringement.

Once we get to these simpler and more relevant questions, and away from the science-fiction "pixie dust" nonsense, we can enact laws which better reflect the expectations of the majority of citizens in our society.

At the moment, I don't believe that citizens or politicians are making informed choices about the content or devices they are purchasing, or the laws that are being tabled/passed.

BTW: I've been creating/repairing/programming/using computers since the mid 1980's. Various attempts at things marketed as "copy control" have been with us since that time. What is new since the mid 1990's is proposed radical changes to the law to grant legal protection for activities that if we were talking about non-digital property would be prohibited. It is sad, but politicians not understanding digital technology has enabled lobbiests to dupe them into passing laws which are backwards to how other technology and property are treated.

12 years ago @ Spark | CBC Radio - Full Interview: Andrew... · 0 replies · +1 points

"The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed" (William Gibson, and many others)

If you look at the worlds richest people they are primarily from sectors where governments have granted monopolies: telecommunications (spectrum, right-of-way), software+media (copyright+patents).

Rather than the efficiencies of the machine offering benefits to all citizens, the benefits largely went to those who were the primary beneficiaries of these government granted monopolies.

Is this failure a social sciences one (IE: government policies on spectrum, copyright, etc), or one that relates to the "machine"?

Nora has already covered many stores about how we become more productive in collaborative volunteer ways when we have more unallocated/leisure/free/libre time. We may not be working for an employer, but often when we are volunteering we are being even more productive participants in society than we are when at our "jobs".

Note: I negotiated an 80% rather than the 100% time that my employer wanted, so that I would have that 20% to do volunteer work. As much as I like my current job, I find contribution to society is far more in the 20% than the 80%.

Side-note: There is quite a bit of talk of the copyright/patent monopolies and alternatives. For those who haven't thought about the impact of spectrum monopolies, I've found contains a good primer.

12 years ago @ Spark | CBC Radio - Full Interview: Andrew... · 0 replies · +1 points

It was suggested we crowd source some thoughts. While I hope to read the book in the future to better understand the argument, I haven't done so. Please take the comments in that light..

I'd like to offer an alternative theory to the reduction of jobs that we've seen in recent decades. I'm not saying my theory is the only one, but that it is likely part of the puzzle.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's Western governments decided to outsource manufacturing jobs to majority-world countries (India, China, etc) in exchange for stronger government granted monopolies on usage of the ideas that were behind the processes and expressions (Copyright, Patent, Trademark, industrial design, etc). The theory was that the "smart" people in western societies would come up with all the good ideas, and that the "large number of people" in other societies would build it all for us. They wouldn't be able to build things on their own because of the government granted monopolies on the basic knowledge building blocks upon which everything was built.

Half of this deal happened: manufacturing jobs were deliberately exported by western governments.

Then large portions of the world started to question these government granted monopolies, wondering if reduced-friction information sharing -- sometimes called peer production -- was a better way to organize the further development of knowledge. From the growth of Free Software which dominates the mobile, server and cloud spaces to Wikipedia, open access science and educational material, and so-on. In fact, more and more people believe that thinking of each other as nodes in a network able to collaborate better is a better way to grow the economy than having governments grant monopolies on knowledge.

For a growing part of society, including here in the west, these monopolies are seen as friction on the economy. They see government policy which grants stronger monopolies as job killers. I happen to believe that Bill C-11 is a job-killing bill, and will make Canada less competitive compared to the majority-world BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China, etc) countries that we are competing with for jobs. The same is true of job-killing bills like SOPA in the USA.

Is it the machines we are competing against, or each other where government policies by western governments are killing our competitiveness? Money is a measure of comparative wealth between people, and whatever "jobs" exist that we will want to pay each other for will be filled by humans. I guess I don't see this as a race against machines but against backward-facing government policies where those who are able to better harness the machines are getting competitive advantage to those whose governments are creating barriers.

Remember: everyone equally making more money is called inflation, and everyone equally making less money is deflation. It is when one human extracts more money than other humans that things are interesting.