Michael Geist sez,
In what has become an annual rite of spring, each April the U.S. government releases its Special 301 report – often referred to as the Piracy Watch List – which claims to identify countries with sub-standard intellectual property laws. Canada has appeared on this list for many years alongside dozens of countries. In fact, over 70% of the world’s population is placed on the list and most African countries are not even considered for inclusion.
While the Canadian government has consistently rejected the U.S. list because it “basically lacks reliable and objective analysis”, this year I teamed up with Public Knowledge to try to provide the U.S. Trade Representative Office with something a bit more reliable and objective. Public Knowledge will appear at a USTR hearing on Special 301 today. In addition, last week we participated in meetings at the U.S. Department of Commerce and USTR to defend current Canadian copyright law and the proposed reforms.
The full submission focuses on four main issues: how Canadian law provides adequate and effective protection, how enforcement is stronger than often claimed, why Canada is not a piracy haven, and why Bill C-11 does not harm the interests of rights holders (critics of Bill C-11 digital lock rules will likely think this is self-evident).
Why Canada Does Not Belong on the U.S. Piracy Watchlist
Carlos Bueno, author of a kids’ book about understanding computers called Lauren Ipsum, describes what happens when the cadre of competing bots that infest Amazon’s sales-database began to viciously fight with one another over pricing for his book. It’s a damned weird story.
Before I talk about my own troubles, let me tell you about another book, “Computer Game Bot Turing Test”. It’s one of over 100,000 “books” “written” by a Markov chain running over random Wikipedia articles, bundled up and sold online for a ridiculous price. The publisher, Betascript, is notorious for this kind of thing.
It gets better. There are whole species of other bots that infest the Amazon Marketplace, pretending to have used copies of books, fighting epic price wars no one ever sees. So with “Turing Test” we have a delightful futuristic absurdity: a computer program, pretending to be human, hawking a book about computers pretending to be human, while other computer programs pretend to have used copies of it. A book that was never actually written, much less printed and read.
The internet has everything.
This would just be an interesting anecdote, except that bot activity also seems to affect books that, you know, actually exist. Last year I published my children’s book about computer science, Lauren Ipsum. I set a price of $14.95 for the paperback edition and sales have been pretty good. Then last week I noticed a marketplace bot offering to sell it for $55.63. “Silly bots”, I thought to myself, “must be a bug”. After all, it’s print-on-demand, so where would you get a new copy to sell?
Then it occured to me that all they have to do is buy a copy from Amazon, if anyone is ever foolish enough to buy from them, and reap a profit. Lazy evaluation, made flesh. Clever bots!
Then another bot piled on, and then one based in the UK. They started competing with each other on price. Pretty soon they were offering my book below the retail price, and trying to make up the difference on “shipping and handling”. I was getting a bit worried.
Sidebar: Lauren Ipsum sounds so interesting, I’ve just ordered a copy to read to my daughter!
How Bots Seized Control of My Pricing Strategy
By George Webber
Last year I had 250 business cards printed up with printed on them and nothing else. Since then I’ve been finding handy uses for them: writing notes, flirting with girls on the bus, propping up the occasional table, whatever. A nearly-blank business card is a surprisingly useful thing to have around.
The best thing I’ve been using them for is to make meeting lots of people more interesting. I’m normally very nervous about meeting new people, I’m regularly thrust into intimidating situations, and I meet so many different kinds of people that it’s often hard to come up with something to talk about immediately.
Now I ask them to play my game: I hand them a pen and one of these cards and ask them to complete the drawing. No time limit, no wrong answers, do whatever you want. You just have to give it back to me so I can take it home and scan it. Your reward when you’re finished is that you get to see the whole collection of what other people have done. And once a couple of people have done one, that stack grows quickly.
I’ve been collecting these for a while (you can see the full collection on my blog), but last night I stumbled upon Sketch Tuesday (on Wednesday) at the 111 Minna Gallery where dozens of artists from local museums and elsewhere came to draw. This was a particularly fruitful evening for the game, and I’ve put all of the cards I collected after the jump.
Thanks to Christian, Willa, Tim, Paul, George, Rick, Mae, Kimberly, Jim, Andrew, Lonnie, Adam, Drew, Brandon, and whoever else did one of these for me!
By Josh Ellingson
By Willa Koerner
By Andrew Farago… I think.
By Paul Hayes
By Christian Davies
By Lonnie Shekhtman
By Willa Koerner
By Ben Collison
A heartening development in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s ongoing effort to secure the Internet’s timezone database, which was threatened when an astrology software company called Astrolabe claimed a copyright in the arrangement of the world’s timezones. After EFF sought sanctions against the company’s lawyers, the company dropped the suit, apologized, and signed a “covenant not to sue.”
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.”
EFF Wins Protection for Time Zone Database
On the left, a jewelry design by TattyDevine. On the right, one sold by Claire’s. I suspect that it’s a fairly generic motif, but that really is very close to an exact rip, isn’t it? Except that it’s pink, of course.
Claire’s Accessories rip-off Tatty Devine designs [Handbag.com via]
Here’s the 6th episode of MAKE‘s podcast, Make: Talk! In each episode, I’ll interview one of the makers featured in the magazine.
Our maker this week is William Gurstelle. He’s a contributing editor to MAKE and his books include Backyard Ballistics, Adventures from the Technology Underground, and Absinthe and Flamethrowers. In addition, Bill writes frequently on culture and technology for national magazines and blogs including The Atlantic, Wired, and Popular Science.
Here’s are some projects William has written for MAKE: