Category Archives: Copyright

The war on copyright, and your rights online

Stealing bandwidth through inline linking

I found out today that another blogger out there is using a photo that I took:

http://blogantes.blogspot.com/2005/11/tic-tac-tic-tac-o-tempo-no-passa-as.html

This, in itself isn’t completely a big deal, but the way that the image is being used means that I’m paying for the bandwidth to show my image on her page. This is called inline linking or hotlinking and is considered bandwidth theft.

I’m not sure how I feel about it though. The good thing is that when a reader of her blog mouses over the image, they will see the hyperlink pointing back to my site. I’m not sure this was intentional or not. I’m not sure of the intentions of this blogger at all, because the site’s not in English.

Any thoughts about what I should do? I know there are ways to restrict the serving of links to only users coming from my main site. I’ve considered serving up a different image with a nasty message to readers of her blog. I mean, when she made the inline link, she gave me the power to substitute any image I want, right?

Google Image searching is partly to blame for this. I’ve been seeing a lot of visitors come to my site via a search for “clock”. So this might only get worse in the future. But for now, I’m just chillin’ about it.

Update: Following the discussion in the comments, I’ve marked the photo with a copyright notice and my name. So at least my name gets out there.

Update again: Yikes!!! I took a serious look at my webserver logs tonight and found out some pretty interesting things besides this one blogger using my clock image.

  • In the past 8 days, I’ve served the image 1496 times for a total of 40 MB! (That’s 7.44% of the total hits on my site. In comparison, the header image of my blog has been served 1134 times, or 5.64% of the hits.)
  • It’s being used in about 37 different blogs and message forums. And someone has even incorporated it as the background image of a weblog theme (!).
  • It’s the last image on the first page of a Google Image search for “clock”.

This last item caused the previous two, especially since it’s the clearest-looking image of a whole analog clock presented on the results page. Check out this screenshot.

In other words, I got screwed big time. So, I’ve implemented the robots.txt filtering that Jim suggested. This won’t do anything until Google and others recrawl my site. So, to stop my leaking bandwidth, I’ve renamed the file so no one can find it. This will break all the webpages out there that inline-link to the image. This will also break my weblog entry about the clock. (I thought about fixing my code to point to the renamed file, but Google Images would show my page with the corrected image, so people could still grab it.) In about a month, after Google drops my image from its search results, I’ll fix my code and restore my page to normal. Hopefully, thereafter, the problem won’t return.

What surprised me most about all this is how prevalent this practice is: people on web forums and weblog hosting services use inline linking a lot to spice up their entries. This happens because they either have no hosting options, or it’s just too easy to copy and paste a link from Google Images. They probably have no idea that this behaviour makes them such bad neighbours on the Web.

Spell Check, Anyone?

I bought a Don Williams CD from a fairly mainstream music store here in Beijing. It looked okay, had holograms in all the right places, and even had a silver ingot inside the see-through spine, bearing the name of the record label: “Bailey”. When I actually opened the package and turned the disc over, the recorded surface was all pitted and didn’t look right. So I wasn’t surprised when my CD player couldn’t read the Table of Contents. Fortunately, my computer’s CD player was able to read it without problems. But here’s the most interesting bit. The warning that goes around the outer label of the disc reads as follows:

ALL RIGHTS OF PRODUCLER AND THE OWNER REPRODDUCED RESERVED VNATHRISD COPYING HURING LENDING PUBFORMACE AND BROAD CASTING OF THIS RECROING IS PROHIBTEDFGHIDDGHH OFDREDFG ISDSHUE DFGJBCCMNHJ DOIUES FIHBXZSK DFIRUWERITIT REIWE EOERIR FUYUY

As a former Social Studies teacher of mine used to say, “I kid you not.” Spell check, anyone? Nope, not in China. I guess what I bought wasn’t legitimate after all. The music’s great, though.

Rip-Mix-Burn is Alive and Well in China

Imagine for a moment the under-served population of fans of both Mickey Mouse (TM) and the Teletubbies (TM). When choosing her wardrobe and accessories, today’s fan of these cultural icons would forever be forced to choose between Mickey Mouse or Teletubby for a given item, always having to weigh one above the other in her fashion choices. Imagine the horror.

Well, not anymore. Women in the free state of the People’s Republic of China now have more choice than ever. Just today, I saw a woman on the subway proudly displaying her love for her respective “licenced” characters by sporting a purse with a large, jovial Mickey Mouse against a white background dancing purple Teletubbies. The joy! (My eyes are tearing up as I write this.)

Without the restriction of corporate licenses, the fashion and accessory manufacturers in China (truly gods in their fields) are able to create goods for even the smallest niches of the market, including our Mickey Mouse-loving / Teletubby-infatuated subway rider. The free market thrives here, and it is truly wonderful thing.

Why content must be free

Have you ever researched a certain topic on the Internet, gotten a bunch of promising results back from a search engine, and tried to access the links, but ultimately you were blocked from being able to read the articles because the websites hosting the information said a subscription or a fee was required? How did you feel? Pissed off, certainly. What did you do? You opened your wallet and became a subscriber? I highly doubt it. You most certainly moved down the list to the other content you could actually access. What does this mean to a content provider?

When traditional print publishers were introduced to the World Wide Web, they didn’t get it at first. They wanted to charge for their content. Some still don’t get it. In a fascinating interview about his highly influential IT Conversations, Doug Kaye spells it out plainly why content must be free. I’ve never heard anyone explain this before, and so well, even though I’ve always held the belief. And Doug Kaye is not some anti-capitalist quack. He’s a very well known entrepreneur in the IT business, and his IT Conversations, which offers audio recordings of conferences and interviews in IT, science, and technology for free download, is listened to by the most influential people in the industry. Here’s what he has to say, transcribed from the interview:

People are listening to the shows, but more importantly, people are linking to us… This is why the content has to be free… When content can be linked to, the value of that content goes way up… It’s the linking that allows people to essentially participate in the remix culture, as Larry Lessig says… It’s the remix and reuse of the content that actually makes it more valuable. When you do something like The New York Times is doing and put your content behind a toll gate of 49 dollars a year, you’re taking it off the market. You’re saying, “This stuff cannot be reused, it cannot be remixed, nobody can link to it.” And what you’ve done is, you’ve killed it. You’ve taken all the value out of it.

Listen to a 2-minute clip of the above text here:

Doug Kaye on why content must be free (2:18, 814 kB)

The entire interview is actually worth listening to. In it, you’ll learn about Doug Kaye’s business background before and during the dot-com era, how he started IT Conversations, and where he plans to take it in the future. He also throws his support behind BitTorrent, as he intends to use it for distribution in the new project. You can catch the entire interview here:

The Birth of Podcasting, Chocolate and Peanut Butter, and BitTorrent

In his keynote speech at Gnomedex 5.0, podcasting pioneer Adam Curry tells the story of how he and Dave Winer accidentally created podcasting. He uses the analogy of Chocolate and Peanut Butter from the legendary Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial and the analogy of switching places from Tom Hanks’ movie Big (1988). It’s a very entertaining tale of how it all got started, and Curry covers where we are today, the impact that podcasting is having on music producers and music listeners alike, and he gives a call-to-arms regarding things podcasting developers should fix right now.

Wonderfully, Curry makes the announcement that he is going to embrace BitTorrent as a distribution mechanism for his Daily Source Code podcast. This is important because, politically, as a peer-to-peer technology, BitTorrent needs some high-profile examples of legitimate, non-infringing use. Through its peer-to-peer design, BitTorrent is able to reduce the bandwidth costs for the podcast producers and increase the download speed and efficiency for podcast listeners. Curry’s announcement parallels Doug Kaye’s intention to adopt BitTorrent for his new IT Conversations venture.

If you are at all interested in podcasting, or just curious about this new medium (by the people!), I encourage you to go download and listen to Adam Curry’s speech.

An iPod plugin for Winamp

The iPod is pretty cool because it is so well designed, but it has some disadvantages. The prominent disadvantage is that it is completely tied to Apple’s iTunes software, and iTunes doesn’t work with older versions of Windows, such as Win98. According to this Wired article entitled “IPod Plug-In Sets Music Free”, iTunes is a 40-MB download, but Winamp is only 4 MB and the plugin only takes up 130 kB of space. So you can manage the iPod with an older version of Windows using Winamp. That’s cool. And furthermore, the plugin allows you to copy music from the iPod back onto a computer, a functionality that is missing (on purpose) from the iTunes software. The ml_iPod plugin has the following motto: “Your iPod just became useful.” Great!

The end of the humble music CD

Damn, Mark Cuban is intelligent. I guess that’s why he’s a millionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks. I’ve started reading his blog, and he’s got an interesting essay on the beginning of the end for the humble music CD.

Then it occurred to me, that I haven’t used my CD Player, portable or at home, in a long, long time. That I rarely, if ever see anyone walking around with a portable CD player anymore. They have all been replaced by MP3 players. If everyone is switching to MP3 players, whether they are iPods, in phones, in PDAs, in cars, whatever, then that means that everyone is going to have to go through a multistep process in order to get the music from where or how they buy it, to the place they want it.

That’s not good for the people selling music. Particularly retail stores…

This is something my Uncle Melvin would be interested in reading. I’ll have to point him there. The rest of you already know:

About my vacation

Well, I’ve got a day and a half left here in Edmonton before I return home, so perhaps I’m a little late with a blog entry about my vacation. It’s been great with only a few glitches. I spent my first week here being sicker than I’ve ever been in my life. Then week two saw me very unproductive with a severe case of fatigue. Fortunately, it went away, so I’ve been able to get things done and to see a few people during this last week without any health problems holding me back.

My mom and Aron got married last week and it was fun and beautiful. They’re now in Spain and I’ve got the house and my mom’s car to myself.

I had a great conversation with my friend Dave Ballantyne about all things copyright and capitalism. I learned some surprising things about how the idea of intellectual property is actually anti-capitalist, and so is 100% of all discussion on either side of the copyright war. But the world has to wait until Dave finishes his Master’s thesis this summer before we can read his ideas on the subject in essay form.

And last night I had a great conversation with my friend Bruce Dean about his life right now, his adventures being the official driver for Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft during the election campaign, and how he got wrongfully fired three weeks ago and is now fighting to get his job back on two fronts. And yes, as he said, he seems more at peace about his life now than he’s ever been before. I wish him well.

Tonight I’ll have dinner at my sister’s. And then tomorrow I’ve got a dance with Swing-Out Edmonton. Sunday morning I fly outta here, in time to catch the dance class in Beijing on Monday night. See y’all there.