Free Talk Live: IP and Disney

Listening to the Wednesday edition of Free Talk Live on my Treo 650 today; listening to Ian pound Mark over the head for his support for Intellectual Property rights. (third day in a row, I might add…)

Generally, I agree with Mark on this issue. As an architect, I know that the thought that goes into design is a valuable commodity that needs to be protected. Otherwise the less scrupulous out there will simply wait for someone else to do the hard work of invention so that they can then profit from it at the inventor’s expense. Contrary to Ian’s assertions, I’ve not seen any evidence that people will do the months and years of work required to bring something to market unless they have reasonable confidence that they will make a profit from it. If anybody can copy a design and be free to sell it the day after it hits the market (or as in the case of the Chinese clothing ‘pirates’, even before it hits the market) then the chances for profit are greatly reduced. I don’t know of any business that stays in business without making a profit.

On the other hand, I don’t really believe that corporations (like Disney) should be allowed to hold rights to intellectual property. Those rights should be limited to real people, not legal entities that will continue to expect a profit long past the lifespan of the original author. Disney is a prime example of this, since their lobbying was instrumental in getting the latest extension to copyright terms passed.

There is a phrase that applies to the subject of Disney characters and the school mural that was the subject of rather heated discussion on Wednesday’s show. That phrase is “work of art”. A work of art is generally exempt from claims of copyright infringement. That doesn’t stop the corporations with lawyers and money at their disposal threatening people with legal action if their demands aren’t met. The truth is that the school blinked when Disney decided to play hard ball. If push had come to shove, Disney would probably have dropped the case.

Copyright terms expiring was the real reason for Disney going after public displays of their copyrighted works. Like Coke being synonymous with cola and Kleenex with facial tissue, Disney was fighting the battle of keeping their property from passing into the public domain; and they won that battle by passing new legislation. If corporations were excluded from owning these types of property, the entire battle could have been avoided.

[On the question from a listener concerning the objectivist opinion on the subject; as an objectivist myself, I think I can vouch for the fact that objectivists in general understand the need to protect the “mind’s contribution” to the creative effort]

Oh, and Ian, your disbelief in intellectual property doesn’t equate to the non-existence of intellectual property. But your willingness to steal other peoples ideas speaks volumes to the subject of why the MPAA and the RIAA are willing to go to such lengths to protect their investments.

For what it’s worth, this is one of those arguments that illustrates the very narrow difference between a communist (in the government-less nature of the word ‘commune’) and the little ‘a’ anarchists and the extreme edge of the Libertarian party. They would also tell you that ideas ‘should be free’, but I’m not willing to live in their version of utopia either.

Flight Simulator: Terrorist trainer?

I don’t want to give any credence to this guy’s rant on the subject of the usefulness of a flight sim like Microsoft Flight Simulator as a terrorist training tool…

However, I was watching United 93 on the History Channel the other day, and what do I see but advertisements for the flight simulator during the commercial breaks.

[Not a very good film. I really didn’t think it would be.]

Talk about bad ad placement. It’s like advertising Ginsu knives during the Lorena Bobbitt story. Not necessarily what you would like your product to be used for, to say the least.

SyFy Awards: Firefly a Winner

Even though it hasn’t been on the air in two years, Firefly took six awards in the popularly judged SyFy Genre Awards (hosted by SyFy Portal) this year.

The SciFi Channel aired three first-run episodes of the short lived series last season, qualifying the series for consideration in the awards this year. Loyal fans of the show clearly came through with support, giving it the ‘best series’ award for 2006, beating out SciFi’s own Battlestar Galactica.

The Firefly winners were:

BEST ACTOR/Television
WINNER:
Nathan Fillion, “Firefly”
RUNNER-UP: Matthew Fox, “Lost.”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/Television
WINNER:
Adam Baldwin, “Firefly”
RUNNER-UP: Terry O’Quinn, “Lost.”

BEST SPECIAL GUEST/Television
WINNER:
Christina Hendricks, “Trash,” Firefly
RUNNER-UP: Claudia Black, “Avalon, Part 1,” Stargate SG-1

BEST EPISODE/Television
WINNER:
“Trash,” Firefly
RUNNER-UP: “Dalek,” Doctor Who

BEST Series/Television
WINNER:
Firefly
RUNNER-UP: Lost

The complete list of this years awards can be found here: http://www.syfyportal.com/news.php?id=2895

As the founder of Syfy Portal (Michael Hinman) observed “These types of wins shows how important fan bases are, and how effective they can be in fan-voted awards such as this,” “While some might question how much power these fanbases have, it is the fanbases that ultimately helps decide the fates of television shows and movies.”

The Wiki entry for a complete list and history can be found here: SyFy Genre Awards

An Explanation For the Link at Right

ZD Net Security: Second third-party fix out for Windows bug

Microsoft, with their legions of programmers, have to rely on uncompensated third parties to write patches for their worthless software. From the story:

The group, calling itself the Zeroday Emergency Response Team, or ZERT, created the patch so Windows users can protect their PCs while Microsoft works on an official update. People have a choice of third-party fixes. Security company Determina on Friday released a patch it authored for the same flaw.

Personally, I find this completely unacceptable. I also find it to be the norm when dealing with large corporations and their worthless products.

Microsoft plans to issue a fix for the problem on Oct. 10, its regularly scheduled patch day; pretty much meets the description of “a day late and a dollar short”.

Download Firefox with the button at the right top of the page…

Liberty Dollar Says NO to the US Mint Allegations

Thought I would post the Liberty Dollar’s rebuttal here since I’ve already posted on the story in the past.


The US Mint News Story in Perspective

The recent United States Mint warning regarding NORFED and the Liberty Dollar offers a rare opportunity. Let’s face it, it had to happen…with the growth and prevalence of the Liberty Dollar over the last eight years, the Government had to respond.

They went public and cleared the air in many ways. First, they stated that the gold and silver Liberty Dollar ‘medallions’ are not US Mint bullion coins, nor are they legal tender…just as NORFED always advertised. Secondly, they stated that the Liberty Dollars are privately produced, and not backed, nor affiliated with, the United States Government…of course not, they’re backed by gold and silver, again, just as NORFED has always advertised. Here it is in plain sight…the Liberty Dollar is not a coin, not legal tender, and backed with inflation proof gold and silver!

So what has happened? Goliath just introduced David to millions of Americans as a nationally recognized underdog. Just as Pepsi went up against Coke with their “take the Pepsi Challenge” campaign, the Liberty Dollar will take it to the people to decide which currency they should use. Welcome to “Just try the Liberty Dollar” campaign. So keep doing “the drop” and spreading the word. We are within our rights to offer Liberty Dollars for goods and services to whoever will voluntarily accept them.

Since the Liberty Dollar has hit mainstream media via USA Today, AOL, Reuters, etc visits to our website have soared to almost 10 time’s normal traffic. Online orders have skyrocketed as well! Everything from bumper stickers to Liberty Dollars are being ordered plus new Liberty Associates are signing up…America is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. The people are speaking and they want the Liberty Dollar! Comments like “The US Mint can bite me” and “I’m exercising my right to choose” have been included with many of the orders received.

Critical-thinking free individuals, groups and associations are stepping up offering assistance and support to the Liberty Dollar. Let’s keep the momentum going, get your orders in now while silver is at its lowest in months…whether Silver Certificates or Silver Libertys, the beautiful new five ounce Eighth Anniversary $100 commemorative or the very spendable $5 “Quarter Lib”…all are right… right now. Buy now and demonstrate your commitment to the value-backed, inflation-proof Liberty Dollar…practice your right to a free-market currency.

I also want to extend my sincerest thanks and appreciation to every Regional Currency Officer, Liberty Associate, and Liberty Merchant for their past support. Looking to the future our greatest opportunities and challenges are yet to come. Success takes many forms, but the satisfaction of accomplishment, of doing what you set out to do, can offer the greatest reward especially if that reward is returning America to Value – One Liberty Dollar at a time.

Please review our official Disclaimer and Press Release that specifically address the allegations made by the US Mint on Thursday, September 14.

Mike Johnson

Executive Director
NORFED/Liberty Dollar
www.LibertyDollar.org
1.888.421.6181


LIBERTY DOLLAR PRESS RELEASE

Liberty Dollar Says NO to the US Mint Allegations

The United States Mint inadvertently may have done THE LIBERTY DOLLAR, an acclaimed private, non-government currency and favorite numismatic item distributed by NORFED, Inc., a favor by posting a “Warning” on its website on September 14 entitled “Liberty Dollars Not Legal Tender, United States Mint Warns Consumers.” The last thing NORFED, Inc., known for the Liberty Dollar, wants is for someone to be confused that the gold and silver based Liberty Dollar has some connection with the Federal Government’s fiat money, which is based upon nothing more than popular acceptance for lack of an alternative.

Since the introduction in 1998 of the Liberty Dollar every effort has been made to promote and market the Liberty Dollar with educational tools by clearly and repeatedly pointing out that the Liberty Dollar is not United States Mint fiat money, is not legal tender, is not[/u] a coin, is not currency in the sense of governmental coinage, and is not money in the sense of governmental coinage. (Currency and money have varied dictionary definitions. In its own interest the Liberty Dollar has every incentive to clarify that the Liberty Dollar has no connection with the Feds – and that’s what has been done, and continues to be done, over and over.)

Any claim of the forgoing would be contrary to the purpose and function of the Liberty Dollar, which, in addition to its being a numismatic item is a means of voluntary barter.

The US Mint Warning has apparently been responsible for a gigantic increase in media and citizen attention to, clarification of, and evidently purchase of a lot more Liberty Dollars. Mike Johnson, Executive Director for the Liberty Dollar notes that, “There never has been such a volume of response – and incredibly favorable response – to the Liberty Dollar.”

However, the US Mint Warning makes a big and wholly unjustified mistake. At the end of the opening paragraph it says: “Prosecutors within the Department of Justice have determined that the use of these gold and silver NORFED ‘Liberty Dollar’ medallions as circulating money is a Federal crime.”

After some introductory misstatements, erroneously relying upon 18 USC § 486, the last sentence claims that “ . . . prosecutors with [sic] the United States Department of Justice have concluded that the use of NORFED’s ‘Liberty Dollar’ medallions violates 18 USC § 486, and is a crime.”

Leaving aside the fact that the United States Mint has no criminal jurisdiction and no authority to interpret, much less enforce, the Criminal Code, the fact is that nobody in the Federal Government has ever contacted the Liberty Dollar or anybody responsibly connected with it, to investigate, much less to claim, that there is something unlawful about the Liberty Dollar.

Just the opposite. Over and again people have enquired of responsible personnel in the United States Secret Service, in the Department of the Treasury Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in the United States Federal Reserve and so on. Just a few of the responses: An Engraving and Printing spokeswoman said, “There’s nothing illegal about this. As long as it doesn’t say legal tender there’s nothing wrong with it.” A Washington, D. C. Federal Reserve System spokesman said, “There is no law that says goods and services must be paid for with Federal Reserve notes. Parties entering into a transaction can establish any medium of exchange that is agreed upon.” A Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis official said, “If these [NORFED] people want to issue their own money, so be it.”

The Liberty Dollar exists, and does so very well, with an estimated $20 million worth of gold and silver Liberty Dollars and Silver Certificates in voluntary circulation as barter, and growing, because the Liberty Dollar is not legal tender, is not connected with any governmental agency and, unlike United States coins and Federal Reserve notes, it is not fiat – or, what some might say, “funny” money.

LIBERTY DOLLAR DISCLAIMER

The Liberty Dollar and other precious-metal mintings distributed by NORFED, Inc., dba the Liberty Dollar, never have claimed to be, do not claim to be, are not, and do not purport to be, legal tender, or a coin.

The noun currency has many dictionary definitions – for example, without limitation, “that which is current as a medium of exchange[,]” “circulation as a medium of exchange[,]” “a common article for bartering[.]” In the sense that currency may be used to refer to the coinage of a government the Liberty Dollar never has claimed to be, does not claim to be, is not, and does not purport to be, currency.

The noun money also has many dictionary definitions – for example, again without limitation, “something generally accepted as a medium of exchange[,]” “a measure of value[,]” “a means of payment[.]” In the sense that money may be used to refer to the coinage of a government the Liberty Dollar never has claimed to be, does not claim to be, is not, and does not purport to be, money.

The phrase legal tender is more specifically defined and does not meaningfully vary from the authoritative BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY definition, “The money (bills and coins) approved in a country for the payment of debts, the purchase of goods, and other exchanges of value.” In other words, legal tender is what a government authoritatively designates as the medium which a creditor must accept from a debtor if it is offered. The Liberty Dollar never has claimed to be, does not claim to be, is not, and does not purport to be, legal tender. The Liberty Dollar repeatedly has emphasized that it is not legal tender. Legal tender and barter are mutually exclusive. The Liberty Dollar is a numismatic piece or medallion which may be used voluntarily as barter.

The noun coin invariably is defined as “a round piece of metal issued by governmental authority as money” or an equivalent phrase. The Liberty Dollar never has claimed to be, does not claim to be, is not, and does not purport to be, a coin.

Any claim of the forgoing would be contrary to the purpose and function of the Liberty Dollar, which, in addition to its being a numismatic item, is a means of voluntary barter.

The Liberty Dollar would be glad to refer any inquiries to counsel in Washington, D.C.

Inalienable Rights Defined

(Originally posted here)

I had a request the other day to elaborate on how I would define inalienable rights without including god as the architect. This is a summation of what I’ve posted before on the subject.


Simply put, You exist. You exist as a individual, capable of sustaining your own life. The requirements for you life to continue can be conceptualized into ‘rights’ that you possess as a living, thinking being. You have the right to continue in your life, since you are capable of sustaining it barring intervention by others. This right is secured by the rational capacity of the individual, linked to the corporeal existence/free will of the individual, which manifests as actions in ‘self defense’.

Your ‘right to life’ leads to corollary rights. Existence is measured in time, and time (spent wisely) yields game/crops/shelter or ‘property’. You have a right to (justly acquired) property because your continued existence (your ‘right to life’) depends on being able to dispose of your property (the manifestation of productive life) as you see fit. Following this type of chain, you can produce several ‘rights’ that a person should reasonably expect to be ‘allowed’ to exercise. Liberty is the corollary right that ‘allowing’ falls under, since there would be no question of the free exercise of your rights if you did not have others with equal rights to contend with.

Since we all equally exist, we should all have ‘equal’ rights. The rights are inseparable because they stem from what we are. A prisoner has rights. Not because we ‘allow’ them; but because his free will enables them. The fact that there are prison breaks is merely proof that the prisoners maintain their rights *in spite of* the full force of gov’t and the people being intent on denying them the exercise of same. The unjustified killing of a person is therefore a destruction of a value equal to your own, and should be dealt with harshly by those who value the rights they possess.

That’s about as far as I’ve taken it. Much more to be written…


Mea culpa review, 2017. I haven’t updated the page recently, but if you go to Emergent Principles of Human Nature you will discover that my mental obsession with this topic has produced some fruit. Fruit of questionable value probably, but something at least. 

Abortion Argument in the News Again; Must be Election Season

(Originally posted here)

I see this subject pop up at every election cycle. I doubt this time around will be any different.

I’m so tired of this argument; I’ve been involved in online debates on this issue for more than 10 years. I’m tired of it because ‘I’ know the right answer; but neither of the entrenched sides of the discussion care to recognize it, no matter how many times I re-explain it.
Abortion wastes potential life (not a ‘life’ itself. That requires brain function and breath; facts which the ‘pro-lifers’ gloss over in the quest to ‘save’ the unborn. Question: how do you save children from their own parents? Even the born ones?) and so should not be used casually; especially medical abortion. Waste of potential, of any kind, is repugnant; but there is more than one potential at risk here.

A woman has the right to use and abuse her own body as she sees fit. Dictating to her the ‘sacred’ nature of the potentials she is faced with is an invasion of her privacy. (Question: why isn’t male masturbation illegal? It too wastes potential ‘life’) If ‘she’ has no privacy, does ‘he’ deserve it? If individuals have no privacy, then neither do businesses. Can you imagine corporations opening the inner workings of their board rooms to public scrutiny? Can you imagine why Roe v. Wade remains; and will continue as a decision?

The right answer is that gov’t has no business being involved in abortion; it shouldn’t be banning it, and it shouldn’t be paying for it. It is wholly a decision of the individual involved; she does not
have a ‘right’ to expensive medical procedures, nor does the husband have a ‘right’ force his will on her (Don’t like it? Don’t plant seeds where they aren’t wanted) It is a private matter; and the right to privacy exists whether you will it or not.

There is a need to determine, as a measure of justice, when life can be proven to exist (without destroying privacy) so that those who are in fact taking life meet with the justice they deserve. I haven’t heard a logical answer, other than the one handed down by Wade, from anybody to date. I would resist any statement, by any group I was affiliated with, other than one that encompasses this simple fact; a declaration of what life is; and the need to hold it as a supreme value.
Anything else is a waste of time, and violation of rights which I hold sacred.


Mea culpa review, 2017. Mercifully my libertarian delusions about tax dollars and government health expenditures fell by the wayside of my deeper understanding of what money is and what society is. What good governance entails. It could have happened sooner, but I’ll take the enlightenment anyway I can get it.

The last article I wrote on this subject was this one, in which I come out unambiguously on the side of choice, science having pretty much taken us to the edge of survivability for the fetus outside the womb. What is needed now, if the anti-abortionists want to prevail on this subject, is an artificial womb. With that invention the woman need no longer carry the baby to term herself, it can be implanted in the artificial womb and the lifers who think every sperm is sacred can just foot the bill for raising all those previously aborted children.

I’m sure they’ll jump at the chance to pay for that. 

DRM: Moderate?

I’m apparently a moderate on the subject. According to this Information Week story:

Calling themselves freedom fighters, members of the Free Software Foundation are engaging in a campaign against Digital Rights Management, which they emphatically refer to as Digital Restrictions Management.

Everytime I hear the phrase freedom fighter, I think of the old Robin Williams joke “What do you call people who fight fires? Fire fighters. So, what does a freedom fighter do?” Aside from that, I wish them luck.

DRM is the most Ill-conceived technological nightmare to come along in a long time. I’d like nothing more than to see the entire concept flushed along with the rest of the waste…

DRM: Who’s Rights are They?

The announcement from Universal last week brought up the subject of DRM, a sore spot for me and most of the people who listen to online music. But you would think that it had been smooth sailing for all these online years, if you believed the arguments that I’ve seen over the last week.

Napster and it’s overseas descendants aren’t and never were a problem, MP3.com wasn’t virtually hounded off the ‘net for daring to exercise fair use, DRM is a completely logical exercise of the rights holders over copyrighted material, which presents no problems to the end users who purchase the material.

…And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you.

First off, let’s get a few definitions straight. The term piracy, as it is used in software circles these days, is a completely unworkable definition. Piracy involves profiting through theft, not copying files. While it can be argued that the end user ‘profits’ from copying files that he has not paid for, that sort of profiting is in a whole different league from the person who sells CDs and DVDs (and even the computer files themselves) that he’s made without license from the copyright holder. However, there is no distinction between the two in the eyes of Microsoft (and the other corporate software vendors) the RIAA and the MPAA; a completely ridiculous proposition on the face of it.

Then there is the term contract, in which the software industry claims their EULAs and online contracts are no different than a printed, signed and witnessed contract of a truly legal nature. However, if you trotted out the verbiage contained in the average EULA, I doubt you’d find many people willing to commit to the agreement, since the agreement invariably holds the software company innocent of any possible wrongdoing, while setting up a legal fence around the user so as to tightly constrain what uses the material can be put to.

Here is a piece of timely advice; never sign a contract that has been written by an attorney other than one in your employ without first having an attorney who is in your employ look it over. Contracts are always negotiable by both parties if they are to be considered valid. When you sign your name to a contract you agree to the terms, thereby waiving your right to negotiate terms in advance. A EULA does not allow for physical signatures and so consequently are not really contracts at all.

Additionally, any contract that you have to accept without negotiation is a contract that no one should hold themselves constrained by, since they had no say in what the exact contents of the contract would be.

Now when it comes to EULA’s I have to ask; Do you support the dishonest business practice of attempting to hold a customer to a contract that isn’t presented until after the transaction has taken place, or are you an honest businessman who presents the contract before any other business occurs? Anyone who thinks that it is commonplace and acceptable to withhold conditions of a sale until after the transaction has taken place is by definition a dishonest businessman. Honesty requires full disclosure before the sale. Restrictions that are revealed after the sale is finalized are not enforceable, as they are generally held to be outside of current law, and are a violation of the standard of full disclosure. In a nutshell, it is a dishonest and/or fraudulent business practice to withhold this type of information.

With the above as the generally understood standard of doing business, that contracts which I have not explicitly agreed to in writing are not binding, and that contracts that are not revealed until after the sale is finalized are not enforceable…

…Should I be faulted for holding the opinion that “All sales are final. The files are mine. Anything they have to say about my treatment of my files after that point is a claim. There is no agreement, other than cash for music files. There was no other legal contract presented.” and stripping the DRM from files that I had paid for and wished to listen to on a device of my choosing?

Apparently I am to be faulted. At least in the eyes of the people who plan on making money off of the legally clueless out there.

Fair use allows the user to make copies of copyrighted material for his own use. My own use requires that I strip the DRM from music files sold on most popular websites. If the websites attempted to enforce the contract terms, they would only alienate their customer base; ergo, it is nothing more than a paper tiger, never to be enforced except to remove individual user accounts.

…And if I can’t actually make the files usable, I don’t know why I would need an account in the first place.

The last definition that needs clarification: DRM, Digital Rights Management. The corporations that own the content have rights (which DRM manages) but you the user don’t. You have privileges that they can take away if they please. Welcome to the digital millennium.

My experience with the difficulty of using iTunes (and other DRM restricted services) has convinced me that DRM regimes are soon to be a thing of the past. It’s also convinced me that I will spend money on sites that don’t add DRM to the files. Sites like Sound Click for example. I don’t need to go to full out piracy sites (I find real pirates and their practices quite distasteful) I have no problem going down to the used CD store and getting the music I’m looking for at less than the dollar a song most sites are charging. I might download songs from Universal’s announced site, but only if I can remove the DRM.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem. The only way to make DRM enforceable is to appoint an ultimate Sys-Admin, a company that has the power to open back doors on all the computers currently in operation, and snoop through the files to make sure that no one is using files that they haven’t paid for. A job that Microsoft desperately wants to be given, as they quite eagerly pointed out when they announced the rollout of Longhorn (now Vista) two or three years ago. A big brother situation that I shudder to contemplate.

Otherwise DRM is an unworkable solution in the long term. As more content becomes available on the ‘net, more and more of it will appear shortly after it’s initial release with DRM, sans it’s protective wrapper, ready to be copied by anybody who doesn’t have an aversion to dealing with pirates.

Might as well just come up with a different solution now, save us all the hassle.

Where’s Flash?

Here’s a prime example of a film that needs to be re-issued. Couldn’t even find it to rent:

The DVD is only available used, and only at twice the original sales price. On laserdisc format it’s available used at a third the original sales price. Obviously less demand there.

I’ve got part of the soundtrack as a Queen collection, and the children want to see the movie. I have to admit, I saw it once as a teenager, and I think I was too hard on it.

Surely it couldn’t have been that bad?


The film is actually available now on instant video from Amazon. We managed to get a DVD of it (UK region 2) a few years back (I think it was 5 bucks with shipping) Of course, the regionless DVD player has since crapped out necessitating a potential repurchase of films that I really don’t want to admit purchasing the first time. I guess we all have skeletons in our closets.