Dr. Wu’s* The Master Switch

July 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Copyright and IP, Technology | Leave a comment

I first learned about this book when I got the news that Tim Wu was going to be coming to the school to do a talk on it.** It’s a really engaging read. He sets the scenes well and pulls the reader in, while still advancing his larger point.

Which is basically that with the introduction of any new technology–and the disruption of the old models of monetizing whatever previous technology or methods are being displaced by the new innovations–there’s a period of openness. Experimentation prevails. There is a flourishing of creativity and of different models, different voices and so on. People can set up backyard equivalents of the new technology and put out their services or creations and reach some audience.

And then, things start to close down. The public, initially enamoured of the wide selection and the plurality of voices, starts to get drawn to something that is more mediated–and therefore of more consistent quality. And so, the entrepreneurs who manage create a model that mediates and distributes most effectively while using the new technology will prevail. Continue Reading Dr. Wu’s* The Master Switch…


Copyright in the Digital World Part II: Why Shift Focus?

July 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Copyright and IP, writing | Leave a comment

So, if it’s no longer about copying (or shouldn’t be) and it’s actually about use (or should be), then the question is: what do I mean by use*?

The way I see it, there are a lot of different ways that a work can be used:

  • “consumed” (read, listened to, etc.)
  • distributed
  • sold
  • adapted
  • sampled
  • etc.

With digitization, all these uses can be appropriated by anyone with a computer and the right programs installed.

By contrast, there are many benign reasons for copying a work and making multiple reproductions of it (e.g. so you have access to it from your various devices; printing off a fresh copy if you left your printout elsewhere and need to look at the work on the page etc.)–none of which are in any way cutting into the creator/rights holder’s ability to profit from their work, but which are illegal under a regime that emphasizes the right to copy.

Continue Reading Copyright in the Digital World Part II: Why Shift Focus?…

Copyright in the Digital World Part I: The Challenge

July 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Posted in Copyright and IP, Technology, writing | 2 Comments

Here in Canada, there is a great deal of discussion about (c)–copyright–reform. But there’s a problem. Where before, the process of copying was limited by technology, these days, you can copy with the right click of a mouse. You can then disseminate the work to a vast number of people with a few more clicks.

From what I can tell, in order to get a functional legal regime in place, you have to strike the right balance between culture and law. Right now, the two are widely divergent. We have laws that say: don’t copy. It’s illegal. It’s not your right.

And we have a culture–and supporting technology–that makes it absurdly easy to copy and ridiculously difficult to catch infringers and enforce any restrictions on copying, without raising privacy and security issues (e.g. once there’s a gap created to monitor copying, others can also exploit said gaps).

So, why are we so big on protecting the right to copy? There are a lot of stakeholders in the current regime–people who have business models built around protecting the right to copy. And that right goes back a bit.

Continue Reading Copyright in the Digital World Part I: The Challenge…

A Certain Slant of Light… [winter images]

February 20, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Posted in Notes | Leave a comment

The beauty of winter is simultaneously more subtle and more dramatically stark than that of the other seasons. I came upon this vista while walking home after a few hours’ work at a cafe last week. I loved the stratified, layered colours of the sky.


Sent from my mobile, so please pardon any typos!

On Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The streetcar. An elderly man, spouting prophetic eschatologies about God’s judgment, climbed on. He had a red, construction-paper heart pinned to his jacket that bore the handwritten words “happy valentine’s day, sweetheart”. I thought [hoped] it was because someone cared enough to make the gesture, and not an act of mockery.

He spoke in a loud, strained and reedy voice about God and judgment. Giggling girls replied, “Happy Valentine’s Day”. He continued his cautionary, end of the world monologue.

When he made to disembark, some Young Turks from the back shouted, “Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart”, and the giggling girls, still giggling, echoed the sentiment. He left the streetcar and slowly shuffled across the street to the sidewalk, while the cars idled, waiting for him to pass.

Flying Horses

February 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Posted in from the Sea of Stories, Notes | Leave a comment

My dad had an assortment of stories he used to tell my brother and me when we were kids. There was one about a king and a magician, which recently found its way into my current work in progress:

One of the stories his sister had always loved best had been about a proud king, who had summoned a magician to his court. When the sorcerer and his assistant arrived, the king led them to a stable, where a magnificent black stallion was kept.

“You are the fifth magician I have brought here,” he said. “I command you to make this horse fly.”

The magician was all too aware that the other four magicians had failed—just as he was aware that what the king asked was impossible.

“I will give you a year and a day,” the king continued. “If you succeed, I will reward you beyond your wildest dreams.”

“And if I fail?”

“Well then, I will have you decapitated.”

“I see.” The magician paused. “And what if I refuse the commission?”

“Then I shall have you killed immediately.”

The magician nodded. “In that case, I accept. I will work my magic on this horse, and in a year and a day, God willing, he will fly.”

Once the king had taken his leave, the magician’s assistant shook his head. “How could you say that, master? You know the task is impossible!”

The magician shrugged. “Many things can happen in a year and a day. I could die. The king could die. And who knows? The horse may even learn to fly.”

* * *

One of the things I always liked about this story was that to me at least, there’s no obvious lesson to be learned. It’s somewhat oblique. It could speak to the idea that anything can happen, even the seemingly impossible. Or it could speak to the fact that sometimes we’re not given a choice, and we just have to do what we have to do under difficult circumstances.

There are other readings, as well. I don’t know where it came from–it has an Arabian Nights feel to it, but the versions of the Nights that I’ve read do not feature this particular tale. Regardless of the origin, however, I’ve always been rather fond of it.

Eschatological observation?

December 6, 2010 at 12:46 am | Posted in Notes, Technology | 1 Comment

I find it somehow interesting that the one of the major companies that supplies us with personal portals into the biggest repository of knowledge we have ever assembled over the course of human history, uses a symbol as its mark of trade that hearkens back to one of our most famous stories of creation–and of downfall.

This struck me last year in class, as I sat near the front of the room and turned to see which computers people were using. A lot of apples, with single bites taken out of them, glowing back at me: yea, for I have partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  Delicious.

The circle is complete.

Tim Burton’s Alice in Queen Subway Station

February 12, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Posted in Films and Books, the Law | Leave a comment

I really loved the way they incorporated the Queen Subway tiles into the display of the poster itself. Northbound features the White Queen and southbound features the Red Queen. Clevah!

I love Tim Burton–and visuals go a long way for me, at least with regard to his work. I’m generally willing to forgive much, because I love his creative vision.

It will be a nice mid-semester escape from the madness of the 1L experience of running madly to stay in place while finding myself slipping inexorably behind. Though, in some ways, my encounters with the law are something of an Alice in Wonderland experience in themselves. While it’s never quite “off with her head” (since we don’t have the death penalty–though I sometimes have the uncomfortable sense that I’m on the verge of losing *my* head), some of the judgments do seem rather arbitrary, and decided based on some peculiar and well-concealed motives. You sometimes really do have to read between the lines to figure out why the case law suddenly takes some unexpected and inexplicable turn. And indeed, one could say that I’m wandering through the realms of Easements, Covenants, Negligence and Federal Enclaves with an Alice-like bemusement at the wonders and the mysteries of it all.

But the often-puzzling and generally fascinating Wonderland of Law isn’t nearly as pretty as the Wonderland born of a collaboration between the likes of Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton–of that I am certain. I look forward to checking it out.

Sent from my iPod, so please pardon any typos!

Is this the Face of a Cyborg?

February 6, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Posted in Technology | Leave a comment

In university (the first time), I wrote an essay about the ways in which technological devices enhance and extend our abilities. In the context of books like Neuromancer and Microserfs, I postulated that as our self-images are increasingly integrated with our virtual selves and the presences we create in the online world, those hybrid, virtual selves are, in fact, cyborgs of a sort.

Further down the line, as we ourselves are changed by our virtual identities, and we grow increasingly dependent on our connection with the interwebs–and the time we invest in that presence and those interactions–we become more and more like cyborgs ourselves.

I was reminded of this today, as I reflected on this mobile device I’ve been using, to update my blog, and the way it pulls my connection with the cyberworld into the everyday to a greater degree than ever before.

It made me think of the broader connections involved. The way that our facebook profiles are extensions of ourselves–and how our interactions there extend our social spheres into the virtual world, while bridging extraordinary distances and expanding our presences, via its incursions into different points in all corners of the Real World. Cyberspace elides distances because it is Random Acces, and our real world notion of spatiality is no longer meaningful–for all that we continue to cling to it in interpolating our conception of cyberspace.

I don’t feel like a cyborg. But am I? Is the person who walks the everyday world a cyborg at this point–someone who would feel reduced without acess to her virtual presence and contacts (email, skype, facebook, news and information, maps, instant answers to most questions that arise)? Or, is it *this* virtual self–the voice behind the blog post, the facebooker and email correspondent, the inextricable blend of my organic self and the electronic technologies I use to project myself into the online spaces–that is the cyborg? In other words: is it the picture and the words, and all the other fragments of myself that are online which are, compositely, the cyborg, or is the cyborg actually the person who created and uploaded them?

What do you think?

Sent from my iPod, so please pardon any typos!

the iPad. LOL!

January 28, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Posted in Technology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apple – iPad – The best way to experience the web, email, and photos.

I love these promo videos (click the link above to check it out, if you’re curious). I love the look of dewy-eyed wonder that all of the Apple people have in them. The one designer guy, Jony Ive, looks like he’s just made contact with an intelligent, alien life form or something–and he has the best lines, too. Like…

“When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sort of becomes magical. And that’s *exactly* what the iPad is.” -Designer Guy

…and here I thought it was just a giant iPod? Is it really all that wondrous that it can support the same apps that the iPod supports? That it allows you to do the same stuff as the Touch? Admittedly, that technology did feel pretty magical when the Touch et al. came out–and it’s still a gold standard. But all this “the iPad is magic and I just created life from inanimate matter” stuff seems a bit much.

“There’s no up, there’s no down, there’s no right or wrong way of holding it. I don’t have to change myself to fit the product… it fits me.” -Designer Guy

… in the way that a rectangular product with a flat, interactive surface (which is admittedly cool, but not particularly new), that can operate in either portrait or landscape orientation “fits me”? I mean, it’s neat that it flips (what was that? Oh yes–just like the iPod), but I don’t really know how he manages to deliver these lines with a straight face–leave alone with that ardent look of love in his eyes. (And, for the record, there are many wrong ways to hold it. Fact.)

Of course, he’s not the only person with great lines:

“Its going to change the way we do things every day.” -Marketing Guy

… I really don’t understand what he means by this. We’re still going to surf the web, watch videos and read email. We do that on our laptops or on our ipods, while sitting on the couch, the bus, etc. already.

Anyway, it’s a cheesy video. I suppose they have to make it seem like it can walk on water–and turn said water into wine in the process–but I find it both funny and slightly offputting. It makes me wonder who exactly they think they’re kidding.

I wonder–are they trying to over-hype it, knowing that as savvy viewers, we’ll parse out what’s actually kind of different & cool from the (admittedly cool) stuff that’s basically imported/recycled from other products? Or, do they really think we’re going to swallow this nonsense, hook, like and sinker? Most of it is simply not new. It really isn’t. The iPod was a revolution. This is an evolution–but I also question whether or not it will be a particularly viable one.

I fail to see the use of it–at least for me. I already carry around my Macbook Air, and have to baby that. I already have an iPod that I use on the bus and for quick email checks etc. I have a book reading program loaded on it, which I use with some regularity. So why would I need a third product–particularly one that I can’t easily type on, without getting out a little keyboard and special stand? I might as well use my laptop instead. If I’m going to get something for reading all my books on, I’d prefer something like the Kindle because the screen is easier on my eyes.

Now, if they had law books available on it, I might, admittedly, be tempted–and that’s about the ONLY reason I’d be tempted (I’m fine watching videos on my laptop, or on t.v.. Or on my iPod). But, if they somehow artificially prevented those books from being accessible on the iPod simply because they want people to shell out for the iPad, then I’d probably be too irritated to bother.

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