Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In closing, listen to Czeslaw Milosz (not silly social scientists)

I argued throughout this class - and couldn't feel stronger - that, at a certain, "real" level, the social sciences are infected by a fundamental arrogance of reason. This prevents people, but esp. academics and intellectuals, from viewing experiences and thinking about social justice, civil society and ecological progress in a convincing, "real" way. (we'll see if the corrective - humility - and the corresponding re-orientation of the social sciences with that spirit ever happens.)

Since the struggle for freedom and resistance to oppressive forms of technology ultimately will take place on the level of ideas and spirit, I'm closing this semester with my favorite writer, someone who lived through the absolute collapse of 20th Century, Western civilization. Czeslaw Milosz wrote, battled and resisted the Nazis in Warsaw throughout WWII, witnessed the Germans, the Westerns Powers and his society's moral bankruptcy and somehow made the most beautiful poetry out of these experiences:


Again I was flying in my dream. As if my old body contained, prior to live beings, the possibility of all movements, flying, swimming, crawling, running.


Little animals from cartoons, talking rabbits, doggies, squirrels, as well as ladybugs, bees, grasshoppers. They have as much in common with real animals as our notions of the world have with the real world. Think of this, and tremble.

(I would end end with the above for the obvious reason, but couldn't resist.)


Let us imagine a poet gets in his hands the Hollywood crowd, those financiers, directors, actors and actresses. And that he is fully aware of the crime perpetrated every day on millions of human beings by money, which acts not in the name of any ideology but exclusively for the purpose of multiplying itself. What penalty would be adequate? He hesitates between slitting their bellies and disemboweling them; locking them together behind barbed wire in the hope that they would start to eat each other, beginning with the fattest potentates; grilling them on a small fire; throwing them, bound, onto an anthill. However, as he interrogates them and sees them humble, trembling, obsequious, fawning, not at all remembering their own arrogance, he is discouraged. Their guilt is as elusive as that of the party bureaucrats in an authoritarian state. The closest thing to justice might be to kill the whole lot. He shrugs, and sets them free.

Monday, December 04, 2006

TiVoToGo DRM cracked

The TiVoToGo DRM has been cracked. This is the DRM that locks the files you move from your TiVo to your PC (something that is lawful, even without DRM). The DRM restricts how you use your TV shows, and prevents you from using it at all outside of a Windows system.

On this fascinating Wiki, a group of hackers are meticulously reverse-engineering the TiVoToGo DRM and finding ways of subverting it. They've put together a command-line app that breaks the DRM, which means that an easy-to-use graphic tool can't be far behind.

TiVo owners, rejoice! These folks are about to make your TiVo way more useful than it was yesterday.

TiVoToGo is the feature TiVo added in software release 7.1. It enables transferring video off the TiVo unit to a PC over a HTTP connection. You can access a rudimentary web interface at https://tivo:MediaAccessKey@your_tivo/. TiVo's official TiVoToGo website is here http://www.tivo.com/togo.

It looks like MPEG I frames are the only thing that isn't encrypted in the tivo file. It looks like a combination of Blowfish and ElGammal encryption (what's the evidence for this?). Is it a block cipher, or a stream cipher? Clearly everything we need to decrypt it exists. I would guess the "fingerprint", "salt", and MediaAccessKey are needed? Is the MediaAccessKey the public key, the fingerprint the private key, and the salt is used to maybe XOR the stream first? Or is there a nonce that gets used to initialize the cipher?

Link(via Engadget)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hypocritical Media Hogs and Their Digital Hang-ups

The other day I blogged about Edgar Bronfman's disclosure that he spanked his kids (or something) for all the music they illegally downloaded.

Now Reuters' MediaFile blog details the iPod obsessions of the media moguls who attended last week's Reuters Media Summit.

The follow-up questions aren't printed, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and assume that these big-timers took advantage of much of this digital media free-of-charge, and most likely with comped iPods as well. Plus, they're all hooked on TiVo and/or satellite radio, wisely avoiding the endless spew of lame adverts for, uh, TiVo and iPod (and Chevy). Check these excerpts and ask yourself if these cats have ever dropped a dime on a rhyme:

Richard Parsons, CEO / Chairman, Time Warner: "I like music. I have iPods everywhere. I had the whole bunch of (the Warner music collection) files put on before we sold it...."

Dick Cook, Chairman, Walt Disney Studios: "...For fun, I have a little iTunes and that kind of stuff. The only time I get to read books is when I listen to it so I have a lot of books on iTunes."

JEAN-MARIE DRU, CEO, TBWA/CHIAT/DAY WORLDWIDE: "...I have five kids, so we are 7 at home and we have more than 15 or 16 iPods in the family."

Ah, behold the aristocrats pirates of megalomediahackland.

Blogger / MySpace Publishing and Terms

Good points brought up by Lewis, and to these I thought I'd weigh in with a post I made a couple days ago at The Small Print
From the Business2.0 Softgadgets blog:

When your blog/community forum/project-management-site is sitting on Blogger or Typepad or MySpace or Friendster or Basecamp, it’s conceivable that some kind of terrible behavior will require them to take it down. The more public and free the forum, the better case these Web 2.0 titans have for maintaining the ability to do so: they have some minimal responsibility not to enable criminal behavior. But that line is incredibly unclear. Moreover, it’s not really a first amendment issue so much as its a prior agreement issue–when you check the acknowledgment box for the catch-all privacy policy upon signing up for this or that nifty Web 2.0 service, do you really think about your rights under this free and and difficult-to-read contract?

Of course you don’t. I’d love to hear if Blogger (nee Pyra and now a part of Google) has ever acted upon this clause of their ToS:

MODIFICATIONS TO SERVICE Pyra reserves the right to modify or discontinue the Service with or without notice to Member.

I’m partial to Wordpress blogging software and note that there is no such statement in the terms on their blog-hosting service, wordpress.com.

Of course, while sites like Facebook and Myspace claim they will delete inappropriate content, I really wish MySpace would write in some rule that differentiates the typical sales pitch friend request from the legitimate, real person request…. but that’s another story…

I still haven't heard from anyone who's content has been pulled from MySpace, but I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to build a dummy account and post ripped Fox content and see how long it takes.

Also, great article in Forbes, Cory... and this "Open -Source Spying" feature in the Sunday NYT is more than a little wack.

Fox: Sue MySpace Sue Yourspace?

Cory's been BB'ing about Fox's assertion of a new copyright claim:
The below links are specific examples of quicksilverscreen.com web pages linking to video files that infringe upon Fox’s intellectual property rights. Fox hereby demands that quicksilverscreen.com promptly remove and disable the links to all unauthorized copies of Fox Properties on the quicksilverscreen.com website of which it is aware, including the infringing links identified below:

I'm wondering: won't Fox have to sue itself? I mean, Myspace users' clearly link to content that breaks copyright and while there may be one or two degrees more removed from the users, Fox owns - "is responsible" for Myspace - and all those bad boys and girls breakinig copyright in TheirSpace. Someone needs to have their wrist, or you know what, slapped.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

US Trade Representative bends Russia over on copyright

The US Trade Representative has declared victory over Russia. Russia will be required to license CD/DVD pressing plants and inspect them day and night -- the US, spreading democracy by requiring licensing of the presses! Russia will also have to shut down AllofMP3.com and stop its collecting societies from representing artists without permission (of course, this doesn't mean that US quasi-governmental collecting societies like SoundScan will stop doing the same thing).

You might ask why collecting societies are in there at all. That's because AllOfMP3.com claimed that they were paying licenses to a collecting society that made their business legal. Putting this last clause in the agreement sounds like the US Trade Rep is admitting that AllOfMP3.com is a legitimate, licensed business that pays for what it sells.

Russia has to take on board the WIPO Copyright Treaty, which is the treaty that created the US DMCA, a law that has resulted in the jailing of a Russian researcher who visited the USA for talking about math.

* The United States and Russia agreed on the objective of shutting down websites that permit
illegal distribution of music and other copyright works. The agreement names the Russia-based
website allofmp3.com as an example of such a website.

* Russia will:

- take enforcement actions against the operation of Russia-based websites; and

- investigate and prosecute companies that illegally distribute copyright works on the Internet.

* Russia will work to enact legislation by June 1, 2007, to stop collecting societies from acting
without right holder consent,

* Russia will also work to enact legislation implementing the 1996 World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) Internet treaties.

PDF Link

(via Digg)

Monday, November 27, 2006

CBC prez: High-def TV has no business model

CBC president Robert Rabinovich has decried high-def TV as having no business model. This wouldn't be newsworthy except that the promise of HDTV is the excuse given for the Broadcast Flag, which says that paranoid studio executives should be in charge of what features TVs are allowed to have.

The idea is that if you don't give them their design-veto, they won't put movies on high-def, and then the money won't come in. But when the head of Canada's national broadcaster announces that there's just no way any broadcaster is going to make its money back on high-def, it makes you wonder if the Brits don't have the right idea.

In the UK, a digital TV system called "Freeview" gives the public 30 free standard-definition TV channels, for life, over the air, for one setup payment. Instead of trying to lure people into throwing away their old sets and buying all new, Hollywood-crippled ones, the Brits just created free cable for life. Amazingly, lots of people voluntarily switched -- and soon they'll be able to shut off the old analog towers and use that spectrum for better, more internetty things.

“There's no evidence either in Canada or the United States that we have found for advertisers willing to pay a premium for a program that's in HD,” Mr. Rabinovich said. “So basically they're saying if you want to shoot in HD, that's your business, we're not going to pay you more.”
Link(via /.)