As someone who has been harassed for taking pictures in a public place before, this bit from Colbert made me smile.
At this point, I would call myself a “semi-pro” photographer. I have photos hanging in an art gallery. I have sold a few pieces. I have done work under contract. I’ve had a waitress at a popular establishment that serves hot wings ask me to take photos of her for their company’s calendar. (Though I sadly lost her contact info.) So all of that is to say that my camera gets a good workout.
I have a degree in journalism, and took photojournalism-specific and media law classes in pursuit of that degree. I’ve worked as a professional editor. All of that is to say that, though I am not a lawyer, I should probably know a thing or two about when and where you can and cannot take a photo. (And even so, I have consulted an attorney about that very subject, as well.)
So it really irks me to see things like this happening more and more often:
Photographers harassed by security at Union Station … even while interviewing Amtrak’s chief spokesman.
It has happened to me more than a couple of times.
Not to go off on a rant here (I know … too late), but selective and arbitrary bans on photography are an incredibly unfortunate, shortsighted and quite frankly ignorant abuse of authority. They are not only bad for art, they are bad for journalism. They are bad for democracy and for America. The UK, too.
UPDATE: Alleluia and an Amen from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Good on her!
Yep! It’s true!
So I’m now laying claim to the hexadecimal number “C6 8C 14 E1 9F 29 2A 6B 9E 6C C7 38 D2 80 9E 27” and if I wanted to, I could sue any of you bastards who decided to use that number for whatever dastardly purposes your evil little minds imagine. I could probably also go after you for using the base 10 equivalent of 17,859,592,074,240 if I felt the desire to do so.
You see, there’s currently a lot of hoopla going on about the movie industry claiming that it can own certain 128-bit numbers like the one above. They used one of these random numbers as a “key” on the encryption system on HD-DVDs to keep you from making copies of your favorite movies or watching them on DVD players they don’t like. Then someone figured out what that number was. So the “owners” of this key got really upset. They say they’ll sue or maybe even bring criminal charges against anyone who tells other people what that key is, because to do so would be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
So the combination is one, two, three, four, five? That’s the stupidest combination I’ve ever heard in my life! The kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage!
— SPACEBALLS (1987)
Unfortunately, they’re pretty much right. The DMCA made it illegal to circumvent (or tell others how to circumvent) any copy protection scheme, regardless of whether you own the rights to that protected material or not. It’s kind of like how it’s “breaking and entering” to pick the lock on someone else’s house and open the door, regardless of whether you actually go inside or steal anything. Except in this case, it would also be illegal to break into YOUR OWN house if you accidentally lock your keys inside. The way the DMCA reads, you can’t use your own stuff, stuff you legally bought with your own money, in whichever way you see fit. You can only use your stuff in whichever way the maker of the locks on your doors says you can — even if that means not at all! For them, it’s more important to their business that their locks remain secure than it is that you be able to legally use your own door to enter and exit your own abode as you please.
Okay, before I extend and mix up this crazy analogy any further, I best move on…
I read on Boing Boing (link) a little while ago that a professor at Princeton thought this whole thing was rather messed up, so he created a page to help people stake claim on their own randomly generated 128-bit numbers before all of the good ones are gone. (link) After all, there’s only 2^128 numbers available to go around! So I’ve gone and grabbed a few for myself, and it couldn’t hurt for you to ring up a few of your own, too.
You may say, “what in the world would I need a 128-bit number for?” Well, do you have a wireless network in your house? Do you have a WEP key (one of those funky jumbles of numbers and letters) on there so your neighbors can’t leech off your connection and download dirty pictures using your internet account? If so, you’re likely already using a 128-bit number. (You better hope your number’s not the same as the one that the movie industry doesn’t want you to know, or you could be in big trouble!)
And like I said before, if I wanted to I could decide to be a real jerk and not let anybody else use that number ever again without paying me a bunch of money to get my permission.
But you know me, I’m a nice guy. I’ve decided that I’m going to print my number at the bottom of this post as a pretty line of text. And I’ve decided to share this work with the world by publishing it with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. This means that you’re free to share, copy, distribute and transmit the number, as well as to adapt the number to suit your own purposes. The only conditions are that you have to credit me as the original author of this number, and you have to be willing to share your new creation just as I have.
So if you want to use this number as the key to your own encryption system, you’re more than welcome to do so.
Do you want to put the number on a t-shirt? Go ahead!
Want to spell it out in your Alpha-Bits and take a picture of it? Knock yourself out!
Think it might be fun to multiply it by two? Sure, if you’re one of those dorks who likes maths, have at it. Just don’t forget to credit me, Bo Nash, on the bottom of your paper.
C6 8C 14 E1 9F 29 2A 6B 9E 6C C7 38 D2 80 9E 27
People don’t think about this sort of thing when they’re talking about copyrights. Usually the topic centers around how music labels are losing money or screwing consumers. Or how movie piracy will put a makeup artist on the streets. (Even though digital editing of films might do it anyway.)
Forgotten in the argument are documentary films, which provide an incredibly valuable service in educating the public … especially in (of all places) schools.
Because of copyright extension laws like the Sonny Bono Act, it’s not only harder to make a documentary today, but to even reissue documentaries that have already been made. Some will soon be lost along with the Betamax tapes they’re stored on.
Check out this link from BoingBoing (which contains a link to a much longer article that’s also worth the read if you’ve got the time to kill): How copyright is killing culture
What sort of response do you think you’ll get when you ask the richest man in the world the following question?
“In recent years, there’s been a lot of people clamoring to reform and restrict intellectual-property rights. It started out with just a few people, but now there are a bunch of advocates saying, ‘We’ve got to look at patents, we’ve got to look at copyrights.’ What’s driving this, and do you think intellectual-property laws need to be reformed?
If you answered that he’d call them commies, you’re right!
“No, I’d say that of the world’s economies, there’s more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don’t think that those incentives should exist.”
Check out the News.com story here. (That question in the Q&A is pretty close to the end.)
Bill Gates can credit pretty much his entire fortune to his ability to take advantage of the existing copyright and patent laws. What would you expect him to say? That he thinks the whole system is screwed up and needs reform? He’s precisely the sort of person who benefits from the current model.
(Perhaps ironically, some would argue that he started his fortune by BREAKING those laws.)
So I’m dreaming of California.
If I lived there, I could live off of one day’s wages. That’s right — one day’s wages.
California has imposed a ban on spyware, and this might just be my ticket to riches!
According to their new law, “Consumers are able to seek up to $1,000 in damages if they think they have fallen victim to the intrusive software.”
Here’s my plan:
I figure I could have 80 spyware applications installed by 10am, and have my legal papers drawn up and served by dinnertime.
See you on the beach!