Category Archives: The end is nigh

Here we go again, watch out Internet!

I am sure we’ll hear more shrill warblings about this one.

In one corner, the ITU which is a UN agency which does the dull-but-essential work to make sure phone systems connect together around the world, manages dialling codes, organises radio spectrum use and satellite orbits and various other administrivia to ensure that it meets it goal of “connecting all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their means”. They are having a conference in Dubai soon and which proposes to discuss a treaty which may have some impact on aspects of the internet.

In the other corner, Google who, despite pointing out – on their rather thin on detail “Take Action” page – that the ITU proposals are confidential, seem confident enough to claim that the proposals could lead censorship of free speech, and impose “tolls” (aka costs) on companies like YouTube (aka Google), Facebook and Skype.

So, despite their rather Googleish mission statement, Google has taken against the ITU.

According to the ITU Secretary-General, they want to “address the current disconnect between sources of revenue and sources of costs, and to decide upon the most appropriate way to do so”. Of course, being a UN agency, ITU delegations are attended by governments (who can bring whoever they want) and include governments big and small from all over the world. Google doesn’t like this either, and objects to governments (even, presumably those democratically elected to represent the interests of their people) “directing the future” of the internet.

Looking at the ITU website, this conference looks like one of the long and ponderous little cogs which keep the glacial machine of international treaty making turning and its hard to believe there is some sinister conspiracy here. They’re just doing what they do, the same as they always have. Since the proposals are not public, I have no idea if some or all of the claims being made about them are right. Maybe Google knows more. Either way they’re getting their attack in early.

Anyway, this is shaping up to be another SOPA/PIPA-style shouting match. If Cory Doctorow hasn’t ranted already it can’t be long until he does. Lets hope people with sensitive hearing are actually able to detect the facts as it progresses, just in case common sense can find a part to play…

“Burning to death” is the price of copyright infringement

In another classic rant, Cory Doctorow somehow contrives to allege that the RIAA, and specifically its boss Cary Sherman (representing “some of the worst companies in the world”), can “cost your children their ability to complete their education”, “cost you your job”, “cut you off from civic and political engagement”, cost you your ability to stay in touch with your family and, if your phone service is provided via VOIP, remove your 911 access. “Because burning to death is only too good a fate for people accused, without proof, of copyright infringement”.

I think this is some advanced form of applied chaos theory.

Fabulously scary video

This video is a sort of genius, because it’s brilliantly presented and produced, makes some very alarming and confident predictions and offers no evidence whatsoever to support any of its assertions. And nearly half a million people have watched it. Some quotes below.

“A new bill proposes we give the power to censor the internet to the entertainment industry”

“Protect IP will cripple new startups”

“These lawsuits could easily bankrupt new search engines and social media sites”

“Even if you trust the US government not to abuse their new power to censor the net, what about the countries who follow in our path and pass similar laws? … Unscrupulous governments will have powerful tools to hinder free expression.”

“Experts believe that by fiddling with the web’s registry of domain names the result will be less security and less stability”

“In short, Protect-IP won’t stop piracy but it will introduce vast potential for censorship and abuse while making the web less safe and less reliable”

“The government is tampering with [the internet’s] basic structure so people will, maybe, buy more Hollywood movies.”

“The entire entertainment industry doesn’t even contribute that much to our economy”.

Paying publishers will “slow down the internet”

Quite a moderate view from Eric Schmidt, in response to the proposal that German newspaper publishers get a revenue stream from companies which aggregate their content online. The full quote is quite telling, though… “I fear that such a regulation would slow down the development of the Internet because it creates additional costs and leads to inefficiencies”. Equating cost with inefficiency is interesting, it suggests that the most efficient (and therefore best) company is one with no costs. It also suggests that cost is, somehow, bad – free is always better.

Eric Schmidt works for Google, a company with a 65% gross margin and only one significant revenue stream supporting all their loss-making projects, and who pay nothing for their key resource (other people’s content). They do, however, charge for their own service (advertising), creating cost for other  people. Wouldn’t it be more efficient, therefore better according to his theory, if they gave it all away for free?

Doctorow: SOPA is evil

This is an absolutely absurd rant attacking SOPA and PIPA. Full of ridiculous claims:

“Making one link would require checking millions (even tens of millions) of pages”

“The contempt for human rights on display with SOPA and PIPA is more than foolish. Foolishness can be excused. It’s more than greed. Greed is only to be expected. It is evil, and it must be fought.”

Even by Cory Doctorow’s reliably overstated and partisan standards, it’s a humdinger.