Nerd vs. Activist: The Battle of the Century!

My friend Gareth Skarka recently wrote about why he won’t go see the forthcoming movie The Avengers, despite being a big, old-school superhero comics geek. He makes what is, for me, a very compelling argument. Both major comics companies, Marvel and DC, have treated so many artists and writers as cogs in the machine (at best) and screwed over creators in ways that I find utterly reprehensible and indefensible. After reading Gareth’s blog post, I decided that I would also boycott the Avengers movie, even though Joss Whedon, one of my favorites, is behind it and my inner comics nerd is dying to see it.

And then along comes John Carter, another soon-to-be-released movie. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, the source material for the movie, is one of my all-time favorite novels, and the movie looks to be exactly the kind of high-imagination spectacle I love to see on screen. My inner nerd is again dying to see this. ButJohn Carter is a Disney production. Disney owns Marvel. Disney is also, on its own, one of the most litigious companies around. Disney will send a crack squad of high-paid lawyers against anyone, no matter how small, who they see as a threat to the “intellectual property.” Disney is one of the big reasons copyright law is so screwy in the US.

My inner nerd argues: “You’ve been waiting for movies like this all of your life! You’ve known for a long time what money-hungry, power-mad corporations make these movies and you haven’t let that stop you before! Why now? You know you’ll be sad to miss these movies! And neither company will really suffer if they don’t get your money. Just go see them!”

My inner activist counters: “It’s about time you started facing up to how shitty these companies are! Of course your dollars are just drops in the ocean to them, but it’s still important to vote with your dollars, which is all they understand, if for no other reason than to keep your hands clean and your conscience clear. You have to stand up for your principles! Who cares if The Avengers and John Carter are good? Isn’t it better to support new stories, independent, creator-owned stories?”

I’ll be honest, both voices are loud in my head. I haven’t really decided which voice I’m going to listen to.

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Second Lives

Linden Lab is releasing the source code for Second Life under the GNU GPL. Shunning modesty, they equate this with the release of Mosaic and the growth of the World Wide Web.

A lot of the Second Life development work currently in progress is focused on building the Second Life Grid — a vision of a globally interconnected grid with clients and servers published and managed by different groups.

And, well, maybe this is as big as the open source release of Mosaic. What if organizations, private citizens, libraries started hosting their own Second Life grids? I think that would be pretty swell–assuming computers that can easily handle SL access become very affordable, or people start hosting SL grids that are more friendly to “low-tech” computers.

Trademark 1.0

I’ve only just gotten up and had my first cup o’ joe, and I’m already cranky. It seems that O’Reilly‘s lawyers sent a Cease-&-Desist to a not-for-profit tech group in Ireland for using “Web 2.0” in a conference name. I would’ve told IT@Cork to take a page from James Joyce and tell O’Reilly to “K.M.R.I.A.” But as it turned out, O’Reilly apologized to the group and agreed to let them use the term in their conference name.

Agreed to let them use the term. Because O’Reilly still maintains that “Web 2.0” is their trademark and anyone else who wants to use it has to get permission first.

What’chu talkin’ ’bout, O’Reilly?

Sure, I could go into a hotheaded rant about why O’Reilly are getting this wrong, but Cory Doctorow said it first and better, so I’ll point you to his post about this. Basically, though, it boils down to this: is “Web 2.0” a concept, a practice of web design, or is it a business trademark, like Coke or Kleenex? O’Reilly can’t have it both ways: “Web 2.0” is either a way of using the World Wide Web that belongs to everyone, or it’s just a term like Hardee’s “Made From Scratch” Biscuits–meaningless, except in advertising their product.

So, on one hand, there’s this nifty l’il graphic.

And on the other hand, there’s this: if “Web 2.0” only applies to O’Reilly like “I’m Lovin’ It” applies to McDonald’s, then I’ll simply stop using the term “Web 2.0.” Because the term will have no meaning. If it’s not a concept that belongs to everyone, then, frankly, it’s a bullshit PR term. It’s just another lame way for O’Reilly to claim they “think outside the box” (a phrase I’m thoroughly tired of, a phrase that means sod all).

(Meanwhile, Michael Casey has already stepped up and declared that he’s never considered ownership of the term “Library 2.0”, despite having coined the term. Chew on that, O’Reilly.)

Copy Wrong

HBO wants its programming to never, ever be copied–not on your Tivo, not on your VCR, not on your PC.

Well, HBO, I’m here to give you a simple solution to the problem of viewers copying what you broadcast. Are you ready? Okay, here it is: STOP BROADCASTING! But if you want to keep broadcasting, you’re going to have to suck it up and realize that people are free to copy your broadcasts.

Now stop your kvetching and get back to work. (I swear, this copy-phobic paranoia gives me a pain right behind the left eye.)

Free as in Stallman

Rereading and thinking more about Linus Torvald’s statements about DRM and the third version of the GPL, I’m not sure I really agree with what he says. And while I think Richard Stallman can be a bit extreme (I disagree with his take on Creative Commons licenses, for one thing), reading this interview with him gives a different take on the subject of DRM, to put into further consideration.

I pretty much now how I feel about DRM: it’s stupid. It don’t think it provides any kind of security, it has a tendency to interfere with users’ rightful use of technology, and DRM in general is founded on principles that I think are based more on greed than on the common good. I think Linus makes a good point, and I think he’s right to state that he’s talking personally, not generally, but I think I tend to side more with Stallman on the issue of DRM.