Archive for Norms

HD DVD Standard Deliberately Downgrades Picture Quality for Older HDTVs

Posted in Norms,Technology by epictetus on February 24th, 2006

I noticed a link to this SCI FI Tech article; the author points out the under the access control rules just released for the new HD-DVD standard, component output (which is the only HD input featured on quite a number of older/early-adopter HDTVs) will be limited to only 1/4 of full resolution.  Once again this shows the gall and utter disdain of the content industry for their consumers;  they have absolutely NO objection to abusing thousands of their lawful, paying customers in order to place small technological “speedbumps” to piracy (which will NOT prevent piracy, there will be any number of technological means to bypass this).

I was listening to a talk Cory Doctorow gave a little while ago, and he pointed out the funny paradigm that if you purchase a legal copy of a DVD or a copy-protected CD, you get a much lower quality product than if you pirated the same movie or album.  It just seems like a funny business model to punish paying customers by giving them a worse product than people who use peer to peer networks to download it.  In the world of business, it usually makes more sense to reward paying customers than to punish them.  In the case of the Sony rootkit, you are rewarded for your patronage by Sony breaking into your system, spying on you, lying about it, and also compromising your security so that other people can also break in.

Home of the Underdogs

Posted in Norms,Technology by epictetus on February 3rd, 2006

While on the topic of abandonwarez, I thought I would also link this site.  The Home of the Underdogs is a repository for primarily DOS software that is no longer on the market and is obsolete, but is still under copyright protection.  The site has a policy of linking to a reseller instead of offering a download for any program that is still available for sale somewhere, and of removing any software at the copyright holder’s request.
If you want to be  able to actually download and play some of these old games, the Dosbox emulator emulates a dos machine on modern Apple OSX, Linux, and Windows computers.  It can take a little tweaking to get some games working but in general it is the best way to play these old games.

Virtual Apple 2 abandonwarez

Posted in Laws,Norms,Technology by epictetus on February 3rd, 2006

This site has a java/browser-based Apple II emulator and an _incredible_ collection of disk images that you can boot.  A little Oregon Trail or Rocky’s Boots or LogoWriter, anyone?

It’s interesting because though this site is almost certainly _technically_ in violation of copyright, these are programs with absolutely no commercial potention and that are no longer being sold or manufactured.  In many cases, the companies that originally produced them are out of business.  There is very little threat that those running the site will be sued for copyright violation.  To me, this brings up an interesting point: that the current indefinite copyright period (every 20 years the industry pumps a few million into lobbyists in order to get Congress to retroactively extend it another 20 years, so at the rate copyright for 20th century works will never expire) is completely out of line with the pace of the software industry.

Posted in Norms by epictetus on February 3rd, 2006

I just wanted to mention this site,, which contains an incredible collection of Dinosaur Jr., J. Mascis, and Sebadoh bootleg mp3s, flac files, and show videos going back to the 1980s. It is also a fan community site that allows fans to upload their bootlegs. These are some of my favorite musicians and I find it heartwarming that they see the positive side of online music sharing; there is a movement in similar bands these days.

A friend of mine who was long the manager for an enourmously-successful folk-rock musician told me that they made very, very little money from CD sales. For them, it was primarily a way to promote themselves for concert appearances, where the real money was. It’s clear that artists bypassing the record industry completely to distribute mp3s or other digital media straight to their fans can in the end see a huge financial advantage; it’s also clear that the record industry will fight in as dirty and underhanded a way as possible to prevent artists from realizing this.

Again, we have a multibillion-dollar industry that technological advances (the ability to instantly, at little or no cost, distribute music to the entire world) has made obsolete. The industry’s only (and even somewhat understandable) response is to try to bully everyone into giving them a “right to profit” despite the fact that they produce nothing of value.

The name is also a cute play on the other fsf, the free software foundation.

Recording Industry vs. The People

Posted in Laws,Norms by epictetus on February 3rd, 2006

I noticed a link to this site from Slashdot. Ty Rogers and Ray Beckerman, two lawyers in NYC, have created this site to compile information that might help assist people defending themselves against RIAA lawsuits. Slashdot mentioned that they are defending a woman the RIAA sued for music piracy who actually has never owned a computer in her life. It’s nice to know there are men of strong conscience out there, fighting the good fight.

Free Culture activist fired from intellectual property law firm

Posted in Money,Norms by epictetus on February 1st, 2006

This story was posted on slashdot about a legal clerk who worked for a New York City intellectual property law firm, who was fired after she was quoted in The Village Voice where she advocated against DRM, and talked about her involvement in the Free Culture movement.
I find this to be perfectly understandable but unfortunate on the part of the law firm; having an employee that is ideologically opposed to the laws underlying their business is understandably disturbing; I can see how it would be hard to trust such an employee to always do a good job. On the other hand, the firm might have been able to bring themselves some positive publicity by embracing instead of rejecting this dissenting view. Certainly they are within their rights to fire her.