Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Today, an associate professor at the most prestigious university in Japan, Tokyo University was arrested today for developing a tool that enables piracy. The program is a P2P system cally Winny. Previously two of the users had been arrested. I got a call from Asahi Shimbun (Japanese newspaper) today asking me for a comment for the morning news tomorrow. I hope the print it. I think it's an absolute disgrace to Japan. While the US is fighting in congress, Hollywood pushing to ban P2P and Boucher et al are fighting for DMCRA, Japanese police go and arrest someone developing P2P software with a VERY sketchy case. The thing is, it's quite likely he will be found guilty.

I once served as an expert witness on the FLMASK case. FLMASK was a program that could be used to allow password protected scrambling of areas of an image so that porn sites could post pictures that passed the Japanese censors, but allowed users to unscramble them. The police were so upset that they cracked down on the hardcore porn sites with the argument that even with FLMASK'ed "clean" images, they would be deemed hardcore. The problem was, this left the developer of FLMASK free from claims that his software enabled anything illegal. So they busted him for LINKING to these porn sites that got busted as users of his software. They deemed linking to a porn site as the same as actually running a porn site. I was the chairman of Infoseek Japan at the time so I obviously had a lot to say about that. The amazing thing is... after overwhelming evidence of the stupidity of the allegations, the guy was found guilty.

Anyway, Japan is yet again leading the world in stupid Internet policing.

more on slashdot

Kathryn Cramer
Halliburton Pulling the Plug on GI Communications

A week after a scandal broke involving photos of American troops torturing Iraqi prisoners, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, & Root is pulling the plug on private electronic communications with the folks back home, apparently at the request of the Department of Defense.

via Jim

Oh right! If it weren't for that pesky Internet...

I haven't seen this in mainstream media so I may be jumping the gun. Anyone who finds any other information about this, please let me know so I can update.

Congressional Hearing Called on Fair Use; 321 Studios President Asked to Testify

Now Is the Time for Consumers to Effect Change Through www.protectfairuse.org

WASHINGTON, April 30 /PRNewswire/ -- A Congressional Hearing for H.R. 107, the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (DMCRA), has been set for Wednesday, May 12, at 10:00 AM Eastern. The DMCRA has been acknowledged and endorsed by major industry players like Intel Corp., Philips Consumer Electronics, Sun Microsystems, Bell South, Verizon, SBC, Qwest, Gateway, and the Consumer Electronics Association, among others, as a necessary balancing mechanism to restore consumers' fair use rights in the digital era. The hearing will take place before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The DMCRA, introduced by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and John Doolittle (R- CA) and co-sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), would re-affirm consumer fair use rights and balance the otherwise one-sided protection afforded copyright owners under current interpretations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

321 Studios Founder and President Robert Moore has been asked to testify at this historic fair use Congressional hearing. 321 Studios is the developer of the award-winning DVDXCOPY series of DVD backup software -- a product now banned in the United States after a group of Hollywood studios sued the company, and two federal judges decided that DVDXCOPY was in violation of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

I've been a big fan of Rick Boucher ever since I first met him in Tokyo and he helped me understand how the US Congress worked on Internet issues. He's been one of the few US politicians I've met who understands the Internet and the variety of important issues including the problems with the DMCA. This bill that he and John Doolittle have introduced is a REALLY important push against the DMCA and all the might of Hollywood will be resist the new bill. If the DMCRA is successful, it will be an important blow against the insanity of the DMCA which will reverberate all the way to Japan and the EU. Americans. Contact your representatives and rally around this important issue. Please.

Via Juche

UPDATE: DMCRA EFF action center

edwardsaidorientalismJust finished reading the famous introduction to Orientalism by Edward Said. Said was a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University and was a well known Palestinian scholar who died in September of last year. Orientalism was written in 1978, but probably continues to become more relevant.

Basically, he argues that the whole notion of the "Orient" or "Orientalism" is a body of culture, academic work and politics that tries to identify the East as "them" in terms that have evolved through Western imperialism. He makes the point that even work that doesn't appear immediately political had political impact and was part of the larger process of the development of Orientalism. Reading it brings back memories of Trader Vic's and pictures from British Museum exhibits of "Headpiece from dead savage."

He points out some important issues which ties into the racism as stereotype discussion we had about Lost In Translation. The simplistic stereotypes and the images of the the East leads to a kind of fascination with the Orient, but also creates a false sense of understanding and fake academics upon which many ignorant, racist and imperialistic political decisions are made.

A version of the introduction is available on The Guardian Unlimited Books web site so I'll give you a few quotes from there.

Edward W. Said
...Orientalism is very much a book tied to the tumultuous dynamics of contemporary history. Its first page opens with a description of the Lebanese civil war that ended in 1990, but the violence and the ugly shedding of human blood continues up to this minute. We have had the failure of the Oslo peace process, the outbreak of the second intifada, and the awful suffering of the Palestinians on the reinvaded West Bank and Gaza. The suicide bombing phenomenon has appeared with all its hideous damage, none more lurid and apocalyptic of course than the events of September 11 2001 and their aftermath in the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. As I write these lines, the illegal occupation of Iraq by Britain and the United States proceeds. Its aftermath is truly awful to contemplate. This is all part of what is supposed to be a clash of civilisations, unending, implacable, irremediable. Nevertheless, I think not.

I wish I could say that general understanding of the Middle East, the Arabs and Islam in the US has improved, but alas, it really hasn't. For all kinds of reasons, the situation in Europe seems to be considerably better. What American leaders and their intellectual lackeys seem incapable of understanding is that history cannot be swept clean like a blackboard, so that "we" might inscribe our own future there and impose our own forms of life for these lesser people to follow. It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar. But this has often happened with the "orient", that semi-mythical construct which since Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in the late 18th century has been made and remade countless times. In the process the uncountable sediments of history, a dizzying variety of peoples, languages, experiences, and cultures, are swept aside or ignored, relegated to the sandheap along with the treasures ground into meaningless fragments that were taken out of Baghdad.

[...]

The major influences on George W Bush's Pentagon and National Security Council were men such as Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, experts on the Arab and Islamic world who helped the American hawks to think about such preposterous phenomena as the Arab mind and the centuries-old Islamic decline which only American power could reverse. Today bookstores in the US are filled with shabby screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror, the Arab threat and the Muslim menace, all of them written by political polemicists pretending to knowledge imparted by experts who have supposedly penetrated to the heart of these strange oriental peoples. CNN and Fox, plus myriad evangelical and rightwing radio hosts, innumerable tabloids and even middle-brow journals, have recycled the same unverifiable fictions and vast generalisations so as to stir up "America" against the foreign devil.

[...]

Think of the line that starts with Napoleon, continues with the rise of oriental studies and the takeover of North Africa, and goes on in similar undertakings in Vietnam, in Egypt, in Palestine and, during the entire 20th century, in the struggle over oil and strategic control in the Gulf, in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Afghanistan. Then think of the rise of anti-colonial nationalism, through the short period of liberal independence, the era of military coups, of insurgency, civil war, religious fanaticism, irrational struggle and uncompromising brutality against the latest bunch of "natives". Each of these phases and eras produces its own distorted knowledge of the other, each its own reductive images, its own disputatious polemics.

My idea in Orientalism was to use humanistic critique to open up the fields of struggle, to introduce a longer sequence of thought and analysis to replace the short bursts of polemical, thought-stopping fury that so imprison us. I have called what I try to do "humanism", a word I continue to use stubbornly despite the scornful dismissal of the term by sophisticated postmodern critics. By humanism I mean first of all attempting to dissolve Blake's "mind-forg'd manacles" so as to be able to use one's mind historically and rationally for the purposes of reflective understanding. Moreover humanism is sustained by a sense of community with other interpreters and other societies and periods: strictly speaking therefore, there is no such thing as an isolated humanist.

[...]

Speaking both as an American and as an Arab I must ask my reader not to underestimate the kind of simplified view of the world that a relative handful of Pentagon civilian elites have formulated for US policy in the entire Arab and Islamic worlds, a view in which terror, pre-emptive war, and unilateral regime change - backed up by the most bloated military budget in history - are the main ideas debated endlessly and impoverishingly by a media that assigns itself the role of producing so-called "experts" who validate the government's general line. Reflection, debate, rational argument and moral principle based on a secular notion that human beings must create their own history have been replaced by abstract ideas that celebrate American or western exceptionalism, denigrate the relevance of context, and regard other cultures with contempt.

[...]

The terrible conflicts that herd people under falsely unifying rubrics such as "America," "the west" or "Islam" and invent collective identities for large numbers of individuals who are actually quite diverse, cannot remain as potent as they are, and must be opposed. We still have at our disposal the rational interpretive skills that are the legacy of humanistic education, not as a sentimental piety enjoining us to return to traditional values or the classics but as the active practice of worldly secular rational discourse. The secular world is the world of history as made by human beings. Critical thought does not submit to commands to join in the ranks marching against one or another approved enemy. Rather than the manufactured clash of civilisations, we need to concentrate on the slow working together of cultures that overlap, borrow from each other, and live together. But for that kind of wider perception we need time, patient and sceptical inquiry, supported by faith in communities of interpretation that are difficult to sustain in a world demanding instant action and reaction.

Humanism is centred upon the agency of human individuality and subjective intuition, rather than on received ideas and authority. Texts have to be read as texts that were produced and live on in all sorts of what I have called worldly ways. But this by no means excludes power, since on the contrary I have tried to show the insinuations, the imbrications of power into even the most recondite of studies. And lastly, most important, humanism is the only, and I would go as far as to say the final resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.

I just picked out some paragraphs there were particularly interesting to me, but the whole thing is really interesting so I suggest you read the intro in its entirety.

Louisiana to ban saggy, butt-crack-exposing pants via Boing Boing.

This is really funny because many years ago I had the honor of being with the mayor of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I distinctly remember the mayor talking about his new "moon pants". They were pants that you could easily zip down the back of and moon people from the balcony. I guess he can't wear them anymore...