Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I originally saw this article in the IHT, but found it online on E-Commerce News.

Howard W. French
China's Web Police Send Mixed Message

...Internet cafe users in China have long been subject to an extraordinary range of controls. They include cameras placed discreetly throughout the establishments to monitor and identify users and Web masters, and Internet cafe managers who keep an eye on user activity, whether electronically or by patrolling the premises.

The average Internet user, meanwhile, neither sees nor, in many cases, suspects the activities of a force widely estimated to number as many as 30,000 Internet police officers. Experts on China's Internet say the officers are constantly engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with equally determined Web surfers, blocking access to sites that the government considers politically offensive, monitoring users who visit other politically sensitive sites and killing off discussion threads on Internet bulletin boards.


Asked if the privacy of Internet users could be infringed, the official said that the Shanghai government had noted the issue, but added that "Internet bars are public areas, and some experts say that what one says in a public area should not be considered private."

"Some experts say".. ;-) Some experts will say anything.

Seriously though, I can only see how this will get worse for both sides. Obviously the "arms vendors" will make money in the cat-and-mouse game, but can China afford to ramp up the Internet police force as China gets more and more wired/wireless. I wonder how long this "control" can continue and how much it's going to cost them. I guess that for now, they believe the control is worth the price.

In an update on the new Induce Act that I blogged about earlier, Orlowski makes an interesting observation about why the IT lobby lost Hatch who is leading this bill and who used to be "on our side."

Orlowski - The Register
Dirty rotten inducers - the law the IT world deserves?

...Well, perhaps it's a combination of all these factors. Perhaps too, the brief flood of speculative capital into the technology industry in the 1980s and 1990s convinced IT people they didn't have an exalted place in society. For a time, they did, and even now many seem to think so. And underneath, there's the hunch that the market will sort everything out, or the belief that every problem can be solved with technology. Whatever the reasons, the fightback against the RIAA and the MPAA has been as effective as the proverbial one-legged man in a backsid- kicking competition. The entertainment industry should be thankful it has opponents so inept.


Opportunity knocked

We mention this only because the good Senator Hatch personifies the missed opportunity. He once shared the view of many involved in the technology sector today that the RIAA could not be trusted to clean up its act, and that alternative compensation systems that ended "piracy" could prove to be very popular. That was in 2000.

At around the same time, the EFF was campaigning for Napster to be legalized, without offering any suggestions as to how the artists might be paid - thus surrendering its moral authority on the issue. Meanwhile, the RIAA was courting and flattering Senator Hatch.

At a special gala awards dinner early in 2001 hosted by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Hatch was awarded a "Hero Award" and the diners heard Nashville star Natalie Grant perform one of his songs, "I Am Not Alone", Joe Menn reported in his book about Napster, All The Rave [Reg review]

If turning a Senator is this easy, why couldn't the techies do it?

I find Orlowski too negative sometimes and his critical view on blogs and Emergent Democracy have always bothered me, but I think he makes some good points about the weakness of the "Internet lobby" in this piece. Many of us are aware of this to varying degrees, but I think we need to keep reminding ourselves that much of the time, we're talking to ourselves. More importantly, we need to figure out how to become more effective. I think the EFF is doing great stuff, but how can we make it even better?

When writing my last entry, I remembered a question that some people ask me. Why choose the Creative Commons license that allows people to use content free for commercial use? I think people have some sort of instinctive reaction toward the notion that someone could "exploit" their work to make money. One question to ask is, will you make less money because of it or more? They have to give you attribution so more people will know about you and your work. I would rather have people copy and quote my blog without worrying about asking for permission. I would love to appear in commercial magazines, books, websites and newspapers. Yes, fair use allows these people to quote me without asking permission, but fair use must be defended in court and some countries don't even have fair use. As a practical matter, fair use really only gets you the right to hire a lawyer. The CC license allows people to use stuff from my blog without fear because they know my intention and it is clear legally as well.

The next question is, then why not make it completely free? A good way to understand this is to look at the differences between the GNU Free Document License that Wikipedia uses and the by-sa (attribution share-alike) Creative Commons license Wikitravel uses. There is some overlap and lots of nuances, but generally speaking the GNU license is more about creating an ever growing body of work which must remain free and allows commercial reprinting with limitations basically in order to allow people to charge for reprinting the document. The Wikipedia copyright page says:

The goal of Wikipedia is to create an information source in an encyclopedia format that is freely available. The license we use grants free access to our content in the same sense as free software is licensed freely. This principle is known as copyleft. That is to say, Wikipedia content can be copied, modified, and redistributed so long as the new version grants the same freedoms to others and acknowledges the authors of the Wikipedia article used (a direct link back to the article satisfies our author credit requirement). Wikipedia articles therefore will remain free forever and can be used by anybody subject to certain restrictions, most of which serve to ensure that freedom.
Wikitravel has a page on why they didn't choose the GNU Free Document License.
The GFDL was developed to support making Free Content versions of software manuals, textbooks, and other large references. Its requirements for what you have to distribute with a document under the GFDL -- such a copy of the GFDL and a changelog, as well as "transparent" (i.e. source) versions if you distribute over 100 copies -- aren't really all that onerous for large volumes of text.

But for Wikitravel, we really want to have each article redistributable on its own. Wikitravel articles can be as small as 1-2 printed pages. For such small documents, it just doesn't make sense to require people to pass out another 10 pages of legalese text, as well as floppy disks or CDs full of Wiki markup.

Consider these small "publishers" who would distribute stacks of photocopied printouts of Wikitravel articles:

• Local tourist offices
• Hotels or guesthouses
• Helpful travellers
• Teachers
• Exchange student programs
• Wedding or event planners

Burdening these publishers with restrictions meant for software documentation or textbooks would mean that they'd either ignore our license -- a bad precedent to set -- or, more likely, just not use our work.

We make our content Free so we can collaborate on this wiki, but also because we want it to be seen and used. We can't serve travellers with useful information if they can't get to that information in the first place.

A lightweight alternative

The license we've chosen, the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0, is much easier and more lightweight. We think that using the Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0 license (by-sa) meets our goal of having copyleft protection on Wikitravel content, without putting an excessive burden on small publishers. All that needs to be included are copyright notices and the URL of the license; this can be done in a short paragraph at the end of the article.

The big downside of not using the GFDL is that GFDL content -- like Wikipedia articles -- cannot be included in Wikitravel articles. This is a restriction of the GFDL -- you're not allowed to change the license for the content, unless you're the original copyright holder. This is kind of a pain for contributors, but we figured it was better to make it easy for users and distributors to comply with our license.

Creative Commons is planning to issue a new revision of their suite of licenses some time in the winter of 2003-2004. Compatibility with other Free licenses is "a top priority", and we can expect that some time after that version change, articles created on Wikitravel can be distributed under the GFDL. So, even though we can't include GFDL work into Wikitravel, other Free Content authors can include Wikitravel content into their work.

In Wikipedia's case, the main use case is having it available online and I think for that the GFDL works best. In the case of Wikitravel where they would like to see their work expand into the physical world in small bits, I think the CC by-sa works well. I think they both picked the right licenses.

They point out one of the biggest problems with many of these copyleft licenses. They usually require the creator of a derivative work or the distributor to use the same license and even if the work can be tampered with, the license can not. This makes it hard if not impossible to mix with other licenses. The "share-alike" attribute in the CC license the Wikitravel uses serves this function and is similar to GPL and GFDL licenses in this regard. This is important in keeping the "spirit" of the original intent going and in the case of Wikipedia and Wikitravel which are group efforts, this is quite important. In my case, I would rather allow people who use my works to have maximum freedom so I have not included "share-alike" to my license. This allows people to mix my content with other types of licenses.

Creative Commons Weblog
CC Search Plugins

Earlier today Steve Griffin announced a CC Search Sidebar for Mozilla-Based Browsers. Previously Steve has worked on a C# API for CC metadata.

A mycroft search plugin for the CC search engine is also available.


The mycroft plugin adds a new search engine to those available from the Mozilla Firefox toolbar.

Very nice. It's still a tad slow, but definitely shows where we are headed with this. Imagine Google images and Napster on CC. You could find sound-clips for your family album, images for your presentation and movie clips for your class project, all without worrying about copyright infringement or asking permission. Conversely, you could upload content and find it quickly integrated into courseware in other countries and DJ tapes and your creative content would travel freely as long as people gave you credit. These are the sorts of tools that CC needs to really go viral. Thanks Steve!

PS For CC newbies: There are a variety of licenses to choose from so the artists can select what sorts of rights they would like to grant. Free for non-commercial use with attribution is quite common. This blog is free for commercial use as well as long as I get credit.

"On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

'Fuck yourself,' said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency."

...Even if the Senate were in session, the vice president, though constitutionally the president of the Senate, is an executive branch official and therefore free to use whatever language he likes."

And this is the administration that's trying to prevent you from saying "fuck" on TV.

I don't think I've ever told a business associate to "fuck yourself", but I guess I've never been accused of corruption by an associate either. On the other hand, I can't imagine ever calling my company a super-duper company...

Boing Boing via A Great Notion


CHENEY: Well, I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it.

CAVUTO: All right. Now, did you use the "F" word?


CHENEY: Yes, that's not the kind of language I ordinarily use. But...


CAVUTO: Do you have any regrets?

CHENEY: No. I said it, and I felt that...

via Meta-Roj