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The Creative Middle Class

‘Poetry of the Music’, by ‘Lel4nd’ on Flickr

The recent creative industry pat-on-the-back event The Oscars[1] has got me thinking about creativity, art and business.

We have mega-über-super-stars, and struggling artists. And that seems to be it.

There are some fantastic people and businesses that are exceptions, but there are still relatively few ‘little guys’ able to make a comfortable living from their art (in a way that respects their customers too). [2]

Where is the middle ground? Is it really the case that it must be this way, or is it the case that Hollywood and The Big Three and their policies are stifling the creative start-up?

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Why I Won’t Buy Today’s E-Books

A stack of old books

I’m a huge believer in having control over content that I purchase. I refused to use the iTunes Store, which otherwise provided the best online music experience, until the songs were available without the DRM restrictions hitherto demanded by the rights holders. I still prefer the humble DVD[1] to other ways of getting video which are bound by the artificial (and ineffective[2]) restrictions demanded by the rights holders.

I was interested to read Diane Coyle’s assessment on many of the shortcomings of e-books. I’m not a big reader myself, but books, electronic or otherwise, are an important part of society and of culture — and I too share some concerns that today’s e-books systems fail to offer important functionality that analogue books have had for generations.

Sharing, lending and borrowing of paper books is an important part of the whole book experience. Unfortunately, it’s something that is either obstructed entirely by today’s commercial e-book systems, or is an optional (and unavoidably platform-specific) feature that the publisher can refuse to offer on a whim.

Diane Coyle’s observation on this situation:

You can’t share books on a device. I can’t even get e-books I bought on one device onto another device I own, although no doubt one of my domestic IT support staff (sons) could do it for me. I certainly can’t read the e-books my husband downloaded because he’s onto his next e-book on his iPad. E-books torpedo domestic and friendly sharing.

Multiple, competing proprietary standards for reading books, where users have no ability to move their content from one format to another, is a really awful idea. We are inclined to accept this kind of incompatibility in newer media forms until one format wins — Betamax and VHS, HD-DVD and Blu-ray — but there’s never been incompatibility between owning hardback and paperback books, for example!

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Gone too far

That’s it. The DMCA has gone too far. If it can be abused in such a serious and dangerous way as that, then we’re all in big trouble.

Someone stop the DMCA now. It should be made illegal.

GPLv3 for the win


When you convey a covered work, you waive any legal power to forbid circumvention of technical measures to the extent such circumvention is effected by exercising rights under this License with respect to the covered work, and you disclaim any intention to limit operation or modification of the work as a means of enforcing, against the work’s users, your or third parties’ legal rights to forbid circumvention of technical measures.

Translation: down with the DMCA and similar.

The GPLv3 also will hopefully prevent future MS-Novell deals (and hopefully give Novell some problems too). No-one, and I mean no-one, should be able to extort FOSS users like MS and Novell are collectively doing. No I will not use Ballmer-blessed Linux.

Haven’t read the latest draft in detail, but I think I’ll be happy to offer my GPLed stuff under the new revision when it is finalised.

No disrespect to non-free software, by the way. I’m not anti-proprietary (which RMS won’t be happy to hear). I’m just against people and companies exploiting people who do choose to release Free stuff. That’s why I’m feeling pretty pro-GPLv3 right now. 🙂

When will they learn?

On BoingBoing:

Arnezami, a hacker on the Doom9 forum, has published a crack for extracting the “processing key” from a high-def DVD player. This key can be used to gain access to every single Blu-Ray and HD-DVD disc.

When will the recording/movie industries learn? Attempting to lock down consumers with ever more restrictive DRM is not going to work. Soon, we’ll get to a point where it’s easier to illegally acquire content than it is to purchase it, then jump through all the hoops to get it working legitimately (in fact, you could argue that we’ve already got there, with the whole ‘HD ready’ fiasco).

Sure, there are still practical issues with distributing 20 odd gigabytes of high definition movie, but it looks like AACS really was as completely rubbish as I thought it would be.

Clearly, DRM is flawed. The whole concept is. Good security algorithms are built on good mathematical foundations, then tested for years before they’re declared as secure. AACS simply didn’t have enough time to stand the test of time and get the heck pounded out of it, before it started being used.

DRM’s downfall is pretty much inevitable now, in my opinion. With Steve Jobs openly wanting it dead, it’s just a matter of when. And then everything will be great again. Oh, hang on, then there’s still Microsoft. Damn.

UPDATE: oooh, will this mean they’ll start revoking high-def players? Brilliant. Working one day, dead the next.