Categories
society

TPB AFK: a Documentary

Today I watched TPB AFK, a film about the Swedish website The Pirate Bay. You can read some background on the website on Wikipedia: Wikipedia: The Pirate Bay.

Basically the website is a clearing house for BitTorrent file sharing offerings. BitTorrent is a protocol (a set of conventions for computer network traffic) that allows you to share files in a distributed manner. This means multiple people can facilitate both the sending and receiving of the files.

A crucial point about the way the website works, it never actually sends or receives any of the files. It only announces other people who say they will send them.

But there comes a problem: what if people share files they don’t own the temporary rights to. And the result has been a lot of legal fuss and political fuss aimed at stopping this from happening.

That is what this film is about: the ad hoc owners of some of the files, along with Swedish authorities, prosecuted the people running The Pirate Bay.

The main question is, of course, not the one being asked by authorities or the custodians of the content. The main question is what shape of custodial rights works in the digital era? Their question, instead, is how do we maintain the status quo?

And so they try what they always tried before: sue them, prosecute them, “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” them. They sue over the most minimal infringements, including cases of Fair Use (the doctrine that some unlicensed uses of temporarily held works are not infringement, due to the nature of the use).

This is a doomed effort. They freely admit this, for the temporary custodians of the world’s content have asked the governments to act by passing new laws they have drafted and treaties they have negotiated in secret.

In some ways it is akin to the foster parent that loves the child so much that they don’t want the child to return to the natural parents when they are located. But in this case the foster parent also makes quite a lot of money off of the newest children, and a few of the older children, but neglects the rest.

But The Pirate Bay has a unique culture. They take offense at the status quo, and ridicule it at every turn. Their original claim to notoriety (other than the name of the site) was the posting and mocking of barking letters (letters sent by lawyers that carry no legal authority, but are nonetheless meant to intimidate the recipient into action).

The film drives this attitude home repeatedly. At one point it recounts the creation of a website where people were encouraged to rate the dumbness of American soldiers for how they died in the United States and coalition invasion of Iraq.

This is the culture of the Darwin Awards and dead baby jokes. But it is a revolt or reaction against the poisonous reverence that drives humans to ignore vast hypocrisies in their cultures and politics.

That’s your keyword: reaction. The Pirate Bureau is created as a counterpoint to the government/industry Anti-Pirate Bureau. The widespread adoption of BitTorrent is at least partly a reaction to the establishment dismantling centralized file sharing protocols.

But the biggest reactions are yet to arrive. The prosecutor’s language you will see in the trial as filmed in the documentary tells all you need to know. The prosecutor asks a question, what if users of the website share copyrighted materials? Ah, but excepting the occasional work that has returned to the public domain, all works are copyrighted.

Not just all intentional works. All works. The way your plate looks after you finish your breakfast is your unique creation, and you hold a temporary, but legally enforceable right over that depiction. The arrangement of the refuse in your wastebasket are your copyright. If I throw something away there, assuming I have permission, I am now your collaborator in a unique work.

But instead of being clear, saying something like, “copyrighted work shared without permission and where the custodian reserves their rights,” we are left with this convenient notion that copyright serves the big man, never the little man.

Anyway, go check the film out. It is under a Creative Commons license (the main film is CC:BY-NC-ND, meaning you can share it but not profit or edit it; there is another version that allows editing). And yes, you can download it from The Pirate Bay.

This tended off on a tangent, because copyright is a mess. And the people arguing that it is immoral to download the latest pop album have yet to waste their breath to challenge the greater immoralities of copyright.

My understanding there is simply this: if you value the work, try to pay for it in some way. If it’s nothing but a way for you to pass the time, consider finding something better than the creation of people who would like to see you in jail and in debt for life for not paying for their waste of time. In the latter case you will be better off anyway.

Categories
society

Why Information Matters

If you look at the history of any major problem, the solution has involved the freeing of information in some manner. For diseases it involved understanding the transmission, immunity patterns, and eventually understanding the actual bacteria and viruses. World War II was largely an information war, with mathematical feats used to free information and hide it, to gain the upper hand in the conflict.

Is hiding information okay? It depends on the information being hidden. For example, for a military campaign in the aforementioned war, a certain amount of hiding was necessary. But that sort of information has a short half-life (the time until the sensitivity of the information is halved).

Other information is private. That means the information may be necessary to the person’s well-being. It’s up to the person (or organization) to determine when and if to share that information, and who to share it with.

But, all things being equal, the more information that is known about a problem, the easier it is to solve the problem. That means systems that try to tie up what is really public information, like scientific and artistic works that have been published (from the same general origin as public) are failures from their inception. They are confusing control with revenue.

It makes sense for people that create works have a decent quality of life. But that’s different than what’s being done. What’s being done is you have people afraid to share their works because they don’t want someone else stealing their works. You have people who are doing everything in their power to lock down a perpetual copyright law enforced under penalty of death. You have people fighting for the right to share art and scientific knowledge with each other. And you have people missing crucial pieces of information in their endeavors to become better scientists, artists, citizens, because access is blocked.

That’s all bad enough, but the same tools being sold to the Copyright Armada are also turned against people fighting oppressive regimes the world over. You have the same information blocks leading to huge recessions because the traders are naive enough to think an information gap is their best way to make money.

Information is the critical element that makes us more than mere animals, just as when a crow picks up a piece of bent wire and uses it as a tool it is something greater than a crow with a piece of wire. Information is what allows us to do something other than forage and hunt all our days, without shelter.

It is critical that we improve our flows of information. It is information alone that can prevent our worst acts and enable our best acts.

Categories
music

10,000 Days

From a poignant tribute to Maynard’s mother to railing against television, messages of hope and indictments of man’s great crimes culiminate to form the latest Tool record.

As Tool is my favorite band I’ll do my best to keep this review brief. The album really speaks for itself.

The album contains very classical elements, including influences of 1960s & 1970s rock & roll (including Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd), as well as the influences of Jazz & Blues. These are found alongside the “progressive rock” sound Tool is known for, and the two sounds transit seamlessly between one another.

Part of the motive for Keenan’s vocal stylings are revealed in the two-song tribute to his mother Judith Marie Keenan (“Wings for Marie (Pt 1)” and “10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)”). In the latter, a mention is made to the gift his mother passed on to him, which seems to indicate a large role Keenan’s mother played in his development of his voice.

Each song on the record hits hard in its own way.

Loving rememberance for his mother and dispisement of superficial Christians who would attend her funeral are brought out in “Wings for Maire” and “10,000 Days.”

The human tendency toward being swept up in illusions and habits in “Vicarious,” as well as the two-part “Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann),” and “Rosetta Stoned.” The last even gives claim to the doom of man under a particular ailment.

“Vicarious” may fit the bill for “radio friendly,” as I don’t listen to the radio enough to make that determination. It seems odd to me, however, for a song as anti-television as it to be deemed such. It details the commercialization of tragedy via the media, to turn us all into their vehicles of profit.

“Rosetta Stoned” and its introduction “Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)” are a story about a man on an acid trip who finds himself in the hospital still coming down. The medical personnel ask him what has happened, and he reveals the strange journey he has been through to be told the horrible fate man has in store for himself, except he has forgotten.

“The Pot” and “Right in Two” reveal the predatory, self-righteous nature of man in his quest for dominance. Musically, both are candidates for protest songs of Vietnam, transformed into a modern climate.

“Jambi” and “Intension” walk a line between hope and malevolence.

Finally, “Lipan Conjuring” and “Viginti Tres” confound us in their abstract, fragmented natures. The former is a First Nations track of chanting and drums, while the latter is a bizarre soundscape in the vein of “(-) ions.”

Anyway, as I said I’ve kept it short. I may add more if I feel it necessary, or alternatively write up my in-depth interpretations at a later date.

Categories
music

Auricle

(Note: I’ve added a link to a live review I found, as well as lyrics in this post)
Butcher is Sasha Popovic, Camella Grace, and Alex Menck. Their first album, Auricle just came out a few weeks ago on Air in Motion Records. In addition to the five tracks they wrote, it also offers a pair of songs written by Blair MacKenzie Blake, and a video for Elements of Turandot directed by Camella Grace.

This is something like a review of Auricle.

First and foremost this album has a proper original feel to it, spit and polished it erupts at times, and then pulls back to give you a chance to recover, this is sometimes called a game of cat and mouse. The artwork, as should be expected from the artists involved, provokes hesitation in me. It is confrontational, but also very serene, very matter of fact, calming, and accepting.

Black Dahlia >> This is the longest track to be found on Auricle. It is a very emotional (not emo) song involving beautiful pianos and powerful lyrics that are directed at a murder, of which “Black Dahlia” is the victim. “Black Dahlia” (Elizabeth Short) was murdered, cut in half and mutilated, and found on January 15, 1947 in Hollywood where she was visiting at the time. The murder was never solved, but certain aspects of her life and death contribute to Los Angeles’ reputation as a failed, broken, sick excuse for the American Dream. In a particular sense, the explication of this song might lead one to believe it is also a metaphor for the dreams of individuals who venture to that altar in search of the grail of fame and fortune in the entertainment industry.

Elements of Turandot >> Again, beautiful sounds grace us with this song, but it stands out for its juxtaposition of the song with faint whispers, and at a few points coincide with the lyrics being sung. There is a video included on the CD for this track. It is, again, directed by Camella Grace. Given her experience in film, she sets a beautiful watermark for her future efforts with this. I am not familiar with the opera by the title Turandot but it would stand to reason this song relates to it.

Cold >> This track is not listed on the back of the album, nor are the lyrics included (the other songs do have their lyrics included); the credits are, however, included in the liner notes. A long instrumental build up for about the first five minutes of the song deliver us to a fitful end of the album. The lyrical focus seems to be on a death, possibly the Black Dahlia murder from the first track. Cold also utilizes justaposition, this time between the long instrumental march to the lyrical segment that ends it, as well as soft-sung lyrics broken up by high, long-held banshee wails (okay, anachronistic banshee wails).

I feel very glad to have heard this album. It is such a joyful departure from what you inheret from the mainstream, that its morose lyrics are not seen as despair, but instead a charged expression of remorse with the intent of action to reclaim the fallen, in spirit anyway.