Today's linkpost will focus on two topics. One is the NSA's immoral spying activities which Obama promised to fix on his campaign trail and the other is the ever expanding mire of modern Intellectual Property Law.
Let's start with the NSA. There have been three separate arstechnica articles lately about the failures of the NSA spying program. One of the articles discussed the extent to which the program's secrecy made it useless to traditional intelligence workers, another talked about how the warrantless wiretapping that was exposed was just the tip of the iceberg and a third condemned the continuing money being thrown into data centers for the NSA whose output we cannot quantify or evaluate.
That said, it all made me realize just how much arstechnica is an echo chamber for my own views. In Cass Sunstein's book Republic.com and other places he is a bit more alarmist about this than I would be but he's still a smart guy and onto something. With that in mind, I should at least comment that there does seem to be some positive pressure for Obama to live up to his promise, however meager, between angry senators and increased news coverage. In addition, some hold a much more balanced view that promotes waiting and seeing. The NSA position was a major factor in my support of Obama though or at least the belief that he would bolster what are, in my view, weakened civil liberties and constitutional law...and I'm a bit impatient and touchy about it.
As for stupid IP law, the madness just goes on and on. It's hard to know where to begin. I think I blogged about this already but a quick and obvious example is a music industry group that thinks they should be able to charge you each time your phone rings if you have a "musical ringtone". As a matter of fact, they're cleverly suing AT&T over it. At least my enemies are fighting each other. But let's just break their view down for a second. So, you can buy little 10-15 second clips of songs to serve as ringtones when people call you now. And these guys think that whenever someone calls you...and that song, or clip of a song, plays in public, it counts as a public performance of the work and copyright law entitles them to money. What? The same group struggled to get girl scouts to pay royalties for singing copyrighted songs around a campfire, such as "Happy Birthday" and "Row, Row, Row". I don't normally swear on this blog but might I say, Get The Fuck Out. You have no idea what music, or culture for that matter, is good for. Just leave. I get pretty irate about this stuff. Strange conclusions are being reached about what good copyright law is doing.
On the bright side though, Obama has made a USPTO choice which supports patent reform. Patent law, like copyright law, has gotten wildly out of hand in the last two to three decades and I fervently hope Mr. Kappos takes steps to bring some sanity to the system. Above and beyond that, there are still reports coming from academia alleging that piracy is not stopping artists and the pirate party has made it to parliament in Europe. There are also continuing efforts to try new approaches that adapt to modern conditions. Let's just consider IP Law to have two sides and call it a day for now. And I don't mean BSD vs GPL. Sheesh.