Commentary: Usenet? Who Cares? Part 2

// 6th Mar '11 Commentary: Usenet? Who Cares? Part 2

Caring and [file]Sharing

...where was I?

In Part 1 I was sharing so you might remember the good old days, or perhaps hear of Usenet for the first time. Now allow me to gel some related news items from the last year into a more focused prediction. The challenges facing Usenet and the surrounding Scene are complex and threatening, and it doesn't take a genius to see the writing-on-the-wall. As the world rushes towards that next Technological Leap, laws related to those Social changes, including stepped up enforcement, are spiraling out of control. Overreaction by Government is easy to predict, as any time you serve up a steaming platter of Anarchy like Usenet, the Fuzz are guaranteed to show up packing heat ...and I don't mean Sterno.

Next in line the Software and Entertainment Industries pile-on in a struggle to blame away the declining profits of an aging business model. In my opinion, the voices of the global Citizenry are being overshadowed by penny-pinching Corporate, and hard-line Governmental voices. Welcome to Part 2, where I will send you off-SHACK to read some recent news items which have made my head spin and heart sink. We just did a quick recap, next let's dive in a little deeper, because there are serious, even justifiable reasons Usenet is targeted by Government and Industry. Somewhere between Them getting paid for every gram of creativity, and You creatively rationalizing why you deserve to get everything possible for free some Truthiness.

Making a Scene

This is the UsenetSHACK, so I will try and keep the commentary mainly focused on Usenet. Apologies up front because the first Rule-of-The-Scene is "don't talk about The Scene" (wait that's Fight Club, oh sorry again, same thing.) However, it may be difficult to understand why Usenet is the target of so many anti-piracy efforts until you understand the writing-on-[all the various]-walls surrounding The Scene. For all the differences between Usenet, IRC, Torrents, P2P, NZB-Indexers, and cloud-based Lockers, the Societal perception is being crafted by the Opposition into a singularity that apparently needs to be "cleaned up", and soon!

“Who Cares?” I am asking you to care, because this notion the Internet needs to be "made safe [for Kids?]" only sounds like a good idea when the voices from only one side are being broadcast. Sanitizing The Scene will not just make it more difficult to get that Ubuntu release you missed [cough]. It is wise to evaluate today, what we could collectively loose in some State-run "cleaning" process, as they prefer the shotgun approach to a scalpel. I stray to include the multi-faceted Scene in this Usenet rant because once any new laws are ratified to clean up one area, the enforcement will be foisted on them all.

Evolving countermeasure technologies, especially VPN, must look like a growing nightmare to Government and Industry. My Chicken Little dance here is defined by the predictable escalation of Internet laws and policy that can only address these issues by reducing our privacy and freedom across the board ...and across the seas. These links in Part 2 are not meant to be breaking News items, but instead a compilation of the latest trends in enforcement of existing laws and attempts to increasingly pass new ones. There are examples where darker motives are veiled in righteous ones, and laws pass with a friendly glossing over of how the letter of it was never intended for enforcement ...which is never the truth. Do not wait my friends to hear the words "Zero Tolerance" before you start getting involved. By then it will be too late.

Caught Red-Handed

There is no denying that from bots on EFNet, leechers on Usenet, to college Freshmen P2P newbs, there are plenty of opportunities for Intellectual Property infringement, but the "Devil is in the Details". Having a bigger-picture balanced view may prevent this from being painted with one legal brushstroke, color ...Felony, because right now that's a fact. Together let's examine some of these, because defining evolving new Law is also "in the details". As we weigh all of the elements into a meaningful, fair, and socially (globally!) beneficial decision moving forward ...may I recommend we do that analysis and contribution before it's enacted into Law. If you are reading carefully you may notice I am targeting enforcement and not so much the basic laws themselves, but remember the limits of enforcement are detailed in those laws, so bargaining after your arrest doesn't always work's a little late for your input.

As our Social stresses grow, Public Servants always feel the need to press for harsher enforcement, I mean we need somebody/something to blame and some kind of hope for relief from all this fear. Harsher enforcement always equals better deterrence right? So when deciding if you are behind any new Law, never fall for the soft-sell, and always remember how easily the spirit of any new law is forgotten. Remember when the Mayor of your town was on TV talking about how we needed those red light traffic cameras, and they were there just to reduce accidents and stop the blatant violators? Oh no! Not for folks who were just slipping under the yellow light by a fraction of a second? ...and how the automated tickets wouldn't put points on your license, and wouldn't affect your car insurance rates. Then you got got one in the mail, with a picture of you over the line with a 0.3 second time.

Ooop there's your picture right there ...criminal. And look it's speed radar too. You were doing 40 in a 35 ...better pay the Man! When you allow these things to pass, and learn it was mostly an arm-twisting money making scheme later, it's too late isn't it? ...and the next morning you are driving through the same intersection and Gramma in front of you slams on her brakes to stop at the yellow light and you get sandwiched between two SUVs. Now you are dead and who's fault is it? The Mayors'? No dummy, you weren't paying attention. You bought the soft soap and paid with your life. While I am being silly, this is at least 75% true, and this is exactly how these deals slide under our collective radar. We are all suckers for our own short-sighted righteous indignation.

Honor Among Thieves

In all honesty, the Industry and The Man have a point, but here again we come up against that "Letter of the Law vs. the Spirit of the Law" concept I mentioned in Part 1. I have no intention in saying there is no need for Intellectual Property Law. While the Letter of those laws regarding Piracy are clear, it's time to attempt to understand the deeper societal value of Usenet and the wider Scene, before they devise some legal scorched earth policy, because it's not all about Piracy. Legally swatting everything with a broadsword lacks wisdom ...the old analogy of cutting off hands for stealing a loaf of bread. Some current enforcements of International Intellectual Property Law have seemed to me like an attempt to cure cancer by lining up all the people with cancer and loping off their heads.

Newzbin2 is a great example of compromise on this side of the fence, as they obviously desire to not be seen as "anti-industry" or "pro-piracy", also my goal. On Newzbin2's site they demonstrate they are merely another search engine by offering the option to have a Usenet posting of your "property" removed from their indexed list, on your request. Maybe the other side should be as willing to compromise, but perhaps helping them towards that enlightenment should be our job? Not all voting happens in a voting booth, most times it's at a cash register.

What Price Freedom?

Here's a favorite quote from Samuel Adams.

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."

The Scene is a place where there are no limits to the knowledge you can obtain and the Information Technology skills you can develop. It is precisely Sammy Adams' “animated contest for freedom." It's fiercely competitive, and pits the best and brightest against each other, and The Man's the modern equivalent of The Jungle, a technological Rain Forest of species fighting to thrive and survive ...a Brain Forest. There is clear evidence a huge chunk of the brain power (and testicular fortitude!) behind the Modern Internet Age, the core genius behind Web entities like Google and Facebook, and giants like Microsoft and Apple, cut their technological teeth in some part of the Scene ...or more precisely, were it's creators!

Attempts to straighten out the dark kinks in the Information Superhighway by restricting and monitoring Public access, with escalating threats to destroy all violators, is clueless to the massive social, technological, and economic value offered in all that crudeness. Freedom ain't pretty. Neither is Progress. You cannot end theft or espionage or throttle Human curiosity by locking down the Internet, but that does not mean they will not try. Is it wrong that I see this vibrant environment as a place the many eggs of free progress get laid, and the next technological generation fights to succeed? How should we handle that curious inventiveness, if sometimes it's over the "letter-of-the-law" legal line? A marshland does not stink because it needs to be cleaned up, it stinks because it has all the necessary nutrients to spawn Creation.

Moths to the Light of an Ambu-Lamps

Nowadays they interview Presidential candidates on whether they smoked some pot or snorted a little cocaine as a measure of youthful character. I predict the upcoming generation will have to answer questions like "when you were in college, did you ever download any illegal software/music/movies?" I cannot say that piracy is a good thing. I cannot recommend getting involved in trading pr0n as a career path to getting that SEO Dev job at Google. The reality is that these temptations are what they are, and have always contemporaneously existed. Most importantly these moral challenges have compelling Human value. We are not born with character, we fight for it. In the Government's interest of making everything safe and defending the Letter of the Law, we may just sanitize away the struggle that makes us stronger, even morally so. I say it is nothing short of delusional to believe we can "clean up the Internet", but in the same breath I predict it to be the next "War on Drugs". The rhetoric has already proven to be the same.

Legal Firms are also flexing the arm of International Treaty Law, not just the Software and Entertainment Industry. One of the most worrisome precedents is how Law firms working on contingency fees are trying to subpoena IP logs from Internet Service Providers. Namely, IP addresses culled from joining in on movie bittorrents. In Part 1, I jokingly predicted the ploy of combining Child porn and Piracy, and was surprised to hear it come (almost) true. The latest strategy is to join in bittorrents for Gay porn to capture IPs. Then they subpoena your ISP for IP logs and send you a snail mail requesting cash "settlement", on the basis they have evidence you were logged downloading "The Butt Pirates of the Caribbean" (disclaimer: a convenient and obvious make-believe title, and I have no idea if it's an actual movie ...but surely it is ...I just don't want it popping up in my search history)

Imagine getting that letter. You can just hear the gerbils flying out of some married guy's behind, as he debates whether he should "settle", or let this one go to court ...where he would probably win ...just before his divorce. Tsk tsk. Really? Are we going to let this be adopted on a wider scale? It is legal. Legal shenanigans like this are even creepier than Daddy checking out pirated butt burglary xvids ...yeah, yeah join us in taking the Moral High Ground and "Clean up the Internet." A great start, indicative of what truly drives much of the anti-piracy sanctimony ...shameful-yet-legal cash shakedowns. These publishers may have little anger towards people downloading their intellectual property, all they have to be is morally bankrupt enough to say "Yes" to the Law firms offer to split the bounty. The letter of the law is on the side of this disturbing trend.

In order for these ambulance-chasing law firms to be successful, they must get ISPs to turn over records of who-was-logged-on-when. What frightens me is the way these cases can set legal precedents where that process of gathering IP logs becomes easy, or is adopted as commonplace. The next predictable step is scrutiny of who-is-downloading-what and are they breaking the Law. Even worse, some third party (and Third-world) IP loggers hired to take the workload off your ISP Operations staff. Privacy lost. Freedom Lost. Guilty before proven innocent.

In Conclusion

WoW, this was waay longer [hah!] I trimmed it into separate articles coming soon. This is just my worried opinion, so as always my advice is, "never listen to my advice". I'm not smart enough or wise enough to tell anyone what is the right thing to do. "Caring" just means participating, and that translates into perhaps adjusting your data feed and RSS subscribing to some of the sources I have linked above to get these hot news releases apparently if you got all the way down here just might care. UsenetSHACK could also re-tweet and re-post all the latest news from all the same folks, but there's an Army of reposters out there. Instead, I hope you enjoyed something new. Hey subscribe to our Twitter and the usenetSHACK RSS feed as there's more to come.

As promised, my VyprVPN review is also in the funnel, but Golden Frog has recently rolled out two major upgrades to the original PPTP-based Vypr, L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN, so for me it's back to the drawing board. With all the world trying to sniff your packets, you deserve some solid countermeasures, and it's easy to see how personal VPN is just the ticket to help you avoid getting one of the above-mentioned Internet red light tickets. With all the coolness in the usenetSHACK pipeline make sure you don't miss out ...subscribe, and as always Comments below. Hey I gave my opinion, and caring? least we can talk about it.

Stay Safe!


BoDark posted by BoDark
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