Category Archives: Television

SOPA Could Destroy the Internet as We Know It —Adam Savage

Congress reconvenes in January and will take up the Internet censorship bills SOPA and PIPA again. The House only deferred SOPA because of widespread public outcry. Proponents of SOPA, funded by big corporate money, are probably just hoping opponents will be distracted by the holidays. Adam Savage reminds us why we need to be vigilant and keep flooding Congress with calls to vote down those bills or anything like them.

MythBuster Adam Savage wrote for Popular Mechanics 20 December 2011, SOPA Could Destroy the Internet as We Know It

Right now Congress is considering two bills—the Protect IP Act, and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—that would be laughable if they weren’t in fact real. Honestly, if a friend wrote these into a piece of fiction about government oversight gone amok, I’d have to tell them that they were too one-dimensional, too obviously anticonstitutional.

Make no mistake: These bills aren’t simply unconstitutional, they are anticonstitutional. They would allow for the wholesale elimination of entire websites, domain names, and chunks of the DNS (the underlying structure of the whole Internet), based on nothing more than the “good faith” assertion by a single party that the website is infringing on a copyright of the complainant. The accused doesn’t even have to be aware that the complaint has been made.

I’m not kidding.

He goes on to correctly compare SOPA and PIPA unfavorably to the already bad Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. You remember, the DMCA that big copyright holders used to sue pre-teen video and audio “pirates” and to take down websites on suspicion. Savage cites a case where somebody with no copyright still got YouTube vidoes taken down under DMCA. Yes, SOPA and PIPA are even worse.

If you like YouTube, twitter, facebook, blogs, etc., it’s time to speak up. Call your Senators and House members. Send them email. Write them paper letters. Petition them. Show up at their offices. Petition the White House to veto it if Congress passes it, and any other bills like it. Right now we still have the Internet to organize these things.


Woz to FCC: Save the Internet

Wozniak to the FCC on net neutrality:
Imagine that when we started Apple we set things up so that we could charge purchasers of our computers by the number of bits they use. The personal computer revolution would have been delayed a decade or more. If I had to pay for each bit I used on my 6502 microprocessor, I would not have been able to build my own computers anyway.
He also details examples of how difficult it was to start a new service the way the telephone system used to be, how radio used to all be freely receivable, and how cable TV is mis-regulated. He summarizes his case:
I frequently speak to different types of audiences all over the country. When I’m asked my feeling on Net Neutrality I tell the open truth. When I was first asked to “sign on” with some good people interested in Net Neutrality my initial thought was that the economic system works better with tiered pricing for various customers. On the other hand, I’m a founder of the EFF and I care a lot about individuals and their own importance. Finally, the thought hit me that every time and in every way that the telecommunications careers have had power or control, we the people wind up getting screwed. Every audience that I speak this statement and phrase to bursts into applause.
Then he asks for all that not to happen to the Internet:
We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it’s probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself.
Ain’t that the truth.


Keen on Coughlin on the Internet

tn_andrew_keen_sombre_4inx4in_300_3.jpg I was going to say you have to admire Andrew Keen for finding a contrarian perspective and mining it for all it’s worth. But this latest missive from him seems all too desperate.
Can Obama’s plan for universal broadband turn the recession into a political nightmare resembling the 1930s? Yes, it can, writes the author of the controversial book, The Cult of the Amateur.

Imagine if today’s radically unregulated Internet, with its absence of fact checkers and editorial gatekeepers, had existed back then. Imagine that universal broadband had been available to enable the unemployed to read the latest conspiracy theories about the Great Crash on the blogosphere. Imagine the FDR-baiting, Hitler-loving Father Charles Coughlin, equipped with his “personalized” YouTube channel, able, at a click of a button, to distribute his racist message to the suffering masses. Or imagine a marketing genius like the Nazi chief propagandist Josef Goebbels managing a viral social network of anti-Semites which could coordinate local meet-ups to assault Jews and Communists.

The Internet Is Bad For You, by Andrew Keen, 19 Dec 2008

Like we don’t already have xenophobic propaganda on talk radio, Fox News, Lou Dobbs on CNN, etc. Rush Limbaugh already has his personalized TV show channel, as does Bill O’Reilly. If that’s what gatekeepers bring us, bring on the Internet.

With net neutrality, please. As in what Larry Lessig says Obama plans to require:

the terms offered one website or company are no better or worse than those offered anyone else.
That way we can keep free speech on the Internet, even if it doesn’t exist on TV or radio. What Keen hates most about the Internet is exactly what is its greatest strength: it is not a broadcast medium. It is a participatory medium, in which everyone can publish and everyone can select what to read or view. For example, I realize that I’m giving Keen’s doleful visage a tiny amount of publicity by posting this, but hey, it’s better to have weirdly wrongheaded stuff like this out there where everybody can see it and rebut it than having it festering in the darkness.
“I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

—Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 1820

On this I’ll go with Jefferson rather than Keen.


Sitcoms as Gin, or, Looking for the Mouse

Clay Shirky explains why sitcoms serve the same function as gin did in industrial revolution Britain:


This is why traditional media fear the Internet. They have been supplying the gin to keep us all intoxicated instead of doing anything participatory or useful with our leisure time. The Internet (and gaming, and computers in general) provides ways of interacting and participating at every scale from local to global that have never existed before. And people are starting to use them.

Think about that the next time somebody equates “screen time” for television and the Internet.


Abyss: What You Won’t Hear Without the Internet

tim-robbins.jpg Tim Robbins, famous actor, writer, director, and producer, was invited by the National Association of Broadcasters to give a talk. Then they turned off all the cameras. But they forgot to tell the audience to turn off their voice recorders:
Now some of you are concerned with that unrelenting pesky competition. You know, the new technologies; the Internets and satellite radio and television. The problem is there are too many people in this country that take the notion of creativity and invention too damn seriously. Just when one technology is centralized, conglomerated, monopolized, along come new technologies and delivery systems to threaten the good work born of deregulation. Just when we were getting close to a national playlist for our music, satellite technology is threatening to provide music that people actually want to hear. Just when we were close to a national news media, providing a general consensus on what the truth is, along comes the Internets that allow its users a choice on the kinds of news it watches. And the You Tube. My God we’ve got to stop them. Recently when we were about to enjoy our great national pastime of ‘tearing apart a presidential candidate with relentless repetition of ugly things his friend said’, You Tube provided the candidates reasoned response and millions watched and responded positively.

Well you here at NAB have the power to stop this dangerous technology. The question is, how? I respectfully suggest that you do what others have done when facing the competition of new technologies. Get compromising information on your enemy and expose them in a sex scandal. Or call them a racist, or better yet a traitor. That not only undermines your competitor, but provides the public with fantastic entertainment.

The Power and Responsibility of our Nation’s Broadcasters, By Tim Robbins, The following is my opening keynote speech for the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, which I delivered Monday night. 14 April 2008

He had a fine time lampooning that the news media do all the time. And then he got serious: Continue reading

Censored News 2007

phillips_photo.jpg As usual, net neutrality was the top censored news story of 2007:
Throughout 2005 and 2006, a large underground debate raged regarding the future of the Internet. More recently referred to as “network neutrality,” the issue has become a tug of war with cable companies on the one hand and consumers and Internet service providers on the other. Yet despite important legislative proposals and Supreme Court decisions throughout 2005, the issue was almost completely ignored in the headlines until 2006.1 And, except for occasional coverage on CNBC’s Kudlow & Kramer, mainstream television remains hands-off to this day (June 2006).2

Most coverage of the issue framed it as an argument over regulation—but the term “regulation” in this case is somewhat misleading. Groups advocating for “net neutrality” are not promoting regulation of internet content. What they want is a legal mandate forcing cable companies to allow internet service providers (ISPs) free access to their cable lines (called a “common carriage” agreement). This was the model used for dial-up internet, and it is the way content providers want to keep it. They also want to make sure that cable companies cannot screen or interrupt internet content without a court order.

#1 Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media, Top 25 Censored news stories of 2007 Project Censored, The News That Didn’t Make The News Sonoma State University, 2007

This is the first I’ve heard that “Internet service providers” other than cable companies are on the side of consumers. Doubtless AT&T will be gratified to hear that version. Oh, wait: later the same writeup refers to “cable supporters like the AT&T-sponsored Hands Off the Internet website.” Also, what’s this about free access? Continue reading

AT&T, Texas Football, and Legislators

eddierodriguez.jpg AT&T tried to impress Texas legislators by streaming the football game in high definition:
“I’d never seen a football game on a big screen like that. It didn’t look very good.”

—Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, quoted in UNDER THE DOME Most Austin reps skipped football game – and lobby party, W. Gardner Selby, Austin American-Statesman, Saturday, December 01, 2007

I’m not sure AT&T wanted that kind of reaction to watching a Texas football team in Austin, the capital of the second most populous state. The local cableco in Austin, Time Warner, didn’t have the game (Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers), which was on the NFL Network, which has a deal with AT&T. Most legislators didn’t even show up to watch. Interesting, considering that legislators and regulators are the real audience of the duopoly.



apparatchik.jpg From London, it appears the emperor’s apparatchik has no clothes:
The commission, under Mr Martin, has turned US media policy into mere political theatre, while technology marches on apace, revolutionising media markets without any serious input from the regulators in the public debate about the implications.

Big Media control of the airwaves is simply not the threat to democracy and choice that it once was (in the days before cable or, for that matter, bloggers and MySpace). This is yesterday’s battle. It is time to move on to the tougher challenge: how to ensure that quality news survives the YouTube era.

New rules for yesterday’s problem, Editorial, Financial Times, Published: November 14 2007 19:15 | Last updated: November 14 2007 19:15

Well, the first step would be to ensure that people get to look at it, for example that they are able to view the Financial Times. Economic models would be good, too. Some traditional news media seem to be developing those.
But it is not clear how one troubled industry (newspapers) can be helped by grafting it on to another one (the broadcast media), when both have essentially the same problem: the internet is stealing their advertising revenues.
Well, the New York Times has discovered can make more money by advertising if they don’t charge for articles. And that didn’t involve merging with a TV station. With real ISP competition, somebody would also develop a real first-mile ISP business plan.


Pirates of the Duopoly: AT&T Plans Anti-Piracy Content-Recognition

attseal.jpg Yo ho:
Remember YouTube’s content filtering system? AT&T is mulling setting one up across its whole network. BusinessWeek’s reporting AT&T’s in talks with NBC Universal and Disney to possibly use content-recognition tech developed by Vobile—a company they’ve all invested in—to block pirated material from being sent to and fro along its network. Net Neuterality: AT&T Considering Scary, Content-Recognizing Anti-Piracy Filter for Entire Network, Gizmodo, by Matt Buchanan, 8 Nov 2007

Perhaps Disney, NBC, and AT&T have forgotten that Disney has made pirates very popular.

Meanwhile, it’s one thing for YouTube to do content filtering. It’s quite another for AT&T, as one of the duopoly of Internet access in most of the U.S., to do the same. You know, the same AT&T that censored Pearl Jam and other bands for expressing political views.

I wonder how big a backlash there will be when AT&T’s customers discover more false positives than fingerprints?