.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


Newsbyteblog: the blog of newsbyte regarding all things IT, free speech, copyright and patents and other things deemed interesting.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wikileaks wins!

As many internetjunkies may know by now, there has been a huge battle between free speech and censorship (hey, let me dramatize a bit, will you!?) For more info, see: EFF_ACLU_say_Wikileaks_shutdown_harms_First_Amendment_rights or just google the news with 'wikiweaks'.

As a libertarian who supports almost complete free speech (well, yelling 'fire' is not counted as free speech by me, but I've already discussed those things in the past), I always thought the attack at the main wikileaks domainname was totally unjustified, AND as correctly pointed out by many, the judge included, it didn't prohibit the documents in question from being looked at, since the other domains (especially in Belgium) had a huge succes because of it, creating almost a tenfold of hits of the domain/site. It has backfired on a certain naughty Swiss bank, alright. They got so perturbed, they even sued a person who has no official links to Wikileaks, apart from te fact he was asked to be a facebook moderator. (networkworld)

And now, we received even better news; they've dropped all charges. (Swiss bank in Wikileaks case abruptly abandons lawsuit and Swiss Bank Drops Wikileaks' Lawsuit ).

We win, they loose. Doesn't victory taste as napalm in the morning?

Yes, I know; don't point it out; that (mis)quote is so wrong - in more than one respect... but I still felt like saying it.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Patents vs. The Free World

Yes, I know it's been a long time since my last entry. I'm just not good at this blog-stuff. I have a theory that most bloggers are at least partially driven by their egos, and, well, maybe mine just isn't big enough. ;-)

Anyway, since even to this day I get some emails in reaction to The software patents manifesto, where I get thanked for providing references and links in regard to the patent-issue, I've been pondering about it. I've decided to build a compendium of links to sites and online researchpapers dealing with (the reform of) patents and copy-right issues. If people know some other interesting links I didn't mention, feel free to point them out in a comment, and I'll place it in the list.

Patent -and Copyright (Reform) List:

























If there are more interesting links not mentionned in the list, feel free to provide the link in a comment.


Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The why of (human) space-exploration

A frequently occurring debate I have is with the question whether or not we should have space-exploration (and as a subset: human vs. robotic space exploration). This involves the "we should spend the money on other things, like combating worldhunger"-arguments, as the more subtile arguments which is better: human or robotic exploration.

I have pondered a long time about this, and this is my conclusion:

We all heard the reasoning for abolishing space-exploration (particular human-based) before, and I think the major flaw in all these 'arguments' why we shouldn't go into space is that they always set economic factors as a premise.

But, although economic viability is important to create a mass-usage of space(travel), I fail to see why it should be the only possible motive to start exploring space. It's a pretty narrow-minded, materialistic and typical capitalistic view on things. It's the same view that makes progress on medication for very rare diseases, or for diseases that are prevalent in continents that are poor, so slow: corporations can't see how they are ever going to get profit out of it, so they all turn their backs on it.

If ppl (including states) are only going to do something when they are sure of an immediate profitable return, the world has become a sad place. (And we should leave it the sooner ;-)

Arguments based on such a viewpoint fail to recognize other incentives apart from economical ones.

And the reason why we shouldn't (only) rely on robots? You can explore, but you can not colonize with robots. The will to explore is deeply entrenched in the human race, but with a reason: it has survival advantages.

A species that doesn't colonize new territory and adapt, will perish. I think it's paramount that humans always keep their spirit of adventure and keep exploring and expanding, because the moment we will go "ah, let's sit back in our sofa's and let our robots/droids do it", we're basically finished, even when not being aware of it at that moment.

So, to to all the people saying we don't *need* space-exploration (human or otherwise); we don't *need* the pyramids neither, nor all those great buildings and artworks, nor any luxury, etc. The only thing we 'need' is food and shelter. Based on what we truly 'need' thus, we should go back living like cavemen. But of course, we don't, and the reason is that we, as humans, look beyond our immediate needs and have (and should have) grander visions.

So, economics (and also the ratio of costs/science output) is often less good with human space-travel then robotic ones. Contrary to some zealots, I do not dispute that. But, as I have indicated, I do not think one should measure everything in terms of economic benefits. Even if you could send a hundred, or a thousand robots for the price of one human mission, it still would not change the fact that robots can't colonize planets, and augment the survival chances of the human race (and earths' ecology) through interplanetary spreading.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The anglo-saxon capitalistic viewpoint

Sometimes, I encounter people (mostly americans, but not always) who have a typical anglo-saxon capitalistic view on the world. "Let the markets decide and everything will be allright!" they claim - conveniently forgetting passed historical lessons, or even logical and rational deduction when one compares different economic systems. Sure, communism failed - but so did ultra-capitalism. And it's the latter that seems to be forgotten all too aften. Thus, the following debate ensured (originally dealing with the EU sanctions against microsoft):

"Sure, by the legal definition MS is bad and needs some good beating, but in the moral sense I clearly disagree. I haven't used MS stuff for quite a while. No problems. Just because so many people whine about how they'd like this or that feature in Windows doesn't give them the right to force it."

That's because your moral premise is completely different; you seem to uphold the premise that a company should be allowed to do whatever it wants - while I (and most of the rest of the world) are of the opinion they are to be hold to restrictions, just like any individual citizen is restricted by laws. Now, it is possible, as I have argued myself, that one should not always follow the law if there are moral objections, thus, when a law is totally incompatible with your own basic ethical value-system.

However, I am left pondering what ethical-value system this might be in the case of a monopolist, and in how far this would be universal.

Corporations only have one overwhelming value-system, and that is making as much profit as possible. This, I would argue, can not constitute an ethical justified objection to a restriction imposed by a law, unless one would argue this value-system trumps every other (ethical) value-system.

Which is, in fact, often claimed within the context of the typical anglo-saxon capitalistic view on the world.

It should be noted, however, that this is not a universally accepted premise, and many find there are other considerations and moral/ethical values, beyond that of profit-gathering. Basic protection of citizens - including in their status of consumers - and stimulating innovation in society are both ethical values, for instance, that can be used, aside profits. Since monopolies, as history demonstrates, are antithetical to both, one is fully justified to make adjustements based on those ethical values or argumentation, instead of yours.

The rest of the debate, which goes further and deeper into matter of economic politics and the ultra-capitalistic (sometimes also referred to as 'libertarian' economic viewpoint; which I do not defend, even when being a civil libertarian myself) can be followed here:

The anglo-saxon capitalistic viewpoint


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Attack of the Food Giants

Anyone remember Gazing the Future? It was, among others, a rational pondering and analysis about genetically modified food, and how the dangers are minimised, and the benefits exagerated by large corporations - which are basically only interested in their profit margins, NOT in ending worldhunger or to benefit the farmers, as they often claim.

It so happens I stumbled upon a film which exactly handles about this issue, and much to my delight, they are going through of allmost all objections and remarks I made on my blog. It is gratifying to see that logic and rational reasoning, and an objective assessement of such new (bio)technology is possible, and that the conclusions are much the same.

But then again, it would be quite hard *not* to come to similar conclusions, unless one has a vested interest (which includes politicians who are 'legally bribed' by 'lobbyists'). This film is a documentary in the tradition of Michael Moore; it gives facts, AND it shows how people are mislead, and how corporations try to hide their ethical dubious (mal)practice. I would urge anyone interested in these matters to go to the website: www.thefutureoffood.com and see the film.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Law...and why to say bullocks some times

Well, been a *long* time since I posted something new here. I suspected as much when I started this blog: I'm just not the person to put every week (let alone every day) an insightful and "deep" post on the blog. Maybe I should go in the direction others have gone: more frequent, but a bit more shallow (will be difficult for me too, I think). I just like going deeper into matters... but anyhow, I'll try it for a while. On slashdot I made a nice post in response to someone making a bold claim:

"We might not like the law, but we still have to obey it."

This remembers me about the book 'Bush: president of good and evil', in which the moral and ethical sense of Bush is analysed, and found it is stuck at the level of a 13-year old. (which, in fact, is not as uncommon as one would believe, for many adults are). The sociological and psychological roots of this behaviour would lead me too far, but I'll simplify by saying that there are several levels of 'ethical priciples' which are quite universal (thus, apparant through all times and cultures).

The ethic behaviour of a teenager between 10-15 years is often very stringent; the law is the law, and rules are rules. He does not yet possess the ability to understand thatrules for the sake of rules are useless, and that exeptions can and should be made on personal evaluation of the rules, not merely because society has put them there. To the surprise of the reseachers, many adults continue to live in that mindset, and never evolve to a more nuanced ethical view in which to look at the world. Your argument above hints at the same kind of mentality.

Thus, let me be clear: no, it's not because something is a law, that we should obey it. And while 'not liking it' is on itself not sufficent case to break a law, it DOES give a first indication and a ground to look closer at that law, and see if it is in harmony with itself (are there internal contradictions?), with other laws (which supercedes which?) and your own basic values (is it acceptable within my own ethical value-system?).

If you do not do that, and merely accept you have to follow a law, because the law is there, then one would sooner or later be confronted with unethical behaviour (even from oneself), even though one is following the law. If a law is passed that would put all niggers apart from white people, would you agree to it? If you're argument is that the law is the law, and you should obey it, then the answer would be yes. If you take the principles I just mentionned, then the answer could well be; no - EVEN if the law says something else. And mind you, a democracy is not immune to such unjust laws; it's just a matter of 'the dictatorship of the majority'.

In my own country, for instance - a most democratic one, more so then the rather doubtful two-party system - there has been talk lately about creating a law which not only criminalyzes immigrants, but also ALL people who help them (for instance, by taking them in their homes, giving them food, etc.). Without wanting to invoke the nazi's, that's rather a disturbing trend. If people offer that help freely, out of empathy, are they being wrong? According to the law (if it gets passed), they are, but I say: bullocks to that law. One should not follow unjust laws, whether they are created by due democratic processes or not.

One could even say that laws, which are generally just, still have to be measured by a persons own value. At least, that's what I do. For instance, I can agree, that stealing is, in general, a 'wrong' thing. When some rich western bloke would steal a television, I would agree with the law: punish him. And yet, if a kid stole food because he was starving, I would not think the same, and would not cooperate with 'the law'. Certainly, these cases are not always easy to spot and to know what is the best thing to do, but it does not absolve you from doing it, and making that personal evaluation.

Following laws just because they have been made is the ultimate stupidity.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

EU response on swpat petition

A few weeks ago, I finally got a response back of the EU Directorate General. A response to what, you ask? Well, for those that are familiar with my interest in (no) swpat, it will be obvious it's to the petition (actually the second one, but the first apparently disappeared) I made to the EU parliament, which was based on the "Software patents manifesto" I made (CC).

My first one was send several months before the actual definitive vote, but got lost. My second did arrive, on 30.03.2005... still on time, but for the slow adminstrative and bureaucratic procedures (something I criticise in the manifest also), which made it too late for having an actual influence on the vote (as a petition, I mean). The main reason being, that it has to go through the committee of petitions, to see if it's allowable. For that, the request must come from a EU citizen (which I am), and must be about subject matter that falls within the scope of the EU parliament (which it did). As a consequence, it got accepted...but by that time the vote was already over. "Fairly lengthy" they call it...indeed!

Well, anyway, the proof is there that at least I tried, which is more than one can say for some anonymous posters who responded to earlier posts on this blog. ;-)

The letters can be viewed here: