Category Archives: politics

Should you move to electronic books?

Yesterday I heard that eBook sales have increased by 150% over this year.  While I have purchased quite a few eBooks, I still have a significant investment and ownership in hard copy books; books you can share, loan, and resell.

 

As the Kindle is the largest seller, I would also advise to be careful not to be sucked into Amazon’s web of control. DRM is unconstitutional, and unless you have the knowledge and capability (and desire) to break the law to support your constitutional rights, then it’s not a great idea to buy into the DRM cartel.

On top of that Amazon has continued to show that they care very little about their customers, as they continue to give precedence to the publishers as could be seen by their attempt to steal (and in many cases a successful one) of Orwell books, by crippling features of the device due to publisher pressure, by allowing publishers to charge only a few dollars less for a few bits that are crippled through DRM as compared to a hard copy, by creating new versions of their kindle every six months to ensure that old versions do not keep their value, and users continue to buy new ones.
Add on top of that, the fact that you loose your right of first sale (a right protected by U.S. copyright but trumped by the DMCA) in the fact that you cannot resell your kindle books.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have 2 kindles, and spend a significant amount of money on books every year at Amazon (I am an avid reader), and many of those books are kindle books. But unless the book I want is one that I can use the "read to me" function while traveling, I usually opt for the paper books – or, sometimes, both (used hard copy and kindle copy).

Anyone for a conspiracy….

 

Pentagon destroys thousands of copies of Army officer’s memoir

http://articles.cnn.com/2010-09-25/us/books.destroyed_1_national-security-agency-memoir-2nd-edition?_s=PM:US

 

Ok, here’s the deal.  The first I heard of this I said to myself, if they truly believe the information would impact national security, then it must be kept secret… but then I thought why the heck would the Pentagon wait until after the book was published before they pulled the plug on it in such a visible way…  and there I think is the key!

While most people that like a good conspiracy are focusing on “What was removed” – I’m really thinking we should be focusing on “Why did they do it in such a visible way”.

Follow the bouncing ball. 

The writer is an ex-CIA op – probably worked in PsyOps and Counter Intel; wouldn’t it seem plausible that he was in collusion with the Pentagon to write the book, publish the book, and then have the book destroyed and redacted in such a public manner? 

First, it would definitely increase the book sales, but second, and more importantly, it would bring more credence to the information being written in the book. 

So, what if the book is actually a ploy to feed our minds with information that really isn’t true; by doing what they did in such a visible way, they have all but assured that people will buy the book, read the book, believe the book, and spread & speculate on what else may have been “taken out”.

Do we buy it “hook, line and sinker”?

See, I’m either smarter than everyone else, or I’m more paranoid than everyone else!  Either way, it certainly works to fuel the fun of conspiracies!

Now, off to buy the book!  🙂

r/Darth Jedi

Information isn’t power… knowledge is power…

While some might say that “information is power”, I think it’s important to make a distinction between “information” and “knowledge”. While the dictionary defines Information as knowledge, I take exception to this definition.

Information is a term that is used to describe a piece of data or fact that hasn’t been applied or used; knowledge on the other hand is applied information. I make this distinction because I believe it is important to the conversation.

Information is potential power; knowledge is power. Information must be internalized, consumed and utilized for it to become truly powerful. This internalization, consumption and utilization this is the key to knowledge.

When a computer stores a piece of information inside of itself, it is just that: information; it is not appropriate to call the data stored inside a computer, knowledge; however, when I have stored a piece of information inside me, it is no longer just information, it is called knowledge.

I can pass this knowledge onto someone else; and in transit, I would refer to it as information; for example, I would say “Hey, I have some information for you!”, but once I have passed that information along, you now have internalized it and this information has become knowledge.

Information is agnostic to ownership; knowledge is fundamentally positioned as requiring ownership.

Therefore; in the context of power, I will state that information is only the potential power; knowledge is the true power.

Protecting the Constitution against the DMCA and DRM

 

 

 

 

 

Protecting the Constitution against the DMCA and DRM

Jediah Logiodice

IT5160 Ethics in Information Technology

Dr. Joanne White Thunder

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Abstract

The United States Constitution grants powers to the Congress to create laws which promote the progress of science by allowing authors a time-limited exclusive right to their original works. While Copyright law has been amended in many successive movements overtime, it is important that all newly designed laws are upheld by the original intent and powers granted to the Congress by the U.S. Constitution. The creation of the Digital Millennial Copyright Act and subsequent implementations of Digital Rights Management technologies have encroached on the Constitution and have made allowances for the enforcement of unlawful limitations by copyright owners. It is thus beholden upon the American people to reject as unlawful the power of the DMCA and DRM technologies.

In 1791 the first ten amendments of the Constitution of the United States were ratified, these ten amendments were later to be known as the Bill of Rights. The fifth article of The Bill of Rights states that "[no person shall be] deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law (WikiPedia, 2009)." The Bill of Rights expands upon the foundation of law set forth in the Constitution. The Constitution and following amendments are a culmination of the attempt to create an environment built on freedom and justice, balancing the needs of the many against the needs of the individual in a way that seeks to uphold the claims put forth on July 4th, 1776 within the Declaration of Independence stating that all men (sic.) have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (WikiPedia, 2009)."

The pursuit of justice and liberty has been a reoccurring theme throughout the history of the United States, and involves issues teetering precariously on the struggle between the rights of the state and the rights of the people; commercial enterprise against consumer, one man or woman against another. If we were to peel away the details of the individual struggles of justice and liberty over the courses of time, we would find that at the core of this struggle is the question of property ownership (Ely, 2008, p. 26)."

In the past, questions of property, even questions that govern intangible ideas such as intellectual property, revolved around the physical ownership of things such as a typewritten book, a painted image, or a vinyl record, etc. As the American society continues to struggle to refine current laws around property ownership in copyright laws, civilization advances relentlessly forward and we are faced with new and intriguing challenges. Today, property rights extend to things as ephemeral as electrical impulses stored and forwarded across the central nervous system of a publically accessible super-brain referred to as the World Wide Web.

Law makers, as they have in the past, continue to focus on identifying the appropriate balance between justice and freedom; however, laws devised to protect and control the ownership of property must also be built upon and upheld by the foundation of the Constitution.

In 1998 the Congress of the United States passed into law an act referred to as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA put forth certain provisions allowing the rise of technologies that have been used to facilitate constitutional violations, have undermined the intent and use of the original U.S. Copyright laws, and have stifled technological and intellectual innovations. While the DMCA is the formal cause of this malfeasance enacted against the people of the United States, the material cause is a collection of technologies loosely coupled together and used to limit and control who and when digital content can be read and copied. These technologies are referred to as Digital Rights Management technologies or DRM.

It is the intent of this paper to outline examples of ways in which the DMCA and DRM have been used to facilitate constitutional violations, to address some of the ways in which DRM undermines the intent of the original copyright laws, and bring to the attention the controversy over the use of DRM in inhibiting the growth of intellectual innovations and humanity as a whole. To bring weight to these examples we must first examine the operational powers that have been granted to the U.S. Congress to enact laws protecting the property ownership rights of authored works.

Copyright Law in the United States

The term Copyright is used to denote a form of property protection provided to owners and artists for "original works of authorship (U.S. Copyright Office, 2009, p. 1)." While the U.S. Copyright laws consist of a significant number of amendments; to remain constitutional, all copyright laws and subsequent amendments must be built on the constitutional powers granted in Article I, section 8, clause 8, of the U.S. Constitution which allows Congress the power to "promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited tımes to Authors and Inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries (U.S. Constitution)."

The language of the Article I, section 8, clause 8, immediately brings to mind the desire to balance the rights of the individual over against the rights of society as a whole. Within this language, however, it can also be clearly seen that the purpose of securing to authors a time-limited exclusive right to their works was to promote the progress of science and useful arts.

When studying this power afforded by the constitution, it is paramount that we ensure that all enacted copyright laws remain constitutional in limiting the time in which authors are granted exclusive rights to their works, as well as having a primary purpose of promoting the progress of science and useful arts. If amended copyright laws act against either of these two primary constitutional objectives, they must be deemed unconstitutional and rejected by the American people.

Retarding the growth of intellectual pursuits around the world

When weighting the pros and cons of proposed law, it is often easy to reject opposition based on a projected forecast of future negative consequences. However, it is much harder to reject the historical data collected post-ratification that speaks clearly about the unforeseen negative consequences of an enacted law.

In an article entitled Unintended Consequences: Ten Years under the DMCA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation raises a number of concerns regarding the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennial Copyright Act, referred to as section 1201 (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2008). These concerns include numerous Mafia like attempts, lawsuits and gag orders against personal, professional and University based technologists and researchers. These documented attacks on the freedom of speech, freedom of information and freedom of intellectual and academic pursuit come from such organizations as Sony-BMG, SunnComm, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and even the organization that builds the tools we use in our Capella University Courseroom – BlackBoard. The EFF continues by showing how the DMCA has lead to the violation of rights, threats and disreputable treatment of individuals being accused of violating the "anti-circumvention laws", with the primary purpose showing how DMCA supported actions have "chilled free expression and scientific research. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2008)."

This article continues to cite example after example in which the DMCA is the direct cause of inhibiting academic, scientific and artistic research, not only in the United States, but around the world. The capstone quote, calling for DMCA reform, summarizes the problem with the DMCA; in a 2002 statement from White House Cyber Security Chief Richard Clarke, Clarke is quoted as saying: "I think a lot of people didn’t realize that it [DMCA] would have this potential chilling effect on vulnerability research. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2008)."

In the end, while future forecasting may have been ignored in 1998 when the DMCA was first instituted, these historical views of the DMCA can clearly show its effect on stifling rather than "promoting the progress of science and useful arts."

If it wasn’t enough to stop there in showing the damage and the unconstitutional results of the applications of the DMCA; Digital Rights Management, one of the technical implementations whose use is being upheld by the laws enacted by the DMCA is found to be even more damaging to the academic and scientific progress of the world.

In their article titled Digital Rights Management: A failure in the developed world, a danger to the developing world the EFF once again takes aim at the problems caused by the DMCA and DRM. Here various aspects of dangerous implications of DRM are discussed in open detail. Among these dangers are concerns such as how renewable DRM can be used to cheat consumers out of products or services they have already paid for by disabling features at the whim of copyright holders.

Other dangers outline how DRM limits the abilities of developing countries that rely on second hand resale markets for dissemination of products and information for growth and maturity, how Libraries are being unable to exercise their lawful rights when moving to digital media, how DRM can allow authors to "unilaterally prevent" disabled people from exercising rights afforded by existing copyright laws, and even how DRM can inhibit the ability for schools and universities to offer distance education (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2005).

Within this article, the EFF continues by showing detailed examples in which DRM shackled technologies such as DVD have experienced very little innovation over the years since being introduced because of the lack of academic research allowed within the technologies. In summary, railing against the way in which DRM is used to withhold information, the EFF points out: "Access to information is essential in education and research and has a direct impact on literacy levels, economic growth and quality of life (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2005)."

And thus, there should be no doubt that the DMCA and DRM have been used to inhibit the "progress of science and useful arts" and therefore it should be declared unconstitutional and rejected by the American people.

However, the problems do not end there; the DMCA and use of DRM directly impacts the ability of consumers to exercise the doctrine of Fair Use, and First Sale, both consumer rights protected in the U.S. Copyright law.

The Doctrine of Not-So-Fair Use and One-time-only Sales

In the Copyright Act of 1976, two important doctrines were formed and codified in the United States Code: the doctrine of Fair Use, and the doctrine of First Sale. Fair Use as defined in U.S. Copyright Law is intentionally ambiguous as each specific situation stands to dictate what is ‘fair’ (Lohmann, 2005). Section 107 of Article 17 of the United States Code declares that various situations can be used to determine fairness, including the purpose and character of the use and the nature of the copyrighted work (U.S. Copyright Office, 2007).

When examining the doctrine of Fair Use Fred von Lohmann, a senior Intellectual Property Attorney of the EFF states that the doctrine of Fair Use helps bring sanity into the law of copyright, protecting people in actions as innocent as whistling a tune walking down the road, or cutting out and posting a comic strip on an office wall (Lohmann, 2005). However, current implementations of DRM are incapable of creating allowances for the doctrine of Fair Use, and once combined with the DMCA anti-circumvention laws DRM effectively limits and destroys the capabilities provided in the doctrine of fair use to consumers.

On top of this violation of copyright law, the doctrine of First Sale allows ownership of material that has a copyright to be transferred when the product is purchased. In other words, when a consumer purchases a book that is held in copyright, that book then becomes the property of the consumer, and they have the right to gift or resell the book without being held in violation of U.S. Copyright Laws.

However, despite the protection provided to consumer by use of the doctrine of First Sale, current implementations of DRM restrict the transfer of copy protected works to the purchaser, and allow copyright holders to retain ownership of copy protected works, even after the ownership of said works has been legally transferred through the doctrine of First Sale.

Abuses of this illegal control afforded to copyright owners can be seen in recent cases such as when Amazon on behalf of a book publisher revoked the ownership of the works of George Orwell for users of the Amazon Kindle device (McSherry, 2009). Such actions, while not unprecedented have provoked outrage among many in the digital community causing one blogger to refer to DRM as Dystopian Rights Management, in honor of the irony of Amazon stealing copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from their Kindle users (D’Andrade, 2009).

As the constitutional case against the DMCA and DRM continues to grow, there is, yet another form of constitutional abdication taking place within the confines of the DMCA and DRM.

The unlimited limits of protection

Apart from the DMCA inhibiting scientific progress, and the violation of Copyright Law afforded by DRM technologies; we find another form of Constitutional violation with the use of DRM which provides unlimited copyright terms for authors and artists (or their representatives).

As we have previously discussed, the Constitution allows for time-limited exclusive rights of original works; however, the use of DRM affords a non-expiring monopoly on the copyright owner’s published works. Thus, DRM has once again been found to circumvent the original intent and purpose of the Constitutional foundation of U.S. Copyright laws.

Additionally, the use of DRM has also been used by publishers to take unofficial ownership of works that have passed into the public domain, thereby extending the limitations afforded copyright holders to anyone willing to brand a public work with DRM limitations, thus effectively allowing a time-unlimited extension to authored works.

Despite all of the constitutional and unlawful violations wrapped up into the introduction of the DMCA and DRM, despite how the DMCA and DRM lead to the destruction of the freedom of speech, the freedom of intellectual pursuit, and the freedom of academic and scientific progress; still, one is left wondering, who actually benefits from the use of Digital Rights Management?

Under Control of the Cartels

While outright unethical uses of DRM have been discovered by some security researchers such as when Mark Russinovich discovered Sony installing a DRM rootkit devised to circumvent PC security such as AntiVirus software (Russinovich, 2005), one is really left to wonder how much benefit artists and authors actually gain from the legitimate use of DRM?

It is well known that when protecting copyright works with DRM, unless every version of of a copyright work has been protected with DRM then DRM affords little protection against copyright infringement through unlawful copying. Thus in order to gain the full benefits of protection against unlawful copying, artists and authors and publishers must subscribe to the licensing services of intermediaries that act as gatekeepers of the DRM implementations, often at a high cost (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2005).

"These licenses", state the EFF, "have the effect of turning publishers and performers and authors into customers for developed-world intermediaries to whom they become beholden (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2005)."

Conclusion

In the end, while there are many issues left untouched regarding the problems afforded by the DMCA and the use of DRM, it should remain clear that the DMCA and associated DRM technologies are involved in the subterfuge of the rights of the American people. Through blatant violations of Constitutional law, Copyright law, and the United States Code, the Digital Millennial Copyright Act and associated Digital Rights Management technologies must be branded as a defector to the common welfare of the United States, and the world at large.

It is now the responsibility of you, the reader; as writer, or artist and co-consumer to cry out in anger and demand the rights and protections, and balance of liberty and justice afforded to you and your children and your children’s children, remembering if you give up your rights to property ownership, you give up your liberty. Protect the Constitution against the DMCA and DRM.

 

References

D’Andrade, H. (2009, July 07). Orwell in 2009 : Dystopian Rights Management. Retrieved August 08, 2009, from Electronic Frontier Foundation: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/07/orwell-2009-dystopia

Electronic Frontier Foundation. (2005, March). Digital Rights Management: A failure in the developed world, a danger to the developing world. Retrieved August 08, 2009, from Electronic Frontier Foundation: http://www.eff.org/wp/digital-rights-management-failure-developed-world-danger-developing-world

Electronic Frontier Foundation. (2008, October). Unintended Consequences: Ten Years under the DMCA. Retrieved August 08, 2009, from Eletronic Frontier Foundation: http://www.eff.org/files/DMCAUnintended10.pdf

Ely, J. W. (2008). The guardian of every other right: a constitutional history of property rights. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lohmann, F. V. (2005, March). Fair Use and Digital Rights Management. Retrieved August 08, 2009, from Electronic Frontier Foundation: http://www.eff.org/wp/fair-use-and-digital-rights-management-preliminary-thoughts-irreconcilable-tension-between-them

McSherry, C. (2009, August 5). The Kindle Lawsuit: Protecting Readers from Future Abuses. Retrieved August 08, 2009, from Electronic Frontier Foundation: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/08/kindle-lawsuit-protecting-readers-future-abuses

Russinovich, M. (2005, October 31). Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far. Retrieved August 08, 2009, from Mark’s Block: http://blogs.technet.com/markrussinovich/archive/2005/10/31/sony-rootkits-and-digital-rights-management-gone-too-far.aspx

U.S. Constitution. (n.d.). Art I, S. 8, cl. 8.

U.S. Copyright Office. (2007, October). Complete version of the U.S. Copyright Law. Retrieved August 08, 2009, from Copyright Law of the United States: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/circ92.pdf

U.S. Copyright Office. (2009, August 05). Copyright Basics. Retrieved August 08, 2009, from U.S. Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

WikiPedia. (2009, August 21). United States Bill of Rights. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from WikiPedia, the free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights

WikiPedia. (2009, August 24). United States Declaration of Independence. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from WikiPedia, the free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

Is bribery unethical? Well that Depends…

We were presented with the following circumstances in our Ethics & IT Course this week; strangely, so far, I am on the only one who felt that the company would not be wrong to offer this ‘bribe’.  Does this mean that my moral compass has been destroyed by years of working in the dark-side of information security; or does it mean that I have a more critical higher level of thinking than all my other classmates.

Here is the situation:

Company wants to expand into China; The area the company is moving into is controlled by local officials.  Research suggests that providing a ‘payoff’ to the official will all but guarantee the approval for permits, the lack of a ‘payoff’ all but guarantees that the company will be denied necessary permits.  Research shows that all other companies are proceeding by hiring a consultant to “get the job done in anyway possible”; so as to be able to sign disclosure stating they didn’t provide any ‘bribes’; the CEO of the company is concerned that this is unethical, and is concerned they will violate their company principle of integrity and honesty.

 

Here are my thoughts:

 

According to WikiPedia, Bribery, is an act implying money or gift given that alters the behavior of the recipient (WikiPedia, 2009). And while I am sure that much greater minds have wrestled with this thought; and an answer much more deserving of applaud has been provided; I will take a humble approach at explaining my views on this question of the morality of bribery.

This evening, I took my wife out to a restaurant we frequent a lot; I tipped the waitress well; as I know tipping well and being friendly affords some future luxury when it comes to making reservations and getting seats that we like. I do the same thing when I get a haircut; I give out Christmas bonuses to my Mail-person and to the sanitary workers that collect my trash. All because I know it’s a good feeling to be appreciated, and this small act of kindness will go a long way. In fact, my company does the same thing for me; they give me bonuses when I do good, and they shower benefits (like paid vacation, time off, retirement plans, 401k matches, etc) to encourage me to stay at the company and to work harder.

After a second trip to a third world country, I learned that the customs officers know and trust certain people that work in the airport; I’ve made friends with one of the guys and I tip him well; as a result; he helps move me right through customs without having to wait in a long line or have my stuff dug through. I have also had a friend who once experienced sitting in an Ethiopian airport for almost a week waiting to be released; because she was with a group of people whose leader refused to pay the official to let them go (apparently this unofficial payment was an expectation).

I know in some countries where I have done business it is standard procedures for officials to take payments for their services, above and beyond what the official payments are to the governmental office in which they work.

Apart from all of these anecdotal views of the question of bribery; we were also asked to comment on another organizations way of dealing with this same type of situation. Whenever the idea of bribery comes up, the first organization I think of is the United States Government. I always find it a bit ironic that while our country of the United States makes bribery illegal, our entire governmental legal process is built on bribery – except; it is given a more politically correct name: lobbying. And by changing the name, we can continue to condemn the act in other governments and other parts of the world that we so readily take part in ourselves. Strange, isn’t it?

So what really is a bribe? What are the moral restraints of bribery? When is bribery acceptable and when is it not. What makes a ‘bribe’ immoral or unethical?
I would offer the following simple guideline to determine when bribes (payments) are immoral or unethical:

  • Are the bribes being used to facilitate an action that is itself morally questionable or illegal
    • For example; bribing someone to look the other way while a law is broken

In the case presented in our course room for discussion; given the little bit of information provided; that is, this organization will be approved for their expansion if they lobby the zoning official, and they will likely be denied if they do not; the question of morality comes from, not the act of lobbying itself; but what is the purpose and reason for lobbying (I guess you could say it’s a teleological argument).

Does the organization have to lobby because the law states that they can’t expand for the protection of the people (pollution, environmental, etc), or is the lobbying merely an expedient way to get someone who is on good terms with the government to put in a good word for them to all but guarantee their approval.
From what I have read about this situation, this “payoff” as described sounds nothing more than a zoning fee exacted by local officials on top of any government fees already being subscribed to. There is nothing in the reading that provides a reasonable belief that the act of this “payoff” will lead to a violation of a moral or ethical principle; additionally, there is nothing in the values of the organization that stands against the question of paying fees to government officials to get work done in a fast and efficient manner.

<Some part of conversation omitted>

References
WikiPedia. (2009, August 06). Bribery. Retrieved August 13, 2009, from WikiPedia, the free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bribe

Can there be a universal morality

In my course of Ethics and Technology; and in my previous blog; i note that many ethical frameworks are coming to the conclusion that ethics in Information Technology are based on individualistic morals (due to the nature of technology), and that in order to have a governing ethical framework in technology, there must be universals (not unlike in real life). 

The question was asked “How does one find the standards for the universal” – I can’t answer that question in a 250-500 word essay; therefore – I provided only hints to my answer, without giving my answer.

C.S. Lewis writes in book one of Mere Christianity:

“Everyone has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant… They say things like this: ‘How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?’ – ‘Come on you promised.’ People say things like that every day, educated … as well as uneducated… children… [and] grown-ups.”

“Now what interests me… is that the man who makes [these statements] is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not … please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard… and the other man seldom replies: ‘To hell with your standard.’” (Lewis, 2009, p. 257)

Lewis later states:

“Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature… because people thought that everyone knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it… I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature … is unsound… but the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later… if you try breaking [a promise] to him, he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ (Lewis, 2009, p. 285).”

On the idea of whether or not there are universal laws, Lewis concludes:

“It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong (Lewis, 2009, p. 300).”

For me, I agree with Lewis, as he continues further on in book one: that in order to come to a conclusion of a universal set of right and wrong; one must find a standard to measure against. This standard must also exist necessarily outside of oneself in order to be appealed to universally. Therefore, I believe one of the most important decisions that can be made to help move towards a global view of Right and Wrong must first start with a common standard.

This of course, is where the difficulty begins; as all discussions of morality begin in trying to lay a foundation of moral framework (i.e. what is the standard to be considered right or wrong). Some more common frameworks are deontological, utilitarian and existential, all of which have their supporters and their oppositions.

As this topic is very complex; and cannot be addressed by anything short than a doctoral thesis; I will briefly say that I would have to state that a good starting point is the “Golden Rule”: Treat others as you want to be treated. This, I believe, at least points us in the right direction.

References

Lewis, C. S. (2009). Mere Christianity. HarperCollins e-books (Kindle Edition).

Digital Rights Management… who should be protected?

I received an email from Amazon this evening saying they were refunding a series of books I had purchased by George Orwell on the Kindle.

I called them to ask them why they were refunding the books; because I had never requested the refund.

They responded in saying that they were very sorry, they had no idea why the books were being refunded, but they needed to remove them off my kindle.

I told the representative that I wasn’t so much concerned about the book & the money; I knew I could buy it again in other formats; but I was definitely concerned about the fact that Amazon at any time could decide to remove books that I had purchased off of my kindle; and they’re only requirement was to refund my money (did they really even have to do that?).

What happens when the government decides to outlaw certain books; or certain publishers decide that they want to pull all books of the book shelf (like Oceania in 1984, many organizations have done this in the recent past to erase and rewrite their own history).

This is why I have no problem circumventing DRM (when possible).  I bought the book; I own the book.  Amazon should have no ability to “steal” my purchased book back from me; even if they wanted to refund my money.

The world is a changing place… prepare yourself!

Does this sound familiar to a Mainer?

A man walked into City Hall carrying his cat.
Man:   “Hi.  I would like a dog license for my pet.”
Clerk:   “That’s a cat.  I can’t give you a dog license for your cat.  I can give you a cat license.  That will give her all the same privileges as a dog.”
Man:   “She already has a cat license.  That’s not good enough.  People think of her as just a cat.  Dogs are thought of more highly.  Man’s best friend, you know.  I want to get her a dog license and call her a dog.  Then people will think of her as a dog.”
Clerk:   “I don’t think so.  Anyway, I cannot give you a dog license for your cat.”
Man:   “Look, it’s not fair that only dogs can get dog licenses.  Let’s just call everything with fur and four legs a dog.  Now give me a dog license.”
Clerk:   “That’s a novel idea.  I imagine that would include bears and mice too.  Anyway, I still cannot give you a dog license for your cat.  The law won’t let me.”
Man:   “All right.  I’ll go to the Legislature and get them to change the law to call everything with fur and four legs a dog.  Then I can get a dog license for my cat, and people will start thinking of her as a dog.  I’ll tell the legislators that it’s a civil rights issue.  Then they’ll give me whatever I want.”
Clerk:   “You are probably right.  But she still looks like a cat to me.”

 

(The Record, Maine Family Policy Council)

How do you define ‘life’

Has anyone ever thought about the irony of the way we use the word ‘life’?

For example, I’m studying Astronomy right now. Scientists state that the evidences show that there was life on earth at least 3.5 billion years ago. This life was in the form of microscopic organisms. This scientific evidence shows that life has been around on planet earth for at least 3.5 billion years (Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, & Voit, 2007, pp. 709, 710).

On the other hand you have people who still want to claim that the zygote in the womb of a living human does not constitute ‘life’.

Does there seem to be some inconsistencies here? I think so!

References

Bennett, J., Donahue, M., Schneider, N., & Voit, M. (2007). The Cosmic Perspective 4th Ed. San Fransisco: Pearson Education, Inc.