Wednesday, 22 February 2012

How to achieve anything you want legally?

How to do anything you want without breaking the law? One of the top media industry lobbyists inadvertently shares his secret with us in this (hilarious but only for those with at least average IQ - all the others will just swallow his rhetoric and become brainwashed so be advised in case you suspect you may belong to that less fortunate group) three-minute interview of which the most interesting parts can be read below.

When asked by PCWorld how it all started, Valenti says it was when the VCR appeared.  Then he describes his and his colleagues' heroic efforts to fight off all the actual or potential thieves and reminisces that the best solution was, I quote, "to have the courts declare that VCR machines were copyright infringing." and then go to the Congress.  Unfortunately, they were not well prepared back then and the whole scheme failed even before reaching the Congress.  Have you already got the answer to the question posed in the title of this post?  I am sure you have but just for the entertainment value, here is another clue on how to legally make everyone do what you say:

"PCW: Why can't people who legally purchase DVDs make one backup copy? How come the same fair use rights that let you make a backup copy of other media do not extend to DVDs?
Valenti: That question has nothing to do with fair use because a DVD is encrypted and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act says to circumvent an encryption violates that law."

So now you see.  As Valenti explains, the whole thing has nothing to do with fair.  Fair is not what the media corporations are interested in.  Another thing worth noting in the above excerpt is that in order to make something illegal, you have to cook up a bill (something like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act mentioned before), go to the Congress (in case of the US of A at least), pay up and have it become the Law.  To make it easier (i.e. cheaper) though, especially if you try to make illegal something which is legal, it is advisable to attack the problem from a different angle.  You should approach the problem like this: "So what if making backup copies is fair and legal?  We are not trying to make it illegal.  You can make copies to your heart's content as long as you do not try to circumvent an encryption.". Of course the act does not mention one important detail: "... and from now on we, the media corporations, are going to encrypt everything with our toy encryption methods which can be easily decrypted by a 12 year old but we do not care because encryption is just a trick to turn something legal into a crime".  And they did just that.  Our friendly lobbyist even shares some of the details with us here:

"Valenti: Keep in mind how the DVD came into effect. The DVD was a result of voluntary agreements by the hardware people and by the copyright people. And everybody decided they were going to make machines that only took encrypted DVDs and then they would be decrypted in the machine--all done."

Then he proudly adds:

"Valenti: And guess what? It's proven to be a bonanza for the DVD machine manufacturers and for the copyright owners. That was done the right way."

A bonanza for everyone involved in that intrigue?  But what about culture? society?  What about justice and fairness towards the consumer?  Apparently, all those things do not matter.  Are we sure that it is the people who "illegally" share content with others and not the media industry who should be called pirates?

To crush any possible opposition to his vision, Valenti continues by comparing DVDs to lawnmowers and stating that any failure of the former is the customer's fault and thus the customer should buy a new one at a full price, like Valenti's wife has to do with a lawnmower each time she runs over it in the driveway.  What about the fact that, as the media industry has been trying to persuade us for years, it is all about buying a licence to use the content and not about the physical medium?  Apparently their view on this changes when there is more money to be made.  What about the fact that, sooner or later, all DVDs fail and their longevity is estimated to be somewhere between 2 to 15 years (depending on the manufacturing process)?  Since it depends on the manufacturer and the manufacturers were, as we saw Valenti saying earlier, part of the club (i.e. the conspiracy orchestrated by, to quote Valenti, "the hardware and the copyright people"), how is it the consumer's fault?  I am beginning to think that, contrary to what Valenti suggests, his wife may not be guilty of all those malfunctioned lawnmowers. 

The surreal vision painted by Valenti continues.  He argues that paying customers cannot be trusted and if "allowed" to make one copy, they turn into thieves and make two and give one of them to other potential thieves and soon there will be millions of thieves spreading billions of copies all over the net.  I am rather surprised that he does not even once mention the good old big scary COMMUNISM while painting that gloomy and terrifying picture of the world not fully controlled by his club (i.e. the corporations and billionaires who own them).  Valenti goes on mentioning that they (i.e. "the copyright people") are trying to buy the best brains to make it even more difficult for the customer and so on.  Then, in a truly arrogant fashion we saw in everything he said, he reveals what is in the working:

"Valenti: Right now we are holding meetings to try to see if the [information technology] and [consumer electronics] industries and the MPAA can work together so everybody is playing by the same rules of the game."

As you can see, like in case of DVDs and the Millennium Act described by Valenti earlier, there is no place for customers or consumer organisations in setting the rules for the world.  Valenti and his pals are the ones who set the rules and we are just here to follow them.  And what rules might those be?  Maybe the industry will decide it is time to be even more aggressive like in the scenario referred to below:

"PCW: Does the MPAA plan to follow the RIAA's lead in financing the development and testing of software programs that would sabotage the computers and Internet connections of people who download pirated music?
Valenti: We're not involved in anything that sabotages anybody. We're working with some of the best brains in the high-tech industry to do everything that we can legally to protect ourselves.
We're not going to do anything that's illegal, that's for damn sure."

The last sentence should be clear to us now.  They are not going to do anything illegal.  When you are rich and powerful and want to achieve something illegal legally go to the Congress and make it legal (possibly supplementing the law with the abuse of technology making changes to the legal system easier, faster and cheaper).  And, as the title of this post suggests, you can achieve anything you want that way.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Who will save the forgotten music

I was just listening to Janacek's sinfonietta when my thoughts drifted away from one of my top secret projects and, in my mind, I saw a vision of all the pieces of classical music ever created, one by one sliding into oblivion and dying.  The process is slow but it is happening even now, as I am Swyping these words on my Android phone.  The most well-known masterpieces are still with us, still far from being forgotten, but most of classical music is not being played anymore.  It is all over again the vicious circle of marketing probing customers' demand, selecting musical pieces for which  the measured demand is highest (i.e. the most popular (or, in other words, the least forgotten) music is being selected), and feeding this selection back to the customers.  The music which has not been selected is effectively being slowly erased from our collective memory (and less and less is being selected with each iteration of this cycle as yesterday's less demanded becomes today's least demanded since the previous least demanded have been filtered out from the today's selection list).  How many of you had ever listened to Janacek before Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 appeared?
What could be done to save dying music (and bring all those forgotten pieces back to us)?  I think I have found a solution which would be quite easy to implement (certainly easier than bringing down capitalism with its monetary system and switching humanity to the resource-based economy (which, I hope, will happen someday)).  Hiring a good director and a full orchestra to prepare and then perform even just one piece is incredibly expensive but importing a score into a computer programme and charging a computer with the task of performing such music is very cheap and quick nowadays (I am sure most of us have used a midi player at least once in our life).  Of course settling for just that is nothing new and would not be enough as computers are notorious for their mechanical and dull music performance.  However, if we go one step further and throw machine learning methods into this then we should be able to teach our computers how to give unique and inspired musical performances.  We have all the needed elements.  Machine learning methods have become quite powerful and the data - I.e. recordings of the best and worst performances together with their complete musical scores - is there.  Each performance is different which means not 100% faithful to the score.  It is these fluctuations what makes one performance unforgettable and another just dull.  Finding patterns in these fluctuations and being able to generalise these patterns and apply them to any score is, from my perspective, just another exercise in supervised learning.  Seems like an interesting machine learning project with possible commercial applications (think about economical impact on production of classical music considering the huge savings on live performers and production time).  Too bad there are only 24 hours in a day and I cannot realise all those ideas which appear in my mind every day.  Maybe I should start publishing them in hope that someone will be inspired and see them through ;).  Let us hope the music will be saved.  It would be so nice to be able to browse through and listen to all those now forgotten masterpieces (most of them never recorded) somewhere on the Web.
Apropos inspiration.  I just realised that the chain of events which led to my reading the novel which resulted in my listening to the sinfonietta which in turn made my thoughts wandering and ended up  in my writing this blog post, all that started with my dear friend Yoshi who I should probably thank for this moment of contemplation.  It is good to have friends who can inspire us, without them our life would not be full.

Popular Posts