jp.jpg (13389 bytes)


Mail 315 June 21 - 28, 2004






BOOK Reviews

read book now

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)

CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL TO ME. Mail sent to me may be published.

LAST WEEK                 Current Mail                  NEXT WEEK



Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


  The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

read book now

Boiler Plate:

If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.

Search: type in string and press return.


line6.gif (917 bytes)

read book now If you contemplate sending me mail, see the INSTRUCTIONS here and here.



This week:


read book now


Monday  June 21 2004

I am out in the desert and behind on mail. I'll catch up tonight or tomorrow.

Subject: An act of war.

---- Roland Dobbins

The world goes on...

On Digital Rights (a continuing discussion that began with a conversation with Corey Doctorow, and now continues. For my statement of the issues, see here.

Dear Jerry:

I sitting here watching the Today show about the Spaceship One launch -- with you in spirit and all that. I the meantime I grabbed a copy of Cory Doctorow's June 17th speech to Microsoft off Joi Ito's blog. C.D. dedicated this to the public domain, which might inspire me to make unkind analogies to Gresham's Law (bad currency drive out good), but while he's obviously an enthusiastic speaker, the whole thing is remarkable only for its lack of depth.

Digital Rights Management is bad for the economy, for artists, etc. and doesn't work anyway. Well, having spent more than two decades in the security/loss prevention business, I will be the first to say that no security system is perfect. The entire idea of security is to make violating it more trouble than it is worth. You trade time for safety. Any physical lock can be picked. Only two kinds of people trouble to learn the skill set needed to do so; locksmiths and those who want to overcome security. Those in in the Hacker tradition fit into the second category. Many of the early hackers became registered locksmiths simply to learn the skills needed to break into mainframe computer rooms so that they could access the systems.

Most security rests upon a very simple social contract to abide by the law. Moreover, everyone is presumed to know the law. "I didn't know" isn't an acceptable excuse. Doctorow's thesis makes violating the law not just socially acceptable behavior, but "cool"; something really smart people do to increase their status. Conversely, it tries to force, by social pressure, creative people to collaborate in their own robbery by accepting these rip offs as the status quo.

Much of what Doctorow mistakes for copyright law rests instead in the law of contracts. If I make something I have the right to determine under what terms and to whom it will be sold. The fact that some people don't want to meet my price or terms is their problem, not mine. As you know I am publishing a lot of material as "e-documents". They are offered at a price required to get them into the distribution system. Amazon determined that they needed to get a certain minimum amount per transaction or it is not worth doing. They are the pioneers in this business and I'll take their word for it. Even though this material was previously published in print magazines, there is some effort in preparing it for electronic distribution. It has to be re-editied, updated, the copyrights registered, metadata written, formatted and finally, my partner Leigh had to design "marketing images" those cute little thumbnail images designed to get attention and increase sales. Only the fact that I have a registered copyright in every article insures that I have any chance of getting paid.

Without that, How are we, as creators, supposed to live? I don't write articles without a market, and if people buy the right to publish it only once, they are not entitled to re publish it again. electronically or otherwise, without compensation. This was the entire matter of the Tasini case. I have a great deal of material to republish. The reason why is because the rates paid in all but a few cases. were not all that great. Editors specified First Serial Rights to keep the rates low. They weren't willing to pay for the full ride. If they wanted "All Rights" then they had to pay more, and when they did, I cheerfully signed those rights away.

Doctorow seems unaware of the huge library and corporate intranet research markets that exist worldwide for old articles. This never comes up. His approach is more consumer oriented. Billions of dollars is collected every year from libraries and private businesses for the use of these articles. Many of them are stolen. The publishers sold them to the aggregators who resell them to database providers and libraries. The rights holders whose work was stolen by their original publishers don't see any of this continuing stream of revenue,(these are rentals not sales). Fees are collected by subscription every year.

US Copyright law is actually much less restrictive than Doctorow imagines. It has no "Public Lending Right" whereby libraries pay royalties on the books they circulate and there is no "Droit Moral" which gives authors the right to prevent distortion of their work by users. The rights enumerated are the right to publish, copy, distribute, display,perform and to make derivative works. That last one is particularly important for writers. Doctorow, having taken this rather public positions which allows people to casually steal what they can't or won't buy, probably doesn't worry, as our friend Harlan does, about people trading his text work online, but how would he feel if some Hollywood producer took one of his novels and made a movie of it without his permission or consent? If you permit one then you also, by implication, permit the other.

He also makes the very basic error of confusing the purchase and possession of the physical object called a book with ownership of the content and license to do as he will with it. That is not, and never has been the case. Therefore the maker of a DVD does have the right to control where and how it will be sold. Pretending otherwise becomes not just an issue of the terms of access, but of morality. Condone casual theft of intellectual property and people will feel free to take what they can when they can in the physical world as well. That marches us towards anarchy since the only possible countermeasure is more law enforcement, more security, and less civility and respect for others.

Let me make a point about all of those articles. I did them for the money; to make a living. I did not write fiction instead because fiction would not pay my bills the way that trade journalism did. These old articles still have value in the marketplace, as proven by the pains that have gone into stealing some of them and making them available online for fees. I don't expect to get all of that money. Distribution is a cost, and in a capitalist society must be driven by fair profits for those who distribute. I do expect my share. So does every other writer who is a professional. Professionals get paid. Otherwise how are we to live?

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Why from the good will of the readers of course. Or so it was explained to me. Can't everyone get lots of voluntary payments and subscribers? As it happens I get some, but nothing like enough that I would continue doing this without putting in passwords and restricting access and such like if I had no other major sources of income. Yet, I am told, this site is useful to many people. Some of them pay. Others intend to when they get a round tuit. I am not complaining here (well not a lot) so much as illustrating...

See Below. This will be a continuing discussion.


Subject: Earlier private rocket planes!

Rutan designed the airframe of this XCOR EZ-Rocket possibly the first private rocket powered airplane. Engine is XCOR isopropyl alcohol-LOX, 400 lbs thrust / engine and there are two of them...

What about the Opel rocket planes of the late 1920s? 

Jerome Mrozak WebStar Technical Support

Well certainly the VfR in Germany before WWII was private and flew liquid rockets, as did Goddard in the US; and those were private or at least non-government efforts. Perhaps he should have said "commercial?" My son is a VP of XCOR and perhaps he'll have a better answer. I do know XCOR has one heck of a liquid rocket engine and if you need rocket propulsion you need to talk to them...


Dr. Pournelle,

Don't you find it amazing that since you're considered part of the aviation community at the Mohave event, the security is much more "normal"? You and everyone there is probably within spitting distance of many aircraft and a runway, and you got there with all your gear without a single strip search or obnoxious TSA agent to ruin your day.

It's a contradiction I live with every day in my business... I can strap on 55 million dollars of death and destruction on a daily basis with no more than a nod from my co-workers and an ID check at the front gate, but when I'm charged with nothing more challenging than buckling my seat belt and placing my tray table and seatback in the full and upright position, I'm treated about the same as a prisoner in a federal lockup.

Enjoy being one of the gang, breath the fresh air, and remember that you're experiencing true American aviation at a public airport once again. I wish more people could do what you're doing, just they could learn how great real aviation can be and to be able to make a true comparison to the current security abortion in commercial passenger terminals.

Sean Long


By the way -- Thanks VERY much for being out there at Mojave spaceport. I'd love to have gone to see the flight (heck, I'd love to have *flown* as one of the passengers since the ship has to have a crew of three), but finances wouldn't permit. I'm glad that a journalist whose words I respect and trust is there to lend me his eyes and ears.

--Gary Pavek

====== "If you want to build a ship, then don't drum up men to gather wood, give orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

You're welcome. It was fun. And that's a great quote.


Subject: Indian Outsourcing - Eyewitness Report

Dr Pournelle,

I recently visted Bombay (Mumbai) and did a rather thorough review of the local outsourcing business. MAKE NO MISTAKE - the Indians are persuing this business with single-mindedness and intelligence which the Japanese persued Automobiles and Electronics. This is their ticket to play in the big leagues. They do not intend to blow the opportunity.

In Mumbai I saw large modern office complexes going up with the latest Internet hardware. I saw training schools where recent college graduates are taught to speak "American English". The graduates will fill the offices with armies of technical and customer support reps.

As with any rapidly growing new industry, mistakes and blunders abound. Lets remember that the Toyotas of the 1960's were not great cars - but they were cheap. History is repeating.

The population of India is 3-4x ours. That means 3x as many people with potential IQ's above say 115. This large population of potential "symbolic workers" has not yet been fully harvested. But the Indians have many excellent colleges and are rapidly building more.

This is not some sort of passing fad. Protectionist schemes will fail, as always. We live in interesting times.

Dr. Joe McDermott

We do indeed, and thanks for the eye witness report..


Subject: Stern Warning on Sex With Minors Pregnancies Spur Va. Campaign Aimed at Men

Given that the jail bait laws are seldom enforced, maybe we should impose a 10k fine instead. Law enforcement would have a motive to enforce a 10k fine, plus the punishment would not be perceived as being too extreme, so the law would end up being enforced more often. And a 10k fine would be much more scary than a one in a million chance of being sent to jail.


Oh subtle one. O serpent...


Subject: knowing your interesting in this stuff  and 

Best regards,

Don R.

HOO HAH!  Thanks. Those are great.


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I try to keep quiet when the "lets kill, maim, pauperize, etc. all the lawyers crowd" take the soapbox as it is in theory a free country with a Federal (and Tennessee) constitution that I have sworn to uphold and defend. However, the medical malpractice article has really set me off. First, I am not a medical malpractice lawyer. I am a general practice lawyer that does a lot of disability work. My sister is a RN and I have a background as a paramedic. I have a lot of friends who are doctors and hospital administration types. I have no ax to grind with the medical profession in the trenches. I do have a problem with firing a bi-lingual R.N. in Texas because her husband (who does not do medical malpractice either) is a lawyer. I really do not know why that should anger me. People used to get fired all the time because they were married to someone of a different race or living with someone of the same sex, or espoused unpopular views, or worshiped somewhere else. Wait a minute...I think we as a society decided that was unjust and discriminatory.

The sad part is that the lawyers and doctors should go after the real villain in the piece, the malpractice insurance carriers. It takes a "crisis" to make doctors shell out $80,000+ in annual insurance payments. When the "crisis" was presented in Tennessee last year, it died a sudden death when it was discovered that the average TOTAL judgement in a med. mal case was approximately $98,000.00. Further, it appeared that there were only a handful of cases in the state, period. What is really going on with the "crisis" is twofold. First, it allows carriers to gouge medical professionals whenever the economy is off and the income from the insurance investment portfolio is off. Second, by enacting "caps", it makes it far more difficult to obtain compensation in cases where doctors (or hospitals) do screw up. In Tennessee, once the court research became public, lawmakers (most of whom are not lawyers as most lawyers can not afford to take off four to six months from their legal practice to serve in the General Assembly) asked to see the books of the malpractice carriers,who were backing the caps and claiming they were on the brink of ruin. All that was requested was the amounts paid out each year in settlements. They refused, and that was that.

In response to Mr. McCarthy, I agree that there are too many lawyers. However, the problem is self correcting. I have been a lawyer for about 20 years. Over half the people I started practicing with are out of the profession. Lawyering is a high stress job and people get fed up. I would respectfully disagree about Mr. McCarthy's advocacy of "lawyer in a box" products. I have earned a lot of fees cleaning up the messes resulting from people who thought they were putting one over on the high priced lawyers. I tend to follow the "Mr. Goodwrench" principle of "pay a little now or pay a lot later". Finally, on the unauthorized practice of law, again I have had to clean up a lot of messes caused by "paralegals" who think that filling out a form is all there is to a bankruptcy or a divorce.

On a personal note, I am forwarding to you under separate cover an article about World News in Memphis I thought you might be interested in.

Richard D. Cartwright Attorney at Law

Interesting, but I have no data. I do know doctors who have given up part of their practice simply because they can no longer afford the insurance. They tend to drift to specialties that avoid lawsuits. Like dermatology.










This week:


read book now


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Digital Rights Management: Continued

The Hill's property rights showdown June 22, 2004, 6:52 AM PT By Declan McCullagh Staff Writer, CNET

WASHINGTON--The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is under siege.

For the first time since it was enacted in 1998, the DMCA has become the target of a large and growing number of critics seeking to defang the controversial law. The legislation says that Americans aren't permitted to circumvent encryption guarding certain digital media products--even if the purpose is to make a backup copy of a computer program or DVD.

< >

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Hurrah. One doesn't have to take the naive "information wants to be free" position to be critical of the DMCA and its rather Draconian approach.

We need some way to allow writers to make a living without begging, without jailing a visiting programmer or a Norwegian teenager for finding ways to get past ill-conceived copy protection notions.

Doctorow is certain that technology will always defeat DRM. I used to believe that. I am not so certain now.

More on all this when I get back from my walk, if I don't do fiction first. Assuming that there is any point in writing fiction since my works are routinely copied and sent about for free.

Subject: DRM and Copyright Musings

I find myself on the fence as far as the current hoopla over DRM (and Copyright enforcement in general) goes. While I can't say I agree with the "information wants to be free" crowd, I do agree that some of the way copyright is used today is used *not* for the benefit of the copyright holders, but forthe benefit of the sole *distributors* of the copyrighted work.

I know very little about the publishing world, I know a bit more about the music industry. Musicians get very little money for the music they distribute through a record label. Unless they are one of the very few, fortunate "stars" of the music industry, you can release a semi-successful record and still go bankrupt. As I understand it, it's possible for an author to earn at least a supplemental income by writing books. In that respect, it is a healtier and substantially fairer industry for an artist to belong to.

One of the benefits of all this unregulated technology available on the internet is that it makes the task of recording, producing and distributing your own music a lot more affordable. It used to be that this was why you needed a label -- they could provide access to a decent recording studio, they could provide access to distribution chains, they could market your music. And because they had the lock on all of that, they could pretty much set their own terms -- and did -- as to how much money they would receive opposed to how much money the musicians would receive.

The "new culture of music" has many problems, but one of the genuine advantages is the ability to acquire, relatively cheaply, recording technology that was considered state of the art in the 1970's. I remember the first time I bought a Fostex 4-track recorder (a mini-studio that used cassette tapes to provide four tracks of sound recording) and I realized that in many respects the equipment I had was better than what the Beatles had when they recorded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Of course, they had a better studio engineer, better microphones, and a better sound space... but the point is that technology had advanced to the point where you didn't need a huge amount of money to be able to make respectable recordings.

The same, of course, is true with the world of print. You can now buy programs that allow you to create pamphlets, books, newsletters, heck, even newspapers with more ease than you could 30 years ago. Technology has lowered the bar for publishing -- all kinds of publishing, even radio broadcasting (though more specifically I suppose it would be "web radio" broadcasting).

The problem I have with DRM is that it will raise the cost of publishing again -- proprietary encryption technologies will be priced "reasonably" for the publishing industry, which will be quite out of reach of the small-time independents. It will in essence be a "publishing tax" -- the fee you must pay to be allowed to play the game, as it were. This is what I am opposed to, and there's no real way to stop it. If DRM becomes the standard industry practice, then anyone who wishes to have access to that market will be forced to adopt it, and if the technology is aimed at large record labels it will be priced in a way that large record labels can afford -- which does not guarantee that anyone else will.

The problem is, of course, that the same technology that gives independent artists the ability to create has also spawned technology that makes it easy for people to get those creations without paying the artist. I am both a musician and a cartoonist (and perhaps eventually an author) and I would like to get paid for my work. I don't agree that information wants to be free, nor do I believe that an artist has an obligation to do what they do for "love of the art and nothing else" (I've heard that argument before as well.) It takes time and resources to do anything even remotely creative, and I think people who take the time and spend the resources ought to at least have a chance to be compensated, and perhaps even profit, from the exercise.

But the only way this can work at the lower end of the scale, at least in our current society, is if there is a tension between the rights of the distributor and the rights of the audience. If the rights of the distributor become paramount (which is what would happen if DRM became the standard) then they would control how the artist is able to make his work available. If the rights of the audience become paramount then the artist would have little chance of being paid other than on a "work for hire" basis.

The only way I see currently for artists to come out ahead, or at least to maintain their current status, is for everyone involved -- artists, distributors, audiences -- to be dissatisfied with the way it works. The only true compromise is one where everyone loses something. Perhaps that makes me a pessimist. I suspect I am.


Christopher B. Wright (

One of the complications of this issue is that music publishers are rapacious and have been successful in taking the lion's share of the work of their artists. Not so with books and general publishing. I have been well paid for my work in magazines for nearly fifty years, and I was able to collect my old Galaxy columns into A Step Farther Out which was in print for 20 years and sold fairly well.

Book contracts are engineered so that authors and publishers make about the same profits. The publisher gets more revenue, but has far higher expenses and overhead; but the profits are shared fairly well, and again, while as a former president of an author's association I have had my differences with both individual publishers and the publishing industry, authors don't generally hate publishers the way music artists hate the record industry.

Keep that in mind when thinking about the upcoming problems with Intellectual Property and Digital Rights Management.

I am collecting views here. I have no final views of my own other than a vague sense of dread. It may be that individual authors are buggy whip makers and the world belongs to those who will work for little other than having a high number of Google hits as their reward.

I am not one of those. I'd rather play games.

Subject: Doctorow versus Hamit

Interesting. Mr. Hamit describes Cory Doctorow's speech as lacking depth, and yet it is pretty clear to an unbiased reader whose position is the more supportable.

Mr. Hamit reminds me of the proverbial buggywhip makers. The smart ones realized that buggywhips were a dying technology and moved with the times. The less smart ones devoted their efforts to preserving the buggywhip market.

Mr. Hamit seems to be saying, "Technology be damned. This is the way it always was, and this is the way we're going to keep it forever." Alas, Mr. Hamit will find himself steamrollered by technology, whether he likes it or not.

I think it is significant that I was not familiar with Mr. Hamit's name until I read it on your page, whereas Cory Doctorow, who practices what he preaches in terms of copyleft, is very well known. For example, a Google search turns up 702 hits on "Francis Hamit" versus 84,400 on "Cory Doctorow" (and 47,400 on "Jerry Pournelle").

And I found your own comment about voluntary support interesting. You imply that it's unworkable, and yet your own web site generates pretty significant subscriber payments, or so you've said, with only the electronic equivalent of a tip jar. You don't even *ask* people to pay, not really. You simply let them know every once in a while that they can pay if they want to.

I don't know how much time you put in on your site. Obviously it varies a lot, but I'd guess you might average one hour per day. Clearly, some days when you write long essays, it's longer than that, but many days you don't update the site at all. So, based on purely voluntary payments by readers, you make a reasonable amount of money per year for an hour's work a day. How much would you make, I wonder, if you devoted full time to your web site? And how much more again would you make if you actively solicited payment?

Mr. Hamit seems to think that everyone is a thief, worrying that everyone will "steal" his work if there aren't any locks to prevent that. I don't think that's true. What is true is that if a work is freely available, many more people will read it. Some fraction of those people will decide to pay the author. If the author writes stuff worth reading, that fraction will be large enough that the author will make more money that way than he would by keeping the work locked up.

I've often told new novelists who are having trouble gaining traction with readers that if I were a novelist, I'd *want* my work to be copied freely. I'd want as many people as possible to read it and to become aware of me. As you know, awareness translates to sales. What do I care if 1,000,000 people download my book and only 1% of them buy the printed version? That means my book sells 10,000 copies, which is a heck of a lot more than new authors generally sell in hardcover. And perhaps another 1% will send me $5 or whatever directly.

Authors who favor DRM and Draconian copyright enforcement obviously believe, whether they realize it or not, that most people are thieves. If you think about it, you know that's not true. Here's a message I just received this evening:

"What's your paypal info so I can send you a few bucks for your help over the years. I just graduated from school so I don't have much money, but I haven't given you anything in quite a few years so I'd like to do so now."

Which is not unusual. After the dot-com crash, I had many subscribers write me to apologize for no longer being able to afford to subscribe. I left them on my subscriber list, and told them to pay if and when they could. Or not, as they wished. And you know what? Nearly all of them have now re-subscribed, telling me that they've found new jobs and can now afford to pay. Many have even tried to pay back-dues for the period I "carried" them.

People aren't thieves, most of them, and treating them like thieves by insisting on DRM and similar technologies is counterproductive.

Cory Doctorow is absolutely correct in what he wrote. He's one of those guys you'd call a "150+", and he's thought this through dispassionately. His thinking is logical, deep, and lucid, no matter what Mr. Hamit may think.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

I want to let the debates continue a while without me, but I do think a couple of points need to be made.

First, arguments stand or fall without much regard to the credentials of the person making them, particularly when the credential is how many Google references you can garner. I make no doubt at all that I could generate a lot more Google references by the simple expedient of going into Slashdot and other controversial places and framing an answer to many of the posts there. Whether that would be a useful way to employ my time is another matter. I know what my sales are and I have some notion of what Doctorow's are; and Francis Hamit despite my disagreement with many of his views has made a living at writing longer than Doctorow has been writing, and thus has some qualification to speak as a working writer grinding out a living without having hit the best-seller list. Francis has also spent a lot of time looking into the actual details of how the present system works, and I thank him for sharing that knowledge with me, as I thank you for the benefit of your experience.

As to revenue from this site: I would never work as hard as I have in writing -- over 20 novels -- for the returns I get from this site. My journalism pays fairly well: in addition to the English rights which are paid for by BYTE/DOBBS (CMP), I sell foreign rights to a variety of places, and the exercise generates speaking engagements. Journalism is topical, and has few residual rights -- and it is one heck of a lot easier to turn out 10,000 words of non-fiction about Chaos Manor than 100,000 words of fiction in which all the characters and much of the scenery and the worlds and the society are sucked out of my fingertips. Stephen King has decided he won't work for the return he gets from voluntary payments on the net. I probably would work for the money he got, but that's a lot more than I am likely to get, judging at least by the number of subscribers I have divided by the number of people who visit this site. I might make a living from voluntary payments of subscribers if I did little else and cut way back on what I consider "a living"; but I sure would not write novels for what I get here. That's not to be ungrateful for those who consider this site worth supporting and I sure hope there will be more; and I too have had people apologize for being unable to subscribe, and who have paid sometimes rather substantial lump sums as back payment: and my model is less restrictive than yours since I don't give out passwords, only codes for making contact with me.

In any event, arguments over whether trying to control one's intellectual property is good business or not are irrelevant, if one takes the position that I, and Francis Hamit, and Harlan Ellison, and other authors are each the best judge of our own interest and do not concede to Doctorow and his supporters the right to decide that for us.

Subject: Cory Doctorow's Paper for the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference, 2004 

in which he recounts his story of releasing two complete e-books simultaneous with their paper publication, provides much background on e-books and asserts that the creation of competitive new media does not necessitate the death of the old. A fascinating read,, many good points to consider.

-- John Bartley

To which I can only say, not everyone has had similar experiences; and in any event, most of that data comes from times when reading books on computers was less convenient that it is now on some new systems. The technology gets better. Doctorow has said many times that the new technology isn't as good as the old, but I think he's probably saying that for effect: I know I find it a lot easier to read a real book on my TabletPC than ever I did on a clamshell laptop, or on a big screen monitor in my office. And I have seen new developments that make reading books on electronic devices an even more pleasant experience. I do not think all the returns are in.

Good Afternoon Jerry,

DRM is a complex issue, and I still struggle a bit with where the line should be drawn. I completely agree that the product of someone's work, from shoes, to furniture, to a great novel belongs to them, and that they should own both the product (copyright) and idea (patent) for an appropriate period of time. Let's set aside patents - they have a different set of sticky issues.

I believe that the legal doctrine of 'Fair Use' is at the root of the problems we're experiencing today. Let me be clear though - I'm not speaking about using an attributed passage or quotation from one work in another, but rather the idea that a consumer has control over the terms under which a product is sold.

My brother works for Disney as a sound engineer, and my mother is a professional artist. We've had long discussions about this, and I've reached the conclusion that a creator should be able to specify the contractual terms under which the product is sold, and it's entirely ethical to take steps to ensure that those terms are enforced. If a consumer doesn't like the terms that are offered, and the producer isn't willing to negotiate, then they have the option to not purchase the product.

Let's take music CDs for the moment. The license has always included a prohibition on public performances. If the artist (or record company, etc) wants to place further restrictions on how and where it can be used, and enforce those contractual restrictions through technical (DRM) means, so be it. Yes, it's annoying. But as a consumer, my sole, moral recourse is to not purchase the product. In a similar vein, folks decry software licenses that restrict how programs can be used and disclaim liability, but they forget: They have the option of not buying the product. Yep, that's painful if you don't like Microsoft's license, but it's the only moral option.

And that's the crux of the problem. By legislating 'Fair Use', the government has interfered with the negotiation between producer and consumer, and essentially socialized a portion of their work - a producer no longer has control over the contract under which his products are sold.

I believe that the only real solution is to repeal the legal doctrine of 'fair use' and return contractual control to the producers. Yes, some will impose draconian DRM solutions, others may impose terms that are overly restrictive, and other products may arise under liberal use terms (like Linux) and rapidly gain market share. The free market will then determine which products (and terms) will succeed or fail.

Best regards,


Doug Lhotka doug[@]

"Do something you like. Forget about the pay, for Christ's sakes. Regulate your style of living to fit your income. Just have fun in your job, that's the main thing." ~ General Chuck Yeager

One of Doctorow's frequently made points is that authors have no right to prevent their works from being made available, without compensation to the author, to the blind. Leave out that this "fair use" loophole has been exploited by some "non-profit" associations to make a lot of money which is then paid as salaries to its executives (many non-profits pay better salaries than any profit-making organization could pay); concede that some of the outfits taking other people's works and making them "available" to the blind are done by volunteers who get no compensation; and one is still left with the question of "Why?" That is, when it was voluntary, I never refused the Braille Foundation permission to publish my works, and I would have thought mean-spirited any author who did; but I don't see why I lose my ownership of my work simply because of someone else's 'needs'; carried to conclusion that's the whole of the communist principle, isn't it?

And yes, I would have thought more libertarians would take a stronger position against "fair use" and the like -- stronger even than I do with my paleo-conservative views.

Subject: Amazon honor payment system


describes Amazon.comís system to support small websites and to buy digital content on the web.

I found it searching for Francis Hamitís work after reading his latest on your site.

Jim Dodd

San Diego


Ken Burnside publishes about the best board game of tactical space warfare I know of (  ). He's not doing mine because another publisher has bought (at quite a high price) electronic game rights to the CoDominium universe and we're still trying to see if there's any way we can give Mr. Burnside some non-exclusive share given that Burnside does paper/boardgame rather than electronic games. We'll see on that, but let it serve as an introduction to this letter that Mr. Burnside does some darned good work.

To Corey Doctorow and others who insist that "Information Wants To Be Free!" and insist that DRM is a waste of time and effort, I propose the following thought experiment.

Electronic piracy exists because the effort involved in doing it are so low, and the consequences of getting caught so neglible that there is no deterrent in doing so.

I run a small publishing venture, publishing games, as you know.

Most of my product line would be easy to translate into PDF format...and doing so, in the distribution system I use, is tatamount to suicide. Distributors get ticked at holding onto paper inventory when I'm passing it around as bits and such.

But there's a legitimate desire to have some of it in PDF format -- ship sheets that a user can print from home are an amazing convenience.

In theory, I can generate a program that spits out these PDFs, and make sure that the user's name, email address and account number are embedded on every page of the PDF; I can put them on a locked layer that includes the background (white) layer of the PDF, with a black layer underneath it, so that deleting the layer with this information is difficult and results in laser printers spitting out sheets of black text on a black background.

It's only an inconvenience if you're trying to remove the user it's not an inconvenience to the legitimate purchaser. (Who, since he probably doesn't want his email address circulating for spam harvesting, doesn't want to share that file electronically anyway...)

Also, in theory, I have a way to backtrack who releases my products into the wild.

I am considering the following.

If I find that a customer has released my privileged information onto the 'net, in the spirit of "Information Wants To Be Free!" what moral or ethical (I'm still investigating the legal repercussions of this, so I'm not including that standard) compunctions prevent me from publicly posting their order information (name, address, credit card number) for all the Nigerian scammers to harvest?

After all, Information Wants To Be Free...that applies to their information as well as mine, unless they're hypocrites of such flaming proportions that the beatific light of their self delusion is visible from Mars. On a bright, clear day....

I suspect that if I actually do it, I'll get squashed like a bug from lawsuits, citations of disproportionate harm, etc. But, boy, is it a fun concept to play with in my head...

If Microsoft or Adobe made this their policy, however, they have the legal budgets to establish a precedent.

Ken Burnside [ken_burnside@]


Subject: DRM and copy-protection of software?

Given your well-documented past experiences with and conclusions regarding copy-protection of software (and present, for that matter; Contribute2 may be installed on a total of 2 machines using the same installation code, unless additional licenses are purchased, it checks over the Internet to see if it's authorized every time it's started), what similarities and differences do you see which would lead to the conclusion that DRM for copyrighted works isn't as unwieldy and unworkable as copy-protection schemes for software?

--- Roland Dobbins

Well, I have long argued that software licenses ought to be "just like a book" and I helped Philippe Kahn write the first Turbo Pascal license: just like a book. You can lend it, you can use it, you can put it on other machines, but one copy and one only ought to be in use at the same time.

I don't know how to accomplish that with DRM, and perhaps it is impossible, but surely it is worth trying?

Make things sufficiently inconvenient for customers and you will lose your customers. It doesn't follow that you don't have the right to be pigheaded. In the early days it was clear that copy protected software never got popular: that was particularly true of word processors. People wanted to use them before buying. They often then bought them, in part to get the manuals -- you got real manuals, printed on real paper in them there days -- and in part to get the support and updates and such like.

Microsoft for a very long time had no protection whatever on products, then went to those goofy keys but still did not insist on activation and the like. Interestingly, I am forever tearing down and rebuilding computers here, and I have yet to have an activation problem with Microsoft. As to Contribute2, the only such software I have is for a Mac and I have only one Mac so it's not much of an issue.

I have long argued against most forms of DRM and still do, and I am not at all convinced it's possible in any event, but I have talked with enough programmers to wonder now.

I had hoped that Millicent or some such painless means of transfer of small sums would work; that would solve a lot of problems, and that may yet be the right way to go. If you can routinely get ten million people to give you a dime, you can do as well as having a million give you a dollar, or a hundred thousand give you ten dollars, or getting the usual royalties from selling a few thousand copies at hardbound prices. The question is, do you have a potential ten million readers, even if it's cheap? Maybe you only have a few thousand readers...

On this next one: if I had time I'd edit it a bit. But he has a point that needs commenting.

Glad that you were able to share in seeing Space Ship One launch. I, too, was there and it was worth a vacation day and no sleep. The best part was being able to see it take off, right there in front of me, maybe 100-200 feet away. Amazing. Going to treasure the memories of seeing it fly for the rest of my life. Pulled me out of a general existential funk (my last piece of art was entitled "The Death Of Engineering") and made me hopeful again.

Anyways, about the DRM, I'll start by saying that I'm not an "Information Wants To Be Free" whacko. Of *course* copyright owners should have the right to sell their works. I'd like to point out a few things and hopefully make a little bit of sense.

I think, however, that the current debate in DRM is really a symptom of a larger set of issues, one which I think the book industry has been partially spared.

I've got a nice freeware ebook reader for my PocketPC that can handle most of the unencumbered formats. I can, if I want, download illegal texts and read them on my PocketPC. I'm second generation geek, so the 240x320 screen is "good enough" for me to be able to read in comfort.

Yet, if you scan my hard disk, you won't find a single pirated ebook. All I've got is legitimately acquired books -- Fallen Angels, from the Baen Free Library, for example. Somehow, I will still go to the bookstore and spend some amount of money on books, sometimes new ones, sometimes used ones.

I think that Baen and Doctorow have some sort of point, that people will still buy things, even if they can read them online and enjoy them for free. I think that this also may go hand-in-hand with the longstading tradition of being able to read a book in the library instead of purchasing it.

In fact, I don't really read much online fiction in general, because the process of being doomed to a slushpile purgatory for months and being picked by an editor for a substantial printing investment means that there's a screening process that prevents me from investing reading time in truly awful amateur fiction. This is in stark contrast to the music business, where most of what I'd consider to be good stuff is not selected by the big guys and a vocal percentage of musicians feel like they are getting screwed.

Now, my biggest beef with the whole DRM issue is that they assume that any unauthorized use is illegal. I've got a good percentage of my CD collection ripped to MP3 format. Why? I don't share it, but it's a convenient way to be able to listen to some music while I'm out on my balcony writing, without needing to grab a handful of CDs. The problem is, the usage pattern is what one would assume to be piracy. An individual track may end up on several CDs, played off of several computers, etc. DRM software is being *nice* if you can see it on 3 machines.

I can rattle off plenty of examples, both in my life and other people's. The problem is, if you total up the users of a particular piece of media, X% of them are using it legitimately in a rule-encoded fashion, Y% of them are using it illegally, and Z% of them are using it in legal, yet not-able-to-be-properly-secured fashion. And as you shrink Z, you risk increasing Y, decreasing X, or losing your total audience base.

The problem is, in the process of trying to prevent the clearly illegal transactions, the industry is also trying to restrict legal transactions that people have always assumed would work. I expect that if I buy a copy of a book that I can turn around and sell it later. DRM prevents this. I expect that I can keep a CD around and play it in any number of devices. Things like that.

The problem is that once people become used to a certain business model, they really do not like changing it. My employer is able to offer software (with an accompanying data feed) as a subscription service. If most other software vendors who have been selling their software for years try that, nobody wants it. I still use Windows 2000 and not XP because the notion of needing to dig up the CD key every time I change something about the hardware is repulsive.

The DVD format is the same way. There's DRM software in there, not really to prevent piracy, but mostly to prevent people from making DVD players without paying the licensing fee or buying imports.

And with respect to DRM working, I tend to agree with Cory. The problem with DRM is that "good enough" isn't. All it takes is one leak for a given piece of in-demand media to be copied freely. And, because the non-DRM media offers benefits that the DRM media doesn't have, even legitimate, honest customers will seek out the de-DRMed media.

In order to make this happen, time has shown that the only hardware that can't be cracked is at the level of Secure Cryptoprocessors, which are incredibly expensive to produce and are, in general, not useful for a consumer-usable device. And any software can be cracked given access to the hardware (there exists a CS-theory proof that shows that obfustication can always be reversed) The problem is, a pretty large chunk of people need access to hardware that's not cast in a block of epoxy, enough that it wouldn't be fruitful to interrogate each and every one.

The problem is, in grabbing for DRM, they have grabbed too much and decided to go after all of the little loopholes that they didn't want around anyways, liked used books/CDs/Movies, imports, etc. In order for DRM to work, the keys to decode it can't be given to just anybody, which then discourages innovation (because 2 guys in a garage aren't going to be able to afford what the licensing fee costs). And, to top it off, the industry hit most by digital piracy, the music biz, has been a house of ill repute for a long time now and whose artists are becoming progressively *less* dependent on the major label as it becomes cheaper to record and market.

The good part (at least for me) is that the more studios push for more restrictions, the more people have found themselves on the wrong side of the DRM fence and the more likely a more rational set of copyright laws is to be made. The problem is that piracy has *always* happened and you aren't going to be able to change that with DRM.

Ken "Wirehead" Wronkiewicz \ \ \/ \ \

A couple of points. First, who is "they" in "they assume that any unauthorized use is illegal"? I don't know that this makes sense. Moreover, many illegal things are done. It is illegal to Xerox a short story from a book and hand it to your students to read, but it is done all the time, and I have yet to hear of anyone actually prosecuted or sued for it. It is not illegal to claim your non-profit foundation is benefiting the blind and use that to make tape recordings or large-format copies of books which you sell to anyone who states he's blind, even if you pay yourself a pretty good salary from the non-profit; so that not being illegal no one is prosecuted for it. And what is the point of worrying about what is assumed?

Regarding grabbing too much, I have pointed that out at nearly every technical meeting I have attended. "Just like a book" is the model I am hoping DRM can emulate, right down to being able to sell the original second hand, loan it out, etc. As to "backup copies" you don't have a backup copy of your hardbound MOTE, although some may have bought paperback copies for reading lest they wear out a valuable signed hardbound.

I don't know what DRM can and can't accomplish. I suspect it can do, as you say, far more than printed book format does. However, if it can be made to work "just like a book," my guess is (a) many will use it that way and not further, and (b) there will be a lot of "information wants to be free" people who will moan and complain that this is unduly restrictive.

Finally regarding the "they will pay anyway" argument: Perhaps so. But The Strategy of Technology has been up on this web site for many years, along with a request that if it is any use to you send a dollar or so, and I'll pass most to all of it along to Mrs. Possony. I think we have received under $500 in ten years; the book has many thousands of page requests. I am assuming most of those readers are students who can't afford a dollar.

And to end the day's discussion:

Dear Jerry:

Well, to begin with, I never contested Cory Doctorow's right to give away his work. It is is his. He may do as he pleases with it. What I quarrel with is the notion that I should, without my permission or consent, be forced to do likewise. This has already happened with over a hundred of my articles on various databases and those using them are very careful to try and conceal their theft. The outfit that charges $45.00 per copy for some of my articles and indicated that they might share revenue instead hunted down the link I found one article on and killed it. Tiresome of them because it makes them willful violators now and gives my lawyers yet more work to do. I made a copy. I can prove they have it. The library databases make them available for printing, and for emailing ad infitinum and the big embarrassment is that they did not do their due diligence and make sure the rights were the publisher's to sell, but simply took their word for it. A big class action settlement is being negotiated in New York right now on that same issue.

But that is neither here nor there regarding the issue of DRM. As said before, I'm using Lightning Source to distribute my e-documents and I am well aware that someone will spend several hours proving they can crack their code rather than pay the $1.95 I ask for most single articles. I get 88 cents of that. I guess it depends on what you think your time is worth. And make no mistake, doing so is theft and a morally corrupt and indefensible act.

As for the attack on my relative lack of street cred, I'm not responsible for other people's lack of information. A brief trip to the library biography bases for Who's Who will tell you some of it and a Google search some more. Most of what you will find are my recently republished titles which you can buy all over the world, thanks to Amazon. There are one or two which are not copyrighted and may be of interest.

If you check the other offerings on Amazon from other providers in the e-books section you will see that some go as high as $4,000. Most e-books are priced like printed books even though they cost less to produce. It's a market economy and my publishing program is an experiment, since I had half a million words or so laying around, to see if a freelance writer can make a living this way. Its a little exercise in reality. Something I learned as a consultant --sometimes you just have to get in there and work the problem and the process to figure out how to improve things. It may fail. That's part of the process of discovery.

I was in the security business far too long to believe that I will get paid for every use and there are so many protections for "Fair Use" that more are not really needed. You have to infringe big time to get sued. $10,000 in damages is the least you can go to Federal Court for, and ten times that amount is the usual minimum case. Because that's what the legal fees will be. These are not something you can do in Small Claims Court, which is why the RIAA has taken the path it has.

Note that I go only with great reluctance. I'd rather be spending my time writing fiction and drama. The new tactic of infringes is to ignore all attempts to communicate and settle the issue and to force one to file the case. Most writers don't have the stomach or the purse and the law is written by Congress, but it is decided, through case law, in a Federal Court. I guess the idea is that if they ignore us, we'll go away. Just so the matter is clear, I'm not taking on some guy who ran copies of one of my works for his zine; I'm taking on very large corporations which are worth hundreds of millions to several billion dollars.

Why? Well someone has to or the theft continues unabated and my cases, because of the volume of work I've done, are better than most. If you want an example of how I publish, there are now 66 items online and more to come. Something for everyone. Will I make any money? I sure hope so, but I'm at least a year from actually knowing. If you decide to crack the encryption, you'll get away with it unless Lightning Source tracks you down. And shame on you. Really.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

And I may well join you, if I have some time. I have some works around that might be sold for $1.95, including stories that were in collections now out of print. If I had the necessary permissions from the contributors I might try getting some of the THERE WILL BE WAR anthologies into electronic form (it costs about $1 a page to get them from print to electrons) and put them up for $2.95. The trouble is that the book keeping to send money to the contributors would be onerous; given a thousand or so sales it would be worth it, but I have no idea how many sales we might get. But getting all the permissions from all the authors would take longer than I can spare.

Unlike you, I haven't written much non-fiction with legs. Computer columns are interesting only as history. "America's Looming Energy Crisis", while prophetic in 1973, isn't likely to be terribly interesting now. "The Hydrogen Economy," also in the 1970's, is relevant but the technology is somewhat different now. And most of my best work went into A Step Farther Out which with some luck and hard work will be available in print on demand fairly soon.

So I follow your experiment with considerable interest...




Subject: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em . . . maybe.

Perhaps that T-38 flight wasn't such a waste, after all:,1282,63949,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_6

---- Roland Dobbins

NASA flew an official in a T-38 to the Rutan flight. We saw the airplane parked near XCOR. I never saw the NASA chap. But perhaps some good will come of that?

The Aldrich report has sections on prizes that look as if they were lifted from this web site, which is fine by me.




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

We have a ton of mail on Digital Rights Management, but it doesn't say much that hasn't been said, so I'll let that topic stew just a bit.


I thought you might find this article interesting. You should be pleased that NASA might take your advice for a change. Aside from unleashing the entraupenarial spirit and encouraging innovative approaches, your X-prize idea actually results in more money being spent on R&D than the prize is worth.

The latest flight of SpaceShip One has really caught the public's attention. My broker is screaming at me for not selling my SpaceDev stock when it peaked at $2.40 per share. However, he didn't approve when I bought it at $.55 either.

Paul Wolfowitz was testifying to Congress this week. I know that you have a visceral hatred for him and the other NeoCons, but I think he made some good points about Congress encumberring the reconstruction funds. The strategy was to use the reconstruction process to improve the lot of Iraqis and pump a lot of money into the economy which would ensure that the disbanded Iraqi army would not remain unemployed. This approach is certainly more expensive and more complicated than the standard imperial approach of keeping the vanquished army on as an occupation force. However, we didn't follow the standard imperial strategy in Germany and Japan either because we wanted to transform their societies into Liberal Republics or at least moderately Illeberal Democrocies.

James Crawford

I don't hate Wolfowitz, who was valuable during the Cold War. It's just that he and his "American Grandeur" people have never got past the Cold War. I wanted the Cold War to end so we could return to the Republic. The NeoCon/neo-Jacobins saw the victory of the West as an opportunity.

I am very pleased to see that someone at NASA has finally listened. As Reagan said, it's astonishing how much you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.

And I can't help it, I have to add this one:

Subject: Cory and DRM


I can't comment knowledgably on the DRM discussion, but suspect that Doctorow's "shelf life" won't exceed five years. I'd wager a fair amount of money that some kind of DRM succeeds.

Final and fairly snide comment... Down and Out the in the Magic Kingdom by Doctorow, published 2003 Amazon sales rank 27,707 in paperback, 9,173 in ebook. Lucifers Hammer by Niven and Pournelle, published 1977 Amazon sales rank 2,743 in paperback, no ebook.

Of course, none of that invalidates his points or validates yours, but as one of my old professors used to say...When all the discussion about how to manage the patient ends, the senior guy gets to say "Thanks for all your input, this is how we are going to manage the patient".



I know we're no longer allowed to call them neo-cons. As far as their support goes, I guess its better late than never.


Challenge Me to the Moon The government should encourage the private sector to get into space. 

To keep the private sector involved, Congress could encourage private citizens to support a government-sponsored prize just as it encouraged private business to find uses for air mail. In fact, it might appropriate up to $50 million ó all private contributions ó to a prize fund matched 1:1. Thousands of private citizens gave money for the X-Prize, and billionaires staked millions. A richer prize with explicit government support could attract even more interest. Unlike government space efforts, which always get delayed, a private fund overseen by an independent board could set an absolute deadline: Miss the deadline and the money would revert to the treasury. If the fund failed to arouse interest, taxpayers would lose nothing.

Me, I say welcome aboard!


Subject: Tsa congress

If you lie to a federal investigator you get sent up the river, but if you're the TSA then it's alright to lie to congress:,1283,63958,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1  

If Kerry (or Bush) had an ounce of decency, they'd run on a plank of eliminating the TSA and putting the burden back on the airlines. (That would be privatization)

Chris C

All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand. Stephen Wright

And so it goes... thanks.


Subject: Re: Balloons To Orbit

One of the major carping points at Slashdot  where this idea was beat to death was re-entry of the craft running from the spaceyard (let's call it 'Supra-NewYork' a la BETWEEN PLANETS, in homage to the Admiral) to LEO; big Orbital balloon, big surface area, lotta heat on re-entry.

Why must the Orbital balloon re-enter? If you have cargo which must return (like people, or most people), tote up a Gemini, a Soyuz, a lifting body, or even a foam dispenser to spray ablative foam over an inflatable form, and surf back home. Meanwhile, suck the H2 out of the envelope, use the H2 as reaction mass, and recycle the plastic of the envelope; or, use them as outer shells to slap ice on for shielding, and put the habs inside them.

And, here's a few further thoughts on what we could do with Supra-NewYork (reprint freely): 

-- John Bartley, K7AAY, tel. admin, USBC/DO, PDX, views mine. Handheld Cellular Data FAQ rm -rf /bin/laden && newfs -m 99 /dev/iraq

I have tried to follow the slashdot discussion, but it seems endlessly repetitive and mostly childish. It's one reason I don't allow direct posts here: I seldom get the kind of mail I see routinely posted on slashdot. That place needs adult supervision.

I am still looking for a sane discussion on lighter than aircraft to orbit, using the JBA concept of a high altitude transfer station. I love the notion, and I intend to use it in my story, but if I can cut through the time needed for research on the concept it would help. Frankly, from what I saw at slashdot (and maybe my settings are off) I spend most of my time loading a short message only to see that it was useless and needs deleting, then expand another, and another and another....


Regarding the JP Aerospace Ascender:

The best discussion I've found on this project is in The skepticism centers on the difficulty in getting a reasonable L/D ratio at hypersonic speeds. According to the more knowledgeable posters (some of whom have experience in the expendable launch business), a reasonable ratio would be 2 or 3.

This makes the idea of using an off-the-shelf ion thruster laughable - they simply can't get enough thrust to make it to orbit by some two orders of magnitude. In fact, it's hard to imagine what kind of scheme they could cook up to make this work. Some have pointed out the atmosphere contains mostly ions at that altitude, so charging the leading edge might have some effect on the drag. The JP people seem very confident, so I remain hopeful.

During reentry, the craft they are proposing (more than a mile long!) will have plenty of surface area to dissipate the heat safely.

As you pointed out, the orbital transfer station is most intriguing. I don't see any limiting factor on the size of the thing - you could make an absolutely enormous station over time piece-by-piece. Like a huge raft island.

Eric Baumgartner

Coming down is easy if you can get payload up. My question is whether you can actually fly one of those things to orbit at all. Even with rockets to finish the job.

Because if you can do that, you can do almost anything. Cheap access to orbit changes the world.


But of course NASA seems to have abandoned one of the major reasons for going to space. One wonders why, and on what timing?

Subject: Somehow, this seems familier...

I can't quite place this, but it seems like the topic has surfaced here before. :-),1282,63913,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1

-- Bill Seward, KG4SAQ

Space Solar Power is an obvious way to get the US out of energy dependence; but it would require ending the Shuttle and developing new means of getting to orbit. NASA seems to hate that. And one wonders how much the Administration wants it. Of course the Democrats did no better in their 8 years.









CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, June 24, 2004


Have been reading your columns for many, many years. I'm always impressed with the "Pearls" that drop out. Recently I purchased an iBook to use within my windows peer-to-peer home network. I've been going crazy as to why I couldn't see the main server's printers on the Mac, yet could see them from other windows computers, and could even see them from a VirtualPC Windows XP running on the very same iBook! Turns out the share names I had assigned a long time ago to the windows printers was too long (thanks to your astute observations in your column...). I changed the share names to 8 characters, and Bob's your Uncle, there they are in Mac OS X on the iBook!!

I searched for hours as to the reason for this, and came up dry. Bravo for you Jerry.


Dr. John Falconer Kelowna, BC Canada

Glad to be of help. Another satisfied BYTE.COM reader...

Subject: Follow the smoking gun...

< >

"Although the White House this week repudiated a Justice Department opinion that torture might be legally defensible, Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II in 2003 forced the Pentagon working group to use it as its legal guidepost. He did so over objections from the top lawyers of every military service, who found the legal judgments to be extreme and wrong-headed, according to several military lawyers and memos outlining the debate that were summarized for The Washington Post."

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)


Subject: The 'Libertarian View' on property ownership

You referred previously to a "Mr. Thompson's" communication with you, wherein he stated "From a libertarian perspective, copyright is not a natural right, as for example property rights are..."

This may be a Libertarian perspective -- or perhaps Mr. Thompson's personal belief, but it's not correct in that this position has no legal standing or substance in the United States. As Eugene Volokh aptly puts it (in an interesting short article about FDR...) ' "Property, a creation of law, does not arise from value, although exchangeable -- a matter of fact." That's from Holmes' 1918 opinion in INS v. AP.' Later in the same article, he states, "What Holmes is saying here is that even though property is exchangeable, it doesn't arise from value; it's a creation of law. And that's simply a matter of fact." The article can be found at -- just scroll down or search.

Bill Krog

Mr. Thompson was referring to natural rights, not to positive law. The Parliament of England can do anything with the law, but having done it that does not make it 'right.' As to the standing of natural rights in the US, that is too long a debate for here. The Declaration of Independence asserts natural rights which are given by God and not subject to the whims of human law including the King in Parliament, and claims this is self-evident. The Constitution attempts to codify these, but one view of Constitutions is that they do no more than put into human law what the Creator has given: human law can neither expand nor detract from The Law as it is written in the very nature of being.

Ayn Rand and others have attempted to derive these natural rights from "the objective facts" of the universe, leaving out God or the Creator: that is, to find justice where there is no Fountain of Justice, and Rights where there is no Grantor of rights. Many then treat these rights as sacred, much as to those who claim their rights come from God. This is again a very long discussion which I haven't time for here; suffice it to say that this view of the origin of rights has far fewer adherents than the old-fashioned notion that rights derive from God.

(Of course even there we can have debates: is good good because God says it is good, or do rights and justice exist independent of the Will of God? And once again, this is a more profound question than I have time or space for here.)

I see I have said more than I intended.

Dr. Pournelle,

I love your website. You've got a lot of great stuff on there. Most of it interests me a lot. The DRM stuff does not. But I feel I have to comment anyway because of this little blurb I saw in your View a day or so ago:

"In long discussion on this, Mr. Thompson says:

From a libertarian perspective, copyright is not a natural right, as for example property rights are..."

That is not the libertarian perspective. It might be the anarchist perspective, but certainly not the libertarian.

Libertarianism is built on the idea of the equality of all people, which leads to the idea of self-ownership -- the basic right from which all other rights are derived. If I own my own person, then I also own the products of my labors -- the basis of property rights.

But that holds true whether or not the products of my labors are physical -- something I churn out of my wood shop -- or abstract information -- a song, a book, a computer program, a mechanical design, etc. If I made it through my own labors then it is mine, and I have the right to it.

Saying that copyright is not a natural right like property rights is double-speak, because copyrights ARE property rights. They reflect a creator's right to own his creation and then control it's sale to whomever he wishes so that his talent and effort are given their just compensation.

Like I said, the particular issue of DRM isn't really my thing, but how people get to their positions on various political issues is. The philosophy of politics is one of the things I sit around thinking about (I know, I really need to get out more, but it's interesting to me). From what I've seen, the libertarian/classic liberal philosophy as defined by it's originators -- Locke, Jefferson, von Mises, Rand, etc -- is based on taking a set of first principles -- namely equality -- and then logically and rationally deriving positions from them. If you believe in equality then, rationally, you must believe in equal rights and so, rationally, you must believe in copyright.

Compare that with how most other people get their positions. They say they believe in all these great things, but then usually obtain their positions based on how they feel on any particular day about it. So somebody can claim to believe in rights and equality, but want to make use of books and music they don't want to pay for, so they feel copyright must be wrong (it doesn't give them what they want), so they establish their position based on these subjective emotions and then try to justify it. Sometimes using nice, big-sounding, intellectual words like "libertarian" and "natural rights."

In Oath of Fealty, you and Niven presented the idea that freedom cannot exist without moral restraint. I agree in part, but I think a correlary to that must be that no democratic society can survive without emotional restraint. If the people obtain their positions based on emotions, which tend to be based on getting what they want and screw everybody else, and then vote based on that the society cannot survive as a free democratic society. As Alexander Tyler noted from his studies of Greek democracies:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage."

The thing he didn't note is that the people don't justify their positions by saying they are voting from greed. They claim to be supporting higher ideals, or other justifications for voting for what they want. And their greed takes more forms then just handouts. It also takes the form of trying to change the laws in order to take property rights away from people who have what you want.

Once this process starts in earnest, the government becomes the cookie-jar that everybody is fighting to get their hands into. Average people want stuff without paying for it so they decide they don't believe in intellectual property rights and vote and lobby for their abolishment. Creators want to maximize their profits, so they vote and lobby for copyright laws that a skewed in their favor. Distributors want to maximize their profits, so they vote and lobby for copyright laws that skewed in their favor; and screw the creators, screw the consumers. Once this has started there is no place left for the logical position of what's the right thing to do based on our claimed values of equality and freedom. People are too busy trying to take from each other (and often getting it) to listen to reason, and those in charge are too busy getting re-elected by giving people what they want to do the right thing.

Not sure if this nice novel I'm writing you has been anywhere near coherant, or if you'll decide to publish it or not, but I feel better from having written it.

While talking to you, I might as well ask something that's been bugging me for 9 years: when are you, Niven, and Barnes going to write a sequel to Beowulf's Children? That's got to be one of my favorite books ever. Let's go back to Avalon and see what's been going on.

Thanks for your time,

TJ Williams

Non servium

A major difficulty with deriving all rights from the assumption of equality is that there is overwhelming evidence that people are not equal, unless you are prepared to take the view that some people (retarded through genetic defect, birth trauma, or later injury as examples; we need not get into more subtle genetic differences) are not human at all. If there is one objective fact we have observed it is that all men are not  equal.

Jefferson states that is it self-evident that they are created equal, and remain so despite objective inequalities because they are endowed by their Creator; but that is not objective fact.

We haven't done a sequel to the two Avalon books because the next one is either depressing, or would have to start after a fair span of time. And Barnes now lives in Oregon, making it much harder to get together.

Subject: 'Tyler' quote is erroneous

The gentleman's name was actually Alexander Tytlee, Lord Woodhouselee:

To the best of my knowledge, he never wrote a book entitled _The Fall of the Athenian Republic_ nor _The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic_, the most common variations of the purported title of the work from which the quote is in question is supposedly drawn. There is no record that Tytler ever said anything of the sort, actually.

In his _Universal History_, available online here:

Tytler takes issue with Montesquieu's position that virtue is a primary attribute of democracy (I tend to agree with Tytler), but in no wise makes the claims cited in the supposed quote. And while there are plenty of examples of problems in historical democracies and republics, there's not enough evidence in the record to suggest the general inferences 'Tyler' supposedly drew from this study of same; given his accuracy and astuteness in the _Universal History_, it seems to me that he would not make such sweeping and unsupported generalizations.

Roland Dobbins

Tytler's sentiments seem self-evident, and How Democracies Perish among other works draw on the ideas. And all this depends on the nature of man: Fallen, Perfectible, Original Sin, Darwinian, etc. Which is a larger subject than we are likely to settle this week.

But, as you observe, the returns aren't in on modern liberal democracy in an age of plenty. Most of our examples are from ages of scarcity. Automation and productivity may change the equations.

Reference to paragraph in above.

This is why, do you think, the founders devolved most rights to the States? That way, if a State started getting to oppressive, they found the object of their oppression exiting to other states, so the State then had to decide if they wanted that, and if not, what to do about it?

Brice Yokem

Of course. If most of these things are left to the States, then each state must decide whether freedom or security or something else is the primary goal, and people can decide what laws they wish to live under -- i.e. the consent of the governed. Some may choose fairly repressive regimes with socialist tendencies. Others may go libertarian. But the modern tendency is to impose some national solution on everyone. Or, dare I say it, the New World Order which will make all rules global and nothing local will be left.

That too is in my new novel.


Subj: Spirit of America: report on visit to Iraq

You may recall the private group that supports (among other things) the Marines' effort to get independent local TV stations in Iraq on the air: 

=[P]lease understand three things: (1) there is hope for Iraq, (2) the support of the American people can make a critical difference to the Iraqi people and their future, and (3) our job at Spirit of America is to help the American people make that difference.=


The question is, must we have an army there as well? But we do, and since it is there, we don't have a lot of choices.


Subject: microbial fuel cell

Penn State continues to develop a microbial fuel cell, which can generate electricity from waste water. 

Lloyd Arnold Winterville, North Carolina

Before we get too excited, the goal is 1000 milliwatts per square meter; that's 1 watt, and it will take 10 by 10 meters to power a 100 watt device with no power losses. It's a good thing, since cleaning water is good in itself and if this can generate some of the power to run the purification plant that's all to the good, but it is not likely to save civilization.

The Solar Constant is about 1.3 kW/m^2, or 1300 watts per square meter, or 1,300,000 milliwatts above the atmosphere. Think half that on the ground, and half again for daylight hours, and half again if you're flat rather than at the angle of latitude, and half again for inefficiency, it's 80,000 milliwatts per square meter if we use the same surface for just laying down flat solar cell panels. If you think 80 is too high take half that... The point being that this isn't generating much power compared to the sunlight falling on the pond




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  June 25, 2004

Dr. Pournelle:

This story is developing, it is unknown of the impact yet. Here's what US-CERT (US Computer Emergency Response Team) says:

"US-CERT is aware of new activity affecting compromised web sites running Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS) 5 and possibly end-user systems that visit these sites. Compromised sites are appending JavaScript to the bottom of web pages. When executed, this JavaScript attempts to access a file hosted on another server. This file may contain malicious code that can affect the end-user's system. US-CERT is investigating the origin of the IIS 5 compromises and the impact of the code that is downloaded to end-user systems.

Web server administrators running IIS 5 should verify that there is no unusual JavaScript appended to the bottom of pages delivered by their web server.

This activity is another example of why end users must exercise caution when JavaScript is enabled in their web browser. Disabling JavaScript will prevent this activity from affecting an end-user's system, but may also degrade the appearance and functionality of some web sites that rely upon JavaScript. US-CERT recommends that end-users disable JavaScript unless it is absolutely necessary. Users should be aware that any web site, even those that may be trusted by the user, may be affected by this activity and thus contain potentially malicious code." (See

This one will need to be monitored. There is no protection against it yet.

More later...

Rick Hellewell,


Dr. Pournelle:

I've gleaned this information about this problem (referenced in your Friday mail):

The attack will change a web site's "global footer" value, which adds HTML code to the bottom of each displayed page. The modified text includes javascript code that will silently execute on the users' machine. This code will download a program (again, silently) that installs programs that will steal keystrokes, passwords, and allow remote access to your computer.

Reports are that several high-profile sites have become infected with this global footer change. It appears that even fully-patched systems might be vulnerable. Microsoft says that it affects unpatched systems, particularly the MS04-011 ("LSASS") patch, although it appears that applying the patch is not a protection.

The anti-virus guys are working on detection, but that's not fully available yet (as of this writing). I suspect that there will be some updates available this weekend.

If you are hosting a web site, you should check to see if the 'global footer' file has been changed. You can also look at the source file of a page (in IE, View, Source) to see if there is some unusual stuff at the bottom of the HTML code for that page.

And, update your system, of course.

Rick Hellewell, Information Security,

I have examined the code on my pages with two different machines (that is I went and looked at the source as I see it on the web) and found nothing. Of course I renew things frequently, and it's hard to hit me since I'm hiding behind more than one layer of firewall protection where the actual master copies of this web site reside.




Subject: Rocket Hobbyists Dropping Hobby

More fallout from Homeland Security regulations. I wonder where our next generation of engineers and rocket scientists will come from.,1284,63973,00.html 

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Clearly Al Qaeda is winning: they have inflicted TSA on us to destroy the airline industry, and they have caused us to bring in Homeland Security people with the "it's forbidden unless licensed and regulated" mentality to end many more of our freedoms. Tocqueville would not recognize the modern United States.

My latest novel is an "If this goes on" story of US "hegemony" in which we think we have won  by converting ourselves to the kind of society our enemies would like to impose on us.

The purpose of government agencies is to hire and pay government employees: that done it will try to justify having done so. This is an example of trying to show how needed they are, when in fact they are accomplishing the enemy's purpose.

Up the Empire.


This is one of half a dozen testimonials I have received in the past couple of days:


I had to let you know my husband ordered one of those irrigators from your neighbors company you suggested which they agreed to ship overnight (I have endured an infection I have been fighting for over 3 weeks). I have been on and off work for the last three weeks due to this thing but after a couple of treatments today I feel more like myself than I have in weeks and without all that groggy medication.

I love your site but this recommendation has been a real lifesaver (I could kiss you) Thanks again for letting your readers know about this great product.

Marcia Motta


Subject: How do I locate XCorps?

I saw something about XCorps on the Discovery Wings channel, and wanted to contact them for more info. Then I was connected to your page, I guess because you at least, mentioned it. Can you help me? 66-year old, newbie lady here!

Penny, tursiops

Nikoli McCracken

Google XCOR and all will be well. I had problems with that at one time too.


Subject: NASA Shakes Itself Up,1283,63986,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_3 

Don Barker

We will believe when we see results. Parts of the Aldridge Report could have been taken from this page.  But implementation?

Subject: I imagine this man MUST exist . . .


No explanation required: 

 Charles Krug

Hoo Hah!


On digital rights: (see above)

I have several letters like this one:

From: Joe Fish [mailto:reverend.joe] Sent: Friday, June 25, 2004 2:35 PM To: Subject: Re: Cory's DRM talk at MS

For a smart guy who (presumably) writes clever science fiction, you show surprisingly little comprehension of the points Cory is making:

There follows about five pages, of which

In responding to this, you missed Cory's point. It's not whether or to what extent DRM will "work", or who will or won't be able to crack the DRM wrapper, or how difficult that cracking will be, because all that nonsense is beside the point. There is an element of society that NO amount of copy-protecting will work against. There is absolutely no way for DRM to work in a foolproof fashion on audio files until you have a device that can detect if I have an analog microphone and tape recorder aimed at the loudspeaker where the audio will eventually emanate. Do you see this technology occurring in our lifetimes? Short of more DMCA-type legislation and the reduction of our republic to a complete and totalitarian police state, copyright piracy will always exist.


4. There is no consensus of artists on whether DRM is good or bad for artists, and there needs to be a lot more discussion. In any event, deciding for them isn't obviously the morally superior position.

---- Cory isn't trying to decide for them, he's trying to convince MS that taking a position that "DRM is good for the artists" is incorrect. How is his opinion that DRM is bad for them any less "deciding for them" than MS's (apparent) position that DRM is good for them?

is a fair sample.

On his first point, no one worries a lot about analog copies. Such things have always existed and will continue. It's those easily made digital copies, which are exact copies that don't degrade with use or through copy generations, that are of great concern; I would have thought the EFF people would understand this.

Most of his letter is proof by repeated assertion of the proposition that nothing can be done without a police state which will then be used to enforce the profits of big guys to the detriment of the rest of us.

 Me, I would think that if artists have the choice of using DRM or not they have more choices than if they don't have that choice, and they can decide for themselves. That is certainly Microsoft's position: the publisher sets the rights to be protected. Microsoft hopes to offer a wide spectrum from no protections at all to some onerous and restrictive practices that I suspect will harm sales far more than they will help. Mr. Fish asserts that can't be done without a Gestapo. If so, then of course we are agreed that this is not a good thing; but so far I have seen only the assertion that there is no technological way to protect intellectual property that doesn't involve police. Perhaps so, but I haven't seen it proved.

But as a smart guy who (presumably) has novels to finish I have other things on my mind just now anyway. And see below.

Subject: Doctors and malpractice


I've recently started paying a doctor to help me lose weight. (Out of pocket -- I don't know if my HMO will cover it, or offer anything similar, they don't seem to have been so inclined in the past.)

In his office in Monrovia, he has a notice for all his patients. It states that, in response to the alarming growth in malpractice insurance premiums, he no longer carries malpractice insurance. He has transferred as many of his assets as possible out of his name, and done what he can to render himself judgment proof. With any resources still available to him, he will vigorously defend against any malpractice suits brought against him.

For any patients or prospective patients who are not comfortable with this, his prescription is another doctor.

This kind of thing can be abused, but he is giving fair warning to all. As long as the tort system is seen as a slot machine, people will line up to pull the handle.


An interesting wrinkle. Thanks.

Subject: U.S. Pilot Court Martial

Hi Jerry,

Some good news. At least the criminal charges were dropped today against the airman ( Maj. Harry Schmidt) that mistakenly dropped the bomb on the Canadian troops in Afghanistan. All is not wrong with the world. One of the widows is crushed that she didnít get to throw the switch herself, and I can understand her position, but these charges should have never been brought in the first place.

Mistakes happen and people die. Learn from it and make sure it doesnít happen again.

Christopher Todd Gaska, CEO

One Vision

Indeed. In wars we break things and kill people.


Subject: More on Berbew

----- Roland Dobbins

The worm continueth and dieth not, and no one knows whence it came...









This week:


read book now


Saturday, June 26, 2004

The problem with discussions of large matters is that everyone assumes facts not in evidence, and imputes to everyone else motives they probably don't have. And for some reason a great number of the advocates of the EFF/Doctorow position completely ignore Napoleon Bonaparte's maxim, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence." (It all began over in View where I tried to define the issues.)

As for example, with regard to analog vs. digital copies, Mr. Thompson quotes me and then comments:

>> On his first point, no one worries a lot about analog copies. Such things have always existed and will continue. It's those easily made digital copies, which are exact copies that don't degrade with use or through copy generations, that are of great concern; I would have thought the EFF people would understand this. <<

Ah, but they don't stay analog for long. Given the DRM-protected digital copy as the source, it's trivially easy to record the analog output and re-digitize it. It's not much harder to do so with no detectable loss in sound quality. One doesn't even have to use speakers and microphones, which introduce audio artifact. It's easy enough to sample the analog signal and end up with a very good digital copy.

In fact, CD-DA discs are not exact copies, because they lack the second level of error detection and correction used for data CDs. That means that copying a standard audio CD introduces generational degradation, just as you correctly attribute to analog. The flip side of that is that if you sample several "identical" CD copies to determine which bits are flipped on each copy, you can actually produce a better digital copy than exists on any of the source CDs.

At any rate, it's not very hard to produce a nearly perfect and unprotected digital copy to let loose in the wild. You can count on that happening until they start licensing and monitoring our ears and eyes.

To which I replied:

So the sky is falling?

Which prompted:

Subject: Re: Of course analog copies matter

My point was that what you said about analog versus digital is immaterial. Given a good analog copy, which is trivially easy to obtain even from a DRM-protected digital source, it's simple enough to re-digitize it with little or no loss of quality. At that point, there's a perfect, unprotected digital copy loose in the wild.

As I said earlier, there's no way to unexplode a bomb. The only way to have effective copy-protection is to stuff a lot of ubiquitous technologies back into the bottle, including the Internet itself, high-quality AD-DA converters, optical disc burners, etc. etc. The only way to do that is to remove ownership and control of these technologies from us and transfer them to the publishers, RIAA, MPAA, and so on.

As to the necessity for Draconian laws, why do you think such abominations as the DMCA exist, not to mention such follow-ons as the proposed INDUCE Act? It's because technology on its own cannot provide effective copy protection, no matter what your contacts at Microsoft tell you. If you doubt the truth of that, just try to think of one copy-protection technology that hasn't been cracked, usually within a very short time after it appears. DRM doesn't work and can't work unless the copyright holders have absolute control of our PCs and other electronic gear. A good offense always beats a good defense.

The other consideration is that the DRM folks have to be perfect. Almost isn't good enough. All it takes is one person who is able to crack the DRM to provide an unprotected copy, and all their efforts are for naught. The thing about casual copying is a red herring. DRM is all about eliminating Fair Use rights.

Prompting this from me:

The trouble is you assume all either/or.

I get weary of the letters from people who start with the assumption that everyone in government is a raving maniac thirsting for the blood of the innocent in order to pay more "obscene" profits, and "they" will do anything, anything, including slaughter 10% of the population, to achieve their ends.

You donít say that but since I won't answer idiots I end up writing you.

The real truth of the matter is that if it's too hard to do, and requires too much enforcement, it won't be done. No one much cares what people do with copies for their friends. It's preventing commercial exploitation of another's work -- I can sell copies of your books cheaper than your publisher can, so should I not be able to? Don't I have the right? -- that is at issue.

I start with two principles: (1) I'm pretty smart and I have always argued that DRM isn't likely to be possible, for the kinds of reasons you postulate; I had that discussion with Dan Bricklin 10 years ago at a dinner with Bill Gates; and (2) I don't know everything even if I do pretend to know everything for a living. Some pretty smart people think they can manage this without jailing their grandmothers and torturing their cousins and ruining the world they live in, and most of them don't really thirst for innocent blood, nor do they have the intention of ending all "fair use" doctrines.

Until I find out more of what the people who believe they can implement DRM think, I'll continue to act as if it might be possible.

Sure, there are people in the corporate world who seem to have no regard whatever for the needs of society. Some are merely greedy. Then there are other, theoretical social -- I hesitate to say scientists, because they don't do science, and I hesitate to say philosophers because what they do has little regard for the principles of philosophy -- social schemers? In any event, who seek to maximize individual rights to the point where society has none, and think nothing of eliminating long established traditions.

Most people, though, don't think that way. They haven't thought through the implications, but it certainly brings little to the debates to impute to them entirely avaricious motives and desires. It may surprise some of you to know that many of the programmers at Microsoft are not stupid, not sociopaths, and do not thirst to take away what has traditionally been called "fair use". On the other side, though, there certainly are people who want to expand "fair use" to the point where there is nothing else, and the whole concept of an enforceable intellectual property right becomes meaningless.

As I have said before, much of this discussion hangs on some pretty deep principles governing just what rights are. Since any right is usually a restriction on someone else -- my right to exist depends on restraining the local homicidal maniac's thirst for blood, my right to my property depends on restraining the local thug's desire to have it, your daughter's right to her virginity depends on restraining the local gang's desires for rape, etc., etc., it is hardly surprising that intellectual property rights are not universally agreed on.

Technology is changing the world in many ways. Some may surprise us. The trick is to keep the new technology within bounds, lest it eat the social contracts and we all find ourselves in the Hobbsian world,

where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Hobbes had a remedy to this: The Leviathan, the State, that mortal God that protects us because we have given over our rights to the King or the Congress or the Department of Homeland Security of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tax, and Firearms, or the FBI, because we prefer security.

The Philadelphia Convention of 1787 had a different remedy, and established a Constitution. Not too long afterwards a friend of that Constitution wrote that he thought the nation secure from foreign enemies, and its democratic forms secure, but:

Democratic governments may become violent and even cruel at certain periods of extreme effervescence or of great danger, but these crises will be rare and brief. When I consider the petty passions of our contemporaries, the mildness of their manners, the extent of their education, the purity of their religion, the gentleness of their morality, their regular and industrious habits, and the restraint which they almost all observe in their vices no less than in their virtues, I have no fear that they will meet with tyrants in their rulers, but rather with guardians.1


I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.


I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.


Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Which has taken us far afield from the subject of Digital Rights Management. That's my fault. I have let my thoughts wander where they will, partly because I am trying to construct an "If This Goes On" world of fifty years from now in which many of these trends have played on to produce a society different from the one we live in. And it is probably time to return to that work.

I began some years ago with the view that DRM was likely to be difficult, since it's obvious to anyone that at some point the material to be protected has to be viewable to a customer (it doesn't take much in the way of elementary intelligence to think of that despite the breathless way in which it is often reported). Of course we have that situation now (books and Xerox machines exist), and artists and writers live with it: there are probably more people making a living writing science fiction now than the cumulative number who managed that from the beginning of time until, to pick a convenient point, the year I was President of SFWA in the 70's. Books are easily copied, digital copies can be made and published and often are, and so far the effects have been mild.

That situation, I think, is about to change: as portable electronic devices become ubiquitous because cheap, and the experience of reading a book on one becomes not merely as good as, but better than the experience of reading a book on paper (illustrations, photographs, diagrams, maps, cut scenes, all those can be added to books on screen) -- as these things happen, as technologies spring forth and take on a development life of their own, changes are inevitable, and I would have thought it pretty difficult to slow such events. After all, Possony and I said as much in 1970, and I don't need too frequent reminders of it.

But I am not at all sure the returns are in from all precincts. People who work hard and do well and are every bit as smart as me think they can bring something off. Perhaps they can't; but I at least want to hear from them before pronouncing them fools.

And now it really is time to go back to a different world of my own creation.

On Analog Copies

People have gone into this on Slashdot. They have pointed out that only one analog generation is required to strip out the copy protection, and after that, the recording can go back to digital, with acceptable fidelity losses in that one analog pass.

I've come to the curious conclusion that DRM is a "honeypot." The idea is to publicize it endlessly, and get all the crackers involved in breaking out perfect digital tracks, almost as an "affair of honor." You know the old engineering maxim, "the perfect is the enemy of the good." There might be a much greater impact if people started doing things like copying old vinyl records and cassette tapes, and digitally cleaning them up.

Come to that, the Gutenberg Project and similar operations still have a fair way to go to process the available out-of-copyright material. Recent court decisions have clarified that mere ownership of an original or copy of an old work, not itself subject to copyright, does not create a copyright in copies made from that copy, and this has expanded the range of what can practically be "Gutenberged." It puts Gainsborough and Constable on the same basis as Samuel Johnson and Jane Austen. The limiting factor is labor-- turning old picture postcards into JPEG files is an extremely tedious operation, the more so if one has to go in and erase postal canceling marks, etc.

The recording studios are not really in the business of selling music. They are in the business of selling image. To be still more precise, they are in the business of selling to children the jealousy of other children who have not gotten their paws on the same object. The studios could easily channel the image through some physical object which is not so easily copied-- small plush dolls, perhaps. I was reading a book of William F. Buckley's old essays, and found his account of a young girl giving him:

"a square inch... of a bed sheet on which one of the Beatles had slept in San Francisco while there to commit nonmusic... Of course, I acknowledged the gift with profuse expressions of gratitude and indeed bartered it to seduce the eternal servility of a beloved ten-year-old niece."

John Lennon's Gaffe (Aug 18, 1966), in _The Jeweler's Eye_ (1969)

Surely, the same principle could be applied commercially. So what are the recording studios really worried about?

Andrew D. Todd

Well, I am more concerned with writers than recording studios. Computers are the great equalizers in both written and performance art; we will see what happens next.

Dr Pournelle, It occurs to me that the unspoken assumption in the DRM debate is what is the government's role in all of this. If the government has no role in DRM then DRM becomes much less important to those who oppose it. On the other hand, if the government enforces it, then it becomes very important. This is what causes some to passionately argue what others consider to be extreme positions.

For example, take DVD's. As one might expect, DVD encoding was broken a while back, so those who wanted to watch DVD on their Linux computers, or who wanted to skip through the commercials, or who wanted to store their DVD's on their computer could as long as they were willing to make the effort to do so. Most didn't, being content to watch the DVD on standard commercial DVD players. This more or less followed the legal standard set in the Betamax case. Even the "information just wants to be free" people did not have a major problem with DVD's being encoded since as long as they didn't actively try to pirate DVD's, then the movie industry ignored the individuals who bypassed the protection on a DVD for their own use.

However, once the movie industry decided to take Jon Johansen, the Norwegian teenager who wrote DeCSS, to court, then quite a few people had an issue with it. The concern being that the government would enforce some of the more extreme positions taken by the entertainment industry, such as the Disney executive who said that it was illegal not to watch the commercials on a broadcast TV show.

So, I might argue that DRM won't really work because the public has no incentives to buy DRM enabled devices and any protection scheme can be cracked over time, I also believe that Microsoft should be free to push DRM. What I do oppose is the idea that power of the government should be used to force everyone to go along with DRM.



Subject: Joe's Beer money - DRM Round five

Dear Jerry:

On my own approach to DRM: I make my Adobe files open to printing, but not copying. They are for researchers and I know the importance of having a paper copy to read and mark up. And carry around without having to plug it in. Yeah, someone can photocopy it, or even scan it. Which brings me to price point. I'm playing with that. What will people pay and what do they want to pay? Most of the single articles are at $1.95, which is the minimum price to get them on Amazon where they have the best hope of selling. (More than 39 million regular buyers worldwide according to Amazon itself). More than that and you are buying a bundle on a theme. And the price each is less, but you have to buy them all. I have no idea what works best. Yet. Only time will tell.

I note that two of my MS Reader products are now available on Fictionwise. Just two. Fictionwise sells short stories by some authors as low as 49 cents. Under the deal I have that would be literally a paradigm....or pair of dimes. About 20 cents. I wonder if these are offered too cheaply.

Researchers using the established database companies pay anywhere from $2.95 to $45.00 for one old article. I wonder if they will reject the ones I offer as being "too cheap". Is the price part of the perceived value? Especially if you work for a very large organization with lots of money and aren't spending your own? Likewise do the authors of the 49 cent offering on FictionWise really, as the old joke goes. "lose a little bit on every sale, but make it up on volume.?" I'd like some reactions on this point.

DRM will never be perfect. No security system is. All are designed not to lead innocent and basically good people into temptation and crime. Not much we can do about the determined career criminals, who figure out a way to game the system every time. I recall on incident where a man successfully shoplifted a rather large refrigerator. He showed up with a truck and a hand truck and a pick-up order at the store. They helped him get it into the truck, and didn't discover that the order was false until the bill went unpaid. By that time no one could recall what the thief looked like or the exact kind of truck he used. Now, that is "social engineering" at its finest. But look at the level of planning, skill and just plain acting ability required to pull it off. It is only notable because it is exceptional.

So I don't worry about the professional bad guys. I worry about all those people who somehow convince themselves that stealing just a little bit is okay and even a cool and fun thing to do. Like Chief Bratton, I'm a "broken windows" kind of guy. Little acts are insignificant, but failure to curb them encourages greater evil. It's kinda like tooth decay. One small spot leads to really big problems if left unchecked.

Which is why my MS Reader files are read-only at the highest level of protection available. Too easy to cut and paste the entire file and steal it and then distribute it. I'll probably go the same way when we get to the Palm files. It's a trade off , as these things always are. I'm trying to make it easier and cheaper to pay than to just steal.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

I think I need to get some of my older stuff bundled up. Perhaps dig through older columns and group by subjects. And there are the War World and There Will Be War books out there that are out of print that might be served up.

Time. But perhaps I can work out something with the Chaos Manor gang. Thanks for sharing your actual experiences with us...

Incidentally, I do wonder about people who want to take everything to extremes. I am certain there is no perfect protection scheme possible. It has been obvious to me since 1982 that if you want to sell text or a performance the customer has to be able to see the text or the performance and anything you can see can be copied; why that is breathlessly revealed as a new revelation by some participants in this discussion is beyond me. The question is, can it be made hard enough to do?

Books and stories have been copyable for a long time, but the sky hasn't fallen. What is needed is to make it hard enough that not many will do it, except for the professionals: and those are the ones who concern me. The people who sell copies of my stories without any contract or permission, and believe me there are plenty. Now that takes law enforcement. Customs officials to seize smuggled in copies of books. Revenue agents to close down the Walmart that is selling pirated books (and thus make it in Walmart's interest to keep those books out of the store).  If the debate is over whether there should be some law enforcement, then it is really a discussion of how best to rip off authors, and if people don't want to protect my property why should I much care if theirs is protected? Let them have a nasty, brutish, and short life.

What is needed is a way to prevent commercial exploitation, not casual theft. I don't know if it can be accomplished. Some smart people are trying. Most of the Microsoft programmers are at least as concerned about rights and freedoms as anyone else; why it is instantly assumed that they want to be part of robbery to the advantage of a few is beyond me.

Well, a day. I have work to do.


Nadezhda Mandelstam has a remark somewhere in her book that has always stuck with me. From memory: "Once there were kind people; and even people who were not kind pretended to be, because society at large thought highly of kindness. Clever people exposed this pretense as hypocrisy, and mocked it, and devalued it. All kindness became suspect, as a kind of hypocrisy. Now we see that there are no more kind people."




Subject: Space Elevator-A little early?

Does this guy know what he is talking about?-

"scientist Bradley C. Edwards has an idea that's really out of this world: an elevator that climbs 62,000 miles into space.

Edwards thinks an initial version could be operating in 15 years, a year earlier than Bush's 2020 timetable for a return to the moon. He pegs the cost at $10 billion, a pittance compared with other space endeavors."

-I would think that this is a bit farther off....

Ian Perry

I sure don't want to write the Environmental Impact Report for the case of a tether break.

Edwards said he probably needs about two more years of development on the carbon nanotubes to obtain the strength needed. After that, he believes work on the project can begin.

"The major obstacle is probably just politics or funding and those two are the same thing," he said. "The technical, I don't think that's really an issue anymore."

It may be feasible; many think so; but I believe it has to be built from orbit, and once we have ships that make the trip to orbit at reasonable costs we can reassess this concept.

Subject: The Space Elevator

Bradley C. Edwards' comments on the feasibility and possible timeline for a Space Elevator are quite interesting, but I believe reasons other than technical feasibility will mitigate against this project going forward in any time in the reasonably foreseeable future. You've mentioned that you wouldn't want to "write the Environmental Impact Report for the case of a tether break" -- and there's the rub. A catastrophic failure of the structure would no doubt be a cataclysmic (and very expensive) event. The building of such a project in the world we live in now, would create the single greatest terrorist target in the western world; and one which could very well be 'taken down' with today's easily available and inexpensive technology.

Bill Krog


Hard Lines:

If you think the right is hard on neo-cons, look at what the left can do to its own!


Good grief! I fear I have never read the book by Joan Peters, and I guess I don't intend to.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, June 27, 2004

And here is an odd letter:

Subject: Several years ago you and I

...exchanged some rather pointed messages, primarily over my hesitant endorsement of StarBridge systems, which, at the time, seemed to me to be the right solution to a long-standing problem.

Instead of responding with any open-mindedness, however, you responded with a heavily biased post on your website (that you subsequently refused to remove).

I've since become a high-paid consultant, and StarBridge Systems is doing quite well.

So am I.

Unfortunately, you seem to be so wrapped up in the 1960's that you've not yet been able to generate a 21st Century apology.

If you wish to live in the past, Jerry, please go ahead and do so - this will be my last e-mail to you. I will leave you to your waning years while I continue to progress on my formative ones.

If you would like to move to the future, however, I would be more than happy for you to join me in some rather exciting events, which you and other science fiction writers only dreamed about, but are shortly reported to be nearing reality.

And no, I never have been, nor will be, affiliated with starbridge...

Once again, your choice, past, present, or future.

Yours truely, and as always, your choice.

Steve Janss

This caused me to do some searches and I found two links to material about Starbridge here, The first one, which wasn't flattering, and the second a day later that was somewhat different. There is also reference to a special Report by Peter Glaskowsky who was then Senior Editor of Microprocessor Report and well qualified to comment. Peter discussed the whole notion of such machines.

I don't think, then, I can be said merely to have dismissed the idea. From their web page it would seem that Starbridge has some fairly hefty customers today. My records show they never answered any of my mail to them; perhaps in those days they were struggling along. Their web page in those days wasn't anything like as slick as now, either, and my recollection was that I couldn't make much sense of it; again, Peter's comments are probably the most relevant.

Perhaps it is time to look again at "reconfigurable" systems, although my experience with the first TabletPC based on the Crusoe chip hasn't endeared me to the concept. But, as I have said, when machines get fast enough, any machine can be made to look like any other without appreciable loss of speed: that is, the emulation costs like mad, but since the machines are so fast to begin with, you don't notice that in practice.

Alas, that's certainly not the case with the PC emulation on the Mac, but that's hardly the fault of Starbridge.

In digging around back in those times, I also found my comments on the failure of the X-33 program. Still relevant, alas.





Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)