THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 315 June 21 - 27, 2004
Highlights this week:
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here.
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June 21, 2004
In the desert for the launch of space ship one. See last week for pictures and stuff.
I am at XCOR hangar. Aleta has made breakfast. Getting onto the airport was a bit of an adventure, but nothing horrid. It is now 0530 and Niven is developing confidence that he is awake, having been roused by Roland's phone call at 0405. More as it develops. No winds on airport so launch ought to go. Morning star was wonderful.
Some pictures. The ship rolls past the XCOR hangar. Jeff Greason President of XCOR with Niven watching for the candle to light. Me doing the same thing. And Spaceship One safely down rolls past the VIP area.
I have a lot more but I'll wait to do an actual story.
After the press conference. I am about to go home. It was an interesting day.
Meanwhile, we have
TAKE THAT, NASA!
FAA Associate Administrator Patricia Grace Smith, whom we met at the Space Access Conference, awards astronaut wings to Mike Mellvill, SpaceShipOne pilot: the first civilian non-government astronaut. The NASA/Government monopoly is broken. And that, I say, is history.
The only way to fight government is often to get another government agency in competition. FAA needs an industry to regulate: they won't surrender to NASA, and they have been around long enough to know how to fight this war.
THE GODS OF THE COPYBOOK HEADINGS
June 22, 2004
More on SpaceShipOne later after my walk. We'll also discuss Digital Rights Management. For now on that see Mail; more when I get back. Sable calls...
(This may become large enough to warrant a separate page; if so that page will always be referenced here, so bookmarking this page and topic will lead you there.)
This has become an important issue, not just here, and I don't think the issues have been defined fairly. There's already a lot about this; but much of it, I think, is aimed in the wrong directions.
First, although it has been referenced before, it's well to look at the Doctorow statement of the Electronic Freedom Foundation position. That is found here, http://craphound.com/msftdrm.txt and I am going to assume that everyone interested in this has read it.
The summary position is:
Here's what I'm here to convince you of:
And that certainly frames the issues.
His first statement may be key: it assumes his position, because if DRM can't be made to work, the entire issue is moot.
He certainly has not proved his case. Caesar used a "picket fence" code which was good enough to deceive Gauls who couldn't read Latin to begin with, but which isn't good enough for now; but why it's worth five minutes of a talk is beyond me. No one proposes anything so simpleminded. It may be that DRM can't be made to work. I have been known to speculate to that effect myself; but a lot of people with a lot of experience in this business think they can make it work reliably enough to protect against unauthorized commercial exploitation of copyrighted works, and if so that's all we have now.
Example: Israel, Taiwan, and Hong Kong all have printer/publishing firms that pirate books, including mine. I discovered one of them at a Price Club: there was an edition of one of my books printed by a publisher with whom I have never dealt, selling in a American discount store for about 10% of the US publisher price. Mine wasn't the only one there. Repeated (and painfully slow) negotiation with the Department of State got the publisher closed down, although someone in the government where the publisher resided seems to have warned him since there was no one on the premises when the shop was raided. This sort of thing happens frequently. Could we then say that copyrights "don't work"? And of course the answer is "not perfectly, no, but they do work reasonable well." They have been effective enough to let both me and my legitimate publishers make some profits on my books, and do this without accepting advertising, or begging, which seem to be a couple of Doctorow's solutions to us old buggy-whip makers who think we ought to be paid for our property.
So: can DRM work? I am not sure. I am sure that the strawmen Doctorow kicks apart in his presentation aren't particularly relevant. I have been to the DRM sessions at four different WinHEC conferences as well as the 2003 Microsoft Developer's Conference and in every case I have taken the position that it can't be done; and the people at those conferences have been pretty good at showing me that maybe it can be done, at least "good enough". Note also that DRM for movies and performances are not really the same problem as for books. Distribution on a disk that one expects to play on any system it's plugged into is not quite the same as distribution by download of a file that you know in advance will only play on certain systems and certain kinds of systems.
In other words, I don't think the issue of feasibility is a closed issue, and I do not think that Doctorow and his supporters have proved their case: they assume they are right and assure us they know better than the developers. Perhaps so, but surely one need not accept that automatically? Indeed, if it can't work, what is all the discussion about?
Microsoft developers take the position that whether or not DRM is a good idea, it is certainly legal, and both publishers and authors and artists want to have the right to protect their property in various ways; and that they are pretty sure they can provide a reasonable degree of DRM, including a wide variety of choices for the authors and publishers. Many of them are quite as good at programming as Doctorow and his advisors.
Next: is it good for society?
That is certainly not a proved case. The Framers of the US Constitution hated monopolies but they wrote an exception to that dislike into the body of the Constitution itself. At the time they thought 14 years a reasonable time for copyright; but of course people didn't live as long or have productive lives as long then as they do now. Some time later the Copyright Act provided for 26 years, renewable for an additional 26; it also made some provisions for original creators to recover some lost rights during that renewal process. Works not renewed fell into the public domain. Many of us thought that reasonable, and while I did testify in support of some changes to the Copyright Act, I did not take a position on the modification to life plus some span of years; and I publicly oppose the latest revisions of life plus an inordinate number of years.
But good for society is a complicated question, and involves things like the nature of rights. "Rights" is a peculiarly English Common Law concept anyway. The French Revolution said a lot about the Rights of Man and the Citizen, but in fact what they put forth as "rights' are more calls to action and stirring exhortations than "rights" as understood in the US and England. The more common Continental (and particularly Russian) notion of rights are not property rights held by an individual, but a system of duties on the part of the public prosecutor and authorities. The distinction is important.
Without public enforcement of rights, do they exist? That is the argument of the Code Napoleon and the old Roman Law (most of that developed by the Praetors and Senate during the Empire and codified by Justinian). Rights not recognized and enforced by the state aren't rights at all, but merely aspirations. Under ancient Roman Law in the Republic, rights weren't enforced by the state, so that a court decree granting you a right was merely a license to get your clients and relatives together and go try to take your property by force: the authorities wouldn't interfere. This led to some scenes echoed in the American Wild West, complete with Committees of Vigilance as the only means for enforcing individual rights -- and of course they trampled heavily on other rights. Imperial Roman Law changed most of that, and law and contracts were enforced by the State.
So what we are really saying here is not do individual authors and composers have a moral right to dictate how their creations shall be distributed, but do they have rights in the legal sense that will be enforced by laws and both civil and criminal courts?
Doctorow and his group say "not really." He also chooses his examples carefully, most of them out at the extremes; but everyone knows that hard cases make bad law, and while the law has to deal with extreme cases, it isn't normally written with only those cases in mind.
I'm framing issues here, not answering all questions: and the issue "is Digital Rights Management" bad for society is not, I think, settled despite his glib assumption that it's no question at all. It is a very complex question, and was debated at length in the Convention of 1787, and much of that debate remains quite relevant today. Note too that "intellectual property" is not all that new an idea. Song and sheet music was copyrighted and pirated a lot back in the early part of the last century. Books have been physically copied and printed and sold without permission of author and publisher for a very long time, and the argument that somehow if someone "steals" intellectual property it isn't theft because he has only taken a copy and the original remains, unchanged, in the hands of the owner is no more relevant when the copy is done electronically as when it was done by hand setting the work into a letter press without the owner's permission. It's just easier to steal it now.
His third proposition, that it is bad for business, is also unproved, but it need not be proved in any event. If DRM protected works don't sell, and other works without DRM do sell, the market will take care of all that; we don't need debates and discussions. And once again the returns are not all in: there is evidence that books given away electronically sell no worse, and some sell better, than works not so treated, but there is also evidence that works with previews and excerpts but not the entire work sell about as well.
This is, I think, a matter of technology. It is only recently that it is about as convenient to read a book on a computer as it is to read an actual hard-bound book. TabletPC's and Ultra-Light computers with really good reading software come pretty close now, and they're getting better. So are other hand-helds. Until very recently no computer offered a decent reading experience, and while there may be hundreds -- even thousands -- of people who like reading books on Palm and PocketPC devices, there aren't so far enough to make a drastic impact on sales: at least on on my sales and those of other best-sellers. Alas, mid-list and specialty authors are already in trouble because of the distribution crisis in publishing, and loss of a few thousand sales is very likely to be critical to them: so electronic piracy may well kill off a number of works with an intense but small readership. Or may well be their salvation, some would argue. Perhaps so; but surely this is not an entirely settled issue?
Much of the data collected so far may not be relevant to the new technology when reading books on computer devices is easy and convenient.
And: DRM may be good or bad for sales, and business, but authorship hasn't always been about sales and business. A few years ago publishers began inserting advertisements into books. Some of them put cigarette and liquor ads into works without telling the authors. Some authors objected like hell. Publishers offered some of the revenue as compensation. Some authors took that. Others continued to object because they didn't want to be promoting cigarettes and booze. Perhaps they were foolish, but I don't think it an entirely settled matter as to whether they had the right to opt out, even though the ads were probably "good for business" and the author insistence on control of those ads was probably "bad for business."
His fourth point is that DRM is bad for artists, and once again, he certainly has no consensus of authors and artists on this point, nor has he been appointed their spokesman. If we have some problems with the concept of "good for business" and "bad for business," we have many more problems with the concept of "good for artists" -- unless, of course, one simply declares that what Doctorow thinks is good for artists is in fact good for them and the artists don't know their own interests.
John Adams said once that in America we consider that each man is the best judge of his own interest. He acknowledged that in individual cases this might seem to be demonstrably untrue, but as a principle it was good for society. Our modern Nanny State has negated that principle in large part, and many of the freedoms that Adams' principle implied have been lost; but I am not prepared to hand over judgment as to what is good or bad for artists to Doctorow and his friends. When I was president of Science Fiction Writers of America I never went so far as to assert I knew their interests better than the members, and I worked pretty hard at trying to get a consensus before I did any bargaining with publishers; I don't think Doctorow has consulted many writers and artists, and he certainly hasn't been given the right to speak for me or for many writers who make a living at what we do; and I doubt he has a consensus of composers and graphic and performing artists either.
Another principle here: not all artists have the same problems. The US has some very bad copyright laws. One of them has a provision snuck into the Copyright Bill in the dead of night by a Congressional staffer who subsequently left government employ and went to work for the RIAA at a hell of a good salary: this provision gives essentially all rights to a performance to the publisher and none to the artist. No Congressman or Senator has ever been found who will admit to having read that provision before voting for the law, and most of them say it is a shame and ought to be changed; perhaps it has been changed and I didn't notice since it doesn't affect me, but a couple of years ago all Congresscritters were saying it was bad law, they didn't vote for it, it needed changing -- and then doing nothing whatever about it.
Writers don't have that problem. The default rights sold by authors are considerably narrower than those taken by publishers in performance art. Writers must explicitly sell all rights as "a work for hire" before losing all their claims.
Thus it may be -- I don't say it, because I haven't spent enough time consulting with performing artists -- that given the law as it stands, DRM would be bad for artists because they don't get much from DRM -- but that isn't necessarily true for composers and authors and graphic artists.
As to whether DRM is bad for Microsoft, I will leave that to Microsoft to decide.
So: in contrast to Doctorow, I think:
1. DRM may or may not be impossible; a lot of smart people think it is feasible.
2. It is not at all a settled issue whether DRM is bad for society. That certainly needs more discussion.
3. We don't really need to know if DRM is good or bad for business, since the market will almost certainly settle that: those who choose to employ DRM will find out soon enough whether their business model is correct or if the "give it away and they will find a way to pay me back" model is better, or if some other model is better.
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.
5. Microsoft will decide whether DRM is good or bad for Microsoft. My guess is that the answer to the first four questions will decide that matter.
Now let the debates begin. You may want to Start here. Or next:
In long discussion on this, Mr. Thompson says:
From a libertarian perspective, copyright is not a natural right, as for example property rights are...
You say that
we'd have fewer novels written if copyright terms were reduced. Permit me to
doubt that. Perhaps you would write fewer novels, but there is no lack of
people clamoring to be published.
I had not known that about the libertarian position.
As to the rest, I agree. You can find as much of that kind of work as you like. Just enroll in a writing workshop.
They aren't published because publishers don't think they will make much on them. Publishers take chances on unknowns in the hope that the editor's judgment that this book is good and this author will develop is correct. Most of those bets are lost. A few, like with the Harry Potter books, pay off big. When the publisher gets a big payoff he can afford to take more chances.
I had a number of writers come to me after Lucifer's Hammer auctioned for an enormous (in those days) advance, larger than any science fiction book had ever got. "You are taking the bread out of our mouths! You soak up all the money that the publisher had for advances, and left none for me!" And many variants on that theme.
My reply was "Actually, Hammer made a good profit for the publisher, as well as paying overhead, and it's from those profits and overheads that the publisher can pay new advances for other books. Mote in God's Eye made money, on what was then a big advance for science fiction but which is about average now. It earned out and made money which is one reason the average advances are larger."
Stop the publisher from making a killing because he doesn't deserve that intellectual property (how are you harmed? You still have your book! Just because I pirate printed copies and gave them away, you still have your property, nothing was stolen from you!) -- stop the publisher from making a killing on successful books and you pretty well assure that the publisher won't take many chances on other books.
The nature of publishing is changing, but one thing is certain. There are plenty of people with plenty of novels they would like to see published (or parts or novels, or unedited messes they call novels) and they will certainly "publish" them given half the chance. Whether that is what readers really want I don't know. I do know that if you take the revenue out of books, no one but a blockhead will work very hard to get them out in good form, rewritten to a competent editor's suggestions, and carefully copy edited. We don't call galley proofing galley slavery because we like doing it...
And it all continues, in Mail.
I have not had a chance to look at much of this, but it seems alarming:
June 23, 2004
I am starting an new novel, so I won't be doing so much here as before. I'll still be around, but the SpaceShipOne experience got me thinking. In the 1970's I began the CoDominium series. It looked like a reasonable picture of the future.
The Cold War ended, and so did that one. We now have American Hegemony, and I should set some stories in that future, starting perhaps fifty years from now. I have two stories in mind so far.
The Digital Rights Management debates will continue. I have yet to see anything definitive on the possibility of DRM and how it might work despite Doctorow's view that it can't; on the other hand, having been at WinHEC and other technical conferences, I know many good programmers who are not evil fools relying on Draconian laws and BATF-like enforcement who think DRM is feasible through software. We'll see.
It is clear to me that hardware is making it easy to keep a library of books on a small device, and if the display and the user interface are sufficiently good, the user experience (as Microsoft likes to say) can be as pleasant as with a book.
Which also allows authors to illustrate their stories, with maps, and simulations of newspaper headlines, and a whole variety of material that is not so conveniently included in books. There can even be a glossary and some appended material on science, and the like. The concept of what a novel is may change. I can even see hiring models and actors to pose so that one can include pictures of characters; as well as pictures of scene settings, travel pictures, and the like. Diagrams of space ships, and their internal layout. I have thought about this for more than a dozen years: it begins to look feasible. Whether I'll include such things in my next novels will depend on whether they come to me as I work on them.
I can even include notes and materials generated by readers...
That would be the electronic editions. The paper editions would have to be satisfied with line drawings due to production costs.
And now it's time to walk the dog.
One thing I need to look at is Balloons To Orbit: JP Aerospace has some intriguing ideas for structures that stay at about 100,000 feet, but there isn't a lot of detail. I talked to Powell at Henry Vanderbilt's space access conference way back when, but I need more details, particularly on the physics and how it might work. I would like to put a spaceyard at 100,000 feet or so into my story. See mail for some discusison.
COMDEX CANCELLED Sheldon sold this one at the right time, I guess. And now I am the only person to have been to EVERY SINGLE FALL COMDEX starting back at the Exposition hall in Bally's and going on and on and on...
And more news:
Rebellious subjects, enemies of the peace hear now the
sentence of a move'd First Armoured Division...
I have been watching Firefly. It's certainly better than many SF shows that got more attention. There is a Wild West flavor, but that was intended, and I think they bring it off reasonably well.
I use this thing; indeed, it got me past the allergy season. It looks like a water pick but it has a gizmo adapting it to use as a nasal flusher, and it comes with some powders to put in the reservoir. I bought an extra bottle of the powder, and since I use a lot, this morning I bought two more -- it was then that I saw the "associates" offer, and I thought, well, I use this, and I can recommend it because I use it, so why not?
It turns out that one of the officers of the company is a former neighbor I have known for many years -- I was aware that he worked in pharmaceutical supplies but not that he was here -- and he has arranged for readers who go through this link to get a discount.
If you have sinus problems -- mine keep me awake sometimes until I use this -- you may find as I have that there's nothing better than this. Not even the freshest of snake biles, and yes, I was desperate enough to try Chinese herbal medicine before I found this machine. I wouldn't be without it.
The above link leads to the same place, as best I can tell. I'll probably keep one or the other around for a while. I don't expect to make money, but I sure am grateful to the company.
I have had many inquiries as to the authorship of THE VIEW FROM THE EYE OF THE STORM by "a famous Israeli scientist." At the time I posted that I wasn't at liberty to reveal the source or the author. I can do so now.
HAIM HARARI, a theoretical physicist, is the Chair, Davidson Institute of Science Education, and Former President, from 1988 to 2001, of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
During his years as President of the Institute, it entered numerous new scientific fields and projects, built 47 new buildings, raised one Billion Dollars in philanthropic money, hired more than half of its current tenured Professors and became one of the highest royalty-earning academic organizations in the world.
Throughout all his adult life, he has made major contributions to three different fields: Particle Physics Research on the international scene, Science Education in the Israeli school system and Science Administration and Policy Making.
June 24, 2004
Niven sent this. I have no idea where it came from.
I will start my new novel today. More updates here when I have done some work. I have also scheduled a discussion with Microsoft technical management on implementation of Digital Rights Management in view of Doctorow's "proof" of its impossibility.
Apparently we have already generated some orders for the Grossan nasal pump I recommended. I'll have some Q&A from Dr. Grossan later.
What's going right in Iraq
From the Bush campaign:
Only John Kerry would declare the country to be in scientific decline on a day when the country's first privately funded space trip is successfully completed.
Had a nice long walk down by the river. They have a new river walk through Studio City with some shady benches. I now can start work: I can easily write ten pages, and I have a lot of the character development as well as the New World Order under American Hegemony in my head.
Found some old material that is still interesting. This site seems to have everything. In this case there are observations on wagging the dog. the Baltimore case, and an eerie similarity to the last days of the Roman Republic...
Which brings up the inevitable question, does Bush want to lose it and stay in? Or are we winning, as some say?
Subject: Web sites compromised, exploit code posted.
= And more warnings in Mail. ==============
June 25, 2004
I sent out two mailings to subscribers last night, both warnings about viruses and the like. I post such warnings here, but I send mail warnings to subscribers.
There were a number of returns, more than usual, probably due to spam filters. If you subscribe and did not get the mailing, please let me know. I will need to know WHEN you subscribed, HOW (method of payment) and under what NAME and EMAIL ADDRESS.
If you subscribed under one email address and that is now heavily filtered, you might want to add some means of passing the information through your filters. My warnings always have the name of the place I live in in the subject and always come from me, if that helps. And if you want to change your subscription address, please send:
Name you subscribed under
Old address = firstname.lastname@example.org
New address = email@example.com
(and wait until the spam spiders grab those addresses...)
Al Qaeda wins again. See mail.
And I am about to go work on my new novel. It's coming along swimmingly. I am sure I will run into problems, but so far it flows nicely.
Ernest Lilley took this one out in the desert:
I think we were happy...
June 26, 2004
It probably belongs in View, but it began as an answer to a letter so it is in Mail: a long disquisition on intellectual property and the general concept of rights. I doubt it says much you don't already know, but here it is.
One last point: no one has to read a novel or be entertained. If it becomes too onerous people simply won't buy. We all know that, but we seem sometimes to forget it. If "the user experience" is unpleasant, users won't experience it and will do something else. Mr. Heinlein used to say that we bards are "after Joe's beer money", which is shorthand for saying his entertainment/discretionary funds. Joe likes his beer: we have to give him more from a book than the equivalent spent on beer. If not he'll buy beer.
Same with DRM. But do understand that the Microsoft people are fully aware of this, whatever else they know; and the worker bees I talk to are not evil, and are at least as socially conscious as many whose only achievement seems to be their social conscience.
TEST MAILING: If you are a subscriber (to http://www.jerrypournelle.com ; subscriptions to www.byte.com are appreciated but are NOT subscriptions to my web site) If you are subscriber and DID NOT GET the TEST MAILING this morning, please look at the BADMAIL PAGE, and see if your name is on that list.
I haven't cleaned up this list in a while and the number of returned and undeliverables has grown; I would like to clean that up, please.
I have in general left off "mailbox full" errors, although not always. Many of these were blocked by anti-spam programs. I suggest you allow mail that has the name of this place in the subject go through, but of course some spammer can fake that, too. In any event, it was a certain amount of trouble to renew the BADMAIL page so if you subscribe and didn't get the test message, and/or the two WORM WARNINGS sent in the last couple of days, please look to BADMAIL and see if you are on it and take appropriate action.
I have sent out a test mailing to subscribers in hopes of getting the mailing list refined given the anti-spam measures some of you have taken.
If you did not get the test mailing and you think you are a subscriber, please tell me, giving when you subscribed (if you know it, it's helpful but not needed), name under which you subscribed, and email address you think your subscription is under.
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I have chopped back the expanding topic list on the index page, but I have kept it with all its links as a back page for those who want to follow them. I have revised the works in progress page.
I am about to revise the Recommended page. This is a lot more work, and will take a week or so.
I am dancing as fast as I can.
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