Recently in Civil Liberties Category

No Sales Are Final

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For the last few months I have been tempted by the Amazon Kindle. First by the Kindle 2, which is a neat, relatively small, portable device that can hold within in it more books than I would ever need to carry around at once, and instantly download, just about anywhere, any books that I might need. The release of that Kindle DX, a larger device with a bigger screen, seemed even more attractive, since I am rapidly going blind in one eye.

All of that ended today when I discovered that Amazon had, at the request of a publisher, went out to all the Kindles in the world and deleted a bunch of books, ironically including George Orwell's 1984, because the publisher decided that they should made a mistake in offering a digital version. So Amazon, using technology they had not fully disclosed to the purchaser, went out and zapped those books, and gave the purchasers a a refund (I assume in store credit) for the purchase. Imagine if Barnes and Noble had decided to break into your house, take a couple of books off your shelves and leave a gift card on the nightstand. Same thing, for all intents and purposes.

It was already bad enough that Amazon was using the DMCA to take away your right of first sale (the ability to sell something that you have purchased to someone else). They have now made it quite, quite clear that you don't own anything even for your own use.

This is, as I have said before, the biggest threat of digital goods. While in their raw, un-administered, un-DRMed form digital goods are generally vastly superior in utility to their physical equivalents (searchable, portable, scalable in resolution, etc) the restrictions that are put in place by the people doing the "selling" are making them useless and unreliable. Music that has DRM generally only works so long as the company that sold it to you is in business - once the DRM servers go off line the music becomes unplayable. Media purchased for one system cannot be used for another. As President Obama learned a DVD purchased in in the US cannot be played in a DVD player purchased somewhere else in the world. Now we find that Amazon can decide to "unsell" you a book without your consent just because they feel like it. Apparently they have said they won't do this again, but there is no reason to take them at their word, since they didn't say they would do it in the first place, and the technology to do so remains in place.

Consumers need to begin resisting this move away from ownership and towards "licensing". "Licensing" is presented to the consumer as a sale, however the terms are always mush less favorable, seldom fully disclosed,and what is disclosed in generally disclosed in a EULA that consists of several pages of dense legalese that the consumer by-passes since the transaction is presented as a sale and they think they know their rights in such a transaction.

Personally, I did not use the iTunes music store until it went DRM free. Instead I purchased CDs and ripped them, or when it came out, used the Amazon MP3 store. While both of these still have ridiculous licensing agreements that attempt to deny me all manner of rights that I have as a consumer, at least since they are not DRMed they do not fall under the DCMA and if I choose to violate the EULA by exercising my rights as a buyer (say by selling a song I purchased and deleting all of my copies, something that the right of First Sale clearly allows) I have a leg to stand on in court. If it was DRMed I would be violating the "no circumvention" clause of the DCMA and would certainly lose, pay fines and maybe go to jail, even though I clearly have the right to re-sell something I have purchased.

While some might call these restrictions, and Amazon's recent intrusion into private citizen's personal devices to remove material they found unsuitable "Orwellian", I have to disagree. "Orwellian" is really tied up in associations with government oppression and control of the population, while what we are experiencing is an attempt by corporations to use the law to take away the rights of consumers.

So, in honor of this latest, and most vulgar attack on the rights of consumers, I would like to propose a new phrase, one to specifically apply to these cases of corporate overreach in an attempt stamp out the rights of consumers - "Bezosian", in honor of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.

Hopefully, having this word coined will casue him to stop and rethink his position, just as Dan Savage's popularization of the new noun "Santorum" caused former Senator Rick Santorum to abandon his homophobic hatred and lead a better life.

Update - An boingboing post with comments I am posting more stuff into.

How Not To Defend Marriage

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I wonder if they Prop 8 people realize what they did when they got their law passed - the new California law which prohibits future same-sex marriages and voids all the at-the-time-legal same-sex marriages that have occured over the past months?

They have essentially undermined the institution of marriage completely. As of now it is clear that the State can unilaterally, without the consent of the couple in question, dissolve a legal marriage. Some of these same-sex marraiges were conscecrated in in churches. Prop 8 has made it clear that the State can void a church's rites and rituals as it sees fit.

So, while they were pretending to be worried that the State would force them to perform gay marriages (which was never even on the table) instead they have changed "'Til Death do us part" to "So long as 51% of the electorate continues to believe that we should be allowed to remain married".

Great job there, dumbasses. Way to protect the instituion of marriage.

Leave Me Some Dignity

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Just so there is no question about it - I don't want to be kept alive through artificial means. Just in case that ever comes up.

It just gets better

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So, hooray! John Ashcroft is leaving as Attorney General! No more "Let the Eagle Soar" and covered up statue boobs!

Oh...wait...maybe it's not so good. Our president, in his wisdom, has choose Albert Gonzales to replace Ashcroft. You may remember him as the wacky next door neighbor in the Abu Ghraib scandle - the one who wrote the memos arguing that during a war the president can use torture and suspend whatever national or international laws happen to restrain him.

He's also the guy who determined that we can hold citizans without charges indefinately because we feel like it.

I'm told that we are supposed to be happy about the job he has done advising the President because at least we don't have Muslim Internment camps.

Yeah...this is the guy who should be the head of law enforcement in the U.S. Right.

Pete and Lou Got Married II

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So, today same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Time to sit back and watch civilization not collapse because of it. From all the descriptions I have heard of the event in Cambridge, where they opened the clerk's at midnight so that people, some of whom have waited 50 years, wouldn't have to wait a moment longer, things went great. 10,000 well wishers compared to about 100 protesters - all of whom came in from Kansas.

And what lovely people, with their "God Hates Fags" signs. Touching, and it really makes me think they are moved by their deep religious convictions, and not blind stupid hate.

Here's a link to David Weinberger's blog entry covering the event.

Absolute power

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Whenever somebody tells me not to worry about the additional power being given to government and the possible abuses of power as we (well, they) trade freedom for "security", I like to point them to stories like this.

What frightens me is that if little douchebags in the TSA are pulling crap like this, what do you think is going on in the White House? What/who are THEY making people flush down the toilet?

Pete and Lou got married

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So, today the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it was against that state's constitution to deny gays the right to married. I personally think this is a good thing, and really pretty obvious. I also hope that it is the beginning of a change that will spread through the country.

I am really annoyed though at the response from religious groups and the right - they just don't make any sense. Claiming that this is going against 3000 years of "Traditional Marriage" is insane. Have these people ever bothered to actually read the bibles that they thump? According to the bible "Traditional Marriage" includes polygamy, bothers and sisters getting married, and women being required to marry a man that rapes them. Marriages were also usually for reasons other than love - usually political, economic, or social.

Let's face it - over the last 3000 years the institution of marriage has changed enormously, and it will continue to change. This is just one more change, and I think, not really all that big. It doesn't, as some have claimed, endanger marriage - I know that my marriage won't be weakened by it one bit. Churchs aren't going to be forced to perform services for anyone they don't want to, and nobody is going to be forced to go to any gay wedding. All this is about is the legal rights of two unrelated people in a commited relationship, and the rights that the state grants them in recognition of that. It doesn't matter if they can't procreate - do we deny equal protection to a couple that can't have, or chooses not to have, children?

The other thing that bugs me is that they keep complaining about the courts "creating new laws" even though over 50% of people don't agree with them. This is, of course, bullcrap. The courts are interpreting an existing law that very specifically says that the state cannot deny equal rights. The founding fathers structured our government specifically so that the courts COULD do this against popular opinion - they are there to protect the minority from the majority.

Alex - I'll take "Third Riech" for $50

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Sooo...Finally Ashcroft has declassified the information about the use of that part of the Patriot Act that is let's the government seize business and library records, and prohibits anyone from ever talking about it. You may have heard Ashcroft rail against hysterical (that's conservative-code for female) librarians for their foolish (codeword for red-communist) fears about the use of this power.

Turns out, according to a justice department spokesperson...it's never been used.

John Ashcroft said just a couple of months ago that this was a vital tool in the war against terror.

But it's never been used.

Mr. Ashcroft....I'm sorry. You are a really bad liar. Either this has never been used (and is therefore an overreaching power grab) or you are lying - by which I mean using it, and you don't want to tell us (and will claim that you are allowed to lie in the defense of freedom).

Which is it? Hmmmm?

In either case, I guess it's not as bad as Bush finally admitting that there is no evidence of a connection between Iraq and 9/11 - but that there is certainly a connection between Iraq and al Qaida.

Alex - I'll take duplicity for $140 billion...

Nike "right to lie" case in Supreme Court

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Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court heard the Nike "Right to Lie" case, in which Nike is claiming that it had the right to lie in letters sent to School sports coaches and other material in which they claimed not to be using "sweatshop" labor, when in fact they were all along...

Boycott Fascism!

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Wired News: Privacy Activist Takes on Delta
Yet another crazy assault on our privacy and ability to travel without government interference has cropped up in the form of CAPPS II. Basically, you will have background check run on you before you can travel by air. This includes a credit check.

This is pointless - it's not going to do anything to improve security (Terrorist's don't have credit? Whaaaa?), and it's a huge intrusion of privacy.

Since Delta was the first company to step up and volunteer to participate, why not boycott them?

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