Feb 2, 2016

The "Conspiracy" to Slow Down Your iPhone

I feel like I'm about to make myself incredibly unpopular just by stating the facts.

But hey, I work in IT, I'm used to it.

Back in November, I wrote my article The Conspiracy to Slow Down Your Computer. It turned out to be a surprisingly popular article, though I suspect a lot of people who clicked for the title were disappointed. The spoiler is that there is no conspiracy, except perhaps for manufacturers shipping computers with 4GB of RAM, which isn't really enough. I touched on smartphones in my introduction, as they related to software updates and performance, but didn't really go into depth.

So it almost seemed like prescience when, a month later, a group of angry iPhone users got together and launched a class-action lawsuit against Apple, claiming that iOS 9 had "significantly" slowed down their iPhones. They allege that Apple did it on purpose, so that they'd be forced to buy new iPhones.

Hmm...

Whilst I grind my teeth, my friends and colleagues - understandably cynical from a lifetime of watching corporate profiteering shenanigans - give silent fist-pumps of approval. Yeah, THE MAN shall get what is coming to him. You can't force us to buy new phones, Apple! We want to run the latest software AND keep our old hardware.

Umm... Analogy time!

Okay, imagine with me if you will, that everyone in America lives in a trailer. Yes, yes, push away all the classist jokes you've just lined up in your head and stay with me. Some people have small tent trailers, others have "fifth wheel" jobbies, and others still have massive trailers like the ones film stars retire to in order to sip their artisan asparagus water between takes. The point is, if you want to pull a trailer with more stuff in it, you need a vehicle with the right horsepower. A compact car, for example, can't pull a fifth-wheel; you typically need a sturdy pickup truck for that.

Maybe your six-cylinder, light-SUV can pull one of the smaller fifth-wheels, but it's borderline. You need to be careful on steep hills, and you can't load up a whole bunch of extra stuff into the trailer like the truck-owners do. You need to mind your vehicle's towing capacity. However, with a bit of conscientiousness, you might be able to make it work.

You probably see where I'm going with this by now. Your phone's hardware is like a vehicle. It has enough power to tow a certain load - in this case your software, your OS and apps. Newer software has more features - a heavier load - and requires more horsepower from your phone in order to work well.

Imagine if the owner of that light-SUV went out and bought a great big trailer, but they didn't bother checking the trailer weight or their SUV's towing capacity. Then they loaded up the big trailer with a bunch of extra crap, hitched it up, and went jamming up a hill. When their vehicle inevitably stalls or overheats, they go stomping back to the dealership and say: "You said this SUV can tow things! It can't tow my thing! You lied!" The dealer might dare to tell that customer that they are an idiot who exceeded the vehicle's towing capacity.

The naysayers (and the people suing Apple) will say: "But Jesse, Apple claimed that iOS 9 is compatible with the iPhone 4s! That means it should work!" Well, sure? But it won't necessarily work well. As a user, you'll need to be mindful: turn off new features that might slow down the phone or drain its battery life. Don't use apps that run in the background or deliver a load of push notifications. Unfortunately, most users aren't that mindful about optimizing their phone's performance. They just want ALL THE STUFF.

Conscientious, tech-literate users have to decide how far they'll upgrade their phones' OSes; trading off performance against features (and yes, it's always a trade-off). Releases which are compatible (but not optimal) with older phones might be right for users who run a very slim setup with few apps and few features turned on, but very bad for users with tons of apps and features enabled. Successfully suing Apple will only result in a future "nanny state", where iOS updates are blocked from users with even slightly older hardware. Think you can make it work with some tweaking? Too bad, you won't have a choice. If you want the new iOS, you'll have to upgrade your phone.

Older techies like me will remember the Jobs-in-exile 1990s Apple, which often had very strict requirements about which Macs could run the latest Mac OS. As such, users would complain that, by restricting updates to new hardware, Apple was forcing people to buy new computers. Hackers would use tricks to make the new OS versions run on their older hardware, then show how the new software ran perfectly fine as long as a few features were disabled. History has reversed itself, it seems.

So, when it comes to new software on older devices, Apple is damned if they do, and damned if they don't. If they let users install new software on older phones where the compatibility is borderline, users will complain that the newer software slows down their devices, and accuse Apple of trapping them so that they have to buy a new phone. If Apple restricts OS updates to newer iPhones only, users will again accuse Apple of forcing them to buy new phones. It's a no-win scenario.

Apple is guilty of one cardinal sin though: you can't downgrade an iPhone or iPad to an older version of iOS after you've upgraded it. That means that if you install a new OS and decide it isn't performing well with your setup, you're out of luck, short of upgrading to a new phone (with that aforementioned bigger towing capacity). That's a problem, especially for the advanced users who are empowered by choice.

For the record, I myself own an iPhone 4S - I like the smaller size and am not likely to upgrade to the larger iPhone 6 anytime soon. My OS version? iOS 7. That might surprise you, but I've been aware of the risks of installing upgrades for some time. Incremental bug fixes and security updates are important, and I encourage everyone to install them. Full, whole-number version upgrades on the other hand carry some performance tradeoff. Whether I will upgrade my 4S to iOS 8 before I buy a new phone remains to be seen. For the moment, the phone works fine, albeit without the latest and greatest iOS features.

So, to all my friends and colleagues who are undoubtedly now preparing tar and feathers for me, I'll leave you with this axiom: don't hitch your phone to a trailer it can't tow.


"Appz crushin' ur iPhone" illustration © Jesse Schooff/GeekMan.ca

Jan 26, 2016

We Are the Nerds: and You Need to Listen to Us

First and foremost, I apologize for my extended absence. Between a ten-day vacation, the rush of the holiday season, and a subsequent spate of random winter colds and flus, writing hasn't exactly been at the top of my list of priorities.

But more than that, I've been stuck. I write on this blog because there are an enormous number of technology-politics topics that deserve the public's attention. They're absolutely crucial issues: the effect that the TPP will have on archives and copyright; or whether the NSA can spy on Canadians' medical or tax information; or - perhaps worst of all - the fact that politicians are considering banning end-to-end encryption, putting the data of ordinary citizens at risk of interception by spies, criminals, hackers, and yes, even terrorists.

The problem is, these topics aren't sexy. 

Add to that the fact that everyone's Facebook, Twitter, and reddit are chock-full of articles vying for their attention - from social justice issues and world news, to celebrity gossip and the latest Buzzfeed listicle. Technology politics is a particularly difficult subject to cover, because it combines two things that a lot of people consider to be, frankly, boring.

That would be okay, just as long as politicians and leaders were heeding our advice - particularly the advice of computer security experts and privacy advocates. 

The second problem is that leaders aren't listening either.

The third problem is that they think they know better.

Those may sound like inflammatory accusations, but the proof is in the encryption debate. I won't rehash (pun intended) all the evidence I've provided on this blog, the tl;dr is that banning end-to-end encryption, or providing a secret backdoor for government agencies will make encryption useless, and fundamentally break the internet as we know it in dangerous ways. America's best and brightest - Apple, Microsoft, and Google, to name a few - have told the US government as much

Then, Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said things like this:
"...we need Silicon Valley not to view government as its adversary. We need to challenge our best minds in the private sector to work with our best minds in the public sector to develop solutions that will both keep us safe and protect our privacy."

... and...
"I would hope that, given the extraordinary capacities that the tech community has and the legitimate needs and questions from law enforcement, that there could be a Manhattan-like project — something that would bring the government and the tech communities together to see they're not adversaries, they've got to be partners."

... and then...
"I don't know enough about the technology ... to be able to say what it is..."

Re-read those passages again if you need to, I'll wait. Let them sink in. Ready?

In summation: One of the front-runner candidates for President of the United States (a progressive, experienced, and actually-qualified candidate, no less), called the tech community - the people who are telling her that adding secure backdoors to encryption is impossible - "our best minds" with "extraordinary capacities". She admits that she herself, in comparison, has no idea what she's talking about; and yet, despite this, and despite the fact that the tech community has told her this request is impossible, she unequivocally expects them to just sort of figure it out, and randomly evokes the development of the nuclear bomb as an analogy.


Not to split hairs (about splitting atoms), but nuclear physicists were pretty certain that a nuclear bomb was possible before they even tried to figure out the mechanics of how to build one. Encryption experts, security experts, computer scientists all know, right now, that engineering a backdoor to encryption schemes is a terrible idea which negates security. Adding to that general horribleness is the fact that politicians and law enforcement seem to be misrepresenting this issue as a debate about balancing privacy and security (which itself is a false dilemma), rather than an impossible proposal by laypersons which will destroy our entire security apparatus. 

Hillary isn't alone. Both Republican frontrunner *shudder* Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister David Cameron are outspoken advocates of this incredibly bad idea, despite the intense opposition of tech industry and security experts. One wonders: Are they simply not paying attention? How can you, in a single breath, characterize a group of people as experts who are the "best and brightest", then roundly ignore their response that what you've asked for is unfeasible and dangerous? How do you not sense your own hypocrisy when you're in it up to your nose?

As an IT professional, such attitudes are sadly not unfamiliar to me. While I must laud my own co-workers for being respectful and polite when they approach me with problems, I've had my share of horror stories: like when you ask someone if they're sure this-or-that is plugged in, they rail at you about how they're not stupid, only to realize a second later that this-or-that was not actually plugged in (troubleshooting starts at the ground floor, friends); or when a friend or family member begs for your advice fixing this-or-that, then proceeds to argue against all of your advice, assuring you that "I already tried that", generally cutting down your expertise and making the methodical troubleshooting process impossible.

While I was preparing to write this article*, I realized that my experiences as an IT professional might be more generally universal than I'd first considered. I reached out to an old friend of mine, who is now a medical doctor specializing in anesthesiology. I explained my frustrations, using encryption as a specific example. My friend resoundingly echoed very similar frustrations: a portion of patients regularly feel the need to contradict her advice on even basic medical knowledge. They make outlandish requests, and those requests are frequently dangerous.

Stop to think for a moment and you realize that this is a widespread problem. Conservative politicians are willing to listen to a tiny minority of fringe scientists over the 97% majority who say climate change is real and man-made. Frightened parents believe that vaccines cause autism despite the fact that you'll be hard-pressed to find a real doctor who agrees. America's inspectors and structural engineers are telling their government that bridges and causeways are on the verge of collapse, yet politicians seem to ignore their own experts, putting the safety of everyday citizens at risk.

What's the problem? Are we, as a people, unable to trust? Are our egos so big that we can't yield judgement to more knowledgable persons, even when it concerns our own safety? Are we a culture of people who insist on bucking even the smallest authority? I don't know, I'm neither a psychologist nor a sociologist... There, see how easy that was?

One thing is for sure, if we, as a society, can't get our leaders to listen to even the most basic advice of experts and professionals, the future is not going to look as bright as we might imagine. So, the next time your local computer nerd gives you some advice - for the love of Jobs, please - listen to them.



Extra Credit Reading: Still here? Wow! Here's a list of nerds experts, professionals, and organizations who oppose banning encryption. Listen to them!

The Information Technology Industry Council
Who They Are: A technology council which includes any tech company of importance. Like, every one. You might recognize Adobe, Apple, Blackberry, DropBox, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Symantec, Toshiba, Twitter, Visa, and Yahoo. That's just a sampling. They all oppose backdooring encryption
Listen to Them: Because they're... well... every single major tech company in existence.

Cory Doctorow
Who He Is: Besides being the co-editor of e-zine boingboing, a regular columnist for the Guardian, and an accomplished writer, Cory Doctorow is a longtime advocate for digital rights, privacy, and fair copyright worldwide.
Listen to Him: If his experience doesn't convince you that he knows what he's talking about, perhaps his writing will.

OpenMedia
Who They Are: An utterly tireless group of (mostly) Canadians who are at the forefront of lobbying for digital rights, open access, and fair copyright in Canada and elsewhere.
Listen to Them: Read what OpenMedia's Digital Rights Specialist Laura Tribe has to say about encryption backdoors.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
Who They Are: The CEO of T-mobile might not know who EFF is, but you should. The EFF has been lobbying for digital rights and fair copyright in the US since 1990.
Listen to Them: See what the EFF has to say about their government's plan to backdoor crypto.

Edward Snowden
Who He Is: The infamous NSA whistleblower, currently living in exile, who exposed the NSA's programs of mass, warrantless spying on ordinary Americans, which included inappropriate access for voyeuristic purposes.
Listen to Him: Besides being an expert simply by virtue of having been on the inside of domestic spying, Snowden has rightly pointed out that many terrorists, including the Paris attackers, aren't using encryption.

General Michael Hayden
Who He Is: The former director of the NSA, from 1999 to 2005.
Listen to Him: If even a former head of America's domestic spying apparatus thinks banning encryption is a bad idea, then it's probably a really, REALLY bad idea.

Some of the Leading Minds on Encryption Technology via MIT
Who They Are: I believe I just explained that. But specifically, they are Harold Abelson, Ross Anderson, Steven M. Bellovin, Josh Benaloh, Matt Blaze, Whitfield Diffie, John Gilmore, Matthew Green, Susan Landau, Peter G. Neumann, Ronald L. Rivest, Jeffrey I. Schiller, Bruce Schneier, Michael Specter, and Daniel J. Weitzner.
Listen to Them: This is a scholarly article, so it's heavy reading. But if you're really looking for the hard facts and nitty gritty, Keys Under Doormats will give you all the technical reasons why what governments are asking for is not feasible.


* This article was originally entitled "You Aren't an Expert? Then Shut Up." I decided on a slightly gentler approach.

cover image compiled using vector art by Leremy/Shutterstock


Dec 4, 2015

minutor Resource Pack for Minecraft 1.8

minutor - it's a top-down, 2D map-viewer for Minecraft worlds. I like using it for navigation, especially since I can peel away layers to see what's beneath the surface. It really is a great tool.

Unfortunately, the creator hasn't updated the program since 2013, meaning that all the blocks released last year in Minecraft 1.8 show up as ugly neon-fuschia pixels, bearing the tag, "Unknown".

I finally decided to do the internet a favour and do something about it. minutor supports "Definition Packs" which allow you to expand the types of blocks it recognizes. I've updated the vanilla pack with the 1.8 blocks and subtypes. Now your ocean monuments, sea lanterns, diorite, andesite, granite, and yes, your non-oak fences and doors, will show up with the correct colour and label.

To use this pack:
  1. Download my mine18.json
  2. In minitor, select "Manage Definitions..." (it's under "View" on Mac)
  3. Click "Add Pack", and find the mine18.json file
  4. My file will automatically replace the vanilla Block Definitions
  5. Load your world and enjoy!
Keep in mind that this overwrites minitor's vanilla block definitions. If for some reason you need to restore the old definitions, you'll need to re-install minutor.


Nov 25, 2015

How to Fix Everything

What do an iPhone, a tractor, and a printer have in common? They're all made by manufacturers who don't want you to repair those devices yourself.

I resolved that I wasn't going to make a habit out of reblogging or resharing, instead using this site as a platform for my own original content. But Vice:Motherboard's recent profile of iFixit is just too good not to share, especially in light of the article I posted on Monday, encouraging you to install more RAM into your older Macs.

For those who don't know, over the last decade, Apple has increasingly become a company bent on obfuscating the means, tools, and processes for taking apart and repair their devices. Anyone who lives in a major city knows that there's a whole cottage industry around town devoted to repairing broken iPhones and Androids. Companies like Apple, Samsung, and John Deere have resorted to all manner of dirty tricks to keep people from fixing their products: proprietary screws, excess glue, even customs crackdowns and DMCA lawsuits.

I've used iFixit's excellent guides on numerous occasions over the years to repair or upgrade my Apple devices. Kyle Wiens and iFixit explain how they use ingenuity and curiosity to stay a step ahead of Apple's efforts to stifle them. They extoll that we should live in a world where people are educated on the means to fix things. The alternative is a futuristic dystopia filled with artifacts whose inner workings are magical to us, and which are discarded as soon as they cease functioning for any reason.

Motherboard: How to Fix Everything

Nov 23, 2015

The Conspiracy to Slow Down Your Computer

One of my pet-peeves about the semi-tech-literate is their insistence on what I like to call, "The Conspiracy". The Conspiracy usually gets brought up by someone when I start talking with someone about technology and how it relates to consumerism. It goes something like this:
My phone/computer/laptop worked fine when I bought it four years ago, but now it's slow, and I use it for the same stuff that I did four years ago. Obviously, this is a conspiracy by Apple/Microsoft/Dell/Whoever to slow down my device in order to force me to buy a new one.
How exactly said tech company slows down their device is a variable matter. Either the software updates are rigged to work extra badly on old hardware, or there's some sort of secret switch that slows down the CPU, or some combination of the two, or something else.

Conspiracy theory in general gets my hackles up, but when it involves my area of expertise, it whips me into a frothing frenzy which is not conducive to calmly explaining what's wrong with the theory in a concise and measured manner. So, let's go over why your computer isn't as fast as it used to be.

Nov 18, 2015

Banning or Backdooring Encryption Will Break the Internet

It seems like every other day, a lawmaker from a major democratic country is set to introduce some legislation which would break the internet as we know it. While these laws and treaties may be well-intentioned (crafted in the name of "security" or "protecting artists"), they're being written by people who have a deep, DEEP ignorance of how the internet and technology actually works. Such people don't understand that the consequence of their laws, as written, could be the destruction of the web. Why didn't these lawmakers and law-enforcers actually consult with technologically knowledgeable professionals before going off half-cocked? This is like a government creating rules about how bridges are to be built without consulting a single engineer. It's not just stupid, it's dangerous.

But I digress... Today's existential threat to the internet: the banning of "strong encryption". I use quote-marks because, as you might imagine, this is a layperson's term that doesn't actually mean anything from a technical standpoint. For me to fully explain, we'll need to go back a couple of years.

In 2013, we learned from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that encryption works. While the NSA may be able to hack an endpoint device (your phone, computer, etc) and steal data from it, they can't intercept data in transit when a connection is encrypted. This annoys and frustrates intelligence agencies, who seem to feel that they should be able to access anything they want at will. As I stated in my September article, The Fallacy of the "Secret Master Key", FBI director Jim Comey publicly called for encryption backdoors for law enforcement as recently at this past July. Likewise, UK Prime Minister David Cameron wants to ban encryption unless there's a secret backdoor for the government.

Again, the purpose of my "Secret Master Key" article was to point out that the whole concept of "a backdoor that only the good guys can use" is totally flawed. Simply put, when a lock has a built-in "backdoor" for "the good guys", it's only a backdoor as long as it is kept secret. As soon as anyone - vandal hackers, criminals, and yes, terrorists - discover how to access the backdoor, or get a copy of the private key, the backdoor becomes a critical security vulnerability affecting a huge number of devices. Secrets are hard to keep, and so those kind of security leaks (like the leaked TSA keys) do and will happen.

In their draconian "Investigatory Powers Bill", the UK government has said that while they have no plan to ban encryption outright, they will require all encryption, including that used by banks, to be decipherable. In essence, it should have a backdoor - this makes encryption broken by design. Both malicious hackers and security researchers have a history of discovering massive security holes in software, which were created accidentally by programmers. Uncovering a security hole that everyone knows exists and which was purposefully built-in to software would undoubtedly be much more trivial to discover and exploit.

Yes, it's THIS dumb.

So you see, there is no such thing as "strong encryption", only "encryption that works", and "encryption that doesn't work" - That is neither understatement nor hyperbole. Mandating backdoors into encryption would be the most disastrous thing to ever happen to the internet. Period.

First and foremost, ordinary citizens would find themselves the victims of frequent monetary and identity theft. Without strong encryption, our online banking and credit card purchases are even more vulnerable to interception by hackers, putting our bank and credit card data into the hands of criminals. The same goes for enormous amounts of sensitive personal data - taxes, medical, insurance - currently submitted to governments and other privileged parties under SSL-encrypted HTTPS connections.

The private sector also relies heavily on encryption for day-to-day activities. As a systems administrator, I use SSH to access the systems I administrate from outside the office. Without reliable encryption technology, my administrative credentials could potentially be intercepted, and used to wreak havoc on our small business by a malicious party (data extortion is already a very real threat).

Putting small-to-medium businesses at a much greater risk of security breaches is one thing, but broken encryption would make it nearly impossible for massive networks like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, or Google to operate effectively. While neither I nor the average IT person knows much about the inner workings of such complex proprietary networks, it's difficult to imagine being able to administrate or even implement them without lots of encrypted connections. As it stands, SonyGoDaddy, and Apple have all suffered serious security breaches within the past few years. It's hard enough for a major enterprise to deal with IT security without their most important tool being deliberately hamstrung by the government.

But the most damning nail in the coffin for "reversible encryption" rhetoric comes from Kim Zetter over at Wired, who pointed out that while banning/backdooring encryption would cripple our infrastructure, it won't stop criminals from homebrewing their own encryption methods. Her article quotes Nate Cardozo of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
“There’s no way of preventing a terrorist from installing a Russian [encryption] app or a Brasilian app ... The US or UK government could mandate [backdoors], but Open Whisper Systems is not going to put in a backdoor in their product period and neither is PGP. So as soon as a terrorist is sophisticated enough to know how to install that, any backdoor is going to be defeated.”
Imagine a world where door locks are outlawed, under the pretence that police or first responders need to be able to get anywhere quickly in an emergency. Crime would be rampant, theft would be commonplace. There would be no privacy, no security, and no safety.

This is exactly the kind of world you can expect to be facing. Kim Zettor's excellent Wired article, along with one by Trevor Timm at the Guardian, make the case that intelligence agencies throughout the world see the November 2015 Paris attacks as an opportunity to frighten the populace into banning/breaking encryption. It has become a familiar story: a distasteful attempt by authorities to exploit a terrible human tragedy as a springboard for a Machiavellian power-grab.

It's always tempting for some to make the argument that the righteous have nothing to hide - a fallacious axiom that is usually trotted out by advocates of mass surveillance. In the case of computer science, digital security, and IP networking, it is anathema. Without a guarantee of security, we won't be able to properly operate anything, and we will be more vulnerable to attack than ever.

Hopefully someone will point this out before lawmakers push blindly forward with their anti-encryption agenda. Yet, I have a pit in my stomach: stopping politicians from doing incredibly stupid things requires pushback from the voting public. Encryption isn't exactly a "sexy" topic, and I doubt the average person realizes how much their day-to-day life, their privacy and safety, depend on it.

I hope this article has helps people to understand the seriousness of this debate. Otherwise, we may very well let our own ignorance destroy the technologies we've come to depend on.


EDIT 2Forbes reports that the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), whose membership is a who's-who of the tech industry (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Symantec, etc) has released an open letter to President Obama explaining that what I've extolled here: backdooring encryption will break it. It's worth a read.

EDIT: For those of us who are a certain age, here's one last thought on "back doors":




image compiled using vector art by Leremy/Shutterstock


Nov 17, 2015

I Don't Fear Terrorism - I Fear YOUR Reaction to it

I remember, on Friday, seeing the first mention on my newsfeed that something bad was going down in Paris. Not long after, it became apparent that the city was the victim of some sort of terrorist attack.

My gut seized up. I mourned for the victims, felt sorry for the city of Paris. I was angry that some group of radicals keep running around hurting humanity like this. Mostly though: I was afraid, terrified. But I wasn't afraid of terrorists. I was afraid of what the world would be like after these attacks.

Four days after the attacks, and my fears are already being realized.

Nov 9, 2015

Thanks!

More writing is coming down the pipe, but I want to take a brief intermission...

This past year, I made a resolution to get back into writing, and to try and make a positive difference in the world. To that end, I combined two of my passions - politics and technology - and decided that the focus of this blog should be digital rights and security.

To say that the community has been incredibly supportive and welcoming would be an understatement.

OpenMedia.ca - a local organization whose goal is to protect Canada's open internet - has been kind enough to share several of my articles with their own social media community, and has given me a lot of positive encouragement. I got to meet several members of that organization this past weekend at Media Democracy Days 2015. That event itself was a real treat, including a keynote from CanadaLand host Jesse Brown, and several other prominent speakers.

The implacable copyfighter Cory Doctorow also shared my article about municipal archives on boingboing last week, which was a tremendous honour. My partner was also kind enough to share the article with the libraries and archives community, who have responded positively on social media.

This has all been tremendously humbling, and it's imbued me with a renewed desire to keep on writing about frontier technology issues as best I can.

So, thank you.

That's all for now. Stay tuned!

Nov 5, 2015

The TPP vs. YOU


Today, governments released the full, final text of the TPP.

It's bad. REALLY BAD. Even worse than we thought. Here are some highlights:

Copyright will be life of the artist plus seventy years. This is up from the current life-plus-fifty years in Canada. I explained in depth yesterday how this this will do enormous harm to Canadian institutions such as municipal archives and to the public domain.

Your ISP has to give your name to copyright holders if they ask. This is really, REALLY scary. I recently recalled to you my experience where my ISP screwed up and associated my name with the wrong account for Notice and Notice. Now, if a rights holder has "sufficient evidence" that you committed a copyright infringement, they can demand your subscriber information. We know what happens next, because US laws have given us a preview. The copyright holder will hand over your info to what constitutes the equivalent of a copyright-infringement collection agency, who will harass you endlessly, demanding payment and threatening further legal action. Those enforcers have already tried to use these tactics through the Notice and Notice system, with less ability to back up their threats. 

Nov 4, 2015

The TPP vs. Municipal Archives

Check back in about 70 years, okay?
Part of my mandate for this blog is helping people in my age demographic and younger to focus on digital issues which affect us, presently or in the near future. Recently, there's been a lot of talk about the titanic treaty known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or "TPP"). The TPP is utterly overwhelming: covering a myriad of things from dairy farmers to the internet. Like the (former!) Conservative government's omnibus budget bills, the expansive scope of the agreement makes the TPP very difficult to understand, dismantle, and most importantly, to debate.

One of the TPP areas of scope which is critical to discuss is the section on copyright. At this point, several notable bloggers* have covered the TPP's copyright extension provisions in great detail. But what do those provisions mean for you? Let's bring it down to the ground. For example: folks in my demographic seem to love seeing old-timey photos of their city. Here in Vancouver, exploring our retro-downtown through old photographs of various eras is practically an official pastime.