The new social contract
There's an overriding law in the land now, the "End user services agreement", the EULA. Being accused of violating one is enough to see your service cut off
Non-disclosure agreements and employment contracts are truly frightening things. Mortgage agreements are stacks of paper 6 inches high. The size of the federal register, I try not to think about.
I try not to think about all the EULAs I've clicked on, without reading, in order to use a valuable service. Somewhere in the (must be hundreds, by now) of the end user agreements I've had to navigate, I've probably clicked away the rights to my first-born, and any unique idea I'll ever have, should it prove profitable, my right to my last name, and god knows what else.
I took time out to read the few agreements I'm knowingly subject to this morning, that violating in any way would impact my ability to function in America.
I don't read patents, in the normal case, because of the triple damages rule, and because I find reading them very depressing. Every time I'm exposed to one
, I'm non-productive for months.
I started my morning's reading with Comcast. I wasn't aware of this clause, until this morning:
“10.2 Comcast may update the use policies from time to time, and such updates shall be deemed effective seven (7) days after the update is posted online, with or without actual notice to Customer. Accordingly, Customer should check the above web addresses (or the applicable successor URLs) on a regular basis to ensure that its activities conform to the most current version of the use policies.”Comcast terms of service
are 17 pages long. They just released an update to the terms of service on 10/25/10, which added the following clarifications to their agreement:
* The Service cannot be resold or otherwise made available to anyone on the Premises or outside the Premises (i.e. wi-fi, "hotspots", or other methods of networking), directly or indirectly, unless done with Comcast’s written approval in accordance with an applicable Service plan.
* The Service cannot be made available to anyone other than you or your authorized employees or contractors unless done with Comcast’s written approval in accordance with an applicable Service plan.
* The Service cannot be used to send unsolicited bulk or commercial messages or "spam" in violation of the law.
* The Service cannot be used to run servers unless you have selected a Service plan which includes a static or statically assigned IP address.
* If you have selected a Service plan with a static or statically assigned IP address, the Service can be used to host a public website.
It's nice of them that running your own web server is expressly allowed, and I wholeheartedly approve of the anti-spam proviso. It's worrisome that running any other kind of server is expressly left a little vague, even if you have rented a static IP address. It's clear that - at least at present - I can run my own DNS and chat
But, at a stroke, they've banned wifi coffee shops and throwing a 12 dollar cat5e cable over to my neighbor to share internet service. Routing ipv6 around town with my nifty new meshed nanostation M5 radios... looks impossible. I wonder how airstream wireless
, in Australia, and the various mesh networks in Europe are managing to innovate around restrictions like these? Do they have similar EULAs to deal with?
For "normal" comcast cyberserfs, it appears that many (most?) people are violating the comcast terms of service as they stand today. Anybody that uses dynamic DNS, or a squeezebox server, even a fileserver, seems expressly forbidden now. Is it against the new terms of service to have ANY other kind of server in your house if you don't have a static IP?
There's a special set of rules for teleworkers. I'm not sure what they are, because they aren't online. You have to call to get them
If you want merely a job interview with comcast, you gotta sign an insanely restrictive NDA
. Without a signature, there's no interview, and there's NO negotiation over the terms. After seeing their just-for-a-job-interview-NDA I'm sure their employment contracts make slavery or working in the food service industry look like a more appealing option.
At least in mid 2007, Google would let you get away with not signing a NDA for the job interview, as C Scott Ananian fully documented his discomfort and experience at signing that one
. He evidently didn't get the job, but at least he can still talk about technology, including google, at a deep level
. Google maps' terms of service
are not horrible.
THEN there's google's terms of service for using their search API, which I'll talk to at another time.
, um, makes my brain dump core.
I'm aware that the vast majority of provisos in all these agreements are rarely enforced, and are there primarily to cover corporate arses, but I'd like there to be AT LEAST the following things addressed in America's corporate culture:
1) All basic legal agreements (interview, employment NDAs, employment contracts, EULAs) posted online as a condition of being allowed to function as a corporation... people need to know what they are getting into.
2) There be some attempt at thoroughly vetting these vs a vs the actual laws of the land so people like me, without full knowledge of the law, do not have to be attached to a lawyer at the hip everywhere we go...
3) and some attempt at commonality, of thorough vetting by independent organisations - that would reduce the reams of paperwork regarding using any new service or signing any corporate contract to something sane. I'd like STANDARDs for contracts, in other words. A consumer reports for contracts. Something like that.
4) I'd like, by law, that ALL NDAs in particular, should EXPIRE in a reasonable time - like, 3-5 years - except where national security is concerned, which should be more like 10-20 years.
5) Contracts should not be able to be changed on a whim and forward updating changes accepted as part of the contract.
I run Linux, exclusively, these days, because the terms of service in the Microsoft EULA are unacceptible to me, as are most Microsoft based products. I understand how the various licensing schemes Linux uses work - there's only about a dozen - very vetted by various court decisions - that I can rely on, and trust.
The one piece of commercial Linux software I have - fully paid for - is the cepstral speech synthesizer. After reading their agreement
today, it looks like I can't distribute an example of the cool way how I use speech synthesis with my email notification system, which is too bad, I've been meaning to do that...
I don't know if there was an age, ever, where legal agreements so cluttered one's mental landscape. All I have is a distant memory of loyalty oaths during the McCarthy era
. Now, THAT, was a simpler time.
After having my eyes glaze over on the first 120 pages of agreements today I decided to not look at blogger's and just post this piece. I remember reading blogger's EULA 8 years ago, and it didn't have a clause in it that required I read it again, then.
All my NDAs, except one of dubious enforcability, have expired. I'm glad of that. The EULAs though, are beginning to bother me.
Labels: law, patents
Wikileaks reduced to an IP address overseas
At first I thought wikileak
s' loss of their .org domain
either a convenient excuse or an example of technical incompetence. I mean, if a DDoS could take out the .org root there is something seriously wrong with the people running it.
It turned out that wikileaks wasn't running their own DNS servers, but relying on the free US based service, EveryDNS
to propagate their IP addresses. IF wikileaks was using their own DNS servers, and merely using a primary .org as the root, they'd be able to not only lower the load on any given root server - but be able to tackle and analyse the sources of the DDoS attacks
on their own, which I think would be a very
interesting investigation in and of itself. I'd like very much to see the sources of the DDoS published.John Gilmore
famously wrote, in 1993, “The Net views censorship as damage, and routes around it
That was in an age of Netnews, where tens of thousands of copies of any given message existed on tens of thousands of servers distributed throughout the world, managed by a network of volunteers, and the contents, more or less - covered by common carrier law. The Net, then, as we knew it - was impossible to censor.
What we call the cloud today is very weak
in comparison to netnews, and putting your data in the cloud is subject to arbitrary constraints
In our new, golden age of the web based internet, information tends to reside in one place, on only a few IP addresses, where the loss of DNS or web services is crippling. The Streisand Effect
is no longer as effective as it used to be, particularly with the infrastructure required to build a modern website in early 2000's style - php, database backends, etc, etc.
I remained puzzled as to why wikileaks isn't using (whats left of) netnews, and rss, and tor (.onion
), using blogger and things like github, and opennic
to get their information out, and also putting up mirrors on IPv6, and signing up volunteer mirror DNS and web sites left and right. I don't know how their site is designed but it should be shipping out static html via some non-interactive wiki compiler
and a database that's duplicable
and other easily mirrored techniques like that to lighten the server load and make DDoS attacks less feasible.Update:
Since writing this post I've discovered that there are now a LOT of sites mirroring wikileaks. Here's one
. Another site
documents many more mirrors as well as a tor
(only findable if you install tor
) and freenet site. Still..
The 80 cable-a-day format of wikileaks's current strategy would be perfect for highly entertaining netnews
newsfeed, actually, but I don't know if what is left of the netnews network can still function, or if anybody but me still reads it. RSS would be highly distributable as well, with a bunch of mirror sites signed up. I'm glad twitter exists, but netnews would be better.
While I have deeply mixed feelings about the content of wikileak's current stash, and feel the timing of the release is being used for other purposes
(or, worse, is all the hoo-rah a distraction to take away attention from the shenanigans at the federal reserve
? or the 9.8% jobless rate
?), I feel wikileaks has brought good information to light in the past, and more is promised for the future...
...and I wish more of the Net story was about the content of the cables, rather than wikileaks's battle to stay online
, and about how censorship, of any kind, is a bad thing, for all citizens
of the world.
I can forgive EveryDNS for bailing on providing services to wikileaks, as they were working for free - but not Amazon
EveryDNS posted yesterday:Wikileaks's services were terminated for violation of the provision which states that "Member shall not interfere with another Member's use and enjoyment of the Service or another entity's use and enjoyment of similar services." The interference at issues arises from the fact that wikileaks.org has become the target of multiple distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks. These attacks have, and future attacks would, threaten the stability of the EveryDNS.net infrastructure, which enables access to almost 500,000 other websites.
BUT As for this level of doublespeak from my own government
R. CROWLEY: The official position of the United States Government and the State Department has not changed. We value a vibrant, active, aggressive media. It is important to the development of civil society in this country and around the world. Our views have not changed, even if occasionally there are activities which we think are unhelpful and potentially harmful.
QUESTION: Do you know if the State Department regards WikiLeaks as a media organization?
MR. CROWLEY: No. We do not.
QUESTION: And why not?
MR. CROWLEY: WikiLeaks is not a media organization. That is our view.
I would love for the state department to define what, exactly, IS, a media organization... or when it is, or isn't.
In our increasingly Orwellian world, I still (barely) remember the history of
and ultimate fate of paranoia.com
Bonus link: Glenn Greenwald
, in full flower.
“...any attempt by political officials to start blocking Americans' access to political content on the Internet ought to provoke serious uproar and unrest...”Update II:
I feel remiss in talking about the controversy rather than the issues raised by the leakage so far. Here's a list (via greenwald, above) of the kind of stuff wikileaks is bringing to light:
(1) the U.S. military formally adopted a policy of turning a blind eye to systematic, pervasive torture and other abuses by Iraqi forces;
(2) the State Department threatened Germany not to criminally investigate the CIA's kidnapping of one of its citizens who turned out to be completely innocent;
(3) the State Department under Bush and Obama applied continuous pressure on the Spanish Government to suppress investigations of the CIA's torture of its citizens and the 2003 killing of a Spanish photojournalist when the U.S. military fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad (see The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch today about this: "The day Barack Obama Lied to me");
(4) the British Government privately promised to shield Bush officials from embarrassment as part of its Iraq War "investigation";
(5) there were at least 15,000 people killed in Iraq that were previously uncounted;
(6) "American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public, to American troops, and to the world" about the Iraq war as it was prosecuted, a conclusion the Post's own former Baghdad Bureau Chief wrote was proven by the WikiLeaks documents;
(7) the U.S.'s own Ambassador concluded that the July, 2009 removal of the Honduran President was illegal -- a coup -- but the State Department did not want to conclude that and thus ignored it until it was too late to matter;
(8) U.S. and British officials colluded to allow the U.S. to keep cluster bombs on British soil even though Britain had signed the treaty banning such weapons, and,
(9) Hillary Clinton's State Department ordered diplomats to collect passwords, emails, and biometric data on U.N. and other foreign officials, almost certainly in violation of the Vienna Treaty of 1961.
If wikileaks isn't a media organisation, then what is?
Labels: meme war
Will no one stand up for wikileaks?
I applaud wikileak's continued, independent, x-ray exposure
of so many skeletons in so many closets. Nothing makes a day more satisfying than seeing Ms Palin
AND Ms Clinton
, BOTH frothing at the mouth.Wikileaks
is so fundamentally an American institution, of a free press, of a quality journalism, that seems to no longer exist, that I'm ashamed, as an American, that the site has to exist outside the USA in order to stay up and viable.
I look forward to wikileaks tackling the banksters soon, and I hope that more journalism organizations grow back their balls, but I'm not holding my breath. Julian Assange, in a very intelligent, reasoned interview
, nails the real problem in one:
“... In the United States to a large degree, and in other Western countries, the basic elements of society have been so heavily fiscalized through contractual obligations that political change doesn't seem to result in economic change, which in other words means that political change doesn't result in change.”
It's good that someone
Labels: meme war