By Stephen Downes
October 27, 2003

Cyberpiracy North of the Border
By 'north of the border' the myopic headline writer means 'Canada'. No matter. This interesting interview with Michael Geist, the Canada research chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa. The interview is mostly a pretty good summary of Canada's different approach to copyright law than is found south of the border. There's still a spin though. Geist asserts, for example, that the law " ... lets Canadians make private copies for noncommercial use... we justify the exemption by way of a levy that applies to blank media such as blank CDs and blank audio cassettes." Not so. We justify the exemption by recognizing the individual's right to listen to their won media. We pay for that exception via the levy. Two different concepts, and it takes a certain spun mind to see them as unified. What really comes out in the interview, though, is the requirement that some sort of due process be followed before any penalties can be applied against alleged infringers. Important. Very important. By Declan McCullagh, CNet News.com, September 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

DRM Companies Fund Felten's Attacks on DRM
You just know this won't last. Ed Felten's Freedom to Tinker weblog - which routinely rails against digital rights management legislation and technologies - is funded by Google Ads paid for by the very companies Felten attacks. This is, of course, because the Google program uses page content to select the ads to display. No doubt these companies will soon be knocking at Google's door demanding the advertiser's traditional right to be the prime censor of commercial content in broadcast (or any other) media. By Ernest Miller, The Importance Of, October 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Connecting Learning Objects with RSS, Trackback, and Weblogs
Macromedia Breeze presentation of this now famous seminar. Well worth a look (and it's interesting how popular Breeze is getting for this sort of content - wish I could cut and paste from it; it's really annoying having to type the content out). Worth noting: I used the presentation slides (with full attribution, of course) as a part of my NAWeb preconference workshop on RSS and learning objects. This presentation animates - in a way network diagrams cannot - just how blogs, RSS and tackback combine to create a content distribution network. By Alan Levine, Bran Lamb and D'Arcy Norman, October 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Amazon's New Database Likely to Help Sales of Some Works, May Undermine Others
That the Author's Guild is protesting against comes as no real surprise (certainly much less of a surprise than the Guild's last tiff with the online bookstore, in which they protested against the online sales of used books). The Guild contends that "these publishers do not have the right to participate in this program without their authors' permission." Of course, the publishers' permission may not be needed: Amazon is not providing access to the books, only short excerpts. Sure, they search the whole text - but there's no law against searching books. Yet. More coverage and a short review. By Unknown, The Author's Guild, October 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The 300 Games Every Game Developer (and Gamer) Should Know
OK, it's nowhere near 300 games. And it's just a list; there is no real discussion. But the concept is worth a moment of your time, as it stretches your mind a bit to think of the different categories of games and of the unique properties possessed by each different type of game. Just for fun, also add the author's Talk Like a Gamer to your reading list. By Greg Costikyan, Games * Design * Art * Culture, October 26, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Click2learn and Docent Merger: Who Wins and Loses?
It's pretty hard to make a gazelle out of a greyhound and a rabbit, but Kevin kruse is willing to offer advice along those lines as he considers the implications of the Docent-Click2Learn merger. His advice: cut staff right away, release a product roadmap within 90 days, and promise support for existing products. No doubt the new company - which should (in my view) be named Eckert&Oakes - will follow much this sort of plan. It's so mainstream. But while companies are quick to say their employees are their greatest asset, I always wonder why the staff cuts are the first thing to do in a merger such as this. Instead of cutting half the sales force, double the sales capacity! Instead of trimming programmers, explore new product lines and develop a new integrated LMS, and make sure none of your customers lose. Yes, I know, the market demands profitability within two quarters. But the market is an idiot; stick with the business you know and leave playing the markets to the professional gamblers. By Kevin Kruse, e-Learning Guru, October 26, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Use of Stots TemplateMaster Woodworking Tool Limited to One Shop
I would like to say that this article demonstrates the absurity toward which our copyright and patent regime is pushing us, but there are many (including this company, obviously) who hail the new world order. Where pricing and quality have failed to produce customer loyalty, licensing agreements and the weight of law will surely succeed! What bothers me most is that it's so one-sided: any company can attach an end user license agreement (EULA) to its product, but I have no means of doing the same with the money I pay or the work I perform on my job. How nice it would be to attach to my money or my work a certain number of use conditions: "these funds are not to be used for the purchase of non-open software or services" or "this work is not to be used in non-democratic nations." Why not? Let's use EULAs to advance the cause of social justice, rather than as a shortcut to unearned profits. By Ed Foster, GripeLog, October 22, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Access to Italian legal literature: Integration between Structured Repositories and Web Documents
This paper can be tough going at times, especially near the end as it discusses the automated creation of metadata, but it provides a very nice overview describing the preparation and delivery of Italian legal information using a harvesting process. The model described in the paper provides a unified view of both dedicated databases and web content, and the provision of metadata makes these materials easily imported into courses or other larning resources. Some good diagrams. By E. Francesconi and G. Peruginelli, 2003 Dublin Core Conference, October 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Public Library of Science
This editorial in a Philippines newspaper shows not only an increasing awareness of open access journals in the mainstream, it also highlights the importance of this movement to the developing world. "Even the best-endowed universities in the Philippines do not have all the academic journals that their teachers and students need to keep abreast of current work in their fields of interest. The main reason is price." By Editorial, Manila Times, October 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Hollywood Takes Anti-piracy Message to School
More coverage of the MPAA's propaganda campaign in the classroom. "The Motion Picture Association of America paid $100,000 to deliver its anti-piracy message to 900,000 students nationwide in grades 5-9 over the next two years, according to Junior Achievement Inc., which is implementing the program using volunteer teachers from the business sector." This is overt politicization of the classroom, a practice that should be resisted. At the very least, there should be equal time given to the opposing view. I would put together a program outlining the view that copyright is theft and offer lessons in the use of Kazaa, Gnutella, and system configuration for the Peer Site network. By AP, San Jose Mercury News, October 23, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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