Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
March 28th, 2003


Free things and legalities

Sometimes, people just underestimate the power of speech. Word gets around. That’s what one author found out the hard way. Glenn Fleishman, the author of Real World Adobe GoLive 5, decided that, in order to boost sales of his not-so-bestselling book, he would put a PDF copy of his entire book for users of the Internet to download — for free.

But instead of the few hundred downloads Fleishman expected, the book was downloaded about 10,000 times in just 36 hours. And because he’s charged incrementally for bandwidth, Fleishman estimates he could be billed $15,000 at the end of the month — possibly a lot more.

Ouch. See, while it may make sense for an author to provide sample pages of a book, to entice the potential customer, it’s just not a good idea to release the entire thing for free and hope that people will buy it after they read it all.

In a more well-intentioned move, JTS Moore decided that he would release his new documentary film, Revolutionary OS, on a DVD, without the now-infamous CSS technology that is supposed to keep away piraters.

He did this because the film is about the open-source movement, the computer-industry counterpart to free speech, if you will. He released the film without CSS “in the spirit of open source.”

Moore is concerned that his CSS-free DVD could result in unauthorized copying and screening of the film. The film has already been made available for download on a few websites and screened sans his permission at various small technology conventions and colleges.

He self-financed Revolution OS and worked for years without a salary to make the film. For those reasons, he said, it’s important to him that people purchase the film rather than pirate it.

Now that’s nice. You see, he believes that he can trust the vast majority of people to respect his work. Now, you may recall my previous entries (1, 2) about “DVD-Jon” and his DeCSS software. That is also brought up in this article; you can read more about it’s downsides there.

As for legalities, Edward Felton has, for the past couple days, been discussing a piece of legislation in process in several states. What it does, in essence, is to make critical Internet technologies illegal. Why would these states do such a thing? Professor Felten suspects that the idea, which the MPAA circulated, originated from “a student who didn’t do the reading.”

Speaking of which, I’m done with exams…