unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
Remember Aaron Swartz, the information freedom activist who set off a broad online discussion about academic databases in 2011 when he downloaded about four million articles from JSTOR to make a point about how knowledge shouldn't be locked away from the public?

Swartz never put those four million articles online anywhere, or did anything else with them besides downloading, but the way he downloaded them (edit: better link) was in violation of JSTOR's terms of service. JSTOR recognized that they were dealing with an activist doing a stunt, not some kind of pirate who wanted to deny them income; they declined to press charges. However, a federal prosecutor decided to make an example of Swartz and pursued him relentlessly, threatening to slap him with a million-dollar fine and up to thirty-five years in jail. With the upcoming trial looming over him, Swartz hanged himself on January 11 at the age of 26.

We often point to examples of incidents that show how broken copyright law is, but this is just too enraging for words. Karl Fogel at QuestionCopyright.org and Lawrence Lessig say best exactly how shameful the prosecutor's behavior was, regardless of whether or not Swartz' actions were wrong (they differ on that). This guy did not deserve what he was being threatened with. The people who wasted public money hounding him to his death instead of dealing with actual crimes should be too ashamed to ever look in the mirror again.
unjapanologist: (hey ozai)
And how. From Michael Geist (he of the ACTA explanation video):

Read more... )

Thank you to everyone who helped mail MPs or spread the word over the past half year. It was an incredibly long shot only months ago, but we did it. Drinks and nibbles for all.

People are already arguing that the next fronts have to be intellectual property reform and open access in scientific publications. Bring it on.

ETA: Via Reddit, a picture taken in the European Parliament today:

unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
On July 4, the European Parliament is having its final vote on ACTA, a secretly negotiated international treaty that threatens to expand the powers of multinational companies to police the internet in the name of fighting copyright infringement.

If you have a moment, please mail all MPs via the address europarl-all@falkvinge.net to express your opposition against the treaty. Mail address provided by Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the first Pirate Party*, who also gives some sample letters tailored to EU citizens and non-EU people who want to help defeat ACTA. (There's a picture of a shirtless guy at the top of the page. Just mentioning.)

Read more... )

I need a "terrorist on the internet network" icon.

*In case you don't know Falkvinge or his motivations for founding the Pirate Party, he has an interesting talk about it here.
unjapanologist: (hey ozai)
Things may be going in a hopeful direction regarding the EU ratification of ACTA. Bulgaria is the latest individual country to halt ratification procedures, and after the Greens and the Socialists, the Liberal political block in the European Parliament finally seems to be getting worried as well (though it remains to be seen what they will actually do when it comes to a vote - they are associated with this individual). By contrast, the extremely large and therefore important Christian Democratic block is clearly not listening.* Stop ACTA now has a very handy letter-sending form right at the top of its homepage.

In other good news, the self-styled Flemish 'quality' newspapers, which I've largely been boycotting since their disgraceful reporting about the 3-11 disasters in Tohoku last year, have finally begun informing the populace about ACTA after weeks months years of saying basically nothing at all about it. They put out some very interesting articles that are masterpieces of contradictions, misinformation, and hilariously incoherent nonsense. The articles are also nearly identical and clearly copy-pasted from a press agency text, but I suppose that's the least of their imperfections.

My absolute favorite bit: anti-ACTA demonstrators "wear masks out of fear of reprisals".

That is seriously in there (Google translate). Every time I hear somebody bemoan the evils of unreliable citizen journalism and blow trumpets about how "professional" reporting needs to be protected and respected, I laugh and laugh.

*In a lovely example of them not listening: one of their members, Ivo Belet, just replied to a mail I sent him containing a link to a debunking of much of the contents of a document called "Ten myths about ACTA" that the European Commission has been sending around. Mr. Belet tried to assuage my fears by sending me a link to the "Ten myths about ACTA" document. I realize that it's absolutely impossible for EP members to follow links in and give personalized responses to all the mails they get, but this sort of thing doesn't make them look concerned with citizen's opinions. Or very bright.
unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
We know the story by now, I suppose? ACTA is bad, but the European Parliament still needs to approve it, and there is a real chance they can be convinced not to do so if the people they represent make enough noise. Stop ACTA has summaries of and links to everything that's relevant. Here are some of the actions they recommend, in order of how much time they take to complete:
  • Signing these petitions:
  • Sending a message to all your country's representatives in one go using this form.
  • Checking the stance of your country's individual representatives on ACTA on this handy site and then using the contact info provided to call or mail the ones who still need to be convinced to vote against.

Please consider doing one or more of these, I've been following this ACTA nonsense for a couple of years and it's only barely less noxious now than it was in the beginning. Those who claim that all the bad things in the treaty have been ironed out by now are either uninformed or lying. The European Parliament is hardly perfect, but they actually have managed to vote against similar anti-internet and anti-consumer nonsense in the past, and there's good hope that they can do so again.

I sent a personal mail to all the Belgian MPs (including the far right ones *grimace*) and a thank-you note to the two who had already come out against ACTA. Fingers crossed.

ETA: Three! Got a reply from an MP listed as 'stance unknown' that he won't support the treaty as it is. Come on, come on...

ETA 2: Four!
unjapanologist: (Default)
As a "happy birthday to me" present, I'd like indulge in some free speech today. Please skip the next two paragraphs in italics if you're aware of the background here.

This text is about the dismissal from my Belgian home university of another researcher, Barbara Van Dyck. Last week, she attended and defended a protest action that resulted in significant property damage to a field of GMO potatoes that was part of a scientific experiment. The university summarily dismissed her after she refused to retract her support for the protest action, stating that she violated other scholars' right to freedom of speech as well as their academic freedom. Many other academics and commenters have, in turn, accused the university of violating Barbara Van Dyck's right to freedom of speech.

Most of the online discussions about these events have been conducted in Dutch, but English breakdowns of the situation are starting to circulate as well, for instance on this petition here. Please note that the opinions expressed in this text are entirely my own. I speak as an individual grad student of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, not as a representative of my doctoral school, faculty, research unit, or any other group I belong to.

Letter under the cut )


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