Tag: copyright

Hacking Ventilators | Motherboard

Credit – Cathryn Virginia

We’ve talked about manufacturers limiting their customers’ ability to work on their own machines and devices before. They use all sorts of excuses, ranging from copyright to deep concern for their customers’ safety, when it’s really a deep desire for their customers’ money. Farmers have pushed back by trying to circumvent the measures used to lock them out. An entity called iFixit is working steadily on finding ways to fix everything and share them with the public. There have been small victories along the way.

Now there’s a new atrocity showing itself. The people manufacturing the ventilators essential to saving lives are trying to make it impossible to repair and re-use them. In this time when we’re supposed to all be in this together, they’re in it for themselves. This is what happens when we let them excuse themselves by saying that their only responsibility is to their shareholders.

Medical care providers are fighting back by hacking ventilators to get them working again. A few quotes from the article at Motherboard:

As COVID-19 surges, hospitals and independent biomedical technicians have turned to a global grey-market for hardware and software to circumvent manufacturer repair locks and keep life-saving ventilators running.

You can’t just take the working parts from different machines to make a working ventilator.

… a functional monitor swapped from a machine with a broken breathing unit to one with a broken monitor but a functioning breathing unit won’t work if the software isn’t synced.

These fixers have taken a page from the John Deere tractor owners who had to hack their machines to get their work done.

This grey-market, international supply chain is essentially identical to one used by farmers to repair John Deere tractors without the company’s authorization and has emerged because of the same need to fix a device without a manufacturer’s permission.

It’s getting harder.

… newer medical devices have more advanced anti-repair technologies built into them. Newer ventilators connect to proprietary servers owned by manufacturers to verify that the person accessing it is authorized by the company to do so.

There’s a lot more in the Motherboard article, both infuriating and encouraging. Go ahead.

rjb

Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair

Credit: ShakataGaNai CC-BY-SA – tap for big

If you have been following this blog, then you know that I have posted several times about the right to repair movement, and the despicable behavior of some vendors who would rather you couldn’t. I wrote about how John Deere was abusing their customers, and how the farmers were pushing back. I wrote about how farmers were using ‘unauthorized’ software to work on their tractors. I wrote about how iFixit is leading the way in the fight for the right to repair. And about a small victory that means people can work on their own cars now. We’ve seen the problem: vendors who treat their customers like mere users of their products, with no ownership rights. And we’ve seen good-hearted people pushing back, to the point where some jurisdictions are developing legislation to give people the right to repair their own stuff. Now the pushback is going in the other direction. The manufacturers have hired lobbyists to try to convince the politicians to not enact the laws. They want to continue with the present system, where people buy something, it breaks, and they throw it away and buy something else. They don’t mind that people throw away so much stuff — Americans alone throw away over 400,000 cell phones per day — because it’s good for business to sell them more stuff to replace it. And, after all, they’re not responsible for anything besides their shareholders’ dividends. Their own convenient little sandbox, and everything outside of it is someone else’s responsibility. These are the paragons in our funny little world.

The battle lines were drawn at a hearing in New Hampshire last week for a proposed right to repair law, with supporters calling for economic justice for consumers and opponents warning of crime and injury should the law pass.

… the proposed legislation would stifle commerce, leave New Hampshire consumers vulnerable to cyber crime and even physical harm at the hands of clueless owners and inexperienced or unethical repair professionals.

The proposed legislation in New Hampshire would

… require original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that do business in New Hampshire to make the same documentation, parts and tools available to device owners and independent repair professionals as they make available to their licensed or “authorized” repair professionals.

and

… documentation, tools, and parts needed to reset product (software) locks or digital right management functions following maintenance and repair would also need to be made available to owners and independent repair professionals on “fair and reasonable terms.”

That’s all. If you want to do business in New Hampshire, then treat your customers right. But the lobbyists paint a different picture.

… repairs performed by the owners of lawn equipment, electronics and home appliances or independent repair professionals carry serious economic, safety and security risks.

They go on to outline the risks, painting a picture of economic decline, grievous bodily injury and death. I think you get the idea. For full details, I recommend following the link to the article at Security Ledger, as well as a supplementary article at the US Public Interest Research Group website.

via In Granite State: Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair | The Security Ledger

rjb

The Grateful Dead and Creative Commons

Image by: Lisa Padilla – CC BY-SA

Could the Grateful Dead have been using Creative Commons principles decades ahead of time? This Matthew Helmke article from opensource.com makes the connection.

Although many bands at the time allowed fans to record shows, the Grateful Dead took the idea a step further. Fans who purchased “tapers’ tickets” were given access to a special area located near the soundboard. The band even encouraged tapers to share their recordings, as long as no profits were made on the sale of their tapes.

Creative Commons took inspiration from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its GNU General Public License (GNU GPL). Their goal is to find ways to use private rights for public good and to set creative works free, but only for certain uses.

Creative Commons has come up with a set of licenses that keep the power over creative works in the hands of creators while also freeing the content to be used in ways that modern copyright law forbids, much like the Grateful Dead did with their creative ticketing and taping permissions.

In the end, we get a legal means of fulfilling the freedom that the Grateful Dead allowed its fans, without gray areas that could lead to problems such as those that the Internet Archive had with the soundboard recordings of Grateful Dead concerts. This legal murkiness blocked access to those recordings for some time, although they are now available.

So the Grateful Dead has maintained a long and successful career using principles of openness and freedom that didn’t get formalized until much later in the Creative Commons licenses. I think it’s safe to say that the band would have used a CC license if they had been available at the time.

via What the Grateful Dead have in common with the Creative Commons | Opensource.com

rjb

Audiobooks Now in MP3

MP3 file structure – CC-BY GFDL – If you want to read this tap for larger

When I started recording readings of these books, I chose to offer them in OGG Vorbis format because it’s a free and open standard. That meant there would be no encumberances on the audio files due to patents or any kind of imaginary property (IP.) That’s important to me. I have licensed my novels with Creative Commons enhancements to their copyright, to ensure their freedom. They are not weighted down with digital restrictions management (DRM) because I want readers and listeners to be able to enjoy my books without having to restrict themselves to any single device or place. I use Free Software to write the books, and to convert them to useful formats, which are also free and open. I use Free Software to produce the audio recordings, and I use open standards to present them. For the audio, that meant OGG Vorbis, the best choice for the lossy compression needed to make the file sizes reasonable for downloading. At the time, the more popular format, MP3, wasn’t free or open. It was locked in a proprietary web of patents. I couldn’t insult my listeners by offering them something like that. It’s possible that this choice has meant fewer downloads of the readings because many people only recognize MP3 and might be unwilling to download something with a strange name like OGG. I was willing to take that risk because freedom and openness are important to me.

Vorbis trademark – Credit xiph.org – CC-BY

Lately the patents on the MP3 format have run out. Well, as far as I can tell. There were a mess of them held by a mess of people and organizations and I don’t have the training or experience to sort that all out myself. I rely on other sources for that, and they’re all saying that, once the patents finally ran out in the US, MP3 became an open standard. They hedged a little on that, apparently unwilling to commit themselves fully in the face of the the, uh, complexities of IP. I was hesitant too, but I decided to take the plunge and accept MP3 as an open standard. This meant that I could finally offer people the readings in a format that they recognized. This is good because, even though all modern operating systems and devices should be able to handle OGG, it sometimes requires the extra step of installing some necessary software to do so. People don’t like extra steps. After paying, sometimes quite a lot, for their operating systems and devices, they shouldn’t have to take extra steps to get them to handle a simple open standard like OGG. That’s annoying, and now I can finally make it a little less annoying for them by offering my audiobooks in MP3 format.

Public Domain

You’ll find them on the downloads page. Along with the direct links to the OGG Vorbis-encoded files hosted at the Internet Archive, there are now links to MP3-encoded versions. Don’t hesitate. Download them now.-)

rjb

Volkswagen Not the Only One Cheating

I think I’ve settled down enough from the hectic exercise of publishing The Francesians to lift my head up and post about something else. How about nefarious cheats?

Cory Doctorow opens his article, Demon-Haunted World, with “Cheating is a given.” That sounds cynical, until you think about it. When corporations are said to be responsible only to their shareholders, and their directors pander to those shareholders to protect their bloated incomes, it becomes less cynical and more clear-eyed.

what happens when the things you own start to cheat you? The most famous version of this is Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, which has cost the company billions (and counting): Volkswagen engineered several models of its diesel vehicles to detect when the engine was undergoing emissions testing and to tilt the engines’ performance in favor of low emis­sions

In 2015, HP pushed a fake security update to millions of Officejet owners, which showed up as a routine, ‘‘You must update your soft­ware’’ notification on their printers’ screens. Running that update installed a new, secret feature in your printer, with a long fuse. After six months’ wait, the infected printers all checked to see whether their ink cartridges had been refilled, or manufactured by third parties, and to refuse to print with any ink that HP hadn’t given its corporate blessing to.

The mobile phone industry has long been at war with its customers. When phones were controlled primarily by carriers, they were designed to prevent customers from changing networks without buying a new phone, raising the cost on taking your busi­ness elsewhere.

What began with printers and spread to phones is coming to everything: this kind of technology has proliferated to smart thermostats (no apps that let you turn your AC cooler when the power company dials it up a couple degrees), tractors (no buying your parts from third-party companies), cars (no taking your GM to an independent mechanic), and many categories besides.

In the face of all that, it’s a good thing we can audit the software and see whether it’s trying to cheat us, isn’t it? Well, it would be if the software was open, but it’s not. It’s proprietary software and it has all kinds of protections in place to prevent that. In addition, it has the government creating laws that make it a crime to even try.

What’s worse, 20th century law puts its thumb on the scales for these 21st century demons. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (1986) makes it a crime, with jail-time, to violate a company’s terms of service … Then there’s section 1201 of the Digital Millen­nium Copyright Act (1998), which makes it a felony to bypass the software controls access to a copy­righted work.

We have some allies. I’ve written before on the work of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and iFixit. These people and others work tirelessly to expose and counter the abuses of cheating corporations and bad laws. They need to because the cheating corporations work tirelessly to get bad laws enacted and to find ever more ways to cheat their customers, from farmers who aren’t allowed to fix their own tractors to cars that clean up their act when they’re in an inspection facility. Last word to Cory Doctorow.

Cory Doctorow – photo by Paula Mariel Salischiker

Making better computers won’t solve the world’s problems, but none of the world’s problems are ours to solve for so long as the computers we rely on are sneaking around behind our backs, treating us as their enemies.

via Locus Online Perspectives » Cory Doctorow: Demon-Haunted World

rjb

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