A couple of pages in, I was very unsure about my decision to pick it up. I knew next to nothing about it, and was very surprised that the entire thing...moreA couple of pages in, I was very unsure about my decision to pick it up. I knew next to nothing about it, and was very surprised that the entire thing is written first-person in a Scottish accent. Ok. But it ended up being a really great and touching novel, and certainly one of the best first novels I've read recently.(less)
Found this book through an excerpt printed on Medium of all places. It was way different than I expected, and I had to push myself a little to get thr...moreFound this book through an excerpt printed on Medium of all places. It was way different than I expected, and I had to push myself a little to get through the first few chapters, but I ended up enjoying it a whole lot. Great book about books.(less)
It sure took me a long time to read this book! Well, the first half took me maybe 5 weeks of on-again-off-again reading a few pages at a time, and the...moreIt sure took me a long time to read this book! Well, the first half took me maybe 5 weeks of on-again-off-again reading a few pages at a time, and then the second half—covering Joyce v. Roth, US v. One Book Entitled "Ulysses", and a crash course through the Roth and Miller obscenity standards and Eldred and Golan—I devoured in two days.
I read a lot of books about copyright, and I like works that challenge societal assumptions that may be 30 years old, or 120 years old, or 300 years old. This one grapples with all of those. Recommended, but mostly for real copyright and free speech nerds.(less)
It's no secret that the copyright lobby exerts an undue influence in shaping Internet policy. But the mechanisms by which that happens—which can include not just the legislative bodies of dozens of countries, but also backroom, off the record dealings—can be confusing and opaque, even to people following it closely.
In a new book out this month, A Copyright Masquerade, veteran journalist Dr. Monica Horten goes deep into those details to detail how the entertainment industries gain political sway, and how policymakers respond to the industry's advances.
Horten focuses on three recent policy initiatives, and painstakingly pulls together facts from publicly available sources about how those proposals came together. By comparing the development of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the Spanish "Ley Sinde," and the UK's Digital Economy Act, she draws a clear picture of the mechanisms that play into each of the debates, and who is behind them.
A major part of that story is the export of United States intellectual property policy abroad. To that end, Horten looks at the history and the development of the U.S. Trade Representative's annual "Special 301" report, a document mandated by law which must list countries that do not provide “adequate and protective” protection of intellectual property rights. Horten makes a solid case that U.S. entertainment industry lobbying played a direct and deliberate role in establishing the Special 301. With that background on Special 301, its role in shaping ACTA and Ley Sinde becomes that much more apparent.
Legislators are asked to approach many problems as experts but are rarely given the time or information to do so. The standard corporate exploitation of that mismatch is to present those legislators with information favorable to the industry position.
Horten tracks how the copyright industries have taken this bargain a step further, pushing for the creation of whole new structures like the Special 301 report that funnel industry-friendly information to legislators with the imprimatur of government legitimacy.
Moreover, that system itself has been refined over the years to create a default condition that advances the copyright lobby's goals. At the behest of the copyright industries, the U.S. Trade Representative must critique laws all over the world to a maximalist IP standard; as a result of its findings, countries around the globe are put under great pressure to change those laws.
While documenting this process, Horten provides meticulous footnotes that point to public documents and legislative proceedings. Beyond providing sources, these footnotes reveal a history of otherwise uncaptured expertise: many cite live web streams of policy debates dating back years, watched by Horten at the time.
The landscape Horten describes may be bleak for those who would like to see evidence-based copyright policy, but it's not hopeless. After all, each of the major case studies she documents have been diminished, delayed, or defeated by popular opposition. Money and connections play a major role in politics, but few politicians can afford to ignore real and widespread dissatisfaction. A Copyright Masquerade is no handbook for activism, but it does describe effectively what political pressure points activists have been able to successfully press.
And in presenting the stories of activism that have slowed or stopped proposals that had the full backing of the copyright industries, Horten raises an important question. What is so compelling about copyright policy that it gets Internet users up in arms, draws resignations from EU officials, and leads to street protests in actual freezing temperatures?
Again, Horten's got an answer. It's a familiar one to those versed in copyright debates. Whether the copyright industries are seeking measures that filter content (like blacklisting sites from Domain Name Servers, search engines, or payment providers) or measures that restrict user access (like graduated response programs that result in a slow-down or suspension of Internet connections), the effect is the same. When the Internet as a communications medium is the target, users' essential freedoms and civil liberties are all too often collateral damage.
A Copyright Masquerade can verge on academic, but it remains engaging. At times, the legislative history (and the scandal involved) even has elements of intrigue. But most importantly, it's extremely informative and demystifying, right from the first page's handy table of common acronyms. For those interested in the structures that influence copyright policy around the world, Horten's book will prove a valuable resource.(less)
It reads like a novel narrated by the character who comes up with Deep Thoughts. There are some fine jokes, but it cloys quickly. I know this is a wei...moreIt reads like a novel narrated by the character who comes up with Deep Thoughts. There are some fine jokes, but it cloys quickly. I know this is a weird thing to say about Jack Handey, but I think it's just too silly.(less)
This book is really an incredible piece of dystopian speculative fiction, made all the more remarkable for the fact that its predictions seem even mor...moreThis book is really an incredible piece of dystopian speculative fiction, made all the more remarkable for the fact that its predictions seem even more prescient today than when they were written nearly 30 years ago. The question of bodily autonomy is explored in some of the other famous dystopian novels of the twentieth century — books like Brave New World and 1984 — but as sort of an afterthought, or a device to epitomize the absolute control of power. It's a shame, too, because both of those (and other dystopian stories, too) pay some attention to the role of sex and how it can be harnessed towards the ends of the powerful.
One amazing thing in this book, in taking the question of bodily autonomy as a central issue, is that it draws a direct line to policy debates taking place, sometimes unbelievably, in the present day, in the United States. I hear "somebody's watching your every move," and I think Orwell; I hear "you are being lulled into complacency by entertainment" and I think Huxley; I hear, say, "you can't know the law or the charges against you" and I think Kafka; and after reading this book I hear "you're not allowed the right to make decisions about your own body" and I think Atwood. That's a powerful thing.(less)
Another fun dive into a particular area of science, by Mary Roach. The alimentary canal doesn't have the same appeal to me as, say, sex or space, so I...moreAnother fun dive into a particular area of science, by Mary Roach. The alimentary canal doesn't have the same appeal to me as, say, sex or space, so I might have enjoyed Bonk or Packing for Mars a bit more, but this was still enjoyable and at times hilarious.(less)
This book took a little while to warm up, so if your tolerance for goofy sci-fi is low you may never get to the payoff. For about the first half I was...moreThis book took a little while to warm up, so if your tolerance for goofy sci-fi is low you may never get to the payoff. For about the first half I was enjoying it as a fun read that might as well be in the same universe as Ready Player One or Year Zero. Lots of pop culture injokes and references for video game fans, pretty well executed to seem fun if you get them and not be too intrusive if you don't.
In the second half (or so) though, the characters seem to open up and expose a whole level of depth that was hidden before. Maybe it's the novel's format, presented as narrative interspersed with a series of snarky blog posts by the protagonist, but it takes a long time to cut through that snark.
I was really impressed when it finally did, though. Really, this book ended up having a lot more heart than its silly sci-fi premise would seem to require. I know this is some high praise in the genre, but by the end I felt it was funny more like Douglas Adams than some of the more recent books.
This is the first fiction book by Leonard Richardson, and I'm excited to read more.(less)
Hilarious and informative. I'd previously read Mary Roach's "Packing for Mars," which I totally enjoyed, but it seems that the comedic potential of th...moreHilarious and informative. I'd previously read Mary Roach's "Packing for Mars," which I totally enjoyed, but it seems that the comedic potential of the sex research she reviewed is even greater than that of outer space. Obviously, if you're looking for a textbook this isn't the right choice. But if you'd like to learn a little about the last few hundred years of our understanding of sex and laugh out loud while doing it, I recommend "Bonk" highly.(less)
First thing out the gate: I'm not expert enough to comment on all of the facts presented in this book, and it's possible that some have been indulged...moreFirst thing out the gate: I'm not expert enough to comment on all of the facts presented in this book, and it's possible that some have been indulged or stretched a bit. It's well cited, and Greenberg's a good journalist, but you never know.
That said, this was one of the best paced and most exciting tech journalism books I remember reading. It really recalls the seminal Steven Levy stuff, like "Hackers" and "Crypto," but working with characters that many people will recognize from the news. (Or in some cases, from events and mailing lists and the like.)
Anyway, there are a lot of disparate events and the book covers 40 years of history, and yet Greenberg does a great job of making a very cohesive and well-paced narrative out of it all. If you're interested in leaks and crypto and the subversive corners of the tech community, I'd give this a very hearty recommendation. Even if you're not though, I think it's enjoyable enough as a story that you'd get along, and then come away with some understanding of why people are so worked up about it.(less)
An excellent deep dive into the world of free software in general and Debian developers particular. No question about it, this book is an anthropologi...moreAn excellent deep dive into the world of free software in general and Debian developers particular. No question about it, this book is an anthropological look, and not a "pop science" approach, but if you can hang with the academic approach it pays off. Whether you're deeply immersed in the world of hackers, on the periphery but looking for a good explanation of what's going on (as I was), or completely outside of the scene, this book is a readable and well-cited resource to learn more.(less)
Whew, what a time travel book. It must be impossibly hard to figure out how to make the pacing suspenseful in a story where the future isn't really un...moreWhew, what a time travel book. It must be impossibly hard to figure out how to make the pacing suspenseful in a story where the future isn't really unknown, and the present is no more significant than any other moment in time. Still, Willis manages, and had me figuring things out at just the right moment each time and on the edge of my seat for the last 150 pages or so.
There are some slow points along the way — all told, the All Clear "mini-series" is some 1100 pages — but the ending wouldn't have been as incredibly immensely satisfying without the long buildup.(less)
This was really fun. I picked it up in Fall 2011, when it was the selection for San Francisco's citywide reading program, but never got a chance to ac...moreThis was really fun. I picked it up in Fall 2011, when it was the selection for San Francisco's citywide reading program, but never got a chance to actually read it until Nov 2012. I was happy I did, though: lots of interesting information about the history of various space programs, sandwiched between (and squeezed into) some very funny anecdotes from the men and women who developed and flew in those programs. I haven't read anything else by the author, but when my sister saw me with this book she spoke very highly of her others. I'm looking forward to reading those.
This book appeals pretty broadly, (hence its selection for One City One Book) but it seems pretty essential for people with an interest in aerospace and who like good, funny science writing.(less)
Totally entertaining, and perhaps the most polished of Doctorow's books so far. He's obviously got an opinion, and he's not shy about having his chara...moreTotally entertaining, and perhaps the most polished of Doctorow's books so far. He's obviously got an opinion, and he's not shy about having his characters give speeches representing that opinion. But he's not trying to sneak it past you, and he's given these issues a lot of thought.
I found myself inspired to make things after finishing this book, which is about the highest praise I could give something in this genre. The dedication -- to Walt Disney -- is an inspired touch. I hope a thousand Walts read these pages and bloom!(less)
Really great and entertaining. No two ways about it, this is "hard sci-fi" and you'll be learning made-up and re-purposed words. But it's fun, and the...moreReally great and entertaining. No two ways about it, this is "hard sci-fi" and you'll be learning made-up and re-purposed words. But it's fun, and there's a lot of pleasure in the way Rajeniemi explores the world he creates. In a sense, he's taking concepts from logic, game theory, and cryptography out to their fictional logical conclusion, and it's a really fun time. I'm excited to read the second book in the series next. (less)