Archive for the 'intellectual property' Category

iPhone Agorism

May 21, 2009

It’s hard to be part of the counter-economy.

Most people want to be free of the clutches of the state and the manipulation by their corporate benefactors and lackeys. Agorism and counter-economics is, theoretically, a perfect way to starve the state and ignore the corporations, to “grow a new society within the shell of the old” as Kevin Carson is wont to say.

Of course what works in theory is harder  to do in practice.   Often, for most people, counter-economics brings up visions of “black markets” where nefarious people buy drugs and guns, indulge in hookers or take giant, risky leaps of faith like refusing to pay their taxes. For most it is a scary, dangerous leap that prevents most people from engaging in counter-economics who would like to.

But what if there was a small step, a small almost unnoticed action one could take that would start the journey? What if there was a way to join a counter-economy while still maintaining a facade, at least, of being a “law abiding citizen” and still participating in the regular economy on occasion?

There is.  If you own an  iPhone, jailbreak it and join in the growing market in applications for jailbroken phones.

Jailbreaking is easy and safe (and reversible) and opens up whole new worlds and capabilities for your phone. What it really does, however, if free you. YOU actually “own” your phone. No more restrictions on software and use implemented by Apple in order for them to enforce their monopoly on where these phones are used or from whom you can get applications. You also get capabilities (already built into the phone but turned off by Apple) such as a full bluetooth stack or full motion video and sound.

The iPhone is actually a high end 400 Meg desktop computer from 1999, but with modern graphics and 3D acceleration, an always on modern, high-speed network and a large hard drive. And it fits in you pocket and can make phone calls. But Apple won’t let you harness the full potential of this. Even after selling it to you, they seem to think its still “their” phone. Anything you can run on Unix, BSD or Linux can be run on an iPhone.

For the consumer, there is a wider selection of applications, both free and comercial covering a wider range of functions. Admittedly some are of a lower quality than the official App Store (Cycorder mentioned above has a pretty bad UI) but some simply blow away anything the App Store can offer. The consumer can still buy from the App Store, but now has alternatives and can can choose to purchase apps with capabilities not allowed by official Apple App store applications – record calls, scramble voices, games etc. And as more people use these alternate sources, the better the quality will be, from competition and the action of a truly free market.

For the developer and entreprenuer, applications for jailbroken phones opens avenues for better, more productive offerings (because Apple’s restrictions are gone) but also opens avenues for more revenue. As a legitimate Apple iPhone Developer, I can testify to the high barrier to entry of Apple’s process – it took months to get my acceptance to the program (while larger companies took days), still cost $99 USD, had a complex system for phone provisioning, and requires numerous, onerous tax forms to be filled out before they will accept applications to the App Store. They are know to reject apps for vague or no reasons and not provide pointers for developers to make the changes needed. Once in the store, Apple gets a 30% cut. This makes getting updates and add-ons out to clients very difficult and slow (though, to be fair, rumour has it this might be changing in iPhone 3.0).  The jailbroken app market is wide open. For the cost of creating a repository and maintaining it on a web host, a developer and entrepreneur can be to market almost imidieately and push out updated, changes and add-ons just as fast. One can give away or sell their applications and use a variety of payment methods not available in the App Store. And none of it need be reported.

It is a near perfect market and a real world demonstration of agorist principles that is easy to do and available to anyone of the 10 million+  iPhone users in the world.  Really own your phone, put on it what  you want, buy from where you want, earn money from your efforts without being forced to give up a cut or to pay the taxes against your will. For most people this could be the first, and easiest step into the counter-economy and truly the first step into “jailbreaking” their lives.

Jailbreak your iPhone and gain your freedom.

(or use an Android based G-phone and get all this without jaoilbreaking…;-) )

Update: Learning to proof read…thanks Mike

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WALL*E, the libertarian

July 5, 2008

Since it came out, the Pixar film WALL*E has generated great kudos. On the second night it was out, I took my entire family – my wife, my 9 year-old daughter, my 7 year-old son and their 2 1/2 year-old brother  – to see the film.

It is a wonderful, heart-warming and cute film, with incredible animation and a fairly good story.

Unfortunately, that has not stopped some knee-jerk, anti-environmentalist Randroids and slack-jawed conservative idiots from labeling it as “environmentalist, anticapitalist, and antitechnological propaganda” (sic).

Really?

**Spoiler Alert – do not read any further if you haven’t seen the film**

Lets see, we have an planet ruined by garbage, as the result of what appears to be the monopoly of a single company – Big and Large (BNL) – because they cater to every whim. They seem to be able to dump garbage because they seem to be able to externalize the cost of doing so. Now that could be a metaphor for pure socialism, but it seems more likely to me to be a metaphor for our current state capitalism.

Now, when faced with environmental disaster, what is the answer? why a more technological and nanny state existence on a cruise ship in space. Every aspect of life, from cradle to grave, is taken care of by the State – the cruise ship – and its minions – the service robots. Indeed, the humans become so lazy and distracted by this they do not realize they are always following the carefully controlled and laid out plans of the State to the point that they don’t realize the ship has a pool and that other people are more than just picture on a view screen.

It is not until the people of the ship are awakened and remember their past, fight against the agents of the state – the service robots trying to stop them from going to earth – shut off the “Autopilot” and leave the ship are they truly free.

They leave the control and comfort of the ship (state) and enter a fairly barren, despoiled land. It is not a paradise, but harsh – literally a garbage dump. But they courageously step forward, awkwardly, and start their new lives without the ship and its nanny-state society.

And if you stayed to watch the credits, the back story that unfold in the background animation, you’ll see they better their world not by taking orders from the “Autopilot”  but by cooperating and working together to plant food, recover from garbage and to rebuild without the over arching authority.

That certainly seems like a libertarian storyline to me?

I would also add that WALL*E indulges in a few verboten activities that libertarians would love and the MPAA and the RIAA would despise – he watches his pirated version of  “Hello Dolly” on his iPod and plays the ripped version of the music on his internal tape deck. He is self reliant, gathering and using spare parts he finds to fix himself and create his home, without relying on “the mother ship” to do it for him, like the bots on the Axiom do.

All that, but some people still call it a liberal propaganda film.

As others have pointed out, if you are so humourless as to be caterwauling about a kids movie like this, without seeing that obviously there are elements of both liberal and conservative politics, than how can anyone take you seriously.

“The fundamental story of the movie is about a culture beholden to a nanny state – in this case, a literal nanny state that coddles them like babies from the cradle to the grave, a world where individual initiative is destroyed and cultural history is entirely alien to the entire human race.  Basically, it’s the exact thing that conservatives have been warning us about for years, wrapped up in a movie with cute robots who rebel against it and lead humanity to a hunting-gathering-growing Earth.”

Indeed.

Environmental destruction happens and sometimes, the best laid plans of a statist, technological solution are worse. Only when people are free to face adversity and make free choices, not preprogrammed one, will the world be saved.

That is the message of WALL*E. That is the message to the environmentalists who think tha answer to state capitalist created pollutions and environmental destruction is more state regulation and exemption.

And it has cute robots, which will be used to market thousands of toys for the next two year.

But its anti-capitalist.

Right.

These people really need to get a sense of humour and get over themselves.

Models for the Stateless Society

January 4, 2008

A few weeks ago, Brad Spangler did a post on how the Russian Business Network (RBN), a nefarious malware, spamming and phishing cybercrime organization, can be used as a model for private, consensual counter-economic activity that can undermine the state. Indeed, there have been studies that demonstrate that this grey market organization’s business practices, evolving clearly without state interference, hare highly effective, efficient and, ironically, “client centric.”

Of course, RBN is a criminal organization, so using it as a model makes many people uncomfortable. But in examining the RBN model, we can see in the response to RBN, and to malware in general, a model of a truly anarchistic “law enforcment” and protection agency – the IT security research community.

The Security Research community is generally made up of independent individuals and small groups that like to hack. They like to find ways to break software, to find ways to break in and exploit it. Many do it for the challenge, some for the profit. Indeed a market has arisen in vulnerability information just as the one for malware has arisen. It is used by individuals and major IT security companies alike.

Even with this kind of market, most researchers also share information such as malware binaries and source, intelligence, IRC botnet channel lists, malware hash rainbow lists and more.

The community is decentralized and redundant. If I don’t get good information or service from SANS, I can go to Offensive Computing. There is no central control. The idea of this kind of private enforcement and research can easily be applied to ‘meatspace’, physical security, for protecting not just IT assets, but homes, cars and lives.

Be Disagreeable

February 28, 2007

I received my latest issue of Make Magazine today and read a great article by Cory Doctorow entitled “I Agree.” Sadly It is not available online, but he wrote a similar article earlier this month.

In it, he, quite unintentionally I’m sure, demonstrates that “intellectual property” is actually counter to the idea of property and is only named so in an Orwellian irony. Specifically with regard to shrink-wrapped software, he writes:

Why read the “agreement” if you know that:

  1. No sane person would agree to its text, and
  2. Even if you disagree, no one will negotiate a better agreement with you?

We seem to have sunk to a kind of playground system of forming contracts. Tag, you agree! Lawyers will tell you that you can form a binding agreement just by following a link, stepping into a store, buying a product, or receiving an email. By standing there, shaking your head, and shouting “NO NO NO I DO NOT AGREE,” you agree to let the other guy come over to your house, clean out your fridge, wear your underwear and make some long-distance calls.”

In the Make article, he goes further:

“These “agreements” set out the conditions under which you can use your own property. They waive fair use, prohibit lending, resale or reverse engineering. Sometimes even swear you to secrecy!…These “agreements” set out two classes of people: lordly manufacturers who own and control everything, and lowly tenant farmers who merely borrow their goods from the lord.”

Doctorow has stumbled upon the same ideas of property as set forth by Roderick T. Long in his podcast “Property, Land, Contract” form mises.org.

How can I own something, if I cannot fully control it, be it a hardware or software component? How can I agree to such conditions when I am, essentially, tricked into agreeing and with no recourse to refuse or negotiate a better deal? Of course I can’t. I am being forced to give up my property rights on property I own. I am being coerced into contracts that give up these rights, often without my knowing. I am paying for something but becoming an electronic sharecropper or a digital squatter, a serf and I have no choice.

Yet the MPAA and the CRIA talk about me trying to enjoy the property I bought and paid for fairly as somehow abusing their “intellectual property rights.”
Do I have a choice? In true, and once again unintentionally anarchist fashion, Doctorow provides the direct action answer:

“Start pushing back. Don’t take it lying down. Be disagreeable.”

Amen to that.