(you should too)

“I Don’t Care” featuring Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace.

An August 10 feature story in the Seattle Weekly –“Porn, Piracy, & BitTorrent“–takes a deeper than ‘it’s wrong’ look at illegal file-sharing technology. What I found fascinating was the information on how copyright holders are using mass lawsuits to indict and fine people using such technology, a tactic that I (and other right-thinking people) see as extortion.

A recurring topic throughout the article is the reportedly devastating financial toll that piracy is taking on movie producers and distributors. There’s a problem with that: at least one study says that pirates aren’t the problem . . . and it seems that (so called) pirates actually end up paying for more content than the average consumer. That finding, according to several film-industry insiders is pure poppycock:

The film industry loses $6.1 billion annually to digital piracy, according to a study conducted by economist Stephen Siwek and cited recently by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). And the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) says royalty rights for indie films have been halved from what they were five years ago . . .. . . For better or worse, BitTorrent has made it easy to swap a DVD-quality feature film or a musician’s entire discography. The latest in peer-to-peer, or “P2P,” file-sharing, Torrents, as they are known in techie vernacular, are staggeringly popular. With more than 100 million monthly users–more than Hulu and Netflix combined–Torrent file transfers account for 20 to 40 percent of all Internet traffic at any given time, according to BitTorrent, Inc., the San Francisco company that developed the technology.

 On the other hand, the researchers at GfK Group, a respected German market-research company, found the opposite to be true. Via Geek.com:

The study states that it is much more typical for a pirate to download an illegal copy of a movie to try it before purchasing. They are also found to purchase more DVDs than the average consumer, and they visit the movie theater more, especially for opening weekend releases which typically cost more to attend.The conclusion of the study is that movie pirates are generally more interested in film and therefore spend more money and invest more time in it. In other words, they make up some of the movie industry’s best customers.

 Trouble is, the study in question has never actually been published. Telopolis, a German politics and media site, only learned that the research exists through an anonymous source at GfK. Apparently, the unnamed client who commissioned the research requested that it never see the light of day because the findings are “unpleasant.”

Pirates make a convenient scapegoat for struggling movie makers, and they undoubtedly do have some impact on studios’ bottom lines. But there are many factors–the struggling economy, unwillingness to embrace new technology, and fewer quality flicks –that have all played a part in the downturn. I look at the returns for fun, good movies (like Harry Potter, Thor, or Captain America) and I see healthy profits for all concerned.

What I find especially despicable is that some studios– primarily porn producers–have figured out a way to profit from piracy. Their strategy is to sue large blocks of Internet users and offer them a “get out of trial” settlement to make the problem go away. So if Joe Jones downloads “Anna Gives Blow” from the Internet, he might just get a notice that it was an illegal download and he’s one of 2,000 “John Does” who are being sued. Scary enough, right? What’s worse is the next missive, or later in the same Notice where it says that the so-called copyright holders are asking the Court to order the ISP to release personal information, so in the next round it won’t be John Doe, it’ll be Joe Jones at 123 Maple Dr. . . . and court documents are public records.

Read the whole thing: Invasion of Piracy: The film industry mounts a sketchy legal strategy in response to illegal downloads.

Also, this is one of the things the EFF is fighting. So, give ’em $20 (or more!) and let them know you care. 

EDIT: They have a great page of info about this topic, here: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/08/open-wifi-and-copyright-liability-setting-record

Interestingly, this month seems to be great for books about divination and witchcraft, we have several of each topic for your pleasure:

Complete I-Ching 10th Anniversary Edition
The Diloggún: The Orishas, Proverbs, Sacrifices and Prohibitions of Cuban Santería

and

Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook
The Un-Spell Book: Energy Essentials for Mastering Magick
The Witch’s Bag of Tricks

As promised, our (glowing) review of The Way of the Happy Woman: Living the Best Year of Your Life is now available.

As are reviews of:
Shaman in Disguise  and
Bridging the Gap: Working Within the Dynamics of Pagan Groups and Society

Finally, we’ve started a new category for reviews: Buddhism. Our first review in this category is A Cup of Buddda: A Blueprint for Truth.

Opened on October 31, 2006 with just over 200 reviews, Facing North is — first and foremost — a community resource. We closed out 2006 with more than double our opening number of reviews (500+). Although we slowed our growth, 2007 ended with our database at more than 600 records, 2008 saw us at 900 and we edged over 1,000 by the end of 2009. We are committed to creating a practical site with honest opinions that are fair, even when critical.

Specifically, FlyersRights.org.

This is another group of good people who are looking out for our best interests. If you travel by airplane, ever, you whnt to support what they are doing. This post is a collection of tidbits from their latest alerts.

In the wake of the Pan Am Flight 103 tragedy, the Federal Aviation Agency formed an Aviation Advisory Security Committee, to “develop * * * recommendations for the improvement of methods, equipment, and procedures to improve civil aviation security.” When the TSA was formed after 9/11, responsibility for civil aviation security was transferred to that agency. The committee operated under the TSA until late 2006, when it was discontinued.

On July 7th, the TSA published notice in the Federal Register that they intended to reestablish the committee.  The notice listed several “constituencies” that would be represented on the committee, among them “aviation consumer advocates.” We wrote to DHS on July 20th, seeking information on the aviation consumer advocate position. Quite honestly, who would be a better aviation consumer advocate than I? I was more than willing to once again serve in that role on a government committee, as I did on the DOT’s 2008 Tarmac Task Force.

After a fifteen-day delay, Dean Walter of the DHS responded “At this time we do not have any vacancy in the Aviation Consumer Advocate constituency group, where FlyersRights.org would best fit.” We then asked who was filling the position, and Mr. Walter replied “At this point we cannot release that information.”

So DHS created and filled a committee in less than a month, and we are excluded from that committee. Coupled with that is their unwillingness to meet with me, Ralph Nader, and EPIC’s Marc Rotenberg to discuss the American public’s concern with their security methods. Clearly, this committee was filled with members who will not offend anyone in DHS, and will not act as a true voice for airline passengers. (8-11-11)

From July 26, 2011:

After an extended period of inappropriate, knee-jerk response, dealing with real security threats by providing Security Theater, the TSA is slowly responding to public outcry. Widespread discontent with the TSA’s new measures was focused through the efforts of consumer advocacy groups such as FlyersRights.org, Ralph Nader’s Center for Study of Responsive Law, and Marc Rotenberg’s Electronic Privacy Information Center, and our efforts are beginning to bear fruits.

FlyersRights.org has long advocated security measures that are effective, safe, constitutional, and consistently applied. The only consistency in TSA’s application of its policies is their too-frequently random application. However, our other concerns are making headway. 

Current procedures focus on the wrong things, and there are alternatives available that would improve their effectiveness.   For example, dogs are much better at finding explosives than any machine. As we suggested, the TSA is now looking at ways to expand their use of those valuable resources.

 Our safety concerns, and those of our allies, arise because members of the medical profession, many of them FlyersRights members, tell us that there is no established safe limit for radiation. Yes, we are subjected to it every day, but what are the safety implications of additional exposure? The TSA, after adamantly insisting that their systems are safe, admitted that many of their testing results indicated that the devices are not safe. They have committed to retest all their machines and to publish the results.

Those important issues aside, FlyersRights and our allies strongly object to our government’s trampling of our Constitution. Even here, where the Department of Homeland Security has proven the most tone deaf, we see progress.   Recent developments include:

 In response to concerns that the full body scanners’ graphic images amounted to an electronic strip search, the TSA is now field testing new software that presents a cartoon-like outline with suspicious objects highlighted.

  • Current one-size-fits-all procedures clearly presume the guilt of millions of innocent travelers every day, and are, in particular, a slap in the face to those who have served their country in positions of trust.       We have always advocated for procedures that look for the bombers, not the bombs. Now, after months of DHS Secretary Napolitano’s “get over it” response, the TSA will test new procedures designed to allow pre-screened travelers to quickly clear the TSA lines. Test airports will be Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, and Dallas.
  • As a result of a lawsuit brought by our friends at EPIC, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the TSA violated federal law when it installed body scanners in airports for primary screening across the country without first soliciting public comment. FlyersRights joins EPIC and a long list of public advocacy organizations in demanding a standard rulemaking process, including a public comment period.

When we raised these issues months ago, public reaction was, well, muted. Air travelers have now experienced the new measures, and perceptions have changed. Watch for our new Air Travel Security Survey, to be launched soon.

Those of you even now reaching for your mouse to berate us for wishing death on all air travelers might take a moment to ask the right question. You should not be saying “Well, if this keeps us safe,” you should be asking “Does this keep us safe at all?” Of course we need security, but we demand measures that are effective, safe, constitutional, and consistently applied.

That was a particularly informative post, btw. I’m happy to send it to you if you’re interested.

From July 13, 2011:

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security sent the following warning to its international counterparts, saying “The Department of Homeland Security has identified a potential threat from terrorists who may be considering surgically implanting explosives or explosive components in humans to conduct terrorist attacks.”   Last Wednesday’s NBC Nightly News was among the first to break the story, and noted that the TSA was planning on using more pat downs, more interaction with passengers, and “more use of the full body scanner.”   

This new threat is exactly what FlyersRights has been warning of for over 18 months.  It is a way to circumvent the TSA’s full body scanners, and demonstrates, once again, that chasing the last threat simply does not work.  The problem, explained in detail in a London Daily Mail article, is that the Rapiscan full body scanners’ radiation only penetrates 0.1 (one-tenth) inch.  It  will never detect embedded explosives. Explosives in body cavities, hidden in rolls of fat, or tucked under breasts will be equally invisible.

By Thursday morning, TSA had backed off on their claim that the scanners would help with this problem, and the fact of their complete ineffectiveness against this threat was widely reported.  Rapiscan has long obscured the 0.1-inch figure.  It once appeared in a FAQ page on their web site, but they removed the page entirely.  Read that page at this link.

This is a great group, and although I’ve highlighted the TSA-related stuff (my personal hobbyhorse to ride) they are also the ones responsible for gettign airlines to agree to return to the gate if they stay on the tarmac longer than 3 hours. They have an assistance forum for stranded travelewrs, and they are nonprofit. Check them out: flyersrights.org.