Danger Mouse said ‘fuck you’ to his label

Dangermouse and sparklehorse - dark night of the soul After a legal dispute, Danger Mouse said ‘fuck you’ to his label and released his new album with all artwork and packaging intact, and with a blank recordable CD-R. (If he’s a bad ass it’ll also have a quick guide on using teh bittorrentz.) There is something very refreshing, logical, and even beautiful about this, much more so then the ‘pay what you like’ scheme I think. Update: Listen to the album on NPR. Worth it! Oh right — it’s a collaboration with Sparklehorse, with photos by David Lynch.

How long until you can stream any movie anytime?

Boxee interface Over at Slate, Farhad Manjoo confesses to using BitTorrent, and explains why there’s no on-demand movie service that offers all the movies you can get at Blockbuster. Film studios are locked into contracts that dictate who gets exclusive rights to films after release — movie theaters, video rental chains, premium channels, broadcast channels. That’s why, for example, “Netflix’s Watch Instantly streaming plan offers a smattering of popular new releases and a slightly wider selection of films from the ’80s and ’90s.” In the end, Manjoo says it’ll take about 10 years before we can stream any movie we want legally.

And I’m just not so sure. Manjoo is apparently not afraid that the film studios are going to sue him RIAA style, otherwise he wouldn’t be so open about using BitTorrent to download films. But neither are the studios oblivious to BitTorrent. They’re monitoring the situation, and they know exactly how much money they’re leaving on the table. The record industry and the newspaper industry are just two they’ve recently seen go down the crapper after not dealing with the internet. If these people have two slivers of brain to rub together, they’re working right now to fix the situation.

And there’s evidence that they’re making progress. Hulu is adding new movies for online streaming, some of them as recent as 2008. Of course they’re not blockbusters — it’s a free service, after all. And if some outdated contracts are all that’s in the way, well, one Steve Jobs demonstrated that where there’s a will, contracts can be re-negotiated. And here again, movie studios have a powerful precedents on their side in the negotiations.

Napster shut down in 2001, and the iTunes store opened two years later, in 2003. In other words, it took two years to get music online legally even after it was obvious that suing filesharing sites was not without hope. Contrast this with the recent verdict against ThePirateBay, after which the site continues to operate with relative impunity. How long until a streaming service that has anything out on DVD opens? I’d say a lot less than 10 years.

Torture memos released!

Torture memos released! “These ten techniques are: (1) attention grasp (2) walling (3) facial hold (4) facial slap (insult slap) (5) cramped confinement (6) wall standing (7) stress positions (8) sleep deprivation (9) insects placed in a confinement box and (10) waterboard. You have informed us that the use of these techniques would be on an as-needed basis and that not all of these techniques will necessarily be used.” The ACLU has the complete scans for your reading displeasure. Or, if you want instant ungratification, skip to the “update” section here and just read some choice excerpts and commentary.

Outlaw organic farming?

There is a little bit of panic circulating on the internet over the last few days about a bill which is in the early stages of working through Congress (it’s been referred to two House committees). It’s a food safety bill, but the message being circulated claims in all-caps that it will “OUTLAW ORGANIC FARMING,” and links to videos that claim the video will also outlaw home gardens, heirloom seeds, and basically any growing of food that doesn’t involve toxic chemicals.

Here is a slightly more articulate statement of the accusations against the bill, HR 875. Note the use of the term “food police” in the title. Is this a tip-off that this is at best knee-jerk conspiracy theory paranoia, at worst astroturfing by the industry that may be financially hurt by the regulation? I read the sections the article suggests reading, and the bill seems in fact to go out of its way to exclude any place where food is prepared for the purpose of being served. The following is from section 13.B of the definitions section of the bill; it modifies what the term “food establishment” means in the text of the bill:

EXCLUSIONS– For the purposes of registration, the term ‘food establishment’ does not include a food production facility as defined in paragraph (14), restaurant, other retail food establishment, nonprofit food establishment in which food is prepared for or served directly to the consumer

Here’s the full text of HR 875, go look for yourself and if I’m wrong point me to what I’m missing.

Here’s the video that most of the links seem to point back to as their source. Wow! It opens with the an Orwelian quote from a science-fiction movie, cuts to a guy in a baseball cap who claims that the bill “nationalizes the food industry.” Give me a break. He then goes on to give us his reading of the bill, which you can go see for yourself if you’re so inclined.

We already have a “food police.” That’s right, the government has people that inspect food production facilities to make sure they’re operating in a way the government considers safe. Does this seem like a bad idea?

Update: Snopes has finally tagged this: Mostly False.

Weekendly clickables IX

How to look at billboards

One of the truly inspirational and thought-provoking things I’ve read is Howard Gossage’s essay from the February 1960 issue of Harpers, How to look at billboards. I got so exited when I found it yesterday that I whipped up a little home for it on the internet. Thanks to Carrie McLaren for hosting it all this time. It’s probably through Stay Free that I originally ran across it (but I couldn’t find it despite much googling when I was writing about billboards back in 2006).

Gossage is not prescient — he argues that billboards are on their way out. But his arguments that billboards have no right to exist rings just as true as it ever has:

What a billboard looks like has nothing to do with whether it ought to be there. Nor does the fact that it carries advertising have anything to do with it, either. It would be the same thing if it were devoted exclusively to reproductions of the old masters; just as the open range would have been the same thing if they had only run peacocks on it. The real question is: has outdoor advertising the right to exist at all?

The industry says it has. It claims two rights, in fact. In asserting the first of these it clasps the flag firmly to its bosom and, in cadences worthy of William Jennings Bryan, invokes the spirit of free enterprise. Now, it should be understood that the outdoor industry is fighting only against what it regards as discriminatory regulation. It seems never to have occurred to the industry to question its basic right to any existence whatsoever. Therefore, when it protests against operational restrictions, it is not effrontery, as one might think, but outraged indignation. Its reaction is that of an old-time cattle baron the first time a farmer dared to fence in his potato patch.

Outdoor advertising is, of course, a business and as such would ordinarily have a strong case against inroads on its domain. However, there is a very real question whether it has title to its domain. Outdoor advertising is peddling a commodity it does not own and without the owner’s permission: your field of vision. Possibly you have never thought to consider your rights in the matter. Nations put the utmost importance on unintentional violations of their air space. The individual’s air space is intentionally violated by billboards every day of the year.

Please go read the whole thing. It’s a pleasure, and while its arguments are unlikely to sway any public policy now, almost 50 years later, you never know. At the end, Gossage asks you to complete a little billboard ballot, indicating “there ought to be billboards” or “there ought not to be billboards,” and send it back to him so he can track the results. The Stay Free version of the article says, “since Howard Gossage is dead, you can send your coupon to us at Stay Free! . . . and we will take care of it.” I’m not sure whether someone is still compiling these, but even if so it doesn’t seem particularly useful. If you don’t like looking at billboards, I think a much better course is to write to your city, county, and state elected officials. They are the ones that can actually do something, and a little sometimes goes a long way with moving your local governments. Good luck.

How to look at billboards

Update (4/13/09): Linked at Kottke, Boing Boing, and elsewhere.