Michael Weiss was, and still is, one of my heroes. His company was among the first sued but the last to surrender. He, in fact, was the only browncoat to fight on post Grokster. I pulled for him at every hearing but alas victory was not to be. StreamCast filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
Michael and I got together in California on several occasions after our first meeting. He was always very generous with his time, wisdom, and contacts. He now runs a new startup based out of Tyler Texas. I owe him a call.
“Are you really thinking about releasing this?…
…be very, very careful!”
It was the consistent, disheartening reply I got whenever I told a browncoat about OFF. There’s an irony to war. Those who sit out a lost battle think, “I wish I’d been there fighting.” Those who barely survive never say, “Wish you’d been with me.”
We were living in a post Grokster world. That single battle completely reversed the tide of war. Few of us civilians had any clue.
June 22 2006
They teach kids about the war in Elementary School now. Radios, TV, and movies mention it constantly. Yet it’s still remains a guerrilla war. An insidious war whose propaganda teaches no clue of the other side.
I’d been reading about the war for thirty years. Now, Charles had me face to face swapping stories with a bona fide war hero!
Every boy remembers his first magic trick. I bought mine from Astroworld’s magic shop back while in junior high. It was a gag called “The Money Maker”. Just a couple of pinch rollers in an open frame. You rolled a blank sheet of paper through and it magically printed a genuine U.S. Dollar! It was a brilliant effect. So good, it lit up the imaginations of even my most skeptical friends.
June 22-23, 2006
“Who are you and what do you need?”
It was a rather jarring way to start the morning. This obviously wasn’t the quiet pirate lair of my youth. All I had wanted was a danish and quiet cup of coffee before the conference got officially underway. Karen Kaplowitz, however, would have none of that. She headed DCIA’s member relations and took her job very seriously!
“You didn’t come all this way to eat donuts with your coworkers,” she said insistently. “What do you do? Who do you want to meet?”
“I’m Bob Way and this is Clay Price. We’re from HackBack Media. We registered yesterday over the phone.”
“Ah! The hacker guys! I’ve been waiting to meet you…”
<— Thar be Pirates
When you’re over 40, a 26 year old seems so young. It was hard to take him seriously when he said, “That sounds awesome! I’d really like to help!” I’d been babbling on to him for more than 45 minutes now. An endless disjointed series of thoughts about copyright, the war, peer-to-peer applications, new business models, and destroying the status quo. All because he had the audacity to query socially, “What have you been up to?”
“Help?” I thought, more than a bit condescendingly, “How on earth could he help?” I’d been working on some of the most intricate ideas of my life. Recursive bits of coding theory that most folks without a computer science degree couldn’t… Well… Hum?… Let’s just say that maybe… just maybe… I was a little too impressed with my own technical prowess. And let’s also say that Clay, well, he wasn’t a tech guy at all…
I have to admit that I’m really not sure of the best way to continue. From here on in the story gets very personal, it’s not so flattering, and it ends badly. All in all it hardly seems proper content for a vanity blog.
On the other hand, I still feel like its a story worth telling. As such, I’m going to dedicate the next few posts to the folks that took this journey with me.
Thank you all–in advance!
Many people don’t consider Steve Jobs a hero of the copyright wars. Their memory only goes as far back as the “FairPlay” DRM bondage inherent in the initial iTunes Music Store.
I think different(ly). I remember Steve Jobs as the guy who single handedly saved copyright’s balance. He repeatedly drummed into consumers’ minds, that every digital copy you buy, is a copy you own. Never accept less.
It was a game changer.
Rest in peace, Steve!
I have have another interesting story about Steve Jobs that, in a strict chronology, would fit here. But, since this vanity blog is in my life’s chronology, Well… I don’t know that story yet! I’m going to save for a later when, hopefully, it will make more sense.
All I wanted was to fight for a nobel cause…
But is was naive to think that, knowing the other side is evil, was enough to make us good.
It was mid February and Napster had just lost their appeal. As a side effect, we were all being pilloried in public. Headlines and editorials screamed:
- “Information superhighway robbery!”
- “Save the poor artists!”
- “Fight evil pirates!”
- “Stop child pornography!”
- “Hackers commune with underworld demons!”
The truth is, I thought it mattered—I thought that music mattered. But does it?
Bollocks! The RIAA had us pissing our nights away.
The funny thing was I hadn’t been thinking about the war at all. I didn’t want to pick a fight. I didn’t want to save the world. I only wanted to grasp the future. The next monster internet application—That was all I was thinking about. I was no different from anyone else during the tech bubble. I just wanted to get filthy rich building something awesome.
But there is was plain as day…
As network speeds tend toward the infinite, the number of necessary copies tends toward one.
Copyright was dead.
I’m not entirely happy with my next post. It’s more than a tad melodramatic.
But hey, this is my vanity blog so what did you expect?
I re-wrote the damn thing about four times. Be glad you didn’t have to read that drudgery! I hope you’ll muddle through this one, because if I don’t post it now, I’ll never be able to get on with the fun bits that follow.
Oh, and by the way…
As pedestrian as this all seems now, my epiphany did precede the announcement of the Rhapsody [pay monthly, own nothing] “celestial jukebox” by more than a full year.
<— The Eternal Question
… infinite bandwidth, storage and processing…
…TV on-demand? HAL-9000? no, lame clichés…
…it’s simpler than that. What am I missing?…
Back in 1999 I had the honor of playing chess against the world champion. I lost.
It was an epic battle. A genius and a collective genius battling it out in public. Each move openly considered, debated and reconsidered in complete candid clarity. The process was mesmerizing.
In the end, the game was lost deliberatively. There was not a single oversight or accidental material sacrifice. Yet no matter how deeply analyzed or anticipated, each move arrived with the impact of a revelation.
By contrast, it made the banality of the copyright combatants all the more irritating.
<— Fear and Loathing…
Chris sat quietly with his back to me. I knew he could feel my tension. You don’t become a teenager without mastering the ability to detect each parent’s annoyance if only from the cadence of their breath. He tried to pretend he didn’t notice but a hasty rash of searches gave him away. If only he could find the song before I broke into a rant…
…Click, click, click…
“OK Chris, I want to tell you something important.”
…Click, click… “Crap. Too late,” he thought as he turned to look at me with a half broken smile.
Yes, this is supposed to be the conclusion of the Fear and Loathing… post. I know, I know, this thread is dragging on forever. Trust me, it’s going to end real soon now.
Well at least soon in elapsed posting time. Just one more post. Then hopefully I’m done with this long boring nostalgia phase. Time to move on the the twistedly clever bits of… well, I guess… more nostalgia.
It’s the soon in clock time that I’m never quite so sure about. (Crap, I write slowly!) This time though I’m really quite certain that soon is going to extend a little further into the future than we both might like.
Because as serendipity might have it, I really am in Vegas! Woot! I’ll be at the Defcon conference at the Rio starting Thursday. Got to make up for lost time! Look for me. I’ll be the guy in the black t-shirt.
Until Thursday I’m having a little quality time with Janet. She doesn’t know that yet… Shhh! Her plan was to have some quality time with the slot machines. When she gets tired of my qualities, maybe I’ll pop my head into Black Hat and distract you folks doing real work.
If you happen to be at Black Hat or Defcon let me know. Let’s drink some pirate rum and swap a few stories! Seriously! Do ping me even if you just stumbled upon this blog. It’s time for a few new adventures that I can write nostalgically about in 2021!
Continue with the operation. You may fire when ready.
You’re far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration. But don’t worry. We will deal with your Rebel friends soon enough.
I could see the recriminations coming. It didn’t matter. You could rat them out all you wanted. The old bases had long been abandoned. The rebel core had dumped their BBSs and moved deep into cyberspace. Back in their bedrooms a young militia sat impatiently waiting for their next instructions.
This was going to be a disaster.
It had been a summer of musical love. The moon was in the seventh house and Napster had appeared in June. Peace ruled the planet and love steered the stars. Millions of tie dyed adolescents, flowers in their hair, came together in harmony and understanding. They spent their golden days of summer, ripping mystic CD revelations, toward the mind’s true liberation.
It was the dawning of the age…
You would prefer another target? A military target? Then name the system!
Dantooine. They’re on Dantooine.
There. You see Lord Vader, she can be reasonable.
I’d never thought of myself as a hacker in the WarGames sense. I was just a programmer trying to master my craft. I swore off dial-up boards after ’85. Paranoia initially, but really I was just moving on. Boredom had nearly failed me out of High School. Now, suddenly I was recognized for motivation and academic success. I was as shocked as anyone.
No! Alderaan is peaceful. We have no weapons. You can’t possibly…
“Can you hook me up?” I would hear in quiet whisper.
People thought of pirates and hackers as having epic security complemented by measures of extreme secrecy. They always spoke as if they were trying to find a new drug dealer.
We all played it up. “Shhh! Not here… Have you heard the new Bowie album?… Quiet, let’s take it outside… Fewer ears…”
I wish the truth had been so dramatic, but reality has a subtlety to it. We didn’t have secrecy so much as we had inherent privacy.
My heart pounded as I watched over Chris’s shoulder. He misspelled every word of a search but still managed to launch a download before I could offer even a single correction. I stood trembling, steadying myself using the back of his chair. Visions of the war raced through my mind blurring all attempts at clarity. Shit, shit, shit!
“Wha, what are you looking for?” I addled the only question he’d already answered.
“Heard… radio… angry… it’s name… my music… can’t find… stomach ache… our generation… argument…”
Mental static jumbled his answer. But I remember in perfect clarity his unblinking intensity. A cool determination that used the phrase “my music” as if I couldn’t possibly understand. I knew with certainty that he was right. He was having an emotional experience I would never share. Just as he’d never experience my goosebumps during “American Pie.” Or I’d never feel Dad’s invincibility as Sinatra sang “My Way”.
It seems like a long time since I’ve updated this. I had a few family distractions that kept me busy and away from the keyboard. It seems like every time I stop writing it’s twice as painful getting started again. I write and write and write and it still seems like everything sucks. Plaintext says I’m at 2,318 words now and I’m less than half-way through the story I set out to tell. Each time I reread it, I still only see a bunch of disjointed nonsense. This is a pivotal part of my story so, it’s starting to make me want to pull my hair out.
Just as a little kick in the ass, I’m going to begin posting what I’ve got in pieces. However, I want this to serve as fair warning, I make no promises that I won’t pull all of it down and rewrite it again. You’ll have to read at your own risk.
At the peril of spoiling my mixed metaphors I want to explain one analogy up front. To me it has always been a two front war. I think of the war on hackers, phreaks and software pirates as the eastern front. The early hacker stories I read were about people from MIT or other companies and universities on the east coast. The much older Hollywood war on technology, consumers, and media pirates, I think of as the western front.
I only mention this because I’d intended to call this part of the story “The Western Front”. However as I serialize it, I fear people might run away in disgust thinking I’m breaking Godwin’s law. Trust me, I used the term stormtrooper only as a lame Star Wars metaphor. Anyway, please don’t judge too harshly. My ego is a little fragile at the moment.