Shanzhai culture (revised)

Something with a high degree of moral connectivity as well as utility: Shanzhai culture. It’s also an example of the dematerialization of global culture: only informational flows are necessary to maintain it. The ACTA is nominally aimed at it. Interesting that it is in a “coopetition” relationship with the branded goods that it imitates, but there’s more depth to it than that. Shanzhai includes a certain element of parody, as well as selection; not all high value consumer goods are chosen for imitation. Knowledge of what is popular to imitate can provide good intelligence about consumer preferences. Recall that the big record companies, for example, pay certain companies to monitor file-sharing networks, so they can get real-time information about what is popular.

From wikipedia:

Shanzhai (simplified Chinese: 山寨; pinyin: shānzhài) refers to Chinese knockoff and pirated brands and goods, particularly electronics. Literally “mountain village” or “mountain stronghold,” the term refers to the mountain stockades of warlords or thieves, far away from official control. “Shanzhai” can also be stretched to refer to people who are lookalikes, low-quality or improved goods, as well as things done in parody.

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Shanzhai culture (revised)

Where’s the dilemma..?

A book about the broader effects of piracy that is next on my reading list gets a write up over at Ars. I have made many posts at TLF and IP Central weblog about the informational value of black markets and grey markets, a very interesting subject. It seems that there is much of interest for those looking at the intersection of web 2.0 and the production of cultural goods in this work:

Hat tip: Tim Lee

Ars Book Review: “The Pirate’s Dilemma”
By Nate+Anderson
Published: May 14, 2008 – 11:48PM CT

The strength of street knowledge
The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism (buy)
Matt Mason (blog)

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Where’s the dilemma..?

Yeah, Steve, sure…But I’ll keep my eye on the ball anyway…(updated)

Over at Information Week, Paul McDougall has a piece that lays out some (but curiously not all) of the facts concerning the close ties between Acacia Research, who is now suing Red Hat and Novell, and Microsoft. He starts quite directly:

Less than two weeks after it hired a senior intellectual-property executive from Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), a California-based firm has filed a patent-infringement suit against Red Hat and Novell (NSDQ: NOVL), distributors of open-source software that Microsoft has long claimed violates its patents.

and further reminds us that Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, just last week said:

“I expect they would like to go to the open source world as well,” Ballmer said while speaking at a Microsoft event in the U.K. Microsoft claims Linux and other open source programs violate more than 200 of its patents.

Continue reading “Yeah, Steve, sure…But I’ll keep my eye on the ball anyway…(updated)”

Yeah, Steve, sure…But I’ll keep my eye on the ball anyway…(updated)

The Green Lever of Trademarks

The United States Green Building Council‘s green building rating system (LEED-Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has driven the development of many sustainable building products, increased awareness of what needs to be done to make buildings less damaging to the environment, and caused thousands of buildings to be built to better environmental standards than they would have otherwise been.

LEED (R) is a voluntary system, which leverages competition to increase it’s impact through the use of a multi-tiered rating system, which the USGBC has trademarked. Buildings which achieve the highest number of points are classified as ‘platinum,’ the next tier is ‘gold, then ‘silver’ and finally there is a category just called ‘certified.’ This system was introduced in 2000, and in just seven years there have been over 6,500 buildings registered on its website, and about 42,000 professionals have taken the accreditation exam. It’s a system that has a very definite brand identity, which the USGBC has built and extended, using the increasing brand awareness of LEED (R) to leverage market transformation. It’s the brand leader in green:

“There’s nothing else out there. LEED is what’s for dinner,” says Auden Schendler, the director of environmental affairs at Aspen Skiing Co. “Plus, it’s a good idea. Previously, nobody knew what a green building was.”

But those are the direct effects; also important has been the generation of market demand for ‘green’ materials and services, a market which has really taken off since 2000, when LEED was created. Thus, even buildings not LEED-registered have become somewhat greener, since they contain products developed to meet the demand created by LEED. The awareness of green strategies has trickled down into mainstream design thought, and changed other non-LEED buildings too. The extent of this can, of course, be debated.

The USGBC itself is an example of the expansion of the NFP (Not-for-profit) sector that I have noted previously:

Assessing LEED is further complicated by the business growth of the Green Building Council. Awarding gold–and silver and platinum–certification has been a gold mine for the nonprofit organization. Once a small operation with seven paid employees, it now fields a 116-member staff and earns 95% of its $50 million annual budget

Power-suited developers and hard hats have signed on. More than 6,500 projects have registered for LEED certification since 2000, and new categories such as commercial interiors and existing buildings have been added to the original LEED for new construction. Forty-two thousand people have paid $250 to $350 and passed exams to become “LEED-accredited professionals.” The council’s revenue has been growing at 30% or better a year, with close to 20% coming from certification.

Of course, any time that a market is transformed, as the market for buildings and building materials has been, there will be winners and losers, and enemies will be made. So therefore it is to be expected that there will be those who attempt to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the green building movement. The Wall Street Journal had one prime example last summer, but its securely locked up behind their pay-wall now, so I can’t link to it.

Another example is the article The Green Standard? in this month’s Fast Company; the text in one of the opening paragraphs might lead one to believe that there is some huge flaw in the USGBC LEED rating system:

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The Green Lever of Trademarks

Forgive us our (virtual) trespasses..

As reported by the BBC, the Church of England is considering legal action against Sony:

Cathedral row over video war game

9 June 2007

The Church of England is considering legal action against entertainment firm Sony for featuring Manchester Cathedral in a violent PlayStation video game. The Church says Sony did not obtain permission to use the interior in the war game Resistance: Fall of Man. The game, which has sold more than one million copies, shows a virtual shoot-out in the cathedral’s nave in which hundreds of enemies are killed. Sony said it believed it had sought all necessary permission for the game.

Now this is rather interesting, because the plans for Manchester Cathedral, having originated in about 1215, (and even though construction continued into the early 1800’s) have long since entered the public domain. So I am unsure of exactly what law the Church of England plans to use. Is there such a thing a virtual trespass? Or is some other principle at work here?

Continue reading “Forgive us our (virtual) trespasses..”

Forgive us our (virtual) trespasses..

09:F9:11:02:9D:74:E3 etc..

Of course, this is the obligatory post about the 128 bit key (09f911029d74e35bd84156c5635688c0) which defeats the AACS copy protection scheme. I am posting about it here to re-affirm my First Amendment rights, as everyone who values their freedoms is, in fact, obligated to do. It is inherently wrong to restrict freedom of speech, and those who value freedom of speech can/should/must engage in civil disobedience to an unjust law.

One of my favorite quotes of all time from Martin Luther King: “A threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

So here’s to freedom, and justice.

As posted over at Freedom to Tinker:

AACS Plays Whack-a-Mole with Extracted Key
Tuesday May 1, 2007 by Ed Felten The people who control AACS, the copy protection technology used on HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs, are apparently trying to shut down websites that publish a certain 128-bit integer. The number is apparently a “processing key” used in AACS. Together with a suitable computer program, the key allows the decryption of video content on most existing HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs.

I won’t publish the key here but you can spot it all over the Web. It’s a long string starting with “09 F9″.

The key has been published on a few websites for months, but in recent days the AACS “Licensing Authority” (AACS LA) has taken to sending out demand letters to websites that publish the key, claiming that the key is a circumvention technology under the DMCA. News of these demand letters, and the subsequent disappearance of content and whole sites from the Net, has triggered an entirely predictable backlash, with thousands of people reposting the key to their own sites.

The key will inevitably remain available, and AACSLA are just making themselves look silly by trying to suppress it. We’ve seen this script before. The key will show up on T-shirts and in song lyrics. It will be chalked on the sidewalk outside the AACS LA office. And so on.

09:F9:11:02:9D:74:E3 etc..