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Paul Merrell

Victory for Users: Librarian of Congress Renews and Expands Protections for Fair Uses | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The new rules for exemptions to copyright's DRM-circumvention laws were issued today, and the Librarian of Congress has granted much of what EFF asked for over the course of months of extensive briefs and hearings. The exemptions we requested—ripping DVDs and Blurays for making fair use remixes and analysis; preserving video games and running multiplayer servers after publishers have abandoned them; jailbreaking cell phones, tablets, and other portable computing devices to run third party software; and security research and modification and repairs on cars—have each been accepted, subject to some important caveats.
  • The exemptions are needed thanks to a fundamentally flawed law that forbids users from breaking DRM, even if the purpose is a clearly lawful fair use. As software has become ubiquitous, so has DRM.  Users often have to circumvent that DRM to make full use of their devices, from DVDs to games to smartphones and cars. The law allows users to request exemptions for such lawful uses—but it doesn’t make it easy. Exemptions are granted through an elaborate rulemaking process that takes place every three years and places a heavy burden on EFF and the many other requesters who take part. Every exemption must be argued anew, even if it was previously granted, and even if there is no opposition. The exemptions that emerge are limited in scope. What is worse, they only apply to end users—the people who are actually doing the ripping, tinkering, jailbreaking, or research—and not to the people who make the tools that facilitate those lawful activities. The section of the law that creates these restrictions—the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's Section 1201—is fundamentally flawed, has resulted in myriad unintended consequences, and is long past due for reform or removal altogether from the statute books. Still, as long as its rulemaking process exists, we're pleased to have secured the following exemptions.
  • The new rules are long and complicated, and we'll be posting more details about each as we get a chance to analyze them. In the meantime, we hope each of these exemptions enable more exciting fair uses that educate, entertain, improve the underlying technology, and keep us safer. A better long-terms solution, though, is to eliminate the need for this onerous rulemaking process. We encourage lawmakers to support efforts like the Unlocking Technology Act, which would limit the scope of Section 1201 to copyright infringements—not fair uses. And as the White House looks for the next Librarian of Congress, who is ultimately responsible for issuing the exemptions, we hope to get a candidate who acts—as a librarian should—in the interest of the public's access to information.
Gary Edwards

The Future of the Desktop - ReadWriteWeb by Nova Spivak - 0 views

    Excellent commentary from Nova Spivak; about as well thought out a discussion as i've ever seen concerning the future of the desktop. Nova sees the emergence of a WebOS, most likely based on JavaScript. This article set off a fire storm of controversy and discussion, but was quickly lost in the dark days of late August/September of 2008, where news of the subsequent collapse of the world financial system and the fear filled USA elections dominated everything. Too bad. this is great stuff. ..... "Everything is moving to the cloud. As we enter the third decade of the Web we are seeing an increasing shift from native desktop applications towards Web-hosted clones that run in browsers. For example, a range of products such as Microsoft Office Live, Google Docs, Zoho, ThinkFree, DabbleDB, Basecamp, and many others now provide Web-based alternatives to the full range of familiar desktop office productivity apps. The same is true for an increasing range of enterprise applications, led by companies such as, and this process seems to be accelerating. In addition, hosted remote storage for individuals and enterprises of all sizes is now widely available and inexpensive. As these trends continue, what will happen to the desktop and where will it live?" .... Is the desktop of the future going to just be a web-hosted version of the same old-fashioned desktop metaphors we have today? ..... The desktop of the future is going to be a hosted web service ..... The Browser is Going to Swallow Up the Desktop ...... The focus of the desktop will shift from information to attention ...... Users are going to shift from acting as librarians to acting as daytraders. ...... The Webtop will be more social and will leverage and integrate collective intelligence ....... The desktop of the future is going to have powerful semantic search and social search capabilities built-in ....... Interactive shared spaces will replace folders ....... The Portable Desktop ........ The Sma
Paul Merrell

Free At Last: New DMCA Rules Might Make the Web a Better Place | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • David Mao, the Librarian of Congress, has issued new rules pertaining to exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) after a 3 year battle that was expedited in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal.
  • Opposition to this new decision is coming from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the auto industry because the DMCA prohibits “circumventing encryption or access controls to copy or modify copyrighted works.” For example, GM “claimed the exemption ‘could introduce safety and security issues as well as facilitate violation of various laws designed specifically to regulate the modern car, including emissions, fuel economy, and vehicle safety regulations’.” The exemption in question is in Section 1201 which forbids the unlocking of software access controls which has given the auto industry the unique ability to “threaten legal action against anyone who needs to get around those restrictions, no matter how legitimate the reason.” Journalist Nick Statt points out that this provision “made it illegal in the past to unlock your smartphone from its carrier or even to share your HBO Go password with a friend. It’s designed to let corporations protect copyrighted material, but it allows them to crackdown on circumventions even when they’re not infringing on those copyrights or trying to access or steal proprietary information.”
  • Kit Walsh, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), explained that the “‘access control’ rule is supposed to protect against unlawful copying. But as we’ve seen in the recent Volkswagen scandal—where VW was caught manipulating smog tests—it can be used instead to hide wrongdoing hidden in computer code.” Walsh continued: “We are pleased that analysts will now be able to examine the software in the cars we drive without facing legal threats from car manufacturers, and that the Librarian has acted to promote competition in the vehicle aftermarket and protect the long tradition of vehicle owners tinkering with their cars and tractors. The year-long delay in implementing the exemptions, though, is disappointing and unjustified. The VW smog tests and a long run of security vulnerabilities have shown researchers and drivers need the exemptions now.” As part of the new changes, gamers can “modify an old video game so it doesn’t perform a check with an authentication server that has since been shut down” and after the publisher cuts of support for the video game.
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  • Another positive from the change is that smartphone users will be able to jailbreak their phone and finally enjoy running operating systems and applications from any source, not just those approved by the manufacturer. And finally, those who remix excerpts from DVDs, Blu – Ray discs or downloading services will be allowed to mix the material into theirs without violating the DMCA.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Steal This Show S01E02: Rebel Librarians & Pirate Academics - TorrentFreak - 0 views

    " By Ernesto on December 5, 2015 C: 1 Opinion Today we bring you the second episode of the Steal This Show podcast, discussing the latest file-sharing and copyright news. In this episode we talk about anti-piracy campaigns and why a group of academics are promoting file-sharing, among other things."
Paul Merrell

Hakia Retools Semantic Search Engine to Better Battle Google, Yahoo - 0 views

  • Semantic search engine startup Hakia has retooled its Web site, adding tabs for news, images and "credible" site searches as a way to differentiate between its search approach and what it calls the "10 blue links" approach search incumbents Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have used in the first era of search engines. Hakia employs semantic search technologies, leveraging natural language processing to derive broader meaning from search queries.
  • Hakia began hawking "credible" Web sites, vetted by librarians and informational professionals, in April for health and medical searches drawing from sites examined by the Medical Library Association. These sites have a peer review process or strict editorial controls to ensure the accuracy of the information and zero commercial bias. The idea is to clearly define sites users can trust in an age when do-it-yourself chronicling via Wikipedia and other sites that enable crowdsourcing activities has led to some questionable results.
Paul Merrell

The People and Tech Behind the Panama Papers - Features - Source: An OpenNews project - 0 views

  • Then we put the data up, but the problem with Solr was it didn’t have a user interface, so we used Project Blacklight, which is open source software normally used by librarians. We used it for the journalists. It’s simple because it allows you to do faceted search—so, for example, you can facet by the folder structure of the leak, by years, by type of file. There were more complex things—it supports queries in regular expressions, so the more advanced users were able to search for documents with a certain pattern of numbers that, for example, passports use. You could also preview and download the documents. ICIJ open-sourced the code of our document processing chain, created by our web developer Matthew Caruana Galizia. We also developed a batch-searching feature. So say you were looking for politicians in your country—you just run it through the system, and you upload your list to Blacklight and you would get a CSV back saying yes, there are matches for these names—not only exact matches, but also matches based on proximity. So you would say “I want Mar Cabra proximity 2” and that would give you “Mar Cabra,” “Mar whatever Cabra,” “Cabra, Mar,”—so that was good, because very quickly journalists were able to see… I have this list of politicians and they are in the data!
  • Last Sunday, April 3, the first stories emerging from the leaked dataset known as the Panama Papers were published by a global partnership of news organizations working in coordination with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, or ICIJ. As we begin the second week of reporting on the leak, Iceland’s Prime Minister has been forced to resign, Germany has announced plans to end anonymous corporate ownership, governments around the world launched investigations into wealthy citizens’ participation in tax havens, the Russian government announced that the investigation was an anti-Putin propaganda operation, and the Chinese government banned mentions of the leak in Chinese media. As the ICIJ-led consortium prepares for its second major wave of reporting on the Panama Papers, we spoke with Mar Cabra, editor of ICIJ’s Data & Research unit and lead coordinator of the data analysis and infrastructure work behind the leak. In our conversation, Cabra reveals ICIJ’s years-long effort to build a series of secure communication and analysis platforms in support of genuinely global investigative reporting collaborations.
  • For communication, we have the Global I-Hub, which is a platform based on open source software called Oxwall. Oxwall is a social network, like Facebook, which has a wall when you log in with the latest in your network—it has forum topics, links, you can share files, and you can chat with people in real time.
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  • We had the data in a relational database format in SQL, and thanks to ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) software Talend, we were able to easily transform the data from SQL to Neo4j (the graph-database format we used). Once the data was transformed, it was just a matter of plugging it into Linkurious, and in a couple of minutes, you have it visualized—in a networked way, so anyone can log in from anywhere in the world. That was another reason we really liked Linkurious and Neo4j—they’re very quick when representing graph data, and the visualizations were easy to understand for everybody. The not-very-tech-savvy reporter could expand the docs like magic, and more technically expert reporters and programmers could use the Neo4j query language, Cypher, to do more complex queries, like show me everybody within two degrees of separation of this person, or show me all the connected dots…
  • We believe in open source technology and try to use it as much as possible. We used Apache Solr for the indexing and Apache Tika for document processing, and it’s great because it processes dozens of different formats and it’s very powerful. Tika interacts with Tesseract, so we did the OCRing on Tesseract. To OCR the images, we created an army of 30–40 temporary servers in Amazon that allowed us to process the documents in parallel and do parallel OCR-ing. If it was very slow, we’d increase the number of servers—if it was going fine, we would decrease because of course those servers have a cost.
  • For the visualization of the Mossack Fonseca internal database, we worked with another tool called Linkurious. It’s not open source, it’s licensed software, but we have an agreement with them, and they allowed us to work with it. It allows you to represent data in graphs. We had a version of Linkurious on our servers, so no one else had the data. It was pretty intuitive—journalists had to click on dots that expanded, basically, and could search the names.
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