Category Archives: Affinity and Kinships

Affinity and Kinship discusses our relationships, connections and commitments to ourself, our partner, our family, our community, our environment and our relationship with spirit.

Keep the Internet Free

We are one with the Web Black OutThere is a legal battle going on right now in the US legislature, that will attempt to control the fate of the Internet. On one side are the proponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act, who are dead set on legislating stringent online restrictions that will supposedly stop online piracy. On the other side there is the business sector and the public who are working to keep their Internet free from censorship. The final outcome precariously hangs on a balance.

Google Censored
Google Censored (digitaltrends.com)

The Protect IP Act: Legalized Bullying

Many large companies, mainly from the entertainment industry, are making a really big fuss about Intellectual Property (IP) infringement.  Granted, there are clear-cut violations of IP rights occurring online (and otherwise) as there always have been, even before the rise of the Internet.  But as the debates heat up, the proposed measures to ‘protect’ IP have been progressively bizarre and excessive. These companies currently already have the power to take down specific content and sue companies that facilitate file sharing.  Yet, still unsatisfied with their assault on the corporate perpetrators, they use the same  legal penalties written for large-scale commercial piracy as an excuse to go after families and individuals who quite innocently use their content in everyday activities.

Enter the Protect IP Act, a law that is mutating into one humongous bully machine, giving the IP owners sweeping powers to censor virtually the entire internet domain. Although the expressed aim of this act is to prevent piracy, upon closer scrutiny, the actual expected impact on piracy will be minimal at best. The impact however, on free speech, social media and on online businesses is potentially disastrous.

The full text of the Protect IP Act draft can be viewed here. The following video explains Protect IP Act in summary.

The Internet is Everybody’s Business

You might say that this is a US law, and I’m not in the US so why even bother? Well as mentioned in the video, the very fact that, if this law is passed, these huge copyright owning companies will have the power to go after search engines, social media, hosting companies and pretty much all Internet users within reach in the US. Since a great chunk of the world’s users pass the US networks in one form or another, this means virtually no one can operate on the internet without their approval.

The people outside the US who can’t be reached directly, can still be censored by blocking their access to the US networks and cutting off their advertising revenue. The law doesn’t even require that the offence be repeated  or persistent, it only requires a single instance, for penalties to apply. Furthermore, the conveniently vague wordings of the Act allow for creative interpretation which can be tweaked to suit whatever purpose the IP owners fancy.  This eerily sounds like the ‘witch hunt’ of the Inquisition.

Protect IP Act
Legalized Bullying (fixnowblog.com)

Ultimately, the Protect IP Act is not going to be about stopping piracy, although that is the press release. Piracy has been made the excuse to bully the entire internet public into paying the giant corporations more money simply because they feel they are entitled to it. The Protect IP Act is the linchpin that guarantees them that revenue. Or so they wished.

The trouble is, they are operating under  the mistaken notion that by bearing down on the Internet and all the activities therein they can actually recover ‘lost’ revenues. If passed, the bill is supposed to allow them to achieve this through one of two things: one, that IP owners can either get people to pay additional monies for the all the otherwise ‘illegal’ use of their products or two, sue someone, anyone for the revenues lost from the ‘illegal’ use of their products and claim damages. That they even believe that this law can actually protect their revenues is grossly absurd.  These IP owners might succeed in getting some people to pay. They might claim some damages from inadvertent conduits of piracy and maybe even shut some of them down. But then what next?  People are going to magically reform and start paying them more willingly and pirates will stop pirating? You think?

The Outrageous Use and Abuse of the Copyright Law

It’s one thing to go after piracy and it’s another thing to demand payment for singing among friends or posting personal video. This is just an example of how far this kind of bullying has gone.

Girl Scouts Singing
Girl Scouts Singing (gsmusic.com)

“In 1996, ASCAP decided that that since hotels, restaurants, funeral homes and resorts pay for the right to “perform” recorded music, and since many summer camps resemble resorts, why shouldn’t they [campers] pay too? Under copyright law, a public performance occurs “where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.” Like a summer camp.

After reportedly opening its negotiations with the American Camping Association with an offer of $1,200 per season per camp, ASCAP eventually settled on an average annual fee of $257. But once ASCAP‘s plan went public, and people learned that the Girl Scouts were among the 288 camps being dunned, the group beat a hasty and embarrassed retreat.” (source: http://www.brandnamebullies.com/excerpts)

If the Girl Scouts had not been among these groups, this tactic might have gone unnoticed. But really this is not just about shaking down the Girl Scouts for a little more money so they will be allowed to do something they have done freely for years. It’s not even about piracy.  It’s about tracking us all down, and about making us all pay more money so we can enjoy their work. What the ASCAP fails to recognize is that all their member’s creations will be worthless without a following. This sort of mercenary zeal can turn an audience cold and seeking other less cumbersome creations to patronize. How long do they think they can they keep this up?

To cite an even more absurd quarrel over copyright, the book Brand Name Bullies recounts this incident:

Musical Staff

“A controversy over the sounds of silence began in 2002 when avant-garde composer Michael Batt performed “One Minute’s Silence,” which was exactly that. In the program notes for the performance, Batt decided to pay tribute to experimentalist composer John Cage, who in 1952 had pioneered a similar performance piece called ” 4’33”,” which was precisely four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Batt also put “One Minute’s Silence” on his album, Classical Graffiti, performed by The Planets….

In the program notes for Batt’s performance, he listed the composers of “One Minute’s Silence” as “Batt/Cage.” He gave a credit to Cage “just for a laugh,” he later told the Independent of London. This attribution was sufficient, in the eyes of the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society, the British agency that collects royalties for music performances, to demand payment. MCPS sent Batt its standard license form, seeking a royalty on behalf of Cage’s estate.”  (source: http://www.brandnamebullies.com/excerpts)

Well folks, the dirty little secret is out. It really is all about the money and how it can best be pried out of unwilling hands by the so-called defenders of intellectual property. Because, can it really be about preventing online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property? What self-respecting artist would go through all this extent just to earn more money from his own creations? The loss in goodwill, will severely jeopardize any future revenue.  In the end, how much of all this money wrangled in the process, really goes to compensating the artists? And how much creativity does it encourage if at all?  Seriously!

What Can We Do?

As a separate individual entity we might be powerless to change anything. However as part of a global community, we do have the power to uphold whatever we value as members of that same communities. We need to start standing as 1.  There are countless things we can do to create the changes we seek. Here are some of my suggestions:

  1. Speak Up.  For people in the US, you can write your congressmen to express your opposition to this law. Flood your legislators with messages that clearly make your stand against Protect IP, loud and clear.  For the rest of the world speak out on your walls, blogs and tweets that you are against this bill.  There is power in numbers, if everyone speaks up, we will be heard. Protect our freedom of speech. Protect the freedom of the internet,  (Demand Progress’ ‘Stop Censorship’ petition offers a sign up and be counted among those  opposing this act.)
  2. Take action.  Identify publicly the entities that have shown a propensity for this sort of bullying/ extortion, then totally withdraw all support for any of their products. Stay away from all their ‘intellectual property’. Don’t sing, play, watch, listen, dance or in any way interact with it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t write about it.  Don’t even think about it.   Let’s just leave them alone. It’s really not worth going to jail for. When people are made to pay more than a product’s true value, they start shopping around for a better deal.  We should do the same. There are many providers who; value your patronage and opinion, who would take the time to establish a direct and authentic relationships with their public. Let us instead, support the those who are true members of our community.
  3. Build stronger communities. Strong communities have high trust, commitment and collaboration which consequently leads to high contribution. In strong communities, people dialogue openly, share resources and collaborate to serve the common good.  Hostility and paranoia happen when there is no community to bind people together. Transactions between entities that have no social ties can easily turn suspicious and litigious; where each party views the other as an adversary and one can only win if the other loses. Oppressive measures like the Protect IP Act can only appear necessary and justified to an entity detached from the community it wants to control, as it renders only  its own rights superior and all other’s motives suspect.   The added advantage of strong communities is its ability to collectively protect against attempts to undermine established community dynamics.
  4. Support the Community. There are tons of awesome artists, inventors, developers, scientists and people in all sorts of occupations who will share their brilliance for the sake of their communities. We all need to do the same.  Since we all stand to benefit collectively from the bounty of our community, we must make our own contributions to the community in whatever capacity we can. The Japanese people have their priorities straight. That’s why they can recover from economic recessions and natural disasters with remarkable ease. Communities work best when everyone in it takes to heart his own responsibility as a member.  Sharing, respect and  consideration for others are values that forge strong communities.

Let’s keep our internet free. Speak up and let them hear us loud and clear. Whether this bill passes or not, we will still always have the power to change things. If they make it so cumbersome and costly for us to use their “property”, then we’ll just have to find a more suitable alternative. If the current system allows a minority to withhold resources from being used for the common good, then we will just have to change the system. The only thing that is required for us to pull this off, is that we all stand together. We need to stop being the 99% and start being the solid One.

In an Alternate Universe things are Different, Wonderfully Different

In the more enlightened parts of our world, there are industries that have become quite comfortable with the concept of sharing.  They have not just accepted it, they have actually embraced it as a philosophy. In a curious turn of events, these industries that openly ‘reuse’ each other’s designs manage to rapidly advance aesthetically and technologically. And the commercial bustle that follow in their wake lead them to advance economically as well.

Open Source
The genius of Open Source

A very clear trend tends to show that when designs are allowed to flow and mingle freely, innovation flourishes. The sheer volume of permutations that are unleashed on the market allows a rapid filtering of robust design features that get refined and integrated seamlessly into increasingly superior products. The availability of information on both the design successes and failures provide a huge knowledge base that designers can all draw from when developing their next designs.

This is the genius of ‘open source’. When players willingly surrender their knowledge into a knowledge pool that any player can access, all players are endowed with a much higher intelligence than if they had to go it alone. And since virtually no resources are spent on protecting or attempting to protect ‘intellectual property’, all resources can be effectively channelled into perfecting design. Securing permissions, paying for licensing fees and battling in courts for ownership rights slow down progress and drive up development costs. The proponents of open source simply decided to do away with all that.  The philosophy is simple: take what you need and give back what you can; in one word: “Share”.  Companies like Google, Facebook and the entire fashion industry live by this code and they have become richer for it.

Significantly lowered cost allow providers to make their product available at low costs or even free with limited features and/ or at the testing stage. This creates an enormous  amount of goodwill.  Users are more willing to forgive product flaws and give feedback about problems. Users also provide other users with reviews and recommendations that boost a product’s market share gratis.

Open source is an extremely potent development and economic strategy that not only translates into breakthrough designs but also into significantly larger revenues as well.  This can only happen in an uncensored free Internet.  In her Ted Talk, ‘Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture”, Johanna Blakely points out the blatant disparity between the gross sales of low IP industries (Food, Automobiles and Fashion) against the high IP industries (Films, Books and Music). The software industry which was not included in her chart (below) made roughly *US$ 285 Billion for the same year, even exceeding that of the fashion industry.

Johanna Blakely's Chart
Johanna Blakely's Chart at Ted Talks

The ‘abundance’ that results from the sharing ethic, multiplies on many different levels. Design sharing attracts a bigger pool of designers that in turn expand the design the options in the market. All market segmentation have access to versions of the product that best addresses their need and price point pushing the market boundaries wider. The huge user base offer an extensive feedback source that provide clear direction towards the most viable industry trends and emerging markets. Users are also the source of varying levels and streams of revenue. The sharing paradigm encourages the highest possible engagement from its public. Trust and goodwill are the one of the most important by-product of sharing. And this is why they succeed, radically.

Watch Johanna Blakely’s Ted Talk: Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture in the video below. (16:07 mins.)

Ironically, the Protect IP Act which purportedly seeks “to prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property“, may in fact be stifling economic creativity, if not killing it, while seriously antagonizing the community that the IP owners expect to earn their revenues from. The proposed choke-hold restrictions on the Internet could actually snuff out the very social media activities that creates the buzz for the IP protected products. On top of all that, it is still extremely doubtful that any of these measures could even mildly inhibit piracy.

Let’ keep out internet free. Do your part.  Everyone should get involved because the internet is our business.

New 7 Wonders of Nature (Provisional)

Provisional Finalists for the New 7 Wonders of Nature

The N7W Headquarters in Zürich, Switzerland announced the first count and provisional results of the global vote to elect the New 7 Wonders of Nature. These top 7 wonders are provisional and based on 1st counts of votes completed since voting closed on 11:11 GMT on 11 November 2011. Immediately thereafter, this voting calculation will be checked, validated and independently verified over coming weeks. This means that there is still a possibility that any of these final may still be dropped from this roster. The voting validation process is scheduled to be completed in early 2012.

The 7 Wonders were chosen from over 440 locations, from 220 countries, from a trimmed list of 28 finalist candidates elected in 2007, and from whom the 7 wonders were chosen. Governments and advocacy groups have organized and conducted global campaigns to get their site voted as one of the top 7 Wonders over the past 4 years and the winners are as follows.

The provisional finalists of New 7 Wonder of Nature in alphabetical order are:

  1. Amazon
  2. Ha Long Bay
  3. Iguazu Falls
  4. Jeju Island
  5. Komodo
  6. Puerto Princesa Underground River
  7. Table Mountain

As always, I share in the pride of my fellow Filipinos that one of our sites, the Puerto Princesa, underground river, made it to the final count.  I have been there and it is absolutely breathtaking. I am hopeful that recognition like this will bring to the world’s awareness some of the most beautiful places on earth, and that this in turn will lead to their care and preservation of these sites so that future generations may live to see them in their current splendour. Have a glimpse of the 7 Wonders of Nature elected by popular vote in the gallery below.

Gallery:  New 7 Wonders of Nature

(Provisional)

To all the winners, 12-25 Life would like to congratulate you all.  Let’s keep continue to keep out world beautiful.

9/11–Ten Years of Insanity

Ten years after a most heinous act against humanity was committed, it’s still business as usual.

World Trade CenterIt has been 10 years since the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US and the ‘war on terror’ goes on.

In an executive summary entitled *Cost of War (by the Eisenhower Study Group, Eisenhower Research Project – June 2011), they place the cost of war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001 to be:

“Ten Years, 225,000 Killed, and More than $3.2 – 4 Trillion Spent and Obligated to Date”

The overall monetary cost of war has been estimated to be US$ 4,444,400,000,000.00 excluding Medicare costs for injured veterans after age 65; expenses for veterans paid for by state and local government budgets; a promised $5.3 billion reconstruction aid for Afghanistan and additional Macroeconomic Consequences of War Spending including infrastructure and jobs. Then there is the US$ 1 Trillion in interest payments up until 2020.

The war’s wounded to date is 365,383. Refugees and displaced persons total 7,815,000. The total number of humanitarian and media workers who have died is 266. The total toll on the lives of Allied Security Forces was placed at 31,741 (including US soldiers and contractors). The total toll on civilian lives could run as high as 174,500 (if the count for unconfirmed civilians are included).The grand total of all human lives lost in the war on terror since 2001 is estimated to be 257,655.  And these are only the quantifiable cost.

Who knows what the cost are for the psychological damage suffered by veterans, their families and by all the other victims of war? How do you quantify the burden of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicide? Who can say what the costs are for those who try to survive in a war with malnutrition and a lack of clean drinking water?  Who can say what the cost of the damage to crop fields and forests destroyed by bombing? What is the cost of raising a generation of children deprived of education, knowing  nothing but war?

The war on terror uses the same methods employed by those it seeks to oppose.

One should consider how this vicious cycle began in the first place and why it will continue to persist until the cycle of violence is broken. War can never be a solution to terrorism. It will only inspire grosser forms of destruction and retaliation.

It needs to be said: War is itself a form of terrorism and whatever the excuse to wage it, will never make it right, not even for its outraged victims.

 

How is a military invasion and assault on a nation’s people different from crashing a passenger plane into an occupied building?  How can one act of violence be deemed heinous, while another justified? Who decides which nation deserves to annihilated and which one deserves to be defended?  The sad fact remains that the ‘war on terror’ is unjustifiable.  Certainly not for all the costs incurred on its behalf.

What is even more distressing is that the 9/11 attack has been used as an excuse to legitimize and perpetuate global bullying.  Governments are dismantled or installed in occupied countries based on their willingness to protect US interests. Even Americans themselves are not exempt from the imposition of this arbitrary control.  The very civil liberties that this ‘war’ was supposed to protect, have been so diminished in the name of national security.  The US government can now arrest and detainment anyone suspected of terrorism without the standard legal protocols.  Likewise, anyone can also be subjected to electronic surveillance as deemed necessary by the ‘authorities’.

It’s time for the paranoia and violence to end.

Some 3,000 people from over 90 countries died in the 9/11 attack. 10 years later, over a quarter of a million people have continued to die with millions more suffering from war in one form or another, and to what end?  Who stands to benefit from all these deaths?

Is it the Americans? Maybe they feel more secure now that hundreds of thousands of people, many their own, have died in the name of homeland security, or do they fear even more? What about the invaded societies?  Maybe they have learned that violence is not a viable option or have they only steeled their resolve to hit back even harder? Perhaps then, the children caught in this war?  Maybe having been inundate in its workings, they will have learned the wisdom of avoiding war, or will they only learn to be adept in its methods?

9/11 left the world with a spectre of lives painfully and tragically lost, not only at ground zero, but at every assault conducted in retaliation against it.  After 10 year, America still lives in anger and fear of another attack.  This fear and anger has provoked wars against targeted groups or nations with the aim of capturing and executing their leaders and positioning new ones in their stead, however flawed.  Human rights have been violated and privacy invaded, all in the name of this ‘war on terror’.  And what has been achieved thus far? Nothing of consequence!

Isn’t it then, about time we question the sanity behind this pointless quest? I say it’s time for this war to end.  It’s time for all war to end. Maybe there are a few who stand to gain an enormousness lot from it, but for most of us, it is only a painful, costly and tragic exercise in futility. We need to stop the wholesale slaughter of people. We need to stop it right now! What therefore, must we do differently?

 

We must speak out and exert our influence over national and international policy.

We have never been in a better position to speak out and be heard as a unified force for change and we should use this collective power for the good of all people.  Social media has brought us together for lesser concerns, why not use it to save the lives of countless thousands who might otherwise become part of the war statistic?  We must hold our leaders accountable for all the lives and money squandered on a pointless war.

In an Earth Hour fashion, we would, in one bold and unified gesture, express our support for a Global Peace Movement where all war resources are reallocated for education on relevant fields of expertise and other services that enhance peaceful coexistence. Human lives are precious and should therefore be spent on worthier pursuits than war; pursuits that improve the quality of life and restore the trust in humanity’s greatness. This peace strategy, I believe, would have a much better chance of success than this 10-year ‘war on terror’.

I am one with the world in hoping to put an end to the needless death and suffering of innocent people so that all who have died from an act of terror or for the sake of this ‘war on terror’ would not have died in vain.  It is my hope in writing this article that everyone take collective responsibility for preserving the sanctity of life.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that has.”

 Margaret MeadAnthropologist