Richard Pitt's Personal Site
Marketing and Sales with a Technical Bent
Login Welcome to Richard Pitt's Personal Site
Wednesday, October 22 2014 @ 06:44 AM PDT

Welcome to my personal web site. Much of what is here used to be under the main Pacific Data Capture web site, but I've decided to separate the non-business items from the business ones. Here you will find my writings and history. There (the www.pacdat.net site) you will find information on what Pacdat is doing of a commercial nature.

Here you'll also find the latest information on my background - just in case you decide I can help you and you want to know more about me before hiring or contracting with me.

Richard C. Pitt

News and Views

You'll find much of my recent writing on my web log at blog.pacdat.net and now the Digital Rag

Writings from before the Weblog are under Publications with specific items such as items on DRM and Canada's Blank Media Levy available to you via the buttons to the left. Enjoy!

On this front page you'll also find examples of the articles from the topics - writings, musings, re-prints of interviews, etc. Enjoy!


 

The Content Managed Web Site

By rights this belongs on either the Digital-Rag or on my Blog. Maybe I'll copy it there too - it is a lesson in the evolution of the internet and web sites but it specifically is about my own personal trek, so here is where it starts.

This (richard.pacdat.net) web site is the latest of many sites I've been involved in to move from one of the first "page generation" web production facilities to one of the latest crop of open-source CMS systems. The old system was Frontpage from Microsoft, starting with Frontpage98 and progressing through to Frontpage 2002. Prior to that I did all sites by hand, crafting HTML with a text editor. The evolution of page creation systems progressed quickly. Today we have things like Adobe's DreamWeaver and all manner of others - but when I started looking there really wasn't much to choose from. In fact, one of the first major sites I was involved in was a re-publishing of material originally set up for a paper catalogue and we had to write software for it from scratch to make it viable.

This one site created about 5000 new pages of content, all interlinked and with menus, etc., each week - real estate listings. The software we put together for this one purpose took in the publisher's file and put out all the new pages in about 2 minutes elapsed time - and this was on hardware that was vintage 1994 - Pentium 90s and such. But this was a "one-off" project - not useable for other sites - but a portent of things to come it turned out. It created a whole site in 2 minutes once per week from a primitive database. Today's CMS systems do individual pages on demand from a SQL database.

I wanted something that would keep the menus straight as pages were added manually, much as the automated system re-built the menus each week. I'd hand-tweeked the old Digital Rag menus each month and was not looking forward to having to teach others how to do them. A couple of years went by where I was too busy with being MIS manager and doing marketing for others. The next time I looked the crop had grown a bit - but most still didn't do what I wanted. Then Microsoft purchased a product from a small company, Vermeer, called FrontPage.

I chose Frontpage because at the time I could not find anything that came even close to the utility it had for allowing otherwise untrained HTML editors (webmasters) to edit and update a site once it was initially laid out. All the hosting I've done of these sites has been on Unix/Linux systems - where the orginal web grew up, and Microsoft had created a kit that allowed Apache to do what was necessary on the server to deal with things like authentication of external editors (without having to add them to the underlying system's password system) and various extra facilities such as indexing and search update without creating special scripts and such. Microsoft's own server, IIS, was only just starting to be created at that time.

You see, even back in the late '90s I was telling people that just having a "static" web site - really nothing more than an online brochure - was not going to be enough to attract and keep the attention of the potential customers and the various methods they would use to find the sites. Search engines were just starting to crawl the web, indexing it for search. The basic premise was that if a site remained the same, then the engine did not come back as frequently. If it had changed each time the crawler came, then the crawler came more often.

Allowing and encouraging people to add content consistently to their site was the intention. By building a "magazine" style of site - similar to my first site, the Digital Rag at Wimsey, the episodic nature of many businesses and organizations built up a huge following and history of information and comment.

This was before the advent of social sites where all and sundry are encouraged to come to the site and contribute.

Today we go much farther...

Social Contracts and Government Sell-outs

This article was inspired by the Intellectual Property section of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Treaty.

In my readings recently there has been quite a bit about the fight between "rights holders" and their potential customers, including "the general public." The problem is the "disruptive technologies" used today to store, transmit and reproduce creative works such as text, music, photos, etc.

The market for "copies" has changed very quickly. The business that made its money by the fact that it controlled a copying facility (first a record pressing plant and now a CD duplication center) and distribution facility (wholesale CD distribution and/or retail outlets) now finds that the distribution facility is being bypassed (by the Internet) and the copying facility is included on virtually every PC sold today and is no longer unique.

Software Patents and Freedom of Speech

I suppose it may seem a bit of a stretch to include the concept of software patents in with a discussion of digital rights management and copyright that was originally spawned due to discussion of the Blank Media Levy, but it actually hangs together for a number of reasons:

bullet Patents are a legislative tool to foster technological change and growth - they do this by encouraging innovators to create new things by making it possible to make money from innovation through licensing of the patent to competitors.
bullet Copyright is a legislative tool to foster publication of creative works by protecting the originator of the works' rights to be the only one to make copies of it or allow copies of it to be made (by publishers for example.)
bullet In my (and many of my peers') opinion, software is the result of a creative process, not an innovative one.

DRM - Who is the "Criminal" Anyway?

Originally written in 2003

In the light of the Canadian Copyright Act (the Act), those who copy music for their own personal use (i.e. private copiers) are not criminals. It doesn't matter what the source of the material copied: Internet, radio, TV, borrowed CDs, moldy-oldy vinyl, 8-track, cassette or whatever. The Blank Audio Media Levy compensates for this copying so there is no criminal.

The Act also specifies that there are "broadcasters" who have to pay royalties and that otherwise, the copyright holder controls who can access their works.

Whether those who have purchased (or "private copied") a copy can offer their copy for copying via the Internet is a question the courts have not yet ruled on as far as I know. Are these P2P (peer to peer) "offers" publishing, broadcasting, or just a case of rapid loaning (since I can loan another individual my copy so they can make their own copy?) How is P2P different from pirating where an individual or company makes many copies of the original and offers them for sale, sometimes complete with liner notes, cover art and imprint on the CD?

What we do all seem to agree is that the pirate is a criminal. The pirate copies wholesale for a profit. The pirate is in it for the money.

Question is, is the P2P sharer in it for the money?

Nope - not that I can see. There are no P2P systems that reward the sharer in money as far as I know.

Are they in it for notches on their virtual belt? Are they rebelling against something? Or are they being altruistic?

The answer is... Yes.

The P2P sharer is doing all of the above; at least some portion of them is doing one or the other of the above. The question is, which is the dominant activity and what can (or should) be done about it?

Some of the problem is social - the guys who want to "notch" their way to stardom by hosting the most MP3s are just the latest round of anti-social phenomenon. They can't possibly listen to everything they have but instead gain some sort of notoriety from their "conquest".

Some of the problem is economic. The general population is now aware of the cost of duplication of a CD. The market that publishing works in is now different from what it was 25 years ago when duplication of music was hard, expensive and imperfect.

Some of the problem is political. It's political in the broad sense of the word, not partisan political. The P2P sharer makes a statement against the "system" by helping to change it. The problem I see is that the changes are not necessarily for the better. The recent passing of the DMCA and more recently the passing in the EU of new copyright legislation (see guardian.co.uk  for an article on this) and the threat of the Free Trade Area for the Americas (FTAA) treaty (see my rant) have pushed the rights of the creator to the point where I expect a real backlash from the purchasing public similar to that suffered by software publishers back in the days of distribution on floppy disk. Back then (not all that long ago, but many have obviously forgotten) the publishers started doing all sorts of things to stop people from being able to copy the floppy that software came on. Laser drilled holes, special software, special disk formats, and all sorts of things meant that Joe Average couldn't make a backup copy of the software he'd purchased and had to beg if the original got destroyed.

Joe Average will rebel even more - just watch. Making him criminal won't work, it will only bring down the publishers faster.

richard

DRM - The Human Factor

Hacking, Cracking and Re-recording

Statistically speaking, there will always be people who will look for a "good deal" - so there will always be a market for pirated copies of copyright works.

Again, statistically speaking, there will always be someone who will try to break DRM or copy the content, even just because of the challenge. This is the "hacker" mentality and it disregards all manner of law and difficulty.

I don't condone it, I just recognize that it exists.

It doesn't matter whether it is brute force, elegance, brilliance or social engineering - the chance of an original digital recording of a desired product remaining securely managed is somewhere between slim and none, no matter what the method or technology. The chance of any recording, original or re-recorded, of a hot commodity being available to anyone who wants it is 100%.

Bit Rot and Lost Information

One of the major problems I and others see in the large-scale use of DRM is the potential loss of public access to the copyright materials at the end of the copyright period. You might think that the loss of (for example) all the images of Mickey Mouse, to future generations would be not all that significant, but you would be wrong. You must take the problem to its logical conclusion; that of every aspect of humanity's history for the period starting now, potentially not being available to coming generations for some technical reason. The impact would be literally devastating.

This problem is not limited solely to DRM, it also is a problem with proprietary data formats in general. I have a number of DAT (4mm digital audio tape) tapes we used in the mid 90s for backup of our ISP's computers that we can't read now.


Basic Technology Makes DRM Almost Useless

Originally published 2001

No matter what DRM technology is used to protect the digital media you might receive your documents, music or video on, at some point the information contained in "the box" must come out and present itself in a way that you as a human, flesh and blood receiver must have. Until technology can bypass your eyes and ears and put things directly from digital storage into your brain, there must be a translation of the information into something that not only you can see and hear, but so can a microphone and video camera or scanner.

Login Welcome to Richard Pitt's Personal Site
Wednesday, October 22 2014 @ 06:44 AM PDT