Archive for August, 2011

Some interesting thoughts on copyright and copyfraud

None of us object to those who create original works receiving payment for their labours.  But those of us who place stuff online — usually stuff long forgotten, where the creators have never received much, and are in any case long gone — find it a real problem.  The problem is that copyright has become too extensive, too all-encompassing, too much under the control of the publishing lobby and too little sanity-checked.

I  had an email today, which drew my attention to some remarkable posts.  There is a useful discussion of copyfraud here, the practice of claiming non-existent copyright.  The penalties for this piece of malevolence are negligible, and I have never heard of a prosecution for it.

The author also points out that major corporations are not only quite willing to borrow content from bloggers and others who contribute their efforts for free.  Those corporations go even further, and demand that the bloggers indemnify the corporation for its “risk”!  That is, a major corporation, stuffed to the gills with money and lawyers, transfers all the responsibility of compliance and all the financial penalties to those whom it uses.  Rightly is this called exploitation.

But which of us has the power to clean out this cesspit of vested interests?

Network solutions get it wrong again

For many years Network Solutions has been the place where my domain names are hosted.  They were,  in truth, a company that I trusted.  Many internet hosters and registrars are cowboys, and it is nearly impossible to find good people.  Once you have found them, you stick with them.

But my liking for Network Solutions has got rather frayed down the years, for various reasons, and, as I blogged two days ago, that trust evaporated on Monday after they started making difficulties about transferring Tertullian.org to another company.

There is a curious sequel to the story, however.  Last night I received an email from someone at Network Solutions, telling me that their social media team  had spotted my comment and handed it over to this person to address.  She made use of the telephone number — without my permission — to call me.  But for some reason she hadn’t reckoned on the time zone and so the call went to voicemail.  Then I got an email.

Now I have no real animosity towards Network Solutions, so I thought that I would take that call.  I was quite prepared to explain, as a customer, why all my domains were being transferred elsewhere one by one, and why I felt that the company was no longer on my trusted list.   I do have rather good reasons, after all; and a sensible company would want to know them.  This afternoon the call came through.

The call was a delight, as Mr Bennet in Pride and Prejudice might have said about the effusions of his pompous but foolish nephew, Mr. Collins.  I didn’t get asked any of those questions.  Rather the call was to help me “understand” why I was wrong to be annoyed at their failure to transfer my domain when I asked them to.  Some of the explanations were most interesting, as they say.

Firstly I was told that Network Solutions really does intend to force all its customers to ring up when they want to leave.  It really does.  The reason given is that there is a great deal of domain name fraud going on, and fraudulent attempts to transfer out domains; and so the company wants to verify that the account holders really are behind the request, by checking personal details.  That this gives their call centre the chance to give you the hard sell is not, apparently, the motive at all.

Secondly, apparently I was wrong that it is an utter pain to renew a domain.  What I said, rather officiously — for I wasn’t asked to — that, when the company sends you an email asking you to renew a domain, and you click on the link, that what you expect is a minimum number of clicks thereafter to hand them your credit card details.  What you get, instead, is a page full of irrelevant advertising.  You hunt around for a link saying “ignore this and continue”, which you find off-screen at the bottom.  With relief you click this, only to be presented with yet more rubbish.  And you do the same, and get the same, getting more and more frustrated all the time.  But apparently this is not a bad thing, as I had suggested.  “I don’t agree”, she told me.  Customers really do want to page through all this crap in order to give Network Solutions money.  Lots of them are naive, I was told, know nothing about computers, and so are glad to buy a set of services at that point, even though they have owned the domain name for years.  And anyway if I didn’t like all  that very helpful material, there was a button on the top right to bypass all this. 

Thirdly, the obligatory call to the call centre also gave Network Solutions the chance to improve its service, I was told.  Keeping customers on the phone, at international call prices, is valuable to Network Solutions in order to obtain feedback.  No doubt she would have told me that the customers forced to telephone would be positively thankful for the chance to contribute to this company’s business development in this way, but for some reason that was not said.

Silly me!  How fortunate that I did not embarass myself further by explaining why I didn’t want to give their company any money any more.  So that’s all right, then.  Sadly I remembered that I had an urgent meeting at that point, and had to forgo further jewels of thought.

I think I will go off and do a bit of internet banking now.  And no, I shan’t have to ring up someone to allow the bank to make sure that I am who I say I am before I transfer money. 

Academic publishers charging $30 for a PDF — but for how long?

A deeply cheering article from George Monbiot at the Guardian.

Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist

Academic publishers charge vast fees to access research paid for by us. Down with the knowledge monopoly racketeers

You might resent Murdoch’s paywall policy, in which he charges £1 for 24 hours of access to the Times and Sunday Times. But at least in that period you can read and download as many articles as you like. Reading a single article published by one of Elsevier’s journals will cost you $31.50. Springer charges €34.95, Wiley-Blackwell, $42. Read 10 and you pay 10 times. And the journals retain perpetual copyright. You want to read a letter printed in 1981? That’ll be $31.50.

Murdoch pays his journalists and editors, and his companies generate much of the content they use. But the academic publishers get their articles, their peer reviewing (vetting by other researchers) and even much of their editing for free. The material they publish was commissioned and funded not by them but by us, through government research grants and academic stipends. But to see it, we must pay again, and through the nose.

The returns are astronomical: in the past financial year, for example, Elsevier’s operating profit margin was 36% (£724m on revenues of £2bn). They result from a stranglehold on the market. Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, who have bought up many of their competitors, now publish 42% of journal articles.

What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning.

I endorse every word, every punctuation mark of this article.  Gaudeamus!  It is great to see this in the mainstream press. 

This racket needs to stop.  Why should I work for pay in order to fund the profits of these people?

Once they performed a useful service, and their charges related to it.  Now, in the age of the PDF, their costs are tiny and their greed insensate.

How giving a beating has replaced discussion online

The internet has always been a rough place.  People feel anonymous, and feel able to behave in ways that they would not dream of doing offline.  Because it’s “only words”, people used to think that it didn’t matter.  Accidental rudeness is easy online, where there is no body language.  But as long as the internet has existed, the practice of “trolling” has left behind some very upset and hurt people. 

There has always been malice online; but more commonly those online were generally from the same background, generally with a certain degree of civilised upbringing.  The really nasty, cold, deliberate, calculated attacks, designed and intended to cause pain to the victim, were a rarity.  

In recent years this has changed.  Group lynchings online have become far more common, as access to the web has extended enormously, and the age of some of those contributing has dropped.  Those desperately sad cases of teenagers driven to suicide online in Facebook should tell us that something horrible is happening.  It happens when the pleasure of online interaction is deliberately twisted, like a knife, so that logging on becomes a worry, not a pleasure.  I have seen this kind of murderous attack in Wikipedia myself, and it doubtless goes on far more than I know about.

I have seen, over the last year or two, increasing evidence that this technique is being deployed intentionally.  I have started to think of it under a specific name: giving someone an internet beating. 

We need to wake up, and realise that we’re not in Kansas any more.  The technique is used because it works.  The object is to give so much pain to the victim that he or she stops using the web, leaves the forum, dares never speak about the subject again.  It’s organised, premeditated, and not different in intent, nor in any important respect from getting a gang of people together with sticks for the same purpose.  The main difference is that the victim can’t call the police.

Today I read on the eChurch blog of an internet beating is being handed out to Stacy, a young Catholic mother, who complained that she couldn’t even go to the park with her toddlers without being confronted by a pair of gays who had decided that a public park in front of the children was the place to fondle each other.   As she rightly observed, such conduct was a public statement, and a provocative, spiteful one.  It was made in the knowledge that a lot of people there would object, and was designed to insult, to swagger, to say “we can do this and you can’t do a thing about it”.   She naturally did not want such displays in a public park — paid for by us all — in front of her toddlers.  And who would?

What happened next was sickening.   She was handed a cyber-beating.  The comments on the post promptly filled up with vitriolic hate and abuse, intermixed with the usual poisonous types who aid and comfort these cyber-thugs by blaming the victim for “provoking” the assault, expressed in fake-polite terms but with exactly the same agenda.  Any attempt at rational discussion was drowned.  Apparently she even received death threats.  When this was reported, the beaters promptly blamed her for this too.  Bullying always blames the victim, so this was classic.

eChurch blog adds:

I knew nothing of this post until I noted comments arriving on one of Stacy’s posts that I’d linked to, entitled: Self-Injury and the Sacraments.

I was truly bewildered as to the ferocity, quantity and nature of the comments on the self-injury post, until one commenter pointed me to Stacy’s original post, in which she’d closed comments.

Well, talk about quantity and ferocity of comments, I’d seen nothing until Stacy posted her recent blog, a few hours ago, entitled: You duped me, O LORD.

There are currently a whopping 328 comments!

It transpires that news has spread onto a prominent atheist forum and the hoards had simply hopped across to vent their spleen.

Lisa Graas has now jumped into the fray and blogged in defense of Stacy.

Good for Lisa.  If you saw someone being given a beating, and you had the power to come to their aid, wouldn’t you do so?  It could be you being beaten and stabbed.  It has been me, recently, and nothing depressed me more than the refusal of others to help. 

Stacy had a perfect right to object to public homosexual behaviour — I share her sentiments completely, as does most of the population of this world.  If gays object to being hated, don’t be hateful, don’t parade your vice in front of people you know might well object.   Do to others as you would like them to do to you.  It’s really that simple.

Is it accidental that it is atheists and gays doing this?  I fear it is not.  Since these creeps apparently want to stifle criticism, let us tell it like it is.

It is entirely in keeping with my experience of atheists online that they should be active in this vile pursuit.  A rational person would ask just why disbelief in God involved endorsement of a hideous vice.  Logically there is no connection, of course.  Except that, in reality, their atheism is merely hatred of Christians, and the atheist will endorse whatever the Christians are opposed to; indeed will try to force, by violence, the Christian to endure.  There have been and are decent atheists.  There are a great number who are murderous vermin.

Nor is it a marvel that this is a “gay rights” issue.  From this pressure group I have come to expect no less than the most atrocious bigotry.  This, if you remember, is a practice that was detestable to almost everyone, that was legalised under the pretence that “what two people do in private is their own business”.    The determination by this lobby to silence any criticism, any discussion other than warmest approval, has brought to Britain the first arrests of clergy on religious grounds since the corrupt and brutal persecutions of the Restoration period. 

Everyone opposed to such violence — call it what it is — should support Stacy.  We must not let her fight our battle unaided.  And we should support her without resorting to weasel words like “I don’t agree with what she says but she should have the right to say it.”  To say this is to compromise with the intimidators, to tell them you’re afraid that they will attack you too.  Let’s not.  Let’s give these thugs the finger, and endorse heartily someone who had the courage to stand up for what they believe in.

I shall, of course, be moderating comments on this post.  

UPDATE: The first four hate comments duly arrived overnight!

More on Ibn Abi Usaibia

I’m interested in the references to the Christians that appear in the works of the 2nd century medical writer Galen.  I discovered that a bunch of them appear only in the medical dictionary of the Arabic writer Ibn Abi Usaibia. 

A while back I discovered that an unpublished English translation exists in typescript at the US National Library of Medicine (see also here and here).  Since then I have been in contact with the NLM, to try to obtain a copy.

My initial contacts were very unpromising, but things have improved and I learn that the translation was made under a US-Israeli government contract back in the 1960′s, and  that the translation is probably in the public domain.  This is because US-government commissioned stuff is automatically public domain, and quite right too.

A reader contacted me and said that he has been to the NLM and inspected the manuscript.  It’s in typescript, and about 1,000 pages.  But from the look of it, it’s all  good stuff.  There’s no footnotes or commentary; but what do we care?

Here’s hoping that I can lay hands on a copy of this object! 

People with guitars busted by heavy-handed Feds in 2011?

Apparently so.  The story goes that the Feds were heavily armed, and taking no chances with these desperate criminals.

Federal agents swooped in on Gibson Guitar Wednesday, raiding factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars.

As you may imagine, this is all about illegally-grown stuff.  In this case, laughably, wood

Yes, that’s right.  It really is.

The police came calling, submachine-guns at the ready, on the off-chance that some of the wood had been from trees which someone in Washington being given votes by one pressure  group said someone in Brazil being paid by some cartel or other shouldn’t have cut down.   Obviously Mr Gibson should have asked permission before making any guitars in the first place.

The company denies it, apparently.  They say they did ask permission.  Much good it did them.

From my diary

Network Solutions, the domain name registrar for tertullian.org, are going down and down in my estimation.  I asked them on Saturday to transfer it elsewhere.  Their response was an email demanding that I call their call centre in the USA.  The object of the latter is to hassle people into renewing, of course.  I wrote and asked today and got back the same.  I then complained to PairNIC, whom I am transferring to, who told me — what Network Solutions could have told me — that the process takes 6 days.  Quite a long time, considering that all we are discussing is entering a row in a database table.

Avoid using Network Solutions.  It is a key test of a registrar how they handle transfers out.  I once had to pay a bunch of scum down in Farnborough to release tertullian.net, the first domain I ever registered.  One reason why I have stuck with Network Solutions is that they didn’t make a fuss.  The fuss they are making now ensures that I will transfer all my domains elsewhere.

I also have two UK domains.  I have no idea who the good UK registrars are.  Anyone any suggestions?

I had hoped to spend today writing a page about the catena of Nicetas, its date (1100-1105, according to Christophe Guignard; perhaps 20 years earlier according to J. Sickenberger, back in 1902), its manuscripts and so on.  But I’m still too full of cold to do so.  Maybe later in the week.

Instead I’ve written a review of a book about the Fathers on Amazon, and slated it thoroughly.  Interestingly Amazon is sorting the reviews in a manner different from that which I remember.   It used to be most recent review first.  It is so no longer.  Worth remembering, that.

I only picked the book up again because I need something to read.  There must be something on my shelves I could look at…

Still waiting for Tertullian.org to transfer…

The domain name transfer of the Tertullian.org name is still pending.  Network Solutions are evidently sitting on it, the weasels.

When it happens, Tertullian.org will go down until I can set the DNS settings at the new registrar.  Sorry about that.

More on catenas

Something I had meant to do, when I wrote about the catena of Nicetas, was to track down the works of J. Sickenberger mentioned as published in TU.  I have, in fact, now updated that page with some links to Google books, although, as ever, non-US readers will not be able to read them.

TU 22.4: J. Sickenberger, Die Lukaskatene des Niketas von Herakleia untersucht (Leipzig, 1902) can be found here, or here.

TU 21.1: J. Sickenberger, Titus von Bostra. Studien zu dessen Lukashomilien (Leipzig, 1901) can be found here.  This is not evidently about the catena on Luke by Nicetas, except that Titus of Bostra figures regularly in catenas, including that of Nicetas.

I have also updated both Google books pages with a “review” indicating the contents of each volume.  That should make searching easier!

But how did I find them?  Through a link to the right here, which I often use.  Mischa Hooker compiled an index of TU volumes 1-32.  It is such a useful resource!

My main remaining problem is that my German is not that good, and academic German of a century ago is pretty impenetrable! 

The final item mentioned is Sickenberger’s 32 page monograph, Aus römischen Handschriften über die Lukas Katene des Niketas (1898).  This is referred to here. But I was unable to locate the item itself.  I suspected that perhaps it too was part of a serial.  And a Google search indicated just that: “Röm. Quartalschrift für christl. Altertumskunde und für Kirchengeschichte, XII [1898]” (don’t you just hate that habit of abbreviation?).  I think it’s actually known as “Römischen Quartalschrift”.  But I had no luck finding that volume online.

UPDATE: Now running OCR using Adobe Acrobat on TU 22.4.  The only way I shall be able to work on that will be with the help of Google translate!

Tertullian.org may go down over the next day or two briefly

I’m transferring the domain name from Network Solutions — who are a pain to deal with — to PairNIC.  Unfortunately the latter won’t let me enter the domain name servers until the transfer actually happens.  Tomorrow is Sunday, when I do not use my computer or the web.  So it is possible that I will miss the emails.  All the rest of my domains should work fine.  My apologies for this.



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