The democratisation of creativity

One of the key points made by Larry Lessig in his 23C3 speech is how code, once used solely to make things work, is now being used to make culture; as he says “the tools of creativity have become the tool of speech”.

When we hear statements like this, it’s important to experience them, not just read them. Take a look at the image on the right. It’s part of a wonderful set of creative digital works by someone called Chema Madoz. You can find it, as well as many more, at

How did I find out about Chema Madoz? Via StumbleUpon. Why did I do something about it? Because I spoke to my 15-year old son about it, and realised that for him, Chema, and for that matter, were as familiar, almost old hat, as Line Rider. As the saying goes, I should stay in more often.

If we do the wrong thing about DRM and IPR:

  • the wood in Chema’s background will have its own exclusive image rights
  • the matchstick will be copyrighted
  • Chema would have no tools to use
  • and even if there were tools to use, it would depend on the compatibility with someone’s particular content provider/connect provider/device manufacturer walled garden

So let’s keep on trying to do the right thing.

Be careful what you wish for

from DVDs
to cigarettes
Thanks to Doc, I came across Mark Pilgrim’s post on A History of DVD Copy Protection. I have always found DVD Region Coding to be laughable, almost tantamount to fraud, so I loved the article. Read it and decide for yourself.

What I particularly enjoyed was how Mark moved from DVDs to cigarettes:

On a side note, this turn of phrase reminds me of a similar one told of the Liggett Group, formerly known as Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, the company that formerly manufactured Chesterfields, which I formerly smoked, before selling the brand to Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris. In fact, the last time I smoked Chesterfields was right around the time the brand was sold to Philip Morris. At one point, I had a pack of Liggett-branded Chesterfields that bore the history-making label, “Smoking is addictive.” Then the brand was sold to Philip Morris, and suddenly Chesterfields were no longer addictive. Or if they were, their packaging no longer admitted it. ;-)

All of which is a roundabout way of quoting an article I once read about Liggett — or rather paraphrasing, since I have long since lost track of the original in the infinite sands of time and bookmarks — which stated that Liggett had managed to lose an enormous amount of money, despite the overwhelming business advantage of having an addictive product.

The analogy to copy protection, if indeed there is an analogy to be made, is left as an exercise for the reader.

Well, I followed Mark’s advice and did his reader exercise. And what I found was instructive (at least for me).

Let us assume that both cigarettes as well as DVDs are addictive products.

Let us also assume, for the sake of argument, that Smoking Kills labels on cigarettes are broadly analogous to Copy Protection on DVDs (whether in Region Coding form, RCE form or vanilla copy protection. Analogous because both devices serve to protect.

The analogy breaks from then on. Protect whom? At least in the cigarette case I can see the consumer being protected. But in the DVD case there’s no way of understanding just how the customer is protected.

There’s also the question about the agency that requires the protection to be implemented. In one case it is a regulator of sorts, in the other it is “self-governing”.

But it doesn’t matter. It all comes back at the end, just like Mark says.

Someone with an addictive product manages somehow to achieve two aims:

  1. make no money
  2. damage the customer

You know how I think. (b) will always lead to (a). It’s just a matter of time.

on locked in devices

Guess it had to happen sometime: with all my rants against device lock in, someone had to find a way of making me partially dependent on such a device.

Boy was it painful. But I’m alive and well and sore and tired. And fitted with the ultimate lock in. A pacemaker.

I think it was Churchill who said he detested the idea of old age until he considered the alternatives.

Thanks for all your wishes and prayers.I really appreciate them.

a period of inactivity

I will be quiet for a week or two as I recuperate from some medical complications.

In the meantime, I wish all my readers and the extended community the best of the season. For those that celebrate it, Merry Christmas.

And may 2007 bring you a whole new time.

When they were asked what they wanted, the people said �Uglier horses�!

Ugly sells? Take a look at this post from Commission Networks (I couldn’t be bothered trying to find out who the person was, the site was too ugly for me and I couldn’t find an “about”). But it made me think.

I wonder if the Henry Ford “faster horses” statements can be made to apply to design. Is it possible that ugly sites are more attractive to the generations before M, because that’s what they’re used to? Brought up on green-screens and blue-screens-of-death anything looks beautiful. That generation loves looking at Excel screens on a BlackBerry, remember?

I wonder if I can extend that supposition. If a site is NOT ugly and yet IS popular, can I assume that it is used by Generation M?

Just thinking.