[Plura-list] Podcasting chapter one of Attack Surface; Crad Kilodney documentary; DRM versus human right

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Wed Sep 9 11:45:42 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Podcasting chapter one of Attack Surface: A three hour preview of the
audio, currently up on Kickstarter!

* Crad Kilodney documentary: Kickstarting "Putrid Scum."

* DRM versus human rights: Helping Mexico learn from 22 years of bitter
US experience.

* Germany's amazing new competition proposal: Putting interop front and

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


🚎 Podcasting chapter one of Attack Surface

This week on my podcast: a long (3 hour!) excerpt from the new audiobook
for Attack Surface, the third Little Brother book, read by Amber Benson:


I independently produced this one in part because I love doing it, but
mostly because Audible - the monopolist of the format - won't carry my
work as it's DRM-free, which means that publishers aren't interested in
paying for the audio rights (Audible is 90% of the market)

So while the book is a major release for Tor Books and Head of Zeus, the
audio is mine alone; I'm getting into all those indie audiobook stores
like libro.fm and downpour.com, but I'm also preselling it through


The KS launched on Tuesday morning and it's going GREAT, but there's a
long way to go still. My hope for this is that I'll sell enough units
that it will blow up the way traditional publishers think about working
with authors and crowdfunding platforms.

So if you like this, I hope you'll consider backing it!

Here's the direct MP3 link (hosting courtesy of the Internet Archive  -
they'll host your stuff too, free, forever!):


And here's my podcast feed:



🚎 Crad Kilodney documentary

Growing up in Toronto, I was obsessed with Crad Kilodney, a
self-published weird-fiction author who'd stand on street corners
selling his chapbooks with a sign hung around his neck reading PUTRID

I used to stop and chat with Crad, who was out on Yonge Street every
day, winter and summer, taking shit from drunks and yahoos, conversing
with teens with literary ambitions, selling his books.

(And, it turned out, secretly recording his conversations and making
highlight cassettes of the most absurd, abusive conversations he had).

He was a performatively grumpy, amazing, weird, fantastic guy, and say
what you will, he suffered for his art.

He died in 2014, bitter - and prolific - to the end.

He died, as it happens, one *week* before he was scheduled to be
interviewed for PUTRID SCUM, Anthony Stechyson's documentary about his life.

Deprived of his principle subject, Stechyson did not give up: instead,
he made a posthumous doc, talking to writers and others who were moved
and influenced by Crad, and now PUTRID SCUM is up on Kickstarter,
raising $23k to finish it.


It's the kind of amazing thing that you get through crowdfunding: how
else would you get a doc about a dead guy who made his bones standing on
a street corner with a sign that says WORLD'S WORST POETRY?

$6 gets you streaming access, $40 gets a DVD, $60 gets the DVD and
reissues of Crad's autobiographical novels EXCREMENT and PUTRID SCUM.

I was delighted to be interviewed for it (as was Margaret Atwood!), and
I'm even happier to back it.


🚎 DRM versus human rights

I hate DRM. A lot. And while I started off hating DRM because of the
ways it restricted fair use, the more I worked on the issue, the more I
realized that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

DRM is not really a technology - it's a law. The digital locks on your
devices can generally be removed, because preventing the owner of a
device from modifying it is really, really hard.

Which is why DRM was a longrunning joke - the subject of a million
snarky warez crack-screens - until 1998, when the USA enacted the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), whose Section 1201 makes it a
felony to provide someone with DRM-removal tools.

Importantly, DMCA1201 doesn't prohibit infringing copyright - it
prohibits removing DRM, *even if you don't break copyright law*. That
means that if you have to remove DRM to do something legitimate, you
risk prison.

Manufacturers quickly realized that anything with software in it -
increasingly, that's everything - can be designed so that using it in
ways that harms their shareholders requires bypassing DRM, and thus is a
literal crime: Felony Contempt of Business-Model.

We've had 22 years' worth of US experience with this, and it's *ugly*.
But despite that experience, other countries have followed the US's
lead, adopting near-identical legislation, under severe pressure from US
corporate lobbyists and the US Trade Rep.

The latest country to jump off a bridge because America did it first is
Mexico, where, on Jul 1, the Congress adopted a copypaste of the DMCA
(with the minimal safeguards stripped out) as part of Trump's USMCA deal
(the successor to NAFTA).


But Mexico's legal system has an important circuit-breaker built in: an
independent Human Rights Commission that can send legislation like this
to the Supreme Court for constitutional review.

After an all-out campaign by Derechos Digitales, R3D, Creative Commons
Mexico and EFF, we convinced the Commission to send this law to the
Supreme Court, at the very last minute:


That triggered a round of Congressional hearings this week, where EFF
lawyers Corynne McSherry and Kit Walsh are testifying:


In support of our Mexican partners, I've written a lengthy history of
human rights abuses that came about as a result of DMCA 1201,
incorporating 22 years' worth of bitter truth about how laws that
indiscriminately ban breaking DRM hurt human rights:


Included in the document:

* Free expression (blocking fair use, allowing app store gatekeepers to
wield the censor's pen)

* Self-determination (DRMs that allow sharing "within a family" get to
decide what is - and is not - a "real family")

* Rights of people with disability (you can't remove DRM to block
seizure-inducing strobes in video, or use text-to-speech, etc)

* Archiving (you can't remove DRM for long-term preservation)

* Education (you can't remove DRM in order to study works, i.e. to remix
a video in film class)

* Right to Repair (many devices use DRM to block independent diagnostics
and third-party replacement parts)

* National resiliency (DRM means farmers can't access the soil data
generated by tractors, nor block foreign companies from harvesting that
data; you can't adapt equipment for local conditions)

* Cybersecurity (researchers who discover defects in widely used devices
risk prison for publishing their findings)

* Competition (DRM lets dominant companies block interoperability)

This week, I launched my first-ever Kickstarter, and while it's exciting
to watch the numbers tick up (if you've backed it, *thank you*!), the
only reason I had to do this was because Amazon won't sell my
audiobooks, because they don't have DRM.


Fighting DRM isn't just about fairness - it's the fight between
oligarchy (companies get to control their critics, competitors and
customers) and self-determination (you get to decide how your tech works):



🚎 Germany's amazing new competition proposal

You hear lots about how tech monopolies arose due to supposedly
inevitable factors like "network effects," but you don't hear much about
banal, sleazy tactics that were banned until the neoliberal era, when
Thatcher, Reagan, et al trashed competition law.

Tactics like buying up small companies to prevent them from becoming
competitors, or large competitors merging, or creating vertical
monopolies - whether that's rail companies running their own freight
companies, or sech companies selling apps in their own app stores.

The good news is we have some pretty effective tools for fighting sleazy
monopoly tactics: banning mergers, breaking up conglomerates, enforcing
"structural separation" so platform companies can't compete with their

And when it comes to tech, network effects are a double-edged sword: if
your competitors can interoperate (plug into) your service, they can
treat your walled garden as an all-you-can-eat buffet of new customers:


This week, Germany published a draft competition law that does away with
the Reagan (or Kohl) doctrine that monopolies are tolerable, treating
market concentration as an evil in and of itself. Here's a machine


Notably, the law targets interoperability as an important source of
competition. Here's Ian Brown's translation:

"The Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) may prohibit companies
[with paramount cross-market importance] from… making the
interoperability of products or services or the portability of data
difficult and thus hindering competition."


That's a rule that strikes directly at the root of anticompetitive
conduct, and also sets the stage for funding businesses and establishing
tech co-ops that will hit Big Tech right where it hurts!


🚎 Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 569 words (58897

Currently reading: Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 14)

Upcoming appearances:

* Keynote for Law Via the Internet conference, Sept 22,

* Writing into an Uncertain Future, Afterwords Festival, Oct 1,

Latest book:

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially,
provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
to pluralistic.net.


Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are
included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the
basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.


🚎 How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and


Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):


*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla* -Joey "Accordion Guy"

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: signature.asc
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 195 bytes
Desc: OpenPGP digital signature
URL: <http://mail.flarn.com/pipermail/plura-list/attachments/20200909/20407271/attachment-0001.sig>

More information about the Plura-list mailing list