A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Changing the Rules Way After the Sale

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Nintendo believes it can use its intellectual property claims to prevent you from monetizing any footage you make of its video games. Restrictions like this are generally only presented in the end user license agreement (EULA) after you’ve purchased the game. But what happens when the restriction is implemented retroactively?

Today it’s understood that when you purchase a software package, you will be presented with pages and pages of legalese when you first attempt to use it. That wasn’t always the case. When you purchased old Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) games, the boxes didn’t include contracts that you had to sign and send off to Nintendo before receiving an actual copy of the game nor did the games themselves present you with a EULA to which you had to agree before playing.

Nintendo is a notoriously litigious company and a few years ago was using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to have footage of things like altered Super Mario World levels removed from YouTube. Because of the conditions I mentioned above, nobody who purchased a copy of Super Mario World for the SNES agreed to not alter the contents of the cartridge. They didn’t agree to any restrictions whatsoever. But through the magical process of intellectual property, namely the copyrights granted to Nintendo by the government over the characters that appear in Super Mario World as well as the software itself, Nintendo is able to change the rules way after the sales occurred.

This absurdity is compounded by the fact that copyrights can remain valid for the life of the creator plus 70, 95, or 120 years after their death [PDF] depending on the type of work. Compounding the absurdity even more is the fact that copyright terms that were already ridiculously long were extended whenever the copyright for Micky Mouse was about to expire (hence why it is often called the Mickey Mouse Law). If we go by precedent, the stupidly long terms we’re currently suffering under will likely be extended again and again. That means Nintendo could continue adding new restrictions to old NES and SNES games for decades to come.

Imagine if this characteristic of copyright law was applied to physical property. Let’s say you purchased a Ford F-150 today. Now let’s fast forward two decades. You still own the F-150 and have had to resort to having new parts custom fabricated because all of the major replacement parts manufacturers stopped producing new parts. One day you receive a letter in the mail from Ford, which is a cease and desist order for installing custom fabricated parts in the truck. Ford decided to pull a John Deere by claiming its copyrights to the software on the truck grant it the right to restrict you from maintaining your 20-year-old truck. It sounds pretty absurd, doesn’t it? But that’s the reality people are facing with NES and SNES games that they purchased two decades ago.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 5th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Weaponizing Dependencies

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How I miss the halcyon days of the Internet when perceived slights were commonly forgotten after a short period of inconsequential shitposting. Today perceived slights often result in real-world consequences. The most recent example of this is ThotAudit, the result of a bunch of pathetic sexless whiners perceiving women slighting them. In response to their inability to get laid, they have decided to sic the Internal Revenue Service (IRC) and third-part payment processors on online sex workers:

The campaign is called the “ThotAudit,” in reference to the derogatory term “thot,” which stands for “that ho over there.” It began over the Thanksgiving holiday as a grassroots effort to intimidate sex workers and women who sell access to private pornographic social media accounts by reporting them to the Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion—without evidence of wrongdoing. But it quickly morphed into a battle over who has the right to make money on the internet.

The harassers are taking advantage of user reporting tools made available by companies like PayPal, Venmo, and CirclePay, in an attempt to force their targets offline and freeze their finances. The tactic has far-reaching implications beyond adult entertainment. Foreign governments and other groups have abused the policies to silence opponents on platforms like Twitter and Facebook for years. Attacking through the payment processors is a new wrinkle on that approach.

What kind of lowlife piece of shit sics revenuers on people? I mean, come on! That’s below the belt, guys!

Back to the story at hand. There are two aspects that I want to discuss in this post.

The first is the extent individuals will go to avoid acknowledging and accepting their faults. When I was young, I wasn’t exactly drowning in pussy. I didn’t blame women for that though. I acknowledged and accepted my faults, namely my socially awkward nature. I worked to overcome those faults. By the time I hit my mid 20’s, I was still socially awkward but I was at least capable of schmoozing a room full of people and was capable of gaining the attention of members of the opposite sex. While I’m still a bit socially awkward today, I have a smoking hot wife and have little trouble meeting new people and entertaining people at a party (entertaining people is commonly seen as an attractive quality and thus a skill worth cultivating).

The key to my transformation was accepting my flaws and working to overcome them. Most people who call themselves incels suffer from a lack of self-awareness and an unwillingness to overcome their faults. The reason they’re not getting laid isn’t because women are conspiring against them, it’s because they have a number of flaws that make them unattractive. Instead of working to improve themselves, they’re taking actions that make them even less attractive. They’re actually going so far as to exacerbate their faults to avoid acknowledging their faults.

The second thing I want to discuss is something I harp on a lot, the dangers of being dependent on third-parties. Those making themselves part of ThotAudit are trying to convince third-party payment processors to stop processing payments for targeted online sex workers. By doing this, they’re destroying the livelihood of those workers. However, this tactic is only feasible because those workers are dependent on third-party payment processors. The fewer third-parties you depend on, the fewer dependencies exist that can be weaponized against you. While it’s trendy to recommend cryptocurrencies for sex workers, that’s not the only option. Online sex workers could try pooling their resources and establishing a payment processor for their industry, which is a suggestion I made to gun stores that were being blacklisted by third-party payment processors. You might not be able to control the infrastructure yourself but if you have to rely on a third-party, it’s better to rely on one that specifically caters to your industry. After all, if your business is porn, Tumblr might cast you overboard but Pornhub probably won’t.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 5th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Perverse Incentives

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Do you need to mail a letter today? Or buy some stocks? Tough. Almost every federal office, including the United States Postal Service, and the stock market are closed today to celebrate the death of George H. W. Bush:

Wednesday will be an effective federal holiday as the nation mourns the death of former President George H.W. Bush. President Donald Trump declared it a National Day of Mourning, meaning that nearly all federal workers would be excused from work and their agencies would be closed.

The former president will be given a state funeral Wednesday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. After the ceremony, his body will be moved to Texas, where he will be buried at his presidential library. Mr. Bush died Friday evening at the age of 94.

I didn’t like the man but I still find taking a day off to celebrate his death to be in bad taste. That’s probably just me though.

The precedence this decision sets could lead to interesting places. If federal employees want a day off, they only need to knock off a president. We could have a Praetorian Guard situation where emperors, err, presidents get bumped off on a regular basis (granted the motivations of the Praetorian Guard were usually more than wanting a day off but I’m certain that the average American is lazier than the average Roman was).

Written by Christopher Burg

December 5th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted in Politics

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Changing the Rules After the Sale

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As I noted last week, the concept of intellectual property is an oxymoron. Today I want to expand on that by pointing out another absurdity of intellectual property.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation where I own an electronics store and you just purchased a laptop from me. There was nothing unusual about the transaction. You didn’t have to read any contracts or sign any papers. You handed me cash and I handed you a laptop. The laptop is yours, right? Not so fast.

When you get home and power up your new laptop for the first time, you are presented with a legal contract that says you can’t make any modifications to the laptop’s hardware, install any operating system other than the one that came with the laptop, or install any software not distributed by the manufacturer’s app store. If you don’t agree with the contract, you can’t use the computer.

What I just described is a slightly hyperbolic version of a shrink wrap license. When you purchase a piece of software, you usually aren’t presented with the end user license agreement (EULA), the document that lays out what you can and can’t do with the software, until after the sale. No big deal, you may think, because if you don’t agree with the post-sale EULA, you can just return the software, right? You may find that easier said than done. Most stores won’t take back copies of software that have been opened and if you read the EULAs for online app stores, there are often severe restrictions in place in regards to returning purchases. But even if you can return the software, why should that be considered your only form of recourse? Why should you be bound to any terms presented after the transaction has been concluded?

This is yet another characteristic of intellectual property that I doubt most people would so willingly accept if it were applied to physical property. If you purchased a car and the dealer decided to foist a bunch of restriction on you after you paid for the vehicle but before you drove it off of the lot (i.e. it’s your property but you haven’t gotten into the car since it became your property), would you take them seriously? Most people probably wouldn’t. I certainly wouldn’t. So why is such a practice considered acceptable for intellectual property?

Written by Christopher Burg

December 4th, 2018 at 11:00 am

More Effective than Voting

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The French government decided it was going to bleed its subjects a bit more by passing a fuel tax hike. This didn’t go over well. By “didn’t go over well” I don’t mean the usual American response where people scream bloody murder and claim they’re going to vote the responsible parties out of office when the next election rolls around, I mean shit was literally on fire. In response the French government has reconsidered the hike:

Fuel tax rises which had led to weeks of violent protests in France have been suspended for six months.

PM Edouard Philippe said that people’s anger must be heard, and the measures would not be applied until there had been proper debate with those affected.

Smart move. Considering France’s history, the next step in the protest would have likely involve guillotines.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 4th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Unexpected Microsoft

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Microsoft has been making all sorts of unexpected moves in the last few years. The company released Visual Studio Code, which is not only an excellent code editing environment but available under the open source MIT License. In addition to that, Microsoft also released an open source version of its .NET framework and Windows Subsystem for Linux. Needless to say, it’s becoming more difficult to hate the company lately.

Now to top it all off it sounds like Microsoft is going to abandon its customer HTML rendering engine and replace it with Chromium:

Because of this, I’m told that Microsoft is throwing in the towel with EdgeHTML and is instead building a new web browser powered by Chromium, which uses a similar rendering engine first popularized by Google’s Chrome browser. Codenamed “Anaheim,” this new browser for Windows 10 will replace Edge as the default browser on the platform, according to my sources, who wish to remain anonymous. It’s unknown at this time if Anaheim will use the Edge brand or a new brand, or if the user interface (UI) between Edge and Anaheim is different. One thing is for sure, however; EdgeHTML in Windows 10’s default browser is dead.

I have mixed feeling about this. On the one hand, it’s good to see Microsoft moving towards an open source rendering engine. On the other hand, I don’t enjoy seeing the rendering engine market turning into a duopoly (with the only major non-Chromium engine, Firefox’s, having a paltry percentage of market share).

Watching Microsoft do an about face from being the satanic figure to the open source community has been fun to watch. It probably is the greatest testament to the viability of open source software out there.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 4th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Monday Metal: Guerreros de Cemican by Cemican

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Written by Christopher Burg

December 3rd, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted in Media

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Intellectual Property Means Not Owning Property

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I make no secret of the fact that I don’t subscribe to the concept of intellectual property. The biggest reason I don’t subscribe to the concept is because the concept itself is an oxymoron. Property implies ownership and ownership implies absolute control. Intellectual property takes the form of copyrights, trademarks, and patents. If you create a song and are granted a copyright, does that mean you own it? No. The copyright is granted by a government agency. The agency dictates the terms of the copyright. Usually it dictates limitations such as a time frame (for example, your copyright is only valid for so many years). The same is true of trademarks and patents. Receiving a copyright does not grant absolute control, it grants limited controls. Under the concept of intellectual property the only ownership that can be said to exist is government ownership over all creative works.

Things are even worse for consumers. Consider Nintendo’s recent announcement:

For nearly three years now, creators who wanted to make money from videos that included footage of Nintendo games had to go through the onerous approval and content requirements of the Nintendo Creators Program, which also gave Nintendo a 30 percent cut of any ad revenues. Today, Nintendo announced it would be halting that program at the end of the year, in favor of a new set of “basic rules” for video creators. If those rules are followed, Nintendo now says, “we will not object to your use of gameplay footage and/or screenshots captured from games for which Nintendo owns the copyright.”

[…]

In addition, Nintendo says video creators can only monetize these videos through a number of official partner programs on a handful of platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, and Facebook.

When you pay for a Nintendo game, you’re only paying for the privilege of playing it as far as Nintendo is concerned. If you dared to record yourself enjoying “your” game and clicked the monetize button on YouTube, you could expect a take down notice from Nintendo’s legal department because, as far as the company was concerned, it owned any footage made of its games and determined that it wouldn’t allow anybody to profit from “its” footage. Nintendo eventually eased up a bit and announced that it would allow you to profit from “its” footage so long as you gave Nintendo a 30 percent cut of the profits. Now it’s changing the rules again because as the owner of the games and, according to it at least, all footage of the games, it has the legal authority to do so. While you don’t have to become part of Nintendo’s Partner Program, you are restricted on where you can post footage from which you want to profit.

Imagine if these restrictions allowed under the concept of intellectual property were expanded to actual property. The construction company that built your home might be able to restrict you from monetizing any footage you made of the house. The manufacturer that built your vehicle might not allow you to post pictures of it on Instagram but only on Flickr. The manufacturer that built your computer might prohibit you from making an unboxing video. If any of the rules that apply to the concept of intellectual property were applied to actual property, most people would probably recognize how ridiculous the situation is.

In my opinion if you purchase a copy of a game, you should own that copy. You should be allowed to do whatever you want with it. If you want to record yourself playing it while you’re snorting coke off of a hooker’s ass and monetize that video, you should be allowed to do so (I also believe that you should be allowed to snort coke off of a hooker’s ass). There shouldn’t be a loophole that says any footage of that game is owned by the developer nor should there be any restriction preventing you from profiting from the game you purchased.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 30th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Bumping Off Bump Stocks

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Earlier this year Trump indicated that he would work to ban bump stocks. His supporters claimed that he actually had no intention of doing so and that his announcement was merely part of his extremely clever game of multi-dimensional chess again the liberals. Recent claims by officials indicate that his supporters are delusional, he’s not as good at chess as he thinks, or both:

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing to officially ban bump stocks on guns, a move that would put an end to the sale of attachments that allow semiautomatic rifles to fire faster and that would follow through on an order President Trump made this year to the Justice Department to regulate the devices.

An administration official said on Wednesday evening that a formal ban will be rolled out in the coming days to weeks, a timeline first reported by CNN.

The funniest thing about this, at least in my opinion, is that this news will likely change nothing as far as Trump’s supporters and detractors are concerned. His supporters will continue to claim that he doesn’t support gun control but his maneuvering those evil liberals into checkmate. Meanwhile, his detractors will still refuse to support him even though he’s now pushing for the gun control they ceaselessly demand.

This is part of the reason why politicians are unaccountable. Most politicos are unwilling to admit that they were wrong about a politician and will make any excuse to continue holding their opinion. Trump could sign a new ban on ascetically offensive firearms and his supports would still love him and his detractors would still hate him.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 30th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Worst Parents of the Year Award

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There are a lot of ways that parents can make the lives of their children miserable. One way for parents to start early down this path is to give their child a stupid name:

A Southwest Airlines gate agent at John Wayne Airport is accused of being awful in front of a five-year old girl – and on social media – because of her unique name.

The girl’s mother says the agent made fun of the name and even posted a photo of her boarding pass on social media for others to chime in.

Five-year-old Abcde Redford pronounces her name “ab-city.”

I guess some points go to the parents for at least getting five letters of the alphabet in the correct order.

Granted, I don’t think that the gate agent should have made fun of the child because the child was innocent. They should have ridiculed the parents for picking a name that would so inevitably cause their child to be picked on. If you want to give your child a unique name, there are a lot of excellent choices that aren’t as likely to result in ridicule from schoolmates (and gate attendants) as Abcde.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 30th, 2018 at 10:00 am