Matching metaphors: Ebooks and cable television


A recent thesis by Stefan Larsson, entitled “Metaphors and Norms – Understanding Copyright Law in a Digital Society,” received a lot of attention for examining the metaphors being used to quantify digital products like ebooks, MP3 files, etc. The thesis asserts that the many problems holding the ebook industry from a stable, sustainable state have been the result of applying the wrong metaphors to ebooks, for instance, comparing it to physical goods like printed books, to limited data like an email, or public presentations like a website.

In the arena of ebooks, that discussion has predictably covered a lot of apropos and inapropos territory, effectively providing plenty of evidence in Larsson’s assertion; but thanks to his well-informed attack of the problem of recognizing digital products, quite a bit of the discussion about and following the thesis has been exceedingly intelligent and well-considered. Continue reading

Defective by Design practicing Thuggery by Design


Defective by Design logo

I don’t put Digital Rights Management (DRM) software on the ebooks I sell; it doesn’t work, so why bother? So I’ve never had an issue with Defective by Design and their campaign against DRM. To be sure, our opinions differ, DbD essentially objecting to DRM on a philosophical level, and me on a practical level, but I never considered the difference an issue.

Until I discovered something about the ebooks I was posting to the Amazon website: My product pages were getting vandalized, as far as I’m concerned, with “defectivebydesign” and “drm-infested” tags, despite the fact that my ebooks had no DRM applied to them. Continue reading

Digital security: Think Biometrics


Ever since it was discovered that people could send information encased in arranged groups of electrons, a realization about the nature of that information began to set in: It was no longer as secure as it had been before.

split-rail fence

Workable security for the American West.

Physical objects were easy to keep track of and catalog. They were harder to replicate, which made it easier to control their numbers. Large numbers were correspondingly harder to move, or lose, than smaller numbers. And they could be locked in a coherent space, with no chance of somehow seeping through the cracks and escaping. But the new digital file presented a problem that was as far beyond the constraints of physical objects, as a horse would be compared to a slug. And whereas you can confine a group of slugs with the simple expedient of encircling them with salt, you need a considerably more sophisticated method to corral a herd of horses. Continue reading