This post shall cover some of the things I have known and been thinking about for a long time but have been not sure about it both, quite a bit of which have dealings with both Copyright and Privacy but independently.
I should share a bit as to why I chose this day to share some of the things. Yesterday i.e. 26th February 2012, we had a day-long Debian Utsav (short #debutsav) at SICSR. I would be sharing about it in another blog post but there were some things which did get triggered during the Utsav as well. While Abhijit of COEP was supposed to take the first talk, Nischay (an alumnus of COEP) stood on behalf of Abhijit and sadly we didn’t go into either the evils of Copyright as they stand today nor was their any talk of either SOPA,PIPA or ACTA as well which would have been cool. I do feel quite guilty as I have also been neglecting to share about lot of things which have been happening and are not just been talked about.
One of the first things about Copyright which should have been mentioned by Nischay (and sadly wasn’t) was that Copyright is used and abused by big guys more rather than the small guys who do lose the most. I could give countless examples of books, magazines and movies which have failed because they haven’t been viralled rather than what copyright monopolists would seek us to believe.
Couple of recent examples I can remember of in cinema and sorta documentary are ‘Bubble Gum (2011)‘ and Hayabusa both of which I coincidentally saw at couple of friends houses a year after they have been released. Both these movies I liked and both have been commercial failures. I do think that both the movie and the documentary would have a much better ROI (Return on Investment) if they had used digital delivery and used some sort of donation system to get their money back. There is enough documentation both on the Internets and also some at my blog where the above system is known to work. While the above are just couple of examples I have seen scores of them. As far as books and music are concerned, the less one says, the better, many of the books are constantly either out of reach or out of print especially if you look for Reference Books. Of course to succeed in a two-way public dialog, discourse one of the skills needed obviously is to have the audience in the same standing if you want to succeed in it. Experiments such as Kickstarter and others have proven it time and ever again. I just wish that Nischay had used some more time to dwell on the various issues that how copyright is making it harder for people rather than easier to do things although I do understand the point it’s usually harder when its somebody else’s material and also a talk is ticking. There should be a move to also talk on these issues at some point though, where would be a good question though?
Anyways, going further it has been interesting to see that while people in India have been quick to join the protest against SOPA,PIPA and ACTA when it comes to our own Communications and IT Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal who has been doing a dance of being back and forth on social media and its different brethren. While twitter has had some sort of fight back using the hashtag #IdiotKapilSibal the majority of the blogosphere seems to have either accepted the more interventionist role that Mr. Kapil Sibal is planning or moving towards on behalf of the State or it’s not an important matter or we just don’t know. While I am not a religious follower of Politics it has been an eye-opener to see how both the left and the right political parties and the various parties in the whole spectrum seems ok to carry along as I have neither of them raising voices in Opposition. The only voice I did come to was a token comment by Mr. Varun Gandhi but that also felt just that, tokenism, nothing concrete. This, I feel does not trend well for democracy,different voices and having a space as individuals.
To add to matters, I know of only two different institutions in the whole of India who have been trying to educate and circulate about Privacy issues in the digital Domain in India. The first is of course CIS which has been doing quite a bit, most recently being the Privacy Symposium from which a report is expected soonish (preferably in the public domain) and Privacy work being done at IIIT Delhi both under the heads ‘Security and Privacy Group @ IIIT – Delhi‘ and the slightly more ominous name of Precog (perhaps a take/play on the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report) which has been also sharing some of the concerns via their Privacy page.
I do wish however there would be more independent research and people who do get paid to understand,publish and share how privacy is being undermined by both the State and commercial interests against the public at large.
Incidentally, while scanning the pages it was nice to see a page on the CIS site where they have commented on the cyber-cafe Rules. Incidentally around the same time I was doing a sample survey of people using Mozilla and telling/sharing some of the privacy controls that could be used within the context of the browser, some procedures and add-ons that could make life better. I was shocked both by the complete lack of knowledge of how systems are and could be used to hurt people in various ways. Some incidents/stories I did hear were of Police Inspectors going to some girl/women’s homes (getting the info. from the mobile number given) and then harassing them by asking the reason what they were doing in a cyber-cafe and if they were watching Porn. This was disturbing to me on just so many levels and I do think I did a blog post. I don’t know of a Privacy Watch dog (in the sense of institutions working on Privacy issues and having both the knowledge and the assets to take action against such wrong doings) in Pune and so had to contend with just putting up a blog post. I do know that those women/girls did stop coming to the cafe’s at that point in time. I don’t know these individuals nor was sure even at that time as well as today what to do about it. Add to that what if any expenses and more loss of Privacy of these individuals as well.
It just seems that its not just the authoritarian governments who are subverting people’s rights, it’s just governments who are in power and who are afraid what people might come to know. I don’t think I’m much of an alarmist but would recommend to read George Orwell’s 1984. Also if somebody feels to do more they would have an interesting time if they were to read the works of Naom Chomsky who has done quite a bit of work in this field.