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The Almighty Buck

Hacker Stockholders Unite! 258

MeanGene writes, "Hacker News Network published an article that calls upon the hackers (broadly speaking) to exercise their views through a shareholder proxy to influence big business - for the DVD cause in particular. I like the conclusion: Hack life!"
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Hacker Stockholders Unite!

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  • you know, that whole 'voting' thing whereby the governed supposedly are provided with a means to give consent to those who govern them.... the very fact that this article makes sense points out that democracy is becoming irrelevant. big businesses run the world and rule our lives, government does not. perhaps that is why voting turnout is so low in many places like the United States of America. this new 'shareholder democracy' is fine except for two things: 1. only people with money get to vote. 2. the more money you got, the more important your vote is. oh well i guess the world wasnt that great of a place anyways. cyber-feudalism ho!
  • The general public will think precisely that a bunch of freakish computer outlaws came up with a way to Pirate DVD's and they'd be right because that's exactly what DeCSS will be used for.

    DeCSS is a basic DVD ripper. If a DVD viewer is required for Linux, then write one that reads/decodes/displays the content only, not something that simply extracts the content and dumps it to a file.

    Stop pretending that DeCSS is anything else than a way of getting more Free Stuff.

    Saxo Grammaticus
  • Me too.
    This dvd thing has really got me curious. The problem is that my coding skills are poor at best (no hacking kernel modules or dvd players for me) and I'm no lawyer (tho I can argue w/ the best of them). I've been looking for a way to fight the good fight if you will. I have sent some emails out to various companies (w/ minimal success of course), but this is the kind of thing that I'd like to get behind.
    So what I'm wondering is if anyone is already heading in this direction. Are there people to contact yet? who do I talk to??

    mmmmm, soft underbelly.

  • A fourth and final card that should be played is the fact that more and more movie studios are using linux to render their scenes. It would be good publicity to show a list of movies put out by these major studios that have used beowulf clusters to cheaply render their CG scenes. Basically, show the government and the public that by preventing Linux's progress, the movie studios are biting the hand that feeds them. While it would legally do nothing, it would be a good PR move.

    I see the banners now: "Linux! Good enough to make 'Titanic', but not good enough to see it"


  • Now, EFF, are you listening?

    I seriously doubt it.

    In fact, I'm a little disillusioned with them - I joined up on 6th January, and I haven't heard a peep from them. No acknowledgement, no book, no nothing. My credit card was charged, though.
  • And, the EFF FAQ specifically mentions that they do not send out glossy membership material to keep costs down.

    They were supposed to send me a book.

    Disclaimer: I am a recent (post DeCSS fiasco) EFF supporter to the tune of $100/year.

    Did you get your book?
  • I didn't read the article, but the problem is that in probably most cases hackers don't have enough shares for their vote to matter. The only way it would make a difference is if they went to the board meeting and were very vocal.

    And for god's sake people, stop posting "1st post" comments and get a life!
  • admit "hacking" is cool but when it becomes malicious or starts breaking the laws its time to pull the plug. Granted there will always be "bad" hackers so we need to train "good" hackers to fight off the bad.

    Um, huh? Did you read the article? If you did, you'd know that the term "hacking" was not used in the sense of "system cracker" but in the sense of "creative solution to a problem." In that context, your comment makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
  • For those who know what "hacker" really means it's a very convenient word, but as far as the general public is concerned I'm afraid it's forever tainted and some new bit of slang is needed to replace it as a shortcut way of saying "knowledgeable and resourceful computer enthusiast". I'd suggest "computer ham", since hackers are to computers somewhat as amateur radio operators are to radio, but radio hams, having not so long ago endured being confused by the general public with those idiots with illegal Citizens Band rigs that screwed up everybody's television reception, would probably not be too receptive to that particular compliment, so I am open to sincere and well-intentioned suggestions.
  • ... lines of code maybe. Dollars? heh! not even in my dreams! But who's going to take the initiative? How about the smart ass^H^H^H^H guy who wrote the article and/or CmdrTaco? I'm willing to donate my food money for a month if someone is willing to take the lead and get this thing started.

    I'd love to do it! Yeah! Make checks payable to... er, I'll stop now, but we've gotta make sure this person knows what he/she is talking about and has the necessary investing/hacking experience! :)
  • but I'm not going to risk my life savings on an activist stunt like that. Especially with media corporations, whose value depends on a fickle market.

    Sorry boys.
  • Heh, I thought a cracker was a white guy...
  • And what if we aren't rich enough to have any stock??
  • This is probably the best thinking we've seen so far in this case. It's not motivated by immaturity or rage... It's a new approach. SOmething I think is really needed. I don't necessarily say that his approach is *best*, but people who want to fight the the DVD corporations must do it in a more constructive way. Furthermore, you probably have to play by their rules. They make the rules and they control the people who enforce the rules. If you don't play by them, you're sure to get crushed.
  • Actually it has been made to work. Ever hear or read the text of the speech (from the floor, as a stockholder) that Charleton Heston made at a Time-Warner (I think) shareholders' meeting?

    He was objecting to the content of some rap music that they were publishing (and promoting). Most of his speech simply consisted of reading the lyrics -- making audience and board members alike quite uncomfortable. I seem to recall that Warner very soon thereafter dropped their contracts with that rap group.

    Now, I'm not sure what we could come up with that's quite that dramatic and to the point, but the point is that it can work.
  • I've thought about things like that before- replacing the current DVD standards with open-source standards

    Replacing these schemes would be great, but they are unfortunately plans already in motion. The focus would have to be on the next generation of DVD device, such as a DVD3 player or something along those lines.

    The main problem is the ownership of the previous specs. If the CSS software is as closely held as it currently is in court, then you wouldn't be able to code by region without re-inventing the wheel there. MPEG and MJPEG are owned by expert groups, but specific decoding principals are covered by patent. You'd need to engineer that out. We all remember the problems with QT4 and Sorenson. Apple would love to spread the QuickTime love, but the primary codec is proprietary. And since OpenSource users like the code, they may not use something proprietary. This is a moral or political stand rather than a logical one.

    If we promote hardware-based decoding instead of software based decoding, anybody can use the DVD drive, companies will feel safe in publishing, and compatiblity is assured to a common standard. However, companies will add to the standard, breaking things. There is always this risk, except in cases where a standard is dictated down. XML is completely extensible if you follow its rules. That is a definite standard.

    The philosophy that a modem is a modem is what sets the Linux world apart from the Windows world. Our modems accept AT commands universally. Winmodems won't accept anything until you throw another layer in-between to translate the information. Even then they only work within windows, and not even through DOS.

    To sum, companies want to put out a differentiated product, make it out of as few cheap parts as possible and maximize profit. If you want DVD under Linux, you have to get a more expensive hardware board. The companies are not beholden to a bunch of Linux activists.

  • No amount of hedging is going to help when the market crashes

    And why not, pray tell me? Have you heard of things called "market-neutral portfolios" by any chance?

    and it will inevitably crash

    Do you have a direct line to God, or, perhaps, the planets' alignment told you this?

    if it is day trading, go to Vegas and be honest about what you want!

    There's day-trading and day-trading. Firms like Madoff or D.E.Shaw have been day-trading for a long time and making good (and stable) money off it.

    Because a hedging strategy only works as long as the system remains stable: no major government collapses, no large-scale wars, and no general stock corrections

    This is utter bullshit. There are many, many possible hedging strategies (even assuming you are long stocks to keep things simple). Some will fail in some conditions, some will not.

    To give you a very simple example, let's say I am long Viacom stock class A shares (VIA/A). I am afraid that the market will go down, so I short Viacom class B shares (VIA/B) which generally track VIA/A pretty well. I am now hedged and do not really care about government collapses and market crashes.

    Next time get a clue as to what you are talking about.

  • Why all the negative comments people? Shares are
    a good investment. If you don't invest in shares,
    what are you going to do with your money? All the suggestion is saying is to assign the voting right proxies (which lets face it you wouldn't have used anyway) over to some organisation which will go and use the votes for a good cause. Hey if every slashdot reader who was able invested $10,000 that would probably be a lot of votes. The worst that is likely to happen to you is you make some money on the stockmarket.
  • That's right. There are two basic points I would like to touch on here.

    1) There's a lot of talk here. Evidently there are those who are willing to put forth money, but who do not have the expertise or understanding (or whatever) to get this STARTED.

    2) I don't think any purchase is required. How many of us own stock through an investment firm, like Fidelity? How many of us make 401K contributions through these people? That means that we own some stock and have a voice.

    Investment companies would be stupid to invest in businesses that do not make serious money. I remember asking at a 401K presentation whether we could decide NOT to invest in people like Microsoft. They said, "No." That choice was not given to me. I give them money, tell them what kinds of investment I want and how high of a risk I am willing to take, and they deal with the details.

    That means that they almost certainly invest in media companies. I would have to take a closer look at my list, but I would be really very surprised if people like Disney are not on it.

    Also, tech stocks are the darlings of the market right now, so I have almost certainly invested in companies that can affect this particular case. Again, I will have to check my list, and I intend to do so.

    So, back to my two points: most of us that have a retirement plan and that actually work for a living (and I bet it's many more of us than those who would brand us "hackers" without knowing what that means would give us credit for) own some stock and have some voice. It's a matter of clicking around for a few minutes on 401k.com or wherever you go for that sort of thing in order to find out where your stock is.

    One final note. I have seen over and over again the power of many, many people submitting a petition to get what they want. It is amazing to me how the Internet has made this even more powerful, giving us the ability to unite voices that previously knew nothing of each other.

    With that in mind, it is also amazing to me how NOTHING HAPPENS until one person with the right knowledge gets stuff together. Once that single entity is in place (even a website: "Go here and submit your signature!") then people tend to flock to it.

    Slashdot is a great place. It is even greater because there are enough people here that we can probably find that one person who is able to begin the process spoken of in the article. I can't say that I understood the whole thing. Financial stuff is not my forte, but of all of us here, there is surely someone who is both willing and able to start what could be an avalanche, and I hope he/she will surface soon.

    I see a lot of people here willing to give money and time to the effort. I would be willing to bet that most of them (us) are just waiting for some place to send their regards, their stock, and their vote. I know that's the ONLY thing holding me back right now. I just need someone to start driving the truck, and I'll hop in and give my support in whatever way I can.

    -- Chris Monson
  • But tools for MS-Windows which grabbed the decoded DVD video after decoding by a licensed player existed before DeCSS. And any real DVD pirate would simply be using the same industrial equipment which is already making pirate DVDs. I'm still waiting for a Linux DVD viewer before I buy any DVDs..
  • believe it or not.

    this guys story is amazing, he changed a government with a website http://www.jeffed.com/ [jeffed.com]

    Jeffed.com AGM Agitating Becomes Shareowner.com.au

    Crikey's sister site shareowner.com.au is set to become a new force in corporate Australia and, to a lesser extent, in the UK. Australia has about 6 million small shareholders or about 40 per cent of the adult population which is second only to the US in terms of market penetration. We also have close to the highest number of houses on line. Given the rising tide of shareholder activism globally, surely there is a niche for a web-based shareholder activist site in Australia. The Australian Shareholders Association has about 5000 members paying $60 a year. However, being an association largely run by volunteers and retirees, they are naturally fairly cautious.

    We already have a list of more than 20 corporate situations or practices that we will focus on involving some of the biggest companies and most powerful businessmen in Australia.

    Basically, he gets proxies from ppl and also donated money to buy shares, and then turns up at the AGM and asks scary questions.

    As a journo, he was disgusted at the lack of ethics, government collusion with business and media, and lack of real journalism that he took matters into his own hands, and told it like it was.

    Jeffed.com got more hits that the Labor party site during the Victorian election, changed the coverage of the election and basically helped turn the tide against the sitting Liberal govt (read 'Republican' for our US cousins, Labor is liberal, Liberal is conservative).

  • The thing that everyone seems to be missing, is that this is run similar to a mutual fund. You don't have to buy a full share. If you get a bunch of people to contribute a dollar, say, 10000, and the stock is $50/share, you can buy 200 shares. You can then vote with these 200 shares. The more people put in, the larger the block. It doesn't need to be a large chunk, but the chunk can grow as more and more people are in.
  • I'm definetly intrested. It's just that I live in Finland, which adds some complexity. But I'm definetly intrested.
  • yes there is a way to use credit cards for interpersonal transactions. Check out paypal.com. That should fit the bill.
  • " but really, you can't abjure responsibility by attributing personalities to the opposing sides"

    First of all you should never use the "Personal Responsibility" argument when defending corporations. Corporations were designed and created to abdicate Personal Responsibility". To put it another way people use corporations to shield themselves and to shirk personal responsibility.

    Having said all that. Here is the reality of the situation. Corporations bribe politicians to make otherwise innocent conduct illegal. Then when said conduct occures the corporation calls on their bought governments to jail the people who break the brand spanking new law. Remember this what jonathan did was not illegal a couple of years ago. It became illegal when the DMCA was passed. As long as corporations are able to foist draconian laws upon an unsuspecting public and jail those who would dare to disobey them they remain evil.

    Jack Valenti needs to take some Personal Responsibility for jailing a 16 year old so he can make a few extra dollars.
  • I think the author of this article went a little bit overboard, and the whole "hack the universe" thing won't work. But he did bring up a good point in that we need to organize a boycott

    I'm boycotting seeing any movies. My roomate and my best friend are as well. I told my sister about it, and she told one of her friends about it, and now both of them are boycotting seeing any movies by these companies.

    So my big question is: has anyone organized a boycott?I would love a website or some other organization where I can register as boycotting with them. As an added bonus, this organization could keep me up to date on things I might like to boycott or fight, and organize for those things as well.

    How about it? Anyone up to it?

    P.S. My sister thinks that with the way movies work, if you go to a dollar theater, all of the money goes to the theater, and none of it to the movie companies. That way, you can boycott the companies without giving up movies. Is this true? Does anyone know?

  • Second, I think the multi-billion dollar ipo linux company's need to put their muscle into this conflict, not just make a few token donations to the EFF. Big businesses have no problem coercing people who threaten their interests. With Red Hat and VA technically being big businesses (who have something at stake if we can't have dvd with our linux) they should do everything barring murder to force the movie companys to stand down. Though it's not likely it'll happen, it would be cool if Bob Young did a hostile takover of movie studio then fired the board of directors, just to make a point.

    I wish there were a Linux hardware manufacturing company. Just imagine all the things we could do if someone out there had a couple good engineers, a business-savvy CEO (not a programmer or engineer who founded the company), and a license to use, say, one of IBM's fabs.

    We could design our own Linux BIOS or chipset. License a BIOS from AMI and/or a chipset from VIA, then customize it from there. If it ends up requiring an NDA, so be it. But it would be monsterously useful to have Linux-friendly chipsets and BIOSes. I know there's an open source BIOS project, but it seems dead, and they probably have no idea how to manufacture a BIOS chip (nor the money to have someone else manufacture it).

    We could design our own SCSI host adapter. License the chips from LSI Logic (formerly Symbios Logic, formerly NCR), and make it the best supported SCSI host adapter in Linux, which shouldn't be too hard, considering that you've got access to the microcode.

    Why not manufacture cheap modems or printers that use software drivers under Linux? They'd be insanely cheap to manufacture, and I'm sure someone out there would buy them. You can get a 400 MHz CPU for less than $75 today, so it wouldn't really be such a drain.

    And DVD decoder cards surely wouldn't be a problem. Just pay the license fee for the specs, write a binary driver, and manufacture a few thousand of the decoder cards. Instant DVD under Linux. Of course, it wouldn't be integrated into the kernel, but it's no different than those binary video card drivers for XF86.

    I'm really starting to get sick of these millionaires and billionaires doing absolutely nothing for the Linux community. We could be accomplishing stuff here.

    Like I alluded to before, I'm not even so interested in bleeding-edge 1.5 GHz processors and designing our own SCSI chipset... what we should be doing is making generic cards that will run under Linux, with a "Designed for Linux" seal. Imagine if everything possible was open, with a minimum of NDAs. I bet it could happen.
  • The Linux Media Labs card looks interesting, but it costs $410. Are they crazy? I could buy a new 650 MHz Athlon processor, Asus motherboard, and have enough money left over for shipping.

    Four hundred dollars...

    Let's at least be realistic here. Anybody making Linux-friendly hardware that isn't priced outside of mere mortals' budgets?
  • There will be a site set up at www.BuyTheMPAA.org very soon in an attempt to organize an effort towards Dr.Z's solution. We are waiting for the zone update to go through, but the site currently has content and will include a mailing list. The mailing list is also in the process of being set up but the database will be ready before the site goes live. As soon as you can get to the site, you can sign up for the list. For more info, contact BuyTheMPAA@nolab.org [mailto]
  • As shown by the Red Hat IPO. Remember how E-Trade locked people who were invited into the Red Hat IPO out, because they "didn't have sufficient stock holdings in other companies" or "not sufficient trading experience". Then again, most of the people who would have wanted to get Red Hat are people whose professions are primarily computer work, and usually don't have the time for stock trading.

    (Hackernews Server is /.'ed, so I can't see the article).
  • They still get the cash - even 'dollar' theatres have to pay to rent the films from the studio.
  • what's wrong with murder? :-D

    void recursion (void)
    while(1) printf ("infinite loop");
    if (true) printf ("Stupid sig quote");
  • The article has a valid point about baing able to attend stockholders meetings and having your say. Doing that may even persuade others to vote the same as you. But aside from the problem mentioned already in some other post, mainly that most stock doesn't allow you to vote, one has to appreciate the Largeness of some of these companies. I did the math on our favourite orge Micro$oft around the time when there where speculations about what the court could do if they are found guilty of abusing their monoopoly. One of the coices was splitting and selling off some parts of M$ and i thought it would be extremely nifty if the community of free code, linux etc users got together and rounded up enough money to buy the M$-spinoff. The problem is that every person on this planet would have to cough up $1000 to buy micro$oft... let that sink in. Now admittedly most of the companies we are talking about are not as big as M$ and instead of buying the whole our aim would only be a significant vote, say 1%-5%. However we are also very few compared to the entire population of the earth so that it's up to several thousands of dollars per capita again. The idea of the community influencing BB by becoming stockholders is super nifty but even if we all pulled together and got millions of dollars (perhaps even tens of millions) that would only byu us 0.1% of any given Big Corp. That we'd like to influence. The reasonable alternative would be to start an investment fund with long term objectives. Maybe in 20 years time we'd have enough money to fullfill our dreams.
  • I like the plan, and am willing to put $$ where
    my keyboard is.

    I would be willing to contribute $100 up front
    and $10/month for an "investment club". THat club would pursue the ends described in this article.
    (1) Collect proxies for use at board meetings
    (2) Raise Open Source/Free Trade/Customer rights

    And we'd probably make some money while we're at it. IIRC, this has been (somewhat) successful with Tobacco companies.

    Unfortunately, I'm not willing to organize such an effort. However, if enough people put $$ pledges up, perhaps someone will be motivated to make the next step happen.

    Yes, $100 & 10/mo are pitifully small amounts - I think however that many people can afford a small amount, and are more effective than a few big players.

  • ...On the main page, there were nine stories dealing with internet crime, and two about the MPAA lawsuit against the CSS crack, and none covering what I would expect from a "true" Hacker (tm) site; namely, programming tips, new compilers, clever tricks and solutions, Linux news...

    ...no-one would ever believe that such a site is about harmless "hacking".

    No. They'd probably believe that, like Slashdot, this site concerns itself with issues important to prgrammers, like privacy and software patents. How many such stories have been posted here? It's a NEWS site, not a tips/howto site.

    If you're going to criticize the site, try to provide some valid criticism. They have a "Defaced Pages Archive". I think its a far better indicator of the mentality of those behind HNN than the stories they post.

  • In general I'd have to agree with the author's assessment of /. user posts. I read many of them expecting to broaden my view of the DeCSS situation. Instead I found less than 1% quality posts.

  • Everyone works at different rates and peoiple come around to things at different times. One sudden buy may get noticed. A handful may slip in under the RADAR. This increases transaction cost but may be worth it. What about folks who come in "late" to the thing?

    The hack is do it all legally and without any more warning than absolutely necessary. And if they still do the wrong thing? Well, they can get get all their stock dumped at once -- that makes the value go DOWN (though hackerdom would lose $ in that). But remember as a public company they don't care about the Right Thing or Wrong Thing so much as 'Keep the investors happy.' If the investors are only happy with The Right Thing, what are they gonna do? Yep. Sure, it's pandering. Why not make 'em pander to *us*?

    Maybe geeks will take over the world, one stock at a time.
  • What would really kick ass in the open hardware department would be open hardware laptop components. I simply can't think of anything cooler than going to your local Fry's and getting the stuff to build your own laptop.
  • "The player program does not read the raw data off the CD and dump it in a file"

    Yes it does, on Linux at least. Remember that devices are treated as files; the cd player just dumps it to /dev/dsp.

  • I've thought about things like that before- replacing the current DVD standards with open-source standards.

    However, the problem is: Why would companies want to change over? To them, the current DVD system is fine; ours would only provide advantages to us, not to them.

    On the other hand, if we were to add in several features lacking in current DVDs, it may be possible... eventually. But replacing standards takes a long time.

  • super geek? I don't know I think hacker is OK perhaps if we describe ourselves to the media it should be 'computer enthusiast'.
    I am me.
    Lets just be carefull if talking to outsiders, sometimes 'gushing' out a statement causes the mis-understandings. Think on how it could be taken badly and explain in clear terms.
    Now the best way to get that clear idea across is to Get Involved so that some shareholder meetings get livend up :)

    cya, Andrew...

  • "What we need is someone who understands profoundly both worlds. Actually, we'd need a lot of these someones. "
    Actually just a couple, means we would need to trust them a bit, but we are good at asking questions and putting people under the microscope so I don't see that as un-workable.

    cya, Andrew...

  • Any info that would define such a structure would be helpfull.
    The biggest hassle I see is that people will want to dynamicly change their investment level or 'not participate' in an action they don't agree with.
    Can you see a way that people can pony up some money, take some action, then pull the money out again?
    There is also the legal side, we need to have each person as a shareholder yet some may be in different countries. What structure supports this?

    cya, Andrew...

  • OK I have read the article and checked out Motley Fools guide on starting a group.
    I would be more than glad to put some (modest) money forward for this.
    1. I live in Australia, can someone take my money by credit card?
    2. What about tax? Presumably there is a risk of making money, any way to avoid paperwork?
    3. As I only trust anarchistic forums like slashdot, can it be an Ethical Slash Group?

    I would like to see this implemented and a special slashdot area for its running.

    cya, Andrew...

  • Ok thats great, please email me and I'll add your name to the list of those willing to go at it.

    cya, Andrew...

  • People are comitting
    It is now 23:00 for me in Oz so am off to bed. If anyone else has collected details of those wishing to participate, please let me know.
    Also there have been several saying they can organise. Could those that have not contacted me yet please do so and we can pool the names into a list and get going.
    I will contact those involved before passing the info on so don't worry about getting spammed :)
    see you all in about 10 hours...

    cya, Andrew...

  • That discusses our discussion, there are so many comments here that it is hard to see how many are willing to put money in, even if it is only a small amount.
    Please read through and if willing let me know of your commitmant. [xoom.com]
    I am also seeking out what the FAQ's are and will put a page of them up.
    As has been stressed elsewhere a fast action is important by a lot of people before things really change for the worse.
    you dont need to commit a lot of money, the idea is a lot of shareholders


    cya, Andrew...

  • agree with 1. not 2.
    The courts have frequently upheld the right to reverse engineering.
    • In the case of DVD's its to access purchesed data in a scrambled format.
    • In the case of Virtual Game Station, they ripped off the whole machine

    If the courts determine that the later is ok [connectix.com]? Then by what reason do we have to put up with the MPAA?

    cya, Andrew...

  • I think this needs to be done.
    It is legal, not breaking any laws
    It is ultimately for the good of each target company.
    It does not require a very large amount of money from any one person.
    It will help the comunity by opening up standards.
    Open standards means more jobs for community coders.

    If you read the articles and find fault then point *that* out.

    cya, Andrew...

  • And yet here we are reading this and wanting to get some Openness. Yes / No
    If yes then all it takes is one person to start, we pool some money in and vote on where and how to use it. Call me niave but I think we can get enough like minded people that we CAN make a difference.
    It would not be that hard to think of secure ways of handling this and if you violently object to a direction taken you can always pull (whats left + what you gained) back out. Since its not a huge amount of money to risk we could just direct deposit it to a somewhat public relavent persons bank account.
    This is an opourtunity to do something. Lets not let apathy kill us this time and seal the fate against us little guys.
    The Time Has Come, let Our Voice Be Heard

    cya, Andrew...

  • Although many are members of Linux user groups, I think there are a lot of people that would support this outside of that context. I really think that slashdot is the place to try to drum up this sort of support (in spite of the Trolls here) as most interested in this do regularly check here.
    The important thing is not to give up.
    hang in,, WE WILL WIN

    cya, Andrew...

  • You make good points and present them well.
    If this was about circumventing copy protection for cable TV broadcast* I'd agree completely.
    BUT this is a purchased disk!! Now I am not saying that distributing copies is right. I am saying that Fair Use is the issue and the way the MPAA is using the law is WRONG.
    Piracy is a seperate issue and piracy is wrong.
    Lets force some Ethics back into business and adjust our response to those who do pirate instead of just ignoring them. Tell your pirate friends it is wrong to pirate and tell the MPAA to give us fair use.

    cya, Andrew...
    *- I think the distinction between physical and broadcast needs to be identified more as the probable intent of the DMCA was to stop intercepting copyright material. IANAL

  • Be it democracy, corporatisim even comunisim.
    It comes down to those who care enough to decide to do something. I don't believe the are any limits to what can be done if it is decided on by people that care.
    Yes more money has an effect. You have to care to put the money on the line. Suits make money because they care about money.
    It is a little sad that greedy people tend to care more about their money than those who care about what is right
    If you care then Email me, already one Linux consultancy has and is offering to start this off.

    It is not enough just to think. YOU have to DO ; after all this is about Your Future.
    Make it work, Andrew....
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Since I'm a shareholder, I'd already written a letter to Sony Corp. expressing my deep concern for the issues at stake, the mistreatment of Norwegian youth, boycott of Columbia-Tristar pictures, etc. etc., and asking what the official Sony position is. I'm still waiting for a reply, but hopefully this wakes someone up in the company. Two hints: 1) If you're serious about doing this sort of thing, you should open an account with Firstrade [firstrade.com]. To buy a share in a company costs $7, and to get the stock certificate in your name costs $7 there, so your invitation to the shareholder's meeting only comes out to $14 in commissions, plus the actual cost of the shares. This is the cheapest way to become a registered shareholder that I've seen. 2) You can always lie to the company and claim your shares are held "in street name" with your broker. AFAIK, there's no way they can reasonably check if you actually do own shares this way. You won't get invited to the meetings, but you can write more effective nastygrams to the companies' investor relations departments.
  • Who could run this in such a manner as to make it possible for me to participate?

    The Electronic Frontiers Foundation [eff.org]?
  • Plus you would have to have voting stock... most common shares are non-voting these days.
  • Oh yeah? How about this one:

    Nosey Parker
    Nosey Narker
    Posey Narker
    Parker Posey.
  • "SCREW YOU Big Business! I'm going to copy and distribute as many DVDs as I like now, hahahahaha!"

    You're another one who just doesn't fucking get it do you?

    DeCSS isn't needed to copy DVDs. I never was needed for that. If you can read the data, you can copy the data.

    If I have written on a note in my desk "XXDX11212220222002341" You may have no idea what that means, but you can still copy it as many times as you like. DeCSS is useless for piracy. Having a 4 foot long fork doesn't help you eat the world's largest bowl of soup.

    Remember those old 3.5" floppies that had holes punched in the media that would cause failures if you tried to sequentially copy them?

    People wrote programs that copied around those missing sectors, problem solved.

    The DeCSS genie is out of the bottle. I even have a copy of the source. It's too late. That fight is over.

    The author has a good point, next month I'm going to begin the stock investment phase of my retirement planning. I just may throw a share or two into one of these companies just so that I can show up at a stockholder meeting.

  • Despite what any linux zealots might like to think, the case is being made purely against the production of software that is "primarily designed for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls the access to a work"

    Which is why I think we should burn a DVD (with CSS protection) and use CSS in other areas, so we can sue all the DVD manufacturers for making devices that are primarily designed for the the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls the access to our work. If all DVD players, including the DVD CCA licensed ones, become violators, then I'm sure DVD CCA will be willing to make a deal.

    Hack law by realizing that DVD CCA has no exclusive claim to CSS. It's not patented.

  • I think a coordinated effort of DDoS attacks, repeatedly striking the same corporations' sites by people who do it and then fess up afterwards (only to have the site attacked by the next person in line the next day), might have a far more profound effect.

    Ah, terrorism. The last refuge of the truly desperate. It might pay off with a little short-term satisfaction, but it doesn't really help. It just gets people to unify against the terrorists. Aren't the Evil Corporations enough of an enemy without giving them a bunch of powerful allies (e.g. the general public, the FBI, etc.)?

  • As soon as you break the rules, you forfeit all rights

    I do? I think that this is exactly what the authoritarian law-and-order types want you to believe. Break any rule and you become less than human, not worthy of any rights.

    As in: "This guy portscanned a machine on the network! He should go to prison for five years and be forbidden to work with computers for the rest of his life. What do you mean it's too harsh? He's a hacker, vermin that must be eliminated. Be thankful we don't shoot him on the spot!"

    I think you are wrong in a very basic way.

  • 1) How many people are on the net?
    2) How many people read slashdot?
    3) How many people could donate $100?

    Multiply either 1*3*100 or 2*3*100 and see what sort of numbers you come up with. If Folks use what they would have spent on their next few DVDs (price varrying) then we can actually pick up quite a few shares.
  • no it doesn't.
    All CD players do is tell the CDplayer to start playing the CD. So long as the CD player is connected to the soundcard, it will play without linux even know that a soundcard exists.

    This is why the CDplayer/DVDplayer analogy falls down however...the DVDplayer needs to decode the data whereas the CDplayer only needs a computer to start it.

    Could mr AC be a MPAA troll?
  • "All CD players do is tell the CDplayer to start playing the CD. So long as the CD player is connected to the soundcard, it will play without linux even know that a soundcard exists"

    All CD player programs do is tell the CD player machine....
  • Perhaps I phrased it poorly. My point was not about whether some individual hedging strategy will result in financial security for a few individuals, but whether any hedging strategy can provide safety for anyone who wants it.

    Of course some people will always make money. That doesn't mean that their strategy was foolproof, it means that their strategy coincided with chance market fluctuations. They made a gamble and won; it happens at the horse races all the time.

    So many people in the financial world talk about hedging to "remove risk" or "reduce risk" when they're really talking about shifting risk to someone else. When you save your own ass by shorting before a crash, it's at the expense of making the crash doubly worse for someone else.

    The truth is that the risk has been moved from betting on individual stocks to betting on hedging strategies. Everyone is doing it, leaving the exact same situation as before sophisticated mathematical hedging strategies came out.

    The market will eventually go down. A major downward correction is overdue. Do I have a crystal ball? Of course not, it is a well known fact that stocks in general are overvalued, that their prices are inflated by an excess of capital in the system. I suppose it is possible that instead of stock prices crashing the whole thing will be solved by inflation, but the net result is the same: people don't have the money they think they have, and people who buy in now to stay will lose.

    Of course, you could always weasel out of it by calling "getting out" "investing in currency" or some such thing. The best way to short a whole market you know is going down is to get out and stay out until it starts making sense again. If people do this in a considered, rational way instead of waiting for the first frightening downward hickup as an excuse to dump everything and run, we might have a true correction and avoid a drastic crash. The damage has already been done, some people are going to lose, it can be done thoughtfully and the system as a whole will survive, or it can be done thoughtlessly, and goverments will be destabilized, banks will be broken, and chaos will result.
  • No amount of hedging is going to help when the market crashes, and it will inevitably crash. Stocks are grossly overvalued, so they must come down across the board, and when they do, everyone invested in the stock market is going to lose money, and some will lose a lot. A lot of retirement plans are going to come up as around half of what people thought they had squirreled away. If your strategy isn't day-trade gambling, this is the worst possible time to invest (and if it is day trading, go to Vegas and be honest about what you want!).

    Do you remember the LTCM fiasco? (LTCM = Long Term Crisis^H^H^H^H^H^HCapital Management) They were the perfect hedgers, leveraged to an insane degree and diversified beyond reproach: they nearly brought down the whole shebang (and probably would have, except for a multi-billion-dollar government bailout).

    Why? Because a hedging strategy only works as long as the system remains stable: no major government collapses, no large-scale wars, and no general stock corrections. Since a general downward correction is due, no hedging strategy is valid even in the short term. Since the world in general is not stable, no hedging strategy is ever valid in the long term.
  • Ah, but they make money from the benefits of doing these things quietly, not from loudly announcing their future intention of doing so.

    (besides, treating children badly will never arouse public uproar like killing cute little fuzzy baby seals; after all, the seals would otherwise expect a perfectly comfortable life through to adulthood whereas the children are as likely as not to fall victim to some predator)
  • > The only way it would work is if a large number of people bought one share each, attended the shareholders' meeting personally, and raised hell. If you buy a large block of the company's stock, you raise its price -- and that is almost tacit endorsement of their behavior.

    If you're concerned about losing your savings over this, or worse, of endorsing the bad guys policy by driving their share price up, how about this simple trick:

    Use two brokerages!

    At one of them, you buy the stock, and proxy it to the advocacy group. And at the other, you short it! Result: voting rights, but no risk exposition! If the stock tanks, you lose on the shares you bough, but you win it back on those that you shorted. And vice versa. Moreover, the transaction doesn't cause any extra demand (you buy and sell the same amount of shares), hence it should not favorably influence the price either...

  • I think that if shareholders and people who legally have bought property can be circumvented by large, soulless, corporations, we've proved something here. This isn't about capitalism anymore, this is about tyranny. A small group of very powerful people who control the way you live whether you are legally entitled to do something or not. (Or worse yet, change the laws to suit their whims, knowing that the "common people" can't stop them.)

    Heh, I think I'll start calling it "the New Feudalism."

  • For those that didn't read the article, the idea isn't that a group of hackers all crash the big party, but a large group of hackers pool their resources. You aren't giving away your life savings, each person wouldn't even individually have to spend that much. Also, you aren't investing in these various Big Business companies for the long term. The trust only needs to buy the stock a short while before the meeting to be able to vote. I'm sure we could find some trustworthy group of people, which includes someone with a good knowledge of the stock market, to run something like this. When the stock isn't in a particular BB it can be invested like a mutual fund, so that chances are you will actually make money off of this. If only 100 or so people committed themselves, with around 500 dollars each, that would give us 50,000 dollars, enough to buy a large enough block to be heard. And I don't think it's unrealistic to think if this is well organized we could get a good deal more than that
  • ...hackers do what they do because of a profound understanding of computers, like really good writers can make up words and expressions because of a profound understanding of the language. Also, there's a one on one relantionship between a hacker and the computer. It doesn't depend on anything and anyone else.

    For this idea to work we would have to understand law and BB as well as we understand the computer, and most of us would think that really boring. Sure, we can hire lawyers, but then we'd have a grasp on "their world" just as good as the one they have on ours when they hire us - and that would be laughable.

    What we need is someone who understands profoundly both worlds. Actually, we'd need a lot of these someones.

  • The problem with that is, I think we can assume Jon Johansen and company either don't know beans about writing an MPEG2 player, or they just didn't want to muss with it. They were working to get the file into standard MPEG2 format, so that somebody else could figure out how to play it; there's no practical way to DO that except to dump it to a disc (unless you have 10 gigs of RAM).

    Now that the codebase is there, there IS work being done to make a "drop in the disc, hit play and go" player, check out XVideo on freshmeat. Sadly, it doesn't seem to work properly just yet, and more sadly it has to be binary only because of all this legal bullshit.

    Nevertheless, I'm only going to say this once: DeCSS has NOTHING to do with piracy, it's USELESS to pirates, and the ONLY reason it exists is to play movies. Period. No other purpose. End of story. End of post.

  • Instead of concentrating funds to try and influence EXISTING companies, how about concentrating funds to build NEW companies or organizations (perhaps nonprofit?) which are specifically chartered to develop alternatives to the technologies which we dislike?

    For instance, would it be possible to create a foundation which would design, manufacturer & sell at cost, players & disks using DVD-technology (or flourescence, whatever the latest stuff is) but unencrypted?

    How much would it cost to set up something like this, esp. if they would also accept & organize the efforts of "free" labor from interested people all over the world?

    Basically, my thought is that a lot of these big companies can dictate terms to the marketplace because they're the only ones which have the hardware/manufacturing facilities. We've got a lot of brainpower on the net, who have shown that they love tough problems, but there's no way to turn all that brainpower into real "products".

    Might it be more cost effective to focus our donations (kind of like a voluntary "tax") into an organization which would organize the resources necessary to make our "desired" products a reality? If it was explicitly non-profit (only charged at-cost for its products), was seeded/subsidized by regular donations from activism, and took proper advantage of the brainpower of people willing to contribute, I'm sure that foundations like that could become a potent economic force!
  • The FSF is limited by its name - Free _Software_ Foundation. I was talking about a company/organization which could actually produce HARDWARE implementations which directly challenge the hold that large consumer electronics giants have over the consuming marketplace - like unencrypted DVD players, telephones with strong encryption built in, etc.
  • That's why I was wondering whether it would be feasible to use the donations that everybody seems to be so eager to offer as seed money, and take advantage of the free labor from those people who can't give donations, to create a company or non-profit organization whose charter is to CREATE those difficult-to-produce hardware ideas & sell them at cost (so that once the organization was rolling, it would fund itself aside from the startup costs).

    As part of the goals of the charter, would be to establish defacto open hardware (and related software) standards free of intellectual encumbrances from companies whose sole purpose is profit.
  • Think of it as a trust fund with the sole purpose of getting leverage, it's pretty slick. I'd happily toss a hundred bucks into the pot in spite of my poorly-fed student status. A few hundred hundred-buckses, and we might be able to play ball.

    However, I never met a man I trusted. Not on the 'net, anyhow. Nor has anyone else with a grain of sense. Who could run this in such a manner as to make it possible for me to participate?

    By me? Nope, I'm Canadian, and nobody else will trust me by dint of my flapping head and beady eyes.

    By some distinguished /.er who might be the hot grits troll in disguise?

    By Andover itself? I don't know what their corporate mandate is, but probably not this.

    By a trust organization or shell corporation formed by the charter Slashdot guys? We know where they live, so they're trustworthy. Probably.

    Well, you tell me. Youse guys are the smart ones.

  • I think that the movie industries refusal to allow a Linux DVD player shows monopolistic tendencies or a cartel ... ?
  • File this under the "better to light a candle than curse the darkness" category.

    Seriously...if someone can set this up, I'll gladly send in a dollar and if it is legal, they can keep $0.99 for themselves and use the $0.01 to but that fraction of a proxy of a share of stock.

    - JoeShmoe

    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
  • If such an "Investment Club" was funded by enough people (say, half of /.s readers), each of them could risk a non-substantial amount of cash (never actually being in danger of losing all of it).

    I do think the EFF would be fit for organizing this, especially things like finding out which BB company will be next to have their stockholders meeting and whether they could be influenced, then working out an agenda (possibly even with the help of /.) and, finally, actually sending someone over to bodily represent the cause.

    I do not think this is something to be accomplished only with money donated to the EFF non-"special purpose".
    The project needs A Lot Of Money (the more money it gets, the more influence and media attraction it will have) that stays there for some time, possibly generating good revenues or, more probably, as profit is not its main target, some losses (but remember: there is always risk in stock trading, and we are talking about large, established companies -> low risk stock).

    Many of us each investing some in an "Investment Club" is what piles up to MUCH.
    Risk would be shared, profit possible, and whoever wants to stop participating is free to do so.

    Im looking forward to that kind of project.


  • The idea is not to "hurt" the companies. If a significant people put forward a little money to invest, then those people have a say at shareholders meetings. Despite popular beliefs, public corporations are ultimately accountable to their shareholders, not the Big Suits. I think it's a great idea, and would contribute $100 or so, if there was some sort of central organization. Perhaps the EFF could run it?
  • D'oh!

    Your post is living proof that it DOES work!

    The 'hack' of the shareholder's meeting got enough coverage in the Media that you (and I) remember it, for next to no investment on the behalf of the protesters, which is EXACTLY what the article suggested! All the negative press coverage probably knocked a few million off thier share price too...

    - Andy R.

  • In response to BOTH of your posts, you're wrong.

    You don't have to have a large block of stock to be heard. All you need is one share. All shareholders are ostensibly treated equally at the meetings. The chairman may decide to expedite matters, if (s)he doesn't like what you have to say, but you are still entitled to speak.

    IRT the second comment...(you would have to have voting stock): you don't need voting stock. If you are a shareholder, you are entitled to speak.

    - - - -

  • Forget stock purchases. The only way it would work is if a large number of people bought one share each, attended the shareholders' meeting personally, and raised hell. If you buy a large block of the company's stock, you raise its price -- and that is almost tacit endorsement of their behavior.

    I think civil disobedience is the only way to honestly protest this. I think a coordinated effort of DDoS attacks, repeatedly striking the same corporations' sites by people who do it and then fess up afterwards (only to have the site attacked by the next person in line the next day), might have a far more profound effect. The main reason doing it this way might be more effective (as opposed to a more conventional way such as through the legal system) is that if you want to protest, you should stick to the forum you know best. Secondly, censorship of this nature is information warfare, and information warfare should be fought by information.

    I am in no way advocating such behavior. I do feel it would be effective, but that is far different from advocating it. In fact, this entire post is not my opinion at all.
  • I think civil disobedience is the only way to honestly protest this. I think a coordinated effort of DDoS attacks, repeatedly striking the same corporations' sites by people who do it and then fess up afterwards (only to have the site attacked by the next person in line the next day), might have a far more profound effect.
    Excuse me? And what planet exactly are you from?
    I'm sure that what you propose would lead to an even greater crackdown, yet more headlines about "those evil hackers" and the end result would be the direct inverse of what everyone (here) wants.

    Intelligent discussion from shareholders is the best way to bring people around. No trolls. No flaming. No attacks on company systems. No half-arsed boycotts. Oooh! A bunch of geeks are boycotting DVDs - Oooh! We're so scared!! Good job there are billions of people who have never even heard of slashdot then, isn't it...
    You have to play these people at their own game, and if that involves buying shares and intelligently discussing this in a calm civilized manner with other shareholders at a business meeting, then this is what has to be done...
  • by asb ( 1909 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2000 @11:38PM (#1269576) Homepage

    Environmentalists have been doing this for some time now. They buy one share of a company whose environment policy needs adjusting and then get to say what they think in the shareholders meeting. I do not know whether they have had any success or not but at least they get the chance to speak.

    And media usually is interested in what they have to say.

  • by xyzzy ( 10685 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @05:31AM (#1269577) Homepage
    It's not true that most shares are non-voting. Quite the opposite, in fact -- I get proxies all the time for companies I own stock in. I've even been to a (albeit regional) AT&T shareholder's meeting that I was invited to because I own 5 shares of AT&T that I was given by my Grandmother 10 years ago.

    And, speaking of AT&T, I voted on ballot issues that were on the annual ballot that had been brought forth by shareholders holding POLITE---- letter to the Fidelity fund managers that hold blocks of stock and urge them to put pressure on the companies and support your issues.

    But it will be an uphill battle...!
  • by Ice Tiger ( 10883 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @04:43AM (#1269578)
    The EFF was set up to fight encroachments into our freedon on the net. This can be one of thier tools that they cn use. This has an advantage in that the EFF is established and trusted and works towards these goals anyway so action can be coordinated.
  • by EWillieL ( 15339 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2000 @11:38PM (#1269579)
    C'mon. Keep your life savings. What Dr. Z is suggesting is that if each person invest a VERY SMALL amount (say, buy one share at market) and proxy it to the advocacy group, the combined shares will represent a very vocal interest in the company stridently expressing our views at each and every shareholder meeting. It's really quite brilliant! As Queen once suggested, "fight from the inside!"
  • by Kaa ( 21510 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @05:47AM (#1269580) Homepage
    The DeCSS fiasco really overstepped the mark, broke the rules, and people are now paying for it.

    First of all, nobody is paying for it (yet). Spending half a day being questioned by police is unpleasant, but hardly earth-shattering. And I know of no (non-moral) harm to anybody in the US.

    Second, playing by the rules is fine as long as the opposition does not change them as the game goes along, and this is exactly what has happened. Allow me to recap.

    Some time ago (late 60s?) the Congress adopted a copyright law that tried to set a balance between the copyright holders and the users. Specifically, users were given "fair use" rights, but these rights were offset by harsh penalties for "non-fair" use of copyrighted works. Fine. Everybody got used to this state of affairs and now considers it "natural".

    Fast-forward to the end of the 90s. DMCA comes in and, basically, takes away fair use. Make no mistake, that is the real thrust of DMCA. If the copyright holder bothers to put in any device to control access to the copyrighted work, you fair-use rights go out of the window. Yes, you can still make copies for personal use, but, unfortunately, it so happens that it is illegal to access the material in order to make copies. Oops. Fair use? What fair use? That all theft and highway robbery!

    Did you notice how the old balance of fair use versus harsh penalties just lost one whole side? Do you still want to be a good boy and say "well, if that's the rules, so that's the rules"?

    Now, DMCA is (IMHO) a baaaad law. The way bad laws are overturned is by courts throwing them out. The courts throw them out by hearing cases that fall under this law. Clearly it's very important for the "right" sort of case to be the test case for the law. I think that the DeCSS case is not that bad for this purpose, given that there is actually a legitimate purpose for DeCSS.

    I think our goal should be overturning of DMCA, because even if the DeCSS issue goes away (e.g. the case is dropped), DMCA is still there and is still hanging over any attempt to get "normal" access to copyrighted works.

    By the way, it would help if somebody did produce a Linux DVD player based on DeCSS code. I think that the fact the code runs only under Windows does hurt the credibility of the defence a lot.

  • by tecnodude ( 31328 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @01:16AM (#1269581)
    First lets recap on who controls the MPAA, from their website http://www.mpaa.org/about/ [mpaa.org] it's controlled by:

    Walt Disney Company;
    Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.;
    Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.;
    Paramount Pictures Corporation;
    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.;
    Universal Studios, Inc.; and
    Warner Bros.

    After looking at a few of their stock prices and outstanding shares it seems the best effort would be applied by buying MGM stock. They're trading at 22.5 dollars a share with 150,902,000 shares outstanding. How many shares do we want and how much support can we get? Lets say we get 10,000 shares bought with this money. That's only .00006% of the company. How much influence would that have? Granted I'm looking at this from the standpoint of influencing the company rather then having a voice at a shareholders meeting. I suppose it would have no real effect other then a publicity stunt. If we could get 1 percent of the company that might have some major impact. But that would take 1,509,020 shares of stock, or contributions equaling 33,952,950.

    If it's a go, I'll contribute a few shares but I don't expect much more then a very loud voice at a shareholders meeting.
  • by CyberDong ( 137370 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2000 @11:46PM (#1269582)
    No one is going to give their "good" money for some silly activist stunt like this.

    I have to disagree. What if it were done through the EFF [eff.org] or some such? They're a respected organization to which people don't seem to mind giving money. They could start a fund specifically for such actions. And as pointed out in the article referenced, once a point was made, the shares could be liquidated with the proceeds being put towards the next cause.

    The idea is a good one. If they put say 1% of their donations into such a pool, and never invested more than 50% of what was there, they could always be assured of having some cash handy for the next cause. By not investing the entire amount, they could deal with the inevitable losses due to stock dropping if they're successful.

    - - - -

  • by DamNewbe ( 149441 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @05:00AM (#1269583)
    I see just one major problem with the idea, great as it is: the MPAA, which is the major force behind the lawsuit, is not a 'BB' - it has no stock to be voted, and a request from any SINGLE one of its members would most likely not have the clout to get them to stop. Hackers of the world would need to control a notable percentage of stock in THE MAJORITY of the several dozen major motion picture 'BB's that support the MPAA, and that, unfortunately, is very unlikely to happen.

    One possible alternative is a media campaign, and to that effect, etoy [toywar.com] might take an interest in helping, as they already have an established agent base in the thousands.

    "I am not responsible for the opinions of my peers"
  • by TheDullBlade ( 28998 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @12:30AM (#1269584)
    ...I wonder if we might not see companies behaving unethically (or at least unpopularly) in the hopes of driving up their stock price.

    Things might get a little wierd when you start buying stock in companies you're opposed to.

    "Last week, Nil Ethicus Mercantile announced its new plan to club baby seals (using frozen dolphins and beluga whales to cut down on club costs) for the meat of their tongues, to be included in the recipe of an undisclosed school cafeteria supplier's luncheon meat. This week, the value of their shares shot up an amazing 400% as GreenPeace members bought up 60% of their stock. Recognizing the clear market support, several other companies have announced their intent to take up the plan NEM abruptly dropped under its new ownership."
  • by ronfar ( 52216 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @05:03AM (#1269585) Journal

    Okay, your sad story has encouraged me to show you how I see the people behind the faceless corporations...

    Jack Valenti drew the curtains closed in the DVD CCA and MPAA war room. He smiled that Congress charming smile he was known to use to get his way on Capitol Hill. "So, is everyone clear on what we're doing and why we're doing it?"

    A naive young executive spoke up, "I understand that we are trying to criminalize the use of unlicensed reverse engineered DVD players. It cuts into our licensing profits and it's bad for business. However, I'm confused by some of our tactics. I mean, we keep telling the press that deCSS allows the creation of copies of DVDs, but people can already do that. Another thing, people are allowed to do that, the Berne convention, fair use and all that. Isn't this just kicking up dust clouds that obscure our main issue?"

    "Well, I understand what you are saying, but you have to understand that this is bigger than just CSS," Jack said, causing one of the cowled figures from the DVD CCA to hiss.

    "Now, now, my friends," he said, glancing nervously at the DVD CCA council, "We all admire the fine work you've done, just hear me out ok?"

    "We don't want unlicensed DVD players to exist for a few reasons. The first, of course, is the licensing fee, but in reality, that's chump change. Regional coding, you see, is where the real money is. Say we release a movie in the US. Well, that's all well and good, but there is a huge market in India that can't afford to pay as much as the US market can. We can make a profit from that country, but we have to knock some bucks off the price. Now, in a free market," here Jack pauses as the sinister assembly in the room chuckles, "an enterprising entrepreneur could buy up cheap DVDs in India, and sell them in the US, bleah! With regional coding, we can maximize our profits on a per region basis! Oh, and of course, we can release mature versions of movies in other parts of the world where they think of us Americans as a bunch of Puritans, but still keep the FFV (Fanatics for Family Values) folks happy."

    "But, Mr. Valenti," said the young executive, "This is all interesting, but it's got nothing to do with copying."

    "Sorry, went off on a tangent, there, and your right," he paused, "Do you know what else maximizes profits? I'll tell you what, selling people the same thing, over and over and over again. It's huge! Now, you may not know this, it's top secret, but look at this."

    Mr. Valenti pulls out a tiny, coin sized disk, "This is the future, it can hold every Spielberg, Lucas and Tarentino movie ever made just on this one disk. Not that we'll do that, of course," he chuckled, "But we are going to be switching to these in about five years, just like we switched from tape to DVD. By that time, we're going to need to have changed the law so you can't copy materials for personal use. I mean do you know how difficult it is to produce new content? That'll sell? It takes a huge effort, but when you have content that's proven popular, like, say, The Wizard of Oz you don't want people to pay for it once and never buy it again!"

    "Tapes were a fine media, know why?" he asked, "'Cause they decay over time, with viewing, and everthing else. Pretty soon, that copy of It's a Wonderful Life is all worn out, and Joe Sixpack has to buy another copy if he wants to watch it... well, when it isn't showing fifty times on TV. With DVDs, decay isn't as certain. Oh, a good scratch will take it out, and these baby's," he shows one of the new decaying coating DVDs, "rot away just as well as video tape, thanks for that Fred," a sinister black cloaked figure nods slightly at the praise.

    "Where was I? Oh, but what if Johnny Lunchpail could make a perfect copy of that great Mr. Potter movie... love the way he got to keep the money... huh? What then? I'll tell you what!"

    Jack shook with rage, even the sinister DVD CCA people backed off slightly, "We could never sell it to him again, that's what! He'd own it! Well, what we are out to do here is change the concept of ownership itself. The unwashed masses will never own our movies! They'll just have possession for a temporary time! When DVD players go out of style, we stop letting people make them, pretty soon those saps have to rebuy their whole video collection! Technology always advances, and when it stops, we'll find a way! We'll change a nut or a cog inside, and the old disks won't work, heh, heh heh.... they'll never be safe!"

    "Oh... right, and we have to stop casual piracy, because that's just awful," here, Jack gave a broad wink to the young executive. "Now, let's close the meeting with a rousing song, provided for us by the good folks at Disney," Michael Eisner grinned at Jack.

    The droning voices of the assembled began to sing:

    o/~ Yo, ho, Yo ho, a pirates life for me

    We'll ravage and pillage and won't give a hoot

    Drink up me hearties, yo ho! o/~

    I really feel sorry for these people, don't you?

  • by threaded ( 89367 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @12:35AM (#1269586) Homepage
    This sort of thing was tried in the UK with a Utility Co.. Loads turned up at a forced extraordinary general meeting. The execs looked seriously bothered that the great unwashed had gained entry, and tried to have them expelled by the Police. When they discovered that these attendees were their share holders, they used fancy rules to wind the meeting up ASAP. Business was carried on as usual with the block votes of the institutions backing the status quo.

    My favorite quote from the day was a shocked murmur that some of the attendees were wearing 'tradesmen trousers' (Jeans to you and me).

  • by alexhmit01 ( 104757 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @01:59AM (#1269587)
    Are people here actually interested in this idea? I'll look into Massachusetts law on starting a non-profit (I'm an MIT student, so I'm Boston based) and the investment club work. Obviously we'd need a web site with online discussions to handle it.

    My Linux box (I'm bringing it back up next week) could host it... it doesn't use 90% of it's resources... I use it for play...

    I think that I can use the MIT network for non-profits, just not for-profit businesses, but I'll check.

    If you are interested, e-mail me at scorpion@mit.edu, and tell me, roughly, how much you would contribute. If it looks substantial, I'll look into the paperwork. I just made a donation to the McCain election fund, so my cash for "causes" is low, but I'd put the time in (and maybe $100 or so of my own money) to get this up and running.

    Does anyone have any suggestions as to the name for this endeavor?

    Note: most of these companies have multi-billion dollar capitalizations. Even if only 30% of stock holders (including big money) vote their proxies, a $1b companies has $300m dollars worth of voting stock. That means that we'd need $150m to get a majority. OTOH, the ability to buy 1 share in each of these companies would be minimal, and would give the rights to attend the meetings.

    So I guess the goal would be either:

    A) raise enough money to buy 1 share in each company plus cover travel costs to speak at meetings

    B) raise enough money to get awareness, then raise enough money to actually buy real chunks of the companies... you'd only need to buy one at a time...

    However, I think that the potential for launching a hostile take-over of these companies is nil, and most companies elect the Board as a slate so you can't even push all your votes for one person on the board... however, it would be a neat experiment.

    If you are interested: e-mail scorpion@mit.edu
  • by Augury ( 112816 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @12:13AM (#1269588)
    I've just finished reading the transcript [2600.com] of the application for an injunction against the distribution of DeCSS, and I've got to say the defence really looked fairly weak. The laws that the plantiffs are pursuing seem to be deliberately aimed at the sort of software that DeCSS is, and the way it was manufactured.

    The incredible uprising against the supression of this information really had better be as a demonstration against the way they treated Jon and his father (and does anyone actually have even a second hand account of that ordeal?), because the legal situation looks very very cut and dried.

    Despite what any linux zealots might like to think, the case is being made purely against the production of software that is "primarily designed for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls the access to a work"

    In a purely legal sense, the judge very quickly, and I think justifiably, knocked back every single defence that was put forth, because none of them actually related to the case that had been presented.

    We can all rave on forever about how this is an example of repression of a "small entity" (to quote the above article) by a "Big Business", but really, you can't abjure responsibility by attributing personalities to the opposing sides. Calling Big Business "BB" reduces those companies to a nameless, faceless force, thus making them emminently more suitable as a target for hatred, while simultaneously personalising the "small entity" by calling them "a son and his father" evokes sympathy.

    If you actually stop for a millisecond and take note of these things, and think about reversing them, you might get a different image.

    A father and his son today were finally forced to take legal action against a Big Business that had illegally bypassed the security measures on their product, known as 'DVD's. The father and son had developed their encryption to protect the content of these distributed DVDs in line with various US and international laws. Their livelihood is founded on the security of this data, and so they had to take steps to prevent it becoming publicly accessible.

    As it became clear that this Big Business had deliberately circumvented their protection system, in order to use these DVDs on their internal platform of choice, as opposed to the platforms for which it was available, they took steps to prevent the circulation of the code which allowed this circumvention.

    As information of this prevention attempt became available, the Big Business immediately took steps to widely distribute the code in an attempt thwart any restrictions the courts might impose. It has been speculated that the genie might never be put back in the bottle due to this deliberate action, which was frequently accompanied with rude or abusive comments: "Jon and his father are cock suckers!"

    (Don't forget, Big Business is run by People too, it even employs some)


    I mean give me a break. Any time we hear of big corporations trying to use loopholes in the law to escape from obvious infringements, we get all narky, but when it's some 'father and his son', it's suddenly a human rights issue.

    Yes, I can see that the purchasing of that DVD should entitle you to view the information stored therein. However, I don't think that the fact there is no player for linux justifies the creation and distribution of source code that is obviously intended only to break DVD encryption.
    All these script kiddies are just rabid about anything that might undermine some Big Business, so as soon as they see something like that, are they thinking "Oh good, now I can use linux to play my DVDs"? Hell no. They're thinking "SCREW YOU Big Business! I'm going to copy and distribute as many DVDs as I like now, hahahahaha!"


    Having said all that, I still do think that there are some fairly serious issues here in regards to production of code, and whether it forms a part of 'speech' in terms of 'free', and whether it should be protected as such. I think that producing code is an expression of human ingenuity, an advance in the field of human endeavour, whatever that code might do, and however small that advance may be.

    As it stands though, that code is illegal, it was produced illegally and it is intended for a purely illegal use. I for one won't defend it.

  • by luckykaa ( 134517 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @01:06AM (#1269589)
    As it stands though, that code is illegal, it was produced illegally and it is intended for a purely illegal use. I for one won't defend it.

    Much as I hate to respond to a long and thoughtful post by nitpicking the final statement, I must disagree here.

    It was produced somewhere where it was perfectly legal to do so. While it may have illegal uses, it also has legal uses. In most countries this makes it legal.

    And finally, using it for an illegal purpose is currently pointless. It costs too much in terms of storage space, and its ludicrous to suggest sending it over a network. Maybe it will make more sense in 5 years time when compression systems have improved and bandwidth has gone up.
  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @01:31AM (#1269590)
    There are several things that need to change in order for this Battle to be less uphill. For starters, I think people need to stop using "Hacker" anywhere near the word "DVD". I know that the word has been misappopriated to mean someone who breaks into computers, but whenever the general public hears the words "Hacker", "DVD", and "circumvent copy protection", they'll immediately draw the wrong conclusion. They'll think "bunch of freakish computer outlaws came up with a way to Pirate DVD's" not "normal people who want to watch the DVD's they legally buy or rent on something other than windows". The whole issue should be changed from a "Hacker" thing to a Linux thing.
    Second, I think the multi-billion dollar ipo linux company's need to put their muscle into this conflict, not just make a few token donations to the EFF. Big businesses have no problem coercing people who threaten their interests. With Red Hat and VA technically being big businesses (who have something at stake if we can't have dvd with our linux) they should do everything barring murder to force the movie companys to stand down. Though it's not likely it'll happen, it would be cool if Bob Young did a hostile takover of movie studio then fired the board of directors, just to make a point.
    Another third hand that should be played is the justice department's anti-trust suit against Microsoft. The linux community should argue to the government that by refusing to let people have DVD players that work with Linux, a serious challenger to Microsoft's dominance is crippled. And Microsoft, given the chance, *will* beat the the fact that Linux can't play DVD's (even if it is because of a stupid legal reason) over the linux community's head.
    A fourth and final card that should be played is the fact that more and more movie studios are using linux to render their scenes. It would be good publicity to show a list of movies put out by these major studios that have used beowulf clusters to cheaply render their CG scenes. Basically, show the government and the public that by preventing Linux's progress, the movie studios are biting the hand that feeds them. While it would legally do nothing, it would be a good PR move.
  • by rediguana ( 104664 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2000 @02:10AM (#1269591)

    Share prices are mostly based upon perception. The hack needs to take that into account. Going along and voting means very little - you're reacting to them. We have to make them react to us.

    Who are they? The BB Execs/Directors and Institutional holdings.

    If we proposed a motion we would easily be outvoted. So, the hack is never going to be a numbers game.

    In New Zealand, we are entitled to register a proxy vote for companies we hold voting class shares in. That is, we can nominate any person to attend the meetings, vote and ask questions in general business.

    There is no need to have a fund to manage the shares, we just have to nominate that X is our representative, and they are going to attend the meeting and act on behalf of us for our shareholding.

    I imagine this should be possible in the US, without having to use the afore-mentioned fund manager.

    Sample Hack. DVD - why not :)

    The hack needs to be concerned, informative, and non-confrontational. Remember, we hold shares in the company and are not trying to destroy it, but make sure that our future returns are protected. ;)

    And DVD has never faced a bigger threat than now...

    "Any other general business?"

    "Mr Chairman, I would like to raise a matter that is of great concern to the stakeholders I represent."

    "A couple of months ago, a small group of dedicated engineers, software developers and security experts banded together with the goal of creating an open source, hardware and software solution for the distribution of digital media.

    Their goal is to provide one secure, free and recognised standard for the physical distribution of large quantities of digital media.

    This system, once complete, will not have any zoning issues, will use publicly available secure encryption algorithms, and all the required source will be available for implementation on any hardware/software platform that there is time, interest and intent.

    There will be no licensing fees for this distribution system.

    Already a large number of small entertainment companies have pledged not only support for the Open Source Storage Device (OSSD), but have also provided much capital required for the ongoing development of this solution.

    George Lucas has been quoted as saying 'We finally have a secure digital solution that we trust - Star Wars II will be one of the first OSSD discs released.'

    This is hot on the heals of the popularity of MP4, which has now steamrollen over SDMI, providing an open source, yet secure solution for digital media management. And with the plethora of different devices available for playback these days, MP4 runs on almost everything.

    We have some questions that we would like to ask, as we are extremely concerned that this could have a drastic effect on our DVD player revenues, along with associated products namely the music, movies and software you sell.

    1/ Do you perceive OSSD to be a threat to our DVD business?
    2/ What actions have you taken to mitigate and prepare for the introduction of OSSD?
    3/ Have you considered adopting OSSD?
    4/ What effect upon our returns do you think the introduction of OSSD will have?

    I note that DVD associated revenue has jumped in the most recent quarter to 15% of all quarterly revenue. We believe that OSSD is a significant risk to future cashflow and returns.

    Thank you for allowing us to raise our concerns."

    How would that hack go?



Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.