Keynote: Cory Doctorow
7:58PM Jul 25, 2020
Welcome back, we're having a great day I hope so far. Welcome to all the people watching the live stream, it's been a tremendous privilege and a wonderful experience getting ready for you. One of the coolest things about hope is that we get to repeat with old friends. And up next we have Cory Doctorow core is an old friend He's been a speaker at home before long time person that we've admired and really enjoyed seeing all the great work he's done. So take it away Cory and welcome.
Thank you. Yeah, I actually have a very long association with hope because in my early 20s I submitted successfully an article to 2600 magazine so that's my, my big hope. So I'm going to do a little different talk today, obviously, everything is different. The world is on fire blah blah blah. But, um, you know, normally the way these talks work is, you give a talk and it evolves and it evolves and it evolves every time you give it and you get a little better at it, and then maybe you do like a major refactor and you start up and you know it's a little rougher but it reflects things you've learned. That's not the talk I'm going to do today. But a month ago, I had a whole series of changes in the way that I thought about some of the stuff that's that's been on my mind for 20 years, and I wrote a 5000 word essay about this for locus magazine it'll be out in about six weeks and I'm going to read you that essay. So this is a new kind of talk for me. Normally I work from bullet points and normally I would have given a version of this talk, you know, this would have evolved it wouldn't have been like a phase change. And so I'll ask your forbearance, if it sounds a little rougher than my usual talk but I'm also very excited because this, these are ideas that have been really exciting me. I've been booking this series of phone calls with friends to say like, Am I crazy or does this sound right to you and I'm convinced enough that this is right that I'm going to give it to you now I'm going to talk about it in public. Before I start, I my publisher would be very sad if I did not mention that this has just come out. This is the omnibus edition of my novels little brother and homeland, and it features an introduction by Edward Snowden, who's another former hope, hope speaker, among other things, and it is just out and it's out as a way of teasing people's attention for the third little brother book which is called attack surface, which is all about cyber weapons being used against Black Lives Matter activists, which you know again is one of those things that was already happening when I started writing it and turned out to be even more salient now that the book is coming out comes out in October, again, it's called attack surface. So with all of that commercial messaging out of the way. I'm going to read you this this column that I wrote for Lucas magazine, and then we'll do like 10 minutes of q&a, assuming I've calculated the running time right and then you can you can move on to your next speaker. So, you've probably heard well this crowd has definitely heard of open source software and if you pay attention to the politics of this stuff you've probably also heard of free software, and you might even know a little bit about the ethical debate underpinning the the war of words between those two labels. I've been involved in this stuff since the last century, but even I never really understood what was going on in the background until just recently. So I was looking up the history of the first free software licenses and I had a revelation that transformed the way I think about this stuff and that is significant because to a first approximation, this stuff is all that I think about. Here's some background, free software has its origins in the AI researcher turned activist Richard Stallman who started his canoe project in 1983, leading to the creation of the first GNU Public License, or GPL, the GPL is a copyright license that programmers who want to share their work can assign to it. And if you release a program's underlying source code under the GPL, it means that anyone else is free to run the program you've just written to study the code that you've just released to improve your code, and to release those improvements to publish those improvements so that other people can do the same, and they are bound to release them into the same terms that you released yours, the GPL is a copyright license for software, and it arrived just as copyright itself for software that was arriving. Prior to 1983 software was generally viewed as a functional work, and it was ineligible for copyright, but after a lawsuit in 1983 called Apple v Franklin and some 1980 changes to the Copyright Act. Software began to be copyrightable by choosing to apply the GPL to your code, you a programmer could lock it open, and ensure that not only could others build on it, but that no one could take the work that you had all built together and lock it up again. Today the act of licensing your code as free software is considered a mark of forbearance away for a software author or a company to promise not to seek legal sanctions against those who create new programs that read and write their data, nor those who fork off competing versions of their code to make your software free is to promise that its users will have freedom. As the saying goes, code is free as in speech, even when it's not free as in beer in 1998 free software underwent a reinvention as a more business oriented group of technical people and entrepreneurs decided that the term free software alienated the commercial sector, both because it stressed freedom and because of that it implied that the code would be free of charge, and that's not directly commercializable. Those people coined the term open source, stressing the instrumental benefits of allowing other people to scrutinize your code. These scrutineers could could root out the defects and prevent them that nefarious subversion of your code to spy on or steal data from users As the old saying goes, with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. So let's go back to 1983 and the birth of free software. When free software was born software copyright was new and not widespread and it was not clear, which activities were prohibited when it came to copyrighted software software patents were basically unheard of, and very hard to secure. Terms of Service like shrink wrap licenses that you quote agree to by simply running code or opening the box that just came in, or taking some other mundane unsuspecting stuff, those licenses were not considered enforceable, and there was no law against bypassing DRM or other forms of copy control, and the exotic Peri para copyrights like the one that Oracle is trying to create right now as soon as Google to make an API copyrightable, they certainly didn't exist. In other words, back when free software was born. If you wanted to clone or interoperate with or improve or modify any existing software, all you needed to do was reverse engineer that software, and you could go to town, the GPL then was not permission to make something new that was compatible with something that already existed. If you knew how to make software, you already behaved as though you. So that was something that you could do, irrespective of the feelings or the kind of the company or individual whose code you were interacting with the GPL was not a request for permission to interoperate. It was a request for companies and software authors to make that process easier and less tedious, by giving you their source code. So that would be interpreters could skip the wasteful time consuming reverse engineering step and get right to the good stuff, making a new thing that improved upon or even competed with whatever it was, you had already made the GPL was icing on the cake, applying the GPL to your code, didn't signal that you would force were illegal vengeance against those who wanted to make something compatible with that with your thing. You had no right to that Vin vengeance, applying the GPL to your code signal that you wanted to collaborate with interpreters, rather than impotently shaking your fist at them from the sidelines, as they went right ahead and interoperate with your code against your wishes. Now, 40 years later, the world is a very different place between software copyrights anti circumvention rules software patents enforceable Terms of Service trade secrecy, non compete agreements and the pending Oracle Google dispute over API copyrights, any attempt to interoperate with an existing product or service without permission from its corporate master is a legal suicide mission, an invitation to almost unlimited civil and even criminal litigation. That is to say that if you dare to modify improve or replace an existing dominant software based product or service you raise bankruptcy or even along your risk rather bankruptcy or even a long prison sentence. 40 years ago, we had cake. And we asked for icing to go on top of it today. All we have left is that icing. And we forgotten that the cake was even there. If code isn't licensed as free. You best leave it alone. That's the end of the first section.
So what is interoperability. The term is a nerdy and technical and obscure phrase, it's closely related to a more familiar civilian phrase compatibility. But interoperability and compatibility they're not quite equivalent in a technical sense interoperability describes two products or services that can somehow work together with one another, from opening your Word documents in Google Docs, to using third party ink cartridges in your printer to replacing your watch band to changing the stereo that came with your car interoperability is a broad universal essential characteristic of all of our technology interoperability is the default state of the world, anyone's charcoal will burn in your barbecue, just as anyone's gas can make your cargo any manufacturer can make a light bulb that fits in your light socket and any shoes can be worn with any socks. Some of this is down to standardization standardization is when manufacturers academics regulators and other interested parties gather in these standards development organizations to make the process simpler describing the canonical direction and spacing of a light of light bulbs screw thread or the syntax of an HTTP request or the fittings on the underside of your toilet so that you can set it down on the plumbing. This certainly makes interoperability smoother standards for paper from weight, which is measured in grams per square meter or GSM or size which is measured with things like letter legal and tabloid or a one, a two a three, a four outside of the US, make it possible for you to reliably buy paper that will work with your printer, without requiring additional trimming or any other modification.
But those barriers to interoperability are not insurmountable. If the paper doesn't fit your envelope, you can fold it. If it doesn't fit your printer, you can cut it. If the rail gauge doesn't match your rolling stock, you can modify the undercarriages of your rail cars to allow for multi gauge operation is a difficult operation to be sure and never implemented despite hundreds of proposals. After Australia built a multi gauge system when different competitors, lay down tracks of different width in different parts of the country, or you can tear up some of the track and lay new track just as Australia is doing now interoperability lowers the switching costs, the cost of leaving behind whatever it is you're using now in favor of something you think will suit you better when my grandparents emigrated to Canada from the Soviet Union, on a displaced persons boat, they incurred a high switching cost for more than a decade. They had no contact with their family and Leningrad, except through unreliable slow word of mouth with a rare person who got a visa to travel there. Contrast this with what happened to me five years ago when my family moved from the United Kingdom to here in Los Angeles. We are in routine contact with my in laws in London, and in Wales, as well as with my family in Toronto, my laptop and my books came with me, as did our other personal effects, and we left most of our appliances behind because they ran on different voltages but there were a few appliances, we really liked we brought them here, and we use adapters and voltage transformers to run them. Companies like high switching costs for would be monopolist, the best product is one that seductively easy to start using, and incredibly hard to stop using. Think of how Purdue pharma has gleeful internal memos that were revealed and leaks and in court cases showed that they were very happy that customers found it very easy to get started on opioids and found it very hard to stop using opiates. Addiction is not the only way to raise switching costs of course, Facebook makes it incredibly easy to get started. Historically going so far as to tricking you into giving access to your address book so that it can it can automatically mess you in a network of others who've already signed up for the service. Once you're on Facebook, it's very easy to bring articles in from the public web and to link to your friends updates on rival social media networks, you can start by just using Facebook to follow the friends that you have there. But over time, the system nudges you towards using Facebook as your primary means of reading the news, or even following what your friends who aren't on Facebook, are saying somewhere else. But when you want to leave, Facebook, there's no easy way to do so. You can't go to a Facebook rival and follow what your friends but post to Facebook. From there, you certainly can't reply to what your friends are saying on Facebook without logging into Facebook interoperability. That's the thing that Facebook uses to slurp stuff in from the open web is the key to self determination, leaving Facebook in the 21st century. It's like my grandmother leaving the USSR. In the 1940s. You can go but your friends and your loved ones are all held hostage behind Zuckerberg, Iron Curtain so leaving Facebook means leaving your, your communities your relationships. It's not as hard as kicking opioids, but it's not easy either. And your presence on Facebook, is the reason that somebody else can't go. Here's the thing, everybody in the world wants to minimize their risk from employers to workers from big tech to its users, you want you want to use Google in ways that make your life better. And you don't want Google to be able to make arbitrary changes or remove the services that are provides Go ahead, ask me how bitter I am about Google getting rid of reader. The more freedom that you have. Sorry beg your pardon, Google wants to ensure that you won't leave Google or its products and services. It could improve retention by making you so delighted with its products that you could never consider leaving, but a sure easier way to interweave its products and services with your life, making sure that your, but I assure away, is to interweave its products with your services and your life, making sure that your kid can't go to a public school without using a without creating a Google account for Google Classroom embedding Google search in your mobile OS, releasing web and app development frameworks for third parties that quietly harvest the data of their users and send them to Google. The more freedom you have to leave Google, the bigger risk you present to Google, the more Google can lock you in the lower the risk of your departing from the service, and the higher the risk that Google will cease to keep your business merely by making good products, instead relying on retain you because you can't leave or because leaving comes at an unacceptably high price interoperability improved self determination by safeguarding your ability to change your current situation in incremental steps. If you like your phone and the apps that you have, but you want an app that's banned in the default App Store interoperability comes to the rescue, allowing you to add a second App Store to your phone's list of approved software sources, you get to keep your phone you get to keep your apps, you get to keep all the data on your phone, and you get to install that unauthorized app that you like and the manufacturer does it without interoperability the choices. Take it or leave it. If the App Store blocks an app that you want the price of getting that app is throwing away your phone. Get throwing away all of its apps throwing away some or even all of the data that you've painstakingly input into your phone are gathered with it. That unauthorized happen better be pretty damn good. If it expects anyone will to pay such a high price for it. writ large interoperability encompasses things like democracy. When someone says they like their city but not its bylaws, we don't tell them that the laws the law and the house comes with the bylaws and a package. Instead, we have processes for amending or repealing laws that shape the people they govern. And if you fail in your bid to revise your city's laws, you get to move to another city without having to surrender your possessions in your home or your social relations with your old neighbor interoperability, lets you replace the laws and keep your house or replace your house and find yourself new laws as the second section, sorry I'm gonna keep hydrated here.
For me, this whole line of thought started with reflection about the history of free software, the free software movement that largely forgotten time in which the default condition of software was freedom and the absence of copyright patent anti circumvention Terms of Service, non competes confidentiality and other common places of today's software marketplace. Anyone who could figure out how to reverse engineer a program could improve it, replace some or all of it, read and write its files compete with it, or sideline it today this is not any longer the case. In fact, today's software marketplace is so unlike this previous cake and icing world where the default was software freedom or cake and yes software freedom is also cake. And the free software movement began its audacious demand for freely reusable source code as a means of making software freedom as frictionless as possible. That was the Aysen. That is virtually impossible to imagine such an environment, the thicket of anti interoperability rules that have sprung up around interoperability, as a catch all name, intellectual property. Now, free software advocates and other free culture advocates hate the term intellectual property. The argument against IP rails against its imprecision, and it's rhetorical dishonesty. Prior to the rise of intellectual property as an umbrella term, the different legal regimes that it refers to were customarily referred to by their individual names, when you were talking about patents you said patents, when you're talking about copyrights you said copyrights bunching together copyrights and trademarks and patents and other rules was not particularly useful since they're all very different legal regimes on those rare instances in which those laws work or together. The term for them was creators monopolies or artists monopolies. So the anti IP argument leans into the differences between the underlying rationale for each of these rules. In the US, copyright exists to promote the useful arts and sciences as set out and useful in the US Constitution, and that is to copyright exist to provide an incentive for the creation of new works of art. Copyright should therefore only offer enough protection to create those incentives and no more copyright does not extend to ideas, and only express protects expression of ideas. Now patents are different patents do protect ideas, and they exist as an incentive for inventors to reveal the workings of their inventions if you want a patent, you have to provide the patent office with a functional description of your invention, which is then published for anyone to see, even though others are not allowed to copy your invention during the period of the patent, they can study your patent filings, and they can use them to figure out how to do the same thing you've done in a different way, or how to make an interoperable add on to your invention, trademarks, trademarks are different altogether they exist as consumer protection. Trademarks empower manufacturers to punish rivals, who misleadingly market competing products or services in ways that are likely to cause confusion about their, in their customers. It's not about giving Coca Cola the exclusive right to use the word coke. It's about deputizing Coca Cola to punish crooks who trick coke drinkers into buying knockoffs cokes Trademark, Trademark rights don't cover non deceptive non confusing uses of its marks. Even if those mark, even if those uses harm Coca Cola, because there's no harm to Coca Cola has drinkers seen in this light intellectual property is an incoherent category. When you assert that your work has intellectual property protection. Do you mean that you can sue rivals to protect your customers from deception, or that the government will block rivals if you disclose the inner workings of your of your machines, or that you've been given just enough but no more incentive as as needed to publish your expressions of your ideas with the understanding that the ideas themselves are fair game. But when you look at how IP is used by firms, a very precise, but colloquial meaning emergence IP is any law, that I can invoke that allows me to control the conduct of my competitors, my critics, and my customers. That is, in a world of uncertainty, where other people's unpredictability can erode your profits mire you in scandal, or even take your business IP is a means of forcing other people to arrange their affairs, to benefit to suit your needs, even if that undermines their own needs. There are some ways in which this is absolutely undeniable. Take DRM or digital rights management. These are the digital locks and AR devices that prevent us from using them in ways that the manufacturer dislikes, your printer uses DRM to force you to buy ink that the manufacturers approved, your phone uses DRM to force you to buy apps that the manufacturers approved ventilators from Medtronic and tractors from john deere use DRM to force you to get them repaired by the manufacturer and to scrap them when the manufacturer decides that it's time for you to buy a new one, copyright laws that is IP laws and tampering with DRM, making it a serious jailable felony, to provide others with the tools to bypass DRM from section 1201 of the US Millennium Copyright Act to Canada's Bill C 32 to Article six of the European Union's copyright directive countries around the world have imposed indiscriminate bans on breaking DRM. And I should mention now it's not in the talk, but Mexico is just adopted a law that does the same thing and if you are in Mexico, you should look this up there are petitions, we're hoping to get the Human Rights Commission in Mexico to revisit this law by the end of the month. That's that's an aside, these are all copyright laws but tellingly the ban on breaking DRM is not limited to copyright infringement bypassing DRM to get your printer to accept third party ink is not a copyright violation. You're not reproducing the printers code, nor are you duplicating the traces etched in its chips. But even though you're not breaking copyright when you jailbreak your phone. You're still breaking copyright law. The law bans legal conduct. If you have DRM if you have to break DRM to engage in it. This isn't copyright protection. It's felony contempt of business model. And it's not just DRM take Goldman's sans free font released by the finance giant and global supervillain Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs is a copyrighted work, and it comes with a copyright license that you agree to when you download the font. Among the license terms for Goldman Sachs is a non disparagement clause that is a clause that prohibits you from criticizing Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs does not need copyright law to prevent people from copying it's fine. It gives the font away for free. Goldman Sachs need cut needs copyright law so that it can boss people around so that it can tell them what they may and may not say the risks to free expression and self determination have always been latency and copyright patent and trademark. And these laws have historically been designed to minimize those risks. Every each one of them has its own escape valve that theoretically stops IP owners from using their rights to take away your rights. Copyright has fair use or Fair Dealing and most non US English speaking countries, which allows for many kinds of copying adapting displaying and even selling other people's copyrighted expressions, provided that these activities promote a free and robust discourse by transforming commenting on or analyzing a copyrighted work. Fair Use does not depend on a copyright holders permission, you can make fair uses even, and especially when the rights holder doesn't want you to do so. Patent has its own self escape valve it's got publication, to receive a patent you have to disclose how your invention works, and those disclosures are on display from the start, where anyone can study them and use them as inspiration for their own inventions patents allow you to punish people who duplicate your invention, but they also require you to tell people exactly what steps they must take to effect such a duplication and also provides a roadmap for replicating your inventions functions, without violating your patent trademark has two important escape pals. First, trademark holders are limited to enforcing their marks against rivals, who use them in deceptive ways lies live likely to give rise to public confusion. But second, trademark is subject to the nominative defense. It's not a violation of trademark to use the mark to describe goods or services that it's associated with, you can put a sign in your shop window that says we fix iPhones or cheap cheeping for HP printers, or our cola tastes better than Coke, and there's nothing a trademark holder can do about it. These escape valves have been a lot less durable than I think we hoped. It turns out that much of their efficacy depends on there being robust competition in the marketplace, so that when one company tries to narrow say fair use in court. Other companies that depend on Fair Use will spring up to defend it through the past four decades of massive consolidation in every industry, a consensus has emerged among the shareholder and managerial classes that these escape valves are defects and an otherwise excellent law, and they have set to work creating legal precedents new laws and new legal tactics to jam those valves, shut.
This is how we went from having software freedom cake to just having the icing new copyright laws like the ones that ban breaking DRM new copyright precedents like the one Oracle is seeking and its lawsuit against Google and new tactics for combining copyright patents, trademarks DRM trade secrets and other IP, so that what trademark permits copyright prohibits, and what copyright permits patent blocks, and so on, so on until all the certainty has been moved off the mat onto the manufacturer side of the deal, and all the risk has been moved on to your side of the deal,
third section I guess.
And this is the last section of relief. Now penultimate section, sorry. Recall that the term that preceded IP was author's monopolies. The Tale of how the latter was replaced with the former has many variations, but everyone agrees that it's just no fun to be called a monopolist. If you think you don't have enough copyright, it's hard to get Congress or parliament to go to Congress or parliament and demand an expansion of your monopoly, it's far more pleasant to go demanding help in defending your property. There is a strict sense in which copyrights and patents are monopolies when you write down a collection of words like this essay that I wrote a new copyright is born, that copyright gives you the exclusive right to reproduce adapt display or sell the essay, your rivals can compete with you by writing different essays that they hope will do will sell to the same magazines and tempt the same readers, but you and you alone can sell the essay that you wrote, and that sense it's obviously a monopoly, a market for a product with only one seller in which which is the purest form of Monopoly that there is. But the word monopoly has a different definition in competition law, a monopolist isn't merely someone who controls 100% of a supply of a good or service, a monopolist is anyone who has market power. That is the power to set prices. After HP sells you the printer, it can charge whatever it wants for ink. You could just junk your printer and buy another but HP s rivals also charge absurd sums for ink, and they also use DRM and IP to punish companies competitors who introduce cheap into the market. The people who bristled at having copyrights called monopolies, they have a point. It's a rare author who has market power, authors, even the big name ones have limited power to convince their publishers to pay over the odds. There are a few superstar exceptions, but they're rare as meteorite strikes overwhelmingly copyrights do not confer market power on the people who create them. However, there are actual market power monopolies in the entertainment industry. The single movie theater chain that controls the vast, the vast majority of cinema screens which is AMC teetering on the verge of bankruptcy today. They're the three record labels for movie studios and five publishers, this shortly to be four if the rumors about Simon and Schuster being sold through the single national brick and mortar bookstore chain and the single global online bookseller, which also effectively owns the whole audio book market. How did these monopolies emerge. Well, in some ways, they came from the same place that other monopolies, and energy eyewear finance automotive, aerospace accounting civil engineering and logistics came from lacks antitrust enforcement for 40 years we've let companies grow by buying their small competitors before they could grow to become threats to merge with their major competitors, and cease competing with them to corner vertical markets so they could squeeze labor suppliers and customers. But entertainment monopolies, they're special because they aggregate all of these authors monopolies in vast quantities. These monopolies are durable in ways that mere market power is not. If you control one third of all the music that might be sampled by any new musician, you have a bottleneck that can't be evaded through cutting or creativity. Any attempt to break your monopoly, is also a copyright infringement. And doing at a commercial scale is a criminal copyright infringement. That is to say, say banking and aerospace and monopoly banking and aerospace monopolies, they can get sued for being anti competitive, but entertainment monopolies can sue you for being pro competitive. The result is a monopoly that controls access to distribution channels and audiences that can invoke the power of the state to find or even imprison people who seek to challenge that monopoly. Even where tech is challenging those monopolies it's doing so to create more monopolies Kindle unlimited presents a real challenge to traditional genre publishing and every Kindle unlimited book is released with DRM that locks it to Amazon's platform. Any attempt to liberate Kindle unlimited books so they can be read with a rivals device, or with a device designed to stop Amazon from spying on you while you read involves breaking the DRM and trafficking and tools to break DRM as a felony under Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 Kindle unlimited books aren't available in libraries and giving librarians a tool to remove the DRM to add Kindle unlimited books to their collections, is a jailable offense,
as Amazon conquers an ever larger proportion of genre readers it permanently locks those readers into its platform, meaning any author or any other author who wants to access those readers will have to do so on Amazon's terms, which include turning over the power of their authors monopoly to be used in Amazon's market power monopoly, giving authors more copyright, a stronger monopoly, or if you give authors more copyright a stronger monopoly Amazon will seize that too, as a condition of reaching the audience that Amazon has in prison, it's walled garden. Authors monopolies are not market power monopolies, but if you aggregate enough authors monopolies in one place, you can turn into you can turn them into a market power monopoly. That's backed by the power of the courts and the prisons, and that accumulates more authors monopolies every time someone enters your captive marketplace. All right, this is the big finish. You may have heard, Marc Andreessen famous praise software is eating the world, that's not quite true software has eaten the world past tense. If there was any if there was any doubt the pandemic has erased it lockdown viewing the world through our screens, there is no longer any distinction between human rights and digital rights, there is no software freedom. There is only freedom. Software is expanding relentlessly into every device and system from ventilators to tractors, from toothbrushes to sex toys from refrigerator filters to money itself. And wherever we find software, we find IP, that is software deployed to control the conduct of competitors critics and customers in such a way that overlapping systems of laws can be invoked to punish anyone who bypasses the software. The combinations of software and IP and every device is a sea change for the organization of our society as firms have become increasingly concentrated as monopolies have emerged in every sector. They have also figured out how to infuse their products with just enough software that they can invoke IP to control their competitors critics and customers. These are market power monopolies backstopped by creators monopolies which create IP rights that supercharge market power. All of this is just the curtain raiser software isn't just a way to put IP into otherwise inert objects. It's also a way to automate them to make them into unblinking ever vigilant enforcers from for the manufacturer monopolist interests, they can detect and interdict any attempt at unauthorized interoperability and call the appropriate authorities to punish the offender. This is a level of control, beyond the wildest dreams of history's most sociopathic monopolists consider the cole boss who controlled his workers by moving them into company housing, and a company town where they were paid and company script that they could only spend at a company store this cool boss moves Titanic amounts of risk off his balance sheet, and onto his workers balance sheet. Not only are they incapable of leaving for a better job without paying their debts, but they're also paid a non interoperable proprietary money that only works at the company store where prices can be adjusted at will, to ensure that the workers debts, can never be paid. But even that coal boss, a veritable God to his workers, was not all powerful, a coworker could buy corn at the company store and trade it for real us greenbacks at the local moonshiners shed converting non interoperable script to interoperable dollars at a loss to the intermediate exchange medium of court. I think of a worker paid in company script today. The digitally enabled smart goods that they buy at their company score store rather can be locked to their accounts the way Kindle books or iPhone apps are locked to your personal device.
The unblinking eye
of software enforcement systems is always watching ready to discipline you for your lack of consideration for the shareholders, bottom line. Once we have cake. Today we have icing. At this rate, the icing will be gone before long, there are no digital rights. There are only human rights. There is no software freedom. There's only human freedom. Thank you. All right, so we got some time for questions here about 15 minutes, I think. Thank you for your patience I know that wasn't a smooth talk as I normally give. There are some questions for me here that Greg has. Thankfully, are thoughtfully put into my little private chat where I can see them. So the first question is Is this like your bar room in the basement or you know just your house. No, this was our, this was our planning project for 20 years I have been collecting junk that I would put in a bar someday when I had a bar actually lived in a warehouse in Toronto for a while that had a little bar, but that was decades ago. And so having moved this stuff back and forth across the Atlantic multiple occasions, we finally have a permanent home for it we built this super ambitious bar in our backyard here in Los Angeles.
It's got all the things.
It's got black velvet art, it's got stuff from the Tiki Room and it has many boozes many delicious boozes, and even a chandelier Let me see if I can get that in there a chandelier made from Whippet canisters. It's got all the things. So another audience question here is severe haircut when making a comeback for the third little brother book yeah she totally is getting a lot of applause. They like the bar. Thank you. You know what, hang on a second. I'm gonna make a drink. I know this is this is riveting television, but we're gonna go yeah kick and chicken, the best $20 bourbon you can buy. We're also also known as fighting cock, I swear by it, and sometimes at it.
Anyway, sons over the yardarm somewhere.
The third little brother book attack surface is the story of Masha, She's a young woman who appears at the beginning and the end of the first two little brother books, who starts off working at the DHS as a Snoop, and then moves to a private contractor in the second book loosely based on on on. What are they called called Eric princes of black Blackwater God I kept wanting to say Blackstone but that's the hedge fund. Yeah, Blackwater by the third book she's working for a version of something like the NSO group or palantir, and she is working in the former Soviet Union putting down color revolutions democratic revolutions, but she has a hard time living with herself. She's been at this long enough that she has some questions about her ethics. And so her hobby is teaching the resistance movement, how to avoid the stuff that she's that she's building so she spends all day putting spyware in the national telcos data center, and all night teaching the people at spying on how to avoid it. This is not good career advice, it ends up tanking her career. She had been working for the surveillance contractor, where her boss was a former East German Stasi Colonel she calls Elza she wolf of the SS, and she gets fired, she ends up back in Oakland, California, where her old best friend is working with a new movement called the black, brown Alliance, which is like a successor to Black Lives Matter a trans racial Latin x, black and other racialized people class conscious resistance movement, and they're being targeted by the same malware she built when she was working for severe haircut lady when she was working for Kerry Johnstone and Carrie Johnston wants to hire her again. Because although they parted on very good terms, Carrie Johnston wants that contract to install surveillance gear in San Francisco, and then use that as a reference customer to get the rest of the country. And so it becomes both a story about resistance and justice, and also a story about the grubby business side, the millions of dollars at stake in selling this terrible software to city managers who would rather spy on people to neutralize them, then do something about the grievances that mobilizes them into the streets. All right. Audience Question I love walk away Do you think they're there, that it is more real than little brother, are we getting closer to the both of those worlds, so they're both intended as you know allegories right i mean little brother. I wrote, inspired by Mark Klein, who was the at&t whistleblower who walked into the old dff offices on shotwell Street in San Francisco, with a folder full of papers and said you know I just retired from at&t. While I was there my boss made me build a secret room, and our Folsom street data center, and I put a beam splitter in our fiber trunk, and I ran a copy of the internet into the sort of the NSA spied on it. And we started suing the US government over over that and and it was obvious that that had already happened. It was obvious that was only going to get worse and so I wrote a futuristic version of the mark Klein story in which it got worse and of course it did so if it seems prescient, it's going the trajectory. You know homeland predates Snowden by abet but it doesn't predate the, the lesson of the mark Klein revelations which is that. Lawmakers will lie and cheat to preserve their right to spy on us. And that is clearly true too. And that spying is a critical piece of the arsenal. If you want to stabilize a society without addressing its people's grievances. I mean, the best way to stabilize a society is to make it fair and just so that everyone has a place in it. And people have a stake in keeping the status quo. If you can't do that. The second best way is to figure out who's likely to make trouble and put them in jail. And that's what I think the surveillance project is about. And we have really doubled down in the year since on arresting people who make trouble, rather than addressing the problems that they have. See the Black Lives Matter uprising see what's going on in Portland right now and so on, and so walkaway set more or less in the apotheosis of that ethic right where, where we've decided that we will do nothing to address the grievances of most people, and we will just find ways to neutralize them instead sideline them and neutralize them. And and I think both of those books represent a way to think about what's happening and what we can do about them. But neither of them are meant to be fully realized worlds that I think we're headed to their cognitive tools for understanding the world that we are in right now. All right. In the US, there is a conservative group of ties to big business that pushes pre written laws on municipalities, could hackers write law code, how do we install it so you're talking about Alec the American Legislative Exchange committee. Like does in fact write these laws that they promulgate around the country at the state level, so they introduce laws in state houses voter suppression laws are really common anti abortion laws,
the ag gag
laws that make it a felony to document abuses in the agricultural sector. Both of workers and livestock, as well as environmental problems and so on right now Alec is busy promulgating legislation that would absolve employers of responsibility if they kill their workers with coronavirus by denying them PP or by creating an unsafe work environment so they're pretty bad guys, their secret is that they have
a very big tent so every company
benefits from some kind of bad law. They don't necessarily all benefit from all of them, but you know, Google wants this law, Facebook wants that law. Dow Chemicals wants a third law and so on. And what they've done is they've welded all those companies together in a single body so what you have is Google donating to Alec to promote laws that are friendly to Google, with the understanding that Dow Chemical is donating to Alec to promote laws that are pleasant for Tao Google may not like the laws that benefit doubt, but they're willing to fund Dalles laws, if it means that dow funds their laws, so they built this this kind of coalition from hell. And it's very effective because there's so much money on the side of Alex law pushes its legal entrepreneurship. And so much power that they're able to really score giant legislative victories nationwide. And so the question is, could we do our own what we sort of do right we're just not as effective so the, there were 18 right to repair laws are 20 no 20 right to repair laws introduced in 2018 at the state level. All of them were defeated by Apple and Apple led a coalition of manufacturers to kill right to repair laws, those 18 laws were promulgated by the repair coalition, it's led by I fix it, which is the amazing company in San Luis Obispo, that Kyle Wiens runs where you get manuals and tools for doing independent repair. And the problem is that they didn't have a coalition right that like there isn't. There, there, there isn't what
what they want to do
is enable lots and lots of small and medium enterprises individuals and small, small firms to effect repairs and an aggregate, that has more benefits than allowing apple and other big manufacturers to control repairs, but each of them gets less money than Apple does each of them has a lower margin right we as consumers retain more money because they charge lower prices and we get a better deal. And so there is less access capital in that process to spend on lobbying so they can be outspent by the likes of apple. And so that is the problem right that it's not a level playing field. When you are pushing for bad laws that allow people to make lots of money by being abusive, you can take some of the money that the laws generate and use it to push for worse laws. When you are pushing for good laws that allow consumers to retain more of their money whether that's money that you don't have to spend on a repair or money that you don't have to spend on bottled water because Flint's water is full of lead. That money is harder to aggregate into one place and turn into a legislative initiative. I think that you know the obvious answer is limits on campaign finance and lobbying and the hard problem is how do we get there, right how do we aggregate enough money to fight the power of concentrated money and you know the last time we did this was was with FDR it was, it was with the New Deal. When we split up companies, and we we attacked monopolies. And I think we're going to need something like that to make it happen. Okay, we've got four minutes remaining according to my chat here is there is there one more quick question, or. Oh, here we go. So what's the alternative. So the question is, no doubt Amazon is doing all they can to control writers and readers they wish to eliminate any form of choice, very bad stuff indeed What's our alternative, even if we buy IBM. They will be the same. Yeah, I mean I actually think being slightly better, the guy who's running it. Dawn whatever his first name is the guy who ran dawn books in the UK, Peter Dawn is quite a good guy. They just brought him in to run it but even so and and far more interested in the literature than these lessons. But that said, they're not your friends right big corporations are not your friends never going to be your friends.
we need to realize is that you can't solve the problems of Monopoly capitalism, by shopping. You have to solve the problems of Monopoly capitalism by mobilizing political force. Right. The whole point of monopolies is that you don't have a meaningful choice in your market decisions. You are not an ambulatory wallet. You're, you're a citizen, right, you live in a democracy. I mean it's a tarnished and tainted and degraded democracy to be sure, but you can do something about it, you can vote, you can get involved in line item initiatives, you can back right to repair, if you're in Massachusetts you have a right to repair ballot initiative coming up this
year. You're right, shopping at the
refund shopping in independent bookstores Gotta love them, is not going to solve the problem of Amazon's Amazon's monopoly. The thing that will solve the problem of Amazon's monopoly is reinstating the Sherman act so they can't grow by buying their competitors or by creating vertical monopolies that's the only thing that's going to save us from it. All right. Thank you all very much. Thank you to the 2600 folks in the hall folks, I wish I was there with you on Long Island, doing this in person as we had planned. It was going to be one of the highlights of my summer. But it was great to do this, and I hope you will all stick around and see all of the amazing programming that they have for you here and hope
to see you later.
Greg that's your cue.
Thanks Cory, we're going to cut the end of this session momentarily, and really appreciate having you here. This talk is available on the replay as well on the live stream so people can enjoy it. There's.