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Why I Don't Support Harlan Ellison's
KICK Internet Piracy Lawsuit

By Philip Shropshire, webmaster of www.threerivertechreview.com and www.majic12.com

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Let me state for the record that I’m a huge Harlan Ellison fan and I come to praise him first before burying him. I own a lot of Harlan's books. As a matter of fact, I probably own more of his books than I do of any single other writer. I might add, if I were somewhat delusional, that I’m a loved and revered figure down at Ellison Webderland1—Harlan’s somewhat official message board—where the good Webderlanders have, in no particular order, wished upon me leukemia, openly discussed barbecuing me alive, vividly commented about the dearth of my mental capacity and  questioned the merits of one of my websites (“Your website sucks” is what I believe was the exact phrase of affection.). You can’t comprehend how bracing and devastating I found their pithy putdowns—after all I’ve put a lot of work into my websites.

Then again, I probably had it coming. For I have gone into the Webderland Den of Lions and openly questioned the merits of Harlan Ellison’s quixotic, expensive and I must say wrongheaded KICK lawsuit.
2 For background purposes: Ellison and his counsel filed suit against AOL, Remarq/Critical Path and Citizen 513 back on April of 2000 according to information at Ellison’s own website.

“WE FILED A LAWSUIT AGAINST THE ABOVE PARTIES TO STOP THEM FROM POSTING MY WORKS ON THE INTERNET WITHOUT PERMISSION. THIS IS COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT. RAMPANT. OUT OF CONTROL. PANDEMIC.

AOL, REMARQ/CRITICAL PATH AND A HOST OF SELF-SERVING INDIVIDUALS SEEM TO THINK THAT THEY CAN ALLOW THE DISSEMINATION OF WRITERS’ WORK ON THE INTERNET WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION, AND WITHOUT PAYMENT, UNDER THE BANNER OF “FAIR USE” OR THE IDIOT SLOGAN “INFORMATION MUST BE FREE.”… WHAT WE’RE LOOKING AT IS THE DEATH OF THE PROFESSIONAL WRITER!”
3


As I’ve stated before on Harlan’s own message board I’m quite confident that Harlan’s suit won’t do a thing to stop Internet piracy and that the Internet, far from being a creativity killer, has been a great boon to the creative artist. Harlan rebutted my arguments and others concerning this lawsuit with the quote: “Hell hath no fury like the uninvolved.” It’s not that I’m uninvolved with the Internet, in fact I believe in the Internet strongly in that it has allowed me to become my own publisher. I am now a working freelance writer because of this wonderful medium. Therefore, I respect the Code Warriors and Techno Mages who have made the Internet the vibrant Science Fictional reality it is today. I also said that I would elaborate on my dissent in another venue because these are important issues and they need to be addressed. Well here we are. My several concerns with the lawsuit have to do with the Dark Forces that Ellison finds himself aligned with and the impossibility of ever “winning”.

These aren’t small points to me.


Lawsuit Coincides with
Dark Side Corporate Interests or
Cheap Thrills On The Road To Hell

To be honest, I must state that I believe the lawsuit is also, and it pains me to say this, a tool of evil—which would do much to further the interests of the Evil Corporations—and I do believe in them. Harlan, bombastically enough, frames the war as the Little Guy against the Multinational but if he were to win his suit it would also help AOL/Time Warner, which happens to be one of the largest content owners on the planet. I’m not sure if Harlan, who’s seemingly proud of not having an email address, understands that AOL wins as a content producer even if it loses as a defendant. It also turns out that, according not only to his message board but the piece that recently appeared in Pages Magazine that the Internet’s friend, Microsoft, is also apparently interested in this case. Could their interest be in funding someone who’s a thorn in AOL’s side, or is it a part of Microsoft’s .net strategy, their mad scheme to make sure that every transaction on the net, be it micropayment or next month’s mortgage fee, goes through a server in Redmond…?

Now, if you find this possible alliance with Microsoft troubling—not known as the friend of the Little Guy and whose symbolic leader has been cast as a transparent Bond villain
4 in no less than three films that I’ve seen in the past five years—you might be happy to know that Harlan is rooting for the RIAA in their case against Napster5. I should point out that the recording and film industries6 also aren’t known for their love of the Little Guy or the rights of artists and writers. But quite frankly, Harlan is also using the DMCA as is the RIAA7in their case against Napster. The DMCA has been largely criticized by the tech community as being a smokescreen protector for content producers—not the writers and artists themselves as Harlan is finding out—but the same rapacious corporations that give the working artist such a raw deal in the first place.

Both the DMCA and its horrendous Idiot Bastard Son the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA)
8—a proposal at this point—are nothing more than Nuremberg Laws9 for computer intellectuals. Dmitry Skylarov10 may as well have been prosecuted for Thought Crime. In fact, the DMCA has been responsible for a number of hideous outcomes that it’s aforementioned offspring would only further. These crimes include: eroding the right to shift the use of products that we buy, the threat against libraries, the chilling of speech concerning intellectual and tech discussion, the erosion of privacy, the threat against electronic publishing, the threat against scientific inquiry, and it encodes a war against Open Source programming—the only thing that keeps Microsoft from owning the net infrastructure outright.11

The CBDTPA bill currently being proposed in Congress would extend the evil. It would, to give you the shorthand, allow the entertainment lobby to run any new technology through a yearlong vetting process. It’s monumental not only in its arrogance but it’s stupidity. These were the guys who fought tooth and nail against VCRs only to find out that it’s become one of their biggest revenue sources. So, someone invents compression code
12 that allows T1 speeds over 56k modems or holographic terabyte storage13 in the palm of your hand or business models that turn the underground wi fi movement into profit, well, forget about it. First, you have to deal with the entertainment lobby and their vassals on Capital Hill for at least a year, probably longer. This would completely strangle meaningful tech development14in the United States, just as we’ve undermined what should have been our commanding lead in biotech research—as our archaic myth based political culture sends our best techs and researchers to Britain15.

No word of complaint here from Harlan. No tears for Dmitry. In fact, it’s quite clear that Harlan hates the Internet and probably wouldn’t mind it going away. Go read his statements on his own board as well as what he states at the Onion A.V. If you follow the logic of his suit and his current alliance with the RIAA, then you could probably safely conclude that he supports The CBDTPA—if Harlan even knows about it. Of course, Harlan is a virtual co-plaintiff with the RIAA and even cites the recording industry’s groundbreaking work in using the DCMA in shutting down Napster. Yet this is the I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream horror aspect to it all, everytime Harlan gets a positive decision using the DCMA it also helps the recording industry—kind of a mutual precedent feedback loop of evil.

In fact, I really wish that he would withdraw the lawsuit. I urge this withdrawal in the same vein that I would urge Faulkner to reconsider his position in favor of segregation or Heinlein’s view of the safety of nuclear fission—the Three Mile Islands, Chernobyls and rust factors being known for many a year now. I can see it now, a decade or two from now: “You like Harlan Ellison, that clown who tried to stop the Internet? The guy who didn’t have an email address yet was certain in his determination that he could change the scientific nature of the medium? No, I don’t want to read Repent Harlequin Said the Ticktockman…"

I see this lawsuit, especially coming from someone, the man formerly known as an alleged science fiction writer, as damaging to Ellison’s legacy. And quite frankly, I believe Harlan should know better. He would know better than to say that he’s succeeded in policing the Internet because Critical Path allows him to access their servers
16. No person would say that with a straight face if he had any understanding of the principles behind the evolutionary net. For example, Harlan’s big fat seat on the Critical Path servers has nothing to do with email attachments or peer to peer networking17 (Harlan’s going to police every computer on the net?) or Freenet18 or kids running around with gig storage on their key chains. One of the galling aspects of Harlan’s suit, by the way, is how the artist formerly known as a science fiction writer could have so little basic understanding of where the Internet is going. It’s moving into uncensored and untouchable Wi Fi networks19 and encrypted router nexus points and vast anonymous intranets—not to mention when nan and laser storage and ultra wideband hit the scene. You think it’s hard to find those John Does 1-1020 now wait until every Tom, Dick, and Harry has their own internet in a pocket. In other words, this lawsuit becomes more impractical by the moment as technology quickly leaps over the best intentioned of lawsuits—as the plaintiffs in the Microsoft antitrust case are discovering.

No Workable Remedies or
Delusion For A Dragon Slayer


Okay, so we know that the motivations behind the lawsuit and case law are suspect. But let’s imagine the best possible future. Let’s say Harlan wins and gets a big settlement from AOL Time Warner. Does this mean the end of Internet Piracy and does it ensure the rights of writers? Of course it doesn’t. How do we know this? Well we simply have to look at the wonderful success that the RIAA has had against Napster. True, they demolished Napster in the courts but file sharing and file downloading is at an all time high
21. Why? Because the Internet was built to withstand nuclear attack, let alone censorship attempts from Big Companies. There are dozens of replacements for Napster. The most popular include: Fast Track, Kazaa, Music City, and Gnutella and many many more.

As of December of last year, these file sharing companies exceeded the volume of downloading that Napster had at its peak. They’re also harder to sue and shutdown because they rely on a concept known as peer to peer networking or decentralized computing. The owners are also sometimes abroad. There was an attempt to shut down Kazaa in Amsterdam but the Dutch court ruled against the plaintiffs
22 . Who does Harlan sue now and how does he shut down the servers in Amsterdam? Or data haven in making Sealand23? The answer is that he doesn’t. It should also be noted that the recording industry has tons more money and lawyers than Harlan could ever have access to and they’ve lost decisively. Oh, they won the battle against Napster, but they are decisively losing the war. So even if Harlan wins the suit he loses the war. This is another reason why I can’t support the lawsuit and throw money down a hole in order to support it.

A Question of Values or
The Man Who Was Heavily Into Revenge


You wouldn’t know it from listening to Harlan (the rest of the world is crazy don’t you know) but as it turns out he was recently dealt a blow in his case. “A federal judge has ruled that America Online is not liable for the unauthorized posting of some e-books on its Web servers”, according to a story that appeared on CNET.
24 How Harlan thinks this is good news is truly bewildering. But there’s actually something more disturbing than the judge’s interpretation of how the DMCA affects Harlan and that’s the creation of the DMCA itself. The bill wasn’t really designed to help writers and artists, but big content producers like the RIAA and AOL to begin with. The judge was simply reading back that portion of the bill that protects wealthy Internet Service Providers. That should be no surprise since rich lobbyists for content producers helped craft the bill anyway. It really wasn’t passed with the intention of helping the Ellisons of this world. I would also argue that the impoverished condition of the average writer isn’t a result of the Internet but the bad deals that have been foisted upon them for years by corrupt publishers.

In fact, the Big Money lobbying that created the DMCA—and will probably make the CBDTPA law in the next year or two—is a much more disturbing reality to me than whether or not somebody illegally trades “Jeffty is Five” over the Internet. The Internet represents a great opportunity for the public to take back and create newer and better media institutions that aren’t owned by multinationals, who (remember corporations are legally people now) seem to be looking—through the complete buy off of the electoral process, numerous top down international trade agreements like the WTO and NAFTA that pits American workers against slave labor abroad—to turn the United States into a Third World country. Our current leadership, more appointed than elected, seems to be a kind of a junta, completely controlled by multinationals who have shown time and time again that they are not nationalistic.

So let’s review: Harlan’s suit uses the equal of Modern Day Nuremberg Laws in order to pursue its objectives. Its objectives, even if the suit is successful, are impossible to reach given the resilient morphing nature of the Internet. Finally, compared with other problems in this world and this country, these objectives aren’t even noble and in fact would strengthen the hand of the tyranies that Harlan claims he’s fighting against. So, to borrow from Dr. Seuss, I will not support your lawsuit in a boat, or with a goat, on a train or in the rain. It is flawed, foolish and as one friend put it, seemingly “petty” for someone who claims that it’s not about the money. However, as I made clear on Harlan’s site I’ll always support Harlan the Artist, if not Harlan the litigant. What can I say? I’m a sucker for good prose.

The Probably Fictional and Rosy Micropayment Future
or Would You Do It For A Penny?



I can’t say that there’s much that I find logical about Andy Sullivan. As a pro-Gay, pro-catholic Bush Backer, Sullivan is a  contradiction so incendiary and abrasive that I wonder why he just doesn’t spontaneously combust. But there’s something that Andy Sullivan did recently that’s important—and not just to that important pro-gay, pro-Catholic, pro-Bush demographic—it turns out that his weblog is making a profit, which as he so snidely notes is something that Slate and Salon have yet to do. There’s also another site, which I’ve reviewed, called Cool Beans World, that charges people $2.95 a month for comics online and its growing. Those are just two examples but there are probably many more that are starting to mature and grow on the net.

What does this mean? It means that the much heralded micropayment movement might be starting to take off. Comics theorist Scott McCloud
25has argued for years now that this is the future of online content and most importantly the most rational way that the artist of the future can be compensated. I think Harlan might rightly ask, okay, you’ve savaged the lawsuit but do you have an alternative plan to protect the rights and livelihoods of artists? First, I would be glad that Harlan asked me that question and second I think that artists and writers should use the net to build direct communication to their audience, without the help of the Microsofts, Time Warners and Sony Corps of this world. I think the future potential of the net not only outweighs negative factors such as theft, but certainly offers more opportunity than the present system.26


As I’ve stated before, the problem with writer poverty isn’t that work is available on the Internet, the problem originates from the awful top down contracts that you’re forced to sign in the first place, contracts that frankly screw the artist, writer and/or musician. For every King or a Rowling, there are a hundred others that can’t ply their craft fulltime and it’s not necessarily because those people lack the talent. So, where Harlan sees a generation of degenerate thieves who won’t cough up the dough for Approaching Oblivion, I see an audience that would be open minded about paying for content on the net and supporting artists directly. This means true independence for artists and writers by the way. So, when Harlan mentions something sane about Disney’s horrendous Third World labor practices
27the show doesn’t get canceled. We just come back next week and the sponsors can go screw themselves.

In fact, I’ve urged that Harlan become a First Mover and start offering his own content on the net—God knows he’s produced enough for a small country. Do a free weblog—it would force Harlan to at least learn about the medium he’s trying to destroy—to suck folks in. I know there are other bloggers out there and Andy Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds and Virginia Postrel are nice people, they’re well groomed and they’ve been to the right schools and met the right people. And I’ve said this before: Harlan Ellison would blow them all away if his health holds up. (I would suggest not updating it everyday, but only when the mood hits you, or with the same frequency that you venture out onto your own message board.)

Use this new weblog as a kind of entryway. Charge $3 bucks a month like Cool Beans Universe and offer about a hundred pieces of your work: short stories, essays, random rants and targeted tirades. And bring back your video essays, just like you had at Galaxy Online for awhile. Say five or ten minutes a week. There’s supposed to be a library of Harlan Ellison recorded works. Why not offer some of them in a MP3 format? Why not take some of the comics adaptations of Harlan’s stories and try putting them into a Flash format? What? You don’t have the money for that? Why not ask Stephen King—who quite sensibly refused to chip in to your lawsuit
28—for a cool million to fund it?

(Actually, and this might not be on topic, but there is a problem with someone actually making a living writing science fiction. The problem stems I think from not having enough well-paying markets—again, the problem isn’t Internet piracy. I sort of wish that King, Koontz, Rowling, Barker, Speilberg, those guys who directed the Matrix and everyone else who’s made a buck off of science fiction would consider starting online sites that paid science fiction writers a decent dollar, say $1000 to $5000 per story, with about 10-15 stories a month being published. You could do that with an investment of a million dollars. $200,000 for a staff of five, $100,000 for computer infrastructure and the rest for freelance talent, the best flash animators, story salaries, whatever. Immediately adopt the Cool Beans model and who knows? Add the Coppola idea behind Zoetrope magazine—ask for right of first refusal for film adaptions and television plus maybe one percent of universal rights—it might even turn into a money maker and not just karmic charity…It would also create a number of professionals so strong (and eating constantly) that in the future people won’t think that “literature” and “science fiction” are separate terms…)

I can support Harlan creating content. I’ll cough up my three bucks a month. Likewise, if this was 1959, I would encourage Harlan to write for television, not sue it on behalf of the radio and film industries. I might also note that Harlan could easily proceed with both actions. He could sue and build at the same time. My dream of course is that he starts pulling in around $10 grand a month and starts asking “Why am I suing again?” and “What for?” It might be true, in my Hugo Gernsback dream of the perfect Harlan future, that even as he makes $10 million a year in online profits he might be losing another $10 million in theft but that’s $20 million that you wouldn’t see without a free and vibrant net that’s open to innovate. That’s a drive "Along The Scenic Route" that I can believe in.

I might add, just on a symbolic note, that I find the high sounding idealism of your suit to be interesting and worthwhile. I just find it to be a bad idea in light of the times and your questionable allies. Why, it would not be unlike a well-meaning character portrayed by Joan Collins who wants to start a peace movement before World War Two. Good idea, bad timing is what I believe one character might say in such a fictional setting. The net may be on the verge of becoming self sustaining and evolutionary. That's a good thing that would herald a communications revolution and it's bigger and more important than file trading. Your suit positions you not only with the wrong allies, but the wrong side of history itself. Consider this essay an honest rhetorical attempt to hold Bones back even as that truck crashes into your legal pursuits.

 


Ellison Webderland1:

Harlan, arguably the greatest self-promoter in genre fiction and its greatest theatrical performer (those acting gigs aren't just good looks god knows), isn't  a fan of the Internet as far as I can tell, but more on that later. But you can go talk to him down at his message board. I politely asked him to please make fun of my mental capacities and he and the other Webderlanders are always willing to oblige. So, on the Internet, you can go watch Harlan whine about how awful the Internet is. I guess he's too much of a smart business man to ignore cyberspace.

wrongheaded KICK lawsuit.2:

This is just one page about the lawsuit. It's written by Harlan and associates so it reflects his point of view. There's also a somewhat poorly attended message board where the lawsuit can be debated but it hasn't really attracted a lot of visitors. One of the odd things about the lawsuit is why Harlan isn't making his motions and evidence available to the public. For example, the publishers of the magazine 2600 put all of their legal stuff on the net. But Harlan's message board did get an interesting visitor recently, a one Mr. Eric Flint, said in my best Rod Serling Twilight Zone voice. Mr. Flint offered an argument that giving away copies of his books, without encryption or the much vaunted Microsoft Digital Managment Rights Technology, actually improved his sales.

THE DEATH OF THE PROFESSIONAL WRITER!”3:

Please read the Eric Flint article for a refutation of this point in footnote 2. But this isn't entirely a luddite position that the Internet would reduce or change the status of the professional writer. No less an authority than Esther Dyson has said the same thing. Her position is that writers won't be able to make a living selling books and their only fees would come from speaking fees. I should note that even if this worst case scenario came to be, Harlan, one of fandom's most entertaining and electrifying speakers, sure wouldn't go hungry. Neal Stephenson, a great writer who codes and truly understands the net, would probably starve. I say this because I saw Neal speak in Pittsburgh and he didn't look comfortable in public. I got the distinct feeling that someone had threatened his family with death and was poking a sharp stick into his back at all times...Yep. Neal would starve.

friend of the Little Guy and whose symbolic leader has been cast as a transparent Bond villain4

You could argue that Microsoft is the most ruthless company that has ever graced the planet. It's not a good thing that they think that you're their kind of guy. But to be fair, the same arguments that Bill Gates makes about the free software movement kind of coincides with what Harlan is saying in his lawsuit, so there might be some common ground here. By the way, those Films include the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (which features a hideous Rupert Murdoch/Bill Gates combo), Anti Trust (hint hint), with Tim Robbins playing the transparent Gates lead, and the Sixth Day, with the head of the evil cloning company also portrayed by a Gates clone (the glasses are the giveaway...). I've probably missed or not seen other examples...

RIAA in their case against Napster5

These are links that will give you a history of the dispute. Why do I think that Harlan roots for the RIAA? Because he tells you so on his site. I can cite Harlan's counsel on his own website: "Fortunately for Harlan Ellison, since this memo was first drafted on February 2, two important decisions have been handed down by the Fourth and Ninth Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal which vindicate virtually every argument we have made for the protection of copyrighted material online. The media have covered the Ninth Circuit Napster Decision extensively."  Go RIAA. The people's champion. So, the next time your Celine Dion CD crashes your computer, remember to thank the RIAA and their virtual co-plaintiff Harlan Ellison. Remember: A victory for the RIAA is probably a victory for Harlan and probably vice versa.

recording and film industries6

This links to a hilarious dissection of Jack Valenti's comments concerning the new and thoroughly horrific Hollings Bill. Ernest Miller gives us the annotated version: "I think [the technology community is] much more responsive [to the MPAA's concerns since the introduction of the CBTDPA] than they were. [Of course, that is one of the reasons for the CBTDPA - to scare Silicon Valley. The threat of legislative mandate will tend to do that.] I think they realize as I do that there are smart people inside each of these industries. [They probably also realize that there are really stupid people in the industries as well, i.e., the CueCat: and Resident Evil - the Movie] But as long as everyone is suspicious of each other, what we have to insert in these discussions is good faith. [Just how do you insert "good faith"? People either have honest intentions or they do not. If they don't trust each other, government won't make them do so. Government can simply force them to act in a certain way.]"

But quite frankly, Harlan is also using the DMCA as is the RIAA7

This gives you a pretty good rundown on why the DMCA is evil. There's also a site called anti-dmca that outlines why the bill is bad.

Both the DMCA and its horrendous Idiot Bastard Son the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA)8

This leads to a dissent page about the Hollings bill in case you're curious about the complaints about this new proposed law. It looks dead for now, but the same forces that passed the DMCA could also pass this.

are nothing more than Nuremberg Laws9

I don't state this lightly. I truly believe that these laws are aimed at the common everyday things that any decent curious hacker would usually do. That's a real good idea: Attack the Mentats. The guy who came up with the DECSS hack or the people who will probably crack any government sanctioned encryption in 24 hours or less will be the ones prosecuted and persecuted under these newly proposed laws.

Dmitry Skylarov10

I'm assuming that everybody who reads Locus Online knows and understands who Dmitry is, everyone but Harlan that is. I'm still waiting for him to shed a tear for old Dmitry. I won't hold my breath. I guess the thing that offended me the most about his arrest--aside from the fact that what he was doing was legal in his own country of Russia and the fact that our laws seem to have the effect of only going after mentats or smart tech people--is that it truly undermines computer security to arrest people who publicly point out security flaws. The problem in computer circles is that crackers are a communal group so they move faster and they learn more, where the protectors of computer security aren't quite so talkative. So if you arrest a person who publicly tells you about a flaw in your software you're not really helping the goals of security.

the only thing that keeps Microsoft from owning the net infrastructure outright.11

All of the several previous links come from a site that sprung up to counter the odious Hollings bill.

invents compression code12

Someone already claims that they have. If the Hollings bill passes, then they'll be a minimum one year vetting process. I'm sure, knowing the swift pace of government action, that the year won't stretch into eons and then into eons of long, fruitless lawsuits. One of the scariest aspects in the Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley is that the entertainment moguls seem to be waging a war against technological growth itself.

holographic terabyte storage13

This was demoed in early April by the way. In a world free of the Hollings bill we might actually get to see this tech in our lifetimes.

This would completely strangle meaningful tech development14

An Intel exec, the only brave one at a hearing before Hollings, said the same thing in this story freely available online, something else that might change is certain plaintiffs get their way.

and researchers to Britain15

This links to a story that details the great exodus of our biotech talent since we no longer apparently intend to lead in basic biotech research.

succeeded in policing the Internet because Critical Path allows him to access their servers16

Harlan's exact quote from Pages was this: "We've done what everyone said was impossible: police the Internet." Two points here: first, and this has to go with the way that Harlan conducts his so-called righteous lawsuit compared to how the magazine 2600 conducts what I think is a legitimately righteous lawsuit. First, Harlan spun this as an incredible victory and I just don't see it. You want to find out about Critical Path? Go to www.fuckedcompany.com and you can learn all about them. They're probably dead meat. I mean, maybe Harlan will be lucky and AOL will buy them out and this triumphant legal pursuit will continue. But Harlan spun and promoted this as some kind of great and brilliant victory. When, as somebody more objective might note, it looks like he was dealing out the deadbeat defendants who couldn't cover his costs even if he won. I believe only a juicy cash settlement from AOL will save him now. The other thing is that  before Harlan "notified" all of us plebes about the great "victory" someone had posted a message saying that Critical Path had already posted the very same press release on their own website a full month before. What New thing will Harlan tell us next? Two planes hit the Trade Center Towers? Yankees lose World Series? And it all helps my case? I don't think that Harlan knew that Critical Path had already posted this exciting bit of info. It makes me think he just has a fundamental misunderstanding of this medium.

Two, Harlan's settlement doesn't really allow him to police the Internet. At least it didn't the last time I checked out one of those evil peer to peer networking services. Anybody with a modem could download Harlan reading a copy of Ben Bova's Mars. I'm sure Harlan's stamped that out with his new omniscient Internet censor, uh, policing powers. But I did email Charlie Stross, a Linux/Open Source Techno Mage, and I asked him to respond to Harlan's affirmation. Here's his response. "Speaking in my capacity as a computer journalist and sometime internet server developer, I can say with some assurance that I think Ellison is completely and utterly mistaken. All he's able to do is to scan a usenet feed for illegal postings -- and while he can make one ISP remove offending posts, usenet works on a flood-fill mechanism these days that means everything posted on it is replicated on tens of thousands of servers world-wide within a matter of minutes. It's almost impossible to police. Nor is he going to be able to do anything about private email, or p2p systems like Gnutella which is decentralized and cryptographically secured to make it impossible to delete files once they've been posted. Moreover, I have extreme misgivings about the wisdom of his actions; I believe that the presumption that readers are untrustworthy and need to be policed will backfire catastrophically on the entire media industry."

peer to peer networking17

This links to a peer to peer story that argues that the new technology offers a number of business opportunities. I might note that Peer to Peer is looked at as the enemy if you go over to that KICK internet site of Harlan's. From what I can tell, they're looking to sue AOL for developing Gnutella in the first place. Well, if that's the case, then I'm sure that would show them, them being the tech innovators that are driving the engine of the economy that is. Thanks Harlan, no, really.

Freenet18

This is an attempt to create an intranet that is completely impervious to censorship. I'm sure Harlan supports this, even as he singlehandedly polices the net. You know, the odd thing, this wonderful idea of policing the Internet is something that the Castros and Chinese governments and junta leaders of this world would also like to do, not that Harlan has actually done it. But Harlan is a smart man with smart lawyers, what if he figures out a way? Castro could use the method as well as the struggling artist who simply wants to protect his copyright or his legacy. The really scary thing about Harlan's suit is what happens if he's actually successful and does create a mechanism so that the Good Authority Figures can make sure that you're not looking at the "bad" content...There goes both of my sites...

Wi Fi networks19

This is the next big thing by the way. The idea that the American public could create it's own broadband infrastructure, not entirely owned by Your Friendly Neighborhood Big Telco. If it actually rises, then I imagine that this would really really be impossible to monitor.

John Does 1-1020

The John Does are the people who have allegedly posted illegal copies of Harlan's work online. They were also probably former fans who really liked Harlan's work.

file downloading is at an all time high21

This article, one of zillions on the net, has shown that the new services have far outstripped Napster.

Dutch court ruled against the plaintiffs22

The other problem with Harlan's lawsuit is that the suit only affects american companies and american cities. What happens if the Dutch court won't shut down the servers that you don't like? Probably nothing...

Sealand23

Sealand is a data haven, oft written about in fiction by the hip Sterling/Stephenson duopoly of post cyberpunk, in making. They say that they won't do anything illegal but how do you know? They're located on a former military platform off the coast of England and they've declared themselves as their own country. So Harlan can't sue them if they're storing an egregious copy of "At The Mouse Circus". I guess he could storm them in a morning raid (I can see him now in his commando gear) but they have colocated facilities, allegedly secret, all over the world. It probably won't work just like his suit won't work.

according to a story that appeared on CNET.24

One of the problems with the lawsuit is that the DMCA was designed in order to prevent Harlan's suit. I've probably said that before. And I'll say it again.

Comics theorist Scott McCloud25

Scott McCloud has been pushing Micropayments for years and he actually articulates his ideas in comics form, which you can find here.I

more opportunity than the present system.26

This is another aspect of the McCloud argument and where I think his sometime critic Gary Groth gets it completely wrong. The one to one relationship between the artist and his audience would be a revolutionary and progressive one. It's also why I think HBO is able to create uncompromising programming because they serve their audience not the advertisers. In fact, I don't believe HBO receieves any advertising. I'm sure the Sopranos would look a lot different if the network did. Likewise, writers who sell their work directly to their fans can be free as well. On a personal note, I might note that I was out of writing for about several years until the Internet came along. I didn't have to go through some editor who didn't know what the word "grok" meant and try to sell him a column about comics and science fiction. I can't say tnat my sites are money makers but they've gotten me enough work so that I can write full time. I love this medium and I want it to remain open to the little guy, or guys like me.

Disney’s horrendous Third World labor practices 27

This has to do with Harlan's great several minute video rants that he used to do back on the Sci Fi channel. I really used to enjoy them and I thought that one of his best pieces was an essay on collectibles that ended with him criticizing Disney for their slave labor practices abroad. I believe Harlan implored Disney to at least pay these guys a decent wage. Weeks later, it turned out that the science fiction channel wasn't going to renew their weekly news show. So the channel, which shows us mostly Quantum Leap dreck and those awful Land of the Giants shows no longer has a half hour show about what's happening in science fiction. Oh, they replaced the show briefly with something that was much weaker and much dumber and where I'm pretty sure the writers didn't know enough about the worlds around them to even comment on what Disney did abroad. And that was probably the point. Now, what if Harlan said those same things online? As a matter of fact, he has said equally controversial things. Has he been cancelled? Nope, and he probably won't ever be cancelled online. In the future, if he creates and grows his own audience the only thing that will stop Harlan from saying what he wants will be mortality.

who quite sensibly refused to chip in to your lawsuit28

This was also revealed in Pages Magazine. It's actually not clear why King won't support Harlan's suit. He may have the same concerns that I have or he may have no interest in the subject. But I would hope that he would support his own or even Harlan's efforts to build self sustaining markets for science fiction, fantasy and horror writers.

 


A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Philip Shropshire used to make his living as a print reporter. He runs the websites www.threerivertechreview.com and www.majic12.com. For the record, he is a Harlan Ellison fan and counts The Deathbird Stories and Dangerous Visions as his favorite books. He also reviews comics occasionally for Locus online.

 

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