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UPDATE: Now there’s a petition to improve his conditions. Please sign and show your support!

Since his arrest, Peter Sunde, founder of The Pirate Bay, has written to the outside world twice to describe the terrible conditions which he and the other Swedish prisoners are subject to. Early in July, he revealed that he’d already lost over 10 pounds in about a month due to the prison diet, which does not sufficiently accommodate his vegan or vegetarian needs. He then wrote a letter on the Swedish news site Aftonbladet about the disgraceful conditions of Västervik prison where he is held. His words are an indictment of the Swedish justice system, painting a disgusting picture of a place that many of us naïvely believed treated both its people and prisoners humanely. My heart breaks for Peter.

“I’m suffering tremendously – socially, physically as well as psychologically  – by the shortcomings of Västervik”

Peter himself suffers particularly acutely in prison because the authorities refuses to provide adequate vegetarian and vegan nutrition. “The few vegetables served,” he says in Aftonbladet, “lack the necessary vitamins and minerals.” In this latest update, he says he has lost seven kilos – equal to about fifteen pounds! “I’m suffering tremendously,” he said at the beginning of July, “socially, physically as well as psychologically – by the shortcomings of Västervik.

Although people will argue that you choose to be vegetarian or vegan and maybe should not have the right to your chosen cuisine while in prison, the fact is prisons are required to provide adequate sustenance in accordance with your beliefs. But, beliefs, apparently, apply only to religious docterines – secular ethics like vegetarianism and veganism are not given the same respect. This is the twenty first century, ffs! Vegetarianism and veganism are hardly some extreme fringe diet. They are not more demanding or complex than religious-based diets. Plant-based meals are not difficult for an institution to procure or make for those in its care. They could easily provide healthy any inexpensive food with plant-based proteins and adequate nutrition. Plus, vegetables are not just for vegans, they’re essential for everybody’s health and wellness. If they are so lacking in Västervik, then I am seriously worried about all the prisoners, not just Peter.

But still Peter stands up for his beliefs, even under these harsh conditions. His bravery inspires me, finally, to return to my own long-abandoned vegetarianism. Maybe not veganism quite yet, but some day. If a prisoner under such physical and mental stress can still make the compassionate choice not to consume animals or animal products, then I as a free person can certainly manage to.

“The word “slave” is often used by the inmates.”


Peter reveals other dark secrets of Västervik, too. Like in the US, prisoners are forced, under threat of isolation and other punishments, to work some crappy job for nearly no pay. “The pay is thirteen crowns per hour,” Peter reports, “The word “slave” is often used by the inmates.” The alternative, for others like Peter who are in a section with no work obligation and no jobs, is being locked up for hours on end.

His reports reveal some truly awful aspects of prison life, like for example the lack of toilets (!!) available to prisoners:

“The GDR [East Germany] had jail cells restrooms. In Västervik Institution, where I am, there is at best a wash basin. In the evening you get to pee in a plastic bottle. [When] we need to do number two, [we] get to call a guard who then lets us out. The advice they give is to take an extra bag to the trash. Although Västervik is reputed to be Sweden’s worst prison, it is said to be just as bad in other places.”

His letters are such a scathing indictment against Swedish prisons, it’s hard to believe such conditions escape outrage and widespread news coverage. A major obstacle, I think, is the pervasive fantasy of Scandinavian countries as enlightened beacons of society. Their prisons cannot possibly be terrible places where authorities neglect basic regulations and prisoners suffer! They are so much more advanced and humane than us!

Maybe Sweden has many wonderful features that surpass the conditions in other countries. But the naïve fantasy that they are a liberal paradise just does not hold up to this realityEven if, objectively speaking, Sweden’s prisons were better than the horrific hell holes of the rest of the world, that would not ever be an excuse to ignore their abuses and violations. You cannot feel good about yourself pointing to some terrible corner of the world and say Hey look, we’re not executing our prisoners like THOSE people! We’re not locking people in concentration camps and gulags! We aren’t beating our prisoners or ripping out their fingernails!  Of course there will always going to be a place that is worse by a thousand times. We used to burn people and cut out their intestines in the town square, ffs. We don’t do that anymore – YAY FOR US – but that’s no reason to pat ourselves on the back, say Look how much progress we’ve made! and call it a day. 

We cannot congratulate ourselves for not torturing prisoners with drawing and quartering, and still make them pee in a bottle. We can’t be bursting with pride over no longer cramming prisoners into a squalid tower, when we use them as cheap, forced labor, threatening them if they do not comply. It is a complete farce for prison apologists point to atrocities, elsewhere or in history, as a justification for modern abuses and failings. Neither history nor dictatorships give us a pass to ignore the pleas of the human beings currently under our care. At what point to we move the fuck past medieval standards of justice and hold ourselves accountable for today’s abuses and caring for today’s prisoners?

The prisons’ failings that Peter reports are inexcusable for any circumstance. But it is particularly egregious to subject a non-violent individual to such harsh and restrictive conditions – for Copyright infringement of all things! That a modern, civilized nation could put an individual behind bars and subject him humiliating and physically degrading treatment all for the crime of allowing people to share music, movies, and other cultural material is an embarrassment and an outrage.

Don’t forget either, that we are the real target of The Pirate Bay founder’s treatment. We were all indicted by his sham of a trial. As anyone with half a brain and an internet connection knows, The Pirate Bay that Brokep, Anakata, and TiAmo created was just an empty site, a free space on the internet, a commons where we were invited to come and speak freely. WE came and shared our ideas and information, our culture, our stories and our songs. WE filled up the commons with our own material and with each our culture’s footprint. WE supported the work we loved and spread it far and wide. WE made The Pirate Bay what it is. WE made the site that Peter now sits behind bars for.

His punishment is meant for all of us. It is a show of force intended to scare us out of the commons of the internet. The crackdown on The Pirate Bay’s founder is a crackdown on US, all The Pirate Bay users who dream of a world where ideas and information, stories and songs, all our cultural heritage is free and we are free to transmit it.

When injustice is meted out to one of our community, it is meted out to us all. When one of us is abused, we are all abused. When the powers of the world seek to squash one voice, they seek to squash all the voices of the commons. Let’s respond even LOUDER. Let’s respond with ALL our voices speaking up from the commons, because we know what freedom is and how important it is – thanks to Peter and all the peers who risked everything to bring it to us.

FREE PETER!




Note to everyone! Many of the quotes here are translated with the help of google translate and my very rudimentary understanding of Swedish. I tried to put them into understandable English, but if anyone has better translations or notices inaccuracies, please tell me in the comments so I can update the article. Despite a lack of information in English, I felt compelled to write about Peter’s plight because I think it is especially close to many of us here, among Pirates, and in the TUEBL community. And it’s precisely because there was not much coverage in the English-speaking news, that I decided to go ahead and write some to share with the readers here. So please help me to improve this coverage if you can, and help to spread Peter’s story to the rest of the world.

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I love Red Rising, but this book took OVER A MONTH for me to finish. Yes, I am unusually slow reader, but not that slow. A “slow read“ for me is about a week, maybe 10 days, not an entire goddamn month!

Red Rising isn’t a “slow read” in the traditional sense, though. It’s not boring or stupid. It’s not particularly dense or long. It’s not Ulysses or Shakespeare. But damn, it is a heavy book! Red Rising is a 300+ page, month-long heartbreak. It’s violent, tragic, and gut-wrenchingly angsty. If you like midnight-dark fiction, this is for you. But for me, it was a hard read.

The Red Rising universe is an elaborately futuristic one: humans spread out across the galaxy long ago, from the moon to Mars and beyond. Humanity is (–TOTAL SHOCKER–) strictly stratified. But instead of fracturing their world(s) based on ye olde prejudices like classism, racism, and sexism, the humans of Red Rising fracture their society by human-defined colors: “Golds” rule at the top, “Reds” labor at the bottom, and all colors of the rainbow are stuck in between. Social mobility is not a thing – not until one lowly “Red” decides to fight his way to the top.

The oppression, propaganda and violence that hold the people of Mars in place are intensely, uncomfortably familiar. Despite the futuristic setting and the alien planet, the power dynamics and the violence are sickeningly similar to the horrors of our own world. And just like the sickening power dynamics of this world, it was difficult to read.

I read this books in GIANT CHUNKS. I’d read till I was falling asleep over my keyboard, then put the book away for days, hesitant to pick it up again. Despite the fascinatingly detailed world, despite the utterly, familiarly real characters, despite a story that made me completely invested and dying to know what happened next…… my stomach turned at every page, and sometimes I just did not want to continue.

It is a violent book.

This is not a softened, romanticized story of revolution. The characters are visceral, they are passionate and fearful and angry and hate-filled. The action is…. what you would expect from a story about one people oppressing another. And I’m no stranger to violent, dystopic fiction. That’s a huge chunk of what I read. And I really did love Red RisingI love the ambiguity, the realness, to this book.

But I can’t feel excited reading violence – real or fictional.

Fiction that mirrors reality – even in a completely alien world – makes me feel an outrage and frustration that just hits way too close to home. As a teenager blissfully unaware of the real world, violent dystopias were fascinating. But now…. it’s just too horrifically familiar. Somewhere along the way to growing up, I seem to have lost my ability to read this kind of book.

Red Rising is a series – or it will be shortly. But I don’t know if I’ll make the jump to Book 2. I don’t know if I want to add more violence and horror to my bookshelf. There’s enough non-fiction for that :/

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It’s a world not-so-different from our own. One company dominates the social sphere. The Circle and its ideas of radical transparency pervade private life, communications, and the world at large. Privacy is theft. Sharing is caring. Secrets are lies.

Long story short, I liked The Circle.

The writing isn’t exactly Lord-of-the-Rings-calibre beauty, but it was quick to read. The simple, bare-bones prose is sometimes choppy and awkward, but it moves the story along. It’s really familiar too: Dave Eggers’ voice is shockingly similar to Cory Doctorow’s. (Little Brother, Homeland etc.) And the subject matter isn’t far off either. Like Doctorow’s universes, The Circle takes place in a world uncomfortably similar to our own. The technology is not quite distant enough to call sci-fi. The politics and policy recall our own talking heads. The social environment, enmeshed with tech, is eerily like our own day-to-day surroundings. Of course, Doctorow’s books focus heavily on the technology (surveillance and militarism in Little Brother, the games in FTW, mashups in Pirate Cinema), and they are populated largely by tech-savvy teenage boy protagonists (loved the girl power in FTW, though!) Eggers’ focus is more social. In The Circle, we’re aware that there’s a lot of tech magic going on behind the scenes, but we largely breeze past it. The meat of the story is the implication of the world’s biggest, fictional social network on human interaction. Rather than the technology, it’s the bond between friends, co-workers, family, bosses that take center stage as they are alternately thrown into turmoil or magically fixed through the omnipotent powers of The Circle.

The Circle’s characters are unobjectionable, but also unremarkable. For a story all about connections between people, I really didn’t feel a connection to any of the people in the story – major or minor characters. Our eyes and ears throughout the story are Mae, a new employee of The Circle. Mae is a smart, independent woman who thinks for herself………..for about two pages. She questions, in passing, the pervasive, authoritarian hand of the company she works for, but is a toeing-the-company-line fangirl for the bulk of the story. There’s almost something Stockholm-Syndrome-ish about Mae – The Circle rescued her from a dreary existence and some misery in her family life and she repays them with undying love and loyalty. But it’s not as simple as that and Mae, in my mind, doesn’t get to play the helpless victim unable to make her own decisions. She makes it clear she gets what the company is doing, and her brief lapse into authority-questioning makes it clear that she gets that it’s not quite right. Ultimately she’s responsible for her own beliefs and decisions. Ultimately she chooses to be a slavishly-loyal fangirl.

Filled with slavishly-loyal fanboys and fangirls like Mae, The Circle is the in-crowd (albeit one with deep pockets and the ear of governments). But those on the outside, like Mae’s family and neanderthal of an ex-boyfriend are are hardly more likeable. As dead set on connecting the world as The Circle is, the outsiders are dead set against it. Mae’s ex is so anti-technology, he won’t even read online reviews of his own business.

The Circle is a dystopian warning. Every review/article I’ve seen on it compares it to Facebook, but it’s comprehensive infiltration of every aspect of life more closely approximates Google. Regardless. The whole thing is set up as a portent of total control via social networking. It could’ve been written by Julian Assange. (Actually, go read Cypherpunks. Then come back and tell me The Circle doesn’t violate the copyright of the cypherpunks’ collective dystopian nightmare!) And The Circle’s observations of the dangers of total surveillance through “voluntary” participation online aren’t completely off base. It’s got a point.

BUT.

But as reminiscent of reality as its setting is, it’s conclusions are incongruous.

In The Circle’s universe, the world gallops enthusiastically forward into its dystopic nightmare. Young people in particular both create and welcome the nightmare. The book is explicit on this point: the young people of the world, with few exceptions, take to the lack of privacy without question.

Except they don’t.

Not really. Not in this world.

And while The Circle isn’t exactly a perfectly allegorical piece with a one-to-one, fantasy-to-real-world correlation, it is quite clearly supposed to be this world in which this whole nightmare is going down.

But the naive youth sacrificing privacy at the altar of corporate America – that isn’t the reality of this world.

Yes, the Circles of the real world – Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Microsoft…. – are well on their way to totalitarianism in their disregard for their users rights and privacies. Yes, we live at the mercy of these corporations and often times give them way more trust than they have earned. Yes, we of the net generation embrace public life and social connections with open arms.

But our open arms haven’t flung away our privacy rights.

TorUseage

When Snowden revealed that we weren’t even safe from our own government, use of Tor shot through the roof. But young people didn’t need Snowden to tell them that they wanted more privacy. In the real world, teenagers took to SnapChat faster than the imaginary teenagers of Eggers’s universe took to the Circle.

Yes, Snapchat’s promises of security were shit. Yes, most high schoolers aren’t Facebook-stalking their crushes over Tor. But although the infrastructure for security is woefully lacking, and although it doesn’t necessarily pervade daily life, the demand is there. The desire to have some part of life remain ephemeral and secret and personal and exclusive is alive and well in the youth of this world.

The youth of this world want privacy. The youth of this world want personal space. The youth of this world want the choice to live large and public or to grow and develope behind closed doors and whisper in the dark.

That choice – to voluntarily  occupy private or public space as we wish – is sacred to the Net Generation. It’s the corporations that aren’t living up.

At least that part The Circle gets right. But the rest does not ring true.

With a style echoing Doctorow’s, I couldn’t help making constant comparisons: Doctorow’s youths fight the oppressive states and pervasive monopolies; Eggers’ youths welcome them with open arms. Doctorow’s teens use their wits to outsmart the stifling infrastructure they live in. Eggers’ teenagers line up to lose their privacy, and young adults happily take it from them.

I did enjoy The Circle, I really did. But the assumptions behind it I did not buy. The line it pushed was faulty. Maybe Eggers is a complement to Doctorow – maybe he’s the other side of some coin. Maybe their worlds aren’t mutually exclusive. But I’d rather live in Doctorow’s.

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“Copying, “piracy”, and open culture is about “a lot more than just copyright infringement and other mischief. They also concern freedom, equality, human rights and human nature.”

So says Alex, the filmmaker of a new webseries about copying:

We’re all familiar with Nina Paley’s cute “Copying is not theft” video that explains copying in song and cartoon. It’s a good reminder of that whole “You catch more flies with honey…” thing. Copyright trolls, and angry mobs are so anger-inducing that the copyright dialogue (whether on Twitter or in Congress) hardly ever escapes flame-war territory. But cute and friendly videos are a way better way to make friends.

I don’t know how cute Copy-me is going to be, but it definitely looks like it’ll be a friendly and informed dialogue on copying. The filmmaker has already made a short film called The Internet is Closing Down that contrasted sharing culture with the tight-gripped control of copyright. From their videos so far, it looks like Copy-me is going to be an expanded and updated exploration in that same vein.

And the crew is practicing what they preach by putting out the videos under the CC-BY license. That’s Creative Commons Attribution: you can do whatever you like with this video, just tell people where you got it. (And we know, that’s the best kind of advertising there is!)

The filmmakers are running an IndieGogo campaign to help raise funds for professional video-making-stuff like sound and video editing, animation, music composing and script writing, studio time, research and whatnot. They have a good supply of rewards including posters (I REALLY want that “How to copy” one!), tee shirts, and (if you donate 200-250€) an encrypted & engraved USB stick that says “Screw you NSA”!

And of course, if you can’t donate (and even if you can!) you can always support the project by sharing the hell out of it!

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Barrett Brown: jailed journalist, author, totally-not-spokesman for Anonymous, and general pot-stirring jackass*.

(*note: term jackass used with utmost respect and admiration)

Arrest did nothing to stop Barrett Brown  from publishing. From his new home in a Texas jail, he weighs in on everything from censorship to political history to jailhouse race dynamics to cookies. His work creates this awkward juxtaposition of sarcastic humor with very grave topics. Since I’ve been reading his jailhouse publications, I’ve laughed out loud more than once. But I’m not even sure if I should enjoy what I’m reading. The Nixon administration? So not funny. Censorship? Not a joke. The overcrowded prison-industrial complex? Hahah–nope. But the witty-as-fuck tone, and even outright jackassery, works. Every time, no matter what the topic, that’s exactly what drives home the point – whether it’s the severity of the injustices he comments on, or those he himself is now caught up in.

So I’m excited to read his next book, Keep Rootin’ For Putin, and feeling kind of weird about it.

FlockOfDodos

The review on Vice a few weeks ago proved that 1) I really need to become the kind of person who gets advance review copies and reads stuff before everyone else, and 2) the book is going to be everything you’d expect it to be – a veritable trove of of Barrett Brown’s poignant, if harsh, observations about the so-called “experts” who shape mainstream political dialogue.

Sadly, I’m not yet the kind of person who gets to read books before everyone else. (note to self: BE THAT) So I picked up Brown’s 2007 book, Flock of Dodos, instead. Turns out, it’s a glorious exposé of the world of Intelligent Design wherein he and co-author Jon P. Alston dissect the alleged “scientific” arguments for re-branded creationism, like so:

“[Intelligent Design] claims to be a scientific theory. That’s fine, because I claim to be a nun. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences doesn’t agree (with ID being a theory, that is; they have yet to weigh in on my nunhood)”

Having not given Intelligent Design much thought to since college (which is about when this book came out and about when, I think, the subject was enjoying a bit of a boost in popularity), I found the book to be a refreshing exploration of a relatively (to me) unfamiliar topic. Not that ID, or religious topics in general, usually pique my interest. They really don’t. (Not because I think they’re not important, just because other things are important too. And to be honest, I know a little more about Copyright law than I do about the Bible, so that’s generally what gets my attention.) But a well-argued case is a beautiful thing, no matter the topic. And these guys can argue!

If you watched the recent Bill Nye debate, you were probably struck by the calm elegance with which he could debate a topic which evokes such violently passionate dissent. Instead of harsh insults, Nye uses words like “remarkable” and “extraordinary” to describe his opponents’ views, and we all understand exactly what that means. His is a polite and dignified style of argument.

Flock of Dodos is the exact opposite.

From the start, the authors warn:

This will not be a polite book. Politeness is wasted on the dishonest, who will always take advantage of any well-intended concession…

And holy mother of Darwin, were they ever not kidding. Flock of Dodos throws out the calm elegance that is polite society’s way of dealing with controversy, and replaces it with painfully honest (but, as is clear, very well-deserved) ridicule. Take this metaphor, for instance, on Intelligent Design as a science:

Intelligent Design is indeed supposed to be a scientific concept, in the same manner in which I’m supposed to be doing my laundry on a consistent basis. And just as I try to hide the fact that I’m wearing dirty underwear by spraying myself with Lysol, William Dembski and his buddies are attempting to hide the fact that they’re wearing the Dirty Underwear of A Priori Religious Dogma by spraying themselves with the Lysol of Scientific Respectability. Now, my Lysol gambit will fool many people, just as Dembski’s Lysol gambit will fool many people. But there will always be someone who sees through the ruse. In my case, it’s my mother, who, like all mothers, has psychic powers. In Dembski’s case, the ruse will be understood for what it is by any reasonable person who cares to examine Intelligent Design.

…………….lol.

But, like with Brown’s articles, the style works. The insults and sarcasm and bad metaphors don’t replace solid fact and genuine reason, but instead serve to drag the fantastical claims of the creationists into the harsh light of day. ID supporters claim to be scientists, after all, and Flock of Dodos provides a healthy dose of good old fashioned scientific skepticism, (mixed in with equal parts lulzy wit of course.)

In all seriousness, though, the book was precisely what I hoped it’d be. Since following the author’s (one of them anyway) noble journalistic efforts and Anonymous antics, and seeing what Barrett Brown can do in just an essay (and from behind bars, while fighting for his freedom!), it really is worth taking a look at what he can do in book-form. And I for one can’t wait to see what he does next.

As for the Intelligent Design debate?

I think I’m ok with leaving that in my college days.

 

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Guys, Ownshelf needs your help! Ownshelf – the site that lets you share your ebooks across devices and with your friends on Facebook? I’ve written about them here before. Not only are they supportive of readers reading their own damn books freely, they’re incredibly supportive of writers (like yours truly! :-)) who make their books available for free and want to share them far and wide. Now, Ownshelf is running a Kickstarter campaign to help them create an app for phones and tablets and whatnot. They have a little over a week to reach their goal, so please consider kicking in some cash to help out a player in the ebook market that is really dedicated to helping readers reach their books, and helping authors reach readers. Ownshelf’s Kickstarter

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The mind behind the world’s largest, most accessible library sat alone without so much as a magazine to keep him company. Once called the resident boy genius of The Pirate Bay, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg is now isolated from the world he helped to connect. Bounced from Cambodia to Sweden to Denmark since he was arrested nearly a year and a half ago, he sees the inside of a court once again this Wednesday.

 

450px-Gottfrid_portrait

This guy. You can’t forget this face

 

The 30 Second Recap & Why We Care

Gottfrid lived quietly, but  by no means secretly, for several year in Cambodia. But in August 2012, with little in the way of legal proceedings, he was taken out of his home and deported to Sweden where, he was finally made to complete his one year sentence for the Pirate Bay.

Gottfrid has gotten many supporters through his work on the Pirate Bay, where he was known as Anakata, as well as for his less-famous work on WikiLeaks’ video Collateral Murder. But now, it’s not his work for transparency or free culture that’s a cause for concern – it’s the shady legal dealings surrounding his case…

Let’s Start Off On The Wrong Foot, Shall We?

Although he was so seriously ill (and in hospital!) that he could not attend the Pirate Bay appeal (local or Supreme Court), Sweden finalized the guilty verdict and his one year sentence. This left him no chance to defend himself like his fellow founders. When he was swooped up out of Cambodia (right after a totally coincidental, absolutely-unrelated-so-please-just-forget-it-already $50 million donation from Sweden) for unrelated charges, he was deposited in prison to serve out the TBP sentence without so much as a final appeal to exhaust.

Now, with his Pirate Bay sentence over and done with, Gottfrid is still locked away, facing charges of hacking companies in Sweden and Denmark…

Legal Déja Vu

While serving his Pirate Bay time, Gottfrid went to trial in Sweden over allegedly hacking into personal information at the IT company, Logica, and the scandinavian bank Nordea. Although he was first convicted of the charges, half were later dropped because prosecutors couldn’t prove he actually controlled the computer that was used in the break-in.

Despite this, and despite expert testimony supporting the court’s conclusion, the legal mess wasn’t over yet: Denmark decided to pursue it’s own case, complete with disturbing similarities to that which was already dismissed. This is how Gottfrid comes to be sitting in a Danish prison, awaiting a trial once more…

Treated Like A Violent Offender

It is not just the legal specifications of his case that cause suspicion, but also the prison’s treatment of Anakata. Solitary confinement greeted him on arrival in Denmark. Without even a jacket, he was unable to take the daily one hour outside that prisoners are allowed. Inside his cell no mail or books were allowed to help him pass the time. His lawyer, a former prosecutor, was shocked at the treatment, usually reserved for violent offenders. Prosecutors argued that Gottfrid could tamper with the case if given even a bit of comfort in jail – a watery excuse, considering he’d been under better conditions for months in Sweden and not given anyone cause for concern.

His isolation was not physical only – even normal social contact with the outside world, like the letters and reading material usually allowed to inmates, were denied him for a long time. Danish police claimed they could not read (or apparently could not find a single person to translate) English or Swedish letters, and that magazines such as The Economist could contain secret messages. Even textbooks for his studies in advanced mathematics were withheld long after he arrived at the prison…

Too Little… But Not Too Late!

Restrictions on Gottfrid’s prison conditions lifted somewhat after outrage finally reached the ears of the Danish authorities. Now, he may have his books (only 10 at a time, however), and receive his magazines subscriptions. He was even allowed to buy a Playstation 2 from the prison commissary, and he has some time to be with other inmates and to visit with his mother.

Social isolation is a punishment that leaves very real scars on its victims. Even though the long term – sometimes permanent – effects on the human psyche are well documented, solitary is still used by many countries that otherwise eschew torture. That Gottfrid is no longer subject to this is good news.

However.

The fact that he was treated in this harsh manner to begin with is a cause for deep suspicion.

While isolation may be used as a safety precaution for inmates who pose a threat to other prisoners, Gottfrid is not in prison for violent offenses, and has not been accused of being a danger to other inmates. It is clear, therefore, that his isolation was not a safety issue – it was punitive. For any civilized country, pre-trial punishment is an abominable practice, which is why we must exercise vigilance in observing this case and hold accountable any responsible for ethical lapses.

Pirate, Activist… And Human Being

Although Gottfrid is accused of serious hacking charges (never mind Denmark’s suspicious use of discarded evidence) he remains one who has contributed greatly to the world and demands our support.

 

CollateralMurder

Of course this totally has nothing to do with the viciousness with which he is being pursued…… Nope. Absolutely nothing. Totally unrelated.
<__<

To be clear: Anakata has served his time for the Pirate Bay, and the case ahead of him now is not related to his activism. For my part, I do not have the expertise or the closeness to the case to evaluate his guilt or innocence. However, it is fair that he should have a fair trial, the opportunity to defend himself, and treatment befitting a free country.

As the drama from the Pirate Bay case and Collateral Murder fade, it is more than ever important to remember that someone who has contributed so much to the world remains behind bars. Many of us are indebted to this man. And guilty or innocent, hacker or pirate, activist or not – due process is for everyone. We owe Gottfrid our continued support and vigilance in securing his rights.

 

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Hey again TUEBL-ers! Aelius here again. Remember me, you know, the one who lives here? Breaking news: I’m still here! 

I really hate any kind of “sorry I haven’t been around” posts. But, TUEBL-ers, I owe you one.

So here it is: I am sorry.

Writers are supposed to be impervious. We’re supposed to be tireless, disciplined writing machines, keeping our heads down, putting word after word, letting adversity, critique, life and anything else that could get in our way bounce right off. Sticks and stones aren’t supposed to break through our alligator-thick skin.

But you know what? We’re not alligators. We’re human.

Bleh, I know. It sucks.

This is not me. Yeah, I know. I’m pissed about it too. Booo

And when it comes to writing, I’ve got a thick skin. I mean, I learned to write on the internet for god’s sake. Do you know what an internet critique group is like? Think 4chan with more pretentiousness and less decorum. So yeah I’ve got my alligator hide well-fitted. I can take the red pens, the form-letter rejections, and the one-star reviews.

But when I look up from the page, the alligator hide falls away.

And I just can’t shed that goddamn human-ness.

I’m a sensitive gal. Although I can take critique in writing, in life I just don’t like confrontation. When the flames start flying, I like to take shelter.

Last month, there there were flames.

If you were around before Thanksgiving, you saw the angry mob come out in full force with their pitchforks and torches. Although I don’t actually run TUEBL1, the angry mob doesn’t make that distinction. And you know what? Having a mob come after you sucks. (And here’s a gigantic THANK YOU, by the way, to those of you who spoke up to support our little library during the last mob of angry trollfaces! :-) )  I’ve explained before that TUEBL only links to CheapassFiction because there just aren’t that many blogs talking about libraries – especially not the digital ones. And you know what? Now I totally understand why.

But you know what else? I lied.

This isn’t an apology post at all. This is a post to say that I am done taking shelter.

I’m done retreating. I’m done letting the mobs and pitchforks and torches and trollfaces get to me. I want to be here. This is my blog, and I stand by it, TUEBL posts and all. I am not ashamed to admit that I’m human and I HATE it when people break out in angry hysterical mobs instead of having civilized conversation. I hate it. BUT, I’m here because……… well, because it’s my blog, for one. But I’m here supporting TUEBL because I believe in the service that TUEBL provides to the world. I believe in the crucial role of libraries in our community – on and offline. I believe in the value of access to books for readers. I believe in the necessity of adaption – and survival – for writers. And I believe in the powerful opportunity that the digital world brings to creators.

If TUEBL can take those principles and build them into reality, then how can I not support it?

No more retreating.

 


1. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, TUEBL is run by Travis. Travis occasionally posts here when he has some official announcement or something he wants to say right to the community, but otherwise, he’s busy, you know,  actually running TUEBL. So 99% 2 of posts on this blog are my own, they are just my own thoughts on writing, reading, politics, and kittens. Especially kittens.
2. No, I didn’t actually do the math. But I’ve been blogging here for like 3 years, and Travis has posted thrice. So whatever the percent of this blog that’s mine, it’s pretty damn close to 100.

Posted by & filed under TUEBL. 5 comments

TUEBL has recently come under fire from a small number authors and publishers who did not know about our service and thought we were up to something no good. Instead of replying to each problem individually on Twitter, we thought we would answer some of the most common questions here and provide our own statement.

On behalf of TUEBL and myself (Travis McCrea), I would like to start by apologizing to any author/publisher who found copyrighted material on TUEBL. While we encourage our users not to upload copyrighted material, we have yet to find a way to block the upload of copyrighted material before it’s posted. This is not an issue unique to TUEBL: Facebook, Flickr, Grooveshark, SoundCloud, and other websites are working to find ways to protect copyright holders while allowing the free flow of information.

Even YouTube with it’s parent company Google has had a problem with this, they only recently came up with a solution which cost them millions of dollars and impedes on the rights of countless people who are uploading fair use material, or even just random videos that get caught in the crossfire. Even if we wanted to use their system, it would be very difficult if not impossible for TUEBL to replicate.

Because of the load it would put on our servers, we don’t and can’t have a user system. Our “user system” currently is powered by another website who was kind enough to offer TUEBL integration solutions and a place for people to talk about TUEBL but other than that is not related to TUEBL.

As a published writer myself, and having a second book on the way… I know what it’s like to be attached to your writing. TUEBL disagrees with current copyright law, and I believe that authors who cling to copyright are misguided by an industry which wishes to hold them back… however, TUEBL is not the one to make that choice for an author, we are simply here for the authors who want to go somewhere new.

Our current copyright system was developed side by side with a Harper Collins UK’s Vice President who was in charge of copyright management. We developed the system for him so that his company could immediately remove books they owned the rights to. For everyone else we were using traditional DMCA methods, having a copyright holder email us and us manually approving the takedown which could take up to 72 hours. This is how most sites still do it.

We changed the system and opened up this instant copyright removal system to everyone. Even though other websites who tried to do this have had issues with bogus takedown claims, we wanted to assume good intent so we launched our system that we had built for HC for everyone. Unfortunately it was abused, heavily, there were automated scripts which were indiscriminately removing content from our website and authors were complaining that their books had been removed.

A few weeks ago we finally tackled this situation by redeveloping an entire DMCA system. This new system is still fully automated like the old system, but requires a bit more effort. Still above and beyond the complaince requirements set forth by the US DMCA system, we asked for the basic information that the DMCA requests of every person who submits to any site:

* Name
* Contact Information (inc Phone, Email, Address)
* Information about copyrighted work

To a new author, or an author who hasn’t submitted many DMCA notices in their life… these might sound scary. We assure you that they are very standard, you can look at the DMCA requests which have been submitted to Chilling Effects to see example DMCA notices https://www.chillingeffects.org/notice.cgi — also note how labour intensive it must be to file a DMCA notice like this.

To make the system easier for copyright holders to use — we made the site remember the information that you stored on our server so that if in the future you have to remove more copyrighted material (which we hope you don’t), you wont have to fill out any more information everything should just be done. Fill out your unique code at the bottom and Bobs your uncle.

While we are truly sorry that any copyrighted material has been uploaded to TUEBL — it is a part of the modern Internet. Community websites get copyrighted material uploaded, what shows the true intentions of those websites is what they do next. TUEBL has proven itself to be a top website in the realm of protecting copyright holders by giving them the tools they need to remove their work.

We are always developing new ways to help authors who upload their books to TUEBL, and we hope that many of you see the archic ways of copyright and decide to upload your books yourself. You get a wealth of knoweldge about how frequently your books are being downloaded, links back to your website, and soon a system where people can donate to you directly through TUEBL.

It makes us sad any time a person is upset. At the time being, we feel the best course of action is to leave this here… and take a step away so that cooler heads can prevail. Of course, we will still be here to provide support to any author who needs it.

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Shocker of the year, people: PayPal has blocked the Kopimist Church of Idaho!

Ok. It’s not the jaw-dropping scoop of the century. With their (admitted) politically-motivated blocking of WikiLeaks, PayPal made it crystal clear a long time ago that they are not exactly an equal-opportunity service provider. We can’t be surprised when they make life difficult. But we also don’t have to be ok with it.

And, this just in, we’re not.

Here’s the 30-second background for anyone who missed it: in September, Paypal blocked the accounts for the Kopimist Church of Idaho over the Kopimists’ connection to TUEBL. Despite attempts to resolve things peaceably – starting with asking (in vain!) about exactly what triggered the block – PayPal has proved to be uninterested in finding a solution.

This is a problem.

Firsty, this is legal cowardice: PayPal is acting as judge, jury, and executioner over, not only a site, but an entire organization, because it is uncomfortable with a site’s content. Even if it were alright to cut off an entire organization for one outside site that it supports (hint: it’s not), there’s still the problem of that site itself not having done anything to get cut off in the first place. TUEBL is entirely DMCA compliant with a takedown process far more liberal than even Google or YouTube.

Secondly this is a denial of services based on ideological differences. Specifically, religious differences. And in case you were born yesterday or are from one of those (*shudder*) Not-America places, we take those differences kinda seriously around here. Had PayPal’s blockade held some legal water, it might be easier to overlook this particular problem. But with no valid legal concerns whatsoever, PayPal makes it clear their actions are completely ideological.

That’s not okay.

But, alright. We get it.

A lot of people can’t conceive of a religion that doesn’t involve dressing up in funny hats and weird robes. Or at least lighting some candles. A lot of people can’t conceive of a spiritual system where the sacred is not some external supernatural force, but rather something highly visible and relatable: the ubiquitous power of everyday people sharing information.

Yeah, it’s weird.

But Annie Edison was right: Everyone’s faith is weirdIs it really so much weirder to have seeds & peers instead of robes & candles? So, without weirdness as an appropriate measure of who gets to freedom of religion, what exactly is the extent of the First Amendment?

Of course, there is grey area. There are limitations on freedom. We recognize that the freedom of speech doesn’t extend to harassment. We recognize that freedom of the press doesn’t extend to libel. We recognize that freedom of assembly doesn’t extend to vandalism and mob violence. We recognize that freedom of religion doesn’t extend to human sacrifice. But the exceptions to the First Amendment all concern illegal actions, not individual’s ideologies. By and large, in the United States, individuals are free to believe what they want and practice those beliefs as they see fit.

So have we found the extent of the First Amendment?

Is it not just illegal actions that are excluded now, but disagreeable beliefs? And if that’s the case, then who gets to decide what is disagreeable? Do the entertainment industries get to decide what is and isn’t an appropriate belief system?

That seems to be exactly the authority that PayPal is deferring to in their decision to block the Kopimists. Without any illegal actions, they are drawing a purely belief-based line in the sand. And that line, in this case, is drawn by the copyright industry distaste for a perfectly legal site.

These industries are already fighting to put limits on our rights to privacy and communication. Are we really going to let them decide the limits on our beliefs too? Really?

PayPal seems to be okay with it.