Copy-rights, copy-wrongs and the future of the Internet

Internet in chains

The Internet, sometimes synonymous with the Web, is showing some of its many connective threads in the form of copyright law and intellectual property. YouTube (owned by Google) is taking on a defensive role in heading off potential future lawsuits by pointing copyright holders at potential violators who have posted clips of movies and video games and diverting revenue to the “proper” owners.

What is interesting is the observation that our beloved Web and the more-expansive Internet, as initiated by Tim Berners-Lee, is founded upon the idea of a “royalty-free” ecosystem. Berners-Lee would either be a billionaire by now, or we’d have several versions of the Internet, each forwarded by some corporate conglomeration, if he didn’t make the sacrifice and reject the idea of patenting the early protocols and code that led to the ubiquitous “www”.

However, the future of the Internet seems to be darkening, as copyright law and digital piracy (those mortal enemies) push us toward less utopian conclusions. The presumption of net neutrality may be only that: tactics such as bandwidth throttling of P2P traffic are used worldwide, corporations are pushing for massive changes to existing copyright law to extend their global reach, and even ISPs are being recruited to become a form of Internet police. Even prioritizing traffic is looking like a possibility.

Turns out, there’s an entire alphabet soup of laws being pushed into the American legislature and extended over global domains that would change the entire dynamic of the Internet. Fortunately, supporters of net neutrality include leading tech companies such as Amazon, eBay, Intel, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo, and initiatives like Save the Internet working to preserve the open and free Internet we’ve come to love.

How does this impact libraries? Overall, it means narrower access to information (as stronger copyright laws strangle what falls under “acceptable use”), perhaps “preferred access” being granted only to users of specific ISPs, and far greater threat of litigation when someone crosses what is becoming an increasingly fine line of either violating copyright or aiding another’s violation. Libraries themselves could potentially be “on the list” in some circumstances, if they’re not seen as doing enough to prevent misuse of their Internet access. Here’s the ALA’s stance on net neutrality as well, as fodder for thought.

Is the future of the Internet in chains, or do you feel that it’s more likely that copyright law and net neutrality will resist efforts to restrict the average user?

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By Jared Leadbetter Posted in web

Black Friday Blues

Buy ALL THE THINGS!

Now that we’ve all survived Thanksgiving and its twin “holiday,” Black Friday, we can all relax until Christmas, right?

Except, of course, for the librarians that will no doubt be asked to assist buyers in determining which technological device is best, or how to use them. Black Friday brings technology reference questions en masse to our doorsteps, and we are the ones that help those tentative buyers.

So let’s give a quick look over the smartphones and tablets so that we have a few resources up our collective sleeves when those questions start flooding in:

Smartphones

Some generalities about smartphones, especially if you yourself don’t own one:

1) Smartphones often have a reduced price tag if the person is willing to get locked into a two-year (or more) contract. It’s important to know what cellular service providers offer coverage to the user’s area, and to read the fine print on any contract (breaking the contract generally costs close to the amount you saved on the phone).

2) Contracts are for both minutes (when using the device as a telephone) and data (using the device as a tablet outside of a wireless network). Overages in either area can become very costly, but data is usually the problem-child in this regard. It’s possible to stream a movie to your device, but that may take up a considerable chunk of your data traffic for the month.

3) There is a host of peripheral devices that you may want to purchase with any smartphone: a protective case, car charger, and often other devices such as a Bluetooth earpiece for hands-free calling.

Here are a few sites which offer reviews of the smartphones of 2013:

ZDNet reviews – November 11th article

Engadget reviews – November 22nd article

GizMag feature comparison – November 21st article

Tablets

A few helpful tips for shaping your patrons’ expectations about tablets:

1) Tablets are not small laptops with touchscreens. Tablets are aimed at a user more interested in consuming information and entertainment than generating it. If someone is looking for a tablet that can let them read e-books, play movies or games and browse the web a bit, great. If they’re looking for something that will let them do office work from home, they’d be better advised to look at notebook computers. (Yes, there are functionality apps out there for tablets. Most people I have encountered find using the on-screen keyboard or even a Bluetooth keyboard for more than short emails very tedious.)

2) Tablets also come in varieties that offer cellular access as well as connecting to nearby wireless networks. Tablets that have cellular capability (3G or 4G, these days) will require a data plan with a cellular service provider. Otherwise, internet connectivity is through wireless only.

3) Like smartphones, tablets will typically need more accessories, such as a case, stylus and often a Bluetooth keyboard for typing.

A handful of sites reviewing tablets of 2013:

TechRadar reviews – November 22nd article

CNet reviews – November 25th article

TopTenReviews feature comparison – November 25th article

For children, technology gifts are on the rise. In fact, earlier today, PBS recently posted an interesting article indicating that over half of the parents surveyed intend to give their children a tech gift (tablet or video game console) this Christmas. (Parents of children under two could be advised to research further, as lots of screen time at that age may have developmental effects; they may want to wait until pre-school age.) So let’s look at a few children’s tablet review sites:

PCMag reviews – November 25th article

Forbes reviews – September 11th article

Hopefully these links will give you a few choices of site to reference when asked, “Which tablet / smartphone should I buy for my mother / spouse / child?” Of course, to get some hands-on experience with tablets at your library, you could always request the Maine State Library technology petting zoo!

By Jared Leadbetter Posted in devices