Is Wikipedia using this seal to impersonate the FBI?
As reported in the New York Times, the widely popular collaborative information website known as Wikipedia has been threatened with prosecution if it does not remove the FBI seal from the site’s pages. The Wikimedia Foundation – the nonprofit charitable organization that runs Wikipedia – wrote back that the FBI’s was “incorrect” in interpreting its use as an effort to impersonate the agency:
Our inclusion of an image of the FBI Seal is in no way evidence of any “intent to deceive,” nor is it an “assertion of authority,” recognizable or otherwise.
Over the years, Wikipedia has enacted new standards for ensuring the legal validity of the content on its site. Users must now provide detailed information on how uploaded images meet permission and licensing standards for approval. Ironically, the credits for the FBI image file on Wikipedia include a warning to users about the same law now being used against the website:
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Public domain from a copyright standpoint, but other restrictions apply. In the US, unauthorized use of the FBI seal, name, and initials are subject to prosecution under Federal Criminal law, including 18 U.S.C § 701, § 709, and § 712.
Wikimedia’s author of the response, their general counsel Michael Godwin, took it a step further in his letter and called out the FBI for selectively removing statute language in their notice. He begins by asking, “May we talk a little bit further about ejusdem generis and your creative editing of the statute?” before ripping into the agency’s gross interpretation in a humorously cordial fashion.
Read the full letter as a .pdf courtesy of the New York Times.
Its a bit late, but in preparation for the 1st issue of my new zine, DIY 2010, I’ve been compiling a list of notable events from 2009. Is there something important to DIY culture that you don’t see here? Let me know!
New device uses laser beams to project your own lane from the back of your bicycle,
Shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California, sparks months of protests and clashes with police,
Canada is no longer a safe place for U.S. war resisters
Faythe Levine releases her documentary “Handmade Nation” alongside her book “Craft’s New Wave”,
FCC Free Radio begins broadcasting
Make Magazine begins airing a new national TV series
Bolivia approves of a new constitution that creates a ministry in support of indigenous autonomy
While cataloging zines at the Independent Publishing Resource Center recently, I came along a pristine copy of Book Your Own Fuckin’ Life #1, printed in 1992. While punk culture and the DIY movement was solidly established by this time, the founding edition of BYOFL can be seen as an achievement that sealed their prominence. It illustrated that the ethics of a counterculture movement had been fully formed and realized. It was no longer just responding and resisting, but creating an alternative.
The collaboration between Maximum Rock and Roll and Profane Existence would provide a resource guide for touring bands and traveling folks for a generation to come, including myself. The zine was the first thing recommended to me when I first began to roam across the country – it was a great guide for places to crash long before I ever discovered couchsufing.com or was aware of WWOOF.
The first page (or two) should go straight into the DIY history books.
A few quotes:
Over the last decade and a half the world has witnessed the blossoming of one of the largest underground countercultural movements in history. Born out of youth anger (and probably just bordem), which created the original 1977 punk explosion, this self motivated and self created movement has spread throughout the furthest reaches of industrial society. People grown tired of pre-packaged consumer entertainment and everywhere punk has spread its “Do-It-Yourself” attitude. Punk is a new folk music, where anyone can take part who has the desire for expression and freedom. Communication and interaction on a personal level is the foremost goal, with production, packaging, and marketing coming secondary. The DIY movement is vibrant and as more people, ideas, thoughts, and actions interconnect all the various aspects making it an ever-changing and growing movement. Over these past years the DIY movement has grown at an unprecedented rate, in some cases fueled by profit-making trends, but for the most part on a real grass-roots level. The national and international communication within the DIY movement is what has kept it strong over the years. Through the efforts of certain individual and fanzines, people have been able to make concrete connections between people of similar interests and have created an entire underground economy based on the spreading of our own living culture and ideal. Bands have been able to promote themselves, book tours, put out records without bowing down to the corporate music industry. That is the essence of DIY. People helping other people without an eye for profit, only for creating a better world and having some fun…
…We feel that by breaking free from the established capitalist system we are creating freedom in our own lives. We need the kind of global interconnections that this magazine presents the possibilities of creating. When we take control of our immediate interests this will set an example for creating a better world. We hope that the people who use this magazine will realize that DIY goes further than just a music “scene” and directly translates into the liberation of everyday life… Continue reading →
No, I wasn’t expecting much for the DIY crowd at SXSW. At a conference that charges hundreds of dollars to attend (even the low-end student rate is around $300) and refuses entry to anyone without a badge, there isn’t a lot for folks who prefer to do things their own way. So this blog will be providing an alternative view on the SXSW conference.
One of the immediate ironies I spotted on the list of panel discussions was one titled How Social Networks Are Killing the Revolution. It turns out the panelists had very different ideas of what the revolution meant, often referring to people as customers. They weren’t listed in the program by what movement they’re working on, but what company they work for, including a woman from the Detroit Red Wings! Maybe they’ve got a secret commie agenda?
Some of the audience members actually expected some meaningful conversation to come from this panel, voicing dismay that they would recommend social networks that engage in questionable practices such as invading user’s privacy. I could ask the same question to many self-identified activists who use MySpace and Facebook religiously. Most seem to accept that to get our revolutionary message out there, we have to sacrifice our morals to some degree. One of the panelists conceded: “We’re screwed.” Continue reading →
The other evening I was biking along Portland’s Waterfront Park and passed four people in red uniforms and matching berets. After a double take I turned my bike around and stopped to see if my suspicion was correct. Indeed, it was Portland’s Guardian Angels on patrol.
The last I heard of the volunteer community safety group was over a year ago when they were reported to be increasing their patrols of the MAX trains. They’re still here and in fact, they’ve been in Portland since 1983.
I first heard about the group while in New York City, where they were founded in 1979 to combat crime on the city’s subways. Guardian Angels began conducting their own patrols and making citizen arrests, often without the support of government officials. Like many, I had been intrigued by what seemed like vigilantes taking the law into their own hands.
While individual members probably have varying opinions on law enforcement, the Angels are nothing like the Black Panthers. They make sure to operate within the law while on patrol. Guardian Angels are trained for confrontations before hitting the street, but they usually will alert the police when encountering crime or suspicious activity. Does that make them snitches for the police? “We’d prefer to focus on prevention,” one of them replied to me.
These days they’ve also moved onto the web in their volunteerism with CyberAngels, an online form of patrolling that has included the monitoring of chat rooms for sexual predators.
Before continuing on they handed me one of their recruitment flyers. It contains a bullet-point list of reasons to join, including “self-defense” and in the corner: their logo with that creepy eye in the pyramid. What’s up with that? Bicyclists take note: they made sure to tell me as I was riding away that they’re looking to start bike patrols.
The Personal Telco Project is a Portland nonprofit dedicated to the idea that people should have a bigger say in how their electronic networks are operated.
They began in 2000 by turning people’s houses and apartments into wireless hotspots (or “nodes”), and then set about building networks in public locations such as parks and coffee shops. If you’ve tried to connect to a wireless network while at a local cafe, chances are you’ve connected to one of these.
Here’s a google map that shows the expansive reach of their current nodes (green) and also locations that are listed as a potential note (yellow):
Zoom out and you’ll see that the network reaches into Gresham, Beaverton, and Vancouver, Washington. There is a more interactive map on their website.
How does it work? Their website describes the network as simply local businesses and individuals who have voluntarily opted to share their wireless signal. Participants only need to modify their router settings to unlock access and let members of the community know that they are part of the Personal Telco network. This makes your network public but Personal Telco volunteers can help you if you want to keep parts of your network private. With a grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust, volunteers have also been able to initiate new hotspots:
Personal Telco believes that telecommunications should be driven by the community, not corporations. Companies like Comcast, for example, can set very high rates for their internet services, partially due to a legal loophole by defining what they offer as “entertainment” rather than communications. Legalese does a very good job of illustrating how the corporate world has no interest in the participatory potential of new technologies.
Like many cities, Portland has watched wireless initiatives come and go, with MetroFi being one of the larger services to end its operations last year. The private company won the city’s bid to cover the metropolitan area but their business model of using advertising to fund their service had failed. The network they began to build around Portland has left a number of their transmitters behind, which has led some to suggest that a community-driven effort, such as Personal Telco, put them to good use. The hardware will be considered forfeit if MetroFi does not remove them by April, which is very unlikely at this point. Continue reading →