November 11, 2009

Link of the Random Interval of Time (LotRIoT), 11-11-2009: Threatened Voices

Threatened Voices: Tracking suppression of online free speech

This site describes itself as “A collaborative mapping project to build a database of bloggers who have been threatened, arrested or killed for speaking out online and to draw attention to the campaigns to free them.” The front page is an interactive world map of bloggers facing threats — or those for whom it’s already too late. The default view is by country (the USA has 2), but you can also filter by status, including “under arrest,” “released,” “threatened,” “deceased” and “unknown.” The map has its glitches. When I selected “Unknown,” Tanzanian blogger Malecela Peter Lusinde showed up in Texas.

The American bloggers are Elliott Madison, charged with hindering prosecution for using Twitter to help G20 protestors avoid police, and Elisha Strom, apparently arrested for publishing the address of a police officer.

When you view the page for a specific blogger, in addition to basic info and links to the blogger’s site and any help-the-blogger campaign site, you’ll see a related newsfeed from “trusted websites.” Like the map, this feed is a little flaky. Stories supposedly related to Elliott Madison show up because they mention Madison Square Garden, president James Madison, or musician Liam Madison.

The profiled bloggers aren’t always people I admire or agree with, but that’s the point of free speech: it’s for all sorts of speech, for all sorts of people. Agreeable speech doesn’t need protection.

In some cases, I might agree that the blogging/tweeting in question broke a just law; but those are the fringe cases the forces of censorship love to present as typical, and it’s easy enough to ignore them. Overall, I salute the work and goals of Threatened Voices.


October 29, 2009

Modernist poetry and copyright maximalism

Paul Zukofsky, heir to poet Louis Zukofsky and his copyrights, thinks he gets to decide what “fair use” is — and it doesn’t include quoting his father, even for an academic dissertation, without Paul’s permission and, in many cases, a fee. He says he generally waives the fee for dissertations, but you are then forbidden to publish the dissertation.

A few things strike me about this copyright notice, in addition to the overreaching.

  1. I’m a poet myself. A poet’s son should realize there’s little money in poetry. Maybe a bit in greeting card verse, but that hardly describes the works of Louis Zukofsky. (But according to Paul, his father didn’t realize this economic truth, either. A triumph of hope over experience? Or did he, as Paul implies, actually transmute enough verse into cash to leave a comfortable inheritance to his wife and son?)
  2. If Paul Zukofsky really wants to profit from his father’s work, he’s going out of his way to eliminate free publicity and destroy goodwill in the literary community. “I urge you to not work on Louis Zukofsky, and prefer that you do not.” That’s one of the milder statements, with no mention of lawyers or courts or lifelong enmity.
  3. This might be a case of imprecise wording, but Paul seems to think he can collect a toll even on references to his father: “I hardly give a damn what is said about my father (I am far more protective of my mother) as long as the name is spelled properly, and the fees are paid.”
  4. I get the impression that Paul Zukofsky doesn’t think highly of the arts. He refers to interest in music and literature as “misguided,” and to a career in the arts as a “so-called profession.” I won’t speculate on possible biographical reasons for this distaste; I only note that he’s happy to profit from somebody else’s work in the literary field.

(Climbs on soapbox)

My father was a TV repairman. I’m not getting paid for work he did. I’m not even getting paid for work I did thirty years ago. Since the stated purpose of copyright (in the USA) is to promote the useful arts and sciences — in other words, to encourage creation — copyrights should be neither hereditary, nor too long-lasting. I propose a compromise: let copyrights be inherited, but give them an expiration date of 20 years. That’s 20 years from creation, not from the death of the author. If he lives longer than that — well, he won’t be the first parent ever to outlive his wealth. I’m not guaranteed an income from my own labor, much less somebody else’s.

And by the way, I usually publish my poetry under a Creative Commons license.

(Off soapbox)

Credit where it’s due

I originally found this story on Harriet the Blog, which notes that — perhaps in response to Paul’s copyright notice — an unauthorized electronic edition of Louis Zukofsky’s most famous work, “A,” has appeared online. I don’t condone this act of piracy, but I understand the provocation.

External links

September 19, 2009

If I cross-promote myself, will I go blind?

Filed under: General,Links,Politics — crcb @ 10:16 am
Tags: , ,

As an alternative to letting my head explode, I’ve started a political blog: No milquetoast for me thanks, at

October 31, 2007

Words in the mainstream: detainees

Filed under: Politics,words — crcb @ 10:40 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Mood: who cares?

<orwell>Thank goodness we don’t have prisoners at Gitmo (or elsewhere). Prisoners are liable to be mistreated, maybe even tortured, but we’re just hosting some detainees. They’ve been detained. Traffic was heavy, and they’re running late. </orwell>

Even relatively liberal sources, such as NPR, use this word.

Whoever frames the terms of the debate, wins.

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