Final Project: Congressional Internet Law

December 18, 2007

Congressional technology laws have a long history. From the Internet’s beginnings as a DARPA project to today’s child protection laws like CIPA, Congress has had a hand in the Internet’s development and evolution. ICANN currently manages the “day-to-day” work of running the internet for the US government. ICANN received its official charter from the government in 1998 and has since considered becoming an international organization to reflect the Internet’s worldwide influence.

ICANN’s formation is important because it provides a layer of insulation between the government and the Internet. It allowed the Internet to grow rather than “be grown” by the government. Also, as a corporation ICANN must support it self and retain some measure of efficiency, a property not often associated with governmental agencies. This insulation has also protected it from many of the ills associated with lobbying. Intense lobbying by industry groups such as the RIAA and MPAA have resulted in laws like the DMCA and DRM measures. Even an architect of the DMCA admits that it has not been effective (Citation), yet Congress has changed nothing and allows the RIAA and MPAA to subpoena people’s personal information from their ISP. This has recently been overturned in the courts, however, (Citation) and it remains to see what impact this decision has on the RIAA’s attempts to sue peer-to-peer file sharing program users. Meager attempts by Congress such as the FAIR USE bill have been fiercely opposed by the RIAA.

One Senator’s ignorance of Internet issues has destroyed his support among the technology community. Ted Stevens infamous “The Internet is a series of tubes!” speech has produced many laughs at his expense, including techno remixes of the speech and t-shirts with the best quotes. (Shirts)



While Mr. Stevens may be the face of a technologically uneducated Congress, the repercussions of ignorance reach beyond funny videos and t-shirts. E-commerce is a multi-billion dollar business and it all rides on the laws and regulations set forth by the government. The music industry is fighting tooth and nail to keep changes in law from happening, unless it benefits them of course. The RIAA is in fact lobbying to increase the damages per song from peer-to-peer file sharing from the current maximum of $150,000. This has not garnered them many supporters, in fact hate websites like this have sprung up that show the RIAA in an evil communist or Nazi manner.

The government and industries like music need to wake up and see that trying to lock down and criminalize peer-to-peer file sharing of any kind is wasted effort. It also gives the impression to many uneducated citizens that peer-to-peer file sharing is inherently illegal. This is simply not true. Never before has information been exchanged on such a massive scale, and these technologies could have a tremendous impact on distributing educational materials, but instead receive almost exclusively negative press. Just because something can be used for illegal purposes does not make it illegal, guns can be used for murder yet are legal and the oceans transport thousands of tonnes of drugs every year, but we will never stop ships from plying the waters.

The federal government needs to establish simple, loophole free guidelines for Internet crimes prosecutions. Loopholes are particularly easy to take advantage of in cyberspace. Where business “occurs” is sometimes a matter of where the server’s are located. They can still provide services to the entire world while dodging the laws of many countries. The Pirate Bay is a prime example, the operators even provide humorous responses (under “Legal Threats” at the bottom) to take down notices they receive from lawyers. Since they are not located in the United States these letters have little bearing on them. Issues such as this must be cleared up before more elaborate legislation can be crafted. A strong house cannot be built on a weak foundation and the current legal foundation on the Internet is shaky at best. Although with the current administration eroding basic civil liberties I’m afraid that Internet rights and laws are not people’s primary concern. They need to realize that the Internet is simply an alternate reality. A loss of rights online can quickly mutate into the physical world. Congress must educate itself about the wonders of cyberspace and the opportunities it holds, or else make way for those who do.


The Ten Properties of Fork

December 3, 2007

I like to think of a fork not for what it is, but what it could be:

  1. Eating utensil
  2. Catapult
  3. Strainer
  4. Weapon (if necessary)
  5. Blacksmithing stock (if steel)
  6. A split in a road
  7. Magnet (if steel)
  8. Backscratcher
  9. Big knot untyer (probably not a word)
  10. Parallel line guide


November 27, 2007

Over Thanksgiving break I decided to make an iron fork for Professor Moss since she showed such interest in our coal rake. Here is a brief summary of the process:

Anvil & Hammer

This is the anvil and hammer ready to go. The pointy thing sticking up is a “Hardy” it is used to cut steel and can be removed from its slot. There are other tools that use the same slot.


This is our stock.

Heating Steel

Heating the steel.

Hot steel

Hot steel, ready for action.

Finished roll

This is the finished roll, ready to be quenched.


Cutting off the extra steel.


Grinding off sharp edges. Note: not as cool looking in person, unfortunately.


Bending the outer tines: heating with a torch and preparing to bend with the vise-grips.


Notching out the pieces so the tines line up better.

After welding them together here is the final piece:

Final Piece

Forking Out

November 25, 2007

One of the first things I noticed about my fork is how shiny the surface is. I’ve always found it interesting that although labeled as clear the plastic is not, even water has a glare when the sun hits it.

It would be interesting to create a clear fork out of a material with the same density as water. It seems, then, that placing it in water should make it disappear. Since it’s the same density as water, it would slow down the light the same amount and with the water filling in around it, there should be no outline with which to see it.

An interesting idea.

Really Seeing

November 21, 2007

Professor Moss’s discussion of truly seeing and illumination today reminded me of a personal experience, getting glasses. Truly seeing is interesting because it is relative, it is based on our previous experiences. When I got glasses for the first time in 5th grade, it was an amazing experience. Since a change in eyesight is gradual you do not notice that signs on the road or leaves on faraway trees are getting blurry, you just accept it. When you finally get glasses it is amazing to see everything revealed in such clarity, particularly since you did not realize it was missing. This may seem strange but when you have nothing to compare it to you don’t know what you’re missing out on. This is why it is important to reach out and try new experiences, because you do not know what you’re missing out on.

News & Technology Survey

November 16, 2007

The questions:

1.Where do you go when you seek reliable information?

2. Where do you actually get your news from?

3. Do you crosscheck info from these news sources, particularly if it sounds questionable?

4. Do your news sources give you a world perspective or do you feel they are limited to one particular region?

5. Is there a market for alternate news sources?

6. What medium would best suit this alternate news source?

Person 1:

1. BBC. com,

2. Yahoo News

3. Crosschecks using Google, only if its questionable.

4. No, if you’re looking for a world perspective the BBC, both tv and online, is the best.

5. There is too much news. In fact, shutting down some news companies would be the best strategy.

6. NA

Person 2:


2. Same as above.

3. Sometimes crosschecks information, usually only when interested in learning more or seems questionable.

4. MSN and MSNBC give a highly US centric view of world news.

5. Absolutely.

6. An internet site that evenly covers news the world over.

Person 3:

1. WSJ (print and online), CNN

2. Digg, Google News

3. Only crosschecks if something sounds fishy.

4. The WSJ does a good job of covering worldwide financial events, but not necessarily general news.

5. Yes.

6. A newspaper/website that covers like the WSJ, but on all issues, not just finance.

Person 4:

1., MSN, Channel 7 news for local events

2. Same as above.

3. No

4. CNN is better than the others, but still very US centric

5. No.

6. NA

Person 5:

1. Reuters, Google News

2. Same as above.

3. If it was important to me, I would, but otherwise no.

4. Some companies do better, Reuters is pretty good about covering world events.

5. “There’s always a market for something good.” Of course there’s a market.

6. Probably a website, it’s easily accessible, doesn’t have printing or other physical distribution costs and is quickly updated.


October 9, 2007

Professors Moss told us about Scratch the other day in class. I wasn’t quite sure where to go with it so I fell back on a style of drawing I’ve never entirely abandoned: bridges with trucks on top. Preferably dump trucks as is the case here. In a fit of creative zeal I also added a train in a tunnel underneath to balance out the picture, plus underwater tunnels are about as cool as it gets. I have attached a screen-shot of my creation, the truck drives across the bridge when activated, although WordPress won’t let me attach the .sb file.

Truck on an arch bridge.