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Today we like.

BigShinyThing has got het up about Facebook. Which seems to be a fair position to take. But in the same article, which is one of those oh-so-paranoid-oh-so-activist pieces they do so well, they mention the Google Will Eat Itself project (fantastic idea!):

We generate money by serving Google text advertisements on a network of hidden Websites. With this money we automatically buy Google shares. We buy Google via their own advertisment! Google eats itself – but in the end “we” own it!

and the ‘hypothetical’ Amazon Noir, “which uses a crafty bot to steal digital copies of books from the retailer”:

The bot will outwit Amazon’s “search inside the book” system, making up to 5,000 inquiries per book and assembling the individual parts afterwards to compile entire books. This would allow users to “legally” copy and redistribute copyright books from

And it amused me.

Posted by Peter Collingridge in Publishing, Web.

Links, 21 June 2007 // The World is Horseradish

  1. # Comment by Alex Fiennes @ 2:17 pm, June 23, 2007:

    This isn’t a new idea – Check out wired with The Visible Man: An FBI Target Puts His Whole Life Online whereby Hasan Elahi tries to make surveillance useless by preempting it and monitoring himself. He states “I’ve discovered that the best way to protect your privacy is to give it away … It’s economics, I flood the market”.

    However the key difference is that in this case he doesn’t want what the surveillance is giving, and his surveillance is not funding it. ie the FBI get funded regardless of whether or not they watch him whereas facebook will only exist if they have a business model. So, if you do succeed in rendering facebook’s business model null and void by giving away everything they are trying to sell, then the ultimate conclusion is no more facebook. Whether or not this is a good idea is up for discussion.

    When it comes to google, I personally think that it is the best search engine that I’ve ever used. I like having this resource and I like having it as a free resource. Or rather let me rephrase that – the impact on my personal privacy that may or may not occur due to google selling the only asset that they have to fund their business model is vastly outweighed by having google as a search engine. I wonder how much it would actually cost if google had no income other than the money paid to it by its users? I suspect that it wouldn’t be very cheap and I suspect that it would get more expensive as more people stopped using it.

    My personal feeling is that there is never any such thing as a sustainable free lunch. If you want one, and you think you are getting one then you are probably mistaken and you should look very carefully as to what information you are actually providing because that will almost always be the currency by which you are “paying” for your lunch. If you don’t want to pay this cost then you should take your custom elsewhere…

    (but then I’m just a grumpy old java programmer and no-one ever listens to me)

  2. # Comment by Alex Fiennes @ 2:38 pm, June 23, 2007:

    And while I’m about it…

    “users to ‘legally’ copy and redistribute copyright books from” obviously uses some for of the word ‘legally’ that I was previously unaware of.

    5. Licence for website access states “ grants you a limited licence to access and make personal use of this website, but not to download (other than page caching) or modify it, or any portion of it, except with express written consent of”

    So what they *really* mean by ‘legally’ is “it is easier to break the law and we don’t care”. It would be just as legal as if bookshops utilised customer driven scan and pay stations like Tesco and had no security on the door. Yes you could steal the books, but it still wouldn’t be “legal”.

  3. # Comment by Anne-Fay @ 3:08 pm, June 23, 2007:


    thanks for the namecheck – we’re now thinking of changing our positioning to ‘oh-so-paranoid-oh-so-activist’ x

  4. # Comment by darrell @ 3:19 pm, June 23, 2007:

    well yes we weren’t suggesting that amazon noir was in any way shape or form legal. we’re not even sure if it ever actually got built, but its a nice thought experiment, if nothing else.

    as for the bookshops metaphor, there was a bit of a kerfuffle a couple of years back in Japan, about people just ‘photo-shopping’ magazines from stores by taking pictures of the pages with hi-rez phone cameras then walking out without buying the actual magazines… so *that* at least is more than a thought experiment (to the extent that it isn’t of course just a nice urban myth)…thought we’d posted on BST about this, but it seems not…

  5. # Comment by Alex Fiennes @ 4:04 pm, June 24, 2007:


    just out of interest, what is the legal position on the photographing of the magazines in Japan? Presumably the magazines themselves are not super-distressed so long as people photographed the advertising as well, and the resulting news coverage of the dispute drove more people to look at the magazines, so I imagine that the dispute would be with the store. Unless the magazine has a permitted usage clause inside it that once it is adjusted for legal fair use still forbids the taking of photographs. One would assume that the taking of photographs of the outside of the magazine without touching or opening it is similar to the discussions that you get when you try and take back a bit of software when you disagree with the EULA (the software companies and distributors *hate* it but they generally have to comply).

    oh and I wasn’t implying that you said it was legal – I’m fully aware that you were merely quoted the original article and preserving the quotes around ‘legally’

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