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Fables and morals

May 05, 20034 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalware

Fable 1: Some famished dogs saw a number of cowhides steeping in a river. [Editor’s note: A traditional method of softening hides for leather making.] Not being able to reach them, they agreed to drink up the river, but they burst themselves with drinking long before they reached the hides.

What a surprise! Common sense has won out. In the battle between the music recording industry and the person-to-person file-sharing world, distributed P2P has been found not guilty.

Bradner says: The file-sharing decision is good news for the Internet, even if it complicates life for the media giants.

On April 25, Judge Stephen Wilson of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ruled that Grokster and StreamCast Networks were not guilty of copyright infringement. The judge ruled that these services were essentially no different from the companies that created the VCR, which also allowed consumers to make their own copies.

However, this ruling is of little impact in the case of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) v. Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. The RIAA is suing Hummer Winblad for investing in the now-defunct Napster, the thinking being that the centralized nature of Napster makes the ex-company responsible for the content.

This is odd because I thought that it had been previously judged that there is no responsibility for content when you are not exercising editorial control. Any lawyers out there care to explain?

Anyway, this is as crazy as it is pathetic on the part of the RIAA. It seems that while the RIAA still has deep pockets it continues to thrash around trying to find as many people as it can to blame and, if possible, punish. In the process the RIAA is attracting even more negative publicity for its cause.

But let’s be clear, it isn’t just the RIAA that is to blame. The “big” artists it represents and all the other artists who want “a deal” with one of the Big Five are supporting what is essentially a lost cause. The Big Five are dinosaurs thrashing around in legal swamps trying to avoid their inevitable extinction.

Moral: Attempt not impossibilities.

Fable 2: A scorpion wanted to cross the river. As he couldn’t swim he found a frog and asked for a ride. The frog said: “If I give you a ride on my back, you’ll sting me.” The scorpion replied: “It would not be in my interest to sting you since we would both drown.” The frog thought about this and accepted the deal. They set off, but halfway over the frog felt a sting in his side and realized that the scorpion had stung him after all. As they sank, the frog cried out: “Why did you sting me, for now we will both drown.” The scorpion replied: “I can’t help it. It’s in my nature.”

In what sounds like a positive move, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo announced that they would work together to fight spam. The companies want to get broad industry agreement on strategies and tactics to make sending spam harder and filtering it easier.

And each of these companies has good reason to want to see something done about the spam problem. For example, AOL says it blocks 2.3 billion spams per day. Microsoft and Yahoo have problems of a similar scale with their own e-mail services.

Anyway, this sounds like a good move, but let’s keep a keen eye on what this alliance conjures up. The reason for my caution is that, while I’m sure the executives at each of these companies really do want to solve the problem, suppressing their true natures will be very difficult.

We have three rampant, rapacious, marketing-driven commercial entities. How likely is it that given half a chance they won’t make the solution something that gives them commercial advantage?

Moral: Some creatures just are what they are.

Your fabulous fables to

Footnote: If you are interested in spam, I’m presenting a seminar on the topic May 15 in Boston; May 22 in Dallas; June 10 in Washington, D.C.; and June 12 in Los Angeles. See, DocFinder: 5741.


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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