Sunday, November 12, 2017

The (Lost?) Art Of Reading Between The Lines

Artificial Intelligence may be all very well for the sort of jobs that pigeons used to do, but it is probably not very good for culture. Nor is piracy good for culture.

Look what happens when underfunded and overworked people rely on technology. Spell check does not know the difference between the "wether" (castrated ram) and the"weather". Nor did the developer who named a subdivision "Whethersfield". Does it matter? Apparently not. Should it matter, though?

This week, a financial blogger wrote gloomily of a "viscous" downturn in the gold market, and someone blogging with a political bias for an Oath company wrote of discovering a treasure "troth" of damning information.

I use those two examples because--for someone who savours words-- there is some wordplay in each. Less entertaining spelling mistakes and typos and misused homophones are legion, and they will multiply.

Perhaps a common thread is that readers trust these news/opinion bloggers, but the bloggers are not paid for their writing. Cable network news reporters, presumably, are paid, and ought to know the difference between a "cache" (not dissimilar to a trove, and from the French verb "cacher: to hide"), and "cachet" (having or conferring prestige). Unfortunately, polite politicians echo their interviewer's gaffe and will probably repeat it..

There are also published authors who use the wrong homophone....  but I won't go there.

By the way, the Alphabet spellcheck on this blog does not recognize the correct name for a neutered male sheep. It also objects to a proper name (albeit a made-up one). It doesn't like the English spelling of savour, either. It should accept British spelling, after all, Blogspot Bloggers are reminded every time they log in that they must cater to Europeans and remind them every so often that this blog puts nasty little tracking "cookies" on their computers.

One ought to be aware of the power and the weaseliness (which is another word that gives Alphabet's AI a red squiggle fit, but it is here and elsewhere, too) of language.

Take EFF. Or leave it.  They write here  a masterfully misleading bit of prose about a case of global copyright infringement.

"Does Google U.S. have to obey a Canadian court order requiring Google to take down information around the world, ignoring contrary rules in other jurisdictions? According to the Northern District of California in Google v. Equustek, the answer is no.
A court in one country has no business issuing a decision affecting the rights of citizens around the world. The Canadian order set a dangerous precedent that would be followed by others, creating a race to the bottom as courts in countries with far weaker speech protections would feel empowered to effectively edit the Internet."
The weasel word that caught my attention was "information". Copyright infringers and their apologists like to call novels, movies, music, games..."information." In this case, "information" is proprietary trade secrets and resultant products.

Do citizens around the world have a "right" to stolen property? Do Chinese and Russian citizens have a right to take illegal copies of our in-copyright novels, change the names and locations of our characters, and republish our novels as their own creative works?

Maybe we cannot stop them, but our impotence does not confer a "right" on them, and most people wouldn't call plagiarism "free speech."

The Equustek case is comparable.  Dani Deahl explains it well here.  Equustek took another company to court for allegedly relabeling (or re-labelling) an Equustek product and selling it as their own, and also of allegedly acquiring Equustek trade secrets and using them to create other products. This other company does business on the internet, and in countries other than Canada.

That's why the Canadian court asked a certain ISP to voluntarily remove the infringing products everywhere within its power to remove them.

A witty judge wrote of the case using double negatives
“This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods.
Freedom of expression does not require the facilitation of unlawful sales of goods!
As Graham Henderson, President of Music Canada said, "This is welcome news for creators of all stripes who rely on the internet as their primary market and for whom illegal online activity can instantly wipe out careers and destroy investment in new releases."

The Guardian published an article about how ebook piracy can destroy a traditional publisher's enthusiasm for investing in new releases of subsequent books in a series if the first book in the series is widely pirated.

"We're told we have to be grateful we even have readers": pirated ebooks threaten future of serial novels

I recommend reading the Guardian article, and donating a dollar to them while there.
All the best,
Rowena Cherry

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