Cory Doctorow: Music: The Internet’s Original Sin

In a recent Search Engine podcast, host Jesse Brown wondered about music’s ongoing centrality to the debate over file-sharing and freedom. After all, the music

industry has all but abandoned lawsuits against fans, and services from Last.fm to the Amazon MP3 store present a robust set of legit ways of hearing and acquiring music. The labels have even abandoned DRM. So why is the music industry the enduring bogeyman of ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: A Prose By Any Other Name

Back in 2005, I did something weird. I decided that I would embark on a project to write short stories with the same (or similar) titles to famous science fiction books and stories. My initial motivation for this was Ray Bradbury objecting to Michael Moore calling a movie Fahrenheit 9/11, which led Bradbury to call Moore an ‘‘asshole’’ and a ‘‘horrible human being’’ who’d ‘‘stolen’’ the title. Like many ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: What’s Inside the Box

Computer science has long wrestled with the question of how anyone can know what a computer or the programs running on it are doing. The Halting Problem described by Alan Turing in 1936 tells us that in complex cases, it’s impossible to predict what a computer program will do without actually running it. A related problem is knowing whether any defects or errors exist in a computer program. This is ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: A Vocabulary for Speaking about the Future

Science fiction writers and fans are prone to lauding the predictive value of the genre, prompting weird questions like ‘‘How can you write science fiction today? Aren’t you worried that real science will overtake your novel before it’s published?’’ This question has a drooling idiot of a half-brother, the strange assertion that ‘‘science fiction is dead because the future is here.’’

Now, I will stipulate that science fiction writers often ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: It’s Time to Stop Talking About Copyright

I inaugurated this column in 2008 with an editorial called ‘‘Why I Copyfight’’, which talked about the tricky balance between creativity, culture, and the relationship between audiences and creators. These have always been hard subjects, and the Internet has made them harder still, because the thing that triggers copyright rules – copying – is an intrinsic part of the functioning of the Internet and computers. There’s really no such thing ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care?

One of my most important formative experiences as a writer was working in bookstores. I worked in three shops: a specialist science fiction store (Bakka Books in Toronto), an academic store near the University of Toronto campus, and a dreadful suburban mall bookstore. Going into my first bookstore job, I’d been supremely confident in my understanding of the bookselling trade: after all, I’d been spending all my pocket money and ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: No Endorsement

My 2009 novel Makers concerned itself, partly, with the upheaval that might attend cheap, ubiquitous 3D ‘‘printing.’’ I put ‘‘printing’’ in scare quotes because calling a device that produces arbitrary, articulated three dimensional objects (including functional, assembled multipart mechanisms and solid-state devices) on demand a ‘‘printer’’ is like calling a car a ‘‘horseless carriage’’ or Skype an ‘‘Internet telephone.’’

One aspect I didn’t delve into with much depth is the ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Techno-optimism

‘‘Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?’’ It’s a question I get asked so often that I have a little canned response I can rattle off without thinking: ‘‘In order to be an activist, you have to be both: pessimistic enough to believe that things will get worse if left unchecked, optimistic enough to believe that if you take action, the worst can be prevented.’’

But there’s more to ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Explaining Creativity to a Martian

If science fiction’s unofficial motto is ‘‘All laws are local and no law knows how local it is,’’ then the purest expression of that law is the ‘‘Explaining things to a Martian’’ story – a tale in which humanity’s irrational frailty and manias are laid bare because some poor protagonist has to defend our practices to an alien (it helps if it’s a wise old alien, but a noble savage ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow:Net Neutrality for Writers: It’s All About the Leverage

Imagine this: you pick up the phone and call Vito’s, the excellent pizza joint down the road where your family’s gotten its favorite pepperoni and mushroom every Friday night for years. The phone rings once, twice, then:

‘‘AT&T: The number you have called is not engaged, but the recipient has not paid for premium service. Please hold for 30 seconds, or press ‘one’ to be connected to Domino’s immediately.’’

This ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: A Cosmopolitan Literature for the Cosmopolitan Web

Standing in Melbourne airport on the day before this year’s World Science Fiction convention, I found myself playing the familiar road-game known to all who travel to cons: spot the fan. Sometimes, ‘‘spot the fan’’ is pitched as a pejorative, a bit of fun at fannish expense, a sneer about the fannish BMI, B-O, and general hairiness. But there are plenty of people who are heavyset, and practically everyone debarking ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Proprietary Interest

Last week, I found myself wide awake in bed next to my wife, mulling over an e-mail I’d gotten just before lying down (checking e-mail before bed being as bad a habit as eating before bed – both of which I’m trying to stop doing).

The e-mail came from a very nice person who co-curates one of my favorite internet resources: a LiveJournal group devoted to scanning, posting and discussing ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: What I Do

From time to time, people ask me for an inventory of the tools and systems I use to get my work done. As a hard-traveling, working writer, I spend a lot of time tinkering with my tools and systems. At the risk of descending into self-indulgence (every columnist’s occasional privilege), I’m going to try to create a brief inventory, along with a wish/to-do list for the next round.

First, the ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Persistence Pays Parasites

My friend Katherine Myronuk once told me, “All complex ecosystems have parasites.” She was talking about spam and malware (these days they’re often the same thing) and other undesirable critters on the net. It’s one of the smartest things anyone’s ever said to me about the net – and about the world. If there’s a niche, a parasite will fill it. There’s a reason the cells of the organisms that ...Read More

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