the Live Journal sale as something more than corporate transaction

A former co-worker of mine writes about the Live Journal sale; in particular, she has raised concerns in the past about content censorship on LJ and the impact that has on LJ users as citizens. Worth noting (from the comments) that LJ is free software, but that that only partially protects anyone- my friend’s network of friends and content is still tied up in

Heated Debate by Mr. Icon

Heated Debate, by MrIcon, used under the CC BY-SA license (found by a flickr search for “russia you”)

This is just another example of a recurrent theme from our future: what happens when essentially amoral corporations own, and can sell, what amounts to significant part of our identities? Say what you will about Microsoft, but they can’t sell Office to someone and then retroactively turn over all your documents to the new KGB. (Or at least, we don’t think they can ;)

In the very long term, the answer may well be transparent protocols and self-hosted services (like we can choose for email already), but in the medium-term, we’re going to have to figure out something which doesn’t require people to host their own services, but still protects their data and their identities.

18 thoughts on “the Live Journal sale as something more than corporate transaction”

  1. Putting myself in the legal system’s shoes, even if I were completely clueful about technology, what rights exactly are there for laws and courts to enforce? My suggestion is that we don’t really know what those are yet, which makes it very hard to enforce them.

  2. Don’t be so sure about the Microsoft thing: MS Office document formats are unspecified and defined by a single closed-source implementation (and they can be password-protected, so there’s already rudimentary DRM involved).

    Microsoft couldn’t realistically prevent anyone from accessing their documents (since DRM can never be implemented in such a way that it actually works), but they could make it illegal to try.

    Of course, no-one’s suggesting that Microsoft would actually do this. We trust them not to be evil.

  3. illegal and impossible are fundamentally different things, really.
    I’m much more concerned about them making it impossible (dial-home lockdown/self-destruct mechanisms, or in the privacy case, leaking encryption details to the government and inevitably to the bad guys) than I am about making it illegal.

  4. Sumana: I’ve seen it; I think my fundamental reaction right now is that he is thinking in the right direction, but actual implementation for meaningful networked services (beyond simplistic publishing and email) seems very, very far away.

  5. Say what you will about Microsoft, but they can’t sell Office to someone and then retroactively turn over all your documents to the new KGB.

    They can with Hotmail, though.

    While this isn’t a popular answer in some circles, the correct long-term answer to this is not “open protocols”, which provide an escape route but no damage limitation. It’s to stop allowing software startups and IP lawyers (no offense) to treat software-as-a-service as an inherently different sort of thing from any other service, like banks or utility companies. Your contract with your blog provider should be much, much firmer than a EULA hosted on the company website.

    – Chris

  6. No offense taken, since your solution implies even more lawyerly job creation than the current situation. :) I do agree that legislation will likely end up being part of the cure here- we likely won’t be able to bootstrap ourselves like we did with the GPL.

  7. I posted a few comments on this at Burningbird – the main point was SixApart proved unable to manage the LJ community, having bought it for the tech. And they couldn’t even get the tech right – journals were recently restricted to 1000 tags for performance reasons, which will have a huge affect on community journals.

    The buyout was the tipping point for my friend Grahame to switch – he exported his journal with LJ archive (there’s a perl script, but it wasn’t as good) into a wordpress install He’d been wanting to switch for some time due to the content censorship earlier this year, but hadn’t wanted to use wordpress for quality reasons.

  8. Wait… so let me get this straight. You are:
    1. complaining that Six Apart has been heavily censoring LJ; but
    2. think that the SUP buyout will be bad the LJ community, despite the well-known fact that
    3. SUP has done virtually no censorship in its part of LJ for the 12 months that it has been in control?

    Hello, logic?

  9. SUP’s role for the past 12 months has not been “in control”, but only for marketing and support with no access to the content database. The problem with the censoring that SA has done is that it’s been completely ad-hoc with no clear guidelines (or they contradict their own policies).

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