|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [hangout] NYLXS Report on Washington action
New Yorkers for Fair use/NYLXS Washington Report US Department of Commerce
DRM Workshop Political Action July 17th, 2002
On July 17th, 2002, New Yorkers for Fair Use and NYLXS, with help from the
Free Software Foundation, held a political action at the Department of
Commerce where they were holding their second Digital Rights Management
(DRM) Workshop. New Yorkers for Fair Use spearheaded the efforts to
bring public opinion to the meeting in a reasonable and effective manner.
New Yorkers for Fair Use is happy to announce that all of our goals
were met in this action, and even exceeded, without disrupting the
normal activities of the meeting. It was our goal to have a voice
and participate in the Democratic process, and not to disrupt entirely
Prior to the meeting in Washington DC, the President of NYLXS and
co-founder of NY Fair Use, Ruben Safir, was attending at the request of
the French Free Software movement, the Libre Software Meeting in Bordeuax
France. Upon arriving to France, Ruben checked his email and received
from the NY Fair Use Secretary, Seth Johnson, a message outlining the
Commerce Departments announcement with a list of participants, and asking
if NY Fair Use wanted to attend the meeting, scheduled to happen the day
after Ruben's arrival back in New York the next week. Ruben was reluctant
to schedule a trip to Washington DC so soon after arriving home, but the
meeting appeared to be too good of a target for the NY Fair use agenda
to pass up. It would give us an oppurtunity to speak face to face with
most of our chief opponents including the likeable and articulate Jack
Valenti of the MPAA, the RIAA, and several industrial leaders including
Microsoft, and Intel. So Ruben sent a reply back to Se! th to prepare
for the trip and assigned him the duty of preparing everyone for the trip.
Once the decision was made within the NY Fair Use management to go ahead
with the plan, several goals were agreed upon by the management including
Ruben, Seth, Co-founder of NY Fair Use Brett Wynkoop, and Jay Sulzberger
our general public relations manager. NYLXS also geared into action
providing network services and funding for the trip. NYLXS members,
as usually, sprang into action in support of the NY Fair Use activity.
In particular, Micheal Richardson, the NYLXS Membership Chairman
and Journal Editor designed buttons and helped drive everyone down to
Washington, Kevin Mark contributed to the PR material, Vinnie alerted as
much of the press as possible and Joe Maffia offered technical support.
Even with large parts of NYLXS on vacation, the organization worked
admirably according to it's charter, to support and educate the public
about issues which affect Free Software in business, education, and in
The first agenda item by NY Fair Use was to get us representation on the
panel, specifically by including Ruben Safir as a panel representative.
Although Ruben was in France and cut off from many of the Washington
connections which have been nutured over the last few years, NY Fair
Use was petitioning for a place on the panel from the start. We had
Sarah Brown of the EFF in Washington who put Seth Johnson in contact
with Chris Israel inside the Commerce Department. Seth Johnson also
tried to contact Congressman Weiners Office in an effort to bring some
Congressional pressure on the matter. But with the limited time frame
and our chief advocate in Europe, we were not able to get representation
on the board. Ultimately, NY Fairuse had to fall back to our secondary
plan, to participate as members of the audience.
Limited to audience participation, we now opened the discussion on a
new mailing list created by Seth for the purposes of organizing this
action in Washington. The first order of business was to produce proper
slogans for our goals. One goal of NYLXS is to change the whole lexicon
of the DRM and Copyright discussion. We felt that certain messages
needed to be brought to the public and the press to assure our future
success, not just in this battle over DRM, but also in a wide variety of
copyright and fair use issues as they have trickled into the public eye
over the last few years. We decided, after much discussion and after
considering many opinions on the mailing lists, to attempt to drive into
the public lexicon the phases, DRM is Theft and We are the Stakeholders.
We chose these expressions very carefully to counter the rhetoric coming
out of the copyright monopoly content industry, especially the claims
by Senator Hollings that he had assembled all the Stakeholders!
to write his CBDTPA bill, and Jack Valenti's rhetoric that the simple
act of listening to a DVD on a GNU/Linux operating system is stealing
property from the motion picture industry.
The next stage of planning fell into the lap of Seth Johnson, who
mobilized NYLXS and NY Fair Use for the practical matters of making
the trip. Fortunately, NYLXS is today a well oiled machine. We are
very proud of the volunteer spirit of the organization and it's ability
to deliver when called upon. Joe Maffia researched our previous work
in find a minibus for the trip down. Seth Johnson offered use of his
credit cards to get the truck. Michael Richardson volunteered to drive
everyone to DC. Brett Wynkoop oversaw all the system adminitrations and
co-ordination duties needed to keep everyone in touch. Jay Sulzberger
wrote up a terrific position paper for the trip and a media guid.
Vinnie contacted nearly every press contact he could find with information
about the trip. Members with almost every political background came from
every part of the city to volunteer to make the trip. NYLXS has become
very effective at organizing events. They are motivated, proactive, a!
Meanwhile in France, Ruben Safir and Richard Stallman, over much wine,
reviewed the political strategy for the action. The principals agreed
to a joint effort of the FSF and NY, and even planned on backup
contingencies including how to hold a protest outside of the building
if we were eventually not allowed into the conference room. Some of
the ideas we knocked around was shhowing up with steaks, as in meat, to
drive home the message that the public is the stakeholders on copyright
monopoly matters, or dessing in costumes. However time would not allow
us to co-ordinate these efforts. They are still on the table for future
On Richard and Ruben's arrival home to the States, all the pieces
were in place for a successful run at changing the direction of the
DRM discussion. The afternoon Ruben came home to New York, Seth and
Ruben touched base and made certain that the arrangements for the van
was in place, and that everyone was clear about the time and place we
were to meet. We argeed to meet early in the afternoon the day Ruben
arrived home, and the day before going to Washington, to pick up the
truck from another neighborhood in Brooklyn across town. Seth, Micheal
and Ruben went out to rent the van, and drove it home. We decided to
meet at Ruben's house the night before for a final planning session
Since we were leaving at 4AM in the morning to get to DC on time for a
meeting with the media at 10AM, everyone assembled very early in Flatbush.
Brett left with his own care from Park Slope in Brooklyn and we stayed
in touch on the road. In the minibus we had Michael Richardson, Jay
Sulzberger, Seth Johnson, Vinnie, Forrest Mars, Murray, Kevin Marks,
and Ruben. Nearly everyone was dressed in a suit and tie.
The drive down to Washington went smoothly and we met with media guru
Eric Hensal at the Corner Bakery in the Press Club building a few blocks
from the Commerce Department Building. Eric gave NY Fair Use great media
tips on how to get seen by the press, in addition to a packet with vital
press contacts both in the building and across town. Forrest Mars ran
our Media Alert through the building, while Richard Stallman met with us
at the bakery with copies of the flyers. Richard and Ruben had spent
most of the night on the phone and through mail dotting the i's and
crossing the t's on the press release. Vinnie ran off more copies.
Brett and Kevin ran down to the Commerce Department Building to scout
out the conditions. As it turned out, this was critical because the
Department of Commerce was convinced that they could close the meeting to
the public. Brett's charm and force of rhetoric convinced the panel that
they couldn't close the workshop, and by the time that we we! re ready
to actually go to the meeting, the Panel had rolled out the red carpet
for NY Fair Use, giving us an escort to upstairs to the 4th Floor.
Finally, at about 12:30, Ruben, Richard, Seth and Kevin marched to the
Commerce Department building, with the rest following later. Ruben handed
out our flyers, and met with several friends in the press and with other
organizations who are aligned with us. We met with Declan McCullagh
from CNN Net, and Robin Gross of the EFF. We also met with American
Library Association Representative, Miriam Nisbet and told them of
our efforts to protect Libraries last year with our save the Libraries
Campaign. People lined up to meet Richard Stallman before the meeting,
and eventually the rest of our group arrived at the meeting, filling up
We also had the pleasure of seeing many old friends from the Press
including Seattle reporter Sarah Strickland and Bloomberg reporter
Katherine Reynolds Lewis. As the meeting started, everyone in our group
was wearing the DRM is Theft Buttons, and the We are the Stakeholders
Buttons. In fact, we almost ran out of buttons.
It was not the plan of NY Fair Use in any way to disrupt the Workshop
Panel. Neither was it the goal of the organization to sit mute in
the audience and not be felt. Our goal was to clearly participate as
audience members of the panel. In this matter, and within the bounds of
normal political discourse as is the rule with such contentious issues.
For example, as the meeting started, the Chair began by saying that he'd
like to announce that nobody on the panel is a villian. This brought
audible laughter from the audience. We were then quiet for the next hour.
At one point, Brett Wynkoop, who couldn't find a chair and finally sat
near the panel's table, raised his hand when the Chair asked if anyone
else had a comment. The Chair recognized Brett, who then proceeded
to announce his name and position as co-founder of NY Fair Use.
The Chair tried to un-recognize him, but Brett just plowed forward,
within the bounds of Rogers Rules of Order, by asking the panel how
they ! could consider regulations and laws which would turn every
teenager in America with a Magic Marker or Wite-Out, into a felon.
Brett was refering to the recent flap over the attempt by the music
industry to produce DRM for audio CD's which was quickly defeated with
a single line made by a marker. Several minutes of interesting debate
followed which finally climaxed when one of the lawyers on the panel
gave the legal opinion that the courts would never convict anyone for
using a Magic Marker as a circumvention device because the courts had
not considered that a sufficient circumvention method under the DMCA.
This caused Ruben to ask if we can get that in writing for the next DMCA
trial dealing with digital music. Everyone was jovial at this point,
laughing and smiling and, enjoying the open participatory democratic
process unfolding before their eyes. Only the most pretentious of
individuals in the crowd refused to smile and participate.
Earlier, a schematic diagram was given of the current state of DRM
development. This alphabet soup of circles and letters were discoursed
upon for several minutes; the thing looked looked similar to a Network
Map of the internet. Nobody could understand a word of what was being
presented, but everyone sat quitely and listened anyway. At the end of
this part of the representation, the image on the projector was flipped,
to connect the dots in complete chaos. This fitting image of the state of
current DRM schemes would come back to haunt the panel as the presentation
NY Fair Use mostly sat quietly through the meeting, occasionally
whispering to each other, until MPAA spokesman Jack Valenti took the
floor. At this point, Jack elegantly said in a beautiful self-effacing
fashion, that he hopes that everyone on the panel would give him
the courtesy to be heard and then he would yield the floor to others.
At this moment, Vinnie stood up and said, How can you expect everyone to
present their response to your comments when you've left off the panel
the most important stakeholders, the public.. Jack then graciously said
that if we let him speak without interruption (not that we seriously
interupted anyone), that he would be glad to listen to Vinnie's reply.
Jay Sulzberger stood up and said we all agree, and the Chair was feeling
a little uncomfortable at this point, feeling he was losing control.
But everyone sat silently and heard Jack speak. He put on a classic Jack
Valenti performance, and said that it was his position that Government i!
ntervention in this matter wasn't a bad thing. And that his experience in
the Johnson Administration passing the 1965 Civil Rights Act showed him
how important and good proper Government intervention can be. He then
continued by saying in his charming Texas drawl, that it was his hope
that the leaders in the IT industry and the computer field would come
to a consensus in the next month on a DRM standard which would protect
the property of the Movie Industry from theft. This caused Ruben to
whisper to Vinnie that when the floor returned to him, he should defer
comment to Richard Stallman, who was the most qualified and highest
ranking IT professional in the building. When Jack finished, the Chair
reluctantly deferred to Jack's wishes and gave the floor to Vinnie.
Vinnie then identified himself as a member of NY Fair Use and asked to
defer the answer the Richard. Richard stood up, but the Chair didn't
let him talk, in violation of the rules of order, and instead said,
We've already accidently added one of your members to the panel, and he
saw no reason why we should get another member to give their opinion.
This caused the audience to get visibly upset. In response, NYLXS
President Ruben Safir intervened and asked the Chair, Pardon me, Mr
Chair, however, Mr. Valenti nicely pleaded that the leaders of the IT
industry to come to a consensus on DRM. However, one of the greatest
figures in the Computing Field was standing right here to the left,
as part of NY Fair Use. Richard Stallman has just been given an award
in France by the United Nations for his contributions to World Heritage
with the invention and development of the GNU/Linux!
system and it's variants. He's the most qualified person in the
room to make a public comment in response to Mr Valenti's request.
Ruben's intervention at this point quieted the crowd as nobody wanted
things to break down into a raucous confrontation. Though Richard was
still denied a chance to speak, our discipline assured that the meeting
could continue without derailing the workshop.
However, much of the conversation from that point forward was affected
by the events. The Digital Recording Rights Coalition presented more
forcefully their position that DRM eroded Fair Use. Jack, in order to
convey just how serious the MPAA is about getting DRM enacted quickly,
said that while the MPAA responded to a letter from Microsoft about
progress toward DRM in 24 hours, that when the MPAA sent such a letter to
Microsoft, Microsoft took a long time to return a response. Microsoft at
this point all but threatened to buy all the Movie Producers if they
continued to be such a pain in the neck. Although this was not their
exact words, their threat was neither veiled or lost on Mr Valenti.
Meanwhile, Jack tried to persuade the panel that the Movie Industry
had never really been against the VCR. This caused some agitation
of panelists, and the crowd just laughed. The panel pointed out that
despite the Movie Industry's professed love for the VCR, they brought
an injunction against panel members whoose companies made VCR, which
injunction was eventually defeated in the supreme court.
But Jack was not the only Panel member capable of bald faced lies.
EMI tried to convince everyone that artists really don't hate their record
labels, but only say so in public because it's good PR. And later they
claimed that the record labels weren't responsible for preventing music
from being available, but that it was the artist's fault. AOL Time
Warner delightfully wants to close the analogue hole. And a bunch
of other positions were espoused, many of which have been covered by
Slashdot Ad Nauseum and need not be repeated here.
At the end of the session, everyone had a chance on the panel to express
themselves exactly as they wished to. And when it finished, Jay announced
that NY Fair Use was to have a press conference in front of the Commerce
Department Building at 4:30. Ruben gave his press conference with the
help of Richard and Jay. We talked extensively with Bloomberg and other
reporters. We announced our position and we announced our sponsorship
of the NY Fair Use Fair Use Bill. NY Fair Use attained almost all of our
goals for this action. The phrases, We are the stakeholders and DRM is
theft have begun to make their way into the press. We are being invited
to a new panel on DRM for consumers and we are debating the merits of
this now. We are leery of the formation of another panel and question
whether is is a stalling tactic. And we reiterated our position that NY
Fair Use wants a seat with the original panel. Capital Hill was abuzz
the next day with our activities. And Congressman Weiner's Office has
promised to led it's efforts to bring us into the panel in the future.
NY for Fair Use has kicked down the door that everyone else will now
You are welcome.....
Ruben Safir Co-founder of NY Fair Use. President NYLXS.
----- End forwarded message -----
----- End forwarded message -----
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