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Here’s a podcast of my recent Guardian column, Automated calls, fraud and the banks: a mismatch made in hell:

The banks are now outsourcing their fraud prevention to computers that can make dozens of calls all at once, around the clock, fishing (or phishing) for someone who just happened to have made an unusual purchase and is thus willing to spill all his details down the phone to get it approved. Note that most of the categories of purchase that trigger false positives from fraud detection systems are also the sort of thing that customers are anxious to see go off without a hitch. The unusual and the urgent often travel together.

MoneyBox took up the question of robo-calls on 22 September, with a series of finance industry executives explaining their position on robo-call anti-fraud systems. As Money Box pointed out, customers don’t know what automated fraud prevention calls are supposed to sound like, or which questions are supposed to be asked. They missed that even if this were common knowledge, it would be trivial to make a homemade robo-caller that perfectly mimicked the calls, and set it loose to call around the clock, to many victims at once.

Santander’s statement was that the system allows it to “reach more customers, more quickly, all at the same time”. It didn’t mention that it’s a lot cheaper than paying humans to make those calls, of course. On the other hand, it invited its customers to opt out of the service. But a customer that doesn’t even know the service exists won’t opt out of it – and if a customer’s first experience with a robo-caller is with a fraudulent one, they won’t have had a chance to opt out until it’s too late.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes “Beer Jewelry” and “Odd Musical Furniture.” He often “meditates while reading cookbooks.”

MP3 link

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Here’s a podcast of my recent Publishers Weekly column, Doubling Down on DRM:

I’ve just seen a letter sent to an author who has published books under Hachette’s imprints in some territories and with Tor Books and its sister companies in other territories (Tor is part of Macmillan). The letter, signed by Little, Brown’s U.K. CEO Ursula Mackenzie, explains to the author that Hachette has “acquired exclusive publication rights in our territories from you in good faith,” but warns that in other territories, Tor’s no-DRM policy “will make it difficult for the rights granted to us to be properly protected.” Hachette’s proposed solution: that the author insist Tor use DRM on these titles. “We look forward to hearing what action you propose taking.”

The letter also contains language that will apparently be included in future Hachette imprint contracts, language that would require authors to “ensure that any of his or her licensees of rights in territories not licensed under this agreement” will use DRM.

It’s hard to say what’s more shocking to me: the temerity of Hachette to attempt to dictate terms to its rivals on the use of anti-customer technology, or the evidence-free insistence that DRM has some nexus with improving the commercial fortunes of writers and their publishers. Let’s just say that Hachette has balls the size of Mars if it thinks it can dictate what other publishers do with titles in territories where it has no rights. take black American music’s rock-n-roll rhythms without permission, but DJ Danger Mouse can’t take the Beatles’ melodies from the White Album to make the illegal hiphop classic The Grey Album.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes “Beer Jewelry” and “Odd Musical Furniture.” He often “meditates while reading cookbooks.”

MP3 Link

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I’ve been trying out a sequel to my 2011 28C3 talk, The Coming War on General Purpose Computation. I’ve given the talk twice now, once at DEFCON 20 in Las Vegas and once at the Long Now SALT talk in San Francisco. The Long Now folks have put up the audio already, with video to follow. I’m giving the talk again at Google on Monday and I’m guessing that the video will be live quickly (with the slides) and I’ll post that then.

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Music: The Internet’s Original Sin

Here’s a podcast of my recent Locus column, Music: The Internet’s Original Sin:

Let’s start with music’s age. Movies are still in their infancy. Books are in their middle age. Stories themselves are ancient. But music is primal. Books may predate commerce, but music predates language. Our relationship with music, and our social contracts around it, are woven into many other parts of our culture, parts that are considered more important than mere laws or businesses. The idea that music is something that you hear and then sing may even be inherent to our biology. I know that when I hear a catchy tune, I find myself humming it or singing it, and it takes a serious effort of will to stop myself. It doesn’t really matter what the law says about whether I am ‘‘authorized’’ to ‘‘perform’’ a song. Once it’s in my head, I’m singing it, and often singing it with my friends. If my friends and I sing together by means of video-sharing on YouTube, well, you’re going to have a hard time convincing us that this is somehow wrong.

Music is also contingent. The part of a song that is ‘‘musical’’ is totally up for grabs, and changes from society to society and age to age. The European tradition has tended to elevate melody, so we think of ‘‘writing a song’’ as ‘‘writing the melody.’’ Afro-Caribbean traditions stress rhythms, especially complex polyrhythms. To grossly oversimplify, a traditional European song with a different beat (but the same melody) can still be the same song. A traditional Afro-Caribbean song with a different melody (but the same rhythm) can still be the same song. The law of music – written by Europeans and people of European descent – recognizes strong claims to authorship for the melodist, but not the drummer. Conveniently (for businesses run in large part by Europeans and people of European descent), this has meant that the part of the music that Europeans value can’t be legally sampled or re-used without permission, but the part of the music characteristic of Afro-Caribbean performers can be treated as mere infrastructure by ‘‘white’’ acts. To be more blunt: the Beatles can take black American music’s rock-n-roll rhythms without permission, but DJ Danger Mouse can’t take the Beatles’ melodies from the White Album to make the illegal hiphop classic The Grey Album.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes “Beer Jewelry” and “Odd Musical Furniture.” He often “meditates while reading cookbooks.”

MP3 Link

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The very last episode of TVOntario’s Search Engine’s just went out (MP3), and I’m honored to say that it’s an interview with me. I started out with Search Engine when it was a broadcast on CBC radio, and I’ve been pleased to appear on the show several times since it moved to TVO. Host Jesse Brown is thinking hard about what he’ll do next, and he’s created a mailing list for people who want to know where he lands. He promises he’ll send exactly one message to the list and then destroy it.