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My Promise

    I have always been fortunate to be able to cooperate and share my thoughts, feelings, research and worries through a single site.  It is a real blessing for me to be able to form part of the world community in which we all have something to give, using this wonderful tool of the Internet.  I thank God every day for the miracle of software and computing.

    However, this doesn't mean that everything has been peaches and cream concerning software, specially in the area of e-books and articles which are published commercially.  Recently I had a problem buying an e-book.  At first I was very excited, because this would be my first experience downloading a book I bought at a cheap price.   Since I'm boycotting e-books in MS Word format, I chose rather a PDF version of the book I was going to buy.  But something happened, I was in a GNU/Linux operative system and it wouldn't let me download using Mozilla.  So, I had to take out the hard drive with GNU/Linux, and place the other one I have with Windows XP in it, to be able to download it.  Once it was downloaded, it told me that my Adobe Acrobat Reader was outdated, and that needed an upgrade if I ever wanted to see the e-book I had bought.  So, I had to download and install the newest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader and I could finally open it and glanced at it.  So I reasoned:  "Ok, I don't want to be in Windows, let me copy this e-book to my floppy, and I'll place the GNU/Linux hard drive again, and read the e-book there."  I couldn't do it.  When I wanted to use xPDF and GNOME PDF Viewer and open the document, I couldn't. It asked me for a password.  I realized that the new Adobe Acrobat Reader had an encrypted password to be able to open these new PDF documents, so I couldn't open it using xPDF.  But then it got worse, when I then tried again to open it in MS Windows, it wouldn't open at all.

    This is perhaps the most frustrating experience I have ever had with software, right after a Windows ME crash that I had three years ago in which I lost almost all information.  I bought a book, and I believed that I had the right to do with what I bought whatever I wanted.   It seems that this is not so anymore.  It seems that what you buy from companies is the right to read a book under certain conditions, such as not sharing it with a friend, not to read it in certain operative systems, and practically resign to use proprietary software.  What about so many of us who don't believe at all in proprietary software?  What about us who wish to read it on a GNU/Linux or a FreeBSD platform?

    I remembered Richard Stallman who foresaw this situation, and how gradually corporations are using all of this to take away from readers the few rights they have left, such as:  the right to give a book to a friend, or the right to have the book you bought and read it again years later, or the right to read the book twice, or the right to sell a book that you bought, or to borrow a book from a library, or buy a book anonymously so that your name is not in a database, etc.  Before, I thought he was crazy, but I have come to the conclusion that he was right.  In the next few years, corporations are going to force readers to buy e-books, so that they earn more money.  They will force users to not use the computer as they wouldn't like you to use it.  Since this is only gradual, people won't be aware that these rights are being taken away.

    And I also say as Stallman said many times, be careful.  These companies will do all of this saying that this is an "established right".  BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THIS KIND OF SPEECH AND DON'T TOLLERATE IT!  Correct it immediately!  The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a means to establish new restrictions on the public, including sending people to jail for sharing with friends, or to change software to other formats that everyone can access.  The US and other countries can even do what repressive governments and dictatorships do, that they can ask for people to inform the government about other people, that they brainwash people since childhood by saying that only a cruel person and traitor (or even communist) can think about sharing information and music with friends (they use the term "piracy" for this purpose),  and robots in our computers to watch what we share (something the USSR did frequently, although not with robot programs, but with people who watched what was being copied, to prevent people to diseminate information forbidden by the government).

To know more about all of these issues, I invite everyone to read Richard M. Stallman's article "Copyright and Globalization in the Age of Computer Networks".  I also wish to add a quote from two prominent programmers and hackers who are not advocates for free software and open source, but who send this important message to the record companies:

The RIAA's [Recording Industry Association of America]  battle cry [against sharing music] is that artists are losing money and that CD sales are down because people are pirating them.  The truth is probably closer to the fact that CDs cost pennies to make but the sticker price is close to $20.00 dollars.  The radio station playlists are becoming narrow and uninteresting, promoting people to seek other ways to find the music they like.  It can even be argued that the artists themselves are taking less artistic ventures.  All in all, the RIAA's moves have the air of desperation.

The issue here in the eyes of many is that the RIAA wants to charge people to "loan" out CDs that they've already purchased.  Unlike the pre-Internet days, people now have friends all over the world.  What is the difference between sending a particularly good CD track from your favorite CD to your online friend in Austria today and in 1972 loaning your buddy Ralph your best album?  The RIAA is trying to cling to an outdated business model that didn't work 30 years ago and still doesn't.  People lend their possessions to friends so they will have something to talk about, so that their friends will be swayed by the example (and admit to their good taste), and that's how it has always worked (Dvorak and Pirillo).

For those who think that sharing files is stealing, and that is piracy, I invite the reader to read this article written by Courtney Love, the singer; and also this article by Steve Albini about how the true pirates, many record companies, treat musicians.  All we have said here in the case of music, is also valid in the case of e-books.

    So, I made a determination to make a promise to all those people interested in reading my articles in my site:

I promise to the readers that none of my articles will be restricted by passwords, nor will be restricted to a certain kind of computer, or operative system.  Everyone will have the right to read them.  Every article or e-book that I create for this site, those that express my opinion or those made to share information, either commercially or non-commercially, will not restrict the public's right to share this information.  I will provide the source code of the documents in LaTeX for those documents in which modification is allowed.  And that for all articles that I write, I will use only these licenses:  the GNU Free Documentation License (GNU FDL), the Attribution-NonCommercial-NonDerivs Creative Commons License and the Attribution-NoDerivs Creative Commons License.

Having said that, I encourage all of you, specially if you are an US Citizen, to the following:

Thank you for your time, and fight for your freedom and your rights ALWAYS!.

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Works Cited

Dvorak, John C. and Chris Pirillo.  Online! The Book.  NJ:  Prentice Hall, 2004.


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