So, I suppose since it is Throw Back Thursday, we can go back just a bit.
Flashback to 2001. I live in Chandler, AZ. I’m a student at ASU. I’m trying to help Mark whatever his name was in the GAIM case. On the phone is Wendy Seltzer. She was telling me about this project she and Jonathan Zittrain were starting. They were going to call it Chilling Effects. They asked me to participate.
I said, most definitely. I first met Wendy at Signal or Noise when I was taking a few courses at Harvard’s Berkman Center. The Signal or Noise was one of the many meetings for the course. Now, mind you, I am not one to attend workshops or conferences, but this one… this one had the potential to be of interest.
In fact, this one (held in Spring 2000) had musicians, writers, lawyers and computer geeks. Talk about my kind of crowd! This is where I first met John Gilmore who spent the entire lunch period and a little more speaking with me about GNU. I recognized him as toad. It was a grand time. I don’t know if I can even describe the mixture in the air. Lunch was typical with multiples of students not attending grabbing sandwiches. Artists from They Might be Giants discussed their concerns with copyright. A few presentations went south due to technical difficulties. The RIAA and copyright owners never showed up.
Walking the yard was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Leaving the parking area in Cambridge, MA was my greatest parking lot challenge to date.
At the time, my children were 5, 6, and 7 years old. Life was different for me. My focus was programming to make a better life for them. I was already expert in assembly language – my first love… and doing well with binary trees and stacks.
I was a single mom with no money coming in, no trust fund, nothing. We lived in a one bedroom apartment that was so cold. The only heat was from the stove that was supposed to serve as a heater also. There was a pull out couch and recliner so when it was really cold, we would sleep in the living room. I was working 2 jobs and going to school full time. With a subsidized day care allowance, my sitter made more money than I did working. I had no relationships as I knew I was a bad judge of character and the children (and I) had been through so much. It was cold and we were hungry. Many nights I went to bed hungry so they could eat. I lost a lot of weight.
The highlight of that time period was finding an old intercom system in front of a store in a box that said, Free-Fix me. So I did – easily and I freaked those kids out when they were making noise in the room. “I can hear you” my voice echoed in the bedroom. LMAO.
There were a lot of people competing for admission into these courses at Harvard. I don’t know how I got in. Maybe it was my programming background and interest in Copyright. Maybe it was my involvement in DeCSS. Who knows? The fact is, I was selected – tuition free for the courses over much more qualified individuals. My entire life changed. I was interested in becoming a lawyer… sort of. It was a tug of war. The other course I took was Violence Against Women. I couldn’t pursue that at that time.
I wanted to help people. Lawyer was an option. I wouldn’t say no if I could go to law school. Things didn’t turn out like that. I started protesting. I became an activist. At the time, this seemed like it was more important than lawyering… I was getting info out there! Keep Information Free!
Back in the GAIM
Anyway, it was Mark Spencer. He had the name gaim far before AOL had AIM.
Well, Wendy and I were discussing whether this was trademark or copyright and which direction to move.
I heard about the GAIM issue on Slashdot. When I went to IRC, there was kram, bitching about his issue. I knew it was him. What kind of person spells their name backward for their nick? 😉
At any rate, I helped him. I drew up papers, mailed these off and connected him with some high profile law students on the rise for additional help.
He publicly thanked everyone but me.
LOL. Good times…
I did watch the Chilling project as it grew. I used the information there to conduct my own research on the impact of the DMCA.
Thanks Wendy. Thanks Jonathan. You guys still rock!