Internet illiteracy: Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #5
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/04/09
I’ve mentioned that the origin of “Joe Newton’s” e-mails had been traced to the University of Connecticut, which meant something to me only many months later when Seth C Kalichman emerged with his anti-“denialist” blog and PR campaign for his forthcoming book (How not to create a persona: Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #4, 29 March 2009).
Kalichman is surely not alone in failing to realize that no one can long remain safely anonymous on the Internet, especially those of us who don’t inhabit the rarified levels of sophistication commanded by spammers and hackers and national security services. It might be a worthwhile project for a clinical or social psychologist at some time to investigate just why it is that so many people continue to act as though they thought their e-mails could be private or anonymous, when almost every day brings warnings to the contrary and about innumerable scams in which seduction is attempted via fake personas.
I claim no sophisticated understanding of how computers work, or the Internet, but I’ve used these things from their beginnings, and came to take for granted quite early on that one had to be continually on guard against hackers, viruses, and personal scams — quite apart from all the people at one’s place of employment who can access one’s e-mail correspondence, which moreover is stored for some indefinite period of time.
It became second nature to be on guard whenever an e-mail arrived from someone not already known to me. I continue to learn new wrinkles, though, for instance that even apparently genuine e-mails — they come from known return addresses — can be fraudulent. Not so long ago, a friend sent me an hysterical e-mail saying she was stranded in a hostile country, accused of some minor crime, the police wouldn’t let her contact the US Embassy, could I transfer $1000 electronically to a lawyer who was ready to help her…. Long story short, a whole bunch of hotmail accounts had been hacked and e-mails like that one had been sent wholesale to people in those hacked address books, pleading for money transfers pronto.
For many years now, I’ve set my SpamArrest Filter to block “my own” e-mail — e-mails apparently sent to me from my own e-address — because so much spam and so many scams come purportedly from my address. And often I find in my Spam Filter a notice that one of my e-mails could not be delivered — to some address where I’ve never sent anything.
Privacy disappears on the Internet not only in connection with e-mail. Post something on a website, and you’ve lost control of it for ever after.
Within a few days of when I learned that Kalichman’s book could be read at Scribd.com, it was no longer there — according to the Scribd website, it had been withdrawn because of copyright violation. Evidently it had been posted without the publisher’s permission — by “Joseph Newton”? By Kalichman himself?? By a mole at the University of Connecticut?
How many infrequent authors understand that the publisher, not they, hold the copyright? It’s easy to forget that a couple of years earlier we signed over copyright when the book’s contract was arranged.
But withdrawing the text from Scribd couldn’t take it off the Internet.
Within days, the grapevine brought me cached copies of the book’s text. Now I understand better what that word, “Cached”, means on the Google lists that show up when one searches for something. I’d never before paid attention to that “Cached” in the last line of found links. Well, I’ve learned that Google continually monitors the Internet as part of its renowned search function; and it archives — “caches” — copies of the Web pages it has indexed.
Those cached copies are just the plain text, however, no formatting at all, so you really wouldn’t want to read a book in that way; and no illustrations, of course. Still, a very convenient way to search the text for any given word or phrase.
Hardly had several people sent me these cached copies of the text, though, than I received a properly formatted PDF, complete with pictures, of what had been on Scribd. It appeared to have been downloaded through a file-sharing network, something apparently named eBook-ELOHiM. Naturally enough, the “culprit” is a teenager who knows far more about computers and Internetting than I’ll ever learn.
As I was writing this, I Googled the book’s title (“Denying AIDS”), and, sure enough, one of the first pages listed was a file-sharing place offering this book for free. To see how easy or hard this might be, I tried it. I could have paid a trifling sum for IMMEDIATE download, but chose to wait the 25 seconds that cheapskates have to spend twiddling their thumbs. Then the file came in instantaneously.
But it was an “RAR” file. What’s that? What to do with it? Double-clicking didn’t open it.
So, standard resource, Google “RAR”.
These files can be opened by something called “7-Zip”, also a free download.
That extracted the RAR into several files, several of which I don’t understand, but one was what appears to be the same PDF as had been sent to me earlier. Like the Scribd version, the References were missing, so I presume that PDF was generated from the Scribd post, or perhaps the same person who posted at Scribd also put it on file-sharing places. (The References can, by the way, be retrieved from Amazon.com via their “Search inside” feature, with a little patience and perseverance. The publishers have evidently made those pages freely available).
I admit to am old-fashioned prejudice against copyright infringement, whether it’s done locally or in China or Russia or wherever. I’m one of those perpetually naive idealists who even send money to people who have developed “freeware” or “shareware” that we’ve tried and liked. As to books and journals, the cost of decent publication — properly reviewed manuscripts copyedited properly — has become so great that publishers are cutting costs, journals published by non-profits like professional societies are finding it hard to keep going, and professional journals from commercial publishers are getting so expensive that libraries are cutting subscriptions. I’ve been saddened, astonished, disgusted, by some of the books I’ve seen from well-established publishers like Princeton or Copernicus/Springer that show little if any sign of having been copyedited by someone conversant with English syntax or spelling.
I don’t have any solutions to offer, of course, but it seems obvious that pirating stuff can’t be helping matters.
At any rate, to get off the soap-box on that topic, I tell this story not to encourage others to take advantage of getting this book for free, but as a cautionary tale for anyone who contemplates posting anything on the Internet, anywhere at all. Once it’s there, you can never get it back.
P.S. On the other hand, I’m delighted by the arrangements that Google has made with publishers and with libraries by which an increasing amount of content from an increasing number of books is instantly available. I’m delighted that this includes my “Scientific literacy…” work and my books about the Velikovsky Affair and the Loch Ness mystery.
This entry was posted on 2009/04/09 at 9:08 am and is filed under Legal aspects. Tagged: copyright, fake e-mail addresses, Google caches, Internet lack of privacy, Kalichman "Denying AIDS", Kalichman’s Komical Kapers, Scribd. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.