Friday, October 31, 2003

Great news on the copyright front! Last year, George Kerscher and I wrote a paper called The Soundproof Book, where we pointed out the problem of eBooks being locked out from access for disabled people by the digital rights management systems.

The American Foundation for the Blind filed a request to the Library of Congress to clarify that working around this lockout wasn't a violation of the DMCA. That request was granted this week.

This doesn't mean we are going to rush out and start cracking eBooks for blind people. I think it means that the social right to access books has been recognized and publishers are going to feel much more comfortable turning on disability access in their books, and working with organizations like Benetech to expand access.

Feds grant DMCA exceptions | CNET News.com
U.S. Copyright Office, Anticircumvention Rulemaking

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

My first article in a scholarly journal in a long time! The American Foundation for the Blind invited me to provide an article for the latest issue on technology in the Journal of Vision Impairment and Blindness.

The main thesis is the promise of handheld technology for people with disabilities: cell phones and their cousins the PDAs. What the PC has been for a significant number of disabled people in the U.S. and Europe, the cellphone will be for far more: the Swiss Army knife tool.

In the Palm of Your Hand: A Vision of the Future of Technology for People with Visual Impairments - October 2003

Monday, October 27, 2003

The question of Open Source software in the social sector comes up frequently. Benetech has gotten increasingly interested in this topic: I posted recently to Social Edge on this subject. If you haven't seen it, Social Edge is a pretty interesting site where social entrepreneurs get to kick around major issues in the field:

Social Edge - Are there open source computer software applications for social sector use?

Sunday, October 26, 2003

One of the coolest events Benetech folks attended was the Summer Open Source Camp in Croatia. Marc Levine, head of the Martus Project at Benetech, and Kevin Smith, our senior developer on Martus, were able to attend. The camp provided the opportunity for techies and nonprofit organizations (NGOs in international parlance) to get together and talk about the application of open source software to the social sector.

Indie media take: Summer Source Camp, Croatia: Summary & Audiofiles : sf-imc

The organizer's page: http://www.tacticaltech.org/summersource/

Call for participation: http://www.soros.hr/material/Summer%20Source.rtf

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Welcome to the BeneBlog! Benetech is in an incredibly lucky position: as one of the few nonprofit technology developers (maybe the only deliberately nonprofit technology company) in Silicon Valley, we have the opportunity to bridge the social and technology sectors.

We have the privilege of speaking to the some of the most brilliant people in both sectors: from entrepreneurs to activists, venture capitalists to philanthropists, hackers to circuit riders. The goal of BeneBlog is to communicate some of the ideas and the excitement that we feel as we engage in these conversations. The benefit of blogging is its immediacy, to give a more dynamic window on this process than the reasonably polished material on our website!

We see the power of technology to serve humanity more fully, and hope that you will find a way to engage in the social applications of technology!

Jim Fruchterman, founder of Benetech