The main course notes are in the Notes Organized by Topic section on the main web page. Reading assignments, comments on the class discussion and occasional special notices are in these week-by-week notes.
Welcome back to the classroom!
Some topics for discussion
1. Filesharing: is it stealing? If it is not, then what is it? If it is, why do people do it who would never steal anyone's physical possession?
2. The Apple App Store
To run an app on an iPhone, it pretty much has to be in the Apple App Store. Apple's stated reason for this is security, and they have indeed been extremely successful at keeping malware and spyware off of iPhones. But they charge 30% of an app's fees (special rules apply to continuing subscriptions, like Spotify, and no fee is charged to free apps that sell non-app merchandise, like Amazon).
Game vendor Epic, maker of Fortnite, got itself kicked off the App Store for changing their rules on in-app purchases. Their antitrust case against Apple just wrapped up testimony last week, with Apple CEO Tim Cook as a witness.
On the one hand, the Apple App Store (the only way to get apps for an iPhone) does add value, by doing some privacy and security vetting. On the other hand, a 30% flat percentage means big apps do a heck of a lot of subsidizing of the vetting of small apps. There's no real reason to think that the difficulty of vetting an app varies much from app to app, though larger apps might take more work.
What do you think?
And there has been weird collateral fallout: at one point Apple ordered Wordpress, a free app, to create non-free tiers so Apple could get 30% of something. Then Apple backed off. Apple claimed Wordpress had agreed to make changes, but that seems false: www.theverge.com/2020/8/22/21397424/apple-wordpress-apology-iap-free-ios-app.
Also, the CEO of Epic Games had apparently asked weeks before their big in-app-purchase policy change for a break from the 30% rule. Apple said no. See also nytimes.com/2020/08/25/technology/fortnite-creator-tim-sweeney-apple-google.html.
3. Is Sci-hub bad? This is the site that makes scientific papers available for free.
Sci-hub does not reduce the ordinary authors' incentive to create works, since authors don't get paid. In that sense, Sci-hub is the classic example of copyright violation that does not undermine the intent of copyright law. It does, however, harm the publishers' incentive. Does that matter?
A lot of the argument hinges on whether traditional publishers add any value, either to authors or to society. They may. One argument is that the "prestigious" journals -- the ones where it really helps a scientist's reputation to have a paper accepted -- are all private, for-profit journals. In this sense, Sci-hub actually does slightly undermine the authors' incentive. On the other hand, this is at best a second-order effect, and public funding almost always paid for the research in the first place.
4. Some schools did weird things with Covid. Albion College (Michigan) made students install a real-time GPS tracker that is very poorly secured (maybe it is eventually fixed, maybe not). See twitter.com/doctorow/status/1296248163653660672. Students who leave campus for any reason were subject to expulsion. Oklahoma State used their Wi-Fi system to track each students' use of each access point. They have cameras too, and card swipes, and also course-attendance records (nbcnews.com/news/us-news/oklahoma-state-university-students-steps-are-tracked-stop-coronavirus-n1237525).
Loyola, for that matter, encourages you to upload your vax cert via the Loyola Mobile App. Here is part of the terms of service of that app:
6. No Warranty: THE APPLICATION IS DELIVERED TO YOU "AS IS". YOU EXPRESSLY ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT USE OF THE LICENSED APPLICATION IS AT YOUR SOLE RISK AND THAT THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO SATISFACTORY QUALITY, PERFORMANCE, ACCURACY AND EFFORT IS WITH YOU. TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, THE LICENSED APPLICATION AND ANY SERVICES PERFORMED OR PROVIDED BY THE LICENSED APPLICATION ("SERVICES") ARE PROVIDED "AS IS" AND "AS AVAILABLE", WITH ALL FAULTS AND WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, AND LICENSOR AND APPLICATION PROVIDER HEREBY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES AND CONDITIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE LICENSED APPLICATION AND ANY SERVICES, EITHER EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR STATUTORY, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES AND/OR CONDITIONS OF MERCHANTABILITY, OF SATISFACTORY QUALITY, OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, OF ACCURACY, OF QUIET ENJOYMENT, AND NON-INFRINGEMENT OF THIRD PARTY RIGHTS....
The absence of any privacy certification means the app is is not HIPAA-compliant. (But you can also upload your vax record at https://campushealth.luc.edu/loyolahealth/vaccine.)
Do you have any digital rights in a pandemic? How do these approaches compare with the Apple/Google contact-tracing-app model, in which your app would record other phones that came within six feet, and log them only on the phone, and periodically you could check to see if any of those people came down with Covid19 (though you wouldn't get their names).
Overview of some of the issues we will discuss this semester: