The Rosewater Transmissions
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|The Rosewater Transmissions|
RoseNET's original site logo.
The Rosewater Transmissions (often referred to simply as 'Rosewater'), are a series of mysterious radio broadcasts originating from the Travis County area. Since mid 2017 amateur radio operators and telecommunications companies have intercepted sporadic broadcasts from an unidentified source. Although the transmissions are widely considered to be a hoax they nevertheless attracted a significant amount of attention due to their depth and complexity.
The contents of these transmissions, dubbed artifacts, take the form of analog and digital signals encompassing audio recordings, binary data, news programs, television shows, music, literature, movies, and miscellaneous conversation—the vast majority of which have never been found outside of the transmissions themselves.
Some of the artifacts are quite elaborate and represent a level of quality typically not found outside of major productions studios. Thousands of hours of media can be found within the transmissions, putting the estimated costs of producing the broadcasts in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Attempts to isolate the source of the broadcasts have consistently failed. An elaborate fandom continues to revolve around the various Rosewater artifacts and contending theories have arisen regarding their origin and meaning. Communities include RoseNET, CalvinHub, and this website. Regardless of the motives behind its creation, the Rosewater Transmissions remain one of the greatest enigmas of our time.
21st Street Coop & RoseNET
The transmissions were first recorded by Rudolph Gaines, an RTF major who was hosting a pirate radio station at 21st Street Coop under the alias Foxmilk. Rudolph discovered that his own pirate signal was being frequently interrupted by long periods of static accompanied by occasional audio clips. Each audio clip would begin with a woman's voice saying the word Rosewater followed by what appeared to be a unique serial number.
Rudolph uploaded these clips to his WordPress site. Over the next few weeks he continued analyzing the Rosewater broadcasts, discovering that static he picked up was actually modulated binary data. Magic numbers in the bit stream corresponded to industry-standard codecs, revealing a plethora of multimedia content.
While interest was initially limited to residents in the various Austin cooperatives, a small but dedicated fandom was already building. After the success of a student club at a local community college, Rudolph began using the equipment at his university as a central hub for recording, decoding, and sharing the transmissions. In July on 2017 91.7 KOOP and 93.7 KLBJ filed a joint complaint with the FCC regarding unauthorized broadcasting across the licensed spectrum. The Daily Texan featured a front-page article on the phenomenon which was soon followed by a Slashdot post linking to Rudolph's blog. The resulting surge of traffic crippled his web server for the next two days.
Frustrated with limited bandwidth of his local web server, Rudolph bought an dedicated VPS and transformed his blog into a forum-based community called RoseNET. The forum grew quickly, fueled by the attention and involvement of local west campus cooperatives. Rudolph found himself caught in a race to study and index the contents of the transmissions, frequently staying up all night in case the broadcasts changed frequency or source locations. It was during this initial "golden age" that the Rosewater community really began to coalesce. The RoseNET forums were a platform for many milestones in the early Rosewater community including the initial decoding of RXS2 and the first English translation of Heyoke the wolf.
CalvinHub & Community Fracture
In February 2018, Rudolph returned to class to discover recording equipment had been confiscated as well as his school laptop and NAS server. The University of Texas at Austin's official position was that Rudolph's use of university equipment had never been authorized and subsequently claimed copyright over all Rosewater recordings made on campus. The university also began sending take-down notices to Rudolph's hosting provider, as well YouTube, Reddit, and other early Rosewater fan blogs.
This marked the beginning of a period of intense fracturing in the Rosewater communities colloquially known as Copyright Hell. Community members began asserting copyright claims over their personal Rosewater recordings and sending DMCA takedown notices over what they perceived to be their intellectual property. Many Rosewater artifacts were left in a state of limbo as various actors attempted to file conflicting takedown requests.
While Rudolph remained one of the popular posters on RoseNET, most of the content was being created by the community under an embedded MoinMoin project, called the NeatherWiki Archives. Unlike other wiki projects at the time, the NeatherWiki Archives did not specify a shared licensing scheme for outside contributions. After Rudolph began inserting advertisements on the RoseNET forums, the resulting community backlash led to an open letter threatening the creation of ad-free fork. At this point Rudolph claimed complete copyright over all content hosted under the RoseNET forums and NeatherWiki Archives.
At this point an alternative website was created by members of the RoseNET development team. CalvinHub incorporated many of the community suggestions that Rudolph had ignored such as focusing on the creation of a free library of Rosewater content. The website initially revolved around hosting episodes of one of Rosewater's most popular artifacts, The Adventures of Calvin and Hobbes. Rudolph responded with a series of very public flame wars. He accused the creator of CalvinHub of stealing source code Rudolph legally owned. This fight reached in zenith Rudolph announced that he was going to take legal action against CalvinHub for hosting episodes of TAOCAH.
Ironically Rudolph was immediately met with a counter-suit, not by the developers of CalvinHub, but by the estate of Bill Watterson, the original creator of the newspaper comic Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson asserted that TAOCAH was a deviant and corrupted adaptation of his copyrighted characters and demanded that the episodes be taken down.
Due to Rudolph's previous claims that he was the sole proprietor of TAOCAH and his attempts to commercialize it, he could not claim fair use as a defense. As part of an undisclosed settlement Rudolph was forced to abandon RoseNET and the NeatherWiki Archives. Furthermore Rudolph was required to transfer his website source code, content, and all associated intellectual property to the plaintiff. CalvinHub was also taken down as a result, leaving one of Rosewater's most popular artifacts in limbo and inciting the ire of the Rosewater community.
Having lost years of work and tens of thousands of dollars Rudolph spent several months reflecting on his decisions, eventually deciding to begin anew. NetherWiki is a joint-effort between the creators of RoseNET and CalvinHub to breathe new life into the fractured Rosewater community with an open-source platform and new creative commons licensed original content that can never be taken away.
Originally a wiki about Rosewater, NetherWiki has expanded to documenting other strange anomalies. You are currently reading a non-public beta version of the website.
Each broadcast begins with a human voice describing the material to be presented followed by a short pause before the next artifact is transmitted. The cycle of media broadcasts is occasionally interrupted by prolonged periods of monologue, always appearing to be the single side of an ongoing conversation. The transmissions shift between analog and digital signals the latter of which is modulated in ASK, FSK, or other undocumented formats. At some point during each transmission a direct reference to Heyoke the wolf will be made.
The length of the transmissions vary considerably from less than a minute to several months. As soon as one broadcast ends another begins immediately typically using a different wavelength and source location in Austin. The bit rate of the binary data frequently shifts, sometimes becoming so fast as to be undecipherable or so slow that only a few bytes can be recorded each day.
Due to the myriad of copyright claims, many of which are inconsistent, the majority of Rosewater’s artifacts cannot be legally distributed. Various fan communities have adopted the labels of free, restricted, or non-free, to refer to the copyright status of various artifacts. Copyright claims typically one of two forms:
- The original recorder of a particular transmissions claims copyright over it, limiting or forbidding reproduction and modification of the artifacts within. Such is the case with The University of Texas at Austin, DJ Slinx and some amateur radio operators.
- While the original recorder may release the transmission under a Creative Commons license or into public domain, certain organizations may claim that an artifact is derivative of their own intellectual property and request it be taken down. This is the case with TAOCAH and Invader Zim: Season 2.
Works in the above two categories are labeled non-free, because redistribution of them is legally prohibited. Other artifacts are labeled as restricted, meaning that although redistribution of them is currently allowed distribution rights may be restricted in the future or they are not wholly distributed under a copyleft license. They may also include copyrighted material embedded within the media itself, such as the artifact Black Hole Sun (a film, not the song), whose soundtrack needs to be partially censored during certain scenes because of a lack of appropriate licensing (the song itself appears in the film during the climax). Due to the current lack of a public domain English translation, Heyoke the wolf also falls into this category. This was the impetus for Foxmilk's new translation.
Heyoke the wolf
One of the first Rosewater artifacts to garner significant mainstream is the audio narration of the novel Heyoke the wolf, an artifact closely tied to the transmissions themselves. At some point during each broadcast Heyoke the wolf is directly referenced at least once. The novel describe a low-fantasy worlds of anthropomorphic animals some critics have jokingly described as "Game of Thrones meets Watership Down."
The main character, a wolf named Heyoke, is starving himself because he can no longer stand killing other animals for food. He lives in a forest where winter has lasted for several seasons, a phenomenon the inhabitants refer to as “Eternal November". All of the species live in the ruins of their once great civilization, while being hunted by monstrous amalgamations that live on the edge of the forest, killing predator and prey indiscriminately.
Critical reception to the novel has been mixed. Fans praise the deep characterization and unique intricacies of Heyoke's world, with some calling it an instant classic. Detractors usually criticize the seemingly arbitrary aspects of the universe and the ending.
Another well-known artifact of Rosewater is the first season of the animated program The Adventures of Calvin and Hobbes. This hour-long cartoon program, ostensibly a take on Bill Watterson's famous comic strip, is notable for its highly complex and disturbing storyline. Calvin is presented as grade school child with behavior issues and schizophrenia, Hobbes is one of his many hallucinations. The show frequently fluctuates from surreal comedy to psychological horror as a much deeper storyline begins to emerge from the shallow premise.
The show remains popular among enthusiasts due to its bizarre nature, high quality, and complex characters. Only fragments of the first season of the series were recorded due its position as one of the earlier broadcasts.