Saturday 14 August 2010

is it a Flanimal or are we all a little Captain Pottie

I read recently that Ricky Gervais is being sued for plagiarism over his bestselling children’s book Flanimals, apparently writer and artist John Savage has claimed that Flanimals is based on his book Captain Pottie’s Wildlife Encyclopaedia.

He has lodged court documents that states Flanimals breaches the copyright in his book by being broadly the same in content and character, and that both books involve a whimsical take on the animal kingdom through the use of drawings and text.

I don’t see it, yes it is both those things but they are concepts and not subject to copyright, Judge for yourself. I think this is pure greed and jealousy and that he really wants a bit of that Ricky Gervais’s success if not his money I see this as destined to fail, however the courts are funny beasts.

A spokeswoman for Gervais has denied the claims and revealed the dispute has been going on for some time and dates back several years. They claim that the concept and illustrations of Flanimals pre-existed John Savage's work and that they have no claim to answer.

You can check out Captain Pottie’s Wildlife Encyclopaedia and just search Google for images of the Flanimals and compare for yourself, like i said I am not convinced. 

More derails on this story can be found here Ricky Gervais sued over best-selling book article the Melbourne Age.

What do you think,? Leave me a comment 

an incomplete guide to how not to compete with the internet

It is an interesting world that we live in these days, and no doubt this is an expression you may have heard many times before however it just always fits the scenario so well regardless of what the topic may or not be and this time does not disappoint. Today I sat down and proposed a set of hypothetical questions regarding challenging situations facing some company’s, none of the items or actions that I will question are criminal acts, some may present civil remedies if addressed in a court but none are illegal.

This may surprise some of you, after all I will use the words “stolen” and the expression “rob you blind” in a couple of the questions I propose to ask , but of course if these hypothetical situations were happening to your company then maybe you might see it that way too. Expressions and claims like these are often bandied about so their inclusion in my hypothetical questions does not mean the assertion itself is true and I suppose that is part of the problem as I see it.

The devil is in the detail in all of these questions as I explore real life examples of remedies that set to corrupt archaic laws and refashion their use to suit companies that refuse to adopt to a changing set of circumstances as man kind moves to the digital age and leave the analogue behind. I hope to illustrate the very inventive but morally corrupt ways that the companies that are experiencing the very things that I have questioned and what they are doing in response.

And although it is might seem strange that nothing on my list is illegal or criminal it should seem alarming that the companies facing some of these problems are turning to lawyers, politicians, the courts and international treaties to address the issues and provide solutions that their lack of vision have allowed happen to them. These companies armed with copyrights, patents and trademarked ideas and concepts are attempting to reinterpret existing laws and expand their scope to cover things that were never envisioned.

What do you do if your customers have abandoned your business model and embraced other technological solutions offered by others who have no respect for your intellectual property?

Well you might just sue your customers and sue and sue and ask law enforcement to prosecute the providers of the software that has provided the means for your customers to steal from you and then maybe lobby politicians to enact laws that protect your obsolete and analogue product’s business models because of all this supposed theft.

I feel the problem with the music industry is it’s not that people are not consuming or paying for music, it’s just under the old and very successful analogue model they consumed less and paid more, so why they ask can’t we they have the status quo but would prefer that if they customers consume more they pay more. The initial response to this change in landscape for the music industry was to hold on tight to the old model and to confuse consumption of a digital product as a lost sale and based on this premise present huge losses as a need to act to government and huge losses can only mean lost jobs a currency the government deals in.

It just popped in to my head “constraints”, I was thinking about how I could illustrate a point using an analogy that the music industry could understand about the economics of supply and demand and the different between a scarce item and an abundant one, and I could because its easy and its been done before.

But then I realised they must know this and all their actions show that rather than adapt to the realities and opportunities that new technology holds they would prefer to use technology to create constraints to the digital alternative by creating locks on others using the resources as if they are a recreation with the physical limitations of a scarce tangible product.

It just means that because technology allows us to have unlimited access to resources of music and film that we should pay the prices that a locked and closed physical world allowed. I am not arguing that content should be free and that although I would prefer that price I understand that content needs to be made and that a return on capital is required.

What do you do if you’re a company that feels that some one has innovated just a little too much and that now you can’t compete on equal terms any more?

Well you can do what a lot of successful companies have done rest on your laurels and use your arsenal of patents to sue them for damages and then extort exorbitant licensing fees from them or just become a patent troll acquiring and suing the real innovators.

This approach undermines the very reasons that patents exist they are meant to foster innovation and provide some recourse and artificial property rights in exchange for sharing the knowledge of said invention, however it would appear that everybody has to play the game for it to work.

What happens is that you may not seek to patent your inventions and to share your ideas however the cost of doing this is that others can accuse you of patent infringement of their intellectual property or worse having your own intellectual property ideas patented by others. So you as a company keep building this impenetrable fortress of patents, it is as broad as possible to fend off others and it can also be used to sue others in the hope of a big settlement if the competition gets too tough.

In the early days of software development in the United States of America business practices could not be patented and software was correctly viewed as a business practice. Software innovation boomed with out the need to constantly patent and defend, this has of course changed and software has been patentable for a while now, I don’t think that it has had the intended outcome that proponents of patents would argue it has and seems that the courts are dealing with business disputes that should have no legal standing at all.

What do you do if you hear negative feedback about your company and although it may be true and you don’t want others finding out about it?

These days the easy and most efficient way is to accuse them for defamation in the hope that they will just shut up and go away, well that if is you know who they are but even if you don’t then that’s OK just sue the service provider that hosts the content, exert a bogus copyright or trademark claim and have a DMCA notice issued.

The internet has opened up the opportunity for people to blog and comment on issues of concern, the same way that the invention of the printing press allowed the expansion of expression to the masses. The internet has broadened this concept allowing two-way interactions on a level never before experienced. However not all commentary is complementary and some although the comment in question may very likely be true, it may question the companies policies and procedures in ways the company would prefer nobody else knows. Companies use varying methods to tackle the issue, but surprisingly talking to the aggrieved customers about the issues is seldom one of the approaches taken. No these type of organisations rather than dealing with the root issues will very quickly send a lawyer's letter demanding retraction of the comments or commentary at issue. Many people fearful of courts and the legal system reluctantly compile with the demand and the problem goes away for this company free to continue the practice that first aggrieved their customer with no one the wiser.

However some people choose to ignore these legal threats knowing that one they are telling the truth and the law is on their side. This is where is gets deceptive and bogus copyright claims are used to issue a DMCA takedown notice against the web hosting company or the ISP. To maintain safe harbour under US copyright law these must be complied with, the aggrieved party can issue a counter notice, but then it starts to get real tricky. If however the ISP and web hosting firm don’t buckle under this pressure and remove the content, the company may then try defamation or slander against you.

These are not what these laws or the courts were designed for and it is an abuse especially so as the large percentage of these cases happen in the home of free speech the USA. I would always advocate that companies attempt to deal with their disgruntled customers and fix the issues that have caused the complaint or comment on the first instance.

What do you do when the world has changed so much that you find out that not only are you not competing any more but that you never have really known how to compete at all?

I think this is a one for the newspapers and how they have adapted to the digital landscape and I have to say not well, I have written quite a few articles on how I feel about newspapers and their failure to accept the reality and adapt.

Hiding in your shell and demanding that all others do the same, or adopting an ostrich position with the head placed firmly in the sand is not in my opinion are not a sound business models yet any astute observer may have noticed this stance.

The most successful news aggregation and distribution models favoured big media. There were considerable barriers, being the high costs of entry, technological restraints as well as government regulation that conspired to keep news gathering and distribution in the hands on the minority. The news was owned by big media, they traded in this commodity, they controlled access and content, they were the licensed purveyors of news and if we wanted access we played by their rules. The internet changed this and big media have failed to adapt as yet, I think they will but paywall’s don’t appear to be the answer or does trying to lockdown content with the Hot News doctrine.

Now that the barriers to entry are no more that a PC and an internet connection these huge media conglomerates are hemorrhaging money, and blame their woes like the other industries that I have covered in this article on the internet.

If only the horse drawn buggy industry had fought so hard the carbon emissions debate would not exist, as we all caught the buggy to work. These industries need to realise that they need to adapt and adjust to the new medium pretending you still hold the reigns on control is just embarrassing as is their actions to date. The internet has made many people rich, not because they stole from legacy industries but because they adapted to the changing landscape and most importantly worked out who their customers were and who was going to pay, these are not necessarily always the same.

What do you do if you find that commercial success has eluded you and all the hard work that you have done is being stolen from right under your nose?

Monetize piracy and turn to the tried and true extortion ratchet. Success used to be measured by sales or ratings but in reality the only true gauge to a company is in cold hard cash and the actual dollars and cents. These days although you have had a sum what successful and acclaimed product and yet not see any of the financial rewards that you feel are owed. So it is a no surprise that when these companies are approached by lawyers who having watched the successful abuse of the legal system by the RIAA in suing thousands of people who had downloaded non authorised content, decide to use the same approach.

The produces of the Hurt Locker have done just this

The company that produced "The Hurt Locker" is suing thousands of so-far unidentified people it says illegally downloaded the Oscar-winning war movie.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by Voltage Pictures LLC, seeks damages and an injunction against 5,000 people it claims used an anonymous file-sharing protocol called BitTorrent to distribute copies of the movie, in some cases months before its release in U.S. theatres. Below is further details on the tactics from arstechnica article you can read the full article here

The move is part of a new international approach to recouping some of the money believed lost to online piracy. It is spearheaded in the US by a new entity calling itself the US Copyright Group, which has filed a host of such lawsuits in recent weeks against P2P users, mostly involving smaller independent films. The Hollywood Reporter first noted the lawsuit campaign, which isn't designed so much to stop piracy as to monetize it. t's pretty much straight from the RIAA playbook, though RIAA cases rarely ventured beyond the KaZaA network. BitTorrent could be more problematic, in part because each person often serves up only small bits of the files in question.

What sets these cases apart are that the parties believe they can make money; the RIAA always said it wasn't making anything on its campaign, in part because it actually pursued people like Jammie Thomas all the way through the court system, and on multiple occasions. This is obscenely expensive at the federal level, and it's not clear if the US Copyright Group really intends to take named lawsuits all the way to trial.

This is basically a extortion ratchet and nothing more.

What do you do if you’re in an industry that once dominated the world but now you are seeing other countries lax enforcement of intellectual property rob you blind?

Lobby politicians and take over trade treaty negotiations to implement a new world order all under the guise of an anti counterfeiting trade agreement.

Below is further details on the tactics from arstechnica article you can read the full article here

ACTA began in Berne, Switzerland on September 9, 1886. European countries came together and signed one of the first major copyright treaties, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, in part due to the influence of French novelist Victor Hugo.

Berne was revised many times over the next few decades, but it largely stuck to its original mission of dealing with copyright in books and artwork. In 1961, the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations added a major new set of copyright guidelines to address the needs of TV and record producers and actors—a case of the law changing with the times.

When the Internet crashed in upon the analog world of copyright in a terrifically disruptive wave, rights holders wanted Berne and Rome updated for this strange new digital era.

This new digital world put copying technology into the hands of the public, and the public went to town.

Well, you could pass another international treaty with tougher terms. But WIPO—why, there's too many nations who won't go along with further copyright restrictions, the whole process is (relatively) open and involves NGOs, and it's slow. These are all drawbacks. Instead, what about a smaller and separate process, with no unnecessary oversight, little transparency, and a "coalition of the willing"? Oh, and if you can set it up in such a way to avoid legislatures in countries like the US, that would be a big bonus.

So here we have ACTA a way to enshrine copyright protection on a global level through a back door so to speak.

What do you do if you see an innovative service that helps their users do the things they want to do with their own data by accessing your site with their user’s authorisation when these are your customers?

The problem is not that every case is the same, but that no two cases can ever be the identical and that the facts are never easy to determine, judges rely on precedents set in other rulings to guide decisions in interpretation of complex systems. So if a precedent is set using a dodgy application of law as a justification that justification can be argued and extended and that is what I feel is happening in many cases.

There is a case where Ticketmaster was able to have software banned because its use could violate the terms of service of its website. This software was able to utilize the limitations of the site and exploit them for optimal output. This is obviously something that should be praised and however it was not illegal to do so difficult to stop. Ticket scalpers were able to game the system using this software and so instead of getting Ticketmaster to fix its site they banned the software using corruption of existing laws to make violating the terms of use a criminal act.

Now in many jurisdictions ticket scalping is illegal so that there was no additional law required but this was not just about stopping ticket scalpers what if customers could use the software system themselves no this had to be stopped. So how do you outlaw the items used in a crime? Well you just corrupt another law in a case of if the end meets the cause, then who cares about the means.

So it would now appear that a company can write new laws into existence, in asserting non compliance to terms and conditions. But take this further and suddenly the justice system can be used against anyone whom fails to read yet alone obey a terms of service created by a private body, does this not sound creepy?

So you can sue a competitor for computer hacking and abuse for violating your terms of service, if they allow your customers to use their software to access your site if you say no and obviously can’t technically stop it. I think that no one should be held criminally liable for not obeying the terms of service on a website; however this is an end game that is being played out in increasingly more in today’s digital landscape.

So that is it a big list of what to do’s if you feel you no longer can compete since the internet has revolutionised the world. What do think do you have an opinion?


be careful in New Zealand free speech is no more, don’t mention the World Cup

Next year New Zealand will be hosting the Rugby World Cup, these days there is a world cup for everything under the sun, but it appears that for business hoping to win over any rugby fans better be careful with what words they use to promote their event or promotion. New Zealand has a little-known of law that restricts using the words 'rugby', 'world' and 'cup' to promote fundraisers, promotions and special events that are not authorised by the Rugby World Cup committee and each breach could cost up to $150,000.

The bill that outlaws this is The Major Events Management Act 2007, (MEMA) and it was passed basically to give the Rugby World Cup unfettered control of the key words associated with the event. We are told that in all seriousness that common sense will be used when considering the act, pity common sense could not prevail prior to the passing of this blatant removal of New Zealanders rights.

The major problem with laws like this is that the World Cup of what ever sport or activity is a celebration of the event and that community support outside of the official sponsors is crucial for success this tends to amputate that type of support. I would ask what harm can the local school in Edendale near Eden Park using signage using the words "Rugby World Cup" to promote a sausage sizzle do.

Will local car rental operator suddenly steal the cups thunder if they are allowed to use the words that describe an event that is happening in their locality? Will travel agencies be able to promote the Rugby World Cup because if they dare use the actual words describing the event then they most probably will the fall foul of the law?

Again the organizers say they are looking only for malicious breaches, and that they are not going to be overly heavy-handed. They assure us “We'll use common sense”.
Hard to use common sense in this when the whole concept is so ludicrous, that the mere act of describing an actual event in your promotion is illegal. Worse still this act not only applies to this event but may others deemed to need protection from profiteering, god help the community for getting behind a local event. It is said the act is there to stop other companies coming in and pretending to be associated or piggybacking, and that might seem fine but the method and application is all wrong.

So what can New Zealanders do? I would suggest just ignore the whole event, if you are a business why waste your time courting fans of an event that obviously neither the organisers want or by their actions indicate they need. The community guarantees the success of this event so if the organizers don’t want your help why give it. Another option might be to use other alternative descriptive words such as “Global Football Goblet”, people are not nearly as stupid as the politicians or organizers must think they are and will get the link. Finally business could put their support behind inclusive community events that would welcome their involvement rather than greedy international sporting codes that think it fine to corrupt the English language for their own gain. 

What do you think? Is the corruption of generic words as trademarks going too far? Will you be putting your support behind the “Global Football Goblet”.

Friday 13 August 2010

Is it still possible to own the News?

These days the media moves very quickly when it comes to reporting news, it would appear that well anything newsworthy (or not) such is our veracious appetite for information these days, occurs anywhere in the world, in only mere minutes the story in all its full glory is posted and disseminated on the internet for all to see. The reporting of the news however does not just begin and end with the big media these days.

The world definitely moved on with the invention of the printing press, it allowed for the beginning of the news bureau and the adaption of the newspaper; from there the distribution platforms expanded considerably with the invention of the photography, the moving picture, the telegraph, the telephone, radio and probably it’s most successful distribution platform ever television, well at least until the internet’s debut just over 20 years ago.

So with the exception of the internet, all of the most successful news aggregation and distribution models favoured big media. There were considerable barriers, being the high costs of entry, technological restraints as well as government regulation that conspired to keep news gathering and distribution in the hands on the minority. The news was owned by big media, they traded in this commodity, they controlled access and content, they were the licensed purveyors of news and if we wanted access we played by their rules.

However these days no sooner is something reported that it is tweeted, buzzed, posted in Facebook, emailed, linked to and added to countless other social media platforms. There are also blog’s, which serve as a valuable adjunct to mainstream media by allowing ordinary people to create and comment on the news and the issues affecting them. Some of this distribution of the news and opinion is happening without it being sourced from big media at all but independently created. However I would suggest that most definitely a larger percentage of all news and information that is being freely shared on the internet is being sourced from the traditional news organizations publications as they have moved online, in a bid to remain relevant to today’s consumers.

Of course it’s not always old media that is the first to report the news these days.  There are conflicts and disasters that occur in geographical locations that political unrest and censorship prevent the mainstream media access let alone the ability to report the news. This type of reporting used to be the preserve of the local media or dedicated foreign correspondents it was fraught with danger and getting the message out was only one of many dangers that faced the journalist. But interestingly these days the old-established media is using both its traditional news gathering techniques, but also borrowing from non traditional sources such as blogs and photo sharing sites.

So it used to be in our not too distant past that this dissemination of the news was the preserve of the big media/content barons and the news associations such as Associated Press, they spread the news to the masses but it's not theirs alone anymore.

OK you say, so people are breaking news on Twitter and other social media sites, that is no big deal! It’s definitely not news! And oh by the way nearly everybody is doing it! Is there a point to this or what? Well yes, there is a point and yes you would be right many people are posting and sharing breaking news on social media and yes I think that it is a good thing. The free expression of news and ideas can only be beneficial to a society, to a community, to mankind, we are all better off with free and unencumbered access to news and information. However, lately there has been a lot of talk about the online news by big media and how the bloggers of the world are just stealing their content and reposting it, sometimes as their own works.

Newspapers are going broke and it’s all our fault, why it’s our fault is a little unclear, but still apparently this will have to stop. There are outrageous claims that without the old-established mainstream media there would be no new news, and so the world’s established old media organizations are looking to build walled gardens around their News sites and we the reader if that’s what we want to remain, are going to have to pony up and pay and yes the News will once again be owned by big media.

But once they build their nice little pay sites, what stops those nasty little bloggers doing what they have always done, and just paying and stealing the content anyway. I don’t know but I suspect it might have some to do with enacting copyright.

Copyright has in the past as is now been used to protect the economic interests of the creator’s of semi intangible ideas and concepts allowing them to assert ownership over said concepts for a pre determined period of time, and thus allowing them to profit from their work and stimulate the further creation of ideas and works by others in providing an artificial mechanism of protection from theft.

This has of course not has not yet happened, I am of course hoping that it will not happen, but coincidently some news headlines lately have floated the idea of hot news an artificial barriers (limited copyright) to prevent others from posting this news for a predetermined period of time.

So to my point, if big media owns the news, will I be able to post of said news in my own words to this blog, or will I be barred for a pre determined amount of time from reporting because NEWSDOTCOM owns that story.

Could this one day become a common headline in blogs around the world?

Breaking News, due to Copyright restrictions we are unable to divulge or report on today’s news, please bookmark this site and return tomorrow when we will legally be able to report on today’s news in the mean time feel free to peruse the many fine article of old news we have available courtesy of NEWSDOTCOM.

But as a caveat for being able to bring you the hot news of today tomorrow may you may also have to credit  the source of the said news that you can’t yet report, and worse still will need to provide a URL link to the hot news story that you can neither report or discuss until their monopoly access to this piece of hot news expires. It sounds scary doesn't it ?

And yes of course this all sounds a bit far-fetched, and yes I am clutching at straws to believe that all that I have written will materialize as reality, however I would like to point out that nothing changes all at once ( it won't happen overnight but it will happen type scenario) and that legislation used to protect the encumbered industries has a way of creeping up on us and can sometimes bring with it stifling unintended consequences and at worst create  state sanctioned monopolies thats real and only aim is to benefit its shareholders . The news was once owned, it was set free by the internet, let’s hope that an outdated business model dose not take it back to where is was before, kicking and struggling in the process because  it is you and I that will lose.

Like this article? have something to add?  please leave a comment I would love to hear what you have to says, thanks.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

in Massachusetts the Sun Chronicle puts a price on free speech

I wrote an article a couple of week ago about internet forums and the problems that Masterchef was having with theirs you can read that  article here, well it would appear that they are not in this alone in dealing with this problem of rouge comments appearing in the comments sections of their website . I was alerted to this posting at the Sun Chronicle website from Massachusetts stating that they are reintroducing comments on their articles apparently the comment section  have been off the air for a few months due to inappropriate comments from some anonymous readers, you can read the full article here. So it appears they took the knee jerk reaction and just pulled the comments section, well after a couple of months absence it's is back but now with a twist. Under the new arrangement to be able to comment you now have to register, no big deal accept this time you need  to register with a valid credit card and a incur a one off charge of 99 cents for your right to exercise your right to free speech well at least at this internet site.

To enforce this change, all posters will be required to register their name, address, phone number and a legitimate credit card number. The credit card will be charged a one-time fee of 99 cents to activate the account. The poster's name as it appears on the credit card will automatically be attached to the poster's comments, as will the name of the community in which they live.

I can understand what they are attempting to do, but I don’t care how much it actually is 99 cents or 1 cent I am not handing over my credit card number just to leave a comment. Like I have said previously,

“The problem that these forums face is they will encounter comments that are not reasonably minded; some are racist slurs, hate speech, religious vilification, spam or any other sort of unsavoury, unwanted and most definitely uninvited speech.”

However although requiring registration is appropriate demanding payment for them to authenticate your identity is not. I still think that this approach is wrong and that it only stifles speech and removes a problem that the Sun Chronicle don’t really want to deal with by applying the appropriate resources, that they no doubt did with physical letters to the editor. I also wonder how the issue of credit card theft, and the rights of the people who post now that any aggrieved party can petition the courts to have the Sun Chronicle release the identity of any poster of comments.

Like I have said I always post comments under my name but I can understand why some people may choose not to want too, I applaud the Sun Chronicle actions in reopening the comments section just question the fashion and method that have chosen to use.

What do think leave me a free comment here, love to hear what you have to say.

oh to be rich and powerful, because even theft is only a minor obstacle

I once asked if there was justice in this world when comparing the harm done by the irresponsible bankers that caused the GFC and the penalties handed out for copyright infringement. I now know the answer and I am sure it will be of no surprise to regular readers of this blog and of course there obviously is no justice in this world well not any more if the details of this story at the are correct.

The Times Newspapers which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the same person who is one of the more outspoken people in declaring how piracy is destroying the newspaper industry is understood to be facing damages of about $250,000 for copyright infringement. The Sunday Times in September 2006 gave away with the print edition of its newspaper a CD that featured 10 tracks from a live performance by the late Jimi Hendrix recorded at London's Royal Albert Hall in February 1969. This in itself is not that news worthy however it appears that the Times had somehow forgot to acquire the copyright licence to legally do this and thus has been successfully sued.

Two US companies associated with the Hendrix estate, Experience Hendrix and Last Experience, launched legal action three years ago claiming the newspaper, published by News International subsidiary Times Newspapers, did not obtain the proper copyright clearance for the giveaway. It appears that footage of this Hendrix's recording was due to be released as a film by these companies as well as an accompanying DVD and CDs. These two companies claimed the free CD delayed this project and would have negative impact on the profits from the project. In May 2008 they turned to the courts to pursue a claim for damages relating to loss of earnings.

So last week in the UK High court judge Sir William Blackburne ruled that the Sunday Times had erred in using the copyright with out permission and has ordered the Times to pay damages and although the precise damages figure is still being worked out by the two sides' legal teams it is understood it will be just over $250,000.

This does not sound like a lot of money considering the scope of the infringement; more than 1.3 million copies of the CD were given away, so this equals approx 20 cents per infringement. Compare this damage figure awarded against News Corp to those of the two highest profile cases in the USA where the verdicts against Joel Tenenbaum and Jammie Thomas-Rasset resulted in damages of $54,000 and $67,500 respectively being awarded against them. I should however note that in both these cases the original award was actually ten times higher but was reduced by the judges on the grounds they were manifestly unfair.

So lets get this clear Rupert Murdoch infringes for profit and is fined 20 cents per incident, two US residents are accursed of illegally downloaded a handful of songs for personal use and are stung $2250 per infringement. This just seems wrong on so many levels but I am not surprised. Is it any wonder that people have lost respect for copyright, if the largest media organisations either don’t care or just think that the law was not created for them to adhere to and therefore pay it scant regard or if caught infringing are given only a light slap on the wrist.

So the next time you hear big media pontificating about the evils of pirates and that consumers are stealing their content, just remember that they are just as much the thief in all of this its just they have more clout, better lawyers and no doubt quite a few politicians in their back pocket. Mind you they are not the problem per say its just the silly laws that they have lobbied to have that shore up their business models to the exclusion of all others through the corruption of copyright.

What do you think? Leave me a comment I’ll never steal your words.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

in New Zealand they what to tax the undetected, well the authors want it that way

I wrote recently of how public submissions had begun before the Commerce Select Committee in New Zealand, which is considering a Bill before Parliament that will strengthen the law on internet copyright protection. Today comes news of another submission this time from the Society of Authors and they want to tax ISP’s for any illegal content downloaded from the internet, a license on piracy if you like.

I actually like the concepts of this idea as I have explored similar thinking in a previous article that you can read here . I however think in this case it’s exactly like “wanting to have your cake and eat too” these guys want it all. They already have monopoly power over of the content, but now also want the ability to tax supposed infringement and to have 3 strikes and internet disconnection along with fines in the event that people still wont pay and so again they let greed get in the way of a good idea.

Their argument goes like this The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill does not compensate for the majority of illegal file sharing, sure it has penalties and disconnection but this wont make the infringers pay and what about all that illegal content that was not detected?  So therefore they have suggested that Internet users should be required to pay a licensing fee to access content online under a suggested amendment to a controversial copyright bill.

So although the bill, currently before the commerce select committee, requires internet service providers to issue up to three infringement notices to alleged offenders at the request of copyright holders and further then allows the Copyright Tribunal to hear complaints and award penalties of up to $15,000. Finally for the most egregious of repeat offenders it allows copyright owners to seek suspension of an internet account for up to six months through the district court. However at the end of the days it is all about the money and so in its submission to the committee the society have now requested that the Government should consider introducing a blanket licensing regime to ensure rights holders were compensated for all infringements, including all those undetected offences. I am a little dubious of a levy to compensate for the undetected, what’s next, a thought crime unit.

They have likened it to other schemes such as the licensing regime for photo copying, under which tertiary institutions such as universities pay a licence fee so they can photocopy texts. This in its self has always been a dubious tax and so it really is no surprise that they try legitimise a new tax by relying on an already established model abet a flawed one. The problems with this proposal is once again as we have come to expect from the content industries, it is all take and no give and offers consumers nothing additional and what's worse it assumes every internet users in New Zealand is stealing illegal content. I am all for licensing piracy however I see the need for a non commercial content user scheme that would be opt in. This would still allow for policing of illegal content use; however it would free up resources to catch the real commercial pirates that are profiting from misappropriation of others intellectual property and not users who only crime is accessing the content they like online, does not sound that bad when written like that.

I find it mildly amusing that as a content creator that I am only encouraged if others share my work, as it creates a larger audience for said work and at the end of the day that what it’s is all about. I believe that many content owners/creator wrongly assume that since the medium has changed and thus consumption of their intellectual property is now ubiquitous that the old way that guaranteed so much revenue in the past should still apply, however basic economics would dictate that infinite goods have a zero price and that a different approach is required. Demanding new laws and taxes to hold back progress is not the answer. The approach taken by Society of Authors has some merit, however as any additional burden that only seems to benefit industries that refuse to adopt it’s really just more of the same. Let’s hope this submission is rejected in New Zealand else I suspect It won’t belong till they lobby our respective governments for a similar tax.

What do you think? Leave a comment always welcome and very appreciated,

Monday 9 August 2010

piracy and the lost billions a modern day fairy tale

I wanted I to attempt to write a piece of fiction, a story if you will, a flight of sheer fancy that my inner soul would dictate and that I would transcribe, something that would have interest enough for you to want to read and that special something that made you read on in the hope of experiencing more, but alas I feel I am not yet ready to address my imagination and post of the many wonders that it can create, well not quite yet anyway. So instead I want to explore another’s  piece of fiction, one that they profess to be true, a claim that I believe is nothing more than lies and this fiction that I refer is none other than the claims of lost sales that the world's music royalty’s collection agencies have bandied around as proof that their industry needs further protection against the ravages of piracy.

Piracy is such an emotive world and I suppose that is because it conjures images of swashbuckling men of ill repute pillaging the high seas and oceans, killing and maiming as they went, images of cross-bones and buried treasures with maps of burnt edges where x marked the spot. This was a fantasy world one that never really existed; sure there are pirates that loot the high seas but the image that is embraced by the majority is that of the way that Hollywood and the movies and television industries have painted it and told of it nothing more than fiction.These pirates are greedy killers that would no sooner kill their mother if it meant more loot in the kitty, so I am sure it's no surprise that this is the image that the RIAA and other liked minded organisations have chosen to paint of p2p networks and the file sharer’s that engage in this practice. It is no doubt buoyed on by the existence or the Pirate Bay the nemesis of copyright and arch-enemy of the music, film, television and any other industry that relies on artificial locks to constrain consumption of an abundant good.

The campaign goes along the lines that you would not steal a physical item so why would you download an illegal copy, and because it’s illegal that downloading it is stealing and that by doing so you have chosen to steal rather than purchase and in the process deprived the owner of the said item, not a physical item but a copy of an intangible concept but a sale. They can still sell an indefinite number of copies of the item and you obviously were not going to buy the item, but that is a lost sale.From this point it is relatively easy task to extrapolate that every illegal download is a lost sale and just multiply the numbers by the retail price and presto you have the budget surplus of the USA as the cost of piracy. Everybody seems to know that these figures are dodgy and recently an US Government Accountability Office said that  “illicit nature of piracy means there is no real way to quantify actual losses, and that some studies have in fact shown piracy to have a “potential positive economic effect.” Yet these organisations continue to sprout these claims as non fiction, however when, copyright holders warn of lost jobs and revenue that piracy is causing they fail to address that a lost sale is not actually a lost sale, but a lost opportunity the money that customers may have spent at your industry is being redirected in other areas of the economy.

Companies can no more mandate that people buy their products or offerings than an artist can guarantee the success of their latest album. Although file sharing has shifted the market from physical to digital there is no reason why companies can not encourage participation in delivery platforms that the consumer and their customers are willing to pay for or of course they will go else where. Technology has disruptive effects on legacy industries and innovation and adaption is the only path to survival.  And finally I might suggest the real evidence that the clams of lost sales are bogus is that if what was has been suggested as lost sales is in fact true why are governments not suffering larger deficits due to the crippling loss in tax revenue that these lost sales would have caused?  Why because they governments never budgeted for this tax revenue because the revenue is not stolen it never existed at all.

What do think are the losses caused by piracy a work of fiction? Leave me a comment I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Boldly Go where No Tourist Has Gone Before!



We are poised to boldly go where no other tourist attraction has gone before, with the first cave tour in the world to be available in the Klingon language.

In the Star Trek universe, Jenolan Caves was first immortalized in the Next Generation episode ‘Relics’, through the naming of a ‘Sydney Class’ Starship - the USS Jenolan. Now, this relationship will be developed further, when Jenolan Caves adds the language of Star Trek’s great warrior race to a tour of their most popular cave.

Opened on Stardate 60358.1 (December 2006) Jenolan Caves’ Self-Guided tour takes visitors through “The Nettle Cave”, and is seen by 150,000 - 200,000 visitors annually, making it the most visited cave in Australia.

Visitors take the tour with a digital audio device, provided by ‘Acoustiguide of Australia’. The tour is currently available in 8 languages. However, as of August 22, it will be available in 11 languages, one of which will be Klingon – the first genuine tour available on Planet Earth for Klingon speakers.

Early July saw Klingon scholars, Michael Roney Jr (aka naHQun) and Tracy Canfield, fly in from the USA, to finalise the translation and record the Klingon audio tour in a Sydney studio. Tracy and naHQun experienced the amazing Nettle Cave first hand, with naHQun exclaiming, “lH, qar’a’”? (For Terrans, he was remarking on the beauty of the cave).

In Sydney, on August 22nd, to launch the tour to Star Trek devotees, Jenolan Caves staff will attend OzTrek3. The self-guided tour with Klingon commentary will then be available to all Jenolan Caves visitors.


a new mobile, a new wad of accessories to dispose of

We welcomed a new mobile phone in to our household and despite the tight competition in the marketplace for today’s latest gadget our household stayed loyal to Samsung. This was our third purchase of a mobile phone from Samsung a technology manufacturer from Korea. We have been happy with our previous phone purchases neither I nor my wife are big users of the phone and I would say mostly our phones have fitted with out telecommunication needs, this is a smart phone but I suspect that the majority of features will be ignored by my wife. If the truth be known they are little more than a momentary novelty for me as well.

There however is one annoyance with this being this our third phone from Samsung we now have our three different chargers, and since I am not changing over my phone it means yet another set of unique accessories, and yes we are retiring one set but I was hoping, that maybe just once that a piece a of new technology from the same manufacturer could at least be able to use the same accessories. But alas this is of course would be too much to ask or would it?  After doing a little bit of research, I discovered  that our new phone has what is to be the new phone charge standard and that it users a USB for charging, it has a micro-USB connector on the phone itself, so ideally from this point onwards any charger should be able to be used with any new phone purchase, and since is a USB adapter the same universality should also be applicable with PC connections although different software no doubt will be required.

I understand that the European Union asked all mobile phone manufactures to agree on a standard form factor for all charges and that ten of the major players representing 90% of the mobile phone market have agreed including Apple and its iPhone. Let’s hope that this initiative not only expands worldwide so that the after market accessories rip off may stop, and that hopefully the annoyance of the need for new accessories for every new phone, of course if this could lead to a reduction in the waste of non renewable resources that would also be a godsend, and it can.

I believe that more needs to be done to improve the wastage that this industry contributes to society and with the need to avoid legislation by governments with other agenda’s. I believe we need meaningful dialog between the industry players and government to hammer out voluntary agreements that lead to a reduction in the duplication of identical items being shipped with every product regardless of the included accessory being actually required by the purchaser. If we were just able to buy only the phone and then decide what accessories we actually require and then buy them. This would reduce the huge wastage that goes on now with duplicated and not required accessories all jammed in the box, our latest phone came with 2 interchangeable backs as well as the usual litany of items, although I did think it was very strange that it came with 2 micro cd’s when 1 normal sized cd might have been more appropriate.

I think if we were some what able to get companies to agree to not bundle any accessories with their phones and to reduce the unit price per handset with a fair percentage of the savings. These companies would still be free to compete in the after marketing of accessories if they felt that this was an attractive market to compete in.

Standardisation would allow more efficient competition in the market place,  the increased efficiency would result in reduced costs of accessories partly compensating any initial increased cost experienced by the consumer  having to  buy previously bundled and supposedly free accessories. It’s funny though for a seemingly valueless item we are very reluctant to part with accessories past. Since we would be free to reuse accessories when we we purchase a new phones this would reduce wastage as we would only replace items as required and not by the phone as is currently the norm. People often talk off the huge amount of old mobile phones that end up in land fill, well this is equally true of the accessories or is it truly nothing more than a consumable. I believe that if commitment to reducing wastage in this area is truly explored and agreed upon that this is a relatively easy to implement scheme that could have immense savings in environmental impact reduction and is something that is a win win scenario for all, consumers and the manufactures alike and it may actually allow for new entrants into the retail space. It would reduce duplication and waste, allow reduction in price of phones allow a consolidation in the after market need for offerings so that we are dealing with variants of a single theme USB cable, charger, head phones.

What do you think? This was just my thoughts on what I think society should be exploring to do to allow technology not to leave as big environmental footprint. Please leave me a comment I would love to hear what you think on this issue.

if it's look suspicious then it's probably not legit (email scams)

I posted this the other day after I received the following email, I only put it up as a bit of a joke as I easily tell it is a scam or fake and that if I take the bait I will not receive anything and more likely have to pay to be scammed . However on noting the amount of hits the deleted article received  I have retrieved it and updated the details with a waring  If you have received this email please note that it is a scam and destroy, no one is ever going to give you money they don't know what to do with for a fee, remember if it sounds to good to be true it probably is, they play on the ill gotten gains.

"The 419 scam originated in the early 1980s as the oil-based Nigerian economy declined. Unemployed university students first used this scam as a means of manipulating business visitors interested in shady deals in the Nigerian oil sector before targeting businessmen in the west, and later the wider population. Scammers in the early-to-mid 1990s targeted companies, sending scam messages via letter, fax, or Telex. The spread of email and easy access to email-harvesting software made the cost of sending scam letters through the Internet low. In the 2000s, the 419 scam has spurred imitations from other locations in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, and, more recently, from North America, Western Europe (mainly UK), and Australia.

The number "419" refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: "Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating") dealing with fraud. The American Dialect Society has traced the term "419 fraud" back to 1992." (from Wikipedia.)

This is the copy of the letter as received by me


I am Mr. Mark G. Thackray, the Auditor General, Imperial Finance Limited UK. In the course of my auditing, I discovered a floating fund in an account, which was opened in 1990 belonging to a foreigner who died in 1999. Every effort made to track any member of his family or next of kin has since failed; hence I got in contact with you to stand as his next of kin since you bear the same last name. He died leaving no heir or a will.

My intention is to transfer this sum of US$15.5Million Dollars in the aforementioned account to a safe account overseas. I am therefore proposing that you silently partner with me and provide an account or set up a new one that will serve the purpose of receiving this fund. For your assistance in this venture, I am ready to share the entire fund in the ratio 50% for you and 50% for me as soon as the fund is confirmed in your account. After going through the deceased person's records and files, I discovered that:

(1) No one has operated this account since 1999

(2) He died without an heir or WILL; hence the money has been floating.

(3) No other person knows about this account and there was no known beneficiary.

If I do not remit this money urgently, it would be forfeited and subsequently converted to our company's funds, which will benefit only the directors of our firm. This money can be approved to you legally with all the necessary; documentation approvals in your name. However, you would be required to show some proof of claim, which I will provide you with all and also guide you on how to make the applications.

Please reply so that I can send you detailed information on the modalities of my proposition. You must keep this transaction strictly CONFIDENTIAL UNTIL THE FUND IS CONFIRMED IN YOUR ACCOUNT, if you are ready and interested to work with me kindly mpt response.

Best regards,

Mr. Mark G. Thackray

(Auditor General)

Imperial Finance House Ltd

London, United-Kingdom

What will happen to all your digital photos when you die

Update: Checkout this article on the first digital camera prototype The World’s First Digital Camera by Kodak and Steve Sasson

Do you own a digital camera ? I suspect that you do, after all your on the internet and must be a little tech savvy, not that you have to be to be part of this transformation of photography. I bought my first digital camera almost eight years ago a stunning 1.3 megapixcel camera from Canon and it changed my world.

I would say that I have thousands if not hundred of thousands of photos saved on my hard drive that document my life, that of my friends and family and the places that I have been.  The first camera that I actually owned was a digital one so it was the beginning of an ongoing odyssey that I am sure I am no alone in sharing.

There will 40 million digital camera's sold is the USA alone this year so I would suspect that penetration is almost complete, but what of all the images that these camera will take and the ones taken before all sitting on peoples hard drives what will happen to then.

These pictures in their entirety paint an almost complete picture of humanity and of the planet earth and in some case beyond, but all but most all of them are in the hands of private individuals stored on hard drives and computers, cd's dvd's memory sticks. What will happen to yours when you die, what will happen to everyone's when they die.

I don't know, but what a waste it will be for humanity to waste the greatest capture of modern history because no one has thought this out

Please leave me a comment of what you think will happen to yours.

Public Transport it does not need to be hi tech

I was recently lucky enough to visit San Francisco in California USA, this was my second visit to this amazing city, one of America's most vibrant and it didn't  fail to impress me but this time for a very different reason.

One thing that differentiates a visit  to a foreign city from that of your home port  is the ability to easily explore its many places of interest and to move around, at home you are familiar with the many forms transport available something lacking when on holidays . However in many places this does not really pose to many problems as walking is often the easiest and most efficient way to explore all the holiday destination has to offer, however the shear size and logistics of San Francisco made walking only a partly suitable option.  Driving  can be a compelling choice, with easy access to hire car facilities at most airports, however this mode of transport is neither cheap nor as compelling when you take in to account  the need to actually navigate the unfamiliar city , a frustrating experience at the best of times. However that was not the thing that stopped me from driving.

I am an Australian who lives in  Melbourne, a city of just under 3.5 million residents that like San Francisco is located adjacent to a magnificent bay. In Australia we drive our cars on the left hand side of the road, the same as in England and many other countries that used to form part of the British Empire. Driving  in an unfamiliar location is stressful but coupled with the disorientation of driving on the wrong side of the road, sitting on the wrong side of  a car that you are not used to with different traffic rules tipped me over the edge, so driving was out.

I decided to luck public transport, now as I already mentioned I am from Melbourne and we have quite a well established public transport system consisting of trains, trams (trolley cars) and buses, I am acquainted with using public transport and was quite eager to give San Francisco's a go. I never envisioned that I would end up comparing the relative merits of both systems, however human nature is that we tend to compare things to what we know or have experience of.

The first hurdle to be negotiated of any transport system almost any where in the world after locating a station or terminus to board is of course the buying of the ticket. Melbourne has a rather good system called Metcard, that allows for multiple transfers and trips within a zoned area for either 2 hours or all day. That said we are also in the process of having introduced forced upon us an ill-fitting, over priced, over budget and frankly not fit for purpose system called myki. It would appear that some politician or bureaucrat persuaded the government that what Melbourne needed was the worlds best ticketing system and rather than draw on worlds best practice from cities like London, Hong Kong, Singapore or the countless other perfectly fine ticketing systems that they would create their own.

Now as  I said in Melbourne we had/have a perfectly fine system  that works really well, and I don't think  that the majority of travelers really care or actually pay a moment's attention to the  ticketing system as  long as it works. The average punter wants to get from point a to point b as quickly as possible as cheaply as possible and the ticket is exactly that a ticket.

Well in San Francisco, the ticketing is as simple as it can get, board the vehicle place 2 one dollar bills in to a vending machine located next to the driver, the machine beeps and the driver then hands you a piece of paper that is valid for travel on the vehicle on the network for up to 3 hours. It not high-tech by any stretch of the imagination but it's simple and it works.

The first vehicle that I decided to travel was a trolley car that runs on the historic F line from Castro to the Fisherman's Wharf. What sets the F Line apart from systems anywhere else is the trolley cars are all vintage examples acquired from retired systems of other American Cities and the world, they are all painted in the original livery of their day and have been loving restored and maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers.  They even have a W Class tram from Melbourne.  This is a functioning piece of history that really shows that the basic premise of public transport has not really changed at all, and the best thing it works and works well.

The bus service criss crosses the city using a combination of electric and conventional diesel buses not flash, but roomy and reliable. Every cross-road is displayed on a huge sign at the front of the bus so finding your destination is very easy and the whole system seems to gravitate around Market Street downtown so armed with a transit map and a spirit to explore you are set.

There is also a train system that I did not need to utilize as between the trolley cars and buses I was easily able to commute the whole of the city, or at least the places I wanted to visit. So I'm not able to comment on the train service but if my experience of the other parts of the network is anything to go on I am sure it more than adequate.

Off course I would be remiss to not mention the world-famous Cable Cars that traverse the many hills that can be found in the historic parts of the city, and although utilized by the locals these truly are a tourist attraction first, but still an important foundation of the overall transit system.

The next thing the struck me was how regular the system is, it seems that as soon as you arrive at a pickup point no sooner a trolley car or bus is there to pick you up, so a timetable is not required at all.

Now when I contrast this to the transit system of Melbourne I think that we are sadly lacking, our train system is decaying, the tram system is way to slow and the bus network although good where it exists is really a hit and miss affair.

In this age of global warming and diminishing fossil fuels, I would have thought a cheap, reliable and patronized transit system would be a priority of any city, it appears in Melbourne it's not. Our system is a semi privatized one with private operators subsidized by the government so the cost is even higher than if it was state-run as in San Francisco. The government recently had an idea opportunity to reclaim this once proud asset and return to state-run where is my humble opinion it belongs but I suspect it easier for them to blame a private operator for its shortcomings then to actually fix it.

But as I alluded to early the biggest problem of our system is the myki ticketing system that has cost in excess of 1 billion dollars is 3 years late and does not work on buses or trams yet, and is the butt of many jokes and It would be funny if it was not my taxes that had been wasted, 1 billion dollars could have bought many improvements to a stretched and run down system.

It's a real pity for me to have had to write this blog piece giving the thumbs up to a transit system on the other side of the world as the one in my backyard continues to fail miserably.

So in conclusion if you on planning to visit the US for a holiday do visit San Francisco and feel safe in the knowledge that you can easily and cheaply get around using an excellent transit system and if you are visiting Melbourne well good luck with that.

do you have any tales of woe or great transit stories leave me a comment I'd love to hear them.

Google and Twitter both cool on hot news, tells court

So it would appear that I am not the only one that is concerned regarding the doctrine of hot news and the desire of the old business model type media (read newspapers) to call on this seldom used doctrine to artificially claim exclusivity for an arbitrary period of time on news.Both Google and Twitter have decided to file an amicus brief in the legal case between financial website and Barclays Plc, claiming that Internet chatter cannot be contained and that restricting the spread of news content could hurt the public.

Both Google and Twitter point out that the concept of “Hot News” in this the internet age is “obsolete”  and as I stated in my earlier posts on this subject that is nay on impossible to stop the free flow of information most notably across blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc.I particularly like the use of the analogy / actual event

"How, for example, would a court pick a time period during which facts about the recent Times Square bombing attempt would be non-reportable by others?" asked Twitter and Google in their filing. "News reporting always has been a complex ecosystem, where what is 'news' is often driven by certain influential news organizations, with others republishing or broadcasting those facts—all to the benefit of the public."
I did post a tongue and cheek post that might just answer that question

Breaking News, due to Copyright restrictions we are unable to divulge or report on today’s news, please bookmark this site and return tomorrow when we will legally be able to report on today’s news in the mean time feel free to peruse the many fine article of old news we have available courtesy of NEWSDOTCOM. 

Now obviously booth Google and Twitter have pretty high stakes at risk if this doctrine was to reappear and I suspect the greater fear is that it would be expanded to include a lot more than is currently being argued in the courts.

And finally The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also spoken on the issues in on The Fly's case, arguing that the hot news ruling stifled the site's First Amendment rights. Of course at this stage this is only relevant to US in regards to the current action in the courts, but if the lobbing and secrecy behind ACTA have taught us anything is the US don’t seem to have any problems in jamming badly written and conceived trade treaties down the world throat.
The EFF have also submitted an amicus brief to the court.

"This Court should recognize that the hot news doctrine implicates core First Amendment principles: an injunction issued under the hot news doctrine plainly contemplates restricting publication of newsworthy facts, Applying heightened First Amendment scrutiny in hot news cases, particularly in the online context, will help ensure that the doctrine serves that purpose. It should not be used to stifle common journalistic practices and new forms of commentary, curation, and information sharing online."

Further reading regarding this development can be found at the following publications. 
Google and Twitter pour cold water on "hot news" : ars technical 
Google, Twitter go to bat for Theflyonthewall : reuters 
Google And Twitter Tell Appeals Court That 'Hot News' Doctrine Is Obsolete :techdirt