February 2009

Are book publishers making the same mistakes a the record labels?

Its certainly starting to look like it. TechDirt (via Slashdot) is pointing to an article in Slate which notes that publishers are worried about Amazons Kindle is about to give them the same dominance in book selling that Apple enjoys in online music distribution.

TechDirt then goes on to point out that Apples dominance is a result of the record labels demanding DRM on everything, creating the massive lock-in that Apple has been able to take advantage of.

If the record labels had, instead, pushed for an open solution, then anyone else could have built stores/players to work as well, and it could have minimized Apples ability to control the market. Yes, everyone is now opening up (including Apple), but it took a long time, and Apple had already established its dominant position.

And now book publishers are doing the same thing. Its the publishers that are pushing for DRM and limitations that will inevitably result in users being locked into Amazons platform. If the publishers had pushed for more open solutions, then barriers to entry would be lowered and a more competitive market could develop.

DRM is one of those technologies that looks like an easy solution in the short term but, in reality, it consistently comes back to bite us all.

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Found at Beyond the Iron Sky

Code Monkey: The Anime Music Video

Every now and then, as I trawl the depths of YouTube, I stuble across something that is very good indeed. In this case its Code Monkey AMV, which uses footage from the Anime Black Heaven to make a music video for Jonathan Coultons Code Monkey.

According to the blurb, the short won the Best in Show award at Animazement 2007, and its easy to see why. Not only is this an excellent mash-up, but its a damn fine music video by any standard.

Its also left me wanting to get my paws on Black Heaven.

Of heavy handed over-reactions and internet blackouts

Today Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde Kolmsioppi and Carl Lundstorm, the founders of Swedish file-sharing site, The Pirate Bay, are on trial on charges of copyright theft.

The site is being taken to court by several media firms, including Sony and Warner Bros., who claim that their profits are being harmed by the site and that it has been particularly harmful in distributing copyrighted works prior to their official release.

The defendants argue that their site is completely legal because none of the content is hosted on their computer servers and are seeking to portray themselves as digital libertarians.

A couple of thoughts spring to mind here, the first of which is to wonder how long this is going to take. Whatever the result of this case, there will be appeals and, I would guess, were talking several years before a final decision is arrived at. If, as is likely, the site remains up, running and tracking torrents for the whole of this time, the media companies are not doing a great deal to protect their bottom line right now.

The second, and more significant, thought is: What is the point? At the end of the day, The Pirate Bay is just a torrent tracker. The actual content is scattered across peoples PCs worldwide so, while shutting down the site may cause a temporary blip in filesharing activity, it isnt ultimately going to make any difference.

People will always seek to share content and always have done. Although technologies like BitTorrent and sites like The Pirate Bay makes this easier, the impulse to share is a human one and isnt going to go away. As such, targetting the ways in which people share content is as fruitless as trying to manufacture self-destructing books.

But if we travel a little further afield, things get even worse. I was half-way through writing this post when I happened to glance at Twitter and noticed that a lot of people were talking about a Blackout Campaign to protest against New Zealands Guilt Upon Accusation law that calls for internet disconnection based on accusations of copyright infringement without a trial and without any evidence held up to court scrutiny. This law is due to come into effect on February 28th unless the countrys parliament takes action rather rapidly.

The campaign is being organised by The Creative Freedom Foundation which was founded in 2008 by artists and technologists Bronwyn Holloway-Smith and Matthew Holloway in response to Copyright law and its detrimental effect on creativity, the economy, and public rights.

The Foundation advocates on behalf of artists whose creative freedom is affected by major Governmental decisions made in their name, and in the name of protecting creativity. The Foundation represents the views of artists who dont want injustices in Copyright law done in their name, and who want to find better ways to work.

I shall leave the final words of this post to Nathan Torkington who very succinctly sums up pretty much everything I was planning to say:

The Internet has created new opportunities for artists: new opportunities to reach fans and new opportunities to earn a living. In the past, artists like us had to reach fans through companies that relied on old technology. These companies are now being forced to find new ways of doing business but instead of embracing the Internet theyre fighting it.

They fight progress by demanding changes to Copyright laws. In effect, they say, lock down the Internet so our 1960s way of doing business can still work in 2010. In doing so, they erode civil liberties and hold back the discovery of the new business models. They want to control the Internet just as movie companies wanted to control the VCR when it was first released. But, unlike then, courts and lawmakers are not safeguarding our interests.

Its time for artists to stand up and say: enough! The greatest problem that we artists face is obscurity, not piracy. Americas record companies have resorted to releasing malware and suing people without computers, alienating fans rather than figuring out how to turn them into satisfied customers. This cannot continue.

The Internet offers enormous opportunity for New Zealands artists to break out of obscurity and sell directly to millions of waiting fans. But if the record and movie companies get their way, snooping on innocent peoples Internet connections and acting outside the legal system, we risk training fans to have the same cynical attitude in return: to hell with them.

We dont endorse counterfeiting, mass duplication stores. These people hurt artists, robbing us of legitimate sales. But when an individual fan wants our work enough to go through the hassle of finding a way to pirate it online, we see that as an opportunity. Its an opportunity to meet the fan, to connect them to the artist, and ultimately for the artist to be rewarded for their work. This opportunity will be squandered in the world of restrictions, distrust, and civil rights abuses that the middlemen companies want to institutionalise.

The 5 Rules of Seagal

There are five rules to a great Stevan Seagal film. Check them out below:

Found at Twitch

Fitna Remade

Following the UK governments foolish and countr-productive banning of Geert Wilders from the UK, his 15 minute Fitna has now gained a far wider audience that he would have otherwise enjoyed. Wilders is a far-right anti-immigration politician who has latched onto Muslims as a euphamism for Brown People and Reza Moradi of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, annoyed at the way Wilders film attacks all Muslims - including those who are actually victims of Islamism fleeing oppression - has edited and rescripted the film to produce Fitna Remade.

The take-home message of the film is that secularists should suport secularism everywhere and without exception.

(Via MediaWatchWatch)

Anyone who says geeks arent sexy

should check out this Star Trek inspired corset.

Hat tip to Wil Wheaton.

The Voyage of Charles Darwin

Darwin Day is a global celebration of science and reason held on February 12th, the birthday of Charles Darwin, the English naturalist whose On The Origin of Species famously introduced the theory of evolution through natural selection. This year also marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwins birth, and – in November – the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work.

As such it seems appropriate that, while poking around YouTube I should stumble across the entire series of The Voyage of Charles Darwin. This is a six-part BBC series dating back to 1978 that depicts the life of Darwin and his formulation of the theory of evolution through natural selection. There is also an epilogue (which I havent watched yet, but will be doing soon) that throws some light on the origin of man, and his history.

Enjoy.

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A storm in a naked teacup

School administrators in Wisconsin have found themselves having to re-evaluate (via @neilhimself ) their policy on showing films in class after the parent of a high school pupil got hot under the collar about an animated nude scene in the 2007 film Beowulf.

There is a scene, just over a minute long, featuring a naked, animated Angelina Jolie which Eric Hjortness, the parent in question, found so erotic that he rushed off to complain.

The film has a PG-13 rating in the US and, according to the relevant district policy, this means that Hjortness is entitled to withdraw his daughter from the screening and the school is obliged to provide an alternative assignment for her. All reasonable enough so far, but heres where it gets a bit silly:

Hjortness, who was supported by his wife, Gail, and another parent at the meeting, said their daughter was told alternative assignments involve writing and, Why should she get punished for not going to the movie?

Writing is a punishment? Since when? And how has Hjortness managed to get this far in life without realising that literacy is quite a good skill to have.

More than anything else, this story reminds me of the Bill Hicks story about the waffle waitress.

And, for the record, the scene that so excited Mr Hjortness is under the fold.

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