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)

Isle of Man gets real on filesharing

I have, in past posts, argued that the current music industry model of distributing music on physical objects is looking increasingly broken and that it would be better for the music industry to stop chasing file sharers and, instead, start developing a distribution model that actually works.

It appears that the Isle of Man agrees. They are proposing to introduce a compulsory blanket licence for music downloads under which broadband ISP subscribers would pay a nominal compulsory tax, but be able to share music legally.

The idea of legalising P2P rather than stopping it is an ancient one: its been used to create for new technologies for over a hundred years. Where its too complicated and/or expensive to count or police individual exchanges, a blanket licence has been issued.

Im not entirely convinced about the fact that the charge would be applied to all subscribers. Not all internet users share files so simple fairness dictates that ISP customers should be able to choose between a high bandwidth, “taxed” account or a lower bandwidth “untaxed” account. But this move is certainly a step in the right direction and it will be interesting to see whether any other states follow the Manx lead.

On a related note, a TNO study for the Dutch government has concluded that filesharing is good for the economy. The report notes that, although filesharing does affect media industry profits, the net effect is that more media are available overall.

The report also notes that downloading and buying are not mutually exclusive: downloaders on average buy just as much music as non-downloaders, but they buy more DVDs and games then people who dont download. They also tend to visit more concerts and buy more merchandise.

Open Rights Group calls for sound copyright

Copyright in sound recordings currently lasts for 50 years. An independent review (the Gowers review) commissioned and endorsed by the UK government says it should remain at 50 years. Yet the recording industry continues to push for this term be extended. Such a term extension would be harmful to most musicians, their fans and to European musical culture.

The Open Rights Group has a rather good video explaining the issues. Take five minutes to watch it and then write to your MEP.

Via Quaequam Blog!

The Producers speak out on piracy

A group of UK film and TV producers, directors and writers have written to the Times to demand that Something Must Be Done about online file sharing. Whats more, they want to ensure that internet service providers become part of their solution.

Inevitably enough, however, they are not talking about looking for a business model that reflects the fact that people will seek to share content, preferring instead to limit themselves to an assertion and a demand.

Internet service providers have the ability to change the behaviour of those customers who illegally distribute content online. They have the power to make significant change and to prevent their infrastructure from being used on a wholesale scale for illegal activity. If they are not prepared to act responsibly, they should be compelled to do so.

First the assertion: Internet service providers have the ability to change the behaviour of those customers who illegally distribute content online. Do they? How? To me, this sounds dangerously like the producers believe that it is both possible and desirable for your ISP to monitor and analyse every packet of data that flows through your internet connection. In truth, it is both unfeasable and undesirable.

But it gets worse: If they are not prepared to act responsibly, they should be compelled to do so. When railing against piracy, ISPs are an easy target to go for - they are visible and there is only a limited number of them - but this doesnt make them an appropriate target. And demanding that ISPs should somehow be obliged to become the unaccountable watchdogs of our online behaviour is both unreasonable and dangerous, as the Internet Watch Foundation has so recently demonstrated.

A new hope

Like the great majority of the rest of the world, I am both relieved and optimistic at the US election result. As the campaign – for nomination and for president - Obama has increasingly come to represent everything positive about America and I think that, as long as he maintains his momentum, he will be able to make a real difference both economically and on the world stage. Its with that in mind that Im swiping Charles Stross shopping list of ten things that Obama could do in his first hundred days of his administration.

1. Shut down Gitmo. Try any of the inmates who face outstanding changes in front of a civilian court. Release (and if necessary, pay compensation to) those who are categorically not guilty of anything and who were swept up by mistake. Grant political asylum to the Chinese muslims and any others who are (a) not accused of anything and (b) cant return to their homes for fear of persecution.

2. The whole torture thing? You know what needs to be done, and theres a lot of it — from reverting US interrogation practices to pre-2000 norms, to identifying those who ordered harsh measures and determining whether grounds exist for prosecution, to seeking and compensating the victims of torture. Oh, and end extraordinary rendition and wiretapping without warrants.

3. Dismantle the DHS — it is an out of control bureaucratic Frankensteins monster. Separate divisions can go back to doing what they did before they were stitched together. Leave in place communications channels between such divisions so they can share data, but destroy the unitary chain of command. You dont need a Gestapo.

4. Ratify the Kyoto Treaty, and/or put the wheels in motion to participate in international talks aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Start a public Congressional enquiry into the systematic injection of politically partisan appointees in the civil service and judiciary over the past 8 years, with specific reference to politically biased prosecutors and judges, administrators in scientific agencies (NASA, NIH, Environment, and others), and election officers.

6. Find three young, energetic, liberal supreme court justices to replace the elderly, terminally ill supreme court justices who are going to retire as soon as they can do so without handing the supreme court to Scalia on a plate.

7. Start a public Congressional enquiry into election practices, with the objective of moving towards a bill (or if necessary draft constitutional amendment) setting out acceptable standards for the conduct of elections.

8. Start a public enquiry into the misuse of intelligence agency resources in the run-up to 9/11 and the conduct of the war on terrorism since 9/11. Remit to include the allegations of collusion between Saddams regime and Al Qaida, and the embarrassing question of why the USA has been unable to find Osama bin Laden for the past seven years.

9. Start talking to the Russians about (a) gas and oil security (this includes South Ossetia), (b) Ballistic Missile Defense (and their allergy to it), (c) NATO expansion, and (d) any other grievances that must be aired in order to stop Cold War 2.0 from escalating. One cold war was quite enough, thank you (I still remember the nightmares).

10. Start talking to the whole of the G11 — no, leaving Spain (the worlds 8th largest economy) out in the cold because Dubya is having a snit at the socialist PM is not acceptable — about a global plan for rebooting the planetary economy without overheating the money markets or triggering further energy spikes. An exercise in multilateralism and soft power that will (a) achieve something useful and (b) start to convince the rest of the world that sanity has resumed.

Clearly these are merely the start of cleaning up the huge mess that Bush has left behind. But it would be a good start.

And, if nothing else, the election of Barack Obama does mean that the US has not lumbered itself with a Vice President who doesnt know that Africa is a continent.

The film that killed George Bush

Whatever the result of the US election one thing is certain: George W Bush will finally be voted out of office. Some felt that the day would never come, so io9 reminds us that two years ago, a team of filmmakers decided to bring Bushs presidency to a premature end with Death of a President.

Much controversy surrounded the film for depicting the assassination of George Bush and it suffered distribution woes in the US, Italy and elsewhere. But what made this SF mockumentary interesting was what came next.

Set in 2013 - six years after the assassination – the film uses a combination of archive footage and interviews with those involved in the investigation to slowly unravel the story of who shot the president – and why.

The film is still available on DVD and is worth checking out. Alternatively, if you want a more UK oriented political film, you could do a lot worse than taking a look at Taking Liberties.

Voting for change

With only days left until the Presidential election, street artist Shepard Fairey and director Melissa Balin have teamed up to try and create their own grass-roots movement in support og the Obama campaign by launching the Vote for Change Video Postcards. Truth be told, though, its less a grass-roots movement and more a series of sixty second celebrity endorsements, but some of them are pretty good and worth watching.

So heres John C. Reilly on being white

and there are many more on the Vote for Change website.

Judge Death takes over at the Home Office

The latest wheeze in the Labour governments War Against Sanity is to decide that anyone carrying a pre-pay mobile phone must be a terrorist - or as good as - so theyre building another database of mobile phone owners. Thats all owners of mobile phones, regardless of whether they have regular contract or a pre-pay phone.

Everyone who buys a mobile telephone will be forced to register their identity on a national database under government plans to extend massively the powers of state surveillance.

Phone buyers would have to present a passport or other official form of identification at the point of purchase. Privacy campaigners fear it marks the latest government move to create a surveillance society.

It cant be long now until they realise that all crimes are comitted by living people and overreact accordingly.

ID Cards: A foreigner speaks

A migrant, living in the UK, has this to say about the latest stunt dreamt up by the a government desperate to find a justification for their ID card plans:

[Y]our Labour Party has taken my biometrics and will force me to carry the papers my grandparents destroyed when they fled the Soviet Union. In living memory, my family has been chased from its home by governments whose policies and justification the Labour Party has aped. Your Labour Party has made me afraid in Britain, and has made me seriously reconsider my settlement here. I am the father of a British citizen and the husband of a British citizen. I pay my tax. I am a natural-born citizen of the Commonwealth. The Labour Party ought not to treat me nor any other migrant in a way that violates our fundamental liberties. The Labour Party is unmaking Britain, turning it into the surveillance society that Britains foremost prophet of doom, George Orwell, warned against. Labour admits that we migrants are only the first step, and that every indignity that they visit upon us will be visited upon you, too. If you want to live and thrive in a free country, you must defend us too: we must all hang together, or we will surely hang separately.

The migrant in question is Cory Doctorow, a Canadian author who is supporting himself but is no threat to anyone.

Much has been said about what is wrong with the governments ID card scheme – its overly complex, unnecessarily intrusive, not properly costed and horrendously expensive. And for what? Why are the government so keen to introduce these things?

Its a serious question, and one for which I have so far seen no answer: What does the Labour Party expect to achieve by introducing ID cards?

Where have all the satirists gone?

The Observer has quite a good article today charting the rise of Daily Show presenter Jon Stewart and asking what his success tells you about the dire state of journalism in the US.

His most effective move is to cull through the tapes of all the countless banalities, hypocritical contradictions and attempted snow-jobs executed in boundless profusion on our airwaves and on political podiums. He just puts them on the air and you watch with slack-jawed amazement.

And heres an example (via) of him puncturing the sort of nice-sounding but utterly meaningless phrase so beloved by political types.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Looking back to the UK and the inanities being uttered by members of the two major parties (and I have to admit that I have found myself becoming increasingly unimpressed with the Lib Dems over the past few months), where is Chris Morris. Still, theres always In The Loop to look forward to next year.