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Comment Re:Why are nuclear fission systems too heavy? (Score 1) 268

Er...last time I checked, space was much much colder than the ocean.

Check again. Space isn't cold per se. It's a vacuum up there. Which means that any heat that a ship generates, it cannot get rid of it through conduction or convection. That only leaves radiation, which is very inefficient.

What you want to do, generally, is to build the ship so that it will radiate more heat than it can possibly generate or than it can absorb from something else radiating heat. Then, whenever you're not getting enough waste heat through normal operations, you turn on heaters to generate more. If you didn't do this, your ship would accumulate more and more heat and would eventually destroy itself.

You may recall how the Apollo 13 astronauts wound up having to deal with an interior temperature of around 40 degrees by the end of their mission. That's because due to power shortages, they had to turn off most of their equipment (which gave off waste heat) and the heaters, but couldn't prevent the ship from radiating heat as it was designed to do.

A naval nuclear reactor is designed to dump heat into the ocean; in the absence of the ocean, it would quickly meltdown.

Comment Re:Why are nuclear fission systems too heavy? (Score 4, Interesting) 268

Probably not; a sub's reactor would likely depend on the presence of the ocean for part of its cooling system (cooling is always a big problem in space -- basically it can only be done with radiators, which isn't very efficient), and is surely way overpowered for most missions.

The US and Russia have sent up actual reactors before. The US had SNAP and the USSR had BES.

But you really don't need nuclear power sources at all unless you're either far from the sun (beyond the orbit of Mars, usually), have serious power needs that modern solar power isn't sufficient for (the recently landed Curiosity rover on Mars uses an RTG for main power), or need heat to keep systems from getting too cold (the solar powered Mars rovers had small RTGs in them for heating purposes, IIRC).

Comment Re:i don't get it (Score 1) 201

same idea that the cost of production is somehow the fault of the creators and not relevant to what they want to ask you to pay to consume it

No, the cost of production is highly relevant to the asking price; they're going to try to set the price so that they make a profit if their prediction as to the number of customers is basically right.

For a good example of this not working out, see the Atari version of Pac-Man: there were an estimated 10 million Atari VCS consoles thought to be in use, so management had 12 million copies of Pac-Man made on the assumption that people would buy the console just to play it. But as things happened, only 7 million copies were sold, and the game was so lousy that many of those were returned. The Pac-Man debacle is seen as one of the factors causing the Videogame Crash of 1983 as well as a reported loss by Atari of half a billion dollars.

Anyway, what I was trying to say was not that there is no connection between production costs and ticket prices / retail cost (there is), but that production values themselves, which is what incur the production costs, are fairly arbitrary. Films don't require hundreds of millions of dollars of budget in order to tell a story; the story can be told just as well by less expensive means. And in fact, a lot of special effects are used to keep the budget down: it's cheaper to blow up a plastic model of a spaceship than it is to build a real one just to blow it up. Of course it's cheaper still to tell the story so in a way that you don't have to show it getting blown up, or to rely more on the audience's imagination rather than a convincing pyrotechnic display.

If filmmakers and other creators spend less making works -- which may involve lower quality standards, but that's alright -- then they can better withstand smaller numbers of paying customers.

For example, the recent Lone Ranger film had a budget of $225 million, worldwide revenues of $244 million in theaters, hasn't yet hit other venues such as home video, and is already viewed as a massive, massive flop. Had the movie been made for a budget of about $8.5 million (which is how much, adjusted for inflation, it took to film the popular western epic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), it would've been a gigantic success with ticket sales of that magnitude. Hell, you could chop the ticket sales by 75% and it would still be a big hit. The vast majority of the money spent on The Lone Ranger was just wasted, and that's the fault of the filmmakers. Even if it had been produced cheaply and flopped, at least it could've been more tolerable.

So get it right: I am arguing in favor of responding to piracy by having authors and publishers spend less up front, so as to better be able to tolerate making less money.

the vast majority actually prefer giant productions with big CGI budgets

No, that's just what gets made and promoted the most. It's a risky all the eggs in one basket strategy and it doesn't work as well as you'd think. In the last few posts I've pointed out several examples of huge successes that were made relatively cheaply (Beauty and the Beast, The Wrath of Khan, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) and you could add films like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity (horror has an edge in that it's scary to not see things), Mad Max, Rocky, American Graffiti, or Napoleon Dynamite.

Your analogies to prohibition make no sense

The analogy to Prohibition was to point out that the government should not prohibit the public from engaging in behavior that is commonplace and generally seen as inoffensive, unless there is a damn good reason for doing so.

People really thought, back then, that drinking ought to be banned, but it was a common activity, no one felt that their own drinking was wrong, and the attempt to go against our social norms and force people to dry out failed utterly.

Well, now copyright infringement is commonplace, and most people don't see ordinary file sharing to be offensive. (Though commercial piracy, such as in the article likely would be!) Attempting to enforce copyright on the masses regardless is foolish unless it is critically important. And it's not.

I have absolutely NO idea how you think a major collaboration can pay for itself if they are not allowed to have a (limited, even) chance to recoup their expenses.

Like I said, non commercial infringement by natural persons should be legalized. This will reduce the pool of potential profits to be made, but by continuing to ban commercial infringement and infringement by artificial persons (e.g. corporate entities), that smaller pool will remain protected. So for example, you'd still have to pay for a ticket to watch a movie at a theater, and still have to pay a monthly fee to watch a movie on Netflix, but you could also torrent a movie for free so long as no one involved was in any way making money from the infringement.

And if authors and publishers reduce their budgets, that smaller pool can prove sufficient to fund their efforts. They'll have to adapt, and stop throwing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars away for effects (Michael Bay may be out of a job), but there are plenty of good things that can be done without needing that.

Comment Re:i don't get it (Score 1) 201

it is literally impossible to have a small budget for a modern CGI-heavy action or animated movie

That depends on what you're trying to make. Disney's Beauty and the Beast has excellent animation, was well written and performed, got nominated for a Best Picture (which was such a shock that animated movies soon got pushed into their own category, away from the serious live action films), and was produced for what would be in today's dollars, a $41 million budget. A few years ago, Disney released Tangled, which has excellent animation, was well written and performed, and did get some awards although not best animated feature, and was produced for what would be in today's dollars, a $273 million budget.

Both are good movies. But Tangled, which cost over six and a half times as much as Beauty and the Beast, after adjusting for inflation, is not six and a half times better. You can make perfectly good movies on lower budgets.

The special effects for something like Avatar, Star Trek, The Avengers, etc, for $100M+ alone.

And yet, everyone loved Star Trek when it was on TV, and had such a low budget that they had to use the backlot for the Nazi, Gangster, and Roman planets, and the villain of the week was the giant floating head of Zsa Zsa Gabor! And everyone still loves The Wrath of Khan the most, and adjusted for inflation, it was made on a $26 million budget.

You know what would've been a better use of my time instead of seeking ST:ID? Seeing Trek in the Park.

Arguing that "if someone spent too much creating their content that's their problem, everyone should still be able to consume it for free" or "expensive movies are sometimes worse than cheap ones, and I should be able to watch bad movies for free" make no sense either. If it's bad don't watch it. If you watch it you apparently thought it was worth watching so compensate the creators.

I'm not arguing the latter, but I am arguing something close to the former. If it were legal for people to make and distribute copies of works on a strictly non-commercial basis (no charge for copies, nor for the media, nor bandwidth, no tip jars, no ads, not used as a draw for something else, no donations -- all completely at a loss), then that would simply be a factor for producers to take account of in budgeting films. Just think about how happy Hollywood would be if going to the movies was mandatory, and that you'd commit a felony if you didn't buy a ticket once a week. If maximizing their income is our priority, why don't we force people to go? If not, then why should it bother us if their income is not maximized, or even if it is less than what it happens to be now? They might make less than they do now, but they'll cope, I'm sure.

And comparing copyright issues from today and 300 years ago doesn't make sense, as copying was limited by technology or skill

I have news for you: that's still true. The technology has gotten better, and some of the skills, like literacy, are more widespread, but pirates do not have magic wands.

Today 1000 people can put 2 years of work into a movie, and it can be copied in 10 minutes using cheaply available hardware.

And the movie studios are free to use whatever equipment best serves their interests for making their own copies. They are not at a technological disadvantage. A huge movie studio can afford the same gear that the average basement-dwelling nerd can. In fact, usually legitimate publishers have the upper hand, being able to act openly, serve larger audiences, and use better, faster equipment which is nevertheless has lower marginal costs. At most there might be parity, but pirates never have the upper hand unless publishers are doing something stupid to handicap themselves.

or legal threats (debatable as to whether it really works

I assure you, it doesn't work.

Think about Prohibition in the US, however. Telling people that alcohol was bad for you didn't get people to stop drinking. Telling them that it was immoral didn't work. Technological solutions, like denaturing alcohol so that it was poisonous didn't work. Legal solutions, like busting up the rum runners and speakeasies didn't work, and in fact resulted in massive corruption of the legal establishment instead! Ultimately, the issue was found not to be so massively important that continuing to cram Prohibition down the throats of Americans was worthwhile, and the government basically gave up. There was some regulation of alcohol, and a few dry jurisdictions, but overall, the restrictions fell away.

Pretty much everyone infringes on copyrights all the time, and being unaware of it, or doing it completely accidentally is no excuse, due to the strictness of the law. It's widely felt that some amount of copyright is acceptable. But people break the law all the time, suggesting that we have more than the amount that people consider acceptable; their violations are only of the excessive portion of the law. If we reformed copyright, and shrank the law, it would likely diminish somewhat the profits of the copyright industry, but I think that's an okay trade for no longer making virtually all Americans criminals and scofflaws. If it means that movies with gigantic budgets stop getting made, that's fine. After all, no one misses the super-gigantic budget movies we don't make now, because copyright law isn't even worse than it is. All you need is good writing and good acting, which aren't too expensive, and the rest basically takes care of itself.

Comment Re:i don't get it (Score 1) 201

You are right, we can only speculate what a world without copyright would be like. But I think it would be a fairly boring place.

Well, copyright didn't exist until the 18th century, and then didn't become widespread until the 19th and 20th centuries (in many places, due to colonialism, rather than because the local population liked the idea).

So now you have a pretty good idea of what it would be like.

Of course, you'd have to factor in differences unrelated to copyrights: many places have less censorship than they once did; they have higher literacy rates; they have publishing technologies that are far more efficient than what was available when they adopted copyright laws, including the ability to publish sounds and moving pictures, which had not been possible; we have artificial lighting, inexpensive and widely available means of telecommunication, and data capture, editing, and storage technologies; improvements in agriculture, manufacturing, and labor law provide somewhat more leisure time than once may have been available; the population has increased (thus increasing the number of actual and potential authors); etc.

Wile I think that we're better off with some degree of copyright than none at all (though probably less than we've got now), I think that a world without copyright would be okay; not optimal, but okay.

I enjoy watch movies that were made on a $100 million dollar budget. They tend to be better than movies made on a $10,000 budget.

I think that what matters is the writing and the performance, not the budget. I saw the play version of Driving Miss Daisy before the movie came out. The play had three actors, and usually the third wasn't on stage. The set consisted of a couple of chairs and nothing else. The actor playing Hoke (the driver) had to hold his arms in front of him and pretend that he was steering the car. It worked fine, and everyone enjoyed it. The movie added real sets, real cars, location filming, a number of additional actors, and wa fine too, but it didn't need to. It would've been just as good had they filmed the black box stage performance, like the movie Dogville.

Also IIRC, there was a low budget (I mean really low budget: http://starwarsblog.starwars.com/index.php/2008/12/19/star-wars-live-on-stage/ ) that went over well. While multi hundred million dollar movies with bad writing and bad acting like this year's The Lone Ranger, get to go directly to the trash. Big budgets are not necessary.

Comment Re:i don't get it (Score 1) 201

Well, I don't think that copyright infringement should be a crime; let it be a civil matter so that if copyright holders care, they can go to court, and if they don't care so much as to spend their own money on enforcement, the bill is not passed to taxpayers. A purely civil copyright system worked fine for a long time, as it did for trademarks, and still does afaik for patents.

(That said, if they were defrauding customers who thought they were getting legitimate copies, that might justify the involvement of law enforcement)

OTOH, I do think that commercial piracy of this sort ought to be illegal. Sure, there's plenty of currently infringing behavior that ought to be legalized, but this is too far. But I'm not surprised to see that copyright maximalism has gone so far as to sour many people on the whole idea, such that they call for the abolition of copyright, rather than simple reform. Had the publishing industries not acted greedily at every turn, they wouldn't have engendered so much opposition.

Comment Re:hopefully, it will be manufactured in the USA (Score 1) 185

what are you talking about? The federal government can't force states to engage in interstate commerce. All it can do is say that if interstate transactions occur, then they must comply with federal law. Good thing you aren't a lawyer, or maybe you are. That would explain much.

What the previous poster was talking about is called the Dormant (or Negative) Commerce Clause doctrine: That even in the absence of federal legislation regulating interstate commerce, the Constitution forbids states from improperly acting to impair or discriminate against interstate commerce, such as by trying to protect local businesses from out of state competition.

And in this case, a law that said that plates legal for use on cars registered in California must be made in California probably would be unconstitutional.

Comment Re:Lets talk legality (Score 2) 130

What should also be legal, is for publishers to say "you cannot sell my book for less than $X". Amazon can sell books for any price they like, down to $0, and the publisher cannot complain. Does that sound right to you? It means if a publisher irks Amazon, they can send book profits spiraling down.

No, it's fine. The publishers set a wholesale price they were happy with, and which they turned them a profit. Amazon paid it, then sold at a lower retail price than the publishers wanted. Ebook profits for publishers were never in jeopardy.

Comment Re:gamefly wins to lose (Score 1) 147

If you're in the US, yes.

The relevant part of 17 USC 109:

[T]he owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.

Of course, it might not be the best business plan. There aren't a lot of video rental stores left. But if you can make it work, go for it.

Comment Re:gamefly wins to lose (Score 1) 147

Well, in the US, at least, it's perfectly legal to rent ordinary retail DVDs. There are good reasons to go with a distributor, such as early access to copies so that they can be on shelves and ready to go ASAP, but if you're not getting prices lower than if you just got discs retail, and worse if you're locked into a requirements contract which precludes you from shopping around, I don't know if its worth it.

In any event, it seems to be a mostly moot point now.

Comment Re:posthumous copyright (Score 1) 344

Well why not go back to the old system of granting copyrights for a fixed term of years? Then the copyright lasts as long as it lasts, whether the author dies or not. This means that everyone knows when the work can be expected to be in the public domain straight away, and can plan for it; authors, publishers, and third parties all.

Comment Re:Oh for pete's sake (Score 1) 201

Well, this case is taking place in the UK, and I don't know anything about their law (other than that they have wigs, which seem neat). My analysis is more or less how it would work out in the US.

In the US, a derivative work is not the same thing as a compilation. (Although I suppose it is possible to have a compilation which is itself derivative of a preexisting compilation)

Here are the relevant bits of the statute:

17 USC 101

A âoecompilationâ is a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship. The term âoecompilationâ includes collective works.

A âoederivative workâ is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a âoederivative workâ.

17 USC 103

(a) The subject matter of copyright as specified by section 102 includes compilations and derivative works, but protection for a work employing preexisting material in which copyright subsists does not extend to any part of the work in which such material has been used unlawfully.
(b) The copyright in a compilation or derivative work extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work, as distinguished from the preexisting material employed in the work, and does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material. The copyright in such work is independent of, and does not affect or enlarge the scope, duration, ownership, or subsistence of, any copyright protection in the preexisting material.

If the compiler has the right to make the compilations at all, which they apparently do (or is someone arguing that Ministry of Sound is itself a pirate?), then they'd automatically get a copyright on the compilation if the compilation meets the requirements for copyrightability, the main one for compilations typically being whether there was sufficient creativity in the selection and arrangement of the material compiled.

Now, it's possible that a condition for including a particular recording might be to assign the compilation copyright back to the licensor of the recording, so that they end up with the compilation copyright. But barring that, the law says that the copyright in the compilation automatically subsists in the author, i.e. the compiler. Permission is required to make the compilation, but that doesn't change the law.

Again, of course, that's how it would be in the US. In the UK, who knows?

Comment Re:Oh for pete's sake (Score 1) 201

No, in the US they have a good argument. The issue is whether there was sufficient creativity in the selection of which tracks to include, and which order to arrange them in, as to justify a copyright.

The white pages in a phone book could be copyrightable. But so long as the selection of information is merely the name of the telephone subscriber, their address, and their number, and the order is merely alphabetical, in last name order, it's not creative; all the white pages are like that, and the reason is to make them useful.

A phone book that only included certain people arbitrarily chosen by the compiler, and which arranged them in an arbitrary, creative way, could be protected. (The individual names, numbers, and addresses could still be copied; they're unprotectable facts, but they'd have to be rearranged, and ideally mixed with the information of people who were not included). But a phone book like this would be useless as a general purpose directory. A specialty directory, sure -- e.g. a phone book of places a tourist should see in a foreign city -- but this isn't usually what people want.

Here, unless the authorized compilation albums include everything (or everything that could be included subject to some non-creative constraint, such as all the recordings to which the issuer of the compilation has rights), and unless they're arranged in some uncreative order, such as chronological order, or alphabetical order, it sounds worthy of a copyright to me.

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