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Comment Re:Copyright Holders Are Winning Control of Our Go (Score 1) 194

Grrr... Stupid new buggy posting system is eating my replies.

Short version: ditto to almost everything you wrote (except for the nature of my MP) but isn't your MP required by law to reply to you if you are a constituent?

Also, while the government bigwigs seem to favour big money at the moment, I find it reassuring that the policy documents coming out of the IPO recently are actually going beyond Gowers (who basically limited his report to what was immediately practical under current European law) to recognise that not everyone agrees about copyright's benefits, the current system is out of sync with popular expectations, and if fixing this requires changes at European level then that is what we should be driving. Though I loathe the idea in principle, for once I find myself hoping that the civil servants will do their thing without paying too much attention to what their elected masters want...

Comment Re:Someone needs to enlighten certain geeks... (Score 1) 194

Why must you people always be so black and white? Of course material was produced before copyright, and would continue to be produced if copyright were replaced or abolished. That is not in dispute. The question is whether copyright is an effective promoter of the production and distribution of works. Does it mean more works get to people? Are those works of higher quality? Does any given work reach more people who enjoy or benefit from it (there is more than enough creative work in the world to last many lifetimes, so getting the right works to the right people is a useful goal)? You used the word "promote" yourself, yet you crudely attempt to gloss over these issues by trying to reduce the debate to a single, mundane question: would [any] material still be made without copyright?

And what is with your obsession with funding from the public purse? Copyright is not a purely macroeconomic tool. A very important part of the system is that it creates a direct channel for reward between consumer and producer: those who distribute their works to more people or are more valuable have more opportunity to benefit, thus there is a direct incentive to increase quality and maximise distribution.

Of course, old-fashioned set-ups where big organisations take the copyright in exchange for a deal that is rarely optimal for the creative people involved screw with this principle. However, as we've seen, the Internet is a great tool for change and developing new business models. Copyright is going to benefit individuals more and middleman corporations less as time goes on. In fact, strong copyright laws and a cost-effective method of enforcement could be a great leveller to prevent megacorps with economies of scale and visible brands from freeloading by letting the little guys put in all the effort and then scooping up the work for distribution without any obligation to give fair compensation.

Replacing copyright with some sort of subsidy system based on general taxation, as you propose in your reply to my other post, severs any potential direct connection between creator and beneficiary. Instead, it would inevitably create some sort of political system, where some supposedly worthy person or organisation deemed a certain work worthy of a certain reward based on some artificial means or subjective judgement. Rather than creating more and better works and sharing them more widely, creators would then be incentivised to game the new system instead, because that is where the rewards would be found. Why would we adopt such a system when we already have a well-established and transparent way of letting the beneficiaries of works themselves make a direct judgement? We call that system "money", and copyright is a simple principle that lets us apply that proven system to creative works as well.

Incidentally, I don't think you've really thought through your proposed tax scheme very much at all, because it is fundamentally flawed in several other ways as well, not least that the bureaucratic overheads of administering such a system would be staggering. Paradoxically, it relies on the idea that people would continue to be able to sell derivative works for money, which seems highly unlikely in a system where by construction everything can be shared for free. Then there is the issue of identifying the beneficiary of the tax, which might be trivial in first generation derived works but would require an implausible amount of research in general: consider the case of Open Source projects that have wanted to adopt a new licence, but would have to identify every individual contributor whose code remained in any part of the system to seek their approval, or the current difficulties faced by the collective licensing bodies in sharing out the proceeds from public performances of works under copyright. Practically, your tax system could only ever provide a financial benefit to contributors to creative works by imposing even more hassle than exists today, which brings us back to no-one selling anything and therefore contributors gaining no financial benefit. Any way you dress it up, good will and a feeling of having made a difference do not pay the rent.

As for your economic assessment of copying creating more value for the economy as a whole, it is remarkable that someone so keen to elevate the debate to macroeconomic principles can only see the short term picture in this area. Of course the world would benefit today if we reneged on the copyright deal and released all current content to anyone who wanted it, without limitation. The world would probably still benefit tomorrow, too. But what about next month? Next year? Ten years from now? Who will make the future content, if you can't trust the promises made—by law, no less—and build a business model accordingly? It is obvious that copyright is damaging in some sense in the short term, but the more useful question is whether system works effectively over the long term.

As a final point, on the studies question, it is hard to debate without having specific points of reference, but obviously your experience is different to mine. In one of the last two studies I remember reading about, IIRC the conclusion was that in a certain country a slight majority of the population had infringed by downloading illegal content, which was the first time any report had identified an overall majority as infringers. In the other study, on the ethics of copying, almost everyone felt that private copying for personal use was fair and should be legal, but almost as large a majority felt that sharing with other people outside the immediate household was over the line and should not be allowed. I've long since forgotten the sources of these, but if I can find a bookmark I'll post again. In any case, if "most studies you've seen" really do consider sharing acceptable by such a wide margin, I have to question the methodology and what part of the population was being studied, because even the most generous of assessments I've encountered wouldn't support your claim.

Comment Re:Someone needs to enlighten certain geeks... (Score 1) 194

Donations still work in all these cases.

Do they? How many world class software products are funded only (or even primarily) by donations?

Don't most of these make money by charging for their services directly?

Sure, but those costs are then passed on to the artist or organisation that will (in the current system) be selling the work. In a system where those sales are not a reliable source of income, you need another way to guarantee funding the supporting cast.

There are lots of ways to capitalize on popularity, website ads are among the less significant.

Well, maybe there are, but you haven't said what any of them are, and it's not as if the world is full of examples of other people doing it. You asserted that giving a song away would increase popularity and, by that one specific mechanism, generate revenue. If you're not going to back that horse, pick another one.

I don't think you understand the difference here.

On the contrary. You seem to have completely missed my point, and launched some sort of attack on some sort of theft vs. copyright infringement point that isn't even related to what I wrote.

In any case, if you're so concerned about whether it is practical to enforce laws on a wide scale, you might like to consider that driving after drinking alcohol used to be socially acceptable, and more recently many drivers were unaware of the risks of using a mobile phone while on the move. Following a combination of legal action and public education about the facts, both activities have become increasingly unacceptable to society at large, and where the corresponding laws have been enforced, deterrence has resulted. (Where the laws have not been enforced, naturally, there has been limited or no change.)

Now, you can make as many headline-grabbing generalisations as you like about Big Media abusing copyright, rip-off prices for CDs and DVDs, and so on, and you're always going to gain sympathy from a certain type of person. However, the bottom line is that if stuff is going to get made, someone has to pay for it, and it's not clear how any approach that condones piracy or outright abolishes copyright is going to do that. People like having stuff for free, but they're not stupid and most people appreciate fairness. I suspect that if someone came into power with the genuine will to improve the situation, including curtailing the abuses of IP laws and legal actions by businesses, then the public would acknowledge that sharing material openly was a step too far.

Comment Re:Copyright Holders Are Winning Control of Our Go (Score 1) 194

For what it's worth, I wish I had mod points today. It is nice to see posts that don't reduce the whole copyright debate to some sort of all-or-nothing dichotomy, and which acknowledge the idea that you can have a reasonable idea but a flawed implementation. This seems far more constructive than just painting a crude picture of selfish pirates fighting greedy megacorporations, where everyone has extreme views and there is little scope for compromise and finding some middle ground.

Comment Re:Someone needs to enlighten certain geeks... (Score 1) 194

1) Some people actually want to support the artists.

So buy stuff from independent sites or the artists themselves. You don't have to buy everything through Big Media middlemen, and in the age of the Internet, artists are getting wise to the new possibilities of not signing away all their rights, too.

2) Artists make most of their money from concerts and merchandising anyway.

Performers such as musicians might (though I don't think I have ever seen any verifiable source to support this oft-repeated claim).

But copyright also protects authors, illustrators, software developers... It also supports the numerous valuable secondary roles that help to refine, promote and ultimately increase quality and distribution of works: editors, research assistants, printers, services providing hosting and downloading bandwidth, and so on.

3) Your song being on www.downloadznork.com increases your popularity and people will be more likely to go to your website, giving you ad revenue.

Another claim often made but rarely supported. Does Slashdot of all places really believe that having eyes on a web site == profit? Do you understand how little ad revenue really brings in to anything but the largest of web sites? You aren't going to become one of the web's top 100 sites by releasing a music track.

4) We can't stop copyrighted content from appearing on the public P2P networks days or even hours after it is officially released, and copyright law has to respect this basic technological reality.

You can't realistically stop me getting into my car and driving it at your kid at 100mph either. Just because we can do something, that doesn't mean we should, nor that the law should condone a harmful action instead of punishing those who do or try to do it. That is, after all, the entire point of having laws: they represent a concensus of what society collectively considers acceptable behaviour.

Comment Re:Someone needs to enlighten certain geeks... (Score 1) 194

where we actually want to draw the line, indeed, where is it sensible to draw the line.

Complete repeal of all copyright.

If that's your "sensible" approach, then I have to ask the same question no-one has ever managed to answer reasonably yet: what system do you propose instead, which continues to motivate the production and distribution of at least the same quantity and quality of works? It is implausible to claim that this will happen by magic, with everyone who makes a living producing material today (much of it being valuable but not particularly fun to make) continuing to do so without compensation or suddenly being replaced by an army of millions of volunteer contributors, so please try to do better than that.

You then post various false dichotomy arguments and delusions about how everything will just go outside government control and nothing will be done about it. These are trivially refuted by observing that you need an Internet connection to use any of these technically clever systems, ISPs are already the next target, and many western governments are already openly playing ball with Big Media despite the ISPs' protestations.

Oddly enough, I haven't seen them selling speedboats or peg legs.

Please learn your etymology. The first use of "piracy" in the sense we are talking about predates the Internet by centuries. The old "piracy does not mean copyright infringement" thing just makes you look ill-informed.

You don't give up ethics just because the bully's whine more.

A sound perspective, which is probably shared by those who view the illegal actions of a minority of people who routinely and deliberately infringe copyright as the wrong way to do things.

Rather the opposite; with the actions of the content industries in situations such as ACTA, it has become a moral imperative to deny them any form of revenue.

You can deny them revenue by simply not using their product. If pop music is just cookie-cutter crap, Hollywood is overcharging for its latest blockbuster movie, and Microsoft is ripping you off by charging what it does for Office and Windows, well, you're not going to die if you don't experience those things. Find other sources of entertainment. Use freely available software. You don't have to material under copyright illegally, and there is absolutely nothing in your argument that provides any ethical justification for doing so.

Comment Re:As long as he knows how to ... (Score 1) 426

A good boss understands that working the kind of hours where this discussion is relevant is a productivity killer over long term anyway.

There is some merit in putting in abnormal hours if you're a small company, and those involved have a vested interest in putting in the extra work. That might be because the company will no longer be able to employ them without the work, because it will fail. It might be because the workers' compensation increases directly as a result of the extra work, because of something like profit-related pay or meaningful stock options.

But for larger companies, or for smaller companies where there is nothing in it for the staff, working much longer hours doesn't do anything for real productivity over the long run anyway, and the resentment and morale hit it creates is almost certainly not worth it for any short term boost.

Comment Re:It's not the fines.... (Score 2, Insightful) 339

I find it amusing that you just assume that the cops are not, themselves, a danger on the roads when they're doing this.

Exactly.

From discussions with traffic police I know in the UK, it seems to be standard practice for traffic patrols to have two officers in the car, and the one who is not driving is the one who is on the radio, giving the commentary during a pursuit, etc. If there is any serious car chasing to be done, a traffic car with suitably trained officers and proper spec will take over as the lead car as soon as possible and get everyone else to back off. There are pretty strict limits on the extent to which other officers are allowed to engage in pursuits.

On top of that, the serious decisions (such as when a pursuit is too dangerous to continue) are taken by senior officers in the control room, with the benefit of the commentary from vehicles on the ground and typically a view from a helicopter as well. Basically, the procedures are designed so that the guy who is actually driving the lead car in a pursuit can concentrate on the driving as much as possible.

Of course, other police officers also receive training in advanced driving techniques and are allowed to break certain rules that apply to the rest of us in an emergency, but they are typically much more limited in what they are allowed to do than specialist traffic officers, unless they too have specialist training and equipment.

Comment Re:Not keeping low profile? (Score 1) 888

How is "perceived as being wrong" different than wrong?

Shall we ask all the women who have the vote, all the black people who aren't slaves, and all the non-religious folks who aren't murdered as heretics?

Sometimes things aren't relevant in making a particular decision, but the people making the decision have prejudices and consider those things anyway. This is one of the reasons protecting privacy is important.

Comment Re:Not keeping low profile? (Score 2, Insightful) 888

If no charges were ever brought and no criminal record is involved, I have to wonder whether the OP regrets the actions because they were of the "perceived to be wrong" kind rather than the "actually wrong" kind. In that case, yes, it does suck to be held responsible, particularly if word is getting around but you have no effective right to reply and set the record straight.

Comment Re:Have they fixed the data loss bugs? (Score 1) 272

Sorry, I realised the "literally" abuse just about two seconds after I posted the comment. Mea culpa.

Obviously the "literally" was intended to apply to the "without trace", not to the use of strategic weapons of any kind.

And what's with the weird interface changes going on today? Is it really too hard to test obviously broken things not on the live server? :-(

Comment Have they fixed the data loss bugs? (Score 1) 272

The first thing I want from a new version of Thunderbird is fixing the data loss bugs, because right now I'm on the point of moving to another e-mail client.

(For the uninitiated, Thunderbird can literally nuke your e-mails without trace under some circumstances, such as if you move it from one folder to another. This is not just the old problems with the silly approach to indexing and "compacting", this is an actual, irretrievable, without-warning, 100% data loss. That's just not acceptable in this kind of software.)

Comment Re:Context? (Score 1) 671

The correct solution to companies that wilfully break the law is a blanket rule that companies may be fined a significant multiple of any benefit they gain from breaking that law, and for more serious actions, to throw the directors and/or any employees or shareholders directly responsible in jail.

I recognise the value in providing a certain level of legal protection for individuals who are operating as part of a corporate entity, but this is primarily to protect those who are investing in and/or working for that corporate entity from personal risk that is disproportionate to their level of control or potential benefits, particularly where finances are concerned.

The fact that in some jurisdictions the legal protection now goes far beyond that, to the point where there is almost a "just following orders" defence if you can hide any illegal activity behind a corporate shield, is IMNSHO a rather obvious flaw in the legal systems of those jurisdictions.

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