Should We Keep Letting the MPAA Fib

The MPAA is always going on about how they are losing tons of money in the theaters because of pirates. However a AP article recently pointed out that

Since the first weekend of May, domestic grosses total $1.46 billion, up 4.6 percent from 2007’s, according to Media By Numbers. Factoring in higher ticket prices, actual movie attendance this summer is up 1.6 percent.

But this isn’t the first time someone has pointed out this inconsistency. And an Ars Technica article points out that

US box office doing its biggest year of business ever in 2007, growing 5.4 percent over 2006 and bringing in $9.63 billion

So the question is, how much longer are we going to let the MPAA concoct a “truth” that allows them to push new crappy laws that erode our freedoms? But are we sure they are fibbing? Maybe they made some honest mistakes? Unlikely, the Ars Technica article also reminds us that

It turns out that the MPAA’s college [piracy] numbers were off by a factor of three, a revelation that came after years of hiding the study’s methodology but continuing to lobby Congress with its numbers.

Such gross lies are clearly not innocent. You can expect the same of the laws they’d like to push through.


A Message to a Friend Explaining My View on Intellectual Property

I think that IP is one of the largest issues going and to make it worse, people don’t know anything about it. That’s what makes it so dangerous. Corporations are slowly but surely gathering more and more power over IP, many people think that this is good for businesses because they can protect their interests, but that’s not really what IP is about. IP is more about anti-competitive behavior than anything right now. It is being abused by crooks who extort money from businesses by claiming overly broad and obvious copyrights granted by people who don’t understand the concepts they are certifying. It is also being used by larger companies to lock out newcomers. An example of this is Vonage being sued by Verizon. It is also used to try and kill derivative works, like The Grey Album, by Danger Mouse. Stifling creativity not just in the art but in the sciences as well. IP is used to create artificial monopolies, like MLB saying people can’t disseminate the facts (which are currently not part of IP) of a baseball without authorization. But worse of all it is abused by people who just want to silence others, the DMCA for example has been widely abused to do just that.

IP laws need to be reformed so that they are balanced, so that they protect people first and businesses second. I don’t want to win second place to an artificial person (ie corporation).


2012 Olympic Games

This message was not brought to you by the real Olympic Games, but is instead a demonstration of the free speech which the folks who run Olympic Games are trying to kill. Why should you care? David Edgar puts it pretty well:

By declaring images, titles and now words to be ownable brands, these various organisations and individuals are contributing to an increased commodification and thus privatisation of materials previously agreed to be in the public domain. For scientists, this constrains the use of public and published knowledge, up to and including the human genome. For artists, it implies that the only thing you can do with subject matter is to sell it.

business, politics

A Demonstration of How Copyright is Being Used in America

Some prisoners tried to get themselves out of jail by abusing copyright. They ended up in trouble of course, but one of the things they got in trouble for was extortion. It is hard to imagine how that might stick considering the prisoners are using the same system that “patent holders” are using on a regular basis.

The question then is why aren’t patent hoarding companies held to the same standard? Techdirt put it nicely when they said that

people are beginning to realize that it can be used as a hammer for all kinds of ridiculous lawsuits that have absolutely nothing to do with creating incentives for the creation of new content

I’d put it a bit more sharply. Greedy people without any ideas are abusing a poorly designed system meant to protect people with ideas from greedy people without ideas.

These greedy folks will make it harder for businesses to start and flourish, but they will also limit a lot of things for consumers. It means that products and services will cost more and that innovative products and services will be stifled. Lawyers have convinced doctors to patent medical procedures, convinced accountants to patent tax-strategies, and of course didn’t even need to convince large incumbent companies from using patents to stamp down rival startups.

business, politics, technology

Where is Capitalism Anyway

There’s a hard case for saying capitalism still exists in America. Calling our market a free one is like saying a cage-free chicken is honestly free. The irony is that it is the market leaders (often ones who clamor for deregulation) are the ones that are steering America’s market towards a feudal system.

The linchpin in this drive is patents & copyrights and to a lesser degree trademarks. Patents & Copyright aren’t necessarily bad, but they are being heavily abused in the US. It only takes one look at Marshal, Texas to understand where we are heading.

While small businesses and start-ups are hurt, the folks sitting at the end of the punch are the America people. The state of intellectual property laws are such that we’ve stifled innovation in America and reduced competition. The concept of the free market is that those who can’t survive in business are pushed out of the market, however through intellectual property management any company that has established itself can remain on artificial life-support by abusing the system through lawsuits that either give failing businesses a cut of their competition’s income or by blocking that competition altogether.

The result is that old weak companies wheeze along while newer innovative companies are left emaciated or quietly strangled out of existence through a feudal market. A feudal market is one in which companies survive only through virtue of their heritage (intellectual property). If a new innovative company enters the market it must pay the old company to work on the land (license fees) or it can not work at all.

Companies have learned this and have begun hoarding patents. These patents abused to the detriment of America. The long-term result of a feudal business model is that innovative products will cost more and come from other countries. While the old companies flail in their slow death they are taking the economy with them. And while their death is slow it will not be nearly as painful for them as it will be for middle and low class Americans.

The life-span of companies has been artificially prolonged leaving us with undead monsters who scour the market for the brains of the living. There is always a balance, the dead trees fall down and decompose, feeding the young trees as the stretch upward, the question is where those trees will be. Will innovation be able to survive in America or will it find more fertile soil elsewhere? And consider this, sometimes the old dead trees don’t fall down and decompose, sometimes they pile up— the only thing for that is a fire, but fire destroys everything and it takes years for a new forest to grow in its place. Do we really want to wait for the fire?


Look What That Wacky DMCA is Doing Now!

A little while back I mentioned that you can’t copyright an art form, but you can copyright a performance… here is a great example of how that is being used.

If you have you ever been to a wedding where someone danced the “Electric Slide” and you videotaped it Ric Silver might have a lawsuit waiting for you. That is right, this knuckle head is using the mother of all bad ideas, the DMCA, to stop just about anyone from doing the Electric Slide on video, from teaching it, or even listing the moves without his permission.

Silver also claims to have come up with breakdancing and The Robot (seriously, look at the bottom of his webpage!), so you kids better watch out, especially if you’d like to show your stuff online at a place like YouTube. CNet recently reported Silver has issued DMCA powered take down notices for just about every video that has the Electric Slide performed in it on YouTube. It seems as if he’s scoured the entire planet for footage of his silly dance suing at will to try and leech every penny possible from folks. CNet reports:

Indeed, Richard Silver, who filed the copyright for the Electric Slide in 2004, said on one of his Web pages that the DeGeneres Show had been putting up a legal fight as he tried to get compensation for a segment that aired in February 2006 in which actress Teri Hatcher and other dancers performed the popular wedding shuffle.

But this isn’t about a dance that most people don’t care about. It’s about someone trying to squeeze pennies out of others by enforcing copyright. The world is rapidly changing into a place where “content creators” can own and control just about anything, and that is scary.

The most insightful part of Wikipedia’s entry on the Electric Slide is the talk page. It is Ric Silver at his best insulting people and making several threats there to sue folks for things like slander and defamation of character and using the timeless catchphrase, “We’ll be seeing you in court.”

The question has to be asked, is this the direction we really want things to go? A place where we can’t dance unless a bonehead like Silver gives us the okay? Will America be the home to some sort of bizarro version of the Footloose town, where kids can’t dance or Ric Silver will get their parents house?


Sand Animation

This is kind of neat. In this video Ferenc Cakó gives a kind of performance by sculpting sand on a projector, called sand animation… but it’s much more impressive than it sounds. Some of the images he creates are beautiful. It is interesting too that each image is only temporary (in physical form anyway). Which is reminiscent of Tibetan Buddhist Mandalas, which take days to make and are then destroyed shortly after completion (in part) as a reminder of the impermanence of things on earth. Regardless of the point it’s pleasant to watch.

Apparently this took place at Sicaf in 2003. Sicaf is an animation and cartoon festival that happens in Seoul every year.

The only thing I find slightly disturbing is Cakó’s attempt at copyright on his website:

Live Sand Animation © is the idea, and the creation of Mr Ferenc Cakó. He created the Live Sand Animation Show in 1994. Nobody else did this before him, therefrore [sic] it is Copyrighted all over the world.

It seems he wants to copyright the idea of sculpting sand on a projector with a live audience. I certainly wouldn’t argue that his performances could be copyrighted, but that’s where it ends. You can’t copyright an art form. Not yet anyway. And besides, as I mentioned above, people have been creating sand art for a while now so clearly his work is derivative.