Monthly Archives: October 2009

Why should copyright protect a company’s “right” to disappear a cultural work?

Videogames are cultural works. Talented artists, designers, programmers, and musicians all join together to craft unique, meaningful experiences for a contemporary audience. The resulting products have value for the community, which is why we grant their creators temporary monopolies (“copyright”) to enable them to afford to create more.

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But if copyright is supposed to be about protecting these works for the benefit of the public – then why does it so often work to destroy them? Why do we protect a company’s right to “disappear” (or, in Microsoft-speak, “delist”) a work? Why don’t we explicitly protect those who try, under constant threat of oppressive litigation, to preserve this cultural heritage?

It’s political correctness gone mad!

Here’s a tough call. You’re a television network with a very popular show aimed at the many Australians who play videogames. You’re about to launch a spin-off aimed at a younger audience.

goodgameguys

The problem is this. When the program first launched, you thought of it as a niche “product”, and targeted it at what you thought was the likely audience – young males. You ignored the research that indicated many gamers are female, and instead hired two male presenters. (Three, since you replaced one bloke with another after a year.)

Four years later, somebody points out that you are completely failing to represent a significant segment of the potential gaming audience. In order to remedy this fairly glaring problem, do you see if there’s a potential female host as qualified as the current hosts, and then replace the least popular of them? If so, do you do this immediately, as soon as you’ve decided you’re going to have to make a change – or do you pretend everything’s fine, deceive the doomed presenter with your insincere “support”, and wait until the end of the season before doing sending him on his way? Or do you stick with the current hosts for as long as they want the jobs and the audience likes them, and tell the potential viewers you’ve abandoned to wait their turn? (Silly women, why do they insist on not being ignored? Don’t they trust us to get around to them eventually?)

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Please direct all your fanboy outrage towards the new host, rather than the ABC management who actually fired Junglist.

Or do you use the fact that you’ve just got yourself a second show to start fixing the imbalance without firing anyone?

Note: if you pick the first option, be prepared to look like absolute bastards.

ELSEWHERE: Looks like they’re going to ban every bloody game I was looking forward to this year.

UPDATE (2/11): It’s still going, but ABC management are hoping to starve the story of oxygen by refusing to comment further.

If you’ve any basis for optimism about Afghanistan, please share it

I’m up in Shepparton for work this morning, and won’t be able to do a full blog post as usual. So instead I’m throwing open the comments on the subject of Afghanistan, which we haven’t discussed for a while. Two questions:

  1. Do you honestly think we’re going to have the resources and will to actually establish a functioning democracy in the area?

  2. If so, how? If not, is there any point in not just cutting our losses now and pulling out now?

Given the last eight years, I’m inclined to suspect the answer to the first is “No”. I’d like to believe otherwise, but – kind of like my relationship with religion – I can’t just take it on faith. I need some realistic basis for hope, so I can overcome the fear that Believing would just be deluding myself.

And therefore, although it will make all the deaths and sacrifices made so far a complete waste, it seems to me that admitting we cocked it up and not making it worse – ie, leaving – would be the lesser of the two evils remaining.

It keeps going, and going, and going

The West Atlas Rig has now been leaking oil into the Timor Sea (the Montara oil spill) for more than two months. Up to 2,000 barrels a day, every day, since August 21.

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The slick continues to grow and spread. In one direction, it’s now reached Indonesia.

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October 21, 2009

Several attempts to clean up the spill have been made – spraying the area with dispersants (which, even if it worked, wouldn’t alter the fact that the oil is still pouring out), some shenanigans about bringing another rig across, tow lines snapping, and PTTEP refusing the assistance of a rival company, and then the utter failure a few weeks back to plug the leak with mud. Apparently, oil company rhetoric notwithstanding, we don’t actually have very good technology for fixing the big holes in the seabed that we keep drilling.

Of course, it’s just remote bits of our ocean territory that are being despoiled, so it’s not like we’re going to be putting pressure on our local MPs to apply more resources to fixing the problem. Is it a major topic of debate in Parliament? Hell no.

The thing that gets me is that we’re acting as if this is a disaster that’s concluded, that we just need to tidy up after, rather than one which is continuing to get worse. Every single day. It’s extraordinary.

ELSEWHERE: Andrew Bartlett has a good write-up of the situation at Asian Correspondent.

AND CONSIDER: If the destruction of wildlife and the long-term pollution of our oceans doesn’t move you – what about the loss of all that precious, precious oil?

UPDATE: The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society argues:

“It is shocking that ecosystem and wildlife monitoring around the rig wasn’t in place to start with” said Dr Bossley. “If the Australian Government is serious about mitigating the threats of oil spills they should immediately freeze all new oil and gas exploration applications; develop much stronger conditions and controls over all oil and gas rig and shipping activities; and identify and fully protect all cetacean critical habitats in a network of marine sanctuaries before any oil and gas acreage is released again. The fox minding the henhouse is not good enough.”

It’s a good point.

How petty are we?

We imprison people seeking asylum (most of whom will later be found to be genuine refugees). While we detain them on a remote island and they can’t do anything else, we have a system where we enable them to earn “credits” up to a maximum of $50 a week. If they saved these credits, they could eventually save up for something like an iPod.

This was beaten up and turned into a “the government is buying boat people iPods when I don’t have the self-control to save up for one myself!” story, enraging the locals.

So to stop this, we’re simply resetting their credits each week. We’re telling them they can’t save a little at a time, they can’t try to take control of the meagre resources we give them – they will use them straight away, or we’ll take them back. Saving your pennies up, week after week, to eventually buy something worthwhile, instead of just pissing them away on disposable garbage? THAT’S NOT THE WAY WE DO THINGS HERE, BUDDY.

It doesn’t matter that they’d be sacrificing something in order to obtain such an item, and it wouldn’t be costing us an extra cent – that’s entirely besides the point. The point is the galling notion of refugees enjoying any sort of comfort. Nothing appalls us more.

ELSEWHERE: And what’s happening to the refugees we’ve sent to Indonesia is even worse. Is that the kind of further suffering you were hoping the refugees would be made to endure, enraged Christmas Island locals?

It’s very suspicious

Why do kittehs who’ve been sitting still for hours at a time, always insist on moving the second a camera lens is aimed in their direction?

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This is a lovely sunny spot I’ve found. I could enjoy it all da… hang on. What’s he pointing at me?

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It’s a bloody camera! ABORT! ABORT! Doesn’t the fool know that the CIA are after me?

Clearly, every cat in the world has something to hide.

What brings John Howard’s “Irish” out

Implausibly described by Andrew Bolt as “a leader speaking frankly as he wisely finds, free of spin or timidity”, is this shameless collection of half-truths, catch-phrases and outright bullshit from John Howard, speaking the other week at the launch of some new Quadrant facility, on the subject of a “Bill of Rights”:

TRANSCRIPT

Pretentious Vivaldi-type music.

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JWH: Every good intellectual force needs a cause. If ever there were a cause for many of the people in this room, can I say that cause is fighting with all our might the very notion of any kind of bill of rights for this country.

QUADRANT AUDIENCE: HEAR HEAR

Nothing fires us up like opposing human rights for ordinary people!

JWH: There are many things that bring my Irish out as far as a bill of rights is concerned, and perhaps more than anything else is this insulting proposition that this country is so devoid of respect for individual human rights, that we have to import them from overseas.

Nice. It’s unpatriotic to respect other Australians’ human rights. That’s just what those foreigners want us to do!

The notion that we should transfer to unelected judges, much as I respect the incorruptability and the high intelligence of Australia’s judiciary…

Some of my best friends are judges, honestly!

…the idea that we should transfer to unelected judges decisions which ordinary citizens are just, indeed more capable of resolving than they are.

Nothing more insulting than judges making decisions. Can I get a chant in here? TEAR DOWN THE COURTS! TEAR DOWN THE COURTS! (Much as I respect them.)

I think of all the things that can be said about the notion of the bill of rights is that it would represent the ultimate triumph of the elitist view of politics in Australia. And that elitist view says that you out there, the mob as they are occasionally called – and I occasionally invoked that expression when I was Prime Minister – are not capable of making decisions between right and wrong, that we are not capable of applying our own moral compass to the direction of the country, that we are incapable of resolving the great moral and other issues of the day, and that somehow or other, gifted though they may be, the men and women who sit on the various judiciaries of our nation, are able to do so.

By the same token, it’s insulting to you out there, the mob as you’re occasionally called, that we have laws against ordinary crimes. Doesn’t that also suggest that you’re not capable of making distinctions between right and wrong? What are they saying – that we need laws to stop Australians robbing and assaulting each other? Those elitists!

Come on – TEAR DOWN THE COURTS! TEAR DOWN THE COURTS! (Gifted though they may be.)

I think the diminishing in the role of the parliament, I mean we hear from time to time the the bewailing of the role of Parliament in our society, and the role of Parliament would be massively reduced and would decline enormously through the introduction of a Bill of Rights.

He says that, even though he’s talking about proposals where the bill of rights is just an Act passed by Parliament, so the claim doesn’t make even the slightest amount of sense. Howard is deliberately conflating a constitutional bill of rights like the Americans have – that can only be changed by referendum (nothing less democratic than asking the people directly what the law should be!) – with a bill of rights that can be amended by parliament, which is what is actually being proposed.

The only way that what we’re discussing would limit parliament’s power would be if parliament promised to protect a right and then actually didn’t – and, of course, if the courts did overturn a piece of legislation because it was incompatible with part of the bill of rights, then it could always simply abolish the inconvenient right, as it could any other piece of legislation. It would just have to do so openly and publicly.

In other words, a bill of rights would actually be a form of accountability for parliament – it would still have all the power it has now, only it couldn’t get away as much with saying one thing and doing another.

You can see why the idea gives John Howard the screaming heebie-jeebies.

(We’ll leave the rest of John’s rant about our “distinctive high quality cultural identity” and how courageously he’s willing to invoke the “Islamic fascist” bogeyman for another day.)