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Copyright and tipping


Copyright is a funny old thing. It enshrines in law the ability to own an idea which is enforceable by legal means. The media some times I feel doesn’t understand how or what copyright is. When the refers to people “stealing” music, thus demonising these criminals they are in fact wrong. The law may still view the people downloading music as criminals it is not for stealing but instead copyright infringement, it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it does it?

As it stands things covered by copyright law are not allowed to be wholly used in the public domain until the copyright expires. In most of the world the default length of copyright for many works is generally the life of the author plus either 50 or 70 years. What this effectively means is that nothing created in my lifetime will ever become available in the public domain (unless an author died very close to when I was born). In the US this date seams to track with whenever Disneys copyright on Mickey Mouse is about to run out. Every time they get close they lobby to add another 20 years to copyright duration.

There was an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times last week-end detailing an argument for what amounts to perpetual copyright. The piece in some ways blew my mind. The central argument is that the author of the piece, Mark Helprin, believes that the created of intellectual work should be no different than property and the product of the intellectual work can be owned forever, either by the original authors estate or property investors. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that a piece like this has been written by a professional writer. There are those of us in the work that the product of our work is a salary, and it behooves us to take the product of that one time work and make it work for us and our families in the future. If the work you do is successful you may gain a bonus, but come 5 or 10 years hence what ever work you did in the past has been forgotten.

The copyright reform community is crafting a reply over at Lawrence Lessig’s wiki. Which they cover the legal aspects and the cultural aspects of this nonsense piece. I have in my wanderings of the internet seen suggestion that it is only a satire but neither Mark Helprine or the New York Times come forward and admitted it.

However the whole thing reminds me of tipping and in particular tipping in America. I have worked on again/off again in America. Tipping like copyright law in America has lost it meaning. Tipping is supposed to be a recognition of an above average job. In most other cultures that is still how it works. This all holds up because the base salary is supposed to be sufficient for the employee. However in America some occupations are now been built around the concept of compulsory tipping, so much so that in the cases of waitresses, their base rate is lower than minimum wage and need to make up the shortfall in tips. So this then leads to a situation where tipping is no longer a reward of above average work but some kind of out of band sales tax. The only effective way to use tipping now is as a punitive measure, a tip is withheld if the service is bad. Tipping in America, especially for non-Americans, is captured well in Reservoir Dogs. Mr. Pink’s rant about been enforced to tip, while probably put in to make him seem weaselly has some very valid arguments :

I don’t tip because society says I gotta. I tip when somebody deserves a tip. When somebody really puts forth an effort, they deserve a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, that shit’s for the birds. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just doin their job.

Copyright law runs the risk of becoming as irrelevant. It original purpose was put in place to give artists an incentive to create work, knowing it would return future wealth. But the original length was something more like 25 years from creation of the content. It didn’t even take J.K. Rowlings or Dan Brown that long to become multi-millionaires based on there books. Now that may seem to be a bad example but are there any cases of people becoming successful 25 years after the work has been created? It will more than likely be a success or a failure when it comes out and still the the same success or failure 25 years later. With the exception of J.K. Rowlings, Dan Brown and the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien who really makes money from such hyper extended copyright, corporations like Disney and Time Warner. Does copyright really protect and incentify the content producers? Unlikely since people create and give away content for free on YouTube, Flickr, Blogging etc. It would be nice to have this all cleared up soon, but their lawyers are bigger than mine.

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Flickr Mis-step?

Flickr, currently a darling of the web 2.0 boom, which was bought out by yahoo a few years ago, is threading on dangerous ground with a recent censoring of an artist photo.

The story starts with Flickr user _rebekka a popular user based in Iceland that is well known for her picture that include self portraits and landscapes. Even though certain parts of flickr a ridden with semi naked chicks taking saucy pictures of them selves and getting a huge number of hits via titillation and not quality. _rebekka is not that un good looking but it isn’t the self portraits that have caused woes but her landscapes. It turns out some crowd in england downloaded some of her photos and sold them on as their own. No permission from _rebekka and certainly not paying her either.

Things got warmed up when she found out and contacted the English company, Only-Dreemin,  informed them of the violation and tried to resolve it. She wasn’t lucky

Things got even more interesting when yesterday she post a commentary on what happened, she uploaded the picture above and in the description she detailed all that happened. The internet found it and were disgraced and comments pored into her flickr page denouncing the company and her treatment.

That was until flickr pulled the image leaving behind the following message

“Flickr is not a venue for to you harass, abuse, impersonate, or intimidate others. If we receive a valid complaint about your conduct, we will send you a warning or terminate your account.”

That’s all! Flickr have use _rebekka as a poster child for flickr. The content of her post may be viewed as inflammatory by some, and flickr trying to run damage control did the easiest thing and pulled the image. But she at the very least deserved some behind the scenes contact from flickr. She’s popular and the images themselves came from the website. Flickr run the dangerous risk of becoming like it parent company and lose sight of what made the site successful in the first place and remembering to respect the users.

Digg got taught this lesson last week with the whole AACS fiasco, they sided with the lawyers over the users and got punished fast. The backlash to flickr may not be as extreme but this may be the start of a run of these new web 2.0 companies which are now trying to turn a profit losing sight of priorities and alienating their unrealised asset, the users.

Rebekka story needs to be heard so she’s moved it to her own blog, outside flickr’s censor space keep an on on this link for future details.

Update :

It turns out Flickr came to there sense and issued an apology to Rebekka_ for censoring her picture see here maybe there is hope for flickr yet and they have learned from the digg example, don’t mess with you assets.

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Online Identity Protection


Fingerprint 1
Originally uploaded by Mr Jaded.

There is a very interesting write up on online identity over at the Satisfaction Unlimited Blog :

Five ways to build and defend your reputation online

Some of the points come through as common sense, but it is still nice and timely to identify the perils of living in an online world. Ars technica is also covering the case of too much online interaction affect users :

Escaping the data panopticon: Prof says computers must learn to “forget”

My personal favourite in the Satisfaction unlimited post is the countermeasure to a bad post by a disgruntled commenter. Instead of retreating from the web and hoping no one finds the bad post the best way to deal with it is become more prolific, thereby swamping the bad post with good posts. It is a bit simplistic but hiding a leaf in a forest just doesn’t go out of fashion.

It’s good that analysis’s like this are beginning to appear, hopefully they will filter down to the general populace in time before they make irreparable mistakes that could affect people and their careers, as what happened to Stacy Snyder, which was covered in the previous post :

The woes of web 2.0

I think a new concept will need to be introduced to the general populace, your professional name. People in the entertainment industry have been using this concept for a while, you are your name and your name is your brand. For regular punters your professional name is also your given name, it is what you will eventually open bank accounts with, travel international as, get degrees with and apply for jobs under. So it is all important that you professional name has no black marks against it.

The simple way to manage this is to never use your professional name on the internet for any reason what so ever. For web 2.0 it is easier to start a clean identity and be a gregarious or obnoxious as you want and be relatively assured that it won’t be easily traced back to you professional name. Unfortunately you have little no no control over other people using your professional name on the internet, you may be able to ask friends not to use it.

Admittedly creation of random identities does leave the path open for random sock puppetry and managing an alternate identity can hard if it gets popular, especially if an online identity crosses back into you professional job. However at the end of the day it is a lot easier to destroy an out of control online identity than rescue a tarnished professional name.

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Spider-man 3 – A Black Day ?

I finally say Spider-man 3 last night and I still don’t know what to make of it all.

First a bit of background I got into comic books back in the early 90s. Spiderman was one of the first comics I regularly read and this tracked roughly with Todd MacFarlane run on “The Amazing Spider-Man” and during that time Venom was introduced. Todd MacFarlane influence on spider-man made him a super star in the world of comic books. He really got behind the idea of a man with the strength and flexibility of a spider and the way he drew his spider man was gorgeous and in some way excessive. When the first spiderman came out there were some moves and positions that just screamed Todd MacFarlanes heritage.

Not long after he started his run Venom was introduced. There has been some argument over who was responsible for creating Venom. Traditionally it has always been the writer, however it is hard to imagine Venom becoming what he did without the input of MacFarlane. The attention to detail and the oil slick movement of the symbiote that MacFarlane brought to Venom has been oft replicated in the comic books and it can also be seen in the movie.

Sam Raimi has been catching a lot a flak for Spider-Man 3. Even before Spider-Man 2 was out of the gates people were dying to know who the villains for Spider-Man 3 would be. People at the time even suggested Venom and Raimi rebuked them at the time and has been recorded as saying “he lacked the humanity” but he apparently was turned around by Avi Arad who argued that Venom was a fan favourite.

So where does it all go wrong. I don’t know if there is an expression like “Jump the Shark” for the destruction of a franchise, usually seen by the endless addition of number of good guys versus bad guys. Batman and Robin is the biggest example of the, though arguably it could be seen to have started in Batman forever:

Batman: 1 Good Guy ; 1 Bad Guy
Batman Returns: 1 Good Guy ; 2 Bad Guys (3 if you count Shrek)
Batman Forever: 2 Good Guys ; 2 Bad Guys
Batman and Robin: 3 Good Guys ; 3 Bad Guys (Bane sorta counts)

I’d like to put forward the expression “Schumacher‘ed” as a possible contenter. To be fair to Joel, I bought the DVD for Batman and Robin and he spends a not inconsiderable portion of the DVD extras apologising for been gulled into adding more toy friendly features to the movie, worth the price of the DVD alone.

Spider-Man 3 people will surely agree has in some respects been Schumacher’ed. While the current returns for this movie will virtually guarantee there will be a Spider-Man 4, so it is unlikely that this movie will “kill” this franchise, they have burnt through a lot of popular capital gained from Spider-Man 2 that has been labeled by some fans better than the original, which is a high claim for a sequel.

So apart from been Schumacher’ed where did the movie go wrong? It is hard to say precisely. There were a lot of small things that individually could be forgiven but added up over 139 minute running time.

The biggest I thought was the wedging of the 2 1/2 villains into the same movie. I believe that the Sandman story could have equally lived in parallel to the new Goblin or Venom story but putting all three together felt none got a full go.

I saw the Harry Osborne brain amnesia plot line before in the first season of 24 (Teri Bauer a few hours before she’s killed) I thought it stretched credibility then and it still does. (Note to writers a loss of short term memory doesn’t usually take out 2 years)

For a fan favourite Venom/Eddie Brock gets very little screen time having taken so much of the movie. The character in the comic had so much that would have worked. The fact that it is Parker he wants to kill but tries not to hurt an innocent. During the original comic run they have Eddie Brock, after melding with the symbiote, turns up at Aunt May’s house and helps her with the washing, much to Peters dismay. To me it seemed even more sinister than kidnapping and threatening her.

The Sandman story has some merit, it is a classic Marvel hero/villain birth, but the contrivance of having him be the original killer of Ben Parker reminded me of the old days of the X-Files when every other episode had an different excuse for Mulder’s sister disappearance. There is a problem when you talk about superhero movies and you mention what is unbelievable. When you have an alien symbiote crash to earth meld with a man with the proportional strength of a spider the bar of what is believable and unbelievable gets moved. So with that in mind I feel the Stay Puft Marshmellow man ending a bit too unbelievable for a Spider-man movie. He is powerful enough in his rough human sized form to threaten Spider-man, I didn’t think there was any need to make him 10 stories tall.

I suppose the biggest mis-step is the darkening of Peter Parker when he gets addicted to the suit and how good it feels. A comparison has been made to the other superhero franchise third entry, Superman III, over at Bryce Zabel blog which sees Superman getting a little cranky when he gets exposed the wrong kind of Krytonite. The whole Peter Parker performing some kind of Saturday Night fever strut around town with his hair let down in some greasy emo imitation is supposed to show us darkness? Though this is supposed to reflect Spider-Man’s change when he believes he’s killed, knowingly, Sandman.

During all this I haven’t mentioned the Mary-Jane versus Gwen Stacey arc. While interesting the film could have potential stood without all of that. Bryce Dallas Howard is well picked as Gwen but at no time does it feel like she is falling for Peter or vice versa. There might have been more potential with the neighbour Ursula. While Mary-Jane is very important to the Peter Parker / Spider-Man story, it didn’t feel like the character or actress was as invested in the role this time.

Maybe it is time for some fresh blood to come in on Spider-Man. Raimi has put in some good work and no-one can deny that the action set pieces on Spider-Man 3 look amazing, you will believe that a man can stick to a wall. While I was a bit disappointed it is still well worth seeing on the big screen. Some thing that DVD and widescreen TV will never replace.

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The woes of web 2.0


Yo ho Yo ho A pirates life for me!
Originally uploaded by 0range County Girl.

The rise of web 2.0 has been an amazing thing. I wish it was around when I was a teenager, however in some ways its just as well it wasn’t. Working in a technical arena I have become very aware of maintaining a distinction between your professional identity and online interaction. Googling someones name is de rigour these days and there are stories of companies googling prospective new employees. This is turning out to be some what of a problem for generation 2.0 that have posted portions of their life that seemed a good idea at the time but has come back to haunt them, take the story of Stacy Snyder for example :

College Sued Over “Drunken Pirate” Sanctions

She, for better or worse, posted a picture of herself posing with a pirate hat and drinking from a plastic cup with the caption “Drunken Pirate” all harmless fun. That is until she was supposed to graduate from teaching college. According to the TSG “Despite good grades and solid performance evaluations, Snyder claims that school officials improperly denied her a bachelor of science in education degree and a teaching certificate” this article goes on to say “A university official told her that the photo was “unprofessional” and could have offended her students if they accessed her MySpace page.”

While this is terrible we are only going to see more of this in the future. This case is a little simpler than it will be in the future, in this case it was her own fault, she posted the picture of herself to MySpace so ultimately she put up the picture and also had the ability to take it down any time she wanted (and I’m sure now she wish she did) it was also easily connected to her as it was her MySpace page linked to her professional name.

The more problematic cases are when your mates take pictures of you during your hedonistic youthful excursions (one of the reasons why I’m glad digital cameras weren’t really around when I was in University, phew!) and they post their pictures of which you may have little or no control. While these pictures maybe as hard to find as a specific leaf in a forest new applications like polar rose face scanning technology might be the google of face search.

All it would take is a one positive hit for your face and a pass through flickr, MySpace, zooomr and all the other web 2.0 services and your online life could be laid bare for a prospective future employer.

As in physics for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction, a recently setup company ReputationDefender have realised there is a business model in helping new minted adult clean up their past, wired covered this in July of 2006 :

Delete Your Bad Web Rep

They describe ReputationDefender work :

“Any web citizen willing to pay ReputationDefender’s modest service fees can ask the company to seek and destroy embarrassing office party photos, blog posts detailing casual drug use or saucy comments on social networking profiles.”

It may be too late for Stacy Snyder, will maintaining your digital online identity accompany a conversation a parent has with a pre-pubescent child before they have the parent filters taken off the family computer. It will certainly be interesting as more and more computer savvy kids start coming through the system over the next few years and to see the woes of their past return to haunt them.

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Climate change – a different perspective


Step it Up Seattle
Originally uploaded by serakatie.

There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about global warming and climate change. I recently saw Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth and the evidence presented seemed pretty damning. While graphic and long (but not unnecessarily long) the case, as I see it boiled down to this :

  1. The average measured temperature is going up and we can prove this (fine by me)
  2. The average measured content of CO2 in the air is going up (also fine as well)
  3. CO2 is responsible for the increase in average temperature (whoops, there you go)

Not let me say from the outset I agree with climate change and that we as tenants of the planet will be affected by climate change but there are not too many people stopping and saying is this the correct diagnosis. What if instead of CO2 causing climate change it is actually a symptom?

Huh! Well let me explain. With the exception of nuclear power, every other source of electrical or motive energy comes from or came from the sun. So in addition to all the radiant energy that hits the planet every day. Energy that was stored in the little batteries we call fossil fuels, which were millenia in the making, is also been pumped back out into the atmosphere. We are consuming energy at a phenomenal rate (and going up) and maybe this is what is causing the average temperature to increase, and guess what one of the biggest side effects of the energy generation and consumption is CO2, but it is exhaust.

So there is a lot of talk of reducing CO2 emissions, carbon sequestration is a big one, which I imagine will be a failure if all you are doing is removing the symptom and not the cause of global warming that that is energy consumption. In fact moving to nuclear to reduce CO2 emissions actually make the problem worse. At the moment at least all the energy we are using is or was sun generated. Nuclear isn’t and that could push even more energy into an already unbalanced system.

Don’t forget the rise of the black death was because people though that cats were carrying the disease so they killed all the cats. It turned out that it was rats and they had just killed they’re possible saviours.

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Road Rage in Australia


Road Rage. Montevideo, Uruguay
Originally uploaded by willposh.

The SMH has a very interesting article on road rage in Australia :

Road rage rules in Australia

I have been living in Sydney for nearly 5 years now. I grew up in Ireland and lived (and drove) in America for 2 years. I don’t know what happened or is happing in Sydney but the inconsiderate driving that I see every day either driving or cycling to work always blows my mind. Cars driving behind other cars at 60-80 KPH with mere inches separating them. Selfish driver racing up the inside of a merging lane and then barging in.

The biggest thing I missed is the death of the in car wave there used to be a time that if you oblige some one, let them out from an intersection when traffic was busy, you’d get the one handed wave, not any more.

I briefly thought that it might just the way western society in general is going, consumerism is making people more and more selfish. However on a recent trip home to Ireland I was surprised to see that the in car wave and a more general air of courtesy was there. This especially surprised me in Dublin which has traffic much more chronic than Sydney, current cross town driving speeds are slower than walking. I would love to know what it is about Sydney or Australia that has made driving like this but I guess it is something I’ll just have to endure.

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Is Steve Jobs a big fat liar?


stevenote
Originally uploaded by marble2.

OK liar is a bit harsh, how does less than truthful work? I like every body was taken a back recently with Steve Jobs open letter on DRM Link. It definitely seems timely and must have had some impact as EMI seemed to have signed up for a DRM free service from iTunes (but in an interesting move the DRM free songs cost more and are supposed to be of higher quality). DRM is also getting thrashed arround the head with the various hacks been found to the new HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats :

AACS Cracked Again

However over the weekend I was thinking, what if Steve Jobs stated reason for wanting to move away from DRM was not for the reason stated in the open letter, some thing along the lines that the music exists in the world already DRM free, thanks to CD. What if there is a chronic or fatal flaw in the FairPlay system? One that can’t be software or firmware fixed and old Steve there is containing and spinning the situation to push companies like EMI into a DRM free world before a flaw in the scheme does it any way. I suppose it is a very pessimistic view of the world however any plot or scheme to move to a DRM free world, however to get there works for me.

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douglas kastle

Australian Solar Power

I’ve lived in Australia for 5 years now, original from an island off to the edge of Europe. My plain complexion doesn’t react well with the native sun, which is a problem as it is sunny nearly all the time. Which is why it breaks my heart when I read an aticle like this :

How solar ran out of puff

Australia of all places should be at the vanguard with the deployment of solar power, both thermal and electrical. It should happen some day when it is demanded. I spent a bit of time at Lucent. What was interesting back then, in 1999, everyone was looking for bigger internet pipes. As we all know now fiber became big as a result, less known is that a lot of the transmission research was done on fiber way back in the 80s. At the time they didn’t have a worthy application as a result the work was put on a shelf to be found 15 years later and eventually used. Maybe only a chronic energy crisis will be significant enough to kick start cost effective solar panel production (not research)

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Wikipedia Reputation

It seems like every month there is a slashdot article on the validity and trustability of wikipedia

Wikipedia and the Politics of Verification
Is Wikipedia Failing?
A Wikipedia Without Graffiti
Long-Term Wikipedia Vandalism Exposed

It took me a while to find it again but way back in september 2006 Tom Cross posted a very interesting article, in First Monday, on a possible reputation systems to limit the effects of vandalism on public wikis. It was very informative then and I think that something like this is even more relevant now :

Puppy smoothies: Improving the reliability of open, collaborative wikis

The slashdot post is here :

Could a Reputation System Improve Wikipedia?

The gist of the research is that on each wiki page the content of the page is colored coded to mark the freshness (or age) of the all the text on the page. The older the text the longer it has survived unedited and the greater likelihood that it has survived many eyes looking at it.

If I could add at all to this excellent piece of research it would be that there may be a way to color code relative to the user that edited the text. Imagine a rating system that measures every edit a user makes versus the number of corrections made to that user’s edits. This is somewhat similar to the ebay model of buyer and seller feedback. However instead of trying to get a edit positively feedback (Fast payment, super customer. Thank you.) it is just the survivability of an edit that is positive feedback and should someone change your edit, even for spelling, then you rating should go down by the proportion of changes to the original edit size. So if some one correct 20% of the original edit the postive effect of the original edit is only 80% the effect of an uncorrected edit.

This mechanism, I believe, should flag trolls and vandals a lot easier as if they do nothing but contribute negative content then they will have a negative rating, which if color coded corrected will come scream of the scream in red.

This might have had a little effect on the John Seigenthaler case :

Wikipedia Hoax Author Confesses

as I’m guessing the hoax author wasn’t very prolific in valid unedited articles elsewhere in wikipedia, should some one have gotten to this page what turned out to be questionable content on this page could have been flagged with a color to indicate content from an immature (in terms of contributing to wikipedia) user as they have yet to get a high rating in wikipedia.

Any way it’s just a thought.

Please Do Not be alarmed., originally uploaded by Thorin.