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Political Bytes March 31 2010

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Few things caught my eye, which are fairly noteworthy, but which don’t need more than a few words.

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First, the UK Pirate Party have launched their list of Candidates for the 2010 UK General election. The ten candidates cover a fairly straight line from London to Glasgow, with the exception of the party leader, standing in Worcester. Most are, as expected, in the 18-21 age range, but three are actually around 40 years old, so not just kids, as some talentless hacks might suggest. I’ll be supporting them, as always, by doing any odd-jobs (like working on press releases etc)

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Next, an interesting quote from a US Republican. Over comments about misuse of party funds by GOP chairman Michael Steele, one republican was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying “No matter which side of the aisle you find yourself, if you are giving a political party your hard-earned money, you should have no doubts that it is going to be spent as advertised and not to provide a spoiled, egocentric, out-of-touch chairman with frivolous luxuries which are out of reach of the vast majority of the American people. Michael Steele needs to resign and let the RNC vote in a man or woman who understands that his or her needs do not come before the needs of the nation or the party.” (Douglas MacKinnon, former press secretary to Majority Leader Robert Dole.)

The funny thing? changing a very few words, you get the general impression people have about politicians in general, becoming (additions in bold, removals struck out) “No matter which side of the aisle you find yourself, if you are giving a political party POLITICAL CAPITAL your hard-earned money, you should have no doubts that it is going to be spent as advertised and not to provide a spoiled, egocentric, out-of-touch chairman FEW with frivolous luxuries which are out of reach of the vast majority of the American people.”

That’s lobbying for you, lobbyists can’t vote anyone in any more than anyone else, but they’re the ones that the politicians listen to. We need lobbying reform (or at least a transparent and accountable government)

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53 cars were towed away from a frat house parking lot, after people parked there to listen to Glenn Beck sing. The people at the even at the university of Central Florida, in Orlando, said there were signs up, when they went to park, claiming the Kappa Sigma frat ‘set them up’. Did they? Possibly, but it would have been nice of them to check signs first. Then again, checking facts, (or knowing the law) is a very un-Glenn Beck thing to do.

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Finally, some common sense it seems on patents. A New York judge ruled two DNA patents invalid, causing a small but measurable dip in the Biotech market. The patents, which relate to Breast Cancer genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, were hindering screenings, and tests. Naturally, there were some critics (biotech firms worried about the loss of genetic patents, for one, which is why their stocks dipped) while lawyers questioned the legal reasoning. Personally, I give a big hand to Judge Robert W Sweet for recognising that it’s pretty hard to patent a DNA sequence that occurs naturally, unless someone can point out how the patent holder, Myriad Genetics, invented these gene sequences (and thus, it seems, developed breast cancer…) As I remember the US Constitution, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” patents on naturally existing DNA aren’t discoveries, nor was Myriad an inventor (they didn’t invent this DNA). The people who have these genes, they’re pretty darned strong ‘prior art’ (especially if they’re over 20).

Regardless, 2 patents down, thousands to go…

Do you like this? Want to see more like this? Think it sucks, or that I'm a Liberal Communist spawn of Satan? Let me know in the comments.

ARGH!!! Andrew the Moron

March 29, 2010 4 comments

There are days when you just want to curl up into a ball. Today is one of them. I realised, when going to check back over things, that rather than the document I believed I had submitted as part of the PRO IP act consultation, I had actually submitted a copy of my comments to the US trade representative. I made the same mistake on my short piece about the submission.
Read more…

Copyright Consultation Document – US Gov

March 24, 2010 1 comment

The US Government, as part of the horrible ‘PRO-IP ACT’ had an open consultation on how it could deal with enforcement of copyright. The specifics are spelt out on the consultation document.

The US Pirate Party had an rough draft of a reply and a means to submit it, if people didn’t want to write their own response, but I don’t do that sort of thing. I prefer a much more detailed (and as always, last minute) response, to try and cover the main facts. Again, I ran out of time, and just got it sent at the deadline (which was some 20 minutes ago).

So, here is the finished response, all 5 pages of it. [PDF]

UPDATE – please read here

Why the Truth Police Trumps Panorama’s “Net Police”

March 16, 2010 2 comments

Panorama just aired an ‘interesting’ show tonight. Entitled “Are the Net Police Coming for You?”, the BBC describes the show in the following way.

A proposed new law is threatening to disconnect the millions of internet users who unlawfully download free music, films and TV. Jo Whiley looks at how broadband use at home may never be the same, and could even be cut off
Broadcast on: BBC One, 8:30pm Monday 15th March 2010

The problem is, the show is much like one broadcast as part of Film09 last year. That show, like this one, relied almost entirely on industry views, regurgitating their talking points, and ‘facts’ without any attempt at journalistic integrity. Basic practice is to get confirmation on facts from two separate sources, and yet both last year, and last night, this was not adhered to. The reason why is simple, of course – there is no second separate source. The Copyright industry is the only one claiming losses. The only facts that support those claims, are studies those same industries fund. Even then they don’t match up, although that little detail is swept under the rug.

Like last year though, I’m going to complain. and like last year, I expect I’ll get a rather cavalier brush-off as to why the  program was short on facts, counterpoint, investigation, critical analysis or basic rational thought.

Just so you understand, the film09 segment last year was basically a regurgitation of the MPAA/Rand study claiming organized terrorism is involved in ‘movie piracy’. The problem is, my old friend at TorrentFreak, Ben Jones, debunked the report thoroughly weeks before the segment was shown, and he wasn’t alone in it. The respnse to my complaint however, dismissed little things like ‘facts’

From: complaintresponse@bbc.co.uk
Subject: ‘Film 2009 with Jonathan Ross’ [T2009040900EUS010Z5530203]

4/15/2009 10:25 AM

Dear Mr Norton
Thank you for your e-mail regarding ‘Film 2009 with Jonathan Ross’ as broadcast on 31 March.

I note you felt the report on this programme about copyright theft wasn’t adequately balanced as it only featured interviews with people from the film industry. I appreciate you felt we allowed a distorted view of this issue to be portrayed and note you have strong views regarding this matter.

This report focused in on a legitimate problem for both the film industry and the authorities as they try to tackle what is an ever increasing and profitable criminal activity. We feel the report outlined the laws surrounding the issue of film piracy adequately and that the interviewees from the film industry were entirely appropriate people to comment on the problem.

Impartiality is the cornerstone of all our output, and we feel this report was fully balanced in it’s coverage of copyright theft. Nevertheless I appreciate our audience has a wide range of opinions and inevitably this means that not every viewer will agree with the content of every programme we broadcast. We know all our editorial decisions are subjective and we’d never expect our audience to agree with every decision we make.

With this in mind that I’d like to take this opportunity to assure you that I’ve recorded your comments, including that you believe this topic deserves a more in depth investigation, onto our audience log. This is an internal daily report of audience feedback which is circulated to many BBC staff including senior management, producers and channel controllers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Regards

Liam Boyle
BBC Complaints

And now, almost exactly a year later, we have another program, making a similar lobbying attempt, cunningly camouflaged as factual programing. The UK Pirate Party has, so far, found over twenty errors, embellishments, inaccuracies and misstatements. I imagine the number will increase as more people look closely at the program.

I for one will be sending another complaint (http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/) , and I hope I won’t be alone in it. When I get a response, I’ll post it straight away.

Attack of the Porn Show

March 8, 2010 2 comments

Back in September 2007, TorrentFreak ran a piece about the porn industry deciding to take on pirates. G4TV was interested, and contacted them to see if one of their writers would like to appear on their flagship program, Attack of the Show, to talk about it. All the writers for TorrentFreak, are Europe-based, and G4 is a US channel, though, and Attack of the Show is done Live (or thereabouts). So, on September 14th, I was asked if I’d take part, representing the US Pirate Party, and I said ‘yes’.

The segment filmed, and aired Monday, September 17th, so there was little time to prepare. I’ve not been a huge follower of the porn industry, or a downloader of porn, so I had to reach out to my contacts to find out more. I was lucky, in that one acquaintance of mine from a year or two earlier, was running two porn torrent sites, and forwarded me contact details for some of their admins.

Armed with all the prep, I was told that Crawford Communications would be awaiting me, and that I would be dealing with an Anh Tran as my opponent (try looking up that name when you just get it over the phone) so that was that. Crawford’s a lovely company though, very professional, especially Jim Baxter, who was my cameraman/producer. The only downside, was they didn’t actually get G4 on their cable system!. I couldn’t even see my opponent or the show, all I could do is hear it through a single earpiece. It also meant, I had no idea how delayed things were until after the show was done, and I got to watch it later that night.

I’m in Atlanta, they’re in San Fransisco. Ahn is on set or next door – there’s no delay for him. Theres roughly 1.5 seconds delay each way for me. Thanks to some snappy decisions by the Director, it’s not obvious, but it becomes so at the end, when I’m talking over someone – it’s not intentional, it’s just hard to tell.

Anyway, tell me what you think of it in the comments.

And since I can’t seem to get it embedded here, you’ll have to go to THIS PAGE to see it.

Why the US film Industry is Going Bankrupt.

March 1, 2010 4 comments

About 2 years ago, in the January of 08, I started a little project. It was to look at the box office figures put out by the film industry, and look how p2p had impacted them. I did some initial research, which looked at US box office figures for 1996-2007.

Then, in June 07, I published an initial summery of some of my findings, with the aim that I would try and have the full study finished by the end of July 08. That (obviously) didn’t happen. A mixture of real-life pressures, and ADD kept me from finishing it (plus work on the Pirate Party US/International).

Studies like this were the reason I stepped down from Pirate Parties International. It’s only recently, now that the US Pirate Party has a full board, that I can concentrate once more upon things. So, I’ve updated the box office figures, and included 2008 and 2009 as well as 1990-95 (although some of the 09 films are still showing, so shouldn’t be taken as ‘final’).

One thing I did notice when collecting the figures, were the figures for 2005. This is the year, let’s not forget, where Hollywood claimed to lose $6.1Billion, to “Piracy” (meaning ‘copyright infringement’)

The thing is that while the box office figures for the US were down a bit, they weren’t down by much, especially not when compared to the 90s (before ‘piracy’) What’s more, while they may have lost a claimed $6.1Billion worldwide (1.3Billion of that in the US); the top ten films, of the 547 or so released that year, took in over $5.7B worldwide (and $2.4B in the US).

They never mention their income in the same press release as their claimed losses, and now you know why. They also never include the costs of the films, and there’s another reason. The top 10 in 1990 cost around $316.5Million in 1990 dollars (521.5Million in 08 dollars), which included films like Ghost, Total Recall, and Due Hard 2.

2005’s top 10 films cost a whopping $1.307 BILLION to make by contrast ($1.441Billion in 08 dollars) – 2.7x more. In fact, only two of 2005’s films cost less to make than the most expensive film (in the 1990 top ten, Die Hard 2 ($70M in 1990, $104M in 05 dollars). Those were Wedding Crashers ($40M) and Madagascar ($75M)

When you want to look at a reason Hollywood, and the MPAA feel they’re losing money, it’s the budgets that should be looked at. People are still going, but it’s the expense that drives the profits down.

Many thanks to BoxofficeMojo for lots of lovely data to work with.

Part1 – US Box Office Top10 from 1990-2009

An ACTA Comment to the USTR

February 24, 2010 1 comment

We all know about ACTA. What we don’t know is what ACTA contains. The US Government calls it a National Security issue, and points to Executive order 12958. The UK government is refusing to put the treaty on the Parliamentary record. It’s a den of shadows, where nothing is clear. All that there are are rumours and drafts.

So, it’s at least partially heartening that some pretense of listening to the people has occured to the US Trade Representative (USTR) in that he opened the door for comments. Naturally I, like others, jumped at the chance.

It’s all too easy to go off half-cocked, and start rambling, talking about things you’ve heard, think you think might happen, etc. That’s not the right way. If it sounds like a conspiracy theory, then odds are it’ll be treated as one, and ignored. Sticking to the facts in a clear and comprehensive manner work wonders.

With only a week’s timeframe, it could be hard to write something factually hard-hitting, but also short enough to avoid being ignored as ‘tl;dr‘. Luckily, the snowstorm that hit DC meant that there was a 2 day extension for submissions. This was not neccesary for myself, but for the US Pirate Party it meant we had enough time to get a statement out I feel was acceptable.

I’ll leave it to them to publish their statement, but I’m going to post mine, just for some thoughts, should you wish to contact your representative. Especially in light of the most recent leak, 3 days after the deadline close.

Success! Your Comment Has Been Submitted
Comment Tracking Number: 80aa7e65
Thank you for submitting a comment on the following NOTICES

Document ID: USTR-2010-0003-0001: 2010 Special 301 Federal Register Notice
Your attached files:
ANortonUSTR-2010-0003.pdf Successfully uploaded

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