Thursday, April 28, 2011

Don Brash just bought himself a political party


Former National Party leader, Don Brash, appears to have bought himself a political party - ACT - and they made him their leader. That pretty much says it all for me about the ACT Party. I've never understood why anyone would vote for them. After selling themselves off to the highest bidder, I still don't.

In case the original TVNZ story linked to disappears, this is the para that caught my eye:
"Hide joked that he did not pay Don Brash's membership fee, but did say Brash has made a generous donation to the Act party."
What this means for ACT or the coming election will be the subject of much speculation. For day-to-day parliamentary purposes, I'm interested to see who runs ACT in the House. It can't be Don Brash as he doesn't have a seat and wasn't on ACT's list in any position last time around. The earliest he could assume as seat would be following the November elections....assuming ACT is returned at all. Rodney Hide could resign and trigger a by-election in Epsom, to make way for Brash, but being so close to an election there likely isn't time....unless the government decides there is.

That raises the interesting question: If Hide was number 1 on ACT's list and Brash won Epsom....would they get to keep the extra MP? Or would a sitting ACT MP have leave parliament?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kobo and Kindle - Almost useless at my house

I embraced ebooks on my Samsung Galaxy S (Android) phone with its 4 inch super AMOLED screen. I bought a couple and found it a very easy way to read in any situation. A big plus was the font size is adjustable, so I don't need to use reading glasses. A lot of book these days use smaller print to save paper. That's great...I just can't see it very well in low light. An ebook reader doesn't have that problem.

But I've struck a BIG problem and it renders these channels almost useless to me: Neither of them have the books I want to buy.  Well...not quite true. They - between them - will have perhaps one book in 5 or 6 that I would have bought in a heartbeat. Yes, I can buy all the latest mainstream novels and other pulp fiction, but that isn't what I read.

Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine"? Nope. Bill McKibben's  "Eaarth"? Nope. The list goes on and on. Then there are the books they have for sale, but won't let me buy them because I'm in the Asia & Pacific region. So I can be standing in a book store with the book on the shelf in front of me, but neither of these ebook purveyors will sell it to me. They either don't have it or refuse to sell it to me. I'm glad I'm just using the free apps and didn't spend any money on the physical readers.

This is why I was wary of ebooks in the first place (and I was): publisher lock-down. It wrecks ebooks as an option and keeps paper books in the top spot for sheer accessibility - either by me or anyone I lend the book to. Until ebooks are as easy and accessible as paper books, they will burn more people off then they attract.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gave up on Twitter today.....

After the 'n'-th iteration of Twitter's 140 character limit resulting in people getting the wrong end of the stick and fluffing their feathers based on what they thought they read....I decided Twitter was a waste of time for purposes other than fast receipt of links to items of interest.

I've been considering it for a while now. Today was the day I finally made up my mind. I will have a Twitter account, but it will be read-only.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Auckland - 07:27 Tuesday

Looks like an awesome day kicking off.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thoughts on copyright

I'll cut to the chase.

The "Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act" is reminiscent of  King Canute commanding the tide to stop coming in. That didn't work for him, due to forces beyond his control. At least Canute knew this and this was the point he was trying to make. Our own lawmakers appear to lack this insight.

For any law to be obeyed without going to considerable and expensive enforcement effort, the relevant law must be seen by the vast majority to be required and thus legitimate and necessary.

The underlying problem I see for the "Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act" is the ongoing clash between what I see as human culture itself, which has always been heavily weighted toward sharing for mutual benefit, and the desire by a relative few to define and monopolise culture as property they own for their personal or corporate profit.

For millennia, people have shared information about growing food, making tools and building homes. Socially, they sang songs or performed dances and other people saw and heard them and repeated them if they liked them. Then, after the printing press came along, the idea of copyright arose, allowing someone to claim "own" what they created. The justification was that such ownership allowed the creator to earn a living and keep on creating.

That's not a bad idea if done properly as it does enable a creative space for an author to benefit from their creation. Originally, copyright was usually fairly short. For example, in the US in the 1920s, it was 14 years. After that time, the content passed into the public domain and we all shared it, as we have always done.

But today, in the United States in particular, copyright terms have reached absurd terms. Life plus 95 years for an author and 120 years for a corporation. The US wants this to be the law everywhere, presumably to be extended again as Mickey Mouse is about to pass into the public domain. Their corporations want the content they pay people to create for them to be exclusively their property until our great great grandchildren are old and grey. Copyright terms of such absurdly long duration engender resentment because the law is obviously insensitive to cultural norms. It begs to be subverted.

There is no shortage of irony here. Try as they may, "rights holders" can't be justify this law to the wider public and thus its legitimacy is very much in doubt. So they seek ever more draconian methods of legal coercion to attempt to enforce what they see as their rights. While demanding that we not "steal", the incremental extension of copyright terms from 14 years to 120 years (or more) is defacto theft from all of us and the public domain we share. Thus, copyright is no longer about enabling creativity or innovation. Copyright law becomes hostile to the culture from which it arose and from which it feeds for ideas. There is no public perception of need for this kind of copyright law.

This corporate "rights holder" law will fail, as Canute failed. Larger forces are at work here.

It can't be a mystery why copyright law is now so widely ignored. It's become very bad law.

The additional loss to Kiwis in all this is that the New Zealand government - whichever major party is leading it -  has become the defacto agent and advocate for multi-national interests in conflict with our own.  This law does nothing to enhance the position of creative Kiwis. Instead, it risks undermining what support exists in the wider public for respecting the rights of local rights holders by associating it with outrageously bad law imported from elsewhere.  

New Zealand's existing copyright terms for music, literature and broadcasting are long compared to a human life span, though much shorter than those in the US.

People might be persuaded to respect the law if the terms were reasonable on the scale of a human life span. But the 120 year nonsense the US seeks to impose on the world (any NZ-USA FTA will depend on it) merely encourages people to ignore copyright altogether as a scam in which they are deemed to be the mugs.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

One advantage of walking to work....

At least I'm moving. Unlike these poor people on the Northern Motorway at Sunset Rd this morning.