Happy 30th Birthday Apple Macintosh

A ground breaking Super Bowl advert, an Orwellian novel reference and Apple was born.

Happy 30th birthday Apple (as I write this post on an HP touch-screen) and we celebrate with the original advert that launched it all

Mojo Mathers in serious case of ‘irony’

A tweet from the lovely Mojo Mathers this morning

With tongue placed firmly in cheek, can I suggest that the use of the word ‘hearing’ may not be the best term to use here

NZ Government ‘kowtowed’ to the US over Dotcom

Yesterday Barrister Gary Gotlieb stated in court that NZ ‘kowtowed’ to American business interests in the case against Kim Dotcom.

This statement comes amongst revelations that the seizure of Dotcoms property was illegal because “police applied for the wrong kind of order” according to Justice Potter

Kim Dotcome has been granted $60,000 per month to live off, access to his 2011 Mercedes and the crown needs to pay him $5,000 for legal costs to sort out the incorrect seizure of his goods.

In court yesterday Barrister Gary Gotlieb stated.

”Someone else in the world will be doing it, and simply to bend towards business interests in America, which is really what it’s about, kowtowing to business interests in America, I would have thought would not sit comfortably with many New Zealanders.”

And for me I agree with much of this statement,

When I interviews a retired FBI agent of 32 years who looked at the case for me, he stated quite plainly that the case came from the Motion Picture Association of America amongst other, they complained and the FBI sprang into action.

Crown lawyer Anne Toohey said that American was not controlling this extradition situation, it is handled under crown law

”Every day we get requests for forms of assistance from all countries all over the world, including restraint of assets, execution of search warrants and that manner of thing. For us it is really daily business.”

This still has the feeling of American sneezing and the NZ catching a cold to me, I hope it’s proven otherwise but I will continue to follow this case with great interest.

America still using Atom bombs all these years later…except this time it’s in the form of SOPA

Kanye West 'Loves MegaUpload'

The latest news in this whole Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delayed the debate until Tuesday (Wednesday NZ time).

Firstly so we have an understanding, these bills work together, they are ‘sister bills’, SOPA in Congress and PIPA in the Senate.

The purpose of these acts is to “tackle the problem of foreign-based websites that sell pirated movies, music and other products.” For me, that in itself is not a bad idea, there is a problem with illegally downloaded copyrighted product, and I do think that taking a song, album, piece of software or movie is theft, however we get into problems when we try to figure out who is to be held responsible for these downloads and how we hold them accountable.

Yesterday, on behalf of the FBI, NZ Police raided the old ‘Chrisco Mansion’ in Coatsville and arrested several NZ Residents for their involvement sharing copyright property via their website MegaUpload.com which is said to be the worlds largest file sharing site. Not that we have the full story yet but I think this case will go far beyond the SOPA and PIPA issues as in news reports of the last 24 hours numerous more serious charges have been laid against these gentlemen like ‘racketeering’ and ‘money laundering’, that just says to me there’s more to this particular case than sharing the latest Rhianna album. It also needs to be noted that SOPA and PIPA haven’t even gotten close to being passed yet so whilst this has become the poster child for the potential power of those acts, it really doesn’t relate to them.

That all being said I am a little uncomfortable with three elements of this case.

  1. NZ Police doing the dirty work for the FBI
  2. The site http://www.MegaUpload.com being taken down by American officials, doesn’t American law, like ours, tell us we are innocent until proven guilty…how can that decision be made already without these accused men having their day in court
  3. Many celebrities, the kinds of people who should want their ‘intellectual property’ protected support, use and voice their ‘love’ for MegaUpload

Something doesn’t seem quite right when all these artists are singing…literally…the praises of this ‘evil site’.

This conversation then splits into several ‘strands’. The first is internet piracy.

I am completely against the idea that someone, somewhere can get for free, a piece of art (be that music, movie, software…whatever) when they should be paying for it. If you or I had intellectual property to a physical item, we wouldn’t be happy about someone taking for themselves, then copying that item and passing it around for free. This would effect our sales. To me internet piracy is theft, there is no other explanation…taking something for free, when the owners of that item want to you pay for it…is theft.

The second is, “who are the pirates?” Which becomes cloudier. Example, I watched an episode of South Park the other day on line because I missed it on the TV. Now it was free to air on FOUR, but technically what I did may have been illegal…have I committed a crime under current law, or under newly proposed copyright law? I am not sure. If it was ‘free’ on FOUR then is getting it for free on the ‘net seems ok. But technically maybe not. And then there’s also the issue of copyright holders ‘losing revenue’. I wouldn’t ever use this as an excuse for ‘stealing’ but there is truth in the idea that some people who download copyrighted product from the internet will never purchase that item, so there is no money lost. This is a weak argument for ‘stealing’ but there is some truth for ‘a few’ internet users.

The third is who should be responsible for that theft and how should they be held accountable. Well again that becomes cloudy. If it was a physical item being stolen, then it’s the person who takes the item from the shop that you would charge…but these are not physical items and there needs to be many complicit people involved to make this file sharing work. Therefore it would seem that the logical conclusion to to make the site accountable…easier said than done.

If the site is active in the distribution of the copyrighted material, then fair enough, hold them accountable. But what is someone uses the site for reasons it wasn’t intended. MegaUpload.com seems on one level to be a valid way of people sending their files around the world, just like DropSend or Box.net and many others. So what if the people running that site are just being used as ‘pawns’ for illegal activity to happen around them? It could be the difference between lending someone your car to rob a bank, and having your car stolen and it then being used in a bank robbery. In one case their is active accountable…in the other there isn’t. That’s what sites like Wikipedia are worried about, someone puts a link on one of their articles, then technically they will be in breach of these new laws.

Jon Stewart had an interesting take on it, click here to see as WordPress doesn’t allow flash to be embedded.

To me it seems like this is an issue of Corporations wanting their pound of flesh, and they are entitled to it. The Corporation pays for the album, movie, television show…whatever…and they don’t want it stolen. It’s a little different in places like NZ because our artists, especially music, really do struggle. In larger societies I don’t think downloading the latest Coldplay album would effect Chris Martin’s net worth…but done enough times it would affect Capitol Records profits, dones over 100 artists at Capitol Records…well you can see how it works. But what always seems difficult to understand is how Corporations get the support of, and action taken by, federal agencies like the FBI so quickly.

In 2010 the Supreme Court of the USA decreed that Corporations have the same first amendment rights as people when it comes to Freedom of Speech, it’s called Corporate Personhood.

Corporate personhood is the status conferred upon corporations under the law, which allows corporations to have rights and responsibilities similar to those of a natural person. There is a question about which subset of rights afforded to natural persons should also be afforded to corporations as legal persons.

This gave Corporations the right to spend as much money as they want on political campaigns but I think it has gone so much further.

I think today, in America, Corporations have far more rights than people. And one of the scarier parts of this is that Corporations, in America, have more rights than people who may, or may not be doing some illegal, in a mansion in Coatesville.

Revisiting the idea that these guys who run MegaUpload may, or may not, have committed crime(s), yet their site has been taken down. The power that these Corporations wield to get a sentence carried out, before a court case even happens is frankly scary. Imagine if this was a ‘person to person’ theft or crime. Would the accused be subject to action that you would expect with a conviction…the answer is ‘No!’

It seems that the legislation is far too heavy for the issue at hand and will catch out many whom the acts are not aimed at. I wouldn’t say it was using a sledgehammer on a fly, as the issue of copyright infringement is much larger than a ‘fly’ but maybe it’s something like demolishing a building with an atomic bomb.

The Internet…a human right?

Someone asked me the question once which was if internet access was a ‘human right’…I thought then that it probably wasn’t…yet…but within a very short space of time, when everything has gone digital, newspapers no longer exist and all our ‘television’ comes through a fibre optic cable to our front door…then it probably will be.

Having made the decision that currently internet isn’t a human right it still leaves me in an interesting situation. You see I am in one of those areas of Auckland that doesn’t get broadband. Yes I have internet (if you can call it that), it’s a local Wireless signal that someone looking for a solution from dial-up basically sorted themselves. I really appreciate it, but it’s the equivalent of less than a one meg line. It is far superior to dial-up…but way inferior to cable based broadband so we are looking forward to the day that we get plain old broadband to our front door. And that’s where my saga begins.

We had some telephone lines installed into our new property, the guy from Chorus was really helpful and friendly, he actually told us about how the fibre optic ‘thrusting’ was going. We were told that it needed to be at the settlement past us, which is about 5 – 10 kms away, but the end of the year or else Chorus would face a $250,000 penalty for a breach of contractual agreement. We were pretty happy to hear this, we thought we may only have to have this below-average internet connection until the end of the year.

So come October/November I started to make some enquires to get ready to have our broadband finally come into the 21st century.

I phoned Chorus, but they couldn’t confirm where each of their teams were, and how long they had to go on a job. Chorus also told me that the only people who could tell me if the upgrade had been complete was my own ISP. Apparently Chorus head office doesn’t communicate with their teams as to when they are finished jobs…or so I was led to believe…I guess the other possibility is that they are full of it, and didn’t want to help this minor consumer of their product…but I’m sure that wouldn’t be the case.

“Alright,” I thought,  I phoned my ISP. In other words I phoned an ISP looking for a new connection…well to be truthful, I phoned a couple of ISP’s to see if they could tell me if the job was complete and that broadband was on. If the connection was active, then I’d like to get a connection. See that’s how I thought this would work…logically…you tell me if you have the product, then I will decide if I want to buy it from you…but ‘No!’

What happens in the world of ISPs is that you need to sign up for a package, then they will check to see if the exchange is ready for you to receive broadband.

I phoned Telecom, Vodafone, Orcon and others, and they all told me the same thing…“you sign on the bottom line, then we’ll tell you if we can help you.”

To be honest I hadn’t decided with whom I wanted to go last year so I left it…until yesterday.

I phoned back Telecom, thinking that at least they are connected with Chorus, and maybe they can now give me some more information…alas I was wrong. When I heard the accent straight out of the Philippines I knew I was in trouble straight away, no local knowledge, and certainly no way to speak with someone on a one-to-one level. Speaking with an international call centre when it comes to the responses one receives and ability to relate to an average Kiwi is only one step above speaking to an automated answer machine. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way to the lovely lady at the end of the phone, but sometimes you need someone in your region to be able to understand that you need to go outside the script to answer this question. We came to the same answer where if I chose a plan they would go and check and again I declined mostly because the Telecom plans seemed quite expensive to me. About an hour later the same delightful lady phoned me back just to check that I didn’t want to sign up…because if I didn’t I might miss out. Again I declined…she asked me if I wanted her to phone back when I’d had more of a chance to think about it, so I asked, “You want to phone me back, and when you do I’ll need to select a plan so you can then go and check if the exchange can service me”, to which the reply was “Yes!”…”then no thank you, I don’t want you to phone me back.”

I don’t know when we will get broadband into our property, when we do I’ll let you know but having to use this frightfully slow wireless connection, that doesn’t play video, that won’t let our phones or tablet connect to APP stores, and that cuts out in bad weather I have to say after six months I know think that internet is, and should be a human right…well at least this human’s right.