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Added on: 11/6/2009 11:55
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    Beware of the Copyright Police

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    A short ramble this week, with links, because it seems the owners of copyright material, such as music and videos, are on the PR war path again. Apparently piracy costs the UK economy a trillion million billion pounds, or something equally unbelievable when you actually check the facts.

    Now before I go on, I will clearly state here that I am not advocating a world where everyone downloads movies and music for free, although actually I think most music should be free and artists should earn their cash by performing live. Movies and TV cost a lot of money to make, if the companies who own them don't make enough money, they won't get made.

    I do however resent the way I am made to watch trailers, get forced to see copyright warnings I never read and nobody takes any notice of anyway, and so on, whenever I watch a new DVD. On top of that, if I buy a DVD or CD, I want to be able to watch and listen to them in any manner I choose. Also if I buy a computer game, I don't want to have annoying copy protection making me wish I'd pirated it instead.

    With all that out the way, here is the general thrust of this article. The big companies (and any artists who actually earn a tiny percentage for their work, whilst these big companies take the rest that they have convinced along the way) which actually own the copyright to the music and movies, are as usual trying to get laws passed which change the whole copyright rules in their favour.

    They want ISPs to take up the burden of enforcing their copyright for them, which costs ISPs money and ultimately us. In the past they've pushed for taxes on MP3 players, just in case they might be used for carrying music obtained illegally. And they want to have our internet taken away from us if we are caught using it to download music without paying for it.

    The snag is, quite rightly the majority of residents in the UK now believe that the internet is now an essential service, like water, electricity or the telephone it is slowly replacing. So the three strikes policy, where if you downloaded stuff you shouldn't have three times, or in actual fact where merely accused of doing so, and had your internet taken away from you, is now looking very much off the table.

    Most stories that appear in the press, whether they be paper, TV or internet, are event led. If something big catches fire, or a plane crashes, that event leads directly to the coverage. Very occasionally a journalist will take an interest in an area and bring it to peoples attention, but that is something which is becoming increasingly rare.

    Nowadays, anything not event led is actually mostly PR led. Public Relations companies on behalf of industries and people, throw out almost ready made stories which are lapped up by journalists desperately trying to fill their pages/minutes/websites on a daily basis. This is why suddenly you hear Whispa bars are coming back, or Butterfly World has opened.

    It is also why you keep reading stories about how much piracy is ruining the economy, only the thing is it really probably isn't.

    In the last week alone, The Sun swallowed unscientific data as fact and published it whole. The Daily Mail followed although the article is missing online now, and pretty much so did the BBC (albeit more restrained). Bad Science did a nice piece on this, showing how all the figures are actually not painting the story the PR material claims it is.

    So next time you read one of these horror stories, or indeed any story anywhere, it is very important to try and understand why it is a story to start with, and most importantly where it came from.


    This Week's Videos



    The first one is a clip from Fox News in America, which if you aren't aware is an incredibly right wing station which would prove pretty shocking to those of us in the UK who are used to laws which dictate our news coverage should be fair and balanced.

    Whilst our news feeds are far from perfect, with far too much vox-pop crap filling the likes of Sky News (owned by the same people as Fox News, just in case you ever wondered why they used to spend hours just covering George W. Bush getting on and off aeroplanes for no reason), they are at least not allowed to actively support any political party.

    However in the US, presumably due to their freedom of speech laws, they can and do. Fox News is the face of the Republican party (think of the Democrats as being akin to the leftest edge of our Tory party, the Republicans are closer to the far right of it).

    Anyway, Fox News feeds the roots of right wing hatred, it is a channel with nasty views combined with the usual level of self-righteousness you expect to see in anyone who believes that love can only exist between a man and a woman, that abortion is wrong even for rape victims, and a black person during a flood is always a looter.

    So the irony of this next clip isn't lost on me, as the presenter is shocked at the sort of emails they are getting on a daily basis, due in a large part to the sort of hatred they keep feeding to the public themselves. It just goes to show, you can't get your wild dogs all worked up and then expect them not to bite someone someday.

    "Feeding each other the same bunch of... hate that's not based in fact," says one of the presenters, which is what Fox News does every day.



    As a contrast, something completely different and extremely nerdy. This guy came across a modem from the 1960s whilst helping an old lady clear her house, in good condition it still works, so he uses it to connect (albeit very slowly) to the internet.

    Yes kids, this is actually what modems looked like right up until a few years after that brilliant film War Games hit our screens. Then I think someone developed an amazing device that let you plug your phone and the modem into the same socket... genius! Why didn't they think of it before?

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