Thursday, June 18, 2009

Questionable motives?

Found an awesome article I hope gets some attention. In the comments there is an argument that a better explanation for the boom in film production has been a reduction in cost (i'll assume due to digital editing and cheap high quality storage). Sent this letter and hope to hear back, but in the mean time if anyone else has some thoughts on the issue would love to hear them. Anyway... the letter:

You left a comment on the article "Harvard Study Finds Weaker Copyright Protection Has Benefited Society" that makes me more interested in where you were coming from. While I would agree that the cost of production has significantly dropped, I don't necessarily see where that means the author is incorrect. This article was a summary of a summary, and while I didn't look at the original article, let alone the data, I fel you are making quite a leap with your statement. Is there at least a reasonable argument that despite "massive piracy" that "harm" has NOT been inflicted considering that, as you state, growth in the film production market, even if not the film industry, has continued to grow as the cost of production has dropped? And considering the purpose of copyright law, and in particular the HUGE recent expansions to copyright law since WWII which imo were quite questionable in the first place, hasn't scientific progress and the digital age mostly advanced IN SPITE of many of those "protections" revealing that for the most part the law has been to revealed to have really caused more harm than "prevented"?

Despite the argument that the framers of the constitution couldn't have imagined a digital age, I DO think that they understood a thing about tyranny, censorship, and human progress if you look the history of human progress.

I would argue that it was book piracy, by way of the printing press was the most direct cause of the enlightenment. Why should bit torrent be any different?

Disney built its empire on piracy. Not to completely excuse that necessarily, but isn't hypocrisy just a tad ironic, if not at least questionable?

Anyway, you had an strong opinion, so I was curious about your thoughts on some other levels, if they are things you have thought about.

Hope to hear from you,

And responding to another comment...

Your examples are "illegal" channels compared to traditional "all rights reserved" channels. If work is shared freely on those sites either hap-hazardly or more officially by affixing a Creative Commons licence to the work, then isn't that exactly a "weakening" of copyright law (at least in ways that big industry would have you believe) and piracy (again, as industry trys to convince us)?

Further, the great technologies, like the Internet itself, is dominatingly freely shared technology that was a collaborative effort where the creators knew that open access to information is the core of human progress, and that if what you are creating is what is most important, then sharing it freely is the best thing you can do for everybody; from tcp/ip to apache and Underwriter Laboratories and Open Group, these companies represent a core of all of the technology you argue are "other factors" that you attempt to use to explain away the contributions of a culture that rejects the ownership and monopolistic control of culture (pirates) when they are really one in the same. These big companies are more and more taking from the free culture pool, and because it has been allowed (particularly the way Berkeley has treated its patents), they have also become more successful.

And yet they still chant the same mantra that was rightfully rejected with the Statute of Anne. Current Copyright law was written by and for the purpose of supporting a particular type of distribution. Their past successes have granted them the kind of wealth that lets you buy the law that while being in conflict with the people and an abomination to the social contract means they have only bought themselves an extra decade or two as powerful lords have typically done.

The current copyright law is anti-artist, anti-consumer, and maybe worst of all, anti-culture. Anyone who SAYS otherwise either makes a lot of money through the exploitation of the current system, or really doesn't read much in the way of history after what is presented to them by The Ad Council.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On Polyamory

I think all relationships are a challenge, but as a philosophy, the idea is that love is not divided between the people that you care about. I believe loving yourself is the first step in being a healthy person for someone else to love and if after that you can "be yourself" then every person you meet can be an opportunity to learn and grow.

Life is difficult enough with its natural challenges; unnatural barriers make it unnaturally more difficult. There are two very important things I get in my marriage that I could not get if we were monogamous. The first, the ability to trust another as you would trust yourself; I put this as a kind of 'rejection' of the golden rule. This is the real test of trust that requires complete honesty and no "fake" tests of faith, if you know what I mean.

The second is an ability to see myself more objectively in a relationship; only in multiple relationships can I see the difference between me and the relationship with another.

Ok, a third thing: When you meet somebody, they had a life before you. Hopefully if you have fallen in love with someone it is because of who they have been and all their experiences they have gathered in their lifetime before their life became intertwined with yours. While my wife and I would each say that we could not imagine our lives having not met, we still embrace that we are independently great people and love watching the other continue to grow and love right up until the time that we met. If all of that made us who we are today, perfect for each other, how could one try and say "stop being who you are, I like who you are right now"? I consider that such a discredit to our experience. I believe all my past relationships, good and bad, helped me become who I am today, and continuing that search for all the love the world has to offer can only teach me how to be a better partner for my wife, and anyone else who chooses to be a part of that. :)

Adding this cause I am sure some would find it controversial, and I am very curious what others may think. This was (as above) a comment left on a youtube video.

Relationships are a challenge, no matter what the philosophy. In the western world, there is an indoctrination leaning towards mono as much as there is towards being hetero.

What you end up with is not only an unhealthy conflict between personal philosophies regarding love, which can fail a relationship, but worse, an incompatibility in ability to communicate through it. Not to be elitist, but imho, gay and poly think more about why they are who they are for reasons 'normals' can't understand.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Holy Trinity

Trinitarians, the atheist beloved cousin:

/| The Father is our ignorance once we have been humbled. |/
/| |/
/| The Son is our culture that teaches us by example and that we posses |/
/| to give to freely. |/

/| |/
/| The Holy Spirit is the eternal material world we might ever hope to understand, |/
/| that we communicate with and shape in every action and thought of |/
/| our limited existence. |/

Quick, whose driving the bus?

I blame the Republicrats. There, easy. Were going to hell and all we can do is argue about who is driving the bus. My non-partisan secular position is that the government is a business just like any other, always trying to sell you one thing or another. No surprise most people love their representative and loathe congress. What did you expect? The only thing that makes government different from any other business is that under the social contract we give the government the unlimited authorisation of violence in the course of its legal action. It is no wonder that as 'legal' has become an epistemological blur that that the governments morally justified monopolistic use of violence has just become a cost of getting the job done.

The most revealing is how easy it is to be accused of ideolatery to even attempt to reference the Constitution as a reason why congress shouldn't do something. People seem to think "Well, if it's a good idea, why shouldn't Congress have the power to make it happen?" Well, even throwing out the entire idea limited government proposed by the founders as having been too long ago to matter today, can't we see plenty of examples as necessary outside the US to see that only creates trouble?

If you think "Well, were better cause this is AMERICA!", then fine, but then why in such a freaking hurry to change it?

I am proud of Mr. Obama and his ambition for the nation, and his ability to get people to rally together for a cause, and to cross many political lines to get people to work together in new and creative ways. But without going into the specifics of the thing that he has said or done that I support or criticise, if there is anybody with the slightest bit of respect for him, you need to stand up and explain to him the half he has TOTALLY WRONG.

How's this? Does Michelle Obama look like a sheep that just lies there and says "yes sir", or more like the kind of woman willing to get into a good healthy adrenaline fueled debate with the man when they disagree? What do you think makes that relationship work?

I find it sickeningly ironic that in that respect conservatives have a better relationship with Obama than his own party. I guess it is just sad then that there is no real conservative party to represent the position,but I guess it just goes to show that great Americans will always be the individual.

Chinese Proverb on piracy?

Got this in an email recently. I bet Thomas Jefferson would agree:

'When Someone shares something of value with you, and you benefit from it , you have a moral obligation to share it with others.'

Scary or funny?

I don't know if this is scary or funny. As a soap opera, it would be pretty funny. If this was an episode of Law & Order, I would be laughing my ass off. They are talking about the US Dollar. To put 9 trillion dollars into perspective, in 2007 there were only $1.5 trillion in circulation. If you have any 'money' (aka federal reserve notes) in your wallet, pull them out and take a look at a few of them and think about what you are really holding there.

The one comfort is you don't need to worry about running away anywhere... cause there is nowhere to go. Maybe another comfort is that you arn't technically any more screwed than anyone else, so nothing to really worry about, right?

So either way, funny or scary, get in a good laugh while you can...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Why I think al a carte cable programming is a bad idea for everyone

Note: this was a response to someone complaining about their $30/month cable bill.

While I can understand your argument in principle, I think you are overvaluing the royalties paid by the cable company to content providers as a portion of the cost to bring that content to you. For the most part the only cost to the cable company is channel integration. I would bet that maintenance of that database is nominal. Content providers make their money off of commercials, but after that, cable companies are pirates of that content. If I remember correctly, the settlement that came from those cases was that cable companies would be required to provide some number of public broadcasting channels for some number of stations they pirate. So after they have built this giant content pipe, they regulate who does and does not connect to their giant data stream in a very simple way, on or off, with very little exception. The exceptions are 1) content where per channel royalties exist (HBO, Cinemax, Encore, whatever), and 2) per program royalties channels(pay-per-view). I would expect that there is some speculation going on and the cable companies pay bulk block rates, bringing the channels cheaper to you (assuming you could even get them some other way) and likely making decent money on the side. BUT, the real business of the cable company is not the content, but the pipe. So cable companies pay for almost nothing but the initial infrastructure cost (plus the bureaucracy involved in that), then customer service, billing, and technicians and the such. One product and one price means low overhead and extremely competitive. One the cost of the infrastructure is paid off, then the money is REALLY good.

So what you pay now is a per month connection fee that for the most part is a portion of the cost to build the system that brings the content to you. Now al a carte is a request to take a very simple system and make it relatively very complicated. More equipment to control and regulate what each customer gets, these systems would of course be much more software based compared to the very dumb light switch service=on/off situation right now. The number of switches now is one per customer, based on did they pay the bill. You are proposing changing that to a number of switches equal to the number of possible customers multiplied by the number of possible channels they ever hope for the system to support (needs to be scalable). The handling of the switches would need to be related an exponentially more complicated billing system very likely bringing in security issues. Think Sigma6, in general, more things involved is always more thing to go wrong. No offense to anyone who works as a technician for a cable company, but at present it really doesn't take much of a rocket scientist to operate these networks, and even if you would disagree, you are talking about increasing the level of technical knowledge by a maintenance exponentially, meaning significantly more training, and significantly higher salaries.

So an exponentially more complicated system that personally I can only imagine would be exponentially more expensive to operate so they can more carefully micromanage their billing scheme based on something that doesn't even impact them. The only cost thing they really pay for and bill you for is infrastructure and maintenance! Why should they care at all which channels you watch? If anything, just for the sake of simplicity alone, they should just meter the time you spend watching tv per television. I think that would correlate much better than which stations you watch with regard to what costs are actually incurred by the cable company, and just embed that into the cost of the installation and you end of with a system that isn't any more expensive on the whole across the entire customer base.

Is $30 really so much? You think it would even be possible to design and implement a system where it would even be reasonable to bring you one channel for < $30/month? I would bet that an al a carte system would have a surcharge of at least $30/month before you even get any channels. The reality is that you would be paying more to get less; the necessary attraction for such a system would have to be exponential, and I would bet there are not even that many people out there that don't have cable to make offsetting the cost even feasible.

The best system to reduce the cost to the customer = ( total cost to design and build + per year cost of maintenance * number of years desired to break even) all divided by ( number of years desired to break even * anticipated number of customers ) + necessary dividends to attract the necessary number of investors. From there, once the infrastructure is paid for, the extra revenue can be used to expand into other markets. Now, dividends are going to be directly related to investor confidence which leaves customer price to be set by the price people are willing to pay that maximizes gross income, since the cost per customer is effectively negligible (this is also why they are pretty cool with letting you not pay your bill for awhile is they can keep billing you, and whatever maximizes gross income over time is their priority). This in turn tells the company the amount of time it will take for the cable company to break even. That number is directly related to risk because technology goes obsolete, and they need to cover that infrastructure cost first. So if time to break even comes out to 5 years, then likely they would say "Build it!", if it comes out to 50 years, they are likely going to say "lets do it somewhere else", cause more then likely they are investing their own money as well. Further, that time to break even will determine the exponential rate at which their market grows, and with that capital and dividends will rise over time.

Yeah, so in short, I don't think you are paying what you think you are paying, and al a carte programming is just a really bad idea for everybody.

copyright infringement is not theft

The linked article is really awesome, and not wanting to loose track of it, posting it here. I think it has one of the most clear and concise explanations on the whole "infringement is theft" and how it is a very one sided argument by people that DO NOT PRODUCE, but instead an out dated rich group of middlemen trying to buy their relevancy back into a marketplace that DOES NOT WANT THEM!