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May 11, 2004

It’s Not Friday…. [6:33 pm]

But this is too, too funny [I *love* the picture]:

How to Catch Fish in Vermont: No Bait, No Tackle, Just Bullets

Fish shooting is a sport in Vermont, and every spring, hunters break out their artillery — high-caliber pistols, shotguns, even AK-47’s — and head to the marshes to exercise their right to bear arms against fish.

[...] There is art, or at least science, to shooting fish, aficionados say, and it has nothing to do with a barrel. Most fish hunters do not want to shoot the actual fish, because then “you can’t really eat them,” Ms. Paquette said. “They just kind of shatter.”

Instead, said Mr. Demar, “you try to shoot just in front of the fish’s nose or head.” The bullet torpedoes to the bottom and creates “enough concussion that it breaks the fish’s air bladder and it floats to the surface.”

[...] In 1969, fish and wildlife officials in New York and Vermont banned fish shooting. But Vermonters were loath to sever the primal link between fish and firearm, so in 1970, the Legislature not only reinstated the sport, it also added fish like carp and shad to the target list, bringing the number to 10.

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Sony’s Problems [3:25 pm]

Several bloggers are commenting on the consequences of the schizophrenia at Sony for Sony, jumping off with the almost universal lack of approbation for Sony Connect: Copyfight: Sony Electronic’s Sad, Preventable Decline.

People who know me have heard me speak more than once about how the current copyright/IP trends could easily lead to the destruction of the US consumer electronics industry. With Sony as a leading indicator, will our legislators see that the problem stems from the incompatibilities/inconsistencies implicit in the dangerously oversimplified claim that more stringent IP regimes lead to more innovation? Or will they conclude that Sony’s decline is due to too lax a copyright regime?

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Some Slashdot News [2:46 pm]

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CD Pricing Litigation News [12:23 pm]

Music Suit Left Intact by Judge

The Best Buy Company, Wal-Mart Stores and other retailers lost a bid yesterday to dismiss a suit brought by independent record stores that say their larger rivals receive incentives from music companies to sell albums at unfairly low prices.

Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of Federal District Court in Los Angeles ruled that the independent retailers’ claims would not be dismissed in the early stages of litigation. The major music labels, including Vivendi Universal’s Universal Music and Bertelsmann’s BMG, are also named as defendants.

Best Buy and other retailers receive discounts and advertising allowances not offered to independents for new releases by major artists, according to the suit filed last year. The independent retailers, who want a court order banning the practice, say the promotional campaigns are harmful because the bulk of an album’s sales occur immediately after its release.

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Declan Takes A Stab … [12:10 pm]

But ends up in a messy and treacherous place:

Bad laws, bad code, bad behavior

Instead of prohibiting bad code, a better solution is to prohibit bad behavior. That could mean, for example, a general rule against fraud instead of trusting tech-impaired politicos to draw up a list of every type of possible code that could perform fraudulent acts.

“Banning behavior is going to be a lot more effective than banning code,” said Will Rodger, policy director at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a trade association that includes Sun Microsystems, Intuit and Yahoo. “Sometimes, it feels good to pass these laws, but they’re not going to have an effect on the problem…We often see bills come through with the greatest of intentions. But as they say elsewhere, you can’t suspend the laws of physics.”

OK — let’s accept what Declan suggests. How are you going to implement this?

Banning bad behavior is not the answer — that’s right up there with declaring pi is 3. At a certain level, "bad behavior" is an inescapable part of human behavior.

The secret to getting badly-behaved individuals to “play nice” is to give them good reasons not to misbehave. And sustainable methods of achieving that have much more to do with carrots than they do with sticks — if only because we then have to count on the holders of the sticks not to misbehave.

Until lawmakers start to get beyond command and control, and start thinking about other means to socialize on-line behavior, we’re going to keep seeing "unintended consequences."

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British Video Association Says Film/TV Downloading Tripled [9:09 am]

Film/TV Downloading Triples In A Year

Downloading of illegal films and television programmes has tripled in the last twelve months, according to research conducted for the British Video Association. But the research suggests that it is still only four per cent of the population who are illegally downloading film/TV.

The report estimates 1.67 million people are downloading illegal film/TV files, compared to about 570,000 people last year. This is 50 per cent more than was predicted following similar research from the video industry at the end of 2002.

[...] The research, revealed in the newly published 2004 BVA Yearbook, was conducted by TNS, based on their Audio Visual Trak panel of 16,000 people aged between 12 and 74 years of age. TNS concludes: “Comparing the latest data with that gathered in 2002 demonstrates the growing menace of ‘free’ downloading to the music and video industries. Individuals involved in downloading music have nearly doubled in a year, while those involved in downloading film have tripled, albeit from a lower base.

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The Reg on the EU Move to S/W Patents [8:49 am]

European Council snubs software patent vote

The version passed by the European Parliament in September last year limited the scope of what could be patented to software that supported new physical processes, such as steel-making, or a new anti-lock braking system. However, the draft now allows for direct software patentability of computer programs, data structures and process descriptions. These are areas the MEPs had voted off the agenda, and which activists fear will pave the way for the dreaded business-method patents that have plagued America.

[...] The Directive will now go before a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 17 May. It has been provisionally agreed and will be waved through with no further discussion, unless one or more member states changes its stance. Then it goes back to the European Parliament for a second reading. Making further changes at this stage requires a majority of all MEPs to be in favour - including those who are absent from the chamber. If after the second reading the Council and the Parliament are still at loggerheads, they have six weeks to find a compromise or the bill will be dropped.

The FFII says the only realist[ic] way to stop the Directive is to break consensus of the member states before the 17 May meeting. Heald concludes: “Our chances of doing that are very thin”.

The FFII’s page on software patents: FFII: Software Patents in Europe

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