A Little Logical Fallacies Exercise in Today’s Globe

Ah – still going to be a little sparse posting here until later in the week, but an opinion piece in today’s Boston Globe, Patent nonsense on avian flu [pdf], led me back to Steven Downes great Logical Fallacies page (not to mention a good scare for All Hallows Eve). Today’s example: the irrelevant conclusion (with lots of subsidiary elements, if you can get yourself to work that hard)

First, the elements of the argument:

While it makes sense to build government stockpiles of Tamiflu in preparation for a possible outbreak of H5N1, it is far from clear that breaking the patent would be helpful — indeed the opposite is more likely to be the case for several reasons.

First, the raw ingredients for Tamiflu come from a Chinese herb which is in short supply. Unless production of the herb is increased, it will be impossible to increase production of Tamiflu. In this case, breaking the patent would have no impact on availability of the drug.

Second, Tamiflu is difficult to manufacture. Since Roche has developed the manufacturing expertise, it seems sensible to encourage Roche to increase production and/or to help other companies produce the drug under a voluntary license. Breaking the patent through a compulsory license would actively discourage Roche from either producing the drug or lending its expertise, which would be directly counterproductive.

Third, given that scientists have only a vague idea of what a human strain of H5N1 might look like, there is no certainty that Tamiflu will be effective. Even if Tamiflu does work on some people, widespread use would inevitably result in the development of resistant strains. So, either way, alternatives are clearly needed.

So, therefore

[T]he most important role for government is to uphold private property rights and ensure that the rule of law applies — which means protecting rather than breaking patents. The alternative — the rule of the mob — would truly be devastating.

Hmmm — so (1) the dependency of Tamiflu production upon the need for a scarce Chinese herb, (2) an expectation that Roche will just take its football and go home in the face of a threat to its customers, and (3) the uncertainties we have about the genetic structure of the viral culprit in a flu pandemic prove that property rights (even those formally constructed by a government whose roles specifically include protecting the security and well-being of its citizens) are sacrosanct?

Whew – thanks for explaining the vital role that market-based paradigms have in framing every debate, not to mention defining the ethos that characterize their resolution — unless the Old Testament says something different, I guess……

Digital Distribution: Bollywood’s Reaction

Digital revolution set to sweep India’s Bollywood [pdf]

In the United States, a digital roll-out has stalled while Hollywood studios and theater owners fight over who pays for top-quality computer-based projection systems that cost $80,000 to $100,000 per screen.

But in the Mumbai-based film industry known as Bollywood, entrepreneurs are willing to settle for a bit less quality at one-third the cost. They use cheap digital cinema in remote towns to cash in on blockbusters — and in the process, beat back video pirates, too.

[…] But as with mobile phones, India opts for value over top quality, a strategy that makes sense in an industry where only one in 12 movies has made a solid profit since 2001.

Yahoo! ≠ Quixote

Yahoo Doubling Price of Music Service

Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO – news) is doubling the price of its online music subscription service for portable MP3 players, ending a short-lived promotion that sought to lure consumers from Apple Computer Inc.’s market-leading iTunes store.

[…] Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said Yahoo’s low rental prices didn’t impress most consumers because the service isn’t compatible with Apple’s iPod — which boasts about 75 percent of the market for portable players.

“About 90 percent of the (iTunes) music store’s success has to do with the devices that it works with,” Munster said.


Critique of the Pariticpatory Web

Web 2.0 Cracks Start to Show

In a widely read online essay, “The Amorality of Web 2.0,” Carr slammed overeager Web 2.0 proponents as hyper-hyped.

Citing two particularly error-ridden entries on Bill Gates and Jane Fonda, Carr described Wikipedia’s contents as “unreliable,” “slipshod” and sometimes “appalling.”

“The promoters of Web 2.0 venerate the amateur and distrust the professional,” wrote Carr. “We see it in their unalloyed praise of Wikipedia, and we see it in their worship of open-source software and myriad other examples of democratic creativity.”

[…] “Online, free media is one of the contributing factors to the shrinking circulation of good newspapers,” he said. “Now, traditional media is shifting away from large investments in bureaus and hard reporting, and towards cheaper content and opinion-making. It’s hard for me to imagine participatory media devoting investments to hard, investigative or overseas reporting. The healthiest scenario would be one in which both kinds of media thrive.”

Library Digitizing Moves Forward

Microsoft joins Yahoo on digital library alliance [pdf]

The OCA, unveiled earlier this month by a group of digital archivists and backed by Yahoo, H-P and Adobe, says it has also signed up Microsoft Corp. and more than a dozen major libraries in North America, Britain and Europe.

Danielle Tiedt, general manager of Microsoft’s MSN Search, said the world’s largest software maker would fund the digital duplication of 150,000 old books over the next year.

“This is just the start,” Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive and the organizing force behind the OCA. “One hundred and fifty thousand books is just an initial test for Microsoft,” he said.

Backers say the dream of creating a digital library of the world’s greatest books is an homage to the Library of Alexandria, the great repository of books in ancient times.

[…] Backers of the Google Print project have expressed their disappointment that the two groups are not working together. But leaders on both sides say it is only a matter of time before the two library projects find common ground.

“I think it’s only a matter of time before we reach agreement,” said Rick Prellinger, board president of the Internet Archive and the director of the newly formed OCA.


Sorry – I’m under the gun here on a number of fronts, so posting will probably remain a little sparse for a few more days.

Degrading the Copyright Debate

Among other things — “copyright infringement?”: Britney baby photos stolen, she says [pdf]

A statement released late Friday by Spears’ record label, Jive Records, said the photos were swiped from a private photo session.

“Anyone who publishes, sells or otherwise exploits any of these images in any way will be subject to liability and damages for willful infringement of copyright, and will be liable for invasion of privacy,” the statement read.

Trade and Culture: Distinguishable?

Dan Glicksman thinks so: Hollywood lobbyist concerned about protectionism [pdf]

Hollywood’s top lobbyist has fired a warning shot against countries that might be emboldened to use the newly approved UNESCO convention on cultural diversity as a means to block Hollywood movies.

“No one should use this convention to close their borders to a whole host of products,” Dan Glickman, the chairman of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, told representatives of an annual French film industry conference held Friday in the Burgundy wine capital of Beaune, in eastern France.

“If countries start passing laws that are in contravention of World Trade Organization rules, there will be conflict,” he warned.

[…] “It appears to be more about trade than the promotion of cultural diversity. The World Trade Organization is the place for (trade),” Glickman said. “What’s to stop a country saying that it’ll only take 20% of U.S. films, or taxing our films but not its own?” he asked.

Glickman was a lone voice in Beaune not heralding the U.N. convention as a major triumph for free expression as a way to affirm cultural identity.