Archive for November, 2009

New Aussie Supercomputer Runs Linux

New Aussie Supercomputer Runs Linux

The fact that a new supercomputer runs Linux should hardly come as a surprise to anyone.  What else would it run? W7? ROFL.  Well, if it did run W7 I’m pretty sure someone would have been all over the reporters for the Sydney Morning Herald making sure that they mentioned it in their article “Australia’s new supercomputer outflops the lot“.  However, since it isn’t, the reporter had a discretion on what to report, and they didn’t mention what operating system it ran.   I had to look the thing up on Wikipedia, where it told me that it runs Linux – Centos actually.

It is hardly surprising that closed software systems are so prevalent in Government when Governments themselves fund extensive lobbying and marketing by their vendors.  Of course, the line item doesn’t say “marketing and lobbying”.   No, instead it reads “Ridiculously Inflated Monopoly License Fees Courtesy of the Copyright Act” (sometimes it’s just “License Fees”).  Governments need to even the playing field and support open source marketing to the same extent they subsidise closed source marketing.

Little People in the City by Slinkachu

Little People in the City by Slinkachu

Received this book as a present.  Very funny.  Has photos of models of people simulating various suburban scenes (eg two people making off with a cheeto carried between them titled ‘Scavengers’).  Apparently blog is here.

Click for Sample image (‘Close Shave’):

Copyright and Confirmation Bias

Copyright and Confirmation Bias

Brendan Scott

see also: No Cost Too Great for Copyright

An old (2005) post about Napster was recently brought to my attention.   In it, Don Dodge, a former VP of product development at Napster  maps out what happened to the company, how they pleaded with the music industry to provide a better solution to them (which was more or less reinvented/reimplemented many years later by iTunes) and how the music industry had put itself in such a position as to be literally unable to act in its own best interests, or the interests of its artists.    Dodge estimates, based on internal Napster research, that Napster could have generated $3 billion per year for the industry, with minimal overhead.

I talk to people at copyright conferences and they will make some observation such as copyright has managed to support specific identified individuals and therefore it’s a good thing (most recently it was specific teachers whose retirement was funded by their textbook sales).   However, to rely on this sort of evidence in policy making is basic bad practice.  It seeks out only the evidence which supports the proposition, when it should be critically analysing it.  A proper analysis would look at how many people paid more than they ought to have for a book, and whether some people went without because the cost was too high.  Moreover, it would look at the also-rans who devoted much time to writing a textbook only to have it fail in the market.  It would look at the books which were substandard and were not improved because of copyright restrictions.  For every success there are orders of magnitude more failures.  Proper policy would be more circumspect in trying to entice, through the incentive of copyright, the unwary into the market.

Copyright costs the community.  That cost is never factored into any copyright policy – at least, so far as I have been able to tell.  Most recently, the prohibition on parallel importing of books is an obvious example.  The Productivity Commission put out a report which set out, in bare, incontrovertible terms, the damage that this particular aspect of copyright does to the community.  After a long period of merciless lobbying the proposals to remove the anti-consumer restrictions on parallel importing have been defeated (ironically, the report was criticised for being considered analysis, it was even expanded to cover some of the criticisms of it).

Copyright, and IP policy in general seems to exist in a twilight zone in which reality is not permitted to reach.   Copyright holders have express exemptions to the Trade Practices Act that property owners can only dream of.   They are funded by the government to lobby for more copyright and then, of course, use their monopoly profits to lobby for more funding.  They are allowed to sing the benefits while policy makers fail to even seek out evidence of the costs.   Despite the concept of natural rights of copyright being expressly repudiated by parliament and judiciary they are allowed to persist in their rhetoric of rights.  Despite the copyright monopoly having little in common with property, they continue to talk as if it does.

In the case of Napster, the copyright monopoly seems to have delayed the innovation we now call iTunes by a good part of a decade, and diddled musicians out of billions of dollars in the process, but copyright ideologues will not hear of it.

[Update: Professor Alan Fels (the former head of the Competition and Consumer Commission) is quoted as being critical of the parallel import decision:

Professor Fels said the decision to explicitly reject a recommendation of the Productivity Commission meant that ”every time one of our more than 10 million book readers visit a bookshop and pay more for books, the Government will be and should be held responsible”.


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