Archive for September, 2012

The Internet Piracy Farce Continues

The Internet Piracy Farce Continues

It seems that in NZ, part of the evidence gathered against Kim Dotcom was obtained illegally by a NZ agency.  The NZ Prime Minister is reported to have apologised to Mr Dotcom. The whole of the Dotcom case is an example of the overriding ends-justifies-the-means-ism which thoroughly infects not only copyright law but the legislative process behind it.

Crazy Whitespace

Crazy Whitespace

Imagine a programming language which only uses whitespace?  Imagine no longer.  See their example code (use Ctrl-A to see its full glory).

(HT: From Python Import Podcast via Planet Python)

Delay TV Shows for months then blame Piracy

Delay TV Shows for months then blame Piracy

In a transcript of a speech by ABC CEO Mark Stott, he says:

Of all the stories on debt and ratings turmoil affecting different commercial television networks, I suspect the impact of piracy is the under told one.

One of the early challenges Channel 10 faced this year was the disappointing performance of a suite of high profile comedy programs out of the United States.

To showcase the new 2012 ratings year on Ten, they had had held them back until several months after they were first broadcast to considerable fanfare in the US. Television networks have always done this in Australia.

But this year, Channel 10 found the audiences it had been expecting weren’t there – they’d been and gone, online. They were good shows, easily found and watched within hours of their initial US broadcast. And there is no doubt that with its traditional younger demographic profile, a network like Ten is more vulnerable to this than other networks, but we’re all vulnerable.”

The SMH reports on this as “Piracy to blame for Ten slump: Scott“.  It might have also been spun “Treating your customers like mugs to blame for Ten Slump”.  Entertainment is the only industry where practitioners claim a right to prevent the resale of their product – a claim that legislatures are increasingly recognising.   It is extremely annoying to be told that being Australian means you’re a second class world citizen.  You get to pay more for your books, more for your movies, more for your software than everyone else and, to boot, you can get everything months later – if at all. What is worse is that, instead of punishing media companies for so poorly serving the community, they heap copyright subsidies on them, only encouraging them to behave worse.  There is too much power concentrated in the entertainment industry.   Our society suffers the collateral damage from its continual clamour to take rights away from people, and the legislature’s willingness to satisfy its whims.  This needs to change.

PS: he also says:

“Of course it means at this point, we are not able to allow or endorse our content being used in ways for which we don’t have the rights. This week, the ABC had to ask that actions which were enabling some to download iview content be ceased — because at this point, we don’t have the rights to permit downloads.

Rights holders need to be protected.  It’s up to us to understand audience demands and work with rights owners as we move towards meeting those demands legally, while not putting existing services at risk.”

Which may be a reference to python-iview (although apparently it was earlier than this week).  It is not clear why “rights holders”  “need” to be “protected”.  I’m a “rights holder”.  Who is protecting my interests?

Jeremy Visser and python-iview

A post from Jeremy Visser caught my eye – apparently ABC Legal have required him to remove a page detailing his python-iview program.  Jeremy has put the letter up on his website.  Robert Mibus has posted a response making the, somewhat obvious, point that a person downloading from the ABC website is doing the same thing as someone who uses a PVR to record from a broadcast.  I assume that the ABC hasn’t been sending letters to Harvey Norman though.  Maybe they have?

The letter suggests that Mr Visser “may be in breach of section 116AP of the Copyright Act 1968 by offering to the public a circumvention service for technological protection measures implemented in respect of ACB[sic] iview content“.  The letter does not identify what constitutes the technological protection measure, nor how they allege it is being circumvented.  On a quick review of the python-iview code it seems to be a front end to rtmpdump. It parses the information made publicly available from the ABC website to get the address of the target content then runs rtmpdump to get it (I  say “seems to be a front end” since I haven’t actually run it – wouldn’t want to receive one of those nasty letters don’t you know).  So, it automates putting together the rtmpdump command – something that someone could do themselves with a pen and paper (or text editor). Rtmpdump then makes a request under the rtmp protocol to the ABC which serves up the content.  Given the nature of rtmp as a protocol it seems reasonable to assume that the request the ABC receives from rtmpdump is the same as it receives from  the Flash player application (since all that the iview page probably does is present rtmp parameters to the flash player).  The ABC chooses to serve the stream in response to the request.  One would hope that creating a protocol compliant request from publicly available information could not constitute a circumvention, but the Copyright Act and logic don’t necessarily play well together.  It is also curious to see that the ABC is alleging that the provision of the code is itself a provision of a circumvention “service”??

In any event, the practical effect seems to be that Mr Visser went to some trouble to help the ABC provide content to the Australian taxpayers that the ABC chose not to service (apparently Android users?) and the ABC has shut him down as a result.  The ABC has refused to support Android devices because, it claims, that there are a greater proportion of iPhones – an interesting argument.  One might imagine the reaction if the ABC abandoned its broadcasts to WA because 80% of us are on the Eastern Seaboard  (there is an FOI request and story in that for journalists on relative costs to prepare an app vs costs of telecommunications infrastructure across the continent).  Moreover, as I understand it, ABC editorial policies strictly limit even mentioning commercial product names and endorsements in its reportage[1].  However, in order to listen to or view ABC content online the ABC requires that you acquire a commercial product – the Flash Player.  Seems a bit upside down to me.

Jeremy might think of making a submission to the ALRC Copyright Review?


1. See, eg, section 12 of their Editorial Policies


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