#SherBlock

I was off work yesterday, and listening to the radio.  A news bulletin tells me that EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal had been successful in their case taken against UPC, Imagine, Vodafone, Digiweb, Hutchinson (t/a Three) and O2.  In the case Sean Sherlock told us would never happen, they’d secured an injunction forcing these ISPs to block the Pirate Bay.

I didn’t know if it was temporary or not, but The Pirate Bay site was indeed down for me yesterday, going through my own ISP.

Even as the newsreader told me “It’s going to be much harder for people to download music illegally”, I’d opened a proxy site and yes – there we were, Pirates!

piratebay

This case generated so much bullshit it’s almost impossible to know where to start.

“Experts also calculated up to US$36 million advertising revenue is generated annually for the Pirate Bay sites”, the plaintiffs claimed.  So?  And really?  That many people click on really bad adverts for ways to grow… certain body parts?  Doubt it.

The plaintiffs claim they were losing sales of €20 million annually due to piracy.  Um… no.

There’s an internet now, all right, but people buy stuff on it, too.  Haven’t these people heard of iTunes, Google Play, Spotify – or if you want physical CDs, Amazon, Play.uk, and so on.  I’ll pay €15 for a CD – but not if I can get the tracks on Google Play for €5.  And presuming I can find a handy record shop.  All the ones I used to know and love have turned into mobile phone shops, or Spars.  This seems to have passed by the “businessmen” at Warner and IRMA, who presumably still think home taping is killing music.

This case was taken because of the Statutory Instrument introduced by that notable debater, Sean Sherlock, TD.  Don’t ask him any questions on Twitter, now, or he’ll block you (cf #Sherblock).  Anyway, presumably he’s busy.  Outlawing roads, on the grounds they’re used by getaway drivers?

Artists, of course, deserve to be paid for their work.  But the solution is take out the middle men, not to try to force the tide back.  The Oatmeal put it best of all.

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Links are the lifeblood of the internet. Here’s some mud for your lifeblood.

The Irish Times has continued to engage… somewhat… in the “URLs can/can’t be copyrighted and we do/do not want you to link to us” debacle.

This time they’ve rolled out Johnny Ryan (Twitter: @johnnyryan), who is “chief innovation officer of The Irish Times and author of A History of the Internet and the Digital Future (2010).”  In an article titled “Links are the lifeblood of the internet”, he muddies the waters even while claiming we should keep things clear.

Ryan’s opinion piece makes several claims.  He says:

“However, mere linking of irishtimes.com content is not at issue.”

and

“Conflating the unlicensed reproduction of content with the mere use of urls is drawing attention from the key issues of the copyright debate.”

Unfortunately, it is Ryan and the Irish Times themselves who are conflating the issues, not anyone else.

This is not about copying or reproduction of content. It is about linking to articles with a bare URL, as I did above.

What is needed is simple:

  • The Irish Times needs to state clearly and simply and with an official hat on (rather than on Twitter where “views are my own” or in an opinion piece!) that anyone – individual or commercial – may link to their content because a URL is not copyrightable, not because the Irish Times is giving them permission or waiving some hypothetical licence requirement.
  • They also need to use whatever structures are in place – whether that’s an EGM or board meeting or whatever – to inform NNI of this and to seek to have them, and the other owners/members of NNI recognise reality.  Because the NNI operates the NLI, and both are still saying that “a licence is required to an online article even without uploading any of the content.”  And the NNI is lobbying to have this made law!
  • They need to get the NNI/NLI to apologise to and make a donation to Women’s Aid.

In the longer term, they may want to consider the wisdom of employing what seems to be a single-purpose company, Cullen Communications, as what appears to be the only people “working” in/for both the NNI and NLI.  Because their communication skills to date seem somewhat lacking.

In fairness to the Irish Times, they are at least engaging, however disingenuously.  So, too, did the Sunday Business Post yesterday.  I won’t link to their article because, y’know, it’s behind a firewall – the option open to anyone who doesn’t want the public, or Google, or whoever, linking to them…

Smoker? You must be a pirate!

Retail Ireland is a part of IBEC – the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation. They’ve just released a report that tells us the state is losing €860m annually to the black market. The problem with their report is that if it’s believed, it effects government policy. And, well, their statistics just don’t add up.

In this report, Retail Ireland tell us that €526,000,000 is lost to the Exchequer in smuggled tobacco and cigarettes. They also helpfully tell us that taxation accounts for 80% of the price of tobacco; and that “the current recommended price is now nearly €9” (it isn’t – it was over €9.50/packet when I gave up, over three months ago). And that a black market packet of cigarettes costs €3.20.

But using their figures:
* €526,000,000 lost to the exchequer, at 80% taxation implies €657,500,000 in illicit sales.
* At €3.20/packet, thats 205,468,750 packets of illegal cigarettes sold every year.
* That’s 562,900 packets of illegal cigarettes smoked every single day of the year.
* Ireland’s population, aged 15 and over, is 3,311,517 (last CSO figures).
* Therefore, we are supposed to believe that on average, every single person in the country aged 15 and over smokes almost 1/5th of a packet of illegal cigarettes – three to four ciggies – each. Every single day.

That seems… unlikely. And it is:

* The Office for Tobacco Control says that the prevalence of smoking in those aged 15 and over is only 23.6%not 100%.
* So the population, for our purposes, isn’t 3.3 million, it’s 781,518.
* Therefore, we are supposed to believe that on average, every single smoker in the country smokes over 70% of a packet of illegal cigarettes – 14 cigarettes – each. Every day.

Am I missing something here? Because if every single smoker is smoking that many illegal cigarettes, then who the hell is buying all the legitimate cigarettes? And what are they doing with them?!

Yes, I am sure there is a hell of a problem with black market trading of tobacco, fuel, counterfeit goods, and so on. But I’d like solutions, policies and resources deployed based on more accurate figures than the ones Retail Ireland seem to be plucking at. Rather than, for example, the establishment of specialised “copyright courts”, which they seek.

Because if they’re so inaccurate about tobacco, then I can only assume that they’re equally inaccurate about their figure for “1 in 2 of people who downloaded movies admitted they rarely if ever paid for the download.” (This gets attributed to an unnamed “Industry source”  So that’d be inaccurate. And unbiased.). There are, apparently, according to Retail Ireland, 770,000 illegal downloaders in Ireland.

Hmm. That figure is remarkably close to the number of smokers, 781,518… You could almost call it a correlation!  I wonder. If we cut off the internet access of Ireland’s smokers, would illegal downloading drop to zero?

Sign this, if you care about copyright reform

If you haven’t already, you can sign up to the Copyright Reform submission prepared by Stephen Donnelly TD, Catherine Murphy TD and McGarr Solicitors, at http://copyrightreform.ie/about/

And you really should.

Also, can news please stop happening, so I can stop editing/updating this post!

This would seem an appropriate post to add in the news that ACTA is dead! This site tells the story far better than I can.

Media moratorium?

There seems to be a news blackout on – not the bloody treaty – but the reporting of Newspaper Licensing Ireland’s attempt to charge charities (and possibly others) for linking to newspaper articles via hyperlinks.  First revealed by McGarr Solicitors, acting for Women’s Aid, there are some more developments, but these are reported only in the blogosphere – the story has received no coverage in Irish newspapers to date.  But – maybe because they’re not a client of NLI – the New York Observer has picked it up, so maybe we will eventually see the Irish newspapers publishing a paragraph or two on an NLI EGM where the members told the permanent employees to cop themselves on?

Copyright Reform

If you care about copyright reform in Ireland (and it effects you, so you should), then you could do a lot worse than comment or contribute to this joint Copyright Reform submission.  If you happen to not agree with the general thrust of that submission, then there will at some point in the near future be a downloadable version that you can alter to your heart’s content and send as your own submission.

More elements of Irish industry discover 20th century

Aside

This time it’s the newspaper industry.

That previous sentence, containing links to six of today’s newspaper stories, just cost me €500.  At least, according to Newspaper Licensing Ireland Ltd. As reported by McGarr Solicitors on their blog, NLI (kind of a newspapery IMRO), wants to charge people – and charities such as Women’s Aid – not for copying content, but for linking to newspaper articles.

Despite the fact that most newspapers include ‘Share’ buttons with every online article – as pointed out in their reply, the Irish Times includes over 300 ways to share each story.

Idiots.