Monthly Archives: March 2010

Stop Thief!

James Murdoch says that “illegal downloading no different from stealing a handbag

Sorry Mr. Murdoch, but you’re wrong.

We’ve all heard the tired old “downloading is stealing” argument. It is wrong on several counts:

First, theft carries with it the idea of loss; if I take your car, you are down one car. If I download a file from your computer, you have not actually lost anything. When you sue someone for theft, you have to prove that you sustained a loss.

Second, no-one who has illegally shared files has ever been prosecuted for theft; they have been prosecuted for Copyright Infringement. If downloading truly was theft, we would not need copyright laws.

Third, Mr. Murdoch needs to be reminded that copyrighted works are not property. In spite of the industry’s incessant blathering to the contrary, “intellectual Property” is not property at all – copyrights and patents are – at least in theory – temporary. Remember: “Loaned, not owned”.

Finally, Copyright law has been getting more and more one-sided. The DMCA and ACTA are truly draconian constructs that make consumers guilty until proven innocent and turn everyone else (DoJ, ISPs, USTR, TSA etc) into the content industry’s errand-boys.

But… let’s return to the point: Mr Murdoch is the scion of a family whos fortune revolves around controlling news and access to it. This is a family who have accused Google of “stealing from them”, but does not seem to have a problem with borrowing information from others. On closer inspection, it appears that Google’s “crime” is actually directing people to Fox’s website – a situation that Fox can easily fix, but chooses not to.

Robert’s Daddy, Rupert, seems to think that internet users will pay for content, saying they would be happy to shell out for “information they need to rise in society“. Close but no cigar; while is is perfectly right, he is talking about education, not news.

Mr. Murdoch seems to be in need of a dictionary.

He states “To aggregate stories is not fair use. To be impolite, it is theft.”, while conveniently forgetting that his business model is based on aggregation of information collected elsewhere.

This is not about information. It is about money and control.

Two tragedies for the price of one

I just read about the tragic death of Ashleigh Hall, a case that is being referred to as the “Facebook Murder” due to the fact that a sexual predator used Facebook to meet Ashleigh and lure her to her death.

I cannot imagine what Ashleigh’s mother is going through; I cannot imagine what is like to have to bury your child. But Facebook is not the problem. The problem was that Ashleigh was not adequately protected.

There seems to be an expectation that teenagers are entitled to an expectation of privacy; that they are to be treated as adults and equals. There only one problem – they are not adults – their hormones are raging and their brains don’t work. And sometimes they need to be protected from their own stupidity. And that’s what fathers are for.

I read several renditions of this story, and one thing was missing from all of them. Where was Ashleigh’s father? In all of the reportage of this tragedy, there was no mention of a father or a father-figure. I don’t know why this is, but if there had been a father with the guts to get in Ashleigh’s face, teach her wisdom and stand up with her and for her, chances are she would still be alive.

Picture this: The pervert shows up in his car to pick her up. And there, standing next to her, is Dad. Pervert takes one look at Dad and drives away, fast.

I’m not saying that the presence of a Father will solve all problems; but many of our societal problems would be eliminated or reduced if Fathers would step up and do what they do best; teach their children about responsibility and duty. Teach their sons how to be men. Protect their daughters, and teach them how to spot a bad guy (here’s a free clue: If he wants to get you alone – away from your family and your friends, into an environment that he controls, he’s a bad guy).

Facebook is not the problem, and it is both wrong and impossible to expect them to somehow magically make their site “pervert-proof”. Changing the law will not help either; Peter Chapman broke a dozen laws doing what he did; one more law will not make a difference.

I am truly sorry to say this, Mrs. Hall, but your daughter died because she did something stupid.

And that is the greatest tragedy of all.

All in the Price

One of my best friends works as a Pharmacist. He informs me that the majority of students currently in Pharmacy school are women. The majority of them, upon graduation, work for 2-5 years, then get married. Shortly after that they “punch out a coupla kids” and stop working…

…for five years or so. Once the kiddos are in school, they come back, but only part-time. They will only work days, they will not work evenings or nights. Their children are their first priority and rightly so.

As a result, the evening and night shifts are almost completely male. If someone is needed to fill in for someone on one of those shifts, there is no point in asking those ladies – they will refuse, and you cannot make them work those shifts.

Now for a thought experiment: Imagine that you are the manager of a pharmacy and two young candidates, fresh out of pharmacy school – alike in every way, only one is a man and one is a woman – present themselves for interview.

Who are you going to choose?

How much would you be willing to pay them?

Sexism or free-market economics? You decide.

Hallmark of Stupidity

This showed up in the mail a few days ago.

So where are my Free Kids?

Words fail me. Apparently they fail them too.

Burger Off!

I don’t often blog at the weekends, and I rarely blog in anger, but here I am, and I am furious.

Why? Because I just ate a Burger King Tendercrisp Chicken sandwich. It was neither tender nor crisp.

A wide, flat bun contained a sad, flat piece of something that was intended to resemble chicken, but tasted more like deep-fried cardboard, surmounted by a few pieces of elderly lettuce and anointed with a dollop of mayonnaise.

By the time I realized how bad this thing was, I was already a good way into it. And, as is often the way with Fast food, I was too damn hungry to care.

I would make a formal complaint, but 1) the folks in the restaurant, while polite, are unlikely to care and even less likely to be able to change anything, and 2) they did not furnish me with a receipt.

I really should know better.

Next time I will take photos, though it will be a long time before I eat at Burger King again.

Wally of the Week: Globe Life

I received a piece of junk mail from Globe Life and Accident Insurance Company the other day. They were hawking the benefits of insuring the lives of my children and Grand-children.

There’s only one problem: I don’t have and children, let alone Grand-children.

Fortunately they provided a handy post-paid envelope so I could inform them of this fact in no uncertain terms.

For most of us, taking out life insurance on children is stupid. The purpose of life insurance is to replace lost income; unless your child earns a substantial sum of money, it is pointless to insure them.

So why am I so annoyed? Picture this: A couple have been trying to have a child for years. They’ve gone through all sorts of treatments, and have just got home after finding out that the very expensive IVF treatment didn’t work, and they will never have children. And then they find this in the mailbox.

How would you feel?

What bothers me most about this kind of stupidity is that it is avoidable.

  • A marketing partnership with a supermarket chain will yield a mailing list of addresses where children live.
  • Some schools may share addresses with trusted third parties.
  • It may even be possible to get addresses where children live from public records.

But those efforts cost money; it’s obviously easier for them to use the “throw-mud-at-the-wall-and-hope-some-sticks” approach.

And if you needed a couple more reasons, look here and here.

The number of the beast is…

I recently stumbled across This piece, in which a man is asked for a DNA sample to “exclude him from an investigation”. The police assured him that that the samples would be destroyed and removed from the database once the investigation was complete.

They were, apparently, misinformed, and now the Met is giving him the run-around.

The moral of this story? Get it in writing.