Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

High Court rules in favour of Commerce Commission

April 9th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A consumer group has welcomed a High Court ruling on copper broadband prices, saying it should eventually deliver lower prices for telecommunications users.

The court said today that Chorus had lost its challenge over cuts to copper broadband prices by the Commerce Commission.

This is not a surprise.

The commission had decided Chorus could charge only $10.92 a month for copper broadband connections, down from $21.96.

Brislen said lower prices were not expected soon as a drawn-out process to establish final prices for the sector was continuing.

Not as drawn out as it could be. A final price may be set by year end.

In a judgment released today, Justice Stephen Kos rejected Chorus’ appeal.

“The simple fact is that the commission did not accept Chorus’ submissions,” he said.

“Despite the combined intelligence and force with which Chorus’ submissions were delivered, I am left unpersuaded that the commission erred in law.

“In my view, submitters were plainly aware that a price point above the confines of a more limited benchmark range was a possibility. The commission, in my view, was also open to that possibility.

“In my view, the commission has done just as Parliament had prescribed.”

This is a key point. Parliament passed the law. The job of the Commerce Commission is to interpret and implement it. Those who don’t like the outcome shouldn’t have attacked the Commerce Commission for just doing their job.

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A Mega lawsuit

April 9th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Internet Party leader Kim Dotcom is facing a new lawsuit in the United States from six Hollywood film studios.

They claim in their suit the Megaupload founder “facilitated, encouraged, and profited” from illegal file-sharing on the site.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed the suit on behalf of the studios this morning (NZ time).

The lawsuit was filed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Universal City Studios Productions, Columbia Pictures Industries, and Warner Bros Entertainment in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The US Government is already seeking to extradite Dotcom to face charges of copyright conspiracy, racketeering and money-laundering allegedly carried out by his file-sharing company, Megaupload.

It’s an interesting move. Does that signify concern over whether the criminal case will succeed, or was this always planned?

Dotcom is specifically named in the suit, under his most famous name as well as Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor.

Kim Tim Jim Vestor???

According to the Government’s indictment, the site reported more than $175 million (NZ$203.4m) in … proceeds and cost US copyright owners more than half a billion dollars.

The studios allege Megaupload paid users based on how many times the content was downloaded by others. But the studios allege the site didn’t pay at all until that content was downloaded 10,000 times.

This is a key detail in both the criminal and civil lawsuits. Other file-sharing websites do not pay people based on how many downloads they get for content they upload. This is how they allege they incentivised copyright infringement, rather than just provided a file sharing platform (such as the new Mega).

This does not mean the lawsuits will be successful. But it is a key factor in why Megaupload was targeted, and not other file-sharing sites. If someone can earn say $10,000 by uploading the latest movie release, well that is a pretty good incentive to do so.

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The return of the start menu

April 4th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In an apparent effort to shore up support for its Windows software, Microsoft announced at a developer conference here that it’s bringing back the Start menu and will offer certain versions of its operating system for free.

The Start menu, which Microsoft eliminated when it released Windows 8 in 2012, will return to Windows in an update, the date of which was not announced. 

Getting rid of the start menu probably is their worst ever design decision – and there’s been a few!

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US Supreme Court and patents

April 3rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The US Supreme Court has grappled with the standards for software patents, considering the issue for the first time in decades in a case that has divided the computer industry. …

The case concerns claims that CLS Bank International, a New York-based provider of settlement services, infringed patents owned by Melbourne-based Alice Corp. The patents cover a computerised system for using an intermediary to limit the risk that one party to a derivative trade will renege on its obligations.

CLS says Alice’s patents run afoul of Supreme Court decisions that say abstract ideas aren’t entitled to legal protection. Alice, which is partially owned by National Australia Bank, said the abstract-idea exception to patent eligibility is a narrow one.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that Alice’s argument was doomed by a 2010 Supreme Court decision that limited patents on business methods by rejecting a proposed patent on a system for hedging energy trades. She asked Alice’s lawyer, Carter Phillips, how his client’s idea was any “less abstract than hedging.”

Other justices were similarly sceptical. Justice Anthony Kennedy said a group of college engineering students could probably write the computer code for Alice’s idea over a weekend.

“My guess is that that would be fairly easy to program,” he said.

You can’t always tell how a decision will go by the questioning, but it sounds like the Court is skeptical over overly broad patents that block innovation, That would be a good thing.

The Obama administration is urging the court to issue a broader ruling that would put new limits on the availability of software patents. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli told the court that software was eligible for patenting only if it “improved the functioning of the computer technology” or “is used to improve another technology.”

Software can generally no longer be patented in NZ, unless it is basically embedded in a machine.


A data centre for Whangarei?

April 2nd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Northland Inc chairman Colin Mitten and a group of local businessmen are hatching an audacious plan to build a $125 million data centre in Marsden near Whangarei.

The proposed data centre would be the first “Tier 4” data centre in Australasia, meaning it should be less prone to outages than even the relatively modern facilities built in New Zealand over the past few years by Datacom and IBM.

Mitten said the facility could benefit from, but was not dependent on, Hawaiki Cable’s plan to build a new trans-Pacific fibre-optic communications cable and land it at Bream Bay, near Whangarei.

He believed the chances of that US$350m (NZ$403m) cable project going ahead were “better than 50:50”. Hawaiki’s chief executive, former Alacatel-Lucent executive Remi Galasso, moved his family to New Zealand a few months ago which Mitten took to be a sign of his commitment.

“We mean to engage with Hawaiki further in terms of, ideally, co-locating the termination of the cable,” Mitten said. However, he said there was no formal partnership between the cable and data centre ventures as yet. …

He envisaged the facility would comprise eight 500 square-metre halls, each capable of hosting about 350 racks of computer equipment. However, ACCL would start by kitting out only two to reduce its start-up costs. The $125m expected budget would be the total for setting up the facility and fitting out all eight halls.

At the moment, there are only a small number of true Tier 4 data centres, in the United States and Europe, and none in Australasia, Mitten said. “It sets a very high benchmark in terms of the security of data.

“We have an unparalleled opportunity to attract some of the world’s biggest companies and create exponential job and economic growth opportunities in the region, and the next few years will be crucial to this endeavour,” he said.

Sounds a great initiative. Not sure how the business case will stack up, but would be a great economic boost to Northland if they can make it happen


The Internet economy potential

March 31st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand retailers are falling behind other sectors of the economy in their use of the internet to drive sales and business management, says a major new study funded by internet NZ and the global internet search engine, Google.

The “Value of internet Services to New Zealand Businesses” report, issued this morning, says firms using the internet well are between 6 per cent and 11 per cent more productive than their competitors in the same field. Best practice users were as much as 73 per cent more productive than average businesses in their industry.

The report suggests if all businesses were using the internet to its full potential, New Zealand’s economy – currently worth around $210 billion of output annually – could get a $34 billion efficiency and productivity boost.

Maybe retailers should stop trying to tax the Internet and should embrace it more!

The research was conducted by the economic research consultancy Sapere and used data from 5,589 businesses in the Statistics New Zealand Business Operations Survey.

It excluded firms in the information technology sector, which were presumed to be high internet users and interviews with 76 businesses were conducted in the tourism, retail, dairy/agriculture, and professional services sectors.

The report says while internet speed and connectivity were once the major issue, that is no longer so. The use to which the internet is put is the larger issue for most firms.

In the retail sector, where the common complaint is that e-commerce is robbing traditional shops of sales, the survey found retailers were “slightly lower users of internet services than businesses as a whole.”

“They are less likely to have a website, less likely to have most of their staff online, and less likely to use fibre, with bigger firms generally higher users than smaller firms.

“On our numbers, it is highly unusual for retailers to be selling a lot online at this point, with only 3 per cent of firms reporting that more than a quarter of their sales are made online, although retailers are heavy online purchasers.”

And of interest:

It reports one service provider as saying no more than one in 12 New Zealand retailers was doing a good job of integrating online and offline stores.

So huge potential there if it is grasped. The full report, for those interested, is here.

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What is best for e-book reading?

March 29th, 2014 at 1:03 pm by David Farrar

If you’re away tramping for say a week or more, and want to read Amazon e-books you own, what do people recommend is best – a Kindle or an iPad (which has Kindle on it)?

The three factors for me are:

  1. Battery life (very impt as no or little power)
  2. Weight
  3. Ease of reading

I have an Ipad 1 (I know, very old but does the job) so it is either take that or buy a Kindle. Would be a fairly basic one as only need it for book reading. Welcome feedback as to whether to buy a Kindle to take tramping, and if so which one.


Garner and Keall on Dotcom and his party

March 28th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner blogs:

There’s one major and terminal problem with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party: he can’t be the leader.

He can only be the shadowy, backroom figure that pulls the strings. He will do that. And that will turn off some voters.

The other thing that should, and will, turn people off is that he collects Nazi memorabilia. He should be treated the same as any other political leader found draped in the Nazi flag: they would be crucified.

If it was David Cunliffe or Peter Dunne or, in the past, Don Brash or Rodney Hide et al, they would be forced to resign. They would be shamed and sent packing. Dotcom should not be seen as any different. Why treat him as special?

Could you imagine the outcry if it turned out that (for example) the Leader of ACT purchased a signed copy of Mein Kampf, had a photo of him wearing an SS helmet and displayed a Nazi flag at his house? They’d be gone within hours.

I agree New Zealand needs better internet, but does it take an “internet party” to get us there? This party is a sham and a side-show feeding Kim Dotcom’s vast wealth and ego – not to mention his desperate ambitions to stay in New Zealand, rather than rot in some American jail.

This is the truth. He has a host of convictions:

He owes money to creditors; good hard-working Kiwis who are now out of pocket.

And he could have paid them months ago. He has chosen not to.

Chris Keall writes at NBR:

The first “action agenda” item listed on the website is 50% cheaper internet – and unlimited and universal, to boot.

I’d also like the price of books to be 50% cheaper, and the price of food.

I agree with the Internet Party’s stance that broadband at half the price would be “awesome.”

However, it’s not clear how we get to this state of awesomeness. 

The party doesn’t price any of its policies, say how they would be achieved or offer any other details. 

Details would be nice.

The 50% internet policy is actually the most fleshed out – if three sentences can be called fleshed out – with the line that  ”We will take direct action to expand New Zealand’s infrastructure by building a second submarine cable.”

I’d like to see a second cable, too. I find it curious National has been quite willing to out-Labour Labour by sending $1.5 billion on the UFB and related projects, but offer only a paltry $15 million to assist a submarine cable startup (Pacific Fibre and others have estimated it will cost around $400 million to challenge the 50% Telecom-owned Southern Cross Cable’s monopoly on our broadband connection to the outside world).

I would also like to see a second cable. But Hawaiki is planning such a cable, and until we see if they succeed or not, I don’t think you can say the Government needs to step in. Far better to let the private sector compete.

I don’t think a second cable would make broadband 50% cheaper. In fact, I’d be surprised if it yielded savings of 10% or 5% or anything, based on what ISPs tell me (Orcon boss Greg McAlister recently said a $75 monthly connection includes about $7 in international bandwidth charges). 

This is correct. The price of international data is not a huge proportion of what we pay. The prices drop around 20% every year as capacity expands on the current cable. Also more of our international data is coming from Australia, not the US. 10 years ago it was over 90% US and 1% Australia and today it is 50% US and 37% Australia.

This is not to mean that a second US cable would not be a good thing. It would be. But it is not a silver bullet and will not reduce costs of broadband by 50% or probably even 5%.

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Emmerson on Bloggers

March 28th, 2014 at 6:18 am by David Farrar



Yesterday’s Emmerson cartoon. Very funny.

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Turkey vs Twitter

March 24th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Turkey’s government on Saturday accused Twitter of allowing “systematic character assassinations” a day after social media users easily evaded a government attempt to block access to the network.

The attempted crackdown came after links to wiretapped recordings suggesting corruption were posted on Twitter, causing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government major embarrassment before local elections on March 30.

The government’s effort to shut down the service backfired on Friday, with many finding ways to continue to tweet and mock the government for what they said was a futile attempt at censorship. Even President Abdullah Gul worked around the ban, tweeting that shutting down social media networks cannot “be approved.” Turkey’s move to block Twitter sparked a wave of international criticism.

Sad to see a country head down the path towards attempted censorship of the Internet. Of course it has backfired.

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Press Council to include blogs

March 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Press Council will offer membership to blogs and digital media and will get tougher powers for dealing with complaints.

The move follows a review by the council’s main funder, the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, after considering recommendations by the Press Council and a Law Commission Report.

Association editorial director Rick Neville said most publishers felt the time had come to strengthen the council’s authority and extend its coverage to handle complaints against digital media, including blogs.

I presume it will only extend to blogs who decide to join, otherwise they’ll be very busy! Cactus Kate has commented that they’ll need an extra staff member just for Whale Oil.

Digital media will be offered a new form of membership with a fee based on the size of the entity and its commercial or non-commercial status. They must agree to the same statement of principals and complaints process as other members.

Take up may depend on the size of the fee.

Under the changes the council would also have the right, in exceptional circumstances, to censure a magazine, newspaper or website by unanimous decision of the council.

Other new measures include greater power over where an adjudication appears in a publication.

Members will be required to regularly publicise information about the Press Council’s complaints process, and member websites will be required to provide an easy-to-find complaints channel with details on making a complaint.

The council will also have the power to direct that elements of a story be removed from an online article, or for a story to be taken down.

Good to see slightly more teeth.

Whale Oil notes:

The only problem I have is the two EPMU representatives on the Press Council. I believe that in extending these provisions they need to have two bloggers on the council too. Perhaps is now time to formalise the Bloggers Union so that representatives can be appointed to the Press Council.

That is a concern. The EPMU are members of the Labour Party, fund the Labour Party and vote for its leader. Having EPMU representatives take part in decisions on non Labour supporting blogs could be a conflict of interest.


Enemies of the Internet

March 23rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Reporters without Borders has released its annual Enemies of the Internet report. The enemies they list, and why are:

  • Saudi Arabia: prime centre of content blocking
  • Bahrain: No Internet spring
  • United Arab Emirates: Tracking “cyber-criminals”
  • USA: NSA symbolises intelligence services’ abuses
  • Cuba: Long live freedom (but not for the Internet)!
  • Syria: online tracking is a family affair
  • Iran: Cyberspace ayatollahs
  • Russia: control from the top down
  • Arms trade fairs: Surveillance dealerships
  • United Kingdom: World champion of surveillance
  • Belarus: Apparatus of repression
  • Uzbekistan: Welcome to digital tyranny
  • Pakistan: Upgraded censorship
  • India: Big Brother up and running
  • Vietnam: Targeting bloggers
  • China: Electronic Great Wall getting taller
  • Turkmenistan: News black hole
  • North Korea: the Web as a pawn in the power game
  • Sudan: Scoring high in censorship
  • Ethiopia: full online powers

How sad the US and UK make the list due to their over-reach of surveillance. Surveillance should be targeted as suspects with probable cause, not the entire population.

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Turkish PM also muses about closing down Facebook!

March 13th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has backtracked on a threat to shut down Facebook and YouTube in Turkey.

Erdogan, who is fighting allegations of corruption, said last week that the government was considering steps to prevent secretly wiretapped recordings from being leaked on the internet, including shutting down Facebook and YouTube.

NZ Labour’s progressive ideas are starting to catch on globally!

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IT project failure

March 12th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The IITP have announced:

The Institute of IT Professionals is currently undertaking significant research into the impact of software procurement on IT project failure and are asking the software community to come together and help answer this question.

The research explores what software factors and characteristics are responsible for project failure, then analyses whether different approaches to procurement in New Zealand might mitigate these factors.  The intention is to determine whether there is evidence that alternative approaches, such as non-price based procurement, would lead to more successful outcomes for software projects than the existing procurement models.

As part of this research the Institute today released a very short survey.

The survey is for those who:

  1. Have been, or currently are, involved in software development in any context or role, OR
  2. Have been involved in any way in responding to IT-related procurement or tender requests.

There are just 3 short sections with a few questions each, and many participants will only be asked some of the questions related to their own experience. If you fall into either or both of the criteria above, we’d love for you to spend 2 minutes helping contribute to this work, which may influence how procurement is undertaken in future.

You can take the survey here:

I look forward to seeing the research in due course.


Some tweaking for Chorus

March 12th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Amy Adams announced:

Information and Communications Technology Minister Amy Adams has welcomed the agreement by Crown Fibre Holdings and Chorus on the first tranche of amendments to the companies’ Ultra-Fast Broadband contract.

Chorus has details of the changes:

  • More flexibility over deployment timing, so long as still finished by agreed completion date
  • Can use Cat 5e cabling within apartment buildings rather than fibre to each apartment
  • A charge for Greenfields reticulation to developers

The changes look relatively minor, and a pragmatic response to the funding shortfall Chorus has.


A digital bill of rights

March 10th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Cunliffe announced:

Citizens will have their access to the internet guaranteed and be protected from blanket mass surveillance under Labour’s proposed digital bill of rights, Labour Leader and ICT spokesperson David Cunliffe says.

“Kiwis are technology-savvy people who rely on the internet for fundamental daily activities such as banking and communicating with friends, family and colleagues.

“Unfortunately the legal framework to protect New Zealanders’ online hasn’t kept up with the pace of technology.

“Labour will work with stakeholders to develop a digital bill of rights which would address these concerns while making New Zealand a more stable and secure place for businesses to use and store data.

I think in principle this is good idea, although of course details are key. It would be good to have perhaps a draft published before the election, so it can be critiqued.

“The highlighting of international mass surveillance by Edward Snowdon and concerns around the practices of our own Government Communications and Security Bureau has left many Kiwis feeling their online information is vulnerable.

“Such legislation would protect people from the digital equivalent of warrantless phone tapping. While it wouldn’t override current GCSB powers, it would set a principle which would be used to replace the Government’s controversial new legislation.

I’m unsure if this means any change at all. Yeah, Nah maybe.

“It would also guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion, while still outlawing hate speech.

No Right Turn points out that hate speech is not currently outlawed, so this could be interpreted as leading to more censorship:

This sounds good – but its actually an erosion compared to what we have at present. Those freedoms, whether offline or on, are currently protected by the BORA. But hate speech isn’t outlawed in practical terms (there is a crime of inciting racial disharmony, but there was only a single prosecution under the 1971 Act, and the consensus now is that the BORA has made it almost impossible to prosecute). So that “still” hides a massive crackdown on online expression. It may be expression we don’t like, that we find hateful and offensive, but that doesn’t justify outlawing it, any more than it justifies outlawing rickrolling. Which means the answer to Labour’s proposal has to be “no thanks”. Protect freedom of speech unambiguously according to BORA standards or piss off.

And so what should be a hands-down policy win for Labour turns into a mess, because they took a good idea and poisoned it, in the process alienating the very groups the policy was aimed at winning support from. Heckuva job you’re doing there guys. Good luck with that election-thing.

InternetNZ has commented:

InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) says that parts of Labour’s proposed Digital Bill of Rights are excellent, but parts of it may be unnecessary.

InternetNZ supports guaranteeing New Zealanders’ access to the Internet. InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter believes that this is crucial discussion to have, given the importance of Internet access to modern day living.

“Getting online is becoming essential and those who are unable to do so are at risk of becoming second-class citizens. Enshrining a right for all Kiwis to be able to access the Internet is something a modern-day society should be looking at. Whether legislation is the right answer or not aside, the issue is an important one.

“We want to see more thinking from our political parties on how to close New Zealand’s digital divide and we look forward to working across the political spectrum to provide New Zealand with the strongest digital future we can.”

In its press release, Labour also said that the new Bill of Rights would “guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion while still outlawing hate speech.” Mr Carter says that New Zealand has law in force that already does this.

“In New Zealand we have the Bill of Rights Act. Many of the issues outlined in Labour’s proposal – and indeed in the Harmful Digital Communications Bill – could be solved if we re-worked the Bill of Rights for a 21st Century New Zealand. There is no reason to think that laws governing behaviour online should be different to laws offline.

I think the intent is good, and that having a discussion over whether we should have a digital bill of rights is a good discussion to have. I support Labour’s initiative in this area, but again the key is what actually goes in the DBOR. Make it too general and it may have no impact. Make it too specific and you could have the Government having to fund Internet connections for every household. The challenge is to find that sensible balance.

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Getty Images makes 35 million images free to use

March 10th, 2014 at 2:34 pm by David Farrar

Nieman Journalism Lab report:

Getty has, remarkably, decided to allow 35 million of its images to be used for free for noncommercial purposes


In the past few years, Getty Images found that its content was “incredibly used” in this manner online, says Peters. “And it’s not used with a watermark; instead it’s typically found on one of our valid licensing customers’ websites or through an image search. What we’re finding is that the vast majority of infringement in this space happen with self publishers who typically don’t know anything about copyright and licensing, and who simply don’t have any budget to support their content needs.”

To solve this problem, Getty Images has chosen an unconventional strategy. “We’re launching the ability to embed our images freely for non-commercial use online,” Peters explains. In essence, anyone will be able to visit Getty Images’ library of content, select an image and copy an embed HTML code to use that image on their own websites. Getty Images will serve the image in a embedded player – very much like YouTube currently does with its videos — which will include the full copyright information and a link back to the image’s dedicated licensing page on the Getty Images website.

So why would they do this?

Getty’s not doing this out of the good of its heart. It recognizes that images on the Internet are treated as de facto public domain by many people on social networks, blogs, and the scummier parts of the content web. It knows it’s highly unlikely to ever get significant money out of any of those people. Even you and I, upstanding Internet citizens, are unlikely to license a photo to tweet it to our followers.

So if it can (a) get some people to use an embed instead of stealing while (b) making the experience just clunky enough that paying customers won’t want to use it, Getty could eke out a net win. (More on that second point below.)

What does Getty get from the embed? Better branding, for one — the Getty name all over the web. Better sharing, for another — if you click the Twitter or Tumblr buttons under the photos, the link goes to Getty, not to the publisher’s site. But there are two other things Getty gets, according to the terms:

Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.

Basically they are developing a new business model around how the Internet works. That’s what smart businesses do.


Social media tips for MPs

March 10th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Beveridge blogs some social media tips for MPs:

  1. Don’t click on links you are unsure of
  2. Don’t buy followers
  3. Do two-way conversations, not broadcasts
  4. Do not link your Facebook account to also post to Twitter
  5. Update regularly
  6. Don’t be needlessly inflammatory
  7. Don’t block people unless obviously abusive
  8. Plus local events and businesses

On the blocking people issue, I agree MPs should only block as a last resort. However I am finding I am blocking more and more people (benefits of not being an MP). I’ll not block those who engage respectfully on an issue, yet disagree.  But I will block those who do nothing but have a go.

The nice thing with blocking on Twitter is that you are in no way stopping them from still criticizing you and saying what they want about you. They can still do that to their heart’s content. It just means that you won’t see them.


Lobby group supports Labours Internet tax

March 7th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A “digital content levy” being evaluated by Labour could bail out the news media industry as well as supporting local programming, says the Coalition for Better Broadcasting.

The charitable trust was established last year by people associated with a campaign to save TV

NZ7 and obtain better funding Radio New Zealand, and said it would soon be calling for members.

Chief executive Myles Thomas, a freelance television director, said it would support the idea of a levy on telcos “as a viable way to fund public service media in New Zealand, as levies already do in Europe”

Why stop at public service media (generally code for left wing shows that fight neoliberalism). Why not also tax Internet users to fund the music industry? And also tax Internet users to fund the bookstores? And also tax Internet users to fund organic farming.

Thomas said telcos charged customers “quite a lot” for access to the internet and online content. “Yet the people who make the content receive none of that direct payment. It’s unfair that while telcos do very nicely, the content creators, including news organisations like Fairfax [publishers of Stuff], struggle to develop a viable business model.

Let’s look at the logic of Mr Thomas. First of all ISPs charge for access to the Internet, not specific content. They provide access, not content. Content providers choose to voluntarily make their content available online – some charge for it, some do not.  It is their choice.

I may go into town to go shopping. If I pay a taxi to take me into town so I can access the shops, Mr Thomas seems to think the taxi firm should have to pay the shops for the privilege of delivering customers to them.

If I take a bus to a public library, the bus company should pay the library for me accessing their free content.

“Paywalls are rare and even more rarely successful. A levy could be a great way to close the loop and solve several problems at once,” Thomas said.

Forcing people to pay for content they don’t want, and don’t want to pay for. Yeah, that’s a great idea.

Once again, no one is forced to put content on the Internet. I’d love it if I made more money out of Kiwiblog, considering the 1000+ hours a year I put into it. But I don’t think people should be taxed for accessing the Internet and forced to hand that money over to me because I am a content creator.

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Self serving crap from Vodafone

March 7th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government has rejected a call by Vodafone New Zealand chief executive Russell Stanners to scrap the roll-out of fibre-based ultrafast broadband in much of Wellington and Christchurch.

Stanners said the cost of the UFB scheme could be cut by $500 million and taxpayers could save $145m if people instead used its cable networks in the two cities.

Vodafone was all in favour of the UFB. Then it buys the Telstra-Clear cable network and suddenly it is all no, no we don’t want UFB – use our cables instead.

InternetNZ said earlier today it strongly opposed Stanners’ proposal.

“This suggestion by Vodafone begs the question, why would Kiwis choose to make use of a second-class network when we are already on our way to having a first-class network?” chief executive Jordan Carter said.

Fibre is a future-proofed investment.

UPDATE: Also if Vodafone really wants their cable network to be used instead of fibre, then they should do what Telecom had to do, and separate it out into a separate company with open access requirements to all retailers.

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Labour’s bright idea is to tax Internet users!

March 5th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

This morning, a strategy document written by Labour associate information and communications technology (ICT) spokesperson Clare Curran was accidentally sent to ICT Minister Amy Adams’ Office, Ms Curran says (though not by her specifically).

That’s the second time they have done that, it seems. Taking open data to a new level!

The document is here.

Stuff reports:

Telecom is bristling at the suggestion Labour could impose a “content levy” on internet providers.

Labour was left red-faced today after MP Clare Curran’s ideas on ICT policy were accidentally emailed to her National Party counterpart, Communications Minister Amy Adams.

These include imposing a revenue-based levy on telecommunications carriers to create a contestable fund to support the “creation and accessible distribution of New Zealand digital content”.

This is a tax on telcos and ISPs. That is effectively a tax on Internet users, as it would be passed on. So Labour is thinking of taxing people to use the Internet, and give the money to “content producers”.

One might wonder if it would be used to help fund programmes by broadcasting Icons like Brendan Horan, Tamati Coffey, Shane Taurima, Martin Bradbury, Fran Mold, Kris Faafoi and Matt McCarten!

The Herald further reports:

The minister said she only had a brief look at the documents but it appeared that Labour’s main idea was to start all their policies with the word Kiwi.

Ms Curran’s document outlined plans for policies called KiwiMap, KiwiCode, KiwiCall, KiwiCap, KiwiCloud and Kiwis Come Home.

Maybe they could call their levy plan, KiwiTax!

What is even more interesting is where all these policy ideas came from. I understand that they are very similiar to policies that will be announced by the Internet/DotCom Party and that they may have been discussed between Dotcom and Curran. The purpose being to have policy alignment between the parties, so they could be endorsed when he winds his party up just before the election and asks his supporters to vote for whichever parties he endorses.

So a simple question is whether these policy ideas were ever discussed with Kim Dotcom, and what input has he had into them.

UPDATE: Vodafone also is against Labour’s idea to tax us all more through our ISPs:

Vodafone chief executive Russell Stanners described the proposed levy as “crazy and outrageous”.

“Labour should go the whole hog and nationalise everything,” he said. “The document also says multiple networks are wasteful. Why don’t we go for one network, one TV company, one bank, so there is no wastage, and then you can have as many levies as you want.”

I am worried that Labour may take up Stanners ironic suggestion and adopt it as serious policy.

UPDATE2: Clare Curran has been unfairly maligned as responsible for the accidental e-mail leak. She silently took one for the team, but it has been revealed it was actually a staff member in David Cunliffe’s office who sent it out. It seems it was Irish Bill, so that is not a good week for The Standard with one blogger sending Labour party policies to National and the other being the genius behind Cunliffe’s secret trust!

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March 4th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Cato Institute is a libertarian free market think tank in the US that is very pro free trade.

However they have string reservations around the TPP, specifically the intellectual property chapter. The fact these come from normal champions of free trade agreements makes them harder to rebut.

They have a webinar on the TPP on Thursday morning for those interested.

The blurb is:

 Intellectual property has been a focus of U.S. trade policy for many decades, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations include an especially ambitious effort by the United States to strengthen international intellectual property laws. At the same time, however, there is serious debate within the United States over the proper scope and level of intellectual property protection. Is it in the interests of the United States to seek to harmonize intellectual property rules around the world, or is the U.S. position overly influenced by special interests hoping to export bad policy abroad and to lock it in at home? Come hear our panel of experts discuss why trade agreements cover intellectual property law, whose interests are served, and what, if anything, should be done about it.

Hopefully the NZ negotiators will maintain their position of opposition to the proposed US text for the intellectual property chapter.

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Good luck banning 3D printer designs

February 27th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Three-dimensional printers can already make guns, and may soon allow people to create gold, gems, food or drugs in their living rooms, the Customs Service has warned.

It suggests the law needs to be changed to control importing designs for restricted or prohibited goods in the same way as child pornography is restricted.

A report obtained under the Official Information Act says 3D printers have already been used for criminal activity and to create weapons. In Australia, one was used to make a working “card skimmer” device, which could steal credit card details

Designs exist online for printing working guns, such as the Liberator, created by Cody Wilson, a 26-year-old who calls himself a “crypto-anarchist”.

The Customs report, Border Implications from Emerging Technologies, says 3D printers have passed a “tipping point” and will radically change how borders are policed. The ultimate end of the technology could allow molecular-level printing of “gold, gems, food or drugs”.

The Customs and Excise Act is being reviewed, and Customs Minister Maurice Williamson, who requested the report after publicly voicing concern last year, said he could “almost guarantee” the review would include provisions to deal with 3D printing.

“How do you police a physical border when a vast amount of stuff could get past you by way of a digital file?” he said. “You may be able to carry through [customs] the digital specifications for it all . . . the printer can go ahead and produce [it].”

Trying to ban the import of the digital files will just lead to them being e-mailed or file-shared. The genie is out of the box, and you can’t put it back in.


Enough real abuse that TVNZ staff don’t need to make more up

February 27th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Television New Zealand has apologised for a Breakfast stunt after discovering two of their staff had made up abusive messages to them that were read on air.

The programme two days ago had eight staff read out messages of abuse in the wake of the weekend death in Sydney of television presenter Charlotte Dawson.

But this morning the programme apologised saying that broadcaster Peter Williams and Seven Sharp reporter Dean Butler had made up their messages.

In an on-air statement the show said the two had misunderstood what they had been told to do, and believed it was a “light hearted parody.” The other messages were genuine, Breakfast said.

“TVNZ is taking this matter very seriously and will be dealing with it appropriately,” Breakfast said.

Williams and Butler have had their parody messages removed from on-line.

The message read out by Williams, now known to be made up, said: “My mother always told me that people who talk slowly think slowly. You talk slowly, Peter Williams.”

Butler’s said: “Don’t take this the wrong way but I hope someone punches you.”

In the genuine messages reporter Brooke Dobson was told to “shave off” a moustache, Seven Sharp co-host Toni Street was criticised for her “disgusting flabby arm skin” and co-host Jesse Mulligan was labelled “thick as a plank”.

That is a huge fail. Even if one generously accepts it was a misunderstanding, then it was a huge communications failure for a broadcaster that is meant to be good at communications. There is some real hideous abuse of those with a high profile, and highlighting it was a great idea. But having two of them as invented undermines both what they did, but also the two staffers involved.

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In bed with the bloggers

February 24th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting article on election year and bloggers in the Herald on Sunday.

I was interviewed for the article, but I think what I said didn’t fit in with the general angle, so none of my quotes were included. I rejected the notion pushed by Bradbury that the old rules are gone, and that there is licence to be incredibly vicious. I also rejected that I have a blog persona that is different to whom I am in real life. In fact in an interesting conversation with the journalist, I ended up agreeing that the “blog” me is closer to the real me, than the TV or radio me, as the blog is my territory, while on TV and radio I am mindful that I am a guest and I guess on my “guest” behaviour.

Anyway an interesting article. And congrats to Whale for winning the Netguide Award. It would have been a travesty if he had not won this year.