Pilcher on banning Facebook

February 5th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Pat Pilcher writes in the NZ Herald:

Back in the 70’s Cambodia descended into chaos. This was thanks to the Pol Pot regime, whose crackpot ideologies saw some brutal policies put into practice. The upshot is now well known, many died and Cambodia is recovering.

Sometimes political madness starts from a single crazy idea with little thought given to issues such as feasibility or what the impacts are likely to be.

I raise this because of a bizarre policy idea floated by Labour (who’ve also since stomped the policy out of existence). The proposed policy would have involved a Labour government preventing tax avoiding multinationals from accessing the Internet in New Zealand.

Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple – all banned. Maybe even the NZ Herald and Stuff as their owners are arguably tax avoiding multinationals!

Even though the thought of multinationals setting up shop locally and not paying their fair share strikes me being somewhat repugnant, the proposed policies really gave me pause for thought, leaving me wondering if Labour had really thought through just how it’d work or if they’d finally lost the plot completely.

To be fair, it was probably a brain fart. But what is worrying is they defended the policy for a full 24 hours before ruling it out.

Facebook would also continue to operate Facebook.com anyhow, as it is hosted offshore. Because of this, a Labour government would have to block access to Facebook from within New Zealand. Odds are that any such move would be a double-edged sword for Labour in that most voters would take a particularly dim view of any attempt to block sites such as Facebook.

They’d be slaughtered.

If the whole concept strikes you as being just plain wrong, you’re not alone. Internet New Zealand have also strongly objected, saying that “InternetNZ does not support filtering of the Internet in any kind”.

Absolutely. That’s a slippery slope that ends badly.

Should multinationals begin to leave, the number of skilled jobs is guaranteed to shrink pretty darned quickly. The really crazy thing is that under this scenario, that not much more corporate tax would be paid anyhow.

Worse still, the governments of the nations where these multinationals are headquartered are also likely to be lobbied and could in turn react unfavourably, and this would jeopardise trade.

So there you go. Had Labour actually decided to implement this madness and been elected, we could’ve ended up with unworkable Internet censorship, disgruntled voters, corporate flight, unemployment and deteriorating trade. 

As I said, the amazing thing is it took them more than 60 minutes to disown David Clark’s statement.

Somewhat misleading

February 18th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The latest article by Pat Pilcher on software patents is somewhat misleading. I actually agree with Pat (and have quoted him before) that software patents should not be allowed. But the issue is about how the current law is depicted.

Pilcher wrote in the Herald:

At the end of the day, should software become patentable in New Zealand, the future winners will most probably only be large law firms and the multinationals who can afford them. In the US over the last 20 years, The estimated cost to the US economy of patent litigation has been an estimated half a trillion US dollars.

This is very misleading, as it strongly implies software is not patentable at the moment. It is. Apart from the normal tests for obviousness etc there are no restrictions at all on software patents.

The law is going to change, and it will ban at least some software patents. So in fact the change in the law will be the opposite direction to what Pilcher implies.

Now what the dispute is about, is the wording of the exemption. As has been described in the past, many worry the Government’s proposed wording which is based on European (and I think Australian) law will still allow some software to be patented. That is a legitimate concern and I prefer the wording backed by the Open Source Society and put forward as an amendment by Clare Curran.

But that doesn’t change the fact that even with the Government’s wording, the law is going to change from all software being patentable to most software not being patentable.

There is a good Wikipedia article on the pros and cons of software patents.

The new Section 92A

February 25th, 2010 at 3:29 pm by David Farrar

Simon Power introduced this week the bill to amend and replace the S92A copyright law. It is called the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill.

As I blogged at the time, the Government’s Cabinet paper on the new law wasn’t bad, and a big improvement on the existing S92A. There are still provisions I don’t agree with, but the worst aspects were gone.

The draft bill is actually, in my opinion, a slight improvement on the Cabinet paper. The Cabinet paper had a number of potential fish-hooks in it – such as the possibility one could get multiple infringement notices, for alleged infringing that occurred at the same time. InternetNZ detailed to the Minister a number of these fish-hooks, and it is pleasing to see that officials (and presumably the Minister) took account of these in drafting the bill.

Pat Pilcher in the Herald comments:

Under the new bill, offenders will receive three warnings. First a detection notice, which is then followed by a warning notice should the internet subscriber be accused of infringing copyright again.

An enforcement notice is finally issued that could see third time infringers being fined up to $15,000 or have their internet disconnected for up to six months.

Giving credit where credit is due, the Bill does incorporate time frames within which subsequent infringement notices cannot be sent, giving accused infringers time to amend their copyright infringing ways.

As I said previously, this is a quite important thing. Generally there is a gap of three weeks  from the first “strike” until any alleged infringing can count for a second strike and so on.

The new bill also allows accused for copyright infringers who feel they have been unjustly accused to apply to have their case heard by a Copyright Tribunal at no cost.

This is definitely a good thing as the scope for wrongful accusations is potentially massive. Take, for example, the number kiwi broadband users using of Wi-Fi broadband routers.

Yes, that is good that you do not have to pay to defend yourself. Also your identity is protected, unless you are found liable.

ISPs are also going to be burdened with the costs under the new bill. Matching internet subscribers to IP addresses supplied by copyright owners, and keeping track of the three strike process is, at best, going to be a deeply complicated undertaking and likely a costly nightmare as well.

While some of these costs will be met by copyright holders paying to lodge infringement notices, most ISPs will be left with little choice but to pass costs onto their subscribers.

The level of fee which ISPs can charge is likely to be set by regulaton. It is a concern that the fee will probably only cover their variable costs of each notice, and not the very large one off capital costs of reconfiguring their systems to record such info.

While copyright owners can ask for repeat infringers to be disconnected, they must do so through the courts and disconnections will last for up to six months.

This is good in that courts are geared up to hear both sides of any infringement argument and will bring some much needed legal rigour where it was lacking in the previous bill.

I don’t think termination is an appropriate penalty, plus it will largely be ineffective. But having said that, I welcome the fact it can only be done by a court after due process.

Whilst the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill represents a step in the right direction (especially when compared to the original bill), it still incorporates some serious flaws.

Worse still, it could prove ineffectual as most serious infringers are will utilise encrypted virtual private networks to avoid detection by copyright holders.

I think there will be a fairly big drop in copyright infringing downloads (and that is not a bad thing), resulting mainly from people receiving an alleged infringement notice. Overseas cases have indicated over 50% of people stop downloading such material if they receive such a notification.

Those that carry on regardless tend to be very dedicated, and will probably just move to networks which hide their IP addresses.

I hope all parties in the House will support the bill at first reading, as it is a big improvement on the status quo. Once it hits select committee, I will encourage people to make submissions to improve the bill further.

Pilcher on Copyright

February 6th, 2009 at 12:55 pm by David Farrar

Another great article by Pat Pilcher on the copyright issue. It is 5 pages long, so worth reading in full. One part I want to quote:

While music hogs the limelight as the biggest victim of piracy, statistics from popular torrent sites reveals otherwise as television episodes lead all other downloads by a massive margin. Although figures tend to vary owing to the highly dynamic nature of the BitTorrent community, the figures are still compelling. Even though TV shows only make up only 10 per cent of the total downloads on major torrent sites, they represent anything up to 46 per cent of all downloads.

With music, fully functioning software and new release movies easily obtainable using BitTorrent, why are TV shows making up such a large amount of downloads? Not only does this show that the majority of internet users are not interested in committing piracy, but that many are simply sick of the out-of date drivel being dished up by New Zealand’s second rate TV broadcasters. Simply put, the rise and rise of downloaded TV-shows is a clear signal that traditional TV networks are simply not meeting viewer demands.

Absolutely. I am watching half a dozen TV series not yet available in NZ, and may never be available. I don’t download music or movies, as I can buy them easily enough. TV networks need to put shows on when vieweres want to see them, not when they decide it is convenient.

According to Torrent Freak http://torrentfreak.com/top-10-most-pirated-tv-shows-of-2008-081223/ over 90 per cent of TV show downloads come outside the US. New Zealanders often have to months for a show to get to air, if it airs at all (as for sci-fi shows broadcast in New Zealand…). BitTorrent however provides a zero-wait and add-free alternative to the stale dross featuring adverts every 6 minutes being delivered by the networks. I’d be willing to wager that most TV show downloaders would be more than happy to pay a few bucks per episode rather than being disconnected.

Many NZers pay $50 to $100 a month for Sky, so yes we would pay for being able to download legal TV episodes.

Herald likes the i7

November 19th, 2008 at 5:21 pm by David Farrar

Pat Pilcher at the Herald seems to like the i7 also:

The elves at Intel must’ve been extra busy, as they’ve managed to crank out a whole brand-spanking new line of totally re-designed CPUs.

Because CPUs are essentially the engine powering your PC, any new releases are potentially huge news, and I’m pleased to report that Intel’s latest bit of silicon goodness, code-named Nehalem (but officially called Intel Core i7), is very massive news indeed, sporting serious speed to burn – and then some.

I’m almost cursing myself for geeking out in Melbourne on some great compututer games running on the i7 chips. Because since then I have almost obsessively wanted to go out and a buy a whopping big kick ass PC loaded full of games.

The problem is I am a compulsive person. If I start a new game, I won’t stop playing it until I have completed all levels – and if that means 20 hours non-stop, so be it.

This is why I have only one game on my laptop – a simple battle strategy game that takes only around 30 to 60 minutes to win at. It has 10,000 different world setups so it never is the same challenge.

Anyway back to the i7:

The review Nehalem processor I was sent clocked in at a fairly zippy 3.2GHz. If it were a car, the Nehalem would have so much raw horsepower that Jeremy Clarkson would probably experience a spontaneous trouser accident. Some fearless geeks have already managed to overclock it to a positively searing 4.05GHz – this would leave Clarkson very red-faced, not to mention brown-jockeyed.

Benchmarking-wise, the single Nehalem powered motherboard came pretty close to wiping the floor with the SkullTrail motherboard which was powered by two 3.2GHz Core 2 Quad QX9770 CPUs.

Putting the Core i7 through its paces with Sisoft Sandra’s benchmarking application saw it score an astonishing 102530, which is only marginally slower than the 116498 scored by the Skulltrail.

Considering that that the Nehelem’s score was achieved with only half the processor cores of the Skulltrail, this is very impressive indeed.

My current laptop is two years old. I normally wait three years to buy a new one, but the HP has turned out to be disappointing, so may upgrade it a year early. I travel so much with it, I go for small and portable.

I don’t currently have a desktop at home. I have several at work (which is very close by) and don’t really need one for home. But a dedicated gaming one is tempting. On the other hand maybe a playstation for the flat screen TV?

My Sky HDi

October 2nd, 2008 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

To go along with the new hi def 42″ flat screen, I figured I should invest in upgrading the My Sky box to My Sky HDi. It was a good investment, as Pat Pilcher states in the Herald.

New features include:

  • Movies, Sports and TV3 in high def
  • Dolby Digital Audio
  • HD doubled to 320 GB
  • Four tuners, allowing three to be used for recording and viewing, and the fourth for the programme guide
  • An Ethernet port, allowing downloading from the Internet at some future stage
  • A USB port, which may allow you to add on additional storage one day

Pilcher’s recommendation:

MySKy HDi is more of an evolutionary improvement than just an upgrade to its non-HDMI sibling. HD video, proper surround audio and what appears to be some serious future-proofing makes buying MySky HDi a definite no-brainer.

I agree.