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Christopher Best

About Christopher Best Techdirt Insider

Software developer, specializing in computer graphics and real-time simulation.

Posted on Techdirt - 2 March 2013 @ 12:00pm

Christopher Best's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

If you’re like me, and you work in an office, then teleconferences occupy a special place in your heart. One executive at a Canadian energy company in particular couldn’t manage to keep to himself just how much he was enjoying the conference call he was on.

Now, I personally have accidentally let things slip during a teleconference, only to quickly cast a horrified glance at the speakerphone to make sure it’s still muted. We’ve probably all done it at one time or another. The consequences had the microphone not been muted is probably a recurring nightmare for many of us. That being said, accidental naughty words during earning reports aren’t really Techdirt material.

So how did this non-story end up here? When the company responsible started filing frivolous DMCA notices to have a recording of the call taken down. Hello Streisand Effect. I’ve seen some performances during conference calls that were probably worthy of academy awards (primarily from salesmen), but I don’t think that a call to report earnings really meets the necessary requirements for copyright. Anyway, a minor faux pas has been turned into a bit of a media circus, and now people like us, who’d never even heard of Encana are talking about it.

Though I suppose they’d rather we talk about this than their disappointing earnings, the criminal investigations they’re under, or how their stock price is taking a beating!

Speaking of abusing the law, the US Department of Justice apparently admitted in congressional briefings this week that the reason they were trying so hard to make sure Aaron Swartz got convicted of SOMETHING was because they didn’t want to look bad. No real surprise there. I mean, what’s the point of a witch hunt if no one gets burned at the proverbial stake at the end.

Many people have already spoken much more eloquently than I am capable of on this particular tragedy, so I won’t dwell on it any further. I’d make some comment that hopefully these revelations will lead to reforms of how the DoJ prosecutes these sorts of cases, but… yeah…

Meanwhile, in a sudden outbreak of common sense (Well, not so much common sense as recognition of reality) Mandar Thakur, an executive in the music division of “the largest mass-media company in India,” claimed something very strange: Piracy may actually have had positive effects on the music industry. He suggested that the only reason the industry has adopted more modern distribution methods and started innovating is due to the challenges presented by piracy. He then went on to suggest that all this increasing bandwidth and access that people are getting is creating new markets and opportunities for the industry to take advantage of. Real heady stuff, here.

I fully expect him to be picked up and reprogrammed by RIAA wetworkers any day now.

Really, though, articles like this both depress me and give me hope. Depress me in that I know such thoughts are absolute anathema in my own country. But I do see a ray of hope in that no matter how much U.S. industries and officials refuse to adapt to a changing world, someone in some developing economy somewhere is going to “get it” and leave us in the dust.

And maybe they’ll let me emigrate there.

Another company in India seems to be recognizing the benefits of piracy, as well. Seems they were caught uploading a pirated version of their own film to their official YouTube channel. And, I mean, who can blame them? Have you ever tried ripping one of your own DVDs to put on a media server or portable device or something? If there’s a lot of seeds on a quality rip, it’ll certainly save alot of heartburn to just torrent it instead of doing it yourself…

Back to the music industry: 2012 was the first year since I started college that global music revenue actually rose. Only by 0.3%, mind you, but it wasn’t a decrease! The cynical jerk in me wonders if maybe the market just finally bottomed out, but what other explanations could there be? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that 2012 was the first full year Spotify was available in the US, the first full year Google Play Music was available, the first full year the Amazon Cloud Player was available… Need I continue? While a couple industry analysts tried to claim it was a reduction in piracy that led to these improved numbers, I think it’s at least equally as likely that the massive expansion in ways to purchase/consume music led to a reduction in piracy. Or less people are seeding, throwing off the “file sharing” numbers…

Now if only HBO would care enough about piracy to take this lesson to heart and offer some other way to get their stuff…

In other happy news: North Korea.

I was really worried things would get less entertaining on the North Korea front, what with Dear Leader moving on to fight evil in another dimension. But they really stepped up their game lately. Iran has a long way to go to catch up with North Korea in the “so crazy it’s kind of sad” department. I don’t have much else to say on that, other than that I can definitely make some more suggestions for epic video game music for future videos.

Oh, hey, remember HBO not caring about piracy from earlier? Seems one of the directors that worked on some HBO show claimed he didn’t really fret over the piracy of his shows, and that piracy probably helped create a lot of buzz around his work, much to his benefit. Of course, once this was reported, he immediately took to Twitter to make sure that he @replied anyone and everyone who would listen to make sure they knew he thought PIRACY IS TOTALLY NOT COOL! This led some to wonder if perhaps someone at HBO had gotten to him.

I don’t think that was what happened. I really think this was a case of someone having an “Oh God, did I just say that?” moment. Like when you say something and realize that someone could misinterpret it as slightly racist…

Really though: At this point I don’t think it’s necessary for any pressure to be applied by The Powers That Be to cause someone that works in content production to suddenly have a crisis of faith and prostrate themselves before the Altar of Copyright. The mere fear of consequences for being seen as not sufficiently devout is enough to keep people like Mr. Petrarca in line. Which I, of course, really think is a shame. Everything the guy said seemed to me to be the mark of a reasonable, pragmatic individual. Nothing in his comment seemed to be condoning piracy, or saying “I wish people would download my stuff more!” and I’m very happy to see his hurried responses at least recognizing that actually providing people more convenient ways to pay for your stuff is the best way to cut down on piracy. If you care about that sort of thing. Which HBO apparently doesn’t.

And in a final upbeat note, a certain fictional group has showed how the lessons of patent trolling can be turned into a get rich quick, make money at home scheme: Make up a serious sounding name for yourself and randomly claim copyright on people’s YouTube uploads. Since copyright claims cost you nothing, even if only 1% of uploaders don’t dispute your claim and let you monetize, it’s still pure profit!

But the problem is companies like Google don’t do ENOUGH to help content creators deal with people uploading their stuff without permission… Riiiiiiight…

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