Friday, September 23, 2011

Piss Off and Leave Us Alone

Not PC wrote a post the other day about the small-minded puritan streak coming out in the New Zealand authorities' attitudes to the Rugby World Cup celebrations. It appears officials are concerned that people are enjoying themselves too much.

Another example of this silly nanny-ism is this article about Police concern regarding the flying of All Black flags on cars. The article says the Police are worried about the "potential for carnage". For god's sake, where is their perspective? Haven't the police in this country got better things to worry about? How many people have ever been killed in this country by flags on cars? Zero, at a guess.

A word to the Government and the bureaucratic busybodies in this country who think they have the responsibility to keep us safe by killing off every pleasure we might indulge in: we don't need your protection, so piss off and leave us alone to enjoy ourselves.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lessons of 9-11

I find myself in two minds on the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon by lunatic Al Qaeda thugs. On the one hand, I am relieved there has not been a repeat of attacks on the scale of that terrible Tuesday and that America has achieved a semblance of justice in the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders. On the other hand, I have a sense of sadness and disappointment that Osama Bin Laden and his followers have achieved what they set out to do - to have a significant impact on the freedom and lifestyle of people in America and the West.

Bin Laden's legacy is seen in every major city in America today - in the bag checks, the X-ray scans and the pat-downs that greet visitors to almost every public building or event. It is seen in the overbearing security measures imposed on every airline passenger and the requirement that we are photographed and fingerprinted like criminals when crossing borders. It is seen in laws like the US Patriot Act that give law enforcement agencies unfettered powers of arrest and imprisonment, and in the extra-judicial kidnapping, imprisonment and torture of foreign nationals in Guantanamo Bay and in countries around the world.

Indeed, if Bin Laden was right in his fundamentalist beliefs and he is now enjoying his 72 virgins (or dates, if you believe some translations of the Koran) in heaven, I would say he would be having the last laugh because he has turned Americans and other Westerners into craven people who are happy to accept greater restraints on our liberty than at any other time since World War 2.

Ten years after 9/11 there are few signs that Western governments will ever relax their intrusive security measures and restore the legal rights and freedoms that have been eroded in the name of fighting terrorism. I can't help thinking that there must be a smarter way of dealing with the threats to our society from the likes of Al Qaeda than to turn our own countries into fortresses where we can longer enjoy the all of the freedoms we used to take for granted.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Copyright Law Short-sighted

I agree with the comments from Paul Brislen, the head of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand, about The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 that passed into law today. This law is ill-considered and short-sighted.

I am not in favour of copyright infringement. As an author, I would take a dim view of anyone stealing my copyrighted material and as a rule I don't steal other people's material. However, in New Zealand in particular, we face a problem of access that in my view somewhat justifies New Zealanders' casual attitude to downloading films, music and television programmes from the Internet.

We have a small and tightly controlled media with only two television networks, two or three major cinema chains, and a small distribution market for books, music and films. These industry dynamics, combined with one of the most restrictive censorship regimes in the Western world, means we simply don't get access to much of the film, television and music content that the rest of the world gets, other than through the Internet. Most of the legitimate Internet sources of content such as Netflix are restricted to US-based subscribers. So we face the choice either to limit our entertainment diet to the bland tripe served up by our small and restrictive legitimate media channels, or obtain access to the content we want through illegitimate channels.

A further issue I have with this law is its blunt, heavy-handed enforcement instrument of cutting off Internet access. This is a typically statist approach typical of the current Government. Surely if someone is stealing content the appropriate redress is restitution to the copyright holder by the offender?

I don't think this new law will be effective in addressing the problem of illegal use of copyrighted material any more than anti-drug laws have been effective in reducing marijuana use. I believe the answer is in the media companies' own hands - provide legitimate access to the material New Zealanders want at a reasonable price. If we had better choices than those currently served up by our inadequate mainstream media and entertainment distributors, I would be the first to cheer the prosecution of those who breach copyright.