It takes a very special person to get something like copyright law poked into the eye of Joe and Joelene Average. That person is Stephen Fry, the gentlemanly big friendly giant of the part of the internet that is Twitter. With some 200,000 followers, Fry doesn’t tweet meekly. Oh no, his is the wall-shattering trumpet of a virtual mastodon. If Fry gets behind you, it’ll be a blast of epic proportions. Fry has lent his support to the campaign against the harsh and onerous amendments to the Copyright Act that introduce a guilty on accusation principle in New Zealand law meaning you could have your internet connection cut off without a say in the matter. No other country in the world has introduced such legislation, and it’s hard to see why we have to have one. Are New Zealanders particularly awful in the eyes of politicians across the entire spectrum, to the point that they feel compelled to punish us even though we never tasked with that particular assignment? The issue is very mainstream indeed: I was talking to Matthew Holloway who has together with wife Bronwyn been working indefatigably through their Creative Freedom Foundation on getting the whole thing out into the public eye where it should be, and couldn’t agree more. Not just in the specialised tech media, or the business-technology pages or blogs: the internet is mainstream now, and the copyright act amendments should be scrutinised by everyone, because they’ll affect all and sundry. It’s good to see that around 12,000 people have put their name to a petition to change the law, but more are needed. The demo in Wellington on Thursday and the one on Friday midday in Auckland should help to create awareness with the general public as to what’s going on. Next week, websites all over the country will black out to show what they think of the new law. Labour spokeswoman for ICT, MP Clare Curran, is trying to introduce a bill that will delay S92a until there’s a code of practice in place. That’s half useful but it doesn’t remove the guilt on accusation principle the law introduces. There are undoubtedly far more important issues than the copyright law amendments but one thing’s clear: this is a law with nothing useful for the public, only the promise of harassment and extra cost all round. It was not necessary to start with, even with the carrot-and-stick of free trade agreements and WIPO obligations hiding behind it. You won’t find a single voice in favour of the new law apart from the entertainment industry and Judith Tizard. That says it all; now repeal the rubbish, National. —Creative Freedom Foundation: Internet Blackout NZ — The Fry effect: 'blackout' protest goes viral — Pictures: 'Blackout' demonstrators gather at Parliament — Russell Brown: High Noon — Techsploder: Why New Zealand Copyright Act is worse than US equivalent: legal analysis — David Farrar: Further on S92a — Get your Copywrong song for free here — Fry backs campaign against S92a — Radar O’Reilly: New Zealand goes black — Neowin: New Zealand Internet protest against copyright law — BoingBoing: New Zealand netizens go black in protest of new "no-proof" copyright law that cuts off your Internet on accusation — Guardian: The lights are going out all over Twitter — Read/Write Web: Black out your Twitter photo: NZ copyright law protest goes viral — The Register: Kiwis go all black over copyright enforcement laws — New Zealand Herald: Copyright protesters say law 'stripping rights' — Stuff: Protest over ‘ludicrous’ internet law at Parliament Mohawk Media’s protest video against S92A http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpbadsgW4Qg
XKCD Windows 7
Robert X Cringely
Suing Microsoft for fun and profit (but mostly fun)
Yet another aggrieved consumer is suing Microsoft, this time over its "XP downgrade" program. The Vista debacle continues to haunt Redmond, but at least Cringe is amused Just when things were winding down on the whole Vista saga, a Los Angeles area woman has filed suit against Microsoft over its XP downgrade programme. It seems Emma Alvarado got rather ticked off when she was asked to pay an additional $59.25 for "downgrade rights" to XP when she purchased a new Lenovo laptop. So she rounded up a lawyer (or vice versa) and headed to court. Now I'm all for suing Microsoft just on general principles. The "Vista Capable" labeling lawsuit has been an absolute gift to those of us in the snark trade. It's offered an eye-opening view inside the machinations of both Microsoft (whose own employees complained long and loud about Vista's shortcomings) and longtime partners like HP, which got royally rogered when Microsoft (allegedly) changed its labeling rules to favour Intel. That trial officially begins in April. I'll be eagerly watching from the sidelines with my popcorn and Jujubees. Alvarado's lawsuit, on the other hand, I'm not so sure about. She's seeking "compensatory damages." I'm no Greta Van Susteren, but wouldn't compensatory damages for having to spend $59.25 on "downgrading" be, oh, I don't know ... $59.25? Couldn't they just cut her a check and be done with it? (I suspect that this suit is actually the brainchild of Alvarado's lawyer, who hunted around until he found an aggrieved party willing to pursue it. Just a hunch.) The real culprit is the whole concept of "downgrading", for which the appropriate Microsoft employees should be thoroughly flogged. Microsoft concocted a process where you must buy a copy of Vista that you never intend to use, then pay extra for XP Pro, the operating system you do intend to use. This seems like little more than a way for Microsoft to artificially inflate its Vista sale numbers while "selling" more expensive versions of Vista that nobody actually wants. Dell caught serious heat last December for boosting the price of an XP-downgradable machine by $150. Dell's response? It pocketed only $20 for doing the downgrade; the rest went to Microsoft because it only allowed downgrades for people purchasing the much pricier Vista Business or Vista Ultimate versions. To wit:
"Microsoft mandates that customers who want to downgrade to XP must purchase the licence to Vista Business or Vista Ultimate," [Dell spokesperson David] Frink said. "[That's] typically about a $130 premium, though some retail outlets charge more." Microsoft denies this, of course. It even denies having a downgrade "programme". Instead, it merely provides downgrade "rights". Right. And if that makes sense to you, you're probably a lawyer. Why give the people what they want when you can sell them what they don't want, then make them jump through hoops to get what they asked for in the first place? That seems to be the Microsoft philosophy at work here. I keep waiting for them to wake up, smell the manure, realise where that smell is coming from, and do something about how they treat their customers. Maybe they'll do better with Windows 7. Or maybe we'll have to wait for the Loud Bald One to finally hang up his sweaty blue Oxford shirts and call it a career. One thing is for sure: suing Microsoft really hasn't done much more than make a bunch of rich attorneys richer. But it does have a certain entertainment value.