TPPA and China

So I read an interesting little piece about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that you can read here.

The article goes into how the TPPA is forcing US corporate interests down the throats of nations in the Pacific, nations with trade interests and relationships with China. To put it simply, countries such as New Zealand and Australia can find themselves between a rock and a hard place, not wanting to upset the US, but also not losing their favour with China, a massive economic power.

I don’t particularly want to get into the politics or implications of TPPA in a serious sense, but in more of a speculative fiction sense. “What is it you are hoping to achieve here?” I hear you ask. Why, go play Black Ops II and then come back! Or don’t, maybe you shouldn’t feed the juggernaut that is Call of Duty any more than it has already been fed.

Let us just say that the game pushes, quite heavily, US interests in the framing of a second cold war, one between the US and China. The impetus behind this cold war is Rare Earth minerals, which China seems to have a monopoly on and are used in electronics.

So what?

Well, the article above mentions the possibility of TPPA and US Corporate interests fuelling a cold war between the US and China with Pacific nations used as a proxy battleground, with the two superpowers posturing for economic superiority.

I just found it quite amusing that it basically provided the plot of a new Modern Military Shooter.

Though it is a bit worrying that such issues could exist, that countries could be torn between their allegiances to other nations because they do not have the power to resist larger powers. Being an Australian citizen, I am also a little worried about what TPPA could mean for me as an individual. I will, of course, need to do some reading about this, and hopefully find some accurate information to avoid another ACTA furor (even though once clarified ACTA was still a horrible thing). I doubt I’d be able to wrap my head around all of it though, and we have another dragon to slay in the form of the ITU.

Once again, the governments of the world aim to govern the internet in an opaque fashion without public consultation. At least, I believe this time it is not motivated by corporate interests? It’s still a worrying thought though. Here is a video.


Right for the Wrong Reasons

Disregard the Anonymous video, it’s good to have an accurate representation of ACTA courtesy of Ars Technica. To demonstrate, here are two passages from the article in question (Ars Technica text in italics).

ACTA does not strictly mandate that ISPs survey their clients’ traffic:

The closest ACTA comes to mandating ISP surveillance is section 27.3, which requires participating nations to “promote cooperative efforts within the business community to effectively address trademark and copyright or related rights infringement while preserving legitimate competition and, consistent with that Party’s law, preserving fundamental principles such as freedom of expression, fair process, and privacy.”

Generic drugs need not be threatened by ACTA:

An in-depth report on the impact of ACTA on generic medicines found that the treaty “makes enforcement of intellectual property rights in courts, at borders, by the government and by private parties easier, less costly, and more ‘deterrent’ in the level of penalties. In doing so, it increases the risks and consequences of wrongful searches, seizures, lawsuits and other enforcement actions against legitimate suppliers of generic medicines.” So at the margin, ACTA might be bad for the flow of generic drugs to poor countries, but it’s a huge exaggeration to say that generic drugs would be “banned.”

Keep in mind, this is still a bad agreement. One that was negotiated in secret to bypass other international institutions that may have wanted a say in the matter in order to get things just the way a select few parties want them to be. Said secret negotiation even made some of the parties negotiating feel uncomfortable:

The EU’s top negotiator on ACTA even told US embassy official in Sweden that “the secrecy issue has been very damaging to the negotiating climate in Sweden… The secrecy around the negotiations has led to the legitimacy of the whole process being questioned.”

Surely there are other reasons ACTA is bad that are beyond the scope of this post. Research time, people =)

Though if people are still up in arms about ACTA, even if their reasons for being enraged are inaccurate, isn’t it a good thing? Action against bad policy is a good thing, after all. The ignorance about the actual content of the agreement is symptomatic of the secrecy the agreement was created in. Ultimately drafts and the final documents were released, I admit, but how aware were people of this fact?

If one wishes to be accurate in their dissent, read up on the final text (English, French, Spanish) and if that doesn’t make much sense, or if wading through 25 pages of unintuitive wording is not your thing, check out the link to the Ars article up top.

So, I think until I find something else interesting on the subject, I shall leave it at that on the topic of ACTA.

Poland on ACTA

Polish presidential advisor claims that protestors against ACTA have been “manipulated”.

From above link:

“I’d prefer the young would protest against the govenment not accepting the act about the prohibition of using claymore mines. “-said Kuźniar. He also mentioned that he’s surprised of the fact that so many young people have hit the streets, because he’s thinking they wouldn’t do this if they have read ACTA.

Anyone who wishes to read the final text can do so here in English, French or Spanish. Shall we see if people will be disinclined to taking to the streets after reading the official text.

I would also like to point out that all amendments to ACTA will be done by a specially created committee and their decisions will be free from public review and Judicial review. This will effectively create a framework that operates independent of the current judicial frameworks because ACTA proponents believe that the current process is handicapping their ability to enforce ACTA on an international scale. If this doesn’t worry you, I do not know what will.

ACTA will kill free software. DRM media will no longer be able to be played on free software players. Distribution channels for free software will be brought into question due to the threat of them also being used to transfer copywrited materials. To quote the above source, “It creates a culture of surveillance and suspicion, in which the freedom that is required to produce free software is seen as dangerous and threatening rather than creative, innovative, and exciting.”

Remember back when Microsoft killed Netscape by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows and not allowing the bundling of third party browsers? Imagine a world with that sort of limitation on competition due to companies exercising their right to protect their IP. It is scary and ultimately bad for the consumer.

ACTA allows for criminal investigations and searches on individuals without the need for probable cause, which undermines the presumption of innocence. You know, stuff like this would have been unlawful before.

ISPs that comply with ACTA will be provided with safe harbour from any legal accountability for the habits of their users, however those that do not comply will be afforded no such safety. Really, what ISP can afford not to monitor usage of their users now? iiNet would sure have a hard time in the courts a second time around.

ACTA may not end up killing the global economy, but it sure as hell will shoot it in the foot. Without distribution channels and with the loose definitions of copywrited and counterfeit materials, the age of software innovation may well be over.

The age of privacy was said to have died with Facebook. Not a social norm, says Zuckerberg. Though with Facebook you had the option to not use it.

With ACTA there is no such option.

Still, do you think those youths in Poland were overreacting? All things considered, for those without training in Law, Economics or even with an interested in open and free software (which relies on the ability to modify and learn from code that was created by others) would likely have a hard time considering this without being manipulated with parties interested in either side of the debate.

Having said that, I think the whole issue hasn’t been represented well enough in a way that will help people understand what the long term consequences of something like ACTA would be. And even countries like Ireland have tried their hand at something like SOPA.

Just read up on ACTA and be informed.

Not out of the woods…

SOPA and PIPA are out of the picture for now. Everyone, the internet has won a major battle in the fight for freedom and openness! However, the war is far from over. I am sure some of you by now have heard of ACTA, an international trade agreement that is being developed in secret and in some cases by non elected special interest groups.

Really, this could spell the end of the internet as we know it. It could kill innovation by limiting what others can do with already developed products, ideas, sentenes, you name it. How can we progress if we are not allowed to make itterative improvements to technology? How will free press survive if news and other articles can be copywrited by one particular media outlet?

This is going to kill off the majority of global industry for the benefit of a very very small number of people and entities that are clinging desperately to an outdated business model. There is something admirable in their tenacity, but really could you not try to end the world while you are at it?

Congress dismissing their lack of understanding of a fundamental part of the modern economy in an almost flippant manner by stating “I am not a nerd” shows an utter lack of respect for the kind of power they are toying with.

ACTA shows that lack of disrespect on an almost global scale. I know I am going to see if I can write to my MP demanding to know why such a dangerous agreement is being negotiated in secret, and why Australia is a part of it at all. If the government is intent on killing a massive job creation engine, I’m sure the tax payer is not going to want to pick up the pieces for them, and I definitely doubt JSA and DES are going to be happy with that as well.

As Gabe Newell said once, “Piracy is a service problem.” If you want me to buy your shit, release it in all markets. With Blu-rays we have seen a decline in region coding, which was an attempt at market segregation and pricing control. However, we still have not seen an end to market segregation, with certain products not available in all markets. I know I’d buy Antichrist on Blu-Ray but it’s locked to Region A and I’m not in Region A! Lost Sales!! YAY!!!! I’ve attempted to buy albums on the iTunes store, but they are not available on the Australian iTunes store. The list, beyond my own personal experiences, goes on.

The model is flawed, their service is atrocious, and they want us to pay for their backward thinking. They bitch and moan about a 7% loss in revenue due to piracy and their lobbyists with their deep pockets have potentially killed off an upcoming industry (see above link).

If they can already shut down sites, the introduction of an agreement that could destroy privacy, freedom of expression, net nutrality, multiple points of view in the press, innovation and a large part of the global economy seems just a tad unwarranted.

Your countries have already signed the agreement.

This is making me sad, so I will leave it off there. I just need to keep an eye out for news about ACTA and find out what I can do to help prevent it.

On Fans and Mr Lucas

Appeared on Youtube not too long after Mr Lucas announced his desire to retire from making big budget movies. I do feel sorry for the man, but surely he must be able to see some of the incredible tonal and structural changes such tiny edits to the film have made. Han Solo is now missing character development because of him not having shot first, for example. The Hitchcockian suspense built when we see Han kill Greedo relatively unprovoked before taking Luke and Obi Wan on board is also lost. In the original version, Han is an unpredictable criminal in it for the money. In Lucas’ update, his attempt to clearly delineate light and dark sides causes him to make Han’s action reactionary and undercut any of the tension to be found in Han’s early relationship with the other characters. In attempting to make Han a more clearly good character, he made Han a less interesting character, and made the film less interesting as a result.

So, this just impacts on the early portion of the film, right? So what? Small change to an event of the film results in small change in the tone of the beginning of the film. At least we still have the iconic trench run at the end, right? The original Theatrical cut of Star Wars had presented Han as a self interested criminal up until the very end of the film. He only helped Luke save Lea because she was a princess and he wanted a reward. He only flew them back to the rebel base because he was saving his own neck. Hell, when the Death Star arrived, he left them because his job was done! Why unnecessarily endanger himself after he’s finished with his obligations? His sudden return to the aid of Luke is exactly that, sudden and surprising. Just when all hope was lost, Han had a change of heart and wanted to fight for these people he had come to know during the course of the movie rather then leave them to die. This marks the end of his character arc, moving him from self interested smuggler to jerk with a heart of gold.

In Lucas’ update, Han is always good. Why should we be all that surprised when he returns to help Luke at the end? Why is this scene as significant in the movie? What does it say about his character? If anything, I think it undermines Lucas’ message more than it serves to help it. If Han was always good, he would never have learnt the value of fighting for friends and loved ones as he did in the Theatrical edition because he would never need to. In the Theatrical edition, Luke’s conviction and purity, along with his belief in upholding the ideals of the light side rub off on Han, illustrating that people can have a positive influence on others through their actions and beliefs. This message is much more evident in the theatrical version where Han was of grey morality rather than white.

One small change to an event in the movie had far reaching consequences. It changed the tone of the movie and undermined its message of inspiring change and bringing out the goodness in others. I believe it was foolish for Lucas to change Han’s character in such a way for the benefit of children because really, a more important lesson for children is being diluted in the process!!

Let’s not get into how he was initially against film makers making post release revisions to films they made. I do not have the details to do it justice and I am sure that has been covered many times before.

Also for those of you wondering why my definition of Hitchcockian suspense seems to sound more like “Suspense is when there is a discrepancy between the knowledge of the audience and the characters” rather than “If it’s suggested and left up to the audience to imagine, it is scarier”, you can check out this lovely article which has a wonderful illustration of the point. (I suggest you read the article before watching the videos I linked).

Paraphrasing: Suspense is knowing something that the characters don’t know, e.g. the person who runs the motel they checked in is really a murderer. Us and the characters not knowing and then being surprised by an unforeseen event is exactly that, a surprise.

Getting back to Mr Lucas’ announcement regarding his retirement from big budget movies. I would very much like to see what he is capable off with a smaller budget and less technology backing him up. Let’s hope he can see beyond the visuals and into the heart of the film. ❤

I shall sign off, for I have taken up enough of your time with these musings. Bye!

Hard Reset

I know there is a myriad of blogs on the internet that will cover movies, video games and other ‘geek’ subjects, but seeing as this is more of a personal project of mine, I shall not hold back from flooding the internet with the utterly pointless musings that I deem worthy of publishing.

That said, automated messages from large publishers can sometimes yield amusing results. Old news as it may be in the age of the information super highway and the Instant Gratification Generation, I am posting this here in the hopes that it will help “Perform a Hard Reset” becomes the new “Arrow to the knee”. It really should be “Arrow in the knee” anyway.

Oh hey, I forgot what else I was going to say after I accidentally hit the publish button instead of the preview button. I am silly like that. I am also stupid to a point it contradicts highly standardised and rigorously normed IQ tests I was given by trained professionals!! Self Deprecation!!

So with that said, I shall retire from this post.
The end!