Saturday, August 18, 2007

Reading Comprehension is not Required for Microsoft

Sometimes, it's clear that people have difficulty reading, other times it's clear they have difficulty writing. A lot of the time, people who suffer in both these cases write on blogs, and call themselves some kind of expert. Of course, the very worst of these, are those that are computer programmers. Have you looked at programs these days? They're sometimes ten times the size equivalent programs were a decade ago, and run generally about the same speed as those equivalent programs did on the computers of the time, and they certainly don't do even four times as much as those programs of the Win98 era did. The only area which has kept up with the bloat, has been bugs (and the associated patches and fixes). Why I have brought this up, is due to a 'writer' called John Carroll, who 'blogs' for ZDnet.

In this article, he supposedly goes through the Pirate Party of the US website, and looks at their issues. It is here that he shows those very values of a writer I stated at the top.

The Pirate Party defines copyright as only being suitable to recoup costs. After that, companies and individuals should not be able to control the distribution of their intellectual work.

I looked at the issues page, and indeed the entirety of the website, and couldn't find any such definition. It would appear that his definition is based on the following statement (taken from the first paragraph of their copyright page).

As such, the Framers instituted copyrights for “limited times” only; once an opportunity to recoup costs had passed, open distribution could once again be in an open manner.

In short, Mr. Carroll sees "once an opportunity to recoup costs had passed" and reads "as soon as costs have been recouped". It is exactly that kind of poor linguistic comprehension that has put the US in the terrible state it's in. Furthermore, it's clear that only the littlest of effort was made in researching this, and even the multitude of other articles that have appeared in the past week about the Pirate Party were ignored. Had he read more than the first paragraph, he would have seen just how far his assumptions, and their resulting arguments, are from the mark. Let me refer to Variety, for instance, which is pretty much the news source for the entertainment industry. In their latest issue, they include an interview with a spokesman for the US Pirate Party. he says "But in an age of massive distribution, it should be easy to recoup investment and make money in 14 years."

Of course, he then makes the classic argument, that copyright infringement is theft. There are many varied definitions of theft, but the general theme is that it is the taking of property from one person, by another without permission, depriving the original owner of the property. Copyright infringement however, can best be described as the reproduction of a piece of copyrighted work without the permission of the rights owner. The main difference is that the original owner still has their item, and is not deprived of it. I'm not even going to go into the whole shoplifting is the same as downloading analogy (I will just say that the movie studios still get paid for shoplifted DVDs, its just the retail stores that lose out). He is reinforced in this by the CEO of a pre-press company, who says “How many members of this new Pirate's Party do you think make their living as artists, musicians, writers, programmers, designers, or journalists. I think I already know this answer.” I know there is at least two, but then I actually bother to look up facts. A little research gave me the answer that the spokesman quoted before, is writing a book (and has a patent, as well as worked on TV shows, including one for ZDTV/ZDnet, back when John Carroll was still just an angry forum user) whilst the 'interim administrator' in Utah is a journalist. Want more? Rick Falkvinge, the head of the Swedish Piratpartiet, used to work at Microsoft (as a project leader, no less) and a smaller software company. It might seem that the CEO would be better off playing golf, that trying to play at political pundit.

Of course, dealing with people who have their own agenda, and Carroll's may be for his job. With the success of Joost (created by the same people that brought you kazaa), and other IPTV projects, perhaps he fears that he'll be left to misread websites, and spout poorly-reasoned (and worse researched) drivel.