Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Intellectual property

Wednesday December 17 2014

When it’s finished, it will look, according to the picture on the outside of the site (which is an outdoor hard copy of the first picture here), like this:

image

Here is what it and its surroundings will look like from above.  My home can be found in that picture, this Thing being only a short walk away from it.

But, as of now, in contrast to the above simulations, it looks like this, which I think I somewhat prefer (what with all that lovely scaffolding):

image

Hang on.  Is that a Christmas tree I see up there (in among all that lovely scaffolding)?  Yes it is:

image

After I started taking photos of this Thing Under Construction, together with its Christmas tree, one of the men doing the constructing made “stop doing that” gestures.  I was standing on a public pavement.  They were building a small skyscraper with a Christmas tree on the side of it.  Did they think they could keep this secret, and impose martial law for a quarter of a mile around all this?  I just laughed out loud and carried on, and of course they did nothing about it.

Can you spot why “Sculpture” is included in the category list below?

Saturday December 06 2014

As earlier promised, a selection of the better photos I took at that Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

Click to get them bigger.  If you want to recycle these photos, please feel free, with or without gratitude to me.  Email me (see top left where it says “Contact") if you’d like any of them bigger.

Tuesday November 25 2014

As discussed in this earlier posting, here is a chunk of Frisby, from his book Bitcoin: The Future of Money? (pp. 197-201 – the chunk entitled “Beware the hype cycle").  And for the reasons stated in that earlier posting, this posting might rather suddenly disappear, so if you feel inclined to read it, do so now.  And then when you have, buy the book and tell me that you have done this in the comments, because this might cheer up any passing authors or publishers:

There is a cycle that a new technology passes through as it goes from conception to widespread adoption. The research company Gartner has dubbed it the ‘hype cycle’. It has five phases: the technology trigger, the peak of inflated expectations, the trough of disappointment, the slope of enlightenment and the plateau of productivity.

In the first phase the new technology is invented. There is research and development and some early investment is found. The first products are brought to market. They are expensive and will need a lot of improvement, but they find some early users. The technology clearly has something special about it and people start getting excited. This is the ‘technology trigger’. The internet in the early 1990s is a good example.

As this excitement grows, we move into the second phase.  The media start talking about this amazing new technology.  Speculative money piles in. All sorts of new companies spring up to operate in this new sector. Many of them are just chasing hot money and have no real product to offer.  They are sometimes fraudulent. This new technology is going to change the world. The possibilities are endless. We’re going to cure diseases. We’re going to solve energy problems.  We’re going to build houses on the moon. This is the ‘peak of inflated expectations’. This was the internet in 2000.

But at some point, the needle of reality punctures the bubble of expectation, and we move into the third phase.  Actually, this technology might not be quite as good as we thought it was; it’s going to take a lot of work to get it right and to make it succeed on a commercial scale.  A great deal of not particularly rewarding hard work, time and investment lies ahead.  Forget the ideas men – now we need the water-carriers.  Suddenly, the excitement has gone.

Negative press starts to creep in. Now there are more sellers than buyers. Investment is harder to come by. Many companies start going bust. People are losing money. The hype cycle has reversed and we have descended into the ‘trough of disappointment.’ This was the internet between 2000 and 2003.

But now that the hot money has left, we can move into phase four. The incompetent or fraudulent companies have died. The sector has been purged. Most of those that remain are serious players. Investors now demand better practice and the survivors deliver it. They release the second and third generation products, and they work quite well. More and more people start to use the technology and it is finally finding mainstream adoption. This was the internet in 2004. It climbed the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’, the fourth phase of the hype cycle, and entered the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ - phase five - which is where the likes of Google, Amazon and eBay are today.

Of course, cycles like this are arbitrary.  Reality is never quite so simple.  But it’s easy to make the case that crypto-currencies in late 2013 reached a ‘peak of inflated expectations’.

Perhaps it was not the.  It wasn’t Bitcoin’s dotcom 2000 moment – just a peak on a larger journey up.  Many Bitcoin companies, for example, are not even listed on the stock market.  Greater manias could lie ahead.

But it’s also easy to make the case that it ws the peak of inflated expectations.  In the space of three or four years, Bitcoin went from an understated mention on an obscure mailing list to declarations that it was not only going to become the preferred money system of the world, but also the usurper of the existing world order.  At $1,000 a coin, some early adopters had made a million times their original investment. Speculators marvelled at the colossal amount of money they were making. The media were crazy for it. Bitcoin was discussed all over television.

It caught the imagination of the left, the right and the in-between.  Computer boffins marvelled at the impossibly resilient code. Economists and libertarians marvelled at the politics of a money without government or border. There were early adopters, from the tech savvy to the black markets (black markets are usually quick to embrace new technology - pornography was the first business sector to actually make money on the internet, for example).

Every Tom, Dick and Harry you met under the age of 30 with an interest in IT was involved in some Bircoin start-up or other.  Either that or he was designing some new alt currency - some altcoins were rising at over a thousand per cent per day.  ‘Banks, governments, they’re irrelevant now,’ these upstarts declared.

I suggest that in late 2013 we hit the peak of the hype cycle - the peak of inflated expectations.  Now Bitcoin is somewhere in the ‘trough of disillusionment,’ just like the internet in 2001. The price has fallen. There have been thefts. Some of the companies involved have gone bankrupt.

The challenge now is for all those start-ups to make their product or service work. They have to take Bitcoin from a great idea and a technology that works to something with much wider ‘real world’ use. They have to find investment and get more and more people to start using the coins. This is a long process.

There are many who will disagree with this interpretation.  And, with investment, it is dangerous to have rigid opinions – I reserve the right to change my mind as events unfold.

Wednesday November 19 2014

From time to time I like to stick bits from books up here, usually quite short, but sometimes quite long.

With the short bits, there is no legal or moral problem.  Fair use, etc.  But with the longer bits, there might be a problem.  Here’s how I operate.  I put up whatever bit it is that I think deserves to be made much of, on the clear understanding that it might disappear at any moment.  Because, if anyone associated with the book I have got my chosen bit from complains and says please remove it, I will do so, immediately.

Many might think that such persons would be being rather silly.  I mean, what better way could there be to reach potential readers of the entire book in question than for readers of a blog, and a blog written by someone who already likes the book, to get to read a relatively small chunk of it?  Win-win, surely.  Because of course, I only put up big chunks of writing if I approve of what the chunks say.

But what if a publisher is trying to insist on the principle, that copyright damn well means what it says?  Such a publisher might want to proclaim, and to be seen to proclaim, a no-tolerance attitude to the copying of bigger than small bits of any its books.  Even if that particular book might be assisted by this particular recycled chunk being here, the larger principle might feel far more significant to the publisher.  That principle being: If we allow this, where will it then stop?

And I get that.  As I say, if any publisher or author did complain, for these kinds of reasons or for any other, then I would get it, and the bit from the book in question would at once vanish from this blog.  So far, I’ve had no such complaints.  Which could just be because they reckon this blog to be too insignificant to be worth risking a fight with.  They wouldn’t have a fight, but they might have a rule about letting sleeping puppies, like this one, lie.

Whatever.  All I am saying here is that if I put up a big bit of a book, and anyone connected to that big bit cries foul, then the big bit will immediately vanish from here, with no grumbling, or worse, self-righteous campaigning, attempts to mobilise other bloggers, etc. etc.

Think of all this as an example of Rule Utilitarianism.  And I am myself a Rule Utilitarian.  My libertarian beliefs are not the absurd claim that libertarianism is inscribed into the very physical fabric of the universe, an inherent fact of life itself, which we humans either recognise or fail to recognise, but which are there anyway.  Tell that to the spider I just squashed into the pavement on my way home to write this.  No, I like libertarianism because it works.  Libertarianism is a set of basically fairly simply rules which all we humans either choose to live by or choose not to live by.  If we choose to live by these rules, life is good, happy, comfortable and it gets better and better.  If we don’t live by such rules, life goes to shit and stays there.

And here comes the Rule Utilitarian bit.  Even if this particular bit of thieving, by the government or just by some bod like you or me, is very insignificant, and even if what the government or the bod like you or me wants to spend its or his or her ill-gotten gains on is wonderful, absolutely wonderful, my rule says: No.  Not allowed.  Don’t get into complicated discussions about just how little thieving is too little to be bothering about, or just how noble a noble project has to be for it to be noble enough to be financed by a spot of thieving, because that way lies the slippery slope we are now on, where the government gobbles up at least half of everything, to very little benefit for anyone other than itself.  Stick to the rule.  No thieving, no matter how petty its scale or how noble its supposed object.

So, I get Rule Utilitarianism.  And if any publisher decides to inflict his Rule Utilitarianism, in the manner described above, upon me, I would get that, and act accordingly.

What got me wanting to spell all this out is that I have recently been reading Dominic Frisby’s excellent Bitcoin book, and I find myself wanting to put bits of it up here, quite longish bits.  And in general, having just followed the link at the top of this and read some of them, I feel that postings of this sort are among the better things that I do here, and I want to do more of them.  But, to all of the bits from books that will follow, I want to attach the above mentioned caveat about how the verbiage that follows may vanish without warning, and a link to this posting is the way to summarise what is going on in my head without me banging on for however many paragraphs there are here.

Sunday October 26 2014

Can you quotulate a picture?  I just did.  I just quotulated a picture of a Canadian train leaving a Canadian railway station, in this posting, at Quotulatiousness.

The original picture, I thought when I saw it, was good, but mostly what I thought it was was good in parts.  So, I sliced out the parts that I particularly liked, and I now feature those best bits here:

image

I also did a bit of rotating.

What I like is the reflection of the train, and the shadows, and especially the shadow of the photographer, a digital photographer thing that I always enjoy, both when I do it, or when others do it.

By homing in on these merits, I believe I draw more attention to them than did the original taker of the photo.

LATER: The Quotulator quotulates me.

Saturday October 11 2014

Indeed.  You don’t see this kind of thing every day:

image

But I did.  Today.

As a general rule, I don’t advise combining ice cream with photography.  Do one or the other.  That is the rule I recommend.  But these guys were doing an excellent job of merging these two things, and they weren’t just eating their ice creams and doing photography.  They were photoing their ice creams.

I congratulated them for the excellence of their photographic imagination, and they were really pleased to hear this.  I asked if I could photo them.  Yes, they replied.  And when I said “photo”, I meant, as they surely understood, photo them and put pictures of them up at my blog:

image

I also took lots photos of a demo outside Parliament by Kurds, demanding help from Britain in their battles against ISIS.  Maybe (I promise nothing) I’ll put some of those snaps either here or on Samizdata, perhaps tomorrow.

Friday September 12 2014

The Guru was finally able to deliver God/Godot this evening, but he only just finished, so time only for a quota cat, photoed by me in Tate Ancient yesterday:

image

More about that picture here.  It’s by David Hockney.

I didn’t know that you are allowed to take photos in the Tate, but I did so with increasing confidence.  There were official looking people well able to intervene and stop me, if they had wanted to.  But, they didn’t.  Interesting.  Was that always the rule, or is it only recent, in response to an irresistible tidal wave of students taking notes with their iPhones?

Tuesday May 27 2014

I like to browse through Jonathan Gewirtz’s photos from time to time, and on my latest browse I came across this photo, of a brightly lit building in Urban Florida.  Miami?  Don’t know, and it doesn’t matter.

What particularly got my attention was the fact that Gewirtz included in the picture: his own shadow.

imageI have taken the liberty of reproducing this detail here.  “Copyright ©2011 Jonathan Gewirtz” is what it says just before saying “jonathangewirtz.com”, but I trust my little except does not break any rules.  (Rules often being the point of copyright violations, I’m guessing.  Maybe this particular copyright violation, on its own, would not be a problem, but once the line is crossed, by anyone ...) If Gewirtz wants this little piece of his work removed, he has only to say and it will be removed forthwith.

Okay, with that out of the way, the point that I want to make here is that I suspect that this thing of including your own shadow in pictures is a practice that has filtered upwards to the Real Photographers like Jonathan Gewirtz, from us digital amateurs.

Your own shadow in the picture often starts as a mistake, but then you think: well, okay, that’s my shadow, but what’s so wrong with that?  I was standing there, with the sun behind me.  I mean, did you think this wasn’t a photograph, and that someone standing there throwing a shadow into the picture wasn’t even there?  Did you think that God took the picture?  Cameras gobble up whatever they see in that moment, and in this moment, for instance, my shadow was part of what it saw.  Often, the shadow is all there is, and very amusing it is too.

The crux of the matter is, I think, who the picture is for and what the point of it is.  Is it for someone else, someone paying?  Is perhaps a happy couple being photographed on their wedding day?  In which case, they are the point, not the photographer.  Likewise if the point is to photo this dish of salad, or that house interior, or this beloved pet or that sports team, well, the Real Photographer is not being paid to insert himself into the scene, and he will be careful not to.

But if, on the other hand, you are a snapper who is just having a bit of fun, then why shouldn’t you, the snapper, also become your own snappee?

But the thing is, when Real Photographers are out having fun, the way Jonathan Gewirtz presumably is when taking photos in Miami or wherever, just because he likes to, they are liable to take their ingrained Real Photographer habits of self-effacement with them.  So, interesting that Gewirtz did not do this, at any rate not this time.

I’ll end with a slice out of one of these photos:

image

The crooked forefinger being mine.

A Real Photographer does a shadow selfie
Lining up the Strata with the Shard
Classic Feline Friday quote from Tim Berners-Lee
A quota post (with a quota link to a post about a post about a quota photo) and another quota photo
Wedding photography - old and new
Richard Stallman on software patents
Interesting software NewZ
Michael Jennings - pictures of globalisation
Steven Pinker’s description of The Enlightenment
Celebrity photoshoot?
Pictures of the Libertarian Home meeting in Southwark last night
Rally Against Debt signs
Another Assembly of Men
A Spanish high speed train bridge and a Spanish aqueduct
And then give up and stay fat
Yet more redirection
The Humpty Dumpty Learning Channel
Questions concerning the death of copyright protection on downloaded MP3s
Guerrilla webfare
I don’t usually approve of swear blogging but …
Sneezing chat
Big box computers versus laptops
One man’s intellectual theft is another man’s marketing
Unusual leg extension
Green cat copyrighted picture email vanishes
Sounds like a brothel with film star lookalikes
A horizon(tal) sunset slice
An after-echo of the creation of the world - Burgon recycles Milhaud
What’s up with this?
More recorded cricket chat and some further Oval hindsights
MP3 Haydn symphonies
Photo by me in a newspaper!
Picture charging advice please
How patent lawyers destroyed a mathematician
Gramophone are putting their back catalogue of articles online for free
Portable copiers and copying jokes
Terence Kealey on the Wright brothers and their patent battles
Freedom of information
Kings Cross gasometer sunset travels 6000 miles
Billion Monkey lady ticks four (make that five) boxes!
News Media Coalition versus Indian Premier League
Twickenham shop attacked by the Dark Side of The Force
Billion Monkey scrunched up in a ball!
Bookcase staircase many books electric book manybooks.net
The great DVD packaging clearout
The qualitative difference made by quantity
Thames Barrier photo first shown here - then used by UNESCO
Manhole cover cats and Angel of the North shelves?
“That’s not Minnie Mouse - that’s a cat with large ears”
Two items of Billion Monkey behaviour
Thomas Edison - from cheat to creator
The Joyce Hatto affair - no big deal
Not what it looks like
Incognito
“It’s a shame that copyright was infringed in a thesis about copyright itself”
The Nanpu bridge approaches
The future of music
Michael Jennings on intellectual property
New York Times links - owned genes
Me and Alex talking Gilbert and Sullivan
The Pirates opens in New York
Man may not sit on Art bed and be photoed by Billion Monkey lady friend!
When everything is copyable
One click
The Wealth of Networks
Skill and Post-Skill
On China Law Blog and on the reinforcing of prejudices
More IP violating: Barry Beelzebub on Freepost bricks and a still-legal wild boar hunt
The Billion Monkeys of Australia will continue to photograph oil refineries
Help the struggle against DRM!
Read-Write versus Read-Only