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 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.

Monday May 12 2014

This is one of my favourite Big Thing Alignment shots, to be observed by emerging from Oval tube and walking north east along the A3.  Do that, and you soon see Strata in the distance, and directly behind it, the Shard, thus:

image image

These shots are two of many such that I took on June 25th 2012.

On the left: the heart of the matter.  On the right: the context.  Often, when you have a zoom lens, you show the zoomed shot, and neglect how it actually looked, along with all the other stuff you could see.  When I say “you” I of course mean “I”.

I worked out that this shot might be there for the taking by looking at the map.  Strata is at the Elephant and Castle, which is the big yellow roundabout in the middle of this map:

image

And the Shard is at London Bridge railway station, top right.

What this shows, I think, is another contribution made by technically rather poor photographers like me.  We may not take our pictures that well, from the point of view of using the right cameras, lenses, f numbers, and general technical jiggery pokery.  But we often take great shots, as in, we often take great shots rather badly.  A technically better photographer might see this posting, and say to him or herself: Hey I like that shot.  I’m going to go out there and do it again, properly, while crediting the person who first did the shot and thus showed me that the shot was gettable.

(Are Real Photographers reluctant to do this kind of copying-stroke-improving of amateur shots, for intellectual property (and hence money) reasons?  Is there a sense in which, photogaphically speaking, I now “own” this view?)

A similar point could have been made in the course of this posting, which also included a map showing how that shot happened, and where to go to get it.  That too was a great shot, done just about well enough to show what a great shot it might have been, but only just.

Friday March 14 2014

From Tim Berners-Lee, no less, on the occasion of the twenty fifth anniversary of his glorious invention, the www:

I never expected all these cats.

Berners-Lee also mentioned something about a Magna Carta for the web, but I am afraid the cat remark has overwhelmed all that stuff.

Or, maybe the cat angle has drawn attention to the Magna Carta stuff, which would otherwise have been ignored even more.  (I am starting to notice many rather irrelevant cats in adverts nowadays.)

Sunday February 23 2014

Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been doing rather a lot of quota posting of late.

So anyway, here’s the link.

And here is the quota photo:

image

That’s actually one of my more favourite recent photos.  It was taken just before Christmas, in Twickenham, where Patrick Crozier lives, through the window of a shop where they sell … things like that.

I like the water on the window.

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