Posts tagged ‘intellectual property’


One year on, the same issues remain pressing

23.04.2011

In 2011, the issues that I spoke about during my campaign remain as pressing as they always did.
   We still need better, wider and earlier consultation, whether we streamline current processes or create new ones for citizen engagement.
   We still need to build a city-wide wifi network, one which exists but needs a few top-level negotiations to make it work—with a real plan for expanding it to both lower socioeconomic areas and the eastern suburbs. It’ll create an infrastructure which will encourage more businesses built around teleworking, with a consequence of helping with traffic.
   It is a long-term plan, but just as roads were once the solution for 20th-century problems, the internet infrastructure is the solution for early 21st-century ones.
   Although, I must say, the ability for New Zealand to attract international investment for technological businesses has been hampered severely by central government and the copyright amendments.
   If you were an investor, you’d now think twice about investing in a country that has a presumption of guilt with an ill-defined concept of file-sharing. If you wanted a legislative minefield, there’s always the People’s Republic of China.
   If you were in the high-tech industry, you’d think twice if an MP equated the internet to Skynet, which, I might add, did not become self-aware on April 21, 2011. (Was this the reason for rushing the bill through under urgency, Mr Young?)
   I don’t know the government and the opposition’s motives, unless their will is to see New Zealand remain a low-wage, primary-products-focused economy bending to the whims of American lobby groups.
   New Zealand needs to capitalize on its creative advantage, Wellington even more so. We’re already behind the eight-ball on this, but our small population means we should be able to move more quickly.
   And start doing things that are right not just for three-year outlooks, but 30-year ones.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


National thinks the internet is ‘Skynet’ as copyright amendments pass second reading

13.04.2011

This would be humorous if the implications of the copyright amendments were not so serious:

Also speaking in favour of the bill, National MP Jonathan Young compared the internet to Skynet, the fictional artificial intelligence network in the Terminator movies that tried to destroy mankind.

That was in the National Business Review.
   I believe it’s also fair to hold the Prime Minister to account.
   This is the same man who, in 2009, thought this legislative amendment was a bad idea.
   He now thinks it’s a good idea, I imagine because it was passed under urgency and he can get away with it.
   The leader of the Opposition may indeed have flip-flopped on things, but I think he took a tad longer. The Prime Minister, on this issue once again, shows that principle is not one of his strong suits.
   Especially in light of the TPPA negotiations, this government seems hell bent on ceding our sovereignty to foreign lobbyists.
   In what I believe is a tactical mistake for them, Labour supported the amendment, too.
   The first big issue for the General Election has just crept up—the internet-savvy public is far larger than politicians think—and it plays right into the minor parties’ hands.

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Posted in internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA, Wellington | 6 Comments »


Two years on, the mainstream media wake up over BYD’s ethics

10.04.2011

I said it in 2009, and apparently, so did a diplomat whose note was leaked via Wikileaks: BYD might not stand scrutiny in a non-Chinese court over its vehicles.
   When I raised it, a few BYD fans (agents?) came commenting, trying to pick holes in my post, though they were unable to deny that the company had been unethical. If someone needs to come and attack without substance, then it’s almost always a guilty conscience that motivates them. If anything, they confirmed every statement I made.
   That time, I highlighted two publicity images that Toyota and BYD had used, even though BYD said the F0 model is exclusively its own work. It’s a little hard to explain these two photographs, then:

Toyota Aygo

BYD F1

   I wrote at the time:

BYD’s general manager, Xia Zhibing, has been quoted as saying, ‘The BYD F1 [as it was originally called] is a model developed by ourselves and we hold the intellectual property right for it.’
   I guess there’s no shame at BYD, and that the ideals of truthfulness in Confucianism haven’t made a return to parts of Red China.
   Come on, Mr Xia, the only contribution BYD has made to the 2007 photo is in Adobe Photoshop! If you are going to lie about it, don’t make it so obvious by using someone else’s publicity pic first! At least use CAD to generate something new!

   The argument still holds when you examine the door shapes of the BYD F3 and G3, and the E120 Toyota Corolla; or the F6 and the XV30 Camry, though at least neither model has been cursed with retouching of Toyota publicity photographs. From the Reuter article:

One Honda source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cited BYD’s F3 model in particular as a known copy with Toyota Corolla and Honda Fit attributes.

   It’s interesting that this has only recently come to light at Reuter, when the story was very obvious to most of us motorheads two years ago.
   Most of us know that copying goes on and China, Red or otherwise, is certainly not the only guilty party. There’s some hidden story about the original Nissan March and the Fiat Uno, for example, but usually, when these things are done, the designers do enough to get around an expert’s judgement, just in case one gets called up in court.
   BYD, however, hasn’t really done enough to cover its tracks. It’s one thing to be inspired, it’s another to leave clues everywhere over the finished product.
   Before 2009, I honestly thought BYD was a Toyota licensee, and while it would be very difficult (as the Reuter article points out) to prove copying or copyright infringement on a component-by-component basis (as so many parts are commodities), it’s actually not as difficult to examine the overall bodyshells and for a plaintiff to find evidence of objective similarity. Things might be a millimetre out here and there, but the argument would be familiar to anyone in the type design industry: Megaron is still Helvetica.
   Arguably, some of the technology is BYD’s (and the Reuter article has something to say about its efficacy), but there’ll need to be some investment in the look of the cars if the company doesn’t want to get an injunction filed against it by some Japanese automakers, as I said in 2009.
   It’s not as though the company is incapable of producing cars inspired by other manufacturers but with enough of the details hidden—some of BYD’s niche models could pass muster in a non-Chinese court.
   The BYD e6, the electric car on which a lot of the company’s hopes hinge, actually looks quite smart.
   However, the mainstream models, the ones in which Warren Buffett has placed so much faith with his BYD investment, don’t.
   There are so many Chinese car manufacturers that deserve to do well, because they’ve played the game properly. While their conduct during the last days of MG Rover in the UK left something to be desired, SAIC is going about its expansion largely the right way. Chery has been commissioning some wonderful work from Italy. Geely and Riich models might look derivative, but there’s no doubt that it’s their own work. I wouldn’t buy a Lifan, but I’d talk them up before I’d talk up BYD.
   BYD’s advantage is in its electric models, if they ever appear. The Reuter article leaves the reader in little doubt that the technology there might not be all that it is cracked up to be, either.
   The irony is I would really love the idea of all-electric cars to succeed and be affordable. If they came from China, I would have no objection, because it would mean that the world’s fastest-growing car-buying nation might be able to arrest its rise in carbon dioxide emissions. Even the Politburo’s subsidy for electric cars is a sensible move.
   But there is so much talent in a country of over a billion that copying, as the Chinese car industry moves into a more mature phase, does it no credit—and that could prove the undoing of BYD unless it sets its sights only on exporting the e6 and not the existing F-cars or the G3.

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Posted in business, cars, China, design, media, USA | 3 Comments »


Giving a toss about web hosting: Americans 2, Brits 0

23.12.2010

©

Generally, I turn a blind eye to people who use thumbnails of our work or take an excerpt from an article and link the rest to us. Pity, then, that so many of these sites are splogs, but at least they stop short of outright piracy.
   It’s when someone takes an entire article, pretends it’s their own, and even slaps a copyright notice on it—that’s what gets my goat more. In the past fortnight, two websites have done that with Lucire material (and material from many other media outlets). Neither had a contact address or contact form, because nine times out of ten, these are solved just by a nice email, so our only path was to notify their web hosts in the US. God bless them both: they have acted.
   While the Americans have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act down to a fine art, less can be said about Great Britain. A British site, which I will not yet name because I can’t be arsed sending them hits for being thieving gits, has taken three Lucire articles, in full, one even containing my byline. Two are not from our regular RSS feed, but from the features’ section, which means that the person has to go in to our site and save the content manually.
   We wrote to them in mid-November, not asking for removal, but just a cutting back of the content of the first article we found. It’s not a big ask, and I see it as a good win–win. The article in question was in Lucire’s RSS feed, so I figured they had an automated script that took the content. They might not even have known it was there. And they were kind enough to provide a link, and that’s far better than some people who don’t even give us that courtesy.
   But then I found the two feature pieces that weren’t featured in RSS. It’s a bit much then, because that suggests a malicious hand.
   I received no reply to the very polite email I wrote to them. The blog comments have not been published (I wonder why). And I see that their web host, a British company, has done nothing, either, except to inform me of their abuse email address.
   It is crystal clear that this site has breached the host’s published ‘acceptable use policy’, and while Britain does not have a DMCA, there is the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988, which I studied in some depth back at uni.
   The foundation of the British act and the American DMCA is identical, in that both are set up to protect authorship, and the British hosting company has been provided with more than sufficient evidence of its client’s guilt.
   It seems, then, that the acceptable use policy of this company is nothing more than lip service, because there is no response from the abuse address, nor from the fax I sent yesterday.
   A total of eight messages have been sent on the British issue, to two organizations who could not give a stuff about copyright infringement. The Americans only need one email. If you want to pirate stuff, there’s one hosting company in the UK that is your friend—it’s even won awards, apparently. At least one was from the Murdoch Press. I wonder on what criteria those were given.

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Posted in business, internet, media, publishing, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


James Bond’s Zinger

15.12.2010

Mitsubishi Zinger promo

Apart from sounding like a burger, the Mitsubishi Zinger—or, to give its full model name these days in Taiwan, the Super Zinger (not kidding)—is one of those oddball vehicles I come across when editing Autocade. It’s a minivan based on a truck chassis—in this case the first-generation Mitsubishi Challenger—and a pretty ugly one at that.
   When double-checking some details in the Autocade entry, I came across the official site. I wonder what the Broccoli family has to say about the gun-barrel and 007 imagery, and would James Bond, Chinese or otherwise, really be seen driving a naff minivan? Unless it was to carry around 007’s illegitimate children, which must number greatly by now? And will the next villain be called Auric K. F. C. Zingerburger?

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Posted in business, cars, China, humour, internet, marketing | No Comments »


TPPA could turn the clock back

30.11.2010

During the campaign trail, people tended to ask me if I was left or right. While I cheekily said, ‘Forward,’ many a time (and had at least one imitator), there’s something to be said for abandoning what are, effectively, nineteenth-century constructs.
   And unless you are DI Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes, you need not concern yourself with constructs.
   What society needs is a dose of right or wrong, because all the constructs do is blind people to seeing a contrary argument if they happen to have branded it “left” or “right”.
   There’s no ‘I can see your viewpoint’ because that viewpoint is never aired.
   Fortunately, we didn’t have too much of this problem during the mayoral election though I did have a few people express surprise that I had once run for the Alliance. Meanwhile, Mayor Prendergast was surprised on the night of our TV debate that I sat with Young Nats—though three of them were, indeed, on my campaign.
   If we are all proclaiming we are “independents” and deny any connection with the larger parties, then surely the best quality we could have is to be non-political and unite people from “left” and “right”?
   And, as I also said on the campaign—and long before that—I know of very few people who are “all left” or “all right”.
   A while back, I had a discussion with the co-leader of the Alliance, Kay Murray, and she mentioned that there was a certain policy where the Alliance and ACT saw things the same way.
No Ordinary Deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement   It was with this frame of mind that I read Prof Jane Kelsey’s piece in INM‘s New Zealand Herald today.
   New Zealand is to host the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) talks on December 6, in which, says Kelsey, we would be ‘deepening our commitment to free market policies that affect our jobs, our social and cultural well-being, and ultimately the sovereignty to make decisions as a nation …
   ‘The TPPA would lock us into a model where markets and big businesses rule, ignoring the reality that it has failed.’
   I applaud the Herald for publishing Prof Kelsey’s op–ed, given that there are certain media part of larger groups that may have reasons to limit New Zealanders’ awareness of globalization.
   As much as some would like to hide the figures, the reality is that many globalist policies have failed to generate New Zealand enterprise. They have not enabled us to take advantage of the internet by providing a system geared against us as producers. The level playing field with which Labour tried to sell the promise of Rogernomics in the 1980s, thereby appealing to the fair play nature of New Zealanders, never materialized. And it desperately needed to.
   The result has been a largely technocratic system that has seen foreign enterprises already dictate much of what is done here in business—including accounting practices that have seen taxes that would have once been due here go offshore.
   To those National supporters that were part of my campaign team, I said: I am not against some of your party’s principles. I remember the National where progressive Kiwi-owned enterprise was on the cards as a given, and I believe in that. The main parties no longer really want to discuss this topic, if my memory of the 2008 General Election serves me correctly.
   I would not want to speak for them, but I suspect the younger members of this group would agree with me, having grown up in an era where values and social responsibility have been emphasized more than in the decade—or generation—before. Humanism is sometimes best delivered at the local level by organizations that know their community best, though there obviously are exceptions. They are no dummies: they will have observed this themselves, and may well have judged that market theory needs to be tempered by good (and not overbearing) governance.
   Having your formative years in a recession might be a good thing if you are forced to consider things at that community level. We’ve had quite enough “me decades” in the last 30 years that it’s about time we had a “we” one that had long been forecast by some in the marketing trends’ business.
   And I wonder whether the Prime Minister sees it quite this way.
   I almost wonder whether he favours having a small group called the information-rich and a larger group called the information-poor as this seems to be the next divide that certain forces are poised to take us in.
   In fact, I’ve had Prof Kelsey’s new book, due to be launched this week, for the last fortnight, and it makes excellent reading. And while given to me by friends on the “left”, it takes no political stance and analyses the TPPA for what it is.
   I had no idea that when I received it as a gift I was getting it pre-publication.
   No Ordinary Deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement has been edited by Kelsey and contains essays dealing with each aspect of the TPPA.
   If we thought that the fight against the Copyright Act amendments was tough, TPPA will see a new round, where there will be an assault on internet users’ rights to protect the US entertainment industry.
   Prof Susy Frankel, one of the authors, notes in the book:

It is possible that the TPPA negotiations will require more stringent protections of digital copyright works and more confind exceptions to those protections than the New Zealand law provides …
   The AUSFTA makes all reproductions of copyright works, even those transient in nature, a copyright infringement. New Zealand law does not make the creation of transient copies that allow the Internet to function a copyright infringement. This is important because it means that people cannot be sued for simply using the Internet and looking things online.

This means New Zealand’s unique digital copyright laws could be clawed back to become closer to US law, but there is equally a risk of what is permitted here, thanks to how we define fair dealing versus fair use, narrower.
   Meanwhile, Kelsey warns in her Herald piece:

Ironically, the government may also guarantee rights to foreign firms that it refuses to recognise for Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi.
   US firms are demanding even easier foreign investment rules that would be locked in for all time, when opinion polls show New Zealanders want to stop more land falling into foreign hands. Likewise, the idea of stemming currency speculation by introducing a financial transactions tax may be prevented by these “trade” rules.

All of which hint, to me, at the continuation of a slanted playing field where we remain at the bottom.
   Indeed, when it comes to services, Kelsey is right to point out (in her book) that:

The negotiating positions of governments participating in the TPPA seek to enhance the comparative advantage of their domestic firms, so as to boost their countries’ export earnings from services and strengthen their national economies …
   Achieving [the Obama administration’s goal of trebling services’ exports] would intensify the dominance of US corporations within other countries’ service markets. The US already reports a surplus in its cross-border trade in private commercial services with negotiating TPPA parties, standing at US$10·5 billion in 2008.

We are in part countering the imbalance with tourism at the moment, but given that there are other services—and we spent a good deal of the last generation building our service economy—we may expect an assault from the US.
   These are not the only sectors, but New Zealand needs to brace itself for a continued weakening of our economy should we put all our chips into the TPPA.
   I can say this with some greater cred that I am no longer campaigning: strengthening this country’s economy and building jobs is imperative, and we need to embark on that before opening us further to foreign private enterprise.
   I would prefer to see policies that enhance New Zealanders’ innovation and enterprise, aid our exports, build our infrastructure so we are content providers, and balance these needs with those who are disadvantaged. We need to reverse our continued slide into indebtedness through innovation and that our government, regardless of its label, needs to “govern” to ensure a balance for all citizens.
   It is too tempting, and too easy, for the New Zealand Government to believe it can relive the days of the boom—one that was founded on very little substance, mind—by effectively turning the clock back. Taking the technocratic experiment one step further by now removing the advantages we enjoy in intellectual property and services—now that manufacturing and energy have gone—isn’t something I can see working.
   Having backward policies isn’t going to suddenly take us in to the boom of yesteryear and make the economy rosier, and the Prime Minister, who apparently was no stranger to hard work if his PR is to be believed, needs to realize this.
   He needs, indeed, to position himself and his party to work even harder to promote that idea of progressive enterprise, rather than a route in which we are sold up the creek again. Assenting to the demands of foreign governments, lobbyists and corporations is not the way to do it.

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


Let the Outrageous Fortune come

15.06.2010

Almost any New Zealander will recognize this image: a cast photograph from the long-running TV series Outrageous Fortune.

   When I first heard of this show from Antonia Prebble, before she started filming, I have to admit I didn’t think the premise would see it last five years (and counting). But for New Zealand television and the folks this show employs, I am glad it has.
   Like all good shows (Life on Mars, State of Play, Cracker)—and a few bad ones (Pop Idol)—it was eyed up for a remake.
   The British, who have never been that great at remaking shows usually (remember the Russ Abbot sitcom Married for Life, based on Married with Children? Or the remake of Who’s the Boss?, called The Upper Hand?), decided it would see how well West Auckland transplanted to London. Cue Amanda Redman instead of Robyn Malcolm, and a rebrand to Honest for ITV:

   No, it didn’t work. According to some expat Kiwis whose comments I read, the pilot was virtually a shot-by-shot remake that added nothing to the original. I do not know about the remainder of the series, but the fact that it was not renewed by ITV says something.
   The Americans, who have never been that great at remaking shows usually (Sanford & Son, Life on Mars, Coupling, Cosby, Ugly Betty, Three’s a Crowd, Eleventh Hour, Too Close for Comfort, The Office, Viva Laughlin, Kath & Kim, Payne, Amanda’s, The Prisoner, In Treatment, Worst Week, All in the Family, State of Play, etc.; Shameless and Gavin & Stacey are on the cards), decided to give this a shot. Getting in the chap who made Veronica Mars and Catherine O’Hara (the Home Alone Mum, after Rene Russo turned it down), Cheryl West became Jackie West and the show was renamed Good Behavior.

Only the pilot was made. I never saw it, but indications were that it was not good.
   Still, you have to admire the Americans for not giving up. The show’s been retooled, Virginia Madsen and David James Elliott (whom I know you ladies like) have been hired, and, as Scoundrels, it débuts on ABC on June 20. A series has been commissioned.

   The publicity touts this as an ‘original’ ABC series (yeah, right), but I actually hope it goes well for them. Why? Because the Kiwis who created Outrageous Fortune, I believe, will earn royalties on each episode. We might pooh-pooh it because we are purists, but I’d rather the money flowed inwards. While we haven’t exactly exported Kiwi culture in a Flight of the Conchords way—because the show has been Americanized—I’d still rather a decent Kiwi concept got there and, in its small way, reverse the tide of the reality TV junk that so often comes westward across the Pacific.
   Like Scorsese’s The Departed, a remake that sparked interest in the original Infernal Affairs (無間道), we might see Americans track down the original Outrageous Fortune on DVD. That, too, can only be a good thing.

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Posted in business, culture, humour, New Zealand, TV, UK, USA | 1 Comment »


Volvo Cars, a unit of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.

31.03.2010

I haven’t missed the sale of Volvo to Geely, but it wasn’t as momentous as the rebirth of Saab. We knew the deal was coming and the rest were formalities.
   The company has said there will be no Geelys badged as Volvos and vice versa. It recognizes the Volvo brand is too valuable to tinker with—something Ford did, too, even if it starved the company of smaller models that could have helped kept its market share strong in Sweden.
   Important for Geely is the innovative technology that Volvo possesses that could make the younger company a world-class player. It’s common knowledge that Volvo provided Ford with some of its better present platforms, and that as a centre of excellence, it worked on safety systems for all Ford units.
   Geely gets access to the lot, which improves its own product—while arguably helping Volvo realize economies of scale in the Red Chinese market. It only sells a seventh of what Audi does in the growing market, and Geely could instantly help improve that.
   The deal makes sense. One only needs to take a look at how quickly Geely has grown in China—without pirating others’ designs—to know that it’s not in the business of asset-stripping or ripping off its Swedish unit. Of the Chinese firms, it’s operated far more ethically than, say, BYD, with its too-close-to-Toyota designs.
   And will we see Geely outside China? You bet we will—but only when the cars are up to snuff. If Ford can build a Taurus on a Volvo S80 platform, then look out for world-class small- to mid-sized Geelys hitting international markets on future Volvo ones.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, China, design, marketing, Sweden, USA | 1 Comment »


The ‘Wellywood’ sign: people power gets things done

10.03.2010

That was a very interesting 30 hours. I found out about the ‘Wellywood’ sign yesterday afternoon, through Twitter, and Tweeted to say I hated it. Little did I know then that there was a huge Facebook group—6,000 strong at the time of writing—where Wellingtonians were making their voices known.
   And when I got there to Facebook, I was inspired.
   While my opponents were still talking hot air, I decided to act for the good of the city. I was inspired by one comment on the larger anti-sign Facebook group, which asked: surely someone holds the copyright?
   First stop: the Hollywood Sign Trust. If anyone knew who owned the sign, it would be them.
   I received a very nice reply from Betsy Isroelit of the Trust at what must have been very early hours in California, to say that she had referred it to the correct parties.
   By the time I got up today, I had an email waiting from Global Icons, LLC, which, with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, owns the original Hollywood sign’s intellectual property. Global Icons, from what I understand, looks after this side of things for the Chamber. And would I please send them the artist’s impression of what the sign would look like?
   And that kicked it off. I mentioned this to Rachel Morton at TV3 news before I was interviewed, and she took the initiative by contacting the CEO of the Chamber for comment immediately. It turns out that he did not know that the matter was already brewing in California, but he does now. Rachel tells me that he then put the Chamber’s lawyers on to the case. That’s two for us, nil for Mayor Prendergast and the airport.
   All it took was the creativity of Wellingtonians to show something I have said from day one.
   You know, creativity? The thing that this sign does not represent, and makes fun of?
   And all it took were everyday Wellingtonians collaborating. I was inspired by the person on the Facebook group. And if I hadn’t approached the Trust and Global Icons, I wouldn’t have mentioned it to Rachel. And if Rachel hadn’t called the CEO, Global Icons would probably be going it alone. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, because the credit is, really, everyone’s. The result should hopefully be that this horrible sign does not go up because people were prepared to act—whether by making their voice known on Facebook, or making some phone calls.
   People power, not corporates, not élites, gets things done. And that includes this year’s mayoral election.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 5 Comments »