Support DRM Free Music

In a departure from my normal stance on the subject, I think it is time people put a little money where their beliefs were and supported Amazon in its foray to DRM-free music downloads.

Amazon is selling MP3 music, free of any digital rights management crap, for as little as 59p a track. Now, for those of you who are used to music being free per track this might seem expensive, but it is cheaper than most of the services like iTunes – and more importantly this sells you the music in the right way… you are allowed to play it on your iPod, your Laptop, your old mp3 player etc. One of the things that used to constantly infuriate me (and ensure I would never actually pay for music there) on iTunes was the problem with how portable the music was.

I have an iPod, I have a phone that plays MP3s, I have a laptop, I have a car MP3 player, a windows PC, a linux PC and an MP3-enabled music station. If I buy a peice of music I am the person who chooses which device can play it, not Apple. When I had various CD or tape players, it was down to me as to which device was going to play the music. I didnt have to contact EMI for a new licence every time I bought a new cassette player so why should I start now?

None of this is meant to suggest the only reason people pirate MP3 tracks is to have more portability, but it is an element. It is important that companies like Amazon show iTunes et al., that giving the users choice can be a profitable business model. Is the brand name of iTunes really worth an extra 20p a track when you can only play the track on your iPod?

If you like the idea of DRM free music and if you think that 59p is close to a reasonable sum of money to pay for music you like, then please go to Amazon and download a track or two. It doesn’t have to be many! Unless people make the effort to purchase DRM-free music over DRM’d music, the industry will never change.

By the way – I am sure Amazon is not the only source of DRM free music at a reasonable price. Please feel free to advertise any other sources here. springs to mind, where are the others? Find one you like, and buy some music. Then tell your friends to buy some.

Footnote: I gain nothing by you buying things from Amazon. There is no affiliate-ID in the link. This is actually something I think is a good idea to support.

Privateers to battle pirates

Anyone who learned some Tudor history at school has probably heard of “privateers”. (Licensed pirates,)

Plus ca change etc. According to Voice of America,

Private Contractors May Protect Against Somali Pirates

Pirates have captured 20 ships in and around the Gulf of Aden so far this year.

Naval vessels from about 10 nations will soon be patrolling the waters off the Somali coast, trying to prevent pirates from hijacking cargo ships.

The international efforts may soon be extended to include “private contractors”.

Now, Blackwater, a firm providing thousands of private contractors in Iraq, is offering its services to battle pirates.

VoA (somewhat unaccountably) interviewed a Maryland college professor for a view on this. (Is Maryland twinned with the Yemen?)

“I think it’s important to note first that historically this has been done. In fact, several hundred years ago, when piracy was rampant off the coast of Africa, it brought English trade in that region to a standstill. And the East India Company actually employed private convoys to protect their ships from pirates..

I will try to temporarily ignore the fact that “several hundred years ago,” English trade off the coast of Africa was the Triangle Trade (manufactured goods taken from England to Africa; slaves from Africa to the Americas; and sugar from the American plantations back to England.) All the same, this could hardly be seen as “trade” in any good sense.

I am also a bit confused by this particular historical parallel. The East India Company? My foggy memory of history had me thinking that the East India Company had something to do with India – indeed basically colonised India on a for-private-profit basis, not to mention caused any number of wars in its wake. Indeed, Wikipedia seems to share my delusion.

Maybe protecting the East India Company sounds a more respectable instance of the use of private naval warfare contractors than if you think of privateers in terms of the Pirates-of-the-Caribbean. Indeed, maybe, international co-operation can’t stamp out piracy in the Gulf of Aden. But in that case, what chance would an ad hoc private navy have?
More from VoA:

Cost of the private escort duty may outweigh the risk of sailing unprotected.
Berube says, “That would depend I think on the contracts themselves, but if you are a shipping company, for example, you would have to balance off the cost of providing that extra protection versus the potential loss of revenue… …
Berube says that his research shows most agree private contractors would provide escort duty and not hunt down pirates. “This is really simply just an extension of security that is already provided on some ships. We have armed riders for example. Some shipping companies are providing people on board to protect themselves from pirates,” he says.
He says, however, they must comply with international law, as well as local agreements

Hmm, Somalia has been in a state of complete chaos on and off for a couple of decades. International law doesn’t seem very big there. If it was – there wouldn’t be any pirates…… Or the UN would be able to stamp out the piracy threat, using member states’ existing navies. Without recourse to any private navy. Anyway, what is international law on the high seas? Who enforces it?

Are international governments like cash-strapped Tudor monarchs, forced to pursue their international objectives through fortune-seekers who’ll do the monarchs’ dirty work while enriching themselves?

It’s not just 1984 any more. Welcome to the Realpolitik of the 15th century.

Crazies Who Comment

No, not the kind, sane, rational people who comment here! My post on “Writing from Ignorance” was largely based on having read the paper edition of the Guardian today. Out of curiosity I visited the online version to see what sort of comments people came up with. Wow. For a while, I had felt I was being harsh towards Marina Hyde and had tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Not so some of the people who commented.

Now, there are zillions of comments and I read very few of them — mainly the first and last as I find that is the best way to get a feel for the debate when there are loads of comments. Here the majority of insane posts come from people claiming to be Americans. I truly hope they are either lying through their teeth or they do not present a representative sample. Some blasts of wisdom are: Continue reading

Writing from Ignorance

The false authority fallacy is one which rears it’s ugly head on a regular basis. I used to labour under the suspicion that this was more a problem for the right wing extremists, religious zealots on the like. Sadly, I have had my eyes opened somewhat.

In the most basic form, the false authority fallacy is most often invoked when a person, an expert in one field, is used to provide expert testimony in an unrelated field. We get it on a regular basis in the UK news (and I assume this is a global phenomenon), when (for example) Surgeons from the GMC pass opinion on anti-crime legislation. They may be wonderful surgeons, but what do they know about criminology or social control? Note: They may also be excellent criminologist or sociologists — but this is not something which can be assumed by their status as a surgeon. This fallacy happens all over — although they understand the grief, what special insight do the parents of murdered children have into law? — and it often manifests itself in a variety of mutated forms (Creationists are specialists at this). Recently, I have seen a new variation.

Continue reading