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On his recent trip to Washington, British PM Gordon Brown gave President Obama a penholder carved from the timbers of the sister ship of the one whose wood formed the desk of the Oval Office. In return, Obama gave Brown a box set of classic American films, seemingly not realising that Brown can't actually watch them because they're Region 1, and Number 10's amenities presumably don't extend to a £20 off-brand multi-region DVD player. And, of course, with both Brown and Obama being obliged to give lip service to maximalist interpretations of copyright laws, neither could publicly condone circumventing lawful restrictions such as DVD region coding. Oops!
Jeremy Clarkson, meanwhile, has a rather witty take on it, which turns into a rubbishing of the unequal terms of Britain's "special relationship" with the US:
Gordon gave Obama Barrack a penholder carved from the timbers of an antislavery ship. The sister ship, in fact, of the one that was broken up and turned into the desk in the Oval Office. Barrack, meanwhile, gave Brown The Graduate on DVD. Which smacks of an “Oh, Christ. What shall we get him?” moment at the local petrol station.
I just watched Sticky Carpet, a recent (2006) documentary on the Melbourne music scene. It was quite interesting, interviewing musicians and scene figures about various aspects of it, such as the interplay between the mainstream and the alternative (most of them were very anti-mainstream), art and commercialism (the consensus was that when money becomes a consideration, the range of allowable creative decisions narrows severely), Melbourne's profusion of band venues and community radio stations, and even the theory that Melbourne's preeminence in the Australian music scene has to do with the cold winter days encouraging musicians to go indoors and rehearse.
Sticky Carpet's main flaw was its fairly heavy
I was surprised to find that the frontman of Eddy Current Suppression Ring wasn't wearing a blue singlet or sporting a rat's tail mullet. I sort of placed them as part of a Bodgie revival.
Another interesting thing that was said in the documentary: Tony Biggs (who presents the talk-radio segment on 3RRR) made the claim that the fact that 99% of commercial music consists of love songs might contribute to depression and mental illness, as such songs instill unreasonably optimistic expectations in listeners.
Sticky Carpet, a recent documentary on Melbourne's independent music scene, is coming out on DVD on 8 March 2007, and will feature over an hour of bonus material, including live footage and film clips:
This raw and vital film collects interviews from musicians currently leading the charge in Melbourne's underground. Not restricted to any one genre the film brings together everyone from sound explorers Robin Fox and Rod Cooper to and Melbourne scene stalwarts like Ross Knight (Cosmic Psychos), Bruce Milne (founder of Au-Go-Go Records, In-Fidelity Records) and Roland S. Howard (Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party).
Bands included on the documentary: The Stabs, HTRK, My Disco, Colditz Glider, The Birthday Party, Baseball, Group Seizure, True Radical Miracle, Cockfight Shootout, Nation Blue, The Sinking Citizenship, Agents of Abhorrence, Civil Dissent, ABC Weapons, Pisschrist, The Dacios, The Sailors, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Depression, Trash 'n' Chaos, Batrider, Ninetynine, The Stabs, The Assassination Collective, Digger and the Pussycats, The Losers, Bored!It looks like a DVD well worth getting.
It looks like there's a Nathan Barley DVD coming out in late September. (It's only Region 2, btw; I have no idea whether this series has made it outside of Britain.) I wonder what extras it will have.
Norwegian prosecutors drop appeal against Jon Johansen, creator of the DVD decryption library DeCSS; thus, unauthorised decryption of DVDs is perfectly legal in Norway, at least until they pass their WTO-mandated copyright-expansion law. Meanwhile, Jon isn't resting on his laurels, and has released code for stripping DRM from iTunes files.
Jon Johansen acquitted, again, of copyright violation for writing DVD decryption code. The acquittal came several weeks before it was expected; this will undoubtedly make it harder for the MPAA to get a conviction if the case moves up to Norway's supreme court. (via Slashdot)
First we had disposable mobile phones (did those ever take off?); and now the latest development in disposable technology is self-destructing DVDs, engineered to become unreadable within 48 hours, thus protecting the integrity of the intellectual property encoded thereon.
Isn't it amazing that so much effort is being put into removing value from objects and making things more fragile and less usable. First there were intentionally broken CDs, sadomasochistic "digital rights management" file formats and software "copy-protection" systems which impede upward compatibility (aside: the main reason why MacOS X software can't run MacOS 9 VST plug-ins is because, with commercial ones being copy-protected (i.e., engineered to depend on low-level quirks of MacOS 9; anywhere else, this would be considered bad programming), they would be unable to run, and there was no point running just the free ones). And now, the wonder of modern technology allows us to have products which turn into garbage within 48 hours, taking up space in landfills and leaching god knows what toxins into the groundwater. But that's just the price we have to pay for protecting the basis of civilized society, the inviolate rule that intellectual property is sacrosanct.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's campaigns against DVD region coding has become somewhat of an uphill battle, with the studios not returning their calls. Perhaps they're waiting for Fels' Howard-administration-appointed successor to come in and drop the case, or failing that, for a US-Australian "free trade" agreement which promises to criminalise DVD player modification and enforce region coding in the interests of "free trade":
"The rise in international cartels is a serious matter in the global economy," [Fels] said. "Free trade paradoxically has given rise to cartel behaviour which has required regulatory action. "When you deregulate markets, people are very aware that the way to make money is to create some restriction."
No doubt about it, Fels will be missed. The Australian people will have lost a great advocate. Let's hope that his successor's not a total corporate simp. (via Rocknerd)
Beware the badly-translated Asian Two Towers bootleg DVD captions; some are oddly streetwise, like "Bring your pussy face to my ass" and "You gonna pick it up or what?"; and some, like Eomer saying "too long i wanted my sister" are just disturbing. (via MeFi)
Jon Johansen acquitted on all counts of charges of criminal computer trespass, after he wrote code to break DVD encryption. (Whether he can safely catch flights stopping in US jurisdiction is another matter, though.) The decision is a crushing blow for the MPAA and is expected to have far-reaching ramifications in Norway; however, since his arrest, Norway has moved to introduce DMCA-style legislation which explicitly outlaws circumvention, so this may be moot. Time will tell.
Is DVD region enforcement on the verge of collapse?
Some academic ratbag types in France have released an open-source DVD player, which apparently does CSS decryption. This is currently legal in France, though with the EU Directive on Copyright, it won't be for long. (via Slashdot)
Some technical details about how DVD-ROMs are made, from the authors of a free Linux-based DVD authoring tool. (via Slashdot)
The Guardian on the real issues behind the DeCSS lawsuit. Not surprisingly, it's not so much about preventing piracy as it is about the DVD consortium protecting its monopoly on the encoding of DVD movies and locking independent producers out.
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