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I've just been reading the news (click here or on the picture below) that Greg Ham of Men at Work has died; possibly by suicide.



 

Suicide or not, Ham was apparently depressed and emotionally and financially ruined by a copyright dispute over the 'flute riff' in their 80s hit Down Under that was a phrase from 'Kookaburra sits in an old gum tree' written more than 75 years ago for a Girl Guides competition by Marion Sinclair; who died in 1988.

Everyone with kids is familiar with this musical phrase.  It is as Australian as the first phrase in Waltzing Matilda (that he should have used instead).

This cause for depression is close to home as my father's death was certainly accelerated by a patent dispute.

From a pure market perspective intellectual property protection is often justified as a way of making trade secrets public but what is the market benefit in copyright; will artists and authors keep their work secret without it? Why should the public continue to pay for a lifetime, particularly after an artist/author is long dead?

Obviously I generally support the protection of intellectual property as an incentive for R&D and creativity but with some caveats. In particular I think that patents, like copyright, should be unexamined and consequently free; but once published on line; in a journal; or other public place; defensible in court. 

Because of the sheer volume of patents registered, acceptance by an examiner is no longer prima face evidence of patent validity; as my father discovered to his very high cost.  If there is a dispute it needs to go to court in any case.

On the other hand I think copyright is overprotected and should be pulled back to the same rules as patents - 20 years from first publishing. 

At one time both patents and copyright protection were limited to 16 years.  Of course I accept that there are too many vested interests, and too much money involved trading in copyright created by artists who seldom benefit, to go back to 16 years; particularly as it requires international agreement.

At least the Internet is dealing with excessive copyright protection in a different way.  A subject for future discussion...

 


 

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Travel

Berlin

 

 

 

I'm a bit daunted writing about Berlin.  

Somehow I'm happy to put down a couple of paragraphs about many other cities and towns I've visited but there are some that seem too complicated for a quick 'off the cuff' summary.  Sydney of course, my present home town, and past home towns like New York and London.  I know just too much about them for a glib first impression.

Although I've never lived there I've visited Berlin on several occasions for periods of up to a couple of weeks.  I also have family there and have been introduced to their circle of friends.

So I decided that I can't really sum Berlin up, any more that I can sum up London or New York, so instead I should pick some aspects of uniqueness to highlight. 

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Recollections of 1963

 

A Pivotal Year

It appears that the latest offering from Andrew Lloyd Webber: Stephen Ward, the Musical, has crashed and burned after four months in London.

On hearing this I was reminded of 1963,  the year I completed High School and matriculated to University;  the year Bob Dylan became big; and Beatle Mania began. 

The year had started with a mystery the Bogle-Chandler deaths in Lane Cove National Park in Sydney that confounded Australia. Then came Buddhist immolations and a CIA supported coup and regime change in South Vietnam that was the beginning of the end for the US effort. 

Suddenly the Great Train Robbery in Britain was headline news there and in Australia. One of the ringleaders, Ronnie Biggs was subsequently found in Australia but stayed one step of the authorities for many years.

The 'Space Race' was underway with the USSR holding their lead by putting the first female Cosmonaut into obit. The US was riven with inter-racial hostility and rioting.  But the first nuclear test ban treaties were signed and Vatican 2 made early progress, the reforming Pope John 23 unfortunately dying mid year.

Towards year's end, on the 22nd of November, came the Kennedy assassination, the same day the terminally ill Aldus Huxley elected to put an end to it.

But for sex and scandal that year the Profumo affair was unrivalled.

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Electricity price increases

 

 

14 April 2011

New South Wales electricity users are to suffer another round of hefty price increases; with more to come.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has announced that electricity prices for the average New South Wales resident will increase by 17.6 per cent from July.  Sydney customers will pay on average about $230 more each year, while rural customers will face an extra $316 in charges.  IPART says it is recommending the increases because of costs associated with energy firms complying with the federal government's Renewable Energy Target (RET).  The RET requires energy firms to source power from renewable sources such as solar or wind.

What is this about and how does it relate to the planned carbon tax?

If you want to know more read here and here.


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