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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

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Anti-Israel is not Anti-Semite

Once again we read of the deliberate confounding of "Jew" and "Israeli" for political advantage, this time by Professor Markus (The Age, 15/6). He claims that the Left needs its devils and that "the devils today are the Israelis, just as in traditional anti-Simitism the devils were the Jews who were said to drink the blood of children and poison wells".

I resent his suggestion that my objections to Israel's policies are a result of medieval superstition and ingrained hatred. My objections to weapons of mass destruction, apartheid, theocracy, collective punishments and ethnic cleansing are founded on rational and considered beliefs in human rights and democracy.

To respond to political criticism by claiming that Israelis are being targeted as Jews once were is to sidestep willfully any self-examination. Why not draw historical parallels to South Africa in the 80s or Serbia in the 90s, rather than medieval Jewry? Perhaps because such comparisons may yield uncomfortable truths rather than an easy copout.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

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Economics of Copyright Reform (in Next)

David Francis asks, quite reasonably, how information producers will be paid without the present copyright arrangements (Next, 1/6). I believe the answer will depend on the nature of the information product or service, rather than the present catch-all approach.

Firstly, time-critical information can still be traded: a producer of a valuable financial report would not give it away when others are willing to pay for it. Similarly, the first person to purchase it will also try and on-sell it (for a lower price). Only at the end of this chain, when the residual value is negligible, will it be given away. So there will still be a market for many quality publications.

Secondly, advertising will continue to fund much content. (This newspaper is largely funded by advertising, not subscriptions.) In an effort to stop people lifting the content and leaving the ads, we can expect the trend of paid comment, product placements and advertorials to increase.

Thirdly, people will still pay for experiences: live performances, screenings and events for musicians, actors and other artists. People will pay to physically access these venues to have the chance of participating in a group.

Fourthly, consumers will invest in expensive productions through pledged sponsorship funds. This already happens for some software. How many Harry Potter or Star Wars fans would pre-purchase their copy two years in advance? Enough to make it worth the while of Ms. Rawlings or Mr. Lucas, no doubt.

Lastly, there are no guarantees that everyone currently making a living out of producing information will continue to do so. Also, new unanticipated jobs will emerge. Like any economic shift there will be winners and losers. Take music for instance: without copyright and the studio system, we can expect less corporatised Britney Spears and more local pub bands and DJs.

I believe that on balance copyright reformation will strengthen our society and enrich our lives.

Friday, June 04, 2004

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Kitten Abuse

The Army must explain how soldiers who torture kittens to death for fun can ever be trusted to take prisoners of war (3/6).