Archive for October, 2009

That Seems to Be the Platform

Found via Daily Funnies.

Friday, October 9th, 2009

The Kleptocrats v. Kleptomaniacs

An international media conference has been held in Beijing—a choice of venue apparently made without a shred of irony. In attendance and speaking were Rupert Murdoch and Tom Curley (chief executive of AP), who had some scathing words about what the future held for the internet.

This paragraph, of course, is where I would quote from the story—but the AP has previously announced they don’t want to be quoted on blogs. More to the point, at least a few words in the final sentence of the above paragraph should have been a link to the story so that you could read it yourself. However, it was part of Murdoch and Curley’s presentations that people online should get used to the idea that they will be charged for linking to a story from now on. So, you’ll probably have to find the story the same way I did—follow a link from a news aggregator to a search-engine sponsored page (that pays a fee to AP for access to their content) and read it there.

That is, if the AP and Newscorp will let you. Unloading on their own dwindling revenue stream with both barrels, their presentations specifically targeted search engines and news aggregators, while also snarking at bloggers (whom they prefer to refer to as “plagiarists”). Along the way, they listed such offenders as Wikipedia, YouTube, and Facebook. All of which allow you to post links to articles on money-making websites so that you can drive your friends to the websites where the AP and Newscorp (and other concerned attendees) can cash in on advertising revenue.

Murdoch even went so far as to call all of these venues and the people using them “content kleptomaniacs” (only two words quoted so far—still well under AP’s 5 word quotation licensing threshold). Apparently, having and sharing an opinion on the news and encouraging people to check the story out for themselves at the original publisher’s website is tantamount to compulsively slipping a stapler and fifteen pencils into your pocket when they aren’t yours to take.

Once upon a time, I thought it would be a good strategy to simply not quote any further AP stories. Given their new agenda, however, I think it’s time to ramp up the strategy.

All people who are reported on by the news media—in particular the AP and Newscorp—who are not being reported on for the commission of a crime should respond to said reporting by demanding a payment for their story. By all rights, any story told in the news media could be sold by its participants for adaptation into a book, television special or series, and/or movie. If search engines and aggregators steal value from news media, then news media steals value from these people’s life stories by pilfering them and publishing them without payment to their originators.

Demand damages for publication of your story without payment. Demand personal image licensing fees before they can take your picture. Sue for copyright infringement when they quote you or your writings without your express written consent. And never accept that simply having your picture in the paper/on TV is “payment enough.”

Further, anybody acquitted of a crime that is reported in the news media should also demand payment. After all, it is only if convicted that the law prohibits you from turning a profit on a crime. If you’re acquitted, you’re perfectly free to make a buck off the story. And who are the news media to go reporting all of the details of your case before you have a chance to profit off of it?

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Do Not Pass Go. Fork Over $200.

When you build a private industry around a public service, astoundingly bad ideas soon become the only ideas the market is capable of having. This is because public services are different from the kind of service given at a McDonalds’—or even from your local cable company. They are part of vital infrastructure, and a robust society can only be built on a foundation of free and democratic access to such services without fear of exploitation.

It might shock you to learn this post isn’t about health care. story is not about health care—it’s about prisons.

Debit cards are increasingly popular, so why shouldn’t jail inmates have them. How about a get-out-of-jail prepaid debit card when they’re set free?

They can. (Does this strike anyone else as kind of strange/funny?)

Strange, MSN Money? Yes. Funny? No.

The story is a further sign of how our society is now actively turning our prison facilities and inmates into a potential revenue stream. Incarceration and the actions of the justice system should be a public service. It should exist to see to it that justice (whenever possible) is done, and that those who can be rehabilitated get the help they need to re-integrate into society.

A system like this is full of flaws.

  • It builds a private, profit-based monopoly whose market is literally captive.
  • Being profit motivated, it is structured find ways (surcharges, service fees, etc) to leech money off of taxpayer funds, as well as from people who genuinely don’t need any more leeching done to them.
  • It further underscores the importance of a debit/credit card to a person’s identity in modern society. Now, when children who grew up using pretend credit cards get busted for any number of possible infractions, they can rest assured that they will have a debit card waiting for them, full of their sub-minimum wage earnings—minus the registration, monitoring, fraud protection, and transaction fees.

Perhaps worst of all is that the range of services offered includes a “self-serve kiosk” that permits you to pay bail with a credit card in the event that you’re arrested—or allows your friends and/or family to pay your bail “from the comfort of their own home.”

Streamlining processes and making them easier to handle quickly is a good thing, yes. But putting somebody in a situation where they can swipe their credit card or face a night in lock-up puts them in a situation that immediately drives them into debt. And bear in mind that bail is not always paid by the guilty, meaning anybody stopped by the police can find themselves relying on the Visa or Mastercard to get them out of a jam.

Worst of all about that idea, however, is the fact that it suggests a revolving-door approach to the justice system. Systems like this are only profitable when they have a high flow of customers. Putting in bail kiosks is a blatant expression that in the future, the justice system will be the major cash cow of Wall Street.

Ask yourself this: Do you want to drive—even at the speed limit—past a police officer whose district is controlled not by public service, but by private industry? Do you want to walk down a street patrolled by a police officer whose office can only turn a profit if he meets his daily quota? The profit motive has no place in our judicial system.

Thursday, October 8th, 2009