Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wikipedia's Blackout - A Necessary Stand?

Wikipedia’s protest, by a 24-hour black-out, has suddenly made the world realize how much it has begun to depend on this free online encyclopedia.

Can the world live without Wikipedia for one day? The answer is, perhaps this : “with very great difficulty.” And most of the world quickly realized it.

But is this new type of strike, of shutting Wikipedia’s English website down for 24 hours, really a wise move? Is Wikipedia right in protesting against the two legislations, SOPA and PIPA, which the US Senate is deliberating on?

SOPA is short for the "Stop Online Piracy Act," and PIPA is an acronym for the "Protect Intellectual Property Act”. These bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but, according to Wikipedia, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet. Wikipedia says that both are badly drafted legislations that won't be effective at their stated goal of stopping copyright infringement.

The bills will apparently put the burden on website owners to police the user-contributed material, and call for unnecessary blocking of entire sites.

According to Wikipedia “Small sites won't have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn't being infringed. Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won't show up in major search engines. And, SOPA and PIPA are building a framework for future restrictions and suppression”. This, they say, is unjust.

Wikipedia’s arguments, that the bills will only be acts of ‘restriction and suppression’ of an open internet, may hold some water. But check out my next paragraph.

I saw one of my facebook friends’ mention on his status “I’d hate to be completing my university project today”!! This clearly brings us to the real question of plagiarism and piracy which the proposed legislations are seeking to prevent.

The fact that tech companies in Silicon Valley and the media companies in Hollywood are supporting the legislations, is a clear indication of how important these companies are valuing their intellectual property; and how they do not want any copyright infringement.

If I am Britney Spears, for instance, why should some website – like youtube – allow its users to upload my video song which is 'ripped from a DVD’ or ‘copied from a TV Channel’ onto the website, from where it can then be downloaded again, by the website’s several other users, who even convert my video into audio formats and play it in their parties, with absolutely no revenue to me?? Where are the returns due to me, the real Britney Spears? How can all you users enjoy my song, my hard work, my intellectual property, without giving anything to me?

Luckily, however, YouTube is seen working hard with its Content ID software to prevent unauthorized copyright violations. But several youtube-like, me-too, sites are only encouraging piracy. And millions are acting as if there is nothing wrong. Why? Well, who doesn’t want a freebie?

I believe, in today’s world of copy-paste, it is not just typed material, available in html format that that can be used for plagiarism. I believe that the DVD Rip software, the download convertors, and free download websites are all harming the original copyright owners. They should be given their due.

So, while I do not entirely agree with Wikipedia, in its support of other websites opposed to the bills, I am thankful that, in a way, it highlighted the issue by spreading awareness of intellectual property rights.

Self-contradictory as I may sound, my stand is this: restriction and regulation on Internet may seem extremely difficult, but it is necessary.

Youtube is a very good example on how it is doing its best to prevent copyrighted material from being uploaded to its site, although not entirely successfully.
All website should do their best to protect intellectual property of people like artists, writers, musicians and even software programmers.

Maybe the two bills need some tweaking and fine tuning but they will ensure that 'creativity of the mind' gets its due credit.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Crazy about Angry Birds

I just thought I was crazy.  My wife, however, is convinced that I am. She says I am a bad influence on my children.  And the reason is I play ‘Angry Birds’ on phone and computer regularly. She says it is not right to fight - for video game access - with one’s own children.

So, I pointed out two news items from Daily Tribune newspaper’s consecutive editions of Jan 10 and Jan 11 to her; both related to ‘angry birds’.  On this matter, I said to her, I am definitely not alone.

Firstly, I pointed out that ‘facebook’ and ‘angry birds’ are the world’s most downloaded apps in 2011, according to Apple Inc. (DT, Jan 10). It is obvious that millions of people have downloaded the game applications.

Secondly, I showed her Daily Tribune's cover page picture (DT, Jan 11) of the huge ‘angry bird’ structure made from piggy banks, in Taiwan. It is now the election symbol of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). That huge structure is outside the campaign office of the presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen.

But when she was still not convinced, I showed her TIME magazine’s report that since the time Rovio launched this video game, as recently as December 2009, Angry Birds has been globally played for an estimated total of 200,000 years! And it still clocks in at 300 million minutes of play time daily! And my wife thinks I am the 'only' crazy one??

The PC Magazine too, in November 2011, announced that Angry Birds had surpassed 500 million downloads, making it the most downloaded game in the history of video gaming. Just imagine, 500 million downloads! Are there so many crazy people?

As if the game download revenue is not enough, the Finnish company Rovio is making money on merchandising and selling the angry birds plush toys, t-shirts, mugs, posters and other paraphernalia for some time now. Apparently it has already shipped more than 10 million Angry Birds toys worldwide. And according to Business Insider, expected sales of 20 million in Christmas 2011.

It is just because of these crazy people, I explained, that the global economy is running. But my wife still doesn’t believe me. 

But she said it is okay with her, and she will believe, if my children and I receive money from the company, Rovio, for playing the game.

But, I said, are they crazy?