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Thursday, July 21, 2005


Content Restrictions

Restrictions on content of entertainment clearly violates the first amendment. Advisories do not violate this. And I have no legal, or philosophical argument against them, save maybe the belief that people might actually put some effort into finding out on their own what they have in their hands before they buy it and whine later. It's after all pretty simple. No one has to buy any given book, movie, music video, or song. No one is required to watch any TV, movie or stages. You can't be hauled out and forced to listen to a particular radio station. Deal with it folks, other people have different views and tastes, but don't worry, one day you'll die and won't have to worry about it.


Plame Name Game

I had, honestly, meant to tackle last week's question, but I found myself rather short on free time. Additionally, I had found myself with no clear opinion on what to say about the whole mess. Obviously Rove did something he shouldn't have. Whether he should stay or go would (in a perfect world) depend on his motive, and on his knowledge of the situation.

One of the points of contention being batted about is whether Rove identified Ms. Plame by name. Examination of the relevant statute suggests that point is irrelevant. It is a criminal offense for an official with access to classified information to provide ANY data that leads to the identification of a covert operative. Rove, in identifying Ambasador Wilson's wife as some one "who works for the CIA on WMD", Rove provided more than enough information for anyone to find out who Plame really was, as this report demonstrates.

Rove's story neatly circumvents that problem, however. The White House Advisor claims that he didn't come by Plame's identity via priveleged info, but from yet another reporter. It is an American ideal that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, so we'll assume that Rove's story is true (lacking evidence to the contrary). That still doesn't satify the question of intent. If, as Wilson suggests, Rove was acting in retribution it is obvious he should be asked to step down. Not because retribution is an ignoble motive, but due to the consequences of his actions. Rove was used as a point of confirmation about Plame's identity which makes him an unwitting accessory to a crime. On the other hand, Rove may have had a ligitamate interest in demonstrating that Wilson was lying about the circumstances surround his fact finding mission to Niger.

All of that hinges on events occuring in a perfect world. The world is far from perfect. Rove has friends in the higest places. It is likely that we'll never know exactly what happened and how he was involved, so it's unliked--baring seriously damaging evidence, that Rove would ever face criminal charges. Rove is an icon of everything the opposition finds wrong with the present administration, so it is unlikely that he'd ever get a fair and honest hearing in the court of public opinion. In the end, that court is the only one likely to matter. So long as Karl Rove remains no more a liability to the administration than he already is there's no reason for him to be removed from his post. Firing him, or accepting his resignation, would be a sign of weakness.


Pissing into the Wind

Content restrictions are, at best, of dubious value. This is not an opinion formed due to a desire to protect my "freedom" to make copies of the stuff I buy. In a certain sense I believe I have that freedom, but I rarely make those copies. From a practical standpoint it is a non-issue, for me. The value of DRM and content control depends on whether or not they actually protect the profits of the content providers. I don't think these technologies do that.

What they do is dissuade the casual copier. They keep the average American from easily running off a duplicate of a movie or album for his or her friends, in the way that the cassette tape had during its heyday. The true pirates are only mildly hindered by this stuff. Protections can be bypassed, encryptions can be broken, and the "hackers" of the world are itching for the chance to do so. One DRM's original proponents, Microsoft, has been beaten in an arena it claimed it was unbeatable. If a researcher can do it, a team of motivated hackers can copy the feat.

Efforts to beat those hackers can only result in an arms race, funded (of course) by cost increases passed on to the honest consumer. Why all this trouble? Largely to fight the age old menace of second and third world pirates selling the content to second and thrived world customers who can't afford the real deal, or the increased costs associated with the DRM war.

Of course, they don't pay those costs, the American consumer does. There is, reasonably, the specter of mass digital file sharing. Certainly a valid danger, but not (I think) a pressing one. Americans have, time and again, proven that they will pay for something convenient even if a little work would get them the same thing free. The growth of piracy in the first world is partly (dare I say 'largely') a result of overpriced entertainment.

And of course, DRM is annoying for some. It can cause certain issues. Even a leading proponent of DRM has had a few problems.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Entertainment Laws/Restrictions

Call me a Libertarian, but I think there should be no (zero, zilch) restrictions on the content of video games, movies, books, TV or any other form of entertainment. I'm not opposed to the rating system to give people a relatively standard heads up on what they might be getting into, but to actually restrict what can or cannot be presented as entertainment is totally outside the power of the government.

Who is responsible for protecting The ChildrenTM? Parents.

Any questions?

Monday, July 18, 2005


Question of the Week

And the Question of the week:

Are content restrictions on entertainment such as video games, music, and movies helpful, or do they simply create more legislation, restrictions on freedom and glorify what ever they are trying to restrict by making it taboo?