Controversy, Islam and the Sunday Telegraph

According to BBC Newsnight’s pre-programme email newsletter some controversal articles that appeared in the Sunday Telegraph are brewing up a bit of a storm. They were authored by someone calling themselves Will Cummins and have already drawn the wraith of contributors to Dar Al Hayat and Arab Media Watch with writings designed to inflame and polarise viewpoints.

Here are links to some of the articles so that you can make up your own minds about it:

The Tories should confront Islam instead of kow-towing to it

We must be allowed to criticise Islam

The real danger is indiscriminate fear

Muslims are a threat to our way of life

Terrified publishers won’t print truth about …

I suspect that the debate on this could run and run.

Tactical Conversation Weapons

Being a communications professional, I was very impressed by this site which is a font of conversational put downs that can be used in any home, social or professional environment. Really good stuff with instructions on usage. Remember, less is more, don’t just use them willy-nilly – use them sparingly on people who deserve it. As Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War, you may need an army to fight a war, but you need special forces to win it.

New Art to be unveiled (updated)

Banksy, a grafitti artist with a Mark Thomaseque sense of humour is unveiling his latest work later today. I am gutted that I have got a leaving do to go to, obiligation is a bitch sometimes.

Banksy Unveiling tonight 7.30pm sharp


Full details on the BBC (courtesy of Stephen)

Spod Spot

Something for the ‘crasher kids;

  • glow in the dark ice lollies. Basically an ice lolly with a glow stick (chemical light stick) instead of the traditional wooden spatula
  • Pedestrian turn signals’ or in British English – indicators for people? Weird

For right thinking folk there is a cool review of of the Bourne Supremacy on Salon (subscription or free-day pass required). Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series were books that I read when I was 12 and 13, I guess they were the Rudyard Kipling of my day.

On another note, I must say I think Salon’s day pass scheme is one of the best ideas I have seen in making online advertising pay for media owners. Oh yeah, the film is supposed to be very good.

Entertainment Cartels Fight TiVo Development Tooth and Nail

An article below from Sundays Washington Post by Rob Pegoraro illustrates why sports bodies and the movie industry should be locked up under RICO and the key thrown away. Original here.

Maxium kudos to Dwayne Hendricks of the Interesting People mailing list for flagging this up.

TiVo vs. the Broadcast Flag Wavers By Rob Pegoraro The Washington Post Sunday, August 1, 2004; Page F06

TiVo, the company that makes the digital-video-recorder boxes that inspire such strange idolatry among their users, is in a weird spot. It’s asking the Federal Communications Commission for permission to add a new feature — the option for a TiVo user to send recorded digital TV programs via the Internet to nine other people.

Huh? Permission? Doesn’t the government’s involvement in consumer electronics stop with making sure that a gadget doesn’t jam your neighbor’s reception or electrocute you? Since when do the feds get to vote on product designs?

The answer is, since last November, when the FCC voted to require manufacturers to support the “broadcast flag” system by July 1 of next year. This convoluted mechanism aims to stop full-quality copies of digital broadcasts from circulating on the Internet.

The FCC didn’t mandate any one anti-file-sharing scheme and instead invited companies to submit their own proposals, which brings us to TiVo’s vaguely Soviet predicament. Among the schemes a handful of firms have proposed, only TiVo’s would allow tightly controlled online transfers of recorded programs.

For this, the company has drawn the ire of the National Football League and the Motion Picture Association of America, which have asked the FCC to deny TiVo’s proposal. The NFL says that TiVo’s Internet-sharing feature will allow people to send game broadcasts to blacked-out viewers in real time (a team’s home game can be aired locally only if it sells out beforehand). “It’s a question of pure ability to sell tickets,” said Frank Hawkins, the NFL’s senior vice president for business affairs. “Buffalo typically sells out September and October, but they’ve got an open-air stadium. They’ll never sell out those December games if they are unable to enforce the blackout rule.” This is an important point:

The NFL is not asking the FCC to protect its television business — never mind that the flag exists only to stop indiscriminate file sharing, not cure every copyright-infringement issue. No, the NFL is asking for help with a stadium business, one that already benefits from massive government welfare. (A December 2002 Buffalo News story calculated that the taxpayers of Erie County, N.Y., had anted up about $148 million for the Bills and their stadium over the previous decade.) In other words, the league is asking manufacturers and viewers to further subsidize team owners who are already gorging themselves at the public trough. There’s also the slight problem that the NFL’s nightmare — blacked-out viewers watching a game live on the Internet — is all but impossible. With almost every broadband connection available today, it would take hours to upload a game. A recipient would be lucky to finish watching a Sunday afternoon game before Monday, and sending a high-definition copy would take most of the week.

Jim Burger, a lawyer for TiVo, fumed about the NFL’s complaint: “Maybe their engineers understand how to inflate a football, but I don’t think they understand encoded, encrypted MPEG-2,” TiVo’s tightly secured format. Whenever full-quality, real-time video on the Internet does become commonplace, I expect to see the NFL capitalizing on it instead of complaining, just as it has profited from such earlier advances as satellite TV. The MPAA, meanwhile, says that the way TiVo would allow customers to share recordings online with people who may not be friends or family members amounts to indiscriminate redistribution. The Washington-based group wants TiVo to impose an “affinity requirement,” said Fritz Attaway, its executive vice president for government relations.

But how can TiVo tell if the people to whom you’ve sent a program are really friends and family without launching its own Total Information Awareness program? Attaway called that “a good question.” Until that can be answered, his lobby contends that the safest course is to block Internet sharing — after all, he noted, you can just pop a DVD in the mail. What the MPAA and the NFL overlook is that every TiVo box includes analog video outputs that can’t enforce copy controls. These allow these devices to work with the millions of TV sets lacking digital inputs, but they also let anybody plug a TiVo into a computer to upload video at will. The FCC has already ruled out proposals to eliminate or deactivate analog outputs. (“We’ll probably have to go to Congress to enact legislation to deal with that,” Attaway said.)

If the problem the MPAA and the NFL describe is real, the remedy they seek won’t solve it. Understand that TiVo itself is no hero. Its proposed system is thoroughly hobbled. The people to whom you’d send recordings online would need you to add them to a “secure viewing group” by ordering special security keys for their Windows computers, associated with your TiVo bill. Each viewer would need to plug one such key into a PC to receive, watch or edit your recordings. Left on its own, the market could give TiVo’s system its appropriate reward. Except we don’t have a free market in digital television — the FCC guaranteed that by approving the broadcast flag.

The MPAA and the NFL phrase their objections as reasonable attempts to err on the side of caution. “We’re asking them to just wait awhile, let’s think it out more thoroughly,” Attaway said. But if a programmer or an engineer with a bright idea has to go to Washington, hat in hand and lawyers in tow, to request permission to sell a better product — and is then told “just wait awhile” — we are on our way to suffocating innovation in this country. Living with technology, or trying to? E-mail Rob Pegoraro at