30 April 2010

Waiting on May Flowers

  • Several items of late demonstrate that licensors don't necessarily win when they get judgments or settlements against infringers, or even contracts with licensees: There's still the problem of actually getting paid for patents and — especially — for copyrightable creative works like books, film, and music.

    This reflects a serious problem with the economic theory and foundation of IP transactions. Economic theory assumes that "capital is capital," and that the only costs that have to be accounted for in converting capital goods into finished products are labor and other capital actually expended in the transformation (such as energy used at a smelter). This theory, however, does not (and cannot) account for how capital with velocity greater than one — financial capital, representing investment by those seeking a return of the same nature as the investment — imposes its own translation costs into the process. Once again, this represents the missing t in economic theory.

    And all of this fits all too neatly into Charlie Stross's eighth essay on Common Misconceptions About Publishing (CMAP), which feeds directly back into the problem of nobody having a firm idea of pricing... and of the price on offer appearing, too often, to be the result of hostile negotiations between monopolistic middlecreatures whose actions are tied to that velocity/investment problem, if only because they only asset they actually contribute to the economic life of intellectual property is the power to market and distribute.

  • As a foreshadowing of what's going to happen to ComicCon, DragonCon, etc. in about a decade or so, Cheryl Morgan ruminates on reforming WorldCon — the ancestral lifeform behind all of those huge media-related events. Much of what she says makes sense; however, she slides right over the biggest problem of all: The unpredictable bidding system for where conventions will be held. Not only does this bidding system (which bears a disturbing resemblance to the way the World Cup and the Olympics are awarded...) make advance planning difficult, but it results in an inexcusable skewing of the demographic of attendees away from anything that might result in building a true membership base. And she fails to grapple with the Hugo problem as inextricably intertwined, too; but then, that wasn't the purpose of her essay.

    Some might argue that I'm stretching quite a bit when I claim that this foreshadows the future of ComicCon and DragonCon. However, those conventions share one critical thing — ok, they're about a decade behind — with WorldCon: The aging demographics of the principle organizers, coupled with a complete absence of a succession plan. And therein lies two tales more convoluted and nasty than I can begin to explain, even if I were allowed to do so.

  • Here's a brief essay on the politics of language acquisition that could have benefitted immensely from more second-language perspective itself, but is nonetheless an interesting gedankenexperiment. And, of course, one of the problems is a vicious cycle: We don't put teachers in our schools who are comfortable — let alone fluent — in any language other than American English (or, occasionally, Spanish)... so kids don't get exposed to other languages in a learning environment. (Well, they sure as hell did at this house, but that's another story entirely.) Thus, the kids miss out on the increased proficiency they'll get in English from simultaneously learning one or more other languages.

    That's right: The best way to learn more about one's "native" language at a structural level is to apply what one already knows about that native language to learning a different one. So those complaining that "Our kids already don't learn good enough Murikan, so we can't take the classroom time away from repetitive grammar exercises that were incorrect when they were developed fifty years ago but we haven't come up with anything better" can just go off into their own little pocket universes. Along with Mrs Grundy.

  • PowerPoint is still evil. It shouldn't surprise anyone too much that slide-based presentations are often used to mask communication deficiencies and prevent the audience from grasping data that undermines the speaker's position or interests... even when (and perhaps especially when) that can get someone killed.
  • I'm still not done digesting Salazar v. Buono, but my opinion on the fundamental weakness of the decision has not changed with rereading. This isn't just the parallel postulate, guys; it's assuming one's conclusion, even in the dissents. There's nothing whatsoever wrong with having critical postulates behind one's reasoning; it's just rather silly to pretend that those postulates — because they are postulates — necessarily reflect reality without exception. As Professor Hasen puts it, that leads to crushing democracy while saving kittens, which is exactly the opposite of what needs to be done: The body politic must protect the fragility of democracy quite vigorously, and trust to cultural pressure to save the kittens (or, more likely, puppies, but that's for another time).
  • It appears that Holden Caufield is going to have to grow up. Or at least age. Both the underlying controversy and the decision itself demonstrate that lawyers (including judges) should not be allowed to make judgments about artistic merit.