26 September 2011

Getting Screwed

Isn't dealing with a tire puncture on a Sunday — in an area in which there is no auto service/repair available from midday on Saturday until Monday morning — a great way to spend what passes for a weekend? At least it was a training opportunity for teaching one of the remoras how to change a tire...

  • The fun and games of figuring out politics in Southwest Asia just got even more fun as King Abdullah — in a speech borrowing more from his religious than his secular authority — proclaimed that women will be able to vote and run for office in Saudi Arabia. In 2015. How they're going to get to the polls in the first place, though, is another question, as there was no sign (and is no sign) that the ban on women driving will be relaxed or lifted. There's a further problem hidden in there, too: Some extreme interpretations of shari'a within the Wahhab tradition would require a woman's male guardian to give her explicit permission to vote... and tell her how to vote... and accompany her into the voting booth to ensure that she does so "correctly" if at all. And that explains why King Abdullah chose to rely upon his religious authority as much as his power as a secular ruler: He knows full well that the right to vote must also be accompanied by the opportunity to vote... as several of his many relatives were educated Over Here and can tell him all about our own civil rights movement. Juan Cole explains more from a purely realpolitik perspective.

    It's an advance, but must also be balanced against the silliness in Qumar Yemen, with its autocratic "president" who is now calling for elections (without promising to abide by them or stepping down to make them meaningful). Meanwhile, in the tradition of dictators-for-life everywhere (and Russian leadership for a thousand years), Putin is going to switch titles (again) next year. Hopefully, this time he'll at least make sure he switches his stationery at the same time... and anyone who thinks this isn't an element of the Southwest Asia nightmare hasn't been paying attention. Since the 1960s.

  • On the one hand, Espresso's agreement to handle HarperCollins's backlist with its on-demand machines sounds like a neat way to keep things in print, doesn't it? On the other hand, it very well may (and, based on review of several particular instances, certainly does for those contracts) exceed the powers granted to HC under its license agreements with the respective authors. And then there's the antitrust aspect of the tying arrangement requiring stores to carry substantial amounts of the HC backlist in order to qualify... which will force material from smaller presses out of those stores for want of space and capital. Of course, PW isn't even hinting at that part of the story.
  • The EU has now mandated that copyright in the EU in musical performances will be extended from 50 to 70 years. As this Grauniad article notes, there's not much benefit for the vast majority of artists whose copyrights have been extended... because the directive completely ignores the business realities of the recorded-music segment of the entertainment industry. Just like almost all other aspects of European copyright theory.
  • An internet feline wonders about the viability of e-book libraries at the IPKat. This is, of course, the inquiry HathiTrust should have made before it started asserting that non-orphan works were orphans and therefore ripe for its own exploitation... leading to the interesting question of whether asserting that a non-orphan work is an orphan constitutes any kind of unfair trade practice or trademark dilution/disparagement, in addition to the ethical dimension of calling into question the research capabilities of an organization of research libraries.
  • Last for today, but far from least, I'm giving you a homework assignment: Go read a banned book for Banned Books Week. You'll be glad you did... and it'll piss off someone who needs to be pissed off, somewhere.