archive for August, 2004

The Fountainhead: Page 100

I’ve been curious about Ayn Rand and her books for quite some time. Just by chance, two people last week mentioned her books again. I had some free time, so I picked up The Fountainhead.

I can’t even begin to describe what I think about the book. It’s good. Very good. The writing is great. It’s amusing in subtle ways, and it moves right along. Of course, how how many books from the 1940s are still being printed today? Not many, so it’s really no shock that the ones that are still in print are great. What is surprising is how well it stands the test of time — or, if you prefer, how little has changed in the last 60 years.

A Five Year Copyright Term?

I’ve been wondering for the last week or so, what would happen if the copyright term was lowered to 5 years. Under current law, copyrights last potentially indefinitely. The stated goal of the constitution is “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;” Article 1 Section 8.

Probably the first question that comes to mind when thinking about such a short term for copyright is: Would their still be money in the copyright industries? Let’s look at four major industries that depend on copyright: Movies, Books, Songs, Software. From everything I’ve heard, all of these industries make at least 90% of their profit within the first couple years of release. So, the worst case scenario is that profits would drop by 10%. I doubt a drop of that much would even be noticeable to the general public, and that’s in the worst case. The copyright industries certainly wouldn’t come to a screeching halt.

Would there be a breakdown at any point in the chain of production to consumption? No, I don’t think so. Every good artist, actor, writer, programmer, and musician that I’ve ever heard speak about money have said that they would keep doing what they do even if they didn’t make any money on it. That’s not to say that they won’t make any money on it, remember worse case is that they would make 10% less on average. Producers, editors, sound engineers, and so on will still have work to do and money to be made. Bookstores, movie theaters, music stores, etc… will also have just as much money to earn (if not more). In this respect, everything would remain exactly the same. Consumption of new works would also remain the same. How many people that would normally go see Alien vs. Predator would rather wait five years to see it? How many Harry Potter fans want to wait an extra five years to find out what will happen in book 6? I can’t think of a single instance where waiting five years to get a copyrighted work for free becomes a substitute for consuming it now. The entire chain will remain intact. The industries will do just fine.

So, what would change? Classical works, works that have passed into the public domain, would most likely be available for download for free. Some businesses would even be able to charge for downloads by providing other services, and making the downloads more convenient. Even today book companies make money publishing works that are in the public domain. Like Flatland, Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy will remain in print for years to come. EBooks will get a boost. With all of the books that aren’t quite good enough to profitably be printed, there will be a huge market for eBook readers and eBook download services. The same goes for movies and music. The important works will still remain in “print” simply because people love to have tangible copies of works they love. Netflix could charge just as much as it does and make even more money because it wouldn’t have to pay as much for the classical works. Radio stations wouldn’t change. Software wouldn’t change much either except that it would be easier to maintain older works because anyone could do it instead of just the original copyright holders.

I’m out of time for today, but I think the benefits of simplicity, more works in the public domain, and more incentive for companies to create new works instead of relying on older works would far out weigh the small possible drop in overall profitability.

Open Audiobooks Project

The Open Audiobooks Project goal is to organize volunteers who want to create Audiobooks from books in the public domain. It’s a really great idea. They’re currently working on Pride and Prejudice. It’s something that I would never read, but that I would be interested in listening to as an audiobook version.

Mark Geddes' Philosophical Platform

Mark Geddes, a fellow SL4er, has released version 3 of his essay “The Libertarian-Transhumanist Philosophical Platform.” It’s definitely a very quick overview. He says “to fully explain this stuff would require a 1000 page book”, and I’m sure he’s right. Since the essay builds on itself, the more interesting stuff is at the end.


Every once in a while, you come across something truly unique on line. I think TimeHunt could be one of those sites.


Predictor@home is a distributed computing project running on Boinc. Like SETI@home, the project will use the computing resources of people home computers to do what could only be done with a supercomputer. The project itself aims to predict how proteins fold.

I’ve tried writing this paragraph three times. I can’t seem to write a simple explanation for why protein folding is important to medical research, but trust me, it is. If you’re interested, here are some articles on DNA, amino-acids, proteins, and protein folding.

Predictor@home is still in the early testing stages, so I wouldn’t recommend it for people who aren’t comfortable with their computers. If you are though, you should seriously think about signing up. The life you save, could be your own… and all that jazz.

ArtRage and MusicPlasma

Jer pointed me to a couple links today:
ArtRage application that lets you draw and paint somewhat realistically. I think to really use it you’d need one of those graphics tablets, but it’s still fun to play with using a mouse.

MusicPlasma shows you relationships between bands and people. It’s a very good place to waste some time.

Urban Hunt

Urban Hunt seems to be the entry site to Alternate Reality Game. I’ve been tracking it down, and reading forums trying to catch up with the current research. The way these games work is that there are a bunch of fictional web sites with clues that link to more sites. Sometimes the clues have to be triggered with an email, and can be very hard to figure out if you’re not working as part of a team.

I played EA‘s Majestic back in 2001. I liked that Majestic had new content released nearly every day, and was fairly well structured. One thing that I find interesting is that from what I’ve read, you can call the phone numbers in Urban Hunt and talk to real people (characters) — all of the phone calls in Majestic were recordings. Also, with Majestic you knew how it was getting funded because you paid for it every month. The only thing I can figure out is that UH is really an ad for something, but what? It’s pretty clear that ilovebees is an advertisement for Halo 2. From what I’ve seen already, Urban Hunt must have been expensive to develop. Any ideas?

I don’t know if I’ll really be able to keep up with UH enough to solve anything on my own, but it will be fun playing a spectator anyway.

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