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Politics, Copyright and who's best at poker?

by The Wrinkle | August 27, 2010

Well the Wrinkle certainly under-called the grassroots dissatisfaction in the Australian electorate last week. We are now left with the prospect of either a hung parliament or a minority government. The next month will prove interesting as the jockeying for advantage continues. Labor will be desperate to gain power, as in the coming months the “new Keneally” will be smashed in NSW, with Queensland to likely follow shortly thereafter. If Labor doesn’t hold on at a federal level it could be a long time in the wilderness at both levels of government.

Tony Abbott may appear to be playing a strange game holding out on having his election costings audited by Treasury. Even more so when you realise that Treasury would have already done the work, having prepared both a “red” book, and a “blue” book costing both parties promises as part of the briefing they would receive should they came into power. Could he be looking at playing a longer term game and be hoping to force another election?

Why, you ask? Well let’s consider the Nationals position; while they are a dying party their seats still form an important bloc of power within the Coalition. If the country electorates sense and then see the possible power that can be exercised by strong independent MP’s, the demise of the Nationals will be accelerated and the most threatening aspect of this is that at the next election a whole new group of emboldened independents may well successfully take the fight to sitting National MP’s.

So the conundrum is, do you go for power now empowering the country independents knowing your country support base is potentially going to be savaged next election, plus you are going to have to fight the Greens for two and half years in the Senate from a weak base in the lower house. Or do you tough it out, let a hung election hopefully arise and then trust that the momentum behind you can be garnered further to give you an outright win?

Anyone for poker?

Compliments of Alan Kohler the Wrinkle came across an interesting article in the online version of Der Spigel. The article called “No Copyright Law” by Frank Thadeusz outlines the contrast between Germany and the other European countries, particularly England in the 1830’s.  Bear with me on this one as the old story of “history repeats” creates some interesting parallels to consider.

Great Britain established copyright laws around 1710, and effectively knowledge was disseminated in expensive hard cover books, with a typical publish run of 750.  Around 1,000 new books a year were published, and as with any tightly held market the publishers of the time were very wealthy.

Contrast this with Germany in the same time period; it was a loose confederation of states with Prussia being the largest and most dominant. As such it had no effective copyright laws until the late 1840’s. Plagiarism was rife, and this effectively led to two market approach’s which carry over to today, the expensive hardcover book and the cheap paperback or reprint.

“German authors during this period wrote ceaselessly. Around 14,000 new publications appeared in a single year in 1843. Measured against population numbers at the time, this reaches nearly today's level. And although novels were published as well, the majority of the works were academic papers.”

Eckhard Höffner (the historical researcher behind the article) explains that this "lively scholarly discourse" laid the basis for the Gründerzeit, or foundation period, the term used to describe the rapid industrial expansion in Germany in the late 19th century. The period produced later industrial magnates such as Alfred Krupp and Werner von Siemens.

In Höffner's analysis, a completely new form of imparting knowledge established itself."

In England the price of a book often exceeded the weekly wage of an educated worker, whereas in Germany cheap reprints were plentiful and easy to come by.

Now let’s fast forward to recent times and look at some current issues around copyright,

  • People trying to monetise what was previously free information on the Internet
  • The sharing of information through the internet eg Wikipedia
  • The recent economic rise of countries with weak copyright laws, such as China
  • The ignoring of copyright/patents in areas of human need, eg poorer countries allowing the production of generic pharmaceuticals
  • Attempts to put patents around human DNA discoveries

Once again a completely new form of imparting knowledge is establishing itself, the Internet; the difference this time is that it’s global, not country specific.

The Wrinkle would also suggest that regardless of the attempts to limit or licence what is happening “the genie is well and truly out of the bottle” and the global dissemination of information (and hopefully more than a little knowledge) is well underway.

Have a good week.

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