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The Issue of Intellectual Property and The Free Culture

Motto: “From the earliest days at Apple, I realized that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software, we’d be out of business. If it weren’t protected, there’d be no incentive for us to make new software or product designs. If protection of intellectual property begins to disappear, creative companies will disappear or never get started. But there’s a simpler reason: It’s wrong to steal. It hurts other people. And it hurts your own character.” (Steve Jobs, as quoted in the biography by Walter Isaacson)
We are safe to assume that Bill Gates has the same philosophy when it comes to Intellectual Property for the simple fact that he made a fortune from IP. And many other Internet or media moguls do. The issue is not however as simple as Jobs described it for the simple fact that the Internet changed all the rules of the game when it comes to IP in some spaces.

Coca-Cola - original bottle patent

Coca-Cola - original bottle patent

Culture and Entertainment. In the cultural spaces, for example, the assumption from which most people start when they consume culture today is that culture should be free. Free open-air concerts, pirate websites and free content available on the Internet have created an idea in people’s minds that anything related to culture should be free. While in theory we can agree with this, there will always be the question of who’s paying the creators? Creating quality content takes time, talent, and dedication. The authors might have spent maybe years trying to create something valuable, but they are not able to cash. The solution is never free culture. It also can not come in the form of overpayment. How many of the movies you have seen lately were worth the price of admission? Regardless of the quality most of the DVDs cost almost the same. Let’s examine the case of the movies a little bit. I’ve just checked for some prices on the street and on-line and guess what I found? The last asian gore, a classic Dolph Lundgren feature, a simple chick flick and the last Tarantino costs the same. While this might be good news for somebody collecting movies in huge quantities regardless of the genre, in general it’s just a fact that helps the piracy even more, because some of the afore-mentioned movies might be of interest for purchasing just for the fans. Renting them on or offline is the usual solution, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The solution is deceptively simple: change the pricing and purchasing options. But how? Charging for quality is subjective (you never know how much somebody would pay for a certain movie) and also against the free culture mantra by all means, even tough it’s common practice (please check the pricing for the movies that won Oscars against those who haven’t, what do you notice?). This will remain an open problem, but purchasing options are definitely changing: from iTunes to Amazon and Hulu, entertainment and culture are available through all channels. We will not dive further into the pricing problem that is faced by the entertainment industry now. We will explore it with another occasion. One thing is clear: the desire for Free Culture and the mass adoption of piracy was not the public saying that they don’t want to pay for something, but rather the public saying that they are tired to eat crappy content and to search for years for certain albums or movies for the simple fact that the entertainment giant refuses to re-edit them. In certain countries where the payment was low and there was also a cultural gap (see former communist countries, for example) piracy flourished because publishing giants were ignorant when it came to their countries.
What happens to the software industry? Be warned that industry people and common people might understand different things through free software. As defined by Richard Stallman, Free Software is open software, software that comes with the code, but not really unpaid software. If you want you can have free software for which you pay. How does this sounds? Counterintuitive for sure. Free software is also software offered for free legally, software for which you don’t pay money. And of course, while we don’t like it, illegal software is also free, but nobody responds for it. Now here lies the true value: who responds for this software? Who responds if this software ruins my computer? If nobody does it, then you shouldn’t be using it because you don’t know if it’s safe to use it.
Intellectual Property at its strongest: Patents. Well this year was all about patents. Every major company had to fight at least a dozen process against patent trolls, but also against other major companies. It seems like nobody plays fair anymore. Without patents there will be no protection for new ideas, on one side, but also no source of income for inventors. And as we noticed already, it takes time and money to do something well. Patents are the real engine of the economy. They stimulate competition. Without them we will all be a bunch of copy/pasters, reduced to what the establishment already offers us, without any real capacity to bring disruptive ideas to the market. And yet even leading companies choose to eliminate it from their practices. We should all consider a patent as a recognition of his creator, an homage, as well as a guide to the invention.
Free Culture or Fear Culture? Free Culture is a recipient for disaster in any space. Can you image tourism thriving in a world of Free Culture? Not really. There is however a thriving fear culture that prospers in the shadow of Free Culture, a Fear Culture, a culture of people that are so scared by new ideas that they prefer to steal instead of experiment.

November 3, 2011 Permalink

9/11 – One Decade Later – Is 11 the new 13?

10 years later. What can be said now? We all remember how we heard this sad news.
It was a quiet day. You maybe went to the cinema or took a walk through the park. Or maybe you even watched tennis, like I did. Either way, at some point during the day you heard a phrase like: “One plane hit WTC” or “2 planes hit WTC” or “WTC and Pentagon were hit by an unknown enemy”. Than you sat down in front of the TV and started to look at the clips. So they started to play disaster movies? Is this is the real version of “The Towering Inferno”? Why did they choose this day? Now, looking backwards, in a single decade we had 3 major incidents in the eleventh day:

  • 9/11/2001 – WTC + Pentagon + Pennsylvania attacks.
    3/11/2004 – Madrid bombings.
    3/11/2011 – Fukushima incident.
  • WTC 9/11

    WTC 9/11

    Is 11 the new 13? It certainly looks like it is. Of course there are just few of the events that shocked the globe in the last 10 years, so we can’t declare this yet, but we should nonetheless reflect upon it. Each of these 3 days changed our view of the world:

  • 9/11/2001 – America can’t be attacked from the air because of the 2 oceans.
    3/11/2004 – Terrorists attack everywhere.
    3/11/2011 – Nuclear power is not a joke and the nuclear clock is now even closer to 12.
  • If anything, events like 9/11 of the Madrid 3/11 were between the last major events to be covered better on TV. The Arab Spring and the Fukushima Incident proved that the Internet is even more capable of presenting live events than the TV will ever be: the way BBC and CNN added the Twitter streams, previous clips, infographics and other gadgets to their pages that covered these events changed the coverage and the news industry forever. So if at the beginning of the century we were just able to watch how buildings collapse, now we have live data from all those involved in the events. If it’s good or not, it’s still too early to tell. In theory it should be, in practice you never know what could happen.
    9/11 didn’t marked just the end of the idea that America will not be attacked from the skies or the start of The War Against Terror, but also the first time when robots were used to find people. It was also the inspiration for new online communities like Meetup, a place where people meet to talk about the subjects they like. It proved that in the face of major threats nations can react. 9/11 happened after the dot-com-bubble, and its tenth anniversary comes after another big crisis. It’s strange that its impact and coverage far outreached some smaller crisis. That says something about how media can influence our perception about specific events.
    Today, conspiracy theorists can’t really say too many things about shocking events because each event will leave its marks on the Internet as proven by the pioneering multimedia methods used by BBC and CNN (check the Fukushima reports if you don’t believe me). If anything, 9/11 was just the eye of the storm (the calm), the rumor before a crisis (remember subprime rumors and Lehman Brothers?), the eye opener, the proof that most of us prefer to stay outside of the game. The cost of wars has led the U.S.A. were it is today (remember the debt crisis and the scandal that surrounded it at the beginning of August?). When you enter into the “graveyard of empires” (Afghanistan) you should be prepared to loose everything you have. Apparently the war has ended, but since it takes as little as one man and a bomb to start it again, we should seriously think if it’s not a forever war. The decade has passed, the technology has changed, the memories remain. A new WTC will rise in the next years, and hopefully it will not have the faith of its predecessors.

    September 11, 2011 Permalink

    Privacy and Transparency

    It’s not easy to write about such topics, but it’s necessary. Not just because Facebook, Google, Amazon, WikiLeaks or different governments around the world, but because of the times we live.

    Mark Zuckerberg

    Mark Zuckerberg

    Privacy, for example, might have never been such a huge topic if it would have been just about Facebook or Google. Without the Internet maybe we would have never had any clue about what happens in the military, secret services or corporations around the world when it comes to our personal data. Even tough signs of the coming Privacy Wars were easy to spot even in the early ’90s or as far back as the first computer viruses in the early ’70s, the scandals really took of in the 9/11 aftermath when people realized that The War Against Terror involves everybody. This meant data about one person could be used to draw good or bad conclusions regarding his involvement in terrorist attacks or who knows what other ugly stuff. Even a party in Vegas could get you into trouble, so it’s no surprise that The Hangover’s headline was “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. Even a simple list of books you ordered from an online shop could get you into trouble, especially if they are about forbidden subjects. It doesn’t matter that this information was retrieved by a secret service or by a hacker who just got into the local bookshop’s website, that information might be dangerous for your profile. Profile, you say? Yep. Another sensitive data. Take care how you edit this, not because your future employer might check your Facebook profile, but also because anybody else can (from your girlfriend to the secret agents). You can read lots of pages about privacy when you sign up to any of the sites that now represent the backbone of the global commerce, but you will still have only scratched the surface of this problem. Facebook or Google, for example, are now facing the same issues other companies like Orkut had in the past (Google should know this quite well, since they bought this social network that was popular in Brazil years ago).
    Julian Assange

    Julian Assange

    We didn’t mentioned the 9/11 aftermath just because this week we celebrate 10 years since the attacks, but because it was really an important date. Without the wars from Afghanistan and Iraq, a man known as Julian Assange would have never been so famous. Remember the documents he leaked online? Why WikiLeaks is so dangerours has some things to do with privacy and with the eternal question: “Where to draw the line between public and private life?” (and also with the equally important: “How can you establish which data must be known by everybody and which data must be kept secret?”), but also with a huge topic on its own: transparency. Fear of transparency is the main reason for the WikiLeaks scandal, but most of the governments around the world will not admit it. This is rather absurd since many of them are publishing tons of data online, including the governments from the US and from the UK. Basically transparency should have always been an integral part of public life. By saying this and watching the reaction of various parties to the release of the WikiLeaks documents one can easily draw dangerous conclusions like: True democracy can exist only if public data is available to anyone anywhere and transparency is an integral part of this process. The Internet together with the mobile devices is the only medium that can provide all citizens with access to information anywhere (you already know this if you read some other articles from our blog). Governments need only to apply this simple (but hard) concept.
    So the question is how do we draw the line between public and private life? Between public and private spending when it comes to governments and corporations? Should we consider that from now on everything that’s private should also be secret, and everything that’s public should also be transparent? What’s important now is to understand them. In one day maybe we will also find solutions. The fact that Mark Zuckerberg was named CEO of The Year for 2 years in a row (several weeks ago), and that he and Assange were on countless lists with Persons of The Year (including last year’s Time Magazine list) only proves that these problems are far from being solved.

    September 7, 2011 Permalink

    The War Against …

    10 Years later. You all know what I’m talking about. No, not that band. That September morning shock. It should have been the year of the space odyssey but it was the year in which the War Against Terror started. Even now it’s hard to tell what happened, but the War goes on an on. It’s not the silent Cold War and we didn’t had a Cuban Missile Crisis, but we have a War in episodes that is a perfect fit for today’s media. Some of the episodes developed into bloody series like Afghanistan or Iraq, but please do not forget they are all linked. Madrid or London are linked to the same War. The last episodes (The Killing of Bin Laden, War in Libya) seem to announce the end of the war, but other recent episodes (The Breivik Case) suggest something else.

    World Trade Center on fire

    World Trade Center on fire

    If we learned anything, than we learned that in this War there are no clear enemies. This makes us question the role of politics and diplomacy in today’s world. We can not talk about 9/11 without raising lots of questions, and we will not speak too much about it. We just wanted to write few lines about the episodic never ending War that we live and to reflect a little bit upon the meaning of that day.

    September 4, 2011 Permalink

    Careers of the future

    This is just a short list, but we feel you might like some of these jobs:

    Trend spotting counselor – This usually means a highly-skilled person trained to watch and predict what will happen in different markets and even to create new markets. Training for such a job would usually require training in one or two disciplines, PhD or experience at the top in one of the best companies in your field, passion for reading and creating news, for creating highly customized graphics and presentations, but also at least an intimate knowledge of several markets like IT and Finance and Medicine (no connection between these, you say? Then this is clearly not your kind of job). It already exists for several decades, but in the future it will be a mix between SF writer / researcher / statistician and different other combinations. The heydays of this job are yet to come.

    Interface programmer – It’s not just usability we’re talking about or futuristic GUIs, but rather brand new interfaces that look even better than those from Minority Report (which we already see in practice). Think visualizations + data mining + 3D graphics. If you like these than you clearly have a shot. The interfaces of the future will be fluid and will even be integrated in our environment. It’s already happening and there aren’t too many talented people in this area.

    Bio engineer – In case we won’t have a UN ban on genetic engineering technologies this will definitely be the best career choice for your future. It’s enough to think that there are thousands of diseases that need some treatment. Our advice: please stay away from eugenics!

    Content creator and entertainer- Since robots will do most of our jobs, isn’t it obvious that we will have more time to enjoy watching opera or live features or even Big Brother?

    Galactic Suite - Interior of the Space Hotel

    Galactic Suite - Interior of the Space Hotel (c)QUITUS from Wikimedia Commons

    Space Traveler – The most interesting job? Surely one of the best. If you loved Star Wars it’s definitely your territory. Just don’t hope you will be Han Solo tomorrow. It will take at least 20 to 100 years to get there. It’s hard to say when will this really take of, but in the next years we already have some projects like the Space Hotel. When people like Sir Richard Branson (Virgin) or Elon Musk (of Tesla fame) get into a field like this, a revolution is definitely coming!

    We will present you with more career choices like this in the next weeks. Stay tuned and choose wisely.

    August 27, 2011 Permalink

    Floating Cities – Why we are still far from the ’60s

    Floating cities. When you hear this words you start thinking at some sci-fi TV series in which humans colonized the oceans, like SeaQuest, for example. Such projects where proposed for decades, but they never materialized. We actually got into a place where we are far from the ’60s optimism when it comes to colonizing the oceans, space travel or artificial intelligence (the last flight of the space shuttle is a good argument for this). The reason why we are still far from the ’60s dreams is not related to the end of the Cold War (even tough that is part of the reason), but rather to the fact that we lost the art of rapid prototyping and the desire to experiment with anything that was characteristic to that age.
    Floating City
    The free floating cities is major news this week, but only between the lines (read: lost between the Google-Motorola deal, football and the aftermath of the London riots and the Oslo re-enactment). Peter Thiel, member of the PayPal Mafia and renowned Facebook investor, gave 1,25 billions to The Seasteading Institute run by Patri Friedman, ex-Googler and the nephew of Milton Friedman (the famous economist). The main reason for this investment seems to be the fact that Thiel loved Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and believes that people should have the liberty to choose the governments they want. Cities that would flow on the international waters, usually built on oil-rig platforms and cruise technology, might help us do exactly that. These would be outside any international regulations, so they will provide interesting experiments in the area of the self-governing communities. The first platform will be launched next year, and probably by 2018 they will be recognized by the United Nations. That’s the year when SeaQuest begins! Another sci-fi story becoming reality?

    August 19, 2011 Permalink

    Top Earning Sites – WebSites That Make Constantly Millions $$$ Over The Internet

    The list of the top 30 earning websites in the world, for some of these websites, $50 million in revenue a day is just a typical day. This Websites Are Business aren’t they ? And it was all created in the last 10 or so years! How many business dream to make this money in this short period of time ? Well, now, you have them in one place.

    The TOP 30 Websites That Make > 1$/sec on the internet.

    Rank Website Founders Annual Revenue Per Second
    1 Larry Page and Sergey Brin $21,800,000,000 $691.27
    2 Jeff Bezos $19,166,000,000 $607.75
    3 Jerry Yang and David Filo $7,200,000,000 $228.31
    4 Pierre Omidyar $6,290,000,000 $199.45
    5 Nathan Myhrvold. $3,214,000,000 $101.92
    6 Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, and Luke Nosek, $2,250,000,000 $71.35
    7 Jeff Robbin $1,900,000,000 $60.25
    8 Marshal Vace $1,892,000,000 $59.99
    9 Jesse Fink $1,884,000,000 $59.74
    10 Added Mark Schroeder $1,447,000,000 $45.88
    11 Reed Hastings $1,200,000,000 $38.05
    12 Terry Jones $1,100,000,000 $34.88
    13 Nick Swinmurn $1,000,000,000 $31.71
    14 David Litman $1,000,000,000 $31.71
    15 Erik Prince $968,000,000 $30.70
    16 Jeff Katz $870,000,000 $27.59
    17 Robert Brazell $834,000,000 $26.45
    18 Tom Anderson $800,000,000 $25.37
    19 Niklas Zennstrom $550,841,000 $17.47
    20 Zhang Chaoyang $429,000,000 $13.60
    21 Robb Brock $400,000,000 $12.68
    22 Eric Baker $400,000,000 $12.68
    23 Jack Ma $316,000,000 $10.02
    24 Mark Zuckerberg $300,000,000 $9.51
    25 Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, $300,000,000 $9.51
    26 Mark Vadon $295,000,000 $9.35
    27 Stephen Kaufer $260,000,000 $8.24
    28 Mark Getty $233,200,000 $7.39
    29 Garry Itkin $207,000,000 $6.56
    30 Henry Jarvis Raymond $175,000,000 $5.55

    August 15, 2011 Permalink

    How to become a Millionaire.

    A man walked into a bank in New York City one day and asked for the loan officer.

    He told the loan officer that he was going to Philippines on business for two weeks and needed to borrow $5,000. The bank officer told him that the bank would need some form of security for the loan.

    Then the man handed over the keys to a new Ferrari parked on the street in front of the bank. He produced the title and everything checked out The loan officer agreed to accept the car as collateral for the loan.The bank’s president and its officers all enjoyed a good laugh at the guy for using a $250,000 Ferrari as collateral against a $5,000 loan.

    An employee of the bank then drove the Ferrari into the bank’s underground garage and parked it there.Two weeks later, the guy returned, repaid the $5,000 and the interest, which came to $15.41.

    The loan officer said, “Sir, we are very happy to have had and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multi millionaire. What puzzles us is, why would you bother to borrow “$5,000″.

    The millionaire replied: “Where else in New York City can I park my car for $15.41 and expect it to be there when I return”

    Well thats how the rich stay rich, they know a lot more about Money Management. All the millionaires I have met in my life were penny wise. Look after your cents and the Dollars will look after themselves.


    Before opting to pay online, one should have his or her credit report in black and white. Often the fact that your credit card is offering you home insurance or term life insurance remains unknown to the consumer, hence the numerous applications for various loans.

    August 12, 2011 Permalink

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