29 January 2009

Doing more for less

Grrrr. Stupid BoingBoing is at it again, noticing the same memes online as I do and posting about them mere hours after I do. Unfortunately their post is less a commentary and more a re-posting, um, copying, um, outright plagiarism, um, a campaign for open source and the creative commons licensing of Paul Krugman's article.

To be fair though Mr Doctorow did beat me to today's Eircom story*. As I groggily supped my coffee still not full recovered from jetlag (though to be fair I haven't exactly tried) I read through my RSS feeds and thought, "hmm, must blog about this", when I saw in this morning's Irish Times that Eircom (my ISP) will now voluntarily ban customers for life whom the record companies accuse of P2P music sharing.

This will not affect me, for I do not download illegal music. Ever. I have been known to visit the occasional buccaneer's harbour in Sweden in search of US TV episodes that have yet to (or will never) air in Ireland, but music is something different.

I buy a lot of music, almost all on CD, and there are a number of labels that I like (warp, reflex, !K7, Ninja Tune, Planet Mu, Irish labels Alphabet Set and Invisible Agent, etc), and many more individual artists on even smaller labels, and oddly enough I want to try and support these, even though some of them are no longer the smaller operations running on a shoestring they once were (Warp in particular long ago stopped being the small and cuddly misfit that it still likes to pretend it is).

For trying out new stuff I have a monthly subscription to eMusic, for cheap DRM-free tracks from a wide range of smaller and less-commercial labels, and find that if I come across an artist this way that I start listening to a lot, I end up buying their stuff on CD anyway. Getting ready for Bangface weekender this year I have downloaded a lot of Wisp, Noisia and Zomby from eMusic, none of whom I was familiar with until I saw them on the bill.

So downloading music illegally has never been my thing**, but what Eircom is doing still stokes my ire. Eircom has a troubled history, a botched privatization lost a lot of ordinary people a lot of money, and since then it has been passed around from owner to owner, the true red-headed step-child of Irish semi-state bodies. It has no money, and cannot afford to go head-to-head with the bottomless pockets of Big Audio***. What it has done, unlike every other major ISP in the EU, is agree to take the unverified claims of a private company over the interests of its own customers. While not on par with US ISPs and Telcos voluntarily handing customer records over to the Bush Administration without a subpoena, the willingness to sell out their customers to private firms over the threat of further litigation shows immediately whose side Eircom would take if the US put further pressure on the EU to hand over data records on all EU citizens in the interests of US security.

Of course if everybody else's Eircom broadband is like mine, which on a good day can puff its way up with a full head of steam to almost 1.5Mbps, before collapsing from the effort by 4pm and hovering around 450kbps for the rest of the day, wheezing like an emphysemic seventy-year old that still insists on taking a last drag on their John Player Blue before collapsing on the couch for a bit of a lie down in front of the telly, then maybe Eircom are playing a very cunning game indeed. If they don't give anyone enough bandwidth to actually download any files, then no-one can get caught by Big Audio doing naughty things with copyright material.

Eircom obviously just have our best interests at heart all along.

* don't you feel a surge of national pride when not one, but two Irish companies make headlines in an American blog for outrageously abusing their customers. We're number 1! We're number 1! Take that you milk and lead producing slave and prison workers of China!

** basically because I am not a 13-year old with no pocket money but a desperate need to have all the music from High School Musical 23, 'cause otherwise Becky Morgan in 1G will never Friend me on bebo, right, yeahbutnobutyeahbutnobutyeah, that's sooooooooo not fair.

*** I am claiming ownership of this phrase. No Creative Commons exists on that, my friends. Can you hear me Cory Doctorow, can you hear me feckin' now?

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