Hard News by Russell Brown

Joy at the Park

One of the joys of being a self-employed knowledge worker is that when you want to go and do something, you go and do it. So When the ninth South African wicket fell at Eden Park yesterday, Fiona and I decided we'd get down there and witness a historic victory.

There were not, as the press have been pointing out, a great many people at the park, and quite a few of those there - hello Hugh Sundae and Jeremy Wells! - were other people without proper jobs. We caught a couple of overs before lunch, then popped down to Dominion Road for a panini, returning in good time to see the deed done. I got vox-popped by Alan Perrott from the Herald, but it doesn't appear to have made the paper. Shame. I gave good quotes and everything.

Stephen Fleming's innings was a tremendous act of captaincy. Papps and Richardson had been eking out the runs - and being progressively intimidated by short-pitched bowling while they were at it.

Eventually, Richardson was out, caught with his periscope up as he just about went into the foetal position to a short one from Ntini that stayed low. It looked pretty naff.

Fleming strode out and cracked 31 runs in 11 balls, all around the wicket, to finish it and re-establish just who was boss here. Nice.

The Herald is hailing the victory this morning with an editorial headed Victory hints at greater yet to come - which, oddly enough, appears almost exactly three years after an editorial headed Time for Fleming to quit. Funny old world, innit?

But what to make of the other codes? The ones we used to refer to as "winter" sports? The Warriors showed a diabolical lack of purpose on Saturday, and we'll be lucky to get even one team in the Super 12 semis given the start we've had. I blame Don Brash.

Now, I think that the people who run the major record company branches here are a generally good bunch who seek to balance the demands of their corporate head offices with the needs of the local industry. But the current flap about a long-overdue amendment proposed for the Copyright Act is becoming ludicrous.

As the law stands, it is illegal for you to make a tape to listen to in your car, to make up a playlist on your computer, to make a party compilation on CD or to use a portable digital music player such as an iPod in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

In a useful December 2002 position paper, a group of MED lawyers recommended a number of changes to the Copyright Act to bring it into line with what actually happened in the modern world. Among other things, it proposed "a limited format shifting exception [to] provide certainty where the practice is already common and thought by many consumers to be legal."

Format-shifting is the lawyers' phrase for making a personal copy of music which you already own. The paper noted that copyright owners have "raised concerns about the economic loss that such an exception would cause" and quite effectively dismissed them:

A music consumer would be unlikely to purchase the same work in a variety of different formats. Thus, if the user owns a legitimately purchased copy of a sound recording, the ability to format shift would not appear to substitute a legitimate sale from which the copyright owner would receive an economic benefit.

In other words, you're not going to buy another copy of your new favourite album on cassette so you can play it in your car - in fact, you're not likely to even be able to. The anachronism becomes more acute every time a new iPod is sold in New Zealand. You can't yet use the iTunes Music Store from New Zealand. And yet you can't legally copy your favourite songs onto your iPod. You can't, apparently, use the damn thing at all. It's just that everybody does.

Even the promise that major-label music will eventually be made available for purchase online - which per se involves copying - doesn't fix the problem. It makes no sense whatsoever for the purchaser of a $35 CD to have more limited rights to make personal use of music than someone who has spent $1.50 on a single track. An unreasonable law invites only contempt.

And yet the industry is fighting tooth and nail against any move towards a law that could reasonably be observed by consumers, on the basis that it would "open the floodgates" to unrestricted copying. Terence O'Neill Joyce demands in today's Dom Post to know: "How on earth are we going to stop things like copycat kiosks springing up around the country?" Exactly the same way as you do now, Terence. By using the law.

The irony is, of course, that some of the same people campaigning against change themselves own and operate iPods. And one or two of them have privately admitted to me that the law is an ass. They would all do well to, just for a moment, think of themselves as consumers of music.