Hard News by Russell Brown

Rugby will be the winner on the day

I've been a little surprised that no one today appears to have noted that when we host Rugby World Cup 2011, it will (failing some sort of coalition collapse) also be an election year. And that if the tournament dates are similar to those in Australia 2003 (where the final was held on November 22) both the campaign and polling day itself will fall in the midst of the whole extravaganza. That will be interesting.

Will it change the tone of the campaign? Will we be unwilling to show the rest of the rugby-loving world the kind of divisions that emerged in this year's campaign? 2011 might be a good election to be fighting from the Treasury benches - which makes 2008 all the more sharp.

I was interviewed by One News sports reporter Paul Moor on our chances of winning the Cup bid this week, with my "social commentator" hat on. There had been a good deal of our innate moodiness at large: nobody else remembers Pinetree Meads, do they? And Helen Clark: she's a league supporter, isn't she? And besides: we're too small.

And yet if you looked at the stories from Dublin, it was clear that it wasn't so cut-and-dried. The South Africans were relaxed, the Japanese had barely turned up - and the New Zealand delegation was positively amping. The effort paid off, and our little economy's habit of moving from one focal event to another continues.

This is going to bring in a lot of money. But more to the point, I think, rugby will be the winner on the day. People in places like Invercargill and Rotorua will rise to it; they'll fill their little stadia for down-table matches because they love the game. The challenge will be making ready for the big matches in the main centres. If ever there was an incentive to bowl Carisbrook and start again, this is it.

Now, it remains for the All Blacks to cap it all off and deliver England a towelling on Sunday morning. They surely won't lack for motivation. But will they perform the new haka? And will the British ever stop whining about the haka?

One point really needs to be made about Gerald Davies' pissy little rant for The Times: the idea that Brian O'Driscoll suffered retribution in the first Lions test this year because he had somehow responded to the haka in an insulting fashion does not stand up. Like the mysterious, callous nurse who demended his jersey, this story comes to us solely from O'Driscoll. As far as I am aware, no New Zealander, brown or white, has ever publicly said anything that would endorse it. Now would seem like a good time to stop recycling it.

The other good news for today, in a rather smaller way, is that we're making available the final piece of the Lange speech project: the track. One of the reasons I held on for the right to provide a downloadable version of the Oxford Union speech (rather than a streamed one) this year was that I wanted it to be available for derivative use. This has now come to pass with the posting of Andrew B. White's musical adaptation of the speech.

What surprised and delighted me about Andrew's track is that he actually encapsulated the speech, rather than just running some samples over a beat. The key points are there, and it has a beginning, a middle and an end. I kicked off both this week's Great Blend events with the track, and now you can download it as a nice, chunky 192Kbit/s MP3.

Feel free to grab it, stick in your playlist, burn it to CD and/or play it on your radio station. You may also further adapt it, so long as you comply with the Creative Commons licence which specifies attribution, no commercial use (yes, obviously, playing it on a commercial radio station might constitute commercial use, but that's not the same) and sharing alike.

At the other end of the copyright spectrum: could Sony BMG's DRM debacle possibly get any worse? As it happens, yes. Way worse.

On the heels of news that Sony BMG's official patch for its own malware actually makes host PCs more vulnerable, comes news that unacknowledged chunks of open-source code released under the GPL and LGPL and others, including some code originally written to bypass Apple's iTunes DRM. The Sony Boycott blog has more.

If Sony BMG (via its software provider, First4Internet) is found to have flouted legitimate licences, the company might fall foul of the very harsh penalties it urged on the US government.

There has been some wild speculation as to the theoretical extent of Sony's exposure (eg: 200,000 infringing CDs sold at statutory damages of $75,000 per infringing copy = $15 billion) but I suspect it would be nothing quite so large even if action was taken. The DMCA seems to focus on wilfull infringement in penalty-setting, so it would more likely be First4Internet that copped it hard. It is still, without any doubt, a shocker.