October 1, 2011
New Bill Would Allow Robo-Calls to Mobile Phones


A bill proposed in Congress last week sponsored by Representatives Lee Terry and Edolphis Towns aims to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to allow “informational calls to mobile telephones and for other purposes.” Basically, it is a bill that would allow robo-calls from marketers and political campaigns (among other entities) to mobile phones.

» via ReadWriteWeb

Dear god, this bill is terrible, robo-calls from telemarketers to cell phones.  Shame on any politician that approves of this bill.  I pray to god this piece of legislation doesn’t get passed.

June 30, 2011
Video Streaming will be a Felony Under Senate Bill S. 978

So America has an overcrowded prison system and violent felons are accidentally being released… so what’s the U.S. Senate doing?  They are going to overburden the prison system more by sending people to prison as felons because of online videos.

The bill, S. 978, would make illegal video streaming for commercial purposes a felony punishable by as much as five years in prison if it involves 10 or more instances of streaming copyrighted works over a 180-day period. The retail value of the video must exceed $2,500, or the licenses to the material must be worth more than $5,000.

This bill needs to be defeated. 

  • Five years of prison for posting some youtube vidoes on your tumblog.  Think about that for a moment.  This bill needs to be shut down.

David Graham recently wrote a great piece about this over at Shoryuken.com

According to the bill as it’s currently written, if you engage in “public performances by electronic means” 10 or more times over a 180 day period, and if either the total economic value of those performances exceeds $2500 or the cost of getting the copyright holder’s permission to perform exceeds $5000, then you can potentially get fined and put in jail for 5 years.  Jail.  FIVE YEARS.

Just to hit you over the head with this, that means that if you stream a game like Street Fighter 4 or Starcraft 2 (or a movie or a song etc) only 10 or more times in a full half year, and if you make a bit of money doing it, you either need to have a license from Capcom or Blizzard etc or you risk going to jail.

Amusingly slash horrifyingly enough, it gets worse.  The wording of this bill is so vague that “performance” could count for a crap-ton of what we who understand the internet would consider very different things.  The offense is defined super broadly: “public performance by electronic means.”  That includes live streaming of copyrighted audiovisual works, of course, but it almost certainly also includes recorded YouTube videos of copyrighted audiovisual works, whether they be match vids, game footage/live shot hybrids, movies, TV shows, music, and so on.  Going off other legal precedent, it might even cover embedding an infringing YouTube vid and videos of kids lip syncing to music.

In essence, a bill intended to limit the unauthorized live streaming of films and TV could result in potential jail time for a lot of people doing very different things.  While the bill’s sponsors might not have known how wide-ranging its effect could be at first, they’ve been confronted with that since the text was released and they show no signs of pulling it back.

What about the monetary limits?  Well, they actually aren’t that high.  If you don’t think our major streamers, casters, and uploaders make $2500 over a full half a year, you’re crazy.  Keep in mind, the wording of the bill is “the total economic value of such public performances to the infringer or to the copyright owner.”  Total, meaning revenue from live streaming, plus revenue for replays, plus compensation by a tournament for coming to stream in the first place, and so on.  And economic value, as in not net profit but just the amount of revenue coming in.

Because almost every use of an audiovisual work online can be considered a public performance, this might drastically change how people behave online.  No longer is the penalty for uploading infringing videos just getting shut down or having to pay the copyright owner.  If the vids become popular, you might go to jail.

Now, obviously some companies, including video game publishers like Capcom and Blizzard, tend to take a hands-off approach to the constant unauthorized streams and replays our scenes pump out.  So why worry?  Surely they wouldn’t send us to jail.

But that’s only in a world where the performance right is merely a civil law provision, where the only ones who can bust infringers are copyright owners.  Jamming the performance right into criminal law means that the government gets involved and gets to decide whether to bring charges on its own.  Whereas for now video game publishers can (and usually do) let infringing live streams and replays slide, in the future the government might be able to bring criminal charges regardless of whether the copyright holder says to.  In practice the government tends not to go after infringers unless notified by copyright holders, but if it wants to it can go after infringers anyway.

I don’t want to be too alarmist here.  It strikes me as very unlikely that the government would take the time and money to put someone in jail for streaming a Marvel vs Capcom 3 tournament.  But since this would be a totally new thing, I can’t say for sure; I don’t think anyone can.  I also don’t think it’s a great idea to ever play Russian roulette, regardless of whether the gun has a hundred chambers or ten thousand.

I think the consequences for our relationship with video game copyright holders are obvious.  It would no longer be good enough that Capcom takes a hands off approach to us publicly performing their copyrighted works, because the government could still bust us if it wants.  I can’t imagine that many people would risk jail time by engaging in publicly viewable, easily findable unauthorized performances like tournament streams or popular YouTube vids.  The result might be that the only people streaming or putting up replays are those who have licenses from copyright holders explicitly allowing them to do so.

And I think that would be a disaster for our culture.  It means the gut gets slit right out of our media side, because while having a few big names and groups is great, without voluntary participation by whoever wants to be involved I feel like we’ll lose a huge portion of the vibrant, fast-moving dynamism that I love about our scenes.  Maybe we’ll be able to get permission easily, but in my personal experience it’s been anything but easy for video game copyright owners to grant licenses.


June 26, 2011
Next Up for the Obama administration: Pushing Investment Firms Overseas

The Obama seems intent on arbitrarily raising taxes on investment management firms, especially hedge funds/private equity firms/VCs for no other reason than some of the firms are lucrative and successful.

On tax breaks for the wealthy, Mr. Biden used the example of hedge-fund managers who “play with other people’s money.”

"And they get taxed," Mr. Biden said. "I’m not saying they don’t do good things, they do some good things. But they get taxed at 15 percent because they call it capital gains. Because they’re investing not their money, (but) other people’s money."


What the administration doesn’t recognize is the fact that this will simply push private investment firms overseas.  If you are running a hedge fund, there are three key things you need:

  1. The capacity to raise capital.  This is related to previous demonstrated experience in producing high investment returns.
  2. The ability to recruit and attract talent.
  3. A fast internet connection to do your work

None of these factors are bound to America.  You can get very low taxes and an encouraging business environment in many countries (like say Singapore).  Talented investors and analysts aren’t bound to America.  They are all over the world, and many U.S. based investment management professionals would be more than willing to move.  A fast internet connection can be found in many countries.  There are no adverse affects associated with simply re-locating an entire firm over to Singapore.

The end result is that raising taxes on private investment firms will simply push them to re-organize to a new domicile.  This will:

  • Reduce total tax revenue as less investment firms become registered in the U.S. (as they re-incorporate in more investor friendly countries).
  • Reduces state and local taxes as investment managers relocate overseas to where ever their firms set up their new HQs.  States like CT, NY and NJ could potentially lose significant state and local income tax as investment management jobs disappear.
  • Reduces jobs as many positions move overseas outright.  If this happens, there is no tax revenue period.

The unintended consequences have been blatantly ignored.  I thought that after pushing all of the U.S. based manufacturing jobs overseas with regulatory burdens and high costs, U.S. politicians would learn something.  I figured they would  recognize that it might not be a good idea to do push white-collar jobs overseas.  As we learned with manufacturing jobs, once they leave, they might never  come back.  But this current administration (as demonstrated by recent quotes by Joe Biden) seems intent on promoting class warfare and hasn’t learned anything at all.

January 8, 2011
Obama Eyeing Internet ID for Americans

big brother

President Obama is planning to hand the U.S. Commerce Department authority over a forthcoming cybersecurity effort to create an Internet ID for Americans, a White House official said here today.

It’s “the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government” to centralize efforts toward creating an “identity ecosystem” for the Internet, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said.

That news, first reported by CNET, effectively pushes the department to the forefront of the issue, beating out other potential candidates including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The move also is likely to please privacy and civil liberties groups that have raised concerns in the past over the dual roles of police and intelligence agencies.

The announcement came at an event today at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Schmidt spoke.

The Obama administration is currently drafting what it’s calling the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which Locke said will be released by the president in the next few months. (An early version was publicly released last summer.)

"We are not talking about a national ID card," Locke said at the Stanford event. "We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities."

I think I’ll take my chances with remembering an extra password over trusting the federal government.

September 9, 2010
Bureau Of Labor Statistics consistently overprojects employment (upwards)

Apparently the Bureau Of Labor Statistics consistently lies about employment data being better than expected.  In case you were wondering, projections are consistently higher the stated and usually revised downwards.

Today’s announcement by the BLS that it decided to flat out estimate nearly a third of all initial jobless claims (courtesy of several large outliers) due to a “clerical holiday” which resulted in a major beat to estimates, caught many offguard by just how tendentious and manipulative the US Department of Truth can be. This is nothing. To visualize just how ridiculous the perpetual upward bias is at the Labor Bureau, we present a chart demonstrating the weekly jobless claim revisions by the BLS: in a nutshell, 90%+ of the time the bureau has revised prior claims upward, meaning it consistently strives to create an optimistic picture at the moment, only to have it revised it to its true, uglier state a week later when nobody cares. The implication is that fraudulent (and we sure hope this is inadvertent, although a 90% error rate definitely would invite a criminal investigation into just who and how stands to benefit from such an manipulative upward bias) data reporting is responsible for a persistent upward bias in data, and that fundamentals have been disconnected from the “government’s reality” for years, confirming that the recent pathological breakdown in the market’s relationship with fundamentals is not a new development. For example: today stocks would be flat to down if the BLS were to report the initial claims as they really are. Instead, here we are, almost 1% higher on nothing but soon to be revised lies. In other news, the China-US data distribution Joint Venture/Vassal State development is progressing better than expected.