Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/01/letters_0109/

Banning things, thought crimes, and dangerous guitarring

And the new airport etiquette

By Lucy Sherriff

Posted in Bootnotes, 1st September 2006 10:54 GMT

Letters We've got a bumper letters bag today, covering an almost ludicrously diverse range of topics. We've got renegade planets, flaming guitars, pornography legislation and literal pontification.

So, get a cup of tea, settle down and enjoy.

We'll start with the very popular news that the record industry has decided that tabulature = copyright infringement. You take this kind of silliness to its logical conclusion:

Is the music industry hell bent on finding new and unusual ways to eventually sue all its customers?? Perhaps this is some new strategy to squeeze more money out of people though I can’t see how that’s possible since it must be costing them a fortune in fancy lawyers!! In my opinion it amounts to little more than bullying since they know full well that online communities cannot possibly afford to fight them in court! They are taking our money in CD sales then using it to sue us, how is that a good business model? The answer is simple, do what they hate the most, download your music from file sharing networks! At least that way they won’t have the money to sue you later!! The artists will be fine as they have talent and can play live gigs (ticket sales have doubled in recent years). Support the archaic structure of a decaying non-technological regime no longer and help destroy a business that sues its own customers! They cannot be allowed to block the path of progress indefinitely. Rant ends.


This is utter nonsense. Not the article you wrote, but the notion that learning to play a song on guitar via tablature is copywrite infringement. I learned to play guitar this way via purchased books with tablature. There was no internet back then. It's one thing to download songs for free and re-distribute them. It's another thing to learn to play a song. Are bands who play cover songs at gigs infringing copywrite? If I sing a song someone else wrote, am I infringing copywrite? These people need to STFU and go get a life. Cheers Mate!!

E. Dennis

Is THIS the last straw ? Or will it be when those bastards start suing someone for whistling part of a tune, or worse, THINKS about whistling part of a tune.

I'm glad I play my own music, I don't have to worry about the asshat suits stealing my computer one day for music related SERIOUS lawbreaking.

I mean, I'm so confused why they're doing this, I can't even imagine. Must be the debbils work.

what REALLY gets me, people accept this.

Jeez, we started (here in the usa) a whole country because some idiot in another country decided to tax something as minor as tea. (well, that and other things, but the tea thing was the straw on that camel's back)

we're a world of wussies, and we get what we allow.


Bugger the lot of them. I'm not going to spend another penny on published music - digital, paper, or analog - for the rest of my life. I'll listen to what I have, and what's free on the radio (and I'll record it from there, too), and I'll work out how to play it myself, and share that information privately with a few hundred thousand of my close friends.


Perhaps the people who put tabs together should copyright their work. Then perhaps it would be up to the MPA to demonstrate that this published copyrighted tab broke the copyright on a non-existant (hence uncopyrighted?) work, rather than just pushing this assumption through the courts. Sure, if the songwriter has themselves published their song's tab then they do have ownership of that and no one else should copy it. But isn't there some established precedence that the tune itself can be owned?


Sticking with popular themes, we also brought you news of a school fingerprinting its students to make sure they actually are in the classrooms. What was wrong with a register? That's what we want to know:

It seems that the fingerprinting of children is becoming more and more popular as schools in the Portsmouth area jump on the bandwagon, see this article from the Portsmouth News.

They say it's "only for library books" but what this is really teaching children is that it's OK to hand over Biometric data to "the Authorities" without wondering if it will be used in other places or other ways or shared with anyone else.

Cheers, Graham.

When they say that the recorded fingerprints will be only used to monitor school attendence, and not shared with any third party... what they really mean is that the fingerprints will not be used for anything other than attendence UNTIL some kind of minor crime or prank takes place, and the print database will be kept out of third-party hands UNTIL it is actually requested by a third party.

Just like every other disgustingly invasive, wide-blanket invasion of privacy and rights perpetuated by every sickeningly politically-correct and fattened government that has abandoned common sense, it always starts as the most innocent of methods with the most noble of goals.


I wanted to hire a car this weekend from AVIS car at Stansted airport. Apparently I need to provide a thumbprint for my security.

See excerpt from booking conditions below:

Stansted Airport, Essex, *In partnership with Essex Police, Avis and all other car rental operators at Stansted Airport require a thumbprint impression for non-corporate rentals. This is a security measure to minimise identity fraud for the safety of our renters.


Also hitting the headlines this week, Pappa himself, the grand fromage of the Catholic Church, called a meeting to work out what the Church ought to be saying about evolution. An interesting set of responses:

I don't understand why these people don't believe that evolution can be a divine mechanism. After all, what is more amazing: that God created the Universe in a week, or that God engineered the very fabric of space so that it would unfold in an infinitely diverse cornucopia of variation, combining and condensing and evolving into the unbelievably beautiful, vast Universe we see around us, varying and changing without end? And emerging within it, a creature with the amazing ability to comprehend the incredible nature of her own tenuous existence, coalesced from self-organizing matter, clumped together from the dust of dying stars, evolved through the patiently self-redesigning mechanisms of molecules that build themselves.

Isn't that amazing? Isn't that beautiful? And all that with a single touch; all the information needed to create you, me, cats, Income Tax and suet pudding was present at the very start, before particles, before fields, when the Universe was just a membrane about to start expanding; all of this was written somehow into its structure. God must be one heck of a pool shark.

Remember that nobody said that Science precludes God until the literalists came along and decided that was the case.


Thank you thank you thank you for describing the huge difference of opinion on evolution in Christianity, even in a conservative branch like the Catholic Church. Some people, often those who are keen on science, assume that all Christians are creationists, which just isn't the case at all, especially in Europe. The misunderstanding seems to stem from American churches which are often obsessed with condeming evolution, and speak much louder than their numbers worldwide deserve. This is probably partly because the American TV and film industry dominates the world to a great extent. The obsession with creationism possibly isn't so important to the fundamentalists in itself, but is a test of how much control they can exert over the US education system. If they get away with "intelligent design", they'll probably start pushing for all kinds of other things to be taught as fact.


To be honest, I'm getting fed up with so much web space being taken up by anti-evolution stuff; after all, it was invented for exchange of scientific ideas. Anyway, if one believes in God, which god would be greater: the god that makes Adam and Eve or the god that creates a universe where evolution of people is possible?

Regards, John.

Nice subtitle.

I too am confused as to why we need the Catholic Church to form a committee of MEN to decide what GOD thinks. Surely the answer will magically appear in a piece of burnt toast somewhere in France or Italy?


Things don't get much more cheerful with the next story. A judge rules that owning violent porn will now be illegal:   It seem to me that there's a potential problem with this...

How far does it go? Does it criminalise the BDSM community which pretends to do all sort of stuff which a loosely worded law criminalises? I mean, technically spanking someone is violent, so are pictures of that going to be "get in the van, miss. Oh sorry, sir."

Its not like Labour to draft poorly worded laws, is it?

- Smid  

Quite how they're going to distinguish between violent porn on the one hand and almost any 18-rated film containing violence on the other is an open question.  Since they also announced this last year, as even my Labour activist colleague points out, the chances of it getting onto the statute book is close to zero.  What's the prosecutorial test that would spot porn on the one hand and images of Jesus on the Cross on the other?

- Ian

Keeping the violence theme alive, we'll move on to violent video games which a judge in the US refused to ban:

Trying to understand law here. I understand the argument that restricting the sale of violently rated video games to minors might violate first amendment rights, but can anyone explain to me how that is different from pornography, which is banned from sale to minors in the U.S.?

Don't get me wrong, I think minors shouldn't be able to buy porn or violent video games. But all I'm trying to understand is how can one law violate the first amendment rights, and another not? If they can purchase GTA, they should be able to buy a Playboy.


"Blanco countered in a statement last Friday that she "believes violent video games harm children". She added: "I'm calling on all parents to diligently monitor the video games that their children are allowed to play. If the courts cannot protect our children, then we need to do it by rejecting the merchant of violence."

And there I think we have the point, it isn't the laws job to monitor what a child does it that is a parents role. If a parent is incapable of telling that a game is inappropriate for their child then they shouldn't be a parent. That extends to an awful lot of other things too, parents seem to think that it's societies job to bring up their idiot children.


Has Governer Blanco lost her mind? "I'm calling on all parents to diligently monitor the video games that their children are allowed to play. If the courts cannot protect our children, then we need to do it by rejecting the merchant of violence."

Next thing she'll be expecting the courts to collect the kids from school and make the dinner and do all the other things that are involved in parenting. What is wrong with these people?

It's no wonder the world is falling apart with kids running riot, if the parents can't even be bothered to supervise the entertainment content for their children (Video games and movies) then they surely won't notice little Johnny snorting Cocaine off little Marys arse cheeks after they met up in the under 12s cocaine user group on Bebo or My Space. (all ages verified by law of course).

mutter mutter,


"If the courts cannot protect our children, then we need to do it"

Fantastic quote, almost worthy of Bush himself!


Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have launched a game they say is designed to promote Chinese ethics. You found this amusing, in a sad sort of way:

Kou Xiaowei of China's General Administration of Press and Publication, which is overseeing the game's development, said: "We hope the game will teach players about Chinese ethics." What ethics would that be ? Invading Tibet ? Shooting missiles over Taiwan from time to time and threatening invasion if they declare their independence ? Or maybe killing millions in the process of "implementing" communism in the country. Just thinking about how a pirate could teach one about ethics makes me ROTFL. What's next ? The american gov developing a game in which Dubya teaches peace to young americans ??


So, Chinese ethics is moving bricks ? Well, they certainly have a lot of that left to do, so that's not so bad. Except that, the ones who can play games are probably not the ones who move bricks, so the market target seems be a bit weak. It will be interesting to see how the game fares, if it is launched. After all, now that the game has been linked to Chinese ethics, China is honor-bound to see it succeed. Of course, the game could just become mandatory on store shelves, or even mandatory with each purchase of a PC in China. Which would somewhat skew the ratings, no ?


'Nonetheless, the powers that be have high hopes for the product. Kou Xiaowei of China's General Administration of Press and Publication, which is overseeing the game's development, said: "We hope the game will teach players about Chinese ethics."' Does that mean you can play a Chinese Police officer in modern times, and beat the crap out of people for meditating? I believe such action falls under the current definition of "Chinese Ethics".

-- Richard

Perennial bad guy, the Business Software Alliance, has decided that people without the right software licenses should be fined. And tarred, feathered, stuck in the stocks, and pelted with rotten fruit. Oh, all right, just fined, but you get the idea:

But how can the software be proven licensed? According to a ruling against a reseller of unused licenses, the CoA isn't proof of ownership (otherwise the seller would be in the clear). So what is? Receipts? For how long?

What about out of service software. E.g. Windows95 or DOS, used for legacy applications or for hardware unable to run newer OS's or software from defunct companies? You cannot buy a license for this class of software, so how can you become compliant if there is no record of purchase suitable for this new requirement?

Lastly, if the government is to be the enforcer of copyrights and software license, then the Sony DRM fiasco would shut Sony down: the only reason they got away with "stealing" GPL code for their DRM virus is because the owners haven't asked for statutory damages and the government is not empowered to act on their behalf.


This would be the same BSA whose operating tenet seems to be "guilty until proven innocent"?

The BSA of which the letters pages of Computing often tell of their tactics to suggest that a BSA review of license usage is needed once they get a foot in the door, and if you decline then you obviously have something to hide? The same BSA that will then start escalating the "issue" of declining a review up your organisation's management chain?

The same BSA that, after receiving anonymous tip-offs, will instigate harassment of your organisation as described above? After all, no-one could possibly have any malicious reason for giving an anonymous tip off, would they, like a competitor, or disgruntled employee, or bored kid, or... Whilst the list is not endless, it's quite long.

So the BSA can take their ... approach and place it where the sun most definitely doesn't shine. They already operate beyond their remit, and further powers would just give them more reason to puff up their chests and berate every business - legal or otherwise. Perhaps we should give them little peaked caps too, as I'm sure they'd love the extra frisson of power that'd give them when menacing innocents.

They have a difficult and important job, for sure, but when you look at the BSA's members, it could be the very definition of "vested interest" when it comes to licensing enforcement.


The evolution of the language continued apace this week. We were berated by a reader for our use of the word "papped" in a headline this week (meaning snapped by the paparazzi), and we had the guns out for Orange's invention "mobification".

"...but we’ll put “mobification” into room 101: already home to “lappy” and “mobe”.®"

"Gah! You used the forbidden word! " "What word?" "Suffice it to say, it is the word that an El Reg Hack may not utter!" "What? 'lappy'?" "Well now, you can't get very far in life without saying 'lappy', can you? - Oh, I said it, I said 'lappy'! - Oh, I said 'lappy' again!..."

That calls for a pint, eh?


We all shed a tear for Pluto as it was demoted from planethood to the lesser status of dwarf planet. Although the resolution was passed democratically at the IAU, plenty of astronomers are in open revolt. As are you:

(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape2 , (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.

so with Cruithne and at least a couple of other bits of debris still floating about in Earth's orbit, is Earth suddenly a dwarf planet too?

I think Pluto being relegated just because it's in a bad neighbourhood sends a bad message. They'll be banning it from flying next.


I suggest we just call Pluto a "planot" from now on, planots being "solar system objects previously classified as planets but not anymore."


guess that not only do we have to be aware of the threats from black helicopters and the ROTM, but now a pending invasion from the Plutonians who are probably pissed that we don't consider their homeworld a planet. Lord help us if they join up with the Martians who are PO'd about us leaving tire tracks on their planet.


If I'm reading the IAU's definitions right, then they've given Neptune a status it doesn't deserve. See, Neptune hasn't cleared the area around its orbit. There's this annoying binary system consisting of bodies called Pluto and Charon which keeps on crossing Neptune's orbit.

I can't help but laugh at that one; the same criterion they've used to boot Pluto out (they've always kind of resented Pluto, since it was only discovered in the 20th century) also kicks out Neptune, which nobody wants to dispute the planetary status of...

I'll leave the making of bad jokes about "the furthest planet from the Sun is now officially Uranus" to the professionals at Vulture Central.


Ahem... "Pluto booted out of league of planets", that's not nearly reg enough. I'm thinking "Terrorists in Prague Destroy Planet". Much better huh?


And finally, we all learned what not to say to airport security staff when asked what that odd looking device is. "It's a bomb" comes top of that list, closely followed by "I don't know" and "Nothing offensive, but I look a bit foreign so why don't you arrest me anyway?":

'Regarding the offending device, he added: "It's normal. Half of America they use it."' That must be the women, then. I'm a man, and I've never even seen one, outside of blurry pictures in spam. And since no one with an IQ higher than room temperature in Celcius would buy anything from a spammer, that leaves me wondering if the Mad Penis Bomber might not have, in fact, been planning to blow up the plane with it.

I'll get me coat.


I'm sure you'll get lots of emails about how dangerous it is that security folk can say they heard one thing while what was actually said is different, yada yada. And that is a frightening concept because where is the proof? It's just one person's word against another's. But what fun is that conversation? Instead I'll get right to the 'head' of the matter.

"It's normal. Half of America they use it." - Amin

If Amin is right, that would mean every American male has one, and some women. (Since last I checked over half of the population is female.) Even if Amin meant something more like half of adult American males, that still seems like an awfully 'pumped-up' figure to me, that I'd imagine is just plain over-inflated.

Sincerely, Arah

Lester are you trying to scare people into not flying this story means just one thing the people at the airport don't know anything about security (not to mention sexual aids) or bombs, what is this? "oh it's a bomb" thats really fucking likely isn't it, how many ways can people be retarded and still get employed as airport security it's bad enough pilots have the shakes at least they can sort of be let off they never get to see the passengers and the waitresses they use as flight attendents are worthless for information.

This may seem funny but it's not it's typical for the kind of paint sniffing zombies they hire for minimum wage airport security. We tried to beef up security but those darn terrorists were just too darn clever well just have to attach your nuts to electrodes now to board the plane "will it make it safer" no , we just like doing that. We need to shut down all flights until they allocate enough money to get humans as security staff.


Until next time. Enjoy the weekend. ®