Bladerunner chases VAT robot through Web 2.0

No Natalie Portman though, sadly

Letters It's official: is illegal, according to the music biz. This analysis found little favour with Reg readers, as the following emails demonstrate:

So, the only decent mp3 download site is deemed illegal. This is a sad day for music. One can only hope that the music industry takes note of what allof were offering - good quality, DRM-free music.

OK, the prices were rock-bottom, but people were still paying for it, and 44% of online music sales is a lot of dosh, even at their prices. The reason I used to use was because the music was DRM-free and because I could choose a good quality encoding. It cost me about $US2 per album. I'd happily have paid more.


Forgive my legal ignorance, but could someone explain *why* it is illegal to purchase music from What laws are the purchaser(s) breaking by buying music? If it's OK by the Russians (and via El Reg reports this has been tested in court and they didn't have enough evidence?) then why should it be illegal in another country?

In Australia we have paralell import laws for various goods and my limited search shows that Russia has been a member of the Berne Convention since 1995, so by International standards they are playing by the rules.

At best, I hope the Russians will tell them to f*ck off, and at worst, I hope add 5% to the cost/Mb and give that directly to the artists, bypassing the Recording Industry altogether. After all, if the music industry claims it's true, it must be bullshit.


Why I know about

I am a registered user of their site. I have never downloaded a track as I can see the legal leap that they make that can not be made, i.e. it is legal here and you look out for whether it is legal in your country.

Why did I end up there, because I object to DRM on the tracks I have downloaded from OD2 sites. I beleive all other legitimate download sites also have the same restrictions.

I want to be able to purchase and listen to my music where and how I like and not have to count the number of times I have put it on my 1GB MP3 player or the number of times I have burnt it to CD. I have no problem with the authors knowing how many times I have done this, but I don't feel that it is right that I can only do this x times.

This kind of restrictive DRM will not deter bootleggers, but does push legitimate users towards AllofMP3 and to P2P sites (or friends who can get copies of tracks that you already own, but without DRM).

I feel strongly about this as I see that the music industry is playing at the same game as anti-virus software, i.e. spending a lot of money (which must reduce the artists and recording industries % of fees and / or get passed onto the consumer), instead of tackling the actual cause (i.e. criminals & criminality of stealing an artists music). Also, like the AV industry, they can never win as hackers are as bright as the engineers producing the DRM.

Well, I feel better now. Please feel free to contact me if you want a more lucid and less ranting explanation of the above.


These people disgust me!, some of these poor recording artists are really struggling to keep up the payments on their Lear Jets, apparently one of them (who I can't name for legal reasons) is struggling so much he has to work almost one hour EVERY month!!. I think The Register should start a collection for them, personally I know I have way too much money and would really like to give it to those poor needy artists. If only the record industry would try a bit harder and sue a few more 12 year old girls for thousands we wouldn't have these problems.


I'm sure this comes as a huge surprise to all those trusting souls who willingly gave their credit card information over the internet to a bunch of copyright infringing russians.


Ah, the one dissenting voice, crying in the wilderness...

Venturing boldy now into the wonderful world of Web 2.0, Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee recently gave forth as to how said utopia could improve web accessibility:

Nice to see Prof. Berners-Lee ensconcing himself firmly in the "soft 'n fluffy" camp where I always thought he belonged.

As with most starry-eyed idealists, he's overlooking the stonking great issue here. Going out of your way to provide disabled access at source level costs effort to address a small minority of your potential audience. The only way to get providers (note - small "p") to do this is to legislate. This will only cause providers to move to areas with more lax legislation as the internet is by it's very nature global.

Access considerations need to be sorted out at the client end. Yes, as in, "you want extra features, you pay for them". Harsh, but true. It's also a bloody sight more simple (e.g. the simplest solution to requiring bigger text is a bigger screen operating at the same resolution). By definition there will in the majority of cases be a required client investment that isn't fundamental to web access anyway (e. g. try doing text-to-speech with no speakers).

This is where I get roasted by the huggy-feelies, but I'll press on. I am fully aware that, by it's very nature this strategy disenfranchises the disabled of the less well off parts of the world. Let's face it, this is not a new phenomenon. In the developed world you get braille books and braille typrewriters, elsewhere you go to hell in a bucket. In the developed world you get subtitles on TV teletext, elsewhere you get to go.....get the picture? You cannot blame the internet and those who produce its content for problems that are fundamental in the world and would exist whether there was, or was not an internet. The sad part of all this is that if the effort and money Prof. Berners-Lee and his friends poured into breast-beating conferences on where it all went wrong were actually directed to some of the vast number of organisations that exist to improve the lot of the disabled, it might make a difference. You never know, they might even aquire a sense of proportion.

Thought exercise for the holier-than-thou Web crowd: How do you convince some poor sod in the Sudan who's lost a limb to a landmine that a full multimedia experience is in some way a worthwhile substitute for a prosthetic leg?


I disagree with your equating of "The Semantic Web" and "Web 2.0".

The Semantic Web is all about providing greater contextual meaning to the information that's out there, whereas Web 2.0 is a somewhat airy-fairy "user-generated content" type concept.

Wikipedia is a perfect example. It's undeniably Web 2.0, being nothing BUT user-generated content. But it's definitely not Semantic Web, as per the following example from this week's WWW2006 conference:

Can you use Wikipedia to find out the population, and name of the mayor, of Edinburgh? Yes, probably, it's likely someone will have added that information to the Edinburgh entry.

Can you use Wikipedia to find out the ten largest cities in the UK with female mayors? Almost certainly not, unless some wikipedia author somewhere has pre-compiled that list for us.

However if Wikipedia's content were marked up in Semantic Web fashion then we could point a robot at it to retrieve just that sort of information.

Cheers, Harry

Robots, eh? That's exactly what the VATman has been pointing at eBay, in an attempt to claw back unpaid taxes:

"Caveat vendor: the UK taxman has unleashed a £250,000 "web robot" to track down VAT-dodging high-volume eBay traders who have absent-mindedly forgotten to register for Value-Added cash extraction.

According to, the "robot" in question is an advanced search engine which pinpoints said rogue traders. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) estimates it will net £1m a year in extra VAT and "force an extra 20 businesses to register for the tax".

Those pesky VAT men will do anything to gain a bit of cash - force an extra 20 businesses to register?


Yes, impressive stuff, isn't it?

Only a government department would think of spending £250k on something that could easily done by a few school-leavers with access to the web and a spreadsheet (or just a pocket calculator). One can only assume that VATmen don't use eBay much, or they would know that the feedback records provide a pretty effective audit trail, and you can obtain someone's address by the simple expedient of buying an item and offering to pay by cheque...


Check out the terms and conditions of use at the ebay website, and you will find that robots are not allowed. (section 7.4 of the user agreement). This means that special permission must be granted by ebay for HMRC to use the robot on the website.

Wouldn't it be easier for HMRC to just ask eBay for the information? eBay could charge HMRC a fee for running standard sql queries and reports on the ebay database. It would be cheaper and more profitable for both sides.

...I wonder how much money was wasted on the vat robot?


Er, £250k.

VATman robots and eBay? LOL. All that means is if a trader knows he is going to be over the limit, he will just create two accounts and trade as two people. Unless the robot keep ordering things to check for the return addresses....



Aha, the old "multiple identity" ploy. Cunning.

Hi Lester, serves em right if they had a real website they could block robots if they wanted ebay is a nuisance for people trying to sell in the normal way on line as they bloat the serp's with redirects to the same ebaystores for any search combination most of the time the items are already sold so I have no sympathy for people who use that online fleamarket if only they could pay more and more till they either give up or get a host a real website and join the market as adults. --AD

"Online fleamarket"? We like it.

Next page: Bootnote

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018