Civil Rights X Copyright: Non Negotiable!

Traitor, ungrateful, miserable, bastard, etc. Those were a few names I was called since I decided to make public my positions regarding the on going “battle” between copyright warriors and digital libertarians. I guess many people got it very wrong from the start. The “libertarians” have written a Manifest and I support it without reserves.

What is being played here is something much deeper than a “cat chasing the mouse” fight in a small country like Spain that I guess more than half of humanity ignores where it is and a much larger percentage the history it carries back for more than 2,000 years. Yeah, two millenniums but cutting to the chase: back in 1936 a coup d’etat started a civil war in the country and Europe and the rest of the world turned their backs. It was Spain and it was not their problems. Thirty nine years of bloody dictatorship followed those events. Currently, Spain can and probably will be played as a “game-scenario” for the worst case scenario again. In 1936, Germany and Italy supported the fascists and bombarded the civil population in such bloodshed until then unknown by humankind. When in 1939, Hitler spread the fire through Europe and the world, the main powers already knew what to expect.

Guernica

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

After working many years in the entertainment industry, in many different positions, and also selling my blood for small (independent) companies in an idealistic stupid way, I gathered enough knowledge of all the tricks that can be played by every single player of the game in film and music productions: from the writer to the distributor, passing thru the producer and directors reaching down the secretary of production. I never saw a positive liquidation (final accounts where the remaining “profits” should hypothetically be paid to the producer), never at all! Even if there were cents left, the producing company would still “owe” the distributors. If there were profits, they would fall into expenses accounts and future developments. No profit, no income taxes to be paid. Reset to zero and everybody continued to be friends as always. That’s how the game is played. Producers feed writers and directors with bread crumbs, paying their mortgages, buying groceries and so they are on the leash and “grateful”. Buyers of TV stations are invited by producers to banquets, vacations in the Riviera and receive generous incentives such as loads of champagne boxes as Christmas gifts (totally legal) to allocate their resources to those friendly producers in their circle. The so acclaimed high level employment that the entertainment industry, specially film bring to the economy in general averages 4 to 5 employees (sometimes including the owner of the joint) earning 1,200 Euros per month without legal hours respected (40 hours/week in Spain) They should be “happy” because they are in their way to the glory. That’s their due to be paid to the industry before gaining the right to “really do something”. All the rest, when the subsidies fall in place, and when the TV purchases also combine, out they go hiring. There is literally an army of desperate people out there to get two months salaries (average production time). And they all fly in as mosquitoes in the jungle. It is marvellous to see and sad to realize that they also live out of dreams. That is to be respected, to live by a dream and side line with starvation the remaining half of the year.

Europe

This is Spanish, French, Italian and almost all Europe’s reality, let alone the US where I have friends earning the same since 1991, yes, correct, 18 years ago and the same weekly pay. This is only possible in Europe because there are special “social cushions” where the mass, the people who really make the film, can fall back in the work insurances and not turn into homelessness. This is the truth and I dare anyone to proof me the opposite hiring an independent research firm without conflicting interests in these industries.

So you should be guessing why am I “betraying” my people. What is my interest in that? My answer is: I want to see different people, new talent, new ideas springing and new ways of doing business. The mediocrity is produced by a system which was profitable until the means of reproduction were scarce. I loved to see what Arin Crumley did with “Four Eyed Monster” and hated when 10 days before principal photography my film had to be cancelled because one co-producer decided she was making me a favour co-signing the deal (allowing with that to advance the subsidies) and ordered me to relinquish all my rights to her. It was a brutal, it was stealing and it was a rape but I was strong enough to resist it and send her to hell. My film was not done but I look forward to the future and she looks to the gifts she must to give the local TV station managers these Holidays. I guess I’m better of than she is. Ever and forever! I play for the future and the rest struggle to retain petty privileges.

I guess talent is to be nurtured, embraced, and cared for. Italy had one of the most vibrant filmmaking scenes of the entire world and is reduced to rubble. One Italian actor told me once: “The old ones, as brilliant as they were, didn’t allow space for a new generation and now we have mediocrity or rare exceptions”. That is not the future I want for Spain, for Europe and as a matter of fact for nowhere.

Digital have changed the scenario forever and there is no coming back. They, “artists” have the social cushion where to fall (and some have multimillions in banks and property); let them lay in peace there. It’s not acceptable to even discuss neither negotiate civil rights giving in to the defence of copyright. Let alone when the copyrighted material was paid with public money. The architect charges the project of a bridge, he is paid by the government or whoever, but he doesn’t retain the right to charge everybody who crosses that bridge. Point Period. It’s also a given that nobody can copy the project, construct the same bridge design elsewhere and say it is their own creation. The right to have your credits in the making of a film, music or theatre play are not in discussion. Your merit was to create them and you were paid for it. You screenwriters and directors: how many of you begged producers to give you a chance? How many of you waived salaries? Give me a break! If anyone copy the authorship of my writing and publish it without even naming me, I will sue in the courts of law. If my name is mentioned, please go ahead! You are welcome to reproduce anywhere! Creative Commons, some rights reserved, namely authorship is reserved. Reproduction? Do it yourself with some clicks!

What about music then? Music Companies paid dearly radio stations, TV programmers, etc. to play your music in order to have your music reaching the public. That was also the reality. Just a few years ago. So, let’s drop the masks! Kids would win a luxury car; the multinational would make tonnes of money.

And in the most physical side of the matter: it is not possible to control what you are doing thru your broadband. Simply as that! The USA has developed and distributed sophisticated software which scrambles outgoing and incoming IP address to give away to Iranian people surpass the censorship of the Ayatollah’s. The only way around, and even so, it would be hard as hell, would be a Chinese cyber patrol model.

Civil Rights Movement

NON NEGOTIABLE CIVIL RIGHTS

So, my friends, Sarkozy did whatever he pleased (except place the “Prince” in the EPAD) and people talked but didn’t care too much about the Hadopi. Anyway there is a way around. Good and dearly respected French friends of mine have written that response to me these last days and made me reflect why the Spaniards are so different: because the mere idea of the government censoring our acts is beyond any acceptance. The memoir of the dictatorship is in the DNA perhaps and we cannot trade the civil rights for an obsolete copyright law, flawed from the beginning to the end. Again, Spain is a laboratory of freedom in Europe. Hopefully this time, people will join us and take this task as if it was the defeat of the National Socialism 70 years ago and not turn their backs in indifference. What happens here, if successful, will spread. At least in Europe and Latin America; such a proposal in the USA, well… that is for another book.

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Internet is burning in Spain (and the government too)

Prime Minister Zapatero was the first elect government back in 2004 as a direct consequence of the new technologies (internet and SMS’s) and risks to be the first to lose the government if he doesn’t back out the pretension of adopting a repressive policy against internet downloads.

Spain's Prime Minister Zapatero

To start, we have a millionaire industry where artists live in Hollywood style palaces that causes no pity in the general populace. Second, in Spain, P2P is not illegal: everybody pays on purchase of any blank DVD, CD, Ipod, laptop, or whatever electronic device a “canon” (tax) that goes to feed the multimillion arches of the author’s collection agencies. Third: piracy is to copy and sell the works of others. That is not the case here, the right to copy was acquired once you paid for the copying/media device.

But, blind to the fact that about 75% of the population is connected to the Internet and out of these 80% download products for their own consumption, the government decided to “slip” into a general economic law to combat the recession, instruments which wash away the role of the courts of law and transfer such powers to the Ministry of Culture commanded by a representative of the old filmmaker’s union the right to cut connections and web sites if they considered fit to do so.

Copyright’s laws must to be totally reformulated. It’s unconceivable that the “property” remains the authors “property” 70/80 after his/her own death. It is also immoral and outrageous that in Europe and other countries where films are basically paid of with public money remain as a private property.

The consequences of such acts were swift: in 6 hours 58.000 blogs in Spain where raised against it and within 24 hours more than 1 million pages reflected the issue according to Google.

Today, the government (Ministry of (in) Culture) called the most influential figures of Spanish internet spheres to “discuss” the issue. González-Sinde, the Minister of (in) Culture abandoned the meeting in the middle of it.

Ministers of the Socialist Government of Spain

She must go immediately and a serious discussion about copyright extent must to be carried out in Europe and in the whole world. The beds are burning and we won’t stay passively waiting repressive laws in the style of the disgraceful Hadopi’s law in neighbouring France.

(Internet) FICOD 09 high and low points

I guess it is time to summarize and make a balance of the high and low points of the FICOD 09 (International Internet Content Conference held in Madrid, Spain between November 17/19) which had about 8,000 participants converting it in one of the biggest of the world. Sincerely, I couldn’t care less about its size but I do care a lot about the quality and for that reason I will try to put the spot light in the high points and in the low points of it as well.

By far, Bernardo Hernandez (Google Worldwide Marketing Director) and Kevin Spacey were the shinning stars of the constellation. Mr. Spacey showed how there is a combination of great art, comprehension of current times and embracing the challenges rather than fighting them as a “mad dogs” in the way to its final rest (another post already dedicated to him). Bernardo, the “golden boy” of the Internet in Spain gave a brilliant presentation with facts, numbers, perspectives and above all enthusiasm inherent to Google’s Internet dominance. Some of the numbers are really amazing: in the last 25 years, the processor’s capacity have increased 3,500 while the price reduction for RAM memory reduced 45,000 times and the storage price (HD) also has decreased nothing less than 3.6 million times! That said, he made a point to show and prove that the main distinction Internet poses regarding previous technological advances is its blind blowing speed: it took just 50 million users in the Internet and 3 years to reach an global advertising spending of 1 billion dollars while the same number of users such as radio and TV took 37 and 15 years respectively. Ten years ago Google didn’t exist; today it is the power which rivals Microsoft.

Bernardo Hernández

To watch his presentation in English, click here. Also in the bright side, I would like to name the courageous and passionate Rodolfo Carpentier and Carlos Blanco, Spanish internet incubators who did not spare anybody when blaming the “great” Venture Capital for Internet development in Spain of being simply amateurs (in the bad sense of the world) negligent and ignorant of the opportunities the often miss to the rest of Europe and the USA.

Going to the dark side of the Conference and confronting bravely the backwards corporative reps of EGEDA (Spain’s Film Producers Association) and SGAE (authors collection agency for Spain and Latin America) we had Javier Sánchez (founder of the pioneering ADN STREAM).

All the authors collection’s agencies reps, the defeated music industry representatives portrayed everywhere as the example of what not to do (poor things!); the unfortunate invitation of the MPA (Motion Picture Association of America) who told the audience in a pathetic way that his past was the Agriculture but if it was to defend America’s (money interests) he would do fine the same in this conference. Really embarrassing! the Minister of (in) Culture who read a discourse clearly studied by many assessors this time in order to not commit her usual gaffes but yet could not refrain herself to transmit an aggressive and “read to fight the copyright’s war” expression out of every word spoken thru her angry mouth. Specially if we see in context: she was preceded by Ana Gómez, USA representative and special guest who has spoken not a word about repression or law enforcement but on the contrary listed all the efforts the U.S. is putting in improving infrastructure to the maximum extent. And the Minister of (in) Culture was followed by the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Spain (host and main sponsor of the event) who was more moderate in attitudes and postures but missed a great opportunity to make government policy announcements that would make a real difference in the general offset of the meeting. The Prime Minister Zapatero should also have found a space to come to the opening in his agenda and show Spain and the world that the deep recession is really embraced as an opportunity to change the archaic economic models which undermine the future of the country for generations to go.

As always, Spain has its charm, is warm in the heart and classicist and stoic towards the new. I love the country, I feel at home in the streets of Madrid, Barcelona or Seville. It’s my home! Accents and body languages change but the essence, for good and for bad remains. The self-condescendence, the inferiority complex towards the neighbours (in Europe of course) and towards the American counterparts but also the aristocratic, feudal mentality (now translated to digital times) of refusal to change attitudes, to democratize the work relationships and spaces and to embrace the “foreigner and different” as the US do in difficult or in expansion times: doesn’t matter where you come from, the Americans analyze what you have to offer. No matter what you have to offer, Spaniards (and Europeans in general) look who you are and “what are your real intention$”. That is a mentally that will keep Europe always behind if not changed. It is time to understand the all digital business is global and all “nationalisms” are the borders of the fearful minds of renewal. They won’t defend you from a hypothetic “invasion” but instead, it will crush you in isolation.

The two sides of the same coin

Lula, the self acclaimed “new third world leader” has warmly received against the will of the majority of the Brazilian people who has literacy enough to understand what and where Iran is, his “comrade” from Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“If Iran is an important actor in this discord, then it is important that someone sits with Iran, talks with Iran and tries to establish a balancing point, so that society returns to a certain normality in the Middle East,” said Lula according the NYT and all the international press.

So, finally, we can see how an ignorant, arrogant and definitely an opportunist low politician as Lula (yes, he sure is low and dirty with a legendary history of treason amongst his native “comrades) drops the mask of being “the guy”, acclaimed by the ingenuity of Obama in a G-20 Summit and shows that he has no limits to his ambitions of being a “world leader”.

Brazilians Protesting the Visit

The visit of Iran’s dictator is an embarrassment to millions of Brazilian women, homosexuals, Brazilian Jewish and all democrats in general but a chance to show that in the dirty game of power at any cost, Lula wins by far. By being a hypocrite, unscrupulous “comrade” who embraces one of the most sanguinary and disgusting person who ever lived? Hopefully, this will help to show the real nature of the beast.

Obama, please be careful before saying that anyone is “the guy” once again. Everybody, be aware that “the guy” has long knives as another Austrian popular politician who dominated Germany did have back in the 30’s and is no saint at all.

Lula, the pacifier! It’s laughable coming from the man who cannot pacify the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro.

PS: A person carrying the Rainbow Flag inside the conference hall where the Iranian dictator is staying has been arrested by the Brazilian Federal Police. The Jewish community has been barred from the press conferences. Supposedly due to the lack of security to the dictator, the conference was called off at 23:17 GMT. The Brazilian Presidency denied it but Lula reaffirmed the support for “pacific use” of nuclear energy by Iran.

Internet Content and Power

I had spent all night editing a short video and went to bed around 7:30 am. Less than 15 minutes later the sound of an SMS, just few minutes after another and another. The phone rings. I wanted to throw it against the wall. Anyway, I pick it up: “don’t you know yet?” Please, I’m dead for sleep let me sleep! “Atocha (Madrid’s Train Station) was attacked and thousands are wounded and dead.”

I freeze and jump out of bed. Television on. All channels broadcast live the horrific scenes of most violent and catastrophic terrorist attack in Europe after World War II. I knew and millions of other Spanish did too, that we had started to pay the price for the stupidity of the Aznar government and its support for the Iraq war. They soon get the official version blaming the “other side”: it was ETA (Basque terrorist group). Those who had BBC, CNN or the Internet were able to get the real versions of the facts and relay them via SMS to friends and relatives. At the end of March 11, 2004 throughout the country nobody believed the lies issued from the national media, driven by the Government of Spain (Aznar y cia.).

For who was in Spain during those days, I’m not saying anything new. For those who saw it from outside, I’ll never be able to express what it means to be in a supposedly democratic country where all information was manipulated so that the ruling party would win the elections which were to take place 2 days later.

Without Internet or mobile phones, maybe the official version would have passed as truth (which the terrorists would be from ETA) and the right’s liars who send the country to a war until today unsolved would remain in power.

Atocha (Madrid) and Memorial to the Victims


Mr. Zapatero was the first major beneficiary of the mobilizing power of the Internet and mobile communications. Obama, without taking away his merits, was a minor phenomenon in regard to a total electoral overthrow. A quarter of the Spanish population went to the streets screaming: « Before the vote, we demand the truth”. In proportion, that would mean 75 millions Americans and/or 15 millions French. Obama was elected by just over 69 millions votes.

I remember those days and it made me cringe to see the sad millionaire spectacle that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Spain just sponsor (FICOD 09) where almost 100% of the speakers, shamelessly advocate some form of censorship of Internet content. These gentlemen (government officials) would not be sitting in their chairs without the key role that mobile telecommunications and Internet and played between 11 and 14 March 2004.

There is much to say about the policies of the current government of Spain. For now I will focus on intellectual fiasco (albeit palatial proportions) that just ended in the capital of the Kingdom.

However, do not forget President of Government, the same people that have put him in his chair can remove it. Just to give it away to technocrats even more unable than those currently occupying such positions.

Spanish Minister for (in) Culture, Mozart and Copyright

It’s really amazing to see the quantity of stupidity, arrogance inherent to power can produce in the world. Well, considering that we are all with a fresh memory from the Bush’s era, nothing is absurd anymore and even “leftists” brag their wisdom to the world as if we were all followers, ignorant followers of the leadership.

Last week, the Minister of (in) Culture of Spain, responsible to guard, protect and improve more than 1,000 years of human kind culture stored in the country (to say the least) has declared publicly to the RTVE (State Radio and Broadcasting Corporation) according to the report of the prominent newspaper EL PAIS that Mozart “has lived in financial misery because he didn’t receive copyright’s royalties” and if he had had them, he and his family would have had a better life”. Ms. González-Sinde’s (in) culture is notorious in Spain and wherever she has stepped in to spread her wisdom”. Nevertheless, she has at her disposal advisers to avoid her gaffes.

Mozart wasn’t ever poor. That we all (except her, maybe) know. But yet, he was the precursor of copyright infringement. The article of the respectful and cultivated journalist and commentator Enric González helps us to bring the real facts to light.

Mozart poor home

Mozart's poor birth home

The obsession to defend copyright and repression at any rate the (in) culture Minister has made her oversee the fact that Mozart “pirated” Miserere Dei, Deus from Gregorio Allegri.

In short, the situation was that music piece was only interpreted inside the Vatican and the music’s scores remained property of the Pope and with only two copies more: one in the hands of the King of Portugal and the other with a Franciscan Priest (musician). Sadly enough, a nasty, non-law-abiding 14 year old kid named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart visited the Vatican in 1770 and listened to the oeuvre d’art. His brains functioned with 64 bits processing capacity and back home, he wrote the music scores. A few days later, he returned to the Vatican, listened once again and made the necessary corrections.

Mozart Illegal Downloader

Mozart Nasty Kid

That was copyright infringement Ms. Minister of (in) Culture of Spain. What would you do with that nasty kid if you had the power to do anything at all? Jail him? Order lobotomy? What a great benefit to humanity you would have caused preserving the right, the divine right to preserve that work only for Your Holiness’s ears!!!! Shame on you! Jail the Spanish kids, censor, and cut the country back to the times of dial-up connections as you also already defended. You are the culture; you are the progress of sciences and knowledge for humanity.

“Do what I say but do not do what I do”. That seems to be the conclusion to end up with once we learn that she, her assistants or whoever in the Ministry has copied almost word by word her own biography from from Wikipedia without mentioning it (neither the authors of the wiki). Again: shame on you! And again, do the country a favour: step down!

Certainly there are brilliant kids out there who you call criminals and many of them will make and be part of history, while you will remain a mediocre screenwriter and if lucky something like Antonio Salieri (the envious bloodsucker from “Amadeus”, the film, not reality, pay attention to that once more!!!): but yet portrayed as a vicious, poisonous person defending the industry not the artists.

Empowered kids: a whole new picture

Just a quick look at the new picture in the making in Uruguay since a couple of years and now in full course of action. The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative has implemented with the support of the left wing government of Uruguay the first worldwide experience of covering the whole population of children in the public elementary school with one laptop each.

When we consider the effects that this action can produce to the new generation, it is simply mind blowing. First of all, it tears apart the main blockage to equality in a society which is access to information restricted to who can afford it. It makes me curious to check what will be the scores of these students compared with the previous generations and compared also with the kids who have no access to these tools.

Since Mr. Nicholas Negroponte presented the programme, I have to say that my first reaction was pretty cold given the usual lack of initiatives of all governments regarding to education and mainly if these efforts are targeted towards the lower social classes. However, Mr. Vázquez (Uruguay’s President) took it seriously and the country mobilized towards the goal and they have accomplished the first objective: saturation of the young population with ownership of the small, cheap but effective first laptop with total connectivity, built-in multimedia applications, running XO operating system.

This video can give a first impression of the early consequences of these brave and absolutely necessary step towards a truly knowledge based society.

These kids will be able to truly turn the country’s reality upside down in less than a decade. Children are competitive by nature; we all were there once upon a time. Considering that they will be empowered to reach virtually all sorts of information and form themselves (with teachers consequently having to readjust their roles or be surpassed by the pupils), it is not far fetched to foresee these kids forming a massive pool of creation. They are already manipulating photos, making small video clips, forming networks. They become active actors of their own lives and the questioning of power of knowledge will need to be revaluated. How will adults impose criteria over younger generations if they don’t have the same knowledge as they do?

No matter what comes along, the main point is that the tools are given and that is the right sort of subsidy a state has the duty to provide to its people: access to knowledge and freedom to be creative.