Posts Tagged‘freedom’

Retailers vs Publishers: The Battle For The Second Hand Market.

I’ll admit that I haven’t bought many games used since I’m usually in the store on release day hungering to be one of the first to get my hands on them. Still I realize there’s quite a market for second hand games since not everyone has the disposable income that I do to splurge on the latest and greatest titles. They’re also a significant source of revenue for brick and mortar games retailers as the margins on used titles are significantly higher than their brand new counter-parts and provide an additional sales hook for them to attract customers (I.E. trade-ins for newer games). There are one group of people who aren’t so pleased with the second hand games market however, the publishers.

Second hand titles, whilst generating significant revenue for the retailers, generate almost nothing for the publishers that first distributed the games. The advent of downloadable content mitigated this somewhat as it was usually tied to the console it was downloaded on and not the game itself but it is a pittance compared to what they generate from a new sale. More recently however games publishers have taken a more sinister approach to the second hand market, seeking to make a resold product less attractive than the new unless the consumer ponies up the extra cash to make up the difference.

Sadly this kind of chicanery affected one of my most favorite games, Mass Effect 2. New buyers of the game received a special code that gave them access to the Cerberus Network, a daily news service for the Mass Effect universe plus the gateway to all the DLC available for the game. The code was a one time use deal so anyone buying the game second hand would have to do without or pony up the US$15 for access to it.  Whilst you could argue that you still got the vast majority of the game despite the lack of the additional DLC there was quite a bit of free stuff on there, some of it even on day 1. This meant that anyone buying it without the code was essentially getting an incomplete game, even if it was playable.

Whilst it’s still not the norm to cripple the second hand market like this it is becoming alarmingly common, with several recent titles making used purchases far less desirable through new-only-or-pay-up DLC. It’s still a step ahead of something like Steam which doesn’t allow the sale of second hand titles at all, not even for a trade in on other steam titles. But it’s still a dick move by the publishers who are just trying to squeeze money out of the consumers in any way they can. Realistically though its detrimental to both the publisher and consumer since many trade ins drive new games sales, to the tune of 20%. Cutting that market out completely would harm the new games market significantly, but none of the publishers will admit to that.

It’s also arguably a violation of the First Sale Doctrine although no one has yet tried to test out this particular violation of it in court.

All this does is reduce the perceived value of the product that the publishers are putting forward and will only help to encourage people to seek out alternative methods in lieu of forking out the extra dollars. Whilst I am happy to give up my freedom to sell my games for the convenience that Steam provides (I am a hoarder, though) I know many people who aren’t so willing to make that trade and have avoided purchasing games that remove their right to first sale doctrine. Instead of punishing people for buying second hand they should be encouraging people to buy in early with things like betas and in game items. Of course I find it hard to fault a company that tries to maximize its profits but when it comes at a cost of significant good will I have to wonder if the costs outweigh the potential benefits and the only ones that know the answer to that are the publishers.

And they’re not talking about it, unfortunately.

Freedom of Speech, Not Liability.

There’s often terms that are used so much that their true meaning gets confused, diluted or just plain forgotten. For the most part though these are colloquial expressions and you can derive the meaning of them from the context in which they are used as long as you have the same linguistic base like Latin. One of the most misunderstood terms is that of freedom of speech, I.E. the innate human right that decrees we are all allowed to freely speak our minds without interference from any other party. What people often mistake this for however, is that such a right absolves them from any responsibility for what they may say.

Whilst the legislation varies from nation to nation for the most part no one can legally stop you from saying anything to anyone. Australia’s stance on the freedom of speech is somewhat backward as the constitution makes no explicit references to either freedom of speech or expression, and in fact it was only recently (around 15 years or so) that the Australian High Court recognised that the constitution had an implied right of “freedom of political communication”, which only protects individuals from the government. This can be blamed for the most part on the lack of any kind of freedom of speech case being brought before the courts that didn’t have some kind of political bent and possibly the lack of a document similar to the United States Bill of Rights (which funnily enough is actually a limitation of government power, not an empowerment of the individual as many believe. Another common misconception). Despite this the freedom still seems to be enjoyed by Australians due to the lack of clear law either way.

Freedom of speech usually comes into the spotlight when a party is involved in a defamation case and for the most part the legislation is on the side of freedom of speech. If what you’re saying is true (or in fact, you believed it was true at the time) then you have a defence against any litigation brought before you. If however you were knowingly spouting tripe then you can be held accountable for your actions. This doesn’t stop people and corporations from using litigation as a means of trying to silence people although the whistle-blower legislation provides protection for some, but not all. In essence the situation in Australia is mixed due to the lack of clear definitions in legislation, but that doesn’t stop the principal from being almost identical to it’s American counterparts.

As usual my rant is directed mostly at the uniformed masses that seem to patrol the Internet these days. I’ve been through countless online mediums where the term freedom of speech is trotted out as a defence against particularly reprehensible behaviour. You can say whatever you want, but we have the right to make you responsible for what you say. The waters are a little muddy on whether the anonymity of the Internet should be kept as barrier to trying to discover who is responsible for their comments¹ but we’ll soon have a definitive answer on that.

With freedom comes responsibilities and what I’ve said today can be applied to any human right. I’m reminded of when I was back in college and another student found out that it was a human right to sing at any time. He then proceeded to wax on how he could do this during final year exams. Doing this would have seen him removed from the exam leaving his rights, but not his dignity, in tact.

And now I can point anyone who gets it wrong to this page, saving me a good 5 minutes ranting at them about the differences between freedom and responsibility.

¹Personal opinion: it shouldn’t be. I don’t believe someone should be revealed publicly however their identity should be protected from released court documents. Of course this depends on the situation as someone saying “Person X loves eating zebras” is quite different from “Person X has weaponized plutonium in their backyard”.

George Orwell, 25 Years Early.

I’ve never really been a big reader of books. Whilst I read through reading that was assigned to me during my studies I rarely ventured out and looked for books that might have intrigued me. In fact the only bit of leisure reading I’ve done in the past few years was Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy which I enjoyed slowly over the course of a university year. The works that I have then read stick in my mind quite clearly and one of those was George Orwell’s 1984. I’ll admit that I did not seek this book out myself, but I still think it was the beginning of my journey into the world of politics and the path to my libertarianism.

For those of you who haven’t read it I’d highly recommend you do. The political commentary was a warning of what was to happen should we give a ruling government too much power. It would seem that while most people are familiar with the book its message goes almost completely unheard leading to situations like this:

Only one crime was solved by each 1,000 CCTV cameras in London last year, a report into the city’s surveillance network has claimed.

The internal police report found the million-plus cameras in London rarely help catch criminals.

In one month CCTV helped capture just eight out of 269 suspected robbers.

Whilst this is far from the dystopian future that Orwell painted for us the once untrodden path to his future is now looking a lot more clear, and I for one can’t stand to see it pass. Once granted power a government rarely gives it up and situations like the one in London are amongst the worst offenders in regards to impinging on personal freedoms.

Like the rhetorical catch cry “think of the children” many of the powers granted to governments are born out of the collective’s desire for safety. This was made extremely clear when the USA brought in the PATRIOT act in response to the September 11 attacks of 2001. The use of fear from external threats allows the government to eat away at the liberties of its people and it is with every small loss of liberty for the sake of “safety” that we step ever closer to our Orwellian future.

I think this is what attracted me initially to the no clean feed movement as I saw that once government brought such power down upon Australia at large the potential for abuse was just far too great. Talking amongst my close family I realised that unless the public at large is made aware that their freedoms are being chipped away in this fashion they will naively let it happen.

So I implore you, become involved in politics so that our freedoms are not sacrificed for the bolstering of government power.  As Ed Howdershelt said:

“There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, and ammo . Please use in that order.”

Scepticism, Liberty and Cognitive Dissonance.

I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a libertarian when it comes to matters of politics and personal freedoms. I strongly believe that for the most part the government or any large establishment generally has no right to poke around in my private affairs unless I’ve explicitly allowed them to first. That or there’s a potential for me to do harm to others through my actions. There’s also this other part of me that can’t stand misinformation like what we see coming from the anti-vaccination movements that seemed to have popped up everywhere. However more recently I’ve been dealing with a bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to the rising sceptic movement and their dealings with religious folk.

Whilst I’ve been struggling with the idea for a while this video I saw yesterday caused the dissonance I had felt previously to rise up again:

There’s also this post for a little bit more background on the matter.

First off let me say that if I was walking into that creationist museum I’d probably be doing the same thing as their group was doing. When it first opened I saw some of the pictures online I can’t say I didn’t make fun of them (this one is particularly amusing) and I probably would have been laughing the whole way through. Walking into a creationist museum wearing a Dawkins t-shirt was probably stirring the pot a little bit but I’ll concede that they could have reacted in a much more dignified way. But this is where everything starts to get all murky for me as the libertarian and sceptic in me start to duke it out.

The museum itself really isn’t doing any damage to anyone nor impinging on the freedoms of those who visit it. The funding to build the museum came from Answers in Gensis a non-profit organisation who makes do mostly on donations and for all intents and purposes are a transparent organisation. People giving money to them know what they will do with it and there seems to be no ill intent from them. In fact I had never heard of the organisation prior to this date (I somehow missed it in the first press releases) so they can’t be too bad.

Sceptics would probably argue however that the museum itself is a tool to spread misinformation. Now whilst the museum title is a little misleading you’d have to be relatively naive to be able to blast past the fact that this place is firmly rooted in Young Earth Creationists ideals. As such something that states its goals so plainly before everyone can hardly be classified as a tool of misinformation. It would be like saying the National Air and Space Museum is nothing but a tool of the aviation industry, it’s not quite like that.

I guess the problem I have here is that when some sceptics come up against people don’t believe in science is that on the surface they appear to be fighting for fact based reasoning but once you get down to it, they’re just zealots for another cause. I’ve come to realise that sometimes you can never convince someone of your viewpoint and that it is better to just lay out the facts as you see them and then leave it at that. At least that way you’ve had your say, they’ve had theirs and you can all agree to walk away from it. If either of you have a compelling argument it will stick in your opponents mind and you might end up with another ally rather than someone who dismisses your ideas as petty zealotry.

Religion does have its place and I came to accept that many years ago. Destroying people’s faith is not something I’ve seen help a lot of people but if they are presented with some facts and they decide to do some research on their own then that is the true power of an idea. Ravenously campaigning against people’s faith does nothing but strengthen their resolve and the best method of defense is to their the facts stand up for themselves.

Maybe I’m just a pacifist at heart.