Tuesday, 9 September 2003

Icky PostgreSQL Problems

Well, I spent most of the last two hours diagnosing when this PostgreSQL bug happens, since it just bit us in the butt rather badly. Now hopefully we can get it fixed…

Eugene Volokh on the download tax

Eugene Volokh criticizes a Slate proposal for compulsory licensing of music for sharing on the internet. A tax on recordable media (blank CDs, hard drives, MP3 players, etc.) would be paid to some organization like ASCAP and BMI, which would then distribute the money (minus administrative expenses, of course) to the artists, based on estimated share of downloads.

In return, consumers could freely share music on the internet, without fear of RIAA lawsuits.

Eugene points out how easy it would be to game the system, by any organization able to marshall enough volunteers to download the song over and over. He imagines the NRA recording “Second Amendment Blues”. Loyal NRA members might download the song over and over again in order to increase the NRA’s share of the royalties, with the more technologically sophisticated writing scripts to facilitate this. Other interest groups get in on the game as well. The net result (no pun intended) would be a massive waste of bandwidth, with no real incentive to compose good music.

But as Eugene says, “In the radio context, it’s much harder to play this sort of game—ASCAP and BMI, the royalty collection and distribution bodies, rely on sources of data about sales that aren’t as easy to dramatically throw off.”

So why not use the same sources of data that ASCAP and BMI rely on for distribution of their royalties? As I understand it, ASCAP and BMI rely on the frequency of radio play to determine the share of royalties that an artist will receive, even for those royalties that come from live performance venues and the DAT tax. Why not use frequency of radio play to determine the share of royalties under this new proposed system?

Biting the hand that feeds you

On Monday, the Rebels opened practice to the public, and about 75 people showed up (I would have been among them but got stuck trying to fix a broken Dell Inspiron laptop for a faculty member). One of the “team managers“—a nebulous-sounding title that means nothing to me—wasn’t too pleased about the low turnout:

Team manager Russell Cook was glad that the coaches and staff allowed fans to come watch an open practice. He wasn’t pleased with the turnout.

“I think with a school population of approximately 15,000 students, you think that a few more than 50 or 60 could show up,” Cook said. “A lot of them probably didn’t want to support the team or attend after the loss last week. I think that’s a poor show of support. There are still 10 games left in the season and we still have a great team.

“They come out here every day, hell or high water, and work hard to get better. For people to just give up because of one loss is not the right thing to do.”

Now, maybe there are a few other explanations as to why so few people showed up. For one thing, the only announcement I saw was buried in the back of the Daily Mississippian, and this was a one-off event. And, in general, the football coaches don’t seem to be particularly interested in having students (or anyone else, for that matter) around to watch practice, as is evidenced by the giant opaque screen they put around the practice fields. (Never mind that I can see everything they’re doing from my office window.)

If the Rebel coaches want students to be interested in coming to practice and supporting the team, they should have a regularly-scheduled, free “open practice” session at the stadium, open up the concessions, and maybe even let manageable groups come down to the sidelines or end zone so they can take a look at that fancy new artificial turf we have. They could learn something here from the basketball program, which goes to much greater lengths to drum up fan support.

Sure, fans have to do their part—like showing up for the out-of-conference slate, including this Saturday’s home opener against Louisiana-Monroe. But a more welcoming attitude on the part of the team would be a big help as well.