Writing for Bloomberg, Joe Karaganis describes the incredible subsidies that New Zealand provided to the film production for The Hobbit, and what a brutal screwjob those subsidies represent for Kiwi taxpayers.
But now you aren’t thinking like a studio. The real question is: How much taxpayer money can Warner Bros. demand from the government of New Zealand to keep production there (rather than, say, in Australia or the Czech Republic)? That answer turns out to be about $120 million, plus the revision of New Zealand’s labor laws to forbid collective bargaining among film-production contractors, plus the passage of three-strikes Internet-disconnection laws for online copyright infringement, plus enthusiastic and, it turns out, illegal cooperation in the shutdown of the pirate-friendly digital storage site Megaupload and the arrest of its owner, Kim Dotcom.
If you were a NZ taxpayer, you might say that this is a reasonable deal, given all the jobs and such that The Hobbit will bring to your country. Nuh-uh.
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The U.K. government found this out in 2005, when Warner Bros. threatened to move “Harry Potter” productions to the Czech Republic. The government of Gordon Brown caved in to studio demands and passed new subsidies. In 2009, New Zealand also gave in and now faces demands for more.
The worst part is that, for most of the wannabe Hollywoods, it’s bad economic policy on every level. The productions bring in mostly low-end, temporary jobs, while the high-end jobs remain in Hollywood or New York. Call it the Curse of Harry Potter.
Souris sez ,"'Spirit Animal Collective' is now available at our shop. The print is based on Kozy's 2009 drawing 'Spirit Animal Collective'. The drawing was the culmination of Kozy's 4 year-long 'Unknown Portraits' project, which involved Kozy's nearly obsessive search through old photographs in junk shops from Australia to Spain to Northern England to San Francisco to our own backyard in Venice Beach (and more!). Most of the drawings were the size of playing cards, but for the final artwork Kozy create a massive graphite rendering of a 1940's-era New Zealand primary school class photo. In it she imagined the camera to reveal the spirit animal within each of the students. This summer we decided to produce a colorized version reminiscent of old tinted photos (Dan's grandmother used to tint photos as a side job while raising her children) and this is the result."
Spirit Animal Collective
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Kim Dotcom is going to sue the US entertainment industry and the US government over the illegal raid on him and Megaupload, and has promised to use his winnings to pay for free Internet access across New Zealand. The Guardian's
Peter Walker reports:
The latest salvo involves resurrecting a planned second fibre optic web cable across the Pacific to the US, which would have doubled New Zealand's available internet bandwidth. A New Zealand company, Pacific Fibre, hoped to build the £200m link but announced in August it could not secure the funding.
Dotcom's proposal is to supply broadband free to domestic customers, charging only businesses and government users, the New Zealand Herald reported. His share of the capital would be provided by lawsuits against the US government and film studios for their "unlawful and political destruction" of his business, he said.
Kim Dotcom: fund free NZ internet by suing Hollywood and US government
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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key issued an official apology to Kim Dotcom for illegal spying conducted by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) -- the NZ equivalent to the CIA, which is prohibited from engaging in domestic spying. Nevertheless, GCSB conducted a program of surveillance against Dotcom and his associates as part of the US-led shutdown of Megaupload, Dotcom's file-locker service, which had angered the US entertainment industry.
The GCSB reports to the Prime Minister's office, so it's not clear how this surveillance could have gone on without the oversight of Key or his staff. Paul Neazor, Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security for New Zealand, reported on the illegal spying, explaining that it took place because the GCSB mistakenly believed that Dotcom did not have permanent residency in New Zealand, making him fair game for surveillance (visitors to New Zealand, take note).
However, as a Computerworld NZ article shows, the "Blue Folder" prepared by NZ police's anti-terrorist Special Tactics Group for the intelligence service shows, Dotcom's residency status was clearly set out. Also, Dotcom set off $500,000 worth of fireworks when he was awarded residency.
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Neazor found that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GSCB), which by law can only conduct action against foreign targets, failed to check Dotcom’s immigration status. If they had done so they would have discovered he hold’s a permanent resident’s visa.
“The GCSB relied on information provided to it by the Organized and Financial Crime Agency. In my view, reliance on another party by GCSB is unacceptable,” Key said.
Bruce Mahalski, an artist in New Zealand, created a set of sculptural "dueling pistols" out of bone. Bidding opens at NZD1500.
Two bone dueling pistols (with spare bullets) mounted in a custom altered case which has been counter-sunk into a specially made rimu table. All of the bones have been found locally by the artist. The head on the bottom gun is from a ferret and the top one is from a black-backed gull. Both have barrels made from cat’s vertebrae. This archival quality work by Wellington artist, Bruce Mahalski (with assistance from local jeweler, Vaune Mason) has not yet been exhibited and this is the first time it is being offered for sale.
Bone Pistol Set #1 Brand new item
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New Zealand's foreign intelligence spy body, the Government Communications Security Bureau spied on Kim Dotcom at the behest of the US government, despite the fact that they are legally prohibited from conducting domestic surveillance. The NZ prime minister has ordered an inquiry, stating that the GCSB acted "unlawfully" in spying on Dotcom and his associates. Opposition leaders point out that only the PM's office could have authorized the spying, and suggest that the PM is saving face by ordering the inquiry now that the facts have come to light. More from TorrentFreak's enimgax:
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Key says that he learned of the unlawful activity after speaking with the head of the GCSB last Monday and then took action to refer the issue to the Inspector-General, Hon Paul Neazor, who has the power to investigate matters related to the GCSB’s compliance with the law.
“I expect our intelligence agencies to operate always within the law. Their operations depend on public trust,” Key said.
“I look forward to the Inspector-General’s inquiry getting to the heart of what took place and what can be done about it. Because this is also a matter for the High Court in its consideration of the Megaupload litigation, I am unable to comment further,” Key added.
While the GCSB acting illegally is clearly an embarrassment for the government, Prime Minister Key now has some serious explaining to do. GCSB is a department that is responsible directly to him, a point not lost on Labour leader David Shearer.
“This is a shocking breach of New Zealand’s very strict laws restricting the ability of our spy agencies to snoop on people,” Shearer said in a statement this morning.
Kim Dotcom, proprietor of the legally embroiled file-locker service MegaUpload, says that Joe Biden personally ordered the illegal raid
on his business and his house in New Zealand. Biden's an old pal of Chris Dodd, the former senator who now runs the MPAA, and a TorrentFreak investigation shows that Biden met with Dodd and the execs from MPA Pacific-Asia, Sony Pictures, Universal, and Disney a shortly before the raid. Read the rest
Scorchio75 sez, "Having just moved to NZ from the UK, I'd love to be able to access BBC iPlayer, 4 on Demand, etc., but unless I cough-up for a VPN I'm out of luck. 'Fyx
' have just launched in NZ and offer a 'Global Mode' that will allegedly allow their customers to access region-locked services such as iPlayer, 4oD, Hulu, etc. They don't guarantee that you'll be able to access these services (and couldn't the content providers block this?), but if it works..." Read the rest
Remember earlier this year when the New Zealand government and the US government conspired to send a SWAT team to arrest Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload, shut down the service, make 220 people unemployed, seize Dotcom's assets, and deprive millions of users of access to their files? Well now a US judge says that the trial against Dotcom will probably never proceed, because the US government didn't ever formally charge Dotcom. This wasn't a mere oversight, either. They were not legally allowed to charge him. TorrentFreak reports:
“I frankly don’t know that we are ever going to have a trial in this matter,” Judge O’Grady said as reported by the NZ Herald.
Judge O’Grady informed the FBI that Megaupload was never served with criminal charges, which is a requirement to start the trial. The origin of this problem is not merely a matter of oversight. Megaupload’s lawyer Ira Rothken says that unlike people, companies can’t be served outside US jurisdiction.
“My understanding as to why they haven’t done that is because they can’t. We don’t believe Megaupload can be served in a criminal matter because it is not located within the jurisdiction of the United States,” Rothken says.
Megaupload’s lawyer adds that he doesn’t understand why the US authorities weren’t aware of this problem before. As a result Judge O’Grady noted that Megaupload is “kind of hanging out there.”
TorrentFreak followed up their coverage with a furious interview with Dotcom:
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If Judge O’Grady is to be believed all this damage could very well have been for nothing because the authorities simply can’t serve foreign companies.
Nat sez, "You're on a racing yacht, 650 miles from the finish line of the fifth leg of an around-the-world race. Your mast breaks, you send a team member up to cut free the sail. He slashes at the rigging but also himself, and blood drips down the mast. He comes down white with blood loss and with a massive wound. What do you do? 'After talking to our team doctor we decided to staple him together. We took out the staple gun and put five staples in him and now he's as good as new, I think.' Nope, that's not what I would have reached for either. I wonder whether the team doctor is also the ship's carpenter?"
Groupama completed leg 5 last night with 20 points for third place, ensuring they remain in contention for the overall prize.
The French boat leapfrogged leg 5 winners Puma into second place overall, 20 points behind Telefonica, who are facing a hearing into allegations they carried an extra sail on leg 4 into Auckland.
Yachting: NZ sailor aboard Groupama seriously injured
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Juha Saarinen sez,
2Johns2Cups by goldenturkey
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New Zealand media were raided by police last November just before the general election, after the incumbent centre-right Prime Minister John Key made a criminal complaint over a recording of a conversation in a cafe between him and far right-wing politician John Banks during a staged media event. The country's biggest broadcasters and newspaper were raided by police, who requested unpublished material and sources for interviews as well as the recording itself. Radio New Zealand covered the "Teapot Tapes" scandal and was raided too even though it didn't have a copy of the recording.
The recording has now leaked out onto the Internet. It reveals little of consequence, but police are continuing the investigation and are seeking witnesses who were in the cafe at the time. Police are also warning people that disclosing private conversations unlawfully intercepted can be punished by up to two years' in jail. PM Key is aware the recording is now online, but has told National Business Review that he won't seek to remove it from YouTube and other sites.
Meanwhile, Bradley Ambrose, the cameraman who recorded the conversation - accidentally he says - has been issued with a NZ$14,000 demand for legal costs by the NZ government. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for up to two years. Ambrose had given a copy of the recording to the New Zealand Herald who in turn asked Key for permission to publish it. Before this week's Internet leak, the recording has never been made public.
New Zealand biologists believe that honeybees can sense the faint floral odor on the breath of people infected with tuberculosis, and are trying to find a way to train bees to help them diagnose TB:
“When we tested them with the tuberculosis odours we found the bees can still smell it down to parts per billion,” says Max Suckling.
Christchurch zoologists are training bees to associate the smell of the disease with a sweet treat and to stick out their tongues when it's present.
Worldwide new TB infections occur at a rate of one per second. Right now it's diagnosed medically by expensive tests and with the disease being most common in poverty stricken areas, using bees instead could make a real difference.
Bees help in the battle against tuberculosis
(Image: Honeybee on Snakeroot, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from dendroica's photostream) Read the rest
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, is angry that a conversation between him and a rightwing candidate for Parliament was recorded by a cameraman - so angry that he's reported the matter to the police which is now going to raid TVNZ, Radio NZ, TV3 and another, unnamed media organisation.
Key set up a stage-managed meeting between him and John Banks from the rightwing ACT Party, with media in attendance.
The meeting over a cup of tea was to discuss the candidate from Key's centre-right National Party folding in the wealthy electorate of Epsom, Auckland, in favour of Banks.
National needs Banks to win Epsom, to form a coalition with ACT.
A cameraman was stopped from retrieving his microphone that he'd left on Key and Banks' table while media was allowed inside the cafe where the meeting took place, and says he recorded the "private" conversation inadvertently.
The recording itself hasn't been published by anyone yet. Key and National has refused to give permission to publish the recording, but say it was "bland".
In NZ, it's a crime to record other people without their knowledge.
I'm somewhat ambivalent about covert recording, but it seems clear that this isn't merely about investigating the act of recording, or punishing someone who broke the law. This feels like a campaign of intimidation against the institution of the press itself, whose subtext is, "Cover politics with kid gloves or we will make your lives hell." Meanwhile, Key has defended his use of police time by saying his government has done so much to eliminate crime that the police have spare time they can use to pursue his vendettas. Read the rest
Juha sez, "The New Zealand Green Party says the country's Parliament could face fines and even have its Internet access disconnected, after it passed the draconian copyright law that comes into effect on August 11. Speaker of the House refused to comment on the law, and the Minister in charge of enacting it, Simon Power, claims to not have heard of Netflix or legal file sharing."
"Like Parliament, schools, libraries and universities run the risk of fines or disconnection. Unitec in Auckland has even said they might cease providing internet services for students due to possible copyright liability," said Mr Hughes.
"The Government has a responsibility to ensure that public institutions can navigate around the new law and not run the risk of fines or disconnection.
"By not providing information or advice and relying on InternetNZ, Internet Service Providers, and the media, Mr Power has left schools and universities in a legal grey area."
The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act was passed through Parliament under urgency earlier this year. Only the Green Party opposed the passage of the law.
This is the copyright law that NZ's cynical media lobbyists rushed through as part of the Christchurch earthquake emergency legislation
, using victims of awful tragedy as human shields in their quest to have the ultimate say over who may and may not use the Internet.
Parliament at risk of fines
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Juha sez, "Christopher Wood has summarised the thirteen reasons why the punitive New Zealand copyright Act as per US orders
is a bad idea."
1. Presumed guilty on accusation
13 reasons why the Infringing File Sharing Act is bad for you by Christopher Wood
Despite the revision committee trying to fudge the issue, this law does work via the presumption of guilt. If the accused party has had their 3 warnings and goes to the Copyright Tribunal, they have to give reasons why the warnings were invalid. But if the accused party is innocent, what reasons can they have, apart from "I didn't do it"?
Presumption of guilt is rife for abuse, as has happened overseas under similar laws. In the digital realm evidence is often very temporary, complex, and easily fabricated, so providing evidence of your innocence could be very difficult, depending on how much is required. Providing evidence of your guilt is almost as difficult, but why should that mean an advantage should be given to accusers? New Zealand intellectual property lawyer Rick Shera says the law is grossly unfair, out of place and unnecessary in this analysis: http://lawgeeknz.posterous.com/nzs-copyright-proposal-guilty-until-you-prove
When a new law contradicts the Bill of Rights it better have an extremely good reason... and protecting the entertainment industry isn't one.
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Michael Geist sez, "Wikileaks has just posted hundreds of cables from U.S. personnel in New Zealand that reveal regular government lobbying on copyright, offers to draft New Zealand three-strikes and you're out legislation, and a recommendation to spend over NZ$500,000 to fund a recording industry-backed IP enforcement initiative.
For example, an April 2005 cable reveals the U.S. willingness to pay over NZ$500,000 (US$386,000) to fund a recording industry enforcement initiative. The project was backed by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS). Performance metrics include:"
The project's performance will be judged by specific milestones, including increases in the number of enforcement operations and seizures, with percentages or numerical targets re-set annually. The unit also will be measured by the number of reports it submits to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) on its contributions to IP protection and enforcement methodology.
Wikileaks on New Zealand Copyright: US Funds IP Enforcement, Offers to Draft Legislation Read the rest
The proposed budget included four salaried positions, legal costs for investigation and prosecution, and training programs. The RIANZ still runs an anti-piracy site, but does not include disclosure about the source of funding. It certainly raises the question of whether New Zealand is aware that local enforcement initiatives have been funded by the U.S. government
A reader writes, "In a beautiful twist of irony, New Zealand parliament member Melissa Lee has been caught in a copyright quagmire. It turns out that just hours before she spoke out in support of the controversial new copyright law being rushed through parliament, she tweeted how pleased she was with a compilation of K-Pop songs a friend copied for her."
Surprised by the call-out, Lee defended herself by saying that the songs were downloaded legally and paid for. But unfortunately for her that doesn't mean much. As the National Business Review points out, when a friend makes a copy of songs that were legally bought, the recipient of the 'gift' is still guilty of copyright infringement.
Kiwi MP Called Out As Pirate After Passing Anti-Piracy Law
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So it appears that Lee got her first strike already, and since the burden of proof is on the alleged infringer under the new legislation, it's up to her to prove that she's innocent. That's only fair, right?
Although it's easy to call Lee's mistake out as hypocrisy, it might be even worse than that. What if she truly believes that copying a legally bought song for a friend is okay? That would mean that even legislators who vote on copyright legislation don't fully grasp what they're doing.