In re: State of the Union

So tonight is the State of the Union address and fortunatly/unfortunatly I won’t be able to watch it due to our law school team’s hockey game, and even if I didn’t have that, the rough draft of my note for my journal (The Ohio State Entreprenurial Business Law Journal) That aside, I did see some of the ‘hype up’ for it and it mentioned the President would discuss health care.
Healthcare and more importantly the policies of healthcare access has been an area of government that I have long been interested in and have done extensive studying on, including a research paper on the political conditions that lead to the downfall of the Clinton plan.

This week’s Economist has a large amount of coverage on the state of American healthcare, which many of you may know is extremely expensive and that 40 million don’t have insurance (although some of these people do so by choice, being in the ‘healthy’ years of their lives and deciding not too) Eitherway, the articles point to something interesting that I think is long overlooked in the debate on healthcare, and that is the fact that as of now the Government pays for over half (well taxpayers) of the healthcare costs in this country (being through the form of the tax code for businesses) This may ‘shock’ some people who would say we don’t stand for government funding of healthcare. Similarly, it shocks some of us, the amount that is spent compared to other OECD countries on healthcare, and yet still we do not provide some minimal amount of preventative (emergency medicine – the most expensive way to administer treatment – is available to everyone).

There are many reasons that we are the only ‘rich’ country that doesn’t provide healthcare to all or make it affordable to all. This isn’t to say we aren’t doing it right, as many socialized medicine plans can be argued are worse, (where does a large chunk of medical developement come from? No surprise here it is the US)

I only wanted to write about healthcare tonight, on such an ‘important’ (touch of sarcasm, as I feel the whole SotU speech and the following week of cross country touring and bandstanding is a bit silly), because as more companies like Ford and GM cut workers, it is likely that these companies will help swing the healthcare debate and we will be looking at the possibility in removing the predominant role that employers play in providing healthcare (an ancient relic of trying to work around the wage prohibitions during WWII).


In re: Most ridiculous item

Taking the title cue from my boy Bill O’Reilly, but its on a subject I had thought about a few time “Smokeasies” (The name from the Other Paper cover story) about bars in Columbus that are allowing smoking, despite the ban. According to the paper B Hamptons, the closest bar to my house is the biggest culprite with over 100 complaints of smoking. This was really quite startling, as I myself go there and have thought of sending in a complaint (not knowing that there have already been so many) and also not knowing how weak and useless the smoking ban law was. Essentially 9 of these complaints yielded citations, and the citaions which don’t escalate in amount have cost B Hampton in almost the course of a year less then $300.

Hearing this, it would make bars think that there is little incentive to go non smoking as the law in Columbus requires. If the cost of a de facto smoking license is so little and you can bring in business you wouldn’t otherwise have, why bother. The bars point out (and rightly) that the law isn’t really being enforced as police don’t want to waste their time on it, and the health department is really not able to do much either. Considering that we passed the ban TWICE and by a resounding margin, one would think somebody, be it the health department or someone else should be equiped to start dealing with the violators, as it is unfair to the businesses that follow the law.

In re: New Media

Last weeks cover of the Economist (I am a bit behind in my reading…been busy) was on ‘King Content’ (or something like that I don’t have it w/ me) Anyway, I found it really interesting to read about the fears some have over the demise of the major media companies, and the rise of the Googles, Yahoos and others who may be poised to take over. The Economist doesn’t think that the large old establishment has as much to be afraid of as they might think (and possibly unlike the music industry as they point out you can record a song in your bedroom, but not an episode of Friends)
Anyway, the point is that Hollywood and TV will need to adjust to the changes in distribution (if you haven’t heard about Bubble and the fear that has put into traditional movie theatres read here) however, despite the need to adjust, they won’t go away as the cost of making the type of content people want are very high (and people will pay for it, just think of the cable bills people are willing to pay and the amount people will pay for the Sopranos on HBO and then the DVDs?) Pirating and the like will raise concerns, now and again, but as long as they can keep out casual pirating, such as threatened the music industry for a while (although despite fears, online distribution seems viable, although the role of the traditional record labels is debateable) they will be fine, secondly the iTune mentality that has potentially reduced the album concept (some will argue as means of shipping a few good songs w/ a bunch of crap) to history, Movies won’t fall this way (not fall in a bad sense, as potentially this model could increase sales of songs) as they are whole pieces that can’t be split up so easily.

Lastly the article also mentioned that studios will be able to exploit their vast libraries as technology and on demand improve, selling/renting etc. random tv shows and movies they own the rights too, as such things on their own won’t bring in much, but when you add up the vast number in their catalogs, mulitplied by even a few sales and the practically free cost of distribution, they just might find they like it more then they thought.

In re: They use it during plays?

Jumbotrons have become ubiquitous at sporting events, allowing fans at the game to experience all the fun and second guessing, that was at one time relegated to home audiences. Screens at games have been getting bigger and better, to such an extent that NFL players, have begun using them as tools in game, and by in game I mean during a play, to get their barrings.

“They use it during plays?”

“They use it during plays?” Steinkamp (marketing and sales support manager at Daktronic a screen manufacturer) said last week, sounding surprised. “It’s obvious they use it between plays as a tool, but I didn’t realize that, to be honest.”
“Maybe if it is an incomplete pass, just to see my mechanics or what I did that was wrong,” Michael Vick said. “But most of the time to look at myself, and make sure that I’m looking good in my uniform.” However others, like Tiki Barber, have used it to see where players are and where blockers are, or to see if defenders are closing in. Of course others view it as a big distraction and choose not to look at it, as does Mike Alstott, or as a field goal kicker whose previous misses were put up on the screen to try an ‘ice’ him, previously only able to be accomplished with the timely timeout. But for good or bad, Jumbotrons are here to stay and as the new one going into Miami shows, they are going to keep getting bigger (50 feet by 137 feet).

See the interesting article on this at Jumbotron: The Big Picture

In re: Where Will All the Artists Go

[Note:This is a little essay I wrote a few weeks ago, when the ideas started to mush around. I haven’t really put much time into it, so errors are likely to be abundent, also the argument isn’t really one I believe, but it was merely an attempt to think about the issues in different ways]

Where Will All The Artists Go If We Fail to Implement DRM and End the Scourge of Piracy In The Music Industry: An Examination Using The Lens Of Incentives.




It is possible to argue that economics is all about incentives, from this perspective we only do and don’t do think depending upon a push/pull mentality. An incentive is any factor, financial or non-financial, that provides motivation for a course of action, or counts as a reason for preferring one choice to alternatives. Incentives can be classified as remunerative (a financial or material reward), moral incentives, and lastly coercive incentives. To make a basic and possibly stupid example I’ll look at the act of stealing a loaf of bread, you have incentives, one of these would be to end your hunger at a cost of $0.00, the counter incentive (morality being one we’ll leave out) would be either a fine or jail time, which we will assume is greater than $0.00 to such a degree that even if relatively risk free, the percentage chance of being caught factored to the penalty outweighs the cost, so therefore, assuming again that we are hungry and we have the incentive to eat, we will value eating more than our $1.00 for the loaf of bread and we buy it instead of stealing it. Of course this is a real simple, basic level incentive idea, but sometimes when you start viewing situations such as the bread one as only being bound by monetary incentives we start to wonder would anyone do anything if they weren’t receiving monetary incentives, essentially what is the value of in the bread case your ethics, or in the case of anything else how much do the non-monetary factors cause you to show up at work.

Some in the media are awed and amazed when the movie star Julia Roberts who commands millions for a movie normally agrees to do a small role for free in a movie (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind). Well here there was an incentive, an attraction to the role, the cast, or the producers, which made her choose to do for free what she clearly could have found alternative employment to maximize her profit.


So at this point half of you are saying so what, how does this apply to copyrights, digital rights management, or music? The other half have wisely stopped reading this and are probably already on to something worthwhile.


The point is just this, how much incentive is necessary to have people create intellectual property, without rights protection the argument is that people will just copy and that nothing new will be created and we will have our intellectual commons dry up. (How many movies come out of China, versus US? is this really all due to IP protection though?)


Ask a musician what they would do if they couldn’t earn money being a musician and some might decide to be an attorney, but some might wait tables, and play music in their evenings, some might upload their songs on the internet as they hope to have people listen to them. It’s not clear what an artist would choose, (this being the mythical average creator) if they were offered a lucrative lifetime stipend but their music would be never let out to the public ever, or to live more modestly able to share their music with the world. At this point, we often confront the issue of the sell out artist? What is the sellout artist, one who chooses commercial riches over their art? In this case, and if we truly deplore this why would we care if we lost this, or are we worried that no one would really be singing or creating new music without.


Great artists come out of societies without compensation for such musicians (no evidence here), it isn’t clear there is an inherent right to control the sounds you make after you release them out into the world (they are vibrations, moving through the air no less)


A recent article in Wired -“The Year of Living DRMishly” warns that if DRM is taken too far, removing functionality from media then “It’s inevitable that some people are going to make really good monies for a little money and distribute it on their own,” Searls said. “There is too much talent out there that is going to take advantage of lower and lower threshold of production.”


So to briefly sum this all up, maybe we don’t need to protect musicians, maybe copyrights (they were neighboring rights in some countries) were a fun idea for a while and now we can move along and pirate (oh wait no copyrights, I mean legally copy). This also doesn’t mean musicians can’t make money from selling concert tickets, CDs with nice packaging.


Ok so there are a lot of problems with what I have just argued, it goes against a lot of the ideals of IP rights in general and the droit d’auteur ideas. I just thought I’d think about what would happen with no such rights, as we get a little bit wrapped up in the whole need to protect music from illegal copying argument sometimes.


In re: Bowling update

So last night was the second week of law school bowling (see earlier post), during the day I had felt a strong vibe that I’d be able to bowl well, but alas, when it came time to actually bowl, no such luck. Pretty poor showing on my behalf and we lost the first game, the second game it wasn’t clear, but it seems we won (we had a substitute bowler who didn’t have a handicap yet, so they’ll manipulate the score later to include that).
On another note, I really think the week off in the NFL before the Superbowl is pretty annoying, I think it leads to a worse game, as the rhytmes of the teams are broken and too much over analyizing occurs. I hear the argument that its tough to get everyone to the city of the game and to do the logistics, but comeon, they did it once at least with one week, and I am sure they could pull it off. Basically it would be a football vs. all the other crap of the game choice, and for once maybe put the game first? Second thing is they should use cold weather cities, what would be better than a Superbowl in the snow? Its not like people wouldn’t go, so what if a few people bitch, the game usually sucks already.

In re: iPod ecosystem

Just thought I’d mention an interesting article in the Financial TImes the other day on the iPod ‘ecosystem’. Basically there a number of companies that either exist solely to make iPod accessories, or it has become a huge part of their business (Griffin and Belkin they discuss). While Apple makes a lot of money from licensing, they don’t give any heads up on technology changes to these firms, who must race upon the introduction of a new iPod to create compataible accessories. (For example Apple got rid of one connection they used for remotes, and then Griffin and others needed to race and make new accessories, in their case it only took 45 days)
Really I just find it interesting because for one, it really helps Apple to have this whole sub industry (makes their products more appealing, as even car manufactures starting with BMW have included iPod functionality in their cars) and also the idea of this technolgic symbiotic relationship is pretty interesting.