John Walker's Electronic House

Rum Doings Episode 25

by on Apr.16, 2010, under Rum Doings, The Rest

This week we neither discuss whether all drugs should be legalised, nor whether all drugs should be illegalised. Instead we tuck in to some absolutely delicious honey rum, and begin reading out some listener emails.

We ponder vanilla ice cream, John’s 30th birthday and his anti-social ways, which is the best time of day on a fuzzy clock, and analyse whether QI is the primary source of all sexism.

Should dads post on Mumsnet? What do we think about airports? Are games journalists bribed? Did the games industry survive the piracy of the 80s? Can Nick break up Rock, Paper, Shotgun?

We ponder the comedy of French & Saunders, and then condemn those who pretend not to care when planes take off. And then wonder about astronauts’ private time.

Tell the world. We’re entirely motivated by how many people listen, because we’re attention-hungry show-offs. And writing a review on iTunes helps us a great deal. If you do that, it makes you our absolute favourite.

If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, for some ghastly reason, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.


34 Comments for this entry

  • Adam

    I feel you’ve missed my point, perhaps.
    My argument is with the sort of people who complain that an hour has been lost or even ‘stolen’ from them… I just can’t understand it; It doesn’t come as a surprise, we’re all warned well in advance so if the hour bothers them so much then… just go to sleep an hour earlier?

    I guess I’ll never understand.

  • devlocke

    For the record, it’s common knowledge in the US that McDonald’s special sauce is nothing but ‘1,000 Island’ salad dressing. I have no idea if it’s true, but it’s definitely believed by everyone I’ve ever encountered who’s expressed an opinion on it.

    So do you not have ‘1,000 Island’ dressing in the UK, or do you have a different secret sauce, or is common knowledge in the US wrong?

  • Nick Mailer

    Devlocke: it is in the family of 1,000 island dressings, but that is as helpful as saying “it’s a curry sauce” or “it’s a kind of ketchup”. Therein are an infinity of variations.

  • David McBride

    To be fair, you don’t lose an hour in bed in March; it’s merely delayed until October.

    (Or depending on when you were born, you borrowed an extra hour in bed from your future self last October, which you’re now paying back. At 0% interest! What a bargain.)

  • Alex

    Kieron is going to become more famous just because of mis-typed google searches for the new Doctor Who companion.

  • Arthur

    On the subject of piracy, I always feel that the position Mr. Mailer and Mr. Walker take is understandable, but isn’t increased losses to these industries clearly indicated by the increasing amounts of copyright protection that is being implemented? I mean, I can’t believe that BD+ or Ubisofts “always on” DRM is being implemented for no reason whatsoever. Doesn’t that at least indicate that the problem of piracy is worse than the average consumer thinks, or do you think it is purely the result of greed?

  • Nick Mailer

    Arthur: DRM is a huge industry with massive PR budgets. They slot successfully into paranoia and irrational fears, just like crystal healing and racism does.

    Sadly, the calm empiricism trounces their lucrative doomsaying has no such head of self-interested steam.

  • James Campbell

    Sorry to hear there will be no Rum Doings this week – hope Nick get back safely soon.

    However, while I remember, I would be very keen to hear Nick’s “controversial views” on the Iraq war as I have similarly (apparently) contentious views myself.

  • John Walker

    Arthur – I believe there is no correlation between the increasingly silly DRM and so-called losses due to piracy. Primarily because of two rather enormous factors. 1) The most pirated mediums have always been the most successful, from the Spectrum to the DS. 2) There has never been a single scrap of evidence produced to demonstrate that piracy leads to lost revenue. And you’d think there would be by now.

    Piracy, therefore, does not represent lost sales. It represents how many people weren’t prepared to pay. The only figures ever published suggest that for every 1000 pirated copies, one of them would have been a legitimate sale were it not available for free. Corporations are not willing to acknowledge this, because to do so would imply a tacit acceptance of piracy. Instead they relabel it as “theft” – an entirely inappropriate term, and then announce that they’ve “lost” millions of dollars. Nothing has been lost, they are not short of any money. However, their product is being played by people who haven’t and wouldn’t pay. And some people don’t like this, for reasons I’ve never had lucidly explained to me.

    The question becomes, “Why should they get to play for free, when other people are paying?” It’s an odd question. Other people *choose* to pay. Which is a good choice to make. Everyone has the ability to get it for free. Millions choose not to. Isn’t that brilliant?!

    So why do Ubi and co elaborate their DRM to increasingly idiotic levels? It’s an excellent question, since they know, and we know, that the only people it affects are legitimate customers. I suspect it’s partly because they have shareholders they must answer to, and shareholders aren’t sophisticated enough to perceive piracy as extraordinary publicity and potential new customers (through word of mouth, exposure, etc).

  • Pace

    Oh hell.

    To me piracy is just wrong. Like, morally, or something. Software/games/music etc. has intrinsic value regardless of the fact that it can be reproduced for nothing, and we simply don’t have the right to copy/do with it at as we please unless we have permission from its creator. That’s it, really. That seems so clear and inarguable that it does annoy me when people think that as long it can be copied for free that it’s fine to do so. And there are plenty of people who think that. And there are plenty of people who pirate stuff simply because they can. And yes I think they deserve much of the blame for obnoxious DRM. And yes, I feel this all justifies me getting uppity and judgmental.
    Clearly the real world situation is quite complex, but it’s difficult to have productive debate when the fundamental viewpoints start off so far apart.

  • Nick Mailer

    > To me piracy is just wrong.
    > Like, morally, or something.

    If only Socrates had had such perspicacity, perhaps he wouldn’t have had to have taken the Hemlock.

    > Software/games/music etc. has intrinsic value
    > regardless of the fact that it can be reproduced
    > for nothing

    Interesting that you confuse price with value there. Indeed, it’s the nub of the problem, and the cause of your later confusion.

    > and we simply don’t have the right to copy/do
    > with it at as we please unless we have permission
    > from its creator

    That is factually incorrect. Unless, of course, you’re telling me that one needs to have a seance every time one wishes to put on a Shakespeare play, or listen to some Bach.

    But the fact that you take ‘DO NOT SHARE’ as the *default* setting that you believe society does and should have is hugely telling, and shows the degree to which you have been estranged from organic enculturation. Shame.

    > That seems so clear and inarguable that it does
    > annoy me when people think that as long it can be
    > copied for free that it’s fine to do so

    You seem to be using English and the Roman alphabet without permission. And TCP/IP to transmit it. All freely used bits of culture which you seem to have no problem with copying for free. Indeed, you implicitly seem to think it’s fine to do so. So I guess it’s not that ‘clear’ after all?

    As for ‘inarguable’ – I beg to differ. Here’s a paper I wrote on the matter which argues. Perhaps you should read it:

    Pace: you, sir, are suffering from a massive amount of False Consciousness. Until you start to question these ‘fundamental viewpoints’ you evince so vehemently, you will simply be another serf conned out of his cultural inheritance.

  • Pace

    Man that was condescending.

    What is it about John that attracts such bitterly argumentative people? Stuart Campbell, Martin Coxall, Nick Mailer. John seems like such a sweet, lovable fellow. Just so you know, I blame you guys for his occasional grumpiness.

  • Nick Mailer

    Pace, it was not condescending. Quite the opposite. Had I condescended to you, I would have been all sweetness and light and spelled things out to you in baby-sized chunks. As it was, I assumed you could deal with sardony and irony. Perhaps I was wrong.

    Anyway, you haven’t really answered the substance of my response: why should I not feel guilty about playing a Bach keyboard piece any time I desire, but I should feel guilty about playing an Elton John keyboard piece without “permission from the CREATOR”?

  • Pace

    I’m not trying to be unreasonable, of course there are limits the creators rights. Like, once he’s been dead for a few centuries. It all falls into that great complexity that I called ‘the real world’. I don’t know exactly where to draw the line, and I’m sure that the law as it exists in various places can go too far or be abused. But, the starting point to me has to acknowledge that the creator has rights. Or something. No, please don’t go accusing me of lacking perspicuity, I just don’t know if ‘rights’ is quite the right word, but something like that, ya know? For instance I don’t think it would be right if I took all the content from RPS and posted it on my own blog even if I left the byline intact. I don’t know what the law says on the matter, it just seems wrong. Or something. They made it, they should be able to dictate, within reason, what is done with it. It’s that ‘within reason’ that has all the complexity. Of course it’s not reasonable for Elton John to prevent you from playing his song on the piano, but if you cover the song and release an album without crediting him or asking permission, he’d have a right to be miffed. It’s one thing to debate where to draw the line, since I’m sure it’s almost never cut and dry, I just think you have to start by acknowledging the general reason for copyright in the first place. The creator should have rights. As do consumers. Drawing the line between them is the tricky bit.

  • Nick Mailer

    The general reason for copyright “in the first place” was to ensure that the State could have an effective set of goons to ensure ruthless censorship so that nobody could publish nasty things about the Monarch.

    As I said, Pace, you need to research things more carefully. Then we can have that “debate”.

    Again, you will find some of the information you need at

  • Pace

    Sorry, by “general reason for copyright in the first place” I didn’t mean historically, sorry if that was ambiguous. I don’t care what the historical reason is, and I really don’t think it matters. I simply meant ‘the basic rationale behind copyright’, by which I meant to protect the rights of the creator. If you disagree as to what the basic rationale is, okay, but that’s what I meant anyway.

    What research do I need to do? You’ve clearly put a lot of thought and research into this. Great. That doesn’t mean you can simply declare yourself victor of any discussion by pointing out that fact. I was trying to make a very simple point. It doesn’t require 10,000 words to explain. It doesn’t even require any knowledge of the law or its history. I was simply trying to say that creators should have rights. I’m not really sure what we’re arguing at this point, but do you disagree with that? Do you think, for example, that I should be able to copy all RPS content and put it on my blog without permission?

  • John Walker

    Pace – I’m going to respond to a bunch of the things you’ve said. And like Nick I’m not going to patronise you by being all cuddly about it.

    I’m confused that you think it’s possible to have an understanding of the “basic rationale behind copyright” without caring about its historical context. I think this is a significant issue. It’s symptomatic of your argument overall.

    You have described a sort of gut feeling of ickiness when it comes to piracy or copyright infringement, and based on that you’ve decided a moral and legal code that must be adhered to. I find the idea of eating broad beans gives me an icky feeling, but I’m not sure I should outlaw the foodstuff based on this.

    Not being interested in researching the subject, but being interested in making absolute statements and calling them inarguable, is extremely problematic. For me, and I’m quite sure for Nick, so long as you are not willing to research or evidence your claims, it means your responses are to be dismissed.

    Your response to Nick’s posts has been an emotional one – this is purely your choice. Nick did not call your mum a slag, nor tell you that he thinks you’re bad at badminton. He replied to your astonishingly absolute first comment, making a series of reasoned arguments, and asked you to explain further on a number of matters. You chose to take this as a personal attack. I think, and please correct me if I’m wrong, you chose to do this (although probably subconsciously) because being upset with someone is a lot easier than having to apply yourself, research, and justify your statements.

    Nick hasn’t declared himself victor of anything. It’s interesting that you perceive that he has. I think what you mean is, “I’m out of my depth here.” Which is a perfectly fine thing to say.

    You weren’t making a “very simply point” at all. You were making statements with absolute conviction, and no argument or reasoning. You said that your points were “inarguable” – an *astonishing* thing to say. To become precious when someone points out that they’re very much arguable is not a right you have once you’ve used language like that.

    I’m not saying this because I want to be mean – not in the slightest. I’m saying it because I want you to climb out of your emotional reaction, and start really wrestling with this subject. Actually bother to read Nick’s essay, for instance. I’m not saying “agree with Nick’s essay,” for a moment. Just read it.

    What you need to do, and what you haven’t done at all, is explain *why* you believe creators have rights. That would be an excellent starting point for this discussion.

    (It’s important to understand, by the way, that neither Nick nor I are interested in saying, “Ha! We proved you wrong!” Never, not for a second. We’re interested in setting people free from what we believe is a deeply sad and destructive deception. We truly believe that there’s this beautiful open field of freedom awaiting people once they can tear off the hood that hides it all. That’s the motivation.)

  • John Walker

    “What is it about John that attracts such bitterly argumentative people? Stuart Campbell, Martin Coxall, Nick Mailer. John seems like such a sweet, lovable fellow. Just so you know, I blame you guys for his occasional grumpiness.”

    I shall answer this, since you asked.

    First of all, I think it’s interesting to note that Nick and Stu cannot stand each other, and disagree on so many subjects. (Although they agree on the matter of copyright, as it happens.)

    What Nick, Martin and Stu have in common is phenomenal brains. Each is flawed, each makes mistakes, and each holds views with which I extremely strongly disagree. But what each offers me is a generosity that is overwhelming. They each take huge amounts of their time to discuss things with me, have taught me a great deal, and have challenged me on many opinions and convictions.

    They’re also all an enormous amount of fun to hang out with and talk to, care about me, and are very, very funny.

    Those are some of the things that attract me to them.

  • Nick Mailer

    ” I simply meant ‘the basic rationale behind copyright’, by which I meant to protect the rights of the creator”

    No it isn’t and never was. The basic rationale behind copyright was as a tool of State Censorship. Then the reforumlated rationale was as a bargaining chip to produce useful things for the eventual public domain. Its basic rationale was NEVER to protect the rights of the creator. The rights of the creator were protected, it was argued, in order to fulfil a basic rationale: that of producing cultural artefacts for the greater good.

  • James Campbell

    “Nick and Stu cannot stand each other”

    I was going to suggest this earlier (because Stuart Campbell is a legend (no relation)) any chance of having him on the podcast?

    I’m not sure if the fact him and Nick don’t get along would make this an amazing idea or an absolutley terrible one…

  • Nick Mailer

    Stu believes in Nationalist Socialism. I feel this particular combination of ideologies can be problematic. So we tend to disagree.

  • Pace

    The starting point you suggest John is precisely where I’ve been trying to start as well, which is why I asked in my last post whether Nick (and you too) feels that creators should not in fact have any rights regarding their content. Is the answer then no? I didn’t at first justify my viewpoint because lets face it, it is the viewpoint shared by every non communist nation that I’m aware of. I didn’t think it would be a startling suggestion. If you guys genuinely don’t think so, then I’m honestly surprised, and helps explain why I was having trouble understanding your viewpoint. It’s this getting down to absolute basics which is essential to mutual understanding and meaningful discussion. This is why I’ve been trying to avoid the complexities of copyright law with all it’s history, and all it’s nuances. It can just get in the way, and honestly, for what I’m trying to understand, it does not matter. It’s like if I was trying to explain my opinion on whether or not I support abortion rights in principle, it’s history doesn’t matter. For a complete understanding of the issue, yes, it’s important to have all the facts. But not every fact is relevant in every situation. Sometimes you just need to get down to basics. If we were discussing the details copyright law itself, then yes, we’d look at the whole picture, but at the moment it would just confuse things.

    I’ll also repeat my question regarding RPS content. Should others be able to copy it and use it however they like? (I seem to recall recently when another site was stealing your content you guys were none too happy.)

    Also, when I said it “seems so clear and inarguable” I just meant that in this case, I don’t see the grey area. Usually in these sorts of things I can see where both sides are coming from, but in this one I just don’t understand it. Help me to do so. (And honestly I thought I was the one trying to find a reasonable middle ground by suggesting that the practical issues involve finding a reasonable compromise between creators rights and consumers right.)

    >”We’re interested in setting people free from what we believe is a deeply sad and destructive deception.”
    That’s fine as long as you do it through intelligent discussion, and not take the attitude that others have defective opinions in need of your assistance. I don’t get that much from you John, but I do get it from Nick. So, if my response to Nick was ’emotional’ it was because he was condescending and rather disrespectful. That doesn’t require name calling. If you don’t think he was being disrespectful John, well, then we’ll just have to disagree on that. Your response, for instance, is perfectly respectful in treating me like a human being.

    Nick; the first sentence in the wikipedia article for copyright is “Copyright is the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work.” That’s the ‘meaning’ or ‘idea’ or ‘rationale’ behind copyright that I meant. The point you seem to be trying to make isn’t one that I’m trying to address at all. If you still object, then never mind, forget I said it.

    Hmm, it seems I haven’t yet answered that basic question from our mutually agreed starting point. heh, I’ve never tried to put it into words. I’ll have to think about it a bit and get back to you. In the meantime, I more or less asked the question first, so perhaps someone would like to explain why creators shouldn’t have rights?

  • John Walker

    No – I will not explain why someone shouldn’t have these “rights” you keep talking about, until you can tell me what they are. I cannot prove to you that invisible purple monsters don’t exist – you have to prove to me that they do.

    You keep talking about these “rights” that mean it’s unacceptable for people to share someone else’s creation. Could you tell me what those rights are? Describe them. Since they’re the absolute basis of your argument, the centre of your gut-feeling that drives you, and the cause of your horror that others do not share the same, I am a little surprised that you can still write a vast amount defending them, before stating that you haven’t got any answer for it.

    (I am not stating that I think or don’t think that creators have rights, by the way. I’m simply asking you to tell me what these rights are, and where they come from.)

    “That’s fine as long as you do it through intelligent discussion, and not take the attitude that others have defective opinions in need of your assistance.”

    I feel I need to point the following out to you:

    “That seems so clear and inarguable that it does annoy me when people think that as long it can be copied for free that it’s fine to do so.”

    If you think something is true, then you automatically think the opposite is untrue. If you don’t, then you didn’t think it was true in the first place. Thus, as you made so very clear in your opening comment, you believe the opposite opinions of yours to be defective. In fact, it “annoys” you when people do not share your opinion. Again, nothing wrong with that. It wouldn’t be your opinion otherwise. The implication that Nick has presented anything other than “intelligent discussion” is remarkable. Of course he thinks you have defective opinions! I do too! Otherwise we’d agree with you, and we’d all be patting each other on the back. We think you’re wrong. Pretending otherwise would be patronising. Then we’d be condescending.

  • James Campbell

    I think we’ve all learnt a valuable lesson here:

    Incredibly, a week WITHOUT Rum Doings leads to an INCREASE in crazy rambling!

    Sadly this blather wasn’t nearly as entertaining…

    (Looking forward to this week’s episode!)

  • James Campbell

    Also, John did you edit your last post so it no longer contained the phrase “Mr. Meanypants” or am I having slightly worrying hallucinations?

    Yes – I heavily rewrote my comment so I’d be focusing on what I wanted to say, rather than get distracted by an argument of what constitutes being “rude” in a discussion. I don’t think Nick has been rude at all, but arguing about that will damage the opportunity to get somewhere with the “rights” debate. – John

  • Rev. S. Campbell

    “Stu believes in Nationalist Socialism. I feel this particular combination of ideologies can be problematic. So we tend to disagree.”

    Nick, on the other hand, is (in my experience – John insists there are times when he isn’t a total dick) an ignorant bigoted idiot who apparently bases his opinions about entire swathes of people – identified both by their nationality and also, separately, their political ideology – on the ramblings of a single drunk bloke he once met in a pub, which is something I don’t have a lot of time for.

    It seems he’s also not above disingenuous statements attempting to imply that people he disagrees with are Nazis. Basically, he’s a white van man who’s read a few books.

    John, quite dissimilarly, while holding many opinions I consider to be wrong on an absurd, Olympic scale, can be relied on to engage in even the most polarised and epically intemperate arguments in a thoughtful and intellectually coherent manner, and then shake hands afterwards like a gentleman. This, by any rational measure, makes him a toweringly superior person, which is why I haven’t killed him yet.

  • James Campbell

    Ye gods! You’ll never win the election now Stu!

    I’m guessing that’s a no to the possibility of a guest appearence then?

  • Rev. S. Campbell

    I think the word “possibility” is being used very inaccurately there…

  • Nick Mailer

    Hi Stu. Love you too!

    (You’re misremembering – my opinions aren’t just based on Des’s pub outburst but by studying the varied courses of Scottish Nationalism as it has evolved, and the ethnic/folkish nationist strains within which remain so strongly prevalent and yet so constantly denied by those who like to pretend that civic nationalism is what drives the ‘Anyone But England’ mentality).

  • Rev. S. Campbell

    Weird that none of that came out in any of the ill-informed bollocks you actually said, then.

  • Nick Mailer

    It did – you just weren’t listening, you gnarly teuchter.

  • Pace

    The exact rights that I feel content creators should have depends on the situation. It’s impossible for me to define them in general, the best I can do is give examples.
    1)I consider material posted on RPS to be the property of RPS. If somebody else reproduced your content without permission, I think you’d be within your rights to ask them to remove it.
    2)I think when an author releases a book that he has the right to prevent Amazon from digitizing it and giving it away for free on the kindle. (within a certain time frame. I agree that after some amount of time has passed, books should enter the public domain.)
    3)I think if I wrote a song and the Black Eyed Peas came across it and recorded and released it without my permisson or any attribution, then it would be within my rights to ask them to stop using it or give proper credit or compensate me for any money they’ve made on it.
    4)If a movie is pirated while it’s still in first run in the movie theaters and it’s put up for download for free on the internet, I think it’s within the rights of the movie studio to try to get it removed.
    5)I do also feel that creators of games are within their rights to try to prevent people from downloading their game for free.

    I suppose the last one is the sticky one, but what about the others? Would you guys disagree? I’d like some sort of feedback because I genuinely don’t understand where you’re coming from John. I looked at Nick’s essay but outside of the fact that he’s very angry about copyright I don’t fully understand his viewpoint either. These simple examples would go a long way for me.

  • Nick Mailer

    1) Pace, I imagine that John and the rest on RPS would use the laws to their full effect; that doesn’t mean that the laws are necessarily ethical, or are part of a healthy cultural ecosystem.

    2) Why should it ever go into the public domain? A right is surely a right?

    3) What if they used some of the sequence of musical notes that you used? How many notes would you allow before you decided you didn’t want someone else to enunciate the same sequence of musical notes without your permission?

    4) And second run?

    5) And what sort of laws would you give them to allow this?

    As for my essay – actually read it rather than look at it. I think that’d be more useful.

  • Pace

    Nick; I appreciate the response but you’d have to admit you haven’t really answered any of them. You guys keep trying to put my views under the microscope, which is fine, but you’re also not responding with much of your own views. You’re right Nick I haven’t given your paper sufficient attention, I promise I will give it a genuine go if in turn you make a candid attempt to give your views in the simple terms that I’m suggesting. If you’re not sure what I mean then just respond clearly to those examples with how you feel. I could infer from your responses but I’d rather hear it clearly. If you don’t like the word ‘rights’, then say it differently.

    Anyway; in response to your questions;
    I think books should go into the public domain eventually because they become a part of popular culture. They have meaning to individuals. It’s not fair for the creator to come and take it away from them. The consumers have ‘rights’ too. As I’ve said to me the trick is finding the balance between them and the creators rights. Ideally we’d be able to respect both, but in practice that may not be possible.
    As for movies, I guess it’d be similar. Ideally I think they should enter public domain eventually as well. Exactly what the timeframe should be I don’t know.
    Music; well that’s a tough one. If it’s flagrant then it shouldn’t be allowed. Again, the trick is in the details and I don’t claim to have all the answers. And once again I suppose eventually music should enter the public domain.
    laws; the law by its very nature has to be black and white, it has to draw the line somewhere and so will be open to criticism no matter what it says exactly. I don’t claim to know how the law should be written. If you wish to argue that the laws as they are are unjust I wouldn’t argue it because I simply don’t have the facts for that argument. Actually I have little doubt they are unjust in at least some cases.

    I know this discussion may be getting a bit tedious, but with some preliminary snippiness (on both sides, either side, whatever) out of the way I think we could quickly achieve actual communication.