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I've just been reading the news (click here or on the picture below) that Greg Ham of Men at Work has died; possibly by suicide.



 

Suicide or not, Ham was apparently depressed and emotionally and financially ruined by a copyright dispute over the 'flute riff' in their 80s hit Down Under that was a phrase from 'Kookaburra sits in an old gum tree' written more than 75 years ago for a Girl Guides competition by Marion Sinclair; who died in 1988.

Everyone with kids is familiar with this musical phrase.  It is as Australian as the first phrase in Waltzing Matilda (that he should have used instead).

This cause for depression is close to home as my father's death was certainly accelerated by a patent dispute.

From a pure market perspective intellectual property protection is often justified as a way of making trade secrets public but what is the market benefit in copyright; will artists and authors keep their work secret without it? Why should the public continue to pay for a lifetime, particularly after an artist/author is long dead?

Obviously I generally support the protection of intellectual property as an incentive for R&D and creativity but with some caveats. In particular I think that patents, like copyright, should be unexamined and consequently free; but once published on line; in a journal; or other public place; defensible in court. 

Because of the sheer volume of patents registered, acceptance by an examiner is no longer prima face evidence of patent validity; as my father discovered to his very high cost.  If there is a dispute it needs to go to court in any case.

On the other hand I think copyright is overprotected and should be pulled back to the same rules as patents - 20 years from first publishing. 

At one time both patents and copyright protection were limited to 16 years.  Of course I accept that there are too many vested interests, and too much money involved trading in copyright created by artists who seldom benefit, to go back to 16 years; particularly as it requires international agreement.

At least the Internet is dealing with excessive copyright protection in a different way.  A subject for future discussion...

 


 


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Travel

Berlin

 

 

 

I'm a bit daunted writing about Berlin.  

Somehow I'm happy to put down a couple of paragraphs about many other cities and towns I've visited but there are some that seem too complicated for a quick 'off the cuff' summary.  Sydney of course, my present home town, and past home towns like New York and London.  I know just too much about them for a glib first impression.

Although I've never lived there I've visited Berlin on several occasions for periods of up to a couple of weeks.  I also have family there and have been introduced to their circle of friends.

So I decided that I can't really sum Berlin up, any more that I can sum up London or New York, so instead I should pick some aspects of uniqueness to highlight. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Time Lord

 

 

 

For no apparent reason the silver haired man ran from his companion, shook a tree branch, then ran back to continue their normal conversation. It was as if nothing had happened. 

Bruce had been stopped in peak hour traffic in the leafy suburban street and had noticed the couple walking towards him engaged in good humoured argument or debate.  Unless this was some bizarre fit, as it seemed, the shaken tree branch must be to illustrate some point.  But what could it be?

Just as the couple passed him the lights up ahead changed and the traffic began to move again. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

The race for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

 

 

 

 

As we all now know (unless we've been living under a rock) the only way of defeating a pandemic is to achieve 'herd immunity' for the community at large; while strictly quarantining the most vulnerable.

Herd immunity can be achieved by most people in a community catching a virus and suffering the consequences or by vaccination.

It's over two centuries since Edward Jenner used cowpox to 'vaccinate' (from 'vacca' - Latin for cow) against smallpox. Since then medical science has been developing ways to pre-warn our immune systems of potentially harmful viruses using 'vaccines'.

In the last fifty years herd immunity has successfully been achieved against many viruses using vaccination and the race is on to achieve the same against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19).

Developing; manufacturing; and distributing a vaccine is at the leading edge of our scientific capabilities and knowledge and is a highly skilled; technologically advanced; and expensive undertaking. Yet the rewards are potentially great, when the economic and societal consequences of the current pandemic are dire and governments around the world are desperate for a solution. 

So elite researchers on every continent have joined the race with 51 vaccines now in clinical trials on humans and at least 75 in preclinical trials on animals.

Read more ...

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