We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Discussion point: Is the Klingon language copyrightable in US law? Should it be?

As linked to by two different posters at Instapundit and semi-reformed Trekkies everywhere, Paramount Pictures, in the course of a claim against the makers of a film set in the Star Trek universe, are claiming to own the copyright on the Klingon language. Thirty years ago linguist Marc Okrand was hired to take the snatches of made-up Klingon dialogue in the early Star Trek movies and flesh it out into a useable language. This he did. The idea took off and all sorts of people since then have learned Klingon to some degree for fun and intellectual stimulation.

A press release from the Language Creation Society says,

We firmly believe that conlangers should receive credit for their work. Specific works describing a conlang, such as the Klingon Dictionary, Living Language Dothraki, or Ithkuil website are creative works in their own right, entitled to full legal protection. So are works that are in a conlang, such as Klingon Hamlet, Esperanto poetry, Ithkuil music, and Verdurian stories.

However, a constructed language itself is not protected, and should not be. Copyright law is simply too blunt a tool for this.
Allowing copyright claims to a language would create a monopoly on use extending far beyond what is needed to protect the original work or to claim credit for the language’s creation. The potential threat of a lawsuit for merely using a conlang, or creating new works to make it more accessible, has a chilling effect; it makes conlangers, poets, authors, educators, and others less likely to build on and enjoy each others’ work, to the detriment of conlanging in general.

We believe that everyone has the right to use any language — including conlangs — without having to ask anyone’s permission. We hope that our participation in this lawsuit will help to make this belief into legal precedent.

Marc Randazza’s diverting amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Language Creation society is here.

I’m not going to do it. I AM NOT going to do it. I am not going to say “Qapla’!”

Except I just did. You will have deduced that I am sympathetic to one side of the case. But there is another. Property rights matter. Why should a bunch of flakes and dilettantes reap what another sowed? Why shouldn’t they pay a fee, in person or under licence, for the privilege of using Klingon just as they pay, directly or indirectly, to use a computer program? Let’s discuss this like Klingons. Which need not necessarily mean with a bat’leth.

Erdogan Poetry

I think we need a Samizdata crowd-sourced entry to the Spectator’s Erdogan offensive poetry competition. Get to work, commentariat!

Edit: apologies for the slow moderation. Comments here seem to be triggering the smite bot a lot for some reason.

My Number

The new unified identification system with its associated up-to-the-minute database will streamline government, reduce fraud and tax evasion, make it easier to stop people “falling between the cracks” of different government departments, provide a convenient single means for citizens to prove their identity, and protect us all from terrorism. If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

What will bring about all these benefits? It sounds very like the UK Identity Cards Act 2006, but that cannot be since various malcontents forced the Act’s repeal in 2010. While it is true that for the British Civil Servant no setback is ever permanent, for now the torch has passed to Japan, where the latest version of the Eternal Scheme is called “My Number”.

Even in such a cooperative and law-abiding culture as Japan there are the inevitable troublemakers:

More Japan citizens sue gov’t over My Number system

Around 30 citizens in central and southwestern Japan filed lawsuits Thursday with regional courts, demanding the government suspend the use of identification numbers under the newly launched My Number social security and tax number system.

The lawsuits are the latest in a string of cases in which residents and lawyers argue that the right to privacy is endangered by the system, which allocates a 12-digit identification number to every resident of Japan, including foreign nationals, to simplify administrative procedures for taxation and social security.

Mitsuhiro Kato, who heads the lawyers’ group in the lawsuit with the Nagoya District Court, said at a press conference, “There were cases in which personal information was (illegally) sold and bought. Once the use of My Number expands, the state would come to control individual activities.”

According to the lawsuit, the action to collect citizens’ personal information without their consent infringes on their right to manage their own personal information. The plaintiffs are also worried about the risk of their personal information being leaked given the insufficient security measures currently in place.

My Number legislation has been enacted to make it easier for tax and other authorities to discover cases of tax evasion and wrongful receipt of welfare benefits.

But public concerns have grown over the government’s handling of personal information under the My Number system following massive data leaks from the Japan Pension Service in the wake of cyberattacks in May.

Here is a little more about that massive data leak from, or rather hack of, the Japanese pension system: 1.25 million affected by Japan Pension Service hack.

But fear not:

The hacked computers were not connected online to the fund’s core computer system, which keeps financial details of the pension system’s members, officials said. No illicit access to the core system, which contains the most sensitive information, such as the amount of premiums paid by and the amount of benefits paid to each individual, has been detected, they said, adding that they are still investigating the incident.

It is remarkable how when we read about these government data security breaches in any country, the most alarming possibilities always seem to have been avoided. Some special providence must protect government databases.

The public face of My Number is provided by popular actress Aya Ueto and a rabbit-like mascot with numbers in place of eyes called “Maina-chan”.

Thanks, Recep old boy. Cheque’s in the post. Yours, Boris.

The Telegraph reports,

Turkey demands Germany prosecute comedian for Erdogan insult

Angela Merkel is facing a political dilemma after Turkey demanded one of Germany’s most popular comedians face prosecution for insulting its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The row could jeopardise the EU’s controversial migrant deal with Turkey.

The German government confirmed on Monday it had received a “formal request” from Turkey over the weekend indicating it wishes to press charges in the case.

If Mrs Merkel agrees to allow the prosecution, she will face accusations of limiting free speech to placate the authoritarian Mr Erdogan.

But if she refuses it could put the migrant deal with Turkey, which she personally brokered, at risk.

Jan Böhmermann, one of Germany’s most successful young comedians, faces up to five years in prison over a poem in which he referred to Mr Erdogan as a “goat-f*****” and described him as watching child pornography.

Insulting a foreign head of state is illegal under German law, but a prosecution can only take place if a foreign government requests it.

Any prosecution also requires the express authorisation of the German government — leaving Mrs Merkel in a difficult position.

Samizdata quote of the day

Where did Mises stand on the issue of discrimination? He distinguished two kinds: that extending from choice and that imposed by law. He favored the former and opposed the latter. He went even further. He said that a policy that forces people against their will creates the very conditions that lead to legal discrimination. In his view, even speaking as someone victimized by invidious discrimination, it is better to retain freedom than build a bureaucracy that overrides human choice.

“In an unhampered market society there is no legal discrimination against anybody,” he wrote. “Everyone has the right to obtain the place within the social system in which he can successfully work and make a living. The consumer is free to discriminate, provided that he is ready to pay the cost.”

– Jeffrey Tucker quoting and discussing Von Mises in an article called Must a Jewish Baker make a Nazi cake?

Fooled ya!

The Daily Mail reports:

April Fools is no laughing matter, China’s official news service intoned Friday, saying the Western tradition of opening spring with a gag is un-Chinese. The official news agency Xinhua’s stiffly worded post on micro-blog Weibo declared: “Today is the West’s so-called ‘April Fools'”. The occasion “does not conform with our nation’s cultural traditions, nor does it conform with the core values of socialism“, it added.

“Don’t believe rumours, don’t create rumours and don’t spread rumours,” it said, capping off the note with a smiley emoticon. A cartoon accompanying the post showed two phones “spreading rumours.” A finger pointing at them is accompanied by a word bubble that says “breaking the law”. Spreading rumours online can be a violation of Chinese law.

But the country’s Internet users met the reminder with a collective guffaw, suggesting that in China, every day is April Fools. “You speak lies every day, use government policy, data, to trick the people in every way. What’s up, what’s down? What’s wrong? What’s right? We’re on to you,” one Weibo commenter said. Other users likened the post to the satirical American newspaper The Onion. “The most amusing ‘April Fools’ news is that Xinhua is seriously saying ‘don’t believe rumours’,” said one.

One has to admire Xinhua’s deadpan delivery, but didn’t including the smiley rather give the game away?

A reminder: opposing the EU does not have to be about immigrants

Tyrannical EU threatens our liberal laws

“If Britain is at little risk of such tragic convulsions, it’s exposed to the EU’s progressive authoritarianism in more surreptitious ways. The jurist Sir William Blackstone articulated the presumption of innocence, a cornerstone of British justice: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” The Napoleonic code that influenced much of continental Europe, and the EU, lacks that respect for individual liberty.

Take the European arrest warrant (EAW). Innocent British citizens have been subjected to Kafkaesque justice systems by a fast-track process that sidesteps basic safeguards. In 2014, Keith Hainsworth, an Ancient Greek tutor sightseeing in Greece, was wrongly accused of setting a forest ablaze. Arrested without a shred of evidence, a five-week nightmare saw him holed up in a notorious Athens jail. A Greek judge eventually released him, admitting a simple error that could have been cleared up with one phone call. The Hainsworths were left with legal bills approaching £40,000.”

– From a piece by Dominic Raab in the Sunday Times.

Update: There is an oddity in this morning’s edition of the Times. Under the heading “Understanding European Capital Markets”, which seems to be a series title, there is a little article that starts as follows,

What is the European Commission doing to improve the access to financing for start-ups and SMEs?

David Muxworthy is adamant that without the EU’s financial assistance, he would have been forced to give up more of the equity in his company to private investors. He is the chief financial officer of MyPinPad, a state-of-the-art technology company that specialises in authentication solutions for devices like mobiles and tablets.

According to this year’s European Parliament annual report, there are around 22 million SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) like Muxworthy’s operating in the EU, providing two thirds of private sector employment – around 75 million jobs. The International Monetary Fund describes these sorts of businesses – agile, innovative, entrepreneurial, job-creating and growing – as the “backbone” of the European economy. The EU is well aware of SMEs’ importance and has set up a series of financial organisations to help them fulfil their potential. Localisation is a key consideration, and focus is often given to geographical economic “clusters”.

Something in the tone struck me as a little off. The typeface was just very slightly different, too. Then I saw the discreetly placed logo at the top right corner. “In association with Goldman Sachs.” Ah.

Public Health Wales keeping themselves in work

E-cigarettes could be banned in Welsh public places to protect children, reports the Telegraph.

E-cigarettes could be banned in public places where children are present in a landmark vote in the Welsh Assembly.

The Labour-controlled government in Cardiff Bay is hoping to pass its Public Health (Wales) Bill in the Senedd on Wednesday.

If passed, the Bill would become a UK first and would restrict the use of nicotine inhaling devices in certain public places – such as schools, places where food is served and on public transport.

The move has been criticised by opposition parties and even divided opinion among health charities.
However, Health Minister Mark Drakeford insists the legislation will protect people from harm – and the curbs on e-cigarettes would make smoking less appealing to youngsters.

He said: “The Bill will help us to respond to a range of public health threats in Wales, including the risk of re-normalising smoking for a generation of children and young people who have grown up in largely smoke-free environments.

But if smoking could by some strange magic – some ingenious invention, let us say – be supplanted by a process that gave similar satisfaction but was much less dangerous, why would normalising that be bad? “Think of the children” is not an intrinsically bad argument. Hard-core libertarian though I am, I do concede that it would be better not to smoke around the kiddies. But making it harder for smokers to quit involves the consequence that the children of those smokers will not grow up in smoke free environments when otherwise they might have. I would have thought that the health of the children of smokers, the children we are told are being harmed with every breath they take, should be prioritized over the purely theoretical health problems that might or might not arise for a future generation after something that looks like smoking has been “renormalised”.

Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, a couple of medium-fake charities that I would once have expected to join in the chant of “ban it” are showing surprising sense. No such weakening and deviationism is seen from Public Health Wales. Nothing will sway this “health body”, whose austerely modernist Three Random Word name is purged of all extraneous prepositions, from its work of protecting itself from evidence-based policymaking:

And health body Public Health Wales’ added: “We cannot sit around and wait a couple of decades to see whether or not the conclusive evidence that people might like to see is available before making a judgment.”

UPDATE: Mr Ed tells me that the measure failed to pass by the narrowest of margins after a considered and principled change of mind by Plaid Cymru. Nah, not really. It failed after a Labour guy called Plaid a “cheap date” and Plaid got into a huff. “Oft evil will shall evil mar”, as Theoden said about Wormtongue, a bloke almost as prone as the members of the Welsh Assembly to throwing his toys out of the pram.

Samizdata quote of the day

The problem of poverty is not a shortage of experts; it’s a shortage of rights.

– On December 6th 2015, William Easterly gave the most recent Hayek Memorial Lecture, on the subject of “The Tyranny of Experts: Foreign Aid versus Freedom for the World’s Poor”.

Just after 13 minutes and 40 seconds into his lecture, Easterly said the above words, twice.

Kofi Annan says it is time to legalize drugs

Somehow I did not expect this from the former Secretary General of the United Nations:

Lift the ban! Kofi Annan on Why It’s Time To Legalize Drugs

In my experience, good public policy is best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not. Policy based on common assumptions and popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions.

Nowhere is this divorce between rhetoric and reality more evident than in the formulation of global drug policies, where too often emotions and ideology rather than evidence have prevailed.

Take the case of the medical use of cannabis. By looking carefully at the evidence from the United States, we now know that legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes has not, as opponents argued, led to an increase in its use by teenagers. By contrast, there has been a near tripling of American deaths from heroin overdoses between 2010 and 2013, even though the law and its severe punishments remain unchanged.

This year, between April 19 and 21, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a special session on drugs and the world will have a chance to change course. As we approach that event, we need to ask ourselves if we are on the right policy path. More specifically, how do we deal with what the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has called the “unintended consequences” of the policies of the last 50 years, which have helped, among other things, to create a vast, international criminal market in drugs that fuels violence, corruption and instability? Just think of the 16,000 murders in Mexico in 2013, many of which are directly linked to drug trafficking.

Der Spiegel

The tone is condescending (“popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions”) and gently repressive (“The steps taken successfully to reduce tobacco consumption … show what can be achieved.”). Mr Annan makes no reference to questions of personal liberty. All the same, when the world’s former top tranzi starts talking this way it may be that, for the War on Drugs, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.*

*With the slight difference from Churchill’s time that in this case the good outcome is surrender.

Free speech for all (neds need not apply)

Further to my earlier post about the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, Kevin Rooney, a self-described fanatical Celtic supporter with a “deep loathing” of Rangers, wrote an article for Spiked in 2012 to which I can add little except to say that I had heard nothing about this case, which horrifies me and proves his point.

Football fans need free speech too

A man has been jailed for singing a song that mocks a religious leader, yet liberty campaigners have said nothing.

Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.

So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.

Such songs are part and parcel of the time-honoured tradition of Rangers supporters. And I have yet to meet a Celtic fan who has been caused any harm or suffering by such colourful lyrics. Yet in sentencing Connor McGhie to three months in a young offenders’ institution, the judge stated that ‘the extent of the hatred [McGhie] showed took my breath away’. He went on: ‘Anybody who participates in this disgusting language must be stopped.’

Several things strike me about this court case. For a start, if Rangers fans singing rude songs about their arch rivals Celtic shocks this judge to the core, I can only assume he does not get out very much or knows little of life in Scotland. Not that his ignorance of football culture is a surprise – the chattering classes have always viewed football-related banter with contempt. But what is new about the current climate is that in Scotland, the middle-class distaste for the behaviour of football fans has become enshrined in law.

And

The other thing that strikes me is how anti-Catholic prejudice seems to be tolerated when it comes from our ‘national treasures’, like Stephen Fry or Richard Dawkins, but not when it comes out of the mouths of football fans. When the pope visited Britain two years ago, liberal campaigners lined up to accuse him of everything from hatred of women to paedophilia. To my knowledge, none of these words were deemed offensive enough to the UK’s Catholic community to prompt arrests or detentions, yet when a Rangers fan shouts of his hatred for the pope, that fan is locked up.

Hat tip: Rob Fisher

New stirrings at the Old Firm

The Herald reports: Rangers and Celtic fans to unite for football grounds demo over anti-bigotry law

RANGERS and Celtic fans are among those who are joining forces to are support a new campaign in grounds across Scotland for the scrapping of a controversial law designed to stamp out sectarian abuse at football matches.

The demonstration over Saturday and Sunday aims to show a united fans front in protest against the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 on the grounds that it is “fundamentally illiberal and unnecessarily restricts freedom of expression”.

Supporters group Fans Against Criminalisation say protests are expected at Scottish Premiership and Scottish Championship grounds featuring fans from Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, Hamilton Academical, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Greenock Morton.

Hibs fans unfurled an “Axe The Act” banner on Sunday during their 3-0 victory over Alloa at Easter Road.

One banner unfurled at Celtic Park on Saturday said: “Scottish football – not singing, no celebrating.”

Another banner containing a rude gesture and the words, “Recognise This”, appeared to be a stark objection to the Scottish Professional Football League’s bid to bring in facial recognition cameras. Some fans have warned they risk driving fans away for making them feel like criminals.

An FAC spokesman said: “We have now been harassed, intimidated, filmed, followed, demonised and criminalised for four years and we have had enough.

It is interesting that fans from both the clubs in the Old Firm are among those involved in the protests. The series of pictures at the top of the Herald article shows banners being raised in protest at Celtic Park rather than Ibrox. Due to its association with Unionism the SNP government dislikes Rangers and would discount any protest coming from that quarter alone.