Not Guilty

by Harry on July 30, 2008

An old schoolfriend told me on the phone the other day that she had just been thinking of me. She had gone with her sons to Stowe to see Roger Hodgson (an old boy) perform Supertramp numbers (Supertramp were big when we were at secondary school together, which ages us both, I guess), and her thought was “Harry would hate this”. What a coincidence – my 11-year-old is on a year-long (so far) 70’s rock jag, and plays a lot of Supertramp (and Led Zeppelin – I knew things were getting bad when she told me not to tune away from the local classics station playing Immigrant Song because it’s one of her favourites). I like Supertramp, enough that I’ve bought this anthology for my daughter on my friend’s recommendation, and I didn’t even dislike them at the time. Despite everything.

So Laura made a mistake when she tagged me for the “what five songs in my iTunes are my guiltiest pleasures” meme. Unlike Laura, I do have an ipod, because my wife insisted, believing it would break me of my habit of taping radio shows and listening on my walkman. It didn’t, but I do, now, listen to more music. I don’t, though, have any guilty musical pleasures: I just don’t feel guilty about what I like. I used to feel vaguely embarrassed about slightly liking Steely Dan, but eventually decided this was ridiculous, and have since discovered that they are pretty good. I am still embarrassed that I used to think I liked John more than Paul, even though in fact I liked Paul more than John, but that’s a matter of not having had adequate self-knowledge. I know its uncool to like Cliff – him being a Christian and everything – but I suspect that in my generation at least the disdain for him is substantially motivated by envy that he still looks younger than most of us. Deep Purple? My unlikely schoolfriend Jon Corcoran foisted them on me (along with Ian Gillan Band, and Jesus Christ Superstar), and I can’t hear them without thinking of him, which is a great, but not guilty, pleasure.

What itune pleasures would I feel guilty about if I felt guilty? All but one of the following are on my itunes; the missing one will go on as soon as I get round to it, I just hadn’t thought of it till now:

1. Cliff Richard, Carrie (and just about everything else Cliff has done, apart from that Millennium Prayer)
2. Status Quo, Living on an Island
3. Dr. Feelgood, Milk and Alcohol
4. Pilot, Magic (beat that!)
5. Thin Lizzy, Waiting for an Alibi

Tagging: Lindsey, Chris Brooke, and Dina.

Creative uncommons?

by Chris Bertram on July 30, 2008

The latest issue of the _Modern Law Review_ has an “article”: (by Phillip Johnson) about copyright law in the UK and US [access may depend on whether you or you firm or institution has a subscription] that suggests that it is harder for someone to give up a copyright than you might think. It would appear to have the implication that even where the creator of a work explicitly dedicates that work to the public domain, their estate might later revoke the license and seek to restrict use, demand payments etc. Alarming (but interesting) stuff. The conclusion:

bq. This article has shown that copyright owners cannot cause their copyright to cease to exist by dedicating it to the public. It is true that US authors may dedicate their US copyright to the public and in so doing cause it to cease to exist, but such a dedication will not have the same effect in relation to the equivalent UK copyright. In contrast, UK authors cannot take any steps which will cause their copyright to cease to exist. Instead, these dedications create licences, which can be withdrawn at any time. Such a withdrawal will bar new users from having access the work. But of more concern is that in England and the United States (and in Scotland, where the formalities for contract or promise are not satisfied) this will also terminate any rights existing users have by reason of the dedication. In which case, only where the conduct of copyright owners is so unconscionable that they are estopped (or barred) would the dedication have any continuing effect. This means that despite the desire of authors to dedicate their works to the public domain, the boundaries of that domain, uncertain as they already are, remain outside their control.

The Phoenix project

by Henry Farrell on July 30, 2008

I have a “bloggingheads”: with Jacob Heilbrunn of _The National Interest_ here on various foreign policy issues; one of the most interesting of which we never got around to debating. A bunch of Democratic foreign policy types, which once included Susan Rice of the Obama campaign, have come out with a new document, the so-called “Phoenix Initiative”: Now in one sense, manifestoes like this are ten a penny at this stage of the election cycle – they’re the calling cards that foreign policy elites use to try to sell themselves to a potential incoming administration. But what’s unusual about this one is the near total lack of self-congratulation about the US as the one essential nation, leader of the free world etc. Instead, the document’s main message is that the US’s military predominance doesn’t count for as much as it used to, and in a globally connected world, not only are other forms of power becoming more important, but other countries are going to take the lead on many key issues, and the US should get used to this. I’m a little surprised to see so little of the usual bombast in a document like this – even liberal internationalists used to talk a few years ago about how the US needed to create the institutions for a global system that would ensure US soft hegemony. Now, this group at least, isn’t talking in these terms, but implicitly suggesting that the US is just one large power among several. It’s an interesting change in rhetoric.