Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Last night Larry Lessig asked me if I had read his blog entry about the new Japanese copyright law that will put the burden of proof on the defendant. I had, but I didn't blog it because it's sort of the same-old same-old. To me, what was interesting was how suprising it was to Larry. ;-) Of course it is a bad law and a stupid thing and I will now point out this stupidity and unfairness when I have the opportunity. But on reflection, I realize that I had recently gone through this with the National ID so I'm burned out.

So... It's unfair. What do you do? Call your congressman? Nope. That doesn't work in Japan. Protest? No one cares. Write the paper? Nope. They're biased. Go to the bureaucrats? Sue the government? Get the signatures of all of the heads of all of the factions of the LDP and push on the cabinet? I tried that, it doesn't work. Vote? The problem is... Even if EVERYONE thinks something is stupid, you can't stop what has been set in motion. Having said that, there are the occasional journalists and writers who seem to be able to make a difference after a multi-year campaign, fighting in public, but it's quite an effort. The other problem is, there is no shortage of stupid laws. I feel like Bilbo taking on Saurons' army by himself. Arrgh. Sorry if I sound frustrated.

Lawrence Lessig
IP extremism moves east

The Nikkei is reporting today that the government will propose a law to "enhance copyright holder protection." You can't read the story without buying a trial subscription (aka, that's bad enough). But worse is the substance of what the Nikkei reports. The story reports what has been reported often before: That the legislation will increase copyright terms for movies and games from 50 to 70 years (again invoking the bogus harmonization argument). But the most amazing proposed change is this:Plaintiffs in lawsuits defending their copyrights often have difficulty submitting evidence that offenders have infringed upon their rights. So the government aims to shift the burden of proof to the defendants, requiring them to prove that they have produced and marketed their products without violating the plaintiffs' rights.

That's a quote from the story, and as the story has a bunch of factual mistakes in it, I can't be sure it is accurate. But if true, it means that in Japan, you're guilty until proven innocent.

I'll be reviewing the draft law as soon as I can, and reporting more. But the bottom line is the same: IP extremism continues unabated. There's so much to praise in this amazing country. It is sad to see them following the extremists.

Had brunch with Yu Serizawa of the World Economic Forum and Oki Matsumoto of Monex and talked about the Blueprint for Japan 2020 and the panel in Davos. Oki drew a pretty interesting picture based on the discussions we've been having and I doodled it on my Mac. There are a lot of missing components, but the story goes like this.

We have efficiency problems because the markets that traditionally allocation resources efficiently are dysfunctional. One of the reasons that they are dysfunctional are because of the dysfunctional democracy which causes the inefficient insider circles which act in their self-interest without check. The dysfunctional democracy is driven by the lack of diversity. The public are educated to be risk adverse and obedient, the media are huge and controlled and speak with almost a single voice and the judiciary do not have an ethics of independence and are part of the "group". This cycle perpetuates the central harmony and concentration of power. Even if once piece of the cycle changes momentarily, the cycles co-opts or ejects diversity and everything continues along the same path. We need some sort of external influence which is more resistant to this cycle which can break the loop. Also, I think the idea is that things like "values" and "spirit" of the people are probably more important than specific rules and laws. It's probably a combination of social changes, pressure from the outside and some leaders (the governors?) that might be able to break this cycle and cause change and a more democratic ethic. One thing to focus on is that we have a legal (albeit not enforced) framework for a democracy and it's probably the ethics of each of the organs and individuals which makes it dysfunctional rather than the structure. Thus, it's probably a deeper issue...

In my entry about style, Cory commented on the difficulty of reading tiny grey fonts. I've gotten a lot of this kind of feedback. So... I just changed the style sheet. I made the fonts all default size and black. Tell me what you think. Actually, on most browsers, if you do a command-"-" and reduce the size of the fonts, it looks like it used to. Now it is a bit more flexible on the browsers that don't let you resize fonts defined absolutely in the style sheet. On the other hand, it looks a bit more childish in defalut mode. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. (I wish there was a polling feature in MT. Does anyone know of a polling feature that I can use on my site in situations like this?)


House Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-Texas)
DELAY: John, we're no longer a superpower. We're a super-duperpower.
At least we don't have politicians in Japan calling us a "super-duperpower". How embarrassing. Looking at the press these days, it almost seems like politicians in the US are sounding stupid on purpose...