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MP’s wade into download war

Internationally, Canada’s enforcement of copyright laws when it comes to the illegal downloading of songs and content from the Internet is a fiasco.

Internationally, Canada’s enforcement of copyright laws when it comes to the illegal downloading of songs and content from the Internet is a fiasco.

First one judge rules that it’s not illegal to download copyrighted content through peer-to-peer networks, but it is illegal for peers to make copyrighted materials available for others. Then another judge rules that there’s nothing illegal about trading copyrighted materials online, comparing the peer-to-peer networks to that old photocopier that you used to have in your local library.

Both judges seemed dangerously out of touch with the times and the technology, and more than a little naïve about the intentions of downloaders – nobody downloads a copy of ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast for a school paper.

The ability to copy pages out of books onto low-grade paper, one agonizing sheet at a time – which was never free by the way – is nothing compared to the technology that allows you to download whole songs in a fraction of the time it takes to listen to them. With a good high-speed service you can download an entire album in under 20 minutes, and an entire bootlegged movie in under an hour.

Both court rulings left the Canadian Recording Industry Association foaming at the mouth for justice and some public acknowledgement of their huge revenue losses in recent years. They want the same ability to sue individual downloaders as the Recording Industry Association of America enjoys south of the border, which has been extremely effective in curbing the illegal practice.

The CRIA may get some relief after all – not from laws but from our nation’s lawmakers.

Last week a group of Members of Parliament studying Canada’s copyright laws suggested that it’s in Canada’s best interest to ratify international treaties that strengthen copyright laws for online content, especially the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty already signed by 44 countries including the U.S.

Furthermore the Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is lobbying for a few alterations to the Copyright Act that make ISP’s (Internet Service Provider’s) liable for copyright infringements.

Currently ISP’s protect the identities of their clients, and aren’t liable for their online activities. If the committee’s proposed changes go through then ISP’s will be forced to reveal the identities of their clients, or could themselves be held monetarily liable.

The announcement was a dream come true for the CRIA, which estimates that is has lost more than half a billion dollars in sales over the past five years due to illegal downloading.

Last week they recorded more than 500,000 illegal attempts to download ‘Vaccination Scar’ by the Tragically Hip in a five-week period. During the same period fewer than 1,000 people purchased the song legally through online services.

Fuels cells to replace laptop batteries

Anyone who has owned a laptop or devices like portable CD players and digital cameras for several years is bound to have noticed the dramatic increase in storage capacity for rechargeable batteries.

For laptop computers, lithium-ion batteries can now offer up to five hours of computing on a single charge, more than doubling the upper limit of about five years ago.

Part of that capability stems from the fact that the components of portable devices require far less power than in the past, with more efficient hardware designs, processors and software usage – you can now power a minidisk player for 30 hours with a single AA battery thanks to improved mechanics and compression software.

The other part has to do with the batteries themselves, and advances in technology and manufacturing that have produced better batteries.

Next year portable power will get another boost from a test of 2,000 fuel cell batteries. This technology could take another seven or eight years to become viable, as lingering issues of unit cost and recharging complicate the issue.

Still, it’s safe to bet that the industry will work its way through these logistics because a first generation micro-fuel cell battery will likely be able to last two to three times longer than the leading lithium-ion batteries – that’s anywhere from eight to 15 hours of power for a laptop. A second-generation fuel-cell battery, probably five years away, will power your laptop 10 times longer, or between 40 and 50 hours.

The industry expects the fuel cell batteries to be standard by 2012.

Gamers never grow up

There are some things from your childhood that you’re supposed to outgrow as you get older – bedwetting, refusing to eat your vegetables, playing with your collection of dolls or action figures. Video games were supposed to be one of those things – incredible toys, but toys nonetheless. It didn’t quite work out that way.

The 30-something generation is the first generation to be raised with video game consoles in the home.

CNN did a recent feature on the history of consoles that dates back to the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. Most people thought the Atari’s Pong was the first, but it was actually second in 1975. What was different about Pong was the fact that it had memory – just enough to keep your score for you.

Other milestones include the Mattel Intellivision in 1980, the Coleco Colecovision in 1982, the Nintendo NES in 1985, the Sega Genesis in 1989, the Super Nintendo in 1991, the Sony PlayStation in 1995, the Nintendo 64 in 1996, the Sony PlayStation 2 in 2000, the Microsoft Xbox in 2001 and the Nintendo GameCube a few months later. There were a few others in there, like the Sega Dreamcast, but they never really broke through to a wide audience.

Personally, I have owned six different game consoles since I was about seven years old, which means a new console every four years or so. I grew up playing games, for better or for worse, and I still play games today. I don’t sit inside on sunny days like I did was a kid and play, or stay up to 4 a.m. getting boozy with friends playing Sega Hockey like I did in University, but I’ve been known to put in a few hours here and there. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

A survey by the Entertainment Software Association found that the number of gamers 18-and-over now outnumber the younger players. The average age of game players is now 29, the average age of game buyers is 36, and men only make up 59 per cent of the audience.

More than half of respondents say they watch less television to play more games, and also go to movies less.

The current size of the worldwide gaming industry? Try $25 billion U.S.