Tuesday 27 June 2023

More black market scaremongering

None of this can really be happening. It has to be fake news. Or somehow generated by the tobacco industry. Remember? Janet Hoek told us. Black markets are just tobacco-funded scaremongering. 

A dramatic influx of illegal vapes into Australia is distracting border force officials from stopping guns and illicit drugs from entering the country.

And the inundation of vapes has led the Australian Border Force to call out for more workers to fulfil the Federal Government’s demands of detecting, storing and disposing of every illegal e-cigarette.

The West Australian understands the high volume of vapes being imported has taken up border force staff’s time because they are required to refer e-cigarettes without a prescription to the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Sources aware of the process say it is time-consuming and is diverting workers away from other priorities such as seizing smuggled weapons and drugs.

Limited and costly transport and storage capacity has created further issues as the agency is required to hold the products while a decision is being made by the TGA. The products are either then destroyed or released to the owner after samples are tested.

Ok. Maybe it's happening. But there's no way that tobacco and nicotine prohibitionists are to blame. That's just tobacco industry scaremongering.  

New regulations came into place under the Morrison Government in 2021 where any nicotine product hitting Australian shores without a prescription from a local doctor is seized and referred to the TGA for laboratory analysis to see if it contains nicotine.

The Albanese Government has gone a step further — last month announcing a plan to ban imports of recreational vapes at the border, which means those that do not contain nicotine, in the hope it will stamp out the black market.

A Border Force spokesman told The West the organisation required more staff with the calls coming before the new reforms have been implemented.

“As with any legislative change, an alteration to border controls will have a significant impact to ABF frontline resources and will require an uplift in our capability and capacity to detect, store and dispose of products containing nicotine safely,” the spokesman said.

The only possible conclusion is that Australian border officials are beholden to Big Tobacco. I can't wait for the expose on it from Hoek. I'm sure The Conversation will publish it for her.  

Monday 26 June 2023

Copyright maximalism

Ages ago, I met an odd sort of copyright maximalist. The guy figured that ideas themselves should be treated as intellectual property, not just their expression. 

One minor problem with his theory is that he couldn't fully explain it without transferring valuable IP and he wanted compensation. I wasn't that interested. 

This push from Copyright Licensing NZ has a similar feel. Just read this and imagine that it has nothing to do with AI. It's kids learning about reading and writing from books, maturing, incorporating ideas into their own framework for understanding the world, and then writing their own ideas based on all of that. It's the same thing. 

New Zealand needs to urgently regulate generative AI tools so they comply with copyright laws, otherwise thousands of Kiwis will remain unrecognised and uncompensated for their intellectual property, Copyright Licensing NZ says.

The call comes amid global scrutiny and surging use of AI tools in homes, schools and in the workforce, with rising fears of a takeover as thousands of jobs are lost to the technology worldwide.

In the United States, the Writers’ Guild of America is currently striking in part to request the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers ban the use of AI for writing and rewriting any source material, and that no AI material be trained on guild members’ work.

With the alliance rejecting the offer, Kiwi scriptwriters are keeping a close eye on the situation.

... Sam Irvine, chief executive of Copyright Licensing, said it was “absolutely concerned” about AI, and particularly large language models, using the work of Kiwi authors, visual artists, writers and publishers without credit in the production of things like text or digitally made artwork.

AI models illegally sourcing content from the internet or other sources needed to be regulated so IP holders were attributed or compensated where necessary, Irvine said.

Friday 23 June 2023

Meta Shrugs

The Canadian Parliament passed Bill C-18, which will require Meta to pay whenever it links to a Canadian news source.

Canadian news publishers, like Kiwi news publishers, managed to convince both themselves and the government that it's the platforms who benefit from those links - not the linked-to site.

And they were, of course, wrong. 

The deal did not meet the participation constraint, and Meta has shrugged. 

The CBC reports:

The social media giant Meta has confirmed that it will end access to news on its social media sites for all Canadian users before Bill C-18, the Online News Act, comes into force.

The tech company made the announcement Thursday, the day after Parliament passed Bill C-18. The law will force tech giants like Meta and Google to pay news outlets for posting their journalism on their platforms.

Meta said it will begin to block news for Canadian users over the next few months and the change will not be immediate.

"We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18 … content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada," said Meta in a media statement.

As expected, Andrew Coyne's roundup on this one is best [Canadians should subscribe to the Globe & Mail. But if you're not based there and would only be reading this one column....].

He's trenchant. 

First, we gave away all our content online, without charge. Then we built unreadable, positively user-hostile websites. We were slow to react as advertisers deserted us for Facebook and Google, and when it finally dawned on us that this was a competition we couldn’t win – the platforms had simply built a better mousetrap, as far as advertisers were concerned – we went whining to government to save us: as if we were the only industry the internet had upended; as if the taxpayers were obliged to pay for our mistakes; as if we could so conspicuously prostitute ourselves to the thing we spend most of our time covering – government – without anyone noticing, or without in fact being prostitutes.

But of all the lies we told ourselves and others, the most preposterous was the lie that “the platforms stole our content.” They didn’t steal it. For the most part, they don’t even use it. What they do is link to it. How does a link work? You click on it, and you are taken to the address embedded in it – that is, to one of our pages. Far from stealing our content or our readers, the platforms have been sending readers our way by the millions, there to read our content and see our ads.

They perform a service for us, in other words, the proof of which is the profusion of “Share this” and “Link to this” buttons we plaster all over our stories. We want readers to post our stories to Facebook, Twitter and the rest. As, in fact, we do ourselves, and for the same reason: because we know it benefits us. Because we need the platforms, far more than they need us. 


Thursday 15 June 2023

Another no-sale ETS auction

Bids at yesterday's auction of freshly-minted government-issued carbon credits didn't meet the reserve price for the second time in a row.

Newsroom's Jonathan Milne asked me for my take on it. I warned that it's better to talk to market participants on it as I'm not one, and that James Shaw's discussion of it on Newstalk was very much worth the listen

But otherwise, I said this; Jonathan included a summary in his morning newsletter. 

  1. Govt made a substantial forestry announcement the morning of the auction. It resolved one kind of uncertainty (how govt would respond to rising opposition to carbon forestry) while introducing another (what councils will do with it).
  2. Govt could further resolve uncertainty by fixing the number of unbacked units it is prepared to auction or allocate between now and 2050, committing to drawing only from that volume. 
  3. In the absence of having that fixed quantum, govt could instead wipe unsold units rather than hold them over to the next auction. Failed auctions would then tighten supply and make future failed auctions less likely. Bit better to just fix the number of units.
  4. Simplest explanation remains that participants last year expected govt to be taking a very restrictive path relative to prior expectations, then were surprised. They had priced in expectations that there would be a lot fewer credits than had previously been scheduled and had banked credits against that possibility. Govt went with a less restrictive path. And an incoming National govt might be less inclined to take a sharply restrictive path to net zero. So holding credits makes less sense; using stockpiled ones makes more sense. Again - would be great to legislate a fixed number of NZU. 

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Around the traps...

A few spots you may have caught me recently...