Leaving Lockdown

One positive bit of news that I almost missed is that Belgium now has a plan for leaving lockdown. The plan is, as ever, dependent on vaccination schedules but we should see a re-opening of restaurants and cinemas on June 9th.

Restaurants are already able to open their terraces to groups of four or less who want to sit outside, but with the upcoming easing of restrictions, we will be able to sit indoors a well.

As for the cinemas reopening, it’s not a moment too soon:

Things are looking up.

Five More Things

I mentioned Whoops Apocalypse, the TV series, some time ago. At the weekend I finally found the time to watch the film. In this version the plot is updated somewhat to reflect the fact that it was made in 1986 — four years after the TV series — but the humour is still as dark and bitingly effective as an increasingly farcical sequence of events drags the world ever closer to nuclear armageddon.

As a satire made and set during the Cold War, the film is very much of its time and you probably need to have lived through the 1980s for some of the jokes to work. It does, however, manage an accidentally contemporary moment when the US president (played by Loretta Swit) incredulously asks: “You’re telling me that the entire population of Great Britain went and elected a deranged psychotic to the highest office of the land? Again?”

Remaining with the ongoing disaster that is British politics, N Piers Ludlow asks whether the UK ever understood how the EU works. Given that the UK has been a member of the bloc for over 40 years, the conclusion is damning, to say the least.

On a more positive note, Jo Swinson was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats this week and Timothy Garton Ash is optimistic about her chances of leading a fightback for liberal Britain. We live in hope.

Returning to the subject of films, for a moment, Marvel has revealed their Phase 4 MCU lineup and Den of Geek has the details. Ignoring the Disney+ releases — I absolutely am not going to get tied into signing up to endless streaming services — the upcoming Black Widow film is long overdue and I am really looking forward to seeing how they handle Thor: Love And Thunder. Also: Blade is coming back!

And finally, Ian Stewart’s article on social physics reminded me of a book I read some time ago, namely Critical Mass by Philip Ball. The takeaway from both is that you may be an individual but, in aggregate, we are a lot more predictable than we realise.

Copywrong

Comic cover Many advocates of extending copyright and bringing the full weight of the legal system down on copyright infringers cite the need to protect content creators against the hordes of downloaders swapping material for free. Here’s an example (via) of how this works in practice:

After nearly five years of bitter and depressing legal back-and-forth only slightly ameliorated by the fact that it concerned a biker with a flaming skull, Marvel has won a lawsuit that forces Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich to stop identifying himself as “Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich,” simply because he is the creator of Ghost Rider.

This all started back in 2007 when Friedrich sued Marvel claiming that rights to the character had reverted back to him in 2001. Marvel responded by arguing that Friedrich had relinquished all rights when he cashed his paychecks, all of which were stamped with a bit of boilerplate legalese. Marvel then counter-sued Friedrich in 2010, seeking damages for all of the Ghost Rider prints and other merchandise Friedrich had sold at conventions.

As payback, not only can Friedrich no longer sell his own Ghost Rider merchandise, he can’t even represent himself as its co-creator, thereby robbing him of any potential financial gain he might accrue from convention appearances and the like. (He will, however, still be able to sign officially licensed Marvel merchandise, either with ink or bitter tear stains.) In addition, Marvel is also demanding $17,000 from the unemployed, financially destitute 68-year-old, which Comic Book Resources surmises will serve as a warning to all others who currently enjoy the privilege of selling their own unlicensed merchandise, and should maybe just keep their mouths shut then.

The problem with copyright, as it currently stands, is not that it is too weak or that random downloaders are destroying the entertainment industry. The problem with copyright is that it works to the benefit of distributors and against the interests of creators.

Copyright reform is long overdue.