Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Germany: plastic bags, music sampling & the elusive open WiFi

The standard handful of German daily papers perused by the ever curious blogster are almost in full summer vacation mode, it seems.

The upcoming European soccer cup dominates the web pages and the bleached and colored dead tree carcasses at the gas station. The noxious statement by one of the "Alternative for Germany" leaders that he would not want to have a black German soccer star as his neighbor gave all the righteous ample opportunity to show their goodness.

Heavy rain with flooding that claimed several lives was a great excuse, for most, not to mention that over 2000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year.
The torrents also flushed out some gleeful "ha, there goes your climate change" deniers.
And for the rest, their entertainment involved a bit of Syria and Putin plus a helping of Brexit and Trump.

And just in: 30 cop cars came out sirens blazing in the northern city of Hamburg because a vigilant citizen reported a man wearing a suspicious vest and "dancing around" near a jobcenter. Instead of shutting up and letting the presumed terrorist reduce German unemployment numbers, the citizen called in a terror alert.

Police found the man was a jogger wearing a weight vest. Which is really funny because these vests actually do look a bit like the standard suicide vests we see in the media, with narrow vertical bulging pockets neatly aligned on the front and the sides.

Maybe the Germans will come up with a new law that requires suicide vests to be clearly marked as such?

Music sampling and plastic bags were big topics in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ). Germany's constitutional court struck down a ruling that had declared the use of a two second sample from one of Autobahn boring Kraftwerk's songs illegal.
That sent a senior editor of FAZ into a rant about how Hiphop and the internet are promoting disregard for intellectual property and artistic creativity, destroying property rights and ultimately threatening the "democratic order and the rule of law".

The other doozy in FAZ was a complaint about one big retailer's plan to eliminate plastic shopping bags altogether.

See, despite successful German PR making the country seem to be Europe's green poster child, large plastic shopping bags are everywhere. The only difference between, what, twenty years ago and now, is that nowadays you pay 10 or 20 cents for a large bag.

Major retailer REWE wants to change that and do away with the big bags. Instead, if you don't bring your own, you will be able to buy cloth bags. This upset an FAZ econ writer so much that he condemned the move as useless. Since this is Germany, the gentleman advances the argument that plastic is not as ecologically damaging as often claimed because you can reuse it and because making a bag needs fewer resources than a paper bag. And, says he, "one spilled yogurt or a drop of beer" render a paper bag useless.

He goes so far to say "In an emergency, a plastic bag is relatively benign from an ecological point of view".

Keeping the best for last, there is the ongoing saga of eliminating liability for operators of open public WiFi access points. 

Few companies, and even fewer individuals, offer free public WiFi in Germany because of strict liability provisions. In addition to criminal liability, the thriving copyright infringement "cease & desist industry" in Germany deter individuals from opening up their WiFi.

A bill debated for months was supposed to change this, helping Germany to shed its internet backwaters image.

For a short time, about as long as it takes for a computer to perform a DNS lookup, it seemed as if it would finally happen. Note: internet connection speeds around here are slower than in most European countries, so the time it takes to perform a DNS lookup is not as short as you might think.

But, as the blogster told a Twitter buddy when the initial good news was announced: be very weary of this, we are in Germany.

Lo and behold, almost all the progressive verbiage has disappeared from the bill as it heads into committee.

[Update 6/5/2016] It is official. Prominent law firms that are major players in Germany's multi-million Euro "cease & desist industry" went on record in Die Welt, staying that they will continue to send "cease & desist" missives to operators of public WiFi access points.

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