Archive for July, 2011

Phone hacking and phoney hacks

July 29, 2011 Leave a comment

From Rod Liddle, in the latest Spectator:

I felt, as we all rounded with glee upon the MPs two years ago, that sooner or later [journalists] would cop it, a feeling of foreboding compounded by my trade’s astonishingly sanctimonious outrage that we were having a privacy law imposed upon us by judges.

Read the whole thing: it’s rather fine.

Court rules “headlines are literary works”

July 28, 2011 4 comments

In a judgment which will warm every sub’s cockles, the Court of Appeal yesterday confirmed an earlier ruling that headlines are “separate literary works” that, for purposes of copyright etc, should be considered independent of the story they sit on.

The court threw out an appeal by news parasite Meltwater, which provided a paid-for headline-scraping service to clients in the PR industry. The original action against the company had been brought by all the main Fleet Street newspaper groups, except News International, under the aegis of the Newspaper Licensing Agency, who successfully argued last year that Meltwater required a Web Database Licence (WDL) to aggregate and sell the list of  spider-grabbed headlines, and that its customers required a Web End User Licence (WEUL) to use that information for commercial purposes.

Meltwater and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), a conglomeration of Meltwater subscribers, appealed against the original ruling by Proudman J. Meltwater at first contended it did not need a WDL to carry on its business, though it later relented and got one. One of the conditions of the WDL requires that the holding company’s customers each need a WEUL. The PRCA argued that no, they didn’t. Mrs Justice Proudman found against them, saying:

“The headlines are often striking and substantial, both in terms of content and in terms of length.   They are not usually written by the journalists who write the underlying articles but by editorial staff whose specific functions include the composition of headlines.  The ability to compose a headline is a valuable and discrete skill and courses exist to teach it. Headlines require skill in order to fulfil the objective of capturing the reader’s attention and inducing them to read the article. Thus a headline frequently has some emotional or sentimental ‘hook’, it may contain a pun, it may summarise the content of the article to which it relates. The process of final selection of a headline is separate from the selection of the article. Often a number of options will be proposed and the decision will be taken by a senior editor. Occasionally the article will be tailored to fit the headline.”

She also noted:

“…headlines involve considerable skill in devising and they are specifically designed to entice by informing the reader of the content of the article in an entertaining manner.”

These views were yesterday upheld by the Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Andrew Morritt, with Lord Justice Jackson and Lord Justice Evans. Rejecting the PRCA’s argument that Meltwater customers fell into the category of those exempt from needing a WEUL – a group exempt for purposes of criticism – they said no such exemption applied, because Meltwater made no attempt to analyse or interpret the headlines it sent out.

The copies created on the end-user’s computer are the consequence of the end-user opening the email containing Meltwater News, searching the Meltwater website or accessing the Publisher’s website by clicking on the link provided by Meltwater.

The Lord Chancellor went on to praise Proudman J’s “clear, careful and comprehensive judgment”. Hear-hear!

It’s certainly cheering to know we subs have friends in high places in the judiciary. Just wish we had more of them in the newsrooms.

The full ruling is here. Note the ruling only applies to commercial users. It doesn’t apply to us impecunious amateur bloggers.

I see dead people…

July 26, 2011 Leave a comment
Cole in The Sixth Sense

Are you for real, David?

The quote is of course from the kid Cole in The Sixth Sense.

Don’t know why, but that film came to mind when I read this strange story about Johann Hari:

“They only see what they want to see.”

That’s the other good line from The Sixth Sense.

Of Breivik, Norwegian Christmas trees and Special Brew

July 25, 2011 1 comment
Norwegian Christmas Tree Trafalgar Square

How Norway says thank you for our help....

One of my favourite bloggers is Norman Tebbit, not because I necessarily agree with what he says, but because he has a refreshingly old-fashioned take on blogging. Unlike most bloggers, he’s no drive-by merchant; it’s obvious he thinks seriously about what he writes before pressing the Publish button but, more rarely, he reads the commenters to his previous blogs and then comments on them: fans, pans, droles, trolls and all. Unlike some bloggers, he doesn’t respond to commenters in the comments themselves: he summarises  and answers them in his next blog. I think he’s got a better handle on this blogging lark than the cutting-throat, bleeding-edge show-off freaks at Comment is Free.

In his blog tonight, apropos the Breivik massacre, he says this:

 I thought that just as the Norwegian people send us a Christmas tree every year in thanks for our support during the War, the suggestion that we might send them a tree to symbolise our feelings for them at this time made sense.

Well, I thought: thank goodness this tragedy occurred in Norway and not in Denmark. Because the Danish thank-you present for our help in World War II was Carlsberg Special Brew.

Special Brew fiend at Glastonbury

...and how Denmark said thanks (pic:

Winston Churchill, who had strong and well-informed feelings about these matters, apparently expressed the opinion that no lager was strong enough for him. Come the fall of Hitler and the liberation of Europe, the Carlsberg brewery came up with a lager which met the old war-horse’s high standard of alcoholic toxicity.

Thus was the free world bequeathed the joys of Carlsberg Special Brew, which probably also helped boost post-war production of brown paper bags.

If Breivik had gone berserk in Denmark, what drink would have appropriately marked our feelings towards them in their hour of national grief? Buckfast (15% ABV)? Bruichladdich X4 (94%)? That scrumpy I bought from a farm gate down in Cornwall (don’t know what its ABV was but after a couple of pints it was so psychedelic I didn’t care)?

I think I shall post a comment on Lord Tebbit’s blog and see what he thinks. If he’s sober.

Science breakthrough: Geneticist discovers weird, parallel “anti-BBC”

July 24, 2011 Leave a comment

In a hard-hitting report for the BBC Trust, a rather fat man whose main occupation is involved with the workings of very small things you can’t even pick up with tweezers, has revealed a parallel “anti-BBC”, which broadcasts exactly the opposite of what most licence-payers thought they have seen.

According to Dr Steven Jones, the fashionable neo-atheist Dawkins-squawker, the BBC has been guilty of broadcasting too much of what he calls “deniers” and “denialists” regarding man-made “global warming”. Many commenters picked upon that, while you could charge the BBC with an awful lot of nonsense, folly and just plain dogshit, denying the theory of man-made global warming would not be top of the list. Indeed, those programmes where it features “deniers” serve only to mock them, without engaging in any scientific arguments they may present. The president of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse – another geneticist, curiously – often appears to front such programs. But Dr Jones has apparently discovered evidence of an anti-BBC parallel universe where the opposite happens.

Dr Jones’ report – which has not been peer-reviewed – was immediately lauded by noted web commentators. The well-respected and much-quoted hailed it is “a landmark in the art of school fair fudge making”.

The BBC immediately announced the appointment of a “Czar” to ruthlessly root out and destroy the “anti-BBC”, smother heretical scientific debate at its new Salford headquarters and keep the poll tax-paying licence fee-payers in the traditional state of ignorance and abject poverty in which they were happy.

However, other scientists said they too had noticed the existence of a parallel “anti-BBC”. One said he was sure he saw Keeley Donovan winking rather knowingly while saying “The Met reckons this is going to be the hottest week of the decade”, while another claims she saw Sir David Attenborough exhorting BBC viewers to: “Go forth and multiply!”

NOTE: I’ve just thought of a good idea. Sir Paul Nurse is President of the Royal Society. One of the early presidents of the Royal Society was Sir Issac Newton – president 1703-1727. He is buried in Westminster Abbey. I suggest attaching a dynamo to his grave and linking it to the national grid. Then send out Sir Paul Nurse to open his ill-informed, fat mouth about science: any subject, any where, any time. I’m sure the spin occurring from that tomb would generate more electricity than any that comes from Chris “Bird-Murderer” Huhne’s windmills.

Just why do Metro readers keep collapsing?

July 22, 2011 1 comment

Metro reader Liam, of Leeds, raises a matter of urgent national concern in the paper’s Speak yr brains…sorry, Send us your txt column today:

Every day someone uses Good Deed Feed to thank the people who helped when they passed out. Why are all these Metro readers collapsing?

Gee, I dunno, Liam. Maybe it’s something to do with reading headlines like this:

Choas in the rush hour

World news the last News of the World DIDN’T cover

July 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Banana at large after attacking gorilla.

What was it that Northcliffe said about “man bites dog”?

Those Taiwanese animators take on the NOTW scandal

July 10, 2011 Leave a comment

The good ship NOTW: No longer sailing on

You can link to it here.


Ignore this man at your financial peril

July 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Quite so. You don’t have to know much economics – well, not much more than the supply-demand curves and a bit of Adam Smith – to recognise common sense when you read it. Indeed, economics is common sense, unless you’re someone like Krugman, favoured by the Guardian, Independent, EU, UN, NY Times, Washington Post, most of the Lib-Dems, too many of the Cameroons etc. All of whom urge us to borrow more money to buy ourselves the sustainable, hand-crafted, Fairtrade, low-carbon handcarts they’re taking us to hell in.

No one died – apart from the NOTW

July 9, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been amazed by the response to the NOTW hacking scandal and the media’s reply to it.

Apparently there is nothing worse in this world than hacking into the mobile phone of a murdered schoolgirl. Well, maybe I’m not alone in thinking there could be worse things, such as those where people die not from madmen, but stupidity implemented by government and reinforced by an unthinking media, not just on people who live in faraway countries of which we know nothing. Nor the horrible means of death of young schoolgirls in counties which our own common sense (a sense not common, it seems, with our governing nor media classes) tells us is actually pretty uncommon.

But what I mean is the avoidable, commonplace and equally shocking deaths in places we know where our loved ones, our relatives, our neighbours are. And whose deaths are routinely ignored by a stupid, press-release government and a media whose ignorance borders on the mendacious.

Well, it’s time to be a bit callous here but it needs to be said: Milly Dowler was dead, and as much as you may complain about the NOTW’s actions thence, it didn’t make a lot of difference. She was still dead when the NOTW did what it did. And the police weren’t that much closer to finding her killer when the NOTW did what it did. The police hadn’t actually done a lot, though the NOTW had. Sherlock Holmes would understand, even if the editor of the Observer does not.

What I do think makes a lot of difference is the following story, covered by everyone. You may remember it. What I think is interesting is how quickly the usual suspect news outlets have dropped it. I’ve done a google to see where they might have followed it up:

The BBC. Nope.

The Guardian. Whaddyathink?

The Independent. Uh-uh.

Well, I guess in the wonderful Cameroonie world in which we now live, the hacking of a mobile phone of a tragic young murder victim is more important than the deaths of our grandmothers from lack of water – lack of water! – in our state-funded NHS hospitals. But of course you can’t fault our wonderful NHS.

Nor any drop to drink, indeed.