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European Parliament kills ACTA

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ACTA was shot down today by the European parliament. The protests have been heard and the European Parliament chose to reject this treaty. Good on you members of parliament, good on you.

More info on the rejection of ACTA can be found here.

The legends rise again. Like a bird, on fire!

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Its hard to be objective about these legends of music. KG and JB of Tenacious D have admitted the world before that they are willing to set design official measuring scale for brilliance with every song they make. This new album is no exception. Rize Of The Fenix is an album of exceptional quality which is no surprise with these legends of rock. The obscene vocals and masterful music make this album worthy of following up their previous album.

All worship aside, its really nice to find the album on spotify and soundcloud before the release of it, not many musicians are dedicated enough to their music to do this for their fans. KG and JB also did an Iama on reddit which quickly became one of the most popular AMA’s since some time. They used soundcloud to answer some questions which made a great IAMA even more fun for the fans. Its really worth reading, check it out.

Swing is back, with a bite.

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Recently I have been looking in to indie electronic music. A friend of mine with whom i was talking about this suggested me to give electroswing a try and suggested Caravan Palace. I was pleasantly surprised by the sound of this electroswing phenomenon.  The group is called Caravan Palace and as the name of the genre suggests, they present a modern interpretation to swing music. This leads to a very upbeat kind of music with a distinct retro ring to it.

Caravan Palace recently released their second album, its titled ‘Panic’. Its available on itunes but sadly not available on spotify yet. Thanks for the suggestion Heliophite. You sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.

The Pirate Bay, just a proxy away.

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Hello world, you are surely going to love this one. Remember Geert Wilders who made a website where everyone could spew their hate about strange people from Europe? That website that put the Netherlands on the map as a nation not quite as liberal as it wants everyone to believe? Well that website is still online. Calling out for such blatant hate and discrimination is protected by law in this country. Well ok, i can understand that in some sense. Political freedom is something democracies are big on right? I tend think it is important and i don’t think many people oppose freedom of speech. But where is the same protection when another political party runs a politically motivated website?

Right to free speech and the right to free information are mutually dependent rights. We have no freedom of speech when we are ill-informed, we have no freedom of information when nobody is free to speak. So what is up with taking down a website of a political party that calls up on these rights? Is there a double standard for free speech in the Netherlands, or is the state choosing side with the entertaiment  and the copyright industry? Its not a secret where Brein gets its funding, and whatever Brein claims goes for dutch judges. The piratenpartij tried to protest the summon for the takedown but wasn’t allowed to testify the hearing. Brein however was allowed to supply 20 pages of text to the judge who was in charge of the descision. Is this justice in the Netherlands when it comes to censorship? Hearing only one side, a non-profit organisation backed by entertainment industry, and not the other side, a political party aiming to represent the free people of the Netherlands?While the quality of the verdict is just one side of this story, there is an worse side to it. Not only is the judge siding with the wrong party, the verdict is also noneffective. The verdict forbids mirroring the piratebay on tpb.piratenpartij.nl. Not only has the take-down of the piratebay had no effect at all on the amount of dutch visitors to the site, it contains no summons to take down the general proxies used to mirror the piratebay. In order to keep people informed the pirate party has published a proxies 101 on the link  tpb.piratenpartij.nl, making the verdict about as effective as a drugs are bad campaign in a coffeeshop.

Update 15/4/2012: Brein has summoned the pirate party to remove any links to proxies on their website and has ordered them to block the piratebay from the general proxy they run. The Pirate Party will have to comply or face a € 10.000 fine for every day it is still online. For a political party that is run by volunteers it is very hard to resist such blatant abuse of power. The Pirate Party had to comply in order to continue its exsistance. This abuse of judicial power has lead to an anti-democratic situation where a lobby group like Brein can destroy an entire political party. Brein is waging war on an entire generation and democracy is just collateral damage.

The dutch media, with the exception of some tech sites, have not responded at all to this incident and are not interested in it at all. No political party has responded yet to this situation and it leads the voters of the pirate party out in the cold.

Repairing PR damage, the EA method.

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Electronic Arts is caught up in a PR disaster which involves spambots, lgbt rights and Mass Effect 3. This morning i received an email from allout.org about a new petition that was opened. It states that EA has been targeted by anti gay protest groups, which protest the samesex marriage in  Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars: TOR.  It left me very skeptical.

Electronic Arts is one of the biggest players on the field of video game production. Not many other companies have such a big range of games and so many customers. They managed this by buying succesful game studios and funding their game series until a franchise doesn’t sell anymore. A successful studio will integrate into EA after downsizing, an unsuccessful one will be scrapped. Many fans of specific game franchises became disgruntled after their favorite gamestudios closed down, or suddenly made by a new studio who takes a new direction with it.But this is not the only practise that puts off gamers to buying EA’s products. In 2009 EA was subjected to a protest at the e3 convention about their release of Dante’s Inferno.  This protest, which was made out to look like fundamental christians, was in fact a marketing viral that not many fans, nor christians were appreciative of. EA admitted that the protest was a staged publicity stunt. Recently a former employee has come forward who has shed more light on these kind of marketing practises at EA. They have a staff of 560 people trolling internetforums which contain bad publicity for EA.

Recently the PR problems for EA have been popping up around every game they release. PreOrders of battlefield 3 dropped with the release of the open beta. A lot of canceled pre-orders weren’t properly refunded. For some it took over 2 months to receive their refund. Bugs in mmorpg Star Wars: The Old Republic made it nescesary for bioware employees to use their banhammer liberally leading to many customer care problems afterwards.  Mass Effect 3 was received with a lot of criticism. The day 1 DLC made a lot of fans angry and its endings were a big letdown for many fans of the series.  After handling the complaints from their fans less than gracefully EA was named worst company in Americaby the consumerist last week. All of these incidents made EA realize that a serious PR crisis had dawned and had to be managed.

Which brings me back to the most recent not-soon-to-be-forgotten outrage. The allout.org petition concerning same sex marriage in EA games. Last week there was a picture floating around on social media that EA would use the same sex marriage controversy to improve their damaged image. At first I thought it was just a coincidence. But with the marketing practises of EA in the back of my mind i wasn’t so sure anymore. It wasn’t much later that I learned that large amounts of signatures were generated by spambots. Mike and Nick from North Korea were signing way to often to remain inconspicuous. And people from Jamaica apparently speak JavaScript when signing petitions.

EA has reached a new low in PR management. They not only managed to prove that they don’t take gay rights very seriously, they also damaged allout.org in the process.  I hope Allout.org realizes in time that they are being used by EA to repair PR damage. And that EA is becoming very toxic, destroying everything they touch.

The Netherlands take a new stance in war on drugs.

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The Netherlands used to be a prime example for countries and institutions that advocated legalization. Today the majority of the parliament started legislation against it. Hash will be banned, more coffeeshops are forced to close, existing coffeeshops get a membership system with a limit to the amount of customers and marijuana with more then 15% THC will become illegal.

There are 3 parties who pull the shots. VVD CDA and PVV, they have the majority in the parliament. 2 of those are for totally banning marijuana, the CDA and the PVV. The VVD which historically is a liberal party takes a very conservative stance and also wants to cut down marijuana availability and use in the Netherlands, but not make it totally illegal. The result is that the CDA and PVV can push law after law to restrict coffeeshops further. The CDA wants to close them all and this is working because they dont allow new coffeeshops to be opened and close them down one by one by constructing rules around schools. Coffeeshops may not be within 350 meters of a school, they want to extend this also to different types of schools. This way they can close down coffeeshops without allowing new ones to open.

The new membership is also a way to cut this down, hidden in a way to stop ‘exporting’ marijuana. With the membership they want to stop european citizens buying weed in coffeeshops. But you can only buy 5 grams per person. So banning people from the coffeeshop will result them in going to streetdealers. It just makes the problem harder to control. Also the coffeeshops are limited to 2000 members per shop. With the closing of many coffeeshops due to the new rules about schools, and new ones not being allowed, the CDA and PVV will just have to bide their time and wait until no coffeeshops are left. These parties are in it for criminalizing trees again.

It remains to be seen whether the VVD is caving to international pressure, an argument they often use to defend their conservative stance, or if the pressure is solely from the PVV and CDA. Internationally the group of countries who have decriminalized marijuana is rapidly growing.

The unique dutch method, which has been in place since 1976, is being strangled by this current government. Where the Netherlands used to be the most likely country to legalize it now pushes it further away.

Acta protests continue.

Last weeks protest were quite succesfull. After these protests Germany, Bulgaria and the Netherlands put ACTA on hold in their countries. Bulgaria even came out against ACTA. But the protests go on. The movement is not satisfied yet because ACTA is still on the table for many countries in the EU and this movement seems not to stop until ACTA is stopped.

In a youtube video, which shows the picuteres of protests of 11-02, they call for another protest on 25-02.

Already some protests, like the one in Mannheim, have a doubled the amount of signups compared to the protests of last week but some also have shrunk quite a bit, like the protests of Amsterdam and Dusseldorf. However, with a week to go there is still plenty of time to promote these protests. To find the facebook page of protests near you, you can use this map of the facebook protests pages. For more information on the protests you can visit the Stopp ACTA wiki or contact them on Twitter. If you want to support these protests retweet this information, share it on facebook, hop on omegle and convince a total stranger to go to the protests.

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