Travis, mate! Bet365 has kicked me out!

Travis, cobber! You told me that the final whistle is never the final whistle. That the turnstiles would never stop turning. That the cheering goes on forever. That we were part of something big.

Travis Fimmel's image projected onto a stadium

Travis enjoying a nil-all draw between two failed states, probably.

But I’ve been shut out, Travis! What did I do wrong?

A message in the Bet365 mobile site

I need to charge my phone.

Could it be a mistake, Travis? Here is the complete list of bets I placed in my last six months:

A list of bets placed on Bet365

I did OK, but I’m no David Walsh.

I messaged Bet365 and had no response. I called them up but the service rep wouldn’t answer my questions:

“The only thing I can say is that your account was subjected to a full review, it was a management decision to place the restriction, and we can provide you with no further information.”

What does this mean, Travis? There’s a hint in the Bet365 terms and conditions:

4.2 bet365 reserves the right to close or suspend your account at any time and for any reason.

“Any reason” in this case seems to be that I won more money than I lost. Staking $380 over six months for a return of $1257 makes me an unacceptable punter.

Here’s what I reckon, Trav:

  • If you have an online gambling account that hasn’t been closed or severely restricted, the company believes you are a loser.
  • It must be hard to win big with the types of bet I’ve been restricted to. That might explain why sports multis are advertised so heavily – they’re hard to win consistently and appeal to the most casual gamblers.
  • Independent bookies are obliged to bet to lose a certain amount (which could be around $1000-$5000 depending on the venue), while these corporates can do as they please. We grant these companies licences that allow them to fleece us without their having to take much risk in return. That’s inconsistent at best, and pokies-level shameful at worst.

I’m not complaining, Travis. Bet365 had the right to cut me off, and I knew it – I’d heard the stories and wanted to see it for myself. The governments that grant licences under such terms ought to pull their bloody socks up, though. And the next time you’re projected onto a building would you let your fellow members know that they’re being treated like mugs?

London 2012 medal tally by use of capital punishment

At the end of the Olympic Games, people like to play around with medal tallies ordered or weighted in a variety of (dis)interesting ways. Here’s mine:

Country has death penalty Gold Silver Bronze
No 192 211 254
Yes 110 93 102

The part of the world that does not legally kill its citizens is victorious! So, is removing an archaic form of justice the secret to Olympic success? It’s not quite that simple. The top two nations in the general tally are also in this illustrious list:

Country with DP Gold Silver Bronze
United States 46 29 29
China 38 27 22
Japan 7 14 17
Cuba 5 3 6
Iran 4 5 3
North Korea 4 0 2
Ethiopia 3 1 3
Belarus 2 5 5
Uganda 1 0 0
India 0 2 4
Thailand 0 2 1
Egypt 0 2 0
Indonesia 0 1 1
Malaysia 0 1 1
Botswana 0 1 0
Qatar 0 0 2
Singapore 0 0 2
Afghanistan 0 0 1
Bahrain 0 0 1
Kuwait 0 0 1
Saudi Arabia 0 0 1
Total 110 93 102

The USA and China give the off-with-their-heads mob it a great start, but they can’t compete with the sheer number of little-nations-that-could in this enlightened tally:

Country without DP Gold Silver Bronze
Great Britain 29 17 19
Russian Federation 24 25 33
South Korea 13 8 7
Germany 11 19 14
France 11 11 12
Italy 8 9 11
Hungary 8 4 5
Australia 7 16 12
Kazakhstan 7 1 5
Netherlands 6 6 8
Ukraine 6 5 9
New Zealand 6 3 5
Jamaica 4 4 4
Czech Republic 4 3 3
Spain 3 10 4
Brazil 3 5 9
South Africa 3 2 1
Croatia 3 1 2
Romania 2 5 2
Kenya 2 4 5
Denmark 2 4 3
Azerbaijan 2 2 6
Poland 2 2 6
Turkey 2 2 1
Switzerland 2 2 0
Lithuania 2 1 2
Norway 2 1 1
Canada 1 5 12
Sweden 1 4 3
Colombia 1 3 4
Georgia 1 3 3
Mexico 1 3 3
Ireland 1 1 3
Argentina 1 1 2
Serbia 1 1 2
Slovenia 1 1 2
Tunisia 1 1 1
Dominican Republic 1 1 0
Trinidad and Tobago 1 0 3
Uzbekistan 1 0 3
Latvia 1 0 1
Algeria 1 0 0
Bahamas 1 0 0
Grenada 1 0 0
Venezuela 1 0 0
Mongolia 0 2 3
Slovakia 0 1 3
Armenia 0 1 2
Belgium 0 1 2
Finland 0 1 2
Bulgaria 0 1 1
Chinese Taipei 0 1 1
Estonia 0 1 1
Puerto Rico 0 1 1
Cyprus 0 1 0
Gabon 0 1 0
Guatemala 0 1 0
Montenegro 0 1 0
Portugal 0 1 0
Greece 0 0 2
Moldova 0 0 2
Hong Kong 0 0 1
Morocco 0 0 1
Tajikistan 0 0 1
Total 192 211 254

The source for the tally is ScraperWiki, and the source for the capital punishment stats is Wikipedia. I’ve given some countries the benefit of the doubt by including those who have “abolished in practice” on the side of no death penalty.

It’s been fun! See you again in Sochi 2014. I love the ski jump.

Australian copyright law is ridiculous

For a number of years it was illegal for an Australian to tape the footy and watch it later. At one time it was also illegal to copy music from a CD and onto an iPod. This sort of innocuous activity (known as format-shifting) was eventually permitted by amendments to the Copyright Act 1968. Mostly.

By Schedule 6, Part 2 of the Copyright Amendment Act 2006, “Reproducing copyright material in different format for private use”, the following activities are allowed:

  • “Recording broadcasts for replaying at more convenient time” (such as taping the footy)
  • “Reproducing works in books, newspapers and periodical publications in different form for private use” (such as photocopying an article)
  • “Reproducing photograph in different format for private use” (scanning a hard-copy photo or printing out a digital photo)
  • “Copying sound recordings for private and domestic use” (ripping a CD onto an iPod)
  • “Copying cinematograph film in different format for private use” (coping a film from a VHS tape onto a DVD)

There is a glaring omission here – films on DVD and BD (blu-ray disc) are not mentioned. It’s still illegal to copy a film from a commercial DVD to another format or to another disc, even solely for your own use. If you have a portable video player (like an iPod or an iPhone) it’s illegal for you to rip films onto it. You are legally bound to watch the film through a DVD player.

Parents with young children might think to create a backup of their Spongebob Squarepants DVD, hiding the purchased copy safely out of the way lest their kids accidentally scratch or snap it. Some people may own home theatre PCs, and would like to copy their DVDs to its hard drive, allowing them to browse and play their entire collection from one location. Unfortunately, these are both illegal. When we buy a film on DVD we buy the right to watch it only via that DVD.

The law obviously recognises the value of format-shifting. It understands that there ought to be exceptions to copyright – for reasons of convenience, practicality, or protection of works – as long as it doesn’t hurt the copyright holder. It acknowledges that private use does not adversely affect the copyright holder’s capacity to make a buck (as might be the case if you were to sell bootleg copies). The law therefore allows us to put songs on our iPods, and I can’t see why it should be any different with DVDs or BDs. Surely the same principle should apply?

Perhaps it has something to do with the support that Apple’s iTunes enjoys from numerous music labels, and the lack of an equivalent service for films. One suspects that we wouldn’t have been allowed to rip CDs, either, if not for the existence of iPods.

It’s certainly not an oversight, because the Act drives the point home. DVDs and BDs often include some kind of digital rights management (DRM), to prevent us from copying our own discs. In Schedule 6, Part 2, Subdivision F of the Copyright Amendment Act 2006, “removing or altering electronic rights management information” is listed as in indictable offence (unless you have the permission of the copyright holder). Not only do the film studios block people from copying their films for private use, the Act gives their DRM mechanisms legal protection.

The difference between the private use rights of CDs and DVDs is inexplicable. My conclusion is that copyright law (or parts of it) is dictated by the big players in the film and music industries. In the words of a friend, “the people with the money and intent write the laws.” This is an unfortunate situation. Copyright exists to protect innovation, not to ensure that media conglomerates can sell the same person the same work again and again and again.

A reasonable person would have no moral or ethical problem with format-shifting media they’ve already bought. The Act itself acknowledges this by the way it treats CDs. That the same principle hasn’t been applied to other forms of optical media is disgraceful, as it suggests that film studios had their hands in the legislation.

For more information check out the fact sheets provided by the Australian Copyright Council.