Anything the Americans can do, we can do better – the Irish SOPA

Last week there was an online protest over a piece of American legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  It’s a particularly draconian piece of legislation and it’s been thankfully shelved. also took part in the blackout.  A lot of people thought this was just bandwagoning, but there was actually an Irish slant.

Due to pressure from the music industry, Sean Sherlock, Minister of State for Research and Innovation, will be signing a statutory instrument which will bring in an Irish equivalent of SOPA.  TJ McIntyre has an excellent FAQ on why this is really bad and isn’t just something that a few internet nerds are getting riled up about.

I’m not hugely politically, but this is something that won’t just disappear of its own accord.  I encourage anyone who has an interest in not being put under the kosh by vindictive music corporations contact Sean Sherlock (via his website or at as I have and register you displeasure.  You could also email your local TD.  there is a full list of email address available on

If you do contact any TDs about this, please be polite and not a rabid internet monkey.  That never does anyone any good.  I’ve included what I sent as an example.

Dear Mr. Sherlock,

I wish to register my disappointment as a life long labour voter at
the implementation of a biased, poorly thought out and harmful piece
of legislation via a statutory instrument which would allow Irish
courts to block access to websites accused of infringing copyright.

This will do nothing to prevent piracy and everything to stifle the
internet and all the business that go along with it – especially ones
the music industry finds particularly disruptive.

Have you consulted anyone at all from the Irish (or international)
technology industry about this? Has it been explained to you how easy
this sort of thing is to circumvent? How the media industry has used
similar laws in the US as blunt instruments to silence critics?

What protections will be put in place to stop vexatious takedown
attempts? What compensation will unjustly accused and shut down sites
receive? What is the level of proof that will be required?

It’s an utter disgrace that a Minister of State for Research and
Innovation will be ruining the best chance this country has for
building its economy back up again. The government talks enough about
the knowledge economy – maybe it should take heed from those who
actually understand the internet and its working than protectionist,
luddite, control freak corporations.

Mr McIntyre lays out exactly what is wrong with the law as proposed in
a recent blog post:

Yours sincerely,

Update 12/3/2012:
A canned response from Seán Sherlock hit my inbox a few minutes ago:

A Chara,

I would like to update you regarding the enactment of the European Union (Copyright and Related Rights) Regulations 2012.

I fully acknowledge the concerns that have been expressed by you regarding the introduction of the European Union (Copyright and Related Rights) Regulations 2012 which were signed into law on 29th February, 2012. I wish to re-emphasise that it has been necessary to introduce this legislative measure to restate the position that was thought to exist in the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 regarding injunctions against intermediaries prior to the High Court Judgement of Justice Charleton in the case of EMI & others –v- UPC and to ensure that Ireland is compliant with our obligations under EU law.

I am satisfied that the High Court now has significant guidance in the implementation of this legislative measure arising from the underpinning EU Directives, as interpreted by the recent Court of Justice of the European Union case law, to ensure that any remedy provided will uphold the following principles:

• Freedom to conduct a business enjoyed by operators such as ISPs;
• The absolute requirement that an ISP cannot be required to carry out general monitoring on the information it carries on its network;
• Any measures must be fair and proportionate and not be unnecessarily complicated or costly;
• The fundamental rights of an ISPs’ customers must be respected, namely their right to protection of their personal data and their freedom to receive or impart information.

I am determined to ensure that Ireland will be a premier location where innovation can flourish and where innovation is facilitated by our copyright laws and data protection regime. In this regard, I am committed to reviewing and updating the Copyright legislation currently in place in order to strike the right balance between encouraging innovation and protecting creativity.

In this context, I am particularly anxious that the Consultation Paper of the Copyright Review Committee, which was launched on 29th February, 2012, is carefully studied by all interested parties to stimulate a constructive and well informed debate on these issues. This is a wide-ranging Consultation Paper which examines the current copyright legislative framework to identify any areas of the legislation that might be deemed to create barriers to innovation. The Consultation Paper is available to download at the following link:

I would like to encourage the deepest engagement by all interested parties in the consultation process which has been launched in order to stimulate a constructive and well informed debate on all of the issues raised in this rapidly evolving area.

I am confident that the work being carried out by the Copyright Review Committee together with the interaction and input of all of the interested parties will result in establishing Irish copyright law on a firm footing to encourage innovation, foster creativity and meet the challenges of the future with confidence.

Yours sincerely,

Seán Sherlock TD
Minister for Research and Innovation

Another Six Months of iPhone App Stats

It’s been six months since my last post on download stats for my apps, so it’s time for an update. Again, this is as much to have the stats somewhere for when I want them as talking about them. The following are the downloads and updates from the 4th of July 2011 to the 1st of January 2012 with some commentary on the apps.
Downloads: 713 (up 19 on previous 26 weeks)
Updates: 2,424 (3 updates released)
I’ve already posted about the performance of the app in and around budget week. Apart from that week, it trundles along with a few downloads every day. I’m expecting a slight uptick in downloads for January since people will want to check their pay slips. The app still has an edge over its paid competitors as it is the only one that handles the 2012 tax year.
Downloads: 5,014 (up 684 on previous 26 weeks)
Updates: 90 (no updates released)
This app has been holding its own with it being my most downloaded app pretty much every day (only beaten once by and once by Pint of Plain). There’s been a few surges in popularity, for example when adverts were first introduced to the desktop site and another over Christmas when people got iPhones as presents. Its popularity though is all down to the content rather than it being a particular good app.

It does need a refresh and a couple of bug fixes, but finding the time to do them and test it properly is problematic. Maybe I’ll get a chance to breath this year and get around to it.

Pint of Plain
Downloads: 1,928 (down 661 on previous 26 weeks)
Updates: 1,975 (1 update released)
The main reason for the single update made to the app in the last 6 months was to switch from just serving ads from iAd to using the MoPub service. It’s not worked out great for me as I just don’t serve the volume of ads needed to make anything from them. The ads are a bit annoying so I may just take them out again completely.

Like Broadsheet, the app saw a noticeable jump in downloads on Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day.
Downloads: 571 (down 719 on previous 26 weeks)
Updates: 29 (no updates released)
This app really doesn’t get the love it deserves. However, it’s still getting a bit of interest with a handful of downloads each day. You can always tell when Darren’s just done a wedding as there’s a small spike in the downloads. With a relaunch of the website planned soon, there will probably be a refresh of the app to match.

My main disappointment with the app though is that no one has actually used it to buy a print. Whether this is a problem with how the purchase system works or just that people rather ringing up and talking directly to Darren about them I don’t really know. Still, I do really like how the frame selection works.

I didn’t get to release anything new in the last six months, but I have a couple of ideas percolating that might actually see the light of day soon. It’d be nice to talk about something other than the same four apps.

Apple released their auto-injest tool over the summer and since the 1st of September, I’ve been recording the app download stats locally. This will make posts like this a bit easier since my tool scrapes both of my accounts and presents the lot at once.

Science fiction books to read in 2012

The Irish Times published a list of books to read in 2012 but like many of these sort of things, left out my preferred genre science fiction.  So here I present (in no particular order) some of the books I’m looking forward to in the next year.

The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross
The fourth book in the Laundry series sees Stross returning his occult version of MI5. The mix of James Bond spy antics with Cthulhu mind-bending horrors always works for me.

Railsea by China Miéville
A riff on Moby Dick set on a train traveling across a sea of rails. His books are always full of superb ideas that would be justified being spun out to stories themselves.

Blue Remembered Earth (Hardback|Kindle) by Alastair Reynolds
While I’d normally avoid buying parts of trilogy (this is the first book of Poseidon’s Children), I’ll probably make an exception here as it looks like the books are only loosely interlinked.  There’s one of those odd video trailers for it if you like that sort of thing.

Update: this was released on the 19th of January.

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
A story of child soldiers in a dystopian civil war wracked America.  Bacigalupi is still relatively new on the scene, but he’s been producing consistently good work from the off.

Intrusion (Hardback|Kindle) by Ken MacLeod
Another near-future dystopia story.  While I’d like to see another singularity type story from him, his 20 minutes in the future stuff is well worth a read.

Update: this was released on the 1st of March

Any other suggestions?