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Archive for September, 2010

Downloading is theft!

Well, I’m going to concentrate this entire blog article on just one aspect of piracy: Australian Law. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll cover the other important issues in a blog another day. But love it, or hate it, p2p filesharing is here to stay, so it seems.

I’m not a lawyer, or an expert on the law, so I only comment on cases. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a case that may be brought before court that is unprecedented – but as we all know for anything where a precedent will be relevant that particular case acts as our “legal advice” as you will.

What exactly is “Piracy”? Well according to some content owners, piracy is content theft. Theft, however, is usually a foreign concept in copyright infringement. At the moment there’s an ad campaign by the IPAF called “accidental pirate”. As per usual a pro-copyright group is trying to push the idea that copyright carries limitless rights. We’ll investigate this shortly.

Firstly, let’s talk a little bit about legal history. In 1987 Hanimex was a prominent blank cassette tape manufacturer. They ran ads which implied that “your recordings will last longer” with their product. A case was brought against them by WEA International, claiming that Hanimex was encouraging (or authorising) their customers to use their product for copyright infringement. At the conclusion of the case the Judge found in favour of the defendant. Sound familiar? It should. WEA International Inc v Hanimex Corp Ltd is strikingly similar to AFACT v iiNet, which was concluded in February this year in the High Court.

In May 2001, Warner Home Video attempted to introduce the “Retail Only” DVD in Australia. They printed “this disc is not for rental” on their retail DVD’s. They claimed they had every right to do so under the Copyright Act. As you would well be aware, Rental/Lending/Borrowing/Re-Sale is a secondary market, not a primary market. That is to say, what right do they have to tell you what you can and can’t do with a product you purchased? Well as you can imagine this pissed off the Australian Video Retailers Association (AVRA) and they took Warner to court over it, and ultimately following the Australian Video Retailers Association Ltd v Warner Home Video Pty Ltd High Court case Warner was forced to turn their “retail only” DVD’s into landfill. In February 2002 Warner again attempted to introduce the “retail only” DVD’s, this time claiming they had the authority under contract law (rather than copyright law). This time Warner settled with AVRA instead. Now this isn’t relevant to this blog, but Warner did eventually introduce two-tier pricing by releasing the rental version at an exuberant cost to retailers months before releasing retail.

Now, let me put this into legalistic perspective. As content owners they control the legal distribution (sales) to the point where it is actually illegal for retailers to import competing products from overseas publishers (although it is legal for CDs). Not being satisfied with this, Warner felt they were entitled to control the rental and borrowing market – a secondary market! That’s right, they don’t think you or I have the right to borrow/lend or rent retail products to others! Let alone the right to copy it!!

Roadshow Films Pty Ltd & Ors, better known as AFACT, attempted to bring a case against iiNet in the Federal Court of Australia, which was concluded in February this year in favour of iiNet. Many internet commentators have missed the point of this case entirely, some wrote before the fact that “iiNet would loose” others claimed it was a “landmark case”. Well, not really, no. You see, no one has ever been brought before a court for the “crime” of downloading and/or uploading (without profit) unlicensed copyrighted content on the internet.

AFACT’s argument was that iiNet should monitor their customer’s usage, and where they discover copyright infringement has taken place – or have been made aware that such an infringement has taken place – they should deliver a warning to the customer on the first offence and then disconnect the customer’s usage after the second offence. They further claimed that it was iiNet’s responsibility to do so as downloading illegal content is against their own Terms of Service.

Common sense tells you two things: number one, a company’s “terms of business” are theirs to enforce – or not enforce – in any way they see fit, there’s no obligation under their own terms to disconnect every single customer that breaks them, especially when they may prefer to keep the customer and hence keep getting paid by the customer. Secondly, it would be presumptuous and irresponsible of iiNet to disconnect users who download illegally when no court case has ever been brought against anyone for this “crime”. As there is no legal precedent to consider, why should iiNet punish users so harshly? Why would it be in their interests to do so? Surely if AFACT had a case to make they would make it against individual Australian users, right?

Common sense also tells you that customers would get pissed off by getting sued themselves by AFACT, and would be as a result less likely to purchase their products if the industry was behaving in such a menacing and forceful manner.

Music Industry Piracy Investigations general manager Sabiene Heindl said “Today’s Federal Court decision suggests that copyright owners broadly may have no choice but to sue individuals for illegal file-sharing. This would be a most unfortunate outcome.” Unfortunate? That you have to sue the person who’s actually infringing on your copyright? Really! Do you see landlords being sued by angry neighbours of their tenants? Or do they sue the tenant? Do the angry neighbours go and sue the Bank who holds the mortgage and demand that they discipline their client?

In conclusion I want to say this. The DVD format was supposedly designed for PC playback (PowerDVD predates the release of the format in Australia) yet it doesn’t use square pixels, and the PC does, it employs interlacing and telecine where such formats are unnecessary and unhelpful for PC playback as well as speed changes in the case of 24fps->25fps or 25fps->23.976fps. The most common video format in torrents is MPEG4 – that is DivX, XviD, etc; formats that are actually more compatible and work better with computers rather than with TV’s. The industry has had ample time to embrace this market, and has instead met it with “Bluray Disc” which – although it offers HD content – does not work as well or easily on computers as DivX, etc, and is designed in such a way as to make the product itself unduplicatible; while “pirates” are happy to convert into more “friendly” formats (DivX, etc).

Filesharing is simply a reality. It doesn’t infringe on copyright in an actionable manner, and the industry is doing themselves no favours by fighting it so hard. Don’t ever forget: they introduced region coding into DVD’s in order to prevent people from buying competing products; and then complained when they stated downloading competing products illegally on the internet! On what authority? Are they mad? After they tried to stop us purchasing competing products???

Authorship of the Gospels

Introduction.

Firstly let me welcome you to this blog entry, whatever faith you may or may not have. I’m going to be discussing the authorship of the Synoptic Gospels in this entry, and while we’re not going to have a detailed look as to their authenticity, that will be briefly touched on as its required by this discussion. So let me just say that I’m not making assumptions about when they were written; it is clearly provable that Luke wrote his Gospel no later than 63AD, but we’ll get to that later.

Some of you may never have read the Bible before or even know what its contents include. The Protestant Christian Bible is a book which contains every book of Scripture that the Jews agree on for the Tanakh – which we call the “Old Testament”, and it includes each and every New Testament book canonized by the early Christians. What it does not contain is the Apocrypha which is found in the Septuagint, but which the Catholic Church accepts as Scripture. This is a discussion for another day.

There are Four Gospels in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each is named after their author. Only two of the authors – Matthew Levi and John the Apostle were eye-witnesses of Christ, and in fact were disciples of Christ (one of the 12). John wrote other New Testament books, and his Gospel is the most unique of the three, and was written last.

The other three Gospels are known as the Synoptic Gospels. So named because they share much of their content in common. In fact, almost all of Mark can be found in Matthew, and over three quarters of it is found in Luke. The content that is found in all three is referred to as the “triple tradition” and the content that is found between any two of the three is a “double tradition”.

There have been many theories as to why this is the case, and the newest is now a couple of hundred years old, is the two-source theory that holds that Matthew and Luke used two common sources to compile their Gospels. It is now held that because some of the accounts in the double-tradition between the two Gospels are so close, and in times are word-for-word, that that source had to have been a written source, and “Source Q” is the name given to this theoretical source that would have been (primarily) a sayings Gospel. I, however, do not subscribe to this theory, despite it being the most popular, I belong to the second-most popular theory, which will be explained later.

There is more which needs to be considered than just documental analysis. That can only tell you so much. This isn’t the case of a teacher being given three different essays from three different students and then having to work out who plagiarized from who, there are clues as to which Gospel came first and there is an abundance of historical information to consider. Any acceptable theory needs to account for historically verified facts and information. For instance, the fact that there is not a shred of evidence for Q is one major reason to be sceptical of its existence. Also, Matthew’s Gospel was accepted by the early Church on the basis that it was by Matthew Levi; if we don’t know who the author was then we can’t be sure of Biblical authenticity in this instance. This is a fact ignored by those Christians who put the case for Mark’s Gospel being the first; because it then means we don’t know who the real author of Matthew’s Gospel is.

The Evidence

The first thing we have to consider is the Synoptic Puzzle; nearly all of Mark is found in Matthew, and two thirds of it is found in Luke. Less than 1% of Luke’s Gospel is found only in Mark and Luke and not Matthew. This is the smallest of the “double traditions”. About 1/10th of Matthew’s Gospel is a double tradition with Mark’s Gospel and the double tradition between Matthew and Luke is over twice the size, comprising about 1/4 of each Gospel. Furthermore a substantial amount of Luke is unique to Luke (more than a third) and a substantial amount of Matthew is unique to Matthew (about a fifth).

Any acceptable explanation needs to be able to account for the double-traditions as well as the triple tradition. Any explanation to be valid must also agree with the historical evidence, as well as explain why both Luke and Matthew have substantial sections not found in any other Gospel.

On this basis we can test the validity of the “Source Q” theory, since it is essentially required by the modern two-source theory. Q is a theorized Gospel that would be primarily made up of Jesus’ sayings. There isn’t any tangible evidence for the existence of such a document (besides the fact that the Gospel of Thomas demonstrates that such documents did exist). In contrast there is abundant information about the Gospel of the Hebrews, even though it no longer exists. There is so much information about it that we know exactly how long it was, we know what a lot of its content was as it was quoted throughout the early centuries by writers, and we also know that Matthew Levi wrote it.

When did he write it? Why was it rejected as scripture? Well both these answers seem to be that 1. it was written very early in Church century (before 40AD) and 2. it was a “rough” version containing information that Matthew had been given that was ultimately incorrect (such as the account of Jesus’ baptism which disagrees with all other versions and which Matthew himself was certainly not present at). In fact there’s no way to know for certain how long it was between Jesus’ baptism and when he called the disciples. The Gospel of the Hebrews was, in my opinion, undoubtedly written before the spread of the Gospel to the Greeks/Gentiles in 39-40AD and beyond, and for the main part it was the basis of the Gospel of Matthew. Yet, even though there are some 2nd century Christians who believed the Greek Gospel was actually translated by someone other than Matthew from the Gospel of the Hebrews, modern scholars do not believe that the Gospel of Matthew is a translation. This can only mean that Matthew himself wrote the Gospel of Matthew. If this was not the case, then Matthew can only be a third-generation document (Gospel of the Hebrews –> Gospel of Mark –> Gospel of Matthew)! This fact is ignored by scholars who favour the two-source argument!

The (virtually) unanimous view of scholars today is that the author of Matthew was a Jewish Christian. The (virtually) unanimous view of scholars today is that the authors of Mark and Luke were Gentile Christians!

Luke wrote his Gospel to a gentleman named Theophilus, and his Gospel ends with the Ascension of Christ. Luke then went on to write the Book of Acts, to the same person (Theophilus) beginning at the Ascension, it’s a narrative of the early Christian church and ends with Paul under house arrest. Yet Paul was released from house arrest in AD 63, which strongly suggests that Luke wrote the book of Acts prior to this event. As the book of Acts mentions the fact that Luke already wrote the Gospel, we can further surmise that the Gospel of Luke was written AD 62.

Making Sense and Drawing a Conclusion.

I want to point out that Jesus predicts the fall of the Jewish temple in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matt 24, Luke 21, Mark 13), and this event did not happen until AD 70, some 40 years (or thereabouts) after Jesus had died. Yet it is clearly proven beyond doubt that Luke wrote his Gospel to Theophilus before AD 63. There are some so-called scholars who will argue that the Gospels could not have been written prior to AD 70 because of this prediction; although their argument is only required if you deny the ability of Christ to foretell the future.

It’s believed that John Mark had the assistance of Simon Peter (a disciple of Christ) when he wrote his Gospel. This is from accounts of the early Church affirming this. It’s entirely possible that he and Peter surmised Matthew’s Gospel. It does not disagree with historical information, unlike the other theories.

The Gospel of Luke was either written in AD 62, or shortly before. It is not historically possible for Luke to have written it at any other time. Luke was a companion of Paul. If he mentions Paul is under house arrest in Acts but doesn’t mention his release (AD 63) or his death (AD 67) then Acts was written before the fact, yet after the events that he closes his Gospel with (AD 62). Yes, some so-called scholars will disagree, but the facts are clear. If you’re going to disagree with history you can’t really call yourself a scholar anyway. Don’t forget that it seems that Paul regarded Luke’s Gospel quite highly. I find it interesting how some scientists will claim that science and religion are in perpetual disagreement, while there’s no such conflict between the Bible and History.

Simon Peter was crucified in 67 AD, so of course John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark sometime prior to that date. Most Scholars agree that Mark was written 1-5 years before AD 60. The overwhelming majority of Scholars believe that Luke made use of Mark’s Gospel in completing his. There is no problem with this, because it’s not generally viewed that Mark or Matthew could have or would have used Luke’s Gospel in authoring theirs; which ultimately means we can be fairly confident that in 62 the last of the Synoptic Gospels was written.

Before we try and figure out which Gospel came first – Matthew or Mark – we need to establish some further historical information. The attribution of the Gospel of Matthew to the disciple Matthew the tax collector, known as Levi who was an eye-witness of Christ, is the strongest evidence that Matthew’s Gospel came first. But consider for a moment if Mark’s Gospel came first (as supposed by the Source Q theory). If this had been the case then none of the three Synoptic Gospels were written by an eyewitness of Christ; if this is the case where is the very important document that was written by an eye-witness?

With this in mind consider…

If Luke and Matthew made use of Mark’s Gospel plus “Source Q” then why is there a large amount of Luke (about 1/3rd) that is unique to Luke? Surely if Matthew copied almost all of Mark he would have also copied almost all of “Source Q” as well. It would be inconsistent of him not to. Yet if Matthew and Luke both used Mark and Source Q, then Matthew used about 55% of Source Q (if you were to suppose that Luke contains all the information in such a document not found in Matthew)! The proposed solution is that Matthew gave more weight to Mark than Q, and Luke gave more weight to Q than Mark! If that’s not conjecture and assumption, nothing is!

I haven’t discussed the wording of the Synoptic Gospels much, other than to point out that Scholars do not find evidence of translation. This supposes that “Q” would have to be a Greek sayings collection, and therefore it couldn’t have been the Gospel of the Hebrews. The wording of Mark and Matthew regarding the “Triple Tradition” is quite close, and therefore the reason why scholars who favour the “Source Q” theory say that Matthew used Mark primarily and relied less on Q, and that Luke did the opposite. Yet, Luke still manages to get in some passages where he agrees with Matthew’s wording over Mark’s in the Triple Tradition. He could only have achieved such a feat if he had already seen Matthew’s Gospel. To suppose that Matthew and Luke could independently copy Mark and both make exactly the same wording changes is utterly ridiculous!

The biggest problem with the Source Q theory remains that it is only theoretical. There is absolutely no historical evidence supporting its existence; it only “exists” in Matthew and Luke. There is not a single fragment of it found in any other writings. No one mentioned its existence.

The ideas that are pushed – especially by non-Christians – that Matthew and Mark were written AFTER the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70AD fail to recognize the fact that the Gospel accounts only have Jesus’ prediction in them; they do not mention the destruction of the temple as having occurred. This is the strongest evidence that the destruction of the Jewish temple had not yet happened, besides the sure and certain fact that Luke wrote Acts in AD 62-63. Jesus knew that it would because he is divine and can prophecy the future; Matthew and Mark didn’t need to understand the prophecy to faithfully record it in their Gospels.

I’ve read the view by misinformed individuals who quote Papias as claiming that Matthew wrote a sayings Gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic which could well have been “Source Q”. Papias was probably talking about the Gospel of the Hebrews since we know it existed and was by Matthew. Origen, distinguished early 3rd century theologian, said that Matthew’s Gospel was the first Gospel account to be written, and that it was written in Hebrew. And then finally Eusebius wrote that Matthew first wrote his Gospel in Hebrew and after the Church began to grow especially to the gentiles (Greeks) he authored it in Greek for early Greek Christians. All of the historical information we have about this Gospel fits with it being written very early, and in fact even before the Church had started welcoming in gentiles. Since the earliest known gentile to be converted to Christianity was Cornelius in Acts 10 probably in about 39-40AD, we can surmise that the Gospel of the Hebrews was most likely written before AD 50. Further historical writings all tell us it was composed in the very early Church.

Finally, if Q was so important, so significant, regarded so highly, then where is it? Scholars, that believe in it, believe that it was “written in stages”. They also reject the possibility of a single Biblical New Testament book being “written in stages”. We can surmise that any book “written in stages” would have been rejected as Scripture by the early Church. Yet if it was indeed “written in stages” why would it have been regarded highly ONLY by Matthew and Luke? In closing, in his opening Luke clearly states that he considered several sources when compiling his Gospel, any two-source theory would suppose that when Luke said that he really meant “two sources”!