30 January 2008

I Often Dream of Trains

An opportunity to hear Robyn Hitchcock is not something to let pass, and when he's playing the Queen Elizabeth Hall - his favourite venue in London, he said - it's even more imperative. I enjoy getting some friends together for the evening almost as much as the event itself: tonight it's Ben Price and Dave Musker, and we meet Chris beforehand so I can give him his tickets for Friday night.

It occurred to me that we were sitting having a drink in exactly the same place that we - Chris Dave and I - experienced an evening of Lol Coxhill, or at least experienced as much as we could take before the nearest pizza restaurant attracted us. We sat and chatted and remembered that evening before eventually taking our seats in the hall, well into the support act's set. Ben had an idea about who was supporting, but he was wrong: I didn't pay much attention until I'd sat down, when I could see that the stage was occupied by a drummer near the front, who seemed to be wearing a military uniform from the American civil war, and two female cellists at least one of them dressed in what appeared to be native American costume.

They had just started a song as we took our seats, and when they had finished it they announced that they'd now play a ten-minute medley of three songs. We'd already been exchanging glances and suppressing laughter, but this was not a prospect we could countenance, so we left again, not for a pizza this time but for the bar, where we passed an agreeable half-hour, much of it debating the law of copyright and its application to parody, before Robyn's imminent appearance on stage was announced.

He appeared alone, and explained - in one of his rare comprehensible introductions - that the songs we had come to hear, which make up one of his albums, owe their origin to a period he spent in Bergen (which he compared to Seattle in that it faces west, has a great deal of rain and is surrounded by pine trees) when he realised he wanted to make a green - I think he said a dark green - album, and first he played a piece that had been listening to at that time - 1982. It turned out to be Roxy Music's More Than This, which I have to say he played and sang delightfully. Terry Edwards and Tim Keegan joined him for most of the following pieces, one or other or both of them. Terry played piano, electronic keyboards, trumpet and soprano sax (shades of Lol Coxhill!), and sang; indeed they all sang Uncorrected Personality Traits a capella.

I kept wondering whether I had the album, which has been re-released in several guises since 1982, but only some of the songs were familiar, such as My Wife and my Dead Wife which he admitted he'd recorded more than once (and which research shows might not be on the album anyway). He finished with an Incredible String Band song, The Yellow Snake, which fitted the programme in the same way as the Roxy Music did at the other end, then a few encores including Queen Elvis.

Then I was off to Paddington, the scene of the title song from the album and therefore of the evening, where it seems he had dreamed of trains on platform 7. My train was from platform 4, and it left at 11.30, so by the time I get home and return to London in the morning I am going to be pretty tired. But it was worth it. As the man beside me at the QEH (like me wearing a suit, but he still sported his work shirt, tie and even tie pin, whereas I had changed into a neo-psychedelic shirt which seemed the right thing) remarked, it brings a smile to your face. A great start to the week, he added, though I prefer to have those on Monday morning rather than Tuesday evening.

Earlier, I'd been exchanging emails and phone calls with a client for whom I was preparing a couple of trade mark applications. After I'd expressed an interest in one of their running vests, I received an invitation to take one of their places in the London 10K in July, which was also extended to colleagues. Within an hour eight of us had signed up. That is certainly the thing I like most about the firm: people are so willing to go in for things like this.

The trouble with trains at this time of night is that they run so slowly. We need to be speeding along at over the ton, but instead we are meandering along at half that rate. We've already had a couple of rather sudden stops, and we've only just reached Slough when we should nearly be in Reading. In addition, the train is pretty full, and many of the passengers are football fans returning (to judge by their attire) from an Arsenal match. They seem good-humoured, and there is no sign of drunkenness, but there's always an element of discomfort when you find yourself in a public place with a group you don't know. Maybe they will all alight at Reading.

Walking to the South Bank this evening, I noted that most of the voices of of other pedestrians I could hear were Russian. I could make out the odd word. They weren't affluent-looking, though come to think if it there were two scruffily-dressed eastern Europeans on the tube last night carrying shopping from some very expensive shops, so clearly appearances may be deceptive and perhaps they deliberately dress down. If I were an oligarch, I probably would too.

Reading at last, and we are only about seven minutes late. At this time of night, at least there will be no congestion at Reading station. But still the train meanders along until, after a couple of false starts, it makes it to Didcot - an hour after leaving Paddington. Under seven hours later, I am once again at the station and so is a gentleman whom I have seen making this journey many times in the last several years - distinguished by his smart but casual dress, jeans and deck shoes, which seem at odds with his age, as he looks a good few years older than me.

27 January 2008

Sunday Morning: Watch out, the world's behind you

Not at all sure what the song means, but it is a lovely tune ...

The world was not behind me today: in fact, I seemed to be at the back most of the time - I joined a club run, scheduled to start from Ardington at 10, actually starting at 10.22: supposed to be 10 miles, turned out to be 13. A glorious day: hard to believe it is still January. Nice company, so essential to a good run, quite a challenging route - some hard climbs, most of which I attacked with gusto, but the last big one reduced me to walking.

I learnt that the Compton 20 and 40 is on this year. I must get my entry in if it fits my schedule. I'll be entering for the 20 though, while keeping open the option of carrying on from there if I can.

25 January 2008

Last Friday of January

21:39 according to my watch, which is a pretty good time by my standards (though I could have done without Chris passing me at about 3K and still being 4 seconds ahead of me at the line). That's 20 seconds faster than last month: the course was back to the normal one, so there wasn't that killer climb to the finish line, but there was a strong headwind for the first half of the race, and somehow it still seemed to be blowing in my face at some points on the second half of the lap.

I chose to run in my regular (red) running shoes rather than the magic green racing ones, and I think the extra spring they gave to my stride more than compensated for the weight. My legs did feel heavy, perhaps indicating that I had run too hard yesterday lunchtime. What am I saying? "Perhaps"? For sure, a hard training session the day before a race is a bad idea, but I do what I can, when I can, and I couldn't find anyone to run with yesterday. Perhaps I didn't ask widely enough, because I passed Liz running the other way, but if I'd run at her habitual pace yesterday I wouldn't even have been able to complete 5K today.

22 January 2008

The Devil's Fishbowl

Two interesting copyright cases involving association football appeared on different updating services yesterday. Both arose from the almost compulsory showing in public houses of television broadcasts of English soccer matches - one of several matters that keeps me away from public houses. I did watch the rugby world cup final on a wide screen TV, though at Sutton United FC's clubhouse rather than in a pub, being there for a Stackridge gig which turned out to have been organised for one of the worst possible evenings of the year, and was irritated by the distortion of picture. Rugby players are often strangely shaped, but why should public wide screens always be set with the wrong aspect ration to they appear almost round?

I digress. Association football might still be referred to as the beautiful game, but (just as the practice of law has changed from being a profession to being a trade) it is driven by the imperatives of business. The rights to broadcast the matches are jealously guarded and bought and sold for such amounts that only Croesus, Rupert Murdoch or one or two others need apply. The broadcasts are transmitted by satellite and may be received by those who have contributed to the treasuries of the broadcasters, their contributions passing to the body that controls the rights (essentially, rights of access to the grounds where the matches are played) and thence in turn, a proportion being retained at each stage, to the football "clubs" (public, or sometimes private, limited companies rather than the cosy membership organisations that the name implies), to the players, and to Bentley Motors (or "BMW", as it is sometimes called).

In among these tsunamis of sterling and other currencies, it is not surprising to find an assortment of bottom-feeders looking for pickings from the rich people's feasts. They might, as in The Football Association Premier League Ltd v QC Leisure and others [2008] EWHC 44 (Ch) (not yet on BAILII), obtain satellite decoder cards "through subterfuge" in a country where they cost less than in the UK (in the instant case, Greece), and sell them to UK publicans, who themselves might then be prosecuted under the criminal provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, in particular section 297(1). It was an appeal by way of case stated against such a conviction that came before the Queen's Bench Division in Karen Murphy v Media Protection Services Ltd [2007] EWHC 3091 - one of the last cases heard by Pumphrey LJ, sitting with Stanley Burton J.

The first of this brace of cases gave rise to a Euro-defence, based on Article 81 of the EC Treaty. The Football Association had sued the defendants in the first two actions (there was also an action in which the defendants were publicans) for breaches of sections 298 and 299 of the 1988 Act, and for authorising and procuring others to copy certain copyright works. The defendants argued that the prohibition on the sale of decoder cards to people outside the broadcaster's territory was based upon or was the consequence of agreements between undertakings or concerted practices and that the prohibition had as its object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition in the common market. The claimant, unimpressed, sought summary judgment.

The FA contended that the seminal judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Case 262/81, Coditel v Cine-Vog [1982] ECR 3381, which case I saw in progress on a visit to the court in about 1980, had decided that the territorial exclusivity of licences of copyright in broadcasts did not offend Article 81. However, the court observed that the contractual provisions at issue in the case before it went beyond the mere grant of an exclusive right. They required the foreign broadcaster to "procure" that non-UK decoder cards were not authorised or enabled by it, or any sub-licensee or distributor, or agent or employee of such persons so that anyone could view the broadcast outside the licensee's territory. The scope of Coditel was narrow, being confined to the grant of an exclusive licence, and it was therefore not determinative of the Euro-defence, about which we can therefore hope to hear more in future proceedings.

As for Ms Murphy, her defence was that, under section 6(4) of the 1988 Act, the place at which the broadcast she picked up was made - where the programme-carrying signals were introduced into an uninterrupted chain of communication - was in Greece, so the offence was not made out. The court declined to follow this logic.

The first thing to do was to identify the programme included in the broadcasting service, then to work out where that broadcasting service was provided from. The initial transmission of the programme for ultimate reception by the public took place at the match in the UK. A broadcasting service was nothing more than a succession of electronic transmissions of visual images, sounds and other information, so what the broadcasting organisation (BSkyB, the FA's exclusive licensee) created those images etc. passed to the FA was itself a broadcast.

As for the mens rea of the offence, it sufficed that the defendant, knowing that the broadcaster had an exclusive territorial licence and was entitled to charge customers a fee to receive the programmes, arranged to receive the broadcasts without paying the fee.

(I can't make a link from the title, so here's the URL I would have linked it to.)

It takes a lot to laugh ...

The train operator - criticised recently for shortcomings in its mathematics, when it calculated the 4.8 per cent increase in the price of season tickets this year and overcharged its "customers" by a reported £140 - has developed a game a little like "Chicken". "Customers" arriving to catch one train - say, the 0711, due to pull in to platform 4 - are advised that it will in fact arrive at 0715. This despite everything the web site showing as being on time earlier, and SMS messages being broadcast announcing, in that phrase coined by their legal department, a "full advertised service". 0715 is close enough to the 0720 from platform 2 (which is not admitted to be late) to create a dilemma.

We stand in the cold on the exposed platform 4, exchanging commuters' war stories to keep our spirits up, and the reported delay creeps inexorably higher. The 0711 is announced, but (at the insistence, no doubt, of the legal department again) only in terms of its being the next train at platform 4. Then the automated announcer heralds the arrival of the 0720, and a vast herd of commuters migrates down the stairs from platform 4, through the tunnel and up again to platform 2, just in time to see a train pull up alongside platform 4.

The 0720 has empty seats, though.

16 January 2008

Faster trade marks? Hardly!

The UK Intellectual Property Office has announced that it will introduce a short-cut to trade mark examination from 7 April this year (although the legal changes, in the form of the Trade Marks (Fees) (Amendment) Rules 2008, will come into force the day before, which is a Sunday). Judging by the reception the idea has received, it should perhaps start on the previous Tuesday.

There will be an additional fee of £300, in return for which the applicant will see their application examined within ten days, where it might take a month or more at present. It's a high price to pay to save perhaps three weeks, but the main problem with the idea - which was also aired when the Gowers Review first floated the idea - is that speeding up the examination will make little difference to the overall time taken to process an application. The largest piece of time involved in the process will still be the three-month opposition period, about which the UK is powerless to do anything short of assembling a qualified majority to change the Directive, a possibility so unlikely that it can safely be ignored.

Add to that the time it will take to deal with oppositions, which will become more numerous following the UK's "privatisation" of the process of dealing with relative grounds for refusal, and £300 to save three weeks out of a process that currently can't take much less than six months is by no means a bargain offer. I don't anticipate many of my firm's clients going for it, and neither (so it seems) do most practitioners.

11 January 2008

Time will show the wiser

I've decided that this is never going to be much of a blawg, especially as I have another outlet for anything to do with law that I want to write, so I'll restrict this blog to what it seems to be already ... and direct you to Consilio where I hope I'll be able to post some interesting stuff. I've written a couple of pieces on the recent consultation on copyright exceptions, the first one of which is up there now, and the second should be soon.

This will also save me having to rack my brain for obscure song titles (which often bear little apparent relationship to the subject) to re-use.

09 January 2008

January Song

I had another posting ready, which not only followed precedent by adopting a song title but quoted the song too - but when I reread it, it was too much of a downer, even by Alan Hull's standards: so I'll keep the title, and point readers to the lyrics. The rant about public transport that it also contained is probably better forgotten, too.

A terrible Bridges Race yesterday, for me at least. It was cold, there was a stiff breeze in our faces on the first section (mysteriously lacking at our backs on the return) and I forgot to use, or carry, my inhaler. My breathing was merely laboured for the race, but after a few minutes hanging around at the finish before setting off to jog back to the office I simply couldn't breathe at all, and had to walk all the way - which I found hard enough. But Ventolin put it right in no time, and in future I'll remember that, at least in cold weather, it's crucial. As if I didn't know that already! (I also wonder whether fuelling up on Red Bull is a good idea - I think the can carries a warning to asthma sufferers.)

17 minutes something, so it could have been worse, and my handicap has been slashed for next month. That's something to look forward to!

07 January 2008

Cogito ergo sum

Yesterday, at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley, Mel challenged me to match her achievement on the Ergo they have there for visitors to play with (note: the admission charge is modest, and if you make it a donation your ticket is valid for a whole year. A single rowing machine does not substitute for an entire gym, of course, and there are no dedicated changing facilities, but at that price this could be an attractive alternative to expensive health club membership). She'd done a kilometre, so I sat down to try to match her speed.

She wandered off disinterestedly, remarking that I'd never make it at the rate I was rowing, and indeed the large lunch I'd recently consumed did handicap me a little. I cut the stroke rate to about 29 (from what, I don't recall) and, while it wasn't comfortable, I got to the km mark in 4:26, climbed off the machine and went to find Mel.

She assumed I had given up short of the distance (hence, presumably, my unexpectedly early appearance): when I told her I had indeed completed it, and what my time was, she had forgotten what she'd done - "4:20-something" was the best she could remember. Then she claimed in mitigation that I am a man, and she's only 15 (to my 51? I don't think that point goes in her favour!). So I'm putting that down as a victory, a little like the way I beat Tom in the Last Friday race last month, which he didn't start.

05 January 2008

Eyes of the World

I promised Nancy I'd get my blog up-to-date, having in mind that she would need to be fully briefed for her return to the office after an outrageously long break since before Christmas. Plus, I discovered that I have installed this excellent add-on to Firefox, called ScribeFire, which looks as if it will allow me to blog without having to go through the rigmarole of logging on to Blogger, and I want to try it out. But what to say? Nothing is happening at work, at least nothing that I could possible expose to public scrutiny. And likewise, most of the other things that have happened recently aren't appropriate for posting here ... Nancy, we need to go for a coffee, or to chat over a run on Tuesday!

Having filled my diary with races for the first four months of 2008, I have an urgent need to intensify my rather laid-back training. So instead of blogging I must get to bed so I can be up and out running bright and early. So that's it for now.


Powered by ScribeFire.

02 January 2008

Passing Ghosts

Rail adhesion problems coming over the Cotswolds have made the train a few minutes late this morning, although this accounts only for the late arrival at Didcot, not the slow running now. A "newsletter" for "customers" is available from racks in the carriages, and I don't recall seeing it before Christmas: it forewarns me of the engineering works at Airport Junction. Or it would, if I'd seen it in time.
New Year's Eve was a strange day. Everyone I spoke to seemed to want 2007 consigned to history as soon as possible. One colleague in particular surprised me by the vehemence of her feelings about it, Charon posted a depressing comment on his blog (but his 2007 has been pretty dire, from what I've heard) and then on the train home I fell into conversation with the young lady sitting beside me and it seemed she felt similarly.
I had been sitting quietly listening to Stackridge and reading RSS feeds on my Blackberry when she had taken the empty seat next to me, and something inside me had reacted badly to this invasion of my personal space. Perhaps it was because, though I couldn't see to judge it, there was no lack of empty seats on this service. The train left some ten minutes late, and a few minutes into the journey she interrupted my listening to ask if I could tell her when we'd arrive at Reading. I told her it should be 25 minutes, she called someone on her mobile to impart this intelligence to them, and I went back to Huntingdon Hall.
The unseasonal grumpiness that seemed to be afflicting me evaporated and a little later I removed my earphones and volunteered the advice that our speed indicated a later arrival at Reading than had seemed likely when she had asked. Before I knew it she was enquiring whether I had any New Year Resolutions, and I realised this was going to be one of those rare encounters that, over the years, have made travelling by rail a far, far better experience than the train operators can be bothered to deliver.
No, I told her, I hadn't made any resolutions. What about her? She rattled off three, which (her anonymity being assured by the fact that I don't know her name, as she discovered she was out of business cards when we reached her stop) were learning to dance, doing voluntary work and (slightly disconcertingly, though she stressed that she regarded this as merely optional) marriage. The first of these prompted me to reclassify as a New Year's Resolution my partly-formed intention to enter the Shakespeare Marathon, which I have now done: I suppose I must resolve also to train properly for it, or (which amounts to the same thing) to aim for 3:30:00. Actually, to aim for under that, remembering that Roger Bannister was not the first to run a four minute mile but the first to run a sub-four minute mile (and who remembers the guy who ran four minutes exactly shortly before that?).
Resolutions count for little in the face of hard reality. On arriving home I learnt that New Year's Day was now set aside for laying a new floor in my mother-in-law's bathroom, at the expense of the club New Year's run (though as it transpired the weather was wet and miserable). As for seeing in the New Year, the rest of the family was either out, abroad or asleep, so as usual it didn't happen: anyway, 2007 had left me too tired to welcome its succesor.