Sunday, 28 February 2010

Earthquakes and Songs

The Haiti earthquake was 7.0 and look what that was like. I notice that the charity song is available via pirate bay. Last year there was a 6.3 quake in Italy which also spawned a selebrity charity song. That one also had an infringing copy released - but in that case the authorities charged the original uploaders with copyright infringement. Probably the 8.8 quake in Chile will also get it own fundraising single. Infringing copies will still be made.

Clearly there is an argument here that downloading an infringing copy instead of buying it deprived the victims of some measure of relief effort funding. However, this is only part of the stated purpose of the release - it is also supposed to help raise awareness of the disaster (as if) and we suspect it is also supposed to raise the profile of the participants. The argument only has merit insofar as it can be shown that the availability of the infringing copies has negatively impacted fundraising.

Are we really all so heartless that we will get a copy and not donate to the charity by other means? It is possible to donate to the charities online after all. In fact, the most popular torrent includes on the same page a full credit, production details, and an exhortation to donate at a named website. The torrents provided by people who overlook this sort of detail are riddled with comment about how immoral this is.

Since infringing copies are inevitable, the consciousness raising (advertising) part gains in importance. How hard would it be to include in the audio track this track was recorded to raise funds for Disaster Relief, please give generously at - possibly in the artists voices too?

The track redistribution licence could explicitly ask for only verbatim copying and that text advising of the charity should be included. I don't see anyone objecting and people who may not otherwise donate may be encouraged give a little bit.

People using these events to scream about how copyright infringement hurts everyone should consider the realpolitik of marketing. You deal with the market how it is rather than how you want it to be, and you don't fight the tide: it is always stronger.

Meantime the full extent human tragedy in Chile is still unknown.

Early reports are more confusing than helpful - especially from the USA. We are told that the quake is amongst the biggest ever - which is easy to say but hard to put meaning to. It's in the top ten. In fact it would be the 6th-equal largest anywhere in the last 100 years, equal to another one in Chile in 1906. The largest was 9.5, which was also in Chile.

In the last day (24 hours till 2am today) Chile had about 100 serious seismic events (5.0 or bigger), some as high as 6.3, most of them in Bio-Bio and this does not count the big one. Salta, Argentina, also got a large quake (6.3) same day. The last one in Salta was 1948, which measured 7.0.

So we are looking at a pretty seismically active part of the world. If you look at the quake distributions globally you can see it is typical for the pacific rim. That includes us - we are overdue a big one ourselves.

New Zealand can expect several magnitude 6 earthquakes every year, one magnitude 7 every 10 years, and an 8 every century.
We have not had an 8+ quake in over a century so far (8.2 Wairarapa, 1855) but there was a 7.8 last year (Fiordland).

The death toll in Chile is in the hundreds and rising.

Bio-Bio, the region most affected, has a population of 16.6 million, 4.8 million of which live in the capitol, Sandiago. The population of New Zealand is about 4.3 million.

The Haiti death toll passed 230000 out of a population of 9.78 million. This means we can expect a low six-figure death toll for Chile (its a worse quake, but the population is more spread out).

How to help. The New Zealand Red Cross is having a fundraising drive in the first week of March. Kiwis are likely to be feeling weary after all the appeals in the last year. Once more into the breach...

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