Internet piracy won’t stop if the prices remain out of reach

Did you know that one Dilbert comic strip will cost you a whopping $35? Yes, that’s right. $35 for sharing a funny image in your non-commercial blog. The prices for commercial usage are even higher but that’s fine and can be justified since the image becomes an investment. But how can we justify that price for a personal blog?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all fully aware that the creator’s work should be paid. I’m a strong proponent of fair compensation for all products and services. I also have no problem with the freedom of setting a price for your product. In the end, the owner is free to do whatever comes to mind.

I’m talking about the accessibility of those products. Internet piracy inevitably occurs in cases where end customers can’t afford to get the product legally because it’s expensive. Most people don’t dream about stealing from creators, they don’t say “man, I enjoy stealing so much I’d like to do this again and again”.

Do you remember those news reports from Eastern Europe in the 90’s when piracy was an overwhelming problem? Guess what happens when destroyed economies and most people living beyond the poverty line match weak intellectual property protection. When people have no chance of acquiring the content legally they will be looking for other ways.

Those were physical mediums, such as CDs and VHS tapes, that are relatively easy to identify and relatively hard to copy. Now we’re talking about a picture on the Internet, that is as hard to copy as it is hard to hit Cmd+C/Cmd+V on your keyboard.

Obviously, the point of this rant is not the Dilbert comic, but what this comic represents. Amazing art that is virtually not accessible to share or reproduce in any form, even non-commercially.

Ukrainian is fine. It’s official.

During almost 400 years of the occupation, Russia banned the Ukrainian language multiple times. Their approach is simple. Destroy their history and language, and they will surrender. Look at Belarus. Once, it was a part of the Lithuanian state, and after Moscovites captured the territory, they ordered to call it The White Rus (Bela Rus).

Well, who cares about the name if they are a separate ethnicity with their own language, right? Russians do care. So they did everything possible to make the captured state think they belong to Moscow. Do you know that now only 10% of Belarussians speak the language of their ancestors? The deletion of their national identity is almost over. Russians did succeed there. Sadly, England did the same to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Their languages have been almost forgotten.

On the contrary, Ukrainians are not that easy to crack. Even now, 30 years after the declared independence, we encounter countless Russian propaganda attacks. The enormous amount of resources that Kremlin invests in all the fake news and rewritings of history is barely comprehensible.

And yet we are still speaking Ukrainian, fighting their army in the East, and look forward to joining EU and NATO. How is this possible? It’s hard to find a proper answer. The important thing is that the Ukrainian has never been stronger than now.

Since January 16th, 2020, Ukrainian is mandatory for all public services. Throughout the country. Feel free to speak another language if you want, but you know the default option. That’s not all the fun. In 2022, all websites that serve Ukrainian customers will need to have the Ukrainian language. Isn’t that great?

To sum up, 400 years of tortures, mass murders, ethnic cleansings, famines, wars, constant brainwashing, and banning Ukrainian from public use ended with nothing. Cyka blyat.

Facebook and Twitter censorship: The freedom of the press or speech? What’s that?

Big tech companies as a whole and major social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, have become so big their influence on public opinion is not even a matter of discussion. As a matter of fact, they are the biggest and most influential media companies at the moment. Of course, there are people who are not on Twitter, and they check their Facebook feed once a week, but the news they read, watch or hear elsewhere will be inevitably dependent on current trends. And who sets the trends?

Last week, one of the biggest American media outlets, The New York Post, published material of tremendous importance about Hunter Biden and his connections with corrupted companies in Ukraine and China. He’s a son of Joe Biden, the democratic party candidate on 2020 presidential election in the US. The material exposes emails that prove the connection between Joe Biden and executives at a company called Burisma, where his son was given a seat on the board with $83.000 monthly salary. You don’t need to be a genius to understand why this oil company needed Biden Jr. as their influence agent. His father, at that time US Vice President, curated American-Ukraninan aid programs and other international relations between the two countries.

When Ukrainian general prosecutor’s office started an investigation against Burisma the general prosecutor was fired and Biden said publicly that it was he who demanded to fire the prosecutor because he was corrupted. At that time Biden had significant leverage on Ukrainian government being responsible for approving or rejecting $1bn in aid to them.

All these years Joe Biden has been rejecting any connection with Burisma and still rejects it. But in one of the emails that were exposed by The NY Post, Burisma executive expresses gratitude to Biden Jr. for the warm welcome in DC and the opportunity to meet with his father which connects all the dots above in one clear chain of events.

Without a doubt, a story like this is a huge thing, leave aside it’s pre-election time. And what do you think happened? Facebook and Twitter banned it completely! First, they blocked The NY Post tweets and then blocked any post that shared the link to the story. Reason? Because the information was allegedly a result of a hacking attack which is clearly wrong since the story says exactly who is the source of information.

Several days later, after the censoring scandal was getting bigger than the original story itself, both social networks lifted the ban and said it was a mistake from their side. So they basically kept it blocked for as much time as possible up to the point when doing it had pretty much no sense given it was already all over the internet.

As disgusting as it is, the story proves one more time that big tech is not a politically independent business and it doesn’t stand by the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech principles. It favours a particular political party and its leaders even when it comes to the violation of the first amendment to the United States Constitution.

These authoritarian politics are taking place in 2020 America, supposedly democratic country. The hypocrisy of big tech companies with imposing censorship on a story that goes against their narrative, while talking 24/7 about their liberalism, diversity and inclusivity is beyond any reasonable comprehension. According to these events, they are liberal and inclusive as long as they agree with you.

But the most ridiculous thing about it is that no one can hold them accountable. Government officials can only express their concerns, that’s it. If this is not a scene from an Orwellian novel than what is? We are literally being told what is truth and what is not by a bunch of Silicon Valley billionaires. Narratives are being brought up or down simply because a handful of people thought it’s good or bad for you to see, and these decisions affect billions of people worldwide every day. Just think of the enormous power and no responsibility whatsoever for any misdemeanour.

Big tech has become too big. It’s just a matter of time when they will be able to appoint its own president while kicking those with whom they don’t agree out of their platforms. For how long this abuse of power is going to last?

Can’t find good music in a record chart? Probably you’re looking in the wrong place

I also used to look for new music in the record charts, on “what’s popular now” lists, or MTV. But since a few years ago it is no longer working.

Most of the times, when I open the recommendations based on popularity, I find nothing suitable there. Maybe my taste is that weird or I’m growing up. Or perhaps because every second song starts with “there’s some hoes in this house”. It’s hard to say.

If I was given a choice of listening to Hot 100 or listening nothing at all, I’d choose the latter without any doubt.

Thankfully, there’s Iceland. This island and its people are my last hope for sanity in music. Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Ásgeir… I can continue the list for quite a while, but quantity is not the point.

None of them will ever reach top spots in a mainstream hit parade, and probably that’s fine.

Check out recent Icelandic music instead. I bet you’ll find something special and inspiring there.

© Deutsche Grammophon

In memory of Jóhann Jóhannsson, who’d have been 51 today. Since Sicario score to the present day, my favourite composer.

Monopoly vs. monopoly. Apple vs. Spotify, Fortnite etc. Who’s next?

If you haven’t heard of it, Apple has to deal with yet another monopoly pretending to be an adorable small business that faces big ugly enterprise.

Epic Games is another behemoth that tries to avoid App Store fees. Their product, Fortnite, is a huge success that makes billions of dollars thanks to 400 million players around the world. According to the research by Business Of Apps, its dominance is so significant it’s as huge in games, like Netflix in VOD. Somehow Epic Games decided that they are big enough to stop paying the platform that made this success possible.

Doesn’t it sound familiar? Yes, it does! Spotify, a music streaming Goliath that has more subscribers than Apple Music and Amazon Music combined, also decided that enough is enough. Why pay the one who spent decades and billions of dollars to create a marketplace that allows anyone to release their app to millions of users worldwide? It’s for losers. Big guys shouldn’t pay.

Monopolies are bad, but in a fight where monopoly fights monopoly, there are no good guys. Regardless of the outcome, each company will continue to dominate its market. Spotify and Epic Games just fighting to dominate even more.

The case of Apple vs. Hey, the new email service from Basecamp is absolutely different. Hey is a new app that puts user privacy above everything else. So when you think of who should you root for, think twice, because Basecamp is that small adorable company that Spotify and Epic Games try to imitate.

Location-based pay discrimination for remote workers

Remote work is probably the best thing that happened to me professionally. Finally, living in a developing country or remote region doesn’t mean you have to work for peanuts. It’s a huge step towards equality of opportunity and makes a person’s skills paramount for an employer. If you speak English, able to communicate well and know your job it doesn’t really matter where you live.

No, wait, it does. Because some employers are worried about my cost of living so much that they are willing to lower my salary based on it. But let’s be honest, we’re not speaking about fair play here, someone is just trying to buy talent for cheap.

The price of an iPhone, any other piece of tech, or even a car in Eastern Europe is 30-50% higher compared to the US, sometimes even twice as much including customs and shipping costs. I pay for Netflix and Spotify the same, my bids on eBay don’t get adjusted because I have the low cost of living.

The state-funded hospitals are so bad you better think twice before going there. The state-funded schools teach you nothing useful and have the only reason, employ the army of so-called teachers with bought university diplomas. The police refuses to start an investigation after a couple of inadequate narcos tried to break into your house. The universities reputation is somewhere around zero.

Yes, all of this stuff is technically free (cough, bribes, cough) or at least cheap, and you can survive in most cases. You will be unprotected, with tiny chances for reasonable education or healthcare, but you’ll have the low cost of living. Based on this cost of living some employers assume I’m fine with it.

They assume I’ve learnt the foreign languages, acquired competitive skills, and have been working hard all the years to live the same life as those who’ve been drinking beer and watching TV. They assume it’s fine to pay twice as much for those who live in developed countries just because their cost of living is higher.

Well, of course, it’s higher, because what you pay them will fund quality hospitals, schools and kindergartens, health insurance, 401k (or its variants in other countries), and other benefits of a civilised society. Never thought I’d need to explain this but, hey, we kind of need this too, but these things simply don’t exist here, hence the low cost of living. The only way to live a decent life here is to earn more and pay for all this stuff out of your pocket. So, unless you’re fine with taking advantage of your remote employees, you might want to reconsider your salary calculation if the cost of living is in it.

Бананова республіка Україна: платіжна залізна завіса без надій на покращення

Коли ви чуєте словосполучення “країна третього світу” чи “бананова республіка”, то, скоріш за все, уявляєте щось далеке і екзотичне. В нашій уяві це місце, де люди живуть в хатинках із глини, кидають списами у гелікоптери, і мусять полювати, щоб здобути собі їжу.

Насправді, це лише стереотип, якого нам потрібно позбуватись. Ми з вами живемо з справжній банановій республіці, але з Айфонами, Пей Пасом, і Теслами. Це боляче сприймати і на перший погляд може здатись, що ми доволі розвинена країна. У нас же безвіз, Приват24 і Монобанк, всі у Фейсбуці та Інстаграмі, ну хіба не футуристична картина?

Ні, і це легко зрозуміти, якщо спробувати почати бізнес із закордонним клієнтом. Та що там бізнес, спробуйте просто отримати гроші з ЄС або США. Примітивний ПейПел, якому уже мільйон років, який є всюди і уже починає програвати конкурентам, працює в Україні лише на відправлення коштів. Нам дозволяють витрачати на світових ринках, але не дозволяють заробляти. Це чіткий і зрозумілий індикатор нашого місця у міжнародній спільноті. Це чіткий і зрозумілий індикатор пріоритетів нашої влади.

Деякі “експерти” кажуть, що Україна не цікава з економічної точки зору. В той же час, Албанія, Гондурас, Французька Полінезія, Ботсвана, Мозамбік і т.д. не мають таких проблем. Дійсно, Французька Полінезія з ВВП в 50 разів меншим, ніж український, та населенням в 240 тисяч осіб виглядає дуже привабливою в економічному плані для топ-менеджерів PayPal.

Альтернативи? Їх поява виглядає ще більш фантастичною.

Braintree, e-commerce платежі від ПейПел, доступні навіть не у всіх країнах, де працює повноцінний функціонал їх батьківської компанії. Можемо лише здогадуватись скільки часу потрібно, щоб вони прийшли на наш B2B ринок, якщо навіть B2C їх мало цікавить.

Говорити щось про Страйп (згадуючи про конкурентів) навіть немає сенсу. Це настільки далеке від нас уособлення технічного прогресу, що говорити про нього навіть не доводиться. Тим часом, Stripe є no brainer вибором для нових компаній на Заході, так як створення і адміністрування мерчант акаунта зі Страйп – це просто як 1-2-3.

Одиниці захочуть зв’язуватись із банківським переказом – це довго і незручно. Але й тут з високою вірогідністю переказ в український банк буде відхилено, поки його не підтвердять особисто.

Ви скажете, є ж Пайонір, Трансфервайз і ще декілька другосортних сервісів, якими користуються 1-2% населення, які, більш того, не підходять для процесінгу оплат в e-commerce і SaaS. Так, дійсно, якщо ви займаєтесь фрілансом, маєте стабільних клієнтів, які згодні платити маловідомим сервісом, можна знайти стежки та все ж отримувати оплату своїх послуг. Загальна картина від цього не зміниться жодним чином, тому що вищезгадані сервіси – це всього лиш сучасна версія Вестерн Юніон, з усіма наслідками.

Можна довго описувати скільки світлових років є між нами і цивілізованим світом, але маємо визнати, що з фінансової точки зору ми – ще гірше, ніж Африка. Жахливі рейтинги банків, вітчизняні платіжні системи націлені на ринки СНД, а світові до нас не пускають.

Ми оперуємо ядерними реакторами, будуємо літаки і дрони, розрозбляємо програмне забепечення для світових компаній. У нас є інтелектуальний капітал для того, щоб заробляти на міжнародних ринках. Але нажаль, наш бізнес зараз збагачує країни ЄС і США, реєструючи свої підприємства в юрисдикціях, які можуть дати їм платіжні інструменти та чесні суди. Мова йде не про бізнеси олігархів і інших бандитів, з ними все зрозуміло, а про молодих розумних людей, які не пиляють бюджет, не створюють схеми чи чекають на гранти, а створюють сучасні конкурентні компанії. На даний момент, їм немає місця в Україні.

Візьміть будь яку з сотень і тисяч ІТ компаній в Україні і усвідомте той факт, що майже сто відсотків із них зареєстровані як ел-ел-сі в певній розвиненій країні світу. Тобто альтернативи всередині країни просто немає. Все це – величезна кількість валюти, за яку будують дороги, лікарні і дитсадки в ЄС і США.

Сумно ще й тому, що немає попиту на ту владу, яка буде наближати нас до прогресивного світу, а не розказувати казки про подолання корупції, роздавати пенсіонерам по тисячі гривень і вирішувати скільких заробітчан відправити працювати в Німеччину, а скількох – в Фінляндію.

А поки що, молоді та розумні будуть відкривати компанії в штаті Делавер, на Кіпрі, в Ірландії, або в країнах Балтії. Або ж навіть в Грузії, яка зазнала набагато більших втрат від війни з Росією, ніж ми, але спромоглась створити пристойні умови для відкриття бізнесу і уже приваблє до себе підприємців з усього світу.