Three things that aren't what they are.
You'll remember last month's photo of our new kite-field-in-the-making.
Well the huge heap of stumps, branches and general detritus in the middle of it was duly fired. All was going well that evening about midnight when I checked that a strong northerly wasn't going to make for a local version of what's just happened in California.
Alas, by 4 am when I checked again after the wind changed to strong southerly, the fire had almost died- with only superficial scorching of the 50 or so larger stumps at its core.
Next morning I found out why during a 'social' call by the local fire chief.
Our fire department had been very busy between 1 am and 3 am putting my fire out- fire engines, police cars, water trucks going in and out our drive, spectators even. Elwyn, Tory and I slept through all this oblivious.
They're not a fire department at all; they're an ANTI- fire department.
Anyone want 100 tonnes or so of partially burnt stumps?
Then, a few days later I was at a kite event, hard at work as usual.
That is, I was lying on my back on a beach, watching kites fly.
The wind was light to non existent but one of these kites was a long way up. It was in the form of a bird, some sort of hawk or eagle.
In a sort of mind game, I set to wondering what, if anything, would indicate that it was in fact a kite not an actual bird if I didn't have prior knowledge.
It wasn't easy: The makers (and fliers) of this genre of kite are specialists in light wind flying. They are expert at mimicking soaring bird flight, pulling the kite up into the wind then causing it to turn off and swoop downwind (while letting out line) before having it turn into the wind and come up again.
After quite a few minutes, I could see a flaw though- the bird kites NEVER flap their wings, whereas real birds do from time to time. Still, it was impressive, so I continued watching this skillfully flown beautiful kite for a few more minutes- (otherwise I would have had to get up and re-launch the kites I was trying to fly for about the 10,000th time that day). Then the "kite" I was watching flew off towards a distant mountain with just the barest wing flutter- see photo (not of the real bird though- by the time I realized I'd been duped it was out of sight).
And then, in the same place, there were 4 line traction kites being flown that were a 100% rip-off - not just the design either, but also the brand name – mine- which I take rather ill.
But what can I do about it? - What can any designer/brand name owner do in this increasingly commonplace circumstance?
Legal remedies? These are theoretically available, but very expensive and drawn out- and not all countries have robust legal systems- and rip-off makers naturally tend to hide their actual identities (and assets) and disappear as soon as anyone gets too close.
'Political' remedies? Like by enlisting local and national governments to lean on them. Unfortunately many rip-off host countries don't yet see policing intellectual property rights as in their best interests- and first world countries were similarly pragmatic in the not so far distant past. For example, the Netherlands withdrew from the international patent system from (by memory) 1869 until about 1911 so that its manufacturers were free to copy inventions developed elsewhere.
Market remedies? That is, effective distribution, competitive prices, reliable quality and continual development of new generation designs. Now almost the only effective response there is to rip-offs in the global kite market, even this is only partial because in cases of 'passing off', as above, customers don't even necessarily know that they're buying a rip-off.
Community pressure then? Kite fliers are members of a village- but a village in which neighbours are connected by their shared passion for an unusual activity rather than by physical proximity. Rip-offs would be very much less common than they are if there was unequivocal community pressure against them.
What a great idea, except that it's not going to happen. There's almost no issue that people are more hypocritical about than copying. Almost everyone supports the sanctity of the original in theory- but votes self interest in practice.
How do I know this?
We'll while leaning back to think about how come I do, a pair of Crocs that aren't stared back at me from the ends of my legs.
Oh well, looks like the world will just have to muddle on pretty much as it is I guess.
So, time I developed some new designs.
Shenzhen, Oct 30 '07