Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spot-Fixing: An evolution of the Gentleman's game.

A lot (ok, some) of you would have heard about the spotfixing scandal that has broken out and with every passing day an even bigger (sleazier?) story comes out to keep the momentum going. Sick of it? Sick of the corruption that afflicts Indian society? Fear not I have two bits to talk about that will restore your spirits.

The first is actually a rewind to incidents, not here in India, but in the USA. Sports and gambling related indiscretions are part and parcel of their history. Some came out in the press and created news like IPL6 is and others were brushed under the carpet.

The second is a slightly different take on the current series of events. Betting and fixing scandals have been around since... well... let's say a long time. When cricket was played not as often as now and national pride was at stake. Fixing was a no no no.

But the game evolved to give us IPL and manufactured loyalty (purportedly basis where the team is located). Consider the following: Since, there are no geographic restrictions of players or of owners or anything that remotely tie in the team to it's home location. IPL, like reality TV, is known more for the news it generates of the field than it does on the field.

Given the above considerations (amongst many others) we can safely class IPL as inoffensive entertainment (something, a large number of people will agree with).

This brings me to my second point. Why not allow spotfixing? It is entertainment after all. If reality TV can be fixed, IPL can be fixed too.

How will this work?

Just divorce yourself from the fact that IPL has anything to do with sport and everything to do with entertainment. Just imagine the possibilities when spotfixing is allowed. From being mere sport, it will become a gigantic reality (TV and otherwise) show with elements like intrigue, politics, wine women and song coming in to play.

It will become a game of grand strategy. The sort that nations play with each other. Kids who follow IPL will learn that life is cruel and will be better prepared to handle it. They will learn to recognize nuances and react accordingly. Pick winners basis realtime information and also modify stands basis shifting loyalties.

For this to really work and be even handed. Betting/Gambling too would have to be made legal. This will allow crowd-funded pressure to act against well funded teams/entities trying to seek a particular outcome.

There will be some caveats. The fixed components will have to be announced in advance. Not the actual act, but say the number of acts against and for each team. Total number of actors etc.

The complete gameplay can be revealed post-match and will allow for more ooh-aahs for one more day. This will create an added benefit of dragging coverage for post match strategy and analysis.

If you have any suggestions to make this better, please leave a comment.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why Patent Law in India needs to allow Software Patents

A few weeks ago, I got an idea for a product. Instead of sitting on one side and letting the idea slide. I decided to try and patent it.

The idea and even the category it operates in are immaterial to this piece.

While I am still figuring out the patent part of it. I realized that software patents are not possible in India while they can be patented in the US.

In India, the only way you can patent software is if it is closely linked with hardware i.e. software is intrinsic to the functioning of the hardware. Effectively, impossible.

I believe a similar situation existed in the US before as well. However, some time back they changed their process to explicitly allow software patents. Result. US has a huge body of patents which American companies use to bludgeon every other company to death.

India, on the other hand did not do evolve with time. High time, India allowed for a more accommodative patent regime that allow Indian inventors and companies a similar edge.

The current age is all about software (Software is eating the world so to speak). Intellectual Property is Property. When you refuse to recognise claim on such property, you essentially denied someone the chance to become wealthier. India claims to be an intellectual powerhouse. What use is that power, if we can't stake claims to it and therefore make money on it.
Further, I'd venture that people in India against Software Patents are the "new age digital socialists". A capitalist would recognise the right to property and be for it.

Will there be situations where a guy sitting in a small town will get royalty from mega-corporation for a piece of software he dreamed up? Yes and that's fantastic.

Will it be misused? Possibly. Better to recognise the right and build safeguards, than to deny Indians an opportunity to get wealthier.

Ideas matter and increasingly software is a way to bring those ideas to life. And software patents are a way to monetise ideas and bring prosperity to a wider set of people.