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BBC Four - James May's Big Trouble in Model Britain

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3 hours ago, Flyingscotsmanfan said:

Having seen the banner incident preview for next weeks show I was surprised to receive an email for Rails today advertising that they now have the new tooling Hornby terrier in stock. Did have to have a chuckle at the irony. 

Am I wrong here, in terms of some of the posts on this thread, but has there been a slight flavour of mockery on the part of a small number of posters towards Simon Kohler, with regards to his reactions to the 'banner issue?'

 

Or is it a case of 'all mates together' and I'm just misinterpreting it?

 

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1 hour ago, jjb1970 said:

 

Indeed, this has been the case for quite a number of years. The Chinese high speed railway service is superb and when I visit China I can't help asking myself which is the lesser developed part of the world. Obviously rural China is less developed, but that is true for just about all countries. Some of the civil engineering projects China has delivered are remarkable. When I still worked for a marine classification society I was working on some seriously innovative and advanced ship and power system design projects being developed in China. Unfortunately too many have a very dated idea of China. This is also true of doing business over there, it is not the lawless wild west of scam artists and light fingered companies that is sometimes portrayed.

 

Insomuch as one can lump an entire country together, I think it depends on the type of engineering.

 

In the area I currently work in, the Chinese are definitely behind - copying European/US ideas and making some of the same mistakes - and having to import components they can't make.

 

What they do have is money....lots of it...so can afford to set up very impressive facilities.

 

However I'm under no illusion that just because they are behind now means they will stay that way for very long. 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Pacific231G said:

 

The OO live steam set - which is electrically incompatible with any other OO system  - wasn't the only time that Hornby and its predecessors had dipped their toes into live steam and other non-mainstream model railway products. I woder if they could have had more success if they'd made it compatible with DCC (though probably with a more than usually powerful power supply) .

 

In 1976-78 they produced the live steam 3.5" gauge Rocket. I had one though many years later . It was ingenious and the cylinders had valve gear rather than the oscillating cylinder that Mamod etc. offered but it had major flaws. The plastic track had far higher rolling resistance than steel track so  the already marginal performance from a necessarily low pressure boiler meant it could barely shift itself on anything but a dead flat surface let alone pull a couple of the L&M coaches they later produced. More seriously, to charge the plastic gas tank you had to unscrew it, then fill it from a lighter refill cylinder before refitting it. The trouble was that the process of filling invariably froze the O rings so the gas escaped (I think quite seriously that If the right person at NASA had owned one these things the  Challenger disaster ten years later might have been averted) In the end I bought an after-market gas tank which improved things but it ended up as a shelf ornament. 

 

A decade earlier the Margate company had come up with a 10¼” gauge railway, The “Tri-ang Minic Narrowgauge Railway (TMNR) manufactured between 1963-1965. As a youngster I remember being fascinated by the adverts in RM for this but it would definitely have been a rich kid's toy, A complete set with 35V 20amp transformer, electric loco, two "pullman" coaches and an oval of track (for which with 18ft diameter curves you'd need a space of at least 112ft x 40 ft) would have set you back £292 3s 6p (about £5- 6000 in today's money)  so I don't know what they thought the market for this was. In the end they only made about 80 locos and I think most of what they made went to showmen and Butlins holiday camps (for this market produced a more powerful loco with two motors)  rather than to private customers.  They did advertise a rather cheaper "shunting loco"  for £79  or as a complete set with a smaller 48ft x 24ft oval for £128 but I don't think this ever saw the light of day.

The track was sectional with folded galvanised steel rail on wooden speepers. Word is that about 20 of the locos still survive though most seem to have been converted to internal battery power and there is a TMNR club. 

 

A nail has been hit on the head here.

 

In very many ways, Hornby (Tri-ang Hornby) was ahead of its time now and again, but its problem was that it did not stick with it, to make it something more viable.

 

In the case of the TMNR, this should have been a far better prospect in the days when more houses had reasonable sized gardens, and reputedly failed because (apart from a significant price increase), once the initial product had been purchased, they had little else to sell on to owners. These days, firms like MaxiTrak are making a fairly decent living from such equipment, albeit at 5.25 inch gauge normally, and normally on-board battery powered rather than mains track powered. Even live steam and/or internal combustion versions are available but these are truly a rich man's arena, at that size, unless possessing significant engineering prowess to kit build or scratch build. But there is a market there, and has been since the 1990's.

 

Likewise, with live steam in a smaller scale. When Hornby experimented with their Rocket and then with the 00 live steam system, folk such as Merlin and Mamod were struggling to make 16mm/ft live steam a viable proposition. But the latter persevered, and live steam in the size of Hornby's Rocket is now commonplace, highly controllable and very powerful, and more to the point, very commercial. 00 steam was always pushing it, but new technology makes it less of a challenge (although I struggle to see the market for this personally).

 

So, if Hornby continue to develop new ideas, as they have more recently been doing, with DCC controllers and TTS, and not drop them at the first sign of trouble, then I have more optimism in their progress. The Giraffe Car must have a future shurely??

 

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3 minutes ago, Coryton said:

 

Insomuch as one can lump an entire country together, I think it depends on the type of engineering.

 

In the area I currently work in, the Chinese are definitely behind - copying European/US ideas and making some of the same mistakes - and having to import components they can't make.

 

What they do have is money....lots of it...so can afford to set up very impressive facilities.

 

However I'm under no illusion that just because they are behind now means they will stay that way for very long. 

 

 

 

I agree, in any country/economy there will be variation. I am a marine engineer and work in shipping, in the world of shipping the big three Asian ship builders (China, South Korea & Japan) are so far ahead of the rest of the world in just about every way it isn't funny. Many still associate the Chinese yards, design houses and equipment suppliers with cheap knock offs and low end tat when that is certainly not the case. And it is increasingly obvious that for example Europe is steadily losing competence, particularly maritime administrations. I suspect that the China MSA takes some sort of wicked pleasure in submitting highly technical submissions to international regulatory forums as they know that unless other administrations ask a class society or consultant to tell them what it means that probably only the Chinese, Japanese and Korean's understand it all.

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1 hour ago, D9020 Nimbus said:

With regard to alternatives to China, several German and Austrian manufacturers have moved manufacturing to Eastern Europe—Slovakia and Romania mostly. Don't know whether this includes powered models or just wagons and coaches.

 

 

It has been covered before - several times - but to repeat, if you want to pay €500 (ca £430) for a pacific locomotive then E Europe is where you want to go.  Today we still have posters deploring having broken the £150 barrier.  I know it is not a true like for like comparison given external pipework on may continental models, but it is indicative.

 

It is certainly true that China is closing the gap with the West, but in doing so it has opened up the differences between the middle class and the lower working classes.  The wage increases are probably going to influence the middle lower classes more than most.  This will improve their lot but leave the lowest in continued and probably widened poverty.  

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13 minutes ago, jjb1970 said:

 

I agree, in any country/economy there will be variation. I am a marine engineer and work in shipping, in the world of shipping the big three Asian ship builders (China, South Korea & Japan) are so far ahead of the rest of the world in just about every way it isn't funny. Many still associate the Chinese yards, design houses and equipment suppliers with cheap knock offs and low end tat when that is certainly not the case. And it is increasingly obvious that for example Europe is steadily losing competence, particularly maritime administrations. I suspect that the China MSA takes some sort of wicked pleasure in submitting highly technical submissions to international regulatory forums as they know that unless other administrations ask a class society or consultant to tell them what it means that probably only the Chinese, Japanese and Korean's understand it all.

 

Why would you be surprised? Trash the infrastructure, abandon the activity, stop training the people and hey presto! Competence is lost. Who knew? 

 

 

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On 08/03/2019 at 13:36, CloggyDog said:

 

Many 'serious' aircraft modellers nowadays no longer build a kit as it comes (OTB - Out of The Box, as it's known) as there are numerous after-market detailing parts available, much in resin: cockpit interiors, wheel wells, intakes, jet-pipes, flap interiors, weapon bay interiors, metal pitots and aerials, bang seats, instrument panels, undercarriage/wheels and finally stores loads... and that's even before you get into the realms of conversion parts and kits.

 

And then there are after-market decals (which to be fair we also have)

 

For a recent Sea Harrier 1 purchase of mine (c£10 for the basic kit) I also got resin intakes (with drooped auxiliary doors), resin bang seat, resin cockpit tub, resin nozzles, AIM9 Sidewinders and rails (resin/etch) and an aftermarket decal sheet, all of which pushed the price to around £30 (and that's before paint/glue)

 

 

 

 

 

That's how the model railway hobby used to be too - companies like Shawplan made etched grilles, flush glazing etc and modellers added piping from wire, added lamps, fitted Express Models lighting kits etc. And if a loco didn't represent the correct sub-class they wanted, they modified it themselves (or ignored the differences).

 

These days railway modellers (or at least a significant vocal group) expect all the details to be ready-fitted at the factory, and the manufacturers are expected to design the tooling so that as many sub-classes and variations can be modelled. All this of course adds a lot to both the tooling and manufacturing costs, which means that the models end up being sold for more than some purchasers can afford/justify.

 

Personally I'd rather see more lower-end models with the add-on parts readily available than high-end RTR. At the end of the day, if a particular loco/item of rolling stock is only available from one manufacturer, those who need one for their layout will still buy it even if it's in the Railroad range rather than the main range.

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, RJS1977 said:

 

That's how the model railway hobby used to be too - companies like Shawplan made etched grilles,

 

As far as I know, Shawplan still make (or at least still sell) etched grilles. I bought some the other week to modify one of my 37s.

Edited by newbryford
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7 hours ago, Caledonian said:

 

Interestingly enough I was watching young Mr May the other day in a quite different programme where he and two casual acquaintances went driving in China. It was, quite frankly, astonishing to see how technically advanced and at least outwardly prosperous the place is. Now it wasn't going into what goes on in the factories, but very clearly any impression that we're talking about cut-price sweat-shops staffed by the grateful poor is very wide of the mark

 

Comparing standard of living between two countries isn't just a simple case of converting someone's hourly pay in one country to the currency of the other. The cost of living in each country also has to be taken into consideration.

 

People working in China may well be paid a lot less but if the cost of living over there is also a lot less (because shop workers, train drivers, plumbers etc also get paid less so the cost of their services is lower)  then the Chinese can have a similar standard of living on a lower salary.

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9 hours ago, Caledonian said:

 

Interestingly enough I was watching young Mr May the other day in a quite different programme where he and two casual acquaintances went driving in China. It was, quite frankly, astonishing to see how technically advanced and at least outwardly prosperous the place is. Now it wasn't going into what goes on in the factories, but very clearly any impression that we're talking about cut-price sweat-shops staffed by the grateful poor is very wide of the mark

 

That may be true of some of the big cities or trunk transport routes but it is not of the vast regions of rural China, the populations of which are still living in poverty and in very basic conditions. I doubt they are seeing much of the boom in the economy that has been apparent in the wider Chinese economy in recent times. 

 

The pace of change and development has been so rapid in the last couple of decades and this has exacerbated the gap between the 'haves' and 'have nots' and the urban and rural populations. It is clearly a very polarised society in what is, very sadly, an increasingly polarised world. 

 

1 hour ago, RJS1977 said:

 

Comparing standard of living between two countries isn't just a simple case of converting someone's hourly pay in one country to the currency of the other. The cost of living in each country also has to be taken into consideration.

 

People working in China may well be paid a lot less but if the cost of living over there is also a lot less (because shop workers, train drivers, plumbers etc also get paid less so the cost of their services is lower)  then the Chinese can have a similar standard of living on a lower salary.

 

I understand your point, but in no way is the life of the average Chinese worker in any way comparable to those in the UK. There are those living on the breadline in this country, a sad reflection of what is supposed to be a well developed nation both economically and culturally. This situation is getting worse in the UK, with the gap between those at the top and bottom of society widening, but this poverty is nowhere near the proportion or scale of those similarly affected in China (just as one example). Everything is relative, but raising wages and living standards of everyone in the developing world is so important and if the western world can help in this, for instance by paying more for our toys, then I personally think that is a price worth paying (both literally and figuratively). 

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Jol Wilkinson said:

Increasingly, the protagonists of what might be called "mainstream model railways" rely on Ready To Use products. So, while there are many who have developed  skills and learned techniques to create their own models from kits or scratch and/or adapt and modify ready made items, the majority of modellers (especially in 4mm) prefer to buy their modelling items finished.

 

The main area of model "making" now concentrates around scenery and the area outside the railways' boundaries. There are many excellent example of such scenic modelling,  some sadly let down by much a less well modelled railway, because of the reliance on RTU models and the limitation they create.

 

 

Personally, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with using RTR and RTP products. How is it not 'modelling' if you develop and blend these items into a layout? Thank goodness for Hornby et al who, with their wonderful products, make the hobby accessible to those like myself who have limited skill and ability, aren't master modellers, and don't have any inclination to fashion a locomotive out of an old biscuit tin. I'm being slightly facetious, but think it is an important point. 

 

I personally have very little interest spending my modelling time focused on locos and rolling stock. Consequently I mainly use RTR items. My interest is on scenery, buildings, the development of the overall scene etc. Beyond the railway boundary often actually interest me more than the trains. I imagine I would be one of those folk who produced a layout that would be a "let down".  

 

It's the same when reading railway books and looking at photographs - I am interested in the social and cultural history of railways rather than any technical or engineering background to the rolling stock and often appreciate the background and context of images more so than the trains.

 

Am I less of an enthusiast or modeller because of this? I hope not. It just shows that the hobby is a very broad church with lots of interests, room for differing approaches, abilities and areas in which to focus our efforts and time. In my humble opinion, that is only good thing. As my nan used to say: "......it would be a boring world if we were all the same......"

Edited by south_tyne
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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, south_tyne said:

 

 

 

 

I understand your point, but in no way is the life of the average Chinese worker in any way comparable to those in the UK. There are those living on the breadline in this country, a sad reflection of what is supposed to be a well developed nation both economically and culturally. This situation is getting worse in the UK, with the gap between those at the top and bottom of society widening, but this poverty is nowhere near the proportion or scale of those similarly affected in China (just as one example). Everything is relative, but raising wages and living standards of everyone in the developing world is so important and if the western world can help in this, for instance by paying more for our toys, then I personally think that is a price worth paying (both literally and figuratively). 

Worth paying if one has the wherewithal to do so, but bringing with it an inevitable consequence that some who currently purchase said toys will be priced out of the market.

 

The cynical/pragmatic view of actively raising developing-world incomes, as opposed to it happening more gradually through the action of market forces is that it effectively shifts (relative) poverty to developed countries more quickly than happens through changes in competitive balance alone. Either way, we ultimately get much the same spread of wealth/poverty, but more evenly distributed across nations. Only the timing changes.

 

It's a fact of life that, wherever one is in the world, and whether one styles ones economy as "capitalist", "communist" or even "peasant", all systems rely on people in poverty being paid much less than the true economic value of their efforts in order to finance, directly or indirectly, the lifestyles of those higher up the pecking order.

 

It is also true, and increasingly so, that the cost of improving the lot of the poorest, falls disproportionately upon those whose circumstances place them only a few notches higher in the overall scheme of things. 

 

John

 

 

 

 

Edited by Dunsignalling
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If society could be reset and a country's wealth be distributed equally amongst the population, within a few years there would be some at the top and some in the gutter.  This would be human nature.

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6 hours ago, south_tyne said:

 

That may be true of some of the big cities or trunk transport routes but it is not of the vast regions of rural China, the populations of which are still living in poverty and in very basic conditions. I doubt they are seeing much of the boom in the economy that has been apparent in the wider Chinese economy in recent times. 

 

The pace of change and development has been so rapid in the last couple of decades and this has exacerbated the gap between the 'haves' and 'have nots' and the urban and rural populations. It is clearly a very polarised society in what is, very sadly, an increasingly polarised world. 

 

 

I understand your point, but in no way is the life of the average Chinese worker in any way comparable to those in the UK. There are those living on the breadline in this country, a sad reflection of what is supposed to be a well developed nation both economically and culturally. This situation is getting worse in the UK, with the gap between those at the top and bottom of society widening, but this poverty is nowhere near the proportion or scale of those similarly affected in China (just as one example). Everything is relative, but raising wages and living standards of everyone in the developing world is so important and if the western world can help in this, for instance by paying more for our toys, then I personally think that is a price worth paying (both literally and figuratively). 

 

 

Whilst this is a bit off topic there has always been a large wealth gap in this country. I can remember my dad holding down 3 jobs, mum telling me they searched down the back of chairs looking for change for the gas or electricity meter. And my parents in law who are certainly nearer middle class than working class, when they got married rented rooms from a family member whilst they saved up for a mortgage

 

Still back on topic, I liked the first program and look forward to the second even though I don't buy their products

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Have just watched it and really enjoyed it. The previous regime came in for quite a battering I cannot judge how much of that was deserved and how much was artistic license by the program makers but the editing of the guy in the visitor centre was quite telling.

The hellcat build was excellent and hope ( I think he was called Jim) got the well deserved credit for an awesome build. Spot the irony I want him to get the credit but can't remember his name!

 

Anyone else checking out the office boards etc for clues to future releases in the office shots?

cheers

mark

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6 hours ago, south_tyne said:

Am I less of an enthusiast or modeller because of this? I hope not. 

 

I'd agree...but I think there are people on here who wouldn't.

 

I wonder if some of them also dismiss Railroad as cheap tat and yet - putting aside the issue of whether Hornby dropping a range that makes money is a good thing for any of their customers - I may not be the only person here who would consider repainting or modifying a cheap, robust model but wouldn't contemplate taking a paintbrush or razor saw to a delicate model that cost £150 and looks near-perfect as it is.

 

And if it wasn't for the people who buy models and put them in a cabinet, never mind the ones who put them on the track and run them as they came out of the box, we'd be unlikely to have the models available for those who are so inclined to weather, respray or otherwise modify.

 

And on China....

 

On a business trip a few years ago I was taken to see a big flood relief/irrigation scheme - very clever engineering involving among other things an artificial whirlpool to keep sediment out of the irrigation water, and cutting a new channel for the water through rock.

 

It was built in the 3rd century.

 

BC.

 

Still in use now.

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Jeff Smith said:

Unfortunately, although I don't share the politics of the current occupant of the White House, there is a real intellectual property rights problem with China.

 

...

 

It’s kind of ironic that for most of the twentieth century, the world’s biggest refusenik of global IP standards was ... the USA. Have a look inside any British paperback from that era, and you’ll likely see separate copyright statements/ publisher details for the US versus the rest of the world. Gilbert & Sullivan, rock superstars of the C19th, had to arrange for immediate production of their new operas in the US straight after the Savoy openings, or they couldn’t claim copyright in the US. 

 

And then the Disney corporation, among other corporate interests, started lobbying the US government... Now, the US IP regime is one of the strongest in the world. The UK is one of very few countries where copyright violations remain civil rather than criminal offences - despite horrific US government pressure. Copyright terms have been extended to ludicrous levels from the original terms of 7-14 years (the whole point of copyright was to incentivise creative people to produce more work, by rewarding them with a short monopoly. Copyright terms are now mostly lifetime PLUS 70 years. How on Earth can dead people be incentivised to be more creative? But of course, this is just so that corporations can extract monopoly rents for near-perpetuity).

 

Sorry for ranting OT (and, of course, patents and designs are a bit different to copyright). It was just a bit galling to see China criticised for not respecting US IP rights. Though of course two wrongs don’t make a right, etc. 

 

Paul

Edited by Fenman
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Hornby Railroad locos are fantastic. I have several 9F's & Black 5's - just over £50 each a few years ago, all loco drive and detailed enough for me - good haulers too (with a bit of weight added in the boiler - plenty of space in both locos).

 

They're not fifty quid these days unfortunately.

 

As to redistribution of wealth - don't we already do that when we buy our models ? (mainly to China though).

 

Brit15

 

 

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Fenman said:

Sorry for ranting OT (and, of course, patents and designs are a bit different to copyright). It was just a bit galling to see China criticised for not respecting US IP rights. Though of course two wrongs don’t make a right, etc. 

 

I'm not sure I understand that comment.  I may live in the US but my point was not exclusive to US IP rights.  China steals information from every country and has laws which attempt to open up access to proprietary technology from foreign companies wanting to set up manufacturing facilities on shore.  It has also been known to acquire hardware/software via third parties to reverse engineer.

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3 minutes ago, Pete Darton said:

Hornby could learn a lot from him 

 

What could they learn? This is the second time that you've made such an assertion without any qualification of what may be learnt. Although they may miss some pet wishes from some I think Hornby (and others) know more about what their market wants via several hundred retailers, thousands of modellers they speak to and reading what modellers say they want plus their own research.

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7 minutes ago, Pete Darton said:

Has anyone ever watch YouTube video’s of Everard Junction, yes it’s based around the late 80’s of Diesels but what he does can be applied to Steam railways. 

 

He he covers a vast range of modelling topics and whenever he uses anything he tells you where he buys it from.

 

This person in my mind is a true modeller as he has a go at anything and Hornby could learn a lot from him as what people want from the hobby.

 

He isn’t afraid of repainting a locomotive or designing and building his out automatic coloured signals. Love his videos and I have learn’t a lot from him.

 

I suspect that people prepared to re-paint Hornby locomotives are such a small fraction of their market as to not be the ones to learn from.

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11 minutes ago, Jeff Smith said:

 

I'm not sure I understand that comment.  I may live in the US but my point was not exclusive to US IP rights.  China steals information from every country and has laws which attempt to open up access to proprietary technology from foreign companies wanting to set up manufacturing facilities on shore.  It has also been known to acquire hardware/software via third parties to reverse engineer.

 

You need to differentiate "stealing" IP and "acquiring" IP. China is not the only country that has regulations over inward investment and buying companies to acquire their IP is a normal part of business. There is clearly a link between state and business in China but again that is hardly unique to China (state owned businesses and state intervention to assist private companies are wide spread). China may take things further than many other countries but as the old saying goes - there is no such thing as being half pregnant. No company is forced to establish JVs in China and transfer technology, they do it to seek profits. 

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17 minutes ago, Jeff Smith said:

 

I'm not sure I understand that comment.  I may live in the US but my point was not exclusive to US IP rights.  China steals information from every country and has laws which attempt to open up access to proprietary technology from foreign companies wanting to set up manufacturing facilities on shore.  It has also been known to acquire hardware/software via third parties to reverse engineer.

 

You're absolutely right, of course. Just as the US and some of its corporations have been known to do exactly the same thing. To now claim the US is a paragon of IP (and a victim of perfidious China) without recognising that for over a century the US did exactly the same thing, strikes me as a bit, well, lacking in historical perspective. 

 

I guess it's the same thing that people say about those who have given up smoking - no-one is more virulently anti-smoking...

 

So, as I wrote in my original comment, "two wrongs don't make a right", etc.

 

Paul

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16 minutes ago, Jeff Smith said:

 

I'm not sure I understand that comment.  I may live in the US but my point was not exclusive to US IP rights.  China steals information from every country and has laws which attempt to open up access to proprietary technology from foreign companies wanting to set up manufacturing facilities on shore.  It has also been known to acquire hardware/software via third parties to reverse engineer.

.

 

In the nineteenth century (a time when the US was industrialising) it was the US which pirated technology from the UK and Germany in particular on a vast scale.   The Europeans set up copyrighting at this time to balance rewards and incentives for the release of information.

 

Now it is China which is industrialising, and the hypocrisy of the US is rather obvious.

 

I'm not saying that China, India, etc... should be given a free hand, but people should look at their own histories before being just so hypocritical.

 

.

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