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Court Gags Brown 18 September 2000 Edition
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Once again the outspoken Alan Brown is making news -- but this time for a rather unexpected reason.

He's NOT talking about the tiff between himself and Domainz CEO Patrick O'Brien.

The normally efusive Brown now responds to all requests for comment on the issues between himself and O'Brien with a curt "no comment."

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What has caused this dramatic about-face in Brown's behaviour?

Well the gagging order obtained against him in court in an action indirectly funded by ISOCNZ through Domainz could be one reason.

Despite their ongoing rhetoric extolling the importance of the Internet as an organ of free speech, it seems that ISOCNZ is unwilling to put its money where its mouth is when it actually comes down to the line and continue to fund O'Brien's legal action.

I also wonder at the justness, let alone the legality of a court order which allegedly prohibits Brown from making any comment about O'Brien through the Internet.

If the grounds for obtaining such an order were harrassment then surely it's a ridiculous situation. The closest analogy might be for the courts to forbid Brown from talking about O'Brien in any public place for fear that his conversation is overheard by the aggrieved party -- should he happen to walk by.

Come on -- the Internet is a big place -- if you don't like what someone might say about you then stay out of their way. If you fear that those comments might be defamatory -- then sue them (Oh.. I forgot, that's what O'Brien has done already).

It strikes me that by forbidding anyone to voice their opinion of someone else on the Internet, the courts are infringing one of the basic rights of a free and democratic society -- free speech.

Of course once again the courts have shown their inability to comprehend the scope and power of the Internet in issuing such an order. What happens if someone posts a comment about O'Brien to the Internet using Brown's name? How could they prove that it was Brown?

What if Brown posts an unsigned comment to the Net using an anonymiser? Again, how could they prove who was the real poster?

Now, I'm no legal expert (nor do I play one on the Internet) and I've had no time to solicit a legal opinion this morning so perhaps someone with the right credentials could let us all know what the situation is in respect to a Net-based gagging order.

And those readers who aren't lawyers can always voice their "opinions" on the situation (for publication here if requested).

Government Policies Sink Another Good Idea?
Most Aardvark readers will have seen that with what very little spare time I get, I have been dabbling with the design and construction of low-cost jet-engines.

While I do have a longer-term commercial objective for this work, I thought I'd sound out the waters to see just what sort of interest their might be out there for "engine kitsets" that would allow others to build their own engines even if they don't have the skills or tools normally required for such work.

So far, in just a couple of weeks, I have received inquiries that could be turned into around US$3,000 worth of orders -- and that's just by putting a "contact me if you're interested" request on the website -- hardly a heavy marketing campaign.

Virtually all of those orders have come from the USA, not a single one has been from New Zealand.

With a more effective (but still low-cost, Net-based) marketing campaign I have no doubt that sales in the order of US$20K-$40K per month could be achieved.

Okay, this isn't the kind of stuff that huge aerospace empires are built on -- but it's the kind of work that a small one or two-man band could easily undertake from a home-workshop and which would generate valuable overseas earnings of as much as a half a million US$ per year.

And, despite the fact that the end-product is a collection of metal components, it is a knowledge-based industry insomuch as it's not the metal that has value but the design to which that metal is turned and milled. By designing the engine parts for easy manufacture and shipping, the profit margins are extremely high and the freight costs to the USA surprisingly low.

The low Kiwi dollar and a bit of "smart thinking" has made this a viable little back-yard business with the potential to expand into other areas.

Because of the pressure of my other commitments, I'm not about to change careers and get into the manufacture of jet engines at this point in time -- but I believe there are probably thousands of similar would-be businesses out there which, given the right encouragement and incentives, could make a huge difference to this country's economic position and trade deficit.

Maybe if the current economic climate in NZ were different I'd actually invest the money required to set up a small manufacturing operation for these engines and give another Kiwi couple of Kiwis a job -- but until our politicians come to their senses I'm not about to pay more penalty tax on the R&D that is required to ensure the longevity of such a business.

As always, your feedback is welcomed.

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