2003 February 21

(entry last updated: 2003-02-21 13:02:49)

This’ll be it for a while – after today’s entry, I will be traveling for the next week, so you will probably have to go elsewhere – I suggest Copyfight, bIPlog, The Shifted Librarian, Freedom to Tinker and others from the sidebar to the right. See you in a week

  • This is going to be interesting – CNet reports that PGR/The Honest Thief is planning to exploit a recent Dutch court ruling to become the preferred P2P filesharing operator.

  • CNet also reports on the upcoming Microsoft release of their Rights Management Services

  • Cool! I got an e-mail this morning offering me a press pass to attend the Berkeley DRM Conference next week. If I weren’t going to be out of the country, I’d certainly be tempted, because it looks like they’ve got a great program planned. Whether or not you’re going, the online resources are well worth a review!

  • Another shot across the bow – HP Canada wants to see the repeal of the digital media levy and is working to form the Canadian Coalition for Fair Digital Access to work toward this objective.

  • The ZDnet version of the story about the University of Wyoming’s efforts to track P2P includes TalkBacks – see the state of the discussion among the ZDNet readership.

  • The LATimes has some more detail on the lawsuit filed against Bertelsmann over their investment in Napster. The interesting thing about this suit is that it could easily be construed as reinforcing the effort to stifle all innovation by the record companies in this area – why take the risk in the face of this kind of litigation?

  • The LATimes also has an interesting spin on Berman’s comment from the Digital Rights Summit – that Hollywood is distancing themselves from Berman-Coble, so he probably won’t reintroduce it this session.

2003 February 20

(entry last updated: 2003-02-20 19:11:25)

  • Ed Felten points us to a very thoughtful and lengthy essay posted at LawMeme: Accidental Privacy Spills: Musings on Privacy, Democracy, and the Internet (Donna likes it, too)

  • News.com shows us one way that the end-to-end design of the Internet is being subverted at the University of Wyoming, where Audible Magic‘s technology is being deployed (Slashdot discussion). I mean, why should we use these next generation processors that Intel and AMD want to sell us to cure cancer or search for extraterrestrials when we can instead use them to cripple our networks and save the record industry from itself?

  • NewsFlash! Dead horse being beaten – literally! This is the kind of innovative record industry thinking that’s going to solve their problems – cannibalism!! (A popular word, I see!)
    (Note: Jenny’s worried about losing the “Grimmys or Grammys?” article – here’s a local pdf)

  • A little off-topic, but the Image of the Day for 2/20/2003 documents a little-known WWII-era product – the Mickey Mouse gas mask

  • LawMeme reports that the decision to pre-release an album on vinyl to music critics, etc. did nothing to stop the “leak” of the album to the Internet P2P nets – so the album release is being bumped up.

    So here’s the $64 question – what idiot thought that this approach was actually going to keep this material off the P2P networks? "I know! — we’ll just release it on vinyl! We’ll go retro with – get this – pure analog! Those P2P pirates will never figure out how to rip an MP3 from that." Do you suppose s/he got paid to offer up that kind of lame advice? I mean, hasn’t the measure of the music aficionado always been the quality and extent of his playback tools? Of course someone will have a good AtoD setup to deal with vinyl. Sheesh!

  • Woo-hoo! Siva Viadhynathan’s weblog configuration is fixed so it’s now possible to link to individual entries – for example, this interview with a recording artist that he posted a while ago.

  • To mark the close of the comment period on the broadcast flag, Cory Doctorow points to the submission of an MIT graduate student who decided to test Jack Valenti’s assertion that the broadcast flag protections are necessary to prevent casual file sharing of HDTV – he documented his efforts and supplied them as a comment.

  • Wired has a provocatively titled summary of the Digital Rights Summit: Summit: DMCA Blocks Tech Progress

    “I’m here today to tell you that I’m scared. Silicon Valley is under threat,” said Joe Kraus, co-founder of Digitalconsumer.org. “The DMCA’s blatant restriction on circumvention threatens a few of the core foundations of Silicon Valley: interoperability, innovation without prior permission and Silicon Valley’s (belief in) empowering the consumer.

  • Also from the Digital Rights Summit: Rep. Ron Wyden plans to introduce a bill that "[r]equire[s]anything that has antipiracy technology built in to be clearly labeled and let consumers decide at the cash register" (Slashdot discussion) Also, Larry Lessig is quoted supporting a compulsory licensing scheme – Terry Fisher’s?

    “Never in our history have fewer been in a position to control more of the creative potential of our society than now,” Lessig said. “We have to buy them off, so they don’t break the Internet in the interim.”

    Slashdot discussion

  • This writeup of the Digital Rights Summit from SFGate is more colorful than most:

    At a heated Digital Rights Summit at Intel Corp.’s headquarters, Lessig joined entrepreneurs and other academics in warning that Hollywood’s copy-protection demands could strike a lethal blow to the U.S. technology industry.

    Punctuated by hisses, applause and shouts of “Amen!” from members of the 100-person crowd, the four-hour debate illustrated the gargantuan gap between Silicon Valley and Hollywood when it comes to so-called digital rights management.

    …The lone Hollywood defender in the four-hour conference blasted technophiles’ allegations as “overblown and simplistic.”

    Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., said Silicon Valley’s complaints were little more than trivial self-pity.

    A less colorful article from SFGate makes a few other points about innovation in Silicon Valley.

  • Donna points to a further summary of the Digital Rights Summit, as well as alerting us to the fact that Ben Edelman’s research project continues to move forward – (as well as the fact that she’s seen today’s entries <G> – thanks, Donna!)

  • Derek Slater points to bIPlog’s Digital Rights Summit rundown.

  • Pursuant to yesterday’s rundown on the Clear Channel issues, there is a New York Times editorial today that puts some more fuel on the fire: The Trouble With Corporate Radio: The Day the Protest Music Died

    Liberal Democrats are horrified by the legion of conservative talk show hosts who dominate the airwaves. But the problem stretches across party lines. National Journal reported last month that Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida, was finding it difficult to reach his constituents over the air since national radio companies moved into his district, reducing the number of local stations from five to one. Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, had a potential disaster in his district when a freight train carrying anhydrous ammonia derailed, releasing a deadly cloud over the city of Minot. When the emergency alert system failed, the police called the town radio stations, six of which are owned by the corporate giant Clear Channel. According to news accounts, no one answered the phone at the stations for more than an hour and a half. Three hundred people were hospitalized, some partially blinded by the ammonia. Pets and livestock were killed.

  • Salon’s Eric Boehlert keeps up the heat with Is pay-for-play finally finished?

    It can costs a label $250,000 just to get a new single played on rock radio. That doesn’t guarantee the song will become a hit. It just gains access to the airwaves. If the song actually does become a mainstream Top-40 hit, indie costs balloon to more than $1 million per song. When consumers complain about the price of an $18 CD, most have no idea how much money record companies spend trying to market those CDs to radio.

    The problem for record companies today is that fewer consumers are spending $18 on CDs, or even $13. Thanks in large part to free downloading and file-sharing, CD sales have plummeted nearly 20 percent in just two years, and record companies don’t seem to have a clue how to stop the free-fall.

2003 February 19

(entry last updated: 2003-02-19 18:49:49)

  • This LATimes article describes the current efforts of the copyright industries to track P2P usage.

    Assuming Judge Bates’ ruling is upheld, copyright holders could soon be routinely obtaining names and phone numbers from ISPs to match the Internet addresses they cull from peer-to-peer networks. And for those people, at least, any illusions about the anonymity of file sharing will be dispelled for good.

  • Salon has an article on the question of nominating a computer generated character for an Academy award, using Andy Serkis’ Gollum as the basis for identifying an interesting issue:

    The truth is that it’s never been altogether clear who “owns” a film performance, and the issue has become even less clear as cinematic production techniques become more and more advanced. Onstage, lighting, makeup and costuming affect performances, but the actor ultimately retains control over how he or she is presented to the audience. In film, this has never been the case: Long after the actor has left the set, directors and producers make decisions that determine what audiences will and will not see, and how they will see it. The question becomes one of where to draw the line: Does the application of a “virtual prosthetic” represent a more significant alteration of an actor’s performance than a director accomplishes through editing?

    As digital effects become increasingly prevalent in cinema, this question of performance ownership will become impossible to ignore, and audiences will be forced to decide whether it is the performer or the performance that is worth evaluating.

  • Wired picks up a Reuters newswire that says Hollywood is soliciting informers to tackle Asian DVD piracy and to shut down the factories that produce them.

  • Cory Doctorow points out that DC Comics figures that IP violation is an issue that villians and superheroes can agree on.

  • Salon’s series on media consolidation gets a new entry with Eric Boehlert’s latest piece on Clear Channel – the company that has managed to give deregulation a bad rep even among otherwise-so-inclined Republicans. Other Clear Channel pieces from Salon on the radio industry (this link will give you the summaries as I wrote them up when I entered them into my links database):

  • More developments in the recording industry’s plans to challenge the university networks of Australia.

  • Rob Glaser of Real Networks explains it all to you.

2003 February 18

(entry last updated: 2003-02-18 16:52:01)

Well, a new record snowfall in 24hrs and a new all time snowfall record – 27.5 inches. MIT cancelled classes, so you know it must be pretty bad.

  • Derek Slater points to an article that discusses the threat to innovation that the IP cabal may impose in terms that might get someone’s attention.

  • GigaLaw has an article on questions remaining in the wake of the Eldred decision. Honestly, though, I enjoyed (and got more out of) the link to the Reason column (“Mickey Mouse Clubbed”) – an interview with Mickey post-Eldred.

    Q: Very nice. I didn’t know you were familiar with the Warner Brothers characters.

    A: Poor bastards. They’re gonna be locked up even longer than I am. I guess if Chuck Jones were still around to direct their cartoons, they might not mind it on their plantation. Instead, they have to do those stupid commercials with Michael Jordan.

    Anyway. Yeah, Walt Disney created me, but he didn’t create me out of nothing. Look at my skin. Look at my face. Look at this glove. I’m straight out of the minstrel show tradition�which makes this whole “ownership” business stick in my craw even more.

    I’m also Buster Keaton.

    Q: Sorry?

    A: My first cartoon short, Steamboat Willie, was a direct parody of Keaton’s movie Steamboat Bill, Jr. On the very first page of the script, it says, “Orchestra starts playing opening verses of Steamboat Bill.” I remember what Eldred’s lawyer Lawrence Lessig said when he read that: “Try doing a cartoon take-off of one of Disney, Inc.’s latest films with an opening that copies the music.”

    So yeah, they created me. But they don’t want to let other people build on me when they make their own creations, the way they did when I was born. And now I’m locked up for another stinking 20 years! Do you have any idea what it’s like to have to greet kids at Disneyland every single day, always smiling, never slipping off for a cigarette?

  • Roxio’s latest product enables users to burn not only CDs but DVDs too. While 321 Studios pursues infringers.

  • Slashdot reports on an effort by major Australian record distribution companies to stop file sharing on Australian university networks.

    But the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy, said the industry was wrong to target students.

    “The focus of these organisations should be on people who are running or pirating music for clear commercial benefit,” he said. “I don’t think there is any benefit to the community in prosecuting individuals who do this as a one-off. I mean, we’d have half the students in Australia in jail.”

  • The article on the technology formerly known as Palladium that Ed Felten wants to correct got the Slashdot treatment last night.

2003 February 17

(entry last updated: 2003-02-17 18:23:44)

Between working on a proposal, digging out from a New England blizzard, and celebrating my birthday, it’s going to be a little thin today, I’m afraid. UPDATE: Hoo-boy, it’s *really* coming down!

  • I’m really looking forward to seeing the article Ed Felten wants to write after reading this entry in his weblog on how poorly Palladium is being explained.

  • Jenny Levine read the NYTimes a lot better than I did today – a really great article on Smithsonian Folkway’s Recordings distribution model – just in time CD-R burning!

    It is hard for some to ignore the irony that as Smithsonian Folkways uses CD-R’s to further its business, much of the industry hopes to limit the technology’s use.

    “It’s almost like a little bootlegger’s operation going on,” said Dean Blackwood, owner of Revenant Records, an esoteric Americana label.

  • And I really do like these weblabels to track the current terror alert.

  • BoingBoing points to two items: Jon Johansen’s new weblog and an article from Canada on the growing market for region-free/multi-region DVD players.

    But not everyone is pleased with the growing popularity of multi-region DVD machines. While it is not illegal to sell such machines in North America, the major studios are not happy about the potential lost revenue. To try and dampen their growing popularity, the studios have been coming up with several ways to make watching movies on these players much more difficult. Recently, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) developed the Regional Code Enhancing (RCE) system that is now being placed on many Region 1 DVDs. The RCE is made to prevent Region 1 DVDs from being played on multi-region DVD players, and there are talks underway to include this technology on DVDs released around the world. Still, many multi-region DVD players are now starting to be released with technology that gets around the RCE system.

  • Will the MPAA let Mike Myers get away with this?

  • Slashdot discusses a Fox news article summarizing the current Congress’ tech agenda. I especially liked this comment skewering David Coursey.

  • David Stutz’ farewell to Microsoft gets NYTimes ink

  • Anita Ramasastry writes about Patriot II in Findlaw. She points out that, among other evils, Patriot II has no sunset provision, and removes the provision that was in Patriot I.

2003 February 14

(entry last updated: 2003-02-14 17:15:42)

  • JoHo points to an article in Business Week that points out that there are plenty of reasons for the decline in CD sales without resorting to P2P filesharing as an explanation. Based on a web article by George Ziemann that I mentioned last December

    Still, it seems irresponsible for music-industry officials to present these sales statistics as proof that piracy is overwhelmingly responsible for the industry’s woes while conveniently ignoring the economic and technological context that puts those numbers in perspective. “The policy decisions being made today are based on the assumption that [file trading] is killing the music business. But no one is looking deeply enough at the facts,” says Jim Burger, an attorney who represents the computer industry at Washington (D.C.) law firm Dow, Lohnes & Albertson.

  • Acacia Technologies is going to court to protect their streaming patent.

  • Slashdot has finally posted a discussion on the prosecution of satellite TV hackers, some of whom are being charged with DMCA violations. As I mentioned when this first came out, the Department of Justice now has found a defendant whose general alleged venality gets them out of the problems they had with ElcomSoft and Sklyarov. There are some interesting and some naive posts, but the most interesting issues relate to questions of the legality of interpreting information broadcast on the public airwaves and, more importantly IMHO, do you really need the DMCA to prosecute this sort of crime? Some posters say, “I am generally opposed to the DMCA, but this is the sort of crime it was designed to penalize” – but was the DMCA the only reason these defendents were prosecuted? I think not, but will a defense attorney find this a useful question at trial? During appeal?

  • Another article telling us just how much was "lost" to IP infringement, based on someone’s report. A look at the methodology (a scant 5 pages) employed shows that nothing particularly new has been done to consider how to estimate these "losses" – not to mention the benefits through network effects, promotion, etc.

  • David Stutz is leaving Microsoft, and he’s written a going-away letter that discusses what the company needs to do in the face of the transition from the PC to the network – and the open source elements of that effort. An interesting read, closing with good advice for almost everyone: "Stop looking over your shoulder and invent something!

    "

  • Hoot! Lessig fan fiction! (via JoHo)

  • Marci Hamilton suggests that the pro-Eldred forces aim higher, rather than lower.

    With some constitutional provisions, we tinker at our peril. Fortunately, the Copyright Clause is not one of them.

    The Framers did not debate the Copyright Clause. It was introduced; it passed. That was it. Compare that to the hours and hours of debate spent on shaping the Congress and the presidency. The Copyright Clause is not the kind of well-considered provision that we should hesitate to amend.

    Moreover, if they were alive today, the Framers might well have supported an amendment to the Copyright Clause. The very philosophy of the Constitution is to expect, oppose, and correct the inevitable abuses of power. And over the years, the Copyright Clause has become a flashpoint for just such abuse. While it is corporate, not government, power that is being abused, it is an abuse of a power granted under the Constitution nonetheless.

  • The RIAA, IFPI and the MPAA offer up an early Valentine to companies: A Copyright Use and Security Guide for Companies and Governments (from the IFPI site – press release – I assume this will join the MPAA press area eventually – surprisingly, the RIAA.org server is not responding today…..). APNewsWire via the NYTimes; Billboard; CNet News reports:

    “When your employees put music, movies, videogames or other software on your computer systems without a license or other permission from the copyright owner, it is not ‘sharing’ or ‘fair use.’ It is theft,” the brochure reads. “When these works are made available to others in your organization, or to the public over the Internet, it is no different than running an illegal distribution business.”

    The brochure exhorts companies to audit their own networks for pirated material, delete any copyrighted works found, and designate a copyright-compliance officer.

    It also turns the spotlight on the drain on corporate resources and on the security problems raised by employees trading copyrighted files. Corporate security companies say these concerns in particular have been resonating among businesses in recent months.

  • Not necessarily in response, Sharman releases a new KaZaa

  • The LATimes reports that Listen.com is going to “sell songs below cost: 49 cents per download” to attract cutomers – what kind of overhead structure makes $0.49 below cost?? What else are they charging for, exactly?

  • And, in the midst of all this, Business 2.0 makes some suggestions:

    They’re all dramatic, and they all go against everything the labels have tried lately, but a quick look at a graph of CD sales quarter-by-quarter (think Grand Canyon) suggests that only bold moves will save the industry from an otherwise inexorable slide. What to do?

    • Reduce CD prices….

    • Abandon copy protection and invest in consumer-friendly technologies….

    • Abandon current online efforts and buy Kazaa….

  • Jenny Levine talked about the effort to preserve digital materials at the LoC yesterday – I didn’t get a chance to read it until today.

  • Some interesting questions raised about why Lexis and Nexis won’t sell their online services to public libraries. Slashdot discussion. How to reconcile what these publishers do for profit and what governments/courts require of citizen’s to understand about the law? What does access mean? An interesting thing to think about in this context, and a provocative article whether you agree with the conclusions or not.

  • I missed Jack Balkin‘s op-ed on the Patriot Act II in the LATimes yesterday.

2003 February 12 Links

(entry last updated: 2003-02-12 22:31:14)

2003 February 12 – More on Weblogs in Education

(entry last updated: 2003-02-12 07:32:42)

Wow! I’ve already gotten some comments on my late-night posting. I have at least one point that I need to make more clear: speaking as an MIT alum at both the undergrad and graduate level, I would never assert that life at MIT is all about grades. You can’t really survive here if you don’t want to learn anyway.

But grades are embedded into the institution; the faculty have to generate them, the students expect them and the university employs them as indicators of performance, health and progress – students AND faculty (we get graded, too, via course evaluations). At MIT, at least in my day (I never thought I’d use that expression seriously <G>), it was vital that you understood grades, because survival in classes required gaming the system – you might also want to learn the material for yourself, but you definitely had to figure out what was going to be on the exam if you expected to survive.

There’s even a book on the subject (no, not the Paper Chase, although there’s a particular resonance given the locus of Dave’s efforts) – The Hidden Curriculum by Benson Snyder. It’s old, perhaps, but it was a revelation to me as an undergraduate. Written by someone intimately familiar with both the MIT and the Wellesley educational experience, it contrasts the two to develop several important themes, one of which is that courses operate at two levels – the overt curriculum, which is embedded in the readings, syllabi, etc; and the hidden curriculum, which are the specific tasks that must be achieved in order to pass the class.

What gives the hidden curriculum traction is that grades are awarded, and are considered by a host of individuals and institutions. And the knowledge of that leads to a certain conception of competitive behavior that both sides of the process exploit. Derek pointed out that weblogs might be a great way for students to turn in their weekly papers – true, but what about the last student to post his/her paper – is it fair to assess that paper on the same basis as the others, knowing that this student had the opportunity to learn from everyone else’s earlier posting? If not, how would you revise the assessment process – looking at timestamps? Would you really believe them?

Now, there are mechanics that can be used to work that problem, but that’s just the first one that comes to mind, and it explicitly identifies the key problem – grades make us work competitively, while weblogs make us collaborative. Shoehorning the two together in the face of institutional pressures to develop grades (and to make them mean something – for admissions, hiring, etc.) is going to be an uphill battle.

Which is not to say that it shouldn’t be tried – but it’s going to be interesting to see how this very real clash of cultures is going to be worked through. The opportunities are great – but some anticipatory strategic and organizational thinking will probably help everyone out a lot.

2003 February 11 – Post-session thoughts

(entry last updated: 2003-02-11 23:04:26)

Found myself ruminating a bit on some of the thoughts raised at the Winer/Berkman Center weblogs discussion. In particular, I think that Dave’s going to have an interesting time learning about the dynamics of the academic environment. He comes to the weblog experiment with the clear hope that widespread dissemination of weblogs will better college education – that’s a strong assumption and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out – and what it might take to bring it to fruition.

A particular angle of that experiment is going to be how well the current education model will accommodate a transition from an essentially competition-based process to a cooperative process. Consider that, particularly at the undergraduate level, competition for grades is a key motivator that structures much of the way in which classes are conducted, material is presented and learning is motivated. (Yes, I know there are exceptions to this model, but it’s not the norm at Harvard, or MIT). Once you get to graduate school, the process frequently changes – when students are taking classes they love, for reasons that they understand, the whole motivation for learning turns into something amazing, and I can readily see how the construction of an open, collaborative framework for sharing learning can work. Heck, when I was a graduate student, I learned an incredible amount from my graduate student colleagues – while at the same time realizing that I was going to reduce my course load by at least a third (compared to my undergraduate days) because there suddenly wasn’t enough time to really dig into the topics being presented.

But, at the undergraduate level, there are a lot more hoops to be jumped through, and the content of many courses is governed by factors outside the university – certification programs and the traditions of the disciplines themselves. (For example, is there a single differential equations course that *doesn’t* include the snowplow problem? And can you really say you have an engineering education if you haven’t had to solve it – at least once?) It may be very difficult to accommodate cooperative learning in such classes without the kind of wholesale revision of curricula that many universities are loath to revisit – until they’re forced to do so. So, there will probably be the need for a certain momentum to develop first – and after seeing Dave in person, I can easily believe that he’s the guy who can make a good stab at it.

But, I think that the real opportunity at the undergraduate level – the place where it has natural traction – is not necessarily in the classroom, as a part of a course. Rather, it is the way that the weblog can help to foster the digital equivalent of the late-night dorm bullsh*t sessions where much of the true benefit of the college experience comes – campus-wide! Testing your notions of good and bad, right and wrong, fair and unfair – all those things that made college the exciting experience that helped you to realize that you could make choices, challenge beliefs and test assumptions without too much fear of the consequences – and making some surprisingly strong friendships along the way. I certainly see how weblogs can further that process, and lead to a host of new learning – whether or not it ever migrates back into the undergraduate curriculum.

As I said, it’s going to be interesting to see how the experiment goes….