2003 April 23

(entry last updated: 2003-04-23 19:21:24)

  • The end of the day Technorati datapoint: www.nytimes.com; 7:20 PM; 219,819 weblogs watched; 10,477,345 links watched; 5942 inbound blogs; 15,762 inbound links

  • An oddly schizoid analysis [pdf] of Apple’s positions in re: buying a record company from BusinessWeek. On one hand, these companies are a mess; on the other hand, the prices will fall. And the implicit assumption that business-as-usual will prevail (c.f., the points on prima donnas and salaries) could make this article a roadmap for fixing what ails the industry.

  • News.com reports that Microsoft’s CD copy protection technology has been picked up by Macrovision.

    “We’re hopeful that the labels will do some test releases this summer and do some major releases this winter,” said Adam Sexton, vice president of marketing for Macrovision’s music technology division. “Copy protection is working in Europe, and airplanes are not falling out of the sky. The economy is still functioning, despite the doomsday predictions.” [Ed. note: Ah, glad to hear that the RIAA/IFPI declarations of sales declines are not as troubling as they have appeared.]

    … The Microsoft technology allows more flexibility, however. The pre-ripped, or “second session” Windows Media files added to music discs will allow record labels to specify exactly what can be done with the songs, such as burning a few extra CDs, making a few digital copies, or transferring them to an MP3 player.

    Macrovision’s license now allows the company to sell this full package of copy-protected and pre-ripped songs to record labels. SunnComm signed a similar license earlier this year.

    Despite the movement on the technology front, there remains no indication from the major music labels as to when they might start releasing protected titles in the United States.

    Given that it appears that Windows Media formats appear to be at the heart of this, can we expect that we’re going to see CD players sold with “Certified by Microsoft” stickers? What’s *that* going to cost?

  • David Weinberger has a useful corollary to Declan McCullagh’s argument that geeks should stay out of politics and just code: Role of technologists in Politics

    What should technologists be doing to keep the Net free and content open?

    Here’s my answer, as profound as it is detailed:

    First, technologists should make technology that supports openness.

    Second, technologists should explain that technology as clearly as they can.

    Here’s an example.

    Right now, we’re in a battle over how controlled content can and should be. Everyone (?) agrees that creators ought to be compensated for their efforts. The question is: Is it necessary, fair and good for creators to always be compensated, in a one-to-one way, for every encounter with their works? Should we shut down photocopiers because sometimes they are used to violate copyright? Should we shut down VCRs for the same reason? Should we prevent people from lending books to their friends? Should I have to pay the author again if I choose to reread her book? Nah. But somehow the entertainment industry has persuaded Congress that any uncompensated use constitutes piracy. Technologists ought to convince Congress that the attempt to lock down all usage is either impossible or carries with it such terrible side effects that it is undesirable.

    And then they ought to hack the control mechanisms.

  • Doc Searls points to a truly humorous article in The Onion: New Fox reality Show To Determine Ruler of Iraq

    A panel of celebrity judges will help eliminate two contestants each week, leaving one lucky winner the undisputed leader of Iraq at the end of the season. Viewers can participate by casting phone-in votes, although Darnell noted that voting is restricted to calls originating from within the continental U.S.

    U.S. General Jay Garner (Ret.) will host the show under the auspices of the Pentagon. The three celebrity judges, Darnell said, will be choreographer and former Chrysalis recording artist Toni Basil, internationally renowned hairstylist Vidal Sassoon, and television star Kevin Sorbo.

    …According to Berman, Fox received more than 3,000 applicants for the show during an open casting call. While most of the hopefuls were American or Iraqi, some 600 aspiring rulers from more than 100 nations auditioned for the coveted 20 finalist spots. Contestants included a San Diego interior decorator, a Philadelphia inner-city schoolteacher, and a peshmerga fighter from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

    Contestant Kymbyrley Lake, a cashier from Garland, TX, said she has a “good feeling” about her chances.

    …At a Pentagon briefing Monday, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz gave his blessing to Appointed By America.

    “It is great that Fox will play a vital role in post-war Iraq,” Wolfowitz said. “Heck, we didn’t really know what we were going to do.”

  • While I’ve been following the compulsory licensing discussion online (one set of links), I’m not ready to jump in, yet. But Derek points us to a couple of new chapters of Terry Fisher’s upcoming book to help.

  • The NYTimes has an article about artists “mis-using” computers to make art: Deliberately Distorting the Digital Mechanism [pdf]

    Since 1994 Ms. Heemskerk and Mr. Paesmans, collaborating under the name Jodi, have created a series of Internet-based artworks that deliberately cause computers to do the wrong thing. Viewers of these online works will find their screens filled with meaningless text and needlessly blinking graphics. Web-browser windows spawn smaller windows that race maddeningly around the screen. Links that appear to lead somewhere yield dead ends. Like a sci-fi thriller, this could be delightful, except that the underlying premise is of computers in complete control. A terrifying thought.

    … Like Cezanne’s late works in which the raw canvas is often part of the painting, Jodi’s sites force viewers to become conscious of the Web’s appealing surface and the digital mechanism that lurks below.

    Annette Schindler, the director of Plug.In and the co-curator of “install .exe,” said, “You think you know your computer, but really all you know is a surface on your screen.” This state of affairs is based on the foolish hope that our technology, like our cars, will always operate properly, so that we never have to look at the oily, gritty bits under the hood. But Jodi subverts this notion. Visitors to the duo’s Web sites, Ms. Schindler said, “immediately have the experience that Jodi wants to give them, which is, `What if everything goes wrong?’ ”

    A very worthwhile question in the face of changes being planned for the digital landscape.

  • Salon on The PATRIOT software bonanza:

    It’s hard to fault software companies for looking for new markets, but some observers still find the spectacle of firms rushing to deliver spy software distasteful.

    “Companies climbing all over each to be the first to sell the tools of surveillance to the government and to other companies is unseemly,” says Cindy Cohn, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. While the software companies enjoy the new demand for their PATRIOT-inspired solutions, the EFF has another solution in mind for the act; it’s currently leading a letter-writing campaign in support of two members of the House who are calling for congressional hearings on the act.

  • This article from atnewyork.com (via internetnews.com) suggests that, while some colleges are cooperating with the RIAA, they are finding them to be poor bedfellows:

    While Penn State washed its hands of the legal mess, the Michigan Technological University (MTU) was not so lucky. One of MTU’s students, Joe Nievelt, was sued by the RIAA before the school could get a chance to act on a complaint from the music industry trade association.

    Clearly irked by the litigation move, MTU president Curtis Tompkins slammed the RIAA for turning a blind eye to the school’s efforts to curb illegal file-sharing within its network and hinted that the RIAA was more interested in lawsuits and publicity.

    “I believe that we would not be facing this situation with Joseph Nievelt today had we been able to gain your help in providing additional information to our student body. We have cooperated fully with the RIAA, but in recent months, have not seen the same from your organization,” Tompkins said in a letter to the association.

    “You have obviously known about this situation with Joe Nievelt for quite some time. Had you followed the previous methods established in notification of a violation, we would have shut off the student and not allowed the problem to grow to the size and scope that it is today,” he added.

    “I am very disappointed that the RIAA decided to take this action in this manner. As a fully cooperating site, we would have expected the courtesy of being notified early and allowing us to take action following established procedures, instead of allowing it to get to the point of lawsuits and publicity,” Tompkins added.

  • 321 Studios goes to court (CNet story) this week for a declaratory judgement about the legality of their software.

    The studios claim 321’s software violates a portion of the act that makes it illegal for anyone to sell software used to break or bypass digital encryption codes.

    But 321 argues that the DMCA allows software owners to get around encryption when copies are made for an owner’s sole use.

    “This is a very interesting, cutting-edge case,” said 321’s San Francisco-based attorney Daralyn Durie. “The first issue is what does the DMCA mean, and does it prohibit all circumvention of encryption, or does it only prohibit the circumvention when it’s being done to engage in copyright infringement.”

    Frankly, I’m a little confused, but I don’t have this software (or a DVD burner). My understanding was that copying, per se, is achievable without undoing CSS, so there’s got to be something more here. Moreover, given the relatively unhappy record of declaratory judgements in the copyright arena lately (Eldred, Edelman), there’s a question of strategy, too.

  • Wired covers the super-DMCAs – Baby DMCAs Punish Copy Crimes

  • This morning’s End of Free Redux data point: 9:44AM Technorati stats for www.nytimes.com: 238,937 weblogs watched, 10,367,284 links watched, 5942 inbound blogs, 15762 inbound links

  • From the Bruce Springsteen WWW site:

    The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves. To me, they’re terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American.

    The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that this country is about – namely freedom. Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create freedom in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home.

    I don’t know what happens next, but I do want to add my voice to those who think that the Dixie Chicks are getting a raw deal, and an un-American one to boot. I send them my support.

    Bruce Springsteen

  • If you can’t get a declaratory judgement, you have to try other means: Group questions state site-blocking law

  • The Register also cites the recent Microsoft announcement, under the antitrust settlement, to offer access to protocols. The Samba Team is cited as being unimpressed.

  • The Register also summarizes the Madonna/MP3 spoofing/site hacking situation. CNet also has some material

  • The Register picks up the suit of the Napster VCs (CNet’s article), but misses the key issue that came out of yesterday’s Slashdot discussion – the fact that a finding of ‘vicarious infringement’ under copyright law allows the piercing of the ‘corporate veil,’ meaning that liability is then no longer limited to the amount invested in the firm. This is why there’s such concern among the VC community. See yesterday’s Furdlog for pointers to some articles on the subject, and also see Fred von Lohmann’s analysis.

  • More on the RIAA file sharing lawsuits, as well as an overall look at the change in RIAA tactics with respect to students [pdf].

    College students are not the only ones copying music off the Internet. But students, who often justify their behavior by arguing that CD’s are too expensive and that artists do not get the money anyway, may be more hostile toward the music industry than most. Many say record labels should accept that the Internet has irrevocably changed their business and instead offer new services, like chat sessions with artists or early ticket sales for concerts, which they would be willing to pay for. Others say they buy as many or more CD’s as they ever did because they are able to sample music free and discover artists they like.

    … “It’s been very difficult because students have grown up viewing the Internet as a place where you go to get lots of free access to things,” said Graham Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University. “As we have tried to educate our students, half of them understand it’s like going into a store and putting a CD in your pocket and the other half just can’t see it that way.”

    The threat of legal retribution may be improving their vision. Since the record industry filed its lawsuits, officials say they have seen over a dozen internal campus Web sites devoted to music-sharing go dark.

    … “If this becomes more about a challenge to the technology than about downloading music for recreational purposes, that is a serious concern for us,” said Peter McDonough, general counsel for Princeton. “Because we emphatically believe the technologies themselves are not illegal.”

    I would have expected a more sophisticated perception of the illegality than the one cited by the president of Penn State! At least the Princeton general counsel has a clearer perception of the issues.