2003 May 30

(entry last updated: 2003-05-30 18:14:25)

Sorry for the relative paucity of links today: MIT’s grades came out today and, with graduation a little over a week away, there are all sorts of evaluations, checks and meetings that get held to make sure that the academic programs are on top of the situation. A long day……

  • Something that came over the transom as I was getting ready to head home – a datapoint in the Aimee Deep discussion:

    Subject: Aimee Deep – EFF amicus filed

    From: “Aimee Deep” <suppressed>

    Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 17:06:30 -0400

    To: <furd@mit.edu>

    Hi Fred, [sic]

    I thought you’d be interested to know that the EFF has filed an amicus brief

    in our appeal. I blogged a little at musicpundit.com. Oral arguments are

    June 4. Would love to see you there! (Maybe I could prove that I exist. I

    understand your skepticism. Right now it’s just, I link, therefore I am.)

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m grateful,


  • Mary Hodder is on top of the current activity around the DMCA good faith takedown provisions and the Internetmovies case: In MPAA We Trust

  • DeCSS back in the news: Arguments made in DVD-cracking case (Slashdot: DeCSS Arguments in CA Supreme Court Case)

    California Attorney General Bill Lockyer called DVD-cracking software DeCSS a tool for “breaking, entering and stealing” during a hearing before the California Supreme Court on Thursday.

    …California’s high court is considering whether a ban on the posting of the code, which cracks the content-scrambling system designed to protect DVD movies, violates free speech. Lockyer, who’s gearing up to run for governor next year, appeared on the side of the DVD Copy Control Association, which is arguing that the posting of the code on the Net should be banned.

    The case, DVD CCA v. Bunner, started four years ago, when the DVD CCA sued Andrew Bunner and hundreds of other people, saying they violated California trade-secret law by displaying links to the code.

    See also Donna’s collection of links: DeCSS Code–Free as in Speech?

  • From BBSpot: Sony Unveils New Self-Destructive DVD Player

    Wang addressed the safety concerns of destroying a DVD player: “Sure there are safety issues, but most homes are equipped with smoke detectors these days, and are chock full of pirated material which would be destroyed in the blaze. OK, their house might burn down, but isn’t that a small price to pay to combat piracy?”

    Instead of the standard low-powered laser most DVD players are equipped with, the SD-DVD player from Sony has a high-powered laser which will eventually burn through the DVD and ignite the highly flammable material from which the player is made.

    …Hollywood applauds the move. Chairman of the MPAA Jack Valenti said, “Not having a DVD player makes it absolutely impossible to view pirated content, which makes copying a DVD entirely useless. Granted, it also makes watching the damn thing impossible, but we don’t care if you can’t see the content, just as long as you buy brand new, legitimate copies from your local or online store.”

    funnily, this article appeared on CNet later in the day: Sony sets movies to self-destruct. Luckily, th actual concept is not quite so pyrotechnic in nature:

    A subsidiary of electronics maker Sony is to sell downloadable movie files that self-destruct after a given time.

  • The final article in the Digital Remix series is out: Free vs. fee: Underground still thrives

    Rather than fear their demise, free music services say the large music companies and e-tailers will have no choice but to work with file-swapping technology instead of against it. They say a rise in consumer awareness from paid services, a series of favorable court rulings and a shift in law-enforcement tactics all seem to signal the beginning of a new, third age of file swapping that will postdate the death of Napster and the troubles of its offspring.

    “Apple and others are competing with extremely large numbers of people who are using P2P (peer to peer) and other forms of technology to get free content,” said Kevin Bermeister, chief executive of Altnet, a company that distributes paid content through the Kazaa file-sharing service. “Unless this is addressed directly, which entails reaching those users, I don’t see how content companies are going to get to the masses on the Internet.”

    Including this very potent analogy:

    “You have to liken P2P to tap water,” said Wayne Rosso, president of the popular Grokster peer-to-peer service. “It is always going to be there. It’s free, and people are going to use it. But bottled water makers make a lot of money too.”

  • Today’s Boston Globe has a number of relevant and interesting bits:

    • Two pieces on media consolidation:

      • Media giants circle [pdf]

        Boston broadcast executives and analysts predict that the area’s media landscape will largely remain stable after Monday’s expected deregulation vote. But they say that the greatest chances of ownership changes could come from Boston Herald owner Patrick Purcell, who might sell to the paper’s former owner, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and from WHDH-TV (Channel 7), if owner Ed Ansin would look favorably on suitors that could range from NBC, a subsidiary of General Electric Co., to The New York Times Co.

      • Protests target media consolidation [pdf]

        Protests were planned at Clear Channel stations in 14 cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco.

        Protesters say Clear Channel stifles diverse points of view by programming local stations with national shows.

        A Clear Channel spokesman said the media coverage of the protests is evidence that diverse viewpoints are not ignored.

    • An odd snippet to track down on Michelle Shocked in this music gossip column: Viva la Vega [pdf]

      Michelle Shocked’s story could fill three episodes of VH1’s ”Behind the Music.” She went from punk rocker to homeless peacenik to political crooner to mainstream star, all in less than 10 years. Then she sued her record label using the 13th Amendment – the reform abolishing slavery. The one constant throughout these episodes has been Shocked’s ability to write everything from rock to swing to blues.

    • This article on John Cougar Mellencamp’s new album includes this provenance of the project grounded in the business of record-making: Mellencamp lands in ‘Trouble’ [pdf]

      The idea for it came, Mellencamp says, when he played Johnson’s ”Stones in My Passway” at a New York benefit last fall for the family of deceased Billboard editor Timothy White, who was a friend. A record-company exec said, ”Why don’t you make a record of songs like this for us?” he recalls. Mellencamp was stunned, because most of his contracts had stipulated that he had to write at least 10 songs per album himself, so the label wouldn’t have to pay royalties to other publishers.

  • The Microsoft-AOL settlement over browsers and antitrust has all sorts of implications. From the Boston Globe article Microsoft to pay $750m to settle AOL antitrust case [pdf]

    Another spur to a settlement could be the need for both companies to embrace digital media technologies. In a key portion of the agreement, AOL agreed to long-term licensing of Microsoft’s Windows Media software for video and audio services. The companies said they will also work together on ”digital rights management” systems that will allow consumers to download and use files, but will set limits on their ability to copy and share them with others who haven’t paid for them.

    AOL and Microsoft agreed not only to work on technologies to address the issue, but even to present a united front in lobbying elected officials for laws to protect the copyrights of digital media producers.

    From the NYTimes: AOL Time Warner and Microsoft End a Bitter Rivalry [pdf]

    The agreement, Mr. Gates said, carried a message that “Microsoft is focused on the future of digital rights management.”

    CNet has a number of articles here: Burying the hatchet

2003 May 29

(entry last updated: 2003-05-30 07:32:47)

  • Interesting Applications of MicroEconomic Theory In Public Policy Department: Malaysian govt tells public to quit buying CDs, DVDs

    Just ask the Malaysian government. This week, Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk S Subramaniam told buyers to quit spending – temporarily, at least – to force the industry to reduce prices.

    Subramaniam’s statement, reported by the New Straits Times, apparently followed requests by Kualur Lumpur that “industry players” reduce “CD and VCD” prices – a demand rejected by the music and video business.

    Ironically, the government made the request in order to help the industry: it offered the move as a solution to escalating music and movie piracy.

  • Dave Winer points to today’s Daily Princetonian article on another RIAA target: RIAA sues over file-sharing site, but settles suit

    This past semester, the nationwide debate over file-sharing and online music theft hit the University in a personal way as the Recording Industry Association of America – a trade group representing the interests of the major record labels – sued sophomore Daniel Peng for what could have been billions of dollars.

    Peng had been operating a website known as “Wake” — accessible at wake.princeton.edu — which let campus network users search for shared files. The RIAA alleged that this search engine facilitated music theft on a grand scale and that Peng himself had made hundreds of copyrighted works available from his computer.

    …”The RIAA really wants to send a frightening message,” wrote David Dobkin, chair of the computer science department and next year’s dean of the faculty, in an email. “These students (Peng et. al.) are being set up to scare others away from doing this.”

  • Wired News has a business briefs column today that has a number of interesting elements, including Amazon’s consideration of an online music service. But this was the item that drew my attention – more changes at NYTimes.com:

    The New York Times will start charging online readers who use its service for receiving e-mail alerts on any news topic of their choosing.

    In an e-mail to readers, the Times said News Tracker, which notifies readers of articles containing keywords they choose, will become a subscription service June 13 because of the time and resources needed to run it. A Times spokeswoman said about 500,000 readers get News Tracker, which was introduced in March 2002.

    In principle, I see no problem with the idea that this kind of service could be a subscription. However, following the removal of free public access to all archives, one has to wonder how many other elements of their online business model are undergoing revision at this time?

  • Missed this earlier: Two Labels Warm Up to MP3’s [pdf]

    In early April, the Palm and Mute labels began to release discs that include unprotected MP3 files along with conventional CD audio tracks. Palm, working with a small independent label, Kemado, released “Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid” from the New York band Elefant; fans can listen to all 10 tracks on a CD player or in MP3 format, and the disc includes a bonus song available only in MP3 format.

    Mute, well known among fans of electronic music, released a double album of techno tracks, “2 CD’s & MP3’s.” The album has 12 MP3-only cuts in addition to 16 tunes in both formats.

    Representatives of the labels say the decision to include MP3 files on the CD’s does not reflect a surrender to illegal file traders, but rather, pragmatism.

    …”We spoke with some of the D.J.’s we work with, and it became clear that more and more of them were abandoning vinyl for programs such as Final Scratch and Traktor, and playing digital files,” Mr. Hodder said. “It just made sense to include them on the CD.”

    Pragmatism? What will they think of next? <G>

  • For your next trip to Starbucks: The Photographer’s Right – A Downloadable Flyer

  • Bringing all new features into the mix, the DVR continues to challenge the notions of fair use: For TiVo and Replay, New Reach [pdf]

  • The NYTimes covers Apple’s removal of the Rendezvous service from the iTunes player (correction – thanks Kevin!; it’s not that Rendezvous was removed; rather, it was changed so that it could not be routed, thus restricting it to a single subnet. This retains the ability to stream iTunes within a subnet (e.g., your home network). As the yesterday’s Slashdot discussion suggests, you can still tunnel or use other tricks to make it route, but it’s not transparent): Apple Finds the Future for Online Music Sales [pdf]

    But it would not be an online success story without a complicating twist. That complication came this week when the specter of the music industry, which has been publicly supportive of iTunes, began to loom over Apple. The success of iTunes, after all, depends on cooperation from the music business, which controls the songs that iTunes wants in its collection. Apparently trying to stay in the record industry’s good graces, iTunes removed a service it had previously offered customers. Called Rendezvous, the service enabled listeners and their friends to access one another’s music and listen to it — but not download it — from any computers. Hackers, however, had figured out how to download the music as well, creating programs with names like iLeach and iSlurp. So on Tuesday Apple sent out an update for its iTunes software, disabling Rendezvous and limiting music access to a user’s local network at home or at work.

    … Most of the uses for Rendezvous were not about illicit downloading. For example, Richard Yaker, co-founded — with a friend, Christian Bevcqua, who is in the band Ditch Croaker — a Web site called shareitunes.com. His intention was to enable iTunes users to see one another’s song collections and then listen to the music (but not download it). Next to every song, Mr. Yaker put links to the iTunes Music Store and to online mail-order retailers like Amazon and CDBaby, so that users had options to buy the music. As far as he knew, his application was neither illegal nor even sneaky.

    “The industry has never explored the idea of how people sharing and listening to one another’s music helps sales,” he said. “We’re all about selling the music once people find it and like it.”

    “But,” he continued, referring to Apple, “they just closed everything down. I was totally disappointed. We were hoping that traffic would continue to grow and we could quit our day jobs.”

  • Salon also covers the last of the "unsanctioned" FCC hearings on media consolidation in Atlanta: Just say no to supersized media

    While speakers repeatedly advocated for a diversity of voices and viewpoints in media reporting, the crowd itself lacked the more buttoned-down elements of the city’s population that would bespeak true diversity. There were no obviously suburban-looking types, and not one of the 600 or so people there, at a meeting that started at 6 p.m., was wearing a suit (except for the two commissioners, who were, after all, FCC bureaucrats, and one other panelist).

    The speakers’ unanimous agreement that Big Media is bad for democracy irritated at least one citizen, overheard grousing outside that the hearing was nothing more than a pep rally against the rule change. “I thought there’d be some argument — some people here for the change,” he said, although on questioning he admitted that he too was against deregulation. Any Atlantans against the rule change either didn’t know about the hearing, didn’t care enough to attend — or, perhaps, didn’t exist.

    The narrow, albeit eclectic, demographical turnout made sense, given that the hearing was publicized only in the city’s alternative weekly, Creative Loafing, and by two community radio stations, WRFG and WRAS….

    Even right-wing types might have cared to attend, as evidenced by the National Rifle Association’s support for Copps and Adelstein’s drive to preserve the existing regulations. So why didn’t local conservative talk show host Neal Boortz, an avowed libertarian, mention the hearing to his loyal troops? Possibly because his station, WSB-AM, is owned by media giant Cox Communications. Centrist and right-wing Atlantans did not learn of the hearing because their media outlets are owned, in large part, by the self-same Big Media corporations that want the ownership caps relaxed — which is, of course, the very problem that the dissident commissioners are trying to publicize.

  • This article in Salon about "Harvey Birdman" almost makes me want to get cable TV. But, more importantly, it illustrates what can happen when copyright and creativity do not actively contend, although I have no idea how that was accomplished: Pillaging the cartoon universe

    Fred Flintstone as a mob boss! Yogi’s pal BooBoo as a terrorist! Jonny Quest as the subject of a gay child-custody battle! All these outrages and more can be found on Cartoon Network’s hilarious, hallucinatory “Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.”

  • Part two of Digital Remix at CNet: Microsoft, again: Apple’s old nemesis. Increasingly, this series appears to be pitched as an Apple v. Microsoft story, with CNet pulling for the underdog. For example:

    Few know that pattern better than Apple, which lost its fight for desktop computing to Microsoft long ago. So today, with an uncomfortable sense of deja vu, the Mac maker is facing a crossroads similar to one it encountered in the 1980s: whether to develop and promote technologies exclusively for Apple products or follow Microsoft’s PC plan and work with as many partners as possible in hopes of becoming the music service used by all, regardless of software or hardware differences.

    Apple has so far benefited from the music industry’s reluctance to cede too much control to Microsoft. But the Mac maker will need to deal with Microsoft at some point, as a competitor or an ally, while the digital music business quickly evolves and various players begin taking sides.

    One important quote:

    “The market for digital rights management (DRM) technology for music is never going to make anybody rich. People are realizing that,” said Larry Kenswil, president of eLabs, the new media and technology division of Universal Music Group. “Microsoft looks at the codec and the DRM as a means to an end, not as an end in itself.”

  • As mentioned yesterday, AOL is severing its relationship with RealNetworks. So, Real is responding with changes in the Rhapsody online music service. Some aren’t so impressed.

  • SCO is clearly on a self-destructive death spiral, in that they are continuing to make not only controversial claims but also inflammatory threats. And, as many have pointed out, SCO has yet to offer any evidence of this infringement to the public, or the objects of their threatened legal actions. Here are CNet’s assembled articles on the issue. Wired News’ Michelle Delio suggests that Novell’s counterclaims will cause SCO serious headaches. She also gives Eric Raymond a broader platform for his position paper on the subject:

    “We wrote our Unix and Linux code as a gift and an expression of art, to be enjoyed by our peers and used by others for all licit purposes both nonprofit and for-profit,” open source software advocate Eric Raymond wrote in a position paper about this fray. “We did not write it to have it appropriated by men so dishonorable that after making profit from our gift for eight years they could turn around and insult our competence.”

2003 May 28

(entry last updated: 2003-05-28 18:17:23)

  • The market push to get rid of MP3? AOL forms duet with Dolby

    As previously reported, AOL has been planning the switch to Dolby AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) for months, in the latest sign that the digital audio format is gaining momentum against competing technologies such as MP3.

    AOL’s decision comes at the expense of its longtime audio technology partner RealNetworks. Although AOL will continue supporting RealNetworks technology in other areas in its service, the longstanding relationship between the two companies has withered.

  • I remember when these came out: Bowie Bonds Under Review

    Moody’s Investors Service says it may downgrade about $55 million of bonds backed by music royalties of rock icon David Bowie in light of the sales slump in the recording industry.

    In 1997, Bowie was the first musician to sell bonds supported by future revenues generated from his record master and publishing rights….

    “The rating review was prompted by lower than expected revenues generated by the assets due to weakness in sales for recorded music as well as the recent downgrade of an entity that provides credit support to the transaction,” the bond rating agency said last week.

  • Cory Doctorow points to a weblog that certainly gives one credible explanation for the Starbucks picture policy. Give it a read just to learn about the evolution of coffee bars

    Eventually competitors started getting jobs with Starbucks just to take the classes and gain the expertise, then take it back to their stores. Few people know it, but there was a cutthroat coffee chain war going on from 1991-1996, many of Starbucks policies came from this period.

    Photography was a big thing. Most retailers have a similar policy to Starbucks, customers are not allowed to take pictures inside a Starbucks without the permission of Media Relations. The reason was that competitors were coming into the store, posing as customers with an accomplice, and taking snapshots of every angle of the store.

    I caught a few of them early on, you could spot them from a mile away, mainly because of their poor acting skills. They overemphasized everything, spoke loudly and tried too hard to be the perfect customer. Later as the no photography policy became strictly enforced, competitors just starting take picture from outside. It was funny, you were on bar, had a line out the door and someone is staring right at you taking pictures of you.

    Unfortunately this policy is still in place today.

  • Larry Lessig points out that the Democratic contenders are picking up some interesting notions: MediaCon: Edwards questions the FCC’s mandate and Joe Lieberman on End to End

  • With OSCOM going on, I thought I’d see Dave’s thoughts on interoperability of weblog formats when I stumbled across this:

    About APIs, I request others support the MetaWeblog API without reservation. If you want me reorganize and move the docs to a neutral place and put an IETF-like disclaimer on it, I’m happy to do so. Maybe this is something Harvard could help with. I ain’t going with MIT, they’re the competition.

    Really? <G>

  • CNet News is putting together a special report over the next three days: Digital remix. Today’s entry: A medium reborn. While there’s a lot of familiar background, it is a nice packaging of the current potentials and issues in digital distribution of music. I like this (admittedly optimistic) bit:

    “Content companies have put themselves through a lot of unnecessary pain. If these commercial solutions work, they will prove very much what happened in the Betamax case: that on the other side of lawsuits is a thriving industry,” said Kevin Bermeister, chief executive of Altnet, a distribution service whose alliance with Kazaa has put it at odds with entertainment companies. Apple’s service, he said, is “slowly turning this 50-year-old ship to a different path.”

  • Offtopic: Maureen Dowd’s op-ed piece today, In-a-Gadda Da-Vida We Trust [pdf] is worth reading, if only as a test of how long it takes us to take the step of formally making Iran the next target, but it also raises an etymological question for me – namely, how did “decimate” come to mean “essentially wipe out?”

    “Al Qaeda is on the run,” the president said in Little Rock, Ark. “That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely, being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top Al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they’re not a problem anymore.”

    But Al Qaeda, it became horrifyingly clear a week later in Riyadh, was not decimated; it was sufficiently undecimated to murder 34 people, injure 200 and scare the daylights out of Americans everywhere.

    The term derives from the Roman practice of punishing a mutinous group by killing one out of every ten (see the OED definition or the American Heritage definition), but the Romans must have looked upon this as a disciplinary action, rather than one meant to expunge the group – after all, they left 9 out of 10 members in place. Nevertheless, it is clearly common usage today to use it to mean “to eliminate almost completely.” The OED points out that this usage emerges in the late 1800s, and the American Heritage usage panel gives such constructions a 66% level of acceptability (vote of confidence?) today. It would be interesting to see how the change came to be.

  • Maybe this article is closer to what Larry Lessig was hoping for: Ideologically Broad Coalition Assails F.C.C. Media Plan [pdf]

    A broad coalition of both conservative and liberal organizations expressed deep criticism today of a plan by the Federal Communications Commission to relax the rules that have restricted the nation’s largest media conglomerates from growing bigger.

    …The meeting today illustrated that no issue has created more of a furor at the commission in recent years than this proposal, which would allow conglomerates to enter more markets and control both newspapers and broadcasters in more than 100 cities. In recent weeks, the commissioners have received hundreds of thousands of comments urging them to delay their action.

    … Supporters of the proposal, who are led by Mr. Powell and include the major broadcast networks and some large news conglomerates, say that technology and the proliferation of competition have rendered the current rules unnecessary. They say that free over-the-air television may be jeopardized without changes as more expensive programming migrates to subscription services offered by cable and satellite companies.

    What’s particularly interesting is that the Times also has this article today: Commercial Time Selling Quickly for Cable, Too [pdf]

    The upfront market for broadcasters, now virtually concluded, is likely to total $9.2 billion to $9.3 billion, compared with $8.1 billion last spring. The deal-making for spots on the cable networks, being completed more quickly than usual, could result in increases of a similar or even larger percentage, reaching $5.4 billion to $5.6 billion, compared with $4.6 billion last spring; the negotiations are expected to wrap up in mid- to late June.

    There had been fears among some cable executives that the robust upfront market for broadcast networks, which is ending even more strongly than forecast a couple of weeks ago, could potentially cut into their take. But it seems that the rising tide – in the form of demand from marketers in large, important categories like entertainment, pharmaceuticals and restaurants – is lifting all boats.

  • David Weinberger’s Copy Protection is a Crime … against Humanity is back on the front page at Wired News. Check out the May 14 Furdlog entry, with an object example (at the bottom of the entry).

  • Cory Doctorow went straight to Starbucks to get the answer to the question of picture-taking: We’re allowed to take pix at Fourbucks, apparently. Larry Lessig went to BumperActive.com. (See Donna’s Copyfight entry for a good wrapup of the issue)

  • A couple of CNet NewsWired News articles:

    • The noxious effects of the so called business practices patent – eBay loses the first round of a patent fight over the “Buy it now” button: Jury: eBay guilty of patent infringement

      “I think it’s a red flag to the Internet commerce industry that there’s a whole slew of these patents that are issued that are basically what I would call well-known or common methods of doing business,” said Norm Beamer, a partner at Fish and Neave, a law firm specializing in intellectual property.

      “Right now it seems there is this looming problem of not very sensible patents that are nevertheless being used to threaten and extort people who are in business, and this appears to be one (being used against eBay) of them,” he added.

      Wired News has the AP Wire report: EBay Has to Pay in Patent Suit

    • RealNetworks pushes lower-cost Rhapsody

      RealNetworks on Wednesday will cease selling the music-subscription service MusicNet in favor of one from Listen.com’s Rhapsody, which also plans to charge a new low of 79 cents per track to rip CDs.

      … The RealNetworks’ product is the first major development following the company’s proposed $36 million acquisition of privately held Listen in April; the buyout is expected to be complete by the end of the third quarter. It is also a visible sign that RealNetworks has opted to back Rhapsody as its music service of choice at the expense of MusicNet, the rival subscription service it helped create in 2001 and in which it is still part owner.

      Wired News has something on this too: Listen Up: Songs Now 79 Cents

      Most online music retailers have been focusing on pushing subscription models, where users pay a set fee each month. But the success of Apple’s iTunes shows that “there is a demand for a la carte downloads and it’s important to know that people will pay for a high-quality downloadable file when the same file is most likely available through a free service as well,” IDC’s Kevorkian said.

  • Apple responds to SpyMac: Apple halts iTunes’ Internet sharing ability. Also see SpyMac’s announcement.

    Slashdot discussion: Apple Updates, Cripples iTunes; and CNet News’ article: Apple limits iTunes file sharing

    Cory Doctorow’s reaction: Apple force-feeds customers shit, calls it sunshine

  • NPR’s Morning Edition is running a three part series on the upcoming FCC vote on ownership deregulation – today’s first part was a history of the FCC and radio commercialization.

  • Today’s Globe has a nice rundown on Puretunes and the current licensing issues: New model for music on Net faces challenges [pdf]

    Madrid-based Puretunes, located on the Internet at www.puretunes.com, is a subscription-based service. But unlike similar services, such as Pressplay or Rhapsody, it allows customers to subscribe not just by the month, but also for as little as eight hours. This brief subscription costs just $3.99. And on Puretunes, subscribers can download all the music they want.

    …Puretunes’ press release says that what it’s doing is perfectly legal, because the company has struck a deal with the Spanish Association of Authors and Editors and the Association of Artists, Performers and Players, two of Spain’s major organizations for protecting the intellectual property rights of music producers. ”They pay a percentage to these organizations,” said Kelly O’Neil, a spokeswoman for Puretunes. ”The organizations, in turn, pay everybody associated with the song.”

    There’s just one problem, according to Allen Dixon, executive director of the London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the global trade group for the record companies. ”It’s only half the deal they need,” Dixon said.

    Despite any agreement with the two Spanish organizations cited by Puretunes, Dixon said the company still has to obtain permission from the recording companies.

    SFGate’s Benny Evangelista’s article on PureTunes is also very thorough: Spanish firm offers low-cost downloads:

    But music industry group calls it illegal

2003 May 27

(entry last updated: 2003-05-27 17:58:11)

  • Musicrypt and EMI Music Canada Make History:

    Music Delivered From Recording Studio to Record Label to Radio Entirely in Secure Digital Format

    Music history was made at 12:55 PM ET, Tuesday May 20, 2003 when, for the first time, a major record company completed the delivery of music files securely from recording studio to record label to radio stations across Canada via the Internet using Musicrypt‘s Digital Media Distribution System (DMDS).

    That’s one way to keep the bootlegs off the street….maybe.

  • A couple of Billboard articles:

    • Jewel Pleasing Fans Online, On Tour

      Atlantic Records is offering something extra to Jewel fans who buy her forthcoming album “0304,” due June 3, during its first week of release. Each copy in the first run of “0304” will include a download card with a unique PIN number allowing access to a secure site from which users can download solo live MP3 versions of “The New Wild West” and “Life Uncommon.” The promotion runs through June 9.

    • Britney Copyright Infringement Suit Dismissed

      A federal judge dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Britney Spears, saying two Philadelphia songwriters failed to prove the pop singer copied the melody of one of their songs. U.S. District Judge Berle M. Schiller ruled last week that Michael Cottrill and Lawrence Wnukowski couldn’t provide enough evidence to prove Spears had access to their song titled, “What You See Is What You Get,” when she recorded, “What U See (Is What U Get).”

  • Yesterday’s odd article floating the PSU president’s solution to illegal file sharing gets the Slashdot treatment: University Sponsored Music Services?

    Other Slashdot discussions of note:

  • I had planned to take a Starbucks photo this weekend, but got to the store and didn’t have any “film” in the camera (I have one of the Mavicas that burns miniCDs). So, I failed to participate in Larry’s exercise, but I enjoyed Donna’s writeup of the potential theories of damage.

  • Derek points out some of the developments in the video rental business, both from a historical perspective as well as the current considerations of the next generation of video delivery.

    Note that the reason that audio CDs and software CANNOT be rented (versus VCRs) lies in specific legislative constructs developed in the Congress (1984 for audio recordings and 1990 for software) – see Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 109, subsection b.1.A. (The Cornell listing also has Notes that are worth reading.)

    Note also that video rental is not necessarily allowed under the 1996 WIPO treaty, which puports to protect exclusive rental rights to video as well as audio and software. In particular, a showing of sufficient market effects is enough to kick in the need for signatories to explore legislative relief. Thus, the Blockbuster arrangesments that Derek cites could be interpreted as a negotiated settlement balancing the first sale doctrine rights of video stores against the potential legislative threat that might emerge under the WIPO.

    Finally, if you’re interested in the price discrimination angle, you want to look up Hal Varian‘s work – try Differential Pricing and Efficiency – or these PDFed slides if you’ve got the economics background.

  • Via ScriptingNews, this CNet article: File swapping shifts up a gear

    Going by names like eDonkey and BitTorrent, many of the latest generation of file-swapping tools have been designed specifically to increase the efficiency and speed of transfer for large files such as movie files. Some of these tools have been in development for several years, but are just now reaching the critical mass needed to make a dent in the file-trading world.

    Some in the copyright community say these new tools are finally starting to rival the piracy potential of the post-Napster generation of swapping services.

    … The BitTorrent technology isn’t intended for movie piracy. Indeed, open-source advocates recently used it to distribute a new release of the Red Hat Linux software, making an end run around clogged company servers. One Web community that specializes in swapping high-quality recordings of live jam bands such as Phish, usually with the bands’ permission, also uses the technology.

    “It’s definitely a technological marvel,” said Wayne Chang, a Massachusetts college student and system administrator for PickATime.com who has used the technology. “The more people using it, the faster the whole system is.”

  • Larry Lessig also liked the Frank Rich piece from Sunday’s NYTimes. However, I doubt that yesterday’s article on media consolidation is what Larry had in mind with his posting:

    Easier Rules May Not Mean More Newspaper-TV Deals [pdf]

  • This article from the BBC suggests that, between free downloads and online CD retail, the online music download for fee sites are getting squeezed: Positive signs for online music

    People are beginning to pay for music on the net but they are more likely to buy CDs online than individual tracks, research suggests.

  • Wired News also carries a Reuters piece on the rise of the ring-tone business in the US, matching similar trends overseas, albeit possibly without the copyright issues they once engendered.

  • Wired News has a Reuters newswire that suggests the sale of PressPlay to Roxio means that the record companies are coming to a new way of thinking about digital distribution – sacrifice control and take a slice of the equity – Let Someone Else Do It: Dig Tunes

  • Jenny Levine points to a PCWorld interview with Jack Valenti, who’s up to his usual tricks, with all sorts of rhetorical tricks. A few examples:

    PCW: Why can’t people who legally purchase DVDs make one backup copy? How come the same fair use rights that let you make a backup copy of other media do not extend to DVDs?

    Valenti: That question has nothing to do with fair use because a DVD is encrypted and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act says to circumvent an encryption violates that law.

    …Do you know anything else in the country that if something is abused for any reason they’ll give you a backup? If I go down to the hardware store and buy an electric lawn mower and I take it home, and three weeks later my wife runs over it in the driveway, I can’t take it back and get a new one. I can’t get a backup.

    PCW: You have suggested in some of your comments that the computer industry is profiting off Hollywood by selling computers that rip, burn, and copy digital content. Are you suggesting the movie studios’ profits are more important than the computer industry’s profits?

    Valenti: I’m not suggesting anything. I’m only saying that there is a huge avalanche of thievery today. Researchers estimate that 400,000 to 600,000 movies are being illegally uploaded and downloaded every day.

    People will say, “Well, you Hollywood guys are always whining. Why don’t you change your business model?”

    Well, my answer to that is: There is no business model ever struck off by the hand and grain of man that can compete with free. It can’t be done.

    If I have a Pizza Hut and I’m selling pizzas at $1.50, somebody puts up a Pizza Hut next to me and gives them away, who do you think is going to get the business?

  • The Music Industry News Network has the text of remarks by FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein Before The Media Institute on the upcoming FCC vote: Big Macs And Big Media: The Decision To Supersize (A PDF version from the Commissioner’s WWW site)

    From the outset of broadcasting, policymakers have always understood that localism and diversity are inefficient. If efficiencies were all that mattered, Congress would have told the FCC to give out national or regional broadcast licenses. After all, the most efficient possible structure is for one large company, let’s call it Pravda, to gather the news for everyone. American broadcasting has never been about maximizing bottom-line efficiencies over all else….

    Localism continues to be the core organizational principle of the Commission’s dispersal of valuable spectrum rights. Nothing in the 1996 Act jettisoned this core principle. In fact, the 1996 Act’s legislative history strongly reaffirms localism over efficiencies, saying “Localism is an expensive value. We believe it is a vitally important value, however, [and] should be preserved and enhanced.”

    So to avoid backlash from the public and its representatives, it will be up to many of you in the room today to prove that efficiencies gained by any relaxation of broadcast ownership rules are channeled in the direction of serving local communities and local residents.

    I often hear from industry sources, “we’re just giving people what they want. After all, that’s our business. And as we get bigger, we just have more resources and ability to deliver a better quality product.”

    …You might call it the “McDonaldization” of the American media. McDonald’s spends a lot trying to give people what they want. They only put products out after expensive field testing. Every product is analyzed to satisfy the greatest number of people, even if the local community may have its own unique tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I like McDonald’s, and eat there sometimes. But I don’t eat there every day. And even if I did, I know it wouldn’t be very healthy.

    The same goes for the media. People also need a balanced media diet – a diverse menu, if you will. But it’s a lot harder to set up a broadcast station than a new restaurant. …Neither cable nor the Internet has changed the huge market power granted by federal license to use scarce broadcast spectrum, particularly when that license comes with the requirement to be carried on cable. If these scarce licenses weren’t valuable, their price wouldn’t continue to skyrocket as they have in recent years.

  • A look at the current thinking in re DRM and music downloads/subscriptions can be found in this CNet News article on Microsoft’s planned release of their next-generation Media protocols: Microsoft prepares reply to iTunes

    Subscription services are “ahead of their time” according to a senior executive at another record label, who said a key stumbling block is providing unlimited access to subscription music away from the PC on portable music players and other devices. “Ultimately, there will be a huge audience for this, but the services need to provide portability,” he said.

    “Downloads are very close to an old-fashioned experience,” he added. “Subscriptions are much more of a shift…but the technology isn’t right for the shift to happen. We’re hoping it will happen this year, that the technology companies will provide portable players that can play the music.”

    … Microsoft plans to add support for a clock in portable music players and other consumer-electronics devices. The clock would provide a “time out” feature much like that used in PC versions of its DRM software. If customers don’t pay their monthly subscription bills by a certain date, access to the files on those devices is cut off.

    Time-outs can be supported relatively easily on PCs, which have plenty of memory and processing power to handle a clock and the associated DRM. But supporting clock DRM on small handheld devices poses a considerable engineering challenge, thanks to limited CPU resources and battery life. Usher said Microsoft is working with consumer-electronics device makers to add clocks that can be hooked up to its rights-management system.

  • CNet also has an opinion piece, Steve Jobs’ half note that discusses the limitations of iTunes when it comes to solving the real problems of music distribution, starting with this statistic:

    But in the end, iTunes Music Store is just a music fulfillment service. It has done little or nothing to change the ways people explore and learn about the music that they eventually buy, and that’s a disappointment.

    If online music were approached in the right way, it would have the power to transform and enrich an industry that historically has courted consumers with a blunt marketing instrument.

    Currently, a mere 2 percent of releases account for 80 percent of music industry sales. (emphasis added) Online distribution could help rebalance that ratio, building careers for hundreds of artists who now linger in obscurity, and drawing in millions of new fans bored and alienated by the industry’s star-making machinery.

    The key is getting more and better information to consumers. The music store of the future can and should be a primary force in making that happen.

    There’s a letter to the editor that makes some damning charges regarding record industry innovation.

2003 May 26

(entry last updated: 2003-05-26 16:58:50)

  • Now, today we offer up a truly peculiar & dumb set of ideas, as outlined in the Boston Globe article Another Spin on Digital Music. [pdf] Penn State, unsurprisingly, is at the heart of this proposal:

    Graham Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University, wants colleges to license songs and charge students to listen to them online. He has proposed that schools increase each student’s tuition or fees by perhaps a few dollars in exchange for unlimited listening, though the ability to burn songs onto a CD might cost extra.

    Worse, we get this:

    ”I really don’t think they understand or believe that illegal file-sharing is the same thing as going into Tower [Records], grabbing a CD off the rack, and running out the door with it,” said Scott Hervey, chairman of California Bar’s cyberspace law committee.

    Is it possible that Scott Hervey really thinks this? What does that say about the California Bar’s cyberspace law committee?

    And I guess I am also stunned to see that cable TV is already included in Northwestern University’s fees.

2003 May 25

(entry last updated: 2003-05-25 13:50:34)

  • I’m really busy today, but this NYTimes Op-Ed piece cannot go unremarked – media consolidation as The Matrix: There’s No Exit From the Matrix [pdf]

    But the media giants that wield such clout don’t always put it to such frivolous use. We are not just plugged into their matrix to be sold movies and other entertainment products. These companies can also plug the nation into news narratives as ubiquitous and lightweight as “The Matrix Reloaded,” but with more damaging side effects.

    This is what has happened consistently during America’s struggle with Osama bin Laden. During the years when Al Qaeda’s terrorists were gearing up for 9/11, the media giants were in overdrive selling escapist fare like the Clinton scandals, Gary Condit’s sex life and shark attacks. They were all legitimate stories. But just as “The Matrix Reloaded,” playing on a record 8,517 screens, crowded most other movies out of the marketplace last weekend, so those entertaining melodramas drove any reports of threatening developments beyond our shores to the periphery of the mass-media news culture.

    …It took the bloody re-emergence of Qaeda terrorists in Riyadh two weeks ago to recover the repressed memory that none of the 9/11 terrorists were Iraqis and that most of them were Saudis. And whatever happened to Saddam’s arsenal, all those advanced nuclear weapons programs and biological poisons that George W. Bush kept citing as the justification for going to war? Well, sarin today, gone tomorrow. That laundry list of terrors, none of them yet found, vanished from the national consciousness as soon as the cable outlets of AOL Time Warner, Fox and NBC put their muscle behind The Laci Peterson Murder.

    …The power of the five companies that foster this sequential amnesia is increasing, not declining. In a vote set for June 2, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to relax some of the few ownership restrictions meant to rein them in. Companies like Viacom (which already owns CBS and Paramount) and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (which owns Fox and is on its way to controlling the satellite giant DirecTV) are likely to go on shopping sprees for more TV outlets. But who knows or cares? Though liberal and conservative organizations alike, from Common Cause to the National Rifle Association, are protesting this further consolidation of media power, most of the country is oblivious to it. That’s partly because the companies that program America’s matrix have shut out all but bare-bones coverage of the imminent F.C.C. action, much as the ruling machines in “The Matrix” do not feed their captive humans any truths that might set them free.

    …But neither Mr. Diller nor anyone else is likely to stop this consolidation of cultural power unless the public knows or cares enough to protest. That hardly seems to be in the cards. We reward mediocre movies with record grosses. We reward tabloid news epics with high ratings. We reward dissembling politicians with high poll ratings. We expect our journalistic media to fictionalize the truth. As others have noted, the most dispiriting aspect of the Jayson Blair scandal may be that even the subjects of his stories usually didn’t bother to complain about the lies The New York Times published about them; they just assumed it was standard practice. One way or the other, we all inhabit the Matrix now.

2003 May 23

(entry last updated: 2003-05-23 17:28:01)

Man! Even with all this rain, hay fever is blowing me away this year. Surpisingly, it’s not so much that my nose is running as it’s the feeling that my head is stuffed with cotton. I’m afraid that, given how addled I feel, just about everything that I’ve been doing these past couple of days has suffered. I’m hoping that the side effects of antihistamines won’t lead to a net decrease in my functionality, but we’ll just have to see.

  • Larry points out that the governor of Colorado has vetoed their super-DMCA. Bill Hobbs adds the observation that the Tennessee one is going to be sent back to committee for redrafting.

  • Offtopic: Apparently, one has to go overseas to get this sort of thing covered: Bush ‘is on brink of catastrophe’ [pdf]

    The most senior Republican authority on foreign relations in Congress has warned President Bush that the United States is on the brink of catastrophe in Iraq.

    Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Washington was in danger of creating “an incubator for terrorist cells and activity” unless it increased the scope and cost of its reconstruction efforts. He said that more troops, billions more dollars and a longer commitment were needed if the US were not to throw away the peace.

    Echoing his Washington Post editorial of the day before: A Victory at Risk [pdf]

  • Reuters says that ISPs reel from P2P bandwidth hogs

    Now ISPs say that as much as 60 percent of data traffic zipping around their networks is in the form of large music, movies and software files. For a large ISP, experts say, the bandwidth costs needed to accommodate the traffic could run into the millions, if not tens of millions of dollars per year.

    … And yet it’s the popularity of sharing music, film and game files with other computer users that is drawing many customers to high-speed broadband Internet services in the first place.

    A variety of ISPs including Europe’s third largest, Tiscali, even promote their broadband services on peer-to-peer networks to woo people with slower connections.

    You can’t have it both ways. And, frankly, I’m not sure why my Red Hat Network account (used to keep my Red Hat Systems up2date <G>) is something that ISPs should be worried about, either.

  • Bill Gates’ testimony (Microsoft.com copy) to the Senate Commerce Committee during their hearing on spam; and Larry Lessig’s thoughts in response.

  • American Idol gets a look: Fox Mulls How to Exploit the Mojo of ‘American Idol’ [pdf]:

    But the show’s reliance on a brand of pop music some find stale could turn off younger music fans. The finale on Wednesday included songs made popular by Olivia Newton-John, Neil Sedaka and Lionel Richie, not a roster of singers with large followings among younger music fans.

    “There is already a contingent of young viewers who are very anti the show,” said Brian Graden, the president of entertainment at MTV. “But it’s not a significant factor at this point. So far it’s cool to watch as long as you say up front that it’s cheesy. That protects you.”

    Craig Marks, the editor of Blender, a music magazine, said he personally loved the show, but added: “The music on the show is hollow; it’s essentially awful. People who enjoy the show would never buy the records. It’s just very wholesome. It has no edge whatsoever. It’s edge-free music.”

    …And Mr. Levy pointed out that as much as some music fans want to eradicate what he called the “teen pop trend,” as personified in stars like Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, the genre seems to be hitting what he called “a second wave.” The proof, he said, was the hit album now out from Hilary Duff, the teenage star of the Lizzie McGuire series on the Disney Channel, and the success of “Thankful,” the album by Kelly Clarkson, who won the first “Idol,” which reached No. 1 its first week in release.

    “Even if the teenage boy who loves the show now thinks it gets old soon, he has a little sister who’s ready to decide it’s cute,” Mr. Levy said.

  • Slate’s American Idol writeup is far nastier: Inside the American Idol Studio

    On the surface, these what-are-you-really-like questions seemed only natural: After all, American Idol purports to offer a sped-up, interactive look inside the star-making process. But really, those questions were irrelevant. American Idol eliminates the element of mystery from stardom, with its message that a star is not a special person with secret passions but a piece of equipment that can be melted down and reconfigured whenever the powers that be think of a new way to sell soft drinks. Take a look at American Idol’s credit sequence, which features a quicksilver cyborg—transformed from male to female and back again by animated force fields that slice through its body—making a glorious, pointless march across an imaginary America.

  • The NYTimes offers up a look at the making of a pop band: Fashion Tip in Rap for Brooklyn Girls [pdf]. If you don’t get the joke/song title, you’re going to have to look it up yourself! <G>

  • Eric Boehlert of Salon discusses the upcoming FCC vote, and works to document the degree to which it appears that overwhelming public opposition to further deregulation is being ignored: Last stop before the media monopoly

    Powell countered critics who complained the FCC process was not open enough by noting that the commission had received a record number of public comments regarding the ownership issue and that most of them were filed by private individuals. Usually of interest only to broadcasters and a handful of D.C. communications attorneys, the comment period for media ownership has attracted nearly 20,000 filings. “That’s a landslide in terms of comments,” says Belendiuk.

    Powell agrees. “This record clearly demonstrates that in the digital age you don’t need a 19th century whistle-stop tour to hear from America,” said the chairman earlier this year, essentially dismissing the hearings organized by the Democratic commissioners as dog-and-pony road shows.

    What Powell does not mention, though, is what people are saying in their FCC filings. “The statistics on public comments are just off the charts,” says Robert McChesney, coauthor of “Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media.” “More people want Osama bin Laden up on Mt. Rushmore than want the media companies to consolidate.”

    Neverthless, follow Mary Hodder’s advice at the close of this excellently referenced post on the subject and send something to the FCC.

  • James De Long posts a provocative piece at TCS: Moral and Economic Clarity

    …So it is time for the downloaders to respond and end the free lunch. Most iTunes users agree, and have recoiled in dismay at the crackers. (It helps that the target is Apple, beloved by techies, not just the demonized record industry, of course.)

    This leaves two groups of resisters. The first consists of the morally obtuse, who, while they will undoubtedly think of some new rationale to justify piracy, are responding either to the simple principle, “if it’s there, steal it,” or to the vandalistic itch to destroy for the sheer hell of it.

    The second group of resisters is more complex, more ideological, and more important, especially because it is not clear that Steve Jobs of Apple knows that it exists. Many members of the academic and tech communities are opposed to the idea of property rights in the creations of the intellect. They assert not only a right but a duty to make all systems for enforcing intellectual property rights untenable, and regard breaking protections as a public service.

    OK – rhetorical tricks to deconstruct (via Stephen Downes Logical Fallacies Index (a possibly better-maintained mirror), for more resources, try here, especially Labossiere’s list):

    1. The false segregation of the despised constituencies into two categories – False Dilemma, plus the Undistributed Middle

    2. The narrow definition of those categories so that they can be easily debunked – The Straw Man

    3. The association of the “intelligencia” with the despised category(ies). (partly Ad Hominem, partly Appeal to Popularity)

    4. The false association of copyright with property rights

    5. With that association developed, bring in communism so that the opponents can be mated to the failures of the Soviet Union (again Popularity, Ad Hominem, plus an implied Appeal to Consequences, plus probably more)

      Were these abstractionists running the show, the impact on the creative community would be similar to the description of the Soviet Union in the 1920s provided by novelist Alan Furst in Dark Star, as “[A] kind of dream world, a mythical country where idealistic intellectual[s] . . . actually ran things, quite literally a country of the mind. Theories failed, peasants died, the land itself dried up in despair. Still they worked twenty hours a day and swore they had the answer.”

    6. Eventually, as a continuation of the contra-intelligencia/”know nothing” effort, assert that ideology is essentially destructive (at least, that’s what I think this paragraph is supposed to mean):

      Apple and the other music services, and, ultimately, providers of Internet distribution of movies, books, and other information, must cope with both these oppositions. It will not be easy because they tend to merge, with vandalistic impulses often hiding behind ideology. [sic]

    7. Finally, always fall back on the assertion that the market is, by definition, your friend – Appeal to Popularity, Complex Cause:

      In fact, consumers should want to pay for creative work. It is through prices and markets that they can send signals that something is valued and that more of it should be produced. And all non-market forms of financing – taxes, subsidies, pooled funds – depend on committees of bureaucrats for their allocation, the antithesis of consumer sovereignty. It is markets that make consumer preferences effective by providing financing for what consumers want. Those who insist on making content free are simply spoiling the system for everyone, and the “information should be free” crowd is actually the enemy, not the friend, of consumers. The content producers should reiterate this incessantly.

    Mr. De Long is pretty good at this – he certainly got my blood boiling. But it is possible to see how he does it, and how he can be challenged.

  • CNet posts a Reuters wire report on KaZaA’s progress: Kazaa nears download record

  • And RealNetworks’ deal with Playboy is paralleled with the past development of cable TV: RealNetworks gets steamy with Playboy

2003 May 22

(entry last updated: 2003-05-22 18:43:36)

  • Donna and Ed Felten note that the governor of Colorado vetoed that state’s super-DMCA.

  • As Donna notes, Derek gives a gracious and rousing sendoff as his academic year draws to a close: As I Was Saying

  • Although the creation of this neologism at Salon drew my eye (see this Yahoo! News or Salon piece, btw), the additional materials raise some key, albeit offtopic, questions. For your reading:

  • As a Linux user, I hope this won’t lead to a lockout from Amazon.com: Amazon.com, Microsoft in streaming deal

  • Ben Edelman’s taking on Gator: Documentation of Gator Advertisements and Targeting. Declan describes the work here: Harvard study wrestles with Gator

    Donna’s remarks: Gator Aid; John Palfrey’s notes: One interesting thing not to miss in this Gator story

  • William Safire joins the ranks of conservatives opposed to media consolidation: The Great Media Gulp [pdf]

    We’ve already seen what happened when the F.C.C. allowed the monopolization of local radio: today three companies own half the stations in America, delivering a homogenized product that neglects local news coverage and dictates music sales.

    … Ah, but aren’t viewers and readers now blessed with a whole new world of hot competition through cable and the Internet? That’s the shucks-we’re-no-monopolists line that Rupert Murdoch will take today in testimony before the pussycats of John McCain’s Senate Commerce Committee.

    The answer is no. Many artists, consumers, musicians and journalists know that such protestations of cable and Internet competition by the huge dominators of content and communication are malarkey. The overwhelming amount of news and entertainment comes via broadcast and print. Putting those outlets in fewer and bigger hands profits the few at the cost of the many.

  • One of the things that the Internet and connectivity is good for – community building. Although the site described is definitly still going through growing pains and, in the end, may be more about community and less about success in the music business: In a Battle of the Bands, Musicians Are Judges [pdf]

    Like many working stiffs, I’m also a musician, and my band, named Augean Stables after the Herculean task, recorded a full-length CD of original music last year. Along the way we received positive reinforcement and kind words from everyone around us. Still, once we had the finished product in hand, we longed for some sort of third-party validation, or at least a cold splash of reality.

    With that desire in mind, my partner, Dave Riedel, began posting our songs on garageband.com. Once an Internet darling bent on shaking the foundations of the crusty old music industry, Garageband is home to over 325,000 musicians and new-music hunters who review original songs in an ongoing round-robin tournament.

    Garageband’s beating heart is a “preference engine” that combines the reviewer’s emotional reaction à la hotornot.com (Does the song put a smile or a frown on your face?) with the more intellectual judgments of, say, slashdot.org (With your knowledge or experience, how would you improve this song or recording?).

    Because of its design and the atmosphere of friendly competition, Garageband manages to persuade thousands of musicians to assess one another’s music.

    What would be the effects of ubiquitous DRM (a la CBDTPA/SSSCA) upon this activity? Even assuming that it were well designed?

  • The BBC has an article on the pending PureTunes fight: Music site faces legal challenge

    Puretunes says it is taking advantage of a loophole in Spanish copyright law so that it can sell songs online without the direct permission of the record companies.

    …But the music industry believes that it has no legal basis and promises to fight it as vehemently as it has other illegitimate music services.

2003 May 21

(entry last updated: 2003-05-21 19:59:58)

  • Cory Doctorow points to William Gibson’s talk to the Director’s Guild of America on the evolution of media and technology. I cite below the same paragraph that Cory picked (and I see that it’s time to get back to technological alienation again, especially as I’ve had a little time to think some more about it):

    But I need to diverge here into another industry, one that’s already and even more fully feeling the historical impact of the digital: music. Prior to the technology of audio recording, there was relatively little one could do to make serious money with music. Musicians could perform for money, and the printing press had given rise to an industry in sheet music, but great fame, and wealth, tended to be a matter of patronage. The medium of the commercial audio recording changed that, and created industry predicated on an inherent technological monopoly of the means of production. Ordinary citizens could neither make nor manufacture audio recordings. That monopoly has now ended. Some futurists, looking at the individual musician’s role in the realm of the digital, have suggested that we are in fact heading for a new version of the previous situation, one in which patronage (likely corporate, and non-profit) will eventually become a musician’s only potential ticket to relative fame and wealth. The window, then, in which one could become the Beatles, occupy that sort of market position, is seen to have been technologically determined. And technologically finite. The means of production, reproduction and distribution of recorded music, are today entirely digital, and thus are in the hands of whoever might desire them. We get them for free, often without asking for them, as inbuilt peripherals. I bring music up, here, and the impact the digital is having on it, mainly as an example of the unpredictable nature of technologically driven change. It may well be that the digital will eventually negate the underlying business-model of popular musical stardom entirely. If this happens, it will be a change which absolutely no one intended, and few anticipated, and not the result of any one emergent technology, but of a complex interaction between several. You can see the difference if you compare the music industry’s initial outcry against “home taping” with the situation today.

    …Which is to say that, no matter who you are, nor how pure your artistic intentions, nor what your budget was, your product, somewhere up the line, will eventually find itself at the mercy of people whose ordinary civilian computational capacity outstrips anything anyone has access to today.

    Interesting that Gibson, who has made a career around examining the seamy side of technological innovation (and particularly by considering the illegal activities of a technological elite), elects to avoid the flip side of the technologies that he describes here – their potential to impose control in ways that are not necessarily apparent to the users of that technology.

  • Siva Viadhynathan summarizes Doc Searl’s Printwash discussion (see more below), and then closes with this observation:

    One thing that complicates Searls case is that the Times and other newspapers sell their archives to Lexis/Nexis. So maintaining open archives on the Web would undermine those contracts.

    While this may complicate things, I don’t think it is a defensible basis for putting online archives behind walls. (Unless the NYTimes signed a really stupid contract with Lexis/Nexis – unlikely in light of their past efforts to capture the digital rights to all their contributors’ articles- see also New York Times v. Tasini) The Lexis/Nexis business case, as I understand it, is based on the quality of the search they can provide, not the exclusivity of their content. Is a Google search really competitive with Lexis/Nexis? And, if it is, does that mean that Google should be cut off – or that Lexis/Nexis ought invest some more effort into making their searches something worth paying for?

    The notion that the value proposition in Lexis/Nexis should be sustained by exclusive access seems dangerously anticompetitive, not to mention inhibiting technological advance – an example of the issue of MediaConcentration in the very space that is expected to offset its effects!

  • The Shifted Librarian discusses the Pro-Music WWW site: Clueless International Music Industry

  • Something on the mechanics of the music industry and studio recording: Searching for Kelly Clarkson: The grim fate of American Idol winners.

  • Benny Evangelista gives a little more detail on the conversion of Pressplay into Napster by Roxio: Online musical chairs

    Roxio buys Pressplay from industry titans for its revived Napster

  • The Copyright Office has posted proposed rules for licensing rates for certain digital performance rights, superseding an earlier posting: Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings and Ephemeral Recordings. (Related www site: SoundExchange)

  • Billboard discusses Elvis Costello’s statements at the ASCAP event last night: Costello Defends Outspoken Artists

  • Donna’s resurfaced briefly and left us with a host of links: Working Full Time

  • The Tennessee Digital Freedom Network is actively tracking that state’s super-DMCA proposals; SB213 and HB457

  • USA Today has an article on the new sound reproduction technology that got a great write up in the NYTimes Magazine a couple of weeks ago, but is now gone (the Slashdot discussion is still around, of course): Sound technology turns the way you hear on its ear

  • Wired News’ writeup of Dusney’s plan for disposable DVDs introduces another constituency: Disposable DVDs Go to the Dumps

    “We’ve developed a new type of DVD that (can be) sold at any point of sale that your imagination can think of,” said Art LeBlanc, president of Flexplay, which manufactures the discs. “It brings an unprecedented level of convenience. This is intended to address people who find renting inconvenient.”

    Yet for the environmentally conscious, that argument is as appealing as the pile of garbage these DVDs will create.

    “This is taking the idea of planned obsolescence to a whole, absurd new level,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, a nonprofit environmental group. “This is one of those disposable products that we don’t really need. This is actually building a limit into the device.

    …The trash generated by the DVDs is not as much of a concern as the environmental impact of producing these one-use products, Murray said. Now, instead of producing a disc that will be used by 50 to 100 people, he said, the resources and energy used to create that one DVD will be multiplied 50 or 100 times.

    Hmmm – strong copyright is not only unsustainable in an economic sense but also an environmental one? What an interesting angle to consider…….

  • The Doc Searls Printwash discussion continues: Follow along. Or contribute. Or both. Whatever. Welcome to DIY journalism, folks.

  • From Salon: Can the Web beat Big Media?:

    So, given the power of the technology, one may reasonably ask: What harm can come of Powell’s plan to let the big guys get bigger if the rest of us, the little guys with laptops and Wi-Fi, can simply steer around the monopolies?

    But when you set out to answer that question, it’s hard to find anyone in the media world — aside from interested parties — who can furnish serious proof that new technologies are shaking the foundations beneath the entrenched media giants. If anything, the Web and cable and satellite have expanded the reach of media conglomerates. Ninety percent of the top 50 cable channels are owned by media giants. Every single one of the top 20 news Web sites is under the thumb of a media giant.

    … “What will happen is that the economics of show business will shape the Internet economy,” Jeffrey Chester, of the Center for Digital Democracy, says. “Those services owned by cable companies will be able to afford the kind of lightning-fast distribution that will be standard for broadband applications. My fear is that in the absence of policy safeguards, progressives and alternative media and civic sites will wake up too late to recognize that although people can reach us on the Web, by God we are slower and it costs us more to transport our messages. There will be a dimming and a gradual banishment of our views on the Internet. And it’s a terrible error on the part of progressives and others to hold out for an imaginary redoubt such as wireless. Cable is the dominant medium, and there are just really three or four companies doing it, and we better ensure we have a voice there on the broadband Internet.”

    Chester’s fear sounds alarmist — by what mechanism could the corporate media stifle bloggers and alternative publications? But surprisingly, Glenn Reynolds, the proprietor of InstaPundit, a very popular, mostly right-leaning blog, says something similar. “Powell’s theory is good as far as it goes,” he says, “but as people try to tame the Internet, how long before the concentrated big media try to shut down guys like me? I’m not trembling over it — but honestly, if you asked me 10 years ago if the DMCA was even possible, I’d say no way.”

  • From ExtremeTech: Digital Rights Management: For Better Or For Worse?

    Based on the available evidence (i.e., broken DRM systems), the persistent protection methods employed to date have been extremely lame. It’s difficult to know exactly what protection mechanisms are being employed by most unbroken DRM products, since companies are extremely tight-lipped when it comes to technical details. This secrecy is itself disturbing since one of the fundamental principles of security engineering (Kerckhoff’s Principle) states that a system must be open to public scrutiny before it can be trusted. This basic principle is grossly violated by virtually all DRM purveyors today. As far as I am aware, MediaSnap, Inc., is the only DRM company that provides a reasonable technical overview of the security features in their product.

    This dearth of technical information should be viewed with considerable suspicion. The likely explanation is that DRM products rely on “security by obscurity”, which, in the eyes of most security experts, is equated with “no security at all.”

2003 May 20

(entry last updated: 2003-05-20 17:58:31)

  • Something to consider: the RIAA Radar bookmarklet [via BoingBoing]

    What is RIAA Radar?

    The RIAA Radar is a tool that music consumers can use to easily and instantly distinguish whether an album was released by a member of the Recording Industry Association of America.

    How does it work?

    When you run the RIAA Radar from an Amazon album detail page, it uses Amazon Web Services to get the album information. It then checks the record label data of the Amazon item against a database of the current list of RIAA members, and returns the result.

    Very cool! Now I can comfortably buy the Hank Dogs followup to Bareback!

  • Ed Felten points us to the New York Times’ robots.txt file, noting that this might have something to do with the reason that the Times’ articles don’t rank too highly on Google [pdf] (note that robots.txt is a file that is used to instruct webcrawlers). Also, see yesterday’s Furdlog entry on Doc Searls’ writing on the subject.

  • Mary Hodder suggests that, based on Bursting BigChampagne’s Bubble, there may be less to Big Champagne than meets the eye:

    No, BigChampagne may be offering TopSwaps charts, but they don’t appear to be what their cult of personality would tell you they are. And to pass them off overtly or covertly as something other than what they are is disingenuous and misleading.

    I would hope that potential clients, as well as their current clients, would look a little deeper behind BigChampagne’s processes and methodology to find the real story behind their output. And I would hope that BigChampagne would be more forthcoming about what substance there is behind their data.

  • The EMI Group’s preliminary year-end financial figures were announced this morning.

    While we recognise that, in the long term, sales growth is an important objective, the year ended 31 March 2003 was clearly one during which we repositioned EMI Recorded Music on profitable foundations, and its performance did improve markedly. Operating profit increased 81% to £150.5m (£150.1m at constant currency), more than doubling operating margins to 8.5% compared with 4.1% last year.

    This margin increase is not simply the result of cutting the cost base. In the year just ended, we pursued an aggressive policy of refocusing Recorded Music on its core business by streamlining the artist roster and exiting unprofitable operations and costly joint ventures.

    The improvement also demonstrates the importance of concentrating on profitable, sustainable sales from artists with long-term potential….

    Beyond improving immediate profitability, containing piracy has become another major priority for EMI. During the year, EMI Recorded Music created a global anti-piracy team. Overall we have allocated substantial management time to lobbying governments to enact and enforce stronger legal penalties, and to identifying technologies and establishing procedures that protect our music. The group is determined to contain the sales erosion caused by physical counterfeiting, illegal file sharing and CD burning.

    In recent months we have started to see a shift in the attitudes of governments as to the seriousness of the situation and are starting to witness their willingness to confront the problem.

    Piracy containment is one important part of the new environment. It is, however, clear that consumers want to access music legally via the net and we are making considerable efforts and progress in turning this into reality. EMI’s catalogue is very widely available in digital delivery services and the group has taken a leadership position in offering more of our content on the net. EMI is also actively pursuing opportunities offered by the digital world such as ring tunes and video distribution as well as gaining further insight into music consumers’ behaviour.

  • From SFGate.com: Computers at the center of home entertainment: Only TVs rated higher in new survey [pdf]

    But regardless of the platform, computers already are playing a large role in entertainment. A Harris Interactive Inc. poll will show that U.S. residents 13 and older consider computers more important for home entertainment than the CD player, stereo or DVD player.

    Only the television was ranked more important in the poll of 2,070 computer users conducted between Feb. 24 and March 12. Nearly half those surveyed tuned into TV while using the computer.

    The poll has a technology bent because it was commissioned by software giant Microsoft Corp. However, the results echo similar data from other independent researchers.

    And a companion piece: The other shared files: pornography: Adult film industry profits from services [pdf]

    Most of the controversy surrounding file-sharing programs like Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus has centered on the trading of free music and movie files. The recording and film industry call this practice piracy and have filed copyright infringement suits trying to shut them down.

    But the adult film industry has not taken such a stance, despite the plentiful amount of porn available. Instead of fighting file sharing, some in that industry — estimated to be generating $750 million to $1 billion per year in revenue — are quietly finding new ways to profit from it.

    “The porn guys are smart, they’ve figured out how to use the technology,” said Grokster President Wayne Rosso.

  • I wasn’t going to cite Sonia Arrison’s Linux screed today until I found a counter-position. Luckily, it didn’t take long:

  • Glenn Reynolds TCS piece today, Open and Shut, discusses media concentration:

    So, Michael, here’s the deal: if you think that concentration in Old Media is okay because New Media will provide the discipline, then stand up for freeing the New Media from the shackles that the Old Media are trying to weld on. Because if you’re not serious about freeing the New Media, then you’re not serious about competition, and what you’re describing isn’t a bold new world, but a sellout

  • This week’s Tangled Web points to Epitonic, a WWW site distributing free MP3s of some independents.

  • The continuing development of file sharing around iTunes [via Michael Gartenberg’s Weblog]: ShareiTunes.com (whose WWW homepage title is "Our Parents Taught Us Well. Don’t Steal. Share!!") and iLeech

    What is iLeech?

    Introduced in iTunes v4.0 is the ability to share your playlist with other iTunes users. This is accomplished locally using Rendezvous/zeroconf/mdns/whatever, or if you know the IP address of a machine you can access it’s playlist via daap:// (provided port 3689 is open). However, you can only stream the music from the iTunes host — no copies are made on your machine.

    iLeech will connect to an iTunes host, display their playlist, and allow you to copy the files to your local drive. It can be downloaded by clicking the “Download” link in the right-hand navigation bar.

  • From the recent Pew Internet Life report on broadband growth trends in the US: The next broadband users: Their current online behavior and their work at home are key

    In sum, it is not just length of time online that may drive dial-up users to broadband at home, but also the nature of their online activities. In other words, users who are ardent information gatherers and producers are the dial-up surfers who are poised to purchase home broadband service. Although it is hard to pinpoint specifically which factors will drive the next set of broadband users to purchase a home high-speed connection, it appears that job-related reasons will loom large. Experienced dial-up users who want broadband are already as likely as broadband users to do research related to their jobs online. And experienced dial-up users interested in broadband are more likely to have college degrees than today’s broadband users (by a 53% to 45% margin), are more likely to be employed and are, on average, a bit older than broadband users.

    Yet, the statistics that the study actually cites suggest that the degree of multimedia activity online, particularly streaming of music and MP3 searching & downloading, are the key distinctions between broadband and non-broadband users.

  • The BBC on the Roxio/Pressplay move: Roxio continues online consolidation

    Analysts said the deal suggested more consolidation ahead in the online music business, where commercial services have struggled to survive.

    “The market’s going through consolidation because these services have been around for a couple of years, burning cash and not generating much revenues from subscribers or advertising,” said PJ McNealy, an analyst with GartnerG2.

    Another subscription service, Listen.com, was recently sold to RealNetworks while the independent service FullAudio denied rumours this week that it was looking for a buyer.

  • While hunting up more information on WebListen, I came across this site: The Global Internet Policy Initiative which “supports adoption in developing countries of the legal and policy framework for an open and democratic Internet. The project works with local stakeholders in consultative, coalition-based efforts to promote the principles of a decentralized, accessible, user-controlled, and market-driven Internet.”

    One interesting reference from their site is Significant Developments in Global Internet Law in 2002 from the law firm of Covington and Burling

  • CNet: Site in Spain to reign in MP3 playin’? A look at PureTunes, a competitor to WebListen, a Spanish P2P file sharing service that, according to CNet, has resisted litigation so far. This brief summary from the Perkins Coie WWW site:

    Ediciones Musicales Horus v. Weblisten, Provincial Court of Barcelona (2003). A Spanish court ruled on a Spanish version of “Napster,” which offered downloadable music online. Ediciones Musicales Horu sued Weblisten for copyright infringement under the Spanish Intellectual Property Act. Weblisten argued that the copying of CDs onto MP3 files was not a “reproduction”, but rather a public performance of the songs and that a license was not necessary. The court disagreed, finding that “reproduction” includes the uploading of digital files. Therefore, the court held that Weblisten had not obtained the necessary license and was liable for copyright ifringement.

  • Declan suggests that the formation of a new congressional caucus means that P2P is in Congress’ sights: Congress calls to arms against pirates

    Three members of the U.S. House of Representatives are creating a new congressional caucus devoted to combating piracy and promoting stronger intellectual property laws.

    A letter sent to some members of Congress last Friday by Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., warned of the threat of “ever-changing technologies” and asked colleagues if they would like to join the caucus. “The concerns of the thousands of Americans whose livelihoods depend on intellectual property protection are not being fully debated or addressed,” said the letter, which was obtained by CNET News.com.

    …Joining Wexler as co-founder of the caucus is Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who helped author a note last fall to 74 fellow Democrats assailing the Linux open-source operating system’s GNU General Public License as a threat to America’s “innovation and security.” Smith’s Ninth District includes the Seattle surburbs near Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters. The third founder is Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., a first-term congressman and former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives who was once Gov. Jeb Bush’s running mate.

    …Mike Godwin, senior technology counsel at the Public Knowledge advocacy group, said the House subcommittee that oversees intellectual property law “has been pretty energetic” already in reviewing the intersection of technology and copyright policy.

    “If they believe that the best way to do it is to develop a caucus around P2P sharing, that’s a fine idea,” Godwin said. “As long as they remember that P2P sharing is at the heart of the design of the Internet.”

    Slashdot discussion: racy Caucus Formed