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.”