June 9, 2003

2003 June 9 [7:06 am]

(entry last updated: 2003-06-09 14:46:35)

It’s MIT graduation today, so I’m about done; my wife gets to go to the Jupiter Weblogs Conference, but I can’t. Maybe I’ll make the Tuesday night dinner, though.

  • David Card misses a key difference between browsers and media players in his latest weblog posting: Media Players & Browsers Hooey. While it’s true that the browser wars haven’t led to the kind of lock-in that people feared, that was because the browser is implicitly about openess - who wants to use a browser that only works with certain sites? Yet excluding users from certain content is exactly what’s being built into media players, in the guise of DRM. So, even though he’s sanguine, I remain very anxious about the potential for digital lock-in from the AOL/Microsoft agreement. Maybe they won’t play well together, but the assumption that the media player wars will turn out like the browser wars misses this key difference between the way these two tools are supposed to work.

  • Click through Michael Gartenberg’s weblog entry for June 5 to read an analysis of the Apple iTunes product. (Today’s entry is from the Jupiter conference)

  • SFGate tells a horror story about patents, especially the consequences of no longer requiring a working model: Inventors patent ideas to pre-empt their rivals [pdf]

    It’s part of a legal tactic called “offensive blocking patents” in which businesses or individual entrepreneurs use patents not so much as tools to build new products, but as legal roadblocks or bargaining chips against competitors or corporate giants.

    [...]

    “What I advise my clients to do is to analyze their competitors’ road maps, ” he [John Ferrell] said. “Successful companies become successful by spending time thinking about competitors and reacting to competitors proactively.”

    [...]

    The company can then apply for patents on those inventions. An applicant must prove to a patent examiner in written statements and with drawings and diagrams that the invention is novel and original. But the applicant doesn’t have to come up with a prototype.

    “You don’t have to build it,” Ferrell said. “You just have to conceive it. By filing a couple of patents, you essentially have co-opted the standards road map. Anybody who wants to go from G to X has to get through your toll road.”

    Others disagree:

    Lemelson had to wait years before collecting royalties for some of his ideas, such as the bar code. “This notion (of offensive blocking patents) is just incredibly naive,” [Jerry] Hosier said.

  • Heroes? or Zeroes? You decide: RIAA Grabs Student’s Life’s Savings. Fallout from this ABC News article: RIAA Wrath Hits Teen [pdf]

    Jordan, an information technology major, created ChewPlastic.com, the second most popular search directory on the RPI campus.

    “You go to the site, you type in a search term, and it finds files on the network,” Jordan said. Jordan compares his site to Google, the popular Internet search engine.

    But the RIAA likens Jordan’s site to Napster, the now defunct song-swap service that revolutionized the distribution of music.

    “The people who run these Napster networks know full well what they are doing: Operating a sophisticated network designed to enable widespread music thievery,” Cary Sherman, the president of the RIAA, said in a statement issued April 3.

    [...] But Jordan did agree to pony up $12,000, his entire savings account, to the RIAA. Jordan and his father, Andy Jordan, felt the settlement was their best option.

    See earlier Furdlog posting on the Jordan’s PR push.

  • Related, but not precisely digital IP: CHINA: Vague draft policy apparently risks technology and intellectual property rights - paper

    China has issued the draft of a new motor industry policy that, the trade newspaper Automotive News said, appears to curtail sharply the ability of foreign vehicle makers and suppliers operating there to safeguard their proprietary technology and intellectual property.

    Automotive News said the draft, which began circulating among industry executives late last month, specifies that 50% of all sales in China by 2010 must come from domestic companies that own 100% of the vehicle’s technology.

  • From Salon: Mexico’s music business meltdown

    If hell had a special section reserved for recording industry executives, it would probably look a lot like Tepito.

    The Mexico City neighborhood is a mile and a half of exuberant, unabashed intellectual-property piracy: thousands of people eddying through a labyrinth of street stalls, buying CDs, movies and software at a tiny fraction of the legal price.

    It’s also the center of a nationwide piracy business that the Recording Industry Association of America and other groups say probably took almost a billion dollars from the music, film and software industries last year — a business that is almost single-handedly killing Mexico’s music industry, crushing legitimate record sales, and sending potential stars fleeing from the country.

    [...] The stakes are huge in Mexico’s fight. American enthusiasts of free-for-all copying have often argued that a relaxed attitude toward copyright in the information age may hurt established artists but may encourage or help newer acts. If anything, the Mexican experience is the opposite. Mexican record company executives say widespread piracy has forced them to stop developing new talent and focus on their stable of recognized artists to make a profit.

  • Relating to the article below: Microsoft Plays to Film Industry

  • Here’s a [chilling] look at the advance of DRM technology for streamed content delivery:

    “He’s Back…” SyncCast And Digital Envoy Partner To Prevent Piracy Of New “Terminator 2″ Extreme DVD

    SyncCast used Microsoft Windows Media Rights Manager to build its DRM Solution technology to protect copyrighted materials online and other traditional media (DVD-ROMs/CD-ROMs). SyncCast’s DRM Solution provides real-time reporting of content licensing and consumption, including when content was licensed (time and date); where content was licensed (country, state, city); and what was licensed (file names, byte size, version, server-side end user licensing agreements). Furthermore, SyncCast’s DISCryption technology combines its DRM Solution with ground-breaking disc-identification technology that relies on a unique serial ID burned into every disc for maximum anti-theft protection.

    SyncCast’s DRM Solution is powered by Digital Envoy’s NetAcuity technology, which utilizes IP addresses to non-invasively identify the location of Web site visitors down to the city level worldwide — in real time. This technology is the most accurate and reliable technology on the market for providing secure territorial rights management and is in use by leading networks, enterprises and solutions providers including Google, AOL Time Warner, Network Associates, Cable and Wireless, AT&T, Walt Disney Internet Group and CinemaNow.

    “We selected Digital Envoy as our exclusive partner for territorial rights management because it is the leader in geo-intelligence technology, as demonstrated by an A-list of clients,” said Davidson. “Also, integrating their technology with our DRM Solution took less than two days and provides better content controls than the technology utilized by most DVD players.”

  • A look at the arcana of ASCAP performance royalties: Court Decides Against Composer Peter Myers In Ascap Royalty Dispute; Myers To Appeal

    ASCAP’s rules for paying royalties have been described as among the most punitive towards instrumental music in the world, paying a one minute piece of instrumental music indicated as “background instrumental” within a film or television program only 16% of what one-minute of song indicated as “background vocal” within a film or television program is paid. In many other major performing rights societies internationally, including those in Germany, Spain, France and England, a minute of song and a minute of instrumental score music within a film or television program are paid at exactly the same rate with no penalties for instrumental music.

  • Declan McCullagh gives a look at the policymaking behind communications taxation in this look at a proposal before the FCC to tax cable modem service in the same way that DSL services already are: Netizens, prepare to to pay more

  • Haven’t been tracking this, but apparently the GIF patented conpression scheme expires later this month, introducing an interesting file format challenge: Bell tolling for PNG graphics format?. A good history of the LZW fight at the heart of the creation of PNG.

  • An infringement of the GPL is alleged: The Register, Free Software Foundation probes Linksys. Slashdot discussion: Is Linksys Violating The GPL?

  • Yesterday’s front page NYTimes article on the music industry gets a Slashdot discussion: 43 Million Americans Use P2P Software

  • New Apple acquisition rumors: Apple out to acquire Napster owner?; recall that Roxio acquired PressPlay a couple of weeks ago

  • Radio Left Out of Relaxed Rules with a "Jennifer 8. Lee" byline [pdf] (Note: an article not in the Userland RSS feed this morning) A discussion of how the political backlash against Clear Channel seems to have had some small effect.

    As Clear Channel wants the story to be told, it is a capitalist success built largely by one entrepreneur, Mr. Mays, through smart, aggressive acquisitions. The company casts itself as a savior, reviving struggling radio stations and diversifying formats to better serve listeners around the country.

    Why pick on the radio industry? the company asks. The lobbyists wave ownership charts for the recording, film and cable businesses, showing that radio is the least concentrated media sector. But Clear Channel, despite controlling only about 10 percent of the commercial radio market, stands so far above the second- and third-largest companies — Cumulus Media, with 250 stations and Infinity Broadcasting, with 180 — that it acts as a lightning rod for fears about big media. In the politically charged atmosphere leading up to the Iraq invasion, the company’s management in San Antonio was accused of coordinating the Clear Channel stations across the country to rally support for the war. Though the executives denied any active role in the pro-war rallies promoted by some of the company’s individual stations, the controversy highlighted the potential political power than can come with media consolidation.

  • Today seems to be the day to fan the flames of the Linux/SCO lawsuit in the mainstream broadsheets. In both cases, there are some nuggets indicative of the underlying lunacy

    • New York Times: Legal Dispute Unnerves Linux Users [pdf]

      “Software patents basically provide incentives to encourage innovation,” Mr. [Kenneth] King [of IBM] said. “Open-source approach also encourages innovation, but in a more informal way.”

    • Boston Globe: Challenges Looming for Linux [pdf]

      But where do these code contributions come from? Yes, they’re tested for safety and effectiveness. But what about authorship? How does Torvalds determine whether a kernel contribution is original, or simply a bit of stolen code?

      ”It’s not an easy thing to do,” Torvalds admitted by e-mail. ”For copyright infringement, the best protection is the fact that the code is open. Think of it like stealing a car: as a potential car thief, would you do it in full daylight with a lot of people looking on, or would you prefer to do it when nobody is watching?”

      SCO is saying this is precisely what has happened: IBM stole its software in broad daylight, in effect daring SCO to do something about it.

      Torvalds doesn’t buy it. ”Sure, it could be done,” he wrote, ”but what would be the point? It’s not like I pay these people on a `per line written’ basis.” Indeed, Torvalds doesn’t pay Linux kernel developers a penny. But IBM and other companies pay some of their brightest programmers to write Linux code and give it away, for inclusion in the kernel.

    On the other hand, eWeek seems to have a clearer picture: SCO: Following the Money

    Watergate source Deep Throat was right: “Follow the money.” The furor surrounding ownership of intellectual property in Unix and Linux is not about technology or even ideology. It’s about the money—specifically, the business interests that are served by casting a shadow of doubt over the legitimacy of open-source platforms and services.

    Plus, there’s today’s User Friendly

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