2003 June 16

(entry last updated: 2003-06-16 18:26:19)

A notice to my occasional readers: the MSL’s offices are being relocated Wednesday afternoon of this week. This means that, for a period of time starting Wednesday into Thursday, Furdlog (and, in fact, all of msl1.mit.edu) will be inaccessible – partly because the machine will be down and partly because the machine will be getting a new IP address. Once everthing propagates through the nameservers, you should be able to find me again – note that furd.com also points to my office machine, so http://furd.com/furdlog might be worth trying if http://msl1.mit.edu/furdlog doesn’t work – one may update faster than the other.

  • Mary Hodder points to an article on Muse.Net – apparently an inside-out MP3.com, with each user’s machine acting as the music server:

    “The goal here is to get the Linux hacker community to support the music community,” Chief Executive Robert Lord said, referring to the zealous group of programmers working on an alternative to Microsoft Corp.’s Windows software.

    Mediacode has developed an online service to start the ball rolling. Dubbed Muse.Net, it lets people with high-speed Internet connections listen to the music on their computers from any other computer online.

  • Amazing! They really did it: SCO Terminates IBM’s Unix License [Slashdot]; SCO cancels IBM Unix license [CNet] – and with a striking threat that should lead to some interesting court reaction and interpretation:

    SCO said that the termination of the AIX license means that all IBM Unix customers also have no license to use the software. “This termination not only applies to new business by IBM, but also existing copies of AIX that are installed at all customer sites. All of it has to be destroyed,” [SCO’s Chris] Sontag said.

    SCO’s press release

  • From Business 2.0: The MP3 Economy: How labels and artists divvy up your MP3 dollar They’ve got a nice graphic, but let’s recap the data here:

    Participant Cut
    The Site 40%
    The Publisher 8%
    The Label 30%
    The Middleman 10%
    The Artist 12%

    A few other points

    • The publisher gets mechanical royalties: note that, irrespective of all other transactions, this fee is set and is not actually a percentage – the Copyright office sets these in regulations

    • The implication of the article is that the Label’s cut is purely performance royalties – it would be interesting to see if that’s really true. Given the effort that’s gone into getting the labels to sign up, I’m sure there’s more to this transaction than just royalties.

    • A truly striking claim is associated with the Artist’s cut. While the effects of recoupable costs are cited (bringing some artist’s cuts down to 8%), we find this claim:

      In many major-label contracts, charges for “packaging” and promotional copies are subtracted from the artist’s cut, leaving the talent with a measly 8 percent. BMG, Universal, and Warner have announced plans to do away with such deductions for digital downloads.

  • Jack Balkin points out that the closing weeks of this Supreme Court term are going to be busy!

  • Larry Lessig points to this essay by Evan Hunt on the notion of the commons, suggesting that the kind of cross-disciplinary characterization of the commons issue in Hunt’s essay is a good thing.

    While I agree that crossing disciplines is important (how could someone in ESD disagree with that!!), and that Evan’s drawing upon Zodiac to make some strong points about environmentalism is well-placed, I would definitely hesitate to agree with the thesis that environmentalism is all about the commons. In fact, when you read Evan’s essay through, he is actually talking about something that is subtly similar to the commons, but is actually something else – community.

    Note the examples that Evan uses – stealing salt and pepper shakers from restaurants, undermining parental authority, spamming and other intrusive advertising – activities to undermine socially acceptable behaviors. Moreover, these actions and others of their ilk are defended by making a showing of value derived from market (rather than social) norms (too cheap for anyone to care, get kids to buy more, if even one responds, it’s paid for itself).

    The kind of irresponsible/destructive behavior that Evan describes and then parallels with the issues that Larry holds so dear does not necessarily arise out of malevolence. If it were malevolent, it probably would be easier to cope with. Rather, what we’re facing, for example through the appropriation of culture via IP laws and regulation, is a loss of community and shared appreciation for the responsibilities that are owed to one another outside the domain of the marketplace.

    Of course, why kick about this? In the words of Gordon Gecko, “Greed is good,” right? Apologies to my friends at Sloan, but there really are things that the market cannot value or, more accurately, there are things that societies shouldn’t allow markets to value – the environment is one; culture is another. It’s just the wrong working metaphor, leading to a variety of untoward behavior. And movements like environmentalism and, dare I say, Creative Commons come into being to develop ways to develop institutions and instruments that can harmonize human action across these different domains, rather than allowing a single perspective/institution/mechanism to overwhelm another.

  • In addition to William Safire’s op-ed on the FCC (Regulate the F.C.C.; pdf), we have an interesting lesson on the implications of media concentration for the "news" business: To Interview Former P.O.W., CBS Dangles Stardom [pdf] – what it might take to get to interview Jessica Lynch – itemized in the graphic to the right!

  • Recall that I expressed surprise (corrected by a reader from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University) that Johnny Hallyday was still in the music business. Today’s New York Times gives an in-depth look: A French Original With Studied American Flair [pdf] – don’t miss the photos!

  • Following up a little more on the iPod music distribution issues raised by BoingBoing, we have this tidbit from Business 2.0: iPod: Digital Music’s Windows Desktop [pdf], introducing the idea of iPod bundling and placement:

    Since record companies are desperate for new means of distribution, shouldn’t they be looking for access to the iPod rather than just iTunes? It’s a classic bundling arrangement. Consider how software makers have pursued big deals to get on the Windows desktop because they know that preinstalled material gets the user’s attention. Take this idea to the iPod: What would a broadcast network pay a television manufacturer to ensure that the network was the first station anyone saw when turning on a TV? Apple has an opportunity, first of all, to release a series of customized, high-priced iPods. This would bring large fees into Apple’s coffers. The record companies would get a premium, plus outstanding distribution. And for both companies, such a move would mark a first step toward even bigger deals.

  • From the weblog roll:

  • A thoughtful consideration of the difficulties of selling downloadable classical music from the New York Times: Adventures in Downloading Haydn [pdf]

    I still wonder what the market is. Having purchased a range of classical music from iTunes for this article, I have a motley playlist of individual tracks that are hard to identify. When I play them, one blends into the other without a break, as on a classics lite radio station. Does anyone really want to download individual opera recitatives, or spend $40 on a download of a complete “Gioconda” that comes without a reliable cast list or libretto? I’m not sure what the future of classical music is, but I suspect that only aficionados can get much benefit from a site like this, and they probably don’t need it.

    At Musicmaker, we didn’t have the manpower to fix every mistake on the site, and it gradually became clear that whatever the secret to selling music on the Web was, we hadn’t found it. What we did have, after nine months, was the beginning of a knowledgeable, detailed data base of a lot of EMI’s classical music catalog. In a last-minute e-mail exchange in the hour or two after the layoffs had been announced and before we had to vacate the premises, my Reston colleagues and I joked about selling it. If only we had called Apple.

  • From dmusic.com (see also this O’Reilly Network listing): A Musician’s Take on File Sharing, DRM, and Copyleft Licensing by Miriam Rainsford (iriXx) (of Madonna ReMix Project fame)

    As a musician I find the notion of using DRM technology abhorrent — not only because of the risk that my works could be locked up indefinitely by technological means, despite my signing a non-exclusive distribution contract. Under anti-circumvention laws such as the DMCA and the forthcoming EUCD, it could well prove impossible for me to share my own work with my friends, or to distribute DRM-controlled content to another publisher.

    But aside from the legal and practical aspects, I believe DRM to be against the spirit of music-making. Music is made for enjoyment — and it is very difficult to create music without an atmosphere of freedom. Musicians just want to be free to create, without being concerned over having their music — or the tools they use to make music – tied down or controlled by devices which may well have detrimental effects on audio quality. Perhaps the reason Apple has been so notoriously silent on the topic of DRM is that the Mac OS dominates the creative market. To implement DRM on a Mac platform would risk alienating their primary customers in the pro audio sector.

    I believe there exists a better alternative to DRM and technological methods of control, in the form of copyleft licensing.

  • It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of this challenge to SoundExchange’s pending royalty-collecting monopoly: Comments Of Royalty Logic, Inc. Objecting To RIAA Webcasting Settlement (their earlier filing: Royalty Logic Objection to RIAA) (RoyaltyLogic WWW site – working?)

  • Declan McCullagh raises the spectre of an Internet “Fairness Doctrine” in this article on a pending set of European regulations: Why Europe still doesn’t get the Internet.

    I don’t know what to make of this, frankly. As Declan points out, this is an unenforceable set of rules, but it also betrays a peculiar double-think on the subject of weblogs and their importance. If you want weblogs to be important, then there is some sort of responsbility that accompanies that rise in relevance. Now, I would agree that the Council of Europe is out to lunch here, but the article touches on something that is going to have to be addressed if weblogs reach the heights that some expect to achieve.

    Here’s the Slashdot discussion: Europe To Force Right of Reply On Internet Communication

  • CNet passes along a Reuters feed indicating that Sony is starting to sell music online in Europe – but only in the U.K: Sony to offer music downloads in U.K.. Mark Mulligan puts in his $0.02: Sony Get on Board the Digital Download Bandwagon

    As things currently stand, EMI have a competitive advantage over its competitors at a time when margins from other revenue channels are contracting. It was only be a matter of time before the other major labels responded in kind. Although Sony Music’s deal with OD2 effectively only brings it in line with what the other 4 majors were already doing, in the context of Sony’s previous reluctance to commit, this is a significant first step forward.

    What will be interesting to see is whether the remaining three majors decide to expand their subscription service relationship with OD2 or to instead follow the EMI / i-Tunes model and make a larger amount of their catalogue available for a-la-carte download.

    In terms of direct impact on the European market, Apple’s i-Tunes service has had less of an impact than EMI (at least for the near-term) but its apparent success has undoubtedly caused something of a sea change in the way many in the music industry view digital distribution. An irony is that the combined effect with EMI, is that it might result in the UK’s online music offerings looking more comprehensive than those in the US.

  • Slashdot also notes that the CD price-fixing settlement has gone through – checks coming in the mail! From the APWire piece cited:

    A federal judge approved a settlement agreement Friday in a music antitrust lawsuit that will result in more than 3.5 million consumers receiving nearly $13 each.

    […] The ruling, however, does not stipulate exactly how much consumers will receive or when the checks will be distributed. More than 3.5 million consumers filed claims, now estimated at $12.63 each.

    The order/opinion doesn’t seem to be online, but here’s D. Brock Hornby’s 2003 opinion directory listing – here it is from Findlaw [via TechLawAdvisor]

  • As Slashdot notes [NYTimes pdf] (see also today’s Boston Globe: Open season on open source; pdf), the SCO deadline has passed with SCO revoking the Unix license to IBM’s AIX, and IBM declaring the right irrevocable. Slashdot also reports a possible review of the SCO claim unencumbered by the restrictive NDA that SCO has demanded of other reviewers: Settling SCOres

    CNet has an interview with Darl McBride of SCO: Why SCO decided to take IBM to court

    But ZDNet has the best commentary: Who Really Owns Unix? (a look at the Open Group’s stake in this fight) and It’s a Matrix moment for Linux. From the second piece:

    It’s a Matrix moment for Linux programmers. SCO is telling them that they haven’t been breathing air for the last few years.

    Their brains have been floating in tanks, feeding the parasitic robots (read lawyers) who are calling the shots at financially strapped SCO. Now the money is short, and it is time to harvest those brains.

  • Although it’s unlikely that anyone missed it, the Microsoft announcement that there won’t be any newer IEs means, as this Register article indicates, that it’s time to get Mozilla for your Mac and learn it. Here’s the CNet article, which points the finger at Safari: Microsoft: No new versions of IE for Mac