June 29, 2003

2003 June 29 [10:10 am]

(entry last updated: 2003-06-29 23:10:40)

Drove down to Monterey today to take in the Monterey Bay Aquarium - a fabulous place. I’d post a picture or two, but I cannot get my Mac to grab the 80mm CD that my Mavica uses, even though the Apple site says that the drive accepts standard geometry (i.e., round) 80mm and 120mm CDs. There must be a trick, but I’ve gone just about as far as I dare pushing the thing into the drive. *Sigh* - I think I really got some good pictures of the jellyfish exhibit, too.

  • Karen pointed me toward this Mike Lukovich cartoon (from the June 27 Atlanta Constitution) that was in todays’s NYTimes Week in Review. Sort of an accompaniment to this report on the RIAA lawsuit push: Making Pirates Walk the Plank [pdf]

  • Harry Crushes the Hulk [pdf] (Slashdot discussion: Harry Potter and the Entertainment Industry)

    Here’s what’s wrong with kids in the digital age. They live in front of their TV and PC screens. They steal music online. Their attention span is zilch. They multitask on everything and concentrate on nothing except video games. They will buy any trashy product that the media goliaths can sell them, then drop it as soon as the next big hype comes along.

    That’s merely the short list of hard-wired assumptions that were short-circuited by last weekend’s publication of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

    [...] The question is: How do all those lovely entertainment-seeking kids weaned on “Harry Potter” grow up to become thieves? Surely, they know that stealing copyrighted songs and movies is akin to shoplifting sweaters at the Gap. There is no single explanation, of course, and there is no acceptable rationalization that can excuse theft. But it’s no secret that music piracy spread as CD prices rose and teenagers were enraged to pay roughly the same price as a “Harry” hardcover for a dozen or so tracks of which 10 might be filler.

    [...] This is a lesson that seems to be lost on a cynical entertainment industry that places Pavlovian marketing above creativity, on the assumption that young consumers don’t know the difference. Many of them do know the difference. There is a lot for grownups to learn — and those in Hollywood most of all — by reading the books, not merely the grosses, spawned by Harry Potter.

  • I wonder if writing this piece was a term of employment for this CNN (a division of TimeWarner-AOL) intern: Why I’ve stopped sharing music. After all, this is EXACTLY the response that the RIAA is hoping to get for their lawsuit orgy. On the other hand, there is this closing statement:

    Still, when I hear a timeless Beatles classic on the radio and then go home to look for it on Pressplay or ITunes and it isn’t there, I tend to longingly eye the Kazaa icon that still sits on my desktop, beckoning me to return to piracy.

    Only fear and Dan Peng’s ordeal keep me in line.

    In the face of demand and with the incentives of fear, how long before a formalized, yet random and cryptographically protected, IP spoofing mechanism (or some other anonymizing trick) becomes a part of KaZaA or one of the open source projects?

  • Derek jumps back into the copyright/property fray with a comment that heads into the uses of technological alienation and the dichotomy between the intangibles of expression and the reality of products. While it may be that Derek is being facetious with this paragraph:

    What about my property? You may own the music, but I own the CD. Do you get to tell me how to use my property in my own home? If you made the music, does that also mean you own my CD player?

    But he’s exactly framing the issue that DRM raises - is it really the case that, just because the expression is supplied in a digital form, the copyright owner is now allowed to assert control over my property/technology by limiting what it is otherwise able to do?

    DRM plus DMCA equals a lock on my machine, and is certainly novel, if not unprecedented. For example, I could buy a 33 rpm record and play it at 45 if I wanted to - I could play it backwards to hear "Paul is dead." I could buy a piece of sheet music and elect to ignore the tempo/key/arrangement. I can buy the latest Harry Potter and flip to the end to find out who dies (or even just pick up the book and browse to learn that). But I already can’t skip the FBI warning at the outset of "my" DVD, nor can I hope to be able (legally) to shift that movie to the next digital video medium when DVDs are obsolete.

    The threat of digital copying is being used to allow publishers claim greater control over reified creative expressions, and the question Derek raises is right on - why should be throw out other elements of our legal (and moral) frameworks in favor of the dictates of copyright (a purely legislated right, I might add)? It’s the development of a workable balance, rather than the philosophical absolutes brought out at each discussion, that’s needed.

  • Thomas Friedman ties together a couple of important concepts about the Internet and the US in Is Google God? [pdf]

    In other words, once Wi-Fi is in place, with one little Internet connection I can download anything from anywhere and I can spread anything from anywhere. That is good news for both scientists and terrorists, pro-Americans and anti-Americans.

    And that brings me to the point of this column: While we may be emotionally distancing ourselves from the world, the world is getting more integrated. That means that what people think of us, as Americans, will matter more, not less. Because people outside America will be able to build alliances more efficiently in the world we are entering and they will be able to reach out and touch us — whether with computer viruses or anthrax recipes downloaded from the Internet — more than ever.

    The Slashdot discussion, Does Google = God?, goes after the technical nonsense in the piece, but there are a few comments that did get what Friedman is really worried about - not to mention at least one good science fiction reference: No, But Google IS Multivac…. (The Last Question, one of the referenced Multivac stories, is a great read (alternative link to text.)

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