July 29, 2003

2003 July 29 PM [2:46 pm]

(entry last updated: 2003-07-29 20:18:09)

I’m off to Detroit for a couple of days - my job and all that. While I have one night in a hotel with high-speed internet, I’m not sure that I’m going to get to do much here until next week.

  • Steven Levy at Newsweek: Pirates of the Internet [pdf]

    Ultimately the Internet is going to be great for music lovers, artists and even the record labels, if they are willing to hang loose while new business models emerge. But right now the RIAA and its congressional water carriers are hitting the wrong notes. It makes no sense to bring thousands of people into the dockets-and maybe the prison system-for turning on a friend to the fuzz tones of the White Stripes or the inspirational melodies of Orrin Hatch without a license. There are better things for prosecutors and the courts to focus on.

    Like real national security.

  • I haven’t been mentioned in a John Dvorak column since the heyday of OS/2 (and, yes, I realize that "heyday" is something of an overstatement) when I sent him an e-mail describing an ironic bit of IBM’s stealth marketing that came my way.

    Keven Heller points to John Dvorak’s piece, The Blog Politic Versus Congress, wherein he challenges the blog community to do more than just talk about the copyright problem - starting with the reaction to Conyers-Berman.

    What is interesting to me is that the blogging community is all over this bill, but doesn’t seem to be doing much more than complaining and ridiculing it. Is this a useful exercise in activism or a hint at things to come?

    [...] But where is the leverage? In the past I’ve complained about the inability of net-heads to make any real impact on politics. The Computer Decency Act, for example, waltzed through Congress without a hitch despite the online grumblings all over the place. The blog community may be different. It’s more politicized than any other online movement, with Democrats, Republicans, and mostly Libertarian variants each yakking loudly and getting re-quoted everywhere. The real influence is still an unknown. It’s possible that this newer form of carping will be just as ineffective.

    Kevin has already started a bit of civil disobedience. I can only point to the students that I teach - and note that the circle of those students is increasing as we prepare to start a new class at Cambridge University in the fall.

    Part of the problem is that, as Dvorak correctly points out, Conyers-Berman is more of a sop to the sponsors’ consituency than a credible legislative initiative. Yet, he is also right that it’s important to find ways to combat the slide of the rhetoric toward legitimizing the perspectives that Conyers-Berman embody. Aside from re-upping with the EFF and the ACLU, I’m going to have to take a close look at what more I could be doing.

    But, there’s also the possibility that it’s the discussion alone that can act to change the political climate, notwithstanding John Dvorak’s contention that it may be just a "new form of carping." At least one thread of this year’s ILaw was organized around the idea that the weblog represents a way for more citizens to participate in political discussions, arguing that society benefits as more citizens elect to participate in the public discourse, rather than passively observing the political process. How one leverages the weblog discussion may not yet be apparent, but it’s certainly the case that there are lots of experiments going on today.

    Update: Donna’s on top of this, offering up a number of good resources; c.f. Derek - as I read the column, Dvorak does appear genuine

  • GrokLaw gets a new target to help in its explanation of the GPL: Sun Finds a New Way to be Repulsive

  • Some nonsense from Slashdot (you can decide who’s being nonsensical): 2191.78 Years for the RIAA to Sue Everyone

    este writes “According to an article in the Inquirer, if the RIAA maintains its rate of lawsuit issuance, it will take more than two millenia for them to sue evey P2P file trader. The author accounts for many additional difficulties facing the RIAA in this daunting task.”

    The Slashdot comments on speed limit enforcement are particularly illuminating. See also this USA Today article: Internet song swappers say legal threats won’t stop them [pdf]

    The interesting thing about the USAToday article is the way that it depicts Jupiter going out of its way to tell the industry that everything’s going to be fine once they embrace digitial distribution. Is Jupiter being disingenuous, helping to get the industry out of the way as soon as possible, or are they trying to find a way to strongarm the rest of the world into agreeing with the RIAA’s perspective that they are a vital piece of the picture?

  • Here we go again (actually, I haven’t gotten my last check yet!): Labels charged with price-fixing - again

    In a unanimous decision, members of the U.S. FTC (Federal Trade Comission) chastised Vivendi Universal and Warner Communications for restricting competition in the sale of “The Three Tenors” - Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti - audio and video products. It seems that PolyGram (a company later bought by Vivendi) conspired with Warner “to curb discounting and advertising to boost sales of recordings that the two companies jointly had distributed based on the tenors’ concert in Paris during the 1998 soccer World Cup.”

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2003 July 29 AM [7:20 am]

(entry last updated: 2003-07-29 09:00:58)

  • Another Microsoft IP infringement lawsuit settled: Microsoft settles suit with Immersion

  • Although this article title screams tedium (MusicMatch to offer subscription free downloads), it contains a fair bit of information about the emerging structure of the for-fee download businesses.

  • Slashdot has a bit on IBM’s rumblings in the SCO matter: IBM Points Out SCO’s GPL Software Distribution, with particular discussion of this MozillaQuest article: SCO Agrees IBM Owns AIX, JFS, NUMA, RCU Copyrights

  • From SecurityFocus via The Register, an editorial on the legal vagaries of P2P file sharing by Mark D. Rasch, a former head of the Justice Department’s computer crime unit: Copying is Theft - and other legal myths (with some odd misspellings, IMHO - "Valente" for example):

    But technically, file sharing is not theft.

    A number of years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt with a man named Dowling, who sold “pirated” Elvis Presley recordings, and was prosecuted for the Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property. The Supremes did not condone his actions, but did make it clear that it was not “theft” — but technically “infringement” of the copyright of the Presley estate, and therefore copyright law, and not anti-theft statutes, had to be invoked.

  • More on the new RIAA head, Mitch Bainwol:

  • From today’s Boston Globe:

    • As musical pioneer, Rundgren trailblazes an industry in transition [pdf]

      Where do you stand on file-sharing, free downloading, and artist’s rights?

      These issues get smashed together because of the [Recording Industry Association of America's] facetious representation they’re also on the side of the artists. Labels have never done anything for artists they weren’t forced to do. They had to be forced to start paying royalties. What we need is cable TV for music, where you can download all the music you want for $20 a month.

      Will fans accustomed to getting their music for free be willing to start paying for it?

      Most listeners would be happy to subscribe to a gateway to a world of music that would benefit the artists, as well, because there is a huge fringe surrounding the tiny percentage of artists that get on the radio. On the Internet, everyone is able to participate. If people don’t know you have a record it doesn’t get sold, but the Internet can point you to artists you might never have known about. I believe people would pay for that.

      Is the music industry as we know it doomed?

      It’s time for the labels to go, in the sense the way they’ve done business is based on a commodified model, and they’ve no experience in a service model — which is what the Internet is. Only someone like J.Lo needs the labels, because she can’t go out and build an audience from scratch with the quality of her singing. The future for real musicians is, was, and always will be performing.

    • Instant Replay [pdf]

      For an industry locked in a battle against downloading — and struggling to convince young listeners that popular music is worth paying for — the recording and selling of live CDs is a promising revenue stream. The CDs will be available to concertgoers immediately, making them an easy impulse buy before downloaders get ahold of them. Also, the variation in set lists and shows could make the CDs collectors’ items.

      [...] Some bands have nixed the program because it could compete with their own CD release parties and events. But many local acts have signed up in recent months, including Kay Hanley, Spookie Daly Pride, and Machinery Hall.

      Clear Channel co-CEO Don Law said the "Instant Live" program essentially provides "seed money" for up-and-coming bands at the club level. They pocket the money (half of the $15 sale price for recordings of club-level acts), rather than having bootleggers get it.

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