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September 21, 2003

Two from Slashdot [10:52 pm]

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The Money Note [9:34 pm]

Mary’s come across an interesting, in-depth look at the record industry from the New Yorker from a couple months ago that I missed: The Money Note [pdf]. She’s selected a couple of quotes, but I like this excerpt the best in terms of showing just how ingrained certain aspects of record-making are, and how inconsistent they are with the MP3/Internet distribution model:

But is a winner-take-all strategy the best way to run a record company–for any of the majors? Hit-making is an imprecise method of doing business. Of thirty thousand CDs that the industry released last year in the United States, only four hundred and four sold more than a hundred thousand copies, while twenty-five thousand releases sold fewer than a thousand copies apiece. No one seems to be able to predict which those four hundred and four big sellers will be. The chairman of BMG, Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, told Billboard in December, “We need reliable calculations of returns that are not based solely on hits because the way people get music doesn’t go with hits anymore.” He added, “We have to get rid of the lottery mentality.”

I asked [Atlantic Records' Jason] Flom whether he thought hits might become less important to the record business. “That ain’t gonna happen,” he said. “If anything, hits can be more important than ever, because you can make stars on a global scale now. If the star is big enough, people will want to buy the CD.” When I repeated what Schmidt-Holtz had said, Flom looked momentarily stunned. Then he said, “Something must be getting lost in the translation there, because the day we stop seeing hits is the day people stop buying records.”

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I’m Jealous! [5:11 pm]

Matt got to attend the Berkman Center’s invitation-only Digital Media in Cyberspace conference. He’s posted his comments

Update: See also Mary’s roundup: Berkman Center/G2 on Digital Media in Cyberspace: The Legislation and Business Effects

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Hitler, Homes & Gardens and Copyright [4:24 pm]

Who knows what you’ll find in the attic? And what’ll happen if you decide to scan and post what you find. Two articles from Wired and the NYTimes point out some hazards. Wired: Old Hitler Article Stirs Debate and the NYTimes: Hitler at Home on the Internet [pdf]

The NYTimes lead:

The predominant color scheme of Hitler’s “bright, airy chalet” was “a light jade green.” Chairs and tables of braided cane graced the sun parlor, and the Führer, “a droll raconteur,” decorated his entrance hall with “cactus plants in majolica pots.”

Such are the precious and chilling observations in an irony-free 1938 article in Homes & Gardens, a British magazine, on Hitler’s mountain retreat in the Bavarian Alps. A bit of arcana, to be sure, but one that has dropped squarely into the current debate over the Internet and intellectual property. This file, too, is being shared.

From the Wired article

Simon Waldman, director of digital publishing for Guardian Newspapers, came upon the article while flipping at random through a back issue of Homes & Gardens. He was immediately intrigued.

“We hear a lot about how the British upper and upper-middle classes felt that ‘That Hitler chap had some very good ideas’ … but it’s only when you see it in this almost comically fawning form that you realise how someone who can seem utterly abhorrent with hindsight can appeal to people at the time,” he later wrote on his personal blog.

Waldman scanned the article and posted the images to his blog. Within weeks, his traffic had spiked to 10,000 impressions a day, with the vast majority of visitors downloading the article.

Waldman e-mailed the magazine’s editorial director, Isobel McKenzie-Price, to ask whether she had a copy of the article. McKenzie-Price replied in a politely worded e-mail: “While I personally do appreciate the spirit in which you sent it to me, as a representative of IPC Media I am concerned to prevent the unauthorised reproduction of IPC’s material, whenever it was originally published…. In the circumstances I must request you to remove this article from your website.”

And from the Times, a sharp look at the legal issue:

The episode is an object lesson in the topsy-turvy world of copyright and “fair use” — an area made far murkier by the distributive power of the Internet and the subsequent crisscrossing of international legal codes. In the United States, the posting would most likely be considered fair use, said Wendy Seltzer, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. “Reprinting the article now, 65 years after its original publication, strikes me as more like reporting or commenting on a news story, or fair use, than photocopying a current scientific article to save the cost of buying more magazines,” she said.

Britain’s Copyright, Design and Patents Act of 1988 considers use of “reasonable portions” of some copyrighted material to be “fair dealing,” provided they are used in private study, criticism and review, or news reporting. Simply posting an article on the Web might not qualify.

Indeed, the Internet has ensured that copyright can never be just about one nation’s laws. “All copyright issues are international copyright issues,” said Edwin Komen, an intellectual property lawyer in Washington. On the Web, he added, “you become vulnerable to just about any jurisdiction in the world.”

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The new MoMA logo [3:55 pm]

A bit on digital typography: The Modern’s Other Renovation [pdf]

But Mr. Mau noticed that the Franklin the museum was using didn’t seem to him like Franklin at all. Somewhere in the process of its evolution from Benton’s original metal type to the readily available digital one it had lost some of its spirit, becoming “a hybrid digital soulless version,” in Mr. Pusz’s words. Metal type traditionally has slight variations between point sizes, to compensate for the properties of ink and differences in proportion. But digital versions of historic typefaces are often created from metal originals of a single point size — as was the case with the commercially available Franklin. It had been digitized from metal type of a small size, distending the proportions at its larger sizes. Once its defects were recognized, they became glaring: the letters were squat and paunchy, sapping all the elegance out of the white space between them. With some of the signage applications in the new building requiring type four feet tall, the small variations became “hideous,” Mr. Pusz said.

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I really want to see this [3:52 pm]

Just going to have to make a trip (since I missed it when it was here in Boston!) - the photo from the article is compelling enough, but the story is great: Machines That Speak Volumes [pdf]

When Sheryl Oring’s “Writer’s Block” had its debut in Berlin on May 10, 1999, the weather provided an unexpected historical echo. Ms. Oring had painstakingly arranged the work — 21 large steel cages filled with 600 typewriters from the 1920’s and 30’s — on Bebelplatz, the square where the Nazis had held a book burning exactly 66 years before.

The impact of “Writer’s Block” comes from the unsettling sight of beautiful old typewriters upended within rough, rusty cages. “There’s something quite mysterious about it,” Mr. Freudenheim said. “But then you go up close, and you see the languages represented by the keys, and the strange accents.” The typewriters are mostly German, Czech, English and Hungarian.

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Ellen Goodman — cyber culture and cyber crime [3:48 pm]

From today’s Boston Globe: Cyber crime and punishment [pdf]

Blaster Worms and the File-sharers? It sounds like the name of a rock group. In fact they are different tales from the annals of the Internet. But Jeffrey Lee Parson pleaded innocent even though he acknowledged his worm paternity. Most of the file-sharers seem equally shocked at the idea they done wrong. More to the point, both seem to be caught at a computer cultural turning point.

There’s a crackdown at the O.K. Internet Corral. It’s like those times the sheriff arrives at the frontier town and the good citizens have to decide on the crimes and punishments.

[...] The folks who run the marketplace want more control, and the folks who are paralyzed when the computer goes down no longer regard the neighborhood hacker as a merry prankster. The fact that these two cases are thrown up on the news screen together forces us to start thinking about cyber crimes and fitting punishment.

[...] “There are many overlapping cultures on the Internet, new versus old, commercial versus noncommercial, political versus apolitical, centralized versus decentralized,” muses [MIT's Sherry] Turkle. “Crimes are based on changing social mores and a changing sense of what is damaged.” Now those culture clashes and changing mores are going to court.

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Former Rep. Bob Barr on Trusted Computing [1:39 pm]

Representative Bob Barr has an article in Creative Loafing entitled Meet Big Brother Fritz: ‘Trusted computers’ are a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Look, I’m hardly a computer or technology expert. [...]

But what I do believe in is freedom — freedom that includes privacy, and the expectation thereof whenever I decide to use the Web. That’s why I became alarmed recently when I learned of something called the Trusted Computing Platform and an organization with the mission to legislate its implementation, the Trusted Computing Group.

If this organization, aided by several supportive U.S. senators, has its way, the quaint notion of computer freedom — already under assault as a result of the PATRIOT Act and other self-styled anti-terrorism measures — will become a thing of the past.

[...] The presence of a Trusted Platform Module would make your computer a captive of the Trusted Computer Group, which would — by force of law, if it has its way — ensure that you use it only for purposes of its liking. It would place the computer not under your control, but under the control of the group, which is controlled by large corporations through direct membership, or through other arrangements.

[...] A shorthand name for the “Trusted Computing Platform” is the “Fritz chip.” Why the “Fritz chip” you might well ask? Because the primary congressional proponent of all this, is none other than South Carolina Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, who last year introduced legislation in the Senate to mandate the agenda being pushed by the Trusted Computing Group, backed up by the full force and enforcement powers of the federal government!

That Congress has not yet acted on the Hollings Bill, dubbed innocuously, the “Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act,” is no cause for relaxation.

The fact that such technology is already of interest to those not only in Congress but in the Executive Branch as well, should worry all of us — despite admonitions by those nice government folks to “trust us.”

Slashdot discussion: Bob Barr Weighs In On Trusted Computing Group

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A new trademark suit [12:55 pm]

[Via ScriptingNews] The owners of the Dewey Decimal System are suing the Library Hotel because they use the system to number their rooms. From the hotel’s description:

Each of the ten guestroom floors of the Library is dedicated to one of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System: Social Sciences, Literature, Languages, History, Math & Science, General Knowledge, Technology, Philosophy, The Arts and Religion. Each of the sixty exquisitely appointed accommodations have been individually adorned with a collection of art and books relevant to one distinctive topic within the category of floor it belongs to. Choose your favorite or explore the unique delights of each room, one visit at a time.

From the AP: Owner of Dewey Decimal System Sues New York’s Library Hotel

The nonprofit library cooperative that owns the Dewey Decimal system has filed suit against a library-themed luxury hotel in Manhattan for trademark infringement.

The Library Hotel, which overlooks the New York Public Library, is divided according to the classification system, with each floor dedicated to one of Dewey’s 10 categories.

Room 700.003 includes books on the performing arts, for example, while room 800.001 has a collection of erotic literature.

In the lawsuit filed last week, lawyers for the Online Computer Library Center said the organization acquired the rights to the system in 1988 when it bought Forest Press, which published Dewey Decimal updates. The center charges libraries that use the system at least $500 per year.

[...] The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus seeks triple the hotel’s profits since its opening or triple the organization’s damages, whichever is greater, from the hotel’s owner.

I had no idea that libraries had to pay to use the Dewey Decimal system! Slashdot discussion: Hotel Being Sued for Using the Dewey Decimal System, with a link to this NewsDay article: Library catalog system owner sues book-based New York hotel

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