Linus on Linux, SCO and File Sharing

From the NYTimes Magazine: The Sharer; Slashdot commentary: Interview with Linus Torvalds from NYT Magazine

Is file-sharing, which has the recording industry so up in arms, the ”dark side” of open-source attitudes?

Sharing is certainly not bad in itself. In open source, we feel strongly that to really do something well, you have to get a lot of people involved. What the recording industry is so worried about is obviously something totally different — the ”sharing” of stuff that isn’t yours to share in the first place.

O.K. So what are your views on sharing music files?

I don’t actually think about it much; I listen to the radio if I listen to music. What I do find interesting is how the file-sharing thing ends up changing how people think about computers and copyright law. Some of it is a bit scary: just the fact that your question equated sharing with something bad is a pretty scary statement in itself. What also bothers me is the apparent dishonesty of especially the R.I.A.A., claiming that file-sharing is destroying their business and that they are losing billions of dollars on it. There’s been a number of studies done, and it looks like the major reason for the dip in CD sales ends up being lack of interest in the music produced. And let’s face it — how many boy bands can you try to sell before your revenues start dipping?

The Library Associations Put in Their $0.02

CNet News: Librarians to P2P critics: Shhh!

The five major U.S. library associations are planning to file a legal brief Friday siding with Streamcast Networks and Grokster in the California suit, brought by the major record labels and Hollywood studios. The development could complicate the Recording Industry Association of America’s efforts to portray file-swapping services as rife with spam and illegal pornography.

According to an attorney who has seen the document, the brief argues that Streamcast–distributor of the Morpheus software–and Grokster should not be shut down. It asks the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the April decision by a Los Angeles judge that dismissed much of the entertainment industry’s suit against the two peer-to-peer companies.

Among the groups signing the brief are the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Research Libraries, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Medical Library Association and the Special Libraries Association. The American Civil Liberties Union, in one of the group’s first forays into copyright law, has drafted the brief opposing the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

[…] “The amicus brief will make the point that we are not supporting the wrongful sharing of copyrighted materials,” ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels wrote in an internal e-mail seen by CNET An amicus brief is one filed by a third, uninvolved party that comments on a particular matter of law. “Instead, we believe the Supreme Court ruled correctly in the Sony/Betamax case. The court in that case created fair and practical rules which, if overturned, would as a practical matter give the entertainment industry a veto power over the development of innovative products and services.”

Jenny Levine’s comments: Library Associations Take on the Entertainment Industry

Front Page, below the Fold

The New York Times points out that P2P filesharing is not just a US past time — and that resolving it is going to require digging into something a little deeper than a wallet: U.S. Is Only the Tip of Pirated Music Iceberg [pdf]

Music executives abroad are scrutinizing the American industry’s legal campaign against people who share files on the Internet. But many doubt such tactics would work in their countries, given the relative weakness of laws protecting copyrights and the ubiquity of the activity. “People in their 60’s are burning CD’s at home,” said Gerd Gebhardt, the chairman of the German Phonographic Industry Association. “Housewives, who should be cooking, are burning. It’s not like we can go after 80-year-old men or 12-year-old kids. We have to find the right approach.”

Mr. Gebhardt hopes the German music industry will bring its first lawsuit against a file sharer in a few months. In the meantime, it is trying to win back the public through sympathy rather than subpoenas.

In August, the German labels started a Web site that preaches the evils of file sharing. They are also working to create legal online distribution services in Europe to rival the unauthorized file swappers, though progress has been slowed by the demands of the copyright agencies.

The industry’s biggest hurdle may be cultural. As is the case among many young people in the United States, swapping files and burning tracks on CD’s are viewed in most countries as routine, not renegade, behavior. After all, the most popular file-sharing software, KaZaA, was dreamed up by a Swede and written by three young Estonians.

[…] File sharing appears to be as cross- cultural as any other type of piracy. The amount of swapping in a country generally correlates to the number of people who have PC’s with high-speed Internet connections.

Dell To Enter the MP3 Biz

From Wired News: Dell Jumps on Music Bandwagon

Dell on Thursday said it will launch a music service and other consumer electronics products before the holidays, betting it can undercut rivals and steal market share, as it did with personal computers.

Dell already sells some consumer electronics under its own brand. But Chief Executive Michael Dell said the new products, which include a digital music player and a flat-panel television, would allow the company to take a larger share of the home entertainment market.

[…] Dell declined to provide details on pricing for the new products, which include the Dell Digital Jukebox, Dell Music Store and a 17-inch flat-panel monitor and television. It will also start selling an Axim handheld computer that has wireless capabilities, unlike its current Axim handheld.

Dell also declined to provide further details on the music store, whose introduction comes as the recording industry remains locked in a legal battle against online piracy.

Orson Scott Card — Take Two

Part II in his series of articles – MP3s Are Not the Devil – Part 2: How to Teach Your Customers to Hate You (log entry on part 1)

The real gripe for the record companies is not these fictional “lost sales.” What’s keeping them up at night is the realization that musicians don’t need record companies any more.

Musicians can go into a studio, record their own music exactly as they want it, and not as some executive says they have to record it because “that’s what the kids want.”

Then they can sell CDs at their live performances and set up online, with a bunch of MP3s that people can share around. They also can sell CDs, and without a lot of expensive record company overhead.

Of course, fulfilment and website management can be an expensive pain, so what will emerge is a new kind of recording company — full-service online stores that make only as many copies of a CD as are ordered, so there’s no inventory to maintain. They’ll take a much smaller share of the money than the existing companies do, so the CDs can sell for much less — while the artist still makes more money per sale than the big record companies ever allowed.

[…] Instead of turning the file-sharers into martyred heroes, the way the short-sighted executives want to do, just educate people that it’s OK to let people hear a sample, but don’t give away whole albums of work you didn’t create. This is not a hard concept; people would get it.

Scorn works far better than lawsuits and punitive damages at changing society. I already react that way when somebody says, “Let me copy the CD for you.” I affix them with a steely glare and say, “Do you own the copyright for that?” They usually say something face-saving, and I let them, because I’m not a puritan about it. But they not only never offer to copy songs for me, most of them also get more nervous to offer it to other people.

[…] Americans are generally good people. If you explain to them why a rule is necessary, they’ll generally go along with it.

But you have to get rid of the hypocrisy first. File-sharing is not the end of the world, and the existence of music and movies are not being threatened, any more than they were with the advent of radio, television, and VCRs.

And let’s just laugh at the self-righteousness of the “injured” studios and record companies. We can’t take them seriously until they’ve tried the obvious market responses:

The Slashdot (slashback, actually) discussion, Slashback: Card, Fortran, Legibility, doesn’t speak too much to the topic, but one comment exposes the fact that Mr. Card is not quite as knowlegeable a fan of Eva Cassidy as he suggests:

More of Orson Scott Card on Net music sharing (Score:5, Funny)

by zenpiglet (708412) on Thursday September 25, @08:39PM (#7059813)

When friends can say, “Have you heard Eva Cassidy’s music? Here, I’ll send you a couple of songs, you won’t believe how good she is,” that’s called “word of mouth,” and what you’ll get is more and more people who attend her live performances and buy her CDs.

Wow! File sharing can raise the dead … how can anyone be against this great technology?

When you dance with elephants, someone’s bound to get hurt

Followup to a posting yesterday, this news has been reported in multiple places, so just take a look at Slashdot: Author of Paper Critical of Microsoft is Fired. The text of the Boston Globe article (Expert who criticized Microsoft loses job) states:

Daniel E. Geer Jr., an expert with nearly three decades of experience studying technology and computer security, learned yesterday that he was no longer employed by AtStake Inc. of Cambridge. AtStake declined to say whether Geer resigned or was fired. Spokeswoman Lona Therrien said Microsoft did not call for Geer’s dismissal. Microsoft said it was not involved in the decision.

But critics said Geer’s departure was reflective of Microsoft’s far-reaching ability to silence experts who complain about weaknesses in its software or its aggressive business practices. Geer could not be reached immediately for comment.AtStake has worked closely with Microsoft, examining some of its software blueprints for security problems and providing consulting services. AtStake’s announcement came one day after Geer and six others published a report complaining the government relies too heavily on Microsoft software. It argued that the widespread dominance of Windows has created an unhealthy “monoculture” inadequately resistant to viruses and attacks by hackers.

Geer was identified Wednesday in a conference call with journalists as AtStake’s technology officer and the lead author of the report, which was funded by the Washington-based Computer and Communications Industry Association, a trade group whose members include some of Microsoft’s biggest corporate rivals.

CNet News: Microsoft critic dismissed by @Stake