November 22, 2003

A Conservative on Gay Marriage [7:00 pm]

The Power of Marriage

Still, even in this time of crisis, every human being in the United States has the chance to move from the path of contingency to the path of marital fidelity — except homosexuals. Gays and lesbians are banned from marriage and forbidden to enter into this powerful and ennobling institution. A gay or lesbian couple may love each other as deeply as any two people, but when you meet a member of such a couple at a party, he or she then introduces you to a “partner,” a word that reeks of contingency.

You would think that faced with this marriage crisis, we conservatives would do everything in our power to move as many people as possible from the path of contingency to the path of fidelity. But instead, many argue that gays must be banished from matrimony because gay marriage would weaken all marriage. A marriage is between a man and a woman, they say. It is women who domesticate men and make marriage work.

Well, if women really domesticated men, heterosexual marriage wouldn’t be in crisis. In truth, it’s moral commitment, renewed every day through faithfulness, that “domesticates” all people.

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NYTimes Op-Ed Today [6:56 pm]

Nicholas Kristof on drug patents and international trade agreements in the era of AIDS makes an assertion that’s going to have to change in Death By Dividend

The public drafts of the F.T.A.A. clearly place the priority on patents over public health, and the word is that the (still secret) draft text of a Central American Free Trade Agreement should also embarrass us.

“An F.T.A.A. agreement with strong I.P. [intellectual property] provisions threatens to have a catastrophic impact on the lives of millions of people living with H.I.V./ AIDS and other diseases,” warns Doctors Without Borders, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning aid group.

I know, I know. Mention “intellectual property” and eyes glaze over. But meet the people whose lives are at stake.

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November 20, 2003

Ed Foster’s Gripe Column On Copyright [1:21 pm]

Into the DMCA Groove — Personally, I’m surprised the Ed would expect anything more from eBay. They’ve been overwilling to cave in to copyright complaints in the past — something that Chilling Effects was set up to try to address

Of course, we mustn’t stick with the fiction that this is really about “respecting the requests” of the recording artists. It’s not Madonna or Missy Elliott who issued the DMCA takedown order for these auctions. Time Warner’s legal eagles - “under penalty of perjury” — made that decision. And it’s the Gap that is letting its paying customers be treated like criminals when they have broken no laws. And it’s eBay, which should be the greatest champion of the First Sale doctrine and secondary markets in general, that won’t lift a finger to defend them against the DMCA’s continuing assaults.

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A BigChampagne Competitor [8:22 am]

And another demonstration of the promotional merits of P2P: Nielsen Entertainment To Incorporate WebSpins P2P File Sharing And Downloading Data

Nielsen Entertainment and Uncommon Media have announced that WebSpins P2P file sharing and download data will be included in integrated client offerings with other Nielsen Entertainment and VNU research tools including Nielsen SoundScan, Nielsen BDS, and Nielsen//NetRatings. The agreement provides Nielsen Entertainment with exclusive rights to utilize WebSpins’ statistical data of music files traded among peer-to-peer networks for its music industry clients. WebSpins, the P2P music file sharing and real time downloading tracking and analysis database network, has been operating since 2001.

“After an extensive review of peer to peer tracking data providers, we found that the WebSpins information is the most reliable and useful data available. We believe that it will bring valuable perspective to our music industry clients,” says Rob Sisco, president Nielsen Music, and COO Nielsen Entertainment East Coast Operations.

A Google search shows that Uncommon Media has has a checkered past.

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Loca Records’ Strategy Differs From Mr. Lehman’s [8:13 am]

Record Label Sings New Tune

Loca Records wants to foster experimentation and freedom in music by building a stable of free music which can be shared, remixed and manipulated by anyone. Songs are not locked by digital rights management technology.

The music is available for free in MP3 format, but the company sells its CDs and vinyl in retail stores throughout Europe. Artists earn a percentage of any record sales; Loca Records makes its money through record sales, gigs it promotes and merchandise.

“You’re free to copy it, give it to your friends and you can play it. If you’re really interested, you can sample it and then re-release it,” said David Berry, managing director of Loca Records and an artist himself, known as Meme. “Because at the end of the day, if you sample the work and create a fantastic remix, we think you’re entitled to try and make some money from it.”

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Something to Make One Nervous [8:10 am]

From WIPO.org — WIPO Policy Advisory Commission Endorses Use Of Intellectual Property As A Tool For Development.

Why does this press release leave me with a bad feeling?

Discussions focused on two papers presented by PAC members. Mr. Bruce Lehman presented a paper on the management of cultural assets and Mr. Hisamitsu Arai introduced a study on the steps that Japan has taken to develop innovative strategies for the creation, protection and exploitation of intellectual property.

Mr. Lehman underlined the importance of the creative industries as a source of national wealth in today’s information-based global economy. He explained that provided an effective legislative and administrative environment existed, such industries could lead to international competitive advantage. In this regard, Mr. Lehman referred to the experience of the United States of America where in 2001, core copyright industries contributed an estimated $535.1 billion to the economy, accounting for approximately 5.24% of GDP. Copyright-based industries contributed more to the U.S. economy and employed more workers than any other single industrial sector, he pointed out.

Mr. Lehman said that copyright-based industries are flourishing not just in the United States of America, but also around the world. He noted that to capture the full economic value of these industries for local development, developing countries and countries in transition need to establish appropriate intellectual property infrastructures and enforcement mechanisms. Such measures would ensure that a country’s cultural assets realize their full economic potential. In this regard, Mr. Lehman underlined that a major task for national authorities in the future is to educate the public, particularly children and students, about the relationship between authors’ rights and a robust culture and healthy economy.

Apparently, this is not the first time Mr. Lehman has put forward this thesis.

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Glenn Reynolds’ MP3.com Eulogy [7:53 am]

Death of a Friend

It’s true, of course, that MP3.com has been sick for a long time. They foolishly bet the company on a music “storage” system called “Beam-it” that was really a filesharing system, were nearly put out of business by the resulting lawsuit, then rescued by Vivendi, a company that’s in pretty bad shape itself. But the original idea was a great one: Easy to use, easy to upload music and art, lots of networking and music-finding capabilities, and a real sense of community. That lived on, to a degree, even after the takeover. Now it’s soon to be gone, and it’s not at all clear that the replacement will be similar.

I can’t help but notice that this change seems to be working to the advantage of big record companies. It’s not just that they’re cracking down, with mixed success, on file-sharers. It’s that the environment for independent music on the Web seems to have grown more inhospitable, too. And I’ve always had a suspicion that shutting down these independent channels for music distribution, more than cracking down on piracy, has been the real goal of big record labels. The technology for making music, after all, has gotten steadily cheaper. Where once their control of big studios gave them an economic advantage, now record companies’ chief asset is their control of distribution and marketing channels. The Internet threatened an end-run around that process. It still does, but the end of MP3.com bodes poorly for the future. Its replacement is likely to be something that ought to be named DRM.com., based on Digital Rights Management, and aimed not at facilitating the spread of music, but at limiting it.

See also Digital Museum Burns To The Ground

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November 19, 2003

Brazil and Open Source [8:12 am]

Open source: Brazil shies away from Redmond

Brazil recently signed a letter of intent with IBM to help boost government use of such platforms as Linux. Mr [Segio] Amadeu [of Brazil's IT Institute] faces the uphill task of bridging a very wide technology gap: just 10% of Brazil’s 170 million population own personal computers. He believes that open source Linux is the cheapest way forward.

So far, only two small government agencies in Brazil - Mr Amadeu’s own department and the government-run news agency - have made the jump away from Microsoft operating systems. Mr Amadeu is also eyeing the country’s half million Windows-variant electronic voting machines as a target for switching to open source software.

Some Slashdot background: IBM, Brazilian Government Launch Linux Effort and Brazil Moves Away From Microsoft .

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Australian P2P Trials [8:09 am]

Aussie students escape jail for online music piracy

Australia’s first criminal trial for online music piracy has ended with two students each receiving suspended 18-month jail sentences.

Charles Kok Hau Ng, 20, and Peter Tran, 19, ran a music-swapping site called MPW3/WMA Land. Available for download were 390 CDs, some 1,800 tracks. The pair charged no money for their service, but were responsible for big losses to the record companies. According to the Prosecution, the losses to piracy attributable to the site was AUS$60m. According to the Australian music industry the loss was somewhat higher - AUS$200m. Hmm. Not very scientific, is it?

The assumption is, of course, that each illegal music download is a sale lost. [...]

A third defendant, Tommy Le, 21 was sentenced to 200 community service. His crime was to upload four compilations in which he showed off his DJing skills.

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A Question for Gov. Mitt Romney [7:57 am]

If you are constitutionally opposed to the Supreme Judicial Court’s introduction of a civil definition of marriage, what do you have to say about the current ability of civil authority to dissolve marriage, which is declared “until death us do part” or even beyond in some sects? Or is that the next step in the program to covert the US into a medieval theocracy? I am baffled by those who seem to need civil authority to back (legitimate?) what I was taught were a part of one’s personal faith.

Derrick Jackson, who usually is more aggravating than elightening, really skewers this perception in today’s op-ed: Mass. court cuts through the homophobia

If politicians really wanted to strengthen American families, they’d be better off funding after-school programs and creating jobs. If the Catholic Church is serious about families, it should make sure its new procedures against child abuse are working. Railing about gay marriage in a society where half of straight marriages end in divorce is gutter politics that exploits one of our deepest remaining strains of bigotry.

Update: And this Salon run through of the right-leaning blogs comes up with further points to ponder: Right Hook

But “Jim Noble” tells “Always Right” why a Constitutional amendment may not make a difference.

“Traditional marriage has 3 elements:

1) It is permanent (no divorce)

2) It is sexually exclusive (adultery is a felony)

3) It is between a man and at least one woman.

Which of these does your amendment restore?”

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Making it in Music Retail Today [7:46 am]

A profile on what it takes from today’s Boston Globe: They’re tuned in to customers’ needs

To counter falling sales, managers are cutting their staffs, strengthening their services, pricing their CDs competitively, and expanding stock to include videos, DVDs, and clothing. And they’re practicing the art of specialization, luring customers to specific genres and formats of music that can’t be found at a Target or Best Buy. ”We certainly try to appeal to more of the lunatic fringe,” says Pat McGrath, owner of Looney Tunes Records in the Fenway, which has survived the last 25 years selling used classical, jazz, and rock records. ”People who scarcely have a life are our ideal customers — someone who would eat dog food so they would have extra record money. I swear, some of them look like they’re existing solely on Alpo. That’s the clientele I cultivate. I’m a niche market.”

[...] But specialization and service don’t always ensure longevity. One of the reasons Biscuithead Records closed last year is that the college students who flocked to the store for underground hip-hop discovered they could get the same songs on the Internet for free, says Biscuithead’s owner, DJ Bruno, a veteran of Boston’s club scene who would not divulge his birth name. He was also battling Massachusetts Avenue neighbors who didn’t want a store catering to the hip-hop crowd in their midst. ”[They] were complaining about the music,” says Bruno, ”complaining about the clientele that was coming in there. There wasn’t really anything wrong with the clientele. . . . It was just the black stereotypes.”

[...] While plenty of fanfare accompanied Universal Music Group’s September announcement about slashing suggested retail prices to $13 from $17-$19, the cut affects only retailers that buy in bulk. Now smaller distributors are stepping in to help mom-and-pop stores. New York-based reggae specialist VP Records offers a 5 percent discount if a client buys 10 CDs rather than five. The price drop can give Laxton an edge over bootleggers such as the one Henry sees roaming Dorchester and Mattapan selling reggae and soca discs for $5.

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November 18, 2003

Metallica Sales Poor [7:20 pm]

Yet, the Reuters Newswire fails to implicate P2P? Metallica Album Sales a ‘Bummer’ -Hetfield

“It’s a bummer,” Hetfield said. “In Europe it’s doing really good, and some other places … It is what it is. We can’t change that. We do our best and that’s all we can do.”

Drummer Lars Ulrich said “St. Anger” is Metallica’s best seller in Europe since its 1991 self-titled release, the so-called “black album,” and the band is preparing to launch its third “St. Anger” tour there in December.

“It’s a very challenging record,” Ulrich said of “St. Anger,” which was constructed by a computer program and features no guitar solos. He added that U.S. rock radio programmers seemed more interested in playing bands like Nickelback.

Well, if that’s not so entertaining, there are always the coarse but funny Napster Bad! Flash cartoons.

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Mix with TCPA and Stir? [6:34 pm]

Cisco, others plan to ban insecure PCs

The initiative, dubbed the Network Admission Control program, would allow companies to set their network devices to refuse connections from any mobile PCs or devices that fail to meet corporate security policies, such as not having the latest software patches and antivirus updates. Antivirus companies Network Associates, Symantec and Trend Micro joined Cisco in making the announcement Tuesday.

[...] The technology might also spur sales of PCs and devices that use trusted-computing hardware–controversial technology that uses encryption, special memory and security software to lock away secrets on a PC from prying eyes. Adding further protections to the system that attests to the security of a computer owned by a company is a reasonable use of the system, said Bob Gleichauf, chief technology officer for the Network Admission Control program at Cisco.

“We need a trust boundary between the network and these devices, and the system needs hardware and software to do that,” he said.

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Very OT: It’s Nice To Be Recognized [6:07 pm]

I’m going to post this, but it’s too much self-promotion to actually quote from it. Dr. Frank Field Honored with First ESD Educational Excellence Award

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Hmmmm [6:04 pm]

China Promoting DVD Alternative — it’s certainly a big enough market, but what might come of government-owned media formats? And will the content providers jump?

Looking to compete on its own terms in the lucrative entertainment industry, China announced a government-funded project Tuesday to promote an alternative to DVDs and “attack the market share” of the increasingly global video format.

The rollout of the long-planned project — known as EVD, or enhanced versatile disk — was timed to coincide with the beginning of what China calls the “golden sales” period. It is known elsewhere as the Christmas shopping season.

“By developing and promoting EVD, Chinese companies (have) gained much experience in competing with their global counterparts,” Wang Jingchuan, commissioner of China’s State Intellectual Property Office, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The new format would also relieve DVD producers in China from paying licensing fees to the companies that hold patents to the DVD format.

It was not immediately clear if any elements of EVD would help China battle the intellectual-property theft it has been promising to eradicate since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Slashdot discussion: China to Promote Own Alternative to DVDs, EVD

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Mickey Turns 75 [11:22 am]

From Yahoo! News (surprisingly, nothing at Disney.com, although there is this from Disney Consumer Products, with this press release): Disney Icon Mickey Mouse Turns 75 [pdf]

Mickey Mouse arrived on the world’s cultural stage 75 years ago Tuesday as a scrawny but buoyant black-and-white product of the Jazz Age.

He was a symbol of American pluck in his screen debut, “Steamboat Willie,” on Nov. 18, 1928. The film at New York’s Colony Theatre showed an irreverent rodent who takes Captain Pete’s steamboat on a joyride and woos Minnie Mouse by making music on the bodies of various farm animals.

The years have dulled Mickey’s personality, a result of him becoming the corporate face of a multibillion-dollar entertainment empire. In the process, Mickey also has become a cultural Rorschach test — a symbol of American optimism, resourcefulness and energy or an icon of cultural commodification and corporate imperialism.

Disney’s Mickey archive

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Another Subversive Move By John Gilmore [11:08 am]

Shawn Fanning nominated for the ACM Lawler Award (ACM’s WWW page on the award)

Why: Mr. Fanning, while a freshman student, built an application that for the first time since Internet e-mail was invented, energized millions of people to use the end-to-end capabilities of the Internet to create a huge social benefit. His Napster was “the ultimate music server”, offering the public a copy of every song ever recorded, instantly accessible — through the cooperative efforts of the music lovers themselves. More out-of-print, rare, and otherwise unavailable music was suddenly made available to the public than at any other time in history. Also, virtually all in-print music was also made available, at a distribution cost orders of magnitude lower than in previous systems. Napster offered to pay royalties to musicians and music companies, but was rebuffed. Quirks in copyright law and in the architecture of the system made it possible for the predecessor music distribution oligopoly to strangle Napster in court, despite its obvious social utility. But its energy lives on in dozens of subsequent thriving million-scale peer-to-peer information sharing networks. And Shawn Fanning’s energy lives on in the hearts, minds, and computers of more than 60 million music sharers. This rabble now refuses to merely nibble the hobbled dribble of hardscrabble babble cobbled together by the squabbling rubble of the music oligopoly.

I think this nomination goes in the category of “creative research concerning intellectual property issues”. A side benefit is “application of computers or computing techniques to problems of developing countries”.

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Looks Like Mary’s Had An Interesting Two Weeks [9:37 am]

Check out her posting on digital media and just how few seem to “get it.” It all ends/starts here: ONA Conf: Final Thoughts

The thing is, digital media disintermediates power. And all these people, nice, well educated, important, powerful people, media people, don’t want that to happen. Heck, people in power in every other kind of business don’t want it to happen either, and yet it is. So the conferences I’ve been to the last two weeks, none of which have offered anything I didn’t already know between all five of them, in various slices of the media business from micropayments to big media to social networks and media, to online news, have all had rooms full of people trying not to acknowledge the coming or present disintermediation of their own power. Yes, they acknowledge P2P or the many many digital media choices or blogs or Tivo or targeted ads or friendster (really all of these things are just tools/offerings, right, so if not these it would be something else in the digital realm) are things they need to embrace in order to move with the times, the Internet, the audience’s new found power. But they are not willing to open themselves up to the properties of digital media.

Also see ONA Cont’d: Sullivan and Blog Panel

Update: while I was listening to Sullivan, I kept having the feeling that while everything he was saying is exactly what I’ve experience (not the 1.9 million readers but the qualities of this medium, the interactions and relationships with other blogger, the value of it) here, and it was the only time, other than listening to Rob Curley or Jeff Jarvis, where I felt people were expressing some understanding of digital media, and trying to work with it, in energetic, fun, creative ways instead of fighting it, scared and from a position where they don’t use the Internet so much and so they don’t understand. Sullivan is a great guy, really a lovely person, interesting and articulate, and really humbled by his readers and the attention and hits he receives on his blog. It felt liberating to listen to his talk, after the past two weeks of fighting my urge to yell that media people just don’t get what the Internet/digital media is about.

Related: Donna points to Dan Gilmore: Decoupling the Net from the Copyright Cartel

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What’s Good for the Goose…. [9:02 am]

Is only good for the goose, apparently. Major Music Industry Survey Reveals Stats On Music Use & Legalities

A major survey compiled from 200 music business professionals at all levels who responded to a set of 30 questions on their use of music technology, purchases of CDs and online music, downloading & CD burning habits as well as the need for legislation changes to better serve music consumers has just been released with surprising results. The survey, titled “Music–The Business, Law & Technology Report” was taken at the 6th AustralAsian Music Business Conference August 14-16 and the results compiled by IMMEDIA!–leading music industry service company and publisher of the AustralAsian Music Industry Directory.

Compiled results-in graphic form, percentages & outcomes-are online at Australian music business portal site, TheMusic.com.au at http://www.themusic.com.au/stats & also posted on IMMEDIA!’s corporate site at http://www.immedia.com.au/stats. The details include all questions asked with numbers of respondents answering, bar graphs of the results showing percentile ranking of replies. Interviews with music analyst Phil Tripp are also available.

[...] But the attitudes of music industry pros toward CD burning, file sharing and copying your own music CD elicited a response that ARIA & record companies probably don’t want to hear. It’s time to change the law to allow consumers to copy their own music they say!

  1. 55% considered it an inequity that it’s against the law to make a copy of your own bought CDs, make a personal use compilation (CD or tape) or copying them to a digital device.

  2. A whopping 81% believe the Copyright Act should be changed to allow personal copying of purchased CDs (but not other peoples borrowed or downloaded music).

  3. 57% considered burning CDs stealing from artists, 29% from labels and 14% did not.

  4. 48% regarded downloading free music theft from artists, 25% from labels, 27% did not.

  5. Yet 54% admitted they illegally copied computer software. 26% copied games illegally.

From the comments by Phil Tripp:

WHAT WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT RESULTS?

“Certainly the most controversial ones were that people within the industry are against the current copyright laws that allow copying of games and software for backups and even certain portions of DVD by consumers who bought them, yet it was a criminal act to make a copy of music-whether from a vinyl album or CD-for personal use either as a backup copy, to make a tape or compilation CD for use in a car or portable application and even transferring CDs to a computer or onto a digital playback device such as an Apple iPod.”

The results overwhelmingly confirmed that view with a vast majority believing that those people who support the music industry by buying music or owning their own albums, should have the right to transfer tunes to other playback media without breaking the law. This is the case in the US for example, called ‘Fair Use’ and in many other countries. We support lobbying the government to change the law now, so that the industry does not further alienate consumers who buy and own music by preventing their personal copying.”

Other interesting results were the use of P2P file sharing to sample music before purchase, the amount of CDs bought both at retail and online by music professionals and their attitude to downloading and CD burning of music versus the rights of artists and labels. Of course, we were shocked by the amount of illegal copying of software and games that was admitted.” [emphasis added]

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Slashdot on Microsoft’s Music Plans [8:44 am]

The Slashdot article, Microsoft to Launch MSN Music Service in 2004, and its extensive URLs will help you to understand the closing paragraphs of this related article from The Register, Microsoft brings locked music downloads to US.

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