December 14, 2003

Let’s Definitely Let WSIS Run Things [11:37 am]

They’ve already mastered the use of the RFID tag: Bug devices track officials at summit [pdf]

Officials who attended a world Internet and technology summit in Switzerland last week were unknowingly bugged, said researchers who attended the forum.

Badges assigned to attendees of the World Summit on the Information Society were affixed with radio-frequency identification chips (RFIDs), said Alberto Escudero-Pascual, Stephane Koch and George Danezis in a report issued after the conference ended Friday in Geneva. The badges were handed out to more than 50 prime ministers, presidents and other high-level officials from 174 countries, including the United States.

The trio’s report said they were able to obtain the official badges with fraudulent identification only to be stunned when they found RFID chips — a contentious issue among privacy advocates in the United States and Europe — embedded in the tags.

Possibly not that earth-shattering, but an interesting demonstration of just how far this technology has already gone, as well as the implicit privacy questions.

Slashdot discussion: Officials secretly RFID’d at Internet Summit — plus this earlier discussion WSIS Physical Security Cracked

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Two More Articles on the Canadian Copyright Ruling [10:53 am]

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A Couple of NYTimes Pieces on the Practicalities of Copyright [10:46 am]

  • Letting ‘Let It Be’ Be: McCartney Wins — when the artist wants to remake his own recordings

    [Y]ou might have some uneasiness about how mutable music is becoming. With technology making after-the-fact alterations easier and the record companies eager for sure sellers, it might one day be practical for artists to rework releases the way playwrights alter scripts between engagements? Shania Twain’s latest album, “Up!,” is sold as a two-disc set of country and rock takes on the same songs (in Europe, it’s a two-disc set of rock and rhythmic pop). What’s to prevent a band from releasing a live album with stage patter appropriate for each city (”What’s up, Brooklyn,” for New York; “Hello, Cleveland,” for Ohio). For that matter, who’s to say a change has to be artistic in nature: why settle for kicking the drummer out of the band when you can go back and remove his performances from previous albums?

    Music is made in the studio, but it accrues meaning over time. We hear songs the way we’ve learned to hear them. Think of the way the sweeping orchestration of “The Long and Winding Road” made the song a bittersweet valediction for the Beatles. Thanks to “Let It Be . . . Naked” we all know that was edited in: the band never intended to express any such emotion in that way. Now, though, after listening to it for 30 years, it certainly seems like they did.

  • Greatest DVD’s Never Made: A Most Wanted List

    Sometimes, ownership is in dispute. Last February, a new video company, Koch-Lorber, announced that one of its first DVD’s would be “La Dolce Vita” by Fellini. The company had bought the rights from a small company called International Media Films, which claimed it owned the movie.

    But Paramount Pictures claims that it owns “La Dolce Vita.” A legal battle is brewing. Koch-Lorber’s DVD has been delayed. Paramount, meanwhile, is reportedly preparing its own DVD.

    Other films are simply being withheld. None of Harold Lloyd’s silent comedies are on DVD, for example, because Lloyd’s granddaughter, who owns them, won’t lease or sell the rights.

    The avidly awaited, definitive version of Ridley Scott’s science-fiction classic, “Blade Runner,” won’t be out on DVD anytime soon for stranger reasons.

    When “Blade Runner” was being shot in the early 1980’s, Bud Yorkin, a veteran television comedy producer, and Jerry Perenchio, now the C.E.O. of Univision, were the film’s bond-completion guarantors. When the film went over budget, by contract they assumed ownership of the film. Paul Sammon wrote in his book “Future Noir: The Making of `Blade Runner’ ” that they hated the film, had bitter disputes with Mr. Scott and tried to take it away from him altogether.

    [...] Three years ago, Mr. Scott announced that he was working on a three-disc box set, which would offer all the versions of the film, including a new and polished director’s cut with previously unseen footage and scads of bonus features. Then, at the end of 2001, Warner Brothers, which was planning to distribute the discs, pulled the plug. It did so, according to a producer who worked on the project, because Mr. Perenchio gave no sign that he would let them be released.

    Mr. Perenchio, speaking through an assistant, had no comment on the situation. (Warner Brothers still sells the 1992 “director’s cut,” though the picture quality is mediocre.)

  • The Evolution of a Daffy Species — on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD release

    Perhaps because the rights to the films are spread among different divisions of the Time Warner empire — or perhaps because Warner Home Video didn’t want to risk confusing home consumers with strange, black-and-white cartoons — the “Golden Collection” concentrates on films made after 1948.

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The Year in Ideas — Darknets [10:32 am]

From the NYTimes Magazine Section, and their year in ideas: Darknets

Darknets

By GARY RIVLIN

Published: December 14, 2003

When the U.S. military sought to create a secure network over which soldiers in Tikrit could share intelligence on medical supplies and road conditions with nongovernmental organizations in New York and Geneva, it turned to a software package called the Groove Workspace. Using Groove, Central Command set up a so-called Darknet. Darknets allow a group to create a digital utopia that is equal parts socialist and elitist: participants can get information freely as long as they share the same software and have been granted the access code.

A Darknet isn’t as much a new technology as an old idea — the corporate Intranet — reconstructed for a paranoid age. A Darknet offers all the security of a private in-house network, but it allows users to send encrypted messages and documents around the world through that vast, bustling, danger-filled wasteland of sprawl called the Internet. Sri Lankan human rights activists now trade cloaked electronic communications with one another using a Darknet, as do researchers at GlaxoSmithKline who work in geographically dispersed teams.

Darknets are suddenly au courant among the cybercool as well. This past summer, when, in a frenzy against music downloading, the Recording Industry Association of America started slapping suits on children and grandmothers, hundreds of thousands of music devotees flocked to Web sites like Bad Blue and Waste. Like Napster and KaZaA, these sites let users sift through the public contents of one another’s hard drives and swap files on the Internet. But like the soldiers in Tikrit, file-swappers need an invitation to enter. Inside the velvet-roped cyberclub of the Darknet that Bad Blue or Waste creates, members can trade purloined music or movies or whatever it is they want to exchange, having been waved inside by the bouncers at the door.

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