Wireless Phones As Download Profit Centers?

Or the next incarnation of the "old" Napster? I guess I’m just backward — I still just use my phone to talk to people. But see this from Wired News: Free Downloads? Hold the Phone

For instance, you can get some free applications directly from the developers through Handango. But plenty of this material is not free. It doesn’t matter how laughably “plinkity-plink” a rendition it is.

The law doesn’t care that it’s bad, it’s still a “creation of a derivative work,” said Michael Graif, counsel at New York-based law firm Chadbourne & Parke. And that, Graf says, is copyright infringement.

So is copying a derivative work, and that is what you are doing when you download a ring tone onto your phone. There is the additional twist with ringers in that they ring in other people’s ears and that could be construed as a public performance. That’s a further infringement of copyright laws.

It should be noted that getting content from a site that has obtained authorization from the copyright holder to offer works to the public isn’t illegal.

And there’s no cause for concern just yet. By its own admission, the Recording Industry Association of America has bigger fish to fry than the millions of individual mobile phone users.

Moves From IT To Entertainment

Intel to Invest $200 Million in Home Media Networking

The company’s newest venture capital fund is intended to support development of digital home entertainment networks, which would connect digital devices, like stereo systems, portable music players, flat-screen televisions and personal computers, and permit them to share and transfer video, music and information from room to room.

For Intel Capital, the digital home represents the next major market opportunity. The fund has already invested in Bridgeco, a start-up designer of low-cost chips for linking home devices, and Entropic, which designs chips for home networking systems over standard coaxial cable. Another investment, Musicmatch, sells software for recording, organizing and playing music on digital devices.

Mr. Miner compared the state of the digital home electronics market today to that of the computer industry two decades ago, when the makers of monolithic mainframe computers began to give way to the upstart personal computer makers. Within a few years, an entire industry of new players had emerged.

Likewise, in digital consumer electronics, the industry is only now realizing that the necessary innovation may well come from nimble entrepreneurs rather than established corporations. “People are just now waking up to the realities,” Mr. Miner said. “There have been entrenched players in consumer electronics so that people have been hesitant to jump in.”

How Explicit Do You Want To Get?

A business partnership in the new distribution model: Napster fills in the blanks with CD deals

Napster is teaming up with Imation, a maker of optical media products, to market and distribute Napster-branded blank CDs and DVDs in North America.

The online music company also announced an agreement to sell the blank CDs, along with other products, via U.S. retail giant Target.

Pennsylvania Site Blocking Law Under Review

Court ponders Web site-blocking law

A federal judge in Philadelphia on Tuesday heard a challenge to a controversial state law that has led to more than 1 million innocuous Web sites being accidentally blocked.

Although the law is only a Pennsylvania state statute, it has an international reach. When the Pennsylvania attorney general used it to force MCI to ban access to some sites with suspected child pornography, the company said it had no choice but to block those Internet addresses for all of its North American subscribers.

Two nonprofit groups, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed suit against Pennsylvania in September. Their lawsuit claims that the state law’s “secret censorship orders” have led to more than 1 million Web sites blocked, nearly all featuring legal material.

In Reponse to Derek’s Question

Yesterday Derek asked Follow-up to below: What is RealNetworks Doing?. Here’s a possible answer from CNet News: Real offers new tech, song store

Net multimedia company RealNetworks announced a sweeping overhaul of its digital audio and video software Wednesday, along with a digital song store aimed to compete with Apple Computer’s leading iTunes service.

Real is betting that the flexibility of its RealPlayer 10 music-playing software–the latest entry in an increasingly crowded digital-download market–will distinguish it from rival stores and software packages.

To this end, the company has created a jukebox that will play all the media formats used by its own and other song stores–including secure downloads from the iTunes store.

Update: Jan 8 – Slashdot discussion: Real Launches New Player, Music Store

Cory’s Odd Assertion

I’ve been following, but not commenting, on a comment of Cory Doctorow‘s whose online disscussion Donna has thoughtfully assembled, to wit "The last twenty years were about technology. The next twenty years are about policy."

As one might expect from my background, I disagree strongly with the first half of Cory’s assertion — in fact, one might easily construe my position as "It has been, and will be, about technology and policy." The two are inescapably intertwined and progress in one will unavoidably lead to issues with the other.

On the other hand, Cory can be forgiven for his contruction of the issue, since so much of the history of the internet has been reformulated to suggest that, in its early days, it was a kind of techno-geek utopia where all that mattered was putting together a great technology. But a more careful reading shows that policy issues were there all the time; there just were some very clever people involved who worked very hard to keep "outsiders" from participating in the policy discussions.

(For those of you who have attended ILaw, recall the summary of Dave Clark‘s strategy to limit membership in key committees by giving them boring names and changing them often, or the whole story about Jon Postel and the DNS .root).

So long as the internet was a technological backwater, limiting access to policy development by interested constituencies could be achieved through the kind of technological "high priesthood" that has marked any number of other technological developments (c.f., nuclear power). But, at the point you want/get participation from a large enough community, you have to give constituencies a voice, a role — otherwise, they’ll just come in and take it.

So, in that sense, Cory may be right — 20 years ago, the internet ran along just fine with a set of benevolent rulers dictating policy. But there are too many users, with too many interests, involved today. And new technologies are being developed, and policy is going to have to get made.

It may look like it’s all about policy today, but it’s just that we’re struggling to find the best way to do that in the face of a growing set of powerful constituencies, many of whom have a far less subtle appreciation of the implications of the technology than the policymakers of the past had — and, in many respects, that’s a lot harder than just developing a new technology!

(See, for example, this and compare with the good old days – skip the question about protocols and scroll down to the DNS/RFC 349 discussion; this article even calls Jon the "’god’ of the Internet")