February 19, 2004

A Look At VoIP Wiretapping [7:46 pm]

A nice little discussion from Slate: Can They Hear You Now?

Why, then, couldn’t the feds tap any VoIP call by listening in on the line at the CMTS? Because some VoIP calls are routed, digitized, or encrypted in ways that law enforcement can’t decipher. Skype, which now boasts 7 million users, specializes in such encryption. The company’s system is designed to thwart potential eavesdroppers, legal and otherwise. [...] Skype, built by the same people who brought us Kazaa, is a totally distributed peer-to-peer network, with no centralized routing computers. (That’s possible in part because Skype calls can only be sent and received by computers—you can’t call a friend with an analog phone.) As a result, the company’s network looks more like a tangled spider web, and the packets that make up your voice in a Skype call are sent through myriad routes to their destination.

[...] VoIP technology is gaining ground so fast that it may be impossible for any government agency to dictate what these networks should look like. Skype, for instance, isn’t even an American company. It’s legally based in Luxembourg. Increased regulation on American carriers, which could lead to higher costs for consumers, is likely to push people further toward carriers like Skype, rewarding companies that seek permissive legal jurisdictions and punishing those that try to comply with domestic regulations. It’s this scenario that the Justice Department legitimately fears: Even though the Patriot Act has increased its ability to eavesdrop on Americans, companies like Skype are giving everyday people unprecedented freedom from government monitoring.

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Talk About Silliness [7:33 pm]

I mean, really: RIAA’s New Seal of Disapproval

Music, software, video-game and DVD packages shortly will carry the famous FBI stamp and warnings about piracy, in a move to hammer home the message that stealing copyright materials is a serious crime, industry officials said Thursday.

The new antipiracy seal, which was announced at a press conference at the FBI’s Los Angeles office, will look much like the warnings already seen at the beginning of movies on DVDs or video tapes. Individual companies will decide where to place the seal and if they want to use it at all. The seal might be printed on a CD itself, on the packaging, or might pop up on screens when a customer downloads and purchases a digital music file.

Slashdot commentary: FBI Anti-Piracy Seal

More coverage: CNet - FBI spotlights digital piracy; InfoWorld - FBI, industry groups team on anti-piracy seal

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Ed Foster on Adobe DRM [12:04 pm]

E-Books and DRM

So what are customers asking for? In an earlier discussion, a number of readers told me about one publisher that they think does understand how to use digital content: science fiction publisher Baen Books and its Free Library of e-books. “These are selected by the respective authors and vary over time,” wrote one reader. “This has been operating for several years with the early joiners encouraging other Baen authors to try it also. It seems that, based on the royalty figures, every time an author puts a new book in the Free Library their sales take a distinct jump. This includes the title listed in the Library. For some reason, when people can decide whether or not to pay for something they want, a substantial number seem willing to pay for it.”

Interestingly, readers say some Baen authors include a CD of their previous work with the print copy of a book. “I bought every single book that was on the CD because I liked the author’s work enough to want to read the books,” wrote another reader. “I read some of them on my computer first, but I can’t take my computer everywhere that I want to go. Some authors and/or publishing companies are doing things the right way, and they’re going to be getting my money for years to come as a result.”

To me, what Baen is doing makes a lot of sense. They understand that the best marketing for any book is to be read. E-books don’t have to be given away for free, but neither do they need to be “protected” from the kinds of things people (and libraries) do with regular books, like loaning them to somebody else.

E-books shouldn’t be about saddling customers with usage restrictions — the real opportunity of digital distribution for publishers is to market their content to new readers. For their own sake, they need to realize that DRM and e-books are a very bad match.

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Find the Winning Pepsi Caps [8:19 am]

How to never lose Pepsi’s iTunes giveaway. I guess it’ll work until Pepsi decides to fill the bottles completely <G>

Slashdot discussion: Crack the Pepsi iTunes Promo Code

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Film v. Digital Cameras [7:55 am]

This off-topic article takes on increased importance to me since I had a camera body fail on me during my trip to India last week — Film Firms Fight to Stay Afloat

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Interview with Larry Flynt [7:52 am]

The interview with Larry Flynt in Wired News is, as usual, a provocative look at distribution and technology. But I was particularly struck by this bit:

WN: How does the changing state of civil liberties in America affect the adult industry?

Flynt: You have a right to buy whatever you want. You may not be able to afford a printing press to print it, but you have a right to buy it. That’s not something that’s often talked about in relation to the First Amendment. But civil liberties and individual rights are all we really have in this country.

That’s what upset me so much about the Patriot Act. We got right down in the mud with the terrorists. What we were doing was reducing ourselves to their level. We are the beacon of freedom in the world. For us to give up all of these freedoms to wage war with lunatics just isn’t necessary.

It’s important to note that "[y]ou may not be able to afford a printing press to print it" is less and less true every day.

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Nora Jones Sells Well [7:41 am]

A Hit Record by Norah Jones Buoys Industry

Ms. Jones’s second album, “Feels Like Home” (Blue Note), sold 1,022,000 copies during the week ending Sunday, the best performance since ‘N Sync released “Celebrity” in July 2001, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

[...] Two anticipated records, a rock album from Courtney Love and a pop album from Kylie Minogue, had disappointing debuts, at 33,000 and 43,000. But sales for the week of Feb. 9 to 15 were the highest of any Valentine’s Day week since 1991, when SoundScan began tracking music sales. Sales were up 25 percent over the same week last year.

“Everybody was expecting that sales would be strong — it’s always a strong week,” said Rob Sisco, president of Nielsen Music, which operates SoundScan. “But particularly the sales on Norah going over a million and the strength overall, I don’t thing it was anything anybody was expecting.”

Bruce Lundvall, president and chief executive for jazz and classics at EMI Music, which owns Blue Note, said that Ms. Jones, a jazz artist who has achieved pop star numbers, had the potential to “change the whole musical culture of what people are listening to, and wanting to buy.”

The strong week comes as the music industry is trying to recover from a three-year slump that record labels trace largely to Internet downloading and CD copying. Year-to-date sales for 2004 are up 13 percent over the same period last year, continuing an upward trend in the last quarter of 2003. Still, on Tuesday, the Recording Industry Association of America continued to fight online music file-swapping in court, filing lawsuits against 531 computer users.

Hmmmm.

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