March 2, 2004

Napster Analysis in BW [3:03 pm]

The Nine Lives of Napster [via Slashdot]

But hold on. The cat in the Napster logo hasn’t run out of lives just yet. It sells far fewer songs at its online store than Apple, which sells roughly 75% of the 3 million songs that are sold online each week. But Gorog points out that based on the latest weekly data from Neilsen SoundScan, Napster’s share equals all other rivals combined, including services from Wal-Mart (WMT ), MusicMatch, and Best Buy (BBY ). He says the data show that Napster 2.0 is holding its No. 2 position against Apple in this music-download business.

Napster could start to increase market share in the more profitable business of selling monthly subscriptions, where customers can listen to — but not own — as many songs as they want each month for $9.95. While Napster is far behind RealNetworks’ (RNWK ) Rhapsody service, AOL’s (TWX ) MusicNet, and others, it’s taking the lead again in the old Napster’s stomping ground: college campuses. [emphasis added]

The Slashdot comment that says it all for me:

College Endorsement (Score:4, Insightful)

by screwballicus (313964) on Tuesday March 02, @03:10PM (#8444085)

(Last Journal: Sunday December 22, @02:35PM)

From the article:

Penn State University and the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music intend to offer free Napster subscriptions to thousands of students in coming months. These are just pilot programs, and Roxio granted big discounts that will keep profits negligible at best, say insiders. But the hope is that the students will become paying customers for years to come. “Smart,” says Kenswill.

A college endorsing and paying for a private entertainment service of this sort? This is a school of music, but billing Napster as academic resource seems a little questionable. Unless I miss my guess, Napster’s unlikely to have deals with the world’s great bastions of classical music performance. Another example of an academic institution adopting a policy of private endorsement.

Earlier Furdlog posting: Another University Selects the Napster Brand

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Loudeye Buys Overpeer [11:38 am]

Loudeye snags antipiracy start-up

Loudeye, a digital music services provider, said Tuesday that it has acquired privately held Overpeer for its antipiracy tools and services.

[...] Loudeye said Overpeer’s products such as anti-piracy services and data-mining and promotional tools will be meshed with its products and services for media companies.

Overpeer’s data-mining tools are designed to let online music companies keep an eye on real-time downloading across file-sharing networks and take action to curb copyright infringement, the Loudeye said. Last month, Overpeer recorded 25 billion digital download hits, blocking illegal copying of material across 150 million unique user sessions, Loudeye added.

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More Database Piracy FUD [10:37 am]

Database piracy plague [Via Ernest, who rightly describes this as "lazy" policymaking]

The reason that you don’t hear about database piracy is that for the most part it isn’t considered piracy at all. In the United States, database piracy is generally not even against the law.

This is a major gap in our intellectual-property laws. There is no serious dispute that intellectual-property laws — such as patent and copyright — are the engine of creation and invention. While reasonable people may therefore disagree about the scope of protection that should exist under the copyright and patent laws, no one seriously disputes that our intellectual property laws play an essential role in encouraging the investment of time and money in protected works and inventions in the first place.

But ever since 1991, when the Supreme Court held that the underlying facts in a database may not be copyrighted at all, database creators have enjoyed little or no intellectual property protection in the creation and maintenance of even the most comprehensive, commercially valuable and publicly useful databases.

Of course, as pointed out in Code, we don’t offer IP protection to cooking recipes, or fashion, either. And, if IP is the (rather than an) engine of creativity, where did these very valuable and useful databases come from in the absence of such protection?

Ernest also points out:

You would think that if these databases were so darn valuable, people could come up with ways to protect them that do not require onerous new law. Here are a few ideas, given away free in the public interest:

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Slate on BitTorrent [9:09 am]

A terrible frontpage link — Steal Star Wars Faster — takes you to the more moderately named article, Caveat MPAA: Meet BitTorrent, the file-sharing network that makes trading movies a breeze. You have to read all the way to the end to get the punchline:

When Lucas’ lawyers come to wipe out the rebel alliance of Star Wars fans—and they will—let’s hope they don’t try the usual tactic of nuking the network to do it. Ditto for the Motion Picture Association of America, which has already sent a few infringement notices to BitTorrent users and has mumbled vague threats about prosecution. BitTorrent isn’t just another file-sharing network. Cohen’s design serves to speed up the Internet, making DVD-sized downloads possible. There are lots of uses for that, and for once we can say it with a straight face: Most of them are legal.

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Some SCO News [8:59 am]

I assume that you’re checking into GrokLaw is you’re really interested, but here are two Slashdot stories that can get you a snapshot of what’s happening lately

  • One of the companies that went ahead and bought SCO’s license in the face of their threats has to deal with their customers’ response to their action: EV1 Servers CEO Responds To Customers

  • And the claimed suit of a Linux user is coming: SCO Says They’ll Sue A Linux User Tomorrow. Note that the cited article doesn’t mention it, but the more recently updated CNet News article indicates that SCO will start with one of their licensees, based on the additional contractual leverage the license gives them — then review the preceding article.

    The first target will be a company that has a Unix license from SCO already, giving SCO some contractual leverage in the case. McBride said. In addition, the suit will involve copyright infringement claims.

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Another Take on Bershire Systems [8:30 am]

Recall Ernest’s discussion of what Berkshire Systems really addresses and see this SecurityFocus article over at The Register: Is password-lending a cybercrime? — taking the analysis into another direction than Ernest’s, albeit closing with a similar call for legislative clarification

In a little-observed civil lawsuit involving tracking of magazine subscriptions, a federal court in Manhattan issued a ruling last week that could theoretically result in prosecutors going after people who use another person’s password and userid with their permission, but without the permission of the issuer.

[...] The court reasoned that using the userid and password in violation of a contractual provision was an unauthorized access.

The fallacy of this decision becomes clear if you consider that the customer himself could have logged in with his or her password, obtained the documents and records, and given them to Berkshire - and this would have been a simple breach of contract, not a crime.

For background, you may with to consider The Right To Read

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And On Another Front [7:57 am]

MP3 getting antipiracy makeover

Thomson and Fraunhofer, the companies that license and own the patents behind the MP3 digital music technology, are in the midst of creating a new digital rights management add-on for the popular format, a Thomson executive said Tuesday.

[...] But the same features that made MP3 attractive to tens of millions of ordinary computer users made the big record labels deeply suspicious of the format. For years, they’ve been looking for a digital song format that would include tools to prevent people from making unauthorized copies or swapping tunes on networks like Kazaa.

Microsoft, with its Windows Media and associated digital rights management technology, has been one big beneficiary of that, with its format used in Napster, Musicmatch and other song stores and bundled on physical CDs. Apple’s own Fairplay copy protection tools have also won the big record labels’ approval and form the heart of the company’s iTunes Music Store.

Thomson and Fraunhofer’s rights management technology will be based in large part on open standards the MPEG group and the Open Mobile Alliance are adopting, Caldwell said. The companies will provide free use of the copy protection technology to anyone who licenses the MP3 format, he said.

Hmmm - think they’ll still call it "MP3?" And will the market believe them if they do? What about truth in labeling?

Update: Slashdot — DRM Technology To Be Added To MP3 Format

This apparently simple post generates some particularly appropriate discussion:

More insidious (Score:5, Insightful)

by nuntius (92696) on Monday March 01, @10:10PM (#8436534)

(http://www.students.uiuc.edu/~dherring/)

Is when MS Media Player (or even Windows) automatically “upgrades” your MP3’s for you. Unless you had good backups, all your MP3’s are now DRM enabled.


Re:More insidious (Score:5, Insightful)

by Aneurysm9 (723000) on Monday March 01, @10:29PM (#8436690)

No, it’s modded insightful because it offers *insight* into the dangers posed by technology when our own software can be used against us. The same could be said of Apple or Real or WinAMP any of the other closed-source media player providers. If we don’t know what our software is doing there’s nothing preventing it from appropriating our own content from us. To extend the GP’s fear, what happens when I play an MP3 of my own music and a media player wants to add DRM to it? Who gets the right to tell me where and how I can use my own creation?


Re:More insidious (Score:5, Insightful)

by timeOday (582209) on Monday March 01, @10:30PM (#8436692)

Why is this tripe moderated insightful? Because it bashes MS and has some absurd theory in it?

Or is it because Microsoft explicitly reserves the right [bsdvault.net] to pull this kind of crap?

Update from The Register: MP3 DRM to demo at CeBIT

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And the Beat Goes On [7:53 am]

HP Announces Moves in Digital Rights Management (Reuters feed also at CNet News)

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ - news) said on Monday it had licensed digital content protection technology from chipmaker Intel Corp. (NasdaqNM:INTC - news) and developed copy protection technology with Philips PHG.AS PHG.N as the printer and computer maker seeks to stake out a strong position in the nascent arena of digital copyright protection.

Palo Alto, California-based HP said that it had licensed Intel’s high-bandwidth digital content protection technology, which is designed to ensure that video cannot be intercepted and recorded as its travels between devices, such as between a personal computer and a TV display screen.

Felice Swapp, who heads up much of HP’s digital rights management work, said that the Intel technology is invisible to consumers, and that it made more sense for HP to license that technology from Intel rather than to develop it itself and possibly create a competing standard. (emphasis added)

"Invisible to consumers," maybe, but what about the rest of us?

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