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March 25, 2004

Ed Felten on LightWeight DRM [1:46 pm]

Light Weight

[B]laming the buyer of an original for all copies (and copies of copies, etc.) made from it just isn’t practical. To see why, suppose Alice has a big collection of music on her laptop. Then her laptop is stolen, or somebody breaks into it electronically, and all of her songs end up on millions of computers all over the Net. What then? Do you take all of Alice’s earthly possessions to compensate for the millions of infringements that occurred? (And if that’s the policy, what sane person will buy music in the first place?) Or do you let Alice off the hook, and allow burglars to defeat your entire DRM scheme? Nobody has a plausible answer to this question; and the Fraunhofer people don’t offer one.

Also, see yesterday’s DRM In Practice

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Get Larry’s Latest Online [12:54 pm]

Lessig’s Free Culture is also Free Content (too bad I can’t get BitTorrent working properly on my machine — although I’ve also ordered a dead tree version)

Today it is available for free via what looks like an attribution, non-commercial Creative Commons license: Free Culture: Free Content.

See also the reviews — and this earlier posting — update; here’s the Slashdot review

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"Under God" [12:49 pm]

Well, Marci Hamilton says it about as well as anyone has — not that it matters, at least according to the intepretations given in the papers: The Court Hears Oral Argument in the “Under God” Pledge of Allegiance Case: Why the Court Should Reject This Pledge, and Why the Department of Justice Is Wrong To Support It

But his second point led to the most enlightening moment of the day. The Chief noted that Congress unanimously added the two words “under God” in 1954, implying that no one found it offensive then so how could it be offensive now, or perhaps worrying that the Court was in no position to quibble with Congress when it acted with such unity.

But Newdow responded with the undoubtedly true statement, “That’s only because no atheists can be elected to office.” And when he did, individuals in the audience began to clap.

They immediately proved his point. As an atheist, he is disenfranchised precisely because of his beliefs. He cannot be secure in knowing the school district will not try to inculcate his daughter in the majority religion, he cannot be elected to office, but more importantly, he cannot even argue a case at the Supreme Court–that most hallowed of courtrooms–without being heckled. The preference for “under God” cannot be separated from the desire to suppress conflicting beliefs.

[...] Not only Americans have been watching to see what position the Department of Justice and the President take in this case. The message the Department of Justice is sending to our enemies is that we indeed are godless infidels. Even the God in which so many profess belief is just a placemarker in a rote public ritual imposed on children every morning.

See Dahlia Lithwick’s description of the day: One Nation, Under Hallmark, Indivisible: Is the God of the Pledge of Allegiance a deity or a greeting card? — also, the NYTimes excerpts

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BPI Talks The RIAA Talk [12:17 pm]

UK Record Industry Warns Illegal Filesharers – Stop Or Risk Court Action (Also here)

UK record companies’ trade association the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) this morning unveiled research indicating that 8.0m people in the UK claim to be downloading music – 92% of them (7.4m people) using illegal sites.

[...] The BPI points out that illegal file-sharing is outlawed under the The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

[...] The BPI has unveiled a new ‘instant messaging’ campaign over the internet warning uploaders that they face court action if they do not disable file-sharing software on their computers.

“Research reveals that the bulk of the problem of illegal downloading is facilitated by a small hardcore of people who are offering hundreds and often thousands of music files over the internet,” says Jamieson. “These ’serial uploaders’ are flouting the law and they are damaging British music and the British music industry.”

The report states the following, with this accompanying chart:

Advocates of file-sharing often argue that it is justified as it acts as a promotional tool. But this survey reveals that to be untrue. TNS are able to track the spending on music by downloaders and non-downloaders as they monitor a fixed panel of consumers every two weeks.

When TNS compared the spending of downloaders on music in 2003 versus 2002, they discovered their spending on singles was down by 59% and albums spend was down by 31%.

Overall, their expenditure on recorded music fell by 33%.

This was at a time when the overall UK record market was down just 0.8% by value.

These numbers nail the lie that somehow the record industry should be grateful for illegal downloading because of its supposed promotional value, says Jamieson. This research clearly illustrates that the illegal use of music on the internet is damaging the entire UK music industry

We cannot and will not allow that to continue.

Forget the moaning about CD singles — something whose pricing has always made me wonder where the suckers come from who buy such things. Notice anything funny about that chart? Any chance that their statistics get skewed by the inclusion of 12-14 year olds, whose purchasing and purchasing power depends upon older people? Granted, there’s not enough data supplied to do a rigorous assessment, but I find this chart a little spooky. Of course, maybe it’s just the reaffirmation of the thesis of the Merchants of Cool that’s so unnerving.

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From Slashdot — Save Us From PowerPoint Hell! [10:51 am]

There’s a discussion on Slashdot about the Minnesota antitrust trial and the incriminating documents that have been put into the record (based on an NYTimes article posted here yesterday).

Reading through the comments, which focus upon the extent to which Microsoft’s activities have helped/hindered development in desktop computing, I came upon this discussion thread whose premise I have been living with these last couple of days as I try to get a talk together for next week (although I haven’t convinced myself that Keynote is really that much better either — there’s even a paean to FreeLance, the best thing I’ve ever found in this space, even though its graphing tools are weak and IBM has allowed it to wither along with the rest of SmartSuite)

Re:The Microsoft Damage. (Score:5, Insightful)

by pubjames (468013) on Thursday March 25, @04:53AM (#8665541)

I’ve contended for years that computing in general has been held back by Microsoft, not pushed forward, and this is an example of just how that has been the case.

I think the clearest demonstrator that Microsoft has held back innovation is PowerPoint. Because it is virtually installed as default on all business machines, everyone uses it. Microsoft has had little motivation to update it, so it still functions like a piece of software from ten years ago. But ask any graphic designer about it and they will free out about how impossibly sh*t it is for creating presentations, especially bearing in mind the amazing graphics computers are capable of these days. And yet where is the strong competition for PowerPoint? There isn’t one, because it is impossible to compete with the kind of product bundling Microsoft can get away with.

Can anybody out there suggest a good graphics/graphing package? PPT is just a tragedy, as I keep learning each day. I used to think that Phil Greenspun had the right idea with his efforts to put together a WWW based presentation tool (which I think has evolved into WimpyPoint) until I struggled with CSS — thoughts, anyone?

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MS Plays the IP Card [9:52 am]

Windows ruling is biggest IP heist in EU history, claims MS

Microsoft intends to argue that both the server disclosures and the WMP changes amount to forced licensing, and that the court of first instance must therefore stay the Commission’s order pending the resolution of the case.

See also DOJ Calls EU Microsoft Decision “Unfortunate” — the cited Register article (EC erects toll booth for Microsoft’s open source rivals) may be a bit overblown, but it does raise an issue that needs addressing — see the close of this GrokLaw posting: Want to “Go” to Novell’s Brainshare and See Linus? — And a Word on Ms. DiDio’s “Independent” Survey

Ernest also posts on this problem at LawMeme: Does EU Microsoft Directive Threaten Open Source?

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Laugh, It’s Funny (*sigh*) [9:47 am]

Nothing like seeing that some old chestnuts continue to thrive — although the implications about technical education are tragic: Calif. Officials Nearly Fall for H2O Hoax

The Associated Press

ALISO VIEJO, Calif.

City officials were so concerned about the potentially dangerous properties of dihydrogen monoxide that they considered banning foam cups after they learned the chemical was used in their production.

Then they learned, to their chagrin, that dihydrogen monoxide _ H2O for short _ is the scientific term for water.

“It’s embarrassing,” said City Manager David J. Norman. “We had a paralegal who did bad research.”

The paralegal apparently fell victim to one of the many official looking Web sites that have been put up by pranksters to describe dihydrogen monoxide as “an odorless, tasteless chemical” that can be deadly if accidentally inhaled.

As a result, the City Council of this Orange County suburb had been scheduled to vote next week on a proposed law that would have banned the use of foam containers at city-sponsored events. Among the reasons given for the ban were that they were made with a substance that could “threaten human health and safety.”

The measure has been pulled from the agenda, although Norman said the city may still eventually ban foam cups.

“If you get Styrofoam into the water and it breaks apart, it’s virtually impossible to clean up,” Norman said.

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Some New Get Your War On Comics [9:28 am]

Sometimes, I just need a break……

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Sky Captain [9:08 am]

The moviemaking of the future, today? Mr. Invisible and the Secret Mission to Hollywood

You might expect a little more brio from a writer-director who is making a summer blockbuster with almost unlimited creative control. [...] It is in part a nostalgic homage to the movies of the 30’s and 40’s: the hammy fisticuffs and golly-inspiring proto-technology of sci-fi cliffhangers like ”Flash Gordon” alongside the snappy patter (and even snappier clothes) of the era’s noir thrillers.

But like the old serials it emulates, ”Sky Captain” is mainly preoccupied with the strange promises of the future. The astonishing things you will see in the world of tomorrow include: an immense, silvery zeppelin docking at the Empire State Building; an elephant that fits in the palm of your hand; a troop of giant robots marching down Sixth Avenue and the carpet at Radio City Music Hall. None of these things actually exist, though. Conran has not constructed a single set or miniature. Rather, they are computer images, built and animated in a virtual 3-D environment, or stitched together from photographs, which are then draped around the flesh-and-blood actors, who have been shot separately on an empty set in front of a blank ”blue-screen” background, along with those few minimal props with which they actually interact (a ray gun, a robot blueprint, a bottle of milk of magnesia). The film, in other words, is one long special effect with Jude-Law-size holes in it.

[...] For [moviemaker Kerry] Conran, the question, as he put it, was ”Could you be ambitious and make a film of some scope without ever leaving your room?” And so 10 years ago, Kerry Conran went into a room in his apartment to make a movie. In some ways, he is just now beginning to come out of it.

[...] They can do anything here. When one of Paltrow’s arms was cut out from a shot, they copied the other one, flipped it and pasted it back in. Since all the lighting was being done on the computer, they could paint the frame with light and noirish shadows, erase it all and then start again.

[...] Avnet said that the approach has allowed the filmmakers to make digital video truly look like physical film, and it does — but it’s a curious kind of verisimilitude, one that imitates the technical limitations of the past, the artful phoniness of the old films it emulates, while adding massive underwater battles. ”We have the ultimate latitude to reframe, play and change,” Lawes told me. ”It’s pretty much like playing God.”

It is the flexibility of the setless, all-digital, centralized production process that, according to Avnet, has allowed them to make the movie for about half what it would have cost to make it traditionally.

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OK - I Give Up [8:51 am]

OK, it’s a little early for Friday, but this really can’t wait. In the wake of several discussions of the peculiarities of the trademark system, IPNews Blog points to this rather peculiar trademark application by Douglas Carey of Florida: US Serial Number 78328499 (look it up here) "JC - Beat The The To Punch™." The graphic representation of the mark, associated with "Spritual Enlightenement," is at right. The database listing for the trademark is completely impenetrable:

To the USPTO: Friday, November 14, 2003

The following excerpts are not in exactly chronological order but reflect the spirit and nature of the events. They all took place on the above date. The statements below serve to document the confirmation of my recognition as the Second Coming of Christ. In addition, I am attaching several images taken from a microfilm received several weeks ago. This was the first tangible evidence, although numerous events prior to that time led up to this. I am prepared to produce the entire photo archive if necessary. I have notified a patent attorney in Dallas, Texas, asking for help drafting a patent to document this event and as a statement to the technological community about spirituality. I am attaching the text of the emails below as well.

I may have reason to believe that my communications with this attorney were not confidential, which raises the possibility that another may try to file this patent application before me. Given that there is no way to electronically file a patent application, I have no choice but to file for a trademark instead, as it is Saturday and I am in Thailand. I respectfully request that you forward this immediately to a USPTO employee of Buddhist faith ASAP. [emphasis added]

Addendum: the BNA Newletter points out that a German court has decided that the use of trademarks in <META> tags is not a trademark infringement.

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Internet Culture: Friends Reunited [8:37 am]

Oh, Those Web Entanglements: British Spouses Deceived

It is becoming a familiar story on Friends Reunited, which has 10 million members — one-sixth of the British population — and which in a typical month is visited by more than 3 million people. Founded in 1999 to help people track down missing schoolmates, the Web site seems to have inserted itself into the culture here far more emphatically than have similar sites in the United States.

Not only has it spawned a host of sometimes facetious spinoffs — another site, Convicts Reunited, for instance, helps people trace former prison friends — but it has become an all-purpose people finder for long-lost relatives, co-workers and military buddies as well as school friends. Last year, Nielsen NetRatings, which analyses Internet trends, named it one of Britain’s 10 most influential Web sites.

Along the way, Friends Reunited has unexpectedly developed a secondary function. For some people — even married ones — it can serve as a kind of dating service that offers instant connections to ex-lovers.

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CNet Shows An Interesting Letter [8:28 am]

In the wake of the EU antitrust decision against Microsoft (see this profile of Monti), CNet shows us that there are some US legislators who are perfectly happy with the US DoJ settlement — and are willing to go on the record saying so:

The European Commission’s investigation of the potential anticompetitive effects of Microsoft’s actions, specifically the inclusion of audio and video functionality in Windows operating systems, is difficult to understand in the context of the U.S. Settlement and the U.S.-E.U. Comity Agreement of 1991. Because this exact issue was raised and resolved during the U.S. settlement, it should not have been an area of concern for the E.U.

So, who are these representatives? All are members of the House International Relations Committee — here’s a list of the signatories:

Update: Groklaw’s coverage of a related call for action, this time from the Senate —

Washington State’s Senator Murray Asks Bush to “Engage” the EU

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MTV Learning Their Limits? [8:13 am]

MTV in Royalty Dispute With Producers in Europe

Casting themselves as a collective David to an American Goliath, British and other European independent record producers threatened on Wednesday to boycott MTV channels to protest a 55 percent cut in royalties paid for music videos.

In response, MTV said it would reopen negotiations to look for a way to defuse a problem that erupted this month after it said it would stop broadcasting videos from companies that refused to accept the reduced royalty payments.

[...] “MTV is owned by a vast U.S. conglomerate,” she added. “They are attempting to undermine British and European creativity by failing to give recompense for their endeavors.”

That theme was echoed at the news conference by others like Paul Kernick of Sanctuary Records, who said MTV was “devaluing music and it’s not a deal we can subscribe to.” Jonathan More, a disc jockey and founder of Ninja Tune, an independent record producer, said of MTV’s negotiating tactics, “It’s a kind of Mafia way: do as we say, or the videos are going to get it.”

The objections, moreover, seemed aimed directly at the perceived business practices of the American owners of MTV Networks Europe.

The joys of watching tricky rhetoric getting used on its creators.

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