Pew’s Latest on Internet Trends

The state of music downloading and file-sharing online [pdf]

The Project s national phone survey of 1,371 adult Internet users conducted between February 3 and March 1, 2004 shows that 14% of online Americans say that at one time in their online lives they downloaded music files, but now they no longer do any downloading. That represents more than 17 million people. However, the number of people who say they download music files increased from an estimated 18 million to 23 million since the Project s November-December 2003 survey.

The Pew Internet Project poll shows that a third of the former music downloaders, close to 6 million Internet users, say they have turned away from downloading because of the suits brought against music file-sharers by the Recording Industry Association of America. The retreat is particularly pronounced among online men, Internet users between the ages of 18-29, and those who have broadband connections at home.

The Register’s story: US music swappers change their tune

Speedbumps – Architecture as a Mechanism of Control

Ernest over at Copyfight (Defining Speedbumps) cites Ed Felten’s comments (What is a Speedbump?) on the Berkman Center’s SpeedBump conference.

A real speedbump doesn’t stop drivers from following a path that they’re deterrmined to follow. Its purpose, instead, is to make one path less convenient than another. A speedbump strategy for copyright holders, then, tries to make illegal acquisition of content (via P2P, say) less convenient than the legitimate alternative.

There are several methods copyright owners can (and do) use to frustrate P2P infringers. Copyright owners can flood the P2P systems with spoofed files, so that users have to download multiple instances of file before they get a real one. They can identify P2P uploaders offering copyrighted files, and send them scary warning messages, to reduce the supply of infringing files. These methods make it harder for P2P users to get the copyrighted files they want — they acts as speedbumps.

These kinds of speedbumps are very feasible. They can make a significant difference, if they’re coupled with a legitimate alternative that’s really attractive. And if they’re done carefully, these measures have the virtue of inflicting little or no pain on noninfringers.

Ernest’s point is that one man’s speed bump is another man’s minor irritant — and the "one size fits all" speed bump is an elusive, if not illusive, thing.

France Gets Into The Act

France vows crackdown on piracy as music sales slide {via Michael Geist’s BNA Newsleter]

France’s culture minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, vowed his country will get tough with illegal copiers of music and films, saying such piracy threatened French creativity.

“To be a pirate today is to put our culture and musical creation in peril,” he told journalists at a music festival in the central city of Bourges on Sunday.

“I attach the greatest importance to defending authors, composers, creators, technicians,” he said, adding that he would be meeting representatives of the French music and cinema industries in the next few days to start laying out a strategy.

“I want to see what technical measures can be taken to minimise these risks, which are leading to lay-offs,” he said.

Donnedieu de Vabres’s comments came as music industry professionals warned at the festival that piracy, particularly the illegal downloading of copied songs via the Internet, was particularly damaging in France.

Reality Mediated By Technology

From Salon, an article on another incarnation of technological alienation, and how it might is changing the meaning of photographs — what technology giveth, technology taketh away: A picture is no longer worth a thousand words (Letters)

There was a time when photographs were synonymous with truth — when you could be sure that what you saw in a picture actually occurred. In today’s Photoshop world, all that has changed. Pictures are endlessly pliable. Photographs (and even videos) are now merely as good as words — approximations of reality at best, subtle (or outright) distortions of truth at worst. Is that Jane Fonda next to John Kerry at an antiwar rally? No, it isn’t; if you thought so, you’re a fool for trusting your own eyes.

Some photographers welcome the new skepticism toward images; it’s good that people are learning not to automatically believe what they see, they say. But many fear that we’re losing an important foothold on reality. Without trustworthy photographs, how will we ever know what in our world is real?

[…] While photographers like Light and Ritchin aren’t pleased that the Internet has caused the public to question every picture, there are some photographers who would welcome the public’s wary eye when it comes to pictures. For too long, these photographers say, pictures have been burdened by a need to provide a level of fidelity with the real world that is actually beyond their reach; pictures need to be liberated from this constraint, they plead. “Photography is only the medium that is a witness to itself,” says Pedro Meyer, a celebrated Mexican photographer who leads a movement that embraces, rather than eschews, digital manipulation. “Photographs say, ‘You can trust me because I am.’ What other medium does that?”

Meyer would like photographs to be treated like any other bit of information — in an ideal world photos would be given as much credence as words. “We don’t trust words because they’re words, but we trust pictures because they’re pictures,” Meyer said in an interview with Wired several years ago. “That’s crazy. It’s our responsibility to investigate the truth, to approach images with care and caution. People need to realize that an image is not a representation of reality.”

Anyone Detecting a Pattern?

Another paean to Steven Jobs and, more importantly, a continuation of the discussion of how Apple seems to have the jump on the transition from computer technology to consumer electronics technology: Bay Area’s top tech firms home in on consumer electronics: Music sweeps Apple to head of the class

Other analysts note that because of the success of the iPod and iTunes, traditional consumer electronics companies now regard Apple as a competitor. “Apple was never really on Sony’s radar like they are now,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Inc. of San Jose.

Now, Sony — whose Walkman popularized portable personal audio devices — is working on catching up with its own digital audio combination. An initiative called Sony Connect will include an online music store linked to new portable audio jukeboxes.

The iPod has proven to be a precursor of Silicon Valley’s new emphasis on consumer electronics, Bajarin said.

“All the valley really did in its first 25 years was focus on bringing technology to the world of business,” he said. The slowdown in spending on business technology forced the valley firms to look for new sources of revenue, especially in digital entertainment technology, he said.

“The iPod in one sense is the symbol of the valley’s shift to focus on consumers,” Bajarin said. “It is also the precursor for what in essence is what the entire PC industry has done, which is to shift focus to the consumer world.”

Pending Cybercrime Treaty

Slashdot points to this SecurityFocus article: U.S. defends cybercrime treaty

The U.S. is one of 38 nations that have signed onto the Council of Europe’s “Convention on Cybercrime,” but the U.S. Senate has not yet ratified the measure. In a letter to the Senate last November, President Bush called the pact “the only multilateral treaty to address the problems of computer-related crime and electronic evidence gathering.” The treaty, “would remove or minimize legal obstacles to international cooperation that delay or endanger U.S. investigations and prosecutions of computer-related crime,” said Bush.

Drafted under strong U.S. influence, the treaty aims to harmonize computer crime laws around the world by obliging participating countries to outlaw computer intrusion, child pornography, commercial copyright infringement, and online fraud.

Another portion of the treaty requires each country to pass laws that permit the government to search and seize e-mail and computer records, perform Internet surveillance, and to order ISPs to preserve logs in connection with an investigation. A “mutual assistance” provision then obligates the county to use those tools to help out other signatory countries in cross-border investigations: France, for example, could request from the U.S. the traffic logs for an anonymous Hotmail user suspected of violating French law.

Another Consequence of Media Consolidation?

I found this to be a provocative look at the book business from yesterday’s NYTimes — the extent to which control over one medium of information distribution, combined with better production and distribution technologies, leads to the development of a new outlet: Why Books Are the Hot Medium [pdf]

The sudden outpouring of inside details in books about the Bush administration is all the more remarkable because of the administration’s previous success at controlling the flow of information to the press about its workings. It is a phenomenon that is creating an unusual reversal in which books – the musty vessels traditionally used to convey patient reflection into the archives – are superceding newspapers as the first draft of history, leaving the press corps to cover the books themselves as news.

Sir Harold Evans, former editor of The Sunday Times of London and the former publisher of Random House, said the White House’s efforts to block the flow of information to the press had diverted it to books. “In my experience, it is quite phenomenal that so many of these books are coming at us with such force and candor,” he said. ”Normally there is quite a time gap before such books start to appear, so the reconstruction of events has lost some of its bite.”

Journalists and publishers credit a convergence of factors. Officials like Mr. O’Neill, Mr. Clarke or Mr. Woodward’s anonymous sources are choosing to spill their stories between hardcovers instead of in the press, perhaps because they think books offer greater prestige or more favorable context, or as Mr. Clarke’s critics say, royalties.

Book publishers, on the other hand, are speeding up the editing, production and distribution of their volumes to rival the time it takes to produce some long magazine articles. Even so, convention accords hardbound volumes a greater authority than even the most meticulously prepared newspaper or magazine articles. And changes in the media landscape – especially the advent of the cable news networks, which have so much time to fill – enable the contents of a book to reverberate widely and persistently, even if no one reads it.

Is TiVo Going To Make It?

A couple of articles raise concerns: A Digital Video Recorder Leader Lags and TiVo Faces Off With Clones

Sales of digital video recorders, devices that record television programs on a hard drive, are finally gaining momentum, a study by IDC, a market research firm, has found. But TiVo, the company that popularized the concept, is increasingly being left behind by the success.

“It’s sort of shocking when you look at the numbers because TiVo is synonymous with the product category,” said Greg Ireland, a senior research analyst for consumer markets at IDC.

“Even though TiVo has an elegant interface, what we’re seeing in the marketplace is that functionality is what appeals to people.”