April 26, 2004

I’m Glad Ernest Is At Work [6:38 pm]

I’m too swamped to keep up. See this: Copyfight: It’s All About the Distribution - Free Speech, Telecomm and Copyright

Wu calls them disseminators, I call them distributors, but we both recognize their importance to copyright law. If, as I argue, copyright is about distribution, then it really makes sense to view copyright as communications policy (which is also about distribution)

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Pew’s Latest on Internet Trends [6:30 pm]

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

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Speedbumps - Architecture as a Mechanism of Control [3:13 pm]

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.

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France Gets Into The Act [11:41 am]

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.

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Reality Mediated By Technology [10:10 am]

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.”

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From somethingawful’s most recent Photoshop Phriday [9:53 am]

From a somewhat impenetrable premise comes this image of the fall of man that I just couldn’t resist:

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Anyone Detecting a Pattern? [9:49 am]

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.”

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Pending Cybercrime Treaty [9:30 am]

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.

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Another Consequence of Media Consolidation? [8:23 am]

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.

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Is TiVo Going To Make It? [8:15 am]

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.”

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iTunes One Year On [8:09 am]

iTunes ushers in a year of change

The 18-year-old Gillilan might be a little more single-minded than most iTunes fans, but as a music major and recording engineer he sees the success of online digital distribution–today best evidenced by iTunes’ sales–as a harbinger of his own future.

“Obviously the record industry has been reluctant, but it’s crazy how much has actually happened (this year),” he said. “My career at this point realistically is going to depend on how successful this business model is.”

Gillilan isn’t alone in looking at iTunes as an industry bellwether. Launched a year ago Wednesday with a blaze of publicity, the service effectively kick-started a languishing digital music business.

[...] A little of this is already evident on iTunes. Singles have remained steady at 99 cents, but a few albums have begun creeping upward. Aerosmith’s newest was priced at $11.99 last week, while rock-guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani’s new release was $14.99, for example.

Apple declined to comment for this story, but other services said they had already seen labels raise prices on some individual songs as well as albums. None has passed on those per-song price increases yet, citing a continued need to present consumers with the simplest offer possible, however.

Label and Web company executives said the price increases reflect an experimentation with tiered pricing that mimics the way retail album prices fluctuate according to title, and over time. Under this model, pre-release singles or very popular artists might cost $1.50 or more per song, average tracks might stay at 99 cents, and back catalog and other promotional songs or albums could drop even lower, for example.

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US Culture and the World [8:07 am]

An Essay: A Common Culture (From the U.S.A.) Binds Europeans Ever Closer

Since World War II, however, has come the massification of culture. In response Europeans have tried to reinforce national and regional identities, to hold onto their languages, foods and folkloric traditions. But given the option of American-style entertainment, they show little interest in one another’s arts. It may simply be lack of information: European newspapers offer poor coverage of their neighbors’ art scenes, and television is not much better, with the exception of the French-German network Arte. Whatever the reason, artistic endeavors that do cross borders today reach few people.

[...] More surprisingly, while modeled after American “sound,” even European pop music rarely crosses the region’s borders, as if Europeans were accustomed to lyrics in English but not in other languages. The Rolling Stones can fill stadiums across the region, but no other European rock group could do so outside its own country. And France’s undying love for its aging rock star Johnny Hallyday still mystifies other Europeans.

Does this separateness matter? Perhaps it represents the cultural diversity that Europeans continue to covet. Yet if Europeans remain focused on the riches of the past and ignore one another’s contemporary work, there may also be a price. As Europe moves toward “ever closer union,” unless it also communicates culturally, popular taste will become ever more American.

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Continental Copyright [8:03 am]

Rosie Issue Fades Away, Copyright Issue Rises

Last month, Playboy Enterprises pressed criminal charges against Prisma Presse, Gruner & Jahr’s French unit and the owner of Voici, a French women’s weekly that printed small photographs of Playboy pages that featured the actresses Shannen Doherty and Daryl Hannah. Mr. Ganz, left, was in court in France to face charges that the magazine had engaged in “counterfeiting by publication or reproduction.”

Publishing companies get into legal squabbles all the time, but there is a European twist in this instance. Under French law, breaking copyright can be a criminal offense and rights holders are sometimes allowed to choose between the civil system and the penal system to seek redress.

But do not expect Mr. Ganz to join Martha Stewart as yet another leader of a media company facing a prison sentence. “This is a silly matter that will be resolved quickly,” said a Gruner & Jahr USA executive. “There is no way that anything is going to come of this or that Axel will be held liable.”

Playboy Enterprises declined to comment.

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Collaborators, Competitors — And Then There’s The Rest of Us [8:01 am]

This NYTimes article seems to celebrate the fact that the content and technology communities are cooperating, but there’s still the question of what that means for the rest of us: Technology and Show Business Kiss and Make Up

It was just two years ago, that Michael D. Eisner, chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, and a top executive at the Intel Corporation screamed at each other across a packed Senate hearing room. Mr. Eisner accused the technology industry of encouraging the theft of music and movies over the Internet and of enabling Napster and its file-swapping clones to flourish. The Intel executive, Leslie L. Vadasz, fired back that Mr. Eisner needed to “deal with the new digital world.”

The fight was bigger than Intel and Disney. Each industry thought it was battling for survival.

Things had not gotten that ugly since Jack Valenti, the longtime chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, famously said the VCR was “to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to a woman home alone.”

But a funny thing has happened since those Senate hearings. The combatants went home. The rhetoric died down. And lately they have started working together. Why?

[..] But “happily ever after” is no guarantee for this new romance, still fueled equally by optimism and results. Apple’s iPod is the only digital media player that has really caught fire with consumers, and many new partnerships are predicated on technology that has yet to be created, especially for antipiracy. No one has figured out how to plug the “analog hole” (when digitized content is played on analog devices, it loses its protection, and can be copied if converted back to digital form).

And the new partners are only beginning to talk money. “This will be a defining issue between the businesses,” said Peter Chernin, chief executive of the News Corporation, owner of 20th Century Fox Studios and the Fox Television operations. “How does someone get paid for creating software that moves content around?”

Whether the money issue results in a fairy tale ending or a grumpy, long-term marriage, nobody expects open war again. The only certainty is that no one can pay for a divorce.

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