May 19, 2004

Ah, The Dutch [10:21 pm]

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<sarcasm> [9:34 pm]

Copyfight: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Past — citing Gimme my radio

Maybe we should try to put the broadcast flag mandate in a more positive light, though. It’s not really an anti-future rule – it’s just pro-past! And hey, everybody knows that the best thing for science and technology is a really strong, pro-past agenda. After all, physicists recently predicted that Moore’s Law (which stipulates that the number of transistors on a microprocessor doubles every 18 months) will break down in 600 years, so we should probably start slowing down the future as soon as we can.

And there’s another fine bit of pro-past FCC regulation, a small part of Title 47 in the Code of Federal Regulations, that will ensure another 6,000 years of Moore’s Law instead of a paltry 600. In the early 1990s the FCC mandated that no receiver-freqency converter device like the GNU Radio shall be sold or owned if it’s “capable of readily being altered by the user.” The concern that brought about this bizarrely draconian, free speech-limiting regulation was that people were programming devices to pick up cell phone signals. So, instead of mandating that cell phone companies should encrypt their signals to protect their customers’ privacy, the FCC ruled that any device that could be altered to listen in on the cell phone bands would be illegal.

</sarcasm>

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Business Models in Open Source [8:07 pm]

Open-source companies see profit aplenty [via ScriptingNews]

It’s easy to make money giving away software–just don’t give away too much of it.

That was the upshot from a group of open-source software executives at the Software and Information Industry Association’s Enterprise Software Summit, with panelists saying there’s plenty of room for profit in Linux and its siblings.

One of the keys for MySQL in building a profitable business from its open-source database products has been to offer a variety of licensing plans, said Zack Urlocker, vice president of marketing for MySQL. Folks can still get the software for free by agreeing to an open-source license that commits them to sharing any enhancements they make to the software. But many businesses would rather pay for a license that allows them to keep their work.

See also InfoWorld’s Open source software merits debated

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CD Sales and Digital Music Consumption [7:51 pm]

More CD buyers try out digital song stores

Consumers who subscribed to a music service such as RealNetworks’ Rhapsody purchased an average of 11 CDs last year. Those who used legal music downloading sites such as Apple Computer’s iTunes bought approximately 10 CDs, according to the report. Those who used peer-to-peer file-sharing sites averaged eight CDs, whereas those who did none of these bought an average of six CDs.

“Our research shows that it’s the people who are really into music that are beginning to adopt paid digital services as an additional way of acquiring and enjoying music, and so far, these services are living side by side with traditional CDs,” Russ Crupnick, president of NPD MusicWatch, said in a statement. “As the industry matures, and digital music becomes even more mainstream, it remains to be seen just how much paid digital music will affect the market for CDs.”

Apparently, the movement to digital music is showing early signs of having some effect. Last year, consumers who paid for digital music scaled back their CD purchases by roughly one CD, compared with the previous year.

The NPD study press release: More CD Buyers Try Legal Digital Music Services, NPD Finds [via Copyfight]

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Privacy, Public Disclosure and Integration [7:31 pm]

Street Maps in Political Hues

FOR proof that all politics is local, look no further than Fundrace.org, which follows the political money to your front door. While records of campaign contributions have long been available online, Fundrace has a twist: plug in any address and retrieve a list of all the donors in the neighborhood, the names of their favored candidates and the amount bestowed.

[...] “It really bothered me,” said Ms. Kramer, 36. “I live in a community that’s overwhelmingly Republican; all the moms have Bush-Cheney bumper stickers on their minivans. I’m literally one of two Democrats on my entire street. So even if it’s a very small possibility, I think there could be repercussions in some neighborhoods - petty vandalism, a slashed tire or graffiti.”

Whatever its perils, the idea has proved irresistible to many. The six-month-old site says it is attracting up to 150,000 visitors a day. With its localized search feature, national politics has rarely hit quite so close to home.

Compare and contrast with Panel Urges New Protection on Federal ‘Data Mining’ [pdf] [via EFF MiniLinks]

SIdebar: Mining the Campaign War Chests

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The High-Tech, Inside-Out Madeleine [7:27 pm]

Digging Up the Past at 45 R.P.M.

I’VE started buying music online, one song at time. I wanted to catch up to the present, and to have a chance of reaching the future - in music delivery technology, that is. What I didn’t expect was that I’d be traveling back in time, revisiting my memories at a dollar a download.

[...] Since I’ve started downloading songs, I’ve found I can browse the past. For Proust, sensation - the taste of a madeleine - prompted remembrance. I am the anti-Proust. I have the memory first, and then I look for the song, buy it and listen to it. The immediacy is gratifying. It is as if Proust remembered Combray and then ordered a madeleine online, only to have it pop out of the CD drive a few minutes later.

I have also found that my memories are not just of the melody and the message, but the medium as well. I may be buying and listening to a song in a proprietary digital format, with copyright protection, transferable to other devices, but I’m remembering an old car radio, or the light reflected on the unscratched vinyl of a new 45 as it slides out of its sleeve.

[...] My guess is that most people are buying new music. But for me the great value of 99-cent songs is that the hundreds of thousands of them on the Web serve as a universal library of quickly accessible information.

It’s the kind of information that is a surprise. I expect to find data on the Web and to be able to shop. I never expected to find my emotional autobiography, or at least the musical keys to it, stored for ready access at a small fee.

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Technology Enabling Creativity and Distribution [7:21 pm]

In the Era of Cheap DVD’s, Anyone Can Be a Producer

Sports events may seem an unlikely subject for distribution by DVD, but football games are far from the only discs in the mail carrier’s bag these days. Independent filmmakers, specialty magazine publishers, artists, educators - all those with a video to sell, no matter how narrow the niche - are turning out DVD’s and distributing them through the mail. It’s a trend that began in the era of videotape but has accelerated with DVD’s because they are inexpensive to duplicate and ship.

[...] Beyond Netflix, lots of individuals and groups are producing videos in a market that is as varied and heterogenous as the book industry. The market has even spawned companies like CustomFlix (www .customflix.com), the equivalent of a custom book publisher, which for a fee will duplicate DVD’s in small runs and help distribute and sell them.

Consider Jimi Petulla, a man who says he invested $400,000 of his own money to produce “Reversal,” a semi-autobiographical film he wrote and starred in.

Mr. Petulla said that several early screenings of the film about a high-school wrestler and his father brought about 20 distribution offers from companies specializing in smaller independent films. The terms, however, were too onerous.

“I’ve met so many people who’ve done good little movies, and they’ve never seen a penny from their distributors,” he said. “It’s insane what these companies can get away with.”

Instead, Mr. Petulla began making the DVD’s himself. To date, he said, the film has grossed about $650,000 and continues to bring in $15,000 to $18,000 a month. The discs sell for $29.95 at www.reversaldvd.com.

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Code as Law: Architecture in Action [4:12 pm]

A Yahoo! feed of a Reuters news article led me to the Church of Fools:

Welcome to Church of Fools, the UK’s first web-based, 3D church, which opened as a three-month experiment on May 11th. Church of Fools is an attempt to create holy ground on the net, where people can worship, pray and talk about faith.

The church is partly intended for people on the edges (and beyond them) of faith, so please be aware that the language and behaviour in church is often colourful and occasionally offensive. Please bear with us – this is an experiment and we’re working on creative solutions to the problem of mischievous visitors. Church of Fools is currently not suitable for children.

The Reuters article describes some of the changes in the operations of the Church in response to disruptive behavior, some of which are cited here:

Today we’ve been working on some practical, fast solutions to the problems. We’ve put online a new version of the church, with some changes to how it works. This is what is now in place.

1. The “shout” function (where people could speak to the whole room) has been completely removed, and this has immediately quietened down the sanctuary. Disruptive people can now only be heard by their immediate neighbours, rather than disturbing the whole room.

[...] We’re also planning to increase the presence of wardens (wardens have the power to “smite” people, which instantly logs them out of the environment) and also to recruit volunteer helpers who will talk to people visiting the church.

Please send us your suggestions for improving Church of Fools. We’re learning how to do this together.

See also: Services at the First Church of Cyberspace; also covered in The Register - Online church smites sinners

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KaZaA Trial Update [2:43 pm]

Sharman Presses for Evidence

The counsel for Sharman Networks, Robert Ellicott, said the software maker is not the uploader of music files, and therefore isn’t liable for file trading on its network. Furthermore, because the courts have yet to show anyone has violated copyright by using Kazaa, an infringement case against Sharman has no merit in law, the company argued.

“There aren’t any allegations of actual infringement,” Ellicott told the court. “The law is clear that to attack somebody for authorizing an infringement, some infringement has to be proved. Now, they have neither given particulars nor alleged facts which would establish an infringement and it has to be an infringement, of course, in Australia.”

The software company has asked the music industry to provide it with the names and addresses of the Kazaa users it alleges have traded copyrighted works.

“Our evidence contains dozens of incidents of downloading,” said Richard Cobden, the lawyer acting for the music industry, during the proceedings. “Why should we be asked now for the names and addresses of these people who operate by pseudonyms? We could not possibly do it, your honor, but we are going to suggest that the evidence is perfectly clear that the recordings are made available.”

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Another "substantial noninfringing use?" [2:12 pm]

Point, click and swap–digital photos go P2P

The idea behind OurPictures, which is set to conclude a three-month test of its service, is that subscribers can post pictures to a network of fellow subscribers who transfer the pictures directly from one computer to another.

“Our belief is that the desktop is the right place where a consumer wants to organize and manage their digital photos–not on a Web site,” said John Paul, CEO and founder of OurPictures. “If you have one photo you want a thousands people to see, that’s one thing. But a Web site is not the right place to place thousands of photos.”

[...] But OurPictures–a privately held upstart whose investors include Sutter Hill Ventures, Foundation Capital and Legacy Venture–is betting that consumers will find file sharing a better way to edit and circulate large numbers of photos.

Update: Mark Casazza of CUNY notes that the Terms of Use includes some rather restrictive program licensing terms:

2. License Restrictions

(a) You agree that except as expressly set forth above, you will not (and will not allow any third parties to): (i) use any device, robot, spider, other automatic software or device, or manual process to interfere or attempt to interfere with the proper working of the Software, or to monitor use of the Software without OurPictures’ prior written permission, (ii) take any action that imposes an unreasonable or disproportionately large load on the OurPictures infrastructure, (iii) decompile, disassemble, or otherwise reverse engineer or attempt to reconstruct or discover any source code or underlying ideas or algorithms or file formats or programming or interoperability interfaces of the Software, to the extent such restrictions are allowable under applicable law, (iv) rent, lease, loan, sell, or sublicense, republish, distribute, display, use for service bureau purposes or transmit for commercial, for-profit, or non-educational purposes all or any portion of the Software, (v) copy, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, or create derivative works of the software, make or distribute copies of the Software, or electronically transfer the Software from one computer to another or over a network, (vi) use any network monitoring or discovery software to determine the Site architecture, or extract information about usage, individual identities or users, or (vii) export the Software into any country prohibited by the United States Export Administration Act and the regulations thereunder.

(b) You may not use the Software in an attempt to, or in conjunction with, any device, program or service designed to circumvent technological measures employed to control access to, or the rights in, a content file or other work protected by the copyright laws of any jurisdiction.

[emphasis added]

Of course, enforceability is something else, particularly in light of the range of jurisdictions within which the program will potentially be used, but it does give you something to consider.

A further read leads to this term of use:

H. Usage by Children

This Site is not intended for or directed to persons under the age of 13. Children are not eligible to use the Service. We require that users of this Site and all subscribers to the Service be individuals who are 13 years of age or older. EACH TIME YOU VIEW AN IMAGE, REGISTER FOR THE SERVICE OR OTHERWISE PROVIDE INFORMATION TO OURPICTURES, YOU ARE REPRESENTING TO OURPICTURES THAT YOU ARE 13 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER.

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Eminem’s © Suit Against Apple [1:09 pm]

Eminem’s copyright suit against Apple proceeds

The case focuses on a 2003 Apple advertisement for its iPod music player, which depicted a young boy wearing the iPod’s trademark white headphones and singing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” aloud. The rapper’s music publisher, Eight Mile Style, contends that Apple did not have permission to use the song.

[...] According to the lawsuit, Eminem–whose real name is Marshall Mathers—has never endorsed any commercial product on a national level. To win such an endorsement “would require a significant amount of money, possibly in excess of $10 million,” the suit said.

[...] An Apple representative declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Previously, the company’s lawyers have said people viewing the ad were unlikely to interpret it as an Eminem endorsement.

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Distribution Models [12:57 pm]

Hip-Hop Between the Cold Cuts

In some neighborhoods, the World Wide Web cannot match the reach of the ever-present bodega, where generations have gone each day to buy everything from loose cigarettes and numbers tip sheets to cheap soda and homemade sweets. [...] And buzz is more than just the sound made by clippers at barbershops, where a captive audience of style-conscious young men - the coveted urban demographic sought by music-makers - set new trends years ahead of the rest of the city.

That’s why rather than just competing for attention with thousands of other compact discs in record bins or risk being downloaded illegally by fans tired of paying $15 or more for new music, members of these bands - some of whom used to be with major record labels - have also decided to put their latest cuts alongside cold cuts and haircuts. And to underscore their break with old-school business practices, they are charging $6 for their discs: less than a pack of cigarettes, and a little more than the cheaply produced bootlegs that have decimated sales.

[...] While some say that huge recording contracts to past-their-prime rockers and brick-and-mortar record stores have all been on a prolonged deathwatch, these neighborhood institutions offer durable and direct channels to young, urban consumers.

“It is a brilliant business concept,” said Burt P. Flickinger, III, an industry analyst at Strategic Resource Group. “You don’t have to go through the byzantine bureaucratic systems of the recording companies which tend to be run by aging white guys who are five years behind on relevant urban rhythms.”

[...] Company executives said they were able to sell discs for $6 principally by not giving out advances and requiring artists to pay their own recording costs. Digital technology has allowed many people to record themselves for a fraction of what it once cost, they said. Executives also said that by starting with a near-finished recording, they were better able to judge a record’s appeal and minimize their risks while paying artists $1.50 to $2.50 for every record sold.

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