June 7, 2004

Expression::Protest [10:35 am]

Ban on Subway Photography Prompts Underground Protest

The photographers - about 100 of them - gathered to express their outrage at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed ban on taking pictures in the subway system. Meeting at Grand Central Terminal, they rode the trains for upward of an hour, shutters clicking, flashes popping, in a filmed rebuke to the idea that photography is somehow a national security threat.

“The point is really to make everyday people wake up and realize that photographers are not terrorists,” said Joe Anastasio, who organized the event. “In the last few years, photographers near anything vaguely important have been getting harassed.”

See also Cory’s NYC ban on subway photos

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Larry Calls It Quits (When It Comes To His E-Mail, That Is) [10:21 am]

Wired News: Call It the Dead E-Mail Office

If you’ve been waiting for internet legal visionary Lawrence Lessig to reply to your e-mail, forget about it.

In a script-driven note sent out last week, Lessig wrote: “Dear person who sent me a yet-unanswered e-mail, I apologize, but I am declaring e-mail bankruptcy.”

A reason to treasure the few that I have …

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Wired Atlas of IP [10:19 am]

The Free & The Unfree

Wired offers an atlas of the intellectual property world. The maps and charts on the following pages show how IP enforcers are manning the ramparts while IP antagonists are challenging the protection regime. We focus on four industries: media, medicine, agriculture, and software. And while the battle rages, here and there a few pioneers are redrawing the map, marking a third way that respects patent protections and copyright controls while trying to foster more opportunities for broader access. The beginnings can be found in Linux and The Grey Album, generics and the Creative Commons. Use this atlas as a guide to two worlds in collision - and an outline of a new frontier.

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Legislative Progress On Decency [10:13 am]

Move to Stiffen Decency Rules Is Losing Steam in Washington

The delay in bringing the Senate bill to the floor is tied partly to the broader politics of the Senate, where Republicans, who hold a slim 51-seat majority, have had difficulty passing major bills. But for the senators themselves, there is also the peril of investing too much political capital in a divisive issue, which has pitted some social conservatives and child-advocacy groups against big broadcasters and civil rights advocates.

In addition, the Senate version contains other controversial provisions - including one that would seek to curb violent content on television, not just sex and swearing - that the House bill explicitly avoided.

“This looks like a cheap date to me,” said Charles Cook, the editor of The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political newsletter. “You come out for motherhood, apple pie and ‘decency,’ and you know it’s not going anywhere.”

[...] An additional complication is that broadcasters have long criticized the commission’s guidelines about what it considers indecent, saying they are too vague. Neither the House nor the Senate bill requires the commission to clarify its guidelines.

“How do you know what’s covered?” said Geoffrey Cowan, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. “And if you don’t know what’s covered, how do you know what words to avoid?”

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Blackberry Patent Fight [10:09 am]

Contest Over BlackBerry Patent

Today in Washington, judges at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit are scheduled to ponder whether Research in Motion, the Canadian maker of the much-coveted BlackBerry hand-held wireless e-mail device, should be barred from doing business in the United States. At issue is who has the patent for the BlackBerry’s technology.

In August, the United States District Court for the Eastern District, in Richmond, Va., dealt RIM a stunning blow, ordering the company to pay NTP, which sued RIM for patent infringement, $53.7 million in damages and granting an injunction to prevent RIM from making, selling or servicing the devices in the United States.

[...] “My guess is that rather than an injunction, NTP would rather have ongoing royalties,” said Marc Kaufman, a patent lawyer with Nixon Peabody in Washington. “The time you really want an injunction is when you have a competing business.”

Indeed, NTP does not make anything. It is a patent holding company formed by in 1992 by Thomas J. Campana and some investors with the intent of licensing patents. Mr. Campana, 57, is a retired electrical engineer and entrepreneur from the Chicago area who holds about 50 patents, some of which cover a national paging system.

[...] RIM has been aggressively challenging five of NTP’s eight patents covering this technology (patents 5,625,670; 5,631,946; 5,819,172; 6,067,451 and 6,317,592). The director of the Patent Office has ordered reexamination of these five NTP patents, which were also the subject of anonymous challenges.

Those five are being re-examined by the Patent Office. Four are undergoing what is known as ex parte re-examination, a process in which only one side is heard, where the chances of a patent being overturned are usually quite small. The party being heard in these four cases is NTP.

The fifth is undergoing what is called an inter partes re-examination, which means a third party is involved, in addition to the Patent Office and NTP. In this fifth case, that third party is RIM. Given that inter partes re-examinations are relatively new at the Patent Office, this process is considered a wildcard in the case. The Patent Office is expected to issue its ruling on this fifth patent soon.

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Show Me The Money [10:04 am]

Yochai’s open wireless networks future gets a look in Where Entrepreneurs Go and the Internet Is Free

At cafes, malls and downtown business districts, there has been an explosion of Internet access points, or Wi-Fi hot spots, that let computer users log on to the Internet for free. That growth is a fundamental reason - though not the only one - that technology start-ups, investors and industry analysts who had high hopes for Wi-Fi are scrambling to find sustainable business models.

[... T]housands of free hot spots have been established by public agencies, mom-and-pop businesses hoping to attract customers and individuals working to build a grass-roots based network. A handful of city governments, some in cooperation with local businesses, are deploying free Wi-Fi networks in parts of Jacksonville, Fla., lower Manhattan and Portland, Ore., among other places.

“It’s going to be hard for commercial carriers to make a profit,” said Dewayne Hendricks, the chief executive of Dandin Group, a wireless Internet service provider based in Silicon Valley, who serves as technical adviser to the Federal Communications Commission on wireless Internet issues.

Mr. Hendricks said the remarkable spread of free networks was forcing commercial carriers to rethink their strategies.

“The infrastructure is being built from the bottom up,” Mr. Hendricks said, referring to a municipal and grass-roots effort to deploy wireless connections. “How that plays out is potentially monumental,” he said in affecting the way Internet access is provided.

Declan has another perspective: Why the FCC should die

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OT: Worth A Note [9:59 am]

Although I’m not sure it means anything: Nike Tries a New Medium for Advertising: The Blog

Gawker Media, a small company that operates snarky Web logs on culture and politics, like Gawker and Wonkette, has begun blogging on behalf of major advertisers.

The company’s first paid blog is for Nike. Called Art of Speed, the blog will spend about a month showcasing a series of 15 short films on the theme of speed, all commissioned by Nike. Gawker Media Contract Productions, a new division of Gawker Media, will supply layout, commentary, links and other features. Terms were not disclosed.

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Harry Potter Mash-up [9:53 am]

Hijacking Harry Potter, Quidditch Broom and All

On Friday night “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” sold out theaters all over the globe. But in a makeshift screening room in a Brooklyn warehouse, more than 75 filmgoers paid $7 each to watch the first film in the series, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Sort of.

On the screen “The Sorcerer’s Stone” played as it was released by Warner Brothers. But the original soundtrack, dialogue and all, was turned down and replaced by an alternate version created by a 27-year-old comic book artist from Austin, Tex., named Brad Neely. He calls his soundtrack “Wizard People, Dear Reader,” and it is one more breach of the media industry’s control of its products.

With Mr. Neely’s gravelly narration, the movie’s tone shifts into darkly comic, pop-culture-savvy territory. Hagrid, Harry Potter’s giant, hairy friend, becomes Hagar, the Horrible, and Harry’s fat cousin becomes Roast Beefy. As imagined by Mr. Neely, the three main characters are child alcoholics with a penchant for cognac, the magical ballgame Quidditch takes on homoerotic overtones, and Harry is prone to delivering hyper-dramatic monologues. “I am a destroyer of worlds,” bellows Mr. Neely at one point, sending laughter reverberating through the warehouse Friday night. “I am Harry” expletive “Potter!”

Mr. Neely, a fan of the series, created his alternate soundtrack last summer after joking about the notion with friends in an Austin nightspot. “Usually those kinds of jokes just die in the bar,” he said. This time Mr. Neely burned his creation to CD, sent copies to friends and gave some to local video rental stores; several bundled his soundtrack with rentals of “The Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Much later: Salon’s writeup — Harry Potter: The digital remix

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A Speculative Look at the Future of Music Playback [9:42 am]

The future of music playback - The Ear Reverends [via Doc]

The future playback of recorded music will not be tied to physical media (e.g., compact discs) or singular virtual players (e.g., iPods), but to many objects with shapes and sizes designed to appeal to our tactile relationships with music and, at the same time, to have the features of a virtual music device. I imagine these being called Playbacks (not really, but just to give them a name).

[...] Playbacks will have three important sets of features: 1) physical style and symbolism. 2) wireless receive and transmit. 3) virtual music libraries and playlists.

The physical design of Playbacks will be focused on either the symbolic value of an object, or the utility of a user interface, or both. If you want to listen to music when you are going to sleep, you may well use a Playback that looks like, and actually is, a pillow. If you want to listen to mid-1950s rock n roll, you might use a Playback that looks like a 45 rpm single.

[....] Playbacks will appear in all different shapes and sizes to match all kinds of rituals associated with listening to music. These will be both personal / individual rituals and social / community rituals.

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Eolas’ Patent Discussion [7:44 am]

A Slashdot story (Parties Behind Eolas Patent Reexam Revealed) points to Butting Heads Over the ‘906 Rebuttal, citing the Eolas reply materials to the current patent investigation:

The basic premise of Eolas’ written response is that browser developers working in 1993 and 1994 did not consider embedding interactive applications in the browser window and that the browser simply rendered static information. Felten makes the statement that Berners-Lee’s HTML specification “teaches away from the provision of rich interactivity in the browser.” Felten says that “Berners-Lee teaches a language for authoring Web pages but it does not teach how to build a browser or how a browser works.” Those statements are completely inconsistent with Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of the Web. Berners-Lee talked about browsers that were equally capable of reading and writing, which goes back to Ted Nelson’s definition of hypertext as non-linear writing. In his book, “Weaving the Web,” Berners-Lee uses the phrase “browser/editor” to refer to the kind of client application he envisioned as a Web browser. He writes about his own prototyping of the first Web client, which he said was “basically like a word processor”: “By mid-November I had a point-and-click browser/editor which I called WorldWideWeb.” He goes on to say that “the browser would decode URIs, and let me read, write or edit Web pages in HTML.” This reflects the spirit of early Web development, as I recall hearing it first-hand. (Today’s wikis and weblogs seem to close to realizing this vision.)

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DRM + Biometrics = End of RIAA Problems? [7:34 am]

Of course not — just a new intrusion, coupled with the strange problem that we have with fingerprints already — presumptive infallibility despite evidence to the contrary: RIAA wants your fingerprints

Established biometric vendor Veritouch has teamed up with Swedish design company to produce iVue: a wireless media player that allows content producers to lock down media files with biometric security. This week Veritouch announced that it had demonstrated the device to the RIAA and MPAA.

“In practical terms, VeriTouch’s breakthrough in anti-piracy technology means that no delivered content to a customer may be copied, shared or otherwise distributed because each file is uniquely locked by the customer’s live fingerprint scan,” claims the company.

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