August 16, 2004

Thank You, Sir! May I Have Another!? [9:27 pm]

From SecurityFocus, via TechDirt: Big Brother’s Last Mile

The FCC ruling comes pursuant to a request by U.S. law enforcement agencies to extend the reach of a decade old federal statute, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, to broadband Internet service providers including cable companies, DSL providers, satellite providers and even electric companies that provide inline Internet access. The ruling, if it becomes final, may require such ISPs to create and deploy new and expensive technologies that would ensure that communications carried over broadband were deliberately insecure and capable of being intercepted, retransmitted, read, and understood by law enforcement. Of course, whatever law enforcement can do, hackers will be able to do easier and faster. What this means is that IP protocols may have to be adjusted, and the future of encryption may also be in doubt.

[...] The FCC’s ruling goes well beyond the extensive subpoena authority of the grand jury and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and even the USA-PATRIOT Act. By making ISPs the electronic equivalent of the phone company, and therefore subject to CALEA, the FCC opens the door to mandating that all future TCP/IP technologies — possibly even encrypted ones — be designed at the outset to be tapable. After all, it would do the cops no good to receive a mass of encrypted packets.

What’s worse, all of this would be done on your dime. As Commissioner Abernathy pointed out in a statement, “upgrading networks to comply with a new packet-mode standard for surveillance will be a costly endeavor, and there are many unanswered questions about how these costs should be recovered.”

[...] I am all for letting the cops tap phones, and even IMs, chat sessions, e-mail and websites with appropriate court orders. What I don’t like is making us reinvent the Internet just for these purposes. The FCC action is a large step towards requiring this.

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Sterling’s SIGGRAPH Keynote [8:26 pm]

I speculated a bit about this earlier, based on a report on the speech. Here’s the text, which is even more provocative: BoingBoing: Bruce Sterling SIGGRAPH 2004 speech “When Blobjects Rule the Earth”

The most important thing to know about Spimes is that they are precisely located in space and time. They have histories. They are recorded, tracked, inventoried, and always associated with a story.

Spimes have identities, they are protagonists of a documented process.

They are searchable, like Google. You can think of Spimes as being auto-Googling objects.

[...] We are filling the atmosphere, and the seas, and the surface of the planet, and our own bodies, with our industrial emissions and our dead junk. In a world with 6.3 billion people, trending toward 10 billion, there is no “Away” left in which we can throw our dead objects. Our material culture is not sustainable. Its resources are not renewable. We cannot turn our entire planet’s crust into obsolete objects. We need to locate valuable objects that are dead, and fold them back into the product stream. In order to do this, we need to know where they are, and what happened to them. We need to document the life cycles of objects. We need to know where to take them when they are defunct.

In practice, this is going to mean tagging and historicizing everything. Once we tag many things, we will find that there is no good place to stop tagging.

[...] The upshot is that the object’s nature has become transparent. It is an opened object.

[...] By making the whole business transparent, a host of social ills and dazzling possibilities are exposed to the public gaze. Everyone who owns a spime becomes, not a mute purchaser, but a stakeholder.

[...] Are there dark sides to this vision? Oh yes indeed. Genuine menaces. You can see them right now in a website like stoprfid.org, a site I recommend highly. Spiming is an ideal technology for concentration camps, authoritarian regimes, and prisons.

[...] It’s possible to live in a cleaner way. We live in debris and detritus because of our ignorance. That ignorance is no longer technically necessary. Those who know, know. Instead, our problem is becoming obscurantism, which is a deliberate hiding of the facts by vested interests who know they are injuring us. Such acts of evil must be combated. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

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Is This Good Or Bad? [3:44 pm]

I found this quote from Ambitious Package to Raise Productivity (and Microsoft’s Profit) to be particularly worrisome:

With that focus, Microsoft is now pursuing a strategy to transform Office from a bundle of programs on personal computers into a family of software that can put Microsoft’s technology deeper into the operations of corporate data centers.

[...] “Microsoft is trying to make Office less a product and more like an online service,” said Nate Root, an analyst for Forrester Research. “Adoption is going to be slow because Microsoft is trying to change the paradigm. It’s a fundamental cultural change in how people think of and use Office.”

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EU Wants To Look Over ContentGuard Acquisition [3:31 pm]

Microsoft, Time Warner DRM buy on EU review shelf

European antitrust regulators have extended a deadline for deciding whether to conduct an in-depth review of Microsoft and Time Warner’s plan to jointly acquire ContentGuard, a digital rights management company.

[...] Under European antitrust regulations, the commission has one month to either clear a deal or determine that a thorough investigation is needed. The deadline can be extended by an additional two weeks if one of two events occurs: the companies offer remedies to address regulators’ antitrust concerns, or one of the European states wants a more extended review.

It’s unclear what precipitated the extension of the deadline in the case of ContentGuard, but one source noted that the second reason is less likely the case here, given that both companies are based in the United States.

See also EC mulls MS DRM monopoly trawl

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More on MP3 Blogs [3:25 pm]

Culture clash when Warner tries to use MP3 Blogs as a promotional tool: Warner’s Tryst With Bloggers Hits Sour Note

Earlier this month, Warner became the first major record label to ask MP3 blogs to play its music. The blogs - which are relatively new but increasingly popular - are personal Web sites that offer music criticism right next to the actual music, in the form of downloadable MP3 files.

But as is sometimes the case when marketers try to insinuate themselves into online communities, the company’s approach did not go as planned. Warner - which was part of the Time Warner media empire until February, when it was sold to a group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. - ran into a culture clash with the small world of MP3 blogs, annoying some of the very people it wanted to win over, especially after one or more people at Warner apparently posted anonymous messages to make it appear that ordinary music fans were defending the label.

And because many MP3 blogs exist in a legal gray area - to accompany their musings on the music, bloggers post complete song files, usually without permission - the campaign put Warner in the position of currying favor with people whose views on file sharing are far more liberal than those of the music industry’s lawyers.

See also p2pnet’s MP3 Spam; and related Blogs: The Marketing Killer

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When TCS Doesn’t Like a P2P Law… [3:21 pm]

It must *really* be bad — and it is! INDUCING Bad Law [via Ernest]

INDUCE is supposed to target copyright infringement via illegal downloads, especially on peer-to-peer (p2p) networks like Kazaa and Grokster. The bill would create a new cause of action against anyone who “induces” such infringement — with “inducement” to be determined on a case-by-case basis, using an unspecific “reasonable man” standard to evaluate the presence of intent to induce a copyright violation.

The problem is, this concept has no real limits. Suppliers of any technology that allows transmitting, copying, or sharing of material protected by intellectual property law could be accused of “inducement.” That list is potentially endless: PC’s, broadband service, dial-up service, scanners, printers, mp3 file systems, CD recorders, and so on. INDUCE’s subjective standards of proof would have a dramatic chilling effect on the development, marketing, and distribution of new and existing technologies (once an accusation makes it to court, costs start to pile up quickly).

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Updates on a Continuing Saga [2:55 pm]

Entertainment World Wary of Microsoft [pdf]

The majority of entertainment companies, unsure of Microsoft’s motives and wary of its cutthroat tactics in the battle for the computer desktop, have preferred to maintain an arm’s-length relationship with the software Goliath.

But these days, studios fear digital piracy more than they fear Microsoft and have slowly begun to make deals to use its software tools, albeit on a non-exclusive basis.

The Slashdot story, Hollywood afraid of Microsoft, cites a NYTimes article that will age, but this link should remain workable

For earlier coverage of this issue in Wired, see Bill Gates, Entertainment God

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Distribution and Business Models: Academic Journals [2:00 pm]

From today’s Boston Globe: Internet publishing attracting academics [pdf]

For more than 100 years, publication of major scientific and medical breakthroughs has been concentrated in a handful of prestigious journals. But the factors driving the shift to so-called open-access journals, including the reach and power of the Internet, rising subscription prices, and pressure from patients, are forcing changes in the world of scientific publishing. Universities are rebelling against rising subscription costs, as scientists chafe at paying for access to research that builds on their own work. One oft-cited example: the journal Brain Research has an institutional list price of $22,386 a year. Patient advocates insist on easy, searchable access to the results of taxpayer-funded studies.

Some among the 1,100 or more open-access journals available solve this problem by charging researchers a fee to publish their articles instead of charging for subscriptions. The Public Library of Science, parent of PLoS Biology and PloS Medicine (scheduled to launch in October), charges researchers $1,500, but waives the fee for those who can’t afford it.

That system isn’t better, said Gregory Curfman, executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. He argues that having researchers pay for publication creates a potential conflict of interest: Will publishers subconsciously select articles based on the author’s ability to pay?

Even so, many librarians and publishers acknowledge that publishing must evolve.

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