The Perils of Programmable Devices

Having just discovered this design “feature” of the iPod, I could easily understand what a tool like iPodDownload is so popular. What’s less easy to appreciate is why Apple forced its developer off the Net until he took the link down: MacCentral: Apple shuts down iPodDownload

On Wednesday MacCentral brought readers news about iPodDownload, a free iTunes plug-in that enabled users to move files from their iPod back to iTunes. Creator Sylvain Demongeot has since removed the software from circulation following a request from his Internet Service Provider (ISP), who apparently intervened at the behest of Apple Computer Inc.

“After Apple threatened my web hosting company and my site was shut down for more than 1 hour, I had to withdraw the plugin,” said Demongeot in a statement posted to the Web site.

I myself had assumed that the iPod could be used to synch my MP3 music libraries between home and work, and was surprised to find out, painfully, how hard it actually is to do this — although, of course, by “hard” I mean “not easy within the Mac desktop/iTunes paradigm” (you just have to plan on working through the files by hand, hunting through a set of hashed folders – the MP3 filenames are there, but the album titles are not used to arrange the folders containing them). But I find it hard to imagine that this action on Apple’s part is related to their licensing agreements with the RIAA, especially since a little Googling turns up mirrors — but it’s equally difficult to figure out any *other* reason for the action.

eMusic Targeting Indie Music Buyers

eMusic to relaunch MP3 subscription service

eMusic, one of the oldest names in digital music, will relaunch its music subscription service on Wednesday with an independent appeal dramatically different than its bigger rivals’.

As in its previous incarnation, the service will offer unprotected MP3 files from independent labels, a sharp contrast from services such as Apple Computer’s iTunes or Microsoft’s new MSN Music store, all of which wrap their songs in copy protection.

The new version of the service has been redesigned to focus on helping people find their way through the often-confusing independent music world.

NYTimes: A Music Download Site for Artists Less Known; TechDirt’s less sanguine look: eMusic Relaunching, Still Offering MP3s — But Still Limiting Downloads

Small Steps

Microsoft Shares More Source Code

Beginning Monday, Microsoft will offer more than 60 governments and international organizations the option of viewing the proprietary source code for the latest version of its ubiquitous Office software, including the Outlook e-mail program, Microsoft Word and Excel spreadsheet application.

[…] Now, he said, it’s important for Microsoft to expand the program to Office because open-source alternatives are gaining traction, particularly with overseas customers.

While Microsoft’s Office is still by far the most popular business software, analysts say more attention is being paid to products like Sun Microsystems’ StarOffice, based on the open-source OpenOffice program. Other homegrown alternatives are also popping up outside the United States.

“It is more than just a hum in the background,” Schadler said. “There are real decisions being made and money being spent, and Microsoft is starting to see, at the margin, an impact.”

Slashdot: Microsoft To Share Office Source Code; CNet News – Microsoft lets governments into Office; NYTimes – Some Microsoft Customers Will Get to See Office Code

Kahle v. Ashcroft Coverage

Saving the Artistic Orphans

Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive and Rick Prelinger, a film collector, want permission to digitize these so-called orphan works to create online libraries for free public access.

In a suit filed in March, the plaintiffs in Kahle v. Ashcroft argue that multiple changes to copyright law have essentially made it impossible for works to return to the public domain. They want to have these changes declared unconstitutional.

The copyright structure has changed so people no longer have to actively register and renew their work, meaning valuable historical resources stay protected by copyright, even though no one is marketing them. In the past, the scope of copyright was much narrower. When copyright expired, those works could then be used and built upon by future creators and were available to the public.

The law “imposes enormous burdens on speech without any countervailing benefit to anybody,” said Chris Sprigman, a fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, who is representing the plaintiff. “It doesn’t benefit the public because it keeps creative works locked up, and it doesn’t benefit private rights holders because these works are out of print. These changes to the copyright law make it more difficult for rights holders to get some licensing income because it makes them more difficult to locate.”