October 19, 2004

An IP PAC Is Born [6:42 pm]

It had to happen eventually — IPac - A PAC for balanced intellectual property policy [via The Regular]

IPac is a nonpartisan group dedicated to preserving individual freedom through balanced intellectual property policy.

We believe that technological innovation and individual creativity are vital to the future of this country. We believe that a prosperous and democratic society depends on freedom for all individuals to pursue scientific invention and artistic expression. Unfortunately, new intellectual property laws threaten to stifle these freedoms and restrict public participation in science, art, and political discourse.

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Once Tripods Are Illegal…. [11:05 am]

Clampdown on Photographer’s Rights in New York City

So imagine my disappointment when, as I began assembling my small tripod in Grand Central Station, I was accosted almost immediately by one of New York’s finest. “Who you with?” were his curt initial words. I fumbled for what to say as he asked again, “Who you with?… or are you just a tourist here takin’ pictures.”

I began to explain to the officer that I was a photo artist and was in New York doing a series on the images of Manhattan at autumn time, that I had a blog and posted art on the internet. “A what,” he said. “Put the tripod away, tourists can’t use tripods, only professionals can use tripods and you have to have a permit.”

“So how do I get a permit?” I asked. “It takes a long time,” he said. “You have to apply for it in advance.”

“Now put the tripod away.”

[...] Although I can understand the significance and importance of public safety in light of the 9-11 terrorist attack, I also believe that a balance must be maintained between safety and art and journalism in our country. To not maintain this balance would mean that the terrorists had indeed won – not won the war itself – but won by taking away a little piece of our joy and life and culture and art.

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A Look at Moviemaking and the Global Marketplace [8:44 am]

G-rated Exports - Riiiight…..

Clearly there is still a big market for sex and violence; three of the top 10 movies in the United States last year were rated R. After all, sex and violence are universal themes. Filmgoers don’t need a translator to understand a bedroom scene or a punch to the jaw. When Rambo mowed down dozens of bad guys with his machine gun, teenage boys around the world got a thrill. The bullets spoke for the character, which is probably best, since even people from his native country had trouble understanding Sylvester Stallone’s grunts. Many of those same teenage boys would surely have loved to sneak into the theater to hear the grunts in “Showgirls.”

So why should Hollywood start toning down the vulgarity meter? Because movies that rely less on sex and violence stand a better chance of success in the future in developing countries like China, India and Mexico, for three reasons.

[...] Todd G. Buchholz, an economic adviser in the administration of George H. W. Bush, is the author of “Bringing the Jobs Home.”

See, for example, Disney Rethinks a Staple: Family Films but Decidedly Not Rated G.

The incentives are clear. Films rated PG and PG-13 (parental guidance suggested and parents strongly cautioned) drew 75 percent to 90 percent of the domestic box office, compared with 10 percent or less for G-rated, or family, films, among the 20 highest-grossing movies for each of the last four years, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

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An Unhappy Trend [8:32 am]

Bush vs. the Laureates: How Science Became a Partisan Issue [pdf]

Nevertheless, political action by scientists has not been so forceful since 1964, when Barry Goldwater’s statements promoting the deployment of battlefield nuclear weapons spawned the creation of the 100,000-member group Scientists and Engineers for Johnson.

This year, 48 Nobel laureates dropped all pretense of nonpartisanship as they signed a letter endorsing Senator John Kerry. “Unlike previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy making that is so important to our collective welfare,” they wrote. The critics include members of past Republican administrations.

And battles continue to erupt in government agencies over how to communicate research findings that might clash with administration policies.

It’s sad that science is being framed as a partisan issue, but it may be unavoidable — just means more work for those who have to discuss the issues:

“Since the Sputnik era we have not seen science and technology so squarely in the center of the radar screen for people in either the executive branch or Congress,” said Charles M. Vest, the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. “I think it’s inevitable we’re going to have increasing conflicts and arguments about the role it plays in policy.”

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The Reg Sees A Microsoft Assault on Music Distribution [8:16 am]

Microsoft moves in on music downloads

The press say this is Microsoft IBM all over again from the 1980s with only one result possible. We’re not so sure.

[...] The stranglehold [Apple] has on this market is now what analysts everywhere are debating, as multiple offerings came out this week and the long awaited Microsoft response with its MSN music service finally saw the light of day.

[...] [T]he idea that Microsoft beat Apple in the PC market, and so quite naturally it can pull the same trick in the music market, is perhaps a little oversimplified. Apple has its customers already, Microsoft has yet to find its customers. Apple makes over $1bn of revenue from iPod sales, Microsoft cannot expect that money, because it’s only supplying a small part of the software for the MP3 players.

Microsoft gives its media player away free (illegally in the view of the European Commission), so where does it make its money? From music sales? Well so far that only amounts to $150m, even for Apple, and most of that goes to record companies. Microsoft may have covered the Apple play, just to stop it stealing a head start in other markets, but we can tell what the US stock market thinks by the way that Apple’s stock climbed over $2bn after its figures came out, while Microsoft’s has stayed flat as a pancake all week.

Investors, at least, don’t think that Microsoft can undo everything Apple has worked for over the past three years, in one single announcement.

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Stephen Murray Running for Congress [8:11 am]

Stephen Murray for Congress, Technology Issues [via this Wired News article: Candidate Has Platform for Geeks]

It hasn’t escaped the attention of some that I would be the first Computer Scientist and software engineer in US Congress. Within Congress there is naiveté about software development, the software industry and the software consumer. Instead of being crosssection of peers able to deliberate and decide upon the concerns that impact our lives Congress has devolved into a collection of lawyers reliant on the special interests who further their own agenda. Among the issues that face Congress and computer technology of which a computer scientist would provide compelling insight include:

Paperless electronic voting does not provide safeguards against tampering or failure by preventing offline verification of votes. In any software architecture system failure through human error and non comprehensive system design is a probabilistic occurrence that is assumed. Electronic voting needs audit ability and further guarantees to prevent miscounts.

The regulation of online privacy uses a false metaphor likening data communications to telecommunication which blurs the line between transactional data and content interception. Data communications needs a set of standards just for itself.

The internet should remain a decentralized, open architecture with equal access to allow for democratic growth. Issues which affect this include addressing bandwidth limitations, preventing access charges and the continuance of the existing Internet tax moratorium.

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Guerilla TV Tech [7:44 am]

Inventor Rejoices as TVs Go Dark

Altman’s key-chain fob was a TV-B-Gone, a new universal remote that turns off almost any television. The device, which looks like an automobile remote, has just one button. When activated, it spends over a minute flashing out 209 different codes to turn off televisions, the most popular brands first.

For Altman, founder of Silicon Valley data-storage maker 3ware, the TV-B-Gone is all about freeing people from the attention-sapping hold of omnipresent television programming. The device is also providing hours of entertainment for its inventor.

[...] “I was always squandering my time, energy and creativity on something that was at best benign,” he said, in the suddenly quiet aisle at Best Buy. “I was always trying to get people to do something good. Some people do something for the disabled or something. But that’s not really my thing, so I did this.”

The idea for TV-B-Gone was born at a restaurant in the early 1990s, when Altman and his friends kept paying attention to a TV in the corner, not to one another. They chatted about how to turn off all televisions [...]

Later: The NYTimes’ Vigilante on the TV Frontier

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The Layers Model and Telecomm Regulation [7:35 am]

Calling for a regulatory overhaul, bit by bit — architecture and policy

The policy framework embodied in our existing communications laws is often called “stovepipe” regulation. This is because there are distinct technology-based and functionally driven regulations that apply in a disparate fashion, depending on whether different services are classified as telecommunications, information services, cable, satellite or broadcast. Imagine each distinct service classification as a vertical stovepipe.

[...] In an environment in which technological change enables companies regulated under one “stovepipe” to invade the turf of companies regulated under another, it’s time to tear down the existing regulatory paradigm and replace it with a new model attuned to today’s marketplace realities.

But what should that be?

For several months, MCI has been advocating a substitute framework that it seeks to have incorporated into the rewrite of our communications laws. Labeled the “network layers model,” MCI’s approach calls on policymakers to “adopt a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework founded on the Internet’s horizontal network layers.”

Layers model reading list:

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