October 21, 2004

OT: Life in the Northeast Today [5:02 pm]

Below is the text of a message being sent around MIT by administrative staff to all offices:

For your awareness regarding problems placing outbound telephone calls

We are experiencing a saturation of the telephone network in Eastern Massachusetts which is resulting in some local telephone calls receiving a “fast busy.” At 3pm today, RED SOX tickets for the World Series went on [sale], and as a result, the local telephone trunks are completely at capacity. There is no outage, simply a saturation. The last time this happened was on September 11, 2001.

This is not impacting incoming calls, or intra-campus calls.

This problem will continue until the buying frenzy has abated.

If you are experiencing a telephone problem that you believe is unrelated to this situation, please contact the telephone help desk at x3HELP (x34357)

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RIAA MidYear Stats [4:31 pm]

Lots of people citing statistics, but no official sources yet that I can find: CD shipments surge after lean years | Tech News on ZDNet (CNet version)

CD shipments are surging this year, but not enough to erase previous years’ declines in the music business, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

The record industry’s trade group said the value of shipments of all music at the midpoint of 2004 had climbed nearly 4 percent compared to the previous year. The industry has shipped 10 percent more CDs to retail outlets than last year, showing a strong increase in demand.

But that growth does not mean that the industry can let up in its years-long legal attacks on file swapping and other digital copying, executives said.

“We are rising out of a deep hole and still have a long way to go,” RIAA Chief Executive Mitch Bainwol said. “Piracy, both online and on the street, continues to hit the music community hard, and thousands have lost their jobs because of it.”

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Good P2P/Bad P2P [4:13 pm]

Toe-to-Toe Over Peer-to-Peer

Amid the recent collapse of talks over the Induce Act in Congress, record labels are closing in on deals to enable several new peer-to-peer services to emerge — with the sanction of major record labels that have so far derided P2P as a haven for piracy.

At a panel held Wednesday by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, at least one record industry representative predicted that such sanctioned P2P services will start to proliferate in the next several months.

[...] After the panel, Glazier told Wired News that it’s still unclear whether consumers will be willing to pay for P2P services, but companies such as Wurld Media and Snowpack are trying to wrap up deals with various record labels to try out new service models.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chief sponsor of the Induce Act, has praised such companies as the exception to so-called bad actors like Grokster and Morpheus, which he and the content industry charge are inducing people to violate copyrights.

[...] Experts are starting to wonder whether content owners and the technology community will ever be able to agree on how to treat P2P networks.

Adam Thierer, the Cato Institute’s director of telecommunications studies, said after the panel that both sides seem as far apart as ever.

“I don’t care how long you lock everyone in a room and tell them to try to strike a deal, there are just some copyright issues where compromise proves impossible,” he said. “This is one of them.”

[...] In the end, Thierer said he fears the lack of compromise could open the door for compulsory licenses for internet-distributed content.

“I hate compulsory licenses since they are little more than forced contracts and government price controls, but that’s where we are heading,” he said.

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Terrorizing Students From A Bully Pulpit — The Attorney General of the United States [9:28 am]

Getting the Word on Intellectual Theft From the Top [pdf]

Many of them had heard the lectures from authority figures before: Don’t illegally download songs and games from the Internet because people make their livings selling those products, stealing is a crime, every crime has unseen consequences, and so on.

But this time, the person giving the lecture was U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, and he was painting an especially harrowing picture for about 100 area high school students.

“When you download stolen songs or movies or computer games posted on the Internet, you’re stealing,” he told them.

Remember — this is the Attorney General of the United States promoting the argument (unsupported in the law, so far anyway) that copyright infringement is theft.

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Online Expression [9:19 am]

A bizarre assessment of things like “Your Land,” ultimately arguing that such efforts are making the Internet more like a TV than a communications medium. Somehow, I think the writer misses the point. Point, Click and Mock on the Wild, Wild Web

Beyond the tangle of political blogs, you will find on the Internet assorted bits of political animation. One kind in particular has been gaining ground since Sept. 11, 2001. It’s a mutant form born of the marriage of video games and Dada photomontage. Shortly after the terrorist attacks, an animated cartoon of Osama bin Laden, called “Nowhere to Run” and set to the tune of “The Banana Boat Song,” appeared on the Internet, circulating widely for months in e-mail messages.

[...] Now that the election is looming, the online whipping boy isn’t Mr. Hussein and it isn’t Mr. bin Laden. It is George W. Bush. (Some sites mock John Kerry, but not many.) The substitution is shocking.

[...] So what does it mean when the same sort of animation is used regardless of whether the target is Mr. bin Laden, Mr. Hussein, Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry? It means that it doesn’t matter.

The point is that you can punish someone famous to your heart’s content. It is equal opportunity venting. Then there’s the question of the punishment itself. The key is repetition. It doesn’t matter whether the punishment is spanking, shooting or bombing. The point is to do it and do it again. It is punishment as slapstick. Repetition is always funny. Repetition is always funny.

Photomontage has been used before as a political weapon. In the 1930’s and 40’s, the German Dada artist John Heartfield skewered Hitler by pasting his face into various unseemly settings. His cartoon of Hitler as a chimp pounding the globe with a sword is captioned, “And yet it moves.” Another montage, “The Meaning of the Hitler Salute,” shows Hitler’s raised hand taking a wad of cash from a rich man behind him.

Today’s Web-mations have none of this political commitment. They may lead you to opinion polls (one site asks how you feel about prayer in schools) or to voter registration drives, but there is really just one imperative that they all share: They all order you to forward the animation site to your friends, or else! The point isn’t so much politics but rather, as in video games, racking up points. The deformed child born of the cutting humor of photomontage and the flippancy of video games is growing up. And that child is looking more and more like its video mother and less and less like Dada.

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