October 26, 2004

Puretunes Settles [10:29 am]

Online Music Site Settles Copyright Suit

The operators of a Spanish-based Web site that sold music downloads have agreed to pay $10.5 million to settle a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by several recording companies.

[...] Puretunes went off-line in mid-June 2003, less than two months after its launch. A month later, the top five recording companies and their labels sued Sakfield.

The suit alleged the company unlawfully copied and distributed thousands of songs from artists such as U2, Elvis Presley and Britney Spears through the Web site. Puretunes charged users for access to the music files, misleading consumers into believing they were buying music from a licensed online retailer, the companies claimed.

When Puretunes launched, Sakfield claimed it had obtained licenses from Spanish trade associations representing publishers and musicians, enough to comply with Spanish copyright laws.

But the record companies asserted that no such loophole in Spanish law exists and that Sakfield was liable.

FurdLog’s Puretunes cites; The Register’s Spanish MP3 site owner to pay RIAA $10m

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The Next Big Thing [9:59 am]

I spoke to a colleague about the Verizon fiber rollout announcement, asking what she thought was driving Verizon’s move at this point in time. Her response surprised me, because I was not aware of the power of the trend discussed in this article: Broadband in Suburbia [pdf]

In many ways, Brambleton looks like any of the new housing developments that have popped up near Dulles Airport in the past several years. Except coursing under its crisp green lawns and treeless streets is a fiber-optic network that supplies some 600 homes with Internet access at speeds once reserved for the largest corporations.

[...] The Internet service is included in Campolattaro’s homeowner association fees of approximately $230 a month. For that price, she also receives cable television service and covers her share of community lawn care and road maintenance.

Verizon Communications Inc. built Brambleton’s network as a market test for new technologies. The project offers a glimpse of what the telecommunications giant hopes to do around the country. Verizon, the nation’s largest telephone company, announced last week that it will spend close to $3 billion to establish fiber-optic networks in six states that could give 3 million homes the same level of Internet service that Campolattaro enjoys. Much of the new construction is focused on Washington’s suburbs, including Falls Church and Leesburg in Northern Virginia and parts of Montgomery County in Maryland.

The announcement comes as the cable television industry has begun to beef up its lines, offering in some cases its own competing package of telephone, television and Internet service.

Verizon officials say their network may fundamentally change the way people think not only about the Internet but also about television and telephone service. [...]

Just think what having kind of Net access will mean to shaping the demand for Net services. And, since it’s already tied up into the homeowner association fees, there’s no reason not to use it as fully as possible.

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David Boies on the Upcoming Election [9:46 am]

Rise of the Machines

It is too late, unfortunately, to take one important step toward avoiding a repeat of 2000 this year. If anyone took Bush v. Gore seriously as legal precedent, uniform voting machines in each state would be constitutionally required.

As the dissenting opinion in Bush v. Gore emphasized, voting machines are much more likely to affect the chances of whether a vote is counted correctly than the different standards used to assess ballots by local officials. Optical-character-recognition voting machines that include a paper trail, and which warn voters of overvotes or undervotes so they can be corrected, have been in operation for years in several counties in Florida and elsewhere. They have been recommended by both Republicans and Democrats - including the bipartisan commission appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida after the 2000 election.

Thus Florida’s recent installation of less reliable alternative devices that lack a paper trail, many in heavily Democratic counties, is incomprehensible. O.C.R. machines cost a little more, but the difference is trivial compared to the billions being spent for elections in Iraq or even the millions spent by the state of Florida to ensure that felons (and those with similar names) are not eligible to vote. Whether the uniform use of these machines is constitutionally required or not, their extra cost is a small price to pay for making democracy more effective at home.

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A Push Into WiMax [9:42 am]

Intel to Join in a Project to Extend Wireless Use

In an effort to create a global wireless alternative to cable and telephone Internet service, Intel said on Monday that it would collaborate with Clearwire, a wireless broadband company, in developing and deploying the new technology.

The companies said that Intel would make a “significant” investment in Clearwire, which has begun building long-range wireless data networks around the world.

[...] The companies are betting that a new wireless technology called WiMax - which is intended to extend the reach of Wi-Fi wireless networks by permitting a single transceiver to connect hundreds or thousands of customers to the Internet over distances of many miles - will succeed where other long-range wireless data technologies have failed in the past.

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The Changing Role Of The Actor [9:22 am]

A Face That Launched a Thousand Chips — seeing the pictures really tells the tale

But there is a revolution hiding inside this seemingly innocuous family film, to be released by Warner Brothers on Nov. 10. The first star-driven film to cross completely over to the digital domain, it might change the way movies are made and seen. Whatever critics and audiences make of this movie, from a technical perspective it could mark a turning point in the gradual transition from an analog to a digital cinema. And though the transition may not be as dramatic as the shift from silent to sound prompted by “The Jazz Singer” in 1927, it may have equally significant consequences.

Neither a traditional live-action film nor a computer animation of the kind Pixar has perfected with “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles,” “The Polar Express” is something in between, a film that brings a true human presence into a virtual world by digitizing flesh-and-blood actors as well as the environments they inhabit. In the process it does away with many of the most basic elements of filmmaking: there are no expensive sets to be built, no elaborate lighting to be rigged, no bulky camera to be painstakingly hauled into place. In fact, there is no film. “The Polar Express” will touch celluloid only at the final stage of production, when the completed feature is transferred, by laser printer, from computer hard drive to film stock.

[...] Whether the audience can wrap its collective head around this approach to filmmaking is only one of the many questions posed by a new technology that turns the director into the god of his own virtual universe. Will the new techniques finally make it possible for directors to be the sole authors of their films, in the way painters control their paintings or novelists their novels? Or will the unprecedented control eliminate the creative turmoil of what has often been called the most collaborative of art forms? Will the revolution serve the goals of storytelling and personal expression, or will it lead to an obsession with trivial detail and pointless perfectionism? Will actors embrace the challenge of playing against themselves in multiple roles, as Mr. Hanks does in “Polar,” or will they become digital puppets, manipulated by unseen others? Will the new powers liberate visionary filmmakers, or will they make movies even more vulnerable to the whims of studio executives, who will be able to endlessly second-guess directors?

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Faking Memes [9:18 am]

Postmodern deconstruction of the WWW: Buzzing the Web on a Meme Machine

The problem is that many of the street memes posted are not really memes at all. For example, the site posts only one instance of “Business Yo,” the figure of a beaten-down businessman stenciled in black on a yellow ground with a rain cloud over his head. Maybe the image could spread on the street, but it hasn’t yet. It’s a meme wanna-be.

Can a wanna-be meme become a real meme? People on the Web are doggedly pursuing this very question right now.

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OT: Eminem’s “Mosh” [8:54 am]

This morning’s Globe regretted [pdf] that Eminem’s Mosh wasn’t the first release from his new album. But, the video is online at GNN — take a look at his message. (Salon article) (Hmmm, the link is already down - I have a copy of the .mov here, but I’ll see if I need to offer it)

From the close of the Salon write-up:

It all ends amazingly earnestly, with Eminem leading a black-clad army to the voting booth. Once again, Bush proves he really does have wonder working powers — by behaving even more callously and irresponsibly than the most outrageous rapper, he’s turned music’s foremost enfant terrible into a role model of civic engagement.

Now we just have to see if MTV has the guts to air it.

See also The Civic CD; also discussed in Salon’s War Room blog and in the Wednesday Morning Download column of Oct 27, 2004 at Salon.

Later (Oct 30): Slater’s writeup, Mosh or Die

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