November 1, 2004

More on the Grokster, BMG Negotiations; Plus An Old Name [5:26 pm]

Grokster, Sony BMG to do legit P2P service?

Sony BMG - aka ‘Bony’ - the merged music label is in talks with Grokster, the P2P software company has confirmed. Negotiations are believed to be focused on the development of a new, label-friendly P2P network.

If launched, the service - said to be called Mashboxxx - would provide both free material and contact with a price-tag attached, according to an Associated Press report citing sources close to the talks.

[...] The Bony/Grokster service is said to utilise digital fingerprinting technology ensure only authorised files are shared. In the UK, music service Wippit has been taking this ‘walled garden’ approach for some time now, using it as the basis of its MP3-based unlimited download subscription service. Mashboxxx’s technology partner is believed to be Snocap, the company set-up by Napster founder Shawn Fanning.

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The Economist on the Music Industry [5:00 pm]

Music’s brighter future [via Pho] [pdf]

According to an internal study done by one of the majors, between two-thirds and three-quarters of the drop in sales in America had nothing to do with internet piracy. No-one knows how much weight to assign to each of the other explanations: rising physical CD piracy, shrinking retail space, competition from other media, and the quality of the music itself. But creativity doubtless plays an important part.

Judging the overall quality of the music being sold by the four major record labels is, of course, subjective. But there are some objective measures. A successful touring career of live performances is one indication that a singer or band has lasting talent. Another is how many albums an artist puts out. Many recent singers have toured less and have often faded quickly from sight.

Music bosses agree that the majors have a creative problem. Alain Levy, chairman and chief executive of EMI Music, told Billboard magazine this year that too many recent acts have been one-hit wonders and that the industry is not developing durable artists. The days of watching a band develop slowly over time with live performances are over, says Tom Calderone, executive vice-president of music and talent for MTV, Viacom’s music channel. Even Wall Street analysts are questioning quality. If CD sales have shrunk, one reason could be that people are less excited by the industry’s product. A poll by Rolling Stone magazine found that fans, at least, believe that relatively few “great” albums have been produced recently

Later: Slashdot discussion - Music Downloading not Entirely to Blame

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Missed This [9:06 am]

Jason Schultz points to HBO’s FAQ on their pending innovation - Content Generation Management System for Analog - DRM for all OnDemand content from HBO. As Jason notes, this is a technological pre-emption of substantial fair uses that have legal protection. For example, see this from the FAQ

I have an analog recorder. I don’t even own a computer and have no way to connect to the Internet. I thought HBO’s concern was all about digital copies. Why am I restricted from making copies?

These days, it is possible to convert analog programs to digital files. Including CGMS-A in HBO’s signals helps insure that digital copies converted from analog will retain the same copyright instructions as content that originates in digital. You will still be able to make a single copy of HBO and Cinemax programming, be it analog or digital. However, you will not be able to make a further duplicate copy, nor will you be able to distribute HBO or Cinemax programming via the Internet.

Has the law changed? Please help me understand what is (and is not) legal for me to do with HBO programming. I have grown accustomed to making and often sharing copies of programs with friends and family.

The laws on copying distinguish between broadcast and non-broadcast programming. Broadcasters are required to permit consumers to make a single copy of broadcast programming for time shifting purposes. However, the law allows non-broadcast programming networks to decide what copying privileges they wish to extend to consumers.

HBO permits its subscribers to make one copy - analog or digital — of regularly scheduled HBO and Cinemax programs for time-shifting convenience, but not for sharing copies with others. However, cable subscribers are not permitted to make a copy of HOD or MaxOD programs since those services already provide subscribers the viewing convenience of “time-shifting” (i.e., HOD and MaxOD subscribers can watch HOD or MaxOD when their schedule permits, and can even stop, pause, and rewind if viewing is interrupted).

Sounds like a possble legislative agenda to me - or one more reason to stay away from HBO and digital cable until the services I want are made available to me.

You can learn more about the technology from this presentation (pdf) and some EFF early reactions here at Cruelty to Analog. Also as a part of an ExtremTech writeup on digital content protection

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Peter Gabriel’s MUDDA [8:57 am]

So, here’s Peter Gabriel’s exercise in revising the music business model: MUDDA.

The relationship of artist to the business has most often been one of contract and servitude. We believe the way forward must be a partnership in which the artist can take a much bigger role in how their creations are sold, but also have the chance to stand at the front of the queue when payments are made instead of the traditional position of being paid long after everyone else.

Four years ago I co-founded (and am now a shareholder in) a digital downloading service with Charles Grimsdale, called OD2. I got involved because I thought there were interesting opportunities and I wanted to have access to digital delivery both for my work and for all the artists on Real World Records

Although OD2’s initial focus was the Independents, we are now Europe’s number one digital distributor for music working with all five majors and are about to launch in Australia and Asia this year.

We are determined that we should try and take advantage of this situation and help transform the music business in such a way that artists are on level terms with record companies, receive fair payments and have new opportunities to be their own retailer when they choose.

A DigitalJournal article: MUDDA: Musicians’ Alliance Cuts Against Industry Grain (RA4052)

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From October’s firstmonday [8:48 am]

A belated reading list for myself:

  • Protecting ourselves to death: Canada, copyright and the internet

    Canada is at a critical stage in the development of its copyright law: it has not yet ratified the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization “Internet Treaties,” but it is poised to do so. This article analyses the rhetoric of “protection” ubiquitous in Canadian discussions of copyright policy, and identifies among the various uses of the term both a problematic assumption that protection is or should be the primary function of copyright, and overblown claims about copyright’s power to protect Canadian culture and creators. These “common sense” ideas, fostered by rights–holder lobbies, emerge out of a peculiar Canadian history of cultural nationalism(s), but they may not promote the interests of Canadians. Ironically, while professing fear for their cultural sovereignty, and following the paths of their own internal political, bureaucratic, and rhetorical culture, Canadians appear to be constructing a copyright policy in complete harmony with the needs of American and international capital. [...]

  • Grey Tuesday, online cultural activism and the mash-up of music and politics

    Grey Tuesday, as the day of action was known, marks a potentially new site for a blend of online political and cultural activism in the highly charged realm of intellectual property expansionism. This paper examines emergent examples of musical and Internet activism including a detailed look at Grey Tuesday itself; considers the cultural significance of the mash–up genre and the value of the musical “amateur;” and concludes with a brief consideration of “semiotic democracy” and the new mix — or, if you will, mash–up — of culture and politics that has emerged as a consequence of the rise of digital networks.

  • Between rhizomes and trees: P2P information systems

    The aim of the first part of this paper is to provide an overview of information retrieval in Peer–to–Peer (P2P) information systems in the file–sharing domain. Starting with a general overview of the concept of P2P information systems, the paper then focuses on five desktop–accessible P2P information systems: Napster with its clones OpenNap and eDonkey, and Gnutella and FastTrack (i.e., Kazaa). A detailed description is given of the attributes and properties of each P2P file–sharing information system, followed by an evaluation of the respective P2P file–sharing applications, taking each in turn and examining their respective strengths and weaknesses. This paper concludes with a critical comparative analysis and gives some suggestions for further investigation.

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The Economist on A Future Internet [8:26 am]

An article on Andrew Odlyzko’s work paralleling railroads and the Internet: History and the Internet [pdf]

In a recently published paper, Andrew Odlyzko, a professor at the University of Minnesota, divines lessons from the history of transportation to explain the telecoms industry’s attraction to price discrimination, and what it may mean in future. Of course, in general telecoms, companies already exploit variations in what customers are willing to pay for digital bits, depending on whether they take the form of a cable television programme or an SMS text message (see chart). On the internet, however, charging according to content would mark a big change.

[...] On the net, discrimination might mean one price for web and e-mail traffic, another for instant messaging and still others for telephone calls, music and films. Is it likely? Mr Odlyzko hopes not, although history strongly suggests that the temptation exists. He thinks that price discrimination might not be in telecoms companies’ interests after all. Unlike on canals, toll roads and so forth, internet capacity is abundant. Internet service is therefore a commodity. Simpler, flat-rate pricing, he argues, is likely to increase usage: discrimination would turn some users away.

Indeed, he says, distinguishing between different types of traffic would mean so much technical rejigging that the openness of the internet would be destroyed. Because the internet is decentralised and simply priced, it is cheap for many other networks—run by big companies, universities and telecoms firms—to connect to it. This in turn gives the internet a great capacity for innovation. Price discrimination could jeopardise all this. “While content delivery does lend itself to a closed network, connectivity does not. Open networks are likely to win because they can attract more revenues from users,” Mr Odlyzko says. Is this wishful thinking? History, as he shows, is full of examples of successful price discrimination. The telecoms companies may yet think it worth a try.

The paper cite is The evolution of price discrimination in transportation and its implications for the internet; Review of Network Economics, vol. 3, issue 3, September 2004. Note that it’s probably worth comparing and contrasting with Hal Varian’s discussions on price discrimination.

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Jupiter’s Mark Mulligan on the 50 Year (c) Term [8:11 am]

Don’t Believe the Copyright Hype

There has been a concerted media schmoozing effort on behalf of the UK music industry recently to try to get the 50 year copyright issue onto the media’s agenda. And they seem to have succeeded. It’s just a shame that they have taken advantage of the media’s relative naivety of copyright issues to push a very one side story.

Yes, recorded copyright does expire after 50 years in the UK compared to 100 in the US. But music copyright (i.e. the rights of the publisher) persist until 70 years after the death of the compsoser. [...]

All of these scare stories about Elvis and Buddy Holly suddenly coming out of copyright are just that: scare stories. [...]

The argument put forward by the industry is that the 50 year limit prevents the music industry the right t exploit its works. No. It prevents particular segments (typically the big majors) from exploiting the works.

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Ruckus Networks Gets A PR Piece in the WashPost [7:29 am]

Ruckus Seeks to Raise a Digital Community (earlier FurdLogs on Ruckus) Gotta wonder which local university is in their sights. Note that the language has gotten much slicker:

Ruckus also is working with college administrators to provide university content including student-written editorials and reviews, pictures from campus, local songs and videos as well as academic material. “Students are too often passing through instead of being part of the university community,” Raduchel said. “College sports, the student newspaper and student radio stations don’t have the draw they once did.”

Many students download music and movie files illegally from a variety of shady Internet sites, risking prosecution and virus-infected hard drives. Ruckus wants to offer a one-click, legal option for students to get their digital entertainment.

[...] Music and movies might just be the beginning of Ruckus’s offerings. “As we talk to our schools and figure out what works, we’ll do it all over time,” Raduchel said. Students could eventually share photos, maintain online blogs and download video games through the Ruckus service. Raduchel hopes to have between 10 and 20 schools signed up by this time next year, but he says his biggest challenge so far has been learning patience. “You can’t walk into a university and say this is a great idea and have them say, ‘You’re right, let’s buy.’ You have to educate them, it’s learning to adapt a start-up mentality.”

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Why We Haven’t Heard the Last of Lexmark v. Static Control [7:10 am]

It’s like printing money [pdf]

(see earlier post

As consumers and businesses spit out computer-generated letters, reports, and photographs, the US market for ink cartridges is soaring into the tens of billions of dollars. Ink cartridge shipments are projected to exceed $34 billion this year — more than double the value of printer shipments — and then grow by about $1 billion a year through at least 2007, according to IDC, the Framingham research firm.

Needless to say, this big and growing market is sparking a rush for this liquid gold. Original manufacturers, like industry leader Hewlett-Packard Co. of Palo Alto, Calif., are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into building a better ink cartridge while a growing legion of remanufacturers, resellers, and refillers are devising methods they hope will produce cartridges of similar quality, but at lower costs.

Groklaw has a couple of posts, mostly just HTML versions of the opinion, but there are a few nuggets in there: Lexmark and the DMCA and Lexmark Concurring and Concurring/Dissenting Opinions

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