Speaking of Architecture ….

Apple blocks music sales to older iTunes

As it had said it would, Apple Computer is forcing customers using older versions of iTunes to upgrade to recent versions if they want to purchase music online.

Later on Wednesday, Apple will stop allowing people running version 4.2 to purchase songs from the iTunes Music Store.

[…] When Apple released version 4.5 in April, the company disabled support for a number of programs that tried to expand iTunes music sharing beyond the streaming of music files. And with the new version 4.7 that Apple introduced last week, the company quietly disabled support for iPodDownload, a program that let customers copy music from an iPod into their iTunes library.

Dialtone P2P: What A Difference An Architecture Makes!

More like a wet dream of the RIAA/MPAA: P2P for cell phones: Reach out and share something

When it became possible five years ago to freely swap copyrighted material over the Internet, the entertainment industry began a battle that still rages today. But, as file-sharing now finds its way from PCs to cell phones, there is very little resistance; in fact, those same fierce opponents of file-swapping are among the technology’s biggest cheerleaders.

“All the labels are very focused on the mobile space,” said Scott Hochgesang, the executive vice president of the Universal Music Group. “We may have been a bit slow to things happening on the Internet, but we won’t do that again.”

The reasons go beyond FoneShare’s draconian control over the intellectual property that’s being shared. Because their networks are private, wireless operators can easily identify which files are being shared and even shut down handsets that are doing a suspicious amount of file trading. Also, wireless operators have microbilling systems to track millions of subscribers at a time and ensure everyone gets their fair share of the revenue.

[…] “If there’s any piracy going on, anywhere, the wireless operator can track you down,” Holahan said. “It’s like the Internet, without all the crazy stuff.”

Later: See Hip-Hop’s New World to Conquer: Your Phone

Challenge to Sony-BMG Merger

Indies challenge Sony BMG merger

Impala, the body representing 2,500 indie labels, is appealing to prevent what is calls a “market imbalance”.

Permission for them to merge meant that 80% of the world’s music is owned by just four records companies.

The EU gave its backing to the merger in July, and the US federal Trade Commission also did not oppose it.

[…] “The threat of a duopoly operating in the business without any real constraints is too great for any serous company or sector to ignore.

“The independents deserved better from the EU, and it is our intention to ensure that the facts of our case are properly respected,” she [Alison Wenham, vice president of Impala] added.

OT: So, How Far Will This Go?

Black Box Voting’ Freedom of Information Act Request

We are requesting these as a nonprofit, noncommercial group acting in the capacity of a news and consumer interest organization, and ask that if possible, the fees be waived for this request. If this is not possible, please let us know which records will be provided and the cost. Please provide records in electronic form, by e-mail, if possible – crew@blackboxvoting.org.

We realize you are very, very busy with the elections canvass. To the extent possible, we do ask that you expedite this request, since we are conducting consumer audits and time is of the essence.

We request the following records.

Item 1. All notes, emails, memos, and other communications pertaining to any and all problems experienced with the voting system, ballots, voter registration, or any component of your elections process, beginning October 12, through November 3, 2004.

Item 2. Copies of the results slips from all polling places for the Nov. 2, 2004 election. If you have more than one copy, we would like the copy that is signed by your poll workers and/or election judges.

Slashdot discussion: Blackboxvoting.org Raises Vote-Audit FOIA Request

Something Else from James Boyle

A look at the freedom to tinker and the new economy of ideas: The Apple of forbidden knowledge and the sequential arguments — something I missed when it came out.

[F]irst if you are going to have property rights in anything, you generally want them to be clear and definite so that people can speak, act, invest, and innovate around them. The uncertainty in this area, produced by a largely unnecessary law that was drafted overly broadly, has allowed companies to use fear, uncertainty and doubt to stave off competition and scare off capital that might otherwise flow to new market entrants. I hope that the courts that eventually rule on this issue will side with the Register of Copyrights and the overwhelming weight of academic opinion, but I cannot be sure and that in itself is a harm. Second, laws like the DMCA have been exported internationally through the miracle of treaty “harmonisation.” (If this is harmonisation, it should be noted, it is only for sopranos: the harmonies only go upwards towards greater restrictions and higher penalties.) As I noted in my original article, the European Copyright Directive and its implementing legislation had many of the flaws of the DMCA, and in the case of reverse engineering, it was particularly badly drafted. So whatever the situation in the US, the situation in the EU is worse. For a long time to come, we will be seeing threats like the ones Apple made against Real. For the sake of competition (and Mac users) let us hope the law does not back those threats up. Apple will still have lots of ways to lock Real out of its system – each “upgrade” will doubtless undo whatever compatibility that Real has been able to achieve. The point is, however, that Real’s efforts to compete should not be illegal.

Risk-Taking and Cooperation Through Technological Design

Rethinking Consumer Risk: Cultural Risk, Collective Risk and the Social Construction of Risk Reduction [via Digital Music News]. The abstract is a rich source for buzz-word bingo, but there’s an important idea here — increasingly, communities of technology users are finding that there are important ways that their cooperative efforts yield benefits to their members — in this case, cooperative efforts to spread the risk of being prosecuted for copyright infringement.

The impacts of others on the reduction of one’s perceived risk have frequently been acknowledged within the marketing and consumer literature, yet conceptual tools to study them systematically remain undeveloped. In this ethnography of the Hotline file-sharing community, the ways in which Hotline members’ ideological and consumption related social discourse and practice help produce and reduce certain cultural consumer risks are explored and developed. The Hotline community is particularly popular in Europe but the study’s findings also apply to any other p2p community such as Kazaa, BearShare, or LimeWire. The present study addresses three important issues to challenge our traditional views of consumer risk. First, the study defines and demonstrates the existence of collective consumer risk. While Hotline consumers participate in the cultural production of the risk of file-sharing, observations of perspective in action also reveal an effective reduction of that risk through the discursive articulation of collective risk. Hotline consumers reduce the risk of Hotline through discursively constructing collective identities. On the consumer level, the result is a significant gain of marketplace empowerment. Second, the present study theorizes the complex interfaces between the emergence of collective consumer risks, consumer empowerment and the consumption of technological products and networks. The bounded anonymity of cyberspace and other virtual contexts rapidly re-organizes the risk relationships that structure the power relations between consumers and marketers. Third, and finally, the study develops the ecology of consumer risk, a novel perspective on the field of forces and risk relations within contemporary consumption that advocates the systematic study of consumer risk using interdisciplinary methods of inquiry and inscription. Implications of these issues for our understanding of the relations between risk, culture and consumption are discussed.

The Echo Chamber

Listening to John Kerry concede on the radio, I was reading this Salon article by Andrew Leonard: Trapped in the echo chamber. Maybe it was starting to use Findory Blogory a couple of months ago, but I know I wasn’t surprised by this outcome. Ah, well. Once more into the breach.

Early this year, as part of the Howard Dean campaign’s postmortem, David Weinberger wrote a piece in Salon criticizing the argument that the Internet facilitates echo chambers. Echo chambers, so the argument goes, are places where like-minded people talk to one another, nobody ever changes anyone else’s mind and true diversity of opinion is exchanged for an infinitude plenitude of ideologically identical communities. The Internet, say critics, is really, really good at providing logical support for such places.

Weinberger’s central point is that there are good reasons to have gathering places for like-minded individuals, one of which is that people who agree on founding principles can then move on to discuss more subtle nuances that are themselves diverse — a bunch of Kerry supporters thrashing out get-out-the-vote strategies, for example.

That’s all well and good, but the problem with the argument, I think, is that it underplays how easy it is to let an Internet site of like-mindedness form a nice, soft cocoon of intellectual safety around one’s head. […]

[…] What I find disturbing, however, is how easy the Internet has made it not just to Google the fact that I need when I need it, but to get the mind-set I want when I want it.

I really think I need to get out more, now. Perhaps if I’d spent less time at Daily Kos and more time talking to people who live in Alabama I’d have been less surprised by the election results. And perhaps I’d be better prepared to deal with them.

Some Wireless Machinations Concluded

Cellular Firms End Dispute Over Airwaves – a look at the making of spectrum policy

The agreement is a victory for Nextel, which in July received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to give back some of its airwaves and make pay $3.2 billion more in exchange for new, valuable airwaves.

Reston-based Nextel, which is best known for the walkie-talkie service on its cell phones, will stop challenging use of the phrase “push to talk” by Verizon Wireless and other wireless providers to market their own versions of the service. Other terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

[…] The agreement is a victory for Nextel, which in July received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to give back some of its airwaves and make pay $3.2 billion more in exchange for new, valuable airwaves.

Starbucks’ Music Retailing

Would You Like an Extra Shot of Music With That Macchiato?

Like all that chain’s music ventures, the “Genius Loves Company” album and the decision to sell customized CD’s grew out of the belief that Starbucks regulars – mostly 25-to-49-year-olds with the kind of disposable income that allows them to spend up to several dollars for coffee or tea a few times a week – are poorly served by radio stations and record stores attuned to teenage tastes. At a time when Starbucks contends that its customers don’t have convenient ways to find out about undiscovered artists, “we feel we have the opportunity to present the individual with a new option,” Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment, said.

In presenting those options, Starbucks is catering to its core customers. “We do not want to be in the Britney Spears business,” Starbucks’ chairman, Howard Schultz, said. Unlike most record stores, Starbucks has a merchandising strategy to sell an experience along with a product. And as in its coffee business, it is so far enjoying the margins that go with that: most albums at Starbucks sell for more than $15 each, while many traditional music outlets are under pressure to cut CD prices.

Mr. Schultz said he believed that the chain’s music ventures would become profitable, but it might be more difficult for Starbucks to establish itself in the digital music business than to spotlight a few individual CD’s. So far, its efforts to sell items other than coffee have had mixed results.