CNet’s Cooper on MGM v. Grokster

Charles Cooper on the war on file sharing: Why punish the technology?

Why punish the technology because some people use it for unlawful means? Speaking as a consumer (and occasional file downloader–legally, of course!), it should be as easy to use content legally as it is illegally. […]

[…] Ever since Napster got closed down, the content industry’s strategy for dealing with the peer-to-peer challenge can be summed up in three words: Sue the bastards. Everyone of sane mind can agree there’s a need to address digital piracy. But how about trying something more nuanced than a sledgehammer approach?

Viral Marketing Games

Fake Commercial Spots Spread Quickly on the Internet (CNet’s version) – Democratizing the semiotics of product promotion, or just a new way to be manipulated?

Viral marketing, in which low-profile ads spread quickly online as people share them, has become an intriguing strategy for many marketers trying to look beyond traditional 30-second television commercials.

But marketers are not the only ones taking the viral approach. Because the Web and cheap video technology keep making it easier for anyone with some knowledge and equipment to produce spots that look almost like real commercials, brand managers may find their carefully calibrated marketing messages increasingly being tweaked, teased, spoiled or entirely undermined.

Consumers, on the other hand, can now wonder whether each supposed hoax is an authorized, but deniable, below-the-radar marketing ploy.

The spoof Polo ad [QuickTime] that has revved up the discussion lately.
CNN Money: Report: VW to sue makers of bomb ad [pdf]; Lee and Dan’s WWW site

Later: Xeni says VW files complaint against makers of “suicide bomber” ad

Later still Fake Ad Creators Issue an Apology

“The creators regret the distribution of the film, will not publicize it further and apologize unreservedly for the damage caused to Volkswagen,” it said, adding that the company would now drop legal action against them.

Media Consolidation Receives A Blow

U.S. Backs Off Relaxing Rules for Big Media

Media companies hoping to expand their television station holdings and to own both TV stations and newspapers in the same markets suffered a setback yesterday when the Bush administration decided to abandon its challenge to a ruling that blocked the relaxation of ownership rules.

The Justice Department will not ask the Supreme Court to consider a decision last year by a federal appeals court in Philadelphia that sharply criticized the move toward deregulation and ordered the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider its action. The decision is a final slap to Michael K. Powell, the departing chairman of the F.C.C., who had advocated the changes. […]

[…] Jonathan S. Adelstein and Michael J. Copps, the commission’s two Democrats, who opposed the changes to the rules, applauded the administration’s decision, which they suggested was a sharp rebuke of the agency under Mr. Powell.

“This is a recognition of the failure of the commission to adequately justify its rules and is a recognition of its failure to protect the public interest,” Mr. Adelstein said. “This is an historic decision for the media democracy movement.”

See also the Washington Post’s FCC Drops Bid to Relax Media Rules [pdf]

“Droit du Shoveleur”

Kelly’s parking pitch hits national arena [pdf]

Not since he was the angry voice of South Boston’s campaign against busing 30 years ago has [City Councillor James M. Kelly been such a hot interview. The fight he’s picked with Mayor Thomas M. Menino over Southie’s sacred you-shovel-it-you-own-it tradition of saving parking spaces after snowstorms has become a national story.

It’s just the kind of spectacle that resonates these days, featuring characters whose accents are straight from central casting, and with a story line played as both epic and ridiculous. The tales of ironing boards and household furniture reserving curbside spots has become a novelty in places where parking is not so scarce and winters not so snow-packed. And after a bitter presidential campaign in which the Northeast showed itself to be out of step with much of the rest of the country, this part of the the world offers another curiosity.

“By itself, it’s not life or death, but it gets at this great cultural divide,” said Bill Radke, cohost of “Weekend America,” a slice-of-American-life radio show that has interviewed Kelly twice in the past month. “It’s not just about saving your parking spot with a chair. It’s something we can talk about when were really talking about a bunch of other values and approaches to life.”

Besides, Radke added, “It’s funny.”

[…] Turns out a couple other cities have similar traditions, including Philadelphia and Chicago. (One Windy City newspaper columnist has called the local version “droit du shoveleur,” pidgin French for “the rights of the shoveler.”) But none has a mayor willing to take on the tradition as Menino has. And only Boston has Kelly, who rarely shies away from a fight.

Also in today’s paper: Menino guarded on law of the shovel: No crackdown yet on saving of spaces [pdf]

If only the stakes in the DRM fight were the same. (See It Snows, You Shovel, You Mark; OMG – Term Extension Proposals?! and DRM Is A Folding Chair)

Later: Not making a lot of progress, it appears, but some great pictures – X still marks spot [pdf]

OSDIR.com on Hymn

JHymn Goes Behind Atoms and Apple To Bring DRM-Free Music

OSDir.com: What do you have to say in response to those who take issue with hymn? I’m thinking about end users, like iPod/Apple fans, who insist Apple’s DRM is “no big deal” and what you’re doing is “wrong” — not the music labels, who obviously don’t like things like hymn?

[FutureProof]: What I say is that all I’m trying to do is get the same flexibility to use my music that I’d have if I purchased a CD and ripped it myself, and that my efforts aid piracy no more than the existence of CDs aid piracy.

You run into problems using third-party products like EyeHome and Squeezebox and losing authorizations when computers break or crash.

As DRM schemes go, Apple’s is, I must say, one of the best for end users. But that’s like saying “the handcuffs are mighty comfortable handcuffs.”

Later – Slashdot’s Cracking iTunes’ DRM with JHymn

Alternative Business Models

The sweetest music you’ve never heard [pdf]

“I don’t think you can go into the record business [today] and think you’re going to sell a million records,” says [Ken] Shipley, co-founder of the re-issue label the Numero Group, from his home base in Chicago, Illinois.

“The basis of our philosophy is to have loyal people [who seek out the brand]. That’s more valuable than selling a million copies of one record.”

[…] Shipley obviously cares a great deal, and sees Rhino as a model. “That level of quality is what I see [for Numero],” he says. To that end, the CDs are beautifully packaged and filled with informed liner notes.

So if Numero sells a few thousand copies of “The Capsoul Label” or “Camino Del Sol,” that’s fine with him. He just wants to do it right.

“The windfall will be on a karmic level,” he says. “We’re helping to change the lives [of the forgotten musicians]. It humbles you in a lot of ways.”

The Music Industry Mindset

So, how to reconcile the music industry’s desire to use the latest and greatest technology to promote music, while complaining about the latest and greatest technology’s influence upon their distribution models? On the one hand, they love innovation; on the other, they wish it would go away. “Who is John Galt?”

This CNN article describes/promotes the Fraunhofer Institut’s latest MP3 variant, but the real issue is about more than just the delivery medium: Music’s future: Smaller, faster, richer [pdf]

[T]echnology is an increasing part of the business, especially as consumers show an unquenchable appetite for on-demand and on-the-go music.

[…] After a four-year slump, global sales of recorded music increased last year largely through the success of fee-charging online services and the expansion of portable music devices like Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod.

Now, music industry honchos hope gadget makers, software powerhouses like Microsoft and cell phone companies will help deliver tunes to a fee-paying public.

Perhaps the biggest debate is how listeners will receive their music. With digitized music increasingly delivered through the Internet or mobile phone, the CD could one day go the way of the 8-track.

Especially if it means that pesky RIPping can be taken out of the picture, right?

MPAA Lawsuits, Again

Speaking of lawsuits, as well as more info about Parent File Scan (see entry immediately below) see: MPAA files new film-swapping suits

Hollywood studios filed a second round of lawsuits against online movie-swappers on Wednesday, stepping up legal pressure on the file-trading community.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) also made available a new free software tool so parents can scan their computers for file-swapping programs and for movie or music files which may be copyrighted.

Slashdot: Round Two for MPAA Lawsuit

The MPAA Releases Their Dream Tool

Go to RespectCopyrights.org, where you can now download Parent FileScan

Parent File Scan software helps consumers check whether their computers have peer-to-peer software and potentially infringing copies of motion pictures and other copyrighted material. Removing such material can help consumers avoid problems frequently caused by peer-to-peer software. The information generated by the software is made available only to the program’s user, and is not shared with or reported to the MPAA or any other body.

Talk about cognitive dissonance. p2pnet reports that mostly it flags all media files as potentially infringing. And after all, aren’t most of the “problems frequently caused by peer-to-peer software” the lawsuits that one faces? Seems like there might be other ways to limit those pesky lawsuits.

Oops – wait a minute — that’s only supposed to be alluded to in the press releases about lawsuits and public “education,” not in writeups about “helpful” software.

Anyway, you might get that if you elected to read the EULA:

IN NO EVENT SHALL THE MPAA, ANY OF ITS AFFILIATES, ANY OF ITS MEMBER COMPANIES OR ANY OF THEIR OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, REPRESENTATIVES, INFORMATION PROVIDERS, SUBCONTRACTORS OR LICENSORS (COLLECTIVELY “MPAA PARTIES”) BE LIABLE IN CONNECTION WITH THIS WEBSITE OR ANY CONTENT, PRODUCTS, TOOLS OR SOFTWARE MADE AVAILABLE ON ANY WEBSITE TO WHICH THIS WEBSITE IS LINKED FOR (A) ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR OTHER DAMAGES, OR ANY DAMAGES DUE TO LOSS OF PROFITS, LOSS OF BUSINESS, LOSS OF USE OR DATA, OR INTERRUPTION OF BUSINESS (REGARDLESS OF THE FORM OF ACTION AND REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE MPAA OR ITS MEMBER COMPANIES HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES); OR (B) ANY AMOUNTS IN EXCESS OF THE ACTUAL, AGGREGATE AMOUNT PAID BY YOU TO ACCESS THIS WEBSITE. THE FOREGOING STATES THE ENTIRE LIABILITY OF THE MPAA PARTIES. THE LIMITATION OF LIABILITY CONTAINED IN THIS AGREEMENT IS A FUNDAMENTAL PART OF THE BASIS OF EACH PARTY’S BARGAIN HEREUNDER, AND NEITHER PARTY WOULD ENTER INTO THIS AGREEMENT ABSENT SUCH LIMITATIONS.

Click through to get to DtecNet Software, who tells us:

Thank you for choosing to Download DtecNet Parent File Scan.

Parent File Scan is brought to you by DtecNet Software ApS. This free program allows you to search your computer for installed P2P applications as well as movie and music files. You will then be given the option to remove the identified applications and delete infringing movie and music files in a few easy steps. The program does not distinguish between legal and illegal copies, as it is up to the user to determine, whether the files found by the program have been acquired legally, or whether the material should be deleted. Information generated by the program will be made available only to the program’s user and will not be shared with or reported to DtecNet Software or any other body.

Oh, yes – and it’s only for Windows boxes. The FAQ is quite a read, too.

Q: How do I recover deleted files?

A: You can’t. Once files are deleted, they cannot be recreated.

Q: Is it possible to hide files from the program, by changing their name or extension?

A: No. The program uses advanced binary recognition, locating all known multimedia file types and P2P applications, regardless of their name and extension.

Finally, from the About, a look at DtecNet’s business basis:

Copyright and the Internet. Two concepts, by many considered irreconcilable. How do you protect the free flow of information without breaking the financial backbone of the copyright holders?

All content on the web has an original source and a lot of the content is protected by laws of intellectual property rights or copyright.

Since the birth of the Internet as we know it, the debate has been going on. In just one year DtecNet has gained an advantageous position in the growing market for technical and legal protection of copyright considering content distributed on the World Wide Web. Through development of unique technical innovations and the ability to adapt the different perspectives of the stakeholders, this small Danish start-up has managed to create a way of seeing the possibilities of the web, rather than its limitations.

Really?

Later: Slashdot’s MPAA Releases Software For Parents; also, Ed Felten’s Review of MPAA’s “Parent File Scan” Software; BBC : Movie body targets children’s PCs