January 27, 2005

Frankfurt Court Shields P2P-er’s Name [3:21 pm]

German court protects P2P ne’er-do-well

ISPs are not obliged to reveal the identity of internet users who offer downloads of music files on the web, a Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt ruled this week.

The Court overturned a lower court order to reveal personal information about an ISP customer who operated an illegal music server from his home.

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A Call To/From The Middle? [12:19 pm]

A slam on Public Knowledge’s Gigi Sohn and the state of the P2P debate - senselessly polarized like so many others (and not particularly helped by this kind of article): Content vs. file sharers leaves us out

For years I have sought not world domination (I leave that to James Bond villains), but rather a pragmatic, middle-ground voice in this debate. I thought I had found one in 2002, when a nonprofit public advocacy group called Public Knowledge was born. I knew the founder, Gigi Sohn, and I respected her greatly. I still do. But it was what Gigi said back then that really resonated with me.

At an event her new group held with the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., in May of that year, Gigi [Sohn] gave a speech about how most of us weren’t represented in the digital content debate. She promised to use her group to bridge the gap between the content industry and the file sharers. She said she would speak for citizens and consumers.

I had been covering the high-tech policy community as a reporter for years by then, including a stint with News.com, so I should have seen the red flags. For instance, one should always be wary of someone claiming to speak for consumers. You and I are consumers, but can you remember the last time you voted for a “consumer representative”? I can’t either.

[...] I watched the Induce Act debate with some frustration. I sympathized with the bill’s backers, who wanted to target companies designed to profit from the criminal behavior of others. I also sympathized with those in the technology community who feared that such legislation could lead to unintended consequences. There were some involved in that debate, including a few software representatives, who tried to work out a compromise. But Gigi made it clear from the beginning that her only goal was to ensure the Induce Act never left the Senate Judiciary Committee. She accomplished that goal and bragged about it in a recent e-mail soliciting donations.

It may be impossible to bridge the gap between red states and blue states. But as we enter the 109th Congress with the digital content debate very much alive, I’ll be looking for anyone who wants to join me in seeking that elusive middle ground.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation’s brief in support of the petitioners in MGM v. Grokster (i.e., supporting the RIAA and MPAA against Grokster)

Later: Copyfight weighs in - Smearing Gigi; even later - Copyfight points to Gigi’s response: Getting real about the Grokster case

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UK ‘Net Regulation Discussions [9:37 am]

Net regulation ’still possible’

Lord Currie, chairman of super-regulator Ofcom, told the panel that protecting audiences would always have to be a primary concern for the watchdog.

Despite having no remit for the regulation of net content, disquiet has increased among internet service providers as speeches made by Ofcom in recent months hinted that regulation might be an option.

At the debate, organised by the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), Lord Currie did not rule out the possibility of regulation.

“The challenge will arise when boundaries between TV and the internet truly blur and then there is a balance to be struck between protecting consumers and allowing them to assess the risks themselves,” he said.

Adopting the rules that currently exist to regulate TV content or self-regulation, which is currently the practice of the net industry, will be up for discussion.

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CNN on the DVD Format Wars [9:34 am]

The battle over next generation DVDs [pdf]

For now, Hollywood’s allegiances are split. Disney and major video game makers like Electronic Arts and Vivendi/Universal Games say they favor Blu-ray, which equipment makers led by Sony have spent years — and about $1 billion — developing.

Toshiba and other HD DVD developers have won the backing of more movie studios in recent months, with Warner Bros., Universal and Paramount all publicly embracing the technology.

Other studios so far have been noncommittal. “We are trying to play both of them off against each other,” said Fox’s [president Peter] Chernin. Calling today’s DVD “one of the leakiest copyright protections known to man,” Chernin said the company is leaning toward Blu-ray but will ultimately pick whichever format is more secure.

Both technologies claim to have strong piracy safeguards. Their primary differences are in price and storage capacity.

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Technologies, Utility and Control [9:24 am]

My wife recently bought me one of these new green laser pointers from ThinkGeek. She was in a real hurry to get it and, when I asked her why, she indicated that she expected that they would be banned soon.

At the time, I thought she was overreacting to the reports about lasers and airline pilots, but this article makes me think she might be right after all, despite my own suspicion that it would take extraordinary effort to actually “hit” one’s target with such a device: Laser Pointer Abuse Threatens Air Safety [pdf]

The government does not regulate sales of lasers, and no laws restrict their use, though laser pointers have been banned from many public places, such as sports arenas.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates the manufacture of laser products and rates them in four categories based on the power of the beam. Beams in CD and DVD players are in category 1, the lowest. Laser pointers are in category 3, and industrial laser equipment is in category 4.

What’s changed is the availability of powerful laser pointers. About a dozen years ago, a pointer with a red beam sold for about $600. Today, consumers can get a similar one for a key chain for $3.95 — batteries included.

The popularity of red laser pointers is now being overtaken by green pointers, which are visible over a much longer range.

[...] But just as red lasers were used by drug dealers to harass police helicopters and by sports fanatics to distract basketball players taking free throws, green ones have been put to ill use. And with their longer range, experts say, green lasers pose a real danger because they can render pilots temporarily blind.

[...] But the controversy hasn’t hurt business. In fact, John Acres, whose company, Bigha, sold the laser that was pointed at the plane in Teterboro, said the attention has brought in new customers.

“We’ve got more orders. We are sold out,” said Acres, whose company is in Corvallis, Ore. “The whole industry has shot up because of this.”

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Innovation: GovTrack [9:04 am]

Good thing (a) the US doesn’t yet allow database copyright and (b) US government data can’t be copyrighted. But imagine the opportunities: How Did They Vote? Updates by E-Mail of Congressional Ayes and Nays

GovTrack differentiates itself from other sites devoted to Congress both by being free and by being fresh: it sends users e-mail updates anytime there’s activity on legislation they want to monitor.

GovTrack lets users track activity of specific legislators. It can also send updates via RSS, or Real Simple Syndication. The site collects information from Thomas (thomas.loc.gov), the Library of Congress’s legislation-tracking site, and the official sites of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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Music Sharing: Public Performance [9:01 am]

IPods Act as D.J.’s at Clubs Where Patrons Call the Tunes

Nic Nepo, the manager inquiring about the folk-punk band the Pogues, oversees an iPod night every Tuesday at his bar, the Tonic Room, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. On a typical night, about 10 people bring their iPods loaded with a special playlist for the occasion. They sign up, wait for their turn and then plug into the Tonic Room’s sound system. They have 15 minutes to wow other customers or simply soothe their own souls.

[...] The recording industry hasn’t reacted negatively to the iPod nights, even though the format sidesteps traditional methods of playing music at bars and clubs.

Mr. Nepo said that the license from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers that establishments use to cover the music played by D.J.’s should also cover iPod owners acting as D.J.’s for a night.

[...] Most of the iPod fanatics interviewed seemed certain that iPod nights were a trend that would catch on in a big way, enabling a customer to rise, for a moment, to the status of star D.J., or use music as a way to strike up a conversation or a flirtation.

One customer at the Tonic Room asked if the bar would ever charge for the evening. “We don’t want to have people pay to play their own music,” Mr. Nepo said. “That would be terrible.”

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Continuing Effort To Move Music To A Controlled Network [8:58 am]

With New Music Software, Cellphones May Start to Mix It Up a Little

THE cellphone already serves as a camera, a calendar and a portable arcade. But it could take on a new set of uses if a group of audio engineers, software designers and marketers has its way.

These music technologists are pushing new programs that are turning the cellphone into a palm-size answer to the turntable, or a slimmed-down recording studio on the go. In time, the group hopes, the software could recast the phone as a replacement for the electric guitar.

[...] So far, most of the mobile music activity has been overseas. MTV International and Motorola have put together a program to blend elements of two songs into a ring tone mash-up. In England, EMI Music and the mobile carrier Orange recently signed a deal so that the carrier’s users could remix tracks from Kelis, Gorillaz and other artists using Orange’s Fireplayer software.

But allowing songs to be broken down into their musical building blocks, then rejiggered by fans, isn’t a step all labels, or all artists, are willing to take. Phil Murphy, a former executive at Sony Music Europe and Warner Music Asia Pacific and now an independent music and technology consultant, believes they are fighting a coming tide.

“We’re moving from a static world, where record companies give you prepackaged music, to a much broader suite of offerings: weird mixes, jammings, even access to the core tracks of a recording,” he said.

Related: the porn biz continues to innovate - Gives New Meaning to ‘Phone Sex’ [pdf]

“Rock stars make music tones, porn stars make moan tones,” said Dennis Adamo, head of Wicked Wireless. “We thought it would be an interesting novel approach of introducing new content to the mobile users.”

Also some CNN coverage with a picture of Ms. Jameson: Porn star hawks mobile ‘moan tones’ [pdf]

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Another Culture Shift [8:48 am]

The end of the three poster science fair presentation? PowerPoint Goes to the Fair

STUDENTS in Dan Carroll’s honors physics class at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va., turned in their science projects this week. Some of them prepared their work the way generations of students have done, with labels and charts pasted onto display boards of a prescribed size.

But others were able to bypass last-minute trips to the store for cardboard, glue sticks and markers, because Mr. Carroll encourages the use of PowerPoint software.

Powerpoint ubiquity - <sigh>

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OT: If Not Prohibited, It’s OK? [8:45 am]

First, we get a new dictat on torture, now we get a new one that forbids paying commentators to support government policies: Bush Prohibits Paying of Commentators

The message? What is not prohibited is acceptable? Isn’t that what got us the corporate accounting excesses of the recent years? Is that really what we stand for?

Sorry - it’s an off-topic rant, but really… Here’s the NYTimes editorial: The Best Coverage Money Can Buy; and Maureen Dowd’s Love for Sale

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January 26, 2005

Technological Alienation: Cameras [3:53 pm]

Another technological “advance,” purportedly to promote privacy - and introducing an opportunity for a new kind of architecture of control: HP focuses on paparazzi-proof cameras

The good news is you can keep the camera in your cell phone. The bad news is anyone who wants to can turn it off.

At least that’s the way it might work if technology described by Hewlett-Packard makes it to market. A recent patent application from the computing giant describes a system in which digital cameras would be equipped with circuits that could be remotely triggered to blur the face in any images captured by the camera.

U.S. patent application 20040202382, filed in April 2003 and published in October 2004, describes a system in which an image captured by a camera could be automatically modified based on commands sent by a remote device.

In short, anyone who doesn’t want their photo taken at a particular time could hit a clicker to ensure that any cameras or camera-equipped gadgets in range got only a fuzzy outline of their face.

Slashdot: No Pictures, Thanks

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Mashups Aren’t Just Digital [11:52 am]

Making Art From Bits and Pieces

Every day from 1964 through 2000, Mr. Evans collected flotsam and jetsam that caught his eye on the streets of the East Village. He picked up playing cards, business cards, ticket stubs, cigarette packs, fortune cookie fortunes, leaflets advertising rock bands and escort services, and labels for products like Cry Baby Table Grapes and Fitrite (”the Underwear of Modesty”). He also gathered political fliers, scraps of newspapers and magazines, ripped-up snapshots, matchbooks, foreign coins and bills, postcards, an angry note to an incense-burning neighbor, shreds of fabric and wrapping paper.

And every day, Mr. Evans would sit down with an inexpensive notebook, turn to a blank page and paste some of this discarded ephemera against a painted background, creating a collage. Then he rubber-stamped the day’s date on it.

By the end of 2000, Mr. Evans, now 72, had created more than 10,000 daily collages, filling more than 100 notebooks.

See the slideshow

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P2P Dreaming [11:47 am]

Peer-to-peer nets ‘here to stay’ - just need to toss thebaby out with the bathwater:

he music and film industries have started some big legal cases against owners of legitimate P2P networks - which are not illegal in themselves - and of individuals accused of distributing pirated content over networks.

But they have slowly realised that P2P is a good way to distribute content, said Travis Kalanick, founder and chairman of P2P network Red Swoosh, and soon they are all going to want a slice of it.

They are just waiting to come up with “business models” that work for them, which includes digital rights management and copy-protection standards.

Related: US peer-to-peer pirates convicted

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Another DRM Consortium [11:45 am]

BBC News reports on the formation of another technology/DRM consortium: Format wars could ‘confuse users’

Technology firms Sony, Philips, Matsushita and Samsung are developing a common way to stop people pirating digital music and video.

The firms want to make a system that ensures files play on the hardware they make but also thwarts illegal copying.

The move could mean more confusion for consumers already faced by many different, and conflicting, content control systems, experts warned.

They say there are no guarantees the system will even prevent piracy.

Others reporting include CNet (Home electronics giants launch antipiracy strategy) and The Register (CE vendors unite to develop DRM). Intertrust’s WWW site includes this press release:

Intertrust Technologies, Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics, and Sony Corporation today announced the formation of the Marlin Joint Development Association (the “Marlin JDA”) that will provide standard specifications for content management and protection for the consumer electronics industry. The Marlin JDA specifications will allow CE companies to build DRM clients for consumer devices that support popular content distribution modes in the Internet, broadcast, and mobile vertical market segments. For consumers, Marlin-based devices will mean that they can enjoy appropriately licensed content on any device they deem convenient, independent of how they originally obtained that content.

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McAfee Firewall Patent [11:37 am]

BetaNews reports that McAfee has been awarded United States Patent: 6,839,852

Firewall system and method with network mapping capabilities


A system, method and computer program product are provided for tracing a traffic event utilizing a firewall. Initially, a firewall is executed on a local computer. Next, traffic events between the local computer and a remote computer over a network are monitored utilizing the firewall. Further, the traffic events are displayed utilizing the firewall. In use, at least one of the traffic events is traced utilizing the firewall. Moreover, a map of the trace is displayed for effectively conveying information about the traffic event.

Slashdot discussion: McAfee Granted Firewall Patent

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January 25, 2005

Why Blog? [11:28 am]

A nice summary that touches upon my own reasons for doing this, from the BBC: Academics give lessons on blogs [via Angela Booth's Writing Blog]

Blogging lecturers say the technology provides them with easy online web access to students and improves communication outside of the classroom.

[...] Esther Maccallum-Stewart, a Sussex University historian is one of the pioneering British academic bloggers who are using the technology to teach and carry out research.

[...] The web log on the war set up on the university web-server meant she could look up queries raised in her class and pass information on to the whole group rather than one person at a time.

“My research meant that I was working at more than one terminal, or was occasionally in places where I couldn’t take disks or apparatus with me,” she says.

“The weblog meant a place to store ideas, links and references.”

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MGM v. Grokster Briefs [10:32 am]

The EFF is posting the briefs here: EFF: MGM v. Grokster. Lots of reading ahead (I’m still catching up and I have a deadline today!), and the blogging commentary has started up in earnest.

EFF is defending StreamCast Networks, the company behind the Morpheus peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software, in an important case that will be heard before the Supreme Court of the United States on March 29, 2005.

Twenty-eight of the world’s largest entertainment companies brought the lawsuit against the makers of the Morpheus, Grokster, and KaZaA software products, aiming to set a precedent to use against other technology companies (P2P and otherwise). As we noted in our arguments before the Ninth Circuit, the case raises a question of critical importance at the border between copyright and innovation: When should the distributor of a multi-purpose tool be held liable for the infringements that may be committed by end-users of the tool?

Ed’s read a few; Derek, a few more - A, B, C

Later: Washington Post’s U.S. Asks High Court to Curb File Swapping [pdf] and Entertainment Industry Reaffirms Anti-P2P Stance [pdf]; Wired News’ Hollywood Ready for P2P Showdown

Later: Disparate Cast Lobbies Court To Restrict File Sharing [pdf]

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The Boston Globe on Mash-Ups [7:20 am]

A little bit of this, a little bit of that (sidebar: Mix and mash) [combined pdf]

Here’s a bit of the wishful thinking that continues to cause unrest:

Neither Enlow nor Cronin view mash-ups as a fad, but as yet another innovative means for deconstructing and reinventing existing music. Since most producers are making mash-ups for fun, not profit, Cronin believes this may limit any legal ramifications. Yet, even cease-and-desist orders are unlikely to curtail the burgeoning popularity of mash-ups among DJs, producers, or audiences, the DJs maintain.

”The mash-up scene is subversive by its very nature,” Cronin says, ‘’so I think people will keep doing it.”

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January 24, 2005

Post-Powell Punditry [6:01 pm]

Whither the FCC in the post-Powell era? Lots of guesses and observations out there. Here are a few of what will be a growing list:

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Poland’s Still Causing Unrest [5:58 pm]

(Sorry about the paucity of postings — being away for over a week leads to some substantial backlogs to clear)

Yahoo! News - Fresh Delay Hits EU Software Patent Bill [pdf]

Poland, a large EU member whose backing is crucial for the adoption of the proposed rules, told Reuters last week it was not ready to back the legislation amid fears it could open the door to the patenting of pure computer software.

[...] Poland’s resistance delays the procedure for the second time in two months, which diplomats said may reopen discussions and pave the way for more aggressive lobbying from the Open Source community of independent software developers.

The Register: Poland blocks software patents again; BBC News: New delay hits EU software laws

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