February 1, 2005

Cory Having Problems With Apple’s DVD [7:13 pm]

In Apple restricting DVD region-changes — voluntarily! — UPDATED, Cory describes just how cowed even a firm like Apple has become in the face of the copyright industries. I have always wondered what happened when you cycled through the five region encoding changes you’re allowed with the Mac OS X DVD player - now, sadly, I know it’s not good.

What’s more, once the region-switches have run out, computer companies can reset your counter at a service depot a further five times. That means that you get 25 region-switches. This sucks pretty bad: I moved from San Francisco to London with hundreds of Region 1 DVDs and now when I buy a movie in the shop, it’s Region 2. That means that if I watch a movie from my US collection once a week, and once from my UK connection the next week, I’ll run out of region switches in three months. Three months after moving to the UK, I’ll have to throw out half my DVDs.

So, basically, I don’t watch my DVDs. Sometimes, though, I’m weak, and I tune into one and squander one of my precious region switches. Now my nearly-new Powerbook has only one switch left out of its initial five, and so I brought it to Apple to get them to reset the counter. It needed service anyway (I’m on my fifth or sixth screen replacement for the defect in the 15′ machines that causes the ‘white blobs’ to obscure the display), so it seemed like a good time to do it.

I know that Apple is allowed to do this. How do I know? Well, when EFF went to the Copyright Office and asked it to give us an exemption to the DMCA to make tools for watching out-of-region DVDs, Time-Warner showed up and told us this:

‘And, the way it works, and I apologize because it’s a little bit complicated, the consumer can set it five times. After the fifth time that they’ve reset it, they do have an ability to reset it again, but they have to bring the drive to an authorized dealer or an authorized service representative, who can then authorize an additional set of five changes, and then they can bring it back for a second, for a third, fourth and fifth set of authorized changes. So you can change it 25 times in total, but you have to go back for each set of five. You only get the first five when you buy the ROM drive itself.’

That was Dean Marks, from AOL Time Warner. Straight from the horse’s mouth, testifying to the US government.

But when my Powerbook was ready for pickup, Apple left me a voicemail saying that they couldn’t reset my DVD player, that doing so would void my warranty.

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OT: Speaking of Distribution Models…. [5:39 pm]

Thanks to whoever stuck a copy of Polski Fiat’s The Luddite Spy in my door handle. After the day I’ve had…. Anyway, thanks.

1/13/05 Happy New Year! There will be an abundance of interesting events coming up soon. First, we have loads of CDs for all you good boys and girls in Polskiland. how can you get your hands on one? We are offering them online at CD Baby, we will sell them at gigs, and we might just give you one if you track us down and ask us sweetly.

Actually, I found this even more entertaining:

Polski FIAT is a quirky, nuanced and energetic indie rock band based in Boston, MA. You’re basic gritty 3-piece anti-jam band, Polski cranks out an onslaught of arrestingly distinct and surrupticiously witty songs, often changing gears 6 or 7 times in the span of a 2 minute long piece. All original, the band features a mélange of crunchy guitar progressions, dualing harmonies, lush computer sounds, and cerebral librettos to create a potent live show. The band obliquely proclaims its tunes as a novel genre called ‘Science Rock.’ This pioneering style meshes electronica with old fashioned rock ‘n roll to provide smart, danceable music. Polski deftly blends a vintage look and sound wth sophisticated and futuristic compositional elements in an attempt to be either postmodern or to poke fun at anyone silly enough to use terms like postmodern.

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First, Radio’s Compulsory License; Now It’s After MTV [8:09 am]

Another effort to reshape the economics of the recording business by monetizing another form of music promotion: Universal’s Second Chance to Make Video Pay

The Universal Music Group of Vivendi Universal says it will no longer provide music videos free, or at a nominal cost, to Internet and cable television services that are building a potentially giant business by playing videos on demand. Universal does not want to repeat what it considers the music industry’s ill-fated decision in the 1980’s to provide free videos to MTV.

The move may test the record company’s mettle against media giants like Yahoo Inc. and Time Warner.

[...] “Too many businesses have been built on the back of the content we produce,” said Universal’s chairman, Doug Morris. “So in the future, content we produce won’t just be provided for free for promotional purposes. People will have to pay if they’re going to use it.”

[...] Universal’s new move is the second time in 16 months that Mr. Morris has shaken up the sluggish recording industry by upsetting established practices. In 2003, Universal said it would slash its suggested retail prices by almost one-third in a bid to breathe new life into CD sales. The price cut drew catcalls from many small retailers that felt their margins being squeezed, but company executives said the pricing plan had been a success, noting that Universal’s album sales jumped about 7 percent last year, beating the industry’s overall increase of about 1.6 percent.

Mr. Morris’s action also adds a major record corporation to the swelling ranks of television networks and film studios that are squaring off against Comcast and other new purveyors of on-demand services over financial terms.

As for the licensing income the record labels do receive from MTV, it is generally not shared with the labels’ artists. But Universal said it planned to pay a share of the fees it gets from on-demand services to artists and to music publishers.

Also CNet News’ Price tag added to online music videos

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Sisyphus’ Progress: Not Much [7:56 am]

The confounding consequences of Can-Spam: Law Barring Junk E-Mail Allows a Flood Instead

Since the Can Spam Act went into effect in January 2004, unsolicited junk e-mail on the Internet has come to total perhaps 80 percent or more of all e-mail sent, according to most measures. That is up from 50 percent to 60 percent of all e-mail before the law went into effect.

To some antispam crusaders, the surge comes as no surprise. They had long argued that the law would make the spam problem worse by effectively giving bulk advertisers permission to send junk e-mail as long as they followed certain rules.

“Can Spam legalized spamming itself,” said Steve Linford, the founder of the Spamhaus Project, a London organization that is one of the leading groups intent on eliminating junk e-mail. And in making spam legal, he said, the new rules also invited flouting by those intent on being outlaws.

Not everyone agrees that the Can Spam law is to blame, and lawsuits invoking the new legislation - along with other suits using state laws - have been mounted in the name of combating the problem. Besides Microsoft, other large Internet companies like AOL and Yahoo have used the federal law as the basis for suits.

BBC News’ Junk e-mails on relentless rise

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Lessig & Moglen’s New Gig [7:50 am]

Lawyers ride shotgun for open source

Eben Moglen, a Columbia University law professor who has represented the Free Software Foundation in legal cases, said that he will help run the new Software Freedom Law Center, which is set to be announced on Tuesday.

The center said in a statement that it will employ two full-time intellectual property attorneys, who will help provide consulting services to nonprofit open-source organizations. The staff count is expected to expand to four later in 2005. The help they provide could include training lawyers, supporting litigation, dealing with licensing problems and keeping managing contributions to open-source projects, the center said.

“The Law Center is being established to provide legal services to protect the legitimate rights and interests of free and open-source software projects and developers, who often do not have the means to secure the legal services they need,” Moglen said in a statement.

NYTimes’ coverage: An Effort to Help Free-Software Developers Avoid Suits

Slashdot: New Legal Center for Open Source Projects

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