March 13, 2005

A BitTorrent Review [6:16 pm]

BitTorrent May Prove Too Good to Quash [pdf]

Most file-sharing programs aren’t the most upstanding citizens of the computing world. Yes, the entertainment industry hates them for the way they’re used to download movies and albums without paying — but many of these programs also fail to treat their own users well, often installing an unadvertised, unwanted load of advertising and spyware.

BitTorrent is different. This free, open-source program offers a spyware- and nuisance-free installation. And while it is certainly handy for downloading movies and other copyrighted material for free, it’s also increasingly used to distribute software and entertainment legally.

This makes BitTorrent (www.bittorrent.com) not only a fascinating test case for legal experts, but it also looks a lot like the logical fusion of peer-to-peer file-sharing and traditional downloading. It’s too robust to stamp out with lawsuits, but too effective not to adopt for commercial use.

[...] “There are good and bad uses for this technology,” said David Green, the MPAA’s vice president for technology and new media. The association is instead focusing on the people who have gone out of their way to help others download movies — “the people who are bringing together the people who want infringing material,” as he put it.

This represents a shift from previous practices, in which the MPAA, the Recording Industry Association of America and other groups have tried to have entire products — for example, the first Diamond Rio MP3 player or the networked ReplayTV video recorder — taken off the market.

One reason for this change of heart may be that in BitTorrent, unlike many other file-sharing programs, legitimate use doesn’t amount to a token minority. It’s central to this program’s existence.

Later: Slashdot’s BitTorrent May Prove Too Good to Quash

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More Sony Dissection [6:11 pm]

How the iPod Ran Circles Around the Walkman

The predigital Walkman evolved over the years into more than an astounding 1,120 models. But its essential nature remained unchanged: it was dumb hardware. When Apple Computer introduced the iPod in November 2001, Steve Jobs described his new player as “the 21st-century Walkman.” With 98 years remaining in the century, that was an early call. But he was correct. The iPod in 2001 was a Walkman successor, but smarter, its hard drive easily navigated with well-designed software.

In April 2003, however, when the iTunes Music Store opened, the iPod became something else again: part of an ingeniously conceived blend of hardware, software and content that made buying and playing music ridiculously easy. Apple accomplished this feat by relying on its own expertise in the twin fields of hardware and software, but without going into the music business itself.

[...] At Sony, having both digital players and music in the same corporate family has actually been detrimental to its hardware interests. The music label directed the hardware group to make copying impossible, to the extent that until recently, customers could not enjoy on their Walkmans the music from their own legally bought CD’s that they had encoded in MP3 format.

Sony Connect, the late-arriving, woefully designed answer to the iTunes Music Store, still lamely insists on using Sony’s proprietary compression standard. Apple got away with holding to its own standard only because it got everything else right, and was early to boot. Sony Connect must lag somewhere around 300 million song sales behind Apple, but pretends otherwise.

Arguably, Walkman product managers are even more blind to market reality than those at Connect. Today, they are selling the 20-gigabyte Network Walkman for $50 more than the comparable iPod, even though it cannot use any music sold on Apple’s site or on those of the many competitors that use Microsoft’s widely licensed compression standard.

A company thrives when it has all that it needs to make a compelling product and is undistracted by fractiousness among divisions that resent being told to make decisions based upon family obligations, not market considerations. Mr. Jobs appreciates the advantages of keeping content separate from distribution. At Pixar, he’s in the digital movie business, which uses many skill sets that are used over at Apple, too. Yet he has elected to let the two live happy separate existences, without falling for the synergy myth.

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Some Peter Pan News [10:14 am]

The Great Ormon Street Hospital’s search for a writer to help sustain its cash flow from Barrie’s classic has found a writer to play ball: British Writer Chosen for ‘Peter Pan’ Sequel [pdf] (earlier Furdlog postings)

The Great Ormond Street hospital in London launched the search for a sequel last year to mark the centenary of the classic and to keep much needed funds flowing when the copyright runs out — in Europe in 2007 and in the United States in 2023.

[...] Barrie donated the rights to the hospital in 1929. They have since provided what it calls “a significant but confidential” source of income. He died in 1937.

“The primary objective was to create a new authoritative Peter Pan work that sets a new benchmark because the original work goes into the public domain in 2007 and we wanted to make sure the characters stayed alive,” said the hospital’s copyright lawyer Nigel Bennett.

The hospital will own the copyright to the new book. The advance and royalties will be shared equally between the hospital and the author.

Salon has the APWire report, which has some other information [pdf]

Later: BBC’s Briton to write Peter Pan sequel

The working title of the new story is Captain Pan, an indication of what happened to Peter Pan as he advanced in years.

The children’s hospital has said that the book must feature the original characters, including Peter, Wendy, Tinkerbell and Captain Hook.

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