March 15, 2005

Some Real Piracy [8:15 pm]

Police in Bollywood piracy raid

Dutch police have uncovered more than 140,000 pirated CDs and DVDs of popular Indian films and music in a string of simultaneous raids in Rotterdam.

Most of the products are believed to have originated in Pakistan, one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of pirated discs in the world.

Empty suitcases at one of the 13 shops suggested the discs were brought over in airline hand luggage.

Pakistan is believed to export more than 13m pirated discs every month.

CoCo thoughts, You’re Downloading Al-Qaeda!, echoing a favorite Modern Humorist graphic.

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Susan Crawford with Broadcast Flag Hearing News [8:05 pm]

Broadcast Flag: Tell Us Again About Your Standing [via Copyfight]

Good news from the DC Circuit today, which issued an opinion asking for further facts about petitioners’ right to be in front of them complaining about FCC’s jurisdiction in the broadcast flag matter. Everyone (including, apparently, the FCC) assumed quite reasonably that the petitioners had every right to be there — in other words, everyone thought petitioners had “standing.”

But the DC Circuit wasn’t so sure about it. [...]

[...] The court has given petitioners two weeks to provide statements of facts showing special harms caused by the broadcast flag rule — and has provided some helpful hints: show us whether any of your members are engaged in storing TV broadcasts and sending them to distant locations; show us whether you’ll be hindered in lawful copying and distribution; show us whether your member-educators (if you have any) will be hindered in distance education efforts.

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Apple Continues To Tighten iTunes’ DRM [7:59 pm]

Andrew Orlowski explains the issue in his own special way: Apple de-socializes iTunes

In iTunes, Rendezvous allows users on the same subnet to share their music - although this is limited to streaming only. But the most recent version of iTunes 4.71. restricts that streaming capability even further, and users aren’t happy, as this support discussion shows. It used to support five simultaneous listeners, but now iTunes only permits five listeners a day.

[...] Let’s have a quick reality check.

If you opened up iTunes, turned up the volume really loud on your Mac, and hit Play, you could “stream” to five people within earshot. And no one would bust down the door, except possibly the neighbors. Certainly not the RIAA’s paramilitaries.

Now fast forward to the “digital music revolution.” The revolution is really about lower marginal costs for the producers - which is turning out to mean higher profits, as the price hasn’t come down. For us, it means we get less for our faith - in this case, certainly much less than what old fashioned, speaker to ear, analog sound waves can give us.

Once again, “digital” is proving to be a synonym for “crap”.

[...] As Jim Griffin, along with many others, have pointed out - radio was a far greater “disruption” to rights holders than the internet. So get over it already, Technorecordings Corp. Technology companies are now producing stuff that works worse than it did before, is more expensive, and gives us less than what we already had. Rationality suggests that companies and industries that sell worse products either go out of business, or mend their ways. For the technology industry, which is fretting deeply about China, overproduction, and the public’s reluctance to indulge in another dot.com bubble, that’s a new and unwelcome challenge.

Copyfight’s thoughts: Johansen Creates DRM-Free Interface to iTunes; Slashdot’s Buying DRM-Free Songs From the ITMS; CNet: Hackers build back door into iTunes

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The Rise (Return?) of the Know-Nothings? [6:18 pm]

“Hey! I know how to narrow the gap in science and technology education in the US!” Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens [pdf]

Polls show that a large majority of Americans believe God alone created man or had a guiding hand. Advocates invoke the First Amendment and say the current campaigns are partly about respect for those beliefs.

“It’s an academic freedom proposal. What we would like to foment is a civil discussion about science. That falls right down the middle of the fairway of American pluralism,” said the Discovery Institute’s Stephen C. Meyer, who believes evolution alone cannot explain life’s unfurling. “We are interested in seeing that spread state by state across the country.”

[...] “If students only have one thing to consider, one option, that’s really more brainwashing,” said Duckett, who sent her children to Christian schools because of her frustration. Students should be exposed to the Big Bang, evolution, intelligent design “and, beyond that, any other belief that a kid in class has. It should all be okay.”

Hmmm - I know! “In the beginning, there was this Turtle…” — from I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus (liner notes)

Later: A very nice piece in the Washington Post: An Argument’s Mutating Terms [pdf]

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OT: Amusements In The Face Of The Onslaught [5:58 pm]

A Few Tips to Cope With Life’s Annoyances

When subscription cards fall from magazines Andrew Kirk is reading, he stacks them in a pile at the corner of his desk. At the end of each month, he puts them in the mail but leaves them blank so that the advertiser is forced to pay the business reply postage without gaining a new subscriber.

Life can involve big hardships, like being fired or smashing up your car. There is only so much you can do about them. But far more prevalent - and perhaps in the long run just as insidious - are life’s many little annoyances.

These, you can do something about.

[...] “They’re an integral part of how people cope,” said Prof. James C. Scott, who teaches anthropology and political science at Yale University, and the author of “Weapons of the Weak,” about the feigned ignorance, foot-dragging and other techniques Malaysian peasants used to avoid cooperating with the arrival of new technology in the 1970’s. “All societies have them, but they’re successful only to the extent that they avoid open confrontation.”

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Hollywood Targets A UK Citizen Over BitTorrent Site [5:54 pm]

Hollywood threatens to sue UK BitTorrent man for millions

Alexander Hanff had no idea Hollywood was keeping such a close eye on him. Then, last Saturday morning, a movie studio functionary arrived at his door. Hanff, still in his dressing gown and not yet full of coffee, opened the door, only to be served with a lawsuit by Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal City Studios and Warner Bros.

You may have already guessed Hanff’s supposed transgression. The movie studios suspect him of running a BitTorrent hub and helping people download copyrighted films via P2P technology. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of American) has gone after numerous BitTorrent hubs on similar charges and managed to shut many of them down. The plot here is a familiar one.

There are, however, a couple of factors that make Hanff’s story unique. For one, the US studios served Hanff papers at his home - in England. Secondly, Hanff, 31, owns the DVDR-Core domain name and pays for its server, but he has never actually administered the site. That’s done by a group of online friends that Hanff has never met in person. Lastly, Hanff plans to fight the movie studios, making him a rarity among BitTorrent hub owners.

[...] “Torrent files don’t contain any data,” Hanff said. “This is a search engine scenario. Why aren’t Google, Yahoo or Microsoft getting sued?”

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NYTimes on a Drug Patent Ploy [5:52 pm]

A Troubling Drug Combination

In its large-scale trials of torcetrapib, Pfizer is testing the new drug only in combination with Lipitor, the company’s existing best-seller statin. If the tests go well, Pfizer will seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market the combination pill. It will not sell torcetrapib separately.

The reason, critics say, is that Lipitor will lose patent protection in 2010, opening the way for cheap generics to take away its market. By tying Lipitor to the new drug, Pfizer can extend its life and perhaps emerge with an even bigger blockbuster.

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Some Funny Language [8:26 am]

Some of this reads like the analyst wants to penalize surfers for removing cookies - sort of like the argument that skipping commercials in TV is theft: Websites Crippled By Consumers Deleting Cookies

“Cookies, 99 out of a 100 times, are not an invasion of a consumer’s privacy or security,” Eric T. Peterson, analyst for JupiterResearch, a division of Jupitermedia Corp., said. “They’re just harmless little text files.”

Nevertheless, 58 percent of Internet users have deleted the tiny applications, essentially making many consumers anonymous during site visits, and crippling website operators’ ability to gather information, JupiterResearch found through surveys this year of more than 4,600 online consumers. In addition, 39 percent of consumers are deleting cookies from their primary computer monthly.

The reason for these Draconian measures is fear. Consumers are constantly reminded about the risks on the Internet posed by spyware, phishers and viruses, so deleting cookies makes them feel more secure, even though it’s unlikely to make them safer, Peterson said.

[...] Peterson said the problems caused by cookie deletion are going to get worse for businesses.

“They shouldn’t put their heads in the sand and hope the problem goes away,” Peterson said.

Instead, website operators need to look for technologies other than cookies to gather information. For example, Flash, a website-development technology from Macromedia Inc., can track consumers each time they visit a site.

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Whew! Am I Relieved! [7:57 am]

FCC: Nicollette Sheridan Monday Night Football Intro Not Indecent (FCC press release; Copps Statement; Opinion and Order

“Although the scene apparently is intended to be titillating, it simply is not graphic or explicit enough to be indecent under our standard,” the commission said.

While agreeing with the decision, Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps criticized ABC for airing the segment at a time — 9 p.m. EST — when many children were watching.

“There wasn’t much self-discipline in this particular promotion,” he said. “As stewards of the airwaves, broadcasters can and should do better.”

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CC Experimental Results: Some Data Points [7:52 am]

Creative Commons Is Rewriting Rules of Copyright [pdf] (Note that the article title when first posted to my RSS reader was “Some Artists Embrace Internet File-Sharing”)

When Chuck D and the Fine Arts Militia released their latest single, “No Meaning No,” several months ago, they didn’t try to stop people from circulating free copies on the Internet. They encouraged it.

They posted the entire 3-minute, 12-second song and its various vocal, drum and guitar components online and invited everyone to view, copy, mix, remix, sample, imitate, parody and even criticize it.

The result has been the creation of a flood of derivative work ranging from classical twists on the hip-hop piece to video interpretations of the song. The musicians reveled in the instant fan base. They were so pleased that they recently decided to publish their next entire album, due later this spring, the same way, becoming the first major artists to do so.

“No Meaning No” was released under an innovative new licensing scheme called Creative Commons that some say may be better suited to the electronic age than the hands-off mind-set that has made copyright such a bad word among the digerati.

So far, more than 10 million other creations — ranging from the movie “Outfoxed” and songs by the Beastie Boys to the British Broadcasting Corp.’s news footage and the tech support books published under the O’Reilly label — have been distributed using these licenses. The idea has even won the support of Hilary Rosen, formerly of the Recording Industry Association of America, and Jack Valenti, the past head of the Motion Picture Association of America, who became known for their aggressive pursuit of people who share free, unauthorized copies via the Internet.

Slashdot discussion: Creative Commons In the News

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Cultural Expression: A-Bomb Country Music [7:46 am]

Listening to the Beat of the Bomb

“Americans have a kind of love and hate relationship with technology,” Dr. [Charles K.] Wolfe said in an interview. “We are the most technological country in the world, and yet when it comes to bringing technology into our lives we are a little suspicious.”

But the country music of the bomb tells of more than suspicion, Dr. Wolfe writes in a new collection of scholarly papers, “Country Music Goes to War” (University of Kentucky Press), which he edited with James E. Akenson.

When Dr. Wolfe listens to this music, he hears people telling of great cities “scorched from the face of the earth” and wondering if they’ll know “the time or hour when a terrible explosion may rain down upon our land.”

[...] The bomb was too powerful a technology for people to integrate in their lives the way they did their washing machines or radios or, as Dr. Wolfe put it in an interview, “that friendly piece of machinery, the Model T Ford.” So in “Old Man Atom,” a song by Vern Partlow in the talking blues style, listeners hear that Einstein is chastened by the power his work helped unleash, “and if he’s scared, brother, I’m scared.”

This is a narrow specialty: the years immediately after World War II produced only about two dozen country songs about the bomb, Dr. Wolfe said. By the early 50’s, atomic country music had withered, he said, as angst about the bomb was transformed into angst about the cold war and communism. One of the last of the genre was the 1951 song “Advice to Joe,” by Roy Acuff and Roy Nunn, which threatens Stalin with the atomic might of Uncle Sam and asks Stalin, “Do you have a place to hide?”

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Perils of Access? [7:42 am]

Is isolation a necessary thing for soldiers in the field? A communications experiment - For Troops, Home Can Be Too Close

Military scientists have long studied wartime communication, but the war in Iraq is opening a new dimension. Virtually every soldier, sailor and marine there has access to e-mail and cellphones, a broad and largely uncensored real-time communication network unprecedented in military history.

The military is taking steps to control the information flow, in part with Internet kill switches at bases to give senior officers a means to enforce communication blackouts. Military researchers, meanwhile, are scrambling to track the broader impact of instant communication technology. Studies under way include the interpersonal - as in the Murrays’ painful collision of household and war zone - and urgent matters of national and military security.

“We are going to learn profound lessons from this war about how to manage these devices to communicate what we really want to convey, and reduce the negative aspects,” said Dr. Morten G. Ender, a sociologist at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Learning the best use of e-mail, cellphones and other interactive devices is critically important to the military, where careless communication can cost lives. But experts say that even seemingly mundane exchanges have implications for troop morale and the emotional health of service families.

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Movie Theater Digital Distribution Taking Off? [7:34 am]

Theater Chain Buying Sony’s Digital Projectors

Landmark Theaters, the art-house chain controlled by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, will become the first chain to install a new generation of digital projectors developed by Sony, which show movies at twice the resolution of previous digital projectors.

[...] Hollywood has been discussing the use of digital projectors, which show movies without using film, for the last several years, but fewer than 100 are currently used in theaters to show full-length features.

Substantial questions remain both about the projectors’ technical merits and, more important, who would pay for them. The main advantage of digital projection is the potential to save movie studios the expense of copying movies on film, which can cost more than $1,000 a print.

Theater owners are waiting to see if the studios will find a way to subsidize the cost of the projectors, which can be $100,000 each when the costs of the other needed hardware and software are included.

[...] Mr. Cuban, who also owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, said that the projectors would give his theaters flexibility to show a broader variety of programming, including broadcasts of live events, like concerts and sports events. Moreover, digital projection ability will allow Landmark to show works by independent filmmakers who are starting to use the inexpensive high-definition cameras coming to the market.

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Maintaining Control: Harder All The Time [7:31 am]

How Electronics Are Penetrating North Korea’s Isolation

The construction of cellular relay stations last fall along the Chinese side of the border has allowed some North Koreans in border towns to use prepaid Chinese cellphones to call relatives and reporters in South Korea, defectors from North Korea say. And after DVD players swept northern China two years ago, entrepreneurs collected castoff videocassette recorders and peddled them in North Korea. Now tapes of South Korean soap operas are so popular that state television in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, is campaigning against South Korean hairstyles, clothing and slang, visitors and defectors have said.

[...] In the recording studio of a radio station here, Seong Min Kim, a former North Korean Army captain who is now the director for the South Korean radio station Free NK, explained how Chinese cellphones in North Korea have enabled him to nurture sources there.

[...] At a human rights conference here on Feb. 15, defectors estimated in interviews that about one-third of the defectors in South Korea regularly talk to family members back in North Korea, calling owners of prepaid Chinese cellphones at a prearranged time.

To counter this, North Korea has reportedly started border patrols using Japanese equipment that can track cellphone calls. Reporters tell stories of their contacts who only make calls from their private garden plots in the hills, burying the cellphone in the ground after each call.

While Chinese cellphones only work a few miles inside North Korea, the videocassette phenomenon has reportedly spread throughout the nation, reaching into every area where there is electricity.

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Apple Considering A Subscription Service? [7:22 am]

Apple eyes broader iTunes services

Apple has, to date, dismissed the subscription model, stating its belief that music buyers want to own songs, not rent them. But Napster and others are showing there is some demand for monthly fee-charged ‘all you can eat’ services, which at the very least appear to offer better margin opportunities than a la carte downloads do.

At this stage in the game, it’s far too early to tell whether consumers will prefer one service model or the other - most likely both will operate alongside each other, just as the DVD sales and rental markets do, for example. It seems unlikely, then, that Apple’s doesn’t at the very least have a contingency plan in place to roll out a subscription service if it feels the market needs one, or its rivals do rather better than it anticipates they will.

Whether Miller has been brought on board to oversee the scheme, or even to prepare its roll-out, remains to be seen. AppleInsider mentions some industry insiders who claim Apple will offer such a service by the end of the year. That may require fresh negotiations with the labels, assuming Apple didn’t factor such a model into its original licensing deals, as Napster did.

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Sony and the Oz “Modders” [7:19 am]

Sony preps PS2 mod chip legal fight

Sony has hinted that it is preparing a fresh legal challenge to the legality of PlayStation 2 modification chips in Australia should a High Court case brought by a PS2 mod chip seller go against it.

[...] The High Court is expected to rule this month on mod chip maker Eddy Stevens’ appeal against a July 2003 Federal Court verdict that his products violate Australia’s copyright laws. That ruling was, in turn, the result of Sony’s appeal against a lower court judgement that selling mod chips was not necessarily an infringement of copyright.

Sony lost that case because it had failed to show that the PS2 security system was a “technological protection measure” as defined by the 2000 Digital Agenda Amendments to Australia’s Copyright Act. It was also argued that Sony’s restrictions on the use of PS2 games bought overseas amounted to an artificial trade barrier.

Stevens’ High Court strategy will focus on showing that mod chips have legitimate uses as well as illegal ones and so should be allowed to be sold, just as, say, blank CDs and DVD recorders are even though they too may be used to infringe copyright.

Slashdot: Australia-U.S. Trade Agreement Takes First Strike

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