March 22, 2005

BPI Stats Out [10:16 pm]

Where are the RIAA 2004 statistics? UK ‘world’s biggest music buyer’

UK consumers are the biggest music buyers in the world, according to new figures released on Tuesday by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

But global sales of recorded music were flat in 2004, with growing sales in DVD music videos offset by online and physical piracy in major markets.

The UK music industry recorded an overall 3% increase in volume sales, mostly due to its robust albums market.

However, world music sales declined by 1.3% to $33.6 billion (£17.7 billion).

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WaPo on the SXSW Tech Discussion [10:03 pm]

Big Music’s Last Waltz

Whatever the outcome in the case, all the posturing and arguing at events like SXSW is well-intentioned but ultimately irrelevant. I’m not a lawyer. I don’t compose or play music for money and my livelihood doesn’t depend on the survival of the music industry, so I’m at liberty to be cavalier about this: Composers will continue to compose, musicians will continue to play. The smart ones among them will find ways to get rich or at least make a living, and smart businesspeople will find new ways to exploit the ones who can read a score but not a balance sheet. That in turn will preserve the centuries-old tradition of singers writing songs about getting screwed because they’re singers. And that will give Jay Rosenthal, Wendy Seltzer and others like them reason to keep fighting over the future.

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Some Pre-Grokster Positioning [9:41 pm]

A paper to read: Time for the Recording Industry to Face the Music: THe Political, Social and Economic Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Communications Networks [cited in CNet News'

Consumer groups challenge Hollywood, labels]

This report explains why public policy should embrace peer-to-peer technologies. It examines the history of technological innovation in communications and the “piracy panics” they cause among entrenched incumbents. For three centuries, in battles over the printing press, telegraphy, mechanical pianos, cinematography, radio, cable television, photocopying, video and audio recorders, and the current generation of digital technologies, public policy has favored technological innovation by refusing to allow copyright to regulate technology. The paper reminds policymakers of the historic lesson that technological innovation promotes political, cultural, and social development, and economic growth. The analysis demonstrates the social and economic harms of the “tyranny of copyright” that recording companies and movie studios seek to impose on peer-to-peer technologies, as well as the legal and public policy grounds for rejecting this tyranny.

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Surprise! Jon’s Back [9:32 pm]

Well PyMusique, anyway - ‘DVD Jon’ reopens iTunes back door

A group of underground programmers has posted code online they say will reopen a back door in Apple Computer’s iTunes store, allowing Linux computer users to purchase music free of copy protection.

The release comes just a day after Apple blocked a previous version of the program, called PyMusique, in part by requiring all iTunes customers to use the latest version of Apple’s software.

Slashdot: Jon Johansen Breaks iTunes DRM Yet Again

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Collaborative Data Classification [9:26 pm]

A test of community-based, collaborative work: Yahoo’s game of photo tag

The deal, made public Sunday, is the latest in a string of acquisitions in the red-hot online photo-sharing space. But, more importantly, Flickr is a pioneer in a new method for cataloging the Internet that some believe could revolutionize Web search. As a result, Flickr could give Yahoo new competitive tools to take on Google, if it can put Flickr’s community-based technology to broader use.

Flickr’s trick has been to enlist large numbers of unsupervised volunteers to individually classify files using searchable metadata. Anyone can “tag” files with personal descriptions to help everyone find them more easily. For example, if you want to create an easy way to find a digital photo of Central Park’s Christo art project, you might tag it with “NYC,” “art” and “orange.” Someone who later searches with those keywords will find the photo among the results.

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SXSW Tech Discussion [9:10 pm]

P2P: Music’s Death Knell or Boon?

Somewhere between the live music showcases on Sixth Street and the endless schmoozing that ran well past midnight, the deep-fried drunkfest known as South by Southwest also squeezed in some discussion of technology and how it’s changing the music industry.

[...] In some cases, talk focused on opportunities. But in many other instances, panelists warned about the perils and uncertainty that face both the artistic and business sides of the industry — especially when it comes to peer-to-peer file sharing.

“It’s stopping new artists from coming forward, and it’s killing mid-level artists across the board,” charged Jay Rosenthal, a music attorney at Washington, D.C.-based Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe and a board member of the Recording Artists Coalition. “There has never been an issue that has been so galvanizing.”

But Wendy Seltzer, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said lawsuits against those who trade or enable the trading of copyright music files online will continue to have little effect on P2P traffic.

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Looks Like BellSouth Will Get Its Way [3:39 pm]

FCC Will Approve BellSouth’s ‘Naked DSL’

In a 3–2 decision shortly before the departure of former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, the FCC voted to approve a petition from BellSouth Corp. to suspend public utility commission regulations that required the company to provide unbundled DSL service to customers.

Unbundled or “naked” DSL is a data-only service without the voice line that is normally part of the DSL package. Naked DSL is used by customers who are using alternative voice services or wireless phones rather than landline phones provided by the Baby Bells.

[...] “The FCC speaks with forked tongue,” said Forrester Research Inc. Vice President Lisa Pierce. Pierce said that the FCC is saying on one hand that DSL is a data service and on the other that it’s a phone service. “They say that DSL is an information service and as an information service it should be unbundled,” she said. It is, she said, “a day for the cable companies to rejoice.”

While some cable companies do provide phone service, that industry has always been willing to provide Internet access alone. In addition, cable companies are offering data rates as high as 5M bps, which is significantly faster than DSL in all but a few locations.

[...] “They [the cable providers] are not regulated at all, by an act of Congress,” Pierce explained, “so they can elect to offer service in any form they want to anyone they want.” She said that, in the past, the FCC has said that it wanted to make DSL better able to compete with cable for Internet users, but that isn’t happening because of this vote. “If the FCC tells state PUCs [public utility commisions]that they can’t encourage this, it interferes with the FCC’s own stated goal,” Pierce said.

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More UK BitTorrent Suits Threatened [6:53 am]

Hollywood brow-beats second BitTorrent Brit: “Lawsuit threats continue”

A second British movie-oriented website owner has been threatened with legal action by US movie studios for allegedly offering their films as BitTorrent downloads without their permission.

Kevin Reid, who runs bds-palace.co.uk, was last week given notice that Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. intend to name him in a lawsuit - filed last December with the US District Court of New Jersey - which claims “significant” numbers of pirate movies were made available through his site.

[...] Reid’s situation matches that of Alexander Hanff, the owner of UK site DVDR-core, who was also on the receiving end of threatening missives from the US movie industry last week, as we exclusively revealed.

Both Reid and Hanff deny endorsing and facilitating the sharing of unauthorised copies of movies through their sites, David Harris, a lawyer specialising in intellectual property and information technology issues at UKITLaw.com, and who is representing both Reid and Hanff, told The Register today. The two didn’t host illegal content, he said, and when notified that users were posting links to unlawful BitTorrent downloads, they acted promptly to remove those links. BitTorrent has lawful uses, and both sites contained links to legitimate BitTorrent-hosted content.

Hollywood’s complaints are entirely without foundation, Harris said.

No wonder, then, that neither Reid nor Hanff are planning to accept Hollywood’s offer of a settlement, so a fight seems likely.

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