April 27, 2005

Nokia Reveals MP3 Phones [12:35 pm]

Nokia Takes Aim at IPod with Premium Line of Phones [pdf]

Nokia unveiled its N91 multimedia phone, which will have a 4-gigabyte hard drive that can store thousands of music files. The phone, which will also run on high-speed 3G and wireless LAN networks, is due out by the end of the year.

[...] The hard disk-based music phone would have been launched sooner but Nokia is still working with Microsoft and its online partner OD2 to develop a music download service for mobile devices, Vanjoki told Reuters in an interview.

“But it will be this year. We’re not going to miss Christmas,” he said.

Nokia is also confident there will be an open standard for digital music protection, which it intends to use in its phones. Nokia does not want to use a proprietary format from Microsoft, despite an ongoing argument between the mobile phone industry and a handful of patent holders of key anti-piracy technology, he said.

“I think there will be more discussions, but it’s starting to look better,” Vanjoki said, referring to a more modest royalty payments proposal that was tabled by the patent holders two weeks ago.

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An Interview With the Author of DCRAW [12:03 pm]

From Digital Photography Review: RAW storm in a teacup? Dave Coffin interviewed

2. As we know none of the manufacturers openly document their RAW formats, how long does it typically take for you to reverse-engineer a format?

It can take minutes or months, depending on the complexity of the format.

3. Are you ever concerned about the legal implications of reverse-engineering proprietary file formats?

If anyone sued me, I’d be the biggest free software hero since Jon Johanson. It’s better for the camera makers to ignore me and hope I lose interest.

[...] 8. It’s clear that many photographers are concerned over the current situation between Adobe and Nikon because they feel it may be an indicator of worse to come (harder encryption, more ‘locking down’ of file data). So is this a storm in a teacup or a sign of more to come?

Photographers have reason to feel scared. Not being computer hackers, they feel powerless to stop Nikon from asserting property rights over their images.

I’m not so worried. Whatever scheme Nikon tries next, I’ll just reverse-engineer it.

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Open Media Network Launched [9:17 am]

The Open Media Network launched - press release

A free public service network was launched today to give users worldwide access to public television and radio programming, movies, podcasts and video blogs, while fully protecting the producers’ copyrights.

Open Media Network (OMN) was founded by Internet pioneer and Netscape veteran Mike Homer and includes Marc Andreessen as an advisor and board member. The service offers users a broad selection of free public programs with a simple TV-style program guide and automatic background deliveries of favorite scheduled programming. Content producers can easily add their programming to the network, with unlimited free delivery of their shows and with digital rights protection. Through the service, consumers can view the content on multiple devices, including PCs and iPods today and televisions and cell phones by this summer.

[...] Open Media Network is powered by grid delivery technology from Kontiki, which already provides secure delivery of content libraries for a range of companies such as Ernst & Young, Verizon, AOL and the BBC. Kontiki’s grid delivery technology speeds the distribution of video and music files by allowing participants to share unused bandwidth on their computers and servers. There are already over 20 million users of Kontiki’s technology today.

Because OMN uses Kontiki’s grid delivery technology, all content is centrally managed. Programs which violate copyright or are unsuitable for viewing can be removed from the network. Kontiki’s battle-tested technology has built-in digital rights management (DRM) through support of the Microsoft Windows Rights Manager and allows publishers to choose whether content can be shared, duplicated or viewed a set number of times. Future versions of OMN, due this summer, will offer producers a secure payment system for premium content.

CNet News: Netscape pioneers launch free content network

Later, from the Washington Post: Internet TV Age Is Dawning, but Who Will Watch? [pdf] - the article also mentions MediaTV (ManiaTV: MTV for the Web?)

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RIAA Subpoenas Rejected in UNC Case [9:13 am]

Judge Rejects UNC Subpoenas, RIAA Points to Old Request (citing the Daily Tarheel’s RIAA can’t get student’s names [pdf])

On April 14, Judge Russell Eliason of the U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem rejected the RIAA’s request to reveal the names of the two students. Currently, the RIAA has only their online aliases.

Eliason’s decision was made public Thursday.

The two students, whose aliases are “hulk” and “CadillacMan,” are enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University, respectively.

Both are targets of a process the RIAA initiated two years ago, when it subpoenaed UNC-CH and N.C. State. It was seeking the individuals’ names under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

But because the music files are stored on students’ computers and not the universities’ networks, Eliason wrote, the schools do not have to offer the information.

“These are old cases,” said Jenni Engebretsen, spokeswoman for the RIAA. Now, she said, “We are using an entirely different process.”

Note that the opinion is not online yet, but should eventually appear at the link to the judge’s name above

WaPo’s APWire feed: tudents Accused of Piracy Won’t Be ID’d [pdf]

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A Position on Software Patents [8:26 am]

MySQL CEO Marten Mickos interviewed at InfoWorld: MySQL CEO pans software patents, touts open source

InfoWorld: What is your take on the whole software-patent issue?

Mickos: Software patents are detrimental to the entire software industry.

InfoWorld: Why?

Mickos: Because they restrict innovation and they don’t protect the innovator like they should. So it’s just a mistake to believe that patents, because they are good for hardware, would be good for software.

InfoWorld: So you would recommend eliminating them for software?

Mickos: Absolutely.

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Questions on Longhorn’s Security [8:13 am]

I’m glad that someone remembered to ask these questions, and sorry that, so far, they are only being raised in the geek community, rather than in the mainstream press: Microsoft reveals hardware security plans

While the technologies, once known as Palladium and now called the next-generation secure computing base (NGSCB), will help companies and consumers lock down their computers and networks, concerns remain that the hardware security measures could also be used to lock-in consumers to a single platform and restrict fair uses of content.

With homegrown integrity and security features being added by a variety of devices by companies aiming to lock out competition using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the specter of another hardware-based security feature worries some information-system experts.

Related: this comment in Slashdot’s What to Expect from Linux 2.6.12, which points out the expected inclusion of trusted computing in the upcoming kernal.

Slashdot’s Microsoft Scales Down Palladium

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Open Source Drawing Venture Monies [7:56 am]

Open Wallets for Open-Source Software

Venture capitalists are again embracing open-source technology companies. JBoss, which offers a layer of software for controlling Web applications, was one of 20 such businesses that raised $149 million in venture money in 2004, according to estimates by the research firm VentureOne. At least three open-source start-ups raised $20 million last month alone.

But given some spectacular open-source failures in the late 1990’s, a natural question may be whether some of these venture capitalists have perhaps lost their minds.

[...] A big difference between then and now is the increased adoption of open-source software by corporate users. Another is the relative success of Red Hat, an open-source start-up that went public in 1999 and makes money by selling enhancements and maintenance services to corporations using Linux.

[...] Red Hat’s success in selling support services has created the business model for virtually every open-source entrepreneur, including Mr. Fleury. Venture capital firms have become so enthusiastic about this approach that they seem eager to support practically any open-source company just to have a stake in this hot area.

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EU on Microsoft [7:36 am]

A Reuters News releaseEU Threatens Microsoft Over Windows — in its entirety:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The EU’s executive told Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer his company must comply urgently with its decision to stop abusing its virtual monopoly position of its Windows operating system or face action.

“All I can say for the moment we are still not satisfied,” European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd told a news briefing, referring to Microsoft’s action to meet the Commission’s demands.

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April 26, 2005

RealNetworks Tries A Variant [2:27 pm]

RealNetworks offers free songs for new service

Net multimedia company RealNetworks released an overhauled version of its Rhapsody digital music service on Tuesday, in a high-profile launch aimed at regaining ground lost to Apple Computer’s iTunes.

Eschewing the format wars that have marked the digital music business–and much of RealNetworks own past–the company is tapping Microsoft for technology that allows songs to be transferred to some MP3 players. Until recently, most monthly music subscription services barred songs from being transferred from a computer to a portable device.

But RealNetworks is also extending a bridge to cost-conscious digital music newcomers, offering people the ability to listen to 25 songs a month without paying anything at all.

Later: NYTimes’ RealNetworks Tries Giving Away Music; Slashdot RealNetworks Invests in Legitimizing Free Music

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French Court Rules Against CSS [1:26 pm]

No, not cascading style sheets! French court rules against copy-protected DVDs (I see this is old news - Slashdot’s French Courts Ban DRM on DVDs)

When originally heard in the Court of First Instance in 2004, the case was decided in favor of the defendants, Les Fils Alain Sarde and Studio Canal. On appeal, the Paris Court of Appeals found that not only was the CSS used to copy protect DVDs illegal, but that the two companies did not adequately inform the consumers that the DVDs were copy protected. The companies now have one month to remove the copy protection from their DVDs and must pay €100 in damages to the consumer as well as €1,500 to the UFC-Que Choisir.

While it’s nice to see a blow struck for Fair Use rights, even if outside the US, the decision may not stand. The DVD producers still have the opportunity to appeal to a higher court in France. In addition, there is the question of the European Union’s directives on copyright — which allow for the use of copy protection systems — and how that should impact a consumer’s right to make a copy of media he owns for his own use. The problem with legally-unbreakable DRM is that along with snuffing out consumers’ Fair Use rights, it has the effect of giving the content producers a perpetual copyright on the content by allowing them to control how it is used.

Also - The Register’s French court bans DVD DRM

More importantly, see CoCo’s French Court: DVD Protection Incompatible with Private Copying Exception

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Surprise! [1:22 pm]

Online music lovers ‘frustrated’

UK music lovers are getting frustrated with restrictions placed on digital music tracks once they buy them from online stores, says PC Pro magazine.

The magazine reported that people are also being turned off net music stores because of pricing and disappointing sound quality compared with CDs.

[...] PC Pro says people are growing increasingly dissatisfied with restrictions on tracks they have paid for, especially if the price they pay is similar to that which is paid for a physical CD.

“That is the trouble when you are presented with a product that lacks the physical nature. It won’t feel it has the same sort of value,” Paul Brindley, head of digital music analysts, Music Ally, told the BBC News website.

“If there are problems on top of that with what you can do with it, it is inevitable that consumers will start thinking this is much less of a valuable product.

Slashdot: Britons Frustrated by DRM; PC Pro’s Analysis: Hitting the wrong note

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Peer Production in the Making: Monitoring Traffic Flow [8:56 am]

Car Computers Track Traffic

[George] List, director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Infrastructure and Transportation Studies, co-heads a federally funded project examining a potential high-tech solution to highway congestion. Traffic is tracked through global positioning system devices in cars that are connected wirelessly. Drivers participating in the pilot project essentially act as highway probes, receiving continual feedback from in-car computers intoning commands like “Just ahead, turn right.”

“They’re benefiting from each other being eyes and ears in the network,” List said.

The project is one of many “smart highway” initiatives that rely on information from technology such as traffic sensors and roadside cameras. This experimental system, with its automatic updates, would be a bit smarter.

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Rethinking the RFID Passport [8:53 am]

Feds Rethinking RFID Passport

Following criticism from computer security professionals and civil libertarians about the privacy risks posed by new RFID passports the government plans to begin issuing, a State Department official said his office is reconsidering a privacy solution it rejected earlier that would help protect passport holders’ data.

The solution would require an RFID reader to provide a key or password before it could read data embedded on an RFID passport’s chip. It would also encrypt data as it’s transmitted from the chip to a reader so that no one could read the data if they intercepted it in transit.

Later: NYTimes’ Bowing to Critics, U.S. to Alter Design of Electronic Passports; Ed Felten’s thoughts: U.S. Considering Wireless Passport Protection

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Peer Production or Vigilantism - or Both? Monitoring the WWW [8:41 am]

Watchdogs Seek Out The Web’s Bad Side [pdf]

A. Aaron Weisburd slogged up to his attic at 5 a.m. to begin another day combing through tips he had received about possible pro-terrorist activity on the Internet.

It did not take long for one e-mail to catch his attention: Ekhlaas.com was offering instructions on how to steal people’s personal information off their computers. It was a new development for an Islamic discussion site accustomed to announcing “martyrdom operations,” or suicide bombings, against U.S. troops and others in Iraq.

Weisburd quickly listed the discovery in his daily log of offensive and dangerous sites, alerting his supporters. A few days later, Ekhlaas experienced an unusual surge in activity, the hallmark of a hacker attack, forcing the company hosting the site to take it down.

It was another small victory for Weisburd, one of a new breed of Internet activists. Part vigilantes, part informants, part nosy neighbors, they search the Web for sites that they say deal in theft, fraud and violence.

[...] Government agencies and others are not sure what to make of him. Some law enforcement officials praise his efforts. Kenneth Nix, a police detective from Missouri who is on the Internet Crimes Task Force, said Weisburd often provides information that “we didn’t have before.”

But others say that he is making more trouble than he is doing good. Some U.S. officials think that they can learn more about terrorist operations by monitoring suspicious sites as they operate. Weisburd said an analyst from a federal agency recently wrote him a scathing letter calling him a “grave threat to national security” because his work was interfering with its investigations.

Marshall Stone, a spokesman for the FBI, said that while the agency encourages citizens to report alleged wrongdoing, it believes any attempt to stop criminals should be left to the government.

Without due process, evidence could be tainted and become unusable in court cases or, worse, targets could be condemned as guilty when they are really innocent, said Paul Kurtz, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, a coalition of tech company chief executives. “When we all become ‘law enforcement officers’ justice becomes very blurry,” he said.

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The Evolution of Google [8:24 am]

And the growing threat to advertising revenue of conventional media: Google to Sell Ads Not Related to Searches

Starting today, Google will test changes to its advertising program that will give advertisers more control over where their ads are shown, how they pay for them and what they look like.

For Internet users, the most visible change will be an expanded use of ads with graphics and animation on many of the Web sites for which Google sells advertising, rather than the short text ads that have been Google’s hallmark.

For advertisers, the biggest shift will be the option to pay Google simply to show an ad on these sites to a certain number of people, rather than paying only when an Internet user clicks on the ad and is sent to the advertiser’s Web site.

[...] “This drives the nail into the coffin of the idea that Google is a search business,” said John Battelle, the author of a coming book on Google called “The Search.”

[...] Google will abandon rules that require advertisements to be directly relevant to the pages on which they appear; it will now place a motor oil ad on a wine site if the refiner outbids the cheesemonger.

Mr. Battelle said that this change represented the sacrifice of a central Google claim for how its business is different from other companies.

“The core philosophy of Google’s advertising business is that these ads are actually valuable and useful to users: look for Chevy trucks and get Chevy truck ads,” he said. “Now we are in another place. It’s more about branding and more about advertising other things than what you are looking for, and, cynically, it may be about being a public company that needs revenue growth.”

“It is an advertising business that has nothing particularly to do with search.”

Related: A short paper for the recent OII conference - Personalized Digital Services: Power, Equity and Transparency in “Digital Familiars” — and, of course, we keep coming back to EPIC 2014

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Reflecting Industry Change [8:08 am]

As Technology Transforms Music, Billboard Magazine Changes, Too

Billboard, the bible of the ever-changing music industry, has made some big changes of its own, for the first time since 1963.

The weekly magazine has undergone a redesign, with a less cluttered cover and expanded coverage of topics like marketing and unsigned bands.

[...] The expanded coverage may also help attract new advertisers, never a small consideration. The magazine has already featured ads from some marketers unrelated to music, like Grey Goose vodka and the Hummer division of General Motors.

More may follow as music’s borders become increasingly porous. The business no longer revolves around record labels as much as it once did, said Tamara Conniff, one of Billboard’s two executive editors.

“It encompasses technology companies, brand managers, ad agencies, film companies and television companies,” she said. “You’ve got all these different companies, but they still don’t speak the same language. In order for the music industry to grow and for these other areas, like technology and brand marketing, to get what they need from the music business, they need to understand each other.”

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Offering More? In Exchange For …? [7:58 am]

DualDisc breaks sound barrier [pdf]

Springsteen’s Devils&Dust arrives in stores Tuesday exclusively in the new DualDisc format — a single disc with CD on one side, DVD on the other. Devils’ CD side is a traditional CD with 12 tracks, and the DVD has video of Springsteen talking about the music and performing five of the songs.

[...] The two-sided hybrid — it can be played on either a DVD or CD player — is the latest effort to steer listeners away from free Internet downloads and back into stores. Springsteen is the biggest artist to release an album exclusively on DualDisc.

[...] Springsteen’s DVD also has a non-visual music track of the album that allows the songs to be played in 5.1 surround sound through a DVD player, enveloping the listener with sound.

[...] Devils & Dust retails for $18.98, about $1 more than music-only CDs. Many downloaders already have decided that cover art and CD packaging are worth sacrificing for free music, but they might have a harder time passing on the video.

Washington Post’s Audio-Video DualDiscs Get A Promotion From the Boss

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Who’s Playing Whom? [7:54 am]

Turning the tables in the “(fill in the blank) Idol” juggernaut? ‘Idol’ finalist’s band gets record deal

The band of American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis will release their first CD on May 10, recorded before the singer’s fame skyrocketed on the TV talent show.

Koch Records, the label that signed Idol failure William Hung, has announced a deal with Pray for the Soul of Betty, the New York band Maroulis fronted before auditioning for the Fox reality program.

Maroulis signed over the rights to his bandmates before joining Idol, so the self-titled album isn’t owned by the show, a publicist for American Idol confirmed Friday.

[...] Giovanna Melchiorre, a spokeswoman for Koch, said that while Maroulis won’t be able to tour with the band, “Legally, I think we’re OK.”

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April 24, 2005

More on Star Wars Revelations Fanflick [8:19 pm]

Homegrown Star Wars, with big-screen magic intact

Like many amateur filmmakers, Felux ultimately hopes Hollywood, or even Lucas himself, is watching. But he’s part of a broader online culture in which big-screen commercial works are grist for a small-screen creative mill, and the onetime audience is taking over the tools of production.

The movie site

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How Long ‘Til The DMCA Suit? [11:25 am]

Or can we expect Nikon to show more sense? Naaaaah!: Nikon’s photo encryption reported broken

Because Nikon scrambled a portion of the file, legal worries have kept third-party developers like Adobe Systems from supporting Nikon’s uncompressed “raw” photos in their software. Nikon sells its Nikon Capture utility for $100.

“It’s an open format now,” said programmer Dave Coffin, who posted the decryption code on his Web site this week. “I broke that encryption–I reverse-engineered it.”

His site: Raw Digital Photo Decoding in Linux — see also Image Preservation Through Open Documentation on the formation of OpenRAW

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