May 2, 2005

Who Gets To Fleece The Sheep? [8:21 pm]

Teens dialing up ring tone trouble

Wireless operators are fighting a growing backlash from parents angry at the exorbitant ring tone bills their children are racking up.

At work is a teenager’s penchant for reckless spending, helped along by advertising from ring tone providers, which some critics label as unclear, others as deceptive.

[...] Still, a crackdown of sorts has begun. A handful of North American and European operators are now at work on a code of conduct for ring tone sellers, due for release in 30 days, according to Paul Palmieri, executive director of business development and programming for Verizon Wireless.

Some operators aren’t waiting. Cingular Wireless, the top U.S. operator, increased on Monday the number of approvals ring tone sellers must get from customers before finalizing any sale.

[...] The hullabaloo spotlights flaws in the important partnership between carriers and independent cell phone software vendors, which the carriers are counting on for the next killer application and margin-boosting business model. When things go awry, consumers can be adversely affected and operators taken by surprise.

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Winning Friends, Influencing People? [8:18 pm]

Rampant piracy lands China on ‘watch list’

While elevating China to “priority watch list” is largely symbolic, it does indicate the Bush administration’s willingness to pressure the Communist government to crack down on rampant piracy. Among the administration’s requests: criminal prosecutions, new laws, and adoption of the type of “anti-circumvention” laws found in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

[...] The USTR’s report also singles out Canada, America’s largest trading partner, as having inadequate copyright laws. A Canadian court, for instance, ruled last year that it was legal to download music on peer-to-peer networks.

All from this little report: 2005 Special 301 Report

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Linkin Park Stinks Up Warner’s IPO [8:11 pm]

Ahh, the music business…. Linkin Park Hits Sour Note for Warner Music [pdf]

In demanding to be dropped from Warner Music, Linkin Park declared it was increasingly “offended and discouraged” by the flood of reports about the Bronfman-lead management and “corporate raiders” who together have “ridden the coattails of the creative community to extract massive rewards.” In the written statement, Linkin Park declared its intent to free its future from “the hands of a weakened WMG.” Artists, the group said, are getting severely shortchanged. By its accounting, Linkin Park alone generated 10 percent of Warner Music Group’s profits in the past five years. A Linkin Park partisan put the bottom-line figure at $250 million, meaning Warner Music cleared more than $6 for each of the 35 million albums Linkin Park says it has sold worldwide to date. “Linkin Park, their biggest act, will get nothing,” The Firm, the agency that manages the group, added in a statement. An official of The Firm denied that it demanded $60 million from Warner Music, calling the figure “inaccurate.” He noted that there was an offer on the table: $15 million for five albums.

Warner Music struck back, saying in a statement that “the band’s management is using fictitious numbers and making baseless charges and inflammatory threats in what is clearly a negotiating tactic.” The label, the statement added, “has made significant investments in Linkin Park, and they have always been compensated generously for their outstanding worldwide success.”

Later: NYTimes’ Linkin Park Wants Out of Warner, Citing Lack of Confidence

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Derek Gets All The Fun <G> [4:00 pm]

One of the great tragedies of working at great institutions is that you don’t always get to participate in everything that’s taking place — for example, Derek’s occasionally dropping in on a course called Bits (6.095, in MIT-speak). Today’s lecture included a discussion with Gigi Sohn about the prospects for a new telecommunications act: Gigi Talks Telecom 2006. He promises more, but for the moment, has posted his notes

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An MPAA/RIAA Dream? [2:53 pm]

CoCo’s got a striking story to go along with this disturbing image of a woman being carted off by the Swedish police for allegedly infringing copyright: CoCo: Swedish Police Physically Enforce Copyright

I don’t pretend to read swedish, but you can look at this pdf of the original article with a tragic, but possibly still useful, translation appended and draw your own conclusions.

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SSRN Paper on DRM and Freedom of Expression [2:44 pm]

The Implications of Digital Rights Management for Privacy and Freedom of Expression (via CoCo)

Although there is a growing literature explicating the various technologies that underlie digital rights management and what they expect to achieve, it is unnecessary to go into further detail here. The extremely rudimentary aspects of digital rights management presented above are sufficient to uncover two extremely important sets of issues that have received surprisingly little consideration in comparison to the vast attention that has been paid to the legal questions concerning the circumvention of technological protection measures and the rhetoric associated with the free beer, free rider characterization of what is at stake. The first set of issues concerns the surveillance aspect of the database component of such systems and its impact on personal privacy. The second set of issues concerns the ability to unbundle copyrights in a manner that excludes various forms of public access to a digital work, and the ultimate effect that this may have on freedom of expression.

[...] In the preceding sections we have offered a number of criticisms of the current, mainstream orientations of digital rights management with the hope of guiding it towards the first path rather than the second. We have tried to render conspicuous an important tactic underlying this approach to digital rights management: to transform the basis of control for intellectual creations from various public powers into the invisible hands of private control. We have also tried to offer a warning: these new forms of social control have the ability to threaten our fundamental public commitments to personal privacy and freedom of expression.

To express our concern in the language of Andrew Carnegie, many of today’s digital rights management systems are designed to help only those who pay. They pauperize. They impede the aspiring and lock away from these chief treasures of the world - renting to them instead only brief glimpses, tracking their every move all the while. A taste for such systems drives out higher tastes.

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In Case You Missed Sunday’s Doonesbury…. [9:22 am]

Last panel; DB 01 May 2005

Doonesbury - 2005 May 01 (local copy)

Zonker: Well, here’s a provocative question about file sharing, Mike.

Dear Guys: How do you keep unscrupulous publications from pirating your strip? Concerned, Ross from Providence.

Mike: Good question, Ross from Providence! Piracy is always a problem in the comics world, so we never ship files to clients without encrypting the dialog.

Upon receipt, customers enter a royalty code that de-scrambles the hilarious dialogue that their readers so enjoy.

That way, an honest client bewspaper like this one can be protected from low-life competitors who “share” copyrighted content, right, Z?

Zonker: Pxat!

Mike: Pxat? Kap swirzt4?

Zonker: Tnbakl5. Pkl stuzf3 9apz! Zik?

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Public, or Private, Goods? [8:24 am]

A CNet News special report: Cities brace for broadband war

Across the country, acrimonious conflicts have erupted as local governments attempt to create publicly funded broadband services with faster connections and cheaper rates for all citizens, narrowing the so-called digital divide. The Bells and cable companies, for their part, argue that government intervention in their business is not justified and say they are far better equipped to operate complex and far-flung data networks.

[...] Despite the technology’s youth, the dynamics over its control are as old as the nation itself. Governments and private businesses have long quarreled over who should control the build-out of highways, canals, railroads, the postal system and telephone networks. Oftentimes, what begins as a project of one side eventually falls into the hands of the other: The railroad system was first constructed by private companies but is now controlled largely by the federal government, while the postal system is run by Washington but faces stiff competition from private couriers such as FedEx and United Parcel Service of America.

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Podcasting [8:14 am]

As someone who barely has time to read online content, the podcasting thing has just left me cold (or, maybe it just demonstrates that I haven’t taken the time to learn). But, clearly there are those who are ready to cater to those who have time to listen:

  • From InternetWeek: San Francisco Radio Station Adopts Podcast-Only Format (Slashdot)

    The explosive rise in the popularity of podcasts is leading more radio listeners to tune into content they can download directly to their iPods and other MP3 players rather than listen to conventional radio. And now one radio station in a major market is ready to jump ship and become a podcast-only broadcaster by featuring programming uploaded to its website by its listeners.

    Infinity Broadcasting, one of the largest radio station owners in the country, has announced plans to convert its San Francisco station KYCY AM to KYOURADIO starting May 16. The new station already has a website up and running, and in little more than a day after being launched had already received between 50 to 60 files uploaded by eager podcasters.

  • NYTimes: An MTV Host Moves to Radio, Giving Voice to Audible Blogs

    Adam Curry, a former MTV host who developed software that lets people automatically receive these programs on Apple’s iPod and other players, will produce and be host of a four-hour program every weekday starting May 13 on Sirius Satellite Radio.

    Mr. Curry will help choose material for “Adam Curry’s PodShow” from some of the thousands of amateur shows produced in basements, living rooms and dormitories. Sirius subscribers, who pay $12.95 a month for the service, can listen to the show on channel 148, “Talk Central.”

    [...] Podcasts - essentially homemade digital audio files that users upload to the Internet for others to download on demand - run the gamut from tributes by aspiring disc jockeys to their favorite music artists, to up-and-coming bands, to talk show “hosts” chatting with their friends about everything from fine wine to fly fishing.

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BBC News on Quantum Crypto/DRM [8:02 am]

Huge leap in secure web video

Voice and video files streamed over the net could be made untappable and ultra-secure in the next few years thanks to a breakthrough by Toshiba.

Scientists at its Cambridge UK labs successfully demonstrated its Quantum Key Server system, which refreshes keys without interruption, on video

[...] Applications using secure quantum cryptographic techniques are about three years away, according to Toshiba’s Dr Andrew Shields, who leads the development group.

Toshiba’s breakthrough showed that each frame in a video file could be encrypted using separate keys, which means that cracking one frame of a video - already difficult - would be useless unless all the other frames were cracked, too.

“The key innovation has been to make the system work continuously,” Dr Shields explained to the BBC News website.

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Can Vint Cerf Educate the MPAA? [7:52 am]

BitTorrent as friend, not foe [pdf]

BitTorrent has been described as Hollywood’s Napster — a sinister software that makes it easy to steal movies off the Internet. And just like the recording industry response to the Napster scourge years ago, movie studios today are determined to stamp out BitTorrent.

Vinton Cerf, one of the co-creators of the Internet, thinks Hollywood is making a big mistake and that BitTorrent or another technology like it can’t be stopped. His advice to Hollywood: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

“It would be a mistake to think that because a particular technology can be used to distribute illegal copies therefore you should just run away from it,” said Cerf, who helped design the architecture that underlies the Internet and current chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the private, non-profit group that essentially supervises the Web.

In fact, Cerf said he knows Hollywood producers who are considering ways to use BitTorrent to distribute movies or other content online. He did not provide any names, but described the interest as “serious.”

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Novell Comes Out [7:38 am]

Secretive Buyer of Some E-Commerce Patents Turns Out to Be Novell

Many executives in the computer industry and at Internet software and services firms had expressed concern that the patents could be used to extract payments from their companies.

The portfolio consists of three fundamental patents covering the basic technology of business-to-business electronic commerce as well as several other patents and a range of patent applications, said Robert Glushko, one of the inventors.

Bruce Lowry, a spokesman for Novell, said the company had acquired the patents for defensive reasons and did not plan to seek licensing revenue from them. He said the company had chosen the secretive approach at the auction “for competitive reasons.”

The patent issue is a contentious one in the computer industry because companies increasingly use intellectual property - patents and copyrights - both to protect markets and to attack competitors. Moreover, a secondary market is emerging for intellectual property acquired by individuals and corporations not involved in the original inventions.

[...] Novell is clearly trying to avoid finding itself entangled in a case like the one brought against I.B.M. by the SCO Group, a Utah company, in March 2003, asserting that I.B.M. illegally contributed code to Linux from the Unix operating system. SCO had obtained the licensing rights to the Unix operating system and contends that Linux, a variant of Unix, violates its rights. It sought $1 billion in damages in the case, which is pending.

Related: A Payday for Patents ‘R’ Us

But others find the growth of patent holding companies troublesome rather than heartwarming. Critics of the patent system maintain that these companies - called “patent trolls” by their detractors - rely on excessively broad patents, particularly for software, that should never have been granted in the first place.

And the costs of litigation and licensing fees to settle patent disputes have become facts of life for technology companies.

Also see Pressure mounts for reform of patent system [pdf]

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P2P Traffic Unchanged [7:13 am]

An interesting paper cited in the UCal-Riverside Newsroom: P2P Technology Still Going Strong Despite Lawsuits, Fines

(via Digital Music News). The article cites this paper (albeit with an erroneous link - here’s a local copy): Is P2P dying or just hiding?

Abstract– Recent reports in the popular media suggest a significant decrease in peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing traffic, attributed to the public’s response to legal threats. Have we reached the end of the P2P revolution? In pursuit of legitimate data to verify this hypothesis, we embark on a more accurate measurement effort of P2P traffic at the link level. In contrast to previous efforts we introduce two novel elements in our methodology. First, we measure traffic of all known popular P2P protocols. Second, we go beyond the “known port” limitation by reverse engineering the protocols and identifying characteristic strings in the payload. We find that, if measured accurately, P2P traffic has never declined; indeed we have never seen the proportion of p2p traffic decrease over time (any change is an increase) in any of our data sources.

Also see this Slyck article: Interest in File-Sharing at All Time High

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May 2005
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