June 2, 2005

Another Consequence of Not Paying Attention… [2:25 pm]

I miss my own weblog’s anniversary - by almost a month! Ugh.

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Googlezon Fallout [11:27 am]

Apparently, Googlezon has hit the big time copyright discussions. The Flash bit has been a topic since January within a research project that’s ongoing here, but it’s fun to see it keep coming back — frankly the whole thing raises a bunch of issues, and not just copyright ones:

In case you missed my earlier postings on the subject:

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NewYorker: Technology & Music [10:29 am]

The Record Effect: How technology has transformed the sound of music [pdf] — reviews of some new reading for the summer - Mark Katz’s Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music (California), Colin Symes’s Setting the Record Straight: A Material History of Classical Recording (Wesleyan), and Robert Philip’s Performing Music in the Age of Recording (Yale) — to accompany Sterne’s The Audible Past on my bookshelves;

[...] I want to be aware of technology’s effects, positive and negative. For music to remain vital, recordings have to exist in balance with live performance, and, these days, live performance is by far the smaller part of the equation. Perhaps we tell ourselves that we listen to CDs in order to get to know the music better, or to supplement what we get from concerts and shows. But, honestly, a lot of us don’t go to hear live music that often. Work leaves us depleted. Tickets are too expensive. Concert halls are stultifying. Rock clubs are full of kids who make us feel ancient. It’s just so much easier to curl up in the comfy chair with a Beethoven quartet or Billie Holiday. But would Beethoven or Billie ever have existed if people had always listened to music the way we listen now?

[...] The principal irony of phonograph history is that the machine was not invented with music in mind. Edison conceived of his cylinder as a tool for business communication: it would replace the costly, imperfect practice of stenography, and would have the added virtue of preserving in perpetuity the voices of the deceased. In an 1878 essay, Edison (or his ghostwriter) proclaimed portentously that his invention would “annihilate time and space, and bottle up for posterity the mere utterance of man.” Annihilation is, of course, an ambiguous figure of speech. Recording broke down barriers between cultures, but it also placed more archaic musical forms in danger of extinction. In the early years of the century, Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, and Percy Grainger used phonographs to preserve the voices of elderly folksingers whose timeless ways were being stamped out by the advance of modern life. And what was helping to stamp them out? The phonograph, with its international hit tunes and standardized popular dances.

[...] Like Heisenberg’s mythical observer, the phonograph was never a mere recorder of events: it changed how people sang and played. Katz, in a major contribution to the lingo, calls these changes “phonograph effects.” (The phrase comes from the digital studio, where it is used to describe the crackling, scratching noises that are sometimes added to pop-music tracks to lend them an appealingly antique air.) Katz devotes one striking chapter to a fundamental change in violin technique that took place in the early twentieth century. [...]

In 1964, Glenn Gould made a famous decision to renounce live performance. In an essay published two years later, “The Prospects of Recording,” he predicted that the concert would eventually die out, to be replaced by a purely electronic music culture. He may still be proved right. For now, live performance clings to life, and, in tandem, the classical-music tradition that could hardly exist without it. As the years go by, Gould’s line of argument, which served to explain his decision to abandon the concert stage, seems ever more misguided and dangerous. Gould praised recordings for their vast archival possibilities, for their ability to supply on demand a bassoon sonata by Hindemith or a motet by Buxtehude. He gloried in the extraordinary interpretive control that studio conditions allowed him. He took it for granted that the taste for Buxtehude motets or for surprising new approaches to Bach could survive the death of the concert–that somehow new electronic avenues could be found to spread the word about old and unusual music. Gould’s thesis is annulled by cold statistics: classical-record sales have plunged, while concert attendance is anxiously holding steady. Ironically, Gould himself remains, posthumously, one of the last blockbuster classical recording artists: Sony Classical’s recent rerelease of his two interpretations of Bach’s Goldberg Variations sold two hundred thousand copies. That’s surely not what Gould had in mind for the future of the medium.

A few months after Gould published his essay, the Beatles, in a presumably unrelated development, played their last live show, in San Francisco. They spent the rest of their short career working in the recording studio. They proved, as did Gould, that the studio breeds startlingly original ideas; they also proved, as did Gould, that it breeds a certain kind of madness.

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Painful Excesses? Or Innovation Promotion? [9:39 am]

What do you think? ‘It’s Just a Game, Right? Top Mythconceptions on Patent Protection of Video Games’ [via Slashdot]

Our informal review of the records at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) revealed a relative dearth of patent applications for the video game industry, especially considering how technology-dependent the video game industry is, and given its size in terms of annual sales. Why is that? Patents, by their very nature, grant the right to exclude your competitors from stealing the fruits of your labor, and yet this powerful tool appears to be overlooked by the majority of the industry. In an effort to answer this question, we set out below to dispel what we see as the top myths surrounding patent protection of video games, and hope to encourage innovative game developers to take steps to protect their valuable innovations.

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Try, Try Again [9:06 am]

A Failed TV Show Attempts New Life as a Yahoo Webcast

In two brief runs on broadcast television, the live-concert show “Pepsi Smash” drew only a modest audience, but Yahoo is betting that putting the program online will be a boon to its digital music offerings.

Yahoo today plans to introduce a section of its Web site housing a redesigned version of “Smash,” which as a program on the WB network attracted an average of just 1.3 million viewers in eight episodes last summer. Yahoo and Pepsi are reviving the show as a collection of video segments on the Web, with plans to serve up digital streams of live performances from Coldplay, Kanye West and Gwen Stefani, along with new clips designed for short-attention-span online viewing.

[...] But that still leaves the question of whether a television program that struggled to find an audience will perform any better online. “If all they’re doing is taking the TV show and maybe cutting it up in different ways, but using the same logo and the same theme songs, that doesn’t make sense to me,” said Todd Chanko, an analyst at Jupiter Research.

[...] Pepsi is aiming to integrate its advertising message into the site without appearing “over the top,” said David A. Burwick, senior vice president and the chief marketing officer for Pepsi-Cola North America, a unit of PepsiCo. But sponsoring a continuing online series allows it to establish a long-term presence, since the Web site, unlike an episode of TV, is always on. “Online is a very viable medium to create a music experience,” Mr. Burwick said. “It doesn’t have to live in a static space like TV. There are interactive components we can add to make it even more dynamic.”

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New Yorker Archives In Digital Form [9:02 am]

80 Years of The New Yorker to Be Offered in Disc Form — I will be interested to see what the format will actually be; eBooks? Or will they gamble on an open format?

The collection, titled “The Complete New Yorker,” will consist of eight DVD’s containing high-resolution digital images of every page of the 4,109 issues of the magazine from February 1925 through the 80th anniversary issue, published last February. Included on the discs will be “every cover, every piece of writing, every drawing, listing, newsbreak, poem and advertisement,” David Remnick, editor of the magazine, has written in an introduction to the collection.

The collection, which will also include a 123-page book containing Mr. Remnick’s essay, a New Yorker timeline and highlights of selected pages from the magazine, is being published by the magazine and will be distributed to stores by Random House. It will have a cover price of $100, although it is likely to be sold in many bookstores and online for considerably less. The magazine also plans to issue annual updates to the disc collection, and it expects a first printing of 200,000 copies.

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BitTorrent and Distribution [8:47 am]

The Other Side of BitTorrent

But one industry’s threat is another’s opportunity. There’s an upside to allowing viewers to transfer copyright material content over BitTorrent.

As noted by Japanese entrepreneur Joi Ito, fans of the Japanese anime series Naruto regularly post translated episodes of the show to BitTorrent, which attracts more fans to the series.

The relatively obscure program has spawned a global following in online forums, internet relay chat channels and fan sites.

Later: The Other Side of BitTorrent

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Too Much Free Time [8:45 am]

I missed the emergence of this: Blogebrity

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The Realities of eTailing [8:34 am]

Study: Shoppers Naive About ‘Customized’ Retail Pricing Online

Most American consumers don’t realize Internet merchants and even traditional retailers sometimes charge different prices to different customers for the same products, according to a new survey.

The study, “Open to Exploitation,” found nearly two-thirds of adult Internet users believed incorrectly it was illegal to charge different people different prices, a practice retailers call “price customization.” More than two-thirds of people surveyed also said they believed online travel sites are required by law to offer the lowest airline prices possible.

The study, expected to be released Wednesday by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, is the latest to cast doubt on the notion of sophisticated consumers in the digital age.

The report - Open to Exploitation (press release, 17 Facts American Shoppers Need To Know — But Don’t)

From the report Overview:

The arrival of behavioral targeting and price discrimination in a severely competitive offline/online marketplace indicates that the U.S. is entering a new Way. Retailers in the twenty-first century are basing their relationships with consumers on fundamentally new assumptions and technologies. Underlying these changes are crucial issues of social fairness and marketplace transparency. A few experimental studies have shown that when researchers confront consumers with situations featuring price discrimination, the consumers reduce their trust in the retailers doing the discriminating. Until now, however, no one has asked what consumers would say if retailers justified price discrimination to consumers with arguments that sometimes they may benefit from it.

In fact, until now no one has explored what the U.S. public knows and thinks about these activities that promise to be key parts of twenty-first century marketing. How much do Americans know about who is allowed to control behavioral and other personal information about them in the online/offline marketplace? Are consumers aware of the existence of price discrimination based on behavioral targeting and other profiling? If they are aware of it, do they accept it as part of economic life, do they resent it, or do they simply believe that the government places limits on it in the interest of fairness?

Later: Online Shoppers Naive About Online Prices

Later, these two related articles - You’ve Been Scammed Again? Maybe the Problem Isn’t Your Computer; Women Are Keen to Shop Online. Merchants Are Eager to Oblige.

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Unnerving Library Practice [8:12 am]

Want to use the Web? Your fingerprint, please [pdf]

The Internet may have changed our intellectual landscape by opening doors to vast amounts of knowledge, but it’s also made that landscape increasingly treacherous. Meanwhile, efforts to improve security — whether scanning for fingerprints or requiring more personal information for access to wireless networks — raise questions about how to keep a valuable resource open to all without letting it be abused, and whether it’s possible to balance security with privacy.

[...] While the Naperville library has had a couple of encounters with the law over Internet use — once when someone was apparently sending threatening e-mails to a local journalist, and once when a man was charged with committing an act of public indecency while viewing a porn site — the fingerprint decision was prompted by the more mundane realization that patrons, especially children, were swapping library cards to sign on to the Internet. Like a number of libraries, Naperville requires a library card and ID to go online, and it allows parents to limit children’s Internet access with a filtering system. To bypass filters, kids simply used their friends’ cards.

Still, the move worries some privacy advocates, including the American Library Association (ALA). Just the idea of requiring computer users to identify themselves is troublesome, says Judith Krug, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “They say they destroy the records…. The problem is that while you can delete them from your mail, you have several layers under there,” says Ms. Krug. “I understand the question [of Internet abuse] and I’m sympathetic to it, but I don’t know how to deal with it. Where do you draw the line?”

tp://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/06/03/1157250&from=rss”>Anonymous Library Cards An Option?

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OT: Another Mystery [8:07 am]

With the unveiling of Deep Throat, USAToday speculates about another long-standing mystery: You probably think this story’s about… [pdf]

For more than 30 years, one of America’s best-kept secrets has remained a pop culture mystery. No, not Deep Throat. We’re talking about Carly Simon and her hit song You’re So Vain. Who was she singing about?

“It’s about Mark Felt!” Simon, 59, joked by phone Wednesday from her home in Martha’s Vineyard, referring to the former FBI official who has said he was Deep Throat.

[...] But unlike the Watergate principals, Simon says she’ll never reveal the answer, not even when she or the song’s subject dies. “I don’t see why I ever would. What would it advance?

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USAToday on Ringtones [8:03 am]

Cell phone ringtones dial into pop culture [pdf]. Nothing really new here, except possibly this bit of economic info:

Revenue is typically split by carriers, music labels, artists and independent sellers. Carriers usually reap the biggest cut. “Lots of people change every few weeks, and ka-ching! It’s another $1.50 for the carrier,” [Ovum Research's Roger] Entner says.

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Online Product Differentiation [7:54 am]

A BusinessWeek article on MusicGiants: tackling one of the objections to current online music - lossy compression: Is This Digital Music’s Future? [pdf]

[A]nother question is going to become an important issue for an increasing percentage of consumers: Namely, what will the sound quality of this music be? Today, songs pulled off the Net are skimpy facsimiles of the ones you get on a CD. They’re highly compressed — stripped of millions of digital bits that leave them with about one-tenth of the data found on a CD track (that’s assuming the typical “bit rate” of 128 kilobits-per-second). You can transfer the files fast, but the sacrifice is sound quality.

That’s fine for now, since most people listen to digital music on their PCs or MP3 players — devices normally used with cheap speakers that mask any sound quality deficiencies. And compression has played a vital role in the development of the market so far. It’s the magic that makes iPod-mania possible, by enabling even tiny devices with limited storage to carry thousands of songs.

But if the digital music revolution is to reach its full potential — an all-digital future, perhaps, in which CDs racks are no longer needed — analysts say the industry will have to hit a far better-sounding note. Already, tech-savvy consumers are dabbling with ways to distribute their digital tunes more freely, to play them on their good living-room speakers, wall-rattling home theaters, or slick car audio systems.

[...] MusicGiants offers some interesting features that provide a glimpse into the future of digital music. The service is clearly designed to be used with a big-screen TV in the living room, not the PC in the den. The company has designed a wireless keyboard and handheld mouse to navigate the site, and three remote-control manufacturers are designing compatible models. And the uncluttered user interface was created with the technically challenged in mind. It’s devoid of geek-speak. Rather than “rip,” for example, there’s an icon simply labeled “Copy from CD.”

Related: Some frank talk from another BusinessWeek Q&A article — A Cacophony of Music Formats

Reader James Morse asks: I’m confused about which digital music player to buy, an iPod or an MP3 player? Why are there different formats? Can either play the other’s format?

[...] There are lots of technical arguments about the virtues and flaws of each of these formats and protection schemes, but it’s really all about locking users into certain services and devices. The net effect is to make things very confusing for consumers.

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EFF (Donna?) Broadcast Flag Speculations [7:43 am]

CommDaily: MPAA May Not Seek Broadcast Flag in DTV Bill (also Donna’s Copyfight post)

Also, a CRS report: Copyright Protection of Digital Television: The “Broadcast Flag”

From the report:

Possible Implications of the Broadcast Flag. While the broadcast flag is intended to “prevent the indiscriminate redistribution of [digital broadcast] content over the Internet or through similar means,” the goal of the flag was not to impede a consumer’s ability to copy or use content lawfully in the home, nor was the policy intended to “foreclose use of the Internet to send digital broadcast content where it can be adequately protected from indiscriminate redistribution.” However, current technological limitations have the potential to hinder some activities which might normally be considered “fair use” under existing copyright law. For example, a consumer who wished to record a program to watch at a later time, or at a different location (time-shifting, and space-shifting, respectively), might be prevented when otherwise approved technologies do not allow for such activities, or do not integrate well with one another, or with older, “legacy” devices. In addition, future fair or reasonable uses may be precluded by these limitations. For example, a student would be unable to email herself a copy of a project with digital video content because no current secure system exists for email transmission.

In addition, some consumer electronics and information technology groups contend that the licensing terms for approving new compliant devices are limiting, and may potentially stifle innovation, especially with regard to computer hardware. While the FCC in its Report and Order declined to establish formal guidelines for which “objective criteria should be used to evaluate new content protection and recording technology,” it has stated an intention to take up these issues in the future.

Finally, consumer rights and civil liberties groups worry about the possibility that such content protections will limit the free flow of information and hamper the First Amendment. This concern is expressed most prominently regarding news or public interest-based content, or works that have already entered the public domain. Despite suggestions raised by consumer rights groups, the FCC has so far declined to adopt language to prevent content providers from using the broadcast flag on such programs, largely because of the “practical and legal difficulties of determining which types of broadcast content merit protection from indiscriminate redistribution and which do not.”

See also Broadcast Flag at Half Mast?; Slashdot’s MPAA Giving Up on Broadcast Flag… For Now?

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