July 19, 2005

TiVo Giveth and TiVo Taketh Away [7:54 am]

This time, it’s a little give-back to those advertisers who see the DVR as a way to “steal” content by avoiding ads: TiVo to Let Viewers Contact Advertisers

TiVo, whose equipment allows TV commercials to be skipped, will now give advertisers direct access to viewers who are interested in their products. The company said the upgrade would let about a million of its subscribers instantly respond to specially encoded advertising.

TiVo said that the changes would not affect the way users normally view shows and skip ads, and that viewers would not be forced to watch any ads they chose to ignore.

Under the new system, consumers can select an option to tell TiVo to release their contact information to an advertiser. For example, after watching an ad for an automobile or family vacation, users can use the remote control to request that a brochure be sent to their home.

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Cdigix and the RIAA Sales Tactics [7:24 am]

Another set of campuses set to payout: On Campus, Legal Music Services [pdf]

The agreement with Englewood, Colo.-based Cdigix Inc. is the largest since campuses across the country began searching two years ago for alternatives to the illegal peer-to-peer downloading that clogged their computer networks and put students in legal jeopardy.

Cdigix’s contract gives administrators at all 13 UC and 23 Cal State campuses the option of offering online music and movie services to students.

Both UC and Cal State also are negotiating with other providers — such as Napster Inc., Sony Corp. and Mindawn — in the hope of giving campuses a choice of services.

[...] Lawsuits against schools are rare, because, as Internet service providers, they are generally protected against liability for their students’ actions online. Even so, schools must contend with thousands of copyright infringement notices from record labels and movie studios requesting that illegal copies of songs or films be taken off their computer networks.

[...] Offering legal alternatives to file sharing is “a way for universities to try to get around this problem that they’ve inherited. They can point to these services and say they’re making an effort to make legitimate services available to their students,” said Mike McGuire, an analyst with Gartner Group Inc. “The challenge for them now is to make these legal alternatives compelling to students.”

Hmmm - and I thought colleges had a completely different mission.

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July 18, 2005

More Whistling Past the Graveyard [2:10 pm]

Open-source P2P projects keep swapping

[A]s the dust settles over the post-Supreme Court landscape, a decided split is emerging in the peer-to-peer development community.

The legal threat facing many of the most popular file-swapping software companies may well radically change their operation and strategies. Yet open-source projects like Shareaza, which create software of similar function and popularity, are continuing unabated.

That optimism threatens to mute the court ruling’s effect on the file-swapping world, because millions of people a week are already downloading and using those independent programs.

Of course, the open-source developers’ confidence may not be justified. [...]

In the noncommercial, open-source world, programmers have discussed the court case, but few appear ready to abandon their projects. Some are taking extra precautions not to appear as though they are advocating copyright infringement, going so far as to ban users who discuss piracy from online forums.

Development and distribution of the file-swapping software itself continues, however.

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Microsoft Working On Making New Friends [12:01 pm]

Microsoft Courts Hollywood Allies [pdf] [via Slashdot] [related: this CNet News bit - Apple videos hint at film ambitions; Slashdot's Video iPod May Arrive in September]

More important, [Bill] Gates and others said in recent interviews, the settlement led to a new relationship that has changed the course of Microsoft’s fractious dealings with Hollywood. Since then, the Warner Bros. studio has guided its movie industry peers in quietly meeting Microsoft halfway on a range of contentious issues, setting the stage for the software giant to play gatekeeper for the home video business of the future.

[...] Hollywood negotiators say the key has been Microsoft’s realization that it can’t dictate terms the way it has with computer makers. After it was left in the dust by Apple’s iTunes, they say, Microsoft’s arrogance evaporated.

“They get it better than they used to,” said one studio’s new-media executive, who like others declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of negotiations. “They’re trying to learn lessons from their failure on the music side, where Apple blew them out of the water.”

Perhaps the most significant fruit emerged a year ago with the formation of a group that is close to finishing a rights-management system for high-definition video. Backers of the Advanced Access Content System, known as AACS, include tech firms Microsoft, Intel Corp. and IBM Corp.; media companies Warner Bros. and Disney; and consumer electronics companies Panasonic, Toshiba and Sony, which also makes movies.

[...] But such control may alienate customers, analysts warn. Indeed, some consumer advocates complain that Microsoft is giving veto power over new technology to the risk-averse entertainment industry. Especially disturbing, they say, is the idea of buying a device that does something, only to have a piece of restricted content disable that feature later with a forced software “upgrade.”

“The warning I’d like to see is: ‘Here are all the things that can be removed from this device if someone somewhere does something naughty, and the studios decide to punish the innocent,’ ” said Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Microsoft and other technology companies are saying that the person who makes the record should be able to design the record players, and we have never given that power to copyright holders.”

More here at Freedom to Tinker on AACS: HD-DVD Requires Digital Imprimatur

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Innovation and Open APIs [9:42 am]

Marrying Maps to Data for a New Web Service

[B]oth Google and Yahoo published documentation making it significantly easier for programmers to link virtually any kind of Internet data to Web-based maps and, in Google’s case, satellite imagery.

Since the Google and Yahoo tools were released, their uses have been demonstrated in dozens of ways by hobbyists and companies, including an annotated map guide to the California wineries and restaurants that appeared in the movie “Sideways” and instant maps showing the locations of the recent bombing attacks in London.

[...] So far the uses have been noncommercial. But Yahoo, Google and Microsoft are creating the services with the expectation that they will become a focal point in one of the next significant growth areas in Internet advertising: contextual advertisements tied to specific locations. Such ads would be embedded in maps generated by a search query or run alongside them.

While the companies have not yet disclosed how they intend to profit, one likely model is that the programming tools would be licensed on the basis of a revenue split from the advertising generated by use of the maps.

“There are billions of dollars of commerce down the road,” said Chris Churchill, chief executive of Fathom Online, a search-engine advertising firm based in New York. “It will all be an advertising-supported model, which is an epiphany for many people.”

Viewed broadly, the new services represent a shift to what is being described as “Web 2.0,” a new generation of Internet software technologies that will seamlessly plug together, much like Lego blocks, in new and unexpected ways.

[...] “To be honest, there isn’t a lot new here,” said Perry Evans, who founded MapQuest and is now chief executive of Local Matters, a local-search company based in Denver. “What’s different is the accessibility and the fact that the number of participants in local target advertising is growing.”

Google’s decision to encourage experimentation or “hacks” has led to widespread interest both from programmers and from the traditional G.I.S. industry.

Related promotional uses of tech - trailers sent to bluetooth-capable cellphones in a movie theatre lobby: A Cellphone, a Movie Lobby and a Message

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Computing Power and Ability To Monitor [9:30 am]

A Pass on Privacy?

In more and more walks of life, if what you want to do is not trackable, you can’t do it. Most consumers have had the experience of trying to buy something negligible — a pack of gum, say — and being told by a cashier that it’s impossible because “the computer is down.” It now seems quaint that after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Congress argued over whether “taggants” should be required in explosives to make them traceable. Today everything is traceable. Altered plant DNA is embedded in textiles to identify them as American. Man-made particles with spectroscopic “signatures” can be used, for example, as “security tags” for jewels. The information collected about consumers is the most sophisticated and confusing taggant of all. It is a marvelous tool, a real timesaver and a kind of electronic bracelet that turns the entire world into a place where we are living under house arrest.

Related: Marrying Maps to Data for a New Web Service and All Traffic, All the Time and Just a Click Away; less so - Tired of Prying Off Stickers? Tattooed Fruit Is on the Way

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Clear Channel Moves Into Online Radio [8:39 am]

As Clear Channel Enters the Fray, Online Radio Looks to Be Coming of Age

Clear Channel Radio, which is owned by Clear Channel Communications of San Antonio, has been going through the motions online for years. The company’s stations have dedicated Web sites, but they offer little more than pages cluttered with advertisements, song lists, entertainment news and pictures of D.J.’s.

This month Clear Channel began replacing those Web sites with simplified sites, featuring fewer ads and highlighting original programming, live Webcasts and other elements meant to keep visitors engaged.

Related: News Corp. Puts Web Businesses Into New Unit

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A New Rationale For Buying New Gear [8:29 am]

A new revenue generation scheme, or the beginning of the end of the general-purpose (and, thus, corruptable) consumer computer? Corrupted PC’s Find New Home in the Dumpster

On a recent Sunday morning when Lew Tucker’s Dell desktop computer was overrun by spyware and adware - stealth software that delivers intrusive advertising messages and even gathers data from the user’s machine - he did not simply get rid of the offending programs. He threw out the whole computer.

Mr. Tucker, an Internet industry executive who holds a Ph.D. in computer science, decided that rather than take the time to remove the offending software, he would spend $400 on a new machine.

He is not alone in his surrender in the face of growing legions of digital pests, not only adware and spyware but computer viruses and other Internet-borne infections as well. Many PC owners are simply replacing embattled machines rather than fixing them.

Later: Slashdot’s Spyware Removal: Drop PC in Dumpster

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Amazon and Its Patent Portfolio [8:12 am]

Getting a little exercise(d)? Amazon.com goes nuclear on Avis, Orbitz

Amazon.com Holdings has launched a legal offensive against a number of websites including Orbitz and Avis, claiming that they’ve infringed Amazon patents.

[...] The on-off bickering between the two was renewed on June 20, when Cendant filed suit in a Delaware court claiming that Amazon infringed its patent 6,782,370. The patent, granted last year, is entitled “System and Method for Providing Recommendation of Goods or Services Based on Recorded Purchasing History.”

Amazon and its search subsidiary A9 responded two days later, claiming Cendant and subsidiaries infringed on Patents 5,715,399 (”Secure method and system for communicating a list of credit card numbers over a non-secure network”, filed 1995); 6,629,079 (”Method and system for electronic commerce using multiple roles”, granted 2003) and 6,029,141 (”Internet-based customer referral system” filed 1997).

Cendant has sought a jury trial, while Amazon says it has suffered “irreparable injury and damages, in an amount not yet determined, for which plaintiffs are entitled to relief”.

Jeff Bezos says the patent system is broken, but his statements are consistently at odds with his company’s actions.

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July 17, 2005

Lafayette Votes For Municipal Fiber Network [10:38 pm]

Voters say ‘yes’ to fiber [via Slashdot]

Saturday’s vote authorizes Lafayette Utilities System to sell up to $125 million in bonds for a fiber to the home and business project. It will involve extending fiber optics cable down every city street, then offering residents and businesses the option of receiving high-speed Internet, telephone and/or cable TV service through LUS. City officials said they believe it can offer those services at lower prices than incumbents such as BellSouth and Cox Communications.

Also, Voters approve citywide fiber project

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July 15, 2005

Not Just A “Digital” Game [9:45 am]

Own Original Chinese Copies of Real Western Art!

China’s low wages and hunger for exports have already changed many industries, from furniture to underwear. The art world, at least art for the masses, seems to be next, and is emerging as a miniature case study of China’s successful expansion in a long list of small and obscure industries that when taken together represent a sizable chunk of economic activity.

China is rapidly expanding art colleges, turning out tens of thousands of skilled artists each year willing to work cheaply. The Internet is allowing these assembly-line paintings to be sold all over the world; the same technology allows families across America to arrange for their portraits to be painted in coastal China.

[...] China’s ability to turn what has long been an individual craft into a mass production industry may affect small-scale artists from Rome’s Spanish Steps to the sidewalks along Santa Monica’s beach in California, as well as many galleries and art colonies in between.

Artist groups in the United States are starting to express concern, questioning the originality of some Chinese paintings and whether they comply with American copyright laws.

[...] Exporters of Chinese paintings say that even though the paintings often imitate well-known works of art, the copies are inherently different because they are handmade, and so do not violate copyrights.

Robert Panzer, the executive director of the Visual Artists and Galleries Association, a trade group based in New York, disagreed. He said that the vast majority of paintings produced before the 20th century were in the public domain and could be freely copied and sold. But it is not legal to sell a painting that appears to a reasonable person like a copy of a more recent, copyrighted work, he said.

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July 14, 2005

Oz Hyperlinking Suit Won by (c) Holders [1:11 pm]

Judge: MP3 site, ISP breached copyright [via CoCo]

Stephen Cooper, operator of the mp3s4free Web site, was found guilty of copyright infringement by Federal Court Justice Brian Tamberlin.

Although Cooper didn’t host pirated recordings per se, the court found he breached the law by creating hyperlinks to sites that had infringing sound recordings.

This is the first such judgement against hyperlinking in Australia.

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UK “Chipping” Conviction [8:39 am]

Missed this July 4th news: Man convicted for chipping Xbox

The Cambridge graduate was sentenced at Caerphilly Magistrates’ Court to 140 hours of community service.

The man had been selling modified Xbox consoles which he fitted with a big hard drive containing 80 games.

“This case sets a major precedent which marks a milestone in the fight against piracy,” said games industry spokesman Michael Rawlinson.

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William Gibson on Remix Culture [8:34 am]

God’s Little Toys

[William S.] Burroughs was then as radical a literary man as the world had to offer, and in my opinion, he still holds the title. Nothing, in all my experience of literature since, has ever been quite as remarkable for me, and nothing has ever had as strong an effect on my sense of the sheer possibilities of writing.

Later, attempting to understand this impact, I discovered that Burroughs had incorporated snippets of other writers’ texts into his work, an action I knew my teachers would have called plagiarism. Some of these borrowings had been lifted from American science fiction of the ’40s and ’50s, adding a secondary shock of recognition for me.

By then I knew that this “cut-up method,” as Burroughs called it, was central to whatever it was he thought he was doing, and that he quite literally believed it to be akin to magic. When he wrote about his process, the hairs on my neck stood up, so palpable was the excitement. Experiments with audiotape inspired him in a similar vein: “God’s little toy,” his friend Brion Gysin called their reel-to-reel machine.

Sampling. Burroughs was interrogating the universe with scissors and a paste pot, and the least imitative of authors was no plagiarist at all.

[...] Our culture no longer bothers to use words like appropriation or borrowing to describe those very activities. Today’s audience isn’t listening at all - it’s participating. Indeed, audience is as antique a term as record, the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical. The record, not the remix, is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of the digital.

[...] “Who owns the words?” asked a disembodied but very persistent voice throughout much of Burroughs’ work. Who does own them now? Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do. All of us.

Though not all of us know it - yet.

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I Thought This Was A Joke [7:53 am]

And, maybe it’s a very clever one. I recall this argument from the days of the UPC barcode rollout, but I never expected to find it associated with CASPIAN — a real position, or a sly way to undermine an activist who has troubled the RFID industry? RFID Foes Find Righteous Ally

As director of the consumer privacy group Caspian, [Katherine] Albrecht is a darling of the mainstream news media too. In hundreds of interviews, in a list of publications that includes Business Week and Times of London, she has warned of privacy risks posed by RFID tags, the radio devices that retailers plan to use as a replacement for bar-code labels.

Albrecht fears that retailers will match the data emitted by the tags with their customers’ information, turning each tag into a potential tracking beacon. She also suspects the government will want access to the retailers’ RFID databases.

But one aspect of Albrecht’s anti-RFID crusade has been attracting a lot of attention from other privacy groups: her religious beliefs.

Albrecht does not often discuss her religious views with reporters. But she believes that RFID technology may be part of the fulfillment of the Mark of the Beast prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

[...] “The Mark of the Beast, 666: a prophesy from 2000 years ago,” says Albrecht, at the beginning of her video, On the Brink of the Mark, produced two years ago. “How many people (know that) technological developments of the last 10 to 20 years could be combining to make the Mark of the Beast a reality, and possibly even in our lifetimes?”

[...] The RFID industry must pay attention to the concerns of those who believe RFID may become the Mark of the Beast, said Peter de Jager, an expert on the adoption of new technologies.

“You have to take the social context into account when implementing a technology,” said de Jager.

[...] But retailers may not have much to fear, as long as Christians don’t have to pay more for their goods, said Tim Miller, professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas and chairman of the editorial board of the Religious Movements Homepage at the University of Virginia.

“There may be lots and lots of preaching,” said Miller, speaking of potential religious opposition to RFID tags. “But as long as the bargains are there, any boycott will not likely have much adverse effect.”

What better way to stifle CASPIAN than associating it with the tinfoil hatters?

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Cool Tech, Potential Business Threat - Sound Familiar? [7:31 am]

For Surfers, a Roving Hot Spot That Shares

With a device called the Junxion Box, the ["Sopranos"] production company can set up a mobile multiuser Internet connection anywhere it gets cellphone service. The box, about the size of a shoebox cover, uses a cellular modem card from a wireless phone carrier to create a Wi-Fi hot spot that lets dozens of people connect to the Internet.

[...] Junxion Boxes have also been spotted on Google’s commuter buses for employees and along Willie Nelson’s latest tour. But what may be a boon for wandering Web surfers could quickly become a threat to wireless providers.

“The premise is one person buys an air card and one person uses the service, not an entire neighborhood,” said Jeffrey Nelson, executive director for corporate communications at Verizon Wireless. “Giving things away for free doesn’t work anymore. It never did.”

Unlimited service on cellular modem cards for PC’s costs about $80 a month. The carriers are clearly worried about a technology that could destroy that business, but they have not formed a united front against Junxion.

Compare with this tech, and imagine trying to convince an artist to help promote it 3 years ago - MP3 Watch From 50 Cent (the Price Is a Bit Higher)

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Hilary Stakes Her Position w/ GTA [7:28 am]

But will establishing oneself as a female Joe Lieberman [pdf] profit anyone except the opposition? Clinton Urges Inquiry Into Hidden Sex in Grand Theft Auto Game (earlier posting)

In a letter she is sending Thursday to the Federal Trade Commission, Mrs. Clinton expressed concern over reports that anyone who used a free code downloaded over the Internet could unlock sexually graphic images hidden inside the game, called Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Mrs. Clinton asked the commission to determine “the source of this content,” especially since the game can fall into the hands of young people. The game industry’s self-policing unit, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, is investigating whether the maker of the game violated the industry rule requiring “full disclosure of pertinent content.”

Mrs. Clinton also asked the commission to look into whether the industry erred in giving the game a rating of M, or mature, for players 17 years and older. National electronics store chains sell M-rated games but tend to avoid adult-only titles.

She asked the commission to determine whether retailers were adequately enforcing the ratings. Citing statistics released by the National Institute on Media and the Family, she said that 50 percent of boys between 7 and 14 were able to buy M-rated video games.

RockStar Games’ position: Hackers Modify PC Game; also CNet’s GTA publisher blames sex mod on hackers. The Register’s take: Hillary Clinton demands GTA smut enquiry

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The Potter Police, continued [7:18 am]

Two news wire stories:

The second contains the following quote:

Mike Muldoon, Sylum’s stepfather, said they had decided to return the book because it was “the right thing.

“We don’t want to ruin it for other kids and take away from the experience of everyone reading it together,” the Poughkeepsie Journal quoted him as saying.

And, for those of you who haven’t seen the updates I added to my original post on the subject (regarding the Canadian “leak,” and including a link to the cited Poughkeepsie Journal article), I want to draw your attention to the last comment in this thread (“I have the book in possesion”) from the Slashdot discussion:

Re:I have the book in possesion (Score:1)

by raincoastbooks (899369) on Tuesday July 12, @09:17PM (#13049531)


Please be aware that the Supreme Court of British Columbia made an Order protecting the contents of the book. The terms of the Court Order mean that if you have obtained a copy of the book early you must not disclose or reveal any information about its contents or give any copies that you may have to anyone else. The Court Order also requires anyone who has a copy or copies of the book to return them to Raincoast immediately. Anyone who has purchased or otherwise obtained a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince before the publication date of July 16th should contact Raincoast immediately at 1-800-663-5714 or 604-323-7100. After hours please contact 604-968-0027 or 604-841-9206 or info@raincoast.com

Michael Geist’s thoughts — The Harry Potter Injunction and The Potter Injunction - It Could Have Been Worse (including links to a marked up injunction as well as the posted text)

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July 13, 2005

BBC’s Beethoven Symphony Distribution Causing Ire [1:39 pm]

While I was never able to get a clean download: BBC In Trouble Over Free Music.

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Suing Kahle’s Internet Archive [1:33 pm]

Being sued for doing what you designed your system to do — wonder if this is going to revolve around “intent?” - Keeper of Expired Web Pages Is Sued Because Archive Was Used in Another Suit

Beyond its utility for Internet historians, the Web page database, searchable with a form called the Wayback Machine, is also routinely used by intellectual property lawyers to help learn, for example, when and how a trademark might have been historically used or violated.

[...] In preparing the case, representatives of Earley Follmer used the Wayback Machine to turn up old Web pages - some dating to 1999 - originally posted by the plaintiff, Healthcare Advocates of Philadelphia.

Last week Healthcare Advocates sued both the Harding Earley firm and the Internet Archive, saying the access to its old Web pages, stored in the Internet Archive’s database, was unauthorized and illegal.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Philadelphia, seeks unspecified damages for copyright infringement and violations of two federal laws: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

[...] Mr. [William F.] Patry also noted that despite Healthcare Advocates’ desire to prevent people from seeing its old pages now, the archived pages were once posted openly by the company. He asserted that gathering them as part of fending off a lawsuit fell well within the bounds of fair use.

Whatever the circumstances behind the access, Mr. Patry said, the sole result “is that information that they had formerly made publicly available didn’t stay hidden.”

Slashdot: The Internet Archive Sued Over Stored Pages

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