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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