August 31, 2005

(Rinse, Repeat) [10:52 pm]

From Slashdot: RIAA Hands out more Lawsuits

The Reuters article:

Recording industry sues more U.S. file-swappers

Wed Aug 31, 2005 1:45 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The recording industry on Wednesday filed its latest round of copyright infringement lawsuits, targeting 754 people it claims used online file-sharing networks to illegally trade in songs.

The lawsuits were filed in federal district courts across the country, including California, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The world’s major record labels, represented by the Recording Industry Association of America, have filed more than 14,000 such lawsuits since September 2003.

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Bruce Schneier on Trusted Computing, MS and Practices Document [6:06 pm]

Something fishy’s going on [via Slashdot's Microsoft Stalling TCG Best Practices Document?]

In May, the Trusted Computing Group published a best practices document: Design, Implementation, and Usage Principles for TPM-Based Platforms. Written for users and implementers of TCG technology, the document tries to draw a line between good uses and bad uses of this technology.

[...] It’s basically a good document, although there are some valid criticisms. I like that the document clearly states that coercive use of the technology–forcing people to use digital rights management systems, for example–is inappropriate.

[...] Complaints aside, it’s a good document and we should all hope that companies follow it. Compliance is totally voluntary, but it’s the kind of document that governments and large corporations can point to and demand that vendors follow.

But there’s something fishy going on. Microsoft is doing its best to stall the document, and to ensure that it doesn’t apply to Vista, Microsoft’s next-generation operating system.

[...] The only reason I can think of for all this Machiavellian maneuvering is that the TCG board of directors is making sure that the document doesn’t apply to Vista. If the document isn’t published until after Vista is released, then obviously it doesn’t apply.

Near as I can tell, no one is following this story. No one is asking why TCG best practices apply to hardware-based systems if they’re writing software-only specifications. No one is asking why the document doesn’t apply to all TCG systems, since it’s obviously written without any particular technology in mind. And no one is asking why the TCG is delaying the adoption of any software best practices.

I believe the reason is Microsoft and Vista, but clearly there’s some investigative reporting to be done.

See Gambling That Monopoly & Inertia Win Out, below.

Later: Slashdot’s Trusted Computing And You

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Light Posting Day [8:01 am]

TPP Orientation is today; so I’m going to be a little tied up. Might get a few things up as the day progresses, but my laptop is going to be the presentation platform, so it’s not going to be easy!

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August 30, 2005

Gambling That Monopoly & Inertia Win Out [12:00 pm]

Will the customer swallow DRM and easy access to Hollywood in exchange for being under the thumb of the OS? Is Microsoft really guessing that the era of the personal, general-purpose computer is already over? Or is this a trial balloon to get the backlash that MS needs to get Hollywood to back off? Hollywood, Microsoft align on new Windows

For the first time, the Windows operating system will wall off some audio and video processes almost completely from users and outside programmers, in hopes of making them harder for hackers to reach. The company is establishing digital security checks that could even shut off a computer’s connections to some monitors or televisions if antipiracy procedures that stop high-quality video copying aren’t in place.

In short, the company is bending over backward–and investing considerable technological resources–to make sure Hollywood studios are happy with the next version of Windows, which is expected to ship on new PCs by late 2006. Microsoft believes it has to make nice with the entertainment industry if the PC is going to form the center of new digital home networks, which could allow such new features as streaming high-definition movies around the home.

[...] “There is a concern that there is a tendency to lock down parts of the design to protect the flanks of the copy-protection system,” said Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten, who has been an outspoken critic of rigid copy-protection rules. “That makes it harder for everyone, including Microsoft, to adapt to new uses.”

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OT: It’s Not Friday, But…. [7:34 am]

Who can resist this bit: PowerPoint: Killer App? [pdf]

Did PowerPoint make the space shuttle crash? Could it doom another mission? Preposterous as this may sound, the ubiquitous Microsoft “presentation software” has twice been singled out for special criticism by task forces reviewing the space shuttle disaster.

Perhaps I’ve sat through too many PowerPoint presentations lately, but I think the trouble with these critics is that they don’t go far enough: The software may be as much of a mind-numbing menace to those of us who intend to remain earthbound as it is to astronauts.

[...] The deeper problem with the PowerPointing of America — the PowerPointing of the planet, actually — is that the program tends to flatten the most complex, subtle, even beautiful, ideas into tedious, bullet-pointed bureaucratese.

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The Pending Apple Announcement [7:29 am]

One speculation, albeit with a little more about the industry in general: An IPod Cellphone Said to Be Imminent

Apple Computer and Motorola plan to unveil a long-awaited mobile phone and music player next week that will incorporate Apple’s iTunes software, a telecommunications industry analyst who has been briefed on the announcement said on Monday.

[...] Apple, Motorola and Cingular declined to confirm or deny the report. But Apple did announce on Monday that it would hold a major news event on Sept. 7 in San Francisco that it indicated was music-related. Apple is routinely tight-lipped about pending product announcements, preferring to make a splash on the day of the event.

[...] It was not clear whether the iTunes phone would allow users to download songs directly from the Internet onto the phone, though music industry analysts said they doubted that such a capability would be immediately available. Mike McGuire, an online-music analyst with Gartner Inc., a research firm, said that so-called over-the-air downloads would first require ironing out technological and music-licensing issues.

But the day of wireless downloads of full songs is not far off, according to major wireless carriers. Sprint said on Monday that by the end of the year it planned to offer phones that allowed users to download full songs wirelessly. Mr. Nelson of Verizon Wireless said his company was also in the final stages of developing such a capability.

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The Evolving Music Market [6:55 am]

A couple of stories:

  • From the Boston Globe, a look at the latest Starbucks exclusive release from Bob Dylan: The times they are a-changin’ [pdf]

    For local record stores, this kind of exclusive arrangement — the Dylan deal is for 18 months — is more than annoying. Witness the repeated complaints from, among others, Newbury Comics boss Mike Dreese. Why do Dylan and Alanis Morissette want to sell out to Starbucks? But record industry wonks, desperately fighting for survival, can smell the sumatra.

    ”What they’re doing is moving aggressively into music retailing and utilizing their remarkable power and leveraging their unique relationship with their customers to sell music,” says Jason Flom, president of Lava Records, who struck a deal with Starbucks to sell discs from a new band, Antigone Rising. More than 60,000 CDs were sold at Starbucks the first six weeks. ”I’m delighted. There’s a limited amount of space in the stores and tens of millions of people who go through there every week. You’d be hard pressed to say you’re not thrilled they’ve chosen music.”

    And choose, they do. Not only are the barristas stocking the shelves. Through the Starbucks stereo, they’re able to play you music that’s not for sale.

  • The BBC’s expected foray: BBC targets music downloads in Internet strategy [pdf]

    The BBC wants to be a major player in the digital media world and is considering partnerships with private businesses to sell music downloads, Director-General Mark Thompson said on Saturday.

    [...] “Everything we know about the online world suggests that it’s the big brands — the eBays (Nasdaq:EBAY - news), the Amazons (Nasdaq:AMZN - news), the Microsofts (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) — that punch through, and the BBC is one of the big brands,” Thompson said in a speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

    [...] The prospect of the BBC using its massive heft is likely to upset UK media and Internet companies, which have often complained that the corporation — funded by a mandatory tax on UK television households totaling nearly 3 billion pounds — has encroached on activities in the private sector.

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August 29, 2005

Missed This Milestone In Digital Music [5:09 pm]

The day Rio’s music died

The Japanese company that makes the Rio line of MP3 players is shuttering its portable digital-audio division.

Rio parent D&M Holdings said on Friday that the ultra-competitive business no longer fit its market strategy.

Although it has only a small market share compared to Apple Computer’s iPod, the Rio brand name has been linked with the early days of digital-music history since weathering a lawsuit from the recording industry that aimed to shut down the MP3 hardware business.

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We All Scream For Copyright Infringement [2:09 pm]

Follow That Truck! Mister Softee Shows Hard Side [pdf]

It was a surveillance job that would lead to car chases through side-street labyrinths. But the chases were all at very low speeds. After all, the target this day was not some elusive spy, desperate fugitive or stealthy adulterer, but rather a lumbering white truck stopping to sell soft-serve ice cream to sugar-crazed children, all while blaring the repetitive Mister Softee jingle.

“We’re lucky,” whispered one investigator named Joe, who, like his colleagues, would give only his first name because in his line of work, he makes a lot of enemies. “It’s a good ice cream day.”

He opened a leather portfolio and began scribbling notes in a packet titled, “Mister Softee Surveillance, Queens Location.”

[...] On this job, however, the sleuths were on the trail of ice cream trucks, specifically Mister Softee look-alikes. The company hired them to identify independent trucks that it says resemble the well-known Mister Softee franchise vehicles so closely that they deceive customers.

In the past several months, the investigators say, they have gathered enough evidence against 30 operators of “rip-off trucks” in New York City and on Long Island for Mister Softee to name them as defendants in a trademark and copyright infringement lawsuit that company officials say they plan to file this week in federal court in Manhattan.

They said they were preparing similar suits in Philadelphia and possibly northern New Jersey.

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VHS Obit [10:22 am]

Parting Words For VHS Tapes, Soon to Be Gone With the Rewind [pdf]

“I would think 2006 is the last year that there are major releases on VHS, and there won’t be many of those,” confirms Bo Andersen, president of the Video Software Dealers Association, a trade group for home video retailers.

[...] The following might be the ultimate proof of VHS’s demise, though: When “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” comes to home video on Nov. 1, it will be available only on DVD, marking the first time an installment in the Skywalker saga is not on VHS. As Yoda himself might say, the life of VHS clearly close to ending is.

[...] As we prepare to bury VHS, we can take solace in the knowledge that its memory will live on. In the current clash between the developing high-definition DVD formats Blu-ray and HD-DVD, we will still hear the echoes of VHS vs. Beta. At every yard sale where a neighbor tries to sell us an aging copy of “When Harry Met Sally” for $1, we will still see VHS’s black, plastic face. And on the streets of Manhattan, wherever bootleg videos are being illegally hawked, the wind will whisper the name: VHS, VHS.

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Ways To Buy Music [9:30 am]

How Do You Catch Your Tunes? [pdf]

“Nobody even knows that Tuesday is album release day anymore,” said Lucas Hayes, a music manager at the store, standing next to a promotional billboard for Ry Cooder’s new album. “Sometimes I have to explain that to people.”

[...] The choices and technologies in music-buying bring to mind the old saying about computers: As soon as you take one out of the box, it’s obsolete. In the case of music, as soon as you decide how to purchase tunes, a new way (or technology) comes along.

“It’s all very complicated, which is just crazy,” said Ted Schadler, a music industry analyst for Forrester Research. “Unless you’re a music lover, maybe you don’t bother with it. It’s hard to find your way around.”

[...] Many music fans find all the choices exhilarating. Many more find it a dizzying mess.

[...] Hayes has also noticed that many music shoppers have a particular affinity for the $8.99 bin — not for the price, though that’s important, but for its contents. He points out an old Ry Cooder album. There’s Billie Holiday. There’s a remastered version of “Ocean Rain,” released by Echo and the Bunnymen way back in time, in 1984.

“That’s a classic album that everyone should own,” Hayes said.

A classic album. That very description has gone classic, too.

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Moving Out Of Electronics Retailers [9:28 am]

And into everyplace else: DVDs and Fries: New Ways To Consume Technology[pdf]

Buying technology once meant having to trek to a specialty electronics store. But as the prices of laser disks and computer chips have plummeted and as gadgets have simplified, other types of outlets have begun to sell technology and entertainment offerings, turning sophisticated items into commodities like milk and eggs.

Josh Bernoff, a media technology analyst with Forrester Research Inc., said the idea of stopping by a retail food chain or other type of store to pick up technology appeals to a modern culture that’s obsessed with speed and efficiency.

[...] In some cases, retailers set out to target the last untapped high-tech market: technology laggards, people who might be somewhat intrigued by the new-fangled gadgets, but haven’t set aside the time and money to seek them out. An estimated 32 percent of Americans do not own cell phones, according to a 2004 survey by the Pew Research Center, and 38 percent don’t own computers, according to a 2003 U.S. Census Bureau estimate.

The surprise, retailers say, is that many of the customers who take advantage of the stores’ new high-tech offerings don’t fit the mold. These buyers are sophisticated about technology and looking for more seamless ways to integrate it into their everyday lives.

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P2P Escalation [9:16 am]

P2P users traveling by eDonkey

Last year, British company CacheLogic said BitTorrent–a peer-to-peer technology optimized for downloading large files–was accounting for more than half of all the file-swapping traffic on Internet service provider networks around the world.

A year later, peer-to-peer traffic in general continues to account for the majority of data traffic on ISP networks, usually between 50 percent and 70 percent of the total, the company said. But BitTorrent has been overtaken by usage of eDonkey, a rival with more power to search for content, but with similar speedy download features.

“That seems to be the trend most of the way around the globe, apart from Asia where there is a lot of BitTorrent,” said Andrew Parker, CacheLogic’s chief technology officer. “BitTorrent traffic levels are in decline.”

BBC: File-sharers move from BitTorrent

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Desperation Yields Inanity [9:13 am]

Oh, yeah — this should work: McCartney + Morissette Use Aliases To Fool Pirates + Thieves [via Fark]

Music industry bigwigs fear the bigger stars’ preview albums are being swiped by interns and pirated weeks before their release dates.

So, McCartney’s upcoming album has been credited to PETE MITCHELL, while Hill, Morissette and Depeche Mode are sending out their albums as FERN HOLLOWAY, ARTHUR MOORE and BLACK SWARM respectively, according to the Los Angeles Times.

[...] But the publicists admit their alias plan is far from flawless - some critics, who are inundated with albums to review, give unknown artists’ albums away or discard them.

Geffen Records publicist JIM MERLIS explains, “You can actually out-clever yourself in these situations.”

Ya think?

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August 28, 2005

Something Dave Clark’s Been Talking About For A While [9:44 pm]

Early Look at Research Project to Re-engineer the Internet

The project, which has not yet received financing and may cost more than $300 million, is intended to include both a test facility and a research program. As described in documents circulated by National Science Foundation officials, the network will focus on security, “pervasive computing” environments populated by mobile, wireless and sensor networks, control of critical infrastructure and the ability to handle new services that can be used by millions of people.

Peter A. Freeman, assistant director of the science foundation for computer and information science and engineering, said that “simply to provide the kind of security everyone needs and carry the huge volumes of data necessary in the future, there was strong thinking that new architectures beyond the Internet were going to be needed.”

[...] “If you look at the Internet today, it does what it does really well,” said David Clark, a senior research scientist at the Laboratory for Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s profound, but we can look at it and see some things that aren’t right. The most obvious is that there is no framework for security.”

[...] “What we need to envision the future,” Mr. Clark said, is to “stop thinking about the present and saying, ‘Let’s put a Band-Aid here.’ ”

Also see the Wired News article (NSF Preps New, Improved Internet), and the Slashdot discussion (NSF Ponders New And Improved Internet).

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Ahh, Godcasting [9:39 pm]

Missed Church? No Worries. Download It to Your IPod.

“Having an iPod is a guaranteed way to get the sermon if you’re going to be out of town,” Mr. Lewis said, adding that he listens to the pastor’s podcast at least once more during the week, usually while driving to work, even during weeks he makes it to services.

Mr. Lewis’s pastor, the Rev. Mark Batterson, started podcasting, or “godcasting” as he prefers to call it, last month to spread the word about his congregation. The hourlong recordings of his weekly service, available on theaterchurch.com, have already brought new parishioners to his church, he said.

“I can’t possibly have a conversation with everyone each Sunday. But this builds toward a digital discipleship,” he said. “We’re orthodox in belief but unorthodox in practice.”

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Another Step Toward GoogleZon? [7:27 pm]

What do you think? (earlier links) Free Wi-Fi? Get Ready for GoogleNet. [via Slashdot]

What if Google (GOOG) wanted to give Wi-Fi access to everyone in America? And what if it had technology capable of targeting advertising to a user’s precise location? The gatekeeper of the world’s information could become one of the globe’s biggest Internet providers and one of its most powerful ad sellers, basically supplanting telecoms in one fell swoop. Sounds crazy, but how might Google go about it?

First it would build a national broadband network — let’s call it the GoogleNet — massive enough to rival even the country’s biggest Internet service providers. Business 2.0 has learned from telecom insiders that Google is already building such a network, though ostensibly for many reasons. For the past year, it has quietly been shopping for miles and miles of “dark,” or unused, fiber-optic cable across the country from wholesalers such as New York’s AboveNet. It’s also acquiring superfast connections from Cogent Communications and WilTel, among others, between East Coast cities including Atlanta, Miami, and New York. Such large-scale purchases are unprecedented for an Internet company, but Google’s timing is impeccable. The rash of telecom bankruptcies has freed up a ton of bargain-priced capacity, which Google needs as it prepares to unleash a flood of new, bandwidth-hungry applications. These offerings could include everything from a digital-video database to on-demand television programming.

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Continuing Google Privacy Fallout [6:37 pm]

With a tie to the book publishers concerns about the Googling of libraries: Google Anything, so Long as It’s Not Google

Last month, Elinor Mills, a writer for CNET News, a technology news Web site, set out to explore the power of search engines to penetrate the personal realm: she gave herself 30 minutes to see how much she could unearth about Mr. Schmidt by using his company’s own service. The resulting article, published online at CNET’s News.com under the sedate headline “Google Balances Privacy, Reach,” was anything but sensationalist. It mentioned the types of information about Mr. Schmidt that she found, providing some examples and links, and then moved on to a discussion of the larger issues. She even credited Google with sensitivity to privacy concerns.

When Ms. Mills’s article appeared, however, the company reacted in a way better suited to a 16th-century monarchy than a 21st-century democracy with an independent press. David Krane, Google’s director of public relations, called CNET.com’s editor in chief to complain about the disclosure of Mr. Schmidt’s private information, and then Mr. Krane called back to announce that the company would not speak to any reporter from CNET for a year.

CNET’s transgression is unspeakable - literally so. When I contacted Mr. Krane last week, he said he was not authorized to speak about the incident.

[...] One of the personal items revealed when CNET Googled Mr. Schmidt was a speaker’s biography that he had apparently provided the Computer History Museum for a talk he gave four years ago. He described himself then as a “political junkie who never tires of debating the great issues of our day.” Very well, Mr. Schmidt. When CNET next calls, please pick up the phone and let this debate begin.

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Scaremongering? One View of Movie Piracy [6:19 pm]

At least, this one gets to some of the counter-points to increased control: King Kong vs. the Pirates of the Multiplex

But even the mighty Kong may not be safe from the clutches of a nebulous, tech-savvy network of film pirates who specialize in stealing copies of first-run movies and distributing them globally on the Internet or on bootleg DVD’s. While Hollywood has battled various forms of film looting for decades, this time seems different. Piracy in the digital era is more lucrative, sophisticated and elusive than ever - and poses a far bigger financial threat.

“Piracy has the very real potential of tipping movies into becoming an unprofitable industry, especially big-event films. If that happens, they will stop being made,” said Mr. Jackson in an e-mail message from New Zealand, where he is putting the final touches on his version of “King Kong.” “No studio is going to finance a film if the point is reached where their possible profit margin goes straight into criminals’ pockets.”

[...] Universal, aiming to protect filmdom’s mightiest gorilla, is watermarking and encrypting copies of “King Kong.” It is also supervising access to the film during all phases of its production, monitoring online any machinations involving the movie and planning to guard advance screenings. Other Hollywood studios, including Warner Brothers, whose fourth installment of the “Harry Potter” film series is due this fall, are taking similar steps to combat piracy. For the time being, however, the bootleggers remain a moving target.

“This is not just about the film industry: whether you’re talking about the pharmaceutical industry, the information technology industry or filmed entertainment, the protection of intellectual property is crucial,” said Darcy Antonellis, who helps oversee antipiracy efforts for Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner. “If we can’t build businesses around ideas, and feel comfortable that we have the right to those ideas, then our entire business is threatened.”

[...] “I don’t believe piracy can be easily beaten; fighting fire with fire by releasing movies on DVD at the same time as cinemas is probably where the industry is heading in the next few years,” said Mr. Jackson, the director. “Electronic delivery directly into both cinemas and people’s homes will not necessarily beat pirates, but it will mean studios are at least on a similar playing field.”

[...] Others watching the wrangling between Hollywood and film pirates say the online world offers an alternate distribution system - free from the confines and control of movie studios and television networks - that will allow independent filmmakers to reach a broader audience. Their concern is that antipiracy efforts will stymie innovation.

“The physical part of the Internet might get stifled because these things are being demonized,” said Mr. Smith, whose Morpheus software was in dispute in the Grokster case. “That’s what I’m worried about when people begin to talk about the darknet and the need to protect content.”

Later: Slashdot’s King Kong vs Movie Pirates

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“Multi-plat-fornication” [6:13 pm]

MTV’s evolving strategy: Every Network That Rises Must Converge

[MTV's Van] Toffler has a plan in motion to upgrade the network for the age of digital convergence, a strategy he has been known to refer to as “multi-plat-fornication”: an all-out effort to deliver MTV content to every form of technology imaginable, from mobile phones to digital cable to a Web-based on-demand channel called MTV Overdrive. “The people who tap into the rhythm of how this audience uses media, those are the ones who are going to win,” he said. “Our audience is full of multitaskers. They’re IM-ing and talking on the phone and doing their homework and watching TV all at the same time.”

The first big test of this new era takes place tonight, with the broadcast of the Video Music Awards, the network’s signature event. In addition to the traditional celebrity-studded ceremony (broadcast live from Miami at 8 Eastern time, and rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Pacific), viewers will also be offered backstage shots and bonus content simultaneously on the MTV Overdrive broadband channel: while watching an acceptance speech from, say, Coldplay on live television, a viewer can also be logged onto Overdrive and see Kanye West in his dressing room or the Killers performing outside American Airlines Arena. “It’s all about circulating people back and forth between the different screens,” Mr. Toffler explained.

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