NYTimes Review of J. D. Lasica’s DarkNet

Picking the Media’s Digital Lock

THE new book “Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation,” by J. D. Lasica, covers ground that’s been pounded before: the often-draconian or clueless ways big entertainment companies try to control content or subvert emerging technologies, and how people work around those efforts by sharing content online often in walled-off, anonymous places like private Internet Relay Chat rooms and the Free Network Project (freenet.sourceforge.net).

Mr. Lasica, a journalist, brings a storyteller’s flair to the subject, but what really makes Darknet unique is that it was born online and lives there still at www.darknet.com. The book, just one part of the overall project, was written in collaboration with its audience via a wiki – a Web application that allows any user to add or edit content. At the site, Mr. Lasica and his readers continue to share news and expand on the ideas presented in the book. His site also offers many excerpts.

[…] “Because users don’t like digital locks, somebody will figure out how to pick them, and content will spill into the Darknet despite the best efforts to wall it off. The best way companies can fight darknet piracy, they said, is by offering affordable, convenient, compelling products and services. In other words, the most effective copy protection system is a great business model.”

Another Experiment

Steal This Book. Or at Least Download It Free.

How about “don’t fix what ain’t broke”? Mr. Adler has published 27 novels. But did he follow the tried-and-true conventional print route for “Death of a Washington Madame,” his 28th? No. He’s self-publishing that one electronically, and e-mailing it free, a chapter at a time, to anyone who asks. Fogies (like this reporter) who still want the feel of pages “can always print the chapter out,” he said. “The main thing is, give readers a new book for free, and they might go back and buy some of the former books.”

The way Mr. Adler, 77 (there goes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”), sees it, portable electronic readers will soon do to paper books what the Walkman and iPod did to boomboxes.

“Print publishing has had a great 500-year run, but the print book is morphing into the screen book,” he said during a recent lunch at Pigalle, a French restaurant in Manhattan’s theater district.

Using the New Modes of Distribution

File Share and Share Alike

For most in the culture industry, the chance of the file-sharing program BitTorrent serving a positive function is as likely as Darth Vader joining Habitat for Humanity. The popular program is a well-known tool for downloading pirated versions of films and television series. It has been especially popular among fans of Japanese animation, or anime – especially “fansubbers,” anime lovers who swap their own subtitled versions of programs, and frequently get them into circulation before the original series is on the market. Fansubbers tend to think of themselves as enthusiasts sharing material they love, rather than pirates who buy, sell or horde it. Nonetheless, lawyers are not amused: in December, a Tokyo law firm representing one Japanese anime distributor e-mailed four major Web sites, asking them to stop encouraging the theft of the distributors’ series.

But ADV Films, the largest distributor of anime in the United States, has decided to make the best of a bad situation. To publicize its new series “Gilgamesh” and “Goddanar,” it is releasing promotional packages – not in stores, but via the dreaded BitTorrent. “BitTorrent has been used extensively in a kind of underground environment up until now,” said David Williams, a producer at ADV, in a telephone interview from the company’s Houston headquarters. “There’s a large group of people who have it on their systems. Since this core group already exists, we figured why not give them legitimate material to download that would help them learn about some of our products.”

Evolution of the Business Model

Record Label Hopes to Sell Phone Service to Music Fans

A major record label, the Universal Music Group, said on Friday that it had entered into a strategic alliance to sell a music-oriented cellphone service.

The phones will include features that make it easier to download snippets of songs, and, eventually entire songs, according to the Universal Music Group’s strategic partner, Single Touch Interactive, which works with companies to develop and package branded phone service.

DC Comics and (c)

‘Gay Batman’ show riles comics publisher [via Fark]

Paintings of gay fantasies involving comic book heroes Batman and Robin have raised more than just eyebrows while on display in a New York gallery — especially for DC Comics, which owns the copyrights to the characters.

Lawyers for the comic books publisher wants the display closed and has threatened legal action against the Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts gallery, which opened the exhibit in February.

See also this ArtNet posting; image at Can’t a gay Batman get a break?; the ArtNet gallery of images