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September 25, 2005

Xeni to Authors Suing Google: Grow Up! [2:44 pm]

You authors are saps to resist Googling [pdf]

If the paranoid myopia that drives such thinking penetrates too deeply into the law, search engines will eventually shut down. What’s the difference, after all, between a copyrighted Web page and a copyrighted book? What if Internet entrepreneurs could sue Google for indexing their websites? What if the law required search engines to get clearance for every Web page? Even a company as large and well-funded as Google couldn’t pull that off because what’s on the Internet, and who owns that content, changes constantly.

As one author told me, “fear of obscurity, not digital indexing, is what keeps most authors awake at night.”

Technology that makes it easier to find, buy and read books is good for everyone — even the authors suing Google.

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One Guess As To The Future Of A Web Presence [2:28 pm]

It’s Not TV, It’s Yahoo

Mr. Semel describes a strategy built on four pillars: First, is search, of course, to fend off Google, which has become the fastest-growing Internet company. Next comes community, as he calls the vast growth of content contributed by everyday users and semiprofessionals like bloggers. Third, is the professionally created content that Mr. Braun oversees, made both by Yahoo and other traditional media providers. And last, is personalization technology to help users sort through vast choices to find what interests them.

[...] Increasingly, Mr. Semel and others are finding that the long-promised convergence of television and computers is happening not by way of elaborate systems created by cable companies, but from the bottom up as video clips on the Internet become easier to use and more interesting. Already, video search engines, run by Yahoo and others, have indexed more than one million clips, and only now are the big media outlets like Viacom and Time Warner moving to put some of their quality video online.

[...] One of Yahoo’s secret weapons, Mr. Braun says, is that it can personalize information for the interests of each user, such as its My Yahoo page and the song recommendations provided to users of its music service. Mr. Braun is weaving this technology into a video player Yahoo will introduce near the end of the year.

“It will almost be like a television set,” Mr. Braun said, except as people watch one program, on the center of the player, other areas will offer additional programming choices, based on their past viewing habits. It will let them use Yahoo’s video search to find programs from amateur videographers and video bloggers. And it will, of course, promote the glitzy shows Mr. Braun is creating.

“People want the freedom to do exactly what they want to do,” he said. “But they also like to be programmed to and reminded of the different things that exist. Yahoo is in a position to do both of those.”

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September 23, 2005

More on the Pending Apple/Record Label Price Fight [10:49 am]

Apple, record labels to face off over pricing [pdf]

The licensing agreements between Apple, maker of the wildly popular iPod digital music player and operator of the most widely used music download service, and the record labels are set to expire next spring.

Both sides, which have benefited enormously from music sales created by the iPod phenomenon, are jockeying for position.

[...] Record executives, however, are seeking some flexibility in prices, including the ability to charge more for some songs and less for others, the way they do in the traditional retail world.

“There’s no content in the world that has doesn’t have some price flexibility,” said Warner Music Group Corp. (NYSE:WMG - news) chief executive Edgar Bronfman at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investor conference here. “Not all songs are created equal. Not all albums are created equal.

“That’s not to say we want to raise prices across the board or that we don’t believe in a 99-cent price point for most music,” he said. “But there are some songs for which consumers would be willing to pay more. And some we’d be willing to sell for less.”

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David Berlind’s Experiences With DRM [10:43 am]

Don’t miss the discussion, where he is chastised for resisting buying a $500 Mac mini: � DRM nightmare: Why $20,000 worth of gear won’t play my 99 cent songs

It’s kind of screwed up if you think about it. In search of that zen feel where I can have the benefits of modern day audio/video in any room in my house, but without all sorts of unsightly equipment, wires, and splitters spilling out from the nooks and crannies of those rooms, I’ve already sunk nearly $20,000 into a state-of-the-art whole-home system and I’m not even done yet. Microsoft’s Bill Gates may have the ultimate digital crib in the suburbs of Seattle. But, by the time I’m done, I won’t be far behind.

[...] The mainbar to this story is that the one of my most important goals for this project — to have a shared, centralized (and largely out of sight) system that handles the delivery of audio and/or video to any room in my house — is being undermined by Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology.

[...] How ridiculous is it that today, I can buy a song for 99 cents that I can’t just go and play on my $20,000 system? Instead, to use the music I purchase (not just at the iTunes music store, but, pretty much any online music store), I have to use a PC to jump through a ridiculous amount of hoops to remove the DRM wrapper in a process that can often result in a loss of quality.

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September 22, 2005

Closing? Capitulating? Or Heading Undeground? [9:24 am]

P2P music sites closing doors in legal fallout [pdf]

Popular file-sharing site WinMX.com ceased operating and the New York office of another, eDonkey.com, appeared to be closed, in the continuing legal fallout among underworld peer-to-peer music services, industry sources and users said on Wednesday.

[...] The latest developments come on the heels of a pending deal in which file-sharing service Grokster Ltd. is set to be acquired by Mashboxx LLC, a new company formed with the intent of establishing a legal peer-to-peer music company, sources familiar with the matter said.

[...] The current generation of file-sharing networks are all descendants of the original music-sharing phenomenon Napster, which was forced to shut down, and now operates as a legal music service.

However, peer-to-peer technology has lived on in programs like WinMX, which represent a sort of transitional generation of media-sharing programs between the pioneering Napster and more modern programs like Gnutella and eDonkey.

Despite the legal wrangling, free file-sharing has persisted and many in the industry believe it is about to embark on a new era in which it will finally be embraced commercially by media companies for legitimate purposes.

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Chinese Embrace of IP? [8:21 am]

Ummm, not really: Clinton, Lewinsky Condoms Sold in China [pdf]

A new line of Chinese condoms is attracting headlines, legal scrutiny and more than its share of bad jokes. The products’ names: “Clinton” and “Lewinsky.”

[...] “We chose the name because we think Clinton is a symbol of success and a man of responsibility. And Lewinsky is a woman who dares to love and dares to hate,” said Liu Wenhua, the company’s general manager.

[...] Liu added that because the names were registered properly with the central government’s trademark office, he didn’t anticipate any legal problems. The registration process normally takes a few months and costs about $35.

But Zheng Zhangjun, a trademark attorney with the Fengshi law firm in Beijing, said given Clinton’s fame and the evident intent to use his name for commercial gain, the former president appeared to have a strong legal case against the company.

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Verizon, Fiber Networks, and Piracy Enforcement [8:02 am]

Two articles on Verizon’s moves into video over a fiber-optic net:

  • Increased competition, maybe: Verizon Starts TV Service in Texas [pdf]

    Verizon Communications Inc., the largest U.S. telephone company, will begin offering television service today in a Texas town, a step that may eventually pressure cable companies to lower prices.

    Verizon’s launch of commercial TV service over fiber-optic lines in Keller, Tex., begins competition between cable companies and regional telephone giants to offer customers video, voice and high-speed Internet services.

  • And what does it take to get Disney onboard? A level of cooperation not seen (or at least formally acknowledged) before: Verizon, Disney in Programming Deal [pdf]

    The companies also said they plan to work together to address Internet piracy. Verizon will forward notices to subscribers allegedly pirating Disney’s works.

    Verizon will cancel Internet service for subscribers who have infringed Disney copyrights and received multiple notices, or identify them in response to subpoenas.

    Should make for an interesting court case, if true.

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Moves on EU Record Keeping Standards [7:49 am]

European Commission Shortens Time That Phone and Internet Records Must Be Kept

Seeking to break a four-year impasse, the European Commission offered a compromise on anti-terrorist legislation yesterday that would require telephone network operators and Internet service providers to keep records of phone calls and Internet traffic for a shorter amount of time.

[...] Privacy advocates and telecommunications operators reacted warily to Mr. Frattini’s plan. Gus Hosein, a lecturer in technology policy at the London School of Economics and a member of Privacy International, a group based in London that opposes data retention, said the law’s chance of approval was “slim at best.”

Europe’s national privacy laws, he noted, are far more restrictive than those in the United States, where Internet data retention is not required, though phone companies are required by law to keep call log records for six years.

Michael Bartholomew, director general of the European Telecom Network Operators Association, an industry group, said in Brussels that network operators already routinely cooperated with law enforcement officials, providing them case-by-case with information that operators collect in the normal course of business.

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Commerce Stepping Up IP/Anit-Piracy Efforts [7:47 am]

U.S. Discloses Moves to Stop Piracy of Intellectual Property

Carlos M. Gutierrez, the commerce secretary, announced on Wednesday a series of initiatives aimed at curbing the global trade in pirated and counterfeit goods, a problem that American businesses say is costing them $250 billion a year.

As part of the plan, the Commerce Department will send intellectual property experts abroad to monitor cases in the countries where much of the counterfeiting and piracy appears to be centered, including Brazil, China, India and Russia.

The department will also start an educational program offering two-day seminars for American small businesses on how to protect their intellectual property rights. The agency has also established a training program for foreign officials.

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September 21, 2005

Open Source Telephony [8:44 am]

Voice Over Internet Market Sees Changes [pdf]

Some of the chatter has been dismissive and critical of Skype and its “peer-to-peer” technology. But the Skype deal and smaller acquisitions by Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. also are sparking optimism that the industry is now pushing into the consumer and corporate mainstream after a decade of promises.

“Skype has done the community at large a favor,” said Mark Spencer, a mini-rock star in that community who created a free “open source” platform for office phone systems based on Internet Protocol technology. [...]

[...] One Asterisk programmer at the show used the platform to create a service to connect people displaced by Hurricane Katrina with friends and family. The service, called Contact Loved Ones, lets evacuees punch in a home number where they’re no longer located and record a message. Acquaintances who dial in and enter the number will be played that message and can leave their own.

Yaacov Menken, one of several Princeton University alumni who collaborated on the service, said doing that with a traditional phone system would have cost tens of thousands of dollars.

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OT: Doing What One Can With One’s 15 Minutes [8:37 am]

Poet Rebuffs Laura Bush - worth quoting in its entirety:

Protesting the war in Iraq, the poet Sharon Olds, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award and professor of writing at New York University, has rebuffed an invitation from Laura Bush, the first lady, to attend the fifth National Book Festival on the National Mall in Washington on Saturday. Noting that the event, sponsored by the Library of Congress, includes a dinner at the library and a breakfast at the White House, Ms. Olds, in a letter on the Web site of The Nation (thenation.com/doc/20051010/olds), said she found the invitation appealing. “But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you,” she wrote in a letter to Mrs. Bush. “I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush administration. . . . So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.”

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Advergaming [8:32 am]

I hope I’m never *that* bored: It’s a Game. No, It’s an Ad. No, It’s Advergame.

The comeback of the Orbitz games is indicative of a trend known as advergaming, in which marketers offer games online that double as ads - or vice versa, depending on your perspective - to capitalize on the growing interest among computer users in so-called casual gaming, playing short games whether brain teasers or time fillers.

The goal of advergaming is to encourage consumers to engage in a branded experience - that is, spend time voluntarily with an ad. That is usually more efficient and effective for a marketer than to chase after consumers with ads they are likely to shun. Among the other brands that have added sponsored online games to their marketing tactics are Jeep and Life Savers.

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Another (c) Suit For Google [8:28 am]

Copyright Lawsuit Targets Google

An organization of more than 8,000 authors accused Google on Tuesday of “massive copyright infringement,” saying the powerful internet search engine cannot put its books in the public domain for commercial use without permission.

“The authors’ works are contained in certain public and university libraries and have not been licensed for commercial use,” The Author’s Guild said in the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

See the Wired News’ editorial: Let Google Copy!

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September 20, 2005

RIAA: Moving the Goalposts [2:03 pm]

The EFF points to a Godwin’s Law entry: RIAA’s Big Push to Copy Protect Digital Radio

Never mind that digital audio broadcasting is not significantly greater in quality than regular, analog radio. Never mind that its music quality is vastly less than than that of audio CDs. In spite of these inconvenient facts, the RIAA is hoping that the transition to “digital audio broadcasting” will provide enough confusion and panic that they can persuade Congress or the FCC to impose some kind of copy-protection scheme or regulation on digital radio broadcast.

Immediately below is the text of the joint resolution by RIAA and other groups, asking Congress to copy-protect radio (which has never been copy-protected before).

Slashdot: RIAA Trying to Copy-Protect Radio; see also MusicUnited’s WWW page

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Jobs Calls ‘Em Like He Sees ‘Em [9:08 am]

Apple’s Jobs warns on music pricing [pdf]

Apple boss Steve Jobs, the man behind the popular iPod digital music player, called the music industry greedy for considering a hike in the price of digital downloads, warning such a move would drive users back to piracy.

Record companies have begun rethinking how to price songs sold over Apple’s iTunes Internet shop — 99 cents each in the United States and 79 pence in Britain — before new contract negotiations come up with the California-based company.

“If they want to raise the prices, it means that they are getting greedy,” said Jobs, chief executive of Apple , at a news conference in Paris on Tuesday.

price goes up, they (consumers) will go back to piracy and everybody loses,” he said.

Slashdot: Jobs Resists Music Industry Pressure

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What To Do With All That Money? [9:05 am]

Google plans own WiFi service: Web site [pdf]

Online search leader Google is preparing to launch its own wireless Internet service, Google WiFi, according to several pages found on the company’s Web site on Tuesday.

A WiFi service, which offers a high-speed connection to the Internet, would take Google even further from its Internet search roots and move it into the fiercely competitive world of Internet access providers and telecommunications companies.

The Google Web site has several references to Google WiFi but provides few details. One page, http://wifi.google.com/faq.html, refers to a product called “Google Secure Access,” which is designed to “establish a more secure connection while using Google WiFi.”

[...] “Becoming a service provider would be quite a stretch for Google, but considering the billions of dollars Google could throw at the problem it could become a reality,” Ovum analyst Roger Entner wrote in the wake of the Business 2.0 article.

“Depending on how Google can adapt to these challenging areas and how committed it is to the space, it could become a home run or could break the bank.”

According to Slashdot, Google WiFi+VPN Confirmed

Later: Wired News’ Google Moves Into Wi-Fi Arena and the NYTimes’ Avidly Seeking Wireless Clues From Google

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Sprint Joins In [9:03 am]

Sprint Launches Streaming Music Service [pdf]

The nation’s No. 3 wireless provider said Monday that it and Seattle-based digital media provider RealNetworks Inc. are launching a streaming music service for Sprint PCS customers called Rhapsody Radio.

[...] This is the second partnership between the companies. Sprint, with corporate headquarters in Reston, Va., and operational headquarters in Overland Park, already uses RealNetworks to provide streaming video content for its Real-rTV service.

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Baidu Shutdown Ordered [9:01 am]

Baidu ordered to halt music downloading service [pdf]

Chinese Internet search engine Baidu.com Inc. on Monday said a Beijing court ordered the company to stop providing music downloading services as part of a copyright infringement suit brought by Shanghai Busheng Music Culture Media Co.

ny, which was fined RMB 68,000, said it would appeal.

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Can We Get There From Here? [8:14 am]

File-Sharing Services Seek Pact With Record Studios

At least five online file-sharing companies have started trying to reach an accord with the music industry to convert the free trading of copyrighted music on their networks to paid services, according to several recording industry and file-sharing executives.

[...] Record industry and file-sharing executives say that the recording industry is looking for settlements that resemble its deal with iMesh, which paid $4 million in damages and promised to convert to a paid service that blocked the trading of copyrighted files without the permission of the copyright owner. None of the executives would discuss the amounts that the industry has been asking in the most recent settlement discussions.

“Ever since the Grokster decision, we have been thinking about what our next iteration should be and obviously the letter last week made that process more urgent,” said Sam Yagan, the president of MetaMachine, which distributes eDonkey. He said he had talked to both iMesh and MashBoxx but had not decided whether to sell the company, to offer his own legal service, or to continue to fight the record industry.

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September 19, 2005

Another RIAA Collection Setback [4:34 pm]

Accused File-Sharer Can Challenge Music Industry’s Collection Efforts

A woman who was sued for allegedly sharing copyrighted music files over the Internet can proceed with two of her claims against a company retained by the Recording Industry Association of American to collect “settlements” from accused file-sharers, a federal judge in Seattle has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez, in an Aug. 22 ruling, allowed plaintiff Dawnell Leadbetter to amend two of her claims — for fraud and violation of the Washington Collection Agency Act — against Settlement Support Center LLC, which assists the RIAA in collecting money from people who have been sued for file-sharing.

Judge Martinez dismissed the remainder of the suit, which included claims by Leadbetter against her Internet service provider, Comcast Cable Communications Inc., for disclosing her identity to the RIAA. Leadbetter’s attorney, Lory R. Lybeck of Lybeck Murphy LLP in Mercer Island, Wash., said his client will appeal those portions of Judge Martinez’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

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