September 26, 2005

New Wiretap Rules Are Out [5:59 pm]

Wiretap rules for VoIP, broadband coming in 2007

It’s clear from the Federal Communications Commission’s 59-page decision (click for PDF), released late Friday evening, that any voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, provider linking with the public telephone network must be wiretap-ready. That list would include companies such as Vonage, SkypeOut and Packet 8.

But what remains uncertain is what the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) ruling means for companies, universities, nonprofits–and even individuals offering wireless or other forms of Internet access.

Statements from the FCC commissioners

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China’s Firewall, Built With American Bricks [2:04 pm]

The title phrase comes from a piece on today’s Morning Edition: China Tightens Its Restrictions for News Media on the Internet

China on Sunday imposed more restrictions intended to limit the news and other information available to Internet users, and it sharply restricted the scope of content permitted on Web sites.

The rules are part of a broader effort to roll back what the Communist Party views as a threatening trend toward liberalization in the news media. Taken together, the measures amount to a stepped-up effort to police the Internet, which has become a dominant source of news and information for millions of urban Chinese.

Major search engines and portals like Sina.com and Sohu.com, used by millions of Chinese each day, must stop posting their own commentary articles and instead make available only opinion pieces generated by government-controlled newspapers and news agencies, the regulations stipulate.

The rules also state that private individuals or groups must register as “news organizations” before they can operate e-mail distribution lists that spread news or commentary. Few individuals or private organizations are likely to be allowed to register as news organizations, meaning they can no longer legally distribute information by e-mail.

Existing online news sites, like those run by newspapers or magazines, must “give priority” to news and commentary pieces distributed by the leading national and provincial news organs.

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Everybody Into The Pool! [1:59 pm]

Microsoft Plans to Sell Search Ads of Its Own

The Microsoft Corporation will unveil today its own system for selling Web advertising as it struggles to compete with Google and Yahoo in the expanding Web search business. The system, to be used by MSN, is meant to improve on those of Microsoft’s rivals by allowing marketers to aim ads on Web search pages to users based on their sex, age or location.

The move is part of Microsoft’s broad response to the threat from Google, which is using its powerful advertising sales network to support an expanding range of free software products and Internet services. Last week, Microsoft announced a broad reorganization that placed MSN in the same group as its Windows operating system, indicating that it saw software delivered over the Internet - and possibly paid for through advertising - as central to its future.

But to offer such advertising-supported services, Microsoft needs to control its own system for selling targeted advertising. Until now, the ads on MSN’s search service have been sold by Yahoo.

[...] “We are very heavy on user privacy,” said Tim Armstrong, the vice president for advertising at Google. “So our way of targeting advertising relies heavily on what we know about the content people are looking for.” He added that Google does take other variables into account, like the time of day and the location of the user, but Google’s technology does this automatically to make the process simpler for the advertiser.

While Google does not currently use personal data to direct placement of its ads, there is nothing in its privacy policy that precludes it from doing so, said Michael Mayzel, a Google spokesman.

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How To Differentiate A Movie Theatre From A Home Theatre [1:57 pm]

Going Deep for Digital

Among prominent filmmakers, who are eyeing dwindling box-office figures just as uneasily as theater owners, several have seized on 3-D as almost a panacea.

“As the public’s home television and sound systems get better and better, what is the reason they have to go to the movies?” said Jon Landau, a partner in Mr. Cameron’s company, Lightstorm Entertainment, which is making the action fantasy “Battle Angel” in 3-D. “We believe 3-D is one of those things that people will come out of their homes in droves to see. From the big-scale movies to the small dramas - if you have somebody on their deathbed, and an intimate moment, you are much better off dropping the barrier of the screen, putting the audience in that moment, and putting it in 3-D.”

Whether the next “Terms of Endearment,” let alone the next “Terminator,” will be seen by millions in 3-D is anybody’s guess, of course. But the digital introduction, on which 3-D technology will piggyback, is picking up speed. After months of wrangling between the studios and several vendors, the first deals are being signed that could lead theater owners to buy and install digital projectors.

The structure of the deals follows a pattern. Theater owners pay roughly $10,000 toward the $85,000 cost of converting each auditorium. The balance is recovered, typically over 10 years, from the movie studios, which pay “virtual print fees.”

These fees, which start at around $1,000 for each copy of a movie delivered to a theater, are intended to approximate the studios’ financial savings on film prints and shipping. They have agreed to steer that money to the suppliers of digital cinema equipment.

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NYTimes on Fiona Apple’s Latest Album [1:55 pm]

The one that there was such a brouhaha over a while ago: Re-emerging After a Strange Silence

When the Brion-produced version of “Extraordinary Machine” showed up on the Internet earlier this year, Ms. Apple, upset that her unfinished work was available, thought Sony would scrap the album. “Who is going to give me money to make songs that are already out there?” she recalled thinking at the time.

Little did Ms. Apple know that a group of fans was pleading with Sony to release her album, which they thought had been shelved. Both Sony and Ms. Apple say it was not. On the Web site www.freefiona.com they railed against the “corporate giant” standing between them and their beloved.

“Please give us Fiona and we’ll give you money back,” read one poem posted on the site. Hundreds of foam apples were sent to the company, and in January a dedicated band of protesters, led by the Free Fiona founder Dave Muscato, stood outside the Madison Avenue offices of Sony BMG chanting, “We want Fiona.”

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Mickey Kaus @ Slate on TimesSelectDelete [11:44 am]

Still ‘Not Ready for TimesSelect’!

Conservative kf reader D.A. emails to say she has stopped “enjoying the failure of TimesSelect” and now worries that it is failing too quickly–that soon the NYT will pull the plug, restoring the reach and influence of the paper’s predominantly liberal columnists. [...]

[...] A few days ago I jokingly called for replacing TimesSelect with “TimesDelete,” a service that would allow readers to pay to silence their least favorite columnists. D.A.’s email has made me realize how misdirected this proposal was. TimesSelect doesn’t need to be replaced by TimesDelete. TimesSelect is TimesDelete! The Times has taken the columnists people are most willing to pay for and removed them from the public discourse on the Web. In fact, the paper has been quite diligent about suppressing them–contrary to my expectations, Times columns are not regularly turning up on pirate Web sites.

See this, too.

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iPod Maps [10:58 am]

IPod Maps Draw Legal Threats

Transit officials in New York and San Francisco have launched a copyright crackdown on a website offering free downloadable subway maps designed to be viewed on the iPod.

IPodSubwayMaps.com is the home of iPod-sized maps of nearly two dozen different transit systems around the world, from the Paris Metro to the London Underground.

[...] More than 9,000 people downloaded the map, which was viewable on either an iPod or an iPod nano, before Bright received a Sept. 14 letter from Lester Freundlich, a senior associate counsel at New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, saying that Bright had infringed the MTA’s copyright and that he needed a license to post the map and to authorize others to download it.

[...] Bright said he’d grabbed the New York and San Francisco BART maps from the official websites, cut them into smaller sections in Adobe Photoshop, and then put them back together at resolutions that are readable on iPods.

[...] “My guess is that it comes into a gray area when I start distributing the map and maybe when I put up ads, even though I make just about a buck a day with Google ads,” he said.

BART’s letter to Bright read in part, “There is a widespread belief that materials published by public agencies such as BART are in the public domain. This belief is incorrect.”

Later: Subway Authorities Eye IPod-Friendly Maps [pdf]

Even later: Lost Underground? Check Your IPod [pdf]

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