October 5, 2005

Surprise! [10:37 pm]

Record labels, satellite radio seen in showdown [pdf]

The record industry may next aim its legal guns at satellite radio due to a dispute involving new portable players which let listeners record and store songs, an analyst and industry sources said on Wednesday.

The record industry, led by major labels, such as Vivendi Universal’ (EAUG.PA),> Warner Music Group Corp (NYSE:WMG - news), EMI Group Plc (EMI.L) and Sony BMG, believe the recording capability is a clear copyright violation and could take revenue away from paid download music services.

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In the Public Interest: The Future of Canadian Copyright Law Released Under CC [4:47 pm]

Text available here, as well as the option to buy: In the Public Interest: The Future of Canadian Copyright Law [via Lessig Blog]

From Grokster to Google, copyright has emerged as one of the Internet’s most challenging legal issues. Once limited to a select group of scholars, copyright now captures front page headlines as millions of Canadians consider its impact on education, technology, communication, and culture.

As Canada embarks on a new round of digital copyright reform, this collection of 19 essays from Canada’s leading copyright experts provides context and analysis of the latest reform proposals. Edited by Professor Michael Geist, an internationally-regarded authority on Internet and technology law, the collection reviews international copyright norms, assesses dozens of specific Bill C-60 provisions, and identifies potential future copyright reform initiatives. Completed immediately after the introduction of Bill C-60, this timely volume provides policy makers, lawyers, judges, educators, and interested Canadians with the tools and knowledge they need to participate in a copyright debate that will shape the future of the Internet, culture, and education in Canada.

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Eminem and Ringtones [3:12 pm]

Eminem’s Ring Thing [pdf]

Hello, Moto. Goodbye, Eminem.

Via his publishing companies, Eight Mile Style and Martin Affiliated, the rapper has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit to stop five companies from making his tunes available online for cell phone ringtones.

[...] The lawsuits won’t stop at cell phones, however. Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers III, is also taking on karaoke companies spinning ill-gotten songs.

[...] Hertz says the lawsuit would block the sale of any rings offered by Cellus, USA; FanMobile; Nextones.com; MyPhoneFiles and MatrixM LLC.

[...] “We’re going to be going after any ringtones or karaoke companies who use his songs without getting the proper licenses,” Hertz said to the News.

The latest legal salvos aren’t exactly surprising, considering Eminem is downright vigilant when it comes to protecting his music.

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The Contradictions of Privacy [2:40 pm]

How private a person are you? How private should you be? And how much control over the choice do (you think) you have? Missing Student’s Online Musings Aid Search [pdf]

Before she disappeared from a Richmond university four weeks ago, Taylor Marie Behl recorded her moods, her crushes, her insecurities in 50 entries she posted online over the span of 12 months. In language both spare and pensive, she detailed rites of passage, from earning her driver’s license to preparing for university.

With her chronicles, Behl, 17, of Vienna gained entry into a vast virtual community, a very public arena in which her writings were there for anyone to see at any time, a personal diary with no key.

Behl’s online musings have served as a portal into her world, a priceless resource for those investigating her disappearance from Virginia Commonwealth University. Because these days, when someone goes missing or becomes a crime victim, the police not only search the person’s home and phone records for clues, they also scour cyberspace.

The Internet, police said, has emerged as a virtual tip machine that often maps the course of an investigation. Within seconds, detectives are able to amass a great deal of information about someone, either through a search engine such as Google or on Web logs, such as the one that Behl maintained at LiveJournal.com, where more than 8 million people, most of them teenagers and college students, document their thoughts.

“It’s real surprising what people put out on the Internet about themselves, what they’re interested in, what they’re thinking,” said Richmond police Detective Jeff Deem, one of several officers assigned to Behl’s case. “Every case is different, but if we know that someone is a heavy Internet user, we’re going to go online and look around.”

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Philadelphia Moves Forward On WiFi [2:30 pm]

Philadelphia to Be City of Wireless Web [pdf]

Philadelphia said Atlanta-based EarthLink Inc. will fund, build and manage the 135-square-mile network, which will offer low-income residents service for as little as about $10 a month and could threaten the profits of telephone and cable companies.

“Increasingly, city officials view broadband in the 21st century the same way they viewed electricity 100 years ago and telephone service 50 years ago. It’s falling into the category of a necessary and essential social service,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, a nonprofit group that favors the development of municipal wireless.

[...] EarthLink expects to provide its service, which will offer speeds of 1 megabit per second for both uploading and downloading, for about $20 a month to regular customers in Philadelphia, with discounts to be offered to low-income residents. It also hopes to make money by renting access to other Internet service providers and by charging tourists and business travelers for use.

EarthLink will compete against broadband service from Verizon Communications Inc., which offers introductory prices of $14.95 a month for maximum download speeds of 768 kilobits per second and uploads of 128 kilobits per second.

Philadelphia’s decision to move forward with the system will add fuel to the legal, legislative and public relations battle being waged by telephone and cable companies that argue that public money should not support competition with private firms.

Verizon said a sound business case should be made before allowing municipal-backed systems to compete with private providers. “The city is the steward of its resources. I am not going to tell it how to use them,” said Link Hoewing, Verizon vice president for Internet and technology policy. But in Philadelphia, he said, “I think the market has done a good job of addressing the issue.”

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Sincerest Form of Flattery? [2:13 pm]

Letter from China: Car Town

In June of 2003, half a year before the Spark went on the market, Chery unveiled the QQ. It looked almost exactly like G.M.’s car but retailed for a quarter less: about six thousand dollars. Chery also introduced a sedan that appeared suspiciously similar to the Daewoo Magnus. Chery named that car the Son of the Orient.

[...] In December of 2004, G.M. Daewoo filed a lawsuit in Shanghai, alleging that Chery had developed the QQ “through copying and unauthorized use of G.M. Daewoo’s trade secrets.” Simple copyright violations are rampant in China, but this case was more complicated: the implication was that top-secret designs had leaked out of South Korea.

When I visited the G.M. China offices in Shanghai, Timothy P. Stratford, the company’s general counsel, handed me two photographs. In the first picture, two cars were parked side by side: the green one was the QQ, and the black one was the Matiz, the South Korean original. In the second picture, the doors had been switched: green on black, black on green.

“You would never find two competitors’ cars where the doors could be swapped,” Stratford explained. “It means that not only do they copy the door but everything else that is necessary to form the shape for the door. A door opening is kind of like a fingerprint for a car.”

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Music, Meaning, Merchandising and … Memory? [7:52 am]

A cynical analysis in the LATimes: Ex-Door Lighting Their Ire [pdf]

Once, back when rock ‘n’ roll still seemed dangerous, [John] Densmore was the drummer for the Doors, the band with dark hits such as “Light My Fire” and “People Are Strange.” That band more or less went into the grave with lead singer Jim Morrison in 1971, but, like all top classic-rock franchises, it now has the chance to exploit a lucrative afterlife in television commercials. Offers keep coming in, such as the $15 million dangled by Cadillac last year to lease the song “Break On Through (to the Other Side)” to hawk its luxury SUVs.

To the surprise of the corporation and the chagrin of his former bandmates, Densmore vetoed the idea. He said he did the same when Apple Computer called with a $4-million offer, and every time “some deodorant company wants to use ‘Light My Fire.’ ”

The reason? Prepare to get a lump in your throat — or to roll your eyes.

“People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music,” Densmore said. “I’ve had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, other people say they know someone who didn’t commit suicide because of this music…. On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That’s not for rent.”

That not only sets the Doors apart from the long, long list of classic rock acts that have had their songs licensed for major U.S. commercial campaigns, it also has added considerably to Densmore’s estrangement from former bandmates Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger, a trio that last set eyes on one another in the Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse last year.

[...] When Nike used the Beatles’ recording of “Revolution” for a sneaker ad two decades ago, there was widespread criticism. The hubbub quieted when the commercial was retired after one year. Nowadays, the debate is largely muted. The new take? Holding out is bad for music.

“Using your music in the modern landscape is not selling out; if it’s done right, it’s giving it new life,” said Amy Kavanaugh, an executive vice president at Edelman, the Los Angeles public relations and marketing firm that has worked with Starbucks on the coffee merchant’s extensive branding efforts with music.

Even among the classic-rock purist audience, there is a shift in expectation. Pete Howard, editor in chief of Ice magazine, a music publication tailored to audiophiles and intense rock music collectors, not only thinks that the Doors should take money for the songs of the past, he believes that they are risking their future if they don’t.

“They get a gold star for integrity, but they are missing a train that is leaving the station,” Howard said. “Advertising is no longer a dirty word to the Woodstock generation, and in fact, in this landscape, the band will find that if it relies on people who hear the music in films, on radio in prerecorded formats, that with each decade their niche among music fans will narrow. It’s advertising — with its broad audience and ubiquity — that gets new ears.”

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Another Wave of Video Game Worries [7:32 am]

Debate Flares Anew Over Violence in Video Games [pdf]

The debate over violence in one of the fastest-growing segments of the entertainment industry ebbs and flows. There’s disagreement over whether virtual violence breeds real violence, but the video game industry has for years churned out increasingly graphic titles that rile its critics.

“The topic tends to resurface every few years,” said American McGee, a veteran game developer. “Some of it has to do with the improvements in game graphics. People who never play video games see how visceral it is, and they freak out.”

[...] Some social scientists say the criticisms lodged against video games parallel the scrutiny that faced other new forms of media — including comic books in the 1950s and television in the 1960s.

“With just about any new medium, there has been concern about the negative effects it might have on young people,” said Karen Sternheimer, a lecturer in sociology at USC. “From movies to television to comic books to music and now video games, society tends to project its fears onto newer forms of pop culture. There’s a generational divide that makes people on the other side nervous.”

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