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November 18, 2005

AP Wirestory Points Out The Obvious [4:59 pm]

Copy Protection Still a Work in Progress [pdf]

Factor in lawsuits that Sony BMG could face, and it’s worth wondering whether the costs of XCP and its aftermath might even exceed whatever piracy losses the company would have suffered without it.

That’s not even accounting for the huge public relations backlash that hit Sony BMG, the second-largest music label, half-owned by Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE - news). and half by Bertelsmann AG.

“I think they’ve set back audio CD protection by years,” said Richard M. Smith, an Internet privacy and security consultant. “Nobody will want to pull a `Sony’ now.”

Phil Leigh, analyst for Inside Digital Media, said the debacle shows just how reluctant the labels are to change their business model to reflect the distribution powers — good and bad — of the Internet. He believes that rather than adopting technological methods to try to stop unauthorized copying of music, record companies need to do more to remove the incentive for piracy.

“The biggest mistake the labels are making is, they’re letting their lawyers make technical decisions. Lawyers don’t have any better understanding of technology than a cow does algebra,” Leigh said. “They insist on chasing this white whale.”

Slashdot’s Music Industry Backlash Against Sony Rootkit

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Whistling Past The Graveyard? Or Something Else? [9:25 am]

Networks Say TV Ads Still Matter [pdf]

The 30-second commercial isn’t dead after all.

At least that’s what the six broadcast networks — CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, UPN and the WB — joined together to argue Wednesday, citing new research they contend shows digital video recorders such as TiVo don’t pose as big a threat to the traditional TV spot as once feared.

[...] The view presented by networks was undeniably self-serving since commercial spots are the bread and butter of the TV business. But executives sought to use new research to poke holes in the notion that when technology makes it easier to skip over ads, people will stop watching them altogether.

[...] The networks said their own research showed that more than half of DVR users paid attention to commercials and that they recalled spots they saw. The network studies also indicated something surprising: that 53% of DVR users have gone back to watch commercials they initially fast-forwarded through.

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NBC Universal and P2P [8:55 am]

NBC Universal, P2P firm launch on-demand films [pdf]

NBC Universal has struck a deal with technology and commerce specialist Wurld Media that will make selected movies available for on-demand downloading via peer-to-peer distribution early next year.

[...] NBC Universal added that it partnered with Wurld Media because of its commitment to carry only authorized content on its secure Peer Impact network.

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November 17, 2005

Searls’ On Metaphors, the Internet and Fighting for the Future [8:29 pm]

This is too long to excerpt from, but it’s (changed my mind)

Worth reading more than once: Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes

To sum up, the Net has all these natures:

  1. transport system (pipes)

  2. place (or world)

  3. publishing system

–and others as well. But those aren’t at war with one another, and that’s what matters most.

Right now #1 is at war with #2 and #3, and that war isn’t happening only in the media and in congressional hearing rooms. It’s happening in our own heads. When we talk about “delivering content to consumers through the Net”, rather than “selling products to customers on the Net”, we take sides with #1 against #2. We unconsciously agree that the Net is just a piping system. We literally devolve: our lungs turn to gills, our legs turn into flippers, and we waddle back into the sea–where we are eaten by sharks.

What I’m talking about here isn’t “just semantics” or trivial in any other way. It’s fundamental, especially to lawmaking and regulation.

[...] Advocating and saving the Net is not a partisan issue. Lawmakers and regulators aren’t screwing up the Net because they’re “Friends of Bush” or “Friends of Hollywood” or liberals or conservatives. They’re doing it because one way of framing the Net–as a transport system for content–is winning over another way of framing the Net–as a place where markets and business and culture and governance can all thrive. [...] Freedom, independence, the sovereignty of the individual, private rights and open frontiers are a few among many values shared by progressives and conservatives. All are better supported, in obvious ways, by the Net as a place rather than as a transport system.

[Via Slashdot's Flushing the Net Down the Tubes]

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Be Afraid. Be Very, Very Afraid. [8:07 pm]

Real Story of the Rogue Rootkit

The story to pay attention to here is the collusion between big media companies who try to control what we do on our computers and computer-security companies who are supposed to be protecting us.

[...] What do you think of your antivirus company, the one that didn’t notice Sony’s rootkit as it infected half a million computers? And this isn’t one of those lightning-fast internet worms; this one has been spreading since mid-2004. Because it spread through infected CDs, not through internet connections, they didn’t notice? This is exactly the kind of thing we’re paying those companies to detect — especially because the rootkit was phoning home.

But much worse than not detecting it before Russinovich’s discovery was the deafening silence that followed. When a new piece of malware is found, security companies fall over themselves to clean our computers and inoculate our networks. Not in this case.

[...] What happens when the creators of malware collude with the very companies we hire to protect us from that malware?

[...] Who are the security companies really working for? It’s unlikely that this Sony rootkit is the only example of a media company using this technology. Which security company has engineers looking for the others who might be doing it? And what will they do if they find one? What will they do the next time some multinational company decides that owning your computers is a good idea?

These questions are the real story, and we all deserve answers.

Slashdot’s Real Story of the Rogue Rootkit; also GrokLaw’s MS’ Reaction to Sony’s Rootkit Raises Some Questions; also Slashdot’s DVD Jon’s Code In Sony Rootkit? (also Did Sony ‘rootkit’ pluck from open source?

CNet’s summary page for their coverage: Will Sony’s DRM nightmare affect future policies? (we can hope!)

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Forbes Reports iTunes Flat Pricing To End? [8:02 pm]

EMI Says Apple’s Jobs Will Change ITunes Pricing [pdf]

Today EMI Group boss Alain Levy said at press conference today that he believed Jobs would introduce multiple price points for iTunes music within the next year. Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people )officials were unavailable for comment. If Levy is correct, the new pricing scheme would mark a turnaround for Jobs, who has argued that a buck a song was an easy to understand proposition for consumers and a victory for the music business, which has been calling for the move for the past several months.

Slashdot’s Apple iTunes to End Flat Fee Pricing?

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November 16, 2005

David Berlind on the Digital (Rights) Future [3:46 pm]

How to stop Hollywood and Congress from trampling on your constitutional rights

Between broadcast flag-type legislation and other laws that prohibit the sale of products that can make uncopyprotected, unDRM’d, redistributable copies of digital content and analog hole-plugging legislation, recording technologies as we’re used to knowing them could become a relic of the past (as too would our constitutionally granted fair use rights). But just in case that doesn’t get the message across to the innovators and Americans who are determined to preserve their fair use rights — the message that Tellywood and Congress will control the horizontal and the vertical (and the audible) — there’s also the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the DMCA) which basically outlaws your right to exercise your constitutionally granted fair use rights by circumventing any technological measures that the manufacturer-side legislation puts into place. [...]

[...] Along those same lines, and in the spirit of public outcry, write to your Congresspeople and ask them to oppose the three forms of legislation — any broadcast flag laws, the HD Radio Content Protection Act, and the Analog Content Security Preservation Act — currently under consideration by Congress. While you’re at it, remind them that your not at all too pleased with the DMCA either. Threaten to vote them out unless they not only respect your rights, but stand up for them for them as well. After all, isn’t that what our system of representation is all about?

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i2hub Next To Close [12:10 am]

I2hub latest P2P service to shut down [pdf]

I2hub, the superfast Internet service popular with college students, shut down Tuesday.

Logging onto i2hub.com (http://www.i2hub.com/) brought up a Web page with a ghostly image of a man walking away, with the words “Remember i2hub” superimposed over the image and “RIP 03.14.2005-11.14.05″ written below it. I2hub was one of seven peer-to-peer services that received a cease-and-desist letter from the

Recording Industry Association of America.

The dates in the i2hub screencap above go to the following bookend articles from CNet: File-swapping gets supercharged on student network and Supercharged college P2P network closes. The other link goes to Pacific Northwest Software.

Also in today’s yesterday’s Tech: RIAA Suits Continue; i2hub Server Shuts Down

Related from Inside Higher Ed: After ‘Grokster,’ the Battle Continues [pdf] (Note that Dartmouth government majors apparently can be as confused as anyone when it comes to copyright policy and fair use.)

Joe Malchow, a government major at Dartmouth College, is concerned about moral issues stemming from the i2hub shutdown.

“The idea that a few students can come up with a highly effective medium of data transmission — which doesn’t use central file storage and doesn’t in any way advocate copyright violation — and then have their invention threatened out of existence is demoralizing to would-be college programmers,” he said. A contributor to dartblog.com, Malchow added: “To say that i2hub cannot exist because it facilitates piracy is no more rational than saying the Second Amendment ought to be repealed because guns are sometimes used for crime, or that Movable Type or Blogspot.com ought to be banned because bloggers sometimes quote, technically illegally, The Wall Street Journal.”

Even if well-publicized peer-to-peer services do continue to fold, some students argue that the ability to download free music will be a way of life for the foreseeable future.

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November 15, 2005

Piling On [5:21 pm]

Boy, I’m sure that Sony is *real* happy about DRM now: Experts: Sony Plan Widens Security Hole [pdf]

The fallout from a hidden copy-protection program that Sony BMG Music Entertainment put on some CDs is only getting worse. Sony’s suggested method for removing the program actually widens the security hole the original software created, researchers say.

[...] “This is a surprisingly bad design from a security standpoint,” said Ed Felten, a Princeton University computer science professor who explored the removal program with a graduate student, J. Alex Halderman. “It endangers users in several ways.”

[...] To get the uninstall program, users have to request it by filling out online forms. Once submitted, the forms themselves download and install a program designed to ready the PC for the fix. Essentially, it makes the PC open to downloading and installing code from the Internet.

According to the Princeton analysis, the program fails to make the computer confirm that such code should come only from Sony or First 4 Internet.

“The consequences of the flaw are severe,” Felten and Halderman wrote in a blog posting Tuesday. “It allows any Web page you visit to download, install, and run any code it likes on your computer. Any Web page can seize control of your computer; then it can do anything it likes. That’s about as serious as a security flaw can get.”

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Making The Most Of Video Downloading [9:29 am]

As mentioned yesterday: Mini-Porn Could Be Mega-Business [pdf]

Apple Computer Inc. took 20 days to reach 1 million downloads of video files from its online store; the Web site SuicideGirls, offering free videos of unclothed models, hit the mark in about a week.

One of the quickest industries to take advantage of the new video iPod, and other new gadgets, is one that has often been at the forefront of other technological innovations: porn.

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The Overseas Suits Keep Rising, Too [9:24 am]

Legal fight hits ‘music pirates’

The global recording industry has launched its largest wave of legal action against people suspected of sharing music files on the internet.
The latest move targeted 2,100 alleged uploaders using peer-to-peer (P2P) networks in 16 nations including the UK, France, Germany and Italy.

File-sharers in Switzerland, Sweden, Argentina, Singapore and Hong Kong are also facing cases for the first time.

Thousands of people have agreed to pay compensation since the campaign began.

The number of cases brought by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) outside the US since March 2004 now stands at more than 3,800.

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November 14, 2005

Asking Some Ugly Questions Over at Slate [7:30 pm]

Digital Rights Mismanagement: “How Apple, Microsoft, and Sony cash in on piracy prevention.”

While Apple stands alone and Sony self-destructs, Microsoft is practically giving away its digital-rights-management tool in an effort to pick up market share against Apple (so far with little success). We may even see a replay of the Apple-Microsoft battle over the desktop, which ended with Apple holding on to a tiny sliver of the computer market. There is, however, a big difference between then and now. Steve Jobs has a hefty market share and a massive content library made up of millions of songs at a price that people like. As long as the record companies license their content to Apple and consumers flock to the iPod, Apple is in a powerful—some might say Gatesian—position.

What’s hardest for the consumer to swallow, then, is that anti-piracy schemes like DRM look like the subtle tactic of the monopolist. Neither Apple nor Microsoft is hurt by music piracy. Instead, they use it as a marketing ploy to force people to use their products. It doesn’t have to be this way. The companies could agree on one standard that allows people to play the music they lawfully purchase on whichever player they choose. The music industry is supposed to sell music, not the medium it comes in, right?

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Engine of Disruption? [8:35 am]

What Lurks in Its Soul? [pdf]

But these friendly features belie Google’s disdain for the status quo and its voracious appetite for aggressively pursuing initiatives to bring about radical change. Google is testing the boundaries in so many ways, and so purposefully, it’s likely to wind up at the center of a variety of legal battles with landmark significance.

Consider the wide-ranging implications of the activities now underway at the Googleplex, the company’s campuslike headquarters in California’s Silicon Valley. Google is compiling a genetic and biological database using the vast power of its search engines; scanning millions of books without traditional regard for copyright laws; tracing online searches to individual Internet users and storing them indefinitely; demanding cell phone numbers in exchange for free e-mail accounts (known as Gmail) as it begins to build the first global cell phone directory; saving Gmails forever on its own servers, making them a tempting target for law enforcement abuse; inserting ads for the first time in e-mails; making hundreds of thousands of cheap personal computers to serve as cogs in powerful global networks.

Google has also created a new kind of work environment. It serves three free meals a day to its employees (known as Googlers) so that they can remain on-site and spend more time working. It provides them with free on-site medical and dental care and haircuts, as well as washers and dryers. It charters buses with wireless Web access between San Francisco and Silicon Valley so that employees can toil en route to the office. To encourage innovation, it gives employees one day a week — known as 20 percent time — to work on anything that interests them.

Related to the “Google DNA” example in the article: Found on the Web, With DNA: a Boy’s Father [pdf]

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Thinking Through Google Print [8:25 am]

Connections: If Books Are on Google, Who Gains and Who Loses?

Now, just as increasing trade and decreasing costs led to the breakdown of the Stationers’ monopoly in the 18th century and to an increase in industrial espionage in the 19th, the Internet’s near elimination of costs for the transmission and sifting of digital media has led to another wave of copiers and protectors, along with accusations of theft and heated debates over file-sharing, copy-protection and licensing.

But during the last decade the debates have had a different character. The self-described “progressive” side has challenged copyright enforcement and even argued for its radical diminishment. This attempt to minimize existing controls, though, is imagined not as a triumph for authors (as was initially the case in the 18th century) or as a triumph for profiteers or national ambitions (as in the industrial espionage of the 19th), but as a form of liberation.

In many such arguments, lines are starkly drawn and echo older ideological battles: idealism confronts materialism, socialism confronts capitalism, communal values confront individualism. Challengers of copyright and patent legislation often portray themselves as liberators, bravely opposing a greedy global corporate culture that tries to claim each bit of intellectual property for itself the way imperialist explorers tried to plant the motherland’s flag on every unclaimed piece of land. Meanwhile, advocates of tighter control over copyright see things very differently, viewing this attack as an assault on the rights of inventors and writers, undermining those who invest their time and labor to answer human needs and desires.

[...] This model will change over time. So will the notion of “copy.” So will the practices of libraries, publishers and booksellers. It may not be too much to hope that so will the ideologies of copyright debate.

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The Complexities of a Web Site’s Terms of Service [8:20 am]

The Trail of a Clicked-On Ad, Brought to You by Google

Google plans to introduce free analytical tools for online publishers and marketers today, a move that would help the company’s clients get a better sense of Web site traffic patterns and advertising campaigns.

Online analytic tools help publishers determine how often people have viewed certain pages and clicked on certain links within those pages. The free services will be integrated into Google’s lucrative AdWords program, in which marketers for, say, wrenches, pay to have their ads appear near search results whenever online users search for “automotive tools.” Google Analytics will crunch numbers on behalf of users, telling them how often visitors who saw an ad associated with “automotive tools” clicked on the ad, versus those who searched for “hardware stores.”

[...] And Google Analytics could conceivably yield improved marketing intelligence for the company, should many online publishers and marketers choose to hand off their data. Google could then learn about the performance of past advertising campaigns on specific sites.

But Mr. Muret said the company’s terms of service barred it from using customer data for anything other than reporting back to the customer. “The goal really is to help advertisers and publishers gain more visibility,” he said.

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Selling Video iPods [8:07 am]

Aaron McGruder suggests what *he* thinks a video iPiod is good for in today’s strip.

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Digital Distribution Experiment for Video [8:02 am]

Venture of Warner Bros., AOL to Provide Old Television Shows a New Life Online [pdf]

Time Warner Inc. plans to announce today that it will make more than 100 old television series — including “Falcon Crest,” “Kung Fu” and the ’70s sitcom that made John Travolta a star, “Welcome Back, Kotter” — available for free in the first major archive of TV shows on the Web.

When it launches in January, the joint venture between Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution and America Online could help TV, Internet and advertising executives gauge the appetite for longer entertainment programs on the Web, which is dominated by shorter bits typically lasting no more than a few minutes.

The project, dubbed In2TV, may give new life to once-popular TV programs that have fallen out of syndication. It’s also a bid to tap into the booming market for online ads, including streaming video commercials.

NYTimes: Internet Service to Put Classic TV on Home Computer

Others getting in: Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network to offer downloads: WSJ [pdf]

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November 11, 2005

Missed This!! [10:01 am]

Justice Dept. proposes tougher copyright laws [pdf]

People who attempt to copy music or movies without permission could face jail time under legislation proposed by the U.S. Justice Department on Thursday.

The bill, outlined by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at an anti-piracy summit, would widen intellectual-property protections to cover those who try but fail to make illicit copies of music, movies, software or other copyrighted material.

It would also enable investigators to seize assets purchased with profits from the sale of illicit copies, as well as property such as blank CDs that might be used for future copying.

Those found guilty of a copyright violation could be forced to pay restitution to the owner of the material in question, and repeat offenders would face stiffer sentences.

Public Knowledge’s response: Public Knowledge Statement on Justice Department Proposals
text of proposed bill; section-by-section analysis

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Warner Takes A Flyer on the WWW [9:05 am]

Changing the economics of artist development and music promotion. It will be interesting to see how much of goodwill sacrificed over P2P will influence the success of the big labels: Warner Music Turns to Web

The recording label, Warner Music Group Corp.’s Cordless Recordings, is trying to use the Internet to produce and distribute music in ways that circumvent the usual channels, essentially redefining how an artist can make it big. Groups will release their work in three-song “clusters” — mini-albums of a sort — that will be sold at online music stores like iTunes and Rhapsody, and then manufactured in compact disc form only if the audience is large enough to make it financially viable.

[...] The digital medium is creating a resurgence in small-time, independent publishing. Not only are big labels and giant Internet companies allowing people to publish things like blogs, videos, and other self-made content online, some are trying to use the medium to scout for new talent.

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November 10, 2005

You Knew It Was Inevitable [7:58 pm]

I also like how “Sony BMG” is being used to name a computer system defect - the PR folks must be having a cow: Hackers use Sony BMG to hide on PCs [pdf]

A computer security firm said on Thursday it had discovered the first virus that uses music publisher Sony BMG’s controversial CD copy-protection software to hide on PCs and wreak havoc.

Under a subject line containing the words “Photo approval,” a hacker has mass-mailed the so-called Stinx-E trojan virus to British email addresses, said British anti-virus firm Sophos.

When recipients click on an attachment, they install malware, which may tear down a computer’s firewall and give hackers access to a PC. The malware hides by using Sony BMG software that is also hidden — the software would have been installed on a computer when consumers played Sony’s copy-protected music CDs.

“This leaves Sony in a real tangle. It was already getting bad press about its copy-protection software, and this new hack exploit will make it even worse,” said Sophos’s Graham Cluley.

Ya think?

Related: Give Me Back My Digital Rights!

See also CNet’s ‘Bots’ for Sony CD software spotted online

Later: Sony BMG pulls CD software [pdf]; WaPo: Sony to Suspend Making Antipiracy CDs; also a broader commentary in the NYTimes’ The Ghost in the CD; Sony rootkit prompts office clampdown on CD use

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