January 19, 2006

Democratization of Content? [6:19 pm]

Not exactly, IMHO, but a great gimmick: This Is Not Spinal Tap: A Concert Film by Fans

But as the Beastie Boys set out to commemorate a concert at Madison Square Garden, the hip-hop group had a different idea. Why not smash the model?

They decided to lend hand-held video cameras to 50 fans, told them to shoot at will, and then presented the end result in movie theaters in all its primitive, kaleidoscopic glory.

[...] Technology has unmoored some the constructs that have girded those businesses for decades, giving the consumers of pop culture a growing ability to watch or listen to their entertainment on their own terms and on their own time, and re-evaluating the role of traditional distribution companies. “Awesome” pushes that tension further, giving the ultimate user a chance to actually create the content. “It’s the democratization of filmmaking,” said Jon Doran, a producer of the movie.

As with most films, of course, there is a benevolent despot - read, a director - involved. [...]

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Google: Not Gonna Pay for B/W [5:39 pm]

Google: We Won’t Pay Broadband Cyberextortion [via Slashdot's Google Won't Pay Bell South]

Google’s Barry Schnitt told [Networking Pipeline's] Paul [Kapustka] in an email: “Google is not discussing sharing of the costs of broadband networks with any carrier. We believe consumers are already paying to support broadband access to the Internet through subscription fees and, as a result, consumers should have the freedom to use this connection without limitations.”

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Politics and Community WiFi [12:08 pm]

Advocates of Wi-Fi in Cities Learn Art of Politics

“The problems that were hard in 2001 were technical ones,” Mr. Spiegel said. “Now, they’re personal and relationship and political ones. The technology, we almost don’t even think about it anymore.”

Greg Richardson, president of Civitium, a consulting firm, says that movement was the impetus for government-run citywide wireless Internet plans. Mr. Richardson has been a consultant on municipal wireless policy and technical issues for Philadelphia, San Francisco and other cities.

Community wireless gave municipal planners “the validation that a lot of those ideas could work,” Mr. Richardson said. Early and continuing municipal efforts to provide small areas of free access in parks and downtown districts were and still are often created in conjunction with these community groups.

The move from building physical networks to building political influence, many advocates say, stems in part from an August 2004 forum organized by the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network in Illinois.

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Where’s Google’s Privacy Policy Now? [11:37 am]

A chilling direction in opportunities for monitoring online: Feds after Google data [pdf]

The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.

The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.

In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.

The Mountain View-based search and advertising giant opposes releasing the information on a variety of grounds, saying it would violate the privacy rights of its users and reveal company trade secrets, according to court documents.

[...] “This is exactly the kind of case that privacy advocates have long feared,” said Ray Everett-Church, a South Bay privacy consultant. “The idea that these massive databases are being thrown open to anyone with a court document is the worst-case scenario. If they lose this fight, consumers will think twice about letting Google deep into their lives.”

Nothing at the Central District of California’s WWW site that I can find

Later: Declan et al. from ZDNet have gotten some paperwork - Feds take porn fight to Google; Feds take porn fight to Google; Findlaw’s catch

Slashdot’s U.S. Government Wants Google Search Records; Scott Rosenberg’s early posting; NYTimes Jan 20th article - Google Resists U.S. Subpoena of Search Data [pdf]; Declan McCullagh’s FAQ on the subject; LATimes’ lengthy article reminds us that MSN, AOL and Yahoo! have already complied with their subpoenas: U.S. Obtains Internet Users’ Search Records [pdf]

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Some (Transparently) Dangerous Rhetoric [10:24 am]

From an unsurprising source: The value of intellectual property - part 2

So, everyone has a choice, but what I have never felt was sufficiently answered was why the GPL side chose to oppose IP. The “why” of this antipathy is particularly hard to discern given that the discussion usually gets couched in the language of rights. Given that rights aren’t provable (they “just are”), one would have about as much chance of settling a question of rights as proving the existence of god.

No one who works at Microsoft and writes on IP can’t really be *that* naive, can he?

Worse, there’s this bit of nonsense that I would imagine even Posner would find a little too sweeping

Market systems aren’t natural. They are a scientifically-constructed legal scaffolding as engineered as the blueprint of an Airbus jet or the latest automobile rolling off the BMW factory line. Just as a jet or automobile design is a response to physical laws, the shape of the legal structure is a response to basic economic axioms - such as the fact that individuals have more information about their own circumstances than anyone else, and thus make better choices as to how to satisfy their own needs. However, the precise laws are not natural or even obvious. They live or die based on whether they maximize or hinder the efficiency of the economic process.

Puh-leeeze!

Later: a continuation An intellectual property middle ground - part 4

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IFPI Publishes Digital Music Sales Figures [10:17 am]

Global digital music sales triple to US$1.1 billion in 2005 as new market takes shape — over half their glossy report on the industry - IFPI:06 — is about piracy and DRM; and if you really want statistics, you want The Digital Music Report - Facts and Figures

  • Record company revenues (trade revenues) reached $US 1.1 billion in 2005 showing a threefold increase on 2004 ($US 380 million).

  • Digital music (online and mobile) represents approximately 6% of overall music sales

  • Mobile music sales are not far behind online, with revenues roughly split (60-40 as at H1 2005).

  • 420 million single tracks were downloaded in 2005 globally - more than double the number downloaded in 2004 (156 million).

  • [...]

  • The number of infringing music files available on the internet at any one time is estimated at 885 million. This is slightly up on January 2005 (870 million) but down compared to June 2005 (900 million). By contrast, broadband uptake rose by 26% in the past year. Total infringing music files are down 20% on the 1.1 billion peak in April 2003.

Slashdot: Digital Music Sales Skyrocket in 2005

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Convergence Experiment from News Corp [8:43 am]

Fox Sports Executive Places Big DirecTV Bet on Music [pdf]

Today, the nation’s leading satellite TV provider will unveil Hill’s first big bet: a weekly, one-hour live-music program that will be available exclusively to DirecTV’s 15 million subscribers.

A spinoff of a top-rated British program, “CD USA” will feature interviews, behind-the-scenes reports and performances by as many as seven bands per episode, including big-name acts such as the Goo Goo Dolls, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Linkin Park.

[...] The programming initiatives, which will be supported by advertising, provide a glimpse of Murdoch’s plans for squeezing value out of News Corp.’s recent $1.6-billion investment in the Internet.

[Fox Sports Television's David] Hill said programs would target the Apple iPod generation that he refers to as “boomer shadows.” These 80 million or so offspring of baby boomers, who are ages 10 to 29, “are going to rule the world of public opinion,” Hill said. “These teenagers have more disposable income than ever before.”

Although teenagers are a fickle, hard-to-reach group, Hill says promotional tie-ins on News Corp.’s Web properties will help drive them to DirecTV Channel 101, where the original programming will run.

For instance, he said, members of News Corp.’s MySpace.com, a social networking site popular among teenagers, will vote on which of the more than 200,000 bands that post music on the website should perform on “CD USA” that week.

Similarly, there will be a yet-to-be-determined tie-in between the Massive Gaming League and IGN, a video game site bought by News Corp. last year.

Related: Amazon Adds Talk Show to Its Offerings [pdf]

Celebrities promoting their newest movie, book or album have a new stop on the talk-show circuit: Amazon.com.

The Internet megastore plans to announce today a weekly online talk show with host Bill Maher.

With “Amazon Fishbowl With Bill Maher,” Amazon.com Inc. is trying to blend commerce with entertainment, much as Starbucks Corp. sells CDs and DVDs alongside coffee to position its brand as a lifestyle. In an e-commerce twist on movie and TV product placement, Amazon will place links to buy the works discussed during the show beside the program’s display window.

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The WoW Market [8:38 am]

A good or a bad thing? For whom? Where fantasy meets finance [pdf]

‘For the players, these characters are not without value,” says Henry Jenkins, director of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. His upcoming book, ”Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide,” touches on this virtual commerce among online game players. He compares this underground character trade to buying your way into any coveted group.

”You are buying the power to participate,” he says. ”The game world is kind of like a social or country club. So it’s somewhat similar to buying access to some sort of entertainment or some membership to participate instead of building it from the ground up. For the people who participate, it’s not just about the fantasy of slaying dragons but about the reality of forming strong bonds with other people around the world, and that’s what gives real economic value to buying these characters.”

Edward Castronova, an Indiana University professor and author of the recent ”Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games,” offers another view. In his blog and his book, he explains how this commerce alters the ‘’synthetic world,” arguing that trading characters takes the fun out of the game and essentially cheapens it. He compares it to playing Monopoly with real money.

Related: Are virtual assets taxable? on Julian Dibbell’s Dragon Slayers or Tax Evaders in Legal Affairs

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A Stretch [8:34 am]

Interesting that stupidity/ignorance remains, in some minds at least, a basis for action: UMass users ask file-swap service founder to pay up [pdf]

Wayne Chang hopes to return to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst this year to finish up a business degree. But he might not be altogether welcome on campus, since dozens of his fellow students are threatening to sue him for $157,500.

That’s what it will cost the students to settle lawsuits from music recording companies, which say the students illegally distributed copyrighted tunes over the Internet using a file-swapping service founded by Chang and called i2hub. Chang said he had no idea students would use his system for illegal activity. But the UMass-Amherst students say i2hub’s advertising misled them into believing that the file swapping was legal. They want Chang’s defunct service to pay the damages.

They’ll have to fight for it. ”We think that they’re wrong, and we’re not offering any settlement of any kind,” Chang said.

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