February 20, 2006

Life in the SnakePit [10:42 am]

Sony’s content v. consumer electronics schizophrenia is not directly cited in this tale, but I am confident it played a role in Lack’s downfall: Behind the Music: How a Sony-BMG Feud Went Public

“It’s the subtleties of this business that can kill you,” said Jay L. Cooper, a longtime Los Angeles music attorney. “I’ve seen some of the best and the brightest come into this business and be destroyed by it because they don’t understand.”

Further, Mr. Cooper said, “If you don’t have the confidence and the respect of the people that are working for you, you’ve got a real problem.”

[...] Mr. Lack and his team presided over an estimated $400 million in cost cuts, which included cutting 2,000 people from the payroll. Sony BMG’s sheer scale promised to give Mr. Lack more muscle to establish new standards in the industry, which has been desperately trying to reinvent itself in the era of file-swapping, CD-burning and iPods. But it also gave birth to an in-house rivalry — and not the friendly kind — between Sony’s labels and BMG’s.

[...] Even some critics found him refreshingly candid. Indeed, one curiosity of the internal discontent with Mr. Lack was that many of his critics agreed with his positions, for example, that the company should do more to use its music videos and other visual content to generate new revenue. Many also supported his stance that Apple Computer’s iTunes music service should sell songs for a range of prices instead of its flat rate of 99 cents a song.

Being right, however, did not translate into respect.

And beneath the surface, some executives who worked with Mr. Lack even before the merger found his style less than inspiring.

“It was very difficult for him to approach any situation without assuming that whatever the ‘record guys’ were doing was wrong,” said Rick Dobbis, who was president of Sony Music’s international arm before being squeezed out in the merger, and is now a manager and industry consultant. “It was difficult to believe that you would get support for your ideas.”

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Net Neutrality NYT Editorial (Also Steven Levy’s) [10:34 am]

Editorial: Tollbooths on the Internet Highway

When you use the Internet today, your browser glides from one Web site to another, accessing all destinations with equal ease. That could change dramatically, however, if Internet service providers are allowed to tilt the playing field, giving preference to sites that pay them extra and penalizing those that don’t.

The Senate held hearings last week on “network neutrality,” the principle that I.S.P.’s –— the businesses like Verizon or Roadrunner that deliver the Internet to your computer –— should not be able to stack the deck in this way. If the Internet is to remain free, and freely evolving, it is important that neutrality legislation be passed.

In its current form, Internet service operates in the same nondiscriminatory way as phone service. When someone calls your home, the telephone company puts through the call without regard to who is calling. In the same way, Internet service providers let Web sites operated by eBay, CNN or any other company send information to you on an equal footing. But perhaps not for long. It has occurred to the service providers that the Web sites their users visit could be a rich new revenue source. Why not charge eBay a fee for using the Internet connection to conduct its commerce, or ask Google to pay when customers download a video? A Verizon Communications executive recently sent a scare through cyberspace when he said at a telecommunications conference, as The Washington Post reported, that Google “is enjoying a free lunch” that ought to be going to providers like Verizon.

Later: Steven Levy also has a piece in Newsweek: When the Net Goes From Free to Fee [pdf]

It’s true we desperately need our broadband providers to give us bigger Internet pipes to feed our need for bandwidth-gobbling activities like streaming video. (We are way behind countries like Japan and South Korea, which typically offer consumers speeds up to 50 times faster, often at lower prices than what we pay for our poky consumer-level cable and DSL.) But as explained by AT&T’s head of external affairs, Jim Cicconi, the increase in capacity would come mainly in those new limousine lanes. “We’re building a new capacity, and we have the right to charge people to use it,” he says. While AT&T promises not to block or degrade the services and Web sites in the free lanes, companies that don’t pay (or are denied access because of competitive reasons) would essentially be relegated to an eternal traffic jam.

The broadband providers say that they do support an open Internet, and we should view these premium services as supplements, to ensure that applications like voice and video get reliable quality. But the bottom line is that your bits won’t be treated the same as my bits.

“This would literally be the end of the Internet,” says Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig. His complaint isn’t that the Googles of the world may have to pay if they want fast-lane access—the winners can take care of themselves. Instead, he fears that the next Google won’t ever get the chance to establish itself—because it would be stuck in the slow lane. Google itself finds the concept abhorrent, and not because it may have to pay AT&T. “New innovation in the marketplace increases our business,” says Google’s Vint Cert, a recent hire who is one of the Internet’s creators. If start-ups can’t go fast, he says, the Internet will be a “zero-sum game.”

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Control and Distribution: Video Clips [10:33 am]

A Video Clip Goes Viral, and a TV Network Wants to Control It

When a video clip goes “viral,” spreading across the Web at lightning speed, it can help rocket its creators to stardom. Alas, the clip can also generate work for corporate lawyers.

[...] Fans immediately began putting copies of the video online. On one free video-sharing site, YouTube (www.youtube.com), it was watched a total of five million times. NBC soon made the video available as a free download from the Apple iTunes Music Store.

Julie Supan, senior director of marketing for YouTube, said she contacted NBC Universal about working out a deal to feature NBC clips, including “Lazy Sunday,” on the site. NBC Universal responded early this month with a notice asking YouTube to remove about 500 clips of NBC material from its site or face legal action under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. YouTube complied last week. “Lazy Sunday” is still available for free viewing on NBC’s Web site, and costs $1.99 on iTunes.

Julie Summersgill, a spokeswoman for NBC Universal, said the company meant no ill will toward fan sites but wanted to protect its copyrights. “We’re taking a long and careful look at how to protect our content,” she said.

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OT: Photographic Milestone Coming [10:27 am]

1-Hour Brainstorm Gave Birth to Digital Imaging [>a href="docs/washpost/2006-02-20_washpost_ccds.pdf">pdf]

In a one-hour brainstorming session in late 1969, Boyle and Smith drew up the basic design for a memory chip they called a “charge-coupled device,” more familiarly known as a “CCD.” It worked fine for data storage — but anybody could see that its future lay in its breathtaking potential for capturing and storing images.

CCDs are what made digital still and video cameras possible. CCDs can X-ray a child’s teeth, see a person’s insides during laparoscopy, and produce stunning images of the Martian desert from the “eyes” of NASA’s traveling rovers.

Although less familiar to the public, Boyle and Smith’s device has become as ubiquitous as the laptop computer or the laser. These integrated circuits capture and store light in devices as mundane as supermarket bar-code readers and as spectacular as the Hubble Space Telescope.

Tomorrow, the National Academy of Engineering will recognize their breakthrough, awarding them the $500,000 Charles Stark Draper Prize, one of engineering’s most prestigious honors.

Also Digital Moves to Top-Tier Cameras

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WaPo’s Great Firewall of China #2: A Look At WikiPedia [10:22 am]

Reference Tool On Web Finds Fans, Censors [pdf] (note that the PDF includes all the graphic panels, etc accompanying the article)

But today, four months after Shi submitted his letter, Wikipedia remains blocked.

The government has declined to explain its actions. But its on-again, off-again attempts to disrupt access to the site highlight the Communist Party’s deep ambivalence toward the Internet: The party appears at once determined not to be left behind by the global information revolution and fearful of being swept away by it.

[...] But as the Chinese Wikipedia flourished, the authorities apparently came to see it as another threat to the party’s control of information, and an example of an even more worrying development. The Internet has emerged as a venue for people with shared interests — or grievances — to meet, exchange ideas and plan activities without the party’s knowledge or approval.

[...] Studies suggest this digital interaction is changing the traditional structure of Chinese society, strengthening relations among friends, colleagues and others outside family networks. In a multinational survey, a much larger percentage of Internet users in China than anywhere else said online communication had increased their contact with people who shared their hobbies, professions and political views.

The Communist Party polices these emerging Internet communities with censors and undercover agents, and manages a Web site that it said received nearly a quarter-million anonymous tips about “harmful information” online last year. But the methods the party uses to control speech and behavior in the real world have proved less effective in cyberspace, where people get away with more, and where the government is often a step behind.

When authorities catch up, citizens often have already weakened the party’s grip on public life and succeeded in expanding civil society. They have organized charity drives for rural schoolchildren and mobilized students for anti-Japanese protest marches. And they learned to work together to write an encyclopedia.

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Implementing RealID: No Fun For Anyone [10:06 am]

Plan20for20ID20Cards20Drawing20Criticism20-20Los20Angeles20Times [pdf]

But as state legislators around the country now struggle to implement the law by a May 2008 deadline, many say it is highly problematic.

Officials in California say that meeting federal requirements could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, and that it could also increase identity theft and lead to invasions of privacy. The act is “a man-made disaster,” said state Senate leader Don Perata (D-Oakland).

Later: A suggestion for a rethink of the debate - Op-Ed Contributor: A Card We Should All Carry

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Escalating the Censorship War [9:22 am]

Beating censorship on the Internet [pdf]

While Congress battles with US Internet companies that help China restrict its citizens’ Internet access, independent computer specialists are developing technologies that could reroute Internet information and put it beyond the reach of government censors.

“It was sort of a moral imperative for us to take action and do something about it,” said Lance Cottrell, president and founder of Anonymizer Inc. of San Diego.

[...] Meanwhile, a band of Internet volunteers headquartered in Cambridge has launched the Tor Project, which uses people’s spare Internet bandwidth to help others bypass the censors. And in Canada, computer scientists at the University of Toronto are working on a similar project, called Psiphon.

Anonymizer and Tor have attracted strong support from the US government. American military and intelligence services are major customers of Anonymizer, because it lets them scan foreign Internet sites without revealing their identities. The Voice of America, a broadcasting service sponsored by the US government, uses Anonymizer to help people in Iran tune in, despite their country’s efforts to block the signal.

[...] Ironically, both systems make use of digital technology that the US government was fighting to suppress a decade ago. In 1993, computer scientist Philip R. Zimmermann faced a threat of prosecution for publishing Pretty Good Privacy, a data encryption program that scrambles computer files so that only the intended recipient can read them.

The government tried to prevent the release of information on encryption out of concern that criminals and terrorists would use it to conceal their activities. But by 1996, federal prosecutors dropped the investigation of Zimmermann. Now the government sees encryption and anonymous Internet surfing as powerful tools for freedom.

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February 19, 2006

A Look At The Changing Debate On Wiretapping [7:54 pm]

Legalize it? [pdf]

This week, however, congressional Republicans pushed the debate in a new direction. Even as they prepare to investigate some aspects of the NSA program, many are apparently willing to accept that warrantless surveillance of Americans is an important tool in tracking terrorists. Some members of Congress are now asking how they can revise the law to make domestic eavesdropping legal some of the time.

[...] Scrapping court-approved warrants for some category of domestic wiretaps would be a major departure for American law. So while congressional Republicans are beginning to argue, along with the president, that such a step is necessary because of the value of the NSA program to national security, Democrats (and many scholars) think it’s entirely premature. They want to keep the focus on whether Bush exceeded his authority in approving the program in the first place. For better or worse, however, efforts to find a legal framework to accommodate warrantless wiretapping are already underway. The tug of war over what could be one of the most important changes to American law in a generation reveals very different opinions about how best to balance national security and civil liberties-and who should watch the watchers.

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More on Pandora [7:19 pm]

Introducing . . . Your New Favorite Band [pdf]

The station is truly customized because it builds a play list around your personal tastes. Essentially, you create the station by naming favorite artists. Then Pandora analyzes the type of music that that artist plays and will find similar types of songs — maybe a top-40 track or a lesser-known tune still trying to find an audience.

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Start of a WaPo Series: The Great Firewall of China [7:13 pm]

The Click That Broke a Government’s Grip [pdf] (see also U.S. Firms Balance Morality, Commerce [pdf])

Although just a fraction of all Chinese go online — and most who do play games, download music or gossip with friends — widespread Internet use in the nation’s largest cities and among the educated is changing the way Chinese learn about the world and weakening the Communist Party’s monopoly on the media. Studies show China’s Internet users spend more time online than they do with television and newspapers, and they are increasingly turning to the Web for news instead of traditional state outlets.

The government has sought to control what people read and write on the Web, employing a bureaucracy of censors and one of the world’s most technologically sophisticated system of filters. But the success of those measures has been mixed. As a catalyst that amplifies voices and accelerates events, the Internet presents a formidable challenge to China’s authoritarian political system. Again and again, ordinary Chinese have used it to challenge the government, force their opinions to be heard and alter political outcomes.

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Lenovo Comes Clean on Trusted Computing [7:00 pm]

Yes, Trusted Computing is used for DRM

Ever since the Trusted Computing Group went public about its plan to put a security chip inside every PC, its members have been denying accusations that the group is really a thinly-disguised conspiracy to embed DRM everywhere. IBM and Microsoft have instead stressed genuinely useful applications, like signing programs to be certain they don’t contain a rootkit. But at this week’s RSA show, Lenovo showed off a system that does use the chips for DRM after all.

The system is particularly frightening because it looks so simple. There’s no 20-digit software key to type in, no dongle to attach to the printer port, no XP-style activation. (Is this what Bill Gates was thinking of when he said in his keynote that security needs to be easier to use?) The user interface is just a Thinkpad, albeit one of the new models with an integrated fingerprint sensor.

When someone tries to open a DRM-restricted document (in this case, a PDF file: break that DRM and go to jail), Lenovo software asks the user to swipe a finger across the sensor. My finger results in an access denied message; the Lenovo security guy’s finger opens the document.

Slashdot: DRM Based on Trusted Computing Chips

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February 18, 2006

Google Formally Rejects the DoJ Request [10:56 pm]

From Slashdot: Google’s Response to the DoJ Motion Google’s response

Later: Google Argues Against Subpoena

Later: Google throws out US data demand

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More Rootkit Fallout [10:51 pm]

From ComputerWorld via Slashdot: DHS: Sony rootkit may lead to regulation

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security official warned today that if software distributors continue to sell products with dangerous rootkit software, as Sony BMG Music Entertainment recently did, legislation or regulation could follow.

“We need to think about how that situation could have been avoided in the first place,” said Jonathan Frenkel, director of law enforcement policy for the DHS’s Border and Transportation Security Directorate, speaking at the RSA Conference 2006 in San Jose. “Legislation or regulation may not be appropriate in all cases, but it may be warranted in some circumstances.”

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BBC Deconstructing A Copyright Extension Argument [10:49 pm]

Copyright sings to a different tune

But the message from the industry is one of impending gloom. They are warning that they face one of the biggest challenges to their survival since popular music exploded in the 1960s.

In 2013, copyright in the sound recording of the Beatles’ first album expires, as it will for recordings from Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard and other performers of the same period.

Of course, copyright of all works expires at some point. This is for a clear reason. Copyright is designed to provide reward and incentive for creators and innovators. It also recognises that innovators and creators build on works from the past, and that they need to access these works if art, culture and science are to flourish.

In the midst of an explosion in digital music sales, and a flourishing new music scene, industry executives are lobbying the UK government to extend protection for sound recordings from 50 years to 95.

This, they say, would protect existing revenue streams that bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones provide.

The argument for the extension of copyright is often presented as win-win situation for all. If we do not extend copyright, then the Beatles’ sound recordings could be packaged and released by anybody, and the recording artists would not receive any money from future sales of the songs they recorded and made popular.

So it hurts the recording artists, the record company who owned the original copyright, and the consumers who will be faced with a deluge of low quality Beatles compilations.

See also Consumers vs. IP Owners: The Future of Copyright

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OS X Hacks and the DMCA [10:45 pm]

Mac-User Sites Shut for Possible Violation [pdf]

Two busy Web sites that focus on Apple Computer Inc.’s Mac OS X operating system went silent Friday just days after they featured links to information on how to hack the software and run it on non-Apple PCs.

The OSx86 Project Web site stated Apple had served it with a notice on Thursday citing violations of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the site was reviewing all of its discussion forum postings as a result. The site has always aimed to adhere to copyright laws and is working with Apple to ensure no violations exist, according to a statement by the site administrator.

The other Web site, Win2OSX.net, was completely shut down. Administrators there could not be immediately reached for comment.

Also DMCA axes sites discussing Mac OS for PCs

Later: OSx86 Shutdown Rumors Explained; related: Apple Embeds Message to OS X Hackers

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The “Lion Sleeps” (Finally?) [10:23 pm]

From today’s NYTimes’ Arts, Briefly [pdf]

‘Lion Sleeps Tonight’ Lawsuit Is Settled

A protracted legal dispute over the copyright to the internationally popular tune “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” has been settled with a payment to the family of Solomon Linda, the Zulu migrant worker who composed it under the title “Mbube.” Lawyers acting for his heirs said yesterday in Johannesburg that Abilene Music, which administered its copyright in the United States, had agreed to settle for an undisclosed sum, Reuters reported. The heirs live in poverty in the township of Soweto. Since the song was written in 1939, it has earned an estimated $15 million, been recorded by at least 150 artists around the world and been featured in the Disney film “The Lion King” as well as onstage. Herman Blignaut, a lawyer for the family, said the amount of the settlement was confidential, “but it’s been described as an amount which is suitable for the family’s needs and includes both back payment for royalties as well as future payments.”

For earlier postings, see this

Much later: this NYTimes wrapup — In the Jungle, the Unjust Jungle, a Small Victory

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February 17, 2006

Catching Up (*sigh*) [1:08 pm]

(As suggested by the paucity of posts, it’s been a VERY busy start of the year here at TPP. Frankly, I’m a little worried about how far behind I am, but all I can do is try to catch up as best I can)

So, I have enjoyed reading this opinion (via Lessig Blog): Field v. Google, from the US District Court of Nevada. Basically, a copyright infringement suit against Google and its cache. Ultimately, Field loses, but there are some entertaining paragraphs.

According to Field, Google itself is creating and distributing copies of his works. But when a user requests a Web page contained in the Google cache by clicking on a “Cached” link, it is the user, not Google, who creates and downloads a copy of the cached Web page. Google is passive in this process. Google’s computers respond automatically to the user’s request. Without the user’s request, the copy would not be created and sent to the user, and the alleged infringement at issue in this case would not occur. The automated, non-volitional conduct by Google in response to a user’s does not constitute direct infringement under the Copyright Act. [p. 11]

[...] Google’s good faith is manifest with respect to Field’s works in particular. Field did not include any information on the pages of his site to instruct Google not to provide “Cached” links to those pages. Google only learned that Field objected to the “Cached” links by virtue of discovering Field’s Complaint in this litigation. At the time, Field had not even served the Complaint. Nevertheless, without being asked, Google promptly removed the “Cached” links to the pages of Field’s site. See Macgillivray Decl. ¶2.

Field’s own conduct stands in marked contrast to Google’s good faith. Field took a variety of affirmative steps to get his works included in Google’s search results, where he knew they would be displayed with “Cached” links to Google’s archival copy and he deliberately ignored the protocols that would have instructed Google not to present “Cached” links.

[...] In summary, the first fair use factor weighs heavily in Google’s favor because its “Cached” links are highly transformative. The second fair use factor weighs only slightly against fair use because Field made his works available in their entirety for free to the widest possible audience. The third fair use factor is neutral, as Google used no more of the copyrighted works than was necessary to serve its transformative purposes. The fourth fair use factor cuts strongly in favor of fair use in the absence of any evidence of an impact on a potential market for Field’s copyrighted works. A fifth factor, a comparison of the equities, likewise favors fair use. A balance of all of these factors demonstrates that if Google copies or distributes Field’s copyrighted works by allowing access to them through “Cached” links, Google’s conduct is fair use as a matter of law. [p. 21]

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February 16, 2006

OT: Distressing Shift in Pharma Thinking [7:09 pm]

A Cancer Drug Shows Promise, at a Price That Many Can’t Pay

Until now, drug makers have typically defended high prices by noting the cost of developing new medicines. But executives at Genentech and its majority owner, Roche, are now using a separate argument –— citing the inherent value of life-sustaining therapies.

Also known as “your money or your life” pricing.

Later: From the 2/17 NYTimes: Editorial: Price Gouging on Cancer Drugs?

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Lessig Policy Plea For Network Design [7:06 pm]

Lessig Makes Plea For Read/Write Internet

Stanford Professor Lawrence Lessig warned that today’s fast-growing, free-wheeling Internet is threatened by network providers who want to control innovation and commerce on the Internet much the way AT&T once controlled the phone networks.

Speaking at the Open Source Business Conference here, Lessig said society has to decide if it wants to continue down the current path of a “read-only” Internet or embrace what he called a “read/write Internet” with broad access to content and the ability to legally build on the creative works of others.

Lessig did say he wasn’t in favor of content being entirely proprietary or entirely free, but he fears the repercussions of the former being the dominant business model.

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Viral Marketing Strategies and Advertising Culture [12:42 pm]

Advertising: Fakin’ It: A Marketer Intends to Tease Consumers

The campaign has also revived a question that is routinely asked in the advertising industry: is it acceptable to use advertising to trick consumers?

One recent study has indicated that the buying public is willing to be fooled. A study by Northeastern University released last month found that even when participants who pitch products in word-of-mouth campaigns identify their commercial affiliations, it usually does not affect consumers’ willingness to pass the marketing message on.

And the planners of buzz marketing campaigns often say that in order to reach the modern multitasking consumer –— who may be simultaneously watching television, talking on a cellphone, reading the Internet and sending instant messages –— advertising must be a two-way conversation to have an effect.

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