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March 21, 2006

CC Licensing Win [11:16 pm]

Creative Commons license upheld by court

A court in the Netherlands has ruled that a Creative Commons license is binding, in a case brought against a Dutch gossip magazine by an ex-MTV star.

This is one of the first times that the license–which offers more flexibility than traditional copyright licenses–has been tested in a court of law, according to legal Web site Groklaw.

[...] Former MTV VJ Adam Curry sued Weekend, a Dutch gossip magazine, for copyright infringement after the magazine published photos of Curry’s daughter without his authorization. The photos, which Curry had posted on the Flickr photo-sharing site, were covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license, which states that while the licensed content can be used freely for noncommercial purposes as long as the source is made clear, the content cannot be used for commercial purposes unless the creator of the content agrees to waive the conditions.

The court ruled that Weekend must not use Curry’s pictures again or it would face fines of 1,000 euros (about $1,200) for each photo used without permission, Curry said in his blog.

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France Moves “Forward” (updated) [10:56 pm]

Or something. One would think it would be far simpler to outlaw DRM, rather than erecting this peculiar legal structure which, if it doesn’t outlaw DRM, will instead mean that there can only be one DRM, since otherwise these “conversion applications” will just be used to strip DRM entirely. Seems like the long ‘way around. France moves forward with law challenging Apple [pdf]

“These clauses, which we hope will be taken up by other countries, notably at the European level, should prevent the emergence of a monopoly in the supply of online culture,” Richard Cazenave and Bernard Carayon, National Assembly deputies from the ruling UMP party, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The new legislation would require that online music retailers such as iTunes provide the software codes that protect copyrighted material — known as digital rights management (DRM) — to allow the conversion from one format to another.

Apple responded on Tuesday night in California that if the law passes, it would only lead to increased piracy.

Later: France Takes a Shot at ITunes [pdf]

Government isn’t the only thing that may take this choice out of Apple’s hands. Programmers have already cooked up FairPlay-compatible programs; some let people buy iTunes songs without using iTunes, while others remove the FairPlay bits from a download, turning it into a standard AAC (advanced audio coding) music file. Apple has been able to update iTunes to lock out hacks like JHymn and SharpMusique, but can it keep that up?

History suggests not. In the long run, trying to stop a mass-market, proprietary format from being deciphered by motivated, skilled outsiders is like pushing water uphill with a sponge. If legislators don’t force iTunes open, the hackers will. And when they do that, the odds are higher that the inevitable successful hack will strip away all anti-piracy controls.

The alternative for Apple is to reduce the need to hack FairPlay by licensing it to other companies. Apple could earn a tidy return on licensing fees, just as the CD’s inventors have, while continuing its quest to ensure that every last person on the Metro has white iPod headphones stuck in their ears.

What about letting other music stores use FairPlay? Why not? Is there a better way for Apple to ensure the obliteration of Microsoft’s Windows Media rights-management software?

Apple probably can’t win the battle to maintain its grip on iTunes. But that doesn’t mean it can’t lose it profitably.

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Verizon Gets A Break [7:25 pm]

Will their customers? Verizon High-Speed Services Deregulated

The agency exempted Verizon from having to file proposed prices with the government and lifted the requirement that it provide competitors access to its high-speed business lines. FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin said freeing Verizon of many “common carrier” obligations on those lines will give the company “the flexibility to further deploy its broadband services and fiber facilities without overly burdensome regulations.”

[...] The FCC, which is split evenly between the two Republicans and two Democrats, did not vote to ease the rules on Verizon but rather exempted it under a statute that allows a company’s request to be approved unless the agency denies it within a set period. That period expired Sunday, allowing the request to go through automatically — a rare event at the FCC.

“I am deeply disappointed,” Copps said in a written statement. “This is not the way to make environment-altering policy changes.”

[...] “Here we permit a . . . petition [to] go into effect that erases decades of communications policy in a single stroke. In effect, we provide industry the pen and give it the go-ahead to rewrite the law,” he added.

“The chairman’s action yesterday represents the height of irresponsibility by a federal official,” said Earl Comstock, head of the Comptel trade association, which represents smaller phone companies. “With this action the chairman’s has unilaterally abdicated the commission’s responsibilities with respect to oversight of Verizon’s common carrier service offerings. As a result, competition and consumers are now at the mercy of Verizon’s financial self-interest.”

See also a little home-field game: Verizon asks FCC to force cable firm to negotiate TV sports channel rights [pdf]

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Content Delivery: Who Pays? [6:30 pm]

I look forward to hearing how this works out: Sirius Radio Settles With Music Companies

Sirius Satellite Radio has reached agreements with three major recording companies to settle disputes over a portable music player that allows users to store digital copies of music, a Sirius spokesman said Monday. Financial details were not disclosed.

[...] Sirius and its rival, XM Satellite Radio Holdings, already pay a compulsory license fee to broadcast music to the satellite receivers of subscribers.

The recording industry argued that the license did not cover making a permanent digital copy.

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Reframing Entertainment Distribution [10:33 am]

And why thinking hard about distribution is key: Leveling the field, a rental at a time [pdf]

“What we do is ’slivercasting,’ ” says Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. “In an era where there are so many homogenized films trying to reach every quadrant of the audience, we can help a great little movie find as big an audience as a big mediocre one. In most video stores, I’d be lucky to find one copy of [the Werner Herzog documentary] ‘Grizzly Man,’ but on our site, it finds its way, in a very democratic manner, to the front of the new releases pool. If TiVo has helped people free themselves from a linear TV schedule, then we’re helping free people from the Top 100 commercial movie model.”

[...] Although most of the media coverage about Netflix has treated it as a Wall Street success story, its real effect is cultural. It has created a business model, very much like XM Satellite Radio, that provides an alternative to the deluge of dumbed-down entertainment that has swamped our pop culture. In terrestrial radio, a station playing a gifted but little-known singer like Neko Case can’t compete with a station spotlighting big sellers like Mariah Carey — to the highest-rated station go the advertising spoils. But on XM, with its 150 channels of music, bluegrass, Latin jazz or hard-core punk has just as much sway as Top 40.

Netflix offers a similar model. Because it relies on subscriber ratings and recommendations, and can offer an almost limitless array of product, it creates a level playing field, allowing a tiny indie film to compete with a multiplex monster. It’s a great example of what Wired magazine’s Chris Anderson calls the Long Tail.

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Filesharing, P2P and Japanese Work Habits [10:27 am]

Adding up to….what? As Japanese Bring Work Home, Virus Hitches a Ride [pdf]

With almost daily reports of more private information being pumped from personal computers and splashed over the Internet, there is a growing unease that Japan is under insidious attack from within.

The culprit is a digital worm that infects computers using the file-sharing Winny software, a Japanese computer program that, like the infamous Napster, was designed to allow people to easily swap music and movie files.

Normally such leaks would mean nothing more serious than acute embarrassment to victims whose personal photographs or private video collection gets uploaded onto the Web for anyone to see. But the particular danger of this virus, dubbed Antinny, stems from the fact that it has exploited what turns out to be a bad Japanese habit.

This is a country where millions of people are taking their work home with them. On personal computers.

Soldiers and securities traders, doctors and cops in Japan have become accustomed to loading job-related data onto their personal computers to work after hours. But with many of those computers also running Winny software, chunks of confidential data have been surreptitiously leaked online, where they are extremely difficult to expunge.

[...] Kaneko, Winny’s developer, says he has the solution to everyone’s problems: an anti-virus patch that he claims to have developed and is trying to patent.

The only hitch: He is still in court, fighting his case.

“If I hadn’t been arrested, I could have dealt with it,” he said outside the Kyoto courtroom this month. “And this problem wouldn’t have happened.”

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