April 11, 2006

Mix-Tapes and © [9:46 pm]

Op-Ed Contributor: The Tale of the Tapes

Mixtapes are street-level, do-it-yourself products that have grown into a multimillion-dollar business. So record companies (aware of the promotional power of these tapes) provide music to D.J.’s specifically for mixes, and the rappers themselves — who are often the copyright holders — endorse the mixtapes by appearing on them. Are we to really believe that the recording industry doesn’t want these mixes distributed to fans? Of course it does.

But under the current system, the only people who risk punishment are the retailers. I know about this firsthand. In August 2003, police raided my Indianapolis record stores and seized thousands of dollars worth of mixtapes. I was charged with 13 felonies, spent a night in jail and ultimately lost my business. Ten months later, I pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge: selling CD’s that did not conspicuously display the address of the manufacturer.

If the industry truly wanted to stop mixtapes, record companies should simply stop providing tracks to D.J.’s. The industry knows, of course, exactly who’s making these tapes; the industry needs these tapes to be made. Why, then, are tax dollars being spent on arresting people who, by distributing mixes, are doing nothing but promoting upcoming hip-hop releases?

As it stands now, the music industry, record companies and artists are getting rich, and fans are getting the music they want. Meanwhile, stores like Dappa Don, Mondo Kim’s and mine are left to fight costly legal battles.

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April 10, 2006

Google Wireless, Advertising and Privacy [8:27 am]

Some Worries as San Francisco Goes Wireless

But even before the city announced the winning bidder, privacy advocates had begun to criticize the Google approach for what they say is its potential to violate consumer privacy. Early last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Council released a joint report calling the EarthLink and Google proposal “privacy-invasive,” because it would involve “cookies” that track users from session to session to enable customized delivery of ads.

Mr. Vein said the criticism was premature given that the city and the companies had not yet negotiated the details of the network.

“While we have picked somebody, we haven’t necessarily agreed to the details of the proposal,” Mr. Vein said. “It is just a starting point.”

Mr. Vein said the city would make decisions related to privacy as the issues came up during negotiations. “I will be pushing to maintain the privacy and security of citizens as best I can as I put this deal together,” he said.

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Afghani Digital Bazaars [8:22 am]

U.S. Military Secrets for Sale at Afghan Bazaar [pdf]

No more than 200 yards from the main gate of the sprawling U.S. base here, stolen computer drives containing classified military assessments of enemy targets, names of corrupt Afghan officials and descriptions of American defenses are on sale in the local bazaar.

Shop owners at the bazaar say Afghan cleaners, garbage collectors and other workers from the base arrive each day offering purloined goods, including knives, watches, refrigerators, packets of Viagra and flash memory drives taken from military laptops. The drives, smaller than a pack of chewing gum, are sold as used equipment.

[...] A reporter recently obtained several drives at the bazaar that contained documents marked “Secret.” The contents included documents that were potentially embarrassing to Pakistan, a U.S. ally, presentations that named suspected militants targeted for “kill or capture” and discussions of U.S. efforts to “remove” or “marginalize” Afghan government officials whom the military considered “problem makers.”

The drives also included deployment rosters and other documents that identified nearly 700 U.S. service members and their Social Security numbers, information that identity thieves could use to open credit card accounts in soldiers’ names.

After choosing the name of an army captain at random, a reporter using the Internet was able to obtain detailed information on the woman, including her home address in Maryland and the license plate numbers of her 2003 Jeep Liberty sport utility vehicle and 1998 Harley Davidson XL883 Hugger motorcycle.

Later: LATimes’ Data Leaks Persist From Afghan Base [pdf]

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What To Do When “Piracy” == “Promotion?” [8:17 am]

Studios Not Sure Whether Web Video Innovator Is Friend or Foe [pdf]

In the four months since it launched, YouTube has become a full-blown Internet tsunami. It streams about 35 million videos a day and attracts an audience of more than 9 million people a month, according to Web measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

That makes it more popular than Google, Yahoo or AOL’s video services. The company plans to eventually convert the traffic to advertising revenue.

YouTube also illustrates the conundrum facing the entertainment industry as it struggles to control the online distribution of its television shows, movies and other types of content. Unlike Internet file-swapping services such as Napster and Kazaa, YouTube doesn’t tout itself as a place to steal other people’s stuff.

By all accounts, it acts like a responsible corporate citizen when asked to remove copyrighted works.

That leaves the studios internally conflicted about how to deal with YouTube, with lawyers sending threatening letters alleging infringement even as other executives contemplate how to exploit its ability to reach a young, tech-savvy audience that is growing up in front of a computer screen instead of a TV.

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April 9, 2006

The *Other* Side of (Software) Piracy [10:54 pm]

When is it piracy and when is it just promotion? Interesting to see that it’s getting a little ink: How Piracy Opens Doors for Windows [pdf]

Although the world’s largest software maker spends millions of dollars annually to combat illegal copying and distribution of its products, critics allege — and Microsoft acknowledges — that piracy sometimes helps the company establish itself in emerging markets and fend off threats from free open-source programs.

[...] The proliferation of pirated copies nevertheless establishes Microsoft products — particularly Windows and Office — as the software standard. As economies mature and flourish and people and companies begin buying legitimate versions, they usually buy Microsoft because most others already use it. It’s called the network effect.

“The first dose is free,” said Hal Varian, a professor of information management at UC Berkeley, facetiously comparing Microsoft’s anti-piracy policy to street-corner marketing of illicit drugs. “Once you start using a product, you keep using it.”

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LATimes on Net Neutrality [10:45 pm]

Phone, Cable May Charge Dot-Coms That Want to Race Along the Internet [pdf]

As Internet traffic starts to clog, the telephone and cable companies that control the nation’s telecommunications networks are considering charging dot-coms such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. extra to make sure their data gets special treatment — zooming along faster and more reliably than anyone else’s.

The idea has ignited a sort of online road rage in the technology and entertainment industries and in Congress. Although differential pricing is widespread — think first-class airline tickets or box seats at the theater — it defies the Internet’s egalitarian tradition.

[...] In Washington and Silicon Valley, the debate is over the long-held tenet of network neutrality — the notion that access to all the Internet’s offerings should be free from interference from the companies that own the vast fiber-optic and copper-wire networks linking the world’s computers.

Those companies — phone and cable companies, mostly — counter that they are entitled to offer expedited delivery services because the growth of online video, music and games is jamming their lines. Already, they charge companies for premium offerings such as private networks.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) sees network neutrality as the most contentious issue in Congress’ overall effort to amend federal communications laws.

On Friday, Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) issued a draft bill that contained strong language protecting network neutrality. It would bar broadband providers from charging Internet companies for priority access to faster lanes.

In contrast, a House subcommittee on Wednesday shot down a toughened net neutrality provision championed by the chief executives of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Corp., EBay Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and IAC/InterActive Corp. A weaker provision gives federal regulators less authority to enforce neutrality principles.

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Neologisms for the Online World [7:46 am]

Overly Wired? There’s a Word for It

WAS there gridlock before there were automobiles? Was there jet lag before there were airplanes? Who was the first person to say “I Googled it” or “he’s cyberstalking me”? At what moment did a “web log” turn into a “blog”?

Language makes things official. Change in the pace of life over the last decade can be measured by change in our vocabulary. We I.M., we get phished, we have PIN’s. We HotSync, therefore we are.

Does a phenomenon fully exist until it has a name? [...]

So he has come up with the following suggestions, among others:

¶Screensucking, which he defines as “wasting time engaging with any screen — for instance, computer, video game, television, BlackBerry.” He goes on to use his new word in a sentence: “I was supposed to write that article, but instead I spent the whole afternoon screensucking.” That concept hits particularly close to home. [...]

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Writing for Search [7:35 am]

This Boring Headline Is Written for Google

JOURNALISTS over the years have assumed they were writing their headlines and articles for two audiences — fickle readers and nitpicking editors. Today, there is a third important arbiter of their work: the software programs that scour the Web, analyzing and ranking online news articles on behalf of Internet search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN.

The search-engine “bots” that crawl the Web are increasingly influential, delivering 30 percent or more of the traffic on some newspaper, magazine or television news Web sites. And traffic means readers and advertisers, at a time when the mainstream media is desperately trying to make a living on the Web.

So news organizations large and small have begun experimenting with tweaking their Web sites for better search engine results. But software bots are not your ordinary readers: They are blazingly fast yet numbingly literal-minded. There are no algorithms for wit, irony, humor or stylish writing. The software is a logical, sequential, left-brain reader, while humans are often right brain.

[...] In journalism, as in other fields, the tradition of today was once an innovation. The so-called inverted pyramid structure of a news article — placing the most important information at the top — was shaped in part by a new technology of the 19th century, the telegraph, the Internet of its day. Putting words on telegraph wires was costly, so reporters made sure the most significant points were made at the start.

Yet it wasn’t all technological determinism by any means. The inverted pyramid style of journalism, according to Mr. Schudson, became standard practice only in 1900, four decades or more after telegraph networks came into use. It awaited the rise of journalists as “an avowedly independent, self-conscious, professionalizing group,” confident of their judgments about what information was most important, he said.

The new technology shaped practice, but people determined how the technology was used — and it took a while. Something similar is the likely path of the Internet.

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April 8, 2006

MySpace and Adolescence [7:58 am]

An interesting profile on what it is to parent in the internet age: Testing the Bounds of MySpace [pdf]

This all started in late December when my cellphone rang as I was walking into a grocery store. It was the mother of one of Taylor’s friends, explaining that she needed Taylor’s help to shut down her own daughter’s MySpace account.

Taylor, then 12, had helped the daughter set up a site without the mother’s permission, and only Taylor knew the password necessary to delete it.

All of this was news to me. With an embarrassed apology, I promised to set things straight.

I didn’t know much about MySpace.com then. I’ve since had to do my homework.

MySpace, I learned, was created by a couple of Santa Monica tech-heads, and over its two-year life, it has become the biggest website that allows people to find dates, keep in touch and socialize. If you sign onto the site, now owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., you get free personal “space” to post profile information and photographs, write blogs, link music and send e-mails to other members. MySpace claims 68 million members, up more than 20 million in just the three months since I began visiting it.

Some of its fans are young adults. Many are kids like Taylor.

Related: F.B.I. and Justice Dept. Are Faulted Over Child Predators on Web

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No Infringement In DaVinci Code [7:44 am]

Claimants Lose Bid to Crack `Da Vinci Code’ [pdf]

In their suit, Baigent and Leigh set out a 15-point analysis of what they called the central themes of “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail,” noting their work argued that Jesus Christ as a Jew would have married and had offspring, and that after his crucifixion, Mary Magdalene fled the Holy Land for France, where their descendants founded the Merovingian dynasty. Its kings ruled parts of France and Germany from the 5th to 8th centuries.

In his 71-page judgment, Smith said that even if there were central themes to the claimants’ book, “it is merely an expression of a number of facts and ideas at a very general level.” Theirs was historical conjecture rather than original work, he wrote, adding that the points raised by Baigent and Leigh were “artificially taken out of [their book] for the purpose of the litigation.”

The claimants were ordered to pay 85% of the legal expenses incurred by Brown’s publisher, Random House. The first payment of $600,000 toward the fee, which could top $1.75 million, is due by the end of the month.

Smith’s ruling erased fears that an adverse decision could severely damage Brown’s reputation and delay next month’s release of a multimillion-dollar film of “The Da Vinci Code” starring Tom Hanks.

NYTimes’ article: Idea for ‘Da Vinci Code’ Was Not Stolen, Judge Says

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April 6, 2006

Net Neutrality Guarantees Scrapped [8:03 am]

Republicans defeat Net neutrality proposal

A Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday defeated a proposal that would have levied extensive regulations on broadband providers and forcibly prevented them from offering higher-speed video services to partners or affiliates.

By an 8-to-23 margin, the committee members rejected a Democratic-backed “Net neutrality” amendment to a current piece of telecommunications legislation. The amendment had attracted support from companies including Amazon.com, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, and their chief executives wrote a last-minute letter to the committee on Wednesday saying such a change to the legislation was “critical.”

Before the vote, amendment sponsor Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, assailed his Republican colleagues. “We’re about to break with the entire history of the Internet,” Markey said. “Everyone should understand that.”

[...] “This is not Chicken Little, the sky is not falling, we’re not going to change the direction of the axis of the earth on this vote,” said Rep. John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican. He said overregulatory Net neutrality provisions would amount to picking winners and losers in the marketplace and discourage investment in faster connections that will benefit consumers.

Last week, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton said: “Before we get too far down the road, I want to let the market kind of sort itself out, and I’m not convinced that we really have a problem with Net neutrality.”

[...] A CNET News.com report published last week, however, showed that the Internet industry is being outspent in Washington by more than a 3-to-1 margin.

AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon spent $230.9 million on politicians from 1998 until the present, while Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo spent only a combined $71.2 million. (Those figures include lobbying expenditures, individual contributions, political action committees and soft money.)

Slashdot: Republicans Defeat Net Neutrality Proposal

The Reuters news article in the WaPo pushes another angle: US House panel backs help for telcos on TV service

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet voted 27-4 to allow companies to apply for a nationwide license to offer video service, instead of the current process in which they must negotiate with thousands of cities for individual licenses.

[...] Democrats offered numerous amendments, including provisions aimed at preventing Internet service providers from favoring certain content over others and require new video providers to build out their service to ensure poor areas are not left out.

Most were defeated by the Republicans who have a majority on the panel, including the Internet neutrality amendment. But lawmakers approved by voice vote a provision requiring high- speed Internet providers to sell the service without tying it with voice or other products.

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April 5, 2006

The RIAA Strikes Close To Home [10:46 pm]

Literally; a Slashdot discussion of an article in the MIT student paper, The Tech: RIAA Recommends Students Drop out of College

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Business Method Patents: More Evidence [8:50 am]

Is this really what the patent system is supposed to protect? How does this promote a vibrant, innovative and competitive marketplace? How is this innovation worthy of protection, given that the incentive to develop the innovation is to make money? Shouldn’t that be the reward, rather than giving a quasi-monopoly for a good business idea? I hope Blockbuster fights this to the bitter end, and I hope that the courts finally wise up on this nonsensical extension of patent protection. [Man, an I crabby this morning] Netflix sues Blockbuster to shut online service [pdf]

The first patent, granted in 2003, covers the method by which Netflix customers select and receive a certain number of movies at a time, and return them for more titles.

The second patent, issued on Tuesday, “covers a method for subscription-based online rental that allows subscribers to keep the DVDs they rent for as long as they wish without incurring any late fees, to obtain new DVDswithout incurring additional charges and to prioritize and reprioritize their own personal dynamic queue — of DVDs to be rented,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit says No. 1 U.S. rental chain Blockbuster, which launched its online rental service in 2004, was aware that Netflix had obtained a patent for its business method and was seeking a second, but willfully and deliberately violated the existing patent.

Netflix, which is represented by the San Francisco law firm of Keker & Van Nest, is demanding a jury trial and asks that Blockbuster Online be enjoined from using Netflix’s business method and be forced to pay damages and court costs.

The WaPo’s Reuters article: Netflix may face tough fight in Blockbuster patent suit

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MashUps Come To Software? [8:19 am]

Cheerleading like this is always suspect, but I just got my offer of a Google Analytics account, so I can see that I have a lot (more) to learn about this: Software Out There Of the many interesting quotes, I found this particularly notable, as well as pointing out how much I don’t know about this:

At the Emerging Technologies Conference, held in San Diego last month, Ray Ozzie, one of Microsoft’s three chief technical officers, showed a prototype effort that uses the Windows clipboard, which moves data among different desktop PC programs, to perform the same function for copying and transferring Web information.

Mr. Ozzie, who used the Firefox browser (an open-source rival to Internet Explorer) during his demonstration, said, “I’m pretty pumped up with the potential for R.S.S. to be the DNA for wiring the Web.”

He was referring to Really Simple Syndication, an increasingly popular, free standard used for Internet publishing. Mr. Ozzie’s statement was remarkable for a chief technical officer whose company has just spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars investing in a proprietary alternative referred to as .Net.

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April 4, 2006

All I Hope Has To Be Said About This Venal DaVinci Code © Suit [11:14 pm]

And worse, it’s not even a terribly good (or well-written) book! Steal This Book

The co-authors of a 1982 work of nonfiction, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” are suing the novelist Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” for breach of copyright. They charge that Mr. Brown’s novel stole their hypothesis — which, in case you’ve been holed away for the past few years rereading Proust, is that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married, and a shadowy group called the Priory of Sion has protected their descendants over the centuries, fending off dark, contending forces inside the Vatican.

But what those in that London courtroom seem not to realize is that the novel has always been a confidence game. Early in the 18th century, the English novel came into being when a sometime jailbird gulled his readers with the counterfeit memoir of a certain Robinson Crusoe. Across the Channel, plenty of readers took narratives like “Manon Lescaut,” by the Abbé Provost, a convicted forger, as the historical accounts they pretended to be. No surprise that our ancestors’ mischief has lingered in the literary bloodline, especially when it comes to fiction masquerading as history.

“Writers have to avoid taking material from other writers,” one of the plaintiffs, Michael Baigent, has declared, unappeased by the fact that Mr. Brown’s book makes explicit reference to his. “It’s part of the deal, really.”

Tell that to the author of “A Tale of Two Cities,” who not only boasted of having read Thomas Carlyle’s history of the French Revolution hundreds of times but also credited it with having “inspired me with the general fancy of that story.”

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Web-Based Self Promotion Pays Off [10:56 pm]

Webcast singer snapped up by Sony

Sandi Thom, 24, is now on the books of RCA/SonyBMG after signing with the label at her flat on Monday night.

She built up a daily audience of more than 100,000 people around the world.

Speaking on British television, Sandi said she could not believe what had happened and that her life had “changed dramatically.”

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A Little Copyright Nicety [10:49 pm]

Buried in this article: Billboard to Begin Ranking Ringtones Sales [pdf]

Master ringtones have been popular for years in Asia and Europe, where use of handsets with better ringtone fidelity is more common than in the United States. But as more multimedia-friendly mobile phones have entered the U.S. market, users have increasingly opted to customize their phones with master ringtones.

That’s good news for recording companies and artists who perform on an original track, because they reap royalties from master ringtones along with songwriters and publishers. Recording companies and performers don’t get a cut of the synthesized ringtones.

The U.S. ringtone market is expected to exceed $600 million in sales this year, up from $500 million last year, according to BMI, a major performing rights organization that represents songwriters, composers and music publishers.

Billboard estimates global ringtone sales racked up $4.4 billion in 2005, up from $3.7 billion the previous year. Much of that growth was due to sales of master ringtones, according to the magazine.

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April 3, 2006

Swamped! [7:50 pm]

Gonna be a little overwhelmed for a few days, so posting will be a little spare.  I hope to get a few things in, but it’s going to be iffy for a while.

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Mesh Network Testing on West Bank [8:37 am]

Nortel to test “Wireless Mesh” in Israel [pdf]

Nortel Networks (Toronto:NT.TO - news) (NYSE:NT - news) said on Monday it received Israeli government approval to perform a test of its “Wireless Mesh” network in the Jewish settlement town of Ariel in the West Bank

[...] In Ariel, the network will help with municipal law enforcement, provide video surveillance to limit vandalism, read water meters remotely, allow for wireless data and voice communications between municipal workers and employees at the local university, and enable wireless Internet for residents.

The network is expected to be up and running within a month and the test should be concluded in one year. Costs were not disclosed.

[...] The test in Ariel for Wireless Mesh — which links together multiple access points without the need for cables into a wireless network — comes after Taipei selected Nortel to provide high-speed wireless broadband access in the Taiwan capital.

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The RIAA “Education” Campaign [6:49 am]

A chance to be bullied into speaking to the public via an LATimes op-ed. Coerced communications to the public — wonder why that seems so familiar?  Sinking a music pirate [pdf]

THE WORD TO describe it is “shame.” The shame in realizing I’d been monitored for months, with paper logs of my online conversations; the shame of begging my university dean to allow me to remain a student; the shame of continuing to squander such a significant portion of my family’s savings on legal fees; the shame of pleading with professors to reschedule tests; the shame of desperately searching for landlords on short notice; and, of course, the shame of knowing I’d stolen the property of others like me who are passionate about the art of music.

The other word is “fear.” Fear that keeps me awake at night and distracted in class. Fear of my May sentencing date (I pleaded guilty in March) in the same courthouse as Zacarias Moussaoui; fear of the possible prison time I am facing; fear of my job prospects when I graduate college in December with a felony criminal record; and fear for the future I’ve recklessly damaged.

Everybody wants something for nothing, and I’ve come to learn that “free” music is anything but. The hidden cost is enormous. Although I am unqualified to opine on the price of piracy for the artists whose work is stolen, I can describe the price I’ve paid.

Stealing, no matter how little, or how easy, is never right. There is no justification for downloading music without paying. I’m not just saying this to reduce my sentence; I want to get the message out to young people who might not otherwise understand — copyright infringement, whether it is buying a bootleg album from a street vendor or downloading a song from the Internet, has very serious consequences.

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