May 16, 2006

BW Speculation on the French DRM Legislation [7:19 pm]

Apple to France: Drop Dead? [pdf]

French lawmakers are softening the language of a proposed law that would force Apple Computer (AAPL) and other companies that sell digital music to make their songs compatible with all the music players on the market. But the move is unlikely to quell concerns at Apple, making it very possible that the company will close its iTunes music store in France.

[...] The spectre of Apple shutting down the French outpost of its iTunes Music Store is very real. Apple hasn’t said as much publicly, but France’s portion of Apple’s music-download business accounts for less than 1% of the business unit’s worldwide revenue. A contentious new legal and regulatory environment would make it hardly worth the effort — let alone the increased cost — of keeping the French store open.

Shutting down the French unit of the iTunes operation wouldn’t affect sales of iPods, however, nor of other Apple products. French consumers also would be able to continue downloading the iTunes software and using it with their iPods. They simply would not be able to buy music from the iTunes store.

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Verizon: “Not Us!” [7:03 pm]

A report from CNN: Verizon denies handing out phone info

Verizon Communications Inc. denied earlier media reports that it entered into a contract with the National Security Agency, providing the government office with info about its customer phone calls.

“One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers’ domestic calls,” the company said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Ditto” - BellSouth

Later: Why so long to get the denials out? Could it be that someone’s try to goad someone from USAToday into making an ill-advised call?

Later: WashPost’s article - Verizon Says It Did Not Give Customer Records to NSA [pdf]; also the LATimes’s article on the White House decision to brief the intelligence committees in the hopes of limiting the damage to the nominee to head the CIA: President Backs Off Wiretap Secrecy [pdf] - we’ll have to see if our elected representatives are ready to act on their Constitutional prerogatives.

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Dilbert Looks At Search Privacy [6:30 pm]

In his own special way: May 14, 2006 Dilbert

I invented a search engine that’s also a singles matching service.

It automatically matches singles who search for the same keywords.

And then it threatens to e-mail those keywords to their mothers if they don’t agree to date.

Local copy

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Creative Sues Apple Over Patent [9:15 am]

Interesting choice of venue, though, since usually IPR complaint are through the DC Circuit: Digital music player rival seeks to block sales of Apple’s iPod in US - [pdf]

The complaint was filed yesterday with the US International Trade Commission, while the lawsuit was filed in federal court in California. Both claim the iPod infringes a patent on digital players owned by Creative Labs, the US division of Singapore-based Creative Technology.

[...] ”The iPods and iPod Nanos sold by Apple are specifically configured to access and display music loaded by the user in ways that infringe the asserted patent,” Creative Technology said in the complaint.

The iPods are made in China, and the trade complaint seeks an order that would block importation of the devices or the sale of any imported devices. The lawsuit seeks a halt of sales in the United States as well as cash compensation for past iPod sales.

Oops - the CNet News article says they did sue in the DC Circuit

Singapore-based electronics maker Creative Technology said Monday that it has filed two legal actions against Apple Computer, charging the popular iPod infringes on its patented technology.

In a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, Creative is seeking an injunction that would stop Apple from selling the iPod and iPod Nano in the United States. Separately, Creative said it has also sued Apple in U.S. District Court in California, seeking an injunction and damages.

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A Look At Network Analysis [7:51 am]

The N.S.A.’s Math Problem

In addition, the National Security Agency’s entire spying program seems to be based on a false assumption: that you can work out who might be a terrorist based on calling patterns. While I agree that anyone calling 1-800-ALQAEDA is probably a terrorist, in less obvious situations guilt by association is not just bad law, it’s bad mathematics, for two reasons.

The simplest reason is that we’re all connected. [...]

[...] Looked at this way, President Bush is only a few steps away from Osama bin Laden (in the 1970’s he ran a company partly financed by the American representative for one of the Qaeda leader’s brothers). And terrorist hermits like the Unabomber are connected to only a very few people. So much for finding the guilty by association.

A second problem with the spy agency’s apparent methodology lies in the way terrorist groups operate and what scientists call the “strength of weak ties.” As the military scientist Robert Spulak has described it to me, you might not see your college roommate for 10 years, but if he were to call you up and ask to stay in your apartment, you’d let him. This is the principle under which sleeper cells operate: there is no communication for years. Thus for the most dangerous threats, the links between nodes that the agency is looking for simply might not exist.

[...] While researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have used [formal concept analysis] to sift through hundreds of terrorism-related reports — and find connections that human analysts could not have found easily — it’s still dangerous to rely on the math.

This is because, as Kennedy and Lincoln assassination buffs know, two people can be a lot alike without being the same person. Even if there is only a 1 in 150 million chance that someone might share the profile of a terrorist suspect, it still means that, in a country the size of the United States, two people might share that profile. One might be a terrorist, or he might be Cat Stevens.

This isn’t to say that mathematicians are useless in fighting terrorism. In September 2004 — 10 months before the bombing of the London Underground — Gordon Woo, a mathematician and risk-assessment consultant, gave a speech warning that London was a hotbed of jihadist radicalism. But Dr. Woo didn’t anticipate violence just using math; he also used his knowledge of London neighborhoods. That’s what law enforcement should have been doing then and should be doing now: using some common sense and knowledge of terrorists, not playing math games.

See also Slate’s How the NSA Does “Social Network Analysis”

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“Re-Use Without The Express Written Consent of MLB Is Prohibited” [7:44 am]

The headline sort of says it all — further explorations into the notion of number ownership: Baseball Is a Game of Numbers, but Whose Numbers Are They?

Like no other corner of American popular culture, baseball communicates in numbers. From .406 (Ted Williams’s 1941 batting average) to 755 (Hank Aaron’s record home run total) to countless digits bandied about water coolers every morning, statistics convey ideas and images that, even overnight, become inseparable from the players to whom they belong.

This relationship between players and numbers, so often romanticized, is now being stripped to its skeleton in a lawsuit with considerably wider ramifications. While the dispute focuses on fantasy baseball — in which millions of fans compete against one another by assembling rosters of real-life major leaguers with the best statistics — a real legal question has arisen: Who owns that connection of name and number when it is used for such a commercial purpose?

Many onlookers have cast this issue as a tiff over batting averages — as if children were squabbling over the backs of baseball cards — but legal experts are saying it could affect the wider arena of celebrity rights, freedom of the press and even how the press is defined as the Internet age unfolds.

The dispute is between a company in St. Louis that operates fantasy sports leagues over the Internet and the Internet arm of Major League Baseball, which says that anyone using players’ names and performance statistics to operate a fantasy league commercially must purchase a license. The St. Louis company counters that it does not need a license because the players are public figures whose statistics are in the public domain.

[...] Major League Baseball Advanced Media is not making a copyright claim to the statistics themselves; a 1997 decision in the United States Court of Appeals involving the National Basketball Association ruled sports statistics to be public-domain facts that do not belong to the leagues.

Rather, the central issue concerns celebrities’ ability to control use of their names in commercial ventures, and how this “right of publicity,” which has developed under state common law and statute over the last half-century, may commingle with Constitutional press protections under the First Amendment.

[...] “Fantasy leagues are an intermediate case,” said Rod Smolla, dean of the University of Richmond Law School. “This could become like the Grokster case in the music-downloading world, where the Supreme Court could be asked to draw that line between the benefits of public use and ownership of property.”

Fame, Mr. Smolla said, “belongs in part to the people who earn it and the public that gives it.” This September, the court will decide the part in which baseball statistics belong.

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More Experiments in Distribution [7:38 am]

God’s Call Comes by Cellphone - [pdf]

“At first blush, it may seem a little peculiar to connect with God on your cellphone,” said Christopher Chisholm, a TV-executive-turned-digital-evangelist. He recently helped launch FaithMobile, a service that will send a daily Bible verse to your cellphone for $5.99 a month.

In this harried age, he asks, how else are you going to “get in touch with the Word?”

The explosion in digitized spirituality might seem likely to make the traditional sanctuary obsolete. But pastors are not giving in. They’re fighting back with some high-tech tricks of their own, turning to the Internet to save souls, renew faith, inspire hope — and, not incidentally, to fill their pews.

[...] Andrew Careaga, a youth pastor in Salem, Mo., welcomes some of these advances. Yet he worries that when spirituality migrates to cellphones, it becomes just another item to check off the to-do list — “a five-second spiritual fix, you’ve seen the verse of the day and you’re done.”

“Technology always seems to be a Faustian bargain. It encroaches on our ability to unconnect with the world and connect with God,” said Careaga, the author of “e-Ministry: Connecting with the Net Generation”

Theologian Philip Kenneson voices another concern: When churches measure success by how many times a sermon is downloaded, Christianity becomes just another consumer product.

“There’s a danger that it encourages people to see the church as a service agency, there to meet their particular needs” rather than to help them serve God, Kenneson said.

“It’s easy to reassure yourself that you are, in fact, a Christian because you’re … consuming Christian products,” he said. “Then I don’t have to love my neighbor or pray for my enemy or … take on any of the messy, difficult demands of the Gospel,” said Kenneson, an associate professor at Milligan College in Tennessee and co-author of “Selling Out The Church: The Dangers of Church Marketing.”

E-vangelists respond that the church, and its mission, survived the advent of radio ministry in the 1920s and the televangelism boom of the 1970s, and will no doubt make it through the iPod era as well.

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