June 19, 2006

Dutch Court Overturns Decision Favoring P2P Site [9:19 am]

Dutch site linking to MP3 files loses court case - pdf

A Dutch music website which links to MP3 files had to stop promoting the infringement of artist rights and copyrights, the Dutch court of appeal said in a ruling that overturned an earlier one in favor of the site.

The website www.zoekmp3.nl, operated by Techno Design, had been taken down on Monday after the ruling on Friday which said that failure to comply with the injunction would lead to fines of 10,000 euros ($12,590) per day, or 1,000 euros per infringing file.

[...] A warning to users on zoekmp3.nl not to infringe copyright did not excuse Techno Design from liability. “Such a warning ignores the reality that the lion’s share of visitors are looking for unauthorized MP3 files,” the court said.

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Combatting “Intel Inside” [8:45 am]

A Nod From Knopfler: I Want My A.M.D.

It’s not unusual for guitar heroes to credit their guitar makers in album liner notes, or drummers to thank Zildjian for their cymbals. In the notes for “All the Roadrunning,” an album of duets by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, Mr. Knopfler offers thanks for a different kind of instrument: a computer chip, in particular the Opteron microprocessor made by Advanced Micro Devices.

[...] Many musicians use the recording software Pro Tools, for Macintosh or a modestly configured PC. But Mr. Ainlay and Mr. Knopfler prefer a program called Nuendo, which they say can capture higher-quality audio but requires a more powerful chip.

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This is Progress on Net Neutrality?! [8:37 am]

Internet plan doesn’t protect price equality - pdf

Stevens’s compromise would also create an FCC complaint process to be used if consumers believe that their access rights have been violated. The FCC would be authorized to adjudicate complaints with penalties, according to the draft.

However, the FCC would be barred from issuing any regulations under the new law that would add to the obligations on Internet service providers.

A Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transporation markup hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday, with a webcast.

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Charlie Nesson’s Vision [7:07 am]

An example of Nesson’s notion of how to resolve the Lessig Dilemma: Now she has their attention - pdf

To many in the industry, YouTube, launched in February 2005, and other sites like it are potential enemies, the TV version of Napster, whose early reputation as a song-piracy enabler made it a pariah to record companies. After all, in addition to allowing people like Brodack to distribute their own work, these sharing sites also allow the free exchange of previously broadcast, copyrighted material — exactly the kind of stuff that studio executives hope to make big syndication and DVD dollars from down the road.

That’s why in February, NBC, Daly’s own employer, asked YouTube to take down the “Saturday Night Live” clip “Lazy Sunday” — even though the site was largely responsible for turning the rap spoof into an Internet sensation. (NBC now sells “Lazy Sunday” for $1.99 on the Apple’s iTunes site, though you can still watch it free plenty of other places online). C-SPAN, of all networks, last month demanded that YouTube remove videos of Stephen Colbert’s infamous address at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

[...] But [Carson] Daly isn’t alone in seeing YouTube as fertile frontier rather than pirates’ cove. Major TV studios have also started trolling YouTube and similar destinations for the next generation of acting and directing talent. In the process, the Web is offering the kind of instant connection to Hollywood that countless denizens of public-access talk shows have craved and seldom received.

For example, Twentieth Century Fox Television, producer of “The Simpsons” and “24,” has junior executives scouring the video-sharing sites. “We also have a casting executive assigned to discovering new talent, and these sites can be particularly fertile ground,” Jane Francis, senior vice president of Fox’s boutique programming arm Fox 21, said in a statement. “While these efforts have not yet resulted in a major piece of casting or story idea or project, we believe it is only a matter of time.”

In fact, the networks may need YouTube more than YouTube needs them.

[...] It doesn’t mean prime time will soon be filled with faux music videos by a teenager who borrowed his dad’s digital camera. As Daly put it, “I don’t think you’ll see a 30-minute sitcom made from someone’s bedroom.”

But at the very least, Hollywood’s gate-keeping practices might change: Schwabs’ Drugstore may have been reinvented, electronically.

“I just love it that no middleman is involved,” said Daly, who has yet to meet Brodack face to face but hopes to work with her on “webisodes” — Web-based video content — and other material. “There’s no agent, nothing. The pipeline is direct. I think it’s going to exponentially change how the business is run.”

See also, ‘Star Trek’ Fans, Deprived of a Show, Recreate the Franchise on Digital Video

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Boston Globe Supporting Digital Restrictions Management [6:40 am]

And rewriting history.  To read this editorial, you’d think that someone *forced* record companies to migrate from analog vinyl to digital CDs.  And the companies were warned that they should think about what would happen when computers were equipped with CD players.  But, hey, why rain on the parade, when the companies knew that they were going to get huge sales as people converted their collections to CD?  A dumb, and ill informed, editorial from the Boston Globe:  Let iTunes be iTunes - pdf

The consumer ombudsman in Norway thinks Apple is in violation of that nation’s laws. After all, shouldn’t consumers, once they purchase a song, do with it as they like?

The answer was “yes” when music was sold only on records and tapes, and for the first few years of the compact-disc era. Importing songs to portable devices usually meant making a single cassette tape.

All that changed when the compact disc was mated to the personal computer. With the help of Napster and other file-sharing programs, millions of digital copies were traded across cyberspace, to the delight of consumers and the rage of music companies and the other copyright holders. If copyright means anything in the age of the Internet, there have to be technical limits on the way music is swapped and played.

Hmmm — does anyone imagine that the record companies are going to offer price reductions to reflect these “technical limits?”

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June 17, 2006

Privacy and Online Tools [7:05 pm]

Net-centric computing and faith in goodwill: Your Money: Now, Free Ways to Do Desktop Work on the Web

There is another way to do almost everything these programs can do — some would say you can actually do more — and you can do it free. A number of smart programmers have developed word processing, spreadsheet, calendar and other software that you operate while in a Web browser.

No one is saying they are a direct substitute for Word or Excel, but they do have a distinct advantage. The programs can be used by several people at different computers to collaborate on a document.

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June 16, 2006

Innovation: Unpredictable [1:29 pm]

Video iPods help Rockies ready for game - pdf

Jennings is doing some last-minute cramming: The Rockies’ video staff has downloaded every Marlins hitter into his iPod, and Jennings is figuring out how to pitch to them. He watches frames of himself delivering the pitch, followed by the result of the play. Everything else is weeded out.

“It’s a good way to refresh yourself on how you got guys out,” Jennings said. “It’s an amazing concept.”

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Relaxation, Competition and Telecom [12:58 pm]

The DC Circuit concludes that the FCC split the baby just right: Appeals court backs FCC on Bell network access - pdf

A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s latest attempt to ease requirements that the large telephone companies lease their networks to competitors at government-set rates.

A divided FCC ruled in December 2004 that companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications should only have to continue providing discount rates for rivals to serve business customers where competition is lacking.

[...] “Because we conclude the commission’s fourth try is a charm, we deny all of the petitions for review,” a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Opinion: Covad Corp. v FCC. It includes this closing paragraph as to why there was no ruling on state regulatory preemption:

Again, the Ratepayer Advocate’s argument is meritless. NJDRA’s claim boils down to the proposition that the Act’s preemptive force is unconstitutional as applied, notwithstanding the fact that the Act has not been applied. Given that we have already held that any preemption challenge must be raised (if at all) only after the FCC attempts to preempt a state commission’s unbundling authority, see USTA II, 359 F.3d at 594, and given that the Order under review does not contain any reference to the Commission’s preemptive authority (much less does it actually preempt anything), NJDRA’s legal arguments are unripe at best. NJDRA’s forbearance claim suffers from similar shortcomings: Because the Order did not forbear from enforcing a statutory requirement any more than it preempted a particular state action, NJDRA’s petition for review is not ripe.

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Monocultures and Vulnerability [12:52 pm]

Microsoft Confirms Excel Zero-Day Attack Under Way

Microsoft June 15 confirmed that a new, undocumented flaw in its widely used Excel spreadsheet program was being used in an attack against an unnamed target.

[...] The back-to-back zero-day attacks closely resemble each other and suggest that well-organized criminals are conducting corporate espionage using critical flaws purchased from underground hackers.

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SomethingAwful’s Awful Link of the Day [11:36 am]

Captain Copyright [via SomethingAwful last entry in the day's posting]

One of the favorite propaganda methods of North Korea’s peculiarly xenophobic brand of communism is to transform everyday people into heroes of the nation. Workers, teachers, farmers and even animals and inanimate objects can be declared as heroes of North Korea. Those chosen serve as representatives of the communist ideal in North Korea and they have their face plastered all over billboards and appearing in newspapers. Meet the pathetic capitalist equivalent (from Canada of all places) of one of North Korea’s propaganda heroes: Captain Copyright.

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Reuters Reports a Rumor [11:25 am]

Is it really possible that the content industry is ready to be *this* convivial with MS? Microsoft readying Apple iPod rival: sources - pdf

Software giant Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) is laying the groundwork to compete against Apple Computer Inc.’s (Nasdaq:AAPL - news) iPod digital entertainment device and iTunes service, sources familiar with the discussions and plans said on Friday.

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OT: From My Other Job [10:00 am]

A discussion of the late, belated EV1 and an upcoming movie: An Electric Car, Booted [pdf]

In the movie, which premieres June 30 and goes into wide release July 21, writer-director Chris Paine celebrates the creation of the EV1, a nonpolluting car that generated so much passion among its fans that drivers staged a public funeral to say goodbye. Paine also excoriates GM for halting an experiment in gasoline independence under pressure from Big Oil in “one of the biggest blunders in the history of the automotive industry.”

[...] GM’s Barthmuss compares the launch of the EV1 with the debut of the iPod, only with far fewer customers. “We, in our heart of hearts, believe we did the right thing,” he says. “The EV1 experience demonstrated to California regulators that battery technology was not going to advance further. It was only going to appeal to a small number of people.”

GM needs “extremely large numbers” to survive, Barthmuss added.

“We lost well over a billion dollars,” he said. “We simply could not afford to lose that kind of money. I very much regret that people are so angry.”

[...] “When you look around and wonder why are we in this mess these days, depending on highways, depending on oil, who’s the guilty party,” said curator Bill Withuhn, the museum’s EV1 expert, “look in the mirror. It’s me, it’s you.”

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Inexorable Spitzer [8:48 am]

EMI Settles Spitzer’s Payola Allegations - pdf

EMI Music North America on Thursday became the fourth major record company to settle with New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer over “pay for play” allegations.

EMI, a division of London-based EMI Group, agreed to discontinue certain promotion practices and to pay a $3.75-million fine — the smallest of all the companies to settle. The company acknowledged that some employees pursued inappropriate practices but did not admit or deny Spitzer’s allegations.

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Depressing Trends in Privacy [8:34 am]

It’s not just the online world: Court Limits Protection Against Improper Entry

Evidence found by police officers who enter a home to execute a search warrant without first following the requirement to “knock and announce” can be used at trial despite that constitutional violation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

A Times editorial: The Don’t-Bother-To-Knock Rule

For those who worry that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito will take the court in a radically conservative direction, it is sobering how easily the majority tossed aside a principle that traces back to 13th-century Britain, and a legal doctrine that dates to 1914, to let the government invade people’s homes.

The opinion: Hudson v. Michigan

And, of course, there’s this demonstration that “state’s rights” are only something the Administration supports when it gives the social conservatives cover: New Jersey Demands Data on Phone Call Surveillance and Is Sued by U.S.

The New Jersey attorney general has issued subpoenas to five telephone companies to determine whether any of them violated the state’s consumer protection laws by providing records to the National Security Agency. Experts say it is the first legal move by a state to question the agency’s program to compile calling records to track terrorist activities.

On Wednesday, the United States filed a lawsuit to block the subpoenas, setting up a legal showdown pitting the state’s authority to protect consumers’ rights against the federal government’s national security powers.

“People in New Jersey and people everywhere have privacy rights,” the state’s attorney general, Zulima V. Farber, said on Thursday. “What we were trying to determine was whether the phone companies in New Jersey had violated any law or any contractual obligations with their consumers by supplying information to some government entity, simply by request, and not by any court order or search warrant.”

On top of yesterday’s posting, it’s hard not to believe O’Harrow’s assertion that there’s No Place To Hide (although Solove’s book is more scholarly, it’s chilling to realize that he uses most of the same examples/cases as O’Harrow does in his screed.)

Later: On the upside, Fafblog is back in action - see 6/10 Changed Everything

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June 15, 2006

Plus Ça Change… [11:05 am]

Web labeling mandate surfaces in Senate

Operators of commercial Web sites with sexually explicit content would have to post warning labels on each offending page or face imprisonment under a new proposal in the U.S. Senate.

Caving to earlier demands from the U.S. Department of Justice, the 24-page proposed law focuses on a medley of new penalties related to child pornography and other sexual content on the Internet. For instance, Internet service providers that fail to report to authorities any sightings of child pornography on their networks would have to cough up fines that are triple those written into current law: $150,000 for the first violation and $300,000 thereafter.

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From the June IEEE Spectrum [10:28 am]

Death by DMCA - pdf

In the eight years since the DMCA’s passage, however, piracy has not decreased, and hurdles to lawful uses of media have risen. The Motion Picture Association (MPA), the international arm of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), estimated worldwide losses because of piracy to be US $2.2 billion in 1997 and $3.5 billion annually in 2002, 2003, and 2004.

Meanwhile, entire consumer electronics categories have been wiped from retail shelves. If three or four years ago you didn’t buy a digital video recorder that automatically skips commercials, you’re out of luck; that feature is not in such products today. Television executives brought litigation that bankrupted the company offering DVRs with these user-friendly features, because skipping commercials potentially undermines their ability to sell commercial time.

You’re likewise out of luck if you’re looking to buy software that lets you copy a DVD onto your laptop’s hard drive; it’s no longer for sale, at least not in the United States. [...]

The Analog Hole Bill is Hollywood’s attempt to control an even broader range of devices than the DMCA does. The chips used to convert video from analog to digital are in today’s digital cameras, camera phones, and personal media players. A host of future new devices are likely to include this basic technology. The Analog Hole Bill would require that all these products incorporate content-protection technologies certified by federal regulators and include hardware and software to block any end-user modifications. The days of hardware “tweaking” would end. The legislation would also dictate the kinds of video outputs permitted, potentially orphaning generations of older products, including television sets, stereo speakers, and VCRs. Such legislation, combined with other laws already passed and pending, would lead to a world in which federal regulators, not creative engineers, would dictate many product features and design decisions. In place of the new era’s digital developments, Hollywood’s vision takes us back to the Stone Age.

Hollywood is good at telling stories. The one it has been screening in Washington—that music and movies will perish if the regulators don’t kill the dangerous gizmos first—is powerful drama but has about as much basis in reality as Lord of the Rings. Killing off gizmos and subjecting technological development to the whims of federal regulators will ultimately hurt not just consumers but also tomorrow’s creative industries—both technology and entertainment.

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Identity, Privacy and Dataveillance [8:42 am]

Just finished a paper on this topic for a conference: Government Increasingly Turning to Data Mining [pdf] (don’t miss the sidebar graphics)

As federal agencies delve into the vast commercial market for consumer information, such as buying habits and financial records, they are tapping into data that would be difficult for the government to accumulate but that has become a booming business for private companies.

Industry executives, analysts and watchdog groups say the federal government has significantly increased what it spends to buy personal data from the private sector, along with the software to make sense of it, since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They expect the sums to keep rising far into the future.

Privacy advocates say the practice exposes ordinary people to ever more scrutiny by authorities while skirting legal protections designed to limit the government’s collection and use of personal data.

Critics acknowledge that such data can be vital to law enforcement or intelligence investigations of specific targets but question the usefulness of “data-mining” software that combs huge amounts of information in the hopes of finding links and patterns that might pick someone out as suspicious.

[...] “This issue of using data to ferret out evildoers, many administration officials believe very firmly this is the way we should be going and that the barriers there should be overcome because it will result in a greater good,” said another former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s a philosophy that if you have nothing to hide, why do you care if I know what movies you rent? Who you are talking to? If you live a godly life, a perfect life, you don’t have worry about 100 percent disclosure.”

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Another Wrinkle In Content Delivery [8:25 am]

Turning the Internet into TV, one step at a time — the end of a la carte Internet?: ESPN selling premium content to Net providers [pdf]

In a strategy inspired by cable television , the Walt Disney Company’s ESPN sports network offers online broadcasts of the World Cup and other sporting events as premium Internet programming. Internet providers who want to offer the service, called ESPN360, must pay special fees for the right to carry it, in the same way that cable TV systems pay Disney to carry ESPN’s TV shows. So far, a handful of Internet providers, including Verizon Communications Inc., Adelphia Communications Corp., and Charter Communications Inc., have signed up for ESPN360, making it available to about 8 million US households.

[...] Bill Heilig , Verizon’s executive director for portal and content services, said his company has similar deals with online content providers such as Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., and Viacom Inc. These give Verizon services and features that distinguish it from rivals like cable TV giant Comcast Corp.

“It is similar to the cable model,” said Heilig. “We go out and source the best combination of content and services.”

But others worry that making the Internet more like cable TV will lead to higher prices, as consumers are forced to pay for premium services they don’t want.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re not a sports fan. You’re going to pay,” said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a high-tech public interest group.

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Another Technology About To Reshape Our World (and World-View) [8:10 am]

The start of a new series at the NYTimes: That Wild Streak? Maybe It Runs in the Family

For some people, the idea that they may not be entirely at fault for some of their less desirable qualities is liberating, conferring a scientifically backed reprieve from guilt and self-doubt. Others feel doomed by their own DNA, which seems less changeable than the more traditional culprits for personal failings, like a lack of discipline or bad childhoods. And many find it simply depressing to think that their accomplishments might not be the result of their own efforts.

[...] Whether a new emphasis on genes will breed tolerance or bigotry for inborn differences remains an open question. If a trait like being overweight comes to be seen as largely the result of genetic influence rather than lack of discipline, the social stigma connected to it could dissipate, for instance. Or fat people could start being viewed as genetically inferior.

[...] The public embrace of genetics may be driven as much by wishful thinking as scientific truth. In an age of uncertainty, biology can appear to provide a concrete answer for behavior that is difficult to explain. And the faith that genetics can illuminate the metaphysical aspects of being human is for some a logical extension of the growing hope that it can cure disease.

“More and more stories about who we are and how we live are becoming molecular,” said Paul Rabinow, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the interrelation of science and culture. “The older liberal worldview that it’s all a question of willpower is still very present in America, but genetics has become a strong countercurrent.”

That may be partly because the science has become more credible. Armed with the human genome sequence, along with a catalog of genetic variation in the human population, and tools that can inexpensively gauge any individual’s genetic makeup, scientists can now pinpoint the genes associated with inherited traits.

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A Plea For Sanity from the LATimes [7:59 am]

YouTube, not SueTube - pdf

IT’S A FAMILIAR PROBLEM FOR THE music industry: Fans are using its product in unexpected ways, and they’re doing it for free. The industry’s response, however, shows signs of evolving. Instead of suing its customers, it may actually try to help give them what they want — and make a buck besides.

[...] In an enlightened move, Warner Music Group is taking the same approach to videos created by fans. Technically, labels and music publishers can sue the creators of these videos for unauthorized use of songs in their miniature movies, and some executives want to do just that. But that’s overlooking the benefit of the homemade videos, which amount to quirky (and free) advertising.

The gap between people who create and those who consume is closing fast. These days, practically anyone who can cut and paste on a computer can make and distribute a music video, and these efforts can attract a crowd. Just look at the “Numa Numa” clip — featuring a chubby, lip-synching teenager from New Jersey — that spread rapidly across the Internet last year. Using a bubbly Romanian pop hit, the film drew more than 12 million views and spawned a slew of imitators. For the benefit of music fans everywhere, not to mention obscure Romanian bands, the labels should let the Web work its magic.

Related: Service lets people rip videos from YouTube, other sites

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