June 5, 2006

British Study on DRM Legislation [1:54 pm]

Study: Don’t legislate DRM

In a new report released Monday, a group of lawmakers advised the British government not to make DRM (digital rights management) systems mandatory, citing concerns over how the technology restricts access to digitized files.

The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APPIG) said it is not aware of efforts in Europe to make DRM enforced by law, although some publishing groups favor it.

Since November, APPIG has held hearings with book and music publishers, technology companies, and attorneys about how to deal with increasing conflicts and concerns over DRM, releasing a 30-page report on its findings. DRM refers to encoded restrictions on how digital files can be used and manipulated.

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A Different Look To Video Gaming [8:04 am]

The Video Game Goes Minimalist: Nintendo Comes Full Circle

SOME new media, like the Internet and cellphones, begin life in a niche, as curiosities even, before becoming everyday elements of mainstream culture. Others evolve in the opposite direction.

Think about video games. Once upon a time, call it the 1980’s, video games were simple. Facing one joystick and at most a couple of buttons, most anyone could simply drop a quarter into a Galaga or Ms. Pac-Man machine and have some cheap thrills. And because the games were simple, they were practically ubiquitous in bars, waiting rooms and other public places. Remember arcades?

Inevitably progress got in the way. As game machines have become cheaper over the years, they have mostly disappeared from public spaces and burrowed into bedrooms and dens. And as the machines have gotten more powerful, the games have gotten more complicated. Both avid gamers and the industry have come to fixate on the ever more impressive graphics and ever more complex scenarios that faster chips can create.

The results can be downright intimidating. People now in their 40’s who might have just walked up to a Centipede machine and started playing when they were in college now might look at a Sony PlayStation 2 (which has 17 buttons and joysticks) and think, “I’ll never figure that thing out.”

Reader Luis Villa suggests the following background reading - Nintendo’s Genre Innovation Strategy: Thoughts on the Revolution’s new controller

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Digital Distribution and Bookselling [7:59 am]

Digital Publishing Is Scrambling the Industry’s Rules

Hovering above the discussion of all these technologies is the fear that the publishing industry could be subject to the same upheaval that has plagued the music industry, where digitalization has started to displace the traditional artistic and economic model of the record album with 99-cent song downloads and personalized playlists. Total album sales are down 19 percent since 2001, while CD sales have dropped 16 percent during the same period, according to Nielsen BookScan. Sales of single digital music tracks have jumped more than 1,700 percent in just two years. What writers think about technological developments in the literary world has a lot to do with where they are re sitting at the moment. As a researcher and scholar, Anne Fadiman, author of “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” and “Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader,” thinks a digital library of all books would be a “godsend” during research, allowing her to “sniff out all the paragraphs” on a given topic. But, she said: “That’s not reading. For reading, you have to read a book in its entirety and I think there’s no substitute for the look and feel and smell of a real book — the magic of the paper and thread and glue.”

[...] For many authors, the question of how technology will shape book publishing inevitably leads to the question of how writers will be paid. Currently, publishers pay authors an advance against royalties, which are conventionally earned at the rate of 15 percent of the cover price of each copy sold.

[...] In the context of history, the changes that today’s technology will impose on literary society may not be as earth-shattering as some may think. In fact, books themselves are a relatively new construct, inheritors of a longstanding oral storytelling culture. Mass-produced books are an even newer phenomenon, enabled by the invention of the printing press that likely put legions of calligraphers and bookbinders out of business.

That history gives great comfort to writers like Vikram Chandra, whose 1,000-page novel, “Sacred Games,” will be published in January. Mr. Chandra, a former computer programmer who already reads e-books downloaded to his pocket personal computer, said he saw no point in resisting technology. “I think circling the wagons and defending the fortress metaphors are a little misplaced,” he said. “The barbarians at the gate are usually willing to negotiate a little, and the guys in the fort usually end up yelling that ‘we are the only good things in the world and you guys don’t understand it,’ at which point the barbarians shrug, knock down your walls with their amazingly powerful weapons, and put a parking lot over your sacred grounds.

“If they are in a really good mood,” he added, “they put up a pyramid of skulls.”

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AllofMP3 Update [7:54 am]

On a Russian Site, Cheap Songs With a Backbeat of Illegality

Operating through what music industry lobbyists say is a loophole in Russia’s copyright law, AllofMP3.com offers a vast catalog of music that includes artists not normally authorized for sale online — like the Beatles and Metallica — at a fraction of the cost of services like the iTunes Music Store owned by Apple Computer.

[...] AllofMP3 asserts its legality by citing a license issued by a royalty collecting society, the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society, known as R.O.M.S. for its Russian initials.

In most countries, the collecting societies that receive royalty payments for the sale or use of artistic works need reciprocal agreements with overseas copyright holders, according to agencies that represent rights holders.

According to Russia’s 1993 copyright law, however, collecting societies are permitted to act on behalf of rights holders who have not authorized them to do so. The result is that numerous organizations in Russia receive royalties for the use of foreign artistic works, but never pass on that money to the artists or music companies, according to the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, the umbrella organization for collecting societies.

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LATimes Gives A New Meaning to “ISP” [7:47 am]

Internet surveillance providers - pdf

USING THE INTERNET IS LIKE walking on a crowded beach. Your movements leave a trail online that others can retrace, but tides and time eventually wash away your footprints. Now the Bush administration wants to make those footprints more enduring.

The administration has opened talks with leading Internet providers and search engines about preserving their records. The Justice Department apparently wants Internet companies to keep two years’ worth of data on where users go, what they search for and to whom they send e-mail. The ostensible purpose is to combat child pornography and terrorism. That’s a laudable goal. It’s not at all clear, however, that this plan would put more bad guys behind bars. It’s more likely that the new troves of data would attract hackers or trial lawyers.

[...] Before Internet companies or lawmakers agree to this plan, the Justice Department should have to show that the change is needed to put more child pornographers and terrorists behind bars. How many cases, if any, have foundered because investigators had access to only a few months’ worth of data rather than two years’ worth? The benefits of the new approach may be questionable, but the risks are not.

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