Making Claims

Hollywood Says Piracy Has Ripple Effect

Seeking another weapon in its war on piracy, the movie industry hopes to wow lawmakers today with a study that says the economic impact of illegal DVD and Internet film distribution may be as much as three times what was previously estimated.

[…] The report being released today — which was largely paid for by Armey’s think tank with some funding from NBC Universal and the MPAA — takes the previous study, conducted by consulting firm L.E.K., and applies a model used by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to calculate the potential ripple effect of those lost sales, factoring in lost jobs, worker earnings and tax revenue.

Given those facts, the study says, movie piracy causes a total lost output for U.S. industries of $20.5 billion per year, thwarts the creation of about 140,000 jobs and accounts for more than $800 million in lost tax revenue.

The Institute for Policy Innovation; the report

S.W.I.F.T. Monitoring Breaches Privacy

Interesting what can happen when you write privacy into your constitution: Belgians Say Banking Group Broke European Rules in Giving Data to U.S.

The Belgian banking consortium Swift breached European privacy rules when it aided a United States antiterrorism program by providing confidential information about money transfers, Belgium’s privacy protection commission concluded Thursday.

“It has to be seen as a gross miscalculation by Swift that it has, for years, secretly and systematically transferred massive amounts of personal data for surveillance without effective and clear legal basis and independent controls in line with Belgian and European law,” the report said.

“Incentives To Create” — Riiight

Too bad they can’t deliver the checks to unknowns like T-Bone Burnett or the Morman Tabernacle Choir: Digital Music Royalty Checks Languishpdf

The organization created by the recording industry to collect and distribute Internet and satellite radio royalties can’t seem to find these and other artists to whom it owes checks.

Washington-based SoundExchange released a list of 9,000 recording artists with unclaimed royalties in what it described as a last-ditch effort to distribute $500,000 worth of checks to the musicians for digital broadcasts dating from the late ’90s. And the clock is ticking: The artists forfeit the money to SoundExchange if they don’t claim it by Dec. 15.

The release of the list of unpaid artists has become the butt of jokes on industry Internet forums. And the disclosure comes at an inconvenient time for SoundExchange, which is arguing before the Library of Congress that it should remain the exclusive distributor of digital performance royalties that amount to millions of dollars a year.

“It says obviously how well they do their job — which is not well at all,” said Fred Wilhelms, a Nashville lawyer who helps performers and songwriters collect back royalties. “How do you not find the Olsen twins? All you’ve got to do is get off a bus in Salt Lake City and you’ll find the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”

The Rest of the Story

Continuing the question I asked in Is *This* What They Meant When They Spoke of an “MBA President?”, we get to see more of what passes for corporate ethics and responsibility here as Patricia Dunn elects to deny the penalty: H.P. Before a Skeptical Congress

Hewlett-Packard’s former chairwoman and its current leader faced an admonishing and sometimes incredulous House subcommittee on Thursday as they tried to explain why they never questioned the legal foundation of an internal spying operation.

The former chairwoman, Patricia C. Dunn, who authorized the operation but said repeatedly that she was not its supervisor, came under especially harsh scrutiny because she refused to express contrition when invited to do so.

“I get the sense that you still don’t believe that you did anything wrong,” said Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida. After trying to answer obliquely, Ms. Dunn finally said, “I do not accept personal responsibility for what happened.”

And here I thought there was at least *some* basis for what a CEO salary looks like. Who knew that it was about denying responsibility whenever possible? This is corporate leadership in America today? No wonder we can’t populate Congress with anyone with any guts or integrity, either.

See also Salon’s article: Another spying scandal for Capitol Hill

Dunn’s defense — which is based on the supposition that a talented, driven woman could also be obtuse — came shining through as she described in her opening statement to the committee her dealings with an outside investigator, Ron DeLia, who had earlier invoked the Fifth Amendment. “In my two or three conversations with Mr. DeLia,” Dunn said, “I learned that checking telephone records was a standard investigative technique at HP, and that they were drawn from publicly available sources.” In reality, DeLia and his shadowy sub-contractors obtained these records through impersonation and other unethical (if perhaps legal) means.

“I understood that you could call up and get phone records — and it is a common investigative technique,” Dunn also said. As she continued to repeat her innocent assumption during her nearly five hours of testimony, Oregon Republican Greg Walden finally lost his patience. With a note of puzzlement Walden asked, “You thought that I could call up and get your phone records?” Dunn responded, “I thought you could.” Finally, shaking his head with incredulity, he simply inquired, “You’re serious?”

Recognize the strategy? [pdf]

The House Committee hearing WWW site; also, today’s planned hearing — Internet Data Brokers and Pretexting: Who Has Access to Your Private Records?; NYTimes writeup of the HP investigator’s report

Colleges and Skype

Skype Skirmishes on Campus

But as Skype expands its reach, some colleges are cracking down, raising questions about a built-in feature that can turn a Skype user’s computer into a relay station, or “node,” for other users, eating a college network’s bandwidth by opening it to serve as host to external connections. San Jose State reached an agreement with Skype to restrict the program’s relay functions this week, becoming the latest in a series of universities to consider limiting or discouraging the program’s use.

“The contentious part about Skype is of course the relay function,” said Kevin Schmidt, campus network programmer at the University of California at Santa Barbara, which banned use of Skype anywhere on its campus other than dormitories last January. Skype’s licensing agreement requires that a user grant the peer to peer program access to the user’s network. “If you’re installing this software, you’re granting use of bandwidth to an outside party. That simply can’t happen,” Schmidt said. Upon implementing the ban, he added, network speeds at UC Santa Barbara noticeably increased.

[…] But the campus fight over Skype has attracted the most attention at San Jose State, where campus officials recently backed off from an announced ban on the administrative network in response to faculty objections. The university had planned to institute the Skype ban — which would not have affected dormitory or library computers — September 14, citing similar concerns to those expressed elsewhere: that Skype’s relay function opens the network to non-university business and that use of Skype “exceeds incidental personal use.”

[…] In addition to letting penny-pinching students make free long-distance calls and potentially reducing business costs for colleges, Skype also serves a crucial academic function, said Steve Sloan, who teaches a class in new media at San Jose State. Sloan uses the program in working with students and in collaborating with educators from across the globe. “Skype is like a common ground, kind of like ‘http’ is a common ground for the Web,” said Sloan, who is in the midst of setting up a Skype call between his students and the author of an assigned book. “In my opinion, not using Skype puts us at a potential competitive disadvantage to other universities, especially as universities are increasingly having to compete in a flat world,” Sloan said.

Dahlia Calls ‘Em Like She Sees ‘Em

And she sees something really, really ugly: The blind leading the willing

For the five years since 9/11, we have been in the dark in this country. This president has held detainees in secret prisons and had them secretly tortured using secret legal justifications. Those held in secret at Guantanamo Bay include innocent men, as do those who have been secretly shipped off to foreign countries and brutally tortured there. That was a shame on this president.

But passage of the new detainee legislation will be a different sort of watershed. Now we are affirmatively asking to be left in the dark. Instead of torture we were unaware of, we are sanctioning torture we’ll never hear about. Instead of detainees we didn’t care about, we are authorizing detentions we’ll never know about. Instead of being misled by the president, we will be blind and powerless by our own choice. And that is a shame on us all.

*This* is governing?

See also today’s tilt at the windmill: Photo Finish: How the Abu Ghraib photos morphed from scandal to law

*Sigh* My representative voted against this, and I assume that my senators will as well (they did). But, given that we have a populace that can rouse moral outrage over so many things, why is this bill, corrosive to everything that America stands for, getting a pass?

“Morpheus Induces:” CA Central District Court

U.S. judge rules against Morpheus file-sharingpdf

In a victory for the entertainment industry, a federal judge has ruled that the Morpheus file-sharing software encourages millions of users to share music, movies and other works without authorization.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled on Wednesday that StreamCast Networks Inc., the distributor of Morpheus, had contributed to massive copyright infringement because it had constructed a business model that relied on massive copyright infringement and did not attempt to block the trading of copyrighted materials.

[…] StreamCast, based in Woodland Hills, California, said it was considering an appeal and maintained that it did not encourage users to infringe on copyrighted works and never intended to do so.

“The court’s ruling is disappointing. StreamCast will consider its options, including appealing the decision,” the company said in a statement.

Their legal site hasn’t been updated to reflect this new development.

LATimes’ Creator of Morpheus Is Found Liable

80-20 Rules in Telecom

Joseph Turow refers to the 80-20 rule in retail (20% of the customers account for 80% of the revenue); here’s an example that points out why the market is not always the best instrument for allocating resources, particularly when those resources are a little more important than the latest DVD releases: Rural Areas Left in Slow Lane of High-Speed Data Highway

For most businesses, the goal is to attract as many customers as possible. But in the fast-changing telephone industry, companies are increasingly trying to get rid of many of theirs.

[…] Verizon is not alone in its desire to reduce the number of landlines it owns. Big phone and cable companies are reluctant to upgrade and expand their networks in sparsely populated places where there are not enough customers to justify the investment. Instead, they are funneling billions of dollars into projects in cities and suburbs where the prospects for a decent return are higher.

But those projects are unlikely to reach rural areas of Vermont and other states, leaving millions of people in the Internet’s slow lane, just as high-speed access is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. The United States already lags behind much of the industrialized world in broadband access.

Zune Pricing Set

Microsoft sets price for Zune, songspdf

Microsoft’s 30-gigabyte Zune will retail for $249.99 — 99 cents higher than the iPod with the same amount of storage — when it goes on sale November 14. Songs available for download at the Zune Marketplace service will cost about 99 cents a song, on par with prices at Apple’s iTunes, Microsoft said.

[…] Microsoft said it needed to put a comparable price on Zune, even if it meant that the company will suffer a loss from the device’s sales this holiday season.

And what the heck are “Microsoft Points?”

For consumers looking to own a song, the Zune Marketplace will sell tracks for 79 Microsoft points. A user can buy 80 Microsoft points for $1 and points will also be redeemable at its online video game store, Xbox Live Marketplace.

Slashdot’s article has some links that explain: Zune — $249.99 On Nov. 14

Cory Doctorow on HDTV-DRM

High-Definition Video–Bad For Consumers, Bad For Hollywood [via Berlind’s CNet blog]

Most extraordinary is the relationship of HD DRM to the world’s largest supply of HD screens: LCD computer monitors. The vast majority of HD-ready, 1080i-capable screens in the world are cheapo computer LCDs. Chances are you’ve got a couple at home right now.

But unless these screens are built with crippleware HDMI or DVI interfaces, they won’t be able to receive high-def signals. DRM standards call these legacy screens, and treat them as second-class citizens.

All this may be enough to scuttle HD’s future. Let’s hope so, for Hollywood’s sake.

Because, you see, HD is also poison for the entertainment industry’s own products. The higher the resolution, the harder it is to make the picture look good. Standard-def programs on high-def screens look like over-compressed YouTube videos, and when you get a high-def program shot by traditional directors, it looks even worse, every flaw thrown into gaudy relief. Have a look at the HD-native episodes of Friends some days — it’s all gaping pores, running pancake makeup, caked-on hairspray, and freakishly thin bodies with giant, tottering heads.