September 22, 2006

ACAP? Why Not CC? [12:04 pm]

Why not? Because we want you to pay!! Publishers aim for some control of search results - pdf

Buoyed by a Belgian court ruling this week that Google (Nasdaq:GOOG - news) was infringing on the copyright of French and German language newspapers by reproducing article snippets in search results, the publishers said on Friday they plan to start testing the service before the end of the year.

“This industry-wide initiative positively answers the growing frustration of publishers, who continue to invest heavily in generating content for online dissemination and use,” said Gavin O’Reilly, chairman of the World Association of Newspapers, which is spearheading the initiative.

“This system is intended to remove completely any rights conflicts between publishers and search engines,” added O’Reilly, who is also the chief operating officer of Independent News & Media (INWS.I).

The cost of the project, known as the Automated Content Access Protocol, was not disclosed, though the publishers have budgeted 310,000 pounds ($583,700) to seek advice from third-party experts.

[...] In one example of how ACAP would work, a newspaper publisher could grant search engines permission to index its site, but specify that only select ones display articles for a limited time after paying a royalty.

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Living Your Life, Managing Your Death, Online [9:56 am]

Taking passwords to the grave

It’s a vexing, and increasingly common problem for families mourning the loss of loved ones. As more and more people move their lives, address books, calendars, financial information, online, they are taking a risk that some information formerly filed away in folders and desks might never recovered. That is, unless they share their passwords, which poses security threats.

“He did not keep a hard copy address book. I think everything was online,” said Talcott’s daughter, Julie Talcott-Fuller. “There were people he knew that I haven’t been able to contact. It’s been very hard.”

“Yahoo (his e-mail provdier) said it wouldn’t give out the information due to privacy laws, but my dad is dead so I don’t understand that,” she said.

But it’s not a question of privacy rights so much as property rights, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

“The so-called ‘Tort of Privacy’ expires upon death, but property interests don’t,” he said. “Private e-mails are a new category. It’s not immediately clear how to treat them, but it’s a form of digital property.”

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Robert Samuelson On Internet Doublethink [7:55 am]

A Web of Exhibitionists - pdf

Exhibitionism is now a big business. In 2005 Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bought MySpace for a reported $580 million. All these sites aim to make money, mainly through ads and fees. What’s interesting culturally and politically is that their popularity contradicts the belief that people fear the Internet will violate their right to privacy. In reality, millions of Americans are gleefully discarding — or at least cheerfully compromising — their right to privacy. They’re posting personal and intimate stuff in places where thousands or millions can see it.

[...] Up to a point, the blogs and “social networking” sites represent new forms of electronic schmoozing — extensions of e-mail and instant messaging. What’s different is the undiluted passion for self-publicity. But even among the devoted, there are occasional doubts about whether this is all upside. Facebook recently announced a new service. Its computers would regularly scan the pages of its members and flash news of the latest postings as headlines to their friends’ pages. There was an uproar. Suppose your girlfriend decides she’s had enough. The potential headline to your pals: “Susan dumps George.” Countless students regarded the relentless electronic snooping and automatic messaging as threatening — “stalking,” as many put it. Facebook modified the service by allowing members to opt out.

The larger reality is that today’s exhibitionism may last a lifetime. What goes on the Internet often stays on the Internet. Something that seems harmless, silly or merely impetuous today may seem offensive, stupid or reckless in two weeks, two years or two decades. Still, we are clearly at a special moment. Thoreau famously remarked that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Thanks to technology, that’s no longer necessary. People can now lead lives of noisy and ostentatious desperation. Or at least they can try.

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Plagiarism v. Copyright [7:40 am]

This should be a fun fight although, since minors are largely the chattels of their parents in the eyes of the law, it will also raise the question of who owns a child’s copyright: Students Rebel Against Database Designed to Thwart Plagiarists - pdf

When McLean High School students write this year about Othello or immigration policy, their teachers won’t be the only ones examining the papers. So will a California company that specializes in catching cheaters.

The for-profit service known as Turnitin checks student work against a database of more than 22 million papers written by students around the world, as well as online sources and electronic archives of journals. School administrators said the service, which they will start using next week, is meant to deter plagiarism at a time when the Internet makes it easy to copy someone else’s words.

But some McLean High students are rebelling. Members of the new Committee for Students’ Rights said they do not cheat or condone cheating. But they object to Turnitin’s automatically adding their essays to the massive database, calling it an infringement of intellectual property rights. And they contend that the school’s action will tar students at one of Fairfax County’s academic powerhouses.

[...] But three professors at Grand Valley State University in Michigan this month posted a letter online arguing that Turnitin “makes questionable use of student intellectual property.” The University of Kansas last week decided to let its contract with Turnitin expire because of cost and intellectual property concerns. And the intellectual property caucus of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, an organization of 6,000 college-level educators, is debating whether such services “undermine students’ authority over the uses of their own writing” and make them feel “guilty until proven innocent,” according to a draft position statement.

“There’s a lot of debate out there,” said Rebecca Ingalls, a University of Tampa English professor who has analyzed Turnitin. “These students are giving their work to a company that’s making money and they are getting no compensation.”

I await the first assertion by a Turnitin proponent that “copyright is not a suicide pact,” a favorite sophistry of those defending selective observance of other rights….

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Expanding the Scope of Google Ads [7:27 am]

Advertising: Marketing on Google: It’s Not Just Text Anymore

Just as Madison Avenue once helped convince consumers that orange juice is “not just for breakfast anymore,” Google is turning to Madison Avenue to help convince marketers that Google is not just for text advertisements in tiny type that appear adjacent to the results of searches on google.com.

[...] Sellers of online advertising are seeking to persuade mainstream marketers to devote more of their ad dollars to new media. That mission took on added resonance this week when a Google competitor, Yahoo, disclosed an unexpected softening of ad sales in two major categories: automotive and financial services.

Of course, some forays into the online media go more smoothly than others.

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Remixing as Gaming [7:23 am]

MTV Will Acquire Maker of Music-Oriented Games

The goals of the deal, which is to be announced today, are broader than putting the MTV logo on a Harmonix game box: for instance, the company wants to offer visitors to its Web sites, its new virtual worlds and its planned mobile services the ability to play along with, or remix, their favorite songs.

“It is about people coming to MTV who are passionate about music and wanting to interact on deeper and deeper levels,” said Christina Norman, the president of MTV. “It’s not just about wearing the T-shirt.”

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OT: Plain Speaking [7:15 am]

Someone brave enough to call it like it is: Our Torturer-in-Chief: Until Bush took office, the U.S. had no problem defining what is cruel and inhuman - pdf

If in doubt, take any of the “alternative” methods that Bush wants to use on U.S. detainees and imagine someone using those methods on your son or daughter. If the bad guys captured your son and tossed him, naked, into a cell kept at a temperature just slightly higher than an average refrigerator, then repeatedly doused him with ice water to induce hypothermia, would that be OK? What if they shackled him to a wall for days so he couldn’t sit or lie down without hanging his whole body weight on his arms? What if they threatened to rape and kill his wife, or pretended they were burying him alive? What if they did all these things by turns? Would you have any problem deciding that these methods are cruel?

Behind the antiseptic talk of “alternatives,” “dietary modification” and “stress positions” lie methods designed to break human bodies and human minds. Legally and morally, many of the alternative interrogation methods championed by our president are torture, plain and simple. And there is no doubt at all that they’re cruel, inhuman and degrading

[...] Bush isn’t stupid. He understands that it’s far too late for him to leave a legacy that won’t be a source of shame to future generations. So he’s going for second best: a congressionally delivered “get-out-of-jail-free” card.

Note that this new “compromise” (Republicans Reach Deal on Detainee Bill) will change none of these practices. As the NYTimes says in their editorial, A Bad Bargain:

Here is a way to measure how seriously President Bush was willing to compromise on the military tribunals bill: Less than an hour after an agreement was announced yesterday with three leading Republican senators, the White House was already laying a path to wiggle out of its one real concession.

[...] The deal does next to nothing to stop the president from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While the White House agreed to a list of “grave breaches” of the conventions that could be prosecuted as war crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation techniques he considered permissible. It’s not clear how much the public will ultimately learn about those decisions. They will be contained in an executive order that is supposed to be made public, but Mr. Hadley reiterated that specific interrogation techniques will remain secret.

Even before the compromises began to emerge, the overall bill prepared by the three senators had fatal flaws. It allows the president to declare any foreigner, anywhere, an “illegal enemy combatant” using a dangerously broad definition, and detain him without any trial. It not only fails to deal with the fact that many of the Guantánamo detainees are not terrorists and will never be charged, but it also chokes off any judicial review.

The Democrats have largely stood silent and allowed the trio of Republicans to do the lifting. It’s time for them to either try to fix this bill or delay it until after the election. The American people expect their leaders to clean up this mess without endangering U.S. troops, eviscerating American standards of justice, or further harming the nation’s severely damaged reputation.

See also John Dean’s Thoughts on the “Bringing Terrorists to Justice Act of 2006″

Frankly, this proposed legislation is shameful. Even the much-heralded opposition of a few Republicans - Senator John Warner of Virginia, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Senator John McCain of Arizona - does little to correct the many deep flaws in this proposal.

This proposal, however, is going to tell us a great deal about where we are as a nation, for as General Powell said, “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts.” As will amending the war crimes law to absolve prior wrongs, denying detainees “a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples,” and enacting a law that insults the Supreme Court.

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