September 29, 2006

Making Claims [7:39 pm]

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

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S.W.I.F.T. Monitoring Breaches Privacy [1:35 pm]

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.

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“Incentives To Create” — Riiight [12:15 pm]

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

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.”

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The Rest of the Story [8:00 am]

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

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Colleges and Skype [7:30 am]

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.

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