October 31, 2006

With A Name Like Hoovers, I’d Be Careful [10:01 am]

When Outside the Loop, a Quicker Way to Get In

Hoover’s, a business research unit of Dun & Bradstreet, and Visible Path, a technology company in Foster City, Calif., hope to change that with the introduction of a free service called Hoover’s Connect. It is to offer visitors to Hoovers.com the ability to mine their networks to find helpful connections with prospective clients or business partners.

[...] The service, which is being previewed starting today on Hoovers.com, requires little effort, but it does take a little trust. Users who visit Hoovers.com are shown the site’s typical collection of information regarding businesses, including contact information, sales statistics and key executives.

But those who sign up for Connect can download software from Visible Path that makes note of whom a user messages via e-mail and how frequently (it does not monitor the content of the communications). The service tracks activities within Microsoft Outlook, the dominant business e-mail system, and will eventually include Web-based e-mail systems like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail.

From there, Connect builds a meta-network of sorts to determine how one is connected to other businesspeople across the country. [...]

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It’s All Computers These Days [9:41 am]

An essay from Steve Lohr, responding to a National Academies’ Computer Science and Telecommunications Board symposium. Most notably, an assertion that pretty much everything is computing these days: Computing, 2016: What Won’t Be Possible?. For example:

“Algorithms are small but beautiful,” Dr. Karp observed. And algorithms are good at describing dynamic processes, while scientific formulas or equations are more suited to static phenomena. Increasingly, scientific research seeks to understand dynamic processes, and computer science, he said, is the systematic study of algorithms.

Biology, Dr. Karp said, is now understood as an information science. And scientists seek to describe biological processes, like protein production, as algorithms. “In other words, nature is computing,” he said.

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Digital Music Group, Inc. On Morning Edition Today [8:30 am]

A look at a digital music aggregator — Digital Music Group, Inc.; or Morning Edition this morning. I’ll get a real link after 8:30AM — Here it is: Music Downloads Drive a Back-Catalog Business Opportunity

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October 30, 2006

Gracenote and MySpace Team Up On © Infringement [3:44 pm]

MySpace to block illegal use of copyrighted music - pdf

News Corp’s MySpace.com on Monday said it had licensed a new technology to stop users from posting unauthorized copyrighted music on the social networking Web site and oust frequent violators of its policy.

[...] MySpace, one of the most popular sites on the Internet, licensed technology from privately-held Gracenote allowing it to review music recordings uploaded by community members to their profiles.

The technology compares those filed with Gracenote’s database of copyrighted material and can block uploads without proper rights. Terms of the licensing agreement were not disclosed.

[...] But MySpace, increasingly seen as a destination to see and hear music and video, will soon begin selling songs from nearly 3 million unsigned bands. It aims to eventually offer copyright-protected songs from major record companies.

Once Gracenote’s technology is integrated into its service, users who repeatedly try to upload unauthorized music will have their accounts deleted, MySpace said.

Later: MySpace Music Move; MySpace to Use Audio Fingerprinting

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October 27, 2006

Coping With Privacy In Public [9:46 am]

One strategy: Private conversation is aim of new blog software - pdf

On Thursday, Six Apart Ltd., a supplier of the software used to publish blogs, unveiled a widely anticipated blog-writing tool called Vox (http://www.vox.com).

The free service, which has been in test mode with 50,000 users for several months, encourages new categories of bloggers to publish personal text, photos, audio or videos to share with known acquaintances.

While Vox blogs may look like other blogs, they are distinguished by five levels of privacy settings that can be placed on each item a user publishes. Who comments and who reads comments are also under the publisher’s control.

“Not everything has to be published for public consumption,” said Mena Trott, who with her husband Ben co-founded Six Apart in 2002.

Sorta redefines what “publish” (”to make public”) means, doesn’t it?

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Coping With Privacy In Public [9:46 am]

One strategy: Private conversation is aim of new blog software - pdf

On Thursday, Six Apart Ltd., a supplier of the software used to publish blogs, unveiled a widely anticipated blog-writing tool called Vox (http://www.vox.com).

The free service, which has been in test mode with 50,000 users for several months, encourages new categories of bloggers to publish personal text, photos, audio or videos to share with known acquaintances.

While Vox blogs may look like other blogs, they are distinguished by five levels of privacy settings that can be placed on each item a user publishes. Who comments and who reads comments are also under the publisher’s control.

“Not everything has to be published for public consumption,” said Mena Trott, who with her husband Ben co-founded Six Apart in 2002.

Sorta redefines what “publish” (”to make public”) means, doesn’t it?

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Tim Wu Looks At YouTube Litigation Potential [8:07 am]

A discussion of “tolerable infringement:” Does YouTube Really Have Legal Problems?

When Google bought YouTube, the conventional wisdom—expressed in op-eds, newspaper articles, and scary editorial cartoons—was that they’d also bought themselves a whole heap of copyright trouble. The New York Times used the phrase “litigation-laden landmine.” Part-time copyright theorist Mark Cuban warned that YouTube would face the same copyright fate as Napster.

There’s only one problem with these theories: the copyright law itself. Under the copyright code, YouTube is in much better legal shape than anyone seems to want to accept. The site enjoys a strong legal “safe harbor,” a law largely respected by the television and film industries for the choices it gives them.

But the most interesting thing is where all this legal armor protecting YouTube—and most of the Web 2.0 (user-generated content) industry—comes from. It’s the product of the Bell lobby—Google’s bitter opponent in the ongoing Net Neutrality debates. So, while YouTube may be the creative child of Silicon Valley, it is also, as much, the offspring of Bell lobbying power.

[...] Stated otherwise, much of the copyrighted material on YouTube is in a legal category that is new to our age. It’s not “fair use,” the famous right to use works despite technical infringement, for reasons of public policy. Instead, it’s in the growing category of “tolerated use”—use that is technically illegal, but tolerated by the owner because he wants the publicity. If that sounds as weird as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” you’re getting the idea. The industry is deeply conflicted about mild forms of piracy—trapped somewhere between its pathological hatred of “pirates” and its lust for the buzz piracy can build.

[...] The upshot is, as YouTube goes mainstream, copyright’s etiquette rules are becoming clearer. Yes, these sites can make it easier to infringe copyright. But so long as that’s not the principle aim of your company, you have more breathing room today than you once did. And under the emerging regime, if you do cause infringement, you have to be nice about it and make determined efforts to stop it. Apple has learned that dance well, even as its iPods make swapping music all the more part of being American. And YouTube has, in turn, learned from Apple the early lessons of Napster: You can act out in cyberspace. Just don’t be a copyright pimp.

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October 26, 2006

Political Googlebombing [9:34 am]

Another domain for gaming search: A New Campaign Tactic: Manipulating Google Data

Fifty or so other Republican candidates have also been made targets in a sophisticated “Google bombing” campaign intended to game the search engine’s ranking algorithms. By flooding the Web with references to the candidates and repeatedly cross-linking to specific articles and sites on the Web, it is possible to take advantage of Google’s formula and force those articles to the top of the list of search results.

[...] An accompanying part of the project is intended to buy up Google Adwords, so that searches for the candidates’ names will bring up advertisements that point to the articles as well. But Mr. Bowers said his hopes for this were fading, because he was very busy.

The ability to manipulate the search engine’s results has been demonstrated in the past. Searching for “miserable failure,” for example, produces the official Web site of President Bush.

But it is far from clear whether this particular campaign will be successful. Much depends on the extent of political discussion already tied to a particular candidate’s name.

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Marketing Your Band [9:26 am]

Not really on-topic, but a great lede in the internet age: Brazilian Girls aren’t just as billed -

One way to guarantee your fledgling band receives attention, at least on the Internet, is to choose a provocative name. New York’s Brazilian Girls wisely chose one that virtually guaranteed search engine-driven numbers. Composed of zero Brazilians, three men (one of whom is Argentine) and exactly one woman, the eclectic outfit now has plenty of actual fans to match the virtual fans who may have hit their website accidentally. Those who stumble across the quartet’s website are treated to samples of Brazilian Girls’ polyglot style — in French, Spanish, German, Italian and English — sometimes all in the same song.

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October 25, 2006

Latest K Chronicles on eVoting [8:27 am]

The REAL Litmus Test (local copy)

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You Knew It Was Coming [8:02 am]

Talent Agency Is Aiming to Find Web Video Stars

One of Hollywood’s top five talent agencies has created an online unit devoted to scouting out up-and-coming creators of Internet content — particularly video — and finding work for them in Web-based advertising and entertainment, as well as in the older media.

The move by the United Talent Agency — best known as the home of comedians like Vince Vaughn and Jack Black, filmmakers like M. Night Shyamalan and television producers like Dick Wolf and David Chase — amounts to a bet, albeit a modest one, that Web video is on a growth curve similar to that of cable television a generation ago. It is also a return by Hollywood’s core talent representatives to the sort of new-media business they tested, without great success, at the peak of the dot-com boom.

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LATimes Playing To The Hometown Audience? [7:36 am]

Just how central should AllofMP3 be to the US trade negotiations with Russia? Alternatively, is this a moment to rethink what IP policies ought to be? AllofMP3’s problems - pdf

This is not a case of the U.S. entertainment-industry tail wagging the U.S. government-policy dog. The AllofMP3 case isn’t a problem just for copyright holders, and the United States isn’t the only country pressing Russia to do something about it. The website is emblematic of fundamental problems in Russia’s legal system that call into question its ability to play by the WTO’s rules, resolve important commercial disputes and integrate itself into global commerce.

Ultimately, the United States has much more at stake in these talks than reining in one of many global sources of bootlegged music. A successful Russian entry into the WTO would be a boon to world trade and to the former communist country’s transformation into a free-market economy.

Mediaservices argues that the site is fully licensed by Russian authorities and that it pays at least 15% of its revenue to Russian royalty collection agencies. But even if that’s the case, it just means that the agencies usurped the music industry’s rights and granted licenses they had no authority to grant. For instance, AllofMP3 offers more than 40 downloadable Beatles albums despite the fact that the band has never given permission for its songs to be sold online.

[...] If Russia wants to show that it’s ready to join the WTO and live up to international trade commitments, it should start by following the example of Italy and Germany and stop the global infringements by AllofMP3. The importance of intellectual property will only increase as the world’s economy becomes more connected. By taking a stand against the website, the United States is showing that it cares about everyone’s intellectual property, not just the entertainment industry’s.

Hmmmmm

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Globe’s Second Life Profile [7:18 am]

A comparable writeup to many others, with the addition of the educational experiments going on, like the Berkman Center’s program: Leading a double life - pdf

nched in 2003 by California-based Linden Lab, Second Life is a website where users create animated cartoon avatars to represent themselves — usually as humans ( often buff, busty, beautiful humans ) , and sometimes as fanciful or furry creatures. Linden sells land in this virtual frontier, and users (a.k.a. “residents”) design and make everything from virtual stores for the land to virtual sweaters for the avatars. They buy things and sell things that exist only “in world” — so many that last month $6.6 million in user-user transactions changed hands. They role-play, gamble, teach classes, make music, open restaurants, push politics — all as they guide their avatars through the elaborate virtual landscapes and cityscapes that give Second Life its stepping-into-Wonderland quality.

“Second Life is no more a game than the Web is a game. It’s a platform,” says John Lester, 39, of Somerville, Linden’s community and education manager. “This feels exactly like it felt when the Web was first coming out. I remember feeling the hair on the back of my neck standing up.”

Unlike such sites as Sims Online , Second Life’s content is created almost entirely by users. [...]

Rebecca Nesson has never taught a class like “CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion,” a joint enterprise with Harvard Law School sponsored by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Here she is as avatar Rebecca Berkman, standing outside a virtual replica of Harvard’s Austin Hall before 30 avatars of Extension School students. A wolf sits in front , teaching fellow Buzescu is an android , and everyone can fly, all of which adds a touch of whimsy to even the most serious Second Life endeavors, in this case giving far-flung students a virtual place to meet and work on class projects. Gone is off-site education as simply posting videos of lectures online and communicating with students via e-mail.

“It’s better than anything I’ve seen in distance learning,” Nesson says.

Harvard is among some 80 academic institutions exploring Second Life. [...]

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Jon Johansen and iTunes [7:14 am]

Hacker says he has cracked iTunes code - pdf

Currently , songs purchased from Apple’s online iTunes Music Store can’t be played on portable devices made by other companies. Songs purchased from many other online music stores won’t work on iPods because they similarly use a form of copy-protection that Apple doesn’t support.

Johansen said he has developed a way to get around those restrictions. But unlike with his previous work, which he usually posts for free, the Norway native plans to capitalize on his efforts through his Redwood Shores-based DoubleTwist Ventures, said the company’s only other employee, managing director Monique Farantzos.

SeattleP-I has a more detailed APWire report: Hacker says he’s cracked iTunes, iPod restrictions - pdf

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October 24, 2006

Tackling Business Method Patents [4:44 pm]

(A TimesSelect article in today’s paper, so read it at the International Herald Tribune instead) Patent law is getting tax crazy - pdf

As the American tax law gets more and more complicated, lawyers have come up with one more way to make life difficult for taxpayers: Now you may face a patent infringement suit if you use a tax strategy that someone else thought of first.

[...] Why would Congress pass a law allowing such a thing? The answer is that it did not. But a U.S. appeals court ruled in 1998 that business methods could be patented, and since then the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued 50 tax- strategy patents, with many more pending.

[...] One can imagine lawyers and accountants rushing to the patent office as soon as a new tax law is passed, seeking to claim credit for dreaming up ideas that were made possible by the new tax law. Lobbyists who get tax breaks inserted into such bills would be in a preferred position to win the race to patent them.

In an article in Legal Times this week, Paul Devinsky, John Fuisz and Thomas Sykes, who are lawyers with McDermott, Will & Emery, suggested that a company might figure out a tax strategy that would save it a lot of money and then patent it. Then the company could refuse to license the patent to its competitors, thus raising their cost of doing business.

Tax patents, the lawyers wrote, amount to “government-issued barbed wire” to keep some taxpayers from getting equal treatment under the tax code.

Why limit this important reconsideration to tax policy? How about a revisiting of the entire notion of business method patents?

Related, from the software patent realm: I.B.M. Sues Amazon.com Over Patents

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October 23, 2006

Video as Dialog [10:27 am]

An interesting theory: YouTube users keep dialogue running - pdf

A clue to why Google Inc. spent a king’s ransom on YouTube Inc. this month can be found in a silly, two-minute clip posted to the video-sharing site hours after the $1.65-billion deal.

Standing outside a TGI Friday’s restaurant in San Bruno, Calif., YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley pronounced in a shaky video that “two kings have gotten together,” prompting co-founder Steve Chen to burst out laughing.

More than just the youthful swagger of millionaire twentysomethings, the clip was an inside joke: Hurley was lampooning a video by rapper Diddy announcing the debut of his own YouTube channel while ordering a Whopper at Burger King.

[...] The self-referential satire of the “Message From Chad and Steve” highlights what separates YouTube from the other online video sites: It’s a community where the videos are part of a running conversation between members.

To Google, that community is worth potentially far more than the bootlegged video clips and amateur movies that built YouTube’s audience of 63 million. Among fickle online audiences, loyalty is prized.

“What’s so unique about YouTube is that most of the content on the site is this conversation between people,” said Fred Stutzman, a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who has studied social networks. “The interesting thing is that the conversations are happening in videos.”

Related: Yahoo tests the power of packaging user content - pdf

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Why Would Anyone Want To Read Your Credit Card’s RFID? [10:20 am]

Sometimes, you just have to wonder if anyone’s paying attention: Researchers See Privacy Pitfalls in No-Swipe Credit Cards

Companies that make and issue the cards argue that what looks shocking in the lab could not lead to widespread abuse in the real world, and that additional data protection and antifraud measures in the payment system protect consumers from end to end.

“This is an interesting technical exercise,” said Brian Triplett, senior vice president for emerging-product development for Visa, “but as a real threat to a consumer — that threat really doesn’t exist.”

Yet …

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As Expected… [10:18 am]

We’re Google. So Sue Us.

As Google has grown into the world’s most popular search engine and, arguably, the most powerful Internet company, it has become entangled in scores of lawsuits touching on a wide range of legal questions, including copyright violation, trademark infringement and its method of ranking Web sites.

Any company that is large and successful is going to attract lawsuits, and Google’s deep pockets make it an especially big target. But as it rushes to create innovative new services, Google sometimes operates in a way that almost seems to invite legal scrutiny.

A group of authors and publishers is challenging the company’s right to scan books that are still under copyright. A small Web site in California is suing Google because it was removed from the company’s search results. And European news agencies have sued over Google’s use of their headlines and photos in Google News.

In these cases and others, potential legal problems seem to give the company little pause before it plunges into new ventures.

“I think Google is wanting to push the boundaries,” said Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University.

“The Internet ethos of the 90’s, the expansionist ethos, was, ‘Just do it, make it cool, make it great and we’ll cut the rough edges off later,’ ” Professor Zittrain said. “They’re really trying to preserve a culture that says, ‘Just do it, and consult with the lawyers as you go so you don’t do anything flagrantly ill-advised.’ ”

A great idea; but can they afford it?

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A Question from the Founder of Wikipedia [6:59 am]

From the Wikipedia listserve: [Wikipedia-l] Dream a little…

I would like to gather from the community some examples of works you would like to see made free, works that we are not doing a good job of generating free replacements for, works that could in theory be purchased and freed.

Dream big. Imagine there existed a budget of $100 million to purchase copyrights to be made available under a free license. What would you like to see purchased and released under a free license?

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October 20, 2006

L.A. Boy Scouts new merit badge: ‘Respect Copyrights’ [6:05 pm]

As a past scout, I’m speechless: L.A. Boy Scouts new merit badge: ‘Respect Copyrights’ - pdf

Boy Scouts in the Los Angeles area will now be able to earn a merit patch for learning about the evils of downloading pirated movies and music.

The patch shows a film reel, a music CD and the international copyright symbol, a “C” enclosed in a circle.

The movie industry has developed the curriculum.

A later APWire piece [pdf] includes an image of the badge….

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