October 20, 2006

A Reporter’s Story: How H-P Kept Tabs On Me for a Year - WSJ.com [8:48 am]

A Reporter’s Story: How H-P Kept Tabs On Me for a Year - pdf

At first, I thought the company had simply accessed a month’s worth of my phone records.

But I grew more concerned as the scope of H-P’s tactics became clearer. I learned from documents released to Congress last month — but not by Mr. Schultz yesterday — that H-P’s investigative team unearthed factoids about myself that I never knew. In one PowerPoint slide prepared for Ms. Dunn, H-P’s team noted that I live precisely two miles away from former H-P director Mr. Keyworth. In another slide that mapped out — like a spider’s web — Mr. Keyworth’s relationships with the press and others, I learned that my real-estate agent, Mavis Delacroix, had once worked with his wife. When I called Ms. Delacroix to tell her that her name had popped up in H-P’s probe, she said: “I end up in the weirdest places.”

Via Slashdot’s Reporter’s Story — How HP Kept Tabs On Me

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Charles Cooper Decides He Needs Clicks [8:44 am]

By producing a purposely obtuse opinion piece: Web 2.0 as a metaphor for ‘rip-off’

Like Napster, YouTube may be the extreme case. Still, both companies, which relied on the use of “free” content, were nourished by the widely held conviction that all Net content should be free. I want to be charitable, but it’s hard to argue against the proposition that Napster and YouTube flourished because of theft.

You can’t get away with that idea in other walks of life. Believe me, I would love to waltz into the local bookstore, browse through the aisles, and walk out with a bag full of novels without making a pit stop at the cashier. Same goes for the record store, or the neighborhood video joint. Life doesn’t work that way. Our social arrangements don’t allow some people to work for others without the remotest chance of receiving compensation. You may remember that this nation fought a civil war to eradicate that despicable practice.

However, when it comes to the Internet, woe to the stick-in-the mud (like me) who fails to swim with the crowd that believes all Internet content must be there for the taking. In other words, it’s a big candy store in the clouds, open to one and all.

Of course, there are free lunch mentalities on both sides of this argument — just no one willing to admit it.

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October 19, 2006

A Reminder That Laws Require Legitimacy, Not Just Legislators’ Votes [10:51 am]

The G.O.P.’s Bad Bet

In the short term, this law all by itself could add a few more Democratic Congressional seats in the fall elections. We are talking about a lot of people (an estimated 23 million Americans gamble online) who are angry enough to vote on the basis of this one issue, and they blame Republicans.

In the long term, something more ominous is at work. If a free society is to work, the vast majority of citizens must reflexively obey the law not because they fear punishment, but because they accept that the rule of law makes society possible. That reflexive law-abidingness is reinforced when the laws are limited to core objectives that enjoy consensus support, even though people may disagree on means.

Thus society is weakened every time a law is passed that large numbers of reasonable, responsible citizens think is stupid. Such laws invite good citizens to choose knowingly to break the law, confident that they are doing nothing morally wrong.

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Managing The YouTube Copyright Fight [10:47 am]

Music Companies Grab a Share of the YouTube Sale

YouTube’s young founders may have been the biggest beneficiaries of last week’s $1.65 billion deal with Google, but they have some unexpected bedfellows — old-line media companies that had been considered YouTube’s biggest legal threat.

Three of the four major music companies — Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, Sony and Bertelsmann’s jointly owned Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and the Warner Music Group — each quietly negotiated to take small stakes in YouTube as part of video- and music-licensing deals they struck shortly before the sale, people involved in the talks said yesterday. The music companies collectively stand to receive as much as $50 million from these arrangements, these people said.

Plus, it’s kind of hard to sue yourself.

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More Second Life [10:45 am]

A Virtual World but Real Money

[T]he budding fake world is not only attracting a lot more people, it is taking on a real world twist: big business interests are intruding on digital utopia. The Second Life online service is fast becoming a three-dimensional test bed for corporate marketers, including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Sun Microsystems, Nissan, Adidas/Reebok, Toyota and Starwood Hotels.

The sudden rush of real companies into so-called virtual worlds mirrors the evolution of the Internet itself, which moved beyond an educational and research network in the 1990’s to become a commercial proposition — but not without complaints from some quarters that the medium’s purity would be lost.

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Live By The Sword, Die By The Sword [7:41 am]

Residuals Debate: Old Script on New Set - pdf

In a digital free-for-all, Hollywood trumpets another round of ventures nearly every week making TV series and films accessible on the Internet.

But with each splashy announcement, resentment builds among writers and actors who believe studios are ducking the issue of how to properly pay them when their work is viewed via the Web. With major labor contracts expiring over the next two years, fears are growing that digital distribution will become such a contentious issue that it could prompt a strike.

“We’ve learned from history that when these new technologies emerge that we can be left behind,” said Alan Rosenberg, president of the nearly 120,000-member Screen Actors Guild. “We have to make sure we don’t wait 20 years to get properly compensated.”

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October 18, 2006

More AllofMP3 Posturing [5:21 pm]

Moscow Music Site Defends Free Downloads

A Web site based in Moscow that the United States Commerce Department has branded as the world’s highest-volume online seller of pirated music plans to release hundreds of thousands of albums free, the site said.

Low prices and ease of use have made AllofMP3 a consumer favorite among music download sites, but the site — which claims to operate legally under Russian copyright law — faces ongoing legal battles with the music industry and harsh criticism from the United States government.

Tuesday, the credit card company Visa International said that it had suspended card service to the site, citing concerns over copyright issues.

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“Net Neutrality? What’s That?” [5:12 pm]

Users bemoan loss of Net phones in UAE - pdf

When telecom regulators in this country cut access to the popular Internet phone program Skype, the price of international calling skyrocketed.

The shutdown triggered an uproar among foreign residents who form about 80 percent of the population of the Emirates, a wealthy country with some of the world’s highest levels of Internet penetration.

[...] “It’s infuriating to lose the freedom to call people,” said Rupert Chesman, a 27-year-old Londoner who works as a TV producer in Dubai. “People just want to phone home and now they can’t.”

Etisalat, the Emirates’ chief telecom and Internet provider, began to block Skype and other Internet phone providers this summer, arguing they had no license to sell phone service. Etisalat’s profits have soared since then.

The unannounced Internet clampdown even woke up Dubai’s normally docile press, which devoted pages to expatriates railing at the shutdown. An recent editorial in pro-government Gulf News said the ban was stifling technology that ought to be embraced.

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Keep On Keeping On [9:39 am]

File sharers facing legal action

More than 8,000 alleged file sharers are facing legal action, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

This latest crackdown targets uploaders - people who allegedly put their music files onto peer-to-peer networks.

It forms part of the ongoing battle by the recording industry to put an end to illegal downloading.

Slashdot: International Music Industry Amps Up Anti-P2P War

Related: Universal Sues Music Web Sites, Charging Illegal Sharing of Files

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Art? Or Copying? [7:25 am]

Lichtenstein: creator or copycat? - pdf

Color me naive, but I never thought Lichtenstein’s work was a direct copy of scenes from comic books. I assumed that he stylized certain scenes suggested by the comic vernacular of the 1950s and 1960s. “He tried to make it seem as though he was making major compositional changes in his work, but he wasn’t,” says Barsalou, who teaches at the High School of Commerce in Springfield. “The critics are of one mind that he made major changes, but if you look at the work , he copied them almost verbatim. Only a few were original.”

[...] Lichtenstein’s fans, and the collectors who now pay millions of dollars for individual canvases, will continue to revere his work. But what are the implications for copyright law? Barsalou correctly points that musicians who “sample” other artists’ music have to pay them royalties. Does the Lichtenstein estate owe compensation to the creators of the original work?

After visiting a Lichtenstein exhibition in Chicago, attorney Mark Weissburg wrote an article titled “Roy Lichtenstein, Copyright Thief?” [pdf] [...]

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October 17, 2006

Dataveillance Life [10:54 pm]

Expunged Criminal Records Live to Tell Tales

In 41 states, people accused or convicted of crimes have the legal right to rewrite history. They can have their criminal records expunged, and in theory that means that all traces of their encounters with the justice system will disappear.

But enormous commercial databases are fast undoing the societal bargain of expungement, one that used to give people who had committed minor crimes a clean slate and a fresh start.

Most states seal at least some records of juvenile offenses. Many states also allow adults arrested for or convicted of minor crimes like possessing marijuana, shoplifting or disorderly conduct to ask a judge, sometimes after a certain amount of time has passed without further trouble, to expunge their records. If the judge agrees, the records are destroyed or sealed.

But real expungement is becoming significantly harder to accomplish in the electronic age. [...]

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October 16, 2006

Migrations To (and From) Second Life [7:50 am]

Reuters opens virtual news bureau in Second Life - pdf

Starting on Wednesday, Reuters plans to begin publishing text, photo and video news from the outside world for Second Life members and news of Second Life for real world readers who visit a Reuters news site at: http://secondlife.reuters.com/

Related; Second Life is virtual world with real economy - pdf and Virtual economies attract real-world tax attention - pdf

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DRM Fights [12:04 am]

Digital rights in question as business model - pdf

Traditionally, the loudest anti-DRM voice has been the radical “copy-left” movement, a group of advocates who focus primarily on consumer rights. But executives in the broader digital music ecosystem — such as Yahoo Music general manager David Goldberg and eMusic CEO David Packman — are taking labels to task with a more business-oriented argument.

DRM, they say, simply forces consumers to buy hardware with proprietary technology that enriches software companies rather than artists or labels.

The conversation has heated up now that Microsoft is preparing to enter the race with another closed system as part of its Zune strategy. Once Zune is launched, there will be two large, deep-pocketed digital services offering music that is not only incompatible with each other, but also with the many other digital music devices and services already in existence.

“That doesn’t sound like a very exciting future to me,” Packman said during a recent panel appearance at the Digital Music Forum West conference in Los Angeles. “There’s no way you can say with a straight face that that’s something consumers want. This has to get solved for the industry to grow.”

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October 15, 2006

The Latest in Digital Alienation [11:55 pm]

Record-playback married to digital overlay: Cyberface: New Technology That Captures the Soul

The breakneck pace of technology combined with the epic ambitions of directors has, up to now, taken movies to places undreamed of in the past: the resinking of the “Titanic”; war in space between armies of droids; a love story between a dinosaur-sized ape and a human-sized woman. (Whoops, we had that one before.)

But if Image Metrics can do what it claims, the door may open wider still, to vast, uncharted territories. To some who make the movies, the possibilities may seem disturbing; to others, exciting: Why not bring back Sean Connery, circa 1971, as James Bond? Or let George Clooney star in a movie with his aunt, Rosemary; say, a repurposed “White Christmas” of 1954? Maybe we can have the actual Truman Capote on-screen, performed by an unseen actor, in the next movie version of his life.

Projects are already circulating around Hollywood that seek to revive dead actors, including one that envisions Bruce Lee starring in a new Bruce Lee picture.

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October 14, 2006

OT: Something to Ponder [10:49 am]

Virtually Abnormal: The perils of policing cybersex

If a pervert won’t act on his words, you can criminalize the words. If he won’t utter them, you can prosecute him for writing them. If he won’t come to your state, you can go get him. If he has no victim, you can invent one. This is no joke. In almost every state, laws specify that you can be convicted of an Internet sex offense against a child even if you contact no child and commit no physical crime. In fact, the most recently analyzed data, published by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, suggest that more people are arrested for using the Internet to solicit cops posing as kids than for using it to initiate relationships with real kids. The unnatural has been surpassed by the artificial.

Cybersex is only getting weirder. Most Canadian college students surveyed by a dating Web site say they’ve already had sex through instant messages. By year’s end, more than 100 million people will be playing online games. Fifteen million Webcams are in use; hundreds can be viewed for a fee, and many are pornographic. You can even interact with a “virtual girlfriend” on your cell phone. It’s a creepy world of imaginary meetings and deeds. The only thing creepier, perhaps, is to prosecute them like the real thing.

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October 10, 2006

Another Music Retailer Gone [10:48 am]

The music’s over for Tower Records - pdf

The sale sounded a bitter final bar for Tower, which operated 89 U.S. stores. Once the dominant music retailer in the country, the 46-year-old company attracted consumers to its spacious stores with flashy merchandising and a focus on deep catalog in a breadth of musical categories. Its store on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip was a legendary music-biz hangout. But Tower’s fortunes waned in the late ’90s as severe price competition from big-box merchants, the growth of Internet sales, piracy and some ill-advised international expansion eroded sales.

The disappearance of Tower’s familiar red-and-yellow logo will leave a gaping hole in the landscape of American music retailing. Los Angeles-based Virgin Megastores, which operates 20 Virgin Megastores, now will become the most prominent deep-catalog retailer.

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Still At It [9:55 am]

Pirating Songs of Praise -

Regina Kennedy prides herself on being a good Christian, so when the pastor at her Pentecostal church in Delaware called it a sin to download gospel songs without paying for them, her heart began to race.

The out-of-work driver went home and stared at her download collection, which included artists such as Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin and others. “The songs are so beautiful, and I couldn’t afford to buy them all,” the 43-year-old said. “I just didn’t know what to do.”

In the end, she deleted every song. She’s still not sure, though, that she was really stealing. “I don’t know what to think, really.”

Kennedy is hardly alone among conflicted fans of Christian music, but her decision to erase her library does set her apart from most of them, especially younger ones. Surveys show that born-again Christian teens are just as active in stealing and swapping music as their secular peers who pinch the latest Eminem rap hit or Kelly Clarkson power ballad.

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October 9, 2006

Convergence — And A Deep Pocket For © Infringement [5:14 pm]

Or is Google looking to ride the wave of next generation video content generation? And, if so, how certain are they that YouTube is that future? Google to Acquire YouTube for $1.65 Billion

“We are natural partners to offer a compelling media entertainment service to users, content owners and advertisers,” Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Chad Hurley, a founder and chief executive of YouTube, said in the statement that his video site would benefit from Google’s “global reach and technology leadership to deliver a more comprehensive entertainment experience for our users and to create new opportunities for our partners.”

Related A Slippery Slope of Censorship at YouTube

Later: The LATimes’ Google Bets Big on Videos - pdf

Legal concerns were a likely reason that, before Google announced the acquisition Monday, YouTube unveiled licensing deals with the world’s two largest music labels, Universal Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment, as well as with CBS Corp. The deals clear the way for music videos, television news, sports clips and entertainment programs to be distributed free on YouTube in exchange for a share of whatever advertising revenue may follow.

Also Adding On to the House of Google

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A French Protest [10:08 am]

Their Crime: Playing iTunes on Devices Not Named iPod

In mounting their protest, members of the group in Paris saw themselves as foot soldiers of the digital generation battling against ever-tighter controls over songs, film and all digitized culture.

Greeted at the police station by almost as many armed riot police officers as there were protesters, they explained their infractions to passers-by.

“Not only did I not use an iPod to listen to an iTunes song, but I transferred the film ‘Blade Runner’ onto my hand-held movie player,” Mr. Martinez, 28, said. “I am willing to face the consequences of what they consider an offense.”

By his own calculation, Mr. Martinez could face a fine of as much as 41,250 euros, or about $52,000, and six months in prison.

Mr. Martinez patiently laid out the case he built against himself, offering details about his infractions, which included switching music from one format to another and transferring the DVD’s to different players.

“They say the law is intended to stop piracy, but I am not a pirate,” Mr. Martinez said. “I support artists with legally purchased works, but I do not want to be forced to use a particular device to play them.”

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October 8, 2006

© In The Comics [2:42 pm]

Yesterday’s Tank McNamara was pretty nice.

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