December 17, 2006

Copyright in Blogspace [11:35 am]

Perez Hilton takes their best shots - pdf

It’s hard to know whom to sympathize with in this fight.

On one side: the paparazzi who stalk celebrities in their moments of greatest vulnerability — at doctors’ offices, with their newborns, when they are falling-down drunk.

On the other: a blogger who helps himself to those photos, scrawls puerile comments on them, and posts them on his immensely popular and profitable website.

The owners of one L.A. photo agency are so frustrated with what they consider to be blatant theft by self-styled “gossip gangsta” Perez Hilton that they’ve decided to make a federal case of it.

On Nov. 30, X17 Inc., known for the aggressive pursuit of celebrity prey, filed a $7.6-million federal copyright infringement lawsuit against Hilton, alleging that he has used 51 photos without permission, payment or credit.

[...] This conflict is more than a juicy legal fight between two controversial enterprises. It’s also the manifestation of a cultural shift in how those obsessed with pop culture get their fixes. These days, no one has to wait for People’s weekly appearance on the newsstand or even “Access Hollywood’s” nightly roundups to find out about Nicole Richie’s latest arrest or shockingly low weight.

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December 15, 2006

A Dream Denied? Or Deferred? [7:24 am]

When reality strikes (and a topic from an earlier ESD general exam question): U.S. Is Dropping Effort to Track if Visitors Leave

In a major blow to the Bush administration’s efforts to secure borders, domestic security officials have for now given up on plans to develop a facial or fingerprint recognition system to determine whether a vast majority of foreign visitors leave the country, officials say.

[...] A senior policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, Jessica Vaughn, said the government had long been too deferential to big businesses and travel groups that raised concerns that exit technology might disrupt travel and trade.

“I worry that the issue of cost is an excuse for not doing anything,” said Ms. Vaughn, whose group advocates curbing immigration. Domestic security officials said they still hoped to find a way to create an exit system at land borders. “We would to do more testing,” a spokesman for the department, Jarrod Agen, said. “We are evaluating the initial tests to determine how to move forward.”

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December 14, 2006

Gartner Prognosticates [9:59 am]

And predicts unhappy things — or is it just wishful thinking: Gartner predicts Vista to be last major Windows

Gartner said it believes that by 2010, 60 percent of worldwide mobile phone users will be “trackable” via an emerging “follow-me Internet” technology as growing demands for national safety and civil protection relax some privacy limitations.

Marketing incentives will also push users to forgo privacy concerns, it said.

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MP3 Patent Fight [9:56 am]

SanDisk shrugs off Berlin court ruling in MP3 spat - pdf

Memory card and MP3 music player producer SanDisk said on Thursday a legal battle with MP3 patent holders is ongoing and shrugged off a statement from a patent pool firm claiming a judicial victory.

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Some Cultural Forensics at Tower Records [7:42 am]

Lessons from Tower’s leftovers - pdf

As its going-out-of business sale enters its last throes, 40% off on all CDs has given way to 70% off. Prices may go even lower before the flagship store closes its doors for good, perhaps as soon as this weekend.

[...] Why is Michael Bublé’s shelf stripped bare and Barry Manilow’s chock-full? Did Bublé write the songs that make the whole world sing? Imagine getting a hip replacement and being replaced by some hip replacement. Oh well. In the volatile world of pop music, you have to be strong. You have to be invincible. So why is Helen Reddy still up for grabs?

Barbra Streisand — available!

Paris Hilton — sold out! (In more ways than one.)

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“Cool!” — But How Does It Work? [7:25 am]

And why I should care: Nike+iPod raises RFID privacy concerns

“Basically, the kit contains a transmitter that you stick in your sneakers and a receiver you attach to your iPod. This allows you to track things like time, distance, pace and calories burned. Pretty clever,” Schneier wrote on a blog post titled “Tracking People by their Sneakers,” published Tuesday. “However, it turns out that the transmitter in your sneaker can be read up to 60 feet away.”

[...] “To me, the real significance of this work is how easy it was,” Schneier said. “Unless we enact some sort of broad law requiring companies to add security into these sorts of systems, companies will continue to produce devices that erode our privacy through new technologies. Not on purpose, not because they’re evil–just because it’s easier to ignore the externality than to worry about it.”

Related, from yesterday’s Globe: Locating pals at MIT, privately - pdf - the iFind site

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Trying To Prise Open The Oyster [7:21 am]

I don’t recall that Bayh-Dole was a university initiative, but I haven’t really focused on its legislative history, either: I.B.M. and Universities Plan Collaboration

The initiative, which I.B.M. is expected to announce today, is a break with the usual pattern of corporate-sponsored research at universities that typically involves lengthy negotiations over intellectual property rights.

The projects are also evidence that American companies and universities are searching for ways to work together more easily and less hampered by legal wrangling about who holds the patents to research. Those negotiations, according to specialists, can take a year or more — slowing the pace of innovation and prompting companies to team with researchers in foreign countries.

[...] “Universities have made life increasingly difficult to do research with them because of all the contractual issues around intellectual property,” said Stuart Feldman, vice president for computer science at I.B.M.’s research laboratories. “We would like the universities to open up again.”

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Targeted, Viral Marketing [7:18 am]

Continuing to push the envelope cited in Turow’s Niche Envy: Online, P.& G. Gets a Little Crazy

Marketers are eager to experiment with those new methods because it is increasingly difficult to get the attention of busy, jaded consumers with conventional television commercials and print advertisements. Also, nontraditional campaigns can use technology that enables them to be aimed more precisely at the audiences that would most appreciate them — and avoid those who might not get the joke.

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December 13, 2006

EU © Fee Overhaul Scrapped [6:29 pm]

EU abandons plans to overhaul copyright levies

In a surprise move, the European Commission said Wednesday it is shelving plans to overhaul Europe’s rules on copyright fees, after intense lobbying from France and from groups representing artists and authors.

[...] The Commission wanted to harmonize the rules and scrap levies on most hardware. Its aim was to reduce the fees, which in some cases increase the price of goods dramatically.

[...] The Commission has been planning to harmonize copyright levies across the E.U. since 2000. Since then the case for scrapping most levies has grown stronger. Digital rights management software, which allows copyright owners to track the copying of their works, has become commonplace.

The Commission’s climb down sparked an angry reaction from the companies and industry groups pushing for a change to the system.

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Leahy Speech at Georgetown [2:24 pm]

Ensuring Liberty And Security Through Checks And Balances: A Fresh Start For the Senate Judiciary Committee In The New 110th Congress

Americans’ privacy is a price the Bush Administration is willing to pay for the cavalier way it is spawning new databanks. But privacy rights belong to the people, not to the government. They need to stop treating the privacy of ordinary Americans as an expendable commodity.

When it comes to protecting Americans’ privacy, what we have today are analog rules in a digital world. We are way overdue in catching up to the erosion of privacy, and the Judiciary Committee now will help to bring this picture into focus. This will be one of our highest priorities.

[...] New and improved technologies make data banks and data mining more powerful and more useful than they have ever been before. They can be important tools in our national security arsenal, and we should use them in an effective way. But data banks are ripe for abuse and prone to mistakes without proper safeguards. A mistake can cost Americans their jobs and wreak havoc in their lives and reputations that can take years to repair. Mistakes on government watch lists have become legendary in recent years and would be comical if not a tragic reflection of dangerous government incompetence. Not only do we need checks and balances to keep government data bases from being misused against the American people, that is what the Constitution and our laws require.

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One Time Collapse? Or A Harbinger Of Something Else? [1:46 pm]

Apples iTunes music sales collapses in H1: survey

Since January 2006 the number of monthly iTunes transactions has declined 58 percent, while the average size per purcahse declined by 17 percent, leading to a 65-percent overall drop in monthly iTunes revenue, U.S. market research group Forrester said in a survey among North American consumers.

“It is too soon to tell if this decline was seasonal or if buyers were reaching their saturation level for digital music,” Forrester said in the report that was published to its clients last week, and made available to Reuters on Wednesday.

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A Second Life Push for IBM Marketing [12:30 pm]

Note that Wladawski-Berger is a visiting professor here at MIT/ESD. IBM to open islands in virtual world - pdf

IBM Corp. is launching an ambitious marketing campaign in the hip virtual world “Second Life.”

Big Blue has developed 12 “virtual islands,” and most will be open to anyone with a Second Life account starting next week. Other areas will remain private haunts for about 800 IBM employees — including the CEO — who have cyber alter-egos.

[...] IBM’s chief technologist, Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, acknowledged Tuesday that virtual-world business is the “experimental stage.” Big Blue doesn’t expect to generate a profit in Second Life soon.

But the medium is promising — particularly for training and orientation sessions for Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, which has 330,000 workers worldwide. Two in every five IBM employees work offsite part- or full-time, and it’d be vastly easier to host a virtual meeting than to assemble hundreds of salespeople or engineers in a physical conference room.

The technology is particularly suited to online education — not only for executives but for kids, Wladawsky-Berger mused.

Later: Clay Shirkey sounds a note of skepticism - A story too good to check

Much later: An NYTimes year-end roundup of digital advertising trends - The Crystal Ball: What’s Ahead in Ads

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December 12, 2006

Reasoning By Analogy [10:42 am]

While I can understand the need, I don’t see how this can be implemented, particularly for web-based email accounts, Are we really going to start putting keyboard sniffers on every convicted sex offender’s computer? On every computer a convicted sex offending might access? Va. AG wants sex offenders’ online names - pdf

If enacted, Virginia would be the first state to require registration of e-mail addresses and instant-messaging identities on the state’s sex offender registry, McDonnell’s office said.

“We require all sex offenders to register their physical and mailing addresses in Virginia, but in the 21st century it is just as critical that they register any e-mail addresses or IM screen names,” McDonnell said in a news release.

[...] MySpace announced plans last week to develop technologies designed to help block convicted sex offenders by checking profiles against government registries, but the News Corp. site’s ability to do so is limited by the fact that users do not have to use their real names.

Requiring registrations of e-mail addresses would make matching easier. To guard against offenders registering one address but using another on MySpace, the penalty would be the same as it would be for not registering or for providing incorrect information, which could result in a misdemeanor or felony charge.

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FTC and Viral Marketing [8:14 am]

An opening sally: FTC Moves to Unmask Word-of-Mouth Marketing - pdf

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday said that companies engaging in word-of-mouth marketing, in which people are compensated to promote products to their peers, must disclose those relationships.

In a staff opinion issued yesterday, the consumer protection agency weighed in for the first time on the practice. Though no accurate figures exist on how much money advertisers spend on such marketing, it is quickly becoming a preferred method for reaching consumers who are skeptical of other forms of advertising.

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Eulogy for Tower Records [8:11 am]

For Tower Records, End of Disc - pdf

All of it is going, of course — not just Tower, but the record store culture that Tower embodied. Anything that can be squeezed down to ones and zeros and moved around at the speed of electrons doesn’t have to be stacked in plastic cases, shoved into bins and splayed over aisles under fluorescent lights anymore. All of it’s going online.

And isn’t that better? Doesn’t the digital universe give anyone with a computer and a credit card wider and speedier access to more music than any Tower could ever stock? Isn’t it better when you never have to find a parking space or deal with one of those haughty, green-haired clerks who always gave your Beach Boys and show-tune selections a look that said, “Wow, you are such a geezer”?

No, it isn’t. Not exactly.

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Jokes, Prudery and the FCC [7:43 am]

So This Manatee Walks Into the Internet

At the end of the skit, in a line Mr. O’Brien insists was ad-libbed, he mentioned that the voyeur (actually Mark Pender, a member of the show’s band) was watching www.hornymanatee.com. There was only one problem: as of the taping of that show, which concluded at 6:30 p.m., no such site existed. Which presented an immediate quandary for NBC: If a viewer were somehow to acquire the license to use that Internet domain name, then put something inappropriate on the site, the network could potentially be held liable for appearing to promote it.

In a pre-emptive strike inspired as much by the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission as by the laws of comedy, NBC bought the license to hornymanatee.com, for $159, after the taping of the Dec. 4 show but before it was broadcast.

By yesterday afternoon hornymanatee.com — created by Mr. O’Brien’s staff and featuring images of such supposedly forbidden acts as “Manatee-on-Manatee” sex (again using characters in costumes) — had received approximately 3 million hits, according to NBC. Meanwhile several thousand of Mr. O’Brien’s viewers have also responded to his subsequent on-air pleas that they submit artwork and other material inspired by the aquatic mammals, and the romantic and sexual shenanigans they imagine, to the e-mail address conan@hornymanatee.com.

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Hey, Isn’t The Market Always The Answer? [7:40 am]

“Stop me before I steal again — buy my theft insurance.” Protectors, Too, Gather Profits From ID Theft

It is not just criminals who are profiting from identity theft; financial institutions are making money, too. Fear of identity theft has helped give rise to a nearly billion-dollar business in credit-monitoring services sold by the major credit bureaus — companies like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — as well as direct marketers and banks.

[...] Credit monitoring has quickly gained traction with consumers through aggressive advertising that often promotes its value in protecting against identity theft. But its abilities are far more limited than is commonly perceived.

In the meantime, measures that could stem fraud from identity theft — like legislation empowering consumers to block access to their credit records, making it impossible to extend new credit — have faced stiff resistance from industry groups.

“Identity theft has essentially become a business — not just for bad guys but for good guys, too,” said Robert Gellman, a privacy consultant in Washington. “A lot of the people that are involved in profiting legally from identity theft are direct participants in the whole credit system that doesn’t have the protections in place to prevent identity theft in the first place.”

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December 11, 2006

Access & Creativity [4:07 pm]

Should be interesting… Mozart’s entire musical score now free on Internet - pdf

Mozart’s year-long 250th birthday party is ending on a high note with the musical scores of his complete works available from Monday for the first time free on the Internet.

The International Mozart Foundation in Salzburg, Austria has put a scholarly edition of the bound volumes of Mozart’s more than 600 works on a Web site.

The site allows visitors to find specific symphonies, arias or even single lines of text from some 24,000 pages of music.

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iPod:iTunes = 20? [8:03 am]

Although the article is written as if it were bad news for Apple, I’m sure that Apple’s happy the ratio goes this way; after all, the hardware side is the profitable side. It’s the RIAA who should be worrying: Sales of iPods and iTunes Not Much in Sync

Although both are successful, the relationship may not have worked out exactly as expected. At any given point, the cumulative number of songs sold by the iTunes store has generally been about 20 times the cumulative number of iPods sold, according to Forrester Research, the technology consulting firm. That ratio has recently crept up to roughly 22 to 1, as 1.5 billion songs have been sold. The figures were compiled from public statements by Apple.

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Fraud? Or Just Aggressive Online Selling? [7:57 am]

Plus, a picture of Ben Edelman! In Web Traffic Tallies, Intruders Can Say You Visited Them

Pop-up windows appear all over the Internet, including the Web site of The New York Times. But they are typically used as advertising to pitch a product or a service.

Entrepreneur.com’s pop-ups were unusual because they contained news content, like articles on how to start a small business, making them hard to distinguish from an intentional visit to Entrepreneur.com’s site. This hailstorm of pop-ups more than tripled Entrepreneur’s reported traffic before it was detected and factored out a month later.

The technique of using pop-ups to gain readers underscores just how important sheer numbers have become in the online media business. Advertisers are shifting their marketing dollars to the Internet, but the rates they pay are low compared with traditional media.

Consequently, publishers who have struggled for years to find a way to make money online are taking aggressive steps to get their Web pages in front of as many eyes as possible.

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