February 23, 2007

A Promising Revenue Stream Shut Down [8:40 am]

Canada: Pornography Service Halted

After a call for a boycott from a Roman Catholic archbishop, hundreds of complaints and one lawsuit from customers, the Canadian phone company Telus abandoned a service that allowed cellphone customers to buy soft-core pornography.

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RIAA Pushing The Boundaries [8:28 am]

RIAA appeals attorneys’ fees award

Throughout its legal attacks on file sharers, the RIAA has argued that the owners of ISP accounts used to share copyrighted material should be held liable, even if they had no knowledge of the alleged infringement. Judge West called the RIAA’s secondary infringement claims “untested and marginal” in his order, a characterization the labels take issue with.

Instead, the plaintiffs argue that if the defendant has “a reason to know” of the infringing activity, she should be held liable. The RIAA also points to Foster’s subscriber agreement with Cox Communications, her ISP, which the RIAA says “expressly required” her to keep others using her account from infringing copyrights.

As others have pointed out, this is one way for the RIAA to quash unprotected wi-fi.

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Plagiarism? Or Commensuration? [8:22 am]

An example of a topic I and others have been working on lately — when does reliance upon metrics to do more than support human judgment happen, and when does it lead us astray? (Note: according to this article, not this time): Too Perfect Harmony - pdf

The alleged hoax, in which the recorded works of pianist Joyce Hatto have been called into question, was uncovered using database software that automatically identifies CDs so that fans don’t have to manually enter artist and track information when they load the music onto their computers. Technology helped enable the alleged trickery; a newer technology uncovered it.

When a reader of the British classical music magazine Gramophone loaded a Hatto disc onto his computer, the database correctly identified it as a performance of a Franz Liszt piano composition — but marked it as a CD recorded by another pianist, Laszlo Simon. The technology behind the CD database, operated by Gracenote, a California company, indexes data on about 4 million CDs. The lengths of tracks on Hatto’s and Simon’s albums were identical, causing the database to make what appeared to be a mistake.

Or was it a mistake? The reader contacted a Gramophone critic, who played the Simon recording on iTunes, compared it to the Hatto recording and found that the two CDs sounded the same. The magazine passed the matter to independent sound engineers, who have concluded that the two versions were, in fact, the same performance. Since then, engineers have found at least a dozen examples of other performances that appear to have been pilfered and issued under Hatto’s name.

[...] Hatto’s recordings were published by her husband, William Barrington-Coupe, on a small British label called Concert Artist. The label has released more than 100 albums under Hatto’s name. Barrington-Coupe yesterday denied any wrongdoing.

[...] Barrington-Coupe said that the findings published on the Web , have started a “culture of fear” among critics in London who are afraid to stand up and defend the Hatto recordings now in dispute. “They’re being told that something is a scientific fact, and they’re no longer believing their ears,” he said.

Hatto died last year at the age of 77 after a long battle with cancer. Although she was largely unknown for most of her career, she won a few champions among critics toward the end of her life. A reviewer for the Boston Globe, for example, called her “the greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of.”

Her illness forced her to give up performing in public decades before she died.

From the earlier NYTimes article: A Pianist’s Recordings Draw Praise, but Were They All Hers?

Looking for scientific evidence of a hoax, Mr. Inverne then sent the Hatto and Simon recordings to Mr. Rose, a former sound engineer for the BBC. Mr. Rose said that the Liszt recordings were easy to identify as those made by Mr. Simon, but that the Nojima recording had been “manipulated” to disguise its origin.

“If all this is true,” Mr. Inverne said, “what strikes me is that this sort of piracy was made possible by technology, and later advances in technology uncovered it.”

He added: “As far as I know, the classical music world has never known a scandal like this. The art world has, but not classical music.”

Later, from the NYTimes OpEd: Shoot the Piano Player; also from Gramophone: ‘I did it for my wife’ – Joyce Hatto exclusive, William Barrington-Coupe confesses - pdf

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So, Who’s Going To Say It First? [8:00 am]

As Larry Lessig repeats, “Software patents — BAD.” How much pain before one of the big holders throws their weight behind this much-needed IP policy reform (remember, software patentability is a construct of the USPTO; all it takes is a piece of legislation to make it go away): MP3 Patents in Upheaval After Verdict

; also the LATimes’ Microsoft loses music patent case (pdf) and the Washington Post’s Microsoft Loses Big In MP3 Patent Suit (pdf).

From the Washington Post article:

The judgment surprised industry experts, who said they had not been following the case closely.

“Most of us thought this was going to go bye-bye,” technology analyst Rob Enderle said. He said he expected Alcatel-Lucent to approach other companies using MP3 technology and use the verdict “like a club” to collect fees.

[...] Alcatel-Lucent and its lawyers would not say whether they plan to target more companies, but Desmarais signaled that others using the audio-file technology could be vulnerable.

“For anyone who implements the standard, the same arguments would apply,” he said.

Hmmm - given that Alcatel-Lucent elected not to join the patent pool, is it possible that they’re the ones who are trying to bring software patents down? Or are they just greedy? And, in either case, isn’t that good for the cause?

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Cory Doctorow on Job’s Manifesto [7:38 am]

In re: Job’s call for DRM-free music, we get Cory’s take — a reminder that DRm has more than one function in the market: Steve Jobs’ iTunes dance

I doubt Jobs’ sincerity. I suspect he likes DRM because it creates an anti-competitive lock-in to Apple. I think he’s trying to shift blame for the much-criticized DRM to the music industry, whose executives are twirling their mustaches and declaring DRM to be the only way forward for their industry.

[...] Although Apple’s DRM is wholly ineffective at preventing copying, it does manage to raise the cost of switching from an iPod to a competing device. Every iTunes song you buy for 99 cents amounts to a 99 cent tax on switching from an iPod to a Zune. That’s because your iTunes songs won’t play on your Zune — or on any other player, save those made or licensed by Apple. Jobs tries to skate around this in his memo, suggesting that only a tiny fraction of the music on iPods comes from his music store, and so the anti-switching effects are minimal.

[...] Jobs is right. If you had 10 grand worth of proprietary music on your iPod, his company’s iTunes would be anti-competitive. But that’s not to say that $150 worth of lock-in (enough to double the cost of many portable players) isn’t a powerful disincentive against switching from the iPod. I’m a lifelong Apple fan boy — I have an actual Mac tattoo — but even I remember the dark time of the Performa, when Apple’s hardware trailed so far behind the market leaders that buying it was like wearing a hair shirt. I think that it’s reasonable to assume that Apple won’t always make the world’s best music player. I’d like to keep my options open. But the longer you own an iPod, the more likely it is you’ll buy more iTunes music, and the fewer options you’ll have.

[...] With DRM, the only way to get music that plays on all your devices, past and present, is to rip it off. If you buy DRM, you end up being part of someone’s business model, and a slave to the lock-in.

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