April 2, 2007

OT: What?!?! [10:40 am]

I gotta see these opinions/orders: Supreme court won’t decide Guantanamo appeals

A closely divided Supreme Court said on Monday it would not decide whether Guantanamo prisoners have the right to challenge their confinement before U.S. federal judges, avoiding a test of President George W. Bush’s powers in the war on terrorism.

Over the dissent of three justices, the nation’s high court said it would not rule on the constitutionality of part of an anti-terrorism law that Bush pushed through the U.S. Congress last year that takes away the right of the prisoners to get judicial review of their detention.

Also Supreme Court Denies Guantanamo Appeal - pdf

Later: the dissent and the concurring opinions for the order denying cert

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Some Statistics [5:09 am]

And am attempt to explain a well-characterized bit of online behavior: Peer-to-Peer Downloaders Gorge on Songs

In 2006, the number of households with PCs that downloaded at least one song using free peer-to-peer software, like Limewire or BitTorrent, grew a modest 7.2 percent, reaching 14.9 million, according to figures released by the NPD Group, a market-research firm.

Meanwhile, the number of PC households that used royalty-paying services like iTunes Store shot up 65.8 percent to 12.6 million, meaning such services could soon become the most widely used method of downloading music.

But the average peer-to-peer household still downloads far more songs. Peer-to-peer networks yielded five billion downloads in 2006, whereas 509 million songs were downloaded from iTunes-style services.

The explanation may be, quite simply, that free downloads are easier to gorge on than downloads you have to pay for. But there are other reasons peer-to-peer users download so many songs, said Russ Crupnick, an analyst with NPD. Among them is the declining price and increasing size of hard drives. [...]

A better explanation, IMHO, is that this is just a digital incarnation of an old problem — Buried Alive: Those who hoard bear the weight of their mess plus a mental disorder only now being understood. Treatment programs are just beginning. - pdf

Most often, hoarding is considered a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, an illness in which people cannot stop certain thoughts and behaviors, such as washing their hands or worrying about germs incessantly. About one-quarter of those people hoard.

But it may well be that hoarding is actually closer to an “impulse control disorder,” like gambling, because those who hoard often experience active pleasure as they acquire or pile up their possessions, [hoarding specialist Gail] Steketee said.

Hoarding can involve emotions — feeling safer among walls of clutter, for example. And thoughts — like, “I’m sure I could use that broken tape deck someday!” And even unconscious values, like “More is better.”

Related: Sampling, if Not Digesting, the Digital Library

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Resurrecting the Guitar Tabs Sites? [5:04 am]

Or crippling their business models (e.g., forcing them to start collecting revenue)? Depends on how big a cut the Fox Agency negotiated, and how hard it might be for a new entrant to assemble the critical mass: Hoping to Move Guitar Notations Into the Legal Sunshine

IF budding guitarists fail to master “Stairway to Heaven” in the coming months, they can no longer blame the music publishers.

Because of an agreement in March between MusicNotes, an online music publisher and the Harry Fox Agency, which represents 31,000 music publishers, guitar tablature — a popular system for teaching and learning guitar — will enter the legitimate business realm for the first time.

Last year popular sites like Olga.net, MxTabs.net and others — where users post tablature, usually called “guitar tabs,” for rock songs — suspended operations after the music publishing industry threatened them with copyright infringement lawsuits. Under the new initiative, MxTabs, which is owned by MusicNotes, will share an undisclosed portion of advertising revenue with music publishers, who in turn will give a portion to artists.

[...] For the remaining songs in Famous Music’s catalog — and the vast majority of the music publishing industry’s collective catalog — there is insufficient demand to justify the costs of publishing tablature.

As a result, guitarists who want to know how to play less mainstream songs have gone to sites where amateurs post tablature. Under this agreement, MusicNotes, publishers and artists will essentially earn money from an army of volunteers, who are creating content that the publishers are not creating on their own.

Tim Reiland, chairman and chief financial officer of MusicNotes, which is based in Madison, Wis., said publishers would receive “a very healthy split” of the advertising dollars.

[...] The guitar tablature sites were typically small operations, running on little more than revenue gleaned from Google text ads. Many shut down rather than challenge the publishers in court.

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Even the Lede Points Out the Problem [4:55 am]

NYTimes graphic; thumbnail versionAnd I love the accompanying graphic: Warner’s Digital Watchdog Widens War on Pirates

Hollywood studios spend millions every year trying to get people to watch their movies. At Warner Brothers Entertainment, Darcy Antonellis is trying to get them to stop watching — illegally, that is.

Ms. Antonellis oversees the studio’s growing worldwide antipiracy efforts as Hollywood’s attention shifts from bootleg DVDs made in China to the problem of copyrighted television and movie clips showing up on sites like YouTube and MySpace.

While producers and celebrities garner most of the attention in Hollywood, technology executives like Ms. Antonellis are at the forefront of the industry as they try to protect the studio’s control over its content.

“Forefront?” I would characterize it more as “heel dragging,” or worse!

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Updated: More Apple/EMI Details/Rumors [4:35 am]

Gives a little more insight into what was going on when Jobs called for the end of DRM: EMI has a big release for iTunes - pdf

Customers of Apple Inc.’s iTunes store will soon be able to play downloaded songs by the Rolling Stones, Norah Jones and other top-selling artists free of the copying restrictions once imposed by their label.

EMI Group, the world’s fourth-largest record label, and Apple, the biggest seller of digital music and players, plan to announce a landmark deal today that would remove copying protections from songs, according to two people familiar with the negotiations. The decision is likely to pressure other major recording companies to follow suit.

The agreement covers nearly all of EMI’s catalog, which also includes the likes of Coldplay, Gorillaz and Janet Jackson.

There’s at least one notable exception: the Beatles. The surviving band members and their estates have yet to permit online sales of their songs.

You have to read to the end to get some key statistics (I, for example, own several iPods, but have never considered buying a song through iTunes because of the DRM):

The move could nonetheless be a boon for music lovers.

“There are probably some people who have been unwilling to buy music on iTunes because of concerns about iTunes and the rules involved,” said Josh Bernoff, a vice president at Forrester Research Inc. With EMI songs, he said, “they don’t have that concern.”

Forrester found that only 3% of U.S. online households buy anything from iTunes, and one-third of iTunes buyers make 80% of the purchases, he said.

“If you want to get the rest of the world involved, this might be what it takes,” Bernoff said.

Note that the NYTimes remains coy: Speculation Is in the Air Over EMI and Apple

Update: 8:10AM — listening now, we’re going to get to hear some bands, including a teaser for what is pending, citing a quote from one of the band members as “f***ing brilliant.” So, we first get to hear some classic EMI promotion.

8:15AM — well, the music is OK, but the singer is having a little trouble staying in tune….

8:16AM — song #2 starts; clearly we’re going to drag this out as long as possible

8:20AM - dead air, and then some prerecorded music

8:22AM - Applause and Nicoll is back and talking about a “new product” - “interoperability” - “premium digital downloads” - “DRM free” - “vastly improved sound quality.” “The demise of the album … a high interest in full albums.” a facility to upgrade previously purchased EMI products. “Entire catalog .. in both standard and premium versions” - “iTunes the first partner”

8:28AM Introducing Steve Jobs

Jobs: Next big step forward in the digital music revolution; DRM free music. The entire catalog will be available in May on iTunes. iTunes as a cost-effective distribution medium. Getting to the next level will require (1) interoperability and (2) audio quality (128kb AAC encoding not good enough for audiophiles, and storage prices falling). New versions of the songs and albums, alongside the conventional ones (new at 256kb AAC $1.29/song)

8:32 — iTunes customers will be able to upgrade their entire libraries at $0.30/song; new albums will be available at the same price as the conventional DRMed songs.

8:33 - EMI has taken the first bold step; Apple will offer the other recording companies the chance to do the same thing.

8:34 - *Smackdown* on those of you who doubted Apple’s sincerity — “tear down the walls”

8:35 - Q&A starts (I’m not going to track all of this)

8:35 - the inevitable Beatles question is raised; so far “we don’t know.”

8:39AM - (I love hearing Jobs repeatedly describe how easy it is to defeat the DRM on iTunes music. And I love how he points out that CDs are DRM-free already, with a slam on Sony, too)

8:41 - Nicoll - we need to “trust” our customers when it comes to filesharing, even though we are dropping the DRM lock. We do not condone illegal filesharing, but we need to trust our customers.

Slashdot: Steve Jobs Announces (some) DRM-free iTunes

Later: Slate asks one question — Are iTunes’ Premium Downloads Worth It? Do compressed music files sound any different at 256 kbps?

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