May 31, 2007

NPR Files Appeal of New Webcasting Rates [8:27 pm]

NPR, others challenge online royalties - Yahoo! Newspdf

NPR filed a notice with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington Wednesday signaling that it would challenge the ruling by a panel of copyright judges that would sharply raise the amount of royalties that NPR stations and others have to pay record companies for streaming music over the Internet.

NPR also said it was filing a request with the same court on Thursday along with other Webcasters for an emergency stay blocking the adoption of the new rates, which are set to go into effect July 15.

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“Perfect” Copies [9:11 am]

A reminder that “perfection” is in the ear of the listener: Where’s the Other Half of Your Music File?

Last fall, Dr. Naresh Patel, a physician in Fort Wayne, Ind., moved into a home he designed with his wife, Valerie. It has a home theater, complete with projector, surround-sound speakers and a high-end amplification system. The sonic centerpiece is two Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers that cost Dr. Patel $12,000 “with a discount.”

It was all working beautifully until Dr. Patel connected his iPod to the system. Sitting down in the theater’s sweet spot to enjoy his music, he was instead appalled.

“I couldn’t believe what I heard,” he said. “You don’t need a trained ear to hear the complete lack of so many things: imaging, the width and the depth of the sound stage. It almost sounded monaural, like listening to music in mono. The clarity, silkiness, the musicality of the music, if you will, was not there.”

Later: reversing the effect — That Warm Sound of Old in a Cold, Compressed World - pdf

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Microsoft and the Open Source ‘Tar Baby’ [7:47 am]

Let’s see whether Microsoft can really do better than Brer Rabbit (or how long it will take to get the US Government to, once again, throw them into the “briar patch” with another toothless remedy): A fight Microsoft can’t win?pdf

Whatever its motives, Microsoft may be picking a fight it can’t win. Free-software advocates have challenged the company to specify which patents were being violated so open-source developers could write around them. And a group of high-tech companies with critical patents stands ready to defend Linux and bring its own claims of infringement against Windows.

More significantly, the battle raises questions about the value of software patents. [....]

Or, is it possible that Microsoft is forcing an issue to get the issue of software patents on the agenda? (earlier post)

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Speaking of Ongoing Strategies … [7:40 am]

News Corp. isn’t letting up: 2 amateur video sites snapped uppdf

News Corp.’s Internet division plunged further into the fast-growing world of amateur video Wednesday, buying two young companies for a combined $270 million.

Fox Interactive Media spent about $250 million for Photobucket Inc., which draws more than 30 million monthly visitors who view and store billions of digital photographs, videos and slideshows.

The Beverly Hills-based News Corp. group also spent more than $20 million for little-known Flektor Inc., which offers free tools for editing and displaying online videos.

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Other Strategies [7:37 am]

Of course, this will do nothing to resolve Sony’s schizophrenia about what business it’s really in: content or electronics — but it does show which personality is currently calling the shots there: Viacom to sell music publisherpdf

As part of the deal, Sony/ATV will be entering the production music business through the Famous Extreme division.

[...] Publishing has become one of the more coveted segments of the music industry as recorded music has been hit by piracy. It has been affected by consumers’ relatively slow transition to buying digital songs to make up for the downturn in CD sales.

Publishing is less vulnerable to the vagaries of music retailing, generating revenue by licensing songs to a variety of users, including television, advertising, radio and live performance.

This month, French media giant Vivendi’s Universal Music Publishing Group unit became the world’s largest music publisher after it bought BMG Music Publishing in a $2.19-billion deal.

Related: Comedy Business Turns to the Web

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Monitoring The “Use” Of Copyrighted Content [7:26 am]

So, let’s see if I get flagged: AP steps up online copyright protectionpdf

The Associated Press will intensify its efforts to protect its copyrights on the Web and possibly uncover new sources of revenue by working with a Silicon Valley startup that’s trying to help the media gain more control over digital content.

Under an agreement to be announced Thursday, the AP will subscribe to a service developed by Attributor Corp. [Ed: Let's make it easy.] to track how its stories are distributed across thousands of Web sites. The monitoring tools eventually will be expanded so the news cooperative will be able to keep tabs on the use of its photos and videos on the Internet, too.

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Only Makes Sense In The Funny Pages [7:20 am]

Cute in the funny pages (the current Jumpstart series on Doctor Appleby’s blog), stupid in a malpractice trial: Blogger unmasked, court case upendedpdf

It was a Perry Mason moment updated for the Internet age.

As Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Suffolk Superior Court this month, defending himself in a malpractice suit involving the death of a 12-year-old patient, the opposing counsel startled him with a question.

Was Lindeman Flea?

Flea, jurors in the case didn’t know, was the screen name for a blogger who had written often and at length about a trial remarkably similar to the one that was going on in the courtroom that day.

In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff’s case and the plaintiff’s lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing.

With the jury looking on in puzzlement, Lindeman admitted that he was, in fact, Flea.

The next morning, on May 15, he agreed to pay what members of Boston’s tight-knit legal community describe as a substantial settlement — case closed.

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Here We Go, In Reverse Order of Size [7:09 am]

Trying out different distribution models: Warner to put ad-supported video archive onlinepdf

Warner Music, the world’s fourth largest music group, is putting its archive of music video online and making it available for free to fans.

Warner, home to Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, will work with digital services provider Premium TV to create online TV sites or “digital hubs” that will be organized by artist, genre or label and funded by advertising.

The move is part of the music industry’s drive to generate revenue from new sources to offset the fall in CD sales and follows the explosion in popularity of online video.

Also, the Apple-EMI DRM-free distribution model takes the next step: Apple rolls out copy protection-free iTunespdf

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May 30, 2007

Google+DoubleClick=1984? [7:19 am]

The FTC is going to try to figure out what this portends: Google deal to get antitrust reviewpdf

The Internet search leader said Tuesday that the Federal Trade Commission had launched an antitrust review of its plan to buy DoubleClick Inc., an online advertising firm, for $3.1 billion. The FTC gave Google a detailed list of questions about the deal’s potential effect.

[...] The FTC’s decision to seek more information from the companies after a standard initial review doesn’t necessarily mean the deal is in trouble. The agency often asks tough questions, then approves a deal with few or no conditions.

But some analysts and privacy advocates said Google’s accrual of data could factor into the FTC’s decision about whether the deal would hurt competition.

[...] The big question facing Google: By using DoubleClick’s technology to collect even more detailed information about how millions of people use the Web, would the world’s biggest online marketer make life even more difficult for its competitors?

“The privacy issue is also the competitive issue,” said Blair Levin, an analyst at brokerage Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., who expects the FTC to approve the purchase. “The biggest barrier to entry is not money or engineers or the networks but the information on the behavior of people on the Internet.”

Also: Google Deal Said to Bring U.S. Scrutiny

Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said that decisions made now about the structure of the online advertising industry could have lasting effects on data collection and personal privacy on the Internet, especially if control rests with a “few powerful gatekeepers” led by Google.

Still, privacy issues are not typically the concern of antitrust officials. In reviewing a proposed merger, legal experts say, regulators weigh the likely impact on competition and struggle with tricky technical matters like defining the relevant market to measure.

“To the extent that a reduction in competition could make it more difficult to protect privacy, it could be a consideration,” said Andrew I. Gavil, a law professor at Howard University. “But it would have to be linked to competition. Strictly speaking, privacy is not an antitrust issue.”

Maybe not, but it *is* clear that, to the extent that the US Government is concerned with protecting the privacy of its citizens (versus infringing upon it), at least part of that task *has* been apportioned to the FTC, and I hope that they plan to make privacy a part of its deliberations — and give it a review that’s independent of its consideration of competitiveness.

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May 29, 2007

More on eStonia [1:51 am]

War Fears Turn to Cyberspace in Estonia

“This may well turn out to be a watershed in terms of widespread awareness of the vulnerability of modern society,” said Linton Wells II, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration at the Pentagon. “It has gotten the attention of a lot of people.”

The authorities anticipated there would be a backlash to the removal of the statue, which had become a rallying point for Estonia’s large Russian-speaking minority, particularly as it was removed to a less accessible military graveyard.

When the first digital intruders slipped into Estonian cyberspace at 10 p.m. on April 26, Mr. Aarelaid figured he was ready. He had erected firewalls around government Web sites, set up extra computer servers and put his staff on call for a busy week.

By April 29, Tallinn’s streets were calm again after two nights of riots caused by the statue’s removal, but Estonia’s electronic Maginot Line was crumbling. In one of the first strikes, a flood of junk messages was thrown at the e-mail server of the Parliament, shutting it down. In another, hackers broke into the Web site of the Reform Party, posting a fake letter of apology from the prime minister, Andrus Ansip, for ordering the removal of the highly symbolic statue.

Later: A Cyberblockade in Estonia

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May 26, 2007

Out of Contact [6:06 pm]

Sorry - I meant to post the fact that I would be extending the long Memorial Day weekend. I’ll be back at it on the 29th, although only catching up — not going to be much in the way of internet access happening!!

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May 23, 2007

Life in the UK [10:38 am]

Winston Smith, look out! Spy Drones Added to Britain’s “Surveillance Society”pdf

It could be the 4 million closed-circuit television cameras, or maybe the spy drones hovering overhead, but one way or another Britons know they are being watched. All the time. Everywhere.

The latest gizmo to be employed in what civil liberty campaigners are calling Britain’s “surveillance society” is a small, remote-controlled helicopter that can hover above inner city streets and monitor suspected criminals.

Unveiled in the north of Britain this week, it could be introduced across the country if deemed a success, fuelling an already intense debate over whether the “Big Brother” world George Orwell predicted is now truly upon us, or whether such scrutiny is merely essential for security in the modern era.

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Peers, Networks and Opportunity [10:36 am]

Tracking an Online Trend, and a Route to Suicide

Figures released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that South Korea’s suicide rate stood at 18.7 per 100,000 people in 2002 — up from 10.2 in 1985. In 2002, Japan’s rate was the same as South Korea’s, but the rate in the United States was 10.2 per 100,000.

Experts attribute the increase to the stresses of rapid modernization and the degradation of rural life, but they are also concerned that the Internet is contributing to the jump. South Korea has one of the world’s highest rates of broadband access and, as in Japan in recent years, the Internet has become a lethally efficient means of bringing together people with suicide on their minds.

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May 22, 2007

e-Stonia Cyberattack Followup [8:30 am]

An old-fashioned diplomatic dispute plays out in cyberspace

Elsewhere, this might not have mattered quite so much. A defense information specialist from another newish NATO member state told me, somewhat ruefully, that his country wouldn’t be vulnerable to a cyberattack because so little of its infrastructure is sophisticated enough to use the Internet. But Estonia—”e-Stonia” to its fans—practices forms of e-government advanced even by Western European standards. Estonians pay taxes online, vote online, bank online. Their national ID cards contain electronic chips. When the country’s Cabinet meets, everyone brings their laptop. When denial-of-service attacks start taking down Estonian Web sites, it matters.

[...] Both the anonymity and the novelty may turn out to be part of the appeal, particularly if, as some in NATO now believe, the attacks are Russian “tests,” both of the West’s preparedness for cyberwarfare in general and of NATO’s commitment to its newest, weakest members in particular. Some believe the Russian government is now playing with different tactics, trying to see which forms of harassment work best: the verbal attacks on Estonia, the Russian oil pipeline to Lithuania that mysteriously turns out to need repairs, or the embargos on Polish meat products and Georgian wine.

If that is the case, then surely the lesson of the last three weeks is that cyberwarfare has a lot going for it: It creates no uproar, results in no tit-for-tat economic sanctions, doesn’t seem like a “real” form of warfare, and doesn’t get anyone worried about Europe’s long-term energy needs. NATO did, in the end, quietly send a few specialists to Estonia, as (even more quietly) did the Pentagon. A few Europeans complained a bit at a summit over the weekend, too. But there the affair will end—until the attacked Estonian government in cyberspace comes back online, better armed for the next battle.

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Revising the FCC Spectrum Auction (updated) [7:18 am]

Google Proposes Innovation in Radio Spectrum Auction

Google filed a proposal [local copy] on Monday with the Federal Communications Commission calling on the agency to let companies allocate radio spectrum using the same kind of real-time auction that the search engine company now uses to sell advertisements.

[...] “The driving reason we’re doing this is that there are not enough broadband options for consumers,” said Adam Kovacevich, a spokesman for Google’s policy office in Washington. “In general, it’s the belief of a lot of people in the company that spectrum is allocated in an inefficient manner.”

In their proposal, Google executives argue that by permitting companies to resell the airwaves in a real-time auction would make it possible to greatly improve spectrum use and simultaneously create a robust market for innovative digital services. For instance, a company could resell its spectrum on an as-needed basis to other providers, the executives said in their formal proposal to the federal agency.

The FCC’s Spectrum Policy Task Force WWW page.

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The Rise of whosarat.com [6:56 am]

Bringing the power of the “Culture” side of the New Chicago School to bear upon informants — how to right the balance? And note how easily the instruments of the database and the WWW can challenge assumptions about privacy … again: Web Sites Listing Informants Concern Justice Dept.

There are three “rats of the week” on the home page of whosarat.com, a Web site devoted to exposing the identities of witnesses cooperating with the government. The site posts their names and mug shots, along with court documents detailing what they have agreed to do in exchange for lenient sentences.

[...] “The reality is this,” said a spokesman for the site, who identified himself as Anthony Capone. “Everybody has a choice in life about what they want to do for a living. Nobody likes a tattletale.”

Federal prosecutors are furious, and the Justice Department has begun urging the federal courts to make fundamental changes in public access to electronic court files by removing all plea agreements from them — whether involving cooperating witnesses or not.

“We are witnessing the rise of a new cottage industry engaged in republishing court filings about cooperators on Web sites such as www.whosarat.com for the clear purpose of witness intimidation, retaliation and harassment,” a Justice Department official wrote in a December letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the administrative and policy-making body of the federal court system.

[...] Judge John R. Tunheim, a federal judge in Minneapolis and the chairman of a Judicial Conference committee studying the issue, acknowledged the gravity of the safety threat posed by the Web sites but said it would be better addressed through case-by-case actions.

“We are getting a pretty significant push from the Justice Department to take plea agreements off the electronic file entirely,” Judge Tunheim said. “But it is important to have our files accessible. I really do not want to see a situation in which plea agreements are routinely sealed or kept out of the electronic record.”

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May 21, 2007

So, What Does This Mean For DRM-Free Music? [10:14 pm]

Will the private equity firm see the point? Or will they just pump and dump EMI to Warner? EMI Accepts $4.7 Billion Buyout Offer

The EMI Group, the world’s third-largest record company, said today that it would recommend to shareholders that they accept a $4.7 billion buyout offer from a private equity firm, Terra Firma Capital Partners.

EMI, which releases music by the Beatles and Coldplay, has spent years in and out of merger talks with various suitors. If approved, the deal to sell to Terra Firma would remove EMI from the public markets, where its financial problems include two profit warnings this year. But Terra Firma itself could profit on the deal by subsequently selling EMI, in whole or part, to a rival, the Warner Music Group. EMI, based in London, and Warner had been in advanced merger talks last summer. They stalled after a European Union court ruling raised questions about the regulatory approval of a previous music merger between Sony and Bertelsmann.

Reuters has another take: EMI agrees $4.7 billion offer from Terra Firmapdf

Sources familiar with the situation had previously told Reuters that EMI had opened its books in recent weeks to Warner and three other private equity groups.

Details of Terra Firma’s strategic plans will also be a blow to Warner as it had been thought that any private equity buyer might only keep the cash-generative music publishing arm and sell the struggling recorded music division to Warner.

“It believes in the digital growth opportunity in the music market, in general, and so the expectation is that the business will be held together,” said the source.

Later: Buyout firm in accord for EMIpdf

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BBN Back On The Ground Floor [6:05 pm]

Internet pioneer to oversee its redesignpdf

The National Science Foundation announced Monday that BBN Technologies Inc. will get up to $10 million over four years to oversee the planning and design of the Global Environment for Network Innovations, or GENI.

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Second Guessing Municipal Wireless [5:59 pm]

Cities struggle with wireless Internetpdf

Across the United States, many cities are finding their Wi-Fi projects costing more and drawing less interest than expected, leading to worries that a number will fail, resulting in millions of dollars in wasted tax dollars or grants when there had been roads to build and crime to fight.

[...] Lompoc’s backers, though, still claim success, “even if the whole network were to be written off tomorrow,” said Mark McKibben, Lompoc’s former wireless consultant.

“Prices dropped and quality of service went up,” he said. “That’s the way a lot of cities look at it. They don’t look at business profits and losses. They see it as a driver for quality of life.”

Of course, the point is that introducing wireless should have been about integrating it into the town’s mission of “roads to build and crime to fight;” assuming that it’s just about displacing Comcast/Verizon is just foolish.

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I See … [4:43 pm]

That recent spate of copyright-maximalist ink has the smell of Astro-turf: Backers of stronger copyright laws form lobby group

Some of the staunchest advocates for stricter copyright laws have formed a new alliance designed to pressure Congress into preserving stronger intellectual property rights.

The Copyright Alliance–which launched, complete with electric-green and white T-shirts displaying its logo at a morning Capitol Hill event here–consists of 29 national organizations and companies that purport to represent 11 million workers in copyright-related industries. Those members include the Recording Industry Association of America, the Association of American Publishers, the Motion Picture Association of America, Microsoft, Viacom and Walt Disney.

The group’s members aren’t expected to agree on all the nuances of policy debates, said Patrick Ross, the alliance’s executive director.

But according to a press release, they’re all committed to broad goals like promoting the “vital role” of copyright in the U.S. economy and job market, encouraging inclusion of copyright protection requirements in international agreements, supporting civil and criminal penalties for piracy, and advocating against “diminishment” of copyright law.

Both the membership and academic advisors list are instructive on any number of levels. But it’s the “For Educators” link that really sets you up:

For Educators

It’s never too early to learn the value of copyright. In fact, every time a child takes crayon to paper, he or she has created a copyrighted work, but how many know the rights they’ve just earned?

Educators across the country recognize the value of incorporating an understanding of copyright into lesson plans, but the resources haven’t always been readily available. The Copyright Alliance, as part of its educational mission, aims to identify valuable curriculum guides and other educational resources and make those resources available to educators.

You will find some materials here, and more will be added. If you are aware of valuable lesson plans or other worthwhile teacher guides, please let us know at info@copyrightalliance.org.

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