June 30, 2007

Tim Wu Pounds the iPhone Hype: “Revolutionary” [2:00 pm]

Why the iPhone isn’t really revolutionary

When the word iPhone appears in Apple press releases, the word revolutionary is rarely far behind. But what counts as revolutionary? In Apple’s case, the bar is high. Since the 1970s, the firm has changed both the personal computer and music industries. Will the iPhone fundamentally alter the structure of the wireless world as well?

Not yet. [...]

[...] It is in some ways astonishing that AT&T and Apple are partners at all. AT&T is the oldest of the old school—the most ancient major high-tech firm in the United States, founded in 1878. Unfazed by spending the last 23 years in suspended animation (after the great breakup of 1984), AT&T is back to its classic business model: own the largest networks and everything on them. Apple, meanwhile, is the original hippie computer company, a child of the 1970s, not the 1870s. At least in its origins, Apple is an ideological foe of IBM and AT&T. (Remember that 1984 ad?) Considering that these firms were born on the opposite sides of the tech Kulturkampf, the iPhone cannot help but be a little strange.

Most obviously, the iPhone is locked, as is de rigueur in the wireless world. It will work only with one carrier, AT&T. [...]

If Apple wanted to be “revolutionary,” it would sell an unlocked version of the iPhone that, like a computer, you could bring to the carrier of your choice. An even more radical device would be the “X Phone”—a phone on permanent roam that chose whatever network was providing the best service. Imagine, for example, using your iPhone to talk on Sprint because it had the best voice coverage in Alaska, while at the same time using Verizon’s 3G network for Internet access. Of course, getting that phone to market would be difficult, and Apple hasn’t tried.

[...] If you’re an optimist, the more intriguing possibility is that Apple’s iPhone is a Trojan Horse. The iPhone is fatally attractive to AT&T, since it gives the firm a chance to steal tens of thousands of new customers from rivals like Verizon. But Apple may be betting that, once it has its customers, they’ll be more loyal to Apple than AT&T. With its foothold in the wireless world, Apple may be planning to slowly but inexorably demand more room. If iPhone 2.0 is a 3G phone that works with any carrier and supports third-party apps, then industry power will begin to move away from the carrier oligopoly and toward Apple and other Silicon Valley firms. Now, that would be a revolution.

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Working the Angles in Distribution [1:17 pm]

Prince gets less-than-royal reception from label in Britainpdf

Sony BMG UK will not handle Prince’s upcoming album release after a national British newspaper struck a deal to give the CD away. Columbia in the United States recently agreed to a worldwide deal, understood to cover the new album, “Planet Earth.” The label ’s UK company had sought, and has now achieved, an exemption from the terms of that deal, a spokesman for Sony BMG tells Billboard.com.

“The Prince album will not be released in the UK ,” the spokesperson says. “It’s a one-off situation.”

The unusual development is a response to a deal the Mail on Sunday is said to have sealed with Prince’s representatives, which will see the 10-track CD distributed as a “covermount” with an unspecified edition of the paper.

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June 29, 2007

EMI Continues To Move [2:06 pm]

On the Web, EMI to Offer More Choices

EMI Music and Snocap are to announce today that Snocap will sell the label’s music in its MyStores, online shops that can be added to various sites on the Internet. Snocap’s MyStores would be placed on the Web sites of EMI artists like Korn, Suzanne Vega and Yellowcard, as well as on artists’ MySpace pages. Fans would also be able to place MyStores “widgets” on their own sites and MySpace pages, although Snocap would still control sales.

“It’s almost like you’re giving the label a vending machine,” Snocap’s chief executive, Rusty Rueff, said. “They can fill it up and people can take it and put it as many places as they want. This allows the artists and the fans to have a chance to engage in commerce on the most popular music sites, like MySpace.”

[...] “My whole mantra has been, you have to make it easy for people to buy music,” said Barney Wragg, the head of EMI’s worldwide digital division. “You don’t have to have one big store which everyone has to come to; you can take this store and put it into pages all over the place.”

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Control: Permitting [1:23 pm]

This feels like a throwback to the introduction of personal photography, but I don’t have the reference materials in my office: City May Seek Permit and Insurance for Many Kinds of Public Photography

New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.

The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.

Julianne Cho, assistant commissioner of the film office, said the rules were not intended to apply to families on vacation or amateur filmmakers or photographers.

Nevertheless, the New York Civil Liberties Union says the proposed rules, as strictly interpreted, could have that effect. The group also warns that the rules set the stage for selective and perhaps discriminatory enforcement by police.

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U.S. Reaches Tentative Deal With Europe on Bank Data - New York Times [1:16 pm]

U.S. Reaches Tentative Deal With Europe on Bank Data

A new agreement between the Bush administration and the European Union will allow the United States government to continue a once secret program to obtain banking records from a Brussels-based consortium for use in counterterrorism investigations, American and European officials said Thursday.

In the deal, announced by the European Union late Wednesday, the Bush administration has agreed to impose new privacy safeguards on the program, which gives the Treasury Department and the Central Intelligence Agency access to one of the global banking system’s most important conduits of international financial records. In one provision of the agreement, the United States has agreed that it will keep the banking data collected under the program for only five years, officials said.

“Only 5 years.” I wonder if anyone has any plans to verify enforcement? For example, I bet there’s some 5 year old data in there now — has it been purged?

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June 27, 2007

Extending the Boundaries of IPR [9:31 pm]

I’m traveling, so not blogging much, but this front page article from today’s NYTimes (albeit, below the fold) cannot go unremarked: Chef Sues Over Intellectual Property the Menu

Sometimes, Rebecca Charles wishes she were a little less influential.

She was, she asserts, the first chef in New York who took lobster rolls, fried clams and other sturdy utility players of New England seafood cookery and lifted them to all-star status on her menu. Since opening Pearl Oyster Bar in the West Village 10 years ago, she has ruefully watched the arrival of a string of restaurants she considers “knockoffs” of her own.

Yesterday she filed suit in Federal District Court in Manhattan against the latest and, she said, the most brazen of her imitators: Ed McFarland, chef and co-owner of Ed’s Lobster Bar in SoHo and her sous-chef at Pearl for six years.

The suit, which seeks unspecified financial damages from Mr. McFarland and the restaurant itself, charges that Ed’s Lobster Bar copies “each and every element” of Pearl Oyster Bar, including the white marble bar, the gray paint on the wainscoting, the chairs and bar stools with their wheat-straw backs, the packets of oyster crackers placed at each table setting and the dressing on the Caesar salad.

Mr. McFarland would not comment on the complaint, saying that he had not seen it yet. [...]

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June 26, 2007

More Payoff For Focusing Its Efforts [2:54 pm]

(see earlier) U.S. judge tells Google to work through Justice

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said Google should take its concerns about Vista to the Justice Department and the states, adding that Google is not a party in this case. The judge said she would hear the governments views on how to deal with the concerns.

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June 25, 2007

Dictating What You *Have* To Log [12:17 pm]

Dangerous Ruling Forces Search Engine to Log Users

The ruling came in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by motion picture studios against TorrentSpy, a popular search engine that indexes materials made publicly available via the Bit Torrent file sharing protocol. TorrentSpy has never logged its visitors’ Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Notwithstanding this explicit privacy policy, a federal magistrate judge has now ordered TorrentSpy to activate logging and turn the logged data over to the studios.

[...] The magistrate judge incorrectly reasoned that, because the IP addresses exist in the Random Access Memory (RAM) of TorrentSpy’s webservers, they are “electronically stored information” that must be collected and turned over to the studios under the rules of federal discovery.

This decision could reach every function carried out by a digital device. [...]

The order is not yet posted (if it ever will be), but here’s a memo of points and authorities in support of the appeal.

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The Other Record Companies [8:45 am]

Look to the local labels for proof of Seattle’s diverse musicpdf

Though much has changed in the music industry since 1987, the definition of an independent (or indie) record label has not. An indie exists without support from any of the four major music distributors: Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI. Often, an indie relies on an outside distributor such as Redeye or NAIL to get its releases into stores.

Some believe the difference between an indie and a major lies in the motivations of the owners. Big labels want money and lots of it. Indies often are headed up by those with a deep passion for music and few aspirations for the champagne and private-jet lifestyle. Owners of indies work long hours, often start out with little or no pay and can expect to use a stack of CDs as a coffee table.

[...] Sullivan is quick to point out the benefit that digital communication has brought as well. With established networking sites such as MySpace and retail outlets such as CD Baby, small labels or independent artists need very little technical skill to reach fans in distant corners of the globe. Amazon.com has a store devoted to indie labels. ITunes also devotes programming space to independent releases.

Digital access helps indies counterbalance the effects of media consolidation. As the four major music companies become increasingly interconnected with traditional means of exposure such as radio and magazines, getting your music heard becomes increasingly difficult.

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More on Video Game Addiction [8:17 am]

(Followup to A New Pathology?) AMA may identify excessive video game play as addiction

Testimony at the AMA annual meeting seemed to favor deferring to the American Psychiatric Assn., which will make the final call as it writes a new edition of a diagnostic manual for mental health professionals.

Sunday’s debate at the AMA centered on whether enough science was available to classify excessive video game playing as an addiction and whether the organization should advocate an outright classification as an addiction or push for limits on game playing such as one to two hours of “total daily screen time.”

[...] Other groups urged the AMA to back down from declaring excessive video game playing an addiction, saying such activity is problematic but more a societal issue than a medical problem.

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Reading the Tea Leaves [8:12 am]

But making a peculiar extrapolation, IMHO: News Corp.’s China moves a worry in U.S.

Fears that Rupert Murdoch would jeopardize the editorial independence of the Wall Street Journal have been a key sticking point in the News Corp. chairman’s proposed $5-billion takeover of the newspaper’s parent, Dow Jones & Co.

Critics cite as the latest example of those dangers Murdoch’s little-noticed introduction in China of his red-hot MySpace Internet property.

[...] Little attention has been paid in the media to MySpace’s recent expansion in China. Already the fifth-most-visited website in the U.S. and a growing force abroad, the dominant social-networking site launched a Chinese version that analysts said goes out of its way to keep users from discussing topics sensitive to the government.

Before the introduction of MySpace China, which carries the slogan “Friend you, friend me,” mainland residents connected to Beverly Hills-based MySpace.com with the same freedom of expression as users anywhere else.

MySpace.cn, the address of the new local service, allows visitors to use Chinese characters but prevents them from blogging about Tibetan religious leader the Dalai Lama, Taiwanese independence and many other subjects. Such phrases and searches for those topics are blocked as “inappropriate,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, a journalist and editor of the Danwei.org blog on Chinese media.

[...] Privately, Murdoch lieutenants portrayed MySpace China’s local ownership as a blessing for News Corp., because the parent will be spared from many of the hard decisions that Google and Yahoo have faced.

In other words, MySpace China can please the government without Murdoch getting much heat from outsiders. Officially, News Corp. licenses the MySpace name and software to MySpace China, and is only a minority investor. A key partner in the project is China Broadband Capital Partners, an investment firm run by former telecom executive Edward Tian.

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June 24, 2007

Gaming the Viral Marketing of a Movie [11:07 pm]

A Spurned Parody of ‘Die Hard’ Returns to YouTube, Approved

The story seems familiar to online video users: fans create a parody video using pirated studio content and post it on YouTube, and the studio’s lawyers quickly have it removed for violating copyright law. But this time the studio’s marketing team relented —and even paid the fans to repost their video.

Last August, a New York-based “comic-rock” group named Guyz Nite created an online video for their song “Die Hard,” a rather worshipful three-minute guide to 20th Century Fox’s action-movie franchise starring Bruce Willis. (The song’s refrain says, “We’re gonna die, die, die as hard as we can!”) The video used clips from the first three “Die Hard” movies, and within days Fox’s legal department requested that the video be removed from YouTube.

But in February, with a fourth “Die Hard” movie on the horizon, Fox’s marketing department contacted the band and offered to pay it to repost the video, using additional video clips to promote the new film, “Live Free or Die Hard,” which opens on Wednesday. The new version of the video has been viewed almost 90,000 times on YouTube; the reposted old version has been viewed almost 100,000 times.

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Solving the © Problem With Closed Networks? [11:04 pm]

Or something more complicated? Hollywood Seeks Ways to Fit Its Content Into the Realm of the iPhone

For years, mobile phone carriers like AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint have closely controlled what cellphone users watch, when they watch it, and on what kind of screen they watch it — much the way the networks did with television before new technologies loosened their grip. Many in Hollywood and Silicon Valley hope the iPhone’s multimedia features will make it easier for any mobile-crazed consumer to do the same things they do on the Web: watch their favorite television shows, download maps, send e-mail messages to friends and swap videos.

In what is the beginning of many attempts to make the cellphone more Web friendly, Apple has designed its own application so consumers can receive YouTube videos through a Wi-Fi network. Industry executives predict that as it becomes easier to get information via Wi-Fi networks, more consumers will bypass traditional wireless networks altogether. That prospect, while helpful for phone makers and media concerns, is frightening for service providers if consumers begin to regard them as irrelevant.

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Second Life and TV Promotion [10:56 pm]

A Brave New World for TV? Virtually

And he is not alone. In the last year broadcast networks, cable channels and television content providers have all set up camp in virtual communities, where they hope that viewers who have forsaken television for computer screens might rediscover their programming online. Some outlets, like Showtime and Sundance, are establishing themselves in existing worlds; others, like MTV, are creating their own. Either way, if the wildest dreams of some very excited technology developers come true, virtual reality might finally be the medium that unites the passive experience of watching television with the interactive potential of the Web.

If that happens, the television industry — which has not been particularly speedy in adapting to the Internet revolution — sees an opportunity not only to recover lost ground from online competitors but also to take a lead, and in so doing create an entirely new environment in which to influence and sell to its audience.

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June 22, 2007

The NYTimes Keeps Trying [11:34 am]

Maybe this will be the breakthrough: The New York TimesReader

Introducing TimesReader
The Digital Newspaper That Reads Like The Real Thing

It synchs when you connect, but is readable offline, and it retains 7 days worth of the paper — an RSS reader idea taken to the logical conclusion. Of course, it’s the NYTimes, so the initial release is Microsoft all the way, but a Mac version is promised….

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Migrating To Online Advertising [10:49 am]

Shaken and Stirred: For Liquor Campaigns, the Web’s the Thing

“Most importantly, we think our target consumer, 25 to 35 years old, is on the Web much more than on TV or in print,” he added.

Few alcoholic beverages are forgoing the traditional media altogether. In some instances, turning up the ad volume online has proved problematic, as Anheuser-Busch discovered with bud.tv, a Web site for Budweiser and Bud Light beers that has fallen far short of expectations since its introduction in February.

And critics of the tactics that marketers use to sell liquor and beer are worried that the Internet makes it easier for consumers under the legal drinking age to be exposed to pitches for alcoholic beverages.

[...] One big advantage of advertising online, Mr. Hartunian said, is a good reading of who is seeing the spot and how they behave before and after they view it.

“You get data — traffic to the site, where the traffic is coming from, the amount of time people spend on the site, which sections of the site they go to — and you can adjust as you go along,” he added.

“Adjust” … hmmm.

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The MacArthur Foundation Enters Second Life [10:45 am]

Foundation With Real Money Ventures Into Virtual World

The goals are to gain insight into how virtual worlds are used by young people, to introduce the foundation to an audience that may have little exposure to institutional philanthropy and to take part in and stimulate discussions about the real-world issues that it seeks to address.

“This is not just some fad or something new and interesting that we’ve grabbed onto,” said Jonathan Fanton, MacArthur’s president. “Serious conversations take place there, people are deeply engaged, and that led us to think that maybe a major foundation ought to have a presence in the virtual world as well.”

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A New Pathology? [7:34 am]

Remember, homosexuality used to be classified by the the APA as a psychiatric disorder: Marathon video game sessions: Is that sick?pdf

The American Medical Assn. is scheduled to debate such a proposal in Chicago on Sunday, then vote on it early next week. Backed by the Maryland State Medical Society, the proposal advocates that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, considered by many psychiatrists to be the final word for assessing mental illness, include video game addiction.

The proposal also would have doctors exhort parents to curb their children’s use of the Internet, television and video games to two hours a day. In addition, it would have the AMA, the influential physician organization with 250,000 members, lobby the Federal Trade Commission to improve the current system for rating video game content.

Getting the AMA to deem video game addiction a psychiatric disorder is the first step in a long process required to create a new mental health diagnosis. The ultimate arbiter is the American Psychiatric Assn., which publishes the authoritative DSM guide on mental disorders, currently in its fourth version. Getting APA approval could take years.

Executives in the $30-billion game industry are already on the defensive. They say the measures are not supported by scientific evidence.

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June 21, 2007

PrerezHilton Having Copyright Problems [9:18 pm]

An indecent entertainment - watching fights among bottom feeders: Perezhilton.com shut for several hourspdf

The gossip columnist, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, is the target of several lawsuits by paparazzi and others who claim he posts their photos and video content on his site without permission.

Celebrity photographers make hundreds of thousands of dollars selling exclusive images to magazines and Web sites each year. The agencies that have sued Lavandeira say he has refused to pay fees to license the photos, claiming he has a right as a journalist to use the images for free.

The Web site routinely posts tabloid photos of celebrities and adds scribbled commentary and rudimentary doodles. Lavandeira defends his actions, saying his commentary constitutes “fair use” and is protected by copyright law.

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Writing the History of the End (updated) [12:15 pm]

The Record Industry’s Declinepdf

So who killed the record industry as we knew it? “The record companies have created this situation themselves,” says Simon Wright, CEO of Virgin Entertainment Group, which operates Virgin Megastores. While there are factors outside of the labels’ control — from the rise of the Internet to the popularity of video games and DVDs — many in the industry see the last seven years as a series of botched opportunities. And among the biggest, they say, was the labels’ failure to address online piracy at the beginning by making peace with the first file-sharing service, Napster. “They left billions and billions of dollars on the table by suing Napster — that was the moment that the labels killed themselves,” says Jeff Kwatinetz, CEO of management company the Firm. “The record business had an unbelievable opportunity there. They were all using the same service. It was as if everybody was listening to the same radio station. Then Napster shut down, and all those 30 or 40 million people went to other [file-sharing services].”

It all could have been different: Seven years ago, the music industry’s top executives gathered for secret talks with Napster CEO Hank Barry. At a July 15th, 2000, meeting, the execs — including the CEO of Universal’s parent company, Edgar Bronfman Jr.; Sony Corp. head Nobuyuki Idei; and Bertelsmann chief Thomas Middelhof — sat in a hotel in Sun Valley, Idaho, with Barry and told him that they wanted to strike licensing deals with Napster. “Mr. Idei started the meeting,” recalls Barry, now a director in the law firm Howard Rice. “He was talking about how Napster was something the customers wanted.”

The idea was to let Napster’s 38 million users keep downloading for a monthly subscription fee — roughly $10 — with revenues split between the service and the labels. But ultimately, despite a public offer of $1 billion from Napster, the companies never reached a settlement. “The record companies needed to jump off a cliff, and they couldn’t bring themselves to jump,” says Hilary Rosen, who was then CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. “A lot of people say, ‘The labels were dinosaurs and idiots, and what was the matter with them?’ But they had retailers telling them, ‘You better not sell anything online cheaper than in a store,’ and they had artists saying, ‘Don’t screw up my Wal-Mart sales.’ ” Adds Jim Guerinot, who manages Nine Inch Nails and Gwen Stefani, “Innovation meant cannibalizing their core business.”

Later: As an indicator of how bad the industry has coped with changing circumstances, the three leading retailers of music in the US are in the business solely as a loss leader for other products they’d rather you bought: Apple now third-largest U.S. music retailer: surveypdf

Later: Rolling Stone’s list of 5 remedies: The Fall of the Record Business: What Next?pdf

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