Tim Wu Pounds the iPhone Hype: “Revolutionary”

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.

Working the Angles in Distribution

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.

EMI Continues To Move

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.”

Control: Permitting

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.

U.S. Reaches Tentative Deal With Europe on Bank Data – New York Times

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?

Extending the Boundaries of IPR

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. […]

Dictating What You *Have* To Log

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.

The Other Record Companies

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.

More on Video Game Addiction

(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.