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June 21, 2007

Emergent Applications: YouTube [12:08 pm]

Putting on Lip Gloss, and a Show, for YouTube Viewers

MANY women slap on their makeup in front of the mirror before they dash out the door: a quick coat of foundation, a dusting of blush, a brush of eye shadow, a twirl of the mascara wand and a quick smear of lip gloss. The beauty ritual hardly varies, and audiences generally aren’t invited.

Amy Powell applies her makeup in front of her computer, a Mac she named Ruby, with a built-in camera recording every brushstroke and dab. Then Ms. Powell, 19, from Myrtle Beach, S.C., uploads the video to YouTube for the world to see.

[...] In a show-it-all-off age where reality television programs about makeovers are ubiquitous and Web sites like YouTube have made nearly every activity worth sharing, grooming and primping routines are no longer kept behind bathroom doors.

[...] In the last six months, said Julie Supan, a spokeswoman for YouTube, there has been a “huge shift towards being more than entertainment and focusing on how-tos.

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June 20, 2007

Sony Schizophrenia Progress Watch: 2007 June 20 [8:00 pm]

Sony Cutting Jobs at Online Music Store

Internet music retailer Sony Connect Inc. is eliminating some positions as part of a restructuring plan to shift resources to other online services, but it intends to continue operating, the company said Tuesday.

The company denied a report that suggested the job cuts are a prelude to shutting down its music service in a matter of weeks.

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Felten on Warshak v US [4:22 pm]

Email Protected by 4th Amendment, Court Says

The key to the Court’s ruling is an analogy, offered by the amici, between email and phone calls. The phone company has the ability to listen to your calls, but courts ruled long ago that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in the content of phone calls, so that the government cannot eavesdrop on the content of calls without a warrant. The Court accepted that email is like a phone call, for privacy purposes at least, and the ruling essentially followed from this analogy.

This is not a general ruling that warrants are required to access electronic records held by third parties. The Court’s reasoning depended on the particular attributes of email, and even on the way these particular ISPs handled email. If the ISP’s employees regularly looked at customer email in the ordinary course of business, or if there was a written agreement giving the ISP broad latitude to look at email, the Court might have found differently. Warshak had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his email, but you might not.

The opinion: Warshak v USA. It is useful to note, for those of us who are concerned about privacy, that while the court seems to have made a certain leap by asserting that email is somewhat like phone calls, it still relies upon the notion that the programs that scan email (or other digital content) are not really intruding upon privacy — probably assuming that they are not yet sophisticated to do anything more than flag emails for human examination. In light of the government’s warrentless surveillance programs, this may be a poor assumption:

The government also insists that ISPs regularly screen users’ e-mails for viruses, spam, and child pornography. Even assuming that this is true, however, such a process does not waive an expectation of privacy in the content of e-mails sent through the ISP, for the same reasons that the terms of service are insufficient to waive privacy expectations. The government states that ISPs “are developing technology that will enable them to scan user images” for child pornography and viruses. The government’s statement that this process involves “technology,” rather than manual, human review, suggests that it involves a computer searching for particular terms, types of images, or similar indicia of wrongdoing that would not disclose the content of the e-mail to any person at the ISP or elsewhere, aside from the recipient. But the reasonable expectation of privacy of an e-mail user goes to the content of the e-mail message. The fact that a computer scans millions of e-mails for signs of pornography or a virus does not invade an individual’s content-based privacy interest in the e-mails and has little bearing on his expectation of privacy in the content. In fact, these screening processes are analogous to the post office screening packages for evidence of drugs or explosives, which does not expose the content of written documents enclosed in the packages. The fact that such screening occurs as a general matter does not diminish the well-established reasonable expectation of privacy that users of the mail maintain in the packages they send.

The EFF’s Archive

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More on Google’s Public Policy Push [8:20 am]

Learning From Microsoft’s Error, Google Builds a Lobbying Enginepdf

When it comes to lobbying, Google does not intend to repeat the mistake that its rival Microsoft made a decade ago.

[...] Google credits Microsoft’s missteps in the 1990s with helping it see the wisdom of setting up shop in Washington in a big way and using the many tools available in the capital, such as lobbying and lawyering, to get its way on major policy matters.

“The entire tech industry has learned from Microsoft,” said Alan B. Davidson, head of Google’s Washington office. “Washington and its policy debates are important. We can’t ignore them.”

Two years ago, Google was on the verge of making that Microsoft-like error. Davidson, then a 37-year-old former deputy director of the Center for Democracy & Technology, was the search-engine company’s sole staff lobbyist in Washington. As recently as last year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin had trouble getting meetings with members of Congress.

To change that, Google went on a hiring spree and now has 12 lobbyists and lobbying-related professionals on staff here — more than double the size of the standard corporate lobbying office — and is continuing to add people.

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*Shock* — Ceding Control Leads To Profits? [7:48 am]

Giving the customer a value proposition? Who’d a thunk it! Embracing Change, TV Networks Find Stronger Demand for Ads

The willingness of the big broadcast television networks to embrace change — by making it easier to watch shows online and by adopting new types of ratings — is contributing to stronger demand for commercial time ahead of the fall season.

[...] “The reality of the consumer marketplace is that people are watching television differently, and everyone has to face that fact,” said Tim Spengler, chief activation officer at Initiative in New York, a leading media agency owned by the Interpublic Group of Companies.

Major advertisers are signaling that they are willing to accept rate increases for commercials to be broadcast during the 2007-8 season, which begins in September. As a result, the total amount of money they are agreeing to spend in the upfront market may grow for the first time in three years.

For example, PBS’s ‘Exposé’ Is to Appear Online Before Being Broadcast

Executives at WNET, which produces the series in association with the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, Calif., said they were not concerned that the online audience would cannibalize on-air viewing more than incrementally.

“So far the limited amount of research tells us that won’t happen,” said Stephen Segaller, WNET’s director of news and public affairs programming, and the executive in charge of “Exposé.”

[...] While some series, like “Frontline,” have put all their content online, public television has been slow to move to online streaming because of budget constraints and complicated ownership and rights issues. But starting in July, WNET also plans to make its newsmagazine “Wide Angle” available online for the first time, concurrent with the broadcast schedule.

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Oh, What A Tangled Web [7:45 am]

Playing games with pharmaceutical patents: Court Upholds Plavix Patent

The ruling, while an important development for the brand-name manufacturers, was bittersweet. Bristol-Myers and Sanofi-Aventis, which is based in Paris, had been so intent on settling the patent litigation with Apotex before trial last year that they negotiated away the right to collect the triple damages that are generally allowed when companies violate patents held by competitors.

[...] The judge’s ruling yesterday closed another chapter in an unusual story that began in the summer of 2006 when federal agents searched Bristol-Myers’s headquarters in Manhattan. The search followed accusations that the companies had entered into a secret side deal to thwart a regulatory review of the proposed patent settlement.

Under an unrelated consent decree, Bristol-Myers had been bound to disclose the details of any such patent settlement deals to the Federal Trade Commission. Last week, it pleaded guilty to making false statements in connection with the attempted Plavix settlement, and agreed to pay a fine of $1 million.

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A Modest Proposal [7:42 am]

Or a radical rethinking of the business model — should Yahoo! outsource its search function to Google? After Shake-Up, What Now for Yahoo?

Short of a merger or an outright sale, few moves would seem more drastic than outsourcing the search business to Google and reassigning its people and dollars to projects like reinvigorating the Yahoo portal, buying hot start-ups and taking other initiatives that would differentiate Yahoo from the Internet search leader.

As radical as these ideas may seem, they have been contemplated by people in and outside Yahoo for a long time. And although Yahoo said it had no plans to get out of the Internet search business, the idea has again become fodder for debate.

[...] Competing with Google in search is costly, and there are no guarantees that Yahoo will ever match Google’s ever-improving algorithms.

Even it if it succeeds in narrowing the gap somewhat, Yahoo could make more money by simply outsourcing search to Google.

[...] A Yahoo executive who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity said that ceding the search business to Google was not an option being considered now.

But that could change, the executive said, adding: “The Panama effort is actually really working. The question is whether the slope of the improvement is such that we’ll catch up, or get close enough. My guess is that the executive team is going to give it six or nine months and see if we are there, and if not, they’ll ask the question again.”

Another possibility: Murdoch Talking With Yahoo About Swap for MySpacepdf

News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch has been discussing a deal to swap his MySpace social-networking site with Yahoo for a one-quarter stake in the Internet-portal company, even as he pursues his $5 billion offer for Dow Jones.

The talks with Yahoo are preliminary and began before chief executive Terry S. Semel resigned Monday, said a source familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussion is ongoing. It is unclear whether the talks will move forward under Semel’s successor, Jerry Yang.

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June 19, 2007

Surprise!?! [10:08 pm]

A followup in contradiction to the NYTimes article on Microsoft’s increased influence in DC (cited in earlier entry Plus Ça Change): Microsoft Will Alter Vista Operating System

Microsoft has agreed to make changes to its Windows Vista operating system in response to a complaint by Google that a feature of Vista is anticompetitive, lawyers involved in the case said on Tuesday.

The settlement, reached in recent days by state prosecutors, the Justice Department and Microsoft, averted the prospect of litigation over a complaint by Google that Vista had been designed to frustrate computer users who want to use software other than Microsoft’s to search through files on their hard drives.

Google had made its complaint confidentially as part of the consent decree proceedings set up to monitor Microsoft for any anticompetitive conduct after it settled a landmark antitrust lawsuit five years ago that had been brought by the states and the Clinton administration.

Of course, never hatchet your Counts before they’ve chickened!

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Role of Music Professionals [7:19 am]

Another datapoint for the “Culture of the Amateur” argument? Or just a reflection of what it is to come to the industry from “American Idol?” Kelly Clarkson stuck to her guns for her new album. She may have misfiredpdf

Kelly Clarkson’s current career meltdown is a study in the tricky politics of the music business. On one side of the aisle: a young singing star who wants to take the artistic reins from her seasoned handler. On the other side: the seasoned handler, Sony BMG chief Clive Davis , who wants his cash cow to keep cranking out the hits. The knee-jerk response: damn the suit, who values profit over art and would keep a budding songstress down in order to keep his revenue stream flowing.

But it’s more complicated than that.

[...] So, what if the handler is right? Much as we love to demonize the executives as the root of all evil — corporate henchmen who rip off the talent and the fans — some of them are real music people. Davis is one of them. A 40-year industry veteran, he’s guided of some of music’s premier artists: Janis Joplin, Santana, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Patti Smith, Whitney Houston, and Alicia Keys. Clarkson’s first two albums were models of mainstream pop-rock — driving and youthful but also catchy and accessible. Both were executive-produced by Davis.

Quality artistry and big sales aren’t mutually exclusive; look no further than Clarkson’s career so far, and Davis’s track record, for proof. But Clarkson’s priorities have shifted. Writing this album on the heels of a rough spell in her life that included a painful breakup, it wasn’t songs or sales she was concerned with, but self-expression.

[...] Clarkson is releasing the album she wanted, and deserved, to make. It may or may not be a hit. I’m a Kelly Clarkson fan; I’ve listened to four of her new songs online and don’t love any of them. The most depressing part of all this isn’t witnessing the proverbial collision of Art and Commerce. It’s admitting — after cheering her declaration of autonomy and defending her right to self-expression — that Clarkson may be better at singing songs than writing them. And that sometimes the pop machine works exactly the way it’s supposed to.

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June 18, 2007

Right of Publicity [5:50 pm]

She’ll probably win, too: Britney Ballistic Over Billboards

Britney Spears is threatening legal action against a Florida radio station that used a bald-headed photo of the pop star on billboards that appear to call her sanity into question. In a June 14 letter to Clear Channel Communications lawyer Donna Schneider, Spears’s counsel claims that the billboards promoting the MJ Morning Show were “outrageous to the extreme” and demanded their removal. A copy of the Spears legal letter can be found below. The three outdoor advertisements, which are reproduced at right, pair a paparazzi photo of a bald, snarling Spears with a picture of WFLZ morning show host Todd Schnitt (who uses the air name MJ Kelli). They are headlined, “Total Nut Jobs,” “Shock Therapy,” and “Certifiable.”

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O…M…G…! [9:39 am]

Will people think about this for even a second? Ancestry.com adding DNA test resultspdf

For less than $200 and a cheek-swiped cotton swab, amateur historians will soon be able to add DNA results to family tree Web sites.

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Airplay, Promotion and Royalties [9:29 am]

But you can always ask for more: Journey’s Song Gets a Bump From TV Once Again

“The Sopranos” is over, but the last song featured on the show, “Don’t Stop Believin’, ” which the band Journey released in 1981, keeps going as its lyrics say, “on and on and on and on.”

According to Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, downloads of the song from iTunes went from about 1,000 on the day before the episode to 6,531 the day after. For the week, the song climbed to No. 17 in popularity on iTunes, while the band’s “Greatest Hits” also cracked the Top 20.

On the radio, airplay of “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” increased 192 percent Monday through Thursday over the first four days of the previous week, according to Nielsen BDS, which tracks airplay.

It was not the first time the band had television to thank for a royalties windfall.

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An FCC “Decency” Fallout? [9:19 am]

Or an indication of the mindset (or, worse, agenda) of certain television networks? Pigs With Cellphones, but No Condoms

IN a commercial for Trojan condoms that has its premiere tonight, women in a bar are surrounded by anthropomorphized, cellphone-toting pigs. One shuffles to the men’s room, where, after procuring a condom from a vending machine, he is transformed into a head-turner in his 20s. When he returns to the bar, a fetching blond who had been indifferent now smiles at him invitingly.

Directed by Phil Joanou (“State of Grace”), with special effects by the Stan Winston Studio (“Jurassic Park”), the commercial is entertaining. But it also has a message, spelled out at the end: “Evolve. Use a condom every time.”

[...] But the pigs did not fly at two of the four networks where Trojan tried to place the ad.

Fox and CBS both rejected the commercial. Both had accepted Trojan’s previous campaign, which urged condom use because of the possibility that a partner might be H.I.V.-positive, perhaps unknowingly. A 2001 report about condom advertising by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that, “Some networks draw a strong line between messages about disease prevention — which may be allowed — and those about pregnancy prevention, which may be considered controversial for religious and moral reasons.”

Representatives for both Fox and CBS confirmed that they had refused the ads, but declined to comment further.

In a written response to Trojan, though, Fox said that it had rejected the spot because, “Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy.”

[...] “We always find it funny that you can use sex to sell jewelry and cars, but you can’t use sex to sell condoms,” said Carol Carrozza, vice president of marketing for Ansell Healthcare, which makes LifeStyles condoms. “When you’re marketing condoms, something even remotely suggestive gets an overly analytical eye when it’s going before networks’ review boards.”

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‘Sicko’ Gets to YouTube Before US Theatrical Release [9:10 am]

Pirated `Sicko’ Turns Up on the Internetpdf

Viewers hoping to get a free look at Michael Moore’s newest film, ”Sicko,” were out of luck Monday after YouTube pulled links to pirated versions of the health care documentary that surfaced on the video-sharing Web site over the weekend.

YouTube cited a copyright claim by Lionsgate, which is distributing the $9 million documentary with Weinstein Co.

A 124-minute version of the film had been posted on YouTube by at least two users. It could be watched in 14 video clips. Each segment had received 500 to 600 views before it was removed.

Weinstein Co. was ”responding aggressively to protect our film,” spokeswoman Sarah Rothman said in a statement this weekend.

A later Reuters piece: pdf

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Cute Father’s Day Story — And A Look At Making, Rather Than Playing, Music [8:59 am]

The Boys in the Band Are in AARP

Joe Lamond, the chief executive of NAMM, started the program when he was working in a music store in Sacramento and began noticing a change in the store’s clientele. “I started seeing customers coming in who you’d think would have been shopping for their kids,” he said. “But they were shopping for themselves.”

Mr. Lamond said the program has burgeoned in recent years, as the rock ’n’ rollers of the ’60s and ’70s become empty nesters with time and disposable income on their hands.

Nostalgia provides the backbeat for this movement. “The music we carry through our lifetimes is music we listen to in our late teens and early 20s, because it was such an emotional time,” Mr. Lamond said. “That music is literally locked into your system — your brain, your body, your emotions.”

For those now in their 50s wanting to turn back the clock, that means playing “Brown Eyed Girl” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” And “Mustang Sally,” in the key of C.

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Another Shot in the Next-Gen DVD Standards War [8:49 am]

Blockbuster Says It Will Back Blu-ray in DVD Format War

The move, which is to be announced Monday, could be the first step in resolving a format war that has kept confused consumers from rushing to buy new DVD players.

Blockbuster has been renting both Blu-ray and HD DVD titles in 250 stores since late last year, and found that consumers were choosing Blu-ray titles more than 70 percent of the time.

“The consumers are sending us a message. I can’t ignore what I’m seeing,” Matthew Smith, senior vice president of merchandising at Blockbuster, said.

Later: Blockbuster to expand its Blu-ray DVD offeringspdf

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Heating Up The Rhetoric About The Upcoming Spectrum Auction (updated) [8:11 am]

Sides press for advantage in airwaves auctionpdf

With a slice of radio spectrum valued as high as $20 billion coming up for auction, academics, consumer advocates, and small businesses are pushing federal regulators to set rules that ensure that the space is used to foster innovation and not simply sold to the major wireless carriers.

“What we’re really looking at is the building blocks of a new broadband service, with all sorts of new equipment and all sorts of new services,” said Art Brodsky , communications director for Public Knowl edge, part of a coalition of consumer groups pressuring the Federal Communications Commission to use the auction to create new competition. “An opportunity like this won’t come around again any time soon in the wireless area.”

[...] Despite the competition in the wireless world, some draw an analogy between today’s wireless world and the telephone industry of the 1950s, when consumers leased their phones from the phone company. In the landmark 1968 “Carterfone” decision, the FCC ruled that AT&T could not restrict which devices could be hooked up to the network, making way for innovations such as answering machines, fax machines, and modems.

“Nobody predicted any of that,” said Vanu Bose, chief executive of Vanu Inc. in Cambridge and a partner in Frontline, which has proposed building an open network for public safety and commercial use. “In many ways what we’re advocating for is Carterfone for wireless.”

See earlier posts: Revising the FCC Spectrum Auction (updated) and Followup: Google Spectrum Plan Panned

Related: Google launches public policy blog — the blog — Google Public Policy Blog, which has its own post on the subject of the auctions — Using Auctions to Make Better Use of Spectrum

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Wikis and Utah Politics [8:04 am]

Wiki politics cedes power to the peoplepdf

Steve Urquhart, a local lawyer and state legislator, launched wiki-based Politicopia.com in January hoping to create a virtual town square where Utahans could debate issues coming before the Legislature.

Debate they did, creating an online forum between elected officials and their constituents that ultimately changed state policy.

“The language can be incendiary, but [the details] are in black and white for policymakers like me,” said Republican state Rep. Keith Grover, who credits debate on the site for persuading him to vote for a controversial school voucher program — which passed by one vote. “People have salient points, points that are founded in facts, not emotions.”

Although the experiment was limited — the issues were local in a lightly populated state — experts say Politicopia is among the first websites to deliver on the Internet’s potential to amplify individual voices and counter the political power of special-interest groups.

The potential effect for broader political discourse has stirred excitement among advocates who believe the Internet can be used to increase citizen participation in politics.

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LATimes on OhMyNews [7:59 am]

Citizens are the media in S. Koreapdf

Kim is a writer for OhmyNews, a free online news service that has been held out by some as the future of journalism. Amateur reporters across South Korea submit some 200 news and feature articles a day, which are fact-checked and edited by a professional staff of about 65 at its newsroom in Seoul.

Although traditional newspapers and magazines around the world are cutting jobs amid declining circulation and a shift toward the Internet, OhmyNews continues to recruit. It currently has a reporting corps of 50,000. The company’s motto, posted outside its crammed office in central Seoul, is a big help-wanted sign: “Every citizen can be a reporter.”

The experiment has been lauded by the Economist and other publications. OhmyNews’ founder and chief executive, Oh Yeon-ho, a onetime writer for a dissident magazine, has traveled the globe extolling the virtues of “participatory citizens’ journalism” and offering a new business model for a struggling industry. “I find some universal applicability in the OhmyNews model,” says the wiry 42-year-old.

But as the news service has matured, a bit of the sheen has worn off. The headline on OhmyNews’ story could be “Business Is Depressed, Readership Is Down and Backers Are Worried.”

Also, you can listen to the leading naysayer from his NPR interview: Does the Internet Undermine Culture? — an interview with Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture

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What It Really Means To “Live Online” [7:40 am]

Googles breakneck changes stoke privacy fearspdf

As people spend more time online and realize just how much information Google is collecting about their habits and interests, the fear develops that true or false revelations of the most personal, embarrassing or even intrusive kind are no more than a Web search away.

The company mission statement reads: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” and, famously, “You can make money without doing evil.”

With Google search a fact of life, some suggest our notions of privacy need to move with the times.

See also Is It OK that Google Owns Us?

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