June 4, 2007

Co-opting the Book Publishers? [9:33 pm]

Google Offers Book Search to Publishers [via TechDirt]

Google is making its controversial engine available to publishers interested in putting it on their Web sites.

This is the first time Google’s Book Search service has been available outside of its main site in the Google.com domain.

This co-branded search program benefits Google because the search engine will now be available more broadly. Meanwhile, publishers benefit by offering an additional search service to their Web site visitors.

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Doggie Threats [8:16 pm]

The continuing saga of Lucky and Flo: DVD-sniffing canines warned to beware of dangerous dogs in Malaysiapdf

The tactic surfaced after movie pirates apparently learned that Lucky and Flo - the world’s first dogs known to be trained to sniff out a chemical used in disc production - have not been taught to defend themselves against more aggressive canines, Iskandar said.

Instead of dangerous dogs, the officers discovered 2,000 pirated DVDs in a locked metal container at the back of an outlet, Iskandar said. Lucky and Flo helped make the discovery after enforcement officers confirmed there were no dogs there to threaten them.

They only bought a sign? As criminals go, the Malay pirates don’t really seem to be living up to their reputations!

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Indecency Decision (updated) [7:00 pm]

F.C.C. Rebuffed by Court on Indecency Fines

If President Bush and Vice President Cheney can use vulgar language, then the government cannot punish others for doing the same thing on television.

That, in essence, was the decision today when a federal appeals court struck down the government policy of fining stations and networks that broadcast programs with profanity.

[...] [I]n striking down the commission’s interpretation, the appeals court noted that “in recent times even the top leaders of our government has used variants of these expletives in a manner that no reasonable person would believe referenced sexual or excretory organs or activities.”

You can search for the decision (06-1760 Fox v. FCC) here (local copy)

Fox Television Stations, Inc. (“Fox”) petitions for review of the November 6, 2006, order of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issuing notices of apparent liability against two Fox broadcasts for violating the FCC’s indecency regime. We find that the FCC’s new policy sanctioning “fleeting expletives” is arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act for failing to articulate a reasoned basis for its change in policy. Accordingly, the petition for review is GRANTED, the order of the FCC is VACATED, and the matter is REMANDED to the agency for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Judge Leval dissents in a separate opinion.

Gotta love the APA!

Later: The LATimes’ article, FCC efforts on indecency dealt setback (pdf), suggests that there are those who fail to appreciate the history of APA-based decisions, IMHO — as an important effort to redress the imbalances in power that arise from the delegation of powers to the regulatory agencies by one of the traditional branches of the government, a failure to convince the courts that the agency can demonstrate a legitimate basis for action is pretty damning — once characterized as “arbitrary and capricious,” it’s really up to the agency to fix the regulations and their basis, rather than trying to chase appeals, as FCC chair Martin and Senator Inouye call for in the article.

Also, the WaPo article: Broadcasters Win Appeal Of FCC’s Profanity Rulingpdf

Later: A %$#@ slippery slope on raw talk? - pdf

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Profiling Online [11:31 am]

The rhetoric is interesting, particularly on Slashdot, where the community seems to be arguing that there are worse things to worry about than this: Group rips Microsoft over Internet user profiling research [via Slashdot, discussing Demographic Prediction Based on User’s Browsing Behavior]

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders objected not only to the research, but also to where it was conducted. “The technologies Microsoft is working on would allow it to gather information about Internet users without their knowledge,” the group said in a statement. “These technologies could eventually lead to the creation of programs that could identify ’subversive’ citizens. We believe it is unacceptable to carry out this kind of sensitive research in a country such as China where 50 people are currently in prison because of what they posted online.”

American companies such as Yahoo Inc., Google, Inc., and Microsoft gather “fantastic” amounts of data about their Web visitors, Reporters Without Borders said, but “this kind of data accumulation obviously poses even more ethical problems in a country such as China which has absolutely no respect for the private lives of Internet users.”

Microsoft’s researchers said they would expand their work to other demographic attributes, such as occupation, educational degree and geographic location, which has Reporters Without Borders even more worried.

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Framing an Exception [11:12 am]

Interesting how this always seems to be a Pennsylvania thing: MySpace to seek court help to release predator e-mailspdf

News Corp’s MySpace filed a request on Monday in a Pennsylvania state court to seek guidance on how it can legally provide local authorities with the private e-mails of convicted sex offenders who had lurked on its service.

A federal law prevents Internet service providers such as MySpace from turning over a user’s electronic communications without a search warrant. But obtaining search warrants is difficult for offenders not currently under investigation.

[...] “We got the court order from Pennsylvania Attorney General Corbett, which we can’t comply with,” MySpace general counsel Mike Angus said in a phone interview.

The resolution is seen as a test case for how local U.S. authorities and MySpace can cooperate in sharing information without violating federal law.

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Moving Down (Up?) The Value Chain [10:54 am]

Print publishers reacting to a changing distribution and advertising market — what to try when Google is getting all the ad dollars: Publishers Creating Their Own In-House Ad Agencies

Like executives at advertising agencies, Richard D. Beckman and his team talk to managers at consumer brand companies about the customers they want to reach. Four to six weeks later, they present a marketing and advertising plan.

But Mr. Beckman does not run an advertising agency. He is the president of the Condé Nast Media Group, a division of the magazine company that publishes titles like Vogue, Wired and The New Yorker. Over the last five years, Mr. Beckman has developed an agencylike business within Condé Nast’s ad sales unit, generating new revenue by planning events for advertisers and creating advertisements that help sell more magazine pages.

[...] Mr. Beckman’s unit also has the ability to approach celebrities who would do not often work directly with advertisers. For example, Condé Nast arranged for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to appear in an ad for Lexus that also showcased the Waterkeeper Alliance, a water protection group that Mr. Kennedy heads.

However, there’s a troubling perspective at the heart of this:

Hearst also has a division that does creative work for its largest clients, in formats that include print, online, video, mobile and outdoor. Hearst has modeled its marketing division after an ad agency, said Jeff Hamill, senior vice president of Hearst Integrated Media, complete with a sales staff that serves as account directors, creative teams and researchers.

Mr. Hamill said that agencies that buy ads are often involved in the process, but agencies that create ads are not, since Hearst can do that work.

[...] The rate structure means that Condé Nast can often beat ad agencies on price, Mr. Beckman said.

“We don’t have to make money from our creative, because we make money from our media,” he said.

Some advertisers think that’s the way it should be. [...]

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(Re)Packaging Music Content [10:44 am]

Tiny Bit of Hardware With Marley Software

For the 30th anniversary of “Exodus,” which Time magazine called the best album of the 20th Century, Island Records, a subsidiary of the Universal Music Group, produced 4,000 of the gizmos, which are loaded not only with the original 10 songs but also with additional tracks and concert video footage of Marley, who died in 1981. The memory sticks, which plug in to a computer’s U.S.B. ports, will be priced at $44.99.

The high price reflects not only the extra content on the memory stick, but also the fact that the stick itself can be reused for other purposes. U.S.B. flash drives are generally sold empty, for the purpose of transferring data from one computer to another, but with the Bob Marley U.S.B. stick — as with others that store music — the entertainment can be downloaded to a computer and the device wiped clean.

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The BookExpo Buzz on Publishing Business Models [10:40 am]

Waxing Philosophical, Booksellers Face the Digital

The idea that technology could enlarge, rather than replace, existing sales intrigued David Shanks, chief executive of Penguin Group (USA). “There are millions of gadgets out there where we could sell a lot of product digitally,” said Mr. Shanks, before turning his attention to the keynote address by Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, who appeared with his wife, the NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, to promote Mr. Greenspan’s forthcoming memoir, “The Age of Turbulence.” (Penguin is hoping to sell a lot of copies of the book — in whatever form — to recover the $8.5 million advance it is paying Mr. Greenspan.)

Other uses of technology provoked unease. At a dinner party given by Alfred A. Knopf for some of its authors, Vivien Jennings, president of Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan., railed against authors who link from their Web pages to Amazon.com or even sell autographed copies of their books directly to consumers. “We host a lot of book signings,” Ms. Jennings said. Authors who sell their own books “are particularly hurtful to us.”

Tina Brown, the former editor of both The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, who appeared at a lunch at the Modern to promote “The Diana Chronicles,” Ms. Brown’s book about Diana, Princess of Wales, was more concerned about the possibility that authors’ work could be offered free online.

See also A Way to Give Authors a Lucrative Second Platform

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Identity, Defined Online In Absentia [8:02 am]

What to do with a “right to publicity” when all you want to do is be anonymous? Teen Tests Internet’s Lewd Track Recordpdf

In her high school track and field career, Stokke had won a 2004 California state pole vaulting title, broken five national records and earned a scholarship to the University of California, yet only track devotees had noticed. Then, in early May, she received e-mails from friends who warned that a year-old picture of Stokke idly adjusting her hair at a track meet in New York had been plastered across the Internet. She had more than 1,000 new messages on her MySpace page. A three-minute video of Stokke standing against a wall and analyzing her performance at another meet had been posted on YouTube and viewed 150,000 times.

“I just want to find some way to get this all under control,” Stokke told her coach.

Three weeks later, Stokke has decided that control is essentially beyond her grasp. Instead, she said, she has learned a distressing lesson in the unruly momentum of the Internet. [...]

From her computer at home, Stokke tracked the spread of her image with dismay and disbelief. She had dealt with this once before, when a track fan posted a lewd comment and a picture of her on a message board two years earlier. Stokke had contacted the poster through e-mail and, a few days later, the image had disappeared. But what could she do now, when a search for her name in Yahoo! revealed almost 310,000 hits? “It’s not like I could e-mail everybody on the Internet,” Stokke said.

[...] Stokke read on message boards that dozens of anonymous strangers had turned her picture into the background image on their computers. She felt violated. It was like becoming the victim of a crime, Stokke said. Her body had been stolen and turned into a public commodity, critiqued in fan forums devoted to everything from hip-hop to Hollywood.

[...] “All of it is like locker room talk,” said Cindy Stokke, Allison’s mom. “This kind of stuff has been going on for years. But now, locker room talk is just out there in the public. And all of us can read it, even her mother.”

[...] “Even if none of it is illegal, it just all feels really demeaning,” Allison Stokke said. “I worked so hard for pole vaulting and all this other stuff, and it’s almost like that doesn’t matter. Nobody sees that. Nobody really sees me.”

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Updating “A Rape In Cyberspace” [7:47 am]

Julian Dibbell’s article gets an updated context, and a set of policy questions: Does Virtual Reality Need a Sheriff?pdf

Earlier this year, one animated character in Second Life, a popular online fantasy world, allegedly raped another character.

Some Internet bloggers dismissed the simulated attack as nothing more than digital fiction. But police in Belgium, according to newspapers there, opened an investigation into whether a crime had been committed. No one has yet been charged.

Then last month, authorities in Germany announced that they were looking into a separate incident involving virtual abuse in Second Life after receiving pictures of an animated child character engaging in simulated sex with an animated adult figure. Though both characters were created by adults, the activity could run afoul of German laws against child pornography, prosecutors said.

As recent advances in Internet technology have spurred millions of users to build and explore new digital worlds, the creations have imported not only their users’ dreams but also their vices. These alternative realms are testing the long-held notions of what is criminal and whether law enforcement should patrol the digital frontier.

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