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July 23, 2007

Guerilla Movie Distribution [7:44 am]

Not what you think: Rebel movies, with a causepdf

At Guerilla Drive-In screenings, you don’t shell out $12 for tickets or stretch out in stadium seats. Instead, you join a hundred or more cinema fans draped in blankets and hunkered down amid the weeds, watching films projected onto random walls.

Guerilla Drive-in has been a semi-underground summer diversion in Santa Cruz since 2002.

If you’re a believer, you grab a beach chair and a sweat shirt every other Friday night for free screenings of DVDs outdoors, enveloped by the chilly Santa Cruz fog.

[...] Being Santa Cruz, it also has a political flavor that’s half zany and half in-your-face.

“It’s about getting people together to do something very deliberately outside the realm of commerce,” said artist Rico Thunder, a creator of “industrial whimsy” who is a driving force behind Guerilla Drive-In. “It’s about reclaiming public space.”

[...] On this Friday night, though, the chosen locale for “The Matrix” was beneath the Soquel Avenue bridge spanning the San Lorenzo River — a spot where police shut down a showing of “The Third Man” a couple of years ago because parkland was being used after hours. Both financially and philosophically, Guerilla Drive-In is opposed to acquiring the permits it would need for the use of public property after dark.

Original LATimes piece: Movies, with a bit of makeshift magicpdf

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July 22, 2007

OT: When the Law Is Entertainment [4:54 pm]

Riding the stormy sea of celebrity lawpdf

While it’s unclear how the case will end, Birkhead’s allegations have the potential to seriously dent Opri’s once-promising career as the next Greta Van Susteren or Nancy Grace, one of those tough-talking, camera-ready legal eagles on call to opine about the day’s courthouse skirmish. To journalist and author Diane Dimond, who first noticed Opri at the second Michael Jackson trial, Opri was at the vanguard of a “disturbing trend of attorneys that began to show up at high-profile trials like Scott Peterson, Robert Blake and Michael Jackson.” Lawyers, Dimond explains, who essentially show up for the cameras to “get face time.” With law and celebrity increasingly intertwined in a tabloid and 24-hour-news-dominated culture, the matter of Birkhead vs. Opri is more than just a nasty spat. It’s also a revealing excursion into a high-stakes world where punditry and legal representation can collide and where six-figure deals between newsmakers and the media are part of the game.

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A Crime? [4:42 pm]

While I agree that the LATimes has every right to publish any sort of review that they want, I find their choice of counterpoint somewhat strained: Embargoes on ‘Harry Potter’ boil down to moneypdf

Here it’s necessary to distinguish between the newspaper critics and the cyber crooks, who may have posted sections of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” on the Web. That’s theft, and if we don’t protect the intellectual property of even fabulously wealthy creative people like Rowling, they’ll have less and less incentive to produce the things that entertain and delight us. Her publishers are right to go after these looters with laptops with every lawyer they hire.

Embargoes on reviews and discussions are another matter. All the outrage surrounding this particular book notwithstanding, contemporary publishers impose these blackouts not in the interest of readers but to protect the carefully planned publicity campaigns they create for books on which they have advanced large sums of money.

This is the economic imperative that leads publishers to withhold the contents of even nonfiction manuscripts that contain news that the public has a vital interest in knowing. It’s also why newspapers, including this one, routinely break those embargoes without any pang of conscience.

Our first and most compelling obligation is to our readers’ right to know and not to the commercial interests of publishers.

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Technology, Music and Geography [12:45 pm]

In the Band but Out of State. Or the Countrypdf

Hannah and his session mates are using the test version of a service called eJamming that aims to bring the musicians of the world together into online music rooms. Thanks to the Internet, you’ll never have to be late to band practice again.

Users of the eJamming software can chat in the service’s “lobby” via text messages, then start private chats or fire up a jam session. A session’s creator has control over how many places or “seats” are available — up to four musicians — and can invite in or kick out people at will. The players can talk to and hear each other using microphones hooked up at their computers. Sometimes eJamming throws events, such as last week’s karaoke night, in a community-building effort.

[...] I’m in that market, as it happens, and tried the service last week with high hopes — and no success. [...]

[...] This isn’t the only company trying to match musicians and keep them connected, though it may be the most ambitious. While eJamming tries to bring musicians together in a real-time environment, a few other new sites have been developed to let musicians trade music files and build on each other’s creations one piece at a time: You post a bass line, for example, and your online bandmate adds, say, a guitar line and sends it back.

[...] Of course, you don’t need the magical Web to collaborate with musicians from afar. Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and producer Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel decided they wanted to work together a few years ago, but the two live in different states.

The pop group named itself after the communications medium that made their long-distance collaboration possible: The duo calls itself the Postal Service.

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More on Internet Cockfighting [12:39 pm]

(See earlier A Nexus of Law, Culture and Technology) Cockfighting on Web Enters Legal Arenapdf

The change in the focus of the debate — from live fights to video depictions of them — has expanded the argument over cockfighting’s cruelty into one that involves the First Amendment and, its defenders say, cockfighting’s cultural significance in other countries.

“It’s a historical sport; they’ve been practicing it for thousands of years, and I’m just documenting it,” said Jason Atkins, whose Hollywood, Fla., company is behind the Web site.

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LATimes on NFL’s Copyright Policy [11:43 am]

NFL’s copyright defensepdf

THE NATIONAL Football League is famously protective of its teams’ intellectual property, especially their lucrative television broadcasting rights. This is, after all, the league that threatened churches to keep them from showing the Super Bowl to parishioners on big-screen TVs.

Now the league is expanding its control beyond the gridiron. It’s limiting what news organizations can do on their websites with recordings made at team facilities between games. In exchange for credentials to cover the sport, newspapers, local TV stations and other media have to agree not to post more than 45 seconds of audio or video a day (or 90 seconds in markets with two pro teams). [...]

[...] The NFL’s goal is to make midweek footage more valuable by making it scarce. If you want to hear Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs holding forth at length on his preparations for the game, you’ll need to go to redskins.com — where you’ll watch not just the footage chosen by the team but also the ads it sold. In the brave new world online, the league doesn’t want its sites to compete with the news media. It wants to hoard.

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The Stakes in the Google Auction Proposal [10:18 am]

Architectures of control, demonstrated: When Mobile Phones Aren’t Truly Mobile

WIRELESS carriers in the United States are spiritual descendants of dear Ma Bell: they view total control over customers as their inherited birthright.

[...] In most European and Asian countries, a customer can switch carriers in a few seconds by removing a smart card from a cellphone and inserting a different one from a new provider. In the United States, wireless carriers have deliberately hobbled their phones to make flight to a competitor difficult, if not impossible.

If you, the long-suffering subscriber, decide that you have had enough and wish to try your luck with another company, you’re free to pay your early-termination fee and go. But you most likely will have to abandon the phone you’ve already paid for, even when the technology is shared by the two carriers. (Sprint, for example, whose network is based on the CDMA standard, forbids the use of CDMA-based cellphones obtained from Verizon.) The odds are better than even that your cellphone is either locked by your incumbent carrier or forbidden for use on the network by your new one.

Tim Wu’s work also gets a plug:

The pressure to provide consumers with more cellphone and software choices has been building for some time. In January, the F.C.C. took another step to loosen the exclusive grip of the cable operators’ control over the set-top box that feeds the cable signal to the TV, a move that showed that the commission is open to changes that give consumers more equipment choices.

Then, in February, Timothy Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, published an influential paper, “Wireless Net Neutrality,” which made a well-supported case that the government should compel wireless carriers to open their networks to equipment and software applications that the carriers did not control. Mr. Wu called his proposition a call for “Cellular Carterfone,” referring to the 1968 Carterfone ruling by the F.C.C. The Carterfone was a speakerphone-like gadget that permitted a phone sitting in a cradle to be connected with a two-way radio. Over the objections of AT&T, the F.C.C. ruled that consumers could plug it or any phone or accessory into the network so long as doing so did no harm to the network. The ruling set in motion the changes that provided consumers with a cornucopia of equipment choices like answering machines, fax machines, modems and cordless phones. Among Mr. Wu’s readers was Mr. Martin of the F.C.C.

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Moving On To The Next Music Model (updated) [10:09 am]

A look at Prince as he explores ways to leave the old model behind: The Once and Future Prince

I’VE got lots of money!” Prince exults in “The One U Wanna C,” a come-on from his new album, “Planet Earth” (Columbia). There’s no reason to disbelieve him. With a sponsorship deal here and an exclusive show there, worldwide television appearances and music given away, Prince has remade himself as a 21st-century pop star. As recording companies bemoan a crumbling market, Prince is demonstrating that charisma and the willingness to go out and perform are still bankable. He doesn’t have to go multiplatinum — he’s multiplatform.

[...] Prince’s priorities are obvious. The main one is getting his music to an audience, whether it’s purchased or not. “Prince’s only aim is to get music direct to those that want to hear it,” his spokesman said when announcing that The Mail would include the CD. (After the newspaper giveaway was announced, Columbia Records’ corporate parent, Sony Music, chose not to release “Planet Earth” for retail sale in Britain.) Other musicians may think that their best chance at a livelihood is locking away their music — impossible as that is in the digital era — and demanding that fans buy everything they want to hear. But Prince is confident that his listeners will support him, if not through CD sales then at shows or through other deals.

Of course, not everyone is happy with this sort of play: Bands and brands going hand in handpdf (earlier post on the Doc Martens ads)

At a moment in the musical continuum when Iggy Pop’s ode to deviant hedonism, “Lust for Life” — a song in which he repeatedly pledges against temptation: “No more beating my brain with liquor and drugs” — plays in spots for Royal Caribbean Cruises, and bubblegum diva Fergie recently inked a reported $4-million deal to sing about Candie’s teen apparel on her next album, the use of pop in ads no longer carries the sellout stigma it held for the Woodstock generation, or even in the ’90s, when “Alternative” was a stand-alone musical category and indie music was still heard on commercial radio.

As has been reported, that’s due in part to more artists reluctantly warming to the idea that licensing agreements are a necessary evil, generating revenue and creating “exposure” in an era of plummeting record sales and dwindling opportunities for commercial airplay — even if that means losing some existing fans in the process.

Advertisers, for their part, are harnessing pop’s powerful potential for cross-branded synergy more aggressively and variously than ever. One side effect: Commissions for original music for ads are down, and licensing music from established and emerging artists is through the roof, marketers say.

It’s a mixed blessing that can introduce underground artists to a wider fan base (as a current Motorola phone spot has, creating a minor ring-tone hit out of glitch-hop artist Dabrye’s “Hyped-Up Plus Tax”). But just as often, ad pop adulterates musical chestnuts (such as EMF’s 1991 hit “Unbelievable,” repurposed as the jingle “Crumbelievable” in the service of Kraft cheese) and can distort a song’s original intent, as a 1995 Mercedes-Benz commercial did by using Janis Joplin’s lampoon of consumer culture “Mercedes Benz” as a straight-ahead product endorsement.

[Speaking of multiplatforming as a model, this article on Domo-kun, a Photoshop staple, moving to another platform: With nary a broadcast, a TV star is born (pdf)]

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July 20, 2007

Google Puts Some $$ Where Its (Spectrum Policy) Mouth Is [1:39 pm]

Official Google Blog: Our commitment to open broadband platforms [via Machinist]

For instance, we wrote last week on our Public Policy Blog about Google’s interest in promoting competition in the broadband market here in the U.S., to help ensure that as many Americans as possible can access the Internet. However, it takes more than just ideas and rhetoric if you want to help bring the Internet to everyone.

So today, we’re putting consumers’ interests first, and putting our money where our principles are — to the tune of $4.6 billion. Let me explain.

[...] There are some who have claimed that embracing these [open platform] principles and putting American consumers first might somehow devalue this spectrum. As much as we don’t believe this to be the case, actions speak louder than words. That’s why our CEO Eric Schmidt today sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, saying that, should the FCC adopt all four license conditions requested above, Google intends to commit at least $4.6 billion to bidding for spectrum in the upcoming 700 Mhz auction.

As Majoo says in the Machinist:

It’s a brilliant strategy, one that puts wireless companies in a tough spot. We’ve long known that Google hired the smartest engineers in the world. Now we’re seeing their public policy gurus aren’t too shabby either.

Later: Google’s long shot in wirelesspdf; Google Set to Bid Billions for Airwaves; Google Pushes for Rules to Aid Wireless Plans

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A Look At The Ideologies of Science [9:15 am]

A little off-topic, but right in line for some of my other work, and an interesting challenge to the ways in which the public is exposed to science and technology — a museum review: Liberty Science Center - Museum - Review: Touch Me Feel Me Science

One characteristic of this reinvention is the message that for all the threat of cataclysm, nothing is as aggressive, or distressing, as the species actually shaping this exploratory enterprise. Humans create global warming “How much damage do you do?” asks an interactive video screen and destroy habitats they “pose the greatest danger” to the world’s most dangerous predators. In turn, they are regularly threatened by microbes. The arrivals and departures of pandemics are listed like plane flights — and flights, as a mock-up of a plane’s cabin suggests, really are potential incubators of communicable disease.

Ah, the difficulties of being human in the age of the new science museum! There was a time when such museums developed out of collections of objects that science created, used or studied. Science was an undertaking that required discipline and enterprise; it was somewhat imposing because it could seem so impersonal in its quest, and somewhat heroic because it was so full of mystery and possibility. Now everything is urgent and personal.

And, often, the personal is also political.

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July 19, 2007

A Fight’s A-Brewin’ [9:03 am]

High tech, biotech clashing on patent billpdf

Biotech and high technology, two key Massachusetts industries, are often seen as allies — innovation-driven businesses that depend on a highly educated workforce. But this week they’re on opposite sides of a fight playing out in Washington: How to overhaul the nation’s patent system.

[...] “There are very few issues I think where we disagree,” said Joyce Plotkin , president of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council , a local high-tech lobbying group. “The interesting thing about the problems on this, for some reason, is there doesn’t seem to be progress.”

[...] “Both biotech and high tech have come on the scene relatively recently, and patent law is in the process of adjusting,’ said Emery Simon , a lawyer for the Business Software Alliance , a high-tech trade group in Washington.

“Right now the patent law works pretty well for one set of inventors,” he said, referring to biotechnology and drug firms. “It works less well for our industry.”

The discord highlights the increasing complexity and importance of patent law. Created to ensure basic protections for inventors, the law has become both an insurance policy for innovative businesses and a weapon in ferocious corporate legal wars. In some industries, such as medical devices, nearly every major company is tied up in a web of patent-infringement suits with its competitors, all designed to block or delay competing products. In high tech, large firms complain of so-called patent trolls, small companies with a portfolio of unused patents that make infringement claims against successful products, winning millions of dollars in settlements.

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Google and Free Trade Policy [8:53 am]

Taking a page from the way that the US has exported its copyright policies around the world: Google’s Free Trade Agendapdf

For the past several months, Google has been quietly lobbying the U.S. government to include restrictions against Internet censorship as a stipulation in free trade agreements with other countries.

The California-based Internet giant says that barriers to the free flow of information over the Web restrict commerce and economic development, and should therefore be considered barriers to free trade as well.

[...] It’s a new approach to an area of international trade that is still largely undefined. If an Internet company operating in a foreign country is suddenly exposed to censorship, it has virtually no recourse. Google, it seems, wants to get the rules in writing up front.

There’s also a potentially tremendous financial concern. If left unattended to, Web censorship could end up costing Google and other Internet companies a bucket of cash if they have to comply with foreign governments’ whims over Internet content.

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The Free Culture Argument In A Different Context [8:48 am]

I know, Larry’s book talks about the use of the law and technology to empower incumbents to retain and consolidate their positions — here’s a slightly off-center context: The Worlds Top-Earning Modelspdf

But if opportunities for superstardom were waning in the modeling world, the ones who did make it could stay there longer than ever thanks to the advent of retouching. “It’s completely stopped the aging process,” says Elite agent Richard Habberley, who represents Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio (who, at 26, need not worry about that just yet).

Eighties ubermodel Christie Brinkley, at 52, reclaimed her Cover Girl contract and appears none the worse for 20 years having passed. Christy Turlington, 38, and Linda Evangelista, 42, are also bagging new contracts, and look in advertisements almost exactly as they did back in their supermodel glory.

For example: Here’s Our Winner! ‘Redbook’ Shatters Our ‘Faith’ In Well, Not Publishing, But Maybe God; also see Greg Apodaca’s demonstrations

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The Internet Regulators’ Favorite Targets In The News [8:17 am]

I am tasked with teaching the introductory technology and policy class this fall, so I’ve been doing a lot of interesting reading. Roger Pielke’s The Honest Broker is a look at the use and abuse of science (by both policymakers and scientists) in policy development, and this article is a perfect illustration of the latent agendas that people bring to a debate through the introduction of scientific results: Debate on Child Pornography’s Link to Molesting

The study, which has not yet been published, is stirring a vehement debate among psychologists, law enforcement officers and prison officials, who cannot agree on how the findings should be presented or interpreted.

The research, carried out by psychologists at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is the first in-depth survey of such online offenders’ sexual behavior done by prison therapists who were actively performing treatment. Its findings have circulated privately among experts, who say they could have enormous implications for public safety and law enforcement.

[...] Adding to the controversy, the prison bureau in April ordered the paper withdrawn from a peer-reviewed academic journal where it had been accepted for publication, apparently concerned that the results might be misinterpreted. A spokeswoman for the bureau said the agency was reviewing a study of child pornography offenders but declined to comment further.

[...] “We believe it unwise to generalize from limited observations gained in treatment or in records review to the broader population of persons who engage in such behavior,” a bureau official wrote to the organizers of a recent law enforcement conference, in a letter dated May 2 and given to The Times by an expert who is hoping the study will be published.

Some prosecutors say they could use the study to argue for stiffer sentences. While some outside researchers agreed that the risk of over-generalizing the study’s results was real, almost all the experts interviewed also said that the study should still be made public.

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Looking Beyond Antitrust [8:02 am]

Although, it is a Congressional investigation, so who knows what will actually come of it. After all, what progress (heck, attention!) has Congress really made on this issue? Congress to Examine Google-DoubleClick Deal

Within days of the deal’s announcement in April, companies including Microsoft, AT&T and some in the advertising industry, began to complain that the merger of Google and DoubleClick would limit competition in the online advertising market. Privacy groups, meanwhile, voiced concerns about the deal’s impact on consumer privacy. In May, the Federal Trade Commission began an investigation into the proposed merger.

Now, a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee is planning to call a hearing to explore the antitrust and privacy issues raised not only by the Google deal but also by recent consolidation in the online advertising market, according to a person familiar with the planned hearing.

Bobby L. Rush, the Illinois Congressman who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee on consumer protection, said he had opened an investigation into the privacy and competition issues raised by the Google-DoubleClick deal and also planned to call a hearing.

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July 18, 2007

You Have Got To Be Kidding [6:23 pm]

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing: Inmates accused in name copyright schemepdf

Forget about digging a hole with a spoon to escape from prison. Four federal inmates are accused of going above and beyond that call.

The four were indicted Tuesday on allegations that they copyrighted their names, then demanded millions of dollars from prison officials for using the names without authorization.

The indictment alleges that inmates Russell Dean Landers, Clayton Heath Albers, Carl Ervin Batts and Barry Dean Bischof sent demand notices for payment to the warden of the El Reno federal prison and filed liens against his property. They then hired someone to seize his vehicles, freeze his bank accounts and change the locks on his house.

Then, believing the warden’s property had been seized, the inmates said they wouldn’t return his property unless they were released from prison, according to the indictment.

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RIAA Plays With Fire … [5:03 pm]

Judge Awards $68,685.23 in Attorneys Fees Against RIAA in Capitol v. Foster

Also RIAA spends thousands to obtain $300 judgment

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Trade, Copyright and Enforcement [4:32 pm]

US targets Chinese music download rulespdf

The United States is seeking consultations with China over rules on music downloading and cinema rights that appear to discriminate against foreign sound recordings and films, a U.S. trade official said Wednesday.

[...] “Music from foreign sources needs to undergo content review before being distributed in China. Chinese music doesn’t have to face that process,” [Office of the U.S. Trade Representative spokesman Stephen] Norton told The Associated Press. “The review delays Chinese Internet providers and Chinese consumers from accessing foreign music.”

The same discrimination exists when Chinese consumers seek to download music onto mobile phones, he said. The problem for American music providers is compounded by rules that prevent foreign companies from owning or investing in businesses that distribute music over the Internet in China.

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Once It’s Available, People Will Find Uses [4:26 pm]

For example: Met given real time c-charge data - via Slashdot

Police are to be given live access to London’s congestion charge cameras - allowing them to track all vehicles entering and leaving the zone.

Anti-terror officers will be exempted from parts of the Data Protection Act to allow them to see the date, time and location of vehicles in real time.

They previously had to apply for access on a case-by-case basis.

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Hmmm, Another CD Format [4:23 pm]

Disney music label offers new CD formatpdf

Walt Disney Co. NYSE:DIS - news music label Hollywood Records is offering a new CD format with extra features to encourage compact-disc purchases in a bid to reverse declining CD sales.

Hollywood Records on Wednesday unveiled its new CDVU+ (CD View Plus) format with digital magazine extras, song lyrics, band photos and other extras to boost fan loyalty.

The press release - pdf

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