July 3, 2007

OT: If Only I Thought It Would Matter … (updated) [9:41 pm]

Will our “Commander in Chief” really be hoist by his own petard? Wishful thinking and, of course, one more example of the degree to which the selfish and partisan actions of this Administration are undermining the foundations of the Republic (yes, I am extremely pissed, but at least someone’s making use of his platform to express dismay): Commuting Prison Term Is Implicit Critique of Sentencing Standards (updated version)

“It’s far more important than if he’d just pardoned Libby,” Ms. James said, as forgiving a given offense as an act of executive grace would have had only political repercussions. “What you’re going to see is people like me quoting President Bush in every pleading that comes across every federal judge’s desk.”

Indeed, Mr. Bush’s decision may have given birth to a new sort of legal document.

“I anticipate that we’re going to get a new motion called ‘the Libby motion,’ ” Professor Podgor said. “It will basically say, ‘My client should have got what Libby got, and here’s why.’ ”

Remember, Gore v. Bush was specifically constructed as being a “one off,” non-precedential decision, so you can be certain that any sophistry that’s good enough for the Supreme Court will be immediately embraced by the functionaries of this dismal Administration.

To my few regular readers: I’m sorry. I know you don’t come here for this kind of stuff, but I just *have* to blow off a little steam. I hope you’ll indulge my little primal scream — it’s not been a great week, and it’s only Tuesday.

Later: The LATimes looks at the statistics: Libby’s sentence not unusually longpdf

But records show that the Justice Department under the Bush administration frequently has sought sentences that are as long, or longer, in cases similar to Libby’s. Three-fourths of the 198 defendants sentenced in federal court last year for obstruction of justice — one of four crimes Libby was found guilty of in March — got some prison time. According to federal data, the average sentence defendants received for that charge alone was 70 months.

Just last week, the Supreme Court upheld a 33-month prison sentence for a decorated Army veteran who was convicted of lying to a federal agent about buying a machine gun. The veteran had a record of public service — fighting in Vietnam and the Gulf War — and no criminal record. But Justice Department lawyers argued his prison term should stand because it fit within the federal sentencing guidelines.

[...] The decision to spare Libby also rekindled debate over the federal sentencing guidelines, first enacted in the mid-1980s to ensure that defendants who commit similar crimes receive similar punishment.

Critics of the system, including federal judges, say the rules don’t allow for mitigating circumstances in individual cases and can result in overly harsh punishment.

But the Bush administration and the Justice Department have been tough enforcers of and advocates for the guidelines. And they have frequently been critical of federal judges who give lighter sentences.

[...] “Consistency and fidelity to the law are extraordinarily important. We have expended a lot of credibility to get judges to buy off on this,” said one senior federal prosecutor who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

“I don’t know how I am going to advise my people,” the prosecutor said. “I cannot tell you how depressed and disgusted people are around here with this decision. It really undercuts law enforcement.”

Who imagines that this President *cares*??!?!?! Good for the LATimes to stick it to him!

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More Perfect 10 Follies [5:01 pm]

A decision from the Ninth Circuit: Perfect10 v. Visa International:

Perfect 10, Inc. (Perfect 10) sued Visa International Service Association, MasterCard International Inc., and several affiliated banks and data processing services (collectively, the Defendants), alleging secondary liability under federal copyright and trademark law and liability under California statutory and common law. It sued because Defendants continue to process credit card payments to websites that infringe Perfect 10’s intellectual property rights after being notified by Perfect 10 of infringement by those websites. The district court dismissed all causes of action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. We affirm the decision of the district court.

Later: Credit card firms not on hook for piracypdf

f credit card companies were found to contribute to infringement, so might computer makers, software companies and even utility companies.

“The electric companies should be liable far faster than Visa and MasterCard,” said Andrew P. Bridges, the San Francisco attorney who represented Visa and MasterCard. “Hey, it takes electrons to fire up computer servers to actually engage in the infringement.”

Perfect 10 has been tackling some outsize opponents in its campaign to prevent the wholesale redistribution of what it described in court filings as “tasteful copyrighted images of the world’s most beautiful natural models.”

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Standards and Control Questions [4:07 pm]

EU asks studios about rival DVD formatspdf

The European Commission said Tuesday it has asked several Hollywood studios to explain why they have chosen either the Blue-ray disc or HD DVD format for movie discs to see if they are breaking EU rules that bar companies from shutting out rivals.

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Sophistries and Dataveillance [12:27 pm]

Methinks the cure is worse than the disease: Use Social Security to Seal the Border

Political pressure from this coalition has for years prevented the government from deploying the enforcement system that is already in place. If it wanted to, here is how the Social Security Administration could run an employee verification system right now.

Under current employment law, every legal permanent resident of the United States is required to have a Social Security number. Further, employers must register their employees’ status and Social Security numbers with the Social Security Administration and make contributions to the system on their behalf. These two features together can serve as a dragnet for identifying all illegal workers.

[...] Social Security administrators assert, erroneously, that they are not permitted to aid immigration law enforcement or to share data with the Department of Homeland Security. The real reason for their reticence is their fear that more aggressive electronic enforcement might invite political outrage. [...]

I might have believed that once, but in the wake of recent events [pdf] (and the lack of public uproar), I am sure that we’re not going to have to wait long to see something like this made a part of our daily lives.

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Architectures of Control [9:53 am]

China Unicom Tests Music Servicepdf

The trial service, called Xuan Qu in Chinese, allows subscribers to download songs to mobile phones for 39 cents to 66 cents each, said Tong Xiaoyu, China Unicom’s general manager for value-added services.

The service protects copyrights by preventing users from transferring the music to other mobile phones or computers, he said.

Record companies offering songs on the download service include EMI Group PLC, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group Corp. and Universal Music Group, Tong said.

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Oh, Boy (Real Blipverts?) [8:27 am]

Is it illegal subliminal advertising [44 FCC 2d 1016, 1017 (1974); 44 CFR 73.4250 Subliminal perception; cited, for example, here] when the customer makes it subliminal herself using the Fast-Forward button? What if you design an ad that happens to work that way during Fast-Forward? Engaging at Any Speed? Commercials Put to Test

So far, the findings have been just what NBC hoped: judging from the biological reactions, the test subjects were just as engaged while watching fast-forwarded advertisements as they were while viewing opening scenes from the NBC show “Heroes” at regular speed.

And that conclusion — which is still preliminary — could have big implications for NBC and other networks as they negotiate rates for air time with advertisers. Although advertisers have steadfastly refused to pay the networks for viewers who fast-forward commercials, as more households buy digital video recorders like TiVo, the networks may one day argue that this system should change.

When it comes to fast-forward advertisements, “the assumption has always been that they have no economic value, that they have no communication value,” said Alan Wurtzel, president for research at NBC Universal. “But the fact of the matter is we’re learning that they are valuable.”

[...] Innerscope is working on a second study for NBC that will try to pin down which types of commercials generate the most engagement in fast-forward mode. Innerscope will monitor things like how often brands are shown during the advertisement, how quickly the camera cuts to new images, and whether audio is important in the storyline.

From there, NBC may be able to offer tips on how to make commercials stand out, even at rapid speeds.

It took me until lunchtime to remember the blipvert.

Related: Two seconds are all an advertiser needspdf

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AllofMP3 Gone [8:13 am]

You knew it wouldn’t last: Russian Online Music Service Closes

AllofMP3.com, a Russian online music service accused of skirting copyright law, has shut down but may be back in business elsewhere on the Internet, authorities said yesterday.

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Making It One Way Or Another [8:01 am]

If you can’t make money from the CD sales [pdf], you have to start thinking about other ways to ensure loyalty: Concert ticket prices amp uppdf

Not many people can afford the price Harris paid. And that could be enough to alienate fans and consign Prince to a pop has-been.

But Prince still has the cachet that can pack them in, whether at a small hotel lounge or Staples Center. The Hollywood Roosevelt concert, however, shows how artists are searching for ways to offset lagging album sales as more fans turn to the Internet for their music. In addition, artists such as Prince are increasing their revenue by dealing more with corporate sponsors and using other marketing tricks to draw mainstream audiences.

Prince, who performed last year on American Idol, has teamed up with Verizon Wireless to promote its new V Cast phones, which enable customers to download songs and videos including his new single, “Guitar.” Verizon is sponsoring his seven-night concert-and-dinner shows at the Hollywood Roosevelt, which accommodates only 200 people. The intimate performances have generated a great deal of buzz from pop critics and in the blogosphere.

“In the past, artists have been more sensitive to not wanting to be perceived as charging high ticket prices,” said Don Passman, a Los Angeles attorney and author of “All You Need to Know About the Music Business.”

“The stigma on that has changed.”

[...] Even with high ticket prices at a limited-seating venue, it’s not about the cash, Bongiovanni said. “If [Prince] wanted to make money, he’d be playing at Staples.”

Neither the Hollywood Roosevelt nor Bulldog Entertainment are disclosing financial terms of the deals, including how much the artists are getting paid. Hotelier Jason Pomeranc, whose Thompson Hotels operates the Hollywood Roosevelt, said that although the deal was profitable, it was also about the intangibles.

“It was to create a special event and to send a really nice branding message for Prince’s album, for the hotel and for Verizon,” Pomeranc said.

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Tank McNamara After MLB [7:36 am]

What promises to be another fun cycle of insanity: Tank McNamara, July 2, 2007

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Why Should Search Have All The Fun? [7:29 am]

Seeking to lift ad dollars, Sony to track user datapdf

Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. yesterday disclosed a data-sharing agreement with Nielsen Co. designed to attract advertising revenue and bring life back to sluggish PlayStation 3 sales.

Dave Karraker, spokesman for Sony, said Nielsen will have access to data from the PlayStation 3 systems as well as the PlayStation Network, which enables users to play against one another online. The data will allow measurement of gamers’ behavior patterns, the effectiveness of advertisements in games, and some basic demographic information such as the user’s age.

“This gives us the measurement statistics that we need to go out and sell advertising,” he said.

See also the LATimes’ Nielsen to track video game usepdf

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