August 10, 2007

Outsourcing [5:07 pm]

Federal Effort on Web Obscenity Shows Few Results

In the last few years, 67,000 citizens’ complaints have been deemed legitimate under the program and passed on to the Justice Department and federal prosecutors.

The number of prosecutions resulting from those referrals is zero.

That may help explain why no one — not Justice Department officials, not Mr. Wolf, not even the religious antipornography crusader who runs the program — seems eager to call the project a shining success.

The department Web site invites citizens to report material that they believe is obscene so it can be investigated and, perhaps, prosecuted. Clicking on the site to make a report takes the user to ObscenityCrimes.org, which is run by Morality in Media, the grant recipient.

Morality in Media is a conservative religious group that has worked since 1962 to “rid the world of pornography” and whose headquarters is, improbably, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

[...] Stephen G. Bates, a Harvard-trained lawyer and journalism professor, said he was appalled when he discovered that the Justice Department was outsourcing a search for obscenity.

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Resolving Game Cheating: Norms or Architecture? [2:57 pm]

Remember when cheating at video games was harmless fun?

We’re a long way from Contra. But what to do about it? Mia Consalvo, a professor at Ohio University and the author of a recent book on cheating in video games, believes that gamers need to work it out for themselves, determining the boundaries of acceptable play and ways to punish transgressors. Players might shame cheaters, report them to administrators, or blacklist them from war parties. Or even resort to more drastic measures. Some gamers in World of Warcraft have turned vigilante, hunting down and slaughtering gold farmers.

In Consalvo’s vision, the once impish, cheat-happy gamer must now play the role of hall monitor. But it may ultimately be up to the programmers—the ones who introduced cheating to gaming in the first place—to find ways to protect gamers from the thugs who have finally taken that tradition too far. Surely the guys who found a way to sneak the Konami code onto an NES cartridge can think of a way to keep bespectacled villains off the servers of World of Warcraft.

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Harry Potter in China [9:36 am]

Looks a little different (see earlier post): Memo to the Dept. of Magical Copyright Enforcementpdf

China has a world-leading knack for churning out copies and counterfeits, and the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” last month prompted a surge of peculiarly Chinese imitations as well as a quickie unauthorized translation. Below are excerpts from the publishers’ summaries and the texts of the various “Harry Potter” counterfeits that have been circulating in China in the last few years, translated by The Times from the Chinese.

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Try, Try Again [9:35 am]

So far, the declaratory judgment strategy hasn’t really paid off, but you have to keep trying: Video-Sharing Site Sues Universal Music

Veoh, an online video-sharing site, has pre-emptively sued the Universal Music Group, asking a federal judge to prevent the giant music company from filing its own copyright infringement action.

Veoh Networks, based in San Diego, filed the federal lawsuit yesterday, asking a judge to declare that the company has no liability to Universal even if individuals upload videos to the Veoh site that may contain music, used without permission, from Universal artists.

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Diversifying the Distribution Channel [9:18 am]

And pounding the DRMers: Universal Music to sell songs without copying constraintspdf

Moving to blunt Apple Inc.’s growing power, the world’s largest music company is bypassing the iPod maker to sell thousands of songs in an unrestricted digital format through many other online music stores.

Universal Music Group said Thursday that it would begin selling current and back albums — from a collection of stars as diverse as 50 Cent, Maroon 5, Amy Winehouse and Johnny Cash — without anti-piracy software that restricts their use.

Online retail partners include Best Buy Co., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. — but not Apple’s iTunes music store.

A power struggle between Universal and Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs accomplished what years of consumer complaints could not: persuading the top recording company to remove the digital handcuffs that try to prevent people from illegally sharing their music.

Also, Universal Music Will Sell Songs Without Copy Protection

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