October 2, 2007

How Far Will They Get With This? (updated) [4:53 pm]

I mean, bravo, but the backroom bargaining for retroactive immunity has been going on for weeks (pdf — see the 7th paragraph, quoted below): Committee Opens Investigation into Warrantless Wiretapping [via CNet's NewsBlog]

The Committee on Energy and Commerce launched an inquiry today into the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent letters to AT&T, Verizon and Qwest, requesting that the telecommunications companies provide details on the reported efforts by government agencies to obtain information about customers’ telephone and Internet use.

“Without question, the American government must be able to protect its citizens from terrorist threats. If reports about the government surveillance program are accurate, Congress has a duty to inquire about whether such a program violates the Constitution, as well as consumer protection and privacy laws,” said Dingell. “Congress has a duty to determine what occurred and also to examine the difficult position of the phone companies who may have been asked by the government to violate the privacy of their customers without the assurance of liability protections.”

The specific inquiries can be found at the bottom of the press release

Here’s the 7th paragraph from the new WaPo article:

Although Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have said there is consensus that the companies should have some form of relief, House Democrats have voiced a reluctance even to consider retroactive immunity at least until they have an understanding of the program that the telecoms are charged with aiding. The administration has resisted subpoenas for such information.

And why, exactly, does such a shameful consensus exist? Because we’ve given up on the rule of law? Is the US going to stand for *anything* by the close of this? (See Glenn Greenwald’s related discussion; also coverage of Goldsmith’s testimony/non-testimony - pdf - yesterday)

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California Bill Tackling ID Theft [4:29 pm]

ID theft victims, retailers split on billpdf

The bill, recently approved by lawmakers on bipartisan votes, now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature or veto. The bill would require banks, credit unions and credit card companies to tell people the name of the retailer where the hackers grabbed their confidential information, including Social Security numbers, account numbers and personal identification numbers, or PINs.

“Going to the mall simply should not be identity theft Russian roulette,” said the bill’s author, Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento). “What’s happening is that retailers are keeping the credit and debit card information, and it is available to hackers and other identity thieves, who perpetrate fraud.”

He said that only about 40% of retailers and other organizations that accept credit card payments were complying with security guidelines developed by major credit card companies.

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So, What’s Steve Saying? [4:23 pm]

Microsoft to Increase Ad Businesspdf

Steve Ballmer, the chief executive of Microsoft, vowing that the company’s $6 billion plunge into the ad business two months ago was not just an experiment, said today that advertising would become 25 percent of the company’s business within a few years.

That, he said, would be about the same amount of time it would take for all media and marketing to go digital.

“Over time, all ad money will go through a digital ad platform,” Mr. Ballmer told a gathering of European ad agencies and clients. “All media goes digital, all advertising goes digital.”

All ad money?? Somehow, this sounds a little too Passport-like, except it’s ads instead of authentication. Is it possible that Microsoft aspires to own a digital ad delivery platform?

Danger, Will Robinson!

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FindLaw Gets It Right [4:05 pm]

FindLaw: iPhone Lawsuit by Consumer Against Apple

An early iPhone adopter filed a lawsuit against Apple in federal court, alleging an unusual series of claims.

Dongmei Li charges, in part, that the company’s subsequent decision to reduce the iPhone’s price “hurt early purchasers’ competition with Apple because they cannot resell it for as high a profit” and that the company’s “unreasonably low price hurt competition between early and later pruchasers” who want to “resell for as a high profit as they” can.

Unusual, indeed!

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Here We Go! [1:12 pm]

Music download trial starts in Minn.pdf

Thomas, a 30-year-old mother of two, is the first of 26,000 people sued by the industry whose case has gone to trial. An industry group and three recording companies claim she illegally offered 1,702 songs for free on a file-sharing network.

Her trial offers the first chance for both sides in the debate over online music sharing to show a jury its version of the facts. Opening statements were expected Tuesday morning.

Also Duluth court to host first jury trial over music file sharing - this editor’s archive includes more related articles

Later: JJ Appleton sent me a copy of “Downloader’s Blues” from his latest album -

And all I wanted was rock n roll,
But I ended up in this dingy hole.
I had every Beatles song on my drive,
When the cops busted in and they took me alive.

And I hope I get out of jail tonight,
But my daddy is broke; he can’t pay my fines.

Downloader’s blues!

Later: Ars Technica with some courtroom reports: Sony BMG’s chief anti-piracy lawyer: “Copying” music you own is “stealing”; also First RIAA trial gets under way with jury selection, opening statements and RIAA anti-P2P campaign a real money pit, according to testimony

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Making Sausage [9:10 am]

Sprint Presses for Cheaper Access to Broadband Linespdf

The dispute centers on the high-capacity fiber-optic lines that provide huge volumes of phone and Internet connections to businesses. The largest telecom companies — AT&T, Verizon and Qwest Communications — have networks that reach most buildings, and competitors such as XO Communications and Level 3 Communications often lease capacity on those lines to serve their customers. Wireless companies including Sprint and T-Mobile also use the capacity to connect calls to their cellphone towers.

But these competitors, led by Sprint, say the giants charge too much for access to the high-capacity lines and want the FCC to more tightly regulate the prices. Sprint says its access fees have risen sharply in recent years. AT&T, Verizon and Qwest argue that their prices are reasonable and that they should not be regulated in markets that have sufficient competition.

[...] In an interview yesterday, McDowell acknowledged the difficulties of determining the extent of competition in certain markets.

“A lot of the fundamental facts are at loggerheads,” he said, noting that more detailed information might be needed. “It makes resolving this issue very challenging.”

[...] The Telecommunications Act of 1996 opened up the local phone market, allowing new competitors to lease part of the incumbent phone companies’ networks. In 1999, the FCC reduced those pricing requirements in markets where there was considered to be enough competition to hold down prices.

Since then, competition has suffered, said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House subcommittee looking into business broadband prices. He is pressuring the FCC to “recalibrate” regulations to promote competition, which he says will accelerate the deployment of broadband.

“There is a market failure here that’s putting our national broadband aspirations at risk,” he said.

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Radiohead Does Some Market Research (updated) [6:01 am]

A record price for a Radiohead album: $0pdf

The great riddle facing the record industry in the digital age has been pricing. Napster and its ilk puckishly offered music for “free” in the late 1990s, and the major labels have largely clung to an average of $13 for CDs despite plummeting sales and seasons of downsizing.

Now, one of the world’s most acclaimed rock bands, Radiohead, is answering that marketplace riddle with a shrug. “It’s up to you,” reads a message on the Web page where fans can pre-order the band’s highly anticipated seventh album and pay whatever they choose, including nothing.

The British band, which has twice been nominated for a best album Grammy, will sidestep the conventional industry machinery altogether Oct. 10 by releasing the album “In Rainbow” as a digital download with no set price. The album will be available only from the band and at radiohead.com, its official site.

It may sound like a gimmicky promotion, but industry observers Monday framed it in more historical terms: Radiohead, they said, is the right band at the right time to blaze a trail of its own choosing.

Later: An LATimes commentary — Radiohead, the savior of 21st century rock?pdf

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Escalating The Fight In Hollywood [5:59 am]

Well, somebody seems to believe in the power of internet distribution: Guilds Ask Screenwriters for Authorization to Strike

Negotiations between the guilds and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the makers of films and television programs, have been stalled over issues including the payment of residuals for the use of movies and shows after their initial screening.

Writers want such payments increased, and have proposed a structure for compensation when movies and shows are distributed on the Internet or through other forms of new media.

Producers want to change the existing system so that they make residual payments only after recouping the cost of productions.

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New Cellphone Services [5:57 am]

“Every step you take, I will be watching you.” Nokia Does a Map Deal, Signaling Strategic Bet

The acquisition, Nokia’s largest, is an indication of where Nokia and other handset makers are headed. Navteq specializes in location-based services, which uses the Global Positioning System to track movement and delivers information to a consumer about routes and destinations. Because the services could include advertisements and promotions related to the locations, wireless carriers and mobile phone makers see potential for new sources of revenue.

“It’s a step that moves us toward the Swiss Army phone,” said Roger Entner, a senior vice president for communications at IAG Research. “It tells you where to go, where to pick up your children, how to find your spouse. It does everything for you.”

See also Bloomberg says being watched is now city lifepdf

Residents of big cities like New York and London must accept that they are under constant watch by video cameras, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York said yesterday.

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