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November 7, 2007

Some Second Life News [7:01 pm]

Litigious, of course: When virtual legal chickens come home to roost

Second Life residents are governed by terms of service which specifically allow users to retain all intellectual property rights in the digital content they create or own in Second Life. Although were talking about a virtual world, users conduct transactions that cumulatively involve more than $1 million per day.

But when dollars are at stake, disputes inevitably follow. And just as it is true for real world transactions, this is becoming true with respect to virtual world transactions that involve real money.

This brings us to the case of Eros LLC v. Thomas Simon. The complaint was recently filed in federal court in New York on behalf of several plaintiffs. Let’s focus on the allegations of the lead plaintiff, Eros.

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So, Prince Is Going To Conduct This Fight After All [6:08 pm]

From Prince Fans United [via Machinist]

In an extraordinary, but not unfamiliar move, the rock legend Prince is using an army of lawyers to launch attacks on his own fans. Several of the largest web communities dedicated to the artist have received notices to cease and desist all use of photographs, images, lyrics, album covers and anything linked to Prince’s likeness. It is our belief that these threats are not made in an attempt to enforce valid copyright as Prince alleges in his threats, rather we believe they are attempts to stifle all critical commentary about Prince.

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A Fun Read [2:18 pm]

About an increasingly complicated proble: New Class(room) War: Teacher vs. Technology

Halfway through the semester in his market research course at Roanoke College last fall, only moments after announcing a policy of zero tolerance for cellphone use in the classroom, Prof. Ali Nazemi heard a telltale ring. Then he spotted a young man named Neil Noland fumbling with his phone, trying to turn it off before being caught.

“Neil, can I see that phone?” Professor Nazemi said, more in a command than a question. The student surrendered it. Professor Nazemi opened his briefcase, produced a hammer and proceeded to smash the offending device. Throughout the classroom, student faces went ashen.

“How am I going to call my Mom now?” Neil asked. As Professor Nazemi refused to answer, a classmate offered, “Dude, you can sue.”

Let’s be clear about one thing. Ali Nazemi is a hero. Ali Nazemi deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

[...] To which one can only say: Amen. And add: Too bad the good guy is going to lose.

At age 55, Professor Nazemi stands on the far shore of a new sort of generational divide between teacher and student. This one separates those who want to use technology to grow smarter from those who want to use it to get dumber.

Perhaps there’s a nicer way to put it. “The baby boomers seem to see technology as information and communication,” said Prof. Michael Bugeja, director of the journalism school at Iowa State University and the author of “Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age.” “Their offspring and the emerging generation seem to see the same devices as entertainment and socializing.”

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What’s Mark Klein Up To These Days? [2:15 pm]

  • Ex-Worker at AT&T Fights Immunity Bill

    When Mark Klein, then an AT&T technician in San Francisco, stumbled on a secret room apparently reserved for the National Security Agency inside an AT&T switching center, he hardly expected to be caught up in a national debate over the proper balance between American civil liberties and national security.

    But four years later, Mr. Klein’s discovery has led to a spate of class-action lawsuits against the nation’s largest telephone companies. The threat posed to the telecommunications industry by those suits has prompted the Bush administration to push Congress to grant companies legal immunity for their secret cooperation in the N.S.A.’s program of eavesdropping without warrants. With many Democrats in Congress seemingly willing to grant the legal protection, Mr. Klein has come to Washington to fight back.

    Mr. Klein, 62 and now retired, will begin meeting Wednesday with staff members on the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to try to persuade them to put a brake on the immunity legislation. He says the phone companies do not deserve the legal protection.

  • A Story of Surveillancepdf

    The plain-spoken, bespectacled Klein, 62, said he may be the only person in the country in a position to discuss firsthand knowledge of an important aspect of the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program. He is retired, so he isn’t worried about losing his job. He did not have security clearance, and the documents in his possession were not classified, he said. He has no qualms about “turning in,” as he put it, the company where he worked for 22 years until he retired in 2004.

    “If they’ve done something massively illegal and unconstitutional — well, they should suffer the consequences,” Klein said. “It’s not my place to feel bad for them. They made their bed, they have to lie in it. The ones who did [anything wrong], you can be sure, are high up in the company. Not the average Joes, who I enjoyed working with.”

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Oops [9:46 am]

Your Ad Here: Web Surprise Hits ’08 Race

A regular site for advertisers like Jeep and Toyota, Gay.com was not exactly what Mr. Romney’s campaign had in mind when it set out this summer to blanket the Web with messages about the candidate.

Mr. Romney has courted religious conservatives by highlighting his opposition to same-sex marriage, and he has come under attack from gay activists for reversing his previous support of a major gay rights bill and open service by homosexuals in the military. He advertised on Gay.com unintentionally through a commonly used system that randomly places ads on a vast network of sites.

That jarring juxtaposition of candidate, message and audience highlights how political campaigns are still trying to get a handle on the power of the Internet to communicate with and motivate voters.

Candidates and their supporters are using the Web more than ever to reach out frequently to visitors of sites who they believe will probably be interested in their promises and positions. On Monday, backers of Representative Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, raised more than $4 million on behalf of his presidential campaign through an appeal on a site created to appeal to libertarians.

But on the Web, campaigns are also venturing into unruly territory where they risk losing the thing they crave most: control.

[...] “Campaigns have been buying advertising on television for 40-plus years now; they’ve only been buying ads on the Internet for three or four years,” said Mindy Finn, director of Mr. Romney’s online strategy. “It’s more uncharted territory, and everyone’s trying to figure it out.”

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In Case You Thought Shady Accounting Was A Record Company Monopoly [9:42 am]

What media consolidation can do for everyone! Conservative Authors Sue Regnery Publishing Over Royalties

In a suit filed in United States District Court in Washington yesterday, the authors Jerome R. Corsi, Bill Gertz, Lt. Col. Robert (Buzz) Patterson, Joel Mowbray and Richard Miniter state that Eagle Publishing, which owns Regnery, “orchestrates and participates in a fraudulent, deceptively concealed and self-dealing scheme to divert book sales away from retail outlets and to wholly owned subsidiary organizations within the Eagle conglomerate.”

Just so you know, the irony is not un-noted

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It’s Not An Internet Refrigerator … [8:34 am]

But it’s an indicator — and another Google beachhead: Google maps find their way to gas pumpspdf

Lost drivers soon will be able to Google for help at the pump.

As part of a partnership to be announced today, the online search leader will dispense driving directions at thousands of gasoline pumps across the U.S. beginning in early December.

The pumps, made by Gilbarco Veeder-Root Inc., include an Internet connection and will display Google’s mapping service in color on a small screen.

Motorists will be able to scroll through several categories to find local landmarks, hotels, restaurants and hospitals selected by the gas station’s owner.

After the driver selects a destination, the pump will print out directions.

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An *Important* Perspective on the Current Writers’ Strike [8:29 am]

An LATimes op-ed on a familiar story — media consolidation, ownership and the stifling of creativity in media: Are the corporate suits ruining TV?pdf

This is not about how we were treated but rather something much larger: How a confluence of government policy and corporate strategy is literally poisoning the TV business.

It started in 1995 when the Federal Communications Commission abolished its long-standing “finsyn” rules (that’s financial interest and syndication, for those unfamiliar with the term), allowing networks for the first time to own the programs they broadcast. Before that, under classic antitrust definitions, the networks had been confined to the role of broadcaster, paying a license fee to production companies for the right to broadcast programs just two times. The production companies owned all subsequent rights. In the mid-1990s there were 40 independent production companies making television shows. If a particular network didn’t like a show — as famously happened with “The Cosby Show” many years ago — the production company could take it to another network.

But not after 1995. The abolition of the old rules set in motion an ineluctable process, one that has negatively affected every creative person I know in television. Today there are zero independent production companies making scripted television. They were all forced out of business by the networks’ insistence — following the FCC’s fin-syn ruling — on owning part or all of every program they broadcast.

[...] Is there significance to this, outside the narrow concerns of Hollywood and the lost earning power of producers? I think so. Besides any esoteric discussion of the value of storytelling in a culture — which I believe is immense — this trend is part of a larger problem caused by the FCC in all areas of media. The relaxation of the Fairness Doctrine (which required the networks to present the news in a balanced way), the lapse of any oversight of networks’ civic responsibility, the commoditization of network news — these are all parts of a troubling move toward the aggregation of control of information in an ever-shrinking number of entities.

Our founding fathers could not have foreseen that freedom of the press might eventually be threatened just as much by media consolidation as by government. [...]

[...] Because the business of television has become an exclusive club, closed to new members, some producers are turning to the Internet to have a voice. And, of course, the Big Six are doing everything they can to own and control that as well. [...]

[...] But make no mistake — deep resentment in the entire creative community over the absolute power now wielded by these companies is the fuel that feeds the strike. The public is also fed up, turning out in droves and sending millions of e-mails whenever the FCC holds hearings on the subject. And yet the large corporations move forward, seemingly unaware that they are strangling the creative engine that might save them.

Within five years there won’t be a significant distinction between TV and broadband. As of now, the Internet is just too big for any company to get its hands around, and that’s good for all of us. If the large companies — and the FCC — cannot come to comprehend the paradox that too much control is destructive to their own ends, they may bring about their own downfall, losing their audience and their workers at the same time. Like carriage makers at the dawn of the auto age.

Related: Some Television Writer-Producers Side With Guild

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A Look at the Facebook Strategy [8:19 am]

Facebook strategy: You’re the adpdf

Facebook Inc. wants to turn the members of its popular online hangout into champions of the brands that advertise there.

Trying to mine its commercial potential, the social networking site Tuesday unveiled an advertising strategy that piggybacks on one of its most powerful features: the news feed, which shows users a streaming list of what their friends are doing.

Facebook hopes the news feed also will help users promote its advertisers.

To do so, the company plans to follow users when they visit its partners’ websites. [...]

See also Facebook aims to match ads to userspdf; also Facebook Is Marketing Your Brand Preferences (With Your Permission); also Slate’s Is Facebook the Next Google? with this particular critique

This model is less like Google’s keyword-targeted ads and more like Amazon’s suggest-sell offers: “People who bought the same books as you also bought Heroic Conservatism.” But when I go to Amazon, I’m already shopping, or at least window shopping. On Facebook, I’m more likely to be goofing around—I’m not going to list everything I buy and rate it. Unless Facebook can partner with a huge number of e-commerce sites to collect purchase data, it’s going to lack enough stats to do the serious number-crunching that’s necessary to predict who’ll like what. There’s nothing more annoying than weak recommendations. Even Amazon, which has much more useful data than Facebook will likely ever have, screws up a lot of the time—it’s been trying to sell me Ursula K. Le Guin novels ever since I sent one to a friend.

Also BusinessWeek’s Facebook: Marketers Are Your ‘Friends’pdf

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