April 30, 2008

Facing Reality [8:38 am]

Telling the Heavyweights They Have to Be Agile

[Speaking to the leadership conference of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Tom] Carroll acknowledged that it would be hard work to “change the way we do our business,” but called it a necessary response to the profound shifts in media, consumer behavior and technology that are remaking the advertising landscape.

“All industries recalibrate themselves,” Mr. Carroll said, illustrating his point with a rhetorical question, “How’d you like to be in the CD business?”

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April 29, 2008

Project Playlist Targeted [7:26 am]

This ought to be a pretty interesting test case. They appear to be doing nothing different than what Google does, and they go out of their way to explain how to set up a robots.txt file to make sure they don’t crawl content you don’t want indexed. But, since it’s music, who knows how this will turn out: Record companies sue Project Playlist on copyright (pdf)

Nine major record labels filed suit against an online music provider on Monday, accusing Project Playlist Inc of a “massive infringement” of their copyrights to the songs of artists such as U2 and Gwen Stefani.

Project Playlist (http://www.projectplaylist.com) enables its users to easily find, play and share music with others for free, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

From the Project Playlist site:

The Project Playlist website includes a search engine that automatically spiders websites for our search engine index. In addition, users are freely able to submit links for their playlists.

Most webmasters love links to their website because it drives traffic to their site and increases the site visibility. Many musicians, record labels, music blogs and other music related websites want links to their music files to promote their music. We provide this service for that reason.

Any media files or html pages uploaded to the internet becomes part of the world wide web and, if placed in a public part of your site, become viewable by everyone and anyone. When creating your website it is important to keep this in mind.

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April 28, 2008

“Web celebs?” [7:28 am]

Web celebs consider their role (pdf)

“This conference was an idea waiting to happen,” said David Weinberger, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. He kicked off the confab with a keynote speech examining the Web’s new brand of celebrity, where popularity frequently bubbles up through truly populist channels, such as word of mouth or e-mail recommendations, rather than by paparazzi.

That sort of celebrity dominated the conference - an ever-expanding cast of people who look ordinary - even nerdy - but were welcomed by adoring fans for creating Internet “memes,” cultural building blocks that are the equivalent of genes.

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The Right Tool For the Job? [7:11 am]

And, what *is* the job, anyway? Cartoons of a Racist Past Lurk on YouTube

A representative for Warner wrote in an e-mail message that “Warner Brothers has rights to the titles” in question and that “we vigorously protect all our copyrights. We do not make distinctions based on content.”

The cartoons, known as the “Censored 11,” have been unavailable to the public for 40 years. Postings no longer appear if YouTube is searched for “Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs,” a parody of “Snow White” and the most famous of the cartoons. But a search for “Coal Black” does find the cartoon.

These cartoons were controversial when first released; the N.A.A.C.P. unsuccessfully protested “Coal Black” before it was shown in 1943. Richard McIntire, the director of communications for the N.A.A.C.P., wrote in an e-mail message that “the cartoons are despicable. We encourage the films’ owners to maintain them as they are — that is, locked away in their vaults.”

WMAV01, a YouTube user who posted some of the cartoons and preferred not to give his name, wrote in an e-mail message that “these cartoons were never officially ‘banned’ by any law” and added that the cartoons had “historical value.” [...]

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New Business Models [7:09 am]

It’s not all about relying upon copyright, exactly. At least, not the more draconian notions of control: Golden Years of Television Find New Life on the Web

In putting old episodes online, broadcasters are tapping into the “long tail” of niche content that the Internet has monetized. While executives are reticent about the costs involved, and while syndicated and DVD sales remain dominant sources of revenue, the repurposing of long-dead shows is creating another new revenue stream for distributors.

The online re-creation of the WB — a network that disappeared in 2006 when it merged with UPN to become the CW — will represent another step in that direction. While Warner Brothers would not confirm the plans, preferring to wait until a press conference on Monday, Bruce Rosenblum, the president of the company’s television group, said in an interview last week that “premium ad-supported digital destinations that are demographic-specific” are a key part of its strategy going forward.

Advertising-supported TV streaming sites like Hulu, Veoh and Joost are forming a time tunnel to 50 years of television — to shows like “Bewitched” and “Seinfeld” and even 26 episodes of the 1966 drama “The Time Tunnel”.

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April 25, 2008

Microtargeting [3:05 pm]

Cute name for the same disturbing thing — dataveillance for niche marketing: Steven Levy - In Every Voter, A ‘Microtarget’ (pdf)

Microtargeting, as its name implies, is a way to identify small but crucial groups of voters who might be won over to a given side, and which messages would do the trick. It’s a bit scary because instead of trying to figure out how to direct media and mailings to a fuzzy cohort such as “soccer moms,” microtargeters know who you are and try to push your personal hot button so that you’ll choose their candidate.

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Martin Going Off Script? [1:44 pm]

Comcast’s Network Practices Need Scrutiny, FCC Chief Says (pdf)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin yesterday challenged several of Comcast’s claims about how it operates its Internet network, taking his strongest stance yet against the cable operator.

Martin’s comments (local copy) came during a hearing held by the Senate Commerce Committee on the future of the Internet. Comcast is under investigation for allegedly delaying some Web traffic over its network.

Specifically, Martin said in his testimony that it appeared Comcast had singled out content for delay over its network, even when the network may not have been congested with overuse. He also said he doubted the company’s statements that it would stop some of its practices by the end of the year.

“I believe that we should evaluate the practices with heightened scrutiny,” Martin told lawmakers.

Testimony was given by:

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Slate’s Reihan Salam On Terry Fisher’s Plan [1:33 pm]

The music industry’s extortion scheme (see earlier post)

That’s why piracy can’t be stopped. Meanwhile, artists aren’t being compensated in a sensible way. Sure, some musicians will make a living by playing live shows and selling T-shirts. A massively popular band like Radiohead can give away its music and still make millions. But plenty of other artists will no longer be able to make a living in the music business as royalties dry up, which will leave our culture a little less vital and a little less fun. What we need is a reward system, one that could eliminate middlemen and encourage a massive upsurge in creativity.

[...] All-you-can-eat iTunes works for Apple. Voluntary blanket licensing works for Big Music. The problem is that both of these grand plans cut out the little guy. Apple wants to ensure that the iPod will crush all other music-playing devices for 1,000 years by building an overwhelmingly dominant music retail platform. Big Music sells 90 percent of records; if they manage to squeeze money out of the ISPs, one suspects they’d be more than happy to screw the independent labels that make up the other 10 percent.

What plan will work best for music lovers and artists? Instead of a fake music tax, the best solution might be—sorry, libertarians—for the government to step in with a real music tax. In the book Promises To Keep: Technology, Law, and the Future of Entertainment, Harvard Law School professor William Fisher devised an ingenious reward system that levels the playing field for artists. [...]

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April 24, 2008

Limits to Media Consolidation? [2:39 pm]

Wow — and here I thought the market was supposed to take care of all of these problems: News Corp.s bid for Newsday has Congress looking to block more media consolidation (pdf)

Congress took the first step this morning toward invalidating new rules making it easier for companies to own newspapers and TV stations in the same city, with the leading backer of the legislation saying News Corp.s preliminary agreement to buy another New York newspaper highlighted concerns about increased media consolidation.

The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved a rare “resolution of disapproval” that would invalidate the Federal Communications Commissions controversial vote in December to ease a ban on cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the nations top 20 markets.

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April 21, 2008

Electronic Devices and Searches [5:47 pm]

Court says search of laptop with porn is legal (pdf)

A lower court agreed with Arnold, but on Monday the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, saying reasonable suspicion is not necessary to check laptops or other electronic devices coming over border checkpoints.

“Arnold has failed to distinguish how the search of his laptop and its electronic contents is logically any different from the suspicion-less border searches of travelers’ luggage that the Supreme Court and we have allowed,” Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for a three-judge panel.

Local copy of the opinion; see earlier posting: Searches and Digital Devices

From the opinion:

With respect to these searches, the Supreme Court has refused to draw distinctions between containers of information and contraband with respect to their quality or nature for purposes of determining the appropriate level of Fourth Amendment protection. Arnold’s analogy to a search of a home based on a laptop’s storage capacity is without merit. [...]

[...] Moreover, case law does not support a finding that a search which occurs in an otherwise ordinary manner, is “particularly offensive” simply due to the storage capacity of the object being searched. [...]

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A Question of Harm [2:55 pm]

This Friday I went to see Jonathan Zittrain give a talk at Harvard about his new book, which I have not yet finished reading. Jonathan was his usual incredibly diverting self and he gave gave good precis of the book (at least, consistent with what I have read to this point.

During the Q&A John Palfrey asked the closing question, a classic question to a presenter, which could be roughly phrased as “of all the questions you’ve gotten on this talk, which was the hardest to answer that hasn’t already been asked today.” Jonathan pointed to one of the key questions that have continued to come up in these talks, which is essentially, “why won’t the market just take care of this problem?” Jonathan admitted that, at this point, he really doesn’t have a compelling proof, just a strong conviction.

Which brings me to this little news item, elements of which have been percolating for some time. It seems to me that dealing with the market question ultimately brings us back to two classic policy questions - (1) where’s the harm and (2) is the harm (and thus its remedy) external to the market? So, keeping those two questions in mind while reading this (and pondering appropriate remedies) might be helpful — because showing the harm is not easy, IMHO, but it’s the necessary step before you even get to discussing remedies: HD enthusiasts crying foul over cable TV’s crunched signals (pdf)

As cable TV companies pack ever more HD channels into limited bandwidth, some owners of pricey plasma, projector and LCD TVs are complaining that they’re not getting the high-def quality they paid for. They blame the increased signal compression being used to squeeze three digital HD signals into the bandwidth of one analog station.

The problem is viewers want more HD channels at a time when many cable and satellite providers are at the limits of their capacity, said Jim Willcox, a technology editor for Consumer Reports magazine.

“They have to figure out a way to deliver more HD content through their distribution networks,” he said.

Compressing the signal is cheaper than costly infrastructure upgrades to increase capacity. Satellite TV providers — including DirecTV Group Inc. and Dish Network Corp. — also have the option of launching satellites to boost the number of HD channels on their systems.

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Recessions and Online Advertising [9:19 am]

Evolving business models: A Web Shift in the Way Advertisers Seek Clicks

In the United States, $21.1 billion was spent on online advertising last year, up from $16.9 billion in 2006, according to eMarketer. Search advertising — Google’s stronghold — is the majority of that spending, according to Jeffrey Lindsay, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein.

According to a report by Imran Khan, an Internet analyst at JPMorgan Chase, ad networks “are growing much faster than the general graphical advertising industry.” He estimated that the top 20 ad networks had earned $2 billion in 2007, or 14 percent of the display market.

The reasons ad networks are thriving are price and improved technology. Ad networks charge much lower cost per thousand ads served (known as CPMs), as low as $4 on an ad network with some targeting, compared with $40 and up for some ads on premium sites like MSN or Yahoo.

“While the home pages are still very effective media buys, the price tags on them have become a little outrageous for many advertisers. For all the growth that has gone on from a site standpoint, there are other ways to amass that type of audience fairly quickly that are more efficient,” said Margaret Clerkin, the chief executive of Mindshare Interaction, a media-buying firm.

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A Good Question [9:14 am]

Tension Over Sports Blogging

Tension over sports blogging is one of the strains between sports franchises, leagues and reporters to have emerged during the digital age.

The dispute has grown lately between the press and organized sports over issues like how reporters cover teams, who owns the rights to photographs, audio and video that journalists gather at sports events, and whether someone who writes only blogs should be given access to the locker room.

The explosion of new media, especially with regard to advertising income, has made competitors out of two traditional allies — news media and professional sports.

At the heart of the issue, which people on both sides alternately describe as a commercial dispute and a First Amendment fight, is a simple question: Who owns sports coverage?

Of course, the question to resolve first is “Should sports coverage be ownable?” Some other great questions posed in the article.

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A Different Sort of Privacy Question [9:10 am]

From DNA of Family, a Tool to Make Arrests (pdf)

He was a church-going father of two, and for more than 30 years Dennis Rader eluded police in the Wichita area, killing 10 people and signing taunting letters with a self-styled monogram: BTK, for Bind Torture Kill. In the end, it was a DNA sample that tied BTK to his crimes. Not his own DNA. But his daughter’s.

Investigators obtained a court order without the daughter’s knowledge for a Pap smear specimen she had given five years earlier at a university medical clinic in Kansas. A DNA profile of the specimen almost perfectly matched the DNA evidence taken from several BTK crime scenes, leading detectives to conclude she was the child of the killer. That allowed police to secure an arrest warrant in February 2005 and end BTK’s murderous career.

The BTK case was an early use of an emerging tool in law enforcement: analyzing the DNA of a suspect’s relatives. [...]

[...] As things stand in some states, lab analysts who discover a potential suspect in this way may not be permitted to share that information with investigators. Such a policy, said William Fitzpatrick, a New York state district attorney, “is insanity. It’s disgraceful. If I’ve got something of scientific value that I can’t share because of imaginary privacy concerns, it’s crazy. That’s how we solve crimes.”

But the technique is arousing fierce objections from privacy advocates, who maintain that it turns family members into genetic informants without their knowledge or consent. They complain that it takes material collected for one purpose and uses it for another. And with the nation’s DNA database disproportionately comprised of minority offenders, they say, it amounts to placing a class of Americans under greater scrutiny merely because their relatives have committed crimes.

“If practiced routinely, we would be subjecting hundreds of thousands of innocent people who happen to be relatives of individuals in the FBI database to lifelong genetic surveillance,” said Tania Simoncelli, science adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union.

See also Saturday’s Ted Rall cartoon (local copy)

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April 20, 2008

Wow! [9:00 pm]

New postings at the Fafblog! How long will it last?

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Personalization and Privacy [11:02 am]

On the Internet, It’s All About ‘My’

For all its ubiquity, the concept of corporations trying to get up close with consumers is sometimes greeted warily by even those in the marketing community. “It’s a cold, calculated and impersonal attempt to be personal,” said [Igor's Jay] Jurisich, who says his firm shuns “my” URLs. “It’s about making Big Brother into little brother. No one in their right mind should think, oh, the corporate entity really cares about me personally. But I can only assume that enough people fall for it that companies don’t ditch it.” In a recent survey conducted by OTX, a consumer market research firm, one-third of respondents agreed that a Web site with a “my” function meant “the company cares about me.”

Another major benefit for companies behind those Web pages is the personal data, including e-mail addresses and preferences, that customers provide when registering at one of the sites. “It’s all about the database and getting that personal information,” said Shelley Zalis, the founder of OTX. “That’s what everyone wants.”

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April 18, 2008

Is This Really News? [2:18 pm]

Or is this just an excuse for the Times to wallow in the mud with everyone else who’s fixated on Tricia Walsh Smith’s video? When the Ex Blogs, the Dirtiest Laundry Is Aired

[I]n an era when more than one in 10 adult Internet users in the United States have blogs, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, many people are using the Web to tell their side of a marital saga. Despite the legal end of a marriage, the confessions can stretch toward eternity in a steady stream of enraged or despondent postings.

In separation, of course, one person’s truth can be another’s lie. Often the postings are furtive. But even when the ex-spouse is well aware that he or she is starring in a blog and sues to stop it, recent rulings in New York and Vermont have showed the courts reluctant to intervene.

For the blogger, the writing can be therapeutic.

Well, yeah, but so what? The only real point to me is this bit, which is already part of the “presumption of privacy in plain sight” issue of internet posting:

There will certainly be consequences down the line of all this sharing. “The long-term impact of the persistent information on line has not been fully felt,” [Pew researcher Mary] Madden said.

“People tend to think that they are blogging for a small group of friends or that they are anonymous,” she said. But that is not really the case, she said, because “all it takes is one friend posting a link to your blog to out you.”

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Saving the Record Store [11:31 am]

Record Stores Fight to Be Long-Playing

NOW added to the endangered species list in New York City, along with independent booksellers and shoe repair: the neighborhood record store.

The hole-in-the-wall specialty shops that have long made Lower Manhattan a destination for a particular kind of shopper have never made a great deal of money. But in recent years they have been hit hard by the usual music-industry woes — piracy, downloading — as well as rising real estate prices, leading to the sad but familiar scene of the emptied store with a note taped to the door.

Some 3,100 record stores around the country have closed since 2003, according to the Almighty Institute of Music Retail, a market research firm. And that’s not just the big boxes like the 89 Tower Records outlets that closed at the end of 2006; nearly half were independent shops. In Manhattan and Brooklyn at least 80 stores have shut down in the last five years.

But the survivors aren’t giving up just yet. [...]

Yes, but then there’s this — an ambivalent message if I say so:

Casually dispensed expert knowledge like that is exactly what Record Store Day is looking to celebrate. [Regina] Spektor, who started off selling homemade CDs and is now signed to a major label, Sire, said that independent stores had been the first to carry her music, and that their support helped her career take off. And though she said she now feels contrite that for years her music collection was made up mainly of items copied from friends — “I just had no money” — she is supporting the stores out of gratitude.

“I’m the record label-slash-store nightmare,” Ms. Spektor said. “Everything I had was a mixtape or a burned CD. But I don’t like the idea of all the record stores where people actually know what they’re talking about going out of business. They have their own art form.”

See also this indication of changing times: Longtime Executive Steps Aside at Sony BMG

In a shake-up that reflects the new realities of the music business, the renowned hitmaker Clive Davis is making way for a younger executive known for having an ear toward the pop charts but also an eye on controlling costs.

[...] But the pop hits that Mr. Davis is known for delivering typically require the kind of expensive videos and marketing campaigns that labels are reluctant to finance at a time when music sales have been sliding. Sony BMG’s decision to promote Mr. Weiss underscores the idea that hits alone cannot save the industry.

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Reports on Yesterday’s FCC Hearing At Stanford U [10:59 am]

FCC wrangles over Net neutrality issue (pdf)

A divided Federal Communications Commission on Thursday grappled further with the thorny issue of how to relieve increasing online congestion, disagreeing sharply over whether government regulations are needed.

The five-member commission met at Stanford University during a seven-hour meeting delving into Net neutrality, the principle that all Internet traffic be treated equal.

Copps, Adelstein, Tate, McDowell Statements; Standford Internet & Society hearing info

From the Washington Post, we get Net Neutrality Hearing Hits Silicon Valley (pdf), which highlights the Christian Coalition’s take instead of Rick Carnes’ of the Songwriters’ Guild:

“The Internet connects people all over the world in a manner and scope of ease that is impossible if it were not online,” said Michelle Combs, vice president of the Christian Coalition, a proponent of rules that would force Internet providers to keep their networks open to content. “Organizations like the Christian Coalition should use the Internet to communicate with our members and worldwide audience without snooping or blocking or slowing down,” she said at the hearing at Stanford Law School.

Later: Larry Lessig posts his testimony as a video — and a quite heated discussion accompanies it.

Also note an earlier House Judiciary hearing: Hearing on Net Neutrality and Free Speech on the Internet.

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LATimes Recaps The Rowling v Lexicon Case [10:59 am]

With an unsurprising take: Rowling seeks to stop ‘The Harry Potter Lexicon’ from being published (pdf)

Now that the petty wrangling, emotional outbursts and mind-numbing duels over Latin words roots have ended, the federal judge in this week’s Harry Potter trial faces a daunting task: How do you balance an author’s right to protect her copyrighted novels with a publisher’s right to produce a new book that borrows heavily from these bestselling texts?

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