Krugman on the Digital Economy and IPR

Op-Ed Columnist – Paul Krugman – Bits, Bands and Books, Paying for Creativity in a Digital World (pdf)

Now, the strategy of giving intellectual property away so that people will buy your paraphernalia won’t work equally well for everything. To take the obvious, painful example: news organizations, very much including this one, have spent years trying to turn large online readership into an adequately paying proposition, with limited success.

But they’ll have to find a way. Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we’ll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account.

It won’t all happen immediately. But in the long run, we are all the Grateful Dead.

Missing the Point

Cellphone Tracking Study Shows We’re Creatures of Habit — The opening line shows just how out of it a report can be:

News flash: we’re boring

New research that makes creative use of sensitive location-tracking data from 100,000 cellphones in Europe suggests that most people can be found in one of just a few locations at any time, and that they do not generally go far from home.

“Individuals display significant regularity, because they return to a few highly frequented locations, such as home or work,” the researchers found.

That might seem like science and mountains of data being marshaled to prove the obvious. But the researchers say their work, which also shows that people exhibit similar patterns whether they travel long distances or short ones, could open new frontiers in fields like disease tracking and urban planning.

I can think of a few others….

The Nature letter: Understanding individual human mobility patterns (Nature 453, 779-782 (5 June 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06958; Received 19 December 2007; Accepted 27 March 2008)

My Tax Dollars At Work

Tracking the Trackers: Investigating P2P copyright enforcement. And what do you think they conclude? From the technical report: Challenges and Directions for Monitoring P2P File Sharing Networks – or – Why My Printer Received a DMCA Takedown Notice

Abstract— We reverse engineer copyright enforcement in the popular BitTorrent file sharing network and find that a common approach for identifying infringing users is not conclusive. We describe simple techniques for implicating arbitrary network endpoints in illegal content sharing and demonstrate the effectiveness of these techniques experimentally, attracting real DMCA complaints for nonsense devices, e.g., IP printers and a wireless access point. We then step back and evaluate the challenges and possible future directions for pervasive monitoring in P2P file sharing networks.

More generally from their WWW page:

Although the implications of being accused of copyright infringement are significant, very little is known about the methods used by enforcement agencies to detect it, particularly in P2P networks. We have conducted the first scientific, experimental study of monitoring and copyright enforcement on P2P networks and have made several discoveries which we find surprising.

  • Practically any Internet user can be framed for copyright infringement today.

    By profiling copyright enforcement in the popular BitTorrent file sharing system, we were able to generate hundreds of real DMCA takedown notices for computers at the University of Washington that never downloaded nor shared any content whatsoever.

    Further, we were able to remotely generate complaints for nonsense devices including several printers and a (non-NAT) wireless access point. Our results demonstrate several simple techniques that a malicious user could use to frame arbitrary network endpoints.

  • Even without being explicitly framed, innocent users may still receive complaints.
    Because of the inconclusive techniques used to identify infringing BitTorrent users, users may receive DMCA complaints even if they have not been explicitly framed by a malicious user and even if they have never used P2P software!

  • Software packages designed to preserve the privacy of P2P users are not completely effective.

    To avoid DMCA complaints today, many privacy conscious users employ IP blacklisting software designed to avoid communication with monitoring and enforcement agencies. We find that this software often fails to identify many likely monitoring agents, but we also discover that these agents exhibit characteristics that make distinguishing them straightforward.

While our experiments focus on BitTorrent only, our findings imply the need for increased transparency in the monitoring and enforcement process for all P2P networks to both address the known deficiencies we have exposed as well as to identify lurking unknown deficiencies.

Fun with NSF money!

“Everybody Into the Pool!”

German government supports giving police enhanced surveillance powers (pdf)

Despite strong criticism from the opposition and even its own coalition partners, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government agreed yesterday to give Germany’s police forces greater powers to monitor homes, telephones, and private computers, maintaining that an enhanced reach would protect citizens from terrorist attacks.

But opposition parties and some Social Democrats who share power with Merkel’s conservative bloc criticized the measures in the draft legislation, saying they would further erode privacy rights that have already been undermined, after revelations of recent snooping operations conducted by Deutsche Telekom, one of the country’s biggest companies.

See earlier: Germans Weigh Civil Rights and Public Safety (pdf)

And, of course, today’s Adviser Says McCain Backs Bush Wiretaps (pdf)

Copying and Fashion

The Revolutionary (pdf)

“Designers have been copying Yves Saint Laurent for more than 20 years,” said Keni Valenti, a vintage fashion dealer in New York. As recently as this spring, he said, his downtown loft was a magnet for designers rifling his racks of vintage YSL. Many of them, absorbing the designer’s ideas down to the subtlest details, openly look to him for validation.

“I and a couple of friends would always say, ‘How would Saint Laurent do it,’ ” Mr. Jacobs told Women’s Wear Daily. “It’s a little, funny gauge of a thing being right, a kind of standard for chic, for youth, for sex appeal without vulgarity and with overall beauty.”

Citing Saint Laurent is a long-held tradition. “When Yves was alive, all the huge names in fashion — Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Claude Montana — could not help but be affected,” recalled Marian McEvoy, who befriended the designer in the mid-’70s, when she worked in Paris as an editor of Women’s Wear Daily.

“His was a very profound influence,” she said, noting that there was no shame or hesitation in knocking off his most compelling ideas. “If you were a designer at the time, you gave in to that influence kind of joyfully. It was: ‘Hey, that’s a great piece. Let’s copy it.’ ”