October 31, 2008

This Is How Apple Corps. Plans To Play It? [7:21 am]

Beatles songs to be licensed for digital music game (pdf)

Today many consumers purchase music, including the solo recordings of all four Beatles, as digital downloads from the Internet. But Apple Corps has refused so far to license digital downloads of the Beatles’ albums. Last year, reports surfaced that EMI was trying to broker a deal to sell Beatles songs through iTunes, the online music store owned by US computer maker Apple Inc. McCartney was quoted in the trade magazine Billboard as saying the group’s music would likely begin to be sold online in 2008. However, Apple Corps chief executive Jeff Jones said yesterday the company has no current plans to sell songs through Internet stores.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that at this point, the negotiation is about something other than just price,” said digital copyright specialist Wendy Seltzer, a fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. A spokesman for Apple Inc. declined to comment, and representatives of Apple Corps and EMI could not be reached for comment.

The Beatles are far from the first popular musicians to offer digital versions of their songs through video music games. [...]

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Putting the Toothpaste Back in the Tube? [7:19 am]

Going to be a long, uphill battle, though: Ruling may make it hard to patent business process (pdf)

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit yesterday rejected a Philadelphia mans attempt to obtain a patent on a way to buy or sell energy at a fixed price based on the expected weather for a season. The court said patents on business methods must either be connected to a machine or must “transform” an item from one state to another.

The decision is a victory for companies including Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. who had urged the court to narrow the standard for the patents. The decision puts the United States closer to the standard in Europe, which requires that software have a technical link to be patented.

A local copy of the decision, In Re Bilski

From the opinion:

The question before us then is whether Applicants’ claim recites a fundamental principle and, if so, whether it would pre-empt substantially all uses of that fundamental principle if allowed. Unfortunately, this inquiry is hardly straightforward. How does one determine whether a given claim would pre-empt all uses of a fundamental principle? [...]

The Supreme Court, however, has enunciated a definitive test to determine whether a process claim is tailored narrowly enough to encompass only a particular application of a fundamental principle rather than to pre-empt the principle itself. A claimed process is surely patent-eligible under § 101 if: (1) it is tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or (2) it transforms a particular article into a different state or thing. [...] A claimed process involving a fundamental principle that uses a particular machine or apparatus would not pre-empt uses of the principle that do not also use the specified machine or apparatus in the manner claimed. And a claimed process that transforms a particular article to a specified different state or thing by applying a fundamental principle would not pre-empt the use of the principle to transform any other article, to transform the same article but in a manner not covered by the claim, or to do anything other than transform the specified article.

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October 29, 2008

Hmmm - Really? [5:07 pm]

Judge lectures RIAA on their ethics or lack thereof

In what may be news to RIAA lawyers, a federal judge has admonished the lawyers that they have ethical obligations. According to the transcript (PDF) of a motion hearing in a huge consolidated RIAA case provided to Ray Beckerman of Recording Industry v. the People, Judge Nancy Gertner said:

Counsel representing the record companies have an ethical obligation to fully understand that they are fighting people without lawyers… to understand that the formalities of this are basically bankrupting people, and it’s terribly critical that you stop it …

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Is It Really Possible? [8:09 am]

Sony is starting to get it? LittleBigPlanet - A Game for the PlayStation 3 With a Tawdry Look but Virtually Endless Possibilities (pdf)

[...] No matter: LittleBigPlanet is an infectiously endearing gem of high-definition entertainment, and one of the best indications of where mass media is headed.

[...] In basic story mode, the game shouldn’t take more than 8 or 10 hours, depending on your dexterity. But its dirty, wonderful element is that the scenarios provided by other players are actually much more fun than the polished levels from Media Molecule, the game’s developer.

[...] Frankly, I felt a little guilty at first for thinking LittleBigPlanet’s level-editing tools were cooler than the game itself. But then I realized that putting the power to make and share myriad visions — a haunted castle, a rocket race, a journey through the human body — is so much more interesting than celebrating one particular creation.

Of course, as with any such tool, even one as simple as a pencil, the mere fact that anyone can use it does not a genius make. It takes hours of effort and deep thought to assemble anything that other people find entertaining. [...]

You can then share your progeny through the PS3’s Internet connection. Sony has made it easy and intuitive on screen to find what other people have made, whether that is a fanciful Super Mario Bros. re-creation or a journey through someone’s sock drawer.

None of the major companies that make game systems — Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo — has been known to embrace user-created content. Instead all three have been overcontrolling and paranoid. That it is Sony that has opened the avenues of creativity is no small shock. I haven’t hesitated to call out Sony’s missteps. Sir Howard, this time your people got it right.

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More on Musicians, Politics and Copyright [7:57 am]

Some music lacks stump of approval (pdf)

Bon Jovi is among a growing number of artists - John Mellencamp, Heart, Foo Fighters, Jackson Browne, songwriter Gretchen Peters - who have voiced their dismay during this presidential campaign over the use of their music. Many, like Bon Jovi, have released statements admonishing the campaigns for using their music without permission.

But in most of these instances, no approval from the artist, record label, or publishing company was required.

At public rallies, candidates are free to play any song they might have in their collection. “If John McCain buys a CD, he can play that CD on a boombox at his event,” said David Herlihy, professor of music industry at Northeastern University and a Boston-based entertainment lawyer.

[...] With no legal recourse, some artists are choosing to protest with their pocketbooks.

Acknowledging that the McCain-Palin campaign was within its legal rights to use the song, “Barracuda” co-writer Roger Fisher chose to put his money to work for his candidate. “I’m going to give my royalties to the Obama campaign,” said the former Heart guitarist. “So now anytime they play the song, they’re supporting [Barack] Obama.”

Gretchen Peters, writer of the Martina McBride hit “Independence Day,” which was used by the Palin campaign, is donating her royalty check for the entire quarter to Planned Parenthood.

“I don’t think Sarah Palin is setting the cause of women and women’s rights anything but backward several decades,” Peters said. “I would have liked to have said stop, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to say stop. In lieu of doing that, I made something positive happen.”

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The CSM Goes All In [7:47 am]

Christian Science Paper to End Daily Print Edition (pdf)

After a century of continuous publication, The Christian Science Monitor will abandon its weekday print edition and appear online only, its publisher announced Tuesday. The cost-cutting measure makes The Monitor the first national newspaper to largely give up on print.

As an unreconstructed reader of newspapers in their physical form (notwithstanding this blog), this looks like a dangerous move. RSS reader/consolidators are nice and all, but the information access model is simply not the same as the one that I use when I read an actual paper. There’s room for a lot of improvement in the tools for online access, and it seems to me that this is where the print media in general should be looking — not just gambling that clickstream revenue is going to shore up their businesses.

<rant>
And let me also point out that newspapers are also probably mistakenly laying all of their woes at the feet of the Internet.

For example, I used to get The Boston Globe delivered to my house daily. It would arrive before 6AM, in time for me to grab it on the way to work. Then, roughly a year ago, it would, on occasion, arrive later in the morning — after I had left my home.

Moreover, despite the Internet-based subscriber services tools, I started coming home from business trips to piles of papers on my door step, saved from the untoward attentions of house thieves only by the intervention of the local US Postal Service, whose deliveryperson helpfully shoved most of them through the door slot with the mail.

Finally, I gave up and, though I wanted papers delivered on the weekends only, found that my only options were (a) daily, (b) Thursday through Sunday, or (c) Sunday only subscriptions. So, I went to Sunday only — and have never gotten a single inquiry from The Globe about my reasons for the change.

Because of the change in my subscription, I buy the Globe from their machines around town. Except that, increasingly, the boxes are not filled with the daily paper until AFTER 7AM — by which time I am already at my desk.

So, it seems to me that the newspaper business has more to work on than just figuring out how to make money online. Cost cutting has clearly led to the outsourcing of delivery to cheap hacks, and their inconsistency is undermining one of the key plusses of physical delivery.
<\rant>

Also Delivering the news without the paper (pdf); Christian Science Monitor to discontinue daily print edition (pdf); Monitor to End Its Daily Print Edition (pdf)

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Google Settles; Now The Fights Really Begin [7:20 am]

After all, this is quite an imposing barrier to entry: Google Settles Suit Over Book-Scanning (pdf)

Settling a legal battle, Google reached an agreement with book publishers and authors that clears the way for both sides to more easily profit from digital versions of printed books.

The agreement, under which Google would pay $125 million to settle two copyright lawsuits over its book-scanning efforts, would allow it to make millions of out-of-print books available for reading and purchasing online.

It outlines the framework for a new system that will channel payments from book sales, advertising revenue and other fees to authors and publishers, with Google collecting a cut.

The deal goes some way toward drawing a road map for a possible digital future for publishers and authors, who worried that they were losing control over how their works were used online, as the music industry has.

Also Google search starts new chapter with $125m deal (pdf); Google Settles Publishers’ Lawsuit Over Book Offerings (pdf)

From the LATimes article, Google settles copyright dispute with publishers and authors (pdf)

Of the $125-million payment, $34.5 million would be used to form a registry to store copyright information and arrange payments. Google also would pay about $60 per copyright holder for copyrighted books it has already scanned and would give 63% of all money from sales, subscription and advertising revenue to copyright holders.

“What this agreement does is, it provides a model for us to work together,” said Macmillan Chief Executive John Sargent.

The deal would give Google, which has scanned more than 7 million titles, more Web content to help pump up a book search business that has yet to gain momentum. Yet it has little competition: Microsoft Corp. ended a similar books search program in May, essentially ceding the business to Google.

Google has carved out a lucrative business selling advertising alongside digital content and splits the revenue with partners rather than selling access to the content.

Selling access to content is one of the new ways the company is exploring to make money, said Adam Smith, a Google director of product management.

David Carr also has a column: Mourning Old Media’s Decline (pdf)

For readers, the drastic diminishment of print raises an obvious question: if more people are reading newspapers and magazines, why should we care whether they are printed on paper?

The answer is that paper is not just how news is delivered; it is how it is paid for.

More than 90 percent of the newspaper industry’s revenue still derives from the print product, a legacy technology that attracts fewer consumers and advertisers every single day. A single newspaper ad might cost many thousands of dollars while an online ad might only bring in $20 for each 1,000 customers who see it.

The difference between print dollars and digital dimes — or sometimes pennies — is being taken out of the newsrooms that supply both. And while it is indeed tough all over in this economy, consider the consequences.

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October 28, 2008

We’ll See [7:56 am]

What else are you going to be able to do anyway? Big Tech Companies Back Global Plan to Shield Online Speech (pdf)

The principles are the starting point for a new effort, called the Global Network Initiative, which commits the companies to “avoid or minimize the impact of government restrictions on freedom of expression,” according to a final draft of documents obtained by The New York Times.

Stating that privacy is “a human right and guarantor of human dignity,” the initiative commits the companies to try to resist overly broad demands for restrictions on freedom of speech and overly broad demands that could compromise the privacy of their users.

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October 27, 2008

Looking for the Value Proposition [7:48 am]

Even if Royalties for Web Radio Fall, Revenue Remains Elusive (pdf)

The two sides have signaled that they are nearing a compromise that would lower the royalties that online radio stations pay artists and labels for the rights to stream songs to listeners. On Sept. 30, they jointly persuaded Congress to pass a bill that would put into effect any changes to the royalty rate to which the parties agree while lawmakers are out of session.

Still, even if royalties decrease as expected, webcasters must figure out how to bring in enough revenue to cover the costs.

Whether run by scrappy start-ups or big media organizations, Internet radio stations have never found a way to make substantial money from streaming music that listeners expect to hear free. [...]

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October 24, 2008

OT: SNL Opening From Last Night [6:24 pm]

What can I say — it’s a riot

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October 22, 2008

Federal Pre-emption and the Airwaves [8:27 am]


SC prisons take on feds over jamming phone signals
(pdf)

South Carolina might already have started jamming cell phone signals in prisons to prevent convicts from committing further crimes, if it weren’t for one significant problem with the plan: It’s against the law.

The struggle to stop cell phone use in prisons — where some experts say the devices have become a new form of cash — has states trying old-fashioned cell searches, sophisticated body scanners, even dogs trained to sniff out batteries and memory chips. South Carolina’s state prison chief, Jon Ozmint, wants to add to those tactics with existing technology that blocks cell signals.

Standing in his way is the federal Communications Act, which prevents states from using jammers or otherwise interfering with federal airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission can give federal agencies the authority to use such jammers. But there’s no such provision for state and local law enforcement.

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October 21, 2008

Fighting Gangs Via IP? [7:29 pm]

Raid targets Mongols motorcycle gang (pdf)

More than 1,000 heavily armed federal agents and local police fanned out across Southern California and cities in five other states early this morning, arresting dozens of members of the notorious Mongols motorcycle gang on federal racketeering charges.

But the most lasting blow to the San Gabriel Valley-based bikers may be down the road: In an unusual maneuver, the feds are also seeking to seize control of the Mongols’ trademarked name, which is typically accompanied by its cherished insignia — a ponytailed Genghis Khan-like figure riding a chopper.

U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien said if his plan is successful, the government would take over ownership of the trademark, and anyone caught wearing a Mongols patch could have it seized by law enforcement on the spot.

“Not only are we going after the Mongols’ motorcycles, we’re going after their very identity,” O’Brien said in a telephone interview early this morning. “We are using all the tools at our disposal to crush this violent gang.”

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Taking on Botnet Herders [7:09 pm]

A Robot Network Seeks to Enlist Your Computer (pdf)

The actual numbers may be far larger; Microsoft investigators, who say they are tracking about 1,000 botnets at any given time, say the largest network still controls several million PCs.

“The mean time to infection is less than five minutes,” said Richie Lai, who is part of Microsoft’s Internet Safety Enforcement Team, a group of about 20 researchers and investigators. The team is tackling a menace that in the last five years has grown from a computer hacker pastime to a dark business that is threatening the commercial viability of the Internet.

And, with Macs becoming more popular, we may soon see a real test of its vaunted FreBSD roots.

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Lessig Returns To Copyright [11:49 am]

For at least this op-ed: Copyright and Politics Don’t Mix (pdf)

THROUGHOUT this election season, Americans have used the extraordinary capacity of digital technologies to capture and respond to arguments with which they disagree. YouTube has become the channel of choice for following who is saying what, from the presidential campaign to races for city council.

But this explosion in citizen-generated political speech has been met with a troubling response: the increasing use of copyright laws as tools for censorship.

See also McCain-YouTube flap shows it’s time to reform DMCA

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Who Knew? [11:44 am]

That Guns ‘n’ Roses *had* a new album? L.A. man pleads innocent in Guns N’ Roses piracy (pdf)

A man accused of placing songs on the Internet from an unreleased album by the rock band Guns N’ Roses pleaded innocent on Monday in federal court.

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October 20, 2008

Facebook^nth Power [8:53 am]

The DNA Age - Taking a Peek at the Experts’ Genetic Secrets (pdf)

In exchange for the decoding of their DNA, participants agree to make it available to all — along with photographs, their disease histories, allergies, medications, ethnic backgrounds and a trove of other traits, called phenotypes, from food preferences to television viewing habits.

Including phenotypes, which most other public genetic databases have avoided in deference to privacy concerns, should allow researchers to more easily discover how genes and traits are linked. Because the “PGP 10,” as they call themselves, agreed to forfeit their privacy, any researcher will have a chance to mine the data, rather than just a small group with clearance.

The project is as much a social experiment as a scientific one. “We don’t yet know the consequences of having one’s genome out in the open,” said George M. Church, a human geneticist at Harvard who is the project’s leader and one of its subjects. “But it’s worth exploring.”

A new federal law prohibits health insurers and employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their genetic profile. But any one of the PGP 10 could be denied life insurance, long-term care insurance or disability insurance, with no legal penalty. And no law can bar colleagues from raising an annoyed eyebrow at a PGP participant who, say, indulges in a brownie after disclosing on the Internet that she is genetically predisposed to diabetes.

Then there is the matter of potential recrimination — from siblings, parents and children who share half of the participants’ genes and did not necessarily agree to display them in public. Prospective participants are advised to consult with first-degree relatives, but except for identical twins, their consent is not required. [...]

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October 17, 2008

Perverse Incentives [12:11 pm]

Too funny not to post — from XKCD: XKCD - Steal This Comic

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Texting and Communication [12:06 pm]

From a review of the book Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 in The New Yorker: Thumbspeak (pdf)

A less obvious attraction of texting is that it uses a telephone to avoid what many people dread about face-to-face exchanges, and even about telephones—having to have a real, unscripted conversation. People don’t like to have to perform the amount of self-presentation that is required in a personal encounter. They don’t want to deal with the facial expressions, the body language, the obligation to be witty or interesting. They just want to say “flt is lte.” Texting is so formulaic that it is nearly anonymous. There is no penalty for using catchphrases, because that is the accepted glossary of texting. C. K. Ogden’s “Basic English” had a vocabulary of eight hundred and fifty words. Most texters probably make do with far fewer than that. And there is no penalty for abruptness in a text message. Shortest said, best said. The faster the other person can reply, the less you need to say. Once, a phone call was quicker than a letter, and face-to-face was quicker than a phone call. Now e-mail is quicker than face-to-face, and texting, because the respondent is almost always armed with his or her device and ready to reply, is quicker than e-mail.

“For the moment, texting seems here to stay,” Crystal concludes. Aun, as the Finns say. It’s true that all technology is, ultimately, interim technology, but texting, in the form that Crystal studies, is a technology that is nearing its obsolescence. Once the numeric keypad is replaced by the QWERTY keyboard on most mobile messaging devices, and once the capacity of those devices increases, we are likely to see far fewer initialisms and pictograms. Discourse will migrate back up toward the level of e-mail. But it will still be important to reach out and touch someone. Nok, though. Danke.

(You’ll have to read the article to get the quote.)

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October 16, 2008

Setting An Example for the World [5:55 pm]

Why it’s not called Total Information Awareness is beyond meL Britain Considers Database for Telephone and E-Mail Traffic (pdf)

The British government is considering setting up a database of all phone and e-mail traffic in the country as part of a high-tech strategy to fight terrorism and crime, its senior law enforcement official said Wednesday.

The official, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, said Britain’s police and security services needed new ways to collect and store records of phone calls, e-mail messages and Internet traffic.

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Tracking the Zeitgeist with Google [7:34 am]

In Targeting Online Ads, Campaigns Ask: Who’s Searching for What? (pdf)

Discovering how people search for candidate information — exactly what words they type into a search box — is a budding science that is paying big dividends in the presidential race between Sen. John McCain R-Ariz. and Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill..

As never before, the campaigns are buying ads to run along with the results of specific search queries on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Live. Because the ads catch people just as they are searching for information and because they can be tailored to the users’ immediate interest — the phrases they type in — both campaigns are spending millions on the method, which is relatively new in politics.

There is an art to choosing the keyword phrases for which to buy advertising — among them are “water conserving faucets,” “inheritance tax” and “fuel calculator.” And it requires avid monitoring to keep up with evolving popular interests and campaign messages.

Many of the hundreds of keywords chosen by the campaigns for advertising are obvious — simple variations of the candidates’ names.

Others reveal what kinds of issues the campaigns are trying to engage voters on: “gas prices,” “chavez” and “global warming” have been used, according to AdGooroo and SpyFu, firms that track search-term advertising.

But others stray far from policies: “Lipstick,” “hanoi hilton,” “obama muslim” and “hot wife” also have been purchased, according to the ad trackers.

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