October 15, 2008

OT: Do You Feel Safer? [8:10 am]

I know that I don’t. And the arguments about Kissinger and Vietnam-era war crimes are going to seem like nothing compared to the storm that this is going to raise. Although I’m sure that there will be those who say that McCain will be glad that tonight’s debate is on domestic issues, the simple fact is that the Administration got enough support from enough folks in Congress that it’s going to be hard for either candidate to get out from under this revelation.

Surprising that (a) Tenet was smart enough to ask for written confirmation and (b) the Administration was arrogant enough to give it to him: CIA Tactics Endorsed In Secret Memos (pdf)

The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency’s use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects — documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public.

The classified memos, which have not been previously disclosed, were requested by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet more than a year after the start of the secret interrogations, according to four administration and intelligence officials familiar with the documents. Although Justice Department lawyers, beginning in 2002, had signed off on the agency’s interrogation methods, senior CIA officials were troubled that White House policymakers had never endorsed the program in writing.

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October 14, 2008

Thank Goodness for Copyright [8:24 am]

How else might the children of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King survive? Martin Luther King Jr.’s Children Battle Over a Biography of Their Mother (pdf)

The two children who oppose the book, the Rev. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III, say their mother did not want Ms. Reynolds to write the biography. Dexter King, who orchestrated the deal, said his siblings and mother signed control of their intellectual property over to their father’s estate.

A judge has ordered the Kings to appear in an Atlanta courtroom on Tuesday to resolve the dispute.

“It’s sad and pathetic to see the three of them behaving in this self-destructive way,” said David J. Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Dr. King. “Unfortunately all of the children seem to regard their father’s legacy as first and foremost an income maximization opportunity for themselves.”

Lawyers for both sides drew similar conclusions, although of course they blamed different children.

I see that it is possible to find the “I Have A Dream” speech online — it used to be a much harder thing to find. And I see the note at the bottom: “Copyright Status: Text, Audio = Restricted, seek permission. Images & Video = Uncertain.”

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Missed This One [7:30 am]

I knew it had been up for consideration, but it appears that S.3325 has been passed and signed: Bush signs controversial anti-piracy law (pdf)

President George W. Bush signed into law on Monday a controversial bill that would stiffen penalties for movie and music piracy at the federal level.

The law creates an intellectual property czar who will report directly to the president on how to better protect copyrights both domestically and internationally. The Justice Department had argued that the creation of this position would undermine its authority.

The law also toughens criminal laws against piracy and counterfeiting, although critics have argued that the measure goes too far and risks punishing people who have not infringed.

[...] Richard Esguerra, spokesman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he was relieved to see lawmakers had stripped out a measure to have the Justice Department file civil lawsuits against pirates, which would have made the attorneys “pro bono personal lawyers for the content industry.”

But the advocacy group Public Knowledge had argued that the law went too far, especially given that fair use of copyrighted material was already shrinking.

Public Knowledge particularly opposed a measure that allowed for the forfeiture of devices used in piracy.

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October 13, 2008

Christopher Sprigman and Siva Vaidhyanathan Get a (c) Op-Ed In the WaPo [8:19 am]

Cue ‘Barracuda’ (pdf)

We sympathize — to a point — with artists who object to the use of their songs by political candidates. Artists should speak up, loudly, when they feel the use of their songs misrepresents their views, particularly if such use could create the public impression of an endorsement.

But the one thing they should not do — and should not legally be permitted to do — is file a copyright lawsuit to prevent the political use of a song.

[...] There is an inherent tension between copyright law — which tells us what we cannot say, sing or perform — and the First Amendment, which protects against state censorship. In this case, the First Amendment must win. Rich and varied political speech — no matter how distasteful to recording artists or their fans — must prevail and stay free.

While copyrights should be respected, artists who abuse copyright to attempt to muzzle politicians’ speech are sacrificing the broader interest for their own feelings and agendas. This kind of conduct is not what copyright is about; copyright law exists to help artists get paid, and politicians who pay for a blanket license to use a song in a campaign are doing exactly what the copyright law says they should.

Artists’ copyrights are important, but the vibrancy of our political discourse is absolutely central. [...]

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Some FCC News [8:15 am]

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Speaking of Business Models [7:57 am]

Campaign Articles From Newsweek Become E-Books for Amazon Kindle (pdf)

This week, Newsweek will publish four books, one about each of the major presidential and vice presidential candidates — Senators John McCain, Barack Obama and Joseph Biden, and Gov. Sarah Palin — books that will not appear in print but will be available only as e-books from Amazon.com for download to Amazon’s Kindle device.

The books will contain versions of articles that Newsweek, owned by The Washington Post Company, has already published during the campaign. Turning this kind of collection into books is an old idea; what is new is to do it with such minimal production and distribution costs that even the most limited sales could be profitable.

Amazon says this is probably the first such venture by a publication, but it is not likely to be the last.

I would think so. The larger question is why Sony continues to stumble with their own eBook reader in making these sorts of deals. One would have hoped that they would have finally resolved the content/hardware factionalism that has dominated their moves in these areas, but the fact that other firms continue to outdo them suggests otherwise.

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The Business Model Still Needs Work [7:40 am]

Newspapers’ Web Revenue Is Stalling (pdf)

In the last few years, newspaper companies have been rapidly expanding their Web presence — adding blogs, photo slide shows and podcasts — in the belief that more features would bring more advertisers. But now, after 17 quarters of ballooning growth, online revenue at newspaper sites is falling. In the second quarter, it was down 2.4 percent compared with last year, to $777 million, according to the Newspaper Association of America. It was the only year-over-year drop since the group began measuring online revenue in 2003.

Overall online advertising, however, is strong. Display advertising, the graphics-rich ads that newspaper sites carry, grew 7.6 percent in the second quarter, TNS Media Intelligence reported.

[...] But the advertising glut, particularly in display advertising, on which companies had based their optimistic projections, has shrunk. As newspapers keep adding pages, they are forced to sell ads at cut-rate prices.

Large papers like The Washington Post or The New York Times can sell premium ad space on, for example, a newspaper’s home page, for $15 to $50 for every thousand impressions. But these and other papers of all sizes have increasingly relied on middlemen — known as ad networks — to sell less desirable space, typically for around $1 for every thousand impressions. The networks usually charge advertisers double that or higher, industry insiders said.

While some publishers rely on ad networks, others are devising strategies to avoid them. With networks, “unwittingly, I think, the publishers commoditize their own inventory,” said Paul Iaffaldano, the general manager of the TWC Media Solutions Group, which sells ads for the Weather Channel and Weather.com.

Related? Or the belated recognition of what it’s going to take? Mainstream News Outlets Start Linking to Other Sites (pdf)

See also this argument about the way that news outlets need to work: Couric Rebounds With Web and Palin (pdf)

After years of speculation about whether young (or even middle-aged) viewers will ever again turn on a dinnertime network newscast, Ms. Couric and her producers appear to have made an end run around the network itself. By getting their best programming (or at least excerpts of it) online, they may have seized on a template for the not-so-distant future, tapping into the Web as a neon road sign directing traffic to their network broadcasts and perhaps, eventually, as a destination in itself.

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A Broadband Leader Confronting A Consequence [7:35 am]

Korean Star’s Suicide Reignites Debate on Web Regulation (pdf)

In a monthlong crackdown on online defamation, 900 agents from the government’s Cyber Terror Response Center are scouring blogs and online discussion boards to identify and arrest those who “habitually post slander and instigate cyber bullying.”

Hong Joon-pyo, floor leader of the governing Grand National Party, commented, “Internet space in our country has become the wall of a public toilet.”

In the National Assembly, Ms. Choi’s suicide set the country’s rival parties on a collision course over how to regulate the Web. The governing party is promoting a law to punish online insults; the opposition parties accuse the government of trying to “rule cyberspace with martial law.”

The opposition says that cyberspace violence is already dealt with under existing laws against slander and public insults. But the government says that a tougher, separate law is necessary to punish online abuse, which inflicts quicker and wider damage on victims.

Related: Spinning a Web of Lies at Digital Speed (pdf)

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October 10, 2008

You Knew It Was Going On [7:03 am]

And now, we might get some proof: Panel to Study Military Eavesdropping (pdf)

The two former intelligence officers, Adrienne Kinne, an Army reservist, and David Murfee Faulk, a Navy linguist, spoke Thursday to ABC News. They also were interviewed for a book on the National Security Agency by James Bamford, a former ABC producer and author of two earlier books on the agency, that is scheduled for publication next week.

Ms. Kinne and Mr. Faulk, both Arabic linguists, were based at Fort Gordon, Ga., where the N.S.A. has a large listening post focused on the Middle East. Ms. Kinne was there from 2001 to 2003 and Mr. Faulk was there from 2003 to 2007, Mr. Bamford said.

[...] Mr. Faulk told ABC that he and his colleagues listened to “personal phone calls of American officers, mostly in the Green Zone, calling home to the United States, talking to their spouses, sometimes their girlfriends.”

He said the eavesdroppers would swap recordings of intimate calls for entertainment. “At times I was told: ‘Hey, check this out. There’s some good phone sex,’ ” he said.

Mr. Faulk said that when another eavesdropper protested that they were personal calls and should not be transcribed, a supervisor replied, “My orders were to transcribe everything.”

[...] Ms. Kinne spoke of listening to aid workers and journalists. She said the calls had often involved “personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism.”

Hey, doesn’t that mean that this kid (pdf) should be getting a medal? Or at least a paycheck from the NSA?

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October 3, 2008

Did Apple’s Threat Work? [8:57 am]

Who knows. But the status quo remains: First Royalty Rates Set for Digital Music (pdf)

The ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board — a panel of three judges appointed by the Librarian of Congress — applied strictly to mechanical royalties, which are paid to the songwriters and publishers of music, not the performers. The royalty is paid by the entity licensing the music (which varies, depending on the format of the recording).

Despite a range of proposals from music publishers, record labels and digital music sellers, the judges kept the rate for physical recordings at 9.1 cents for each track. The board set the same rate for permanent digital downloads, effectively equating the value of physical discs with downloads from retailers like Apple, through its iTunes store, and Amazon.com.

The judges also set for the first time a mechanical royalty rate for master tones, ring tones made from a snippet of music from a full recording. That rate is 24 cents. Until now, copyright holders had negotiated royalty payments with users.

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It’s Friday: And I Had To Get Up Early [6:47 am]

And one of the joys of that is that, on occasion, the morning news gets a little scrambled. Today, Kim Carrigan, from our local Fox affiliate, reported that the Nobel prize in chemistry had been awarded to someone who had discovered that Coca-Cola killed sperm. Of course, it was really an Ig Nobel, but they had a clip and everything. Sadly, by the time I got to the office to try to capture their error, I couldn’t find any of it on their website - so here’s the Boston Globe article instead: Ig Nobel prizes: Awards showcase humorous side of research (pdf)

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October 2, 2008

Is It Really Possible? [7:40 am]

Wired, in Six New Directors Who Are Making Music Video Cool Again and the LATimes blog entry, Could music videos possibly be cool again?, make an interesting (and entertaining case) in favor of the proposition.

BTW, I agree with the LATimes blog entry that Toe Jam should not be missed.

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Greasing the Rollout of Digital Distribution of Movies [7:29 am]

But it took more than the distribution costs savings to make the sale — but 3-D movies? Really? Hollywood studios agree to digital rollout (pdf)

Five Hollywood studios have agreed to help pay for a $1 billion-plus rollout of digital technology on about 20,000 movie screens in North America, a precursor to showing movies in 3-D.

Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, a consortium of major theater chains, announced the deal Wednesday. The rollout in the U.S. and Canada, covering about half of all screens, is planned to start early next year.

To help offset the costs — about $70,000 per screen — the studios plan to pay the consortium slightly under $1,000 per movie per screen, roughly the same amount it costs them to print and ship a celluloid film copy.

Adding digital equipment is the critical first step in the technological upgrade to being able to show 3-D movies.

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Just Because You’re Paranoid [6:59 am]

It doesn’t mean that someone’s not watching you. The technology that makes it possible to communicate makes it possible to monitor the communication, too. It all depends on how you decide to employ it: Huge System for Web Surveillance Discovered in China (pdf)

A group of Canadian human-rights activists and computer security researchers has discovered a huge surveillance system in China that monitors and archives certain Internet text conversations that include politically charged words.

[...] The researchers were able to download and analyze copies of the surveillance data because the Chinese computers were improperly configured, leaving them accessible. The researchers said they did not know who was operating the surveillance system, but they said they suspected that it was the Chinese wireless firm, possibly with cooperation from Chinese police.

Independent executives from the instant message industry say the discovery is an indication of a spiraling computer war that is tracking the introduction of new communications technologies.

“I can see an arms race going on,” said Pat Peterson, vice president for technology at Cisco’s Ironport group, which provides messaging security systems. “China is one of the more wired places of the world and they are fighting a war with their populace.”

And, hey, don’t hardware vendors market their equipments’ capabilities to “shape” traffic? It’s just a matter of how, and why. Of course, see also Jim Fallows on the Great Firewall on how a surveilled population devises response strategies.

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October 1, 2008

Showdown with Apple (updated) [8:12 pm]

Digital music retailers await copyright board decision (pdf)

For five years, Apples iTunes Music Store has been the Internets most successful music store. But as music publishers have sought a higher share of its proceeds, Apple has threatened to shutter iTunes.

The Copyright Royalty Board in Washington, D.C. is expected to rule Thursday on a request by the National Music Publishers Association to increase royalty rates paid to its members on songs purchased from online music stores like iTunes. The publishers association wants rates raised from 9 cents to 15 cents a track - a 66% hike.

Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) declined to discuss the boards pending decision or its previous threat to shut down iTunes. But it adamantly opposes the publishers request. In a statement submitted to the board last year, iTunes vice president Eddy Cue said Apple might close its download store rather than raise its 99 cents a song price or absorb the higher royalty costs.

Later: from the 10/3/2008 Boston Globe (pdf)

Songwriters royalty rates to remain at 9.1¢ a song
The US Copyright Royalty Board left unchanged the royalty rates paid by record labels to songwriters and music publishers, trade groups said. Royalty rates for permanent digital downloads and compact discs will remain at 9.1 cents a song, the National Music Publishers’ Association said. It said the copyright board for the first time established a rate for mobile phone ringtones, setting it at 24 cents. The Recording Industry Association of America said in a statement it was “pleased” the decision freezes the current rate for CDs and downloads for five years. (Bloomberg)

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You Knew It Was Coming [6:23 am]

Studios Sue to Bar a DVD Copying Program - pdf

Six major movie studios sued RealNetworks, the Seattle-based digital media company, on Tuesday over its new $30 software program that allows people to make digital copies of their DVDs.

See earlier Real Ready To Start A Fight

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October 2008
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