January 29, 2009

“Offbeat?” Only To Strict ©onstructionists [2:59 pm]

Isle of Man Plans Unlimited Music Downloads (pdf)

The island, a rainy outpost in the Irish Sea, is promoting an offbeat remedy for digital piracy, which the music labels blame for billions of dollars in lost sales. Instead of fighting file-sharing, the local government wants to embrace it — and it is trying to enlist a skeptical music industry’s help.

Under a proposal announced this month, the 80,000 people who live on the Isle of Man would be able to download unlimited amounts of music — perhaps even from notorious peer-to-peer pirate sites. To make this possible, broadband subscribers would pay a nominal fee of as little as £1, or $1.38, a month to their Internet service providers.

Ron Berry, director of inward investment for the Isle of Man, said the music industry needed radical approaches because of the “utter failure” of its current strategies. Global music sales have fallen nearly 25 percent since 2000.

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Groping Around in the Privacy Space [2:56 pm]

Basics - Sharing Selectively on Social Networking Sites (pdf)

Much of the danger lies in the fact that, increasingly, our “friends” on social networking sites are actually a mix of people — friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues — with whom we would normally share only a piece of our lives.

The good news is that the sites, eager to prevent jittery users from scaling back what they share, have been busily adding features to give us more control over our information. These privacy settings are not always easy to find and use, and they can get downright complicated. But if you think before you post and put the privacy settings to work, you can socialize and network in the way that is comfortable for you, with less worry about mishaps.

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January 26, 2009

A Test of Deep-Linking Avoided [12:51 pm]

Gatehouse and New York Times Co. settle lawsuit (pdf)

A clerk to U.S. District Judge William Young said the two sides reached an agreement over the weekend just before the case was set to go to trial Monday in U.S. District Court.

No details have been announced. Lawyers for GateHouse and the New York Times Co. declined immediate comment Monday morning. Catherine Mathis, a spokeswoman for the New York Times Co., did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Also: while I know that there aren’t many of you still reading this blog, given my poor showing of late (which I hope to get more assiduous about in a week or so), you should also know that FurdLog is going to be “off the air” for a day or so as I change office location at MIT this week. Note also that, because MIT organizes subnets by building, the address for this server will change, so it may also take a day for the domain name servers to update, too.

Later: NYT, Gatehouse release settlement details (pdf)

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January 23, 2009

Ouroboros and the News [9:13 am]

It works, of course, only if you grow faster than you consume: Lawsuit over website links in spotlight (pdf)

A copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit filed last month against The New York Times Co., owner of The Boston Globe and its Boston.com website, is being watched closely by news organizations, Internet researchers, independent bloggers, and companies that aggregate news online by linking to a variety of news sites.

At the heart of the complaint, lodged by GateHouse Media Inc., which publishes 125 community newspapers in Massachusetts, is the question of whether Internet news providers will be able to continue the practice of posting headlines and lead sentences from stories they link to on other sites. The case has been scheduled for trial in US District Court in Boston as early as Monday.

[...] Times Co.’s counterfiling argued GateHouse is seeking to thwart Boston.com’s local sites. It cited an e-mail from Rick Daniels, a former Globe executive who is now chief operating officer of GateHouse Media New England. Daniels told his staff, “We have to . . . work like hell to kill the Globe’s Newton baby in the cradle.” The filing quoted other documents, obtained in discovery, in which GateHouse executives suggested they recognized posting headlines, a few paragraphs, and a link to stories on other sites was “fair use” of copyrighted material.

A good archive here; earlier Globe article: GateHouse sues Globe’s parent over websites (pdf)

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January 22, 2009

Initiatives and Contention [5:56 pm]

House panel clears $3 billion Internet grants

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over most Internet and telecommunications issues, cleared the Democratic-written provisions for high-speed Internet and wireless expansion into rural and hard-to-serve areas.

A contentious part of the package requires Internet service providers that receive grant money to abide by so-called “open access” principles, which bars providers from discrimination of applications and content.

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January 19, 2009

The Tiger Changing Its Stripes? [3:34 pm]

Or getting so thin that you can’t see them anymore? Music Industry Imitates Digital Pirates to Turn a Profit (pdf)

Online and mobile services offering listeners unlimited “free” access to millions of songs are set to proliferate in the coming months, according to music industry executives.

Unlike illegal file-sharing services, which the music industry says are responsible for billions of dollars in lost sales, these new offerings are perfectly legal. The services are not really free, but payment is included in the cost of, say, a new cellphone or a broadband Internet access contract, so the cost to the consumer is disguised. And, unlike pirate sites, these services provide revenue to the music companies.

“Two thousand nine should be the year when the music industry stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb,” said Feargal Sharkey, a former punk rocker who now heads UK Music, a trade group for the British music industry.

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January 16, 2009

Latest IFPI Stats [6:01 pm]

Global Music Sales Fell 7% in ’08 as CDs Lost Favor (pdf)

Music sales worldwide fell by about 7 percent last year as another sizable jump in digital sales failed to make up for a deepening decline in the compact disc market, according to John Kennedy, chief executive of the industry’s main international trade group.

Revenue from music sold over the Internet, via mobile phones and in other digital forms, rose by 25 percent last year, to $3.7 billion, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said in a report set for publication Friday. Digital sales accounted for 20 percent of the industry’s revenue, up from 15 percent a year earlier.

But a nosedive in sales of CDs in the United States, aggravated by the economic downturn and widespread piracy, took its toll in the fourth quarter of the year, when the industry typically posts its strongest sales. [...]

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January 15, 2009

A Going Away Present [10:36 am]

Intelligence Court Rules Wiretapping Program Legal (pdf)

A federal intelligence court, in a rare public opinion, is expected to issue a major ruling validating the power of the president and Congress to wiretap international phone calls and intercept e-mail messages without a court order, even when Americans’ private communications may be involved.

The court decision is expected to be disclosed as early as Thursday in an unclassified, redacted form. It was made in December by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, which has issued only two prior rulings in its 30-year history.

The decision marks the first time since the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program three years ago that an appellate court has addressed the constitutionality of the federal government’s wiretapping powers. In validating the government’s wide authority to collect foreign intelligence, it may offer legal credence to the Bush administration’s repeated assertions that the president has constitutional authority to act without specific court approval in ordering national security eavesdropping.

[...] The court ruling grew out of a previously undisclosed challenge from a telecommunications provider, which questioned the constitutional authority of the executive branch in ordering it to capture and turn over international communications without court authority, according to the person with knowledge of the opinion.

The telecommunications company, which was not identified, apparently refused to comply with the order and instead challenged the legal basis of the order under the 2007 law in a claim before the FISA court.

The FISA court rejected the telecommunication companies’ challenge. [...]

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Observing the Process [8:22 am]

Better from a webcam than from the dock! US judge allows webcam to cover music-download suit (pdf)

In the first such ruling in the federal judiciary in Massachusetts, a judge in Boston agreed yesterday to allow video cameras in the courtroom to provide live Internet coverage of a high-interest lawsuit against a Boston University graduate student accused of downloading music illegally.

US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner said she will allow Courtroom View Network - a New York-based company that webcasts trials, primarily in state courts - to chronicle a key hearing Jan. 22 in the suit against the student, Joel Tenenbaum, by a group that represents the US recording industry.

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January 14, 2009

Another Excuse For Control Torpedoed [9:04 am]

Well, on the other hand, the arguments are rarely grounded on actual consideration of such things. I am confident that “Think of the children” will continue to be a part of the landscape of this political discussion for a long time: Report Finds Online Threats to Children Overblown (pdf)

The Internet may not be such a dangerous place for children after all.

A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.

The findings ran counter to popular perceptions of online dangers as reinforced by depictions in the news media like NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series. One attorney general was quick to criticize the group’s report.

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January 12, 2009

I’m Sure Larry Doesn’t Care [9:03 pm]

But it’s still weird to see someone who follows this topic attribute this idea to Fred. I mean, Fred’s a true believer and all, but it’s Larry Lessig’s story: Despite the revamped iTunes, DRM is here to stay

But if DRM doesnt do anything to stem piracy—and, indeed, seems only to make piracy more attractive—why do companies keep crippling their content? Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an ardent opponent of copy-protection software, argues that DRMs main purpose is to allow entrenched publishers to control innovation that occurs around them. Before DRM, content producers were subject to disruptions caused by other peoples ideas: You might have a nice business selling second-run films, but then someone goes and invents a home-movie machine and suddenly youve got to fight in a brand-new industry. DRM changes that dynamic. Because copy-protection software is protected by federal law, wrapping all movies, music, and software with DRM allows companies to force innovators to ask for permission before creating something new. Say you invent a tiny portable movie projector and want your customers to be able to convert their DVDs to small files that can fit on the projectors removable drive. Youre out of luck—DVDs are protected by DRM, and you can be sure that Hollywood would ask you to pay for the privilege of letting people play their legally purchased movies on your new device.

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January 7, 2009

Glenn Greenwald on a Roll [1:35 pm]

Not that it’s going to make one whit of difference — but I’m glad that someone’s at least paying attention: The DOJ pursues the “real criminal” in the NSA spying scandal

Meanwhile, the only person to pay any price from this rampant lawbreaking – Tom Tamm — is the one with infinitely less power than all of them, the one who risked his job security and even freedom to bring to the nations attention the fact that our highest government officials were deliberately committing felonies in how they spied on us.  Those who broke the law and those who actively enabled it — the Cheneys and Haydens and Rockefellers and Pelosis and Harmans — all protect one another, and have virtually every political and media elite righteously demand that nothing be done to them.  

But there is not a peep of protest over the ongoing, life-destroying persecution of the former DOJ lawyer whose conscience compelled him to do what those cowardly Democratic leaders would not do:  take action to uncover rampant criminality at the highest levels of our government.  Harry Reid is a real tough guy when it comes to the momentous goal of preventing Roland Burris from entering the Senate. Dianne Feinstein is enraged over the grave injustice that she was not told in advance about the new CIA Director.  Is it even possible to envision a Democratic Congressional leader — many of whom eagerly enabled most of the abuses of the last eight years undertaken by the Bush administration — objecting to the ongoing persecution of this whistle-blower, someone who did the job they were all either afraid or unwilling to do?

That’s Americas justice system in a nutshell:  the President who deliberately and knowingly violated our 30-year-old law making it a felony offense to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants has the entire political and media class eagerly defend him against prosecution.  Those who enabled him — in both parties — block investigations into what was done. [...]

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January 6, 2009

Tired Of Pushing A Rope [3:30 pm]

But can you remove the DRM from the old stuff? Probably not without violating the DMCA — unless that was part of the deal Apple negotiated:
Apple cuts copy protection and prices on iTunes

Apple Inc. closed its final appearance at the Macworld trade show Tuesday by cutting the price of some songs in its market-leading iTunes online store to as little as 69 cents and disclosing that soon every track will be available without copy protection.

Later, from the New York Times editorial page (2009 Jan 09): Apple’s Long-Awaited Shift on Music

We applaud Apple’s decision to do away with the digital rights management software. Apple is acknowledging the failure of the restrictive copyright protections championed by the Recording Industry Association of America.

It also is recognizing something fundamental about music lovers that restriction-free online vendors know. Most of us will buy, not steal, digital music, even if it lacks copyright protection. Shared music is the best advertisement for the music we will eventually purchase.

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January 5, 2009

The Risks of Getting What You Asked For [9:37 am]

Blu-Ray won the format war — now what? Blu-ray Format Struggles With Uncertain Prospects (pdf)

[M]any eyes will be on Blu-ray, which for the first time has the floor largely to itself as the heir apparent to the DVD. Over the last decade, DVD players and discs have generated tens of billions of dollars for Hollywood and the consumer electronics industry, so the pressure for a blockbuster sequel is high.

This year will be crucial for the new format. Heavy holiday discounting and the natural decline in electronics prices over time have pushed prices for some Blu-ray players under $200, a drop of well more than half in the last few years — and into the realm of affordability for many. At the same time, Blu-ray’s backers, including Sony and the Walt Disney Company, face a growing chorus of skeptics that says the window for a high-definition disc format may be closing fast.

One reason is that discs of all kinds may become obsolete as a new wave of digital media services starts to flow into the living room. [...]

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Statistics… [9:11 am]

Drilling Down - Internet Skyrockets as a News Source (pdf)

The Internet overtook print newspapers as a news source this year, according to a report (complete report) by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which asked more than a thousand people where they got “most of” their national and international news. (Respondents were allowed to name more than one medium.)

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BookSearch — An Update [9:02 am]

Google Hopes to Open a Trove of Little-Seen Books (pdf)

For scholars and others researching topics not satisfied by a Wikipedia entry, the settlement will provide access to millions of books at the click of a mouse. “More students in small towns around America are going to have a lot more stuff at their fingertips,” said Michael A. Keller, the university librarian at Stanford. “That is really important.”

When the agreement was announced in October, all sides hailed it as a landmark settlement that permitted Google to proceed with its scanning project while protecting the rights and financial interests of authors and publishers. Both sides agreed to disagree on whether the book scanning itself violated authors’ and publishers’ copyrights.

In the months since, all parties to the lawsuits — as well as those, like librarians, who will be affected by it — have had the opportunity to examine the 303-page settlement document and try to digest its likely effects.

[...] So far, publishers that have permitted Google to offer searchable digital versions of their new in-print books have seen a small payoff. Macmillan, the company that owns publishing houses including Farrar, Straus & Giroux and St. Martin’s Press and represents authors including Jonathan Franzen and Janet Evanovich, offers 11,000 titles for search on Google. In 2007, Macmillan estimated that Google helped sell about 16,400 copies.

Authors view the possibility of readers finding their out-of-print books as a cultural victory more than a financial one.

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January 1, 2009

Living in a Surveillance Society [12:21 pm]

It’s important not to forget that there are upsides to surveillance: Murder Case Dropped After MetroCard Verifies Alibi pdf

Both brothers were charged with fatally shooting a man in May who prosecutors said was a government witness in drug and gun cases. They could have faced the death penalty had the government decided to seek it.

While the men were in jail, Jason Jones’s lawyers asked New York City Transit to trace his movements on the night of the murder, using his MetroCard. The results showed that the card had been used on a bus and later on a subway, roughly five miles from the shooting, as Mr. Jones had maintained.

Both brothers said on Wednesday that they felt relief, but also anger that they were arrested in the first place. “Right now, it’s a combination of feelings,” Jason Jones said. “It messed our life up totally.”

“I’m still scared,” he added. “Sometimes I feel like I can’t walk outside without turning around to see who’s walking behind me.”

Good plan, I’d say.

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January 2009
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