eBusiness Model Experimentation

New Flexibility at Music Labels Aims to Help Web Start-Ups Thrive (pdf)

Imeem’s amnesty is one sign that a new accommodation is being forged between Web music start-ups and the companies on which they are almost wholly dependent, the major music labels. The recording industry is considering an all-digital future in which it needs popular Web services like Imeem, both as sources of revenue and as supplements to older channels of promotion like radio and MTV.

As a result, music labels are now striking more favorable terms with Web companies, and the start-ups have come to realize they cannot rely on Web ads to support themselves. For example, as part of its new plan, Imeem will try to push users into buying more T-shirts and concert tickets, and will soon add its own MP3 download store similar to iTunes, sharing revenue with the labels.

It is not yet clear whether any of this is enough to produce sustainable online businesses — or even to help mitigate the chronic pain of the music industry. But it is offering some hope.

Collaborative Work and Captchas

New Puzzles to Tell Humans From Machines (pdf)

Dr. von Ahn has also created a free system, called reCaptcha recaptcha.net, now used by about 120,000 sites including Ticketmaster, Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter and The New York Times.

The system has an unusual twist that provides an added benefit to projects that are digitizing books and papers in archives: the source of the wiggly images that people must decipher is not random. The images are drawn from books and other media that are being digitized in mass projects, but that machines haven’t been able to read because, for instance, the page is wrinkled.

Automatic character recognition lets people who are having the work scanned know which words it cannot read. These are the words that recaptcha farms out and, once they are interpreted, returns to the original document. In this way, word by word, most of the mystery words are deciphered, in this case by humans. “We are digitizing about 25 million words per day by having people type in captchas,” Dr. von Ahn said.

Working the Gallery

Google Book-Scanning Pact to Give Libraries a Say in Price (pdf)

In a move that could blunt some of the criticism of Google for its settlement of a lawsuit over its book-scanning project, the company signed an agreement with the University of Michigan that would give some libraries a degree of oversight over the prices Google could charge for its vast digital library.

Google has faced an onslaught of opposition over the far-reaching settlement with authors and publishers. Complaints include the exclusive rights the agreement gives Google to publish online and to profit from millions of so-called orphan books, out-of-print books that are protected by copyright but whose rights holders cannot be found.

The Justice Department has also begun an inquiry into whether the settlement, which is subject to approval by a court, would violate antitrust laws.

Google used the opportunity of the University of Michigan agreement to rebut some criticism.

And to split some constituencies….

Craigslist Seeking Declaratory Relief

CL Sues SC AG For Declaratory Relief

craigslist has filed suit against SC AG Henry McMaster in federal court in South Carolina, seeking declaratory relief and a restraining order with respect to criminal charges he has repeatedly threatened against craigslist and its executives.

Two weeks ago Mr McMaster presented craigslist with an ultimatum, “to remove the portions of the Internet site dedicated to South Carolina and its municipal regions which contain categories for and functions allowing for the solicitation of prostitution and the dissemination and posting of graphic pornographic material” within ten 10 days.”

“If those South Carolina portions of the site are not removed,” McMaster said, “the management of craigslist may be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution.”

Of Course

Move to Electronic System Means Long Waits at U.S. Copyright Office (pdf)

A serious logjam in the U.S. Copyright Office has created a growing mountain of paper applications, more than the staff can process. Like the marching buckets of water in “The Sorcerers Apprentice,” the envelopes just keep coming, threatening to flood the operation.

The problem has tripled the processing time for a copyright from six to 18 months, and delays are expected to get worse in coming months. The librarys inspector general has warned that the backlog threatens the integrity of the U.S. copyright system.

The irony is that the slowdown stems from a new $52 million electronic process that is supposed to speed the way writers and others register their literary, musical or visual work.

The delays do not appear to be hampering the business of the major publishing houses or those willing to spend $685 for a “special handling fee” that expedites registration. But the slowdown is frustrating hundreds of thousands of little-known people with big dreams. They paid $45 for the right to claim legal ownership of poems, fabric designs, plays, jingles, even computer manuals.

Books To Borrow, But Not Own

Taking Sides in the Revolution – Greg Kot’s ‘Ripped’ and Mark Helprin’s ‘Digital Barbarism’ (pdf)

Such questions are being increasingly asked, as old and new media clash in cyberspace, and issues of copyright have become the subject of hotly contested debates. Two new books offer very different partisan takes on these arguments. In “Ripped” Greg Kot — a music critic at The Chicago Tribune since 1990 — contends that peer-to-peer file sharing and CD burning has empowered music consumers, while providing musicians with more “opportunities to be heard”: “In this world, the fringe players could more easily find and build a dedicated audience, and a musical ecosystem encompassing thousands of microcultures began to emerge.” In “Digital Barbarism” the novelist and sometimes political writer Mark Helprin argues that “copyright is important because it is one of the guarantors of the rights of authorship, and the rights of authorship are important because without them the individual voice would be subsumed in an indistinguishable and instantly malleable mass.”

The problem with both books is that the authors fail to come to terms with arguments that run counter to their own opinions. […]

Really?

The Missing Link … to a Bigger Audience? (pdf)

It is science for the Mediacene age.

On Tuesday morning, researchers will unveil a 47-million-year-old fossil they say could revolutionize the understanding of human evolution at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History.

But the event, which will coincide with the publishing of a peer-reviewed article about the find, is the first stop in a coordinated, branded media event, orchestrated by the scientists and the History Channel, including a film detailing the secretive two-year study of the fossil, a book release, an exclusive arrangement with ABC News and an elaborate Web site.

“Any pop band is doing the same thing,” said Jorn H. Hurum, a scientist at the University of Oslo who acquired the fossil and assembled the team of scientists that studied it. “Any athlete is doing the same thing. We have to start thinking the same way in science.”

Later: German Fossil Found to Be Early Primate (pdf)

Uh-huh

For $5 Million, Woody Allen Drops Lawsuit vs. American Apparel (pdf)

“Annie Hall,” the Oscar-winning film directed by Woody Allen, earned the director $5 million on Monday morning, and it was not from DVD sales.

The money came from a settlement in a lawsuit Mr. Allen brought against American Apparel, the clothing company, for using an image from the film without permission on billboards in the spring of 2007. The settlement, which was announced by both parties on the steps of the federal courthouse in Manhattan, came as a jury trial was set to start.

After making a brief courtroom appearance, Mr. Allen read from a prepared statement: “It’s of course possible by going through the trial, a jury might have awarded me more money, but this is not how I make my living.”

ACLU Challenging The BRCA1/2 Patent

ACLU Challenges Patents On Breast Cancer Genes

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law PUBPAT, filed a lawsuit today charging that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer stifle research that could lead to cures and limit womens options regarding their medical care. Mutations along the genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, are responsible for most cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. The lawsuit argues that the patents on these genes are unconstitutional and invalid.

“Knowledge about our own bodies and the ability to make decisions about our health care are some of our most personal and fundamental rights,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “The government should not be granting private entities control over something as personal and basic to who we are as our genes. Moreover, granting patents that limit scientific research, learning and the free flow of information violates the First Amendment.”

[…] The patents granted to Myriad give the company the exclusive right to perform diagnostic tests on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and to prevent any researcher from even looking at the genes without first getting permission from Myriad. According to the lawsuit, such monopolistic control over these genes hampers clinical diagnosis and serves as a disincentive for research because Myriad not only has the right to enforce its patents against other entities but also has the rights to future mutations discovered on the BRCA2 gene. The gene patents are also illegal under patent law because genes are “products of nature.”

“Patents are meant to protect inventions, not things that exist in nature like genes in the human body,” said Chris Hansen, a staff attorney with the ACLU. “Genes isolated from the human body are no more patentable than gold extracted from a mountain.”

[…] Plaintiff and supporter statements and a copy of the complaint can be found online at: www.aclu.org/brca