July 31, 2009

I’m Shocked, Shocked! [9:57 am]

But I’ll take any other effort to get this issue in front of the public: Ads Follow Web Users, and Get Deeply Personal (pdf)

For all the concern and uproar over online privacy, marketers and data companies have always known much more about consumers’ offline lives, like income, credit score, home ownership, even what car they drive and whether they have a hunting license. Recently, some of these companies have started connecting this mountain of information to consumers’ browsers.

The result is a sea change in the way consumers encounter the Web. Not only will people see customized advertising, they will see different versions of Web sites from other consumers and even receive different discount offers while shopping — all based on information from their offline history. Two women in adjoining offices could go to the same cosmetic site, but one might see a $300 Missoni perfume, the other the house-brand lipstick on sale for $2.

The technology that makes the connection is nothing new — it is a tiny piece of code called a cookie that is placed on a hard drive. But the information it holds is. And it is all done invisibly.

And, as has been noted before, it’s troubling.

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July 29, 2009

“Information Wants To Be Free” [9:53 am]

Has Wikipedia Created a Rorschach Cheat Sheet? Analyze That

There are tests that have right answers, which are returned with a number on top in a red circle, and there are tests with open-ended questions, which provide insight into the test taker’s mind.

The Rorschach test, a series of 10 inkblot plates created by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach for his book “Psychodiagnostik,” published in 1921, is clearly in the second category.

Yet in the last few months, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has been engulfed in a furious debate involving psychologists who are angry that the 10 original Rorschach plates are reproduced online, along with common responses for each. [...]

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OT: A Surprise This Morning [8:44 am]

I don’t know why, but it appears that The Boston Globe has made a change in its delivery schedule; to wit, one can now find the current issue in the Kendall Square vending machines before 7AM! Of course, I have also noticed that the machine where I used to have to stop to get a paper early in the morning has been EMPTY the past two days, so it’s clearly a zero-sum game when it comes to paper delivery — but I do think that they might even be trying to rework their supply logistics.

Or, it could just mean that the regular delivery driver is on vacation this week.

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I Wasn’t There … [8:26 am]

But this sounds more confusing than enlightening — but, sometimes, that’s Charlie’s way: Opening statements made in civil suit over swapping songs (pdf)

Charles Nesson, the Harvard Law School professor defending a college student accused of illegally downloading and sharing music online, used an unusual prop in his opening statement yesterday to illustrate why a federal jury should side with his client against the recording industry.

Nesson held up a rectangular piece of plastic foam wrapped in cellophane and said it represented the compact discs that record companies sold before digital music became available online. Then he sliced open the wrapper with scissors and hundreds of tiny jigsaw pieces fell in a pile in front of the jury in US District Court in Boston.

“You have the ability to share, and this physical object’’ - the 70-year-old professor paused as he snipped - “suddenly broke into a million bits. Here it is. Bits. . . . Can you hold a bit in your hand? You can’t. . . . And suddenly you have songs being shared by millions of kids around the world.’’

[...] Sam Bayard, a lecturer at Harvard Law who works at the university’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, founded by Nesson, listened to the opening statements and said Nesson appeared to be encouraging jurors to engage in a form of nullification. That refers to the controversial concept that jurors have a moral duty to disregard a judge’s instructions and rule in favor of a defendant in a criminal or civil case because they disagree with the underlying law.

“I think he’s arguing [Tenenbaum] did it, [the record companies] are right, but this isn’t morally blameworthy; he’s just a kid,’’ Bayard said. Such an appeal might encourage jurors to award minimal damages if they side with the industry, he said.

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July 27, 2009

Amazon and Technological Mediation [11:53 am]

Amazon Faces a Fight Over Its E-Books (pdf)

A growing number of civil libertarians and customer advocates wants Amazon to fundamentally alter its method for selling Kindle books, lest it be forced to one day change or recall books, perhaps by a judge ruling in a defamation case — or by a government deciding a particular work is politically damaging or embarrassing.

“As long as Amazon maintains control of the device it will have this ability to remove books and that means they will be tempted to use it or they will be forced to it,” said Holmes Wilson, campaigns manager of the Free Software Foundation.

The foundation, based in Boston, is soliciting signatures from librarians, publishers and major authors and public intellectuals. [...]

In particular, there’s this striking example of missing the entire point:

Randal C. Picker, a law professor at the University of Chicago, says he thinks Amazon was right to delete the improperly sold versions of “1984” and argues such systems can also allow companies to better enforce copyright laws. He notes that the harm to the Orwell book buyers was minimal, since their money was refunded after copies were deleted from their Kindles.

“Because copyright infringement was poor and lax in the offline world, it should also be that way in the online world? I don’t understand that logic,” Mr. Picker said. “The whole point of moving online is that it creates new opportunities.”

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July 24, 2009

Google Working To Defuse Google Books Concerns [8:08 am]

An article on a recent panel discussion at the BPL: Google Books causes concern among librarians, authors (pdf)

Google’s growing digital book project is making some in the publishing world nervous - a fact the search giant is trying to change. Google Books, which includes the largest team of engineers working out of Google’s Cambridge office, has been a force ever since it started an aggressive book scanning project with some of the world’s largest libraries in 2004. But now that Google has become a publishing powerhouse - with more than 10 million books scanned so far, of which 1.5 million are currently available online free of charge - it has made some librarians and authors uneasy.

“Google is creating a mega bookstore the likes of which we have never seen,’’ said the panel organizer Maura Marx, executive director of Open Knowledge Commons, a Boston nonprofit organization. “People are very uncomfortable with the idea that one corporation has so much power over such a large collection of knowledge.’’

A growing concern, which was raised during the library panel, is that Google will end up with monopolistic control of access to millions of scanned digital books. This concern was heightened when Google negotiated a settlement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, groups that represent authors and publishers, after they sued Google to stop the search company from digitizing books.

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Architectures and Advantage [7:25 am]

Designing institutions when market ideology meets technological advance: Traders Profit With Computers Set at High Speed (pdf)

Nearly everyone on Wall Street is wondering how hedge funds and large banks like Goldman Sachs are making so much money so soon after the financial system nearly collapsed. High-frequency trading is one answer.

And when a former Goldman Sachs programmer was accused this month of stealing secret computer codes — software that a federal prosecutor said could “manipulate markets in unfair ways” — it only added to the mystery. Goldman acknowledges that it profits from high-frequency trading, but disputes that it has an unfair advantage.

Yet high-frequency specialists clearly have an edge over typical traders, let alone ordinary investors. The Securities and Exchange Commission says it is examining certain aspects of the strategy.

“This is where all the money is getting made,” said William H. Donaldson, former chairman and chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange and today an adviser to a big hedge fund. “If an individual investor doesn’t have the means to keep up, they’re at a huge disadvantage.”

Later: a cautionary voice — Hurrying Into the Next Panic? (pdf)

So, is trading faster than any human can react truly worrisome? The answers that come back from high-frequency proponents, also rather too quickly, are “No, we are adding liquidity to the market” or “It’s perfectly safe and it speeds up price discovery.” In other words, the traders say, the practice makes it easier for stocks to be bought and sold quickly across exchanges, and it more efficiently sets the value of shares.

Those responses disturb me. Whenever the reply to a complex question is a stock and unconsidered one, it makes me worry all the more. Leaving aside the question of whether or not liquidity is necessarily a great idea (perhaps not being able to get out of a trade might make people think twice before entering it), or whether there is such a thing as a price that must be discovered (just watch the price of unpopular goods fall in your local supermarket — that’s plenty fast enough for me), l want to address the question of whether high-frequency algorithm trading will distort the underlying markets and perhaps the economy.

[...] Buying stocks used to be about long-term value, doing your research and finding the company that you thought had good prospects. Maybe it had a product that you liked the look of, or perhaps a solid management team. Increasingly such real value is becoming irrelevant. The contest is now between the machines — and they’re playing games with real businesses and real people.

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July 23, 2009

The Associated Press Decides To Try Software [5:25 pm]

With Software, The A.P. Takes on Digital Piracy of Articles

Vowing to fight unauthorized reproduction of news reports online, The Associated Press said Thursday that it would add software to each article showing who created it and what limits apply to the rights to use it. The software will also notify the A.P. about how the article is used across the Web.

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OT: Slow Motion Train Wreck [7:27 am]

And, by that I mean the President’s health care initiative. Last night’s press conference (pdf) was such a snoozer of wonkitude that I quit watching after about 25 minutes.

The President clearly was given some good talking points, which clearly were aimed at showing the public who will be the real victims of the the Republican strategy of obstruction to “break” Obama — those either currently or prospectively ill-served by the health care system; i.e., all of us. But, his heart clearly wasn’t in it. He could have taken those stories of families suffering, children dying, etc. and hung them around the necks of the Republican leadership, but he didn’t go for the throat.

Or rather, he didn’t go for the throat on health care. But he did offer up this discussion and, as Salon notes, it was the only point in the conference where he really seemed like the political firebrand he can be (the NYTimes article makes the same observation — pdf):

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Recently, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge. What does that incident say to you? And what does it say about race relations in America?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I — I should say at the outset that Skip Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here.

I don’t know all the facts. What’s been reported, though, is that the guy forgot his keys, jimmied his way to get into the house; there was a report called into the police station that there might be a burglary taking place.

So far, so good, right? I mean, if I was trying to jigger into — well, I guess this is my house now, so — (laughter) — it probably wouldn’t happen.

(Chuckling.) But let’s say my old house in Chicago — (laughter) — here I’d get shot. (Laughter.) But so far, so good. They’re — they’re — they’re reporting. The police are doing what they should. There’s a call. They go investigate. What happens?

My understanding is, at that point, Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in. I’m sure there’s some exchange of words. But my understanding is — is that Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is his house, and at that point he gets arrested for disorderly conduct, charges which are later dropped.

Now, I’ve — I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.

And number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcing disproportionately. That’s just a fact.

What?! “I don’t know all the facts.” “[T]he Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.”

If this were the words of the President’s predecessor (whose foibles are well known), then one might understand them. But these are the words of a professor of constitutional law from a leading US law school! Moreover, as anyone from the Boston area can tell you, this story keeps changing by the day, with details changing and continuous shifting of strategic positions all around. (See, for example, today’s competing articles from the Globe: Obama scolds Cambridge police (pdf); Sergeant at eye of storm says he won’t apologize (pdf); Professor is down-to-earth, friends say (pdf); Machismo and the Gates incident (pdf))

The kindest interpretation of the President’s words is that he is unhappy that his friend is at the center of this kind of mess. But there are plenty of interpretations that are less benign and, worse, far more damaging to the President’s political capital — at a time when he needs every bit of that capital to make progress on the agenda item that brought him to the podium last night in the first place. The LAST thing the President should be doing is weighing in on something he acknowledges he knows nothing about when he has some REAL work to get done.

Was it bad staffing? Poor political advice? Who knows? But the damage is done.

First, after listening to the comments on the local NPR affiliate during my morning shower, I raised the above topics with my wife. Then, I had the depressing experience of listening to the local Fox affiliate’s political “bombasticator” outline exactly the same argument, spun exactly as you would expect from a Fox outlet.

And then I picked up this morning’s Boston Globe — and what do you supposed was the headline above the fold?


Distraction; fixation on celebrity; commenting on things best left to existing institutions; working outside the institutions, rather than relying upon them.

Explain to me again how this is “change I can believe in?”

Prediction: If Ted Kennedy dies before the end of the summer, health care reform will die with him. This White House blew its chance last night, because I can guarantee that the discussion for the next week is going to be about race, and not about health care. And then it’s August.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Some other links:

Later: it starts — Officer Defends Arrest of Harvard Professor (pdf).

On Thursday, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, clarified President Obama’s comments to a pool reporter on Air Force One. “Let me be clear: he was not calling the officer stupid, O.K.?” Mr. Gibbs said. He added that the president was simply saying that “at a certain point the situation got far out of hand, and I think all sides understand that.”

Didn’t our last President also need to have his words “explained” after the fact?

Also — see this: Obama Complains About the News Cycle but Manipulates It, Worrying Some. Moreover, there’s at least one person at the New York Times who thinks it *was* a political move — President Obama, Professor Gates and the Cambridge Police

This was no exceptionalist rant. Speaking to Mr. Robinson, the president used the first-person plural revealingly when he said: “I do think it is important for the African-American community, in its diversity, to stay true to one core aspect of the African-American experience, which is we know what it’s like to be on the outside.”

[...] People who have heretofore viewed Mr. Obama as a “postracial” abstraction were no doubt surprised by these remarks. This could be because they were hearing him fully for the first time.

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July 22, 2009

Culture, Secrecy and Product Development [8:19 am]

Chinese Worker Commits Suicide Over Missing iPhone Prototype

There’s tremendous pressure on employees dealing with Apple’s new products to maintain a high-level secrecy over the gadgets, traditionally launched amid great suspense and a big marketing buzz. Apple is also a constant target of prying journalists, rabidly faithful customers and competitors who make great efforts to try to steal a peek at its latest technology.

Sun [Danyong] was responsible for sending iPhone prototypes to Apple, and on July 13 he reported that he was missing one of the 16 fourth-generation units in his possession, the newspaper reported. His friends said company security guards searched his apartment, detained him and beat him, the paper reported.

In the early morning of July 16, Sun jumped from the 12th floor of his apartment building, the paper said.

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Experimentation [8:16 am]

Musicians Find New Backers as Labels Lose Power

[W]ith the structure of the music business shifting radically, some industry iconoclasts are sidestepping the music giants and inventing new ways for artists to make and market their music — without ever signing a traditional recording contract.

The latest effort comes from Brian Message, manager of the alternative band Radiohead, which gave away its last album, “In Rainbows,” on the Internet. His venture, called Polyphonic, which was announced this month, will look to invest a few hundred thousand dollars in new and rising artists who are not signed to record deals and then help them create their own direct links to audiences over the Internet.

“Artists are at the point where they realize going back to the old model doesn’t make any sense,” Mr. Message said. “There is a hunger for a new way of doing things.”

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July 21, 2009

I Can’t Resist [8:01 am]

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July 20, 2009

A Notable Obit In Today’s Paper [3:08 pm]

William C. Conner, 89, Judge Known for First Amendment Rulings, Dies (pdf)

Judge Conner’s expertise in intellectual property issues was the principal reason he was given responsibility in the mid-1970s for overseeing a 1941 consent order governing the activities of Ascap, which represents songwriters and music publishers in royalty and other matters. Under the order, the federal government and Ascap — an acronym for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers — agreed to put Ascap’s dealings under the supervision of the federal court in Manhattan to settle an antitrust suit.

Judge Conner in 2004 approved a new deal for Ascap’s licensing of songs to radio stations. The pact is estimated to have increased payments to composers and publishers by $1.7 billion since 2001.

In 2007, Judge Conner vetoed an Ascap request to classify digital downloads as performances; the designation would have given songwriters an extra royalty. Last year, he turned down Ascap’s request to get 3 percent of revenues from songs streamed over AOL, Yahoo and RealNetworks. Instead, he decreed 2.5 percent.

[...] The Marx Brothers case in 1981 involved the Broadway show “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine.” Heirs of the Marx Brothers’ contended that the show had illegally appropriated the names and likenesses of Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx. Judge Conner said that publicity rights held by the brothers, all of whom had died, trumped the producers’ First Amendment claims. The ruling was reversed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Later: A related op-ed on the role of the courts in intellectual discource — The Day Obscenity Became Art

Looking over the Roth decision, Rembar spotted a loophole. The opinion, written by Justice William J. Brennan, noted that the First Amendment’s purpose was “to assure unfettered interchange of ideas” and that “all ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance — unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion — have the full protection of the guarantees.” But, Brennan went on, “implicit in the history of the First Amendment is the rejection of obscenity as utterly without redeeming social importance.”

Rembar mulled over a question that Brennan apparently hadn’t considered: What if a book met the standards of obscenity yet also presented ideas of “redeeming social importance”? By Brennan’s logic, wouldn’t it qualify for the First Amendment’s protection after all?

On a sheet of paper, Rembar drew two slightly overlapping circles. He labeled one circle “Material appealing to prurient interests.” He labeled the other “Material utterly without social importance.” By Brennan’s reasoning, only material that fell inside both circles — that was both prurient and worthless — should be denied the privileges of free speech.

This was the argument that Rembar made before Judge Frederick van Pelt Bryan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. [...]

Where would we be without the “new math” education?

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“Z” on Life in “The Cloud” [7:51 am]

Articulating the real gaps in law and policy that stand in the way — and one latent threat: Op-Ed Contributor - Lost in the Cloud (pdf)

[...] Chrome moves us further away from running code and storing our information on our own PCs toward doing everything online — also known as in “the cloud” — using whatever device is at hand.

Many people consider this development to be as sensible and inevitable as the move from answering machines to voicemail. With your stuff in the cloud, it’s not a catastrophe to lose your laptop, any more than losing your glasses would permanently destroy your vision. In addition, as more and more of our information is gathered from and shared with others — through Facebook, MySpace or Twitter — having it all online can make a lot of sense.

The cloud, however, comes with real dangers.

[...] [T]he most difficult challenge — both to grasp and to solve — of the cloud is its effect on our freedom to innovate. The crucial legacy of the personal computer is that anyone can write code for it and give or sell that code to you — and the vendors of the PC and its operating system have no more to say about it than your phone company does about which answering machine you decide to buy. Microsoft might want you to run Word and Internet Explorer, but those had better be good products or you’ll switch with a few mouse clicks to OpenOffice orFirefox.

Promoting competition is only the tip of the iceberg — there are also the thousands of applications so novel that they don’t yet compete with anything. These tend to be produced by tinkerers and hackers. Instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing and the Web itself all exist thanks to people out in left field, often writing for fun rather than money, who are able to tempt the rest of us to try out what they’ve done.

This freedom is at risk in the cloud, where the vendor of a platform has much more control over whether and how to let others write new software. [...]

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Coming To Grips With Reality? [7:37 am]

Music Industry Lures ‘Casual’ Pirates to Legal Sites (pdf)

Record company executives say there are three kinds of music fans. There are those who buy music, and those who get a kick out of never paying for it. And then there are those whom Rob Wells at Universal Music Group calls “dinner party pirates”: the vast majority of listeners, those who copy music illegally because it is more convenient than buying it.

If those low-level copyright cheats could be converted to using legal music services, the digital music business would get much-needed help. Yet even industry executives acknowledge that until recently, they were not giving those listeners many ways to do what they wanted: to sample new music and to play it back anytime, at little or no cost.

Related, stemming, in part, from the announced closing of the local rock institution, WBCN: Young listeners tune out radio in search for new music (pdf)

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July 18, 2009

Technological Mediation and Digital Books [4:50 pm]

Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle Devices (pdf)

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said.

Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said.

And then a copyright holder will take Amazon to court for having knowingly engineered a product that makes it hard to enforce copyright. And, if the Aimster decision is still binding precedent, they’ll probably lose.

Later: Farhad Manjoo takes it all the way — Why 2024 Will Be Like Nineteen Eighty-Four: How Amazon’s remote deletion of e-books from the Kindle paves the way for book-banning’s digital future.

The worst thing about this story isn’t Amazon’s conduct; it’s the company’s technical capabilities. Now we know that Amazon can delete anything it wants from your electronic reader. That’s an awesome power, and Amazon’s justification in this instance is beside the point. As our media libraries get converted to 1’s and 0’s, we are at risk of losing what we take for granted today: full ownership of our book and music and movie collections.

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July 16, 2009

Control and Architecture [2:18 pm]

Apple disables iTunes sync feature on Palm Pre (pdf)

Apple Inc. has shut down one of the most compelling features on Palm Inc.’s rival Pre smart phone, crippling the Pre’s ability to act like an iPod.

Users of the recently released Pre had been able to put music on it by using Apple’s free iTunes software — a unique twist for a device not made by Apple. But Apple updated iTunes on Wednesday to block this feature.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said the update “disables devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre.”

[...] The iTunes software smackdown is the latest example of tensions brewing between Apple and Palm, which since June has been led by the former executive behind the iPod, Jon Rubinstein. Rubinstein became Palm’s executive chairman in October 2007.

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July 15, 2009

E-Book Distribution, Pricing and Sales [2:06 pm]

When to Schedule E-Book Releases - A New Worry for Publishers (pdf)

No topic is more hotly debated in book circles at the moment than the timing, pricing and ultimate impact of e-books on the financial health of publishers and retailers. Publishers are grappling with e-book release dates partly because they are trying to understand how digital editions affect demand for hardcover books. A hardcover typically sells for anywhere from $25 to $35, while the most common price for an e-book has quickly become $9.99.

Amazon.com, which sells electronic editions for its Kindle device, has effectively made $9.99 the de facto price for most best sellers, a price that publishers believe will reduce their profit margins over time. Barnes & Noble, through its Fictionwise arm, also sells best sellers in e-book form, for $9.95.

Ms. Herz said that Doubleday was primarily worried about the security of Mr. Brown’s book, which is being kept under a strict embargo until the Sept. 15 publication date. But she acknowledged that the e-book’s possible effect on hardcover sales was also an issue, among others.

Similarly, Stephen King, whose novel “Under the Dome” is being published in November by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, said in an e-mail message that “we’re all thinking and talking about electronic publishing and how to deal with these issues,” adding, “but I can’t say anything right now.”

Later, in Slate: Does the Book Industry Want To Get Napstered?

What has kept illegal e-books from taking off? First, all the electronic reading gadgets on the market are subpar, if you ask me, making the reading of books, newspapers, magazines, and even cereal boxes painful. [...] Second, the hassle factor is too great. [...] Third, not all bootlegged e-books are created equal. [...] If a nicely produced Kindle version of The Telephone Booth Indian that doesn’t have to be monkeyed around with can be easily nabbed for $9.99, which it can, why bother breaking the law to obtain an inferior edition for display on a rotten device? It’s like using an acetylene torch to loot a kid’s piggy bank.

[...] So far, few consumers think books should be free—a fact that I attribute to the klugy Kindle and its affordable Amazon store. I conducted an informal census of friends and associates who read lots of books, and I found none who partake of the bootlegged variety. But that could change in a matter of months if the book industry insists on 1) jacking up the price of e-books and 2) withholding potential best-sellers from the e-book market. Cool devices that make electronic reading painless are just around the corner, and the e-book market is about to explode. If publishers insist on pushing prices too high and curbing availability, consumers could rebel—as they did with the sharing of MP3s—and normalize the trafficking of infringing e-books.

My sense that not all publishers understand their readers is shared by Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. “Publishers are in denial about the economics of digital content,” she told the Wall Street Journal this month. “What we’ve seen in other industries and in the evolution of digital content is that consumers are not willing to pay as much for content that is separated from its physical medium.”

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Everybody Wants In On It [1:48 pm]

Arts, Briefly - Rights to Obama Photo - A Three-Way Battle (pdf)

A freelance photographer who took the picture of Barack Obama that became the basis for Shepard Fairey’s well-known “Hope” poster, left, has filed court papers arguing that The Associated Press, for whom he was working temporarily at the time, does not own the copyright to the picture.

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July 10, 2009

“I’m Shocked! Shocked!” [4:15 pm]

Report Says Wiretaps Got Too Little Legal Review (pdf)

The warrantless surveillance program approved by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks received too little legal review at its inception and its ultimate effectiveness was unclear, according to an in-depth review released Friday by the inspectors general of five federal agencies.

[...] The wiretapping program was first disclosed by The New York Times in December 2005, 13 months after the White House urged the newspaper not to publish the article because it said the disclosure would harm national security.

The disclosure set off a furious debate that continued through the end of the Bush administration on presidential power in a time of war, the separation of powers, federal wiretapping powers, and state secrets.

[...] Since Mr. Obama took office, his administration has used many of the same legal tactics as the Bush administration, including the assertion of a “state privelege” claim, to try to quash legal challenges to the program in federal court.

The NYTimes offers a link to the document; I can’t get an original link from the ODNI yet.

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July 2009
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