September 30, 2009

Turow’s Latest on Advertising [9:12 am]

This report, SSRN-Americans Reject Tailored Advertising and Three Activities that Enable It by Joseph Turow, Jennifer King, Chris Hoofnagle, Amy Bleakley, Michael Hennessy gets some ink in today’s New York Times: Two-Thirds of Americans Object to Online Tracking. It makes some surprising claims, actually. After all, while folks may not like tailored ads, they really seem to hate “spam.” The report is probably going to require some more careful reading, rather than relying upon the NYTimes article.

The respondents’ aversion to tailored ads increased once they learned about targeting methods. In addition to the original 66 percent that said tailored ads were “not O.K.,” an additional 7 percent said such ads were not O.K. when they were tracked on the site. An additional 18 percent said it was not O.K. when they were tracked via other Web sites, and an additional 20 percent said it was not O.K. when they were tracked offline.

The survey company also asked about customized discounts and customized news. Fifty-one percent of respondents said that tailored discounts were O.K., and 58 percent said that customized news was fine.

On the advertising question, there was not a big difference between age groups. Marketers often use teenagers’ behavior on Facebook as anecdotal evidence that they do not mind handing over information. But 55 percent of respondents from 18 to 24 objected to tailored advertising.

“We sometimes think that the younger adults in the United States don’t care about this stuff, and I would suggest that’s an exaggeration,” said Joseph Turow, lead author of the study and a professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. [...]

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September 28, 2009

It’s Always Surprising … [11:09 am]

… To see a truth stated so baldly. From Expensive Box Sets From the Beatles and Yo-Yo Ma (pdf)

Box sets have long been around, of course. Compact disc and digital technology made them easier to produce. But what seems to be their growing presence now has particular reasons.

As younger listeners increasingly acquire their music by downloading individual songs, the concept of the album has withered. So record companies are appealing to older buyers, with more money to spend and longer attention spans, by offering something special.

More profoundly, digitalization has changed recorded music from being a “thing” to a collection of data. The container is irrelevant, said Evan Eisenberg, author of “The Recording Angel,” a study of the cultural impact of recorded music.

Yet the impulse to have and to hold an object, as well as to collect it, remains. A box set “preserves something,” Mr. Eisenberg said. “It preserves a time that we want to remember, that we want to remain in. It suggests permanence and solidity and a bunker against the passage of time, and transience and decay.” Mr. Eisenberg said he has known Mr. Ma since college and doubted the box set was his idea. “He really doesn’t think in those terms,” he said.

Possessing the “complete works of” also appeals to an innate desire to contain a whole world in one place, even if no one has the time to listen to 90 CDs. Instead, such collections allow for archaeological digging and scholarly rummaging.

(On a separate note, I hope to get back to posting at least a little more frequently. Been under the gun these days.)

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September 21, 2009

Patent Filings as Indicator [11:57 am]

But, of what, exactly? Demand for patents falling as crisis bites: WIPO (pdf)

“The best inventions are patented internationally and not just nationally and so enterprises focus in time of economic difficulty on promoting their best inventions and are less inclined to patent across the whole of the output of their research and development,” Gurry said.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which had issued the highest number of patents since 1998, was overtaken in 2007 by the patent office of Japan, and China’s patent office replaced the European Patent Office as the fourth largest in terms of granting patents, WIPO said in a statement.

Rates of increase for patent applications are growing faster in China and South Korea than in Japan, the United States and Europe, Gurry said.

Because final data are only available up to 2007, it is not possible to say which sectors are currently attracting most patent and trademark activity.

The report: World Intellectual Property Indicators [local]

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Ah - “Creators” Being Protected [9:08 am]

Oh, wait - they’re dead: Disney Faces Copyright Claims Over Marvel Superheroes (pdf)

Heirs to the comic book artist Jack Kirby, a creator of characters and stories behind Marvel mainstays like “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four,” last week sent 45 notices of copyright termination to Marvel and Disney, as well as Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and other companies that have been using the characters.

The notices expressed an intent to regain copyrights to some of Mr. Kirby’s creations as early as 2014, according to a statement disclosed on Sunday by Toberoff & Associates, a law firm in Los Angeles that helped win a court ruling last year returning a share of the copyright in Superman to heirs of one of the character’s creators, Jerome Siegel.

[…. Disney said in a statement, “the notices involved are an attempt to terminate rights 7 to 10 years from now, and involve claims that were fully considered in the acquisition.” Fox, Sony, Paramount and Universal had no comment.

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Six Principles? (updated with the speech) [8:30 am]

And not much of a consensus: FCC Vote Expected to Advance New “Net Neutrality” Rules (pdf)

The Federal Communications Commissions proposal of new rules to prevent companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from deliberately blocking or slowing certain Web traffic is expected to advance with three votes out of the five-member agency, according to sources.

The proposal, to be announced Monday by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, will include an additional guideline for carriers that they make public the way they manage traffic on their network, according to sources at the agency. The additional guideline would be a “sixth principle” to four existing guidelines adopted in 2005 on Internet network operations. A fifth principle is expected to be announced by Genachowski on Monday during a speech at the Brookings Institute that would prohibit the discrimination of applications and services on telecommunications, cable and wireless Internet networks.

Also F.C.C. Seeks to Protect Free Flow of Internet Data (pdf)

Finally, the 4 current principles, as outlined in Appropriate Framework for Broadband Access to the Internet over Wireline Facilities, Policy Statement, 20 FCC Rcd 14986 (2005) (Policy Statement)., are the second half of each of these quoted list elements:

  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.

  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.

  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.

  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.

Later: Here’s the speech in question — Chairman Genachowski Outlines Actions to Preserve the Free and Open Internet (press release)

In view of these challenges and opportunities, and because it is vital that the Internet continue to be an engine of innovation, economic growth, competition and democratic engagement, I believe the FCC must be a smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet.

This is how I propose we move forward: To date, the Federal Communications Commission has addressed these issues by announcing four Internet principles that guide our case-by-case enforcement of the communications laws. These principles can be summarized as: Network operators cannot prevent users from accessing the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, nor can they prohibit users from attaching non-harmful devices to the network.

The principles were initially articulated by Chairman Michael Powell in 2004 as the “Four Freedoms,” and later endorsed in a unanimous 2005 policy statement issued by the Commission under Chairman Kevin Martin and with the forceful support of Commissioner Michael Copps, who of course remains on the Commission today. In the years since 2005, the Internet has continued to evolve and the FCC has issued a number of important decisions involving openness. Today, I propose that the FCC adopt the existing principles as Commission rules, along with two additional principles that reflect the evolution of the Internet and that are essential to ensuring its continued openness.

The fifth principle is one of non-discrimination — stating that broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed.

[...] The sixth principle is a transparency principle — stating that providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices. Why does the FCC need to adopt this principle? The Internet evolved through open standards. It was conceived as a tool whose user manual would be free and available to all. But new network management practices and technologies challenge this original understanding. Today, broadband providers have the technical ability to change how the Internet works for millions of users — with profound consequences for those users and content, application, and service providers around the world.

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September 17, 2009

Another Venue for the Skype Fight [8:48 am]

Skype Founders File a Copyright Suit Against eBay (pdf)

Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, who became billionaires after selling Skype to eBay in 2005, filed a copyright lawsuit on Wednesday against Skype in the United States District Court of Northern California. The suit comes a little more than two weeks after eBay announced it would sell most of Skype for $1.9 billion to a consortium of investors led by the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners.

In the court filing, Joltid, a company owned by the Skype founders, claims that eBay violated copyright law by altering and sharing the peer-to-peer source code behind the free Internet calling service. The Skype founders maintained ownership of that source code after selling Skype to eBay in 2005, and licensed it to eBay.

Joltid seeks an injunction and statutory damages, which it says could total more than $75 million a day. The lawsuit also names as defendants Silver Lake Partners and its partners in the buyout, Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

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September 10, 2009

The Copyright Office Heard From [10:08 pm]

Top Copyright Official Assails Google Book Settlement (pdf)

The nation’s top copyright official made a blistering attack Thursday on a controversial legal settlement that would let Google create a huge online library and bookstore.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Marybeth Peters, the United States register of copyrights, said the settlement between Google and groups representing authors and publishers amounted to an end-run around copyright law that would wrest control of books from authors and other right holders.

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September 9, 2009

Can You Have Your Cake And Eat It Too? [10:01 am]

The US DoD is going to try, apparently: Pentagon Keeps Wary Watch as Troops Blog (pdf)

The Army is encouraging personnel of all ranks to go online and collaboratively rewrite seven of its field manuals. And on Aug. 17, the Department of Defense unveiled a Web site promoting links to its blogs and its Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites.

The Web, however, is a big place. And the many thousands of troops who use blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to communicate with the outside world are not always in tune with the Pentagon’s official voice. Policing their daily flood of posts, videos and photographs is virtually impossible — but that has not stopped some in the military from trying.

The Department of Defense, citing growing concerns about cybersecurity, plans to issue a new policy in the coming weeks that is widely expected to set departmentwide restrictions on access to social networking sites from military computers. People involved with the department’s review say the new policy may limit access to social media sites to those who can demonstrate a clear work need, like public information officers or family counselors.

If that is the case, many officials say, it will significantly set back efforts to expand and modernize the military’s use of the Web just as those efforts are gaining momentum. And while the new policy would not apply to troops who use private Internet providers, a large number of military personnel on bases and ships across the world depend on their work computers to gain access to the Internet.

To many analysts and officers, the debate reflects a broader clash of cultures: between the anarchic, unfiltered, bottom-up nature of the Web and the hierarchical, tightly controlled, top-down tradition of the military.

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September 7, 2009

Video Rentals Good, DVD Rentals Bad [5:49 pm]

First sale doctrine and rentals: Movie Studios See a Threat in Growth of Redbox (pdf)

In 1982, just as the VHS tape was taking off, a “Star Wars” buff named Mitch Lowe had a radical idea. What about building a vending machine that could rent movies? He called his invention Video Droid.

It failed. [...]

But Mr. Lowe did not give up, and his moment seems to have finally come.

Mr. Lowe, 56, is now the president of Redbox, a fast-growing company in Illinois that rents movies for $1 a day via kiosks. [...]

Redbox’s growth — it started with 12 kiosks in 2004 and now processes about 80 transactions a second on Friday nights — has Hollywood’s blood boiling. Furious about a potential cannibalization of DVD sales and a broader price devaluation of their product, three studios (20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers and Universal) are refusing to sell DVDs to Redbox until at least 28 days after they arrive in stores.

Redbox is suing them on antitrust grounds. [...]

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Technological Mediation, Theft and Ownership [5:45 pm]

When one buys a device for access, who really owns what? Anger at Makers When Gadgets Go Missing (pdf)

[M]any tech companies will not disclose information about the new owners of missing devices unless a police officer calls with a search warrant. Even a request to simply shut down service — which would deter thieves by rendering their pilfered gadget useless — is typically refused.

The problem, which nobody had to deal with before smartphones and satellite radios, has reached new heights with the Kindle reader from Amazon, with its ability to download books wirelessly and store hundreds of titles on a single device.

[...] Amazon’s policy is that it will help locate a missing Kindle only if the company is contacted by a police officer bearing a subpoena. Mr. Borgese, who lives in Manhattan, questions whether hunting down a $300 e-book reader would rank as a priority for the New York Police Department.

He began to see ulterior motives when he twice sent e-mail messages to Amazon seeking an address to send a police report and got no reply.

“I finally concluded,” Mr. Borgese said, “that Amazon knew the device was being used and preferred to sell content to anyone who possessed the device, rather than assist in returning it to its rightful owner.”

[...] The complaints have left Amazon with a new public relations dilemma. In July, when Amazon remotely deleted titles from Kindles, citing copyright reasons, it was accused of heavy-handedness. If the company were to shut down a Kindle that had been erroneously reported as stolen, it might be accused of playing cop, judge and jury. Then again, it is also possible that Amazon is simply avoiding the financial burden of adjudicating claims.

Whatever the reasoning, Amazon’s policy is hardly unique.

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September 4, 2009

A Tragic Decision [8:34 am]

A library without the books (pdf)

Cushing Academy has all the hallmarks of a New England prep school, with one exception.

This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks - the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. [...] We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 [....] In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine. [emphasis added]

And to replace those old pulpy devices that have transmitted information since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1400s, they have spent $10,000 to buy 18 electronic readers made by and Sony. Administrators plan to distribute the readers, which they’re stocking with digital material, to students looking to spend more time with literature.

Those who don’t have access to the electronic readers will be expected to do their research and peruse many assigned texts on their computers.

You would have thought that a prep school would understand that a library is more than books.

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September 3, 2009

Playing With Fire [9:02 am]

Free speech or one of the many forms of contributory copyright infringement? Civil disobedience and Tenenbaum. Music ‘infringer’ targeted again (pdf)

[I]n one corner of cyberspace, Tenenbaum is now “DJ Joel,’’ and anyone who shares his love of Nirvana, Green Day, and Eminem - and his antipathy toward the Recording Industry Association of America - can illegally download “The $675,000 Mixtape’’ and get the very songs he was sued for sharing.

Although there is no evidence that Tenenbaum was responsible for putting the playlist on The Pirate Bay, a Swedish file-sharing service, the record companies have accused him of defiantly encouraging further illegal downloading by linking to the service directly, from a website created for his defense.

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September 2, 2009

Another Voice Heard From [3:48 pm]

Amazon joins opposition to Google book deal

“The proposed settlement usurps the role of Congress in legislating solutions to the complex issues raised by the interplay between new technologies and the nations copyright laws,” Amazon said in its filing, which was dated Tuesday.

Amazon also argued that the book registry envisioned in the settlement could constitute price-fixing.

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September 1, 2009

Living In A Technological Culture [8:02 am]

One more version of privacy that we can hardly name, much less have a meaningful policy discussion about. Although, let’s do give credit when a topic like this gets a few column inches: A Casualty of the Technology Revolution - ‘Locational Privacy’ (pdf)

When I woke up the other day, I went straight to my computer to catch up on the news and read e-mail. About 20 minutes later, I walked half a block to the gym, where I exercised for 45 minutes. I took the C train to The New York Times building, and then at the end of the day, I was back on the C train. I had dinner on my friends Elisabeth and Dan’s rooftop, then walked home seven blocks.

I’m not giving away any secrets here — nothing I did was secret to begin with. Verizon online knows when I logged on, and New York Sports Club knows when I swiped my membership card. The M.T.A. could trace through the MetroCard I bought with a credit card when and where I took the subway, and The Times knows when I used my ID to enter the building. AT&T could follow me along the way through my iPhone.

[...] A little-appreciated downside of the technology revolution is that, mainly without thinking about it, we have given up “locational privacy.” Even in low-tech days, our movements were not entirely private. The desk attendant at my gym might have recalled seeing me, or my colleagues might have remembered when I arrived. Now the information is collected automatically and often stored indefinitely.

[...] The idea of constantly monitoring the citizenry’s movements used to conjure up images of totalitarian states. Now, technology does the surveillance — generally in the name of being helpful. It’s time for a serious conversation about how much of our privacy of movement we want to give up.

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September 2009
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