December 30, 2009

In Search of a Music Business Model [9:40 am]

With Ads, Music Downloads Sing a New Tune

ON Hulu, the popular Web site that streams free television shows and other video, users have proved to be perfectly willing to watch short commercials, and a new site is betting that the same willingness will apply to downloading music.

FreeAllMusic.com, which began a test version for invited users on Dec. 22 and plans to open to the public in January, will allow users to download songs, which may be copied and shared — unencumbered, in other words, by digital rights management restrictions.

In return, instead of paying 99 cents a song as on iTunes, users must first watch a 15- to 30-second advertisement.

“It’s iTunes meets Hulu,” said Richard Nailling, chief executive of FreeAllMusic.

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© To Protect Encryption Algorithms [9:14 am]

Code That Protects Most Cellphone Calls Is Deciphered (Pdf)

A German computer engineer said Monday that he had deciphered and published the secret code used to encrypt most of the world’s digital mobile phone calls, saying it was his attempt to expose weaknesses in the security of global wireless systems.

The action by the encryption expert, Karsten Nohl, aimed to question the effectiveness of the 21-year-old G.S.M. algorithm, a code developed in 1988 and still used to protect the privacy of 80 percent of mobile calls worldwide. The abbreviation stands for global system for mobile communication.

[...] The G.S.M. Association, the industry group based in London that devised the algorithm and represents wireless companies, called Mr. Nohl’s efforts illegal and said they overstated the security threat to wireless calls.

During an interview, Mr. Nohl said he took precautions to remain within legal boundaries, emphasizing that his efforts to crack the G.S.M. algorithm were purely academic, kept within the public domain, and that the information was not used to decipher a digital call.

[...] Mr. Nohl said the algorithm’s code book was available on the Internet through services like BitTorrent, which some people use to download vast quantities of data like films and music. He declined to provide a Web link to the code book, for fear of the legal implications, but said its location had spread by word of mouth.

[...] In a statement, the G.S.M. Association said efforts to crack the algorithm were more complex than critics have asserted, and that operators, by simply modifying the existing algorithm, could thwart any unintended surveillance.

The group said that hackers intent on illegal eavesdropping would need a radio receiver system and signal processing software to process raw radio data, much of which is copyrighted.

But Mr. Nohl, during a presentation Sunday to attendees at the Berlin conference, said the hardware and software needed for digital surveillance were available free as an open-source product in which the coding is available for individuals to tailor to their needs.

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December 18, 2009

[French] Content Strikes Back [2:25 pm]

French court rules against Google in books case (pdf)

A Paris court ruled Friday that Google Inc. is breaking French law with its policy of digitizing books, handing the U.S. Internet giant a euro10,000-$14,300-a-day fine until it rids its search engine of the literary extracts.

A judge also ordered Google to pay euro300,000 $430,000 in damages and interest to French publisher La Martiniere, which brought the case on behalf of a group of French publishers.

Later: Google Loses in French Copyright Case

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December 16, 2009

NYT Speculatiions on Apple’s LaLa Purchase [8:43 am]

With Apple Purchase of Lala, Music Business Heads into the Virtual World

In this future, the digital music files on people’s computers could join vinyl records, cassette tapes and CDs in the dusty vault of fading music formats.

Instead, music fans will use their always-online computers and smartphones to visit a vast Internet jukebox, where Gregorian chants, Lady Gaga tracks and the several centuries of music in between are instantly available.

For a small but growing cadre of music lovers, the vision is not that outlandish. [...]

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December 14, 2009

Working a Can of Worms [3:59 pm]

Editorial - Twitter Tapping

Privacy law was largely created in the pre-Internet age, and new rules are needed to keep up with the ways people communicate today. Much of what occurs online, like blog posting, is intended to be an open declaration to the world, and law enforcement is within its rights to read and act on what is written. Other kinds of communication, particularly in a closed network, may come with an expectation of privacy. If government agents are joining social networks under false pretenses to spy without a court order, for example, that might be crossing a line.

A national conversation about social networking and other forms of online privacy is long overdue. The first step toward having it is for the public to know more about what is currently being done. Making the federal government answer these reasonable Freedom of Information Act requests would be a good start.

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Confusion at The Boston Globe [11:47 am]

This editorial from today’s Boston Globe is emblematic of the problem with the entire copyright debate — nobody can even figure out how to talk sensibly about the topic anymore: Awkward download laws make music-sharing case a travesty

IF THE LAWS about music file-sharing bore any relationship to common sense, Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum’s civil trial might not have turned into a circus. But the inadequacies of the law brought out the worst both in Tenenbaum and in the record companies that sued him.

[...] Judge Gertner plainly sees the absurdity. In her opinion, the judge says she “urges - no implores - Congress to amend the statute to reflect the realities of file sharing.’’ It would be nice if file-sharers such as Tenenbaum acknowledged that illegal downloading makes it harder for musicians to earn a living, but in any case the solution to the problem is more likely to emerge from technological change than from legal action. In the meantime, though, the law should reflect the difference between large-scale counterfeiters who profit off of copyright infringement and the student who casually shares files.

So, what *is* the Globe’s message? “Can’t we all just get along?” is a fine ethical guideline, but ethics is not what this fight centers upon.

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December 9, 2009

The Downsides of Making Technology Accessible [10:24 am]

“Who cares how it works?” Well, we all should: Text Messages - Digital Lipstick on the Collar (pdf)

Lawyers expect the number of cases to grow as younger cellphone users, who are more likely to text than talk, marry. Text messages now outnumber mobile voice calls three to one, according to the Nielsen Company. Monthly messages sent or received jumped to 584 a person in the quarter ending in September, a 60 percent increase from a year earlier.

At the root of the issue is privacy — or rather the increasing lack of it in our show-and-tell digital culture. Text messages are considered private, much as telephone calls are, legal experts say. But if a cheating spouse’s cellphone is part of a family calling plan or regularly left unlocked and unattended on the dinner table or night stand, it is conceivable that a partner who suspects infidelity could make a case for sifting through the in-box.

“People who have something really private to say probably shouldn’t do it in a text on their cellphone,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research group based in Washington.

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December 8, 2009

Messing With The RIAA’s Head [10:46 am]

Of course, a terribly misleading headline from The Boston Globe, but what do you expect? Judge refuses to bar student from promoting illegal music downloading (pdf)

US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner granted yesterday a request by the companies that she order Joel Tenenbaum to destroy the 30 songs that a federal jury found he downloaded and to not commit further copyright infringement. But she rebuffed their request to bar him from encouraging others to break the law.

“The word promote is far too vague to withstand scrutiny under the First Amendment,’’ Gertner wrote. “Although plaintiffs are entitled to statutory damages, they have no right to silence defendant’s criticism of the statutory regime under which he is obligated to pay those damages.’’

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December 7, 2009

How Special! [11:43 am]

Google Opens Personalized Results to All

Personalized results were previously served only to users who were signed into their Google account and had opted in to let Google track their Web History, or log of search queries and results. Going forward, personalized results will be offered to users whether they are signed in or not. Users must also now opt out of personalized results.

This is how it works. Google will continue to use Web History to personalize results for users who are signed in. Even when users are not signed in, Google will customize their search results based on past search information linked to a user’s computer Web browser using an anonymous cookie. Google stores up to 180 days of signed-out search activity linked to the browser’s cookie, including queries and results that are clicked.

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Informing or Obscuring? [8:55 am]

And how would you know? Government Offers Data to Miners (pdf)

Many local governments are figuring out how to use the Internet to make government data more accessible. The goal is to spawn useful Web sites and mobile applications — and perhaps even have people think differently about their city and its government.

“It will change the way citizens and government interact, but perhaps most important, it’s going to change the way elected officials and civil servants deliver programs, services and promises,” said Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, which is one of the cities leading the way in releasing government data to Web developers. “I can’t wait until it challenges and infuriates the bureaucracy.”

Maybe, but there’s the “bad money drives out good money” problem. When free, but cherry picked, data swamps the channel, what will be the value of the information derived?

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