November 23, 2003

‘Free’ as in Beer and ‘Free’ as in Speech [5:26 pm]

A look at what happens when they get conflated — When Free Isn’t Really Free - with quotes from Siva Viadhyanathan and Jonathan Zittrain, as well as TPP alum Alan Davidson.

But now people from all sides of the Internet copyright debate have begun to notice that freebies often mask a multitude of possible cybersins. A report released last week (Ghosts in Our Machines: Background and Policy Proposals on the "Spyware" Problem) by the Center for Democracy and Technology, a high-tech policy group in Washington, called for new regulations, voluntary industry measures and consumer education to combat the problem of “spyware” that often piggybacks on programs, including the software people use to download music.

The Federal Trade Commission has not tried to prosecute any companies for distributing spyware, and courts have declared the programs legal so far. But the Center for Democracy and Technology says that more should be done to protect consumers from sneaky software. “Spyware represents a serious threat to users’ control over their computers and their Internet connections,” the report said.

[...] But the problems with spyware and other rogue programs may offer the music industry a way out, one that doesn’t risk alienating customers by threatening lawsuits. To avoid messing up their computers and surrendering their privacy, people may be more willing to pay for their music - so long as it comes in a form they want and at a price they don’t mind paying.

“It’s not rocket science, it’s not new math, it’s not ‘new economy,’ ” said Mike McGuire, director of media research at GartnerG2, the business strategy research group of Gartner Inc. “If people want this thing, they will pay a reasonable price for it - if it is reasonably priced and convenient, and it works when you hit ‘play.’ ”

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