2003 March 6

(entry last updated: 2003-03-06 17:46:21)

  • I’m closing out the day with this piece from New York Metro, called Stop, Thief!, on the ironies of the actions of media industries in the era of declining value for content.

    They just didn’t understand how the whole media view came together, how synergy happened. In the empire’s view, consumers had to be made to consume—growth depended on media being everywhere, media being transparent, a utility. And as with a utility, it was better that you not really even be aware of how you consumed the product. It would just be on and available all of the time. The way to do that was to commodify the product and to make it ever cheaper—or in the case of the Internet, to make it free—and then to figure that with a giant audience and vast brand awareness and utilitylike dependency and this incredible cross-platform cross-marketing apparatus and an instant star-making and self-promotion machine, you couldn’t help but make a big pile of money for the conquering empire. (“DISNEY TO PUSH RETAIL GEAR TIED TO ITS TV SHOWS,” read an ever-hopeful headline in last week’s Wall Street Journal.)

    The thing that I always try to say to the movie and music executives frothing at the mouth about this stealing issue (accusing my children and, one might fairly suspect, their own) is that everybody can’t be an outlaw. If everybody does it, it’s normal rather than aberrant behavior. It’s not so much the consumer who is on the wrong side of the law, but the entertainment industry that’s on the wrong side of economic laws.

    For better or worse, the media business has created a world where consumers feel content is worth less and less and they are entitled to more and more of it. And now the chickens have come home to roost.

  • Yow! Cornell is taking what may prove to be a risky plunge into innovative bandwidth management – billing for “excess” bandwidth.

    The new billing system, which Cornell expects to begin using July 1, is more equitable than the one it replaces, officials say; it is also more complicated. The new system incorporates data collected from network-router logs. The logs provide an irrefutable record of which departments and users are consuming the most Internet bandwidth.

    …For each IP number belonging to an employee’s computer, Cornell will charge an Internet-use fee of $4 a month for downloading or serving 2 gigabytes of information. For every megabyte over the basic allocation, individual employees or their departments will be charged a fraction of a cent. (A gigabyte is approximately 1 billion bytes, and a megabyte is approximately 1 million bytes.) Any employee who uses the Internet to download or serve less than 2 gigabytes of data in a month will pay no Internet-use fee.

    The Slashdot discussion is notable not only in that it documents the policies of other universities, but because it also cites some technical workarounds that might be used. Entertaining reads.

  • I’m just going to quote from this CNet article:

    Digital broadcaster Pseudo.com plans to release a weekly TV show hosted by rap star Ice-T on the Internet file-sharing network Kazaa, in attempts to start a new model of advertising-supported television.

    Just how big will this hour-long media file be?

  • Today’s the anniversary (March 6, 1875) of an infamous Supreme Court decision; Dred Scott v. Sandford

  • Dahlia Lithwick’s writeup of the arguments before the Supreme Court on library WWW filtering is a riot. For example:

    A good question from Kennedy: Wouldn’t it be a lot easier just to have two separate computers, a filtered one for children and an unrestricted one for adults—you, know, in the section behind the black curtain, with the bound back editions of Hustler and the very sticky floors? Olson replies that Congress could have done this lots of ways, but it chose a rational mechanism (the financial blackmail method) that is constitutionally sufficient. Olson then offers up the incredibly weird argument that this statute actually saves librarians from being inundated with lawsuits from authors suing because their book wasn’t stocked. Because if the blocking software is unconstitutional, then “so are the types of decisions librarians have been making all along.” This is part of Olson’s whole “librarians love this” defense of a statute librarians seem to pretty universally detest—as evidenced by the fact that the named plaintiff in the case is, in fact, the American Library Association.

    Slashdot has a discussion going with some more pointers as well.

  • eWeek reviews Hacktivismo‘s secure P2P application, Six/Four

    The Six/Four System is peer-to-peer technology that makes it possible to carry out almost any Internet activity securely and—more importantly, for all sorts of reasons—anonymously. The Hactivismo system, or anything based on it, just may become the Internet’s next killer app.

    Many who will be affected by Six/Four might use the term “killer” in another sense of the word—from record industry executives fearing a file sharing network where they can’t see who’s sharing what, to law enforcement personnel tracking illegal activity, to oppressive governments attempting to filter information to its citizens.

  • Hey! Cast your vote and let Bill Frist know what you think! (Keep trying – you’ll eventually get through – after my vote, it was running 52% in favor of working with the UN vs. 48% to going it alone.)

  • Working through the backlog, Siva points us to a very interesting article in Reason that discusses a controversial economics paper that concludes that the economic role of IP is not as necessary as has been suggested, Perfectly Competitive Innovation. The Reason article is certainly worth a read, and my printer is working on the economics paper now. (Note: Derek points me to another block of printouts to make!)

  • I’m with Dave on this <G> (Dave has a more directed response.)

    Update: And there are moments when the pathos pays off: Thanks, Derek and Donna!

  • ZDNet Tech Update has an in-depth discussion of the implicit threats in Web Services protocols that are making many companies think twice about adopting these (potentially closed) technologies.

    It will be exactly the scenario that I’ve warned about , where the intellectual property owners of one critical protocol could end up in control of an important part of the Internet. At the very least, if you end up being seduced by the promise of standards by using the two Web services protocols (SOAP and WSDL) that IBM and Microsoft shoved down the W3C’s throat, it may not be long until you find out that your investment in open standards has locked you into using a proprietary technology.

  • The tradition of taping and sharing concert recordings, made an obsession by the fans of the Grateful Dead, lives on

  • More on Tatu, another distressing indication of the depths to which record companies might be going to “promote product.” This MTV news piece includes the following:

    Their racy image has been carefully crafted by the group’s producer and manager, Ivan Shapovalov, who makes Lou Pearlman look downright virtuous. A former psychologist and advertising executive, Shapovalov glanced out at a sea of suggestive teen pop and experienced an epiphany. So he put together T.A.T.U. and tried injecting a stagnant genre with new forbidden fruits, pushing buttons and ruffling feathers, but stopping just short of being outright lewd.

  • David Pogue asks How Important is Copy Protection?. He interestingly makes the know-nothing argument: DVDs are copy protected and no one seems to care, while CDs are not and retroactive copy protection makes people mad. The reason: consumers are trained by what they get, not by what they want. But, even more ominously, he argues that the record companies’ apparent relaxation of concerns over CD burning of for-pay downloads from the online services

    (his summary review article) is based on an expectation of Palladium-like DRM:

    Given that Texas-sized loophole, why do the record companies grant downloading permission to the online services? Because they know something that you probably don’t: According to one of the music-service executives I interviewed, a generation of new, copy-protected CD players and discs are on the way. They’ll work exactly like DVD’s.

    Are we really sufficiently sheep-like that we’ll buy them?

  • FindLaw columnist Anupam Chader looks at the ongoing negotiations around TRIPS – the future of patented pharmaceuticals and Third World disease.

  • A look at the movie industry’s fight to keep DVD recorders out of the home

    The MPAA claims that its member studios lose $300-million a year to VHS and DVD knockoffs, but allows that little of this comes at the hands of DVD burners. Which leads to the logical question: If people aren’t burning DVD movies with DVD burners, what are they doing with them?

    According to clerks at Bay Bloor Radio in Toronto, buyers can archive videotapes, record TV shows, and convert home movies straight from camcorders.

    Meanwhile, one Bay Bloor customer has spent the past 14 months transferring his collection of 3,000 VHS movies — “one by one, I’m up to about 300” — onto DVDs. “They’re more permanent, easier to store, and I’m assuming that in the next couple of years, VHS will be kaput,” he says.

    It doesn’t bother him in the least that his DVD burner does not allow him to copy today’s DVD movies. “God, no,” he says. “I’m afraid I’m really not much of a fan of modern movies.”

  • Wired’s Katie Dean adds her interpretations of the LexMark DMCA suit. Ed Felten points to the East Kentucky district court opinion and discusses its implications going forward.

  • TechCentralStation has an opinion piece on the Eldred decision by James DeLong that works to rearrange the debate on the topic of digital copyright. Most interestingly to me, he essentially rejects the argument that the Copyright Clause is predicated on utilitarian arguments on historical grounds, without citation or defense, of course.

    This one-dimensional utilitarianism is dubious because the moral claims of creators were more prominent in the minds of the Founding generation than the conventional view would have it. The copyright clause is best seen as a blend of utilitarianism, recognition of creators’ rights, practical economic assessment of what is necessary to foster creativity, and political compromise.

    Yet others argue that the clause is purely utilitarian developed without the such political compromises. Certainly, Jefferson’s oft-cited letter seems to favor utilitarianisms with:

    He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me….

    The exclusive right to invention [is] given not of natural right, but for the benefit of society.

    Seems like there’s a need to track this down more formally within the historical community, even if historical construction is only a weak argument overall.

  • Billboard agrees with others on the rumored pending Apple music service.

  • Via Slashdot, Australian ISPs raided in MP3 probe.

    The investigation comes as the music industry lines up against alleged pirates at some of Australia’s top universities.

    In an unrelated matter, music labels Sony, EMI and Universal have taken the University of Sydney, the University of Tasmania and the University of Melbourne to the Federal Court in an effort to secure information about alleged piracy.

    The three universities have agreed to preserve possible evidence, but they’re expected to fight any attempt to get them to hand this over when the case resumes later this month.

  • As the Supreme Court reviews laws requiring the use of filtering software in libraries, CNet has an interview with Judith Krug, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

    And Donna has a ton of related links, as well as Ben Edelman’s photo!