2003 March 7

(entry last updated: 2003-03-07 18:35:25)

  • News.com writes up the DMCA “takedown” of NeoWin.

  • Slashdot reports that Zoe Lofgren introduced The Balance Act:

    My bill, H.R. 1066, the Balance Act, seeks to restore it. Without utilizing government mandates or other prescriptive measures that will ultimately only stifle innovation, it gives lawful consumers the tools to enjoy digital entertainment in their home or car, or on their favorite mobile device. Consumers have demanded this flexibility. It is time to heed their demands.

    An impressive list of supporters, and the press release The Library of Congress’ Bill Summary and Status page for H.R. 1066

  • Check it out – World of Ends by Doc Searls and David Weinberger (Slashdot discussion; another one). Then, to see a discussion of exactly the kind of repeatable errors cited, read the piece from New York Metro, Stop, Thief! that I cited late yesterday.

    Initial (Half-Baked) Thoughts

    I’ve got fifteen minutes before I rush off to my next meeting, and I’m thinking about the world of ends article. It appears to me that there is a dangerous assumption at the heart of this excellent piece — one that is going to get us in trouble if we don’t address it. That assumption is that the “dumb net” will drive out the “smart net.” The technical argument is clear from what Doc and Dave write, but technical superiority does not necessarily have the traction that the economically sustainable or the politically acceptable does. Of course, the article says that there is no economically sustainable mechanism that is based on notions of “ownership” and “access,” but that’s not quite what I mean.

    It brings to mind the Microsoft DarkNet paper. Doc and Dave are saying that the Darknet is the best way to go. Yet, the Microsoft paper suggests that there are non-technical imperatives that can lead to the development of something very different from what we have today; and there are real pressures out there to move in that direction, modifying the network to make it less dumb and less valuable.

    Moreover, as Larry Lessig has been pointing out to us, it’s not as if there are very potent forces out there that demonstrate the fallacy of characterizing the Internet as the Darknet. A lot of criminally stupid institutions can persist in the face of social forces that are striving to destroy them (c.f., communist Russia) – all it takes is will. And people like Jack Valenti and his ilk have demonstrated that there’s money and a certain kind of power behind that will today.

    So, I have concerns that echo those of Donna. It’s not that this piece is wrong – it’s that we can already see that there are plenty of social forces that will contend that the construction Doc and Dave have made is wrong. And, in the fullness of time, they will be able to point to this page and say “I told you so!” (I hope). But, in the interim, there’s a lot of possible pain to endure.

    If we agree that this is the inevitable future, how do we demonstrate that there is a path to that future that we can convince the non-believers is defensible and achievable? We’re all convinced, but there are a lot of people out there that don’t even see that there’s a problem.

    Gotta go; but I’ll be back to this, I’m sure.

  • BusinessWeek Online posts one of the standard gloom-and-doom stories for the media industry in the digital age. But you have to read today’s Good Morning Silicon Valley to learn what sort of technology is needed to make the horror-story real:

    “Imagine … being able to download two full-length, two-hour movies within a minute,” Cottrell said. “That changes the whole idea of how media is distributed.”

    … Scientists were able to get 93 percent efficiency out of their record-setting connection because they didn’t have to share bandwidth, they received donated equipment in excess of $1 million and they changed the setting of Internet protocols to allow faster data transfers, Newman said.

    Even if they could transfer vast amounts of data tomorrow at reasonable prices, Newman noted that present-day computers are unable to handle such loads.

    Of course, a read of the World of Ends might help one understand what’s really going on.

  • A longstanding capability for Europeans is coming to the US via Xingtone, which allows users to download favorite songs as ringtones. The RIAA is not expected to like it much:

    A tiny company called Xingtone on Thursday said it has developed technology to enable users to load digital songs onto cell phones for the first time, but admits the software may hit a sour note with the embattled music industry.

    …But [Brad Zutaut of Xingtone] also admitted he ran the risk of angering the labels, which have gone after many Internet services like Napster and Kazaa that enabled users to swap their copyrighted material without their permission or financial gain.

    “I know that we’ll have licensing issues, but if people take their own music and put it on their phone, it’s not my responsibility,” he said.

  • Derek adds his thoughts on yesterday’s DeLong TCS piece. He goes beyond my questions yesterday (toward the bottom) about the historical claims DeLong makes into other important areas.

  • OK – I don’t want to become a warblogger, but I have to say it: last night’s Presidential press conference was a disappointment. This Slate piece expresses almost everything I would have wanted to say, except that this question was a shameful waste:

    Q. As the nation is at odds over war, with many organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus pushing for continued diplomacy through the U.N., how is your faith guiding you? And what should you tell America or what should America do collectively as you instructed before 9/11? Should it pray? Because you’re saying let’s continue the war on terror.

    Update (Mar 24): This piece is an even better characterization of the whole problem.

  • On the weirdness front, we have a NYTimes review of The Sphynx of Imagination by Hypnotica.

    So what is it? It is a 51 minute 50 second CD called “The Sphinx of Imagination” (www.hypnotica.org), which comes emblazoned with the warning, “Do not listen to while operating any type of machinery.” Intended to be heard in its entirety on headphones, the CD uses music and words to speak to the unconscious of the listener. Its intent is to do a little rewiring and expand listeners’ perceptions, open their minds and allow them to change themselves, sort of like a Grateful Dead concert without the band or the drugs.

    … The CD has found its own solution to a problem that is the bane of the music business: downloading, copying and piracy. “Make sure this is an original, noncompressed recording,” a voice says at the beginning of the CD. “Listening to any other encodement process will take away from its full effect.”

    … That being said, he added, “if people are in a proper state of mind and really want to accomplish something and are open to it, then these images, tidbits and metaphors can be helpful cues to stimulate a person’s imagination in the direction that they already want to go.”

    Uh-huh, right!

  • Wired also chimes in on the putative Apple music service.

  • One of the key pieces of the distributed wireless/WiFi net model has always seemed to be the question of who supplied the eventual “pipes” that achieve connectivity between nodes of relatively dense mesh networks. The obvious answer is that such connectivity should be a public utility, analagous to the highway system. Wired has an article suggesting that a public broadband system need not match the inefficiencies of past bureaucracies.

  • BT’s DotMusic.com service started up yesterday. Mark Mulligan, of Jupiter Research, opines in his weblog that, although the service is currently structured as a demonstrably-unpopular rental model, it is a harbinger of potential real change in the European market. The Register points out that some things never change, though – like litigation over what “unlimited” means

  • The Register takes a certain glee in recounting a BSA excess in software piracy policing – of the distribution of Open Office. They also point to the use of a software copy protection company’s “newsletter” to market its own services. Update: Another “anti-piracy bot” gets some Register ink.

  • Turf wars between the FCC and Congress are a brewin’. It appears that some see the broadcast flag as an infringement of the Congress’ power under the copyright clause.

    Democrat Rep. Howard Berman , whose southern California district borders Hollywood, said he was worried that the FCC could veer in a direction that might mandate “fair use” rights that would not be favorable to the entertainment industry. “I’m opposed to the FCC attempting to…limit the exclusive rights of copyright holders in its broadcast flag rule making,” he said.

    Berman said the FCC must not require that “copyright owners surrender any of their exclusive rights to consumers…I’m unaware of any precedent for a federal agency doing so. The closest precedent involves the Copyright Office, not the FCC.”

  • News.com discusses the SCO Unix’s filing against IBM for patent infringement, with a note that IP lawsuits are on the rise in this industry. Slashdot discussion. This Register piece gives a little background on the company. And SCO has put the text of the complaint online, and you can get to the exhibits from here.
    Update: Wired represents the open source developer community as mightily pissed at Caldera/SCO. And Slashdot has more stuff to add.

  • COPA is struck down again.

    “COPA will likely deter many adults from accessing restricted content, because many Web users are simply unwilling to provide identification information in order to gain access to content, especially where the information they wish to access is sensitive or controversial,” the court said. “People may fear to transmit their personal information, and may also fear that their personal, identifying information will be collected and stored in the records of various Web sites or providers of adult identification numbers.”

    The opinionSlashdot discussion