2003 March 12

(entry last updated: 2003-03-12 18:12:14)

  • Catch up on the blog discussion of Lessig’s return (post Eldred petition) here from the Volokh Conspiracy – or Copyfight

  • Amid all the hoopla, David Weinberger (see below) describes Cory Doctorow’s talk at SXSW (via JoHo) (if you can do QuickTime, look here):

    Cory says: The role of technology is to create opportunities for the entertainment industry. The entetainment industry’s role is to seek legislation that will close down those opportunities. From piano rolls to TV to Napster, that’s been the story.

    Factoid: “If you were to tape digital movies and use Fedex to ship them to your friends, it would be about 100x less expensive than shipping them to your friend over the Net.” Even at the fastest connection speeds, it’d take several days to move a movie. So, Hollywood’s belief that it’s a threat is overblown.

    The most important theme in Cory’s talk: Hollywood does not want us to have general purpose computing devices. The “broadcast flag” bit the FCC is considering would only work if all digital tech supports it and if device that don’t — like the computer you’re reading this on — are outlawed because they don’t support it.

  • LawMeme has a thoughtful roundoup of the Boalt DRM Conference (via Copyfight)

  • Jupiter Research’s Mark Mulligan (Digital Media, Europe) speculates on why Roxio is working to resurrect Napster.

  • A little more on Zoe Lofgren’s bill from the San Jose Mercury News

    “Most people — at least, most adults — don’t expect to get content as a freebie,” said Lofgren, a San Jose Democrat. “But when people pay good money to buy something and then they can’t use it in the way they’ve become accustomed to, it makes them mad.”

    Two powerful lobbying groups — the Motion Picture Association of America and the Business Software Alliance — say the Lofgren bill would undermine the foundation of the DMCA, created to help copyright holders combat theft at a time when technology makes it possible create an infinite number of pristine digital bootlegs.

    “As drafted, this legislation essentially legalizes hacking. It puts a dagger in the heart of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” said MPAA Chairman Jack Valenti in a prepared statement. “It would deny content owners the ability to protect their works by technological means.”

  • AOL bites the hand that once fed it, giving its users software to block popup ads.

  • Consider the power of Internet distribution of music: the Beastie Boys release an antiwar single online only.

    The song is “In a World Gone Mad,” which was released yesterday with no advance fanfare by the Beastie Boys. Though not commercially available as a single, the song is available free at the Beastie Boys Web site (www.beastieboys.com) and is being distributed to disc jockeys, who were unaware of it until they began receiving copies yesterday.

  • Salon has an article by David Weinberger interviewing David Reed that tries to explain open spectrum. The argument: interference is not a function of spectrum; it’s a function of the technologies employed to extract information from signals. Current spectrum allocation is based on 100 year old technological limitations; the technology has changed, and so should the metaphors used to do spectrum allocation. Moreover, the end-to-end principle should also be employed – smart radios, “dumb” spectrum. A typically good (and provocative, see the Slashdot discussion) Salon read.
    Update: Slashdot discussion now online. The bulk of the comments seem to suggest that Weinberger’s analogy of color is unconvincing, and that David Reed needs to read some physics books.

    At the risk of showing my ignorance, I have been convinced by a different analogy that the Media Lab people have been floating. Consider speech – a very limited bandwidth communications medium, insofar as spectrum is concerned. So, why is it that it is still possible to communicate using speech when you’re inside a football stadium with 50,000 other sources using the same bandwidth? A combination of power management (shouting!) and intelligent signal processing.

    It’s not the whole story, of course, but it was a revelation to me when I first heard it – I started to get the idea that there are at least some possibilities that we are currently missing because we don’t really think in electromagnetism (or probability, or a host of other complex arenas).

  • Apparently, between the Honest Thief and past KaZaA rulings, The Netherlands is now trying to get rid of their reputation as a file-sharing haven. For an example of the kind of press that has been leading to this perception, see this USAToday piece

  • Although this CNet article is appropriately cautious, Hot-spot hopefuls could get burned, the real question is why aren’t they suggesting that these companies read a World of Ends first?

  • On the other hand, this Wired article (Free Wireless on Newberry [sic] Street), while it tragically misspells the Boston Street it describes, does suggest one possibly workable model for WiFi hotspots.

    Wired has corrected their typo – it’s Newbury Street, of course.

  • This has been in the wind for a while, but now it’s official: Benetton will start putting RFID chips in all their clothing. (CNet article; Wired News article; SFGate’s own article, vs. the AP newswire piece linked above) While it’s only supposed to be employed up to the point of sale, there’s plenty of concern that it could be used beyond the point of sale. The Slashdot discussion has further links and specs on the chip.

    Other businesses, including luxury clothing retailer Prada, have previously introduced RFID inventory tags. Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart and British retailer Tesco are among companies pursuing smart tags for restocking, anti-theft and anti-counterfeit purposes.

    Phillips says its smart tags will be imperceptible to the wearer. They store information on the style, size and color of the garment and its path through the manufacturing and stock chain, said Karsten Ottenberg, senior vice president of Philips Semiconductors, based in Hamburg, Germany.

    Because the ID is embedded in the clothes — it’s an antenna-bearing chip smaller than a grain of rice that’s attached to the clothes’ labels — any item returned to the store automatically re-enters the inventory.

    Since the chips contain no power source they can only transmit their data when within 3 feet of a receiver — either a handheld unit or a shelving monitor in a Benetton store or warehouse, Ottenberg said.

    The ID tags have the capacity to store and release more information — although Ottenberg cautioned that the chips will store no data about the customer, and will be essentially useless after the garments leave the store.

  • Recall that I suggested voting on the Iraq war on bill Frist’s WWW site last week? The Register follows up

  • The Register also has a little more on the Mitch Kapor departure from Groove over TIA. Wired, too