2003 March 17

(entry last updated: 2003-03-17 17:54:33)

Happy Evacuation Day! And Happy Birthday, Tracy!

  • More of the same – first it’s terrorism, now it’s pornography and P2P. It’ll be interesting to see if the study upon which this Dawn Chmielewski article is based (so far only the press release is available) will pass Ed Felten’s test.

  • The BBC is reporting a spat between the IFPI and BT over how hard BT is trying to stop P2P filesharing – via GrepLaw

  • As I read Ed Felten’s latest posting I have to wonder if he was present (or just watching) this weekend’s JOLT Symposium, where exactly the kind of ratcheting he discusses was in evidence.

  • kuro5hin has a summary article on the recent hearings in the Hill connecting piracy and terrorism. LawMeme’s got a little bit, too.

  • Jupiter Research asserts the existence of a marginal price to copy when it comes to CD pricing. (Digested version)

  • the NYTimes writes up SXSW

    This year’s event started out singing the blues, with a set of deep Delta slide-guitar moans from the Arkansas bluesman CeDell Davis. Then came a pep talk by Daniel Lanois, who has produced albums by U2, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. “At a time when everything seems to sound the same, the voice of a generation is born,” Mr. Lanois said in a keynote speech.

    That seesawing continued during the four-day convention. Executives bemoaned the difficulty of making a profit in a business that is at odds with customers while its symbiotic partners — radio stations and retail outlets — require huge promotional fees to expose the music.

    Jonathan Adelstein, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, called for public comment on the increasing consolidation of radio-station ownership.

  • Surpisingly (to me), the Globe’s SXSW coverage was better than the Times’.

    Familiar issues such as Internet downloading, artist contracts, and business models inspired lively debate from a divided audience, but Andy Gershon — president of V2 Records (home to Moby, the White Stripes, and much-lauded newcomers the Datsuns) — achieved a consensus describing the fallout of corporate consolidation and rampant commercialism.

    ”We’ve devalued music, and music needs to mean something again,” Gershon said to a roomful of nodding heads, going on to point out that if record labels are to have a viable future, ”it comes down to one thing: signing great artists and making great albums.”

  • YAhoo’s for pay video service gets ink in the New York Times and at ZDNet

  • Hiawatha Bray profiles Katherine Albrecht of CASPIAN in her fight for privacy, discussing in detail the Benetton decision to include inventory control RFID chips in their clothing products.

  • The LATimes has a piece on how much more successful DVD releases (vs. videotape) of TV shows have been.

  • The Register has an article on CD pricing issues surrounding cd-wow – importation of lower priced CDs worries UK retailers, apparently.

  • Ipsos Reid has posted study results (MP3 Newswire) suggesting that legality is not a concern of American MP3 file sharers. Slashdot discussion: Legal Issues Don’t Bother American Downloaders

  • Slashdot points to a Wi-Fi enabled hi-fi system from Philips

  • Derek points to a current exercise in file-sharing shutdowns at Brown

  • A few more post-JOLT thoughts:

    • Gigi Sohn is one angry lady. Of all the speakers in the morning session, she’s the one who spoke most emotionally about the topic, seemingly stemming from her description of herself as asleep at the wheel when the DMCA came through Congress.

    • There was considerable discord among the members of the panel over the degree to which the DMCA received debate. As has been cited elsewhere, the fact that it passed by unanimous voice vote has been asserted as evidence of a largely back room activity; by Jessica Litman, for example. Yet both Alec French and Rob Holleyman (of the SBA) shook their heads in amazement, claiming that there had been six years of hearings before a multitude of committees. As is usually the case, both probably have the facts right, but it would be very interesting to know more about the content of the hearings and the degree to which the issues of the public domain and fair use were raised – everyone agreed that the librarians were the only vocal activists at the time, but I bet there’s a really interesting history to dig through here.

    • I think Derek is a little harsh in his description of Rep. Boucher’s speech. (OK – he reads a little harsh, but I misinterpreted – click on the link to read more Derek comments.) It’s bound to be difficult to speak on such an arcane topic before an audience that has had the luxury of concentrating on the ins and outs for months/years. Moreover, the flaws in his speech are something to lay at the feet of his staff.

      On the other hand, I have seen much better speech reading. I understand that’s a skill, and I know I would have done much worse, but it was a little disheartening to hear one of the major Congressional proponents of a position with which you agree make some of the little mistakes he made, particularly when he elected to ad lib (a Grimm’s Fairy Tales movie?) Having seen Alec in action, I have to hope that Rep Boucher’s got equally able staff at his side when the debates get going on this topic – maybe Gigi should offer him some of her time?

    • Dan Gillmor’s “I am am not a communist, but….” was probably the funniest, yet on point, opening comment. On the other hand, his characterization of the Adobe CEO as believing that the degree to which fair use is available to the consumer should be entirely at the discretion of the creator of content was terribly chilling – particularly given (1) the fact that Adobe is following through on this idea in the kind of protections they put into the eBook and (2) the way the morning seemed to be a discussion of the degree to which copyright is about supporting the distributor rather than the creator.

      The problem, of course, is that every creator already has at their disposal the power to completely limit fair use – all the creator has to do is to keep his creation to him/herself! Of course, then the creator can’t make any money off of his/her creation either. Once that choice is made, economic rents in exchange for experiencing the expression of creativity, a balance has to be struck. Notwithstanding the notions of these artistic purists (like those I cited yesterday), the fact that the experiencer/consumer has to invest something of himself/herself in order to complete the exchange of expression means that a certain amount of control ought to be wrested from the hands of the copyright owner (as Jean Camp shouted out during the discussion, “what if I skip a word in a book? Is that illegal?”) (I really need to rework that alienation discussion)

    • And there was a lot of wishful thinking expressed about how “the market” was going to solve all of this – without any acknowledgement that markets only work as well as the governments that referee the gameplay. Copyright is a pure government construct; as a consequence, it’s not at all clear that “the market” is going to tell us what copyright should be – all it can do is tell us whether or not a particular construction of copyright is working or not.

      And, that was probably the basis for the real conflict that we saw. To some people, copyright is working great – as Alec said, the greatest number of works available to the greatest number in the greatest variety ever; not a lot of lawsuits. To others, every day is a demonstration of its failures – more and more file sharing; more and more chilling effects; more and more decimation of the incentive to innovate; more and more unnecessary and dangerous controls.

    • I need to track down the book that Siva cited – a history of the influence of country music on American culture that, because of a university press’ concerns about copyright litigation, does not include a single song lyric. I hope he’s got something on his weblog to get me started.

    • And I’m definitely with Siva when he expressed his dismay at the characterization of The Wind Done Gone as a parody. A useful legal fiction that allowed everyone to back out of a messy court fight, maybe, but puh-leeze!