2003 March 18

(entry last updated: 2003-03-18 16:49:18)

  • It appears that, if the report that this Ad Age article cites is true, Jamie Kellner’s got nothing to worry about. Slashdot discussion: Study Finds Tivo Less of a Threat to Advertisers – the power of the blipvert revealed!

    For you non-Max Headroom fans, here’s the definition from Tech TV:

    Blipverts

    Advertising in the future. High-speed commercials condensed into a few seconds that prevent channel changing and embed themselves in viewer’s minds. Sometimes they cause the heads of viewers to explode.

  • As mentioned earlier, FreeNet has a new release out – Slashdot discussion: Freenet 0.5.1 Released, P2P Network Stabilizing

  • The Register really gives Hilary Rosen what for in this analysis of her valedictory speech given upon receipt of the Harry Chapin Award from the National Association of Recording Merchandisers.

    Departing RIAA chief Hilary Rosen yesterday invoked the name of slain black civil rights leader Martin Luther King as she defended the music oligopolies’ right to prevent people sharing music. She also vigorously defended poisoning peer to peer sharing networks with junk music – presumably not a situation that the civil rights leader could have envisaged, in a clutch of policy statements that are a must-read for even the most casual music-lover.

    Billboard’s take is a little milder, of course.

  • For a while there this weekend I thought I was going to have to add a Dixie Chicks album to my CD collection – as an act of solidarity and pro-American/pro-freedom sentiment. But, as this Salon article suggests, the imperatives of recording contracts extend beyond musicianship and creativity. Ms. Maines still did a great thing, and I probably will still buy that CD (suggestions, anyone?) – but isn’t it interesting that the industry that proclaims it defends artistic freedom (and therefore should receive our support of the institutions that purport to support and defend creativity) works this hard to pressure their own artists over certain kinds of expression?

  • Is your company on this new RIAA hit list? – Piracy warning targets 300 companies – Wired’s coverage; SFGate’s feed from the LATimes

  • Maybe this BBC article can give you some ways around the problem: Online music pirates dodge capture – not really, though. Rather, this is piece on port-hopping P2P applications, making it hard to block them

  • An e-mail exchange with Ed Felten (wherein he pointed out that, despite my speculations, the JOLT conference was not on his mind when he posted his regulatory ratchet post) got me to find out a little more about Alec French’s tale of woe of the needlepoint designers.

    • I found this in the Sept 26, 2002 hearing record before Berman’s committee on “Piracy of Intellectual Property on Peer-to-Peer Networks” [pdf]:

      PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE HOWARD L. BERMAN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

      …Now another fact. P2P piracy doesn’t just affect the bogeymen—record companies and movie studios. P2P piracy destroys the livelihoods of everyday people.

      What do piracy profiteers have to say to Linn Skinner, a Los Angeles needlework designer whose livelihood has been destroyed by Internet piracy? Or about Steve Boone, a Charlotte small businessman who has watched P2P piracy decimate his karaoke tape company? How do they response to Mike Wood, a struggling Canadian recording artist who believes P2P piracy will derail his recording career before it gets off the ground? What do piracy profiteers say to the vast majority of songwriters who make less than $20,000 per year, and have yet to make one thin dime from the massive P2P piracy of their works?

    • A little more web-work yields this quoted article from the LATimes:

      Needlepoint Outlaws

      By P.J. HUFFSTUTTER, Times Staff Writer

      If the $40-billion global music business thought it had problems with the

      emergence of a revolutionary Internet tool called Napster, consider the

      now-terrified needlepoint industry.

      For years, grandmotherly hobbyists, hungry for doily-and-swan patterns, have

      forked over $6 and $7 for them. Without a peep of complaint, they have

      provided a steady stream of revenue to pattern publishers such as Cross My

      Heart and Pegasus Originals.

      In a good year, Pegasus can pull in about $500,000 from selling the

      copyrighted patterns to its aging customers.

      No more. Taking a cue from music-bootlegging teenagers, sewing enthusiasts

      have discovered that they too can steal copyrighted material over the

      Internet, thanks to anonymous file-sharing techniques. “I’m only sharing

      [the patterns] with my friends, and their friends,” said Carla Conry, a

      mother of six who runs PatternPiggiesUnite!, a 350-person underground Net

      community of stitchers who swap the patterns. “Why shouldn’t friends help

      each other out and save a little bit of money?”

      What is neighborly fun for Conry is outright theft to needlepoint companies

      and the artists who create the patterns. Sales at the South Carolina design

      shop Pegasus have dropped as much as $200,000 a year–or 40%–since 1997, in

      part because of such swapping, said founder Jim Hedgepath. He and a handful

      of companies and pattern designers are gathering evidence to wage a legal

      battle against the homemakers.

      “They’re housewives and they’re hackers,” Hedgepath said. “I don’t care if

      they have kids. I don’t care that they are grandmothers. They’re bootlegging

      us out of business.”

      …”This is a homey industry,” said Sabrina Simon, corporate counsel for

      Southern Progress Corp. “What kind of [damages] could we possibly get from a

      grandmother?” For now, the cross-stitch war must be waged on the

      grass-roots level. In hopes of gathering evidence and quashing the problem,

      publishers and designers say they are mobilizing small groups of spies to

      infiltrate the pattern-swapping clubs and nail the ringleaders.

      Designers say they have recruited friends and fans, sometimes offering free

      patterns in exchange for their snooping. Fellow artists like Linn Skinner of

      Hollywood, a 57-year-old needlepoint designer, spies on the clubs “for the

      greater good. I have friends who have been hit badly by this.”

      What’s REALLY noticeable about this article is that Alec appears (note: I said appears) to have conflated the tale of Pegasus (and their loss of business from $500,000 annual turnover) with the tale of Ms. Skinner, who’s cited in a different role in this tale.

      On the other hand, Ms. Skinner does seem to be making some noise on this subject:

    • UPDATE: Ms. Skinner has contacted me by e-mail to discuss her role in the copyright discussion surrounding her field. (Thanks, Linn!!) As can be inferred from the articles linked above, Ms. Skinner has spent considerable time within the Internet groups where needlepoint and patterns (and their “sharing”) are discussed. As she states:

      I would rather be known as a researcher who merits a reader’s ticket at the British Library than a copyright harpie, but the role seems to have been thrust upon me after I contacted the LA Times and furnished their top Napster reporter with my id and passwords for research.

      I spent over two years as a clandestine member of various online groups of needlework file swappers but now confine my efforts to amateur lobbying on behalf of our industry.

      She points me to a yahoo group that is concerned with copyright, focusing on the needlework industry; http://groups.yahoo.com/group/copy_rights/. She describes it as:

      …an open forum for both those who believe scanning and uploading needlework designs is appropriate and those who don’t and all the range of opinions in between. It is pretty quiet right now, but there are some rather frank exchanges of opinion in the archives.

      In reference to my earlier posting about her site (in my JOLT notes), she told me that:

      No, there aren’t many references to copyright on my website – those issues have been attended to elsewhere amongst peer groups and I get enough phone calls telling me to get stuffed from infringers as it is<G>

      As far as Alec French’s characterization of her situation, she points out that:

      I did make it clear (I thought) to Rep. Berman that I personally had not [been] financially damaged by infringers (they have little interest in historic needlework design) but our industry is facing difficulties of all sorts.

      She has graciously offered me access to the results of some studies that have been done to demonstrate the scope of the problem that this industry faces, and I will pass along what I can as I look into it.