2003 April 7

(entry last updated: 2003-04-07 18:37:01)

Springtime in New England! 3 to 6 inches of snow predicted tonight! I hope my flight leaves tomorrow AM – but that means that I’ll be updating this site only rarely for the next week, and probably very little at that. I expect that the server problems I experienced during my last trip won’t reappear, but you never know – see you in a week!

  • Declan McCullagh reviews the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference. From the pics, I see that Simson Garfinkel made the conference – and the gallery.

  • Dave Winer has been investigating alternatives to the NYTimes (diversity in the WWW ecology, I would guess), and has some facts about the BBC online news services.

  • Someone named "cribcage" has posted a major piece supporting the RIAA lawsuits. Practice your rhetorical skills by considering how you might respond to his argument. Perhaps Alan Greenspan’s presentation cited yesterday might help.

  • Denise Howell points to a prerelease excerpt from All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning’s Napster in the LA Times

    “You know about Napster,” Rosen told them, “but you need to understand it. This is going to be big, and the fact that we sued them is going to make it bigger.”

    Staffers downloaded the software and registered in front of the label bosses. Then Rosen asked the executives to start naming songs. Not just big hits, but tracks deep into albums, new or obscure. The record men took turns calling out more than 20 songs. The staffers found them every time, and fast. Soon no one needed any more convincing that the threat was serious. The capper came when someone suggested a hunt for the ‘N Sync song “Bye Bye Bye.” The cut had been on the radio just three days, and the CD hadn’t been released for sale yet. And there it was.

    Maverick Records executive Ronnie Dashev had seen enough. “This is too depressing,” he said. “Let’s move on to other business.”

  • Wow – I think Dave is right – the Times seems to have changed back – at least for the moment. Several links that were abstract redirects have come back to life – e.g., Pareles from Jan 10, 2002 and Kelly from Mar 17, 2002. From their Link FAQ:

    Q. How long will links to New York Times articles remain before breaking?

    A. Links to the homepage or section fronts may remain indefinitely. Links to articles, established within the first week from the publication date will also remain stable for an indefinite length of time, unless a redesign of our website occurs that causes the links to break.

    Note the quite reasonable hedge on redesign, but we can hope that they’ll make a reasonable effort in that event as well.

    Update: Dave thinks Dave is right <G>!

  • Slate picks up a topic that was in the news a while ago (why does this link still work? – is Dave right that the Times has changed their policy again?) [pdf]: the sales of classic books and the business model of publishers printing them.

  • I saw that Cory Doctorow had cited this Salon article, but I didn’t get a chance to read it until today:

    A year ago, the Morrisons received a letter that threatened the future of their beloved business. The correspondence came from lawyers for Bikram Choudhury, founder of the fastest-growing style of yoga in America, Bikram Yoga. “It was a dagger of a letter — long, nasty and filled with allegations,” says Mark, who is also a lawyer. The missive alleged that the Morrisons were violating a recently acquired copyright and insisted that they comply with a long list of demands and pay fines starting at $150,000 — or risk a lawsuit. The warning, the Morrisons say, makes a mockery of yoga’s ultimate promise of both peace of mind and freedom. “We’re not just scared about what this could do to our finances,” Mark says. “Yoga is something really personal, something that we love. And that’s being attacked.”

    If Choudhury has his way, every Bikram Yoga studio in the world will soon be franchised and under his control. To start this process, he recently obtained a copyright for his particular sequence of yoga poses — a 90-minute series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises done in a room heated to 105 degrees. Choudhury says that yoga studios that want to continue teaching Bikram Yoga must pay franchise and royalty fees, change their name to Bikram’s Yoga College of India, stop teaching other styles of yoga, use only Bikram-approved dialogue when instructing students, refrain from playing music during classes, and a host of other stipulations.

    …After researching current law and talking to several intellectual property attorneys, the Morrisons decided not to comply — and sure enough, Choudhury slapped them with a lawsuit. The case is now in the discovery stage, with both parties exchanging documents in preparation for court. “To stop them from stealing I must go to the lawyers,” says Choudhury. “When in Rome, I must do as the Romans do. When in America, make Bikram copyright and trademark.”

  • As part of the effort to wean myself off the NYTimes, a perusal of the BBC WWW site led me to this History of Vinyl (possibly better labeled as the history of modern analog music recording). From the 1920-29 section:

    The record industry had spent the first twenty years of the century convincing the public that they needed a source of music in the home but they didn’t foresee the possibility that it may be free. Unfortunately, The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) had by the early 1920s started mass-producing commercial radios which, while acoustically inferior, offered a far wider range of news, drama and music. The Record Companies retaliated by drawing up contracts for their major artists, forbidding them to work for this rival medium. This move to limit radio’s output was doomed to failure as new vacuum tube amplification rapidly improved reception and sound quality. Record sales plummeted.

    The only weapon was fidelity of sound. In 1916 Western Electric laboratories had developed the superior condenser microphone. When Western combined with AT & T to form Bell Laboratories in 1925 this, in turn, led to the development of the first fully electronic High Fidelity recording techniques. It extended the reproducible sound range of phonograph records by more than an octave on high and low ends and it was dubbed “Orthophonic”.

  • Billboard reports that another band (Staind) is enclosing a bonus DVD to entice buyers.

  • Sony is offering [pdf] custom CDs online

    The point is to allow customers to compile customized CD’s easily and quickly. But that idea is not new. Personics tried to sell custom audio cassettes at retail kiosks in the 1980’s. Several custom-CD ventures were on the Web in the mid-90’s. SuperSonicBoom, iMix, MusicMaker and CDuctive all promised to give consumers the ability to create personalized CD’s, but they are no longer online.

    The earlier businesses faced significant hurdles because major record labels, which feared that selling individual songs would cannibalize album sales, would not license their hits. And once Napster became popular, online music fans were more interested in downloading free MP3 files than in buying CD’s that might take days to arrive.

    … Again, exclusivity is key. Many of the tracks have been issued only on vinyl, so this will be their first CD release. Alexander Hendorf, the record label’s founder, acknowledged that the custom-CD business seems to have fallen from fashion. But, he said, “Haven’t we learned that in e-commerce there is often a fruitful second life?”

  • The webcaster royalty rate-setting process goes through a new interation – the results are described here.

    The agreement, if approved by the Copyright Office, allows non-subscription webcasters to pay on a per performance or aggregate tuning hour basis, and offers an additional gross revenue option for subscription services. Webcasters can choose to either pay 0.0762 cents per song per listener or 0.0117 cents per listener hour. Internet radio subscription services can also choose to pay 10.9 percent of their subscription fees. The deal is effective for 2003-2004.

    The deal does not impact the ability of eligible small commercial webcasters to elect rates and terms adopted under the Small Webcasters Settlement Act. The agreement also does not address rates and terms for noncommercial webcasters or simulcasts of over-the-air broadcasts.

    Note that The Register points out that this whole discussion is just a little peculiar (based in part on this article from CNet’s Jim Hu:

    What really happened on Thursday is that DiMA, the Digital Media Association – which includes AOL, Yahoo! and The Beast among its members [ed. note: "The Beast&quot = Microsoft] – agreed with the RIAA on a royalty rate to be submitted to the Library of Congress.

    …The rate for these phantom-webcasters is slightly higher than what the CARP procedure specified for the real webcasters: 0.0762 cents per performance. The RIAA also grabs 10.9 per cent of subscription revenues from the large, silent spectres.

    The deal does nothing for the thousands of small, education or non-profit net casters that provide the amazing diversity of Internet radio. In the USA, net radio is handicapped by the burden of paying performance royalties from which the traditional, free-to-air stations are exempt.

    Nevertheless, the path is clear for AOL and Microsoft to begin streaming as super-portals.

  • Hiawatha Bray explains digital music and media in today’s Boston Globe [pdf]