2003 April 29

(entry last updated: 2003-04-29 19:45:58)

Traveling until Friday – see you then for followup.

  • Copyright Angst [via Tech Law Advisor]

  • And Donna’s got some new links to explore.

  • I’m getting ready to travel the next two days, so this entry is going to be overly brief: Ed Felten’s discussion of Terry Fisher’s CD economics information is limited because the analysis assumes a mythical “average CD.” It’s easier to understand what’s going on by looking at the profit picture for a CD as a function of sales. Here are some slides (Oct 30) from this year’s ESD.10 that I used to deconstruct this. Start with Slide #26 (“What is the business model that underlies this industry?”) and see what you find – note that the crossover to profitability at 500,000 units matches most industry claims.

    Note: Ed’s conclusion that retailing is in deep trouble with respect to Internet distribution is dead on – and they have been working to preserve a piece of whatever the new sales model will be for some time. (See this SFGate piece, something from the Boston Globe, and something from Wired News)

    I’ll have more to say (if only to explain myself!) when I get back.

  • The RIAA throws down the gauntlet: Music Industry Sends Warning to Song Swappers [pdf]

    The record industry opened a new front in its war against online piracy on Tuesday by surprising hundreds of thousands of Internet song swappers with an instant message warning that they could be “easily” identified and face “legal penalties.”

    About 200,000 users of the Grokster and Kazaa file-sharing services initially received the warning notice on Tuesday and millions more will get notices in coming weeks.

    CNet: RIAA to file swappers: Let’s chat; Wired News: RIAA IMs: We’re Watching You

  • As we now know, the Apple music store sells AAC formatted files. How do they compare – Slashdot references one and gets comments: AAC vs. OGG vs. MP3.

    A couple of comments point to an issue from The Audible Past: interpretation and perception of playback is not just a subjective experience, it is also a learned skill. In general, communities always assert that today’s sound reproduction technology is “perfect,” when in fact its “perfection” is measured against a scale that is normatively defined and artificially manipulated. Just consider the process that goes into making a CD and compare that with a public performance of a song – which is the “perfect” experience? And, more importantly, how do you know? (see this Slashdot thread for an indirect example of the problem)

    Not to say that comparisons are a bad thing; but it’s not too terribly different than arguing about religion – it is what you have chosen to make of it.

    Oh, and as far as the DRM works, see this thread on the AAC->CD->MP3 route

  • The NYTimes has an article on digital preservation of old opera recordings. [pdf] No discussion of the copyright complications, which must be interesting.

  • On the other hand, who can really complain about pictures (see below) given the Dixie Chicks’ latest ploy. Salon gives the rundown on their recent publicity push.

    The band may have gotten more attention posing nude for the cover of the current Entertainment Weekly, with phrases like “Dixie Sluts,” “Saddam’s Angels” and “Traitors” stamped on their bodies. But it was the stubborn refusal they showed Sawyer that cut deepest. Yes, Maines, as she did in her apology, said that her statement was “disrespectful” and “the wrong wording with genuine emotion and question and concern behind it.” But she didn’t apologize for those questions. “I ask questions. That’s smart, that’s intelligent, to find out facts,” she said.

    The sisters, Emily and particularly Martie, not only defended Maines but amplified her comments. Given an hour for prime-time damage control, the Dixie Chicks instead stopped the network cheerleading for the war dead in its tracks and expressed the honest confusion many people are feeling far more effectively than any of the strident rhetoric that has emanated from the left as well as the right.

  • Missed this yesterday: Scientists protest EU software patents

    Thirty-one scientists, including three from Britain, signed the petition earlier this month, criticizing the proposal and demanding that the European parliament adopt a text that would “make impossible, clearly, for today and tomorrow, any patenting of the underlying ideas of software (or algorithms), of information processing methods, of representations of information and data, and of interaction between human beings and computers.”

    …In the petition, the scientists said that the practice of the European Patent Office (EPO) over the past few years of granting patents for some “algorithms, software ideas, data structures and information processing methods” was an “abuse” that would be presented as the status quo by the current patent proposal. “In fact, this is a considerable extension of scope of patentability, in breach of the spirit of the European Patent Convention that excludes from patentability mathematical methods, computer programs and presentations of information,” the petition said.

  • Donna’s latest newsletter is out; and she’s back online with a summary.

  • Matt digs a bit more into the Aimee Madeleine Deep question. Note that the Google cache still has a couple images of Aimee; maybe it’s just the California water, but it is hard to reconcile the image to the right with the ones that you can find on her site these days. Or the pic from this CNet interview and this Australian one, wherein the reporter purportedly met her. But, she wouldn’t be the first (nor would she be the last) to construct a web persona to get attention, either. Whatever.

  • This week’s Tangled Web at Billboard describes the online activities of Wilco and Nora Jones – exploring the limits and opportunities of digital distribution at the artist level – albeit with label involvement. [pdf]

  • The Register revisits the Torvalds neutrality announcement on DRM in the Linux kernel. Noting the relative lack of continuing fallout, Alan Cox suggests that the real question is a legal one:

    “Really the question is ‘can you use GPL’d code in a signed system’. The answer is a legal not a technical one and nobody can change that. It may be that future GPL versions take a clearer line on it (as GPLv2 did with patents) but for current code the situation is simply ‘Ask your lawyer’.”

    Upon asking one, the following hypothetical emerges:

    “How they do they deal with digital signing a kernel for use in an embedded environment – violating the GPL – without imposing restrictions on the GPL?”

    “DRM is a media lock; interfaces aren’t copyrightable – so the GPL won’t help you there.”

    A host of as yet unresolved imponderables.

    Update: The accompanying piece on Steve Jobs and DRM.

  • The Register reports that Hilary Rosen is part of the team helping to draft copyright laws for the new Iraqi government. Slashdot discussion: Hilary Rosen from RIAA will write Iraq’s Copyrights?

  • More on the Apple music service:

    • The Boston Globe has two articles: Apple unveils service to sell 200,000 digital music titles online [pdf] and Who is, and isn’t, on bandwagon [pdf]. Most notably, The Globe points out that, while the copy protection limits the distribution of the original AAC file, once burned to a CD it should be convertable into an easily redistributed MP3. However, I don’t know if that’s actually been tested.

    • New York Times: Apple Offers Music Downloads With Unique Pricing [pdf]

    • News.com News analysis: Apple’s music: Evolution, not revolution:

      Apple essentially used two features to persuade the labels to give the company the benefit of the doubt. The ease of purchasing music was a draw. So was the light, almost invisible layer of digital rights management software that Apple built in-house and applied to the songs.

      Dubbed Fairplay, the rights-management software lies on top of Apple’s iTunes and QuickTime software, and performs tasks such as counting how many computers the songs can be played on. Apple executives declined to discuss whether the software could be used for other media, such as providing protection for Quicktime-based downloads for video-on-demand services. Quicktime has previously been left out of movie-download services such as Movielink because of its lack of strong copy protection.

      As Apple moves its service to the PC platform, which it said would happen later this year, the rights-management issue could set up more industry tension. Microsoft has dominated that platform with its Windows Media rights-management tools, while Quicktime has been used largely for unprotected works.

      Other music services welcomed Apple’s marketing muscle to the business and said they were eager to win the same rights that Jobs touted.

    • Farhad Manjoo at Salon loves it: I have seen the future of music and its name is iTunes

      Because Apple’s service doesn’t require a subscription, though, its catalog size might not be much of a problem. For a while, people will probably just use both the Apple service and the free services, putting up with the frustrations of something like Kazaa only when the song they’re looking for isn’t available in iTunes. You can see how this scenario could prompt many labels to release more and more of their songs to Apple: If giving your song to the Apple store will reduce the number of people who steal it, why wouldn’t you want your song on the shelf?

      Except for some well-paid congressmen, nobody likes the music industry anymore. In the public imagination, the companies that brought us the Beatles and Madonna are about as trustworthy as those that bring us tobacco and firearms. Jobs’ new service might change that. Finally, it’ll be possible to listen to music as Napster promised — without the worries, without the frustrations, as music was meant to be enjoyed. If it takes off, the system — and the clones of it that will surely follow — could significantly boost the record labels’ bottom line, and Apple would certainly benefit as well.

      And down the road, perhaps, music itself will change. If tracks are sold one by one, can the death of the full-length album be far off? (The CD, as a physical medium, surely can’t last the decade.) What will happen to top-40 radio? If innovative indie stars enjoy as much access to your desktop as sultry teenagers, will we ever have to listen to sugary pop again?

      These are the sorts of questions everyone asked when Napster came along, and we never quite got our answers. Perhaps, now, we’ll finally see what the future has in store for us.

    • BBC: Apple to offer cheap online music

    • Steve Jobs blesses DRM, and nothing happens