When Legislation and Architecture Combine

From Digital Photography Review: New EU rules set to limit video capture

The CIPA Camera & Imaging Products Association has today released a statement on the recent re-classification of certain digital cameras as video camera recorders. The new EU rule states that any digital still camera with a resolution higher than 800×600 and the duration of video of 30 minutes of more at 23 fps or higher must now be classified as a video camera recorder and hence be taxed at a higher rate. This new legislation will undoubtedly mean that any promise of serious video capture on digital still cameras becomes an even more remote possibility.

The CIPA statement

Markey Sticks It To The FCC and Its Processes

FCC accused of unfairly aiding some firmspdf

From giant phone companies to small consumer advocates, the Federal Communications Commission is supposed to treat every group equally. But congressional investigators have found some companies and trade groups have received special treatment.

FCC officials tipped them off to confidential information about when regulators planned to vote on important issues — a clear violation of agency rules that provided an unfair lobbying advantage, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office to be released today. Other interested parties — generally consumer and public-interest groups — did not get such favorable treatment, the report said.

“It is critical that FCC maintain an environment in which all stakeholders have an equal opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process and that the process is perceived as fair and transparent,” the report said. “Situations where some, but not all, stakeholders know what FCC is considering for an upcoming vote undermine the fairness and transparency of the process and constitute a violation of FCC’s rules.”

Markey’s subcommittee had a notable hearing yesterday: Digital Future of the United States: Part VI: The Future of Telecommunications Competition — Markey’s press release/opening statement (pdf) is certainly inflammatory:

It’s as if the FCC several years ago picked up a loose football on the field after a collision and started running with the ball full speed toward the wrong end zone. Our international competitors look on at what we’re doing and must be stunned. That’s because we started this Internet game ranked #1 in the world because we invented it and now we’re number 15th. People quibble with the methodology of the OECD rankings, but regardless of how you slice it – price, speed, percentage of subscribers – the U.S. is no longer in the top tier and we continue to drop.

Many other Nations took one look at our broadband situation, learned from our experience, and took the opposite approach. Japan and U.K. implemented the very policies that the FCC had gradually eliminated in recent years, such as local loop unbundling and broadband resale, which facilitate competition using the incumbent’s plant, regardless of technology. These foreign competitors are now enjoying broadband success stories.

The United States, however, continues taking the opposite approach. We’re digging ourselves a hole and we’re now in violation of the First Law of Holes, which is, if you’re in one, stop digging.

Local copy of the GAO Report: FCC Should Take Steps to Ensure Equal Access to Rulemaking Information

An Implacable Competitor Tries Again

But just how far will Microsoft push an industry that doesn’t seem to want to innovate? Microsoft Updates Its iPod Competitor

But one of the most striking changes had to do with Microsoft’s effort to enhance what had been perhaps the most talked-about feature on the original device: the ability to share music files and other media wirelessly with other Zune owners. Far too few people, however, purchased the player for such sharing to become commonplace, and the function held little appeal because it was crippled by usage rules negotiated with the music industry. Shared songs expired within a few days, even if the recipient did not play them. And a file acquired from one Zune user could not be shared with a third user.

Under the new rules, Microsoft said, shared songs would have no expiration date and it would be possible repeatedly to pass along songs sent from one device to another. But a shared file can be played only three times on each Zune.

From the LATimes: Zunes not likely to get iPod fans to change their tunespdf

Otherwise, what the Zune can and can’t do is complicated.

It can play back television shows recorded at home, for example, but only if the shows were recorded with the aid of the fanciest versions of Microsoft’s new Vista operating system for home computers.

Microsoft has its own electronic music store in answer to Apple’s iTunes, and tracks purchased there can play on the Zune or on a PC.

But music bought elsewhere and restricted by either Apple’s or Microsoft’s copy controls can’t be transferred to the mobile player.

[…] “It’s fine to say you want to be a credible alternative to Apple,” Jupiter Research Vice President Michael Gartenberg said. “But the market isn’t looking for credible alternatives. People are looking for iPods.”

Later – the NYTimes offers up some space for its hero to expound on the Zune — As for Music, Gates’s Taste May Not Be Adventurous but His Strategies Are

Another Try At A Net Neutrality Argument

The Xerox machine story is a nice touch: The Verizon Warning

Our democracy is built on basic freedoms not being left to individuals, or individual companies. And there is special cause for worry in our business. American newspapers can resist government intimidation because the Constitution is on our side, but also because we control the presses. That is the real meaning behind “freedom of the press,” and authoritarian societies know it. In the 1980s in the Soviet Union, you had to have a license from the Communist Party to own a Xerox machine; the Soviets understood that it was a printing press.

If newspapers were delivered over mobile phones, a company could simply cut them off because it did not like a particular article. This is not the stuff of a futurist essay. Freedom of speech must be guaranteed, right now, in a digital world just as it has been protected in a world of paper and ink.

Chickens, and Eggs

“If you build it, they will come” is being challenged: Japan Leads U.S. in Fast and Cheap Internet Connections

Nearly eight million Japanese have a fiber optic line at home that is as much as 30 times speedier than a typical DSL line.

But while that speed is a boon for Japanese users, industry analysts and some companies question whether the push to install fiber is worth the effort, given the high cost of installation, affordable alternatives and lack of services that take advantage of the fast connections.

[…] “While you might not want to replicate the same pathway as other countries, we are falling seriously behind,” said Charles H. Ferguson, author of “The Broadband Problem.”

Mr. Ferguson said the substandard American broadband infrastructure shaved as much as 1 percent off the nation’s potential productivity growth. Faster broadband services would allow telecommuters to use better videoconferencing equipment and more easily share multimedia documents, he said.

See also Rep. Edward Markey’s statement: Opening Statement of Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-MA); House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Hearing on the “Digital Future of the United States: The Future of Telecommunications Competition;” October 2, 2007.

How Far Will They Get With This? (updated)

I mean, bravo, but the backroom bargaining for retroactive immunity has been going on for weeks (pdf — see the 7th paragraph, quoted below): Committee Opens Investigation into Warrantless Wiretapping [via CNet’s NewsBlog]

The Committee on Energy and Commerce launched an inquiry today into the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent letters to AT&T, Verizon and Qwest, requesting that the telecommunications companies provide details on the reported efforts by government agencies to obtain information about customers’ telephone and Internet use.

“Without question, the American government must be able to protect its citizens from terrorist threats. If reports about the government surveillance program are accurate, Congress has a duty to inquire about whether such a program violates the Constitution, as well as consumer protection and privacy laws,” said Dingell. “Congress has a duty to determine what occurred and also to examine the difficult position of the phone companies who may have been asked by the government to violate the privacy of their customers without the assurance of liability protections.”

The specific inquiries can be found at the bottom of the press release

Here’s the 7th paragraph from the new WaPo article:

Although Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have said there is consensus that the companies should have some form of relief, House Democrats have voiced a reluctance even to consider retroactive immunity at least until they have an understanding of the program that the telecoms are charged with aiding. The administration has resisted subpoenas for such information.

And why, exactly, does such a shameful consensus exist? Because we’ve given up on the rule of law? Is the US going to stand for *anything* by the close of this? (See Glenn Greenwald’s related discussion; also coverage of Goldsmith’s testimony/non-testimonypdf – yesterday)

California Bill Tackling ID Theft

ID theft victims, retailers split on billpdf

The bill, recently approved by lawmakers on bipartisan votes, now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature or veto. The bill would require banks, credit unions and credit card companies to tell people the name of the retailer where the hackers grabbed their confidential information, including Social Security numbers, account numbers and personal identification numbers, or PINs.

“Going to the mall simply should not be identity theft Russian roulette,” said the bill’s author, Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento). “What’s happening is that retailers are keeping the credit and debit card information, and it is available to hackers and other identity thieves, who perpetrate fraud.”

He said that only about 40% of retailers and other organizations that accept credit card payments were complying with security guidelines developed by major credit card companies.

So, What’s Steve Saying?

Microsoft to Increase Ad Businesspdf

Steve Ballmer, the chief executive of Microsoft, vowing that the company’s $6 billion plunge into the ad business two months ago was not just an experiment, said today that advertising would become 25 percent of the company’s business within a few years.

That, he said, would be about the same amount of time it would take for all media and marketing to go digital.

“Over time, all ad money will go through a digital ad platform,” Mr. Ballmer told a gathering of European ad agencies and clients. “All media goes digital, all advertising goes digital.”

All ad money?? Somehow, this sounds a little too Passport-like, except it’s ads instead of authentication. Is it possible that Microsoft aspires to own a digital ad delivery platform?

Danger, Will Robinson!

FindLaw Gets It Right

FindLaw: iPhone Lawsuit by Consumer Against Apple

An early iPhone adopter filed a lawsuit against Apple in federal court, alleging an unusual series of claims.

Dongmei Li charges, in part, that the company’s subsequent decision to reduce the iPhone’s price “hurt early purchasers’ competition with Apple because they cannot resell it for as high a profit” and that the company’s “unreasonably low price hurt competition between early and later pruchasers” who want to “resell for as a high profit as they” can.

Unusual, indeed!

Here We Go!

Music download trial starts in Minn.pdf

Thomas, a 30-year-old mother of two, is the first of 26,000 people sued by the industry whose case has gone to trial. An industry group and three recording companies claim she illegally offered 1,702 songs for free on a file-sharing network.

Her trial offers the first chance for both sides in the debate over online music sharing to show a jury its version of the facts. Opening statements were expected Tuesday morning.

Also Duluth court to host first jury trial over music file sharing – this editor’s archive includes more related articles

Later: JJ Appleton sent me a copy of “Downloader’s Blues” from his latest album

And all I wanted was rock n roll,
But I ended up in this dingy hole.
I had every Beatles song on my drive,
When the cops busted in and they took me alive.

And I hope I get out of jail tonight,
But my daddy is broke; he can’t pay my fines.

Downloader’s blues!

Later: Ars Technica with some courtroom reports: Sony BMG’s chief anti-piracy lawyer: “Copying” music you own is “stealing”; also First RIAA trial gets under way with jury selection, opening statements and RIAA anti-P2P campaign a real money pit, according to testimony