CNet On Campus Tech/Digital Lifestyles

Big tech on campus

The success of school-backed technology initiatives is critical for providers of digital lifestyle equipment and services, which test early-adoption patterns and scramble for mindshare among tech-heavy spenders. But there’s a fine line between giving students access to cutting-edge technology and making them marketing guinea pigs, some critics warn.

[…] iPods aren’t the only technology trend schools are buying into. Several universities subsidize or pay for legal music download services such as Napster, Cdigix, RealNetworks’ Rhapsody and Ruckus Network. Pennsylvania State University got the ball rolling earlier this year, when it launched a pilot program that offered Napster 2.0 to a select number of students for free. Penn State’s offer has since been expanded to all students, and other schools are following suit.

Campus authorities say they are partnering with these companies to stymie illegal downloading over peer-to-peer networks. Universities have been targets of several lawsuits launched by the Recording Industry Association of America.

The RIAA has said that so far, its legal efforts, combined with these partnerships, has helped reduce illegal file sharing on college networks.

At least today’s Boston Globe interviewees had the decency to admit that these instruments are unlikely to have anything to do with reducing “piracy.”

Later: Slashdot’s The Changing Face Of Campus Tech

Zippy The Pinhead And Copyright

I love to read Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead cartoons, even though his message is sometimes a little difficult to track. For example, this May 23, 2001 cartoon encapsulates the conflict that many people bring to the debate. Yet, this February 4, 2003 strip puts him clearly into the Eldred camp.

But today’s strip shows that he’s really having problems reconciling the issue, even in his own work. Of course, maybe he doesn’t see the problem. What do you think? And what might Senator Hatch’s INDUCE Act allies think of this standard practice in the art community, generally?

Campus Threats

According to this article, Schools’ bandwidth woes are music to Ruckus’s ears [pdf], schools are looking to Napster et al. because copyright infringement leads to bandwidth losses. Yet, even the vendors can’t explain how they’re even going to help in that regard — unless they are prepared to argue that their product will somehow throttle the bandwidth hogs?

College students, with an endless craving for free music and a near-endless supply of free time, are among the biggest perpetrators of illegal downloads. (Last summer, you may recall, the recording industry subpoenaed several Boston-area schools to get the names of students who had been using illegal file-sharing services like Kazaa.) Their downloading activity can put major strains on a college’s network infrastructure.

But the music services being offered by the likes of Ruckus and Napster can’t really claim that they will put an end to illegal downloading. If a student doesn’t find the latest hit single on the legal service offered by her university, she may still go to an illegal site to get it. Or she may be frustrated at some of the services’ inability to supply a file that can be played on a portable MP3 player, or burned onto a CD.

“We in no way prevent illegal downloading,” Galper admits. “But when students begin to use our product, we think they’ll naturally be using less peer-to-peer services.”

At least my institution isn’t buying the snakeoil – and the article’s author fails to, either:

Jerry Grochow, vice president for information services and technology at MIT, says “we have not yet come to the conclusion” that students require an unlimited, free supply of music paid for by the university. Babson College in Wellesley has had discussions with Ruckus, but is taking a wait-and-see approach.

Some schools will want to show the recording industry that they’re making a good-faith effort to fight piracy, even if they can’t stop it cold, and they will cut deals with one of the four music suppliers.

But I don’t see digital music services becoming a campus must-have as rapidly as has, say, wireless Internet access. You can call me a fogey (and I’m also a music lover), but I’m not sure how hot-and-cold running music contributes something positive to the collegiate social or educational experience.

Mark Cuban on Broadcast Flag

An online Q&A with Mark Cuban [pdf] at the Washington Post includes this (IMHO overly optimistic) exchange:

Washington, D.C.: “In the end, the consumer will be the winner”

It certainly doesn’t look that way right now. Hollywood has bought the “broadcast flag” legislation that it wanted, and the hardware manufacturers don’t seem to be putting up any kind of fight about it. It’s not hard to imagine that copyright law will be rewritten within the next 10 years to completely remove all of the consumers rights. How is the consumer going to end up winning?

Mark Cuban: Its going to take independents like HDNet to offer consumers what they want. If consumers dont want copy protection, HDNet will be there without it.

I agree that politicians have gotten really slimey on this issue. Could hollywood be any deeper in Senator Hatch’s pants ? The Inducement act is a travesty.

We will spend taxpayer dollars and resources trying to protect and industry that doesnt need protected rather than on helping people who need it. Its a shame and why I hate politics.

But to answer your question again. Ingenuity and inventiveness beats politics every team in the tech world. This will be no exception.

A Reg Look At Collegiate Music Policies

Apple faithful’s apathy to blame for Napsterized schools

Travel over to Cornell University, which is rolling out a one-year trial of Napster at this very moment. Neither Napster nor Cornell highlight that the service software only works with Windows XP and Windows 2000, but that’s the fact of the matter. This policy will leave 20 percent of Cornell’s students – most of them Mac users- unable to rent music on Napster.

[…] Cornell students aren’t alone either. The Register discovered that 42 percent of students at Wright State University – another Napsterized school – can’t use the music service they are forced to fund.

It’s sad to see these schools enter the music business simply because the music labels’ are threatening them with lawsuits. This surely doesn’t send a good message to our youth. It’s also sad that the schools promote services such as Napster with vacant business models behind them. What kind of business-minded undergraduates will this create? Another glut of glassy-eyed dot-com gimps, no doubt.

Pentagon Video Runs Awry Of Copyright Law

Pentagon censors ‘Right to Know’ video

The Defense Department spent $70,500 to produce a Humphrey Bogart-themed video called “The People’s Right to Know” to teach employees to respond to citizen requests for information. But when it came to showing the tape to the public, the Pentagon censored some of the footage.

Officials said they blacked out parts of the training video with the message, “copyrighted material removed for public viewing,” because they were worried the government didn’t have legal rights to some historical footage that was included.

Citing the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, The Associated Press asked the Pentagon for a copy of the video nearly 18 months ago. The Defense Department released an edited version of the tape and acknowledged the irony of censoring a video promoting government openness.

[…] The video also includes historic clips from the 1996 Olympics, the exploration of Titanic wreckage in 1986 and Hank Aaron hitting his record-breaking 714th home run in 1974. Those clips and others were copyrighted by organizations that would not give permission to release them, said C.Y. Talbot, chief of the Defense Department’s Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review.

[…] Legal experts challenged the Pentagon’s refusal to release the entire video, arguing it was improper under the Freedom of Information Act — the subject of the videotape itself — for the government to withhold records because they include copyrighted material.

The video lists reasons for withholding government documents under U.S. law but does not mention copyright. It cites seven categories of information that can be withheld, including classified documents and “trade secrets and commercial and financial information given by companies in their bids for contracts.”

[…] “Nobody wants to get sued,” said Jay Flemma, a New York copyright lawyer. “Corporations would be served best by not including such material, but you certainly can make a strong argument this was fair use.”

See also IPNewsBlog’s FOIA’d by the copyright law?

So What’s Up With NextWave These Days?

Just continuing their demonstration that there’s something wrong with blindly legislating scarcity into spectrum markets these days: There’s Gold In That There Dead Air

Analysts estimate that the company’s market value, based entirely on the resale value of its licenses, will be $2.9 billion to $3.5 billion. They also expect that once it emerges from Chapter 11, the next logical step will be a sale.

[…] Analysts estimate that the company’s market value, based entirely on the resale value of its licenses, will be $2.9 billion to $3.5 billion. They also expect that once it emerges from Chapter 11, the next logical step will be a sale.

[…] The company would not even exist had it not engaged in a fiercely fought lobbying and litigation campaign in Washington, much of it funded by Wall Street financiers. At times, the company seemed to living from court decision to court decision as it wrestled with the federal government over possession of licenses to frequencies that it won in the 1996 auction but never paid for.

[…] Even in the highly regulated telecommunications market, NextWave stands out as company that was, in effect, a creation of Congress and the FCC. It was founded in response to an FCC auction that gave entrepreneurs a chance to compete with bigger players as the government sold off huge pieces of the nation’s airwaves in the mid-1990s.

[…] In an effort to attract entrepreneurs that lacked the deep pockets of established telecommunications giants, the FCC decided to allow the upstarts to pay for their licenses through an installment plan. But the policy was a failure. Almost every participant ended up filing for bankruptcy before making the first payment.

An Unattractive Observation

From the NYTimes, a look at whether there’s a conspiracy to limit the publication of right wing screeds books: Conservatives Cry Foul in Publishing Scrum. The closing paragraph says more than enough:

“As a rule these books avoid any evidence that would contradict their premises,” Mr. [Brad] Miner said. “All in all, the level of civility or lack of it in the campaign of 2004 is reminiscent of 1804 or 1864, except without dueling or civil war. At least not yet.”

Spy vs. Spy

Working ever harder to make sure you never actually pick up your telephone again: Software Service Aims to Outfox Caller ID

The service, the first commercial version of a technology known mainly among software programmers and the computer-hacker underground until now, was introduced nationwide on Wednesday by a California company called Star38.

For $19.99 a month and as little as 7 cents a minute, customers can go to the company’s Web site (, log in and then type the number that they want to call and the number that they want to appear on the caller ID screen of the recipient’s phone.

For an additional fee, they can also specify names that can appear along with their telephone numbers.

Update: Wow – a surprising reaction and fallout in this Sept 4 article, perpetuating the image of the hacker/technophile as criminal – Citing Threats, Entrepreneur Wants to Quit Caller ID Venture

Three days after the start-up company Star38 began offering a service that fools caller ID systems, the founder, Jason Jepson, has decided to sell the business. Mr. Jepson said he had received harassing e-mail and phone messages and even a death threat taped to his front door – all he said from people opposed to his publicizing a commercial version of technology that until now has been mainly used by software programmers and the computer hackers’ underground.

[…] He said that since he did not know specifically who was threatening him, he thought it would be fruitless to seek help from the police. “I don’t want to go to the cops, who might not know what a hacker is,” he said.

The reaction against Star38 is the type of friction that can arise between for-profit software companies and hackers who resent the commercialization of technology they believe should remain free.

“In most countercultures, there is an aspect of selling out,” said Caleb Sima, the co-founder of Spi Dynamics, an Atlanta-based online security company. “People who make money off technology are deemed to have sold out. Anyone who has a unique idea and is making money is going to get badgered.”

While network security consultants and some other technology professionals are known to have a cottage industry involving the use of caller ID spoofing, Mr. Jepson said the nature of the threats he had received made him conclude they had come from so-called phishers – people who use caller ID spoofing and online techniques to trick people into handing over confidential information.

Apple Affiliate Program

A succint description, expanding Apple’s marketing reach: Apple taunts Napster, Real with iTunes affiliate program

The iTunes affiliate program lets web sites place links to iTunes songs, albums and artists and then earn a 5 percent commission for clicks that turn into sales. This program complements existing iTunes deals for bulk music purchase discounts and free site licenses for iTunes at universities. Apple’s unique position in the music download market as owner of the iPod allows it to capitalize on low-margin music sales in ways that companies such as Napster and Real can’t.