UK Drinking the Surveillance Society Kool-Aid?

From the work I’ve been doing lately, this is a potential nightmare scenario: Brown to let shops share ID card data [pdf]

Gordon Brown is planning a massive expansion of the ID cards project that would widen surveillance of everyday life by allowing high-street businesses to share confidential information with police databases.

Far from intending to dump ID cards once he is in Downing Street, Brown is quietly studying how biometric technology – identifying people by unique markers such as fingerprints and iris patterns – could be expanded over the next 20 years to fight crime.

The report ; an analysis from The Register; Slashdot’s story

Related: AOL’s disturbing glimpse into users’ lives

Part II in the LATimes’ Series on Entertainment in the Digital Age

How movies are watched, sold and experienced today: Far Removed From the Multiplexpdf (see part I here)

As the head of MTV Films, [David] Gale was at the theater for a research screening of his “Jackass: Number Two,” a crude teen comedy coming out next month. The film had just started when a teenager seated next to Gale began pecking away on his BlackBerry.

“It was an amazing experience. My first instinct was to slap him,” Gale said. “But then I realized he was just enjoying the movie.”

In fact, the teenager was e-mailing a friend, recounting the movie’s best jokes.

“The kid was just doing what kids do,” Gale said. “This is how they watch movies. This is how they consume entertainment. And when they like something, they let people know.”

[…] With an array of devices competing to fill their leisure time, today’s teens and young adults show diminishing interest in adhering to Hollywood tradition. They’re willing to watch brand-new movies at home rather than in theaters, are starting to use their PCs as their entertainment gateway and are slowly turning to their iPods and cellphones for video programming.

They still crave to be entertained, but not necessarily inside a movie theater.

Congressional Know-how Shortfalls in Telecomm

Why Technology & Policy (and a host of other programs) exist: Weighing High-Tech Bills in Analogpdf

Almost daily when Congress is in session, lawmakers are struggling to comprehend new technology and the government’s role in shaping its future. In the biggest spurt of legislative activity since the dot-com boom, advocacy groups and businesses are seeking new laws to shape the fast-evolving digital landscape. The effort will resume in September, when Congress returns from its summer recess.

[…] Lawmakers this year could decide whether millions of Americans get TV piped through their phone lines and high-speed Internet access extended to their neighborhoods, how long Internet service providers retain Web-surfing records and how easy it will be to record programs broadcast over high-definition TV.

The task is all the more difficult because few in Congress understand what those engineers in Silicon Valley actually do.

[…] Supporters have resorted to analogies — trucks on highways are a favorite — to simplify the movement of information online and the risks posed by creating Internet “toll lanes.” But sometimes those explanations have only caused more confusion.

“I’m tired of talking about 18-wheelers,” an exasperated Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) said at a House hearing this spring. “I’d like to know what we’re talking about here.”

Phone and cable companies, which oppose any new regulations governing whether they can charge for prioritizing content, have seized on that confusion. They’ve warned lawmakers not to act on a vaguely defined potential problem because it could have those dreaded “unintended consequences.”

College Athletics and Social Networking Systems

Colleges, Athletes Learn Downside to Websitespdf

The free sites, increasingly popular among high school and college students who use them to keep tabs on friends, contain personal pages for each user. Students who join the sites maintain profiles on which they can post pictures and personal information such as cellphone numbers, addresses and sexual orientation. But they are a technological headache for school officials charged with protecting student-athletes and the image of their universities.

Some are concerned that the sites negate the buffer between student-athletes and agents, gambling associates and overzealous fans, leaving programs vulnerable to NCAA violations.

They can also be the source of embarrassment.

Related: MySpace’s New Friend: Googlepdf

Trying Out DVD Downloading Services

How to download a DVD

Right now, though, this stuff works better in theory than in practice. The CinemaNow service is easy enough to use. Simply browse through the film listings and pick one you like. You also have to install a small application that monitors the download and automatically converts the Windows Media Video file into the DVD format and burns it onto disc.

That’s where the problems arise. The original download, which remains playable from your hard drive, looks at least as good as a store-bought DVD. But converting it from Windows Media Video to the MPEG-2 format for burning purposes compromises the quality—it’s like making a photocopy of a photocopy. […]

[…] Apple and Netflix, two companies with a lot more clout than EZTakes, are also gunning for download services. Perhaps they can muscle the studios into cutting reasonable deals. What we really need is a system that provides the high resolution that current technology already makes possible, plus a reasonable copy-protection system that allows us to watch the movies on any video devices we own—TVs, laptops, iPods, phones, and game consoles. Download-and-burn DVDs will not be the ultimate solution for distributing video to consumers. But it’s at least one small step closer to video nirvana.

Related: The myth of the living-room PC (see also What Happened to Media PCs?)

Tech pundits say Intel botched their TV debut by pushing technology that wasn’t ready. Still, if the living-room PC is such a great idea, why hasn’t the Viiv void been filled with better alternatives?

My theory is that PC-TV hybrid products like Viiv aim for a sweet spot that doesn’t exist. Very savvy consumers will hack together these setups themselves. The less savvy will just keep their TVs and computers separate. And the folks in the middle? If they’re around, nobody’s found them yet.

S.3818 Submitted

And I missed it: Senators offer sweeping patent system changes

Called the Patent Reform Act of 2006, the measure followed two years of hearings, meetings and debate, the senators said. It bears a number of similarities to a bill offered last summer by Texas Republican Lamar Smith in the House of Representatives.

[…] The Professional Inventors Alliance, a group representing independent American inventors, blasted the proposal, saying it amounts to a “wish list” for “antipatent, washed-up tech companies” and would water down protections for individual inventors.

[…] If the responses to its House counterpart are any indicator, the Senate bill could ruffle feathers because of competing priorities among the technology, drug, biotechnology and other patent-heavy industries. Both Hatch and Leahy emphasized that the bill represents just a first effort.

“I am sure that further refinements will be made to this bill during the legislative process,” Hatch said, “so I would encourage those who are either pleased or displeased by any of the aspects of the bill to continue working with us to resolve any outstanding issues.”

Sounds like another replay of the Jessica Litman story about how IP laws get made

S3818 summary page on Thomas is not yet available….

An LATimes Look At Entertaining The Next Generation

The first in a series of articles that will look at entertainment and technology — and what that means for the rising generation of entertainment consumers: Underwhelmed by It Allpdf

A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, the first in a series of annual entertainment surveys, finds that a large majority of the 12- to 24-year-olds surveyed are bored with their entertainment choices some or most of the time, and a substantial minority think that even in a kajillion-channel universe, they don’t have nearly enough options. “I feel bored like all the time, ’cause there is like nothing to do,” said Shannon Carlson, 13, of Warren, Ohio, a respondent who has an array of gadgets, equipment and entertainment options at her disposal but can’t ward off ennui.

They do seem to be passionate about their electronic devices, though, especially their computers, which ranked even above cellphones when respondents were offered a “desert island” choice of one item. Still, the poll suggests that the revolution in entertainment, media and technology for which many in Hollywood are already developing strategies has not yet taken hold.

See Anything Familiar?

Hong Kong Surveillance Law Passes

Pro-Beijing lawmakers approved legislation here today giving broad authority to the police to conduct covert surveillance, including wiretapping phones, bugging homes and offices and monitoring e-mail.

The bill passed the 60-member Legislative Council on a vote of 32 to 0 soon after pro-democracy lawmakers walked out of the chamber in protest early this morning. The Democratic Party and its allies had tried to introduce nearly 200 amendments to the bill through four days of marathon debates, but all were defeated or ruled out of order.

[…] The new law sharply limits the ability of defense lawyers to ask such questions during trials, a provision that was opposed by the Hong Kong Bar Association.

[…] The bill was particularly controversial because it does not prohibit covert surveillance of journalists and because it imposes only a few restrictions on covert surveillance of lawyers. Lawyers are subject to surveillance, but while they are in their homes and offices they can only be monitored if they are personally suspected of committing serious crimes or posing a threat to public security.

Norman Lear on MediaCon, Redux

Does Big Media Need to Get Any Bigger? – pdf

OVER THE LAST 25 years, the number of corporations that dominate television, movies, music, radio, cable and the Internet has dwindled from more than 50 to just a handful of massive conglomerates. Do we really want Big Media to get even bigger?

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin does. He just relaunched the FCC’s formal review of media ownership rules. The agency’s “Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” issued July 25, is vague, but its intent is clear: to let a few giant media corporations swallow up more local television channels, radio stations and newspapers in a single market.

[…] Industry and Wall Street propaganda says local media can’t compete without further consolidation. Yet media companies already enjoy higher profit margins than most industries. They say we must deregulate. But radio and TV station ownership is by definition regulated — these are the public airwaves and there are only so many channels available in a community. The only question is on whose behalf will Washington make the rules: major media companies or the public?

LimeWire Suit

Music Publishers Sue Owner of Web File-Sharing Program

The Recording Industry Association of America said in a statement that it had sued the Lime Group, the corporation’s executives, and the subsidiaries that designed and distributed LimeWire. The suit was filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

The case is the first piracy lawsuit brought against a distributor of file-sharing software since the Supreme Court ruled last year that technology companies could be sued for copyright infringement on the grounds that they encouraged customers to steal music and movies over the Internet.

[…] In the complaint, the record companies contend that LimeWire’s operators are “actively facilitating, encouraging and enticing” computer users to steal music by failing to block access to copyright works and building a business model that allows them to profit directly from piracy.

[…] Last fall, LimeWire was among several file-sharing services to receive warning letters from the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the major record labels.

The trade group said LimeWire’s operators did not show adequate interest in developing a licensed business model or agree to shut down.