Open Access To NIH-Funded Research?

Something to cheer Hal Abelson – a little: NIH Grant Recipients Are ‘Asked’ to Post Data [pdf]

Researchers who receive grant money from the National Institutes of Health will be “asked” to submit their results to a public Web site within a year after they are published in a scientific journal, under a new and controversial NIH policy announced yesterday.

The highly anticipated “public access” policy — which aims to make it easier for Americans to see the results of research they paid for with their tax dollars — represents a compromise between competing forces that had lobbied the agency intensely during the past year.

[…] Both sides had at least one complaint in common: The policy leaves it up to scientists to decide when to make their articles public. That puts scientists in an awkward position of wanting to release them quickly to please the NIH — their funding source — and slowly to please their paper publishers — upon whom they are equally dependent for professional prestige.

The NIH press release; Policy publication: About Public Access

France Protest Over IFPI Lawsuits

French Criticize Music Download Crackdown [pdf]

“We denounce this repressive and disproportionate policy, whose victims are just a few scapegoats,” said signatories of the campaign, led by weekly Le Nouvel Observateur in its edition published Thursday. “Like at least 8 million other French people, we also have downloaded music online and are also potential criminals,” the open letter said. “We demand a stop to these ridiculous legal pursuits.”

Well-known artists including Manu Chao, Matthieu Chedid (M) and Yann Tiersen, score composer for the hit French film “Amelie,” added their signatures to the campaign entitled “Free up music!”

French Industry Minister Patrick Devedjian said he agreed that “every campaign of blind and brutal repression is not only ineffective, but harms all people concerned.”

However, he told TF1 television that “the concept of everything for free is an illusion.”

What About Your e-Life When Your Life Ends?

A student pointed out this story to me: After death, a struggle for their digital memories

Stationed in a remote corner of Iraq, Marine Corps reservist Karl Linn’s only means of communicating with the outside world was through a computer. Several times a week, the 20-year-old combat engineer would log on and send out a batch of e-mails and update a Web site with pictures of his adventures.

For his parents in Midlothian, Va., the electronic updates were so precious that when he was killed last week in an enemy ambush, one of the first things they did was to contact the company that hosted their son’s account. They wanted to know how to access the data and preserve it.

But who owns the material is a source of intense debate.

[…] As computers continue to permeate our lives, what happens to digital bits of information when their owners pass away has become one of the vexing questions of the Internet age. Much of that information is stored in accounts on remote servers and has no physical manifestation that can be neatly transferred. There are no clear laws of inheritance, meaning that Internet providers must often decide for themselves what is right.

Many Internet firms have found themselves facing criticism no matter what they do. If they decline to release the information, they are labeled villains by people supporting the families. If they give it up, they are chastised for violating their own privacy statements.

Complicating such disputes is the very nature of e-mail, which many consider to be more personal and informal than regular letters; some even use it to correspond anonymously, to hide aspects of their lives that they may not want revealed to others.

Also from the Washington Post: After Death, a Struggle for Their Digital Remains [pdf]

The Network Effect Cuts Both Ways

This has been announced for some time, but I like this article’s take. Given that many would argue that Microsoft has turned a blind eye to much piracy in order to cement their market dominance, it’s going to be very interesting to see what will come of this change in support: It’s Windows vs. Windows as Microsoft battles piracy

In terms of numbers, the biggest rival to Windows sales is Windows itself–or rather pirated copies of the OS. And Microsoft is starting to put its foot down.

In its most serious bid yet to reap revenue from those who’ve been getting Windows without payment to Microsoft, the company plans to require computer owners to verify that their copy of Windows is properly licensed before allowing them to download software from Microsoft’s site. The initially voluntary, but soon-to-be mandatory, Windows Genuine Advantage program not only blocks optional add-ons, it also stops more critical downloads, such as security patches.

“They’ve let it go until now because PC growth has been so good,” said Matt Rosoff, an analyst at research firm Directions on Microsoft.

[…] Historically, Microsoft has trod carefully when it comes to crackdowns, particularly in emerging markets. Though clearly eyeing growth, the company has not wanted to push too hard in countries where piracy is rampant, and thereby force customers toward Linux. Also, some say that by threatening to withhold security updates, Microsoft is making the entire Internet less secure, harming legitimate customers as well.

Despite these risks, though, the potential increase in sales seems hard to ignore.

Competition in Music eTailing

Napster’s ‘rental’ music service takes on iTunes

The company said its Napster To Go service would go live Thursday, charging $14.95 for the ability to download an unlimited number of songs and take them onto compatible MP3 players. The songs would be playable only as long as a subscriber keeps paying for the service.

The company will kick off a $30 million marketing campaign for the service with a Super Bowl advertisement running this Sunday, aimed at contrasting the new offer with Apple Computer’s iTunes store, a spokeswoman said.

Napster’s new service, which has been operating in a limited “preview” format for several months, is the first major iTunes rival to take advantage of copy-protection software from Microsoft that expands the flexibility of music subscription services.

Related: MP3.com founder returns to music biz

Mark Cuban on MGM v. Grokster

Grokster and America’s future

This [personal computing] technology revolution has been amazing for two reasons. First, the technology has continued to evolve this long. We may be at a point where we aren’t surprised to read about new technologies, but entrepreneurs continue to generate ideas that lead to new products and services. Technology continues to have a significant impact on the U.S. economy and to create jobs.

Second, the government managed to stay out of the way for as long as it did. Who knows why, but our elected officials managed to let the free markets stay free.

Until now.

[…] The law of unintended consequences is never repealed. It goes on forever. Next month, a case entitled MGM v. Grokster will go before the U.S. Supreme Court. If this case goes the wrong way, that law of unintended consequences could put a hurt on us in the future.

[…] In reality, this case isn’t about whether music or movies are illegally downloaded using P2P software. This is purely about control. The entertainment industry wants control over technology that could impact its business.

[…] In the MGM v. Grokster case, the fewer than 50 companies who control less than 1 percent of all digital information are trying to take control of innovation in the technology industry and pry it away from the rest of us. Everything our imagination creates and touches that can be made digital is at risk if Grokster loses.

What innovations will be condemned by law before they have a chance to come to market, because they could have an impact on Hollywood and the music industry? We have no idea, and that is a very scary prospect.

Aaron McGruder on Changes at the FCC (updated, again)

Too funny:

2005 Feb 02 Boondocks cartoon

Later: See this Frank Rich discussion of Michael Powell’s legacy on the anniversary of the “wardrobe malfunction” – The Year of Living Indecently

That our government is now both intimidating PBS and awarding public money to pundits to enforce “moral values” agendas demonizing certain families is the ugliest fallout of the campaign against indecency. That campaign cannot really banish salaciousness from pop culture, a rank impossibility in a market economy where red and blue customers are united in their infatuation with “Desperate Housewives.” But it can create public policy that discriminates against anyone on the hit list of moral values zealots. Inane as it may seem that Ms. Spellings is conducting a witch hunt against Buster or that James Dobson has taken aim at SpongeBob SquarePants, there’s a method to their seeming idiocy: the cartoon surrogates are deliberately chosen to camouflage the harshness of their assault on nonanimated, flesh-and-blood people.

Later – Mickey Kaus at Slate generates a bit of revisionist history of his own

A Super Sunday reminder to Frank Rich and other righteous anti-FCCers: The big problem with last year’s Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake halftime show was not that people saw Jackson’s breast. It wasn’t what Jackson did that was offensive. It was what Timberlake did. Here was a massively popular, relatively hip singer whose message was that it was a hip, transgressive thing for men to rip clothes off women when they feel like it (which is quite often). I watched the game with a group of non-evangelical, non-moralistic dads who were uniformly horrified. The problem for them wasn’t sex–their kids see flesh all the time in videos–but a form of sexism, not prudery but piggishness. Surely there are some types of behavior–homophobia, perhaps, or racism, or Republicanism–that even Frank Rich wouldn’t want implicitly endorsed during a telecast watched by most of the country’s teens and pre-teens. Yet the press has effectively recast this complicated issue as an uncomplicated case of “Nipple-gate,” of blue-noses overreacting to the sight of a breast. No wonder red staters respond negatively when New Yorkers call them simplistic.

While I might be able to agree with Kaus’ argument about what was offensive, the fine was not, as I recall, about Timberlake. Something to research to confirm, though. Hmmm — all I can find is a discussion about the “exposure” of Miss Jackson’s breast, nothing about “ripping clothes off” or related issues of “piggishness.”

Ernest’s take: t’s Not the Offensiveness, Stupid

Cory Having Problems With Apple’s DVD

In Apple restricting DVD region-changes — voluntarily! — UPDATED, Cory describes just how cowed even a firm like Apple has become in the face of the copyright industries. I have always wondered what happened when you cycled through the five region encoding changes you’re allowed with the Mac OS X DVD player – now, sadly, I know it’s not good.

What’s more, once the region-switches have run out, computer companies can reset your counter at a service depot a further five times. That means that you get 25 region-switches. This sucks pretty bad: I moved from San Francisco to London with hundreds of Region 1 DVDs and now when I buy a movie in the shop, it’s Region 2. That means that if I watch a movie from my US collection once a week, and once from my UK connection the next week, I’ll run out of region switches in three months. Three months after moving to the UK, I’ll have to throw out half my DVDs.

So, basically, I don’t watch my DVDs. Sometimes, though, I’m weak, and I tune into one and squander one of my precious region switches. Now my nearly-new Powerbook has only one switch left out of its initial five, and so I brought it to Apple to get them to reset the counter. It needed service anyway (I’m on my fifth or sixth screen replacement for the defect in the 15′ machines that causes the ‘white blobs’ to obscure the display), so it seemed like a good time to do it.

I know that Apple is allowed to do this. How do I know? Well, when EFF went to the Copyright Office and asked it to give us an exemption to the DMCA to make tools for watching out-of-region DVDs, Time-Warner showed up and told us this:

‘And, the way it works, and I apologize because it’s a little bit complicated, the consumer can set it five times. After the fifth time that they’ve reset it, they do have an ability to reset it again, but they have to bring the drive to an authorized dealer or an authorized service representative, who can then authorize an additional set of five changes, and then they can bring it back for a second, for a third, fourth and fifth set of authorized changes. So you can change it 25 times in total, but you have to go back for each set of five. You only get the first five when you buy the ROM drive itself.’

That was Dean Marks, from AOL Time Warner. Straight from the horse’s mouth, testifying to the US government.

But when my Powerbook was ready for pickup, Apple left me a voicemail saying that they couldn’t reset my DVD player, that doing so would void my warranty.

OT: Speaking of Distribution Models….

Thanks to whoever stuck a copy of Polski Fiat‘s The Luddite Spy in my door handle. After the day I’ve had…. Anyway, thanks.

1/13/05 Happy New Year! There will be an abundance of interesting events coming up soon. First, we have loads of CDs for all you good boys and girls in Polskiland. how can you get your hands on one? We are offering them online at CD Baby, we will sell them at gigs, and we might just give you one if you track us down and ask us sweetly.

Actually, I found this even more entertaining:

Polski FIAT is a quirky, nuanced and energetic indie rock band based in Boston, MA. You’re basic gritty 3-piece anti-jam band, Polski cranks out an onslaught of arrestingly distinct and surrupticiously witty songs, often changing gears 6 or 7 times in the span of a 2 minute long piece. All original, the band features a mélange of crunchy guitar progressions, dualing harmonies, lush computer sounds, and cerebral librettos to create a potent live show. The band obliquely proclaims its tunes as a novel genre called ‘Science Rock.’ This pioneering style meshes electronica with old fashioned rock ‘n roll to provide smart, danceable music. Polski deftly blends a vintage look and sound wth sophisticated and futuristic compositional elements in an attempt to be either postmodern or to poke fun at anyone silly enough to use terms like postmodern.