Known here sarcastically as paparazzi, people like Mr. Im stalk their prey and capture them on film. But it is not celebrities, politicians or even hardened criminals they pursue. Rather, they roam cities secretly videotaping fellow citizens breaking the law, deliver the evidence to government officials and collect the rewards.
“Some people hate us,” said Mr. Im. “But we’re only doing what the law encourages.”
[...] “I’m making three times what I made as an English tutor,” said Mr. Im, 39, who began his new line of work around seven years ago and says he makes about $85,000 a year.
Bounties have a history in South Korea; for decades, the government has offered generous rewards to people who turned in North Korean spies. But in recent years, various government agencies have set up similar programs for anyone reporting mainly petty crimes, some as minor as a motorist tossing a cigarette butt out the window.
Snitching for pay has become especially popular since the world’s economic troubles slowed South Korea’s powerful economy. Paparazzi say most of their ranks are people who have lost their jobs in the downturn and are drawn by media reports of fellow Koreans making tens of thousands of dollars a year reporting crimes.
September 28, 2011
September 26, 2011
Another OnStar Challenger [8:34 am]
It looks like typical Senatorial grand-standing, until you get to the last paragraph of the quote below: NY Sen. Schumer accuses OnStar of invading privacy [pdf]
The OnStar automobile communication service used by 6 million Americans maintains its two-way connection with a customer even after the service is discontinued, while reserving the right to sell data from that connection.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York says thats a blatant invasion of privacy and is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. But OnStar says former customers can stop the two-way transmission, and no driving data of customers has been shared or sold.
“OnStar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory,” said Schumer, a Democrat. “I urge OnStar to abandon this policy.”
But the General Motors Corp. OnStar service says customers are thoroughly informed of the new practice. If a customer says he or she doesn’t want to have data collected after service is ended, OnStar disconnects the tracking.
And although OnStar reserves the right to share or sell data on customers’ speed, location, use of seat belts and other practices, a spokesman says it hasn’t done so and doesn’t plan to.
… until OnStar gets a subpoena or a National Security letter, for example.
September 25, 2011
Ya Think?! [2:19 pm]
Well, they’re still probably ahead of the music industry — Movie studios give up the DVD ghost, look to the Internet [pdf]
After desperate attempts to prop up the industrys once-thriving DVD business, studio executives now believe the only hope of turning around a 40% decline in home entertainment revenue lies in rapidly accelerating the delivery of movies over the Internet.
[...] “The days of baby steps on the Internet are over,” said David Bishop, president of Sony Pictures’ home entertainment unit. “It’s now critical that we experiment as much as possible and determine how to build a vibrant market for collecting digital movies.”
September 11, 2011
New Advances in “Works for Hire” [2:37 pm]
The company’s software takes data, like that from sports statistics, company financial reports and housing starts and sales, and turns it into articles. For years, programmers have experimented with software that wrote such articles, typically for sports events, but these efforts had a formulaic, fill-in-the-blank style. They read as if a machine wrote them.
But Narrative Science is based on more than a decade of research, led by two of the company’s founders, Kris Hammond and Larry Birnbaum, co-directors of the Intelligent Information Laboratory at Northwestern University, which holds a stake in the company. And the articles produced by Narrative Science are different.
“I thought it was magic,” says Roger Lee, a general partner of Battery Ventures, which led a $6 million investment in the company earlier this year. “It’s as if a human wrote it.”
Experts in artificial intelligence and language are also impressed, if less enthralled. Oren Etzioni, a computer scientist at the University of Washington, says, “The quality of the narrative produced was quite good,” as if written by a human, if not an accomplished wordsmith. Narrative Science, Mr. Etzioni says, points to a larger trend in computing of “the increasing sophistication in automatic language understanding and, now, language generation.”
As usual, the reason it’s impressive is that it works at all, not that it’s producing deathless prose. But, it seems like it would be a great tool for first pass writing, with a human cleaning it up afterward. Of course, at that point, the question of whose writing it is also starts to get very murky….
August 31, 2011
A Nice Comment on the MPAA from Pajiba [4:47 pm]
A rant from one of my favorite websites for movie reviews: Box Office Records and Whining Twatwaffles of the MPAA discussing this MPAA infographic/propoganda [local copy]:
So according to the MPAA, piracy cost them $58 billion last year, making movie piracy a bigger industry than the GDPs of 10 American states. To put it even starker perspective, look at it this way. The film industry gets about $10 billion from the box office, and about $30 billion from the after market of DVDs, streaming, etc. So they’re claiming that piracy costs them almost two-thirds of their business. At $10 per DVD, every household in the United States would be buying an additional 50 DVDs per year if they weren’t so busy downloading. The technical term for a statistic like that is “fictional.”
[...] There are a couple numbers on that infographic though that do matter, the figures about employment and jobs. Sure, they’re victim to hyperbole as well, seeming to count every one who ever sold a cup of coffee to an actor, but there’s a hint of truth in there. The film industry is one of the rock solid cornerstones of the American economy. 96% of tickets sold in America are for American films, and even more tickets are sold overseas. Industries have faded, factories have closed, but movies still get made here. That’s the angle the MPAA should take instead of this exhausting and alienating shame show. Play to the pride and patriotism of being the place that makes the world’s dreams.
August 29, 2011
For Your Daily Dose of Irony…. [1:39 pm]
Kind of like discovering that Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is not a part of the public domain; another piece of “owned” culture: Masked Anonymous Protesters Aid Time Warner’s Profits [pdf]
When members appear in public to protest censorship and what they view as corruption, they don a plastic mask of Guy Fawkes, the 17th-century Englishman who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
Stark white, with blushed pink cheeks, a wide grin and a thin black mustache and goatee, the mask resonates with the hackers because it was worn by a rogue anarchist challenging an authoritarian government in “V for Vendetta,” the movie produced in 2006 by Warner Brothers.
What few people seem to know, though, is that Time Warner, one of the largest media companies in the world and parent of Warner Brothers, owns the rights to the image and is paid a licensing fee with the sale of each mask.
This is a strange one. Certainly, Rep. Conyers has been around long enough to know how difficult it is to legislate around copyright law (see Jessica Litman’s Digital Copyright) So you have to wonder what’s the real agenda here — is it really just about pre-empting judicial review and limiting the associated transactions costs for everyone?: Representative John Conyers Wants Copyright Law Revision [pdf]
Arguing that Congress has an obligation “to preserve fairness and justice for artists,” the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee has called for a revision of United States copyright law to remove ambiguities in the current statute about who is eligible to reclaim ownership rights to songs and sound recordings.
August 15, 2011
Termination Rights and Recordings [2:54 pm]
When copyright law was revised in the mid-1970s, musicians, like creators of other works of art, were granted “termination rights,” which allow them to regain control of their work after 35 years, so long as they apply at least two years in advance. Recordings from 1978 are the first to fall under the purview of the law, but in a matter of months, hits from 1979, like “The Long Run” by the Eagles and “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer, will be in the same situation — and then, as the calendar advances, every other master recording once it reaches the 35-year mark.
The provision also permits songwriters to reclaim ownership of qualifying songs. Bob Dylan has already filed to regain some of his compositions, as have other rock, pop and country performers like Tom Petty, Bryan Adams, Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Waits and Charlie Daniels, according to records on file at the United States Copyright Office.
[...] With the recording industry already reeling from plummeting sales, termination rights claims could be another serious financial blow. Sales plunged to about $6.3 billion from $14.6 billion over the decade ending in 2009, in large part because of unauthorized downloading of music on the Internet, especially of new releases, which has left record labels disproportionately dependent on sales of older recordings in their catalogs.
“This is a life-threatening change for them, the legal equivalent of Internet technology,” said Kenneth J. Abdo, a lawyer who leads a termination rights working group for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and has filed claims for some of his clients, who include Kool and the Gang. As a result the four major record companies — Universal, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner — have made it clear that they will not relinquish recordings they consider their property without a fight.
“We believe the termination right doesn’t apply to most sound recordings,” said Steven Marks, general counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America, a lobbying group in Washington that represents the interests of record labels. As the record companies see it, the master recordings belong to them in perpetuity, rather than to the artists who wrote and recorded the songs, because, the labels argue, the records are “works for hire,” compilations created not by independent performers but by musicians who are, in essence, their employees.
Independent copyright experts, however, find that argument unconvincing. [....]
An update — one of the contenders for termination rights going to court soon, apparently: A Village Person Tests the Copyright Law [pdf]
July 25, 2011
Aaron Swartz and JSTOR [2:03 pm]
This is a peculiar bit of press on the Aaron Swartz case. Given that, from what I’ve read, Larry Lessig’s comments in the press have been very careful, it’s interesting to read this headline. Is it the NYTimes making this connection just because Aaron worked in Larry’s center, or has Larry been blogging about this/quoted about this in such a way as to suggest common cause here? Aaron Swartz’s Web Activism May Cost Him Dearly [pdf]
Like the penny opportunist, Mr. Swartz was invited to sample the wares of the nonprofit online collection Jstor, and he interpreted that invitation quite expansively. Using a program that automatically paged through each issue of more than 1,300 journals, he was able to methodically download their contents, making a copy of almost everything in the collection.
Yet this episode is hardly a joke. Mr. Swartz was arrested last week in Boston on a series of felony counts including wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and recklessly damaging a protected computer. If convicted on all counts, the Justice Department said he could face up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.
July 8, 2011
Our New Content Overlords… [8:48 am]
A dream no longer deferred: content providers now get to be their own judge and jury for alleged copyright infringement. And an emerging communications lifeline is now subject to judgments by ISPs that used to be considered part of the judicial domain: To Slow Piracy, Internet Providers Ready Penalties [pdf]
The companies took pains to say that the agreement did not oblige Internet providers to shut down a repeat offender’s account, and that the system of alerts was meant to be “educational.” But they noted that carriers would retain their right to cut off any user who violated their terms of service.
In bringing together the media companies and Internet carriers, the deal demonstrates how the once-clear line separating those two businesses has been blurred. Eight years ago, the Recording Industry Association of America had to sue Verizon to try to uncover the identity of a customer who was sharing music online. This year, Comcast completed its merger with NBC, bringing an owner of digital content and a conduit for it under the same roof.
Now the Internet providers are hoping to profit as they pipe music and video of the nonpirated variety to their customers.
“The I.S.P.’s want to cooperate with Hollywood because the carriers recognize that their own growth depends in part on bundled content strategies,” said Eric Garland of BigChampagne, which tracks online media traffic. “They don’t want to be just utilities providing Internet access, but premium content distributors as well.”
A tragic allegory for the current climate in the US for so many things; surveillance, war-making, etc. As David Malki! points out, “The Revolution Will Not Be Telegraphed.”
June 27, 2011
On First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds — decision: Brown, Governor of California, et al. v. Entertainment Merchants Association et al.
Given that Breyer and Thomas each file dissents, one might expect a colorful opinion. On except from Scalia’s majority opinion:
California’s argument would fare better if there were a longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read—or read to them when they are younger—contain no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed. As her just deserts for trying to poison Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers “till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy.” The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales 198 (2006 ed.). Cinderella’s evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves. Id., at 95. And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven. Id., at 54.
High-school reading lists are full of similar fare. [...]
June 22, 2011
This article went up a couple of days ago, Upending Anonymity, These Days the Web Unmasks Everyone [pdf], but now there’s also a discussion that’s worth a look. Maybe not earth-shattering, but at least it acknowledges that there are a lot of eddies in this particular swirl of internet technology and policy:
Not too long ago, theorists fretted that the Internet was a place where anonymity thrived.
Now, it seems, it is the place where anonymity dies.
The Virtues of Anonymity; Daniel J. Solove [pdf]
The Rage of Being Right; Philip Smith [pdf]
Promoting Repression; Kashmir Hill [pdf]
The Glue of Civility; Christine Pearson [pdf]
Practicing Self-Regulation; Peggy Post [pdf]
The Smith–Post axis of discussion is notable, and I am generally surprised by the frequent excuse in these articles that incivility is (mostly) thoughtless. (And Hill inelegantly raises the very important issue of what it means to delegate the interpretation of civility to institutions.)
The way I see it, the very root of incivility is almost always thoughtlessness. “Conscious incivility” evokes something entirely different — consider your likely responses to these two common situations: (1) Being cut off in traffic by an inattentive driver and (2) Hearing the car horn of the vehicle immediately behind you the split second the traffic light changes from red to green, possibly accompanied by a rude gesticulation by the driver. The first is incivility, the second is an act of aggression.
(Note that there *are* cultural referents that can matter. In Morocco, the second act listed is, in fact, common practice, because the car at the head of the line at a red light is expected to have pulled far enough into the intersection that the car’s driver can’t even see the traffic light — there, the honk of the horn is a practical requirement of all courteous drivers.)
Wonder what the other capacitative display smartphones/tablets are going to do about this? From Patent 7,966,578:
Portable multifunction device, method, and graphical user interface for translating displayed content
A computer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display, comprises displaying a portion of page content, including a frame displaying a portion of frame content and also including other content of the page, on the touch screen display. An N-finger translation gesture is detected on or near the touch screen display. In response, the page content, including the displayed portion of the frame content and the other content of the page, is translated to display a new portion of page content on the touch screen display. An M-finger translation gesture is detected on or near the touch screen display, where M is a different number than N. In response, the frame content is translated to display a new portion of frame content on the touch screen display, without translating the other content of the page.
Filed: December 19, 2007; awarded June 21, 2011. Via Patently Apple
As a side note, the specificity of claims is quite a hoot to read, particularly the “M” and “N” specifics:
What is claimed is:
A method, comprising: at a portable multifunction device with one or more processors, memory, and a touch screen display; displaying a portion of web page content in a stationary application window on the touch screen display, wherein [...].
A method, comprising: at a portable multifunction device with one or more processors, memory, and a touch screen display: displaying a portion of page content in a stationary application window on the touch screen display, wherein the portion of page content includes: a frame displaying a portion of frame content, and other content of the page; detecting an N-finger translation gesture on or near the touch screen display; in response to detecting the N-finger translation gesture, translating the page content to display a new portion of page content in the stationary application window, on the touch screen display, wherein translating the page content includes simultaneously translating the displayed portion of the frame content and the other content of the page; detecting an M-finger translation gesture on or near the touch screen display, where M is a different number than N; and in response to detecting the M-finger translation gesture, translating the frame content in the stationary application window, to display a new portion of frame content on the touch screen display without translating the other content of the page.
The method of claim 2, where N is equal to 1 and M is equal to 2.
The method of claim 2, wherein the page content is web page content.
June 15, 2011
Whom Would You Root For? [10:04 am]
Chuck Schumer giving a textbook case of crony capitalism or
Business method patents getting a bad rap. Sadly, it’s going to take work for both of them to lose but, in the long run, anything to knock business method patents is going to be my preference: Schumer Helps Banks With a Patent Problem [pdf]
The patents at issue are called “business method” patents, which cover a process for performing a task but not necessarily the technology required to make it happen. Method patents are the bane of the corporate world, and business groups say they encourage frivolous lawsuits based on faulty application of patent law.
[...] While other provisions address reviews for patents after they are issued, the language of Mr. Schumer’s provision seems aimed at banks or, specifically, “a method or corresponding apparatus for performing data processing operations used in the practice, administration or management of a financial product or service.”
The legislation is the “America Invents Act,” and the discussion here is centering on HR 1249.
June 6, 2011
Apple WWDC Announcement of iCloud [2:56 pm]
Not sure, but it looks like Apple/Jobs have set up something that’s revolutionary in the world of digital copyright; the pending iCloud service, built into the next versions of IOS (5) and OS X (Lion), will allow users, for free, to move copies of iTunes music among digital devices. Purchased iTunes songs can only move to 10 devices, but one would assume that all other content is endlessly copyable.
Suggests that the announcements of deals with the music companies had less to do with iTunes streaming and more to do with getting something set up to avoid the copyright issue? Apparently, if you’ve ripped the song yourself, and it exists in the iTunes store, then… (waiting)… a matching process takes place and if it’s in the library, then first the song is converted to AAC DRM free (but you have to pay $25/yr — so it may be streaming-like after all) — plus no indication of the disposition of your original ripped song.
A linchpin of iTunes in the Cloud, as the new music service is called, is that Apple has reached deals with the major record labels and music publishers to license their recordings. Amazon and Google offer similar music services.
But because those two companies did not obtain licenses from the labels, users have to upload their own music libraries — and any new song purchases — to the Web before they can access them on other devices. The process can take hours, if not days, for people with large collections.
By cementing the deals with the music industry, Apple can save users that time-consuming step. What is more, Apple, which is already the world’s largest distributor of music, is expected to find a ready audience in its millions of iTunes users, virtually guaranteeing that its service will leapfrog the offerings from Amazon and Google.
The service acknowledges a well-known fact — that most music on iPods, iPhones and iPads was ripped or swapped. Apple reached a deal that gives recording companies more than 70 percent of the new fees, addressing a dark secret that has crippled the music industry, and provides them with some economic payback.
Where Apple is able to identify and match songs from its 18 million-song database, it will transfer them into the user’s iCloud, a storage area housed on servers, including those at a massive new data center in North Carolina.
“The chances are awfully good that we’ve got the songs in our store that you’ve ripped,” Jobs said.
Where songs can’t be identified — say of bootlegged concert recordings — users can manually upload them to the cloud and gain the same access.
I guess that the MP3.com name was already taken, but I’d be curious to understand what’s in the contract that Apple arranged with the music companies to avoid the things that took MP3.com down. (Update: see “Unlicensed: Are Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player illegal?“)
March 15, 2011
The eBook and the Library [7:20 am]
Two great tastes that, apparently, don’t taste great together: Publishers and Libraries Struggle over Terms of E-Books [pdf]
The value of this magically convenient library book — otherwise known as an e-book — is the subject of a fresh and furious debate in the publishing world. For years, public libraries building their e-book collections have typically done so with the agreement from publishers that once a library buys an e-book, it can lend it out, one reader at a time, an unlimited number of times.
Last week, that agreement was upended by HarperCollins Publishers when it began enforcing new restrictions on its e-books, requiring that books be checked out only 26 times before they expire. Assuming a two-week checkout period, that is long enough for a book to last at least one year.
What could have been a simple, barely noticed change in policy has galvanized librarians across the country, many of whom called the new rule unfair and vowed to boycott e-books from HarperCollins, the publisher of Doris Lessing, Sarah Palin and Joyce Carol Oates.
There’s a set of names I would not expect to find associated with one another….
February 15, 2011
Be Careful! [3:08 pm]
After all, one person’s internet freedom is another’s willful infringement — or worse; after all, didn’t the House just vote to extend the Patriot Act? [pdf] State Department to Announce Internet Freedom Policy [pdf]
Days after Facebook and Twitter added fuel to a revolt in Egypt, the Obama administration plans to announce a new policy on Internet freedom, designed to help people get around barriers in cyberspace while making it harder for autocratic governments to use the same technology to repress dissent.
Muddled Argument [10:54 am]
I’m not sure *what* Scott Turow thinks he’s accomplishing in this op-ed, other than trying to muddy the arguments around the proper role of copyright in an era of increasingly inexpensive districution: Would the Bard Have Survived the Web? [pdf]
The rise of the Internet has led to a view among many users and Web companies that copyright is a relic, suited only to the needs of out-of-step corporate behemoths. Just consider the dedicated “file-sharers” — actually, traffickers in stolen music movies and, increasingly, books — who transmit and receive copyrighted material without the slightest guilt.
They are abetted by a handful of law professors and other experts who have made careers of fashioning counterintuitive arguments holding that copyright impedes creativity and progress. Their theory is that if we severely weaken copyright protections, innovation will truly flourish. It’s a seductive thought, but it ignores centuries of scientific and technological progress based on the principle that a creative person should have some assurance of being rewarded for his innovative work.
Certainly there’s a place for free creative work online, but that cannot be the end of it. [...]
Of course, he carefully disavows his own legal training in the author byline, but you have to wonder what his strategy would be — not to mention the strategy of the New York Times in accepting this unclear opinion piece.
January 26, 2011
Unbelievable [2:11 pm]
Pedestrian fatalities increased slightly for the first time in four years in the first six months of 2010, according to a report released last week by the Governors Highway Safety Association, an organization based in Washington that represents state highway safety agencies.
Among the states, Arizona and Florida had the largest increases in pedestrian fatalities, followed by North Carolina, Oregon and Oklahoma. Nationally, pedestrian traffic fatalities had dropped to 4,091 in 2009 from 4,892 in 2005, the report stated.
“One of the reasons we think the trend may be turning negatively is because of distracted pedestrians,” said Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the safety group.
The New York bill was proposed by State Senator Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat who has grown alarmed by the amount of distraction he sees on the streets in his neighborhood and across New York City. Since September, Mr. Kruger wrote in the bill, three pedestrians have been killed and one was critically injured while crossing streets and listening to music through headphones.
“We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross,” he said. “You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity.”
January 20, 2011
Russia and “Safe Harbors” [2:09 pm]
Russia’s loose copyright protection laws were put to the test Thursday when prosecutors filed charges against a social network user who put 18 of his favourite pop groups songs online.
The 26-year-old V Kontakte In Contact website user faces a six-year prison sentence if convicted of violating the unnamed Russian groups “copyright and related rights.”