2003 April 16

(entry last updated: 2003-04-16 18:19:44)

I’m back, and what a difference a week makes in Boston’s weather. I realize that it’s not going to last, but it’s nice to find the same weather here that I left in North Augusta!

Not surprisingly, I have a lot to dig out from under here, so postings will be slow today – and I have a lot to catch up on!

  • Will patents pillage open source? – an optimistic writeup, methinks. For example:

    As a business strategy, squeezing the open-source community for license royalties leaves a lot to be desired. Suddenly unleashing IP claims on a large installed base isn’t exactly conductive to attracting customers and business partners. Many analysts, for example, view SCO’s lawsuit as the last desperate gasp of a marketplace loser; in its quarter ended Jan. 31, SCO posted a net loss of $724,000 on revenue of $18 million.

    This insight into the culture of open source does not necessarily translate into a limit on the patent. If SCO wins, IBM still has to pay. The author does go on to point out that the suit’s reliance upon trade secrets is a real weakness in the claim, but the real answer is the collective ability of the open source community to work diligently to overturn patents through demonstration of prior art.

  • I guess the trial balloon got shot down: Apple denies it bid for record label – worries in advance of earnings reports?

  • Independents on the state of CD sales, from the CSMonitor.

    While executives at those labels wail about the industry’s imminent collapse, indie labels and artists are singing a much happier tune. Profits are up – in some cases by 50 to 100 percent. That’s in contrast to overall album sales, which dropped about 11 percent in 2002.

    …You won’t hear many of these labels’ artists on pop radio – and ironically, that’s one of the secrets to their success. By avoiding the major expenses associated with getting a tune on the air – which can cost upwards of $400,000 or $500,000 per song – independent labels are able to turn a profit far more quickly, and share more of those profits with their artists. Another secret of their success is that the labels target consumers – namely, adults – who are still willing to pay for their music, rather than download it for free.

    Note the interesting age bias; is that a consequence of know-how or a cultural difference?

  • This EETimes article summarizing critiques of Palladium by Rivest and Diffie is worth a read [Slashdot: Cryptographers Find Fault With Palladium]

    “The right way to look at this is you are putting a virtual set-top box inside your PC. You are essentially renting out part of your PC to people you may not trust,” said Rivest in an interview after the panel.

  • James Speth has re-released his iCommune music sharing software for the Mac/iTunes, this time without the Apple code that got him in trouble the first time around.

  • As the Register points out, the threat of DMCA prosecution of security researchers hasn’t gone away.

  • And publishers have apparently elected to shy away from this XBox hacker’s work for similar reasons. [Slashdot: Testing Microsoft And The DMCA]

2003 April 11

(entry last updated: 2003-04-11 23:17:58)

I’m learning a lot about what life looks like online from the viewpoint of a dialup user – time for a WWW site redesign for Furdlog when I get back – after I catch up, of course.

  • Apple wants to buy Universal Music from Vivendi? A new paradigm? The cited LATimes article is a little more informative thatn the NYTimes’ Reuters newswire

    Jobs’ interest in owning a music company comes at a time when the record companies believe that piracy has decimated CD sales around the world, shrinking revenue nearly 25% since 2000. Last year, Jobs infuriated the industry with Apple’s “rip, mix, burn” marketing campaign, which many executives believed promoted piracy of music on Apple’s computers, though Jobs insisted that the technology was meant only for legal copying.

    People close to Jobs say he is convinced that the music industry is about to turn a corner in the copyright war. With the government shutting down pirate Web sites and the record industry now going after individuals for alleged piracy, the Apple chief believes digital theft will become increasingly more complicated, prompting fans to migrate to legitimate services, sources said.

    Analysts believe that the 48-year-old Jobs will have to do more than make legal downloading easy. They say he also will have to slash prices, possibly to as little as 10 cents per song, to persuade consumers, many of whom have grown accustomed to free downloads, to buy music from Apple.

    This is actually a little troubling. Note that the article says that Jobs is assuming that the value in Vivendi will be developed through draconian copy protection technologies – not because of a value generated as much as a penalty avoided. Profit at the point of a gun is no more sustainable a business model than the one he appears to be trying to displace.

  • Hoorah for the NYTimes, pointing out that Cooperstown has managed to confuse patriotism with the muzzling of debate on topics of import to all citizens.

2003 April 10

(entry last updated: 2003-04-10 23:52:32)

It’s been great to be away, but the weather here in Augusta has not been the greatest, and they actually cancelled the opening round of the Master’s – understandable if you were here, but a disappointment all around. We can hope the weather will improve tomorrow, but I really can’t believe that they’ll manage to get in two full rounds tomorrow – we’ve gotten more than 4 inches of rain here since Sunday and I don’t think there’s a golf course in the world that can take that.

My Mom’ dial-up access is pretty saturated at night, so I cannot expect to do major web searching from here – so only what little I find will make it.

  • I see that Ben Edelman’s suit against N2H2 was thrown out – untimeliness as an excuse not to rule until absolutely necessary – a classic judicial approach, but it’s too bad that there wasn’t a realization that this is a set of issues that require attention now.

2003 April 7

(entry last updated: 2003-04-07 18:37:01)

Springtime in New England! 3 to 6 inches of snow predicted tonight! I hope my flight leaves tomorrow AM – but that means that I’ll be updating this site only rarely for the next week, and probably very little at that. I expect that the server problems I experienced during my last trip won’t reappear, but you never know – see you in a week!

  • Declan McCullagh reviews the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference. From the pics, I see that Simson Garfinkel made the conference – and the gallery.

  • Dave Winer has been investigating alternatives to the NYTimes (diversity in the WWW ecology, I would guess), and has some facts about the BBC online news services.

  • Someone named "cribcage" has posted a major piece supporting the RIAA lawsuits. Practice your rhetorical skills by considering how you might respond to his argument. Perhaps Alan Greenspan’s presentation cited yesterday might help.

  • Denise Howell points to a prerelease excerpt from All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning’s Napster in the LA Times

    “You know about Napster,” Rosen told them, “but you need to understand it. This is going to be big, and the fact that we sued them is going to make it bigger.”

    Staffers downloaded the software and registered in front of the label bosses. Then Rosen asked the executives to start naming songs. Not just big hits, but tracks deep into albums, new or obscure. The record men took turns calling out more than 20 songs. The staffers found them every time, and fast. Soon no one needed any more convincing that the threat was serious. The capper came when someone suggested a hunt for the ‘N Sync song “Bye Bye Bye.” The cut had been on the radio just three days, and the CD hadn’t been released for sale yet. And there it was.

    Maverick Records executive Ronnie Dashev had seen enough. “This is too depressing,” he said. “Let’s move on to other business.”

  • Wow – I think Dave is right – the Times seems to have changed back – at least for the moment. Several links that were abstract redirects have come back to life – e.g., Pareles from Jan 10, 2002 and Kelly from Mar 17, 2002. From their Link FAQ:

    Q. How long will links to New York Times articles remain before breaking?

    A. Links to the homepage or section fronts may remain indefinitely. Links to articles, established within the first week from the publication date will also remain stable for an indefinite length of time, unless a redesign of our website occurs that causes the links to break.

    Note the quite reasonable hedge on redesign, but we can hope that they’ll make a reasonable effort in that event as well.

    Update: Dave thinks Dave is right <G>!

  • Slate picks up a topic that was in the news a while ago (why does this link still work? – is Dave right that the Times has changed their policy again?) [pdf]: the sales of classic books and the business model of publishers printing them.

  • I saw that Cory Doctorow had cited this Salon article, but I didn’t get a chance to read it until today:

    A year ago, the Morrisons received a letter that threatened the future of their beloved business. The correspondence came from lawyers for Bikram Choudhury, founder of the fastest-growing style of yoga in America, Bikram Yoga. “It was a dagger of a letter — long, nasty and filled with allegations,” says Mark, who is also a lawyer. The missive alleged that the Morrisons were violating a recently acquired copyright and insisted that they comply with a long list of demands and pay fines starting at $150,000 — or risk a lawsuit. The warning, the Morrisons say, makes a mockery of yoga’s ultimate promise of both peace of mind and freedom. “We’re not just scared about what this could do to our finances,” Mark says. “Yoga is something really personal, something that we love. And that’s being attacked.”

    If Choudhury has his way, every Bikram Yoga studio in the world will soon be franchised and under his control. To start this process, he recently obtained a copyright for his particular sequence of yoga poses — a 90-minute series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises done in a room heated to 105 degrees. Choudhury says that yoga studios that want to continue teaching Bikram Yoga must pay franchise and royalty fees, change their name to Bikram’s Yoga College of India, stop teaching other styles of yoga, use only Bikram-approved dialogue when instructing students, refrain from playing music during classes, and a host of other stipulations.

    …After researching current law and talking to several intellectual property attorneys, the Morrisons decided not to comply — and sure enough, Choudhury slapped them with a lawsuit. The case is now in the discovery stage, with both parties exchanging documents in preparation for court. “To stop them from stealing I must go to the lawyers,” says Choudhury. “When in Rome, I must do as the Romans do. When in America, make Bikram copyright and trademark.”

  • As part of the effort to wean myself off the NYTimes, a perusal of the BBC WWW site led me to this History of Vinyl (possibly better labeled as the history of modern analog music recording). From the 1920-29 section:

    The record industry had spent the first twenty years of the century convincing the public that they needed a source of music in the home but they didn’t foresee the possibility that it may be free. Unfortunately, The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) had by the early 1920s started mass-producing commercial radios which, while acoustically inferior, offered a far wider range of news, drama and music. The Record Companies retaliated by drawing up contracts for their major artists, forbidding them to work for this rival medium. This move to limit radio’s output was doomed to failure as new vacuum tube amplification rapidly improved reception and sound quality. Record sales plummeted.

    The only weapon was fidelity of sound. In 1916 Western Electric laboratories had developed the superior condenser microphone. When Western combined with AT & T to form Bell Laboratories in 1925 this, in turn, led to the development of the first fully electronic High Fidelity recording techniques. It extended the reproducible sound range of phonograph records by more than an octave on high and low ends and it was dubbed “Orthophonic”.

  • Billboard reports that another band (Staind) is enclosing a bonus DVD to entice buyers.

  • Sony is offering [pdf] custom CDs online

    The point is to allow customers to compile customized CD’s easily and quickly. But that idea is not new. Personics tried to sell custom audio cassettes at retail kiosks in the 1980’s. Several custom-CD ventures were on the Web in the mid-90’s. SuperSonicBoom, iMix, MusicMaker and CDuctive all promised to give consumers the ability to create personalized CD’s, but they are no longer online.

    The earlier businesses faced significant hurdles because major record labels, which feared that selling individual songs would cannibalize album sales, would not license their hits. And once Napster became popular, online music fans were more interested in downloading free MP3 files than in buying CD’s that might take days to arrive.

    … Again, exclusivity is key. Many of the tracks have been issued only on vinyl, so this will be their first CD release. Alexander Hendorf, the record label’s founder, acknowledged that the custom-CD business seems to have fallen from fashion. But, he said, “Haven’t we learned that in e-commerce there is often a fruitful second life?”

  • The webcaster royalty rate-setting process goes through a new interation – the results are described here.

    The agreement, if approved by the Copyright Office, allows non-subscription webcasters to pay on a per performance or aggregate tuning hour basis, and offers an additional gross revenue option for subscription services. Webcasters can choose to either pay 0.0762 cents per song per listener or 0.0117 cents per listener hour. Internet radio subscription services can also choose to pay 10.9 percent of their subscription fees. The deal is effective for 2003-2004.

    The deal does not impact the ability of eligible small commercial webcasters to elect rates and terms adopted under the Small Webcasters Settlement Act. The agreement also does not address rates and terms for noncommercial webcasters or simulcasts of over-the-air broadcasts.

    Note that The Register points out that this whole discussion is just a little peculiar (based in part on this article from CNet’s Jim Hu:

    What really happened on Thursday is that DiMA, the Digital Media Association – which includes AOL, Yahoo! and The Beast among its members [ed. note: "The Beast&quot = Microsoft] – agreed with the RIAA on a royalty rate to be submitted to the Library of Congress.

    …The rate for these phantom-webcasters is slightly higher than what the CARP procedure specified for the real webcasters: 0.0762 cents per performance. The RIAA also grabs 10.9 per cent of subscription revenues from the large, silent spectres.

    The deal does nothing for the thousands of small, education or non-profit net casters that provide the amazing diversity of Internet radio. In the USA, net radio is handicapped by the burden of paying performance royalties from which the traditional, free-to-air stations are exempt.

    Nevertheless, the path is clear for AOL and Microsoft to begin streaming as super-portals.

  • Hiawatha Bray explains digital music and media in today’s Boston Globe [pdf]

2003 April 6

(entry last updated: 2003-04-06 13:53:12)

  • Dave Winer’s got a little more to say about the change in the NYTimes’s URL/story policy. Moreover, he suggests that maybe the BBC is the next possible authoritative online source. May Hodder adds a few more perspectives here.

  • Big numbers in the RIAA lawsuit against the college students:

  • Moreover, Larry Lessig and John Palfrey are thinking pretty hard about this move: Larry points out that it’s time for Congress to act; John points out that things are getting out of hand and both point to Alan Greenspan’s recent comments:

    Technological advance is continually altering the shape and nature of our economic processes and, in particular, is promoting the trend toward increasing conceptualization of U.S. GDP. The size of our radios, for example, has been dramatically reduced by the substitution of transistors for vacuum tubes. Thin fiber optic cable has replaced huge tonnages of copper wire. New architectural, engineering, and materials technologies have enabled the construction of buildings enclosing the same space with far less physical material than was required, say, 50 or 100 years ago. More recently, mobile phones have markedly downsized as they have improved. The movement over the decades toward production of services requiring little physical input has also been a major contributor to the dramatic rise in the ratio of constant dollars of GDP per ton of input.

    … More generally, in the physical world, the usual situation is that each additional unit of output is more costly to produce than the previous one; that is, production, at least eventually, is characterized by increasing marginal cost. By contrast, in the conceptual world, much of production is characterized by constant, and perhaps even zero, marginal cost.

    … Only in recent decades, as the economic product of the United States has become so predominantly conceptual, have issues related to the protection of intellectual property rights come to be seen as significant sources of legal and business uncertainty. Intellectual property is clearly more difficult to define and, hence, to protect. The physical property of one owner cannot occupy the same space as that of another. Ownership of physical property is capable of being defended by police, the militia, or private mercenaries. Ownership of ideas is far less easily protected.

    Indeed, the nature of intellectual property is importantly different from physical property. In particular, one individual’s use of an idea does not make that idea unavailable to others for their own, simultaneous use. Furthermore, new ideas almost invariably build on old ideas in ways that are difficult or impossible to delineate. From an economic perspective, this provides a rationale for making the calculus, developed initially by Leibnitz and Newton, freely available, despite the fact that those insights have immeasurably increased wealth over the generations. Should we have protected their claim in the same way that we do for owners of land? Or should the law make their insights more freely available to those who would build on them, with the aim of maximizing the wealth of the society as a whole? Are all property rights inalienable, or must they conform to a reality that conditions them?

    These questions bedevil economists and jurists, for they touch on some fundamental principles governing the organization of a modern economy and, hence, its society. Whether we protect intellectual property as an inalienable right or as a privilege vouchsafed by the sovereign, such protection inevitably entails making some choices that have crucial implications for the balance we strike between the interests of those who innovate and those who would benefit from innovation. [emphasis added]

    … If the form of protection afforded to intellectual property rights affects economic growth, it must do so by increasing the underlying pace of productivity growth. The bulk of this increase should show up as multifactor productivity, that is, the segment of labor productivity that reflects the impact of conceptualization–ideas generally–on economic growth and standards of living. Finding a way to isolate the effect of, say, the length of patents on overall economic growth poses a formidable challenge.

    The more general challenge is to develop a framework that fosters the growth of an economy increasingly dominated by conceptual products. The focus of this conference therefore is timely and apt.

    Note that, as I read these comments, while Greenspan is careful not to come down on one side or another of the natural rights/utilitarian constructions of intellectual property, he clearly indicates that the state has a role in balancing these notions against the broader needs of society for a healthy "economy of ideas."

  • Apparently, copy protected CDs are incompatible with radio practices, at least in Australia: Copy protected CDs: artists can be the losers

    Music companies which use copy protection may be denying the artists under contract to them legitimate play time on radio stations, if the happenings at one outfit are any indication.

    This radio station, which recently received its regular bag of freebies from EMI, finds that it is unable to play any of the CDs it received – the copy protection on the discs gets in the way.

    … The station in question has no standalone CD players, just desktop PCs (all running Windows 2000) and a couple of old Denon CD Cart players.

    “The CD tries to install some files to allow the PC to play the CD but my boss won’t authorise the installation of these files because he has no technical info on the software,” wrote the gentleman who let us know about this.

    “And if we can’t transfer the CD tracks to our digital playout system the CD ain’t going to get any airplay at all!”

    Slashdot discussion: Stations Can’t Play Crippled Music Disks. Note that the obvious answer (distributing non-copy protected/rippable CDs to radio stations) still means that digital copies will get out into the dark net.

  • Speaking of Australia, here’s a look at a current legislative proposal to put a copying levy on digital media.

2003 April 4

(entry last updated: 2003-04-04 16:25:19)

TPP Open House this morning here at MIT – actually, Open House for many MIT applicants accepted for the fall. Naturally, therefore, our weather has put on quite a show – sleet, freezing rain this morning, with a threat of an ice storm this evening. Ah, spring time in New England!

  • Pearl Jam become new Dixie Chicks: Dozens walk out after anti-Bush remarks.

    DENVER — Dozens of fans walked out of a Pearl Jam concert after lead singer Eddie Vedder took a mask of President Bush and impaled it on a microphone stand.

    …Vedder used a Bush mask in Australia and Japan to perform the song “Bushleaguer,” from the band’s latest album, “Riot Act.” The song’s lyrics say, “He’s not a leader, he’s a Texas leaguer.”

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education brings together all the elements of the Penn State’s policing of file sharing activities.

  • Slashdot: Forgent Networks Wins $25M from Sony for JPEG Patent

  • Sony’s left brain speaks: Sony TV would grab streams from the Net; Sony DVR to sport broadband

    Sony will release a digital video recorder with a hard drive and DVD recorder, as well as a broadband Internet connection and Web browser, the company has announced.

  • Doc Searls points out that he expected the change in the NYTimes online policy.

    I’ve written about this before. Even though I was told, after that last linked piece, that the Times made millions by selling old content, I still think the lost opportunity to assert authority far exceeds whatever monetary gain the paper gets by selling old fishwrap.

    Advantage: blogs.

    (See Jenny Levine’s comments) (Dave Winer’s got more today; his requiem from yesterday)

    So, here’s an experiment that I’ll be trying to do, but I’ll take data from anyone who’s got the inclination. According to Technorati, this morning (on April 4 at 7:00 AM EST with 194,063 weblogs watched and 12,980,008 links tracked) there are 14,036 inbound links and 5,268 inbound blogs for www.nytimes.com. Let’s see how (if?) that changes over the course of the next month.

  • Now, I’m sure that everyone read the BSA report yesterday that explained how piracy was bad for tax revenue, and therefore the economy. So, what does this Microsoft policy to loosen the requirements for the purchase of the student version say?

    Technically, only students or teachers were licensed to use the product. Microsoft did not license the software for other members of the household or people who were not faculty or students. That technicality apparently meant little to consumers looking for a good deal. Consumers snatched up 300,000 copies of Office XP Standard for Teachers and Students versus 121,000 for Office XP Standard during the academic product’s first 10 months on store shelves, according to market research company NPDTechworld.

    In fact, Office XP Standard for Teachers and Students continues to outsell the standard version by a huge margin. For boxed productivity software sold at retail, the student and teacher version has 34.4 percent market share versus 4.7 percent for Office Standard, according to NPDTechworld.

    Under the new licensing scheme, anyone in a household with a qualifying teacher and student will be able to use the forthcoming version, Office Student and Teacher Edition 2003. Microsoft also plans to extend the license so that the product can be installed on up to three computers. In a third change, the license would not expire after a college student graduates. Finally, Office Student and Teacher Edition 2003 would be upgradeable later to another version of the suite. Consumers who bought the earlier version were not eligible to buy upgrades.

  • I see that Mary Hodder has already followed-up on Matt’s testimony and experiences at the MA super-DMCA hearing. Mary’s also followed-up here and here on some of Ed Felten’s postings yesterday.
    Update: The Chronicle of Higher Education recounts the librarians’ objections to these laws. A bit from that piece:

    Vans Stevenson, the motion-picture group’s senior vice president for state legislative affairs, accuses the library groups of misunderstanding state antitheft legislation.

    “People are seeing demons where there are none,” he says, adding that the state laws are intended to thwart theft, not legitimate academic research.


  • I heard this on NPR this AM, and now there’s a CNet article: Webcasters, RIAA propose new royalties

  • Today’s Boston Globe discusses [PDF] the rising tide of potential California legislation directed at rectifying some of the issues raised by artists over the last couple of years.

    ”I still think a lot of this is ripe for discussions with the companies and the artists,” Murray said of the industry, which employs 28,000 Californians.

    Murray’s bills aim generally to toughen penalties for companies that underpay recording artists. The bills also provide greater access to internal accounting within labels. Murray would also modernize and simplify royalty accounting methods, some of which date to vinyl albums.

    …In New York, where recording is also a major industry, Sheldon Silver, the state’s Assembly speaker, expects to reintroduce a bill called the Artistic Freedom Act limiting contracts to seven years. Meanwhile, staff members for Representative John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, who has discussed national legislation to limit contracts, says colleagues are ”waiting to see what happens in California.”

  • HP is gearing up to put a DVD-burner on each of their machines.

  • The age of digital distribution of movies is here: Indie films go digital with Microsoft – Slashdot discussion: Windows Media 9 in Digital Theaters; Wired’s story

  • CNet has their piece on the RIAA lawsuits of student P2P music swapping networks. The RIAA press release is worth a read, on a number of levels. The Register takes their own potshots

    These particular students took it upon themselves to provide their peers with massive collections of song, while the RIAA floods trading networks with fake files. And you can be sure that the students respect the integrity of the artists they promote by not “enchancing” the files with clicks, dropouts and white noise.

    So it would seem, once again, that the pirates are actually doing more to promote music than the recording industry itself.

    Derek points to the legal complaints, as does Ed Felten. Billboard’s article; Wired’s article; Dawn Chmielewski at SiliconvValley.com

2003 April 3

(entry last updated: 2003-04-03 20:55:38)

  • End of Free: Tech Law Advisor alerts us that NYTimes links are no longer free. There may be a cutoff in terms of age, as I still can get articles from 2001, but articles from a month ago are now abstracted and available for a fee.

    Frankly, this is why I haven’t posted links to the Boston Globe. More importantly, this means that I’m really glad that I got a big hard disk – it’s clearly time to go the PDf route to retain my own copies. So much for being the paper of record. I’m very disappointed – I’ve lost quite a bit, simply because I assumed that the NYTimes would at least give us notice. *Sigh* – I’ll certainly write them a letter, but I doubt it’ll matter.

    Update: I’ve grabbed what I can, but a lot is gone. And I’ve written to the publisher and the president of the NYTimes Corporation. Thoughts about forming a P2P network for sharing NYTimes articles, anyone?

    Update: Dave Winer bids the New York Times on the Web farewell.

  • Looks like Ed Felten’s on a roll:

  • Eric Garland (of Big Champagne) has posted his testimony before the California Senate Select Committee on the Entertainment Industry. Here’s the earlier Furdlog entry. From his testimony (which is well worth reading in its entirety):

    The tools of the digital age are de facto tools of infringement: email, instant messaging, the world wide web, search engines, wireless technology. Any communication technology, any desktop computer, any portable storage device can and will be used (knowingly or otherwise) for infringement, often on a massive scale.

    Recently a record label executive asked me, what happens if we just unplug the internet? I believe he was being facetious, but I gave him a truthful answer. If it were possible to unplug the internet, I think that the digital problem would persist. Here s one personal reason I think so: my wife Amanda is a school teacher, and she describes the lunch hour swap meet she witnesses every day. When I was growing up, we called these offerings mix tapes. Then, I could share dozens of songs with a friend on a cassette. Now, kids can share thousands of songs with dozens of friends on MP3 CDs or portable devices.

    So, even if we believe we can solve the peer-to-peer problem, we can take little comfort that this will stem the tide. A new approach is overdue. The music industry in particular must seize this opportunity now, four years after the fact. Remarkably, it is still not too late.

  • Ed Felton’s found more to worry about in the super-DMCA language – overbroad banning of devices and information about devices that might have illegal uses under the law. And, in case you missed it yesterday, here’s Derek Slater’s and John Palfrey’s writeups of yesterday’s Massachusetts hearings – John’s testimony.

    Update: John links to a press release on the hearing

  • Salon has a take on Madonna’s decision to pull her “American Life” video.

  • Intel v. Hamidi gets a writeup at Wired – "Trespass to chattels, trespass to chattels, trespass to chattels." – Bag and Baggage has a number of links pre- amd post- arguments.

  • The Honest Thief turns out to have been nothing as advertised

    An executive who claimed to have developed a file-trading service that intentionally flouted copyright protection laws revealed Wednesday that he made the whole thing up for a laugh — and to sell a book.

  • An op-ed at CNet – Free content: Why not? (Slashdot discussion: Would Free Music Sell Cars?) A provocative premise with an interesting historical analogy:

    But how will artists and their agents and lawyers get paid? This time we can turn for answers not to coal distribution, but to an industry much closer to musicians’ homes: the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. ASCAP licenses, collects and redistributes music royalties from music performance venues (like radio stations, concert halls and so on) to the artists. It determines who gets paid what by polling these venues to see whose music gets played and how often.

    To determine reimbursement in an MP3 player world, a small sample of users could be invited periodically to voluntarily, and anonymously share their listening history stored in the player. Then, just as in the ASCAP model, payments collected from the music player distributors (Kia, the BSO and the like) would be split among the copyright owners. No fuss, no complexity and no secret CD police.

  • Macrovision is claiming there have been 100 million copy protected CDs sold worldwide – in response to analysts saying that their business is in trouble.

  • CNet covers the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference, which seems to have gotten most of its ink (Boston Globe) over discussions about the pros and cons of Total Information Awareness.

  • Billboard notes that Kittie is suing their label over “royalty miscalculations.”

  • The Radiohead “Hail the the Thief” MP3s out there apparently are not the tracks on the final album. Rather, they are derived from “a stolen copy of early, unmixed edits and roughs.”

    But he says it has now become apparent that these versions constitute “work we’ve not finished, being released in this sloppy way, 10 weeks before the real version is even available. It doesn’t even exist as a record yet.”

    “So yes, we’re annoyed — the songs are good on the recordings, which you can hear,” he continued. “But we worked on them after this point until we were happy with them. This is why we’re pissed off — we didn’t give up on them in February (which is what you’re hearing) and it’s just a shame that, to your ears, we did.”

  • The Acacia Technologies patent claim being pursued against the porn industry for online multimedia is heating up according to this Forbes article. There’s a Slashdot discussion. Here’s an earlier article (Mid-December, 2002) and its associated Slashdot discussion

  • As I mentioned yesterday, the BSA is releasing a report that relates piracy rates to IT industry growth rates. The ZDNet article includes some heated TalkBacks, including a link to a story of a company that reacted to a BSA audit by going cold-turkey on proprietary software. A fancy WWW site has been set up to present the report itself [pdf]. Slashdot has a discussion going with comments that are good for laughs, as well as some that are just good comments – even given the clear agenda of the community.

    Here’s one figure to consider:

    From the methodology appendix:

    b. Piracy Rate The percentage of software installed in a country without a license, as measured by the BSA in its “Seventh Annual BSA Global Software Piracy Study” (available at www.bsa.org).

    At any rate, this looks like an exercise in regression analysis, followed by a conflation of correlation and causation. And there’s the interesting question of the extent to which local tax policies have been modified to promote IT industry development, too. (If I get the time, it might be interesting to plot these data against something like per capita GDP, for example.)

    The Q&A at the close of the document include two questions that are the real issue, and which the study does not address. For example:

    Q. Isn’t there an economic benefit from pirated software?

    A. Yes. There is always an economic benefit from something that is “free.” However there are also often hidden costs…. The intent of this study is to point out what the benefits are from lowering piracy rates. We believe these benefits – plus the others not quantified in productivity and the value of a strong local software industry – outweigh any economic benefits from piracy.

    I’m glad they “believe” this, but it would be quite interesting to see if this can be validated, since there are some real costs to policing piracy, too. Moreover, the network effects associated with widespread availability of software tools, enabling certain kinds of development otherwise beyond the economic means of certain countries.

    Certainly piracy is a problem, but it would have been nice to see a sharper, less PR-driven analysis. But, this is the BSA, after all, and their goals are not about study rigor. If we’re lucky, though, some more formal analyses will emerge that are reflective of this effort.

  • When going to the BSA www site, I gat a helpful message about the Opaserv virus, something I missed tracking since I don’t run Windows:

    Urgent Message

    The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is not responsible for the Opaserv worm. This is a malicious act that tricks victims into believing that the Business Software Alliance has shut down their computer due to licensing issues.

    BSA is disappointed that anyone would send a virus intent on inflicting damage and condemns such actions.

  • A received an e-mail from Kevin Marks, pointing me to a web-page answering my question as to why plasma TVs make noises when operated 6,500 ft of altitude.

    What types of symptomatic problems occur at altitudes above 6000 feet? Will the plasma TV even operate?

    A plasma TV will operate and the picture will be just as vibrant and colorful as it would at sea level. But because of the added altitude pressure, the plasma display must work harder to cool the display element. If the unit has fans, the fans will be significantly louder. If not, and the unit has a convection cooling system without fans, then the units cooling system will make a buzzing noise (the only way to describe it) as it works harder. It is a very real annoyance. Many people have been forced to return plasma TVs due to altitude pressure. One additional consideration is that since the plasma TV has to work harder in the thinner air, the unit will likely not last quite as long as it would at sea level.


2003 April 2

(entry last updated: 2003-04-02 19:29:28)

  • CNet has an interview with Microsoft’s “digital media mogul:” Dave Fester. I don’t have a lot of time to digest it now, but here’s one stinker – the view that the market will solve all our problems:

    How will the proper level of rights protection get decided?

    The market will determine what level of rights protection is adequate for businesses and acceptable to consumers. The key is making sure the rights management technology is flexible and powerful enough to adapt to these forces. The technology is ready (and) broadband is growing faster than ever. There is a broad set of customers who are digital media-ready. And so now more than ever, this is poised for success.

  • Derek’s back from the MA Super-DMCA hearing. Sounds like he had a great time!!! John Palfrey’s notes are here, and you can find his testimony here. John posts:

    The opponents were ordinary people who had taken personal days to voice their concerns. They learned about the problem through Weblogs, listservs, word of mouth. They came out in force. It was a great vision of the kind of democracy that the Net can foster. I even overheard one lobbyist whisper: “These guys all read the Weblogs.” How subversive.

  • The BSA is itching for a fight: CNet reports that they’ll be releasing a report that claims that there’s an inverse relationship between piracy rates and IT industry growth:

    The study, commissioned by the BSA and conducted by IDC, found that in general, nations with the lowest piracy rates had the largest IT sectors, as measured as a share of the countries’ gross domestic product(GDP). Conversely, countries with high piracy rates, such as China and Russia, had the smallest IT sectors.

    This’ll be good. I look forward to getting to read something more than a press release…..

  • Sorry, this is off-topic: here’s an example of just how intellectually and morally bankrupt some of the opinion pieces that get posted over at Tech Central Station are (as well as my inability to just pass them by): this piece, titled Another Coalition Enemy, actually argues that limits in American battle readiness (and, therefore, increases in battle deaths) are a direct consequence of environmental legislation. There are plenty of smart people at the Hoover Institute, and most of them know to restrict their comments to topics about which they are knowledgeable – this author certainly is not a member of the latter category, and is probably not a member of the former, either.

  • Ed Foster’s April Fool’s column from Infoworld is an echo of Stallman’s The Right to Read, updated to today’s state of affairs. [via Shifted Librarian]

  • Derek’s off to the MA Hearing on our version of the super-DMCA law today. (Matt of Matt Rolls A Hoover is going, too) His weblog also points to an article with a provocative title: What Federal Gun Control Can Teach Us About the DMCA’s Anti-trafficking Provisions. Without yet reading the paper, the abstract indicates that the linchpin of the discussion will be as follows:

    The article questions whether the above described sacrifice of public rights is really necessary. This criticism starts with the observation that both federal gun control and the DMCA’s anti-trafficking provisions respond to the misuse of technology. People misuse guns to commit crimes, and people misuse circumvention technology to commit copyright infringement. In both cases, Congress has used criminal law to keep technology away from those who might misuse it. In the case of circumvention technology, Congress has banned such technology at the expense of public of access to such technology for lawful purposes. In the case of guns, Congress has not imposed a ban precisely because it was concerned about preserving access to firearms for lawful purposes.

    Of course, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, but it looks like an interesting argument. More at LawMeme

  • On the subject of record industry pop constructs, this review of Kelly Osbourne’s concert in New York is a hoot:

    And so Friday night a few hundred devotees barged in on Ms. Osbourne at Irving Plaza, where she was doing the one thing she should be able to do without anyone watching: she was singing. Luckily, she had brought along a four-piece band, and with their help, she spent about an hour trying in vain to disperse the crowd.

    …Still this didn’t seem like a night that Ms. Osbourne herself would have enjoyed. If that charming, short-tempered young woman from the television series had wandered into Friday’s concert, she probably would have curled her lip, muttered a few pithy phrases and walked right out.

  • I started to read this SFGate Daily Dish column because it was another recounting [nytimes.com] of Madonna’s decision to drop broadcasts of her antiwar video, but the real stunner appears further down:


    Country trio the Dixie Chicks have received support for lead singer Natalie Maines’ controversial attack on President George W. Bush — from former Vice President Al Gore.

    Gore spoke to a college audience last week on the subject of fewer companies owning more media outlets, and what he sees as the increasing lack of tolerance for opposing views.

    According to publication the Tennessean, Gore used recent attacks on the Dixie Chicks that followed anti-war comments by Maines as an example.

    Gore told the audience, “They were made to feel un-American and risked economic retaliation because of what was said. Our democracy has taken a hit.

    “Our best protection is free and open debate.”

    Is this the reemergence of Al Gore? As a losing candidate who nevertheless received more than 50% of the popular vote in the last presidential election, I have always thought that Mr. Gore had a responsibility to speak for those of us who voted for him, rather than hiding away. The Democratic party, with its total lack of credible candidates with nation-wide name recognition, need a spokesman for the loyal opposition.

  • Pursuant to the super-DMCA legislation, we have this article from CNet News: Report: Networking entertainment is in (company press release). Yet another demonstration of the schism between the copyright industries and the consumer electronics industries.

    In the report released Tuesday, research firm In-Stat/MDR says developments in home networking will not only make it easier for people to play and share their own digital music, video and other content, but will also encourage emerging applications such as online gaming.

    More manufacturers are adding networking connectivity to their products, allowing electronics devices such as televisions or stereos to link to PCs via Ethernet or wireless. Sony, with its RoomLink system, and Hewlett-Packard, with its Digital Media Receiver, are among those companies that have already stepped into the market for “converged” networking.

    “The emergence of converged network products is due to the acceptance of traditional home networking,” said Mike Wolf, an analyst with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based In-Stat/MDR, in a statement.

    The ability to share a broadband connection to the Internet over a home network has been the big draw for early adopters for the past three years, Wolf said. However, the market is growing and reaching into the mainstream, he said. [emphasis added]

    Note that “sharing” a broadband connection on a home network (typically achieved via NAT) is something that this set of legislation declares illegal because such technologies obscure the absolute source of the packets, as Ed Felten points out

  • The Register reports that a date for the appelate hearing in the Jon Johansen verdict has been set: December 2. Slashdot discussion (with an inaccurate title): Jon Johansen To Be Retried On Piracy Charges. Even Billboard gets into the act, and is particularly successful at repeating the standard canard that DeCSS promotes piracy.

  • Yesterday Penn State; today CSC Corp is in the crosshairs of the Copyright Cops.

2003 April 1

(entry last updated: 2003-04-02 08:36:29)

  • Declan’s Politech has a report from Penn State that the P2P police are coming….

  • Can anybody explain this graphic from an article from the NYTimes on the increase in HDTV sales? This excerpt from the accompanying graphic (click on the thumbnail for the full image) on the pros and cons of alternative technologies mystifies me – what happens to plasma TVs at 6500 feet above sea level?

  • Even Madonna appears to be afraid of becoming a Dixie Chick – so she’s withdrawing her anti-war video of her "American Life" single.

  • BoingBoing plumbs the depths of cluelessness in an American Bar Association discussion of WiFi. Ernie the Attorney has a few points to make as well.

  • Derek points out that Ed Felten has gotten his hands on the MPAA materials employed in the state super-DMCA push.

  • The sale of SonicBlue assets to D&M seems to have fallen through; so an auction is coming. (Reuters via NYTimes)

  • Here’s how out of touch I am – I never considered this possibility when discussions of copyright and game "mods" came up: Nude volleyball angers game makers

    Japanese games developer Tecmo has warned of legal action against anyone who published information rendering the women in Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball completely nude during gameplay.

    “We’re watching you very closely! Please do not post things that infringe copyrights and other legal issues,” said the firm on its official website.

    This is not the first time that a video game featuring a cyber babe has been altered by game enthusiasts. Patches to remove the clothes of the most famous virtual heroine of all, Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider games, are widely available on the internet.

    Update: If you’re curious to know just how far these patches go, here’s a directory of screen captures. Looking at these images, it’s quite clear what the game designers had in mind, even with the bathing suits, so I’d be really surprised to see that litigation would actually get them anywhere.
    BE ADVISED: a lot of effort has gone into making these images "anatomically correct!"

  • Salon reports that it appears that the latest round of bombings has taken Internet access away from Iraq.

  • Mark Mulligan speculates on Radiohead’s reaction to the widespread Internet availability of their yet-to-be-released album, Hail to the Thief:

    So why aren’t Radiohead up in arms. Firstly, it is down to the nature of the band themselves. Even though they are a multi-million selling international rock band now, they stick close to their roots and have retained much of their artistic integrity, opting for experimentation over sing-along stadium anthems. Secondly, they have always been ahead of the curve in utilising new technology and recognising its marketing and promotional potential. (See our report on Radiohead’s Budy Bot for Amnesiac) . Their last two albums were widely shared online, ahead of and after release, yet were massive hits, establishing the band stateside. Both albums benefited hugely from the underground buzz created online. Not many albums manage to make it to the top of the US charts and still retain an underground, alternative vibe.

    Radiohead are an innovative band who place their music and fans ahead of record sales, yet as a direct result, the sales follow. I remember seeing a Radiohead gig before they were signed (many aeons ago *sighs*) and was blown away by them then. They’ve stuck to their guns and make a refreshing change to the highly manufactured air that hangs around today’s charts. But it is their whol- hearted embracement of the Internet that sets them apart and establishes them as a model of good practice for the Music Industry.

  • Ken Hamidi’s continuing efforts to tweak Intel’s tail get another hearing – does the owner of a network get to police speech? This has been kicking around for some time, and I have to admit right now that I have a Zippy the Pinhead moment every time I hear the expression "Trespass to Chattels!"

  • CNet also reports on the ongoing discussions around the DRM specification for MPEG-4. Note the persistent language of control, and to whom that control is assumed to rightfully belong:

    “In developing this specification, we spent a significant amount of time gathering feedback from major content owners,” ISMA President Tom Jacobs said in a statement. “As a result, our specification does not bind them to utilize specific rights and key management systems or preselected solution vendors. This allows content owners to retain control over critical business processes and related decisions.”

    More thorny issues that awaited resolution included the establishment of a standard way of evaluating and managing “trust,” or the degree to which a certain player or device that is downloading media is considered secure. That will require some kind of entity that certifies players and devices after a high degree of technical analysis, Koenen said.