OT: Another Mystery

With the unveiling of Deep Throat, USAToday speculates about another long-standing mystery: You probably think this story’s about… [pdf]

For more than 30 years, one of America’s best-kept secrets has remained a pop culture mystery. No, not Deep Throat. We’re talking about Carly Simon and her hit song You’re So Vain. Who was she singing about?

“It’s about Mark Felt!” Simon, 59, joked by phone Wednesday from her home in Martha’s Vineyard, referring to the former FBI official who has said he was Deep Throat.

[…] But unlike the Watergate principals, Simon says she’ll never reveal the answer, not even when she or the song’s subject dies. “I don’t see why I ever would. What would it advance?

USAToday on Ringtones

Cell phone ringtones dial into pop culture [pdf]. Nothing really new here, except possibly this bit of economic info:

Revenue is typically split by carriers, music labels, artists and independent sellers. Carriers usually reap the biggest cut. “Lots of people change every few weeks, and ka-ching! It’s another $1.50 for the carrier,” [Ovum Research’s Roger] Entner says.

Online Product Differentiation

A BusinessWeek article on MusicGiants: tackling one of the objections to current online music – lossy compression: Is This Digital Music’s Future? [pdf]

[A]nother question is going to become an important issue for an increasing percentage of consumers: Namely, what will the sound quality of this music be? Today, songs pulled off the Net are skimpy facsimiles of the ones you get on a CD. They’re highly compressed — stripped of millions of digital bits that leave them with about one-tenth of the data found on a CD track (that’s assuming the typical “bit rate” of 128 kilobits-per-second). You can transfer the files fast, but the sacrifice is sound quality.

That’s fine for now, since most people listen to digital music on their PCs or MP3 players — devices normally used with cheap speakers that mask any sound quality deficiencies. And compression has played a vital role in the development of the market so far. It’s the magic that makes iPod-mania possible, by enabling even tiny devices with limited storage to carry thousands of songs.

But if the digital music revolution is to reach its full potential — an all-digital future, perhaps, in which CDs racks are no longer needed — analysts say the industry will have to hit a far better-sounding note. Already, tech-savvy consumers are dabbling with ways to distribute their digital tunes more freely, to play them on their good living-room speakers, wall-rattling home theaters, or slick car audio systems.

[…] MusicGiants offers some interesting features that provide a glimpse into the future of digital music. The service is clearly designed to be used with a big-screen TV in the living room, not the PC in the den. The company has designed a wireless keyboard and handheld mouse to navigate the site, and three remote-control manufacturers are designing compatible models. And the uncluttered user interface was created with the technically challenged in mind. It’s devoid of geek-speak. Rather than “rip,” for example, there’s an icon simply labeled “Copy from CD.”

Related: Some frank talk from another BusinessWeek Q&A article — A Cacophony of Music Formats

Reader James Morse asks: I’m confused about which digital music player to buy, an iPod or an MP3 player? Why are there different formats? Can either play the other’s format?

[…] There are lots of technical arguments about the virtues and flaws of each of these formats and protection schemes, but it’s really all about locking users into certain services and devices. The net effect is to make things very confusing for consumers.

EFF (Donna?) Broadcast Flag Speculations

CommDaily: MPAA May Not Seek Broadcast Flag in DTV Bill (also Donna’s Copyfight post)

Also, a CRS report: Copyright Protection of Digital Television: The “Broadcast Flag”

From the report:

Possible Implications of the Broadcast Flag. While the broadcast flag is intended to “prevent the indiscriminate redistribution of [digital broadcast] content over the Internet or through similar means,” the goal of the flag was not to impede a consumer’s ability to copy or use content lawfully in the home, nor was the policy intended to “foreclose use of the Internet to send digital broadcast content where it can be adequately protected from indiscriminate redistribution.” However, current technological limitations have the potential to hinder some activities which might normally be considered “fair use” under existing copyright law. For example, a consumer who wished to record a program to watch at a later time, or at a different location (time-shifting, and space-shifting, respectively), might be prevented when otherwise approved technologies do not allow for such activities, or do not integrate well with one another, or with older, “legacy” devices. In addition, future fair or reasonable uses may be precluded by these limitations. For example, a student would be unable to email herself a copy of a project with digital video content because no current secure system exists for email transmission.

In addition, some consumer electronics and information technology groups contend that the licensing terms for approving new compliant devices are limiting, and may potentially stifle innovation, especially with regard to computer hardware. While the FCC in its Report and Order declined to establish formal guidelines for which “objective criteria should be used to evaluate new content protection and recording technology,” it has stated an intention to take up these issues in the future.

Finally, consumer rights and civil liberties groups worry about the possibility that such content protections will limit the free flow of information and hamper the First Amendment. This concern is expressed most prominently regarding news or public interest-based content, or works that have already entered the public domain. Despite suggestions raised by consumer rights groups, the FCC has so far declined to adopt language to prevent content providers from using the broadcast flag on such programs, largely because of the “practical and legal difficulties of determining which types of broadcast content merit protection from indiscriminate redistribution and which do not.”

See also Broadcast Flag at Half Mast?; Slashdot’s MPAA Giving Up on Broadcast Flag… For Now?