Too Busy Hunting For The Real Killers…

..To pay his DirectTV bill. And, to think, a movie star caught “stealing signal:” O.J. Simpson Is Ordered to Pay DirecTV in Signal-Theft Case [pdf]

The satellite TV giant on Tuesday was referring to its civil court victory in which a Florida judge ordered Simpson to pay $25,000 for allegedly stealing its signals.

The case stems from the recovery in 2001 of two “bootloaders” in Simpson’s home that allowed viewers to tap into DirecTV signals without paying for them.

“This ruling serves as a reminder that there are consequences to signal theft, whether you’re O.J. Simpson or John Q. Public,” said Dan Fawcett, the company’s executive vice president of legal and business affairs.

Simpson’s lawyer, Yale Galanter, said his client would appeal the judge’s ruling.

Digital Shift In Movies Set, Except For Who Pays

Talk about an “unfunded mandate:” Studios Settle on Technical Standards for Digital Shift [pdf]

Hollywood’s major studios have hammered out technical standards for digital movies, capping a three-year effort intended to save millions in distribution costs, enhance picture quality and increase anti-piracy protections.

The agreement, to be announced today in Beverly Hills by a consortium of seven studios, does not detail who will pick up the tab for changing from film to digital projection, according to studio sources familiar with the discussions.

Spitzer Gets A Payola Settlement

Paying a Price [pdf]

When executives at Sony BMG needed to drum up support in 2002 for Jennifer Lopez’s album “This Is Me … Then,” they called the program director of a San Diego radio station and offered her a 32-inch plasma TV in exchange for adding the artist’s songs to her play list.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment knew such payola, or “pay-for-play,” was improper. Nonetheless, the company asked the programmer to provide a fictitious contest winner’s name and Social Security number to cover up her involvement.

[…] The alleged exchange was disclosed in a treasure trove of e-mails, BlackBerry messages and other documents made public Monday by New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer. That electronic paper trail led the second-largest music company to a $10-million settlement.

[…] Sony BMG, home to such artists as Tony Bennett and the Dixie Chicks, promised Monday not to pay radio stations in exchange for airplay. The company issued a formal statement acknowledging that “various employees pursued some radio promotion practices on behalf of the company that were wrong and improper.” The company also fired an executive vice president of promotions at one of its labels.

Related: the current fortunes of a distinctly non-payola radio format – Jack lures fans by not saying much [pdf]

Dvorak: Fundamentally Foolish or Purposely Obtuse?

Having dealt with John Dvorak before, I can’t believe he really is as purposely obtuse as he makes himself out to be in his July 18th column — Creative Commons Humbug. I can’t imagine that he’s failed to see just how hard it is to get “fair use,” given that “fair use” is something that only exists as a courtroom decision. For example:

Before Creative Commons I could always ask to reuse or mirror something. And that has not changed. And I could always use excerpts for commercial or noncommercial purposes. It’s called fair use. I can still do that, but Creative Commons seems to hint that with its license means that I cannot.

What??! Talk about missing the point — maybe he should try to read just a little about the topic, before asking to be spoon-fed by others.

I’m Back!

Sorry – lots of catching up to do — been away a week with some odd server interactions, possibly between my RSS reader and the OS, so I don’t have much of an archive to work through.

Thoughts on EFF’s 15th

“You can’t do that.”

It was my second year of graduate school and, after much arm-twisting, I had agreed to go “halves” with a dorm-mate on a newfangled consumer good – an Apple ][+. After turning my back on computing in my sophomore year, (concluding that it was fun to learn about programming, but that it wasn’t really something I expected to be regularly involved in) I had been told that, with this investment in a “personal computer,” we would be able to stop paying MIT secretaries to word process our papers and do it ourselves.

With our budget constraint, we made what proved to be a fateful decision. A real printer was simply beyond our means — instead, we decided to buy a less-expensive modem and just use the teletype/dot matrix printer in my dorm-mate’s lab. It had an acoustic coupler and, after all, we were at MIT with all sorts of computing support. I’d just ask for the information and that would be it.

Instead, I got the surly “You can’t do that” that is familiar to anyone who’s dealt with technical support from a position of weakness/ignorance. Given the need to recoup our investment, I took that declaration as a challenge and, after months of learning, trial & error and a lot of work, I showed that, in fact, tech “support” was wrong — you could “do that.” Printed a thesis or two that way as proof, in fact.

I live with the fallout of that decision every day – I’ve learned more about computers than I ever thought I would, and I use it every day. In this, my sophomore self was completely wrong — something that should be no surprise to anyone who’s ever had to deal with one.

As computers have insinuated themselves into our lives, more and more people have developed the same level, if not kind, of facility with computers that I did. Some write programs, some create art, some do their jobs and some just use them to have fun.

Yet, while computers and their associated digital technologies have become more accessible, there are still those who seek to assert control over the ways in which the technology gets used – frequently while also asserting that no one should be able to examine (much less control) the uses to which they themselves will put these technologies — “No, no. You can’t do that.”

Asymmetries like that should be unsustainable in free societies. Society may decide that there are technologies that should be controlled – but society should get to decide. Not a subset; not just the wealthy, or the powerful, or the technologically savvy. Everyone needs to be informed and involved.

Institutions like the EFF help to fulfill this vital role, raising the questions, challenging the authorities and educating the public — not just informing, but also leading when the opportunity arises — fulfilling Jefferson’s insistence that the success of republic depends upon an informed electorate.

EFF — congratulations on fifteen years of accomplishment, and here’s hoping there will be many more!

Blog-a-thon tag:

Community Development

Beethoven’s rarest works re-created online

In a little-trafficked corner of the Web, a pair of classical music enthusiasts has spent half a decade obsessively re-creating hundreds of obscure pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven.

[…] [Mark] Zimmer and [Willem] Holsbergen are part of a growing community of amateurs and semiprofessionals who are using the Net and other digital tools to bring classical music out of concert halls and academies, hoping to popularize it with the democratizing force of the Internet.

The evidence may not be visible yet in classical music sales, which, at about 3 percent of the market, are a sliver of pop music sales. Yet the energy is palpable, on interlocking blogs from ordinary music fans and from the New Yorker magazine’s music critic, in the classical stations programmed by home disc jockeys on services such as Live 365, and in the eager amateur criticism accompanying this spring’s Webcast of the Van Cliburn piano competitions.

More on Canada’s Pending (c) Bill

In Canada: Cache a page, go to jail?

A bill before Canada’s Parliament could make it illegal for search engines to cache Web pages, critics say, opening the door to unwarranted lawsuits and potentially hindering public access to information.

The legislation in question, Bill C-60, is designed to amend Canada’s Copyright Act by implementing parts of the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization treaty, the treaty that led to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S.

Set for debate and an initial vote in the House of Commons after Parliament’s summer break, C-60 addresses things such as file-sharing, anticopying devices and the liability of Internet service providers and would tighten the Copyright Act in ways favorable to record labels and movie studios.

But according to Howard Knopf, a copyright attorney at the Ottawa firm of Macera & Jarzyna, a brief passage in the bill could mean trouble for search engines and other companies that archive or cache Web content.

“The way it reads, arguably what they’re saying is that the very act of making a reproduction by way of caching is illegal,” Knopf said.