2003 June 10

(entry last updated: 2003-06-10 18:38:08)

Ugh! Not a good day – I think I’m going to miss the dinner :-((

  • Mary’s back at it: Music Downloads for the PC Planned

  • Some Slashdot worth reviewing:

  • Ed Felten weighs in on the SCO/IBM dispute:

    Assuming that SCO’s charges are correct, the moral of the story is not, as the conventional wisdom would have it, to avoid software that comes from pimply-faced teenagers. Quite the contrary. The moral is to be wary of software from big, established companies like IBM. In SCO’s story, the pimply-faced teenagers are bystanders – the gray-haired guys in expensive suits are the crooks.

    More likely, though, the fact that SCO’s story involves their code ending up in an open-source IBM product, rather than a closed-source one, is just a red herring. IBM would have had just as large an incentive to copy code into a closed-source product, and doing so would have reduced the chance of getting caught. Nobody has offered a plausible reason why the open-source nature of the end product matters.

  • Pursuant to yesterday’s writeup of the Jordan’s PR push, here are more links from Kevin Heller

  • More on the music format comparison game from Slashdot: AAC Put To The Test

  • Even thought it’s BBSpot, it might not be a joke: Apple Enters iLoo Fray with P4 Laptop

  • Today’s Boston Globe has two articles of note, stemming from the claim that today is a sort of “super Tuesday” in CD releases.

    • Internet-savvy fans steal thunder of Radiohead release [pdf] – a pending test of the effect of downloads on sales – unless, of course, the sales are a smash, in which case it’s just proof that the sales would have been even higher without downloading……

      It’s no secret that an early version of the [new Radiohead] album has been widely available via the Internet for more than two months. Anecdotal evidence suggests that listeners have been downloading it at an extraordinary rate, making it not only the latest but one of the most egregious examples of people snagging electronic copies of a record before its release date.

      What critics and fans haven’t been able to predict is whether any of this matters. Will fans still buy ”Hail to the Thief,” or is the release painfully anticlimatic?

    • Media chiefs express fears of digital piracy [pdf]

      At the National Cable & Telecommunications Association annual meeting here yesterday, AOL Time Warner chief executive Richard D. Parsons and Viacom Inc. president Mel Karmazin — appearing with the heads of Microsoft Corp. and Comcast Corp. — said solutions are urgently needed but may take considerable time to be developed.

      […]Matthew Blank, chief executive of Showtime Networks, the cable movie channel, said film distributors want to ensure that ”we’re not the next to be Napsterized like our friends in the music business,” a reference to the music file-sharing system that spawned an epidemic of online music piracy.

      ”We’ve got to put our best minds and collaborate with others across the industry on coming up with the best ways for digital content to move in a way that is secure,” [AOL’s] Parsons said. ”We could actually all be losers if we don’t solve this security issue.”

      This all raises the key question – exactly who is holding a gun to these guys heads and forcing them to go to digital distribution – and if it’s really such a compelling economic opportunity, why can’t they afford to pay for the solutions themselves, instead of asking the consumer to pay, both in terms of added equipment expense and in terms of product accessibility? And isn’t it great that Bill Gates was there to scare them with Napster and to point them toward the latest Windows for TVs?

2003 June 9

(entry last updated: 2003-06-09 14:46:35)

It’s MIT graduation today, so I’m about done; my wife gets to go to the Jupiter Weblogs Conference, but I can’t. Maybe I’ll make the Tuesday night dinner, though.

  • David Card misses a key difference between browsers and media players in his latest weblog posting: Media Players & Browsers Hooey. While it’s true that the browser wars haven’t led to the kind of lock-in that people feared, that was because the browser is implicitly about openess – who wants to use a browser that only works with certain sites? Yet excluding users from certain content is exactly what’s being built into media players, in the guise of DRM. So, even though he’s sanguine, I remain very anxious about the potential for digital lock-in from the AOL/Microsoft agreement. Maybe they won’t play well together, but the assumption that the media player wars will turn out like the browser wars misses this key difference between the way these two tools are supposed to work.

  • Click through Michael Gartenberg’s weblog entry for June 5 to read an analysis of the Apple iTunes product. (Today’s entry is from the Jupiter conference)

  • SFGate tells a horror story about patents, especially the consequences of no longer requiring a working model: Inventors patent ideas to pre-empt their rivals [pdf]

    It’s part of a legal tactic called “offensive blocking patents” in which businesses or individual entrepreneurs use patents not so much as tools to build new products, but as legal roadblocks or bargaining chips against competitors or corporate giants.


    “What I advise my clients to do is to analyze their competitors’ road maps, ” he [John Ferrell] said. “Successful companies become successful by spending time thinking about competitors and reacting to competitors proactively.”


    The company can then apply for patents on those inventions. An applicant must prove to a patent examiner in written statements and with drawings and diagrams that the invention is novel and original. But the applicant doesn’t have to come up with a prototype.

    “You don’t have to build it,” Ferrell said. “You just have to conceive it. By filing a couple of patents, you essentially have co-opted the standards road map. Anybody who wants to go from G to X has to get through your toll road.”

    Others disagree:

    Lemelson had to wait years before collecting royalties for some of his ideas, such as the bar code. “This notion (of offensive blocking patents) is just incredibly naive,” [Jerry] Hosier said.

  • Heroes? or Zeroes? You decide: RIAA Grabs Student’s Life’s Savings. Fallout from this ABC News article: RIAA Wrath Hits Teen [pdf]

    Jordan, an information technology major, created ChewPlastic.com, the second most popular search directory on the RPI campus.

    “You go to the site, you type in a search term, and it finds files on the network,” Jordan said. Jordan compares his site to Google, the popular Internet search engine.

    But the RIAA likens Jordan’s site to Napster, the now defunct song-swap service that revolutionized the distribution of music.

    “The people who run these Napster networks know full well what they are doing: Operating a sophisticated network designed to enable widespread music thievery,” Cary Sherman, the president of the RIAA, said in a statement issued April 3.

    […] But Jordan did agree to pony up $12,000, his entire savings account, to the RIAA. Jordan and his father, Andy Jordan, felt the settlement was their best option.

    See earlier Furdlog posting on the Jordan’s PR push.

  • Related, but not precisely digital IP: CHINA: Vague draft policy apparently risks technology and intellectual property rights – paper

    China has issued the draft of a new motor industry policy that, the trade newspaper Automotive News said, appears to curtail sharply the ability of foreign vehicle makers and suppliers operating there to safeguard their proprietary technology and intellectual property.

    Automotive News said the draft, which began circulating among industry executives late last month, specifies that 50% of all sales in China by 2010 must come from domestic companies that own 100% of the vehicle’s technology.

  • From Salon: Mexico’s music business meltdown

    If hell had a special section reserved for recording industry executives, it would probably look a lot like Tepito.

    The Mexico City neighborhood is a mile and a half of exuberant, unabashed intellectual-property piracy: thousands of people eddying through a labyrinth of street stalls, buying CDs, movies and software at a tiny fraction of the legal price.

    It’s also the center of a nationwide piracy business that the Recording Industry Association of America and other groups say probably took almost a billion dollars from the music, film and software industries last year — a business that is almost single-handedly killing Mexico’s music industry, crushing legitimate record sales, and sending potential stars fleeing from the country.

    […] The stakes are huge in Mexico’s fight. American enthusiasts of free-for-all copying have often argued that a relaxed attitude toward copyright in the information age may hurt established artists but may encourage or help newer acts. If anything, the Mexican experience is the opposite. Mexican record company executives say widespread piracy has forced them to stop developing new talent and focus on their stable of recognized artists to make a profit.

  • Relating to the article below: Microsoft Plays to Film Industry

  • Here’s a [chilling] look at the advance of DRM technology for streamed content delivery:

    “He’s Back…” SyncCast And Digital Envoy Partner To Prevent Piracy Of New “Terminator 2” Extreme DVD

    SyncCast used Microsoft Windows Media Rights Manager to build its DRM Solution technology to protect copyrighted materials online and other traditional media (DVD-ROMs/CD-ROMs). SyncCast’s DRM Solution provides real-time reporting of content licensing and consumption, including when content was licensed (time and date); where content was licensed (country, state, city); and what was licensed (file names, byte size, version, server-side end user licensing agreements). Furthermore, SyncCast’s DISCryption technology combines its DRM Solution with ground-breaking disc-identification technology that relies on a unique serial ID burned into every disc for maximum anti-theft protection.

    SyncCast’s DRM Solution is powered by Digital Envoy’s NetAcuity technology, which utilizes IP addresses to non-invasively identify the location of Web site visitors down to the city level worldwide — in real time. This technology is the most accurate and reliable technology on the market for providing secure territorial rights management and is in use by leading networks, enterprises and solutions providers including Google, AOL Time Warner, Network Associates, Cable and Wireless, AT&T, Walt Disney Internet Group and CinemaNow.

    “We selected Digital Envoy as our exclusive partner for territorial rights management because it is the leader in geo-intelligence technology, as demonstrated by an A-list of clients,” said Davidson. “Also, integrating their technology with our DRM Solution took less than two days and provides better content controls than the technology utilized by most DVD players.”

  • A look at the arcana of ASCAP performance royalties: Court Decides Against Composer Peter Myers In Ascap Royalty Dispute; Myers To Appeal

    ASCAP’s rules for paying royalties have been described as among the most punitive towards instrumental music in the world, paying a one minute piece of instrumental music indicated as “background instrumental” within a film or television program only 16% of what one-minute of song indicated as “background vocal” within a film or television program is paid. In many other major performing rights societies internationally, including those in Germany, Spain, France and England, a minute of song and a minute of instrumental score music within a film or television program are paid at exactly the same rate with no penalties for instrumental music.

  • Declan McCullagh gives a look at the policymaking behind communications taxation in this look at a proposal before the FCC to tax cable modem service in the same way that DSL services already are: Netizens, prepare to to pay more

  • Haven’t been tracking this, but apparently the GIF patented conpression scheme expires later this month, introducing an interesting file format challenge: Bell tolling for PNG graphics format?. A good history of the LZW fight at the heart of the creation of PNG.

  • An infringement of the GPL is alleged: The Register, Free Software Foundation probes Linksys. Slashdot discussion: Is Linksys Violating The GPL?

  • Yesterday’s front page NYTimes article on the music industry gets a Slashdot discussion: 43 Million Americans Use P2P Software

  • New Apple acquisition rumors: Apple out to acquire Napster owner?; recall that Roxio acquired PressPlay a couple of weeks ago

  • Radio Left Out of Relaxed Rules with a "Jennifer 8. Lee" byline [pdf] (Note: an article not in the Userland RSS feed this morning) A discussion of how the political backlash against Clear Channel seems to have had some small effect.

    As Clear Channel wants the story to be told, it is a capitalist success built largely by one entrepreneur, Mr. Mays, through smart, aggressive acquisitions. The company casts itself as a savior, reviving struggling radio stations and diversifying formats to better serve listeners around the country.

    Why pick on the radio industry? the company asks. The lobbyists wave ownership charts for the recording, film and cable businesses, showing that radio is the least concentrated media sector. But Clear Channel, despite controlling only about 10 percent of the commercial radio market, stands so far above the second- and third-largest companies — Cumulus Media, with 250 stations and Infinity Broadcasting, with 180 — that it acts as a lightning rod for fears about big media. In the politically charged atmosphere leading up to the Iraq invasion, the company’s management in San Antonio was accused of coordinating the Clear Channel stations across the country to rally support for the war. Though the executives denied any active role in the pro-war rallies promoted by some of the company’s individual stations, the controversy highlighted the potential political power than can come with media consolidation.

  • Today seems to be the day to fan the flames of the Linux/SCO lawsuit in the mainstream broadsheets. In both cases, there are some nuggets indicative of the underlying lunacy

    • New York Times: Legal Dispute Unnerves Linux Users [pdf]

      “Software patents basically provide incentives to encourage innovation,” Mr. [Kenneth] King [of IBM] said. “Open-source approach also encourages innovation, but in a more informal way.”

    • Boston Globe: Challenges Looming for Linux [pdf]

      But where do these code contributions come from? Yes, they’re tested for safety and effectiveness. But what about authorship? How does Torvalds determine whether a kernel contribution is original, or simply a bit of stolen code?

      ”It’s not an easy thing to do,” Torvalds admitted by e-mail. ”For copyright infringement, the best protection is the fact that the code is open. Think of it like stealing a car: as a potential car thief, would you do it in full daylight with a lot of people looking on, or would you prefer to do it when nobody is watching?”

      SCO is saying this is precisely what has happened: IBM stole its software in broad daylight, in effect daring SCO to do something about it.

      Torvalds doesn’t buy it. ”Sure, it could be done,” he wrote, ”but what would be the point? It’s not like I pay these people on a `per line written’ basis.” Indeed, Torvalds doesn’t pay Linux kernel developers a penny. But IBM and other companies pay some of their brightest programmers to write Linux code and give it away, for inclusion in the kernel.

    On the other hand, eWeek seems to have a clearer picture: SCO: Following the Money

    Watergate source Deep Throat was right: “Follow the money.” The furor surrounding ownership of intellectual property in Unix and Linux is not about technology or even ideology. It’s about the money—specifically, the business interests that are served by casting a shadow of doubt over the legitimacy of open-source platforms and services.

    Plus, there’s today’s User Friendly

2003 June 8

(entry last updated: 2003-06-08 19:08:11)

  • From Today’s NYTimes: Industry Offers a Carrot in Online Music Fight [pdf]

    Until recently, music executives have largely failed to acknowledge the millions of individuals, from teenage Eminem fans to Elvis-obsessed baby boomers, who have joined in what amounts to an online rebellion against the industry by some of its most important customers. Hoping to end Internet music piracy by ridding the world of the technologies that make it possible, they have so far focused on legal battles against KaZaA and its many brethren.

    But for the first time in the Internet file-sharing wars, record industry executives have in recent weeks started to address music fans directly, both offering carrots and wielding sticks to persuade people to buy their product again. How well they succeed is likely to determine the way music is produced and consumed for years to come.

    “The technology has destabilized us, it has hurt us,” said Doug Morris, the chief executive of the Universal Music Group, a unit of Vivendi Universal and the largest of the five major record companies. “But now it’s going to take us to new heights.”

    The conflation of copyright and property continues, of course

    “We have the right to control the property we own the way we want to,” said David Munns, the chief executive of EMI Music North America. “To be successful I have to listen to what the consumer is telling me, but if that means me going broke that’s not the answer. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

    Ultimately, a reasonable look at the state of play, without any real indication of anything new. Slashdot discussion: 43 Million Americans Use P2P Software

2003 June 7

(entry last updated: 2003-06-07 15:02:44)

  • A nice weekend story from LawMeme: Awestruck Teens Remake Raiders of the Lost Ark, Violate Copyright Law

  • Slashdot: Edison to Hillary Rosen – Parts 3, 4 and 5; a followup to Media Monopoly: Thomas Edison to Hillary Rosen. A discussion around George Ziemann’s series on the historical parallels between the Edison/Hollywood fights at the outset of movies and today’s copyright fights.

    After reading the series, you can check out the WWW site of the North American Phonograph Company, whose reactivation is the basis for the author’s write-up.

    As a writeup, it’s a good first summary of several elements (I have none of the historical background of the movie stories), although I’m going to have to dig up my copy of The Audible Past, which has a faintly different take on the history, particularly the activities of the Bells in this. It is true, however, that Edison had a soft spot in his heart for music recording technologies, as the MP3NewsWire series suggests.

  • Since Dave is recommending experimentation (see the comments) with the NYTimes RSS feed policy, here goes….

    From today’s NYTimes Editorial Observer: Downloading Music Over the Internet Without Feeling Like a Criminal [pdf (belt and suspenders!)]

    The recording industry knew exactly what to make of Napster, calling it theft, plain and simple. Recording artists had a harder time. Many musicians agreed that file swapping was a form of theft, but many of them also argued that their recording contracts were a form of theft, too. At the very least, file swapping became the perfect industry excuse for the prolonged downturn in CD sales, whether it was the real cause or not.

    … In its all-out war against file swapping, the recording industry has done itself a lot of damage. It has alienated its ideal audience — young people who live and breathe music — by being way behind the technological curve and by repeatedly sounding as if its main job was law enforcement rather than selling music. You don’t have to be a 19-year-old college student to sense that there’s something indecent in the concentration of the recording industry over the past decade and in the homogenization of its products.

    Once the iTunes Music Store starts selling CD’s from small, independent labels, it stands a fair chance of increasing competition for the giant labels. The question is whether the giants will know a good thing when they see it and whether they can keep themselves from pressuring Apple to limit its music listings, as well as the freedom of consumers to copy what they download. The success of this service will ultimately depend on keeping it as independent as possible, serving music listeners, for once, instead of only the needs of the recording industry.

2003 June 6

(entry last updated: 2003-06-06 13:34:04)

  • Dave points to a report on the Jobs meeting with the indies: Cd Baby reports on itunes meeting re: indy music – Slashdot discussion: iTunes Indie Meeting Notes

  • An important announcement from Dave Winer on the New York Times’ story URLs and weblogs: New York Times Archive and Weblogs – compare and contrast with Doc’s recent experience

  • This should be a productive line of inquiry: New Probe in EU Microsoft Case – Source

    The European Commission (news – web sites) has started digging anew to find out if Microsoft abused its dominance in PC operating systems by incorporating its Media Player software into Windows.

    The Commission had been investigating Microsoft for more than three years before it recently sent questionnaires to companies that make movies, records and television to determine if the software giant’s product can push others out of the marketplace, a source said. A Commission spokeswoman said on Friday she would not give any deadline for completion of the work, saying it would be completed “in due time.”

    …The Commission has said it is also looking at whether Microsoft designed Windows to work better with its own servers than those of rivals.

  • The war of words around the Verizon suit continues in this AP Wire release: Verizon Reluctantly Tattles. This bit drew my eye:

    Verizon’s Deutsch said the recording industry seems to be using the case “to teach Verizon and all the service providers in the future that we shouldn’t dare challenge one of these subpoenas.”

    As evidence, she pointed to the recording industry’s demand for $350,000 in legal fees.

    Oppenheim, the music industry representative, called such demands standard.

    “Verizon decided to litigate this as though this were a case involving capital punishment going to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. “They decided to put the full weight of a $40 billion company behind protecting pirates, and somebody has to pay for that.”

    Slashdot on the denial of the stay: Verizon to Reveal Customers in DMCA Subpoena Case; LawMeme has some good pointers to key parts of the case, including the order vacating the stay: Stay Vacated, Verizon to Name Names

  • Wired News covers a story that’s been developing for a while – hacking routable streaming back into the iTunes player: ITunes Music Swap Just Won’t Die. See also this Slashdot article: iTunes Internet Sharing Restored With Third-Party App

  • CNet asks if File-sharing networks infight in sight?

    In a sign that file-sharing communities may start to turn on one another, Altnet said Thursday that rival networks may be violating its patent for digital tags, and it plans to bring to them in line.

    …”Altnet is very focused on the infringement of the TrueNames patent and we believe that many of today’s active peer-to-peer applications may be in direct violation,” Altnet CEO Kevin Bermeister said in a statement.

    “We’re very focused on preserving the integrity of the patent and realizing the potential it offers peer-to-peer applications and content owners.”

  • Larry’s initiative gets some CNet ink in this interview: Fighting for a new Net copyright deal

  • Pearl Jam’s decision to leave Epic leads MSNBC to claim that The music biz in a Pearl Jam [pdf]

    If Pearl Jam — now touring the United States to wildly enthusiastic crowds — is able to create a successful business model mobilizing its fans via the Internet and engaging in such “crazy” stunts as releasing live double albums of every show it performs, this could be the beginning of a stampede away from the lumbering dinosaurs that the major labels have become.

    …“We are very excited about our freedom,” band manager Curtis told me. “New technology and the Internet have made it possible to try all kinds of new things, and that’s what we’re going to do.” Their Tenclub provides a “direct link between the band and its fan base, 50,000 strong,” according to club manager Tim Bierman.

    The article mentions the California bill (SB.1034) addressing artist royalties, which passed the California Senate yesterday

  • Larry Lessig points us to a summary of the AIMster/Madster hearing

  • The NPD Group issued a press release yesterday, declaring that Declining Music Sales: It’s Not All Digital Downloading, Says The NPD Group

    According to data from NPD, consumers across all demographics are purchasing less music now than in the past two years. Total full-length CD sales were down 13 percent Q4 2002 compared to Q4 2001. Already this year Q1 unit sales trended downward by 9 percent. More than half of lost music sales can be attributed to file sharing; however, 60 percent of music consumers with access to the Web have not downloaded any music for free, and sales to those customers are off by as much as 7 percent.

    “Without a doubt, file sharing has had a huge negative impact on music industry sales,” said Russ Crupnick, vice president of The NPD Group. “But our research shows that even if digital file sharing were to disappear tomorrow, the record labels and retailers would still need to overcome important underlying causes of recent market declines.”

  • Missed this: Senator wants limits on copy protection

    The bill, authored by Sen. Sam Brownback, would regulate digital rights management systems, granting consumers the right to resell copy-protected products and requiring digital media manufacturers to prominently disclose to consumers the presence of anticopying technology in their products.

    The Kansas Republican’s bill requires that a copyright holder obtain a judge’s approval before receiving the name of an alleged peer-to-peer pirate. That would amend the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which a federal court concluded enables a copyright holder to force the disclosure of a suspected pirate’s identity without a judge’s review. This law is at issue in the recording industry’s recent pursuit of the identity of a Verizon Communications subscriber.

    The main thrust of the Brownback bill, however, is to slap regulations on digital rights management (DRM) technology, which has become increasingly popular tool in reducing the widespread copyright infringement on the Internet.

    Slashdot discussion: Senator Pushes Bill To Limit Anti-Copying Schemes

2003 June 5

(entry last updated: 2003-06-05 16:10:06)

  • An important distinction picked up by Prof. Lessig: Dasta [sic] decided — incorrectly

    The confusion is the failure to distinguish “copyrights” from “authors rights.” As Ray Patterson argued over 30 years ago in “Copyright in Historical Perspective,” the framers understood “copy-rights” to be distinct from “auhors rights.” Authors rights protect the right to attribution, and to some degree, the right of integrity. These rights are related to the “moral rights” the Europeans speak of. They are fundamentally distinct from the “copy-right” — which was a right to control the publication of a work.

    From an originalist perspective, then, it is true that Congress shouldn’t be able to grant a “copyright” — a right to control the publication of a work — for a perpetual time. But the right to attribution is not, from that perspective, a “copy-right.” And thus if there were another power of Congress that could support that right — the Commerce Power, for example — then a requirement of attribution should not run afoul of the copyright power.

  • From today’s Fix column at Salon:

    Natalie Maines’ laryngitis is gone, and the Dixie Chick is speaking out again. “I am so glad I got my voice back for tonight,” she told an audience in Michigan on Monday, the day after a sore throat forced the cancellation of the group’s Cleveland show. “I had absolutely no voice yesterday — and I swear you could hear clapping from the Oval Office.”

    Maines’ comment reportedly drew a few boos from the crowd. More stinging still, Jerry Lewis has started firing spitballs in the Chicks’ general direction. “I’m old-fashioned,” the aging funnyman tells the New York Daily News. “You don’t make fun of the Queen of England, and you don’t make jokes about the President of the United States. I resent those that do. The Dixie Chicks are embarrassed that he’s from Texas? You don’t say that about a sitting President. The First Amendment says you can say anything you want in this country, but it should have an appendage, ‘Try to do it with class.'” Ahem.

    You don’t make jokes about the President of the United States – ??? – there goes a substantial fraction of standup and late night TV comedy.

  • After reading William Safire’s op-ed [pdf] in today’s NYTimes on privacy and digital diaries, I was more baffled than informed – then I saw that Ed Felten has put quite a bit of thought into it to help me on my way.

  • A little ammunition for the next time someone promotes DRM because it will give the artist a viable negotiating position: Dave Weinberger’s post on this extensive discussion of the AOL-Microsoft settlement and agreement to work together.

  • A new datapoint for the argument about the need/desirability of online governance: Mobs move into ‘Sims Online’ power vacuum [pdf]

    An underground group known as the Sims Shadow Government has taken over the fantasy world that is “The Sims Online,” meting out mob justice.

    It’s a violent twist for “The Sims,” the dollhouse-inspired computer game that has long been portrayed as the antithesis to guns-‘n-gore bestsellers like “Grand Theft Auto.” The emergence of a seedy underbelly in the online game may reveal more about the dark fantasies of middle-aged suburbanites than anyone suspected.

    …Mathieson, 34, who lives in Las Vegas and promotes bands, said players turned into racketeers.

    “They show up at your house and they request protection money. ‘You have to pay me 100,000 simolians if you don’t want your house torn down.’ It’s technically harassment.”

    The most popular person in the Sims universe — Mia Wallace, a composite character played by Mathieson and his wife, Jennifer — stepped into the power vacuum and organized the Sims Shadow Government.

    “We weren’t playing the games as hoodlums, we were playing the game as protectors of the city,” said Mathieson.

    At least at first. Somewhere along the line, though, the Sims Shadow Government turned from benevolent overseer to a virtual version of La Cosa Nostra.

    …Wright — the grand puppet master who birthed the bestselling Sims franchise — is both fascinated and frustrated by the emergence of the mob.

    In an interview at a recent trade show, Wright said he logs on nightly to monitor the mob’s exploits. But he said Maxis is powerless to stop it — since all the group’s communications happen outside of the game.

    Game experts say organized gangs are the hallmark of successful online multiplayer games, like “Lineage” or “Ultima Online.”

  • Offtopic: The End of History: How e-mail is wrecking our national archive

    When tomorrow’s historians go to write the chronicles of decision-making that led to Gulf War II, they may be startled to find there’s not much history to be written. The same is true of Clinton’s war over Kosovo, Bush Sr.’s Desert Storm, and a host of other major episodes of U.S. national security policy. Many of the kinds of documents that historians of prior wars, and of the Cold War, have taken for granted—memoranda, minutes, and the routine back-and-forth among assistant secretaries of state and defense or among colonels and generals in the Joint Chiefs of Staff—simply no longer exist.

    The problem is not some deliberate plot to conceal or destroy evidence. The problem—and it may seem churlish to say so in an online publication—is the advent of e-mail.

  • Senators Move to Restore F.C.C. Limits on the Media [pdf]

    The efforts to overturn the decision face an uphill battle, particularly in the House of Representatives, where there is more support for the commission than there appears to be in the Senate. But the political furor, as evidenced by hundreds of thousands of negative comments sent from across the country, on top of criticism from a spectrum of organizations ranging from the National Organization for Women to the National Rifle Association, have given critics momentum on Capitol Hill, which could ultimately lead to a reversal of some elements of the new rules.

    “While Monday’s decision promising further media deregulation may well be celebrated in a few New York and Hollywood boardrooms, it will be remembered as a dark day in thousands of American communities who look to the F.C.C. to ensure that the use of the public airwaves serves the interests of all Americans, not the economic self-interest of a chosen few,” said Senator Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the committee.

    ?How did Fritz end up on this side of the debate?

  • Amy Harmon discusses the Verizon loss yesterday: Verizon to Reveal Customers in Piracy Case [pdf]. Tragically, the article’s title doesn’t include privacy, although that’s really the content of the article:

    While agreeing to turn the names over, Verizon will continue to challenge two rulings by a federal district judge who ordered the company to comply with subpoenas issued by the record industry group under a shortcut aimed at helping copyright owners fight digital piracy. The company argues that the process lends itself to abuses that could result in names of suspected copyright abusers being turned over without good cause. Under the rulings, an Internet provider can be forced to disclose the identity of its users without a judge’s specific approval.

    …”The net effect of a decision like this one is to open the door for use of subpoenas for any purpose,” said Marc Rotenberg, a lawyer at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, adding, “Our sense is that this door shouldn’t be open, at least not this wide.”

    Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas, is circulating proposed legislation that would amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to require that a copyright holder file a lawsuit to learn the identity of an Internet user suspected of violating its copyright.

    …”The technology will move faster than the court systems,” said Jorge A. Gonzalez, the founder of Zeropaid.com, a repository of information for file-sharing software. “The new programs being developed are going to mask users. By the time Verizon has to start turning over a lot of names, the identities of users will be unknown.”

  • From Electronic Business: Getting in on the (copyright) act: Electronics industry calls for change in law – a rundown on the consumer electronics industry’s reactions to the growing application of the DMCA

    Brad Williams, director of corporate communications at Gateway, believes that the recording and movie industries should spend less time complaining and litigating and more time innovating. That is what many product manufacturers such as Gateway are doing. In December 2002, Gateway introduced its MusicVault software package—the first time a PC manufacturer put music offerings on a hard disk, according to Williams, so consumers don’t have to spend days downloading songs from dial-up services. Gateway bundles MP3 players and additional digital music software into PCs when consumers request them. “We haven’t talked about it publicly much, but we will be rolling out more digital audio products in the future,” Williams explains.

    Gateway obviously isn’t waiting for Congress to ride to the rescue. It is working with the music industry and within DCMA constraints while pushing the Boucher bill. That’s probably a smart approach, because the Boucher bill has much more tech industry support than it does congressional support. Only nine members of Congress have signed on as cosponsors. That is a small posse.

  • From the BBC Artists call for CD tax cut, a desciption of a protest over European VAT on CDs:

    More than 1,200 international stars including Sir Elton John, Chris de Burgh and Andrea Bocelli have signed a petition being presented to the EU in Brussels on Tuesday.

    They want recorded music to be classed in line with other cultural products such as books, newspapers and theatre tickets – which attract reduced VAT rates.

    … Other European artists involved in the campaign include Johnny Hallyday and Françoise Hardy from France, Zucchero of Italy, Greece’s Nana Mouskouri and Spanish singer Julio Iglesias.

    I didn’t know Johnny Hallyday was still alive, much less still selling recordings?!?!

  • Yesterday we learned that Metallica is belatedly embracing downloads; today we learn that they are using their new album to promote an upcoming video game – a new convergence? See also MetallicaVault.com – presently just a countdown (7:30 AM) with 10.5 hours to go…

    Fans who purchase the CD will receive an ID number unlocking the Web site MetallicaVault.com, which will feature 60 previously unreleased live tracks at launch.

    All of the tracks will be downloadable MP3 files, burnable to disc and completely portable. Pfeifer said there is no reason for getting the music from illegal sources, where there is no guarantee of quality or even that the download is what it claims to be. “Why wouldn’t fans go to the faster, better alternative?” he asked.

    Note that today’s Boston Globe puts a different spin [pdf] on this:

    The new CD was supposed to come out next Tuesday but was pushed up to today (and some copies were available at Newbury Comics and Tower stores yesterday) because of fears of CD burning. You just know there’s lingering resentment from fans who didn’t appreciate Metallica’s stand against Napster (even though the band later dropped its case), so some will no doubt make a special effort to get this CD for free.

    As does yesterday’s NYTimes [pdf]

    Striking back at counterfeits, Elektra Records is moving up the release of the new Metallica album, “St. Anger,” to tomorrow from June 10. A statement from the record company said: “Elektra and Metallica have taken this extraordinary measure to ensure that counterfeit copies of the band’s first studio album in six years do not proliferate in the marketplace. Metallica unanimously approved the move, guaranteeing that fans get first crack at hearing the acclaimed disk the way the band intended: loud and unadulterated.”

  • CNet: Contract illuminates Novell, SCO spat. This article suggests that the contract between these two firms is a real mess. Essentially, Novell seems to have sold Unix and Uniware to SCO, but retained all copyrights and patents. Recall that there can only be a single owner of a copyright (see the ITOFCA v. MegaTransLogistics, concurring opinion), although there are specific activities that can be licensed. So, does SCO have a copyright claim, or is this a complaint about licensing (in which case, it’s up to Novell to sue IBM, while SCO can only ask/demand Novell to protect the licenses it has acquired – I think)?

  • Continuing the trend, EMI is now also suing Bertelsmann over its Napster investment; The Register article; CNet News’ Reuters news article – see the discussion of vicarious infringement in Legal Protection of Digital Information and in the EFF’s P2P paper

  • A new Get Your War On is up. In case you don’t know, here’s Human Rights Watch WWW page writeup on Islam Karimov

2003 June 4

(entry last updated: 2003-06-04 22:00:06)

My apologies – I’ve been "off my game" since Monday, due to reasons beyond my control. I’d like to think that things will settle down in the next day or so – and I’m *really* behind in my reading.

  • Slashdot reports that sewing patterns are back in the copyright litigation arena: DMCA Vs. The Sewing Underground. From the cited article:

    Monsterpatterns.com operator Derek Gendron says he didn’t see anything wrong with posting for sale the discontinued sewing patterns he’d found in the trash heaps near some Jo-Ann craft shops.

    But sewing pattern giants McCall Pattern and Simplicity, makers of the patterns, disagreed. In February, the companies successfully convinced Web host Digital River to shut the Monsterpatterns.com site down, saying Gendron had no right to sell their copyrighted work online. “He did not pay for these patterns,” said Robert Hermann, CEO of McCall.

    Here’s Ed Felten’s interview with his mother on needlepoint piracy

  • Music industry hopes mobile phones will be new revenue source

    With sales of CDs on a three-year slide, the music industry sees mobile phones as powerful outlets for promoting artists and distributing music for profit – something it failed to do in the early days of Internet music-swapping. In recent months, recording labels have entered deals with wireless carriers and other companies. The music companies are selling rights to their musicians’ recordings and images for use in screen savers, digital images and song snippets that are then sold to mobile phone users.

  • Willful Infringement – the Movie [via BoingBoing]

    Over the last two hundred years, western law has turned ideas into something called Intellectual Property. At the same time, we have created the idea of a corporation as a property owner. The rise of digital media technologies and the Internet have brought these two developments into sharp focus. The nexus of these developments has produced some unintended consequences and as a result, copyright has become the ‘killing fields’ of culture.

    Most of us never think about copyright law. We never think about copying. Both copying and copyrights are good things. There are those who think there can be too much copying, and those who think there can be too much copyright. Watch the video and decide what you think.

  • Oh, God – Verizon stay denied; from CNet

    The recording industry claimed another victory Wednesday in its bid to force Verizon Communications to identify two of its Internet subscribers accused of file swapping, saying a federal appeals court had rejected a request to delay handing over the disputed information.

    The decision means that Verizon may be forced to comply with the recording industry’s demands despite a pending appeal in the case, which involves the validity of subpoenas issued under a controversial copyright law. A hearing is scheduled to take place in September.

    Should be interesting to see how this decision fits into the definition of "moot."

  • A student (thanks, Jennifer!) points to a very useful summary of the (then) holdings of the Big Ten media companies – a way to think about consolidation – from The Nation, 2001. Accompanies the article: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

    The media cartel that keeps us fully entertained and permanently half-informed is always growing here and shriveling there, with certain of its members bulking up while others slowly fall apart or get digested whole. But while the players tend to come and go–always with a few exceptions–the overall Leviathan itself keeps getting bigger, louder, brighter, forever taking up more time and space, in every street, in countless homes, in every other head.

    The rise of the cartel has been a long time coming (and it still has some way to go). It represents the grand convergence of the previously disparate US culture industries–many of them vertically monopolized already–into one global superindustry providing most of our imaginary “content.”

    …And so, unless there’s some effective opposition, the several-headed vendor that now sells us nearly all our movies, TV, radio, magazines, books, music and web services will soon be selling us our daily papers, too–for the major dailies have, collectively, been lobbying energetically for that big waiver, which stands to make their owners even richer (an expectation that has no doubt had a sweetening effect on coverage of the Bush Administration). Thus the largest US newspaper conglomerates–the New York Times, the Washington Post, Gannett, Knight-Ridder and the Tribune Co.–will soon be formal partners with, say, GE, Murdoch, Disney and/or AT&T; and then the lesser nationwide chains (and the last few independents) will be ingested, too, going the way of most US radio stations.

  • The Nullsoft saga continues (Rogue AOL Subsidiary Leader to Resign) while AOL and Microsoft get comfy: AOL, Microsoft Vow Messaging Cooperation

  • A flash from the past: Metallica strikes new Net chord

    The longtime opponents of Internet piracy, who sued file-swapping network Napster in federal court, are promoting downloads of their songs via Metallicavault.com, a Web site set to launch Thursday.

    But the site will be free only to people who buy the band’s upcoming album, “St. Anger,” scheduled for release the same day. The CD inset will include a unique code that people can use to access the site’s video of live performances and download newly released tracks.

    …Despite the heated charges, the band now says its early grievances were merely about the quality of music offered through Napster file-swapping, not about the theft. Metallica’s suit was later combined with many other similar suits against Napster, which were resolved when a federal judge ordered Napster to block copyrighted music files.

    Ah, revisionist history is always the most informative <G>

  • Reuters says that that RIAA has gotten a settlement on college webcasting rates: RIAA, colleges agree on Webcasting rate

    Under the deal, college radio stations and other educational broadcasters will pay a flat fee of $250 to stream their signals over the Internet this year, while other noncommercial Webcasters will pay up to $400. The deal applies retroactively to 1998 and lasts through the end of next year.

    Fees are lower if the broadcast is limited to news or sports, while those transmitting more than one channel or reaching larger audiences would pay more.

  • Streamcast is in the RIAA sights, with a lawsuit on peculiar grounds: Record labels sue Morpheus maker

    The new suit involves a Web radio service never launched by Streamcast Networks, the company behind the popular Morpheus software that lets millions of fans share songs for free.

    Record labels allege in the suit that in preparing to launch the radio service, Streamcast bought thousands of CDs with thousands of songs and then transferred the music onto a digital database on computer hard drives and other memory devices without the permission of the copyright owners.

  • Hoo-boy! The announcement that standalone Internet Explorer is going the way of the dodo has revealed some internal confusion at Microsoft: Microsoft’s browser play

    Since then, Microsoft has struggled to reconcile Countryman’s remarks with promises that current users of the standalone browser will be provided with upgrades. Pressed for clarification of Countryman’s comments–the program manager did not return calls–a Microsoft representative acknowledged that the company did not, in fact, know what it was going to do.

    … That ambiguity leaves an array of possible outcomes, including forced upgrades to the upcoming version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, for users of Microsoft’s older versions of the OS who want to patch security holes or other bugs in Internet Explorer.

  • With Amazon in the picture, Apple is gearing up to approach the independents about iTunes. (Slashdot: Apple Wooing Smaller Labels

  • For all of us who’ve forgotten (or learned the hard way) to dot the i’s and cross the t’s when it comes to computer/software maintenance: Lawrence Lessig’s birthday spam

  • Dave Winer makes an interesting announcement:

    I got a tour of the NY Times news room today from Martin Nisenholtz the CEO of NY Times Digital, and Michael Oreskes, Assistant Managing Editor for Electronic News. We also concluded our discussion about the Times archive, we found a good compromise, the archive will remain open to people who link from weblogs, but they will keep the toll booth up for others. We have to hammer out a final statement, which I expect to have in a few days.

    I look forward to hearing how to make this work – my furdlog/docs directory is taking up more space each day, and getting pdfs that include graphics without chopping text lines in half at page breaks is a surprisingly large amount of work!

2003 June 3

(entry last updated: 2003-06-03 07:54:22)

  • A key architectural decision in a digital device makes for new business opportunities – TiVo service tracks viewer data (CNet); TiVo to Sell User Viewing Data (Wired)

  • More on the editing of movies for "acceptability:" Much Ado About Smut-Free DVDs

    Three small companies that manufacture technologies that filter out the sex, gore and violence from DVD movies are hoping to avoid a protracted legal fight with Hollywood.

    ClearPlay, Family Shield Technologies and Trilogy Studios filed a motion Friday in the United States District Court in Denver to dismiss claims that their products infringe on the copyrights of motion pictures.

  • Amy Harmon discusses Nullsoft’s Waste: File-Sharing Program Slips Out of AOL Offices [pdf]

    AOL Time Warner is trying to stop the spread of new software released by its Nullsoft division, whose founder and lead programmer, Justin Frankel, is known for leaking his work onto the Internet and causing headaches for his employer.

    The new program makes it easy for groups of about 50 people to set up file-sharing networks that are secure and private. In addition to letting users search for and download files, it includes an instant messaging feature that could be seen as competition for AOL Instant Messenger, which provides AOL with a crucial presence on millions of computer screens.

2003 June 2

(entry last updated: 2003-06-02 21:39:58)

  • Slashdot has an ironic report: Using Palladium to Secure P2P Networks

  • Salon report: 20th Century Fox loses Supreme Court copyright case

    The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a video company cannot be sued under a trademark law for reusing old war documentary footage without giving credit to 20th Century Fox.

    The 8-0 decision gives some freedom to people who want to reproduce works that no longer have copyright protection.

    Justice Antonin Scalia said that the trademark law, which is intended to protect consumers from confusion, does not allow creators to claim plagiarism when their uncopyrighted works and inventions are used.

    Supreme Court Slip Opinion: Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp; the oral arguments

  • Donna live blogs the FCC hearings, which went as expected: 3-2 to relax constraints on ownership – APWire from the NYTimes [pdf].

  • Here’s something to think about: Internet Battle Raises Questions About the First Amendment [pdf]

    The order, entered by Judge Diana Lewis of Circuit Court in West Palm Beach, forbids Mr. Max to write about Ms. Johnson. It has alarmed experts in First Amendment law, who say that such orders prohibiting future publication, prior restraints, are essentially unknown in American law. Moreover, they say, claims like Ms. Johnson’s, for invasion of privacy, have almost never been considered enough to justify prior restraints.

    Ms. Johnson’s lawsuit also highlights some shifting legal distinctions in the Internet era, between private matters and public ones and between speech and property.

    Judge Lewis ruled on May 6, before Mr. Max was notified of the suit and without holding a hearing. She told Mr. Max that he could not use “Katy” on his site. Nor could he use Ms. Johnson’s last name, full name or the words “Miss Vermont.”

    The judge also prohibited Mr. Max from “disclosing any stories, facts or information, notwithstanding its truth, about any intimate or sexual acts engaged in by” Ms. Johnson. That prohibition is not limited to his Web site. Finally, Judge Lewis ordered Mr. Max to sever the virtual remains of his relationship with Ms. Johnson. He is no longer allowed to link to her Web site.

    The page of Mr. Max’s site that used to contain his rambling memoir now has only a reference to the court order.

    Slashdot discussion: Barbra Streisand, Miss Vermont, And Your Website

2003 June 1

(entry last updated: 2003-06-01 23:04:35)

  • I see I missed a few things by not following OSCOM more closely. With luck I can catch up (and perhaps understand the “WinerLog” comments?)

  • The Times’ Week in Review gives us this perspective on the upcoming FCC vote, with viewpoints by Yale’s Jack Balkin and Columbia’s Eli Noam: The F.C.C. Gets Ready to Roll the Media Dice [pdf]

    Today, of course, there are any number of television channels, competing phones services and nearly infinite number of Internet sites. “There has been a tremendous amount of wolf-crying for a long time,” Mr. Noam said. Another risk raised by those concerned by media consolidation is that those who rule the media universe, like the press lords of old, will be under no obligation to ensure that we receive balanced coverage of difficult topics. Indeed, they will have every incentive to reject that obligation.

    It would take “an act of superhuman self-restraint” for media moguls of tomorrow to avoid using their reach to influence debate, Mr. Balkin said.

    But they will be restrained by other sources of information, argued Jonathan A. Knee, a senior managing director at Evercore Partners, and investment company.

    “Everything we know about what’s going to happen in the future, namely digital cable and broadband Internet, suggests that it will continue to be more diverse,” he said, adding that, in the end, the government has no business trying affect what sort of material people choose to watch.

    Still sounds like the expectation is that the Internet will save us all.

  • For an opposing view, let’s try Ted Turner: Monopoly or Democracy? [pdf]

    Naturally, corporations say they would never suppress speech. That may be true. But it’s not their intentions that matter. It’s their capabilities. The new FCC rules would give them more power to cut important ideas out of the public debate, and it’s precisely that power that the rules should prevent. Some news organizations have tried to marginalize opponents of the war in Iraq, dismissing them as a fringe element. Pope John Paul II also opposed the war in Iraq. How narrow-minded have we made our public discussion if the opinion of the pope is considered outside the bounds of legitimate debate?

    Our democracy needs a broader dialogue. As Justice Hugo Black wrote in a 1945 opinion: “The First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public.” Safeguarding the welfare of the public cannot be the first concern of large publicly traded media companies. Their job is to seek profits. But if the government writes the rules in a certain way, companies will seek profits in a way that serves the public interest.

  • Cory Doctorow points to the story of the Texas superDMCA defeat

  • Matt raises some good questions at the heart of digital distribution and revenue for creators in his May 30 posting. The simple query “why does the paperback version of a book cost less than the hardcover edition?” kicks off some important questions about how creators of IP are remunerated. Matt’s answers won’t satisfy many, but the questions are important to consider.

  • Ed Felten on DVD CCA v Bunner: DVDCCA v. Bunner in California Supreme Court

  • Slashdot discusses a very convoluted Canadian WWW site that apparently is a home base for discussions of how to circumvent DirecTV’s signal encryption: DirecTV takes on PirateDen.com – more discussion at FreedomFight.ca: Directv vs. Pirates Den. That WWW page claims that DirecTV has no legal distribution rights in Canada, adding to the complexity of this conflict – jurisdiction is going to be a bear to clarify.

  • ComputerWorld gets the head of SCO to say what everyone’s been claiming is at the root of the Linux/Unix IP fight: SCO’s CEO says buyout could end Linux fight. Slashdot discussion: SCO’s Real Motive… A Buyout?

  • Something else I missed on May 30th: AOL pulls Nullsoft file-sharing software [via ScriptingNews; note that Dave links to the GPLed source: waste.zip]

    A day after developers at America Online’s Nullsoft unit quietly released file-sharing software, AOL pulled the link to the product from the subsidiary’s Web site.

    The software, called Waste, lets groups set up private, secure file-sharing networks. The product became available on Nullsoft’s Web site on Wednesday, just days shy of the four-year anniversary of being acquired by AOL. Waste is a software application that combines peer-to-peer file sharing with instant messaging, chat and file searches. Users can set up their own network of friends and share files between each other.

    The features of Waste are similar to those of file-swapping services such as Kazaa and the defunct Napster, but the difference is that only small networks of people (up to 50, according to the Web site) can use it. The software also offers encryption and authentication to prevent non-invitees from accessing the private networks.

    Slashdot discussion: AOL Pulls Nullsoft’s WASTE

  • Some interesting research into managing copyright infringement: Putting a Trace on Copyrighted Booty [pdf]

    Q: Protecting intellectual property and copyrighted works is tricky. What’s your solution?

    A: We’ve been trying to come up with a compromise. We’ve figured a way that, rather than reporting what customers are doing over phone lines or cable pipes — which is really a serious problem from a privacy perspective — we put any information you want to carry actually into the content itself.

    If somebody makes a copy of a complete work, you can trace that back to the device that was used. But if you’re not making a copy, or if you’re making copies and only using them within your house or even giving them to a friend who doesn’t distribute them, then there’s no record of what happens.

  • Time to start learning all you can about installing Mozilla: Microsoft to abandon standalone IE. Given that I’m about to purchase a PowerBook to replace my aging laptop, I wonder what this means for the Mac world. [Via ScriptingNews – as Dave points out, this means that Web developers are about to become Windows developers by default]

    Slashdot discussion: IE6 SP1 Will Be Last Standalone Version. The discussion jumps off from the story poster’s comments:

    I think the truth is just that Microsoft intends to integrate DRM very tightly with their OS and browser, and they’re aren’t going to try to backport that to, say, Win98, so they just aren’t going to release new versions of their browser for old, DRM-less operating systems. In the future server-side browser detection may be more about detecting whether the browser supports the DRM your “web service” uses than what version of Javascript or CSS the browser supports.

    The DRM/browser issue is very real, and a number of the comments are worth reading for their consideration of the implications of this move.

  • UserFriendly gives its perspective on the AOL-Time Warner/Microsoft settlement. Interestingly, this New York Times news analysis sees things quite differently: In Agreement With Microsoft, AOL Gets Cash and Flexibility [pdf]

    AOL Time Warner and Microsoft presented the agreement they announced Thursday as a new era of cooperation between two longtime rivals. But on closer inspection, the terms of the deal largely require Microsoft to cooperate with AOL while inviting AOL to reciprocate at its pleasure.

  • Without divulging anything, let me just say that posting on the subject of Aimee Deep can lead to some interesting e-mail traffic. Thanks, everyone!

    Update: I see that GrepLaw has posted something: Aimee Deep on Madster and Copyright. Slashdot discussion: Aimee Deep Interview (note that most of the comments are tragic Fark-like thoughts, but see below).

    From the GrepLaw comments, a pointer to a disgruntled former employee’s WWW page: "Why Aimster sucks" and other ponderables – at also looks like he has a Slashdot journal – here’s his comment on the Slashdot story.

    Unsurprisingly, MusicPundit tracks everyone’s discussion of the topic here, here and here.

    Update: I see that Matt has chimed in with his take on the recent blast of Aimee/Madelaine Deep PR.