Missed This Break In The Ranks

Conservative group savages anti-P2P bill

The American Conservative Union (ACU), which holds influential Republican activists and former senators on its board of directors, is running newspaper and magazine advertisements that take a humorous jab at the so-called Induce Act–and slams some conservative politicians for supporting it.

“This is the Hollywood liberals trying to crush innovation,” said ACU deputy director Stacie Rumenap. “What’s sad is that they’ve got Republicans on their side.” A Senate committee vote on the bill is scheduled for Thursday.

Ernest, of course, has been tracking this very closely; and there’s this today from The Register: Induce Act tweaks fail to stem concern

US Copyright Imperialism?

A question of copyright [via EFF MiniLinks]

It’s fairly obvious from my photo, but I don’t shave. And while I have no intention of reaching for the razor, I was astonished that the Afghan government has felt it appropriate to pass a law prohibiting shaving, and to punish blade-using with severe penalties.

I feel equally aghast at the actions of the US Senate in deciding to ban the creation of technology which ‘induces’ piracy.

To induce (says the creator of the Act) means to intentionally induce someone else to break the copyright laws: “Intent may be shown by acts from which a reasonable person would find intent to induce infringement based upon all relevant information about such acts then reasonably available to the actor, including whether the activity relies on infringement for its commercial viability.”

[…] The thing is, of course, I don’t live in America or Afghanistan. Laws passed in the Afghan theocracy concern me as someone who takes an interest in international affairs, and laws passed in America concern me equally.

But in the normal course of my life, I don’t have to worry about whether I’m transgressing some California statute, nor do I fret about whether trimming my beard short might be regarded as shaving by ‘a reasonable person’ as defined in Afghan law.

Asking the Ugly Questions About Patents:

A review of Lerner and Jaffe’s Innovation and Its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What To Do About It:Does the Patent System Need an Overhaul?

“Our idea is that three things will potentially make a big difference,” Mr. Lerner said. “First of all, this idea which may well have made sense in 19th century of a patent examiner being able to sit and in few hours figure out what a relevant technology is, and then go out and make a decision as to whether a patent should be granted or not, that really doesn’t make sense in an era like today.

“Second, to see the patent review process as ‘one size fits all’ is again a mistake. There has to be way to figure out how to devote more resources to those patent applications which are really the important ones, and less to the unimportant ones.”

The two professors say one solution is to get more information into the hands of patent examiners.

“Our recommendation is that we create very real incentives to third parties to contribute information to the patent-examining process,” Mr. Lerner said. “There should be one level of review before and after the patent is issued, but within the patent office.”

The authors’ third remedy is to reverse the trend toward jury trials for patent lawsuits.

“Over the last 30 to 40 years, there has been real replacing of judges by juries,” Mr. Lerner said. “Patent disputes by and large tend to be highly technical disputes, and in many cases a lay person without much training in the area is hardly an expert.”

Slashdot: More Calls for Patent Reform

The Push for Music Subscriptions Is On

A look at the different business model/fee structure underlying the current subscription model, and the stake that this part of the industry has in Microsoft’s Janus technology: Music Sites Ask, ‘Why Buy If You Can Rent?’ (see also the BBC’s Virgin seeks slice of net music and CNet’s Virgin launches online music service)

Jupiter Research estimates that 2.1 million people pay for music subscription services, including the cheaper Internet radio services. By contrast, 8.5 million people have paid to download a music file. (All of that is still dwarfed by the 23.4 million people who said they downloaded files free from sharing services like Kazaa in the month of July, according to a survey by the NPD Group.)

That track record does not scare Zack Zalon, the president of Virgin Digital. “Two or three years out, subscriptions will overtake à la carte because it is a much more interesting proposition,” Mr. Zalon said. “It has just been difficult to articulate to consumers what it is.”

[…] Mr. Cue said that Apple might consider a subscription service in the future, but it has no plans to do so now. “Customers are speaking loudly with their wallets.”

Though that may be true, it is far more profitable for online companies to offer subscription services. Typically, an online store pays 65 or 70 cents to the record companies for each 99-cent track sold. But with subscription services, the online services split the fees 50-50 with the record labels after deducting certain expenses.

That fee-splitting cost structure is leading to what may turn into a price war among music subscription services, which generally cost just under $10 a month. AOL offers a subscription service to its members for $8.95 a month. Now Virgin is $1 cheaper than that.

[…] New technology from Microsoft, which is being adopted by most major electronics makers like Samsung, Rio and iRiver (though not by Apple) will allow devices to play songs downloaded in a special format from subscription services.

The songs will be programmed to expire on a set date, but that date is automatically extended when users connect their players back to the music software on their computers. If the user does not continue paying the monthly subscription bill, the songs will not play.

Plus, there’s these prognostications, and a bit of the music industry’s dream of endless format changes as revenue:

Others in the industry point out that surveys a decade ago said that cable subscribers preferred pay-per-view movies to subscription channels like HBO, but the channels turned out to be far more popular.

Moreover, Richard Wolpert, the chief strategy officer of RealNetworks, which offers the Rhapsody subscription service, says the idea that people buy music once and own it forever has not held true over the last few decades.

“I bought the Eagles ‘Hotel California’ on vinyl,” he said. “Then I bought it on 8-Track, really, then on a CD, and now I’ve bought it as a download.”

“What I really wanted,” Mr. Wolpert added, “was to be able to listen to the album wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted.”

Author Artifacts and Publication Rights

Hemingway Bullfight Tale From 1924 Turns Up

The documents fall into a quirk of copyright law. While the text may not be published without the permission of the Hemingway estate, the letter and typescript may be sold as artifacts, according to Patrick McGrath, a books and manuscripts specialist at Christie’s in New York.

Mr. McGrath said the auction house had authenticated the letter as written in Hemingway’s hand. The five-page carbon copy of the story has also been authenticated, he added, because of its provenance and because the words “The End” were in Hemingway’s handwriting.

It is not clear why permission to publish the documents was withheld. According to Mr. Stewart, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation granted him permission to publish the story and the letter in return for $500. The foundation, representing scholars and enthusiasts, is a legal entity endowed with some rights over unpublished Hemingway material, said Prof. Gerald Kennedy, its vice president and an English professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

But under an agreement reached in 1983 after the death of the author’s widow, Mary Hemingway, joint permission from the foundation and the estate is required for the use of any previously unpublished material.

Whose Fault?

While others are covering the media breakdown that this campaign seems to be engendering, I found these two articles to be worth reading, for background if nothing else. The perception that somehow the failure of “big media” is not their own fault is not surprising in this era of reduced responsibility everywhere, but it’s surprising to see self-flagellation in any form — and the implication that it’s all the Internet’s fault is just goofy:

  • Washington Post: The Media, Losing Their Way

    When the Internet opened the door to scores of “journalists” who had no allegiance at all to the skeptical and self-disciplined ethic of professional news gathering, the bars were already down in many old-line media organizations. That is how it happened that old pros such as Dan Rather and former New York Times editor Howell Raines got caught up in this fevered atmosphere and let their standards slip.

  • New York Times: Fear and Laptops on the Campaign Trail

    The news media helped create the modern campaign, and now they seem to be stuck in it. The bloggers, by contrast, adapted quickly. By the time the Republican convention rolled around in August, they had figured something out, staying far, far away from that zoo down at Madison Square Garden. They had begun to work the way news people do at manufactured news events, by sticking together, sharing information, repeating one another’s best lines. They were learning their limitations, and at the same time they were digging around and critiquing and fact-checking and raising money. They still liked posting dirty jokes and goofy Photoshopped pictures of politicians, but they had hope, and more than a few new ideas, and they were determined to make themselves heard.

The Reach of Constitutional Law

Free to Clone

This election year, the debate over cloning technology has become a circus — and hardly anybody has noticed the gorilla hiding in the tent. Even while President Bush has endorsed throwing scientists in jail to stop ”reckless experiments” (and has tried to muscle the U.N. into adopting a ban on all forms of cloning, even for research), it’s just possible the First Amendment will protect researchers who want to perform cloning research.

Dr. Leon Kass, the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics and a cloning foe, would like to keep that a secret. ”I don’t want to encourage such thinking,” he said during the council’s July 24, 2003, session. But the notion that the First Amendment creates a ”right to research” has been around for a long time, and Kass knows it.

Sticker Art

Download, Peel and Stick, and All the World’s a Gallery

Inspired by graffiti, posters and the communal culture of the Web, stickers are gaining wide attention as an artistic phenomenon, academics and practitioners say. Hand-drawn, stenciled or screen-printed, the images float on the Internet, available for downloading, printing and pasting in ways that the creators could only have imagined. And as they make their way around the globe, from one e-mail in-box to the next, one cultural context to another, their meaning tends to morph.

Now that broadband users can send large graphics files in an instant, stickers are a very fast-moving medium. A sticker can be created Monday morning in New York, e-mailed to a stranger in Paris and affixed to the back of a trash receptacle on the Champs-Élysées in the early afternoon.

My personal favorite: Obey Giant

LA Weekly Takes On Big Music “Myths”

3 Myths About the Recording Industry Debunked [via p2pnet] — Notwithstanding the provocative title, a couple of interesting points. My favorite:

MYTH NO. 3: Musicians no longer need the record industry. The Internet and other new technologies make this a new era of “do it yourself.”

FACT: There are more opportunities than ever for musicians to find a niche in the industry, but “doing it yourself” — through the Internet or any other means — is harder than ever.

Technically, some things have gotten easier for artists over the past decade. Digital recording makes it more possible than ever to produce high-quality recordings on the cheap. The Internet makes it easier than ever to publicize music of any stripe. And judgment-blind yet heavily trafficked outlets like CDBaby.com enable literally anyone to distribute their work.

Unfortunately, all this really means is that now there’s an infrastructure to support everyone’s delusions of stardom. […]

[…] Community is important to cut through the noise, and like it or not, those communities are often organized around the industry trying to make money off music — record labels, clubs, promoters, magazines et al. While artists know best how to make art, businesspeople know best how to build relationships and gain leverage. So unless you’re an artist with an already robust career or an admiration for the marketing savvy of P. Diddy and Malcolm McLaren, it’s more important than ever to figure out how to interact with the music biz.

See also Orlowski’s surprisingly thoughtful (rather than rant-ful) piece at The Reg’s Orlowski On Online Music Business Models