OT: Don’t Expect Bush v. Kerry This Time Around

In Supreme Silence – Why the Supremes will not decide this year’s presidential election, Dahlia Lithwick makes some excellent and cogent points, with some great links, too. [pdf]

But don’t be so quick to assume that the high court would hear another election appeal. There’s little doubt in my mind that each of the 20,000 lawyers poised to jet around the country next week like a small air force of flying monkeys in ties expects to take their appeals all the way to the Supreme Court. But there’s also little doubt in my mind that the court will refuse to take them. Let’s recall, first of all, that the court has absolute and ultimate control over its own docket. But more profoundly, let’s recall that the court has absolute and ultimate control over its own reputation and legitimacy. No one was more shocked than the justices by the angry blowback from Bush v. Gore. And no one is less interested than the justices in replaying that psychodrama again this year, and every four years hereafter.

More FCC-Related News

Xeni Jardin has a bunch of links relating to the Howard Stern-Michael Powell “discussion” that took place on the Bay Area radio station KGO. The transcript is here.

Powell: Just two quick things. I don’t think we’ve been inconsistent. He says we do Janet Jackson but we let people say the F word. One of the most controversial decisions this year was we let Bono say the F word … I think we have been consisten[t] across that line. Second what the order found on Viacom: Viacom is a big media conglomerate and it includes MTV and MTV produced the programming and it was our conclusion after investigating that it was not just a sort of passive…

Stern: Michael I know I’m going to get cut off. I absolutely don’t take this personally. I don’t think you personally hate me. I think that what you are doing is dangerous to free speech. I don’t think just against me. I think things have gotten way out of control. I am not personally vindictive. I’m happy to be going to satellite radio. I welcome the move. I think it’s a sad day, though, when the markeplace no longer determines what is indecent. I think that there’s tremendous hypocrisy that you allow late at night with teenagers calling into Love Line talking about blatant sexual acts. There’s a complete double standard here when it comes to me and morning radio when it’s probably the only time of day that parents listen with their children, 6 to 10 in the morning. I think there’s a lot of inconsistencies and I’m going to ask you while you’re still in office and, who knows, Bush’ll probably win and you’ll be there a while….

CNN’s article: Stern challenges FCC chairman on air

Pushing The Envelope

Perhaps a little too far? While, as an amateur photographer making the transition to digital, I can see the need for something like this, I’m wondering just how much demand there will be — but that’s what they probably said to Sony’s Morita when he floated the Walkman concept, too.

Interestingly, I can easily see how this would have real corporate, rather than personal, uses — think about a salesman carrying a multimedia presentation. Now, all he needs is one of these things instead of lugging a laptop around. Should be quite interesting to see if this ends up being another Apple homerun. Apple unveils photo-display iPod

Apple has unveiled an iPod with a photo display function aimed at maintaining the company’s lead in the market for digital music players.

The new iPod comes in two versions, including a 60-gigabyte model capable of storing 25,000 colour photographs, which retails at $599 (£335) in the US.

The device is intended to meet demand for convenient ways of storing pictures in the age of digital photography.

Apple’s announcement: The iPod Photo; NYTimes’ Newest iPod From Apple Holds Photos and Music. Paul Boutin over at Slate thinks that there’s another threat that Apple should be worrying about: XM vs. the IPod

A “Dissent in Part” of the Cingular Purchase of AT&T Wireless

When Dinosaur telcos ruled the Earth

The Federal Communications Commission’s Michael Copps, ruminating on the merger of Cingular and AT&T Wireless, seems to have felt this icy chill too. The FCC gave its formal blessing to the union this week, resulting in the creation of the largest mobile phone network in the US, and one of the most powerful in the world.

In a typically thoughtful, but unusually pessimistic warning that goes far beyond today’s concerns, the former Clinton administration trade official points out that for the first time Bell companies will control over the half of the wireless market. Earlier this month Copps warned that the internet was dying, under pressure from vested interests who want a closed network, but his words were almost completely unreported. Now, he points out, both Cingular and the erstwhile No.1 carrier Verizon were formed from amalgamations of local Baby Bells. SBC is owned by SBC and Bell South AT&T Wireless, meanwhile, has Ma Bell in the DNA: it’s a spin off from the mothership itself.

“The chance that wireless will compete effectively with wireless incumbents is diminished,” he warns. Regulators call this “intermodal” competition, and it’s a reality, with mobile operators in more saturated markets, such as Europe, vowing to make the landline redundant. But Copps thinks this less likely to happen now, and cites the majority FCC judgement in his support.

Copp’s statement can be accessed online as a Word document or as a PDF. From the opening paragraph:

I support the Order as it relates to intramodal competition within the wireless market. With the divestitures achieved in this order, I believe that an acceptable level of competition will continue to characterize the wireless market. I must dissent to those parts of the Order relating to the intermodal aspects of the merger, however, because of the increased potential for discrimination by the merged entities’ wireline parent companies and also because I find the lack of rigorous competitive analysis troubling.

Note: Nothing about Copp’s dissent in the NYTimes’ piece – With F.C.C. Consent, Cingular Buys AT&T Wireless. The Washington Post at least quotes Consumers Union’s Gene Kimmelman in Cellular Merger Approved

“They’re allowing Cingular to control so much of the spectrum that it could only sustain two or three major players around the country,” said Gene Kimmelman, director of Consumers Union in Washington. “But what’s of greater concern is that two of the three biggest wireless firms are virtual monopolies in local telephone companies,” and that concentrates too much market power, he said. “This is an enormous retreat from past antitrust policies that promoted competition in the wireless market.”

Weird Political News

This is a spooky indication of too many things – can anyone out there confirm this for me? (See BoingBoing) Bush website adopts isolationist stance

International access to the official re-election website of Us President George W. Bush (www.georgewbush.com) has been blocked. Surfers from outside the US trying to reach the site receive an “access denied” message.

Netcraft reports that the site, hosted at SmarTech Corporation, began using the Akamai content distribution network to manage traffic on 21 October. The move followed a six hour outage on 19 October, which also the official site of the Republican National Committee. Neither organisation gave reasons for the outage.

Since Monday morning (25 October) GeorgeWBush.com began rejecting web requests from outside the United States, Netcraft reports. Those outside America can only reach the site through US based proxies (such as proxify.com) but not through European proxies, Reg readers report.

As a security measure this doesn’t make an awful lot of sense but the move does mean soldiers and other Americans abroad can’t reach the re-election website. A number of reports (such as this by news agency AFP) suggest the site was inaccessible yesterday because of an attack by hackers but this would seem to be a misinterpretation of the site’s newly-instigated isolationist policy. GeorgeWBush.com is built on Microsoft’s Internet Information Server web server platform.

The BBC News article, Bush website blocked outside US, cites the BoingBoing article. Later: Bush Web Site Bars Overseas Visitors

Disposable DVDs Getting Another Push

Entrepreneur thinks disposable DVD technology a keeper [pdf]

The 34-year-old multimillionaire [Jeffrey Arnold] recently purchased the patents for the disposable DVD and the Los Angeles-based company, Flexplay, that manufactures them. Now, in a gambit to overcome consumer resistance to the new technology, Arnold is turning to the kind of mass-marketing approach that he has already used successfully within the music and video-game industries through a company he launched last year called LidRock.

[…] The strategy flies in the face of the Hollywood business model, which gives each medium — theatrical, television, and DVD — its own window in which to release a film and maximize profits. But the Convex Group is trying to market the 4-year-old technology more than the film.

Arnold says he isn’t trying to thumb his nose at the studios — in fact, they are exactly the ones he hopes to persuade to supply the content for the technology. He says he intends to prove that the disposable DVD won’t cut into the lucrative sales of regular DVDs and may in fact offer studios a new revenue stream.

Response to the technology has been mixed, mostly because consumers remain highly suspect of discs that can be used for only 48 hours after opening. And some wonder whether consumers will want to buy something that’s disposable when they can spend a few more dollars for the real thing.

But Arnold says he’s convinced there’s money to be made by targeting the new technology at the video rental market, which has been flat for the past six years as DVD sales have boomed. There are consumers, he says, who want a movie but don’t want the hassle of returns or late fees or the $20 price tag.

Culture and Copyright

In today’s Globe, Getting ‘Lost’ [pdf] discusses the “mythology” TV show and its grasp upon the “collective unconsciousness” of a subset of the viewing public. And yet, as a piece of that culture, there’s a problem along its pathway to a larger role:

It would be quite an exaggeration to suggest that mythology shows, which include “Angel” and “Farscape,” are as enduring as the myths we’ve inherited from the ancients. In thousands of years, Sydney on “Alias” will be electronic dust, while the goddess Diana may still be alive in our cultural memory — the name of a moon shuttle company, perhaps. Television is a medium of transience — less so, as it stretches its shelf life on cable, DVD, and Internet fan sites, but still fleeting. And while myths are told and retold and kept alive by interpreters, TV’s mythology shows are told only once. Attempts to duplicate them and expound upon them can lead to copyright problems. Even fanfic is discouraged by studios; disclaimers must appear on stories, and no profits may be collected for them. But still these shows have ancient archetypes at their root, as they update and perpetuate them.

Puretunes Settles

Online Music Site Settles Copyright Suit

The operators of a Spanish-based Web site that sold music downloads have agreed to pay $10.5 million to settle a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by several recording companies.

[…] Puretunes went off-line in mid-June 2003, less than two months after its launch. A month later, the top five recording companies and their labels sued Sakfield.

The suit alleged the company unlawfully copied and distributed thousands of songs from artists such as U2, Elvis Presley and Britney Spears through the Web site. Puretunes charged users for access to the music files, misleading consumers into believing they were buying music from a licensed online retailer, the companies claimed.

When Puretunes launched, Sakfield claimed it had obtained licenses from Spanish trade associations representing publishers and musicians, enough to comply with Spanish copyright laws.

But the record companies asserted that no such loophole in Spanish law exists and that Sakfield was liable.

FurdLog’s Puretunes cites; The Register’s Spanish MP3 site owner to pay RIAA $10m

The Next Big Thing

I spoke to a colleague about the Verizon fiber rollout announcement, asking what she thought was driving Verizon’s move at this point in time. Her response surprised me, because I was not aware of the power of the trend discussed in this article: Broadband in Suburbia [pdf]

In many ways, Brambleton looks like any of the new housing developments that have popped up near Dulles Airport in the past several years. Except coursing under its crisp green lawns and treeless streets is a fiber-optic network that supplies some 600 homes with Internet access at speeds once reserved for the largest corporations.

[…] The Internet service is included in Campolattaro’s homeowner association fees of approximately $230 a month. For that price, she also receives cable television service and covers her share of community lawn care and road maintenance.

Verizon Communications Inc. built Brambleton’s network as a market test for new technologies. The project offers a glimpse of what the telecommunications giant hopes to do around the country. Verizon, the nation’s largest telephone company, announced last week that it will spend close to $3 billion to establish fiber-optic networks in six states that could give 3 million homes the same level of Internet service that Campolattaro enjoys. Much of the new construction is focused on Washington’s suburbs, including Falls Church and Leesburg in Northern Virginia and parts of Montgomery County in Maryland.

The announcement comes as the cable television industry has begun to beef up its lines, offering in some cases its own competing package of telephone, television and Internet service.

Verizon officials say their network may fundamentally change the way people think not only about the Internet but also about television and telephone service. […]

Just think what having kind of Net access will mean to shaping the demand for Net services. And, since it’s already tied up into the homeowner association fees, there’s no reason not to use it as fully as possible.

David Boies on the Upcoming Election

Rise of the Machines

It is too late, unfortunately, to take one important step toward avoiding a repeat of 2000 this year. If anyone took Bush v. Gore seriously as legal precedent, uniform voting machines in each state would be constitutionally required.

As the dissenting opinion in Bush v. Gore emphasized, voting machines are much more likely to affect the chances of whether a vote is counted correctly than the different standards used to assess ballots by local officials. Optical-character-recognition voting machines that include a paper trail, and which warn voters of overvotes or undervotes so they can be corrected, have been in operation for years in several counties in Florida and elsewhere. They have been recommended by both Republicans and Democrats – including the bipartisan commission appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida after the 2000 election.

Thus Florida’s recent installation of less reliable alternative devices that lack a paper trail, many in heavily Democratic counties, is incomprehensible. O.C.R. machines cost a little more, but the difference is trivial compared to the billions being spent for elections in Iraq or even the millions spent by the state of Florida to ensure that felons (and those with similar names) are not eligible to vote. Whether the uniform use of these machines is constitutionally required or not, their extra cost is a small price to pay for making democracy more effective at home.