Google? Yahoo!? Better Pick At Least One, It Seems

176 Newspapers to Form a Partnership With Yahoo

A consortium of seven newspaper chains representing 176 daily papers across the country is announcing a broad partnership with Yahoo to share content, advertising and technology, another sign that the wary newspaper business is increasingly willing to shake hands with the technology companies they once saw as a threat.

In the first phase of the deal, the newspaper companies will begin posting their employment classified ads on Yahoo’s classified jobs site, HotJobs, and start using HotJobs technology to run their own online career ads.

But the long-term goal of the alliance with Yahoo, according to one senior executive at a participating newspaper company, is to be able to have the content of these newspapers tagged and optimized for searching and indexing by Yahoo.

In that way, local news — one of the pillars of the newspaper business — would become part of a large information network that would increase usefulness for readers and value to advertisers.

[…] The deal could also help position [Yahoo!] as a willing partner for traditional media companies, an effective counterpunch to a deal its archrival, Google, signed with 50 papers a few weeks ago, and could help it capture a larger portion of the fragmented local advertising market.

For the newspapers, which have struggled in recent years as readers and advertisers have flocked to the Internet, the deal represents an effort to earn a greater share of the fast-growing amount spent online on all types of ads.

Later, this related article on the expanding scope of Google’s interests into offline advertising: Google Mapping an Offline Course

I Hate These Kinds of Write Ups

This profile of a freshman Congressman makes way too much of his technical education, but at least the article does suggest that there’s more to him than just nerdiness — after all, he won! And, if I stand for nothing else it’s the notion that a few more technically-competent folks in seats of power can only be a good thing for a lot of important issues! Unlikely new lawmaker rode winds of changepdf

Jerry McNerney always thought he would win his race for Congress. It’s just that nobody else did.

Why would anyone? He’s a 55-year-old math wonk and wind energy expert who never even ran for class president. He likes to climb wind turbines. He named his daughter Windy. The idea of speaking in front of a crowd makes him nervous.

But there he was last week, standing on the Capitol steps with the other freshmen, eating hors d’oeuvres at the White House, a symbol of voter fury so extreme that even eggheads prevailed in this month’s midterm election.

A soft-spoken scientist with a doctorate in math, McNerney is one of a handful of underdogs and gadflies swept into Washington on an anti-Republican wave that washed in not only handpicked establishment Democrats, but a few who didn’t appear to have a prayer.

[…] The learning curve is steep and the details of setting up offices and life on two coasts daunting.

But McNerney has already formed a freshman task force on energy and global warming.

Not intimidated by authority, he shook Bush’s hand at the White House soiree and thanked the president and the first lady for visiting his district, which he believes helped him more than it helped Pombo.

McNerney takes his place as one of the few PhDs ever elected to Congress and perhaps the only one who can prove that an imaginary number to an imaginary exponent is a real number. Which is sure to wow them in the cloakroom.

Maybe not, but at least he’s *in* the cloakroom!

Social Mapping and Regulatory Failure

A little “thought experiment” from a recent workshop comes just a little bit closer — as well as the likely privacy train-wreck: Cellphone as Tracker: X Marks Your Doubts

Now, as more of the handsets are equipped to use the Global Positioning System, the satellite-based navigation network, we are on the verge of enjoying services made possible only when information is matched automatically to location. Maps on our phones will always know where we are. Our children can’t go missing. Movie listings will always be for the closest theaters; restaurant suggestions, organized by proximity. We will even have the option of choosing free cellphone service if we agree to accept ads focused on nearby businesses.

[…] Both Helio and Boost Mobile market exclusively and unapologetically to a young clientele. “We’re not going after soccer moms and businesspeople,” Helio’s C.E.O., the veteran entrepreneur Sky Dayton, said last week. Freedom — to be a hedonist — is the leitmotif in its materials. “Have a party,” Helio’s Web site says invitingly, “not a search party.”

The Buddy Beacon serves at your pleasure, for your pleasure. “Turn it on when you’re up for a party;” turn it off when you need “a night of privacy.” A press release anticipates your feeling the urge to “slip out the back of the club into the V.I.P. room.” (Yes! All the time!) In such instances, the beacon goes off.

Social mapping on cellphones is not all that new; it is just the next stage in social networking. […]

[…] The tattered condition of the wireless industry’s reputation for privacy protection — which was not helped by the recent Hewlett-Packard pretexting scandal involving phone logs — is not entirely the industry’s doing. Not so long ago, industry players acted together to try to secure the Federal Communications Commission’s help to tighten — yes, tighten — rules governing the privacy of location information. It was the F.C.C. that let us all down, then and now.

[…] CTIA-The Wireless Association petitioned the F.C.C. to draft rules guaranteeing basic privacy protections, like requiring that customers give explicit consent before any information was disclosed to third parties and that all location information be protected from unauthorized access. When the F.C.C. considered the request in 2002, it declined to act, arguing that existing legislation was enough.

One commissioner, Michael J. Copps, dissented. […]

Mr. Copps pleaded that the commission “put in some sweat now” to create the clarifying rules “before consumers make up their minds about whether they trust location practices.” His plea went unheeded; the F.C.C. has remained inert.

Inducement v. Safe Harbors

Universal Music Sues MySpace.compdf

Universal Music Group on Friday sued MySpace.com, claiming the online social-networking hub illegally encourages its users to share music and music videos on the site without permission.

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, Universal Music contends MySpace, a unit of News Corp., attempts to shield itself from liability by requiring users agree to grant the Web site a license to publish the content they upload to the site. Users, however, have no such authority over works they don’t own.

The Web site also ”encourages, facilitates and participates in the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, distribution and public performance,” according to the suit.

The Reuters article contrasts MySpace with YouTube: Universal Music sues MySpace over music copyrightspdf

[The lawsuit] follows several months of talks on music rights with News Corp.’s (NYSE:NWS – news) MySpace, which broke down late on Thursday, a source familiar with the discussions said.

It claims thousands of links to music from Universal’s biggest artists, including Jay-Z and Gwen Stefani, are widely available on MySpace, even ahead of their release to music stores. It estimated maximum statutory damages for each copyrighted work at $150,000.

Earlier on Friday, MySpace unveiled an enhanced copyright protection tool to make it easier for content owners to remove unauthorized material.

[..] In the case of YouTube, now owned by Google Inc. (Nasdaq:GOOG – news), Universal Music reached a licensing agreement to give the site and its users access to thousands of music videos.

Other entertainment companies have been reluctant to take legal action against the likes of YouTube and MySpace because of the potential promotional exposure such sites may give to their artists. MySpace says it has more than 130 million users.

News of Universal’s suit comes a day after News Corp. said Ross Levinsohn, the executive who led the $580-million acquisition of MySpace, had resigned from the company.

Later: FindLaw has the filing

Later – NYTimes full article – Universal Music Sues MySpace for Copyright Infringement

A Look At Google As It Nears $500/share

Scaling the heightspdf

Many investors question whether the sixfold rise in Google’s stock since it went public in August 2004 can be sustained. Some say Google may be one or two bad quarters away from the sort of spectacular fall common during the dot-com crash of 2000.

But just as many, if not more, expect the Mountain View, Calif.-based company to continue to gain power — and market value — in the next few years. It’s already worth more than Time Warner Inc. and Walt Disney Co. combined, and it’s more than four times as valuable as Yahoo.

That’s because the amount of traffic flowing through its Web services gives Google unparalleled insight into its market. Half of all search queries in the U.S. in September used Google, more than twice the volume of second-place Yahoo, according to research firm Nielsen/Net-Ratings.

Google uses that data as a weapon. Competitors such as Microsoft Corp. say Google has an advantage because it knows so much about the behavior of Web surfers and has relationships with so many advertisers, large and small.

DoubleTwist

New software promises to unlock iPod, iTunespdf

The issue is the same for many music fans because Apple makes content bought from its iTunes online music store available only for its own products, while songs purchased from other online stores typically do not work on the market-dominating iPods.

[…] But this could soon change — because of a 22-year-old hacker who as a teen cracked the encryption on DVDs and now has developed a system compatible with Apple’s “FairPlay” copyright technology that allows iTunes music to play on other devices and gives iPod users access to other music stores.

“He imitated Apple’s system; he didn’t remove any copyright protections,” said Monique Farantzos, whose DoubleTwist Ventures plans to license the code to businesses. “He made a system that behaves in a similar way.”

Jon Lech Johansen has essentially created software that in a way tricks iTunes into thinking a competing device with the DoubleTwist code is an iPod, said Farantzos who predicted it could be available to consumers as soon as the beginning of 2007.

“What this means in practice is that competing (download) stores would be able to make their encrypted content compatible with the iPod, she said. “Hardware devices that have this code embedded could play iTunes content.”

DoubleTwist’s website asserts the following:

DoubleTwist Ventures focuses on the development of interoperability solutions for digital media and the reverse engineering of proprietary systesm for which licensing options are non-existent or impractical.

Indeed.

“What Is Reality?”

And does it matter anymore? Dell to Sell PCs on Second Life

Dell held a press conference in the virtual world Second Life on Tuesday, announcing that the company has opened an in-world island with a retail store where customers can actually order PCs to be delivered to their home.

“Second Life allows us to connect with customers in a rich and robust way,” said Ro Parra, senior vice president and general manager for Dell’s Home and Small Business Group. “It will tell us what we’re doing right and will tell us what we’re going to improve. So we asked ourselves how to extend this relationship with the customer to create a different experience. We want to be where people are gathered and they’re gathering on the Web in growing numbers.”

Visitors to the Dell Island will be able to examine Dell products in an interactive, 3D way. They can rotate, change colors, and look at the inner components of a Dell PC. The Second Life stores are also linked in real-time to the Dell.com e-commerce system.

[…] Dell is not the first one to sell computer products in Second Life but it is certainly the first major manufacturer to have such a large commercial presence there. The island will be fully staffed with people in red jackets who visitors can ask questions to and have conversations with. Dell also plans to use their in-world conference rooms for retail focus groups.

Given the unobtrusive yet wholly immersive nature of the retail/marketing/market research experience, I can well imagine what Dell means when they speak of connecting in “a rich and robust way.” Talk about a controlled environment for marketing experimentation!

Playing Games

An interesting bit of fallout to the US foolishness around trying to “sort of” ban Internet gambling: Rolling the dice

In the wee hours of an early Saturday morning several weeks ago, about half an hour before Congress left for its pre-election recess, it passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The act tries to bar credit-card payments to Internet gambling sites, and there has been much speculation about its wisdom and likely efficacy. What has been less noted, though, is that through this bill and a handful of similar missteps, the government has put itself in a position to be taught a sharp lesson about the nature of power in a globalized marketplace. Unless Congress and the Bush administration begin to pay a little more attention to how they handle Internet gambling, they could well end up creating an entirely avoidable headache for some very powerful constituents—holders of U.S. copyrights and patents—by punching a hole in the international web of agreements that protects them. Taken as a whole, these efforts offer a veritable master class in how not to regulate a 21st-century economy.

[…] Antigua’s basic theory in its WTO complaint was simply that, if the United States allows any Internet gambling at all, it couldn’t, in light of its WTO obligations, impose barriers to foreign companies seeking access to its market. It was a pretty straightforward free-trade argument. In response, the United States tried to take advantage of a “morals” defense in WTO proceedings that says, reasonably enough, that if you don’t make a product in your country due to moral objections, you needn’t open your market to foreign providers of that product.

[…] The WTO gave the United States a year to comply with its ruling by either changing its laws to fully ban online gambling or by allowing foreign access to the online-gambling market. That year ended last April, but rather than do anything to comply, the United States simply issued a statement to the effect that it had spent the year reviewing the matter and decided that it has been in compliance all along. Antigua is, unsurprisingly, challenging this response. A final decision from the WTO is expected early next year.

It was in this context—a context to which Congress seems to have been largely oblivious—that Congress enacted its recent legislation. The legislation causes new problems, because it seems to clarify beyond any doubt that the United States does not, in fact, prohibit all forms of Internet gambling. […]

[…] The obvious question is what Antigua can do with a victory at the WTO. Retaliatory tariffs plainly aren’t particularly appealing for small country like Antigua, because they would certainly hurt more than they would help. But the plucky little island paradise does have some creative options at its disposal. If the United States remains recalcitrant, under the WTO rules, Antigua would potentially have the right to suspend its own compliance with the treaty that obligates it to respect the United States’ intellectual-property laws. That, one can well imagine, might get Washington’s attention.

Want a cheap copy of Microsoft’s latest software or a nice medical device that, annoyingly, is protected by a U.S. patent? Come to Antigua. In such a scenario, Antigua couldn’t simply be ostracized as a rogue state. It would have every right under WTO rules to pursue such a course. […]

You Knew That Strict Construction In © Would Lead To This

Why folks have been getting so worked up about runaway copyright application and enforcement in the digital realm — looking at the Bridgeport case, showing where it takes us: The shady one-man corporation thats destroying hip-hop

Last week, a mysterious company, Bridgeport Music Inc., sued hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, accusing him of breaking the law when he recorded his 2003 single “Justify My Thug.” The song is an obvious nod to Madonna’s “Justify My Love,” but she is not the plaintiff. Instead, Bridgeport is suing because Jay-Z did something that is normal in hip-hop: sampling. He took a few notes, looped them in the background, and produced the tune. Bridgeport claims to own those notes, and is demanding a fortune in damages and a permanent ban on the distribution of the song.

Bridgeport is an unwelcome addition to the music world: the “sample troll.” Similar to its cousins the patent trolls, Bridgeport and companies like it hold portfolios of old rights (sometimes accumulated in dubious fashion) and use lawsuits to extort money from successful music artists for routine sampling, no matter how minimal or unnoticeable.

[…] In the end, it’s probably wrong to suggest the sample trolls are evil or hate rap music. The trolls simply look for profit, like any business, and are rational and predictable, like the mold that grows on rotten meat. None of these problems would be quite so severe if artists actually controlled their own copyrights. George Clinton’s copyrights end up blocking sampling, when he himself favors sampling. “When hip-hop came out,” said Clinton in this interview with Rick Karr, “I was glad to hear it, especially when it was our songs—it was a way to get back on the radio.”

Copyright is supposed to be the servant of artists, but today that is all too often just a pretense. The vast majority of the nation’s valuable copyrights are owned not by creators, but by stockpilers of one kind or another, and Bridgeport is just a particularly pernicious example. We need better devices to keep the control of the most valuable of artist’s rights with artists. For, to paraphrase Judge Learned Hand, copyright was born to protect and liberate musicians, but it all too often ends up enslaving them.

Earlier Furdlog postings on Bridgeport

David Berlind Looks At The Amazon Server Services Business

» Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: Honey, I just shrunk the server hosting business

For 10 cents per hour that you’d be running an “EC2-based server,” Amazon offers the equivalent of a 1.7Ghz x86 processor-based system, 1.75GB of RAM, 160GB of local disk, and 250Mb/s of network bandwidth. Word has it that Amazon is using Xen under the hood to offer these virtual servers to EC2 customers. But more importantly, the 10 cents per hour thing is worth plugging into a spreadsheet for just about any business — Mass Events Labs included — that thinks it already has a pretty decent hosting arrangement. So, let’s do a little math.

There are 365 days in the year and 24 hours per day which means that there’s a total of 8760 hours per year. Assuming that your server has to run all 8760 hours per year, the total cost per EC2 server per year is $876. A real analysis of EC2 versus other hosting options isn’t quite that simple. If you read Amazon’s fine print, you’ll may end up incurring some storage and bandwidth charges as well (the fees are similarly nominal) and you may have to spend time with someone from Amazon to understand the extent to which EC2 server instances, once the program is out of beta, will be fault tolerant.

EC2 leverages the same infrastructure that Amazon.com has built for itself. It involves multiple datacenters, network and power redundancy — all the stuff you’d expect from a commercial grade hosting outfit. Depending on my comfort level with EC2’s reliability (I haven’t even figured that out yet), we may not even need a failover server as we have now (or, in EC2’s case, that would be a failover “x86 instance”). But just assuming we were comparing apples to apples (as best we can) and we assumed that Mass Events Labs (or your business) needs two servers, the total annual cost is $1752. Today, our annual cost for two servers is $8400.

And Mass Events Labs is a small business. What about you bigger ones out there? […]