WSJ Reports Allegations that Google Fosters Piracy

Of course, given that they do search, what would you expect? Are we finally going to get some clarity via litigation? Don’t hold your breath — instead, it looks like we’re going to see a big player settle, and chilling effects for upstarts. Studios say Google benefits from piracy: reportpdf

The media companies, which the paper said include News Corp., Viacom Inc., Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE – news)., General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal, Time Warner Inc. and Walt Disney Co., allege that Google deliberately directed traffic to Web sites that were engaged in fostering piracy, the paper said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Google told the studios on Friday it would implement new procedures to prevent recurrences, the Journal said.

[…] The paper said the claims against Google were based on sworn statements made late last year as part of a civil lawsuit brought by Hollywood studios against two men accused of operating Web sites that allegedly helped users illegally access copyrighted material.

Slashdot discussion

Opening Up Another Network?

Get ready for a real battle — should be an interesting Wednesday at the FTC: A Call To Let Your Phone Loosepdf

Until federal regulators issued a landmark ruling in 1968, Americans could not own the telephones in their homes, nor attach answering machines or other devices to them. Now, a growing number of academics and consumer activists say it’s time to deliver a similar groundbreaking jolt to the cellphone industry, possibly triggering a new round of customer options and technical innovations to rival the one that produced faxes, modems and the Internet.

Wireless carriers, which limit what customers may do with their phones, say the move is unnecessary and potentially harmful. But in articles, blogs and speeches, a number of researchers are asking why the companies are allowed to force consumers to buy new handsets when they change carriers, pay a specified carrier to transfer photos from a camera phone, or download ring tones or music from one provider only.

This is about the 2007 Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy Workshop, being held Feb 13-14 in DC; the agenda; note that this is largely focused upon the notion of network neutrality. The WaPo article speaks specifically of one panelist:

Activists who share his view are seizing on an article circulated by Columbia University law professor Tim Wu, an authority on telecommunications issues. Wu, who plans to present the paper Wednesday at a Federal Trade Commission hearing on Internet access, writes that wireless carriers are “aggressively controlling product design and innovation in the equipment and application markets, to the detriment of consumers. Their policies, in the wired world, would be considered outrageous [and] in some cases illegal.”

The paper is Wireless Network Neutrality; its abstract is:

Over the next decade, regulators will spend increasing time on the conflicts between the private interests of the wireless industry and the public’s interest in the best uses of its spectrum. This report examines the practices of the wireless industry with an eye toward understanding their influence on innovation and consumer welfare.

This report finds a mixed picture. The wireless industry, over the last decade, has succeeded in bringing wireless telephony at competitive prices to the American public. Yet at the same time we also find the wireless carriers aggressively controlling product design and innovation in the equipment and application markets, to the detriment of consumers. Their policies, in the wired world, would be considered outrageous, in some cases illegal, and in some cases simply misguided.

The Perils and Promise of Unsecured WiFi

And what solutions are the author of this article trying to promote? WiFi Turns Internet Into Hideout for Criminalspdf

Detectives arrived last summer at a high-rise apartment building in Arlington County, warrant in hand, to nab a suspected pedophile who had traded child pornography online. It was to be a routine, mostly effortless arrest.

But when they pounded on the door, detectives found an elderly woman who, they quickly concluded, had nothing to do with the crime. The real problem was her computer’s wireless router, a device sending a signal through her 10-story building and allowing savvy neighbors a free path to the Internet from the privacy of their homes.

[…] “We’re not sure yet how to combat that,” said Kevin R. West, a federal agent who oversees the computer crimes unit in North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation. “Free wireless spots are everywhere, and it makes it easy for people . . . to sit there and do their nefarious acts. The fear is that if we talk about it, people will learn about it and say, ‘I can go to a parking lot, and no one will catch me.’ But we need to talk about it so that we can figure out how to solve it.”

If you think I’m overstating the problem, look at this terrible metaphor from the article:

Open wireless signals are akin to leaving your front door wide open all day — and returning home to find that someone has stolen your belongings and left a mess that needs cleaning.

The Things Recyclers Have To Worry About

Old PCs put recyclers in expansion modepdf

Lewis will take in just about any type of castoff electronics — he has been known to pull over and pick up TVs left beside the road — but he draws the line at household waste such as batteries. To ease concerns about identity theft, SoCal Computer Recyclers will erase the data from the hard drives of all PCs before they are disassembled or resold.

Why Is This So Hard For Record Companies To Grasp?

The Who sees live music as the future of rockpdf

Call them old fashioned, but the founding members of The Who don’t think the Internet is the future of rock, are unhappy about radio’s narrow musical focus, and convinced live music is what it is all about.

[…] “The Internet promises a lot of things – some it delivers, some it doesn’t,” Townshend, 61, told a news conference, adding one thing it does offer is the ability to sell tickets.

“It is probably the most powerful informational, promotional tool today. It’s a very effective, focused machine for promotion. I look forward to using it for live events, there’s a big scope for live music and live events.”

A Look at Learning About ©

Microsoft Spurns Appeal to Intervene in Russian Piracy Case

Microsoft rebuffed a public appeal by Mikhail Gorbachev on Monday for its chairman, Bill Gates, to intervene on behalf of a Russian school principal charged with software piracy.

The case of the teacher, Aleksandr Ponosov, has drawn wide public attention in Russia, in part because the principal says he innocently purchased computers with the unauthorized Windows software already installed.

Praising Russia’s enforcement of intellectual property rights, Microsoft sought to distance itself from the prosecution in a statement issued by its public relations agency in London.

Much later (2007 Mar 27): Russian faces trial for Microsoft piracypdf; Retrial for Microsoft piracy case

Jobs Makes A Plea

Apple’s Jobs calls on music industry to drop DRMpdf

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs on Tuesday called on the four major record companies to start selling songs online without copy protection software known as digital rights management (DRM).

Jobs said there appeared to be no benefit to the record companies to continue to sell more than 90 percent of their music without DRM on compact discs while selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system.

“If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies,” he said in a statement posted to his company’s Web site (pdf).

From Jobs’ manifesto:

So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.

Later, reactions:

  • The LA Times: Apple seeks to unchain melodiespdf

    “For the labels, it feels like jumping off a cliff,” said Hilary Rosen, former head of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, the U.S. recording industry’s trade group. “But at this point they have little choice because this is where the market is going.”

    […] “The lack of operability between a lot of different devices and digital platforms is becoming more and more of an issue for music consumers,” EMI spokeswoman Jeanne Meyer said. “We’ve been out there engaging with various partners to come up with a solution. The consumer response has been enthusiastic.”

    […] “In the real world, when you buy a CD, it’s yours — you do what you want,” said Matt Graves, a spokesman for RealNetworks Inc., the Seattle company behind the Rhapsody online music store. “These restrictions hurt people who are trying to do the right thing.”

    […] “The picture he paints in his letter is a vision that is commonly shared in the music industry,” said Jason Reindorp, a Microsoft marketing director, referring to Jobs. “It’s a balance issue. It’s balancing what the consumer wants compared to what the labels and artists need.”

  • The NYTimes: Jobs Calls for End to Music Copy Protection

    The Universal Music Group, the Warner Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment declined to comment. But several industry executives said they viewed Mr. Jobs’s comments as an effort to deflect blame from Apple and onto the record companies for the incompatibility of various digital music devices and services.

    […] Officially, the industry chose to respond Tuesday by seizing on one idea that Mr. Jobs raised — licensing Apple’s own copy-protection system — even though he went on to reject it. “Apple’s offer to license FairPlay to other technology companies is a welcome breakthrough and would be a real victory for fans, artists and labels,” the Recording Industry Association of America said.

    […] Jason Reindorp, marketing director for Zune at Microsoft, said Mr. Jobs’s call for unrestricted music sales was “irresponsible, or at the very least naïve,” adding, “It’s like he’s on top of the mountain making pronouncements, while we’re here on the ground working with the industry to make it happen.”

Do I detect a trace of hysteria on the part of Reindorp? How well *is* Zune doing? And what will this kind of speculation do to its sales?

Later: A Slashdot trail: The Economist, DVD Jon On Apple’s DRM Stand; also Europe Cool to Apple’s Suggestions on Music

Later: Yahoo Music Chief Comes Out Against DRM

Culture, Adoption and Adaptation

Internet Boom in China Is Built on Virtual Fun

“I think every Internet user likes personalization,” [Tencent’s Pony] Ma said during an interview here. “In 2005 and 2006, we came up with a new strategy: ‘Online Lifestyle.’ ”

[…] Because few people in China have credit cards or trust the Internet for financial transactions, e-commerce is emerging slowly. But instant messaging and game-playing are major obsessions, now central to Chinese culture. So is social networking, a natural fit in a country full of young people without siblings. Tencent combines aspects of the social networking site MySpace, the video sharing site YouTube and the online virtual world of Second Life.

“They have what I call the largest virtual park in China,” said Richard Ji, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. “And in China, the No. 1 priority for Internet users is entertainment; in the U.S., it’s information. That’s why Google is dominant in the U.S., but Tencent rules China.”

A Trademark Settlement

Now just to get iPhone resolved: Apple and Beatles settle trademark squabblepdf

In a statement, the companies said Apple Inc. would now own all the trademarks related to “Apple” and would license certain trademarks back to Apple Corps for continued use.

The trademark lawsuit between the companies will also end with each party bearing its own legal costs.

[…] The Beatles are high-profile holdouts from Internet music services such as iTunes, but it emerged during the trial that Apple Corps was preparing the band’s catalog to be sold online for the first time.