A Chilling Statistic

Attack of the Zombie Computers Is a Growing Threat, Experts Say

Although there is a wide range of estimates of the overall infection rate, the scale and the power of the botnet programs have clearly become immense. David Dagon, a Georgia Institute of Technology researcher who is a co-founder of Damballa, a start-up company focusing on controlling botnets, said the consensus among scientists is that botnet programs are present on about 11 percent of the more than 650 million computers attached to the Internet.

[…] “It’s a huge scientific, policy, and ultimately social crisis, and no one is taking any responsibility for addressing it,” said K. C. Claffy , a veteran Internet researcher at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

The $6 billion computer security industry offers a growing array of products and services that are targeted at network operators, corporations and individual computer users. Yet the industry has a poor track record so far in combating the plague, according to computer security researchers.

“This is a little bit like airlines advertising how infrequently they crash into mountains,” said Mr. Dagon, the Georgia Tech researcher.

China Lurching Along

China Media Battle Hints at Shift on Intellectual Propertypdf

One of China’s largest newspapers has filed a lawsuit against one of the country’s leading Internet portals claiming that it violated copyright laws, setting off a media war and highlighting the first signs of a possible shift in policies toward intellectual property rights here.

[…] The lawsuit, however, is headed to court at a time of accelerating legal change and signs of increased efforts by law enforcement to protect copyrights and intellectual property. It is also a critical time for China’s newspaper industry, which grew explosively in the last decade or so but now faces an even faster-growing rival: Internet-based news media.

Now, as in the United States and many other countries, with computer use and broadband access booming here, newspapers are losing readers to large, corporate-owned Web sites. What had set China apart from much of the rest of the world until recently was that these Web sites faced no legal obstacles in copying material from newspapers, often wholesale.

NYT On Berman’s Ascendancy

As I noted earlier: Copyrights and Congress

ADVOCATES for looser restrictions on copyrights had high hopes for the new Democratic Congress. Those hopes faded somewhat last month when Representative Howard L. Berman was named chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the Internet and intellectual property.

Putting Mr. Berman in charge of the panel, diminishes the chances for “real reform” of copyright policy, Lawrence Lessig, perhaps the best-known authority on the legal issues surrounding intellectual property and the Internet, wrote last week on his blog (lessig.org).

Rewriting the Rules

U.K. pop charts set for radical overhaulpdf

The British pop chart will undergo one of the biggest shake-ups since its inception 54 years ago on Sunday when any song downloaded from the Internet will be able to compete for the number one single spot.

Up to now, only songs which were physically available for purchase in shops counted toward the weekly chart.

[…] [The Official UK Charts Company (OCC)] said the “dramatic development” would be more reflective of what music Britons were buying, and could mean that old tunes, tracks by unknown artists or unreleased songs on albums hitting the top of the charts.

Tim Wu on the AT&T Merger

A look at how we got here and why we should be vigilant: Ma Bell is back. Should you be afraid?

That is why Congress should pass a network neutrality law, and make what has worked for the last 20 years endure for the next 20. But congressional action is only part of the solution, and the other part is you. Because even if passed, there is only one way net neutrality can work, and that’s if it becomes the third rail of telecom politics. The advantage of the neutrality concept is that while the subject is complex, people know they’re angry when the phone or cable company decides how they should be using the Internet. That kind of interference gets libertarians as mad as Naderites. If there’s one thing the Internet has shown, it’s that Americans like a huge variety of strange and obscure stuff, and they get mad when they can’t get it. Oddly enough, that’s the public spirit that, as much as any law, can keep AT&T a friendlier giant.

See earlier FCC OKs AT&T Merger w/ BellSouth

Variety on 2006 Music Sales

Digital sales boost music industrypdf

The music biz can’t stem the bleeding, but for now, digital tracks are proving to be a secure Band-aid.

Album sales dropped for a seventh consecutive year, but a dramatic increase in the sale of digital tracks helped keep the music industry afloat in 2006.

Some 588.2 million album units sold last year, down 4.9%, while consumers purchased 581.9 million digital tracks — a 65% increase from 2005’s 352.7 million sold. Nielsen SoundScan, which released the figures Thursday, counts a block of 10 tracks sold as an album.

[…] Good news: Sales were spread around many different artists. Bad news: The bar for a “hit” is reduced and in many cases the return on investment for a label is smaller.

Business and Aesthetics of Modern Digital Cinema

Lots of vignettes as the industry recognizes that, for the moment anyway, it’s not a growing pie (see the Mission Impossible: III analysis). And questions about how the medium influences content (again, an old story): Big Picturespdf

In a theatre, you submit to a screen; you want to be mastered by it, not struggle to get cozy with it. Of course, no one will ever be forced to look at movies on a pipsqueak display—at home, most grownups will look at downloaded films on a computer screen, or they’ll transfer them to a big flat-screen TV. Yet the video iPod and other handheld devices are being sold as movie-exhibition spaces, and they certainly will function that way for kids. According to home-entertainment specialists I spoke to in Hollywood, many kids are “platform agnostic”—that is, they will look at movies on any screen at all, large or small. Most kids don’t have bellies, and they can pretzel their limbs into almost any shape they want, so they can get comfortable with a handheld device; they can also take it onto a school bus, down the street, into bed, cuddling it under the covers after lights-out.

The movies currently offered by Apple and other downloading services are the first trickles of a flood. Soon, new movies will come pouring through the Internet and perhaps through cable franchises as well, and people will look at them on screens of all sizes. For those of us who are not agnostics but fervent believers in the theatrical experience, this latest development in movie distribution is of more than casual interest.

[…] What should the studios do? They could cut production costs, or they could reduce the cost of getting movies to the public. Loaded into cans, movies weigh between fifty and eighty pounds; they have to be flown to regional depositories, and then trucked to theatres. If a movie flops, the theatres have to wait for a new one to replace it. But once the theatres convert to digital projection—a change now in its beginning stages—the studios could bounce movies to theatres off satellites or send them on portable hard drives. I spoke to Barry Meyer, the chairman and C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Entertainment, in a wood-panelled conference room adjacent to his office, in Warner’s venerable Burbank headquarters. “Digital distribution is easy, ubiquitous, and inexpensive,” Meyer said. He took a deep breath. “We have to adapt, or we’ll become dinosaurs.”

Listen to the Market? What’ll They Think Of Next?

Well, this is just speculation from Billboard, but you never know what’ll hgappen: Ailing music biz set to relax digital restrictionspdf

The anti-digital rights management (DRM) bandwagon is getting more crowded by the day. Even some major-label executives are pushing for the right to sell digital downloads as unprotected MP3s.

In 2007, the majors will get the message, and the DRM wall will begin to crumble. Why? Because they’ll no longer be able to point to a growing digital marketplace as justification that DRM works. Revenue from digital downloads and mobile content is expected to be flat or, in some cases, decline next year. If the digital market does in fact stall, alternatives to DRM will look much more attractive.