Life in the Digital World

From the Washington Post: The Inescapable Digital Me [pdf]

In the future no one will ever die. This is what a friend once told me. He said that as a person aged — maybe when he got very old — the contents of his brain would be downloaded onto a computer disk and his decrepit body would be discarded (or maybe recycled — who knows?). Then everything on the disk, which is to say our mind, our brain, our personality with all its quirks and disorders, would be transferred to a new, synthetic body, which would — if servicing was done on schedule — last approximately forever. I am here to say part of this has already happened to me.

[…] This is more or less getting to be a routine occurrence. I am forever coming across columns I’ve totally forgotten writing and I now, routinely, have to check to see if I have already staked out a position on some matter of importance — and what, exactly, it may be. For this, there is The Post’s own database, not to mention LexisNexis and Google and various competitors. These are where my life is catalogued. This is where I can retrieve my memory. I am digitized, therefore I am.

Obviously, this is a good thing. Less obviously, maybe, this is a bad thing. A man is entitled to his own view of himself. He is entitled to be who he says he is. He is the sum product of a gazillion memories, some of them shaved a bit, some of them totally renovated, some of them discarded and forgotten and replaced by dint of imagination and the urgent need to deny. Anyone who has led a full life needs denial. It is the Novocaine of life.

But now I am denied denial. […]

[…] I am imprisoned by the truth, a record of what I wrote and the public’s silly insistence on consistency — a life sentence without hope of parole. For me, the future is the present. It’s not that I cannot die. It’s rather that I cannot lie.

Some Missed Movie Articles

Usage and Meaning: Record

A look at the evolution of meaning, and the perception of performance preservation technologies: For the Record

When an album sells a half-million copies, the Recording Industry Association of America calls it a Gold Record. But these days, the framed award that hangs on the producer’s wall is a gold-tinted CD, not the gold-painted LP of years past.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences doesn’t care about the size of the disc when awarding the Grammy for Record of the Year. ”No matter how it’s packaged or distributed, from our standpoint, it’s all a recorded piece,” says Ron Roecker, the academy’s vice president for communications.

Ken Schlager, co-executive editor at Billboard, said the magazine’s definition of “record” encompasses both singles and albums. “Our specific style rules dictate that ‘record’ is an overarching term for any recording.”

Leave it to lawyers to create an expansive contractual meaning of “record” that includes formats that don’t even exist yet. Donald Passman, a music attorney and the author of “All You Need to Know About the Music Business,” says that the language varies slightly by company but that his definition is “every form of reproduction, transmission or communication (whether now known or unknown), embodying sound alone, or sound accompanied by visual images, manufactured, distributed, transmitted or communicated, directly or indirectly, for home use, business use, school use, personal use, jukebox use or use in means of transportation.”

While ”record” has remained popular within the industry, even as its form has morphed from 78 to 45 to LP to cassette to CD, much of the general public thinks records went out with record players (turntables).

A July 4th Profile of Filesharing

(Sorry — I’m sure this is old news, but I’m catching up)

The Imps of File Sharing May Lose in Court, but They Are Winning in the Marketplace

Despite the music industry’s legal victories against file sharing, Ms. Hilary Rosen wrote, the strategy has not earned the industry any more control over a marketplace forever changed by digital technology – “no matter how many times it was hoped it would.”

Among Internet technorati, her words brought groans of incredulity. “Why didn’t she ever say any of this when she was actually in a position to make a difference?” wrote Michael Masnick, president and chief scribe at Techdirt.com, the blog connected to his technology consulting and corporate intelligence firm. “Instead, she walked the industry down deeper into a hole that is becoming increasingly difficult for them to climb out of.”

Even the most ardent supporters of Big Entertainment concede that, in the long run, copyright holders are no match for the ability of file-sharing technology to adapt, mutate, evolve and expand. In fairness to Ms. Rosen, it is a stark reality she noted early on.

“As a practical matter going forward,” she told Salon.com in early 2000, “lawsuits get a lot of headlines and they raise a lot of passion – I understand that. But ultimately the future of music on the Internet is not going to be about legalities and litigation, it’s going to be about how are we bringing music to fans.”

Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s about how fans are demanding that music be brought to them.

[…] The problem, [Big Champagne’s] Mr. [Eric] Garland said, is that even law-abiding citizens now expect to be able to exchange content freely on the Internet. “It really may one day have to become a utility,” he said, “like water from a tap.” [ed: see The Future of Music]

So where does that leave the entertainment industry’s victory in the Supreme Court last week? “While I think it has legal value,” Ms. Rosen said, “it will be meaningless.”

Imitation: Flattery or “Theft?”

A surprising little story that, despite its content, never employs the rhetoric of theft to describe what, in other contexts, would have been decried as a threat to creative work — a cultural difference, or something else?: With Covers, Publishers Take More Than Page From Rivals

Sometimes the photographs on book covers are not just similar, but exact duplicates. Rather than pay photographers’ day rates, most book designers turn to stock-photography agencies. Top agencies charge $1,200 to $1,500 a photograph, and twice that for exclusive rights, a premium publishers are loath to pay.

That’s where the trouble starts.

[…] Mary Schuck, senior art director at Harper Perennial, which published the first title, learned of the latter only recently, when directed to it on the Internet. “Oh, wow,” Ms. Schuck said. “They used the same photo. It’s just a huge mistake for this publisher to have done this.”

At that other publisher, Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley, the look-alike cover also came as news.

“It’s in all our best interests to make sure that image isn’t already being used in the same medium,” Jean Morley, Wiley’s vice president of creative services, said in an e-mail message. “When our designers use stock art, they routinely ask if the image is being used for other purposes, and most stock houses will volunteer that information.”

[…] In any case, neither publisher has any recourse against the agency, as neither paid for exclusivity.

ClickStar and Movie Distribution

Intel, studio form movie download venture

The new company, called ClickStar, is taking on an unfamiliar and potentially controversial role in Hollywood circles that have viewed online distribution as a potentially destabilizing force on DVD sales. Most online movie ventures, such as Movielink and CinemaNow, are allowed to distribute films only after they have been in home video circulation for up to several months.

However, Intel and Revelations said that consumers have shown they want to download films earlier and that traditional DVD releases aren’t meeting that demand.

“Our view is that making content available on the Internet is not an option–it is an imperative for the industry, given piracy and consumer demands for flexibility,” said ClickStar’s new chief executive officer, Nizar Allibhoy, a former Sony Pictures executive. “Our motto is, ‘Anytime, anyplace, on any device.'”

Also, Actor, Working With Intel, Bets on Movies via Internet and the earlier Forget the Bootleg, Just Download the Movie Legally

BGlobe on Business Method Patents

‘Business methods’ patents raise the stakes [pdf]

One reason intellectual property specialists are so leery of business-method patents: It is almost impossibly difficult to document the so-called prior art, or what already existed when an inventor came up with a purportedly new idea. Finding evidence that a thing never existed — such as a chemical compound — is, as a rule, considerably easier than proving no one ever had a method of doing something.

US Representative Howard Berman, a California Democrat who has for years tried to change the patent process, refuses to take a yes-or-no position on business-method patents. But Berman has said ”we must pay attention to those who raise concerns about whether business method patents are being issued for obvious inventions, or for inventions determined to be novel, based on inadequate information about prior inventions.”

Related: Software industry seeking changes in US patent law [pdf]

Robert Holleyman, president of the Business Software Alliance, said the group will ask Congress to overturn an appeals court ruling that allows damage awards to be based on a product’s global sales rather than those in the United States. The ruling upheld the calculation of a $521 million jury verdict against Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker.

Representatives Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, and Howard Berman, a California Democrat, on June 8 introduced a bill that seeks to curb patent lawsuits and change the way US patents are issued and reviewed. A proposal to limit damages to US sales, discussed earlier in hearings before both the House and Senate, wasn’t included in the bill.

Grokster Fallout: More University Co-opting

Whatever it takes to more hardware — don’t miss some of the new rhetoric: Napster, Dell in college alliance [pdf]

The offering combines Napster’s digital music service with Dell’s PowerEdge 1855 servers that will boost network bandwidth at schools. Colleges will be able to use the servers to store music from Napster’s library locally, allowing network processing speed to remain fast while hundreds of students simultaneously download music.

The University of Washington is the first school to sign up for the package, set to launch this fall, the companies said.

This partnership will augment Napster’s previous university initiative, which provided the service at 13 universities

Trying To Explain What’s Going On

Big Media’s Power Plays

Whether in victory or in defeat, opponents of big media often come to the same conclusion: the inexorable march of technological innovation will severely erode the power of giant media companies. “In the end,” Wired News (wired.com) said in an editorial, “the business model in the entertainment industry is going to change, and these companies can either find a way to insert themselves into the new order, or risk finding themselves frozen out forever.”

But media companies seem less interested in inserting themselves into someone else’s new order than they are in creating and controlling their own. Most media executives by now realize that their methods will have to change. Their maneuvers – suing file-sharing networks or inserting “broadcast flags,” which restrict copying and otherwise limit what media consumers can do with video content – aren’t about trying to protect hoary business models; they’re about keeping the wolves at bay.