May 16, 2005

Is the NYTimes Really That Crazy? (updated) [6:48 pm]

Ernest Miller points out that the New York Times’ seems to have taken leave of its senses: NYT: We Don’t Want People to Read Our Op-Ed Columnists

What are they thinking? Is Maureen Dowd, Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman and the rest worth $49.95/year? The easy is answer is: nope. I don’t even think they’ll be missed all that much. I’d say more, but others have made the most important points.

Time to start archiving my NYTimes links — what a pain. BBC and the Washington Post from here on out, I guess.

Later: Straight from the horse’s mouth, as the NYTimes starts on its path to EPIC 2014 (a Poynter Institute thought piece in Flash form by journalists Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson - original posting) - NYTimes.com to Offer Subscription Service [pdf] (press release).

The Boston Globe, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Times, has coverage with a telling closing paragraph (particularly surprising in that I only finally tracked the source of the EPIC 2014 piece to the Poynter Institute last night): NYTimes.com to charge for some content [pdf]

While he applauded the TimesSelect move overall, [the Poynter Institute's Steve] Outing said he thinks it’s a mistake to put the columnists behind a firewall. “These days there are thousands of bloggers and news aggregators talking about the issues these columnists write about,” he said. “If you put them behind a firewall, they might disappear from those discussions”

See also Farhad Manjoo at Salon: Pundits for money (and news for free)

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Neil Netanel on (c) and Market Power [6:41 pm]

Copyright and ‘Market Power’ in the Marketplace of Ideas [via Legal Theory Blog]

Abstract:

Antitrust and intellectual property law increasing fall within the common rubric of innovation policy. Yet in fundamental respects, patent law fits more comfortably under that umbrella than copyright. A primary reason is that copyright does not merely spur innovation. It also regulates speech.

In building upon that observation, this Chapter addresses a number of points at the intersection of antitrust, media concentration, copyright, and free speech. First, it surveys the conflict between copyright and free speech, as recognized in both United States and European jurisprudence. Second, it focuses on media industry incumbents’ repeated use of copyright to bar entry to new speakers and speech distributors, and the very limited efficacy of current U.S. antitrust doctrine in constraining that practice. Third, it considers a number of ways in which the marketplace of ideas differs from markets for goods and services, including (1) the contrast between expressive diversity and media product differentiation, (2) the tendency of demand for expression to follow a winner-take-all power law curve, and (3) the context-dependent nature of “market power”. Fourth, the Chapter asks whether copyright ever confers market power, relying on an average cost, “normal profits” metric rather than the commonly used marginal cost baseline.

The Chapter concludes by demonstrating that what begins as economic analysis of copyright’s optimal scope must, by its very terms, ultimately turn on broad social policies regarding the desired shape and contours of our “system of freedom of expression.” Accordingly, to determine copyright’s scope and limitations, we must look to free speech law and policy, not just the law and policy that underlie antitrust.

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The 2004 Annual Report of the Register of (c) is Out [3:19 pm]

I know, I know — kind of like saying “The new phone books are here!” but there are some interesting reads and nice statistics here to review: U.S. Copyright Office - Annual Report of the Register of Copyrights 2004

From Section 2: Copyright in the Public Eye

Until the late 1990s copyright was more or less invisible to the general public. Now, technology allows consumers to be not only authors and copyright owners, but also unauthorized copiers and distributors on a scale and with an ease that has never before existed. For the first time ordinary consumers come face-to-face with copyright as something that regulates them directly. In this situation, the copyright is more likely to see the user as an infringer than as a customer. Copyright has entered the court of public opinion.

The issue now is whether the public understands and agrees with the purposes of copyright, whether they feel that copyright is in their interest as well as copyright owners’ interests. A few decades ago organizations representing copyright owners and large institutional users agreed on copyright’s core principles. The public was not involved in or aware of the making of copyright policy. Today, the substance of the debate is different. Many copyright skeptics are arguing that copyright laws do not work in today’s environment.

The Founders knew what they were doing when they made explicit that Congress was to secure to authors an “exclusive Right.” They understood that individual rights, especially property-like rights, were the key to establishing a stable and productive society. They also trusted copyright owners to use those rights for the public good by offering creative works to the public. It is important for copyright owners to fulfill their end of the bargain with the public — to use the exclusive rights they have been granted to provide the public with convenient access to copyrighted works.

[...] The pages of this annual report indicate some of the ways in which the U.S. Copyright Office is helping to retain the good standing of copyright principles and law in the eyes of the public.

Don’t miss the statistics and the map of IP treaties at the end.

Later: Ed Felten details the spookiness of this section - Register of Copyrights Misunderstands Copyright

Later: Another voice - On the Register’s Annual Report

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BBC Continues To Relax About The WWW [10:23 am]

BBC eases rules on news use

Revised licence terms mean other sites can integrate RSS feeds from the BBC without offline contract negotiations, as was previously the case.

[...] But this relaxing of the licence means a much more open approach, according to the BBC News website editor, Pete Clifton.

“We’ve raised the profile of how we are promoting them and are much more relaxed about other sites making use of feeds, which is an important step,” he said.

“We want to share as much of our information as we can and reduce the restrictions we put on sites that can access them. We are making it much clearer and more simple for people to understand how they do this.”

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Macrovision P2P Interdiction Patents Applied For [10:09 am]

Slashdot: Macrovision Applies for P2P Interdiction Patents

  • Interdiction of unauthorized copying in a decentralized network

    Abstract

    An interdiction system includes software agents masquerading as nodes in a decentralized network, a query matcher that receives search results captured by the software agents and reports matches with protected files back to the software agents, and a central coordinating authority that coordinates activities of the software agents by sending instructions to the software agents specifying actions to be taken. Possible activities and related interdicting methods include manipulating search results before forwarding them on in the network, quarantining selected nodes in the network, performing file impersonations such as transferring synthesized decoys, performing file transfer attenuation, and hash spoofing.

  • System and methods for communicating over the internet with geographically distributed devices of a decentralized network using transparent asymetric return paths

    Abstract

    A system and methods for communicating over the Internet with devices of a decentralized network using transparent asymmetric return paths are described. Remote capture centers are geographically distributed so as to communicate with devices of a decentralized network that reside in diverse geographical locations. A centralized data center communicates with the remote capture centers so as to generate processed information in the form of reply packets from information received at the remote capture centers from the devices, and transmit the processed information back to the devices in a manner so that the processed information appears to have been transmitted from the remote capture centers.

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“iPod Tax” Discussions [9:07 am]

Pressure mounts for “iPod tax” to pay for pirate tunes [pdf] [via Digital Music News]

Pressure is mounting on Britain to introduce an “iPod tax”, which would be levied on every digital music player sold throughout the country, after a similar charge has been approved in Holland.

Dutch consumers are soon to be charged a copyright levy every time they purchase an MP3 player, adding as much as &uero;180 to the price of a top-end Apple iPod.

Senior figures in the music business are now calling for a similar system to be introduced in the UK.

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Catching up: LATimes on P2P Prosecutions [8:23 am]

Crackdown on Piracy Hits Barrier [pdf]

Like a stern father figure, Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales warned Los Angeles high school students last month about the perils of illegally downloading music or movies.

“There are consequences,” he said. “It is unlawful.”

Backing up the threat is another matter. While federal prosecutors have made fighting piracy a top priority, to date they have been reluctant to go after the group the entertainment industry most wants targeted: people who illegally download from hugely popular online file-sharing networks.

[...] The new Family Entertainment and Copyright Act makes it illegal to offer online even one movie, song or software program before its official release, making it easier to prosecute some cases. Though the law does not make downloading of copyrighted files a crime, many people who do such downloading also offer pirated material on their hard drives for others to copy. Still, Gonzales said, the new law was not aimed at people who make available a single bootlegged movie or song.

Prosecutors have neither the resources nor the stomach to go after that kind of lawbreaker, current and former Justice Department officials said. As with most federal crimes, the department prefers targeting bigger fish. Still, officials won’t rule out going after anyone who pirates copyrighted works should the right case come along.

[...] “I think there’s this delicate dance. They’re trying to crack down on piracy without ending up the unpaid enforcement arm of the RIAA or the MPAA,” said attorney Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group for civil liberties in cyberspace.

Hilary Rosen, former chief executive of the RIAA, said difficulty gathering evidence was one reason prosecutors were reluctant to go after individual downloaders. Although it is easy to see who is offering copyrighted works for downloading on a file-sharing network, legal experts say it is virtually impossible to observe someone downloading a copyrighted file from another person’s computer.

Even if you could overcome the difficulties, [George Washington University law professor Orin] Kerr said, prosecutors worry that they could not win over a jury.

“The gap here is [that] it’s socially acceptable to download files, but it can also be a crime,” Kerr said.

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A Reason for Common Carriers [7:37 am]

Phone Companies Shut Out of Local Cable for Some Ads

For years, Comcast, Cox and other major cable providers have routinely denied requests from direct competitors to advertise on their local cable channels. Cable providers do not want to give companies that go head-to-head with them any extra opportunity to compete for their customers.

The Bells and other rivals of the cable industry can still advertise on national broadcast and cable networks and local broadcast affiliates, which reach far larger audiences nationwide or in metropolitan areas. But for the ads to be successful, they must be broader to appeal to wider groups of people.

Local cable advertising, by contrast, can be tailored to reach very specific audiences with very specific information, like prices, features and special deals.

Cable companies say they accept ads from rivals, but typically only if they include reference to “bundles” of telecommunications products, do not include “negative visual or verbal reference to cable video or data products,” and do not include any mention of prices.

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