Monday, April 30, 2007

AACS censors Pwned blog

I just censored Teque5's post about the AACS processing key. I received a legal threat from the AACS licensing authority, promising a lawsuit if I didn't removing the processing key and the link to the Doom9 forum.

On advice from lawyers, I've censored this material off the post. However, Google maintains a list of over 100 sites that link to the Doom9 post, including one from Boing Boing.

DVD Ripping Ruled Legal?

In the closely watched Kaleidescape case, the court ruled that it is legal to rip DVDs to a central server.

The judge declared that "nothing in the [DVD CCA licensing] agreement prevents you from making copies of DVDs. Nothing requires that a DVD be present during playback."

But the CEPro article warns:
Because of this ruling, the Judge did not have to get into copyright issues, so the Kaleidescape ruling has no copyright implications. It is not a statement on the legality of ripping DVDs.

However, I'm a little confused. If the ruling doesn't mean that ripping DVDs is legal, then what does it mean? Note that in contrast to the CEPro article, the /. article claims that the ruling does legalize DVD ripping.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

PWNED Blog Post Included in DMCA Takedown Request

See for yourself.

After following a Reddit link, I quickly saw that Teque5's post "Holy Grail Located: HD-DVD and BLU-RAY Processing Key Found" is included in a list of four different sites/posts that the AACS Licensing Administrator is targeting for the "Illegal Offering of Processing Key to Circumvent AACS Copyright Protection." Google is the recipient of the takedown request dated April 17, 2007 and all the other offending posts are part of the domain. At the time of this writing, the other three posts have been removed.

Google's letter to one of the bloggers says that Google will forcibly remove the offending posts by April 29th, but also inidicates that a counter-notification process is available.

The grinding irony here is that the DMCA takedown notice itself includes most of the processing key in the second URL.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Film Lobbyist Jack Valenti Dies

Jack Valenti, known within the PWNED circle for describing the VCR as the Boston strangler of the American film producer, died on Thursday of complications arising from an earlier stroke. The powerful lobbyist has inspired a cornucopia of obituaries--some sweet with praise and others sizzling with the flavor of long latent controversy.

Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America from 1966 to 2004, is also remembered for having fathered the modern movie ratings system, acting as an advisor to Lyndon Johnson, and for being an irrepressably grandiloquent speaker.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New music distribution vendor gets partially shut down by RIAA

AnywhereCD is a new music distribution vendor that just started up in April. Here's how it works. You purchase a CD for $12. The CD is sent to you, and you are allowed to download a DRM free MP3 version of the CD you just bought. There is also a second option, and this is what got them in trouble. The second option is that you can decide to purchase just the MP3's for $3 less than adding on the CD. The RIAA filed a lawsuit against the company, and they caved in, dropping that option.

This is just another example of how the RIAA is shooting itself in the foot. Instead of shutting down this ingenious new music distribution ventures, they should embrace them, and work with the companies to maximize profit. The RIAA is still living in the 2oth century, and unless they warp into the 21st soon, they are going to be left behind.
This is an interesting survey taken by p2pnet regarding what the public thinks about online music sharing. The poll surveyed over 1000 visitors to the website. The results are not unexpected. 94% of those surveyed replied that the RIAA's efforts to dissuade users from downloading music through lawsuits does not have a deterrent effect. Furthermore, more than 90% believe that music sharing does not negatively affect the recording industry. To bolster this view, an expert hired by the RIAA to analyze the effect on the industry reported that "Downloads have an effect on sales that is statistically indistinguishable from zero. Our estimates are inconsistent with claims that file sharing is the primary reason for the decline in music sales during our study period."

Although the results from this poll may be skewed because of the participant's anti-music industry views, it still has some merit. It demonstrates a majority of the public's view that music sharing is here to stay barring some different deterrent from the RIAA. However, with experts saying that music sharing does not affect the RIAA's bottom line, it will be hard to persuade this skeptical public to stop sharing.

Yahoo! China found liable for linking to sites with "pirated" songs

The International Federation of Phonographic Industries sued Yahoo China because their search results linked a page with 229 pirated (whatever that means) songs and won. Today, the No. 2 Intermediate People's Court (China's, not Judge Wapner's) awarded $27,000 to the IFPI, which was much less than the $700,000 they asked for, but they were nonetheless found liable for linking to a third party site!

Yahoo plans to appeal, and the IFPI might, too! "We are considering our options with the damages, whether we will appeal or not," the federation's regional director said.

So let me get this straight... They might appeal to be awarded MORE damages?

Article on Newsvine

See the Sun in 3D!

I just thought this was super cool. NASA just released the first 3D pictures of the sun on!! It's all thanks to NASA's twin spacecraft named Stereo.

Evil Tech: Who's to Blame?

The Dana Centre in London is hosting a public debate about the future of robotics and society; and a recent article on
highlighted one of the major issues to be discussed: increasing autonomous capabilities of robots and the possible consequences. It's a bit of a stretch, but i think questions of accountability such as ""If an autonomous robot kills someone, whose fault is it?" sort of relate to controversies in the realm of copyright and technologies that can infringe on copyright. Should we blame people who invent technology for instances where that technology was used for evil (read either killing people or copyright infringement). Copyright holders who want to protect their work are put in a pickle when other people use their protected work in subversive ways; and I don't a clear line can really be drawn between where credit turns into blame.

Obviously it's a bit different because with robots, there is no intervening arbiter...yet. So the onus is on the designer. But "as robots become more autonomous that line or responsibility becomes blurred."

This makes me very uncomfortable. Especially put in the context of military operations. Cool fact ( "Samsung has developed a robotic sentry to guard the border between North and South Korea. It is equipped with two cameras and a machine gun."

How apocalyptic is that?

Amazon is ALMOST Ready to Launch Music Store (with DRM-Free Content)

Cory already posted about this on Boing Boing before I was even awake, but oh well...

It looks like Amazon is all set to launch their online music store some time next month. Apparently they are planning to do so without DRM protection, so it is most likely that most of their catalog will come from EMI and independent labels. There is also word of a partnership between Amazon and Universal to sell classical music without DRM. Considering the fact that Universal is the #1 record label, if this little experiment works out, good things could be in store for all labels and all genres.

"Bring it on, iTunes" at Ars Technica
"Amazon set to launch online music store" on Times Online
"Why an Amazon DRM-Free Music Store Would Be a Game-Changer" on Medialoper

RIAA v. Foster -> Judge says RIAA must pay Foster's Legal Fees

In a landmark ruling, Judge West has decided against the RIAA in trying to rope Foster in as a secondary to copyright infringement. He decided today that the RIAA (Capitol) must pay her legal fees. Surely this will be appealed however one can hope that it will be thrown out.

From Ars:
A federal judge has denied the RIAA's motion for reconsideration of his attorneys' fees award in Capitol v. Foster. Calling the RIAA's motion for reconsideration one of "very limited appropriateness," Judge Lee R. West found fault with just about every one of the RIAA's arguments.


Blogger Perez Hilton Sued

Blogger Perez Hilton was sued today in federal court by five photography agencies. They're saying he used their shots on his Web site without their permission.
Hilton was sued for copyright infringement, unfair competition and civil conspiracy by Splash News and Picture Agency, Bauer-Griffin Inc., FlyNet Pictures, Insight News and Features and London Entertainment. The photo agencies say he regularly posts their photographs of celebrities without paying for them, and then profits from the images by selling ads on his site. Does this mean that they're going to start going after every blogger that uses celebrity pictures... or just the famous ones?? In November, he was sued by photo agency X17 for posting shots without permission, and in February was sued by Universal for posting an image of a topless Jennifer Aniston. This is my roommate's favorite website... hopefully he'll still have celebrity pics up or else she'll have a fit! Poor Perez.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What I Did With the Neuros - OSD FTW!!!11!!

In contrast with the other reviews presented in class, my experience with the Neuros OSD device was phenomenal. I used it to do a lot of really fun and interesting things, such as:
  • recording live video through my t.v.
  • recording live gameplay video off of my Xbox 360 and Wii
  • playing music directly off of my flash thumb drive / sd card / external hard drive
  • play videos off of the external hard drive and on my apartment's network
Here's a look at my setup:

The setup and user interface was super easy. I had the entire thing out of the box and ready to go in a matter of minutes. Also, here's some video of me and my buddies playing Rainbow Six: Vegas over XBOX Live. You would not believe how excited I was for the opportunity to record my L337 pwnage skills in real-time.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Buy a Real Life "Digg it" Button Creation Kit - Help the EFF at the Same Time

Ever wanted to digg IRL? Well, now you can. Purchase a digg button kit here and $1 of your $15 purchase will go to the EFF. Sounds like a sweet deal to me!

The Digg button is a very simple beginner electronics that teaches how to solder and program microcontroller. Once made, this basic electronic project mimics the popular website: each time you push the button, the button flashes "Dug" and increments the counter up to 999 "diggs". The project is completely open source, and documented here including parts list, schematics and code. For those who don't want to try to chase down the electronic components, we have a full kit ready to go in the Adafruit webshop.


For every sale of the Digg button kit we're giving $1 to the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). The kit is currently in its first release; new colors and other projects will be available. We even have a plan for making it interface directly to! (Stay tuned...)

Coolness. You get a digg button, some innovative people get rich, and the EFF gets paid. That's right, everyone wins.

Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

via digg.

Wikipedia Time Lapse - VT Massacre

An amazing (yet very sad) showcase of the incredible nature of Wikipedia.

Via digg.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Link to Ferrell's video

I posted on Will Ferrell's internet video on last's the link for those of you who haven't caught it yet:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Google CEO Schmidt: "YouTube Close to Filtering System"

In our earlier discussion about video filtering on social video sites, many were quite skeptical about how a system could analyze every upload against every copyrighted work (at least from major content providers). If Google CEO Eric Schmidt is to believed, they are "very close" to such an implementation:
The new system, which Schmidt called Claim Your Content, will automatically identify copyright material so that it can be removed, Schmidt said.

"We are very close to turning this on," Schmidt said.

The filtering system was supposed to have launched last year at YouTube, which Google acquired for $1.6 billion in October 2006. Delays in rolling it out have angered movie and television executives. Executives at NBC and Viacom have accused Google of dragging its feet on preventing YouTube users from uploading clips from hit shows and movies.

Interesting, but I wish we had some sort of idea of the technical workings of the system. I doubt, however, that we'll see that info for fear of a workaround.


Only 244 copies of Genuine Windows Vista sold in China

In an ironic twist (that just about everyone saw coming) Microsoft's multi-million dollar Vista ad campaign in China has paid off with an amazing 244 sales of genuine Windows Vista in that country.

As the source reports, pirated versions of the operating system are being sold on the street for a mere $1.

Tough to compete with that.

via digg.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Will Ferrell's internet video

Last week Will Ferrell starred in a homemade Internet video on The film was created in part by writer-director Adam McKay, who said the film was not involved with any corporate entity at all.

The video took 45 minutes to make and featured Ferrell and McKay together "just screwing around." The production company McKay founded set up as an easy way to showcase short-film ideas of themselves and less-established filmmakers as well.

Jeff Stern, CEO of Daily Reel, expects a lot more videos like this to pop up starring celebrities because it's a "low risk, high reward venture"

Is Hollywood freaking out right about now? I think so.

From: LA Times

Spiderman 3: Webisode Contest Encourages Remixing

Target has teamed up with the creators of Spiderman 3 (and it's hip-to-the-youth-culture marketing department) and jumped on the student-film-maker/youtube bandwagon with their "Spiderman 3 Make Your Own Webisode Contest" and sweepstakes.
It's cool that they're explicitely allowing people to mess with their copyrighted materials, but sort of sad that, predictably, there are also so many restrictions on what is "fair game":

Overview. Eligible entrants compete for prizes by submitting an originally created
video portraying the Spider-Man character (and, at their option, other authorized Spider-Man movie villains) in
an audiovisual presentation in a digital format, including but not limited to pre-recorded video, instantaneous
webcam recording, claymation, or animation (“Webisode”) that the entrant submits to the contest site located at (the “Contest Site”). Sponsor hereby grants permission to each eligible participant in
the Webisode Competition to portray the Spider-Man character, and the authorized Spider-Man movie villains,
and to use the approved music tracks, sound effects and background imagery provided on the Contest Site to
create his or her Webisode(s), subject to these Official Rules and the Waiver (as defined below)...

1 iv. Their Webisode complies with each of the following requirements:
• It must portray the Spider-Man character.
• If the Webisode includes any characters other than Spider-Man, it may ONLY portray (a) one
or more of the following approved Spider-Man movie villains: Green Goblin, Doc Ock,
Sandman, Venom, and/or New Goblin; and/or (b) other characters that are the original, sole
and exclusive creation of entrant.
• If the Webisode includes any music, only the music provided on the Contest Site may be

etc. etc.

What I'm wondering, is what happenst to the poor guy who works so hard on his webisode, accidentally uses a character not pre-approved or a song other than whats provided...Will he be merely disqualified or prosecuted?

Canadian DMCA on its way

According to the Canadian newspaper Hill Times, the Conservative government will introduce copyright reform legislation bringing Canada much closer to the USA in terms of copyright protection.

The crux of the bill calls for tougher anti-circumvention laws, which make it illegal to work around or circumvent DRM. As a result, this outlaws products like "mod chips" and other hacks. Oddly enough, an exception is made in the bill for free access to web-based materials.

Unfortunately, if this bill passes, it will cater directly to the U.S. Government and the Canadian Recording Industry Association, by further encouraging the use to DRM.

Hopefully the Canadian anti-DRM activists will be as vocal as those in the US.

NC State Defends Students

NC State is taking a stand against the RIAA and protecting its students. Pam Gerace, the director of Student Legal Services at the University, is the one taking chrage on the matter:

[Gerace] is warning students to remain anonymous because the RIAA has said that it will make sure that their job records are blighted.

Since this is so out of proportion to any copyright protection problems, it was dangerous for students to put their hands up and admit anything. She told the Technician Online that this could prove dangerous for the students, as the RIAA could pursue other legal actions or give the names to record companies.

She said the RIAA implies that cash must be handed over right away, when this is not true.

The outfit has also been changing the number of songs it thinks have been nicked and how much students should pay, which makes it sound like they are making it up as they go along, Gerace said.

Wow. A university that stands up for its students. How refreshing.

Ubiquity Means Popularity (Obviously)

Techdirt posted an article yesterday pointing to a new study that aims to prove that 'popularity begets more popularity' and that obscurity is one of the main factors that inhibits popularity. Therefore, the implication is drawn, lesser-known artists should give their product away for free (in doing so becoming more popular that will mean more popularity that will snowball into a popularity landslide and they will eventually be the most popular person ever).

Nothing too suprising, but its nice to have facts and figures to back up opinions.

Time to Scrap the Internet and Start Over!?

Perhaps I'm out of the loop, but this is the first time I've heard of such a thing: Researchers at several universities (as well as nameless and faceless members of the Department of Defense) are proponents of a type of "clean slate" initiative, basically a rebuilding of the internet intended to address issues of stability and security. Of course, these ideas—should they be supported financially and otherwise—would take over a decade to manifest themselves in any meaningful way, but there are already working prototypes:
Princeton already runs a smaller experimental network called PlanetLab, while Carnegie Mellon has a clean-slate project called 100 x 100.
I wonder if Wikipedia has any info on these two projects...

Link to AP article (on the Ocala, FL Star-Banner website... People on Reddit link strange sites)

Next Version of Flash to have DRM

The BBC reports that Adobe is planning to release their next version of Flash with two new features. The first feature will allow content providers (YouTube) to embed ads within videos and then make it mandatory to watch those ads. There will be no provision to right click and select fast forward. Also, Adobe will be adding in DRM which will allow those same content providers to make sure that their media only plays where they deem it OK to be played. When you couple these two new additions, web sites will be able to dictate where, when, and how you watch their content (after you have watched their ads).


Monday, April 16, 2007

Copyright Royalty Board Denies Motion for Rehearing

From RAIN the Radio and Internet Newsletter:
The Copyright Royalty Board, a three judge panel responsible for the March 2nd ruling that set webcast performance royalties at their new increased rate, has denied all parties' motion for rehearing of the ruling.

The Board claimed that the motions introduced no new evidence and were therefore legally insufficient.

Webcast legal vet David Oxenford, speaking at the RAIN Summit this morning, said the board "denied all the motions for rehearing on procedural grounds."

The CRB did not offer any type of clarification or additional information surrounding the minimum $500 fee per channel imposed by the new ruling.

Webcasters still hold out hope for negotiations with the record industry, action in the appellate court or legislative relief.

Link to RAIN

Update: Ars

Jack Thompson: Violent Video Games to Blame for VATech Shootings

It took perennial dumbass Jack Thompson only a few minutes to connect todays horrific events with violent video games. Kotaku, Digg, and /. each claim that Thompson offered a tearful diatribe to his Fox news audience earlier today about the horrors of FPS's and their undoubted influence on the killings.

This might very well be the quickest asinine trivialization of a tragedy in all of history.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Neuros Recorder Feedback

Recording with this is pretty cool.
My only complain was that the framerate during capture is somewhat unacceptable for gameplay of this type.
I thought i would post an example video just to show the quality in terms of audio and video.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Do DVRs Infringe on Copyright When Networked and Remote?

That's what a federal district court said about Cablevision's proposed DVR service. Apparently, while there is a long precedent of legal recording rights for media consumers (from cassette recorders to Tivo), those rights are invalidated by the subsitution of individual DVR appliances in consumers' homes for a DVR system controlled remotely in Cablevision's network.
Cablevision is appealing the ruling that prohibits it from launching the service:

"We continue to believe strongly that remote-storage DVR is permissible under current copyright law and offers significant benefits to consumers, including lower costs and faster deployment of this popular technology to our digital cable customers," Tom Rutledge, Cablevision's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "Our remote-storage DVR is the same as conventional DVRs, and merely enables consumers to exercise their well-established rights to time-shift television programming."

Could this also be a matter of first amendment rights to free speech, as an issue of prior restraint?
And how exactly could shifting the locus of a stored, recorded digital program be construed as copyright infringement?
Sounds kind of crazy to me...
[Not surprisingly, the suit that started this whole debate was filed by "several Hollywood studios and TV networks" (Marguerite, Reardon, "Cablevision to fight ruling blocking networked DVR"]

Halo 3 Multiplayer to Be Released May 16!!!!!111oneoneone!!

I know this is totally inappropriate but I just couldn't resist posting this!

Bungie just announced that the Halo 3 multilayer beta will be released on May 16 and run through June 6th. (announcement here)

Also, here's the video that came along with the release:

So, if you'll excuse me now I'm going to pass out.

Independent artist makes it big on iTunes

I found this article in the UK Evening Standard which I found interesting. The article outlines how independent artist Kate Walsh had a top selling iTunes song despite the fact that she recorded it on a very low budget in a friends house using velvet curtains as sounds insulation.

I think we will begin to see more and more of this as technology improves to the point where amateurs can record high quality digital tracks using cheap off the shelf equipment. When this happens, the major labels will no doubt go out of business unless they change their model.

Cablevision Blocked From Releasing Networked DVR

Cablevision Systems announced today that it would be appealing a court ruling which blocked the company from releasing a digital video recorder that stores downloaded content on Cablevision's network.

Cablevision was sued last May by several Hollywood studios and television networks, which claimed that the planned service would violate U.S. copyright laws by retransmitting the programs.

The advantages of having a networked DVR are numerous. However, the primary advantage is the elimination of the expensive set-top box with a built in hard drive. This would not only save cost to the consumer, but would also eliminate many technical issues, since the Cablevision would have access to the downloaded programs.

Fight On Cablevision.


Update: Elektra v. Santangelo

As I wrote a month ago, a Judge denied the RIAA's request to dismiss the Elektra v. Santangelo case without prejudice. Yesterday, papers were filed which not only discontinued the case, but named the defendant as the prevailing party - possibly putting the RIAA on the hook for legal fees.

This is a situation which the RIAA has been trying to avoid since the inception of its crusade against its customers. Because the persecution relies largely on evidence found after bringing the lawsuit, there is little to ensure that a case will be won by the RIAA if it is brought to court.

In the past several months the RIAA has made efforts to streamline the process from easy to extortion by giving middle-class students and families a 3-5 thousand dollar pre-litigation settlement option (they even take discover!) allowing them to avoid paying tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees in the event that the case goes to court.

The problem with the manner by which the RIAA brings lawsuits clearly evident in the Elektra v. Santangelo case. When the RIAA brings cases with which it has no real accompanying evidence, it risks losing the case and being forced to pay the defendant's legal fees. These fees can be from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and if the RIAA is forced to pay them, the cost can wipe out the gains from thirty or forty pre-litigation settlements.

If dismissals with prejudice keep occurring, these lawsuits could become very expensive for the RIAA - hopefully prohibitively expensive.

(via the Recording Industry vs. the People Blog)

The RIAA and the MPAA Want Pretexting Back

The RIAA and the MPAA are none-to-happy about the anti-pretexting bill put into place by President Bush back in January, and as such, recently submitted an amendment to the bill in California that would allow the two organizations to utilize pretexting in their endless search for online pirates.

Although the amendment has not gone through yet, it would certainly be a dangerous precedent if it did. The anti-pretexting bill really does a public service in protecting citizens from corporate overreach - we can only hope that it is turned down.

Gaim Settles w/ AOL: Changes Client Name to "Pidgin"

Last week "Gaim," the popular/open-source instant messaging protocol, released an announcement stating that they would officially be changing the name of their program to "Pidgin" in the near future.

According to the Gaim website, Gaim and AOL have been engaged in a long series of legal negotiations since the program was originally released on the web. AOL had originally contested the protocol's first name "GTK + AOL instant messenger", which lead to the name "Gaim." However, AOL recently trademarked the "AIM" acronym for instant messaging protocols, meaning that Gaim has been forced to change their name once again.

The Fashion Industry and Intellectual Property

Over at Techdirt, there is a great piece concerning the lack of intellectual property enforcement in the fashion industry. The argument explored is that the fashion industry thrives from the pressure lack of IP enforcement provides.

The article point to a recent NYTimes editorial which explores this issue. Although brand names and logos are protected, actual designs are mostly unprotected. The editorial argues that this forces the fashion industry to thrive - a conclusion that would be certainly unpopular in other content industries. The author at Techdirt writes:

"without the artificial protectionism, the fashion designers are forced to continually compete by continually innovating and always trying to come out with the latest and greatest design. Even though others copy, there's tremendous value in being the first, or being the "big name" in the industry"

Similarly, they quote a previous Techdirt article that's rhetoric is not only poetic, but potent:

"Ideas arise, evolve through collaboration, gain currency through exposure, mutate in new directions, and diffuse through imitation. The constant borrowing, repurposing, and transformation of prior work are as integral to creativity in music and film as they are to fashion"
Another NYTimes article from 2005 points out the inconveniences that can arise from 'image pilfering' for boutique brands. Although the article paints a somewhat dire picture, it nonetheless reiterates the overall tone that in the long run, this lack of IP enforcement leads to innovation as opposed to complete bankruptcy.

The U.S., China, and the WTO

The U.S., China, and the WTO have gotten themselves in a three-way dance over China's policy against piracy. The U.S have formally complained to the WTO stating that China is a) not doing enough to curb piracy while b) simultaneously putting too many restrictions on U.S. imports (which can only encourage piracy).

Over at Techdirt, they explore problem b a little more in depth. In a Wall Street Journal article graph, both China and France, two countries who have the strongest import restriction on film, are shown to be the two places where the MPAA is loosing the most revenue. The claim is that the U.S. government should be arguing more for a lift of import restrictions rather than stricter piracy rules.

The U.S. government seems to arguing for both to me, although I agree with the TechDirt author that focusing on less-restrictive trade would be a better avenue of pursuit. U.S. priorities seem to be a little backwards in this case .

Cablevision Appeals DVR Ruling

Cablevision Systems Corp. appealed a federal court ruling today that blocked the rollout of a new DVR service. Cablevision is claiming the US District Court Ruling last month misapplied copyright law to its remote-storage DVR. Cablevision's system would allow any cable subscriber with a cable box to have a DVR-like service by storing an playig shows on computer servers maintained by Cableivion. This saves the need to install hardware in every home. They're arguing that the service was permissible since the control of recording and playback was in the hands of consumers. Cablevision is also using the Betamax decision to arguen in their favor. This case is being watched by a lot of people in the cable TV industry since it could increase the rate of consumption of dvr services.

Monday, April 9, 2007

What happens to the extra 30 cents?

Gizmodo posted bullet points from a phone interview with Jeanne Meyer, the Senior VP of Corporate Communications at EMI.

•EMI approached Apple about DRM free tracks, not the other way around.
•EMI is cool with any other music store doing DRM-free tracks. This is not an iTunes exclusive.
•Those stores can put songs in any format they want. The iTunes premium price and AAC 256 kbps format are Apple's Marketing decision.

I'm still looking into it . . . but this seems to imply that the price increase was on Apple, in which case maybe they're pocketing the extra cash. Thoughts?

Scott Adams Compares Violating Copyright to Stealing Underwear

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, believes that illegal filesharing is equivalent to stealing someone's underwear, cleaning it, and returning it. Um, what?

He's not arguing for the "if value, then right" position. Rather, he is interested in being able to choose whether to make an e-book of his work.


Also, in a subsequent post, Adams takes his readers to task for what he calls their "cognitive dissonance" in justifying copyright violations.

Apple Sells 100 Millionth iPod

Apple announced today that they have sold 100 million iPods, all trillion gigabytes of which have been filled with music purchased from iTunes.

Don't steal music.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Record Store Owners Blame RIAA For Destroying Music Industry

There was an excellent Op-Ed post this last week over at the NYTimes, about how Record Store owners essentially blame the RIAA for the horrible situation the music industry is in.

And - as is often the case - the discussion sparked on slashdot ends up being more insightful than the New York Times. A few highlights:

user ~tgatliff:
As another business owner, I think I know one big reason why your business is failing... You also forgot who your customer is... What right do you have to tell that kid what he can and cant do because of a major flaw your industries business model? This kid is only doing what makes sense to most logically minded individuals that just paid >= $15 for an album. If your industry charged $2 for that album, do you honestly think that anyone would bother the pain of burning it?

What your industry should have done is realised that the individual "value" of your product was going down and reduced your prices accordingly to compete. That is what the rest of us do. They didnt, because they (indluding you) forgot that you serve the customer music... You are not the gatekeeper of music.. Those days are over... The internet is not your competitor.

Also, do not pitty me with your "loose the house" crap. As another business owner, I completely understand this risk, and it is part of being a business owner. It is not societies responsability to prop up a failing industry that is committing suicide. It is dieing and either you change with it or go broke. Oh, and I have a little advice for you since you dont seem to have gotten it yet... Get the heck out of selling music CDs... Close the doors, lick your wounds, and move on. No move or lawsuit is going to save you...

user RedWizzard:
What IS sad, however, is that people don't consider $15 a good deal for an hours worth of music.

I think a big part of the reason for this is that it doesn't compare well to DVDs. Should I consider $15 dollars a good deal for an hour of music that cost $1M to produce when I can spend $20 for 2 hours of movie that cost $200M to produce? (Not that cost is any indication of quality.)

The RIAA has conviently ignored the impact of DVDs. People spend a lot of money on DVDs, money that in many cases would have been spent on music if DVDs didn't exist. I suspect this is the most significant factor in the music industries declining fortunes, not piracy. People have X dollars to spend on entertainment and that money is being spent on different things than it was 10 years ago. DVDs and games are up, music is down.

and the discussions continue...

As summed up by user techdirt:
It's not every day that you see a NY Times piece use the word 'boneheadedness' to describe the strategy of an organization.

via [/.]

Saturday, April 7, 2007

U.S. Airlines In-Flight WiFi

The Wall Street Journal Online reports that U.S. Airlines will begin offering WiFi on its flights within 12 months, following a European and Middle Eastern trend. However, the current plan is that VoIP calls will be banned, with exceptions possible for pilots, air marshals, and airline attendents.

In addition, there is a possibility for future cell phone service, although the FCC does not forsee allowing it any time soon. As the Wall Street Journal Online points out, if cell service is offered, companies like Bose might see a huge increase in the sale of noise-cancelling headphones.

(Via \.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Paul Kedrosky's Take on the EMI-Apple DRM-Free Deal

Venture capitalist and blogger Paul Kedrosky says: "EMI is buying market share."
Funny that so few Apple fan-boys are pointing out the obvious in praising Apple's DRM-free deal with EMI. The latter company is an also-ran in physical and digital music, with something like 9.4% share. Dropping DRM and thereby increasing piracy is, in those terms, another way of saying that also-ran EMI is slashing prices (to zero at the margin) to buy market share.

One user ("Rob") points out in the comments, though, that this move is unlikely to increase piracy... EMI's entire catalog is already available on P2P networks at 256 kbps or higher.

Just something to think about.


Is DRM really dead?

Since everyone and their mother has posted their mostly jubilant reactions to the EMI-Apple announcement yesterday - Web 2.0 sage Michael Arrington of TechCrunch called it "The Day DRM Died" - I feel it my pessimist's duty to bring a little sobriety to the party.

So my question is this: how much impact will this have on DRM as concept? In other words, I worry that this move, while significant, will not change the notion amongst media companies that DRM is good for business. Ideally EMI digital sales will see a boost, thus inciting the other companies to follow suit. But what if sales don't rise? Would this reinforce the false notions of the media companies? Or what if sales do rise, but other companies don't respond in kind? This would create an even more fragmented and segmented marketplace, with multiple formats, levels of DRM, and now pricing across multiple stores.

Furthermore, is this development only really relevant to the digital music world, mainly for the reason that, with CD's already sold in non-DRM format, the argument against copy protection is stronger with music. Will this motivate a change in the Draconian DRM schemes we see in digital movie services like Amazon's Unbox? For me, this is the key: can this step be the seed that eventually blooms into a non-DRM world, or will this be a small step with little impact?

As a digital citizen I sincerely hope for the former; with a look at the sorry track record of the media conglomerates, I sadly expect the latter.

Major Record Labels Finally Abandon RIAA!!

In an amazing announcement the four major record labels are breaking from the RIAA. According to a spokesperson for the labels, "The major labels will no longer fight technology but embrace it. They realize selling high quality MP3 audio without DRM will give audiences the music they want in the format that want, and when fans purchase these tracks we will share a higher portion of royalties with the artist, because, lets face it, selling digital files over the net have a higher margin than CDs sold in a store.”

Larry Mattera, Warner Music's senior vice president, said it best. “It scary as hell to guys like us that have been making a living — a damn good one — by selling shiny plastic disks for $18.99 in WalMart and on Amazon, but damn, my kid is swapping songs and I can’t even stop HIM! I realized the truth in the age old adage ‘If You can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ and you know, the cassette tape didn’t kill us, the CDR didn’t either, we just got get up off our asses and figure out a better product to sell to people!”

Finally, a stunning victory in the war over DRM and free music exchange! Or is it...(check the date of the post ;)

205 websites down due to China Piracy Crackdown

Digital Media Wire

Chinese officials in Beijing have shutdown 205 websites in a crackdown on Internet piracy that came partly at the behest of U.S. entertainment interests.

The country investigated 436 cases, 130 of which were at the request of overseas industry associations. In all, 361 sites were ordered to cease infringements.

In addition to the site closures, Yan Xiaohong, deputy director of the National Copyright Administration, said that authorities confiscated 71 servers and referred six cases for prosecution.

"Piracy of intellectual property on the Internet has seriously harmed the interests of copyright owners, leading to a large number of disputes -- and thus disrupting the orderliness of the Internet," Xiaohong said.

Web Browser for the Vision Impaired

IBM is planning to release a web-browser for the hard-of-seeing using open-source software "in order to make it available to the largest possible number of people"...this sounds pretty cool and with the baby-boomer population strolling towards senility, it's almost surprising MORE tech companies haven't publicly announced similar projects. Impressively, the "A-Browser" as it's called, was invented by Dr. Chieko Asakawa, a partially blind Japanese developer for IBM. The new software will incorporate keyboard shortcuts and control buttons to mediate situations where a mouse would have to be maneuvered normally--a tricky task for a visually impared user visiting a new and unfamiliar website.

According to the BBC website, "the browser also allows video to be slowed down, speeded up and can accommodate an additional audio description or narration track that is often included to make films and television programmes more comprehensible to blind people.

The volume controls also allow the user to adjust the sound of various sources independently - for example the main audio track, an audio description track and output from a screen reader."

These last few enumerated "adjustment options" make me wonder whether particularly anal parties might get up in arms over copyright infringement of their media content, should the browser/the browser's users "alter" that content in these ways. I can't imagine a court would rule in favor of such media providers; but stranger things have happened with copyright law...

Sniffing Out Piracy

So here's a new way to crack down on piracy: Two trained labradors, named Lucky and Flo, were able to sniff out 50,000 bootleg DVDS in Malaysia! They were sent out last month as a way to crack down on movie piracy and it's the third time they've been successful. They're supposedly on loan to Malaysia from the MPAA. They are trained to sniff a chemical used in the disks. Malaysia is among the world's top illegal movie disc producers and exporters, according to the MPAA and the US government. It's also on the US's watch list of serious copyright violators.

But, not everyone likes dogs. Some movie pirates have reportedly placed a bounty on the two dogs (...poor Lucky and Flo). Neil Gane, the MPAA's Senior Operations Executive, said the MPAA was "taking the threat seriously" and was "factoring the threat when planning operations."

European Union Declares Apple is Violating Antitrust Laws

Today, the EU announced that an investigation has been launched into the pricing of music through Apple's iTunes store.

The EU believed that by charging different prices for music in different countries, Apple is both unfairly exploiting those countries where music is more expensive, and violating the EU's antitrust laws.

For example, in the USA a track cost $0.99, throughout the Eurozone it costs €0.99, while in the UK a track costs £0.79. With conversion rates in mind, a Euro track ought to cost €0.74, while the UK track ought to be £0.50.

While this may not be too large of a worry for Apple, since their prices are set by the music industry, it does raise the question about the value of a packet of information. Given that all countries are receiving identical data, should one country be required to pay more for the same 3.5mb of data?


New digs for walruses: GPS systems

From the BBC:

Danish scientists plan to put satellite tags on walruses to understand more about their migration, and how hunting, oil exploration and climate change may be affecting the animals.

GPS systems will be deployed using a cross bow or CO2-powered gun fired from the boat. Each time they emerge from the water, a signal will be beamed up to a satellite, giving details on the the walruses' location. For two months, readers of BBC news will be able to map the progress of the animals on the Walrus Watch map.

Jonathan Lethem on Copyright

Jonathan Lethem, author and MacArthur Fellowship Grant recipient, recently was interviewed by in which he discusses his new book, "You Don't Love Me Yet" and his opinions on copyright. An eloquent writer to say the least, Lethem is relinquishing the film rights to "You Don't Love Me Yet" to whomever can come up with the best script - giving them complete rights to his work. The stipulation is that after 5 years, the script will go back into the public domain. The book itself deals with a fictional indie band who has to deal with questions around content ownership. Pretty meta.

Lethem (who also wrote the extraordinary Ecstasy of Influence) bounces around in the interview from copyright law to David Byrne to art in general. It is an incredible read to say the least, but I have excerpted a particularly intriguing section below:
I make my living by licensing my copyright. Everything I've tried to say, in the Harper's essay and elsewhere, is that there is an enormous middle ground. It becomes one of those issues like, "If you don't favor wiretapping in the U.S., you must be for the terrorists." What I'm seeking to explore is that incredibly fertile middle ground where people control some rights and gain meaningful benefits from those controls, and yet contribute to a healthy public domain and systematically relinquish, or have relinquished for them, meaningless controls on culture that impoverish the public domain.
And my personal favorite:
Sure, but it wasn't strengthening of copyright control that allowed me to make more money after that; it was because I found some readers. Even if my rights were Kryptonite and lasted 1,000 years, if no one read my books, they wouldn't be worth a penny. The economy of human attention is a very precious one, much scarcer than any other. I'm lucky to be in the position of having anyone notice that I've given something away in the first place.

Questions About EMI Deal

I had several questions/observations for discussion regarding the EMI/Apple extravaganza:

Based on some of my reading, it seemed like it was Apple's decision to sell the new tracks at a premium - remember, the labels charge Apple a wholesale price per download, and like any retailer, they can charge the consumer whatever they please . . . that being said, do you think EMI raised the wholesale price for the DRM-free 256kbps downloads, or is Apple pocketing the entire extra $0.30 ?

While I think this is an important step forward for the industry, I'm a bit turned off by the $1.29 upsell - it was sneaky of them to increase the bitrate alongside no DRM - what are consumers actually paying extra for: higher fidelity, or the rights they should have in the first place? To clarify, Apple is still offering consumers $0.99 downloads wrapped in Fairplay - Steve has framed the $1.29 download as a complimentary product with "additional features." Speaking to this tiered offering, EMI's Nicoli said, "not everybody cares about interoperability or sound quality." WHAT?? This pissed me off - while I applaud EMI for taking the lead here, it's comments like this, straight from the TOP of one of the majors, that is a clear indication of how much further we have to go if the digital download market is going to actually hit the mainstream. While a niche audience will appreciaite this new offering, this will certainly not be opening the digital music floodgates that many had hoped a DRM-free marketplace would provide . . . at least not yet. You want to compete with P2P - how about 256kbps DRM free downloads for $0.49??? We've discussed Real's pricing experiments before - price needs to come down. Now we are witnessing a price increase to make up for the shortcomings of Apple's initial product.

Monday, April 2, 2007

This Summer: The Return of LEGAL Guitar Tablature!

While the vast majority of net-citizens are aware of the current battle of the RIAA against peer-to-peer networks and illegal downloading, few people know of the MPA's (Music Publishers Association) analogous crackdown on guitar tablature.

Over the past two years guitar tablature sites like and have been hit with DMCA notices from MPA attorneys (and, in some cases, representatives of specific artists such as Metallica), leading to a drastic decline in educational resources for musicians worldwide. (For more background on the MPA's actions against tab-based websites check out this article from Ars Technica posted last year, or this Chicago Tribune story.)

However, recent news has opened up the possibility of a legal method of creating and sharing guitar tab online.

As reported by Ars and NYT, Wisconsin-based company "Musicnotes" has entered into a licensing agreement that would allow for the rebirth of guitar tab on the web. Via Ars,
... under a new agreement reached with Musicnotes (one of the largest publishers of sheet music), Harry Fox will allow the company to offer tablature so long as it splits its advertising revenue with the music publishers. The new service will launch this summer at, which Musicnotes recently acquired.

"Musicnotes proves the viability of a copyright-friendly, ad-supported guitar tab web site," said Gary Churgin, the CEO of Harry Fox, in a statement. "HFA has expanded its licensing and royalty distribution capabilities to support this kind of service, and we will continue to adapt to new licensing opportunities and models such as this to provide the most comprehensive service for our publishers."

The New York Times adds,

Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst with Forrester Research, said tablature sites could also join other online publishers and anonymously track the Internet travels of their users. The budding guitar players might somehow show that they were shopping for a car, for instance, or other expensive goods. Suddenly, she said, “these users are really valuable targets for sellers of all kinds.”

Lauren Keiser, the president of the Music Publishers’ Association, and the chief executive of Carl Fischer, a music publisher in New York, said he would offer the MusicNotes proposal to his board this month to gauge their reaction. “As a publisher, I want to see this baby walk,” he said. “And we’ll see. There might be a whole bunch of other deals coming out of this."

As a long-time player, I think I speak for every current or aspiring guitar enthusiast when I say that this is great news. We can only hope that everything goes according to plan and that this project comes to fruition.

USC makes the MPAA top 25

We may not make the RIAA's top 25... but we sure can make the MPAA's top 25 (number 12 to be exact)...

I wonder if this has to do with the School of Cinematic Arts and their requirements to watch all kinds of random films combined with the fact that the campus libraries don't always have the film you need and you can't check the dvd's out.


The following schools appear on both lists
Boston University
Michigan State University
North Carolina State University
Ohio University
Purdue University
University of Massachusetts
University of Michigan
University of Nebraska at Lincoln
University of South Florida
University of Tennessee
University of Wisconsin

Answering Some Important Questions: EMI and iTunes

Engadget's coverage of today's announcement from EMI includes a transcript of some Q&A from members of the press that many of us might find informative.

Eric = Eric Nicoli (Chairman of EMI)
Steve = Steve Jobs (Obv)
Q: When are the Beatles tracks going to be online?
Steve: "I want to know that too." chuckles.
Eric: "we're working on it, hopefully soon."

Regarding Nordic consumer groups, Steve says they are not offering anything new today that's not already available on DRM-free CDs.

Q: Is this a green light for piracy?
Eric: no, we take the view that we have to "trust consumers." Some will disappoint us. The idea is to give them the best music experience to grow sales and not diminish them.

EMI confident this will grow their sales. 1/4 of all sales digital by 2010. Hard to predict, but they think this will make their music more accessible to promote sales.

Q: Have talks begun with other majors?
Steve: EMI is pioneering something that will probably become very popular. Can't comment on any discussions. Again, Steve points out that CDs ship with DRM. Sony tried it... it didn't work.

Q: Are some of the majors being more difficult, if so, who?
Steve: I don't want to go into it, there are always leaders. Customers will love it, they get what they want. Music companies make more money by offering more value.

Q: Will DRM now be removed from videos such as Disney's where you (Steve) has a say?
Steve: I knew I was going to get that question today. Video is different, they never distributed 90% of their wares DRM free like music companies. So he doesn't hold the two in parallel.

Q: Now that the link between iPod and iTunes is broken, will there be a fall in sales?
Steve: No -- no link broken. You can already rip CDs and put songs on any player you want. Apple's success is based on having the best and easiest to use music store and players -- they've never felt any differently.

Q: Which other digital retailers has EMI spoken too?
Eric: We hope they all take this on. (avoids question)

Q: What's the point of keeping DRM on $0.99 tracks?
Steve: We don't want to raise prices on anybody. We'll continue what we started and offer more value for the money without taking anything away. Consumers make the choice.
Eric: Not everybody cares about interoperability or sound quality.

Q: Will EMI dictate pricing to other on-line music stores?
Eric: EMI sets the wholesale price, not the retail price. So prices may vary by other on-line music services.

Via engadget / digg.

EMI goes DRM free

Following up on Cameron's post below, it is true... It seems that EMI has abandoned DRM across their entire catalog.

From the press release:
EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli today hosted a press conference at EMI's headquarters in London where he announced that EMI Music is launching DRM-free superior quality downloads across its entire digital repertoire and that Apple's iTunes Store will be the first online music store to sell EMI's new downloads. Nicoli was joined by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The event also featured a musical performance by The Good, The Bad & The Queen.
Read the full press release here

I can't think how this will be anything but positive for not only EMI but also Apple and the entire music appreciation community. The songs will be higher quality ACC files that have no DRM, available on iTunes.

Further down, the release says
EMI Music today announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital repertoire available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.
What does "new premium downloads" mean? Will they truly be releasing their entire catalog or will it be only new songs and some of the better old ones? Or is that just the name of their service?

Do note that the drm free songs will be $1.29 which is an interesting compromise for the freedom that you should have with the $.99 songs.

Pwned in Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education just published a profile of me and my USC undergrad course, Pwned. It's a great piece! My pal Siva Vaidhyanathan has liberated it from the Chronicle's paywall and posted it on his blog.

Update: Here's a de-paywalled version on the Chronicle's site -- thanks, Henry!
Mr. Doctorow has little taste for what he calls the "maximalist" view of intellectual property — the notion that copyright is something to be enforced strictly rather than something that should strive to be as invisible and as flexible as possible — and the subtitle of his course is meant as a bit of a provocation. "Is everyone on campus a copyright criminal?" the syllabus asks, alluding to the overwhelming majority of college students who have swapped music, movies, and software on peer-to-peer networks. If the answer is yes, he suggests, then something has clearly gone wrong.

With his new course, Mr. Doctorow has joined the growing ranks of scholars preaching that copyright law needs a makeover. Professors like Lawrence Lessig, of Stanford University; Siva Vaidhyanathan, of New York University; and Edward W. Felten, of Princeton University, have taught courses that sought to poke holes in traditional views of copyright. But while those professors made their names in large part through academic books and research projects, Mr. Doctorow has taken a decidedly different route. He doesn't hold a college degree, and he earned his reputation not through scholarly work but through a blog.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

EMI and Apple to DRM-Free?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting (subscription required) that today, Apple and EMI will announce plans to go DRM-free with a large portion of EMI's catalog. If this is the case, things could start getting real interesting. So many questions must be raised...let's see what happens. (via The Inquirer)

UPDATE: Holler.