|10-02-05, 08:23 PM||#1|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - February 12th, '05
Quotes Of The Week
"Copyright law was never meant to interfere with the public's right to know. We expected that the experiences would be in the public domain.... The people who are barring this will have to pay a price." - Don Jelinek
"Consider how many people that work for Sharman Networks and its partners that hate installing Kazaa on their machine." - Phil Morle
"You’d be amazed how many students stopped illegally sharing files just because they know ICARUS is always watching and they’ll get caught. We just wanted to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got law enforcement here and we’ll detect you...’" - Robert Bird, coordinator of network services, University of Florida
"There is a tremendous debate, a confrontation, on how to cope with the Internet presence. It's a very, very hot-button topic." - Jeffrey H. Fischer
"We're satisfied with the sales of the book given the fact that there has been a decline in the market for these big best-selling authors." - Jonathan Galassi
"Speaking as a layman, I don't think they own rock and roll and I don't think they own the phrase 'Hall of Fame' and I know for sure they don't own the Jews." - Jeffrey Goldberg
"Hollywood will continue to thrive by providing consumers a great product at a fair price. Not by crippling technology." – Wendy Seltzer
"People have to have fair-use rights in a free market." - Art Brodsky
"Hollywood is dreaming if they still think CSS is a piracy deterrent." - Bruce Schneier
Of Fat and File Sharing
The State Capitol this week is grappling with a modern philosophical conundrum: what makes people so fat? On the one hand are the strict self-determinists; they believe and reverently so that obesity is a result of poor character, that there is one reason and one reason only why fat people are fat: they are weak willed. On the other hand are those who feel, and not without some justification from science, that the body’s regulation of weight is a vastly complex affair, one that is affected by many things, from willpower to overpowering hormones to the types of food people are exposed to from a young age to other factors yet discovered. In Connecticut at the moment this is not a purely intellectual exercise. There is a bill in committee as I write this, number 6156, that if passed will indemnify food processors from civil actions brought by those suffering from the debilitating health effects of obesity, indemnify because, according to the bills sponsor, food processors bear no responsibility at all for this health catastrophe. This is of course philosophy masquerading as science making bad law. I was asked to comment on the bill and I did so this afternoon.
Without exploring the science on the one hand or the lack of it on the other I needed to make one thing clear to the committee, something that is highly relevant to the issue but that also goes beyond the immediate cares of the conference: If the legislature wants to take away a fundamental right of mine, they must substitute that right with another, so as a citizen I am left with another avenue of redress. This is not the case with the present bill. It would prevent the people from exercising their constitutional right to petition the court for relief without giving them something back in return, and that is wrong. If as has been suggested this bill could help insure consumers a steady supply of high fat food, that is hardly a benefit when its very abundance is killing them.
It is a situation we as file sharers find ourselves in today as again, our elected officials continue to take away our rights without substituting others of equal value. As fair use becomes diminished by law nothing is being proposed to take its place. As the right we hold to copy, a right I might add not established by statute but created by God and by nature as a walk in any vernal wood illuminates, as that natural right is diminished by law we must substitute another right that guarantees us the freedom to freely reproduce and exchange information without fear of prosecution or prejudice.
As the People we ourselves grant the monopoly that media companies use so self-righteously. The privilege to prevent copying is found nowhere in nature, for it is a wholly artificial construct, one that goes against the very fabric of life itself, and one designed for another age when distances were vast and knowledge like weapons was dragged at great cost across oceans of surf and plain and into the legendary battles against ignorance. The monopoly we grant producers as an incentive under these so-called "copyright" laws are the sole province of the People; they belong to no-one else, are loaned with strict quid pro quos and are supposed to be protected and managed for the People by their elected representatives in Congress. These lawmakers were not sent to Washington to destroy these rights but to cultivate them so that the refinements more closely match the original laws intent. In the case of copyrights it is not to make foreign media conglomerates gargantuan and rich beyond the dreams of avarice but to allow ever more efficient transfers between writer and reader, father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister, husband and wife, reader and friend.
Today as Congress increasingly sees in copyright law a vehicle to reduce and even eliminate any semblance of balance between cartel and consumer, we must insist they step back and reevaluate the whole sorry thrust of modern intellectual policy or relinquish stewardship and return the right to the place from whence it sprang: We The People.
Movie Blackout For P2P Networks?
Researchers at Royal Philips Electronics are developing new "fingerprinting" technology that could automatically identify and block transmission of digital-video files, potentially handing movie studios a new weapon in its war on peer-to-peer networks.
The technique would be similar to technology already being used to track and prevent copying of music files on some university networks. Philips' audio fingerprinting technology is central to Napster founder Shawn Fanning's new company Snocap, which aims to turn file-swapping networks into digital-song stores.
Once completed, Philips' technology--along with related tools from other companies--could be a powerful weapon in Hollywood's increasingly aggressive attempts to choke off the flood of films being traded online. For now, the tools are in an early stage of development, but Philips has begun to show them to potential partners and customers.
"For identifying content over peer-to-peer networks, this is the ideal technology to use," said Ronald Maandonks, business development manager for content identification at Philips. "We are now working with a group of engineers to improve it."
A tool for identifying video mid-swap could reignite the debates over peer-to-peer legislation. Entertainment companies have pressed peer-to-peer software companies to install filters that block copyright material, but the software companies have said the idea is impractical.
Fingerprinting first appeared in the peer-to-peer world when a federal judge ordered the original Napster to block trades of copyright songs through its network in 2001. The company used early versions of audio fingerprinting technology to identify songs, which ultimately helped make the network all but unusable.
Independent company Audible Magic appeared several years later, saying it had developed its own way of fingerprinting songs online. The company's claims were quickly taken up by the Recording Industry Association of America, which said file-swapping companies should build this kind of song-stopping filters into their software.
Audible Magic's technology is now being used by a handful of universities, including Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., and Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, to identify and block song swaps on their networks.
Computers watching movies
Video fingerprinting would work much like its musical cousin. In the case of songs, a unique string of data (the "fingerprint") is associated with each recording. Software that can be installed inside an ISP network monitors files being swapped, checking for matches toa database of these fingerprints. If a match is found, the file can be blocked.
The trick is to make that identification process work even if the file is compressed, turned into a different computer file format or otherwise changed slightly. For a song, this means basing the fingerprint on the music's acoustical properties, rather than on the ones and zeros that make up a given digital file.
The video process is similar, but would use visual characteristics of individual video frames instead of audio qualities.
That makes the process a challenge, however. A two-hour movie contains far more material than a four-minute pop song. A good fingerprinting technique must be able to identify the movie even if parts of it are being downloaded out of order, or if some bits have been cut out, Maandonks said.
Facing these hurdles, Audible Magic is already going down a different road with its software. It has already added the capability to strip out the audio from a video file and use its audio fingerprinting techniques to identify a film. That requires less processing power and can be done with more certainty today, the company said.
"Using the audio track makes a lot of sense with a lot of titles," said Vance Ikezoye, CEO of Audible Magic. "That capability is done and tested and works."
Movie studios still tentative
Even if proven successful, it could be years before video fingerprinting starts putting up real roadblocks to film-swappers.
That's largely because the identification technology isn't enough by itself. A massive database of fingerprints also needs to be created, which means that studios or third parties have to run millions of hours of movies, TV shows and other video through fingerprinting tools.
Ikezoye said his company has worked with some studios to develop a small test database. Philips said it has had discussions with studios, but isn't yet to the point of developing the needed fingerprint library.
A Motion Picture Association of America executive said the group is looking closely at ways of identifying films online, but is focused more specifically on watermarking, a means of embedding extra code that helps track the origin of pirated copies. That technique has been particularly useful in the MPAA's effort to keep Oscar-nominated films offline.
"Video and audio watermarking for forensic data embedding is becoming an important tool in content owners' battle with piracy," said Brad Hunt, the MPAA's chief technology officer. "These technologies are proving to be quite useful and reliable in pinpointing the initial source of piracy."
As with previous file-swapping issues, the studios are likely to watch what's happening in the music business for clues to their own future. There, Fanning's Snocap is close to launching a service that can turn file-swapping networks into song stores such as Apple Computer's iTunes by identifying music and asking downloaders to pay for it.
Snocap executives say their tools could also be used to sell movies once the video fingerprinting technology is completed. They say they are completely focused on the music business today, however.
For now, Philips is realistic about the challenges ahead.
"We're careful with predicting what and when," Maandonks said. "We hope to have a better version available at the end of the year or the beginning of next year."
Piracy Case: Log Files 'Don't Show Downloads'
An expert witness in the MP3s4free.net music piracy case has conceded to the Federal Court in Sydney that log files seized in a 2003 raid did not show music actually being downloaded.
The case, which has been overshadowed locally by the more high-profile Kazaa case heard in January, was recessed part-heard in October and only resumed yesterday.
Universal Music Australia and 30 others are taking action against site operator and retired policeman Stephen Cooper, his ISP and others.
During cross-examination and after long arguments about the admissibility of evidence, Gilbert & Tobin IT consultant Shane Pearson conceded that the seized log files could be skewed by certain factors including proxy caching and dial-up failure.
Later, when asked about the detailed entries in the files, he conceded that none of these showed music actually being downloaded.
The log showed people accessing the site and searching for music, but as any download would happen from other sites via links, the log would not show this happening.
Pearson said the logs showed "actions that referred to downloads, not actually downloads."
The case raises somewhat different issues to Kazaa with some speculating that if mp3s4free.com cannot link to music hosted on other sites, neither could a search engine such as Google. The case also probes the liability of ISPs and others hosting such web sites.
Yesterday's evidence included a demonstration of the web site by computer forensics expert John Thackray. After lunch arguments were heard about the admissibility of traffic log evidence seized when the premises of Cooper and associated service providers were raided in October 2003.
As the original evidence was in a compressed file and not directly accessible to the court, extended arguments and submissions were heard about the admissibility of summary evidence and analysis of those files and processes to give Cooper's defence team a chance to respond to any issues that arise.
Reboot Ordered For EU Patent Law
A European Parliament committee has ordered a rewrite of the proposals for controversial new European Union rules which govern computer- based inventions.
The Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) said the Commission should re-submit the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive after MEPs failed to back it.
It has had vocal critics who say it could favour large over small firms and impact open-source software innovation.
Supporters say it would let firms protect their inventions.
The directive is intended to offer patent protection to inventions that use software to achieve their effect, in other words, "computer implemented invention".
The draft law suffered setbacks when Poland, one of the largest EU member states, rejected its adoption twice in two months.
Intense lobbying on the issue has started to gain momentum in some national parliaments putting them under immense pressure.
Only two MEPs backed the draft law at the JURI meeting, with one voting to abstain.
Opponents of the draft directive welcomed the decision and said a new first reading of the proposals would give the EU a chance to have fuller debates about its implications in all member states.
In the US, the patenting of computer programs and internet business methods is permitted.
This means that the US-based Amazon.com holds a patent for its "one-click shopping" service, for example.
Critics are concerned that the directive could lead to a similar model happening in Europe.
This, they fear, could hurt small software developers because they do not have the legal and financial might of larger companies if they had to fight patent legal action in court.
Supporters say current laws are inefficient and it would serve to even up a playing field without bringing EU laws in line with the US.
Patent Overhaul Will Bring NZ Law Into Line
Patent attorneys are hailing the Government's draft patent bill as a long overdue update that brings New Zealand into line with Australia, Britain and the United States.
The bill, drafted just before Christmas, tightens the definition of an "invention" to narrow down the broad criteria set out in the 1953 Patents Act.
Under those criteria, the Intellectual Property Office (Iponz) can grant a patent to any new "method of manufacture". The Iponz commissioner must grant a patent unless he is practically certain a judge would dismiss it if challenged in court.
The draft bill stipulates that a new invention must also be "useful" and involve an "inventive step" – a thought that wouldn't be obvious to someone else skilled in the field.
While a patent can already be challenged on the grounds it doesn't meet these criteria, this can only be done once a patent is granted and it must be challenged in court, often at great expense.
Under the draft bill, Iponz can also refuse a patent if the commissioner thinks a judge is more likely to dismiss it than uphold it – near certainty isn't needed.
Patents will continue to be granted to "business processes" and software, as long as they meet the revised criteria. These patents are often a source of controversy.
"The current legislation hasn't really kept pace with technology and changes in the international scene as far as intellectual property is concerned," says Julie Ballance, president of the Institute of Patent Attorneys. "International standards are changing and we haven't really kept up."
The changes would mean New Zealand laws will match those in other countries more closely, so patents granted in New Zealand will be more likely to be valid elsewhere.
This will simplify the process for international companies wanting to export to both Australia and New Zealand, for example.
Both countries are working toward some kind of trans-Tasman patent co-operation.
With similar laws, a patent granted in Australia wouldn't have to be scrutinised so closely by New Zealand officers, because it would have already been judged by the same criteria across the Tasman.
Iponz deals with 5000 applications each year, 90 per cent from foreign companies.
New Zealand's broad patent laws have landed Iponz in controversy before, as firms needed to spend thousands of dollars to challenge the patents in court.
In 2002, Iponz granted a sweeping patent to Canada's DE Technologies that covered cross-border e- commerce processes, ranging from electronic invoicing to currency conversion. DE demanded licensing fees from Kiwi companies using these processes, warning it would otherwise seek an injunction to shut them down.
It didn't follow through on the threat, but the patent remains technically in effect since it can only be challenged in court.
In 2004, 15 IT firms and state-owned enterprises teamed up to challenge a data visualisation patent provisionally awarded to Wellington software firm Compudigm International.
Similar controversies are common overseas. In the US, Microsoft gained a patent covering the use of a mouse to "double-click" on an icon to launch a software application, while British Technology Group claimed a sweeping patent on downloading software patches over the Internet.
Patent attorney and past NZIPA president Keith Thomson says while patents are currently easy to get, they can be revoked unless they have an "inventive step".
"It's easy to get a patent, but that doesn't mean it's easy to get a good patent or a strong patent."
The tightening of New Zealand's patent laws would mean judges ruling on intellectual property disputes could use more case law from other countries, since New Zealand's definitions would be brought into line.
There's no danger of New Zealand farming out its patent body to Australia, because the draft bill has unique Kiwi characteristics.
It would see the creation of a Maori committee to advise the commissioner on whether an invention "is derived from Maori traditional knowledge or from indigenous plants and animals and whether the commercial exploitation of that invention is likely to be contrary to Maori values".
The committee would be appointed by the commissioner, who would have to consider but wouldn't be bound by its advice. A similar Maori body was set up for the Trademarks Act 2002. The advisory body will look only at patents referred by the commissioner.
Mr Thomson says the committee could spark controversy because many indigenous plants are grown overseas, which means inventions from the plants could be patented in other countries but not in New Zealand.
He says Maori traditional knowledge by definition isn't "novel", so it's difficult to include in patent law. "It should be covered by separate legislation. They're really two different things."
He also supports "innovation patents" for inventions which improve on others and aren't held to the same criteria as original inventions. Australia grants these patents for eight years instead of the usual 20.
Importantly, the draft bill also lays out a new dispute process that lets people challenge a patent after it's granted without going through the courts. Instead, the commissioner will hold a hearing and issue a judgment, which can then be challenged in court.
The commissioner can also be petitioned to re-examine a patent before it's granted.
Consultation closes on March 11, and the bill will likely be introduced to Parliament this year.
Justsystem Ordered To Halt Ichitaro Sales Due To Patent
The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday ordered Justsystem Corp. to discontinue producing and selling its Ichitaro word-processing and Hanako graphics software because they have a function that infringes on a Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. patent.
Presiding Judge Makiko Takabe also ordered Justsystem to scrap the products. But she did not declare the provisional execution of the rulings as Matsushita requested in its lawsuit.
Justsystem plans to appeal the ruling, company officials said. The company can continue selling the products until a higher court decision is made.
The patent involves Matsushita's Help Mode function, which gives on-screen instructions. About 8 million units of Ichitaro software that have the function have already been shipped.
Matsushita applied for a patent on the function in 1989. It received one in 1998.
Noting that both Ichitaro and Hanako have components that constitute Matsushita's patent, Takabe ruled against Justsystem's claim that it has not violated the patent.
Kazaa's A Drag At Its Own Company
Employees at peer-to-peer provider Sharman Networks "hate" installing the company's own Kazaa software because it has ill effects on their computers, according to an internal document written by Sharman's chief technology officer.
The document, entitled "Kazaa Technology 2004" and written by Phil Morle, says that Sharman needs to be careful about installing too much adware on a computer upon the installation of Kazaa. The document is part of a bundle for which a request for confidentiality was rejected this week by Justice Murray Wilcox, the judge overseeing a copyright trial against Sharman in Australia.
The adware "slows down users' machines and can affect other activity such as browsing the Internet," Morle wrote. "We are also adding increasing p2p networks to the users' machines. These are good value to users but they use more resources and create confusion for users as to what resources they are sharing and where this can be controlled."
These two issues could be reasons why Kazaa manages to "lose users by over-stepping the mark," the document said, adding that the company should take into account how many employees at Sharman refuse to install the peer-to-peer software.
"Consider how many people that work for Sharman Networks and its partners that hate installing Kazaa on their machine," Morle wrote.
Record labels Universal Music Australia, EMI, Sony/BMG, Warner, Festival Mushroom and 25 additional applicants are suing Sharman and associated parties--including Brilliant Digital Entertainment, Altnet and Sharman CEO Nikki Hemming--over alleged music copyright infringement made through the Kazaa software.
The Australian record companies assert that Sharman misrepresented the situation when it claimed that "the performance of a personal computer will not be, or is unlikely to be, noticeably affected by its functioning as a supernode for the purposes of the Kazaa software."
Morle's document also stated the company's awareness of the legal risks involved with the technology.
"Our competitors are taking risks legally, but delivering compelling consumer solutions. We need confidence in what we do and must take similar leaps of faith. eDonkey is not yet being sued and is in a strong position to out-innovate us," Morle wrote.
Computing's Silent Revolution
It wasn't until Mike Chin added a third PC to his home office a few years ago that he realized all those whirling fans, clicking hard drives and humming power supplies were adding up to one big racket.
"It drove me crazy," says Chin, a freelance technical writer in Vancouver. "It was a state-of-the-art machine, and it was so noisy I couldn't keep it on. Everything made such a racket, I just couldn't work in that environment."
Chin's frustration drove him on a months-long quest to isolate noise-making components and replace them with quieter alternatives, a mission numerous PC users and a growing number of manufacturers have followed in the years since.
Once a minor annoyance, noise from PCs has become a growing concern as ever-more powerful computers require stronger and often noisier cooling systems--especially with PCs moving out of the office into living rooms and bedrooms. The quest for quiet computing has inspired a cottage industry of specialist manufacturers, growing attention from major PC companies and a small underground of acoustic cultists who'll go to any extreme to eliminate another decibel of PC din.
"People are writing in all the time saying, 'It sounds like a jet engine taking off when I run my PC--what can I do about it?'" said Chin, who started Silent PC Review to share what he learned building a quiet PC. The site has become one of the leading resources for PC owners looking to muffle their rackety rigs.
"In most cases, it's just bad, inconsiderate design," Chin said. "You see some companies really paying attention and trying to do better, but acoustics still doesn't get much attention."
Most PC noise issues come down to heat. As processors and other components have become more powerful and electricity-hungry, they've required bigger and faster fans to keep them from burning to a crisp. Graphics chip giant Nvidia may have pushed the trend to its extreme about two years ago with the GeForce FX 5800, a chip that ran so hot it required an elaborate fan and duct system so noisy early models are still commonly referred to as "Nvidia leaf blowers" by PC buffs.
Complaints about the Nvidia fans and other extreme noisemakers have prompted manufacturers to make some concessions to acoustics. But truly quiet computing is still largely a niche market, served by specialty manufacturers such as South Korea's Zalman Tech, which makes huge copper heatsinks, water-cooling pumps and other components that dramatically reduce the airflow needed to cool PC chips.
Early adopters have included tech-savvy musicians and sound engineers, who can't afford to have a humming PC drown out the subtle aspects of the music they're making, said Michael Farnsworth, president of Quiet PC North America, the U.S. branch of a British company and one of the first specialty retailers devoted to quiet computing equipment.
Lawyers have also turned out to be a good market, Farnsworth said. "Noise reduces your attention and ability to think," he said. "When your time is worth $300 an hour, that's a big deal."
Interest in quiet computing has varied by region as well as occupation. Robert Jung, general manager of technology and business development for Zalman USA, said it's no accident the company that started the quiet-computing movement was launched in South Korea.
"In Asia, most people live in apartments that are small, concrete rooms," Jung said. "The sound doesn't dissipate very well, so you really notice anything noisy."
Zalman Tech founder Sang-Cheol Lee started the company to sell variations on the super-efficient heatsinks he developed to make his PC tolerably quiet. Zalman has gone on to provide quiet cooling systems for numerous other PC heat-spewers and is now looking at items such as plasma TVs and projectors. "Anything you can think of that creates heat, we're trying to provide a quiet, fanless solution for it," Jung said.
While most quiet-computing buffs start out with such practical goals, a small subset goes extreme, launching search-and-destroy missions for anything that clicks or wheezes in their PC. Forums on sites such as Chin's are full of impassioned debates about whether ceiling tiles or acoustic foam dampen more sound when glued into a PC case or the relative benefits of distilled water vs. diluted antifreeze for liquid cooling.
"For most people, the goal is just to get the PC down to the level of ambient noise in the room where they're using it," Chin said. "But some people have turned it into a hobby, where they obsess over every fine detail. It just becomes a game for them--you take care of one thing, and then you can hear the next most annoying thing."
The extremest of the extreme experiment with "underclocking" and "undervolting," the polar opposite of techniques PC hot-rodders use to push chips past their normal speed limits.
Chin says "undervolting"--adjusting a PC's setting so the processor receives less power than it's supposed to--actually makes sense in a lot of cases where a PC isn't being pushed to its limits. "If you're playing games on the PC, then maybe you want every last little drop of performance," he said. "But for your average user, an incremental drop in performance just doesn't matter. And the payback is that the processor runs a lot cooler."
Hearing the quiet message
While total silence is still a goal largely reserved for enthusiasts, mainstream consumers are starting to hear the quiet message as PCs perform new tasks such as home media servers, a role that often puts them into environments where noise is more obvious than an office. Just try enjoying the pianissimo of a Chopin nocturne with three case fans whirring in the background.
"We found a lot of our early customers were building custom computers for their home entertainment systems," Farnsworth said. "It can ruin the movie experience when the main thing you hear during a quiet scene is a fan running."
Media applications are the main market for specialty PC makers such as Hush Technologies in Germany, which makes high-powered, silent PCs that use clever ventilation instead of noisy fans to run cool.
"The concept of a silent, good-looking PC to go into the living room drives the majority of what we do," said John Booth, managing director of Hush.
The cost of silence
Booth said people instinctively like the idea of having a PC that doesn't make a racket, but selling silence as a premium product feature is still a marketing challenge.
"I think generally...people like the idea of a silent PC," he said. "That's not a problem. The problem is when they have to pay for it." Quiet PCs can cost up to $500 more than their noisier counterparts.
Hush's approach is to give equal attention to other aesthetic concerns, particular visual appearance. "We conspicuously make our boxes look very attractive...as part of positioning this as a premium product," Booth said.
That may work in specialty markets, but not with mainstream consumers, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst for researcher Insight64. That's why major PC companies have made only incremental concessions to acoustics, he said.
"Any of those (fanless computing) approaches tend to add cost compared with the more straightforward cooling methods," he said. "PC buyers historically have shown a real aversion to paying for things that don't contribute directly to performance."
Instead, major PC companies are adopting techniques that shave off a few decibels of fan noise without requiring expensive redesign.
Examples include Cool'N'Quiet technology Advanced Micro Devices adapted from its notebook chips. Cool'N'Quiet instructions baked into AMD's desktop processors throttle down chip power when the processor is idle or executing simple tasks. As a result, the processor runs cooler and requires less fan speed, said Jonathan Seckler, senior product manager for AMD.
"The goal is we would be able to reduce the noise as much as 10 or 15 percent and reduce the actual power usage as much as 60 percent," he said. "In a lot of cases, that means you're reducing the decibel rating to below 25 db," the same level as rustling leaves or someone whispering and close to the level of ambient noise in a quiet home.
The shift toward quiet is something of a turnaround for AMD, which helped spark the move to noisy, high-speed cooling fans in 1999 with the original heat-spewing Athlon chips. Seckler said the market has changed since then to put a value on aesthetic concerns such as sound.
"You no longer have this race where it's power and performance at all costs," he said. "We've seen there is a price you pay for performance. At the end of the day, noise and heat do matter."
That's a message underdog chipmaker Via Technologies has been been pushing for years. Most of the Taiwan company's PC processors and motherboards are low-power models designed to run without a cooling fan, an advantage that has helped Via chips find their way into an increasing number of media-centric PCs. Werner du Plessis, project manager for processor platforms at Via, said it's about time the PC industry looked at issues beyond processor speed.
"Our message has always been cool and quiet processing," he said. "We've never participated in the megahertz race, and finally people are waking up (to the fact) that we had it right from the beginning."
Via is well-positioned to grab a major chunk of the market for media PCs, du Plessis said, because it's easier to build a quiet system around a chip designed for fanless cooling than to retrofit mainstream chips.
"Having a processor designed to run cool and quiet...is something you have to aim for," he said. "It doesn't happen naturally."
Which is why Via and other quiet-computing proponents don't expect the mainstream PC industry to adopt a "silence is golden" ethos anytime soon.
Hush Technologies' Booth said consumers who want a truly quiet PC will have to continue to seek out specialists.
"Everything we've seen so far and into the forseeable future," he said, "is that the mainstream PC companies are going in the opposite direction from us."
MP3.com Founder To Launch New Music Service
The founder of pioneering music download Web site MP3.com is preparing to re-enter the digital music business with a new online music service set to
debut next week.
As when he launched MP3.com in 1997, Michael Robertson's new service, dubbed MP3tunes, will sell tracks in the MP3 format, which doesn't have any copy-protection restrictions and can be played on most, if not all, digital music players.
The service, to go online next Thursday, will sell individual tracks for 88 cents and albums for $8.88, said Robertson.
Because major record companies don't generally license their artists' music as MP3s, preferring to use formats that can set limits on copying and CD burning, none of the roughly 300,000 tracks initially for sale on MP3tunes will be from major label artists.
Most other major online music services are licensed to sell a million or more major label and independent acts.
Robertson, 37, said he's optimistic major record labels, despite their concerns over piracy, will eventually license music in the MP3 format.
``The industry has changed remarkably over the last seven to eight years and I think the next step ... is to say we'll sell a song without DRM,'' Robertson said. ``I don't think it's such a stretch.''
DRM is short for digital rights management, the industry term for copy-protection encoding.
He is also planning to eventually launch a device for the home designed to function like a computer server where users can store their digital music and access it from other computers over the Internet.
The device, dubbed MP3beamer, stems from Robertson's original ``music locker'' concept -- a system to enable people to access their personal music collections wherever they go.
Robertson's first stab at it involved buying thousands of CDs and making them accessible in a central server run by MP3.com. That led to a slew of litigation.
``Obviously, having one big centralized system didn't work out because of the licensing issues,'' he said. ``So this is a different approach to that same problem.''
Robertson's iconoclastic entrepreneurial adventures include creating Lindows Inc. to sell distributions of the open-source Linux operating system.
He later changed the company's name to Linspire after getting $20 million from Microsoft Corp. in the July settlement of a trademark infringement suit.
Hide Your IPod, Here Comes Bill
Microsoft's leafy corporate campus in Redmond, Washington, is beginning to look like the streets of New York, London and just about everywhere else: Wherever you go, white headphones dangle from peoples' ears.
To the growing frustration and annoyance of Microsoft's management, Apple Computer's iPod is wildly popular among Microsoft's workers.
"About 80 percent of Microsoft employees who have a portable music player have an iPod," said one source, a high-level manager who asked to remain anonymous. "It's pretty staggering."
The source estimated 80 percent of Microsoft employees have a music player -- that translates to 16,000 iPod users among the 25,000 who work at or near Microsoft's corporate campus. "This irks the management team no end," said the source.
So popular is the iPod, executives are increasingly sending out memos frowning on its use.
Of course, Microsoft's software is used by dozens of competing music players from manufacturers like Creative Technology, Rio and Sony. Its Windows Media Audio, or WMA, format is supported by several online music stores, including Napster, Musicmatch and Wal-Mart. Microsoft's PlaysForSure program markets this choice as a boon for consumers.
Nonetheless, Apple's iPod commands 65 percent of the portable player market, and its online iTunes Music Store 70 percent of online music sales, according to Apple.
"These guys are really quite scared," said the source of Microsoft's management. "It shows how their backs are against the wall.... Even though it's Microsoft, no one is interested in what we have to offer, even our own employees."
So concerned is management, owning an iPod at Microsoft is beginning to become impolitic, the manager said. Employees are hiding their iPods by swapping the telltale white headphones for a less conspicuous pair.
"Some people are a bit concerned about being traitors, not supporting the company," he said. "They're a bit stealth about it."
How "stealth" varies from division to division. At the company's Macintosh Business Unit, which publishes a wide range of software for the Mac, owning an iPod is almost de rigueur.
But at the Windows Digital Media Group, which is charged with software for portable players and the WMA format, using an iPod is not a good career move.
"In the media group they all smoke the company dope on that one," the manager said.
Mary Jo Foley, editor of Microsoft Watch, said she had no knowledge of the iPod's popularity on Microsoft's campus, but has noticed a lot of iPod chatter among Microsoft's legions of bloggers.
"I have seen lots of Softies blog about it," she wrote in an e-mail.
Microsoftie Chris Anderson, for example, just blogged about buying himself an iPod, three days after buying his wife one.
"I couldn't resist anymore," he wrote. "The industrial design on the iPod is absolutely amazing. The usability of the device is light-years beyond anything else I've seen."
Robert Scoble, who calls himself the "Microsoft Geek Blogger" and is one of the company's most widely read and vocal mouthpieces, sometimes appears obsessed with the iPod.
He recently penned an open letter to Bill Gates about how to build an iPod-killer (first thing: start a blog). "Even I want an iPod," he confessed.
The Microsoft manager said he's heard from several executives who dutifully bought Microsoft-powered players, tried them, failed to get them working, and returned them in favor of an iPod. He went through the same experience, he said.
He had no idea if Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, own iPods -- he's never seen what gadgets they use. "I've never seen either of them with any device, but I only see them in meetings," he said.
"There are frequent communications within the company about why it's a bad choice," the manager said. "So many people have chosen the iPod, executives feel they should send out memos about it."
For example, an internal e-mail circular sent to several senior managers in mid-December talked about iPod shipments to Apple's nearby store in Bellevue.
The e-mail said: "FWIW, the gal at the Bellevue Square Apple Store said that they are getting in two shipments of 200 iPods every day to keep up with this week's demand, and are nearly constantly selling out."
The note prompted a curt reply from Dave Fester, general manager of the Windows Digital Media division, who wrote the group: "I sure hope Microsoft employees are not buying iPods. We have great alternatives. Check out http://experiencemore."
Fifteen minutes later, the manager responded: "I don't know what I was thinking. I'm sure that Microsoft employees are not buying iPods, or Macs or PlayStations."
In 2003, Fester stirred up considerable controversy claiming Apple is locking in consumers with proprietary file formats, despite Microsoft's long history of using the same tactic.
As for hiding his own iPod use, the manager said he flaunts his iPod, despite the constant comments -- and occasional arguments -- it prompts.
"I don't really care if it pisses them off," he said. "I'll argue why they're doing it wrong. If you want me to stop using it, give me a product that works and is as easy to use."
Neither Apple nor Microsoft responded to requests for comment.
Worst suit of the week
RIAA Sues Deceased Grandmother
The recording industry's latest assault on file sharing has netted an unusual suspect: a deceased great-grandmother from West Virginia. In a lawsuit filed in January, the RIAA accused 83-year old Gertrude Walton of sharing over 700 pop, rock and rap songs under the alias "smittenedkitten."
What the RIAA didn't know is that Walton had passed away in December following a long illness. Her daughter, Robin Chianumba, has lived with Walton for the past 17 years and told the Charleston Gazette that her mother refused to even have a computer in the house.
The Recording Industry Association of America admitted that Walton was likely not the smittenedkitten it was after, blaming the mixup on the time it takes gather information on illicit file swappers.
"Our evidence gathering and our subsequent legal actions all were initiated weeks and even months ago," said RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy. "We will now, of course, obviously dismiss this case."
But to many, Walton's case underscores fundamental problems with the RIAA's effort to crack down on peer-to-peer piracy. Because online identities are mostly anonymous, industry police utilize IP addresses to track the specific Internet account sharing music. Unfortunately, the process is riddled with inaccuracies and sometimes innocent -- or deceased -- people are fingered as pirates.
"I believe that if music companies are going to set examples they need to do it to appropriate people and not dead people," Chianumba told the Gazette. "I am pretty sure she is not going to leave Greenwood Memorial Park to attend the hearing."
The process doesn't need to be perfect, however. While the RIAA may not have enough hard information to win in court, most named defendants opt to settle for a few thousand dollars and a promise they will cease file sharing activities rather than face recording industry lawyers.
"I don't know if this is a scheme to get money, I just don't know what's going on. I am concerned," said Chianumba.
RIAA Sues Deceased Grandmother
posted by redonthehead
Feb 5, 2005 - 5:52 PM
This is exactly the reason I will not buy any new recordings. I buy from pawn shops and garage sales,etc.
I'm just waiting for the day they sue ME! That will be the worst freaking mistake they ever made. I have so much evidence, proof and just straight up information to shut them up for good. The RIAA can lick my biskuit, and if any of you from the RIAA (you hear that google? RIAA, RIAA) are reading this. I WILL NEVER BUY ANYTHING AGAIN that gives you money in any way....... BECAUSE OF THIS
The RIAA has proven that they are total morons.
posted by Pipewrench
Feb 4, 2005 - 12:31 PM
The RIAA should be laughed out of court. They are doing a great job of proving that they are absolute and total morons.
Re: The RIAA has proven that they are total morons.
posted by Diamhair
Feb 5, 2005 - 8:05 AM
This is a golden opportunity for people being sued to point to the credibility of the RIAA's evidence. They are blindly suing people!
Re: The RIAA has proven that they are total morons.
posted by excelon2005
Feb 4, 2005 - 1:54 PM
I totally agree. In Lawrence Lessig's book "Free Culture," he said that the fine for ONE song downloaded ($1.5M) is more than the amount of which malpractice lawsuits are capped at ($.25M). This in itself is fundamentally flawed.
The RIAA is simply too trigger-happy. Instead of suing people for amounts they cannot even afford, why not ask nicely to either keep the songs for 99 cents each or delete them? If the user is simply defiant, then fine... go ahead and stick 'em out.
The music industry's greed has led me to not even bother looking at the charts or download any song (most of the songs are trash to begin with). They are the most ungrateful brats I have ever seen. They have their mansions and expensive junk while others are sleeping on the streets... what more do they want?
Re: The RIAA has proven that they are total morons.
posted by mancub
Feb 5, 2005 - 4:34 AM
its very simple realy dont buy any music, software, tapes, films, dvds, videoes, of any kind then they will go bankrupt, is it not the best way to deal with these people then they wont have amasion and all the the trimmings ,come on people the powers in the purchaser not the seller hit the entainment industry were it hurts its bank balance
OK, I'm with you guys on this one...
posted by bourgeoisdude
Feb 4, 2005 - 12:18 PM
It's one thing to sue companies or individuals who illegally make music files available to download, but sueing a deceased Grandmother? That's ridiculous!
Re: OK, I'm with you guys on this one...
posted by wfacer
Feb 4, 2005 - 2:03 PM
Same here. RIAA - Really Idiotic Anal A****
Re: OK, I'm with you guys on this one...
posted by RaveN-FH-
Feb 4, 2005 - 1:07 PM
the courts need to step in and stop the riaa from filing john doe lawsuits. lord knows i don't get away with filing a lawsuit without properly serving an individual ... neither should they.
Re: OK, I'm with you guys on this one...
posted by cowticket
Feb 4, 2005 - 12:56 PM
They are suing there own customers. Thats why I will never spend a cent for a cd.
Re: OK, I'm with you guys on this one...
posted by spiffyjeff
Feb 4, 2005 - 1:29 PM
I have stopped buying cds too, because of their unethical practices of giving artists small cuts of the profit, and cause of them suing consumers. I hope they consider that factor in when they do these counts of how many sales they lost "due to filesharing"
Re: OK, I'm with you guys on this one...
posted by Mountain_Man
Feb 4, 2005 - 5:38 PM
i also dont buy cds anymore. the money doesnt go to the artists, it goes to the executives so they can force more pop crap down our throats and pay radio stations not to play independent bands. no thanks. i'd be more than happy to pay artists directly for their music, but im not paying some record company to keep good music down and promote crap.
Re: OK, I'm with you guys on this one...
posted by aszure
Feb 5, 2005 - 4:31 PM
Me three. Thats why I got involved with http://www.indieradiolive.com its 24-7 independent radio.
posted by Sunstar
Feb 6, 2005 - 8:19 AM
I welcome a lawsuit, I would immediately file a countersuit
these guys are as bad as THE MAFIA in a sense.
the tacics they are using fall under the RICOlaw, it was introduced in the early 70s to do something about mob bosses
look into the law, they maintain thier business using threats and fear tactics which is exactly what the rico law is all about.
Re: p2p and RIAA
posted by Budgie29
Feb 6, 2005 - 1:18 PM
Napster was the biggest threat to the recording industry ... all all they did is to close it down and the artists should go it alone
with out them Sony,emi are nothing
but 99p per track it redilcous
drop your prices .stop ripping us off
fair price for every one insted of the fat cats just creaming everything off and just leaving sour milk for the artists
I will susport where susport is due I have not Bought any music since tapes went from £5 to 7.49
most of the compulations that are brought out
its allways a toss up weather or not i happen to like the tracks on it
“It Pays To Share”
PEER IMPACT PRELIMINARY "FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS" (FAQ)
What is Peer Impact?
Peer Impact is a content distribution service that will provide legal, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing services for its members. Its technology offers Peer Impact members a secure online space to purchase and share music and other digital content. At the same time, Peer Impact strives to ensure that content owners and proprietary rights holders alike, such as record labels, musical artists and publishers are paid appropriately for all music shared on the site.
What is the Peer Impact Community?
The Peer Impact Community offers music lovers of all ages a secure place to discuss music, their favorite artists and the latest news about digital music. The site offers a moderated bulletin board, so that members can join with others to discuss the latest in music - both online and off.
When will Peer Impact become operational and available to the public?
Peer Impact is currently concluding internal beta testing and is scheduled to launch publicly in the first quarter of 2005.
How will the music-sharing function of Peer Impact differ from peer-to-peer (P2P) sites and paid music download sites?
Peer Impact is a proprietary, patent-pending business model that will not be released to the public until the 1st quarter of 2005. While we wish we didn't have to keep our Peer Impact Community members in the dark, it's imperative that we keep a few things secret right now, as we develop the fully functional service that will allow secure and legal music file sharing for our members.
Can I get digital music downloads from Peer Impact?
Not yet, but it’s coming soon. Please be sure you register to become one of the first to experience the revolution of secure and legal peer-to-peer digital music file sharing.
What is a beta-tester for Peer Impact?
Simply put, a beta tester for Peer Impact is somebody who agrees to use the service in its early stages, in order to test the system prior to its launch to rank-and-file consumers.
Why should I sign up to become a beta-tester for Peer Impact?
As a beta-tester, you'll have the power to help us determine the direction and success of the service. Without our members, there can be no Peer Impact, so we're working hard to bring the most ardent music fans together with technology innovators to help us make the service as robust, useful and user-friendly as possible. Plus, those who join Peer Impact early will have access to the first Peer Impact user names!
How do I become a beta-tester for Peer Impact?
To be considered to be a beta-tester for Peer Impact, please register your email address in the space provided. Once you are declared eligible, a Peer Impact representative will be in touch with you via email to discuss your next steps as we get closer to our launch date.
Is Peer Impact available outside the U.S.?
No. Due to licensing restrictions, Peer Impact is currently available to U.S. residents only.
Who is behind Peer Impact?
Peer Impact is the brainchild of Wurld Media, Inc. Best known for its BuyersPort e- commerce platform, Wurld Media is a privately held company based in Saratoga Springs, New York.
How can I find answers to other questions?
Do you have any other questions? Just click email@example.com to ask a question via email.
File-Sharing Networks Examined
Ferraris, guns and alcohol are all legal, even though manufacturers know their wares could be used to break the law.
So should a similar standard apply to Internet users who share - or some would say, "steal" - digital music? Legal scholars interested in copyright law discussed that question Saturday at a symposium put on by the Northern Kentucky Law Review.
"We're all copyright infringers, just like we all sometimes speed," said Jason Schultz, attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents a file-sharing network that's being sued by movie studios and record companies in a case that will soon come before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"To what extent should the law be like a microscope (on file-sharing networks)?" Schultz asked. "How many people have never put something on their computer that's not supposed to be there? This is just the reality we live in."
About 60 legal scholars, law students and local attorneys - most of whom came down on the side of fair use and freedom of speech instead of copyright protection and intellectual property rights - discussed regulating file-sharing networks.
The symposium, featuring prominent legal experts in the gray areas surrounding intellectual property, is especially timely as the film and music industries continue fighting popular file-sharing systems such as Kazaa, Morpheus, Gnutella and Grokster.
The U.S. Supreme Court has set March 29 as the date for oral arguments in MGM v. Grokster, which involves another peer-to-peer network similar to Napster. Proposed legislation called "Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Acts of 2004" will be brought before Congress again this year after dying last year.
Students at Northern Kentucky University were warned in November by the school administration students exchanging and downloading copyrighted music could be punished by the university. The warning was issued after the Recording Industry Association of America told the university that campus computers had been involved in illegal music sharing.
Attorneys at the symposium said the argument isn't always as simple as music thievery versus fair use.
The proposed federal law, the "Induce Act" and introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would crack down on technology that makes illegal file-sharing possible, comparable to charging a person for aiding and abetting a crime. This legislation, the attorneys said, could put a chilling effect on technological development and could threaten new technology such as the iPod, Tivo, CD and DVD burners and wireless networking.
Studies show 60 million Americans share files on the Internet.
"Do we want to criminalize all these people?" Schultz asked. "Maybe there's a better way."
Davida H. Isaacs, assistant professor of law at NKU's Salmon P. Chase College of Law, said the proposed legislation would be "a very powerful tool in the arsenal of industry groups like the RIAA. People will only take notice when (more of these file-sharing technologies) start to be taken away."
CDs Likely To Rule As Sound Of Music
Molly R. Okeon
Back in the tie-dyed and bell-bottomed days of the mid-1970s, Tony Negrete got around town in his "muscle car' a 1968 Oldsmobile 442 and listened to the Rolling Stones and the Eagles on an eight-track player set in the dashboard.
Man, are those days over.
Now, Negrete is thinking about moving into the digital age.
Gracefully, mind you.
"You've got to move with the times,' said Negrete, 46, sitting at a Starbucks in Rancho Cucamonga with his 24-year-old daughter, Antoinette Lindsey. "I don't want to be left behind.'
Over the 2004 holiday season, Apple sold more than 4.5 million iPods, signaling that the age of digital music has arrived in a big, big way.
The even smaller iPod Shuffle, unveiled last month, is lighter than a pack of gum, and though limited to about 120 songs that can't be individually selected, also costs less than $100.
Is it possible that the compact disc, like its predecessors, vinyl, eight-tracks and cassette tapes, could go the way of vacuum-tube TVs and transistor radios?
Even though Negrete, like many his age, still chooses CDs as his preferred method of music listening, he is not opposed to digital, downloadable music. But "purists' cling to their records, eight-tracks and cassettes for dear life, fearing a hostile takeover by iPods and their ilk.
Not surprisingly, some music store owners and musicians dislike downloads for financial reasons. In the late 1990s and into the 21st century, artists including Dr. Dre and Metallica had a running battle with peer-to-peer music file-sharing Internet sites like Napster.
Paul Vasquez, who works at Rhino Records in Claremont, said his store took a hit six years ago when college students in the area first caught the downloading bug.
"It's something we were worried about for a while, but it leveled off,' said Vasquez, a buyer for the store, which carries between 20,000 and 25,000 CDs. "We cater to a different market. I mean, we have Britney Spears. But people come here looking for things you probably couldn't download.'
As is often the case, Vasquez said his customers still buy CDs so they can download the music onto their iPods. It's much easier, he said, than "lugging around cases of CDs.'
Vasquez is not giving up on old-school music listening. He owns about 4,000 records, 2,000 CDs, 50 eight-tracks and a small number of cassettes.
In Redlands, Dave Martinez, owner and buyer at Headstone Records, has the same line of thought. He said iPods are a novelty that can never replace a tactile music medium.
"Somebody would rather say, 'Hey, let me borrow your CD' than, 'Hey, let me borrow your download,'' said Martinez, who owns an iPod "strictly for holding music.'
"They want to look at the text (on a CD cover) and see who are the artists and who are the producers who arranged the music.'
Martinez said that vinyl is irreplaceable.
"Records are good forever they're always going to play,' he said. "If (the music) goes out of print, if Napster shuts down, you still have the hard copy of the original music.
"IPods and (digital music) technology cannot replace the longevity and the picture and the vintageness of a CD case cover and its artwork. It's not possible.'
Although Rhino Records customer Brenton Martindale, 17, was browsing in the vinyl aisle one day recently, he said records are not his bag. It just so happens that his friend Colin Busch, also 17, is a budding DJ.
And, while he has seen an eight-track cassette in the past, he has never heard one played.
"I download music because it's easier,' said Martindale, a former Diamond Bar resident who was in town from San Diego to visit Busch. "I'm getting less and less CDs because I download. You can pick your favorite songs.'
Martindale keeps CDs to listen to the songs he doesn't regularly play on his iPod.
"I don't get tired of CDs as fast,' he explained.
Some feel shorter attention spans are partly to blame for the growing popularity of digital music.
According to a July 2003 New York Times article, Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatry instructor at Harvard University, and John Ratey, an associate professor at Harvard and a psychiatrist, are among a growing number of physicians and sociologists studying how technology affects attention span, creativity and focus.
They have coined a condition known as pseudo-attention deficit disorder: Sufferers do not actually have attention deficit disorder but have developed shorter attention spans due to technology and the fast pace of modern life.
Vasquez said iPod lovers don't care as much about "the experience' of music buying and listening.
"I'm not interested in getting music that way,' he said. "It's no fun. There's no experience of going to a store and finding it. There's no connection with the artist.'
Martinez agreed, saying he can't stand the impersonal nature of downloadable music.
"You feel like there's nothing between you and the artist,' he said.
Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said changes in the entertainment sector generally happen as a result of technological advances.
"The interesting thing about the iPod is that Apple has moved it beyond something to listen to music with,' Kyser said. "Over the Christmas holiday, they turned it into a fashion item, with bright colors and sleeves to put your iPod in. It's a combination of technology and fashion merchandising.'
However, Kyser said, "purists' probably will keep CDs on the market for a while.
"If you go around Southern California, you find 45s and long-playing records in boxes and garages,' he said. "You'll probably have somebody who really likes (CDs) and feels that it's the best sound quality.'
Valencia Salter, who works at DJ's Records, Tapes CDs in Fontana, agrees that CDs won't be disappearing any time soon.
"I'm not going to sit up here and waste my money on something like that,' she said of the iPod. "(CDs) have been around for so long. A variety of people are still buying CDs.'
Smaller Than a Pushpin, More Powerful Than a PC
In a new volley in the battle for digital home entertainment, I.B.M., Sony and Toshiba will announce details Monday of their newest microprocessor design, known as Cell, which is expected to offer faster computing performance than microprocessors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.
Anticipation of the announcement, to be made at an industry conference here, has touched off widespread industry speculation over the impact of the new chip technology, which promises to enhance video gaming and digital home entertainment.
Sony plans to use the new Cell in its PlayStation 3, likely to be introduced in 2006, and Toshiba plans to use the chip in advanced high-definition televisions, also to be introduced next year.
However, many industry executives and analysts say that Cell's impact may ultimately be much broader, staving off the PC industry's efforts to dominate the digital living room and at the same time creating a new digital computing ecosystem that includes Hollywood, the living room and high-performance scientific and engineering markets.
"There is a new game in town, and it will revive an industry that has been kind of sleepy for the last few years," said Richard Doherty, a computer industry analyst and president of Envisioneering, a market research company in Seaford, N.Y.
The Cell's introduction also comes at a time when the computer industry has largely given up investing in fundamentally new processor designs and has instead chosen to use the additional space available on the newest generation of chips to place multiple processors and thus add performance.
The Cell chip, computer experts said, could have a theoretical peak performance of 256 billion mathematical operations per second. With that much processing power, the chip would have placed among the top 500 supercomputers on a list maintained by scientists at the University of Mannheim and the University of Tennessee as recently as June 2002.
"This is extremely impressive," said Kevin Krewell, editor in chief of Microprocessor Report, an industry technical publication, "and it proves that architectural innovation isn't dead."
Several computer industry executives warned, however, that despite the Cell's impressive specifications, success is not guaranteed for any new design in the computer industry. For example, Intel and Hewlett-Packard have spent more than a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars on the Itanium and the chip has yet to find a receptive market.
The Cell has a modular design based on a slightly less powerful I.B.M. processor that is currently in G5 64-bit desktop computers from Apple Computer. Additionally, the Cell architecture is distinguished by the fact that it controls an array of eight additional processors that the design team refers to as synergistic processing elements, or S.P.E.'s. Each of the S.P.E.'s is a 128-bit processor in its own right.
The Cell has some components that in the lab switch at 5.6 GHz, and several people familiar with the design said that it was both more flexible than is generally understood and that it has been designed with high bandwidth communications, such as high-speed data links to homes, in mind.
"Cell has been optimized for broadband-rich applications," said Jim Kahle, I.B.M.'s director of technology at the Design Center for Cell Technology, the headquarters in Austin, Tex., for the I.B.M., Sony and Toshiba partnership.
He said that I.B.M. had refined a technology also being developed by Intel called "virtualization," which is designed to isolate applications from one another. Originally used in mainframe computing applications, the technology is now being exploited by consumer electronics designers to run demanding applications like video decompression and decryption simultaneously.
One significant risk for Sony and I.B.M. is that the Sony PlayStation 3 game machine is likely to be introduced later than the next generation of Xbox from Microsoft. The PlayStation 2 beat the Xbox to market and Microsoft was never able to catch up, meaning that it lost hundreds of millions of dollars on its bet on the video game market.
In its next version of the Xbox, Microsoft plans to shift from using Pentium chips from Intel to a PowerPC microprocessor from I.B.M. The chip will have two PowerPC processor cores, but it will not be as radically new as the I.B.M. Cell design that Sony plans to use, said one executive who is familiar with the Microsoft project.
That will make for a fascinating rivalry: Sony is betting that its computer horsepower advantage will be large enough to give it a quality advance over Microsoft, even if it arrives late.
"Our goal with the Cell is to be an order of magnitude faster," said Lisa Su, an I.B.M. executive in charge of technology development and licenses.
Many industry executives believe that because of its low cost, the Cell is a harbinger of a fundamentally new computing era that will push increasingly into consumer applications.
"I think it will aid in some of the convergence between consumer and corporate I.T. and this will accelerate amazingly from the consumer side," said Andrew Heller, a former I.B.M. processor designer who is now chairman of Heller & Associates, a consulting firm in Austin, Tex.
One area of wide speculation is whether Apple might become a partner in the Cell alliance in the future. Apple is already the largest customer for the PowerPC chip, and it would be simple for the company to take advantage of the Cell design. Several people familiar with Apple's strategy, however, said that the computer maker had yet to be convinced that the Cell technology could provide a significant performance advantage.
As Piracy Battle Nears Supreme Court, the Messages Grow Manic
Tom Zeller Jr.
Garret the Ferret is one hip copyright crusader. The cartoon character urges young cybercitizens toward ethical downloading and - in baggy jeans and a gold "G" medallion - reminds them that copying and sharing software is uncool.
He is also a byproduct of the long-roiling public relations battle between copyright owners, who say they are threatened by digital piracy, and technology advocates opposed to strict controls on the copying of digital media, and on the kinds of software that make piracy so easy.
With the Supreme Court scheduled next month to hear a pivotal case pitting copyright holders (represented by MGM Studios) against the makers of file-sharing software (Grokster and StreamCast Networks), some participants are putting their message machines into high gear.
But winning hearts and minds - of teenagers, consumers and lawmakers - has never been a simple matter.
"It's hard for two reasons," said Rick Weingarten, the director of the Office for Information Technology Policy at the American Library Association, which has been exploring ways to strike a balance in the copyright and antipiracy messages being aimed at young people.
"Copyright law is not the easiest thing to explain, and it's hard to put a bumper sticker on it," Mr. Weingarten said. "But, you're also talking about the future, and it's hard to explain to a consumer that there could one day be a lot of restrictions on what you can do with new technology."
One side must make people care about obscure technological innovations that they say will be stifled by legislative action or an adverse Supreme Court ruling. The other side battles the image of greedy corporate profiteers and the perception that freely downloading copyrighted works is something other than theft.
"It was easier before the computer," said Dan Glickman, the president and chief executive of the Motion Picture Association of America, which has ramped up its antipiracy efforts in recent weeks with a new round of lawsuits and a media campaign warning would-be thieves to "think again." Two weeks ago, the association also began offering a free, downloadable program that allows parents to scan computers for file-sharing software and potentially pirated media files.
"People knew they couldn't steal a video tape out of Blockbuster," Mr. Glickman said, "but the principles are still the same."
Not to be outdone, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the digital rights advocacy group that is representing StreamCast Networks in the Grokster case, unveiled its Endangered Gizmos campaign to coincide with the filing of dozens of MGM-friendly amicus briefs with the Supreme Court late last month.
The campaign displays cheeky taxonomies of "extinct" or "endangered" techno-species like the original file-sharing service Napster, which was sued into submission, and the Streambox VCR, which allowed users to record streaming media off the Internet and suffered a similar fate. The foundation hopes to convince consumers and lawmakers that there are cultural costs to giving copyright holders too much power.
"So many of the issues that we deal with are really abstruse," said Wendy Seltzer, an intellectual property attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the principal creator of the Endangered Gizmos campaign. "And yet they touch a whole segment of the public that we want to reach out to."
Whether any of these messages is getting through is an open question. Survey data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a nonprofit research group in Washington, show that among those who actively download music, 58 percent still say they do not care if the material is copyright protected.
Among the general public, 57 percent say they are unfamiliar with concepts like "fair use" - the kernel of copyright law that allows people to copy protected materials under certain conditions, and which digital rights groups contend has been inappropriately constricted by the recording and film industries.
The fight has given rise to grass-roots organizations like Downhill Battle, a nonprofit group based in Worcester, Mass., that conducts a robust trade in T-shirts, bumper stickers, posters and other paraphernalia that chide the music and film industries for what it considers wanton profiteering at the expense of artists and consumers.
In a challenge to fair-use restrictions, the group made digitized, downloadable copies of "Eyes on the Prize, Part I: Awakenings" - the first installment of a 1987 documentary on the civil rights movement - and is encouraging mass, noncommercial screenings of it tomorrow. The film has largely been absent from television and video rental shelves while the production company, Blackside Inc., of Boston, works to renew (and pay for) permissions on the hundreds of copyrighted elements used in the film - from archival news footage to songs like "Happy Birthday."
Blackside was not pleased with the copying and distribution of its film, and persuaded the group to remove it from its Web site last week. But fear and confusion over the legal issues has led at least one county in Virginia to stop a teacher from showing the school's legally acquired copy of the film to students and community members.
"The school district didn't understand that they have fair-use rights," said Tiffiniy Cheng, a director of Downhill Battle, which lists more than two dozen venues that, it says, have committed to screening the film.
But the nagging fear of legal action, even among right-minded users of digital materials, has made it difficult for copyright holders to foster a positive public image - even though they see lawsuits as critical to stamping out theft.
"It would be ideal if our educational efforts got more attention," said Mitch Bainwol, the chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America, which has waged a well-publicized legal campaign against file sharers. "But the lawsuits get more coverage because of the nature of the controversy."
Those on the digital rights side of the debate recognize the content industry's image problem - and they are not above exploiting it. But they know that their own image is troubled, too.
Indeed, all but the most strident digital anarchists agree that illegal file sharing is wrong. Yet those who argue for strong fair-use protections are often portrayed by opponents as supporters of theft.
"They can so easily be painted as favoring piracy," said Susan Crawford, a professor of Internet law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School in New York and a member of the advisory board for Public Knowledge, a Washington group that has fought legislation that it argues would stifle new technological advances. "They have to deal with a concept that's even harder to visualize - innovation - and they have not found a sound bite or a picture that puts across a message to people."
For groups like Public Knowledge, antipiracy tactics like the entertainment industry's case against Grokster and StreamCast or legislation like the Induce Act, which stalled in Congress last year and which opponents argued would have stifled technological innovation by making developers of file-sharing software subject to lawsuits, present a morass of legal and technical nuance that is hard to reduce to sound bites.
That is why the Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken to turning the gizmos they see threatened by the Grokster lawsuit into pandas and spotted owls. "That's an image," Ms. Crawford said. "They can play on people's love for gadgets," although she added that it's not quite the humanizing stroke one might hope for.
"It's an uphill battle to visualize innovation," she said.
The Business Software Alliance, the powerful consortium of software manufacturers, might well agree with that sentiment.
The group clearly wants to stamp out the use of pirated software - a recent study by International Data Corporation estimated that 36 percent of software installed on computers worldwide was pirated. But it is also interested in fostering the development of new technologies that, in addition to having perfectly legal uses, could also be abused by pirates.
"It's easy for one side to say well, let's just limit the functionality of technology, because we only care about the pain it's causing our business," said Emery Simon, the director for general policy at the alliance. "On the flip side, you can say, well, technology is the superceding and overarching good. Both are right, and both are wrong."
In addressing those rights and wrongs, the alliance has mounted some of the more ambitious public campaigns of any group - including the introduction of Garret the Ferret into schools. The group has also relicensed its use of the cartoon character Dilbert, which it has used to reach out to professional engineers, via Web sites like BSAengineers.com and through bulk mailings, to warn them against using pirated software.
"We hope that the engineers that got the Dilbert flier will take the message home," said Debbi Mayster, the alliance's communications manager.
It did not work for everyone.
Bryan Fields, a partner and chief engineer with Illiana.net, an Internet service provider to customers in Illinois and Indiana, is one recipient who did not appreciate the gesture. He said in an e-mail message that he did not like seeing Dilbert, "who stands for everything that's wrong with soul-sucking corporations, acting as a mouthpiece for the most evil of them all - the B.S.A."
Wherefore Art Thou, Clint?
A friend of mine e-mailed me Friday to see if I wanted to go to the Folger Theater production of "Romeo and Juliet."
I e-mailed him back, fretting: Doesn't that play promote suicide?
What's the 411 on those Elizabethan teenagers? Were they friends with benefits who recklessly scarfed down unsafe substances and romanticized death?
Surely, the Apothecary is guilty of assisted suicide, selling the distraught Romeo a dram of poison and instructing him: "Put this in any liquid thing you will/And drink if off, and if you had the strength/Of twenty men, it would dispatch you straight."
My friend suggested we skip the play and go out to dinner, where we could promote assisted gluttony. In this hypermoralistic atmosphere, you can't be too careful, even when a Friar is on hand to warn "violent delights have violent ends." I don't want to get on the wrong side of the Savonarolas.
I saw "Million Dollar Baby" and was dazzled. But then Rush Limbaugh, Michael Medved and other conservatives howled that Dirty Harry playing Dr. Kevorkian sends a positive message about euthanasia.
The culture cops are unmoved that Clint Eastwood's crepuscular boxing manager, Frankie, is a Catholic who goes to Mass every day and agonizes about the morality of his actions.
Mr. Medved wrote that the Oscar nominations for "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Sea Inside," which feature plots about assisted suicide, combined with snubs for "The Passion of the Christ," "illustrate Hollywood's profound, almost pathological discomfort with the traditional religiosity embraced by most of its mass audience."
I guess Shakespeare is pretty much out from now on. Ophelia drowns herself; Cleopatra kills herself with an assist from two asps; Lear's wretched daughter Goneril does herself in, as does Lady Macbeth. Brutus kills himself by running onto a sword held by his servant Strato (another assisted suicide), and his wife, Portia, dies by swallowing a burning coal; Othello stabs himself. And don't even start with the lurid family values in Greek drama and myth, rife with patricide, matricide, fratricide and incest.
It's funny that the moviemaker stirring up the fuss is an icon of the right, a man the president's father aped when he said, "Read my lips: No new taxes." When I interviewed Mr. Eastwood in 1995, he said he thought his party was onto something with its nostalgia for the old values. But he also said he was more libertarian than conservative: "The less you mess around with people, the better off people are." That attitude is passé in the Republican Party. The Christian right thinks that the more you mess around with people, the better off people are. It is eager to dictate social, cultural and marital behavior, with an assist from the man whom it boasts it put back in the White House.
The Virginia House of Delegates last week endorsed license plates reading "Traditional Marriage," featuring a red heart with interlocking gold wedding bands. (A married pal of mine joked that for verisimilitude, the plates should also feature a man and a woman looking miserable.)
But the Bard was more interested in untraditional marriage - like that lurid family dinner in "Titus Andronicus," when Titus serves Tamora meat pies made from the bodies of her two sons, who have raped and mutiliated Titus's daughter in revenge for Titus slaying Tamora's oldest son before her eyes. (Capped by him murdering Tamora and mercy-killing his daughter.)
Just because it's not "Ozzie and Harriet," does it have to be bowdlerized, or Medvedized - "Unmixed with anything that could raise a blush on the cheek of modesty," as Dr. Bowdler bragged about his eviscerated Shakespeare?
Michael Moore and Mel Gibson aside, the purpose of art is not always to send messages. More often, it's just to tell a story, move people and provoke ideas. Mr. Eastwood's critics don't even understand what art is. Politics - not art - is about finding consensus with the majority of the audience. Art is not about avoiding controversy or ensuring that everyone leaves feeling morally uplifted.
What I love about movies and plays is seeing fictional characters behaving in ends-justify-the-means ways I never would. What I hate about politics is seeing real officials behaving in ends-justify-the-means ways on the W.M.D. "crisis" in Iraq, the Social Security "crisis," and the spread of federal disinformation from paid "journalists." Now that's worth howling about.
Hollywood grabbing the game business
Blockbuster With a Joystick
Laura M. Holson
Ten years after being burned in their first attempts to combine movies and television with the video game business, media companies now seem willing to press the play button again.
Wall Street is rife with speculation that various media companies are on the hunt to acquire a video game maker like Activision or Electronic Arts. Studios are more aggressively licensing their television and movie properties to game makers. And the pitches for video game-inspired movies have made lunch at Spago sound more like the computer club at a junior high school.
At last week's Walt Disney Company conference in Orlando, Fla., investors were told that the company was in discussions to buy multiple game development studios and would spend nearly $50 million to develop the business. Disney executives are scouring their vast library of action films like "Armageddon," "Gone In Sixty Seconds" and the two-part "Kill Bill" for ideas for the next blockbuster game.
Such activity is a far cry from a year ago, when the video game business "was not one we or any other media company would touch," said Andy Mooney, the head of Disney's consumer products division.
What is driving the flurry is Hollywood's newfound respect for the profits earned by video game makers. Until recently, movie studios were happy to license their films to game developers, Mr. Mooney said. But as the profit margin on video games has remained around a healthy 25 percent - three times that of the average motion picture - the interest of companies like Disney has increased.
"There is a pressure on all of us to grow our business," said Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment. "It looks really attractive - like many things - on the surface."
Under the surface, however, video games remain a risky and unproven test for media companies.
The most successful games are franchises unto themselves. With the exception of the recent games based on Spider-Man, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars movies, the sales of movie-based games pale beside those of the alien-fighting "Halo" games and the violent "Grand Theft Auto" series, where players score points for shooting pedestrians and beating up prostitutes.
"It's not a one-size-fits-all business and there is no silver bullet," Mr. Mooney said. "Once you get past the 'Let's spend billions and go buy a game company stage,' you have to ask yourself, 'What is the right strategy?' "
Media companies have dreamed of crossover successes before. In the 1970's and 1980's, many studios acquired book publishers in the hopes of mining their titles for movie ideas. Later, Hollywood film producers tried to combine book publishing with movie making. Neither attempt panned out.
In the 1990's, DreamWorks SKG, Time Warner, Disney and others sought to build their own video game divisions, only to falter under the weight of high development costs or too little expertise. Some companies, like DreamWorks, sold their game divisions, while others scaled back and incorporated their games business into their technology units.
Those failures are part of the reason that smaller game developers have flourished. The culture that has persisted among developers is one in which they retain their entrepreneurial flair, while movies and television are mature businesses. And video game makers have yet to adopt the diva qualities and corrupting influence of star power that is more common in Hollywood
"There will naturally be culture clashes if they try to move these cultures together," said Neil Young, the executive in charge of production at Electronic Arts. "There is not a culture of fear in our industry. We are not afraid to fail."
The big media companies - where fear of failure is almost a job requirement - have taken vastly different approaches to exploiting the video game phenomenon this time around.
Disney is publishing its own game based on the coming "Chronicles of Narnia" movie, while Mr. Lynton said Sony Pictures will continue to license its film properties to developers. At News Corp., which also licenses their film and television shows for video games, chief operating officer Peter Chernin said recently that video game companies were currently too expensive to acquire. Time Warner is the most aggressive of the large companies, with a three-pronged approach including licensing, co-partnering with game makers and designing its own games.
Many companies are even looking beyond the marquee console games to multiplayer online games and cellphone games, which are growing in popularity and are cheaper to produce. A video game for Sony's PlayStation or Microsoft's Xbox can cost as much as $15 million to make, while a game played exclusively on a cellular phone can be developed for as little as $100,000. Twentieth Century Fox last month signed a two-year deal with game publisher Sorrent to make cell games for some of its upcoming movies.
But Mr. Lynton, whose bosses at the Sony Corporation in Japan make the popular PlayStation consoles and video games, cautioned that the industry should not overhype the synergies between games and other entertainment.
"The problem is, leaving aside the expense of buying a game company or starting one from scratch, when you get into the dynamics of the video game business, it is very different than film or television production," he said. "I have a hard time telling a good game from a bad one."
Instead, some media companies are hiring game developers to tell them what to think. In January 2004, Warner Brothers Entertainment hired Jason Hall, the co- founder of the game maker Monolith Productions, to run its newly formed Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment unit, which is overseen by Kevin Tsujihara, executive vice president of business development and strategy, and Dan Romanelli, consumer products president.
That division is developing "The Matrix Online," a multiplayer game that participants will be able to play online and is expected to be introduced this spring after being delayed twice. Mr. Tsujihara said Warner planned to release up to three to five games per year. The main reason Warner started the division was quality control, he said.
"We don't want to have our movies and television shows hurt by bad games," Mr. Tsujihara said.
Quality aside, there are other more compelling reasons - if Warner games are a hit, the studio gets to keep all of the profits instead of sharing with the likes of Electronic Arts or Activision. Those numbers can be staggering: first-day sales of Xbox's "Halo 2" were $125 million, far surpassing the theatrical debut of most movies. And some industry analysts suggest that Warner, like others, is waiting for the introduction of the newest generation of DVD players to re-release vintage films, comic book serials and television shows it owns, which will be promoted and packaged alongside newly minted video games. If successful, video game companies might soon find that their friendly studio partners are fierce rivals.
"Studios are going to become game publishers and will treat them like movies, television or any other intellectual property," said Keith Boesky, a game industry consultant.
But when studios have tried to exploit video games as movies in the past, they have had limited success. (Remember "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within?" No one else does. Video games that are too violent or lack a good plot are hard to translate to the screen.) When Paramount Pictures made two movies based on the "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" game, Robert Friedman, vice chairman at Paramount Pictures, said the studio "desperately wanted to make movies that were PG-13." The first movie was a hit, the second a bomb that killed the franchise.
Paramount, which is owned by the media giant Viacom, has several movies in the works based on video games. These include "Fear and Respect" and "Area 51," both made by Midway Games, which is owned partly by Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone. Despite Mr. Redstone's investment in Midway, Mr. Friedman said Paramount was not required to make Midway games. "No one is going to mandate, in my opinion, the free flow of ideas," he said.
Peter Guber, the former chief executive of Sony Pictures and host of the television show "Sunday Morning Shoot Out," has experience juggling content among several media. In 1995, he set up the multimedia company Mandalay Entertainment Group, which has since shed its book division, focusing instead on original film and television production.
"If anyone thinks they are going to get a stream of ideas from video games or they are going to successfully make video games from a movie's conceit is mistaken," said Mr. Guber. "Ultimately you have to independently manage the properties of each division."
New England news
Celebrating in Boston Like a Yankees Fan
Nadine Cucchi has lived in the Boston area her whole life, and, while basking in the Patriots' third Super Bowl victory in four years Sunday night, she felt confident enough to say the unbelievable.
"I think this is what it must be like to be from New York," she said.
After more than two decades, the word dynasty is creeping back into the New England lexicon, as is an expectation that the Patriots should win.
Along with the Red Sox' World Series victory, that has New England on top in the sports world, a concept many fans here are having trouble grasping.
"We're used to losing, and now we have to get used to winning," said Jimmy Hill, 40, an auto mechanic from Framingham, Mass.
Craig DeCosta, 26, a waiter from Watertown, Mass., refused to stress after the Eagles scored a touchdown near the end of the game to creep within 3 points of the Patriots, who held on to win, 24-21. The key, he said, is that the Patriots play as a team.
"It's a dynasty," DeCosta, 26, said while watching the game and working at John Brewer's pub in suburban Waltham. "It's absolutely amazing. They're one of the elite teams. People don't expect them to lose."
Torah Katz, 21, a student at Columbia University, came home to Brookline, Mass., for the weekend to watch the game. She arrived at the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse, a bar in Brookline, more than two hours before kickoff so she could secure a seat. The Patriots are to her are what the Celtics were to her parents, she said. "When I was growing up I'd hear about the Bruins in the 70's and the Celtics in the 80's, and my generation never had any kind of dynasty," she said.
Analysts Say Movie Downloading Is Still In Its Infancy
Illegal downloading heading for the mainstream, says analyst
Movie studios must offer a broader range of films over the internet to prevent illegal downloading spreading into the mainstream, analysts have warned.
Forrester acknowledged in a newly published report that movie downloading is "still in its infancy". But of the five per cent of the online population who have downloaded a movie, more than one in three has downloaded three or more movies in the past three months.
"The profile of movie downloaders is similar to that of the early music downloaders, so it's time to ring the alarm bells," the analyst firm stated.
Studios urged to offer more
DRM-protected films over the
"Studios must accelerate a broader offering of digital rights management- protected movies for download to keep illegal movie downloading from spreading to the mainstream."
Forrester warned that developments in technology such as XviD and DivX formats, as well as the evolution of file-sharing tools such as BitTorrent, will further fuel movie downloading.
The film industry should respond to this new enthusiasm by targeting the P2P networks and providing consumers with legal alternatives, according to the analyst.
Hellen Omwando, consumer markets analyst at Forrester, said: "Currently, five per cent of online consumers in the UK have downloaded at least one full-length movie in the past three months.
"Their profile is similar to that of the early adopters who started sharing pirated music, which significantly reduced music sales. The spread of broadband is changing online behaviour."
It's The Season For Romance In The File-Swapping World, Too
P2P Rivals Flock To BitTorrent
Once-separate peer-to-peer technologies are increasingly finding homes under the same digital roof, as companies seek to improve their own software by drawing on their rivals' strengths.
On Thursday, StreamCast Networks added support for the popular BitTorrent technology to its Morpheus software, the company said. BitTorrent has become a favorite of swappers looking to download big files such as TV shows, movies and software, but it does not have a built-in search mechanism like Morpheus, Kazaa and other networks.
"Until now, the only readily available way for users to find and obtain files and content using BitTorrent was both inefficient and, oftentimes, inaccurate," said Michael Weiss, chief executive officer of StreamCast Networks. "Morpheus is able to provide a far better user experience."
Morpheus' move, along with a spate of releases from rival companies in the past few days, is a clear sign that the impending Supreme Court ruling hanging over the peer-to-peer business has done little to slow developers' scramble for competitive position.
Also on Thursday, Lime Wire released a new version of its software that contains improved ability to function through firewalls.
Newcomer Exeem, which like Mopheus is trying to merge traditional peer-to-peer search capabilities with the fast download powers of BitTorrent, released a new version of its program that no longer requires the unpopular Cydoor advertising software to be installed. Many in the file-swapping community had been deeply critical of the software's release after learning Cydoor was included.
BitTorrent has been the darling of the file-swapping world for much of the last year, however. eDonkey, now the most widely used file- swapping application, also provides support for BitTorrent.
Why I'm Giving Up Broadband
With an estimated five million people now connected to broadband at home, one early internet enthusiast is giving it up for good. David McCandless explains why he's given it the boot.
Today, 20% of UK households - around five million people - have broadband in their homes. By the end of next year that figure will be nearer eight million. Tony Blair says every home that wants broadband should have it by 2008.
I can barely believe I've done it myself. As a committed early adopter and geek, I never thought I would ever move to a backwater in the face of technological advancement.
I had broadband before it was famous, way back in the 20th Century. In those days, most people drummed fingers on desks and made tea while they awaited their webpages and postage stamp-sized videos to trickle through their paltry 56K modems.
I, however, had a 'phat pipe' installed at home. Every evening: me, 17 browser windows open, working the keyboard like a concert pianist, dazzling my friends with all the film trailers, terrible flash animations and MP3s I could download simultaneously.
Gradually, though, the novelty of a fast connection has worn off. Disillusion has set in. I've slowly come to a terrible realisation: there isn't really that much I can do with broadband.
I have no far-off relatives to wave at down a video conferencing connection. Threats of divorce stopped me playing online games a few years ago. Sure, I enjoy streaming clips of the news but I can also just turn my head slightly and watch it on my TV. There used to be some joy for me feeling secure downloading hefty Microsoft security patches, but now I've given up on Windows and got a Mac instead.
Having nothing much to do with your broadband gives rise to a curious sensation that could be termed: "bandwidth guilt". When I'm not using it, I feel like I should be. I keep trying to find ways to utilise its sheer power - and justify the £30 a month fee. I feel bad if I don't.
And the only thing I've discovered that really gives my ADSL a workout is, sadly, illegal. I'd rather not go into it here. Let's just say it's the not-
so-well-kept secret of what everyone is using broadband for. Depending on who you talk to, between 50% and 65% of all internet traffic is currently peer-to-peer (p2p) piracy. Everyone's doing it. Do you know what technology makes it possible? Yep. Broadband.
Spending an inordinate amount of time at my computer, using my broadband, I'm developing what I can only term an information habit.
Sit down to work. Ten minutes in, the new mail icon tempts me from the bottom of the screen. I'll just check. Nothing like a few juicy new e- mails. Click a few links. Scan a few websites. Oh 20 minutes has just passed. Better get back to work. Now where was I? Start work again. Feel like a reward. I'll just check news.bbc.co.uk. See if anything's happened in the three minutes since I last looked. Follow a few 'related links'...
Half an hour has passed. I feel like I've done something, but actually I haven't. All that's happened is that I've been distracted by constantly rising info urges. I spend most of my day like this, divided between what I need to do and what the internet wants me to do - which is look at it. Constantly.
The 56K Life
So, just like a drug addict, I can't control it. If web access is there, I'll have it. Especially now, since I had wireless internet installed I can browse on the toilet, in the garden, even in the shower. There's no escape. So the only recourse for me is an extreme one: to have it chopped off.
Reaction from my friends and colleagues has been extreme. Ranging from shock and surprise (Whaaaat? Why? How? Guh?) to outright suspicion ("Have you been downloading something you shouldn't?"). One friend even raged at me: "How could you? Don't you know broadband means progress?"
I don't regret my decision. I have to say I feel lighter, freer. I'm certainly getting more things done, especially now I schedule a time every couple of hours to log on and check my e-mail and websites.
The internet on 56K isn't as bad as I thought. Pretty much every website is designed for 56K users anyway. But I still make the mistake of impatiently opening two, three, four other browser windows while waiting for the first one to download.
Will it last?
I can't say I'm missing flash or streaming video. And there's no doubt it's killed any p2p temptations I may have nurtured. And that's a good thing, right, vast corporate entertainment industry?
I do confess, however, that I now carry a network cable around with me. Like some kind of petrol thief, at friends' houses I can be found hooking up my laptop for a quick broadband fix.
I used to spend all day slaving away at my computer, watching the day ride past my window - only to come home and do the same in the evenings. But now I've distilled the useful and vital from the compulsive (and illegal), I am left with just two online activities: e-mail and web browsing.
Isn't that what the internet is really for?
Nothing's Gonna Stop The Flow
Editor's note: This is part two in a three-part series. The third part will appear next Monday. Names of students have been changed to protect privacy.
From server to server, a premiered, pirated movie flashes across the topsite networks. Couriers transfer the files from site to site so everybody can get a taste. For those anxiously awaiting the latest release, this is the miracle of five barley loaves and two fish that feeds the masses. For the entertainment industry, this is a nightmarish hydra that refuses to die.
"If a movie gets pre'd at a topsite, then a racer starts racing it to other sites and starts transferring it at incredibly fast speeds," said Robert. He has seen 700-megabyte files go from site to site in five minutes; 4.7-gigabyte DVDs move from server to server in under half an hour. At this level in the distribution chain, the servers are all legitimate and privately owned. Some are located in people's homes or rented from companies that don't care about what they are used for.
"A lot of people who own a business, they hide them under things. They're sort of like bandwidth launderers," Robert joked. "That tends to lead to problems."
As shocking as it might seem, this is where the topsites and their users prefer that distribution is stopped - and with good reason.
"They want to protect themselves because they know what they are doing is illegal. So, they are very anti-FXP scene, the Web sites that are posting movies on hacked servers," Robert said.
In the FXP scene, the game is different. Scanners and hackers search IP ranges for vulnerabilities. Once an insecure site is found, they install FTP servers called "stros" that can later serve as a drop point for future releases. The topsites generally frown upon FXP groups and their high-risk practices.
"That's what gets you caught in their eyes. In their rules, they only allow transfers to legitimate servers," said Robert. "Obviously, somewhere in there the chain breaks because it's all over in the FXP scene in minutes."
After a movie hits the FXP scene, it eventually dwindles down to the p2p level for widespread release. It doesn't take very long.
"If it's a good movie, it can be there in six hours," said Derek, a graduate student.
Derek first entered the scene looking for The Simpsons episodes. Currently, he is no longer an active participant, but his access to topsites leads to an unimaginable amount of files.
"We have a large database, which is like a million different files. If it's not in there, we can do it. There might not be any demand for it, but we can do it," said Derek, calmly.
Derek has been in and out of the scene since 1996, but things have changed. Back in the days of the dial-up modem "it was just small applications. Every now and then someone would get Photoshop 1 or something."
Over the years, his level of involvement has varied from capturing broadcasted television to ripping and releasing classic films. The topsites he was involved with and the work he does aren't the quick and easy way either.
"We do quality over anything else," said Derek. "If it's not looking good, I can spend a week on it."
It's this mentality that determined topsite groups can and will produce quality releases of anything under the digital rainbow that has the entertainment alarmed and itching to take the fight to the courts. On Jan. 26, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) launched another wave of lawsuits aimed at file-sharers and file-trading Web sites. Derek feels that these latest round of lawsuits won't affect him at all.
"They've been targeting people on peer to peer networks," said Derek. "But that's not stopping the supply. When they took down Napster, that affected nothing. It made a lot of people whine, but those are just the people who didn't know what they were doing. The people on the top don't care, and they are still getting that music and putting it out there."
Robert doesn't worry much either. He feels relatively secure in his position in the FXP scene.
"I tend to only try to get stuff from people I trust. I tend to limit myself to channels I've been in before," said Robert. "I feel like I'm a little bit secure."
"I don't think it's really doing anything," said Brian, who also has his doubts about the "sue 'em all" tactics of the Recording Industry Association of America and MPAA. "They just pick a handful of people and sue them. It's not really stopping anyone."
Microsoft's Updates: Out of Control
John C. Dvorak
Last Tuesday's massacre, when Microsoft released a whole slew of patches, begs more than a few questions.
First of all, why can't the company consolidate multiple patches that seemingly do the same thing? And second, isn't it about time that we all got a new free operating system that incorporated all the dozens of patches that have been released? The main reason I ask for this is because when I visit my add/remove programs subsystem, the Microsoft patches clog up the list—to an extreme. ADVERTISEMENT
Now before I go into exactly how Microsoft can get us all one free clean OS, I have to also mention last Tuesday's weird new patch called the "Malicious Software Removal Tool." This is the first "tool" that I recall showing up in the Windows Update list. I could be wrong, since there have been so many updates, but most of them seem to be security patches rather than full-blown software tools. The question is whether you should even install this new tool.
The Malicious Software Removal Tool is primarily an antispyware product. People who have used the tool and reported on its functionality say that it never tells you what spyware it is actually removing. The problem I have with it is the concept that it only removes "malicious" spyware. Does this mean that it leaves all those ad-tracking spyware systems installed? Surely they are not meant to be malicious. And since Microsoft sells advertising a la Google on its search engine, it seems unlikely that they'd want to kill that advertising "feature." This seems to explain, to me at least, why the tool doesn't do any detailed reporting. I'll pass, thank you, and stick with the various commercial products that do give me the details.
Apparently the tool is kind of spyware itself, since it reports back to HQ with data on what it has done on your machine. It's not that I care that Microsoft has a huge database of spyware infections and their relative popularity. It's just that I have yet to see what good any of this has done me. They never release the data. So what's the point? The company's argument that it collects this data so it can do a better job doesn't wash with me, given how secretive Microsoft always tends to be. For all I know they are going to push some spyware out there themselves and market it as foolproof.
Meanwhile, let me get back to the topic of a free OS. And by this I do not mean SP2, which sits on top of all the other old patches and still clogs up my add/remove programs list. I mean Microsoft should distribute an ISO image of a completely recompiled Windows XP with all the patches (and even the new tool included as a clickable option or subprogram). Users could also be given a special tool or set of instructions so they can burn the ISO images if they do not know how.
Furthermore I think that this ISO image should be traded openly and freely amongst Windows users. Since Microsoft has implemented an authentication process can someone tell me why a BitTorrent or other peer-to- peer network cannot be used to distribute all of the Microsoft code?
Pirates, for example, cannot crack the ISO image without it being obvious, although they could create a new ISO image that is cracked and authentication-proof. Let's face it, most of the people who would want the new clean Windows XP are already users of Win XP. There must be a dozen ways to manage this sort of transition. And what's the point of all this authentication malarkey if the long-term goal is not to allow for open peer-to-peer distribution?
With broadband penetration in the US market about to top 75 percent sometime within the next 24 months, there is no reason that all software shouldn't use P2P distribution with authentication as the delivery mechanism, if it can be made to work. And if this cannot be made to work, then why is anyone using authentication anyway? Is it done just to annoy us?
Regular patches will not go away, even if everyone was suddenly running a clean version of Win XP, newly installed. At least we'd all be on the same page with the new version, and that darn list on add/remove programs would not be completely dominated by Microsoft patches. It borders on the ridiculous.
If Microsoft used a peer-to-peer distribution scheme, with people sending around the clean version of Win XP to each other, the cost to the company would be minimal. It's not as though Microsoft would have to serve all those terabytes of data.
It would be nice to see Microsoft thinking outside the box—literally—once in a while.
RIAA Ups & Downs
As 2004 wound down, the Los Angeles sheriff's department successfully conducted five simultaneous raids on illegal CD replication plants in southern California on December 15. Dubbed "Operation Final Release," the joint operation between the Southern California High Tech Task Force and the LA sheriff's department put 65 officers into action, closing down five optical disc replication facilities in LA and Orange counties suspected of churning out millions of pirated CDs, which were sold throughout the United States.
"Virtually unprecedented in size and scope, today's anti-piracy operation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff and others delivered a significant blow to piracy during a critical sales period for the recording industry," said Brad Buckles, the RIAA's executive vice president for anti-piracy.
Buckles added, "CD plant piracy is particularly damaging because the counterfeit goods produced tend to appear more authentic and often end up in legitimate music distribution chains. Music fans who purchase seemingly genuine product lose out, as do musicians, songwriters, and record labels who are deprived of a return on their work."
Given its success when confronting real criminals, it is surprising that the RIAA managed to find time in late January to deliver another 717 "John Doe" suits against individuals and computer networks suspected of participating in peer-to- peer file sharing through services such as KaZaa, eDonkey, and Limewire. Among the indicted were 68 computer network users at 23 universities and colleges including University of Massachusetts (Lowell), Georgetown University, Harvard University Medical School, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Illinois State University, SUNY at Morrisville, Texas A&M University, University of South Florida, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and others.
Steven Marks, the RIAA's general counsel, pointed out that there are now legal alternatives to illegal file sharing and explained the RIAA's action, "Today's university and college students are tomorrow's leaders. ... Students need to understand that just because someone else's property or creations can be obtained easily and freely without anyone seemingly knowing, there are consequences, because it is stealing."
Gertrude Walton certainly doesn't understand the consequences of her actions, but that's primarily because the 83-year-old woman had been dead for nearly a month when the RIAA sued her for downloading over 700 songs under the nom de web of "smittenedkitten."
Robin Chianumba, Walton's daughter, said, "My mother wouldn't know how to turn on a computer." She added, "I am pretty sure she is not going to leave [her burial site at] Greenwood Memorial Park to attend the hearing."
Ms. Chianumba faxed record company officials a copy of her mother's death certificate before the lawsuit was filed, responding to a letter warning of impending legal action. Jonathan Lamy, an RIAA spokesman allowed that Walton was probably not the smittenedkitten it was seeking. "Our evidence gathering and our subsequent legal actions all were initiated weeks and even months ago. We will now, of course, obviously dismiss this case."
Woman Silenced by Music Mafia
Evelyn won't return my phone calls.
So that means she's ignoring me. Or she wants to talk to me, but can't, because the Recording Industry Association of America won't let her.
In December, Evelyn found out she had been targeted by the RIAA in its ever increasing crusade against children, mothers and senior citizens who don't uncheck the "share" option in their peer-to-peer downloading software.
The Daily Texan office received Evelyn's call on the last press day before winter break. She had received a notice from Time Warner stating that they were subpoenaed into releasing her personal information in a New York federal court.
Included in the document was a number to a settlement center where they told her they had counted 956 shared files. If she had 457 less files, then she might have been overlooked by the RIAA, she was told. The company was sending her a packet of settlement documents, and she had 90 days to respond, lest her "Jane Doe" case be upgraded to her real name in court.
Just as freely as she gave information, she was pumping me for information so she could get a better grasp on the situation before her. Other than former student Jason Gonzales, there were no other UT students who had revealed they were being sued by the RIAA, I told her. He opted to settle out-of-court, as countless others have, rather than face down the seemingly invincible army of Armani at the RIAA's disposal.
The only person to return my call that day was the person I assumed would be the hardest to contact. "We are always open to settlement discussions with anyone," said RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy. "If someone prefers not to settle, they of course have the opportunity to raise their objections in court. We stand by our claims."
I promised Evelyn I would follow up on her story after the break. Once the semester began, I started digging.
Caught in the Web
The RIAA most likely sought her name under a provision in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allows copyright holders to issue subpoenas to Internet Service Providers for the names of alleged offenders before filing a lawsuit. The DMCA subpoenas do not need the approval of a judge; instead, the law directs court clerks to issue the subpoenas.
It was an ingenious plan: Lawyers would pay around $200 in court fees to subpoena an ISP into revealing the owners of a list of IP addresses the RIAA had accumulated. Before November, the RIAA was able to gather around 50 identities per subpoena. Assuming each person received a letter with a phone number to a similar settlement center, and each person decided to pay a little now instead of a lot later by settling, and each person settled for the then-average $3,000, then for $200 the RIAA could make an easy $150,000.
In some federal courts, that is still the case. However, the federal courts in Austin decided that the RIAA may no longer file blanket-style subpoenas and must file separate paperwork for each IP address. This changed little except the RIAA's strategy and jacked up the average price of settlements from $3,000 to $4,000. After all, the RIAA had to now invest $10,000 instead of $200 to get their $150,000.
In January, the Big Music Mafia boasted it had launched another 717 lawsuits against people who share music online, bringing the total number of those victimized to a shocking 8,423. If each one of these victims settled at the pre-inflated average of $3,000, then the RIAA is set to make an easy $25,269,000.
A few ISPs in Washington, D.C., such as Verizon and Pacific Bell, have stood up to the RIAA cartel and have so far, successfully argued that these subpoenas were too easy to obtain and could destroy Internet privacy.
Unfortunately, in Austin there exist only cable companies with conflicts of interest.
Time Warner Cable is part of a media conglomerate that also owns a music label. Grande Communications makes $150 for every identity they release.
"I don't know why their policy is that way," said Mark Harrad, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable, referring to the ISPs opposing the RIAA, "But I suspect that a large publicly traded company would not want to have a public policy position contrary to the law."
Besides, while they're obligated legally to obey the subpoena, they aren't obligated to send out notices to the customers about to be reamed by the RIAA, Harrad said in less vulgar terms. Apparently, people should be grateful that, while Time Warner sends its customers up a creek, they're told two weeks ahead of time to start packing.
Andy Sarwal, vice president of corporate affairs at Grande, said his company was merely seeking compensation for Grande employees doing paralegal work for the RIAA.
"We've come to an agreement with the industries to set up standards in order to protect the privacy of customers who aren't at fault," he said.
In many instances, they have mistaken identities, particularly with college students in Austin, he said. When students receive Internet services there will be three-to-four people using it, and only one person will be tied to the IP address, Sarwal said.
I tried to call Evelyn. I left her multiple messages to no avail. It was too late. She must have settled. But not all was lost; I still had the phone number to the Settlement Center.
I found myself talking to a representative for The Settlement Service Center in Seattle, a business that conducts settlement negotiations with individuals who have been sued. I pretended to be a distressed student who just received a letter from Time Warner. I asked the man what the documents meant.
"There has been a John Doe lawsuit filed against your IP address. The letter you have received from Time Warner is an indication to you that the law firm of Mitchell, Silberberg, and Knupp in Los Angeles, attorneys for the record company, is seeking the personal information associated with that IP address."
I asked him what that meant.
"Time Warner will turn that info over to the law firm in a matter of days, and the letter is your opportunity to appear in court, if you wish to argue why or why not that information should be leaked. Nobody has won that argument, yet," he added.
Recalling what Sarwal said, I told him that it couldn't possibly have been me, that it was probably my roommates.
"If this is a roommate situation, you are still the one singled out, because you are the account holder for the Internet connection. You are responsible for activity on that account."
I told him that wasn't very fair.
"You should settle with us and dispose of the situation, sir. If your roommates were the ones who actually did the downloading, and you never partook in downloading or listening to music or what not, you might be able to approach them and say, 'we have a problem, help me out here.' But at this point in time you will be the one who will remain on the subpoena."
He didn't mention that this was a fact I could bring up in court. He was trying to sell me on settling.
"And the roommates. We don't have any information pertaining to them, and they will not be pursued at this time," he said ominously.
I asked him if my credit would be affected. Would I be reported to any agencies?
"Not at this time; you are a John Doe. If the situation moves forward where I am not able to negotiate a settlement with you, it will go into a named situation, where you will be named in a federal lawsuit."
My shoulders felt heavier, and I felt my heart beat, panicked, even though I was just pretending to be sued.
This would really, really suck in real life.
"You will be served with a complaint and a summons to appear in court, and by that time your name will be public knowledge to all those people interested in who's being sued by whom."
Was he implicating the media, or was I just feeling guilty?
"It won't affect your credit at this point," he continued. "But if you are named in a federal lawsuit, it could also affect your job opportunities, because on employment applications, many times they will ask, 'have you ever been party to a lawsuit?'
"And you would have to check 'yes' at that time, because that would be public knowledge," he said.
I thanked him for his time and said farewell, but not before he again assured me that I should settle.
If you're reading this, Evelyn, I can see why you didn't call me back. Having to put up with the RIAA's scare tactics to extort money from you, dealing with filed lawsuits intended to extract financial settlements, I can see why you'd want to put this whole ordeal behind you.
Or maybe it was my breath.
Tran is a philosophy senior. "Evelyn's" name has been changed to protect her identity.
In the middle of a U.S. dessert, Michael Heizer is building the largest sculpture ever created by a living artist. His life’s work, the installation will cover more area when complete than the Mall in Washington D.C.. Just as the project in the middle of nowhere nears completion however the United States has decided to build a rail line for the shipment of nuclear waste right along side it. Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times reports in this audio slide presentation.
|10-02-05, 08:25 PM||#2|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Download or Up?
'Deep Throat' to Be Re-Released in U.S. Theaters
"Deep Throat," the infamous 1972 adult film that led to a government crackdown on pornography, is being re-released in theaters as a new generation of lawmakers wages a renewed assault on smut, trade paper Daily Variety reported in its Tuesday edition.
The release of the Linda Lovelace opus, which was banned at the time in 23 states, coincides with the premiere of the documentary "Inside Deep Throat," which hits theaters in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston on Friday.
The original film, which was made in six days for $25,000 and has grossed over $600 million, will not be ready until at least Feb. 18, the paper said. Las Vegas- based Arrow Prods., which owns the rights to the mob-funded "Deep Throat," started striking 10 prints on Monday, it added. Five of the prints will be edited to garner an "R" rating, which allows admission to children aged under 17 if accompanied by an adult.
The documentary, co-produced by Brian Grazer, the Oscar-winning filmmaker of "A Beautiful Mind," is rated NC-17, which denies admission to anyone aged 17 and under. It is being distributed by Universal Pictures, a unit of General Electric Co. -controlled NBC Universal.
It shows how "Deep Throat" popularized a form of sexual pleasure previously considered taboo. But the Nixon administration was not amused, sending in the FBI to close down screenings, and taking legal action against the film's director, Jerry Damiano, and stars.
Meanwhile, a bill that would increase fines for smutty broadcasts to $500,000 per incident from $32,500, is wending its way through Congress with bipartisan support, inspired in part by Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl last year.
"Inside Deep Throat" trailer.
A Notorious X-Rated Phenomenon Revisited, and Debated
History, Karl Marx might have observed had he been more savvy about public relations, repeats itself first as documentary, then as a panel discussion.
On Monday evening, at the New York premiere of "Inside Deep Throat," a movie about the making of the groundbreaking 1972 adult film, the guests - who included Claire Danes, Dana Ivey, Ron Silver, Kurt Andersen, Tina Brown, Erica Jong and Brian Grazer, the documentary's producer - strode boldly into the Paris Theater. They did not hide their faces behind newspapers, as viewers of the original film did until people like Jacqueline Onassis and Truman Capote made going to watch "Deep Throat" chic and almost respectable. Nor did they resort to the old porn watcher's strategy of circling the block a couple of times before sidling into the lobby when no one was looking.
They watched the documentary intently, laughing several times and clapping at the end, and then listened as some experts, including the book publisher Judith Regan and the law professors Catharine A. MacKinnon, of Michigan, and Alan M. Dershowitz, of Harvard, got up and talked about the "Deep Throat" phenomenon, without coming to many conclusions about what it might or might not mean.
Neither Ms. Regan nor Mr. Dershowitz, it turned out, had ever seen "Deep Throat." Mr. Dershowitz, who defended the movie's male star, Harry Reems, in a prosecution for obscenity, said he had not needed to see the film to know that an important First Amendment issue was at stake. And though Ms. Regan had presumably been invited on the panel as a "pornocrat," to use a term that came up a couple of times - as the publisher of both "The Surrender," Toni Bentley's memoir of anal sex, and Jenna Jameson's "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" - she claimed not to be an expert.
As a young woman, she said, she was not one of the thousands of sensation-seekers who dutifully lined up at the World Theater, on West 49th Street, where "Deep Throat" was first shown. She added that she learned about Ms. Jameson from her son, who dropped out of his M.I.T. fraternity because Ms. Jameson's videos were all the fraternity brothers were interested in watching.
Ms. Regan proved a surprising ally, moreover, to Ms. MacKinnon, who for years represented Linda Lovelace, the other star of "Deep Throat," after Ms. Lovelace claimed she had been coerced into appearing in the film and sought to have it suppressed. The new documentary, she said, told only part of the truth. And by focusing on censorship, she went on, it failed to address the fact that pornographic films not only are sexually exploitive of the women who made them but also tend to employ women, like Ms. Lovelace, with a history of being sexually abused.
Ms. Regan reminded everyone that "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" is subtitled "A Cautionary Tale." She said she thought that despite all Ms. Jameson's financial success, the author was "miserable," and that the writing of the book had caused her to realize how much she had been exploited. Though she was not averse to selling a few copies, Ms. Regan added - which is why "How to Make Love" had a suggestive cover and some topless photographs inside - part of her reason for publishing the book was to encourage Ms. Jameson and women like her to begin exploring their own stories.
The other big issue of the evening was whether watching porn is bad for you. Absolutely not, said Mr. Dershowitz, who cited evidence showing that as pornographic films become more and more available, the incidence of rapes is actually declining. Ms. MacKinnon had some studies of her own, and also some meta-studies - that is, studies of studies - showing that consumption of pornography "does increase acts and attitudes of violence against women."
This was not the first time these two have sparred, and they now appear to have their roles down pat. She discreetly rolled her eyes while he delivered a line so good that it might have been prepared beforehand: "Michigan thinks that everything Harvard can do, it can do meta."
On the evidence of "Inside Deep Throat," which includes scenes from the original and is itself shot in a way that suggests the grainy, lurid look of porn films 30 years ago, the making (if not the watching) of pornographic films may have a strange aging effect. In interview segments, the director, Gerard Damiano (whose oeuvre also includes "The Devil in Miss Jones," "Meatball," "Manbait" and "Manbait 2"), the production manager, Ron Wertheim, and Count Sepy Dobronyi, in whose wine cellar some of the action was filmed, all seem a little raisiny - shrunken and overly tanned. Even former Damiano stars like Andrea True and Georgina Spelvin are, sadly, showing their years.
The one exception is Harry Reems (a k a Herbert Streicher), who, after years of alcohol and drug addiction, pulled himself together and - now trim and silver-haired - works as a real estate broker in Park City, Utah. He was at the premiere, smiling and shaking hands and looking like a guy who never watches anything racier than "Wall Street Week."
"I haven't seen an adult film in 25 or 30 years," he said. "I don't need to. I'm happily married now."
Easy to find, fast to download and free, it's no wonder television piracy is on the increase - or that broadcasters are desperate to prevent it.
What do Little Britain, Eastenders, Max & Paddy's Road To Nowhere, Spooks, Coronation Street and Casualty have in common? Answer: they are some of Britain's most popular pirated television programmes available on the Net. And they are among many thousands of others available and free to download from the Web, often within hours of their transmission.
Production companies and broadcasters are becoming aware that internet TV piracy is stealing their programming and audiences, and that pirated episodes of the country's favourite programmes threaten DVD sales and overseas deals. Debbie Manners, the head of rights and business affairs at the BBC, says TV piracy has the potential to hurt the commercial side of the industry. "It's a big issue across the industry at the moment. We're not going to ignore it, especially if it's quite widespread," she says. But is the BBC going after the people involved? "I'm not aware that we are. That would depend on the extent of it."
Envisional, a company that specialises in internet monitoring using "asset tracking" software, is all too aware of the extent of such piracy. David Price, an Envisional researcher, likens the internet to a global video recorder (or, more accurately, a personal video recorder such as TiVo, which records programmes based on viewing habits). PC-TV cards capture broadcasts that are encoded, uploaded and then shared. Downloads rely on peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing systems, of which there are many, including BitTorrent, Direct Connect and eDonkey.
Price has seen copies of American television shows appearing on the Web less than half an hour after their initial airing. Programmes are also "ripped" from videos and DVDs. "All the major networks are concerned, though some are only starting to realise the effect it could have on their revenues," he says. Typically, an hour-long episode (the advertising is also frequently removed to save time) might take two hours to download on a broadband connection. That's fast enough to make pirate recording more attractive than paying for DVDs.
"The quality of the encoding is high enough to watch comfortably on a computer monitor or, when burned to a DVD, on a television," says Price. "Indeed, it is as easy to download a television show through a website as it is to schedule your VCR." Discussion forum comments reveal that one downloader is "far too disorganised to remember to set my video recorder" while others crave classic comedy or the latest American episodes rather than films. And those living in other countries (including expatriates) have a hankering for British television.
The Independent contacted one of several BitTorrent sites for an interview. After a lot of deliberation, one site administrator, who we'll call John because he wanted to remain anonymous, agreed (but only after saying "the sad truth is that, if you do this, the site will probably be shut down").
"There's no clear pattern on the most popular downloads," he says. "Recent big hits have included the Royal Institute Christmas lecture on Antarctica, an old Harry Enfield show, a 1980s Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special, and Max & Paddy's Road To Nowhere. Soaps, dramas and comedies are all popular - EastEnders and Casualty are downloaded a lot."
John acknowledges the problems with copyright (the site discourages downloading programmes that are available on video or DVD) but emphasises that the site does not actually host files. This is characteristic of BitTorrent technology: the television programmes are held on individual PCs and swapped between "swarms" of users in bandwidth efficient fragments or "torrents". The sites provide a programme index and torrent tracker which means, from a lawyer's point of view, that they are the weakest link.
"We assume that the television companies are aware of us, though we don't believe that they would be overly concerned about what we are doing," says John. Eastenders, which is watched by millions on TV, is downloaded regularly by fewer than 1,000. This compares with 50,000 downloads of one episode of Stargate Atlantis observed by Envisional through two other BitTorrent trackers.
In December 2004, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) threatened legal action against individuals operating servers that contained indices of millions of illegal copies of films and TV programmes. Suprnova.org, the world's largest BitTorrent site, promptly shut down.
John Malcolm, the MPAA's senior vice-president and director of worldwide anti- piracy operations, says: "The operators of these servers exercise total control over which files are included on their servers and even determine if some kinds of files aren't allowed. For instance, some operators won't post pornography on their systems, but they have no compunction about allowing illegal files of copyrighted movies and TV shows to flow through their servers. We are moving to stop that."
If cases go to court in the UK, who is likely to win? David Engel, a media lawyer and partner at Addleshaw Goddard, points to the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, and says that those issuing copies of television programmes would fall foul of it. "None of this has been tested yet in this country before the courts," says Engel. "We have a whole generation of young adults who see nothing legally and morally wrong in taking content - music, films and TV programmes - for free on the internet." The legal implications don't bother Mark Sailes, an undergraduate at Leeds University who has developed software to make downloading easier. He understands the question of copyright but denies being involved in TV programme recording and distribution. Buttress is a free program used to download and run torrent files from RSS feeds (commonly used to provide news headlines) without any user intervention. "I was involved in BitTorrent 18 months ago. When I found it, it was being used to distribute American TV shows even then," he says. "Every time a new TV show pops in that I like, Buttress will download it."
Sailes goes on to suggest that TV companies are behind the times in their attitude to downloading. "They're just caught in their history and they haven't opened their eyes yet. If we can do it so successfully without any budget, think what a TV company could do."
BitTorrent's John agrees: "We know that many of our users would welcome a legitimate service to access the content we provide. Many are aware that this is a legal grey zone, and would much rather be able to pay to get these programmes through official avenues." So is that going to happen? Celador, which makes Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, says that it has been unaffected by television piracy, but Simon Gunning, head of interactive media, knows this won't last. "Our approach is to monitor it and to be aware of what we can do to avoid problems," he says. "However, we are aware of the way the world is changing." Celador is looking into "video on demand" technology, backed by digital rights management for tight control. Channel 4 already has a subscription website for broadband viewing.
But the television industry's policy of educate, deter and protect misses the point because the power balance shifts between producer and consumer. There are also lessons to be drawn from the music industry's lengthy dispute with MP3 file sharers. The Slovenian owner of Suprnova.org, Sloncek, is fighting back with a new P2P program called eXeem, which uses a decentralised list and a BitTorrent tracker (thus there's no website for the lawyers to find). The message to the British television industry seems clear: provide what viewers want or they'll continue to help themselves.
Getting Real About The Grokster Case
Over the next few months, the Supreme Court and--likely--Congress will resume a debate over rules that could determine whether consumers will continue to enjoy the benefits of many of the gadgets CNET covers.
The debate is specifically about what kind of legal liability--if any--technology manufacturers, financiers, Internet service providers, journalists and others should have if their actions "induce" another to commit copyright infringement.
Last year, Congress considered a bill that would have made it easy for copyright holders to sue these parties for the illegal acts of others and thereby control technological innovation by threat of litigation. The Induce bill was criticized by every sector of the technology and consumer electronics industries, as well as by financiers, technology journalists and consumer groups. After several attempts at negotiation, the parties could not agree on the proper standard for liability.
Congressional action this year will largely be shaped by what the Supreme Court does in the pending case involving Grokster, the peer-to-peer software used by millions. While the case may appear to be simply about illegal file trading, its implications are far deeper.
This case will, in part, decide whether the court's 1984 Sony decision will survive. That case found that the sale of copying technologies, like the VCR, is legal as long as there are "substantial noninfringing uses" for it. That decision led not only to an explosion of new consumer electronics products, but it also helped usher in the computer revolution, opening up a whole new vista of choices for consumers.
Big media companies like the movie studios have been fighting it ever since, despite the fact they have earned millions and millions of dollars from the sale and rental of videotapes and DVDs.
Lawmakers in the fray
Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in the Grokster case, it is almost inevitable that Congress will try to legislate. If the big media companies lose, they will want Congress to reverse the decision. If they win, the companies will want the decision codified in law. We understand that and look forward to the debate.
When that debate arises, nonprofit public advocacy group Public Knowledge will maintain the same core principles it did last year in the many policy battles over file sharing. The first principle is that manufacturers of lawful technologies should not be punished for the wrongdoing of individuals who use those technologies.
That does not mean that we support any specific business model, particularly if that model is built on copyright infringement.
The second principle is that infringement is wrong and that current copyright laws should be enforced against infringers. That is why we have, in most cases, supported civil lawsuits by copyright holders.
The third principle is that because copyright law should benefit the public with new creativity, the file-sharing debate must also focus on viable compensation mechanisms for artists.
These principles are far from radical--indeed, they are shared by the vast majority of the many companies and nonprofit organizations with which we work.
But it is difficult for Public Knowledge, or anyone, to find the elusive "middle ground" in the file-trading tango when both sides are not willing to dance.
While we supported two alternatives to the original Induce Act, the bill's supporters did not put forth any alternatives. Nor did big media companies budge when they proposed five-year prison sentences for uploading just one copyrighted file, along with outlawing technologies that permit skipping video and DVD advertisements.
When you are faced only with one-sided proposals, it is hard to say anything but "no."
But we are in a new year and a new Congressional term. Some media companies are choosing to compete with file-trading networks, sometimes using peer-to-peer technology, and that is a development we applaud.
Public Knowledge believes that online content stores that are easy to use, reasonably priced, permit flexible uses and have large catalogs will win consumers' hearts and pocketbooks, and prove once again that technological development is better left to the marketplace.
Of course, we recognize that issues surrounding who should ultimately control technology will somehow always land in policymakers' laps. When they do, we will look forward to debating their merits and to working toward a solution in which everyone--media companies, equipment and software makers and, most of all, consumers--wins.
Strangling P2P, Uni style
Meeting the P2P Challenge
Every semester brings new technological challenges to the staff at the University of Florida, and September 2003 was no different from the norm. Students flocked to campus after a summer of freedom, wielding the peer-to-peer (P2P) applications Kazaa, Cheetah, Grokster, and a variety of others. Building on the technology behind the infamous (and moribund) Napster file-sharing application, these alternatives allowed students to share music files, movies, and other digitized content with their compatriots both on campus and off. To do so, they only had to set up their computers to download lists of files, rev up their programs, and head out to class while their machines handled the dirty work.
At the time, UF officials admitted that nearly 90 percent of the school’s outbound bandwidth was being used for P2P. Adding insult to injury, the same officials received 40 notices of copyright violations each month, and reported that in any average 24-hour period, 3,500 of the 7,500 students in residence halls were using P2P services. To put these figures into more straightforward terms, although the campus network had been designed to enhance the educational process, in the end it was serving mostly as a conduit for the latest Modest Mouse songs and Paris Hilton videos. Looking back, Robert Bird, coordinator of Network Services for the school’s Department of Housing, says that peer-to-peer technology basically ground network performance to a standstill.
“To say the problem was rampant would have been the understatement of the century,” he quips. “Even after Napster, we were up to our eyeballs in P2P, and no matter what we did to try to minimize the problems, they just wouldn’t go away.”
UF is not the only school to fall victim to P2P; across the country, at academic institutions large and small, technologists are grappling with ways to fight the evolving challenges of peer-to-peer. While many of these file-sharing applications crimp network bandwidth, they also present huge problems for copyright evangelists at organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA; www.riaa.com), who complain that sharing files without paying for them is illegal. These problems certainly aren’t confined to academia. A recent survey by the Internet research firm IT Innovations & Concepts (ITIC; www.itic.ca) indicates that 81 million Internet users worldwide engage in some form of P2P file sharing. Furthermore, says the study, in 2003, the US downloaded more digital songs (4.4 billion) than any other nation on the planet—an ignominious distinction, to say the least.
Help, however, is on the way. New technologies from a variety of network management vendors have enabled schools to take a proactive approach toward shaping network traffic and restricting the amount of it available for file sharing at any given time. At UF, where P2P once crippled the network daily, technologists have refused to restrict Internet use, but have built a system that monitors illicit P2P activity and responds accordingly (details on this in “Clipping their Wings,” below). And at Pennsylvania State University, IT officials are spearheading an open source movement to create the mother of all P2P networks, a new approach that combines decentralized file sharing with identity management, in a strategy that could completely revolutionize computing.
“The tides are turning in our battle against P2P abuses,” says Michael Halm, senior strategist for Teaching and Learning Technologies in the Information Technology Services department on Penn State’s main campus at University Park. “Academics like me used to be powerless against this stuff. Now, finally, we’re gaining the capacity to fight back.”
Clipping Their Wings
At UF, the key to overcoming the morass of P2P file-trading was innovation. After the school’s network performance first plummeted in 2003, Bird and campus programmer Will Saxon decided to develop a solution. The duo already had been working on technology to limit P2P usage; a few months later, with two grants from the university, they devised Integrated Computer Application for Recognizing User Services, or ICARUS. The system, which considers P2P capability a privilege, declines to restrict file-swapping completely but instead attempts to educate students about exchanging files in a manner that is both legal and unobtrusive to network performance overall. So far, it appears to be working: Usage of legitimate systems such as iTunes and Napster is now through the roof, and the average number of nightly illicit P2P users has dropped from 3,500 to 300, a decline of more than 90 percent.
The thinking behind the system is simple—essentially, it is a generic strategy to automate identity management and network compliance. When a student first registers on the campus network, he is required to read about peer-to-peer networks and certify that while he can share academic files, he will not share copyrighted ones. ICARUS then scans the student’s computer, and detects any worms, viruses, or programs that act as servers, such as Kazaa, Cheetah, and Grokster. If the system finds one of these offending programs, it gives the student instructions on how to disable it. After this, if the student logs on and tries to share files, ICARUS automatically sends him an e-mail and a pop-up window warning, then disconnects him from the network.
What is P2P?
Peer-to-peer technology, aka P2P, is, essentially, a computing session that takes place directly from one user to another. The technology’s very name implies that either side can initiate a session and has equal responsibility. As such, a P2P network is a communications environment that allows all desktop and laptop computers in the network to act as servers and share their files with all other users on the network. On a larger scale, peer-to-peer computing is the process of sharing CPU resources across a network so that all machines function as one large supercomputer.
The phrase “peer-to-peer,” however, is a somewhat confusing term, because it always is contrasted with a central system that initiates and controls everything. In practice, with the exception of the decentralized Gnutella P2P technology, two users on a peer-to-peer system often require data from a third computer or third-party server. For example, the Napster file-sharing service was always called a “peer-to-peer network,” but its use of a central server to store the public directory made it both centralized and peer-to-peer.
Today, programs such as Kazaa, Grokster, iMesh, and others operate on what has become known as the FastTrack network. This decentralized approach utilizes something called super-peers to create temporary indexing servers that would allow the network to scale to unparalleled heights. Any client may become a super-peer if the user’s computer and Internet connection are powerful enough. While this approach raises certain security risks (how do you know a user isn’t spreading spyware or other malicious programs?), programs such as DietK can strip the official P2P clients of malware (viruses, worms, spyware, and other forms of security threats), while adding functionality across the board.
“You’d be amazed how many students stopped illegally sharing files just because they know ICARUS is always watching and they’ll get caught,” says Bird, doing his best to channel Orwellian ideals. “We didn’t try to break down the doors, so to speak, we just wanted to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got law enforcement here and we’ll detect you speeding.’”
Still, it’s not just the specter of getting fingered that has students toeing the line; UF programmers built a number of responses into ICARUS targeted specifically toward policy enforcement. A first violation of campus P2P policy disables a student’s network access for 30 minutes; the second cuts off access for a full five days (a lifetime, in teen years). Third-time offenders are subject to the school’s hearing-based judicial process, and their network access is restricted to campus-only access for seven to 30 days, depending on the severity of the infraction. While the system’s ability to detect violations almost instantaneously deters many students from abusing P2P privileges, Bird says it’s the consequence for three offenses that scares users the most—life without Internet use on campus today is like music without an MP3 player; possible, but practically unbearable, no matter what the circumstances.
Actually, this “no file servers” policy has been in place at UF for several years, and dates back to the mid-1990s, when the campus put it into place to curb the use of free university network bandwidth by students using it to run their own commercial Web sites. ICARUS isn’t designed to prevent all forms of file sharing, though—just illegal usage. With this in mind, Bruce Block, senior VP of Technology at the RIAA, says his organization deems it an admirable program, and adds that other colleges could learn a lot from ICARUS. If all schools enacted similar systems, he points out, higher education might be able to reduce the estimated $34 billion in pirated music copyright fees lost to P2P last year alone, and even keep some of those dollars on campuses.
At Penn State, a group of open source programmers have created LionShare, a new P2P architecture.
“What the University of Florida has done in its combination of policy, student education, and technology is an excellent example of what can be done in the university system [to combat illegal file sharing],” he opines.
Turning to Vendors
Still, not every college has the luxury of innovation. Other schools, pressed for programming resources and time, have opted instead for out-of-the-box solutions from a variety of network management vendors. At Juniata College (PA), for instance, technologists responded to P2P-fueled network bottlenecks with the PacketShaper software solution from Packeteer (www.packeteer.com), which enables network administrators to control bandwidth utilization and application performance by limiting all campus P2P applications to no more than 384 kilobytes of bandwidth. According to David Fusco, director of Technology Operations and an assistant professor in the school’s IT department, for an initial investment of about $12,000, and annual maintenance of roughly $1,000, the PacketShaper product has enabled him to “eliminate the activity by choking it.” What’s more, he adds, while P2P abuses still occur at the school’s Huntingdon campus, they no longer impact performance of the network overall.
Technologists have employed the very same solution at Cazenovia College (NY), where P2P abuse was so rampant that CTO James Van Dusen says he had to dispatch a network administrator every few hours to reboot campus routers. At Cazenovia, however, Van Dusen further secured the network against P2P by investing another $12,000 in a one-way firewall solution from Vernier Networks (www.verniernetworks.com).
Today, when students connect to the network, they broadcast one-to-one to the firewall, and other students have no ability to track down anyone’s machine but their own. Beyond this, each student is allowed 500MB of free space in a home file on a campus file server, where he or she can download files of any kind. Cazenovia scans the file server nightly for material that has been downloaded illegally.
“We’re not going into student machines, we’re just investigating the file server to keep ourselves out of trouble,” Van Dusen says. “While we don’t prohibit P2P, we watch it closely and limit our liability completely, solving the issue that groups like RIAA complain about.”
At DePauw University (IN), network administrators yanked the purse strings a bit harder, and took a more complicated, three-pronged approach to controlling P2P. First, they employed Packeteer’s PacketShaper to limit P2P bandwidth overall. Second, they implemented Quality of Service (QoS) measures on Cisco switches (www.cisco.com) to block certain traffic ports and divide the network into various segments, or Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs). Finally, they are using endpoint compliance capabilities from Perfigo (purchased by Cisco in October 2004). Dennis Trickle, CIO and VP for Academic Affairs, says that the heart of this cumulative, $60,000 solution are the QoS capabilities, which ensure that users in academic buildings have priority over users in residence halls to use peer-to-peer technology of all kinds. Beyond that, for an additional $16,000 per year, Cisco keeps the routers up to date with all of the latest security patches, and the institution relies upon the very same technology to prevent the propagation of viruses and other threats, as well.
Finally, there’s the Health Science Center at Texas Tech University, where Security Systems Analyst Lane Timmons says he has successfully fought peer-to-peer problems via a completely different approach. The Timmons plan doesn’t block P2P file sharing internally; instead, the Health Science Center blocks it from the Internet. To facilitate this, Timmons spent $140,000 to combine a UnityOne-2000 Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) from TippingPoint (www.tippingpoint.com), with a traffic redirection tool, QRadar from Q1Labs (www.q1labs.com). At the network perimeter, Timmons has programmed the TippingPoint box to drop all packets involved with file sharing. In the event that these packets somehow make it through the gateway, the QRadar technology kicks in, redirecting users into a “quarantine” VLAN that instructs them to curtail all peer-to-peer activity with the outside world.
“We’d like to think that when it comes to P2P, we take a kinder, gentler approach,” he says. “Inside our secure campus network, students can do what they want. As long as none of the P2P files make it to the Internet (or vice versa), we feel we’re doing our job well.”
Similarly laissez faire approaches to file sharing inside a campus network may be on the horizon elsewhere, too. At Penn State, where Halm works his magic, a similarly enterprising effort is underway to combine the talents of a variety of open source programmers into an entirely new kind of P2P architecture. The effort, part peer-to-peer and part identity management, is LionShare, and it offers an authenticated environment in which users are known both to their institution and to each other. Under this system, users will be able to share personal and community collections with efficiency and without the threat of unauthorized access or undesired content. What’s more, because LionShare simply does not permit the transmission of content that cannot be linked to its original copyright holder, officials at the RIAA and other copyright industry organizations are quite literally jumping for joy, hailing the technology as a great way to eradicate many of the previous concerns about P2P all together.
Version 1.0 of LionShare is expected to be released in late September 2005. When it goes live, Lionshare users will log on with digital identities they receive from their home institutions. At any time, users will be able to see who is sharing what— a form of openness designed to deter illicit activity from the get-go. Users will upload information to the LionShare PeerServer, and will be able to utilize Access Control Lists to designate which other individual users are allowed access to the data. Theoretically, anyone will be able to search for information, but only those users who previously have been authorized to download data off a user’s peer server will be allowed to go ahead and take it. The system also will let users designate file-sharing capabilities for finite periods, enabling institutions to control copyrighted material in much the same manner they would offline.
“What sets LionShare apart from pretty much every other approach to date is the fact that there’s a real sense of accountability here,” says Halm, adding that LionShare servers provide a persistent mirror for content, to ensure that designated files can be available for sharing when a personal peer (such as an instructor’s laptop) is disconnected. “We’re trying to teach responsibility without relying on heavy-handed types of technology.”
As Halm explains, the LionShare effort developed out of PSU’s Visual Image User Study (www.libraries.psu.edu/vius), a 26- month project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and tasked to assess how academic communities use digital images for teaching research and service. The study, conducted between 2001 and 2003, determined that a new application would need to provide more flexible, user-controlled tools, and expanded capabilities for the discovery, management, and sharing of multimedia files. To bring these goals to life, LionShare partner organizations (including Internet2, Canada’s Simon Fraser University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology) decided to base their code on the Limewire 4.0 Open Source Project’s implementation of the widely utilized Gnutella P2P protocol. Because the LionShare application needs to perform many tasks beyond basic file search and retrieval, however, programmers are developing additional capabilities on top of the Gnutella protocol, to support the overall goals of the project.
Some of these additional capabilities will eventually facilitate interoperability between LionShare and other collaborative academic efforts such as Shibboleth (for more on Shibboleth, see “The Power of Who” in January Campus Technology; www.campus-technology.com/authentication). LionShare features international interoperability protocols that provide access to a growing mass of content stored in networks of institutional repositories at individual schools around the world (see “Book ’Em,” page 36). As Halm explains, LionShare 1.0 also will allow publishers to describe their resources using a relevant metadata schema, and will encourage searchers to query against these high-level classifications. This, he says, ultimately could enable a sharing of institutional knowledge that truly enhances the educational process across the board.
“If I’m a department head in entomology, who’s to say that I can’t create a departmental repository of all faculty publications for students to access and use as a resource?” he asks rhetorically. “When we finally use peer-to-peer technology the way it was designed to be used, the possibilities for improving the way we approach education today really are without boundaries.”
Record Labels Tells School They May Subpoena Names
Industry targeting suspected illegal music sharing
Jessica T. Lee
Dartmouth College officials have been notified that the nation's largest record labels intend to subpoena the names of students, faculty and staff suspected of illegally sharing copyrighted music.
The Recording Industry Association of America sued more than 700 people two weeks ago, including computer users at 23 universities and colleges, and could include Dartmouth students in its next wave of lawsuits. RIAA is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry.
The members of the Dartmouth community allegedly involved in six illegal copyright infringements have been informed of RIAA's intent, said Robert Donin, general counsel for Dartmouth College, who sent an e-mail to college administrators on Wednesday alerting them of the potential subpoenas. Most of the RIAA lawsuits have been settled for amounts between $3,000 and $15,000, according to Donin.
"Assuming the subpoenas are legally sufficient, the College will be required to produce this information," Donin wrote.
The issue involves file-sharing, which is when people allow other people to access their files. This is illegal when people share copyrighted material they don't have the rights to distribute. What happens is people can download songs from other users' computers without paying for them, and could even copy, or burn, them onto a CD. In this way, people can obtain entire albums without ever making a purchase, effectively pirating the music, RIAA says.
Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for RIAA, would not confirm or deny whether Dartmouth had been notified, but agreed to speak about the process in general. Lamy said that notifying schools before serving them subpoenas is a general practice RIAA tries to follow.
"After obtaining the individual's identity, we send that person a letter to offer the opportunity to settle the case before it goes any further,"Lamy said. "Many, many people take us up on that opportunity."
The settlement requires the individual to abstain from illegal file-sharing and to pay some monetary compensation depending on the egregiousness of the infraction, judged by factors including how many files a user shares, according to Lamy. Under law, RIAA would be entitled to seek legal damages of $150,000 for each act of infringement, and the defendant could also face criminal penalties as high as three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for first-time offenders, Donin wrote.
The RIAA did not specify a date for the subpoenas in its communications with Dartmouth, Donin said, only that it would "soon" subpoena the names and contact information that correspond to the Internet addresses alleged to be sharing files illegally. RIAA has filed more than 4,000 lawsuits in the last six months, but Dartmouth network users have not been among those pursued in legal action.
The college does receive about 25 notices a month of a network user sharing copyrighted material. For example, the RIAA informs Dartmouth that a student is illegally sharing music files. Called "take down notices," the student would then be required to remove the files from public circulation, but does not have to pay damages, as in a lawsuit. The college is required to take action "when it is on notice of a violation in order to preserve" its legal protection, Donin said.
In those cases, Dartmouth contacts the user and sends a "cease and desist" message if it is a first offense. If the student does not stop sharing files, or does it again later, it could result in disciplinary action by the college.
There have not yet been any cases of disciplinary action for file-sharing at Dartmouth, Donin said, but there have been instances when students have been disconnected from the network until they have convinced school administrators they would not share copyrighted files again.
Dartmouth student Dan Moynihan, class of 2006, said he sees file-sharing as serving the same purpose as the radio, in that people can try out artists without spending money.
"My opinion of file-sharing . . . is that in general, people don't use file- sharing and downloading as a replacement for buying music -they use it as a kind of sampling tool," said Moynihan, who is a DJ at Dartmouth's radio station WFRD, known as 99Rock, as well as music director and production director. "They download one or two songs by an artist and if they like them, they go out and buy the album."
That is not the perspective of many in the music industry. RIAA estimates that the music industry loses $4.2 billion per year worldwide because of piracy, according to its Web site.
RIAA has unleashed waves of lawsuits during the last year, suing computer users at dozens of universities across the country, including the University of Michigan and Harvard Medical School most recently. Colleges and universities have been targeted because their fast Internet connections spawn a lot of file-sharing, but RIAA has not limited its lawsuits there.
RIAA tracks illegal file-sharing much the way people share files illegally by going onto a peer-to-peer (P2P) network, such as Direct Connect, the classic KaZaA or the new Wirehog, and looking for people sharing songs.
They could search for Elvis Presley, for example, and get a list of users who are sharing copyrighted Elvis songs, and then get a list of every file one individual user is sharing. People looking for music often use this feature to copy someone's entire collection, if they like that person's taste. RIAA uses it to find the people who are sharing the most files, the big distributors who have several hundred or even 1,000 files offered to millions of users.
Student Writes Video File-Sharing Program
For better or worse, one of the favorite pastimes of Yale procrastinators has just been taken to a whole new level. Now, instead of wasting a few minutes browsing through someone's iTunes music library, students can waste hours browsing through other students' video collections.
The new program, called Lanovision, is a file sharing tool that allows students to stream others' videos, much like OurTunes for videos rather than music. Patrick Fitzsimmons '06 created the program over winter break, and Morse and Stiles colleges already have a strong network of video-sharers.
"It's been really great so far," said Fitzsimmons, who announced the new program to Morse students earlier this week. "In the past few days, the program has had 75 downloads. Once people download it, they share their videos, and there's a whole network going."
Fitzsimmons had the idea for the program last spring, while he and his roommate were working on an all-purpose file-sharing program called Coffeeshop. The program circulated music and photos, but Fitzsimmons said students had no need for it because of programs such as iTunes and Webshots.
"We found that the one thing that didn't exist was a way to view your friends' videos," he said. "I was wondering if you could actually stream movies and watch them and I had this eureka moment. It was a lot of random stuff I pieced together."
Fitzsimmons said he spent about 200 hours working on the program over winter break. So far, the program has spread through Morse and Stiles, and Fitzsimmons plans to e-mail everyone at Yale to expand it further.
"From there, I'll try to contact friends at other schools, and try to get them to spread it," he said. "Maybe I'll even spend a little, do a little advertising, publicize it and see what happens."
Kean Hsu '06 has already started using the program, and he said that he has seen a decent selection of videos on the network.
"The more people that get on it, the better it will be," he said. "It's a program that's very dependent on the number of people who are on the network."
Hsu said he is interested in seeing how movie companies respond to the program as it spreads.
"I'm curious to see whether the companies consider it something worth investigating or even consider it a bad thing," he said. "Since it involves streaming video files and not buyer transmission, it's not like Kazaa or Napster. It's not really the same issue."
Matthew Boelig '06 said he can see the program spreading within Yale because iTunes has become so popular on campus.
"A lot of people have laptops and have limited space for videos, so streaming online is a great way for people to watch media," he said.
Boelig said his primary complaint with the program so far is the VLC media player program that plays many of the videos.
"It's hard to use, you can't fast forward or rewind easily through the movies, and sometimes it makes the video player freeze," he said.
Fitzsimmons said he is still working the bugs out of the PC version of Lanovision, while also developing a version for Macs. He said a Mac version will be available in three or four weeks at the latest.
When Boelig logged onto the network at 5 p.m. Wednesday, there were 25 people connected, and about half were sharing videos. Among the videos available to stream were "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "The Big Lebowski," "Forrest Gump" and several episodes of "The OC," he said.
Chuck Powell, Yale's director of academic media and technology, said that he had not yet heard of the program but was pleased to see students experimenting with technology.
"We're happy in a general way to see the student population putting their talents, interests and skills to work in the IT area," Powell said.
Jessica Blick '07 said she thinks the new program will be a lot of fun if more people start using it. So far, she has avoided being distracted from her work.
"I watched the first five minutes of a movie and then realized I should do my homework," she said.
Only time will tell if Blick's fellow students will follow her responsible lead, or if movie marathons will replace study marathons as the primary weeknight activity for Yalies.
What can Brown do for you?
Thefacebook.com Releases Peer File-Sharing Network
Wirehog, a file-sharing program from the makers of Thefacebook.com, has been released in beta form for testing by Brown University users. The program's creator says the innovative software will usher in a new era of more "personal" file sharing.
Unlike other peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, such as Kazaa and Limewire, Wirehog allows only users of TheFacebook.com to share files with designated friends on the intercollegiate directory. "It's like normal file-sharing programs, but it's only for people you designate as your friends," said Wirehog founder, CEO and president Andrew McCollum,
"Not only do you not know who you are getting files from (on other file-sharing services), but you don't care. The only things you can search for are mainstream media, and there's no reliable way to get to those files. You can't guarantee that anyone is going to have them," he said.
McCollum distinguishes Wirehog from other services by highlighting the personal nature of this file swapping. Because only friends can access each other's Wirehog collections, users are more likely to share personal videos or photos in addition to music, said McCollum. For musicians as well, Wirehog is an invaluable source for sharing recordings. "When it's things that you have made yourself you can share them as you want," he said.
But, like many other programs that facilitate the exchange of digital media, Wirehog could potentially be used to transfer copyrighted music or movies. Last year, the Recording Industry Association of America subpoenaed Brown for the names of two network users who were suspected of illegal file sharing. In light of these and other apparent crackdowns on college music-swappers around the country, McCollum stressed the safety of sharing files with Wirehog.
"If you're sharing files, only you and your friends can see them," he said. "There's a degree of safety for users, the rest of the world can't see what they're sharing. We take that pretty seriously," he said.
Stephanie Birdsall, communication specialist at Computing and Information Services, told The Herald that CIS does not look for copyright infringers. "We're not looking for copyright violations. We are looking to see if this person is taking up too much bandwidth," she said.
"We have no idea how the RIAA comes up with their list of violators. They are very careful about explaining how they get that list," Birdsall said.
McCollum added jokingly, "Unless you invite the RIAA to be your friend, you're probably all right."
Wirehog is now in beta testing and still in development, said McCollum. Currently, there are upwards of 10,000 users of the software. The service is also available for Thefacebook users in the Ivy League, New York University, Stanford University, and University of California Berkeley. Additionally, users of Wirehog may invite friends not at these universities to join the service.
McCollum and the founder of Thefacebook, Mark Zuckerberg, brainstormed the concept of Wirehog last spring. Development of the service began in mid- July and is ongoing.
Wirehog will eventually be available to upwards of 1.6 million facebook users. "The eventual goal is to offer it to everyone," said McCollum. "There's no reason we should restrict it."
Sigur Rós – Von
I picked up Von the other day thinking it was a new release. (there's nothing legible printed on it as usual, including a date.) My exact thought on the initial listen was that a band this young and in the pressurized bubble of cult status could exhibit this much freedom gives me hope for the future of music.
The first ten minute track, Sigur Ros, is somewhere between a soundtrack for a horror film and the sound that just about any group of musicians will make after smoking opium for three days straight in total darkness. I frankly doubt that many of you reading this would care for the work, but I strongly admire this kind of rare organic truth in bands that have "made it"--the overwhelming tendency being rather generally to listen to the suits who are chanting "give us something with a beat and hook, you know, like Svefn-G-Englar" and most bands it seems are docile enough to follow through, lamely repeating variations on some frozen spark of an idea.
Well, of course now I realize I was wrong. Von was Sigur's first release, originally printed in an edition of 500 copies, and eventually selling about 500,000 copies in Iceland, (a goodly number on the island I'd reckon). Von was released here in the states about 3 months ago and a single copy just made it to my local store. (can you tell I don't spend much time p2ping these days?)
On subsequent listens I began to discern that some of the highly strange production values are in fact probably a result of a low budget. All the more beautiful and rare to my ears.
At any rate, rather than feeling dumb, my original observation was simply compounded: it's almost inconceivable that a band this young can display this much originality--an originality oddly steeped in tradition, for while it reminds me of absolutely nothing that's gone before it (other than jamming in total darkness after a three day opium binge that is), one could, if one wished, draw a straight line between early Pink Floyd and Sigur Ros that would traverse more than three almost completely forgotten decades. (Though they look like 14 year olds to your elderly narrator, I assume they are old souls. Come to think of it, Iceland may be transmigrationally reserved for old souls.) And with three albums and a number of EPs under their belt, I'd say if this band realizes their potential for several more decades they will in fact subtly bend the course of music back toward the human every bit as much as the Floyd did. I will await their Dark Side of the Moon.
Download the whole album and save it for a relaxed, attentive moment when you don't need to have your all your conventional musical buttons jammed down at once for three minutes at a time. Opium optional.
Internet changing everything
Competition Is Forever
Michael Smyth, who works for a pharmaceutical company, was peering not long ago at three large diamonds perched on the tops of metal rods, balanced above pure white paper in a shop in the Manhattan diamond district. Like countless young men in the generations before his, Mr. Smyth was looking for an engagement ring.
But Mr. Smyth is different from earlier suitors, who often trembled at the approach of a salesman. Before he started out, he had carefully researched diamond sizes, cuts and quality on the Internet. He knew the wholesale prices, and he was ready to bargain.
Plenty of his friends actually bought their rings on the Web, he said, "but since I'm here in New York, I figured I'd take a look."
"If I were in Iowa, I'd probably buy it online."
From mine to merchant to customer, the diamond business is changing while it expands like never before - and the Internet is only part of it. Consumers, both men and women, are demanding better stones, often for lower prices, in a wider variety of locations.
Mom-and-pop stores are being squeezed by giant chains like Wal-Mart Stores, now the world's largest jeweler, and Costco, which increasingly sells diamonds over two carats. Department stores, too, are upgrading their jewelry counters. (Jewelry did much better than clothing in many of them over the holidays.)
And sales of diamonds, for all the predictions from critics that the industry has long been riding for a fall, are continuing to thrive. In 2003, the last year for which data are available, $20.5 billion in diamonds and diamond jewelry was sold in the United States, according to the Jewelers of America, up nearly 10 percent from $18.7 billion two years before.
Eighty-three percent of the brides in the United States say that they want a diamond engagement ring - and their grooms, in turn, spent $4.3 billion last year on them. And diamonds have spread well beyond engagement rings.
Right-hand rings are promoted to women looking to flaunt their independence. Pop stars like Sean Combs wear watches with 1,200 cut stones on their faces that cost tens of thousands of dollars.
While the number of stones sold is increasing, complex changes are taking place. Wholesalers in the diamond district, on 47th Street between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas, which was once the epicenter of diamond wholesaling in the United States, are laying off dozens of stone-cutters, commissioning the work in India and China, and using the former factory space as showrooms for jewelry they never sold before.
Everyone is trying to cut out the middlemen distributors, who are now regarded as extraneous. Most of the Internet sites do not even buy the diamonds; they act as a clearinghouse for dealers.
The prices, meanwhile, have gone to two extremes. At the low end, the discount chains and many online diamond sites are offering prices that - even the Main Street jewelers admit - are at least 20 percent lower than in their own shops. At the other end, to satisfy the cravings of rock stars, Russian millionaires and others with bottomless pockets, prices for the much bigger, much rarer stones have soared as supplies have tightened.
For diamond retailers, branded diamonds and new cuts have become hot. Luxury retailers like Tiffany, and even some 47th Street dealers, are patenting cuts to differentiate their diamonds from other retailers' and, they hope, add cachet.
To give more guidance to an increasingly confused marketplace, the Gemological Institute of America, the industry's lead rating service, plans to update this year its 1950's-era grading system for diamond cuts. As part of the effort, the institute will for the first time use computers to define what gives a diamond its beauty, measuring the light patterns that create "scintillation" and the color flashes that make "fire."
Some dealers are doing their best to capture both the wholesale and retail ends of the business. Aber, a Canadian diamond company that owns 40 percent of the Diviak mine not far from the Arctic Ocean, bought the controlling interest last spring in Harry Winston, the Fifth Avenue jeweler.
De Beers, the world's largest diamond producer, has opened a shop on Old Bond Street in London and three locations in Tokyo, and now plans to open its first shop in the United States, on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, in mid-June, according to a spokeswoman.
Kwiat, with offices in the diamond district, used to confine itself to importing and polishing diamonds. Now, the family-owned company, like many on 47th Street, is branching out. It has begun selling diamonds laser-branded with its own crown logo; two weeks ago, the company introduced its own diamond earrings, brooches and rings.
"If you are 'just' a diamond dealer, everyone is trying to get rid of you," wrote Martin Rappaport in The Rappaport Diamond Report, an influential newsletter that he publishes.
For 100 years, the diamond business was closed to outsiders; for those who knew the trade, handed down from generation to generation, it was a hard but predictable business. De Beers, the South African conglomerate, had a lock on the market, supplying about 80 percent of the world's diamonds.
But within the last decade, De Beers's grip has loosened. It now controls less than 50 percent of the market, analysts say, and no longer has a firm grip on prices. New and independent mines in Australia and, most recently, Canada, have begun producing diamonds, small and large. Yet supplies from the new mines can be unpredictable. In the last year, there has been a 50 percent drop in production at the Argyle mine in Australia, according to The Rappaport Report.
Dana L. Telsey, a Bear Stearns analyst who covers the diamond market, said in a report in December that while "industry sources estimate that rough diamond prices have grown as much as 25 percent over the last year," gemstone prices are up only about 8 percent at retail. Besieged by competition, jewelry stores have not felt they could pass on the full markup, their owners said in interviews.
Jewelers say that traditional ring buyers like Mr. Smyth are no longer shy and insecure. If they still visit the small-town jewelry store, they have probably done their homework on the Internet: 90 percent of those who log on to bluenile.com, a popular diamond site that says it sells as many engagement rings in America as Tiffany does, do so just to become educated, not to buy.
Still, online sales of all jewelry rose to $1.9 billion during the 2004 Christmas season, more than doubling from $900 million the year before, according to Bear Stearns.
While it may seem risky to buy jewelry sight unseen, consumers appear satisfied. Cecilia Gardner, counsel for the Jewelers' Vigilance Committee, an industry watchdog group, said she had not received a greater number of complaints about Internet purchases than about jewelry bought in stores. The most complaints about online diamond purchases, she added, are about eBay, the auction site.
Jeffrey H. Fischer, a diamond cutter and importer and president of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association, said some buyers find the Internet less threatening.
"They don't want to deal face-to-face with the salesperson where they feel at a disadvantage because they're not as knowledgeable." He paused. "There is a tremendous debate, a confrontation, on how to cope with the Internet presence. It's a very, very hot-button topic."
In January, the International Jewelry Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan featured a panel discussion titled "Threat: Internet Diamond Supersellers."
Mr. Rappaport said that merchants "know that the diamond business is changing in ways that threaten their very existence, but they don't know what to do about it."
The discounters and Internet sites do not sell just cheap diamonds. The average price for an engagement ring on bluenile.com is close to $5,000 - about twice the national average - and one sold for $257,000 last fall, said Mark Vadon, Blue Nile's founder and chief executive. To combat the competition from the Internet and discount chains, traditional retailers are introducing branded stones. Successful brands can generate exceptionally high profit margins - an average of 55 percent, Ms. Telsey, the analyst with Bear Stearns, said.
Within the last two years, new diamond cuts - like Lucida from Tiffany, the Crown of Light from Premier Gem and Dream from Hearts on Fire - have been developed in an effort to differentiate one diamond from another. The new types of diamonds seem to be selling: the Leo diamond, introduced in 1999, has already sold $100 million at retail, while the Hearts on Fire brand has sold $250 million, Ms. Telsey said.
Yet John Green, the chief executive of Lux, Bond & Green in Hartford, was dismissive of many of the new branded diamonds. "It's a lot of smoke and mirrors with the branding - hearts and arrows, an ideal cut, Hearts on Fire, whatever," going through his sales pitch. "Our own Lux, Bond & Green diamond is no different" from the branded ones, he added, asserting the high quality of his own company's stones.
Some diamond dealers are trying a little bit of everything.
"If you're making only a few dollars at each level, the more levels you have, the better," Mr. Fischer, the diamond importer, said. "You make a little on the jewelry, a little bit on the diamonds."
Like the Kwiat family, Mr. Fischer has just started producing his own line of diamond jewelry, in partnership with a designer. "I am indicative of what's going on," he said. "Ten years ago, I could never have envisioned - What, me? Making jewelry?"
And the old owners of Harry Winston may not have envisioned themselves catering to the walk-in customer. Until a few months ago, customers were ushered through wrought- iron double doors into a reception room with only one desk, where a beautifully groomed associate asked if they had an appointment. The stores are now more approachable. Entering the reception room, customers are free to browse through showcases featuring several pieces priced under $5,000.
The industry recently sought to dispense with one of its biggest scandals: introducing a warranty program aimed at cutting off the retail supply of "blood diamonds" or "conflict diamonds" - those mined in Angola and Sierra Leone by revolutionaries bent on using diamond profits to buy bombs and guns.
Yet even with all the industry's travails, some retailers are unconcerned. Take Jacob Arabo, a jeweler to the stars, who just moved from a shop on West 47th Street to East 57th Street near Buccellati, one of the world's most expensive jewelers.
He recently showed a visitor a flawless, 16.51-carat, canary yellow diamond ring, with a price of $920,000.
But Mr. Smyth, the soon-to-be fiancé, was not looking for canary yellow. Or 16 carats. Or a great investment.
He was buying a ring for an entirely different reason. "I never thought I'd get married, even though my parents were married for 40 years," he said. "She swept away all my resolve, and now I want to buy her something - not gaudy and huge - but something she'd be happy to wear for a long time."
Whistle While You Squirt
Superfluid Heliun-4 whistle
Postscript to a merger
Fiorina Steps Down At HP
Carly Fiorina, the embattled leader of Hewlett-Packard, stepped down as chairman and CEO on Wednesday as HP tries to redefine itself for a new era.
The company's board said the change is effective immediately. Robert Wayman, HP's chief financial officer, has been named interim CEO and has been appointed to the board.
"We thank Carly for her significant leadership over the past six years as we look forward to accelerating execution of the company's strategy," board member Patricia Dunn said in a statement.
Dunn, who has served on the board since 1998, has been named chairman.
Fiorina's departure apparently stems from a disagreement with the board over the direction of the company.
"While I regret the board and I have differences about how to execute HP's strategy, I respect their decision," Fiorina said in a statement.
HP is scheduled to report its fiscal first-quarter results on Feb. 16.
The departure of Fiorina, who came to the company in 1999 from Lucent Technologies, comes as HP struggles to achieve consistent growth in its financial performance, particularly in its enterprise group. The company reorganized last month, combining its PC and printer units.
Fiorina has resisted calls to break HP, a Silicon Valley icon, into two separate companies, one focused on business customers and another focused on consumers.
HP's merger with Compaq, which was spearheaded by Fiorina, has also been criticized. Although the merged company has managed to wring out costs by combining operations, it has lost market share in certain areas, according to analysts.
Just two weeks ago, HP denied reports that it was planning to redistribute some of Fiorina's day-to-day responsibilities.
HP's stock was up about 10 percent before the market opened.
On Tuesday, Sanford Litvack resigned from the company's board of directors. He was replaced by venture capitalist and former board member Thomas Perkins.
No DRM in Mr. Robertson's Neighborhood
There is a shallowness to Southern California culture that can make you question the authenticity of anything coming out of the place. The boobs are fake. The faces are fake. The water is fake - pumped in from far away reservoirs. The cities are filled with bland, repetitive strip malls loaded down with chain restaurants not local cuisine. Half of the people aren't even real people at all - they're actors.
This doesn't make So Cal a bad place. It just raises immediate questions about someone like Michael Robertson of Linspire, MP3.com and SIPphone fame. Can you trust the authenticity of this blond haired, laid back executive who was raised in Los Angeles and does business in San Diego? Can you trust the motives of his battles with the likes of Microsoft and the recording industry? Is this altruism, capitalism, entrepreneurism or greed? We sat down this week here at the Linspire- sponsored Desktop Summit to try and answer some of these questions and to talk to Robertson about his latest venture - a DRM-free online music shop called MP3tunes.
"I definitely would not down play that I am an entrepreneur, Robertson said. "When everyone is zigging, that's when you want to zag. I would not downplay that.
"But I am a businessman in a unique situation. I was 34 and had a $100m when we sold MP3.com to Vivendi (Universal in 2001). To me, you say, 'How can I make the world a better place?' I don't want to sound too much like an altruistic cheerleader. It's just that I have a nice car and a nice house and then what? Let's go impact the world some, so that is what we are trying to do."
Robertson's best known battle has been waged on the desktop where his Linspire - formerly Lindows - operating system is pitched as a competitor to Microsoft's Windows. The SIPphone venture is a VoIP attack against the slow-to-move telcos. And now with MP3tunes, Robertson is going up against the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), Apple, Real and Microsoft.
The executive admits that some of these ventures have not taken off at quite the clip he had once hoped.
"As technologists, people like Register readers, our universe revolves around technology," he said. "We research our own technology and are comfortable around it. That's not the way the rest of the world works. It has been one of my frustrations. You have to have marketing, a channel and strong distribution. These things take time. (Linspire) has been an exercise in patience for me."
Still, Robertson holds out hope that Version 5.0 of Linspire - out in beta this week and shipping sometime in the first quarter - will finally win over more consumers.
Not making life easier, Robertson has just launched a new music store that doesn't have songs from any major artists, doesn't have the DRM infection demanded by the RIAA and doesn't have serious profit prospects.
"You don't do an online music store to make money," he said. "You can't even think about making money until you have a massive scale and even then it isn't a high margin business."
MP3tunes charges 88 cents a song or $8.88 per album and sends 65 cents per song or $6.50 per album back to the artists. Companies like Apple and Napster also manage just a few pennies per song sale from their online stores.
"But I think backing the MP3 format is the right thing to do for consumers," Robertson said. "Today, desktop Linux is locked out of almost all of the online music stores. That's because we don't support DRM, and I think DRM is the biggest threat to open source, no question about it."
Robertson points to past success with MP3.com as one reason he might be able to sway the major music labels once again. That store started out with no major artists and ended up being courted as a channel by the pigopolists. Should consumers flock to MP3tunes, the labels may realize that DRM hampers sales in a big way, according to Robertson.
"Most of the people call these things music stores, but they are more like rental shops," he said. "A company is telling you how you can use the music. You don't really own it. That is a bad idea for consumers and a bad idea for the industry.
"That's why I am getting back into this and stressing MP3s. Don't rent your music. Own it.
"We don't have U2. We don't have the major record labels. I know that. When I started MP3.com, I didn't have the major labels either."
Robertson expects the upcoming Supreme Court hearings on P2P file sharing to make or break the music industry's battle against consumers.
"If the Supreme Court sides with the lower courts, then even the most ardent DRM fan has to concede that file-sharing networks and by extension MP3 content on those networks will be part of our culture as far as the eye can see," he said. "I don't see how you can arrive at any other conclusion."
And if the labels win?
"That wouldn't help my position, but I still think you can convince (the labels) that the discussion is not about DRM. It's about making money."
So there you have it - a money-hungry, freedom fighter. A millionaire who holds meetings in a small room tucked away at the back of an equally small conference center. No handlers. No pomp.
Is the whole show authentic? Hard to tell. But it's fun to watch.
What happens in Vegas…is logged in Vegas
Vegas Casino Bets On RFID
Casino mogul Steve Wynn has pulled out all the stops for his new $2.7 billion mega-resort in Las Vegas: an 18-hole championship golf course, a private lake and mountain, and a bronze tower housing 2,700 plush guest rooms.
But when its doors open in April, the Wynn Las Vegas will have one unique feature that few visitors are likely to notice--high-tech betting chips designed to deter counterfeiting, card-counting and other bad behavior.
The fancy new chips look just like regular ones, only they contain radio devices that signal secret serial numbers. Special equipment linked to the casino's computer systems and placed throughout the property will identify legitimate chips and detect fakes, said Rick Doptis, vice president of table games for the Wynn.
"Security-wise, it will be huge for us," Doptis said.
The technology behind these chips is known as radio frequency identification, or RFID, and it's been used for years to track livestock, enable employee security badges and pay tolls.
The casino industry is just the latest to find new uses for RFID technology. Retail chains, led by Wal-Mart Stores, are using it to monitor merchandise. Libraries are incorporating it into book collections to speed checkouts and re-shelving. The United States and other nations are incorporating it into passports to catch counterfeits. One company even offers to inject people with RFID chips linked to their medical records to ensure they receive proper medical care.
In casinos, RFID technology is still relatively rare and in search of a killer application to spur adoption. Yet some tech-savvy casino executives envision RFID transforming the way they operate table games, including blackjack, craps and roulette, over the next four or five years.
For one thing, there's the counterfeiting problem, on which there is scant data. The Nevada Gaming Commission gets about a dozen complaints every year related to counterfeit chips, said Keith Copher, the agency's chief of enforcement. Last year, a casino in Reno quickly lost $26,000 in such a scheme--one of the biggest hits reported to the commission in recent years. And counterfeiting is on the rise at overseas casinos, Copher noted. The RFID technology would let dealers or cashiers see when the value of the chips in front of them don't match the scanners' tally.
However, financial losses due to counterfeit chips are usually minor, and few perpetrators get away with it, Copher said.
Perhaps that's why the Wynn has found a dual purpose for the high-tech chips: The casino is also using the chips to help account for the chips they issue on credit to players, since managing credit risk is a huge part of any big casino's operations.
The Wynn plans to take note of the serial numbers of the chips they lend and of the name of players who cash them in. If someone else returns the chips, it could signal that the original player is using their credit line with the casino to make loans to others--something casinos generally frown upon.
That sort of security doesn't come cheap: The Wynn is spending about $2 million on the chips. That's about double the price of regular chips, and doesn't include addition equipment the Wynn will need to purchase, such as RFID readers, computers and networking gear.
Eye in the sky
The technology could also help casinos catch card players who sneak extra betting chips onto the table after hands are dealt or players who count cards. That's one reason the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas plans to switch on a new set of RFID- equipped betting chips and tables next month.
The casino is installing RFID readers and PCs at game tables. With antennas placed under each player's place at the table, dealers can take a quick inventory of chips that have been wagered at the push of a button. The PCs display all the initial bets, deterring players from sneaking extra chips into their pile after hands are dealt.
Yet the benefits of RFID go beyond security. It may also help casinos boost profits through savvier marketing.
Take the Hard Rock Hotel. In addition to monitoring wagers, the casino plans to use its new RFID system to "rate players"--monitor gamblers to reward them with free rooms, meals and other perks based on how much and how often they wager. As the technology advances, RFID could also help track how well they play. The casinos generally reserve the most enticing rewards for their most "valuable" players--those that bet and lose the most--to keep them coming back.
At the moment, these incentive programs are somewhat limited, because the process of rating players is so labor-intensive. Casinos employ special staff to observe the tables and take note (by hand) of how much players bet and how well they play--typically focusing on high-stakes players. In addition, such ratings are often inaccurate. As a result, casinos overshoot the perks they lavish on players by 20 to 30 percent.
RFID could change that by giving casinos a more accurate and efficient tool to rate players and by allowing them to enlist more table-game players to participate in incentive or "comp" programs. Such programs are roughly the equivalent of an airline's frequent flyer program or a grocery chain's loyalty card, encouraging repeat business.
"It will allow casinos to be more aggressive from a marketing standpoint," said Tim Richards, vice-president of marketing at Progressive Gaming International, a supplier of the next-generation betting chips.
Many in the gaming industry point to the lowly slot machine--which has evolved into a fancy computer--as the desirable model. With slots, casinos have made a science over the last decade of monitoring players and keeping them interested in the machines with a constant stream of rewards and freebies.
In part, that development has helped slots generate the lion's share of casinos' revenue--up to 80 or 90 percent in a typical casino, according to Richards.
"We're trying to bring that same kind of thinking to table games," said Bart Pestrichello, vice president of casino operations at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. "It's to reward players based on their actual bets and decisions."
Keeping a closer eye on table wagers could also help casinos crack down on card counting. Armed with all kinds of data, RFID systems could analyze game activity against statistical models and alert management of a suspicious winning streak. The technology can also be used to catch dealer mistakes, check dealer productivity and deter chip theft.
Still on the drawing board
Despite all the promises of RFID, few casinos have yet to put it to use. Part of the problem is that the technology is expensive. The cost hovers around $8,000 per table, Progressive Gaming's Richards said. That's just for the chips and readers, and doesn't include the extra computers and networking equipment.
Then there are technical problems. It takes about seven seconds for an RFID-equipped game table to read 100 chips--far too slow to capture quick table action.
But Progressive Gaming and a competitor called Shuffle Master are developing systems that take closer to two or three seconds per reading--fast enough to capture the outcome of each hand. This year, the companies each plan to release new versions of their RFID systems that are faster and more affordable than today's models.
"Vegas has a little bit of a wait-and-see attitude," Richards said. "They very much view themselves as the primetime casinos, and they want to make sure the product is bulletproof."
Progressive Gaming's goal is to sell at least 5,000 RFID-enabled gaming tables by 2010. It's wiring up the Hard Rock--one of the first casinos in Las Vegas to adopt RFID betting chips.
Shuffle Master is making big bets too. The Las Vegas company acquired key two RFID-related patents last year for $12.5 million and has teamed up with RFID equipment maker Gaming Partners International to develop new products. Gaming Partners is supplying the Wynn with its RFID system.
Executives at both companies say broader adoption is coming but is about five years off.
Yet another potential barrier to RFID at casinos is concern over privacy. Wherever it goes, RFID seems to generate objections from consumer activists, who worry that the technology will give corporations and governments too much power to pry into people's lives.
But few people expect total privacy at casinos, where surveillance cameras might easily outnumber the cocktail waitresses roaming the floor. With casinos already keeping such a close eye on their visitors, would RFID chips really be much cause for concern? In addition, RFID systems only recognize people who use player's cards. The cards are part of complimentary programs, which are completely voluntary.
Still, you can imagine some disturbing scenarios. For instance, an RFID reader might make a nifty tool for a thief, who could covertly scan people strolling along the Strip for his next hold-up victim. Could casinos be setting their patrons up for this kind of trouble?
The question seemed to stump Rick Doptis at the Wynn. "I would have no idea as to that," Doptis said. "We go to great lengths to protect customer safety. Our parking lots and grounds are surveyed like no other on the planet. We do everything we can to protect our guests. But theft is a factor."
The Flip Side Of Database Snooping
Adm. John Poindexter, the Bush administration official responsible for the Total Information Awareness project, is not exactly chastened by Congress's pulling the plug on his idea.
"One of the remarkable things about ideas is that once you surface an idea, and it is a good idea, in the long term there is very little that can be done to stop it," Poindexter says of his proposals for aggressive data mining. "So I am convinced that research and development will continue, one way or another." Poindexter even hints that money for similar efforts remains buried deep within the Pentagon's budget.
Those candid remarks appear in Robert O'Harrow's "No Place to Hide," a new book that probes beneath the surface of the growing "databasification" of modern life.
O'Harrow, a reporter for The Washington Post, landed a series of interviews that capture how the federal government and its contractors have labored to compile digital dossiers on Americans in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "Law enforcement and intelligence services don't need to design their own surveillance systems from scratch," O'Harrow writes. "They only have to reach out to the companies that already track us so well."
The book's tone isn't shrill. Instead, it offers a reasoned and unparalleled glimpse into the minds of the bureaucrats and CEOs who are bent on creating a surveillance-industrial complex--not to monitor Americans for spying's sake, but to ward off future terrorist attacks. The problem, as O'Harrow notes as he profiles companies like Acxiom and ChoicePoint, is that a system created for one purpose can readily be turned into another.
Data collection and information sharing emerged not through chance but because they result in lower prices and more choices for consumers.
That ominous warning also appears in a new book by Dan Solove, a law professor at George Washington University, called "The Digital Person."
Where O'Harrow is descriptive, Solove is prescriptive. He includes a nearly encyclopedic analysis of the current state of privacy law relating to "digital dossiers" and argues that it falls short. For proper legal protections in modern society, Solove argues, "our understandings of privacy must be significantly rethought."
One suggestion he offers--to amend the Privacy Act of 1974 to curb unchecked police use of outsourced databases--I also made in a September 2003 column. Others are more sweeping, such as increasing the legal protection for personal information that's in the hands of a third party such as a bank, bookseller or Internet service provider. A new federal law could go a long way toward repairing the damage to "third-party privacy" inflicted by a pair of Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s, Solove says.
Both O'Harrow and Solove do their topics justice when warning of police perusal of databases, the perils that secret "Do Not Fly" lists can hold for innocent travelers with unlucky names, and the shadowy surveillance-industrial complex. O'Harrow's book reveals the growing role of private-sector databases in government surveillance plans better than any other treatment so far.
If the books have any fault, it would be overlooking the unsung benefits that have accompanied the databasification of American society. While unchecked police snooping through databases is worrisome, lawful information-sharing in the private sector accelerates economic activity and helps consumers.
Data collection and information sharing emerged not through chance but because they result in lower prices and more choices for consumers. The ability to identify customers who are not likely to pay their bills, for instance, lets stores offer better deals to those who will.
These consumer benefits are given short shrift in privacy debates, which tend to be driven by anecdote and emotion and not by an appreciation of how businesses work in the real world.
Whatever its flaws, the credit-reporting system is a marvel of efficiency; just a few decades ago, if you wanted a loan, you'd have to visit a bank's loan officer in person and wait weeks while he or she checked your references before finally reaching a decision. Thanks to massive databases that sweep in credit histories, addresses, phone numbers, and public records such as bankruptcies and lawsuits by creditors, credit can be obtained in seconds today and at far cheaper prices.
Walter Kitchenman, an economist at Purchase Street Research, estimates that because of information sharing among financial companies, "mortgage rates in the United States are as much as two full percentage points lower" than they would be otherwise. That saves Americans at least $80 billion a year.
Unfortunately, the very features that make credit reports and other databases useful to businesses make them even more attractive to law enforcement. A more interesting question to answer could be: How can government access to these data stores be better controlled without curbing beneficial uses as well?
European Working Union On eSurveillance
Issues White Paper
|10-02-05, 08:27 PM||#3|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
WA Libs Want Porn Filter Power
WESTERN Australia's Liberal Opposition has vowed to go it alone on controversial moves to filter internet access if the Howard Government refuses to endorse tighter federal censorship controls.
Opposition children's spokeswoman Barbara Scott - who also wants to take back Western Australia's powers of censorship over films, videos and computer games - has foreshadowed a state review of internet filtering as part of its Protecting Our Children policy.
The federal Government recently reviewed filtering and decided it was technically unfeasible.
But the WA Liberals want their own powers to stop pornography.
"Technology changes and we want to make sure all the options are examined," Ms Scott said. "There are a lot of children left at home unsupervised these days with access to the internet ... and parents have no guarantee they're not accessing something harmful.
"We want to review our options to provide families with the means to restrict access.
"If it isn't examined through federal channels, we will establish a children's commissioner who will take a lead role in this."
A spokeswoman for federal Communications Minister Helen Coonan said filtering was "highly problematic".
"The Minister will monitor the situation and welcomes the interest of both the WA Opposition and Family First in cracking down on internet porn," the spokeswoman said.
The proposal has met howls of opposition from the internet industry, which fought a rearguard action last year to have federal Labor dump a national mandatory filtering proposal.
Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos labelled state-based filtering "politically attractive but technically impossible".
"They all come into these proposals with such idealism," he said. "No one criticises her intentions, (but) the best contribution we can have is more funding for awareness (programs)."
Major internet service providers are unenthusiastic over filtering, warning it does not replace the need for parents to monitor the children's internet access.
"The truth is that we need an international effort to really deal with online nasties," said Michael Malone, managing director of Perth access provider iinet.
"That's best co-ordinated at the federal level and international enforcement has been managed pretty well in recent years."
The censorship issue continues to lurk at a federal level, with Family First's senator- elect Steve Fielding promising to pursue his party's mandatory filtering platform when he takes up his seat in July.
The party has dumped a plan for a $10-a-year levy on internet users to fund the $40 million proposal, but is still talking tough on content regulation.
Intel to Add 64-Bit Feature to Pentium Chips
Intel Corp., the world's largest chip maker, said on Tuesday it would add 64-bit computing capabilities to its flagship Pentium 4 computer chips this month, allowing more powerful processing of large chunks of data.
The upgrade comes nearly 18 months after Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD.N: Quote, Profile, Research) introduced the feature in its own desktop chip, the Athlon 64. Intel, whose chips power more than 80 percent of all PCs, has said it would not introduce 64-bit computing into its desktop PC parts until software could take advantage of the extra power.
While Microsoft Corp. has yet to introduce a 64-bit version of its Windows XP operating system, Intel's vice president of business products group Robert Crooke said: "Certainly we expect that now is the right time for that."
The 64-bit feature will ship this month in the 600 series Pentium 4 product, the highest-tier part, and be introduced throughout the Pentium 4 product line this year, Crooke said. Intel already ships 64-bit processors with its Xeon and Itanium lines of chips for computer servers.
A 64-bit computer microprocessor is not necessarily faster than a 32-bit part, but it allows a computer to accommodate more memory and churn through larger files like video clips faster.
The feature has been particularly popular in the Xeon line. Intel says 80 percent of its Xeon shipments by the end of February will have 64-bit capabilities, with a total of 2 million units shipped in 9 months.
Intel would not confirm how it would brand its 64-bit capable Pentium 4 chips, but recent trademark filings show the company has prepared a new logo with the "Intel Inside" name surrounded by dots and "VIIV" -- presumably referring to the Roman numerals for 6 and 4 -- below.
64-bit Windows Nears Release
Microsoft said on Tuesday that it has issued a second, near-final version of several Windows updates, including the first desktop version of Windows to support 64-bit chips. Microsoft said it has finished "Release Candidate 2" of Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, which also serves as the core for Windows Server 2003 x64 edition and Windows XP Professional x64 edition, with all three products set to be released before the end of June. The first Release Candidate versions were offered in December.
Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices in particular has been eagerly awaiting the updates, which add support for its 64-bit Athlon XP desktop chips and Opteron server chips, processors that have been on the market for the better part of two years. Microsoft already has a 64-bit version of Windows for Intel's Itanium chip, but the "x64 version" has been a long time coming.
Microsoft to Buy Anti-Virus Software Firm
Microsoft Corp. announced plans Tuesday to acquire a company whose software aims to protect corporate networks from e-mail borne threats and said it would sell a product based on the technology.
The deal for Sybari Software Inc., along with word that Microsoft is gearing up to release its first set of commercial antivirus products, could hurt security companies including Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc., whose stock prices fell.
Terms of the deal, the latest in a series of security-related purchases by Microsoft, were not disclosed. Sybari is privately held but had been planning an initial public stock offering. The company estimated its market value at up to $186 million in papers filed to with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month.
The Sybari acquisition will produce Microsoft's first official separate paid antivirus offering, said Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Security Business and Technology Unit.
Sybari has about 10,000 clients and is based in East Northport, N.Y. Its software scans businesses' e-mail to try to ward off attacks.
Nash said Microsoft would make the Sybari-based product, geared toward business customers, available under the Microsoft brand soon after the deal closes.
Microsoft has not yet said how much the new product will cost.
In an interview, Nash said Microsoft would subsequently release other products, for both consumers and business users, aimed at protecting computer desktops from Internet-based attacks. He could not yet say exactly when those would be released, however.
Symantec shares fell $1.51, or 6.4 percent, to close at $22.09 in Tuesday trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market, while shares in McAfee dropped $2.14, or 8.2 percent, to close at $23.82 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Sybari is just the latest company Microsoft has bought so it can make its own security products.
It purchased a Romanian antivirus firm, GeCAD Software Srl., for an undisclosed amount in 2003. Then, in December, it bought Giant Company Software Inc., which makes tools to remove spyware, software that monitors a person's computer habits, slows down computers, triggers pop-up ads and worse.
Earlier this year, Microsoft began offering free programs to remove viruses and spyware. It plans to eventually charge for more sophisticated antivirus tools, and it has said it may one day charge for spyware removal products as well.
The moves all come amid a continued onslaught of attacks against Microsoft's dominant Windows operating system and other products. As the attacks tangle up businesses and harm consumers, the company has made bolstering security a priority.
Until now, however, those efforts have involved free offerings, including monthly security patches and a major security upgrade to the Windows XP operating system.
Offering more sophisticated security tools for a fee could threaten companies that sell similar products.
Enrique Salem, a Symantec senior vice president in charge of security products, downplayed Microsoft's latest move into his company's turf.
He said Symantec's big business customers want products that can work with multiple platforms, including open-source Linux as well as Windows, and argued that the Sybari-based Microsoft offering will only solve part of a client's problems.
Microsoft shares rose 8 cents to close at $26.24 in Tuesday trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Is this even news?
Microsoft Releases 'Critical' Patches
Microsoft on Tuesday released a higher-than-usual number of monthly updates, more than half of which were given the software company's highest rating of "critical."
The software giant announced a dozen updates, eight of which were given its highest severity rating. Microsoft's Office XP, Internet Explorer 6 and an image file component of the Windows operating system for Media Player and MSN Messenger were among the updates dubbed critical.
"This is their second-largest bulletin release since they started doing these monthly updates, except for the 24 bulletins they released last year," said Vincent Gullotto, vice president of the antivirus emergency response team for security specialist McAfee. "But it's common to see this kind of ratio of critical bulletins."
Among the patches is a significant cumulative fix to resolve some of the underlying vulnerabilities of IE that have already been made public. Microsoft said those flaws have not yet been widely exploited.
"There is public exploit code out there for some of the IE vulnerabilities we are patching, but we have not heard of any widespread attacks," said Stephen Toulouse, a Microsoft security program manager.
The update for IE is designed to address vulnerabilities such as an attacker taking control of a system and installing programs; changing, deleting or viewing data; or creating new accounts with full user rights.
IE 6 with Service Pack 1 running on systems featuring Windows XP, with or without Service Pack 1, or Windows 2000 with Service Pack 4 or 3, are affected by this vulnerability.
The scheduled updates come as Microsoft announced plans to acquire security software developer Sybari Software and as it enters its fourth year of its Trustworthy Computing initiative to make its applications more reliable.
The latest flaws add to the many security headaches for businesses. One analyst urged consumers to automatically patch their systems to avoid such exploits but said that for businesses, it's not so easy.
"If I was John Doe consumer, I would have my auto-update turned on so it automatically installs the Microsoft updates," said Mark Nicolett, a Gartner analyst. "But for a corporation, it's not quite so simple. You have to do some level of quality control testing to make sure you're not affecting some of the applications you need to run for business."
Unions decrying illegal downloads
Asking High Court For Relief
"Unauthorized free copying and distribution of copyrighted sound recordings and films on the Internet directly harm...creative artists," the nation's entertainment unions have told the U.S. Supreme Court.
Five labor organizations representing America's actors, writers, directors, and musicians have complained of the injury caused by illegal Internet downloads in a 21-page "friend of the court" brief filed in support of film and music companies led by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear MGM and the other major studios' lawsuit against Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks Inc., two file-sharing services. MGM and its allies have complained that the two services illegally provide music and films over the Internet. The high court's decision in the legal battle over peer-to-peer sharing could possibly cause a rewrite of copyright law.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the Writers Guild of America, West (WGA), the Directors Guild of America (DGA), and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) are using their "friend" brief to define how illegal downloading harms their members.
"Grokster and StreamCast operate -- for a profit -- Internet services through which millions of users copy and distribute copyrighted sound recordings and films without the copyright holders' authorization and without making any payments," states the unions' brief. "The harmful effects of the infringements…are not absorbed by some abstract 'entertainment industry.' To the contrary, that harm directly affects the AFM, AFTRA, DGA, SAG, and WGA artists who create those sound recordings and films."
According to the brief, the harmful results include the following:
- Every infringing download "denies creators payment for their work…in a way beyond the financial -- through their performances, artists offer up their very essences to the consumer, and the consumer refuses to offer anything in return."
- The free download most likely substitutes for a purchase. Artists lose the royalties and healthcare and pension contributions that would have come with that purchase.
"[T]here is no fat in the incomes of most sound recording and film creators," the brief argues. "While it is true that they create for love and out of passion, it is also true that they must be able to earn a living -- unreduced by unlawful 'sharing' that shares nothing with them -- or they will be unable to continue to devote themselves to music and film, and to satisfy the public's desire for their art."
The brief stresses, "AFM, AFTRA, DGA, SAG, and WGA creative artists follow a hard, financially uncertain, and precarious calling. A few 'stars' do fabulously well. Tens of thousands of artists with great talent and commitment never make a go of it. The great majority who succeed struggle financially and earn no more than a modest living. In this regard, they are heavily dependent on financial arrangements that produce sporadic and varied income streams tied to the sale or licensing of their creative works."
Even successful actors, screenwriters, and directors "may work at best only one year out of two," the brief notes. Because of that, those artists depend heavily on union contracts that include minimum payments, royalties for past work, and healthcare and pension benefits.
The brief also lists the size of each union's membership: SAG (over 120,000), AFTRA (approximately 80,000), WGA West (8,500), DGA (over 12,000), and AFM (100,000).
While the Supreme Court agreed in December to hear the MGM case, the justices probably won't rule on the issue until the middle of the year. The court must decide whether the file- sharing services are indeed involved in activity that violates federal copyright law. The unions filed their "friend" brief on Jan. 25.
Made In Lower-Cost America
Silicon Valley, Boston and Austin may have some new competition--and not just from Bangalore, Shanghai and Singapore.
The latest kids on the tech block are places like Twin Falls, Idaho; Oklahoma City; and Jonesboro, Ark. These are among the smaller cities or rural areas of the United States where information technology companies have been locating or expanding facilities.
The companies, ranging from IT services start-up Rural Sourcing to computer giant Dell, can save on wages in these communities, thanks partly to inexpensive housing there. And in some cases, the companies are pitching operations in midsize America as an alternative to shipping work abroad.
A key to what's been dubbed "homeshoring" is tapping a little-noticed talent pool. Kathy White, Rural Sourcing's founder and an Arkansas native herself, argues that technology professionals in major metropolitan centers often come from smaller communities. "We're just reaching the ones that don't want to leave," she said.
To be sure, states like Oklahoma, Arkansas and Idaho aren't stealing the show when it comes to generating tech jobs. California ranked as the top state by far in terms of new IT positions posted on major job boards in December, with New York and Illinois also among the leaders, according to a study from job search service NimbleCat.
California's Silicon Valley--long the center of the technology world--continued to bleed jobs last year, but saw venture capital investments increase by 15 percent. The state now accounts for 35 percent of the nation's venture capital, up from 14 percent a decade ago.
Meanwhile, the practice of sending application development work and other technology projects overseas does not appear on the verge of ending.
Challenging the tech meccas
Even so, U.S. communities other than the traditional computer meccas--Boston, Silicon Valley, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Austin, Texas--are starting to see their technology fortunes rise. In some cases, the cities are fairly large.
A U.S. Department of Commerce report concluded last year that pockets of economic development based on science and technology, or S&T, are "exploding" in Minneapolis; Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; and Salt Lake City. "Interestingly, all these areas have strong concentrations of S&T resources, including research universities and private-sector research centers," the report said.
Universities are part of the reason still smaller communities are attracting technology operations. Rural Sourcing has partnerships with several universities, including Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, where most of the company's roughly 30 employees are based.
The company also has a pilot project on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, N.M., and is planning to open an office at a technology incubator in Greenville, N.C., where it is working with East Carolina University. Over the next two to three years, Rural Sourcing hopes to employ more than 100 people in Greenville.
Chicago area-based Decision Design is another IT company expanding outside of typical technology centers. The 20-person software developer recently announced new offices on the fringe of Silicon Valley--in Pleasanton, Calif.-- that should hold another 10 or more employees.
Systems integration company Ciber appears to have even more ambitious plans for planting technology operations in smaller U.S. communities. In January, Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Ciber said it opened a facility in Oklahoma City, the first of several low-cost, "madein America" application development centers it plans to open in 2005 and 2006. Ciber aims to create roughly 200 new jobs in Oklahoma City and upwards of 1,000 new jobs around the country, as additional "Cibersites" open.
With offices in 17 countries and about 8,000 employees, Ciber isn't the only technology firm that sees promise in Oklahoma City. Personal-computer titan Dell last year opened a customer contact facility there that focuses on sales to smaller businesses. Dell originally expected to hire 500 people in Oklahoma City but has passed that mark and now employs about 700, company spokeswoman Michele Blood said.
Dell has been making a habit of putting operations in smaller U.S. cities in the past five years or so. It has a facility focused on sales in Roseburg, Ore., and another that concentrates on technical support in Twin Falls, Idaho. The Round Rock, Texas-based company operates a manufacturing plant in Lebanon, Tenn., and late last year announced that it would build another manufacturing facility in the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina. That plant is slated to open in the fall of 2005 and employ about 700 workers in its first year of operation, with the aim of increasing its head count to 1,500 employees within five years.
Low cost a key
A chief reason technology companies are turning to midsize cities and rural areas in the United States is their lower-wage work force. Employees there can be paid less than in today's tech hubs, largely because the cost of living is much lower. For instance, a $400,000 home in Boston would cost about $69,000 in Oklahoma City, according to Coldwell Banker Real Estate. The cost of living in Twin Falls is 33 percent lower than in San Jose, Calif.--the heart of Silicon Valley.
Rural Sourcing claims that it can offer services such as application maintenance and Internet development for roughly 40 percent less than what other domestic technology outsourcers charge. Its fees are about the same as the overall cost of using an Indian outsourcer, according to White, if you consider factors such as communication costs, travel expenses and inconvenience.
When settling into a lower-profile region, companies also stand to benefit from tax breaks. For example, North Carolina will provide Dell with up to $225 million in tax credits over 15 years for its new plant. The company also will receive a job development incentive grant worth up to $14.1 million over 12 years. Dell plans to invest $115 million in the plant during the next five to 10 years.
Onshore the best -shore?
Then there is the appeal of having onshore technology operations. Despite the potential cost savings of sending programming or other work abroad, not all the projects work out ideally. Decision Design, whose clients include Lehman Bros. and JPMorgan Chase, was brought in several times last year when a customer's offshore project wasn't panning out properly.
After receiving customer complaints, Dell stopped sending U.S. technical support calls for two of its corporate computer lines to a Bangalore, India, call center in 2003.
With its new lower-cost Cibersites in the states, Ciber expects to woo customers wary of shipping work overseas. "Cibersites clients will have another choice in avoiding the hidden costs of offshoring, such as language gaps, intellectual-property protection, travel, time schedules, infrastructure vulnerability, political risks and increasingly high employee turnover," Tim Boehm, president of the company's Cibersites division, said in a January statement.
Then there's the prospect of luring employees with a different lifestyle compared to larger urban regions. Mick Cornett, Oklahoma City's mayor, says his town has inexpensive housing, little traffic and a high quality of life. Those features win over employers hoping to please workers, he said. "They realize people are going to be happy here," he said.
It's not just laid-back homebodies who will like Oklahoma City, Cornett suggested. Over the past decade or so, the city of some 500,000 residents has gotten a face-lift of sorts in its public venues, with a new minor-league baseball stadium and a canal through the downtown area.
What makes Oklahoma special to Randall Carter, though, is the friendly culture. The 52-year-old software developer is among the first hires at the Oklahoma City Cibersite. It hasn't always been easy to get computer-related work in Oklahoma for Carter, who has also earned a living as a nurse anesthetist.
Some time ago, Carter was tempted to leave the state to pursue work. But he and his wife couldn't bring themselves to move. "She wants to stay in Oklahoma for the same reason I do," he said. "It's the people."
One state over, in Arkansas, Molly Marshall is glad to be staying put in Jonesboro while working in her chosen field of computers. Marshall graduated with a degree in management information systems from Arkansas State University in May, but was unable to find an entry-level programming job in the area for months.
The 23-year-old started waiting tables. And as the summer rolled by, she reluctantly considered leaving her friends, family and community to pursue a career in technology. To her relief, Marshall found a job about five months ago at Rural Sourcing. "I was starting to get aggravated," she recalled. "I was starting to think about moving somewhere I really didn't want to go."
Carter, Marshall and others in smaller-town America may be benefiting from newfound opportunities in technology, but clients might wonder if their tech tasks can safely go there. Rural Sourcing, for example, is drawing on talent from little-known regional universities rather than working closely with prestigious universities like Harvard, Stanford or Carnegie Mellon.
White says many American business leaders themselves hail from non-elite schools and are therefore willing to give her company a chance. Since beginning to pitch its services last summer, her company has done work for about six clients. Rural Sourcing is in advanced discussions for about 20 potential projects, White said.
The local work force is also getting a boost, as techies who flew the nest return, White said. "We are drawing people back to a region that they had to leave to find work," she said.
Dell is not having trouble hiring workers for its Oklahoma City operations, spokeswoman Blood said. She added that "soft skills," which include communication abilities, are important for customer support work.
Ciber is also confident that smaller cities can get the job done. Midsize U.S. cities with lower-cost attributes "often have large populations of military, retirees and students, many of whom have not only similar technical education as overseas IT workers but often have more experience," Ciber Chief Executive Mac Slingerlend said in a January statement.
The next Silicon Valley?
How big can the small-city tech trend get? Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, suggests that although tech services work may be flowing to those regions, Silicon Valley's prized possession--a leading role in inventing new technologies--is staying put. "They are not doing the innovation," he said. "The next new thing has not yet gone to Arkansas."
Levy said he's more concerned that California--and the United States overall--could lose its edge in innovation to countries abroad.
Although folks in the better-known technology centers may not view midsize America as a serious challenger, some involved in the homeshoring phenomenon are aiming high. Oklahoma City's Cornett concedes that his city is "at least a decade behind," but he has his sights set on rivaling Silicon Valley or Boston. "That would be our goal," he said.
Rural Sourcing's White, who grew up in the tiny town of Oxford, Ark., and eventually became chief information officer at health care giant Cardinal Health, also suggests that smaller cities could sneak up on the tech hubs. "Innovation has come from strange places, and it's come from garages," she said. "I would say you never know."
TV Tube Makers Fight LCDs with Thinner Tubes
Lucas van Grinsven
Old-fashioned tube televisions are getting a new lease of life as engineers have reduced their depth by a third to 35 cm and are shaving off another 10 cm to better compete with liquid crystal displays (LCDs), the world's biggest cathode ray tube maker said.
LG.Philips Displays, the 50-50 joint venture between LG Electronics and Philips Electronics, has started selling the 35 cm thin tube and believes it can slim down the depth of a 32-inch- screen (81.3 cm) TV tube further, to as little as 25 cm in two years.
"What we want to achieve is a TV set without the hump on the back," said Gert-Jan Hesselink, global product manager for non-widescreen TV tubes at LG.Philips Displays.
His firm has cut the depth to 35 cm by squeezing the curve on the back of the glass tube until it is almost flat. The electron gun and deflection coil still protrude, and engineers are working on those, Hesselink said on Monday.
"We expect slim tubes will become a success. In 18 to 24 months we want to continue on that road by introducing a tube that is 25 to 30 cm deep," he said in an interview. While 25 cm is not as thin as the 10 cm of fashionable LCD and plasma screens, it is slim enough for most consumers while offering superior picture quality at a much lower price than LCD or plasma thin display TVs, said Felice Albertazzi, vice president for European sales and marketing.
"This gives us hope for the future," he said, adding that the company's efforts might slow down the decline of cathode ray tube (CRT) sales.
LG, which said last month it expects the CRT market to decline by 11 percent in 2005, has just introduced its first TV with a Super Slim tube in a TV with a 32-inch screen. It is available in South Korea at 1.49 million won ($1,431).
South Korean rival Samsung Electronics has also announced its first thin tube TV, slated for launch this month.
Most premium-brand 32 inch TV tube sets sell between 800 euros ($1,028) and 1,200 euros ($1,542) depending on features. This is significantly below retail prices of thin LCD TV sets that can be hung on a wall and start at around 2,000 euros.
Hang TV on the wall?
Consumer research has found that less than 20 percent of consumers mount their expensive thin TV on a wall. Most put it in a 40 cm deep cabinet or even in a corner, where the new thin tubes will also easily fit, LG.Philips Displays said.
TV industry analysts and executives agree that picture quality of tube televisions is still much better than LCDs, which suffer from a limited viewing angle, less contrast and smear -- when the pixels cannot keep up with fast-moving objects.
Electronics companies are developing a range of tricks to solve these problems, but now they are also faced with the question of whether to put development money into old-fashioned tubes which they had reckoned were on the way out.
"If we were alone in this, perhaps TV set makers could ignore us and concentrate on LCD. But Samsung is also entering with thin tubes. 80 percent of today's 180-million-unit-a-year TV market is still CRTs. TV makers have to defend their market shares in that segment," an LG.Philips Displays spokesman said.
The tube maker is talking to major TV set makers, but so far only LG has a 32-inch-TV Super Slim tube, Albertazzi said.
The use of Super Slim tubes in much smaller 21-inch screen TVs, launched last year, is well under way. While the depth reduction on this size TV and PC monitor is less dramatic, set makers in China and Europe are using it, Albertazzi said.
In the hugely competitive, low-price 21-inch market segment, TV manufacturers are particularly interested in cost savings. "There is huge interest in the product. The total savings per tube in logistics, materials and packaging are $6," he said.
Super Slim tubes will be priced only a few percent above normal tubes, which should help their up-take, Albertazzi said.
Doobie Brothers Drummer Knudsen Dies
Keith Knudsen, the longtime Doobie Brothers drummer who was part of the band during a string of hits that included "Taking it to the Streets" and "Black Water," died of pneumonia Tuesday. He was 56.
Knudsen had been hospitalized for more than a month, according to the band's longtime manager Bruce Cohn.
"I just saw him Sunday, just before the Super Bowl," Cohn said. "He was in good spirits. He was weak, but he was OK."
Knudsen began drumming in eighth grade and joined the Doobie Brothers in 1974. "After a week's rehearsal, I went on the road with the band," Knudsen said in his biography on the band's Web site.
The Doobies were known for incorporating gospel and jazz stylings into popular hit songs. They also were well-regarded for their live performances. Their other hits included "China Grove" and "Jesus is Just Alright."
Knudsen played with the Doobies until the band's 1982 farewell tour. During the band's hiatus, Knudsen and bandmate John McFee formed the country rock group Southern Pacific, which released four albums and had several hits.
He rejoined the band full-time in 1993.
"He's going to be missed," said Tom Johnston, the band's founder. "We're going to miss him on drums. I'm going to miss him as a buddy."
Knudsen, who lived in Sonoma County's wine country, had cancer in 1995 Johnston said.
"It left him weak and I don't think he ever fully regained all his strength," Johnston said.
He said the band was currently performing about 100 concerts a year and is scheduled to release a new album this summer.
Browser Feature Could Make Scams Easier
An Internet browser feature meant to permit Web addresses in Chinese, Arabic and other languages could encourage online fraudsters by making scam Web sites look legitimate to visitors.
For once, the affected browser is not the industry-leading Internet Explorer from Microsoft Corp. but rather several of its more robust competitors.
That's because the aging IE lacks support for internationalized domain names - at least without a plug-in, which would then make IE vulnerable.
"It's kind of ironic that it affects some of the supposedly safer browsers," said Neel Mehta, a research engineer at the Internet Security Systems Inc.
A fix won't be easy because the vulnerability, publicized at a weekend hacker conference, that enables so-called "phishing" scams involves a feature, not a coding error.
Engineers at the Mozilla Foundation, developer of the No. 2. Firefox browser, said they were reviewing options and should have more to say within a few days.
The maker of the Opera browser said in a statement that although a fix is possible, "it's extremely hard to find a balance between making the fix too comprehensive or too limited. Even though you limit yourself you can create problems for valid domains."
Officially, the Internet's Domain Name System supports only 37 characters - the 26 letters, 10 numerals and a hyphen.
But in recent years, in response to a growing Internet population worldwide, engineers have been working on ways to trick the system into understanding other languages.
Engineers have rallied around a character system called Unicode. The newly discovered exploit takes advantage of the fact that characters that look alike can have two separate codes in Unicode and thus appear to the computer as different. For example, Unicode for "a" is 97 under the Latin alphabet, but 1072 in Cyrillic.
Subbing one for the other can allow a scammer to register a domain name that looks to the human as "paypal.com," tricking users into giving passwords and other sensitive information at what looks like a legitimate site.
Some browsers, including Firefox, let users deactivate the other character sets but doing so is complicated and would cut off access to the relatively few sites that use non-English characters in their addresses.
A better solution is to always manually type Web address directly into a browser rather than clicking on a link sent via e-mail or even copying and pasting that link.
The potential for the vulnerability has been known for awhile, but it has only recently gained the attention of security experts as non-English domain names become a reality.
Eric Johanson, an independent security consultant in Seattle, publicized it on Sunday, saying he wanted to pressure vendors to act.
Dan Hubbard, director of security at Websense Inc., which monitors phishing scams, said he knew of no e-mails circulating on the Internet that take advantage of the vulnerability, but he expects scammers to start using it soon to target non-IE browsers.
Hubbard said plenty of flaws already exist with IE because users don't keep up with security updates.
"Attackers will check to see what browser you're using and then use vulnerability A if it's Internet Explorer and B if it's Mozilla Firefox," Hubbard said.
But Johannes Ullrich, chief technology office with the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center, said scammers may focus on exploiting other flaws because IE remains dominant.
"Right now the one thing that will likely prevent them from using it is that Internet Explorer users will not be able to see the page at all," he said.
'Podcasting' Lets Masses Do Radio Shows
After getting a taste of the radio business in college, software designer Craig Patchett never lost his interest in broadcasting. But without a job in radio, it seemed likely to remain one of those unfulfilled passions - until something called "podcasting" came along.
Now, Patchett's creating shows and sending them out to the masses every day - not over the airwaves to radios but over the Internet, from his personal computer in Carlsbad, Calif.
His listeners download his shows to their iPods and other digital music players.
Patchett, 43, is among a growing number of people getting into podcasting, which is quickly becoming another of the Internet's equalizing technologies.
Less than a year old, podcasting enables anyone with a PC to become a broadcaster. It has the potential to do to the radio business what Web logs have done to print journalism. By bringing the cost of broadcasting to nearly nothing, it's enabling more voices and messages to be heard than ever before.
"It was just one of those things where you read about a technology and it clicks in your head: This is perfect and something I want to get involved with," said Patchett, whose podcasts focus on Christian and family programming.
For listeners, podcasting offers a diverse menu of programs, which can be enjoyed anywhere, anytime. Unlike traditional radio, shows can be easily paused, rewound or fast-forwarded. The listener doesn't need to be near a PC, unlike most forms of Internet radio.
The number of regular podcasts is well over 800 and growing daily. Many focus on gadgets, technology and podcasting itself. Others highlight new bands and music or discuss the latest developments in politics, movies and sports. There are podcasts for beer lovers and wine aficionados, even a few for astronomy buffs and for activities performed in the buff.
Productions range from stream-of-consciousness rants punctuated by "uhs" to highly professional shows complete with sound effects and music. Unlike radio, there's no time limit, deadlines or government oversight of what's said.
"There are going to be podcast stars who are just entertaining to listen to," said Adam Curry, a former MTV personality and a driving force behind podcasting. "There will be Howard Sterns who can use the seven dirty words on their shows."
Before podcasting arrived, Curry was frustrated by the state of broadcasting on the Internet, which is often done by streaming feeds. Unlike with traditional radio, streaming costs grow with the audience, and it's difficult for listeners to do save the show or do anything else with it afterward.
By comparison, regular downloads of audio files can be more evenly distributed over time and let listeners move programs to portable devices. Before podcasting, however, there was no simple mechanism to do that automatically.
Curry saw potential in a technology called Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, which automatically feeds text from Web logs and other sites to subscribers so they can read summaries from many sites at once.
After meeting with Curry in 1999, RSS co-inventor Dave Winer updated the protocol so that attachments, such as MP3 audio files, could be sent along with text.
But there was no program that could automatically transfer the files to a music player - until last summer when Curry taught himself the AppleScript programming language and created a small program called iPodder.
It caught the attention of programmers.
"Within in a week, not only had people improved the script dramatically, but they started creating their own versions in Python, Perl and Java" programming languages, Curry said. "A whole new category of software had been created."
Curry also started up a podcast, "Daily Source Code," to give the programmers something to listen to. But it didn't take long for other shows to appear.
"Basically, it was a radio show for a very small community, which just grew astronomically," he said. "Before I knew it, people were sending me links and clips from their own podcasts. We didn't even have the name `podcast' - we were calling them shows, audioblog posts all kinds of different names."
It was in a Sept. 15 online post that Dannie Gregoire of Louisville, Ky., coined "podcast."
When entered into a Google search, the word now returns 1.6 million results. Curry says his own podcast now has 50,000 listeners, and Gregoire has created a portal that organizes podcasts by content. A number of Web sites do the same, including Curry's ipodder.org and Patchett's godcast.org.
But is there money to be made? Maybe, podcasters say.
Gregoire, who runs one of the go-to Web sites for anyone interested in the phenomenon, says he's looking at a number of business models, including offering a service to host shows or simple tools to put them online.
"Even though it's relatively easy, there are still stumbling blocks," he said.
Real radio stations are also taking note. Public radio's WGBH in Boston has started podcasting its weekly "Morning Stories" segment, which saw its downloads jump from 30 downloads in the first week to 57,000 in December.
"Those are the kinds of trend lines that get your attention," said Bob Lyons, the station's director of radio and new media initiatives. "They certainly got ours."
The corporate world is also jumping in. Thomson Petersons, best known for its college guides and test-prep books, was expected to announce plans Tuesday to begin podcasting 10-minute audio files offering students general advice on college admissions, financial aid and standardized tests.
Podcasting isn't likely to threaten traditional broadcasting any time soon, as the number of digital music players is only in the tens of millions, compared with hundreds of millions of radios. But as the player market grows - and more devices such as cell phones become capable of play audio files - it could pull away advertising dollars, especially those that target younger generations.
Public radio is showing the most interest, both in distributing traditional programs as podcasts and looking for new voices.
"It's easier for us to jump into this because our profit model is still very similar to the profit model of podcasting, which is put something out there and then figure out how to ask money for it," said Brendan Greeley, site editor of the Public Radio Exchange, a distributor of programming.
Some podcasters still see podcasting as just a fun hobby.
Mark VandeWettering, a Pixar Animation Studios technical director, podcasts from his El Sobrante, Calif., home on a range of subjects, including fatherhood, baseball and telescope building.
"It would be great if I made a fortune doing it, but I don't see how that could possibly happen," he said. "I'm not really trying for it, either. I'm hoping to meet some interesting people and establish some good communications with people on weird topics."
On the Net:
Adam Curry's iPodder software: http://www.ipodder.org
Fill ‘er up
RealNetworks Shares Jump 20 Percent
RealNetworks Inc.'s shares rose more than 20 percent Monday after a published report touted the company's subscription music offering.
Shares of the Seattle-based company's shares were up $1.17, or 20.7 percent to close at $6.83 Monday on the Nasdaq Stock Market. RealNetworks' stock, a high- flying Wall Street darling during the Internet bubble, has traded between $4.39 and $7.27 over the past year.
A report in the financial journal Barron's argued that RealNetworks is an "inexpensive bet" because of its 40 percent stake in the music subscription market that writer Andrew Bary contended is showing more promise.
While Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iTunes service relies on selling songs outright for 99 cents per song, RealNetworks' Rhapsody service charge a $9.95 monthly fee to let people access songs for a set period of time. The company also offers the option to buy.
RealNetworks' music business has in some ways been overshadowed by its ongoing legal battle with Microsoft Corp. RealNetworks sued its Redmond rival over alleged antitrust violations related to tying the company's Windows Media Player to its dominant Windows operating system. RealNetworks makes a rival music player.
RealNetworks lost $1 million, or a penny a share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, including $3 million or 2 cents per share in legal expenses related to the antitrust lawsuit. RealNetworks expects to spend about $15 million this year on the legal battle.
Analyzing Sales of Wolfe's New Book
Few books that spend 12 consecutive weeks on the best-seller list could be called a disappointment. But it appears that "I Am Charlotte Simmons," the latest opus by Tom Wolfe, could be falling into that category.
According to Nielsen BookScan, the media-tracking company, "I Am Charlotte Simmons" has sold fewer than 250,000 copies from its release in November through the end of January. Even after accounting for BookScan's acknowledgment that it typically measures about 70 percent of total hardcover sales, that would indicate that the book was selling at a slower pace than Mr. Wolfe's two previous novels.
It would also indicate that the book might not be meeting the publisher's expectations. When Farrar, Straus & Giroux published the novel, it announced a first printing of 1.5 million copies, a figure which, in the wink-wink world of publishing, usually means a commitment to actually print about half that many copies.
And despite its continued tenure on most national best-seller lists, "I Am Charlotte Simmons" is being discounted by 50 percent or more at bookstores and online, a move publishers often make to try to recoup some of their investment in a book that has not met expectations.
At Barnes & Noble and Borders stores, the book's cover price of $28.95 has recently been slashed to $14.48, while on Amazon.com, the book is listed for sale at $11.58, or 60 percent off.
Executives at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Mr. Wolfe's longtime publisher, said the discounting is a common marketing technique intended to keep a book on the best-seller list in the post-holiday period, when fewer people are visiting bookstores. It does not indicate that the performance of "I Am Charlotte Simmons" is disappointing, the executives said.
"We're satisfied with the sales of the book given the fact that there has been a decline in the market for these big best-selling authors," Jonathan Galassi, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus, said on Tuesday.
Mr. Galassi and Lynn Nesbit, Mr. Wolfe's agent, said they believed that the BookScan numbers were inaccurate, vastly understating the book's sales. And while the book has fallen out of the Top 10 best sellers on many national lists, "nothing stays very long at the top anymore," Ms. Nesbit said, adding, "It's not a big deal."
Mr. Wolfe's novel is about Charlotte Simmons, a brilliant but sheltered freshman who succumbs to the hedonistic swirl of frat parties and casual sex at a big university. It received mixed reviews.
Best-selling authors are having a harder time making it to No. 1 on best-seller lists and staying there, partly because of the unflagging strength of two books, "The Da Vinci Code," by Dan Brown (Doubleday) and "The Five People You Meet in Heaven," by Mitch Albom (Hyperion). James Patterson's recent novel, "London Bridges," published in November by Little, Brown, spent only one week at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list, an unusually short stint at the top spot for that author, while Michael Crichton's novel, "State of Fear" (HarperCollins), published in December, never reached No. 1 on The Times's list. According to BookScan, "London Bridges" has sold 434,000 copies, while "State of Fear" has sold 516,000.
Through Jan. 30, BookScan recorded sales of 239,000 copies of "I Am Charlotte Simmons," reflecting sales at all Barnes & Noble and Borders stores and their online affiliates, and at Amazon.com, Costco, Target, Kmart, Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, Hastings and others. The BookScan survey also includes weighted estimates of sales at independent bookstores and at Books-A-Million, a medium-size chain.
What BookScan does not count are sales at Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Wal-Mart.com, at other nontraditional outlets like airport stores, and sales to libraries. Jim King, vice president and general manager of BookScan, said its data usually accounted for 70 percent to 75 percent of sales of a new hardcover book. But if Wal-Mart and Sam's Club are selling a book heavily, he said, that percentage will decrease.
Even if BookScan's figure measures only two-thirds of actual sales, that would mean about 357,000 copies have been sold, less than a quarter of the announced first printing of 1.5 million.
Asked about the BookScan number, Mr. Galassi said, "We've sold a lot more than that," but he declined to say how many copies had been sold. He also declined to say how many copies the company had printed and shipped to stores.
Mr. Galassi also shrugged off the fact that "I Am Charlotte Simmons" reached only as high as No. 3 on The Times's best-seller list, never reaching the top spot, as did Mr. Wolfe's previous novels. After making its debut at No. 3, "I Am Charlotte Simmons" has spent the last seven weeks at No. 10 or lower on the 15-place Times list. On the list to be published Feb. 13, the book will be ranked No. 15.
"A Man in Full," Mr. Wolfe's previous novel, made its debut at No. 1 and stayed there for 10 weeks, spending 19 weeks over all on the list and selling 1.1 million copies in hardcover. His first novel, "The Bonfire of the Vanities," took longer to build momentum, reaching the top spot in its 12th week on the list and remaining there for 8 weeks, while spending more than a year on the hardcover best-seller list and selling 725,000 copies.
"There are certain big kahunas who are sitting on the best-seller list who are preventing this book from doing that," Mr. Galassi said. "That's just the breaks. We came very close, but we didn't get to the top."
Mr. Galassi also dismissed the idea that discounting the book meant sales were not going well. "It's the lowest bookstore traffic time of year," he said. "We want to keep it on the best-seller list. It's a fairly common practice." He said he did not recall whether the company had similarly discounted other Wolfe novels.
Bob Wietrak, a vice president for merchandising at Barnes & Noble, said the current 50 percent discount for "I Am Charlotte Simmons" was a joint discount by the retailer and the publisher. Though the discounting strategy sometimes is used for underperforming books, Mr. Wietrak said that was not the case for "I Am Charlotte Simmons."
"That was a huge success, a big best seller for us," he said. "But there are still a significant amount of books that are still out in the marketplace."
Tiny District Finds Bonanza of Pupils and Funds Online
With no grocery store or gas station and a population of 77 souls, this desert village seems an unlikely home for a fast-growing public school that has enrolled students from all across Colorado.
There are just 65 students attending Branson's lone brick and mortar school, but there are an additional 1,000 enrolled in its online affiliate. And with the state paying school districts $5,600 per pupil, Branson Online has been a bonanza. Founded in 2001, it has received $15 million so far.
The school district has used the money to hire everyone in town who wants a job, including the mayor, who teaches 15 students via e-mail. It has broadcast radio commercials statewide to recruit students and built a new headquarters here. But if the school has been financially successful, its academic record is mixed, and the authorities have put the school on academic probation.
Branson Online is one of at least 100 Internet-based public schools that local educators have founded nationwide in recent years, often in partnership with private companies, and many online schools share Branson's strengths and weaknesses, experts said.
The federal Department of Education does not keep track of enrollment numbers, but in a January report the department noted the emergence of scores of online public schools and said they were experiencing "explosive growth."
"Cyberschools are the 800-pound gorilla of the choice movement, although vouchers and charter schools get a lot more attention," said William Moloney, education commissioner in Colorado, where state financing for online schools has increased almost 20-fold in five years - to $20.2 million for 3,585 students today from $1.1 million for 166 full-time students in 2000.
"That's a mighty steep curve, and nothing says it won't keep growing," Mr. Moloney said.
Like other online schools across the nation, Branson has proved to be an attractive alternative for parents who wish to supervise their children's education at home, and for students who hold jobs or are disabled.
But the schools are beginning to draw scrutiny. As in Colorado, online schools in other states have also shown mediocre academic performance. In Florida, for instance, students at taxpayer-financed online schools run by corporate managers made slower progress last year on standardized math tests than did students at most traditional schools.
A report on online schools nationwide, issued last May by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, a nonprofit group based in Illinois, concluded that states should monitor the academic and other performance of Internet schools more closely. "The rapid expansion of K-12 online learning threatens to outpace the development of appropriate state-level policies," it said.
Several Colorado superintendents have criticized Branson Online for enrolling their students, thereby taking money away from their districts. Others just say the quality of the education is questionable. Glenn Davis, superintendent of the Huerfano School District in Walsenburg, said that although he had lost a few students to Branson his main concern was that online schools had become magnets for low-achieving students.
"It's not a good plan for 90 percent of kids," Mr. Davis said. "They don't have the discipline or the parental support to make it work, and in many cases it's become a way to drop out legally before you're 16."
Online schools in Colorado are subject to the same regulations as the sponsoring districts, which need no special permission to found them.
State Senator Sue Windels, a Democrat who heads the Education Committee, introduced a bill last month that would tighten the monitoring of online schools. Even so, Troy Mayfield, Branson's superintendent, predicted that Branson Online would continue to grow.
"This can get as big as our imagination will let it," Mr. Mayfield said.
Only five years ago, Branson, which sits on an arid flatland of scrub oak and yucca 30 miles east of Interstate 25 near the New Mexico border, was dying. The Roman Catholic church had closed for lack of a priest, and the only nonranch employment was at the one-woman Post Office; the county garage, where three men kept the snowplows running; and the school, whose kindergarten to 12th grade enrollment had shrunk to 41 students.
But the superintendent at that time, J. Alan Aufderheide, a computer enthusiast and a bit of a visionary, had acquired an Internet server with federal money and used it to make computerized texts in calculus and other courses available to Branson students and teachers online. The experiment was so popular that Dr. Aufderheide proposed that the district build a K-12 curriculum and open a virtual school, assigning the town's eight teachers to work with students via telephone and e-mail.
The school board agreed, and Branson Online advertised for students on radio stations in Denver and other cities, and in newspapers and ranch magazines. One enticement was the offer of a free computer and high-speed Internet hookup for each student, which Branson finances with the state per-pupil allotment.
The school's curriculum was an online elaboration of courses taught in Branson's existing school. Many courses were based on educational software that Dr. Aufderheide purchased commercially. For middle school social studies, for instance, Branson Online uses Prentice Hall course software, "The American Nation," and some high school math courses are based on software purchased from Boxer Learning Inc., based in Virginia. Dr. Aufderheide said he expected the online school, www.bransonschoolonline.com, to attract perhaps 25 students its first year. But 110 students signed up in the fall of 2001; 739 in the fall of 2002; and 1,004 in the fall of 2003. Colorado education law allows students to enroll at almost any Colorado public school, not just at those in their home district. To keep up with the exploding enrollment, the school hired some 70 new teachers, most working from their homes. Today most but not all of the teachers are certified.
Branson's students have included a girl training as an Olympic skater, a boy competing with his quarter horse in out-of-state livestock shows, and a teenager whose missionary parents were moving to Haiti.
Rhonda Allenback, who lives in Pueblo, Colo., 100 miles northwest of Branson, said she enrolled three of her four children in Branson Online because she wanted to help two of them pursue dance training while tending to the laser engraving business she runs from her garage.
"The Internet school fit the bill so that they could do school and I could do my business," Ms. Allenback said.
Branson Online has also attracted bedridden students as well as those who have gotten in trouble or failed in traditional schools.
"Most of my kids, nobody else wants them or they're sick," said Beverly Shelden, a veteran teacher who has been Branson's mayor since 1997 and a part-time instructor since the online school's founding. Her students have included a 14-year-old girl serving probation for crimes, and, this year, two pregnant teenagers, she said.
Ms. Shelden communicates frequently via e-mail and telephone with her students, she said, sending messages like, "Haven't heard from you, where's your homework?" or, when they send work in, "Great, you filled my mailbox - love it."
Self-motivated students prosper, but others flounder, school officials and parents said.
"It takes a lot of discipline, six to eight hours of work each day, just like regular school," said Darlene Fuentes, who enrolled her two sons in Branson Online last fall.
One son, David, who is 17, successfully juggled online study and a part-time job, allowing him to make the payments on his pickup truck, said Mrs. Fuentes, a bank teller who lives in Walsenburg, Colo., 65 miles northwest of Branson. But Kevin, who is 14, lacked the discipline to sit at the computer and fell behind, she said.
"Things distract him and the first thing you'd know he was in the kitchen, getting a snack, so it was a battle," Mrs. Fuentes said. She took Kevin out of Branson Online at the end of one semester and enrolled him at the local public high school.
Of the several Colorado districts that have opened online schools, Branson has the second-largest enrollment. The largest is Colorado Virtual Academy, a charter school based in a Denver suburb that is affiliated with K12 Inc., a company based in Virginia. Jeff Kwitowski, a K12 spokesman, said the company managed Virtual Academies in nine states and in Washington, D.C., with a total enrollment of about 15,000, which he said made it the nation's largest operator of online public schools. The Denver Public Schools run an online school in affiliation with another corporate operator, Connections Academy Inc., based in Baltimore.
Some children have adapted to the computerized home study, mustering the self-discipline to advance academically without a classroom teacher to prod them. Others have not.
About one in four of the 1,000 students who had enrolled in Branson Online for the last school year dropped out by February 2004, and after only 5 percent of students took the required standardized tests in 2002, the state put the school on an accreditation watch list.
Of the Branson students who took the state tests last year, state records show, higher percentages scored "unsatisfactory" in math at every grade level tested compared with students at schools statewide. At Branson, 48 percent of eighth graders scored unsatisfactory, for example, compared with 28 percent of eighth graders at schools statewide. Still, Branson authorities are convinced that the school fills a need and will continue to grow.
"In the short term, our enrollment can double or triple," said Ben Doherty, a cattle rancher and the president of Branson's school board.
A Wave Of Panic Among Surfers
Ever since connecting to the Internet, back in around 1995, A. has experienced a number of crises that have threatened his main hobby and obsession in life, but he has managed somehow. This time, however, something fundamental in his daily routine is liable to change. Since he learned about 10 days ago of the threat by the Israeli branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) to file charges against anyone who uploads music files to the Internet, he has been in a panic. Unlike previous times when he was forced to change his downloading habits, this time he admits he may simply have to stop downloading music from the Internet.
"I have plenty of experience," he says. "I was presumably in a similar situation when they closed Napster and later Audiogalaxy, but back then I just needed to look for an alternative. What is happening now is a new situation that was never before in Israel. I won't believe it until I actually see it happening, but because I'm a pretty cautious person, I won't want to be even at a thousandth of a percent of risk. Since reading about the federation's intention to prosecute people like me, I think about it every day, and I even lowered my profile on the Net."
For A., a lower profile is a relative thing. Since he got a broadband connection about two and a half years ago, he has downloaded about 1,000 albums via file-sharing services. "I have something like 25,000 files," he says after a short tour of his crowded hard disk. He currently has about 60 gigabytes of music files on his computer, but, as mentioned, he has started to exercise more caution. "Since hearing about their threat, I no longer download six to seven albums every night. I am also doing wholesale burning of files that are on my computer and then deleting them from the hard disk," he says. Nonetheless, he is aware that he is also uploading to the Internet, for the benefit of other surfers, between 100 to 200 files per day. "That's not a real lot. There are people who share much more," he says, in an attempt to reassure himself.
It looks like A. has good reason for concern. For years, the record companies have been trying to frighten music consumers in Israel in several ways, but it appears their new fear campaign has real teeth. In the past, there have been commercials against counterfeit versions of CDs in which Israeli artists appear conveying a message that pirated discs are liable to silence Israeli musicians and performers. Subsequently, there were commercials that made the exaggerated analogy between purchasing pirated CDs and buying drugs. At some stage, it was even claimed that the money from counterfeit discs is used to finance terrorism. But this time, the music industry is abandoning the strategy of reeducation and directly threatening its consumers, just like in the United States, where the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has already sued several thousands of file sharers.
The man at the forefront of the local battle against file sharers is Motti Amitay, the anti-piracy coordinator of IFPI, a group funded by Israeli and American record companies. Judging by the reactions of surfers to the reports about the IPFI's aggressive plans, Amitay - who was completely anonymous until a week ago - is set to become the bad guy of the Israeli Internet. It is no surprise that he has a very different view of himself.
"I'm the bad guy? What are you talking about?" Amitay says and laughs. "I'm the good guy. I defend the vital assets of the State of Israel - its culture. The people who say I am bad are lending a hand to the collapse of this industry. Whoever steals music, and it doesn't matter whether this is on the street or via the Internet, is a partner in crime and is cutting off the music industry. The bad people are those who do this, not those who enforce it. During the past four years, there has been a steady drop of 5- 10 percent a year in the sales of discs in Israel. We attribute this mainly to the Internet."
According to Amitay, last year, as part of the record companies' global policy, the umbrella company under which the Israeli federation operates decided that in 2005 Israel would be included in the list of countries where an active enforcement effort would be made to counter the phenomenon of downloading music from the Internet. Toward the middle of the year, after an information campaign that Amitay says will offer file sharers a last chance to stop their activities, the federation will begin to submit lawsuits against music downloaders. The ones to be initially targeted are surfers who upload more than 50 files a day. According to Amitay, the federation has not yet decided whether the enforcement efforts will focus on the piracy of Israeli music or on any kind of music. In any case, the procedure will be the same for both.
The software used by the record companies to scan the Net will provide the federation with the IP (Internet protocol) addresses of surfers who meet the piracy criteria that it defines. While the IP address identifies specific computers, there is no way of knowing who is sitting at each computer. The only thing this unique number reveals is the identity of the lowly surfer's Internet service provider (ISP). In order to reveal the person behind the IP address and file charges against him for violating intellectual property rights, the federation will need to turn to the ISPs and receive the information from them.
The ISPs, naturally, have no interest in handing their clients over to the federation. Not only are they obliged to protect the privacy of their users, but file sharing - an activity that accounts for about 70 percent of all data traffic on the Internet - is usually the main reason that people sign up for their broadband connection. Thus, judging by the ISPs' declarations that they will only divulge the identities of their users if forced to do so by court order, a legal battle can be expected to develop in Israel along the same lines of the one that took place in the United States.
Amitay refuses to say whether he is disappointed by the position expressed by the ISPs at this stage, and says: "We hope they will help us in the battle to save the culture of the State of Israel and our image in the world in this field." When asked whether the legal battle to force the ISPs to reveal their users' identities would be economically worthwhile, he says determinedly: "This is not a matter of whether or not it pays off economically, but rather a question of `to be or not to be.' If we don't want to shut down the industry and the culture, we must do this."
Will it succeed, in your view?
Amitay: "We have data showing that in the U.S. a significant decline in downloading has occurred since they began prosecuting those uploading files to the Internet, and we are relying on their experience."
Dr. Michael Birnhack of the University of Haifa's Center for Law and Technology says the current move by the record companies is an act of desperation. "Their goal is not to see money, but rather to intimidate, plain and simple. This is not the first time they are using scare tactics, but now they are pulling out the big guns - frightening the users themselves. They are doing this because they have given up on suing the software makers."
`My life will change'
Birnhack also does not accept the equation the federation is trying to make, according to which prosecution is needed in order to rescue Israeli music and culture. "The file-sharing communities can be used in two ways. It is possible to do good things and bad things with them. On one hand, they are used to violate intellectual property rights, but on the other hand they provide an opportunity for artists who have not succeeded to work their way into the centralized music industry. The record companies balance between art and money, with an emphasis on the money. The problem is that not all art makes money, and this results in boring mainstream music."
What will happen if lawsuits are filed?
"In the short term, they will succeed. And after the initial lawsuits and noise this creates, there will indeed be a decrease in the downloading of files. But, in my opinion, after a short period of time, if they don't continue prosecuting, there will be an upswing again in downloading, and it is liable to grow even stronger. In the meantime, the industry - especially in Israel - will lose a lot of points among listeners. Israeli surfers have a certain ethic that derives from the accessibility to musicians here, which is much greater than the accessibility to musicians in the United States. If the industry treats surfers like criminals, this ethic will be hurt and people will simply not buy discs. The customer is always right, even when he is wrong. From a business perspective, they will be making a very big mistake, in my view, if they go ahead and prosecute surfers."
Meanwhile, it seems that in A.'s case, the federation's scare tactics are definitely making the impression Amitay is seeking to create. A. is beginning to prepare for the day after, even if it still seems far away. "My life will change because music is the thing that I really like and it is all around me," he says. "It's much more than a hobby. It's really a part of me, and if I stop doing this, I will have a big hole that I will need to fill in other ways. I'll either order music from Amazon, or I'll meet with friends and simply exchange CDs with them, without the Internet. I have no other choice."
Don't you ever feel that you are stealing the songs you download?
A.: "To tell you the truth, no. About 80 percent of what I download is independent music by artists who are signed with labels that are not well known, and I tend to think and want to believe that the artists who create this music are interested in having as many people as possible listen to their work. I don't listen to Madonna or M People and things like that."
Worst suit of the week, redux
Rock Museum Sues to Stop Jewish Rock Web Site
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is all shook up -- or as they might say in Yiddish, all "verklempt" (upset) -- over the name for a virtual museum celebrating the Jewish contribution to rock music.
The Cleveland-based museum has asked a federal judge to stop two journalists and a radio company executive from putting up a Web site called the Jewish Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, saying the site will infringe on the original's trademark name and that the public would confuse the two.
But the people behind the Web site said they cannot understand why the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame is making such a "tsimmes" (Yiddish for big deal) over their plans to celebrate the exploits of such diverse talents as Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, some of the Ramones, Lou Reed and Elvis Presley's tailor, "Nudi" Cohen.
Their nonprofit Web site, which is not up and running yet, plans to publish articles on the Internet about Jews who rock.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Cleveland, the museum said journalists David Segal, Jeffrey Goldberg and radio executive Allen Goldberg "misappropriated Rock Hall's substantial intellectual property rights as well as the goodwill associated therewith. Unless restrained ... by the court, such conduct will, permit defendants to gain an unfair advantage over Rock Hall."
It said the Cleveland museum has suffered irreparable harm and was seeking damages in excess of $100,000.
'They Don't Own The Jews'
Regan Fay, a lawyer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which has attracted 5.5 million visitors since opening in 1995, said calling something the Jewish Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was going to confuse people.
"I don't think people would know the difference (between the two). We have a lot of Jewish rock and rollers in the Hall of Fame. ... It's like saying the Jewish Oscars or the Jewish Football Hall of Fame," he said, adding:
"It is a well-known trademark principal that putting your name in front of another name is a trademark infringement, like you can't call something a Jewish McDonald's because then people would think it is McDonald's that is kosher."
In court papers, the Hall of Fame said it has honored "numerous performers, songwriters and producers with Jewish heritage" including "Cleveland's own Alan 'Moondog' Freed," a disc jockey who helped popularize the music.
Jeffrey Goldberg, Washington correspondent for the New Yorker, said, "Speaking as a layman, I don't think they own rock and roll and I don't think they own the phrase 'Hall of Fame' and I know for sure they don't own the Jews."
Segal, a Washington Post reporter and former rock critic for that paper, said, "The ideas that anyone would confuse a large museum with a Web site run by a couple of Jewish guys with a computer is amazing to me, especially since it isn't even up yet."
Segal said the Web site would include articles about Jews in rock and roll, from record company executive Clive Davis to singer Bob Dylan to tailor "Nudie" Cohen, who designed suits for Elvis and Hank Williams. One piece would analyze references to the torah in Dylan's lyrics.
MSN Music To Offer Free Songs
Dinesh C. Sharma
Microsoft's MSN Music on Monday announced it would offer free downloads of some songs in the running for Grammy awards this year.
From Tuesday through Saturday, the company will offer one download per day. The songs will be selected by the editorial team at MSN Music, which will pick the tracks they think will win the Grammy in several categories.
On Tuesday, MSN will offer its picks for best pop vocal performance, male and female. The following four days, the company will give away its choice for the "best song" in four categories: rock (on Wednesday), rap (Thursday), R&B (Friday), and country (Saturday).
The music download market is dominated by Apple Computer's iTunes store. In a bid to challenge this domination, Microsoft last year launched its music service. Both companies offer songs for 99 cents each.
MSN said that only one free song download will be allowed per person per day. The offer is open to U.S. residents who are at least 18 years old. Microsoft also said music fans will need to sign up for an MSN music account and provide a credit card number.
Study: Fee-Based Music Gains On Swapping
Dinesh C. Sharma
Fee-based digital music is gaining popularity among downloaders in the United States, according to market research company Ipsos- Insight.
About 47 percent of people who downloaded music in December and who were age 12 or older paid a fee to do so, the market researcher said. That's up from 22 percent a year ago. The study is based on data from a sample of 1,112 respondents.
Ipsos-Insight said that while users between the ages of 25 and 54 are the most likely to have paid to download music, the number of younger people paying for it is also rising.
More than half of respondents between the ages of 12 and 17 reported that they have paid for music. This indicates that efforts to promote prepayment methods among teens are proving successful, the market researcher said.
"These data reinforce how unpredictable this emerging market is," Matt Kleinschmit, author of the study, said in a statement.
"Who would have thought two years ago that the initial growth of fee-based digital music would be driven be Americans ages 25 to 54? What's even more encouraging is that we now see signs that teens are beginning to experiment with fee-based services as well, which shadows recent reports of strong sales of prepaid cards for high-profile online music download stores."
The study also noted that for the first time, the proportion of the U.S. population that's engaged in fee-based downloading is about the same as the percentage engaged in file sharing (about 11 percent).
This trend is attributed to the general rise in fee-based downloading and the gradual declines in file sharing among the U.S. population during the past two years.
Google Image Index Hits 1 Billion Mark
Google said Tuesday that following a recent expansion, its image index now contains more than 1 billion pictures.
Google has been the most popular search engine on the Internet for some time, but because of increasing competition from Yahoo, Microsoft and a large number of smaller, localized search engines, the company has had to continue expanding its reach by indexing previously unavailable Web content.
A Google representative also told ZDNet Australia that the company recently passed the 8-billion-page mark with its Web page index, as well as increasing its image index.
"A billion images is a milestone for us," the representative said. "We now have nearly 1.2 billion images in our image index...We have found a whole load of new images on the Web and expanded our comprehensiveness on that front."
In the past, Google has made it a practice to not only expand its content indexes but also to publish material that was not previously available on the Web.
In January, the company launched a prototype of Google Video, which is an engine that lets people search the text of TV shows. To start with, the service is scouring programming from PBS, Fox News, C-SPAN, ABC and the NBA, among others, making broadcast transcripts searchable the same day they aired.
Craig Silverstein, director of technology at Google and its first official employee, explained that the company's long-term policy is to index content that is already published but also to make previously unsearchable content--such as hard-copy catalogs--available online.
"We took a bunch of mail order catalogs, many of which are not online because they are very small. We converted them to text and made them searchable," he said, referring to a feature the search giant started testing in 2001. "This information wasn't even available electronically, but now you can search it, and we are hoping to get more of that type of information available."
Also Tuesday, Google quietly launched a beta site for a new map service. The offering features a few tweaks to standard mapping services--it lets people click and drag maps, for example, instead of having to click and reload, and offers magnified views of specific spots that pop up in bubbles.
DVD Ripping Flourishes
Hollywood's attempts to stamp out DVD copying are circumvented by the proliferation of DVD- duplication tools.
Illegal DVD-ripping software is flourishing, despite well-publicized wins by DVD piracy foes and laws against copying Hollywood movies.
Although U.S. copyright laws outlaw the sale of software that bypasses DVD copy protection, many companies continue to make the software packages available.
BlazinDVD of Jamaica, New York, is one of a dozen U.S. firms that PC World found on the Internet selling such software. BlazinDVD's offering was called Perfect DVD Copy, and a photo of the software's CD jewel case displayed on the company's Web site claimed the program would "Override All Copy Protection". A week after PC World contacted the company to discuss this statement, Perfect DVD Copy was no longer available. A company spokesperson said BlazinDVD wasn't aware the software violated any laws.
Surplus Computers of Santa Clara, California, and JB Software, based in South Bend, Indiana, both sell a software title called Video Studio 4000 Pro, which is published by an overseas company called Hakku. The software title contains tools for copying DVDs, also known as "ripping."
Owners of both of these companies say they were not aware the software title contained DVD-ripping software. "As far as I know, that software was perfectly fine to sell," says Bobby Hanby, owner of JB Software.
However, the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act bans providing information or tools to evade copy-control technology, including the Contents Scramble System that's used in DVD media. Companies that sell DVD-ripping programs and U.S. users of the software are breaking the law, according to copyright attorneys.
Experts say this thriving software market exists because current DVD copy protection is no longer relevant when it comes to protecting DVDs from being copied. This is because DVD ripping software (as it is called) is so easily purchased online and, in many cases, is available for free on specialty Web sites. However, despite what critics see as a losing battle, Hollywood continues its fight to protect itself from being ripped off.
Easy Does It
These consumer-friendly DVD copying programs and today's average PC, with its massive storage and powerful microprocessors, together make copying DVDs simple. Many free DVD-copying programs even automate the ripping process, making it easy for even non-technical users.
Critics of DVD copy protection say people have a fair-use right to make personal backup copies of DVDs they buy. The DVD Copy Control Association, which owns the DVD encryption technology CSS, disagrees, arguing that DVD-copying tools accelerate the piracy of Hollywood movies.
CSS is an important deterrent against movies being copied and then swapped online, says John Malcolm, the Motion Picture Association of America's antipiracy chief. The MPAA acknowledges movie swapping is not a big problem today. But the MPAA hopes to nip the problem in the bud before it faces the kind of widespread piracy the music industry is facing.
Copy Software All Around
In August of last year, 321 Studios, one of the first companies to offer DVD copying software, folded when the movie studios represented by the MPAA successfully convinced a judge to ban the company from selling its flagship product, DVD X Copy. After a series of lost court battles, the company went out of business. DVD X Copy was one of the most popular programs available that allowed users to copy Hollywood DVDs despite antipiracy protection designed to prevent duplication.
However, many DVD-copying programs that allow you to duplicate noncommercial DVDs, such as discs with your own home videos on them, are still readily available at retail stores such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and CompUSA. These software titles do not include the decryption software necessary to bypass CSS. However, makers of these copying packages make it simple to bypass U.S. copy restrictions on DVDs, saying it helps international users of its software.
Take the program ICopyDVDs2 Standard from Me Too Software, sold at major computer retailers like Best Buy, CompUSA, and Target. When you attempt to copy a copy-protected DVD, ICopyDVDs2 warns that doing so is illegal and offers a detailed explanation of how non-U.S. customers can use the search engine Google to find and download a program that enables them to use ICopyDVDs2 to copy any CSS-protected DVD.
The firm Bling Software also sells a DVD-copying program, called 123 Copy DVD, that also ships minus actual CSS decryption software. However, visitors to 123 Copy DVD's Web site can find a link there to a second Web site located in Spain. This second link permits you to download a "third-party software plug-in" that allows you to use 123 Copy DVD to copy CSS- protected DVDs. Bling Software operates both Web sites.
The plug-in is "intended for use in countries where DVD decryption is legal," according to Bling's Web site.
The MPAA declined to comment about any specific company. However, when the now-defunct 321 Studios attempted to offer a "ripper-free" version of its software, the MPAA characterized such a move as a transparent ploy that allows users of software to "do indirectly what can't be done directly."
"We will do everything in our power to protect our intellectual property. We will not hesitate to enforce our rights when we see it fit to," Malcolm of the MPAA says.
The 321 Studios court case is just the most high profile of many lawsuits against firms selling and distributing DVD-copying software. Other cases include that of Tritton Technologies, which once distributed the program DVD CopyWare, and Kaleidescape. That company sells an ultra-expensive DVD library and video server system that copies DVDs to a hard disk and streams them throughout a house. In December, movie studios represented by the MPAA filed suit against Kaleidescape, claiming its ability to copy DVDs to a hard drive breaks copyright laws.
Despite such lawsuits, however, the results of Hollywood's efforts to stop distribution of DVD-ripping software remain uneven.
Even 321 Studios' DVD X Copy software has found a second life. A version of the program continues to be sold online by a Central American firm called DVD X Copy International, which is based in Belize, where the company is not directly subject to U.S. laws. Still other DVD copying software is available free on the Net, much to the chagrin of the MPAA. For example, Afonic DVD Guides, based in Greece, is dedicated to DVD burning.
"We are aware of the existence of companies out there selling DVD copying software," said a spokesman for the DVD Copy Control Association. "We monitor what's going on, and will protect our intellectual property when appropriate."
Hollywood Losing the Battle?
In the copyright war, Hollywood is losing, says Wendy Seltzer, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet civil liberties organization. The EFF says encrypting DVDs is waste of time given how bad the locks are. The EFF is supported in this view by Bruce Schneier, an expert on encryption technology, who says, "Hollywood is dreaming if they still think CSS is a piracy deterrent."
The MPAA has filed many lawsuits in the past year, not only against firms selling DVD-copying software, but also against hundreds of individual users for allegedly trading movies illegally over peer-to-peer networks. In October 2004, Hollywood feature films accounted for 2 percent of files available on peer-to-peer file sharing networks, according to researchers at BigChampagne, which provides information about popular online entertainment.
The MPAA doesn't accept the argument that CSS is no longer a valid lock. It maintains that the technology is an adequate deterrent that prevents average computer users from copying DVDs.
On almost a weekly basis, the MPAA pinpoints a Web site selling or giving away free DVD copying tools, says the MPAA's Malcolm. "It's a tough fight, but the battle is ongoing," he says.
It is consumers who stand to lose the most in Hollywood's battle to protect DVDs from being copied, says Art Brodsky, communications director of Public Knowledge, a consumer-interest group that opposes the Digital Millenniun Copyright Act. "People have to have fair-use rights in a free market," he says, maintaining that Hollywood is overstepping its bounds by banning DVD copying.
The EFF's Seltzer says, "Hollywood will continue to thrive by providing consumers a great product at a fair price. Not by crippling technology."
One Million DVD Lawbreakers
Meanwhile, consumers are left to navigate the legal and ethical implications of copying DVDs. Over one million copies of 321 Studio's DVD X Copy were sold before the company was shuttered, according to the company. The MPAA says consumers who use the software are breaking the law.
Brodsky argues that there are many honest people who want to copy DVDs onto laptops to avoid carrying a disc while they travel, and those who want to make backup copies of DVDs in case the originals are damaged.
The MPAA doesn't buy that argument. DVDs, created with proprietary CSS technology, were never designed to allow people to make copies, the organization argues. For Hollywood, DVD copying is just part of the problem. The MPAA has identified a number of different consumer electronic devices, like digital video recorders, that it sees as threats to its livelihood.
Still, firms such as ADS Tech continue to sell products that can be used to copy DVDs. ADS Tech makes a hardware device called DVDXpress, which is intended to help people make DVD backups of VHS tapes. But the product also allows you to make reduced quality copies of DVDs.
"I prefer to see the glass as half full," says the MPAA's Malcolm, referring to the battle to stop DVD copying. "I'm skeptical of any silver bullet, but we can always make things harder for the bad guys."
DCIA Members Introduce P2P Innovations at Media Summit New York
Clickshare and Digital Containers Offer Secure Payments, INTENT MediaWorks Premieres iPeer, Javien Launches Micropayment Aggregation Engine, and P2P Cash Integrates P2P with Cell Phones
Members of the Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA) tonight announced a new secure payment solution, piracy-proof peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software, advanced micropayment aggregation engine, and technology for integrating cell phone and P2P payments.
The announcements were made at a special evening session of Media Summit New York, a two-day conference for senior executives of the entertainment and technology sectors presented by Digital Hollywood.
"We are thrilled with the work that Clickshare, Digital Containers, INTENT MediaWorks, Javien, and P2P Cash have completed and demonstrated tonight," said DCIA CEO Marty Lafferty. "The innovations made by these outstanding technology firms address principal concerns that major entertainment rights aggregators have had with the P2P distribution channel."
Clickshare, the leading provider of advanced user management and payment services for digital content providers, and Digital Containers, the leading source for secure content distribution and integrated e-commerce for distributed networks, announced their collaboration to provide a secure payment solution for digital content in distributed computing environments.
The advantages of the Clickshare-Digital Containers partnership include ensuring that content owners receive royalty payments for copyrighted or licensed materials, simplifying users' purchasing process, and easing registration concerns.
The Clickshare-Digital Containers payment processing solution automatically handles the settlement of accounts and movement of payments so that publishers, artists, or other owners of digital content are properly compensated no matter how users gain access to the content -- whether acquired from a Web site store, e-mailed from a friend, or downloaded using P2P software.
INTENT MediaWorks released the first P2P software that blocks and filters unauthorized copyrighted works and sexually explicit material from being redistributed. The software, called iPeer, is a P2P file-sharing software application that operates on public P2P platforms, such as Gnutella, and allows only authorized content to be traded among P2P users.
"Everyone in the industry has been waiting for a solution to the problem of copyright infringement. INTENT is offering such a solution," said Les Ottolenghi, president of INTENT MediaWorks.
iPeer is available now for download. The software can scan thousands of computers per minute for licensed files, filtering out unauthorized material. iPeer has been successfully tested with very favorable results by such entities as Paalam Technologies and Gray & Associates.
iPeer goes beyond P2P platforms with features that allow consumers to view downloaded files on televisions and mobile devices. INTENT has agreements with personal video recorder (PVR) manufacturers and cellular network providers to deliver branded and original production content through iPeer.
Javien Digital Payment Solutions launched its micropayment aggregation engine, responding to strong demand from the digital music and P2P industries.
Javien's aggregation engine is being released along with numerous other enhancements, such as a Web services module for improved customization. Micropayment processing requirements have increased dramatically, especially for online music where it is essential to make single-download sales economically feasible.
Javien allows digital content merchants to choose how they want to bundle small charges before processing them onto a credit card, based upon their specific business needs. For example, one merchant might determine $5 as a threshold, another $10, with time-based rules also an option. Javien customers will enjoy the option of both stored value and aggregation for handling micropayments, with built-in support to submit transactions through many leading payment processors.
P2P Cash announced the world's first patent-pending method to conduct e-commerce between P2P software programs and cellular telephones. P2P Cash's Intelligent Cash Units, or ICUs, are designed to guarantee secure transactions and cash transfers between individuals using an Internet-connected PC, any cell phone worldwide, or both.
Examples of use include guaranteeing the buying and selling of any form of online content, including music, video, and contracts. P2P Cash anticipates heavy use of its ICUs for international money transfers at a fraction of the cost of existing solutions.
P2P Cash will announce Letters of Intent with several key content companies within the next 30 days.
About the Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA)
The DCIA is a not-for-profit trade organization supported with membership dues contributed by participating companies. DCIA's mission is to advance the adoption of distributed computing technologies and the commercial development of business models based on them. It provides a forum for senior executive discussion, a medium for lobbying governmental authorities, and a vehicle for educating the public at large. DCIA's members include Alston & Bird, Altnet, Bennett Lincoff, BlueMaze Entertainment, Claria Corp., Clickshare, Digital Containers, Digital Static, Good Witch Records, Go-Kart Records, Grokster, Indie911, INTENT MediaWorks, Javien, Jeftel, Jun Group, MasurLaw, MusicDish Network, One Love Channel, P2P Cash, Predixis, Project V-G, Rap Station, RazorPop, Relatable, Seamless P2P, Shared Media Licensing, Sharman Networks, SMARTguard Software, Sovereign Artists, SVC Financial, and Trymedia Systems. For more information, please call 888-864-DCIA or visit www.dcia.info.
Melodeo Unveils Peer-to-Peer Music Sharing Functionality; Users Can Now Pay for and Share Full-Track Downloads Legally and Securely from Mobile Phone to Mobile Phone
Melodeo, Inc. today announced new peer-to-peer music sharing functionality with its Melodeo Mobile Music Solution. Available during the first quarter in Europe, mobile phone users will be able to securely send full tracks that they have purchased, from one mobile phone to another mobile phone via Bluetooth wireless technology. Melodeo, a Seattle-based company, provides music to wireless subscribers through its Mobile Music Solution. The Mobile Music Solution resides directly on the user's wireless phone, allowing consumers to quickly and easily shop, preview, purchase/download over the air, and play and store full-length music tracks.
"We're thrilled about Melodeo's peer-to-peer functionality, because it is secure and all parties are compensated when music is shared. This makes it a huge win for artists, music publishers, record labels, operators and mobile phone users," said Don Davidge, senior vice president, Melodeo. "We expect that as the service grows it will not only be a significant source of revenue for artists, publishers and labels, but will also bring music to new audiences. Ultimately, we anticipate that sending a song will soon be as common as sending a text message or making a call."
Wireless Operator Support
Wireless operators are deploying Melodeo technology on their networks to offer their subscribers access to Melodeo's extensive music library. With the service, consumers can easily purchase and download full-length songs directly from their handsets, over the air, to their wireless phone. Music tracks that have been downloaded via the carrier's network can then be "super-distributed" via Bluetooth. Tracks sent via Bluetooth technology do not use the operator's network bandwidth, and therefore represent a highly efficient distribution mechanism for digital music. Melodeo's DRM solution fully protects the tracks in both download and peer-to-peer activities.
Many industry analysts see the mobile music market growing exponentially in the coming years. Jonathan Coham, analyst with the Radicati Group, believes that "wireless music delivery is the next logical step. For music labels and artists, the appeal of wireless music delivery is that DRM ensures they will be compensated for their work. Melodeo's distribution model makes for a quick go-to-market strategy, which, combined with an innovative peer-to-peer approach, looks set to stimulate a strong level of interest in the industry."
Using the Peer-to-Peer Feature
To use the peer-to-peer feature, users simply select a song from the play list of tracks on their mobile phone. They then send the full track to another user with a Melodeo-enabled mobile phone located within Bluetooth range. The song file, which is DRM protected, pops up on the recipient's mobile phone and he or she can listen to a 30-second preview of the song. If the person likes it, he or she can easily choose to purchase it and the Melodeo server then sends a decryption key via the carrier's network to unlock the song, and bill the purchase to the recipient's account. The Melodeo peer-to-peer system will also be used to send music as a gift, with the charges billed to the sender's account.
A sender who shares music with a friend may also be eligible to receive a reward from the operator after the friend purchases a certain number of tracks. For instance, after the friend purchases four songs, the user who recommended them or gifted them may be given a complimentary track of a song from the operator.
Quick, Easy-To-Use Solution
Melodeo's Mobile Music Solution includes an extensive music catalog provided by Warner Music Group and other record labels. Finding songs or an artist in this catalog is easy with a patented "power-search" capability. With just a few keystrokes, users can quickly and easily access the music they want.
The Mobile Music Solution includes personalization of a user's music catalog based on the user's preferences. Intelligence capabilities enable the solution to discover an individual's unique music preferences and offer customized recommendations to the subscriber.
Melodeo's software incorporates the most advanced audio codec, aacPlus from Coding Technologies, which produces music files in the 500 to 750K range, significantly smaller than a typical MP3 file, in a solution that is downloaded, not streamed, saving valuable bandwidth. While phone memory varies by brand, users can expect to store roughly 75 to 125 tracks with 64MB of memory.
As cultural critic and New School University professor McKenzie Wark sees things, today’s battles over copyrights, trademarks, and patents are simply the next phase in the age-old battle between the productive classes and the ruling classes that strive to turn those producers into subjects. But whereas Marx and Engels saw the battle of capitalist society as being between two social classes—the proletariat and the bourgeoisie—Wark sees one between two newly emergent classes: the hackers and a new group that Wark has added to the lexicon of the academy: the “vectoralist class.”
Wark’s opus A Hacker Manifesto brings together England’s Enclosure Movement, Das Kapital, and the corporate ownership of information—a process that Duke University law professor James Boyle called “the Second Enclosure Movement”—to create a unified theory of domination, struggle, and freedom. Hacking is not a product of the computer age, writes Wark, but an ancient rite in which abstractions are created and information is transformed. The very creation of private property was a hack, he argues—a legal hack—and like many other hacks, once this abstraction was created, it was taken over by the ruling class and used as a tool of subjugation.
So who are these vectoralists? They are the people who control the vectors by which information flows throughout our society. Information wants to be free, Wark writes, quoting (without attribution) one of the best-known hacker aphorisms. But by blocking the free vectors and charging for use of the others, vectoralists extract value from practically every human endeavor.
There is no denying that vectoralist organizations exist: by charging for the distribution of newspapers or Web pages, such organizations collect money whenever we inform ourselves. By charging for the distribution of music, they collect money off the expression of human culture.
Yes, today many Web pages and songs can be accessed over the Internet for free. But others cannot be. The essence of the successful vectoralist, writes Wark, is in this person’s ability to rework laws and technology so that some vectors can flourish while other vectors—the free ones—are systematically eliminated.
But does Wark have it right? By calling his little red book A Hacker Manifesto, Wark hopes to remind us of Marx and Mao. Does this concept of “vector” have what it takes to start a social movement? Are we on the cusp of a Hacker Rebellion?
The Communists of the 1840s had more or less settled on the ground rules of their ideology—the communal ownership of property and social payments based on need—by the time Marx and Engels wrote their infamous tract. By contrast, many individuals who identify themselves as hackers today are sure to find Wark’s description circumscribed and incomplete.
When I was an undergraduate at MIT in the 1980s, hackers were first and foremost people who perpetrated stunts. It was a group of hackers that managed to bury a self-inflating weather balloon near the 50-yard line at the 1982 Harvard–Yale game; two years later, Caltech hackers took over the electronic scoreboard at the Rose Bowl and displayed their own messages. (Another group had hacked the Rose Bowl 21 years before, rewriting the instructions left on 2,232 stadium seats so that Washington fans raising flip-cards for their half-time show unknowingly spelled out “Caltech.”)
Hackers were also spelunkers of MIT’s tunnels, basements, and heating and ventilation systems. These hackers could pick locks, scale walls, and practically climb up moonbeams to reach the roofs of the Institute’s tallest buildings.
By the late 1980s, the media had seized on the word hacker—not to describe a prankster, but as a person who breaks into computers and takes joyrides on electronics networks. These hackers cracked computer systems, changed school grades, and transferred millions of dollars out of bank accounts before getting caught by the feds and sent to the pen.
Finally, there were the kind of hackers MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum had previously called “compulsive programmers.” These gods of software saw the H-word as their badge of honor. Incensed by the hacker stereotype portrayed in the media, these geeky mathlings and compiler-types fought back against this pejorative use of their word—going so far as to write in The New Hacker’s Dictionary that the use of “hacker” to describe “malicious meddler” had been “deprecated” (hacker lingo meaning “made obsolete”). I remember interviewing one of these computer scientists in 1989 for the Christian Science Monitor: the researcher threatened to terminate the interview if I used the word “hacker” to describe someone who engaged in criminal activity.
Although the researcher and others like him were largely successful in reclaiming their beloved bit of jargon, they were never able to fully disassociate the word from its negative connotations. Today, the word “hacker” is widely accepted to have two meanings. One reason, of course, is that malicious meddlers continue to call themselves hackers.
Both Hacking Exposed, a mammoth three-author, 750-page book about to be published in its fifth edition, and Hacking: The Art of Exploitation seem to suggest that use of the word to describe someone with criminal intent is alive and well. There are very much two kinds of hackers: “white-hat hackers,” who follow the programmer ethic and help people to secure their computers, and “black-hat hackers,” who actually do the dirty business. The fact that it is the black hats who create the market demand for the white hats is something that most white hats fail to mention. Also overlooked is the fact that many who wear white hats today once wore black hats in their distant or not-so-distant past.
The idealized hackers for whom Wark has written his manifesto also routinely engage in criminal activity—by violating the vectorial establishment’s laws of intellectual property. Vectorialists are not the only victims of these crimes. And Wark’s hackers are the kind of people who would use peer-to-peer networks to let a million of their closest friends download Hollywood’s latest movies before they are released in theaters—a prime example of hacker power to defeat the evils of vectorial oppression. On the other hand, hackers also rent time on other networks in order to send out billions of spam messages hawking the latest in penis enlargement. When it comes to the hacker pastime of criminal computer trespass, Wark is silent.
Freedom versus Free Beer
Absent as well is any reference to hardware hacking—or, indeed, any reference to hardware at all. To Wark, hacking is about bits, not atoms. The power of Big Vector is its ability to control information networks like the telegraph and the Internet, not transportation networks like FedEx. The intellectual property that Wark is concerned about is the property of abstraction: movies, programs, drugs. It’s information that “wants to be free.” Wark comes down pretty hard on the patenting of genetic information, but presumably the patents that apply to the design of piston engines or wind turbines are another matter entirely.
Hacker philosophers such as Richard Stallman and Lawrence Lessig frequently play up the fact that information can be given away without being relinquished. It is this fundamental fact that makes information different from other goods, they argue. It is why the old rules of property should not apply in the digital domain.
Stallman wrote in 1985, “the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it.” Stallman continues, “Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others. I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this way. I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license agreement.”
Stallman, more than anyone else, is rightfully credited with kicking off what we now know as the “open source movement”—which he calls “Free Software.” That’s “free” as in “freedom,” not as in “free beer,” Stallman is quick to point out. The culture of sharing software was in danger of dying out in the early 1980s when Stallman started the GNU Project and wrote “The GNU Manifesto.”
GNU stands for GNU’s Not Unix—an all too clever recursive hacker acronym. The original goal of the project was to create a free version of the Unix operating system. But Stallman worked hard to extend the consciousness of programmers beyond mere lines of code and into the world of politics—specifically the politics of intellectual property. He staged a hacker protest at the headquarters of Lotus when that company tried to enforce copyright restrictions on user interfaces. He wrote and spoke, rallying against copyright restrictions and software patents.
Like “the Party” in 1984 and real-live Communists in China, Stallman promotes his ideology in part by rewriting everyday speech. He went so far as to publish an official list of “Confusing or Loaded Words and Phrases that are Worth Avoiding”— words like “commercial,” “consumer,” “content,” “creator,” “open,” and “intellectual property.” For example, he writes, instead of using the phrase “copyright protection,” one should instead use “copyright restrictions,” as in the sentence: “Congress recently extended the term of copyright restrictions by 20 years.”
These tactics turned off supporters and were put to good use as counterpropaganda by his detractors—such as a software executive who once accused Stallman of being a Communist because of his collectivist software ideology. The emergence of the term “open source” amounted to a slap in Stallman’s face: after all, it was a direct attempt to separate the mechanism of Free Software from Stallman’s barefoot politics of free love, his vehement attacks on the beliefs and conduct of the Republican party, and his vigorous defense of personal freedom.
Using Wark’s framework, this all makes a kind of sense. Stallman is not opposed to big business and capitalism: he is opposed to big vector and the vectoralist agenda of creating a body of intellectual property law that eliminates the possibility of alternatives. Anyone committed to freedom must be opposed to the vectoralist class, because it profits through control.
From this Wark-Stallman view that intellectual property is really just a self-enriching tool evolves the conclusion that the world of computers would be better off without the majority of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and other legal means for restricting intellectual property.
Lessig, meanwhile, takes these mechanisms of restriction in a different direction. In The Future of Ideas he argues that a combination of legal and technical restrictions are fencing off our cultural heritage. In the not-so-distant future, perhaps, the very phrase “free expression” will become an oxymoron, as any self-respecting expression will necessarily have to pay licensing fees for numerous ideas, phrases, images, and even thoughts from well-funded copyright holders.
Lessig failed in his attempt to fight the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in the U.S. Supreme Court—the act that will keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain for another 20 years. But despite this serious setback, Lessig has succeeded in convincing thousands of professionals to put their signatures on his so-called “Creative Commons” licenses, which allow colleagues and other professionals to freely cite from and reprint one another’s work, and even make derivative works.
The problem here is that sharing may work for software, but it doesn’t work for hardware. Moore’s Law has driven much of the computer revolution, but it requires that companies like Intel spend more and more money each year to create the next generation of superfast chips. Take away Intel’s copyright and patent protection, and knock-off companies would create clone Intel processors for a fraction of the cost. These chips would be dramatically cheaper than Intel’s, and Intel would not have the money to create the next generation of still-faster devices. Moore’s Law depends upon vectoral control.
Wark’s opus doesn’t just ignore hardware—it ignores hardware hacking, the tradition of modifying circuits and computers to do things that the original designers never intended. Hardware hackers are pros at both adding new features and removing arbitrary restrictions—like the region codes on DVD players that won’t let European DVDs play in U.S. players. Yet increasingly, hardware is where the action is. Books such as Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering are exposing secrets to the masses that once were strictly the province of MIT and Caltech midnight seminars. Hardware hackers are largely motivated by exactly the same antivectoralist tendencies as the hackers creating file-sharing networks: the desire to get around restrictions that have been artificially imposed upon their beloved technology. Hackers are people who use technical means to break restrictive rules and, as a result, create new possibilities. They are agents of disruptive change, no matter whether they hack code, networks, video-game consoles or copyright. By failing to address hardware and its hackers, Wark’s work once again falls short of its title.
And what of information yearning to be free? The quotation comes from Stewart Brand, editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, speaking at the first Hacker’s Conference back in 1984. According to a transcript of the conference printed in Brand’s May 1985 issue, the full quotation was: “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”
If I might be so bold as to reëngineer Brand’s quotation while looking through Wark’s glasses, it’s the hackers who want information to be free, and it’s the vectoralists who want information to be expensive. Having known and admired Stallman for more than 20 years, I’ve long understood the concept of the hacker. Wark’s contribution in his misnamed volume is the identification of the hacker’s enemy, the vectoral class. It is a battle, I fear, that we cannot win. But it is one that must be fought.
disturbing the neon
will this lead to that?
who can say it’s true?
until i deconstruct it
and share it with you.
A 70's Duo Rocks On: Pink Floyd and Lasers
If one had bet on which fad of the early 1970's would achieve perennial popularity - and this was the epoch that brought us Pong, Rubik's cube and Wings - the Pink Floyd laser light show would probably have not been given the best odds.
Take lasers. Shine them on the walls and ceilings. Play the recorded music of a band that had only one Top 10 single in its career.
To think that such a novelty could last a month, much less be in its fourth decade, is as surprising as it is true. Every weekend thousands of Americans of all ages turn away from their video game consoles and DVD players to embrace this technological relic, a psychedelic "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Tonight, the Beacon Theater will have an updated, traveling version of the Pink Floyd shows that have long been staples of planetariums and concert halls. Nearly 2,000 tickets have been sold, said the show's promoter, Laser Spectacular.
The signs of aging have begun appearing, though. Ivan Dryer, who is considered the father of the shows, plans to open a multimedia center this year in Los Angeles that will forgo Floyd in favor of electronica music. Several venues have stopped their laser shows, blaming everything from weakening ticket sales to the undesirable "stoner crowd" the shows have been said to attract. "We were told that the laser shows no longer met the mission statement of the museum as far as being an educational facility," said Toby Winsett, who ran the shows at the Gates Planetarium in Denver until they were stopped in 1999.
Not that the Denver area goes without a laser Floyd fix. The planetarium manager in nearby Boulder said he relied on the weekly Floyd shows to help finance his educational programming, a statement echoed by several planetarium directors across the country. "It's our moneymaker every year," said Franciso Salas, operations manager and program director of the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
In 1970 a California Institute of Technology professor asked Mr. Dryer, then a young Los Angeles-area filmmaker, to record her laser demonstrations on film. Mr. Dryer became hooked, spending the next three years developing his technique as a "laserist" for films and on tour with Alice Cooper. His dream was to put on a laser show set to music at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, an idea that was repeatedly rejected by the city-owned planetarium until November 1973, when Mr. Dryer's company, Laser Images Inc., was given four Monday nights as a trial run. The shows sold out for weeks.
There were 12 recorded songs played during Laserium I, as the initial performances were called, with music from artists ranging from the Rolling Stones to Johann Strauss. On the set list there were also two Pink Floyd songs, "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "Echoes," both from albums that neither sold well in the United States nor produced any hits.
And yet the music immediately connected with the laser audiences, Mr. Dryer said. "When I first heard their music I thought it was perfect for the kind of thing we were doing," he added. "It was instrumental largely, and we were looking for something that was not widely known."
What did soon become widely known was the laser show's success, and planetariums across the United States approached Mr. Dryer about building more laser machines. It was an arrangement that some later bemoaned, he said, remembering that several museums with planetariums did not take kindly to the shows' fans. "They were called 'the wrong element,' " he said. "It was always an uneasy marriage."
By the end of 1974 Laserium was showing in Denver, at the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and in San Francisco and San Diego. Imitators began selling systems to planetariums. And some planetariums even made their own.
One constant with most of the companies was Pink Floyd, especially music from the band's 1973 hit album, "The Dark Side of the Moon." The album's seemingly endless success - it spent an unequalled 741 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart - led some laser companies to produce shows composed completely of the album's tracks. Shows for "The Wall" and other combinations of Pink Floyd songs and albums followed.
Jay Heck, art director for LFI International, a company that creates shows for planetariums, said Pink Floyd remained his most requested software. "We're still producing shows like No Doubt, we're even thinking about an OutKast show, but we cannot take Pink Floyd off the system," he said. "We updated 'Dark Side of the Moon' just last year."
Mr. Heck said his company's presence in planetariums peaked about the mid-1990's. Laserium at the Griffith Observatory ended in 2002 when the planetarium closed for renovations, ending a run of nearly 29 years. Renovations also ended the laser shows at the Hayden Planetarium in 1997, although they did continue for a couple of years at the museum's Imax theater, Holly Evarts, a museum spokeswoman, said. The museum replaced the laser shows in 2003 with SonicVision, a "digitally animated alternative music show," which with its vibrant images dancing across the ceiling is an obvious outgrowth of the Floyd shows.
Though SonicVision's projectors produce visuals that have a clarity and complexity far beyond the depth of any classic laser program, the music, most of it pop tracks a couple of years old by artists like Prodigy, White Zombie and Moby, feels more dated than many of the Pink Floyd shows, which enthusiasts say have a timeless quality.
"The laser Pink Floyd has it's own mystique," said Marc Rouleau, an aging fan and the director of the Paulucci Space Theater in Hibbing, Minn., which rents a laser system every holiday season for a Pink Floyd show on New Year's Eve. "Even though personally, I now prefer to listen to the news on public radio."
Movie Studios Will Learn Napster Lesson
Science-fiction author William Gibson once wrote a short essay on his view of the MP3 revolution, back in the days when Napster and file-swapping were pretty contentious issues. I don't recall the magazine and can't find a copy in my filing cabinet, but I remember that he identified a couple of key points about the phenomenon that really impressed me and that are rarely appreciated amid all the fuss that arose concerning the legal and moral issues.
The first point was that a culturally valuable international resource was being created by all the people who digitized their tapes and record albums. Sure, lots of commercial stuff got stolen along the way, but the dedicated preservation of rare and obscure recordings was the true importance of the MP3 era.
Gibson's other major observation was that Napster's then-growing popularity was due to the way it fulfilled every music fan's fantasy. You could type in just about any song or artist you'd ever heard of and probably find something to listen to. That's a remarkably empowering shift, and had the recording industry been on top of its game a decade ago, it could have found a ready market. Who wouldn't pay $50 or $100 a month for access to all the music in the world? But in the absence of such a service, an alternative culture flourished, and, as a bonus, it was free.
Note the two different forces at work here. One is the creation of a vast collective library built by unpaid individuals; the other is a particular piece of software that gave people access to it all in an easy-to-use format, letting folks channel their desire for music. Napster, of course, was eventually shut down, then revived as an interface for one of the for-pay music services that play second fiddle to the iTunes Music Store. See? It turns out people would've paid for music this whole time.
Even though Napster earned its fame as software for music-swapping, it was simply a search interface combined with a file- transfer program that could move any type of file between two computers. Data is data, and transferring it is what the Internet was designed to do. Napster just happened to coincide with the rise of the MP3 audio format, so that became the major traffic it carried. I suppose we'd have to classify MP3s as the third factor in that whole crazy era. The ability to squeeze sound files down to one-10th their original size and still have them sound fairly good led to people moving music onto their hard drives, and then Napster let them fill in their collections.
File-transferring didn't begin with Napster, and it certainly didn't end there. Even before it was shut down, several similar software products emerged. There was something called Gnutella, and another thing called LimeWire. I'm not really sure because I don't use these sorts of programs--I have a lot of unsettled questions about the security, legality, and morality of so-called peer-to-peer (P2P) swapping. Also, I just don't like to share my things with the other children.
Anyway, none of the programs that followed Napster achieved much fame. I'd notice them rise and fall, beginning with comments in the Usenet newsgroups, moving on to small notices in the technology press, and then maybe peaking with a feature article or, rarely, a TV news story. Then they'd seem to disappear.
But there's one piece of software that looks like it's going to break through and become the new Napster (except it'll be the movie studios and broadcasters taking the hit this time). It's called BitTorrent. I've never used it (honest), but a friend of mine first told me about it more than a year ago. Aha! That's why I'd been seeing so many Usenet discussion threads mentioning BitTorrent. Over the past year, BitTorrent has become more famous, culminating in recent feature articles in Wired magazine and the New York Times. That means it's arrived.
Mark Twain once said that history doesn't repeat itself but it sure does rhyme. In this case, we again have several factors at work. First of all, there's more bandwidth available to the common consumer, so big files aren't so daunting (just as happened when a four-megabyte sound file was considered hefty in the early days of high-speed access). Secondly, there is a plethora of video-compression formats that can shrink a DVD to a file one-seventh the original size and still retain most of the quality (just like the MP3 did for audio).
The third factor is BitTorrent, the new Napster. Its technological advantage is faster transfer speeds, because it can simultaneously download the same file off of multiple servers, and the more popular a file is (the more people who have it), the faster it comes to you. It is a truly viral distribution method. How fast is it? Well, the Times ran an article about how the American civil-rights-movement TV documentary series Eyes on the Prize was out of print and was likely to stay that way because the companies holding the rights to the historical footage wanted too much money. Within a couple of hours, a copy of it was moving through BitTorrent, and less than two days later it had even shown up in my poky old-school corner of the Net. The studios can't win against that kind of efficiency.
Finally, people must like watching digital video in the way people first embraced MP3s, because there's so much of it out there. Killing unwanted postings now takes up more of my time than stifling spam e-mail used to, and, judging from what I see going by, people are digitizing and sharing pretty much everything recorded since the invention of movies, from the 1890s through to yesterday's new release.
Just as with digital audio, the trend is inevitable. It can't be legislated out of existence. (There will always be ways for people to exchange files.) Eventually, some kind of on-line sales model will emerge, so the video industry has a choice: start selling its content electronically at reasonable prices soon or bleed profits for a few years and end up doing it anyway. It's déjà vu all over again.
Putting Eyeballs on Copyright Law
Civil rights activists and copyright reformers convened for a screening of the first installment of the landmark documentary Eyes on the Prize Tuesday night to send the message that it is "morally wrong" to deny people access to information and history.
Many of the 30 people (a handful of reporters among them) who crowded into attorney Don Jelinek's living room here worked in Mississippi and Alabama during the civil rights movement themselves -- registering black voters, staging sit-ins and marching, as well as getting harassed, shot at and jailed. These members of Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement meet monthly and decided to screen an illegal digital copy of the film when they learned that it was currently unavailable for broadcast or on DVD.
As Wired News first reported, Eyes on the Prize, which debuted on PBS in 1987, can no longer be broadcast on television and has never been released on DVD due to a tangle of licensing issues. When the film was first made, each piece of newsreel footage, photograph and song used in the 14-part series had to be licensed from its copyright holder. Due to limited funding, the filmmakers could only afford to buy rights to the material for a certain number of years, and now those rights have expired.
The unavailability of Eyes on the Prize prompted activist group Downhill Battle to organize screenings of the film across the country. About 100 screenings were planned for Tuesday in honor of Black History Month, according to the group.
In Berkeley, Eyes on the Prize: Awakenings, covering 1954 to 1956, was screened on a large PC monitor to the rapt attention of everyone squeezed into the living room. The film covered significant events in the beginning of the civil rights movement like the murder of Emmett Till and the Montgomery bus boycott.
"The events, images, narratives and songs of Eyes on the Prize were not written, created or performed by the corporations who now have the copyrights under their lock and key," said Bruce Hartford, reading from a statement signed by the 20-plus members of the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement group.
"These folks are burying our history," said Jelinek, who spent three years in the South working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, spending some of that time ducking gunfire. "Copyright law was never meant to interfere with the public's right to know. We expected that the experiences would be in the public domain.... The people who are barring this will have to pay a price."
Because only limited VHS copies of the series were available through libraries and schools, Downhill Battle directed people to download digital versions of the film (made by an anonymous group called Common Sense Releasers) using a peer-to-peer application -- that is, until a lawyer for Blackside (the production company that created the series) asked the group to remove links to the film from its website.
The setback didn't stop the screenings. Many hosts checked tapes out of the libraries and Tom Hunt, one of the co-hosts for the showing in Berkeley, downloaded the first film in the series before Downhill Battle took down the links.
Before the film, Hunt read a portion of Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives authors and inventors ownership rights for a limited time "to promote the progress of science and useful arts." Then he gave a brief overview of how the length of copyright ownership has been extended many times over, making it difficult for documentary filmmakers to "do history."
Like people in the film, which highlights ordinary citizens who worked alongside leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. in the movement, former civil rights workers in attendance spent the evening sharing their stories. Wazir Peacock, whose father worked on a cotton plantation as a sharecropper, talked about how he gave up a career in medicine to work in the Mississippi Delta registering blacks to vote. Peacock said he got involved in the civil rights movement after being outraged that grown black men were still treated like little boys by racist southern whites.
"It hurt me to my very soul," Peacock said.
Jimmy Rogers became involved in the movement while he was a student at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). He described witnessing the murder of white seminarian Jonathan Daniels in Alabama. Daniels' murderer was acquitted. He also worked alongside Sam Young, another student at Tuskegee involved in the civil rights movement, who was murdered at a gas station.
Blackside and other filmmakers who lent their talents to Eyes on the Prize are currently working to assess the costs of re-clearing rights. An estimate of such costs is expected within weeks. Blackside's attorney said the company wants to make the series available again.
Hunt said he was very pleased with the turnout and the message that the screening sent.
"It's showing how dysfunctional the current copyright system is," Hunt said. "It's in the way of the artists and their audience."
Until next week,
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