|17-02-05, 10:48 PM||#1|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - February 19th, '05
Quotes Of The Week
"It is my view that anyone with a Libertarian streak would support P2P file sharing. Our goal is to enable free speech and a free market for the exchange of ideas, art, educational material and digital media." - Greg Bildson
"It would take 10 hours to convert 10 hours of music in this manner." – Napster
"The performing rights organization BMI projects that the ring-tone market will more than double this year, to $500 million in sales." - Noah Robischon
"They're going to push music on them. It's just corporate America infiltrating the college campus music scene." - Jorge Gonzalez
"ChoicePoint maintains a dossier on virtually every American consumer." - Bob Sullivan
"The Stasi or the KGB could never have dreamed of getting a spying device in every household." - Andrew Pelling
"Eleven years ago, the tag was implanted in the usual spot behind the head, but it's heading for the tail at an astonishing pace." – Open Source
"Alcohol with a meal can lower the risk of food poisoning." - Anahad O'Connor
Apple's Subpoenas Challenged In Court
Lawyers for news Web sites targeted by Apple Computer asked a California court on Monday to block subpoenas seeking to identify who leaked information about unreleased products.
The subpoenas should not be permitted because Internet journalists deserve the full protection of the First Amendment that their traditional brethren have long enjoyed, the lawyers said in a brief filed in Santa Clara Superior Court.
These writers "cannot be compelled to disclose the source of any information procured in connection with their journalistic endeavors, nor any unpublished information obtained," the brief says. "The reporter's privilege applies to online publication and print publication equally." The brief was prepared by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and two local law firms.
In December, Apple filed a "John Doe" lawsuit against unnamed people who leaked information about the company's purported plans to release a product that would help to link Macintosh computers and musical instruments. In short order, Apple fired off subpoenas to PowerPage and Apple Insider, which had published reports about such a product.
"This information could have been obtained only through a breach of an Apple confidentiality agreement," the computer maker argued in court documents at the time. A lawyer representing Apple at the O'Melveny & Myers law firm was not immediately available for comment on Monday.
The subpoenas directed against PowerPage and Apple Insider raise the question of whether online writers, especially those who might be part-time or have other jobs, enjoy the same legal protections as their paper-based colleagues. California law shields journalists "connected with or employed by" newspapers, magazines, periodical publications and wire services from divulging their sources--but it doesn't explicitly mention Internet sites.
Online journalists "should enjoy as much protection as anyone," said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Va. "The size or nature of the audience doesn't really matter."
Leslie said that in the 1950s, during the early days of broadcast TV, "television reporters had to argue they should be included in the definitions" of who is a journalist. "Anytime there's an advance like that in communications you have to argue that you're doing the same thing" as print reporters, he said.
EFF and the law firms of Tomlinson Zisko and Richard Wiebe are defending three people who have been targeted by Apple: Jason O'Grady, a freelance journalist who also edits the Mac news site PowerPage; Monish Bhatia, who publishes the Mac News Network and provides hosting services to Apple Insider; and Kasper Jade, who publishes Apple Insider under a pseudonym.
This lawsuit is related to, but separate from, a parallel case filed last month in which Apple sued Mac enthusiast site Think Secret and other unnamed individuals, alleging that recent postings on the site contained Apple trade secrets.
Anti-Patent Protest Planned In Brussels
Software developers and company representatives are planning a demonstration in Brussels on Thursday against the possible legalisation of software patents in Europe, according to the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure.
The demonstration will coincide with several moves on the patent front. The German Bundestag will vote that day on a motion jointly introduced by all four parliamentary groups which demands substantial modifications to the Council's present proposal.
The same day, the EU Parliament is expected to make a formal request to the European Commission to restart the patent process.
The FFII is an organisation which has been campaigning against the introduction of software patents in Europe.
FFII spokesman Dieter Van Uytvanck said pressure from the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain had forced the postponement of a plan to have a vote the same day in the Council of Finance Ministers on the software patents directive that was proposed in May 2004. "This has led to serious dissatisfaction in the European Commission," he claimed.
Van Uytvanck said he was pleased with the Council's decision not to pursue its proposal, "But, we should remember that this is only by virtue of the brave national parliaments and the EU Parliament," he said.
"The Council and the Commission have demonstrated over and over again that they do not show the slightest respect for the European citizen. Over and over again, they continue to promote software patents with a complete neglect of the opposing voices from a large majority in the EU parliament."
The push for adopting the directive was halted in December when Poland backed away; subsequently Denmark also reportedly said it would join Poland in blocking the directive if it was sought to be pushed through.
It pays to push
EFF: Apple To Hold Off On Subpoenas
The Electronic Frontier Foundation said Wednesday that it has reached a tentative agreement with Apple Computer to delay subpoena requests until after a court hears the EFF's objections. Apple Computer is using the subpoenas of several Mac enthusiast sites and their Internet service providers to learn the identities of those who leaked details of forthcoming Apple products.
In an e-mail, EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl said that under the agreement, which is still being finalized, Apple's subpoenas would be due five court days after a judge rules on the EFF's request for a protective order to block the subpoenas. A hearing on the matter could come March 4, depending on the court's availability, Opsahl said. An Apple representative declined comment.
Apple, Sony Sued Over DRM In France
Apple Computer and Sony are to appear in court over claims that their respective music download sites have been deceitful and have forced consumers to buy products because they are tied together.
French consumer association Union Federale des Consommateurs-Que Choisir has launched legal action over the two companies' proprietary music formats, claiming that the respective digital rights management used by both Sony and Apple, which prevent songs bought from their online music shops from being played on other manufacturers' media players, is limiting consumers' choice.
The consumer group announced that it would take legal action against the pair after conducting interoperability tests last year between a selection of download services and digital music players. The group criticized the two companies' lack of interoperable DRM.
"The total absence of interoperability between DRM removes not only consumers' power to independently choose their purchase and where they buy it from but also constitutes a significant restraint on the free circulation of creative works," the group said.
Despite railing against Microsoft's similar locked-down stance on interoperability during its compatibility testing and indicating that the company was in its legal sights, UFC-Que Choisir has not filed suit against the Redmond, Wash.-based software behemoth.
The suit was filed against Sony France and Sony United Kingdom, as well as Apple's French unit and its iTunes Music Store. Apple's case will be heard in a Court of First Instance in Paris; Sony's will be held in a Nanterre court. Both cases are expected to be heard later this year.
Apple declined to comment. Sony did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
This isn't the first time the issue of interoperability in music has made its way through the French legal system.
Recently, VirginMega, a subsidiary of Virgin Group, brought an anticompetition case against Apple before the French Competition Council. The case was rejected late last year.
90 days in the hole
UA Student Incarcerated For Possessing Illegally Copied Movies, Music
A University of Arizona student has been sentenced in Mesa to three months incarceration in a movie and music piracy case.
Eighteen-year-old Parvin Dhaliwal of Mesa was accused of uploading digital copies of recently released movies and music. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas says the defendant pleaded guilty to possession of unauthorized copies of intellectual property, which is a felony. Thomas says the illegally copied material included movies that at the time they were copied were only showing in theaters. Besides incarceration, Dhaliwal also was sentenced to three years' probation, 200 hours of community service, and fined 54-hundred dollars. He also was ordered to take a copyright class at the U-of-A and to avoid file sharing computer programs.
No MP3 for you!
Norway Proposes New Copyright Law
The government has proposed a new copyright law to make it illegal for Norwegians to copy songs from their own CDs onto MP-3 players, but legal to do so for making a CD duplicate.
The proposal, intended to bring Norway's law in line with European Union rules, drew immediate praise from the music and film industry as well as criticism from opponents.
Even though Norway is has remained outside the EU, it is bound by most of the bloc's directives through the European Economic Area Agreement.
The new proposal would allow fines and a maximum penalty of three years in prison for violating copyrights and engaging in computer piracy.
The amendment, which requires parliament's approval, would make it illegal to crack security codes on DVD and CDs or to provide software or hardware for doing so, a news release said. It would still be legal for a person to make a copy of their own CD or DVD for private use, even if that means cracking the code, as long as it was being copied onto the same digital medium and not onto another one.
"For example, a CD's (security code) could be cracked to play a recording on a car stereo, since a CD-player would be seen as an appropriate medium," the news release said. "But the security code could not be cracked to copy the recording onto an MP-3 player, since such a device would not be seen as an appropriate for a CD."
Bill Gates And Other Communists
When CNET News.com asked Bill Gates about software patents, he shifted the subject to "intellectual property," blurring the issue with various other laws.
Then he said anyone who won't give blanket support to all these laws is a communist. Since I'm not a communist but I have criticized software patents, I got to thinking this might be aimed at me.
When someone uses the term "intellectual property," typically he's either confused himself, or trying to confuse you. The term is used to lump together copyright law, patent law and various other laws, whose requirements and effects are entirely different. Why is Mr. Gates lumping these issues together? Let's study the differences he has chosen to obscure.
Software developers are not up in arms against copyright law, because the developer of a program holds the copyright on the program; as long as the programmers wrote the code themselves, no one else has a copyright on their code. There is no danger that strangers could have a valid case of copyright infringement against them.
Patents are a different story. Software patents don't cover programs or code; they cover ideas (methods, techniques, features, algorithms, etc.). Developing a large program entails combining thousands of ideas, and even if a few of them are new, the rest needs must have come from other software the developer has seen. If each of these ideas could be patented by someone, every large program would likely infringe hundreds of patents. Developing a large program means laying oneself open to hundreds of potential lawsuits. Software patents are menaces to software developers, and to the users, who can also be sued.
A few fortunate software developers avoid most of the danger. These are the megacorporations, which typically have thousands of patents each, and cross-license with each other. This gives them an advantage over smaller rivals not in a position to do likewise. That's why it is generally the megacorporations that lobby for software patents.
Today's Microsoft is a megacorporation with thousands of patents. Microsoft said in court that the main competition for MS Windows is "Linux," meaning the free software GNU/Linux operating system. Leaked internal documents say that Microsoft aims to use software patents to stop the development of GNU/Linux.
When Mr. Gates started hyping his solution to the problem of spam, I suspected this was a plan to use patents to grab control of the Net. Sure enough, in 2004 Microsoft asked the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) to approve a mail protocol that Microsoft was trying to patent. The license policy for the protocol was designed to forbid free software entirely. No program supporting this mail protocol could be released as free software--not under the GNU GPL (General Public License), or the MPL (Mozilla Public License), or the Apache license, or either of the BSD licenses, or any other.
The IETF rejected Microsoft's protocol, but Microsoft said it would try to convince major ISPs to use it anyway. Thanks to Mr. Gates, we now know that an open Internet with protocols anyone can implement is communism; it was set up by that famous communist agent, the U.S. Department of Defense.
With Microsoft's market clout, it can impose its choice of programming system as a de-facto standard. Microsoft has already patented some .Net implementation methods, raising the concern that millions of users have been shifted to a government-issue Microsoft monopoly.
But capitalism means monopoly; at least, Gates-style capitalism does. People who think that everyone should be free to program, free to write complex software, they are communists, says Mr. Gates. But these communists have infiltrated even the Microsoft boardroom. Here's what Bill Gates told Microsoft employees in 1991:
"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today...A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose."
Mr. Gates' secret is out now--he too was a "communist;" he, too, recognized that software patents were harmful--until Microsoft became one of these giants. Now Microsoft aims to use software patents to impose whatever price it chooses on you and me. And if we object, Mr. Gates will call us "communists."
If you're not afraid of name-calling, visit ffii.org (the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure), and join the fight against software patents in Europe. We persuaded the European Parliament once--even right-wing MEPs are "communists," it seems--and with your help we will do it again.
Incendiary in Academia May Now Find Himself Burned
Prof. Ward L. Churchill has made a career at the University of Colorado out of pushing people's buttons, colleagues and students say, clearly relishing his stance as radical provocateur and in-your-face critic.
Whether it is getting arrested by the Denver police for trying to disrupt Columbus Day, which Professor Churchill has described as a "celebration of genocide" because of the deaths of Indians that resulted from European colonization, or ruffling feathers in the faculty lounge, hyperbole and bombast have always been ready tools in the Churchill kit bag, people here say.
Now many of the offended are pushing back. The storm of controversy that has blown up around Professor Churchill over his essay about the Sept. 11 attacks, with its reference to the Nazi Adolf Eichmann - the "technocrats" at the World Trade Center were "little Eichmanns," Professor Churchill said - has turned the professor into a talking point and a political punch line. On conservative talk radio, on campuses across the country, and especially here in Boulder, debate about Professor Churchill means debate about freedom of speech, the solemnity of Sept. 11 and the supposed liberal bias of academia.
Many people here say that the professor - with his scholarly record under investigation by the university l and with Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, calling for his dismissal - has become a symbol of academic expression under fire. Others worry that subjects like Sept. 11 have become "sacred," and cordoned off from unpopular analysis. Some say that the vitriolic debate itself is the message and that people have been transformed into mirror images of the man they love or loathe - little Churchills, as it were, who are just as entrenched, over-the-top and, apparently, eager to offend as he himself.
"Two sides are being presented without a lot of people listening," said Joe Flasher, 24, a graduate student in astrophysics. "You already have your opinion, right. So it's one person saying what they think and then the other person saying the complete opposite. It seems very polarized. But I guess it is the ultimate exercise in free speech."
Student organizations like College Democrats and College Republicans have skirmished over Professor Churchill, a member of the ethnic studies department. The Democratic group began a petition this week saying, "The attacks on Professor Ward Churchill are attacks on the academic freedom of the university." The Republicans, in calling for his dismissal, said that alumni should freeze donations and that parents should send their children elsewhere until political balance is brought to the professorial ranks.
"It's probably in their best interest to get rid of guys like that, but why hide what this place really is: a bunch of lunatic leftists," said Matthew Schuldt, senior vice chairman of College Republicans.
The undercurrent of the debate, faculty members and students say, is anxiety about how the outside world regards the university. A football recruiting scandal and several alcohol-related deaths among students over the last year created waves of bad publicity for the institution. Now some people fear that everyone will think the university is full of people like Professor Churchill, whose essay, which drew little attention at its publication after the attacks, gained notoriety when he was scheduled to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York last week. It suggests little emotion about the deaths of thousands of people on Sept. 11 and a cold logic of foreign policy analysis salted with terms that seemed calculated to enrage rather than enlighten.
"If he had just been a little more thoughtful, nothing would have happened," Uriel Nauenberg, a professor of physics and the former chairman of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said. "He did not have to say these things in the manner that he did."
Nonetheless, Professor Nauenberg said he did not believe that Professor Churchill should be forced out because of the essay, though he added that he personally found the expressions in the essay obnoxious.
Professor Churchill, 57, a Vietnam War veteran who became a lecturer at the university in 1978 and was granted tenure in 1991, has claimed affiliations over the years with many vociferous left-wing groups, including the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society and the American Indian Movement. He said in an interview that winning peoples' attention often meant not being nice. The United States' foreign and domestic policies, he said, are brutal, and the words to describe that can be painful.
"I don't believe in the theory that we get to treat people like dogs, but you have to talk to us in a polite way," he said.
Faculty members say that an objection to his writing style or opinions, however outrageous or unpopular, is not enough to justify firing him. The 30-day review of his "writings, speeches, tape recordings and other works," that was announced last week by the university's governing body, the Board of Regents, must find evidence of outright academic dishonesty, said R L Widmann, a professor of English and the chairwoman of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Boulder Faculty Assembly.
" 'I published a falsehood and I knew it to be untrue' - that's what they'd have to find," Professor Widmann said.
But the passions have led to some dishonesty. University officials said on Monday, for instance, that they were canceling a speech by Professor Churchill because of security concerns. The student organizers of the speech had received death threats because of their support for the professor, university officials said, and safety could not be guaranteed.
The students, whose names were not released, admitted on Tuesday that the death threats were embellished.
"They said, 'We were just being political,' " Ron Stump, the vice chancellor for student affairs, said. "We expressed our disappointment."
The speech came off without incident - and without any apologies from Professor Churchill.
Many students interviewed on campus in recent days said they feared that the lines being drawn around Professor Churchill were also creating boundaries about what could be freely and safely talked about in the United States.
"I think it's no longer about free speech - it's turned into this kind of thing that we can't talk about Sept 11, that it's kind of become a sacred issue," said Erin Langer, 22, a senior humanities major from Naperville, Ill. "People forget we're in a university setting, and the way ideas are challenged is by looking at an extreme view. The fact that he is so extreme challenges people to think more."
EU Restarts Review Of Contentguard Deal
The European Commission raised new doubts about Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and Time Warner Inc.'s (TWX.N: Quote, Profile, Research) joint purchase of anti-piracy software firm ContentGuard as it renewed a probe of the deal on Friday.
The Commission set April 7 as the new deadline to complete its review, at the same time raising questions about the way the software giant had conducted itself so far.
The probe was suspended in December until Microsoft provided more information to the Commission.
"Microsoft has provided the information which was necessary, we are examining the original deal," Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said.
The deal involves key patents for the potentially lucrative market in digital rights management software, which prevents the sort of swapping of music and movies that Web surfers once did through Napster.
Microsoft and Time Warner expected no problems in gaining approval but the Commission surprised them in August by opening an in-depth probe. It said Microsoft might gain or boost a dominant position in digital rights.
Thomson Joins In
The companies responded by bringing in France's Thomson as a third equal player. The Commission cannot review deals that are controlled equally by more than two companies.
Now the Commission is asking if the companies followed Commission rules when they brought Thomson on board by selling it shares in ContentGuard.
"The shares which were subsequently sold on to Thomson were acquired as part of the deal which is now under investigation," spokesman Todd said.
"The general rule is that normally you cannot use the shares until such time as the Commission has authorised the transaction," he said, stopping short of saying Microsoft had violated the rule.
A Microsoft spokesman said: "We remain in a constructive dialogue in this case."
ContentGuard of Bethesda, Maryland, is one of the world's key patent holders of software that protects digital media, including music, films and documents.
It was mostly owned by Xerox until the purchase by Microsoft and Time Warner.
Time Warner, the world's largest media company, has made it part of its mission to use the Internet to market its vast library of media, including Bugs Bunny, America Online, CNN and People magazine. Digital rights management is an essential part of that equation.
For Microsoft, digital rights management software will become an important component in its bid to compete in the digital music arena and to transform the personal computer into a hub for all digital entertainment in the living room.
Thomson, for its part, is in the process of trying to transform itself from a low-margin consumer electronics company into a high-margin provider of services to media companies and film studios.
New Copy-Proof DVDs On The Way?
Macrovision is expected to release a new DVD copy-protection technology Tuesday in hopes of substantially broadening its role in Hollywood's antipiracy effort.
The content-protection company is pointing to the failure of the copy-proofing on today's DVDs, which was broken in 1999. Courts have ordered that DVD-copying tools be taken off the market, but variations of the software remain widely available online.
Macrovision executives said that even if it's not perfect, the new RipGuard DVD technology can prevent much of the copying done with such tools and can help bolster studios' DVD sales.
"Encryption standards either work or they don't," said Adam Gervin, Macrovision's senior director of marketing, "Now the cat's out of the bag. (DVD sales) are going to be one of the main sources of revenue for Hollywood for a long time, so why leave billions of dollars on the table when you can do something about it?"
The company could be hard pressed to break into the DVD protection market, which has historically been managed by companies or industry groups closely associated with the Hollywood studios themselves. However, studios have been deeply concerned by the failure of today's DVD copy protection and may be willing to experiment with an alternative if it proves practical.
The original DVD copy-protection tool--called Content Scramble System--was developed by a technology coalition that included studio representatives. The tool is licensed by a group with close ties to Hollywood.
A new coalition, which includes Warner Bros., Walt Disney, IBM, Sony, Microsoft and Intel, is working on another content-protection technology for next-generation DVDs. That technology called the Advanced Access Content System, which is not designed for today's DVDs, is being designed to let movies be moved around a home though a digital network.
The group has said little about its progress since announcing the project last year, but companies involved have said they expect to have it ready in time for the first expected release of high-definition video on DVD late in 2005.
Meanwhile, Macrovision is promoting its alternative. The company, which has worked with the studios in the past, was responsible for the technique that makes it difficult to copy movies from one VCR to another, and it has updated that technique to help prevent people from making copies of movies using the analog plugs on DVD players.
The company is using a new version of that analog guard to create copy protection for video-on-demand services. That new guard will be included in TiVo devices and other set-top boxes beginning later this year.
Macrovision's new product takes a different approach to antipiracy than it has taken for analog or audio CDs. Gervin said Macrovision engineers have spent several years looking at how various DVD-copying software packages work and have devised ways to tweak the encoding of a DVD to block most of them.
That means the audio and video content itself requires no new hardware and isn't scrambled anew, as is the case with most rights-management techniques. Someone using one of the ripping tools on a protected DVD might simply find their software crashing, or be presented with error messages instead of a copy.
Macrovision's analog copy-protection business means that it receives pre-market versions of most major DVD players in order to test for compatibility, and it has been performing RipGuard DVD tests on these machines for months. As a result, the company says it is confident that discs encoded with its new product will be playable on all major DVD player brands and PC drives.
Gervin said that the technique would block most rippers, but not all, and could be easily updated for future discs as underground programmers find ways to work around RipGuard.
If adopted, the technology could be a welcome financial shot in the arm for Macrovision. The company has seen its revenue from DVD copy protection fall over recent quarters and has increasingly been looking to other businesses to make up for the shortfall.
The Unassociated Press
YOU may, in the course of reading this article, spot a factual error that made it to press. A certain bit of grammar may makes you bristle, or you may think the writing is biased. But by now the ink has dried; all you can do is send an e-mail message or a letter of complaint.
If this article had been published on Wikinews, a Web site begun recently, there would be something more you could do: change it, fix it, expand it or delete it.
Wikinews (www.wikinews.org) is an experiment in collaborative news gathering and reporting, and the latest in a collection of Wikis (pronounced WIK-eez or WEEK-eez) under the umbrella of Wikimedia, which cultivates free and open information resources written by its users.
The largest Wiki project, Wikipedia, has been online for four years and contains more than 450,000 articles, all written and open to revision by its more than 150,000 users. By comparison, Wikinews is a newborn, having opened its doors to interested news writers and reporters in December.
Central to Wikinews is its commitment to neutrality, said Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia and president of the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation. In a community that largely sets its own standards, Mr. Wales's policy of a neutral point of view may be the single most important driving principle.
Ilya Haykinson, a Los Angeles software engineer and contributor to several Wikinews articles, said that policy set the effort apart from some other citizen journalism projects, like Indymedia (www.indymedia.org), OhmyNews of South Korea (english.ohmynews.com) and news blogs.
The system's primary check is its transparency. Inspired, in part, by the success of open source software development, the writing process is completely public. Anyone at any time can compose a new Wikinews article, edit an existing one and see an inventory of all prior changes.
Mr. Haykinson, for instance, wrote an article on Dec. 11 about the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental campaigner. At least five people have since contributed revisions. One, filed about two weeks after the original, was submitted by a user identified only by his Internet protocol address. (Users have the option to register and log in.) It was annotated as having removed pro-environment, anti-Kenyan government bias.
For Wikinews proponents, the evolution of content is one of the system's strengths, and one of its challenges. The larger and more mature Wikipedia project is often cited by Wiki users as an example of how consensus can evolve into truth. But Wikinews articles do not enjoy the same luxury of time.
Larry Sanger, a lecturer in philosophy at Ohio State, who was involved in the creation of Wikipedia but is not affiliated with Wikinews, suggested that the Wiki system worked well for encyclopedic content because there were no deadlines. "But there are necessarily deadlines in news reporting, because news changes every day," he said.
Will a need for speed affect the incentive for volunteers to contribute? This is a concern of Erik Möller, a technology journalist in Berlin who drafted the original Wikinews project proposal. "Wikinews articles are short-lived, so there is a reduced feeling of contributing to a knowledge base that will last a lifetime," he said.
What contributors do enjoy is a firsthand role in helping to shape a self-organizing community that is still grappling with significant questions of structure. Sometimes news - the dioxin poisoning of the Ukraine leader Viktor A. Yushchenko, for example - unfolds in a series of developments. The Wikinews community is debating whether such continuing stories should be folded into one updated article, as in an encyclopedia, or published in a series, as they would be in a newspaper.
The project also aims to include more original reporting, as in the article "Unrest in Belize," which was written by the user Belizian based on his observation of the recent protests there. The item was the site's first scoop, appearing in Wikinews 12 hours before it was reported by a wire service, Mr. Wales said.
Above all, the central question about the Wikinews effort is its credibility. "Making a newspaper is hard," said Robert McHenry, former editor in chief of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Someone who wants to do it but doesn't really know how hasn't solved the problem by gathering a lot of other people who don't know, either."
Mr. McHenry was skeptical about Wikinews's ability to provide a neutral point of view and its claim to be evenhanded. "The naïveté is stunning," he said.
Despite the obstacles, the Wikinews community has produced more than 500 articles in its first two months. One contributor, Lennart Regebro, a consultant from Paris, said he was drawn by the opportunity to shape online news delivery. Another, Seth Matheson, a junior at St. Mary's College of Maryland and editor of the college newspaper, said he was interested in bringing diverse news sources together. And Wiki Wickramarathna, a freelance photographer and journalist from Sri Lanka, saw an opportunity for reporting on recent events from his location.
Ultimately, these contributors and others like them will define whatever it is that Wikinews will become, which is exactly the way Mr. Wales wants it to be.
Loki’s Map Leads MPAA on Road to Nowhere
“By Court Order [Edward Webber, former LokiTorrent owner] must provide the MPAA with access to and copies of all logs and server data related to his illegal BitTorrent activities, which will provide a roadmap to others who have used LokiTorrent to engage in illegal activities.”
The MPAA’s press release is chilling. Not only has the money donated to the legal defence fund disappeared into a black hole, but all former registered users of LokiTorrent are placed at risk of future lawsuits.
However, registered users will be relieved to hear that very little, if any, useful information will end up in the hands of the MPAA.
“They don't have anything, they have air,” an ex-torrent site owner told Slyck. He chose to remain anonymous. For arguments sake, we will call him Paul.
Paul also ran a Torrent site based on the same scripts and source used by LokiTorrent. They conferred regularly.
Referring to the website logs:
“Those access logs have no value it all. They only display whether you downloaded the .torrent file, not if you actually downloaded the content using that Torrent,” Paul explained to Slyck.
The Torrent file is merely a key; the MPAA can not prove that it was used in any locks.
Paul went on, “We both didn't log [seed and leech] information because first it would allow us to know too much about the people using the network and what they were sharing. 2nd it would require huge resources to keep track of all that. That's the tracker's job.”
At best, the information could be used in conjunction with other research to target “serial uploaders”. Much like the RIAA target those who share more than a set number of music tracks, the MPAA can now target those who have a history of trading Torrent files, although such a system would rely on static IP addresses.
But Paul does not believe that there will be enough information even for this.
“Logs files tend to grow at a rate of 1GB per day on this kind of site. Most site owners … either disable logging or purge the logs every few days. So there's little to no information for them,” he explained. “Perhaps Loki [Webber’s alias] even disabled his logging completely recently because of the large influx of new users.”
LokiTorrent did kept track of which Torrents each user had uploaded, but the information was stored in the database by username, rather than IP address.
The MPAA will find even less information in the logs for the trackers, which were also run by LokiTorrent. Unlike the website, the trackers do know who is uploading and downloading the actual files.
“Me and Loki both used XBTT as our tracker software. For a fact, XBTT is volatile, meaning that if you shut it down the active user list is immediately purged from memory and is NOT stored on disk,” Paul explained.
“The only thing they do know is who uploaded a torrent, but uploading and seeding is completely different. Even then, that information is only available for a few days [at most],” he concluded.
The MPAA would be able to gather more usage statistics and IP addresses by monitoring public trackers themselves. The announcement that they have acquired a roadmap to those behind file sharing appears to be nothing short of a scare tactic.
Paul also had a few words in defense of Webber, who has been accused of selling out those who donated to his legal defense fund, only to settle out of court.
“People should not think he ran with the money because he lost. Victory is not the only outcome of a costly lawsuit,” he said. “The gag order is the weirdest thing, it seems that it's purely there to prevent him from telling the truth.”
Actually there are many apps and protocols in various stages of development that provide protection, either thru encryption, misdirection, shielding thru proxy, replacing the ip with a hashed id, even DRM.
The Chord Project --http://www.pdos.lcs.mit.edu/chord/
And these are just a few.
True, most of these projects are stalled, mostly due to lack of interest, but they shouldn't be.
Also true that nothing can provide 100% guaranteed anonymity, but if you make the nut hard enough to crack, they go find easier prey.
The reason why people haven't been interested in these so far is that they sacrifice speed and multiple sources and swarming and other goodies for the sake of security.
There's no reason why people can't get involved in these emerging protocols, pick up the reigns and move forward with them.
And of course bit is useful, it's genius, just not for filesharing as we know it.
Grrrr. Angry parody site
You Can Sue, But You Can’t Catch Everyone
MPAA Wins File-Sharing Suit
The MPAA has a long way to go to reduce piracy, says Yankee Group senior analyst Michael Goodman. "In the end, it's a lost cause. It's understandable that the MPAA would go after these servers, because they can't just stand by and do nothing. But people determined to swap movies will just find a different way to do it."
"Overcoming Single Provider MPLS Limitations" by Stratecast Partners. Virtela's new multi- carrier MPLS Service Fabric overcomes the limitations of a single provider MPLS network by delivering a best-of-breed global MPLS network solution. Learn more by downloading Virtela’s free MPLS white paper.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has won a legal victory in its fight against file-sharing.
A U.S. federal court ruled that LokiTorrent.com, a large file-swapping site, can not operate, and its server logs must be turned over to the MPAA.
Once the logs are delivered, the MPAA will have the ability to use them to file suit against individual LokiTorrent users.
On the LokiTorrent site, the MPAA has placed a large headline reading, "You can click but you can't hide."
Under that heading, the group has included a message telling visitors that the site has been shut down permanently by court order because it facilitates the illegal downloading of copyrighted motion pictures.
"Illegally downloading movies from sites such as these without proper authorization violates the law, is theft, and is not anonymous," the MPAA message continues. "Stealing movies leaves a trail. The only way not to get caught is to stop."
The ruling against LokiTorrent is part of the MPAA's larger global effort. In November, the group announced that it would follow the recording industry's example and begin suing individuals for file sharing, along with companies that assisted them.
A month later, the MPAA took action against over 100 servers in the U.S., the UK, France, Finland and the Netherlands. Actions in the U.S. went to civil courts, while those in Europe were candidates for criminal prosecution.
The decision in the LokiTorrent case could be repeated in coming months, as other file- swapping sites face the MPAA in court.
Down But Not Out
The shuttering of LokiTorrent may be claimed as a victory by the MPAA, but the organization has a long way to go to reduce piracy, Yankee Group senior analyst Michael Goodman told NewsFactor.
"In the end, it's a lost cause," he said. "It's understandable that the MPAA would go after these servers, because they can't just stand by and do nothing. But people determined to swap movies will just find a different way to do it."
User behavior is shifting as sites get closed down, Goodman noted. Instead of using file- sharing networks, users increasingly are swapping movie files by e-mail or instant messaging .
"Pirates will always find a way," said Goodman. "That means the MPAA and the RIAA have a long road ahead of them."
I Hear You Knocking
OPEN Source understands Sharman Networks was "disinvited" from the Internet Industry Association's 10-year anniversary celebrations last week, as the peer-to- peer file-sharer was considered too controversial.
The company was expected to play a prominent role in proceedings but the organisers were forced to change their plans after objections were raised in some quarters.
Sharman and number of associated companies are in the midst of a high-profile copyright battle in the Federal Court over peer-to-peer file sharing software Kazaa.
A filter too far
OPEN Source was polling Canberra on conservative political newcomer Family First's idea of a mandatory ISP-based filtering system when the story was almost undone by, you guessed it, a filter.
Communications Minister Helen Coonan's press secretary promptly responded to our query with a helpful email on the Government's role in the war against net nasties.
Only one hitch, as it turns out: "I just emailed you some comments, and it has been picked up by our filter because it mentions the word porn," an apologetic press secretary said in a phone message.
"I've asked them to release it ASAP."
Which probably says all we need to know about filtering.
No chip on this shoulder
LIKEWISE Open Source remains wary of another hot technology. We have no plans to pop an RFID chip under our skin anytime soon. Especially when we ponder how far and wide our pooch's microchip travelled inside his essentially fully packed (indeed, overweight) body.
Eleven years ago, the tag was implanted in the usual spot behind the head, but it's heading for the tail at an astonishing pace.
Right now, it's lodged at the top of his left hind leg - took the vet 15 minutes to find it.
Many cans make light work
HOW many cans of Diet Coke can one man safely consume?
SAP Asia-Pacific president Hans-Peter Klaey appears to be determined to test the limits on this one.
When Open Source was invited to Singapore earlier this month for a SAP conference, we were impressed by the amount of soft-drink consumed by the Swiss-born chief.
In a one-hour press conference, five cans of the Real Thing were placed on the panel table and only three were left unopened at the end -- only one man was consuming the Nutrasweet-flavoured drink. When Open Source inquired about this feat, Klaey said in Europe the drink was known as "light" not "diet" and he had been on the stuff for more than 20 years. He added quickly that Pepsi was a great drink too -- and a big SAP client.
Entertainment Industry Attempts To Curb Piracy
Editor's note: This is part three in a three-part series. Names of students have been changed to protect privacy.
The MPAA and RIAA may not be able to herd all copyright-infringing file-sharers into court just yet, but locally, the University has taken measures to prevent students from using the school's bandwidth for p2p purposes to protect the student and the educational process.
Mike Corn, Director for Security Services and Information Privacy at Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services (CITES), warns that while students may think they might not be doing anything wrong or harmful, it is still illegal and possible to get caught.
"We make a real effort to not peer into network traffic in the interest of privacy," said Corn. "We do, however, receive copyright violations and notices from the RIAA. What they do is actively scan the internet for illegal file-sharing."
While he acknowledges that p2p networks are legal and do have legitimate purposes and that students do use them on the University network, he notes that the University of Illinois has received less violation notices than peer schools.
"The University policies are very clear that the UIUC network is really for educational research and teaching purposes," said Corn.
The CITES network has built in measures to prevent excessive bandwidth usage and curb piracy.
"Once you begin exceeding your quota, the speed of your connection to the Internet drops. If you're doing a lot of file sharing, you're going to be going at a slow pace and not do a lot of file-sharing," said Corn.
Jerry, sophomore in engineering, experienced this problem firsthand while living in the residence halls.
"I was sick of being on bandwidth warnings," said Jerry. He has since given up trying to download using BitTorrent while in the dorms.
His greatest problems came from trying to use BitTorrent for legitimate purposes. Jerry was using BitTorrent to download video game demos and patches, but quickly discovered that the nature of the program also meant that he was uploading to other users at the same time.
"I'm really pissed at Blizzard for using a BitTorrent client to release their patches," said Jerry referring to Blizzard's latest massive-multiplayer role playing game, World of WarCraft.
Corn explained that file-sharing presents a concern for the University network beyond just copyright issues.
"For file-sharing, it's conceivable that traffic could pretty much take over the network and damage our ability to be a research institution," Corn said. "Our primary mission here is to make sure you can get your coursework done."
While the critics and opponents to the piracy scene do claim that the actions of file-sharers hurt the industry, the digital pirates share a very different opinion.
"I basically use this to watch a movie and not pay for a rental and if I like it I still buy it," said Robert. "I don't feel like it's taking away from the movie industry."
"I still buy music. I still buy DVDs," said Brian. "There's a few movies I've seen that come out online way before and I tell my friends about it, and they all go see it."
"I'm sure it's hurting the industry and they're losing money, but then again, I'm not sure they need the money either," said Derek, who still purchases music, movies and television shows on DVD. "I don't think anyone is going bankrupt over it."
The future of file-sharing, piracy and p2p networks is uncertain except that none of them will ever fade away anytime soon. After the fall of Napster, more p2p programs appeared and pushed the scope of file-sharing even further. While the most popular file-sharing utilities don't obscure users now, several programs are already available that make tracing users virtually impossible.
Can anything be done to stop file-sharing, copyright violation and piracy in the near future?
"If the punishment was severe enough and there was enough collaborative effort to end it, yes," said Derek, but he is doubtful. "You have to have this huge force of people come and take over and seize these electronics and punish these people. It's very hard to do that."
And the topsite scene is nowhere near being defeated anytime soon.
"There's no way to gauge the scope of the scene," said Derek. "It's massive."
A solution to movie piracy could be providing alternatives to illegal downloads with legitimate services. Napster CEO Chris Gorog recently has made remarks about showing an interest in offering an online movie download system. Other legitimate movie download services are already available. The scene could be transformed in the tradition of iTunes, where the public once again pays to play.
"More people are going to want to start accessing movies online," said Brian. "It'll get bigger once more studios back it up.
Only one thing is for certain: nothing gonna stop the flow.
RIAA Seeking More Morrisville Music Pirates
The recording industry has again filed suit against anonymous, alleged music pirates it believes are located at Morrisville State College.
Eight record companies are seeking injunctive relief, attorney’s fees, and damages against two alleged music pirates known only by their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. The addresses identified with the alleged copyright infringement are registered to Morrisville State College. An IP address is a unique number that can identify which particular computer performed particular actions on the Internet.
The complaint, filed in federal court in the Northern District of New York, alleges that the two unknown defendants made copyrighted songs available for downloading without permission. Many computer users illegally “share” copyrighted songs over “peer-to-peer” (P2P) networks that provide free music in MP3 file format to anyone who wants to download it.
Plaintiffs named in the action are Interscope Records; Elektra Entertain-ment Group, Inc.; BMG Music; Arista Records, LLC; Warner Brothers Records, Inc.; SONY BMG Music Entertainment; UMG Recordings, Inc.; and Virgin Records America, Inc.
Several of these record companies filed a similar suit in October against two unknown music pirates operating from a Morrisville IP address. Those defendants remain unidentified, according to court records. A Liverpool resident named in another song- sharing copyright suit filed in December has reached a settlement with the recording industry, according to court records filed in the Northern District of New York.
The latest suit identifies the defendants as “John Does 1 and 2” and asks the court to allow it to serve Morrisville with a subpoena for its computer-usage records in an effort to identify the defendants. United States Magistrate George H. Lowe granted the companies’ discovery motion Jan. 31.
“The college is complying with all legal requests in relation to this matter,” says Jessica DeCerce, director of public relations for Morrisville State College.
Documents filed in the case identify an eclectic list of eight songs each defendant is accused of pirating. The list includes songs by Kenny G, Eminem, Wyclef Jean, Faith Hill, Busta Rhymes, Martina McBride, and UB40.
Investigators for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) downloaded copyrighted songs from the two unknown users at Morrisville, according to the supporting declaration of Jonathan Whitehead, RIAA counsel for online-copy protection.
“The RIAA could not, however, determine the physical location of the users or their identities,” says Whitehead’s supporting declaration filed with the suit.
Media theft is a factor in the growth of broadband Internet, Whitehead writes in his declaration.
“The infringers thus tend to subscribe to services such as DSL and cable modems, that are far more expensive than ordinary telephone services,” writes Whitehead. “One publication recently estimated that 50 to 70 percent of the bandwidth of cable broadband network was being used for P2P file copying.”
Morrisville State College is known nationwide as a technically advanced school. The college introduced laptop computers and wireless-computing networks before most other schools, earning accolades as the “most wired” school from computing magazines. The “wired” designation is an anachronism as Morrisville has even done away with its telephone lines, switching students to Nextel phones so they can Direct Connect when they’re not using the college’s computing network.
While song-theft is a popular online activity, legitimate music services such as the reborn Napster and Apple’s iTunes offer legal music for sale.
The recording industry uses lawsuits to show infringers that stealing is wrong, says Steven Marks, general counsel for RIAA.
“The great music created by hard-working writers, artists, and technicians continues to be stolen at an alarming rate through illegitimate peer-to-peer services on the Internet,” says Marks. “If the legitimate music services are to continue to grow and prosper, we must continue to let individuals know that they bear responsibility for illegally stealing the work of those who make the music and we need to educate them about the widespread availability of legal music sites on the Web.”
Committee Considers File Sharing
Syracuse University may soon offer an optional legal file sharing service to students in an effort to reduce illegal file sharing, according to university officials.
In September, Vice-Chancellor and Provost Deborah A. Freund formed a committee comprised of both students and faculty members to determine if SU should facilitate access to online file sharing services.
The committee completed their report in January, recommending the university offer a legal, low-cost online multimedia service by negotiating a preferred vendor agreement with a file sharing service, said Paul Gandel, chief information officer of Computing and Media Services and chairman of the committee.
"I started the committee because other universities had gone to preferred vendors and I wanted to find out if it was a good idea for us," Freund said in an e-mail.
Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Freund want to go forward with the committee's recommendation, Gandel said.
"We looked at the points that were made that we felt were great ideas for the training organization here in Computing and Media Services and we're running with those," said Deborah Nosky, manager of Information Technology Communications and Professional Development for CMS.
The committee did not decide on a specific file sharing service to negotiate a preferred vendor agreement with, nor did Gandel set a timetable to make that decision. The committee has not decided whether the service will be available to both on and off-campus students.
"We'll be talking to vendors to see what kinds of services they'd be willing to offer to Syracuse University," Gandel said. "We're just starting to work on exploring that - certainly students will be involved in that process."
One file sharing company that will be considered is Cdigix, according to Tony Bartocci, a senior in the College of Information Studies, a member of the file sharing committee and president of the Residence Hall Association.
"Ideally we want to be able to give the students on campus a chance to experience (legal file sharing) before we make a decision," Bartocci said. "We want to have it in some form by the end of the semester."
Since the committee does not yet know what service will be used, the size of the music library is currently unknown.
"The vendor will have to sign agreements with the music companies, and most often there won't be a full library," said Jorge Gonzalez, co-founder of zeropaid.com, a San Diego-based file sharing portal. "These companies will not be able to outperform what the world and what peer-to-peer will be able to offer."
Gonzalez said he is also skeptical of the quality of commercial file sharing services.
"They're going to push music on them," Gonzalez said. "It's just corporate America infiltrating the college campus music scene."
The committee made its recommendation after examining the different file sharing options available. The committee's decision was unanimous, Bartocci said.
"Most university committees - and this was no exception - essentially operated by consensus," Gandel said.
The committee decided to make the file sharing service optional, according to Gandel, because they wanted to leave students the choice of subscribing to another file sharing service without being required to pay for the university's preferred vendor.
"Some universities have done it as a fee where everyone has to pay the fee - so basically you're going to subscribe to that service whether you want to or not," Gandel said.
The file sharing committee also recommended the university educate students of copyright laws and the digital security risks of illegally downloading copyrighted material.
"Sometimes when you go to sites of questionable reputation or content you could download more than what you bargained for," Gandel said. "Sometimes you can get programs that can run in the background and turn your computer into a file sharing service without you even knowing."
Gandel plans to work with Student Affairs to provide information about the risks of illegal file sharing to students.
The committee also recommended that the university reconsider its enforcement regarding illegal file sharing by students.
"The consequences go beyond the university - there's a personal and legal risk," Gandel said. "The university can't protect students if they choose to take that risk."
CMS hopes that a low-cost file sharing service and increased education will help reduce the frequency of illegal file sharing.
"We feel that students will respond to reasonably priced, campus-based alternatives to other downloading practices," Gandel said. "The more we make those services available, the more students will take advantage of such services."
The Search For Digital Music Nirvana
IT'S the day after tomorrow – figuratively speaking – and you’re still a huge Radiohead fan. The band has – released a “preview” track from its upcoming album, and you've put in a pre-order via your prepaid card.
On the date of its release, the song is “beamed” to your cellphone, and you transfer it to your iPod player. You savour Thom Yorke's tortured vocals and the band's guitar-cum-electronica histrionics.
But you have some guilty pleasures too. You want the new Britney “comeback” single with that radio-friendly chorus, and you don't want your friends to know.
You do the same and begin to create your own, a la carte version of the week's best music.
Your next-door-neighbour, on the other hand, tries to get the Britney track for free via an illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) service. He gets the track and boasts about it to his wife and kids.
Two weeks later, he is threatened with possible legal action and his wife files for divorce on the grounds of bad taste ... but that's another story.
What a difference a couple of years and Steve Jobs can make to the music business. It seemed like only yesterday (when we were partying like it was 1999) that Napster ravaged the music industry, shaking the very pillars of its foundation, threatening to turn it into a rubble of free digital downloads.
It was raining songs in cyberspace for a while. Hard rock act Metallica, concerned by the popularity of free music, took legal action against Napster users – its own fans, in other words.
But before the doomsday clock could hit the big 12, along came Apple's iPod (in November, 2001) and the iTunes online music service, and the cancer of downloading went into remission.
iTunes replaced the Napster generation's renegade, s***w you mentality with a legitimate service.
Thou shall not steal
But it wasn't all Jobs’ doing. The record industry's slew of lawsuits against illegal music downloaders helped too, said John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive officer of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI), the organisation representing the international recording industry.
The move wasn't popular but it was unavoidable, he told the 1,000-odd crowd at the sixth MidemNet, an offshoot of the popular 39th Midem (www.midem.com) conference in Cannes, France.
“We sat back and let people steal for years. It was a painful experience, both emotionally and financially,” he said.
Kennedy said 7,000 people worldwide were sued in 2004 for sharing music illegally online, including a 12-year-old girl.
“There will be more (lawsuits) in 2005. We look forward to the day when they won't be necessary,” he added.
Kennedy said that these people could have avoided legal action as it was as easy to buy music online as it was to steal it.
“There's simply no excuse to steal anymore,” he said.
Midem is the annual five-day brainstorming/deal-making event for the music industry. As digital music rapidly transforms the music business, the fat cats of record companies have had to rewrite their business rulebooks.
The old-school ways of running the music business don't apply any more. The future of music is intertwined with the future of technology, and record companies are learning to work with the cellphone, Internet and software players which are now driving the industry.
Days of wine and roses
The forecasts presented by Forrester Research at last year's Midem continue to ring true.
The market research and analyst firm predicted that the music downloading market would continue to grow over the next three years and could represent a third of the estimated US$3.2bil (RM12.2bil) business in 2008.
iTunes (www.apple.com/itunes) itself has sold over 230 million downloads since its launch. The digital music market was worth about US$330mil (RM1.25bil) last year, a figure that will double this year, according to research firm Jupiter.
However, Public Enemy rapper Chuck D told MidemNet that record companies need to concentrate on “making a living rather than making a killing.”
Napster global president Brad Duea told British-based trade publication Music Week, “Digital services such as Napster have already reconnected many people who have either become detached from buying records or who have gone to illegal download sites.
“It would be foolish to put a hard and fast date on when digital (downloads) will outperform the other revenue and distribution models but it is quite possible within the next five years,” he said.
IFPI's Kennedy predicts that digital music sales will continue to grow alongside revenue from sectors such as mobile. “Fifty per cent of mobile premium revenues could be generated by music,” he said.
Mobile Entertainment Forum chairman Ralph Simon estimated that by 2008 a whopping US$11.2bil (RM42.6bil) in revenues would be made from music- related mobile entertainment content.
Vodafone's global marketing director of the consumer section Guy Lawrence however said that before that can happen, the music industry would need to “sort out the mess between publishers and labels and figure out who owns what, during the next quarter.
“The bickering has to stop,” he said.
Another additional moneyspinner for the music business is music on mobile phones, either downloaded from a PC or wirelessly over 3G (third-generation cellular telephony) networks. Cellphone ringtones are already a US$1bil (RM3.8bil) a year industry, said Lawrence.
Music on mobiles has yet to become mainstream but British operators like Vodafone (www.vodafone.co.uk) are already offering full-song downloads on 3G, while Apple and Motorola are designing phones that can play songs purchased from the iTunes music store.
“This is not about trying to kill iPod,” said Vodafone's Laurence. But the iTunes- Motorola phone “is not an industry-wide solution.”
“The cost of those devices is outside the industry norm. We'd have to think very carefully before we subsidise the cost of those phones for our subscribers,” he said.
No celebration yet
Now, that's a lot of potential revenue for the music business, but don't crack open the champagne bottles and light up those Cuban cigars just yet!
The critical situation may have subsided, but it isn't quite digital nirvana yet. IFPI's Kennedy said that the industry had not quite escaped the perfect storm yet.
“I do know that we will make it to the shore. The music industry has suffered enough in recent years,” he claimed.
Microsoft's MSN Marketplaces general manager and head of MSN Music (music.msn.com) Mike Conte put the so-called digital music revolution in its place. “It's been more of an iPod revolution than a digital music revolution,” he said.
“Even the most optimistic reckonings say that the digital music space is 2% of music sales right now. There is no point fighting over 2%. We all need to float more boats,” he said.
British-based Warp Records managing director Steve Beckett said, “It is possible to become obsessed with the future and find yourself not doing anything about the present.”
Dilip Mehta, managing director of Indian-based music company Saregama, said, “Like all disruptive technologies at the beginning, we still don't really know what they can do.
“However, we remain convinced that the digital medium will make life easier in the longer term,” he said.
Kennedy said that there were a lot of kinks that the music business still had to iron out.
“The prosperity of the music industry lies in the ubiquity of music. Any music, anywhere, on any device, on any format, for any consumer at any time – just as long as it is properly paid for,” he said.
EMI Music senior vice-president of digital development and distribution Ted Cohen said that incompatible Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology is preventing consumers from listening to music. He urged the industry to harmonise its efforts to provide ease-of-use and flexibility to consumers.
As it stands presently, an owner of an iPod can only purchase music from Apple's iTunes music store and nowhere else. An attendee at another Midem event said that “Apple doesn't care about selling music, it cares about selling iPods.”
Incidentally, Apple now sells more iPods than computers. The Cupertino, California-based tech giant said recently that it has sold more than 10 million iPods since its launch in 2001, and now claims a 65% share of the hard-drive- based portable music player market.
All you can eat
Subscription services like Napster (www.napster.com) and RealNetworks Rhapsody (www.rhapsody.com), which offer unlimited access to their music catalogues for a monthly fee of roughly US$10 (RM38), are going head-to-head against online stores like iTunes, which sells music by the track.
However, none of these services have been made available locally. No Asian announcements have been made.
As more music is available online, music fans will have the option of accessing “buffet-style, all-you-can-eat music” for a fee.
The reality is that “it will take dozens of millions of dollars to market the message to consumers,” said Sony BMG Music Entertainment's global digital business group head Thomas Hesse.
The now-homogenised Napster is going for the jugular. Once the bane of the music business, it is now fully legitimate.
“We're unconcerned about the installed base of iPod users,” said Napster chairman Chris Gorog.
“Our primary market is people who have not entered the digital music market. As soon as Napster2Go (which allows Napster subscribers to transfer their music to portable devices) is released, its (Apple's) market share is going to go down,” he said.
“The subscription model will be incredibly popular once people understand it and get their heads around it,” said Universal Music International's new media division vice-president Barney Wragg.
“The difficulty is that it's so radically different from what people have seen in the past. It's not like an electronic version of a record store,” he added.
As Chuck D summed it all up to the press later, “It's a complicated conference” reflecting a complicated business.
Web-Only Album Wins Grammy
Jazz composer Maria Schneider took home a Grammy on Sunday for her album "Concert in the Garden," without selling a single copy in a record store.
Schneider, 44, financed her Grammy-winning album through an Internet-based music delivery service called ArtistShare that opens the financing of production to dedicated fans.
Schneider said she believed she might be the first artist ever to win a Grammy for an album distributed solely on the Web. But she said that other musicians had already approached her about trying similar experiments of their own.
"It's been very gratifying for me. It's a new way for fans to be closer to artists and artists to be closer to fans," Schneider told reporters after receiving her award.
"They (fans) came into the project long before I completed my CD," she said.
Schneider, who was ArtistShare's first participating artist, said she had funded the cost of her original budget before she started recording, an anomaly in recording, particularly with jazz albums.
The "Concert in the Garden" CD was limited to 10,000 copies, with 9,000 available for pre-order to participants and 1,000 held in reserve for later auction, through ArtistShare.
"This record cost $87,000 to make. I already made my money back," she said. "I'm not splitting the profits with the distributor, the record store and the record company. It's working so well for me,"
To be sure, big record labels were also humming at the 47th annual Grammys on Sunday about the fast-growing digital music market.
Sales of digital downloads, while still a small piece of the overall music business, rose to more than 143 million tracks in 2004 from 19.2 million in 2003.
In 2004, sales of digital music players like Apple Computer's iPod exploded, and recording artists are also relying increasingly on revenue from other nontraditional sources like films, videogames and cell phone ring tones.
Apple’s iTunes Discounts Grammy Winning Albums
Are you a fan of John Mayer, Ben Harper, Motorhead or Green Day? Ever chilled out to Ray Charles, Norah Jones, Kanye West or Herbie Hancock?
Buying downloaded songs from these Grammy-winning artists is now funneling less cash from your bank account. Apple’s iTunes Music Store is offering discount pricing on all albums that include a Grammy award-winning track, slicing $2 off an album’s original cost, which brings the price of most albums down to $7.99.
“We want to extend our congratulations to all of the Grammy nominees and winners,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We’re thrilled to be able to honour the industry’s top artists by showcasing their award-winning music on iTunes Music Store.”
Also announced is the availability of the Grammy-telecast song “Across the Universe,” performed live by legendary musicians including Bono, Steve Wonder, Alicia Keys and Tim McGraw. The track will cost 99 cents on iTunes in both Canada and the U.S. Apple says all proceeds go to the Southeast Asia tsunami relief efforts.
The Grammy-linked announcement is an emboldened effort to wean MP3 fans away from peer-to-peer file-sharing sites. iTunes is already doing a successful job: as of mid-2004, it claimed 70 per cent of the paid music download services market while Napster nabbed just 11 per cent, according to NPD Group.
iTunes features more than one million songs and close to 9,000 audiobooks, and has sold more than 250 million songs since it went online.
CinemaNow Unveils a New Chapter in Television Viewing
A new chapter in content distribution is emerging. According to Lost Remote, CinemaNow has announced a partnership with NBC Universal to stream selected movies and TV shows on a per-episode rental basis, making it the sixth of the seven major Hollywood studios to sign-on – only Paramont/Viacom remains. While each partnership is different in regards to what content is made available, the new offering is a welcome format for CinemaNow users to view televison shows before they get released to DVD (that's if the studios even decide to).
“As the DVD market has proven, television content can find new life and new revenue streams through ancillary forms of distribution,” said Bruce Eisen, executive vice president of CinemaNow. “What CinemaNow provides, even beyond the traditional DVD release, is an opportunity for smaller, niche shows to reach their target audiences while also giving users the flexibility of per- episode rentals without having to pay for an entire box set.”
There's been much hype about people downloading TV shows using BitTorrent (which can be limiting if you don't have the technical savvy to utilize it), but if there was ever a legal alternative... CinemaNow's offering would be it. The only two things holding it back from being a success that I can see is: One, lack of CinemaNow users. Two, not enough premium TV content available. Of course, the second may soon change if the studios fully back the format by making all their hottest TV series available, but I'm not so sure about the user base.
Home networks and broadband content services still intimidate people, or even worse... consumers don't understand why they even need a network, as noted by a recent research study by Harris Interactive. But hope still remains. I think if CinemaNow wants to breakdown the barrier the company needs to partner with cable/satellite providers and integrate their service into the set-top box. Think of it as “enhanced” video-on-demand where cable/satellite subscribers can order past episodes (not to mention CinemaNow's entire movie rental library) through the interface they're already familiar with.
Thanks to Cellphones, TV Screens Get Smaller
New from the creators of "24": a spinoff series about a rogue Washington antiterrorism agent who is trying to infiltrate the Department of Defense. It's called "24 Conspiracy," but unlike "CSI: Miami" or "Law & Order: SVU," it is not broadcast on a different night, or on television at all. It is seen exclusively on Verizon's newest mobile phone.
Each of the one-minute mobile episodes (referred to as mobisodes) is specially shot and edited for the small, small screen. "Conspiracy," produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television, a division of the News Corporation, is one of three original series making their debut on Verizon's V Cast, a high-speed cellular phone network that delivers broadband Internet-quality video.
Mobile video is already popular in Korea, Japan and Europe. "24 Conspiracy" made its debut last month in England, where it costs 50 pence for a single episode and £9.99, or about $19, for the series.
V Cast, which began its service on Feb. 7, is the most ambitious wireless video offering in the United States to date. The network gives subscribers access to some 300 video clips, most from two to three minutes long. There are CNN news updates, ESPN sports briefs, music videos and jokes from the previous night's edition of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."
Cingular and Sprint currently offer video as well. The primary source of their content is a service called MobiTV, costing $9.99 a month, which makes more than 20 channels of television, including NBC News, Fox Sports and C-Span, accessible from compatible handsets. But Verizon's content is pushed through a significantly faster and more robust third-generation network known as EV-DO. That means the video on V Cast runs at closer to 30 frames per second, the same as broadcast television. Cingular and Sprint have both announced plans to upgrade their networks and begin selling EV-DO enabled handsets starting later this year.
The two other original V Cast programs, which were created by Twentieth Television , another News Corporation unit, are cut from entirely different genres. "The Sunset Hotel" is a scripted, and rather salacious, soap opera about a bartender and a call girl who meet at an upscale Los Angeles hotel. "Love and Hate" is an unscripted drama about a man who is going through a nasty divorce, and his sister, who is about to marry. A quasi-reality series, it mixes actors with non-actors, a style that Twentieth Television's vice president of production, Daniel Tibbets, calls "manipulated reality."
In the first minute-long episode of "24 Conspiracy," a Defense Department employee is lured to a hotel room and killed for his identity. The action unfolds in about the time it takes Kiefer Sutherland, the star of "24," to shoot the camera one of his smoldering looks during Fox's prime-time series. But Mr. Sutherland does not appear in "Conspiracy," nor do any of the show's other cast members. All 24 episodes were written and filmed by an outside production company.
Asking the series regulars to put in extra hours on an experimental side project was out of the question, said Gary Newman, co-president of Twentieth Century Fox Television, which produces "24." And there are the fans to think about, he said.
"We didn't want to put scenes in the mobile area that a loyal viewer of '24' would somehow feel they had missed because they didn't have the technology to adapt to it," Mr. Newman said.
Still, the pace, music and jump-cut style of "Conspiracy" will be familiar to viewers of "24." And attentive viewers of the television series might recognize an actor from the mobisodes walking through a scene, or hear one of the counterterrorism agents making reference to the alternate plot, Mr. Newman said.
The 26 installments of both "The Sunset Hotel" and "Love and Hate," which are shot on digital video, follow traditional dramatic story lines. But watching the 26 minutes in sequence will not add up to a broadcast-style half-hour show.
"All 26 of them really do contain the arc of an entire season," Mr. Tibbets said. "We just condensed each episode into one minute."
"The Sunset Hotel" is directed by Joseph Rassulo, an independent filmmaker, and written by Jana Veverka, who was a writer on the Nickelodeon series "Caitlin's Way." "Love and Hate" is directed by Guy Shalem, a producer of the television series "Worst-Case Scenario." Both shows are produced by Twentieth Television's Fox Labs division.
The experience of watching television on a tiny screen takes at least a minute to get used to. "When you're holding it 10 or 12 inches away from you, it doesn't feel too small," Mr. Newman said.
But, said Bob Cook, the president and chief operating officer of Twentieth Television, the viewing habits of the latest television generation demonstrate "what a constant source of information, entertainment and communication that hand-held device is."
Lucy Hood, News Corporation's senior vice president for content and marketing, who oversees mobile entertainment for the company, added: "You always have your phone with you. If you can pick up your phone and see one minute or five minutes of media that you enjoyed, that's a rich media experience in its own way. So that's what we're creating for."
The current audience for mobile television programming is tiny, in part because the wireless network that delivers it is so new. But the potential is clear. "We already know that people want to download ring tones," said Stacey Lynn Koerner, executive vice president and director of global research integration for the media services company Initiative. "Imagine they can now download music videos."
The performing rights organization BMI projects that the ring-tone market will more than double this year, to $500 million in sales.
Companies from TiVo to Texas Instruments are also planning to bring TV to the mobile masses. "A huge area of emphasis for us right now is the mobile entertainment space," says Mike Arrieta, senior vice president of Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment. To promote the sequel to the movie "XXX," set to be released in April, Sony will offer premium video clips that might include behind-the-scenes clips, outtakes or bloopers.
The inspiration for V Cast's episodic shows is a string of commercials for Taster's Choice coffee from the early 1990's, Mr. Tibbets said. Each one told a miniature story that ended in a cliffhanger. The next installment picked up where the last one left off. And just as Taster's Choice was out to sell freeze-dried coffee, mobisodes are a promotional vehicle too. "First and foremost we saw this as a marketing opportunity," Mr. Newman of Fox said.
For Verizon, it is a way to encourage customers to buy the company's latest phone and service - in this case, a $200 handset with a high-resolution screen. Along with the $35 basic monthly service fee, mobile viewers will pay an extra $15 per month for the V Cast service. Some of the video programming can be downloaded only for an additional fee that gets added to a monthly bill. Watching the Green Day music video "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," for example, costs $3.99. The same video can be found at no cost on the Web from Virgin.net and MTV.com.
With "24 Conspiracy," Twentieth Century Fox Television gets another conduit for attracting young viewers to its hit show, Mr. Newman said.
The creators of "Love and Hate" and "The Sunset Hotel" also say the shows put their company on the cutting edge of a new medium that could one day be a source of revenue, whether through subscription fees, pay-per-download or advertising.
In an era of giant flat-panel television screens, there is some irony in television arriving on its tiniest screen yet. "You've got half the population going out and buying 60-inch television screens, and the other half is pulling down content onto smaller and smaller devices like phones and P.D.A.'s and iPods," said Initiative's Ms. Koerner. "You have the need to have enormous immersive experiences, and you also have the need to take your own personal entertainment experience with you everywhere you go."
Sony Ericsson Set to Unveil Walkman Phones
Jan Strupczewski and Lucas van Grinsven
Swedish-Japanese mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson will launch digital Walkman phones in March to better tap into the mobile music market, seen as a top growth area for 2005, its head said on Monday.
"We are tapping into the Walkman heritage, reviving it," Chief Executive Miles Flint told Reuters in an interview, adding that more than 340 million Walkman music players have been sold since its introduction in 1979.
Prototypes of the new handsets were not yet available at the 3GSM mobile communications trade show in Cannes, but the announcement makes clear that the world's sixth biggest mobile phone maker and its wireless operator customers have identified music as major growth opportunity, Flint said.
Flint's comments come on the same day Nokia announced it had struck a deal with Microsoft to put Microsoft's Windows Audio player in Nokia handsets. In a bid to reach a wider audience, Microsoft also said it will use open standards for its compression and anti-piracy software in its audio player.
Some of Sony Ericsson's models already feature a digital music player, but the new handsets will have more music playing features and will get access to Sony's digital download service on the Internet, called Connect.
The new Walkman phones, which will be available early in the second half of 2005, will have large memory, good quality headphones and the ability to easily import tracks from a personal computer and other devices.
The Walkman phones will also be the first networked Walkmans to use open software standards for compression and piracy protection.
At the same time, Sony's Connect music store will also introduce open standard software to compress tracks and protect them against piracy, Flint said. Sony currently uses its proprietary ATRAC and MagicGate technology to do that.
"But Sony's strategy is evolving. Don't worry about (proprietary) ATRAC," Flint said.
Flint said that mobile services operators were the main force behind this drive to open standards, which gives consumers more freedom to buy music online and enjoy their legally purchased music on a wide range of devices, instead of a small selection.
"With this initiative we're not locking consumers into a proprietary digital rights management (anti-piracy) system, which is what operators want," he said.
The music-player handsets are to be "competitively priced" and are likely to work both with the fast 3G networks as well as the slower "always online" GPRS networks.
Sony Ericsson, the world's sixth biggest mobile phone maker, also announced two new 3G handsets with megapixel cameras on Monday.
The K600 will be a medium-priced mobile phone aimed more at the corporate user, Flint said. It has a 1.3 megapixel camera, which means photos taken by it can be printed in post-card size with good quality and will start shipping in the third quarter.
The other 3G phone, the Z800, will ship in the second quarter.
Motorola Unveils RAZR Successors, iTunes Phone
Lucas van Grinsven
U.S.-based Motorola unveiled a range of new handsets on Monday that will be built around its popular RAZR model, and showed a long-awaited music phone with Apple's iTunes music player software.
The popular RAZR ultra-thin flip phone which was launched last year will be joined by three more high-tech models, dubbed the RAZR black, the SLVR and the PEBL.
The black RAZR, nicknamed BLZR, will be available for the Oscars this spring. The SLVR, a model without a flip, will be thin like the RAZR with Motorola hoping to bring excitement back to monoblock phones, which have lost ground to clamshell designs.
Bigger rival Nokia has this year started moving a large part of its portfolio to clamshells after it lost market share in 2004 due to its focus on monoblock models.
The SLVR will come out in the third quarter, which is when Motorola will also introduce a round mobile phone dubbed the PEBL. Under Jim Wicks, who was elevated to chief designer last year, Motorola will develop two families of phones, one square and one round.
"We finally discovered the right direction," Amer Husaini, vice president for Motorola's mobile devices group in Europe, Middle East, Africa and South Asia, said at 3GSM in Cannes, the world's biggest mobile trade show.
Under new Chief Executive Ed Zander, Motorola has turned around its handset operations last year. It gained global market share to 15.3 percent from 14.5 percent, and more than tripled operating profits after introducing popular new models of which it could make sufficient quantities -- breaking with a tradition of problems with logistics and manufacturing.
While the new four-letter models will be for the standard second generation networks, Motorola also unveiled three new handsets and one datacard for faster third generation mobile networks aimed at multimedia consumers and computer users.
Many operators opened third generation (3G) networks to consumers last year, with 61 UMTS networks open by late 2004, connecting 16 million subscribers. Vodafone started selling 3G services to consumers in November in 13 countries.
Motorola will introduce the E1120 monoblock model with a built-in camera of 3 megapixels for high detail pictures, and the E1060 model which is aimed at music afficianados and which will feature iTunes Music Player of which Motorola said last year will become the default music player on Motorola handsets.
"We're committed to have iTunes as the default music client, but we'll also continue to support other music players such as RealPlayer (from RealNetworks), Husaini said.
Apple's iTunes Music Player has become popular on the back of the company's iPod music jukebox, which is the world's leading portable music player. Motorola phone users will be able to carry a limited number of songs in the iTunes format.
The A1010, available in the first half, will succeed the current A1000 3G phone, by adding more features. All phones will run on Motorola's own operating system, except the A1010 which will run on Symbian. More Linux phones are in the pipeline for this year, but it is not clear if they will be sold outside Asia, Husaini said.
The computer datacard will be able to handle the higher speeds that come with HSDPA networks, the improved version of UMTS that will be used by some operators toward the end of 2005. That is also when Motorola's card will be ready.
At the trade show, Motorola's network division is showing how HSDPA can boost the speed of a 3G network so that 10 songs can be downloaded onto a phone in less than a minute.
Motorola Announces Push-To-View Solution
Motorola announced plans to deliver a complete "Push-to-View" solution on GSM PoC (Push-to-Talk over Cellular) handsets. The "Push-to-View" solution will be the first Push-to-Experience application for GSM PoC handsets.
With Push-to-View, the first in the family of "Push-to-Share" applications, consumers can now see the presence state of their contacts and spontaneously share pictures, captured on their phone, quickly and easily. Whether at work or at play, GSM PoC subscribers will have the ability to send voice or image messages -- all at the push of a button*. For operators deploying PoC networks worldwide, Push-to-View capabilities provide a new real-time multimedia services data application that can lead to increased revenue and differentiation opportunities.
Push-to-View will be the first offering in a broader category of peer-to- peer file sharing applications slated from Motorola over the next year - including video, audio and other rich media - all designed to further extend the concept of one- touch communications.
*Push to Talk ("PTT") and the other features indicated are network and subscription dependent features, and are not available in all areas. PTT connectivity requires PTT compatible phones.
"Motorola is driving the 'Push-to' revolution by creating new and different experiences for consumers worldwide," said Joel Holl, Director, GSM PTT Products, Motorola. "By continually expanding what's possible with this technology, we're enabling consumers to connect to the people and information that mean the most to them, quickly, easily, and intuitively."
Nokia Makes Deal to Use Microsoft's Music Formats
Nokia and Microsoft, which have a history as rivals, have decided to work together when it comes to mobile music.
Nokia, the leading cellphone manufacturer and a longtime Microsoft competitor in mobile phone software, said Monday that it had agreed to use Microsoft's music formats on its handsets.
And in another advance for mobile music, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications said it would make Sony Walkman-brand cellphones that would work with customers' digital music collections on their personal computers, as well as connect with music downloading services.
The companies made their announcements at the 3GSMWorld Congress, a cellphone trade show here. They forecast a huge increase in the number of people using their cellphones to listen to music, especially with the growth of faster, or third-generation, cellphones.
At the moment, digital music is largely carried on portable players that are intended strictly for music, like the iPod made by Apple Computer. But hardware, software, music and phone companies agree that there is a mass market - particularly among young people - for music on demand that is sent over the air to cellphones.
The bandwidth of high-speed networks "will make mobile music work for the consumer," Miles Flint, Sony Ericsson's president, said.
The Windows Media Player, the program Nokia is licensing for its phones, is already a leading software program for listening to music on personal computers.
Until now, Nokia has been using an internally developed program or music software made by RealNetworks.
"This is a big shift by Nokia," said Ben Wood, telecommunications analyst at Gartner. "Nokia is conceding they can't do everything themselves."
Nokia and Microsoft use rival software for the operating systems that run cellphones. They have been on opposite sides in other areas, notably the European Commission antitrust case against Microsoft last year over sales of its operating system.
Also on Monday, Microsoft announced that Flextronics International would make low-cost cellphones with Windows Mobile, the software that competes with Nokia's Series 60 operating system made by Symbian.
Amir Majidimehr, corporate vice president of Windows Digital Media, said Nokia and Microsoft had begun discussions on the mobile music deal about four months ago.
Nokia said the cooperation had come out of long-term work by both companies on industry forums to widen the use of open standards.
Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia executive vice president for multimedia, said the agreement on music software could lead to future partnerships.
Nokia also said that it had agreed to license Microsoft's e-mail synchronization system, called ActiveSync, to permit its business customers to use their Windows e-mail software on the road from their phones.
Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.
Nokia is also a partner with Loudeye, a digital media services company, on a mobile music service that will be sold to wireless carriers. Loudeye already supports Microsoft's Windows Media Player and WMA sound format, and will support the Advanced Audio Coding format for mobile use.
For Sony Ericsson, a joint venture based in London, the decision to make Walkman phones was less surprising, said Mr. Wood, the Gartner analyst. "It's a logical progression for Sony," he said.
Sony Ericsson, a leading manufacturer in Europe but a laggard in North America, expects to show the first Walkman phones in March. They will be compatible with the Sony Connect download service, as well as others, Mr. Flint, the Sony Ericsson president, said.
Nokia, Microsoft and Sony Ericsson are among those trying to horn in on Apple's success with the iPod, which works with Apple's iTunes software. A Motorola cellphone with iTunes is planned for the spring.
While the companies see a large demand for mobile music, they also see a place for the computer.
"I don't think the PC will ever be left out of the equation," Mr. Vanjoki of Nokia said. The computer's keyboard, mouse and large storage capacity are advantages over cellphones, he noted.
"I think this shows that there will still be one Internet but different devices using it in different ways," he said.
At the other end of the scale, Motorola announced plans on Monday to produce a low-priced handset for developing countries in conjunction with the GSM Association, a co-sponsor of this week's show.
The cellphone industry is looking at unit sales of more than 600 million this year. On Monday, Nokia forecast that high-speed networks around the world would have 70 million subscribers by the end of 2005, up from about 16 million last year.
Cellphones Get a New Job Description: Portable Scanner
IT'S a concept the fictional spy Maxwell Smart would adore: the means to transform the diminutive camera in your cellphone into a portable document scanner.
Imagine discreetly photographing contracts, notes jotted on a whiteboard or other handwritten information while on a research mission or a sales call, and later converting them into a format for processing, either in hard copy or on your computer.
That's what scientists at Xerox Research Center Europe in Grenoble, France, envisioned when they developed mobile document imaging software, which should reach the market later this year.
The technology works with camera phones that have a resolution of at least one megapixel to create digital images of documents or presentations. It checks and corrects for blurriness and shadows, then compresses the image into a file that can be transmitted to a fax machine, to another phone or to a computer via a multimedia messaging service - MMS - or Bluetooth wireless technology. The images can be printed later.
"When we give it to test users, they appreciate it easily," said Christopher Dance, senior scientist and image processing manager for Xerox Research Center Europe. "Even the simplest of applications, just sharing the documents and storing the documents you have captured. You could even handwrite a message and send it to someone's phone."
Xerox is talking with potential licensees through its licensing agent, IPValue Management, and the technology, which is patented, could find its way into users' hands by midyear. Among potential licensees are handset manufacturers, wireless carriers and developers of document-management software.
The Xerox software works in a four-step process. To create an image of an 81/2-by-11-inch piece of paper, you have to hold the camera roughly one foot away from the document and photograph it. Mr. Dance said it is difficult to capture smaller documents - a business card, for example - because the lenses in most phones don't focus well at closer distances.
Once an image is captured, you can fix blurriness and convert it to black and white. Next you might need to adjust contrast and eliminate shadows or reflections caused by certain types of papers or document surfaces. Finally the image is compressed using a format known as Fax Group 4, or G4. An image that started as 200 kilobytes in size, for example, could be squeezed down to 20 kilobytes. Mr. Dance said that with such compression, a phone could store about 10 page images in the space that it would take to store one digital photo.
Xerox researchers believe the technology will be useful for just about anyone with a job that requires research in the field. The theory is that someone attending a trade show or conference, for example, could capture and store pertinent documents in their cellphone.
Mr. Dance reasoned that most people are unlikely to want to view those images on the tiny screen, and will instead transfer them to a computer, where they could be converted into editable text using optical character recognition software, which is often included with desktop scanners. Others might want to send a document image as an MMS message to a business associate or family member.
Paul Withington, a manager with the research firm IDC who has seen the technology in use, envisions both personal and business applications, especially in professions still dependent on paper. An architect visiting a construction site, for example, could jot notes on a blueprint, photograph them and send the image to colleagues as an e-mail attachment, or directly to a fax machine. An insurance agent could document a contract in the field and download it later to a computer for archiving.
"To my mind, any mobile professional who spends a lot of time on the road would have an application," Mr. Withington said.
"It's one of those products that doesn't need a critical mass of users to become useful," he added. "That's because the image is independent of any particular phone or software application."
Xerox researchers are also working on complementary technology for cataloging these and other digital images. Although it's part of a different research project that hasn't come to fruition, the technology will sort through and group images using histograms, which chart the pixels associated with a particular part of a digital photograph. In some instances, text descriptions will be tied to these histograms.
One possible use might be field research: a student could take a picture of an object or animal, and then check the compressed image against a search engine for more information about its identity.
The Xerox mobile document imaging projects were actually born a half-dozen years ago as an offshoot of work the company's scientists were doing with videoconferencing cameras. Several factors made it difficult to apply the technology to mobile applications, including the amount of memory available in cellular phones. The most serious limitation was the resolution of available digital cameras.
Analysts believe, however, that this will be a breakthrough year. Alex Slawsby, senior analyst for mobile devices at IDC, estimated that roughly 89 million mobile phones with cameras will be sold this year in the United States. About 40 percent will have a resolution of one megapixel or greater, he said.
"The Xerox technology will actually be important in coming up with solutions that really utilize camera phones," he said.
Mr. Dance has been using the software on the job to capture brainstorming notes from whiteboards. He also found himself reaching for his phone to photograph notices and schedules on the bulletin boards at his son's school, which he promptly e-mailed to his wife to check against their master calendar, and to make a copy of a sales proposal drafted in his office.
Study: Regulating Patents Will Not Stop Biopiracy
A drive by developing nations to regulate access to rare plant genes -- used in drugs and perfumes worth billions of dollars -- will not stop "biopiracy" and may deter foreign investment, a trade expert said in a report Tuesday.
The report was released in Bangkok where 188 governments and parties to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) were holding five days of talks on a new global regime governing the use of genetic resources.
"The stakes are fairly high," said Alan Oxley, chairman of Australia's APEC Study Center who wrote the 17-page report which argues that fiddling with patent laws will not stop gene thieves.
Poor nations want a binding agreement to ensure they get a share of the profits from any plant taken out of their country that ends up in a best-selling drug, cosmetic or health food.
One way of doing this is to regulate the system of international patents to prevent theft of genetic resources.
Green groups say indigenous communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America are often victims of "biopiracy," when companies or research institutes develop crops or treatments from plant varieties without rewarding the local people who originally bred them.
Some studies suggest 25 percent of all prescription drugs sold in the United States are derived from genetic resources.
The best way to control biopiracy was to set up a system of market-based contracts where companies or researchers paid for the right to search and collect genetic resources, said Oxley, a former trade ambassador.
Restricting patents would mean less fee income from "bio-prospecting" in developing countries, and less money for local communities, he said.
"Companies would not invest in research and development if they did not know if they could use new products based on patents," Oxley said.
Adopted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the CBD aims to conserve the planet's diversity, or variety of life, ensure the sustainable use of genetic resources and regulate a fair distribution of benefits.
In 2002, the parties approved voluntary guidelines advising governments on how to give researchers and companies access to genetic resources and ensure that those who own them or passed on their traditional knowledge shared in the benefits. Developing countries now want to give those guidelines some teeth in Bangkok to ensure they share in the wealth.
"Access has never been interrupted. It has always been, but it must be reciprocated, or it risks being discontinued," Ethiopian chief delegate Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher said.
Rich nations worried about access and patents say the effects of the 2002 guidelines, which some countries have implemented gradually, need to be studied before taking the next step.
"Without access there cannot be any benefits to share," the head of the Dutch delegation said in his opening remarks.
Oxley said any move against patents and intellectual property rights would face strong opposition from industrialized countries where most big drug, agriculture and cosmetics firms are based.
"It's clear some countries are uncomfortable. They are politely saying they really don't want this," he said.
He expected the 17 mega-diverse nations -- a bloc of developing countries rich in species and led by India and Brazil -- to get enough support to put their proposals on the agenda of the next full CBD meeting in 2006.
But with so many contentious political, economic and legal issues to work through, the chances of any consensus emerging from the talks which end Friday are remote, organizers say.
"There will be a bit of searching here. If we get an agreement on what we will be negotiating, that in itself would be a breakthrough," said Olivier Jalbert, CBD deputy executive secretary.
*** $1,825,000.00 ***
Italian DJ Fined For Music Piracy
An Italian DJ has been fined a record 1.4 million euros (970,000 pounds) for using thousands of pirate music files in a nightclub near Rome, police say.
Police in the town of Rieti, near Rome, said on Wednesday they raided a popular nightclub earlier this week as part of a crackdown on piracy and seized 500 illegally copied music videos and more than 2,000 MP3 music files.
Police said the files belonged to a "well-known" Italian DJ.
"For the MP3 files, which were kept on the DJ's personal computer, the DJ has received a fine of 1.4 million euros," Rieti finance police said in a statement.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said the fine was the biggest ever slapped on an individual for unlawful music copying and the use of copyrighted music in the MP3 format.
More than 7,000 legal actions have been launched against alleged uploaders in the United States, Canada and countries in Europe as the music industry fights to stop piracy which it blames for a decline over a number of years in CD sales.
|17-02-05, 10:49 PM||#2|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Resignation at CNN Shows the Growing Influence of Blogs
Katharine Q. Seelye
This article was reported by Katharine Q. Seelye, Jacques Steinberg and David F. Gallagher.
With the resignation Friday of a top news executive from CNN, bloggers have laid claim to a prominent media career for the second time in five months.
In September, conservative bloggers exposed flaws in a report by Dan Rather; he subsequently announced that on March 9 he would step down as anchor of the "CBS Evening News." On Friday, after nearly two weeks of intensifying pressure on the Internet, Eason Jordan, the chief news executive at CNN, abruptly resigned after being besieged by the online community. Morever, last week liberal bloggers forced a sketchily credentialed White House reporter to quit his post.
For some bloggers - people who publish the sites known as Web logs - it was a declaration that this was just the beginning. Edward Morrissey, a call center manager who lives near Minneapolis and has written extensively about the Jordan controversy, wrote on his blog, Captain's Quarters (captainsquartersblog.com): "The moral of the story: the media can't just cover up the truth and expect to get away with it - and journalists can't just toss around allegations without substantiation and expect people to believe them anymore."
Mr. Jordan, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in late January, apparently said, according to various witnesses, that he believed the United States military had aimed at journalists and killed 12 of them. There is some uncertainty over his precise language and the forum, which videotaped the conference, has not released the tape. When he quit Friday night, Mr. Jordan said in a statement that, "I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists."
Some of those most familiar with Mr. Jordan's situation emphasized, in interviews over the weekend, that his resignation should not be read solely as a function of the heat that CNN had been receiving on the Internet, where thousands of messages, many of them from conservatives, had been posted.
Nonetheless, within days of his purported statement, many blog sites were swamped with outraged assertions that he was slandering American troops. In an e-mail message yesterday, Mr. Jordan declined to be interviewed.
But while the bloggers are feeling empowered, some in their ranks are openly questioning where they are headed. One was Jeff Jarvis, the head of the Internet arm of Advance Publications, who publishes a blog at buzzmachine.com. Mr. Jarvis said bloggers should keep their real target in mind. "I wish our goal were not taking off heads but digging up truth," he cautioned.
At the same time, some in the traditional media are growing alarmed as they watch careers being destroyed by what they see as the growing power of rampant, unedited dialogue.
Steve Lovelady, a former editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal and now managing editor of CJR Daily, the Web site of The Columbia Journalism Review, has been among the most outspoken.
"The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail," he lamented online after Mr. Jordan's resignation. He said that Mr. Jordan cared deeply about the reporters he had sent into battle and was "haunted by the fact that not all of them came back."
Some on line were simply trying to make sense of what happened. "Have we entered an era where our lives can be destroyed by a pack of wolves hacking at their keyboards with no oversight, no editors, and no accountability?" asked a blogger named Mark Coffey, 36, who says he works as an analyst in Austin, Tex. "Or does it mean that we've entered a brave new world where the MSM has become irrelevant," he asked, using blogger shorthand for mainstream media.
His own conclusion is that the mainstream media "is being held to account as never before by the strong force of individual citizens who won't settle for sloppy research and inflammatory comments without foundation, particularly from those with a wide national reach, such as Rather and Eason."
It was a businessman attending the forum in Davos who put Mr. Jordan's comments on the map with a Jan. 28 posting. Rony Abovitz, 34, of Hollywood, Fla., the co- founder of a medical technology company, was invited to Davos and was asked to write for the forum's first-ever blog, his first blogging effort. In an interview yesterday, he said that he had challenged Mr. Jordan's assertion that the United States was taking aim at journalists and asked for evidence.
Mr. Abovitz asked some of the journalists at the event if they were going to write about Mr. Jordan's comments and concluded that they were not because journalists wanted to protect their own. There was also some confusion about whether they could, because the session was officially "off the record."
Mr. Abovitz said the remarks bothered him, and at 2:21 a.m. local time, he posted his write-up on the forum's official blog (www.forumblog.org) under the headline "Do U.S. Troops Target Journalists in Iraq?"
He did not think it would get much attention. But Mr. Jordan's comments zipped around the Web and fired up the conservative bloggers, who saw the remarks attributed to Mr. Jordan as evidence of a liberal bias of the big American news media.
"I think he was attacked because of what he represented as much as what he said," said David Gergen, who moderated the panel at Davos and who has served in the White House for administrations of both parties. He said he was troubled by the attacks on Mr. Jordan and said that his resignation was a mark of the increasing degree to which the news media were being drawn into the nation's culture wars.
While over the years Mr. Jordan had helped vault CNN to some of its most celebrated triumphs - it was largely through his diplomatic efforts that CNN was able to broadcast the first live footage from the first Gulf War, in 1991 - he also drew criticism. In one case, he wrote an article for the Op-Ed page of The New York Times in April 2003, saying that CNN had essentially suppressed news of brutalities so the network could maintain access and protect its people in Iraq.
Through the latest uproar, the substance of Mr. Jordan's initial assertion about the military targeting journalists was largely lost. Those who worked closely with Mr. Jordan at CNN, as well as on behalf of other news organizations, said he was aggressive and passionate about making life safer for journalists working in Iraq.
Ann Cooper, executive director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that 36 journalists, plus 18 translators who worked for journalists, had been killed in Iraq since 2003. Of those 54, she said, at least nine died as a result of American fire.
"From our standpoint, journalists are not being targeted by the U.S. military in Iraq," Ms. Cooper said. "But there certainly are cases where an atmosphere of what, at best, you can call indifference has led to deaths and other problems for journalists."
As an example, Ms. Cooper cited the shelling by American troops of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, well known as the residence of journalists, in April 2003, killing two journalists. .
But the notion that journalists are "targeted" by the military did not first emerge with Mr. Jordan at Davos. Nik Gowing, a presenter, or anchor, for the BBC, has advanced the theory in writings and speeches that because the media can now convey instantaneously what is happening in a war zone, military commanders may find journalists a hindrance. The Pentagon has dismissed such theories.
In any case, on Feb. 2, Rebecca MacKinnon, who worked under Mr. Jordan when she was a producer and bureau chief at CNN, and organized the blog from Davos, contacted him after seeing that conservative blogs had picked up on his remarks.
"I e-mailed him and said the same people who were after Rather appear to be after you," said Ms. MacKinnon, now a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
Later that evening, she posted a response from Mr. Jordan, who wrote that on the panel he had meant to say that when journalists are aimed at and shot, as opposed to being killed by wayward bombs, "such a killing is a tragic case of mistaken identity, not a case of 'collateral damage.' "
At about the same time, CNN became aware that trouble was brewing online, and in the wake of Mr. Rather's downfall, it tried to try to head off the storm. When he returned to Florida on Feb. 2 from the conference, Mr. Abovitz said he had messages from Mr. Jordan and from CNN. He sent an inquiry back to CNN but said he did not get a response.
Also that day, CNN's public information division sent an unsolicited e-mail message to many of those who were writing about the controversy. Someone at CNN apparently posted the same statement on several blogs.
The message, which was unsigned, read: "Many blogs have taken Mr. Jordan's remarks out of context. Eason Jordan does not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists. Mr. Jordan simply pointed out the facts: While the majority of journalists killed in Iraq have been slain at the hands of insurgents, the Pentagon has also noted that the U.S. military on occasion has killed people who turned out to be journalists. The Pentagon has apologized for those actions."
Christa Robinson, senior vice president for public relations for CNN, said that CNN sent the statement to those who sent e-mail messages to CNN or had written about Mr. Jordan online. Asked if the network was consciously seeking to head off the protracted criticism that devoured Mr. Rather last fall, Ms. Robinson said that the network was acknowledging the speed with which news now travels.
Mr. Morrissey of Captain's Quarters said he was surprised to receive the message. "I'm sure that what they were trying to do was get people to stop talking about it," he said.
The only way for the network to really clear up the controversy, he and others said, would have been to push for the release of the videotape of Mr. Jordan's remarks.
Ms. Robinson of CNN said that the network had no transcript of the session or a videotape because the conference organizers said that they considered the session off the record. She said that the content of Mr. Jordan's remarks was not in dispute, but that assertion has not satisfied those critics on the Internet who contend Mr. Jordan and CNN have something to hide.
The online attack of Mr. Jordan, particularly among conservative commentators, appeared to gain momentum when they were seized on by other conservative outlets. A report on the National Review Web site was followed by editorials in The Washington Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as by a column in The New York Post by Michelle Malkin (a contributor for Fox News, CNN's rival).
Mr. Abovitz, who started it all, said he hoped bloggers could develop loftier goals than destroying people's careers. "If you're going to do this open-source journalism, it should have a higher purpose," he said. "At times it did seem like an angry mob, and an angry mob using high technology, that's not good."
I get up when I want, except on Wednesdays, when I get rudely wakened by the dustmen.
City plants spy chips to monitor residents' trash
Coming To A Bin Near You, The Spy That Tells How Much Rubbish You Create
Though he foresaw many ways in which Big Brother might watch us, even George Orwell never imagined that the authorities would keep a keen eye on your bin.
Residents of Croydon, south London, have been told that the microchips being inserted into their new wheely bins may well be adapted so that the council can judge whether they are producing too much rubbish.
If the technology suggests that they are, errant residents may be visited by officials bearing advice on how they might "manage their rubbish more effectively".
In the shorter term the microchips will be used to tell council officers how many of the borough's 100,000 bins the refuse collectors have emptied and how many have been missed.
While the move will be welcomed by environmentalists, it has sparked a row between the Labour-led council and Andrew Pelling, the Conservative who represents the area on the London assembly. He has tagged the microchips the "spy in your bin".
Mr Pelling said: "The Stasi or the KGB could never have dreamed of getting a spying device in every household."
He said the technology might yield information which could be misused.
"If, for example, computer hackers broke in to the system, they could see sudden reductions in waste in specific households, suggesting the owners were on holiday and the house vacant."
But a spokesman for Croydon council said the fears were unjustified. "What we don't want is people putting into their wheely bins tins and glass and paper and textiles, all of which could go into recycling bins. It is the way forward for waste management. We are not the only council thinking about it."
He said the microchips would help the council fend off unwarranted criticism.
"We will have a confident response to customers who claim their bin may not have been emptied," he added.
Parents Protest Student Computer ID Tags
The only grade school in this rural town is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move. Some parents are outraged, fearing it will take away their children's privacy.
The badges introduced at Brittan Elementary School on Jan. 18 rely on the same radio frequency and scanner technology that companies use to track livestock and product inventory. Similar devices have recently been used to monitor youngsters in some parts of Japan.
But few American school districts have embraced such a monitoring system, and civil libertarians hope to keep it that way.
"If this school doesn't stand up, then other schools might adopt it," Nicole Ozer, a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union, warned school board members at a meeting Tuesday night. "You might be a small community, but you are one of the first communities to use this technology."
The system was imposed, without parental input, by the school as a way to simplify attendance-taking and potentially reduce vandalism and improve student safety. Principal Earnie Graham hopes to eventually add bar codes to the existing ID's so that students can use them to pay for cafeteria meals and check out library books.
But some parents see a system that can monitor their children's movements on campus as something straight out of Orwell.
"There is a way to make kids safer without making them feel like a piece of inventory," said Michael Cantrall, one of several angry parents who complained. "Are we trying to bring them up with respect and trust, or tell them that you can't trust anyone, you are always going to be monitored, and someone is always going to be watching you?"
Cantrall said he told his children, in the 5th and 7th grades, not to wear the badges. He also filed a protest letter with the board and alerted the ACLU.
Graham, who also serves as the superintendent of the single-school district, told the parents that their children could be disciplined for boycotting the badges - and that he doesn't understand what all their angst is about.
"Sometimes when you are on the cutting edge, you get caught," Graham said, recounting the angry phone calls and notes he has received from parents.
Each student is required to wear identification cards around their necks with their picture, name and grade and a wireless transmitter that beams their ID number to a teacher's handheld computer when the child passes under an antenna posted above a classroom door.
Graham also asked to have a chip reader installed in locker room bathrooms to reduce vandalism, although that reader is not functional yet. And while he has ordered everyone on campus to wear the badges, he said only the 7th and 8th grade classrooms are being monitored thus far.
In addition to the privacy concerns, parents are worried that the information on and inside the badges could wind up in the wrong hands and endanger their children, and that radio frequency technology might carry health risks.
Graham dismisses each objection, arguing that the devices do not emit any cancer-causing radioactivity, and that for now, they merely confirm that each child is in his or her classroom, rather than track them around the school like a global-positioning device. The 15-digit ID number that confirms attendance is encrypted, he said, and not linked to other personal information such as an address or telephone number.
What's more, he says that it is within his power to set rules that promote a positive school environment: If he thinks ID badges will improve things, he says, then badges there will be.
"You know what it comes down to? I believe junior high students want to be stylish. This is not stylish," he said.
This latest adaptation of radio frequency ID technology was developed by InCom Corp., a local company co-founded by the parent of a former Brittan student, and some parents are suspicious about the financial relationship between the school and the company. InCom plans to promote it at a national convention of school administrators next month.
InCom has paid the school several thousand dollars for agreeing to the experiment, and has promised a royalty from each sale if the system takes off, said the company's co- founder, Michael Dobson, who works as a technology specialist in the town's high school. Brittan's technology aide also works part-time for InCom.
Not everyone in this close-knit farming town northwest of Sacramento is against the system. Some said they welcomed the IDs as a security measure.
"This is not Mayberry. This is Sutter, California. Bad things can happen here," said Tim Crabtree, an area parent.
It pays to push
School Drops RFID Tag Program
The California grade school that required students to wear radio frequency identification badges has ended the program because the company that developed the technology pulled out.
The badges, developed by InCom, were introduced less than a month ago at Brittan Elementary School in Sutter. The school board was set to talk about the controversial policy until InCom announced it was terminating its agreement with the institution.
The system was imposed, without parental input, by the school to simplify attendance-taking, reduce vandalism and improve student safety.
While many parents criticized the badges for violating privacy and possibly endangering children's health, some parents supported the plan.
The school had already disabled scanners above classroom doors and was not disciplining students who didn't wear the badges.
House Backs Major Shift To Electronic IDs
The U.S. House of Representatives approved on Thursday a sweeping set of rules aimed at forcing states to issue all adults federally approved electronic ID cards, including driver's licenses.
Under the rules, federal employees would reject licenses or identity cards that don't comply, which could curb Americans' access to airplanes, trains, national parks, federal courthouses and other areas controlled by the federal government. The bill was approved by a 261-161 vote.
The measure, called the Real ID Act, says that driver's licenses and other ID cards must include a digital photograph, anticounterfeiting features and undefined "machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements" that could include a magnetic strip or RFID tag. The Department of Homeland Security would be charged with drafting the details of the regulation.
Republican politicians argued that the new rules were necessary to thwart terrorists, saying that four of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers possessed valid state-issued driver's licenses. "When I get on an airplane and someone shows ID, I'd like to be sure they are who they say they are," said Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, during a floor debate that started Wednesday.
States would be required to demand proof of the person's Social Security number and confirm that number with the Social Security Administration. They would also have to scan in documents showing the person's date of birth and immigration status, and create a massive store "so that the (scanned) images can be retained in electronic storage in a transferable format" permanently.
Another portion of the bill says that states would be required to link their DMV databases if they wished to receive federal funds. Among the information that must be shared: All data fields printed on drivers' licenses and identification cards, and complete drivers' histories, including motor vehicle violations, suspensions and points on licenses.
The Bush administration threw its weight behind the Real ID Act, which has been derided by some conservative and civil liberties groups as tantamount to a national ID card. The White House said in a statement this week that it "strongly supports House passage" of the bill.
Thursday's vote mostly fell along party lines. About 95 percent of the House Republicans voted for the bill, which had been prepared by the judiciary committee chairman, F. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican. More than three-fourths of the House Democrats opposed it.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat from Washington, D.C., charged that Republicans were becoming hypocrites by trampling on states' rights. "I thought the other side of the aisle extols federalism at all times," Norton said. "Yes, even in hard times, even when you're dealing with terrorism. So what's happening now? Why are those who speak up for states whenever it strikes their fancy doing this now?"
Civil libertarians and firearm rights groups condemned the bill before the vote. The American Civil Liberties Union likened the new rules to a "de facto national ID card," saying that the measure would force "states to deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants" and make DMV employees act as agents of the federal immigration service.
Because an ID is required to purchase a firearm from a dealer, Gun Owners of America said the bill amounts to a "bureaucratic back door to implementation of a national ID card." The group warned that it would "empower the federal government to determine who can get a driver's license--and under what conditions."
National ID Cards On The Way?
A recent vote in Congress endorsing standardized, electronically readable driver's licenses has raised fears about whether the proposal would usher in what amounts to a national ID card.
In a vote that largely divided along party lines, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a Republican-backed measure that would compel states to design their driver's licenses by 2008 to comply with federal antiterrorist standards. Federal employees would reject licenses or identity cards that don't comply, which could curb Americans' access to everything from airplanes to national parks and some courthouses.
The congressional maneuvering takes place as governments are growing more interested in implanting technology in ID cards to make them smarter and more secure. The U.S. State Department soon will begin issuing passports with radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips embedded in them, and Virginia may become the first state to glue RFID tags into all its driver's licenses.
"Supporters claim it is not a national ID because it is voluntary," Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, one of the eight Republicans to object to the measure, said during the floor debate this week. "However, any state that opts out will automatically make nonpersons out of its citizens. They will not be able to fly or to take a train."
Paul warned that the legislation, called the Real ID Act, gives unfettered authority to the Department of Homeland Security to design state ID cards and driver's licenses. Among the possibilities: biometric information such as retinal scans, fingerprints, DNA data and RFID tracking technology.
Proponents of the Real ID Act say it adheres to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and is needed to frustrate both terrorists and illegal immigrants. Only a portion of the legislation regulates ID cards; the rest deals with immigration law and asylum requests. "American citizens have the right to know who is in their country, that people are who they say they are, and that the name on the driver's license is the real holder's name, not some alias," F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., said last week.
"If these commonsense reforms had been in place in 2001, they would have hindered the efforts of the 9/11 terrorists, and they will go a long way toward helping us prevent another tragedy like 9/11," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
Now the Real ID Act heads to the Senate, where its future is less certain. Senate rules make it easier for politicians to derail legislation, and an aide said Friday that Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, was concerned about portions of the bill.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on a terrorism subcommittee, said "I basically support the thrust of the bill" in an e-mail to CNET News.com on Friday. "The federal government should have the ability to issue standards that all driver's licenses and identification documents should meet."
National ID cards are nothing new, of course. Many European, Asian and South American countries require their citizens to carry such documents at all times, with legal punishments in place for people caught without them. Other nations that share the English common law tradition, including Australia and New Zealand, have rejected such schemes.
A host of political, cultural and even religious concerns has prevented a national ID from being adopted in the United States, even during the tumultuous days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that ushered in the Patriot Act.
Conservatives and libertarians typically argue that a national ID card will increase the power of the government, and they fear the dehumanizing effects of laws enacted as a result. Civil liberties groups tend to worry about the administrative problems, the opportunities for criminal mischief, and the potential irreversibility of such a system.
Some evangelical Christians have likened such a proposal to language in the Bible warning "that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." That mark is the sign of the "end times," according to evangelical thinking, which predicts that anyone who accepts the mark will be doomed to eternal torment.
Those long-standing concerns have become more pointed recently, thanks to the opportunity for greater tracking--as well as potentially greater security for ID documents--that technologies such as RFID provide. Though the Real ID act does not specify RFID or biometric technology, it requires that the Department of Homeland Security adopt "machine-readable technology" standards and provides broad discretion in how to do it.
An ad hoc alliance of privacy groups and technologists recently has been fighting proposals from the International Civil Aviation Organization to require that passports and other travel documents be outfitted with biometrics and remotely readable RFID-type "contact-less integrated circuits."
The ICAO, a United Nations organization, argues the measures are necessary to reduce fraud, combat terrorism and improve airline security. But its critics have raised questions about how the technology could be misused by identity thieves with RFID readers, and they say it would "promote irresponsible national behavior."
In the United States, the federal government is planning to embed RFID chips in all U.S. passports and some foreign visitor's documents. The U.S. State Department is now evaluating so-called e-passport technology from eight different companies. The agency plans to select a supplier and issue the first e-passports this spring, starting in Los Angeles, and predicts that all U.S. passport agencies will be issuing them within a year.
The high-tech passports are supposed to deter theft and forgeries, as well as accelerate immigration checks at airports and borders. They'll contain within their covers a miniscule microchip that stores basic data, including the passport holder's name, date of birth and place of birth. The chip, which can transmit information through a tiny included antenna, also has enough room to store biometric data such as digitized fingerprints, photographs and iris scans.
Border officials can compare the information on the chip to that on the rest of the passport and to the person actually carrying it. Discrepancies could signal foul play.
In a separate program, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue RFID devices to foreign visitors that enter the country at the Mexican and Canadian borders. The agency plans to start a yearlong test of the technology in July at checkpoints in Arizona, New York and Washington state.
The idea is to aid immigration officials in tracking visitors' arrivals and departures and snare those who overstay their visas. Similar to e-passports, the new system should speed up inspection procedures. It's part of the US-VISIT program, a federal initiative designed to capture and share data such as fingerprints and photographs of foreign visitors.
A "Trojan horse"
The legislation approved by the House last Thursday follows a related measure President Bush signed into law in December. That law gives the Transportation Department two years to devise standard rules for state licenses, requires information to be stored in "machine-readable" format, and says noncompliant ID cards won't be accepted by federal agencies.
But critics fret that the new bill goes even further. It shifts authority to the Department of Homeland Security, imposes more requirements for identity documents on states, and gives the department carte blanche to do nearly anything else "to protect the national security interests of the United States."
"In reality, this bill is a Trojan horse," said Paul, the Republican congressman. "It pretends to offer desperately needed border control in order to stampede Americans into sacrificing what is uniquely American: our constitutionally protected liberty."
Unlike last year's measure, the Real ID Act "doesn't even mention the word 'privacy,'" said Marv Johnson, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union.
"What I think the House is planning on doing is attaching this bill to tsunami relief or money to the troops," Johnson says. "When they send it to the Senate, the Senate will have to either fish or cut bait. They can approve it or ask for a conference committee, at which point the House can say 'they're playing games with national security.'"
In response to a question about a national ID card, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters on Friday that "the president supports the legislation that just passed the House." McClellan pointed to a statement from the White House earlier in the week that endorsed it.
Another section of the Real ID Act that has raised alarms is the linking of state Department of Motor Vehicles databases, which was not part of last year's law. Among the information that must be shared: "All data fields printed on drivers' licenses and identification cards" and complete drivers' histories, including motor vehicle violations, suspensions and points on licenses.
Some senators have indicated they may rewrite part of the measure once they begin deliberations.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., chairman of a terrorism subcommittee, is readying his own bill that will be introduced within a few weeks, spokesman Andrew Wilder said on Friday. "He has been at work on his own version of things," Wilder said. "Senator Kyl does support biometric identifiers."
Database giant gives access to fake firms
ChoicePoint Warns More Than 30,000 They May Be At Risk
Criminals posing as legitimate businesses have accessed critical personal data stored by ChoicePoint Inc., a firm that maintains databases of background information on virtually every U.S. citizen, MSNBC.com has learned.
The incident involves a wide swath of consumer data, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, credit reports and other information. ChoicePoint aggregates and sells such personal information to government agencies and private companies.
Last week, the company notified between 30,000 and 35,000 consumers in California that their personal data may have been accessed by "unauthorized third parties," according to ChoicePoint spokesman James Lee.
California law requires firms to disclose such incidents to the state's consumers when they are discovered. It is the only state with such a requirement but such data thefts are rarely limited to a single geographic area.
Lee said law enforcement officials have so far advised the firm that only Californians need to be notified.
"The only incident that has been confirmed is in California," he said.
ChoicePoint maintains a dossier on virtually every American consumer, according to Daniel J. Solove, George Washington University professor and author of "The Digital Person."
The Atlanta-based company says it has 10 billion records on individuals and businesses, and sells data to 40 percent of the nation's top 1,000 companies. It also has contracts with 35 government agencies, including several law enforcement agencies.
Victims told months after the fact
The incident was discovered in October, when ChoicePoint was contacted by a law enforcement agency investigating an identity theft crime. In that incident, suspects had posed as a ChoicePoint client to gain access to the firm's rich consumer databases.
Subsequent research by ChoicePoint revealed that about 50 fake companies had been set up and then registered with ChoicePoint to access consumer data.
California consumers who received warning letters from the firm last week were "in some way connected to searches" conducted by those fake accounts, Lee said.
The firm was only given clearance by law enforcement officials to disclose the incident two weeks ago, Lee said
While the criminals had access to ChoicePoint data, it's not clear what, if any, information was stolen, said Chuck Jones, another ChoicePoint spokesman. The letters were sent as a precaution, he said.
The FBI, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Postal Inspector's Office are investigating, he said.
Consumer frustrated by notification
The letter urges consumers to check their credit reports for suspicious activity.
"We believe that several individuals, posing as legitimate business customers, recently committed fraud by claiming to have a lawful purpose for accessing information about individuals," it reads. "You should continue to check your credit reports frequently for the next year."
The two-page letter offers details on how to spot fraud, but no additional information about the incident, or what information may have actually been stolen.
"ChoicePoint has apologized for any inconvenience this incident may cause," said ChoicePoint spokesman Chuck Jones. "But ChoicePoint has no way of knowing whether anyone's personal information actually has been accessed," or used to commit identity theft, he added.
California consumer Elizabeth Rosen, who received the ChoicePoint letter Friday, was upset that the company only provided sketchy details about the incident to her.
"They gave a toll free number to call, but when I called, the person just read from a script ... they said disclosing too many details may hurt an ongoing investigation," Rosen said. "I'm not happy about this. I didn't even know who ChoicePoint was."
That reaction is common, according to Solove.
"Even though you might not have heard of ChoicePoint, they've heard of you. They are playing a role in your people's lives whether they know it or not," he said.
Privacy consultant Larry Ponemon, who operates the Ponemon Institute, said he was surprised criminals were able to pose as ChoicePoint clients.
"What really concerns me is when low-tech methods are used to gain access, than you really have problems," said. "Obviously this is very surprising, given that they are in the data business."
Jones said ChoicePoint had adjusted its procedures to "help protect against a repeat" of the incident.
Personal Data On Nearly 25,000 Subscribers Leaked: NTT DoCoMo
Japan's top mobile operator NTT DoCoMo Inc. said it has found a leak of personal information linked to nearly 25,000 subscribers, with someone within the company likely to blame.
Private data such as names, addresses, mobile and fixed-line telephone numbers of 24,632 clients kept by the company were found to have been taken by an outsider, NTT DoCoMo said in a statement. NTT DoCoMo has launched in-house investigations and said the chances were high that the data had been leaked by insiders. "We sincerely apologize," Takashi Sakamoto, executive director of NTT DoCoMo, told a news conference. "We take this case seriously," Sakamoto said, adding: "We will introduce a measure to manage information of our clients thoroughly."
Researchers: Typing Style Can Be Password
The way you type is as unique as your eye color or speech patterns and can be used instead of a password to protect your computer, researchers at Louisiana Tech and Penn State say.
Their discovery will bring Louisiana Tech its first direct royalty income, university president Daniel D. Reneau said in signing a joint licensing agreement with BioPassword Inc. of Issaquah, Wash.
Vir Phoha, associate professor of computer science, and former graduate student Sunil Babu worked with others at The Pennsylvania State University to create the technology over five years of research.
"We look at the time between keystrokes, and the time it takes to press a key," Phoha said.
A percentage of the royalties will be plowed back into the research program, Phoha added.
BioPassword holds the rights to several patents on such software, according to its Web site.
The company says its programs should not be used as the only security system but in addition to passwords and other measures.
Hashing Standard Cracked
An encryption standard widely used in digitally signing documents and programs has a flaw in it that could allow for the creation of forgeries, sources said on Wednesday.
In a three-page research note seen by ZDNet UK sister site CNET News.com, three Chinese scientists -- Xiaoyun Wang and Hongbo Yu of Shandong University and Yiqun Lisa Yin, a visiting researcher at Princeton University -- stated they have found a way to significantly reduce the time required to break a algorithm, known as the Secure Hashing Algorithm, or SHA-1, widely used for digital fingerprinting data files.
Other cryptographers who have seen the document said that the results seemed to be genuine.
"At this point I can't tell if the attack is real, but the paper looks good and this is a reputable research team," Bruce Schneier, a cryptographer and chief technology officer for Counterpane Internet Security, said on his Web site.
An attacker could use the flaw to create two documents or programs that have the same digital fingerprint, also known as a hash; one file could be a legitimate version of the data, while the other could be a forgery. For example, code signing -- where a program is posted online along with its SHA-1 fingerprint as a way to guarantee its integrity -- would essentially be rendered meaningless by this attack.
This causes problems for digital signatures because signing documents is a two-step process. First, a digital fingerprint, or condensed version of the document, is created. Then public-key encryption is used to sign that hash. If two different documents create the same hash, then the process breaks because no one can prove which document was signed.
The latest attack made use of a cryptoanalysis attack against a similar, but more easily breakable, algorithm known as SHA-0.
While the problems -- if confirmed -- could lead to SHA-1 being phased out by the government, the effects of the break may not be dire, said Paul Kocher, a cryptographer and president of Cryptography Research.
"This is feasible if you have thousands of computers at your disposal," he said, at his company's booth in the exhibition hall of the RSA Conference in San Francisco. Moreover, the attack is a problem only if an untrustworthy source is generating the data that is being signed. That person could have generated two copies of the data: one public version that will be signed, and a forgery, or malicious version, that will be kept secret.
The break of the full SHA-1 algorithm reduces the complexity of producing a "collision" -- or matching hash value -- by a factor of about 2,000. If cluster of computers could handle 1 million hash values every second, it would still take about 19 million years to find two different documents whose digital fingerprints match.
That means the situation is serious but not desperate, Counterpane's Schneier said, adding that companies should start worrying about the attack over the next year. "The industry will produce better solutions really quick," he said, warning the industry and government not to tarry long. "Remember the motto of the NSA: Attacks only get better, they never get worse."
Hitachi to Offer Security-Enhanced Notebook PCs
Japan's Hitachi Ltd. said on Tuesday it would launch notebook computers with no hard disk drives, offering corporate clients a way to protect key business information from potential leaks.
The new terminal does not store any data, such as client information, in it, and all tasks are carried out by interacting with server computers or PCs at headquarters, protecting vital business information even when the computer is lost or stolen.
Shipments of the new computer, estimated to sell for around 260,000 yen ($2,476) per unit, will start in April, and Hitachi expects 30 billion yen in sales of the terminals and related services in the two years to March 2007.
Hitachi itself plans to introduce 2,000 units by March for in-house use and another 8,000 in the business year starting in April. Shares in Hitachi, Japan's largest electronics conglomerate, closed up 0.45 percent at 668 yen, outperforming the Tokyo stock market's electric machinery index , which rose 0.2 percent.
Hitachi 250GB hard drive - $69.99 A/R
Actually I just bought one of these from the Norwalk, Connecticut store but it was a bit of a process. First of all the CompUSA salesmen had no idea about the deal so it’s a good thing I printed out the web page, but then they told me it was out of stock. I asked them to check just to make sure since the site finder said they had it. After 15 mins they came out of the back with a drive. That was great, but when I asked them to double check the numbers it turned out to be a different Hitachi 250GB drive and they said well they didn’t have the one in the ad so they’d sell me this instead. They tried to convince me it was an old ad and the deal was over. I said wait a minute, it’s on right now – this week – it says so right on your page. Ah, that made them think, so off they went in search again and then they finally found it, correct numbers and all, and I got the $20 off at the register and the print-out for the $80 rebate.
So they don’t know about the deal but they probably have them even if they think they don’t, but even if they come out of the warehouse with a drive and a smile you might want to double check to make sure it’s got the right product code, otherwise you won’t get the rebate, and at around 79 bucks with tax it’s too good a deal to pass up. A few months ago I paid about the same for 200 gigs and that was a great deal.
Somebody said it’s now available online. If so, even better.
Between Truth and Lies, An Unprintable Ubiquity
Harry G. Frankfurt, 76, is a moral philosopher of international reputation and a professor emeritus at Princeton. He is also the author of a book recently published by the Princeton University Press that is the first in the publishing house's distinguished history to carry a title most newspapers, including this one, would find unfit to print. The work is called "On Bull - - - - ."
The opening paragraph of the 67-page essay is a model of reason and composition, repeatedly disrupted by that single obscenity:
"One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much [bull]. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize [bull] and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry."
The essay goes on to lament that lack of inquiry, despite the universality of the phenomenon. "Even the most basic and preliminary questions about [bull] remain, after all," Mr. Frankfurt writes, "not only unanswered but unasked."
The balance of the work tries, with the help of Wittgenstein, Pound, St. Augustine and the spy novelist Eric Ambler, among others, to ask some of the preliminary questions - to define the nature of a thing recognized by all but understood by none.
What is [bull], after all? Mr. Frankfurt points out it is neither fish nor fowl. Those who produce it certainly aren't honest, but neither are they liars, given that the liar and the honest man are linked in their common, if not identical, regard for the truth.
"It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth," Mr. Frankfurt writes. "A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it."
The bull artist, on the other hand, cares nothing for truth or falsehood. The only thing that matters to him is "getting away with what he says," Mr. Frankfurt writes. An advertiser or a politician or talk show host given to [bull] "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it," he writes. "He pays no attention to it at all."
And this makes him, Mr. Frankfurt says, potentially more harmful than any liar, because any culture and he means this culture rife with [bull] is one in danger of rejecting "the possibility of knowing how things truly are." It follows that any form of political argument or intellectual analysis or commercial appeal is only as legitimate, and true, as it is persuasive. There is no other court of appeal.
The reader is left to imagine a culture in which institutions, leaders, events, ethics feel improvised and lacking in substance. "All that is solid," as Marx once wrote, "melts into air."
Mr. Frankfurt is an unlikely slinger of barnyard expletives. He is a courtly man, with a broad smile and a philosophic beard, and he lives in apparently decorous retirement with his wife, Joan Gilbert, in a lovely old house near the university.
On a visit there earlier this month, there was Heifetz was on the stereo, good food and wine on the table.
But appearances, in this case, are somewhat misleading. Mr. Frankfurt spent much of his childhood in Brooklyn, and still sees himself as a disputatious Brooklynite - one who still speaks of the Dodgers as "having betrayed us." And, in any event, Mr. Frankfurt is not particularly academic in the way he views his calling.
"I got interested in philosophy because of two things," he said. "One is that I was never satisfied with the answers that were given to questions, and it seemed to me that philosophy was an attempt to get down to the bottom of things."
"The other thing," he added, "was that I could never make up my mind what I was interested in, and philosophy enabled you to be interested in anything."
Those interests found expression in a small and scrupulous body of work that tries to make sense of free will, desire and love in closely reasoned but jargon-free prose, illustrated by examples of behavior (philosophers speak of the "Frankfurt example") that anyone would recognize.
"He's dealing with very abstract matters," said Sarah Buss, who teaches philosophy at the University of Iowa, "but trying not to lose touch with the human condition. His work keeps faith with that condition."
Mr. Frankfurt's teaching shares with his prose a spirit Ms. Buss, who was once his graduate student, defines as, "Come in and let's struggle with something."
"He was very willing," she added, "to say, 'I just don't understand this.' "
The essay on [bull] arose from that kind of struggle. In 1986, Mr. Frankfurt was teaching at Yale, where he took part in a weekly seminar. The idea was to get people of various disciplines to listen to a paper written by one of their number, after which everyone would talk about it over lunch.
Mr. Frankfurt decided his contribution would be a paper on [bull]. "I had always been concerned about the importance of truth," he recalled, "the way in which truth is foundational to civilization and the various deformities of it that were current."
"I'd been concerned about the prevalence" of [bull], he continued, "and the lack of concern for truth and respect for truth that it represented."
"I used the title I did," he added, "because I wanted to talk about [bull] without any [bull], so I didn't use 'humbug' or 'bunkum.' "
Research was a problem. The closest analogue came from Socrates.
"He called it rhetoric or sophistry," Mr. Frankfurt said, "and regarded philosophy as the great enemy of rhetoric and sophistry."
"These were opposite, incompatible ways of persuading people," he added. "You could persuade them with rhetoric" - or [bull] - "with sophistic arguments that weren't really sound but that you could put over on people, or you could persuade them by philosophical arguments which were dedicated to rigor and clarity of thought."
Mr. Frankfurt recalled that it took him about a month to write the essay, after which he delivered it to the humanities group. "I guess I should say it was received enthusiastically," he said, "but they didn't know whether to laugh or to take it seriously."
Some months after the reading, the essay, title intact, was published by The Raritan Review, a journal then edited by Richard Poirier, a distinguished literary critic. In 1988, Mr. Frankfurt included it in "The Importance of What We Care About," a collection of his essays.
The audience for academic journals and collections of philosophical essays is limited, however, and so the essay tended to be passed along, samizdat style, from one aficionado to another.
"In the 20 years since it was published," Mr. Frankfurt said, "I don't think a year has passed in which I haven't gotten one or two letters or e-mails from people about it."
One man from Wales set some of the text to music; another who worked in the financial industry wanted to create an annual award for the worst piece of analysis published in his field (an idea apparently rejected by his superiors). G. A. Cohen, the Chichele professor of social and political theory at All Souls College, Oxford University, has written two papers on the subject.
"Harry has a unique capacity to take a simple truth and draw from it very consequential implications," Mr. Cohen said. "He is very good at identifying the potent elementary fact."
It was Ian Malcolm, the Princeton University Press editor responsible for philosophy, who approached Mr. Frankfurt about publishing the essay as a stand-alone volume. "The only way the essay would get the audience it deserved was to publish it as a small book," he said. "I had a feeling it would sell, but we weren't quite prepared for the interest it got."
For Mr. Frankfurt, who says it has always been his ambition to move philosophy "back to what most people think of as philosophy, which is a concern with the problems of life and with understanding the world," the book might be considered a successful achievement. But he finds he is still trying to get to the bottom of things, and hasn't arrived.
"When I reread it recently," he said at home, "I was sort of disappointed. It wasn't as good as I'd thought it was. It was a fairly superficial and incomplete treatment of the subject."
"Why," he wondered, "do we respond to [bull] in such a different way than we respond to lies? When we find somebody lying, we get angry, we feel we've been betrayed or violated or insulted in some way, and the liar is regarded as deceptive, deficient, morally at fault."
Why we are more tolerant of [bull] than lying is something Mr. Frankfurt believes would be worth considering.
"Why is lying regarded almost as a criminal act?" he asked, while bull "is sort of cuddly and warm? It's outside the realm of serious moral criticism. Why is that?"
Media and politics
The White House Stages Its 'Daily Show'
THE prayers of those hoping that real television news might take its cues from Jon Stewart were finally answered on Feb. 9, 2005. A real newsman borrowed a technique from fake news to deliver real news about fake news in prime time.
Let me explain.
On "Countdown," a nightly news hour on MSNBC, the anchor, Keith Olbermann, led off with a classic "Daily Show"-style bit: a rapid-fire montage of sharply edited video bites illustrating the apparent idiocy of those in Washington. In this case, the eight clips stretched over a year in the White House briefing room - from February 2004 to late last month - and all featured a reporter named "Jeff." In most of them, the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, says "Go ahead, Jeff," and "Jeff" responds with a softball question intended not to elicit information but to boost President Bush and smear his political opponents. In the last clip, "Jeff" is quizzing the president himself, in his first post-inaugural press conference of Jan. 26. Referring to Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, "Jeff" asks, "How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"
If we did not live in a time when the news culture itself is divorced from reality, the story might end there: "Jeff," you'd assume, was a lapdog reporter from a legitimate, if right- wing, news organization like Fox, and you'd get some predictable yuks from watching a compressed video anthology of his kissing up to power. But as Mr. Olbermann explained, "Jeff Gannon," the star of the montage, was a newsman no more real than a "Senior White House Correspondent" like Stephen Colbert on "The Daily Show" and he worked for a news organization no more real than The Onion. Yet the video broadcast by Mr. Olbermann was not fake. "Jeff" was in the real White House, and he did have those exchanges with the real Mr. McClellan and the real Mr. Bush.
"Jeff Gannon's" real name is James D. Guckert. His employer was a Web site called Talon News, staffed mostly by volunteer Republican activists. Media Matters for America, the liberal press monitor that has done the most exhaustive research into the case, discovered that Talon's "news" often consists of recycled Republican National Committee and White House press releases, and its content frequently overlaps with another partisan site, GOPUSA, with which it shares its owner, a Texas delegate to the 2000 Republican convention. Nonetheless, for nearly two years the White House press office had credentialed Mr. Guckert, even though, as Dana Milbank of The Washington Post explained on Mr. Olbermann's show, he "was representing a phony media company that doesn't really have any such thing as circulation or readership."
How this happened is a mystery that has yet to be solved. "Jeff" has now quit Talon News not because he and it have been exposed as fakes but because of other embarrassing blogosphere revelations linking him to sites like hotmilitarystud.com and to an apparently promising career as an X-rated $200-per-hour "escort." If Mr. Guckert, the author of Talon News exclusives like "Kerry Could Become First Gay President," is yet another link in the boundless network of homophobic Republican closet cases, that's not without interest. But it shouldn't distract from the real question - that is, the real news - of how this fake newsman might be connected to a White House propaganda machine that grows curiouser by the day. Though Mr. McClellan told Editor & Publisher magazine that he didn't know until recently that Mr. Guckert was using an alias, Bruce Bartlett, a White House veteran of the Reagan-Bush I era, wrote on the nonpartisan journalism Web site Romenesko, that "if Gannon was using an alias, the White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover." (Otherwise, it would be a rather amazing post-9/11 security breach.)
By my count, "Jeff Gannon" is now at least the sixth "journalist" (four of whom have been unmasked so far this year) to have been a propagandist on the payroll of either the Bush administration or a barely arms-length ally like Talon News while simultaneously appearing in print or broadcast forums that purport to be real news. Of these six, two have been syndicated newspaper columnists paid by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the administration's "marriage" initiatives. The other four have played real newsmen on TV. Before Mr. Guckert and Armstrong Williams, the talking head paid $240,000 by the Department of Education, there were Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia. Let us not forget these pioneers - the Woodward and Bernstein of fake news. They starred in bogus reports ("In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting," went the script) pretending to "sort through the details" of the administration's Medicare prescription-drug plan in 2004. Such "reports," some of which found their way into news packages distributed to local stations by CNN, appeared in more than 50 news broadcasts around the country and have now been deemed illegal "covert propaganda" by the Government Accountability Office.
The money that paid for both the Ryan-Garcia news packages and the Armstrong Williams contract was siphoned through the same huge public relations firm, Ketchum Communications, which itself filtered the funds through subcontractors. A new report by Congressional Democrats finds that Ketchum has received $97 million of the administration's total $250 million P.R. kitty, of which the Williams and Ryan-Garcia scams would account for only a fraction. We have yet to learn precisely where the rest of it ended up.
Even now, we know that the fake news generated by the six known shills is only a small piece of the administration's overall propaganda effort. President Bush wasn't entirely joking when he called the notoriously meek March 6, 2003, White House press conference on the eve of the Iraq invasion "scripted" while it was still going on. (And "Jeff Gannon" apparently wasn't even at that one). Everything is scripted.
The pre-fab "Ask President Bush" town hall-style meetings held during last year's campaign (typical question: "Mr. President, as a child, how can I help you get votes?") were carefully designed for television so that, as Kenneth R. Bazinet wrote last summer in New York's Daily News, "unsuspecting viewers" tuning in their local news might get the false impression they were "watching a completely open forum." A Pentagon Office of Strategic Influence, intended to provide propagandistic news items, some of them possibly false, to foreign news media was shut down in 2002 when it became an embarrassing political liability. But much more quietly, another Pentagon propaganda arm, the Pentagon Channel, has recently been added as a free channel for American viewers of the Dish Network. Can a Social Security Channel be far behind?
It is a brilliant strategy. When the Bush administration isn't using taxpayers' money to buy its own fake news, it does everything it can to shut out and pillory real reporters who might tell Americans what is happening in what is, at least in theory, their own government. Paul Farhi of The Washington Post discovered that even at an inaugural ball he was assigned "minders" - attractive women who wouldn't give him their full names - to let the revelers know that Big Brother was watching should they be tempted to say anything remotely off message.
The inability of real journalists to penetrate this White House is not all the White House's fault. The errors of real news organizations have played perfectly into the administration's insidious efforts to blur the boundaries between the fake and the real and thereby demolish the whole notion that there could possibly be an objective and accurate free press. Conservatives, who supposedly deplore post-modernism, are now welcoming in a brave new world in which it's a given that there can be no empirical reality in news, only the reality you want to hear (or they want you to hear). The frequent fecklessness of the Beltway gang does little to penetrate this Washington smokescreen. For a case in point, you needed only switch to CNN on the day after Mr. Olbermann did his fake-news-style story on the fake reporter in the White House press corps.
"Jeff Gannon" had decided to give an exclusive TV interview to a sober practitioner of by-the-book real news, Wolf Blitzer. Given this journalistic opportunity, the anchor asked questions almost as soft as those "Jeff" himself had asked in the White House. Mr. Blitzer didn't question Mr. Guckert's outrageous assertion that he adopted a fake name because "Jeff Gannon is easier to pronounce and easier to remember." (Is "Jeff" easier to pronounce than his real first name, Jim?). Mr. Blitzer never questioned Gannon/Guckert's assertion that Talon News "is a separate, independent news division" of GOPUSA. Only in a brief follow-up interview a day later did he ask Gannon/ Guckert to explain why he was questioned by the F.B.I. in the case that may send legitimate reporters to jail: Mr. Guckert has at times implied that he either saw or possessed a classified memo identifying Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative. Might that memo have come from the same officials who looked after "Jeff Gannon's" press credentials? Did Mr. Guckert have any connection with CNN's own Robert Novak, whose publication of Ms. Plame's name started this investigation in the first place? The anchor didn't go there.
The "real" news from CNN was no news at all, but it's not as if any of its competitors did much better. The "Jeff Gannon" story got less attention than another media frenzy - that set off by the veteran news executive Eason Jordan, who resigned from CNN after speaking recklessly at a panel discussion at Davos, where he apparently implied, at least in passing, that American troops deliberately targeted reporters. Is the banishment of a real newsman for behaving foolishly at a bloviation conference in Switzerland a more pressing story than that of a fake newsman gaining years of access to the White House (and network TV cameras) under mysterious circumstances? With real news this timid, the appointment of Jon Stewart to take over Dan Rather's chair at CBS News could be just the jolt television journalism needs. As Mr. Olbermann demonstrated when he borrowed a sharp "Daily Show" tool to puncture the "Jeff Gannon" case, the only road back to reality may be to fight fake with fake.
Hands Off Our Wi-Fi Network!
Why are Wireless Philadelphia and other city wireless programs such a big threat? More precisely, why do the big boys keep trying to kill our Wi-Fi networks?
Tell me who among incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs)--have deployed ubiquitous, high-speed wireless networks that support roaming/mobile capabilities. No ILEC. Who provides high-speed, broadband, ubiquitous services at dial-up rates for the underserved populations? No ILEC. Who is working to get equipment and training into the homes of low-income and disadvantaged portions of our community? Again, no ILEC.
No, they'd rather charge the city governments with having an unfair competitive advantage because of the governments' access to tax-exempt financing. But who says we are financing Wireless Philadelphia with tax-exempt funding? What about all the incentives the ILECs have received the past two decades? When was the last time they were elected to determine what is best for our communities? If they're really concerned about what is important to all members of the community, why haven't they built this type of network that meets community needs or approached a city to use their assets to build a high-speed, low-cost, ubiquitous network?
For all the money they've spent lobbying against municipal participation, they could have built the network themselves. The truth, of course, is that the incumbent local exchange carriers want unregulated monopolies over all telecommunications.
On this point, Dr. Mark N. Cooper, research director at the Consumer Federation of America, notes that about 95 percent of high-speed Internet access service customers are served by ISPs associated with cable or phone companies. In a paper he wrote for the Journal of Telecommunications and High Technology Law, Cooper found that this dominance was the result of leveraging control of physical facilities, not the result of winning in a competitive market.
"Cable companies have not sold Internet service in any product and geographic market where they do not control a monopoly wire," Cooper wrote. "Telephone companies have done very poorly as ISPs in the dial-up market. Consequently, 95 percent of the customers in the dial-up market take their service from independent ISPs--treating AOL as an independent in the dial-up market. In other words, incumbent monopolists have a 95 percent market share where they can leverage their market power over their wires, and a 5 percent market share where they cannot."
Since the 1980s, ILECs have been talking about installing fiber as long as they were given incentives to protect their investments. Now, in Pennsylvania, they've been given another 12 years, and they promise to upgrade some share of the homes passed to fiber optics if, and only if, they don't have to let competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), Internet service providers or video program providers onto their network. (And by the way, let's prohibit governments from serving their community with low-cost Internet access to strengthen economic development in the neighborhoods, to help overcome the digital divide or to help families with children better communicate with teachers and the administration to improve their kids' education.)
Who says the government is going to be the ISP or build the network? What about the old public-private partnership models? Maybe--just maybe--they should see what the City of Philadelphia is proposing before they attack.
Block that kick! Block that port!
Vonage Says Broadband Provider Blocks Its Calls
Internet phone provider Vonage said it's asked U.S. utility regulators to investigate allegations that a "major" broadband operator is deliberately blocking Internet phone calls.
Any investigation and its findings will add more tension to the relationships between providers of high-speed Internet and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), software that lets Internet connections double as inexpensive phone lines.
Vonage recently met with Federal Communications Commission representatives, said Vonage spokeswoman Brooke Schulz, to discuss an instance of "egregious, alarming and harmful port blocking." Port blocking is when Internet providers prevent traffic of certain kinds from traveling through their Internet Protocol (IP) networks.
Schulz confirmed earlier accounts of the complaint reported by Advanced IP Pipeline. She would not identify the operator or the FCC officials involved in the discussion. An FCC spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
This isn't the first time a VoIP operator has complained to the FCC about possible predatory practices by broadband providers that also sell their own version of VoIP service. In September, Nuvio, a Net phone service provider, asked federal regulators to ensure broadband providers that also sell phone services don't engage in predatory practices to stifle competition.
Apple Sets 2-For-1 Stock Split
Apple Computer Inc., whose shares have almost quadrupled in value over the last year on the
success of its Ipod music player, on Friday said it has set a 2-for-1 split of its common stock.
Shares of Apple, which said trading will begin on a split-adjusted basis on Feb. 28, rose 1.3 percent.
Shareholders of record at the close of business on Feb. 18 will receive one additional share for every outstanding share held.
Apple said there will be a proportional increase in the number of its shares authorized from 900 million to 1.8 billion.
The stock rose $1.21 to $79.57, in early market trade. Apple's shares over the last 52 weeks have traded in a range of from $21.88 a share to $81.99 a share.
Stars Take a Shine to Apple
Apple has four retail stores in the Los Angeles area, which give the sales associates ample opportunity to rub elbows with Hollywood celebrities. It isn't always pleasant.
Out of respect for the celebrities' privacy, Apple forbids the stores' sales associates from talking to the press. But that hasn't stopped several staffers from sharing their celebrity anecdotes with Wired News -- stories that reveal Tinseltown's good, bad and ugly.
First, the ugly.
Melanie Griffith threw a tantrum when she was unable to buy a pink iPod mini early last year, according to the sales associate who tried to serve her.
The associate, who asked to remain anonymous, said Griffith came right up to him and "pretty much demanded" a pink iPod mini. The mini was in short supply, and the associate told her there were none in stock.
"She then proceeded to get pissed off at me personally because we didn't have any in stock," the associate said. "She said we have a special stock of iPods for people like her.... I hadn't seen any celebrities there up until then, so at first I was like, 'Oh wow, cool, Melanie Griffith.' But then she opened her mouth and used me as a doormat, and I was like, 'What the fuck is this shit? Milk Money sucked.'"
Another sales associate said he got a tongue lashing from LeVar Burton, presenter of Reading Rainbow and a member of the Star Trek crew.
The associate, who also asked to remain anonymous, said he made the mistake of asking Burton for some ID when the actor was making a big credit card purchase. The associate said he recognized Burton, but wanted to reassure him he was doing a thorough job of checking credentials.
Burton "began shouting at me to ask anyone in the store who he was, all the while telling me that he left his ID in the car and he didn't want to have to go get it," the associate said. "I finally caved in, only because I could see a vein pulsating in his forehead and I didn't want to be the one responsible for causing the blind dude from Star Trek to have a stroke."
Representatives for Griffith and Burton did not return calls asking for comment.
Some stars have let their fame go to their heads, one of the staffers said. The singer Pink, for example, isn't very popular because she shops with a posse of handlers, who demand the manager give her "special assistance."
Some are weird. Val Kilmer, star of The Doors, "looked like he was still in the role of Jim Morrison -- high, spaced out, wandering around the Grove," one of the associates said.
The sales associates said some celebrities can be unbelievably cheap.
Fred Durst, the Limp Bizkit frontman, always demands a discount, said one of the salesmen. His record company has a special 5 percent discount at the store, and Durst demands it for every purchase, including for a $20 iPod cable -- a saving of $1. Public relations representatives for Durst did not return a call asking for comment.
Another associate said trying to explain wireless networking to actor Jerry O'Connell was "quite the ordeal" because he had "no clue" what Wi-Fi was, but he was friendly and thankful.
In fact, staffers said most stars who come into stores are nice and friendly.
Andre 3000 from Outkast graciously posed for one photograph after another.
The Daily Show's Jon Stewart "finds what he wants, smiles and leaves."
Trent Reznor is "super nice" and is always buying gifts for his band.
Robin Williams took his picture on every computer with a camera attached and left the portraits open on the desktops. "That was truly great," said one of the anonymous associates.
Kiefer Sutherland "thanks you like 40 times when you're helping him," said another. (In the first season of Fox's 24, Sutherland and the other good guys used Macs, while the villains used PCs.)
Saturday Night Live's Kevin Nealon is "probably the most genial celeb who comes in on a consistent basis.... (He is) always patient and receptive," the associate added.
Apple's store at The Grove mall is particularly star-studded, thanks to nearby studios and production houses.
Regulars include Seal, who is always polite and courteous, and the Wayans brothers, Marlon and Keenan, whose production facility is in the same complex.
"They are in there all the time buying whatever is the newest and coolest thing for their entourage of iPod carriers," one associate said of the Wayans. "They rarely come in on their own, always try to talk us into getting discounts, especially Marlon, who never really knows what he's buying. He just has to be reassured that the money he is about to spend is going to keep him on the trendiest technology list."
Director Kevin Smith is also a regular, but tends to head for the Genius Bar because his wife's PowerBook is on the blink. "He rarely has anything to say, but always looks pissed off when he is forced to wait at the bar just like everyone else," said the associate.
Another frequent shopper is Fabrizio Moretti, drummer from the Strokes, and his girlfriend, movie star Drew Barrymore. The couple seem to be constantly buying new PowerBooks, one of the associates said.
"He came in once with a cast around his leg, on crutches. He was perusing the 17-inch PowerBook and asked me if I thought it was greedy of him to want that 17-inch even though he had just purchased the 15-inch PowerBook not a month earlier. I let him know that he had no reason to feel this way and that if he wanted to balance out the universe, he might want to consider giving me his 15-inch and therefore be able to buy the 17-inch with a clear conscience."
The associate said Moretti chuckled but told him he was probably going to give the month-old machine to his dad.
But it's not all glitz. Washed-up Vince Neil, the former Motley Crue singer who is getting a career makeover for VH1's Remaking, bought an iMac G4 just so the camera crew could "see something cool-looking in his shanty pad," the associate said.
Gary Allen, the leading expert on Apple's retail stores who runs ifoAppleStore, said celebrities are a daily fixture in Apple's stores because of all the shiny toys.
"(They are) attracted by the style of Apple's products and their high-tech features, and they have the money to buy the very best technology," Allen said. "Baseball players in particular seem to like visiting the stores, looking for music or games to help keep them occupied through a season that includes long road trips."
Allen said he knows of private collections of photos and videos of celebrities who have visited Apple stores, taken by store employees and passed around.
"Otherwise," he said, "celebrity stories are kept pretty quiet by the store employees. Apple's no-comment policy on celebrities seems reasonable."
Plug an Instrument Into an IPod and Play Along With the Band
One important reason for the iPod's popularity is its versatility: it can be many things to many people. To those, add musicians with thin walls or cranky neighbors.
A product called the JamPod can turn an iPod into a portable private amplifier. The JamPod, which can be plugged into the earphone jack with a dock connector, gives electric guitarists an opportunity to shred along to their favorite MP3's.
Manufactured by MacMice, the JamPod is a matchbook-size white plastic module that houses guitar amp circuitry. The JamPod, available later this month at www.dvforge.com for $49, works with any electric instrument that sends a guitar-level output signal though a quarter-inch instrument jack.
Based on the JamPod's volume setting, it calibrates the sound mix of the music and the guitar, which plugs into a jack on the device via a 48-inch white guitar cord that comes with it (there is also a headphone jack). Any arena rock aspirant can crank the iPod's volume level and voilà, a Marshall stack in your back pocket.
Recorder Lets You Talk for Hours and Carries Its Own U.S.B. Plug
Most solid-state digital voice recorders export their files to computers through a U.S.B. link for transcription or e-mailing. Most digital music players use U.S.B. to import music files from computers. Either way, the U.S.B. link only works if you have the necessary cable.
Sanyo's ICR-S700RM, which doubles as a stereo voice recorder and a player for MP3 and Windows Media music files, won't let you leave that link behind. Its U.S.B. 2.0 plug folds out from the case, no cables required.
Due this summer at a suggested price of $330, the recorder will be sold through office-supply dealers. With 256 megabytes of memory plus a slot for mini-SD memory cards, it will record for hours, even at the highest-quality setting. Battery life is rated at 40 hours of recording.
Unlike voice recorders that require accessory mikes for stereo, the ICR-S700RM has its stereo mikes built in, so you can't accidentally leave them behind.
INTENT MediaWorks Releases First P2P Software to Prevent Illegal File Trading
MediaWorks (INTENT) www.intentmediaworks.com/ announced today that it has released the first peer-to-peer (P2P) software that blocks and filters unauthorized, copy-written works and sexually explicit material from being traded over P2P networks. The software, called iPeer, is a P2P file trading software application that operates on the public P2P Networks such as gnutella and is able to allow only legally authorized content to be traded between P2P users.
"Everyone in the industry has been waiting for a solution to the problem of illegally traded files. INTENT is offering such a solution," said Les
Ottolenghi, President of INTENT MEDIAWORKS. "The media companies are worried about illegal file trading and have sued several thousand consumers as a result. The P2P software companies and networks have been looking for a way to advance their technology and help prevent illegal file trading. INTENT MEDIAWORKS has come up with the solution to both parties problems and is now making it available for use," added Ottolenghi.
iPeer is available for download immediately. The software can scan thousands of computers per minute for legal and authorized shared files, filtering out the illegal uploading and downloading of MP3 music files, DVD video files, digital pictures and electronic books.
"This is an amazing achievement. A filterable P2P client is something everyone in the media industry claims they want. Our company has tested the software and it truly works," said Narsi Narasimhan, Ph.D. Chief Executive Officer of Paalam Technologies: www.paalam.com. "INTENT has been providing the distribution of legal files from artists and content copyright holders for one year and has had great results, but, a P2P application that allows only authorized files and blocks illicit materials is unique and seminal."
iPeer goes beyond the connection to P2P networks and has features that allow consumers to view downloaded files on televisions and mobile devices. "INTENT has agreements with personal video recorder manufacturers and cellular network providers to deliver branded and original production content through the public P2P networks and iPeer," said Ottolenghi. "Our first network customer deployment will be next week with an SMS network," added Ottolenghi.
"Our firm has tested iPeer and it seems to have very advanced capabilities," said Martin Gray, President of Gray & Associates, a technology and media analysis firm. iPeer flags shared files, enables targeted messaging and generates statistics on open P2P networks allowing media companies to understand how relevant their content is over the file trading systems," added Gray. "The value to media companies is obvious: lowest possible cost of distribution and control over the distribution channel, what could be better?" said Gray.
iPeer is available for testing by contacting INTENT Media works at: email@example.com.
Thought I’d pass it along…
The Claim: Drinking Alcohol With a Meal Prevents Food Poisoning
THE FACTS Recent studies have found that a little alcohol may help ward off heart disease and slow dementia. But an old wives' tale suggests another reason to indulge in a drink or two with dinner: preventing food poisoning.
Research over the years appears to confirm this. In 2002, for example, health officials in Spain studied an outbreak of salmonella among people who had been exposed to contaminated potato salad and tuna at a large banquet.
Their findings, which were published in the journal Epidemiology, showed that the rate of sickness was lowest in those who had consumed large amounts of beer, wine or spirits.
Consumers of larger amounts of alcohol also had the lowest levels of sickness documented in earlier studies of large salmonella outbreaks in Spain.
But some studies suggest that a drink may have to be stiff for alcohol's protective effect to kick in.
In a 1992 study, for example, health officials in the United States looked at an oyster-borne outbreak of hepatitis A and found that only drinks with an alcohol concentration of 10 percent or greater prevented or reduced the severity of the sickness.
The effect may have something to do with alcohol's ability to strongly stimulate gastric acid secretions in the stomach, and wine may be particularly effective because grapes have antibacterial properties.
THE BOTTOM LINE Alcohol with a meal can lower the risk of food poisoning.
File Sharing Extremely Beneficial
Javvin Web Ad
File sharing is an extremely beneficial implementation which can occur with the appropriate installation of file sharing software. Specialised file shraing software is made available and produced by Javvin in the USA industry. Through file sharing, more information is made available to those who are sharing files and making optimum use of file sharing software.
If you have a Microsoft Windows NT/2000/XP Pro and you need to perform file sharing with UNIX or other non- Windows clients, SSC's award-winning DiskShare™ is the answer. It allows UNIX users network-based access to Windows NT files, thus inducing file sharing effectively. DiskShare is a file sharing program which allows you to protect your existing hardware, software, and data investments, and most importantly the sharing of files, therefore reducing support costs, system costs, and implementation time. DiskShare has many features that make it easy to use - including icons, object-oriented menus, and online help. It's the only server product on the market that provides NFS sharing and specialised file sharing directly from the Windows My Computer, File Manager, or Explorer interfaces.
Software enabling file sharing supports FAT, NTFS, CDFS, and HPFS file systems. File sharing software integrates fully with Windows NT security and ntegrates with Windows NT 4.0, 2000 and Windows XP (Professional). PCNFSD version 2 provide security and printing support for PC-based clients RPCInfo utility aids in identifying network problems as well as inducing file sharing. ShowMount utility lists access to network file systems NFS version 3 protocol support speeds access to resources and shared files. Diskshare is a file sharing program which includes port mapper (portmap), external data representation (xdr), mount protocol (mount), and network lock manager (nlm) and through integration in the Windows NT Performance Monitor, allows the system administrator to dynamically monitor and evaluate NFS server performance. File sharing and software creating specifically for the sharing of files includes support for Intel and Alpha- AXP processors and provides simple-to-use tuning options.
To learn more about Javvin's file sharing products, click here.
Laurels for Giving the Internet Its Language
Late in the summer of 1973, two young scientists in the nascent field of computer networks hunkered down in a conference room of the Cabana Hyatt Hotel in Palo Alto, Calif., a clean but bland stopping place for salesmen and the parents of students at nearby Stanford University. Their goal was to thrash out a way to make different, isolated computer networks talk to each other.
They wrote, they sketched, they argued, all the while passing a yellow legal pad back and forth to capture ideas as they crystallized.
When they emerged two days later, they knew they had the makings of a solid technical paper. What they did not know was that they had created the essential underpinnings of today's vast and sprawling Internet.
For the work that began on that yellow pad, the Association for Computing Machinery plans to announce Wednesday that Vinton G. Cerf and Robert E. Kahn will receive the 2004 A. M. Turing Award, widely considered to be the computing field's equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Nearly a billion people have come to rely on the Internet as they do on a light switch. Very few know how it works, to say nothing of how it got here. A 10-year- old might think Google, Microsoft or perhaps Al Gore invented the Internet.
In honoring Dr. Kahn and Dr. Cerf, the computing association validates one view in the highest ranks of computer science that their work made the Internet possible. It also revives the public spats in the small community of Internet founding fathers over who should be considered the Edison of this age.
"A lot of people are responsible for the success of the Internet," said David Patterson, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, who is president of the association. "Vint and Bob are responsible for the vocabulary of the Internet."
With that first generation of pioneers now graying, researchers and archivists are pondering the birth of the Internet in historic terms. That old yellow pad, if it had not been lost decades ago, would be a valuable collector's item now.
In fact, a first edition of the technical journal in which the Cerf-Kahn paper, "A Protocol for Packet Network Interconnection," appeared is being auctioned at Christie's next Wednesday as part of a larger sale of computer-science papers being sold by a collector in Novato, Calif. The journal is expected to sell for $2,000 to $3,000.
In that early brainstorming session, Dr. Kahn, 66, and Dr. Cerf, 61, who are known in the computing field for their Watson-and-Crick-like teamwork, created the structure for Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, a set of communications standards that enable different computer networks to share information, giving the Internet its power and reach.
Dr. Patterson said his association was careful to word the award citation so that it was clear that Dr. Cerf, now senior vice president of technology strategy at MCI, and Dr. Kahn, chief executive of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, a nonprofit research and development organization in Reston, Va., were being honored for their work on the Internet protocol, not the Internet as a whole, so as not to rile other claimants to the Internet's creation. Still, this is the first time in the 39-year history of the award that it has been conferred for work in computer networking - the key to enabling global data communications.
For computers to exchange digital data like Web pages, e-mail and digital movies, they have to agree on a method for communicating with each other. The Kahn- Cerf Transmission Control Protocol defines a standard way to package chunks of data into "datagrams," for sending across the network.
The Internet Protocol provides a standard way of putting those datagrams into envelopes addressed to any computer in the world. Like postal sorters, the computers along the way can look at the addresses on the envelopes to relay them to their destinations without needing to look inside the envelopes.
No one disputes that Dr. Kahn and Dr. Cerf created the original protocol, but factions in computer science point to different inventions as being most vital to the Internet's existence.
Most notably, for the last 10 years, Leonard Kleinrock, a computer scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been laying claim to having invented packet switching, the general method of splitting up a message into digital packets, routing the packets individually and reassembling the message on the other end.
Until Dr. Kleinrock began making his case prominently, two others, Paul Baran and Donald W. Davies, had been widely recognized as packet switching's inventors. Dr. Davies died in 2000.
In recent years, Lawrence G. Roberts, who in the late 1960's designed the Arpanet, a precursor of the Internet, has been a supporter of Dr. Kleinrock's claim.
Dr. Cerf, who was a graduate student working in Dr. Kleinrock's lab at U.C.L.A. when the first Arpanet link was installed there in 1969, is aware of the egos involved in this debate over legacy. He said he hoped the announcement of the Turing Award would not rankle colleagues.
"Especially Larry and Len," he said. "They truly believe that their work was so integral to the Internet that every time Bob and I are mentioned they think they should get mentioned."
This is not the first time Dr. Kahn and Dr. Cerf have been singled out. In 1997 they were awarded the National Medal of Technology. In 2001, Dr. Cerf, Dr. Kahn, Dr. Kleinrock and Dr. Roberts shared the Charles Stark Draper Prize for the development of the Internet.
But the addition of the Turing Award to the trophy case could be a sensitive subject. "This will probably be troublesome," Dr. Cerf said. "But I hope not."
Dr. Kleinrock, when informed of this year's award, said: "These awards are given on whatever measures and criteria the committees determine. There's plenty of credit to go around."
Dr. Cerf and Dr. Kahn, who were informed of the award last week, will divide the $100,000 prize, which is named for Alan Mathison Turing, the British mathematician and cryptographer who broke German codes during World War II.
The two, who have collaborated on and off for more than three decades, have different styles. Dr. Cerf, a bon vivant who usually wears a three-piece suit, is known for his good-natured pragmatism. Dr. Kahn is more intense.
"Every meeting with Bob is like a Ph.D. oral qualifying exam," said David L. Tennenhouse, director of research at Intel, which sponsors the award. Dr. Kahn, he said, "will drill down on you" to uncover "inconsistencies in what you're saying."
Yet both men are known for their wry senses of humor. "Maybe it's the humor that kept them together," Dr. Tennenhouse said.
They first met in 1969 at U.C.L.A., after the first Arpanet nodes were installed around the country. Dr. Kahn, then working at Bolt, Beranek & Newman, an engineering firm, in Cambridge, Mass., spent time at U.C.L.A. conducting experiments on the new network.
Since then, the two men have been intellectually "bound at the hip," seldom straying far from computer networking.
In 1973, when they wrote the paper outlining their idea, Dr. Cerf had just joined the faculty at Stanford University and Dr. Kahn had moved to the Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Defense Department, which had funded the original Arpanet.
Dr. Kahn said Dr. Cerf took the first crack at writing the specifications for the protocol.
"After five or seven minutes, he said, 'I'm not sure where to start,' " Dr. Kahn recalled.
"I said, 'Look, why don't you give me the pen,' and I wrote the first 10 pages," Dr. Kahn said. "Then he said, 'Why don't you give me the pen,' and he went from there."
To determine whose name would appear first on the paper, they tossed a coin, and Dr. Cerf won.
Dr. Cerf's secretary typed up the paper from the original notes, which have long since disappeared.
"Vint never instructed her about what to do so she probably just threw that yellow pad out," Dr. Kahn said, with some remorse.
Dr. Cerf said part of the reason their protocols took hold quickly and widely was that he and Dr. Kahn made no intellectual property claims to their invention. They made no money from it, though it did help their careers. "It was an open standard that we would allow anyone to have access to without any constraints," he said.
Dr. Cerf said he was "pretty amazed" by what the Internet had become. He was quick to add, "I suppose anyone who worked on the railroad, or power generation and distribution, would have similar feelings about how amazing it is after you create infrastructure."
Dr. Cerf is also quite realistic about the recognition his contribution deserves. Creating a tool is one thing, he said, but credit for what people do with it is something no inventor can claim.
Tecmo Sues Forum Members For Hacking
Tecmo has sued users of an Internet message board devoted to hacking into popular games, including its "Ninja Gaiden" and "Dead or Alive," to change their codes, the publisher said on Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Chicago, accuses Web site administrators Mike Greiling of Eden Prairie, Minn., Will Glynn of Davie, Fla., and others of knowingly infringing on Tecmo's proprietary software for the games, which run on Microsoft's Xbox game system.
Greiling could not be located for comment, and Glynn was not immediately available. The site in question is www.ninjahacker.net.
Tecmo, a Torrance, Calif.-based subsidiary of Japan's Tecmo said it has launched an investigation "to find and identify all offenders in this case." The lawsuit charges the defendants with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and seeks damages.
Napster Hack Leads To Free Downloads
It's like the old Napster all over again: all the music you want for free, as long as you're willing to get a little geeky.
Blogs were buzzing Tuesday about the resurgence of an old technique for recording music on a computer, reapplied to Napster's all-you-can-eat subscription music plan. Using software freely available from America Online's Winamp division, it's possible to turn Napster's copy-protected downloads into unprotected files that can be burned by the hundreds or even thousands freely to CDs.
This type of antipiracy evasion has repeatedly dogged digital media services from RealNetworks to Apple Computer over the years. Applied to subscription services offering unlimited access to downloads of more than 1 million songs, the idea may have new resonance, however.
For now, Napster and other content providers are saying the "hack" isn't dangerous to their subscription model, even though it can result in the creation of unprotected, fairly high-quality music files.
"It's not a new thing," said Napster spokeswoman Dana Harris. "We do all we can to make our system as secure as possible for people who want to pay for music." Record label executives nevertheless said privately that they were worried at the attention the technique was getting.
The news is the latest wrinkle in a long-running technological arms race between hackers and media companies that has helped keep digital media, from DVDs to downloadable songs, from settling into stable markets.
For the most part, digital rights management (DRM) advocates say their anticopying wares are aimed at stopping "casual" pirates. They concede that determined programmers will almost certainly be able to find ways to copy music despite protections.
In a handful of instances, hackers have actually managed to completely break, or strip out, the digital rights protection tools applied to media files. Because this kind of technique preserves the original quality of the digital file, it is potentially the most dangerous to content companies.
The tools that allow DVDs to be copied have been the most widely used version of this technique, with commercial products even showing up temporarily on mainstream store shelves. An early version of Microsoft's Windows Media was broken in 2001, but the company was able to fix the problem with updates to its media player.
More recently, Apple has repeatedly changed its iTunes software to block hackers who have figured out ways to remove the copy-protection software from songs purchased at its online store.
The "stream ripping" problem is a different one, essentially a high-tech version of recording a song off the radio. Instead of removing the copy- protection software, a computer program plays the song as it is supposed to, and then records the song as the unprotected audio is sent to the sound card and speakers.
This technique is typically more cumbersome than a DRM-remover, requiring each song to be played fully, and can result in substantially diminished sound quality. In the case of the Winamp plug-in that is being applied to Napster's downloadable songs, the tool creates WAV files that are more than 10 times larger than their original Windows Media formats.
Nonetheless, technology companies have taken some steps to block these tools in the past. RealNetworks successfully sued a company called Streambox that created software for recording online streaming media in the company's video format.
Microsoft has created software to help block this kind of ripping, but it has rarely been used by content providers. Dubbed "Secure Audio Path," it adds noise to an audio file as it is sent to the sound card. Compatible cards can remove the noise before it reaches the speakers. Any attempt to tap the audio stream before it reaches the sound card would result in a near-unlistenable copy.
Napster and other content companies have largely elected not to turn this capability on for their services, however--in part because it would limit their software to use on computers running the Windows XP and Windows ME operating systems.
"In general people aren't using this," said David Caulton, a group product manager for Microsoft's Windows digital media division. "I think when they look at the user experience that (stream ripping) tools offer, they're not very concerned about it."
Caulton said that Microsoft is also investigating the Winamp tool to see whether any of the company's licensing terms, which allow the software to play Windows Media files in the first place, have been broken.
Napster has made headlines in recent weeks for kicking off its "Napster To Go" program, which allows people to move songs downloaded through its unlimited subscription service to portable players for the first time.
Napster Refutes Flawed Protection Claims
Less than three weeks after Napster Inc. began touting its all-you-can-rent music subscription service, the company finds itself refuting Internet claims that its copy-protection measures are flawed.
The company posted a message this week, saying the service's digital music tracks are no more susceptible to unauthorized copying than any other licensed music service.
The statement comes after word surfaced on the Internet about how subscribers of Napster To Go, which lets users play an unlimited number of tracks on their computer or on certain portable devices for about $15 a month, could make permanent copies of the songs.
The method involves downloading a free audio player that is able to record audio directly from a computer's sound card, bypassing copy-protection technology designed to prevent copying.
Such a method could potentially harm the prospects for the company's new service.
In its statement, the company compared the process described on the Internet to copying songs from the radio onto cassette tapes.
"This program does not break the encryption of the files, which can only be recorded one at a time making the process quite laborious," the company said. "It would take 10 hours to convert 10 hours of music in this manner."
Despite efforts to use copy-protection technology on CDs and within digital tracks, most, if not all, fail to block recording of analog audio signals.
"As long as you can listen to the music, there's going to be a way to capture it like this," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research.
Adults Under 30 Likely to Have MP3 Players
Men and adults under 30 are more likely to have iPods and other digital music players, according to a new survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Overall, 11 percent of adults in the United States, or more than 22 million, have MP3 players - on top of the countless teens. Pew surveys do not poll those under age 18.
Broadband users are also big owners of MP3 players, and Internet users are four times as likely as non-users to own one. Those with higher household incomes are also more likely to have an MP3.
The random telephone-based survey of 2,201 adults was conducted Jan. 13 to Feb. 9 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
ILN News Letter
Australia To Launch Major Copyright Review On Fair Use
Australia's Attorney-General has announced plans to conduct a review on the scope of copyright's fair use. The A.G. is considering allowing consumers to freely copy films, music and photographs from one medium to another, as long as they have paid for them and the material is solely for private use.
Chamberlain Seeks Supreme Ct Review Of DMCA Case
BNA's Electronic Commerce & Law Report reports that the Chamberlain Group has filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court seeking review of a Federal Circuit judgment rejecting Chamberlain's DMCA claims against the manufacturer of universal remote controls that interoperate with Chamberlain's products.
Article at http://pubs.bna.com/ip/BNA/eip.nsf/is/a0b0k4e4y9 For a free trial to source of this story, visit http://www.bna.com/products/ip/eplr.htm
CT Rules Web Surfing Makes Consumer Confusion Likely
BNA's Electronic Commerce & Law Report reports on Coca-Cola v. Purdy, a recent federal court from Minnesota involving trademark infringement. The court ruled that the "quick and effortless nature" of Web surfing makes it easy for consumers to be confused as to the sponsorship of a website.
Article at http://pubs.bna.com/ip/BNA/eip.nsf/is/a0b0j5e8u1 Decision at http://law.marquette.edu/goldman/pur...injunction.pdf For a free trial to source of this story, visit http://www.bna.com/products/ip/eplr.htm
MS Tests Anti-Piracy In Brazil
Microsoft has launched its biggest initiative yet to combat software piracy in Brazil, allowing only registered customers access to "non-critical" updates of its Windows operating system.
The program will give Microsoft's Brazilian users access to certain software updates, such as the latest version of its Windows Media Player, only if they have registered their operating system on a special web site. Legal users will also have access to special offers, such as discounts for some products offered by Microsoft and its partners.
Other updates related to security and defined as "critical" by the company will still be available to all users.
Unveiled in the United States, Canada, China and the Czech Republic in September, the "Windows Genuine Advantage Offers" aims to ween consumers away from cheap versions of Microsoft's operating system sold on the black market.
Industry groups say more than 60 per cent of the software running on computers in Brazil was purchased or copied illegally.
Microsoft is also coming under pressure in Brazil from a government initiative to promote open-source software, such as Linux, in an effort to cut costs. Brazil is Latin America's largest economy and one of Microsoft's biggest markets in the developing world.
"My expectation is that we will reach a participation rate of more than 20 per cent, which was the initial forecast the company had when it launched the program in other countries," Dinis Couto, Microsoft's general manager for its Windows division in Brazil, said.
He added that 7.6 million people had shown interest in the "Advantage Offers" plan in other countries and 60 per cent of them had already validated their operating system as legal.
The plan is only valid for Window's XP and 2000 operating systems and is aimed at home users and small businesses. Although it will be initially optional to users, the program will be required for all Windows XP and 2000 users seeking non- critical updates from the second half of this year.
Microsoft's popular Office suite of programs will not be included in the plan initially, the software company said.
If a person unknowingly buys a computer with a pirated version of Windows and tries to register the software, the web site will allow them to print a certificate they can take back to the seller. Consumers will also be able to denounce dealers of pirated software on the site.
"The company isn't acting like the police, but we want to be sure that legal users have access to our programs' benefits," Mr Couto added.
i love this one:
tegan and sara - i bet it stung
i’m such a sucker for well made indiegrrrrl pop that if she snatched her guitar and started rocking on my bed i’d shout "grab something white honey, we’re flyin’ to vegas!"
Like I can’t wait
iMesh Almost Ready To Become Paid File-Swap Network
For more than six months, Israel's iMesh has been the strangest of beasts in the file-swapping world: a fully functioning peer-to-peer network operating with the blessing, albeit temporary, of the recording industry.
That status is coming slowly to an end. The company is working to build a record-label-approved peer-to-peer service, using song-filtering company Audible Magic's technology to help turn unauthorized music trades into revenue for record labels.
Originally expected by the end of last year, the song-sales service is taking longer than predicted. Company executives declined to comment on the details of the service, but said that progress on the new service has been satisfactory.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which settled a copyright lawsuit against iMesh last July on the condition that the company change its service, said it would wait a little longer.
"We're willing to give them time to make it work," said Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the RIAA.
The RIAA's flexibility in allowing more than half a year to pass is a sign of just how much importance record executives attach to bringing at least a few file-swapping services into the industry fold. Past settlements and court judgments against peer-to-peer companies have typically resulted in networks shutting down or trading their unfiltered file-swapping system for something else.
Also, iMesh may have benefited from the uncertain status of the law on file-swapping companies. Several federal courts have ruled that peer-to-peer companies are not legally liable for the widespread copyright infringement of people using their software, and the matter is slated to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 29.
The new iMesh is one of several file-swapping services being given a qualified green light by the recording industry, in return for blocking music piracy and putting price tags on downloads.
A service called Mashboxx, headed by former Grokster president Wayne Rosso, is also being developed with an eye toward using peer-to-peer swapping to sell music. That service is expected to use Napster founder Shawn Fanning's new Snocap technology, which is designed to identify songs so swaps can be turned into sales.
Today's iMesh have included part of the company's new product, although that's not immediately clear to consumers. Executives say their software's latest updates are based on a new technology platform that will serve as the foundation of the new service, once it launches. They've also taken out all the bundled advertising software that has typically drawn complaints from users fearful of spyware.
If completed as planned, the new iMesh would be the first peer-to-peer service to integrate the song-identification technology from Audible Magic, a company whose filters have promoted by the RIAA in the past as a possible way to block illegal swapping across other networks.
Despite the looming changes in its service, iMesh has remained popular. According to Download.com, a software aggregation service owned by News.com publisher Cnet Networks, the software was downloaded more than 715,000 times last week.
Dolby Labs Raises $495 Million in Initial Public Offering
Dolby Laboratories, a developer of music and motion picture sound systems, raised $495 million in an initial public offering, putting a valuation on the company that makes its founder, Ray Dolby, a billionaire.
Dolby Laboratories sold 10.5 million Class A shares at $18 each, while its founder sold 17 million shares, the company, based in San Francisco, said yesterday.
Dolby increased the offering price from the range of $13.50 to $15.50 it estimated earlier this month. The company developed a system in the 1960's that reduced background noise in tape recordings. In the 1970's, the Dolby surround-sound system was used in theaters for films including "Star Wars." Dolby products have been used in the production of more than 16,000 movies, thousands of DVD titles and hundreds of video games, the company said in a filing. Mr. Dolby, 71, founded the company in London in 1965 after he got a doctorate in physics from Cambridge University. He is board chairman and got $306 million in the offering.
Mr. Dolby's share in the company is worth $1.2 billion based on his 69.8 percent stake in the stock after the share sale. The company's market value is $1.75 billion, based on its 97,362,125 Class A and Class B shares at $18 each.
Control of the company will remain with Mr. Dolby through his holding of Class B shares, which carry 10 votes each. Class A shares are permitted one vote each. Mr. Dolby's total voting power is 93.6 percent, according to a filing yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Ray Dolby and Ioan Allen, the company's senior vice president, won Academy Awards in 1978 and 1988 for their efforts to develop motion-picture sound.
In the 12 months ended Sept. 24, the company had net income of $39.8 million on sales of $289 million. Net income was $30.9 million on revenue of $217.5 million a year earlier.
Morgan Stanley and the Goldman Sachs Group managed the offering, assisted by J. P. Morgan Chase & Company, Adams Harkness and William Blair & Company.
Skype Looks More and More Like a Baby Microsoft
A lot of geek types are going Ga-ga over Skype because of what a great desktop application it is. But these ordinarily-skeptical GNU-loving beatnicks (myself included) aren't asking themselves the question that's been on my mind lately--would I still love Skype so much if it was a Microsoft product?
Somehow, I don't think Skype would have the same support from the free software community.
If you visit Microsoft's 'online museum', you'll see that their webmaster has conveniently left out all of their early business deals in order to make us think that Microsoft's product history starts and ends with Windows. As if Bill and Paul really made their first million selling Altair BASIC.
Before I get too far into a Microsoft rant, let me re-focus. After all, this article is also about Skype, not just Microsoft. Just stay with me, if you don't mind.
In 1982, the Commodore 64 came with Microsoft BASIC. So did the TRS-80, the Commodore 128, and the Apple II. Even that decade-too-soon Amiga computer ran a Microsoft BASIC. In the years that followed, Microsoft bought CP/M, turned it into MS-DOS, and inked a deal with IBM to develop a next-generation operating that eventually, a lawsuit or two later, became Windows. In the early 1990s, Microsoft deftly overtook Apple as the desktop operating system vendor of choice, sealing a 2- decade legacy of arguably competition-free market dominance that not even Ralph Nader and Bill Clinton's justice department could dampen.
Now, fast-forward to 2003. A small European software company called Skype has been optimizing their simple, peer-to-peer VoIP tool, an instant messaging application that looks and feels rather like Yahoo Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger. Offering better sound quality and bandwidth economy than competing VoIP products, Skype quickly becomes the instant messaging client of choice for folks who need to make voice calls on the cheap.
In 2004, Linux and Macintosh are added to the roster of Skype's supported desktop operating systems, and the Skype network grows exponentially. Skype releases their API for Windows, and handy add-on applications begin showing up. Now, Skype can answer your calls while you're away, and even be bridged with other sound- generating or sound-recording apps. Using Skype's public telephone gateway service, called SkypeOUT, you can even call your mom on her landline phone. A few months later, SkypeIN is added, and people can call your Skype client using a regular phone number.
Some observers dismissed Skype as a software fad, overlooking the network that underlies the Skype system--a network which rides on the Internet and permits secure, encrypted, essentially free, voice calls and conference calls between users of all stripes. A network derived from the killer peer-to-peer topology employed by the uber- successful file-sharing program Kazaa. This network could conceivably replace the public telephone network in large part, just as Microsoft's domination of desktop computing devastated an entire vibrantly-competing market of 8-bit and 16-bit also-rans in the 80s and early 90s. It seems odd to most people that a peer-to-peer freeware system could replace Ma Bell, but there it is. Most people couldn't conceive of a Microsoft-dominated computer industry back in the days of Amstrad and Sinclair.
Consider the similiarities between Microsoft and Skype. Both had to create and license less-than-ambitious specialty products in order to finance their long-term goals. In the case of Microsoft, it was BASIC and the like. In Skype's case, it was the Skype IM client. That's just where the similarities begin.
Both Microsoft and Skype had (or have) a smart bunch of people looking for ground-floor entrances into a burgeoning new market that most people don't yet realize is out there. In Microsoft's case, it was desktop computing. In Skype's case, it's global packet telephony.
Both built proprietary technologies to solve problems that had already been dealt with by standards. In Microsoft's case, they avoided Unix in favor of MS DOS. They avoided internetworking in favor of simpler (and more limited) NetBEUI broadcast networking. Skype on the other hand created a peer-to-peer VoIP call-routing and signaling system when other, arguably superior, methods exist: most notably Session Intiation Protocol and Real-time Protocol. But, like Billy Boy, Skype has found the standards less than acceptable for what they're attempting to do. This, to me, is a clear indicator of what their long-term ambitions are. But the resemblance doesn't end there.
Just as Microsoft started to build its own developer tools to allow creative thinkers to subscribe to the Windows platform vision (and buy in to a proprietary development style), Skype has released its Skype API to encourage developers to jump onto their platform. This means that VoIP-interested developers may be less likely to learn SIP and more likely to learn the Skype API. Echos of Borland C resound: Visual C programs only ran on Windows, just as Skype API programs only run on the Skype network. Standards be damned.
Like Microsoft, Skype is using partners' devices to extend their distribution channels. So far these devices include the i-Mate and Motorola cell phones. Just as Microsoft fanned out its distribution base for Windows by inking "no-win" deals with PC makers, Skype has undoubtedly marked a bit of firmware memory on every cell phone in the first world as fair target territory. Instead of Bill Gates' old addage "Microsoft software running on every computer", Skype may be thinking, "Skype firmware running on every phone and broadband router".
Right now, Skype's technology appeals to cell-phone makers like Motorola because it has the potential to free them from the contractual bondage of Cingular and Nextel. Cell-phone makers want a value-added feature that lessens their dependence on proprietary, closed-access cell networks. The Internet--and Skype--enable that feature. But, as time goes own, the debt of servitude will shift to Skype instead, just as PC makers looking for a low-cost OS to help sell their iron eventually became shackled by Windows. This is the "devil in the details".
With a high-layer Skype peer-to-peer mesh between 3G wireless networks, the Internet, WiFi and WiMax links, and home phones, a single, cohesive call-signaling technology will exist--and flourish--for the first time ever. But there's one catch--and it's a mighty big one: Skype will control the whole thing, from the signaling technology all the way up to the content.
To illustrate this idea, imagine Skype and Microsoft traded names:
Your cell-phone boots up and logs in to a Microsoft super node using the local WiFi connection. At this point Microsoft knows your IP address, your phone number, your user name, your password, and your rough geographic location. And that's all without you even calling anybody on your cell-phone yet. Now, let's say you call dear old Grandma. Using Microsoft's 256-bit encryption, nobody can listen in on your call--which is great... except when you consider that Microsoft controls the network and the encryption algorithm. Once the FCC gets wind that the FBI can't tape Skype calls, Microsoft will be legislated into permitting your calls to be monitored. Not feeling quite as secure now, are you? Let's hope Grandma doesn't tell you any trade secrets during that call. Oh, and by the way--you called Grandma using the MicrosoftOUT gateway-- so that'll cost you three bucks. Payable to, you guessed it, Microsoft.
Now, for the knock-out punch in this near-conspiracy theory. Bill Gates has often outlined a vision of Microsoft becoming an "information utility", the nerve center of a Microsoftian infrastructure network where people subscribe to computing power (think "grid") the way they subscriibe to electric power, cable television, or--you guessed it--telephone service. Skype's startling vision of a future telephone-over-Internet network is probably closer to creating the infrastructure of utility computing than even Bill Gates himself is prepared to admit.
Remember the days when Bill Gates refused to acknowledge the importance of the Internet? And that was an uncoordinated, almost random sudden adoption of vendor- neutral networking technology. Skype is an orchestrated attempt to utterly replace a the global telephone network, driven by a small army of cash-armed tech warriors who are as success-driven and shrewd as Gates himself was as an ugly, gawky teenager in the 1970s. If I were Microsoft, or SBC, or Nextel, I'd be watching Skype very closely right now, as I'm sure they are.
Cutler's Seeks Edge Over Internet
When Dale Herbeck was in college and was "hot for a girl," he would make her a mixed tape using his collection of tapes and records. Today, Herbeck can download music from the Internet and burn CDs for the target of his affection.
"Boom! You can have the songs you want, the quality you want," said Herbeck, who teaches cyber law at Boston College. "It's very fast and efficient."
Some three-and-a-half years after a lawsuit forced Napster to shut down, Internet users -- particularly college students with easy access to technology -- are increasingly using peer-to-peer file-sharing software to download songs for free. Music shoppers can also buy individual songs though the Web, or pay a monthly fee for online programs that offer access to thousands of albums. As music becomes readily available through the Internet, local music stores that depend on CD sales, such as Cutler's Records and Tapes in New Haven, are striving to find and articulate a niche.
"Has file sharing hurt us?" asked Phil Cutler, owner and president of Cutler's. "I'm sure it's hurt us."
If potential customers could not share files, business would likely be better, said Cutler, whose grandfather founded the store. Still, as the record industry's overall CD sales grew 1.6 percent last year, revenue at Cutler's continued to inch up. Cutler's has remained competitive by diversifying its selection, offering labels that most peer-to-peer networks do not carry and hiring staff with expertise in different genres.
"I can tell you everything you want to know about jazz," assistant manager Kyle Mullins said. "You don't have that at a Circuit City."
Helen Rittelmeyer '08 likes that Cutler's sells "weird, obscure, eclectic stuff" like Camper van Beethoven, an '80s indie rock band and one of her favorites. Rittelmeyer could not find the band at the iTunes Music Store, an online service that sells individual songs and allows file sharing within networks.
Lenny Ashby, a Westville, Conn., resident who recently visited Cutlers, said he burns CDs and shares files. But sometimes he likes to buy "the actual physical album." He likes unwrapping a CD and looking at the pictures on the jacket.
"I'm kind of old-school that way," Ashby said, picking up the soundtrack for "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." "I like to have the disk. I do believe in supporting the artist."
Peer-to-peer file-sharing software like Morpheus, KaZaA and Acquisition circulates artists' music without bringing them revenue; the Supreme Court will decide the legality of such software this year. Internet music stores like iTunes and the new Napster pay artists and recording industries, and their legality is not in question. Rolling Stone estimates that in 2004, about a billion song files were traded each month, and the year's online sales reached 140 million songs.
Robert Dunne, a computer science professor at Yale, said both technologies hurt music stores like Cutler's.
"People don't have to go to the record store to buy this stuff any more," he said.
Herbeck compared record stores to travel agents and video stores: the Internet has decreased demand for all three. More people are buying airplane tickets and renting videos online, just as they are downloading music directly from the Web. Herbeck said file sharing and Internet sales will hurt independent record stores like Cutler's more than national chains, whose merchandise is more varied.
"What will a Best Buy do? Well, they'll sell more cell phones and more TV sets," Herbeck said. "I think the independents will get absolutely killed."
Some independent stores will close, Herbeck predicted, while others will diversify their stock. For now, Cutler's has chosen the second route. The store sells extra items like posters, calendars, incense and even action figures. Last year, Cutler's started offering DVDs.
"If one end of my business shrinks, another kind of business -- like DVD movies -- will grow," Phil Cutler said. "I'll just roll with the times."
People share fewer DVDs than music because movie files are much bigger and harder to download, Herbeck said. But he predicted that in a few years, new technology will make DVD file sharing just as popular. In that case, Cutlers will need to diversify further.
Herbeck recognized that local record stores offer music that is difficult to find on peer-to-peer networks and in Internet stores. But with time, he said, even that edge will fade. He predicted that iTunes might eventually offer nearly every song title.
For now, though, Cutler's manages to attract customers. Rittelmeyer visits the store on Tuesday afternoons to browse, and she ends up buying something every third visit or so. Alexander Schwed '06 said he likes Cutler's classical music department; He buys between 10 and 12 CDs there every year. Matthew Daly '06 recently purchased Beyonce's "Dangerously In Love" album at Culter's because he wanted the CD that day and Cutler's is close to campus.
Phil Cutler said some people frequent his store to play Pac-Man -- the game machines are in the back -- or talk to the staff.
Still, the future of record stores is uncertain. In the 1970s, Dunne worked at a record store in the Bronx. It was the heyday of The Beatles, he said, and the Internet was still a pipe dream. Dunne is relieved he no longer sells music.
"That's a business I wouldn't want to be in right now," he said.
Sleater-Kinney to P2P Users: For Shame
What do Sleater-Kinney and Metallica have in common? Expressed distaste for peer to peer file sharing networks.
Copies of the band's upcoming The Woods, due out May 24 from Sub Pop, have been leaked to the Internet, prompting an e-scolding from the trio. On Monday, the act posted a letter on its web site condeming fans for trading the song on the web.
But wait! The act isn't siding with Lars' greed on this one, at least officially. The band, whose members support bootleg swapping of its shows via P2P networks, takes action with the notion that fans are getting an incomplete version of their work, muddling its artistic integrity.
"Our latest record is something that we have worked on for a long time," the band's statement read. "The writing took nearly two years in an effort to challenge and push ourselves. And the recording/mixing itself took six weeks. So much of this new record is a response to the deadening and watering down of music. We wanted to make something that felt wild and alive and that made us excited to wake up in the mornings. There is art work and lyrics and images that we want to share. Ideally, we want to present this record in the way we envision it; as a complete entity, flowing and tangible and within the context that we have created for it."
Currently, Sub Pop has no singles scheduled for The Woods. Whether it's to protect the artistic integrity of the album as an album or they just haven't been pressed yet is unknown.
"The most honest thing we can say is that it breaks our hearts to think of this being out there early," the act pleaded. "It actually just feels awful. The release date is 3 months away. We have worked for so long on this record. It's not real for us until May 24th; that is the moment when we get to share this piece of our lives that we are so proud of, to share it with you the way we intended; please wait until then to share it with us."
Philadelphia Hopes to Lead the Charge to Wireless Future
If Mayor John F. Street has his way, by next year this 135-square-mile metropolis will become one gigantic wireless hot spot, offering every neighborhood high-speed access to the Web at below-market prices in what would be the largest experiment in municipal Internet service in the country.
City officials envision a seamless mesh of broadband signals that will enable the police to download mug shots as they race to crime scenes in their patrol cars, allow truck drivers to maintain Internet access to inventories as they roam the city, and perhaps most important, let students and low-income residents get on the net.
Experts say the Philadelphia model, if successful, could provide the tipping point for a nationwide movement to make broadband affordable and accessible in every municipality. From tiny St. Francis, Kan., to tech-savvy San Francisco, more than 50 local governments have already installed or are on the verge of creating municipal broadband systems for the public.
But Philadelphia's plan has prompted a debate over who should provide the service, and whether government should compete with private industry, particularly in hard-to- reach rural areas or low-income urban communities. Telecommunications and cable companies say that municipal Internet networks will not only inhibit private enterprise, but also result in poor service and wasted tax dollars. They have mounted major lobbying campaigns in several states to restrict or prohibit municipalities from establishing their own networks.
"This is a growing trend, but an ominous and disturbing one," said Adam Thierer, director of telecommunications studies at the libertarian Cato Institute and the author of a soon-to-be-released study criticizing the Philadelphia plan. "The last thing I'd want to see is broadband turned into a lazy public utility."
Philadelphia officials say that will not happen here. Mr. Street has said he will try to raise corporate and foundation financing so the strapped city does not have to pay the network's $10 million startup costs. He also says the city will recruit private companies to help operate the system, asserting it will earn enough revenue to be self-sustaining.
Though details of Mr. Street's plan are still being developed, the city expects to install 4,000 wireless antennas along lampposts across the city in the next 18 months, creating a network of broadband signals.
City officials also hope to extend service into homes and businesses in poor neighborhoods, using nonprofit organizations to provide low-cost equipment, training and service.
"Just as highways were a critical infrastructure component of the last century, wireless Internet access must be a part of our infrastructure for the 21st century," Mr. Street said last month in a speech before the United States Conference of Mayors.
Most municipally run Internet systems are in small rural towns, many of which provide service at below-market rates. Philadelphia is proposing to charge $15 to $25 a month for its service, half of what private servers now charge, and even less for low-income users.
Industry officials say that if the program takes off, it will inevitably take customers from providers like the Comcast Corporation or Verizon Communications.
"Is it fair that the industry pay tax dollars to the city that are then used to launch a network that would compete with our own?" asked David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia. "I don't think so."
Officials in Philadelphia and other municipalities contend they never intended to compete with private companies. Many say they want to provide Internet service only because students, small businesses and low-income residents cannot afford or obtain high-speed Internet access.
Philadelphia officials say a recent survey found that nearly 40 percent of residents did not have Internet service. But industry officials say that virtually every neighborhood in the city is wired for broadband and that many people are choosing not to buy it.
Industry officials and advocates of limited government also say providing Internet access is far more risky, complicated and expensive than government officials realize. Equipment will quickly become obsolete, and slow-moving governments will not keep pace, they say.
"Government doesn't do service well," said Eric Rabe, vice president for public relations for Verizon.
"And communications is complicated. The technology changes constantly. Verizon has 3.5 million D.S.L. subscribers," Mr. Rabe said, referring to digital subscriber lines, "and we're still trying to figure out how to make money at $30 per month."
Pushed by industry lobbyists, lawmakers in Kansas, Ohio, Texas, Indiana, Iowa, Oregon and other states have proposed legislation to restrict or prohibit local governments from offering telecommunications services. Nearly a dozen states have already enacted some restrictions.
Verizon won a victory in Pennsylvania late last year when Gov. Edward G. Rendell signed a measure requiring that cities first give the main local phone company the right to build a high-speed Internet network. If the phone company proceeds within 14 months, the city must drop its plans . Philadelphia was exempted from the law.
In Kansas, the town of St. Francis, population 1,495, began offering Internet service nearly three years ago and now has 200 subscribers.
"We could not get anybody to provide us high-speed Internet," said J. R. Landenberger, city manager. "When that didn't work, we decided to do it ourselves."
In Scottsburg, Ind., a city of 6,000 near the Kentucky border, officials say a survey conducted in 2002 found that three local companies were considering moving or expanding elsewhere because they could not get broadband service.
The officials say they urged several providers to extend a network into town, but were told it was too small or remote to justify the cost. Consultants recommended that the town build a fiber network, at a cost of $5 million. Then city officials discovered wireless.
For an initial investment of $385,000, the town's municipally owned electric utility created a wireless broadband network for the entire county. Businesses now can buy high- speed service for $200 per month, about half the cost in nearby Louisville, Ky.
The service has about 600 subscribers, more than enough to cover its costs, town officials say. "We're just as pleased as we can be," Mayor Bill Graham said. "It's the same system they put into the Pentagon after Sept. 11. It is very secure, very fast and very reliable."
In Philadelphia, the skeptics argue that running a broadband network for a small town is far different from running one for a city of 1.5 million. Though installing a network of antennas might be straightforward, creating a system for billing, marketing and fielding service complaints will be far more difficult than the city imagines, they say. The city estimates the cost of maintaining the system will be $1.5 million a year.
"The real cost will be very different than what they think," Mr. Cohen of Comcast said.
Philadelphia officials say skeptics will come around when they see the power of broadband to attract business and improve the lives of poor people.
The Philadelphia plan will allow Internet users to roam anywhere in the city and remain connected, as long as they are outdoors, said Dianah Neff, the city's chief information officer. But bringing the signal indoors will require extra equipment. To help low-income residents acquire such equipment, the city plans to recruit a network of community organizations that can provide training, inexpensive computers and wireless equipment to eligible residents.
In West Philadelphia, the People's Emergency Center, a nonprofit group, is already providing such services, including after-school computer programs, wireless access at $5 a month, Web site development for small businesses and a program that helps welfare recipients communicate with caseworkers through the Internet. The group also sells refurbished computers to eligible residents for $125.
"Acquiring low-cost computers is the smallest problem," said Tan B. Vu, manager of the center's digital inclusion program. "The bigger problem is that people don't have Internet access. And that is where the city comes in."
One of the center's clients, Denise Stoner, 32, embodies both the promise and pitfalls of the city's plans.
A recently homeless mother who has a learning disabled son and a deaf daughter, both of whom have heart problems, Ms. Stoner has a refurbished desktop computer with broadband wireless service provided by the People's Emergency Center.
But her aging computer is slow and often hampered by viruses, which she depends on the center's technicians to eradicate. And while her 9-year-old son has improved his reading and spelling skills by using the Internet, he spends most of his time online playing games.
Still, Ms. Stoner has found both information and comfort from the Internet. She has learned sign language online to converse with her 2-year-old daughter. And she has discovered chat rooms for parents of children who have the same heart problems as her children.
"I ask them how they get by," she said of her e-mail conversations with people as far away as Africa. "They say they take it one day at a time."
P2P Nets As Anti-Pedophile Tools
Here’s an item in National Review by Penny Nance, Ernie Allen & Chuck Canterbury headlined, P2P Pressure - A copyright case has implications for tracking down child-porn brokers.
Beneath it is a response from LimeWire coo Greg Bildson.
The Nance, Allen and Chuck post reads reads:
“Later this year, the Supreme Court will decide MGM v. Grokster, a lawsuit brought by motion-picture and record producers against Grokster and StreamCast peer-to-peer, or P2P, file-sharing networks. P2P technology allows users to easily share copyrighted movies and songs for free with little risk of being caught. While the case is predominantly about copyright law, we believe that it is critically important for another reason — fighting the battle against child pornography. At stake is the ability of law enforcement to identify and prosecute child pornographers who use P2P networks to traffic illegal images that victimize children. This is why each of our organizations recently joined a diverse coalition in filing an amicus brief in the case.
“Disturbingly, P2P networks are emerging as a major conduit for the distribution of child pornography, according to a 2003 study by the U.S. General Accounting Office. In a search of one P2P network, twelve known keywords quickly identified more than 500 child pornography files. In another search by the U.S Customs CyberSmuggling Center, a mere three keywords swiftly produced more than 150 files containing child exploitation.
“Similarly, NCMEC has found that P2P technology is increasingly popular for the dissemination of child pornography. Using P2P, pedophiles are able to download larger files — such as graphic child-porn movies with sound — which they cannot easily obtain through websites or E-mail. As one of the amici noted in the brief "peer- to-peer programs have made it more difficult to identify users.... The anonymity of recent peer-to-peer technology has allowed individuals who exploit children to trade images and movies featuring the sexual assault of children with very little fear of detection."
“For example, P2P companies Grokster and StreamCast disabled mechanisms to monitor and control activity on their networks. They deliberately want to know less, not more, about the material they help traffic. By engaging in this head-in-the-sand behavior, the companies have reaped millions in advertising revenues by continuing to facilitate copyright violations and the spread of illegal material. While their profits have climbed, law enforcement's job of apprehending Internet criminals has become much more difficult.
“In its decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blessed this irresponsible business strategy, and found that the new P2P companies were not liable for copyright violations because they had intentionally surrendered control over their networks. The decision to endorse this evasive strategy has implications far beyond copyright law. If allowed to stand, the Ninth Circuit's ruling would encourage P2P companies to deliberately avoid knowledge of or control over any illegal conduct on their networks, whether it be copyright infringement or the trafficking in images of sexual assaults of children.
"This article so misrepresents the facts that I feel compelled to set the record straight.
You claim that P2P file sharing helps child pornographers. The truth is that P2P file sharing networks provide a powerful tool to law enforcement for tracking down and locking up the purveyors of child pornography. The most popular file sharing networks are far from anonymous. If a pedophile is sharing child pornography, they can be easily catalogued, tracked down and arrested. The FBI has made a number of arrests using file sharing tools to track perpetrators. Given that these individuals tend to hide their activity, they present a rare opportunity to be caught red handed if they use a file sharing network.
"The article goes on to imply that file sharing vendors are bad actors because they do nothing about child pornography. This is again totally inaccurate. I have personally lectured 20+ field agents of the FBI's Innocent Images division in assisting them to track down child pornographers. I have helped individual agents around the country and at headquarters on numerous occasions over the past two years. We have made changes to our software specifically for the FBI to track unique uploaders of child pornography. We have also offered to help with the creation of software for the FBI that would enable them to track and prosecute thousands more child pornographers then they can currently deal with today.
"We at LimeWire abhor child pornography and are willing to help fight it in any way we can. While we don't want to create a police state, we believe that we have taken appropriate action to deal with this specific problem. P2P file sharing software and its creators are not the problem. Sick individuals are the problem and when more of them get locked up, we expect that P2P file sharing networks will be regarded as a very bad place for these people to peddle their wares.
"In conclusion, it is my view that anyone with a Libertarian streak would support P2P file sharing. Our goal is to enable free speech and a free market for the exchange of ideas, art, educational material and digital media. If we can get beyond the short-term problem of these true bad actors, file sharing networks will be a powerful tool to enrich society and individual freedom. To achieve this better future, the right to innovate must not be trampled in anyone's rush to judgment.
"For a view of the file sharing debate that would please America's founding fathers, I would refer you to our amicus brief filed in the Grokster case.
Until next week,
Current Week In Review
Recent WiRs -
February 12th, February 5th, January 29th, January 22nd, January 15th
Jack Spratt's Week In Review is published every Friday. Please submit letters, articles, and press releases in plain text English to jackspratts (at) lycos (dot) com. Include contact info. Submission deadlines are Wednesdays @ 1700 UTC.
"The First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public." - Hugo Black
|Thread Tools||Search this Thread|