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Old 25-12-03, 08:42 PM   #1
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Join Date: May 2001
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review – December 27th, '03

Have a fabulous holiday and a soul inspiring, mind expanding, thoroughly groovy new year!

– Jack.

Digital Song Sales Aid U.S. Music Purchases
Jeff Leeds

Sales of music online may be starting to cure the record industry's blues. Music fans have purchased an estimated 15.9 million digital songs through licensed online services, including Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store, since late June, research firm Nielsen SoundScan will announce today.

As a result, total U.S. music sales — including albums and commercially released singles — are down just 2.2% for the year through Sunday. That contrasts with a 12.9% drop reported for the same period last year.

Without the digital songs, overall sales this year would be down 4.7%.

The top-selling digital song is Outkast's "Hey Ya," with 83,000 copies sold, according to the firm's data.

A crucial question is whether sales of digital singles, which typically sell for 99 cents, will displace sales of full CDs, which generate far more money for the major record corporations.

But so far, sales of full-length CDs don't appear to be worsening amid the nascent legal downloaded market. Overall sales of CDs, which account for about 96% of the market, are down 3% this year, compared with an 8.8% decline for the period a year earlier, according to Nielsen SoundScan data.


Spears Reigns Again on Internet
Paul Bond

Just as Internet users were beginning to lose interest in longtime Web wonder Britney Spears, a few sexually provocative magazine covers and a famous smooch with Madonna propelled the pop princess back into favor.

Yes, it's that time again -- when Lycos, America Online and Yahoo! each weigh in with their end-of-year statistics and, as was the case last year and the year before, Spears managed to claw her way near the top of the lists of the most searched-for celebrities.

Until Spears started promoting her new album with a flurry of attention-getting stunts, highlighted by her Sapphic excursion at the MTV Video Music Awards in September, the singer actually fell off Lycos' top-10 list of search terms for several weeks, spokesman Aaron Schatz said. Ultimately, though, she finished in the No. 2 spot overall at Lycos for the year, right behind song-swapping service Kazaa.

At Yahoo! she finished sixth on the overall list of searched-for terms, with one celebrity ahead of her: Eminem.

Yahoo! also reports that the search term receiving the biggest percentage gain year-over-year is, no surprise, Paris Hilton, she of online sex-tape fame. Yahoo! says searches for her went up a mere 212,000%.

Over at AOL, the biggest topic online was the war in Iraq, judging from activity at the Internet service provider's many message boards.

Following the war was politics in general and, in particular, the Democratic party primaries, the California recall election and "The Reagans" miniseries. Celebrities and their scandals also were hot, with Rush Limbaugh, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson leading the way.

Reality TV also was popular on AOL message boards, led by "American Idol" and followed by "Survivor," "Paradise Hotel" and "Big Brother."

Apparently, threesomes are quite popular on the Internet, according to Yahoo! The company's list of the most-searched movies is led by the Harry Potter soon-to-be trilogy, and more. It's followed by "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Matrix" trilogies, with "Spider-Man" and "8 Mile" rounding out the top-five searched-for movies.

And Lycos is predicting, based on its growing number of searches, that the movies "The Passion of the Christ," "Troy" and "Catwoman" will be hits.

Speaking of feature films, "Finding Nemo" has the dubious honor of being probably the year's most downloaded movie at peer-to-peer file-sharing services, according to the firm BayTSP. And surprisingly, BayTSP reported, the Miramax film "Shaolin Soccer," which hasn't even been released in the United States, was hugely popular.

Garnering an immense amount of short-lived attention was Al-Jazeera, the Arabic cable news network, which generated three times as many search queries in April than did the word "sex." Driving the interest in Al-Jazeera in March and April was the fact that its Web site featured video of American prisoners of war, Schatz said.

The top TV shows searched for, according to Lycos, were "American Idol," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "The Simpsons" and "Survivor." The top sports stars were Bryant, Anna Kournikova, Michael Jordan, David Beckham and Allen Iverson.

Nielsen//NetRatings is reporting that the top online brand, judging from statistics culled from the first 10 months of the year, will probably be AOL, narrowly outscoring MSN and Yahoo!


Idol Part Of The Problem, Not The Solution
Ben Rayner

One rarely read any discussion of music in the press this year that didn't come cloaked in a context of crisis or urgency. Seldom, it would appear, is music simply thought of or enjoyed as music anymore. It's a commodity, a type of virtual contraband, the "sport" at the centre of cutthroat, Olympian competitions. Even the sense of community that a shared love of music is supposed to bring people has been supplanted by a pitched us-against-them mentality between the recording industry and the hordes of downloaders it longs to drag into court. The music industry's financial troubles, blamed ? with good reason, admittedly, but not complete accuracy ? on the file- sharing bogeyman and a generation of thankless teenagers who've never had to pay for their favourite tunes, are the stuff of almost daily headlines. This is unlikely to change until the record companies adjust to the complicated reality not just of doing business in the digital age, but of trying to sell new music to baby boomers who spent the past 15 years replacing their extensive vinyl Beatles collection with CDs, and of trying to compete with the $90 PlayStation2 version of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and $14 movie tickets for a chunk of their traditional, younger audience's limited income. Peddling DVD copies of The Moody Blues Live At Red Rocks and The Bee Gees: One Night Only to the middle-aged folks and pleading with youngsters to "keep music coming" on inserts tucked into the CDs they're supposedly not buying anyway are stop-gap solutions, at best. In any case, there was a run of stories this past week that signalled music will continue to figure heavily in the business pages in the new year. Sony Music and BMG announced an intention to merge into the world's second largest major record label, one that will be responsible for slightly less than the 25 per cent market share currently enjoyed by the sprawling Universal Music Group. The merger is a sign that the industry is shoring up its defences against shrinking profits, but that's probably cold comfort to the numerous employees soon bound for the unemployment lines. Meanwhile, the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA), reeling from a loss of about a half-billion dollars in CD sales since 1998, dropped its gloves and announced that it has every intention of suing computer users who make extensive use of illegal music file-sharing services. CRIA's U.S. counterpart, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), paved the way this year by filing lawsuits against nearly 400 Americans ? including, most infamously, a 12-year-old New York girl living in subsidized housing ? who have helped themselves to liberal quantities of free tunes from peer-to-peer services such as Kazaa. Here in Canada, however, CRIA plans to first target "serial uploaders" who have been making the music available to other users online, and then, presumably, will wait and see if the threat of litigation scares some of the downloaders away. Such sabre-rattling is a bit out of character for the Canadian recording industry. Until now it has tread much more lightly than the RIAA ? which only just had its aggressive bid to force Internet providers to turn over the names of suspected file-swappers struck down by a U.S. federal appeals court ? favouring instead polite education campaigns over the outright demonization of file-sharers as common thieves. Evidently, it's nearing the end of its rope. Universal Music Canada is still working the "nice" approach for all it's worth, however. Months after lowering its retail CD prices in a bid to lure customers back into record shops, the company announced this week it will lift the burning restrictions on Universal tracks purchased through the Canadian online retailer Puretracks.com. Previously, you could only burn three copies of an album or a single track downloaded from Puretracks. Universal, however, has elected to make a show of trust to its customers and will now allow them to burn as many CD copies as they want ? on a trial basis, anyway. "We are going to trust that when they make copies they will only make them for personal use and in reasonable quantities," said Universal executive Graham Henderson in a news release issued Wednesday. "If your friend likes the music you are playing, then she or he should buy it." The move is, of course, ripe for the same kind of abuse as HMV's discarded "no questions asked" return policy. Even if good faith is just good PR, though, at least Universal seems to be listening to consumer concerns. Now if we could just do something about the product. A colleague of mine recently dubbed Ryan Malcolm's Home the worst album of 2003. And, with all due respect to the nice-guy Canadian Idol winner and current World Idol hopeful, I am inclined to agree. Not because it's a terrible record, per se ? it's perfectly competent, even if it's the kind of earnest, middle-of-the-road hokum that makes me want to puncture both eardrums with an ice pick ? but because of what it stands for. For one thing, Malcolm doesn't have the signature style or the charisma to have made it to this level had he not won what was, in effect, a nationwide popularity contest. Does that make him the best singer in the country? Of course not. It makes him the singer who won over enough teenage, female CTV viewers and their moms to get a crack at a major- label deal. The fairy-tale scenario is nice, but that doesn't mean we should pay any attention to it. Home, composed at a songwriting boot camp by Malcolm and a Who's Who of Canadian and American hitmakers shortly after the singer's Idol victory, is exactly the sort of committee-written, calculatedly cross-format bid for commercial success that makes people despise the big record companies. And while I don't doubt Malcolm's love of music is genuine and that, perhaps, he could one day make a decent record without an army of BMG employees making his decisions, I'm not sure that a record like Home qualifies as music as I define it. Music is a form of expression, not mathematics, although capitalism may sometimes dictate otherwise. Music will survive even if the major labels crumble and Malcolm's Home tanks. It predated them both. Maybe it wouldn't be such a source of stress for everyone if we had never lost sight of that in the first place.


Gimme Shelter: a Tough Year for the Biz
Brian Garrity

For the global recorded music business, 2003 was a year like no other -- and one the industry hopes never to see again.

In the past 12 months, record companies went to war with their consumers, gave in to pressure on CD pricing, turned to DVD and videogame features to sell albums, laid off thousands of employees, proposed mergers, sold manufacturing divisions and other assets and watched thousands more music retailers close their doors.

Of course, not all the news was bad. After a prolonged labor, the business saw the birth of a new format -- the paid digital download.

The drivers of all this activity were eroding album sales and continuing unlicensed, peer-to-peer file sharing and CD burning.


"It was a difficult year," says Doug Morris, chairman/CEO of Universal Music Group. "But when you look back in history, this will be the big transitional year." He notes that many of the developments in 2003 came as the industry confronted the impact of piracy and digital distribution.

"It was another tumultuous 12 months for the record business, from Internet issues to new business models and mergers," Sony Music Entertainment chairman/CEO Andrew Lack agrees.

The music industry endured its third consecutive down year. For the full year, sales were expected to be down 4%-6% from 2002. That's not as severe as the more than 10% sales dip in 2002. But it is more substantial than the 2.8% decline in 2001.

As bad as a year-to-year drop is, the general sentiment within the industry is that it could have been worse.

That sales deficit stood at a more daunting 8.5% at the end of the summer. At its lowest ebb, the current year's album volume trailed the previous year by 13.6%, in the week ended Feb. 2.

The industry saw other signs of hope -- small though they may be -- that the worst of its sales funk is over.

Late in the year, weekly album sales totals began to improve over the same period in 2002. Twelve times in 14 weeks, CD sales beat those of the same weeks in 2002.

Meanwhile, for the first time consumers began buying digital music en masse with the debut of new services including iTunes from Apple Computer in April and Napster from Roxio in November. Other music and computer companies were quick to announce plans to enter the digital fray in 2004.

By late summer, digital tracks began outselling physical singles by a growing margin -- a sign that consumers are increasingly embracing the brave new world of for-pay downloading.

But the estimated figure of more than 30 million downloads sold does not a comeback make.

In addition to piracy, the industry also continued to face stiff competition for media and entertainment dollars from DVDs, games and cell phones, in a shaky economic climate.

In response to poor sales, the major labels attempted to slash costs by eliminating thousands of staffers, selling assets and consolidating wherever possible.

In November, Sony and BMG announced plans, pending regulatory approval, to merge their recorded music businesses in a new 50-50 joint venture called Sony BMG. Two weeks after the Sony BMG news, Time Warner agreed to sell the Warner Music Group for $2.6 billion to an investment group fronted by Edgar Bronfman Jr. The move meant the rejection of an offer from EMI Recorded Music, which also sought a merger with WMG.


The year's most dramatic corporate changes came at Sony Music Entertainment, which experienced seismic shifts in its leadership and structure and the elimination of some 1,000 jobs worldwide.

Even before word of a deal with BMG came, SME was pursuing serious cost-cutting initiatives. Prior to the merger, Sony was in the midst of reducing its head count in an effort to realize $100 million in annual cost savings. The cuts, according to sources, comprised more than 300 employees from Sony's corporate, label and distribution divisions in the U.S.; an additional 300 from Sony manufacturing in the U.S.; and another 350 staffers outside the U.S. Worldwide, the most senior employee let go was Paul Burger, president of Sony Music Europe. Sony Music Distribution chairman Danny Yarbrough also exited the company.

Sony was not alone in extensive cost-cutting. In October, UMG announced that it would trim its ranks by 800. The company anticipates savings of more than $200 million as a result of the manpower reductions. At the end of the current round of layoffs, UMG's worldwide head count will stand at 10,850 -- reflecting an 11% reduction.


The desire to cut costs did not just result in head-count reductions. It also fueled consolidation moves amid the major labels and caused some parent media companies to rethink their desire to remain in the music business.

DreamWorks SKG bailed out of the music business in November, selling DreamWorks Records -- home to Toby Keith and Nelly Furtado -- to UMG for $100 million.

Time Warner's plan to sell WMG to Bronfman's investment group comes three years after AOL and Time Warner's mega-merger. Similarly, three years after the Vivendi and Universal merger, executives at that company are exploring a future spinoff of UMG, among other assets.

In September, Vivendi Universal sold its non-music entertainment assets to NBC parent General Electric in a cash and stock deal valued at $3.8 billion. Sources suggest that even though the French conglomerate opted to hang on to its music business for now, it may look to ultimately unload UMG when the recording industry rebounds.

Vivendi Universal decided to bail out of the entertainment business since it failed to achieve synergies between its media and telecom businesses, while racking up massive debt in the process.

While the major labels and their parent companies pursued cost-cutting moves, the music retail sector saw severe contraction. Store closings came amid a wave of bankruptcy filings and asset sales involving some of the country's biggest specialty chains.


Meanwhile, the shift to Internet sales began in earnest in 2003.

As of late in the year, digital tracks were outpacing physical single sales by a 5-to-1 margin.

The first instance of an individual digital track outselling the No. 1 title on Hot 100 Singles Sales chart also occurred this year. That honor went to OutKast's "Hey Ya! (Radio Mix)," which in the week ending Nov. 9 sold 8,500 downloads compared with the 7,500 physical singles scanned of MercyMe's "I Can Only Imagine." The duo also won the inaugural Billboard Music Award for digital track of the year.

Nielsen SoundScan began tracking digital download sales during the summer, and in July Billboard debuted its newest chart, Hot Digital Tracks. The chart monitors sales of songs purchased individually or as part of a bundle of songs through digital services including iTunes, Napster, MusicMatch, MusicNet and Rhapsody.

This growth spurt for sales of music in digital form comes at the end of five years of plodding development, frustration and false starts. Fueling that growth was the rise of compelling digital services, most notably the iTunes Music Store from Apple Computer.

It was also the result of a concerted effort by the major labels to make their content available for sale online at a low price with minimal usage restrictions.

Following the bow of its service on the Mac platform in April, Apple sold more than 13 million tracks through iTunes. In its first week of iTunes' availability to PC users in October, Apple sold more than 1.5 million tracks.

Apple's success in selling digital tracks to Mac users set off a scramble to launch similar offerings on the PC side. By year's end, MusicMatch, buymusic.com, FullAudio's MusicNow and Roxio's Napster had all bowed digital music stores.

The recording industry views the rollout of such digital services as a key component to slowing unauthorized file sharing on P2P networks.

"We are at a tipping point," EMI Group executive VP John Rose told Billboard. "This will start a migration into a legitimate world."

Studies late in the year by Nielsen NetRatings and Raleigh, N.C.-based Music Forecasting suggested that traffic on P2P services was declining in the face of industry lawsuits against consumers using P2P networks.

Industry pressure on colleges and universities to more proactively block P2P use on their networks also yielded results.

In November, Penn State University announced that it had cut a deal with Napster to offer the company's subscription service -- which features conditional access to the services catalog of more than 500,000 tracks -- to its student body for free, funded by the information technology fee that the university already has in place.

The deal is expected to be a model used by other colleges and universities around the country.

The rise of digitally delivered music, UMG's Morris says, "is a process which is evolving. But in the end, this will turn out to be an enormous boon to the entertainment industry."


An Ocean of Knowledge

John Kubiatowicz | Computer Scientist
David Lagesse

The most prosaic worry can spur invention. As a Boston-area graduate student, John Kubiatowicz fretted that a bus might run over his laptop and annihilate his thesis work. Now a computer scientist at the University of California-Berkeley, Kubiatowicz has a vision for the Internet that would ensure that no bus, or crashing hard drive, could again threaten data.

His OceanStore project would spread information across thousands of computers and preserve it for centuries. It sounds grandiose, but a prototype could be running next year.

The scheme relies on "peer to peer" networking, made famous by file-sharing services like Napster. "It's the same technology that most people today use for stealing music," says Kubiatowicz. But few visions of file-sharing go as far. "Kubi was early in articulating a grand vision of what might be accomplished," says Frans Kaashoek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who works on related technology.

The software would split a file into many parts for storage and constantly update and move data as computers came and went on the Internet. Data could still become unreadable if file formats changed, however. "All we do is keep the bits for you," says Kubiatowicz.

OceanStore would overwhelm today's bandwidth and processing power. The payoff: a system that would take care of itself, and the data it holds, indefinitely. Says Sean Rhea, a Berkeley graduate student working on OceanStore: "The idea is that you'd turn it on and not worry about it again."


The Underground Internet

Members-only "darknets" are popping up to protect file-sharing from prying eyes
Heather Green

Around the time the Recording Industry Assn. of America said this spring it would start tracking down individuals who were trading pirated music on the Internet, Trader X, a 17-year-old U.S. high school senior who declined to provide a name to avoid prosecution, hightailed it over to a service for swapping music and other digital files called Direct Connect (DC). Trader X had used other file-sharing services in the past, but chose DC for two simple reasons: privacy and plenty of movies. In most file-sharing services, millions of computers swap files with millions of others openly online, in plain view of the RIAA and others. DC's free software lets individuals set up a password-protected, members-only network that relays music and movies among a closed group of people. "Frankly, as long as the Internet exists, file trading can't be stopped," says Trader X.


The FCC’s 'Industrial Policy' Approach to HDTV
Adam D. Thierer

Just how far will policymakers go to protect “free, over-the-air” television and our ongoing industrial policy experiment with high-definition television (HDTV)?

To answer that question, one need look no further than the November decision by the Federal Communications Commission mandating that by July 1, 2005, every consumer electronic device in America capable of receiving digital TV signals must be able to recognize a “broadcast flag”--or string of digital code--that will be embedded in digital broadcast programming in the future.

In theory, this little bit (excuse the pun) of regulatory engineering will encourage content creators and broadcasters to air more digital programming “in the clear” (i.e., through the broadcast television spectrum), knowing that the broadcast flag will allow them to prohibit mass redistribution through peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. In other words, the broadcast flag mandate will prevent the “Napster-ization” of video programming.

That’s the theory, and to some extent it just might work. But is adding another layer of regulation to the existing mountain of HDTV mandates really a good idea?

In one sense, it’s tempting to say, why not? The history of broadcast television in general, and the HDTV transition in particular, is just an endless string of mini-industrial policies. Each industrial policy decision begets another and another.

The theory always has been that broadcasting is a complicated and important business and, therefore, policymakers need to take special steps to guarantee its success. Somebody needs to figure out, for example, the transmission standards for broadcast television. Are 480 lines of resolution enough, or should we bump it to 1,080? Is interlaced video acceptable, or would progressively scanned video be better? Is a 4x3 TV set aspect (square) ratio good enough, or should all pictures be shown in 16x9 (letterbox) aspect? Should we phase out the old analog broadcast transmission on a specific timetable? Should each new television set include a digital tuner?

Hey, somebody has to make these decisions, right? Sure they do, but it remains unclear why that someone should be the FCC. Nonetheless, in each of the examples just listed, the FCC has already adopted mandatory standards for companies and consumers to follow. We are told to believe that the HDTV transition will not happen in this country without such mandates and micromanagement from above.

One cannot help but snicker at such an assertion since the HDTV “transition” has already been going on for almost 20 years and yet only a very small percentage of consumers receive HD signals today. Moreover, the FCC does not impose grand industrial policy experiments on most other high-tech industries, but they seem to make complex transitions all the time. The computer sector is equally, if not more complicated than broadcasting, and there exists a variety of knotty computing issues for which the FCC could potentially establish complex regulatory solutions. But they don’t. Somehow the computer sector just keeps chugging along without such meticulous micromanagement from Washington.

As someone who’s obsessed with HDTV and currently owns three HD sets, I certainly appreciate the value of high-definition television programming and want to make sure it doesn’t disappear. But while the broadcast and content industry are correct in asserting that the widespread redistribution of high-definition broadcast content over the Internet might represent a serious problem, it’s hard to believe anyone in America today has enough bandwidth or processing power to be downloading and redistributing massive digital television files via the Net.

In the future, however, when broadband speeds (we hope) multiply, content providers might have more reason to be concerned about the financial viability of certain programs if those shows could be redistributed to the world at the click of a button. In such a world, it might make sense for them to embed digital broadcast flags in their programming, or even encrypt their programming at the source and require consumers to purchase new equipment to decrypt that programming before it can be viewed. But it is an entirely different matter to have the FCC set up a mandatory regulatory regime that forces such solutions on the entire nation.

Policymakers should not lock industry or consumers into any static technological standard, even when it’s done in the name of protecting intellectual property. IP rights can be enforced in other ways. For example, programmers could sue individual users who redistribute content on a widespread basis without permission or compensation for the creators. Instead of taking this more targeted approach to prosecuting the handful of users that cause the most serious problems, the broadcast flag proposal opens the door for the FCC to create an intrusive new regulatory apparatus for the Internet and computers in the future.

The FCC would be hard-pressed to point to any language in the Communications Act of 1934 or the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that gives them the authority to regulate IP, the Internet, or computers in this manner, but statutory law long ago ceased to be much of a constraint on this agency’s actions.


WalTunes ToS Suck: They 0wn The Music They Sell You, Not You
Cory Doctorow

My co-worker Fred von Lohmann writes: "Wal-Mart launched a music download site today. Notice the rather breathtaking EULA terms (much more onerous than the Apple terms) -- Fair Use, First Sale, all other copyright exceptions are swallowed up by contractual prohibitions. Just as with software, these restrictions will almost certainly be selectively enforced against reverse engineers, would-be competitors, and tinkerers who disrupt the biz model. All backed up by WinMediaPlayer technical restrictions.

"And all completely useless at preventing Internet redistribution, since you can presumably record via analog outputs or burn to CD-R and re-encode to mp3.

"I say again: current DRM has nothing to do with preventing piracy, everything to do with impairing consumer rights, competition and innovation."

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Participants' Distrust Exposed in Piracy Battle

The record labels and file-sharing networks continue to be at odds over music software
Jon Healey

With the courts making it harder for the music industry to battle online piracy through lawsuits, you might think that the major record labels would be ready to cut deals with the leading file-sharing networks, transforming them from hotbeds of illegality into revenue-generating partners.

Think again.

The gulf between the labels and the companies behind Kazaa, Blubster and other file-sharing networks seems as wide — and impossible to bridge — as ever. Not only are significant business and legal hurdles in the way, but there's also an ocean of bad blood between the two sides.

Label executives continue to hold hush-hush meetings with leading distributors of file-sharing software, trying to find common ground. But they also seethe at the companies' refusal to change their software in ways that might deter piracy, using words like "extortion" and "rape" to describe their situation.

Said Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Assn. of America: "It reminds me of negotiating with the mob. 'If you just pay us some insurance, your storm window won't break anymore.' There's an emotional reaction to that."

For their part, executives at file-sharing, or peer-to-peer, networks are feeling frustrated, hounded and insulted. They say they've built huge followings among music fans — an estimated 63 million people in the U.S. use their services — but the record companies insist that they abandon this audience and start from scratch with new technology.

"I think that the peer-to-peer guys are more willing to let bygones be bygones," said one file-sharing executive who, like most of those interviewed for this story, spoke only on condition of anonymity. "But it doesn't negate the fact that we're dealing with a bunch of idiots."

The major record labels have said peer-to-peer networks are one of the biggest factors in the prolonged slump in CD sales. Total U.S. music sales — including digital music, albums and commercially released singles — are down 2.2% for the year through mid-December. Without the digital songs, overall sales this year are down 4.7%.

File-sharing networks made their debut in mid-1999, when the original version of Napster was launched. Within months, the major labels were suing to stop them. Three months ago the labels expanded their litigation campaign by suing hundreds of individual file sharers.

The campaign suffered its first major defeat in April, when a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that the Morpheus and Grokster file-sharing networks weren't in and of themselves illegal, despite extensive piracy by their users.

Then Friday, the industry lost on two more fronts: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia outlawed a procedural shortcut that the RIAA had used to identify file sharers, and the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled it legal to distribute the Kazaa software.

As a result of the U.S. ruling, attorneys say, suing file sharers will be much more cumbersome and expensive for the labels and other copyright holders. Nevertheless, the RIAA's Sherman said the labels would keep suing because these actions appear to be driving people off the networks.

File-sharing advocates counter that any drop-off is merely temporary. In fact, nearly 2.4 million people downloaded the Kazaa software from CNet Networks Inc.'s Download.com in the week ended Dec. 14. That almost matches the 2.5 million copies downloaded each week in May, before the RIAA announced plans to sue.

And in a recent survey by Encino-based E-Poll.com, 62% of the respondents said the RIAA was wrong to sue, while only 47% said it was wrong to download music without the labels' permission.

Supporters of peer-to-peer networks have proposed several ways to authorize file sharing and pay the labels, songwriters and artists for their work. The most common suggestion is for the labels to grant a blanket license to the peer-to-peer networks, and for users of the networks and related technology to pay a small monthly fee in exchange for the right to download music.

This approach could generate several billion dollars for the music industry, end the rancor over file sharing and bring about a distribution model built for the Internet age, advocates say.

Label executives, however, are quick to point out numerous practical problems. For example, they say, movie studios, game developers and other industries would demand a piece of the pot, driving up the monthly fee. And unless every file-sharing network around the globe was forced to participate, users would move to the networks that didn't charge them — or pay royalties.

One goal of the lawsuits is to win a court ruling that forces file-sharing networks to do everything technically feasible to stop piracy. To the RIAA, that means changing the software so that it allows files to be reproduced only if the copyright owner has granted permission.

None of the popular networks is built to do that, but the technology is being developed by at least three companies — including a firm headed by Shawn Fanning, the inventor of the original Napster.

"They've never really said, 'We'll stop infringing, we'll filter [out] your copyrighted works,' " Sherman said. "They have been unwilling to do what they are technically capable of doing…. That's outrageous."

File-sharing executives vigorously dispute that view, saying their networks can't identify, track or filter out copyrighted files — no matter how much the RIAA wishes they could.

"Perhaps the biggest lie of all is the promulgation by the music industry of the preposterous notion that there is some magic 'switch' out there … [that] somehow will disable all file-sharing networks or filter out all copyrighted content," Wayne Rosso, president of peer-to-peer software developer Optisoft and former president of Grokster, said at a recent online-music conference.

Beyond the legal and business reasons the labels cite for not coming together with the file-sharing networks, there's something cultural and emotional at work — right down to an apparent distrust of peer-to-peer technology itself.

Among those that have witnessed the distrust is Wippit, a small London-based file-sharing network that uses peer-to-peer technology just the way the record labels say they want it used. Wippit has set up a file-sharing system that permits only authorized downloads, rather than letting users copy and share whatever they wish.

The firm has signed up 200 independent labels in the last two years. But it has yet to convince any of the majors to join in the file sharing — even though the company has been paying higher royalties per song than Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store, said Wippit Chief Executive Paul Myers. (Apple's iTunes does not use a peer-to-peer network to distribute material.)

Wippit does have one licensing deal with a major record company, British music giant EMI Group, and Myers said three of the other four majors are close to granting him licenses. But all have insisted that users download their music from a central computer controlled by Wippit — not from each other. That significantly raises the company's costs.

"It's absurd," Myers said. "We've got two years of business history. We've got 200 labels, 200 advocates. These guys can phone up and say, 'Did it work? Is it safe? Why haven't you canceled your contract?' And still they don't participate. We as a company are coerced away from using peer-to-peer as a platform."

The Distributed Computing Industry Assn., a file-sharing advocacy group founded by Kazaa distributor Sharman Networks, has been working publicly and privately with technology companies, labels, studios and Internet providers, trying to develop an approach that all sides can embrace.

So far, that has proved elusive. Part of the problem is that entertainment companies often make deal-seekers cool their heels, and that attitude puts off some file-sharing executives, who are more accustomed to the fast-moving online world.

"On the flip side, rarely do peer-to-peer software companies talk about restitution or retribution," noted Marty Lafferty, chief executive of the distributed computing association. "When they come to the table, that's not in their vocabulary."

So for now, at least, more acrimony seems certain.

In addition to pursuing lawsuits, the RIAA has asked Internet service providers to send letters to customers whose online addresses have been found on a file-sharing network. The message: What you're doing is illegal — and traceable.

On the other side of the world, literally and figuratively, an executive at Sharman Networks in Australia calls for peace.

"We've spoken to record company executives who recognize that peer-to-peer applications are a paradigm shift that they can profit from," Sharman Executive Vice President Alan Morris said. "It's time for these executives to take their business back from their lawyers and steer it into the future of digital distribution."


U.S. Ends Antitrust Probe of Music Joint Ventures
Peter Kaplan

U.S. antitrust enforcers said on Tuesday they closed their investigation of online music ventures Pressplay and MusicNet after concluding that the services have not hurt consumers.

The Justice Department's antitrust division said its long-running probe had uncovered no evidence to support "theories" that the online music services were anti-competitive.

Pressplay is owned by Roxio Inc. . MusicNet is owned jointly by subsidiaries of Time Warner Inc., Bertelsmann AG and EMI Group Plc.

The department has been investigating the online music ventures for about two and a half years and looking more broadly at how major record labels control online distribution of copyrighted music.

The major record labels behind the online services had come under criticism recently from some lawmakers on Capitol Hill over competition issues. Some accused the record labels of putting smaller rivals out of business by refusing to license music content to them on reasonable terms.

The department said it also looked into concerns the major record labels were using the joint ventures as a way of blocking the growth of Internet music distribution.

But in a statement issued on Tuesday, the head of the antitrust division said the concerns had turned out to be unfounded.

"None of the several theories of competitive harm that the Division considered were ultimately supported by the facts," antitrust chief Hewitt Pate said.

The department said its concerns also were allayed by pro-competitive developments in the music business, which have allowed consumers to download individual songs from a growing number of online suppliers, join subscription services and copy downloaded music on to compact discs.

Since April, for example, customers of Apple's iTunes music service have downloaded more than 25 million songs.

"Consumers now have available to them an increasing variety of authorized outlets from which they can purchase digital music, and consumers are using those services in growing numbers," Pate said.

A spokeswoman for Roxio, which bought Pressplay and used it in building its Napster 2.0 digital music service, was not immediately available for comment. A spokeswoman for Napster could not immediately comment.

Roxio bought Pressplay from Sony Corp.'s music subsidiary a unit of Vivendi Universal for $39.5 million in cash and stock.

"We are pleased that the Department of Justice has concluded this investigation," MusicNet Chief Executive Alan McGlade said in a statement.


Film Piracy Still Steals the Show
Katie Dean

To no one's surprise, pirated copies of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King have been widely circulated on peer-to-peer networks in the past week.

But while new legislation is designed to address rampant movie piracy like this, experts say it won't do much to solve the problem.

Eric Garland, CEO of BigChampagne, which tracks the most popular downloads on peer-to-peer networks, said at least 10,000 copies of The Return of the King, which debuted in theaters Wednesday in the United States, have been bouncing around the Net.

Like other blockbuster films, the copies of this movie appear to be high quality. The most popular versions seem to have been taken by professional pirates, rather than a regular ticket-buying audience member, he said.

The Motion Picture Association of America, however, estimates that about 90 percent of films on peer-to-peer networks originated from camcorder versions of films, and is working to enact laws that will penalize those who surreptitiously record films in movie theaters.

Starting Jan. 1, toting a camcorder into a movie theater will be a crime in California. Under the law, moviegoers who see a person with a camcorder in a theater may make a citizen's arrest. Those convicted could spend a maximum of a year in jail and be fined up to $2,500.

Vans Stevenson, senior vice president of the MPAA, said the organization will push to enact similar laws in a dozen other states next year.

"We want to have every available tool and remedy that we can to fight this particular problem of thievery," Stevenson said. "If we don't, it's going to have a dramatic negative effect on our business."

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R- Texas) have announced legislation to make it a federal crime to videotape movies in theaters.

Pirated films often have another life beyond the Net. Rich Taylor, an MPAA spokesman, said the electronic copies on peer-to-peer networks often provide the first access for pirates who press the electronic version and mass-produce hard copies overseas.

Still, a lawyer said most laws designed to thwart film piracy are misguided.

"I think they are a complete waste of time," said Fred Von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It will have absolutely no effect on the availability of film on peer-to-peer networks."

He said a study by AT&T Labs found that the majority of current films are leaked to peer-to-peer networks from inside the industry anyway.

"If the MPAA really wanted to make a difference, they should introduce legislation to punish movie studio employees who smuggle the films out," he said.

Plus, the record-setting opening of The Return of the King suggests that peer-to-peer sharing is not jeopardizing movie studio profits anyway, he said.

The laws "are designed to stall the clock," BigChampagne's Garland said. "I certainly don't oppose any effort the copyright owner makes to protect his intellectual property, (but) this new legislation is not going to solve the big problem.

"Digital copies can and will be made ad infinitum, and any information can be freely and instantaneously distributed to any Internet-connected point on the globe," Garland said. "There is absolutely nothing that any of these antipiracy measures or band-aids can do to negate these two basic facts.

"It only takes one copy," he said.

But the MPAA's Taylor said the industry will try whatever means it can find to stem the problem.

"I think there are a lot of arrows in the antipiracy quiver, and we're going to use every one," he said.

Some studios are trying to track down piracy sources using the film itself. Garland said studios embed information within a frame of a film or on the soundtrack to track where a particular film originated.

"These watermarks or fingerprints are now used increasingly as a breadcrumb trail," he said.


Controversy of the Year: War on Downloading
Greg Milner

This is the year things got personal. The Recording Industry Association of America made good on its threat to sue individual file traders, not just the software companies that aid and abet them. At first, the RIAA targeted college students like Jesse Jordan of Troy, New York, who was fined $12,000 for providing a campus network search engine on his website. By the end of the year, the RIAA had filed hundreds of suits. But while the media rushed to find defendants like 12-year-old Manhattan honors student Brianna LaHara, few took note of Sherman Austin.

Like the downloaders, Austin was sanctioned simply for sharing information. But in early 2002, the government decided that Austin, who had just turned 18, was a terrorist. His website Raisethefist.com -- a clearinghouse of information on activism, from anti-globalization protests to police brutality -- provided free server space for other political websites. One of those sites contained something called the Reclaim Guide, which provided information on the making of explosives such as pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails. One afternoon in January 2002, heavily armed FBI and Secret Service agents raided Austin’s Sherman Oaks, California, home, trashing it and leaving with computers, books, political literature, and protest signs.

Austin was arrested just over a week later at a protest in New York City. He was held without bail for 13 days in various federal maximum-security facilities and in the summer of 2003 pleaded guilty to using the Internet to distribute information for use in committing a terrorist act. In August, Austin was sentenced to one year in jail (and three years’ probation, during which he can’t use a computer or a cell phone without the permission of his probation officer); the presiding judge made it clear that he was prepared to lock Austin up until he was 40.

What does Sherman Austin have in common with Brianna LaHara? They both provided access to information deemed proprietary by corporations (in LaHara’s case) or dangerous to the state (in Austin’s). Their cases underscore that this is the year it became clear that the privacy rights of average Americans were steadily eroding. Whatever you think about radical politics or file trading, the same technology that lets us share music with millions or mobilize those millions to protest also has freed data-mining corporations and the FBI to monitor our daily lives.

Austin was prosecuted under an obscure 1997 antiterrorist law, given new life by the USA Patriot Act -- legislation rammed through Congress after 9/11 that has made it easier for the government to spy on its own citizens, authorizing increased wiretapping powers and secret searches. Without the Patriot Act, it’s unlikely that authorities would have invaded the home of an 18-year-old African- American anarchist because of content on his website (especially when the person behind the site Austin hosted, a white kid from wealthy Orange County, was never charged). If you really want to learn how to build a pipe bomb, several white-supremacist sites are a Web search away.

The changing nature of online anonymity made it easier for the music industry to amp up its war on file sharers. In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, requiring Internet service providers to reveal the identity of anyone storing copyrighted material on company systems. In 2002, the RIAA sued telecommunications giant Verizon, demanding that the company reveal the identities of DSL customers. “When material isn’t on our network, we’re just the conduit that people use to communicate,” says Sarah Deutsch, a lawyer for Verizon. “Whatever is going on on your hard drive, Verizon doesn’t know about it. We’re not allowed to peer into your computer. But with the advent of peer-to-peer file sharing, the recording industry has become increasingly unhappy with the DMCA and has been looking for litigation strategies to undo it.” A judge found in the RIAA’s favor, granting the industry group access to thousands of names. The RIAA now can obtain this information simply by claiming that you possess illicit material. Perhaps the most absurd target in this year’s round of lawsuits was a retired Massachusetts teacher who was served papers for using Kazaa to download Trick Daddy’s “I’m a Thug,” even though her Mac can’t use the program. Still, she had to retain a lawyer to clear her name. (“We decided to give her the benefit of the doubt,” an industry spokeswoman said afterward.)

But the RIAA wants to go even further, and it’s being supported by more than a few friends in Congress. This year was marked by a number of radical proposals, one by California congressman Howard Berman that would make file sharing a felony. (There’s already a burgeoning industry for “copyright bounty hunters.”) As goes the RIAA, so goes the world. Universities are caught between obeying privacy laws and yielding to pressure to reveal the names of alleged copyright lawbreakers. Librarians can be forced to turn over to the FBI a list of books borrowed by any patron.

In August, two weeks before Sherman Austin began his sentence, Attorney General John Ashcroft embarked on a cross-country tour to rally support for the Patriot Act. Ashcroft was met by protesters who covered the political spectrum, from Green Party activists to NRA loyalists. On August 29, ex Rage Against the Machine singer Zack de la Rocha hosted a benefit concert for Austin in San Diego. Austin addressed the crowd, sounding both shaky and resilient: “The threat to national security is us taking control of our own lives,” he said. Austin began serving his sentence at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino five days later, two days before Ashcroft’s tour hit Florida. “We have constructed America’s defense upon a foundation of prevention,” Ashcroft told an audience at a Tampa Bay hotel, “nurtured by cooperation, built on coordination, and rooted in the constitutional liberties of this free nation."

A Few days later, Austin was moved to solitary confinement to protect him from white supremacists.


Electric Sheep
Scott Draves

The Interpretation of Dreams: An Explanation of the Electric Sheep Distributed Screen-Saver. The name Electric Sheep comes from Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It realizes the collective dream of sleeping computers from all over the Internet.

Electric Sheep is a distributed screensaver that harnesses idle computers into a render farm with the purpose of animating and evolving artificial lifeforms.

It uses a P2P network to share animations and coordinate their evolution.

The project is an attention vortex. It illustrates the process by which the longer and closer one studies something, the more detail and structure appears. Electric Sheep was inspired by the SETI@home project, but instead of searching for aliens in radio-telescope data, it brings brings artificial organisms to life. The clients (Linux, Windows, and OS X) are open source, and anyone can participate without charge and without identifying themselves.

A user may vote for a sheep by pressing the up arrow key when that sheep is displayed on his or her screen. Popular sheep live longer, and are more likely to reproduce. Hence, the user's preferences provide the fitness function for an aesthetic evolutionary algorithm. There is no central server. Clients connect to each other with a P2P network. The votes and the animations are shared over this network. Evolution happens in this network landscape.

I believe the free flow of code is an increasingly important social and artistic force. The proliferation of powerful computers with high-bandwidth network connections forms the substrate of an expanding universe. The electric sheep and we, their shepherds, are colonizing this new frontier. http://conferences.oreillynet.com/cs...ew/e_sess/4605

The screen saver is a window into a visual space shared among all users. Clients render JPEG frames and upload them to the server. When all of the frames are ready, the server compresses them into an MPEG animation. Each animation is the phenotype of an artificial organism, an "electric sheep." Clients download the MPEG sheep and display them one after another in a continuous, ever-changing sequence.

About once every five minutes, a new sheep is born and distributed to all active clients. Each sheep is an animated fractal flame [2]. Example still frames appear in Figure 1. The shape is specified by a string of 120 real numbers — a genetic code of sorts. Some of the codes are chosen at random by the server with heuristics to avoid malformed sheep, somewhat like spontaneous abortion. The rest are derived from the current population according to a genetic algorithm with mutation and cross-over.


Reviews: Digital Music Stores
Brian Briggs

Reviewing digital music stores is like reviewing a movie in production. During the few weeks I have worked on this review Musicmatch overhauled their music store pages and corrected a bug, Apple corrected an annoying "feature" of their jukebox, and Wal Mart opened their own music store. As companies compete for market share you can expect rapid changes from each of these services to stay competitive. New competitors such as Amazon and Microsoft would change the landscape even more. It should only be good news for music buyers.

I didn't start out this process with a desire to review all the music services, but as a desire to have a "legal" music collection. I found myself jumping from service to service to see what was offered, and found that there wasn't one met all my needs, but some were closer than others.

What follows are reviews of each individual service including screenshots from each. Since each of us has different listening habits and tastes, I answer the questions like "How much does it cost?" and "Who would want this service?"

If you plan on adhering to the licenses and restrictions from each service then you should read their EULAs closely. The rights listed in the individual review are not intended as a substitute for a lawyer.


Hitting a high-tech note

Record-Label Exec Bridging Gap With Online World
Dawn C. Chmielewski

In show-who-you-know Los Angeles, your office wall is your résumé.

And so next to the record-label publicity stills of Roger Daltrey and the Beatles adorning Ted Cohen's wall is a shot of the EMI Music executive posed in a 1977 Rolling Stone magazine ad for the first consumer projection television, the Advent VideoBeam.

As his Wall of Fame suggests, Cohen is defined by twin passions -- music and technology. His 34-year career in the music industry has taken him from touring with some of rock's biggest acts -- The Who, the Sex Pistols and Van Halen -- to brokering the deals that use technology to break this generation's emerging acts.

Cohen, 54, is one of technology's staunchest advocates within his own label, EMI Music; and his industry's most approachable emissary to the online music community.

For those seeking further affirmation that Cohen is not, as many label executives are perceived, the devil, consider this: Napster unsuccessfully recruited him in 1999 to become chief executive of the pioneering file-swapping service that upended the recording industry.

``Ted is the pope of digital music,'' said Sean Ryan, vice president of music for RealNetworks, which operates an online music store. ``He's been doing this so long, he's so passionate about it. He knows everybody. Although we often fight with Ted, at the end of the day, we're huge fans.''

As EMI's senior vice president for digital development and distribution, Cohen has been doing deals long before the launch this year of Apple's iTunes Music Store demonstrated the viability of the online music market. EMI has been the most progressive of the major labels. EMI licensed as many as 40 different Internet music experiments between June 2000 and October 2001 -- from Internet radio stations to online download services to in-store Net kiosks.

EMI was the first major label to license music to a subscription service it did not directly own -- San Francisco's Rhapsody, which was acquired this year by RealNetworks.

And Cohen's ``invisible hand'' helped prod EMI to become the first major label this fall to license London-based Wippit, a legitimate version of the peer-to-peer technology used by the file-sharing services. Three other major labels have also reportedly done deals in EMI's wake, said Wippit Chief Executive Paul Myers.

``Ted has a huge, undeniable presence in this market. And there's no doubt the things that he has pushed through over the last few years have accelerated the market enormously,'' said Myers. ``I wish all the majors had a Ted!''

Technology has been a driving force in Cohen's career. He persuaded Todd Rundgren, whose hit single ``Hello, It's Me'' he broke while at Warner Music, to release the first totally interactive music CDs, ``No World Order.''

As an independent consultant, he organized the first new media conference devoted to music, Musiccom, which in 1995 brought together some of the Internet's pioneers. And he developed the Internet's first music recommendation feature -- called Essentials -- for Amazon.com.

A parade of technology companies, both here and departed -- Microsoft, Liquid Audio, Rioport and Amplify.com -- hired Cohen as a consultant in the 1990s precisely because he was one of the few individuals who straddles the music and the technology worlds.

At one point, Cohen simultaneously represented archenemies Napster and the Recording Industry Association of America -- with neither squawking about a conflict. One technology company paid $10,000 to ``rent'' his contact list for a launch party at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.

``He's a guy who's genuinely excited about what's happening in the industry,'' said Chris Smith, an executive at Milpitas' Creative Labs, which makes MP3 players and other digital entertainment devices. ``What's really crucial with him is he sees the flip side of it, too. He's a gadget-head and he sees what the gadgets are doing to his industry.''

Since joining EMI in June 2000, Cohen has become the point man for all new technology pitches. He's currently evaluating nearly 50 licensing deals, many of which now involve music distribution's new frontier: cellular phones and wireless networks. And he's also worked to maintain relationships with executives at file swapping companies in the hope that, once legal hostilities end, a way can be found to legitimately distribute music through peer-to-peer networks.

Device makers have found Cohen particularly receptive. After all, he's a certifiable gadget freak. His shoulder bag contains no fewer than 10 consumer products not-yet-available at retail and his garage is piled high with boxes of yesteryear's technology.

Often, device makers like Los Angeles-based PhatNoise, a maker of MP3 players for cars, seek out Cohen at the early stages of product development. They want advice on a variety of fronts, from product design and usability to finding the right copy-protection schemes to address the record labels' piracy concerns.

``He tries stuff so early, he's practically at the alpha stage,'' said Susan Paley, PhatNoise's vice president of business development. ``Outside of a few engineers, he was the first person who put a PhatBox in his car. What we couldn't believe, he was actually running all over town, touting our product.''

If he likes a product, Cohen will work within the label to license EMI's 45,000-song digital music catalog -- which includes such venerable rock acts as the Rolling Stones, popular alterative bands Coldplay and Radiohead and timeless recordings by Frank Sinatra and Maria Callas. And he will talk up the product and conferences and to anyone who will listen.

Cohen has the uncanny ability to see the future of entertainment industry unfold right before his eyes. On a recent afternoon, Cohen demonstrated the latest object of his interest, the Archos Video AV 380 video jukebox.

``Did I show you this thing?'' Cohen asks, retrieving a handheld movie player that's about the size of a paperback book from his duffel bag. Its 80-gigabyte hard drive holds up to 320 hours of compressed video -- including a copy he made of the DVD ``2 Fast, 2 Furious.''

It's a portable device with the potential to do to the major motion picture studios what the MP3 player did for music -- that is, create new opportunities even as it turns the industry on its head. Cohen recently showed off the Archos to a Universal Studios executive, then joked, ``Your turn.''



Researchers at NTT DoCoMo Multimedia Labs and NTT Microsystem Integration Labs in Japan had another vision in 2003. They have been working on creating a local area network using the electric field generated by the human body to form a high-speed network between mobile devices.

Known as ElectAura-Net, the system operates at 10 megabits per second, and uses transceivers underneath the flooring to bridge between the human body and a regular wired network. I'm not sure whether this particular implementation will catch on, but the idea of using the human body as a conduit for communication is likely to play an important role at some level in the future.

More below –


2003 Not A Stellar Year, But Future Bright
Yomiuri Shimbun

In Silicon Valley and in the computing world in general, the year 2003 was primarily a time for reflection, regrouping, and the beginning of another cycle of reinvention that makes this industry and area so dynamic.

To be sure, the go-go madness of the dot-com boom is definitely over. Companies slimmed back and corporate campuses were pared down to the point where you see almost as many "For Lease" signs as corporate nameplates while driving around the valley.

Gone too are the corporate masseuses, employee concierges, and reasonable work hours. It appears that just about everyone who is left in the valley is doing the work of two or three people.

After laying the foundation for several years, many companies in Silicon Valley decided over the past year to ship entire software and hardware development departments overseas, mostly to India and China.

This trend, while principally driven by economics, is also influenced by the political climate of the United States circa 2003. This year may in fact be remembered here as the time when industry shipped not only low and medium-paying manufacturing jobs overseas, but also the heart and soul of U.S. industry--high technology entrepreneurship and innovation.

In a way, it seems to be an ironic case of globalization being just a bit too successful, threatening to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Still, in terms of technology, some interesting trends began to form on several fronts in 2003. Take wireless for instance. Local area wireless networks based on IEEE 802.11b and 802.11g flourished, available in an increasing number of locations.

Microsoft announced that it planned to take this idea one step further with something called SPOT, or Smart Personal Objects Technology. Developed at the Microsoft Research Lab, SPOT hopes to transform everyday devices into smart, communicating gadgets capable of integrating with other devices and computers through the Internet.

Microsoft envisions SPOT to appear in very common devices, including watches, pens, key chains, as well as wallets and purses.

Researchers at NTT DoCoMo Multimedia Labs and NTT Microsystem Integration Labs in Japan had another vision in 2003. They have been working on creating a local area network using the electric field generated by the human body to form a high-speed network between mobile devices.

Known as ElectAura-Net, the system operates at 10 megabits per second, and uses transceivers underneath the flooring to bridge between the human body and a regular wired network. I'm not sure whether this particular implementation will catch on, but the idea of using the human body as a conduit for communication is likely to play an important role at some level in the future.

Wireless also received a bit of negative attention in 2003, with a small group of parents in suburban Chicago launching a class action lawsuit against the Oak Park Elementary School District concerning the safety of wireless networks and the associated radiation.

Open source software, the kind developed by potentially hundreds of volunteers and offered for free on the Internet, also received its share of the limelight in 2003. But not without some controversy.

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer reportedly called some open source software a cancer. However, Oracle Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison loves it, except when it competes directly with software from his company.

And Sun Microsystems Chief Executive Officer Scott McNealy has alternated between ambivalence and enthusiastic support.

Most recently, it has been the latter. In fact, Sun Microsystems' latest effort may just be what the open source movement has been waiting for.

Dubbed the Java Desktop System, Sun has packaged together an impressive desktop offering based on Linux, the StarOffice productivity suite, the Mozilla Web browser, the Evolution e-mail and calendar system, and Java 2 Standard Edition.

Sun surprised the computing world by quickly announcing an agreement with the China Standard Software Company (CSSC), which intends to use Java Desktop System as a foundation for desktop computers in China.

The CSSC is a consortium of Chinese technology companies that is charged with designing and implementing national standards for desktop systems.

And to show that the CSSC agreement was not simply an anomaly, Sun quickly followed by announcing a five-year agreement with Britain's Office of Government Commerce to bring the Java Desktop System to the public sector there.

Java Desktop System will be something to watch in 2004.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) had some of their customers singing the blues in 2003, specifically those that were accused of downloading music from file sharing services on the Internet.

Using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as its cover, the RIAA launched more than 250 lawsuits during 2003, and issued more than 1,600 subpoenas to collect the names and addresses of peer-to-peer file sharers.

The most celebrated case involved a 12-year-old girl who happens to live in public housing with her single mother. Though the potential fine could have involved up to 250,000 dollars per violation (meaning per song), the RIAA let the 12-year-old off easy with a reported 2,000 dollars settlement.

Not everything went well for the RIAA in 2003, however. A panel of the District of Columbia appeals court ruled that the music industry did not have the right to subpoena Internet Service Providers for the names of alleged music file sharers.

And a Dutch court ruled that the maker of Kazaa, the most popular file sharing program in the Internet, was not legally responsible for the action of its users. The RIAA, not one to give up easily, is set to continue the fight in 2004.

The past year may not have been stellar in terms of the economy and technology, but it did have its moments. And the coming year promises to be better. Why the optimism? The thing about technology is that you never know when something exciting will pop out of a research lab somewhere in Silicon Valley...India, or China...


Slashdot Story Generator


The Lawsuit Beat Goes On

Music Industry Says Court Decision Won't Stop Piracy Pursuit
Steve Enders

Legitimate, legal music downloading may be winning more users, but the fight over illegal file swapping is hardly over.

Last Friday's U.S. District Court decision calling the Recording Industry Association of America's legal tactics against the law is sure to stoke the fires of the ongoing music wars.

The decision handed down by the court says the RIAA has no right to issue subpoenas to an Internet Service Provider for personal user information related to file swapping. It also lets Verizon off the hook, saying the ISP isn't responsible for what its users do while using the Internet, or what they do with files taken from the Net.

But the recording industry has already issued more than 2,000 subpoenas, demanding that ISPs give them the names of alleged file swappers. Hundreds of those receiving subpoenas have also been sued. Of those, many have already settled their cases with the RIAA.

What Did the RIAA Know?

The RIAA told TechTV that it didn't expect Friday's ruling, but a document given to Tech Live suggests otherwise. The organization sent a letter to Verizon Communications on Dec. 16 saying it hoped the company would be part of a voluntary new effort to stop song swapping. The letter asks the ISP to notify file-swapping subscribers that they're engaged in illegal activity.

For its part, the RIAA said Friday that it wasn't about to stop suing.

"This is a disappointing procedural decision, but it only changes the process by which we will file lawsuits against online infringers," RIAA President Cary Sherman said in a statement. "This decision in no way changes our right to sue, or the fact that those who upload or download copyrighted music without authorization are engaging in illegal activity. We can and will continue to file copyright infringement lawsuits against illegal file sharers."

Regardless of the RIAA's future legal plans, Verizon officials were happy after Friday's ruling.

"It's a nice holiday present for people who use the Internet," said John Thorne, general legal counsel for Verizon. "They don't have to fear the RIAA sending them subpoenas because they happen to be online."

Friday's court ruling reversed a lower court's decision in June that allowed the RIAA to seek personal information of two Verizon ISP customers.

"Our goal since day one is to protect the privacy of our subscribers," Thorne said. "Verizon's policy is to expand the Internet and make it easy to use."

It may be a victory for Verizon and Internet users, but the legal fight is not over. Dozens of alleged song swappers still have suits pending.

Shawn Parr, an attorney in San Jose, Calif., is representing a few defendants who are fighting RIAA lawsuits. He said the court's ruling opens a number of legal avenues for his clients.

"We're going to be looking at things like motions to quash the evidence… and whether we can get people dismissed based on the ruling today," Parr said.

Whether defendants and subpoena targets can succeed in getting evidence dismissed remains to be seen, but the RIAA promises it's still going after song swappers.

Mitch Glazier, the RIAA's senior vice president of government relations, said the RIAA "won't skip a beat," and that music swappers should expect more lawsuits. Even the RIAA's Cary Sherman suggested Friday that the group was doing alleged file swappers a favor by sending subpoenas first. Now the RIAA says it will simply file lawsuits.

Friday's court ruling said the RIAA was wrong in sending subpoenas without first showing "case or controversy" to a court.

"[File swappers] will be forced to be a defendant in a lawsuit before we are able to notify them and ask if they'd like to settle this out of court, or to settle before other actions are necessary," Glazier said in an interview with Tech Live.

"The unfortunate part of this ruling for consumers that happen to be committing this type of infringement is that the first time they hear about the suits is when they're going to be a defendant," he added.

Capitol Hill Headaches

The RIAA's legal strategy of filing subpoenas to gain user information was based on a controversial provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It gives copyright holders the right to bypass the normal judicial process requiring a judge to review and sign subpoena requests.

But the RIAA exercised its legal options under that provision while alleging its copyrights were violated via peer-to-peer networks, including KaZaA. The District Court on Friday offered its sympathy to the RIAA but disagreed with its reasoning, saying that the DMCA was written before peer-to-peer (P2P) was realized to be a copyright threat.

That's leading many to believe Congress will revisit the DMCA and update it to cover P2P networks.

Others, like Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, supported Friday's court ruling, saying it ensures due process for those targeted by the RIAA. He also feels the law should be extended to protect others in similar cases.

"The position of the recording industry did nothing to protect innocent consumers from stalkers, pedophiles, spammers, and telemarketers who could use the same quasi- subpoena power," Brownback said in a written statement. "I intend to continue efforts to legislate on this issue and codify the court's decision into law."


Warner Music CIO: 'We Will Prevail' Against Pirates
Ed Parry

For every two steps forward, you've got to take one step back. That's the way Warner Music Group CIO Tsvi Gal sees the music industry's legal struggle with file swappers on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.

But over the last 10 days, the music industry has taken three steps back. Last Friday, an appeals court in Washington, D.C., threw out one of the prongs in the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA's) attack -- the ability to subpoena Internet service providers for the names of customers who might be downloading music illegally. Record companies will have to take the more costly route of filing formal lawsuits if they want Internet firms to name names.

The day before the ruling in Washington, Holland's supreme court proclaimed that the owners of P2P site Kazaa could not be held liable for people who use their software to violate copyrights. And the week before, regulators in Canada ruled that downloading copyrighted music off the Internet is legal in Canada, although uploading it is not.

But one person's downloader is another person's freeloader. "There is no justification for piracy period," Gal said. "To call it 'sharing' is misleading -- you're not sharing, you're stealing. [Swappers] aren't for freedom as they claim. They're just people who aren't willing to pay a penny for a song."

Gal stepped into this tempest 19 months ago when Warner Music Group named him senior vice president and chief information officer. Before that, he'd been CIO at ATT.com, the e-business arm of AT&T.

Since Gal took the Warner job, he's been on the front lines of the RIAA's (of which Warner Music Group is a member) contentious battle with music file swappers.

Gal thinks that the rulings from Washington, Holland and Canada prove that the saga over copyrights and wrongs will not have a quick solution. He doesn't think that the issues will be settled by the end of 2004, nor does he think the court ruling in Washington is a huge blow to the RIAA's case -- or cause.

"The court did not say that P2P is legal. It just said that giving names [of customers] isn't as mandatory as was foreseen.

"I see this as a legal dance -- two steps forward, one step back."

The RIAA argues that swapping music freely over the Internet is damaging the industry by eating into CD sales and forcing record companies to lay off staff. Warner Music reportedly faces up to $300 million in cuts from Edgar Bronfman, Jr. Bronfman led the investment group that bought Warner Music from AOL Time Warner last month for $2.6 billion.

"Music was slow to realize the potential and the danger of the Internet and paid a dear price," Gal said.

But according to Gal, the file swappers could pay a dear price too. The more an artist's work is swapped for free, the fewer CDs that artist sells. If the labels lose money, that artist may end up not getting a paycheck much less a place to record. In this sense, the file swappers are killing the very music they claim to hold so dear. "If you like them, you don't want to put them out of business," Gal said.

Gal said that the RIAA could take much more aggressive steps against illegal file swapping. But to fight the "good fight" through legal channels takes longer. "I believe that we do have right to protect ourselves, and we are only going to use legal and ethical ways to do that," he said. "My view of the rightness of our act has not changed."

Gal insists that his industry isn't at war with P2P technology or the Internet and doesn't have a problem with the legal trading of music online. He welcomes the Apples and Wal-Marts of the world that sell individual songs for download. Apple claims that customers have bought 25 million songs from the iTunes site since it opened in April. Wal-Mart is testing its online service -- 88 cents per song -- and plans to launch the full service next year.

"We welcome any legal channel, any mechanism for people who are honest and looking for an alternative to get media content," Gal said. He's happy to see honest customers have a choice of brands and prices (Wal-Mart songs will be a dime and a penny cheaper than Apple's). "At the end of the day, it comes down to basic human values. If you're looking for legal mechanisms to get music, there are channels."

It is those basic human values, as well as basic common sense, that Gal thinks will help his industry win out in the end.

"We'll prevail. Common sense will prevail because if there is no copyright, there is no financial incentive for people to create."


RIAA & MPAA Ask, Why Me?
Thomas Mennecke

It hasn’t been a positive week for our friends at the RIAA or MPAA. Up until a few weeks ago, file-sharing was facing a gloomy landscape, one filled with the RIAA breathing down the backs of nearly every significant network.

The RIAA began it anti-file-sharing campaign on June 26, 2003. Within a couple of weeks, the RIAA began sending subpoena notifications to various ISPs, such as Verizon. The RIAA was certain their righteous battle was backed up by the DMCA. As time went on, dozens of suspects turned into hundreds, and the music industry’s crusade gained tremendous momentum and national attention.

In fact, the RIAA became so cocky that it tapped Bradley Buckles, the director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), to head its Anti- Piracy Unit. While this act in alone may not be construed as “cocky”, it implications certainly are.

Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA stated, “Brad's appointment should signal to everyone that we continue to take piracy, here and throughout the world, very seriously…”

While we are left with such statements to fester in our imaginations, the RIAA’s bloated ego trip, along with its copyright industry brethren, would soon face a series of critical reversals. The copyright industry’s now deflated ego began innocently enough in Canada.

On December 12, 2003, the Copyright Board of Canada struck a major blow to the music industry when it ruled that downloading off P2P networks was legal (although uploading is not.) In addition, the board levied a tax on mp3 players and other similar devices. The tax, which amount up to 25 Canadian dollars, was levied to compensate the music industry for any loss that may occur due to private copying.

Keep in mind there is a catch to the significance of this ruling. The Canadian Recording Industry Association, with close ties to the RIAA, has stated that it will not let this ruling deter efforts to protect its copyrights.

"Our position is that under Canadian law, downloading is also prohibited," said Richard Pfohl, general counsel for the Canadian Recording Industry Association. "This is the opinion of the Copyright Board, but Canadian courts will decide this issue."

Although the CRIA has supported the RIAA’s “sue ‘em all” campaign and has even hinted at similar actions, the latest news from the United States Court of Appeals, and the ensuing embarrassment, may persuade a different course of action.

The second vote of dissention came on December 18, 2003, when the Argentinean music industry representative, the “Cámara Argentina de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas”, or CAPIF, stated it would not pursue file-traders via lawsuits and litigation.

Instead, the cooler headed industry is looking towards educational tactics. In addition, the CAPIF notes that a sizable portion of file-sharing takes place on corporate networks. Instead of taking on copyright enforcement personally, the CAPIF will instead inform network administrators to deal with the problem.

The next set of bad news for the copyright industry came in from the Netherlands. The Netherlands has long been a pool of P2P development, most notably from the Gnutella group XoloX, and FastTrack’s Kazaa. However, for some time things weren’t so cozy in this liberal country.

In November 2001, a Dutch court ruled that Kazaa must stop the distribution of its software and to take its website down. Then Dutch based Kazaa complied, albeit briefly in early January. However, towards the end of the month, the software was once again available under the guise of Sharman Networks. Although the Dutch court ordered the software removed, it remained available because of Sharman Networks’ geographical location (The EULA states that Kazaa is bound by Australia copyright laws.)

Just when Kazaa seemed to be struggling with Dutch authorities, many would be surprised with one of file-sharing’s greater victories. In March 2002, a Dutch court of appeals reversed the lower courts ruling. The Amsterdam Court of Justice ruled that Kazaa was not responsible for the actions of its users. Almost immediately, the Buma Stemra (the Dutch copyright overlord) appealed to the Netherland’s Supreme Court. At this point, everything is on the line…

As before, the Dutch Supreme Court wisely ruled on December 19, 2003, that Kazaa is not responsible for the potentially infringing actions of its users. Sharman Networks, along with file-traders (regardless of their opinion of the company) were delighted with the news. From Sharman’s press release:

“The Supreme Court of the Netherlands today reaffirmed that it is lawful to make the file-sharing software KaZaA publicly available. This court is the first Supreme Court or other national high court ruling on the legality of peer-to-peer technologies such as KaZaA. The outcome of the case, brought in a counter-suit by music rights society Buma/Stemra, has been closely watched by the entertainment industry, technology businesses and consumer advocates. This victory sets the precedent about the legality of peer-to-peer technology across the European Union, and around the world.”

While this was a significant win for file-sharing, the greatest news was yet to come.

Shortly after news of Kazaa’s win started trickling in, the United States Court of Appeals in Washington DC issued its Verizon vs. RIAA ruling. The battle centered on Verizon’s refusal to give up the names of several suspected copyright infringers to the RIAA.

Considering the anti-P2P attitude demonstrated by some in the United States government, along with a string of RIAA court victories, few every thought Verizon could possibly win. Doubters became believers on December 19, 2003, when Chief Judge Ginsburg ruled that the RIAA could not use the DMCA to obtain the identities of suspected file-traders. Specifically, on December 19, 2003, Judge Ginsburg ruled that Verizon acts only as a conduit, therefore the subsection of the DMCA that grants subpoena power does not apply.

The RIAA, largely embarrassed by the situation, clamored that the fight will go on…somehow.

Just when everyone thought that the file-sharing world received just about every victory it will every get, there was room for one more. This time, we focus on Jon Lech Johansen, AKA DVD-Jon.

DVD-Jon created the now famous DeCSS. DeCSS decrypts the weak Content Scrambling System encryption on DVDs. Although the initial use was to watch DVDs on his Linux machine, it eventually found its way into the legally questionably information distribution world. From there DivX movies and DVD rips of nearly every film imaginable has found its way online. While this is not the RIAA’s fight, the MPAA was determined to stomp out this threat.

Now, keep in mind that DVD-Jon is a citizen of Norway. Yet, the MPAA’s global reach pressured Norway’s Economic Crime Unit to eliminate this threat. Like the Buma Stemra in the Netherlands, the Norweigian Econimic Crime Unit was twice defeated in court. The latest ruling, delivered on December 22, 2003, by the Norweigian Court of Appeals, rejected the unit’s plea for a retrial. The MPAA commented on this situation, somehow arguing the ruling disfavors consumers.

“The actions of serial hackers such as Mr. Johansen are damaging to honest consumers everywhere. While the ruling does not affect laws outside of Norway, we believe this decision encourages circumvention of copyright that threatens consumer choice and employment in the film and television industries.”

Nearly all members of the online community can reflect on the positive atmosphere generated this week. On a near global level, there appears to be a shift from an almost blind agreement with the music and movie industries to a more balanced approach that takes the consumer into consideration. While these victories are indeed positive, the fight for online freedom is far from over. Simply because the ball is back in file-sharing’s court doesn’t mean the online copyright wars are over. There is still much work to be done.


make a yuletide bright!

this is jack spratts reminding you to share a file for the holidays!


Ruling Boosts Privacy Online

The music recording industry insists it will pursue lawsuits.
Jon Healey

A federal appeals panel on Friday handed a victory to privacy advocates and a costly setback to the major record labels, outlawing a technique that the music industry had used to identify — so it could then sue — people accused of pirating music.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is the latest in a series of rulings that may embolden music fans to share songs online and download them illegally. However, Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, stressed that the court’s decision would not stop the labels from filing lawsuits; it would simply make the process more cumbersome.

“This is a very big step,” said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, an advocacy group for more limited copyright laws, calling the decision “an early holiday gift from the court to Internet users.”

Opponents of the RIAA said the ruling would protect Internet users against an array of potential abuses. In particular, they said, it ensures that copyright law cannot be used to force Internet service providers to disclose their customers’ names and addresses unless a federal judge is supervising the process.

The ruling is the latest court decision that makes it more difficult for copyright holders to cut off online piracy at the level of ISPs or file-trading networks.

A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled this year that the Grokster and Morpheus file-sharing networks aren’t by themselves illegal, even though much of the trading that occurs on those networks violates copyright laws.


Charter Seeks Court Intervention In Music Subpoenas

Charter Communications wants a federal appeals court to block the recording industry from obtaining names of Charter customers who allegedly shared copyrighted music over the Internet.

In a filing Tuesday, St. Louis-based Charter — the nation's third-largest cable provider — cited last Friday's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which found that the recording industry can't force Internet providers to identify music downloaders.

That ruling did not legalize distributing copyrighted songs over the Internet, but it would greatly increase the cost and effort for the Washington- based Recording Industry Association of America to track such activity and sue those who are swapping music online.

The District of Columbia federal court overturned a lower court's decision to enforce copyright subpoenas, one of the most effective tools used by the recording industry. The subpoena power was established by a law passed before the explosive growth of swapping music online.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates had approved use of the disputed subpoenas, forcing Verizon Communications to turn over names and addresses for at least four subscribers. Since then, Verizon has identified scores of its other subscribers under subpoena by the music industry, and some of them have been sued. Verizon appealed.

"Just like Verizon, we are a conduit for information," Curt Shaw, Charter's general counsel, said Tuesday. "We don't believe Charter should be subjected to these subpoenas, either."

After Charter fought RIAA subpoenas in federal court in St. Louis, U.S. District Court Judge Carol Jackson last month ordered the company to turn over the information that had been demanded. Since then, Charter has provided identifying information on about 200 of its customers.

As part of its filings Tuesday, Charter also wants the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to order the return of information identifying the roughly 200 customers.

Amy Weiss, an RIAA spokeswoman, said the industry group could not comment immediately on Charter's filing. "We are reviewing our options," she said.

In its ruling last week, the District of Columbia appeals court said the 1998 copyright law doesn't cover popular file-sharing networks used by tens of millions of Americans to download songs. The law "betrays no awareness whatsoever that Internet users might be able directly to exchange files containing copyrighted works," the court wrote.

The judges sympathized with the recording industry, which has cited declining profits, noting that "stakes are large." But they said it was not the role of courts to rewrite the 1998 law, "no matter how damaging" the practice of swapping has become to the music industry or threatens to become to the motion picture and software industries.

Legal experts said they did not expect last week's ruling to affect 382 civil lawsuits the recording industry has filed since it announced its campaign six months ago; none of those lawsuits are known to have been filed in the St. Louis area.

The ruling also was not expected to affect financial settlements with at least 220 computer users who agreed to pay penalties from $2,500 to $7,500 each.


As Troubles Continue, Sharers Migrate - Soulseek Picks Up Users.

Lawsuit Redux
Jefferson Graham

Despite bad press for turning on its customers, the recording industry said Wednesday that it would sue 41 more people [December 4th], alleging they illegally downloaded music from the Internet.

Another 90 people were warned of pending copyright-infringement lawsuits.

Since September, the industry has sued 341 U.S. consumers in a bid to stem the tide of online music piracy, which the industry blames for a 31 percent drop in music sales over three years.

The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents music labels, says the campaign is showing "new signs of success," and research supports it.

Nielsen/NetRatings says the average number of users on Kazaa, the top music and movie trading program, has dropped 53 percent since June -- when the RIAA first warned of lawsuits.

More than 200 lawsuits have been settled. Most often, defendants pay fines of $1,000 to $3,000 to avoid court.

"A lot more legitimate sites are up and running, and a lot more are coming," says Phil Leigh of market research firm Inside Digital Media. "The content is there, and we're seeing real progress."

Matt Broberg, 19, a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, hasn't tried the pay services. He used to download from Kazaa but stopped in the wake of the litigation. "The lawsuits have had an effect on me and my friends," he says. "Kazaa used to be the biggest thing around. Not anymore."

He still uses a downloading program called Soulseek (www.slsk.org), which specializes in rare songs. Some file sharers, estimated at about 60 million worldwide, say they are undeterred.

"The odds of being singled out for a lawsuit are 56 million to one," Indiana University student Campbell Vertesi writes in an e-mail. "The odds of being struck by lightning are about 90 times greater, but I still go out in the rain."

Nielsen analyst Greg Bloom also says the lawsuits have only increased interest in illegal file-swapping in Europe, where no lawsuits have been filed.


Kazza Music Problems

As a follow up to the P2P thread I though I'd post this. Many users on Kazza are having problems downloading music using the Kazza servers (see this thread for problems).

Basically the Kazza servers (fasttrack) have been flooded with corrupt files and Kazza are suggesting using Soulseek as an alternative. It's not as user friendly as Kazza but the files aren't corrupt and are generally of a better quality.

I recomend anyone using soulseek to use the same user name as on C3. This way everyone can find users easily and add them to their user lists. There is even a chat facility if you create a room so users can interact.

SoulSeek Interview
Thomas Mennecke

SoulSeek has quickly become an important force in the P2P world. Although it has not reached great heights like WinMX or FastTrack, this network has one of the strongest and closest knit communities. In addition, its lead programmer, Nir Arbel, maintains close contact with the SoulSeek community; something that is perhaps more important than the network size or availability of files. We would like to thank Nir Arbel for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Slyck.com: Explain SoulSeek’s progress towards decentralization. When will SoulSeek ultimately become a fully decentralized network; and,

What aspects of the network are centralized? Please explain the
current architecture.

Nir Arbel: If anything, we're less decentralized now than we were when we started on the whole thing. The more system functions we tried to move to the decentralized network, the clearer it became how important the reliability of centralization was to most of the things Soulseek did.

In the end the only thing we left decentralized was the distribution of search requests. Those took the heaviest toll on the server, but at the same time search requests, as data, are much more disposable than say private messages, user info requests, or pretty much anything else the server does. In case you haven't guessed by now, no, Soulseek will never become fully decentralized. It would be impossible to manage as a community the same way that's done now.`

Slyck.com: Considering mostly techno, dance, house and electronic music is on the network, do you feel this has prevented the RIAA from taking an interest in SoulSeek?

Nir Arbel: It couldn't have hurt. Considering the majority of stuff trafficked on the system is probably non-RIAA owned, and seeing as the system is pretty small to begin with, it's likely we're not even on the RIAA's radar.

Slyck.com: If certain aspects remain centralized, will you perhaps revisit the idea of allowing individuals to run their own SoulSeek server?

Nir Arbel: Anything's possible, but I really can't think of too many good reasons to let people run their own servers. For one, yes, the way we make money pretty much depends on there just being one server if the privileges we give in return for donations are to mean anything.

Additionally, we like the idea of everyone being connected to everyone. People are still free to create their own communities on SoulSeek by means of chatrooms, shared recommendations and just plain search results. But at the same time you don't suffer the exclusive, elitist attitudes that you might know from networks like Hotline or Direct Connect.

Slyck.com: What estimates would you place on the size of the SoulSeek network (simultaneous user)? What effect, if any, has the RIAA’s campaign had on the size/ growth of the network?

Nir Arbel: Right now we have a little over a million registered usernames. At peak hours we get a little over a hundred thousand users logged on simultaneously, but that seems to be down to about eighty thousand right now. Maybe because of the holidays.

Slyck.com: What steps have you or will you take to protect SoulSeek users from the RIAA (if possible)? I understand SoulSeek users can limit whom they share with, however will future versions disable the browsing of shared files like Kazaa Lite?

Nir Arbel: I'm not sure I understand. You can share privately to users on your buddy list, in which case other users won't be able to browse your files. Anyway, if you're thinking about encryption and IP forwarding and all the neat stuff networks like Freenet do, then that's not gonna happen anytime soon, as we're just not up to the task. I get that question a lot from users, and the answer is always more or less: you're on your own. If you don't feel like taking the rather minute risk of sharing files on a largely overlooked P2P network, then either share privately or not at all.

Slyck.com: SoulSeek has been revised with a bit more frequency in the last few months. What improvements/revisions have been made?

Nir Arbel: Almost everything we've done in the last few months was in attempt to let the server handle a larger number of users. This included both server-side modifications like fixing memory leaks, switching the pocket polling interface to the new sys_epoll that's in linux 2.6.x and optimizing wherever we can, as well as changes to the client to make it less aggressive in some respects, like the manner in which wishlists are sent to the server.

Another pretty major update to the system that I'm proud of is to do with the recommendations. It's basically just a system that lets you list anything and everything that makes your life worth living and then links you to users with similar interests and the things that interest them. We used to have a very basic version of this feature in the past, but as the system kept growing we had to give it up because the server couldn't support it anymore. After a few hardware upgrades and software optimizations, we brought it back in a considerably more functional package.

Slyck.com: Let’s look into the future of SoulSeek. What features can we expect? Any chance in multi-source downloading?

Nir Arbel: Nope. To reiterate on something I've said many times before. We like being an old-school network where users not only know who they're downloading from, but also depend on each others' good will. That's how a community works. Any network that does a good job of anonymizing the uploaders through decentralization and multisource transfers can be a great tool, but it's not a community.

New features? The only thing we're concerned with right now is reliability. Make the server stop crashing, make searches return more results and faster, make the client more stable for more people. The network isn't so small that radical new changes can be easily introduced without major disruption. If I am going to start working on new features, it's very likely that they'll be on the side of the community aspect rather than the file-sharing aspect, like the recommendations module.

Slyck.com: A lot of third party developers have infiltrated networks such as FastTrack, DirectConnect and eDonkey2000. A Linux client has been developed for SoulSeek. Is third party infiltration/development a concern to you?

Nir Arbel: It depends. If the client knows how to upload as well as download, and respects download privileges, I don't mind people using it. I think Nicotine does both of those, but I heard that MLDonkey, which has a SoulSeek support module, doesn't even have file upload functionality on the SoulSeek network. That's just not ok.

Slyck.com: Tell us more about SoulSeek Isle; is development still active? What is/ was the goal of this project and what relevance will it have when SoulSeek becomes decentralized.

Nir Arbel: Yeah, there's not much to say. We thought we couldn't keep supporting the growing number of users on the Soulseek server, so we started an initiative to branch out to additional servers, the first of which was supposed to be the isle. After putting a lot of work into the server software, we discovered we had a lot more breathing room than we thought. So the Isle is down for now. We still use it when we need to test particularly risky modifications to the system though.

Slyck.com: What is your opinion of the RIAA’s current campaign against file-sharing? Do you see file-sharing prevailing in the end?

Nir Arbel: I'm not sure there's a point to forming an opinion about it. Day rolls into night and a huge corporation that never factored values of human decency into its profit model will do everything in its power to keep making more money, without any regard to perspective and common sense.

And so other than giving people who have perspective and common sense something to make fun of, I don't believe their efforts will make a difference in the long run, as far as our file-sharing habits are concerned.


Techno-Lockdown Not Likely
Edward W. Felten

Steven Levy, in Newsweek, offers a dystopian vision for the future of the Internet:

Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And this infrastructure is none other than the former paradise of rebels and free-speechers: the Internet.

Pretty scary! Fortunately, it's not gonna happen.

To understand why, let's rewind, as Levy does, to the early days of Internet mania, when many saw the Net as an anarchist utopia that didn't have laws, and didn't need them. A few contrarians like Larry Lessig argued that the Net wasn't inherently immune from control and regulation, and that society would bring its norms, and government its laws, to the Net. And indeed that is what happened.

This should have been obvious, considering the pervasive connections between our on-line and off-line lives. I write and publish this posting in cyberspace; but at the same time I'm sitting in a chair in Princeton, New Jersey, watching the sun rise out my back window. I have one foot in cyberspace and one foot in meatspace. And how can one foot be bound by laws and the other be immune? The rules of cyberspace and the rules of meatspace will necessarily be similar -- any big disparity between them will be resolved by changing the rules on one side or the other.

For the same reason, a locked-down Net can't really happen, at least not here in the free world. For how can one foot be enslaved while the other is free? To lock down the Internet is to disconnect it from everyday life, from the life where I can send an invitation, or a business memo, or a home movie to anyone at any time, where I can read whatever I like without asking a censor's permission.
We might go some short distance down the road of control, but ultimately the rules of cyberspace are firmly tethered to the rules of meatspace. And in the rules of meatspace -- at least where I'm lucky enough to live -- lockdown isn't allowed.

This isn't to say that we should ignore the forces of control, or that we should acquiesce in whatever small victories they may be able to win. We need to be vigilant and fight for the right to build and use new technologies. It's that struggle that keeps the Net connected to the freedoms we enjoy in the real world. It's that struggle that keeps techno-lockdown in the realm of speculation and not reality.

Until next week,

- js.


Current Week In Review.

Recent WIRs -

December 20th, December 13th, December 6th, November 29th

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.com. Include contact info. Submission deadlines are Wednesdays @ 1700 UTC.
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Old 26-12-03, 08:39 AM   #2
Thanks for being with arse
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Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The other side of the world
Posts: 10,343

i saw a RATM clip that had a protest ..
i think it may of been the one..

In August, two weeks before Sherman Austin began his sentence, Attorney General John Ashcroft embarked on a cross-country tour to rally support for the Patriot Act. Ashcroft was met by protesters who covered the political spectrum, from Green Party activists to NRA loyalists. On August 29, ex Rage Against the Machine singer Zack de la Rocha hosted a benefit concert for Austin in San Diego. Austin addressed the crowd, sounding both shaky and resilient: “The threat to national security is us taking control of our own lives,” he said. Austin began serving his sentence at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino five days later, two days before Ashcroft’s tour hit Florida. “We have constructed America’s defense upon a foundation of prevention,” Ashcroft told an audience at a Tampa Bay hotel, “nurtured by cooperation, built on coordination, and rooted in the constitutional liberties of this free nation."
this austin thing sucks ..i have heard little about it uptil now...
why did they not go for the ppl that uploaded the bomb making stuff...who were they..?
something really stinks about all this..

nice end of year issue ,jack

i beat the internet
- the end boss is hard
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