|12-06-03, 10:03 PM||#1|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - June 14th, '03
Foundlings and File Sharing
There’s a new kid on the file sharing block and if he isn’t the biggest or the strongest yet, he just may turn out to be the most useful.
A major problem facing most users familiar with peer to peer is the all or nothing approach to making connections. Take KaZaA for instance, or WinMx WPN, or Gnutella or Blubster, it doesn’t really make much difference which one you choose because in this instance they’re all the same; when you connect to one of the clients on the network, you connect to all of them. While this seems obvious to the point of redundancy, it’s worth taking the time to consider. Unlike AIM, ICQ or MSN for instance you can’t control your social groups. You’re at the mercy of the Internet when you log onto to a P2P. It’s all for one and one for all. And that’s great – most of the time. Maybe even nearly all of the time. But for those instances when you’d like a little bit of say over who you’re dealing with, well, up until now you’ve been out of luck. There may be times when you just don’t want to invite the whole planet in for the party. A small get together with a few good friends might be the perfect afternoon.
That’s where Waste comes in, and with the help of a crack team of Napsterites’ P2P-Zone regulars we’ve been checking it out for a week now. If you haven’t heard yet, Waste is the latest brainchild of Justin Frankel, Nullsoft programmer extraordinaire and the man who brought forth such indispensable applications as Winamp (always on at my place) and the decentralized peer-to-peer application Gnutella. The story goes that Frankel’s bosses at AOL were dissatisfied with his latest baby. Even though they were using it successfully for internal communications and file transferring it was felt too destabilizing for their established AIM consumer base and the company was going to let it die. So to make sure the foundling had a fighting chance at survival Frankel left it on the Internet’s doorstep, hoping that some kind soul would take it in. Well, somebody did. Like me, and a few thousand others, and we’re kind of growing fond of the little tyke.
Take a really good centralized P2P with all that that means, like instant searching and instant downloading (what Napster tried to be), combine it with a solid centralized chat that lets you make your own rooms and have open or private conversations, then set it up so you can pick only the members you want to let in; add some very useful features like the ability to start uploads, that is, make it so you can send people files instead of waiting for them to come and get them; encrypt the hell out of it so any bad guys sniffing around your pipe can’t rip off your data and then to make it really useful, get this - use multicasting to decentralize the whole thing so nobody can control it or shut it down. Finally, make it small and easy to use. So easy as a matter of fact that with zero documentation, the P2P-Zoners had it up and running in minutes.
So here’s what you get: Easy to use decentralized file sharing that’s fast, encrypted searches, encrypted flexible chat and the ability to invite who you want, all on a personal network controlled by you, not some faceless 3rd party giant like AOL or MSN. Hey, it’s your cyber room. Do what you want in it.
This program is going to find it’s way onto everybody’s desktop from ages 8 to 88. It’s as killer an app as I’ve ever seen. As powerful in its way as email or instant messaging and it may find itself just as indispensable. It works effortlessly and like a good servant disappears into the background while it waits for your instructions. You’ll wonder how you got along without it.
Justin Frankel can be proud of this one for giving it birth, but users all over the world can be equally proud for saving it’s life.
This little baby is going places when it grows up.
Appeals Court May Hear Copyright Case
A federal appeals court may soon consider the entertainment industry's copyright-infringement claims against two popular online file-sharing systems.
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson in Los Angeles cleared the way for the major record labels, music publishers and movie studios to appeal his preliminary ruling in favor of the Morpheus and Grokster file-sharing networks, without having to wait for a final decision in the case.
The entertainment companies have 10 days to ask the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to accept their appeal, which the court is expected to do.
Wilson ruled April 25 that a recent version of the Morpheus and Grokster software didn't violate copyright law, even though many users of the software were pirating music and movies.
Wilson is still considering whether to let the entertainment companies pursue claims based on earlier versions of the software.
Copyright Controls 'Out Of Tune'
Copyright holders like record labels have too much power over what people do with songs, argues technology analyst Bill Thompson
After failing to persuade an appeals court of its case, US ISP Verizon is handing over the names of four of its customers to the lawyers at the Recording Industry Association of America. The disclosure marks a significant shift in the way that customer privacy is dealt with in US law and will, as with many aspects of the regulation of the internet, have an impact on net users around the world.
The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) first contacted Verizon last year after finding files being shared through the Kazaa peer- to-peer network from computers with IP addresses on Verizon's network. They had no way to find who the users behind those computers were, so used a provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to issue a court-authorised subpoena to the ISP, asking for the subscriber names. Verizon refused, arguing that they were just a communications channel and had nothing to do with the potentially copyright-infringing behaviour of their customers. They also said that because the DMCA subpoenas were issued by a court clerk and not by a judge they were unconstitutional.
Now a court has ordered them to hand over the names, although the legal arguments will continue for a bit longer as the appeal has not been finally decided. But it seems pretty clear that under existing law Verizon have little chance of winning. The DMCA was written to give massive power to copyright owners, and it is working. There is also little chance of any changes to the law getting through a US political system where many elected representatives rely on campaign funding from the entertainment industry.
So we can assume that from now on any time the record or music industry wants to know whose computer is hosting a pirate version of Spiderman, a few ripped MP3s of some old songs or the odd installation of a piece of unpaid for software, they will be able to find out - at least in the US.
This does not mean all of those people will be prosecuted. One of the aspects of the law raised by this case is that the RIAA can ask for people's names before they start proceedings - they just have to turn up, say "we think these people are abusing our copyright" and they can get the subpoena. But it may result in even more nasty and threatening letters going out from the RIAA, and have a chilling effect on the free sharing of music over the net and the growth of the file sharing networks.
Over here we do not have the DMCA, although our very own European Union Copyright Directive does lots of the same stuff. However this does not mean we should be relaxed about privacy, especially after recent Home Office proposals for storage of and access to data about e-mails sent and web pages visited. But UK practice does at least involve the police and the courts: a record company cannot just walk into an office, ask an official for a stamp on a form and send it off to an ISP.
US net users should be very worried about the implications of the Verizon case. The techno-optimists say that the next generation of file- sharing services will make it impossible to pin down which computer is hosting a file and so the law will be helpless. This may work for a while, but just as in the ongoing battle between virus writers and anti-virus tools, each side has clever programmers and an incentive to develop new ways to get what it wants.
The real fight here is political. The record industry wants complete control over what people do with the songs it publishes; the people want some freedom to decide for themselves. Until we can resolve this difference we will continue to see more court cases, threatening letters, and new releases of file-sharing tools. We need to rethink what copyright means in a digital world, rather than wasting so much time, effort and money on this conflict.
Spike Lee Blocks Spike TV Name Use
Spike Lee has temporarily spiked Spike TV.
A Manhattan judge on Thursday granted Lee's petition and ordered Viacom Inc. to stop using Spike TV as the new name for its TNN network, pending a trial on the issue.
State Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub ordered Lee to post a $500,000 bond to cover Viacom's losses in case the company wins.
Viacom announced the name change in April as part of its transformation of TNN into "the first network for men." Spike TV shows reruns of "The A-Team," "Baywatch" and "Miami Vice," sports entertainment such as pro wrestling and "American Gladiators" -- plus an animated series featuring Pamela Anderson as the voice of Stan Lee's "Stripperella," an undercover operative who is also a stripper.
Lee, whose numerous directing credits include "Malcolm X" and "Do the Right Thing," said he sued Viacom to protect his name from a deliberate attempt to capitalize on his image and prestige.
Viacom's lawyers said Lee cannot prove their network's new name refers to him. And they said no New York law gives a celebrity's first name the protection Lee is seeking without some other suggestion of the person's persona.
But the judge disagreed.
"Contrary to defendants' position, the court is of the opinion that in the age of mass communication, a celebrity can in fact establish a vested right in the use of only their first name or a surname," the judge wrote. "There are many celebrities that are so recognized, including Cher, Madonna, Sting and Liza."
He also said the name protection would probably be available if a network proposed a program called the "Cronkite News Hour."
Lee's lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, said, "We're obviously elated. We had a good judge who looked at the law and at the facts."
Dan Martinsen, spokesman for the network, said Viacom would appeal immediately and seek a stay of the judge's order. "We respectfully disagree with the judge's decision, which was not supported by the law or the evidence," Martinsen said.
Viacom, which bought TNN in 2000, also owns the CBS, VH1 and UPN networks, the Showtime movie channel and book publisher Simon & Schuster.
ITunes Music Swap Just Won't Die By
Apple Computer may never be able to stop Mac users from sharing music over the Internet, despite its best attempts.
Last week, Apple released an iTunes update that disabled the ability to stream music over the Internet.
In April, Apple added a feature that let Mac users share tunes over a local area network, such as an office or a couple of Macs hooked up at home. This feature also permitted users to stream iTune music files. When some users published their addresses and began streaming iTunes music files over the Net, Apple responded by disabling the streaming aspect of the feature.
The move enraged a lot of Mac users, who were using the feature to stream music from their home machines to machines at work.
"Apple force-feeds customers shit, calls it sunshine," is how Cory Doctorow put it in a widely cited rant against Apple on the boingboing weblog.
But what Steve Jobs takes away, hackers are giving back.
On Thursday, programmer James Speth released a hastily written piece of software called 401(ok) that restores Net-wide music streaming to iTunes.
"I really liked the ability to access my music from anywhere, and I didn't like that the 4.0.1 update removed that feature," Speth wrote.
In the software's Read Me file, Speth writes that the software is "inefficient, ugly and poorly written. If anyone really uses this thing, I'll work on making it better."
The hack makes it fairly easy to restore Net-wide music streaming to iTunes. A more complicated, but more powerful hack exists in Andromeda, a software application that makes use of Mac OS X's built-in Web technologies, the Apache Web server and the PHP scripting language.
Boring Music As Bad For Cd Sales As P2P
Don't blame file sharing alone for declining CD sales, analyst group warns record companies
Boring music, not file swapping alone, is causing falling sales of music CDs, according to research from NPD Group.
The analyst group warned record companies that unless they address this factor they will not reverse market decline.
The music industry has been waging a long-running series of legal battles against peer-to-peer sites, which it blames for the slump in music CD sales.
Last year, sales in the US fell by 13 per cent, and were down another nine per cent in the first quarter of 2003.
But the year-long study from NPD into the buying habits of internet users showed that, even though 60 per cent of music buyers had never downloaded free music, CD sales for this group had still declined by seven per cent.
NPD Group attributes more than half of the slump to free file-sharing activity on services like Kazaa and Morpheus, but it also said that a significant portion of the decline came from older music buyers.
This group, which is not generally associated with illegal file sharing or digital piracy of any kind, complained of a dearth of interesting new material.
"Our research shows that even if digital file sharing were to disappear tomorrow, the record labels and retailers would still need to overcome important underlying causes of recent market declines," said Russ Crupnick, NPD's vice president.
Ben Harper Gets Mad
...Do you think you would ask Virgin Records, your parent label, to assist in distribution for Inland Emperor as it expands?
No [flatly]. You know, right now, I … [long pause] Unless I get an amazing call from the head of EMI, I’m going to wash my hands of major-label record deals. I’m going to finish out my contract and then move on.
Yeah. Let me give you an example. Not to overexaggerate or overindulge my own sense of self-worth, but all I have is my music! No, let me correct that—I have a lot of other things: I’ve got family, I’ve got friends and I’ve got health. Let’s just really get things in their proper perspective, right? But, beyond that, my voice is my music, and everything that goes with it, whether it’s the artwork, the layout or the graphic design. And I have existed in a corporate environment, autonomously, with my own opinions and ideals. Successfully, dare I say. And that’s no small feat in this day and age. Especially making music that’s against the commercial grain. It’s one thing if you’re going to take an indie approach on a corporate label while making music that’s considered “pop.” But when you’re not only operating as an indie artist on a major label, when the music itself is outside the mainstream, it’s twice as hard. So to remain in this situation 10 years shouldn’t go unnoticed.
With that said, what EMI has done in Europe is print my CD with an embossed label on the cover. Now, a CD cover is only five inches by five inches, right? Well, they’ve embossed an inch-and-a-half insignia saying, “THIS CD IS COPY-PROTECTED.” Without me knowing and without checking with me!
As much energy and time as I put into my music … [long pause] My music is what I give of myself to culture. And it’s my cultural statement. And they have gone and embossed this huge, ugly insignia on the cover of my record. Without checking with me first! That’s not my technological statement. That’s not my social or cultural statement. That’s not my musical statement. Yet they have used my voice as a vehicle to make their copy- protection statement. And it’s bullshit. And the heads of my record label aren’t even calling to discuss the matter with me!
I can’t believe that.
Give me a break, man. I’m done. So when you ask me about EMI handling distribution for my label … I’m sorry you’re getting the long answer to a short question, but, man, I’m done with these guys.
How long have you known about this decision?
I’ve known about this a week. The record company has known … how long? And I can’t … [pause] Let’s not get egotistical about this. There are plenty of people I’m not. But I am Ben Harper, whatever that means to whoever it means. And I can’t get these guys on the phone! I’m expecting a call right now. I called them two hours ago, and they haven’t called back! And I don’t get a call but once every six months from the record company president!
I can probably guess your advice for up-and-coming songwriters, then ...
Just stay independent. Big labels offer you the potential for bigger accomplishments faster, but you’re better off just staying on a small label and working it out over the long term. Just stick to your voice.
That’s my advice, man...
"It's just like how they removed vinyl and moved it over to compact disc. Hello? Now we find out that compact discs don't last forever. They deteriorate really rapidly," he said. "The whole world of MP3 is the worst, lowest level of fidelity in sound you could ever expect. You're being conned and you've got a whole world out there thinking 'Hey, hey, I've got it free.' " – Johnny Rotten
Apple Out To Acquire Napster Owner?
Apple is in talks to buy Napster, Mac rumours site LoopRumors has claimed, citing "reliable sources".
Well, not Napster per se but Roxio, the CD burning software specialist, which itself acquired Napster's assets for $5 million after the peer-to-peer pioneer declared itself bankrupt last summer.
Roxio also owns PressPlay, the online music service launched by major music labels Sony and Universal in 2001.
It's not hard to see what might interest Apple in Roxio. Roxio's Mac portfolio is limited, but does include Toast, long the leading CD tool until Apple shipped iTunes and built disc burning into the Mac OS. But for many pro users, Toast remains the best solution for disc creation.
But of greater interest to Apple is Roxio's Windows offerings, which include Toast, video editing and digital photo software. Apple bought MP3 jukebox software from Casady & Greene, reworked the user interface and renamed it iTunes. You can see it doing the same with Roxio's Photosuite (iPhoto for Windows) and Videowave (iMovie for Windows).
Now that Apple is charging for its iLife bundle - iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD - its entirely possible that the company believes it can make more money selling the software than by giving it away to encourage consumers to buy a Mac. It certainly has to port iTunes to Windows to broaden the availability of its Music Store - indeed, it has been looking for a new member of staff to handle the port - so why not the rest of iLife?
EU Ends Free Internet Tax Ride
They've survived the bursting of the tech bubble, a global economic downturn and the occasional virus, but now overseas Internet retailers may see their European profit push derailed by one of the oldest drags on business: tax.
On July 1, a new EU directive goes into effect requiring all Internet companies to account for value added tax, or VAT, on "digital sales."
The law adds a 15 percent to 25 percent levy on select Internet transactions such as software and music downloads, monthly subscriptions to an Internet service provider and on any product purchased through an online auction anywhere in the 15-member bloc of nations.
The VAT is nothing new for some Net companies. European dot-coms have been charging customers VAT since their inception. Their overseas rivals, though, have been exempt, making foreign companies an obvious choice for the bargain-hunting consumer.
"It's a massive competitive disadvantage. It's good to see at last it being eroded," said David Melville, general counsel of U.K. ISP Freeserve, a division of French ISP Wanadoo.
Freeserve has lobbied furiously for the past two years to get the loophole closed, saying its chief rival, AOL U.K., the Internet unit of AOL Time Warner, saved $249.7 million in tax payments over the years.
Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Privacy And Security
Summary Mr. Chairman, Mr. Waxman, and Members of the Committee, the Center for Democracy and Technology welcomes this opportunity to testify on the timely issue of privacy and security on popular peer-to-peer file-sharing systems.
The use of file-sharing software can raise serious privacy problems, often through mistakes by users that result in the sharing of very sensitive personal information. At the same time file-sharing technology is largely user controlled, oftentimes beneficial, and decidedly hard to regulate. A broad public education effort and better software practices are needed in order to inform people about the risks of file sharing while preserving the benefits of this valuable technology. CDT is a non-profit, public interest organization dedicated to promoting civil liberties and democratic values on the Internet. Since its creation in 1994, CDT has been heavily involved in the policy debates concerning privacy and computer security online. More recently, in partnership with other consumer groups, CDT has undertaken a project to articulate balanced consumer perspectives on digital copyright issues. So-called "peer-to-peer file-sharing" systems - like the popular Kazaa, Morpheus, or Grokster applications - are among the most downloaded computer programs today. People who install these powerful tools need to be aware of the potentially serious privacy and security risks that may come from their use or misuse. Key concerns facing file-sharing users include:
* Inadvertent sharing of sensitive personal information - Peer-to- peer systems make it possible, and in some cases too easy, for people to share personal files. There is evidence on major peer-to- peer networks of users sharing very sensitive documents like their tax returns, inboxes, or check registers, certainly in most cases by mistake. * Spyware and adware - Many file-sharing programs contain "spyware" that communicates information for advertising or other reasons, often without the user's knowledge. Whether in peer-to- peer or other software, consumers deserve notice and real choices about how their computers communicate with third parties.
* Security concerns - File trading introduces risks similar to those faced by Internet users generally. People should take care to only execute files whose source they trust, and they should safeguard their computers when online.
* Legal risks - File traders who violate copyright laws face obvious legal risks. At the same time, CDT is concerned that at least one provision of current law - the broad subpoena power granted any copyright holder under Section 512(h) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act - too easily allows the identity of a peer-to-peer participant or any Internet user to be unmasked wrongly or by mistake without their knowledge. These concerns are exacerbated by the growing use of file-sharing programs by millions of individuals and families, often with little or no training or experience. With these risks come benefits. Peer-to-peer file sharing can be used for legitimate, non-infringing file distribution. Its underlying technology, not so different from peer-to-peer networks like the World Wide Web, is rapidly evolving and being adopted for many new uses. Regulating this technology without broader ramifications would be difficult, and could have many unintended consequences. How then do we address these real privacy and security concerns? CDT believes that an active program of education and better software practices is needed. Such a program would:
* Inform people about the risks in file sharing - The public, and particularly the families of file-trading minors, need greater awareness of the potential risks of file sharing. Educational efforts- like the Internet community GetNetWise website-are already including tips for safe peer-to-peer use that should be widely disseminated.
* Seek fair information practices in file-sharing software - Much more should be done to design peer-to-peer software with transparency and better control over shared files. Software producers should reject invasive spyware, adopt fair information practices, and must provide better notice when information is transmitted to third parties. * Add privacy protections for DMCA subpoenas - Privacy and safety protections for end users should be included in the broad DMCA Section 512(h) subpoena provision in order to require more due process - including notice to the user and other protections- before ISPs are compelled to reveal sensitive personal identity information.
* Prevent invasive "self-help" tactics- In no circumstances should it be legal to damage another person's computer or files based on allegations of wrong-doing, including copyright infringement. All of this should take place against the broader backdrop of action regarding Internet privacy generally, where the continued growth of privacy technologies and industry self-regulatory efforts along with baseline privacy legislation are necessary to ensure public trust and democratic values. Congress has a valuable role to play in educating the public about the potential risks of file-sharing systems, in encouraging companies to design more user-friendly systems, and in modifying current legal provisions that create privacy risks. CDT looks forward to working with this Committee and others to further these efforts.
Stock And Roll - Changing The Music Indistry
STOCK AND ROLL PRESS RELEASE & EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Whereas Music is the perfect partner for the World Wide Web, as both can so easily reach across jurisdictional lines and bring very diverse people to a common ground, the web is causing grave problems for the current music industry. File swapping servers such as Kazaa (which allow more than 130 million users, to download free copyrighted works without authorization) have created an ever increasing threat to the standard business model and more importantly, to the artists. There are also legitimate legal issues regarding whether they can even be shut down.
The Industry recently spent millions attempting to restrict access by developing the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) and so called “copy proof” compact discs. The SDMI code was cracked within one hour of it’s release and it now appears that a common felt tipped marker will easily defeat the “copy proof” CD’s. Even though the digital revolution is well under way, and the people have demonstrated what they want… free music. The current music establishment is alienating both the fans and the artists as they continually and futilely seek ways to keep the status quo by attempting to maintain control over the distribution of the music, the profits, and the artists.
At Stock and Roll we simply developed a better business model…
Stock and Roll will change the very nature of the music industry, as it will meet the challenges proposed by the new threat, while providing a more creative and profitable environment for both the talent and the fans. As there seems to be no way to legally halt the peer to peer servers such as Kazaa, we have decided to give the fans exactly what they want… free music. While still protecting the artist, and offering them other streams of revenue.
The innovative business strategy developed by Stock and Roll allows the fans to buy shares of stock directly in any of our artists for less than the price of a CD ($10 per share). The Stock and Roll strategy will instantly allow the artist to grow a base of loyal fans that are literally invested in the music. Each artist can gain up to 100,000 shareholders/marketing agents, who will help “spread the word” about the band and the company because when the artist prospers so does the shareholder (fan). An unintentional yet, fortuitous virtue of the Stock and Roll strategic business model is that the Stock and Roll record label does not take any financial risks on the artists, as it is the fan who provides the funding.
To provide worldwide visibility to our artists, Stock and Roll has developed an interactive internet Music TV channel, web radio station and internet music delivery platform that provides a live, 24 hour a day worldwide broadcast or stream of original music programming and free music downloads.
By combining an interactive Music TV broadcast, delivered to a worldwide audience, free music downloads, and the exclusive ability to purchase shares in any of our bands, Stock and Roll shall offer a better alternative to the fan. By offering majority ownership rights, up to 100,000 marketing agents, and a more equitable playing field to the artist Stock and Roll is positioned to become the leading international Music TV station, record company and Internet delivery system for music and related merchandise in the new millennium.
As no other company has ever offered “artist authorized” and therefore free and legal music downloads, nor the ability to purchase stock in an artist, Stock and Roll shall instantaneously garner international notoriety upon launch. Offering free and legal downloads will allow Stock and Roll to capture many of the 130 Million registered users at Kazaa and other free sites, as well as those consumers opposed to stealing the music. We also come full circle… as we finally provide the fans with a real motivation to spread the word and purchase the merchandise, as there is a real chance to make a profit when the band prospers.
In essence, Stock and Roll is seeking to take the “industry” out of the music by allowing the fans to directly interact with and literally become invested in the music. Stock and Roll offers a better, more equitable and intimate environment for the investor, the consumer, the fan, and musician as well as the chance for the fan/ investor to profit as the artist prospers.
Please also note that we are seeking accomplished artists to help us in two ways; we are seeking to form an advisory panel to help us ensure that the company philosophy and focus always remains on the artist, and we are also seeking a second round of funding.
To offer an added incentive if an investor donates all or a portion of their proceeds to a reputable charitable organization Stock and Roll will match those donations dollar for dollar in perpetuity.
STOCK AND ROLL - INVEST IN THE POWER OF MUSIC!
10-4 On That Wi-Fi, Good Buddy?
Wi-Fi wireless networking is rolling into a lot more truck stops.
In one of the largest projects of its kind, Knoxville, Tenn.-based IdleAire Technologies, a maker of in-cab gadgets for trucks, is installing Wi-Fi hot spots in 200 truck stops in 35 states, the company announced Tuesday.
The IdleAire plan is a sign of just how pervasive Wi-Fi is in the United States. Millions of homes and offices with broadband connections already use the networking equipment, which creates 300-foot zones in which laptops can wirelessly connect to the Web or to an office network.
Operators of offices, restaurants, Starbucks cafes, independent coffeehouses, delis, bookstores, airport lounges and train terminals have also installed pay- as-you-surf Wi-Fi networks, hoping to lure new customers or make new profits from veteran users.
Truck stops are no longer sparsely outfitted lots where truckers get gas and a few hours of rest before moving on. Aside from staples like electrical hook-ups and air conditioning, truck stops are also providing television, movies and long-distance phone calling, all paid for with the swipe of a credit card. The IdleAire plan adds Web access to the mix.
"They can stop at the nearest interstate exit," said David Everhart, IdleAire senior vice president. "They won't have to find a coffee shop, an airport or a hotel."
A second factor pushing more technology into truck stops is new legislation requiring truckers to rest eight hours after driving for 10 hours straight. It's created a miniboom for movies and entertainment, or a broadband connection to catch up on inventory or other record keeping.
IdleAire said in a statement that it will charge truckers $1.25 per hour, $3 per day or $25 a month for unlimited use of these wireless networks. The company has also signed agreements that will let subscribers to nationwide Wi-Fi network operators Boingo Wireless and iPass use the same networks.
Digital Media Wars Heat Up
The corporate armistice declared recently between Microsoft and AOL Time Warner reflected two companies moving from the past to the future. The abandoned past included a last lingering vestige of the Internet browser wars of the 1990s, a civil antitrust suit that Microsoft has now agreed to pay AOL Time Warner $750 million (U.S.) to settle. The future involves using the Internet to deliver commercial program content, mainly movies and music, to consumers who are equipped with a growing array of digital devices to receive it, from personal computers to digital televisions to smart cellphones. And the two companies must do so in a way that is convenient for users and profitable for media companies, while keeping digital piracy to a manageable minimum.
Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, and Richard Parsons, his counterpart at AOL Time Warner, spoke about how their collaboration could accelerate the adoption of digital media for the Internet while maintaining copyright protection. The central technology in pursuit of that goal is the software for handling and protecting digital media. And last month's pact included a long-term, non- exclusive licence agreement allowing AOL Time Warner to use Microsoft's Windows Media software for distributing and playing back digital media. The media player is the crucial piece in the puzzle. It resides on the user's computer or other device and opens a portal to what the industry calls rich media — movies, music, video — delivered over the Internet, just as the browser is a portal for viewing Web pages. The media player takes on additional importance because it seems to be the likely vehicle for some of the vital technology in the emerging field of digital rights management — a fancy name for piracy protection. "The big battleground in software is going to be the media player itself," said Chris Charron, an analyst for Forrester Research, a computer industry research and consulting company. "The media player will become a more important link to own than the browser, and Microsoft recognizes that.''
Can Microsoft dominate the market for digital media distribution software as it came to dominate the browser market? The media-player market today looks quite similar in some ways to the browser market in, say, 1997. An early media-player leader, Real Networks, is under pressure from Microsoft, just as the commercial pioneer of the browser market, Netscape, was then. Microsoft bundles its digital media software with its Windows operating system, a monopoly product running on about 95 per cent of all personal computers. As for user acceptance, at the moment Microsoft's player is neck and neck with Real Network's Real One Player, with each having more than 300 million registered users. But Real Networks, founded in Seattle in 1995 by Rob Glaser, a former Microsoft executive, is an embattled challenger. It lost $2.8 million (U.S.) on revenue of $47 million in the first quarter of this year, bringing its cumulative loss since it started to $261 million. A former highflier on Wall Street that raised a lot of money early, Real Networks still has $320 million in cash, so it has financial staying power for a while, but it must find a way to make money.
No Such Thing As A 'Free' Lunch
The word "free" has many uses that we deem good - free speech, free country and, depending on your point of view, free market.
Similar to the 60s' "free love" and the affectionate "free spirit" the meaning suggested here is largely unfettered - by political, moral, social or regulatory constraints.
But the other meaning of free, no cost, we tend to view as bad.
We know there is no such thing as a free lunch. But ever since the beginning of the internet the "bad" definition of free - as in free music, free internet, free software, and more recently free spectrum - has made its presence felt.
It began with free information. Almost overnight, vast libraries of information - news, research, rants, trivia and trash - were on the web for the taking.
Free? It certainly felt that way - if you wanted to you didn't ever have to buy a newspaper or magazine again.
But there is a cost - about $3000 for a computer and between $15 and $65 per month for access.
The cost of access is often forgotten in the free argument - costs that help keep telcos, internet providers, computer manufacturers, and those who make and run the net's plumbing, in business. So while traditional content providers suffered, others benefited.
The same is true with free music.
Thanks to the file swapping phenomenon a lot of people don't pay for music any more, but while many in the music industry are now missing out, business is booming in burnable CD discs and MP3 players. Not to mention the lawyers who will be employed for years chasing the file swappers.
Free is not what it seems. And what free takes with one hand it gives with the other.
But free is certainly a market force to be reckoned with.
Telecom felt its power in 2000 when there was a period of free internet in New Zealand.
Local company i4free exploited Telecom's exorbitant interconnect charges to provide free dial-up connections to thousands of people. An outraged Telecom cut off i4free's lines. I4free got an injunction.
But then Telecom did a deal with Clear which was supplying i4free with the interconnecting network, and a slice of the interconnection fees.
I4free's revenue stream was cut off and free internet dried up.
But i4free - an offshoot of CallPlus - may yet have the last laugh. Its case against Telecom for anti-competitive behaviour in which it's seeking about $18 million in damages is still making its way through our legal system.
Microsoft too is no stranger to the power of free. It used the tactic in the 90s' browser wars to win back market share from Netscape.
By giving away its web browser with its operating system, the software giant was able to claw back a market it was late to recognise.
It also faced costly anti-competitive legal action that has not yet been fully resolved. Its recent payment of US$750 million ($1.3 billion) to AOL, which bought Netscape in 1999, is the latest episode in the saga.
Today Microsoft faces its own free onslaught - from the open source software movement, and especially Linux.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer says much is at stake: "Non-commercial software products in general and Linux in particular present a competitive challenge for us and for our entire industry, and they require our concentrated focus and attention."
Ironically, the tendency towards free signals that a free market is operating.
Industry Offers a Carrot in Online Music Fight
Like a lot of music fans roaming the Internet these days, David Bishop registers one basic sentiment when he thinks about the record industry. "They're a bunch of greedheads," he says. "They've been really fat on what I think of as huge profits and now they're trying to maintain the status quo."
Mr. Bishop is not your typical college-dormitory Internet pirate. A 49-year-old illustrator in San Rafael, Calif., he has steered scrupulously clear of file- sharing software like Napster and KaZaA. But he recently discovered how to play the music provided by other online fans without copying it, and has no compunction about flouting recent efforts to stamp out the practice.
"I'm not doing anything wrong," he insists.
Until recently, music executives have largely failed to acknowledge the millions of individuals, from teenage Eminem fans to Elvis-obsessed baby boomers, who have joined in what amounts to an online rebellion against the industry by some of its most important customers. Hoping to end Internet music piracy by ridding the world of the technologies that make it possible, they have so far focused on legal battles against KaZaA and its many brethren.
But for the first time in the Internet file-sharing wars, record industry executives have in recent weeks started to address music fans directly, both offering carrots and wielding sticks to persuade people to buy their product again. How well they succeed is likely to determine the way music is produced and consumed for years to come.
"The technology has destabilized us, it has hurt us," said Doug Morris, the chief executive of the Universal Music Group, a unit of Vivendi Universal and the largest of the five major record companies. "But now it's going to take us to new heights."
The industry is pursuing lawsuits against music pirates but is also offering new ways to legally listen to and buy music online through deals like a recent alliance with Apple Computer.
That prospect may be difficult to achieve. Forty-three million Americans — half of those who connected to the Internet — used file-sharing software last month that allows people to copy music without paying for it, according to a survey by the NPD Group, a market research firm. The file-sharing program KaZaA, which rose in popularity after the record industry won its lawsuit against Napster, has been downloaded more than 270 million times, more than any other free program available on CNet's Download.com site.
The migration of music from shiny disks to the online arena has personalized debates about intellectual property rights once reserved for lawyers, turning passive consumers into political activists in increasingly large numbers. Having discovered the virtues of the new online form, many people are demanding the freedom to sample, trade and make available music in ways that were never before possible.
Some of those ways, like making unauthorized copies of hundreds of copyrighted songs without paying for them, are clearly not legal. Others may be the subject of a negotiation that the music industry is beginning to accept it may have to enter into.
"I have rights to listen to my music the way I want to," said William Raleigh, 33, a marketing manager in Los Angeles who says he never buys music produced by the major record labels, preferring to reserve his acquisitions for independent bands that sell CD's through the Web site CD Baby. "I'm not a criminal if I want to share it with some friends, and I'm opposed to the technology that tries to restrict my rights as a consumer."
Meanwhile, the industry's critics are calling for a more radical restructuring of the way music is distributed online. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, is organizing a campaign to rally students to push Congress to create alternative approaches that would legalize some forms of file-sharing.
One would require record companies to license their entire catalogs to anyone who wants them for a fee set by the government. Another approach would levy a tax on Internet service providers and, perhaps, other related businesses to create a fund that would be used to compensate copyright holders based on a measure of how frequently individual songs are downloaded. For consumers, the tax would be less noticeable than directly charging for the music.
"Right now copyright law is broken and the music industry is bullying everybody into being scared," said Shari Steele, the foundation's executive director. "There are new ways of distributing music that don't require the record companies to be a part of it."
For its campaign, the group has paid for an advertisement, to be published in Rolling Stone and other publications next month, showing five people standing in a lineup with headphones on. "Tired of being treated like a criminal for sharing music online?" it reads. "Filesharing is music to our ears."
Roger Ames, the chief executive of Warner Music Group, said any plan that handed control of the industry's licensing to the government would simply shrink its revenues and prevent it from financing artist careers. As for the taxation idea: "It sounds like communism," Mr. Ames added.
However unlikely Congress may be to order the music industry to act differently, some analysts and many music fans argue that the record labels need to do more to wean people away from file-sharing services. For better or worse, the Internet file-trading bonanza of recent years has given lovers of popular music a taste of what it means to have near-instant access to almost anything created by their favorite performers for free, to use their personal computers as listening stations, to burn their own music mixes on CD's and e-mail songs to their friends.
"There's a lifestyle issue about how people want to use music that has been missed," said Russ Crupnick, vice president of the music division of NPD. "The industry needs to reconnect with consumers and understand what they are seeing here besides the free part."
Web home for WASTE: I've gotten a bunch of queries about WASTE, generally with a focus on user problems like how to get a connection or FAQ issues like how to build on OS X. To help people to help each other, as well as to foster discussion of technical issues related to WASTE, I have created a mailing list and web home at Yahoo! Groups.
Spin control successful: the New York Times adopted the argument that WASTE is IM. Hopefully this means that we won't have yet another wave of paranoia about P2P.
Where's the OS X version? Is it really possible that it's been almost a week without an OS X port running?
WASTE competes with AIM, not Kazaa.
The early reaction to WASTE is that it's yet another filesharing tool, and that's wrong in a way that matters.
The reason that WASTE is not a filesharing tool is that it doesn't support searching in any meaningful way. (incorrect – ed.) Under the hood, Kazaa et al are nothing but search engines, while WASTE clusters are too small for search. A real cluster would be 5-10 people, not even the 50 given by developers as the maximum size, and at that scale searching is pointless.
WASTE is a tool for chat and IRC, with no more or less suport for filesharing than AIM. Indeed, this is a very good reason for AOL to come down hard on the project. AOL's strategic leverage is that it has the largest base of instant messaging users, and hence is the easiest way to reach somebody over instant messaging. WASTE not only ignores the AOL Instant Messenger namespace, it sets up a new namespace, and the decentralized nature of that namespace means that no provider -- not Jabber, not MSN/Passport, not even AOL/Nullsoft -- can get a strategic edge. If the WASTE namespace were to to take off, the new mega-namespace established by the Microsoft/AOL truce would be obsolete.
WASTE is scorched earth for AIM.
As with a lot of P2P, WASTE represents scorched earth for companies that want to own a namespace. If you want to use centralized IM, you have to pass ownership of your IM identity to a service provider like AIM or Passport. But if you don't want to talk to everybody in the world, just the few that you actually know, and the overhead to whitelist your friends is low relative to the length of time that you'll stay in contact with them, there's no reason for identity service providers. In WASTE, nobody owns your identity but you.
WASTE also bypasses much of the need for presence providers to interconnect people behind firewalls. If any member of a WASTE cluster is not behind a firewall, messages are passed through that node. In my WASTE cluster, for example, there has always been at least one node not behind a firewall. There has always been at least one broadband node, and there's no incentive to be a free rider, since clusters are formed around meatspace relationships. Most people are happy to help out their friends, as long as it isn't too much of an inconvenience.
WASTE is nothing new.
Gnutella was fundamentally new in that it gave slacker developers a way into autonomous networks, which were ivory tower stuff at the time. WASTE introduces no new ideas -- everything in it has been shipped already in Groove, and WASTE is missing a lot of things that Groove has.
The only thing new about WASTE is that it works. Groove is too bloated for normal use. If you need Groove's quality of service, security, and replication, there is no competition. If you don't need all that you're better off with WASTE. Fair enough: Groove is for enterprise workgroups, WASTE is for friendnets. WASTE is worse. Which is better.
There are two big things that could be improved.
Poor support for transitive relationships. You automatically get a connection to a friend of a friend, and after that, friends-of-friends are treated the same as friends themselves. That's not good enough. There needs to be a way to keep introducers in the middle, so that names and bytes continue to be vouched for and guaranteed by the introducer.
Music Marketers Now Dependent On Internet
Online Exposure Crucial for Artist and Album Promotions
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- On a chilly spring night, hundreds of 20- something fans of Staind packed a New York City concert hall to mark the band's return after a two-year hiatus and the impending release of its new album, 14 Shades of Grey. The concert bore all the typical trappings -- a mosh pit, sporadic bursts of body- slamming and bodies suspended over the crowd like petrified mummies. But this one was broadcast live, in real-time to broadband subscribers on America Online's AOL Music.
Record labels are now aggressively doing deals with online providers such as AOL Time Warner's America Online, Yahoo!'s Launch and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN in an effort to pump up sales for their artists. And the sites are anxious to showcase those artists as a way to keep people coming back and entice them to pay for premium services.
Avril Lavigne, a virtual unknown until early 2002, offers a testament to the power of online marketing. The rocker's single "Complicated" debuted on AOL Music's Artist Discovery Network, a showcase for emerging artists, on March 8, 2002, before the track had even hit radio. "Complicated" logged more than 350,000 digital streams in a month's time, helping to greatly boost demand for her first album Let Go, released on June 4 of that year.
"As a whole, these [online] services are tremendously helpful to us," said Adam Lowenberg, vice president of marketing for Arista, which also represents Pink, Dido and Sarah McLaughlin. "The fact that it's so difficult to break new artists especially, any leg up you can gain goes such a long way these days." The 350,000 streams even helped him persuade radio stations to put "Complicated" on their play lists.
Pushing digital needle
Staind's label, Elektra Records, has done online promotion for the band before, but not to the extent of its current AOL program. "This was something different -- doing Artist of the Month and doing a live Webcast was a cool component," said Camille Hackney, vice president for strategic marketing and new media at Elektra. "It was a big, concerted effort that pushed the needle."
Indeed, between BroadBand Rocks! Special Edition concert, exclusive performances via Sessions@AOL, the First Listen and CD Listening Party franchises, Staind had more than 600,000 streams of its music on AOL in the five days leading up to the release of its new CD.
The push may have helped 14 Shades of Grey debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart for the period May 20-27, translating into sales of 221,000 CDs in a week. Staind also grabbed the No. 1 slot as the most-streamed artist on AOL properties during the week of May 16- 22, beating out sexy songstress Beyonce, rapper 50 Cent and Pink.
Old promo avenues clogged
Record labels are anxious to score all the online promotion they can for both emerging and well-established artists. With radio airplay harder than ever to secure and reality programming flooding the MTV schedule, labels are desperate for creative outlets to break new artists and music videos, as well as launch singles, albums and other content.
"It's vital when we book major TV shows. When you look at the audience reach that AOL has and Yahoo! Launch, it puts them up there in a competitive position with TV outlets and radio and all the rest of it," said Nikke Slight, senior vice president for new media at Atlantic Records. "[Online] is a critical part of our marketing plan. We have to be there."
J Records' Tom Corson, executive vice president of worldwide marketing and sales, agreed: "It's like radio play or press ... everything is an impression in a highly competitive environment. You want to get as many impressions for your artist in the right way as you can."
A division of BMG, J Records, like the other labels, is an equal opportunity promoter: It works with Lycos, Yahoo! Launch, MSN, Listen.com, AOL and others to push its stable of artists. "They all have different products and different approaches," Mr. Corson said.
For the online sites, especially subscription-based ones like America Online, offering exclusive access to artists is a way to entice users to spend more time online. In AOL's case, the race is on to convert the thousands of streams to MusicNet premium subscriptions and ultimately to broadband subscriptions. AOL needs to flog its music offerings in order to move millions of narrowband subscribers to broadband.
"Our mantra is 'discover, experience, own'," said Bill Wilson, general manager for AOL Music. The biggest opportunity for labels is in CDs, DVDs and VHS sales. By the fourth quarter, Mr. Wilson said, AOL will offer digital singles for 99¢ apiece, much like Apple Computer's iTunes does, though providers like RealNetworks' Rhapsody have already undercut that with 79¢ singles. This summer, AOL will add a $13.95 price tier for unlimited music streams, downloads and five CD burns, as well as upgrading search, purchase and recommendation features. Since launching in late February, MusicNet on AOL has more than 70,000 subscribers, adding about 1,000 subscribers per day, according to people familiar with the situation.
In some cases, labels are locked in a competitive race to get premium real estate on the sites. "During the last couple of years, as the outlets have become really seriously programmed entertainment channels. We're competing to get on there, to get that space," Atlantic's Ms. Slight said.
Math Wiz Claims Piracy Solution
A software developer is set to unveil technology he dreamed up after finding that visitors were copying from his Web museum's jukebox.
When Internet users started ripping off songs from the online Museum of Musical Instruments, they angered the wrong guy: millionaire mathematician Hank Risan.
Risan drew on his mathematical skills to come up with a different approach to the problem of unauthorized recording. Drawing on a branch of topology known as network theory, Risan said he could look at the networks a computer uses to move data internally and "visualize how to protect the copyrighted material as it transfers through those networks."
The firm claims that its technology controls those pathways, letting copyright owners dictate what can and can't be copied. "We control pathways that don't even exist yet," Risan said.
Music Public Broadcasting uses the same basic approach to prevent CDs and DVDs from being copied, protect downloadable songs from piracy and deter music and movies from being copied through file-sharing networks without the copyright owners being compensated. In order for it to work, though, the company must put software in users' computers to control those internal networks. Risan acknowledged that consumers won't accept such controls unless they're allowed a reasonable amount of freedom, but he said his technology can strike that balance.
LATimes – Nick/Pass: peermint
CD’s. High Speed Hijinx.
This Dub Really Is The Bomb
Thar she blows! Click pic for story.
Fighting For A New Net Copyright Deal
Five months after losing a high-profile argument in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, foes of federal copyright law are launching a public campaign to create a policy that they see as better in step with the Internet age. Lawrence Lessig is leading the charge.
The Stanford University law professor, who was once the court-appointed "special master" in Microsoft's antitrust trial and is a noted Internet privacy and intellectual property advocate, on Monday launched an online petition as the first salvo in what he expects to be a long battle to change the way the U.S. government renews patents.
The goal of the petition is to convince Congress to require copyright holders to pay a $1 fee every 50 years in order to extend their copyrights.
The way it is now, Lessig says, copyrights are automatically extended whether or not their owners are alive or want their work protected by copyright. As a result, Internet information repositories are prohibited from including vast amounts of information, including film that curators expect to disintegrate before newly and automatically extended copyrights expire.
The germ of Lessig's petition was the Supreme Court's decision in January to uphold Congress' move to automatically extend copyrights by 20 years.
At that point, Lessig, the 11 plaintiffs he represented and their fellow public domain advocates ran out of legal recourse and have turned to legislative remedies. Now the activists are gathering evidence of public support with their petition, talking to legislators and warding off early opposition from Hollywood for their proposed dollar renewal fee.
Lessig spoke with CNET News.com about his campaign from his home in San Francisco.
Q: When did you launch the petition?
A: This morning (Monday). It's been pretty exciting--I blogged it, sent it out to a couple of e-mail lists, and by lunch we had 2,000 signatures.
What spurred it?
We've been working to put together this response to the Eldred decision for months. We've hammered out language for the bill that would comply with the Berne Convention (for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works), which the U.S. is a signatory to. We're ready and eager to build a large grassroots organization of people who demand of Congress that it do something to restore some balance here. This petition is a first step toward going to Washington and saying that there's a large number of people who want you to consider this.
How long will you run the petition, or how many signatures will you get before presenting it to Congress?
We have not decided. I've never done something like this before.
Well, you've gotten up and said: Hey, if you care about copyright or privacy you'd better send money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
Yes, but I've never tried to mobilize a political movement. What we've found with this idea, after having taken it on the road for the past year, is that this is the first time we've had an issue that's unambiguous for most people. With Napster and file sharing, I had strong opinions, but there were strong and some compelling arguments on the other side. This issue doesn't cut both ways. If the copyright's not worth a dollar to you after 50 years, what reasonable person would say it should be extended?
In other words, if they won't even give us this, then who are the extremists in this debate? You either have to say the public domain should be abolished, or it's too much for us to pay a dollar to sustain the copyright of Mickey Mouse. Either of those two claims would be extreme in our tradition, and it's about time that the Congress do something to benefit the public domain that does not in any significant way burden copyright interests.
Speaking of your EFF pitch, you said at the time that it was better to give money to a group like that because talking directly to politicians was unproductive since they weren't interested in genuine debate. Have you had any more experience talking directly to politicians since making those remarks? Have you had any more luck?
I have, and I have been surprised. I think most want to do the right thing. The key is to give them that chance.
That's Fighting Talk
Our computer use is being threatened by a wild west-style land grab that only the rich giants can win, argue Richard Stallman and Nick Hill. Software patents will lead to job losses, higher prices, and less choice
The computer industry is threatened by a wild west-style land grab. The biggest, richest players are being assisted by governments to take unassailable exclusive control of the ideas that programmers combine to make a program.
Our society is becoming more dependent on information technology. At the same time, centralised control over and ownership of the information technology field is increasing, and mega-corporations with law-given dominion over our computers could take away our freedoms and democracy. With an effective monopoly on modern software, the largest grabbers of the "land" will have control over what we can ask our computers to do, and control over production and distribution of information on the net, through monopolies that the EU plans to give them.
The monopolies are patents that restrict use of these software ideas. We call them "software patents" because they restrict what we programmers can make software do. How do these monopolies work?
If you wish to use your computer as a word processor, it must follow instructions that tell it how to act like a word processor. This is analogous to instructions found on a musical score, which tell an orchestra how to play a symphony. The instructions are not simple. They are made up of thousands of smaller instructions, much like sequences of notes and chords. A symphonic score embodies hundreds of musical ideas, and a computer program uses hundreds or thousands of software ideas. Since each idea is abstract, there are often different ways to describe it: thus, some ideas can be patented in multiple ways.
The US, which has had software patents since the 1980s, shows what this can do to the development of everyday software. For example, in the US there are 39 monopoly claims over a standard way of showing video using software (the MPeg 2 format).
Since a single piece of software can embody thousands of ideas together, and those ideas are arbitrary in scope and abstract in nature, writing software will only be worthwhile for those who are rich and have a large software monopoly portfolio: those with the war chest and clout to fight off claims that might otherwise sink a business. In the US, the average cost of defending against an invalid patent claim is $1.5m. The courts favour the wealthy, so even when a small business gets a few patents, it will find them useless.
High Schooler On File-Sharing
File Sharing, Bootleggers Make It Easy To Get A Sneak Peek At Films
On May 15, millions of people across the nation plugged into "The Matrix Reloaded." Not me, though -- I plugged in a week earlier.
In a trend sweeping the nation faster than Avril Lavigne, Net-savvy moviegoers such as yours truly are beating the rush and avoiding the crowds. With the click of a mouse, you can have instant access to the latest movies before they're even released in theatres. Oh, and did I mention they're free?
Movie bootlegging has become the arch-enemy of the Motion Picture Association of America. Pirated copies of this year's blockbusters are freely available to all those armed with motive and modem. So how exactly does a flick get from cutting room to desktop? It all starts with a man, a plan and a camcorder.
When a movie comes out, Web-surfing pirates (the not-so-peg-legged type) swagger into theatres with video camera in hand. Avoiding ushers and other patrons, they record the movie and then retire to their hideouts. Using free downloadable programs, they load their booty onto a public network, and just like that, an Internet user can watch "Malibu's Most Wanted" the day of its release.
So how did I watch "The Matrix Reloaded" before it came out in theatres? Simple, Neo: I just followed the white rabbit ... to Asia.
In many Asian nations (with China and Philippines at the forefront) production companies release U.S. films before their domestic release date. So an Asian pirate does the same as a U.S. pirate -- records a copy and puts it up on the Net. Granted, I had to see Agent Smith taunt Morpheus with Korean subtitles, but it was well worth it.
Getting the film is easy. Using a peer-to-peer (more commonly called a P2P) network, users can access all media files residing in hard drives of other users. However, this also means that people can access your media files, so you might want to hide those home movies. Almost all P2P programs are free of charge and available for download on many sites. I'm a KaZaA fan myself, which uses the Gnutella network, and according to News.com has been downloaded 299 million times.
Most P2P programs have a built-in search function, which will locate someone with the movie you want. And if you don't mind subtitles and background laughter, next week's Hollywood hit is just a click away.
OK, so it's more than just a click. You'll need some time, too.
On a cable modem, downloading a full-length movie can take several hours. Also, because movie files are so large, they are broken into smaller chunks, which have to be reassembled using programs such as WinRAR or XAce (also free for download).
The movie quality itself ranges from clear and crisp to grainy and out-of-focus. Some bootleggers are theater workers and mount their cameras on tripods beside the projector, while others are averages Joes using camcorders. Because quality varies, file-sizes vary as well, as better-quality movies tend to be larger. DVDs, for example, hold several gigabytes of information. How can these huge files travel over the Internet, you ask? With the help of a little friend I call DivX.
In 1999, Jerome Rota of Montpellier (the Montpellier in France, not Vermont) "invented" an encoder called DivX. The program compresses files to less than one-tenth their original size. This means a full-length feature movie (say, for example, "The Matrix") is whittled down to several hundred megabytes, small enough to be sent over the Internet. When Rota made DivX available on his Web site, within a week it was downloaded more than 50,000 times. The March 2002 release of DivX 5.0 spawned 1 million downloads in just two days.
To watch DivX encoded movies, you just download the DivX Codec (a free program that reads the files), and you're ready to enter "The Matrix."
A movie's journey from theaters to the Internet is a confusing one but generally short. These file-swapping pirates can have a new release ready for download before you can say "copyright infringement."
Now, if only I could get an Agent Smith for my little sister ...
BellSouth, SBC Set Standards For Fiber To The Home
BellSouth Corp., SBC Communications Inc., and Verizon Communications Inc., announced on 28 May their agreement to standardize construction of residential fiber-optic networks. The move is aimed at creating both affordable and an ultra- fast Internet access.
Although fiber-optic network links have been around for 20 years, major corporations who can afford the higher installation costs have mostly benefited from its practically limitless bandwidth. According to statistics provided by the market research firm Render Vanderslice & Associates, there are 37 000 U.S. residences taking advantage of fiber to the home. BellSouth chief technology officer Bill Smith said on the day of the announcement that by the end of 2003 the phone giant will have installed fiber-optic cable in nearly one million homes. Smith said that BellSouth "plans to work quickly to select and deploy products that will ensure the most-cost effective network design."
In February, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a ruling which lifted the sharing requirement on new broadband networks. Verizon spokesman Ells Edwards noted in a phone interview, that for anything to proceed, the FCC needs to release the final details of its ruling. And should that ruling be amenable to Verizon’s plans, Edwards said the carrier could begin installing the high- speed cable by the end of 2004. As for the cost, Edwards said, "it is a whole lot less than what it used to be and we see it coming down even more in the near future."
Cable Still Rules US Broadband
In the United States, asynchronous digital subscriber line (ADSL) and cable- modem use continued growing briskly last year, with DSL continuing to lag cable, according to figures released yesterday by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Most of the numbers aren't surprising. The number of U.S. broadband connections grew 55 percent last year, to 19.9 million. Cable continues to outnumber ADSL, at 11.4 million connections, compared with ADSL's 6.5 million as of December 2002 (see FCC Posts High-Speed Net Info ).
Summary: Both sides are growing steadily, but cable's still outpacing ADSL 2 to 1. And that gives ADSL advocates another chance to rail against the fact that cable isn't regulated like DSL is.
Cable clobbers DSL in "advanced" services -- defined by the FCC as service that offers more than 200-kbit/s speeds in both directions.
Now, a lot depends on what's considered "advanced." For example, Verizon Communications Inc. is offering residential DSL subscribers 1.5 Mbit/s downstream and 128 kbit/s upstream -- which would feel pretty darned nifty to a lot of users but doesn't count as "advanced" in the FCC's tally. Still, the numbers imply that cable is more consistent about offering high- speed upstream access, which could be a key in pitching to business customers.
Increased spending could help here, because service providers can boost DSL speeds by putting facilities closer to customers. This happens in the form of digital loop carriers and similar boxes, provided by the likes of (gee, surprise!) Catena, as well as competitors including Advanced Fibre Communications Inc, Alcatel SA, Calix Networks, Marconi Corp. plc, and Occam Networks Inc.
ADSL also has to contend with trouble zones in the telephone infrastructure, due to bridge taps that degrade performance or lines that just plain suck. There are ways around that as well; chip makers are upping the ante on their signal- conditioning capabilities, trying to make ADSL more resilient (see TI Beefs Up DSL Chip ).
As for that state-by-state breakdown -- not surprisingly, California tops the list with 3 million high-speed connections. New York ranks a distant second with a paltry 2 million -- no, wait, it's not even 2 million: a paltry 1.997 million connections.
The state or territory with the smallest number of connections? That would be (drum roll) Wyoming, with 14,696. South Dakota is second, around 18,000, while North Dakota and Montana rank barely above 20,000. (Caveat: Figures for Hawaii weren't included, to protect the confidentiality of the few service providers working that state.)
IBM, Infineon Tout Magnetic Memory
IBM and Infineon will jointly present a paper this week that demonstrates how MRAM, one of the leading candidates to replace flash memory in cell phones, could be ready for commercial production by 2005.
MRAM, or magnetic random access memory, combines technological principles from both the magnetic world--the basis for the hard-drive industry--and silicon manufacturing. In MRAM, a tiny magnetic field is created inside a memory cell on a chip. The computer then measures the electrical resistance exhibited by the magnetic field at any given moment to determine whether the cell should be read as a "1" or a "0," the binary building blocks of data.
Conventional flash memory, the mainstay for storing data on phones, also works by exhibiting different levels of electrical resistance, but it requires a considerable amount of electricity to switch between the "1" and "0" states. Ideally, MRAM will use less power and capture data faster than current flash memory.
While IBM has shown off MRAM circuits before, the data being released at the Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Symposium taking place this week in Kyoto, Japan, shows that MRAM chips are amenable to mass manufacturing, said Randy Isaac, vice president of strategic alliances at IBM Technology. The chip described in the paper was made on the 180-nanometer process, which has been used in mass manufacturing since 1999, and holds 128 kilobits of data.
"The big advantage here is the write time. In flash, the write process can take milliseconds. MRAM could put it in the nanosecond range," Isaac said.
Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and others will present papers at the Kyoto event, one of the major, annual semiconductor research conferences.
Although humans can't detect the difference between a millisecond (one thousandth of a second) and a nanosecond (one billionth), the gap could make a lot of difference to cell phone manufacturers in the future. With the advent of picture and video cell phones, capturing and storing large amounts of data is becoming more crucial, Isaac said.
MPEG Royalty Dispute Threatens 3G Interoperability
The future of e-commerce is expected to be affected by how many consumers use next-generation cell phones that are always broadband-connected to the Internet. And that in turn could be affected by a dispute between the Japanese companies leading that charge and the U.S. developers of streaming audio-video compression formats.
The Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun reports that the Digital Media Association and the Mobile Content Forum, the two Japanese trade groups representing companies producing 3G (third generation) wireless content, believe the copyright holders for the next generation of MPEG compression want to gauge them, and are seriously considering not adopting the MPEG-4 standard.
More than a dozen companies including Sun Microsystems and Apple Computer have patent claims on the technologies connected to MPEG-4 compression of digital audio and video files. They stand to make big money from more widespread use of the compression standard to make audio and video files practical for handheld computers that double as cell phones (or vice versa).
Because MPEG-4 is the most popular compression standard, it is likely that if Japan, always on the cutting edge of wireless technology, doesn't adopt it, then there will be no global standard at all. The 3G pioneer DoCoMo uses MPEG-4 but could switch if the rest of the Japanese tech community migrates to something else.
Close Loophole In Copyright Law
A major goal of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed by Congress in 1998 was to strike a fair balance between the rights of musicians and other copyright holders against the privacy rights of music consumers. But in retrospect, it appears that lawmakers have tipped the scale too far.
The Recording Industry Association of America has been granted a subpoena, issued legally but without a judge's approval, forcing Verizon Communications, an Internet service provider, to surrender the names of four of its customers accused of swapping copyrighted material online.
Despite the popularity of file-swapping among younger, computer-savvy users, the RIAA considers them lawbreaking "pirates" -- and the courts have generally agreed. While that debate is far from settled, the Verizon case has exposed a little-known loophole in the law that can, and should, be patched.
Under the DMCA, allegedly aggrieved copyright holders need only get a subpoena from a lowly court clerk in order to glean information about suspected file-swappers. That standard is inconsistent with the higher burden of proof required in the nation's civil and criminal courts. At the very least a judge should be involved in granting a subpoena.
The dangers of allowing such casual intrusions have already become evident. In another case involving Verizon, the RIAA went after Pennsylvania State University for what they believed was illegal file-swapping of music by Atlanta-based R&B idol Usher Raymond. The trade group later apologized after learning that the electronic references were about a retired professor named Peter Usher who, by all accounts, has never recorded a hit song worth swapping.
The Verizon case remains under appeal and is set for a hearing in September. In the meantime, Congress should consider a sensible amendment to the law, such as the one being sponsored by Sen. Samuel Brownback (R-Kan.) that would require copyright holders to file a lawsuit and show a judge good cause before getting the right to ascertain the identities of music file-swappers.
It's bad enough that Big Brother may be watching you; it shouldn't be so easy for the recording industry to get in on the act as well.
“Take it or leave it, babe.”
Confidential Apple Music Details Leaked
An insight into the success of Apple's online music service has been provided by leaked details from a meeting with representatives from the independent record industry.
According to notes published on the web, Apple has sold 3.5 million songs since it launched its iTunes music store at the end of April
The computer manufacturer is selling about 500,000 songs a week and about half of those are sold as albums, allaying fears that people would choose individual tracks instead of a whole record.
Apple's music store has proven to be a major commercial success, overshadowing the online subscription services offered by the major record labels.
The iTunes store has more than 200,000 songs from artists such as U2, Eminem and Sting for sale at 99 cents (62 pence) each.
The service got off to a flying start, selling a million tracks in its first week.
The initial buoyant sales have continued. The leaked notes from the meeting last week show that Apple has sold 3.5 million songs in the six weeks the store has been open.
Worries in the record industry that customers would cherry-pick hits have not come true, with 45% of all songs downloaded as part of a full album.
The store offers an opportunity to sample 30 seconds of a track before you buy. The notes say that people tend to listen to 10 previews for every song they buy.
And most people seem happy to store their credit card details on the iTunes store. Some 90% of sales are one-click downloads, which means a credit card is automatically charged when a track is bought.
The independent music representatives were told they would be offered the same terms as bigger labels and have the same team looking after their tracks.
According to the notes, Mr Jobs said: "We have to be more efficient, though. We're not going to deal with 200 lawyers.
"Everyone is going to get the exact same deal. It's not negotiable. It's take it or leave it."
So far the iTunes service is accessible to fewer than 5% of the world's computer users - those owning an Apple Macintosh and living in the United States.
A Windows version of iTunes is planned for later this year, and an overseas expansion is also on the cards.
Microsoft Plays to Film Industry
Better known for browsers than blockbusters, Microsoft is still angling for a major role in the digital film business. The company is downplaying its ambitions until it finds out whether or not Hollywood will bite.
Microsoft debuted its Windows Media 9 Series technology last fall with great fanfare. Celebrity guests from the film and music industries touted the new technology before hundreds of journalists, technologists and media professionals. Even Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates came out to brag, along with director James Cameron and former Beatles producer Sir George Martin.
With vast improvements in audio and video compression and a sleek, new interface full of bells and whistles, Windows Media left its humble beginnings as a Web format and entered the professional fray. Now Microsoft plans to use the tool to dominate the film industry's distribution technology, from digital dailies to theatrical releases to digital cable and DVDs.
"Microsoft is creating a platform to support every link of the value chain, from creation to distribution to consumption," said David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Research in New York. "Nothing like that has ever worked before. In the past, each distribution window required a different technology. A VHS tape was one thing, a copy of the film in the theater was another. One of the cool things about digital media is that it enables you to change that."
Microsoft's strategy is apparent both in the feature upgrades of Windows Media 9 and in the partnerships and projects it has announced since the technology was unveiled.
Features such as 7.1 channel surround sound and high-definition video support will position the technology well for theatrical performances and high-end consumer electronics. Variable bit rate encoding, or VBR, and integrated digital rights management, or DRM, make the technology flexible and secure enough to deliver a movie to a broad range of potential viewing environments.
Many recent announcements show the technology is slowly being adopted, opening the way for Microsoft's grand vision to become a reality:
• While filming Sniper 2, the filmmakers used Windows Media 9 instead of film to view dailies, the footage used to review the day's shooting.
• Independent theater chain Landmark Theatres announced it would equip 177 screens with Windows Media-based digital cinema technology by the end of the year.
• Leading film industry production software companies such as Avid Technology, Adobe Systems and Sonic Foundry announced export support for the format in their new product lines.
• Artisan Home Entertainment released a new version of Terminator 2 on DVD this week that offers a second disc with a high-definition, surround-sound version of the film in Windows Media 9.
"From the studio end, they're really interested in preserving their libraries," said Joshua Pines, director of imaging research and development at Technique, a division of Technicolor. "But filmmakers are interested in improving the quality of their art. They don't want to see a standard adopted that impedes technology improvement, the way VHS did."
Pines, who has worked in post-production on more than 80 films -- including Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor and Star Wars: Episode I -- said he fears that committing now to digital film standards would be a grave error.
"As the technology improves, will they be able to handle it?" he asked. "Or, in classic Microsoft fashion, will they realize too late that there were hidden limitations in their technology?"
Microsoft Stalls Software Maker
A shareware developer and former Microsoft worker is vowing to fight his ex-employer for the right to distribute his home-networking software.
Lawyers representing the software giant sent a cease-and-desist letter last week to Esiod Systems, a small, Monroe, Wash.-based software company formed early this year by former Microsoft developers Siddhartha Rao and Caleb Doise. The letter demands that the company halt planned distribution of Schnazzle, an inexpensive shareware application Esiod had planned to begin selling this week.
Microsoft claims that Schnazzle--which allows PCs on a home network to share music, photos and other media--is similar to planned Microsoft technology and therefore violates the non-compete clause of the employment agreements Rao and Doise signed when they began working for Microsoft. The company's standard employment contract prohibits ex-employees from using knowledge they gained at Microsoft to work on competing products for one year after they leave the software giant.
The Microsoft letter says Schnazzle competes with a planned extension to the Windows operating system that would allow PCs to wirelessly stream media files to other devices.
A Microsoft representative confirmed the letter and said the company is negotiating with Esiod. "We're working with them to protect our intellectual property rights," the representative said.
Rao said he and Doise never had access to the code for the Microsoft project cited in the letter and their software uses completely different networking methods.
"Schnazzle is based on an extremely proprietary protocol we dreamed up," he said. "We created this highly secure, tightly coupled peer-to-peer network, which has nothing to do with what Microsoft is talking about."
Rao said the case also raises questions about the scope of non-compete agreements, given Microsoft's position in the technology industry.
"They do everything in the software industry," he said. "I think a court would have a hard time agreeing with the idea Microsoft should be able to restrict someone from doing anything in the software industry for a year."
The Microsoft representative said the company's employment contract uses standard non-compete language to protect intellectual property rights.
Rao said he's agreed to temporarily withhold Schnazzle from distribution but will fight Microsoft's demand for him to turn over the source code for the application.
"We will fight this until we run out of cash...and my family has a lot of cash to lend me," he said. "We refuse to let a big bully like Microsoft take us out of business."
Was Movie Service's Failure a Studio Plot?
The one thing about the Intertainer service on which everyone can agree is that it was ahead of its time.
Founded in 1996 to deliver movies on demand to cable television subscribers, it soon evolved into a system to deliver movies on demand to customers' PCs over a dedicated Internet connection. In both incarnations, the service seemed to stretch the information infrastructure to the limits of its capabilities, and possibly a little beyond.
It relied on broadband Internet connections at a time when only a minuscule minority of American consumers had access to cable modems or DSL. (It's still a minority, but much larger today than it was then.) The very notion of receiving entertainment content digitally was a novel one for consumers, as Napster Inc. hadn't yet turned millions of music listeners into pirates. And many technical issues associated with managing and sending video streams through cyberspace were still being worked out.
But there was never any doubt that Intertainer Inc. was onto something revolutionary: video you could order for viewing at any time, with the ability to fast-forward, reverse, pause and stop the program at will. By September 2002, the company claimed 125,000 Internet subscribers and an additional 35,000 who received a TV-based service via Comcast Corp.'s cable system.
At that moment, just as the technical issues seemed to be on the verge of getting resolved and broadband penetration into the home seemed about to take off, Intertainer shut down. The reason, according to its co-founder, Jonathan Taplin, had nothing to do with technology or customer acceptance. Instead, he says, it was torpedoed by the movie studios.
Their concern, he contends in a lawsuit currently in the discovery phase in federal court in Los Angeles, was that Intertainer stood to become a serious competitor to a service, now called Movielink, that was about to be launched by five major studios. (Movielink's owners include Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Entertainment, Vivendi Universal's Universal Studios and AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., which had contracts with Intertainer and are named in the Intertainer lawsuit. The other owners are Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, which aren't named in the litigation because they never reached distribution deals with Intertainer.)
Because the studios saw Movielink as a vehicle to exercise control over the price and terms for digital distribution of their films, Taplin maintains, they wanted to make sure it had a clear field. The idea was that they could set prices for film licenses by negotiating Movielink's distribution deal with, in effect, themselves; they could then cite those terms as the industry standard in talks with other distributors.
Movielink "completely represents collusion," Taplin says. "It's price fixing. They're using it to not only screw us, but anyone else who wants to buy movies from them."
He's not alone in that view, as it happens. "One of the main purposes of Movielink is to give the studios a way to put pressure on cable operators to get a better deal," Josh Bernoff, a media analyst at Forrester Research, told me.
Valenti Says 'Cut' To Film Piracy
Calling popular file-swapping networks like Kazaa "thieves' nests" that bilk the movie industry out of more than $3.5 billion each year, Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Jack Valenti said Thursday he thinks those services should be shut down.
"Either shut them down or make them go legal," Valenti said in a Capitol Hill briefing for lawmakers and congressional aides on entertainment industry issues, particularly the illegal downloading of box office and DVD movies.
Valenti told the Congressional Entertainment Caucus, chaired by Rep. Diane Watson, D-Los Angeles, that between 400,000 and 600,000 films are illegally downloaded and uploaded daily.
"This is a problem that broods over the future of America's motion picture industry," he said, noting that the movie industry contributes to about 5 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.
"This goes beyond mere thievery. This has to do with the diminution of the American economic engine," he said.
In April, the FBI charged a Los Angeles man, 33-year-old Johnny Ray Gasca, in connection with taping prerelease screenings of motion pictures such as "Anger Management" and "The Core." Officials who searched Gasca's home found 15 VHS recorders, video editing equipment and other devices they believed he used to pirate films, FBI Special Agent George Steuer said.
Gasca is awaiting trial on charges of copyright infringement.
Despite that high-profile case, however, federal officials acknowledged that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks diverted resources away from cracking down on piracy.
"A significant amount of resources left the white collar division and went to counterintelligence," said Chris Dowd, a special agent for intellectual property rights in the FBI's cybercrime division.
Congress is not currently considering legislation to address the Internet file-sharing problems. Rather, the movie industry is leaning on universities to erect firewalls on campuses to prevent downloads.
Valenti also said technology companies and copyright owners are working to develop security standards to prevent copyrighted works from unauthorized reproduction and distribution.
Acknowledging that someone will always find a way to work past encryptions, Valenti said, "We're trying to make it so difficult to steal that most people will say, oh, the hell with it."
Sun Pushes P2P With New Protocol, Verizon Partnership
Sun CEO Scott McNealy will bring service provider partner Verizon on stage during his keynote at JavaOne on Friday to demonstrate how Juxtapose (JXTA) peer-to-peer technology better enables collaboration between corporate users, Sun executives said.
As part of an effort to push its JXTA technology at JavaOne, Sun announced the release of its enhanced JXTA 2.1 P2P protocol on Tuesday as well as a version of Java 2, Micro Edition (J2ME) that conforms to the JXTA 2.0 protocol, said Juan Carlos Soto, group manager of Sun's Advanced Technologies Group. JXTA 2.0 was released last spring.
As reported earlier by CRN, JXTA 2.1 offers expanded metering and monitoring, a new access control service, JXTA sockets and bi-directional pipes.
Many of the features are aimed at driving more corporate use of the Java collaboration technology, Soto said. The access control service in JXTA 2.1, for example, will enable users to assign access control rights for one peer, whether a desktop or mobile device, so that it can communicate with another peer.
In addition, JXTA 2.1 will make it easier for developers to write applications and services that can be metered and monitored, sources said.
While the Verizon demonstration will illustrate classic P2P collaboration between PCs on a broadband network, Sun also plans to demonstrate a myriad of collaboration scenarios among wired and wireless devices on the show floor, Soto said.
"The Verizon [implementation of JXTA] will enable their customers to collaborate, interact and exchange data using desktop class machines," said Soto. "But P2P does not mean PC-to-PC. The vision for Sun is much broader, and collaboration is possible from a sensor to superserver."
Soto said the JXTA 2.1 access control services improve security and that a future release of JXTA will build upon that by offering enhanced integration with other security mechanisms.
"The access service is an important step in that direction," Soto said. "You'll see enhanced interaction with other security mechanisms out there so you can plug into [the] Liberty [specification] and crypto-based IDS, which give you a unique identifier. This is a service so you can check a certificate and know it's a real message and know it's not someone posing as someone else."
The executive would not comment on reports that Sun is integrating JXTA into N1 or the SunOne software stack. When asked if JXTA would be integrated into Sun's Instant Messaging server software, Soto was a bit more forthcoming. "It might use JXTA," Soto said. "Stay tuned. We'll tell you when it does."
Project JXTA is an open-source initiative funded by Sun and devoted to developing P2P protocols and a collaboration framework for Java.
This Week in Electrical History[
(1837) William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone received a patent on electric telegraphy; on 4 September the first message was sent on a line they built from London (Euston Station) to Camden Town.
Yo, Home Is Where Your Work Is
Yo Inc.'s VisEdge uses PKI to provide remote users with secure access to internal network applications.
The recent outbreak of SARS that forced the closure of several medical facilities in the Greater Toronto Area and set tourism in a deep recession also affected a wide range of businesses. Forced SARS-baticals, a term coined for SARS-related quarantines of people who may have been exposed to others carrying the virus, have meant that some people have had to work from home. As a result, businesses concerned with a possible downturn in productivity are looking for IT solutions that can be rapidly deployed to enable people to work remotely — but still securely.
Media Replication Services (M.R.S.) is one of the Toronto-area companies that isn't waiting around for something like SARS to knock its business off track. M.R.S. provides replication services on all media platforms, such as pre-mastering, graphic layout services, packaging, fulfilment and distribution, and in its industry there is no time for a slowdown if the company want to stay competitive.
Staff at (M.R.S.), an end-to-end replication services company, are beginning to work remotely using a new network security software platform called VisEdge. It's a system developed by Toronto-based Yo Inc., a 15-person enterprise software company, established in July 2000.
"The recent SARS outbreak made us realize that we didn't really have plan in place that would enable our own workers to remain productive in the case of an emergency," says Noble Musa, vice-president of M.R.S. "We've since implement a business continuity plan, with VisEdge as the remote access solution."
The system has benefits beyond just allowing workers to do their jobs remotely. As a service bureau, Media Replication Services has had to rely on unsecured e-mail, FTP file transfer and the shipping of physical media in order to receive digital artwork and masters from its customers. To gain a competitive edge and meet customer needs, M.R.S. was seeking an Internet-based solution that would enable customers to simply drag their finished documents from their PC folders and drop them into separate and secure repositories residing within M.R.S.'s internal network.
So in April of this year, M.R.S. launched the industry's first "Secure Service Bureau," an innovative Secure Private Network. Built upon Yo's VisEdge platform, the Secure Service Bureau allows M.R.S.'s customers to easily and securely deliver confidential documents directly from their desktop to M.R.S.'s internal network across the Internet. A Secure Service Bureau deploys within minutes and features fully automated PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) based security tools that simplify the management of remote Trusted Members.
"Until we saw VisEdge work, we really did not fully appreciate how much we needed it or what it could do for us. Now that VisEdge is in place it has opened up new opportunities and ensures that we have a solution in place for remote productivity," said Mr. Musa.
M.R.S.'s IT staff was familiar with other VPN (Virtual Private Network) products on the market, but deploying VPNs and additional security such as PKI on customers' desktops was simply out of the question. As with many small companies, they did not own or manage their own networks and they could not send IT staff out to companies to install software.
Another problem was that a basic VPN would give anyone logging in complete access to all the resources on M.R.S.'s network. It needed to be able to restrict or limit what network access it would give to customers. A VPN could not be configured easily to do this.
VisEdge is a software alternative to a VPN that provides PKI security with "transparent" or easy security management. It embeds digital certificates (PKI - X.509) to authenticate the remote user's computer (i.e. an added level of security beyond a user name and password), enabling the user to securely access the enterprise network and run applications across the Internet as if they were accessing those applications in the office. Remote users can be employees, business partners, vendors or customers.
EU project develops interoperable smart space for learning
An EU project consortium has announced that it has moved one step closer to making a reality of an interoperable smart space for learning in Europe.
ELENA is an Information Society Technologies (IST) project, funded under the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5). The project has a total budget of nearly four million euro and includes partners from four Member States, as well as Slovenia and Iceland. Its aim is to develop an educational service network, consisting of learning assessment tools, learning management systems, educational (meta) repositories and live delivery systems such as video conferencing systems.
The ELENA project has recently reached the first milestone in its work agenda: it has developed a peer-to-peer network (P2P), linking the two instances of the already established UNIVERSAL brokerage service for the exchange and distribution of learning resources among educators and trainers. Progress has also been made in connecting other educational management systems so that users can be kept up to date on events and novelties in the world of education.
Users are being invited to test the network guidelines from the project's website. Users are also requested to provide feedback and contributions on the project's specifications and prototypes.
The project consortium is hopeful that developing a learning network in such a way will 'provide an advantage for all learners by offering them the choice amongst a variety of knowledge sources.'
'ELENA prepares the ground for the rise of educational service markets and new service value chains, which will allow institutions to treat the performance of educational services as a make or buy decision,' explains the consortium.
For further information, please visit the following web address:
GLOO Technology, aJile Java Microprocessor Combine To Bring Low-Cost Multimedia Distribution to the Home
GlooLabs, LLC and aJile Systems, Inc. have announced a strategic partnership to provide an end-to-end Java hardware and software solution for home multimedia distribution. GlooLabs is the developer of GLOO, an open-platform, digital convergence technology that will be ported to aJile's embedded Java microprocessor platform. The combined platform will allow hardware manufacturers to quickly produce low-cost digital media adapters and other multimedia convergence devices. aJile's groundbreaking 100 percent Java processor dramatically transforms the Java device landscape by bypassing software Java translation and directly executing Java bytecode in silicon. The result is significant performance enhancement that delivers music, digital images and full-motion, 16-bit color animation rivaling the Java execution of a desktop PC.
"GLOO is an excellent opportunity to show the power and flexibility of our aJile Java microprocessors," said Danh Le Ngoc, vice president of marketing for aJile Systems. "With a combined Java hardware and software solution, we can help companies bring affordable digital media distribution devices to people's living rooms."
The GlooLabs software technology, called GLOO, allows digital files stored on a PC, Mac or stand-alone storage medium to be played back through a variety of devices on a wireless or wired network.
The GLOO platform uses DMTP (Digital Media Transfer Protocol) to allow new and existing media devices to discover and communicate with each other on a network in a peer-to-peer fashion. DMTP has the ability to detect and communicate with UPnP and Rendezvous devices that may also be on the network. GLOO also brings Internet-based media services, such as Internet radio, into the household, school or office environment.
The first jointly developed platform will be a digital audio distribution device to get music from the PC to the home stereo system. Manufacturing partners will be able to license the GLOO software running on an aJ-100 based hardware platform. The 100 percent Java solution will benefit manufacturers by helping them lower their product life-cycle costs -- from parts and software licenses to software development, upgrades and support requirements.
Apple wooing a host of indie record labels to join online service
For the blues music label Blind Pig Records, the Internet has been both savior and nemesis.
With conglomerates controlling radio station playlists and mom-and-pop record stores giving way to retail chains, the independent record label has turned to online retailers like Amazon.com to hawk albums by its musicians, including Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and James Cotton. But its own experiments in downloading or listening to music over the Internet have borne few results. Many of the early digital music services it worked with have folded. Blind Pig let partnerships with others expire.
Now, however, the San Francisco-based label's president, Edward Chmelewski, is singing the praises of iTunes Music Store, the new music-download service by Apple Computer Inc.
''They've been able to take advantage of some of the false starts of these other companies -- Napster for example -- and see what works and what doesn't,'' he said. ''It's really the first business model for online retailing that actually makes some sense.''
It took Apple 18 months of cajoling to persuade the world's largest record labels to contribute their songs to Apple's upstart music service. But after seven weeks of surprisingly strong sales, Apple needed little more than a boxed lunch to win over independent music publishers.
In February, Smith convened a hearing to discuss peer-to-peer piracy on college campuses.
Members of the panel said that piracy was a federal crime that should be punished as such, likening it to assault, battery and murder.
FCC Warned On Digital TV
A key legislator in the House of Representatives warned Tuesday that copy protection used in the transition from analog to digital television broadcasts must protect Americans' "fair use" rights.
In a carefully worded speech, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House subcommittee overseeing copyright law, said that future Federal Communications Commission regulations involving digital TV should not "have an adverse affect on how consumers may legitimately use lawfully acquired entertainment products."
Smith also signaled his firm opposition to a bill introduced last year by Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., which would implant mandatory copy-protection technology in PCs and consumer electronics devices. "I am skeptical of government mandates on the technology industry...Until evidence shows otherwise, I believe existing copyright law is adequate," Smith told a one-day conference organized by the Progress and Freedom Foundation.
Smith called for greater disciplinary action against peer-to-peer pirates at universities, saying that research showed 16 percent of the files available on Kazaa are located at schools and universities. "It's unlikely that this amount of file-sharing activity is in furtherance of class assignments," Smith said.
Cary Sherman, president and general counsel of the Recording Industry Association of America, said in an interview after Smith's speech that "this is something he feels very deeply about. He's been pressing universities to be very aggressive on this issue. For that reason, I wasn't surprised by his speech."
Tuesday was not the first time that Smith questioned the FCC's digital TV proposals. During a March hearing, Smith questioned the FCC's "broadcast flag" proceeding relating to digital TV, saying that copy-protection rules were being set by an executive branch agency instead of by the appropriate committee in Congress. Although Smith's intellectual property subcommittee is responsible for drafting copyright laws, the Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the FCC.
The FCC has not yet decided to go forward with a broadcast flag rule. The movie studios say that a law or FCC rule will be necessary to require that televisions sold after a certain date recognize the flag and, if it is present, limit consumers' rights to distribute digitally transmitted shows without restrictions.
But at that March hearing, Democrat Howard Berman, whose Southern California district borders Hollywood, said he was worried that the FCC could veer in a direction that might mandate "fair use" rights that would not be favorable to the entertainment industry. "I'm opposed to the FCC attempting to...limit the exclusive rights of copyright holders in its broadcast flag rule making," Berman said.
In February, Smith convened a hearing to discuss peer-to-peer piracy on college campuses. Members of the panel said that piracy was a federal crime that should be punished as such, likening it to assault, battery and murder.
FCC: High-Speed Net Growth Slowing
A report from the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday showed households and businesses are signing up for broadband service at a slowing rate.
High-speed Internet connections grew 23 percent in the second half of 2002, down from the 27 percent posted in the first half of the year. For the full year, the number of high-speed lines increased by 58 percent.
Broadband access, which allows users to surf the Internet at speeds up to 30 times faster than a standard dial-up connection, is seen as an important next step by technology companies eager to roll out video on demand, Internet-based telephony and other advanced services.
While 19.9 million homes and businesses connected via broadband at the end of last year, the rate of growth has decreased gradually. A report last month by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that many of those interested in broadband have already signed up, while others who may be interested in the service find it is not available in their neighborhoods.
Broadband providers until recently have charged between $40 and $55 per month, while dial-up providers usually charge around $20 per month.
Broadband service is now available in 88 percent of the nation's ZIP codes, the FCC found, but service can vary widely within ZIP codes as the equipment necessary to provide service is not always available.
Coaxial cable-TV connections remained the most popular, accounting for 57 percent of all reported lines.
Digital subscriber lines (DSL) offered over telephone wires made up 33 percent, though analysts expect DSL would gain a larger share of the broadband pie if other telephone companies followed the lead of Verizon Communications and dropped prices to around $35 per month.
Satellite, fixed wireless and fiber-optic connections account for the remainder of broadband lines.
Microsoft Cables New TV Technology
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, speaking at the opening session of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's annual trade show, outlined his company's new software for bridging cable television and interactive digital technology.
Microsoft TV Foundation Edition, for use by cable operators with their existing hardware and network systems, is designed to offer cable TV viewers features like video on demand and advanced parental screening.
Gates gave his remarks at a show panel Monday morning, along with executives from several other cable and Internet companies including Viacom, AOL Time Warner and Comcast.
The panel, titled "Leading the Digital Revolution," was devoted to "the business opportunities and challenges in transition to digital television, as well as the relationship among the various marketplace segments that are bringing consumers benefits of the broadband digital platform deployed by the cable industry."
To what degree Microsoft is bringing benefits to cable consumers in any substantial numbers is a matter of debate in the cable industry.
ReplayTV Puts Ad Skipping On Pause
Lisa M. Bowman
ReplayTV said Tuesday that its new digital video recording boxes won't include some of the features that have angered copyright holders.
The company said its upcoming ReplayTV 5500 boxes, which are expected to be released in August, will not contain the Send Show and Automatic Commercial Advance tools as the company tries to "address the concerns of copyright holders."
ReplayTV has come under fire from major TV networks and movie studios for offering the features, which let consumers play back TV shows without commercials or send the shows to others. Digital video recorders (DVRs) are similar to VCRs, but instead of storing shows on a tape, they are stored on a hard drive.
"It is our goal to try to resolve issues that emerge in the area of digital media networking and be a positive force in the industry," Michael Seedman, chairman of Digital Networks North America, which bought ReplayTV in April, said in a statement.
Two years ago, the major movie studios and TV networks filed a lawsuit against Sonicblue, which at the time owned ReplayTV. The resulting legal tangles were partly responsible for hobbling Sonicblue, which filed for bankruptcy in March. The company was aggressive in promoting commercial-skipping and show-sharing technologies. The lawsuit, which has been combined with a case involving ReplayTV owners, is still ongoing in federal court in Los Angeles.
A representative for ReplayTV's new owner said the company made a business decision not to offer the disputed features in future products after reviewing the matter, but current models will still have them.
ReplayTV said the new 5500 DVRs will come with version 5.0 of the company's software, which will offer new tools including the ability to identify recording conflicts and assign recording to another ReplayTV device, pause a movie on one set and continue watching it on another, and skip recording repeats of shows.
The company also said it will maintain offerings such as QuickSkip, which lets people fast-forward through programs in 30-second increments. In the future, it hopes to let consumers use their ReplayTV units to send non-copyrighted materials, such as home videos, across the Internet to other ReplayTV units and computers.
Internet Giants Plan Music Services
Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and others may follow Apple's lead by offering downloads a la carte.
Jeff Leeds and Jon Healey
Some of the Internet's biggest names are looking to take a bite out of Apple Computer Inc.'s novel online music venture.
Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and AOL Time Warner Inc.'s America Online unit are among the companies expected to launch services to compete with Apple's 6-week-old iTunes store, which charges 99 cents to download a song onto a personal computer. Viacom Inc.'s MTV, another popular Web destination, is also exploring a download venture, according to sources.
The arrival of these Internet heavyweights marks a dramatic shift for the five major record companies. For more than a year, they have unsuccessfully tried to thwart widespread piracy by drawing fans to their own Web music services. Now they are placing their hopes in established Internet companies with their built-in audience of tens of millions.
Music executives hope the new players will help the industry reverse its sales slump.
"I think the whole thing is a revolution," said Doug Morris, chairman of Vivendi Universal's music operation, the world's largest. "Yahoo has an enormous number of people coming through all the time. Amazon sells a ton of content. MTV certainly is an enormous bull's-eye for people who like music. This is an amazing moment."
LATimes – Nick/Pass: peermint
Media Chiefs Express Fears Of Digital Piracy
Peter J. Howe
For all of the new ways that digital technology and high-speed Internet connections are making music and movies available, many of the nation's media giants remain profoundly fearful that online distribution will open the door to massive piracy.
At the National Cable & Telecommunications Association annual meeting here yesterday, AOL Time Warner chief executive Richard D. Parsons and Viacom Inc. president Mel Karmazin -- appearing with the heads of Microsoft Corp. and Comcast Corp. -- said solutions are urgently needed but may take considerable time to be developed.
The issue for consumers is the pace at which they will get lower-priced access to buying, not just renting, tens of thousands of movies and music albums as an alternative to buying compact discs, DVDs, and videotapes.
Online music services with access to thousands of songs that can be ''burned'' on a CD for $1 a song or less have blossomed in the last year, including Listen .com's Rhapsody and Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store, but they face fierce competition from free but legally questionable file-sharing systems like Kazaa. Matthew Blank, chief executive of Showtime Networks, the cable movie channel, said film distributors want to ensure that ''we're not the next to be Napsterized like our friends in the music business,'' a reference to the music file- sharing system that spawned an epidemic of online music piracy.
''We've got to put our best minds and collaborate with others across the industry on coming up with the best ways for digital content to move in a way that is secure,'' Parsons said. ''We could actually all be losers if we don't solve this security issue.''
His company, AOL Time Warner, includes the Warner Bros. Film studios, music labels, and Time Warner cable broadband systems and the AOL dial-up and newer broadband services.
On a zero-to-10 scale, with 10 being fully adequate security for online content distribution, Parsons said: ''I think we're probably between three and four, but we're moving in the right direction.''
If ways to control piracy of online digital content are not rapidly strengthened, Parsons said, ''eventually it's going to begin to choke our creation'' of entertainment.
''People won't . . . put the time and talent in that's required if they can't get remunerated in some way,'' he said.
Karmazin said Viacom's CBS television unit remains a strong backer of transmitting shows in rich high-definition format, including not just prime-time network shows but HDTV versions of events such as the Masters golf tournament and college basketball playoffs.
''We're very much committed, [but] we're very concerned about piracy'' of digital HDTV programs through online file-swapping, Karmazin said.
Outside of carefully protected video-on-demand services controlled by cable companies, Karmazin said, ''I would certainly not feel good about taking a movie'' that may have cost $120 million to produce and market and put it online for downloadable access, given current safeguards.
''I'm not feeling very secure, and it concerns me a great deal,'' Karmazin said.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates agreed that ''the music case is a very cautionary case'' for broadcasters and movie studios.
''What's happened is really scary for the artists who created that content and the businesses who helped them with that,'' Gates said. ''The movie people are looking at the music experience and saying, `Let's get ahead of this thing.' ''
Brian L. Roberts, chief executive of Comcast, which has begun rolling out video-on-demand services in New England and nationally, cited the urgent need for industry wide agreement on authorized ways to distribute content online that protect its producers' economic interests, given that movies are already beginning to show up in file-swapping services.
Roberts agreed with Gates that ''the music industry is instructive. If you wait too long, it's too late'' and content piracy services will blossom.
|12-06-03, 10:03 PM||#2|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Internet-Savvy Fans Steal Thunder Of Radiohead Release
When Radiohead played New York City's Beacon Theatre last week to promote its new CD, ''Hail to the Thief,'' the band members seemed surprised that the audience knew all the words to the new songs. The album goes on sale today, yet fans sang along to ''Scatterbrain'' as if it were a top- 10 hit already.
It's no secret that an early version of the album has been widely available via the Internet for more than two months. Anecdotal evidence suggests that listeners have been downloading it at an extraordinary rate, making it not only the latest but one of the most egregious examples of people snagging electronic copies of a record before its release date.
What critics and fans haven't been able to predict is whether any of this matters. Will fans still buy ''Hail to the Thief,'' or is the release painfully anticlimatic?
''I'll still buy the album to reward the artist,'' says Cyrus Chowdhury, 23, of Boston, a longtime fan who downloaded the album a month ago from Kazaa.
Record store managers hope others feel the same way. ''Of course we're worried that people have had the album for so long,'' says Natalie Waleik, senior music buyer at Newbury Comics. ''We're also confident that the diehard fans will still want the CD.''
Virgin Megastores hopes that people who have the album will spread the word. Because of ''extensive media coverage and online activity,'' the album is ''one of the most eagerly awaited new releases of the year,'' says Dave Alder, senior vice president of Virgin Entertainment Group.
How the album got to the Internet has not been established, but the files are copies of stolen unfinished versions of songs, according to Billboard.com.
There have been conflicting reports about whether Radiohead is upset about the downloading. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood reportedly said the album was not finished before it was posted online. ''The leaked music is a stolen copy of early, unmixed edits and roughs,'' he is quoted as saying on several websites. ''We're kind of [angry] about it.'' But '' `upset' is too strong a word,'' says David Fricke, who interviewed lead singer Thom Yorke for the current issue of Rolling Stone. ''This is not the first time they've had to deal with this situation. `Kid A' and `Amnesiac' both got out ahead of schedule, so [Yorke] wasn't particularly surprised by it.''
Jeff Matte, a 21-year-old history student at Northeastern University, says Radiohead probably doesn't mind the illegal copying because of its interest in digital music and intolerance of corporate control. ''They're all about not being a slave to rules,'' he says.
Matte got an advance copy of the album from a friend, but he still planned to attend a midnight sale last night. The idea that the CD could vary from the downloaded tracks and the artwork on Radiohead's album covers were enough to drive him to the store.
The title ''Hail to the Thief,'' which alludes in part to President Bush's controversial 2000 election win, ironically prophesied the album's own fate. But Fricke says its message will not be compromised.
''The record is as relevant now as when [Yorke] made it,'' he says. ''The scare is more about record sales, but that doesn't mean the music is irrelevant.''
"He's Back..." SyncCast And Digital Envoy Partner To Prevent Piracy Of New "Terminator 2" Extreme DVD
Digital Envoy, the leading provider of territorial rights management technology, and SyncCast, a leading Internet Streaming Hosting Provider and digital media technology company, today announced that Artisan Home Entertainment is using Microsoft Windows Media 9 Series Digital Rights Management (DRM) to secure the online distribution of the cutting-edge, high-definition content on the "Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Extreme Edition)" bonus DVD. This is the first ever use of the technology for a high-definition product.
Theft and unauthorized replication of digital content has prevented many media companies from issuing high-quality digital goods to consumers via the Internet. In the case of Artisan's Hi-Definition Bonus DVD-ROM release of "Terminator 2," -- providing movie buffs with 5.1 surround sound and rich, quality video that is nearly three and a half times better resolution than standard DVDs -- the content is only licensed for distribution in North America, making it critical that territorial rights management be a part of the distribution solution. "Terminator 2" was released in the U.S. and Canada on June 3, 2003 for a suggested retail price of $29.98.
"It is great to see SyncCast and Digital Envoy working on innovative ways to provide media companies and their customers with rich content-protection solutions built on the Windows Media Digital Rights Management platform," said Jason Reindorp, Group Manager, Windows Digital Media Division at Microsoft Corp.
"Protecting DVD-ROM content represents a new opportunity for media companies looking to distribute their content on the Internet, and our success in winning some early adopters such as Artisan speaks volumes about the Internet's future as a viable means of secure content distribution for entertainment companies," said Ezra Davidson, vice president, business development, SyncCast. "Our service is user friendly, and works transparently. As long as users have a valid disc and a North American IP address, they will be issued a license to access the content."
The joint solution from SyncCast and Digital Envoy offers media and entertainment companies a first-of-a-kind DRM solution incorporating territorial rights management technology to address licensing issues and to control content downloads in restricted areas.
SyncCast used Microsoft Windows Media Rights Manager to build its DRM Solution technology to protect copyrighted materials online and other traditional media (DVD-ROMs/CD-ROMs). SyncCast's DRM Solution provides real-time reporting of content licensing and consumption, including when content was licensed (time and date); where content was licensed (country, state, city); and what was licensed (file names, byte size, version, server-side end user licensing agreements). Furthermore, SyncCast's DISCryption technology combines its DRM Solution with ground- breaking disc-identification technology that relies on a unique serial ID burned into every disc for maximum anti-theft protection.
SyncCast's DRM Solution is powered by Digital Envoy's NetAcuity technology, which utilizes IP addresses to non-invasively identify the location of Web site visitors down to the city level worldwide -- in real time. This technology is the most accurate and reliable technology on the market for providing secure territorial rights management and is in use by leading networks, enterprises and solutions providers including Google, AOL Time Warner, Network Associates, Cable and Wireless, AT&T, Walt Disney Internet Group and CinemaNow.
"We selected Digital Envoy as our exclusive partner for territorial rights management because it is the leader in geo-intelligence technology, as demonstrated by an A-list of clients," said Davidson. "Also, integrating their technology with our DRM Solution took less than two days and provides better content controls than the technology utilized by most DVD players."
Awestruck Teens Remake Raiders of the Lost Ark, Violate Copyright Law
Posted by James Grimmelmann
In 1981, a trio of 10-year-olds saw Raiders of the Lost Ark and were awestruck. Awestruck enough to make film their own shot-for-shot remake over the next seven years. After spending years as the stuff of urban legend, the film reemerged last year, wowing Raiders director Steven Spielberg and other fans. The tribute film has even recently been shown on the big screen.
Of course, what they did was quite possibly illegal…
(All references are to the Copyright Act, codified at 17 U.S.C.)
There's no doubt that Raiders of the Lost Ark is a work still under copyright. Even under the original Copyright Act, Raiders would still be under copyright, since 1981 was 22 years ago, and 22 is less than 28 (one 14-year term plus one renewal 14-year term).
Since Raiders is a copyrighted work, § 106 makes it an infringement of copyright to "reproduce [it]," "to prepare derivative works based on [it]", to "distribute" it, or "to perform [it] . . . publicly." The tribute film is definitely a derivative work; it's probably a reproduction, too. By their own admission, the boys worked from Raiders; as long as the resulting film shows "substantial similarity" to the original, it counts as a copy for copyright infringement purposes. It would be hard to argue that a (quite faithful) shot-for-shot remake is not sufficiently similar to the original. Since the tribute film is a "copy," it also counts as infringement to distribute it (which someone did, to get a copy into Harry Knowles's hands) and to display it (which they did at the recent screening in Austin). There's probably also a good argument that their 602-frame storyboarding is itself a derivative work.
Their first line of defense is to claim fair use under § 107. The analysis here is mixed; two of the four fair use factors cut in their favor, and two against them.
The "purpose and character of the use" comes out fairly well for them, since the film was a private project made for their own enjoyment, and never widely distributed. On the other hand, the recent screening, to which admission was charged, undercuts a potential claim of "non-commercial" use.
The "nature of the copyrighted work" could hardly be worse for our heroes. Raiders is one of the highest-grossing motion pictures of all time.
They also don't look so good in terms of "the amount and substantiality" of Raiders that they borrowed. They remade the whole damn thing, after all.
Fortunately, though, the "effect of the use on the potential market for" Raiders has been basically nil. Such are the benefits of never revealing its existence to the public at large. (One could even argue that this fan flick increases audience enthusiasm for Raiders and thereby increases its market, although such an argument might not get any further here than it has for file-traders.)
All in all, I'd expect a court or jury to look pretty sympathetically on them, but then again, these have been some pretty dark years for fair use defendants.
Their next possible defense is to point to the three-year statute of limitations for civil copyright infringement. § 507(b) states that the statute of limitations runs for three years from when "the claim accrued," not from when the infringement was discovered. That means that their 22-year-old derivative work is shielded from suit, along with any copies of it that they made before mid-2000. They're not out of the woods yet, though, because their remake is (probably) still a copy, so it's infringement to make fresh prints of it, and to screen it, both of which seem to have taken place in the last couple of months. (Kind of an interesting loophole here, no? If you make a derivative work sufficiently different for it not to be a "copy" and then keep the derivative work secret for three years, you'd appear to be in the clear).
Remedies (§§502-05) are largely in the discretion of a court, but it is at least possible to list the range of things that could happen to these three "kids" (now in their early 30s). They could be enjoined from copying or showing their film; all extant copies could be seized and destroyed. They could be forced to turn over the proceeds from recent screenings; they could be forced to pay for lost profits, but it seems unlikely that plaintiffs would be able to prove that the market value of Raiders had dropped appreciably because of the adaptation.
That leaves statutory damages, under § 504(c)(1), of $750 to $30,000 "as the court considers just." (Since there's only one copyrighted work in question here, there'd be none of those multi-billion claims that brought MP3.com to its knees.) Further, under § 504(c)(2), if the court finds that the "infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe" that he was infringing, it can reduce the damages to $200, a mere $66.67 per defendant. They were, of course, 10 years old when they started infringing. (On the other hand, they're now adults who ought to know better). So they're probably not out of pocket for too much, but if a court decided that the infringement was "willful" it could pump the damages up to $150,000, (plus possibly the other side's legal fees), which is not to be sneezed at.
Willfulness would also expose them to criminal penalties under § 506. Unfortunately, the legal standard for "willful" infringement is not entirely clear, since the question is one for the jury. (MP3.com was considered a "willful" infringer even though it maintained that it had always thought its actions didn't constitute infringement at all.) If our trio had any idea that their work might be a copyright infringement, it is possible that they might be found to be willful infringers. Again, they seem in more danger for their recent actions than for the things they did as teenagers.
The remaining triggers for criminal infringement aren't hard to satisfy. The recent screening was probably for "commercial advantage, but more importantly, their version of Raiders may well have a total retail value of more than $1,000 (just think about how much it would go for on eBay). Criminal penalties for copyright infringement are not to be sneezed at. 18 U.S.C. § 2319 provides for jail terms of up to a year (for a first offense involving fewer than 10 infringing works) and fines. Fines of what size? Well, copyright infringement starts at level 6 on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which works out to a fine of $500-5000, But the level goes up as the value of the infringing works rises. If we say that the new film has a value of $10,000, the infringement is a level-9 offense, with a fine of $1000-$10,000.
The one remaining question is whether what these boys did was authorized--if so, there's no case of infringement at all. Since no one even knew about the project until the last few years, everything they did in the 1980s was ipso facto unauthorized. On the other hand, it's quite possible that once Steven Spielberg found out about the film, he (and Lucasfilm and Paramount) signed off on the recent screening, which would more or less rule out infringement claims for anything recent enough to fall within the statute of limitations.
Harry Knowles has been saying that the remake should be a special DVD extra on the Indiana Jones DVD box set. That sounds like a good idea.
At the same time, don't you find it just a little incongruous that, according to the Copyright Act, these fellows could be ordered to pay out $50,000 each and report for a year in prison?
Re: Awestruck Teens Remake Raiders of the Lost Ark, Violate Copyright Law (Score: 0)
Hear we go. Someone imiatates soneone and it is a criminal offence. I think the hard @sses should let them be AS LONG AS it is NOT done for monitary gains. Hell, even Speilberg was inpressed. Why not give these guys a job INSTEAD of punishing them for having a creative thought. Oh, I sorry, independant thought isn't allowed in the Orwellian society. We'll tell you what to think. My fault
The Record Industry - The Newest Bastion Of Ludditism
Neil McEvoy, director of Consult Hyperion, watches as the record labels fight an old and doomed battle.
Digitisation, the ability to represent the products of human imagination as 'bitstreams' is a profound advance for human society. As with all technical advances, it promises widespread and long-lasting benefits, but threatens economic doom to narrow sections of society that earn a living from exploiting older technologies that are rendered obsolete. Not unnaturally, these groups will attempt to resist progress by any means at their disposal. Thus, during the Luddite disturbances, a few hundred Lancastrian hand loom weavers destroyed any power loom they could lay their hands on - machines that would make cotton clothing affordable for the first time to the masses throughout the world, and thereby greatly increase the wealth of their own region. A few were shot out of hand by the militia and some others were executed after due process for their futile vandalism in the face of the march of progress. Though the penalties were severe, it was surely right that a small minority was not allowed to deny the fruits of human ingenuity to the world at large.
Today, similar skirmishes are being fought over digitisation, so far with less fatal consequences, but this time on a global scale. In this battle, the mass media seems to have sided, wrong-headedly, with the neo-Luddites - perhaps because the mass media itself feels threatened by digitisation. But this neo-Luddism for the digital age is as futile as the original.
Digitisation is a single technique by which absolutely any idea can be represented. In the old- analogue-world, the written word was stored on paper, music on vinyl discs, film on celluloid, and so on. Products rendered in each of these media required specialist equipment and needed people trained in specialist trades to record, copy, distribute, project, etc. Digitised products, on the other hand, rely on the general purpose digital technologies of computers and digital networks. Because they are general purpose, all the necessary components are manufactured in quantity, and are therefore cheap. Because they are general purpose, investment in their improvement provides large returns, which has driven the spectacular improvements in cost-performance ratios of computers. Because they are general purpose, expensively trained specialists are not required to 'drive' them.
In fact, digital technology has advanced to the point where absolutely anyone with a few hundred pounds to invest in a personal computer, and say twenty-something pounds a month for broadband internet connection, can copy and distribute digital works on an industrial scale. What is more, they can do so at a quality-perfection not available at any price to, say, record companies in the analogue days. The creation of abundance where once there was scarcity is usually taken to be a good thing the recording industry claims otherwise. It proclaims loudly that 'copyright violation is theft'. It isn't. It's copyright violation. Copiers of copyrighted music are labelled as 'pirates'. They are not - they are copyright violators.
A good idea (really, the only idea) for any business in any circumstance is to do what its customers want. At the moment, they are doing exactly the opposite. Firstly, by attempting to deny music lovers what others would give them: cheap or free music. Secondly, by abusing customers: who would willingly buy from a company that routinely, and wrongly, accused them of thievery? Thirdly, by refusing to innovate for the customers benefit.
Since the CD was launched in the early eighties, improvements in disk manufacture and digital compression mean than about 100 times as much music can be stored on the same sized disk, and played on a standard PC. In any case, there is no need for a fixed association between the music (bits) and the physical object (disk), so that users can copy music onto media of their choice, to suit different environments (for example CD in car and solid state memory MP3 player in the gym) and to extend the life of their purchase (the music) beyond the limitations of its packaging.
The value that record companies provide to producers and consumers is in their roles as studio, promoter, and distributor. In the analogue world, there was no alternative to their role as distributor, and this enabled them to control the recording and promotion functions and derive huge profits from all three. As a bi-product, this mechanism raised a small handful of musicians to colossal wealth. Digitisation breaks the strangle hold on distribution.
The record companies can still make better recordings than anyone else (though digitisation has somewhat eroded this advantage as well). And they still know how to promote artists in particular genres. This is where they should concentrate. Because they will no longer be distributors, they won't derive income from consumers for these activities. Rather, some musicians will decide to invest in professional recording assistance or engage a promotional agency to increase their fame.
In these ways, they will respectively be more like professional photographers and specialised advertising agencies (and indeed may splinter to undertake these very different activities). There will be a living to be made, but their golden age is probably already over. Those that limit themselves to hiring cohorts of lawyers to lobby legislators and pick off internet start-ups, and to hiring engineers to turn technology against consumers, may put off the day of reckoning for a while, but are doomed to diminishing returns leading quickly to oblivion.
U.S. Senator Prepares Digital-Copyright Bill
Sen. Sam Brownback is preparing a bill that would limit digital copy-protection efforts, a move that could shatter the shaky congressional truce between the entertainment and technology industries.
The Kansas Republican's bill, which could be introduced this week, would limit some of the devices movie studios and recording companies use to prevent rampant copying of their products. It would also make it more difficult to track down those who trade songs and movies online.
The bill promises to revive a copyright debate that has remained largely dormant on Capitol Hill this year, after a series of high- profile hearings last year that pitted Hollywood executives pleading for stronger laws against Silicon Valley engineers who said they could stifle innovation.
While prospects for the bill remain far from clear, it is likely to bring the issue to the fore just as other unsuccessful bills have done in the past, observers say.
"I think they're taking great pains to move the debate forward," said Mike Godwin, senior technology counsel at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group.
Brownback's bill requires copy-protected media to be clearly labeled and allows consumers to sell or donate digital media as long as they destroy their own copy.
Efforts to develop a copy-protection scheme for digital-TV broadcasts could be complicated by a section that prevents the Federal Communications Commission from mandating specific copy-control technologies.
Another section would require recording companies and other copyright investigators to clear an additional legal hurdle before forcing Internet providers to reveal the names of customers suspected of trading songs online. That would reverse a recent court ruling that requires Verizon Communications and other Internet providers to hand over customer names when investigators ask them to do so.
"We would like Congress at this point to step in and try to negotiate a legislative solution, so we're very pleased that Senator Brownback is interested in our issue," said Sarah Deutsch, a Verizon vice president.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents large record labels, said any effort to change existing digital- copyright laws would fail.
"This draft legislation is weighted down with a variety of bad public policy judgments hostile to all property owners," the RIAA said in a statement.
A Brownback aide said the bill would probably be introduced before the Commerce Committee holds a hearing on the issue.
A Commerce Committee spokeswoman said no hearing has been scheduled but that Sen. John McCain, the committee chairman, is open to the idea.
I'm Tired of the RIAA. I Want to Hear from the Musicians
Dateline: Sam's Newsstand, NYC: It has just been reported that six Butterfinger candy bars were illegally downloaded into a college student's backpack from Sam's newsstand in New
York City. The candy was then distributed to friends who are know to have a craving for this chocolate-covered peanut butter confection.
Candy Makers Association spokesperson Rillary Hosen quickly responded by saying, "I thought Sam's had adequately secured his newsstand. Apparently, offering single purchases of our candy for 99 cents just isn't good enough for some people. We're looking into once again, only offering case purchases, and from more responsible retail outlets."
Crack industry reporter, Frankly Speaking, has published an article quoting Sam as saying, "Yeah, I lost a few bucks cause of those punks. But that happens sometimes. Overall, I had a very good day and sold nearly two cases of candy bars. I'll try to keep a better eye on things, but I don't want to inconvenience my good customers."
While lawyers argue over the constitutionality of only offering case purchases of candy bars, no comment was available from the talented people who actually make the desired commodity.
I think the news flash above, and the article I read this morning, Hackers bite Apple in its iTunes by David Zeiler, is typical of the press I've seen about music sharing, the Apple Music Store, downloading music, etc.
I see quotes from industry analysts, RIAA, and the EFF. But once again, I don't know what the actual artists are thinking. They are the ones who create the content that everyone else is arguing about. I'm tired of listening to the RIAA. I want to hear from the musicians.
A Musician's Take on File Sharing, DRM, and Copyleft Licensing
In a recent weblog, Derrick Story wrote "I'm tired of listening to the RIAA. I want to hear from the musicians."
We hear so much in the press about the RIAA's stance against "music piracy" and the attempts of major labels to provide legitimate music download services, while making a determined effort to deter those who wish to share music on peer-to-peer networks. Story is all too familiar with the current stalemate between consumers and the RIAA, but raises the point that "I don't know what the actual artists are thinking. They are the ones who create the content that everyone else is arguing about."
Musicians are often unwilling to speak out against the tight constraints of their record labels, afraid of biting the hand that feeds. But an increasing number of artists are embracing the changes in digital technology as a potential revolution which may free them from the shackles of the commercial record industry. As an independent, computer-based composer whose work deals directly with fair use rights in an interactive world, I will dare to venture an answer.
Yes, we have indeed heard enough from the RIAA, a conglomerate of the five major record labels which claim to speak on behalf of their artists, yet are out of touch with musicians' need and interests. I would suggest that instead, financial interests and a fear of adapting to changes in technology are the primary motivation behind their impassioned speeches against "piracy" and their pursuit of multi-million dollar lawsuits against students running private, non-profit file sharing networks.
The issue of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing and music downloads gives rise to strong and differing opinions from record company executives, musicians, and the listening public. A conclusive study of the impact of P2P on the record industry proves difficult to obtain, and each side has manipulated sales figures to their advantage: while the RIAA present a worst-case scenario, others demonstrate that P2P does in fact encourage sales by introducing listeners to new material which is then purchased in CD format.
The economist Stan Liebowitz, hitherto supportive of the notion that P2P has no impact on the record industry, released a controversial paper (.pdf download) last week demonstrating that there is some negative effect, although difficult to establish due to the multitude of other factors.
These include changes in musical taste, the death of the CD single, the introduction of new formats (including authorised MP3 sales), and lower numbers of CD releases due to the current economic recession. Liebowitz's study should also be viewed as somewhat inconclusive as it relies purely on sales figures. It is noteworthy that he has neglected to survey actual public opinion as to why their purchasing habits may have changed.
However, regardless of one's position either for or against P2P, it's clear that file sharing has indeed proved a direct threat to the establishment, as it decentralizes control. Peter Drahos, in his book Information Feudalism supports these assertions: "the threat was not so much to entire industries as to individual players who did not want to lose their position of dominance. These players turned to copyright law in the hope of finding immunity from competition and the uncertainties of technological change."
And if the major players get their way, their reassertion of control would take the form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology embedded in every computer, CD or DVD player, car radio or mobile device, providing an extreme means of control over any attempt to share music. DRM, whether in software or hardware form, is impossible to employ without some level of infringement of the user's civil liberties. Whether this is simply a matter of denying fair use rights, or delving deeper into setups such as TCPA/Palladium which entertain the possibility of remote data-mining, the risks to privacy are very real. When combined with anti-circumvention legislation, this results in a situation where the terms of copyright law are no longer defined by the government but by the publisher.
As a musician I find the notion of using DRM technology abhorrent--not only because of the risk that my works could be locked up indefinitely by technological means, despite my signing a non-exclusive distribution contract. Under anti-circumvention laws such as the DMCA and the forthcoming EUCD, it could well prove impossible for me to share my own work with my friends, or to distribute DRM-controlled content to another publisher.
But aside from the legal and practical aspects, I believe DRM to be against the spirit of music-making. Music is made for enjoyment, and it is very difficult to create music without an atmosphere of freedom. Musicians just want to be free to create, without being concerned over having their music-- or the tools they use to make music--tied down or controlled by devices which may well have detrimental effects on audio quality. Perhaps the reason Apple has been so notoriously silent on the topic of DRM is that the Mac OS dominates the creative market. To implement DRM on a Mac platform would risk alienating their primary customers in the pro audio sector.
I believe there exists a better alternative to DRM and technological methods of control, in the form of copyleft licensing. Copyleft is the permission to redistribute which forms the essence of the Free Software and Open Source movements. By adapting this principle to suit creative works, musicians have a means to license the sharing of their works without unnecessary technical constraint. The EFF's Open Audio License and Larry Lessig's Creative Commons project are examples of the practical application of copyleft principles in the arts, which musicians may easily utilise without the need for specialist legal knowledge.
Should Web Be a Copyright-Free Zone?
Conference debates new laws or no laws for Internet.
Hollywood won't get a hand from the head of a Congressional subcommittee on the Internet and intellectual property, who says he is wary of passing new laws to protect copyrights online.
But Representative Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, is also critical of users who swap music files online. He also accused university officials of being slow to punish students who download music from file-sharing services. But music downloaders should be subject to existing laws, instead of Congress creating new ones, he says.
"It believe existing copyright law is adequate," Smith said Tuesday at a conference, Promoting Markets in Creativity: Copyright in the Internet Age. "It simply needs to be enforced."
New Laws for Net?
The day-long event was sponsored by conservative think tank The Progress and Freedom Foundation. At it, Smith said music downloaders should be punished for their actions, but that he is skeptical of the usefulness of more laws.
"This process begins with education and ends with disciplinary action," said Smith, a Texas Republican. New laws "are hard to write, easy to ignore, and hard to repeal if unintended consequences harm the marketplace."
As recently as late 2002, Congress was considering a bill that would let groups like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) disable PCs used for unauthorized file-trading. The RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America applauded this way to fight piracy. That bill stalled, and Smith didn't mention any legislation by name in his speech.
Earlier in the conference, a panel of lawyers and economists debated whether the Internet warrants new copyright law.
Copyrighted works should have the same protections on the Internet as they have elsewhere, despite arguments from some Netizens and academics that copyright shouldn't apply online, said Edmund Kitch, a law professor at the University of Virginia.
Kitch noted that the 1976 Copyright Act anticipated future technologies that could distribute copyrighted materials and built-in copyright protections under any new technologies. He argued against file-traders and others who suggest works released online are in the public domain.
"Works on the Internet are subject to copyright," Kitch said. "This means that today in America that those who advocate an absence of copyright ... are the ones who must go to Congress and get a revision of the statute."
Kitch said current copyright law has problems being enforced, but predicted copyright-holders will find a way to control the Internet.
"The idea, articulated in various ways is ... the Internet is this wild zone of freedom and autonomy where anarchy reigns," he said. "The Internet, it seems to me, is one of the most natural environments for enforcement of law that ever existed. It's a centralized electronic system which has its own systems of keeping a historic record."
But Michael Einhorn, author of a forthcoming book on copyright and senior advisor to intellectual property consultant InteCap, disagrees with Kitch. He says the Internet should be treated differently in copyright law because it has given rise to new ways of using copyright, such as the open source approach of sharing computer code.
"The Internet has changed everything," he said at Tuesday's conference. "We have a new way of making contributions, the Internet enables, and copyright law is part of it."
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the reigning Internet copyright law, goes too far, Einhorn suggested. He said it should not outlaw all technologies that circumvent copy controls.
"In the past what we basically did was say, 'Look, there are some technologies that can be used for copying, but we understand there are some good reasons for it, and we generally will side with the new technology,'" he said. "For the first time, the DMCA says, 'We understand there are technologies out there that can be used for very good purposes, but we still must keep them illegal to make sure they're not used for the worse purposes.'"
Einhorn didn't defend online music-swapping, saying he supports the courts that shut down Napster in 2000. But the DMCA's passage means "there's no checks and balances on the system," he said.
Society may have to draw new lines, and decide whether actions like posting one copyrighted newspaper article for reader comment is a copyright violation, Einhorn said. "In our appreciation and understanding of the capacity of the Internet ... to increase the possibility of cultural interaction, we have a whole new way of thinking," he said.
Privacy vs. Internet Piracy
Verizon and Earthlink have informed five Internet service customers that they can expect to be hearing from the record industry very, very soon.
But the Recording Industry Association of America says it hasn't decided what to do with the names it won last week in a bitter court battle over Internet piracy.
Verizon challenged a subpoena requested by the RIAA, refusing to turn over the identities of subscribers accused of trading copyrighted music online. An appeals court last week gave the company two weeks to comply. Verizon turned over the names of four subscribers, traced by the music industry through their numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.
Internet provider Earthlink, also under subpoena, agreed to reveal a customer's identity after last week's ruling. Verizon is continuing to appeal the case.
Despite the victory after months of legal wrangling, the RIAA has done nothing with the information and will not say what it plans to do. As of Tuesday, the trade group had yet to send out cease-and-desist letters, file suit against the subscribers or forward the information to the government for prosecution, among other options.
"They've been very cagey," says Verizon's Sarah Deutsch, who predicts the RIAA will send letters shortly. She worries that hundreds, if not thousands, of similar requests for users' identities will come over the summer. "We're concerned there will be an avalanche, and our subscribers' privacy rights will be violated."
The RIAA's Matt Oppenheim won't address the charges but says, "I'm not sure how they have any idea what we're going to do."
Verizon advised its subscribers to obtain legal assistance. The company isn't sharing their names with the media.
Under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, copyright holders can send cease-and-desist letters to Internet providers when subscribers are discovered sharing unauthorized material. The RIAA says the law also allows access to infringers' identities by filing a subpoena, without first obtaining a judge's order. Verizon disagrees.
According to Ohio State law professor Peter Swire, Verizon's loss "will be a terrible blow for privacy. ISPs will be flooded with legitimate and illegimate claims, and there's no due process."
But the record labels, beset by slumping sales and frustrated in their attempts to close down online swap services such as Kazaa, with tens of millions of users, have begun chasing individuals aggressively. The RIAA recently settled lawsuits against four college students for $12,500 to $17,500 each.
"If all we do is send out anonymous letters, the message is, 'Go infringe until you're caught,' " Oppenheim says.
"The decision gives us another tool to deal with the piracy problem," he says. "We've been engaged in an education campaign to communicate that downloading unauthorized music is illegal — and that we know who you are."
Notebook From The National Show
Some goings-on from the National Show in Chicago. The annual trade show is sponsored by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association:
Dick Parsons, chief executive of AOL Time Warner, and other executives on a Monday panel said they would like to see copyright regulations bolstered.
"Without a robust digital rights management structure, we could all be losers," Parsons said.
Also on the panel: Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft; Mel Karmazin, president of Viacom; and Brian Roberts, chief executive of Comcast.
Cable companies, having spent billions upgrading their cable networks, are eager to roll out new revenue-generating services, such as video on demand, which gives viewers the option of ordering movies or other programming at any time.
The concern in rolling out some of these new features is the potential for piracy.
The executives pointed to the music industry's experience as a cautionary tale.
The music companies didn't start working together "until the wave broke on the shore and almost drowned everyone," Parsons said.
Slow to offer consumers the option of buying their music in digitized form, the industry was soon overwhelmed by customers downloading music clips without paying.
MBC, a young network from Atlanta that targets blacks with family programming, attracted more attention than its much bigger rivals Monday.
The reason? Pop singer Michael Jackson paid a visit for MBC's booth.
Jackson's brother, Marlon Jackson, is an investor in MBC.
Though Jackson was a couple of hours later than promised, the crowd was entertained by baseball great Cecil Fielder, also an investor, who posed for Polaroids and then autographed the pictures.
As for today, MBC is following up the Jackson coup with boxer Evander Holyfield.
Networks on the trade show floor set up elaborate booths and employ other gimmicks to attract attention.
The Weather Channel, based in Atlanta, is inviting passers-by to pose in front of a plain green sheet. When the pictures develop, it looks like a hurricane is behind the model.
Across the room at Atlanta's Turner Broadcasting booth, NASCAR champions signed autographs Monday.
At Biography, there are wax statues of celebrities such as John Travolta.
The Outdoor Channel set up a lush setting, complete with trees and a stuffed bear.
And just in case any conventioneers were feeling frumpy, Lifetime was doing makeovers Monday.
On tap for today
FCC Chairman Michael Powell will talk about media ownership rules, a week after controversial changes passed. Also, network CEOs will be on a panel to discuss "the changing landscape of television programming."
Who Manages Your Rights?
Michael J. Miller
Digital Rights Management may be the most important computing issue of the decade; it's one that is stirring
up no shortage of controversy. DRM is defined as software that lets a content owner set specific policies for determining how the content is used, by whom, and for how long. Microsoft recently debuted its strategy called Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), a framework for enabling online music and movie sales and document protection. But it could limit you to using only the software or data to which someone has given you the rights.
Formerly known as Palladium, NGSCB will divide your operating system into left and right sides. Everyday applications will run on the left side, while applications on the right side will be locked down and accessible only by trusted programs and users.
The right side will include a module that Microsoft calls a nexus. You'll log on to the system with a smart card, and the nexus will authenticate you, communicating with a special chip. Many apps will run as they do now, but those that require rights management will be encrypted. Such a program will be run only with the correct combination of a unique user and the nexus. NGSCB will require a new generation of CPUs and chipsets. Both Intel, with its LaGrange project, and AMD are on board.
Microsoft's rights management technology will emerge in other forms well before NGSCB is ready for prime time. Later this year, the company will release its Windows Rights Management Server, an add-on to Microsoft Windows Server 2003. And it is working on add-ons to Internet Explorer and the next release of Microsoft Office.
Digital rights management for protecting the confidentiality of medical and legal records is absolutely necessary, but lots of people worry that it could go too far. The arguments fall into one of two camps.
Those who believe that information should be free are opposed to rights management in all forms. But that kind of idealism doesn't work in the real world, where people who create information (including me and the company I work for) want to get paid.
At the other extreme are people who think everything should be copy-protected. But this doesn't work, either, as restrictive policies inconvenience paying customers more than they stop the real pirates.
I propose a middle ground. The biggest problem is stopping the redistribution of data, not the use of data on an individual basis. I'm all for Microsoft's efforts to put a stop to redistribution, but it also needs to take into account the right of fair use and people's ability to access content on multiple machines in different locations. That's a tall order—one that will take several years, but it just may work.
I'm a huge fan of wireless networks: I've had one in the office since 1997 and one at home for a couple of years. These products have really taken off recently, and improvements are on the way. But I see some bumps in the road ahead.
In this issue, you can read our reviews and extensive test results for 18 new wireless access points and PC cards. We are still the only magazine that conducts comprehensive tests of speed and distance, and we now test devices spinning atop a special turntable to derive average throughput results across the various connection angles. For this story alone, our labs testing staff for networking, Oliver Kaven and Cisco Cheng, performed over 800 individual test runs.
The 802.11g protocol will be the standard for home networks, partly because the equipment prices are only slightly higher than those of 802.11b products. Draft- standard "g" products are selling well now, but be prepared to upgrade the firmware once the standard is completed this summer.
After the standard is approved, 802.11g will move into businesses, but it won't be alone. Most of the major wireless-chip manufacturers are moving quickly to make "a/ b/g" products. That's good, because each has its uses: "b" for compatibility, "g" for speed over a distance, and "a" for speed and quality of service. These combo chips won't cost much more than the chips that are available now.
But trouble may be brewing: Chip makers are competing, adding turbo modes and other schemes to increase speed. The end result may be products that don't work together. Using a card from one vendor with an access point from another may slow everything down to the lowest common denominator. If the industry can't maintain compatibility, I would not be surprised to see the standard change from Wi-Fi to Centrino- compatible. That's good for Intel, but I doubt the rest of the wireless industry will be happy about it.
Top 10 D/Ls - Singles
“I hate to say this, but the game is over. The music industry, as it now exists, cannot continue.”
RIAA Declares War: Change Needed
John C. Dvorak
Recent revelations predict that the music industry is going to resort to dirty tricks to halt music piracy. These
include but are not limited to (do I sound like a license agreement?) planting Trojan horses, disabling individual computers, causing Internet slowdowns through hacking, sending out bogus files posing as real files, and going into your PC to erase files. You can read about this in a recent exposé in The New York Times as well as on many Web sites.
Madonna has already taken action by sending a recording to MP3 sites purporting to be her new song but actually containing a mean message. Hackers immediately targeted her site. And with the RIAA gauntlet tossed to the ground, the wrath of hackerdom will certainly be focused on music industry Web sites and servers until they beg for mercy. Although the record companies can probably hire a few good hackers to thwart college kids who want to swap music, the companies should also do a cost/benefit analysis of a potential broad-based retaliatory attack.
The music industry has had plenty of time to change its business model since the MP3 format first appeared in the mid-1990s. And the industry must have had a clue by 1998, when it began to track down pirated albums on CD-R. By the time Napster came along and tried to cajole the industry into adopting it for distribution, everyone but the RIAA knew that the game was altered.
Years later, the music business still clings to its hopes for foolproof digital rights management and for some way to keep profits coming in. Every time someone suggests a low-price compromise, we hear from sincere and struggling artists who are trying to survive by selling copies of albums directly. They argue that for them, prices must remain where they are. The fear is that fringe, avant garde, and niche acts cannot survive the way things are going. What to do?
I hate to say this, but the game is over. The music industry, as it now exists, cannot continue. Small artists are toast, and big artists will not be as big as before. Madonna's album slid fast after her exercise in guilt- tripping her fans. Musicians will have to make money the way they did before there was a recording business —by performing. The digital mechanism for copying freely is simply too compelling to be resisted, period. Gosh, the music industry itself has no concern for the artists. Why should the public?
As for the argument that music will die, who are we kidding? Even if music creation stopped tomorrow, we'd need ten lifetimes to go through all the material that is currently on the market, not to mention backlists and archives.
Is there a way around this grim situation? I think it's too late for electronic distribution, too. Sure, Apple's new online music store quickly sold a million dollars' worth of quasi-copy-protected songs for a dollar each. That price is too high, and somehow, the songs will be traded.
The only thing that can possibly save the music industry is to remove music from the digital merry-go-round— keep it off computers or make it very difficult to transfer. The only way to do this is via a massive format change that both improves the music and offers better value. This means putting songs on the latest DVDs, in improved high-quality massive-bit-rate formats that require multiple disc layers.
I envision each instrument recorded on its own track, then mixed by a master program to create the song and variations or remixes from the same source material. Essentially, you would have up to 40GB of raw music, which would be impractical to copy to a computer. Producing such a recording would take more thought, but putting it on a Blu-ray disc would cost no more than putting it on a CD. If it sold for the same $15 needed to keep young musicians going, everyone would win with such a scheme—and the music would sound phenomenal.
Digital distribution is flawed, no matter how much potential it seemed to have at first. The music industry is generally having no part of it, anyway. And DRM is a hoax and a waste of time. It may keep Sony from stealing from Vivendi Universal, but that's about all.
This is the revolution the music industry must undergo. Arm waving and suing kids only stall the inevitable. And digital distribution only stalls the inevitable, as do legislation and copyright laws. A massive format change—beyond superdiscs—that takes recording into a new dimension of reality is the only solution. Start yesterday.
Sun Plans Digital Rights Product For Cell Phones, Desktops
Sun Microsystems Inc. plans to roll out a digital rights management product this year that will span cell phones, desktops and smart cards. The technology is believed to be initially targeted at protecting content such as Java-based games and could be based on emerging work in the Open Multimedia Alliance.
"You will see us very shortly announce product plans for digital rights management," said Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of Sun's software group, speaking at the JavaOne conference here Tuesday (June 10).
Schwartz suggested the Sun approach could use smart cards or something similar to the SIM identity cards built into many European cellular phones today. The cards could also be used in smart card readers for desktop PCs to provide copy-protected content provided through service providers to PC users, he said.
Guy Laurence, chief executive officer for content services at cellular provider Vodafone (London), said the DRM could be based on enabling technology emerging from the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), an ad hoc organization of cellular vendors led by Nokia. The group is expected to formally release a DRM technology that specifies how to encrypt content and different ways to send keys either with the protected content or separate from it.
A Nokia spokesman at JavaOne said the company already has several phones on the market that use the OMA's initial specification for "forward locking" content. The company will have at least one handset on the market this year that uses the full OMA DRM spec, he added.
An OMA spokeswoman said the group expects to detail its progress in several areas including DRM later this year but was not able to provide details about the DRM technology now."The DRM industry is overly muddled. Media companies want everything now, and technology companies want a single solution for everything, but no one size fits all here," said Sun's Schwartz.
In a presentation here, Tim Lindholm, chief technology officer for Sun's consumer mobile systems group, described a technique—now in use by Sprint's cellular division—that would allow a server to handle digital rights management for a cell phone. The cell phone could delete the protected content as needed to preserve limited memory on the handset and later download copies of the content as desired as long as the server acknowledged the user still had rights to that content.
Such a solution would play into Sun's strategy for using Java to drive demand for its servers.
"We are a $12 billion company. The way we get to be a $20 billion company is by getting more people to use Java devices. This drives demand for infrastructure and is absolutely tied to demand for new Sun servers," Schwartz said.
In an interview, Lindholm said it's still unclear what parts of the DRM technology for cell phones will be defined by OMA, Java standards and products from companies like Sun. "It's still a confused situation," he said.
Will ‘Waste’ Push File-Sharing Further Underground?
Justin Frankel, the programming ace who created WinAmp and Gnutella, has done it again—coding a piece of software that delights some and threatens others.
Late last month, almost four years to the day after his company, Nullsoft, was acquired by America Online, star programmer Justin Frankel quietly posted the code to a program called Waste on Nullsoft’s Web site. It seemed innocuous enough: a program for setting up small, encrypted networks. But within hours, higher ups at AOL pulled the code from the site and replaced it with a terse notice, scripted in legalese, that warned anyone who downloaded the program that they had “no lawful rights” to the software and that “any and all” copies of it must be destroyed.
It wasn’t the first time this happened. In 2000, during the height of the Napster craze, Frankel posted the program to Gnutella on Nullsoft.com, only to find the code yanked a few hours later. Those few hours were enough for the code—a decentralized peer-to-peer (P2P) program—to be downloaded by enough key people to turn Gnutella into a major force in the P2P world. Today, Gnutella-based programs have been downloaded more than 35 million times.
Does the same future await Waste? Perhaps. The program has already been downloaded more than 1,600 times, according to several people who put up “mirror sites” featuring the code. Though 1,600 downloads might not sound impressive compared to the Gnutella's 35 million, it shows strong interest in the program—especially since it was only available on the official site for a couple of hours. Despite AOL’s warning, more than 20 mirror sites are still running. AOL apparently has thus far chosen not to crack down too strongly on the mirrors, though it’s difficult to say how long that will last. A Yahoo! discussion group about Waste has already formed. But before analyzing Waste’s future, it’s important to understand what is it—and isn’t—today.
Whenever Frankel releases code, legitimately or not, it’s news. He’s a programmer of remarkable pedigree, having created WinAmp (the most popular MP3 software player) and Shoutcast (streaming radio), as well as Gnutella. But perhaps hoping to stoke another Gnutella-sized frenzy, the first news stories erroneously pegged Waste as a file- trading application. File-trading is certainly a component of Waste, but it doesn’t appear to be its primary function.
Since the code is in a “1.0 beta” stage, it’s hard to tell exactly what it wants to be; Frankel didn’t respond to repeated requests for information and AOL had no comment on Waste. But after spending some time with Waste and speaking with coders who are already at work improving it, a clearer picture emerges. “Given the amount of effort Justin put in, which clearly wasn’t huge, it’s off to a great start,” says Ray Ozzie, CEO of Groove Networks and creator of Lotus Notes, who has played around with the software.
Waste is basically a program for setting up relatively small, private, encrypted networks, where chatting is the main method of communication. Although Waste's interface and initial applications are straightforward, the program’s promise has many coders excited. Currently, all major chat programs, such as Yahoo Messenger, AOL’s AIM, and Microsoft’s MSN Messenger, are centralized. Using these companies’ products means you understand and accept that all your instant messaging is running through a central server and can be monitored if need be. Waste, on the other hand, is completely decentralized. This architecture, coupled with its use of encryption, means users can feel completely confident that what they’re chatting about won’t be monitored by the likes of AOL or Microsoft. “That freedom is addictive,” says Lucas Gonze, a programmer who runs a Waste mirror site. “You wouldn’t accept someone in your living room checking out your conversation with your wife, and there’s no reason you should have to accept that with IM.”
According to the sparse documentation that accompanies the program, the suggested maximum number of users is 50. Downloading and installing the 169-kilobyte program allows you to connect with other Waste users, but only after obtaining those users’ public encryption keys. Since people don’t typically make their encryption keys readily available to anyone on the Internet, Waste is primarily for people who already know each other or share common interests. As such, unless major modifications are made to the Waste source code, it's doubtful that the program will facilitate large-scale encrypted chat. However, the software was released under the open source Gnu General Public License, which allows people to freely distribute a program, making modifications along the way. This is still very much a program in flux.
Once you’ve exchanged keys and IP addresses with other users, you’re connected as a Waste network. Users can set up separate Waste networks for different groups of friends or colleagues. Like various file-sharing programs, users delegate a folder on their hard drives for sharing. Other users can search the folder for files and swap anything in that folder. Users can also search for a particular file in an individual’s folder or on the entire Waste network. If, for example, you were looking for a file called “recipes.doc”, you could search the user whose folder you think contains the file—say, your friend who is known for his cooking—or if you weren’t sure who had it, the entire network.
Given the program’s open source foundation and the respect Frankel commands in the coding community, it’s hard to tell what shape Waste will eventually take. Could it morph into a program that allows for larger networks than 50? Yes, according to two programmers I spoke with. Could the file-trading feature become stronger and usurp chat as Waste’s primary purpose? Yes, again. The possibility exists for Waste to take file-sharing even further into the underground, and make it even harder to detect. And anyone wanting a glimpse into the future of the Internet could do worse than to follow Justin Frankel’s code prints.
Copyrighting in the Digital Age
Is downloading copyrighted music tantamount to stealing? Lawrence Lessig, an expert on Internet law from Stanford University's Law School, and Matt Oppenheim, senior vice president of business and legal affairs for the Recording Industry Association of America, answer your questions about this heated debate.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued four students on April 3 for allegedly operating music- sharing Web sites, accusing them of enabling large-scale copyright theft. Although the RIAA initially asked for $98 billion in damages, it settled the case on May 1, with the four students paying fines ranging from $12,000 to $17,500.
Marking another victory for the recording industry, a federal judge on April 24 ordered Verizon Communications to reveal the names of two Internet subscribers accused of illegally trading music online. Since that decision, Verizon received subpoenas for information on two more Internet subscribers.
Verizon turned over the names of its four Internet subscribers on June 5 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. rejected the telecom company's request for a stay while it appeals the lower court decision. Verizon plans to appeal that ruling.
Meanwhile, on April 25, a federal judge in Los Angeles delivered a setback to the entertainment industry by dismissing lawsuits against two file-swapping services, Streamcast Networks and Grokster. Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that the two services were not liable for copyright violations that may have occurred while people were using their software.
Although the ruling does not legalize the downloading of copyrighted media online, it shields companies that provide peer-to-peer software from liability for the actions of their users.
Does the entertainment industry has the right to prevent the "sharing" and downloading of digital copyrighted media? What methods should it employ to deter, or stop, the downloading?
Is music sharing tantamount to online theft? Or is it the consumer's right to have unfettered access to online materials, including copyrighted media? Should online music, film and other media be available for public use?
Two leading experts representing the two sides of the debate answer your questions about consumer rights and media copyrights in the digital age.
Forty-six professors of intellectual-property law argued that the DMCA's [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] anti- circumvention device provision creates a modern Stationer's Guild. It allows copyright holders to control technology, much like the Stationer's Guild controlled the printing press.
Without anti-copyright devices, wouldn't that extend copyright terms for eternity?
Lawrence Lessig from Stanford Law School responds:
Yes, and in some cases, it already has. Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, for example, recently testified before the Copyright Office, about the effect of the DMCA on the ability of archives -- like his -- to make archive copies of old software. He had a bunch of great titles from the 1980s -- the original Tetris, the original Visicalc, and an early version of 123 -- all of which were protected by copyright protection systems.
Under the DMCA, those protections can't be circumvented, even for the purpose of archiving those works. And as absolutely no one -- including the copyright owners for that software -- has the technology to unlock those digital locks, the effective term of protection for that software is effectively perpetual.
Again, the DMCA is extremism. It is time Congress did something to restore balance.
Cracking Down on Cyberspace Land Grabs
The people who keep the Internet running are coming to terms with address space hijacking, an old scam that's turned suddenly nasty.
Earlier this year an expanse of Internet address space belonging to the County of Los Angeles was put to some uses that had little to do with effective municipal governance. Some county addresses inexplicably began hosting porn websites, while others generated suspicious scanning activity that tripped intrusion detection systems around the net. And then there was the spam, suddenly oozing from the county's cyberspace like sludge moving down the Los Angeles river after a rain -- low-interest mortgages, bargain ink jet cartridges, an abundance of "sizzling teens" in adult situations.
It turns out the official records of the address block had been doctored, and L.A. County no longer owned the space -- at least as far as the rest of the world was concerned. All 65,534 addresses now belonged to one Emil Kacperski, the 20-something owner of a small unincorporated hosting company in Northern California. No one was more surprised than county officials, who'd been using the space on an internal county- wide network since 1995. "We found out when we got a call from some outfit overseas, saying they were being hacked and they investigated the IP address and it was one of ours," says Dennis Shelley, associate CIO for the county. "We followed up on it, and we found out that it had been hijacked."
Los Angeles County had been hit by a growing type of hi-tech fraud, in which large, and usually dormant, segments of the Internet's address space are taken away from their registered users through an elaborate shell game of forged letters, ephemeral domain names and anonymous corporate fronts. The patsies in the scheme are the four non-profit registries that parcel out address space around the world and keep track of who's using it. The prizes are the coveted "Class B" or "/16" (read "slash-sixteen") address blocks that Internet authorities passed out like candy in the days when address space was bountiful, but are harder to get legitimately now.
And until spammers discovered the technique, IP hijacking was largely considered a dishonest but forgivable path to acquiring old, unused address space belonging to defunct companies. The perpetrators were what the Spamhaus Project describes as "a few crufty geeks" in search of "cheap digs." The scam is victimless in that it normally targets dormant allocations that are otherwise going to waste, in many cases taking blocks of space that belong to defunct companies, or, like the Trafalgar House space, have long faded from corporate memory.
But like the mob moving in on a neighborhood poker game, spammers have turned a once-harmless misdemeanor into an organized and well- funded scheme. Internet defenders shudder at the thought of large portions of the net's real-estate under the control of anonymous rogue entities. "There's no accountability. You don't know who really owns this particular address space. You have no way of finding out," says Schlichting." Some even worry that malefactors will go a step further, and begin hijacking address space that's already in active use. "This whole episode has identified huge weaknesses in the Internet's own infrastructure," says Cox. "What we've seen happen is trivial compared to what we've seen possible."
Digital Music Hits the Road
ANYONE who has ever made a mix tape to play on a long drive knows the hypnotic effect of combining cars, motion and music: it's just you and the road and Steve Earle cranked up all the way as the mile markers fly by and stress melts away. Even when stuck at a traffic light, you can car dance by wiggling around in your seat and singing the background vocals on "Stop! In the Name of Love."
People have been piping tunes into the dashboard for decades. Radio became popular in cars in the 1930's; later came a rush of tape decks and CD players. It occurred to me not long after I got immersed in the world of MP3 music that this was a perfect format for the car.
Even the smallest flash-memory MP3 players can hold an hour or two of music, and hard-drive-based players like the Archos Jukebox or the Apple iPod can hold thousands of songs. A couple of roadworthy playlists could save me the frustration (and bad habit) of fiddling with the radio or fishing around for the right Talking Heads album while driving. I thought it would be great to hook up my portable MP3 jukebox player to a car stereo on my next long trip.
Looking for options, I found plenty. There are all kinds of devices, including cassette adapters that connect the MP3 player to (and allow it to play through) the car's tape deck, and new CD players that can spin a disc with several hours of MP3's as you drive along. The low and the high end of the spectrum caught my eye, however.
On the low end, I discovered an array of inexpensive wireless FM transmitters being marketed to the iPod/Rio/Nomad crowd as a way to play MP3 files through a car radio without having to bother with clumsy wiring or ill-fitting cassette adapters. On the high end, I discovered the PhatNoise Digital Car Audio System, a full-blown MP3 jukebox (the PhatBox) that uses a 20-gigabyte hard drive stored in the trunk to let you tow 500 CD's worth of tunes wherever you go.
I started with the FM transmitters: a SoundFeeder SF121 from Arkon Resources ($25; www.arkon.com), the iRock 300W by First International Digital ($30; www.myirock.com), and the iTrip by Griffin Technology ($35; www.griffintechnology.com).
All three of them worked basically the same way: you connect the FM transmitter's plug to the portable MP3 player's headphones port, find an unoccupied radio frequency on the FM dial for the transmitter to borrow, and push the Play button to broadcast your MP3 playlists through the car radio, the home stereo or even a portable radio.
Q. Is there a way to capture streaming radio music on the hard drive or on a CD?
A. There are several ways to capture live sound streaming from Internet servers onto your computer. Perhaps the easiest is to find a program designed to record live audio streams.
First, check to see whether your preferred MP3 software has a recording function or optional plug-in component that can record from an Internet stream.
If not, you can choose from a wide assortment of freeware, shareware and commercial programs. A quick browse through your favorite shareware Web site will turn up a few audio- stream recorders. Sites like www.hitsquad.com and www.mp3-recorder.net specialize in audio- related shareware.
Super MP3 Recorder ($30; www.supermp3recorder.com) and AudioStreamer ($40; www.rmbsoft.com/as.asp) are programs that can record live audio streams on Windows systems. If you want to record a show when you are away from the computer, you can program software like Blaze Audio Power Record ($20; www.blazeaudio.com/products/ powerrecord.html) or Replay Radio ($30; www.replay-radio.com) to record at a specified time.
Macintosh users can try INet Stream Archiver (www.xample.ch), Radio Lover for Mac OS X 10.2 (www.bitcartel.com/radiolover) or StreamRipperX for Mac OS X (streamripperx.sourceforge.net).
If you are recording copyrighted material, look into the local laws on personal use of protected works.
(I happen to be fond of Streamripper – Ed.)
Bring On the Fat Files: a Hard Drive With Room to Spare
They say you can't be too rich or too thin, and if they were talking about hard drives they might say you can't be too big. For those who work with digital video, music or photo files, it can seem as though no hard drive is capacious enough. Googie, a Danish company, makes external hard drives with a hefty measure of data storage space.
The company's Orbit model, now sold in sizes from 720 to 2,000 gigabytes, will be available next month in a 3,000-gigabyte version for $6,698 that can be ordered now at www.googiestore.com.
For a drive that's, well, thinner and less expensive, Googie's Sandwich is about 7 by 7 inches square and 1.4 inches tall. It comes in models ranging from 80 to 250 gigabytes ($270 to $598).
Web Crawler Ups Ante In Asia Software Piracy Battle
Prowling through cyberspace, sniffing out sites that offer illegal downloads, the Web crawler -- the latest weapon in the software industry's war on copyright pirates -- is now on the case in Asia.
The Business Software Alliance (BSA), which has deployed the Web Crawler, represents some of the top software names, including Microsoft Corp and Apple Computer.
The group is battling to end an estimated $5.5 billion a year in software copyright theft in the Asia Pacific.
So far, the Web crawler has found in Asia over 22,000 violations of copyright through file sharing, downloading or purchases through the Internet, the alliance said.
"Internet software piracy is the fastest-growing form of piracy worldwide, and we expect the search engine to uncover between 2,000 and 3,000 infringements every month in Asia Pacific alone," BSA Asia Pacific regional director, Jeffrey Hardee said.
The snooping software targets sites carrying pirate versions of business software programs belonging to BSA members. The alliance then asks Internet Service Providers (ISPs) hosting the sites to shut them down.
The Web crawler was first launched in the United States last year and then in Europe earlier this year. In 2002, it uncovered 1.48 million software infringements in the United States, including multiple infringements on many Web sites.
So far in 2003, over 71,000 notices have been sent to ISPs hosting pirate Web sites, compared with over 73,000 for 2002.
The biggest headache for software firms was unauthorised file sharing, often involving the peer-to-peer (P2P) programmes that have plagued the music industry, which the BSA said made up 87 per cent of Internet software piracy.
"As bandwidth increases in the region, P2P file downloads will increase and become a larger problem," Hardee said.
The BSA said business software piracy hit a six-year high in the Asia Pacific region last year, with an estimated 55 per cent of software in use obtained from illicit sources.
In China, 92 per cent of all business software in use in both 2001 and 2002 was pirated. This was the world's second-highest level after Vietnam, it said.
Not all DVD players will play SVCD's, and converting SVCD to VCD is a hassel, takes awhile, and cuts the quality of the video. Here is a way to put a VCD header on your SVCD to make you DVD player think it's playing a VCD.
Dutch Snap Up Digital Cameras
The Dutch are increasingly turning digital, according to a recent survey of the camera market in the Netherlands conducted by GfK Benelux Marketing Services.
According to survey respondents (which include department stores, and camera, electronic, telecom and computer shops, representing 80 per cent of the market), some 485,000 digital cameras - a 100 per cent increase on 2001 - worth E248m were sold last year, a year-on-year increase of over 66 per cent.
In sharp contrast, digital cameras built into mobile handsets are not selling well. Survey respondents reported that, of the 767,000 mobile handsets sold to businesses in 2002, only a tiny three per cent were equipped with a digital camera, and five per cent had the option of connecting to one.
Digital cameras function electronically, deploying a memory chip (which can be erased and reused), instead of film, to capture an image, and offer instant viewing.
Furthermore, images from digital cameras can be downloaded onto a computer for printing, distribution (via e- mail, for example), editing, or storage on the computer’s hard disk or burnt to CD.
The average price a Dutch consumer paid for a digital camera fell from E443 in 2001 to E417 last year. In April 2003, however, this price rose to E421. According to GfK’s project manager, Laurens van den Oever, the price rise had to do with improved quality.
Although traditional-camera business fell by 30 per cent in 2002 to 458,000 units, a drop in sales from E112m in 2001 to E82m last year, traditional film-based cameras provided camera retailers with two-thirds of their total sales turnover in 2002.
Hot-spots are rapidly becoming the focal point in today's challenged wireless industry, and what will continue the momentum is the rise of wi-fi enabled laptop users. The number of WLAN-enabled notebook users is ramping up, with an expected CAAG of 79 per cent, reaching a potential 58m users by 2008, according to a new report from research firm Allied Business Intelligence (ABI), Wi-Fi Networking Equipment: Worldwide Deployments, Drivers, Players and Forecasts for 802.11x. With the success of Intel's Centrino largely unknown, yet with its marketing efforts providing widespread awareness to the industry, these numbers may grow even larger than current projections. This will have a serious effect in siphoning away data traffic from 3G networks.
"By offering consumers the ability to retrieve data from their laptop wirelessly at top-rate speeds, mobile operators are going to bring more data users to the table," explains ABI Senior Analyst Tim Shelton. "There may be more then one winner here in the long run, with Wi-Fi's success being the driving force that pulls consumers towards data driven services."
EU Directive Imposes Vat For Foreign Dot-Coms
From the first of next month, a new EU directive will be enacted, forcing all internet companies to impose VAT (value-added tax) on all digital sales. This amounts to a tariff of between 15 and 25 per cent on items such as software or music downloads, any transactions as part of online auctions and subscriptions to internet service providers, sold over the internet anywhere within the European Union.
European companies have always added the tax to services and products they sell, but foreign companies had, until now, been exempt, leading to an advantage for non-European firms that European dot-coms lobbied the EU to have removed.
While European companies are quite happy with the move, foreign e-commerce companies are having to make adjustments. AOL is moving its European offices to Luxembourg, which has a less rigorous tax system, and Amazon will now be charging VAT on downloads and e-books, while online auction house Ebay will pay the VAT itself in its smaller operations in Europe like France or Italy, but will make customers pay in the UK and Germany through higher fees.
BT Signs Up Millionth Wholesale Broadband Customer
UK incumbent telco BT has announced that it has passed its initial target of 1m wholesale broadband connections by summer 2003. The target was set in February last year, when BT had only 145,000 connections.
To mark the achievement, BT is giving a boost to parts of the UK that do not yet have access to ADSL broadband. Every "trigger level" across the UK will be reduced by 50 registrations, a reduction of up to 25 per cent.
Trigger levels reflect the number of people who need to register their demand for broadband before BT upgrades an exchange with ADSL technology. The news means that 69 exchanges will immediately hit their triggers and work will begin to upgrade them with broadband technology.
The exchanges stretch from Cowes in the Isle of Wight to Cookstown in Northern Ireland and serve more than 375,000 households. More than 71 per cent of UK households are currently connected to broadband enabled exchanges and BT estimates this figure will increase to more than 80 per cent by the end of 2003.
Differentiation Drives Broadband Adoption In Europe – report
2002 was a catalyst year for the European broadband market, according to a new study by market analysts IDC,
European Broadband Access Services Market Analysis, 2002-2007. The number of connections catapulted to 13.4m in Europe, which is more than twice the figure of the previous year, and revenues for broadband internet access reached E3.4bn.
An increasingly widespread availability of broadband services, greater customer choice, more affordable packages, and increasing internet usage were the building blocks of last year's growth, say the analysts. As the market is maturing, an increasing number of operators will have to differentiate their product portfolios, to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
In the near term, this increasing choice will prove to be a key driver for the market, while in the longer term, the development of broadband specific content and applications will ensure further growth. Fuelled by these factors, the number of connections will grow to almost 62m in 2007, representing E23bn in revenues.
DSL was the preferred technology, as it accounted for more than 70 per cent of all European connections and it will remain the dominant broadband access method throughout the forecast period. As a result of this, incumbents will remain important players in the broadband landscape, not only as the provider of wholesale DSL network connections, but also on the retail level through their ISP activities.
Although sustained regulatory efforts to stimulate competition will have some effect, the current position, size, and marketing power of incumbent operators will ensure their leading status.
Furthermore, although the five major countries account for almost two out of every three broadband connections in Western Europe, they are only in the middle when it comes to penetration. At the end of 2002 Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden were Europe's leading countries in terms of uptake.
France Telecom to Make Broadband Access Available to All Who Want It
Speaking at a press conference, France Telecom Chairman Thierry Breton announced a series of initiatives designed to make broadband internet available to all users in France who want the service.
All central offices, i.e., local telephone exchanges with over 1,000 lines will be equipped with DSL modems (DSLAMs) by the end of 2005. This network extension corresponds to France Telecom's initial coverage plans.
The number of ADSL units (DSLAMs) installed in local telephone exchanges will be multiplied by a factor of more than 2.5 (8,000 DSLAMs in 2005, compared with 3,000 today), and an additional 7,500 km of fiberoptic links will be installed.
To carry out this programme, France Telecom will invest E600m over three years to deploy ADSL technology on the French telephone network.
The programme will be extended and adjusted to meet demand from all customers who want broadband internet service and who are connected to central offices with at least 1,000 lines. Whenever at least 100 customers in the same local service area request the service, France Telecom will make ADSL service available.
Potential user demand will be evaluated in liaison with municipal authorities, and followed by pre-reservation of connections by ISPs. When the number of confirmed requests reaches the threshold, France Telecom will make a commitment to municipalities, users and ISPs to deploy ADSL service within a timeframe determined after a technical assessment by France Telecom regional offices.
France Telecom will very shortly begin discussions with other operators and ISPs to determine the details of nationwide deployment for this programme. The timetable and terms of network build-out will be finalised in direct cooperation with local and regional authorities.
In September 2003, France Telecom will also begin marketing three bi-directional satellite broadband internet solutions designed for consumers and businesses in areas with partial or no ADSL service coverage.
The first, Pack Surf Satellite, is a customised solution that lets users select their ISP while benefiting from superior quality broadband service. Four data rates will be proposed, offering from 128 kbps to 2048 kbps for downstream traffic (i.e. from the network to the user premises) and from 64 kbps to 512 kbps for upstream traffic (from user premises to the network).
The second, Oléane SAT, covers both internet access solutions and Intranets. Here too, customers have a choice of data rates, from 128 or 512 kbps to 2048 kbps downstream, and from 64 or 128 kbps to 512 kbps upstream.
The third, Wanadoo Pro Sat, will provide the same services as Wanadoo Pro ADSL offers, but without geographic restrictions. This service will provide data rates of 128 kbps downstream and 64 kbps upstream.
Telecommunications Amendments Anger Industry, Help Consumers
After a second reading, the Russian State Duma has passed a series of amendments to the country’s telecommunications law, but industry representatives feel that the new legislation has favoured the interests of consumers at the expense of making the market more equitable for the different carriers and operators, according to the Moscow Times.
Telco representatives are most upset about the veto by lawmakers of provisions that were supposed to permit per-minute billing. Currently, fixed-line carriers can only charge a flat fee per month, which, they say, is not profitable in some regions. Sector commentators feel that the veto of per-minute billing is a sop to voters in an election year and will do nothing to aid expansion of the telecommunications sector in the country.
A second aspect of the telecommunications law that is frustrating telcos is the issue of tariffs. Currently, carriers are allowed to increase prices by around a third each year, which, say the owners of the companies, does not raise enough money to modernise the aging equipment and discourages investment.
And finally, alternative carriers were hoping that the new law would set the terms by which they could connect to the national fixed-line monopoly, Svyazinvest. However, the law only says they have the right to so, and contains no regulation in this regard.
After a third reading, passage by the Federation Council and then being signed by the president, the new law will replace the 1995 communications law. The Association of Telecommunications Operators, an industry lobby group, has said that it will try to convince the Federation Council and the Kremlin not to pass the bill.
50m internet users in the new EU countries by 2007
The latest findings from Aqute Research show that 15 per cent of the total population in the thirteen EU accession countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey) will access the internet by the end of 2003. This is set to grow to 28 per cent by 2007. Overall, the online population of accession countries will grow from 25m in 2003 to 50 m in 2007. Estonia, Slovenia and Malta will achieve the highest online penetration rates with 58 per cent, 43 per cent and 42 per cent of people online by 2007, respectively.
"The EU accession countries start off with low credit card penetration, low home PC penetration, and a high fear level about fraud and limited online tenure," says Michele Poliziani, analyst with Aqute Research. "It will take these countries some years to get close to the levels of online activity we see among current EU members." On top of this, the social and cultural aspects of shopping make the internet less appealing, adds Poliziani.
Aqute Research’s findings show that the number of internet users actually buying online will remain low. By the end of 2003, the number of online buyers in the accession countries will grow to 1.9m or almost 8 per cent of the total online population. Most shopping will be for low-value items, keeping average spending per buyer low and total online retail at E183m in 2003. Three countries - Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - will account for 61 per cent of this spending. By 2007, 16 per cent of internet users in the thirteen accession countries will shop online and total online retail spending will reach almost E1bn.
Poliziani: "Most users have limited online experience so will be less likely to shop, since shoppers tend to be mature users. And with income levels far below those of many EU members, online spending is set to remain low. However, the group of accession countries as a whole will still become a E1bn market online by 2007."
Latvia Lags Behind Neighbours In Software Piracy Stakes
Baltic News Service
Lativia's software piracy rate in Latvia dropped just 1 per cent over the last year to 58 per cent, leaving it the most pirate-ridden nation of the Baltic states, according to the annual study by Business Software Alliance (BSA), the software writer copyright protection body.
The software piracy rate in Lithuania declined from 58 per cent at the end of 2001 to 53 per cent as of late 2002. Estonia’s software piracy rate remained unchanged during 2002, and stood at the same level as in Lithuania at the end of the year.
According to the BSA study, Latvia has lost E8m through software piracy in retail alone, significantly more than the E4.6m loss to Estonia and the E4.9m loss to Lithuania.
BSA Latvian committee board chairman Valdis Birkavs admitted to the Baltic News Service that, “considering the present software piracy level, Latvia is currently at the point where Western countries were eight years ago”. In Western countries software piracy was above 50 per cent in the early 90s, but to date the figure has dropped to an average of 35 per cent.
The situation in Lithuania is gradually improving, said Ervinas Leontjevas, president of BSA Lietuva, noting the public’s increasingly negative attitude toward pirated software.
Jolanta Pranckeviciene, a lawyer representing the BSA members, said that, “the biggest problem is the use of pirated software in municipalities and other public institutions”.
The piracy rate is also high among home users, she said.
The BSA said the lowest piracy rates in Eastern Europe were recorded in the Czech Republic (40 per cent), Hungary and Slovenia (45 per cent each).
Russia and Ukraine continued to have the highest piracy levels last year, with 89 per cent of all programs installed on computers being illegal copies.
ADSL lines in Spain reach 1.25m
Asymmetric digital subscriber lines (ADSL) in Spain at the end of May 2003 totalled 1.25m, according to the country's Association of Internet Users.
At the end of April 2003, Spain had 1.19m ADSL subscribers.
Radiohead Plug In TV Over The Web
Whether you consider them bitter-sweet musers on the human condition or down-in-the-dumps whingers, Radiohead are certainly a rock group given to innovation more than most, and have thus marked the release of their new album with the simultaneous launch of their own TV station, broadcasting over the web.
Radiohead Television will show music videos, live concert webcasts and streaming broadcasts from their recording studios, with programming beginning on the hour. In true Radiohead style, those turning up early will be treated to a test card and 1970s style intermission music, whilst programmes featured include the enigmatically titled, ‘The Most Gigantic Lying Moutn of All Time, Episode 1.
Radiohead’s new album, Hail to the Thief, is widely tipped to enter at the top of this week’s UK music chart.
Digital Preview Service For Pre-Order CDs Launched
A new online music preview service has been launched by home entertainment product distributor Entertainment UK, allowing fans who have purchased albums in advance of offcial release dates to listen to the tracks.
The venture follows a research study into the digital music habits of 10,000 consumers. According to Entertainment UK, the service has already led to a ‘significant’ jump in pre-order album sales.
The system works by making available to consumers digital tracks that expire on the day that the album is released, when the purchaser will receive their hard copy of the CD.
Digital service provider DX3 has teamed up with Entertainment UK to provide the service, along with retail partners that include Woolworths, StreetsOnline and MVC.
Home-Brew DVR Projects Fermenting Nicely
Concealed within the shadows of much-hyped, brand digital video recorders (DVR), such as TiVo and ReplayTV, the more silent undertaking of do-it-yourself DVRs is a phenomenon apparently growing in momentum.
According to Wired News, about a dozen open source, collaborative software projects are moving forward in a bid to create the software behind uber-DVRs capable of recording hundreds of hours of programming and multiple programmes simultaneously. With the high-end functions of brand DVRs requiring supplementary subscription costs, a lot of whizz-kid Linux programmers have become hooked on seeing how far the technology can be pushed without furnishing the pockets of the major players.
Not to say that assembling a custom-made DVR is a particularly cheap occupation. For example, Raffi Krikorian, author of book-in- the-works ‘TiVo Hacks’, estimates that the parts for a 250 hour DVR colossus with download, archive, editing and multiple record capabilities are likely to add up to around three times the price of a top-end TiVo – that is, about E1000. Assembling the beast is also, according to insider consensus, one of the more time-consuming and difficult activities for a technologist to engage in, often requiring hundreds of hours of trouble-shooting fixes in order to get things just right.
Nevertheless, as long as DVR functionality can be pushed further, you can be sure there’ll be programmers out there trying to do just that. And with brand DVRs underplaying the ad-skipping capabilities of their machines and only circumspectly ruffling some high-profile broadcasting feathers, DIY DVR makers are likely to be alittle more brazen about their occupation.
MusicNet To Adopt Microsoft's Format
In the latest deal in the rapidly expanding online music business, MusicNet said Thursday that it would offer more than 350,000 songs to subscribers in Microsoft's Windows Media format.
Since Apple Computer launched its iTunes Music Store in late April, and proved its potential by selling more than 2 million downloads at 99 cents each, major online players such as America Online, MSN and Amazon.com have said they were more actively exploring their own online music services.
MusicNet's current distribution is through the AOL service of AOL Time Warner. Late last month, AOL and Microsoft settled a long-running legal dispute by agreeing in part to closer collaboration on the development of online digital media.
A MusicNet representative said the conversion of the company's music products into the Windows Media format has been an ongoing initiative and predated that settlement.
MusicNet, with more than 100,000 subscribers to its service, received a new round of funding last month from its major shareholders, including Microsoft competitor RealNetworks.
Though an investor, RealNetworks is phasing out the distribution of MusicNet in favor of Rhapsody, the online music system it picked up when it acquired Listen.com earlier this year. MusicNet's main rival, Pressplay, was acquired in May by digital media company Roxio, which plans to use it to revive a legal form of the Napster online music service.
In a Trademark Case, The Supreme Court Recognizes That Art Flows From Multiple Sources
Last week, in Dastar v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp, the Supreme Court held that once a work's copyright terminates, it passes into the public domain, and trademark law does not prevent its use without attribution to the original author. The decision was 8-0. (Justice Stephen Breyer recused himself because his brother, also a federal judge, had heard the case in the lower courts.)
Along the way, the Court recognized what might be termed the river of creation: A piece of art, the Court observed, stems from multiple sources, like the "Nile and all its tributaries."
The Dastar Decision's Significance: The Idea of Multiple Creators
The Dastar decision is significant in several different ways.
First, the Court recognized that creativity often does not flow from a single source. Fox claimed to be the true "origin" of the videos Dastar sold, but the Court made clear it was not as easy as that: "(i)n many cases, figuring out who is in the line of 'origin' would be no simple task."
Indeed, because Fox's own "involvement with the creation of the television series was limited at best," the Court suggested that Time, Inc. "was the principal if not the exclusive creator." Moreover, there were also other contributors: Eisenhower, who wrote the book; and the United States Army, Navy, and Coast Guard, which provided much of the film footage.
The Court noted that, "If anyone has a claim to be the original creator of the material used in both the Crusade television series and the Campaigns videotapes, it would be those groups, rather than Fox." However, it declined to adjudicate who the original creator actually was, for "[w]e do not think the Lanham Act requires this search for the source of the Nile and all its tributaries."
In endorsing this idea of multiple originators, the Court may have cast a shadow on the myth of the "romantic author." Popular in copyright jurisprudence, the myth holds that a creative work is typically the result of spontaneous, individual genius.
Dastar's Embrace of the Public Domain
Second, Dastar is significant because it stressed that the public domain is essential for creativity. The public domain allowed Fox to obtain the war footage for "Crusades" in the first place. Fifty years later, at a historic moment, the public domain allowed Dastar to share this and other footage with a wider audience at a reasonable cost.
In the past, as noted above, property holders had to take affirmative steps to renew copyright -as Fox failed to do. Now, however, the copyright term is automatic; copyrights need not be renewed.
Predictably, the omission of a renewal requirement has harmed the public domain. For this reason, Stanford law professor Larry Lessig and others have sought to revive the renewal requirement via a petition to Congress. According to the petition, works for which the copyright is not renewed would fall into the public domain after fifty years. Their hope in doing so is to increase the number of works that may accidentally fall into the public domain, as did Fox's series.
As long as the automatic renewal provision is in place, cases with facts like Dastar's will be few and far between. But the Court's opinion in Dastar is very significant nonetheless, for what it says about authorship and the public domain.
Movie Archivists And Preservationists Urge Congress To Save Orphan Films
Durham, North Carolina - A diverse group of movie archivists, preservationists, and creators sent a message to Congress today that without reforms in the copyright system, the majority of the nation's historical motion picture heritage faces destruction as the film on which it's printed crumbles away. They expressed their support for a proposal that would allow 'orphan films' - those that are no longer under active copyright management - to enter the public domain so that they can be copied, archived, and preserved.
"The tragedy of our current system is that to protect the 1 or 2% of movies that are still commercially viable, we lock up the remaining 98%, and often let them crumble into dust," said James Boyle, professor of Law at Duke University Law School. "We need a common sense solution to this problem. This Bill is a very moderate compromise. It allows preservationists and archivists to restore and display the 'orphan films' while respecting the rights of the commercial film companies. There are countless experts and enthusiasts ready and willing to preserve our cultural heritage, and make it available to the world over the Internet - they just need the legal OK to do so."
The letter addresses a basic problem. Most moving images captured in the last century exist on a medium that decays in less time than it takes the copyright on them to expire. The overwhelming majority of these films are not being commercially exploited and have been abandoned by their original owners. However, under current law, to restore these and make them available to the public, one needs to hunt down an elusive copyright owner to get permission. This is costly, and often impossible. Since there would never be a commercial benefit from most of these films, they disintegrate without being preserved.
"Orphan films contain fresh and fascinating images of everyday life, culture and industry in America. They are truly our "national home movies." If we're free to preserve these unique and endangered films, our children and grandchildren will have a chance to see the America their ancestors lived in," said Rick Prelinger, President of Prelinger Archives.
Of the tens or hundreds of thousands of movies made before 1950, fully 50% are already irretrievably lost. For films made before 1929, the loss rate is even worse: 80% of films of the 1920's, and 90% of films from the 1910's are gone. The loss is a tragic one. These orphan films paint a fascinating and varied picture of life in America in the 20th century: there are documentaries, newsreels, independent productions, glimpses of the daily life of immigrant communities and racial or ethnic minorities, and commercial works whose owners have abandoned or forgotten them.
"These films make up the majority of our film heritage, and they are literally disintegrating because it is too dangerous for archivists to take the risk that a copyright owner will suddenly appear and object to them being restored and made available to the public." said Professor Boyle. "We need to switch the system around so that we aren't locking up 98% of our cultural history, to benefit 2% of it. Make sure those who wish to maintain their copyrights are fully protected, but allow the rest of the material to enter the public domain."
The letter expressed support for new legislation to allow old movies to enter the public domain so they could be copied, preserved and made available to the world without the threat of liability. As described at http://eldred.cc, the proposal would require American copyright owners to pay a very low fee (for example, $1) fifty years after a copyrighted work was published. If the owner pays the fee, the copyright will continue for whatever duration Congress sets. If not, it would enter the public domain.
Australia's great broadband disaster - A decade behind
"Australia's target is so far down the world ranking it's just not true, and I'd say you were running a decade behind world leaders like Korea," Sutherland says. "So if your target is world-class mediocrity, then Australia seems to have made that target."
Australia's broadband crisis is the result of two decades of failed telecommunications policy.
The first step was the establishment of a dedicated company, Aussat, in 1980, to run the national satellite project. By the end of the 1980s, Aussat had launched two birds, was preparing for a third, and had run up nearly A$1 billion in debts.
The then Labor government, which had resisted the idea of allowing Aussat to compete more broadly with the incumbent, hit on the idea of privatizing Aussat and throwing in a set of licenses.
After an intense debate, it rejected the idea of turning the then international monopoly, OTC, into a competitor, and instead bundled it into the domestic monopoly to create Telstra. Aussat was sold to a consortium that included by Cable & Wireless and BellSouth and became Optus, the second carrier with exclusive fixed network rights for five years.
Thus was born the region's sole telecommunications duopoly, setting a platform for "convergence" - not of technologies, but of competition.
Ironically, the man responsible for ensuring the services and networks converged is the current Telstra chairman, Bob Mansfield who, in his capacity as Optus' first CEO, set the company on course in 1994 to build a "triple play" cable access infrastructure for TV, voice and data.
Optus' determination to built an HFC cable to 3 million of Australia's 6 million households galvanized into Telstra building a rival cable to 3.5 million homes.
One Telstra executive at the time routinely began presentations with the joke that, with two cables being built "either everyone in Australia is going to have access to a cable, or half of Australia will have access to two cables."
Naturally, it is the latter that has eventuated. But worse is that the dominant owner of the copper and trunk networks has been granted control of the largest HFC network and allowed to become the biggest player in pay TV.
The outcome today is an all-powerful carrier and a government squeezed in a mesh of dangerously conflicting interests. Policy-makers must balance between economic efficiency and community fairness, powerful farmer lobbies and consumers demanding low prices, as well as keep satisfied the millions of voters who own Telstra stock.
Just for good measure, they must also play off the tycoons Packer and Murdoch, who between them own the major TV network and newspaper chain; Telstra's intervention into pay TV also ensnares it in the contentious world of media policy.
But these are problems that neither Communications Minister Richard Alston nor Telstra has been willing to publicly confront.
Wi-Fi Spec Approved, Next Under Way
The cycle of increasing throughput in the wireless-networking industry continued Thursday as a standards-governing body approved a new specification and began work on another spec that promises to lead to even higher data-transmission speeds.
As expected, the Standards Board Review Committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) approved the 802.11g specification as a standard. Industry insiders saw the ratification as a rubber stamp because products using pre- standard 802.11g-based components are already in the market and the latest version of the spec was seen as stable.
The standard will now have to pass interoperability tests by the Wi-Fi Alliance in order to be deemed universally compatible in products from all the different chip and product manufacturers. Those tests have been underway for some time and the group is expected to announce certification in the coming months.
Certified interoperability and the establishment of a standard are significant to the wireless-networking industry because they ensure that consumers are likely to get a similar experience whenever they use an approved wireless-networking product. Some have credited standards and interoperability testing as a major factor in the success of the wireless-networking market.
"Standards encourage mass production of devices and chips, which helps to bring prices down," said Allen Nogee, an analyst with research firm In-Stat/MDR. "Proprietary technologies don't usually get that."
The 802.11g standard allows wireless networks to transmit data at 54 Mbps, uses the 2.4 GHz radio band and is meant to be compatible with equipment based on the earlier 802.11b wireless standard. Wi-Fi lets people wirelessly access and share resources on a network.
AOL Programmer Lays Waste to Employer
Steven M. Cherry
Creator of Gnutella releases new open-source peer-to-peer instant messaging program
12 June 2003–There are two things that Justin Frankel is really good at: biting the hand that feeds him and writing great software. He did both–again–recently, with the 29 May release of Waste, a peer-to-peer instant messaging program that works quite differently from the industry-leading software of his employer, media giant AOL Time Warner Inc. (New York City). More than half of all instant messages, over two billion per day, are made with AOL Instant Messenger. Though it has made no official pronouncements on the subject, AOL apparently saw a dangerous competitor in Waste and quickly ordered it removed from Frankel’s Web site, but not before it had escaped into the wild.
Frankel is the head of AOL’s Nullsoft software unit (San Francisco, Calif.), a separate company until it was purchased in 1999 for US $80 million in AOL stock. In so doing, AOL acquired Nullsoft’s Winamp software, which was the first popular program for playing MP3 music files. Winamp, and other software written by Frankel’s crew at Nullsoft, form the basis for AOL’s streaming music services.
Frankel is a serial hand-biter. On 14 March 2000, he released Gnutella, a file-sharing utility with some of the same features as Napster and some of its potential to undermine commercial on-line music services. AOL withdrew the software the same day, but the damage had been done. A link on the popular Slashdot site had quickly drawn thousands of readers–and downloaders–to the Nullsoft site. The Gnutella software is alive and well today, as one of the two main successors to Napster.
In September 2000, Frankel struck again, with a program called AIMazing, which brought features of the Winamp music utility into AOL’s industry-leading instant messaging software, AIM. Company executives liked the idea of improving AIM’s functionality, but were less enthusiastic about how Frankel did it—the new features used space on the user’s screen that had previously been reserved for advertising.
Waste differs from AOL Instant Messenger in the same way that Gnutella differed from Napster: it doesn’t use a central file server. A Gnutella network is really a network of networks, using an indeterminate number of servers located close to the user (in cyberspace distances), rather than a dedicated machine.
Waste combines this aspect of Gnutella with AIM’s messaging features, but there is a twist. Gnutella builds interlocking networks that span the Internet, while Waste networks are small– ideally 10–20 computers, with a practical limit of about 50. Also, unlike Gnutella or AIM, Waste incorporates publicly available encryption for security, making the software useful for corporate work groups. Indeed, it was used internally at AOL before the public release.
Contrary to many reports in the popular press, Waste is not the threat to commercial on-line music services that Gnutella is thought to be. While there are file-sharing elements to Waste, including the ability to swap music files, they are merely the same capabilities that AIM and other instant messaging programs have.
Waste is, on the other hand, a danger to AOL’s instant messaging service by being a peer-to- peer, and therefore uncontrollable, version of it. Waste users don’t need to log in to a centralized IM server such as AOL’s. Indeed, any two or more Waste users can start messaging one another or form a chat group without any server at all. The program uses a form of multicasting to broadcast each user’s identity and messages to all others in the network (and such multicasting imposes an upper bound on the size of the group since beyond a certain point, there would be too much network traffic).
According to Lucas Gonze, a New York City-based freelance software engineer who has looked at the Waste software code, the program threatens the main market advantage to AOL’s AIM program, its user base. According to one estimate, AOL has about 60 percent of the public IM market, with Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. roughly splitting the remainder. Noting that the different messaging services don’t interoperate with one another, Gonze says, "AOL's strategic leverage is that it has the largest base of users, and hence is the easiest way to reach somebody over instant messaging. Waste is scorched earth for AIM."
Time will tell whether that’s true. At the moment, tech-savvy users are merely playing with the software and fiddling with the code. But based on Frankel’s past successes, and AIM’s key role in differentiating AOL’s service from its competitors, his employer is probably right to be concerned.
Philips Unveils Mirror TV
Pricey combo device lets you watch TV, data, or yourself.
Is it a television, a PC monitor, or a mirror? Royal Philips Electronics hopes you'll ask that question of its new product by next year, and that you'll like the answer: It's all three.
Philips has announced its Mirror TV technology, and plans a small-scale roll-out to hotels late this year. The company hopes to get Mirror TVs into people's homes eventually, too, but that will take longer.
A Mirror TV is basically a two-way mirror with an LCD screen behind it. When the LCD is activated, you see the display. When it's turned off, you see your reflection. A special lamination developed by Philips makes all of this possible.
The LCDs will be wide-screen, with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a high 1280 by 768 resolution. Philips plans to offer the mirror/monitors in 17-, 23-, and 30-inch sizes.
But the mirrors themselves can be larger, with the image appearing as a window within an otherwise conventional mirror. Initially, at least, Philips will not market standard mirrors and frames, and will provide only special orders to match a hotel's particular decor.
Mirrors with 17-inch screens will sell for less than $2500, and those with 30-inch screens will probably be priced under $5500, says Gregg Chason, Philips vice president and general manager. But he cautions that it's hard to pin down prices just yet, and he notes that Philips will promote custom mirrors and frames with variable price tags.
For the expensive hotels that the vendor targets as its first customers, Philips is emphasizing the Mirror TV's good looks. Decor is important, as is space, which makes a wall-mounted display a good choice over a conventional television. Needless to say, a mirror hanging on the wall looks better than an LCD, and is more versatile.
Perhaps you'll be able to use your hotel room's Mirror TV to watch cable as well as to straighten your tie or apply makeup. But what else? The hotel could configure it to handle bill payment and other hotel services, or to allow you to plug your notebook into the mirror for easy-on-the-eyes e-mail retrieval, or to display room-filling presentations.
Eventually, of course, Philips hopes that the Mirror TV will enter less pricey hotels, and after that (though probably not until 2005) people's homes. Among the domestic uses that the company proposes are easy- to-view traffic reports, and cartoons that walk kids through proper care of teeth. When connected with other as-yet-unreleased technologies, a Mirror TV will let you start your day by checking your blood pressure and weight (a feature few may actually want).
That's all in the future. For now, Philips is preparing to do small-scale test runs with hotels in the fourth quarter. "Five samples here, six samples there," Chason says.
Until next week,
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|12-06-03, 11:32 PM||#3|
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Middle Earth
Congrats Jack, a wonderfully informative post. I especially liked the first subject ....but then I suppose I would Ay!