aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Colbert: For Your Editing Pleasure
In the latest ode to fan culture from Stephen, he learns that Rahm Emanuel has told freshmen Democratic congressmen not to appear on his show. His response? An interview with Gwen Ifill. An interview with Gwen Ifill made specifically for fans to remix.
Hey Nation! There may be ice cream all over my face, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the Rahm Emanuel remix footage you just saw on Stephen’s show! Check it out.
Plus if you have the kind of computer that lets you take a file apart like a piece of crumbcake and put it back together like a double-decker Klondike bar, and then eat it, download the footage here and here! And send your remixes here! It’s just like a mini mall!
I’m always heartened by Colbert’s embrace of fan culture; all the more so now that, in the face of the Viacom YouTube suit, his guest was EFF’s John Perry Barlow to discuss MoveOn.org’s Fair Use claim against Viacom.
The gesture was a good one; here’s the Barlow interview.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
If you can’t beat ‘em don’t join ‘em
Jonathan Lethem didn’t.
Lately I’ve become fitful about some of the typical ways art is commodified. Despite making my living (mostly) by licensing my own copyrights, I found myself questioning some of the particular ways such rights are transacted, and even some of the premises underlying what’s called intellectual property. I read a lot of Lawrence Lessig and Siva Vaidhyanathan, who convinced me that technological progress - and globalization - made this a particularly contemporary issue. I also read Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, which persuaded me, paradoxically, that these issues are eternal ones, deeply embedded in the impulse to make any kind of art in the first place. I came away with the sense that artists ought to engage these questions directly, rather than leaving it entirely for corporations (on one side) and public advocates (on the other) to hash out. I also realized that sometimes giving things away - things that are usually seen to have an important and intrinsic ‘value’, like a film option - already felt like a meaningful part of what I do. I wanted to do more of it.
Find out more about Jonathan. He discusses the give away on Morning Edition. He’s interviewed about it on Fresh Air. His Harper’s piece last month, The Ecstacy of Influence, fired up the copyfight set. He discusses it on Radio Open Source. And he did an opening talk at last year’s Comedies of Fair U$e conference.
Lessig on Viacom, copyright, Congress & the courts
Larry Lessig says that with the Grokster decision the courts took up the copyright cudgel and now lawyers everywhere “get two bites at the copyright policy-making apple, one in Congress and one in the courts.”
That’s bad news for we copyleft copyfighters because it’s easier for content companies to get the votes they need in the latter, where there are far fewer needed (in Congress they need hundreds, in the courts just five):
Long ago, Justice Hugo Black argued that it was not up to the Supreme Court to keep the Constitution “in tune with the times.” And it is here that the cupidity of the court begins to matter. For by setting the precedent that the court is as entitled to keep the Copyright Act “in tune with the times” as Congress, it has created an incentive for companies like Viacom, no longer satisfied with a statute, to turn to the courts to get the law updated. Congress, of course, is perfectly capable of changing or removing the safe harbor provision to meet Viacom’s liking. But Viacom recognizes there’s no political support for the change it wants. It thus turns to a policy maker that doesn’t need political support - the Supreme Court.
The conservatives on the Supreme Court have long warned about just this dynamic. And while I remain a skeptic about deferring to Congress on constitutional matters, this case is a powerful lesson about the costs of judicial policy making in an area as complex as copyright. The Internet will now face years of uncertainty before this fundamental question about the meaning of a decade-old legislative deal gets resolved.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Mark Twain demystifies the authorial ideal
When, at the age of 12, Helen Keller was accused of plagiarism, Michael Anagnos of the Perkins Institution in Boston convened a nine-member jury that acquitted her of the charge by a single vote. His. He later turned on her calling her “a living lie.” Keller would remain defensive about plagiarism ever after.
I must steal half a moment from my work to say how glad I am to have your book and how highly I value it, both for its own sake and as a remembrance of an affectionate friendship which has subsisted between us for nine years without a break and without a single act of violence that I can call to mind. I suppose there is nothing like it in heaven; and not likely to be, until we get there and show off. I often think of it with longing, and how they’ll say, “there they come--sit down in front.” I am practicing with a tin halo. You do the same. I was at Henry Roger’s last night, and of course we talked of you. He is not at all well--you will not like to hear that; but like you and me, he is just as lovely as ever.
I am charmed with your book--enchanted. You are a wonderful creature, the most wonderful in the world--you and your other half together--Miss Sullivan, I mean, for it took the pair of you to make complete and perfect whole. How she stands out in her letters! her brilliancy, penetration, originality, wisdom, character, and the fine literary competencies of her pen--they are all there.
Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “plagiarism” farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul--let us go farther and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances in plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second hand, consciously or unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them any where except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.
When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten thousand men--but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington’s battle, in some degree, and we call it his but there were others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone, or any other important thing--and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite--that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.
Then why don’t we unwittingly reproduce the phrasing of a story, as well as the story itself? It can hardly happen--to the extent of fifty words--except in the case of a child; its memory tablet is not lumbered with impressions, and the natural language can have graving room there and preserve the language a year or two, but a grown person’s memory tablet is a palimpsest, with hardly a bare space upon which to engrave a phrase. It must be a very rare thing that a whole page gets so sharply printed on a man’s mind, by a single reading, that it will stay long enough to turn up some time or other to be mistaken by him for his own.
No doubt we are constantly littering our literature with disconnected sentences borrowed from books at some unremembered time and how imagined to be our own, but that is about the most we can do. In 1866 I read Dr. Holmes’s poems, in the Sandwich Islands. A year and a half later I stole his dedication, without knowing it, and used it to dedicate my “Innocents Abroad” with. Ten years afterward I was talking with Dr. Holmes about it. He was not an ignorant ass--no, not he; he was not a collection of decayed human turnips, like your “Plagiarism Court,” and so when I said, “I know now where I stole it, but who did you steal it from,” he said, “I don’t remember; I only know I stole it from somebody, because I have never originated anything altogether myself, nor met anyone who had!”
To think of those solemn donkeys breaking a little child’s heart with their ignorant rubbish about plagiarism! I couldn’t sleep for blaspheming about it last night. Why, their whole histories, their whole lives, all their learning, all their thoughts, all their opinions were one solid rock of plagiarism, and they didn’t know it and never suspected it. A gang of dull and hoary pirates piously setting themselves the task of disciplining and purifying a kitten that they think they’ve caught filching a chop! Oh, dam--
But you finish it, dear, I am running short of vocabulary today.
Every lovingly your friend (sic)
Mark Twain had complex and contradictory views on creativity and copyright. For much more here’s the Mark Twain and the History of Literary Copyright chapter from Siva’s Copyrights and Copywrongs (pdf).
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I realize that the $1bn lawsuit that Viacom filed against Google and YouTube today is all about negotiating leverage.
But I for one hope that this suit doesn’t settle.
I want to see Viacom prove the ‘massive and intentional copyright violations’ accusations in front of a jury of reasonable people.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Battlestar Galactica invites fan remix
Once again, the wisdom of the citizens of the colonies outweighs that of the colonial fleet. And if that’s too geeky for you, too bad. The rest of us will have fun with the Battlestar Galactica Videomaker Toolkit. You can download a bunch of video and audio files from the show, mash ‘em up with your own stuff, and re-upload them if you want. Can’t wait to see the results. Empowered Sci-Fi fans? I’m guessing they’ll be kinda creative, yeah. Lesson for locals: Give your viewers this kind of simple access and see what sort of videos they’ll make about your community.
One of the fan videos will be broadcast during an upcoming episode. Videos can be no longer than four minutes and are not to be posted on other video sites.
UPDATE: Steve continues, ”UPON FURTHER REFLECTION: I don’t like that I couldn’t, say use this stuff to do a promo for LR [Lost Remote] and then embed it on LR. I couldn’t upload a finished video to YouTube (or SciFi) and then embed it on my site? A missed opportunity for further marketing. If we’re going to do all that work, let us showcase it on our sites. Doing the work and then not being able to share the results? Frakked. (via Brand Flakes for Breakfast.)”
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
C-SPAN’s muscle means it’s time we build our own
Much as I like C-SPAN, I remember its roots.
I sold cable door to door in the early 1970s, or rather, cable sold itself. A region would come online and 6 out of 10 people would sign up, no questions asked. Cable franchising was in high gear and the public was ready for the broadcast monopoly to end. Commercial broadcasters, no dummies they, saw the cable industry as unwanted competition. They successfully used the threat that the rise of cable would mean an end to “free” TV to pressure Congress into supporting a block to further cable development through a freeze on new franchising activity.
The cable industry fought back. Among the arrows pulled from its quiver, along with the ever-popular “consumer choice” and “number of channels,” was the industry’s ability to produce programming and then show it on cable-only channels. In those days before broadcasters bought up and started multiplying cable networks (and before they were themselves, in turn, bought up) cable television had excess bandwidth. A cable-industry financed, non-profit public affairs programming network for televising sessions of the U.S. Congress was Brian Lamb’s stroke of genius.
C-SPAN launched in 1979 with an Al Gore speech. It receives no funding from any government source, has no contract with the government, and does not sell sponsorships or advertising. It strives for neutrality and a lack of bias in its public affairs programming. Still, I see it as born of - and in inherent service to - the cable industry’s congressional lobbying campaign. As cable and broadcasters fought on, cable would give in to city franchising authority pie-in-the-sky demands. Then once its monopoly was secured, successfully complain about how unreasonable those franchise provisions were.
But that’s another story. I’m telling the C-SPAN story today because of the recent Nancy Pelosi flap:
House Republicans recently complained in a press release that Nancy Pelosi was infringing on copyrights by posting video material from C-Span on The Gavel, the Speaker of the House’s web site. Turns out that all but one of the clips was actually public domain footage, and the release was retracted. But as a New York Times article points out, this raises further questions about C-Span’s role as a private company that purports to serve the public.
Ah, the tables have turned. C-SPAN has built up some muscle it now can flex:
“What I think a lot of people don’t understand - C-Span is a business, just like CNN is,” [C-SPAN corporate vice president and general counsel Bruce] Collins said. “If we don’t have a revenue stream, we wouldn’t have six crews ready to cover Congressional hearings.”
Without use of C-Span’s material, members of Congress will have to rely on government cameras to get their message out.
Of course, it was government cameras that enabled C-SPAN to build up its muscle. If now those cameras have atrophied, it’s time to build them up again and bring them back. Cory at Boing Boing::
The U.S. Congress provides webcasts for many of their hearings. In all cases, the hearings are streaming only, in many cases they are “live only” (no archive of the stream). In some cases, the committees even put a “copyright, all rights reserved” notice on the hearings!
This is really dumb. So, I’ve started ripping all congressional streams starting with the house and posting them in a nonproprietary format for download, tagging, review, and annotation at Google Video and another copy at the Internet Archive (just to prove this is a nondenominational issue .
This is a Tom Sawyer hack, a la “painting this fence is *loads* of fun!” I intend to prove to the Congressional webmasters that it is so much fun doing their web sites for them that they’ll want to do it themselves so that I go away. Until then, look for “Carl Malamud on behalf of the U.S. Congress” for official news.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Cory doubt Jobs’ sincerity
Cory Doctorow argues in Salon that DRM’s principal effect is legal, not technical. And he questions Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ offer to embrace a DRM-free music-sales environment:
Jobs’ DRM stance has historically been all over the map. He’s defended and decried DRM and consumer rights depending on which way the wind blows, and the spirit moves him. There was the “Rip, Mix, Burn” campaign, when Apple celebrated the idea that you could take DRM-free music off of CDs and load it onto your iPod (if you want to do the same thing with a DRM’ed DVD, you’re an outlaw). Back in 2002, he went on the record with this gem: “If you legally acquire music, you need to have the right to manage it on all other devices that you own.”
But later, an Apple attorney told a tech conference that Apple would keep its DRM even if the labels asked to have it removed. And when Real announced that it had put a Real DRM player on Apple’s iPod so that you could listen to its DRM music on Apple’s player, Apple responded with legal threats.
Actions speak louder than words. Artists have asked—begged—Apple to sell their music without DRM for years. From individual bestselling acts like Barenaked Ladies to entire labels of copy-friendly music like Magnatune, innumerable copyright holders have asked Apple to sell their work as open MP3s instead of DRM-locked AACs. Apple has always maintained that it’s DRM or nothing. These artists believe that the answer to selling more music is cooperating with fans, not treating them as presumptive pirates and locking down their music. [...]
[I]t’s easy for Jobs to aver that he will drop DRM if the labels let him. As Princeton’s Ed Felten points out, Jobs says the labels call the shots on DRM and forced him to add DRM to iTunes Music. So it’s hardly brave defiance to swear to take it off when the labels tell him to. As Felten puts it, “Apple is like the kid who says he is willing to go to the dentist, because he knows that no matter what he says he’s going to see the dentist whenever his parents want him to.”
Saturday, February 17, 2007
MPAA rips off freeware author
The author of ForestBlog, a blogging tool, has discovered that the MPAA was using his code in violation of his license. He gives the code away for free, but requires that users link back to his site and keep his name on the software. The MPAA deleted all credits and copyright notices from his work, and used it without permission. They ripped him off:
Way back in October last year whilst going through the website referals list for another of my sites I stumbled across this link. That’s right, my blogging software is being used by the MPAA (Motion picture Association of America); probably one of the most hated organisations known to the internet. Cool, I thought, until I had a look around and saw that all of the back links to my main site had been removed with nary a mention in the source code!
Now, as Patrick Robin (the software author) notes, this probably wasn’t the outcome of a high-level board meeting wherein the executive committee decided to rip him off. It was more likely the work of a lazy Web person at the MPAA who was cutting corners at work.
But the MPAA believes that employers should be held responsible for employees’ copyright infringements. They want you to know that if you download movies at work, your employer will also be named in the suit. Infringe as we say, not as we do.
This reminds me of Warner Music chief Edgar Bronfman, Jr’s admission that his kids downloaded infringing music. He shrugged it off, saying that he’d dealt with the matter privately. Other parents are not so lucky: when their kids get caught downloading music, the RIAA sues them for every penny, through a thuggish boiler-room operation. READ ON
Thursday, February 15, 2007
DJ Drama Mixtapes in the Times Magazine this weekend
Samantha Shapiro was with DJ Drama and Don Cannon the week before Atlanta police - and RIAA agents - busted them in a dramatic raid. Her story will appear in this weekend’s NYTimes Magazine. A sampling:
Late in the afternoon of Jan. 16, a SWAT team from the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, backed up by officers from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office and the local police department, along with a few drug-sniffing dogs, burst into a unmarked recording studio on a short, quiet street in an industrial neighborhood near the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The officers entered with their guns drawn; the local police chief said later that they were “prepared for the worst.” They had come to serve a warrant for the arrest of the studio’s owners on the grounds that they had violated the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, or RICO, a charge often used to lock up people who make a business of selling drugs or breaking people’s arms to extort money. The officers confiscated recording equipment, cars, computers and bank statements along with more than 25,000 music CDs. Two of the three owners of the studio, Tyree Simmons, who is 28, and Donald Cannon, who is 27, were arrested and held overnight in the Fulton County jail. Eight employees, mostly interns from local colleges, were briefly detained as well. [...]
But Drama and Cannon’s studio was not a bootlegging plant; it was a place where successful new hip-hop CDs were regularly produced and distributed. Drama and Cannon are part of a well-regarded D.J. collective called the Aphilliates. Although their business almost certainly violated federal copyright law, as well as a Georgia state law that requires CDs to be labeled with the name and address of the producers, they were not simply stealing from the major labels; they were part of an alternative distribution system that the mainstream record industry uses to promote and market hip-hop artists. Drama and Cannon have in recent years been paid by the same companies that paid Kilgo to help arrest them.
Mixtapes fill a void left by the consolidation of record labels and radio stations. In the mid-1990s, sales of independent hip-hop albums exceeded those from major releases. But those smaller independent labels were bought out by major labels, and in the late ‘90s, the last major independent distributor collapsed. This left few routes for unknown hip-hop artists to enter the market; it also made the stakes higher for major labels, which wanted a better return on their investment. As Jeff Chang, author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” a history of hip-hop, told me recently, “The whole industry shifted to massive economies of scale, and mixtapes are a natural outgrowth and response to that.”
Mixtape D.J.’s came to be seen as the first tier of promotions for hip-hop artists, a stepping stone to radio play. Labels began aiding and abetting mixtape D.J.’s, sending them separate digital tracks of vocals and beats from songs so they could be easily remixed. They also started sending copies of an artist’s mixtape out to journalists and reviewers along with the official label release. DJ Chuck T, a mixtape D.J. in South Carolina, told me that when label employees send him tracks to include on his mixtapes, they request a copy of the mixtape so that they can show their bosses the track is “getting spin from the street.” He also said record-label promoters want sales figures for his mixtapes so they can chart sales patterns, which they use in marketing their own releases.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Russian school principal to Siberia over unlicensed Windows
Yesterday in the NYTimes:
Microsoft rebuffed a public appeal by Mikhail Gorbachev on Monday for its chairman, Bill Gates, to intervene on behalf of a Russian school principal charged with software piracy.
The case of the teacher, Aleksandr Ponosov, has drawn wide public attention in Russia, in part because the principal says he innocently purchased computers with the unauthorized Windows software already installed.
Mr. Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said Mr. Ponosov, a school principal in a village in the Urals, risked imprisonment in a Siberian camp for using unlicensed Windows software that he said was preinstalled on the computers.
John Pallatto today in an eWeek opinion piece on what Gates should do:
Microsoft’s attitude in this case is strange and perplexing. Presumably the company is so happy that Russian prosecutors are doing anything to combat software piracy that it won’t dare to express regret that a confused middle school principal is going to prison for buying PCs loaded with bogus software.
If investigators took a close look at the PC distribution network in Russia, especially in the country’s vast hinterlands, they would likely discover that consumers like Ponosov would be hard pressed to find any new computers that were loaded with certified genuine Microsoft software. In fact that they would probably have a hard time even determining whether the software loaded on their newly-purchased hardware was bona fide.
So what should Microsoft do about this? It would help if it was willing to take another look at this pathetic case and see if there is a way to give the poor principal a break… this case might actually prove to be a business and philanthropic opportunity for Gates and his charitable foundation. There might be a way for Microsoft as well as other software and hardware vendors to work with the Russian government and the private sector to see what needs to be done to build modern distribution channels throughout the country. This might actually increase the chances that consumers will be able to buy new computers that contain properly licensed software.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation might find its way clear to donate PCs to some of those remote Russian school districts. This would help educate kids about the amazing things computers can do and train a rising generation of more affluent Russians who would be in a better position to afford genuine Microsoft products.
Jobs to record labels: abolish DRM
When I first read it I just didn’t believe it. I thought, too, that Jobs last position on DRM was that Apple would have DRM even if the record companies didn’t want it. But today it’s all over the web, and here, from his Thoughts on Music statement:
...Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music…
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Princeton joins Google Book Search
The University Library and Google have agreed on a six-year contract to make the full text of about one million books from the library available online through Google Book Search.
The partnership, which has been in development for about 18 months, is led by University Librarian Karin Trainer, Deputy University Librarian Marvin Bielawski and University Provost Christopher Eisgruber ‘83. Google has agreed to scan only books from the Princeton collection that are no longer under copyright. [...]
Princeton is the 12th library to open its collection to Google. The libraries of Stanford and the University of Michigan, the alma maters of the company’s two founders, are already being scanned for Google Book Search. Google CEO Eric Schmidt ‘76 is a member of the University Board of Trustees.
Book digitization at Princeton will take place over the next six years.
Anil Dash - a lifelong fan - says Prince is hot. And has some geek appeal because:
- Prince has distributed much of his own music independently since 1994, and his major label deals since then have largely been promotion-and-distribution deals where he retained ownership of his master recordings.
- Prince is the first artist not signed to a major label to perform during the Superbowl halftime show, not counting accessory marching bands and child choirs.
- He’s had a continuous presence on the web since 1995, and last year won a Webby for his work online
- There are a number of really great prince fansites like prince.org, though Prince’s control freak tendencies have resulted in a lot of stupid legal threats towards them
- Prince distributed an online-only album back in 1997 with the liner notes available as a website
- Prince published an interactive CD-ROM in 1994, and it didn’t totally suck
- He has distributed several albums’ worth of material exclusively online through his own music label (though much of it was DRMed) as well as a number of videos and some really bad poetry
- Prince’s webmaster maintained a now-defunct blog, largely ghostwritten by Prince, starting back in 2000.
- Prince and some of his studio staff used to actually join in on AOL chat room discussions with fans as late as 1995, talking about recording work in progress
- His current official site, 3121, should have a song available for download today
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Shiver me timbers
Liz Losh points us to an eighth grade civics test from 1954 (which just happens to be the year I was born). She highlights the correct answer to question number ninety-seven and wonders, “Wouldn’t it be better if we were teaching our kids about this stuff, instead of hectoring them about file-sharing?”
It sure would.
Friday, February 02, 2007
100,000 clips pulled from YouTube - should we counter-sue?
“After months of ongoing discussions with YouTube and Google, it has become clear that YouTube is unwilling to come to a fair market agreement that would make Viacom content available to YouTube users,” Viacom said in a statement. “Filtering tools promised repeatedly by YouTube and Google have not been put in place, and they continue to host and stream vast amounts of unauthorized video.
“YouTube and Google retain all of the revenue generated from this practice, without extending fair compensation to the people who have expended all of the effort and cost to create it,” the statement continued. “The recent addition of YouTube-served content to Google Video Search simply compounds this issue.”
YouTube has subsequently agreed to remove more than 100,000 video clips produced by Viacom properties, including MTV Networks, Comedy Central, BET and VH-1, according to a YouTube statement.
“It’s unfortunate that Viacom will no longer be able to benefit from YouTube’s passionate audience, which has helped to promote many of Viacom’s shows. We have received a DMCA takedown request from Viacom, and we will comply with their request,” said YouTube’s statement.
It’s all a negotiating tactic. Does anyone really believe they will give up all that promotion? But here’s where it gets interesting: how is Viacom finding the clips they want pulled?
It looks like what Viacom has done to YouTube is simply search everyViacom trademarked and copyrighted term against every Tube name, and then asked YouTube to pull down the videos, under the terms of the onerous and notorious DMCA. YouTube has now pulled the videos. Unfortunately, I suspect that tens of thousands of these videos are completely legitimate.
That’s Jim at OPML, The Harvard Book of. He suspects that because one of his videos got pulled:
I just recieved a notice that a video of mine has been removed from YouTube because of a complaint by Viacom. The video, for the record, is a short home clip, about 30 seconds, of me and several friends having dinner in a ribs place in Somerville. That this is the case should not be confusing to Viacom, given that the video is titled:
Sunday nite dinner at Redbones in Somerville, Mass:
Jim wants to do something about it. And he’s got friends:
I support YouTube in sending this on to me and taking down the video. What else are they to do? Of course, now they have set up a situation where I perhaps have legal standing to go after Viacom. Of course I can’t afford to do this alone--but perhaps now I am part of a “class”--as in “class action law suit?” Anyone else interested. This blog, by the way, is hosted at Harvard Law School Berkman Center for Internet & Society, so we should be able to get some local talent to help out.
Here is the email he got from YouTube.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Google Book Search concerns
There is this concern:
A federal court in New York is considering two challenges to the project, one brought by several writers and the Authors Guild, the other by a group of publishers, who are also, curiously, partners in Google Book Search. Both sets of plaintiffs claim that the library component of the project violates copyright law. Like most federal lawsuits, these cases appear likely to be settled before they go to trial, and the terms of any such deal will shape the future of digital books. Google, in an effort to put the lawsuits behind it, may agree to pay the plaintiffs more than a court would require; but, by doing so, the company would discourage potential competitors. To put it another way, being taken to court and charged with copyright infringement on a large scale might be the best thing that ever happens to Google’s foray into the printed word.
Emphasis mine. The Google VP heading the project said, “The suits that have been filed are a business negotiation that happens to be going on in the courts… We think of it as a business negotiation that has a large legal-system component to it.”
Not very comforting:
Google’s advantage may well be cemented if the company settles its lawsuits with the publishers and authors. “If Google says to the publishers, ‘We’ll pay,’ that means that everyone else who wants to get into this business will have to say, ‘We’ll pay,’ “ Lessig said. “The publishers will get more than the law entitles them to, because Google needs to get this case behind it. And the settlement will create a huge barrier for any new entrants in this field.”
In other words, a settlement could insulate Google from competitors, which would be especially troubling, because the company has already proved that when it comes to searches it is not infallible. “Google didn’t get video search right-YouTube did,” Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, said. (Google solved that problem by buying YouTube last year for $1.6 billion.) “Google didn’t get blog search right-technorati.com did,” Wu went on. “So maybe Google won’t get book search right. But if they settle the case with the publishers and create huge barriers to newcomers in the market there won’t be any competition. That’s the greatest danger here.”
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The sunk costs fallacy
When one makes a hopeless investment, one sometimes reasons: I canÃ‚’t stop now, otherwise what IÃ‚’ve invested so far will be lost. This is true, of course, but irrelevant to whether one should continue to invest in the project. Everything one has invested is lost regardless. If there is no hope for success in the future from the investment, then the fact that one has already lost a bundle should lead one to the conclusion that the rational thing to do is to withdraw from the project.
To continue to invest in a hopeless project is irrational. Such behavior may be a pathetic attempt to delay having to face the consequences of one’s poor judgment… For example, it is now known that Lyndon Johnson kept committing thousands and thousands of U.S. soldiers to Vietnam after he had determined that the cause was hopeless and that the U.S. would not win the war (McMaster 1998: 309). George W. Bush continues to argue that thousands more soldiers and billions more dollars be committed to the war on Iraq, despite the fact that the majority of his generals, his senators and congressmen, and the American public do not think the U.S. should invest any more in that war.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The record labels imagine allowing unlimited copying
CANNES, France, Jan. 22 - As even digital music revenue growth falters because of rampant file-sharing by consumers, the major record labels are moving closer to releasing music on the Internet with no copying restrictions - a step they once vowed never to take.
Executives of several technology companies meeting here at Midem, the annual global trade fair for the music industry, said over the weekend that at least one of the four major record companies could move toward the sale of unrestricted digital files in the MP3 format within months.
Is “no restrictions on copying” the same as no DRM? Close enough I guess. Way to go Derek, you called it!
9th Circuit: copyright orphans stay orphans
In a move that’s a blow to the U.S. movement to reform copyright law, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Internet Archive’s Brewster Kahle, in his lawsuit to allow orphaned works into the public domain.
What’s a copyright orphan?
An orphaned work is a piece of copyrighted material, such as a film or book or song, for which there is no longer a commercial life, and no discernible owner. It’s otherwise out of print or unavailable, but no one can re-issue it, because no one can find out who they need permission from to re-issue it. Surprisingly, a majority of the works of the 20th century actually fall into this category.
Back in 2004, Kahle and Perlinger sought the help of the Stanford Cyberlaw Center to sue for an opt-in system on copyright of orphaned works. This would mean that to keep the work in copyright, someone would have to come forward and claim it through registration of some sort. Larry Lessig argued the case last November 13, 2006.
They believed that there was a First Amendment issue with works that sought to build on orphan works and that without the formality of opt-in, and that the system was creating a de-facto in perpetuity or near enough as make no odds perpetuity that violated the constitution’s clause on copyright, which states it’s there to:
"To promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."
9th Circuit said no dice on either argument.
Monday, January 22, 2007
2007: the year music DRM begins to fade
Derek’s a whole lot more optimistic than me, but who knows? We can only hope:
First it was Yahoo!’s Dave Goldberg, now Real’s Rob Glaser has called for an end to DRM on music downloads. At the Midem conference, Glaser reportedly stated that he is “seeing some signs the industry is open to … giving consumers a way to purchase music with the flexibility that you can only get if you take the DRM off…. For purchases, move away from DRM” (emphasis added). What common sense — when you buy music, you own it and should be able to make personal use of it however you want.
More from the Times on mixtapes
Mixtapes and the DJ Drama raid in the Business Section of today’s Times:
last week, local authorities, working with the recording industry’s trade association, stunned fans and music executives alike by raiding DJ Drama’s studio in Atlanta and arresting him and a fellow D.J., Don Cannon, on racketeering charges. Investigators seized more than 81,000 allegedly pirated CDs and say the pair were producing unlicensed recordings and selling them without permission.
The raid sparked an outcry among many rap fans. But it also threatens to throw into public view the recording industry’s awkward relationship with mixtapes, long an integral element of rap culture and now commonly for sale on street corners, Web sites, many independent record shops and occasionally big chains.
Even as industry-financed antipiracy squads hunt for unauthorized recordings, senior executives at the major record labels privately say that they have courted - and often paid - top D.J.’s to create and distribute mixtapes featuring the labels’ rappers as part of efforts to generate buzz.
Label executives remained puzzled over the sudden arrest of DJ Drama, whose ascent through the unregulated world of compilations has largely taken place in plain sight during the last couple of years. There has been speculation that the police inquiry into his business affairs was further spurred by tips from a competitor or unhappy customer. Chief Baker of the Morrow police declined to comment on the participation of any informants.
I’m not into Rap, I don’t buy mixtapes. I did frequent clubs and know and buy them way back when:
Mixtapes have been part of rap since the genre’s earliest days in the 1970s - back then, D.J.’s who spun records at clubs or parties committed their playlists to cassettes. But the proliferation of CD burners in the last several years has made the production and wide circulation - or sale - of mixtapes easier than ever.
It has also enhanced their role in tastemaking. Particularly since formerly underground mixtape hero 50 Cent broke out as a mainstream rap superstar in 2003, the top producers of unlicensed CDs have been embraced by the industry’s biggest corporations, who wager that the D.J.’s reputations as renegades will translate into the sale of legitimate, licensed compilations, too.
The story reports that hip hop sales were down 20% last year. How the business types can think arresting DJs will help sales is beyond me.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
500 copies & the enemy is obscurity
Chris Anderson informed an audience of several hundred publishers that the average book sells 500 copies per year, “a depressing statistic” that places over a third of books squarely in the long tail.
“If [authors] are writing books to be read, how can we maximize that?,” he asked. “De-stigmatize the mid-list, de-stigmatize the long tail—999 readers is success! If you can turn that into 2,000, that’s doubling your success. Those tools typically do not require big marketing budgets from publishers. Yet if you’re expecting publishers to do it, you’ll probably be disappointed. The solution is for you [the author] to do it.” [...]
Cory Doctorow and Seth Godin have been giving their books away online for free for several years now, in some cases before the title appears in print. Doctorow, a vocal opponent of restrictive copyright protection, goaded the audience. Alluding to the file sharing endemic in music, film, and video, he asked, “Why don’t people care enough about literature to steal it? I think that’s genuinely alarming. It’s because books are Web-invisible. The Web is all about serendipity. When you’re on the Web searching for food, you should find books about food. Book search should work like Web searchÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Free e-books make commercial sense.”
“The enemy is not piracy. The enemy is obscurity. If books are invisible, that’s a really good recipe for not getting stolen from—but not for selling. The Web is the greatest distributor for the frictionless sale of books in history,” chimed in Godin.
Friday, January 19, 2007
The RIAA’s seeing red
soulxtc at Zeropaid has been reading the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s 2007 Digital Music Report. Look at what he found:
...actions against individual uploaders are onerous and expensive and we shouldn’t have to be taking them. That job should not be ours - it should be done by the gatekeepers of the web, the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who unquestionably have the technical means to deal with copyright infringement, if only they would take responsibility for doing so.
At one time you were considered a new media philistine if you wanted to regulate the internet. But then Google promised the Chinese government that censorship was possible. Then Google blacklisted BMW in the internet world for anti-social behaviour. It seems policing is acceptable for all sorts of things but not intellectual property!
With cooperation from ISPs, we could make huge strides in tackling content piracy globally. Disconnection of service for serious infringers should become the speeding fine or the parking ticket of ISP networks. We need government help to make it clear that ISPs must face up to their responsibilities and cut off copyright infringing users. To be fair, at the end of 2006 the UK government signalled that it may be prepared to play a facilitating role in this and set a deadline of December 2007 for tangible progress.
Emphasis mine. Comments soulxtc:
I wonder how they will go about selling that one to the public.
Even further, it wants to invade our privacy as customers of a service by having our own ISPs keep an eye us. A corporate interest wants the privacy protections of individuals undone on a global scale merely because their business model is at stake. Rather than change their own distorted and antiquated method of doing business they’d rather have people give up their personal rights and freedoms. It’s no wonder they cite a page from China’s playbook to try and justify this action. Is it really incumbent upon the consumer to give up their right to privacy everytime a business cries foul?
Via Boing Boing.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
DJ Drama bust in the Times
The Times says yet another symbol of the music industry’s turmoil and confusion:
As of yesterday DJ Drama was sitting in jail, but dozens of his unlicensed compilations were still available at the iTunes shop.
Brad A. Buckles, executive vice president for anti-piracy at the Recording Industry Association of America, said, “A sound recording is either copyrighted or it’s not.” And he said the DJ Drama case, like most piracy cases, began with illegal product, which was then traced back to the distributor. Chief Baker said that before the raid, DJ Drama and Mr. Cannon were sent cease-and-desist letters from a local lawyer.
There have been mixtape busts before: in 2005, five employees of Mondo Kim’s, in the East Village in New York, were jailed after the store was found to be selling unlicensed mixtapes. But the arrest of a figure as prominent as DJ Drama is unprecedented. Record companies usually portray the fight against piracy as a fight for artists’ rights, but this case complicates that argument: most of DJ Drama’s mixtapes begin with enthusiastic endorsements from the artists themselves.
It also seems clear that mixtapes can actually bolster an artist’s sales. The most recent Lil Wayne solo album, “Tha Carter II” (Cash Money/Universal), sold more than a million copies, though none of its singles climbed any higher than No. 32 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. That’s an impressive feat, and it’s hard to imagine how he would have done it without help from a friendly pirate.
The RIAA has been locking up fans for years, now they’re locking up promotes too.