Tuesday, February 24, 2004

New EFF Whitepaper on Filesharing: Voluntary Collective Licensing
EFF just published a new whitepaper recommending voluntary collective licensing as a solution to the filesharing issue; they recommend a flat $5 a month fee with money distributed to aritsts in a way somewhat similar to what ASCAP, etc. does with radio. The paper is clear, cogent, and convincing (to me, anyway). I doubt that the RIAA will listen, but maybe someone will.

The concept is simple: the music industry forms a collecting society, which then offers file-sharing music fans the opportunity to "get legit" in exchange for a reasonable regular payment, say $5 per month. So long as they pay, the fans are free to keep doing what they are going to do anyway -- share the music they love using whatever software they like on whatever computer platform they prefer -- without fear of lawsuits. The money collected gets divided among rights-holders based on the popularity of their music.

In exchange, file-sharing music fans will be free to download whatever they like, using whatever software works best for them. The more people share, the more money goes to rights-holders. The more competition in applications, the more rapid the innovation and improvement. The more freedom to fans to publish what they care about, the deeper the catalog.

EFF: A Better Way Forward: Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing (via Derek Slater )

Friday, February 20, 2004

Stephenson, Foucault, Quicksilver and Geneaology

Timothy Burke has an interesting entry looking at Neal Stephenson's latest book Quicksilver as an exemplar of Focauldian Genealogy. I'm not quite as inclined against pomo as Burke is nor was I quite as thrilled with Quicksilver as he seems to be, but I find his read of the book to be rather compelling.

I've had mixed feelings about Quicksilver. Stephenson is one of my very favorite authors, so to say that it's not my favorite of his books is not exactly strong criticism. Previously, though, I'd rank his books (in terms of my preference) in ascending chronological order (Big U being definitely the worst and Cryptonomicon definitely my favorite-- Snowcrash and Diamond Age I waffle on which I prefer; both I like quite a bit). So, the fact that Quicksilver didn't continue this trend was disappointing, but not necessarily the fairest criterion for judging the book overall.

There were many parts of the book that I loved, certainly some of Stephenson's trademark humor was still there (though less effective for me than in some previous books) and some of his wild digressions and rambling historical excursions were wonderful. But I just completely bogged down in the book, taking forever to read it-- (yes, it's long, but that hasn't been a problem in the past).

While I'm not one to necessarily demand overly plot-dominated writing, I did want something more active to guide me through the random adventures of the three protagonists. I'm sure they will all connect up more in the longrun-- but we may have to wait through 2 more books for it to tie together. Perhaps I'm just not patient enough. Like so many other novels I've read recently it's not a complete book-- it ends abrubtly with the other two parts due to be published quite soon. I'm not sure that I'll get them in hardcover, however. (6 months ago I wouldn't have believed that Stephenson could possibly drop from my automatically get in hardcover immediately list).

Oh, I guess I'm in a rambly mood right now. This is all just to say that Burke's blog entry has made me think some more about the book and helped me to appreciate it more-- a mark of good criticism.

Quicksilver and Foucault (via Crooked Timber)

Monday, February 16, 2004

"Protecting" the deaf from evil TV

Apparently, the Dept. of Education (or rather, a secret, anonymous committee within) has slashed funding to television closed-captioning, specifically targetting "inappropriate" shows. The choice of shows being targetted is absurd (worries about the witchcraft references on Bewitched, for example); more absurd than the specific, odd choices, though, is the underlying paternalism of the whole project.

"The government is refusing to caption Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, apparently fearing that the deaf would fall prey to witchcraft if they viewed the classic sitcoms.
Your government also believes that Law & Order is too intense for the hard-of-hearing. So is Power Rangers. You can rest easy knowing that your federal tax dollars aren't being spent to promote Sanford and Son, Judge Wapner's Animal Court and The Loretta Young Show within the deaf community. "

Censor 'Scooby-Doo'? Words fail (via boingboing)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Media Integration/Consolidation Cable giant Comcast is in the process of trying to purchase Disney (which brings along with it ABC, Lifetime, ESPN, Touchstone, Miramax, etc.). It's not clear whether or not Disney will accept the offer (though my guess is that ultimately they will). So, the mega-media companies continue getting fewer and bigger. Nothing surprising here, of course, but its predictability makes it no less worrisome.

Meanwhile regulatory fervor is all getting aimed at this indecency/obscenity issue. I find the ever-narrowing mediascape and ever-expanding vertical and horizontal integration far more indecent than Janet Jackson's breast, personally. Comcast Makes $66-Billion Bid for Disney

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Fan fiction
Henry Jenkins has a nice column in the latest Technology Review on fan fiction, kids, and participatory media cultures-- specifically looking at Harry Potter fan fiction and the positive role it's playing in developing some kids' writing skills and literacy. Jenkins's separate writings on kids' media cultures and on fandoms are important and helpful, so having them combined here is especially nice. It's worth checking out. Why Heather Can Write (via boingboing