Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Oh Canada!
The Canadian courts dealt quite a blow today to CRIA's (Canada's RIAA) lawsuits/subpoenas against (alleged) filesharers. From Wendy Selzer: "The court "cannot see a real difference between a library that places a photocopy machine in a room full of copyrighted material and a computer user that places a personal copy on a shared directory linked to a P2P service." The court also held that the CRIA had delayed its requests too long, presented too little evidence of methods for tracking users, and would have to reimburse ISPs if it were ever permitted discovery." Lots of excited postings around blogland about this today, although Ernest Miller has a less upbeat interpretation of the ruling.

Sociologist imprisoned over "ideology"
According to the LA Times, this morning:

A sociologist was handed a seven-year prison sentence Tuesday on charges of spreading North Korean ideology, in a case that many here have criticized as an anachronism harking back to the Cold War period.

The article describes Song as a mentee of Jurgen Habermas. And there are allegations of espionage as well. Does anyone know anything else about this?

South Korean Sentenced Over 'Ideology' (free reg. required)

Monday, March 29, 2004

Fox: Verbs? Bad!
New York Times article. Fox News: Fast news good. Verbs slowing. Slow bad.

Shepard Smith! Explaining to a reporter, why not the verbs?

"We don't communicate in full sentences anyway," Mr. Smith said as he continued working through his script. "We don't need all those words. And it allows us to go faster."

Mr. Smith is all about speed. He typically blasts through 80 or so items of news during his hourlong broadcast, which, with its zooming cameras, swooshing sound effects and Mr. Smith's jokey, frat-boy delivery, acquired while he was a student at Ole Miss, resembles a broadcast of ESPN's "SportsCenter" more closely than it does "NBC Nightly News." He seldom does interviews on his program, fearful that slow-talking guests might gum up the works . . ."

News Reports for Ultra-Short Attentions (via lost remote)

Patently absurd?
So, the LA Times this morning has an editorial about Donald Trump's absurd attempt to trademark the expression "You're Fired!" Except the editorial is entitled "All Fired Up Over a Patent" and throughout the essay goes back and forth between referring to it as a patent filing and an unregistered trademark. The editorial itself isn't really about trademarking or patenting or anything having to do with intellectual property, but rather about the blurring between entertainment, publicity, and news. But still the total collapsing of the two terms, "patent" and "trademark" by them is a bit odd. And it's not just the LA Times who can't keep these things straight-- Donna at Copyfight pointed out that the New York Times made a similar mistake, referring to it as an attempt to copyright. Now, I'll be the first to admit that keeping these different forms of intellectual property straight can be confusing for us non-lawyers, but you'd think that such illustrious professional producers of IP could at least tell these apart in the broadest sense. In the LA Times case, I partially suspect that the motivation for calling it a patent is so they could include the goofy double use of patent in the final sentence of the editorial:

It was no gamble to predict that a pioneer of patent patent publicity ploys would be what's-his-name on that what's-it-called NBC show.

All Fired Up Over a Patent

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Free Culture as free culture
Lessig's Free Culture is now released. I can't wait to read it. I have to wait a few days, though, before my copy arrives in the mail. Or, I can start reading it online, as it's been made available for free downloading with a Creative Commons license. I'm still buying the hardcopy and that's likely how I will read it, but am pretty jazzed that I'll have a searchable copy of it on my computer as well.

== Free Culture / Excerpts ==

Monday, March 22, 2004

More on The Grey Album, Mashups, etc.
Jon Healey of the Los Angeles Times had a nice piece in Sunday's calendar section chronicling the whole Grey Album controversy that ensued after EMI tried to shut down Dangermouse's mashup of The Beatles' "The White Album" and Jay-Z's "The Black Album." Obviously this issue has been almots blogged to death at this point (see for a plethora of key links). But I'm highlighting Healey's article as quick and fairly balanced primer on the topic that does some pretty decent contextualization for a newspaper article of this sort; it includes a quick rundown of the history of the legal status of sampling, quotes from a variety of musicians (from Offspring to David Bowie) and legal experts (including Lessig) on both sides of the major divide here. I could imagine this article being nice to toss into a course reader to spark discussion in a relevant class.

EMI's move against Danger Mouse was a spectacular backfire in the war over what's fair when the muse runs afoul of copyright law in the Digital Age. Technology is making it easier than ever to sample and rework recordings, and to the chagrin of entertainment companies and some artists who hold copyrights, the public is showing little sympathy for their efforts to control original works.

Fred E. Goldring, a Beverly Hills-based music-industry lawyer, likened EMI's response to "The Grey Album" to the major labels' earlier mishandling of the Napster file-sharing service. "By creating a controversy and trying to shut it down, they actually attracted more interest in it," Goldring says. "They created their own hell." He adds, "It became probably the most widely downloaded, underground indie record, without radio or TV coverage, ever. I think it's a watershed event."

Unfortunately, the LA Times has locked up all of its calendar articles behind a paid subscribers wall (as opposed to the free registration wall of its regular news articles) so the link may be of little use to you.

When copyright law meets the 'mash-up'

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Janet Jackson, Democracy, and the Broadcast Flag
Lauren Gelman has written an excellent essay, at FindLaw, looking at the implications of the broadcast flag for innovation and for democracy. She uses the example of the Janet Jackson superbowl brouhaha. After the infamous wardrobe malfunction, many people uploaded the image to the Internet, blogs, etc., and this likely played a role in generating much of the controversy and debate over the incident. This debate then, in turn, led to a broader national debate on broadcasting and decency, which then has led to policy changes. In other words, democracy in action (even if it's not quite around the issue of media reform that she or I would personally have rallied behind). With a sufficiently strong broadcast flag regulation, in a few years time this might not be possible.

I really appreciate Gelman's essay for clearly and concisely laying out much of what is at stake here.

I'm no fan of increased regulation of speech, but the controversy had at least a small silver lining: It served as a demonstration of the power of innovation to promote the democratic process. In this case, the innovators were the entrepreneurial companies that harnessed the open nature of the Internet to enable users to easily capture, transfer, upload, post, and search for the TV clip.

Even those who missed the game could, because of these companies, easily watch and talk about the incident that was about to be a catalyst for major policy changes at the FCC. Their technologies thus enlarged the marketplace of ideas and influenced public debate.

Shouldn't government be doing all it can to support technologies and companies that enhance democracy like this? I believe the answer is yes.

But to the contrary, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is currently considering new technology regulations that would halt innovation in technologies that capture, manipulate and transfer digital television.

FindLaw's Writ - Gelman: The Silver Lining of the Janet Jackson Incident

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

On the power of cable
Farhad Manjoo (whose written a number of good articles over the past few years examining media culture industries, particularly digital media technologies) has a new article up at that examines the growing power of cable companies/cable modem, particularly number 1 cable provider Comcast. The article highlights the growing moves towards the erosion of the neutral network and the dangers of so much power in so few hands-- which of course would only be exacerbated if Comcast acquires Disney.

The traditional reasons to worry about a Comcast-Disney merger -- it may raise your cable bill, and it could give Disney's content an advantage in your lineup of channels -- are compelling enough. But tech-savvy media critics these days are talking about a more theoretical, even scarier, proposition: If Comcast buys Disney, they wonder, will we get a Mickey Mouse Internet? Comcast has already demonstrated a willingness to circumscribe what customers do online. It has not only attacked high-use customers but, in the past, has also curbed virtual private networks (a popular way for corporations to integrate telecommuters into the company intranet) and, according to some customers, has limited traffic on Usenet, the oldest (and most unregulated) of all the Net's discussion forums. The company's terms of service also prohibit users from running file-sharing applications (among other things), and it has a less-than-clear policy on whether running a Wi-Fi network in your house is OK.

Such restrictions have prompted people to wonder what the company might do when it owns a vast stash of content. Will Disney's content -- its Web sites, its streaming movies and music and TV shows -- get pushed through at quicker rates to Comcast's broadband customers? Will other content, whether from a rival media giant or from your friends and family, get pushed through at all? And will the underlying architecture of the Internet subtly shift, over time, to accommodate the kinds of applications that media giants like Comcast want us to use, rather than the ones that come from the bubbling innovation of the Internet itself -- like the Web, or e-mail, or peer-to-peer file trading?

One cable company to rule them all

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Lego Theory! Lego Theorists - Butler, Giddens, McRobbie & Foucault in Lego

Monday, March 15, 2004

MPAA ghostwriting for the government?
Xeni Jardin at Wired News is reporting that a strongly worded anti-P2P letter, written ("written") by Bill Lockyer (CA's Attorney General) reveals evidence of having been written in part by a senior VP of the MPAA. (Yes, it's the track changes feature in Word that's gotten someone in trouble once again).

However, the metadata associated with the Microsoft Word document indicates it was either drafted or reviewed by a senior vice president of the Motion Picture Association of America. According to this metadata (automatically generated by the Word application), the document's author or editor is "stevensonv." (The metadata of a document is viewable through the File menu under Properties.)

Sources tell Wired News that the draft letter's authorship is attributed to Vans Stevenson, the MPAA's senior vice president for state legislative affairs. MPAA representatives have issued similar criticisms of P2P technology in the past. Mr. Stevenson could not be reached by press time for comment.

The document proposes an unprecedented legal theory with regard to peer-to-peer file-sharing services. If P2P software can be used to violate law, the argument goes, its makers should be obligated to incorporate a warning on the product or face liability for deceptive trade practices.

Wired News: Who's Teaming Up Against P2P?

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Media Regulation, Decency, and Conglomeration/Consolidation

I've made a few snarky comments about the recent furor in Washington over broadcast indecency. I've been a bit disgusted by all of the moaning and groaning about and swift action against Bono's fuck and Janet's breast, in contrast to the general dismantlement of any notion of public responsibilities on the part of broadcasters over the public airwaves in other ways and in the allowance of increasing (and increasingly scary) integration, consolidation, and conglomeration in media ownership. It's a little heartening to see, though, that some in D.C. are connecting these issues-- tying the indecency bill and the television ownerhsip cap together, as described in this L.A. Times article: Lawmakers Review Media Ownership Caps, This Time in Name of Decency

In a demonstration that reruns are inevitable not just on TV but in politics as well, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is seizing on the popularity of anti-indecency legislation to try to undo media ownership rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission last year.

The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would sharply increase the penalty for radio and TV stations and on-air entertainers who violate federal indecency rules. Fines per broadcaster would rise from $27,500 to a maximum of $500,000 per violation. The Senate is expected to take up a similar measure soon.

But the bill as approved by the Senate Commerce Committee would do something else too: It would delay for one year some of the new rules relaxing the limits on how many broadcast outlets a single company may own. The measure is designed to give Congress' investigative arm, the General Accounting Office, time to study whether there is a relationship between media consolidation and the rise in complaints about broadcast indecency.

Water, Mars, and Science Fiction
Kim Stanley Robinson has a nice essay in the New York Times Book Review outlining the history of science fictional engagements with Mars (including his own), and specifically the role that the possible presence or absence of water has played in it.

Mars and science fiction came of age together in the 1890's, and ever since they have had a tight relationship, a feedback loop that has made both famous . . .

Essay: A Red Planet Forever in the Orbit of Science and Dreams (via boingboing)

Friday, March 12, 2004

The actual text of the bill HR 3687:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, is amended--

(1) by inserting `(a)' before `Whoever'; and

(2) by adding at the end the following:

`(b) As used in this section, the term `profane', used with respect to language, includes the words `shit', `piss', `fuck', `cunt', `asshole', and the phrases `cock sucker', `mother fucker', and `ass hole', compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms).'.

This is the media reform I've been hoping for, definitely.
(via Lost Remote

EFF Collective Licensing Plan
Over the past week or so there's been a plethora of interesting discussion and debate about EFF's white paper that suggested voluntary collective licensing as a solution to the filesharing dilemma. Over at The Importance Of . . . Ernest Miller has helpfully brought many of the key posts from various authors together. If you're still trying to make sense of this issue (like me) this is the place to start.
Link: More Thoughts on EFF's Filesharing Plan (via Copyfight)

Ads in Space
A new patent was granted recently to facilitate placing ads in (outer) space that are visible from Earth.
The Russian news agency Interfax reported this week that a Russian investor has patented a concept for advertisements in outer space. The inventor, Alexander Lavryonov, is a little vague regarding how it would work, other than it would require a number of satellites equipped with mirrors to reflect sunlight, spelling out words or forming logos that would be visible to people on the Earth. While the article treats this as a novel concept, the concept of orbiting billboards is nothing new. Over a decade ago Georgia-based Space Marketing proposed placing what essentially would have been a giant Mylar balloon in orbit that, on Earth, would appear to be the size and brightness of the full Moon

It doesn't sound like we'll be seeing these any day now or anything, but it does seem pretty symptomatic of where things are heading. Closer to coming to fruition, and just as disturbing, is this plan to place advertisements on children's schoolbuses.
Link: Technology Review: The Final (Advertising) Frontier?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

"This is really more of a comment than a question, but . . . "

Michael Berube on Q&A's at academic conferences. Too funny.

One of these days I want to put together an academic conference that addresses the phenomenon of academic conferences. It will be called "The Longer Version," and will be distinguished by three features: one, every paper will have a respondent who, instead of waiting for the paper to end, will simply snort, harrumph, and blurt "I think not!" at random moments during the paper. Two, questioners will be required to begin all questions by saying, "this is really more of a comment than a question-- I wonder if you could say more about X," on the condition that X was either unmentioned in or tangential to the paper itself. (Questions must be at least three minutes long.) And three, every speaker will be required to answer these questions by saying, "I actually address this question in the longer version of this paper," regardless of whether there is a longer version or not.

Link: Conference Final (via Electrolite)

Chabon on Pullman
Michael Chabon has written a compelling review of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. It helpfully situates the book within the epic fantasy tradition (in this case tracing its roots more to Milton than to Tolkien) and Chabon nicely identifies what makes the series so special.

I found myself really enchanted by the books when I finally read them last year (although I agree with Chabon that the series started to come apart in the third volume). They weren't at all what I was expecting; they're not at all children's/YA books, in my opinion (especially thet last book) (and I don't mean that as a knock against adults reading YA books; I love Harry Potter as much as the next person . . .). If you haven't read the books yet, they're worth picking up. (And if you haven't read Chabon yet I command you to immediately get The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which was definitely my favorite book of last year (via Crooked Timber)

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Wasting Time
I don't know why this goofy game has amused me so much, but it has. It's no Guess the Dictator or Sit-com Character of year's past, but there's still something oddly addicting about it. Thank goodness I found it because I've definitely been in need of more ways to frivolously whitter time away on the internet. And hey, I'm not really wasting time, I'm helping to index images on the Internet. It's my civic duty, really!
(via Freedom to Tinker: A Spoonful of Sugar)

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Broadcast Flag going to court?
EFF, Public Knowledge, the American Library Association, Consumer Federation, and Consumers Union are suing the FCC over the broadcast flag. Definitely an interesting development!
EFF: FCC Faces Suit on Regulation of Digital Broadcast Television (via boingboing)

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Firefly Movie
According to Variety they are definitely making a film spin-off of Joss Whedon's shortlived television show "Firefly." Although it took me a little while to completely warm to it, I grew to really love that show during its short life . It was really starting to blossom into something special right about when Fox cancelled it. (I must admit, though, that I can see why it had a hard time finding an audience; it was a quite singular series in many ways). I'm not sure what the movie will be like; the strength and promise of the series, to me, was rooted primarily in character development issues-- the most prominent feature for which television can far outshine film, because of the luxury of time. But, still, this is happy news-- especially since the airwaves will soon be Joss-free, because of the WB's recent cancellation of Angel

Go Sean!
My brother's band, Colic, was written up in today's Detroit Free Press. I'm just beaming with sisterly pride!
Colic plays melodic hard rock You can also check out his music at the band's website

Garfinkel on the Broadcast Flag
Simson Garfinkel has a good piece at the Technology Review hlighting potential dangers in the broadcast flag regulations.
In the future, the Motion Picture Association of America will control your television set. Every TV sold in the United States will come equipped with an electronic circuit that will search incoming TV programs for a tiny electronic “flag.” The MPAA’s members will control this flag, putting it into broadcast movies and television shows as they see fit. If the flag is present, your TV will go into a special high-security mode and lock down its high-quality digital outputs. If you want to record a flagged program, you’ll have to do so on analog tape or on a special low-resolution DVD. Any recording will be limited to analog-quality sound. This security measure is not designed to protect the television from viruses or computer hackers—it’s designed to protect TV programs from you.

Losing Control of Your TV

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

More on Mars
Oliver Morton has a nice succinct discussion about what this announcement about the evidence of water on Mars does and doesn't mean. I hadn't seen his blog before, but it looks like a great source for explanation and commentary on Mars.
So it was a big announcement - but not a terribly surprising or incredibly dramatic one. Indeed you might argue that it was pretty close to being the smallest discovery that would still merit a big press conference at headquarters. Doesn't mean the news wasn't important or exciting. Just means -- and this is no surprise -- that speculation can outstrip the science pretty easily.

MainlyMartian: "Drenched" (via Electrolite)

Cool Mars stuff
If you haven't seen it already check out the picture of the blue Martian sunset; it's pretty nifty. More significantly, though, check out the evidence of water on Mars!
Scientists have concluded the part of Mars that NASA's Opportunity rover is exploring was soaking wet in the past.

Evidence the rover found in a rock outcrop led scientists to the conclusion. Clues from the rocks' composition, such as the presence of sulfates, and the rocks' physical appearance, such as niches where crystals grew, helped make the case for a watery history.

Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Press Releases

Broadcast Flag update

Hewlett-Packard and Philips have announced that they'll be building the Broadcast Flag into all of thier new sets. More on this later.
HP, Philips Develop DRM for Digital Broadcasts, PC World

Monday, March 01, 2004

Tougher Copyright Laws Bad for Business?
So suggests a recent report from the Committe for Economic Development, summarized in this NYT article. I haven't had a chance to read the report itself, yet, though (one more thing in the to read queue!)

The entertainment industry's pursuit of tough new laws to protect copyrighted materials from online piracy is bad for business and for the economy, according to a report being released today by the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington policy group that has its roots in the business world.

Record companies and movie and television studios have fought copyright infringement on many fronts, hoping to find ways to prevent their products from being distributed free on the Internet. But critics warn that many of the new restrictions that the entertainment industry proposes - like enforcing technological requirements for digital television programming that would prevent it from being transmitted online - would upset the balance between the rights of the content creators and the rights of the public.

NYT article: Report raises questions about fighting online piracy (via PDF of the full report

The hypocrisy of the indecency backlash

Michael Hiltzick has a nice piece (surprisingly biting) in this morning's LA Times highlighting the utter hypocrisy in Clear Channel's dropping of Howard Stern (from their feigned surprise at the questionable material on the show to the fact that since Viacom and not CC are the main airers of the show they have little to lose by cutting him loose) as well as that of Michael Powell (who actively subverts regulation of the truly indecent mega-conglomeration of media companies and who won't acknowledge the relationship between this issue and the issue of standards, etc. in broadcast media).

"Still, Clear Channel's two-step is nothing compared with the fake piety exhibited by the man who probably bears the most responsibility for setting broadcast tastelessness loose on the public: FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell. A commissioner since 1997 and chairman since 2001, Powell was fast off the mark after the Super Bowl, complaining the very next day about the outrage perpetrated upon him when, "like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration."

Leaving aside the question of what Powell thought he was celebrating by viewing the single most overhyped and commercialized event in American entertainment — The U.S. snack food industry? The principle of monopoly control of sports leagues? The decline of pop music? — the trends that have launched a thousand fulminating press releases are largely the result of his own agency's servile regulation of the ever more concentrated broadcasting industry."

Link: After Janet Jackson's Prank, the Truly Indecent Behavior (free registration required)

Internet Users as Creators and Producers
The Pew Internet Project has released another report chronicling the activities of internet users, finding that a full 44% of internet users are actively producing and sharing content of some sort.

44% of Internet users have created content for the online world through building or posting to Web sites, creating blogs, and sharing files

"In a national phone survey between March 12 and May 20, 2003, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that more than 53 million American adults have used the Internet to publish their thoughts, respond to others, post pictures, share files and otherwise contribute to the explosion of content available online. Some 44% of the nation’s adult Internet users (those 18 and over) have done at least one of the following:

21% of Internet users say they have posted photographs to Web sites.
20% say they have allowed others to download music or video files from their computers.
17% have posted written material on Web sites.
13% maintain their own Web sites.
10% have posted comments to an online newsgroup. A small fraction of them have posted files to a newsgroup such as video, audio, or photo files.
8% have contributed material to Web sites run by their businesses.
7% have contributed material to Web sites run by organizations to which they belong such as church or professional groups.
7% have Web cams running on their computers that allow other Internet users to see live pictures of them and their surroundings.
6% have posted artwork on Web sites.
5% have contributed audio files to Web sites.
4% have contributed material to Web sites created for their families.
3% have contributed video files to Web sites.
2% maintain Web diaries or Web blogs, according to respondents to this phone survey. In other phone surveys prior to this one, and one more recently fielded in early 2004, we have heard that between 2% and 7% of adult Internet users have created diaries or blogs. In this survey we found that 11% of Internet users have read the blogs or diaries of other Internet users. About a third of these blog visitors have posted material to the blog."

Link: Content Creation Online