Mark Glaser, of USC Annenberg's Online Journalism Review has a nice column up today about Apple's attempt to use the courts to silence so-called "insider" leaks on Web sites. Apple has always been hyper-protective of future product information and now they're carrying the campaign onto the Web. They've already sued ThinkSecret.com and now they're threatening two more sites. Glaser reports that pro bono legal help is coming to the defense of these online journalists.
This is an exceptionally bad move and everyone but Apple seems able to see it. Negative publicity and ridicule in Forbes and The Wall Street Journal can't be making anyone happy. Glaser correctly notes that Apple seems to have stolen a page from the RIAA's playbook: sue your customers, alienate the people who might be in a position to help you. Can someone please stop giving Jobs the stupid pills?Posted by dr. wex on January 26, 2005 11:31 AM
MSNBC among others is reporting a curious resignation from the Bush II team: Michael Powell, Chairman of the FCC is tendering his resignation.
Normally the President's appointees all formally offer to resign on the start of a new term. Some stay, some move around, and some go. However, the Chairman of the FCC is an appointment with a built-in term of office (like the Fed chairman, among others). In this case, Powell was due to remain until 2007.
No real reason for his departure is known. The story is that he felt he had "achieved his goals" which is either complete BS, highly scary, or both. Given the censorship regime now in place it's frightening to contemplate that this was an overt or covert goal. Was the Janet Jackson Superbowl incident just an excuse to put into motion machinery that had been lingering in the background for a while? Only an imbecile would think that an 1000-fold increase in fines for "indecency" was an accident rather than a carefully calculated strategy.
If that wasn't the goal (the BS theory) then what's going on? Powell's only statement so far is the usual gum-flapping about spending more time with the family. I'd bet about even money he'll end up on the board of at least one major telecoms or consumer electronics company. The question is whether someone enticed him out to do something like actually helm one of those companies.
Anyone got any leads? No leaked rumors of a successor have reached my screen.Posted by dr. wex on January 24, 2005 07:42 AM
I've had some comments wondering what all this has to do with Tech-IP issues. It's not technology, I'll grant you that. But fundamentally copyright was invented to promote the (commercial) freedom of creative expression. What's happening now, essentially out of sight of everyone except the fundamentalists who monitor it, is the extinguishment of a large segment of that freedom. What good is a copyright if you can't show your works? What value is there for a royalty on a performance that can't be staged?
I can't think of another time in American history when a small cadre of fundamentalists exercised such effective control over the content of mass media. And the ongoing complicity of the media oligarchs in this is a dereliction of their duties to the public and to their shareholders.
Once again we must turn to non-US media for reporting on these events. From both ends of the spectrum - Fox is pixellating a cartoon character's backside, and PBS is censoring scenes in a BBC drama documentary (Dirty War) as well as cutting out an expletive used by Dick Cheney in Sometimes in April, a film about the Rwandan genocide.
Everywhere you turn, it's fear fear fear. Execs are afraid of the fanatics, the networks fear the FCC, and lord only knows what the fanatics fear. Nobody seems to be afraid of what scares me - that the chilled atmosphere will deaden the spectrum, that the US will fall behind in culture and education, and that we're coming to accept a silent, rule-less, post-facto censorship regume as the norm.
Pass me some digital music news, please. That's got to be less depressing.Posted by dr. wex on January 20, 2005 09:06 AM
OK, just in case anyone wasn't clear on the topic, the rest of the world (i.e. outside the US) has been comfortable with the display of the bare female breast for... oh, a few millenia at least.
The issue this time revolves around complaints directed at NBC and the Olympics because the historical Greek showcase from the opening ceremonies of the Athens Olympics included (shock!) a historically accurate costuming that revealed some womens' breasts. There was also a set of actors portraying famous statuary. Again, for those few unclear on the topic (paging Gruppenfuhrer Ashcroft!) historical statuary includes depiction of the naked male and female forms.
The FCC is "investigating" and won't say what action it's going to take, but the notion that the FCC could rule a presentation of the origins of western civilization as unfit for viewing is both stunning and totally prototypical of the current censorship regime.Posted by dr. wex on January 19, 2005 11:11 AM
The mysterious corporate-share entity variously known as Altnet, Kazaa, Sharman Networks, and Brilliant Digital Entertainment Inc. are apparently attempting to assert a patent covering core P2P technologies. Let's try to unravel this a bit.
Sharman Networks is a firm that distributes a program named Kazaa, which uses Altnet technology. Brillian are Altnet's parent company. The Cartel are currently asserting in an Australian court that Sharman is simply a shell; Sharman claims that Altnet and Kazaa share a "joint enterprise agreement" - whatever that means.
The other parties - the ones receiving the letters - are other major P2P networks/companies. Brilliant won't say who, but obvious candidates include Grokster, LimeWire, BearShare, etc. These people have been invited to discuss patent license terms. I'm finding the entire thing vaguely disquieting.
This would be funny if the P2P community wasn't already so fractured. P2PNet's Jay Flemma refers to it as an attempted mugging. It's certainly not doing anything to improve Kazaa's already low image in the community.
The claimed patent asserts ownership of a hashing technique used to identify a particular file that may be relevant to a user's request. Of course, various pundits will weigh in on the validity of a patent on something that seems so obvious. It might be invalidated, and some of the P2P companies seem to be gearing up to challenge it. But that's not easy or obvious. Even if it is, I think this is a sign that the P2P "community" is badly fractured - no duh, Kazaa has never been a member of P2P United, the lobbying group. But this is really very bad for business.Posted by dr. wex on January 15, 2005 05:07 PM
There's an interesting debate going on in Canada. It revolves around whether the MP3 player device category (e.g. iPod) is a contributory infringement device.
The concrete manifestation of this is a fee (levy) set by the Canadian Copyright Board (CPCC - Canadian Private Copying Collective) on iPods. The assertion is that buyers of the device ought to compensate creators (nominally musicians but actually the copyright-holding Cartel). This assertion was disputed by the Appeal Court, which ruled that the Copyright Board did not have jurisdiction. The point at issue seemed to be that the levy is on the memory of the iPod and the assertion that the Copyright Board doesn't have the authority to tax a permanently embedded bit of hardware.
The ruling came down mid-December and the CPCC has now announced they would appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court.
The problem is that the issue may turn on this silly technicality of fixed memory instead of the deeper issue of whether the iPod is a contributory infringement device whose use requires compensation. I would assert that THAT is equally silly, but I'm afraid the court won't rule on the issue.Posted by dr. wex on January 15, 2005 04:54 PM