Tuesday, November 28, 2006

US Trade Representative bends Russia over on copyright

The US Trade Representative has declared victory over Russia. Russia will be required to license CD/DVD pressing plants and inspect them day and night -- the US, spreading democracy by requiring licensing of the presses! Russia will also have to shut down AllofMP3.com and stop its collecting societies from representing artists without permission (of course, this doesn't mean that US quasi-governmental collecting societies like SoundScan will stop doing the same thing).

You might ask why collecting societies are in there at all. That's because AllOfMP3.com claimed that they were paying licenses to a collecting society that made their business legal. Putting this last clause in the agreement sounds like the US Trade Rep is admitting that AllOfMP3.com is a legitimate, licensed business that pays for what it sells.

Russia has to take on board the WIPO Copyright Treaty, which is the treaty that created the US DMCA, a law that has resulted in the jailing of a Russian researcher who visited the USA for talking about math.

* The United States and Russia agreed on the objective of shutting down websites that permit
illegal distribution of music and other copyright works. The agreement names the Russia-based
website allofmp3.com as an example of such a website.

* Russia will:

- take enforcement actions against the operation of Russia-based websites; and

- investigate and prosecute companies that illegally distribute copyright works on the Internet.

* Russia will work to enact legislation by June 1, 2007, to stop collecting societies from acting
without right holder consent,

* Russia will also work to enact legislation implementing the 1996 World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) Internet treaties.

PDF Link

(via Digg)

Monday, November 27, 2006

CBC prez: High-def TV has no business model

CBC president Robert Rabinovich has decried high-def TV as having no business model. This wouldn't be newsworthy except that the promise of HDTV is the excuse given for the Broadcast Flag, which says that paranoid studio executives should be in charge of what features TVs are allowed to have.

The idea is that if you don't give them their design-veto, they won't put movies on high-def, and then the money won't come in. But when the head of Canada's national broadcaster announces that there's just no way any broadcaster is going to make its money back on high-def, it makes you wonder if the Brits don't have the right idea.

In the UK, a digital TV system called "Freeview" gives the public 30 free standard-definition TV channels, for life, over the air, for one setup payment. Instead of trying to lure people into throwing away their old sets and buying all new, Hollywood-crippled ones, the Brits just created free cable for life. Amazingly, lots of people voluntarily switched -- and soon they'll be able to shut off the old analog towers and use that spectrum for better, more internetty things.

“There's no evidence either in Canada or the United States that we have found for advertisers willing to pay a premium for a program that's in HD,” Mr. Rabinovich said. “So basically they're saying if you want to shoot in HD, that's your business, we're not going to pay you more.”
Link(via /.)

Kirby Dick and This Film is Not Yet Rated, Thu in LA

This Thursday, I'll introduce director Kirby Dick and his movie "This Film is Not Yet Rated" at a free screening at USC. The screening is sponsored by the USC Free Culture club, a campus organization dedicated to promoting liberty, openness, and access to information.

Kirby Dick has graciously agreed to present the screening of his movie, which I reviewed in September. This Film is Not Yet Rated is the best documentary I've seen all year, the kind of thing that inspired outrage and sympathy. It tells the hidden story of the MPAA's rating board, and its systematic discrimination against sympathetic portrayals of gay sexuality and sex in general, and its tacit support for ultra-violence.

The ratings board is shrouded in secrecy, and exists, supposedly, to forestall Congressional censorship of the film industry (an eventuality as unlikely as it is unconstitutional). The board's membership is secret, as are the names of the appeals committee that is meant to watchdog the organizing. The whole, secretive mess was established by Jack Valenti in his capacity as head of the MPAA, and so it bends over backwards to help filmmakers from the major studios (while shafting indies).

Dick's documentary revolves around his efforts to unmask the identity of the secret censor board. He hires a private eye and sets her to work (the CSI elements of the film are really juicy -- it's fun to see how private eyes really work). Threaded around this are interviews with filmmakers who've had run-ins with the board, and, as a climax, Dick's own Orwellian adventures in submitting his documentary to the censor board whose identities he has uncovered.

I can't wait to meet him -- one viewing of This Film is Not Yet Rated turned me into an instant, lifelong fan. I hope to see you there!

Where: University of Southern California, Los Angeles: University Park Campus, George Lucas Instructional Building, 108

When: Thursday, November 30, 2006 : 7:00pm to 9:00pm


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Chicago Sun-Times: Zune is a failure

Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Andy Ihnatko unloads on the Zune with both barrels, calling it a "complete, humiliating failure" and a "colossal blunder," because Microsoft has taken the user out of its design considerations and put the music industry (in the person of Universal's Doug Morris, "a big, clueless idiot") in their place.
Yes, Microsoft's new Zune digital music player is just plain dreadful. I've spent a week setting this thing up and using it, and the overall experience is about as pleasant as having an airbag deploy in your face.

"Avoid," is my general message. The Zune is a square wheel, a product that's so absurd and so obviously immune to success that it evokes something akin to a sense of pity...

The Zune is a complete, humiliating failure. Toshiba's Gigabeat player, for example, is far more versatile, it has none of the Zune's limitations, and Amazon sells the 30-gig model for 40 bucks less.

Throw in the Zune's tail-wagging relationship with music publishers, and it almost becomes important that you encourage people not to buy one.

Link(via Joho the Blog)

HOWTO break Zune's WiFi DRM

Gizmodo has a quick and easy hack for breaking the DRM on the Zune's WiFi. The Zune locks the music you wirelessly share with other Zunekers so that it only plays three times before evaporating. This is applied totally indiscriminately, even to Creative Commons music with a machine-readable license granting permission to distribute it. It would also apply this restriction to students who shared MP3s of their class-lectures.
First, you need to enable hard drive mode using the instructions we posted before. Then, rename whatever files—MP3s, movies, programs—to have the extension ".jpg" in order to fool the Zune into thinking its an image. This hack works because Zune doesn't apply DRM to images!

Then what?

Now, take your Zune and send the folder containing these files to your buddy along with a real photo. If you only send a fake photo, an error is thrown. The last step is to have your friend sync the Zune with their computer, open the "containing folder" where the files were downloaded, and rename the files back to their correct extension.

Link(via Wonderland)

See also: Microsoft Zune will violate Creative Commons licenses

Friday, November 24, 2006

PSP homebrewers develop DRM

Xart, a hobbyist PSP game-maker, has created a DRM system for his games. Creators of unauthorized homebrew games for the PSP worry that others will strip their names off of their creations and appropriate credit for their work, so Xart has proposed that the splash-screens that appear before the game starts should be encrypted so that they can't be altered.

Of course, the homebrew PSP scene exists because this sort of thing just doesn't work. It's impossible to deliver a game to a user with an encrypted section and the keys to decrypt it and expect that the user won't be able to decrypt it.

On the one hand, it's pretty unlikely that a homebrew hobbyist will use the DMCA to attack people who break their crypto, and it's reasonable to want to keep the credit intact on your works. On the other hand, this stuff really doesn't work, and no one should know that better than a PSP hobbyist.

With some people trying to rip off the homebrew scene, pretending to be Dark_Alex or some of our other respected devs, Xart from our forums has come up with a great new idea to prevent people ripping off others work. Xart has developed a powerful, fast Data Array Scrambling (DAS) system to protect your homebrew games and applications from hex editing and others stealing credit from your hard work.

This is an example of an encryption technique and it not a yet full release. For this Xart has used his xLoader application. It's a proof of concept to show just how quick encryption can be done to protect your work.

Link(Thanks, Hamish!)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Record industry association declares DRM dead

An executive at IFPI -- the international recording industry association -- has declared DRM to be "dead" -- though he warns of "Son of DRM," whatever that means. He promises that the major labels will always be at the center of the music industry, too (he runs an indie label). New Music Strategies speculates that the labels will shift to even more online surveillance, more lawsuits against fans, and worse End User License Agreements (I don't see how you accomplish this last one without DRM, though).
DRM as we know it is over. There may be Son of DRM but that’s another matter. Right now its dead, the majors are moving towards the new model. The one thing you can be sure of is they will still be at the centre of the world music industry whatever happens. The independents are another matter. As our sector’s share has fallen by almost half in just over twelve months, the new model for us is partnership. It always was, I’m just not sure we got it.
Link(Thanks, Andrew!)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Internet Libel OK'd by Courts

Thank God! The L.A. Times reports:
Internet users and providers cannot be held liable for posting defamatory material written by someone else, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday.

"The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications," Justice Carol Corrigan wrote for the court. But, she added, immunity "serves to protect online freedom of expression and to encourage self-regulation."


The court explained that Internet defamation law differs from that of other media.

"Book, newspaper or magazine publishers are liable for defamation on the same basis as authors," Corrigan wrote. "Book sellers, news vendors or other 'distributors' … may only be held liable if they knew or had reason to know of a publication's defamatory content."

Congress "chose to protect even the most active Internet publishers, those who take an aggressive role in republishing third-party content," she wrote.


She said the threat of liability also would reduce the flow of ideas on the Internet. "The volume and range of Internet communications make the 'heckler's veto' a real threat," Corrigan said.

The defendant, Ilene Rosenthal of the Humantics Foundation, blogs here. The case was brought by the erstwhile thugs known as the Quackbusters.

Here is EFF's FAQ on Online Defamation.

Wikipedia entry on the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

* Discussion @ /.

UPDATE: Comprehensive coverage of blogger reaction to the Barrett v. Rosenthal decision at CJR.

Newsweek on the anti-DRM movement

Newsweek takes notice of the burgeoning global anti-DRM movement:
Now, an increasingly vocal grassroots resistance to DRM is cropping up. An anti-DRM campaign called “Defective by Design,” which is organized by the Free Software Foundation, has 15,000 registered members; the Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that DRM places limits on “your ability to make lawful use of the music you purchase.” Web sites like stopdrmnow.org and digitalfreedom.org have been launched “to protect individuals’ right to use new digital technologies” and urge boycotts on DRM-tagged content. David Berlind, executive editor of tech trade journal ZDNet, coined his own term for DRM: “Content Restriction, Annulment and Protection.” (Figure out the acronym).

Monday, November 20, 2006

Universal Goes After BofA for U2 'One' Parody

How broke-ass will UMG and their copyright hounds get? Maria Aspan @ The New York Times tackles this hilarity:
A video of two Bank of America employees singing a version of U2’s “One” to commemorate their company’s acquisition of MBNA recently made the rounds of the blogs, prompting amusement and some ridicule from online viewers.

But the intended comic effect of their performance and the retooled lyrics (“One spirit, we get to share it/Leading us all to higher standards”) seemed lost on lawyers on the lookout for copyright violations.

On Tuesday, a lawyer for the Universal Music Publishing Group, a catalog owner and administrator, posted the text of a cease-and-desist letter in the comments section of Stereogum.com, a Web site carrying the video. It contended that Bank of America had violated Universal’s copyright of the U2 song.

The two employees featured in the video were the guitarist, Jim Debois, a consumer market executive for Manhattan, and the singer, Ethan Chandler, a Manhattan banking center manager, who provoked much of the ridicule with his earnest interpretation and also for straying a bit far from U2’s lyrics with lines like “Integration has never had us feeling so good/and we’ll make lots of money.”

Mr. Chandler, who has independently released an album and is working on another, said he was asked to write and perform the song for an August meeting of credit card division executives at MBNA headquarters in Wilmington, Del.

He said he was surprised to learn about the cease-and-desist letter, stressing that his performance was meant for an internal audience. “There was an approved list of songs to use,” he said, “and as far I knew, that was an approved song.”

Universal said on Stereogum that it had sent the letter by fax and registered mail to Bank of America last Monday. On Friday, a bank spokeswoman, Betsy Weinberger, said the legal department had not yet received it.

The letter was signed by Raul R. Gonzalez, a lawyer for Universal Music. Reached at his office, Mr. Gonzalez said, “No comment” and hung up.

Online commentators accustomed to viral marketing said they suspected that the video was the latest corporate attempt to co-opt Internet video for promotional purposes. But Ms. Weinberger said it was “absolutely not” leaked by Bank of America as a marketing ploy.

Mr. Chandler also denied any involvement in leaking the video, although he admitted that, despite the cutting online criticism, the incident had an upside. “A lot of people thought it was fake, but I really do sing,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Here's the Stereogum post that features the c&d from Gonzalez in comments, complete with typos: "As a courtesy to you and, in order to put Sterorgum.com on notice, I am attaching the text of a cease and desist letter sent to Bank of America’s legal counsel...."

LINK to NYT article.

Gilmore Discusses Gilmore v. Gonzales

This is a good backgrounder on John Gilmore's Secret Laws suit that will hopefully be heard by the Supreme Court, as explained by the man himself:

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Little Hope w/ Social Network Conversations like These

I've taken a pretty pessimistic viewpoint re: the future and Set-Top Cop issues. However, over the weekend, I procrastinated extensively and engaged in conversation on Facebook's group page, UCLA's UCPD Brutality. This exchange was one of three over the weekend - the other two were interesting in different ways. The other two involved calling out participants whose conversative comments elicited group reaction - one from New Orleans, another from the Air Force Academy. Both times my comments began in the third person and at the end, switched to direct 1st-person opinions addressed to these "gentlemen." When confronted directly, the individuals backed down.

Here's the exchange that transpired between myself and Faryan Amir-Ghassemi @ U. of Maryland. I started with a general comment to no one in particular:

I agree with folks who think that this involves larger issues, for me, of power (violence & cops) and technlogy (posting on Gootube).

These issues play themselves out all the time. I know LA County Juvenile County Defenders and their stories are heart-breaking. The level of violence in these neighborhoods makes what happened at UCLA look like a slap. People may not want to see a connection, but on a societal level, it's there.

We'll have to decide whether we want a "free culture" or not. This would require sustained energy, one that we can't feel will be resolved so easily like "investigating" isolated UCLA Library cops is.

We all lives restricted by technology and most of us are lucky not to suffer violence because of it (we just have limits on things like our Ipods - I'm sure no one would want to be able to transfer songs from 1 to another).


Faryan responded:
Re Lewis:

There are several issues at work here besides just technology and power. The fact that the student is an Iranian American and he cries out expletives about the government and the Patriot Act. It raises questions about the nature of the act, just as LA race riots raise questions beyond socio-economic issues, into the realm of racial and affinity superstructures.

I think technology plays a vital role in mediating the power structures. We witness brutal acts of violence all the time, as a populous. Many of them are abusive by members of the police. The Youtube link helps galvanize the community's ability to respond via social influence. I think without the video, this story dissipates through word of mouth and an inability to create an empathic understanding/following.

The power of unadulterated mass media is in full effect here. Compare this youtube phenomenon versus the Rodney King beating. The parallels are stark yet the transformation is equally glaring...

to which

I agree with your comments completely. The one addition is we need to look at how technologies like Gootube, like our lives, are multi-faceted and exploit the users while being a force to mobilize the masses. That is, Gootube compared to sites like Revver are what some really intelligent critics like Lawrence Lessig call "fake" user sharing sites since they're restrictions built in and users/creators receive no compensation (like http://one.revver.com/revv
or's+Picks which posts video and let's the creators share the ad revenue. Gootube exists solely to benefit its shareholders, which is fine and give people exposure, which is also fine. But there are alternatives which are definitely "free-er" and more empowering.

I'm trying to track it down, but the UCLA footage was first posted on a LA anti-police abuse site, which has been omitted from the story.

and then,

Re Lewis:

Yes, Gootube is a power structure in itself. We will see more of this as the corporate influence will mediate the content presented and clearly the lack of revenue sharing is beguiling. They are the gatekeepers of this so called "free" content, just as news media was a generation before. The concept of intellectual property has become far more convoluted as a result...

Are they held accountable for this? No, the content will simply dictate their success. But, it is still the best alternative we have at the moment. An anarchist system devoid of revenue whording, advertising and asymetries goes beyond youtube/media. It delves into the nature of capitalism and our society's conception of time/work/i.p.

Nevertheless the negatives (assymetrical power structures) sometimes get outweighed by the positives (exposure)...

to which I responded,
Yes, these are complicated issues, but the only thing I disagree with is setting up a choice between the status quo and an anarchist, "Pirate" party, only off-the-grid alternative.

There are people like Joi Ito, a major venture capitalist, trying to create empowering forms of "true" sharing business models.

The Free Culture Student movement is another example, http://freeculture.org/. We're trying to imagine real alternative and make them a reality. Check it out.

I blogged about Joi Ito and some amazing new models that were discussed at a USC Remix conference. It's a long post, but worth reading as the alternatives are out there and they're inspiring.


sounds interesting, and I would need to read more about it to comment further, but take facebook for example:

They provide a communal system for members of a populace (what once used to be elite universities, became all universities and now is open to anyone, practically). However, their success is mediated upon the user's interaction within the community. If people don't chat/share with facebook, they don't use it. If they don't use it, it doesn't grow/become profitable. Are users of the system being reimbursed sufficiently through the service?

Same could be said about any IP service/community. Are the users, in effect, the "shareholders?"

and closing, for now,
I'd argue there are what we're called "Set-Top Cop" issues involved that require new paradigms. So we're not talking about binary relationships. It's better to think of it as tri-partite. There's appliances (Ipods, computers), content makers (whether big media or ind. users) and then the networks (Facebook, Youtube). The inter-play is complex, but basically they're also three scenarios: one a system gets closed down like cable (can't share anything), two the status quo with the off-the-grid pirates and some sharing (but the systems of closed off from "true" sharing. Wouldn't it be nice to have one meta-social network instead of being over-networked with Myspace, Face, et al. Or three, new forms.

Either way, violence will come as people confront the system like at UCLA. I'd argue what we saw is the next form of civil disobedience.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Need for Humility in Techno-Thinking

Driving to school early yesterday morning, I was shocked to hear Chris Farley's ghost. Actually it was his brother advertising exploiting his brother's memory. This triggered thoughts about how utopian and out-of-touch some technological thinking can be. As the dead came to life over the radio, I wondered about the certain strain of techno-thinking that is so optimistic about the future and the promises of technology.

We don't have to look far to see how "backwards" some contemporary ideas have become. This should make us cautious about over-hyping the promise of technology. Take one recent example in the area of science, technology and medicine,

In Diana Wagman's Sunday LATIMES piece "One diagnosis away from despair A family's journey through teenage depression, recovery and hope." She chronicles how her son was almost lost to the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical industry when her son was diagnosed "bi-polar." I'm not saying that these kids don't have problems, it's just a century ago they would have been considered "normal Victorian boys" being a little "wild" unless they were minorities or women.

In this example, we have regressed to the late 19th Century's assumptions. The sciences defined women as neurasthenic when they acted "hysterical" and minorities as degenerate. Then, they would have been labeled "sick"; now they'd [over]medicated.

What does this have to do with technology and set-top cops? It has everything to do with how we think about technology and society. We should have humility when thinking about the promise of technology, remembering the technology is neutral and a powerful force.

In a recent seminar, Issac Dacio, the owner of a chain of record stores, was asked about the future of collecting vinyl. Dacio felt that something is being lost as DJs switch to Serato Digital/"Virtual" DJing. The physicality of experience, the substance of collecting is being diluted, accepted and replaced by users "absorbing" content.

Humility is required. It is as easy for our thinking to regress as it to progress, and technology increases the speed of such changes. As Melvin Krarnzberg has written, “‘Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral.’ It is indeed a force, probably more than ever…that penetrates the core of life and mind.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

UCLA Student Taser'd For Not Showing ID in Library

fuck ucla cops fuclaUpdated below

He wouldn't show his ID, and he wouldn't leave on his own. So THEY SHOT HIM WITH A STUN GUN!

23-year-old Mostafa Tabatabainejad is my hero-of-the week. Check it:
"As the officers attempted to escort him out, he went limp and continued to refuse to cooperate with officers or leave the building," [UCLA Police Department Spokeswoman Nancy] Greenstein said.... Tabatabainejad encouraged others at the library to join his resistance. When a crowd began to gather they used the stun gun on him.

The arrest was recorded on another student's camera phone and showed Tabatabainejad screaming while on the floor of the computer lab. The video also showed the student shouting, "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your ... abuse of power..."
Here's the cell-phone vid of the incident posted to YouTube:

Click here for students' reaction in the Daily Bruin.

And more suspended-in-disbelief commentary from Martini Republic, LAObserved, and UCLA LJ forum

I've spent late nights at USC's Leavey Library, and at a certain point, a student worker comes by to ensure that all in the building after 10 pm or so, have a USC ID (the library is 24 hours). But NEVER a COP. And, only because of the PATRIOT act is it deemed necessary, for unexplained reasons, for one to have an actual ID on them -- when normally, in a case like Mostafa's, the fact that he was recognized as a student by peers surrounding him should have been enough.

Is it time to renew my GunControlNow site?


From the L.A. Times 11/21: Terrence Duren, an 18-year veteran of the UCLA Police Department, tased Tabatabainejad five times. A 2001 UCLA officer of the year, Duren has been the subject of other use-of-force complaints and previously recommended for dismissal. In one previous incident, Duren shot and wounded a homeless man in a University building, a case that went to trial. Duren has stated all of the past allegations against him regarding police misconduct and use of excessive force were investigated by the UCPD and proven false.[8] Prior to joining the UCPD in the late 1980s, Duren was fired from the Long Beach Police Department.

The Daily News reports:
four new videos surfaced online Thursday, showing Los Angeles police clubbing two young people as they videotaped the arrest of a third during a [July 8 Minutemen rally] in Hollywood.

taser gun rally LAist UCLA
Henry posted photos at LAist from Friday's rally like this --->

80+ comments on this post at my blog, netZoo

RIAApe Me... Again

IS the RIAA working hard behind the scenes to pass Audio Flag legislation to plug the analog hole during Congress' lame duck session?

The *battle* is on and earlier this week, the RIAA's Cary Sherman called BS on the Consumer Electronics Assn's Digital Freedom docket in this op-ed published on CNET.

CEA President Gary Shapiro fired back almost immediately with this response.

I don't trust either of these guys, quite frankly, and wonder what everybody else thinks about these association-types apparent attempt to duke it out, not to mention, Microsoft's consent to sellout to labels for each Zune (despite fair use) sold and whether, in the end any of these efforts will lead us in any direction towards digital freedom for both consumers and creators.

Charles wrote in to Small Print Project:
...Seems like the RIAA is looking to make a push to pass the Audio Flag bill during the lame duck session. This will kill any hopes of having a digital radio recorder, much like Tivo, which companies like XM and Sirius are behind. Tonight the RIAA is sponsoring a tech demo/concert/open bar at the Russell Senate building. Special interests hard at work?

I can't find anything at quick glance on this, but please -- SOMEBODY crash it and report back!

Click to order RIAA toilet paper

More on the Sherman spin:
-- /. thread
-- Mistaken Goal posts of last week's "revision of a white paper released in 2003 entitled 'Background Discussion of Copyright Law and Potential Liability for Students Engaged in P2P File Sharing on University Networks.'"
-- Ars Technica

Monday, November 13, 2006

Google Vid Post Gets Flak in Iran

From the How-to-Inspire-Nuclear-Apocalypse-from-your-Laptop Dept:

via OgleEarth:

Somebody's posted a video to Google Video that claims the Iranian city of Tabriz is actually in southern Azerbaijan. It's a breezy but calculated insult, much like the doings of the Frenchman on the rampart in the Monty Python movie The Holy Grail.

But horrors, Iran's government seems to have fallen hook, line and sinker for the video, and are now urging Iranians to vent their wrath on Google, reports the Guardian's Tehran correspondent Robert Tait:

The text of a tourist film on the site has drawn accusations that the US-owned search engine is deliberately trying to undermine Iran's territorial integrity by fomenting separatist sentiment in the mainly Turkish-speaking province.

(Why they don't link to the video in the story is beyond me.)

Many seem not to be aware that Google Video hosts user-contributed content, so believe this must be a deliberate ploy by Google (including, incredibly, The Guardian's Tait!). Others apparently think that it is Google's job to censor all content anyone finds objectionable. Either way, this fracas will require that Google explain once again the workings of the internet to witless people in power, but at the same time it presents an opportunity for education on the principle of freedom of speech. The worst possible outcome? Google takes down the video.

(Data point: at 8:22 UTC, the video was downloaded 11,431 times after two days.)


Saturday, November 11, 2006

"Progressive Judaism," Globalization and Our Over-Networked World

In my seminar with Prof. Manuels Catells this week on globalization, society and technology in Russia and China, he made a fascinating connection between Chinese and Jewish identities. These are the only two identities that have existed for two millennium and endured throughout the spread of a Judeo-Christian ethos/identity; resisted the implosion of "Classical Civilization" during the middle ages; survived the renewal of Western civilization, the rise of modernity, barely (esp. the Jews) and now are challenged in our 21st-Century, over-networked world.

Castells work highlights the dislocating impact of a network society; of how due to the radical changes in information communication technology, our very identities, the way we experience space and flow, that is, how our bodies form identity and meaning, is changing in fundamental ways. In our network globalized world, we are always "here" and "there", on call, checking in, present and preparing for the future. Castells argued in our seminar that the basic pieces we utilize to form our "selves" or identity - the language we use, the concepts and social analytical categories we use to understand the world - have to change. How we understand ourselves and our world needs to change at the most minute level, and then, be projected onto a global level.

At one level, Castells' point is a basic one: since our world has changed in radical ways, so must the categories we use to understand the world. Thus, we can't expect people to "rationally" respond to economic arguments based on their self-interests if at another level, they are feeling - consciously or unconsciously - the anxiety, fears, urges, dislocations, ruptures - as a result of these changes. While this may sound very theoretical, when the global world is viewed this way, things fall into place.

So we shouldn't be surprised that there are riots in Israel because gay Jews marched through the holy city and that the Vatican, Muslim clerics and Orthodox rabbis formed an alliance in opposition. Strange times of space and flow.

Choose your other examples of the dislocating effects and resulting violence in our lifetime: the War in Iraq, Afghanistan, 9/11, Yugoslavia, etc., destruction of the environment, use of copyright to prevent third world countries from pursuing medical patents, etc. Our over-networked world has never become more complex.

Thus, change must come, but we must first accept that change is always difficult. Patience and strategic thinking will be required.

What this means is that religious identity as we traditionally understand it will have to change. People like Josh Kun in their re-discovery of forgotten Jewish vinyl music is one wonderful, strange example.

So spiritual matters will reveal themselves in new ways, in re-discovering the past and re-mixing it. It will be global. So to end on a positive note: there is a world-wide creative class, ironically largest in US, Brazil AND Iran. Perhaps, we should combine humility with a desire to reach out and learn from those truly different. To see spirit in the act of reaching out, which for some is much more risky than others.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Brett Ratner: Old/New Media Player

Recently Brett Ratner spoke in the NYX re: Hollywood movie directors losing their content to illegal downloading.

The article proceeded to scare me when Ratner alludes to a "new media" deal to produce content online:

Mr. Ratner, the director, was driving down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood when he noticed a going-out-of-business sign at Tower Records, the music retailer that once thrived on selling the music of superstars like Prince, Elton John and Madonna. Many here, like him, fear that the problems that plagued the music business are heading their way.

“What happens if the film business is not ahead of the curve?” he asked. “What is going to happen to me? To all of us?”

Mr. Ratner said he had been well compensated as a director. Still, he has urged the Directors Guild of America to look at several issues facing directors, including the fact that they are not paid when music videos they direct are sold on the Internet.

But he is not waiting around to see what the guilds will do or studios will offer either. Mr. Ratner said he was close to announcing a deal with an Internet company to create his own “Saturday Night Live”-style program that he would own outright and distribute online. Then he can bypass studio bosses altogether.

“I could make a lucrative deal for myself,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”


I just finished watching X-Men III. At least, Ratner's early stuff were watchable. X III (why'd Singer have to leave) was best watched in fast-fast forward while focusing on my Online Comm homework. It's worth catching the ending just in case they let a director show some craftsmanship in the next one.

But there are dynamic, truly new business models being created.

Live entertainment a la Betalevel new fusion models is such a more dynamic offering. Or, a low budget film like mine. But if new media just ends re-cycling old media cliches, opportunity will be lost.

Kahle v. Gonzales

The case in which Brewster Kahle argues that two statutes -- the Copyright Renewal Act and the Copyright Term Extension Act -- violate the Fist Amendment by allowing for illegal copyright renewal of certain works -- was dismissed in CA district court two years ago (the case was then Kahle v. [then U.S. Attorney General] Ashcroft). Now it's on to the 9th Circuit Court.

Brewster Kahle posts:

Kahle v. Gonzales is going to be argued by Larry Lessig on Nov 13th at, maybe 10 or 11AM.

What is at stake is libraries being able to have out-of-print books on their digital bookshelves as they have out-of-print books on the physical shelves we grew up with.

James R. Browning US Courthouse
United States Court of Appeals - 9th Circuit
95 Seventh Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Courtroom 2, 3rd Floor


11/13 UPDATE: Lessig posts on the hearing:
We alleged a change in perhaps the most fundamental “traditional contour” of copyright protection — the shift from the opt-in system that copyright was from 1790=1976 to the opt-out system that copyright has become in the period since.

Lessig goes into even more detail in this post

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Is Amazon's 'Omakase' Ad-Link System TOO Invasive?

I've been using Amazon's beta "Omakase" ad banner in the sidebar of my blog for a couple months now. I became an "Amazon Associate" primarily to get an extra 4 or 5 percent off when I enter the store via the banner.

But no doubt these ads freak the SHIT out of some people (especially those who've been searching for KY and butt-plugs).

Amazon's Omakase links (Omakase is Japanese for [roughly] "it's totally up to you.") "show an Associate's visitors what they're most likely to buy based on Amazon's unique understanding of the site, the user, and the page itself."

How well does this work? See for yourself and let me know in the comments below.

Check the sidebar here: http://netzoo.net/...

Most reviews of Omakase (and Dave Taylor has an extensive one here relate the product as Amazon's answer to Google's Adsense. But my understanding is that Adsense content is based on the context on a particular PAGE, where as Omakase links are unique to the USER. Gigantic difference, no?

Plus, only the Associate knows what's going on since you have to BE an associate (anyone can, I believe) to read the FAQ.


I did make my first Amazon Associate cent (yes - exactly $.01) recently off some blog visitor who apparently purchased A Pilgrim in the Ruins: A Life of Walker Percy -- which, it turns out was purchased for only ONE PENNY (hardcover even). I mostly think it's cool to post images of books / CDs of interest (and from my experience in the record industry -- labels and artists often stand to make more money via an Amazon order than a direct-from-label's site order).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Labels to Make Cash on Every Zune Sold

Universal Music Group is assured compensation for the unknown number of pirated or file-shared tracks that are transferred/downloaded to a Microsoft Zune player after striking a revenue-sharing deal on sales of the player.

The record label will get over $1 for each $250 Zune sold and claims it will extend half of what it receives to the artists. The Zune digital media player hits stores next Tuesday and, yes, it's available in doodie brown.

In trying to compete with iPod, Microsoft is turning the digital audio industry on it's head -- and once again Universal is saving itself from the costy litigation route.

Historically -- and as decided in court -- labels have never been compensated for the sales of digital audio players that can potentially play "illegally" acquired songs. In the case of Apple's iPod, labels receive a percentage of every download via the iTunes Music Store. But clearly, this didn't cutting it for the labels and Universal -- the money-hungry bullies they are these days -- threatened to give Microsoft hell (imagine that).

From NYT:
A recent study estimated that Apple has sold an average of 20 songs per iPod — a fraction of its capacity. The rest of consumers’ music files — 95 percent or more — come from ripped CDs, possibly including discs from their own collections, and illegal file-trading networks, the study said.

The article, complete with a lil' nut graf referencing the 1999 Diamond Rio decision, includes "we make the rules now" sentiment from Universal's whiny chairman, Doug Morris and even David Geffen. Microsoft will happily pimp the same buck n' change to the other majors.

(A review in the same NYT Technology section harps on the Zune as an "unabashed copy" of the iPod.


Hot "Live" Moms meet Bizarre Intellectual Property Policy

The surreal reality of our LA-lives becomes more obvious, the more I am become aware of Set-Top Issues. The LA Times (the very good Gina Piccalo) reports on how reality "stars" are trademarking ideas like "hot mom." I guess it makes sense that reality TV would be good for IP lawyers.

It's great to hear of such wackiness. But enjoy for yourself:
Nearly two years ago, Denay said, she had applied to trademark the terms "hot mom" and "hot mom's club" but had not applied for the rights to those terms in TV. So, Denay said, in August she applied to expand her trademark to include use of "hot moms" in all media. A week later, Medicis and the "Hottest Mom" producers filed their own application to trademark the term "Hottest Mom in America." Both applications are pending approval. Medicis attorneys wouldn't comment on details of the dispute but in a company statement said Medicis with Buzznation "created and developed the concept for this program entirely independently, and this individual's unfounded allegation to the contrary is false. As substantial momentum builds for this program, it is unfortunate, though hardly surprising, that this sort of opportunism would occur."


VIDEO: 'Hacking Democracy'

The HBO special comes to Google Video. Isn't that nice of them :-)

Sure, Diebold tried to get HBO to cancel it, actually calling bullshit on them despite never having actually bothered to screen it. i think we know who the real hacks are here.

Leaked WIPO memo shows rich countries plans at WIPO

Karsten sez, "IP Watch has obtained a confidential report from a WIPO meeting of developed countries. It took place just before WIPO's general assembly in September. In this meeting they decided, among other things, to sink the much-criticized Broadcast Treaty. The report also describes how these countries (US, EU, Japan and others) are honing their strategy to minimise the effect of the proposal for a development agenda."

WIPO is the UN agency that creates copyright treaties -- it has the same relationship to bad copyright law that Mordor has to evil. The Broadcast Treaty is a sleazy attempt to create new rights for broadcasters and webcasters that trump the rights of the public and of actual creators. It's been a flashpoint for activist groups, who have started to show up in force, questioning the treaty's legitimacy.

The Development Agenda is the plan to reform WIPO as a real humanitarian UN agency, something it promised to do when it was chartered. The idea is to force every WIPO treaty to justify itself in terms of international development for poor countries, instead of just creating windfall profits for multinational copyright companies. It's a global scandal that developed nations are planning to sabotage it.

On the proposed broadcasting treaty, the report said that several members, as well as others not in the room, "will be making sure the diplomatic conference does not go ahead smoothly this week." In the end, it was agreed to schedule the diplomatic conference, or high-level treaty negotiation, for late 2007, after more meetings and another General Assembly.

Monday, November 06, 2006

RSS Feeds and Copyright

I've always been under the impression that the contents of an RSS feeds are open to republishing, with attribution. For a while, I've done just that in the sidebar of my blog, embedding a great auto-updating newsfeed tool with the help of a plugin from CHAITGear.

More and more people are now accustomed to / hooked on RSS Newsreaders, thanks to great advancements in Google Reader, among other apps, and new browsers (Flock) and extensions (Hyperwords) lifting and reappropriating content from Web sites and RSS feeds (with attribution) is easier than ever.

"Does RSS Imply Permission To Reuse Content?," a recent article by Jason Lee Miller of WebProNews ponders the Q:
A content provider distributes his or her content through the use of an RSS feed. This feed is open to any who would subscribe. The first question is: Is there an implied consent to repurpose that material by republishing it (with proper credit) on a blog or Website? The act of syndicating (distributing) content may imply that permission.

The second question is: How are splogs (spam blogs) that are set up as aggregators of content to attract keyword-driven traffic, that publish only the headline and snippet of text, that link out to the original source, and that make money from AdSense different from Google and other search engines? Doesn't Google do, essentially, the same thing?

The short answer is that the legal system hasn't really decided for certain.

As Matthew Ingram details in this post, some bigger-name bloggers are uppity-in-arms and fanning flames over so-called "RSS-stealers."

RSS is also called "syndication." As with any sitcom in syndication, it is open for anyone to pick up, a sort of implied license. At least I'm sticking to that opinion, although while this should be easily inferred by the concept, I think it's also implied that syndicated material can only be used with original attribution.

All that said, there's not much on either side of the debate in the Wikipedia RSS entry and I can't seem to locate any address to this matter by RSS visionary Dave Winer, but considering the guy never thought once about patenting XML, etc -- I'm betting he's a believer in the implied consent to share RSS'd content.

DRM Poll on torrent tracker site

Interesting results - I would have thought the answers would be more one-sided on what is ostensibly an "illegal download" site...

I was lucky to attend most of Sunday Remixing the Archives Events @ USC Annenberg center. More free events and lectures - Upcoming later in the Year

The final day of TransFormations I, Remixing the Archive, was a wonderful affair.

I missed the first event, the winner of USC's Free Culture NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remix competition. I did check the winners out, Sami Kriegstein - Night of the Living Advertisements (YouTube) (Internet Archive)and Michael Rossmassler - Sugar on My Tongue (YouTube) (Internet Archive). Rock on!!!!

Imagine a brand new cinema: one that goes back in time and follow the road not taken when those Hollywood Pirates left the East Coast and committed themselves to a passive theatrical experience. The panel discussion,THE ROOTS AND FUTURE OF REMIX with Barbara Lattanzi, Anne McGuire, Sean Deyoe and Aram Sinnreich took us back in time to the early 20th Century when film - believe it, we saw the examples - was an active medium with Karaoke features embedded in the viewing experience.

Is remixing really new? Hasn't it been around for centuries both as an artistic practice and maybe since the beginning of this century? Aram jump-started things with an interesting opening. He's been focusing on the organization patterns in culture, with a focus on music creation, to develop a workable theory of network culture. Basically, he's looking at the radical changes in music and what that presages about our uncertain cultural moment, one where Gnarls Barkley/Danger Mouse CRAZY, a remix, is the top summer hit. His point is that it's never been easier to de-fragment, re-fragment the piece of content to make something new. There's a litany of other remix examples....

Next Barbara Lattanzi gave an amazing presentation. She traced back to early, early 20th Century film and showed how, at the beginning, there was a fork, the road not taken. This road gave audiences a hilarious degree of agency. We watched shorts from I think 1920's where audiences would sing back and follow songs, almost karaoke-like, before a feature. It's a radical thought: one would have happened in film became an active, agent experience where the audiences was mobilized?

She gave numerous examples in her work where she's breaking down the passivity model using idiomorphic software. My favorite was her work on the Zapruder-Kennedy assassination reworking and examples of her C-SPAN Karaoke, my favorite being the Alberto Gonzalez karaoke. I can't recommend enough that people check out her website and follow her work.

Why start the Titantic leaving the East Coast? I'd prefer to see the film start with Kate as an old woman. Anne McGuire showed how to do this. Anne presented her remixing, deconstructing, remaking of class films, renamed ADVENTUR POSEIDEN, THE [get the joke Warner Brothers] (The Unsinking of my Ship). We watched how she had the perfect content to remix so that the film starts with the helicopter dropping our lucky group INTO the Poseiden and the ship then unsinks itself. All the content, all day, was great and you should check out her films where possible. What a happy ending!!!!!! The ship rights itself!

Finally and perhaps most interestingly to me given my Online Community focus, there was Sean Deyoe from Betalevel. Betalevel creates and offers remix parties/events/salon - literally creates community where it did not exist employing remix tools. I'm most attracted to the "Swap Meet
Piracy - Karaoke - Conviviality." These are events where people come together to share musical files, but more importantly to gather and sing karaoke. What's so fascinating, what Sean himself finds remarkable about the events is simple: People are far less interested in "stealing"/"sharing" each other music, although they do share music. But the focus always is on the singing/enjoying each other's company.

This gets back to BIG MEDIAS' need for Psych 101 re-education. You don't make honest people dishonest and you don't scare dishonest people into being honest by stupid intimidation tricks. Put another way: human nature did not change with the invention of Napster. If you're the music business, you simply alienate and lose a whole generation of users.

Betalevel shows a third day: you build trust, create a connection between fans, allow them to come together (off AND online) and share, and boomm, you'll make a boatload of money and your fans will be happy.

One theme that emerged in the panel discussions was the sense of "something" emergent or ambient. That is, all the panelists spoke of something "special," almost a magical fusion generated between fans/users and artistic forms. New remix technologies strives to share this content and empower this connection. This sharing, this radical digital transformation of content and space is something new. I found the language to be spiritual in the native-american spiritual ecology sense of connecting to something larger when you share yourself within or with a larger entity.

This is a unique, strange time.

The grand finale was a bravura performance by TV Sheriff and the Trailbuddies. The crowd loved it. So did I. During the performance, a little girl, one of the TV Sheriff's guys' daughter, danced by the stage, roaming around the front.

I couldn't resist the feeling walking to my car that "that something" is already being lost amidst all this "connecting". At the very least, it is becoming more and more concealed, harder to imagine, to see amidst the clutter (no mas Web 2.0 hype) of our mediated society. Children don't understand organizational forms of culture, boingboinging, axis of evil and such. They simply like to dance while their dad plays in a band.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Linux Hits the Big-Time: Microsoft in Bed with Novell

The more Web 2.0 gains steam, the more interesting it is to examine the media's coverage of the major players. It's encouraging that the message is become a stronger and stronger green-light, a push for the investment/financial/advertising community that "OK boys, time to get back in the game."

In counter-point to Forbes' Daniel Lyons' hysteria over Richard Stallman and the tensions in negotiating the new Open Source/GNU license, the New York Times runs an interesting article (headline: "2 Giants in a Deal Over Linux") noting the partnership between Microsoft and Open Source company, Novell, and how this is a logical, development. Linux software, improved by its open source foundation, has a symbiotic relationship with the Free Software movement.

What's most striking is the contrast in tone. Reading the Times, the development actually makes sense. Over at Forbes, folks are getting a wee bit hysterical, Daniel Lyons' (headline: "Microsoft Linux!") seems shocked that the Open Source movement can ACTUALLY GET ALONG with the big, bad Microsoft. But, this is a natural, healthy development.

It's becoming clear that the old poles are dissolving. Those media outlets wedded to the black and white binaries will have a hard time adjusting. Those wedded to the old ways of thinking won't have any choice but change. And they not like it (who does?). But here's for the open-source, free software, and proprietary business models all mixing and matching.