Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Yes, this is the very definition of evil.
Mark Cuban posted a note from a "trusted digital media business veteran" alledging the above in disturbing, though not surprising, detail. read it here.
As Google has grown cozy as the powerhouse of Bubble 2.0 it seems to have cozied up with the early 21st century corporate-political philosophy of: Trust me, I'm [Google] [the president] [your local utility company]. Are they succumbing to the weak-ass corruption at the top of the service industry food chain?
What's even more frightening is that a majority of the old money keeping Google afloat has about as much of a clue as to what it is or will be and the service it provides as they thought they knew when they put all their money into the iOmegas and Pets.coms of yesteryear.
Worse, the biggest consumers of Google and especially YouTube's services, belong to a generation that has grown immune to the hypocrisy of corporate leadership, practically expecting scandals to be exposed as if they are just another element of democracy in action. How many of today's youngest voters can actually name the presidents who preceded their existence (14 years ago, Clinton became president).
Last, will the public and media response to Google's endeavors w/ YouTube and big media -- essentially spending billions to ensure a monopoly on the market before they become stale and "so last year" to today's youth (see Yuki Noguchi's piece in the Sunday WaPo) -- just as the public and media responds to all other corporo-political infringements on democracy (think the ongoing Iraq war)?
BONUS COV'G: MySpace now claims to be using GraceNote to flush it's supposed tens of millions of users of copyright-infringing files.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
The article is a good overview of the dilemma facing the Free Software and Open Source movement in the next round of Linux licenses. What I find interesting is how the absence of a "intellectual goods knowledge ecology" counter-narrative to the Forbe's dominant narrative.
Forbes caricatures the Free Software programmers, led by Richard Stallman, as radical demagogues. While we don't have to agree with Stallman's objectively extreme position, Forbes intentionally omits how the Free Software movement believes human rights and issues of freedom of knowledge are involved.
We shouldn't expect Forbes to offer a Free Software defense. What is interesting is that the Free Software and Free Culture movement have failed in their communication strategy. There simply is no mention of their position that issues of access to knowledge or an "ecology of intellectual goods" is in play. Until that camp improves their PR strategy, we should not expect the Free Software movement to be painted as anything but extreme.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
ABC News reports that the problem has existed for more than five years.
Chicago Tribune reports election officials claim to have patched the more than 5-year-old problem.
Can you imagine how much money may have been made by hackers over the past five years who accessed this info? I mean charging just 2 cents per SS# could provide nearly $30k toward an entire year's tuition at USC.
ABC News report
Illinois Ballot Integrity Project
Monday, October 23, 2006
A machine running on the same software version (4.3.15c) defined in the source code sent to Kagan was thoroughly hacked into and documented in September by Princeton's Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten in the 26-page "Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine" (view PDF, "Internet Christian minister" Rev. Bill McGinnis summarizes it here).
Kagan's story was first reported last Friday in Baltimore Sun by reporter Melissa Harris.
An accompanying letter refers to the State Board of Elections and calls Kagan "the proud recipient of an 'abandoned baby Diebold source code' right from SBE accidentally picked up in this envelope, right in plain view at SBE. ... You have the software because you are a credible person who can save the state from itself. You must alert the media and save democracy."
No matter how or even if Kagan's story is true, a crime, or whatever -- it remains both ironic and suspicious that the one company authorized to make electronic voting systems in this country has kept their source code bottled up as if it contained the ingredients for Coca Cola's secret syrup. Opening source code to independent professional reviewers and critics who may find bugs and other flaws should be mandatory for a company that for months has represented itself with broken HTML code on their home page (see http://www.diebold.com/dieboldes/).
(Coincidentally 2 men pleaded guilty this morning in the FBI investigation into stolen Coke "trade secrets.")
Joe Strupp, of the newspaper industry watchdog Editor & Publisher asks, "Is Press Taking Possible Voting Problems Seriously?" (ABC's World News Tonight is devoting a fair amount of programming to the issue.)
Kagan, a Democrat, is the executive director of the Freeman Foundation -- a philanthropic community-focused charity -- and is a noted critic of her state's election chief and the Diebold voting systems. She said she's been in contact with the FBI and intends to cooperate with any investigation.
Maryland's deputy elections administrator claimed the disks contain "nothing that's being used in this election." Which is quite a suspicious thing to say in and of itself.
In other election season news, Google Earth has new layers and placemarks with useful 2006 election info.
(In Barry Levinson's "Man of the Year," Robin Williams stars as a comedian-turned presidential candidate who is elected only thanks to a bug in the electronic voting system that skews results).
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Oddly, no byline on this tight report from the AP's boy scout beat:
"Working with the Boy Scouts of Los Angeles, we have a real opportunity to educate a new generation about how movies are made, why they are valuable, and hopefully change attitudes about intellectual property theft," Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in a statement Friday.
Contact Victor Zuniga, head of Boy Scouts LA to find out the nature of these "merit badges."
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Three of the four major music companies — Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, Sony and Bertelsmann’s jointly owned Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and the Warner Music Group — each quietly negotiated to take small stakes in YouTube as part of video- and music-licensing deals they struck shortly before the sale, people involved in the talks said yesterday. The music companies collectively stand to receive as much as $50 million from these arrangements, these people said.
This payoff will certainly materialize faster than any potential compensation from a lawsuit would. But the possible catch -- doesn't part-ownership also entail liability for any future content-related lawsuits filed against YouTube?
Earlier this week, Universal sued video-sharing portals Grouper and Bolt, demanding 15 grand per infringement and telling the press:
"Grouper and Bolt... cannot reasonably expect to build their business on the backs of our content and the hard work of our artists and songwriters without permission and without compensating the content creators," a Universal spokesman said..
Yeah, I'm sure they're worried about 50 Cent appearing on a mini-YouTube or Mariah Carey being compensated (doesn't she have like a $20M contract)?
Last month it seemed Universal woke up thinking it was still 1999, only big mama RIAA is at bay (or, more likely, abusing the courts and/or high school kids).
Will there be more juicy details on this YouTube + Big 3 of 4 so-called partnership? Or is the new YouTube opaque?
Is the industry *finally* comin round the bend? The article -- titled "Record Labels Turn Piracy Into a Marketing Opportunity" details what could be considered (to put it nicely) the industry taking a wide turn. An alternate (if not more accurate) title in a more reality-based publication could be "Record Labels Think p2p is Just Another Way to Own You."
According to the WSJ, the old-school "decoy" technique, in which bad-karma'd companies like ARTISTdirect flood the p2p networks with fakes of "as many as 30 of the Billboard Top 100" to frustrate users to endlessly search for a legit copy of a song instead of hearing it once and then buying the record (not to mention, the title of the song spikes up to the top of the search charts as a result of the neverending-search-for nothing corporat practical joke). Since this is a Public Diplomacy course, let's just make a stretch and call it the carrot-stick approach.
Unfortunately, big media still thinks it has the upper hand and somehow must *fight* p2p and other "free" media-sharing, especially in light of the 2005 Grokster decision. From the WSJ article:
Before the ruling, record labels worried that they might undercut their legal arguments if they used peer-to-peer sites for their own purposes. Now, "we're basically free to exploit these billions of fake files we're putting out," says Randy Saaf, chief executive of MediaDefender.
MediaDefender is the p2p-weasling company that was bought out by ARTISTdirect last year. Somehow -- or I'm not reading it right -- the WSJ scribes are buying into MediaDefender's notion of "marketing," but frankly it's no different than me sharing a hundred fake mp3's on the old Napster and listing them as Metallica cuts.
The chart to the left, featured in the WSJ article, is from BigChampagne, the same online media measuring company that confirmed that -- in terms of "moving units" -- Danger Mouse's "Grey Album" was in a stratosphere to itself on Feb. 24, 2004, or Grey Tuesday, when we all went grey and/or hosted the Album. Today, BigChampagne has courted Nielsen and claims to be "the leading provider of information about popular entertainment online."
Jay-Z, needless to say, never had a problem with the mashup concept and lo, his fortunes have only grown. Nearly two years later, might *some* of the majors be finally getting it? Turn up that Young Dro and stay tuned . . .
(More digressive irony: The top Google results for listen to the grey album are ARTISTdirect-hosted pages.
Search via Yahoo! audio search, however, and it's all there!)
Monday, October 16, 2006
According to the paper "Consumers, Fans, and Control: What the Games Industry
can teach Hollywood about DRM" by Landau et al from Sun Research, which will be presented in two weeks at the 6th ACM workshop on DRM, the answer is probably yes.
The paper claims that Hollywood's current DRM models might be too "restrictive", in the sense that they only allow viewing a film, rather than actively editing or changing it. The authors then postulate that Hollywood can benefit from applying more "flexible" DRM models to their content, which would enable users to make edits and changes, in a similar way MMORPG gamers can change, edit and contribute to different popular online gaming environments ("Second Life", for example).
This idea sounds reasonable, right? the users will be happy since they will be able to edit and change the content as they wish, and the studios will profit more by selling many editable copies. Well, not quite... with a DRM system in place, Hollywood can still have a saying on what changes it approves and what changes it does not. While this might be OK with some users, others would not like such constrainsts. What about buying an editable version of a film, changing it and then releasing it anonymously? will that be possible with a DRM system in place? I doubt it... And these are just a couple of examples illustrating why there should not be any DRM systen in place to begin with.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Garland spoke of just how clueless media companies are and how they're entering a new stage of DRM conflict with the tech giants themselves, ie, Universal Music's rumbling of discontent toward Apple and Myspace and all of Hollywood now aiming their guns at YouTube. Garland used the metaphor of friction, of how Hollywood. The media companies keep putting up more friction, preventing users from exploiting their media on the internet, driving them off the grid into Pirate territory!!!
Temperatures will be rising.
Demers endorses remix culture and advocates new criteria in promoting "original" remixed content. One, the transforming remix should not decrease the marketability of original material. Two, the transforming artwork does not harm the reputation of the creators.
But Demers never answered this question: who exactly will adjudicate and utilize this criteria. Does she count on the courts, the public, the corporations? Unfortunately, we ran out of time to pursue this. Also, it remains unclear why music labels and their conglomerate owners will have a change of heart?
Together, both guests paint a picture of a digital future with conflict, opportunities, implosions, imaginings and uncertainty.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
In the same breath as pocketing a cool $1.65B in Google stock, licensing and copyright-protection agreements were made with the likes of Warner, Sony/BMG, Universal, CBS (it's looking like one singular beast of a media mongrel at this point).
You Tube has been all the rage for it's year-and-a-half existence, but -- isn't YouTube's success primarily a result of its lax oversight and takedown policies? Surely, Chad Hurley and his couple dozen of employees at You Tube don't care anymore -- as long as they sell their Google stock in the near future. But once you can't get anything you want on You Tube, the traffic will most naturally channel itself elsewhere.
Alex Veiga wrote about this today for the AP, and the article's a good read, complete with a variety of quotes. The basic drift is:
[R]ecent agreements with high-profile content creators require YouTube to deploy an audio-signature technology that can spot a low-quality copy of a licensed music video or other content. YouTube would have to substitute an approved version of the clip or take the material down automatically.Veiga predicts that YouTube's anti-piracy platform will resemble the nightmare watermarking techniques of Audible Magic. Competitor Guba uses content-comparison software called "Johnny" to filter out copyright infgingements on videos uploaded there.
CJR's Gal Beckerman says the deal is "doomed just because it is." YouTubers are "gravely concerned," summarizes another article.
The real winners here are the VC's, like Sequoia Capital, which invested 11 million into YouTube and come out of the deal with a whole lot more, writes Staci of Paid Content.
Sure, Google and YouTube will most likely come out OK. The real losers, however, are the users -- that is to say everyone save for the handful of jackasses makin a mean living by hording and raping other people's property (not the kind of OPP that any content producer or consumer would be down with).
Is Google lining up to be the darling sweetheart of government-sponsored corporate Internet ownership? Google does publish a little one-sheet guide to Net Neutrality, deep in their help section). I'm guessing there aren't many Save the Internet badges floating around Mountain View.
(Apparently you'll never find out what's going on at Google if you're using Yahoo Maps). Which reminds me of a prank Yahoo! pulled when they launched their new Maps beta last year. The address for Google was listed as "The Dude's Fish Store." It's hilarious -- read about it here. Perhaps the grey boxes on Y!Maps are just retribution.)
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
By including Macrovision with its products, TiVo is designing a product that is intended to control its owner and treat its owner (TiVo's customer) as an attacker. They've added a swatch of functions that act directly against a user's interests (there's no time at which it's in a user's interest to have her device refuse to record a show the user wants to record). In so doing, they've created a bunch of potential failures in which the user is locked out of her own equipment.
It's like those movies where an accident or a bad guy triggers the "self-destruct button" on a spaceship. Often the self-destruct button is locked away behind plexiglas and padlocks for safety, but wouldn't it be safer not to include a single command that blows up the whole space-ship?
TiVo's problem is a "glitch" but the reason they're having this kind of glitch is that there's a single command that can tell the TiVo to stop listening to its owner. Wouldn't it be better if TiVo didn't build in any technology that attacks its customers?
Our initial test was smooth: we got high-def HDMI output to the JVC receiver and the attached HDTV, and a simultaneous standard-def signal from the TiVo's S-Video and composite outputs (which we were watching on separate monitors). But when we moved onto another program--Revenge of the Sith, recorded off of HBO-HD--the screen suddenly went gray, with a TiVo warning emblazoned across the bottom: "Viewing is not permitted using the TiVo Digital Media Recorder. Try another TV input." Several other programs--Empire of the Sun (HDNet Movies), Simone (HBO-HD), and episodes of Battlestar Galactica (Universal HD) all yielded the same result. Further investigation revealed the culprit: hitting the Info button from the program listing page (TiVo's Now Playing screen) on these programs included a section called "restrictions": "Due to the policy set by the copyright holder, this recording: Cannot be transferred to VCR, DVD, or any other media device. To learn more, visit www.tivo.com/copyprotection."
Visiting that link will reveal apparent culprit: TiVo's Macrovision copy protection. Apparently, these programs were flagged as "copy never," so the box was dutifully following orders, and allowing video only via the copy-protected HDMI output (which is, to date, impossible to record). This isn't new: as far back as 2005, there were reports of TiVo boxes imposing restrictions on the viewing of certain TV shows. At the time, TiVo blamed the restrictions on "false positives"--saying the viewing restriction technology, ostensibly designed for pay-per-view and video-on-demand programming, was being turned on (by the cable companies) to cover a wider array of programming.
When we contacted TiVo about the issues we were having, a company engineer was stumped: he reiterated the same claim from last year, that the content flags should be appearing only on PPV and VOD programs. He suggested that the problem was twofold: our local cable company was "overflagging" its content, and/or the JVC receiver was not properly interpreting the copy-protection flag.
Monday, October 09, 2006
We would only win, they [referring to three key lawyers who advised him before arguing the Eldred decision at the Supreme Court] repeatedly told me, if we could make the issue seem 'important' to the Supreme Court. It had to seem as if dramatic harm were being done to free speech and free culture; otherwise, they would never vote 'against the most powerful media companies in the world.'
I hate this view of the law. Of course I thought the Sonny Bono Act was a dramatic harm to free speech and free culture. Of course I still this it is. But the idea that the Supreme Court decides the law based on how important they believe the issues is just wrong. It might be 'right' as in 'true,' I thought, but is 'wrong' as in 'it just shouldn't be that way.' [pg. 230]
Hmmmmm. Lessig almost sounds like a character out of CASABLANCA. "Say it ain't so Sam!!!!"
Someone needs to give the free culture folk a news bulletin friends: "individuals, including Supreme Court justices, political opponents and the general public (including myself and yourself) are emotional creatures. And here's another secret, your political oppenents just might be willing to actually - NEWS BULLETIN AGAIN - MANIPULATE people with emotional arguments/messages."
It just shouldn't be that way.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Dutch security analysis
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Purchaser shall not sell or transfer any Cat purchased hereunder to anyone other than an immediate family member, and shall not offer to any person the purchase of a Cat or any genetic material from a Cat, the rights Purchaser may have under this Agreement, or any other right related hereto, without the Company’s express written authorization.The cats are sold neutered.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Larry Page and Sergey Brin are obviously aware of these warnings, so what could they be thinking? Yes, YouTube has a massive user base, members of which visit frequently and stick around for a while when they do. Gathering more users to whom ads can be served under the Google umbrella is definitely one reason Google might take the plunge. But a $1.6 BILLION price tag plus being sued into oblivion? Sounds like a big headache -- unless Page and Brin don't believe they'll be sued into oblivion.
Is Google the company with pockets deep enough, enough clout and enough chutzpah to challenge in court the current bastardization of copyright law represented by the digital-rights management practices of major industry content providers? Perhaps they believe it's one's constitutionally protected right to upload a clip of yourself acting goofy for the camera while a Madonna song plays in the background, that what users upload to YouTube actually gives more to the culture than it takes away from the mainstream content industry, and that this potential Pareto superiority should be acknowledged and encouraged in an effort to support cultural creativity.
If Page and Brin go through with this, it would have to be because they believe they'll win and put this issue to bed for now. Otherwise, they could possibly be morons.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Apparently some Russian officials are unconvinced of the site's illegality, and until Russia is officially a member of the WTO, it is not bound by its rules, so this situation's outcome remains an interesting mystery.
Links to news stories here and here.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Sweden has faster broadband with deeper penetration than just about anywhere in the world. That, combined with the techno-friendly attitude that pervades Scandinavia and a government slow to take any kind of action, allowed file sharing to root deeply in practice and popular culture.
In her articles, Quinn highlights a fact she uncovered in interview after interview: ideology being secondary to history. The growth of the Pirate Bay grew from the fundamental technological fact of Swedish society: the deep, powerful broadband connectivity saturating the culture and its people. It's fascinating that Quinn's subjects repeatedly emphasize their society's connectivity and discount ideology as the motivation for the founding of such a movement.
Quinn quotes Rasmus Fleischer, one of the founders of Pirate Bay (Piratbyran),
But Piratbyran is not dedicated to copyright or patent abolition -- it has no legislative agenda. It holds a nuanced view of the created work itself: Each work must find its own social and economic niche. "I don't think of this (as) the big battle," says Fleischer, "but thousands of microbattles [someone needs to make sure Ramus and Chris Anderson, Mr. Longest Tail have drinks]."Later, one of Pirate Bay's leaders strategizes that, "the talk turns to strategy: how to create media events, awareness campaigns, educational programs to let people know that piracy isn't about free movies -- it's about clearing the way for culture to progress [my emphasis]."
It's not the problem of the pirates, he tells me later, to figure out how to compensate artists or encourage invention away from the current intellectual property system -- someone else will figure that out. Their job is just to tear down the flawed system that exists, to force the hand of society to make something better.
If the next thing isn't good enough, they will tear that down, too.
The Free Culture movement also came out of a specfic context: the unique, protected space of under-graduate, small liberal art colleges. While at Swarthmore, the two founders of Free Culture, Nelson Pavlosky and Luke Smith, who, according to Mother Jones, had already founded the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons, began the Free Culture movement. The catalyst was Pavlosky's and Smith's outrage at electronic voting-machine manufacturer, Diebold's, use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to intimidate ISPs from hosting stories about deficienies in their voting machines. Following leaders such as Lawrence Lessig, the organization promotes the establishment of college chapters comitted to the creative commons, the promotion of freedoms to remix, create, build and imagine new possibilities.
The organizations differ in their treatment of the risks that come in tearing down old frameworks and imagining new ones. The Pirate Bay is honest in their disinterest in promoting an alternative to copyright, focused soley on its destruction. They leave the promotion of new freedoms and models to others. In contrast, Free Culture promotes a specific vision: a remix culture and new democratic forms of expression.
Quinn reports on their electoral results: a failure to generate 1 percent of the vote, less than the 4% needed for one representative. This was down from a party who had registered more members online than the Green Party who had 17 seats in Congress.
What both movements promote, not just what they oppose and want to tear down, will be fundamental factors of their growth and success.
Johansen doesn't think what he's doing is illegal; he's adding DRM rather than breaking it. He and Farantzos were giddy about the prospect of Apple's iTV, hoping companies will pay up to get movies on the set-top box when it comes out, after seeing the ill effects of being shut off the iPod. Spurned by Apple? Step right up.
This is a different twist on the constant battle between DRM crackers and builders (see, just last week, Microsoft's lawsuit5 against a hacker for releasing an app that strips off its PlaysForSure DRM). If successful, DoubleTwist will eliminate Apple as a middleman to its own hardware. But in doing so, it just might help Apple sell more of that hardware. Apple enjoys fat margins on its devices, and perhaps should turn a blind eye, for now.