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September 14, 2005

Financial Battle for the New InterfaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Here is the situation:


  1. If blogging has a business model, it is based on advertising.
  2. Blogs are posted on Web sites, which carry the advertising.
  3. RSS feeds are increasingly adding ads to the feeds, BUT
  4. The revenue from the ads goes to those providing the feed, not to the content creators.

Below is a typical Feedburner RSS ad, which appears in Newsreaders but not on Web pages. We'll discuss it after the flip:

tpmcafe-main.gif

UPDATE: After this was posted, Feedburner vice president-business development Rick Klau wrote the following. It is directly on point (as the lawyers say):

While I can only speak for FeedBurner, we only splice ads into feeds for publishers, on behalf of the publisher. We never splice ads in a feed that the publisher didn't ask for, make money from, or know about, ever. It's the same type of model as web advertising solutions that you use on your site, and you make most of the money.

FeedBurner is a publisher service. We only perform those services on a feed that a publisher wants us to perform, and that goes for everything, whether it's splicing ads, applying a stylesheet, or tracking statistics.

No blog site manager running our service can be unaware that their feeds have ads in them because it is impossible to get ads in your feed at FeedBurner without either directly contacting us or selecting the AdSense for Feeds program and providing us with all the details needed to splice in those ads.

Continue reading "Financial Battle for the New Interface"

August 28, 2005

The Other KatrinaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

While using the Web to track Hurricane Katrina (get out of New Orleans and Biloxi while you still can) I found the high-ranking site for another Katrina, Katrina Leskanich.

Don't remember her? How about her band Katrina and the Waves? Still nothing? OK, how about this:

Now I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
And Don't it Feel Good (Hey) (All right now) And Don't it Feel Good (Hey)
(Yeah)

If you're of a certain age (anywhere from 35 to about 45) that should send you running screaming from the room. The band made a living off that for years, but by the mid-1990s even the Germans were tired of them.

So Katrina, who was an American Army Brat but has been in England since 1976, went back to the drawing board. She actually had some success, even winning the Eurovision Song Contest for England in 1997, but she wanted back in the pop game.

So how do you make a comeback in 2005?

Continue reading "The Other Katrina"

August 25, 2005

Corruption of the ListsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

boortz book.jpgThere's a chain of bookstores in South Georgia that hold a secret.

I discovered it on the way back from a convention in Orlando one day, desperate for some present to give my book-loving wife.

Stacked floor-to-ceiling in these stores are "best-sellers," nearly every "big" title from a right-wing hack delivered over the last decade or more. There's Laura Bush's autobiography, alongside the Swift Boat attack on John Kerry and titles from the whole Fox News pantheon. There are right-wing preachers, firebreathers, and a ton of get-rich-quick books by folks who, if they really knew that much, would have gotten rich some other way.

I think about those stores whenever I see "books" like Kevin Trudeau's Natural Cures or Neal Boortz' Fair Tax Book topping things like The New York Times best-seller list, week-after-week.

Do you know anyone reading this dreck? You might not.

Continue reading "Corruption of the Lists"

August 16, 2005

Refusing to LearnEmail This EntryPrint This Article

washington canard.jpgPeople often ask me what's wrong with journalism.

The answer comes down to one word -- arrogance. Even junior members of the trade think they're in a profession, whose job it is to rule on what's true and what's not, all decisions final.

Take William Beutler of The National Journal, for instance. Beutler just got a pretty amazing gig. As editor of the Hotline Blogometer he spends the day scouring the political blogosphere and tallying up the points. (He is still listed as writing The Washington Canard, but he doesn't update it often anymore. The picture is from that Web site. Beutler's a shy fella.)

It's hard work, as some in Washington might say. And mistakes will happen. Journalists complain that bloggers won't spend 5 minutes on the phone to get something right. Well, journalists won't spend 20 seconds on Google to do the same thing. And Google's improving much faster than the phone.

Anyway, Beutler's August 15 missive began by referencing Cindy Sheehan as an "alleged" gold star mother. I went ballistic. Whatever you think of Sheehan's protest, no one can argue that she is, in fact, a Gold Star Mother (all caps), this being " an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of our country."

After considering my e-mail for some time, Beutler made a slight change. He didn't acknowledge the mistake. He just took the alleged out. And gold star is still lower case, still in quotation marks.

Now, before you click below, get out your hankies.

Continue reading "Refusing to Learn"

August 15, 2005

A Basic Threat To The WebEmail This EntryPrint This Article

cavebear.gif
The recent contretemps over Google's Digital Library plan proves that the essential conflict between copyright and connectivity has not been resolved.

I was chilled by this comment from Karl Auerbach, (right, the cartoon featured on his home page) former ICANN governor and certified "good guy" of Internet governance, to Dave Farber's list:

I've become concerned with how search engine companies are making a buck off of web-based works without letting the authors share in the wealth.

I've looked at my web logs and noticed the intense degree to which search engine companies dredge through my writings - which are explicitly marked as copyrighted and published subject to a clearly articulated license.

The search engine companies take my works and from those they create derivative works.

Continue reading "A Basic Threat To The Web"

August 05, 2005

Gangs of New BlogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

the crucible.gifOm Malik's pointing to Robert Scoble's friends hammering Andrew Orlowski over the IE7 beta got me thinking about blogging social structures. (The image is from the archives of Johnstown, New York's Colonial Little Theater.)

It's becoming gang warfare, done on a psychological level.

Every top blogger has a gang of toadie blogs that will do its bidding. I got a little taste of that with the Ev Williams mistake (not that I didn't deserve the hammering) When a top blogger identifies a target for ridicule, others can jump in like wolves.

It works the other way, too. When an individual becomes a target a mob of bloggers may take them down, unled. This is what happened to Dan Rather. The story about Bush being a chickenhawk was sound. There was a problem on one of the sources. But a mob of bloggers brought him down, and now they celebrate this, daily.

Continue reading "Gangs of New Blog"

August 02, 2005

The Moore's Law DialecticEmail This EntryPrint This Article

gordon moore.jpgToday's politics is cultural.

Even economic and foreign policy issues are, in the end, defined in terms of social issues. This creates identification, and coalitions among people who might not otherwise find common ground -- hedonistic Wall Street investment bankers and small town Kansas preachers, for instance.

I am coming to believe the next political divide will be technological. That is, your politics will be defined by your attitude toward technology.

On one side you will find open source technophiles. On the other you will find proprietary technophobes.

It's a process that will take time to work itself out, just as millions of Southern Democrats initially resisted the pull of Nixon. Because there are are divisions within each grand coalition we have today, on this subject.

  • On the right you see many people who work in open source, or who worry about their privacy, asking hard questions of security buffs and corporate insiders.
  • On the left you see many people who consider themselves cyber-libertarians facing off against Hollywood types and those who create proprietary software.

This latter split gets most of the publicity, because more writers are in the cyber-libertarian school than anywhere else.

Initially, the proprietary, security-oriented side of this new political divide has the initiative. It has the government and, if a poll were taken, it probably has a majority on most issues.

But open source advocates have something more powerful on their side, history. You might call it the Moore's Law Dialectic.

Continue reading "The Moore's Law Dialectic"

July 30, 2005

This Week's Clue: Information Wanted to be TranslucentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

wow-z-mano-crystal-zc-translucent.jpgThis week's issue of my free weekly newsletter, A-Clue.Com, dealt with issues of copyright and intellectual property. (Subscribe here.)

It is the central issue of our time. Information isn't what it was. But what it was isn't what you were taught it was.


Information doesn't want to be free. It wants to be translucent. (Zach's Magic Rock, courtesy of Texasarrowheads.com, is translucent.)

I have been learning about translucence in my new hobby of bread-making. You know you're done kneading when you can take a piece of dough, pull it apart with your fingers, and see light shining through it before it breaks apart.

Information is like that. It wants to be given to those who will pay for it, in a coin selected by those who hold it.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Information Wanted to be Translucent"

July 19, 2005

Is Chris DeWolfe Worth $580 million?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Rupert murdoch.jpgThat's what Rupert Murdoch has paid for him, buying his Intermix Media and its prime asset, MySpace.

UPDATE: Techdirt is pointing out that Intermix, the parent company, is also a notorious producer of adware and spyware.

Fox has never had an Internet strategy. This was partly because Murdoch wouldn't pay top dollar for Internet assets. But it was also because he has kept his Internet operations on a short leash.

By spending big to get MySpace, which has taken over the business of social networking around music in the last year, Murdoch is changing his tune.

But it doesn't matter unless DeWolfe, who launched MySpace just two years ago with Tom Anderson, has a second strategic act in him.

Continue reading "Is Chris DeWolfe Worth $580 million?"

July 18, 2005

Press BiasEmail This EntryPrint This Article

ap_logo.jpgConservatives have long complained the press is biased against them. Lately liberals have taken up the same cry.

Now technologists have the right to call out the media as well. When an organization that claims to be totally dedicated to the search for objective truth, like the Associated Press, starts slipping bias into its tech coverage, watch out.

I first saw the story, and headline, in the Rocky Mountain News. Opera has placed BitTorrent support directly into its browser, hoping that will help it pick up market share against Firefox and Explorer.

But the headline? Piracy tool turns legit. And the text was no better. " The Opera Web browser will soon support a file-transfer tool commonly associated with online movie piracy."

Excuse me, AP, but bull-cookies. BitTorrent is not Kazaa. It's a technology. There's no business there. Blaming BitTorrent for piracy is like blaming FTP or SMTP or even HTTP for piracy, because you can move copyrighted files. You can move copyrighted content across all Internet protocols. They are value-neutral. And the head of Opera even told you why he did this -- because it enabled the rapid distribution of Opera itself and Opera wanted such a capability widely-available.

Techdirt went ape-biscuits over this, as they should have, but never considered why the AP acted as it did.

Here's why.

Continue reading "Press Bias"

July 15, 2005

The Most Subversive Book Series EverEmail This EntryPrint This Article

harry potter 6.jpg Hear me out.

J.K. Rowling conceived her entire series on a train. It would be seven books, matching the years spent at an English boarding school such as Eton.

Book Six was released tonight. Rowling herself appeared at Edinburgh Castle at midnight, behind a puff of smoke, to read some of it to some of her fans.

The series was conceived, however, on a train, as a growing-up story. The first book would be an 11-year old's tale told from the point of view of the 11-year old. The final book would be an entrance into adulthood, a mature book.

No one could hit that kind of timetable. It's amazing to me that the 6th book went on sale just 7 years after the first one arrived.

My daughter is a big Harry Potter fan. Harry taught her to read, despite mild dyslexia. First my wife read it to her, along with the second and third books. Then she read them herself, several times. She has grown up on Harry but she will still be grown before Harry will. So will the actors who have been portraying the title character and his friends. It's very likely the actors will have to be replaced before the seventh movie can be produced.

But there's even more to it than that.

Remember that, as Arthur C. Clarke said, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

It's this that's the key to understanding what's really going on in the Harry Potter series.

Continue reading "The Most Subversive Book Series Ever"

The New Interfaces (co-starring Steve Stroh as "The Expert")Email This EntryPrint This Article

rss feedreader.gifFor people who like gaming, their games (or online environments) are their main interface to the Web. This has been true for some time, and unremarked upon.

There are other new interfaces that many people depend upon. The iTunes player can be an interface, when linked to Apple's Music Store. Any music player, or multimedia player, is a separate Web interface, which may or may not connect to a Web page at any time. People who swap files use those programs as interfaces.

The point is in many niches the Web browser has already been replaced as the main interface to the Internet. Microsoft's five-year campaign to dislodge Netscape was worthless, which may be why they're letting Firefox run off with so much market share.

And now, even readers are getting their own, separate interface, the RSS reader.

I use FeedDemon. Steve Stroh uses NetNewsWire on his Mac and calls it fabulous. This field has yet to shake out.

I have noticed some big differences occur in my work when I'm using FeedDemon instead of the browser as my interface to the Web:

  • I'm seeing more content, faster.
  • I'm seeing fewer ads.
  • I'm finding great differences among sources in how they react to readers. Some post just a few sentences to the reader, others let the whole article run. The latter sites are seeing far fewer "hits" on their pages than the former, thus far fewer page-views overall, and far-fewer ad reads.
  • Publishers are waking up to this by shortening, even eliminating, the text that goes into the "newspaper" format of feedreaders. The Wall Street Journal is especially aggressive in this. US News is especially lenient.

Steve Stroh has more after the break:

Continue reading "The New Interfaces (co-starring Steve Stroh as "The Expert")"

July 07, 2005

Lasica: King of IronyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

royal crown magnolia.JPGSince I was handing out royal titles last week I thought it might be fun to consider what J.D. Lasica might deserve for Darknet.

NOTE: That's the royal crown magnolia from mytho-fleurs.com. Like it? It's yours.

A long evening spent reading Lasica's book brought the title to me: King of Irony.

Remember, this is a book. Thus it is subject both to a book's business model and its rights regime.

Want a copy? $25.95 plus tax and (if you buy it online) shipping get it for you. Or wait for it to appear at your local library. Or borrow one from a friend, free. Or wait some months for it to appear in a discount bin, or a remainder lot, or a garage sale. The price you pay is a function is a function of the time you're willing to wait for it.

What can you do with this book? I typed an excerpt today by hand. The length of the excerpt, again, is a function of time, and the cost of my time to produce it, unless I want to string it out a page or two. In that case, technology might be deployed -- a scanner -- plus a few minutes with the scanner's OCR software, some cutting-and-pasting, and voila!

Want to steal some more? Production costs are going to get you. A Xerography process may give you a bound book for just a few dollars, if your order is small. An offset process costs less per book, but the order in that case must be bigger. I guarantee the printer will want to know you're a Wiley fella (or lady) before they take the order.

And we haven't even cracked the cover yet. Easy to see where Lasica's crown comes from.

Continue reading "Lasica: King of Irony"

July 01, 2005

J.D. Lasica's "Darknet"Email This EntryPrint This Article

jd_lasica.jpgDon't like fiction? I understand.

But you still need your summer reading. The season is upon us.

So might I offer you the latest from my new friend J.D. Lasica, Darknet

I've been covering the Copyright Wars for nearly a decade, and wish I had looked up from the day-to-day to try something like this book. Its subtitle is Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation, and it covers a ton of ground.

If you're not familiar with the digital underground, or what digital editing is capable of, then Lasica's book will be a revelation to you. Even for old hands like me it's good sometimes to get it all down so you can ponder it as a whole.

Continue reading "J.D. Lasica's "Darknet""

June 27, 2005

A Digital Brown? Or A Digital Plessy?Email This EntryPrint This Article

DavidSouter.jpg

It's unanimous.

By a 9-0 count the Supreme Court has held that Grokster (and its ilk) can be sued.

The decision was written by David Souter (right, in an old picture from Wikipedia), a conservative-turned-liberal appointed by the first President Bush.

Here's the key bit:

"We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by the clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties."

I've highlighted the most relevant portion. To me it looks like they wouldn't hold against BitTorrent, but that Grokster's business model, which did sell the service as a way to infringe, crossed a legal line.

As written I find it hard to argue against the language, but I guarantee I'll disagree with the interpretation, especially the spin being placed on this by the copyright industries.

As I see it the decision puts a limit on the "non-infringing uses" language of the Betamax decision, but does not overturn it. Grokster falls because its business model is based on infringement. BitTorrent has no business model, and thus may be exempt.

Trouble is that is an assertion that will be tested in courts that will twist this result just as the DMCA was twisted to reach this decision. Congress was told by the Copyright industries in 1998 that the DMCA would not overturn Betamax, that it would protect fair use, that it would not be extended in that direction and should not be interpreted as going there.

With this decision -- a unanimous decision as opposed to the 6-3 Betamax ruling -- I guarantee you the industry's lawyers will try and turn this into open season on the Internet.

But can they?

Continue reading "A Digital Brown? Or A Digital Plessy?"

Hilary Rosen Gets It (Too Late)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Hilary rosen.jpgFormer RIAA president Hilary Rosen finally gets it about copyright.

This volume needs to be embraced and managed becasue it cannot be vanquished. And a tone must be set that allows future innovation to stimulate negotiation and not just confrontation.

Her column at the Huffington Post (she apparently chose not to take feedback on it) is filled with honesty about both the tech and copyright industries, honesty she never admitted to (in my memory) while shilling for the RIAA.

But is it possible that this honesty is what finally caused her to leave? (Or did her life, and its imperatives for action, take precedence?)

That would be a shame, because the fact is, as she writes, that the answers here must lie in the market, not the law courts. For every step the copyright industries take in court, technologists take two steps away from them. This will continue until the copyright industries really engage consumers with offerings that are worth what they charge, and which aren't burdened with DRMs that restrict fair use.

Continue reading "Hilary Rosen Gets It (Too Late)"

June 17, 2005

This Week's Clue: Two TrainsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

blogging time copy.jpgWe returned to the topic of e-commerce, and the effort to make money in journalism, with this week's A-Clue.Com, which went out to subscribers this morning. (You can get one too -- always free.)

The topic this week might be called the new media's old media problem, with a proposal for solving it. (I have no idea whether the book here is good or not. If someone can send me a link to sales, we'll see.)

Enjoy.


In software terms blogging and commerce are incompatible. They're two trains running on different tracks.

Bloggers aren't really thinking of making money. They may put up begging bowls, and they make take BlogAds, or put in Google AdSense, but their Achilles Heel is that, when they think of money at all, it's in Old Media terms.

Let's sell ads.

Community Networking Systems like Scoop, Slash and Drupal also share this problem. They have an advantage over blogging systems in that they can scale. They can take a lot of traffic, and a lot of users. Those users are empowered to create their own diaries, or polls, or multi-threaded comments. But again commerce is secondary, in this case even tertiary. The most successful "commercial" community sites are those, like DailyKos and Slashdot, that direct people off-site to give money or time to important causes. There is no built-in business model.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Two Trains"

June 16, 2005

The Real Mark CubanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

cuban.jpgRegular readers of this space will know Mark Cuban as a recurring character in my two online novels, The Chinese Century and The American Diaspora.

I think it's important to note that the Mark Cuban of those novels is a fictional character. He has the same name, face, and background as the real Mark Cuban, but his motivations and actions are purely imaginary. The world of my alternate histories diverge from the real world right after the last election, with the imagined meeting of an American ambassador and a Chinese official. From there on out it's my world, not your world, not the real world.

There is, of course, a real Mark Cuban. You can find this Mark Cuban at his personal blog, BlogMaverick. It's telling that, to my knowledge, Cuban is the only blogging billionaire. I hope it's telling in a good way.

What's the real Mark Cuban like?

Continue reading "The Real Mark Cuban"

June 10, 2005

This Week's Clue: Destroying the VillageEmail This EntryPrint This Article

vietnam war.jpgI guess I felt a little down this week -- about the direction of technology, about the economy, about a lot of things.

So the readers of A-Clue.com got an earful. (You can get one too -- always free.)


There are times when history, like television, goes into re-runs.

We have literally turned Iraq into another Vietnam. But we've seen this movie before, so when Rumsfeld does his McNamara imitations, or Bush plays like LBJ's dumber brother, we change the channel.

Yet the fact is that when history repeats (unlike television) it does so in spades, in triplicate.

World War I was horrible. World War II was worse.

Iraq is not the only Vietnam repeat out there. We're doing the same thing with the Internet.

We're ignoring history. We know what would work to secure our computers, and the networks they run on. But we don't act. So we get this incremental escalation, this drip-drip-drip that leaves us, in the end, worse off than we would be had we taken decisive action at the start.

There are laws on the books that should deal with spam, with spyware, and with the problems of identity theft. They can be found under headings like fraud, theft, and fiduciary responsibility. Nothing is being done today that wasn't done before - only the means have changed.

Instead of moving against these problems together, as was attempted in the 1990s, we're leaving everyone on their own, and sometimes the cure winds up being worse than the disease.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Destroying the Village"

June 06, 2005

Apple-Intel Follow-upEmail This EntryPrint This Article

steve_jobs.jpgIt's official.

Not only is Apple switching its chip supply contract from IBM to Intel, but it is moving to Intel processors in the bargain.

In making the announcement this morning, Steve Jobs said he didn't see how he could continue making great products beyond next year "based on the Power roadmap."

Right after his speech he had a cagey interview with CNBC's Ron Insana. "It’s not as dramatic as you’re characterizing it," he insisted.

"This is going to be a gradual transition. Hopefully a year from today we’ll have Intel-based Macs in the market. It’s going to be a two-year transition.

"As we look into the future, where we want to go is different (from IBM's product roadmap). A year or two in the future Intel’s processor roadmap aligns with where we want to go.

"I think this will get us where we want to be a year or two down the road." Jobs refused repeated requests by Insana to explain what he meant by that. (Jobs is also shaving even more closely than this picture shows. He's down to tiny stubble around a a still-brownish moustache. Hey, Steve, I'm 50 too.)

What I think he means, simply, is video.

Beyond this, most of what I wrote last week holds. This deal is not material to Intel, which continues to face loss of major market share to AMD among Windows and Linux users.

But there are also vital lessons here for followers of Moores Law, lessons I need to impart.

Continue reading "Apple-Intel Follow-up"

May 31, 2005

The Short TailEmail This EntryPrint This Article

obligatory_1.jpegChris Anderson's blog, The Long Tail , is a "public diary on the way to a book" about the economic impact of mass customization.

As the graph shows, the phenomenon is familiar to anyone who blogs, and the challenge is to find a way to profit from it.

Stuff on the left side of the curve has business models. Stuff in the middle is struggling for a business model. Stuff on the right has no business model.

As you can see by looking at the endorsements on the left side of Anderson's blog, the Digirati are reacting like Anderson just discovered fire. And the Long Tail is no less obvious.

What's non-trivial is finding a way to profit from these atomized markets.

Google does it. TiVo does it (sometimes). But must those who profit from the "market of one" all be scaled? What about the creators? And what are the consequences of that?

What we've seen in the market, since the rise of the Internet, is an increasingly-shorter tail. Middle market books don't sell. Independent movies are having more trouble getting produced, not less. Musicians who used to live decent lives on record company contracts find today they can't get a sniff.

Continue reading "The Short Tail"

May 29, 2005

The Real Open Source Challenge is Getting PaidEmail This EntryPrint This Article

greco.st-martin-beggar.jpgI've been a professional writer for over 25 years now. And what is most striking about the last few years, besides the rise of open source and blogging, is the rise of forced amateurism.

I've written about this before regarding Fuat Kircaali. He has built a fortune on the backs of unpaid labor. (No, that's not Fuat to the right, it's St. Martin and the Beggar, by El Greco, from iBiblio.com.)

He's not alone. Far from it, in fact. Three years into a supposed tech recovery and most of the offers I'm getting, still, are for "exposure" or "contacts," not dollars. Even those publishers who do profess to pay something, such as Newsfactor, in fact pay very little. Professional tech journalism, the field I've been part of for 20 years, is circling the drain.

The same is increasingly true of professional software development. The rise of open source disguises a disquieting fact. Many programmers today can't get work, and salaries are down. Most commentary is to the effect that programmers should "get over it." No wonder fewer want to be in the profession. I notice that CEO and sales pay rates in that industry aren't falling.

The fact is that trends designed to liberate this business, so far, are succeeding only in impoverishing the people in it. I've said this before, but the problem here is one of business models.

Continue reading "The Real Open Source Challenge is Getting Paid"

May 26, 2005

The Way of Hollywood is MadnessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

When will we get effective political pushback against Hollywood's absolutism on copyright?

I once thought it would happen when people were jailed for linking.

I was wrong.

The filing of criminal charges against the people who ran Elite Torrents, a BitTorrent "tracking site," and the complete take-down of the site, has caused few ripples. Washington remains as absolutist as ever.

Instead, it's technology that retains our confidence. BitTorrent is now becoming trackerless. No trackers, no tracking sites to take down, no track linkers to toss in jail.

But that's not good enough for me. This is like depending on super weapons to defend us in an atomic age. Without peace, soon, between copyright owners and copyright users, the Internet will be effectively destroyed.

It doesn't take much imagination to see Al Qaeda propaganda, or even terrorist plans, being distributed via a Torrent. Especially a trackerless torrent.

From there it is a very quick move to seeing politicians equate file sharing with terrorism, Torrent users with Al Qaeda, and demands for a complete shut-down on any technology that can benefit the enemy.

Continue reading "The Way of Hollywood is Madness"

May 25, 2005

The Fog of BlogsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

nick kristof.jpgOften the very thing you criticize others for is your own blind spot.

This was never more true than in Nick Kristof's piece (that's him at the left) yesterday called Death by a Thousand Blogs. China's authorities can't keep up with the content produced by broadband, he says. Their legitimacy is drowning in the resulting revelations.

He could have added the impact of cellphones to that. The ideographic Chinese language lends itself to delivering great meaning, even in small files, as the country's cell phone novella make clear. With 90 million new phone users just last year, with every year's phones becoming more data-ready, there's no way the Great Firewall of China can stand.

But what's good for the goose is also sauce for the gander. Kristof's very point speaks to the bankruptcy of pulling his column, and those of others, behind a paid firewall. They are too easy to replace. Their financial value is minimal compared to their value to the discussion. Losing the latter to gain some of the former is truly cutting off your nose to spite your face.

This is not the only lesson.

Continue reading "The Fog of Blogs"

May 23, 2005

File Hoarders Get BitTorrent WinEmail This EntryPrint This Article

BitTorrent -- now trackerless!

Good news (at least in the short term) for file hoarders.

Given that both sides in the Copyright Wars know about language and framing, I'm urging use of this new term for the heavy hobbyist users on peer to peer networks.

  • Pirates (the copyright industries' term) is false. There is no economic motive behind most file trades. There is no assurance that, if trading ended tomorrow, sales would rise appreciably.
  • Traders (the term favored by users) isn't correct either. Most traders are asymmetric. Most are downloaders, not uploaders.

I think the word hoarding says more about the motives of the users, and the way toward ending the practice, than anything else. Thanks in part to the industry's rhetoric, and in part to its actions, many lovers of music and other files are afraid they will lose access to the culture they crave. Thus they demand to have physical copies of its artifacts, and grab all they can. It's classic hoarding behavior.

But time is the limit here, not space. You can only listen to one song at a time, watch one movie at a time. It doesn't matter how big your collection is, the only way to get enjoyment out of it is to play the files.

Many hoarders today already "own" more files than they can play in their remaining lifetimes. When you get your arms around this concept, you begin to see how self-defeating hoarding is.

So how can hoarding be stopped?

Continue reading "File Hoarders Get BitTorrent Win"

May 21, 2005

This Week's Clue: Jerimoth HillEmail This EntryPrint This Article

belmont statue01.jpegIn last week's issue of my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.com, I took a look at business models , following a weekend at beautiful Belmont University in Nashville (left).

This week I continued the discussion, asking why so many responded to that piece denying they had any such thing as A Clue, let alone A-Clue.Com.

Enjoy.


There was an interesting reaction to my piece last week, denial.

Many of the leaders in the blogging business read it, and all of them denied its inherent truth, namely that they had A Clue.

I'm not a business, insisted Jason Calacanis. Never mind that he has 65 blogs, a uniform look-and-feel, that his writers don't even get their pictures on their blogs and, when they leave, they leave with nothing. No, it's all about passion, he insists. We do this for love, he says. Business? We're not building one of those.

So it went.

I'm not a success, insisted Rafat Ali of Paidcontent. I'm not powerful, insisted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. I'm a dilletante, said Glenn Reynolds. I'm only here for the beer, said Dave Winer. I'm no one at all, said Pamela Jones of Groklaw.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Jerimoth Hill"

May 18, 2005

Newsweek and 2+2Email This EntryPrint This Article

newsweek_logo_180x180.gifI didn't want to blog this. But when a good friend repeats a lie as truth and gets upset over it, truth just has to get its shoes on. So here goes.

Newsweek didn't kill anyone. Anyone who claims different is selling something.

Newsweek reported old news. The reporter, Michael Isikoff, had good sources in the Administration. He did all the right things. He had what he considered to be a reliable source. It was even buried deep in the back of the magazine.

The fact that people rioted, and people died, after the story came out is not the fault of Newsweek. It's the fault of whoever stuffed a Quran down the toilet. It's the fault of those who committed torture in our name, those who turned a blind eye to it, and ultimately those at the top. In the end I'm guessing that for every potential life saved by anything given under torture, at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, wherever, we created 100 terrorists, maybe more.

So let's get the story straight.

Continue reading "Newsweek and 2+2"

Waiting for GroksterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

grokster.gifSome time in the next month the copyright world may (or may not) reel from the Supreme Court's decision in the Grokster case.

The facts on their face are as favorable as the plaintiffs can make them. Grokster is all about making money for itself off the property of others. Its business model is to sell ads, including adware (sometimes a polite word for spyware and malware). It hoses both sides of every transaction. And the software really does little more than a good FTP server (with an automated database) would.

The vast majority of Grokster's use is driven by hoarding. People fear losing access to the music they love (or might love). So they load up, until they have gigs-and-gigs of it they have to haul around. (Thanks to Moore's Law of storage this gets lighter and less expensive over time, but it still has to be kept.)

The hoarding in turn is driven by the industry's threats. Threats of rising prices. Threats of lawsuits. Threats of copy-protected CDs.

The market solution to the facts is already in the pipeline. Many have proposed the idea of taxing people for unlimited access to the industry's wares and in fact schemes like Yahoo's Music Unlimited work just that way. Pay the "tax" (which starts at $5/month but could go up subject to negotiations with the industry) and download all you want. No need to hoard. Stop paying and all your files magically disappear. (The genie is found in Microsoft's DRM.)

More on the jump.

Continue reading "Waiting for Grokster"

Rushdie WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

rushdie_salman.jpgAs the U.S. Senate prepares to take up the nuclear option, as the U.S. steps gingerly toward a trade confrontation with China, as pensions and real estate hang as if on a precipice, I'm not worried.

My saintly wife will tell you how I do sometimes rant-and-rail, about this-or-that, how I promise to pull up stakes and move to, say, South Africa. But I never do. Because at the end of the day, I believe, we'll muddle through. Americans have seen worse and gotten by, I tell myself. The system is resilient. This too shall pass.

Not necessarily. I have spent the last few weeks reading Salman Rushdie's most recent masterwork, The Ground Beneath Her Feet. The Earth is constantly shaking, people are always dying, nothing is permanent in this book. Everything and everyone around the narrator is subject to sudden disaster and destruction. The survivor's job is to witness, then tell the tale.

In many ways 9-11 was a visit from Rushdie World. Rushdie himself had moved to New York by then, trading in his beloved Tottenham Hotspur for a New York Yankee cap. And the tragedy is a sub-text to the book. It can happen here. It does. It will. Think of it as evolution in action. Too many people are just no darned good. Their greed, their causes, their passions make them all like nitroglycerin. And the Earth itself is no better.

Yet Rushdie is still here. And I'm still here. And you're still here. For how long we can't know. And we all seem fairly prosperous. Those with talent, and those who are willing to change themselves, may witness more, may survive longer, and may (like Rushdie) leave a mark.

Continue reading "Rushdie World"

May 17, 2005

Patently Obvious Patent and Copyright ReformEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Now that high-tech corporations are being held up (by smaller companies) there's a move afoot to reform the patent system.

Here is a simpler proposal, one in keeping with the intent of the Founders.

Continue reading "Patently Obvious Patent and Copyright Reform"

May 16, 2005

PayolaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Payola.jpgThere's a reason why journalists should be paid, one that people like Fuad Kircaali ignore at their peril.

Corruption. Another word for it is payola. (The illustration is actually the cover of an album by the eponymous German band. Rock on, jungen und madchen.)

If you're a "volunteer" (unpaid) editor at a Sys-Con publication, and a vendor offers you money to spin a story their way, what's the risk in your taking it? Sure, if the boss finds out you might lose your job. But you're not being paid. And this assumes that you're being closely monitored -- the quid pro quo of being a volunteer editor is generally that you're not.

On the other hand, if you're a working journalist and your income (thus your family) is dependent on pleasing the publisher, we have a different calculus. Now a vendor approaches you with an offer and you see a risk in taking it. Not only will you surely lose this job, but you're likely to lose all hope of future employment. (If you're a volunteer editor your employment is not in journalism, remember.)

You can only hold professional journalists to journalistic ethics. Publishers who don't pay editors hand their good name to people beyond their control.

Where does blogging fit into this?

Continue reading "Payola"

May 04, 2005

East of the Blog, West of the MediaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

blog-mad.jpgI will be in Nashville this weekend, attending the meeting of the Media Bloggers Association. (The image is from a cool Brazilian blog I found, apparently written by a 16-year old.)

Before I could pack, leader Robert Cox sent me a list of new applicants for membership. Given the fact I felt my own journalistic credentials were under a microscope for months, waiting for his yea-or-nay (turned out I was lost in the shuffle) and given my own recent mistakes here, I was loathe to pass on the qualifications of others.

Generally, my opinion in the past was that the market decided who should be a journalist, and who was "just" a blogger. But that may not be right. After all, bloggers can go on-and-on until they exhaust themselves, and much journalism is subsidized by politicians, so that the requirement to lie becomes a lifestyle, and the liars become institutions whose credentials no one can question. Robert Novak is a journalist only because he's paid to play one on TV.

But then came news from Reporters Without Borders that 53 journalists died last year trying to report the news. That's paid journalists, real journalists, reporters, editors and publishers.

Continue reading "East of the Blog, West of the Media"

April 22, 2005

Ornstein SyndromeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

norm ornstein.jpgNorman Ornstein has made a career out of giving good quotes. (The picture is from his agent.)

But the danger is like that identified every week by Mythbusters. Don't try this at home. We're what you call experts.

The problem is that the press defines any provocative statement as a "good quote," but those made by experts like Ornstein merely place context in the obvious. In reaching for a good quote, you can easily reopen old wounds, start new controversies, and make yourself foolish at the same time.

Exhibit A. James Governor of Red Monk decided to re-open the (rapidly closing) question of the GPL's legality in order to get into a local magazine, and to suck-up to a potential client, Fortinet.

There's nothing about this "point" on Governor's blog, and Red Monk has issued no press release, although the point is highly provocative. In fact, Governor advertises his willingness to mouth off. "Need a quick reaction to a breaking story? A detailed explanation of the signficance of a recent merger? Whatever your needs, feel free to contact us."

Fine, if you're not just going to throw bombs. And here's where I get in trouble...

Continue reading "Ornstein Syndrome"

April 20, 2005

The Crisis at Google (and how to solve it)Email This EntryPrint This Article

The success of Google has been based on the fact that technology drives its train. Technical success is the most-sought value.

This is becoming a problem.

In many of the new businesses Google has launched, technical values (while important) are not going to be the sole drivers of success. In blogging, in RSS, in Google News, in Google Desktop, in Google Local, and in other areas, other skills are required.

Business skills. Marketing schools. Journalism skills. Political skills. Artistic skills.

Leonardo DaVinci (celebrated above) could not get a job at Google today. In a well-rounded company, his genius would find a place.

The need for these various skills will only increase with time. Google must find a way to recruit these skills, and to reward these skills, without giving the people with these skills control of the company.

This will not be easy.

Continue reading "The Crisis at Google (and how to solve it)"

Gaining the Sweet Smell of SuccessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The following will seem to contradict the item below it.

It does not. (That's the late, great Burt Lancaster and the still-breathing Tony Curtis in The Sweet Smell of Success, courtesy New Yorker music critic Alex Ross.)

The secret to success in every field is found in the skills of the journalist.

Whatever you wish to be -- a scientist, an artist, an entrepreneur, a preacher, an economist, a politician -- you will go further if you have a journalist's basic tool set.

Research thoroughly. Ask good questions. Listen carefully. Write clearly. Explain simply.

These are the skills of journalism. You can pick them up in a few college courses. Some are even taught in journalism schools. Most are learned in the School of Hard Knocks.

The rest of what passes for journalism education is bunk. So learn rhetoric, learn public speaking, learn writing, read as widely as you can. That's what newspapers and TV stations are looking for. They know they can teach the rest of the skill set on-the-fly. Most journalists never went to j-school.

How do I know this is true?

Continue reading "Gaining the Sweet Smell of Success"

Advice for Young JournalistsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Want a career in the exciting, fast-paced world of 21st century journalism?

Get an MBA.

Don't go to journalism school. You can learn to write anywhere. The way to write better is to practice. If you love writing you can pick up the rest on-the-fly.

Instead, go to business school. Why? Because the only way you're going to have a good career in this business is to have the skills of a publisher. And those are the skills taught in business school.

In my first lecture at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, in 1977, we were told firmly that if you wanted to make a good living there was a fine businesss school on campus, the Kellogg School, and we should go there. So I've got their logo at the top of this item. I should have taken the advice.

More on why you should go to business school to learn journalism after the break.

Continue reading "Advice for Young Journalists"

Broken Links, RSS Abuse and BeyondEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have written before about advertising being inserted into RSS feeds, and that is increasing. (Image from Case Western Reserve.)

I'm not just talking about RSS items that are in fact links to ad pages, but RSS items that, while containing links to stories, have additional ads inserted into them.

Now there's another, far more dangerous abuse of the RSS system, phony links.

Phony Links are RSS items from registration-only sites. Most U.S. newspapers are now requiring registration. RSS feeds from these sites now go to sign-in pages, not to the stories themselves. In other words the link is a bait-and-switch. It doesn't go to content, but to a sales pitch.

The AP is abetting that requirement by demanding royalties for online content.

Continue reading "Broken Links, RSS Abuse and Beyond"

April 18, 2005

The Real P2P ThreatEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A Cachelogic study claims two-thirds of Internet traffic is now P2P, by implication the trading of copyrighted files. (That's a Cachelogic product there to the left.)

But is this just another Marty Rimm study?

Rimm, you may or may not remember, wrote a paper at Georgetown Law in 1995 claiming 85% of Web traffic was dirty pictures. This was later disproved, but the damage was done and Congress passed the ill-fated Communications Decency Act.

Mike Godwin, the former EFF counsel who fought the Rimm study and is now senior counsel at Public Knowledge, remains skeptical, noting that the Cachelogic study hasn't gone through peer review. He also notes that, since Cachelogic sells systems to control P2P traffic, it has a natural bias.

The Cachelogic claims may have logic behind them, however. Many ISPs do report that over half their traffic is on ports commonly used by P2P applications. Brett Glass of Lariat.Net, near the University of Wyoming, says the claim seems accurate, noting that unless ISPs cut-back capacity to those ports (a process called P2P Mitigation), the applications quickly discover the fat pipe and divert everyone's traffic to it, filling it at the cost of thousands per month.

And that is at the heart of the problem.

Continue reading "The Real P2P Threat"

April 13, 2005

Citizen BlogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Nick_Denton_web.jpgOne problem journalists have with blogging is it does away with gatekeepers.

Printers are gatekeepers. They cost money and make you think before you publish.

Editors are gatekeepers. That's their job. They assign stories and edit them carefully so you don't mispel words.

Publishers are also gatekeepers. Traditionally their role has been to shield the poor, innocent journalist from the nasty world of business.

Mark Glaser of OJR examined this today without reaching any conclusions (as good journalists are taught to do). (The recent picture of Nick Denton is from the OJR story.)

Glaser interviewed three people whose blogging companies seem to be bringing in bucks -- Denton (of Gawker, Wonkette, etc.), Jason Calacanis (of Weblogsinc) , and Rafat Ali (of Paid Content) -- about how they pay people who work for them.

By the month, said Calacanis. By the story, said Ali. By the reader, said Denton.

Shock! Shock and dismay, responded the folks at Slate and Salon, representing the traditional industry.

To which I respond, huh?

Continue reading "Citizen Blog"

April 04, 2005

Will SCO Case Make The Finish Line?Email This EntryPrint This Article

It's beginning to look like the SCO-IBM case won't make it to the finish line, an end to discovery and summary judgement.

SCO's sponsors are blowing up. Literally.

Maureen O'Gara (left), whose name is like fingers rubbing a balloon to most in the open source community, and is regularly accused by them of being an SCO shill, reported last month that both Ray Noorda's daughter and another executive with Canopy Group, SCO's largest owner, committed suicide.

More telling, perhaps, was her reference to SCO itself, a company she has regularly defended on teleconferences. She called it "the infamous SCO Group."

When your shark-jumper jumps ship, who's left?

The real news from last month is that Canopy's position in SCO has transferred to former Canopy CEO Ralph Yarro, who chairs the SCO board. When the former VC leaves his firm and becomes your CEO, you've got no net below you and (most likely) no new money coming in the door.

SCO could use new money, because when it finally delivered its financial results for fiscal 2004 (on April Fool's Day no less) it had a net loss of $23.3 million on revenue of $42.8 million, against profits of $5.4 million and $79.2 million in revenue. Why? Because sales of licenses to Linux users totaled just $809,000, down from $25.8 million in 2003.

How can this be bad news for open source?

Simple. If SCO fails to make it to the end of discovery, the judge in the case can't set a precedent that will keep others from trying the same con.

Who Sets The Agenda?Email This EntryPrint This Article

thomas friedman.gifThe great struggle of our time, between "major media journalism" and "blogging" involves who sets the agenda.

Exhibit A. I've been writing about the economic threat of India and China for years now. I've called the War on Terror a mere distraction from the real game. I know other bloggers have done the same.

But suddenly, wonder of wonders, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times goes to Bangalore, discovers we're right and now it's on everyone's radar.

I've written before here of the methods by which the major media is trying to co-opt the blogosphere and eliminate the threat. They're taking on some people, attacking others, and in this case, just taking others' ideas and claiming them for their own.


Continue reading "Who Sets The Agenda?"

March 31, 2005

Dana's Law of ContentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

lawbook.gifThe cost of making something good is directly proportional to the complexity of the tools needed to create it. (The picture is from Freeadvice.com.)

This blog item is quite good. The tools needed to create words are very cheap. Even if the tools were more expensive, as they were when I began writing, my cost to create this text would not go up much. And the likelihood of its being of high quality would be just as high.

If I read this on the radio it would not be as good. The tools needed to create a Podcast require knowledge of radio or music production values. Even if Podcasts were as cheap to make as blog items, the proportion of good ones would be smaller than they are for blog items.

And so we come to the latest moves by Microsoft and Sony to deliver consumer video.

Continue reading "Dana's Law of Content"

March 29, 2005

Google vs. News Inc.Email This EntryPrint This Article

hg otis.jpg
The real Hardball isn't the game show on MSNBC, where politicians lie and yap at one another.

It's something far more serious, played every day, by huge corporations that masquerade as guardians of the public interest, but are in fact as corrupt as the rest of us. (That's LA Times founder Harrison Gray Otis on the right. More about Harry Otis here, near the bottom of the page. I direct David Shaw's attention to the quote from Theodore Roosevelt.)

The prerogatives of these corporations and their hirelings, who call themselves journalists (then deny this status to you and me) is under threat on this medium as never before. They're scared, and they're playing Hardball.

Their right, earned by corporate might, to define what is and what isn't news, what is and what isn't fair comment, is under threat, right here, right now.

And they don't like it one bit.

The game is being played mainly on three search engines. On MSN note how these corporations are given, not dominance, but exclusivity. The same is true on Yahoo. Note the list of "resources" at the top-right of the Yahoo page. Note too the prominence given one outfit's stories, the newspaper co-op called AP.

In both cases what you see on your screen is the result of business negotiation. News value is determined by people, meeting in rooms, and (perhaps) money changes hands (we're not told).

Is this fair? It may well be. It's certainly business as usual. And -- here is the key point -- the process is completely opaque.

On the other hand, we have Google News. What you see here looks similar but it is, in fact, quite different. While the stories of the giants do get prominent play, so do other organizations, and other types of news coverage.

At 11:15 AM for instance I checked Google's "coverage" of Laura Bush's trip to Afghanistan, sorted by relevance. Position four was held by a right-wing group, the Conservative Voice. Position seven was held by a left-wing site, Counter Currents, posting a blog item from Counterpunch.

The results on all stories change moment-to-moment, and only a small part of what we call the blogosphere is represented, but the fact is that Google News is offering a far wider set of sources than its rivals. These include "official" outlets like Voice of America and Pravda. They include newspaper sites requiring registration. They also include many sites from outside the U.S.

In some cases, they even include blogs. Yes, even this one.

But that's not the full extent of Google's challenge to the news industry.

Continue reading "Google vs. News Inc."

March 28, 2005

The Demonization of Google Has BegunEmail This EntryPrint This Article

google_fark.jpgThe demonization of Google has begun. (Image from InternetWeekly.org.)

It's one of the great laws of politics. As soon as people decide you have power, and you can be moved, everyone and his auntie is going to try and move you.

I hinted that something might be happening more than a month ago, but it was probably the controversy over Google News that tipped it over.

With Google News, from the very beginning, Google did something it claimed it wasn’t doing. That is, it exercised editorial judgement. As SearchEngine Journal noted, “While an algorithm based on publishing popularity chooses which articles are found under which keyword phrases, the news-authority sources themselves are supposed to be pre-screened by a human.” And some immediately started writing programs to see what those humans might be doing.

But just as I was objecting, wanting to get in, others were objecting wanting to stay out. Agence France-Presse has won an agreement from Google that News won’t even spider stories sent to its affiliates, while Jeff Jarvis is crowing that Google News no longer spiders “hate sites.”

And now the atmosphere of controversy has spilled into the main site. French law demands that ads for competitors not be placed against trademarks. Google complies, on its French site, but continues to employ them on its U.S. site, where the standard is different. So the French sue.

Continue reading "The Demonization of Google Has Begun"

The Grokster Case Is IrrelevantEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As the Supremes prepare to take on the Grokster case, with commenters predicting terrible doom whichever way the wind blows, let me offer a dissenting view.

The Grokster case is irrelevant. The studios have already lost.

The court cannot make file transfers illegal. There are too many ways to transfer them. They can be transferred in e-mail attachments. They can be transferred through Instant Messaging. They can be transferred via MMS.

File transfers are basic to networking. Without the ability to transfer files we're down to typing.

Here's a compromise that rings true to me.

Continue reading "The Grokster Case Is Irrelevant"

March 25, 2005

How To Kill Your NewspaperEmail This EntryPrint This Article

newsboy.jpg

This weekend Slate offers a feature of Philip Anschutz, a conservative businessman (and big soccer fan) who has launched printed papers under the name the Examiner in Washington and San Francisco.

Jack Shafer syggests Anschutz needs to invest more in editorial and consider the Web in order to be taken seriously.

Correct and double correct.

I wrote about this several weeks ago, and what follows is that original copy. You can get it free
any time.


I have a love-hate relationship with newspapers. (This newsboy is advertising news of the Titanic's sinking.)

The business has been at the heart of my "profession" for a century. The whole idea of a journalist as a professional is also a product of this business. I took my graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism. Joseph Medill was the old reprobate who built the Chicago Tribune empire.

But as I've said many times here this whole idea of a "journalism profession" is a fraud. Professionals can make it on their own. Journalists can't. If you don't have a job you are not part of the fraternity. Even if you build a journalism company based on your vision of what the profession should be, you are always nothing more than a businessman.

The New York Times recently quoted a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."

Here in one sentence we have the utter cluelessness of the industry. Here is an opportunity waiting for someone to exploit it.

Continue reading "How To Kill Your Newspaper"

Content's Forgotten Middle ClassEmail This EntryPrint This Article

discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.jpgIn all the arguments over copyright and patents the interests of the middle class creator are constantly invoked, then discarded.

The fact is that, while most western countries are middle class, the structure of their creative classes is pre-Marxist. That is there are a few writers, artists, musicians and actors who get rich from it, and a lot who get virtually nothing.

Unless you have business acumen, or constant success in your field, you're very likely to end up poor. And without a big hit, you're nearly certain to end up relatively poor from your work in the content industries.

At the same time, those who manage the industry, whether or not they have any talent, nearly all wind up rich.

Thus there's a difference between what we find in society as a whole and the content society.

Continue reading "Content's Forgotten Middle Class"

$465 Million For A Trade Secret?Email This EntryPrint This Article

A Santa Clark court has ordered Toshiba to pay Lexar $465 million essentially for violating a non disclosure agreement (NDA).

Some accuse me of not caring about copyright or patent rights. This is neither. It's a trade secrets case. But this is a righteous bust.

The individual responsible for all this, according to the court, was Toshiba employee Hideo Ito. Ito joined the board of Lexar, then a raw start-up, in 1997, and leaked its trade secrets for flash memory not only to his employers but also to SanDisk, the leader in the flash memory field.

Why is this a righteous bust? Because small outfits like Lexar have to align with big outfits like Toshiba in order to take on large rivals like SanDisk. It's the only way they can reach the market. If that confidence is not secured then small companies never have a chance.


Continue reading "$465 Million For A Trade Secret?"

March 23, 2005

The Gibson Safety DanceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Gibson Safety Dance, named for sci-fi author William Gibson, involves companies changing their software simply to keep other programs from accessing it.

It's increasingly common. We've seen it in Instant Messaging, we saw it recently with Microsoft Office, and now we're seeing it with Apple's iTunes.

Jan Johansen, the Norwegian programmer who wrote DeCSS so he could play DVDs under Linux, has entered the fray with a program that breaks the iTunes DRM so Linux users can buy them from the Apple store. Apple's response has been to change the software and keep this from happening.

Continue reading "The Gibson Safety Dance"

March 21, 2005

AOL Surrenders To The Net (AFP Take Note)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Whatever idiot at Agence France-Presse is pushing to keep its stories from being linked widely might want to do a re-think after reading this.

AOL is far more powerful than Agence France-Presse. At one time its walled garden was the most powerful force online. Its shareholders took 45% of Time Warner's equity in 2000, and while that's now worth a fraction of what it was (thanks to the fact they weren't really worth the price), it's still a lovely parting gift (and thanks for playing our game).

Well, after spending billions of dollars and five years fighting the inevitable, AOL has succumbed.

Continue reading "AOL Surrenders To The Net (AFP Take Note)"

AFP Robot.Txt File FoundEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As we reported over the weekend Agence France-Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million. We reported that Agence France-Presse doesn't know how to write a robots.txt file.

We were wrong on that. Carl Malamud (no picture, sorry -- he's shy) found a reference to a robots.txt file on the Agence France-Presse site at http://www.afp.com/robots.txt

While AFP stories are not directly linked to Google News as of March 21, affiliates' publishing of those stories are.

Continue reading "AFP Robot.Txt File Found"

March 20, 2005

How AFP Can Win Its SuitEmail This EntryPrint This Article

afp-logo-1.jpgAs I noted yesterday Agence France-Presse's suit against Google News is silly.

But just because it's silly doesn't mean it can't be won.

Come along after the break and see how that might happen.

Continue reading "How AFP Can Win Its Suit"

March 19, 2005

AFP Sues Google Rather Than Write Robots.Txt FileEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Pepe1.jpgAgence France-Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million, apparently, because Agence France-Presse doesn't know how to write a robots.txt file. (The image of the faux-French cartoon character, Pepe LePew, is linked from a German site.)

The Agence suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleges Google News "stole" its content by linkig to it, with headlines and inserting thumbnails of photos. No claim is made that Google cached whole copies of the news agency's stories.

A U.S. court ruled in 2000 that it's perfectly legal to link deep into another site. But it is also legal to write a program that prevents robots from linking to any page.

On the next page is the code Agence France-Presse could easily insert into a file, robots.txt, linked to its home page, preventing all links from its site:

Continue reading "AFP Sues Google Rather Than Write Robots.Txt File"

March 17, 2005

Bloggers are the new Stasi?Email This EntryPrint This Article

google stpatricks_05.gif
Dem's fighting words, ma'am.

The words are from Tina Brown (right, from the syndicator of her column), at the Washington Post, and they are among the greatest pieces of chutzpah I have ever seen. (Although, personally, I'd love a syndicator. And I could do a job for one, too.)

Careful about clicking below, because I'm about to get mad and my language is about to get very blue indeed.

Continue reading "Bloggers are the new Stasi?"

March 15, 2005

Who Killed ROKR?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Over on another blog where I work, The Mobile Cocktail, my CTIA coverage is featuring a tongue-in-cheek look at the ROKR, Motorola's iTunes compatible phone.

Several journalists (yours truly included) have had fun with Motorola's proposed name, printing pictures of NBC weatherman and FoodTv producer-host Al Roker alongside our stories.

Look, there he is on the cover of People. ROKR-Roker, get it? Since much of Roker the host has in fact disappeared recently, thanks to surgery that made his stomach the size of a chicken egg, the irony is even richer. There are laughs a-plenty. Tears are literally rolling down some journalists' faces. (Not.)

Anyway, the real story here is much more important and much, much nastier.

There is a move afoot among the world's mobile (or cellular) carriers to keep absolute control over all the money to be made with cellular (or mobile) broadband. It's not just the users they seek to control, and not just the phones.

If you download a bit, even megabits, the mobile (cellular) carriers figure they should look at what you're accessing, decide whether you should get it at all, and take a cut of the revenue as well. (A pre-operation Roker-sized cut.)

This is not Internet service they're offering. These are private networks.

Continue reading "Who Killed ROKR?"

March 14, 2005

Apple Suit Reporting is WormyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Reporting on the judge's decision in the Apple lawsuit against three Web sites has been about as bad as it gets. (Celebrate the stupidity with this lovely vase of a wormy apple, from the Seekers Glass Gallery.)

Let me tackle, as an example, the outlet with the best reputation, the BBC. Apple makes blogs reveal sources is the headline.

While the company won the initial court ruling, the fight is far from won. And the decision wasn't germane to bloggers, as the actual story made clear. "Judge Kleinberg said the question of whether the bloggers were journalists or not did not apply because laws governing the right to keep trade secrets confidential covered journalists, too."

Trade secrecy, in other words, gets more protection than national security.

More after the break.

Continue reading "Apple Suit Reporting is Wormy"

Newspapers Are Your Big OpportunityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The New York Times quotes a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."

Here in one sentence we the utter cluelessness of the industry.

Newspapers have always given away their content. Always. The money you pay for your daily paper goes only toward its distribution costs. The ink, the paper, the printing, and the entire editorial budget (which is just 8% of the total, although publishers act like it's the whole thing) -- that comes from advertising.

Where does the money come from? Many sources:

Continue reading "Newspapers Are Your Big Opportunity"

Who Will Break The Chain Against DRM?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Digital Rights Management is a conspiracy.

Once someone breaks it, it's broken.

That's the view of Cory Doctorow, a short version of what he told TheFeature recently.

There was a similar conspiracy against TV in the 1950s, he noted. None of the studios would produce programming for TV, and anyone who worked in TV was blacklisted.

Then one brave company broke the chain. Disney. Walt Disney needed money to open his amusement park, TV offered it. The move gave him an enormous competitive advantage, as big as Ted Turner's advantage in using satellites 20 years later.

Continue reading "Who Will Break The Chain Against DRM?"

March 09, 2005

Democratic Choice on Software PatentsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Neither U.S. voters nor their elected representatives have ever endorsed the idea of patenting software, or mathematical algorithms. It was done by a court.

If this stupidity is to rule over Europe, it's fitting that the people's representatives should decide the question, and it now appears that they will.

The European Commission has pitched the question of software patents to the European Parliament, and will abide by a negative vote.

The winning argument is that software patents would bring Europe a permanent negative balance of payments, and place a toll on European innovation.

Continue reading "Democratic Choice on Software Patents"

March 07, 2005

Who Will Sa-ave Your Soul (for those lies that you told)Email This EntryPrint This Article

When Canadian Michael Geist started his "Law Bytes" column some years ago, I didn't think much of it, or him. It was conventional, and usually took the side of industry.

Either he grew, or I did, because lately he has been rocking. He's loosened up, his writing has gotten better, and increasingly he's on the side of the angels. (Special Mooreslore game now. Guess the headline reference. No peeking.)

Here's an example. In one column he goes after attempts by the Canadian government to wiretap Internet conversations, ISPs' cutting off Vonage ports, efforts to extort money from Canadian schools just-in-case some content they view is copyrighted, and the music industry's incredible ability to get content taken-down on just a say-so.

There's a theme here. And the theme is right-on. It is that the Internet is threatened as never before, by cops, by greed, and by fear. If we allow these to dominate the conversation we lose. And we must not let that happen.

There's something else.

Continue reading "Who Will Sa-ave Your Soul (for those lies that you told)"

March 05, 2005

Headlines Lie: No One Is ProtectedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Bloggers not protected by Constitution, says Apple. That's the headline in EarthTimes over a story stating a judge ordered several online sites to hand over the names of their anonymous sources.

Even well-meaning blogs like BoingBoing get it wrong. In Apple case, court says bloggers' sources not protected is their headline. (I think they're copying a San Jose Mercury-News headline here.)

The first headline is a lie and the second is misleading. (But the picture, from the University of Houston in Clear Lake, is really cool, don't you think?)

Fact is, no journalists have that protection. Didn't these people read the result of the Judith Miller case?

No journalist has the right to protect anonymous sources. But all journalists have a responsibility to protect them.

Those who protect such sources, who are willing to go to jail for them after they promise to protect sources, and who do in fact go to jail under court order, without revealing their sources...those people are journalists. The others are not.

And I don't care how much money you make, or what your so-called employer says you are. If you're not willing to go to jail to protect a promise you have made to a source, you're not a journalist.

Period.

March 04, 2005

Abuse by the Little GuysEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I’ve seen it and seen it. A big company works its butt off to prove a market, and some little guy comes along claiming patent rights.

Here we go again. This time the victim is Apple Computer. A guy named Peter Chung, backed by a lawyer named Joseph Zito, claims Apple’s DRM infringes on their patent for limited sharing of files . They want 12% of everything Apple has made from iTunes.

Even the tone of their press release is, in my opinion, abusive.

Everyone knows that iTunes allows a user to play purchased music tracks to up to 5 computers, without repaying the money, under the condition that the computers are registered. The computer registration involves a process of identity verification in which a user is required to key in into the computer the correct Apple ID and password he used to purchase the song.

This is certainly a patentable technology. If iTunes does not patent it, there must be a very good reason for them not to do so- someone else has patented this.

The whole case points to what should be a major reform in the patent laws.

What would such reform consist of?

Continue reading "Abuse by the Little Guys"

March 03, 2005

Son of DECSS?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Jan Johansen became infamous because he wanted a Linux-based DVD player. Nils Schneider merely wanted the iPod to be all it could be.

In order to get a Linux DVD player, Johansen hacked the standard DVD encryption scheme with a program called DeCSS. The result was one of the biggest legal hassles of our time.

Schneider, 17, has now managed to get Linux working on his iPod by hacking its Digital Rights Management (DRM) system , according to New Scientist magazine.

Johansen's program, of course, had a lawful purpose, the creation of a Linux DVD player. But in order to do that he broke the copyright act. Schneider's program also has a lawful purpose, namely to run Linux on the iPod. But to do that he got through the iPod's DRM system, which in theory could let the iPod run any file at all.

But it's how Schneider did it I found most intriguing.

Continue reading "Son of DECSS?"

Sony "Walkman"Email This EntryPrint This Article

Sony released its Walkman phone yesterday.

It is what it is, a phone with a half-gigabyte of storage in it, enough room for about 500 songs.

Those songs are subject to Sony's DRM, just as iPod songs are subject to Apple's. Both now face the wrath of France because their DRM schemes are incompatible. Unfortunately for France, another unit of the government had previously ruled the link between its proprietary format and its iTunes store is OK so this is going nowhere.

And the Walkman phone is going nowhere in the market.

Why?

Continue reading "Sony "Walkman""

March 02, 2005

A Waste of RSSEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have written several times about RSS in this space, often wrongly.

But now I have something which, I hope, will prove non-controversial. (For those who want to know more about RSS, O'Reilly has a fine book out on the subject.)

If your story is behind a registration firewall, don't put it in your RSS feed.

Many newspapers today routinely run RSS feeds on all stories, often through Moreover. Many also have registration firewalls. If you're not willing to deliver your personal data (and remember a new password for each publisher) they don't want to see you.

Well, I don't want to see them, either.

Fortunately, there are solutions.

Continue reading "A Waste of RSS"

March 01, 2005

The Best Copyright ArgumentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As the Grokster case approaches the Supreme Court the "friends" of the court briefs (called amicus curiae) are flying.

The best is the technical brief, from a host of distinguished computer scientists including Dave Farber of Carnegie-Mellon (and the Interesting People list).

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted a PDF copy.

The short version. If a law against software is strong enough to do good it will do harm. And if it's weak enough not to do harm it can't possibly do any good. Thus the Sony vs. Betamax "test," that technology is legal if it can be used for legal purposes, should be upheld.

A few details after the break:

Continue reading "The Best Copyright Argument"

February 22, 2005

The Jones-O'Gara FeudEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There's nothing journalists like better than a good old fashioned catfight. (The animated gif catfight is from Supah.Com. I guess you can send it to friends as a postcard.)

And in tech journalism today it doesn't get any better than Pamela Jones vs. Maureen O'Gara.

Jones edits Groklaw, the free community blog which has covered the open source revolution's legal defense so expertly. Her stuff is so good that SCO talked about putting together a rival site, called Prosco.Net, last year. (As of this writing that site is still empty.) Jones is so ethical she actually quit a really good job to stay on the beat, writing "money is nice, but integrity is everything." (I think I'm in love.)

O'Gara edits the $195/year LinuxGram newsletter. She writes fast, tight, "insider-type" stuff, with tabloid headlines like "Ray Noorda's Competence in Question." She learned her trade at CMP, and calls her company G2 Computer Intelligence.

Conflict was natural because of their differing styles. Jones is careful and shy to the point of near-invisibility. She writes like a lawyer. O'Gara is brassy and bold and uses the rest of the press as her PR machine. She writes like a journalist.

What got the feud rolling was a stunt O'Gara pulled before the court in the case of SCO vs. IBM. She filed her own motion to unseal the records, then did a story on her heroic act.

Newspaper companies do this all the time. They fight to unseal records of criminal trials or government decisions, writing a series of stories on the filings and the reaction. But Jones didn't like O'Gara's headline, nor the attitude in her story which was (to say the least) self-congratulatory.

Jones let O'Gara have it.

No hostility there. Maybe a little around the edges, oozing out? Leapin' Lizards, Batman, the heroine action figure who apparently wishes to Take the Open Source Movement Down singlehandedly is none other than Maureen O'Gara, who is asking the Utah court to unseal all the sealed records:

Continue reading "The Jones-O'Gara Feud"

February 21, 2005

Moohr's LawEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As mentioned in the previous item, I was honored last weekend to speak at the Virginia Journal on Law and Technology (VJOLT) Symposium, "Real Law and Online Rights."

I'd expected an argument. The vast majority of copyright lawyers today are employed by copyright holders. Instead, I was given the lead-off slot, the small congregation nodded in time to my music, and the speakers all advocated a balanced view of copyright and patent law.

One of the best (in my opinion), was Geraldine Moohr, who teaches at the University of Houston Law School, a short bike ride from my old stomping grounds at Rice. She based her talk on a paper she wrote last year on copyright criminal law.

The short version. It doesn't work. "There is a lack of a social norm that would condemn personal use infringement," she said. "Civil penalties may be good enough. They have a a punitive quality to them."

Continue reading "Moohr's Law"

The Jordan AffairEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What goes around comes around.

For decades employed journalists have considered themselves a class apart. Charged by their employers with deciding what was relevant, they took fame and turned it to infamy, often violating confidences, and said they were just doing their jobs.

They ignored the concentration of power in their own business -- a journalist is someone who works for someone (who buys ink by the barrel, spectrum by the megahertz, bandwidth by the terabyte) -- and expected a legal shield to protect them and no one else.

Well, uh-uh. No more. And Thank God.

Continue reading "The Jordan Affair"

February 15, 2005

Facts Are Stubborn ThingsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Copyright Police keep coming up against stubborn facts, some of their own making, that throw their arguments into the dumper.

Two are making headlines today.

First is a joint study by Harvard and University of North Carolina researchers indicating "Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically
indistinguishable from zero." Felix Oberholzer (Harvard) and Koleman Strumpf (UNC) matched a set of downloads to record sales in coming to this conclusion. "Even in the most pessimistic specification, five thousand downloads are needed to displace a single album sale," they write.

The second piece of news comes from the industry itself.

It is, simply, the launch of Napster's "rental" service. For $15/month, you can download all you want. It all disappears when you stop paying, but the industry approved this business model, which estimates the actual value of unlimited downloads at $180/year. Spread that over 10 years, give Napster 15%, and you get an actual industry-estimated "loss" from unlimited downloading of $1,500. Not much.

This will make for some fun when I speak this weekend at the University of Virginia's VJOLT Symposium.


February 14, 2005

Gibson WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Which sci-fi author did the best job of predicting what the 21st century would look like from the comfort of the 20th?

It wasn't Arthur C. Clarke. I still don't have my zero gravity toilet. It wasn't Isaac Asimov. Honda's Asimo is no Robbie. Allen Steele? No beamjacks in my world. Ray Bradbury? Larry Niven? Steven Barnes? Jerry Pournelle?

Wrong, wrong, and (sorry Jerry) wrong again. (But there are many centuries to go before your visions come up, so keep writing.)

It's William Gibson (right).

We live today in Gibson's Neuromancer. Cyberspace is everywhere, but so too are viruses. IBM notes they're appearing everywhere -- in our phones, in our cars -- and the people behind them are increasingly of very evil intent.

How did we get here? It wasn't inevitable.

Continue reading "Gibson World"

February 07, 2005

The Buy-Rent ScamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Music companies are now pitching online music as a choice between "buy" and "rent."

That's one way of looking at it.

Here's another, a choice between lies and blackmail. (As with the vinyl album at right, built to fail over time if you played it repeatedly.)

Continue reading "The Buy-Rent Scam"

Let's Do LunchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Now that Star Trek is officially dead (no new shows or movies, even in production) the time has come for a new idea.

Here's one.

Stardate.

It's an anthology series, built around various scientific "principles" that define the Star Trek franchise.

Think of it as Science made into Drama.

Yes, it's an excuse to make science exciting. (Just think of the educational spin-offs we can produce!) And the production costs are low enough to put this on the SciFi channel (where Enterprise should have been all along). Or might I suggest a pitch to Discovery Networks, which has got proven talent in making science fun with shows like Mythbusters?

For host, might I recommend Stephen Hawking? Playing the role Alistair Cooke made famous, he opens each show by describing the science (and the Star Trek technology) on which the show will be based. (I might recommend getting several scientists for this role, perhaps one for each specialty. But Hawking is a name. He'll do great for starters.) Or, with confidence this show will last for decades, Lance Armstrong, who's already under contract to Discovery, who knows how to read a cue card, and who owes his life to science?

More after the break.

Continue reading "Let's Do Lunch"

February 05, 2005

MCI Fingered for Spam FloodEmail This EntryPrint This Article

MCI grossed an estimated $5 million/year violating the law in its home state of Virginia, by knowingly hosting sales of a Russian virus used to turn PCs into spam zombies.

The full story, by Spamhaus' Steve Linford (below) was distributed online today. It charges that MCI knowingly hosts Send-Safe.Com, which sells a spam virus that takes over innocent computers and turns them into spam-sending proxies. Linford tracked Send-Safe to a Russian, Ruslan Ibragimov. Linford estimates MCI earns $5 million/year from its work supporting spammers.

The theft of broadband-connected PCs by viruses, mainly Send Safe and another Russian-made program, Alexey Panov's Direct Mail Sender ("DMS"), is responsible for 90% of the spam coming into AOL and other major ISPs, Linford charged.

Here's the nut graph:


MCI Worldcom not only knows very well they are hosting the Send Safe spam operation, MCI's executives know send-safe.com uses the MCI network to sell and distribute the illegal Send Safe proxy hijacking bulk mailer, yet MCI has been providing service to send-safe.com for more than a year.

Want this made a little more explicit? Read on.

Continue reading "MCI Fingered for Spam Flood"

February 04, 2005

RSS DreamsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have written a bit on RSS here, often wrongly. (The illustration is from the blog of Andrew Grumet, who brings the complexity of video feeds to the process.)

I have bemoaned the delivery of ads via RSS, both as content and within feeds, as "RSS spam."

My complaints were misdirected, as I learned. The problem was not in the feeds, but in the reader. After I patiently explained my problem to my newsreader maker, I was told "we'll work on it."

And what is my problem?

My problem is I want all the real news and commentary on the field I cover, and that's all I want. You don't get that with a simple keyword field.

As always in technology, problems are usually opportunities turned on their head. New start-ups are emerging that hope to use RSS as a true intelligence gathering service, instead of as a garbage in-garbage out collector.

Recently C|Net profiled two of these start-ups, Bloglines and Rojo.

What they say is what I've said, that separating wheat from chaff is very difficult. They are going about that in different ways. Rojo is doing it privately, just letting a few people in, while Bloglines is doing is publicly, creating a versoin of Google's PageRank algorithm.

Corante is interested in this as well.

Continue reading "RSS Dreams"

February 03, 2005

How To End The Copyright WarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Many people reading my stuff think I'm some wild-eyed anti-intellectual property radical.

Labels used for dismissal are as old as labels themselves. But I'm a writer. I make my living from copyright. I'm not trying to tear down the copyright system. I am, in fact, trying to protect it.

I believe firmly that laws which go too far are routinely ignored, while those that are reasonable are routinely followed. Today's laws go too far the way a 21-year old drinking age, aimed mainly at keeping 15 year olds from becoming drunks, turns Yale mixers into criminal conspiracy. (Old enough to fight and die in Iraq, old enough to vote, I say. But that's another column.)

It's time for some reason, for compromise, on copyright. Here it is:

Continue reading "How To End The Copyright War"

The Legal Threat To GrowthEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I agree with President Bush on something.

Lawyers represent a major threat to our economy.

But I'm not worried about defense lawyers, or plaintiff's lawyers. I'm worried about the newer scourge of so-called "intellectual property" lawyers.

You won't find the phrase "intellectual property" in the Constitution. (It's often credited mainly to James Madison, left.) There, patents and copyrights are covered by a subsection of Article I, Section 8, whcih gives to the Congress power "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

For limited times. To promote progress.

Because economic power has shifted, in our time, from our hands to our heads, and because technology is now able to move the product of our minds around the world at the speed of thought, American lawyers have done just what their British counterparts did two centuries ago. They've tried to make our economic leadership permanent through the language of law.

Continue reading "The Legal Threat To Growth"

February 01, 2005

Don't Believe The IP ScaremongersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Over at The Scotsman, lawyer Alison Bryce is featured in one of those stories that doubtless led to Shakespeare having Dick the Butcher say "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

Her headline is "Don't believe the software scaremongers" but in fact the article is a classic bit of scaremongering.

She's repeating the Microsoft line that Linux is scary. She calls the GPL "the most restrictive license" and states quite baldly that having the source code published is dangerous. No evidence is offered.

There are also some outright howlers, like this one. "Software released under the GPL, such as the popular Linux operating system," never apparently realizing that not all Linux distros are GPL. Fine misunderstanding for an amateur, but this lady claims to be a highly-paid professional, and an expert on software law to boot.

This bit of garbage could easily have been written by Microsoft itself (and he probably cribbed off their stuff), but here's where I get angry:

Continue reading "Don't Believe The IP Scaremongers"

January 10, 2005

The Great RaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: The following was published in this week's edition of my free e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com. You can get on the list here.



The Great Race has always been between tyranny and freedom, with order as tyranny's worthy handmaiden, and crime as freedom's ugly stepsister.

The triumph of liberty in the 20th century was basically a technological triumph. It was Moore's Law that did it. Moore's Law, and all its antecedents, changed the rules of the economic game, of the power game, and the balance between rulers and the ruled.

Moore's Law, the idea that things get better-and-better faster-and-faster, means that trained minds are the key to economic growth. Willing hands, the key to economic growth in the industrial age, matter far less than they did. Chains may keep trained hands working. They don't do so well with trained minds.

In America the result, as Dr. Richard Florida (left) wrote, was the rise of a new "Creative Class" that could dominate societies and drive economic growth. These were people, accused of wealth and guilty of education, whose values were intellectual and meritocratic, and (perhaps most important) were capable of economic satiation. Creative people have, on the whole, risen through Maslow's "hierarchy of needs," and are in search of self-actualization, not food or even luxury.

Continue reading "The Great Race"

January 07, 2005

Bait, Switch, PropagandizeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I don't mind the copyright industries making their arguments.

I do mind their hiding their sponsorship of it. And I also mind their forcing this on kids, claiming that industry propaganda is "education."

Continue reading "Bait, Switch, Propagandize"

January 06, 2005

ThinkSecret's DiplomaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

When editor Nick DePlume is served with his copy of Apple's lawsuit against his site, ThinkSecret.Com he should ask for an extra copy...on thick stock he can frame.

That's what I would do in his shoes.

If you haven't heard, Apple Computer Corp. gave DePlume's little site the best diploma a journalist could get the other day -- a lawsuit. Rival journalists put up a headline that Apple was "running out of patience with rumour mill web sites."

But if these are just rumors, if there is no truth to them, why the legal paper? Hmmmm? Who needs to file papers to squelch lies? (And we'll know the truth one way or another in a week or two anyway.)

So what's Apple up to? According to ThinkSecret:

Continue reading "ThinkSecret's Diploma"

December 27, 2004

What Open Source Outlook Could MeanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Over the weekend C|Net ran a story indicating the Mozilla Foundation hopes to add calendaring functions to its Thunderbird e-mail client (right), turning an open source Outlook Express clone into something more like Microsoft Outlook.

What follows is pure speculation, but this could make Firefox the big story of 2005, and beyond.

Continue reading "What Open Source Outlook Could Mean"

December 21, 2004

Are Courts Irrelevant To Copyright?Email This EntryPrint This Article

That's the question asked at Copyfutures recently, speculating on what might happen in the Copyright Wars next year.

The highlight should be the Supreme Court's pending Grokster decision, which might establish a right to technology that might infringe on copyright, or might overturn the old Betamax case.

But John Amone is asking a deeper question.

Namely, does it matter what the court holds at all?

Continue reading "Are Courts Irrelevant To Copyright?"

December 14, 2004

MPAA Missing The PointEmail This EntryPrint This Article

If technology users were actively enlisted on behalf of the copyright industries, those industries would likely be making some headway against their chief nemesis -- DVD pirates.

DVD pirates take real money from real people for garbage they stole from studios. This is not just a China problem, but a problem throughout the world. The losses can be substantiated, they can be toted up.

But instead of working with users against its real threat, the MPAA is continuing to play hardball against them, turning potential friends into ardent foes.

And anyone who thinks they can beat the Internet is, frankly, fooling himself.

Continue reading "MPAA Missing The Point"

December 06, 2004

Microsoft's Chinese ExperimentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Microsoft has launched an experiment in tightly-controlled liberty called MSN Spaces whose attitude is very oriental, nearly Chinese.

Spaces is a blogging tool (Microsoft loves to own the language, thus blogs become spaces as bookmarks became favorites) with a difference, namely central control and censorship.

However it's defended, and whatever it's called, control is the essence of the Microsoft experience. You will only use Microsoft tools, and Microsoft formats, under Microsoft rules, and write what Microsoft allows.

What could be more Chinese? (The link preceding is to the location of the art at the right.)

Continue reading "Microsoft's Chinese Experiment"

November 28, 2004

Seinfeld Copyright BluesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

While at the Mall, yesterday, waiting for our movie to start, we saw a ton of displays and ads for the hottest DVD out there this Christmas -- the TV series Seinfeld. (Image from MIT.)

Could there be any better proof that copyright absolutism is counter-productive? (Not that's there's anything wrong with that.)

This show ran on free TV for 9 years. Some 22 episodes were produced each season. Most of the time it was on, it was a re-run.

Since then it's been in heavy rotation in syndication. It is "stripped" in the parlance of the trade -- it's on every day. Often twice a day. My son (a true master of his domain, he says) has memorized lines from Seinfeld the way my generation did Monty Python sketches.

This is not a scarce gem. (It's no marble rye from Lourdes' Bakery.) In terms of its audience, there should be some shrinkage, some significant shrinkage. If you wanted to keep it, you could have taped it. You still can. (You got a problem with that?)

So why is it a best-seller?

Continue reading "Seinfeld Copyright Blues"

November 18, 2004

Get Your Hot New DowngradeEmail This EntryPrint This Article


A new trend has emerged, thanks to Hollywood.

Hardware you already purchased is having its performance degraded, remotely, through "software updates."

Specifically I'm talking here of the iPod and TiVo. Both companies have shipped, or announced plans to ship, "patches" that actually reduce performance, that take away features you already bought, and that you might be using and enjoying.

All this is being done in the name of "fighting piracy" but I wonder whether Hollywood hasn't just jumped the shark on DRM.

Continue reading "Get Your Hot New Downgrade"

November 17, 2004

RSS SpamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Thanks to those lovely folks at Newsgator, I've been enjoying an RSS feed on topics of interest, sent to my e-mail box, for the last month.

It's useful. It gives me great stories. But here's a dirty little secret. It's also filled with spam.

Want some examples? Let's go to my inbox today and find a few:

Continue reading "RSS Spam"

November 08, 2004

The Second Life (of lawyers)Email This EntryPrint This Article


A big highlight of the Accelerating Change conference at Stanford last weekend was a demonstration by Linden Labs of Second Life. (The image is from Second Life's Web site, meant to explain the game.) It is, as its home page notes, "a 3D digital world imagined, created and owned by its Residents."

Second Life lives in a server rack somewhere in San Francisco. Each server represents 16 acres of virtual space, where users' avatars can live, work and play. So far there are about 500, but 10 more are added each week. Think of it as Everquest without the plot.

In Second Life the users own what they create. It's a simple concept, but one that is extremely hard to implement. For instance, the demonstrator couldn't pass around any of the work done in Second Life because Second Life doesn't own it. Thus, he couldn't sign the conference's standard release form, which lets the organizers have rights to what's shown.

Continue reading "The Second Life (of lawyers)"

November 01, 2004

Top Down vs. Bottom Up TechnologyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The folks over at BoingBoing remind me that, just as there are both top-down and bottom-up models of politics, there are top-down and bottom-up models of technology.

Apple represents a top-down model that masquerades as bottom-up. Its advertising has always been egalitarian, even liberal, but when push comes to shove it's the most controlling outfit out there. This is built into its DNA and corporate history. People forget that the years in which Apple allowed Macintosh clones were among its darkest.

So when Apple decides to, in Cory Doctorow's words, "remove features from your iPod and presenting it to you as an 'update'" I just nod my head and ask, "So what else is new?"

Continue reading "Top Down vs. Bottom Up Technology"

October 20, 2004

Copyright Enforcement VulnerableEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A study by the Dutch group Bits of Freedom indicates the method being used by copyright owners to police the Internet may be more vulnerable than a hanging chad. (Image from Wood, Ngo and Eisenberg, copyright attorneys.)

In the study, the group posted a non-copyrighted work on 10 Web sites. They created an imaginary society to claim copyright. They then sent "take-down" notices to the ISPs, using a free Hotmail account. Seven of the 10 took the sites down, most within hours.

Sounds good, right? Wrong.

Continue reading "Copyright Enforcement Vulnerable"

October 04, 2004

The Real Trouble With Patent LawEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The real problem with patent law is forum shopping.

Forum shopping is the only excuse I can come up for this, a decision in Rochester, New York saying Sun infringes on Kodak's patents with Java.

The claim in the patent is ridiculously overbroad. The idea that you patent one way for a program to request help of another and thus patent the whole concept is insane.

There is a reason why patent applications come with diagrams. That is you describe your mousetrap and that mousetrap is protected, but when someone builds a better mousetrap, even if they do it by improving on what you did, they get patent rights, too.

Only a hometown judge is going to disagree with the basic premise of patent law.

September 20, 2004

SIPShare Shows Why Peer-to-Peer Can't Be StoppedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

In the end peer-to-peer has nothing to do with copyright. It's the way the Earth links.

For linking people and ideas, P2P is simply a better topology than client-server. It conforms to the way people are. Capitalism is a peer-to-peer economic system. Socialism is client-server. Democracy is a peer-to-peer political system. Autocracy is client-server.

The difference is just that stark.

The myth of the "Intellectual Property cult" is that the products of intellect are unique, complete, all-in-all. They are not. "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." That's Sir Isaac Newton.

This applies to all products of the intellect:

Continue reading "SIPShare Shows Why Peer-to-Peer Can't Be Stopped"

September 15, 2004

Yahoo Finds Its MusicmatchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

My first reaction on news that Yahoo bought MusicMatch was...just $160 million?

OK, we're well into a new century here. But still. Yet on the other hand MusicMatch had waited far too long for a buyer -- it's being pressed by Microsoft, Real Networks and Apple. The Yahoo deal was no doubt the best on the table.

But what does this mean for Yahoo?

Continue reading "Yahoo Finds Its Musicmatch"

September 08, 2004

An Obvious DealEmail This EntryPrint This Article

In what may be the most obvious hook-up since Gigli, TiVo and NetFlix say they're getting together to rent movies over the Internet.

I say it's obvious because, ever since the copyright industries voted TiVo off the island (in favor of cable-owned DVR boxes) that company has been searching for Internet allies. And ever since Blockbuster started offering unlimited movies for a monthly fee, NetFlix has had a similar problem.

Continue reading "An Obvious Deal"

August 20, 2004

Hold The CelebrationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I haven't joined the cheering over the 9th Circuit decision upholding the DMCA's compromise position that software makers (like Grokster) can't be held liable for copyright violations performed with their software.

It's the plain language of the law. And it's in line with previous precedent, specifically the Betamax decision. (We'll get to the why of that picture soon, but meanwhile, if you like it, it's $4.99 from JDHodges.Com.)

The problem is that the Betamax decision itself is under unprecedented attack in the Congress. Vast sums are being spent on passing law that would directly overturn that decision.

Key to this is a notion called "intellectual property," which has no previous standing in law, but which is used by the copyright industries in every press release and utterance they make.

Continue reading "Hold The Celebration"

August 18, 2004

Dana's Law of Creativity SoftwareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

SSEYO has announced miniMIXA, an audio mixer for Windows smartphones.

As part of the roll-out a Reading, England arts festival will use it this weekend to mix what is being played “on-the-fly.”.

This could do to the cell phone market what programs like Musicmatch did to PCs.

The impact could be massive. Ringtones could be created at concerts, and sold right after the show. On the other hand, concert-goers could potentially bootleg the same concert and offer better mixes, free, within hours after the show.

This leads to Dana's Law of Creativity Software.

The cheaper it is, the more people can use it, and the lower the premium paid for poor results.

If you want to see what this thing is capable of, check out these sample mixes for yourself. Or, if you don't have a Windows cell phone, get a taste for the technology by downloading Sseyo's PC plug-in.

August 09, 2004

Well, No ActuallyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Just because a U.S. firm is pushed under by U.S. law, and the efforts of copyright police, does not mean that the technology they create disappears.

There are lots of Russians who can count to 321.

Tyranny of the MouseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

IP stands for Intellectual Property. Under the Constitution it is not like other property, like land or a tractor (or this kite, which you may buy here.) . It is not yours forever, and you don't have absolute control over it.

Because the Internet and other digital technologies make IP so easy to pass around, however, the industries that own IP are trying, in our time, to make IP just like land or tractors. (Dan Gillmor is among many all over this story.)

There are two tracks to this effort.

Continue reading "Tyranny of the Mouse"

July 30, 2004

Apple vs. RealEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The question before the court is this.

Does copyright mean interoperability is impossible without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, not to mention everyone else in their value chain? (Lockbox image from Aware.org.)

That's the question lawyers for Real Networks may have to address, as Apple prepares to challenge its Harmony software, which lets you play songs bought from Real on the iPod, as a violation of the Copyright Act.

Or let me put it in a way Larry Lessig would understand. Does every West Coast Law automatically enjoy the protection of East Coast Law.

As of this writing Lessig's blog had not addressed the question, so just remember if you click ahead I'm not a lawyer, just a journalist trying to sort right from wrong.

Continue reading "Apple vs. Real"

July 26, 2004

INDUCE Job ExportsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to vote on the so-called INDUCE Act, which would hold technology's creators liable for what's done with their creations, there are some who are calling this an attack on our rights, and an attack on technology.

It's worse than that.

It's an attack on America. What chairman Orrin Hatch (left, from Internet Weekly) and his colleagues are plotting is nothing less than a 9-11 attack on the American economy.

Continue reading "INDUCE Job Exports"

July 23, 2004

Overturn Betamax?Email This EntryPrint This Article

The head of the U.S. Copyright Office, Marybeth Peters (left, from the Library of Congress site), has come out squarely for overturning the Betamax decision, which made your VCR legal.

Corante's Ernest Miller is all over this. But let me add my two cents.

This is an election year. The money and support of the copyright industries could make the difference. The Bush Administration is willing to bend over and grease up in order to gain that support.

And if they win with it, it's the rest of us who are screwed. Or, as Vice President Cheney put it to Senator Pat Leahy, "go f___ yourself."

Continue reading "Overturn Betamax?"

July 09, 2004

Lies, Durned Lies, StatisticsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The news headline could have been taken straight from a press release.

"MPAA says 24% of internet users download pirated movies."

Is it true? No. This "study" has more holes in it than George Bush's WMD claims. Or Michael Moore's movie, if you prefer. We're not making a political point here...and to prove it here's a non-political picture on the subject of lieing that my kids found to be a lot of fun.

Continue reading "Lies, Durned Lies, Statistics"

June 25, 2004

A CD For LawyersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A lot of people who haven't seen Michael Moore's new film are telling you not to see it, that it's a virus aimed at the heart of the Bush Administration.

Well, I haven't heard the Beastie Boys' latest, To The Five Boroughs, but don't buy it.

The thing has malware on it.

According to The Register, putting the disk into a PC will cause the installation of a program that keeps files from being copied from any CD onto the hard drive.

UPDATE: Boingboing has a note from the Beasties' manager, saying (in brief) that this malware is on all EMI disks distributed outside the U.S. and UK, they had no choice in having it put there, and please don't single them out. They say the software comes from Macrovision.

Continue reading "A CD For Lawyers"

June 12, 2004

Why Are Programmers So Down?Email This EntryPrint This Article

I've been looking at this story for days, wondering what to make of it. (That's a Techtoon from a happier time.)

First, it's true. My dear wife is a programmer and morale is down at her place. There's real fear out there. There's fear of India, but more than that, fear of being replaced by someone younger and cheaper.

"Do you know they don't even call themselves programmres?" she asked me one night. "Now they're developers."

Continue reading "Why Are Programmers So Down?"

May 27, 2004

Celebrate A RepublicanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The music industry came very close to offloading the costs of enforcing its view of copyright onto you, the taxpayer.

They still may do it.

Credit for their failure (so far) must go to a Republican, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

Continue reading "Celebrate A Republican"

May 13, 2004

Boucher's Uphill ClimbEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia (pictured from his own Web site) worked on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. He was clued-in to both sides, and saw the result as a compromise, between the need to protect copyright and the equal need to protect fair use.

The industry violated the agreement. The industry pushed judges and public opinion toward rejecting the very idea of fair use, equating even legitimate back-ups with "piracy."

So Boucher is trying to redress the balance. It's an uphill climb.

Continue reading "Boucher's Uphill Climb"

May 11, 2004

Overturning BetamaxEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The 1984 Betamax Decision is the "Brown vs. Board" of copyright law. (We'll get to the legendary Judy Garland soon....this is from the University of Monterey, Mexico.)

The law, under Betamax, is you have a right to tape copyrighted material for your own use.

But that result was never fully accepted by the movie industry, which continues to proceed as though the decision did not exist.

Continue reading "Overturning Betamax"

May 04, 2004

Pushing Law On BusinessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

While in Seattle recently on business, I drew an interesting challenge from a friend. (The image is linked from VNUnet.com.)

We were talking about residential gateways. His premise was that phone companies will force these on people, that folks won't be allowed to resist carrier control of their Internet service. "Can you refuse them?" he asked.

Well yes, I can. Even if a carrier tries to give me a gateway as the price of getting their service, I don't have to use it as they intend. Whether the Internet remains a dumb pipe, or where the intelligence to control it will be found, is still up to me, I said.

This week, Microsoft is testing that proposition, by forcing a new view of copyright on users through its Janus technology.

Continue reading "Pushing Law On Business"

April 05, 2004

The Microsoft WayEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Microsoft Way is that you, the customer, own nothing. You rent things. (The cartoon is from a 1997 issue of Midwest Today.)

When Microsoft decides something is too old for it to bother with, you can't rent it anymore. You're on your own.

Security software vendors like Symantec have long done the same thing. Go to their software "store" and click around a while. You can't really buy anything -- you can only obtain a "subscription."

Well, the rest of the Microsoft ISV world is now falling into line with this. Intuit is dropping all support for older users of its Quicken software and the Washington Post says it's shocked, shocked.

Continue reading "The Microsoft Way"

April 01, 2004

Race To The Bottom Of The PocketEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Last week I was at the CTIA show here in Atlanta where David Munns, who heads the company's operations in North America, announced a big initiative to serve cell phones with "ring tunes," that is, ringtones based on real recordings by real artists you know. (Picture from Janalaweb, a Portugeese management portal.)

The week was filled with optimism, talk of big bucks coming in from Asia and Europe, talk of that success being replicated here.

Then this week, fairly quietly, EMI canned 20% of its people, 1,500 in all, including 20% of its artists.

Lawyers cost money. Or as Munns himself said several times while in Atlanta, "It's complicated."

Continue reading "Race To The Bottom Of The Pocket"

March 06, 2004

Lessig the Grey: Jefferson the WhiteEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Larry Lessig has been getting hammered online for a column in which, while calling The Grey Album a Gray Area, he nevertheless approved of its creation. (There are over half as many links to the item as there are to this entire blog.)

The "Creative Commons License" (which Lessig has pushed on his site) does allow creators to forbid "derivative works," so analysts like Scott Mathews were quick to scream "hypocrite."

Many of Lessig's own commentaries on the law make heavy use of recent decisions and discussions. But I'm no lawyer. My question is, "What Would Jefferson Say?"

Continue reading "Lessig the Grey: Jefferson the White"

March 04, 2004

Turnng Point In Copyright Wars?Email This EntryPrint This Article

It's one thing if I say it, or the tech industry says it. It's one thing if a few Democrats say it, or even a lot of Democrats.(The image is from CNN.)

When respected business leaders say it, action is likely to follow.

In the case of the Copyright Wars, that point has not been reached. The Committee for Economic Development, which will never be confused with the Socialist International, has issued a detailed report saying, in effect, that the industry's abuse of copyright is hurting our economy, not helping it.

Continue reading "Turnng Point In Copyright Wars?"

February 27, 2004

Careful With That HeadlineEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As a veteran journalist, I know. The person who writes the story almost never writes the headline to accompany it. (The justice scales pictured are from the U.S. Department of Transportation site.)

In the case of newspapers and magazines there's a natural reason for this. The headline must fit the space, or "deck," available to it. It must "sell" the story, convincing people to read it.

So headlines are written by editors, working for lay-out people. Publishers, with an eye toward sales, oversee the process.

Thus I'm inclined to forgive headlines in ways others may not be. But once in a while we get something like this and I have to speak up.

Continue reading "Careful With That Headline"

February 24, 2004

The Grey AlbumEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This could be the Internet’s “Elvis Moment.”

You’ll remember (from history class) how, back in 1957, Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan show and wasn’t shown below-the-waist (although his dancing was all done through his hips). The “censorship” caused a sensation. The backlash opened up TV, it became a litmus test of parental acceptance and it made Elvis the biggest thing ever (until then he’d just been the biggest thing in rock and roll).

Well fast forward 47 years. (Yep, it’s been that long.) There’s a huge underground hit out there, something the media will neither play nor cover. It’s called The Grey Album, by DJ DangerMouse (from which the art here is taken), a mix of The Beatles’ “White Album” and Jay-Z’s “The Black Album.”

EMI, which owns the Beatles’ output, has banned the thing. It has tried to seize all 3,000 copies in circulation. And (like Sullivan) it has only succeeded in fanning the whirlwind.

Continue reading "The Grey Album"