The technology and media worlds are focused on the MGM vs. Grokster case with some of the intensity of the mainstream media (MSM) have brought to bear on the Michael Jackson circus. And it's for much more consequential reasons. The outcome of the case, expected by June, has obvious implications for the future of content in a piracy-prone digital world. However, by the very nature of the peer to peer technology (P2P), the application of the actual technology for all types of applications is on trial here. Although used famously by Napster users for unauthorized file sharing, P2P has far greater potential opportunities.
The plaintiffs, i.e., representatives of mainstream media content holders would like to portray the majority of Internet file-sharing, or P2P as mostly illegal file-sharing infringing the rights of copyright holders. However, the exact numbers involved in legal vs. illegal use are hard to find. According to the Wall Street Journal story dated March 30, 2005,
In this case, the percentage of
illegal use is critical. In 1984, the court ruled 5-4 that Sony Corp.,
maker of the Betamax video recorder, wasn't liable for "contributory
infringement" if the video recorder had "substantial non-infringing
uses" that didn't run afoul of copyright conditions. They didn't at the
time specify what percentage would be considered "substantial,"
creating the ambiguity that exists today.
Acting U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who argued
on behalf of the U.S. government in favor of MGM, conceded they would
accept "anywhere under 50%" as having "no liability under the Sony
The Court was clearly divided, with several justices expressing
frustration over the dearth of factual findings about the magnitude of
Although more quantification of the use of current P2P networks is obviously desirable from the court's point of view, I believe one should also be mindful that these technologies are extraordinarily nascent. The ultimate applications of these technologies in the future may end up surprising us with how far removed they might be from IP related content sharing.
As someone who has fond memories of growing up overseas listening to the BBC Radio Evening news, it's good to see this bit of news. The BBC reportsonline demands for its radio programs, grew to 9 million, up 25% over the previous month. Not bad compared to the reach of its network radio programming of around 16 million a week.
In an age where much of radio is poised to be transformed with Satellite Radio, Digital Radio, Streaming Radio, Internet Radio casts and the like, it's good to see the tried and true content being consumed presumably by both existing and new listeners. A twist is the growth in it's "on-demand" radio programs, or "Tivo for Radio", which rose to 4.4 million hours.
It'd be interesting to understand the demographic and geographic pattern of its listeners and see how it compares to its traditional broadcast programs. Also, it'll be interesting to see if BBC Radio any plans to roll out Internet versions of its BBC World Service programs, which is often the "gold standard" of news received in 43 languages by over 150 million folks around the world. For many people, especially outside the US, the BBC, or the British Broadcasting Corporation, still evoke memories of a bygone era, like the British Royal Family, and of course the venerable BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation...remember them?), known rather plainly now as British Airways.
where PM stands for Personal Media...at least that's what the newest company for distributing video and any other kind of media sans any distribution gateway calls it...the home page for Ourmedia.org is less dramatic than the title above, asking the visitor to merely "join the Personal Media Revolution"...I'll call it PMR...it has the possibility of being the latest meme on the web.
What makes Ourmedia.org interesting? (Disclosure: I have no affiliation with the company)...on the surface it looks like Flickr meets Personal Media, with tags yet to come, I assume...then, right up front, they promise:
We provide free storage and free bandwidth for your videos, audio files, photos, text or software. Forever. No catches.
Amongst the founders are Marc Canter, co-founder of Macromedia, Brewster Kahle of Thinking Machines, WAIS, Alexa Internet, and Internet Archive fame, and J.D. Lasica, a writer, editor with the Online Journalism Review. Interestingly, another video distribution company on the web that I've noted in other posts is Brightcove, which is founded by the Jeremy Allaire, former Chief Technology Officer of Macromedia. The organization is an open-source, all-volunteer effort as mentioned on the FAQ page.
What caught my eye, aside from the people involved, is some of the content on the site even in its current alpha stage. I particularly like Sam Bisbee's music webvideo (my term) for the song "You are here" done in Quicktime. It's definitely worth a listen and a play.
The final item of interest here is the open-source community nature of this...given the success of non-for-profit open-source projects like Mozilla, Firefox, and Wikipedia, it'll be interesting to see if a similar approach applied to Personal Media can succeed...stay tuned...
Looks like another favorite PC application of mine may be made redundant by a new Microsoft "feature" to be added to the next version of Windows aka Longhorn...according to a WSJ article,
The next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn,
will introduce a software technology known as "Info-cards," which let
computer users selectively disclose information about themselves to
businesses or others online, according to people familiar with the
plan. The software stores personal information such as a user's
credit-card number, gender and phone numbers, and lets the user send
and receive the information in an encrypted form that can be decoded
only by trusted Web sites.
the article further notes,
To users, Info-cards would appear
as a window on the PC screen that acts as a sort of secure file folder
for different kinds of personal information, such as date of birth,
Social Security number, and credit-card numbers. Each person could
maintain multiple cards, each containing different data; a card used at
work could have information needed for company transactions, while one
set up for home could be used for personal transactions such as buying
books or music.
The card stores the data on the PC in an encrypted
format. When making a transaction or logging on to a Web site it passes
over only the information that the user allows. The encryption helps
ensure that intercepted data would be useless to a digital thief.
One goal is to reduce the need for Web sites to hold
on to the sorts of personal information that they often store today.
Info-cards also would work with technology used by merchants to assure
computer users that they are connected to legitimate Web sites -- not
bogus sites designed to "phish" their personal information.
More broadly, such cards could gradually be used in
place of passwords, which Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates often
criticizes as an unreliable security measure.
This has been functionality long provided me by Roboform, an excellent, and still recommended piece of software that also helps me fill out online forms in addition to passwords and shopping site information (click the adjacent image for a clearer, enlarged picture).
So if the above mentioned functionality sounds appealing and you don't want to wait for Longhorn, support your small, local software publisher today (disclosure: I have no affiliation with Roboform, other than being a long-time satisfied customer). They need your support, what with their world soon to be flattened to make room for an off-ramp for the universe and all...
In an article titillatingly titled "In Secret hideaway, Bill Gates ponders Microsoft's Future", the Wall Street Journal puts People magazine to shame, breathlessly describing how the world's richest man "takes a helicopter or seaplane to the two-story clapboard cottage on a quiet waterfront". There he runs a technology reading marathon, or "Think Week" in a secluded cabin in the woods, fortified by "grilled cheese sandwiches and Diet Orange Crush" (sic). As the Journal's Robert Guth notes,
Four days into this Think Week, Mr. Gates had
read 56 papers, working 18 hours straight some days. His record is 112
papers. "I don't know if I'll catch my record, but I'll certainly do
100," he said. Among the unread papers: "10 Crazy Ideas to Shake Up
What's interesting about this piece is the effort Microsoft's PR department put in to set up the article in the first place. There's even a nice graphic provided by Microsoft that highlights the general topics Chairman Bill is reading about. They include, "Computing Trends", "Education", "Languages", "Office", "Security", "Speech", and "Videogames".
The cynical amongst us can't help but think that this is a disinformation effort not unlike campaigns waged in any war through the ages. Much like the body of the allied soldier found floating in the Mediterranean by the Germans, laden with convenient maps of the D-Day landings, one wonders what this body of text may be trying to hide by omission.
For certainly, in an era when the business models ALMOST as good as Microsoft's are to be found in companies like Google, Yahoo! and eBay, one is surprised by the big gaps on the reading list. Where are the discussions of the future of search, of online advertising, and online marketplaces? Where are the ruminations on mobile computing, pervasive computing, mesh networking and optical broadband? Where is the teeth-gnashing on server-based consumer applications, and software as a web-service? And where, oh where are the discussions on the future of iPod-driven music and content free of distribution gateways? These are just SOME interesting topics off the top of my head as I'm walking and chewing gum at the same time, and I know I'm missing a bunch that would be on my reading list for a Geek Think Week.
In the "will-our-regulators-ever-get-a-clue?" department (as Slashdot would put it), the FCC Friday ruled against "naked DSL", i.e., the ability for a telco customer to get DSL broadband service WITHOUT also subscribing to its phone line services. Specifically according to the Wall Street Journal
The Federal Communications
Commission, by a 3-2 vote, said states can't force the Bells and other
phone companies to provide high-speed Internet service to customers who
use competitive carriers for their voice service.
The agency on Friday granted a petition that BellSouth
Corp. filed in December 2003 after Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and
Kentucky required it to provide digital-subscriber-line, or DSL,
services to customers who used competitors for voice calls or who
relied exclusively on cellphones for voice calls.
Now consider the irony of the situation. In New York City, Verizon is offering me the ability to buy internet telephony for $30/month through by DSL broadband connection, for which I'm paying $30/month. Now, if as a rational consumer, I now wish to disconnect my analog "old phone" line from Verizon, to save anywhere from $20-30 a month, Verizon is fully empowered under the new FCC rules to disconnect by DSL broadband and internet phone! Talk about a Catch-22 to make Joseph Heller proud!!
in a letter dated Sept. 15 to the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission, committed to coming out with so-called
naked DSL by March of this year. It will mean that customers who want
to use their mobile phone or a Voice over Internet Protocol product as
their primary phone service won't have to pay $23 or more for a local
line they don't plan to use.
If you have the stomach for more pain, CNET has a good article describing the machinations within the FCC and the lobbying by the telcos that went into this decision. Kevin Werbach has a more dire prognostication which may overstate the case but captures the spirit of the issues from a consumer viewpoint.
This again highlights how telco lobbying wins it near-term dividends as Bill Gurley on his blog describes in detail how the telcos are lobbying, and in some cases winning, against state and local municipalities' ability to offer WiFi (wireless) broadband service.
I don't know if the "naked DSL" issues cuts both ways, i.e., can a cable customer get cable broadband WITHOUT cable TV service...it's apples to oranges since you can't use cable broadband for TV service, but that day is coming soon...in any case, it'll be interesting to see if the telcos lobby against the cable industry and for "naked cable broadband", as and when they start to offer TV programming over fiber to the home connections in a few years...won't that be thick with irony?
For now, one more battle is lost, but the war will ultimately be won by technology-driven free market forces; they will make all the lobbying in the world moot over time...we'll just have to bide our time...and some may choose to do from Canada...again.
One of my favorite photoblog sites is the "daily dose of imagery", done by Sam Javanrough, who hails from Iran and lives in Toronto. This one, titled "tall scotia plaza", made me glance up twice and thrice...I've linked another one of his cool images, titled "two bikes" here...makes me think of my Windows PC (click for a clearer, larger image)...site highly recommended.
This site has lamented the increasing difficulties foreign students face in coming to the US for higher education, and foreign citizens in general face in approaching US embassies and consulates abroad post 9-11 security measures (search for "For Better or for Worse" and "Set them Free" in your browser on this site). This headline from Reuters, titled "US Loses Foreign Students to Post-9/11 Competition" says it all, but the article questions whether we're facing a secular, not cyclical trend in the interest of foreign students in the US vs. other countries. Some highlights:
More than 570,000 foreigners study in the United States,
earning the U.S. economy about $13 billion a year, but the
numbers are in decline.
According to the Institute of International Education,
foreign enrollment fell 2.4 percent in the last academic year
-- the first decline in more than three decades -- compared to
an increase of 6.4 percent in the year before the 2001 attacks.
The Council of Graduate Schools reported earlier this month
that despite significant U.S. government efforts to encourage
foreign students to study in the United States, foreign
graduate student applications fell 5 percent from 2004 to 2005
following a 28 percent drop the previous year.
The Council said that while the decline had slowed, the
figures showed international interest in graduate study in the
United States was not rebounding, due partly to competition
from other countries eager to attract international students.
"Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are
doing a very good job of snaring students we should have had."
Educators and officials lament that the trend could chisel
away at the pro-U.S. sentiment that many returning students
carry home with them, undermining U.S. political, economic and
As Danny Levinson, publisher of ChinaTechNews.com notes,
I have lived in China for 8 years and I can count 11 mainland Chinese
tech-related colleagues who have gone overseas to study. I think 8 of
them applied to schools in the US, and while each of those 8 were
accepted by great institutions, not a single one made it through the
So what did those 8 (and the other 3) do? They
instead applied to schools in other countries. 3 went to Canada, 2 went
to Sweden, 4 went to the UK, 1 went to Australia, and 1 went to
Finland. Each of those eleven are some of the best programmers,
managers, and designers I have worked with in China.
The expression "penny wise and pound foolish" comes to mind reading this...
This is my kind of book, titled "An Album of Fluid Motion", by Van Dyke...it offers new glimpses into ordinary, not always seen and/or appreciated processes. As Kevin Kelly notes on his blog, "Spirals. Vortices. Waves. Cyclones. Turbulence. Ripples. An engineer
collected all the classic photographs of hydraulic movement he could
find in old scientific volumes and self-published a reference book for
engineering students. He's been surprised that mostly artists,
animators and poets have been buying it. I'm not surprised."
The post also has some additional pictures from the book...now if only someone could do a similar book on the motion of digital data...