Kids used to ask each other: If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears, does it make a sound? Now there’s a microphone in every tree and a loudspeaker on every branch, not to mention the video cameras, and we’ve entered the condition that David Foster Wallace called Total Noise: “the tsunami of available fact, context, and perspective.”
This week was a watershed for Total Noise. When terrible things happen, people naturally reach out for information, which used to mean turning on the television. The rewards (and I use the word in its Pavlovian sense) can be visceral and immediate, if you want to see more bombs explode or towers fall, and plenty of us do. But others are learning not to do that.
The Boston bombings, shootings, car chase, and manhunt found the ecosystem of information in a strange and unstable state: Twitter on the rise, cable TV in disarray, Internet vigilantes bleeding into the FBI’s staggeringly complex (and triumphant) crash program of forensic video analysis. If there ever was a dividing line between cyberspace and what we used to call the “real world,” it vanished last week.
Things were much simpler back then, even for Joan Crawford. And I love the white gloves. Stay to the end of the clip for a “Supermarket Sweep” example.
(via Andrew Sullivan)
On Friday, the Republican Study Committee released a paper analyzing the current copyright regime, and suggesting major reforms directed to reducing the public cost of current law.
More details from Techdirt here.
The report was so well-written and powerful in its defense of public benefit (as opposed to content creator benefit) so it may come as no surprise that it was disavowed by the RSC in a matter of hours. Presumably the content industry wasted no time it bringing its power and influence to bear.
- House Republicans release watershed copyright reform paper (boingboing.net)
- An Anti-IP turn for the GOP? (theamericanconservative.com)
- Republicans suggest shockingly sensible ideas for reforming copyright (hyperorg.com)
- GOP Brief Attacks Current Copyright Law (politics.slashdot.org)
David Pogue has a good article in Scientific American, describing how the death spiral of the DVD actually increases piracy. His point: the DVD is dieing, and there is growing demand for streaming rentals of movies to take its place. The problem: the terms of the rental suck: 24 hours to watch, no DVD extras, and even worse, streaming rentals are not available until months after the films appeared in theaters.
Worse, some movies never become available. Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, A Beautiful Mind, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Saving Private Ryan, Meet the Fockers, and so on, are not available to rent from the major online distributors.
The people want movies. None of Hollywood’s baffling legal constructs will stop the demand. The studios are trying to prevent a dam from bursting by putting up a picket fence.
And if you don’t make your product available legally, guess what? The people will get it illegally. Traffic to illegal download sites has more than sextupled since 2009, and file downloading is expected to grow about 23 percent annually until 2015. Why? Of the 10 most pirated movies of 2011, guess how many of them are available to rent online, as I write this in midsummer 2012? Zero. That’s right: Hollywood is actually encouraging the very practice they claim to be fighting (with new laws, for example).
My personal pet peeve with DVDs and Blu-rays: after purchasing the disc, why do I have to sit through numerous unskippable previews just to watch the film I want to see?
Via TechDirt, check out the MPAA’s daft response to Pogue’s article:
In response, in typically tone deaf fashion, MPAA spokesperson Howard Gantman has taken the usual tack of not actually addressing what Pogue wrote, but making an unrelated argument. He says that somehow, magically, because there are more crippled, annoying, expensive, incomplete movie services out there, no one should complain. You see, in the MPAA’s world “offering something” is proof that they’re innovating, even if it’s not what people want.
And you should take the time to read the EFF’s summary of the TPP agreement which, as currently drafted, would require ISPs to become copyright cops against their own customers.
Chevy is running a Super Bowl ad today, with a Mayan apocalypse theme:
What is strange is that Joel Ewanick (GM global chief marketing officer) has tweeted that Ford asked GM to kill the ad.
Seems to be a bonanza for GM, in that people are flocking to tweet that GM should not pull the ad.
The former senator and now CEO of the MPAA can’t catch a break: “You’ve got an opponent who has the capacity to reach millions of people with a click of a mouse and there’s no fact-checker.” Must be terribly hard to represent the largest media empires in the world, who collectively own all the major newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, billboards, record labels and studios. How will they ever get their side of the story out?
– Cory Doctorow, writing at Boing Boing.
The E-PARASITES Act (the latest name for legislation originally named the PROTECT IP Act) has been proposed in the House. It is also called the “Stop Online Privacy Act” or SOPA. The bill, if enacted, would effectively allow websites to be blocked, without judicial review or due process, based merely on claims of infringement. It would also make it illegal to use any technology to bypass such blocks. It would also make it a felony to illegally stream content online.
Here is a summary of the guts of bill from the EFF:
As with its Senate-side evil sister, PROTECT-IP, SOPA would require service providers to “disappear” certain websites, endangering Internet security and sending a troubling message to the world: it’s okay to interfere with the Internet, even effectively blacklisting entire domains, as long as you do it in the name of IP enforcement. Of course blacklisting entire domains can mean turning off thousands of underlying websites that may have done nothing wrong. And in what has to be an ironic touch, the very first clause of SOPA states that it shall not be “construed to impose a prior restraint on free speech.” As if that little recitation could prevent the obvious constitutional problem in what the statute actually does.
But it gets worse. Under this bill, service providers (including hosting services) would be under new pressure to monitor and police their users’ activities. Websites that simply don’t do enough to police infringement (and it is not at all clear what would qualify as “enough”) are now under threat, even though the DMCA expressly does not require affirmative policing. It creates new enforcement tools against folks who dare to help users access sites that may have been “blacklisted,” even without any kind of court hearing. The bill also requires that search engines, payment providers (such as credit card companies and PayPal), and advertising services join in the fun in shutting down entire websites. In fact, the bill seems mainly aimed at creating an end-run around the DMCA safe harbors. Instead of complying with the DMCA, a copyright owner may now be able to use these new provisions to effectively shut down a site by cutting off access to its domain name, its search engine hits, its ads, and its other financing even if the safe harbors would apply.
Taken together, this would effectively allow a government-mandated firewall on the Internet violating free speech rights of American citizens (and those around the world), all for the private benefit of the music and movie industries. It is outrageously over-reaching and should be firmly opposed.
And here is how you can easily oppose the bill without cost in less than a couple of minutes
Update: And you should read this essay by Lauren Weinstein, who clearly outlines the stakes involved.
- Rep. Lofgren: Copyright bill is the ‘end of the Internet’ (news.cnet.com)
- House takes Senate’s bad Internet censorship bill, tries making it worse (arstechnica.com)
- Copyright bill revives Internet death penalty (news.cnet.com)
Robert Scoble writes that one of the most important parts of Apple’s announcement today will be the unveiling of an advance “three screen strategy,” relying on a convergence of the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV using Apple’s AirPlay technology. You can read his post, which I highly recommend, here, but you will need to scroll down a bit to get to the meat of his description of the “three screen strategy.”
While I doubt that Apple is calling this plan the “three screen strategy,” I do think that Scoble is right on in predicting the criticality to Apple of successfully deploying both its AirPlay technology and licensing deals with content providers. Apple needs to conquer the living room and the mobile space and iCloud plus AirPlay is the path to victory.
Apple has worked for years on its Apple TV “hobby” and, given the big moves in media distribution over the past few months by Netflix, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Spotify and others, now is the time for Apple to bring the pieces together in a compelling way. They have the talent and the reputation to do it. The only question is whether the media giants will play along or will block it despite their long-term best interests in wider paid distribution.
- Rumors: Apple has iPad video app, no Jobs at Oct. 4 event (electronista.com)
- What is Apple AirPlay? Do you/Would you use it? (techburgh.com)
- Apple’s iPhone 5 key, but iCloud more strategic (zdnet.com)
Laurie Anderson explains the (non-)solution to our problems: only an expert can do it. This is one song that addresses Oprah, Iraq, torture, and Wall Street financial crimes, while being kick-ass msuically. The version below is live, but the version on the album, Homeland, is even more terrific.
The studio version is available on iTunes for those who like her work.
iTunes Match is now in beta testing with developers. This service, coming this fall from Apple, costs $25/year. It scans your music library, all songs, and all your songs that are offered in the iTunes store are made available in iCloud. From iCloud you can download any of your songs to any of your computers or iOS devices like the iPad. This much was known earlier.
But the developer beta has another killer feature that has not been known until now. In addition to downloading your songs, you can stream them, as long as you have a data connection. That is, you can play any of your music directly from iCloud without the need to download the files first. This means that you don’t need to fill your device’s storage with these files, freeing up the device to additional uses.
Check out this video from Insanely Great Mac.
This could be a Spotify killer. Great stuff.
Update: Some other good news: rumour has it that Apple is planning to bring iCloud functionality to Snow Leopard. This means that those who haven’t upgraded to Lion or can’t upgrade older machines to Lion will still gain this functionality.
Update 2: It turns out that iCloud does not in fact stream music. Rather it downloads what you want and appears to be streaming because the iOS 5 software beginnings playing the file almost immediately as it continues the download. This was confirmed to All Things D.
Update 3: Or maybe it really is streaming after all. You be the judge.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.
- iTunes Match Streams and Downloads Your Music [Video] (gizmodo.com)
- iTunes Match beta now open to developers (tuaw.com)
- Apple Releases New iTunes Beta with iTunes Match (macstories.net)
- “iTunes Match” Allows Streaming of Music (techie-buzz.com)
- Apple confirms iCloud won’t offer iTunes streaming (tuaw.com)
For more information on political efforts for serious patent reform, check out this article from Croporate Counsel.
I do wish however that pundits would quit comparing the Murdoch phone-hacking clusterphuck to “a Shakespearean tragedy.” Despite the wealth, power, and magnitude of his media empire, Murdoch has no Lear depths and mind-tattered poetry; he’s a colorless king, mean and un-self-reflecting, his own chasms hidden from him. The ill he has done on several continents, the death toll from the wars his journalistic outlets have reflexively, ritualistically championed, the degradation of politics into hand-puppet psychodrama (Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, et al), cannot be undone by apologies proffered under duress. Without the exclusive about the phone hacking of Milly Dowler, he and News Corp probably would have gotten away with everything and gone smugly into the night. No, if the fall of the house of Murdoch is a tragedy, it’s the feel-good tragedy of the century. [One of the best tickers for keeping up with breaking developments in the phone-hacking clusterphuck is Eric Boehlert's Twitter feed, where the feuding with Andrew Breitbart is lagniappe.]
- BLOOD BATH: WSJ Head Resigns Amidst Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal (businessinsider.com)
- ‘We are sorry’ Murdoch tells UK in full-page ad (thenewstribune.com)
- Phone hacking: Rupert Murdoch’s US woes develop legs – Telegraph.co.uk (news.google.com)
The major ISPs have agreed with media companies to implement a “six strikes” program. Under the agreement, when content companies report to an ISP that they believe an ISP customer is accessing illegal content, the ISPs will implement a series of notices intended to get the customer to stop. Ultimately, the customer could be terminated by the ISP if they cease the activity.
The problem with this approach is that it is based merely on claims made by private companies, with no judicial oversight whatsoever. In effect, the ISPs become cops for the media industry and the media industry has the unilateral power to block (or severely degrade) service for those accused. Imagine if a private company could go to the phone company and accuse a customer of using his phone to commit a crime and demand that the phone company take action, including disconnecting the phone. Would we agree to that approach? Since when do private companies engage in law enforcement?
The Center for Democracy & Technology, along with Public Knowledge, said in a joint statement they were concerned about the accord. “We believe it would be wrong for any ISP to cut off subscribers, even temporarily, based on allegations that have not been tested in court,” the groups said.
Corynne McSherry, the intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also had concerns. She added, in a telephone interview, that the EFF was “pretty disappointed that ISPs have agreed to serve as a propaganda agent for big media.”
If a media company believes that a person has illegally stolen their content, the law provides existing remedies.
- Should you fear new ISP copyright enforcers? (news.cnet.com)
- The Content Industry and ISPs Announce a “Common Framework for Copyright Alerts”: What Does it Mean for Users? (eff.org)
- White House: we “win the future” by making ISPs into copyright cops (arstechnica.com)
A very short film made up of photographs from the mission to Saturn. Of course, watch full screen. Excellent.
So, if you act today, you can buy Lady GaGa’s new album, Born This Way [+digital booklet], for only $.99. Great deal.
But the crush of purchasers could not be handled successfully by Amazon. Many people have actually received less than the entire album. A huge backlash has followed and Amazon has not yet offered an explanation. Amazon, it is assumed, will [eventually] make good on the offer.
This was an effort on the part of Amazon to introduce users to its new cloud-based music service in advance of the expected launch of a new music/cloud service from Apple sometime in the next month or so. And the top selling album right now on iTunes is the GaGa album, even though the price is $11.99. Try again Amazon. You sold a huge number of albums at a presumably huge loss to generate great PR and you failed. Keep in mind that Amazon had a huge data center collapse only weeks ago.
Unfortunately for Lady Gaga, the technical problems have resulted in an average rating of only 3 stars for her album as customers use the review section to vent their frustrations. As one customer complained: “I’m not disappointed that something went wrong, stuff happens. I’m REALLY disappointed that Amazon makes it VERY hard to find out where to complain or contact them.” True: it is hard as hell to find a phone number to call.
Another customer griped: “I’ve been waiting nearly two hours, and have not even been able to download one single song. Every download attempt fails and when I retry, it ‘waits’ forever and fails again…too bad for Lady Gaga that she ends up with lousy ratings because you have rotten tech help…the rating I gave WOULD have been a five, but the aggravation lowered it by half.”
Lady Gaga’s marketing team must be frothing at the mouth right now. It’s likely that Amazon is taking the $13 loss in the first place, but add to that potential legal problems with Lady Gaga’s representatives, who are surely unhappy about the fact that Gaga’s new album has been essentially labeled a dud, and Amazon could have a big headache up ahead.
- Lady Gaga Breaks Amazon (blogs.wsj.com)
- Amazon issues iTunes challenge, marks down Lady GaGa’s newest album to 99 cents (9to5mac.com)
- Lady Gaga’s $0.99 Album Download Overwhelms Amazon (mashable.com)