Archive for the ‘Piracy’ Category

itunes_roundJust days before the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where legendary musicians and the buzz of new product introductions will showcase how consumers manage and enjoy their digital media “everywhere”, the Washington Post is reporting that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has a federal case against Jeffrey Howell, an AZ, man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer.  RIAA maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.  

Huh?  It’s illegal to transfer CDs to a computer?  I thought court rulings over the last 20 years have found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording?

Who is RIAA?  It’s an organization that represents the major recording labels in the USA. These labels pay multi-millions of dollars for this representation and since RIAA is based in Washington, DC., they act as an industry lobbyist, literally.  They often urge, cajole or otherwise influence Congress to take their side in the “battle” against “music piracy.”  I’m not sure who would visit, but the RIAA even ran a Holiday Anti-Piracy Campaign message streaming across its web site offering tips on “avoiding pirate products.”

And northwest news the Oregon State Attorney General and the University of Oregon are being assaulted by RIAA’s tactics.  RIAA subpoenaed the University asking it to turn over the names of students that it suspected of making copyrighted material available to file sharers.  Note the keyword here is suspected.  While no one would disagree that it’s appropriate for victims of copyright infringement to pursue statutory remedies, shouldn’t that pursuit be tempered by basic rights of privacy and due process?

Typically RIAA harassment comes in the form of a pre-litigation letter to “suspects” they believe are guilty file sharers. There is even a credit card payment link – p2plawsuits.com where these so called “suspects” that receive the pre-litigation letters can drop off a quick $3000 to stop the RIAA from suing them.  Maybe next up is payroll deduction options?!  Good grief!

But that’s not good enough.  RIAA is now running around with deep- pocket teams of lawyers saying that even making a personal copy on your computer is a violation.  This hard-line position is clear. RIAA wants to roll back time to pre-internet days of vinyl albums.  If you make copies of copyrighted music recordings – even on cassette tape – you’re stealing.  You’re breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages.

The RIAA’s legal crusade against consumers (its customers) is a text-book example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed.

UPDATE: The Washington Post left out a couple of facts that are now being reported for the people who need to read all the details.  Turns out the article was misleading in that the RIAA was not only going after Howell for ripping his CD’s, but for also putting those ripped files into a shared Kazaa folder.  I disagree that because he put them in a shared folder its infringement, but its a different claim than the original one of just ripping them to his PC.  It will be interesting to watch…


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synctvLet’s see, I slept for 7 hours; it’s a new day and an announcement of yet another start up in the internet video space.  This seems like a daily ritual. 

The newest is Sync TV, a spin off from consumer electronics company Pioneer, which launched a beta download service.

The audio and video quality of the TV shows is comparable or superior to the same show on DVD.  SyncTV will provide HD programming across some of the different channels and will also have programming available in discreet 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus, giving you the “home theater” experience.  They allow you a great deal of flexibility in how you play back the TV shows you download. You can play back shows on up to five ‘home’ devices which mean PCs/Macs now and other home entertainment devices in the future (read portable players). 

That’s the good news.  The bad news is yet another DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology for the consumer to try and get their head around.  Sync TV is using an open-standard DRM called Marlin.  Yet another group of top electronics manufacturers joining forces to develop a standard for content management and protection.  Marlin is also referred to as “OMArlin” because it supposedly bridges between the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) DRM v.2.0 and the Marlin DRM standards.  Does anyone care, outside the companies involved?  Not really.  Consumers might agree that content protection is a good idea but, they just want to play their stuff on all their devices. And they want everything to be cheaper, too. 

It’s another set of companies trying to protect what they see as their intellectual property and make money. You could make the claim as the same motive as Microsoft, Apple, RealNetworks and others in the DRM struggle.  The marketing spin tries to convince us that DRM is intended to make it easy for us to buy content and share it, without being encumbered by content protection schemes.   But, adding Marlin to this mix will be yet another failed attempt to create a DRM “standard”.   

What I do find interesting with Sync TV and all the regulatory noise about bundled programming, is the fact that users can subscribe a-la-carte for a variety of programs they want to watch. Each channel costs about $2 each per month, and currently there are four subscription channels available. Showtime is the foundation partner with promise of more.  

The Sync TV launch underscores the two worlds that now exist–the heavily regulated telecoms and broadcasting sectors and the almost entirely unregulated internet channel.  

Where do you think most of the innovation is?

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ISEF Winner Hacks iPhone

HotzDid you hear about the student George Hotz, 17, Glen Rock, New Jersey who was awarded “Best of Category” and received a $5,000 Intel scholarship and an Intel® Centrino® Duo Mobile Technology-based notebook? 

He spent the summer trying to successfully unlock the iPhone  Hotz runs a blog and you can find all the information on how-to there. 

In the picture (right), Hotz was a 2005 – Intel ISEF finalist when he was 15 and showed off his project titled, “The Googler”. 

ISEF is sponsored by Intel and has been administered by Science Service since its inception in 1950. Science Service is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the understanding and appreciation of science among people of all ages. 

After Hotz unlocked the iPhone he put it up on eBay and was getting a lot of bids over $10K.  However this morning on his blog site he states the iPhone has been traded.  It seems that Terry Daidone, the founder of Certicell contacted Hotz and offered to make a trade for the iPhone. Hotz traded it for a Nissan 350Z and three 8GB iPhones. Hotz is sending the iPhones, unlocked if they wish, to jpetrie(the first donater), gray(the reversing genius), and iProof(who is truly amazing at finding stuff online).

Hotz left for school yesterday, presumably going fast in a 350Z…don’t all 17 year olds drive fast?!  Sort of beats my “What I did this summer?” story… 

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The academic research on the topic states that “invention” is defined as the creation of new things. “Innovation” happens when these new things are delivered to the marketplace for the benefit of consumers/society.

Facebook F8 LogoFacebook is an example of an innovative networking tool that connects users of all ages from all parts of the globe. But challenge Facebook’s legitimacy as a copyrighted website, or its intellectual patents and the legal wrath of Lisa Greenwald-Swire of HellerEhrman LLP kicks into gear. Don’t believe it? Then talk to Jeff Magee about his parody of Facebook in creating a site that was aesthetically similar to Facebook but connected users through disinterests, rather than friends and mutual interests only to be shut down by HellerEhrman. Don’t all social network sites just perform similar functions, only with a different color scheme?

Mark Zuckerberg, (Facebook founder) has his own legal issues from a 3 year-old lawsuit where he is accused of stealing the business model, source code and idea for the social networking site from three of his Harvard classmates.

What do you think?

1) What matters more, the idea (HarvardConnection) or the innovation of the idea (Facebook)?

2) What would you rather be known for – the idea, or the innovation?

3) Should ideas and innovations have equal value, theoretically and monetarily?

4) Is competition and even mockery only elements of a healthy market?

5) Do claiming rights to a “look and feel,” debilitate competitors by accusing them of stealing and rob consumers of their right to choose?

Even if Zuckerberg didn’t have the original vision – he may have to pay sometime – Facebook should get credit with adjusting to the changing business landscape faster than the team at ConnectU.

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Lemonade from Lemons

uTube BldLast year uTube.com was angered by a case of mistaken identity. Based in Perrysburg, Ohio and since 1985, Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment, has sold tube, pipe and rollforming machinery. The confusion with YouTube.com sent uTube’s traffic soaring from 1,500 visits per month to more than 2 million. Even the police in Australia mistakenly accused uTube of having child pornography on their Web site and it further hurt their business.

So, Universal Tube did what all American companies do. It sued Google’s YouTube last November after seeing traffic spikes overwhelm its servers. But Ralph Girkins, Universal Tube’s President decided uTube.com needed to make the most of all the traffic it received from people mixing up its site. Ralph decided they would cater to the “lost” YouTube fans by expanding into a completely different market: ring tones and redirect links for social networks and/or online dating sites.

Google is big gun in the market, but Ralph recently reported that revenue generated by the ring tones is making enough to pay for uTube.com’s hosting costs, however it has a long ways to go before it pays off the legal bills.

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Apple will sale EMI music without anti-piracy (DRM – digital rights management) technology — Steve Jobs proclaimed in February that music companies should sell their music DRM-free. Evangelizing that DRM-free music would create a truly interoperable music marketplace.

About a month later (4/2/07), in agreement with music label EMI, Apple is making EMI songs available without DRM through its iTunes music store. The music will be higher quality (encoded at 256kbps AAC), and tracks will cost $1.29, or 30 cents more than the standard 99 cents.

This means you can take those songs (EMIs entire catalog (DRM free) – globally in May) and put them on any device you want too. I think this helps address how I only want to buy a song or album ONCE and be able to play it in my car CD, my iPod, computer, on my PS3 or my TV. I don’t want to buy it 10 times from 10 different sources to play it on 10 different electronic components.

Is this the next big step forward for music interoperability, a significant development for the industry or a move by EMI to garner headlines? Maybe it’s all three, but at the joint press announcement EMI stated they were confident this will grow their sales and put a stake in the groud stating that 1/4 of all sales would be digital by 2010.

Hard to predict music sales let alone the digital elements, but I like the interoperability and hope other label’s follow.

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Steve Jobs provided a good read on his view and thoughts of the music industry yesterday and basically asks for DRM free music, something the entire world has been asking for. Jobs can be a catalyst, but towards what? What should the music industry do?

He makes excellent points in his post:

Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. It’s hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.

Unfortunately, Jobs asking the music industry for DRM free music is nothing but a pipe dream. It would take cooperation of an ego driven industry (remember the SonyBMG root malware crisis?) and they don’t care about understanding the user interdependencies. They care only about optimizing revenue across the entire scope of options.

We’re kidding ourselves thinking it’s an industry driven by art.

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