Archive for the ‘Politics’ 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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Logic Puzzles

American Flag

It’s closing in on Independence Day, my elected representatives are on vacation and I have some thoughts on Logic Puzzles…yeah, I need a day off work!

Many of the leading nonprofits leverage the internet to mobilize us and advocate on important public policy issues. Literacy-tests to vote were abolished long ago, but members of Congress don’t want you to contact them now without taking a quiz!

What’s a Logic Puzzle? Example: If x is 1 and y is 2. What is x? Which of the following numbers is largest: 53, 52 or 05? Get the answer wrong three times in a row and you’re blocked from sending an email to your elected government representative!

You may not be aware, but there are an alarming number of Congressional offices implementing technology that adds a step to the process for you (constituents) who want to communicate with your state or federal legislators. The new technology, commonly known as a logic puzzle, requires human interaction and is intended to prevent automated and repeated mass use of Web site functions such as sending emails — actions not initiated by real people. You may have seen similar puzzles on other Web sites, particularly when creating a new account or email address.

What’s behind Congressional adoption of logic puzzles? It’s the result of several factors: growing use of email by advocacy organizations and their constituents; lack of adequate Congressional staff to handle rising email volumes; and pervasive distrust of form letters on Capitol Hill. Access is everything in politics. The Internet, especially email, provides the average Joe the access to our elected representatives and the ability to reach politicians. We often use “form” communications to reach Congress — letters with identical content, but from different senders. Form letters are, very efficient for nonprofits or activist groups conducting advocacy campaigns and it’s also convenient for us.

Not surprisingly, in the last 10 years individual communications to Congress increased four-fold (300 million messages/year) due to electronic communications, according to a study by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps Congress become more productive and effective through better management. However, Congressional office staffing has not grown at a pace to support, and the study states that approximately 3/4 of all Congressional offices do not trust the legitimacy of form letters.

Where do you sit on this debate? Is it reasonable to ask, in this age of mass communication, that a real human be behind the letters that your representatives receive? Do you care if this means that nonprofits or activists are going to have to do a little more work? Does copying a six- or eight-digit number or answering a question bother you, or do you see this as just another step of the “overhead” process in the new digital democracy?

Happy 4th of July America.

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I ran across a cool website mention in the local paper today and decided to give it a look. I’m a visual person and making things visual always gets my attention. IBM’s Visual Communication Lab enables anyone to upload all kinds of data and turn them into graphs, maps, tag clouds and other visuals.

For example, want to convert the rhetoric over Iraq into something you can see or visualize? A user did just that by taking the text of the British House of Commons debate on the Iraq war and then converted the text into a tag cloud that displays heavily used words in larger type and little used words in little type.

See the IBM site here or click on the image:

Enjoy those visuals…

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Bismarck, ND: Current temperature is -5 degrees. You can view updates at the KFYR web cam HERE.

And if that wasn’t chilly enough news…there is the video of Al Franken announcing his intent to run for the Senate seat on YouTube or on his site.

He made this announcement today, his last show, on the Air America radio program. Don’t get me wrong, I like Franken’s work as one of the original writers on Saturday Night Live (1975-1980 and 1985-1995). I even caught some of the banter on Air America via XM Radio for a laugh.

Courtesy of David Shankbone

But, Al really helped the Air America network to bankruptcy. The network had financial trouble within days of its launch back in March 2004, when it turned out that its original chairman, Evan Cohen, did not have the backing. A few weeks later, Mr. Kelly, a former owner of Midwest radio and television stations, stepped in to take charge of the board. At the end of 2004, he ceded the chairmanship to a new investor, Rob Glaser, chief executive of RealNetworks.

In typical Glaser (ex-Microsoft exec, turned millionaire) bravado he put in place a team that was so top-heavy with management, was challenged at selling ads, unwilling to make program changes that steered away from any liberal message and overstaffed with more than 100 employees when a few dozen would have been enough. They burned through $45 million in funding…much faster than an internet startup.

All the while there was finger pointing and accusations of a nefarious plot with intentional steps taken to put the company into Chapter 11. Glaser resigned from the board along with Mr. Kelly at the time of the Chapter 11 filing. He is the network’s largest creditor with $9.8 million in claims.

Not the smartest financial decision for Glaser, a graduate of Yale University with a BA and an MA degree in Economics!

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