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Friday, February 28, 2003

DRM: Felten and Lessig
DRM conference continuing in the afternoon:

    Ed Felten gives a talk on “DRM, Black Boxes, and Public Policy”.

    Main assertions: DRM must be a black box (i.e., "secure execution environment," "appliance," "robustness"), created by technology and law. However, if that black boxing is backed by laws than ban analysis or tinkering, public debate about DRM policy is crippled by not being able to understand how it works.

    There are many claims about information policy which require research, being able to look inside the black box in order to inform debate.
    Examples: TIA (defenders claim its DRM can prevent abuses); porn blocking, filtering (defenders: block lists are accurate, protected by DRM); e-voting (defenders: there will be no tampering, DRM prevents it).

    Lawrence Lessig then speaks to “Binary Blindness”.

    He argues for an arc of different copyright authorization desires, from those who shared all freely ("none"), who who want some mix of protections ("some"), and those who desire total control ("all"). What happened since the Web was a sudden shift from the none's to the all's, a swing of extremes that address very few users' desires.

    Turning to campaigns for IP reform, Lessig described himself as “[i]ncreasingly convinced that working through courts and Congress won’t work in time”.
    Hence the shift to launch the Creative Commons. This is a form of DRE, digital rights expression. This allows all users to set their desired levels of content control, allowing a focus not on management but on expression. This has the advantage of being able to be done now. Example: Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, whose combination of hardcover release and Web publication reflects the author's desire for content expression.

    Brief note: after the Eldred fight, an opposing attorney found Lessig opposing “ideals and principles [against] all the money in the world”. We can move away from those horrendous odds by “Reclaim[ing] the internet through voluntary efforts… and expressions that show we mean it.”

:: posted by Bryan, 6:28 PM |

DRM: discussions of Microsoft's thinking
At the DRM conference, some discussions of Microsoft's thinking about its DRM projects.

John Manferdelli described principles underlying Redmond's work. DRM should:

  • Not restrict people’s work, but enable new stuff (things they won’t risk now)
  • Not impose policy, since policies change and are hard to anticipate
  • Be opt-in, not mandatory
  • Benefit both corporations and individuals
  • Create a positive user experience
  • Involve negotiating equilibrium in trusted spaces
  • Not censor or disable content with user’s permission
  • Not lock out vendors or formats
  • Not allow someone to own a machine key
  • Be a choice in a competitive market
  • Deal with the darknet

Lucky Green, of Cypherpunks.to, had some dissent to offer.

    What is trusted computing? “Trust means third parties can trust that your computer will disobey your wishes"

    An understated goal of DRM: to work in office productivity software, on email, documents.

    A problem: will a third-party application that is compatible with a DRM-wrapped file format be judged as an anti-circumvention device? If so, will DRM make it illegal to create interoperable software in the US?

    Opt-in? [Green displayed a picture of steam-powered, rather than gas-burning, car] “Sure, you don't have to opt in – you don’t have to turn on your computer, and you don’t have to activate this one thing absolutely necessary for your day job.”

:: posted by Bryan, 3:38 PM |

DRM: the Sobel paper
Lon Sobel's proposal, "DRM as an Enabler of Business Models: ISPs as Digital Retailers" is available on the Web: as HTML, as pdf.
:: posted by Bryan, 3:29 PM |

DRM conference: tollboth proposal
More at the DRM conference: Lon Sobel proposed an IP tollbooth plan.
This model enables compensation, and at royalty rates, but not control of content distribution.

The key point of this system is the consumer, as a downloader. All copyrighted content would be watermarked with metadata describing who gets paid and how much, along with a fingerprint with a unique digital identifier. ISPs can check this watermarked/ fingerprinted information as a sort of toll system, feeding the info into a pool.
People can then rip, mix, and share – but the downloader’s action is logged by ISP at the point of downloading. There's no control over downloading usages, as the
Darknet research argues, but the tolling system operates anyway, as the ISPs pay content owners a fee based on this collected information, and presumably supported by customer surchanges.

Why would ISPs like this? They can "buy" information “retail”, and then mark up how much they like.

Problems: spammers could get paid for spam, if they construe it as copyrighted material (!). Further, there's an "incremental" privacy decay. ISPs would be checking on customers’ usage. But that sort of invasion is happening now at the level of credit card tracking, IP noting, spiders, etc., so it’s only an incremental change.

Some energetic discussion followed:

    Sarah Deutsch: first, ISPs aren't good enough at this level of granular charging yet. Second, what happens when we follow IP law and recognize every person as an IP holder, from personal home pages to emails and IMs – the results would be “the world’s most complicated billing system.” Third, “ISPs would turn into Big Brother.” As part of this, there's a “slippery slope argument, as third parties with less than wholesome intents could be asked to attach their fingerprinting.”

    Sobel responds: IP holders should be able to make decisions about access to their work (can put it out for free, without notice). There's no new tech required, since fingerprinting and usage collection technologies are already out there. There's a related, if different precedent: ASCAP sampling radio play, which suggests a simpler scheme, but probably wouldn’t be attractive to IP holders.

    Bob Blakely (I think): billing is very hard. Better (or worse) yet: “Why not write a worm that goes around the Web, adding a metadata tag to all DRM content including “pay me $ for every usage,” then wait for the money to roll in?”

:: posted by Bryan, 2:23 PM |

DRM conference: RIAA duelling with Verizon
At the DRM conference, representatives from content industries and ISPs are facing off.

From the RIAA, Cary Sherman described the recording industry's current stance and projects.

Generally, and unsurprisingly, Sherman sees “DRM as business enabler.” However, it will take a long time, years, for a transition to new generation of (presumably DRM-equipped) players to spread through the market. Furthermore, new file formats are coming up, without agreements about standards, so those need to shake through first. There's an antitrust problem, since the RIAA can’t impose a standard

The digital world's threats: the "online world: a tiny marketplace for buying, a big one for free." File sharing is (notoriously) a problem for them, but cases take too long to settle. Further, CD burning is “skyrocketing”, which leads to “street piracy” (not pirate factories, but anyone a pirate node).

The RIAA's views: they're in a web of stakeholders: distribution mechanisms, artists, and consumers. Those consumers have a set of rights, including the rights to make copies for personal use, to make backup copies, and copies for portability. But consumers shouldn't have rights to sell or give away copies of IP.

Actions being taken:

  • creating as many legit alternatives as possible
  • copy protection for disk content – “but the tech isn’t there yet”
  • interested in preventing not disc burns, but burns of burns
  • making “some progress in audio formats”
  • add value to CD (bonus tracks, merchandising access)
  • spoofing
  • start forging business models in collaboration with others
  • education (pop stars, “outreach to colleges and universities”)
  • enforcement

The RIAA is working on transitioning business relations between artists and others in industry. After all, “if you’re going to sell less product, you need to find new business relationships”

From Verizon, Sarah Deutsch didn't say much about DRM directly, but focused on her company's fight with the RIAA. Generally, Verizon, as an ISP, “do[esn't] profit from p2p file sharing”. In fact, ISPs
"agreed to the DMCA [cf section] 512i."

Yet IP holders “are desperately trying to twist an old law” to protect old business models.

On the struggle with RIAA, Deutsch articulated the principle behind their stance: "Verizon shouldn’t interfere with private communications of users."

Some implications of the RIAA's success so far:

  • "[the recent anti-Verizon] decision authorizes the clerk of a court, without supervision of a judge, to rubberstamp requests for users’ information, based on information from someone, somewhere. [Since] very time you visit a site or send a message, your IP address is visible, [a copyright holder] armed only with that IP address and the assertion that someone is infringing your copyright [can act]." It’s “private search warrant power… unconstitutional.”
  • The case has significant privacy potentials. “If RIAA wins, will have a chilling effect on privacy.”
  • “They’d rather be able to use the IUSP to send thousands of cease and desist emails…”

She concluded optimistically, arguing that the “content industry’s scorched earth tactics are doomed to fail.”

Dan Gillmor's notes are excellent, too.
:: posted by Bryan, 1:41 PM |

DRM conference at Berkeley
A Digital Rights Management systems conference is going on now, at Berkeley. Topics include the technology, law, and policy of DRM projects currently in development. Participants include Ed Felten, Representative Zoe Lofgren, Lawrence Lessig, David Farber, and Pamela Samuelson.
:: posted by Bryan, 11:56 AM |

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Applying the Grid to Gaming
Grid computing, the concept of distributing processing over many computers rather than just one, will soon be utilized for gaming. Sony, IBM and startup Butterfly.net have announced a strategic partnership wherein they will use grid technology to do the heavy lifting for massive multiplayer games. This is the same idea that is being used to search for alien life forms, discern how proteins fold, and that the NCSA is pushing as the "next big thing."

Grid computing, a concept that originated in supercomputing centers, is taking a step toward the mainstream: Sony will announce today that it will use the technology to accelerate its push into the emerging market for online games with thousands of players at a time.

Sony is teaming up with I.B.M. and Butterfly.net Inc., a software start-up that will build the grid for players who use Sony's PlayStation 2 video game consoles. The companies plan to demonstrate the technology next week at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif.

(via Slashdot)
:: posted by Jonathan Swerdloff, 12:23 PM |

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

feds shut down drug paraphenalia Web sites
In a series of national raids, United States federal agents raided and closed more than fifty Web sites for selling drug paraphenalia.

Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) said the sale of drug paraphernalia has exploded on the Internet, making it easier for teenagers and young adults to buy it. The items often are disguised as such things as lipstick cases to escape detection and are marketed under code names and symbols.
"Quite simply, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge," Ashcroft said.

(via The Good Doc)
:: posted by Bryan, 11:25 AM |

Monday, February 24, 2003

Mindjack Feature: Just Not Evenly Distrubuted
William Gibson's Pattern Recognition
reviewed by Cory Doctorow

In Pattern Recognition, Gibson, for the first time in a novel, turns his attention to the present day. Ono-Sendai decks are replaced with iBooks and cell phones. Websites and MPEG movies take the place of the consensual hallucination of cyberspace. Cory Doctorow has our review.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 4:30 PM |

Mindjack Games: Super Monkey Ball 2
Super Monkey Ball 2
reviewed by Justin Hall

Simian Simplicity and Painful Puzzles. Justin Hall takes a look at one of the most popular puzzle games for the Nintendo GameCube.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 4:28 PM |

Indonesia joins the war against software piracy
Indonesia is setting up a task force to enforce a tough, new, anti-software-piracy law due to take effect this summer.

Law No. 19/2002... says that deliberately broadcasting, displaying, circulating and selling materials without copyright is subject to a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of Rp 500 million (US$56,300).

(via BNA.com)
:: posted by Bryan, 2:50 PM |

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Virtual president protests actual one
Martin Sheen, who plays a liberal American president in the tv series The West Wing, will use that role as a prop in an upcoming protest against impending war against Iraq. Sheen and other celebrities call for a "virtual march", a massive, popular, lobbying of government officials by any media to hand.

To get around the skittish networks, groups are buying up time from local cable companies. Sheen's ad will appear on both CNN and Fox News Channel in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The spot will continue running throughout the next week....
"This virtual march on Washington will allow every American opposed to the war to stand up and be counted, by calling, faxing and e-mailing the U.S. Senate and the White House," Sheen says in the ad.

The protest is sponsored by Artists Win Without War.
(thanks to Tony Frederick!)
:: posted by Bryan, 6:12 PM |

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Testing Valenti's Claims
Mindjack contributor and MIT graduate researcher Raffi Krikorian set out to test MPAA Chairman Jack Valenti's claim that "a 12-year-old, with the click of a mouse, can send a move hurtling to all five continents". He's filed his reply comments with the FCC and made them available online.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8:18 PM |

Shift magazine publishes its last issue
The Toronto Star reports that Shift's next issue will be its last.
[Associate Editor Jose] Lourenco sent out a poignant group e-mail to Shift's contributors yesterday morning.

"I want to say thanks to all of you for your energy and drive as writers for the mag. Know that you contributed to what was the most exciting, smart and fun magazine in the Canadian industry," he wrote.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6:30 PM |

Tunisia arrests 20 for radical Islamic Web browsing
Tunisian authorities arrested twenty men for browsing radical Islamicist Web sites.

"The 20 men, aged 18-22 and most of them high-school students, were arrested on February 5-9 in Zarzis for entering banned Internet Web Sites," said the Tunisian Human Rights League, the country's only legal independent rights group...
Rights groups say the government has set up a cyber-police special force to track down dissident activity on the Internet.
The unauthorized International Association for Support of Political Prisoners said Tuesday police were interrogating the men still and refusing family visits.
Lawyers, who asked not to be named, said authorities were worried the 20 could belong to nascent radical Islamist cells.
They said the arrested men browsed sites including one from the banned Tunisian Islamist Nahda party.

Tunisia has been increasingly policing its citizens' internet usage, setting up a cyberpoliceforce, and competing with China for world leadership in net crackdowns. In 2002, the government arrested a journalist for Webbing false information.
(via BNA.com)
:: posted by Bryan, 12:39 PM |

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

NBIC seeks publicity, support
At a recent meeting in Los Angeles, a group of researchers urged investors and governments to consider the growing importance of a nascent field, formed by the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science.

The organizers believe that there are potentially large benefits to nanotechnology, which focuses on materials and processes with dimensions so small they are affected by the behavior of individual atoms and molecules. But they say the greatest opportunities lie in bridging the gaps between the rapidly growing ranks of nanoengineers and researchers in other fields — professionals who often use such different terms to describe their work that their common interests go unnoticed.

For instance, nanotechnology researchers suspect that the natural world's ability to assemble atoms into complex tissues with very exact specifications may hold the key to making vast quantities of minute, inexpensive pollution sensors or solar cells. Bioengineers, on the other hand, are looking to artificial nanostructures as possible drug delivery systems or as scaffolds to help injured organs repair themselves.
:: posted by Bryan, 1:34 PM |

disk storage costs fall below $1/gig
Dan Gillmor notes that data storage is now less than one dollar per gig. This is a nice historical milestone.


In a Digital Age corollary to Parkinson's Law, data expanded to fit the available space.

I learned this repeatedly as the types of data changed. Text was efficient. Graphics took up more space. Microsoft created file formats for its Office software that took up even more.

Silicon Valley's disk-drive innovators kept pace. Then came multimedia, especially MP3s, the music format that routinely uses a couple of megabytes a song. My Apple iPod MP3 player will fill up one of these days.

But the iPod has a measly (!) 10 gigabytes. By this time next year we'll see tiny media players with 40 or 60 gigabytes of storage.
:: posted by Bryan, 10:15 AM |

Monday, February 17, 2003

Sculptor Roboticist Fashions a More Human Face for Computing
A BBC piece introduces K-bot, an android head which will track your movements and mimic your facial expression. Its creator is David Hanson, a former Disney employee, who now works at the University of Texas-Dallas. He has an online portfolio here, where you can see pictures of some of his earlier work, as well as pieces in non-robotic media.
:: posted by Jim, 8:55 PM |

Ev Comments on Google/Blogger
Blogger co-founder Evan Williams has commented further on the Google buyout of Blogger on his weblog:
I'm going to work at Google, naturally, which is an awesome opportunity in itself. To go there with the rest of my team (Jason, Jason, Jason, Rudy, and Steve), and to continue working on Blogger, but to have access to these amazing resources (not just money, and servers, and bandwidth, and traffic, and the index, but incredible brains) is a dream scenario.

For Blogger, and for Blogger users (and for the blogging world in general—Blogger-using or not—because I know that's a concern), it's going to mean great things, I believe. We're going to be mapping out more clearly what that means and talking about it soon. We don't mean to be mysterious about that. We just haven't had time to put it all together yet.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:06 PM |

Felten slams self-censoring scientists
Computer science prof and anti-DMCA poster child, Edward Felten, slammed a recent article about scientists considering self-censoring research.

The new editing methods will be voluntary and will differ among the 32 publications and scientific associations that agreed to the effort.

In response, Felten argues:

...the research we would be censoring is often the same research that we would use to defend ourselves.

In the current climate, it's not surprising that calls for censorship of research are resurfacing. Apparently we need to have a debate on this topic. What we don't need are slanted arguments that ignore the very real costs of censorship.
:: posted by Bryan, 1:18 PM |

Mindjack Feature: Spinning the Web
Spinning the Web: The Realities of Online Reputation Management
by Nicholas Carroll

"Online reputation management" is reminiscent of the political term "spin control." But the Internet is not traditional media, and opportunities for controlling one's reputation are quite different – in theory unlimited, but in practice limited by an almost inherent lack of focus, and the countervailing weight of mainstream media.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 1:02 AM |

Mindjack Games: Animal Crossing
Animal Crossing
for Nintendo GameCube
reviewed by Jane Pinckard

Who says multiplayer has to be simultaneous? The brilliance of Nintendo's game Animal Crossing is that you don't play head-to-head with other players.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 1:01 AM |

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Google Buys Blogger
Google has bought Pyra Labs, makers of Blogger, the popular weblog tool. Reaction from the blogosphere has been a resounding "Holy Crap!". Dan Gillmor was the first to report the buyout, which Blogger co-founder Evan Williams announced publicly at the Live From the Blogosphere event last night in LA. Cory Doctorow has posted an excellent commentary on the buyout to Boing Boing.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:05 PM |

Friday, February 14, 2003

Opera Fights Microsoft with Bork
From the press release: "Two weeks ago it was revealed that Microsoft's MSN portal targeted Opera users, by purposely provided them with a broken page. As a reply to MSN's treatment of its users, Opera Software today released a very special Bork edition of its Opera 7 for Windows browser. The Bork edition behaves differently on one Web site: MSN. Users accessing the MSN site will see the page transformed into the language of the famous Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show: Bork, Bork, Bork! "

The Bork version of Opera for Windows can be download here.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 10:35 AM |

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Greece Continues Game Ban
Greece continues to hold firm to its ban on gaming in public places, Wired News reports. Originally intended to stop gambling, the ban is so sweeping that police are even cracking down on people playing Counterstrike in Internet Cafes
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:12 PM |

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality
It's been blogged like nobody's business, but Clay Shirkey's essay, Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality, is well worth checking out.
A persistent theme among people writing about the social aspects of weblogging is to note (and usually lament) the rise of an A-list, a small set of webloggers who account for a majority of the traffic in the weblog world. This complaint follows a common pattern we've seen with MUDs, BBSes, and online communities like Echo and the WELL. A new social system starts, and seems delightfully free of the elitism and cliquishness of the existing systems. Then, as the new system grows, problems of scale set in. Not everyone can participate in every conversation. Not everyone gets to be heard. Some core group seems more connected than the rest of us, and so on.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11:35 PM |

Thursday, February 06, 2003

IP group: EU soft on piracy
A group of European intellectual property holders slammed the European Union for going soft on digital piracy, following the release of a plan for combatting counterfeits. The proposal enables punishment for profitable piracy, but leaves personal, home downloading alone.

The group said that last week's new piracy-fighting proposal from the European Commission is "inadequate in view of the magnitude of the piracy problem and fails to introduce urgently needed measures to hold back the epidemic of counterfeiting." The group claims that in Europe, film, video, music, business and leisure software industries alone suffer losses in excess of EUR4.5 billion annually due to piracy....

However, in other quarters, the new directive has been deemed a much tougher version than the standards already in place to fight the illegal copying of software and other digital materials. For example, the Commission's proposal could see to it that counterfeiters are jailed and their bank accounts frozen, if they are found to be in breach of the law.

For its part, the European Commission claims that the proposed laws will actually fill gaps in national law that pirates currently exploit.

One example of that toughness: a German proposal to levy a piracy tax. (Intel hates it already)

(via BNA.com)
:: posted by Bryan, 12:22 PM |

Monday, February 03, 2003

Mother Jones Interviews John Perry Barlow
Mother Jones has a lengthy interview with John Perry Barlow.

JPB: It occurred to me recently that I'd been a member of every counterculture that had been available throughout my conscious life. I started out as a teenage beatnik and then became a hippie and then became a cyberpunk. And now I'm still a member of the counterculture, but I don't know what to call that. And I'd been inclined to think that that was a good thing, because once the counterculture in America gets a name then the media can coopt it, and the advertising industry can turn it into a marketing foil. But you know, right now I'm not sure that it is a good thing, because we don't have any flag to rally around. Without a name there may be no coherent movement.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11:39 PM |

Sunday, February 02, 2003

SXSW Interactive Web Awards Finalists
The finalists for the SXSW Interactive Web Awards have been announced. Alas, Mindjack wasn't nominated (although we were only elegible in the redesign/relaunch category), but don't let that stop you from voting in the People's Choice Awards. The winners will be announced March 9.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 4:17 PM |

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