Five Years Ago
This week in 2010, the move to a new type of mass media was accelerating across the board: more people were giving up TV across the board and smart artists were trying smart business models like the classical orchestras using CwF+RtB. The old guard, as usual, was having trouble catching up: Fox and Universal both wrangled release delay deals out of Netflix; copyright threatened the best thing to come out of the second Star Wars trilogy; broadcasters were still futilely trying to push mobile TV; a book publisher was threatening US fans for ordering from overseas instead of waiting for a local copy; and the RIAA was insisting that musicians can't make money without it (while an Australian recording industry group was trying to claim copyright on a photo of a piece of paper). All the while, we were noting that protection of content has to come from the business model, not the law or technology.
Also in 2010: the Library of Congress announced that it would begin archiving tweets; we noted that the real problem with internet comments isn't anonymity; we wondered whether intellectual property is a violation of real property; and, even if it's not, we certainly agreed with Nina Paley's video underlining the fact that copying is not theft:
Ten Years Ago
This week in 2005, we proposed a code of conduct for the recording industry (which they immediately took to heart, obviously). Perhaps we should have suggested one for Comcast too, since it was sued for handing subscriber info over to the RIAA. And ones for Microsoft and AOL, who were trying (and failing) to make the internet work more like television. Meanwhile, in these pre-YouTube-acquisition days, Google quietly launched its own video upload feature (remember Google Video?)
Video games entered a new phase of maturity in 2005 as people began to realize they could have bigger aspirations: the UN made one to educate people about world hunger, others were building games geared at teaching kids, and still others were building games to teach literacy and cultural sensitivity. Amidst all this, some were discovering the zen of button mashing.
Fifteen Years Ago
Well, this is when it happened — this week in 2000, Metallica sued Napster. At the time we considered it "silly" and "ridiculous" — little did we know just how historic a case it would become. At the same time, people were realizing that MP3s were good for a lot more than just music.
Broadcasters were much more optimistic back then, claiming they weren't scared by the internet. The big device showdown at the time was between BlackBerry and Palm. Ireland was turning itself into a tech hub, while some people were worrying that earthquakes could knock out Silicon Valley. We discussed the future of RealNetworks (it still appeared to have one, as did OS/2) and of the wireless world (realizing it might not be based on WAP). Of course, some people were still just convinced that the internet is evil.
Thirty-Three Years Ago
You've all heard the quote, here on Techdirt and likely elsewhere as well. It was this week in 1982 at a congressional hearing about the home recording of copyrighted works that Jack Valenti, then-head of the MPAA, served up his infamously absurd analogy:
I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.
This statement might have held true if over the next few years the Boston Strangler became the number one source of revenue for the entire woman-home-alone industry. Alas, this was not the case.
For this week's awesome stuff, we're trying out a slightly different format. Instead of gathering three new crowdfunded products, we're going to focus on just one and take a slightly closer look at its progress and prospects. Please let us know in the comments if you like this approach, or if you prefer the old format.
This week, we're looking at Loxet: a smartphone-controlled proximity lock for your car.
The Loxet is a device that installs in any car with a central locking system and, along with an accompanying iOS or Android app, allows you to lock and unlock the doors and control ignition access with your proximity to the car. It also bills itself as an advanced sharing system, allowing you to grant time-limited access to the car to other people.
For one thing, it's new. There are already plenty of proximity locks on the market, but they generally require a specialized fob on your keychain; there are already smartphone-controlled locks too, but they operate by button-press. Loxet appears to be the first smartphone-controlled proximity lock, or at least the first one that works with both iOS and Android (they make this latter claim on the Kickstarter page). The price also looks good — though all the super-cheap early bird deals are sold out, the standard Kickstarter price of $69 is still below the price of existing non-smartphone proximity lock systems, which tend to sit in the $80-200 range.
The way Loxet operates seems like it might come with some inherent issues. The device uses Bluetooth Low Energy, and in order to achieve full proximity operation on both iOS and Android, they have to use apps that repeatedly scan for connected Bluetooth devices at a time interval you set. To realize the full hands-off, out-of-mind potential of the system, that time interval will have to be pretty short — and I suspect it will have a noticeable impact on your phone's battery life and performance, though just how noticeable remains to be seen. For the time being, there aren't any obvious alternatives to this approach, at least not without sacrificing some capabilities.
With any wireless locking system, there's always one big question: is it secure? The last thing we need is someone whipping up an app to hack into people's cars via Bluetooth. Loxet would surely claim, in good faith I don't doubt, that the system is secure — but I'd like to see them call in some independent security audits and put the software in the hands of some white hat hackers before telling people it's ready to keep their cars safe. In fact, there's actually a disturbing lack of security information and discussion on the Kickstarter page, especially for an app that claims it will allow car-sharing via e-mail, SMS and QR code. With just under a month left in the campaign, this is the biggest thing the Loxet team needs to address.
"What concerns me, as the head of a... law enforcement agency, is that we not put out of reach of lawful process... what is often, sometimes the only, but critical evidence of a serious securities fraud.... And we use that authority quite judiciously, but it's extremely important to law enforcement."What struck us as interesting last year was White admitting that the SEC appeared to regularly use this process, since she noted that it was "extremely important" and provided "critical evidence."
"While these discussions have been going on, to try to sufficiently balance the privacy and the law enforcement interests, we've not to date to my knowledge proceeded to subpoena the ISPs. But that, I think, is critical authority to be able to maintain -- done in the right way and with sufficient solicitousness and it's very important to the privacy interests which I do think can be balanced.As I said, if you watch her entire response, it's a complete mess of half-finished thoughts, which seems rather typical of someone trying to sound like they're answering a question but not actually doing so. Later in the same answer, she insists that taking away this authority might take away an important tool.