You may recall that the Australian government has been holding a series of secret "anti-piracy" negotiations between the entertainment industry and ISPs. When more information was sought via a Freedom of Information request, the Australian Attorney General sent a fully redacted document, claiming that it was "not in the public interest" to reveal how the industries and the government would be screwing over the public (slight paraphrase). This, alone, is ridiculous. However, getting even more ridiculous is that, following the High Court ruling saying that ISPs are not liable for infringement by their users, the AG has said such meetings will continue:
The Federal Government would “closely examine” the High Court’s judgement in the long-running copyright infringement case won by ISP iiNet over film and TV studios this morning, Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said this afternoon, as she noted that closed-door talks held by her department with industry on the matter would continue.
Thankfully, iiNet's CEO seems to realize that with this ruling in hand, he doesn't need to give in to industry blackmail. While noting that the meetings had been "been going around in circles," in the wake of the High Court ruling, iiNet CEO Michael Malone announced at a press conference that "My preference would be to walk away now." If only it were that easy.
"The issue that we're struggling with quite a bit is something I've kind of talked about before, which is how do you properly value people's contributions to a community?” he said, reflecting on a discussion he had with Develop last year.
Last year Newell told Develop that “the games industry has this broken model, which is one price for everyone. That’s actually a bug, and it’s something that we want to solve through our philosophy of how we create entertainment products".
“An example is – and this is something as an industry we should be doing better – is charging customers based on how much fun they are to play with.
“So, in practice, a really likable person in our community should get Dota 2 for free, because of past behaviour in Team Fortress 2. Now, a real jerk that annoys everyone, they can still play, but a game is full price and they have to pay an extra hundred dollars if they want voice.”
And the latest news is that they are going beyond this crazy idea into seeing what's actually possible:
“We're trying to figure out ways so that people who are more valuable to everybody else [are] recognized and accommodated. We all know people where if they're playing we want to play, and there are other people where if they're playing we would [rather] be on the other side of the planet.
"It's just a question of coming up with mechanisms that recognize and reward people who are doing things that are valuable to other groups of people."
I'm curious as to how exactly this would work. I think there are lots of community-based properties would love to be able to charge trolls more. However, this could be really, really difficult to work in practice, and create some problems, depending on what the overall goals are. It would be nice, of course, if you could come up with a perfect system to get rid of trolls, but distinguishing true trolls can often be much more difficult in practice than in theory.
Robots can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but some of the more interesting designs mimic some animals in the ocean. Machines that can operate underwater have some obvious military applications, but studying biomimicry can also lead to discoveries in biology and deep sea ecosystems. Here are just a few projects looking at some varieties of sea-faring robots.
from the makes-you-wonder-what-they're-afraid-of dept
Rob Hyndman points us to travel guide guru Arthur Frommer speaking out about a ridiculous trend from some real estate firms that do vacation rentals: slipping a non-disparagement clause into contracts that effectively forbid you from writing a bad review about them online. Frommer's discussion is built off of an article Christopher Elliott wrote for the Washington Post, highlighting the trend:
But don’t go looking for the Dorows’ opinion on the Web. Within a few days of posting it, they received a letter from their vacation rental agency.
“It has come to our attention that you have written an unauthorized review regarding your stay at a home managed by Progressive Management Concepts,” it said. “If this review is published by VRBO.com, you will be in violation of the confidentiality clause of the rental contract you agreed to when you made your reservation.”
When the Dorows refused to remove the review from VRBO.com, the site through which they’d found the rental, Progressive Management promptly charged $500 to their credit card.
If this kind of thing sounds familiar, you may be remembering how some doctors and dentists have done similar things (though using an even more nefarious method of demanding assignment of the copyright on any such review).
Frommer, reasonably, finds this behavior deplorable, and notes that this is only likely to expand to lots of other things that get reviewed online, such as hotel stays. As he notes, since properties like this already have your credit card on file, it's a real risk that they can then just try to "charge" you for writing a bad review. Frommer also disputes the arguments of those in favor of such clauses by noting their argument is basically that they don't like free speech:
Now the various people who defend these clauses, base their arguments on all sorts of horrid, potential and hypothetical threats. They claim there are a lot of people who, upon checking out, threaten the rental property with a negative review unless they are given a retroactive discount on the rental. They claim, in effect, that vacation renters are blackmailing them.
In my view, simply to state that argument is to refute it. You could justify a great many denials of our First Amendment rights of free speech with scary hypotheticals like that.
Of course, the best response to something like this is to recognize that if you put such a clause into a contract, it means that you're hiding something, and aren't confident enough in the quality of your property that you can handle criticism. It should be an automatic disqualifier for a renter. Unfortunately, though, as the article notes, sometimes you don't even get to see the terms until after you agree. While I'd argue that makes such terms unenforceable, it does make things more complicated. At the very least, though, it should allow people to post a review that merely notes the fact that such a clause is in the contract, and how that suggests no confidence in the quality of the property...
Canada's universities are on the verge of accepting a copyright licensing deal that flies in the face of all reason, agreeing to pay higher fees for the clearance of all sorts of new digital rights—including some that don't actually exist—despite a major Supreme Court ruling and a fast-approaching copyright reform bill which both suggest they shouldn't need to make a deal at all. The organization that represents the schools is now attempting to rush through a scheme that harms educators, students and taxpayers by forcing its members to sign on immediately or face retroactive penalties, and unless there's a much-needed last-minute push from the public, this disastrous agreement is a done deal. The outcome has baffled some Canadian lawyers and professors who have followed the story for years.
In 2004, Canada's Supreme Court issued a unanimous judgement in a dispute between legal publishers and a law library that changed the shape of copyright in Canada. The decision in CCH Canada Ltd. vs Law Society Of Upper Canada (pdf link) explored the limits of fair dealing (the Canadian analog of fair use) as it pertains to research, establishing several key principles that are strongly in favor of open access to information. The court stated that the term "research", which is explicitly included as fair dealing under Canadian copyright law, should be broadly interpreted and is not limited to private or non-commercial endeavours—and that if a facility's general purpose qualifies as research, it is protected under fair dealing even if some people might use the facility to infringe. It was a landmark ruling that, of course, provoked the ire of every collection society and copyright industry player in the country.
But for Canadian universities and public schools, it should have been a windfall. For years they had been paying a per-student fee to the collection society Access Copyright (previously CanCopy) for rights clearance on all the routine xeroxing and other copying that is a part of education. After the CCH ruling, most or all of that qualified as fair dealing, and the schools were in a position to negotiate much lower fees or just stop paying them altogether. Instead, the opposite happened—the schools ended up paying more.
To understand how this is possible, you have to know how the process works. The Copyright Board of Canada has the legal authority to impose copyright tariffs. When Access Copyright wants more money, they go to the board and request a ridiculously high tariff—then negotiate a voluntary rate with the schools, somewhere in between the current fee and the requested tariff. If the schools can get a rate that is lower than the requested tariff, they declare victory—even though they could have presented a much better and more effective fair dealing argument to the board, doubly so following the CCH ruling.
The K-12 public schools were the first to fall and be forced to retroactively accept a higher rate, the burden of which ultimately falls on taxpayers and students. Then, in 2010, Access Copyright moved against the universities, filing for a $45 per-student tariff after the old deal ($3.38/student plus ten cents per page for course packs) expired. Not only that, but by the end of the year they had managed to get the Copyright Board to approve an interim tariff to impose on the universities before reaching a final agreement or determination. A bunch of schools opted out, and started trying to clear their own rights without going through Access Copyright. At this point, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada was in the perfect position to go to the board and assert their fair dealing rights. Not only would they have the backing of the CCH ruling and its generous "research" provisions, they could point to Canada's soon-to-be-passed copyright reform bill, which as currently written will specifically add "education" to the definition of fair dealing.
For some reason, apart from a few minor objections as the board continued to make procedural rulings against them, they haven't fought back very hard, or at least not very effectively—and the process has been dragging on and on. They entered into preliminary negotiations with Access Copyright at the beginning of this year, but then suddenly something completely unexpected happened: at the end of January, the University of Toronto and Western University announced that they had cut their own deal with the collection society at $27.50 per student. Again, they declared victory because it was lower than the proposed $45—a laughable figure that the Copyright Board never would have granted. The capitulation of two major universities took the already-meager wind out of the AUCC's sails, and now they've negotiated an ever-so-slightly better (but still, in the big picture, very bad) rate for universities and colleges across Canada.
In addition to the rates that went up when they should have gone down, there are plenty of other problems with both deals. Howard Knopf, a Canadian copyright lawyer, points out that Access Copyright is charging for ridiculous rights that don't even exist, such as hyperlinking and displaying documents on a screen. University of Toronto law professor Ariel Katz, another outspoken critic of the deal, highlights several onerous provisions that will seriously interfere with the ability of professors to do their job:
Or consider s. 4(c): “Copies of Repertoire Works shall not be stored or indexed with the intention of creating a library of Published Works, except as permitted by this agreement as part of a Course Collection.” I don’t know when was the last time the people who negotiated these license agreements conducted academic research, but I’m happy to break the news that since the photocopier appeared on campus (and perhaps earlier than that) copying works (such as journal articles), and storing them “with the intention of creating a library” has been integral to the researcher’s life. Some of us annotate these copies, occasionally at least, and those who are better organized employ various methods for cataloging and indexing their collections. Believe it or not, some academics keep not only collections of photocopies but also collections of materials in electronic format called “pdf”. Yes, we sometimes do weird things up there in the ivory tower. Moreover–and I hope you’re ready for the shocking news–it has even been brought to my attention that some Canadian researchers use programs like Zotero, RefWorks, EndNotes, among others, in order to index those files for easy search, retrieval, and other seditious purposes. The agreements seem to prohibit that. Is this the best possible outcome? Really?
Or what would you say about the following gems, such as s. 5(a): “Digital Copies of Repertoire Works shall not be transmitted to, posted or uploaded to, or stored on any computer network other than a Secure Network”, and 5(b:) “Digital Copies of Repertoire Works stored on Secure Networks shall be made available and accessible only to Authorized Persons segregated by individual Course of Study”?
These prohibition seem benign enough until your read the definitions. A Secure Network is defined as: “a network that is operated by the Licensee [i.e., the licensed university, not the Authorized Person, AK], or for and subject to the control of the Licensee (such as a network hosted by a third party and/or accessible through a web interface) and which is only accessible by an Authorized Person who is approved by the Licensee by means of a process of authentication which, at the time of login, identifies the user as an Authorized Person, whether by user name and password or by some other equally secure method.”
Knopf believes many schools are going to be completely blindsided by the details of the agreement—but they may not have the time or resources to do anything about it. The AUCC is letting Access Copyright pressure the universities and colleges to agree now with what it brazenly dubs a "limited time offer".
Access Copyright has agreed that the best retroactivity discounts available to universities will be available those that indicate in writing to Access before May 1, 2012 that they expects to sign the licence, and then actually sign before June 30, 2102 [sic]. While you need to indicate your intent to sign the licence by May 1, you may still reconsider your options after that date, and you could choose to delay signing (in which case the discount will be lower), or not sign at all. (highlight added)
However, among other things, it’s not at all clear: how this “”Limited Time Offer” will work; and, why it is so limited in time and so urgent?
Nor is it clear what AC means when it says that those who “advise Access Copyright in writing of their intention to sign the Model License by no later than May 1, 2012, and sign by no later than June 30, 2012, pay no retroactive payments.” What does “intention to sign” mean? What happens if the university changes its mind?
May 1st is seriously really soon. It is only a week away. What exactly is the emergency?
The emergency, of course, is that if Canadian universities wake up to what's happening and have time to actually look at this deal, they might realize how bad it is for everyone other than Access Copyright. Nobody is entirely sure just how and why the AUCC, University of Toronto and Western have failed to put up a meaningful fight. Though time is short, critics like Knopf believe there may still be a chance for a hail-mary pass to stop this deal in its tracks. Some may think this is quibbling over a meaningless figure—a few bucks per student—but that misses the big picture. A deal like this represents a massive and completely unjustified transfer of wealth from one class (students, who we we want to support for the good of the entire nation and economy) to another (publishers, who are asserting rights they don't even have). It also adds fuel to the copyright industry's ongoing campaign to minimize and ultimately reverse the effects of the CCH ruling, and to scale back all the good parts of the copyright reform bill—two things that must not be allowed to happen. Canada's copyright laws are far from perfect, but they have been moving in very progressive directions lately, with a strong emphasis on user rights—and Canadian universities should be harnessing that momentum, not working against it.
You would think that it would be in the mobile operators' best interest to protect their own customers' privacy and to stand up for their basic rights. You would think, but apparently you'd be wrong. It appears that CTIA -- the mobile operators' industry association -- is opposing an effort in California to require mobile operators to require a warrant before disclosing personal info. The bill also requires some basic reporting requirements for the companies, having them say how often info has been disclosed (hardly onerous info to track). Basically, the law asks that the mobile operators respect the 4th Amendment when dealing with law enforcement -- something that the federal government has been successfully chipping away at for years.
But the CTIA is against all of this (pdf), claiming that it would be "confusing" for mobile operators.
... the wireless industry opposes SB 1434 as it could create greater confusion for wireless providers when responding to legitimate law enforcement requests
The crux of the "confusion" apparently is that the definitions in the bill are somewhat broader than what the industry says is standard, and they're afraid that this means "It could place providers in the position of
requiring warrants for all law enforcement requests." I'm struggling to see what the problem is here. What's wrong with requiring warrants?
The letter also fails to explain why the reporting requirements would be so "burdensome," other than the claim that providers already "are working day and night to assist law enforcement to ensure the public’s safety and to save
lives." So, if I read this right, they're arguing that they're already so busy responding to law enforcement that telling users that your personal data is being handed over to the government willy nilly is, you know, too much effort.
The ACLU is calling out the industry for this move -- noting that it seems to have no problem spending all these resources passing on all of our info -- why can't it spend a little defending its subscribers' rights too?
California is supposed to vote on this bill shortly. Hopefully, the state sees through these baseless claims from CTIA.
The folks at dajaz1, who know better than anyone how copyright stifles culture and free speech, send in the news that Robert Poindexter of The Persuaders is suing 50 Cent for copyright infringement over a sample on a free album he released in 2009. This is likely to end in settlement, with a payout to Poindexter, because 50 Cent isn't offering any defense beyond the fact that the album was free. Unfortunately, this carries little to no legal weight. The courts have been unkind to sampled music over the years, as detailed in the excerpt we posted (part 1 and part 2) from this month's book club feature, Copyfraud. But, as dajaz1 explains quite clearly, sampling and remixing on free albums and mixtapes has always been an essential part of hip-hop, and is even embraced by labels:
This has been happening for many years on mixtapes and it’s quite common so 50′s attitude on this not shocking. Its the same attitude of every artist in urban music and it’s been like that from jump. In fact that’s why mixtapes are given away for free and not sold commercially. To put a bar code on a tape or sell it commercially violates many laws, but to give it away for free under the guise of “promotional use” has been the name of the game for decades and largely considered ok. This type of stuff is why these labels suddenly calling websites like us “rogue” for releasing them or trying to shut people down or put them in jail for making, releasing, or offering them for download has always been ridiculous. The attitude 50 is taking here is the same one every urban artist operates under and the promotional department of the major labels have been looking the other way on for years. Hell the major labels have been active participants. If you can’t clear the song you throw it out on a mixtape, or for free to radio mixshows and the blogs/internet as a freestyle/remix. Every major label artist that has made it in the rap genre has utilized these tactics so a loss in this case could be devastating not only to rap as a genre but the labels as well.
This is just another example of how copyright is totally out of sync with reality. This kind of activity is indispensable to culture, and it doesn't stop no matter what the law says—but it does get stifled, and driven underground, which is the opposite of what copyright is supposed to accomplish. As the chapter we posted from Copyfraud notes, several albums that are widely considered to be classics and important moments in music history (like Paul's Boutique or It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back) would be almost impossible to legally release today. Meanwhile, highly acclaimed mashups like The Grey Album are praised by the musicians whose work has been mashed, but are technically illegal and exist only as bootlegs by the grace (read: fear of bad publicity) of the record labels.
The big question is: can artists like 50 Cent do something about this? Hip-hop is one of the most popular and influential genres of music in the world, and its superstars command huge audiences. Most hip-hop fans don't realize that the genre is a legal minefield that exists because most artists cross their fingers and ignore the law entirely, while a rich few pay obscene royalties and settlement fees. Someone like 50 Cent is in the perfect position to raise more awareness of broken copyright law, and I hope that this attack on the lifeblood of hip-hop culture spurs him to do so.
It's amazing just how desperate the TV networks appear to be getting. We've already discussed how they've sued Aereo, the company that sets up individual antennas to get over the air broadcasts, and then streams them over the internet to people's homes. But, now they appear to be going after Barry Diller personally for investing in Aereo. They've subpoena'd info from him directly including:
All documents concerning Aereo or the Aereo service, including without limitation (i) communications with or about Aereo, the Aereo service or Aereo’s business plans, (ii) presentations or other documents received from Aereo, and (iii) documents or communications concerning the potential impact of Aereo or the Aereo service on broadcast television networks and stations, or the producers of broadcast television.
Diller is fighting this (as you can see below) but it's a pure intimidation technique to go after those "in the fold" who invest in disruptive innovation. We saw it a decade or so ago when some major labels sued Bertelsmann -- one of their own who broke ranks to invest in the original Napster. Investors are supposed to be protected from the actions of the companies they invest in, but the dying entertainment industry folks play nasty, and they especially seem to hate it when one of their own becomes forward looking, rather than playing their myopic game. In this case, they haven't sued yet, but it's clear they're going on a fishing expedition to embarrass and annoy Diller, who (of course) came out of Hollywood in the past.
Update: Looks like Diller's already lost this part of the legal fight, which is unfortunate. Intimidating investors from funding innovative companies -- the kind of companies that actually can help move the industry forward -- isn't going to help anyone. Amazing how short-sighted Hollywood can be.
You may recall that, a few weeks ago, Microsoft bought all of AOL's patents for about a billion dollars. Last week, the news came out that Facebook had bid on the patents too, but lost. However, it's now worked out a deal to buy a bunch of those patents from Microsoft anyway for about $550 million. There's also some sort of cross-licensing as a part of this. The end result is that it's more like Microsoft and Facebook teamed up to pool resources to buy the patents from AOL. It's unclear who now has the Netscape patents, or what's going to be done with these patents. It's good that they didn't end up in the hands of pure trolls, but it still seems like a shame that these companies have to spend so much money on something of which the only value is in either keeping them from getting sued or in shaking down others for innovating. What happened to the days when companies could just compete with products in the marketplace?
Popular cloud service provider Dropbox has announced the ability to share stuff in your Dropbox with a link. This is not a revolutionary offering. It's actually pretty common and can be quite useful for simple sharing of files. But, as Mathew Ingram noted, this is exactly part of the reason that Megaupload was accused of criminal conspiracy. For example, the fact that Megaupload did not provide a "search" feature to find all the content in its cloud, but merely let people link in, was seen as a way to "hide" the fact that infringing material was available. I am assuming -- given the way Dropbox operates -- that it, too, is not intending to provide a search engine. It's good to see Dropbox confident enough that it won't be shut down on questionable criminal charges -- but it certainly continues to raise questions about what the government considers evidence of criminal conspiracy... and how that could create a chill on companies who are, perhaps, less well established than Dropbox. Update: As some have pointed out in the comments, the specific feature is more about viewing content via the link, not downloading. Sorry, we should have been clearer. However, again, this fits with the Megavideo style offering of providing access to content without necessarily downloading it. Still appears to be exactly the part that so concerned the Justice Dept...
Tech Jay points us to an interesting report by Matt Stoller arguing that, in the US, "corruption" is responsible for 80% of your mobile phone bill. Unfortunately, that's a bit of an exaggeration. However, it does raise some useful points about problems of US competition in the market. The key point Stoller uses is that we pay a hell of a lot more for mobile service in the US than elsewhere:
You see, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, people in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Finland pay on average less than $130 a year for cell phone service. Americans pay $635.85 a year. That $500 a year difference, from most consumers with a cell phone, goes straight to AT&T and Verizon (and to a much lesser extent Sprint and T-Mobile). It’s the cost of corruption. It’s also, from the perspective of these companies, the return on their campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures. Every penny they spend in DC and in state capitols ensures that you pay high bills, to them.
There's an unfortunately big leap in logic there, in not exploring any other possible reason for the difference in bills. Some of it likely is due to lobbying, but not necessarily all of it. The real issue that seems to come out in the piece is the significant lack of competition in the market -- some of which is due to lobbying efforts and consolidation by the market, but not all of it.
The Stoller piece keys off of the regulatory fight over Lightsquared, arguing that it was blocked due to massive incumbent lobbying against this potential upstart competitor. That tells part of the story. It's absolutely true that the telcos did not want to see new entrant competition from the likes of Lightsquared, but it also completely ignores the fact that the technological issues around Lightsquared are real and the project was blocked not just because of incumbent lobbying, but because of significant problems in avoiding interference. To not even admit that is pretty bad.
However, as we did note in our discussion over Lightsquared, the real problem in the market is the lack of real competition in the space. For years and years, we've been arguing that the market needs more competition in this space to keep dominant players from charging monopoly rents, while decreasing their investment in innovation. In fact, Stoller does a nice job showing how investment as a percentage of revenue has clearly decreased as consolidation has shrunk the number of competitors:
So, we agree that the real problem here is competition, and there's little doubt that massive lobbying by AT&T and Verizon has been used to try to limit competitors, but that's not the only reason for the lack of competition in the space, and it's certainly not the sole reason for our mobile phone bills being higher in the US than in Scandanavia. There are certainly many other issues including coverage and population density, standards lock-in and other aspects. Certainly, though, there are things like spectrum reform, antitrust enforcement and related issues that are heavily lobbied.
Finally, it's a bit silly to argue that all lobbying is "corruption." As we've noted lobbying can often go in the other direction -- and plenty of "lobbying" is perfectly reasonable. One of the key complaints we have about politicians regulating the internet is that they're regulating something they don't understand. One way that they can and do actually learn about things they don't understand is through lobbyists. The problem is the imbalance in lobbying, where you have some lobbyists with excessive influence, and those who represent the public interest often having much less exposure (public interest lobbying groups, obviously, don't have as much money).
Lack of competition is a huge issue in the mobile world. The crony capitalism of companies getting regulations they want through lobbying is a huge issue. The fact that we pay more for weaker service is a real issue. But to lump all that together and claim that 80% of our mobile phone bills are due to corruption is a huge and exaggerated logical leap.
Here's an interesting one. Fast Company had professor Jonathan Taplin, director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and the former tour manager for The Band debate Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of Reddit, Hipmunk* and Breadpig. The debate is definitely worth watching, but I'm disappointed with many of Taplin's claims. He starts out by going for the emotional, talking about how The Band -- whose drummer Levon Helm passed away the day after the debate -- had members who were no longer making $150,000 to $200,000 per year, as they had been able to do up until about 2002. As Alexis notes in response, there are all sorts of useful business models to help them make money -- and he's even offered to help them make money. And, indeed, the story of Helm is quite tragic, but at the same time, most people when they are no longer working tend not to make as much money as they did in the past. Copyright was never supposed to be a pension for retired musicians, so it seems odd to argue that it isn't doing that. That was never the intention.
Frankly, what bugs me most about Taplin's argument is that he continually takes things totally out of context. For example, he cites the familiar numbers about the "music industry" going from $20 billion to $6 billion. Yet he ignores that the overall music industry grew because other parts of the industry grew at a much faster rate. More ridiculous? He claims (totally incorrectly) that Chris Anderson believes that "everything should be free." Either he didn't read Chris Anderson's book, or he's purposely distorting the book, which focuses nearly all of its attention on how to get paid for content. In fact, most of the book is about ways in which a "freemium" model works -- where you have some stuff free, and other things paid. Why Taplin would then claim the book is that "everything should be free" is beyond me. To have a university professor so misrepresent Chris's book is ridiculous. He owes a major apology to Anderson.
Bizarrely, Taplin then claims that Reddit makes money off of piracy. Say what?! At this point I think he's just making things up.
He also completely misrepresents Google having to give the government $500 million concerning advertisements from unlicensed online pharmacies. Taplin calls them "phony drug ads," which is also inaccurate. In many cases the drugs were legit -- but the licensing of the pharmacies to deliver those drugs to the US was in question (some, in fact, appear to have been perfectly legit Canadian pharmacies). He then claims that if Google made $500 million on fake drugs ads they must be making more on "illegal pirate ads." I'm curious: who exactly is buying "illegal pirate ads"?
From there, he tosses in the whole controversy over Backpage.com -- which has nothing to do with copyright, and he falsely smears them as providing a service for pimping "young ladies" -- leaving out the fact that (a) a court has already cleared the company and (b) this has nothing to do with copyright.
Taplin seems to be throwing together a bouillabaisse of arguments without understanding any of them, and thus misrepresenting nearly everything.
Alexis does a great job with his intro, first pointing out how movie box office revenue has increased, and then pointing out how innovation is the key here, and that industries can innovate their way forward, and points to Kickstarter's success as an example of how that's already beginning. Taplin, playing the old curmudgeon, insists this is all crazy. He mocks the movie stat because it ignores the collapse of DVDs. Of course if folks like Taplin had their way, there would be no home video market, because they tried to make it illegal back in the 1970s and 1980s (an inconvenient fact he seems to have forgotten). He also mocks Kickstarter because it won't fund Martin Scorcese's latest film. This is typical of someone who doesn't seem to understand the the innovator's dilemma. It's kind of shocking, frankly, that someone in charge of a so-called innovation lab doesn't understand how innovation works.
In the second part of the debate, Taplin goes full on elitist, mocking those people who use Kickstarter to fund a piddly $50,000 movie, because apparently, to him, those movies don't count. And yes, earlier in the debate, he was talking about how he was really concerned about the up and comers. He also seems to think that the only movies that matter are the movies that score big distribution deals. He's internally inconsistent and doesn't even seem to realize it. He goes on to mock the idea that musicians can make money other than through record sales. Except, he assumes (incorrectly) that the only way to make money is concert sales, and then says that some acts just can't get enough people to see them live. Um, duh. But that's always been true. Most musicians never sold enough music to make a living either, but we don't pass a law to change that. Taplin seems to be complaining that not all musicians or movie makers are rich. I didn't realize that was an issue.
Taplin then comes up with his "solution." It's to have every ISP charge users $2 to $3/month which would go into a giant global pool that would be distributed to copyright holders. Immediately, someone in the comments points out that doesn't fix bad contracts. It's even worse than that. First, the entertainment industry would insist that $2 to $3 is way too low. Hell, most music services alone get $10 or so per month. And really what Taplin is doing is to create a giant bureaucracy that won't effectively help small artists. He talks about ASCAP as the model for this. I wonder what he has to say about the fact that ASCAP takes money from up-and-coming artists and gives it to the largest acts.
Both videos are worth watching. The whole thing is only about 25 minutes, and I think Alexis more than holds his own, though it would have been nice if there was a little more time to hit back on many of Taplin's claims.
* Corrected after learning that Alexis didn't found Hipmunk -- just joined pre-launch.
In fact, a new report notes that if you actually bothered to read all the privacy policies you encounter on a daily basis, it would take you 250 working hours per year -- or about 30 workdays. The full study (pdf) by Aleecia M. McDonald and Lorrie Faith Cranor is quite interesting. They measure the length of privacy policies, ranging from just 144 words up to 7,669 words (median is around 2,500 words) and recognize that at a standard reading pace of 250 words per minute, most privacy policies take about eight to ten minutes to read. They also ran some tests to figure out how long it actually takes people to read and/or skim privacy policies.
And, here's the thing: that's only for privacy policies. Imagine if you read terms of service and end user license agreements too... Of course, sometimes those include little hidden gems. Like the time a company put a clause in its EULA that the first person to read that clause and contact them would get $1,000. It only took four months for someone to actually spot it.
We have written many times about one of Hollywood's latest attempts at adapting to the modern digital age, Ultraviolet. Unfortunately for Hollywood studios, this service is not well received by people who have tried to use it. So what is someone to do with those unwanted free Ultraviolet codes that come in movie combo packs? You know, the Bluray, DVD and digital box sets that most movies come in. According to the Consumerist, one creative customer took to selling his unwanted digital copies on eBay. Unfortunately for him, eBay flagged his auction as copyright infringement and threatened his account if he listed it again.
This rightly confused him. After all, he was the legal owner of that unwanted, unused Ultraviolet redemption code. How could it be copyright infringement to sell that code to someone else, if you aren't using it? Selling or handing off that code is no different than selling or giving away the DVD copy that you would not use. Additionally, he pointed out many more eBay auctions doing the exact same thing, selling unwanted Ultraviolet codes.
What may make his case unique over the others is that he is selling a code for the recently released Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Since the movie has only been out for a few days now, Paramount may be working overtime to make sure that people are only buying the retail packages rather than just the digital version. Even if Paramount's end goal is to promote retail sales of the movie, flagging these sales as copyright infringement is tantamount to copyfraud.
A couple months ago, we wrote about a debate in the EU Parliament, concerning an agreement over how much data should be shared with the US on passengers flying from the EU into the US. The person in charge of analyzing the agreement, Sophie in't Veld, urged the Parliament to reject the agreement, saying that it violated EU citizens' fundamental rights. Specifically, the US wanted access to more data with fewer restrictions than the EU felt was fair. However, it appears that after the US pulled out its big gun over this -- threatening to stop allowing EU citizens to visit the US without first obtaining a visa -- the Parliament caved and agreed to the deal. The one big concession from the US, however, was that EU passengers will be able to see their records and correct errors. Sophie in't Veld is still not happy -- and for good reason:
"This Agreement is contrary to European Treaties and privacy laws and does not meet the minimum criteria set by Parliament itself. Diplomatic relations with the United States appear to be more important than the fundamental rights of our own EU citizens."
In a statement sent to Techdirt, she also noted that, in caving, the EU Parliament "loses its credibility and EU citizens draw the short straw." Part of the problem is just how unequal the setup is, with the US getting tons of power over EU citizens. And, of course, the fact that the EU caved to the US sets a bad precedent. "The Trans-Atlantic relations need to become more balanced. EU should take a less timid stance towards the US." In the end, she notes that what happened was "almost to the extent of blackmail."