At the same time car companies are fighting the right to repair movement (and the state and federal legislation popping up everywhere), they’re continuing the quest to turn everyday features — like heated seats — into something users have to pay a recurring fee for.
In 2019, BMW had to abandon a plan to charge $80 per year for Apple CarPlay. The company, having learned nothing, began floating the idea of charging a subscription for features back in 2020, when it proposed making heated seats and heated steering wheels something you pay a permanent monthly fee for. Last December, Toyota proposed imposing a monthly fee for customers who wanted to be able to remotely start their vehicles.
Each and every time these proposals come forward the consumer response is swift and overwhelmingly negative. But with $20 billion in annual additional potential revenue on the table between now and 2030, the industry seems poised to ignore consumers:
“Still, automakers see dollar signs. Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), Ford, and GM each aim to generate at least $20 billion in annual revenue from software services by 2030. Over-the-air capabilities open up huge opportunities for carmakers to introduce new subscription or pay-per use features over time, Wakefield, of AlixPartners, said. Someday, you may be able to fork over extra to make your car more efficient, sportier, or ? in an electric vehicle ? unlock extra range for road trips.”
Keep in mind these are decisions being made during a pandemic when most households continue to struggle.
This sort of nickel-and-diming works well in the telecom sector where captive subscribers often can’t switch to a different competitor. But in the auto space, companies risk opening the door to competitors gaining inroads by… not being nickel-and-diming assholes. Many companies may also be overestimating their own product quality; one JD Power survey found that 58% of people who use an automaker’s smartphone app wouldn’t be willing to pay for it. At the same time, as with gaming microtransactions, if enough people are willing to pay to make it worth it, it may not matter what the majority of car consumers think.
The recording is old news. Last century. Dead. The Access versus Ownership debate should have finished 10 years ago, but we’re still bickering. Access models (eg. streaming) are not supposed to replace Ownership models. They’re supposed to power a new reality, a new age for the Music business, in which the record industry possibly has no place.
“The Music industry” has become synonymous for the recording industry, just as it was synonymous for sheet music publishers prior to the rise of the recording companies. With new technology, come new companies, and the old companies move into the background. The new Music industry will likely not consist of those that depend on the recording (eg. major labels, or even Spotify), but those that apply technology to change what it means to listen to or interact with Music, just as the recording did in the 20th century.
Even the creative process will have to change.
Prior to the invention of the record, Music was far more participative than it has become throughout the age of mass media and mass consumption. Back then, if you wanted to hear your favourite song, you better know how to play an instrument, or have a member of the household who sings well, or you’re simply not going to hear it. That sounds extremely restrictive given our current reality, but it also gave Music certain characteristics that made it richer:
Music was participative
Music was mostly a social experience
Music was more intimate
Music sounded a little bit different every time
Music belonged to everyone
I believe these are natural characteristics of Music, that got temporarily pushed into the background in the age of Mass Media and Western individualism. Entertainment and Culture became passive, and the ownership of Culture became less ambiguous, economically. A Creating Class arose, and a Consuming Class. The companies selling the output of the Creating Class benefited from the passiveness of the Consuming Class, because you couldn’t consume high margin products while you create.
The KLF’s Bill Drummond about Recorded Music
The KLF’s Bill Drummond about what the recording took away from Music. From 1:23. Quote below.
“As the technology to record music evolved through the twentieth century, it sucked in and seduced every form of music around the world. They all wanted to become recorded music. They all wanted to become this thing that could be bought and sold. And that narrowed the parameters of what music could do and be. And it took away from music a big part of what can make music powerful, which is about music being about time, place, and occasion.”
“Until 100 years ago, every musical event was unique: music was ephemeral and unrepeatable and even classical scoring couldn’t guarantee precise duplication. Then came the gramophone record, which captured particular performances and made it possible to hear them identically over and over again. [?] I think it’s possible that our grandchildren will look at us in wonder and say: “You mean you used to listen to exactly the same thing over and over again?”“
The recording is not the end of the line for Music. Every medium is a transition to the next medium.
Most people call performed music “live music”???
some people call recorded music “dead music”
The Media evolved and spawned Computers, the Internet, Video Games. The latter a highly Interactive example of Culture that went on to give birth to MMORPGs, where large Communities of players Interact and define their own Meaning, participatively. A particularly good example of the aforementioned elements coming together is Minecraft, a world-creating game where players work together to build whatever they can dream of. Deadmau5 uses this to enter a digital world of fan art and interact with his fanbase. Imagine what that’s going to look like with the unstoppable momentum Virtual Reality currently seems to have. The Consuming Class has become the Creating Class: Consumption and Creation are becoming, in part, synonymous.
Why is Music still static by default?
Why am I not being offered more ways to interact with Music?
Look at the gaming industry. It’s a 1,000 times easier to get someone to pay to unlock a ‘special ability’ than it is to sell them a piece of content.
Intimacy and Immediacy
The old Music industry is not interested in creating Intimacy. It’s hard to scale. The dominance of the recording industry’s model depends on hundreds of thousands of well-timed sales, and a long-tail that provides income until 70 years after the death of the Creator.
Yet the fact that we carry computers in our pockets that are more powerful than the PCs on our desks a few years ago, and always connected to the Internet, offers amazing opportunities for Intimacy and Immediacy, ones that fans are happy to pay for. It means that Kevin Kelly’s theory of a 1,000 True Fans will become increasingly easy to apply for a growing number of Creators.
The rise of Intimacy and Immediacy will benefit those Creators who work with small teams, who are open about their creative process, and involve their fanbase early on in this process. This enables them to secure funds through crowdfunding, as opposed to trying to secure investment from large corporations, whether recording companies or brands.
One can create dynamics of social competition within a fanbase. Who can recruit the most new fans, or active members? Who are the most valuable contributors to the Creator’s wiki? Who spend the most money on merch and who have the most complete collection? The ones that rank highest, get access to perks. A weekly 1 hour video chat with the top 10, weekly 10 minute preview of what you’re working on for the top 50, 20% discount on merchandise for the top 200, etc.
An app that has a great idea for how to get people to actively discover new Music, engage with it, and feel part of the artist’s success is Tradiio. It gamifies Music discovery and lets users invest virtual coins in songs they believe in. This helps artists rise to prominence on the platform and earn rewards. If this platform evolves from a reward-based game, to a real economy where users can purchase coins and artists can cash out, it would be a good example of the type of company the new Music industry will be made up of. Just to mention some other exemplary companies for music’s future: look at Smule and Sonic Emotion.
More on Games
The Gaming industry got into the same mess, at the same time, that the Music industry got into, brought about by the fact that what they thought was their product could suddenly be communicated through networks at zero cost. A whole new Gaming industry emerged with the arrival of connected devices: smartphones. Instead of charging money for the game, they made the game free to play and highly social, and instead charged for a limited set of actions.
Treat money-poor, time-rich fans as well as the money-rich, time-poor, because it’s the former that provide value for the latter.
Music needs a new format that’s feature-oriented, rather than content-focused. The content remains central to the experience, but the interaction around the content is what brings in the money. Likewise, playback of recorded music will remain important in the future, but perhaps not as the part of the industry that rakes in the most important part of Creators’ incomes.
There are countless examples of companies pioneering the future of Music. From aforementioned Tradiio, to ones started by game developers, Music business serial entrepreneurs, and artists themselves. First let’s start with an example from another part of the entertainment industry.
“The software will read your emotional reactions to the show in real time. Should your mouth turn down a second too long or your eyes squeeze shut in fright, the plot will speed along. But if they grow large and hold your interest, the program will draw out the suspense.”
Imagine applying that to music??Some companies are already closing in on that.
Example: Inception, by Hans Zimmer and RjDj
Music producer and film composer Hans Zimmer collaborated on an app for the Inception movie, with RjDj, a company that specializes in Context Aware Music and Augmented music, founded by one of the co-founders of last.fm, Michael Breidenbruecker. Hans Zimmer on the project:
“There’s a thing I’ve been searching for and I’ve been working on forever now, is a way to get beyond recorded music. To get beyond ‘you just download a piece of music and it’s just always the same’.”
The application they made draws information from the world around the user, and transforms it into fantastic music. It seems as if you’re being immersed in dreamlike worlds, as happens in the movie.
They continued their collaboration and made another app for The Dark Knight Rises. RjDj also created a Reactive Music game called Dimensions, which owes its name to the trippy effects of the Augmented Music that make it feel like you’ve just crossed into another dimension. The game is free-to-play, and offers in-app purchases to unlock new experiences or further augment existing ones.
I asked two of the people behind RjDj whether people are ready for adaptive music. This is what they had to say.
“I think many of them are ready. Apps like Inception or Dark Night Rises show that people are really into this sonic experience. The problem is how this is presented packaged. I can tell you from experience that not many people hear the difference between 5 hours of generative music and 5 hours recorded music. So really… no one cares if your music changes all the time through an algorithm and never sounds the same or if [it] is a preproduced track. Music has to have a reason why it is dynamic and not linear… that’s why we sync it to real life.”
“I think Inception especially proved that if the experience is delivered in a way that makes sense, perhaps within a bigger conceptual framework, then millions of people can understand it and really like it.
As for people understanding the depths and details of how reactive music changes. It is very very easy to lose a huge part of the audience here. I think its fair to say that only musicologists and very serious music listeners could pick out the ways in which detailed generative music is changing for instance. Making a reactive music experience meaningful requires that the listener can tangibly feel that the change in the music is linked to his / her activity or life in some direct and hopefully emotionally powerful way.
Often making linear music is about manipulating the emotional state of the listener into particular states of mind over time for dramatic effect. Reactive music poses a different set of possibilities – what if the music is manipulated by them / their emotional state? As a composer this is totally different – its like using a sniper rifle instead of a shotgun – you can make your music hit exactly the right spot for the moment.“
Adaptive soundtracks are actually quite common in games, where the Music transforms depending on the player’s absolute and relative position (it’s called Dynamic Music). Some developers are chucking all the other game elements aside to focus fully on that.
Proteus has been described as a non-game. The game (or ‘game’) was developed by one developer and one sound designer, and places you on a mystical island. There’s nothing there to kill, no need to score points, and you can’t die. All you have to do is to wander around the island to discover new areas and to enjoy the way objects around you influence the soundtrack. This is the literal embodiment of the phrase ‘soundscape’. The changing seasons, different weather conditions, time of day, and varying ecosystems all have an impact on the Music.
I asked David Kanaga, the game’s sound designer, whether this is something anyone could do, in order to understand whether this could become a more mainstream medium for Music:
“Yes, anyone could do it. It’s maybe even more natural than writing static music in a way. That said, very few people are doing it, and maybe it takes years of UNLEARNING, which maybe means everything needs to be played again, to stop fixating on what’s successful and beautiful in recorded music, in Sgt. Peppers and Pet Sounds, to find the play aspect of those and to move on, to stop admiring recordings.. improvise only, this is the tactic that i’ve been practicing myself to try this unlearning.. no serious learning is needed, really, but the UNLEARNING is totally necessary.”
Example: Biophilia, by Bj?rk
In recent years many artists have taken to releasing albums as apps. Bj?rk had a particularly interesting take on it, releasing her album as a 3 dimensional galaxy that can be navigated and interacted with. The app even became part of MoMa?s collection.
Through the use of in-app purchases, the user can unlock new parts of the galaxy, which provide new Music to Interact with.
Example: Don’t Be Scared LP, by DJ Vadim
Ninja Tune veteran DJ Vadim released an ‘immersive album’, which allows users to interact with different elements of the song, recomposing it according to their own wishes. What better way to create a sense of Intimacy between your fans and your Music.
Example: Central Park (Listen to the Light), by BLUEBRAIN
Then there’s Bluebrain, a musical duo that produced their own apps, location-aware albums, one of which can only be used in New York’s Central Park. In a way it’s similar to Proteus, except in this case, the soundscape is mapped to physical locations rather than virtual.
Recently a new music startup by one of the creators of Google Maps started making waves: Weav. Weav’s aim is to simply make music elastic. Unlike Spotify’s new feature which picks songs that match your tempo while running, songs on Weav’s platform will actually adjust to your pace. The team created tools for musicians to create dynamic music: you don’t just write the song, you also program rules for it to recompose itself and adjust to different tempos. Co-founder Lars Rasmussen:
“We believe that as our lives become increasingly digital, and as our increasingly powerful mobile devices play greater and greater roles in our lives, having a song that can change and adapt — in real time — to what you are doing will become increasingly important. And delightful. This is why we built Weav.”
If you’re waiting for disruption in the music industry, don’t look at the big platforms like iTunes or Spotify. They belong in the Age of the Recording.
Look at platforms that offer actual Interactivity, Immediacy, Intimacy, and Involvement. Now more than ever can Creators help give shape to future formats of Music, and to new ways to connect the listener to the Music.
Imagine Music in the Age of the Internet of Things.
Music may be static, but it doesn’t have to be. And the relation between Creator and Fan certainly shouldn’t be.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’re probably aware that the tide is turning here in the States more and more in favor of rights for the LGBT community. Interestingly, America rests somewhere in the middle on the spectrum on these kinds of issues, with plenty of world nations allowing for more gay rights and certainly many that allow for less. While this one-toe-in-the-water approach is perfectly reflected in entertainment mediums like video games, it’s certainly worth noting that games in North America have begun to be more inclusive when it comes to LGBT characters and/or options in so-called “choice” or “sandbox” games. The Sims franchise was somewhere on the forefront of that sort of thing and more recent games like the Mass Effect series finally began to follow suit. And now it appears we can add the notoriously conservative Nintendo to the list of game developers that include such characters in their games.
See, gamers playing Nintendo’s Tomodachi Collection: New Life noticed that this latest iteration of the game, which is very much like The Sims, had the option for the first time to have their male characters marry other male characters and raise children together. Hooray for civil rights progress, right guys?
One Twitter user claims to have contacted Nintendo’s customer support, which supposedly said this is a bug and that the game needs to be patched. Online in Japan, however, there were many internet users who said they planned on getting this game only after learning of this bug—er, feature.
That Twitter user’s story now appears to be confirmed, with Nintendo releasing a patch to fix the “bug”, which it says allows for “human relations that become strange.” So allowing players to be as gay in their virtual lives as they might be in their real lives wasn’t a feature, it was a bug. And you’re going to correct it. Here’s another idea, and I’m just spitballing here, but how about the fix you release doesn’t take away a bit of the humanity of your latest game, but rather extends it to female characters as well? It’s not like including gay characters in a game, particularly one that is all about personal choice, means that somehow the game developers all agree in unison that all the morality questions are thrown aside. I happen to think that anyone who finds a problem with homosexuality is on the wrong side of both humanity and biology, but I won’t dismiss the right for other people to have a different opinion. The thing is, none of that is the point. I played the Sims. I don’t remember any more of an uproar over that game’s characters being able to be gay than I remember an outcry over how you used to be able to order a pizza and then build walls around the delivery guy until he died (great fun, btw). Nobody who saw that done suddenly thought EA was supporting delivery boy murder and no one with a lick of sense thought EA was taking some moral stance on gay rights.
And besides all that, the reaction to the bug? Freaking positive.
In Japan, some Tomodachi Collection: New Life owners seem thrilled by the bug, posting photos of their gay couples online. In the images, male Mii characters ask each other to go steady, propose marriage, go on Honeymoons, bathe together, and raise children.
Well, no kidding, because the metrics of the debate are shifting quickly to be more inclusive. Even if one were to think that homosexuality was immoral, you can’t lose your stones about it being included in a video game, unless you’re also going to take the same stance on murder, violence, theft, cursing, lying, etc. Nintendo made their bones on a stereotyped Italian plumber. Now that Nintendo has decided to erase the option to be gay from this game, I hope to hell the backlash is as brutal as it should be.
I have received multiple reports (here, here,here) today that Amazon is now refusing to allow their Canadian customers to buy Kindle ebooks from Amazon.com.
Over the past couple days several of those readers have reported that many Kindle titles are showing up on Amazon.com as not being available to Canadian customers even though the same titles will show up on Amazon.ca as being available.
So far as I can tell, the only ebooks still available to Canadian Kindle owners are titles distributed via KDP, seriously limiting their ability to make use of their Kindles.
What seems to be happening is a push by Amazon to move customers from other countries over to their local domains, something that has been reported in Brazil, Japan and France. Other news has filtered in that this is not necessarily Amazon's doing, but is a result of publishers “moving” product to non-US regions where pricing is still advantageous (i.e., not subject to the terms of the settlements reached with the Justice Department in the ebook price-fixing investigation).
No matter who is at fault, it's the users that are getting the shaft. Amazon has only been selling Kindle ebooks to Canadians since late in 2009, but many Canadians have been purchasing ebooks through Amazon's .com domain since 2007. (Its .ca Kindle store has only been around since December of 2012.) Forcing Canadian users to set up a new .ca account means that much of what their .com accounts contain won't transfer over.
First, while Amazon claims that any purchased ebooks will be available* after a Canadian Kindle owner transfers their account that’s not completely true. The ebooks might be transferred, but I’m told that a customer’s purchase history is not transferred and the wish lists are also abandoned. That’s going to make it a lot harder for some readers to keep track of what they own and what they want to buy.
Oh, and that claim about the Kindle content transferring isn’t exactly true. Amazon.ca doesn’t yet support subscriptions, nor does it offer Kindle Serials. That means this Kindle content will be lost in the transfer process along with any back issues that had been saved. What’s more, Amazon.ca doesn’t offer music and video so transferring an account will prevent customers from accessing media they’ve already purchased.
After speaking to Amazon Kindle support they informed us that this change was not their doing. They said a change like this would have been made by the publisher only. One of the major publishers affected responded back to me saying, “It certainly wasn’t our intentional doing; although it may be a side-effect of our pricing model. I’ll investigate and see what I can do.”
For Canadian users (and customers in Brazil, Japan, France, etc.), it doesn't really matter which party is forcing the migration. The end result is a very possible loss of purchased content and a definite loss of purchase histories, preferences and a number of other small, but essential, perks that are part of a long-term Amazon account. This is going to hit the most loyal customers the hardest — the last thing Amazon should want to do.
While there are many ways to route around this new issue, the fact remains that migrating a customer's account should keep it intact, especially when there's no perceived benefit for the end user. If this is publishers reshuffling their offerings to take advantage of out-of-US pricing, it's in Amazon's best interest to point this out. If this is Amazon's doing, it needed to have the kinks worked out before pushing it on its customers.
Today, we’re making it easier for people to financially contribute to Ubuntu if they want to. By introducing a ‘contribute’ screen as part of the desktop download process, people can choose to financially support different aspects of Canonical’s work: from gaming and apps, developing the desktop, phone and tablet, to co-ordination of upstreams or supporting Ubuntu flavours. It’s important to note that Ubuntu remains absolutely free, financial contribution remains optional and it is not required in order to download the software.
By allowing Ubuntu users to choose which elements of Ubuntu they’re most excited about, we’ll get direct feedback on which favourite features or projects deserve the bulk of our attention. We’re letting users name their price — depending on the value that they put on the operating system or other aspects of our work. That price can, of course, be zero — but every last cent helps make Ubuntu better.
As this notes, even if people don’t offer money, their views on what’s important to them can still be gathered, and that’s valuable information for developers who need to prioritize their work.
In principle, letting people support new features of interest sounds like a good idea, since it gives users a chance to vote with their wallets. But it comes in the wake of a plan to let people search for items on sites like Amazon from within the Ubuntu operating system, for which Canonical would presumably get paid if purchases were made as a result. As the hundreds of comments on the blog of Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical and Ubuntu, indicate, this has raised a number of concerns about privacy and the direction of the Ubuntu project.
Some might see both moves as evidence that Canonical still isn’t making as much money from the Ubuntu ecosystem as it needs to, and that Shuttleworth is looking to bolster income. Four years ago, he admitted that Canonical was “not close” to breaking even, and that it would “require time and ongoing investment” to make it do so. Given Ubuntu’s place as probably the most popular GNU/Linux distribution, users must hope that Shuttleworth will still be happy to invest in Canonical, and hence in Ubuntu, for a while yet. Perhaps that’s another good reason for Ubuntu fans to start paying at least some of the development costs under the new scheme.
Craigslist is somewhat famous for keeping its rather antiquated design, and refusing to make changes. Even when well meaning fans have suggested ideas for improving the site, Craigslist has resisted, insisting that it’s really just about design companies who are trying to get hired.
So that makes the following story all the more interesting. You may recall that Craigslist has gotten itself into an unfortunate and petty legal spat with the site PadMapper, because PadMapper dared to make Craigslist more useful, in part by putting Craigslist housing entries on a map so people could see where they are. This is a pretty small, but incredibly useful tweak, and Craigslist — normally a defender of internet freedom — suddenly turned into a protectionist legal aggressor and sued.
However, as Aaron DeOliveira points out to us, Craigslist has just started quietly testing out its own upgrade… using maps. They’re using OpenStreetMap (which is interesting in its own right as more and more companies are moving away from Google Maps to the much more open (duh) OpenStreetMap).
While there may not be a direct connection between PadMapper and Craigslist’s decision, the timing certainly raises some eyebrows, and hints at the idea that Craigslist might just be suing PadMapper for improving Craigslist before Craigslist had a chance to launch the feature itself. Or, even worse, Craigslist thought it was such a good idea that it sued PadMapper while using its idea. That’s not quite the “open innovation” model that Craig Newmark tries to champion.
For what it’s worth, PadMapper’s Eric DeMenthon is actually quite conciliatory about the whole thing:
“I’m glad something good came out of all this,” says PadMapper creator Eric DeMenthon. “Lots of people wrote to them about the PadMapper cease and desist [letter], so maybe that convinced them that it was worthwhile to do some mapping themselves.
Market research by suing those who try to improve you? Doesn’t seem like the most effective system.
With the launch of our new Techdirt Insider Shop, one of the new features we’ve enabled on the site is something we’re calling First Word/Last Word, which you may have noticed appearing on the blog. The feature allows Techdirt Insiders with credits to help highlight key comments as either “The First Word” (on top of all the other comments) or “The Last Word” (beneath all of the comments, even if other comments are added after). You can designate one of your own comments, or feel free to designate a truly awesome comment from someone else.
Because this is such a new feature, I wanted to discuss a little of the thinking behind it. Despite blogging for well over a decade, I’m still amazed by how much controversy there is over blog comments. Some people insist that they’re completely useless. Others spend many hours of their day engaging in discussion and debate in the comments. There are various attempts to try to “improve the quality” of comments out there, including banning anonymous comments, heavily moderating comments or doing things like having editors highlight the best comments. Others have integrated third-party platforms to manage comments, such as Facebook or Disqus. Gawker keeps pushing the bleeding edge with a series of commenting experiments that try to increase the importance of comments while decreasing the number of comments that actually get viewed.
Over the years, we’ve taken a very open approach to comments. We don’t require a login to comment (though there are benefits to having one). We don’t require people to identify themselves at all. And despite the default assumption some have that anonymous comments are bad, we quite regularly find that comments from anonymous users are some of our most insightful and funniest comments. To that end, we’ve always focused on trying to do more to highlight and encourage good behavior — such as highlighting the comments voted most insightful and funniest, both with badges on the comments and in our weekly summaries.
With the First Word/Last Word feature, we’re trying to take all of that a step further. We’ve seen how a single trollish commenter can sometimes (not always) derail an interesting conversation by getting in early and saying something completely brain dead, then watching (probably with laughter) as the thread disintegrates. Our expanded Crystal Ball may take care of that in some cases by giving insiders more early access to kick off the comments. But, not everyone’s going to be able to rush in and be first. With “First Word/Last Word,” Insiders with credits can help highlight one or two of the absolutely key comments on a story and put them in places of prominence to help define the overall conversation.
This is very much an experiment (and like all experiments could flop completely). But what fun is it if you never take chances? We’ve trusted our community for many, many years, and here’s another attempt to trust those who become Insiders to help curate the absolute best comments for everyone to see. We hope you’ll take part and help us develop an even more interesting and compelling comments section.
But Megaupload was not the only such service on the Web. Many companies have crowded into the online storage market recently, most of them aimed at consumers and businesses that want convenient ways to get big data files out of their teeming in-boxes, off their devices and into the cloud — perhaps so that friends or co-workers can download them. They include MediaFire, RapidShare, YouSendIt, Dropbox and Box.net. And there are similar services from Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
All of these market themselves as legitimate ways to store content online. But they are inherently ideal for anyone looking to illegitimately upload and share copyrighted video and audio files. Most companies rarely, if ever, inspect individual files to see if the material they store on behalf of users violates copyrights, unless they are notified by someone claiming infringement.
And… by Sunday, reports started spreading of other companies that provide useful services to people who want to legitimately share files… shutting down or limiting those services. For example, FileSonic — one of the most popular cyberlockers — has basically killed itself by no longer allowing sharing, and only allowing personal backup. Another site, Uploaded.to, then blocked all access from the US. A bunch of other services, including FileServe and VideoBB have been killing their affiliate programs (again, which had been a good way for independent musicians to make money).
RIAA supporters are cheering this on — believing that all of these services really focused on infringing content. But for the many, many artists, companies and individuals who used them legitimately, this is pretty troubling. Useful services are being shut down due to an overreaction on the part of the US government.
Again, this is exactly the kind of collateral damage that many of us were worried about. It’s entirely possible (hell, perhaps probable) that the folks behind Megaupload went beyond the confines of the law. And, if that’s true, I expect that they will lose in court. But many of us are quite worried about a few things: the fact that the entire site got completely shuttered despite substantial non-infringing uses… and that it’s now creating massive chilling effects for legitimate and useful services within the US. Separately, as in the case of Uploaded.to, it’s also splintering the internet, by having foreign companies put blocks on US internet users. These kinds of things were exactly what people have been warning about… and yet the US government ignored all those warnings (and probably still doesn’t realize what it’s kicked off here).
In one prong of the many-pronged attack that Apple has been making on Android, it’s scored a victory at the International Trade Commission, where it’s been determined that the idea of making a phone number in an email or on a web-page clickable to dial it is so special and wonderful that only Apple could possibly come have up with it. It’s rulings like this that make anyone with a modicum of technology smarts shake their heads and wonder why we let clearly non-technical people make decisions like this. Patents are supposed to protect inventions that are non-obvious to those skilled in the space. If you put a 100 groups of five engineers in rooms, asking them to design various smartphone features and interfaces around things like this, I’d bet 99 would come up with a similar feature. It’s just natural.
In the meantime, Apple’s statements about the ruling are equally ridiculous, given Apple’s history of copying others (including Android):
“We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”
Copying an idea and building on it is not “stealing.” And if Apple had to build its devices without building on the ideas of others, it wouldn’t have very much today. This whole thing is a joke, and it’s rulings like this that make engineers have even less respect for the patent system.
The EU Court of Justice is now considering a lawsuit between SAS and World Programming Ltd. over the extent of copyright protection in software. We wrote about this last year, when a UK court ruled against SAS, but now it’s been kicked up to the EU Court of Justice. Everyone seems to agree that WPL copied a feature from a SAS product, but did so in part by looking at SAS’s manual, but without access to the software itself, let alone the source code. Basically, WPL just found out about a feature, and created it on its own. It’s not even quite reverse engineering (which is generally considered legal), because they didn’t make it compatible with SAS’s offering — they just recreated the same basic feature.
It’s hard to see how this should be copyrightable. Can you imagine just how stagnated the software industry would become if you could copyright a feature on a piece of software, such that no one else could use it? Hopefully the European Court recognizes the problems such an extreme interpretation of copyright law would create.