Wednesday, July 27, 2005

"Illegal" file-sharers also big consumers of legal online music

Computer-literate music fans who "illegally" share music over the internet also spend almost four and a half times as much on legal online music as those who do not, according to research published today.

A recent survey, conducted by music research firm The Leading Question, asked 600 music fans who also own computers and mobile phones to what extent they legally download music. Apparently, those who admittedly downloaded or shared unlicensed music on a regular basis were the ones that spent significantly more money on legal services: the average spending on legal downloads among these was £5.52 a month, compared to the average monthly expenditure on digital music among those who were not illegally filesharing, which was only £1.27.

"The research shows that music fans who break piracy laws are highly valuable customers," Paul Brindley, director of The Leading Question, said to The Guardian. "There's a myth that all illegal downloaders are mercenaries hell-bent on breaking the law in pursuit of free music. In reality they are often hardcore fans who are extremely enthusiastic about adopting paid-for services as long as they are suitably compelling."

liquidculture says: is it that surprising?
Consumption begets more consumption; if I download songs from 100 different artists and like, say, 20 of them, am I not likely to maybe buy an album by at least one or two of these 20 artists?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Companies suing each other over the rights to use the number "3" as trademark

File under copyright/trademarking absurdity:
Swedish media conglomerate MTG (proprietor of satellite/cable channel TV3) is currently in a legal process with the mobile phone network operator Hi3G (owner of the mobile network 3), over the rights to use the numeral "3" as copyrighted trademark.

The MTG media conglomerate argues that Hi3G is positioning itself as a "media corporation", something that would thus imply that they are operating in the same marketplace as MTG. According to MTG, the mobile phone operator 3 cannot argue that they are only a mobile operator, and furthermore, they cannot use the number "3" because the TV channel media company TV3 used the number first, Swedish blog being J Andersson is reporting.
According to this view, mobile phones are not mobile phones — they are media platforms, and "3" is not a number — it’s a trademark.
This argumentation is made possible — yes even supported — by the contemporary copyright/trademark system, which allows companies to (at least in theory) claim rights to something as ubiquitous as a numeral, and which allows corporations to claim interests in areas that may in reality be remote from their core operations, but on paper (in the legal registry of operative markets) be amended to their "operations strategy". (That is, a company that is essentially a mobile communications company can due to the synergy of various media into these communications now lay claims to be a TV broadcaster, text publisher, or why not an amusement service provider?)
A central part of this story is that the MTG media conglomerate itself incorporates one of Scandinavia's biggest mobile phone operators, Tele2/Comviq, and obviously only uses this legal case to test the grounds for fighting core competitors also in the legal playing field. For these companies, the law is less of a metaphysical system for laying down core ethical guidelines, than simply a springboard for cutting the most profitable deals.

read more

Friday, July 22, 2005

What power does the US have over the Internet, really?

Rasmus Fleischer reflects upon a current hot topic; the expected continuation of US government authority over the global DNS system.
At least two news stories have focussed on the question regarding the power over the Internet, more specifically the power over the Domain Name System (DNS). Partly, the German music monopoly GEMA is trying to force ISP’s to encumber the accessibility of sites connected to the eMule/eDonkey file-sharing network.
And partly, the US government has announced new principles, aimed at ‘ensuring stability and security’ of the global DNS, through ‘maintaining its historic role in authorizing changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file’. In other words, the US government thereby refuses to hand over the control of the DNS to the non-profit ICANN corporation, as had been generally expected when the current contract is due to expired next year. Even less so, the US agrees to hand over control of domain names to the UN. Instead, all indications are that ICANN shall continue having responsibility only of the sheer technical management of the DNS. This has clearly upset several commentators, especially those voices being (allegedly) regarded “anti-American” and “anti-Bush”.
On the anti-Bush site Daily Kos, speculations are running wild:
Just as China would prefer not to let their people wander outside the Chinese portion of the net, I suspect the Bushies would prefer to keep Americans under their control and prevent us from being polluted with all those evil "French" ideas that are out their.
That said, having control over the root zone files gives the US a great deal of control over who can interconnect to "our" network.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. The idea that control over the DNS root would give free hands for censorship is not correct. The Internet is a dynamic system that relies on standards and protocols, not on laws. Although protocols should not be equalled with “democracy”, the fact remains that the standard that most users adhere to has “won”, regardless of what the authority behind the losing standard claims.
On Slashdot, commentaries are written like; “let's start up our own DNS servers and let the US isolate themselves as they choose”. Which works, yes – in theory. The only authority in the DNS root is in humans/computers freely adhering to a unified system for transforming domain names to IP addresses. Effectively, it is illusory to think that anyone could start alternative domain name systems at wish, which is pointed out in another commentary; “It's like saying there is nothing prohibiting people from forming an alternative government, holding cabinet meetings in a garage. It's pointless unless people accept it, and sadly the only way to achieve acceptance is to press it through politics.”
But still – to the extent that the DNS authority ruins the Internet, the users will accordingly leave it behind, empty its authority of real content and point their browsers to other DNS servers instead.
Dana Blankenhorn on examines “Balkanization” of the Internet as an actual and valid risk. This, for example, if UN organs would dismiss the US authority and construct an alternative DNS root. The result would then be two different ways of connecting domain names to IP addresses; strictly speaking, two different Internets. And if two, why not more? “China could establish its own DNS and thus simplify its Great Firewall by not having pointers to any site its leaders don't approve of.”
On the other hand, though, there is not actually anything that would stop China from doing this today.
Obviously, the choice remains to stay within the globally established standard, the one administered by ICANN under the authority of US government. To do anything else — that is, to try create national (isolationist) managerial tools for Internet standards and not only filter out unwanted pages — would basically be to say no to the Internet full stop and take the Northern Korean path. The struggle over (plural) Internets is, as we see, fought with anything but free hands. It cannot be compared to, say, The Soviet Union’s control over print presses. The alternative to press the “off” button does not exist. And no filters or DNS overthrows in the world control more than just the peaks of icebergs, since the www is merely one piece of the Internet.
Thus, there are no reasons to speculate about the “downfall of the Internet”. Especially when talking about the strategies of GEMA (introduced above) of manipulating DNS to block out certain domain names – to circumvent this is ridiculously easy. In the words of Oscar Swartz:
Obviously, knowledgeable users can dodge these tricks through, for example, utilising pure IP numbers rather than domain names. The IP addresses to relevant sites could be spread around the world on countless blogs, thanks to the effort of sympathising bloggers. The users could also set their computers manually to use other DNSs than their own provider’s, that is, non-tampered ones.
The German CCC (Chaos Computer Club) has published a simple guide (in German) to getting round these censorship ploys. This due to an several year-long, still ongoing legal process, where the federal government of North Rhine and Westphalia has demanded 80 local ISPs to block out two Neo-Nazi domains through DNS manipulation. Does GEMA really think that they can stop file-sharing through taking this domain name route against the today already outmoded eDonkey network?
It also has become clear that their letter of warning was signed with the names of several German musicians that were not at all agreeing on these methods, among them the front person of the popular group Wir sind Helden. The anti-piracy antics of the music monopolists is losing the plot more and more, and they still continue to do it in the names of music makers that obviously do not agree with these strategies.
Earlier this spring, Henrik Pontén, spokesperson for the Swedish “Anti-Piracy Bureau” (Antipiratbyrån) joined this rhetoric, arguing in woolly language for filtering out file-sharing-related activity on the net. Still we have not received any further explanation of what is really meant by this.

Originally published by Rasmus Fleischer 12/07 2005 on Swedish blog Copyriot.

Friday, July 08, 2005

European software patenting directive rejected

Some good news amid the horror of yesterday's events:
The European Parliament voted 648 to 14 to reject the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive — the very bill that has recently been criticised and opposed by the Free Software movement, the very bill that could have led to software being patented in the EU.
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) congratulates the European Parliament on its clear "no" to what they see as bad legislative proposals and procedures. The bill would have stalled economic development and freedom of invention, they argue. Big technology firms, such as Philips, Nokia, Microsoft, Siemens, and telecoms firm Ericsson, continued to voice their support for the original bill, claiming that it would have brought harmonisation and consistency to the issue of patenting in Europe.
Software is already protected by copyright, and patents will continue to be handled by national patent offices, exactly as it has been before, according to the EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. This means that different interpretations as to what is patentable can apply, without any judiciary control by the European Court of Justice.

read more (BBC News)
FFII statement
FSF Europe statement

Monday, July 04, 2005

Let’s once and for all kill the solitary Romantic genius

Translations — Creative Copying and Originality
Thomas Dane Gallery, London, 14/7 to 9/9 2005
“They said that when I began in Paris I copied Toulouse-Lautrec and Steinlen; possible, but never was a painting by Toulouse-Lautrec or Steinlen taken for mine. It is better to copy a drawing or painting than to try to be inspired by it, to make something similar. In that case one risks painting only the faults of the model. A painter’s atelier should be a laboratory. One doesn’t make a monkey’s job there: one invents.”

Pablo Picasso

Seventeen works by nine artists look at the central role copying plays in day-to-day studio practice. The idea that artists create autonomously is a great myth. The exhibition shows how artists have always been attracted by the works of their predecessors and contemporaries and how they have explored the creative potential of copying for their own goals. Allowing a multitude of approaches to the source (record, exercise, parody, quotation, paraphrase, exorcism, caricature, metamorphosis, transformation, catalyst), copying has enabled artists to establish their own voices, to invoke and reject precedents and declare affinities, to measure distances and declare new goals. In some cases the most radically advanced work has been deeply indebted to history (For example, Cezanne’s Bathers or Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon).

Rembrandt —> Frank Auerbach —> Glenn Brown
Pierre Puget, Peter Paul Rubens and The Antiquity —> Paul Cezanne
Daumier —> Peter Doig
Degas —> Howard Hodgkin and Rebecca Warren
Petrus Christus —> Gary Hume
Manet —> Pablo Picasso
Jan van Eyck and Georges Seurat —> Bridget Riley

more info