Feb 12, 2001

Napster Still Loses, and So Do You
Music & MP3
2/12/2001; 4:27:41 PM

'Napster got a small reprieve Monday, but ultimately the service is toast. That's the practical effect of a federal appeals court ruling (full text), in which the online file-swapping service was ordered to police its users (AP) to prevent the sharing of copyrighted material.'

(Admin note: This site should hopefully return to full functionality on this Thursday.)

Feb 08, 2001

Indefinate outage
2/8/2001; 9:30:58 AM

LinkBack will be suffering an indefinate outage, but probably on the order of one to two weeks. My home internet service was terminated and I can not afford to immediately re-activate it. It won't be long, but until I do, Linkback doesn't work.

BTW, lesson learned here: My credit card company recently sent me a new Visa card, because they suspected that my card number may have been stolen en masse with lots of others, so they were just sending me a new one to be safe. That's really thoughtful of them, but you have to make sure you catch all the people making automatic deductions off of your card to give the update!  I missed the cable/cable modem company :-(

This will also affect my site updates here. They won't drop to zero but I was doing about half of them from home. I really want to cover and comment on the library story, and a few othersbut I just don't have time here or now.

Feb 06, 2001

EU copyright compromise reached
General IP Issues
2/6/2001; 5:23:17 PM

'The European parliament's legal affairs committee agreed on Monday to compromise on far-reaching amendments proposed to the EU's legislation on copyright....

'"We really need a balance between the different cultural and legal rules in the EU," said Enrico Boselli, the Italian socialist rapporteur on the issue. The committee agreed to keep in place many of the exceptions agreed by EU countries to the copyright rules for institutions such as libraries and universities. But Mr Boselli predicted "the mother of all battles" to get the amendments approved by the entire parliament next week.'

Feb 06, 2001 vs. etoy domain war ends with's demise
2/6/2001; 5:09:10 PM

The linked Wired article merely chronicles's demise, it says nothing about this connection. is, or rather was, the quintessential arrogant dot-com company. At the height of its arc, flush with funds, ego, and momentum, sued the artistic group, which predated's existance by several years, for trademark infringement. To put it simply, did not simply take it on the chin... instead they fought back. How they did so is a fascinating tale.

I won't go so far as to agree with that they played a significant role in's demise; given the dot-com climate, it seems likely they'd be dying either way. I do think that we can take a personal lesson away from this, though: Hubris can only carry you in the short term, but it takes more then lots of money and a healthy dollop of arrogance to keep going in the long term, no matter what your endeavor.

Feb 06, 2001

Privacy problems? Yeah, the Free Market can fix that!
Privacy from Companies
2/6/2001; 9:40:17 AM It's linked on Slashdot, so I feel I have to reply to "The Privacy Cage" by Julian Sanchez in Liberzine. Basically, the essay suggests that the Free Market can solve all of our privacy woes, but in the process tilts with strawmen and seems to be coming from another planet... 'Since users in online interactions have de facto control over what information they will make available, they will have what amount to property rights in interactions where they demand them. If an online merchant charges too much money for a product, you don't have to buy. And you can refuse to deal just as easily if he's "charging" too much in the currency of private information.' If users had real control over their privacy, de facto or otherwise, there would be no concern over privacy issues. We do not currently have effective control over our privacy or this debate wouldn't be occurring. 'If I don't care about getting a bit more junk mail, I may allow a site to make money renting out my address in exchage for a discount. If I am more scupulous about guarding my secrets, I will share information only with sites which guarantee that I'll retain a high level of control over it.' There is currently no guarentee that we will retain that level of control in the long-term. The Toysmart case taught companies something... admit up front that your policies might change in the future, and none of your current customers will care until it's too late to do anything. Meanwhile, the customers have no guarentees of privacy while looking like there is one. The article also almost completely ignores the practical aspects of implementing a market system... which are vitally important to discuss because the smallest details of the practical system affect how it will work and how well it will work. Can people use it, or is it too complicated? Is the control granular enough to be useful? How will it be enforced? By law, by voluntary agreement? Can Joe User be tricked into giving out more information then he intends? Who controls the currency of the market (the data)? You can't simply "empower" the user, because once a company has the data, they can sell it. Who stops them? Without some sort of practical groundwork, this essay is a meaningless puff piece, capable only of stirring debate, but not really participating in it. The only practical solution mentioned is the horribly flawed P3P. To be fair, perhaps if the author made it ten or twenty times as long and did more then casually dismiss the arguments of a lot of other smart people (which the author did far too breezily for my comfort), it might make more sense. But the essay would still suffer the fatal flaw of attacking a straw man: 'If privacy ceases to be about individuals choosing how much information about themselves to release, and beomes instead a one-size-fits-all standard, then privacy is no longer a form of freedom. It's a cage.' I am still unaware of any privacy advocates who seriously believe that people must be disallowed from sharing their personal info with others. Yes, there are those like Shapiro who question whether Joe Public is capable of guarding his own privacy, but that's still not the same as claiming that Joe's decisions ought to be made for him (Sanchez glosses over this difference). Sanchez clearly does not understand the people he attacks.

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