Nov 02, 2000

LinkBack Back Up (I Hope)
11/2/2000; 5:53:49 PM

LinkBack is functional again, after the computer has undergone extensive repairs. One 'returning' user, after dropping his class site, is Duncan's Jotter. We also have a new user, YooZoo. Thanks for (re-)joining. Also, array has changed to dangerousmeta.

Let's hope it'll stay up a while this time.

Nov 02, 2000

Can Napster Secure SDMI?
Music & MP3
11/2/2000; 2:52:38 PM 'The new file-trading service that Napster and Bertelsmann are developing will need digital-rights-management technology and could be the key to resuscitating the recording industry's initiative.

'Napster's yet-to-be-developed service might be just the place for the largely theoretical Secure Digital Music Initiative to get its test run.'

This is a great example of even a "with-it" news organization failing to take advantage of the strength of the web. These two paragraphs are the entire article. The rest of the standard-length one-page Wired Online article is nothing but a re-cap of the Napster agreement and the SDMI initiative, including a lengthy explanation of the Hack SDMI contest.

On the web, there's no need to "fill" the column.

Nov 02, 2000

Web Enters Privacy 'Safe Harbor'
Privacy from Companies
11/2/2000; 2:48:14 PM 'A kind of data-privacy wall has popped up on the Web, and like the world's better-known walls, it is geographical in nature.

'Safe Harbor, an international privacy agreement approved earlier this year, took effect Wednesday and marked the line between acceptable privacy practices in Europe and the United States.

'The program, the result of an agreement between the U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Commission, governs the transatlantic flow of data -- both online and off. The agreement set up a framework for certifying companies collecting data under privacy protection standards that satisfy the stricter standards of the European directive.'

While I've criticized this for being too weak, it's worth pointing out this is the only situation I know of where the American privacy-invasion business didn't get absolutely everything they wanted.

In fact, in a way, that sets a bad precedent for them. I expect to see more news about this "Safe Harbor", centering around efforts to remove it, including articles from people claiming that Europe should just trust these companies, as that would be so much easier...

Nov 02, 2000

The Incredible Shrinking Internet
11/2/2000; 2:24:45 PM

'The really scary scenario for advocates of open access to broadband is that cable companies have the power not just to slow info, but to block it completely. If Time Warner should hook up with a big search engine, posits Rosen, the company could close the gate to others.

'Already some search engines are accepting money to rank paying companies higher than others, so a query about running shoes will result in a list of products from the advertiser. For regular consumers, it's not always apparent which search engines have paid placement and which don't. Now, with the rise of cable monopolies, search engines may be forced to bring up the names of businesses the broadband providers have arrangements with. "As it is," Rosen adds, "pure search engines like Google are getting rarer."

'Even more frightening, cable providers could just rope off certain parts of the Internet that they feel are immoral or inimical to their interests. It's a free-speech issue that's got people in many quarters upset, from the ACLU and the Consumers Union to a host of ISPs.'

I think the real solution is to forbid the carriers to even look at the content they are carrying. Since the trend is to hold them responsible for it, that seems unlikely.

We'd still worry about how using the default software tends to funnel you into the Time-Warner Approved Internet Experience, but at least everybody else would still be out there.

Nov 01, 2000

Red Herring Trend #8 - Government
General IP Issues
11/1/2000; 1:28:43 PM

'The Net was first run by academics and engineers. Then it was ruled by the commercial sector. Now, it's increasingly being regulated by national governments. The next iteration: it will be governed by international accords. That could mean a slowing down of the Internet's incorporation of radical innovation, a shift that will affect companies aiming to overthrow today's Internet with new applications and technologies....

'The consequences of government regulation of the Internet are enormous: it would impose a degree of centralized control that previously didn't exist. And the regulations may be difficult and costly to implement technically, as well as creating a commercial barrier of entry for new firms. Overcoming the Internet's political challenges may be more important than overcoming its technical ones....

'It is a discomfiting outcome: the Internet's singular accomplishment was its ability to overturn the stodgy telecom industry, despite telcos' attempts to kill it. The Net posited itself as an unregulated network; unattached to any one application or proprietary commercial interest -- it was the platform for subsequent innovation. Government regulation -- now coördinated on an international level -- will create a new status quo.'

By far the scariest trend. By the time the free countries are done "compromising" with China, half of Africa and the Middle East, will the free countries still be free?  With ignorance of what the Internet really is immense, universal, and concentrated in the very people who would be making these international accords, I often wonder if there's really any long-term hope for freedom on the Internet.

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