Oct 23, 2000

Universal tests Napster-style music service
Music & MP3
10/23/2000; 5:33:54 PM

'Big five' recording company Universal Music Group has begun secret trials of an unlimited access, subscription-based digital music distribution service....

'The trial apparently provides unlimited access to some 20,000 tracks via a streamed media connection over the Internet. Subscribers, of whom, Reuters reckons there are 5000 - seems a lot to us - can't download and keep the songs they choose to listen to....

'Just as the video market has split between those who want to buy tapes - and now DVDs - to keep and those who simply want to rent movies occasionally, the audio market has traditionally been a sell-through only business. The ability to stream audio provides a way of building a music rental operation without the usual piracy concerns. There are plenty of folk out there who might want to hear, say, the new Radiohead album, but don't want to buy the CD outright in case they find it a mite too depressing.'

One wonders what their reaction will be when people develop ways of keeping the songs anyhow.  Streams can be caught.  Universal can make it difficult, but usually, once one person cracks the system, for other people it becomes as easy as "Push This Button To Start Recording."

Oct 23, 2000

Privacy under attack (again) on Capitol Hill
Surveillance and Privacy from Government
10/23/2000; 5:31:44 PM

'One of the most bizarre items currently proceeding under the CR has to be the Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000, sponsored by House Subcommittee on Crime Chairman Bill McCollum (Republican, Florida), which was ostensibly designed to provide better protection to former Presidents from violent lunatics "and for other purposes." Incredibly, the measure passed the Senate, but a rider McCollum wants tacked onto it called the Fugitive Apprehension Act has since raised hackles because it would authorise the Feds to read e-mail and other ISP records on a mere administrative subpoena, which does not require a warrant approved by a judge.

'"The bottom line is, the so-called 'administrative subpoenas' allowed in [the rider] are not necessary for effective law enforcement, and seriously trample on privacy rights....these subpoenas can be obtained for information pertaining to a person who has only 'allegedly' committed a crime," US Representative Bob Barr (Republican, Georgia) said in a tersely-worded letter to colleagues. Nice to see someone on Capitol Hill using his head for a change.'

Do they seriously expect that to get past the Supreme Court?  They're smarter then that, thank goodness.

Oct 23, 2000

UK e-snooping rules conflict
Country Watch: Britain
10/23/2000; 5:32:15 PM

'The UK government bodies regulating employers' snooping on staff e-mails and phone calls have given conflicting explanations of how two overlapping sets of new rules will interact.

'The Department of Trade and Industry's surveillance rules, which come into force next week, give employers a largely free hand to snoop. The main proviso is that staff are warned their personal e-mails and calls may be monitored.

'But a draft code on surveillance, issued by the Data Protection Commission within days of the DTI's announcement of the new rules, is markedly more restrictive. It warns that blanket monitoring of e-mails is unlikely to be justified and that employers should not open personal messages received at work.'

Oct 23, 2000

Senator Hatch's Napster Epiphany
Music & MP3
10/23/2000; 11:32:16 AM

'The kinks and twists and political intrigues attaching to this story [Napster vs. DMCA vs. DMCA author] are only beginning to show, and one can only delight in contemplating what might come next. What we have thus far is a stiff-collared conservative Senator renouncing his own, industry-accommodating legislation on behalf of some punk Internet start-up venture; a pseudo-hip and nominally Democratic White House desperately trying to enforce the Draconian provisions of the stiff-collared conservative Senator's original, industry-accommodating legislation; and an extraordinarily talented lawyer with, until now, respectable Establishment credentials suddenly disdaining the political machine for which he had recently done battle, and cheered by, you guessed it, the stiff-collared conservative Senator whose crummy legislation failed to protect Napster from recording-industry abuse in the first place.

'Ultimately, it all makes perfect sense: only Washington could actually be more ridiculous than Hollywood.'

This is worth reading, even if you've been following the story. Seein everything in quick succession brings home how crazy this whole thing has been.

Oct 23, 2000

Who ya gonna call? Patent busters!
10/23/2000; 11:26:16 AM 'Charles Cella used to help start-ups like ARTISTdirect apply for Internet business method patents. Now the attorney-turned-CEO plans to make money busting them.

'Why the change of heart? "Because there are a lot of bad patents out there, and there are a lot of valid patents too," he says. "What needs fixing is the system of 'prior art.'"

'"Prior art," says Cella, referring to a legal term used to describe inventions that invalidate patents by proving that they aren't new ideas, "is just too hard to find."'

While I think BountyQuest is an interesting and fun idea, they still promote the idea that software patents are OK. I hate to be cynical, but they are making money strengthing the patent system. Clever, but I'm not handing them accolades for anything else.

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