felix's blog

OpenNet Initiative

OpenNet Initiative: Covering the state of Censorship and Filtering online

From an interview with Rafal Rohozinski, a founder and principal investigator of the Information Warfare Monitor and the OpenNet Initiative.

One of the more interesting things we've observed in recent years has been the emergence of "third-generation controls". This form of content control stops short of censorship, but rather sees the state (and pro-state groups) engage in active information warfare against their opponents. They use denial of service attacks, and other techniques in order to silence opposition. This approach is interesting, as it allows the state to claim that it is not censoring groups, but the effect is the same. Of course, there is no legal recourse to challenge these practices.

Will Books Be Napsterized?

NYT has an article on the fears of the book industry about e-book piracy. There are numerous parallels to the music industry, including that the business model is under pressure even without piracy. The music industry remains dismal.

Since music sales peaked in 1999, the value of the industry’s inflation-adjusted sales in the United States, even including sales from Apple’s highly successful iTunes Music Store, has dropped by more than half, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

GoalBit: P2P Streaming Goes Open Source

Janko Roettgers writes about a release of an open source bittorrent streaming apps:

GoalBit uses a hybrid approach that combines the best of the BitTorrent world, with features from the likes of P2P networks such as Gnutella and KaZaA’s FastTrack network. Its network features a tracker similar to the one used by BitTorrent clients, but it also makes use of so-called super-peers. These are computers with fat pipes that help to distribute the initial signal until it trickles down to users with ordinary DSL connections and limited upload speeds. Super-peers can be run either by the broadcasters themselves, or self-selected based on the connectivity of the individual end user. The idea of this multilayer approach is to prevent too many direct connections to the broadcaster while at the same time making the system scalable.

Americans Reject Tailored Advertising and Three Activities that Enable It

A new study shows that, when asked, people do not like tailored ads, because of privacy concerns.
From the abstract:

Contrary to what many marketers claim, most adult Americans (66%) do not want marketers to tailor advertisements to their interests. Moreover, when Americans are informed of three common ways that marketers gather data about people in order to tailor ads, even higher percentages - between 73% and 86% - say they would not want such advertising. Even among young adults, whom advertisers often portray as caring little about information privacy, more than half (55%) of 18-24 years-old do not want tailored advertising. And contrary to consistent assertions of marketers, young adults have as strong an aversion to being followed across websites and offline (for example, in stores) as do older adults.

I'm not sure what such studies are worth. For decades now, people say, when asked, that they are worried about privacy, but do nothing to protect it. On the contrary. It's called the "privacy paradox" and indicates that the question is, perhaps, wrong.

Warner Music Videos Heading Back to YouTube

NYT has a short note that a deal between Google/YouTube and Warner Brothers has been reached. Terms are not disclosed, but it ends the row that had forced Youtube to remove all WB contents from its site last December. According to Business Week:

"Google says the new deal allows Warner to sell ads against its own music videos, as well as user-generated videos that contain clips of its songs."

Yet another indication that the majors can force good deals for themselves, while all others, the indies, will see no money from Google. The media industry turns into a content oligopoly.

Ipoque Study of Internet Traffic

Ipoque Internet Study, 2008-2009
Yet another indicator that filesharing is not going away, even if video-streaming is growing more rapidly.

Some of the key findings of the study are:

  • P2P generates most traffic in all regions
  • The proportion of P2P traffic has decreased BitTorrent is still number one of all protocols, HTTP second
  • The proportion of eDonkey is much lower than last year
  • File hosting has considerably grown in popularity
  • Streaming is taking over P2P users for video content
  • Usenet, a file sharing alternative for P2P, appears in the statistics for the first time

Andy Warhol's legal problems with copyright

Here is a short but good blog posting listing some of the copyright issues Andy Warhol encountered.

CC Study defining 'non-commerical'

Copyright law works with the distinction between 'public' and 'private' whereas CreativeCommons introduced the distinction 'commercial' and 'non-commercial'. But since the beginning of CC in 2001, it has been unclear what these terms mean. Now, CC published a study that tries to come up with a common definition of the term, based on user feed-back. This will be used when it comes to developing the new version of the license (v.4.0), a multi-year process to be started in 2010.

Study findings

Creative Commons noncommercial licenses include a definition of commercial use, which precludes use of rights granted for commercial purposes:

… in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.

The majority of respondents (87% of creators, 85% of users) replied that the definition was “essentially the same as” (43% of creators, 42% of users) or “different from but still compatible with” (44% of creators, 43% of users) theirs. Only 7% of creators and 11% of users replied that the term was “different from and incompatible with” their definition; 6% or creators and 4% of users replied “don’t know/not sure.” 74% and 77% of creators and users respectively think others share their definition and only 13% of creators and 11% of users wanted to change their definition after completing the questionnaire.

Prices, competition and crowd sourcing

NYT has an interesting article on the multi-year competition to come up with better recommendation algorithm, where the winner won one million $. Two things are worth mentioning. Netflix CEO summed it up as this: "You look at the cumulative hours and you’re getting Ph.D.’s for a dollar an hour." Not only that, they are also motivated, because self-selected.

But, for companies taking part in the challenge may be worth it, even without winning.

Arnab Gupta, chief executive of Opera Solutions, a data analytics company based in New York [which came in second], took a small group of his leading researchers off other work for two years. “We’ve already had a $10 million payoff internally from what we’ve learned,” Mr. Gupta said.

Working on the contest helped the researchers come up with improved statistical analysis and predictive modeling techniques that his firm has used with clients in fields like marketing, retailing and finance, he said. “So for us, the $1 million prize was secondary, almost trivial.”

RIAA-funded copyright curriculum

Ars Technica has an article on how the cultural industries are pushing their "copyright curriculum"  into US schools. An much expanded update of that old classic "don't copy that floppy" and similar to Canadian attempt of 2006, Captain Copyright (soon abandoned). Bottom line: it's a disgrace to the very idea of education.

Syndicate content