felix's blog

G8 summit aims to stop piracy once and for all

More draconian measures that will cause pain if implemented, but not "solve" the problem.

According to New Scientist, the talks will be based around the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which has some scary ramifications for file sharers. In case you’re unfamiliar with ACTA, it’s a potential trade agreement between several countries, including the US, the European Commission, Switzerland, Australia and Japan, which was first proposed in October 2007.

Little has been officially announced about ACTA yet, but WikiLeaks published a leaked document about it a few weeks ago, which reveals an international strategy for cracking down on piracy. This is proposed as a solution to the current problem where different copyright laws in different countries make it difficult to crack down on international Internet pirates.

Full text is over at custompc.co.uk.

80% want legal P2P - survey

The Register has an interesting survey concerning the use of p2p file sharing (the sample, though, is quite small, 773 people, no word on how they were selected.)

A fascinating survey of music consumption conducted for British Music Rights has good and bad news for the beleaguered music business.

The bad news: online file sharing is more prevalent than other surveys suggest. The good news: a lot of people are willing to pay for a service that offers legal, licensed P2P file sharing. Half the people surveyed think distributors such as large telecomms companies should pay creators from the proceeds of such a license. And a surprisingly large number of people still value physical music goods, with two thirds of potential subscribers to legal P2P saying that they would continue to buy CDs.

The numbers are quite high:

63 per cent acknowledge they "illegally" download unlicensed music - with the average monthly download being 53 tracks a month.

Also interesting is this fact:

Altruism plays a large part, the survey discovered. More than two thirds said they were giving something back to the community. The reason that most frequently appears on website comments - that music is "too expensive" - was only cited by around 10 per cent of respondents.

"This suggests that respondents recognise the value in the ‘share-ability’ of music and are motivated by a sense of fairness and the principle of reciprocity – something for something illegally," BMR concludes.

Absorption and Exposure

Jordan Crandall posted a very interesting essay to nettime, focussing on the subjectivity of a culture of "assemblage", or as I would call it, a culture of remixing. The most interesting parts are bolded by me.

Absorption and Exposure
a working assemblage of assemblage theory
Jordan Crandall

I am interested in a certain sense of wanting to be "in" something: to participate in it, to connect with it, to synchronize with it, to be caught up with it, rather than to visually possess it. The desire to be attuned to something that is happening, or that might happen at any moment -- not necessarily as a conscious thought, but as a vaguely felt expectation. The desire to move toward something that is (or might be) happening, in order to absorb its force, touch it, taste it, surrender to it -- rather than simply to observe it.

For Bataille, this would be the erotic pull of death. I am thinking about it as a dynamic of immersion and implication that involves media-technological actors and which reorients questions of subjectivity and spectatorship. Or, in other words: an ecology of absorption and exposure. Since it involves the sensorium and the transmission of resonances, it is not something that can be understood in terms of visual mastery or language. It does not privilege reading but readiness. Rather than being about possessing something from a distance, it is about a surrender to it -- an extreme intimacy, a merging. One does not look from afar, fortifying the self, but rather enters into the fray, exposing the self.

Tech giants form group to buy patents

CNET June 29, 2008

Google is part of a group of tech heavyweights going on the offensive against the threat of patent-infringement lawsuits, the Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site Sunday evening.

The group, which calls itself the Allied Security Trust, plans to buy up key intellectual property before it is obtained by parties who might use it against them, the newspaper reported. Joining Google in the group are Verizon Communications, Cisco Systems, Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson, and Hewlett-Packard, among others.

Is this an attempt to create a "walled garden" or a space for innovation, open to all?

see also: Selbsthilfegruppe gegen Patent-Trolle Spiegel.de and the ArsTechnica article

Long Tail = Good Business?

Harvard Business Review : Should You Invest in the Long Tail?

It was a compelling idea: In the digitized world, there’s more money to be made in niche offerings than in blockbusters. The data tell a different story.

This is a good article, with solid empirical data and good primers on the different theories (Winner-takes-all vs Long Tail). They conclude:

Although no one disputes the lengthening of the tail (clearly more obscure products are being made available for purchase every day), the tail is likely to be extremely flat and populated by titles that are mostly a diversion for consumers whose appetite for true blockbusters continues to grow.

Chris Anderson, responds:

But there is a subtle difference in the way we define the Long Tail, especially in the definitions of "head" and "tail", that leads to very different results.

The best example of this is in what she describes as a growing "concentration" of sales around a relatively small number of blockbuster titles. In the Rhapsody data, she finds, the top 10% of titles (out of more than a million in that data sample) accounted for 78% of all plays, and the top 1% account for 32% of all plays. That sounds pretty concentrated around the head, until you reflect, as she notes, that "one percent of a million is still 10,000--[...]equal to the entire music inventory of a typical Wal-Mart store."

So, while the long tail does not indicate equal distribution (of course not!) even the hits are more spread out and the obscure stuff can exist at all. So, after all, diversity is up, which is, in and of itself, positive.

Copyright coalition: Piracy more serious than burglary, fraud, bank robbery

This is already a year old, but it's always good to have this reference at hand. Therefore it's noted here.

NBC/Universal general counsel Rick Cotton suggests that society wastes entirely too much money policing crimes like burglary, fraud, and bank-robbing when it should be doing something about piracy instead.

"Our law enforcement resources are seriously misaligned," Cotton said. "If you add up all the various kinds of property crimes in this country, everything from theft, to fraud, to burglary, bank-robbing, all of it, it costs the country $16 billion a year. But intellectual property crime runs to hundreds of billions [of dollars] a year." Cotton's comments come in Paul Sweeting's report on Hollywood's latest shenanigans on Capitol Hill.

Source: Ars Technica, June 15, 2007

p2p traffic

Ars Technica has an article titled "Sandvine: close to half of all bandwidth sucked up by P2P" where they write:

Almost half of all bandwidth in North America is made up of P2P traffic, according to Sandvine. The company, which develops deep packet inspection equipment to monitor broadband usage, says that P2P traffic is up about three percent from a year ago, going from 41 percent to almost 44 percent. P2P ate up an even larger chunk of upstream traffic, pushing regular old web traffic further down the list.

This seems low to me, since earlier reports indicate that up to 75 % of all internet traffic is made up by p2p. Interestingly, streaming is relatively minor, only about 14.8%. Which, again, is contrary to other reports. Oh, well, vendor stats....

Using Google Data to Determine "Community Standards"

Source: NYT: What’s Obscene? Google Could Have an Answer

In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.

It is not clear that the approach will succeed. The Florida state prosecutor in the case, which is scheduled for trial July 1, said the search data may not be relevant because the volume of Internet searches is not necessarily an indication of, or proxy for, a community’s values.

But the tactic is another example of the value of data collected by Internet companies like Google, both from a commercial standpoint and as a window into the thoughts, interests and desires of their users.

In the Air. Who says big ideas are rare?

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an interesting article in the New Yorker on Nathan Myhrvold's company "Intellectual Ventures" which tries to come up with a method of the process of scientific discovery. The trick is that you can do it. That scientific discovery is a lot about looking at available information in a new way, relating fields to one another that are usually not considered together.

This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common. One of the first comprehensive lists of multiples was put together by William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas, in 1922, and they found a hundred and forty-eight major scientific discoveries that fit the multiple pattern. Newton and Leibniz both discovered calculus. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both discovered evolution. Three mathematicians “invented” decimal fractions. Oxygen was discovered by Joseph Priestley, in Wiltshire, in 1774, and by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, a year earlier. Color photography was invented at the same time by Charles Cros and by Louis Ducos du Hauron, in France. Logarithms were invented by John Napier and Henry Briggs in Britain, and by Joost Bürgi in Switzerland.

And he continues:

For Ogburn and Thomas, the sheer number of multiples could mean only one thing: scientific discoveries must, in some sense, be inevitable. They must be in the air, products of the intellectual climate of a specific time and place.

Good ideas are out there for anyone with the wit and the will to find them.

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