July 13, 2007
First Published Court Opinion Citing a YouTube Video
A specific YouTube video has been cited in a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, marking the first time a video on the service has been cited by a judge. This information comes from Declan McCullagh's post on the CNET News blog. The case involves a trademark litigated against baseball great George Brett. The video showed the Pine Tar incident where a Brett home run was invalidated in a game between the Royals and the Yankees. The video has since been deleted by YouTube because Major League Baseball claims a copyright interest, and as we all know, when a copyright holder comes to YouTube, they do the right thing.
McCullagh notes that a search of legal databases confirms this event. It's true. For all the talk and litigation surrounding the video service, YouTube is briefly mentioned in only four other federal cases and in no state cases. Westlaw confirmed this. That will probably change in the next few years. It's also interesting that the Court cited the YouTube video without worrying about its copyright status, just as any user of YouTube would.
July 12, 2007
Warner Catalog Goes Free Via imeem
Warner Music Group has struck a deal with imeem Inc. to stream its catalog free to end users in return for a cut of the site's advertising revenue. Warner sued imeem for copyright violation and entered into a deal as part of a settlement of that suit. The Wall Street Journal article on the deal suggests that labels are looking to these deals as ways of generating income as digital sales of music are not compensating for the loss of market for CDs. The labels blame piracy as the main cause of this loss though some of it has to fall back on them for using sales techniques that commoditize music, and perhaps a lack of understanding as to what the public wants in popular music.
That's where another Journal article examines how music labels and radio stations gauge what's popular. They apparently are looking at data on what tracks are illegally downloaded for marketing and play list decisions. The article calls this "ironic," which it is. If the Internet does one thing, it disrupts the distribution model for music by placing it in the hands of consumers as much as the labels. That the labels are looking at these alternative networks to pick up trends suggests that they can't always shape consumer tastes as in the analog days. Perhaps there will be life for the music industry beyond the lawsuit. As they said on Futurama, "you gotta do what you gotta do."
July 15th Looms Large for Internet Radio Royalties
Looks as if Internet radio is doomed to pay higher royalty rates as of Sunday. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied a stay that would have prevented the new and higher rates from taking affect. While Congress has huffed and puffed, no legislation was passed that would have rolled back rates. All this despite hearings, legislative posturing, a radio dark day protest, and all the other dire warnings about how this affects the industry. Of course the easy way for listeners to get around this is to listen to foreign broadcasts. It's not as if stations out of Europe, Canada, or other places don't play popular music. Check out what's in rotation on the other side of the world. It could turn out to be more interesting than the stale play lists on Clear Channel.
July 11, 2007
Measuring the Web by Time Rather Than Pages
Nielsen/Net Ratings is changing the way it measures the popularity of a web site. Rather than using the traditional number of page views, it will measure the amount of time a user spends at a particular site. The idea behind this is that as more content is offered on the same web page (think video or IM), a user will spend more time and click less. By this measure, AOL and Yahoo jump right up there past Google. Google, after all, offers the most popular search product out there and generate a lot of clicks but hardly anyone stays on a search page very long. AOL and Yahoo users, on the other hand have long spells with IM clients which keep people at those sites, sort of. If all of this is relevant to determining advertisement rates, then someone should check to see if these applications generate lots of click throughs on ads. How easy is it to ignore ads on messenger apps? Very is the likely answer.
Someone searching a specific term or item gives an advertiser an opportunity to offer a product relevant to the search. It just doesn't work that way with video streams or IM. People concentrate on their conversations or what they are watching. Ads are peripheral at best. It's too early to tell how this is going to affect pricing in the online ad market until someone can correlate the view time at a web site with click throughs and sales. The change, otherwise, may be interesting but not a great measure for advertisers or the host sites.
Fair Use Day
Today is Fair Use Day. I'm going to celebrate by moving legally purchased content between formats and devices. The industry will cringe, but that's better than their claim that copyright infringement is more important than burglary, fraud, or bank robbery.
July 9, 2007
Sony Cuts PS3 Price, Microsoft Fixes Dead XBoxes
After denying a price cut up to the moment they announced it, Sony has reduced the price of the PS3 by one hundred dollars in North America. Analysts expect the move to spur what are now sluggish sales of the game console. Sales lag behind the XBox and the Nintendo Wii, which outsells both of them. The PS3 is already sold below manufacturing cost thanks to its advanced design and Blu-Ray DVD drive.
Microsoft has its own hands full with failing XBox units. When three circular lights on the console panel light up together, the unit has failed. There seems to be a lot of them with that affliction because Microsoft may take a charge of a billion dollars or more to set things right with XBox owners. Aside from doing the right thing, the company has committed itself to making the XBox the entertainment center in the living room. That's something it couldn't do with its Media Edition PCs and likely the home server it announced earlier this year. The latter product is meant to link computer based pictures and videos to the television set. The Apple TV, product, with all of its limitations, seems an easier and less expensive way to do this. The market, though, will ultimately sort this out.
Is Vista Sales to Business Slow?
This article in Ars Technica suggests that Vista sales to business customers via OEMs is soft. Sales of Vista to consumers is high due to the fact that there is no consumer choice for an operating system. Businesses, however, have different concerns when it comes to compatibility and reliability. Hence the article reports on business customers requesting to downgrade machines shipped with Vista back to XP. This isn't a pretty scenario for Microsoft. The company wants to shut down XP sales for good in January, 2008. A significant business backlash could affect that timetable.
9th Circuit Rules Government Computer Surveillance Same as Pen Registers
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that government computer surveillance techniques which collect to/from addresses of e-mail messages, the IP addresses of websites visited and the total amount of data transmitted to or from an account are constitutionally permissable. The Court analogizes the privacy concerns as similar to pen registers that the government may obtain to track phone numbers of dialed calls.
Neither this nor any other circuit has spoken to the constitutionality of computer surveillance techniques that reveal the to/from addresses of e-mail messages, the IP addresses of websites visited and the total amount of data transmitted to or from an account. We conclude that these surveillance techniques are constitutionally indistinguishable from the use of a pen register that the Court approved in Smith. First, e-mail and Internet users, like the telephone users in Smith, rely on third-party equipment in order to engage in communication. Smith based its holding that telephone users have no expectation of privacy in the numbers they dial on the users’ imputed knowledge that their calls are completed through telephone company switching equipment. 442 U.S. at 742. Analogously, e-mail and Internet users have no expectation of privacy in the to/from addresses of their messages or the IP addresses of the websites they visit because they should know that these messages are sent and these IP addresses are accessed through the equipment of their Internet service provider and other third parties. Communication by both Internet and telephone requires people to “voluntarily turn[ ] over [information] to third parties.” Id. at 744.
Second, e-mail to/from addresses and IP addresses constitute addressing information and reveal no more about the underlying contents of communication than do phone numbers. When the government learns the phone numbers a person has dialed, it may be able to determine the persons or entities to which the numbers correspond, but it does not know what was said in the actual conversations. Similarly, when the government obtains the to/from addresses of a person’s e-mails or the IP addresses of websites visited, it does not find out the contents of the messages or the particular pages on the websites the person viewed. At best, the government may make educated guesses about what was said in the messages or viewed on the websites based on its knowledge of the e-mail to/from addresses and IP addresses — but this is no different from speculation about the contents of a phone conversation on the basis of the identity of the person or entity that was dialed. The distinction between mere addressing and more content-rich information drawn by the Court in Smith and Katz is thus preserved, because the computer surveillance techniques at issue here enable only the discovery of addressing information.
The government’s surveillance of e-mail addresses also may be technologically sophisticated, but it is conceptually indistinguishable from government surveillance of physical mail.
An article on the case appears in the San Francisco Chronicle.