February 2, 2007
YouTube to Take Down Viacom Videos
Viacom has told YouTube to take down 100,000 or so unauthorized clips of Viacom properties,including MTV and Comedy Central. The two companies were working on a deal but the talks apparently broke down. YouTube did not cite a timetable in removing the links. As of this writing, these links from Stephen Colbert (Comedy Central is a Viacom property) covering various tech topics were still online: the Apple iPhone, the Nintendo Wii, and the AT&T Merger.
YouTube said in a statement that it is regrettable that Viacom will not get the benefit of exposure on their site. Viacom says that their videos are streamed to the tune of 1.2 billion times since they've been up. One man's copyright violation is another man's business plan. It all comes down to money. Watch this get settled before there is a court case or worse: the videos taken down from YouTube.
More on this in CNN Money.
February 1, 2007
Tarlton Library to Hold Conference on Teaching Legal Research
Technology is changing legal instruction, and particularly legal research as we know it. Here is information about an related event to be held later this year at the University of Texas. I'll be there with any luck.
In October 2007, the Tarlton Law Library will host a conference that will explore the teaching of legal research in today’s information environment. Teaching the Teachers: Effective Instruction in Legal Research will focus on the best methods and practices for teaching legal research to today’s generation of law students. Conference faculty represent excellence in teaching and communication and come from the judiciary, the practicing bar, and the legal academy. The conference responds to and will further the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ initiative to develop a stand-alone component of the bar exam focusing on legal research methods and skills.
The conference will be held October 18-20, 2007 in Austin at the Tarlton Law Library and Jamail Center for Legal Research at the University of Texas. More information and registration details are available at http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/ttt/.
Florida Governor Proposes e-Voting with a Paper Trail
Florida has had moments when elections held there had their results doubted. Some of this was due to ballot design, and some due to the lack of paper trails to verify a vote. The latter issue comes up in many states what with conspiracy theories out there on how elections get stolen. Theories aside, it is a serious issue when the general public questions whether individual votes are counted correctly.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist is proposing the answer for his state. He wants to replace all voting machines in the state (now touch screen) with optical scanning equipment that records paper ballots. The paper would be preserved in case of doubt. He's serious enough about it that he's willing to make the state pick up the tab for each machine, including costs to retrofit machines for handicapped voters to allow a verifiable paper trail. Even one Democratic congressman is giving the Governor good marks on the move. The proposal may not end election intrigue in Florida, but it's a good start to documenting the vote when disputes arise. That's an improvement.
The story is in Computerworld.
Top Zune Guy Leaving Microsoft
Bryan Lee, the vice-president in charge of the Zune player is leaving Microsoft. Commentators see this as heads rolling over Zune's lack of market impact past the introduction of the player. Microsoft spokeswoman Molly O'Donnell said that Lee is leaving Microsoft for personal reasons rather than over issues related to Zune. It's possible. Microsoft damped down expectations of the Zune as an iPod killer long before the unit was released. The company said sales were acceptable while acknowledging that it would take years of competition for the Zune player to make money. Sales are targeted to be 1 million by June. Apple, by comparison, sells millions of iPods per quarter. We can revisit the Microsoft's projection in June. Lee will stay on for a bit to transition his role to J Allard.
Read more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
January 30, 2007
Bill Gates on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Bill Gates celebrated the release of Vista to consumers by appearing on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It's available in two segments: Part 1 and Part 2. Even more hilarious is Stephen Colbert's riff on Wikipedia.
Sony Settles with FTC Over DRM
The Federal Trade Commission has settled charges against Sony BMG resulting from the copy protection software that was included with CDs from the music joint venture. The decision is preliminary as the public may comment on it for 30 days. After that point the Commission can finalize the agreement. By agreeing to the settlement, Sony BMG does not admit to violating federal law. However, they also accept restrictions on how DRM may be placed on discs and what notice consumers must have about the DRM, what it restrictions it imposes, and how it can be uninstalled. The Commission cites Sony BMG for not telling consumers about the software on previously distributed discs, for making it virtually uninstallable, for the security risks it imposed on consumer machines, and for including software that monitored consumer listening habits for the purpose of sending marketing messages.
Sony BMG must provide uninstall software that actually works (early versions of uninstallation software were questionable on this) for current and any future installations. They must replace CDs with non-protected discs and give consumers up to $150 in damages suffered in trying to remove the software from their machines. Past reports indicated that any type of removal made some machines inoperable. Disclosures need to be made on any packaging about what DRM exists on the product and the details about all of the restrictions it imposes, including whether music can be transfered to portable players. What the agreement does not require is a disclosure that ranges of Mariah Carey's voice can only be heard by certain animal populations. Perhaps another agreement in the future could address that.
The FTC press release is here, and it has links to the complaint and proposed settlement.
January 29, 2007
Vista Goes On Sale at Midnight
The consumer wait (yawn) is finally over for Microsoft Vista as the 6 Billion dollar operating system goes on sale tonight. The initial reviews say the product is better than the betas (we'd better hope so), but not compelling enough for people to go out and upgrade immediately. The assumption is that Vista will dominate over time. Well, sure. It's not as if Microsoft is going to compete against itself by keeping XP in the market. The conventional wisdom is to wait on Vista until there is a reason to buy a new machine, one configured to run the hardware hungry OS. Microsoft is expected to issue the usual statement that it is satisfied with sales no matter how they stack up. Is that marketing statement the Wow starts now, or the Oww starts now?
Norway Tells Apple to Open up Fair Play or Wind Up In Court
Norway has joined the DRM fray by voicing opposition to the closed Apple-iTunes-iPod system. The Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman says the closed system violates Norwegian law and will sue Apple if the system does not allow music from any store to play on the iPod, and Apple branded songs to play on other portables. Apple issued the usual bland statement that it seeks to resolve the issue quickly. This may be a situation where the problem may not be resolved so easily.
Look at it from Apple's point of view. An open system does them no good as it will dilute sales from the iTunes Store and force them to compete against other music providers for space on the iPod. iTune sales to other MP3 players may not even that loss out. Apple, therefore, will do anything it can to maintain the status quo.
Norway, on the other hand, may be relying on quaint consumer concepts that music should be playable on all portables. They must have gotten that idea from CDs, which manufactured anywhere in the world are playable on players from any number of manufacturers anywhere in the world. Even, gasp, vinyl had those same characteristics.
The labels who provide the music must be feeling a little queasy over this. They have little to no leverage against Apple as it owns most of the distribution market. If Apple leaves Norway, which is a possible outcome, the labels may lose the market there. Norwegians left to their own devices may turn to the only other viable outlet for downloadable music: the file sharing networks. Nobody wins commercially with that result.
Other European jurisdictions are also making noise about Apple to open up. Microsoft is probably watching this closely as it will introduce its closed system Zune player to Europe later on this year. Microsoft will surely have to play by the same rules forced on Apple, if it comes to that. This all or nothing scenario depends on how far Norway wants to take this.
Google Ends 'miserable failure" Link to George Bush
One of the fun aspects of the web, and specifically web searching, is the juxtaposition of inappropriate search results that show up with good hits in Google, Yahoo!, and other search engines. Or when Ads by Google sometimes come up with related adverts to a page that are technically correct but relationally not, as when a story about a political candidate generates ads for an opponent. Sometimes they are funny as was the link to the White House when someone typed in the words "miserable failure" in Google and clicked the "I'm feeling lucky" button. That led to a link to the President's page on the White House web site.
The fact that this result showed up was due to manipulation of the Google search engine by people entering searches that linked George Bush and failure, along with web sites that, analytically, did the same. The search engine learned how to link the two from the volume of searches. This practice was named "Google-bombing." One side note as a cultural reference, there is no comparable Yahoo!-bombing or MSN-bombing, or at least anything so named. It just shows again how far these two have to go to beat the search engine leader.
According to the New York Times, the George Bush-failure Google bomb is no more. Google has altered the results to bring up stories and links about the practice rather than the resulting link itself. As far as Google is concerned, history can deal with the President without contributing editorial content. Some on the political spectrum may find this disappointing. On the other hand, there's always something awkward about manipulating search results as an elaborate practical joke, even if it involves a powerful person.