April 16, 2009
Time Warner Cable Drops Bandwidth Caps
Time Warner Cable's plan to add caps to Internet usage with fees for going above the caps are dead for now. The company says it didn't expect the consumer backlash it received. The caps were ridiculously low and the charges for increased downloads were ridiculously high. The initial test priceswere 5GB on a 768 Kbps line for $29.95 or 40GB on a 15 MBps line for $54.90 per month. Every Gigabyte after that would cost $1. Not bad if TWC was the only game in town, which, coincidentally, seemed to be the case for the test cities. One rationale for imposing bandwidth caps is to protect the network from congestion. Commentators seemed to believe that TWC may be more interested in protectingitself from competition via Internet video sites. More people watching video via the Internet means less ad money for the cable giant's own offerings. TWC had said that competition would sort things out, but the tests brought some congressional scrutiny. Net neutrality advocates saw this situation as a good opportunity to push their agenda which scared TWC enough to suggest to the FCC that it should stay away from the issue. Ars Technica has done an excellent job at chronicling the events and debunkingsome of the statements TWC was making in defending the pricing structure. The United States may not have the best broadband as measured against world standards, but most Americans connected to the web expect unlimited access to anything legal. Companies such as TWC need to stop manufacturing nonexistent crises such as network overload when trying to justify squeezing more money out of consumers.
Computer Expertise Good Enough for Probable Cause?
In the world of search and seizure, computer expertise is the rationale for probable cause that resulted in the seizure of computers and other network capable electronics from a computer science student at Boston University. The crime is the sending of a message to a school mailing list outing another student as gay. More on this from Information Week. If knowing a lot about computers (without more) is enough to allow police to take property under the Fourth Amendment, we are all in big trouble.
April 15, 2009
Does the RIAA Support Terrorism?
The RIAA lawsuits against file sharers promotes terrorism. No, really. Read the details here.
April 13, 2009
Non to French Three Strikes Law
The French Law of Creation and Internet suffered an unexpected defeat at the end of last week. The law was seen as a model and the future of copyright enforcement by content creators. Notably, Paul McGuinness, the manager of U2, hailed the law as salvation to a battered music industry. The efforts by music trade associations and labels to vindicate their copyrights have been greeted with derision and mostly ignored by an indifferent public. The action in the National Assembly where the law lost on a 21-15 vote, was stunning given the backroom processes that just about assured passage.
The law would set up a graduated response to copyright violation as enforced by ISPs. Violations would be noted, and after three times, a user's Internet account would be cut off. If the future of content protection was the French approach, it might only be France that adopted it. New Zealand was ready to to implement a similar system. Public outcry, however, was great enough for the government there to pull the law from legislative consideration. No other government is past the thinking about it stage. Who knows if this approach will work its way into the text of the still secret ACTA treaty.
One point in the McGuinness op-ed piece is his dismissal of the ability of bands to transition from recorded music to live music. He says U2 is successful because of their recordings. Maybe. But he doesn't seem to acknowledge that other bands such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have navigated the pricing of their recordings through their web sites with similar success. It is true that unknown bands will not have the same opportunities. Still, labels will not pick up bands without an audience, and the way bands generate an audience is through a live performance. Bands can make money by giving away some music and perform to paying customers. It all comes down to how compelling the entertainment happens to be.
There are alternative models to selling music and for bands to make money from the music business. Those models do not necessarily include the established labels. Frank Zappa was way ahead of his time when he proposed a distribution and subscription model in 1983, before digital files and the Internet existed. Labels cannot sustain the old ways of doing things. They may not figure that out before it's too late for the. That may not be a bad thing. Even Zappa didn't see them as the future.