Saturday, August 23, 2008

Blog #50: Our advice ignored . . .

Well, damn! Obama didn’t take our sage advice and appoint Hillary to be his veep. Such a damn shame. Hillary has the very segment of voters that Obama most needs, blue collar men and older women. Hillary would have taken all of the chance out of the election, old LameO wouldn’t have stood a chance. However, enough with the frustration. Biden, although a bit long winded, does have the experience that Obama lacks, especially in foreign policy. And he certainly towers above the other candidates who had been vetted. And the primary reason for us to turn our full attention towards getting Obama/Biden elected can be found in the short piece that follows.
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The new Republican Holy Water being dispensed by the gallon these days by misguided presidential candidate John McCain is called Surge Water. According to McCain Surge Water cured Iraq, chased Al Quaeda all the way back to Pakistan (though our troops can’t ever leave Iraq for Al Quaeda will sure as hell come Surging back), and the cost for our being there and occupying those lucky dogs is only costing our taxpayers 10 billion big ones a week, a bargain if a Repugnicant candidate ever saw one. And the wonderful thing about our country having to pay out this weekly tariff (besides the fact that Dick Cheney’s favorite companies are cleaning up) is that it is finally giving countries like China and Saudi Arabia a chance to buy our most precious landmarks right out from under us. Wonder how the Grand Canyon’s gonna look under Chinese rule? You think they’ll give discounted admissions to us Americans for having had it all these years and taken such good care of it? However selling off our national treasures to finance this war to end all wars (until the next one comes along, of course) seems to be the way of Bush/McCain, and those of us who write here at: are more than happy to extend our famous right handed, extended middle finger salute to them.

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear... A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty, Hi Yo Surge, Away! The LameO-McCainO rides again!
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The RIAA closed down a site to which you could upload a mix of songs of your choice which you could then share with friends, who could then download them to their own computers and iPods. It was called Muxtapes. Here is what the Houston Chronicle’s tech columnist Dwight Silverman wrote on the subject a couple of days ago:

“Back in April, I wrote about a fun Web site called Muxtape, which lets you upload a dozen songs which your friends could then hear via audio stream. It was an online version of 1980s-era mix tapes. “At the end of that blog post, I wrote this: It's a lot of fun, but I wonder just how legal Muxtape is. This is the kind of thing that makes the RIAA's collective head explode. If you're intrigued, I suggest you try it while you can!

“That sound you heard in the distance was the Recording Industry Association of America's tiny skull going Boom! Muxtape has been taken offline, with this cryptic note being the only explanation found at the site:

“Muxtape will be unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA.” There's a little more at the Muxtape blog, but not much: “No artists or labels have complained. The site is not closed indefinitely. Stay tuned. Beta users of Muxtape For Bands: you are unaffected by this outage.

“Muxtape was just one of several sites that offer a service for making song lists others can hear. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a roundup of them in a story that was published Thursday, apparently before Muxtape went down. In the wake of Muxtape's "problem", you can try Mixwit or GoodStorm. Hopefully, Muxtape will be back, in some form.”

VentureBeat on Thursday printed the RIAA’s explanation for the shutdown of Muxtape. RIAA said, “For the past several months, we have communicated our legal concerns with the site and repeatedly tried to work with them to have illegal content taken down. Muxtape was hosting copies of copyrighted sound recordings without authorization from the copyright owners. Making these recordings available for streaming playback also requires authorization from the copyright owners. Muxtape has not obtained authorization from our member companies to host or stream copies of their sound recordings,” the service told Portfolio.” That may well throw a cramp in the site’s promise that it will not be closed indefinitely. However, given the hoopla raised about this shutdown, perhaps the labels, artists and RIAA will work with the site for some sort of legal alternative.

"As I went into at length yesterday, the whole situation between the RIAA and the proponents of digital music is becoming farcical. The RIAA shut down Muxtape, but several other alternatives will undoubtedly rise up soon. Some already have, including the startup 8tracks which basically uses Internet radio rules (that copyrighted tracks can be played as long as they are streamed and the user can’t pick what track is next) to circumvent the RIAA. There are also more questionable legal alternatives in MixWit and Favtape.
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The website mentioned in the above list, 8tracks, located at , is named for the 8-track cartridge system used from 1960 to ‘8o’s which began the practice of people making their own “mixes” of favorite tracks from their record collection. allows you to make mixes with their MP3’s, or you can upload your own. Mixes should be at least 30 minutes in length. And if you’re like me while you’re checking it out you can extend a middle finger salute in the general direction of the RIAA. Here is how 8tracks has gone out of its way to clear the legal hurdles which have evidently shut down Muxtape. Josh Catone of sitepoint explains:

“8tracks, a new online mix-tape/web radio-like service that will launch on Friday, allows users to upload music and create 8 song mixes that can be shared with other users. Founded by former Live365 general manager David Porter, 8tracks is taking pains to offer their service legally. Competing services, like Muxtape, don’t really seem to make much mention of the legal issues involved with letting users upload and share tracks.

“8tracks operates under the compulsory license for webcasting established by the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US. The company pays royalties under the license to SoundExchange and agrees to follow certain rules restricting the number of times a song from a single album or artist can be transmitted from the same mixtape over a three hour period. Additionally, 8tracks has public performance licenses with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

“According to VentureBeat 8tracks also capitalizes on a “loophole” in copyright law that allows music to be streamed online as long as the listener doesn’t know what’s coming next. So 8tracks can allow users to create 8 song mixes and then it can stream them in random order. Users are allowed to share mixes, rate them, comment on them, and remix them by adding tracks from a mix to a “favorites” list which can then be used as fodder for future mixes. The interface is simple and easy to use, and a little slicker than similar services, like the aforementioned Muxtape.

“So how much does keeping 8tracks legal cost? According to the site’s legal page, they will need to average a $20 CPM on ads ($30 in 2010 due to license rate increases) in order to break even — and that doesn’t include royalties paid to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. 8tracks will be attempting to cover their costs primarily with advertising, and will eventually add “buy it from Amazon” links and premium subscription options as well. It’s hard to say if that will work, but because I’ll wager most Internet radio listeners put on the web radio station of choice and then minimize the window and listen to music in the background while they work, it’s doubtful that 8tracks will have a very engaged audience for traditional web ads. The VentureBeat write up also mentions audio ads, though, which could work better.

“If labels were smart they would see the opportunity in services like this to spread new music and would cut deals with sites like 8tracks and Muxtape to highlight tracks from their new artists. I still listen to artists I initially found after they were featured on Napster or — it’s amazing that labels still haven’t figured out the power of exposure after all these years. There’s no way I’d own 3 Lemon Jelly albums, for example, if I hadn’t found them years ago while browsing tracks on the original Audiogalaxy back in high school.”

And Little Eddy adds, if the music labels had an ounce of brains to go along with their appetite for a pound of a music l0ving flesh, they would never have condoned the practice of extorting money from the very college students who will be the white collar and business leaders of tomorrow, as they have allowed and perhaps even encouraged their legal beagle idiotas at the RIAA to do. Their actions have so turned off an entire generation that the music industry, and the record companies in particular, will likely never fully recover.

This is not sheer maliciousness on the part of music lovers. The truth of the matter is that the record companies doubled the price of an album of music when they transferred the medium from the vinyl format to CD’s, even though because of their extremely small size the elaborate printed features that frequently accompanied the vinyl albums went the way of the dinosaurs. All the new medium offered for the more than doubled price was a background which eliminated extraneous hiss and pops.

People who bought music after the industry’s transition from vinyl to CD’s , were royally screwed by the tone deaf business wonks who run the record companies, and it was inevitable that once people found out they could get the music online for free it was only a matter of time before they broke their addiction to paying for music. As an example of this over pricing a typical album on CD is priced at $16. A few rows down, a motion picture on DVD, which costs hundreds times more to produce than the record album, typically sells for $18. I’m very sorry to have to disillusion all of you Bush/McCain Repugnicant capitalists out there, but when people see the same item for $16 in music stores, and free on bit torrent, I’ll give you one guess as to where they are going to go to satisfy their musical jones. Point your browser to that wonderful free store up in the cloud. The price can’t be beat. And there’s no cardboard packaging to clutter our landfills. Imaginative bands and musicians are going to follow the lead of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails in offering their future albums for sale on their own websites, in many cases allowing people to price them for themselves. New bands and musicians who are with it are going to put their music up on sites like Muxtapes and 8tracks so their music can be heard by the public.
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There is a solution to this problem, and it isn’t hard to figure out, although the business types who run the record labels will probably never go along with it. There is virtually no expense associated with putting content out on P2P. Where there is an artist involved I think the bit torrent sites ought to include the artist’s email and physical mailing address to accompany any material of his available for download, and each person benefitting from the material should send the artist a contribution. Notice I say the artists, not the record companies. Many record companies don’t pay the artists a cent for their digital downloads to begin with, because the contract they are playing under didn’t include digital royalties. And of course, no respectful record company is going to volunteer to give an artist money if they don’t absolutely have to. That’s what the guy who heads Radiohead pointed out after their experiment with offering their album Rainbows as a download on their website. He would not say what people paid for the album but he pointed out that Radiohead’s contract with EMI paid them zilch in royalties for digital downloads, so that anything they got was more than they would have gotten through normal channels. That’s why my conscience is perfectly clear each time I download music from the cloud. If I was buying the same tracks on iTunes or Amazon the artist would most likely be getting not one cent of the money, just as artists get no share of that $3,000 that the RIAA extorts out of college students who don’t want to fight them in an expensive court case. What the legal beagles don’t take for themselves goes to record company execs to foster their preferred lifestyle.

As for movies, they are terribly overpriced in movie theaters these days, but of course they cost an arm and two legs to finance and produce. However, downloaders are using their own computers to project the movie, and paying their ISP’s and their own electric bill for their bandwidth and their air conditioned comfort, so I suggest that movies have a standard price of $3.00 attached to them, plus an online address to which to send the money. This of course, will afford no benefit to the actors and writers, but if even 50% of the people who download a movie would pay $3.00 for it, the movie studios would do okay. At least they would have nothing to cry about, and no need to try and turn ISP’s into their private police force.

Again it should be voluntary, not mandatory. Kids who have no money, and old folks who are in a likewise position, should be able to download movies for less, and even for free if they can’t afford to pay for it. It doesn’t cost the industry a damn cent if people download who wouldn’t be able to otherwise buy. Movie companies would still clean up if only half to two thirds of the downloaders came through with the moola. And it wouldn’t hurt the movie industry’s theater business. People would still attend the theaters, there’s no comparison watching a movie in a theater as compared to your home computer screen. However those of us who can no longer attend movie theaters do get the benefit of being able to see movies once again. Meantime for me it is back to downloading my entertainment needs with a consience as clear as Texas skies during a blue norther.

It would be quite possible for the above system to be mandatory. The torrent site could encrypt the data and sell the unlocking key to the downloader. That would assume a much greater responsibility on the part of the provider, who would have to hold the money in escrow for the c0pyright holder and eventually transmit it, but just think what it would do for those providers with a conscience. Of course, we would have to give The Pirate Bay a pass on this system. They could not bear to have to conform to a system where you had to pay for content.
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The recording and motion picture industries are quaking in their Manolo Blahniks, no doubt about it. They find themselves up Excretory Creek without the proverbial paddle. Almost all of their most precious content sits up there in that bit torrent cloud luring computer users like the ancient mythical sirens lured sex-starved sailors onto rocks, or a modern day Bob Barker on steriods urges America’s housewives to “come on down!” Free music and movies for the taking thanks to the miracle of P2P. But the industries are smug, and though those motion picture guys are rich, their musical brethren have been reduced to trying to sue their way out of the poor house through what amounts to a shameful scheme of blackmail. So in their shared desperation the two industries are joining hands in a common cause. The website: reported the following:

ASPEN, Colo.--Recording industry and motion picture lobbyists are renewing their push to convince broadband providers to monitor customers and detect copyright infringements, claiming the concept is working abroad and should be adopted in the United States. A representative of the recording industry said on Monday that her companies would prefer to enter into voluntary "partnerships" with Internet service providers, but pointedly noted that some governments are mandating such surveillance "if you don't work something out."

"Despite our best efforts, we can't do this alone," said Shira Perlmutter, a vice president for global legal policy at the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. (The IFPI is the Recording Industry Association of America's international affiliate.) "We need the help of ISPs. They have the technical ability to manage the flow over their pipes ... The good news is that we're beginning to see some of these solutions emerge, in particular in Europe and Asia."

“IFPI's Perlmutter went on to rattle off a list of countries that have taken at least some steps toward antipiracy filtering, through laws enacted by the legislature or other means: France, South Korea, New Zealand, Belgium, and Australia are on her list. In addition, Canada's copyright lobby has pushed for legally-mandated filtering. In the U.S., she said, referring to broadband providers, "increasingly they will be partnering with us – they will be doing deals with us."

“During a discussion at the Progress and Freedom Foundation's technology policy conference here, Perlmutter said one filtering solution would involve identifying particular files that are (or are not) permitted to be sent to particular destinations. That would be a "very tailored approach," she said. The idea isn't exactly new: the Motion Picture Association of America said nearly a year ago that ISPs should police piracy, and one of its member companies asked federal regulators to make this a requirement. AT&T said in January that it's testing technology that would let it become a copyright network cop, and the MPAA subsequently suggested that piracy-prone users should have their accounts terminated because they're "hogging the bandwidth," as if the MPAA gave a damn about that.

Several internet providers, including AT&T and Comcast were in attendance but none participated in the discussion. The report went on from there, but by now you get the idea. There is no way the MPAA and the RIAA can police the nation’s ISPs on their own. The RIAA has been able to coerce a number of college students and a few others on whose computers RIAA investigators found copyrighted music in a public folder to pay outlandish fees in lieu of being taken to court where the well- heeled record company legal teams have a distinct advantage, and for awhile the courts were allowing the RIAA to win those cases which did come to trial on the strength of copyrighted music in those public folders.

However here lately that worm has turned, and the RIAA has lost several recent cases, with the courts insisting on evidence of actual sharing, not just the fact that a person had music in a publicly available folder. This is evidence which the music industry evidently cannot produce. So the only chance the music and motion picture industry entities have now is to somehow shame or coerce the ISPs into doing their police work for them. The bigger the ISP, the better chance the movie and recording industries have in getting their cooperation, particularly if the ISP in question also owns entities which handle copyrighted content. ATT has already announced it is exploring a program that would monitor their customers’ online activities. As things now stand the internet is basically free, and there are several web institutions who intend to do their damndest to keep it that way. Fortunately these legal entities can be counted on to be the watchdogs of our net freedom, and to resist such arrangements between copyright holders and ISPs.

CNET summed up the situation as follows: “Even if the content industry do sign deals with broadband providers, there are still a slew of unanswered questions – including ones about customers' privacy and how filtering will work in practice. Will piratical transfers be automatically interrupted? Or just slowed? Will piracy-prone users merely find – this is what the IFPI suggests – their accounts suspended? How to detect whether content is licensed, or protected by fair use rights, which vary based on the situation? What if the transfer is encrypted?”

Looking ahead a few years from now, the content industry may not be satisfied with voluntary agreements. Let's say that AT&T and some of its larger rivals start to filter pirated material and demonstrate (at least to a first approximation) that it's possible, but one ISP does not join in. Look for the RIAA and MPAA and their political allies to ask Congress for a law that would transform heretofore "voluntary" agreements into ones that are mandatory. Of course it is that outcome which has the community so uptight. Freedom is promised to us in the Constitution, it should not come with a price tag dictated by business interests. And as for the money the RIAA is bullying from college students, take one guess as to how much of it is going to musicians? That’s right, zero. Zilch! What the lawyers don’t get, goes to enriching the lifestyle of record company executives.
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And from Little Eddy’s Obligatory Apple News Department comes the following: On the bright side of of the Apple Jonathan D. Glater reports in the NY Times that some colleges and universities are planning to welcome freshmen with Apple iPhones and iPod Touches. The always on internet devices raise some novel possibilities, like tracking where students congregate. With far less controversy, colleges could send messages about canceled classes, delayed buses, campus crises or just the cafeteria menu.

While schools emphasize its usefulness — online research in class and instant polling of students, for example — a big part of the attraction is, undoubtedly, that the iPhone is cool and a hit with students. Basking in the aura of a cutting-edge product could just help a university foster a cutting-edge reputation. Apple stands to win as well, hooking more young consumers with decades of technology purchases ahead of them.

The Apple of our dreams is dark on the inside however. A worm found in its center indicates that a disgruntled Alabama woman has filed suit against Apple, claiming the iPhone 3G’s network is slower than advertised. The 10-page complaint was filed Tuesday, alleging Apple’s “breach of express and implied warranty and unjust enrichment.” The complaint seeks class action status, claiming that Apple’s iPhone 3G advertising campaign is misleading. And it made one ZDNet editor wonder about his own iPhone desire.

And yet another worm embedded in our Apple (but this one might well turn) revealed that Microsoft, still smarting after all these years at being cast as a bumbling oldster in Apple’s ongoing Mac vs PC ad campaign, has hired Jerry Seinfeld for help in its upcoming advertising skirmish with Apple. The software giant's new $300 million advertising campaign, devised by a newly hired ad agency, has been closely guarded. But Mr. Seinfeld will be one of the key celebrity pitchmen, say people close to the situation. He will appear with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in ads and receive about $10 million for the work, they say. And whereas it’s true that just like in Alice’s Restaurant, in advertising money can buy you anything you want, however Microsoft might be wise to first use a part of its advertising budget to fix whatever ails Vista. Enough with this vaporware nonsense. When businesses and other Windows users stop reverting from Vista back to XP, that’s the time for Microsoft to advertise. First make your product work, then advertise your pants off.
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And so passes another week. What next week might bring makes getting up in the morning almost worth the trouble. Several cups of black coffee take me the rest of the way. Have a good week all.

The Real Little Eddy

1 comment:

GW said...

Perched on a mountaintop in Hancock VT a couple of weeks ago (there's WiFi there now), I stumbled upon TRLE. Don't remember how. But I and a host of others remember Eddy. Some will be at camp this weekend for a celebration of Killooleet's sixty years in Seeger hands. JS, age 94, will be among them. There'll be a sing Sunday night. Got a favorite ? We'll do it (but maybe not "American Pie" ?).
-George Ward [ ]